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1.11 The Chance to Form Inwardly ~ The Exquisite Risk - Daring to Live an Authentic Life ~ Mark Nepo

Movement 1 - There are Teachers Everywhere

The Chance to Form Inwardly

"As fruits are encased till ripe, light comes full term in the dark and truth ripens in the heart.
The only way to know the truth is to live through its casing of lies."

  1. A question we're never done with is: How can I discern what is real and what is distracting from what is real? With each circumstance or confusing situation, things appear muddy and stirred. So, we can act with urgency, guessing what's underneath all the agitation, or we can dare to wait until the water clears, until we can see what's at the bottom of it all. Of course, the press to respond prematurely is hugely distracting, and it often gets the better of us.
  2. One of the hardest tasks during my illness was waiting for the crisis and fear and pain to settle enough, so I could see clearly what I had to do next. If not for the difficult blessing of waiting, I wouldn't be here. At first I was pressed to have brain surgery, but I waited and the tumor vanished. Then, after a tumorous rib in my back was removed, I was pressed to have aggressive chemo, which started to damage me, and so, despite the ulcer and neuropathy and the fear of recurrence, I had to wait for all this to settle until I could see clearly that I had to stop. Each step of the way, I panicked and reacted too soon, only to be forced to wait until the urgency cleared and I could see my way to staying alive. When overcome with urgency, we tend to strike at life blindly. It's natural though. But, if lucky, we exhaust ourselves and then, doing nothing, we can see the waters go still and, finally, it becomes clear what to do.
  3. Waiting for situations to clear is a perennial challenge. Written 2,600 years ago, the ancient Tao asks: "Can you wait till the waters of your mind settle?" Frustrating as it is, human beings have always had to wait for things to become clear, and even then, the clarity is all too fleeting. But authenticity takes time to rise in our blood. Beauty takes time for us to fully see. It always takes longer to hear with the heart, but the song heard there is lasting and precious.
  4. Yes, being and becoming take time, and this commitment to stay open is at the very core of what it means to be a person. PERSON, from the Greek PER SON means "the sound that passes through." As well, the Blackfoot word for wind is SO PO - "something going through." These simple yet profound notions seem to name our time on earth. For something is always going through - from inner to outer, or the other way around. Like it or not, ready or not, it is this constant passage of life through us that forms us inwardly, if we give it the time.
  5. No matter how we protest, life keeps coming, and we cannot stop the invisible, imperfect river of time and its cleansings that scour us into who we are. Underneath our particular cuts and disappointments at how the dream of life has unfolded, underneath the way loneliness tastes to each of us, we are all formed by the same unseeable force of life passing through. It is the passing through of life that makes us a person.
  6. If we don't take the time, we run the risk of arriving deformed. There is an old story of a man who came across a butterfly half-born from its cocoon. It seemed to be struggling and so, trying to help, he gently exhaled his warm breath on it. Sure enough, his breath hastened its birth, but the butterfly fell to the ground, unable to fly. Its premature birth left its wings deformed. Our inward development can suffer the same fate, if we don't take the time to come full term.
  7. Since speed and confidence are the traits of success we are taught to strive with, it takes added courage to welcome time and humility into our lives. Yet, without the openings that time and humility widen in us, the winds of life have no way to pass through and we stall our chance to become a true person.
  8. It is no mistake of biology that rushing birth can have its costs . With the miracle of modern medicine, babies can be delivered prematurely when necessary. When complications arise, this often saves their lives. Still, some of these infants don't have the chance to form inwardly, and so they are born undeveloped: some deaf, some blind, some with cerebral palsy, some with diminished lungs. For them, their road in life is difficult and full of compensations from the start.
  9. As psychological and spiritual beings, we, too, can suffer deeply, and sometimes drastically, if we don't have enough time to form inwardly. In our progress as spirits in the world, we need to give ourselves this precious, developmental time. Otherwise, we rush the birth of who we are and live undeveloped: deaf in one area, blind in another, unable to breathe fully. And so we, too, risk a life of compensation and inner disadvantage: straining to hear, straining to see, laboring to breathe.
  10. The difference is that the life-threatening circumstances that necessitate premature delivery for babies do not apply to the development of our inwardness. We often push into life all by ourselves, never taking time to internalize our experience. but the wonderful gift about matters of spirit is that, unlike physical birth, our conditions of inwardness can be renewed. We can begin again. At any time. In any way. For the chance to form inwardly and surface who we are never dies. Though we sometimes mute it, we can't extinguish it. Like the half-born butterfly, our colorful wings are alway ready to unfold.
  11. This reminds me of a woman who kept hiding her sadness in books, reading about other lives, as a way to deny the pain of her own story. This kept her undeveloped. Eventually she was in her quiet room, her small fire burning, another novel on her lap, and she couldn't read another word, because her eyes just wouldn't stop watering. She couldn't see the words, because her own untold river was overflowing the dam of her silence. It wasn't tears, she would later say, but the water of life finally rising into her days. Against her will, her need to form inwardly wouldn't go away. The water of life had cleansed her resistance and made her start again.
  12. Our chance to be real often depends on whether we can stay open and present to time, whether we can let the urgent press of circumstance settle. Our chance to form inwardly, to become an authentic person, often depends on our willingness to let the winds of life shape us as they move on through. And sometimes, if we are blessed, life moves through us anyway, breaking all the pretty walls we've spent so long building.

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Introduction and Table of Contents ~ The Exquisite Risk ~ Daring to...

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