Simplicity & Complexity — Three True Tales

First a story from a friend, which reminded me of several things in a way that drew them together and helped me join the dots.

Chris Zydel’s Conversation with a student from her last night’s intuitive painting class:

Me: So how’s your painting going?
Student: Well, I decided that I wanted to paint this guy with a bald head.
Me: Yes?
Student: And so I painted him.
Me: So how did it feel?
Student: It felt great. But I don’t understand why I wanted to paint him.
Me: So you’re feeling confused.
Student: Well, not exactly. I mean it’s OK with me that I don’t know why I painted him.
Me: So what’s the problem?
Student: It all seems too easy.
Me: What do you mean?
Student: Well, I decide to paint this guy for no reason.
Me: Yes?
Student: And so I paint him.
Me: Yes?
Student: And I enjoy it.
Me: Uh-huh?
Student: Well, it just seems too simple somehow. Shouldn’t this be a lot more complicated?
Me: Why do you think that?
Student: Well, because LIFE is a lot more complicated. And you’re always saying that painting is like your life. I mean, you can’t just decide to do something in your life for no good reason and then just go ahead and ACTUALLY do it simply because you want to!
Me: (Laughing so hard that I can’t talk.)
Student: Can you????*

Chris’s story made me remember something that happened in one of my classes long ago. After about a year of attending my classes, a student asked me, “When are we going to start doing real magic?”

“Tell me,” I asked in return, “a year ago would you have thought reading tarot and doing healing and seeing auras were ‘real magic’?”

“Yes, but now I know how to do it.”

I just looked at her, smiling.

“You mean it’s all like that?” she wailed. “You mean all of it is just knowing how to do it?

I shrugged and let her stew for a few moments, then said, “There’s another way to look at it.” And I left her to think about that.

I don’t know if she ever really got it that everything is magic if only we open our eyes to see. Either it is all magic or nothing is. But that kind of confusion is what comes of people thinking they are not naturally magical people, when in fact we all are.

Simplicity. Complications. We are all born “simple” — basic, uncomplicated — eat, defecate, sleep, interact, love. When in pain, cry — but only when in pain in the present moment. Otherwise be happy and observe. Unfortunately, the more we observe, the more we tend to complicate things. Love and good feelings start to have rules — and a price. The infant’s first and built-in instinct/rule is “demand satisfaction loudly” and the second one is something like “please my mommy so she will do what I need” — and if mommy cannot be pleased, life quickly becomes truly difficult and complicated.

Every small child can learn the basics of hands-on healing very quickly and easily — at least, all the ones who are interested, providing they are taught very simply. Children trust their intuition about all sorts of things, and sometimes they are right and sometimes it all goes wrong. Children are innocent and ignorant, but humans have astonishing minds capable of great leaps of logic (and illogic, but we often don’t know the difference). As we grow and learn and conclude, we accumulate an incredible muddle of fact, fancy, and fallacy, all in an effort to make sense of the world around us and to see that our needs and desires are met.

As we get older we complicate our lives with the conclusions we have jumped to and the stories we tell ourselves why the world is as it is. Most of those stories are either wrong or incomplete. Eventually, we realize that something is amiss, and at that point, we either blame others or our circumstances or ourselves and we begin looking for a way to make our lives work better.

Some try to get rich, some develop such cognitive dissonance that they break down, some try psychology, some try religion, and some look at spiritual paths. The latter three all have some things in common and important differences. Here I just want to consider the spiritual paths.

Many spiritual paths ask that you begin questioning your assumptions, the stories you’ve told yourself about getting along in the world, the stories you’ve told yourself about you. They give you exercises and practices, and in doing them you discover new ways of functioning that break your old rules — and oddly enough, these new knackerty knotions work. They reduce inner conflict. They enable you to see the world more clearly.

Much of the spiritual path is about breaking down and letting go of our misconceptions and assumptions. Our opinions and beliefs get in our way, yet we find it frightening to let go of them and the behavior patterns that go with them. That is how we get stuck on our paths. We are very attached to our own opinions and ideas, and deep down, we believe that we simply need to follow our own rules better and we’ll be secure, safe, and happy. We believe this even when it is quite clear that what we have been doing isn’t actually producing those results. At this stage, we are like the pupa in the chrysalis, breaking down, dissolving, transforming. I don’t know how it feels to the pupa, but for humans this isn’t comfortable. Fortunately, we do get glimpses of the rewards as some of the old ideas fall away and life progressively becomes simpler and more joyful.

We learn that some things happen that we cannot control, no matter how hard we try or how good we are. We learn that no one person can meet all of our needs and desires. Sometimes what we think we want or need turns out to be less important than giving that up for a greater need — and we get a better understanding of what those greater needs may be. We find that judging the goodness or badness of others — and ourselves — is a waste of time.

In time, we learn that inner peace is more about being comfortable with not knowing than it is about thinking we have all the answers. In a way, we return to the innocence of the child — but where the child’s innocence comes from ignorance, this new innocence comes from wisdom. It is an acceptance that life is what it is. Sometimes we can change it; sometimes we cannot. Always we have the choice of learning from it or not, of accepting it or not, of being serene or not.

Eventually we learn that it isn’t all about “me”. And around the same time, we learn that all is one, and therefore it is all about ‘me’, but a me that we hadn’t guessed we were.

And the third tale — the tail of these true tales?

My students and I had just finished a series of healing classes, and were having our final exam. (Yes, I do that to my students, just to make them realize that they have learned something.) The question they each had to answer verbally was, “What have I learned in this course that, at this moment, seems the most important to me?”

People were answering very thoughtfully and fairly extensively about what new understandings they felt were actually making the most significant change in their lives and the present. We got around the circle to Warren Wise, who had been quite silent and was deeply buried in thought.

Realizing it was his turn, and looking just a bit stunned, he said, “I’ve learned that healing isn’t something you do — it’s something you are.”

I bow to my students for their teachings. I am so grateful for their wisdom.

*The first story here is © Copyright 2013 by Chris Zydel. All rights reserved. Reprinted here by permission of the author. You can find her at Chris Zydel’s Facebook page

The rest of this post is © Copyright 2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Simplicity & Complexity — Three True Tales

  1. I was sitting in the garden yesterday, just watching the crows and the robins doing what crows and robins do best: crows – spearing insects out of the lawn, robins – furious aerial dogfights over their portion of the garden. And I wondered why humans have ended up making things so complicated for ourselves?! To read your post today reinforced what I thought as I watched the birds getting on with the business of being birds – we create lots of rules. As a society these laws and boundaries keeps us safe (The Emperor and The Hierophant!). When we do it as individuals, we can place huge barriers between ourselves and everything else. Challenging them is hard, but it’s what prevents us from becoming rigid and snapping like a dry twig in the first stiff breeze! Lovely post Jesa, thank you!!!

    1. Alison, thank you! Yes! It “prevents us from becoming rigid and snapping like a dry twig” — beautifully said. And of course, we have to notice this now at Beltaine when the contrast between what Earthmama is doing — giving us everything we truly need in abundance — and what we’re doing — stifling ourselves in opinions, beliefs, and badly chosen rules — is so great. It’s no wonder so many of us implode or explode in a burst of creativity!

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