GNL number 8


A report of doings at meeting # 8, Sunday, February 10, 2008
including litugical notes, major themes, and odds and ends


This being human is a guest house.
Every morning is a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


  • This was an amazingly rich examination of the theme GUILT and other DIFFICULT FEELINGS (and some ALTERNATIVES). Ann led the discussion with something she said had come to her unbidden as this meeting drew near, a poem that gives voice to both the painful feelings of human inadequaciies and a vibrant response. It’s reproduced below.

  • Looking at definitions of guilt, Cynthia admitted some frustration with meanings assigned to the word, usually as what happens when you break a rule, and guilt feelings as those you have when you should have done something, or shouldn’t have; she counted it more complex, and read us a poem about another dimension, the relief of feeling the real feelings. (See below.)

  • Then, without planning, we ended up giving almost equal time to individual accounts of experiences four of us had had with guilt or other difficult emotions, and to some responses that have been helpful. A remarkable, wide-ranging conversation with many serious moments and many light ones too—all nourishing.

    • The first sharer described the stage for guilt that operated in her family of origin, with a very difficult mentally ill sibling for whom she was expected to serve as “keeper”, and her arrival at a line-drawing moment when she became a mother and saw she coulldn’t be both keeper and good mom—from which there are still some residual guilty feelings.

    • Another spoke of five years of living in a marriage that was over, unable to get past parental guilt feelings till finally she saw she had to leave.

    • And a third also referred to struggling with the dark feelings–guilt, regret, despair, fear–after her marriage disintegrated.

    • All noted in their narratives that facing these emotional struggles had meant eventual growth. And a fourth said he’d found he didn’t suffer much from guilt feelings, and he explained: he’d had two emotional crises in his life—once as a young man in his first year of college, which humbled him and broadened his perspective, and another years later, a long period of depression that ended with his discovery of his Christian faith. Thus, he said, even in recent years when some family members were hurt or angered by something they didn’t identify and shunned him and his wife, he was sustained by his faith. So he too felt his crises were fruitful.

    • Allowing pain to open you for the rising of something new—this was a strong current in the discussion.

    • In addition, there were noted many other small and not so small ways of helping ourselves. Such as these mostly Mental Ways:

      • Cultivate self-questioning (eg, What am i feeling? Can i accept this? Is this really true? Am i really guilty? Is that who i am?).

      • Quiet yourself in prayer or meditation.

      • Find and post reminders (quotes, pictures) around your house that bring you back to bigger perspective (some of us have many photos of recklessly happy children to share, eg).

      • Talk with someone you trust.

      • (and a favorite of some of us) WRITE, about feelings/thoughts you’re experiencing, about joys waiting to be noticed (as TNH suggests on page 3).

      • And many, many Physical Ways to restore our balance:

        • Cry. (note below what Drs. say)

        • Sing! (ditto)

        • Groan. even Howl ! (a couple of us loved the idea of a group howl)

        • Do any of dozens of kinds of physical exercise—WALK, jog, hike, ski, bike, swim, row, dance, stretch, do yoga or taichi, garden, move around.

        • Go OUTSIDE and breathe oxygen and get into the big natural world.

        • Breathe, consciously, deeply.

        • Listen to music as you do rhythmic things at home like cooking, cleaning, sorting, etc.

        • Do something NEW.

        • LAUGH. Listen to funny stuff (Click and Clack just for their cackles?); watch funny movies (NS has What About Bob? and The School of Rock and Raising Arizona. What have you got?); read the gospels of our dear Swami Beyondananda (remember it was he who proposed the UN and all other government bodies should open their proceedings by doing the hokey-pokey.)


    Come, come, whoever you are,
    Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
    It doesn’t matter.
    Ours is not a caravan of despair.
    Come, even if you have broken your vows
    a thousand times.
    Come, yet again, come, come.
    —inscription on Rumi’s tombstone


    NEXT TIME: Sunday, March 9 (10:30), at Sue Spivack’s, at 107 Quarry Street, Cobleskill. Sue will lead our discussion; the topic will be FAITH. And as usual, please bring a little dish for our scrumptious lunch.


    from Ann:

    • I am in a vortex
      Turn left, turn right
      Up, down
      fore and aft.
      I said I would do this,
      Was asked to see to that,
      Know I should do this…

      My mother’s lowered head with cocked eyebrow,
      My dad’s reserved expectations,
      Siblings’ successes,
      Money paid out to educate me,
      Classmates’ achievements,
      Marital inadequacies,
      Self-doubt, don’t measure up…
      Guilt has a long history in me.

