Monday, August 13, 2012

Divine Love, On the Scales


Eagle Poem
by Joy Harjo

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadly growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

I am in my second favorite office: the airplane.  My all-time favorite office is a cabin, any cabin will do, or a wood-enveloped room in a quiet house.  There is a room at my in-laws’ house like this, made of old barn wood.  Yes, please. 

I keep writing about easing off my personal goals, scaling back on what I need to do lately.  Every time I think I’ve scaled back enough, I hear a call to go further. It makes me think that I’m not the best judge of my own efforts.  I either think I’ve done a lot of work when I could actually go a lot further, or I have little to no insight into just how much I’ve done. 

In my day-life line of work, there is a lot of talk about metrics.  It’s perhaps telling that when I first started my job at the company where I work, I had no idea what people were talking about when they used the word metrics.  “Do we have metrics for that?” people would ask.  Or there would begin a new initiative to get some metrics around a topic.  I sat in meetings picturing a seamstress with her measuring tape, wrapping it around voluptuous hips.  That was as metric-educated as I was, and those type of metrics were something I had always resisted anyway, because they seemed shallow or controlling, and my own measurements, their numbers higher than my mother’s, and my whimsical nature combined to make me feel different from the way I thought I should have been.  Which is to say, small, silent, pencil-ish.  In other words: invisible. 

I’m beginning to think the only way out of the watery subjectivity of emotional life (have I been doing enough?  What have I been doing?  I feel like I haven’t done a thing, but I’m exhausted…) is a well-placed ladder of objectivity. Does this mean that, after many years of not owning a scale I might purchase one?  Probably not.  I’m not really talking about the body here, although the body is the best place to start, when considering mental health.  More likely, the kind of metrics I seek will come from friends, and people who love me. 

I wish I had been able to stand alone when I was growing up, without internally comparing myself to my mother or to other women, who all seemed bird-like in appearance, tamed and contained.  I often couldn’t hear my mother’s love for me, and now knowing what it feels like when I offer a compliment to someone and they reject it, think that must have been difficult to live with sometimes.  I once thought of our moments of glee, going to stores together and lunching in sweet cafes when my brothers weren’t around, as stolen gold.  But now I think they weren’t as anomalous as I thought.  They were in abundance, too, just as the critical voice inside me was.  

I have touched the space of acceptance in meditation and in writing, and I am learning to bring this practice into my daily life more and more.  It’s funny, because gratitude – so fueling and empowering – comes from a willingness to wade into the vulnerable places of the heart.  And yet, vulnerability is not the first word we think of when we think of strength.

But we were talking about business, weren’t we?  I currently work with someone who is an amazing leader.  What makes him so amazing to me is not just the quality of his decisions, but the openness of his heart.  In some ways, it is difficult to lead with an open heart.  But in lots of ways, it’s harder to live with a closed one than it is to suffer the pains that come with opening it.  I know because I’ve led in both ways.  I’ve embarrassed myself more with an open one, and said some stupid things and shared responsibilities so much that I wasn’t sure if I was even working or not.  But I’ve had more fun leading that way, too.  It takes humility and courage, and faith in not only oneself but in a greater mission.  A mission of one-ness, and of working to serve one-ness.  This sort of mission is a powerful thing to observe in action, and some days I think my front-row seat to this sort of show is the reason I love my job. 

So…I have said a lot here (and also, I fear, nothing at all).  I once was offered the beautiful assurance that the dreams of our heart are the dreams of God, and that I should trust them always, because they come from a divine source.  I don’t know if those words work for you, but I found them enormously revelatory, and think they point back to the strength that comes from a willingness to be vulnerable.  

Here is Denise Linn, one of my favorite authors, saying the same thing in her book,
Altars – Bringing Sacred Shrines into Your Everyday Life: “Remember that the longings of your heart are often your higher self asking to be born. The fact that you want to accomplish something is evidence that Spirit is leading you in that direction.”

As for metrics, I’m thinking that the words of a friend are the kind of measurement we should believe.  The words of our mothers saying how tall and handsome we are, or a girlfriend saying we are hilarious.  This is the language of devotion, and our hearts need this language like our bodies need food. 

I also read the following words in an interview with the late James Hillman yesterday in The Sun, and think it’s something we should all go around asking ourselves.  Hillman, who was apparently a controversial figure in the world of psychology, said, “It’s important to ask yourself, ‘How am I useful to others? What do people want from me?’ That may very well reveal what you are here for.” 

I may have once balked at advice like that, fearing it implied I should go around pleasing others.  But I like to think of it as serving others, and then it makes sense to me. 

Hillman also said, “Why is there such a vast self-help industry in this country? Why do all these selves need help? They have been deprived of something by our psychological culture. They have been deprived of the sense that there is something else in life, some purpose that has come with them into the world.”

Maybe this is the kind of metric we need.  What am I here for?  What am I good at that other people need? 

We are funny when we are being ourselves.  Or we are ineluctably sweet, or true.  We are a gift to those around us, when we live unedited, without shield. 

These are the kinds of metrics I want to have for myself – am I healing to someone?
  Am I listening to someone so deeply they feel heard?  Am I seeing the beauty in myself, wild and unkempt, like a fox in the living room?

To your own personal metrics, and the lives that feed them,
With love


  1. love this, love this, love this. I'm really good at mentally running myself into the ground. And this weekend, with my new puppy, it was such a relief (though exhausting in its own way) to pay so much attention to what might be going through someone else's head for a change... Working toward some kind of balance between the two states must be what being a Mom is all about, huh??

  2. Amelia! So sweet, thank you for this comment. My friend, who is an amazing mom, said that being a mom makes you a better version of yourself. I like that thought - and love that you spent the weekend having Puppy thoughts. My brother-in-law said that's what he does all the time with his new baby: what in the world is this baby thinking right now?!?

    Cannot wait to meet this girl

  3. Beautiful piece, Kara. Really beautiful.

    I laughed out loud at Hillman quote, "Why do all these selves need help?" Picturing, within in us, a myriad of selves--prisms and fragments of who we really are--with cockeyes and snaggleteeth like those eels & the shrunken specimens in that creepy mer-garden in Disney's "The Little Mermaid" all frantically crying "help!" from deep within the cave walls of our whole being.

    I think we only get into people pleasing vs. what we naturally want to give when we are not authentically ourselves. That whole concept of--don't let people fall in love with someone who isn't you. If people demand from you what you've taught them you are, and it is something you are not, it is your responsibility for miseducating them.

    But yes! Someone wise (maybe you remember?) said, "What you want, wants you." And I completely agree. Why would anything be born with an impulse that was not desired from nature. One only need study the migration of salmon (I'm in Alaska now, so salmon are on the brain) to think, "wow--what if salmon refused that call to seemingly nonsensically swim back upstream to the place of their birth? It must seem like madness. It *looks* like madness. What if they refused??" I do believe a more rational being would evaluate it and say "no, thanks." Then what? No more salmon?

    Anyway, I think part of your call through your writing is to insist upon consciousness. One can't read your writing and *be* unconscious. It requires presence. And you can count me as a metric--I'm sure what you want wants you. x


I love to hear your thoughts!