Sunday, August 11, 2019

When the Power is an Uncomfortable Truth And Speaking Truth Might Ask More From Us

Once in awhile a mainstream media writer has the nerve to speak truth to power when that power is also a sad, ironic truth. Words have power, feelings have power. When we take more seriously everything about being human, it won't necessarily make life easier or happier. But it might make life a more honest journey into the heart and towards the soul. Not some metaphysical "soul." How about just a closer connection to everything you feel deep, deep down?

As Frank Bruni points out this morning another powerful truth is that hate is real, potent, and will not be eradicated anytime soon, as in ever. Hate is an easy sell and so are the soporific denials. Our better alternatives will ask more from us and we'll need to be lucky too, 'cause it's a lot better when we were taught young, early, and often. When more is asked from us, we will need help. We'll need teaching, practice, and support. We'll need examples and leadership and those folks will understand their own vulnerabilities, mistakes, and intractable imperfections. Nevertheless, we've got to persist.

Sadly, this also means is that there will always be bigotry, injustice, and oppression too, the true bedfellows of hate. We can add others, like fear, ignorance, and anger. Even more complicated is the fact that all of these "negative" feelings and expressed emotions can be put to important positive use. We can become better not only living with them but bringing them deeply into conversation. Applying them requires even more assiduity, humility, and grace. Who among you does not hate injustice? Please do. Then what? What more does this invite us to feel and do? No experience stands alone. When our emotions become isolated we're in trouble: isolation creates delusion, fantasy, denial.

We are more likely to insist that our ideals and other feelings are somehow more real. We want the better angels to be _more_ real and the demons just delusions or _just_ demons. When uncomfortable truths become more complex truths they prefer to remain unspoken. If we dare to speak then we will be held accountable.

That kind of power in words is important but easy to deflect. We don't want to hear about how negative things are part of us and certainly not that these feelings serve important roles and purposes. This means also much will remain unexamined, suppressed, and ignored until the next time the real world comes to hurt us.

No politician could make Bruni's argument in America and be elected dog catcher in a town without dogs. Much less can one proclaim one's self a no-God-er---in fact the second largest American "religious" denomination---and become president. Religion must never be anything but "respected" and somehow endorsed. Don't ever suggest that the 1st Amendment had a more complex notion in mind.

How about that religion could be a positive detriment to being a better person, fraught with hypocrisy and false consolation that manipulates and coerces. Or that your personal beliefs must withstand public scrutiny in a world in which we struggle to understand truth and facts and this mixed up world? Tell uncomfortable truths or, at the very least, suggest an unpopular "truth" and expect to be shouted down, ignored, or exiled.

What Frank Bruni writes today in The New York Times will make you cry. He writes about hate email, a college professor who tells him that she prays for his mother because he is gay. He tells us how his mother long passed now from cancer loved him for who he is and how so many seem incapable even of accepting him.

Love does not conquer all, much less hate. We'd prefer it otherwise but the stakes are too high for soporific balms, the wounds cut deeply, the facts on the ground will tell us otherwise. No one likes to hear this, especially those doused in religions that claim otherwise. We can love, we can learn to love, we can try to understand why we possess hate as a feeling, as a viable possibility, even when it might be helpful. Who wants to hear that? Who wants to consider how our angels and demons must converse, not merely contend?

When we are in denial we put ourselves at a disadvantage to do what we must to survive, flourish, and create a better world. Of course, we can use love to counter hate but you _know_ there is far more to it than we like to admit or even consider. Humans learn to hate, we know that too. Hate is not mental illness. We're all gonna feel it. All of us.

Hate is also a world view, something about which we can exercise choice, explore feelings, apply our reason. We're not helpless. We can shape our world view even when it has been shaped for us, even if we must accept uncomfortable truths about human nature. We can make and remake ourselves no matter how we've been made. That is what Rajanaka teaches is the power of yoga.

Rajanaka taught me that we're better off if we can accept the _all_ of our human condition And then we can consider more who we want to be, what could be if we applied ourselves to the complex truths of human life. This often means accepting deeply discomforting truths, things that can't be fixed, stuff that will never go away, even hate. We are never immune from these darker realities, not even the best of us. So? Good news ahead...

