Last week, I ran into a friend of mine at the post office. She and I have the soulful connection of life-long friends, even though we haven’t spent all that much time together. She has attended some of my ceremonies and I have been invited to some of her group potucks. We’ve taken a hike or two. This has been the nature and extent of our relationship, which I would describe as easy and soulfully intimate. She is what I’d call an advanced spirit. Her path has been largely Sufi but as a true mystic, she seems to see God everywhere. When she saw me, before any greeting, she immediately got a concerned look on her face.
“What is going ON with you?” she said. Keep in mind we are in line at the post office. A very, very quiet post office. My friend is not known to be what they call “quiet and shy.”
Chuckling inside at both the situation of being asked a personal question in a public place and the immediate egoic fear that immediately arose, I gave her the broad strokes; primary relationship ending, some concern about being ready for a winter in my tipi, exciting possibilities at work.
She frowned and told me my energy was all “wonky” and way over here – pointing to the left side of my head and above – and commanded me to call her “this weekend and let me pray over you for an hour.”
I said I would and meant it, and hugged her goodbye.
It was a busy weekend but still, on Sunday when I got a text from an unknown number telling me basically to stop making excuses and get over there, I knew who it was. I thought briefly of indeed making an excuse -I had plenty- but thought better of it and said I would be there in 30 minutes.
It was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a while.
Aside from the cathartic relief of unloading sticky emotions on a willing and wise friend, my friend said some things that have not only stuck with me, but have changed the way I think about the roots of the emotions and urges I feel throughout the day. Among other things, she said that emotions are not just emotions. Underneath, they are essentially changes in energy, nothing more. But we are culturally programmed to attach meaning to those energetic changes which then become emotions or urges to act. In other words, we program ourselves to unconsciously act a certain way under certain circumstances when one of these generic energy changes occur. For instance, we may be in a situation where the energy in our workplace as it relates to us, shifts. This may immediately appear to result in real-life uncertainty, in ways outside of our control. Or we may choose to see it as an opportunity. It all depends on how we have programmed ourselves to react to such a shift. Either way, underneath it all it is simply a shift, nothing more. One thing for sure is the ego hates anything it cannot control so, if we are controlled by our “workplace ego” in the moment, we attach a certain familiar meaning to that occurrence. We may label this meaning, “a bad day”, or “work sucks” or “I’m mad”. If we are very entrenched, we may manifest that emotion physically by throwing something, telling someone off, sending an ill-advised email or eating an entire bag of cookies for the sugar hit. (“Comfort food” is what we’ve been told to call it.) The body, my friend said, will never lie. So the trick is to remain present when you feel an energy shift. Don’t label it, just see it. Locate the contraction in your body and ask yourself what it’s about.
“You’ll see,” she said, “that it isn’t hunger you feel when you are discouraged. That’s only the programming. The good news is that since it’s only a program, it can be re-written. When you notice that, you can see the impulse has a softer quality to it. It’s software versus hardware. It certainly is not necessarily a truth just because it is labeled as such by the ego.”
Suffice it to say, this hit home for me.
My emotions, then, are not ONLY my emotions. They are shifts in energy to which I assign meaning, which then BECOME emotions. This is in direct line with the quantum idea that everything is essentially vibration. Our thoughts, our intentions, our actions, - the whole physical world – are at their core simply different vibrations. And we assign meaning to those, based on our culture and our conditioning.
I let that sink in over a few days. If that’s true, underneath every habit and all our unconscious actions are conditioned responses to certain energetic frequencies. They are simply neural pathways worn away by familiar use.
As I stewed on this, I remembered an interesting and parallel fact from a long-ago science class.
Looking it up online, I saw encapsulated concisely. It read, “Newton observed that color is not inherent in objects. Rather, the surface of an object reflects some colors and absorbs all the others. We perceive only the reflected colors.”
So, looking out at the pasture in front of me, the green I see is not green. It is a reflection of a certain frequency that I have named, “green”. But I didn’t name the color. I was taught that. In reality, it is only a reflection. We’ve agreed to call it “green” (and “grass”, for that matter), for the purposes of lingual convenience. But those names do NOT reflect the full reality of either. Not by a long shot. To take another familiar example, physical hunger that I experience may not really be hunger. I mean, I can go for days without eating. I do it regularly. Am I really hungry after only a few hours, or less? Or did something difficult happen? Or did the clock say it was 11:15? Or do I feel a need to spend a little money – even a$4 on a worthless coffee or a sugary snack - in order to feel better? If so, what is that really about?
Both these ideas on the fluid nature of emotive urges and the inherent unreality of what we think we see reflect the Toltec (and Hopi and Buddhist and Sufi and Kabballic and quantum and otherwise mystic, not to mention shamanic) teaching that we create our collective and individual realities. If that’s true, it should give us great hope, not to mention faith in the love of a divine Creator, who really means it when S/He says, “You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.” (Psalms 82).
In other words, we get to create what we want. Figuring out what we actually want and how to work with the medium of reality to artfully create that life is the trick. In the end, it’s the only trick. We have nothing else to do here. And we are finally limited only by what we choose to believe about ourselves.
Today as I motored around my home arranging this and that in preparation for my day, I felt time slipping away from me; time I like to spend in meditation and prayer. I felt a contraction in my chest, a feeling of not making the right choices. But that wasn’t it, either. If what my friend says is true, it was merely a change in energy of the moment, a change brought on by my identification with a clock, with commitments and a schedule. All of these things are not without importance, but they are not the problem. They were not the reason for the contraction. They provided the impetus for the shift, it’s true, but what my mind automatically did with it was channel it into a familiar story; that of not doing enough, which, in the language of ego, is not being enough. My body felt that message and sent it back to my consciousness, as it is supposed to do. All too often that message goes unheard.
But I caught it this time.
I stopped. I took a deep breath. I concentrated for about ten seconds on a recently risen sun against a blue sky. And the new message was this: I have everything in this moment I need. Everything. Including time. I gathered my sacred items, walked to my outdoor altar and prayed as tears of gratitude ran down my cheeks.
In the end, I was not late. Instead, I spared myself fifteen minutes of relatively useless puttering. I saw ego and took one more step towards rewiring my neural pathways. I invited my unseen helpers to journey with me during the day. I allowed my soul to be infused with peace and saw myself standing between a perennially fertile earth and an eternally expansive sky – and knew once again that I am a child of both. We all are.
The next time I see my friend, I hope that my energy won’t be so alarmingly “wonky”. If I continue to apply these concepts, I like my chances.
But if my energy is a little off, my next best hope is that I don’t run into her at a quiet post office.
Photographer bloody talented, but sadly unknown.