Saturday, May 29, 2010

Being a team player

Am I a team player? I've been asking myself that lately, but I'm not sure what the definition of a team player is. If being a team player means that I keep the commitments I make to the team, that I support my co-workers with the best work I can do, that I meet my deadlines (usually early), that I tell the truth to the team--then I think I can say that I'm a team player. But if being a team player is a form of self-betrayal, then I am not a team player. Or rather my intention is not to betray myself, though the lessons are on-going.

What does betraying myself in order to be a team player mean? Well, I'll go back to my Columbia House days, when I was a vice-president in my thirties--as those days exemplify the grossest forms of self-betrayal. My 90+ year old father was very sick in Florida, and my mother was taking care of him. One day my mother, who never asks anything of me, called to tell me that my father was asking to see me, and if I wanted to see him while he was still alive, I needed to go to Florida right away. But there was a big presentation going on that I was in charge of, to the Chairman, President, CFO, and various other Vice presidents of the organization. What could I do? I can't believe that I actually considered not going to see my father. Whew! I would have regretted it to this day.

Instead I woke up and realized that seeing my father was the priority. There were no lap tap computers in those days, and I didn't even use the computer. I left my director in charge, gave specific tasks that she needed to do, made myself available on the phone, and went to Florida. I won't say much about that trip except that for the first time I experienced my father as being demonstratively loving, and realized that he actually did love me. He never had spent much time with me when I was growing up.

Returning to New York, I went to the office a day before the meeting, only to find that my director had botched things up. I worked all day and night to fix the presentation, and showed up exhausted the next morning to present. The Chairman looked at me and sarcastically said, "It's nice that you could join us." That really brought home the abuse of this specific company, and most corporations. Human Resources is an ugly term but accurate. The human being is another resource to be used up. Needless to say that was the beginning of an increasing disenchantment with the corporate world.

So to my surprise I have found myself working almost four years for a large high tech company in the South Bay. This has only been possible because I feel that I have the freedom to make my choices, and never feel coerced to betray myself in any way. But we make our own chains sometime. Yesterday was my birthday. Being a Friday I already had the day off (I supposedly don't work on Fridays) and decided that I was going to spend the long weekend celebrating. But when asked if I would be willing to go to the office for a presentation that day (which involves driving at least four hours) I agreed to do it in order to be a "team player." I betrayed the commitment that I made to myself, and it turned out the presentation didn't happen. If only I had stayed true, it would have all worked out. Instead I spent most of my birthday stuck in traffic in an unairconditioned car, feeling angry with myself.

As if that wasn't enough, I agreed to do the presentation next Friday when I had decided to take time off to spend with my 82 year-old mother who will be visiting me from Florida. Friday will be her first day here. Stuck in the car yesterday, I asked myself, What the hell am I doing? Will my mother be able to visit me again? What about my commitment to spend time with her? I called my coworker to let her know that I would not be available next Friday and she understood. As I said, we make our own chains. And the self-betrayals as we become more awake (conscious) become more subtle. As Papaji, an Indian enlightened master, said: Vigilance is required to the last breath.

So am I a team player? Not if it means putting the team above my physical and mental health, or above my important relationships.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What is enlightenment?

That's the question a friend asked me on Sunday. She wondered if I'd be willing to discuss enlightenment with her and another friend, with whom she was having a disagreement. "Uh, no" was my immediate response. I can discuss plenty of things based on my experience. But since I have yet to experience enlightenment, I didn't feel it made sense to argue over what it is or isn't. How do I know? All I know is what I've read. And I have read A LOT on enlightenment. But that's like three blind people arguing over what the color red looks like, after someone who can see has described it to them. Until they can see for themselves, how can they possibly know?

But as I talked with my friend, I realized that she thought that enlightenment was bullshit. It didn't exist. It was simply us gradually becoming more aware and conscious. And that's where I would disagree. Even though I have yet to experience enlightenment, there is a knowing from deep within me that this stage of evolution exists, and is a quantum leap from our current consciousness. I have seen it in the fathomless, still eyes of spiritual teachers and saints. I have received transmissions of clarity and heart energy not only from live teachers but even from pictures of Ramana Maharshi and Yogananda that came to life and glowed with light. I know there is a state of being at one with everything, experiencing oneself as boundless love, that represents a huge shift in human evolution. People like Eckart Tolle, Byron Katie, Leslie Temple Thurston, Ammachi, are part of a different species of human--one into which we are all evolving.

So yes, there is such a thing as gradual awakening--becoming more conscious and more aware. And I can talk about that, as I am more awake now then I was 20 years ago, 10 years ago, or even last week. I have experienced many shifts over the years: I do not betray myself; I tell the truth; I am committed to freedom above all else. As a result, my life has improved tremendously. Twenty years ago I could not imagine living in such a beautiful area, having work that I enjoy so much, having such beautiful friends. I've changed and my outer circumstances have changed.

But that quantum leap of being enlightened has yet to happen. The work I have done on myself has ripened the fruit on the tree. But when the fruit finally falls off the tree depends on Grace. I can't do anything to rush that. A spiritual teacher once said that you would know when the shift happens. It would be as if you were in a dark closet and all of a sudden the light bulb went on. I look forward to that time.

In the meantime, I appreciate how far I have come. I am no longer blind. I've started seeing shadows which are getting clearer and clearer. My reality isn't in full living color yet, but it will be. It will be.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What is commitment in a relationship?

I don't know why relationships have been on my mind lately. In the past my thoughts were all about money, but there's been abundance in my life for a while now. Maybe it's because I haven't been in a partnership in a long time, and I am feeling ready for one--not hoping or longing, just ready. Because I haven't had any partnership issues I've become an observer of others' partnerships.

A friend is separating from her partner for a while. Fear of intimacy seems to be the culprit, as it often is. When she first began the partnership, they both wrote down a series of commitments to each other. When she read them to me they seemed, how shall I say it, a bit fairy-tailish. They were committing to being romantic and nice and I forget what else. I remember telling her that I thought when you get into a partnership you are bound to push each other's buttons. There will come a time when you downright hate each other. That's when commitment needs to show up.

If I were starting a partnership, the commitment would be for neither one of us to leave the partnership if we were angry or afraid. It wouldn't be about the relationship lasting forever, as I don't believe that's what relationships are about. Some of them outlive their usefulness. If the relationship doesn't support my highest good, then I don't want to participate in it. But I tend to leave when I'm angry, because I don't feel valued or appreciated. That's my stuff to work out--my abandonment issues. Others tend to leave when they are afraid. Rushing out of a relationship is just as detrimental as rushing into one.

I now know that partnerships will bring up all the anger and fear so that these issues can be healed. Expecting a partnership to be all about romance and having fun is putting serious limits on it, that will keep it at a very superficial level. Staying put when all your demons come up, and having a partner who is committed to stay with you as you walk through the dark night, is where true intimacy lies. My intention is to be such a partner so that I can attract one. We shall see...