Oprah Webcasts

Tell Me a Story…

<April 8/08>

I got up this morning – my birthday! – in a quite stunning place. I’m at a retreat centre called Hollyhock on Cortes Island in B.C., and this is my last full day here (darn!).

It’s a rainy day, and I have to admit, rainy isn’t my very favourite kind of weather. But it’s my birthday, and I know darn well a morning walk is always the best way for me to start my day (and also that “attitude is everything,”) so I cheerfully suited up in my raingear and set out for a walk over to nearby Smelt Bay Provincial Park beach.

On the way over I thought “dressing for the weather” is not such a bad metaphor for life. We will each encounter every kind of “weather” in our lives, and certain attitudes/behaviour/habits will stand us in better stead than others. Actively practicing gratitude, being out in and appreciating Nature often, learning to “let go,” understanding that “the best things in life are not things” and that “your wealth is where your friends are:” all of these will help get us through even the stormiest “weather.”

On my walk down the beach (the one pictured at the top of this blog), the phrase “The magic is everywhere” came into my head. I’ve long believed that “everyday magic” is all around us: again, the kinds of magic we encounter when we love Nature, follow our bliss, find our tribe and practice gratitude faithfully.

The magic this morning was in the natural beauty around me; never mind that it was raining. I saw two friendly fishermen arriving back on shore in that classic, charming yellow raingear, several loons, a whole host of interesting shells and pieces of driftwood, and just kept breathing it all in and giving deep sighs of gratitude.

Down at the farthest point on the beach, I looked out in the water and saw a huge flock of scoter birds. I had a chuckle recalling the amazing show some of these birds had given me on an earlier walk. If only I had videotaped them – they’d put on the most captivating play for me (well, not for me, of course, but there I was to gratefully drink in their highly amusing little “show”).

Then, for some reason, the thought came to me, as it has on other occasions, that we all carry a personal “story” with us, and that when we let it go – let it fall away – magic happens.

I used to carry a story about a not-terribly-happy childhood. Then, over time, that tired old one was replaced by one about the 20-year marriage that blew up.

Now, I’m just me – woman, mother, writer, environmental activist, friend, community volunteer, human being...

I think – I hope! – my story has grown bigger.

I think that, although I may weigh a little more now in actual pounds of flesh, every time I let my “story” go and just be, I become lighter…more full of light…freer…more joyful.

In the language of Eckhart Tolle (whose book and appearances on the webcasts with Oprah are so “hot” right now), our egos are very heavy.

They slow us down…they trip us up…they get in the way.

I’m not saying we human beings don’t need stories – we do. Many big writers and thinkers (e.g Thomas King and Thomas Berry,(1) to name just two) are quite right when they say that story is in fact the whole deal.

But what we need now are big stories; big visions – not little stories that keep us all caught up inside our own heads, recycling those little, personal “oh poor me” stories…

(Maybe we are like a snake that needs to shed its skin? It is time to move on…)

What happens when we drop our old personal story? Many of us are afraid of doing so, I know. The old story seems to give us an odd sort of comfort, doesn’t it? It’s so familiar. Yet the old stories don’t make us happy; they’re more like some sort of prison, actually – yet we do cling quite tenaciously to them, don’t we?

Letting them go sets us free.

One begins to sense one’s pure potential.

I’d say we are pure potential.

So here’s my birthday wish for all of us:

Tell me a story.

A story about possibilities and potential.

And then, let’s all start putting flesh on the bones of these new, big, grand stories.

Amen…

Janet

P.S. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies ahead are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” It is so, it is so...


(1) You will never go wrong reading any or all of Thomas Berry’s books…trust me! I’m particularly fond of The Dream of the Earth and The Great Work – Our Way into the Future. He also co-authored The Universe Story From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era, A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos with physicist Brian Swimme. Also eminently worth reading…

What is Spirituality FOR? (1)

<June 2008>

Everyone and her cousin is reading Eckhart Tolle right now, & this is a good thing! I’m one of his biggest fans, & if I had to distill my (usually exceedingly long) recommended reading list down to just one title, it would be, without question, A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.

