This morning as I tried to settle into a focus, I was struggling. I continued to freewrite, and a word, which seemed random at first, jumped off the tip of my pen: Unclaimed.
Sometimes, I write for a week or so on a continuing topic as I did at the beginning of this month about the Declaration of Independence and founding of America. Truly, I write about whatever emerges from the fellowship of my heart each morning, and I develop the idea for this evening post, which I have done daily now for months. I’m letting you in on my thought process here. Maybe you will enjoy it; maybe it will illustrate one way that I fellowship with my own heart.
I rarely share anything from my true morning pages, but I will make an exception. This is what I actually wrote: “I see that I’m still not in any sort of flow. Don’t know what I need to do, really. One of these unclaimed mornings. What? Unclaimed? Why in the hell did I write that? What do I mean by unclaimed?” And I went on from there. The question about why I wrote the word was one directed to my heart.
Answers came forth: “Nothing is holding my attention, my soul [Heart]. I don’t know [Mind]. I am not claiming anything as worthy of a focused thought nor is anything laying claim on me [Heart]. How about I stake a claim because that is what an author, a writer, a philosopher does? If I don’t stake a claim, how will I discover? If I don’t discover, how can I fulfill being Discovery?”
My heart and my mind converge in times of such dialogue, unless I specifically evoke, call directly on Heart. Why does it matter? Isn’t it simply what many would term thinking?
No, no it is not, and it is not because we have to make a conscious decision to use the heart. If we do not, ego, as the default human operating system, would take us in many different directions. Heart thinking is clear, unequivocal, and if any emotion is involved, it’s positive. Had I not chosen to interact with my heart, then I might have sunk into depression because of my lack of focus and why that might have been occurring. The reality to me is it doesn’t matter one iota why I felt that way, only that I recognized it and pursued purpose. Heart leads us to stay focused on life purpose and pursue that, especially once we know Self and create our purpose and a vision and mission to make Self known.
I’m not the only one who feels this way; many millions do, really, but it always helps me to hear others’ thoughts in affirmation, encouragement, and fellowship of our hearts. Before I started this article, immediately before (Coincidence? I think not!), I read a quote I received in an email: “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” — Dolly Parton. She gets it. Know Self and make Self known. That’s how to spread love and experience love for all involved in life.
Where did I end up with my more focused thoughts? I pursued the idea of the 19th century westward expansion in America, where farmers, ranchers, and miners could legally stake claims. I thought most about miners. The discovery of gold and possible quick wealth lured many westward, and if a prospector found a place, a piece of land or a river, with a few flecks of gold in it, he would poke around for awhile. If it proved really promising, he would go to an official and stake a claim — a document stating he had interest in that parcel of ground and water. Work had to be invested in it over a five year span, usually, before he could be the full legal owner. Nice history lesson!
My personal lesson, though, included the thought that when I pursue an idea that has come through the fellowship of my heart, I do the prospecting work. I see the promise and develop it. If it’s a bust, at least I learned a little. If it’s a rich ore of gold, then I start mining it.
Ideas about the founding of America, poetry, writing, art and artists, education, and spiritual understanding and growth are some of those ideas. And certain thinkers, practitioners, or writers provide really rich ore to refine. Enter Walt Whitman.
And this is the second day that I have not gone as far as I wanted to in my exploration to discover from Walt, but this is fine. I have written my heart, but I know a bit of what is yet to come, because I know the grade of ore I am working with.
Let me end this evening, though. I want you, my friend, to know that when you come to know self and create and state life purpose (which may evolve in a growth process), and then, find a way, some way, any way, to make it real (vision) and make it work (mission), our lives will open into the richest mining, farming, or ranching claims anyone could ever imagine. Only you, your own heart, knows what this is for you.
Search it, know it, proclaim it, do it. Know love, joy, peace, and the fulfillment and significance of such a life. When you do that, you have hit the mother lode!
I have been looking at Walt Whitman’s poetry in a special focus because his work helps in very powerful ways to reinforce the truths that I sincerely believe will help you discover heart and life truths for yourself.
