Saturday, March 10, 2012

examining the clues

I've been listening to and loving Jen Lee's 4 cd set entitled The Iconic Self. It's been on constant play in my car and in my mind.

The series of conversations and stories between Jen and Phyllis Mathis, a licensed counselor, are about uncovering all the parts of oneself and - in their words - inviting ourselves back into our lives, into our own self. Claiming and experiencing a truer expression of who it is we were born to be.

The talks have generated lots of excavation work into my past as I look for patterns and trends in my understanding of myself and in my behavior and actions. I am gathering pieces of a puzzle and one section just became clearer.

I realize I have had a long-lived fascination with a certain kind of character in books and films - the sleuth or investigator. As a child I loved the book Harriet The Spy. I wanted to be like Harriet and so I got myself a composition notebook and carried it around with me everywhere. What Harriet did was collect her observations in her notebook but I felt there was little of interest or value to put into my notebook.

As a preteen I devoured volume upon volume of Agatha Christie novels. I also loved the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and carried a tattered penguin edition copy of the complete stories with me as I traveled throughout Europe my junior year in college.

I've never thought about why I have been drawn to such stories and characters. But I am now recognizing a quality inherent in the super sleuth that captures a piece of who I am: the ability to look carefully, gather clues and through the power of the intellect understand and solve the mystery. The power to know.

But what is the great mystery in my own life? I am thinking the riddle I am trying to figure out is myself. By identifying with the super sleuth, I believe I can uncover the truth of who I am and what it is I am meant to do with my life. That with enough clues, the answer will be revealed.

As much as I would like to believe otherwise, I have lived most of my life in my head. If thinking and feeling are opposite ends of a spectrum, my teeter toter is clearly tipped towards thinking. But always there has been this sense that I actually know, but I don't know. When prompted to "ask what is your heart's greatest desire" and told "the first thing that comes to mind is the correct answer" well, I draw a blank. Because the response isn't to originate from my brain; it is to come from my heart and clearly that line of communicate has been fuzzy most of my life. It's getting clearer with practice but there is still some static.

Yesterday I listened to a beautiful talk by a yoga teacher about the Bhagavad Gita and how the warrior character of Arjuna expresses the experience we all face in our lives when it comes to living out our life's purpose or dharma as it is called in yogic philosophy. Our dharma is to manifest who it is we truly are and who we can become in this lifetime. She went on to explain " Whatever it is you do that upholds some kind of balance and harmony in your life and in your world, that is your dharma." And here's the kicker: when you turn away from fulfilling that duty, you create a rift not only within yourself, but within the well-being of those around you which ripples out into the whole world.

This is the central riddle of my life and the core of my angst: how do I discover my dharma? What exactly am I to do with this one "wild and precious" life of mine?

Just to be clear about the significance of this inquiry, it is important to keep in mind the setting for the Bhagavad Gita is a battlefield and the warrior Arjuna is being asked to fight in The Fight that will determine the outcome of an entire kingdom. What is interesting is his helper, his charioteer and the one who counsels him, is none other than Lord Krishna, that great cosmic flirt and lover of life.

The lesson here is that to live an authentic life, to follow our dharma - to fulfill our potential - isn't going to be easy. In fact, there will be much doubt, overwhelm and despair which Arjuna expresses again and again to Krishna. "I can't do this" and "I don't want to do this." And yet what guides and inspires us to continue on, to go into battle if necessary, is the force of Love. It is the call to be passionately engaged in my own life; to have an intense love affair with living and to experience that level of commitment and engagement which propels me forward.

Uncovering the mystery of my dharma has become my personal koan for I know, but I don't know. After the talk on the Gita, there was an asana practice. The first pose, child's pose, had me folded over my knees, forehead to the ground in a posture of supplication. In this posture the head - th emind - is placed below the heart. Then we were told to stretch out our arms and turn our palms to face up. With hands ready to receive we were invited to inquiry within: What is my dharma? And of course we were told "the first thing that comes to mind is the correct answer."

