A Course of Love says we need a new language, one that speaks to both the heart and the mind. I find myself looking for this language. Awaiting it. Feeling it. Sometimes listening to it. Having it come softly in a friend’s voice, in a poem; at other times a conspiracy of silence, joyous and quiet; in songs rich and lush. There have been areas where just the right words have come at just the right time, some where I stumble across them, some when I cannot find my own words and need an assist. There are subtle nuances to A Course of Love. There are a few things I trust but have a hard time reconciling with my experience. For instance, A Course of Love suggests that the path of the heart will be easy. I would have told you many times in the last decade that I did not find this to be so. And yet . . .
And yet the words come and I know them when they do, as if they are old friends.
In his memoir of this father, “Early Morning,” Kim Stafford wrote, “The first step in the direction of the soul’s inclination can be clear, and the rest is “easy,” though there may be hardship. Stern hardship, opposition, and even tragedy, but also a clear direction.” Kim said this in reference to the philosophy of his father, the great poet and pacifist William Stafford.
I love this quote because it helped me explain this issue to myself. Maybe it wouldn’t have felt so appropriate if it weren’t for ACOL’s underlying theme of being who you are. It says to me that if you’re true to yourself, your direction will be clear and the rest will be easy, regardless of whatever hardship or pitfalls await you. There’s an “ease” that comes with being who you are that gives you the fortitude to do what your heart calls you to do—an ease that makes it, let’s say—easier than the effort not to do it would be. I think of William Stafford being a conscientious objector in WWII, and how challenging it would have been to be a dissenter of that “great war” when many COs were thought of as traitors. I think of Martin Luther King, Jr., and if he ever could have been peaceful or happy without leading the fight for civil rights. And I think of all the rest of us and our acts of conscience and of change. Of the uneasy. The uneasy days, the nights when troubles keep us awake.
What is difficult and what is easy? Is there anything more difficult than not being who we are? Not being true to ourselves? I don’t think so. I’ve been wanting to talk about this, because if we take “easy” at face value, it can lead to doubt and disappointment. I can’t remember where I read it, but sometime in the last six months or so I read that the decline in popularity of spiritual books has been linked to the disillusionment of those who thought (through the promotion of it) that they could “intend” their way to the good and easy life.
Another author, Rollo May, (“Freedom and Destiny”) wrote in a way that spoke to me just as powerfully as Kim Stafford, about the difference between joy and happiness, saying: “Happiness is associated with contentment; joy with freedom and an abundance of human spirit . . . Joy is new possibilities; it points toward the future. Joy is living on the razor’s edge; happiness promises satisfaction of one’s present state, a fulfillment of old longings. Joy is the thrill of new continents to explore; it is an unfolding of life. Happiness is related to security, to being reassured, to doing things as one is used to and as our fathers did them. Joy is a revelation of what was unknown before. Happiness is the absence of discord; joy is the welcoming of discord as the basis of higher harmonies.”
My road has not been one I’ve always called easy. I haven’t always been “at ease” either. There is an “undoing” that comes of returning to the heart that can be experienced as terribly difficult. And it seems to me that there’s always an underlying challenge in getting to know yourself –and then another challenge in following where your newly identified self wants to go—maybe leaving a job, or risking a move, or giving up previously held beliefs or even stories about yourself. Easy … really? What I’m finding is that when I look back, the answer is Yes. Easy. Well worth it. Had to be done. Couldn’t be helped. The hard stuff almost always washes out as the right path after all. You go along for a while and then you begin to see that it is true. If you want revelation, real change, truth . . . easy is going to look different than you thought it would.
Here’s the rest of the quote I started out with, the answer given within this Course and that I know is true even if I needed the Staffords and Rollo May, (in that quite lovely way in which we need each other) to offer me their words , and in turn needed to offer them to you, to lead us back to where we started . . .
Acceptance is an active function. It is something given you to do. You think it is difficult, but it is only difficult until it becomes easy. D.Day3.57