We can learn how to look more deeply into our souls, alchemize the darkness with light, and become more astute, more vigilant, better prepared for being wholly human. But we have to learn how to do this. Life doesn't come with a manual but humans can learn. Even better, we can be educated. Bees, even planaria can learn. But we humans have an uncanny ability to question, to follow the evidence where it leads, to keep ourselves asking. That requires courage---but we have to learn how to turn to our hearts because it's just as easy to want answers instead of questions, certainty instead of doubt, and it's easier still just not to bother.

Not everyone _can_ do this, for all sorts of reasons. It takes more than free will or effort. We need to give people the chance, when we can: that too is the yoga, the engagement and conversation we can have.

Some people will always want to see the world burn. Some will never get a chance to help themselves. We can try, with heart and soul engaged, and we can do the yoga for ourselves. We're not stuck in our human nature because we can learn, we can grow more. Not without each other. May we teach our children well.

Reference: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/10/opinion/hate.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

A Note about the Yoga of Feeling and Thought, Part Two

A Note about the Yoga of Feeling and Thought, Part 2

Connecting to our feelings is no small task. It’s going to take more than a deep desire to want to do the work that explores our feelings. We’re going to have to push through, use and become more aware of the processes that make us human as individuals formed by nature, family, society, and our own conscience. The tools of yoga have often been used to attenuate or dissociate from feeling but just as well may be used to connect in ways that bring those deeper sources of experience into thought and language. We’ve explored that ever so briefly in our Part 1 of this note.

The thesis is this: we can learn how to parse our feelings into more feelings, we can work to identify the complexities that originate in the primal stuff of living as embodied beings. Here we will consider again briefly how thought and ideas brings us to feelings, directs feelings, informs and creates feelings. The thesis is that the process we described from feeling to thought likewise takes us from thoughts to feelings.

Words matter. Humans have language, complex speech helps define us as a species, we are talkers and thinkers. Can we think at all without words? Are words our thoughts? If thoughts are types of feelings what is the connection between the ideas we have and learn and what we feel?

Indian tradition has about as many answers to these questions as we have in western philosophy and modern cognitive science. It’s well-worked and complex territory but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to make a few remarks of our own. Academics always begin everythieng they write by saying it’s provisional, that there is more research, by doing extensive Cover Your Ass so that they feel safe from themselves and their critics. Let’s just care a bit less about that for now.

If I just persuaded you to try on this idea and to care a little more about working on the thought-to-feeling matter then I’ve already made my point. What we say to ourselves and what we hear, read, and learn gets inside us. It may be a long and winding road to the soul but words and sounds and images and ideas matter so much that they can go directly there before we know it. In other words, we have the word-sound-image experience even before we register the experience, much less interpret it, understand it, or even know what is happening inside. Words and thoughts, like sounds and images, cut to our core and it is only after that happens we begin any process of understanding, interpretation, and meaning. The soul gets it before the Self recognizes it.

The processes and tools by which we then create meaning need to be learned. This is one of the meanings of yoga itself: that the engagement is not just natural or intuitive, learning isn’t just going to happen because we breath or live another day. It’s going to take work, the proper tools, and connection not only with one’s self but in relationships involving conversation that compels us to reach further into our critical capacities and meaning-making abilities. In short, you can’t do this alone no matter how much of the work only you can do on yourself. That is at the heart of yoga.

No amount of asocial, misanthropic introspection will give you all that you need and nothing about learning in the conversation is going to be particularly easy: it will take useful sources, good teachers, and more time than you ever budget. It’s not going to end either, so give up on that past-participle nominal enlightenment that tells you that you are awakened or perfected.

