Friday, September 2, 2011

Challenges in Real-Time

by Miki Kashtan
You may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything on my blog for some weeks now. This is a first since I started my blog. This is no accident, and not even entirely based on having a lot on my plate. These past weeks have been very challenging in multiple ways. The effort it would have taken to pull myself out of that state in order to focus on writing was beyond my capacity given the external stressors that were present.
I have written here more than once about how the path of vulnerability has been my primary spiritual practice in the last 15 years. I have also expressed myself quite vulnerably on a number of occasions. What I don’t recall having done is to share, publicly, my challenges while they are active and ongoing, before something gets resolved, addressed, settled. This is what I am about to do in this entry.
What makes it possible is a change in my outside circumstances. Right now I am sitting in an airplane, on my way to Poland and then the UK, where I have been invited to teach. There is something about being locked up in the air, without any possibility of being accountable to anyone, that feels freeing to me, even though the space is narrow and hugely uncomfortable and the options are so limited. In this space I can almost imagine that I am writing only to myself, or to a few trusted friends, rather than to several hundred people who read my blog.

My deepest challenge of all is one I have mentioned here more than once: I don’t believe, or experience the option, that there can be room for me in this world. Yes, there is room for me to contribute, to support people, to write, to inspire people, to do tasks, respond to people who want things, initiate projects, or even envision a new world. What I don’t believe there is room for is my deep authenticity, my difference in how I interact with people. Even more than that, I don’t experience the option of being fully myself, putting out in full what’s true for me and what I want, and having that received in a way that’s not at cost to others.
I’ve been feeling enormous discouragement. I’ve been working on myself for decades already, and I still struggle in such fundamental ways. I’ve had such clear visions for the world for so many years, and I don’t have a sense of having moved closer to accomplishing anything other than supporting individuals in having a better life for themselves. I’ve created an organization, and I don’t know how to influence it to be the shining force in the world that I long for it to be. I’ve articulated so clearly ways of working together with others to collaborate for everyone’s benefit and I haven’t had the significant effect I’ve wanted to have in supporting organizations to shift into this way of operating.
In all these areas, the gap between what I see as possible and what is actually happening is larger than my organism can tolerate and remain whole. On top of that, my fundamental way of operating is to be stretched slightly beyond capacity. I haven’t learned how to really and truly move from what I want, moment by moment. I have gotten much better at recognizing my limits, not at knowing what I want and trusting that I can go for it. Limits are not enough. I want to thrive. I don’t know how.
Then there is everything that’s larger than my own personal life. For as far back as I can remember I regularly fall into pits of despair about what’s happening in the world. At its most basic, the question that haunts me is this: How can we, collectively, continue to make choices that inflict so much suffering on so many people? I am not even sure which is more painful to me: those who don’t make the links between their actions and their effects, or those who are aware of the links and still make the choices. I personally fall more in the latter category. I delude myself, perhaps, by thinking that I inflict relatively little harm, and that I am dedicating my life to transforming the conditions that make such suffering possible. Still, in actual fact, I haven’t really done anything to reduce suffering in the world at the scale and in the places that matter to me most. Which then brings me back to the personal sense of inefficacy that I already spoke about.
Perhaps you can see, now, why it’s been difficult to know how to write. While all this has been going on inside, I’ve been immersed in an intensive family visit that was primarily joyous. My nephew Yannai had his Bar-Mitzvah, and we had family over from several states and from across the Atlantic. Then, on the tail end of that, I was completely engrossed in a major effort to find a drug that’s nationally out of stock in the US for my sister’s cancer treatment. Just keeping up with the activities of each day left me with no energy to wrestle with the difficulties inside me and find my way to write something.
Perhaps something is starting to shift, though I am far from certain. Two things happened in the last few days that give me some modicum of hope. One is that I am finding a readiness to create a new core practice for me: learning to identify what I want and make my daily choices based on that. Just as with the path of vulnerability, this will require many micro-steps. I won’t be able to jump start myself to where I want to be. It’s micro-steps that will get me there over time. I want to use any sign of knowing anything about what I want as a wake-up call, a mindfulness bell, that reminds me that I matter, that there’s room for me even if I can’t discern or experience it, that I am human like everyone else. The other occurrence which gives me hope is that in parallel with this insight I received a daily practice from a practitioner I see for bodywork. He suggested that I dedicate 10-15 minutes daily to wasting my time. I immediately saw the beauty and wisdom in this suggestion and decided to adopt it. Not even meditation, he said. Simply stopping any activity designed to create or contribute anything. The first day I managed to tear myself away from what I was doing, even despite the internal habitual chatter that suggested I finish first what I was doing. I knew better. I stopped, and I went and sat on the couch, and looked out my window on the sky, the birds, the houses across the street, and the hills extending up from the houses. I can see how within that fallow space of nothing a possible awakening of my knowing what I want can emerge. I know I want that.