Unfurling Love’s Creation

I recently introduced two dear friends to the remarkable musical compositions of the writer, composer, Christian mystic and visionary, Hildegard von Bingen. Saint Hildegard, or Sybil of the Rhine as she is also known, was a Benedictine abbess who founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg and Eibingen in the 1100s. Among other things, Saint Hildegard left us one of the largest repertories of medieval musical compositions.

She was also an accomplished practitioner of herbal medicine who authored two texts on the natural sciences, Physica and Causae and Curae. Saint Hildegard (I suppose in her spare time) wrote three other books detailing her profound and beautiful visions, Scivias, Liber vitae meritorum and Liber divinorum operum. Here was a woman who was not afraid to give voice to her innermost thoughts and most sacred concerns, no matter what the cost.

I knew a man who tried to flatter women by saying that he thought they were the reincarnation of Hildegard von Bingen. It was a disingenuous move for calculated gain, one which gave women all the more reason to hide that which is most precious in them deep inside, rather than boldly unfurling love’s creation as the spirit moved them. In the world the way it has become it is understandable that people feel reticent to give voice to the precious essences which form in their heart of hearts. Understandable, but not acceptable. You are better than that.

Very few women or men for that matter have been willing to make space in their lives for the consideration and elaboration of the finest and most delicate essences in their hearts. In the face of so many wolves in sheep’s clothing and so many enticing distractions, you have to be deliberate about making this space. To do so requires discipline, patience and a stillness of heart and mind. To do so requires courage (to open yourself to those essences) and confidence (to let what forms be expressed), no matter how that which is created might be judged by the world round about. If you’ve maintained your integrity and done the very best you can, how the world receives your gift is beside the point.

On that note I am honored to share a sweet little poem written by a precious friend of mine, Amy Comstock. Amy’s love of and respect for the the animal kingdom – horses, dogs, birds, fish, frogs and just about everything else that hops, flies, swims or scampers about – is inspiring to me and a source of constant amusement. Amy is one of those rare people who is willing to share the fulness of her heart, to make herself vulnerable when others play their cards close and to freely share the exquisite sentiments that strum upon the strings of her mind and heart.

I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did!

WHY POETRY?

I have much inside
That I’d love to share,
But only in poetry
Do I dare.

For words on paper
Will always last,
While spoken words
Become part of your past.

You speak a thought
With a friend or two,
They often judge
And look down on you.

Share that same thought
With the flow of your pen,
The judgment will cease
Admiration comes then.

For the written word
Makes us think more than speak,
It evokes our true feelings
That we all dare to seek.

So in poems that I write
My truth will shine through,
I write them for me
You read them for you.

© Amy Comstock

What I hear in Amy’s poem is this: no matter how many times you’ve been duped, used, abused, misunderstood, ignored, judged, misinterpreted, misquoted, overlooked, arbitrarily dismissed or falsely accused, don’t let it stop you.

Dare to bring the value that is yours to bring. Dare to rise to the challenge of maintaining your integrity when others are hellbent, like to great red dragon, on gobbling up that which is born on the wings of love through you. Dare to remember your connection to all that is whole, inviolate and wholesome. And finally, dare to take the liberty to give voice or pen to the very highest and finest essences of which you are aware, no matter what your closest friends or bitterest enemies might have to say about it.

Dare, in short, to have the dignity to be you…not the you that you would like others to see you as or the you that others would have you be, but the real you.

Why else are you here?

If you have a few minutes I encourage you to turn your speakers up or put your earbuds in and listen to one of Saint Hildegard’s wonderful compositions, written nearly 1,000 years ago during a tumultuous and perilous time in Europe.

Dignity of the Artist

The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world. In this long vigil he often has to vary his methods of stimulation; but in this long vigil he is also himself striving against a continual tendency to sleep.” ~ Marc Chagall

There is a tremendously destructive force at work in the world and it thrives in the minds and hearts of those who have fallen asleep in relation to their higher purpose. This force has many goals. Central among them is the nullification of the expression of joy in relation to living.

You’ve no doubt seen this force at work in those around you, where the life is gradually sucked out of them. Wonderment turns to expectation, joy gives way to bitterness and appreciation yields to disdain whenever this force is given residence in the heart by a weak or untrained mind. It is a sad thing to watch, especially when it happens to those you love, but happen it does.

So what can be done?