I would also like you to understand why literature can be so useful to this end. Of course, literature is classified as such because people find value in it for decades up to millennia. This is why I have a basic literary analysis framework. It goes something like this.
The primary purpose of literature is to give insight into the human condition. The way to discover that is to analyze it in terms of the author’s life and times, literary devices and elements, and how the literature relates to us and how we relate to the literature. I am not teaching a literature class here; I am only exploring the primary purpose and the effect of the work on us. So, if you’re not sleeping by now, I would like to explore Walt Whitman’s “Song” poems a bit more, true expressions of joy.
I believe that Walt’s work reveals the deep heart truths that he held. I also think that he knew what it was to be in the fellowship of the heart. Walt’s work is not usually analyzed this way, but it is so clear to me and so encouraging.
For instance, Walt reveals the essence of his relationship to the Universe, a spiritual flow that he feels can be most fully realized in the new democracy of America, based on what America should represent. He sees America as a place in which eternal truths can be lived. In Section 49 of “Song of Myself,” he says, “I hear you whispering there O stars of heaven, / O suns — O grass of graves — O perpetual transfers and promotions, / If you do not say any thing how can I say any thing?”
The depths in those lines overwhelm me. He sees, as anyone would who has heard their heart and become self-awakened and self-aware, that the Spirit of all permeates and is operative in anything that we can sense; therefore, when we walk in the fellowship of the heart, we can access those things that encourage us, continue to enlighten us, and yield joy and connections with other hearts.
Application? Do we speak to our hearts to hear the songs and whispers of the Universe in the stars, the grass, and in any part of creation that we can access? Messages are there for us.
I would add one caution here: we should not be waiting for messages from some god or fate to tell us what to do. Walt already had awakened to core Self and created his life purpose and determined a vision and mission to carry that out, which we see clearly demonstrated for us in Leaves of Grass, among his other works. Don’t wait for an omen to let you know what to do. Omens are usually just encouragement to continue or a confirmation or affirmation. The life purpose comes from Heart. Spiritually sensing all of creation around us just helps us carry out our purpose — whether that be poet, mechanic, teacher, family care-giver, or anything else — by giving us more insight into the unity of all.
Then, in Section 50, Walt continues with this: “There is that in me — I do not know what it is — but I know it is in me. // I do not know it — it is without name — it is a word unsaid, / It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol.” I would love to just read all this to you, but I won’t write it out here. I will skip down a few lines: “Do you see O my brothers and sisters? / It is not chaos or death — it is form, union, plan — it is eternal life — it is Happiness.” Walt wrestles with defining this whole aspect of an awakened Self, a Self that knows the unifying Spirit who is the essence of all energy in the Universe. He grapples with the personal experience of realizing that an immortal essence dwells in his mortal body.
Have we done that, wrestled with the meaning of life for ourselves and come to experience it for ourselves? Just saying that we believe someone else’s account is meaningless. It is personal, yet once we come to know our own hearts, we realize the intricate relationship of all. This is part of the irony of “Song of Myself,” because in celebrating Self, Walt realizes that when we find joy in that personal knowledge, it links us with everyone else — no matter who they are or what they do: “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes)” (Section 51).
Do you want significance, peace, fulfillment, purpose, love? Hear your own heart, and know that self-knowledge brings us to understand that the great Purpose combines our individual purposes to benefit one another here. We are not in this alone. Awakening to self is not a selfish proposition: it is a proposition that puts us in relationship to all else, one that embraces the entire Universe.
Pretty amazing irony, isn’t it? I’m in. What about you?
When I write about joyous appreciation, it does not mean walking around with a goofy grin on our faces all day long in some kind of altered state, oblivious to all the negative aspects of life. No, but I do mean that we can observe everything around us, understand the dynamics, and at least smile in identification with whatever person or phenomenon we are observing.
Let me ask you a few questions. How would you react to finding someone who has committed suicide? Would you condemn them? How about a group that has been prodded to an unreasoned and unreasonable mob mentality? What would be your response to a person who is gravely ill being rushed past you straight from the ambulance in the hallway of a hospital? How do you feel about criminals or cheaters reported on the news or that you know personally?
