My Desire

“They say that love is the fundamental core of the universe.  They were wrong.  It is not love that is the lynchpin of existence.  It is desire.”  ~ SSHenry

Have you ever known desire? Have you ever felt the pure unadulterated yearning; that all encompassing searing of the soul that is the heart of love, the inspiration of creativity and the igniter of passion?  If you have ever truly known desire – real desire then you will understand what I say when I tell you that it is the true sign of one whose heart is fully open to everything and everyone around them; to every experience, and to all that the universe has to offer.

Indeed, in order to love you have to have the desire to love; the desire to open your heart up to the possibility of being loved in return.

It doesn’t matter if the love being returned to you is genuine; temporary; or even a reflection or echo of the love that you have sent out.  It is the loving and the openness to receiving love that is important, and both are possibly only made possible by acting on the desire to love and opening up to being loved in return.

Yes, I know all the movies and romance novels portray desire as something deeply sexual; something that ignites physical attraction and brings the lovers together more often than not against their better judgment.  Either that or they portray desire as the first step to obsession.  But in truth is that while desire can indeed lead to passion of all kinds (physical, mental and even spiritual) that is not all it is, not by a long shot.  And yes, it can lead to obsession if one focuses all of one’s desire on one person or object or experience to the exclusion of everything else.

And it isn’t just love that is fueled by desire, though love is the most powerful of the emotions that desire generates.  Desire also powers the engines of creativity.  You have to have the desire to express yourself before you ever pick up a pen or a paintbrush and create something bigger than has ever been seen or read before.  You have to have the desire to play before you can pick up an instrument and make your heart-song heard.

Oh yes, with enough talent and training anyone can write a coherent sentence or draw a picture or play the notes as they are written.  But only desire can inspire you to express your soul through your artistic medium and to create something that expresses to the world the true nature of who and what you are and to open your heart up to the world in return.

But it is not only artists who use desire in their daily lives.  Every person who opens their heart up to another; every person who loves first without expecting anything back in return; each of these people is using desire  (the desire to be something more than someone who only gives if they get something of equal or greater value back) to make the world a better place.  They desperately desire that love be the underlying factor of their reality and they embody that in every action that they take and every word they speak.

And desire is not partial.  It can be used for good; to fuel love and strength; creativity and passion.  But it can also fuel obsession and greed as well.  Like the Tao it is not good or bad in and of itself.  It simply is.  It is how you choose to use it; how you choose to channel it that matters.

Which brings me to another point; true desire can’t be hoarded, as Yoda said “that way darkness lies.”  Keeping your desire bottled up inside of yourself is a sure way to turn your desire into an obsession.  To be fully functional desire has to be open to the elements and free, not only as something you do (desiring something) but as an experience (being desired) as well.

Only when you are completely open to knowing and being known; to loving and being loved; to desiring and being desired can you truly be open to every experience that the universe has to offer you; to experiencing your full potential as a human being; to being more you than you ever thought possible.

I want that for you.  I want you to have the opportunity to experience desire in its truest and most open form.  I want you to become more than you ever thought possible.  I want you to experience the joy and wonder that comes from opening yourself up completely to experiencing each moment totally; to loving completely and to being loved in return.

That is my desire.

What’s yours?

 

 

 

 

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The Empty Shell

“You can’t ask a butterfly to scrunch herself back into her chrysalis or to go back to being a caterpillar just because you’d gotten used to her like that.  What’s worse is when you try to get her to go back because you fear the freedom given to her by her wings.”  ~SSHenry

There are some experiences; some moments in time; that change your life forever.  Perhaps for you it was a major life event such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one or a close call that shook you right down to the foundations of your soul.  Or maybe it wasn’t a large event at all.  Maybe it was something much more subtle such as a kind word spoken when it was most needed; the touch of a lover’s hand or a breeze that not only ruffled your hair but stirred up something deep down inside you that simply could not be contained.

I’ve had many life-changing moments.  All of us have.  Sometimes it seems as if these moments come so thick and fast that they threaten to overwhelm you.  At other times you feel as if your entire life is on “pause” and all of the moments having stepped out for a drink or something.   At some points in your life it is as if the moments of realization and wonder and change are so few and far between that you’ve pretty much forgotten what they are like before the next one begins to play itself out and have to remind yourself what exactly it is that you are dealing with each time you encounter it.

