Core beliefs revisited

IMG_1162I am so grateful for the comments on my blog on core beliefs.  I read more than 100 notes from people who are also questioning inner and outer belief structures, from people who seek more balance or simplicity in their lives, and from people who experienced awakenings in their minds and hearts through practicing yoga, dance, or martial arts.  Thank you so much for the kind encouragement and for letting me know you are in this process of reexamination too.

Some asked what my core beliefs are, and that is a good question.   I am talking about core beliefs in relation to my unconscious psychology, some of those beliefs that I formed as a kid and that shaped the way I see and experience things.  One is that I lack worth or a right to be myself, a perception fairly common in Westerners, from what I read.  I have constructed whole stories about myself and who I am, what I can and cannot do, around this sense of being inferior.  Stories like, I can’t have enduring good work or a decent salary, that I am an outsider.  With an underlying assumption such as that, how could I ask for help, or envision myself in lucrative work, or join a community where I could be involved in mutually nourishing connections and endeavors?

But that core belief has slowly changed in me and has been replaced with the sense that I have the right to be here and to take up space.  Mindfulness practice and yoga, as well as good relationships and time in nature have eroded my old beliefs.  I observed them in action as a hakomi body-oriented psychotherapy student and client, as a yoga and Feldenkrais practitioner, as a wilderness walker, in meditation, and I have seen through them.  The movement, mindfulness, and kind interaction with other people helped untie the knots around them, and they are loose now.  I see them kick in quite often, but I am not defined by them, I do not always react through their lens.

I am in love, I have deep friendships, I have rewarding part-time work, and I am writing.  I ask for help when I need it, and when I feel myself succumbing to the old core beliefs, I can often practice a little internal yoga, feel my feet on the ground, and release them.

Yesterday I watched this video discussion between a couple of people (Bari Tessler Linden and Ben Saltzman) examining how our core beliefs kick up around money issues: Enneagram Video.

Ben, a business and career coach, talks about how the Enneagram focuses on nine types defined by core beliefs formed in childhood.  He says he began to examine his own core beliefs when he experienced the pain of mismanaging his money and energy and how he changed by observing and unraveling his beliefs and related behaviors.  So whether it be money, relationships, work, illness, or other challenge that starts us on this path of examination, we end up in the same place:  Learning about who we are and what we believe and how that serves or hinders us.

We’ve been through the age of psychotherapy, and it seems like we are now into the age of mindfulness and community building.  Many of us are unraveling these beliefs and choosing new beliefs more consciously.  People wrote to me and said they believe in love and interconnectedness, in simplicity, sustainability, and health, in practices like yoga and how they transform us, taking us closer to our true selves and leading us to more conscious living.  Wow!

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When who you are is what you are

This morning I cannot resist writing about Jack Kerouac the man and Jack Kerouac the writer.  He’s been read and romanticized for decades now, but I have to put my two cents into the mix.   I read On the Road years ago, and I didn’t understand it, but recently I read Dharma Bums and then a biography of Kerouac written by Gerald Nicosia called Memory Babe.  Last night I just cracked open the original scroll of On the Road.

In terms of work, the subject of my blog, Kerouac was a dedicated writer.  He felt compelled to live, feel, and respond, to be a conduit for expression of emotion and the grappling of his generation instigated by the atomic age and paranoia around communism.  He also felt a need to write in an honest and personal way, expressing his experience in the moment as an art in itself; he needed to create new forms of literary expression to respond to the world around him and record his search for meaning.  I am inspired by people so driven as artists to grapple, learn, express, to feel and respond to beauty and mortality. An artist in temperament and vocation, Kerouac’s work was to be a conduit for life.

The thing is, his way of being and working required an extraordinary openness and vulnerability and honesty, and he drank a lot to cope.  Maybe he drank a lot to numb out and hide.  I can’t speak to that.  What I respond to is his sensibility and honesty, his friendships and development as a man of ideas and art.  I believe in his biographer Nicosia’s perspective here:

How he was in life and work:

“He was observing a complete fidelity to the moment, changing colors like a litmus as impressions flowed through him, simply registering everything, and, like Whitman, unafraid to contradict himself.”

The difficulty in his life and work:

“He was able to resolve nothing because he was speaking directly from a genius whose locus was outside his personality—a genius that might be triangulated somewhere between Riviera du Loup, Hollywood, and heaven.  He was a hillbilly scholar and a hokey saint, with Japanese mezzotints and works by El Greco, Rouault, Picasso, Van Gogh, Rousseau, and Gauguin sharing his bedroom walls with little pictures of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph and the crucifix above the bed.  He was determined to blast out from his very heart all the garbage of his age, the processed shit with which fifties American was stuffed like a Christmas turkey—even if much of the time he was flipping or weeping, really weeping—and to give his tortured and grappling nation a voice, even though the job would kill him; and knowing that, he had taken it on anyway, and there was no reforming him now.”

What I want to say is that Kerouac represents the artist to me, a role and calling that has always spoken to me.  And this immensely gifted, very complicated man pointed so strongly to life and death:  He does not let us forget either, challenging us to not hide behind convention or routine or fear but to acknowledge how we feel.  He worked with discipline, with heart.  He read and experienced and wrote.  He loved and attempted to paint pictures of characters bursting with life and confronting a world that didn’t understand them, like Neal Cassidy.  He responded to loss; he responded to the disillusionment of his time; and he wrote.  At the same time he knew, as Nicosia wrote, that putting oneself in the role of great American Writer, such a role was a “shuck,” a fraud.

He was torn by contradiction, felt the pain of his vulnerability and loss of love and optimism, possessed a keen awareness of mortality and a belief that artists must suffer.  He did not have a regular home life, perhaps fearing that such a condition would deaden the artist in him.  And still he loved and experiment, reflected and WROTE.

I can’t think of anyone more dedicated to his vocation, anyone who had more congruency between who he was and what he was.  He did directly grapple with issues of identity, self-worth, and vocation, and ultimately, religious questions.  As Nicosia writes, he and other Beat writers took on the spiritual task of “ransoming the nation:”

“Both the beat and the beatific get their revelations from intuition. Both are pushed beyond the limits of the physical and the rational by the horrors of suffering and death.  In the case of the Beats, the urgency of vision was poignant with their sense that America had lost its soul.  Their homeland was being sold to the colossus of industrial materialism.  The holiness in America had been beaten down and covered over.  It could be ransomed, Jack believed, only by people who had learned to speak not of themselves but from themselves, who had learned to tap those deep sources that are the fount of all religion.  This was why he wrote as he did, in the very same manner as St. John of the Cross had written for the salvation of his fellow men.  ‘When God speaks,’ Jack told Gioscia, ‘just take it down.’”

Man.  What a calling.  What a way to live and work.  I almost understand why he drank the way he did.

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