It’s impossible to ignore the trauma of this age too. We are experiencing leadership that has used words to incite violence, to dog whistle and connect with genuinely evil and malicious persons. We are in a test of character that takes us from words, sounds, and images into actions based on feelings and, dare I say it, indoctrinations. We humans are as vulnerable to words as we are to feelings because language is not something added on or extra to our nature, it is a part of what makes us human. We are also individuals and by definition isolated as experiencers of our own bodies and minds. But these experiences are never really apart from the contexts of our being human, that is, from family and upbringing, from circumstance and history, from the fact that to be an individual is to be social and made by forces greater than our individuality.

Life is not just the choices we make but the complex seen and unseen processes that create our choices. Americans don’t like to be told we are made but that we make ourselves—and yogins have said much the same. But the truth is that we use (and sometimes need) this delusion to remind us that we are responsible for ourselves and stewards of our soul whether or not we understand how we have been made and how choices are structured for us and not always by us.

Thus, words, sounds, thoughts, images not only matter but they can determine more about our feelings and emotions than we are ever aware. This is because the connection between thought and feeling like mind and body is indivisible while the process by which we comprehend, investigate, understand, and interpret those connections is learned and requires hard work, soul work.

Yoga is soul work. Yoga is the connection to meaning and meaning is hard-won, it is on-going, and it is always incomplete, unfinished, provisional, and in pursuit of more. Soul work means that we understand prima facie that the things we experience through our mind and cognitive processes go right to the body, to the core of feeling, through emotions, there and back again. When we haven’t done any soul work, when we aren’t learning how to connect the world to our inner selves, then we are especially vulnerable to indoctrination, to propaganda, to ways in which we accept “truths” without knowing how to consider what is true.

The key here, if I may conclude, is this: the connections we experience between feeling and thought (let’s just call it that) as it is between thought and feeling are organic and direct. Feelings become thoughts and language. Language and thought go directly into our feelings. But which feelings? And what happens then? When we don’t care for each other then we are easily manipulated and moved to take the easy paths. Hate is an easy path because it connects desire to fear and anger. But the difficult path leads us through and with all of our emotions, the feelings that we experience in the complex matrix of thought-experience.

We can learn and explore how we have all been made, “indoctrinated” as such by history, society, family, and personal experience. We can use language and thought and images with greater care to impress upon our feelings, to make the samskaras as we might term them that take us to empathy, compassion, and care. We will need thought, we will need imagination because my experiences are not yours and we must somehow connect. When we do this poorly there is no limit to the horror or the venality that can appear: humans are capable of evil and that is because we have not cared or nurtured the connections across the great matrix of experiences, we have not learned how to connect to our feelings, honor the power of language, understand and interpret their relationships. What we think will be what we become and what we feel will take shape in what we say and what we do because saying is doing too.

Perhaps this is enough for now. There’s always more, of that I feel quite assured. In the meantime care for your feelings and care for your words because they will converge in your soul and that is the place where meaning is made and becomes life’s choices.

A Note About the Yoga of Feeling and Thought, Part One

Too often, I think, we see feeling and thinking as if they are antagonists or, worse, incommensurate. That we can't be one when we are being the other. How do our feelings connect to thought? Do they? Should they? Let's ferret that out a bit more because the matter is far more complex than a simple yes or no.

How do we make a deeper connection between what it means to become a more empathetic and caring person and our critical abilities?

The Gita begins with just such a problem. Arjuna comes rather quickly to feelings that Krishna calls a "weakness of heart." The precise term is durmanasah, which ably translates as well to be "poor thinking." The word "manas" means heart and mind or more properly heart-mind and mind-heart. The prefix dur- is the opposite of su-, thus good/bad, unsanitary/salutary. It's likely a deliberate effort to create an equivalence and push the emotional description into cognitive realms. That is, how we feel is not different from what we are thinking.

Wittgenstein made a similar claim at one point: we cannot separate how we put words to feelings from the feelings we express in words. The idea is not that they are identical as adequate expressions but that they _are_ in effect expressions of feelings-and-thought. Let's return to the Gita for some further consideration.

