Synchronicity brought me once again to this great teaching from Angeles Arrien that I first read and began to absorb and practice many, many years ago. Tonight I read these words again after spending some time with my youngest son earlier this evening. At one point, and after describing the book he had just started and the ones he had just read - Daring Greatly by Brené Brown and Taking the Leap by Pema Chödrön -, Matt motioned to his bookcase lined with yet to be read books (admittedly a few of which he got from me) and said "these are going to change my life." So true. Of course, I also had to reflect back that they already were. At just two weeks away from turning 30, Matt is rooted into a radical full-blown spiritual awakening. I am filled with awe and wonder and gratitude as I witness my young son experiencing a profound transformation. I am simply blown away!! I also flash back to the many teachers I have had over the more than 30 years of my own more gradual awakening. And I am again filled with gratitude. And humility - no one does this perfectly. Transforming our lives and becoming wholly who we are is a lifelong courageous and extraordinary journey. And it has certainly been my experience that God/Goddess/Spirit/Great Mystery - or whatever name we give to the One - does indeed work through others, including teachers and visionaries such as Angeles Arrien, whose wise work and heart and soulfulness shine the bright light we need to remember what we have forgotten and open to the wisdom and love that will not die and which never ceases to call to us to wake up, wake up, wake up! Spring is here...
With love and blessings ~
Life Keeps Calling to Us to Open the Arms of Love
and Bring Our Healing Medicine to the World
In many indigenous cultures, you can find some variation on the following rules, which are intended to make living a life very simple. The first rule is, Show up. Choose to be present to life. Choosing to be present is the skill of the warrior archetype, an old fashioned term for leadership abilities. The warrior in us chooses to be present to life.
Once we show up, we can go on with rule number two, which is, Pay attention to what has heart and meaning. This rule is associated with the archetype of the healer, the one who recognizes that love is the greatest healing power in the world. When we pay attention to what has heart and meaning, we are opening the arms of love.
When we show up and pay attention to what has heart and meaning, then we can follow the third rule: Tell the truth without blame or judgment. This is the path of the visionary, the one who can give voice to what is so. Telling the truth without blame or judgment is not necessarily being "polite," but the truth teller does consider timing and context as well as delivery. Truth telling collapses our patterns of denial and indulgence, keeps us authentic.
When we are able to tell the truth, we can go to the fourth rule: Be open to outcome, but not attached to it. This is associated with the archetype of the teacher, who trusts in the unexpected and is able to be detached. Often, in the West, we define "detachment" as "not caring," but detachment is really the capacity to care deeply but objectively. If you've taken the other three steps, then the fourth rule should come naturally, if not always easily: if you have shown up, paid attention to what has heart and meaning, and told the truth without blame or judgment, then it should follow naturally that you can be open, but not attached, to outcome.
None of this is necessarily easy to do. But one of the great joys of soul work is that whether or not we are able to be fully present to life, like keeps calling to us. No one is immune to the pull of the natural cycles of the universe: no one is immune to love. And because it requires just as much energy, if not more, to stay out of life as it does to be fully engaged in it, why not be engaged? Octavio Paz, a Latin American poet and Nobel Prize winner, realized that when he was in his forties just how much of himself he had spent staying away from the deep currents of his life. He wrote this prose poem describing that experience and describing, too, the persistence of the world in spite of it all:
After chopping off all the arms that reached out to me; after boarding up all the windows and doors; after filling all the pits with poisoned water; after building my house on the rock of a No inaccessible to flattery and fear; after cutting my tongue and eating it; after hurling handfuls of silence and monosyllables of scorn at my loves; after forgetting my name and the name of my birthplace and the name of my race; after judging myself and sentencing myself to perpetual waiting and perpetual loneliness, I heard against the stories of my dungeon of syllogisms the humid, tender, insistent onset of spring.
No matter how we try, soul calls out to us. We may have become so injured in our instincts, so wounded in our souls, that our demons threaten to overwhelm us, that we cannot quite hear the call of spring. But spring calls to us anyway. The center of our soul work is ensuring that the good, true, and beautiful in our nature is at least as strong as the demons and the monsters: put another way, it is ensuring that my self worth is at least as strong as my self critic. That issue is central to all of the indigenous peoples I have studied. If I am living in a way that feeds the good, true, and beautiful in my nature - as opposed to feeding the self critic - then I can heal myself. If I can stay in touch with my own deep source, my soul. And I can also be a healing agent in my family, my community, my nation, and the world.
I said before that the basis of soul work is really to eliminate everything that gets in the way of my being myself and to feed that which encourages me to be myself. I want to suggest a simple exercise - two simple questions - to help you track that. Each morning, before you step out into the world, ask yourself, "Is my self worth as strong as my self-critic?" Be sure that you can say yes before you go out the door. Then, using your name, say, "Jim, are you Jim" or "Sally, are you Sally?" and be sure that you can say yes to that, too, before you go out into the world.
All of us carry, within ourselves, an original healing medicine that is not duplicated anywhere else on earth. If we say yes to those two questions every day, then we can bring our medicine fully into the world. We can, as the woman at the bus stop did, move out of reactivity into creativity. When we live soulfully, each of us can be a shape shifter: each of us can be fully engaged , moment to moment, in the great gift called life.
- Angeles Arrien
Excerpted from a chapter in Nourishing the Soul:
Discovering the Sacred In Everyday Life
- with writings from several teachers, healers, and visionaries -
This can also be found in Angeles Arrien's book The Four Fold Way:
Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary