The Agony of Nothing

This blog post is the last issue of The Healing Journey, the letter I send out to subscribers. You may subscribe here to receive the email.

This past August my parents and our family suffered the loss of Maggie, our beloved Great Dane, to bone cancer. A few weeks after Maggie died my mother announced that she was getting a new puppy. I was surprised. When Maggie was deteriorating my mum had stated very clearly that she would never get another dog.

“You said you weren’t going to get another dog,” I reminded her.

“I know,” she answered, “But I can’t bear the agony of nothing.”

“The agony of nothing,” I repeated, impressed by her ability to name so aptly our existential human emptiness, “That’s it. Right there. That is what it all comes down to. If we cannot learn to bear the agony of nothing–”

“We’re doomed!” she interjected.

That wasn’t exactly what I was going to say. I was going to say that if we cannot learn to bear the agony of nothing then we are destined to get a puppy to make the pain go away. But what happens when the puppy dies and we are once again left with that “deep-down, black, bottom-of-the-well, no-hope, end-of-the-world, what’s-the-use loneliness”? (Thank you, Charlie Brown.)

Well, we can always find something else to temporarily relieve the dread. There is no shortage in today’s world: shopping, sex, TV, booze, dope, chocolate cake. On and on it goes.

Eventually those things stop working, too, and the Black Hole returns. What then? How do we bear the Agony of Nothing?

By spending time with it.

Yup. When when we stop trying to a-void the Void, when we make friends with the thing we fear most, it becomes transformed. Solitude is no longer lonely and Silence is no longer empty.

It takes great courage to do this. Exploring the foreign territory of our inner lives can be terrifying. It is the Great Unknown, after all. I myself have uncovered a hundred forms of fear living inside of me. By getting to know these fears intimately and confronting my terror head-on, their power has been massively reduced. And I’m happy to report that I have been liberated by at least eighty-seven of them. Maybe eighty-eight.

This is how healing actually happens. Interior freedom occurs when we walk through the fear rather than run from it, work with the pain rather than alter it. Entering fully into the Agony of Nothing creates, miraculously, the Possibility of Something. That Something is better than a puppy. Because it is, in fact, Everything.

Thus begins the astonishing process of living from our Everythingness instead of from the agony of our nothingness. And it is a process. And puppies are most definitely allowed.

From the fires of love,

Celia

Willing to Live

Dearest Readers,

This post is for you if you are feeling overwhelmed, run down by life, paralyzed by fear, stuck in a rut, cynical, helpless, hopeless. I would like you to know that you are not alone.

Before I go on, I would like to preface what I am about to say by telling you that I have a great life. I am young, healthy, talented, loved, and pretty cute. AND I struggle with anxiety and fear. So despite the fact that I have enormous amounts of abundance and opportunities for joy in my life I go to bed some nights and wake up some days in cold, naked, fear.

Last night was one of those nights and this morning was one of those mornings.

When I went to bed last night I told myself that when the cat pounced on me at 5:30 the next day I would not go back to bed after getting up to feed him. I would do the morning routine and embrace the day. I was determined because I knew that if I didn’t, if I let the fear plague me it would end up driving the bus of my day and I would sink deeper into the mire.

So this morning at 5:30 a.m., right on schedule, “Pounce!” The cat jumped on me and began his mournful sing-song to waken me. Guess what? I ignored him. I pulled the covers over my head and stuck a finger in my ear.

Fear: 1, Celia: 0

Now because I am aware of my shortcomings, because I am aware that I rebel against my Highest Good, because I well know that I get in my own way more often than I care to admit, I did not stop there. I did not let the fear win.

Despite myself, I began to ask for help. Buried under those covers with a finger in my ear listening to the cat cry for his breakfast I began to pray like a motherlover.

“I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to face the day. It’s too much. Please help me. Please forgive me. Please give me the strength and courage to pull my covers off and sit up and get up and feed the cat and start the morning routine and live the day. I don’t want to because I’m afraid but I’m willing. Give me the courage, please, I need strength, please help me.”

I kept on like that for some time. I just kept on. Then out came the finger. Off came the covers. I sat up. I got up. I fed the cat. I splashed water on my face and drank water. Life-giving water. I felt relief.

Celia:1, Fear: 0

I began the morning routine, entering into deeper prayer and meditation. I did a yoga practice. I WENT FOR A JOG. IN THE RAIN. When I got back I picked raspberries from the bush in our yard for breakfast.

Miracles all.

Somewhere around the five-minute mark into the jog (those of you who have been following this blog since the beginning will be most impressed for I began hauling myself up an outdoor staircase two years ago to build cardio activity into my life and nearly had a heart attack) I began to feel better. The fear began to lift and I could feel my energy changing. Hallelujah.

