Monthly Archives: October 2018

Unraveling the past

Understanding the past is liberating. Dwelling on the past is debilitating. (MC)

When you live a lie, you live other people’s dreams, views and expectations.  My issues with love and relationships, my longing for a God that seemed not to exist, had to be dealt with.    How the heck did I get to live over half a century and not see what was so blindingly obvious?

I have always been a tad cynical, a bit of an eye roller, about delving into the past to solve problems. To delve backwards seemed rather pointless and it never occurred to me I would need to fossick back into my past to uncover any answers. But my burden of God, and love issues, had been with me for over fifty years. Troubled and troubling relationships sprinkle my timeline. Thinking my past didn’t matter, or telling myself my past isn’t who I am now, set the scene for decades of ignorance towards my own journey of self. Our past, even though no longer real, does influence who we are today.  Our beliefs, reactions and emotions, our relationships with others and, more importantly, the relationship we have with our self, all of them, are crafted from the tendrils of our past.

Wikipedia describes the “journey of self-discovery” as ‘a travel, pilgrimage, or series of events whereby a person attempts to determine how they feel, personally, about spiritual issues or priorities, rather than following the opinions of family, friends, neighbourhood or peer pressure.’  From the womb to the world our lives are shaped by others. Our first experiences of life are provided by parents or caregivers. Adult decisions, opinions, customs, actions, and perceptions shape what we believe and how we feel.  As children, we unconsciously accept the beliefs of those around us to be the truth. No questions asked. My parent’s love-lacking authoritarian parenting, common in the 50’s, and the churches’, guilt laden Catholicism, was my first introduction to love and God.  Together they crafted my understanding of the world I lived in. From childhood to adulthood I constructed my own set of values and spiritual beliefs based on past, and then later, future life experiences. And I believed that whatever my worldview was at the time, was the ultimate source of the truth.

As I meandered through the process of unraveling, I discovered that understanding the past and dwelling on the past have two different outcomes. Understanding is liberating. Dwelling is debilitating. If we deny or ignore the importance the past has on the present we will always dwell in the past, especially in the inside-out areas of self-esteem, communication and conflict.       When you dwell in the past you fail to see the many wonderful opportunities that are out there for you right now.

Understanding is truly liberating. In understanding there is no blame, no excuses and no regrets. It’s accepting and acknowledging that certain positive or negative events in the past did occur, and have contributed to who you are today. Once you connect your past with the present, the intensity and control that dwelling in the past has on your life, drops away. It is much easier to change the negative aspects of your behaviour when you understand them.

The shackles of past guilt, discontentment, resentment, confusion and low self-esteem no longer govern my present and future.  This doesn’t mean those feelings don’t crop up from time to time because they do. But because I understand why I feel them, I can deal to them. They are now relics from my past instead of having power over my present. But the past is as much my story, as is my story of today. I love my parents, and the events that have shaped me, more than ever. And I am beginning to love me, the journey of self, the being part, of which I think I shall always be a perpetual student.

William P Young, author of the bestselling novel, The Shack, says, “the world has no meaning apart from relationships. Some are messier, some are seasonal, others different, a few are easy, but every one of them is important.” We alone are responsible for having the relationship we want. And I believe the relationship you have with yourself to be the most important of all. Understand the experiences that have shaped you, the good and bad.

Joy and fulfillment can only be experienced in the present – don’t let the past deny you this.

 

 

Perceptions of God

Photo of Margaret Cunningham and 'Dixie' on Papamoa Beach

Question: What if everything you perceive God to be is a lie?

When the truth hits, it hits hard.  In her book, The Real Boy, Author Anne Ursu describes this moment of truth beautifully. She says, “There is a way the truth hits you, both hard and gentle at the same time. It punches you in the stomach as it puts its loving arm around your shoulder …”

For most of my life I have blindly loved God without really understanding why or questioning whether God was real.  Discovering everything I had ever believed God to be was a lie, felt like I had been sucker punched a deadly blow from behind, – yet at the same time, the moment, exquisite and freeing. The truth a loving arm around my shoulder.

Have you ever had one of those flashes when, unexpectedly, moments of extraordinary clarity, insight, or understanding explode into your mind? When the solution to a problem which you have struggled with for years suddenly becomes clear when you least expect it. They are rare, but life changing moments when they happen. That ‘Eureka moment’.  I now call these my ‘moments of God’, not that I understood this at the time. I talk about ‘moments of God’ in a later post.

A few years ago, I had a significant crisis of the soul. It was dark, dark, dark and I was helpless to help myself.  I decided to dump God for good.  Enough was enough. The ‘yearning’ was exhausting, and my personal life was an utter mess.  God was not behaving in the manner I believed God should. God was NOT answering my prayers. Not who I wanted and expected God to be.  And then there were those questions. Why did God not feed the starving? Why did God allow injustice, wars, greed, power, rape, poverty and disease? Why were some babies born just to die?  Six million Jews and minority groups massacred during the holocaust. Couldn’t you have stepped in, God?  Why? Why? Why?

So there I was, drowning in my own darkness, my life unravelling, walking away from God. Then that moment of truth. ‘What if everything you perceive me to be is a lie?’  The question, answer and understanding tumbled through me in one trillionth of a totally unexpected second. And it was. Everything I had perceived God to be was a lie. And in that moment, I let God go. No more bother. I stacked away my journals, bible and any other God paraphernalia, and left my God.