My most recent (and not surprisingly most profound) life-changing moment to date came the moment that I walked into my house after a two month absence and realized that there was no way that I could go back to being the person I had been when I walked out that door eight weeks earlier.

The details as to why I ended up gone for two months (illness in the family) or what happened while I was gone are not important.  Yes, I had some interesting experiences while I was off on my own for two months dealing with unexpected issues and meeting people I might not otherwise have encountered. But what really matters is that for two solid months I was detached from the life that I had been living up until that moment.

For two months I was separated from all of the small niggling everyday details that we label “reality” and which demand our attention and catch us up in layers upon layers of drama and expectation; layers that we gladly pull around us like a cloak and call “life.”

For two months I was free of those layers.  Getting rid of them was not pleasant. They got stripped away from me rudely leaving me rather raw and feeling as if I had been flayed alive and then washed down in salt water and I felt as if was being completely inundated with issues and problems and responsibilities that I really didn’t want to deal with at that moment in time.

But the point is that for two months I was not just a wife.  Nor was I just a mother or a daughter taking care of her own mother.  For two solid months – I was me.

Just me.

I was not free of obligations or responsibilities (caring for a sick family member brings with it its own responsibilities and expectations).  But for two months I was free of the obligations and responsibilities and expectations in which I had wrapped myself up for the last 22 years; those responsibilities and expectations that come from being a wife and mother and homemaker extraordinaire.

For two solid months was completely and totally myself.

It dawned on me as I was driving home, to wonder just how I would ever be able to go back to living my old life.  But when I pulled into the driveway and saw my house for the first time in eight weeks; when I walked through the door and took one look around me, I knew that it was patently impossible.

I can’t go back to the way things were; ever.  The person who lived that life is gone.

I could feel the shell of her; that old me; waiting for me around every corner.  “Come on” she whispered, holding out the old life as if it were a soft but comfortable pair of sweat pants. “Don’t you want to slip back into this?  This is where you are comfortable.  This is where you belong.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.”

“Oh yes it does sweetheart” I whispered back “you have NO idea!”

You see, the old life has a lot going for it.  There are many things that I would like to keep and incorporate into my new reality, but not if it means having to go back to being the person that I was.  The person I have become cannot possibly fit into that old skin. Not without giving up who and what I have become.

It would be like asking a butterfly to scrunch back into her chrysalis.  Or better yet, to turn back time and become a caterpillar again.  It’s not going to happen.  I could pretend, but I’m tired of pretending.

I am simply going to be myself.

My whole self.

I will start again.  Here.  Now.  As myself.  If that is not enough, or more likely if that is too much, then so be it.  I have wings now baby. There’s no reason for me to go back to crawling when I can fly.

Soul On Fire

“What is your passion? What is it that consumes you and fills you with wonder? What is it which, while you are doing it sets your soul on fire? Do you know?  Good.  So what are you waiting for?” ~ SSHenry

Have you noticed that there are some things that set your soul on fire?  I’m not talking about the warm fuzzy feelings you get when you do something well or the low smolder of contentment when someone tells you how much they appreciate what you do or what a good job you’ve done. I’m not even talking about that glow that comes from connecting with someone or doing something that you find truly fascinating.

What I’m talking about are the full-on forest fires of passion.

The kind of intense heat that sears you from the inside out and fills your heart up with such wonder and awe and joy that you feel as if there is no possible way to contain it, only instead of spontaneously combusting the fires that fuel this passion sharpen your focus and bring out the very best of who and what you are.

Musicians will know exactly what I am talking about; the way that the music grabs you and pulls you in and fills your head and you know that you are playing the best you ever have but you couldn’t explain why or how – it just happens. You become the music.  You are the music.  There is no way to separate yourself from the rhythm; from the notes; from the melody that works its way into every particle of your being.

Artists too understand this passion, and writers; the way that you get caught up in the colors or shapes or words and how it is almost as if you are channeling something outside of yourself.  You are no longer in control of the brush; of the keyboard; it comes to life through your fingers. You look up from your canvass or computer screen to find that hours have gone by without your having the least awareness of it. For a brief time you become your work and when you emerge and look at what it is that you have done you can see your very soul worked into very brush stroke and woven into every word.