You cannot force others to see the light of reason, but you can provide a steady stream of inspiration that will either draw them closer to a breakthrough in their understanding or repel them if they are being stubborn. Either way you’ve done your part and to try to do any more is a fool’s errand. Doing your part is the best that you can do.

If you take it a step too far (doing your part while trying to do theirs as well), your efforts will invariably come to naught. You cannot live for someone else. You cannot make them live for themselves. You can educate, assist, motivate and galvanize, but at the end of the day they must assume responsibility for the choices that are theirs to make.

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no need to struggle with this force in any of its manifestations. Men of dignity and unbending principle do not contend with this force as it seeks to gain sway in their hearts or in those of others. They realize that living, truly living, unfolds by means of a radiant approach in all things. Moreover, they understand that radiant living is only possible where wonderment is alive and well in both heart and mind.

Do you view your world with wonder each and every day? If not, you’ve probably noticed that the lights have already begun to dim in your experience. Be deliberate about taking a radiant stance in relation to your work, your family, your friends. Rather than demand newness, joy and fulfillment from your world, look to radiate those qualities into it, regardless of how you might feel about them at the moment.

Don’t be fooled by the dissatisfied and bitter voices of those who have turned their backs on radiant living. Misery seeks company because it must feed like a vampire to stay alive. Hear them out, but give no quarter. You needn’t join in simply because you were asked. You have the opportunity to be an artist in living, filled with joy, dignity and a clear sense of purpose.

The question is, will you seize it?

A Certain Reserve

There is a certain reserve in self-respect, a reverence for the fine dignity of the individual self, which keeps man from taking the whole world into his confidence. His real, deeper self he keeps for those who are nearest and dearest. There are men and women who, at the first meeting, as mere casual acquaintances, take you through the windings of their most intimate thoughts, feelings, and experiences. You have a sense of shock at their sudden housecleaning and fumigation of the emotions, as though you were looking at someone in a bathrobe walking down the street. Like the holy place behind the veil in the tabernacle, where even the high priest could enter but once a year, there are some memories, episodes, and experiences in the individual life that are sacred. Self-respect realizes that this sanctuary is no place for a crowd of tourists.” William George Jordan

One of the casualties of the internet is the sense of reserve that comes with having to own up to those things you say and write. I’m sure you’ve read a string of comments after a Youtube post or watched how nasty people become when commenting on other forums under a pseudonym. Reserve is disregarded by cowards cloaked in anonymity.

Granted there is a broad spectrum of people, some who prefer to be extremely private and others who are more open and gregarious, but I have to agree with Mr. Jordan’s assertion that there are levels of sacredness for a good reason. One of the challenges we’ve faced throughout history is that of functioning in a way that the levels can safely appear. Sacredness cannot be destroyed, but it is withdrawn when in the presence of coarseness of any kind.

You cannot generate sacredness beyond yourself if you lack self-respect. You must love and be honest with yourself before you can truly love and be honest with anyone else. Self-respect is the starting point, not the final destination. It is the means by which dignity is made manifest on earth.

Man Up

Yesterday I happened upon a simple piece of advice: “If you wouldn’t write it and sign it, then don’t say it.” Today I would add a corollary: “If you won’t sign it, then don’t send it.”

Where has the world gone that I once knew, a world where people owned up to their thoughts and opinions with dignity and in person? Granted such an approach is much more uncomfortable than lobbing snide remarks over a wall or murmuring from a distance, but who said that life would always be comfortable?

When you must put your name or your face to that which you say or write, you are likely to take more care in crafting your words. If you’re not, then you’ve got some work to do, lest you become a slave to the words you let slip out.

To live a life of honor, you must be willing to be discomfited every now and again. When you are, dare to meet it in the spirit of this old phrase, “Gird up now thy loins like a man!”

The Seeds You Plant

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

The harvest you reap is a thing of the past. You cannot do much about your harvests, apart from handling them with the fullness of dignity available to you. You do, however, have complete control over the seeds that you plant.

There is no way in the world to control how your thoughts, words and deeds will be received by others, nevertheless, it still makes sense to package the gifts you give to the world around you in a way that they are most likely to be received and appreciated. This, in fact, is one of the greatest challenges those who dedicate themselves to being a blessing face in the world at large, for the stony places in man’s heart can be a difficult place to garden.

You can be sure that some of the blessings you offer will be received graciously, welcomed in fact while others will be rejected irreverently and occasionally violently. If you base the quality of your giving on the nature of the reception you will be disappointed most of the time. Take care to emphasize the former and disregard the latter, apart from seeing how you might approach it differently next time that it might be better received and all the days of your life will be generative.