Eckhart Tolle’s thoughts & insights & wisdom are spot on. They are just the words & messages we need to hear at this uniquely challenging time in human history.

I do, however, suspect that there is some confusion over the meaning & purpose of the term/phenomenon “spirituality,” & I think it’s important that we not miss out on the forest for the trees…as it were.

Let me say right off the top here, by the way, that neither I nor anyone else would ever describe me as a “spiritual-looking” person (can’t seem to make myself do yoga or meditate regularly, for example). I’m no “expert” on the subject of the meaning & purpose of spirituality, either. I just think (& read, & philosophize) about all these things quite a lot…

While a huge fan of Eckhart Tolle (& of Oprah, who has helped so hugely to deliver Tolle's ideas to millions of people)(2), I’m a little concerned that some of us may be missing the point of all this learning to live in the moment, understanding about the “pain body,” & learning more about energy & joy & enthusiasm.

We are not here just for ourselves, Gentle Reader; none of us is! We are here for each other, & for the whole (meaning the human race & the Earth). This is what (most) religions & religious leaders have always tried so hard to teach us, but got derailed by becoming self-perpetuating & self-righteous institutions. Nowadays, of course, so many of us find that organized religion doesn’t “speak” to us, & indeed, the beauty of the amazing Eckhart Tolle is that his wisdom transcends all the old man-made religious divisions & dogmas.

Spirituality is for each and every one of us – its purpose (I think) is to help us become more fully human. Inevitably, becoming more fully human brings us into intimate contact with other human beings & with suffering of all kinds, since Planet Earth has billions of human beings & is rife with suffering in myriad forms.

“Spirituality is that aspect of ourselves which enables us to transcend our isolation and move into communion with life and with one another. When our lives lack any kind of experience which connects us with the sanctity of life, it is as though we have lost the very ground of our being. Spirituality is central to community and to effective political work.” So said Margo Adair & Sharon Howell in their essay “Women Weave Community” in the book Circles of Strength – Community Alternatives to Alienation.(3)

Spirituality & spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation & chanting exist to help us rein in our egos & their attendant emotional excesses & to become more wise, giving, compassionate & caring people; at least, that’s my understanding of their purpose.

I suspect there are still at least some people I know well who think spirituality is “woo woo” – too “out there,” too weird, too anti-intellectual…too…airy-fairy.

I think too that some of us think doing yoga & meditation are ends in themselves. After all, they make us feel so good.

It seems to me it would be a terrible shame if all the people who are “awakening to [their] life’s purpose” simply begin to exchange one form of egotism for another.

We are here for one another. We are not here just to look after ourselves & our own immediate situations. (I don't think so, anyway, though for sure, I could be wrong about this!)

There are many serious crises taking place here on the Earth at this time, & there is so much work to do!

I pray (yes, although I am not conventionally “religious,” do not attend church & don’t appear outwardly very “spiritual,” I do indeed pray) that more & more of us will grasp soon – as we learn to let our egos/minds grip us less & less in the negative ways to which we’ve become accustomed – that we do indeed each have a purpose here, & that our energy & efforts & caring & compassion are needed in a whole variety of ways.

Being “spiritual” – especially in the year 2009 – does not mean “workin’ 9 – 5” & caring only about our own immediate situation, & perhaps doing yoga & meditation in order to benefit our own immediate self. Doing yoga & meditation & chanting & becoming less selfish & less ensnared by ego free us to contribute to the world around us; this, I believe, is what spirituality is really for.

When we free ourselves from the old yoke of egotism & the more recent & all-too-prevalent “Everything is all about ME” mentality, a lot of energy is freed up.

But don’t take old un-spiritual Janet McNeill’s word on this. The Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader recognized, loved & respected around the world. I heard him quoted recently in the Elisabet Sahtouris DVD “Crisis as Opportunity: Living Better on a Hotter Planet” saying: “ The most important meditation is critical thinking – followed by action.”(4)

Janet

P.S. There are 2 other items on the blog on this topic: ‘The Problem with God’ & ‘Spirituality: More Thoughts.’


