We’re back! Special greetings to you all. We continue our discussion of the book by Frank Ostaseski, “The Five Invitations – Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully.” We are on Invitation #3 – “Bring your whole self to the experience.”
I highly recommend this book, there is much, much more in the chapters than I am including in these 5 weeks. I’m merely hitting SOME highlights…if it is interesting to you, get a copy or borrow mine. You will be glad you did.
Frank starts out this invitation with an interesting idea…suppose you could take a photo of yourself and print it on thick, stiff cardboard that included your whole body, including a multi-dimensional of your whole being including your personality.
Now, you take a laser-cutting die and make a jigsaw puzzle.
Spread the 1000 or so pieces out and begin to put yourself back together.
As you progress passed the easy edges, you might come across a part you didn’t like…maybe your fear of something, or your lust for something and you think that fear isn’t something you wish you had, or you recall lust wasn’t a good thing to have if we are spiritual folks. So, you don’t include these pieces.
As you continue, ‘deeming certain aspects of yourself acceptable and others not. After a while, your puzzle wouldn’t be recognizable because it’s so fragmented, holes everywhere.
You wouldn’t be able to see the whole picture.
We all want to look good, projecting an image of confidence, sensitive, spiritual, strong, intelligent and certainly well adjusted. We don’t want to be known for anger, fear, helplessness.
However, our experiences give us the ability, the compassion to connect with others as they may be experiencing these same traits. If the cancer this body experienced or abuse experienced as a child can help another, then that aspect is part of ‘what is mine to do’ during this lifetime.
Because after “what is mine to do” continues “and then do it.”
Frank tells us: “it is the wisdom gained from our own suffering, vulnerability, and healing that enables us to be of real assistance to others. It is the exploration of our inner lives that facilitates us in forming an empathetic bridge from our experience to others.
To be whole, we need to include, accept, and connect all parts of our selves. We need acceptance of our conflicting qualities and the seeming incongruity of our inner and outer worlds.
Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means no part left out.
So, lets imagine for a few minutes yourself as a jigsaw puzzle, and what parts would you want to leave out? How much of the puzzle would be left after you removed the unwanted parts of yourself? Something to consider this week…
This chapter also talks about our roles, some of which you may have left out of your jigsaw puzzle…those things we fall back on when we are in fear, for example. We are vulnerable and courageous at the same time as we hold the space for those who are reaching out to us, often as they are waiting for that moment when they transition from this plane to the next.
My role as oldest daughter, closest friend to my Mother as she lay in the hospital bed, just wanting no pain was established long before that moment. I walked into the hospital ‘room’ with family around the bed. The bedside chair was made available as I walked in and the words, ‘she’s been asking for you’, made my role now as caretaker even more established.
It was on me for choices to be made on her comfort, getting answers from the doctors about hospice care, but, no it’s too late for that, just a ‘real room’ for comfort, quiet and privacy.
I got to my Mother’s room Sunday afternoon after rushing out of our Service, just giving my Message. Monday evening she transitioned.
Then more roles as what to do next.
“We are social animals and have a multitude of roles as we travel through our lives.
‘Roles are neither good nor bad. They are primarily functional and provide for some needed predictability in our lives, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships.”
Developmentally, our roles change as we move through life.
For me, I didn’t have much opportunity to be a kid, for many reasons, but soon I became big sister, babysitter, teacher, cook, cleaner, housekeeper, because I had to.
Finally, I got to be friend because a part of my role as school student was added, I met others. Girlfriend, worker, driver, college student, spiritual explorer….many roles.
I have often asked the Tuesday Group about their roles, often they do not go very far back as they shared. Sometimes that is hard, painful to do. Survivor was added to my roles several times, as a baby when the house blew up from gas, and abuse, from auto accidents, from cancer and other surgeries…
These are all roles. We really need a long sheet of paper to add them all.
Each role comes complete with its own expected set of behaviors, functions, and responsibilities.
But our roles are a choice. I chose to be the caretaker for my Mother. I chose to work with her to help her past her victim belief and hope she could learn to see what a wonderful, intelligent, strong woman she was.
Sometimes my role as daughter on my spiritual journey conflicted with her victim mentality. She wanted to continually fall back on that place of confronting hers and my abuse. That was easy for her, it was familiar. Sometimes it’s hard to move forward.
So, I had to carefully allow her opportunities to open her eyes and heart to see and HEAR me as I tried to come to terms with my experiences. Her role as victim was tested until she could see that her role as Mother was so much more important.
This is how roles can and do change as we go through life. They do. They will if we allow it.
It is important that we don’t over-identify with our roles. You may know of someone who, after retiring from a job held for many years, was so attached to their role, that they fell into despair and maybe even finally died because of that attachment.
We are not what we do, what we think, what we feel, what we say, or what we have.
Ram Dass: “Don’t be a role; be a soul.”
We are not our roles or conditions. Recall Myrtle Fillmore, “I am a child of God and therefore do not inherit disease.”
Frank tells us: “We are first and foremost human beings, with all the complexity, fragility, and wonder that life encompasses. When we only look through the lens of a role, it narrows our vision of the world. We don’t see things and people as they actually are, but rather project our story onto them. This frequently causes us to attribute a particular significance to an experience and miss the true meaning that is trying to emerge.”
“Naomi Remen, MD, “Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of ego, and service the work of the soul.”
To be in service Frank suggests we sit with another person without a solution to their problem, without playing a role. No analyzing, no fixing, no meddling. Listen. Be a listening presence.
Our roles are not enough…we need the courage to be authentically whole. Its saying what is so when it is so. Its showing up, doing what we say we will do, remembering our commitments, and honoring our agreements.
While service is natural for most of us, it isn’t always easy. Sometimes we get caught up in a role. We become drained. We have to remember what called our souls to serve in the first place. Discover what we love and do it. Find new life in our path. Rediscover that zeal and be born again in it.
WE must learn early, I wish, that we can’t please our inner critic. It has something to say, usually very negative, about everything. Nothing you do is good enough.
This inner voice says, “It’s my way or the highway!” Using weapons of fear, shame, and guilt in order to get you to do what it wants.
This inner critic comes from our pursuit of perfection, which is learned early on. To bring our whole self to the experience, we must address the often unconscious, voice of the inner critic.
Without removing this obstacle, we are blocked from discovering our self-acceptance, blocked from our power, and keeps us from connecting and empathizing with others.
Embracing wholeness is a loving act of reclamation, a “both/and” way of meeting life, replacing “either/or” mentality.
The critic says, “Trust me. I know you so well. I’ve been through this before.” Wisdom says, “Relax into your experience. You can trust yourself to know what to do.”
Wisdom teaches us how to discover what is really true.
Trust your inner Higher Self, connected always to the Source, all Wisdom, Always.