Important to Krishna is that Arjuna cultivate discrimination (viveka) based on the emotional charge called vairagya or "disinterest." These terms have been combed over with Advaita Vedanta meanings and it's hard to work with them without those implications. Advaitins are committed to a cessation of all emotion as such precisely because emotions by definition change while "knowledge" does not.
In short, there is a metaphysics of emotion that does not permit the Advaitin to allow more feeling than is necessary to intervene in any cognitive possibility.

Thus, "vairagya" becomes much like it is in Patanjali YS: not a parsing out or measure of desire but a dissociation from desire or emotion itself. Etymologically the meaning is not as absolute as the Advaitin would have it. (This begs the question how and if etymology factors in meaning if meaning is usage. Another topic, particularly eccentric in Sanskrit terms.)

In Rajanaka terms "vairāgya" means our ability to take feeling, emotion, and desire itself and bring it into some kind of parsing, into finer bits, into a process that looks for elements, units, more refined forms. Note that the word "rāga" usually means passion, deep desire and feeling. Here the implication is that all deep emotions are at stake and what makes them deep is that they originate in the core of consciousness and the body.

But raga is a problematic word in most of yoga literature, not something we want to identify with because it threatens to carry us away, mislead our morals, detract from our reason. None of the Patanjali commentators will have a good word to say about raga and thus vairagya is used a counter, an antidote.

We Rajanaka might instead view vairagya as our ability to take our feelings, deep in source and origin, and begin to bring some further reflection, clarification, then refinement and distinction. We can go from feeling as such to feelings that then we can identify through emotions and other modalities of experience. In other words, we don’t attenuate, control, quell, or extinguish the feeling as the traditionalist yogins propose but rather bring to it a richer sense of its identity.

We are looking for the metaphoric DNA helix, the units that take us further into the more particular forms of feeling that wrap themselves into whirlwinds that appear as if they were merely whole but in fact are made up of more and more elementals. The idea is not to manage or control feelings, much less stop them, so much as it is to delve more deeply into the ways they form, how they form, and what component elements make up their forms.

Thus feelings become emotions that become thoughts and the whole of experience is something we want to consider. Vairagya is the tool we use to bring feelings into finer forms of feeling even as we begin to assign identities and meanings to those experiences, particularly with thought and language. Krishna proposes that we need to deal with the comprehensive ways in which we fail to distinguish and refine the process by which feeling is thought and vice-versa. What makes for “bad” thinking or “weakness” of heart (durmanasah) is that we fail to become more adept, to engage and enjoin the process.

To wit, we don’t take up the yoga that would give us a far more capable experience to address a given situation. In sum, we fail at letting our feelings become thought in ways that further the connection and refine the nuanced relationship that occurs as the somatic assumes cognitive forms.

All cognitive forms are somatic, that is, all thought originates in the body and assumes a place the path of feelings. But if we separate the path from body to mind we fail to make the serpent’s connection from tail to head, we cut the head off and what is left is mere feeling. This is why it goes “bad” or becomes “weak” (dur-). It’s not that we are feeling too much but rather not feeling enough to make the connection between the core of feeling and the eventual outcome of thoughtful (dare we say rational) choices.

The next piece of this argument describes how we can corrupt thought and so engage feelings in ways that are nihilistic. The connection is not only between feeling becoming thought and language but how language, ideology, indoctrination and the rest take hold of feelings. And when that happens tragedy will soon follow. More about this another time.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Land of Broken Dreams

The Land of Broken Dreams, But In A Good Way...

As you know I've been working on "second generation" devata issues and the binaryplus that they create. That is the god, goddess, both, neither, more, plus, less that follows from the fact that the second generation is made, it cannot initiate itself without the previous generation.

This second generation's previous generation inhabits the Shiva/Shakti mythologies, and begins the processes that reconfigures their identities into more complex comminglings of feeling and form. Thus we come to Nataraja and Ardhanaresvara, Durga mingling into Sivakami, etc.  The process by which these characters arrive at any realization of their own brokenness is incomplete.  We suffer with them because they often don't know, can't know, deny the process of self-interrogation because they too find it difficult and painful to admit.