 

[1] With apologies and gratitude to farmer, poet and essayist Wendell Berry, whose essay collection “What are People FOR?” is an excellent and inspiring read (as is everything he writes!).

(2) with her Webcasts, I mean, which you can find here

(3) Circles of Strength – Community Alternatives to Alienation, edited by Helen Forsey, New Society Publishers, 1993.

(4) Elisabet Sahtouris is a wonderfully inspiring evolution biologist, writer and international presenter. To learn more about her, go here. The film mentioned is very, very inspiring. It can be ordered on-line…

 

Pain Bodies on Parade (or Oh, To Be a Duck)

<Sept. ‘08>

Have you read Eckhart Tolle?

If not, my most excellent & heartfelt advice to you is, run out as soon as possible and buy (or borrow) his books & read him!!!

Read A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. You’ll find you’ll want to dip into its astonishingly helpful life truths again & again & again. (1)

This is an extraordinary time in human history.

Hmmm. Allow me to re-phrase that.

This is perhaps the most astonishing, beyond devastating and tragic to potentially apocalyptic, time in the history of our species (it certainly isn’t boring, though, is it?)

Only if you have your head planted firmly in the ground, ostrich-style, with ears and eyes firmly closed up with duct tape, can you miss seeing the truth that planetary devastation and the collapse of “civilization” as we know it are staring us squarely in the face.

We’ve waged war on each other and on the planet that sustains us, for between 5 & 10,000 years now.

War, poverty, greed, violence, cruelty, discrimination –  all are major stars on the world stage.

In our personal lives, greed, self-delusion and obsession with the past (our hurts, our pain) and the future (when we will triumph! When we will be rich/thin/admired/retired/“well”…) keep us from “being here now” to see what is really going on in our personal lives, and to the very planet we inhabit. There is also, I’d venture to say, a rather extraordinary epidemic of terminal, blind self-absorption.

Well. To pain bodies, hmm? My own pain body(2) made a big and rather noisy appearance recently. It stunned me – took me completely by surprise – and “got the better of me,” big-time. I thought I was “past” that kind of unconscious being-swallowed-up-by my own “crud,” for lack of a better way of putting it.

Oops! Not quite! Haven’t quite, yet, transmuted all that old … crap.

The specifics are not particularly relevant. I was in a setting where I suppose pain bodies make rather frequent appearances (a hospital), and where family “dramas” probably happen at the drop of a hat; for sure, though, the spectacular appearance of my own PB took me entirely by surprise.

It wasn’t actually until a couple of days later (with the help of Tolle and Oprah) that I actually “got” what had grabbed hold of me.

I do believe what we are seeing around us – in our individual lives and on the societal/world stage – is a spectacular, earth-wide drama of “pain bodies on parade.”

What is a person to do??

Well, I don’t have any simple answers or guarantees, dear Reader.

I can recommend that we all begin by reading Eckhart Tolle (whose views and insights, by the way, are consistent with all or most religious traditions and also with non-belief, actually – he’s an equal opportunity kind of guy!) – grasping that this pivotal time in human history is calling each one of us to heal ourselves (by learning to live in the present moment; sounds easy, huh? Bit more challenging than it sounds, but do-able…) – so that we stand some chance of helping heal “the world.”

And then, I’d say, we all ought to follow the advice of that amazing and inspiring Dalai Lama, who has said, “The most important meditation is critical thinking – followed by action.”

And oh dear me, I’ve gone & forgotten to explain the duck part!

Tune in to “Ducks, Unlimited; Humans? Also Unlimited…”

Janet

 

P.S. Another blog item about Eckhart Tolle, ducks & pain bodies is ‘Flap Your Wings.’

 

 


(1) Watch his Webcasts with Oprah, too! They are wonderful and inspiring and definitely have the potential to be life-changing. Catch them here

(2) Tolle has articulated the concept of the “pain body” in both The Power of Now and A New Earth. It’s a concept that illuminates a very great deal, I must say! Google it and watch a short YouTube for an explanation.