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“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Br. David Steindl Rast

The Half Life, First Day of School, and How to Become More Kind

Around here we’re celebrating the first day of school!

Like all moments, this one has so much going on in the inner-life: the sweet blend of pride, concern and excitement, the amazement of how quiet and still our house feels this morning, a deep wish for him to be happy, to grow and unfold into his unique Mesa-ness…

So many of our rites of passage have the quality that shaman and teacher Martin Prechtel described as: “Grief and Praise: two sides of the same coin”

This past weekend we enjoyed a day long intensive exploring how to bring openness to our chest during our “Your Ribs are Not a Cage” workshop. In one of the discussions, a line from Stephen Levine came up that has been very much alive in me and Erin the last few days.

The line was from a workshop the he and his wife, Ondrea taught on, “To Love and To Be Loved: The Difficult Yoga of Relationships.”

Thanks to modern technology and Sounds True, Stephen and Ondrea have been profound teachers, guides and models for myself and Erin, even though we have never met them.

We listened to that tape set probably 20 times over the years on road trips to meditation retreats and Feldenkrais trainings in Santa Fe, Boulder, and Berkeley.

They have had a profound impact on our work, our marriage, our path and our capacity to love.

Just look at them. Isn’t their love beautiful?

In writing this, I am so filled with gratitude for what they embody and offer.

So, the line from Stephen was this:

“People always ask me, ‘How did you become so kind?’ and I reply, ‘By discovering how unkind I was.'”

Hello, Sweetheart.

What if we were able to look, with love, with warmth at how unkind we are, how distracted, or tense, or disconnected we are much of the time?

Most often, when we become aware of those qualities, we shift into a compulsive fix-it mode, or compulsive denial mode, (or fill in the blank for the many compulsive ways we greet those aspects.)

It could be inner-shaming, drinking, trail running, to-do-listing, meditating, medicating…

Anytime we are waking up to something, what we will most often come awake to is how often we are asleep.

Can I really bring warmth and curiosity to the places where I shut down? How I am unkind? Where I get lulled into trance with the iPhone? Where I harden against the moment?

I have found great value this week in holding Stephen’s line as a kind of a sponsor.

And along the same theme, a poem from Stephen…

Half life
by Stephen Levine

We walk through half our life
as if it were a fever dream

barely touching the ground

our eyes half open
our heart half closed.

Not half knowing who we are
we watch the ghost of us drift
from room to room
through friends and lovers
never quite as real as advertised.

Not saying half we mean
or meaning half we say
we dream ourselves
from birth to birth
seeking some true self.

Until the fever breaks
and the heart can not abide
a moment longer
as the rest of us awakens,
summoned from the dream,
not half caring for anything but love.

Wishing for all of us that “the fever breaks.”

best,

Carl

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