I’m not just talking about the zone; the moment described by many athletes where everything falls into place and their performance become effortless.  I’m talking about soul fire; about something which, while you are doing it, energizes you in a way that is impossible to understand unless you have experienced it.

But this feeling is not limited to athletics or the creative arts however.  It is just simpler to describe since artists physically channel this feeling into something tangible that can be appreciated by those around them.

In truth anyone who is in alignment with their authentic self and with who and what they really are – even if just for a moment – will feel this.  They don’t feel it just because they have worked hard and have acquired the skills needed to do the work but because this is who they are.

In spite of what you might think – you’ve felt this.  Even if you don’t have a creative bone in your body; even if you wouldn’t know how to hold a guitar if your life depended on it, you’ve felt it.  You’ve felt it in the sheer exhilaration you get when you are doing something you absolutely love; in the glory of a sunset or the feel of silk against your skin or when you lose yourself in the arms and heart and mind of someone close to you.

So think about it.  What is it that captures your heart and mind so completely that you forget who you are or what you are supposed to be doing?  What is it that sets your soul on fire?

Now, find a way to include in your daily routine; to work your joy into the life you have created for yourself and watch as your existence ignites into a wildfire of joy and passion beyond your wildest dreams.

Take My Breath Away

Sometimes the wonder and beauty of life can be so overpowering that it takes your breath away.  In those moments; in those pauses between heartbeats when the world holds its breath in ecstasy; the joy of being alive wells up from that quite place in the core of your innermost self and floods your body, mind and soul with wonder and, for an instant that contains an eternity, you have no choice but to believe in magic.”  ~ SSHenry

Sometimes the beauty of existence really is too much to take in at once.  Sometimes it is so beautiful that it makes your heart hurt.  Of course there are other times when you feel as if your heart is being ripped out of your chest and the pain of it is enough to make you want to die.

But even the pain doesn’t discourage most people from sampling all that life has to offer.  In fact, most people treat life as if it were an all-you-can-eat buffet.  They skim down the line taking samples and tastes of those things that interest them.  Sometimes they go back for seconds of something, but more often than not they try a small variety of things and call it a meal, and most tend to focus on those foods that they are comfortable with; foods that they have had before and enjoyed or that are filling or that at least didn’t disagree with them.

Interestingly enough there are seemingly only a limited people who choose to experience all of what life has to offer. Have you ever noticed that?  Look around you some time. How many people do you see that truly throw themselves into their lives with sheer unadulterated abandon and enjoyment?  How many people do you see that take advantage of everything life has to offer them; who jump at the opportunity to go to new places, meet new people and have new experiences?

Not many.  Most people manage to find a comfort zone; an area where they feel safe and protected; where they feel as if everything is as it should be, and there they stay.  They may include occasional forrays into areas that trigger awe or wonder, but for the most part they walk a fine line; an admirable and successful balancing act.

And yet there are thousands, maybe millions of people who each devote an entire lifetime to understanding just one little aspect of the wonder and awe of creation.  They become enamored by and immerse themselves in one small piece of the puzzle and focus on it to the exclusion of everything else.  It’s like going to the buffet and only ever eating macaroni and cheese or spaghetti even though there are dozens of dishes available to choose from.

Don’t get me wrong.  It is important that we have those who can understand each of these interlocking pieces of creation.  The knowledge and expertise of those who study just one area or who devote their time and efforts to adding to one particular field are to be commended.  Their knowledge and expertise is priceless in the grand scheme of things, but I have to wonder how they do it.  Their ability to focus on their one particular area to the exclusion of all others never ceases to amaze me.

Try as I might, I simply can’t focus on one aspect; one piece, one part of the picture; I never could.  It’s not that I get distracted and can’t, but there is so much out there; so many beautiful and wonderful things vying for my attention; so many things begging to be understood and experienced that it seems a waste to focus on only one aspect to the exclusion of all others.

And so it is that I find myself sampling everything. Yeah, I’m one of those buffet eaters who will go down the line taking a sample of everything just because it’s there, especially if it is a dish that I have never tried before.