      You know,
      that’s all part of me.
      Who I am is…

      One who believes there is
      humor somewhere in everything…..Soooo


    from Cynthia:

    • Respite
      What sweet release, letting go of happiness,
      Kicking off the ill-fitting shoes of optimism
      That pinch the toes and rub the heels raw.
      Dropping the mantle of cheer that kept her shoulders looking so very jaunty,
      Throwing the mask of felicity on the floor.
      Falling into her bed of luxurious despair,
      Inhaling its dank smoggy breath and nursing deeply on its bittersweet milk,

      Soaking its sludge into every pore.
      Sinking through the depths of spacious time,
      Synching her heart to its drumbeat of dread.
      Enfolding herself at last in its sackcloth and ashes embrace,
      She exhales, and turns her face to the wall.
      —Ellen Sullins

    from Cynthia and Nancy:

    • Liberation from fear is not about becoming fearless; it’s about seeing that fear is not the deepest truth about who we are.

      The willingness to let loneliness just be is the only way to transcend it.

      Don’t try to change, just be aware. Awareness heals.

      When stuck in apathy, procrastination, or the morass of depression, choose one small task and complete it mindfully.
      Momentum will follow.
      —Ezra Bayda

    from Adair:

    • Women in our society are socialized to guilt. Mothers are the target of all kinds of propaganda that makes them feel as it everything that happens to their descendants through life is their fault. That is just not true. In two-parent families, fathers have responsibilities too. Also, much of what happens to our children is the result ofthe influence of the larger society through schools, peer groups, mass media, the economy, the historical period, and the sate of society. Women blame themselves unmercifully and erroneously for things that were never their fault.

    • Mothers, Daughters, Grandmothers, Granddaughters

      I once briefly a daughter
      now always a daughter
      dream of daughter
      She is the mirror
      in which I see
      my mother’s eyes
      look back at me.
      —Ruth Harriet Jacobs (author of Be an Outrageous Older Woman)


    from Nancy:

    • Please take a pen and a sheet of paper. Go to the foot of a tree or to your writing desk, and make a list of all the things that can make you happy right now: the clouds in the sky, the flowers in the garden, the children playing, the fact that you have met the practice of mindfulness, your beloved sitting in the next room, your two eyes in good condition. the list is endless. You have enough already to be happy now. You have enough to no longer be agitated by fear or anger.
      —Thich Nhat Hanh

    • Emotional distress produces toxic substances in the body and CRYING helps remove them from the system.
      —Dr. William Fry, biochemist

    • Crying discharges tension, the accumulation of feeling associated with whatever problem us causing the crying, and restores balance.
      —Frederic Flach, MD

    • Repressions of anxiety are believed to be reflected in the musculature and cannot be relieved until the muscular as well as emotional tension is banished. SINGING, the one form of music that uses the body itself as the instrument, is an invaluable tool in this kind of therapy, says John Bellis,MD. Sometimes when people say ‘I’ve cried and cried, what good does it do…,’ he tells them, ‘Go ahead, let it out but when you’re through, start singing; sing some of the sadness, some of the loss,…’ Music and song have that ability–to give expression to something that may be impossible to express any other way………So what are you waiting for? ….. There’s no excuse not to, really; you’ve just got to sing: sing in the shower, sing at work, sing in the rain, but SING! (You were singing songs before you had the slightest idea what the words meant, before you even knew what a word was. Probably the best thing that could happen to us would be to regain that childlike openness to song!)
      —editors of Preventive Health Manual, Rodale Press

    • Lie down and GROAN deeply for at least 10 minutes (can sit or stand if can’t lie down). Groaning requires deep, regulated diaphragmatic breathing, so maximum oxygen gets supplied to all parts of the body, which effects a kind of inner massage.
      —Louis Savary, PhD

    • Research shows that children LAUGH between 300 and 400 times a day.
      —Sue Baldwin (ed. note: How many do you suppose for adults?)

    • Once you find the humor in a situation, you can survive it.
      —Bill Cosby

    and two Stop signs (for your fridge?)

    • S T O P.
      In and out.
      Through your belly.

    • S T O P. Look. Listen.
      Smell. Touch. Taste.
      Just Be Here.

    and from a distant but dear CoS sympathizer, Rev. Judy Scott:

    • I think perhaps it is a better world if one has a broken heart. Then one is quick to recognize it, elsewhere.
      —Helen Waddell

    • Coming to understand that there is nothing unforgiveable in life is the beginning of real love.
      —Sr. Joan Chittister

    • The Daily Gift
      You know what?
      Tomorrow is a new day.
      And today is a new day.
      Every day is a new day.
      Thank you, God.
      For all of these
      Special and new days.
      —Mattie Stepanik, age 11

    Not only were we rich in quotes this time, but in THEME-THREAD ideas to explore:

    • Changes—How have we managed ours

    • Laughter—What are our favorite funny stories

    • “Reminders”—What pictures, words, items have we got strategically placed and why

    • Teachers—What and who has shed light for us over the years

    • Learnings—What have we discovered this long winter

    • Priorities—What these days, and are they different than a year ago or so

    • “Meaningful life”—What is that, anyway

    • Talents and skills?—Yes, we do too all have them

    • Procrastination—Is it all bad, and what’s behind it

    • Impatience—How to deal with this so common thing, in us and others

    • Ingrownness—How to be introspective without gettiing self-absorbed

    • Mental ruts—How to get and stay open, and outside the box (or oven, if it’s Ann)

    What else………….?


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