But life doesn’t work like that. You can’t keep running from the endless wandering of your soul without understanding what you are running from, why you are running and where you are running to.  To begin with I felt utterly bereft, bewildered, and to be honest, I felt stupid.  As though I had wasted fifty years of my life believing in a God who, at the very worst, was not real or, if God was real, my perception of God was a lie. At the same time, I felt rejuvenated.  Free. Like I was about to embark on a thrilling adventure. Tinges of excitement fluttered alongside my bewilderment.

It’s been approximately ten years since my ‘moment of God’. The jolt of the unanticipated moment, and the words, so inordinately profound and insightful, has taken time to process. Before I could even consider sharing this experience, there was a huge amount of work to be done on me.  For most of this time I’ve been shedding the shackles of religion and exploring answers to my questions about God.

It’s a provoking question: What if everything I perceive God to be, or not to be, is a lie?  It nudges, irks and challenges our spiritual ego. It’s a question that excludes no-one – a God question that includes the atheist to the most ‘devout’.  A question daring us to let go of our perceptions of God. A question worth going back to time and time again because of the potential to discover new and greater possibilities of God every time we ask it.

It is only now, in hindsight, I can see my journey away from God, was in fact, leading me to God.

About Fiftypluskiwi

If I gain wisdom or knowledge out of my  failures, then failure, is well worth experiencing. [Margaret Cunningham]

Fiftypluskiwi is a collection of stories documenting my life from the ‘inside out’  – my journey of self-discovery. Part insight and part hindsight they are stories of my unraveling and of being put back together from the inside out. I dismantle the myths, perceptions and misconceptions that have littered my life.

I have always felt intense feelings of, what I identify as, a yearning or longing. I can dull these feelings at times, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot get rid of them. They are my silent noise.  For years I have skirted the peripheries of these emotions, conjecturing at what they might or might not mean, and only assigning attention to them if it suited my ego.

About ten years ago my personal unhappiness threatened to annihilate me. None of my normal efforts of soothing my unhappiness worked. When I tried to ignore or run from my unhappiness, I ran smack bang into myself. As Confucius once said,  ‘No matter where you go, there you are.’  That was me.

A mid-life crisis? A break-down? Yes, probably both of those. But there was more to it. For the first time in my life I began asking myself questions: Who am I? Why am I? And I had only one answer, ‘I don’t know’. I had invested significant time and energy into creating me from the ‘outside in’, but had given absolutely no thought, time or energy to my ‘inside out’, or even recognised my mind, heart and spirit needed attention.

I make no apologies about the fact that a central theme decorates my Fiftypluskiwi writings – God and love – for both have woven a well-trodden path of bittersweet moments in my life, and both, as I have come to understand, are connected.

In one of his famous quotes, 13th century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, Rumi, said, ‘Yesterday I was so clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.’

We all have a story to tell. It’s not the size of the story that counts. Our day to day experiences, our fragility, our success and failures are our stories.  In Fiftypluskiwi I draw upon my personal experiences that I hope will provoke deep thought, conversations, and inspire positive change from the inside out.

 

 

The yearning

Photo of pink spring flowers with background at One Tree Point

If we seek something, that same thing is seeking us. [Paulo Coelho]

For as long as I can remember I have experienced unexplained feelings of dissatisfaction – a longing for something more? It’s a relentless gnawing – the persistent never-ending hum of yearning that does not abate.  An internal silence, so paradoxically loud.  It breathes the very air I breathes, dines with me at night, then joins me again for breakfast and lunch. I cannot remember my life without the yearning.

I became a master at suppressing the yearning. The noise of ‘busy’, the hustle and bustle of the outside world helped drown out the cacophony of yearning, masking the empty hollow ache of my inside world.   Like a robot, I moved rapidly from one of life’s events to the other.  The image I presented to the world took 100% of my time but mostly portrayed nothing of me on the inside where the yearning existed. When you live a lie, you live other people’s dreams, views and expectations – that was me.

In her book, Watching the Tree, author, Adeline Yen Mah says, “… change is the only constant. To that I will add also the universal human yearning for truth and wisdom.”.  I never quite know whether to use the term ‘fortunately’ or ‘unfortunately’, but the yearning, or longing for truth and wisdom, seems to be the road I travel. And that’s what this blog is about – documenting my journey, exploring what lies behind the yearning, lessons learned from it and making peace with it. My journey of self-discovery.

‘If we seek something, that same thing is seeking us’. [Paulo Coelho.] I’m a great spasmodic journal writer with several half-finished diary’s, exercise books and note pads lying about filled with my innermost and intimate thoughts. I also write down quotes that make my heart flutter – as though they were written just for me – creating that ‘OH WOW’ moment within.  This is one of those quotes that seems to have anchored itself to the yearning. That what lies within the yearning, is also seeking me. Knowing this is somehow comforting giving me the courage to explore, discover and shed the shackles. To trust in the process of unraveling and relish the moments when understanding reveals itself and heals.

Does the yearning subside? I don’t know. It hasn’t so far, and I’ve been on this path for a few years now. What I can tell you is, facing the yearning is very much an ‘inside out’ journey. Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung describes what can happen in this inside space beautifully.
‘Who looks outside dreams.
Who looks inside, awakens.’

Thanks for reading