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As Good As A Feast
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

I've been thinking about endurance; it's not a happy word in this current sociopolitical climate. It conjures up visions of trudging onward, making do, standing against the storm. It often assumes that those who endure have some magical capacity to withstand any perceived loss or happenstance, no matter how grim, and emerge unscathed; that they are muscled and boned a bit differently than much of frail humanity, that they have an extra bit of oomph that the rest of us don't possess. Stuff and nonsense, of course; we're all configured with everything we need to endure and even overcome any slings or arrows aimed our way. We're not just bodies, not just a tumbled collection of wounded emotions and thwarted desires; we are all -- as Dannion Brinkley, who survived three Near Death Experiences and has written convincingly of the wisdom he received during those events, puts it -- powerful spiritual entities.

To assume that endurance requires glass-half-empty experiences that limit and diminish us pits us against the wisdom of our own life path; who can say what is random occurrence and what we've put in our own way to stumble upon, to overcome, to grow through? Kahlil Gibran tells us that, "Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars." Only a person who has endured and understood the journey can say, as did he, "The deeper sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain." In my own life, the most difficult periods plowed the ground for harvest; the greatest sorrows led me not to answers that would lull me back to sleep but to questions that pushed me forward into exploration and expanded awareness. Those who endure gather strength in increments, like mighty redwoods that add another thin ring year after year, decade after decade; or the grains of sand that slowly but surely become magnificent pearls.

Twenty-five years ago I sustained a personal trauma, a turning point in my life that set me back hard. A rather dim friend, studying to be a psychologist, told me that she 'saw the Phoenix arising' in me; that I'd be fine. Soon after, my Phoenix found itself in intensive care with viral pneumonia in both lungs; I lapsed into a coma, saw the Light, received a gentle chiding about my use of personal will and was sent back to get on with it. NDE? Assuredly. Smooth sailing on the other side of such an experience? Of course not. Brinkley, who was twice struck by lightning and suffers pain to this day, begged to be released from his body and allowed to remain on the Other Side on the occasion of all three NDEs. Our human ego, our tangled emotions, our limited self-perception are all 3D attributes that both define us and thwart our progress; endurance requires real internal work, a daily flexing of spiritual muscle that is grist for the mill of the Gods, grinding slowly and growing our beauty.

It seems today that we are at loggerheads on so many political projects that, as the wheels spin and the smoke rises, all we can do is grind our teeth in frustration. Obama has determined that we won't draw down forces in Afghanistan; but he has put forth no proposal to increase them, either, weighing the mission for this inherited war carefully. Healthcare insurers have brought in mighty lobbying forces to ensure their monopoly and trounce their opposition, yet Obama has gained points in popularity in the last weeks and support of the Public Option has regained the polling numbers it lost during the summer attacks by the Rightwing; close to 70% -- and still, our lawmakers don't seem to hear us. Economic downturn continues in job loss, foreclosure and debt default, despite the stimulus money that shored up the loss of jobs and, according to the wisdom of even Liberal economists, turned us back from the brink. The haves and the have-nots are locked in limbo; the nation stalled as these forces stare one another down. Improbably and with a touch of the absurd, I read this week that American Girl put out a 'homeless' doll named Gwen; and while this does serve as a potent reminder that there are tens of thousands of kids adrift out there, I have doubt that this pricey doll baby will find its way into any homeless child's arms.

Our national troubles are the collective woes of a world civilization; globally, each country has its own signature but instability is a commonality among us. This is the time that we've designed for the systems to wobble; for us to awaken as a Cosmic stick is inserted into the cogs of the old paradigm. We can blame the government for our problems, and most certainly it has created many of them; but we have been complicit, lethargic, accepting of the status quo even as it became a burden destined to bring us to this unsettling halt. Those who accuse Obama of not acting quickly enough evidently don't understand the principals of throwing an e-brake while speeding; that we've slowed, even begun a gentle turn, seems a wonder to me.

If you examine history, nothing is new under the Sun; ancient political pundits like Cicero, and more contemporarily even the mystic Gibran, wrote the same op-eds against the same subtle and seemingly unstoppable forces that we read today. We're closing out an era that has been our energetic signature for thousands of years; anyone who thinks a new president can hand that over to us with the stroke of his pen has not understood this momentous occasion. That illusive thing we need to 'get' about life still remains just out of reach; but coming closer by the day. Perhaps we are having our own NDE here on Planet Terra? Perhaps our Phoenix will be fine, but only on the other side of the tunnel and only if we use our powerful personal will to accomplish a resurrection.