Walt Whitman’s response to each of those situations above is this: “I mind them or the show or resonance of them — I come and I depart” (Whitman, W. “Song of Myself” Section 8). Those are his responses to what many would call the negative things, but he spends many pages referring to those things which we would call positive, too. Why does it matter how in the hell Walt Whitman responded? Because he had the sort of insights that can help free us from ego responses and that can help lead us to discovery of an enlightened, self-awakened, self-aware life.
His response? He pays attention to them respectfully (“I mind them”), and he feels their place, sympathizes with them (“…or the show or the resonance of them”). He actually enters into identity with them far enough to have to make a conscious decision to leave their atmosphere, their spiritual environment.
While we may not as passionately and fully engage with others, although we certainly can, no matter how briefly, a heart filter and attitude changes the way we look at this world. Walt shows us this. Even if we say nothing or do nothing, the thoughts of sympathy and identification gushes positive energy into this world. Do you think that could change anything? Or does your ego tell you it’s stupid and meaningless?
No, it is not stupid and meaningless to understand, identify, and appreciate any other human being or any other facet of the Universe. Why?
In Section 7, Walt makes it clear that we are all basically made of the same stuff of creation, and that is an eternal energy that renders us all immortal: “I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and fathomless as myself, / (They do not know how immortal, but I know.)” He feels that all of this eternal energy of which we are made, which is imbued with the Spirit of all things, is something that everyone has. The expression of that immortal energy in each individual life form differs, though, but doesn’t change the fact that we share that energy.
That, then, is something to appreciate — a deep understanding of the composition and function of something or someone. This can make us grateful, bring us some joy, even when appreciating the bad guys, because all have immortality, have “eternity in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
How does this fit in with the concept of God? Walt knew his views brought up this issue, and he answers to it much later in the poem in Section 48. He makes it clear that he has no business playing at some religious definition of God. He believes that if we don’t recognize God or the god concept in everything, then a formal religious definition won’t mean anything: “And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s self is, / And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud… // And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God, / For I who am curious about each am not curious about God, / (No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death.)”
If we don’t know, experience, and see the expression of God in everything and everyone around us, then we miss out; we choose to not sympathize with creation, recognize our basic eternal composition. He would, and I would, still see God in such a person, but that one would be spiritually dying because of no understanding.
Walt deals more with this understanding a few lines down: “I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least, / Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.” He recognizes divinity in all and explains how he does that: “Why should I wish to see God better than this day? / I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then, / In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass, / I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d by God’s name…” This beautiful description engages me deeply and evokes these questions and thoughts.
Do I look for God, see God, in my own face and in others — no matter who they are or what they have done? Eternity is there, no matter how they have lived it. Do I bother to pick up the letters of God all around me and read the messages that are there? Of course, this requires meditation, reflection, and drawing conclusions. If we read these notes of eternity, marked by the creator, by our part in creation, it produces an appreciation that yields joy — not necessarily an exuberant rejoicing, maybe, but at the very least a resolute calm in knowing that love, unity, and peace ultimately rule the Universe.
I want to look every day for the letters of God, in essence, letters written by me and all of my fellow creatures. It isn’t always easy because we have horrible, terrible, very bad days, but if we think of something like this, it can change everything. Yes, when we make a conscious decision to lift ourselves from feelings of defeat, depression, or any other negative emotions, we create a great opportunity to change everything, to grow, to know joy. It feels a lot better than the alternatives.
I thought about joy this morning, because even though I have been in physical pain this week — rib injury on Sunday — I have had joy through the pain and tiredness. I don’t always, though, and neither do many others.
As I thought of this, I thought of perhaps a better question, one that helps produce joy, I believe. I know that people who are miserable with themselves, their circumstances, and most other people really have no joy. Sometimes I am crabby and grumbly, but really those times are short-lived. I will say, however, that at times I consciously am not very expressive around people who are miserable because they resent it and it reinforces their misery. However, the question that might help them and that helps me think about life is this: How much do you or I appreciate life — not the fact that we are alive but the fact that other people and the creation of Nature and humanity abound, demanding our attention?