For a person who is gripped by fear or anxiety the most difficult thing in the world to do is to get up off the proverbial couch. And yet it is the absolute solution to the problem. We must get up off the couch and step into our lives for the fear to lift, for things to change, for the miracle of thankfulness to overtake the dread. And yet how? How do we do that when we are paralyzed?

Ask. Ask for the strength and courage. Beg for it if you have to. It will come. It. Will. Come.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I am willing to live despite my fear. I am willing to move forward with love in my heart. I’m terrified of what lies ahead and life feels too big for me to handle. But I’m willing because I trust the shift will come and when it does I will be returned to thankfulness and inner peace, which is my true state of being.

Back to the Drawing Board

Dearest Readers,

It’s 3:48 a.m. and I’m in absolute despair. The cat I live with pounced on me at 3 a.m. and woke me up and it has refueled an absolute ton of murderous rage.

You may remember my first post ever. It was September 2009. The cat woke me up and I was so upset, so angry that my only recourse was to pray. The answer I received was, “Blog.”

I’ve been lying in bed praying for help. How is it that a year and a half have gone by since that first awakening and nothing has changed? I’ve done so much work on this relationship (yes, it sounds funny — it’s a cat — but it’s a cat with an anxiety disorder and believe-you-me this little guy has required me to work) in the name of surrender, compassion and unconditional love and still I end up back here? Swearing into the dark with visions of snapping his neck at the forefront of my mind? Horrible. Horrible!

Again, my only recourse is to pray. So I breathe. Inhale Love, exhale Peace. Inhale Faith, exhale fear. I begin to drift off to sleep. Pounce! He’s back. I pet him, scratch his fur. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. He leaves. I can hear him crunching his food in the kitchen. I’m fading. Sleep is close. Pounce!

That’s when the rage comes. My prayer turns to vehemence. What the f$#%? What the F&$%ING F#$% AM I SUPPOSED TO DO? Show me. Help me. Please. Please. Because I am completely and utterly at a loss as to how I am supposed to deal with this.

And then the answer. “Blog.” No. Come on. You’re kidding right?

Perhaps I should explain where the rage is coming from and why it is so pronounced on this particular morning. After all, this is practically a nightly ritual. Most nights it hardly wakes me. I’ve become so used to it that I can now sleep through the cat’s nocturnal exercises. But this night? I happen to be working on a grant.

Yup, a grant. And it’s a big one. The application is due on Tuesday. It’s going to take every ounce of energy I have to get it in on time. I went to bed at 10 p.m. last night so I could get 8 hours of sleep and wake up at 6 a.m. This would give me an early enough start to do a full morning practice (prayer, meditation, yoga) and a full day of work on the grant. Good plan, Celia!

And then the cat ruins my plans. So things have not gone the way I wanted them to go. Bingo. Trigger the control issues. Trigger the rage. And I’ve been on the healing path long enough to know that rage = fear.

So what is the fear? I’m going to be tired. What happens when I’m tired? I get overwhelmed. What happens when I get overwhelmed? I numb out, give up, check out. I recoil from life.

One of the thoughts I had when I was praying after the first “pounce” was this: Celia, if you are this upset when something this small doesn’t go your way how in the world are you going to handle it when something BIG doesn’t go your way? The grant application is for funding for a feature film. It’s BIG. Maybe this little thing is preparation. Maybe I’m being shown how to handle setbacks.

What was that very first Inspiring Message of the Day? What did I learn all those months ago? When something happens to me that I do not like, that feels like cruel and unusual punishment, I will see it as an opportunity for growth. I will use it to change the world, be of service, help others. I will thank the person/place/thing that gave me the lesson, for he/she/it is my greatest teacher.

So now I have to live out this credo. Now. Eighteen months later. I must accept the lesson anew.

Alright. Let’s do it. Something has happened to me that I do not like. It feels like cruel and unusual punishment. But is that what it really is? No, it isn’t. Seriously, I’ve just been woken up by a cat. He’s asking for love and attention. But it’s 3 o’clock in the morning. So what? I’m going to be tired. So take a nap. I don’t have time. I have to finish the grant. Ah, the grant.

The grant represents the film. The film represents something much, much more than anxiety over sleep loss. The film represents a lifelong dream. What if I don’t get the grant and I can’t make the film? Better yet, what if I do get the money? Then what? The film might fail. I might fail. These are the deeper fears. They are the fuel behind the fire of rage. This is why I’m being woken up. To confront my deepest fear of failure.

Sigh.

Okay. Walk the talk. Be of service. Blog and share. Thank the teacher. Thank you, cat.

Now can I please go back to bed? You’re up now. You may as well get a head start on the grant. You’ve got a movie to make, don’t you?

Inspiring Message of the Day: My anger is a defense mechanism for my fear and I am willing to look at my deepest fears today. I am willing to be changed by this awareness of my shortcomings. I am willing to “wake up”.