But the next generation---Pillaiyar, Muruga, Ayyappa---must take this to an entirely new level, or should we say depth. Because they have to go down first, into the realms that made them in order to make more of themselves. They all live in the land of broken dreams. Even lands of broken dreams. This is something we all do.

The Land of Broken Dreams is the realization that your parents were human, frail and flawed no matter what they were. That they had dreams that went unfulfilled, shadows that went unexamined,. Their hearts felt deeply but didn't always know what they felt or were self-denied or unaccepted.

To accept being accepted for who you are is part of how we reconcile with having coming from that broken land and the consequences of being the broken, extra, and missing piece of _their_ dreams even before we become our own.

We don't begin that process of self-acceptance until we go _there_, to that land---and that is a sojourn, not a destination. We are looking for the unfinished and incomplete that never finishes or completes. To receive ourselves is to offer ourselves without the guarantee that we will be accepted by others, even those we love.

It's not a "bad" thing that our dreams are broken though it can be painful and hurtful---so it can be bad. But it is destabilizing, often confusing, always complicated. And either way, whether we like it or not, the break is the way in, it's the serpent's path to the deeper seas that lie within the ocean of the unconscious. We're not going to avoid or transcend being broken or breaking more in the process of looking more deeply.

We're going to have to look back at how we were made---with and without our consent, in some place and time in history, in all the facets of life we don't control or invent. We're going to have to take the sum of matters into the present and notice how the present will not allow us to reduce it to the moment, to one thing.

The present is not the moment. The present is moments, for we are plural selves, complex entities who live in one body at a time but in many realms of experience and forms of consciousness. Don't get all mystical on me because I just said that. (And I haven't suddenly redirected to some kinda' unicorn yoga.) I meant that we have rich capacities of imagination and untold stories that are hidden in our unconscious. That's all I got or want.

The point here is that the past is not fluid because it is shattered bits, some lost, some found. The present is complex because we want to reduce it but find out it's moving, dynamic, and unstable for better and worse. The future, now that's what's fluid, that can move like the sarpa but only if we recognize that love is yet another form of the ahi, the angst, the anxiety who is the serpent within. (Ahi=angst=anxiety=snake=naga to make the English to Sanskrit cognates clearer, right?) So it is in these matters we come back to sammelana, the processes by which we mingle, cook, alchemize, and otherwise describe how to become more by engaging the Land of Broken Dreams.

Breaking into our broken dreams is no small matter. It's called yoga. It's the long way home to the Land of Broken Dreams. So how's dem'apples?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Dreaming of the Moon, A Saturday Sermon

It is 50 years ago today that Neil Armstrong took that one small step. Where are we America? Where are you?

We rage inside for the outrage that surrounds us, how can we feel otherwise? An imperative of character has been summoned in an age in which darkness has found its true champion. Once noble ideals are not less noble but for those whose abuse and misuse occlude the light. It's important to recognize evil when we see it. It's important too to have a reply, an intention, and something to _do_. 

We are still called to do "the work." By that I mean to continue to learn how to be more human, how to make every breath another chance to uncover who we are, who we want to be. For each of us that means our own task, our own circumstance and opportunity. It means making the most of what we have before us.

Sure that's all more than a bit soporific, I admit. But it's 50 years ago today that human beings touched the moon. That took some dreaming, hard work, imagination. It took the resources of a nation's worth of people who were struggling at the very same time with their ideals of justice and decency and human rights. Are we still dreaming of becoming something better? Let's think for a minute of all the things it took to accomplish such a human adventure. 

Now, what will it take to push through the anger and fear that might consume us before we reach the place where there is yet more light? The light we seek is a present, it's available and real, it's inside us. The truest light casts the deeper and longer shadow because it reveals what is yet to be accomplished.

We never find more light without going through those shadows. When we face shadows will find more determination and courage because we're closer to the heart, to the core. In light and dark is theeffort that reveals our humanity. Our anger will not magically disappear but fear will no longer cripple us. Instead, we'll find more to imagine, more to dream, and we'll insist on decency, integrity, and compassion. 