We are alive, we are here, and we receive and transmit stimuli constantly. How do we feel about it? Our attitude towards this world, this life, and creation is colored by several things. Choice of primary life operating system of Heart is the greatest factor — Heart or Ego? However, ego can and does at any time crop up, even for those who have awakened to self, simply because ego is an integral dynamic of our being. Knowing it helps us know when it is operating. It also helps us know we better change filters pretty quickly.
If our view in any given moment in life produces or is characterized by apathetic indifference, combative anger, snorting superiority, self-defeating depression, shrinking inferiority, or a hundred other things, then we know that ego is working overtime. The solution? Joyous appreciation at soul level of the essence and construction of life around us — animate and inanimate, nature and man-made. Appreciation does not say that we agree with everything or everyone, that we even like everything or everyone, or that we wouldn’t change things that are in our power.
This is very important: the sort of appreciation I am speaking of here is the understanding of the relationship of parts to the whole, of understanding how this world, this Universe all fits together, of looking at it all and knowing the relevancy of one person, place, or thing to another — AND our relationship to it all. This insight comes from a heart perspective because the very nature of Ego will not allow the Other to be so intrusive. Therefore, when Heart gives us such insight, we appreciate life, our life in relation to the whole, and this produces joy.
If I am feeling depressed and frustrated, as I was this morning, I know that ego is operating by default; I know that I have looked at circumstances and NOT chosen Heart. That is the value of recognizing ego. My solution, and one I would recommend to you, is to Walt Whitman up! This is exactly what I have been speaking about, but let’s see how Walt looked at life.
One of his joy poems, and I know it is so because it is an exuberant song, “Song of Myself,” shows how Walt developed this heart outlook. On the surface it’s simple, but the philosophy is profound. We should understand our philosophy, our belief framework about life. Walt begins with “I celebrate myself, and sing myself.” We each merit our own song; we do!
Walt goes through sixteen pages in my version of Leaves of Grass, and in those pages he observes and creates an identity with and appreciation of almost all conceivable areas of life and creation. Note what I said — identity and appreciation. For joy to result, we have to understand our relationship to the whole. The ironic thing about celebrating the Self in this poem is that one comes to understand that we celebrate everybody and everything else. Song of Myself becomes song of this whole world.
Walt says in Section 16: “ I resist any thing better than my own diversity, / Breathe the air but leave plenty after me, / And am not stuck up, and am in my place.” He gets the relationship of his part to the whole. Then, he continues in Section 17 with this: “These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me, / If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing… // This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is, / The common air that bathes the globe.” Grass and air are everywhere, universal, a symbol of democracy to Walt and one that says we can appreciate the place each one has — no matter what it is. This gives a settled joy as we understand our place relating to all others.
When fretting about self, life, or others, understanding via the heart creates peace. We know we are on the heart path when we understand that “whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud,…” We can expect spiritual death without sympathy, a feeling with and understanding of others.
What is the understanding Walt gets to? “I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least, / Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself. /…I see something of God each hour…In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass, / I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’ed by God’s name.” Even though he doesn’t understand God, he understands that he and all else are expressions of God — “letters from God dropt in the street.”
Walt Whitman up, my friend, if you are confused, upset, depressed, or any other feeling being produced by ego. Turn to the lens of the heart and view the world around you in sympathy as “letters of God dropt in the street.” Then, remember that you are one, too.
Joyous appreciation feels good, so if you want to feel good, choose Heart.
How well do you know yourself, really? I will tell you that is not an easy question in some ways. When I wrote about relationships yesterday, I emphasized that most basic aspect of any and all relationships: we must know ourselves.