The challenge is to receive that answer; to trust the source of knowing will not come from my head, but from deeper place of knowing - from my heart and my gut. And then to take action understanding the outcome is not the issue. What matters is standing up in one's life and being fully present for it and in it. The warrior's duty is to fulfill that mission knowing it will be hard, it will be challenging, it will be at times a great battle but if we take that challenge on, we will have Love always fighting by our side.


  1. oh Lis, i know this path well, and travel along it with you, hand in hand.
    the first thing that pops into my head, for myself, is still quite vague.
    but for you, i have to ask you, surely, surely, writing is something that you have felt called to?
    lis! you weave words together so exquisitely!! surely you have a book in you? essays? stories to tell?
    this is just me. admiring you. honoring your gift of expressing this path, that is not something i feel i can do.
    your blog is full of these treasures.
    and so perhaps not where you are feeling called at the core, but an offshoot, for sure. beautiful expression of your dharma in so many ways.

  2. thank you for this

    and everything, really.

    is it strange that i feel more at ease knowing that this *is* a battleground? that i feel almost at home with a sword in my hand....a joy warrior's sword, but a sword nonetheless.


    i worry that the first answer that pops into my head isn't mine...that it's been planted there..not without reason, but it doesn't feel like *mine* just now. it's perhaps, as our beloved Indi says...part of it...but not necessarily It.

    today, i painted -- and if felt like laying down my sword...if only for a short while.

    much love to you, dearest of hearts....i come to you battle-weary and travel-stained and you never fail to put it into perspective....served with a mug of hot tea and a plateful of brownies.


  3. Wow! This is just rich in goodness. And look at those gorgeous daffodils! Thank you:)

  4. Oh boy, I think you are my Harriet the Spy soulmate :) I absolutely LOVED that book and did the very same thing - I got a notebook so I could be just like her and start to write everything down, but like you, I found my notes to be a little less interesting than hers, and the notebook was eventually abandoned. But you are the first person I have met who did the same thing, and I have been looking for you! :) Seriously, I have mentioned that book to quite a few people, and no one seems to have been as taken with it as I was :)

    I've been reading your blog, just haven't gotten a chance to post. I am getting ready to speak at the Computer Using Educators conference on Saturday and I've been taking a public speaking class and working on my presentation (I'm *nervous*). I am trying to find out what my dharma is, too. It seems to be a mix of things that don't quite fit with each other, but I am getting more and more used to that :)


  5. Lis - you Rock! Harriet and Agatha in one post! plus Sherlock - yum. Plus the fabulous daffodils - so lovely. our daffodils are just peeking through the earth, they are so joyful. You are filled with such L-O-V-E. You reach out through the web and touch people with just the 'right' words at the 'right' time. It's an incredible gift. Plus very few will travel across the world to reach out to their daughter. You did that. Y-o-u. Love, great love lives in your great heart and there you fulfill part of your great potential. Keep shining your light - xoxo - Beth

  6. WOW!! Lis, thank you. Such beautiful and thoughtful writing. I completely understand. I am one who likes to analyze and figure it all out and I have been trying to figure out my purpose. And it truly is not clear, not a definite you should be "blank" or you should be doing "blank". It is all about love and loving this life. You are being true to who you are. You are living your dharma. Keep on keeping on warrior :). Namaste xo

  7. Agatha Christie, Famous Five, Sherlock and Nancy Drew - I too totally identified, oh what kindred spirits we are ;) In fact I am still very much a mystery adventure addict and had never really thought about the reasons behind this before. Oh you have me thinking now though Lis.And I completely agree with Beth, your light reaches out so far, what a gift you have.
    Sending you a hug, ( and shall we create a secret sleuthing club?! )

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  9. I am sorry its taken me so long to comment on this post. I have read it several times over since you posted it. So beautiful. And the photos are exquisite!I have often looked at my diabetes as a riddle to be solved, That if I can just connect the dots, decipher the code embedded in my heart of hearts then I will finally UNDERSTAND. I will know its purpose and thus my own.
    (You know don't you that Scorpios are notoriously sleuthy??)