We will do the work, not just keep busy. Whatever it is that you love that lifts your heart and at once causes you to wonder, to doubt, to be challenged so that you come to unknowing, go there. Don't wait. Do it everyday. Make the time. And then make yourself a gift to others. 

I'll let young Seneca finish this maudlin sermon. But maybe, in the moon light tonight, you'll remember something of what he says about a life well-lived. And we'll think about something good we can do that reminds us that being human is enough good. Choose your path and do that. "Finally, everybody agrees that no one pursuit can be successfully followed by a person busied with many things—eloquence cannot, nor the liberal studies—since the mind, when its interests are divided, takes in nothing very deeply, but rejects everything that is, as it were, crammed into it. There is nothing a busy person is less busied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn. Of the other arts there are many teachers everywhere; some of them we have seen that mere boys have mastered so thoroughly that they could even play the master. It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and—what will perhaps make you wonder more—it takes the whole of life to learn how to die." (from Chapter 7, De Brevitate Vitae)

Friday, July 19, 2019

Affirmation Begins the Alchemy to Betterment Be Present, Look Forward, Don't Relent

It is the summer of our discontent. Let's be honest. There is more to come.  The picture you see here is a summer sunrise in North Carolina.  Let's not forget the beauty in the midst of all this ugliness.

Words matter. Intentions reveal themselves in actions. And we must neither relent in our criticism nor allow ourselves to be dispirited or overwhelmed. There is real toxicity in our world. America is truly at a turning point and we must engage. Yoga is the word we use for the deep engagement that invites us to alchemize that toxicity into something far better, more empowering and inclusive.

We who are not that crowd are not only outraged but rightly frightened, disgusted, and afraid that this is a growing pathology, that we are not going to defeat it, that the world is burning in every way. We must not tire in trying to articulate our aspirations and ideals along with our genuine fears and trepidations.

That is the war I want to fight. That is the demon we must defeat. It will not die. It will rise again. But we will be there each and every time it appears and become that Kali Durga who knows what must be done. She knows too that Her own vulnerability is at the core of Her self-recognition, that even She, the great Goddess contends with every possibility. This makes Her not those demons.

We too need light and an awareness of human shadow, including our own. This is never once and for all. It is a process that demands vigilance, persistence, and humility. We don't want to be that horror and ugliness but anyone _could_ be that. Courage alone will not protect us. Courage is what we will need to create decency, honesty, and the virtue that can protect everyone.

It's frightening when you realize that many of these people in the Trump mob don't believe their intentions, feelings, understandings, and behaviors are sick and sickening. They don't even know that they don't know what is stirring inside them. Toxicity has no limits and those without meaningful boundaries will only create more.

If we can hold fast to the idea that there is a lot inside that we _don't_ know and that we must be vigilant to our emotional intelligence to stand a chance to survive and respond appropriately. We must resist from a position of humility _and_ strength of character, not too confident but not the least bit timid.

The fear, anger, and, yes, the hatred we feel is real, it's honest because we _feel_ it in our bodies and minds and hearts. But when we accept and look to affirm the reality of these feelings then we can alchemize them with courage, compassion, and decency.  Don't dismiss or by pass these negativities.  We will not transcend them.  We not be forgiven them.  We must learn instead what we can and must do about them.  We also have the goodness and the good company we need to grow and evolve.

It's only when we deny the negativities that they can grow. The light does not dispel the darkness but reveals the shadow. And when we see both light and shadow then we can evolve and become who we want to be. When we insist that the shadow and the darkness keep the company of goodness, we can look more deeply into the soul, we can become our better angels. This is no easy task. We can learn together because that is how we will learn. With each other.

We must stand for goodness and know when to dodge fire. It's a dance to try to be good and do good but it _can be done_. That is what we learn from Mandela, from Dr. King, and others, all of whom were deeply flawed persons but who held up the possibilities of human decency.

When Appa invited me to live in his home and be a part of his family, he wasn't trying to show me perfection or represent some fantastical spiritual claim, like guru or siddha or sage. He was inviting me to take up the difficult tasks that urge us to love, to be good, to tolerate and understand that everyone has gifts and that the best among us will fail even when we try not to. We've all known such persons who call us to our better angels. But truth to tell, that is what we are all being called to be right now.

