blessed bewilderment

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Rumi / spirituality / yoga

“Sell your cleverness, and buy bewilderment.”

I am not ashamed to tell you that the first time I read these words many years ago, I was completely bewildered. And I didn’t even have to pay for it!

I couldn’t comprehend why on earth anyone would want to be bewildered. What could possibly be gained other than an undesirable reputation for airheadedness? The worst thing ever! (not really) I admit that to be thought of as less than pretty darn smart was like the worst possible thing to me at the time. Boy was that airheaded.

Those who know me, and a few who really don’t, would agree that I have had a reputation for cleverness in its varied forms. I can be a nerd of the first order about some things and often still am. I sure hope they never revoke my nerd card! In fact, my pet word is “actually.” Yes, I’m that girl. When you call it a monkey, I’m the one who’s going to point out that “actually, it’s an ape.” Go ahead, throw your rotten fruit. Preferably bananas, if you don’t mind. 😉

As I’ve mentioned before I went through a period where I was unrecognizable to myself. I spent many years in a job that did not fill me up but drained me. Authenticity was less valued at that organization than “doing it So N. So’s way.”  It scares me a bit now to think how skilled I got at thinking like someone else. This is not always a bad thing to do. It can certainly help to be able to step into another’s shoes and see things from their perspective. That’s healthy. This was something else. I completely lost myself in the process.  I felt like a phony.

However, I was never not clever. Sure, I ruffled some feathers. Sure, I made mistakes. But it was not for a lack of being clever. I learned how to play the game. Too well. I sometimes chose not to play it but frankly, not often enough, in hindsight.

Yoga and meditation have served to bring me back to myself from that long, strange trip. The words of my chosen gurus have played a big role as well. I am emerging anew, but also a-old. (wait…that sounds wrong…) I’m getting back in touch with myself while developing new strengths and insights.

Recently, much to the dismay of my trivia team, I have a severe case of yoga brain some days. Yoga brain? What? Yes. Yoga brain. It’s a thing. It’s like “pregnant brain” but without the nausea. More granola, less pickles and ice cream.

There is a lot of evidence out there for how yoga and meditation affect the brain. Essentially, as you spend more and more time in present-moment awareness, aka mindfulness, the brain starts to create new pathways and trim old pathways. The brain can get a little ruthless, cutting away the branches that it feels no longer serve. It’s probably not necessarily wrong. I mean do I really need to remember the Latin word for queen? (regina) Okay, so it doesn’t get rid of everything, but you get the idea.

The other side of it is not just the trimming but also this new feeling of just not caring that it’s been trimmed. Don’t worry, yoga is not going to cause me not to remember how to drive a car or to forget anything I actually care about. However, it does do a mighty fine job of cutting loose the BS, enabling me to see what I can afford to lose.

It is beautiful.

I am less attached to my cleverness and no longer averse to bewilderment. I delight now in saying, “Ya know, I just don’t know.” Other people seem to delight in hearing this sentence come out of my mouth, if their Cheshire-like grins are any indication.

I am also particularly observant of my own attachment to pleasure and aversion to pain. It’s normal. I’m not special in this way as we all have this. It’s hard-wired into us. We’ve all heard the many lectures against attachment to pleasure but we rarely think about how aversion to pain is also a block. It was while reading Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates that I really started to explore this idea further in my own life. Where am I attached and what am I avoiding?

Some of you may remember from my last post about non-hoarding that I was getting ready to re-home one of my dogs. It’s really a lovely arc that the very same experience has led me to a deep exploration of attachment and aversion. Now that I am acutely aware of my dog’s absence, I realize that I have kept him with me for many years out of pure attachment. His new life is further testimony to this fact.  I do miss him but I know down to my toes that it’s just my attachment to his presence in my life and my aversion to his absence. I acknowledge that I wanted desperately to be a better leader for him but I didn’t want it enough.

If you’ve been here before you will remember that my quest is to settle into my authentic self, not to impose more “shoulds” on myself or anyone else for that matter. “Shoulda, woulda, coulda.”  Shouldn’t. Wouldn’t. Couldn’t. And that’s okay.

Truthfully, in the days before he left I had many second thoughts. Am I doing the right thing? Should I just try harder? Am I being selfish? What would Lassie do? (I figured since this didn’t involve Timmy or a well, she might not have any expertise in this area so I let that one go.)

Where the other questions were concerned, I stopped myself each time and remembered that I was just experiencing aversion to pain. I wanted to turn around and run from it. I wanted to just pull my dog close and swear that I would keep him until the end of time no matter how miserable we both might be! After all, adopting a pet is not anything I go into lightly.

It was while grappling with this dilemma that a friend unwittingly said the perfect thing: “make great commitments *and* be open to change.”  *And*  That’s powerful stuff. One small word and the whole tone changes. Not “but”… And. We really can dwell in duality without compromising our sense of self. I can be both someone who commits *and* someone who can change her mind.

We can make the best of plans. We can be sure of so many things. We can have it all together and follow the map. We can heed the omens. We can keep our promises. But maybe there is a sublime quality to change… Maybe there is a lovely madness in not knowing what comes next or why or from where.

I can honestly say that I do not suffer more for not knowing. I have suffered far more in the trying to know. I still occasionally try to control outcomes without intentionally doing so. It is rarely my intention but rather my lack of intention that gets me into trouble. When I catch myself doing this, I try to take a step back and assess “am I being attached here or am I trying to swerve away from pain?” Once I know what my motivation is I can get clearer on how to let go.

I’m not advocating that we all become blathering idiots. There’s already plenty of that going on!  Perhaps we do have a little room for the occasional madness though. I can only speak for myself but the glimpse that I’ve been provided thus far leads me to believe that genius and madness are closer than we think. Furthermore, when the two link arms there’s a certain quality of godliness that joins the dance.

If this resonates with you and you find yourself exhausted from all the striving and trying, then perhaps you too can explore the advice of our friend from long ago, Rumi.

Sell your cleverness, and buy bewilderment. Hell, give it away.


Love and light,

Photo Credit:  Michael Ninger/ShutterStock

Additional Links:

Scientific American:  How Yoga Changes the Brain

The Author

I am a dancing, arrow-flinging yogini from the South, but I live in the Pacific Northwest. I just like to keep things interesting. ;)


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