Part of our difficulty in adjusting to our new reality is that we are Getters, Havers and Keepers; that's the American Dream, part of our national heritage and certainly part and parcel of human aspiration; the 'more is better' part. Some of our discouragement can be attributed to pride; when we see life as a competition, loss of any kind brands us losers. I was amused today by reports that the failed chief of Merrill Lynch, John Thain -- he of the $35,000 commode -- said that if he had it to do over again, he'd furnish from IKEA. He is mourning, so the article says, that the American Dream has become 'demonized' in this financial upheaval. To me, that's like grieving that the "greed is good" mantra from the 90s is no longer the nation's operating system; if the American Dream has some cracks in it, perhaps it's the wrong dream. Maybe having a goal of the most toys, the biggest house and the fattest bank account is not worthy of a nation such as ours; perhaps that's the very context that promotes greed and elitism to hook itself into our soul and drive us toward the chasm we stand staring into today.

This journey we're taking, despite its pains and tragedies, is like adding leavening to bread; if we are to rise properly, we must have the correct ingredients. Up until now we've been missing some: humility, compassion, charity, gratitude to name a few, at least from the top of the food chain. The bottom has been too busy licking its wounds and dealing with its emergencies to do more than cope daily, while sinking into despondency and victimhood. There is, of course, a middle path; it starts with our thought process and if we're doing it correctly, the creative center activated will be found in heart, not head. It will almost certainly be a messy process of discovery, but as Tolkien famously noted, "Not all those who wander are lost."

There's an e-mail that goes around perpetually about a family who wishes one another "enough" on the occasion of a parting that will probably be their last. If you believe that life is about stuff, about the trappings of success, then there will never be enough. If you believe it is about other things besides mere acquisition, then, as Kim Darby's steadfast character, Mattie Ross said in the quintessential John Wayne western, True Grit: "I've had enough, and enough is as good as a feast." Here's the money quote from our well-traveled e-mail:
"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough "Hellos" to get you through the final "Goodbye."
None of these treasures, you will note, can be bought with a buck; purchased at IKEA. They are heart-resonant items, plucked from the shelves of a life well stocked with loving, giving and receiving. Every moment of every day, we review those shelves and put something else on them, for later. Those who have a healthy inventory may or may not live in excellent homes or trade stocks or have money to burn; in fact, the chances are good that they will not. The trappings of wealth are a burden that often pits us against our Higher Angels; there are a few notable exceptions but most of those who do very well spend much of their time seeing to it that there will be more, more, more; preoccupied with trying to stuff a camel through the eye of a needle. If it's true that we will judge ourselves in the hereafter for what we didn't do, as well as what we did, those with so much at their disposal face a critical spiritual challenge.

Now, let's be clear: I'm not bashing money. We all need it, I consider the "servant worthy of their hire" and a steady flow of good coming into our lives the result of practicing the presence of God/dess through the rightful exchange of energies. It's the great distractions inherent in too much wealth that creates a hindrance; much like that of too little. As this nation, this planet, attempts a purge that will bring it to balance, all of us are in the endurance game; our lessons are before us, our challenges apparent, and lest we think it's just the little folk in trouble, no one is being left out. I understand that in Florida a dearth of abandoned yachts have clogged the waterways, burdening an underfunded water patrol.

Eastern thought gives us some clues as to how to manage this transition; they have a more patient turn of mind. Western thought has a few too many Reverend Ikes to suit me. I have no grievance with prosperity thinking; I just believe that what we need gets 'added unto us' as we attend to the important matters. To focus only on prosperity leaves us a bit near-sighted, methinks; the richness of living is not in our bank account, it's in our daily relationships with one another and the world. The Dalai Lama makes everything pretty simple, when he says, "We are visitors on this planet for 90 or 100 years at most. During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives. If you contribute to other people's happiness, you will find that goal. This is the true meaning of life." If that seems too mundane, how about something more cryptic, from the Tao? Here's a quote from Lao Tzu: "Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize that nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you!"

If the wolf is blowing at your door, I can't guarantee you that the bricks won't tumble; but I'd suggest that their loss was written into your life-script, and I'd bet your brother will find a place for you in his house of straw as you rethink your change of scenery. There's always a way forward, but we must be flexible with our thinking in order to find it; we have to remain in the flow of good, generous with our giving and willing to ask when we need. We are building spiritual stamina as we face this endurance test, and we've called for such a tune-up or it wouldn't be here for us now. If life gives us lemons we all know what to do; and the lemonade we produce will be sweet with new understanding of our purpose, our passion and our hard-earned awareness.

Looking back on this, years from now, we may see this period as a great blessing -- an entry into Greening and environmental stewardship, into creation of authentic governance for the commonwealth, into the end of the Robber Baron decades that marked an era of dark influence and planetary savagery. As we wrestle with this illusion of difficulty, this test of endurance, wondering if we can manage it, our Ancient Self simply looks on quietly, calm and assured. A powerful spiritual entity cannot be laid low by mere circumstance; only by lack of awareness. Soon enough, we'll awaken from this global NDE and understand things differently; roll up our sleeves and get to work for one another, as ourselves. Until then, dear one, from the great inner warehouse of loving kindness, I wish you enough -- and that's as good as a feast.

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