Why is it a challenge to know ourselves? Partly because we allow ourselves to be defined by the perception of others about us. Their opinions, words, body language, actions, and reactions are interpreted by our ego, which gives our minds feedback about who and what we are. That is the source of problems for many of us, maybe all of us. I know it is for me at times. The problems arise from our acceptance of those perceptions of others, and it is damned hard to stand in the face of rationalization from your own ego about our identity when it is tied to what looks like irrefutable evidence, i.e., the observations and consequent interpretations of others.
That, however, is not the reality of who we are. We just need to get that straight in order to get ourselves straight, and it will follow that our relationships with those others will improve, or end, which is a possibility. Some folks get offended if we refuse to allow ourselves to be put in their boxes and follow their suggestions about how to be more like they want us to be. Yeah, we are probably better off without a close relationship with those folks.
I relate my nightly Instagram pic to this post and try to add a small bit of focus to one of my ideas. Last night, that was in the form of a “To Do” list. I intended that it be a little exercise to help us get to know our core Self, that Heart identity, a little better. It was very simple, and I did it myself this morning: look in the mirror, smile at myself, speak a hello directly to my heart, at least think of a little song to myself, if not hum something or sing it, say “I love you,” and then go show that love to any others I come across. Yep, I did it.
It’s just as detrimental, though, to not know our own ego. We need to know our ego because we should embrace it, love it as part of ourselves, and invite it into our expression of heart self. To me thus far, the value of ego is in alerting me to know when I am approaching limits of my comfort zones, when I am functioning in fear of crossing lines drawn by others, and when I need to make decisions about what I’m doing and where I’m headed and what I should demand of the Universe. Ego leads me to know when I have Heart choice to make, Heart revealing personal truths, giving insights, creating vision, and urging to action. Heart is not a mush of wimpy emotions — that is all Ego. Heart doesn’t bullshit; it’s straightforward and wise.
If we do not know our own heart well enough to be able to create some kind of celebration about it, then we probably are mucking around in ego. We need to celebrate heart, which is why I put in that little to-do list that we should sing to Heart. Now, it does not have to be a real song, but it could be, or it could be humming or a poem or spontaneous words of praise or engaging in a piece of work and thanking Heart for that.
And sometimes ego impulses can be valuable. I am not judging here about merit of one over another, because my ego and my heart are all me. I say this because it helps me personally, at least right now, to know that others feel the same. And Walt Whitman — I think he somehow in his eternal state channels his spirit to my heart! — saw this relationship between heart, ego, and relationships. I have referred to “Song of Myself” before, and obviously, a song of ourselves already fits tonight’s theme. However, a few lines from Section 5 shows how he understood the sort of relationship with self, heart, and ego that leads to relationships with others: “I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you, / And you must not be abased to the other. “ Heart doesn’t obliterate ego, nor vice versa. I choose, however, to filter, see, sense, observe, evaluate, and create based on Heart, which he calls “soul.” The “other” is ego. I just know. Lol!
Since ego is always pushing for influence and recognition, we need to be consciously choosing our hearts as our primary operating system. And we each need a song to celebrate self, well, at least the attitude of a song to celebrate our unique Heart identity and truth. It might be fun to just stare at yourself, lock eyes with yourself in a mirror, and think Who am I, really? What song flows? What gives me joy? Then, start humming, composing, whatever comes to you.
And, then, NEVER, EVER forget that little celebration. Build on it. Make it a regular event. A continual holiday. When, I think of things like this, I think of something that my mom and my dad both said to me on a number of occasions, independently and not referring to the same thing: Mom — “Follow the dictates of your heart;” Dad — “Just do it.”
If we learn to know, enjoy, activate, and live that core Self, then we will live that to others, not in dependence on them, not waiting or hoping for their approval and acceptance, but in pure love, regardless of any work of ego on their part or ours.
We, like Walt Whitman in the last section of “Song of Myself,” need to be like the hawk: “I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, / I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. … // Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, / Missing me one place search another, / I stop somewhere waiting for you.” This is the way his celebratory song ends.
It’s where ours should start. Being, expressing core Self — “I sound my barbaric yawp” — and then looking for, expecting, those wonderful connections, meaningful relationships, those that we crave: “I stop somewhere waiting for you.”
Here I am.
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!