I actually had someone tell me once that they didn’t know how I did it.  They couldn’t understand how I could have so many home improvement, gardening and organizational projects going all at once while simultaneously running my own business and keeping up with all of my other interests like playing the piano, writing, singing, learning guitar, painting, photography and reading nearly 200 books a year (yes, I do read that many, I’ve counted them).  They told me that they couldn’t imagine doing all of that, that it would give them a headache to even imagine doing it.

I don’t remember now exactly what I said to them.  I hope it was something nice, or at least polite.  What I do remember is being astounded when they said that they felt uncomfortable doing more than one or two extracurricular things at a time.  That they read at most a dozen books in a year and most of those were fiction.

To me the idea that there can only be one or two interests outside of your work and family (and those interests usually related somehow to the work that you do) was as baffling as my seemingly mish mash of a life was to them.

Now this in no way means that either of us is “right” in our approaches.  I mean, without those dedicated to one particular aspect of creation there wouldn’t be nearly as many things for me to learn; not nearly as many fascinating books to read.  As I said before, I admire their ability to focus; the dedication and commitment that they show to their work and the passion they bring to their area of expertise.

It also doesn’t mean that those who are only comfortable with one or two extra activities or those who aren’t big fans of reading don’t have a lot to contribute to our world.  In fact, chances are that they’ve got more to contribute than I ever will.  The house they built, the car they put together with their own two hands, the awesome food they cook that makes me drool when I smell it; I can’t hope to compete with that.

But man oh man; what I can do is to stop worrying about what other people think about the life I life.  So they may not be ready to live the way I do – to experiences that I do. In fact, chances are that they have found their comfort zone regardless of whether they are focusing on one particular field or whether they have struck their own kind of balance between those activities and interests that appeal to them.  This too is not “wrong,” it is simply how they choose to live their lives. But it is not how I choose to live mine.

I can’t.

I take one look at the buffet life has put in front of me and I have to try it all, or as much as I can get my hands on (and there are always those few people who seem to be hogging certain sections of the buffet, aren’t there?).  I’m not saying that I pig out.  I am not addicted to any one thing (such as food or sex or shopping, extreme sports or other addictive activities)  I simply have to sample everything, even if it is only a taste.

Hell, sometimes I don’t even eat it; I simply put it on my plate so that I can admire it for its sheer aesthetic beauty because you see, I never know what is going to trigger that breathtaking moment of awe and wonder; that sudden sweep of sensation that floods you with wonder and makes the magic of life come alive and there is something; something that drives me to experience that moment over and over again and in as many ways as is humanly possible.

Come to think of it, maybe I’m not as different from those who dedicate their entire life to one area of research as I originally thought.

 

The Big Picture

“Sometimes it is difficult to understand why certain things have to happen in our lives.  What may be even more difficult to believe is that everything; no matter how seemingly unfair or painful; is part of the larger picture a picture that is being created by a skilled and talented artist who knows exactly what they are doing.” ~ SSHenry

Have you ever watched an artist at work?  I’m not talking about the painter dude on PBS who whips his pictures out in a neat half hour show while talking to his audience about technique.  I’m talking about a painter who is creating something entirely new; something that has never been seen before; something straight out of their imagination.  It’s slow going and sometimes it is not always clear just what they are trying to do.  In fact, watching them step by step can be confusing to say the least.

Layers of primer and base coat colors give way to blotchy looking splotches which slowly meld themselves into vibrantly shaded backgrounds and open spaces.  Bold, angry looking lines and jagged chunks of seemingly pointless blackness become trees and rocks and valleys.

Sometimes it may seem as if the artist is moving quickly with broad strokes blending colors and creating textures in mere minutes.  But then they may let the painting sit for a long period of time while the layers cure, or they may leave one section of the painting to attend to another, leaving the one watching them in frustration as to how things are going to turn out and what exactly it is that is being created.

Sometimes the artist appears to attack the painting, using metal tools to cut through layers of already cured and dried paint in order to lend depth and texture where there was previously only smooth paint.  Sometimes they look as if they are attacking the painting with their brush; jabbing angrily at various patches where an object is slowly taking shape.  Sometimes the brushes slash; at other times they caress so gently and delicately that you could imagine that the artist is making love to the canvass, and sometimes the artist will use a spray bottle of paint thinner to remove entire sections in order to make room for something else.