These are troubled times and the world needs _you_ to be that goodness you are. I feel confident you will try, that you will be better than all of the fear and hate and anger. And that's what keeps me going.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"But who are the gods?", The Company You Long to Keep

I've been paging through notebooks today, remembering conversations with Appa. It's one of those days in the year where I like to remember the sound of his voice. Of course, that'd be everyday but today's a little different. I made a point of trying not to miss the Gurupurnima. I would drop everything to go to India for this day. I read from this diary once at summer camp when my old friend Primo asked to come into my office at home and have a look. This is some of that.

Appa would talk about the conversations he had that made him think and feel and reflect again. He never tired to telling me how life is fragile but that our soul is not. Our soul is made of courage, which is itself no virtue but a gift of life to life. How is that? Because our soul emerges from the deepest desire _to live_, to carry forward, to dream, to gather something of value from the gift of embodiment.

I have very few recordings of him because he preferred that I take notes. But I have dozens of notebooks. You had to coax him sometimes to explain a bit more---he was keen on you figuring it out yourself. But sometimes sutras would open up into ideas that could just change everything. These comments come from a long conversation about steadiness, uncertainty, fear, and how we know when we have met the gods.

"It is not what I say that will have its effect on you. It is what you have heard. You may write some of my words but it will be in your memories, and that will go far more deeply. You should take notes but not because you need to be afraid that you will forget. What is true will reach more deeply than all of our abilities to remember in words, no matter how we record them. What matters most goes inside and that is where the next conversation happens, the one you will need to have with yourself. So, try to remember that when you take notes or when you return to your notes later."

"How do we hold steady in the presence of uncertainty? Doesn't uncertainty undermine our steadiness?"

"Uncertainty is no adversary but it has some dangerous companions. When uncertainty makes fear a partner then the two of them can't be seen as two. Their oneness will cause them to haunt the soul rather than enter into the conversation. Fear's dominance leaves us feeling alone because it is fear's job, it's purpose is to enter into these conversations. But then we allow the heart to hide behind these important human experiences, like uncertainty. Uncertainty that acknowledges fear's presence means that fear can no longer hide, that it can no longer act like some monster coming from out of the dark. But you have to call upon your friend uncertainty to invite fear into the room, into the light of awareness. Fear prefers the shadows where it can stalk you. But fear is not the enemy. Fear becomes the enemy when we refuse it, when we fail to admit that it is part of these other experiences too. Fear will try to contend for being first with you, it will come out from those hidden places because you did not consider it a guest. The soul is the sovereign who must invite fear to be a guest at the table, not its lord. It's rather easy to treat fear as an adversary. That is because you gave it no seat at the table for the greater conversation. You don't believe it belongs there. But uncertainty knows better when it is in the company of the soul, in the presence of the gods."

"Fear tells you to fear who you are. It tells you to distrust your soul. But the soul knows fear because when courage is present then fear will not be left alone to do its mischief. When fear is alone we will become fear. But when the soul speaks out, and invites all of its guests, there is no such aloneness, isolation cannot take hold, there is instead a larger conversation with all of the aspects of the self. That is what soul is, it is that conversation you have inside with the gods..."

But who are the gods?

"The gods are who you are, who you want to be, what you can be, what you could be. They reside in the questions you want to ask even though you might be too afraid to ask the most helpful questions or don't know those questions. So the gods appear as courage, as the heart's true questions. Fear will create a false boundary while the gods provide a true support, the steadiness you need to stand in uncertainty. When you can stand there, then you can take the next step and the next---from that place where you hold steady in the presence of uncertainty. This is how you get to soul questions."

"Fear loves uncertainty because that is how fear becomes certainty. But the soul reaches out to you when you step towards those voices inside, where the gods are. Those are your voices, and they aren't what I want you to be or your parents or what society says you should be. Those are the gods' voices that not more or less than you asking for more from a world that promises little but may give you the chance to ask for what you want from life."