Blaming The Farm
My spiritual life is very important to me, and I have been working hard at it for years, ever since I took Thomas Merton's journals with me to my mountaintop in 1998 and wrote "Running To The Mountain." As most of you know, Bedlam Farm has been on the market for 10 months and has not yet sold, testing our patience, financial resources and yes, our spirituality. As people struggle with bad news, stress, dysfunctional politics and organized religion, I hear more and more about a new and different kind of spirituality. It teaches energy, attraction, movement, yoga, positive thinking and a mix of chants, herbs, altars, stones and other ways of finding happiness.
A spiritual life is by definition somewhat inward. You have to look at yourself and your interior self long and hard, awaken to new experience, understand your mind, meditate in silence or song, examine your body and its movements, listen and learn from others. It is not simple or easy or quick. And it is so easy to become self-absorbed that way, considering yourself round the clock.
For all the good it does, and all that it can be an antidote to poisonous civic and media life, itt can also, at least to me, encourage narcissism and magical thinking. I see this in my own experience with our home. Every where I go, people are talking to psychics, tarot card readers,poems, books, feng-shui consultants and spiritual counselors. Maria and I have built altars, tried chants, buried statues, meditated, imagined the people who would buy the farm. I've received hundreds of e-mails from people with new fail-proof ideas for attracting buyers and releasing the spirits of prosperity and sales. On different occasions, from wonderful and gifted people, I was told to talk to the farm, to ask for its release, to make my peace with the farm, reassure it that the new buyers would love it as we do. I was told to ban all thoughts of failure from my mind, to not even imagine not selling the farm. If I thought it would sell, then that energy would attract a buyers.
From the first, I have struggled to see my old farm as more powerful social force than me.
If I could channel my thoughts, I have been told, direct my energy, buyers would appear and I would get what I want. After trying some, I do not accept most of these ideas in my spiritual practice, although I see and understand the appeal of all of them to some.
The experience of selling Bedlam Farm and my own work has caused me to change focus spiritually. To embrace a more practical, I might say, realistic, notion of spirituality and the world for me. I do not blame my farm for not selling, nor do I blame myself. But I am responsible for making the decisions that will move my life forward – selling the farm, committing all of my resources to moving. The farm will sell in time, and we have done everything possible – ads, price-lowering, as well as altars and totems, offerings and crystals to move the process along. I am surrendering to a higher power, releasing the process to the forces of life beyond me.
I don't think I can conjure up a buyer with energy or stones. Nor do I wish to end my time here trying to make peace with my house and pleading with it to release me. I don't choose to emotionalize my house any more than I wish to emotionalize my dogs.
So we put the altars away and lowered the price. A lot. People have begun to look. Frieda dug up St. Joseph in the garden and ate him, we think. He vanished. I get the message.
The spiritual part for me is that I have learned to not go around bitching about the this economy or turn this experience into a struggle story. I do not pity myself, squawk about this market or look for blame. This experience and my spiritual work has given me the gift of working to avoid narcissism, monitoring my thoughts all day for my own good, which seems to me a selfish kind of practice – a wish list for the things I want, an escape from life and its unyielding reality.
My spiritual work – and my farm – have helped me to see my connections to other people. Despite so many efforts to label us – we are "left" or "right" – I am coming in my work to see the things that connect rather than separate us. I am wary of any practice that breeds more self-absorption and narcissism, an epidemic disease – just look at politics and the "left-right" construct of life that prevents anyone in the other world from listening to anyone or accomplishing anything meaningful.
My practice is taking me in a different direction, towards understanding others as well as myself and reflecting that understanding in my work, especially my writing, blogging and photography. This is where I am hoping to go, working to go.
When I worry about money, so do you. When I wake up in fear, so do you. When I seek love and a meaningful life, so do you. Everyone has it worse than I do. My own life calls me to empathize with others, to be creative, to embrace change, and to follow the earliest spiritual teachings in the world and care about the poor and the helpless. To encourage others to live their lives in freedom, peace and meaning. That is my work as a writer and a photographer – to speak directly to you and to step out of myself and try to reflect what you feel, not just what I feel.
Because it is no different than what I feel. That is our connection, despite our differences. It is the fruit of my spiritual work.