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.” ~ William Shakespeare

Attitude and Character

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” ~ Albert Einstein

Character flaws don’t just happen. They are formed over time like stalactites in a cave. They are rigid, yet ultimately fragile and they invariably complicate the passage from this moment to the next. Character flaws are not a necessity, only an unfortunate side-effect of careless attitudes.

If you are concerned to improve upon your character flaws, you must first make a thorough review of your daily attitude. How do you tend to receive the daily challenges which arise in your day? Are you upset by them, angered or thrown for a loop or do you take them in stride, thinking first and reacting later? Far too many people are tripped up on this point alone: they shoot first and ask questions later.

We tend to be creatures of habit. We sit in the same seats in a meeting room or a conference, even if it extends over several days. We drive the same routes to and from our daily stops despite the likely availability of many other routes. We form routines that get us up and going in the morning and that provide an initial rhythm for the day. These habits become engraved in our consciousness over time to the point that more and more of our day can be (and is likely) performed on an unconscious basis.

Most over time develop habits of reaction to external circumstance. When life lobs a sweet opportunity over the plate they tend to respond one way, while the curve balls receive a different, but similarly predictable treatment. This is the basic mechanism behind prejudice, jumping to conclusions and pet peeves.

Why not meet everything that comes your way with equanimity, poise and an eye for making the best use of what does unfold in your field of circumstance, no matter how favorably or unfavorably it is clothed. Think of attitude this way: attitude is the basic inclination with which you tend to confront the familiar as well as the unknown. It is just as easy to develop a habit of emphasizing the opportunity inherent in any circumstance no matter how infinitesimal it might be as it is to complain, deride, whine and indulge in self-pity.

Your habitual attitude in this sense is what shapes your character. Your character is not something you were born with, neither is it your personality. It is built over time, laid like bricks based on how you respond to each and every circumstance that comes your way. Deliberately change your attitude and step by step you begin to reshape your character.

If anything, remember this point: nothing will ever come your way that is bigger than your ability to handle it with dignity, creativity and aplomb!

Facing the Mistakes of Life VII

We cannot relive our old mistakes, but we can make them the means of future immunity from the folly that caused them. If we were impatient yesterday, it should inspire us to be patient today. Yesterday’s anger may be the seed of today’s sweetness. Today’s kindness should be the form assumed by our regret at yesterday’s cruelty. Our unfairness to one may open our eyes to the possibility of greater fairness to hundreds. Injustice to one that may seem to have cost us much may really have cost us little if it makes us more kind, tender and thoughtful for long years.” William George Jordan

I’ve known some people who used the idea that mistakes provide lessons for our tomorrows as an excuse for not giving their highest and finest now. “There’s always tomorrow,” they say, believing that so saying gives them permission to slip up with impunity. Thank goodness that the phoenix can rise form the ashes, but that should only be the approach of last resort and never Plan A!

There must be sufficient momentum to sustain progress individually and collectively. If you, for instance, go through a day where your thoughts, words and deeds only hit the mark in 10 percent of the cases, the resultant drag will likely grind your life’s momentum to a halt if you’re not careful in the days to come. If, on the other hand, you maintain your crown of individuality and as a result, your integrity, dignity and poise, you are more likely to hit the mark, say, 75-95 percent of the time. This has the dual effect of reducing drag and increasing thrust.

Navigating the world we’ve created for ourselves, which is essentially the culmination of eons of free choice and other lesser-known causal factors, is akin to flying. If your airship is well-built, has structural integrity and is free of maintenance squawks, you’ll likely do well, regardless of the occasional turbulence. If, however, you’ve put off the maintenance, disregarded the growing rust on your wing spars and failed to make the adjustments necessary to keep your craft in top shape, the slightest bobble in the air will be sufficient to produce knots in your stomach.

There is mercy in the fact that – up to a certain point – we can learn from our mistakes and move on. Let that not be an excuse for subpar function, in fact, don’t just shoot for average. Go for the gold! The more refined your function, the more aligned your body, mind and heart, the less corrections you will need to make and what’s more, the slight adjustments you’ll need to make to your course will become almost imperceptible to others!

It is true in sports, it is the case in relationships and this principle works out in every other department of life. Just watch those who excel and you will see it in action. Learn to cooperate with it and I can assure you that your life will be a thousand times easier, more productive and less stressful!