01 Jul July: The Threshold
We are standing at a threshold. One definition of threshold is the humble piece of wood or stone on the ground that separates the inner world from the outer in a house, it can represent shift from the past to the future, the old from the new. There is something sacred about not rushing over this humble step, to see it as a sacred pause in which we have the choice to travel over, or not. It offers new beginnings and asks us to give up something in order to cross over, like separating the chaff from the seed of wheat. We accept and understand the whole plant does not go into the baking of bread, nor can everything come with us as we make change. When tuning into the energy of July, this parable came to mind.
One of the buddhas disciples went to him and asked to be shown Heaven. The Buddha said, “if you want to see heaven, you will have to see Hell first.” The disciple agreed. The Buddha took them to HELL, where an enormous banquet table was set up, piled high with fabulously delicious food. Unfortunately, all of the diners had, instead of hands, enormous long spoons on the end of their wrists, and kept trying to get the food into their mouths, but could not reach them. They wailed and gnashed their teeth in misery. The Buddha then took his disciple to Heaven. Heaven was the exact same situation– diners at a sumptuous banquet table, with long spoons on the end of their wrists instead of hands. The only difference was that, in Heaven, everyone was feeding each other.
– parable of the long spoons
Most of us have not been taught, nor given the tools to recognize the wealth and abundance of simply in being alive in a world that supports life in all forms. We have many cultural myths that create the illusion of scarcity that are so pervasive, we don’t think to question them. “Only the strong survive, it’s the Survival of the fittest, it’s a dog eat dog world, no pain no gain.” We have been fed a diet of scarcity and the fear that there isn’t enough for so long that we have created a culture that hoards resources, money, affection, food, and much more because we are terrified that if we do not, no one will care for us. We have forgotten that as Mother Theresa states, “we belong to each other.”
When I was in my early 20’s, I was walking home from teaching dance on the north shore. I just gotten off the sea bus and was heading toward my little studio apartment in the West End when a man approached me and asked for directions to the Marriott hotel. Now I didn’t exactly know the answer, but had a vague idea of some hotel close by that was on route so I offered to walk together for a few blocks. I considered myself a “nice” person and wanted to be friendly, his foreign accent help convince me that indeed he was a tourist,—that he was who he said he was. He was charming and charismatic and quickly established connection. He new parts of Calgary where I grew up, he had heard of the neighbourhood I was raised in. He said went to the art school that I had taken classes in. It was truly uncanny. He then quickly turned his narrative to his sick grandma who he was desperate to get home too, if only he could get money for a bus ticket. Distant alarm bells were going off in my head but I still found myself being led to an ATM where I withdrew 50$ ( a hefty sum then for a young artist.) I wondered if someone would help me if I was in the situation he claimed he was in, I wanted to help if I could. But still, it was a big ask.
“Promise me you are you who say you are,” I said trying to be firm.
He did. He promised.
“I’m a student, I have rent, but I’ll help if you really need it.” I did and do still want to be of help in the world.
He assured me he would pay me back, gave me his grandmothers address.
“If you are lying to me, I will lose all my hope in humanity,” I said pleadingly as I handed over the money.
He assured me that he was a genuine person that just needed a break.
I’m sure you can guess the rest, as soon as he turned the corner away from me, I knew. I had been had.
I walked the rest of the way home burning in shame at my earnest naiveté. How could I have been so stupid? And most of all, how could that seemingly nice person lie so boldly to my face? How could someone do that?
In my pain and frustration I felt myself at a threshold, I could indeed lose faith in the world, and how I wanted to be in it, become bitter and armour my self in anger so that I would never be hurt again —or take a breath, and forgive myself.
There was a bigger picture. It wasn’t personal what that man did to me, and I could see hold lucky I was to not have to make the choices he did. Did it hurt? Yes, did I die? No. Could I learn for the experience? Absolutely. I gained more compassion for myself and others and the wisdom to be more discerning so I didn’t fall into the same trap again, and even if I did, I trusted that I could forgive myself again, most importantly, I still believed in the the inherent goodness of others.
Collectively we are at a threshold,. We hover in the messy place between the old and the new where we are burning in discomfort, grief and betrayal. Old wounds are wide open. As truth shines out more clearly, past actions may staring at us in the face. We are at a threshold. We have a choice to tighten our belts and harden our hearts, to hold onto to our past as a weapon and use it to protect ourselves from others, or we can do the much harder thing.
Breathe, Soften, Grieve, Forgive.
We can be tender with ourselves and our learning, we can let our living make us wise, we can rise out of the role of victim/ perpetrator and remember that heaven is where we take care of each-other. We cannot control what this threshold looks like for others, or that we will not get hurt or be betrayed by along the way. But we are personally responsible for participating in world we wish to be apart of, to offer our long spoons to another and trust we will be fed in return.
What if it’s not only possible to expand our hearts and gifts to care for each other in a good way, but that a just, collaborative and abundant world is just as real as the world where only the strong survive? Maybe wealth and resources are meant to be shared, maybe it won’t feel like sacrifice, but like the true sustenance we’ve been longing for.
This threshold asks us what we are willing to part with. We must be willing to suspend the cynicism that keeps us bound in shame and unworthiness, unwilling to trust ourselves and trust life so that we can to step forward and into each-others arms. Are we willing to step out of the myth of scarcity and into abundance?
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
We were made for these times and we have everything we need to move us forward over the threshold together.
Sending love always,