Pray Tell

Dearest Readers,

Tired? Grumpy? Lethargic? Despairing? Anxious? Overwhelmed? All of the above? You’re not alone. On any given day I can experience any number of these fear symptoms. Lately, my number one solution has been simply to pray.

Get quiet, ask for Direction, listen. All of these actions constitute prayer and with them comes the exquisite sensation of simply dwelling in the Presence of God.

I heard someone recently say that for her God was a person. That works for her so that’s great. For me, God is not a person. God is the Spirit of Unity Back of All Things. God is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, the Condition of Possibility of any entity whatsoever.

Neither of those definitions are mine, by the way. They came to me and I grabbed on to them. They make sense to me. They back up my experience. And that is how I have come to know this God. Through experience. Not because someone told me what to believe. The experience of this Power is why I have I faith in its existence.

But despite my faith I am still self-reliant. And my self-reliance causes me to suffer. I overwork, I future-trip, I judge, I worry, I sabotage myself. I operate on Old BS (belief systems) instead of trusting Higher Guidance. And then I end up in chaos of one kind or another, whether it’s just a wee little bit or full-blown doesn’t matter. I still find myself there. Sigh.

It is at these times of inner crisis that I remember to pray. Not just pray like I do everyday, sorta kinda doing it because I gotta. But praying deeply. Taking the time to BE. Be with God. Not wonder, not question, not say a few deferential words. But connect. Rest. Dwell in the Great Presence.

When I embrace the Sacred I am so embraced. The Divine enters and fear disappears. I remember who I am.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Today I will take time to pray deeply. Shedding all thoughts but One.

The Anxious Man

Dearest Readers,

Yesterday I heard a man tell a story and I’m going to re-tell it for you because it is powerful testament to what Marianne Williamson calls “the miracle”. The miracle is the Shift in Perception.

One day a man left his office feeling very heavy. The weight of the world was on his shoulders. He was a newspaperman and stories of oil spills and murders and mayhem crowded his mind and held his thoughts hostage.

As he walked along the street he could feel his anxiety increasing. All around him was pain and despair. He clenched his fists and tightened his jaw against the air around him, which felt oppressive and thick.

He saw ahead of him on the sidewalk an old lady. She was tiny and frail and she used a walker. “How sad,” the man thought. “How terrible. A lonely, old woman who has no one. She can barely walk. Her bones look as though they might break at any moment. How tragic.” He sighed heavily with the sadness he felt for this woman’s situation.

As the old lady approached him she looked up at the man, raising her head high from between her stooped shoulders. The man expected to see a hollow, empty face. Instead, she was smiling.

“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” she said to him, beaming radiance and great warmth from deep within her fragile frame.

“Y-yes,” the man replied, barely able to speak.

The old lady continued on and the man stood watching her slowly push her walker down the sidewalk. It seemed as though a light had suddenly been turned on outside. Everything was brighter.

The man looked around. The sun was shining. He had not noticed this before. It was a beautiful day after all.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I look around me what do I see? Do I see the darkness or the light? The Light is everywhere, all around us, all the time. Today I will look for it no matter how I am feeling.

Sailing Through

Dearest Readers,

Years ago I heard an inspiring speaker talking about making it through rough times. She likened being in the pit of despair to being in the middle of a terrible storm. “Sometimes you just gotta hold on,” she said, “You just gotta hold on until it passes.”

When we’re in that place of fear it can feel like it’s never going to pass. We can’t see the forest for the trees. All we can feel is rotten. It’s a real pickle of a place to be when everything around you is actually just fine and there is nothing really wrong with your life.

In my case, I have everything I need, my life is one of freedom and adventure, I am young and independent, I’ve been given great gifts of creativity and spirituality, and yet despite all of that I still end up somehow back in that pit.

Fear is so baffling, isn’t it? What helps me to understand it a little better is the belief that I’m being called to grow. To heal on a deeper level. If I deny the fear I won’t get there. If I embrace it I’ll overcome it.

In order to overcome it, however, I have to move through it. If I would like to come out the other side I have to have to do a few simple, yet challenging, things. Holding on is one of them.

I hold on to the belief that in the Big Picture everything is really okay. I hold on to “This, too, shall pass.” I hold on to faith. Faith in a Benevolent Universe, a Greater Power, a Life Force Energy Back of All Things. I hold on to past experience that tells me this Power is Unconditional Love and is working constantly for my Highest Good.

I hold on, period.

And then the storm ends, the clouds part, the sun shines and I’m through it. And I look around and I am no longer in the pit. I have ascended to a new level of Be-ing.

It’s a process, folks. Every single time. And every single time I come through it I think, “Whew! I made it.”

Hallelujah. Land, ho!

Inspiring Message of the Day: Whenever I hit rough seas I will remember that the route toward calm waters is always ahead. In order to get there I will put up the sail and hold on to the Rudder.