Confusing?  Yes.  Especially for the one watching the painting take shape, but imagine for a moment that you are not merely watching the painting, but that you are the painting.

Doesn’t it feel that way sometimes?  Doesn’t it feel as if you are being manipulated by some master craftsman; some talented artist who doesn’t take your wishes into account at all but instead is manipulating the situations, events and people in your life in a way that you can’t even begin to understand?

Shall I tell you a secret?

It’s true.  You are being manipulated by a master craftsman; a master artist.  Your life is a canvass; a work in progress and I bet if you close your eyes you can feel the brush strokes on your soul; the colors coming together in vibrantly rich tapestries of detailed light and shadow.

You want to know something else?  This artist is no stranger.  This master artist is no separate and distinct god who is flagrantly manipulating your life for his own purposes.

You are the artist.

You are the artist and the canvass.

You are simultaneously the paint and the brush; the color and the texture; the light and the shadow.

All of it – all of it is you.

Every decision that you make – or don’t make; every action that you take – or don’t take; everything is part of the grand scheme; the big picture that your higher self is crafting out of your life.

You can fight it.  Of course you can.  You can wail and scream about the unfairness of the knife cutting through your perfectly laid paint layers.  You can gnash your teeth about the angry slashes that are marring up your background or the inexplicable color combinations that don’t go with the decorating scheme you chose for your life, or you can accept that there is a reason for what is happening, even if they don’t make logical sense in the here and now.

Or, you can accept that it is all part and parcel of the big picture.  You may not yet be able to see the picture in its entirety, but you can feel the canvass under your fingertips and smell the oils in the air and trust that you know what it is that you are doing and that as the painting begins to take shape you will feel things fall into place.

As long as you remember that every joy and ecstasy, every misadventure and painful goodbye and heartwarming hello is a necessary step towards the future that you are creating for yourself; as long as you remember that every personally painful experience and heart wrenching moment is adding shadow and depth to a work of art that would otherwise be flat and uninteresting you will be okay.

 

The Treat Truck from Neverland

There is an ice-cream treat truck that that circles our neighborhood during the summer. Actually there are a number of ice-cream trucks that make the rounds through our neighborhood due to the sheer number of children in the area. But this one isn’t like any that I’ve seen before.

First off, it’s not a truck, but a van, and it doesn’t have the traditional pictures of dancing ice-cream cones, or even pictures of the treats themselves, but multi-colored swirls on the sides, and a simple “Ice Cream” stenciled in elegant script on the sides. But the thing that really sets this treat-truck apart from the others is the music.

Most treat-trucks play jaunty children’s tunes, the better to catch the attention of the younger set. But this one not only has its music playing in a minor key, but it’s playing things like “Morning Has Broken” and “Imagine” instead of the standard kid stuff.  Yes, I know, this particular treat truck may sell something other than ice cream, but that is not the point.

This particular afternoon as I was sitting out in my yard enjoying the sun and the breeze, I heard the minor-key Ice-Cream truck’s melody blending weirdly in with the sounds of the birds and the rustling of the branches, and I had a sudden vision of this van going from neighborhood to neighborhood and the lines being composed not of excited children clutching dollar bills in their sticky fingers, but of jaded and world-weary adults with sad and empty eyes lining up outside of the truck, offering up their souls for the chance that the ice-cream truck would take them away, far away; away to someplace else; anyway but here. That it would take them away from the pointlessness of existence and the sameness of their lives, or at least offer them the hope and the dreams that continue somehow, in spite of seeming success and achievement, to elude them.

There is such emptiness in the world today.  So many people are searching; searching for something to fill the emptiness; something that will satisfy their craving for substance and depth and honesty. They line up for any activity or idea or belief that they think might possibly fill the void and, if it proves to be insubstantial, they continue on to something that will provide them with a diversion; something that will numb the pain and the emptiness and help them pass the time.

If only they knew.

If only they knew that they have the answers inside of themselves.  That there is nothing to “find”, that if they truly want to fill the void all they have to do is look into their heart in order to find the joy and the substance is missing in their lives.  If they knew, maybe they wouldn’t go chasing after that treat truck.