Posts Tagged ‘limitation’

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is surrender.

There is no getting around it: limitation is misery. Whether it be a dearth of space, time, money, ability, success or love, “not having enough” of the thing we need (or think we need) is akin to that proverbial slow trip through Hell. Most of us would do anything to avoid it.

Alas, (and as spiritual teachers of all persuasions have always written) limitation does have a purpose. Surely Eleanor Roosevelt was referring to limitation when she said, “A woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.” We don’t have to like it… but limitation is, indeed, a great teacher.

Many of us (with the exception of those who are still testosterone-driven and/or caffeine-powered) have begun to suspect that the true name of Life’s game is surrender. This is not the surrender of giving up, losing, passivity, or any other similar mind-set, but Surrender as in an alignment with the greater wisdom, the greater plan of Life. The words of Lao Tzu (previously posted here) describe this definition of “Surrender” quite clearly, translated here by Witter Bynner.

“…When a man is in turmoil, how shall he find peace, save by staying patient till the stream clears? How can a man’s life keep its course if he will not let it flow? Those who flow as life flows, know they need no other force: they feel no wear, they feel no tear, they need no mending, no repair.”

Yet there is this thing about humans and free will: the freedom to choose. We grow and become wise from whatever choices we make, but there is (of course you’ve noticed) a steep price for choosing to go against the flow of Life. Edward Bach, in his classic book, Heal Thyself: An Explanation of the Real Cause and Cure of Disease, wrote convincingly that the root cause of all disease is to be found not on the physical level, as modern medicine would have us believe, but on the level of the spirit. He states unequivocably, that the cause is a conflict between Soul and Mind. (In New Age lingo: a conflict between Head and Heart.) In the words of Lao Tzu: a resistance to Life’s flow.

When I honestly look at my own health and the mirror of my life situation, I see the evidence of resistance to Life’s flow everywhere. That being said… Surrender is not easy. If I ever knew how, I am long out of practice and very rusty. Where did I put that oil can?

“Of It’s Own Weight” (oil on board)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is double.

Wizards and avatars aside, most of us cannot be in more than one place at a time, and virtually none of us will live forever. As a result of these limitations, life in a human body will be mostly about making choices.

It is an archetypal situation that pairs, or doubles, the seeming contraries of Joy and Grief. No matter how joyful it can be to choose something, inherent in every choice will be the other thing(s) not chosen… the other man, the other career, the other road… the other dinner entrée. It is the classic bitter-sweet experience… and one that becomes more pronounced as one’s years accumulate and death approaches. Perhaps humans have evolved beliefs in things like reincarnation and a heaven to compensate for the sense of things missed?

Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung (1875-1961), popularized the archetype of the puer aeternus, the eternal boy (or puella, girl), but it is a truth that has been around far longer than the recording of myth. The Puer embodies the very human resistance to the necessity of making choices in life, and the resistance to the limitations that are invariably part of those choices. The Puer in us wants to have it all… and with no consequences whatsoever! It is a stance on life that is not workable in the long-term. And it is a stance on life that cheats the Soul out of its learning experiences.

In The Book of Runes, Ralph Blum states that “The ability to foresee consequences before you act is a mark of the profound person.” But sometimes only negative consequences can be seen in the moment of choosing: options lost, forks in the road, doors closed. How do we choose wisely? By “… choosing with the heart, not the mind,” say all great teachers. By choosing what we love most, and would be most sorry to have missed…

The fear of making choices, popularized by the well-worn phrase, “Fear of Committment,” over-emphasizes the loss inherent in choice-making, and usually fails to take into account the joy of making a choice… a choice which naturally leads to more choices and more choices again, as a tree branches out from its trunk. To make a choice is not a dead-end. It is only the next step, the beginning of something new. ‘Choosing from the heart’ does require a healthy amount of faith and wisdom…faith that there will be no wrong choices… only lessons and more lessons… and the joy (and grief) of choosing once again.

What’s for dinner?

“Contemplation” (watercolor, pen & ink)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

I think of Easter as Bunny Day. And in honor of Bunny Day, my painting for this week’s Illustration Friday features a pair of those adorable, mysterious creatures. The word of the week is dip, and I have chosen to illustrate the dictionary’s slang definition: “A foolish or stupid person.”

Now, any of you who have been around bunnies (or rabbits, as they are more respectfully called) will know that they are neither foolish nor stupid, but they are often portrayed this way in stories, as a stand-in for our own human foibles. But make no mistake, in their own natural self, a bunny is an amazing creature. If you are in the bunny mood this weekend, I would like to suggest four of my favorite bunny stories from my own children’s book collection…

  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. (The definitive rascally bunny character… now made famous once again by the movie Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger.)
  • Morris’s Disappearing Bag: A Christmas Story by Rosemary Wells. (Morris, the youngest bunny child, discovers that the last Christmas present under the tree is the enviable, best one.)
  • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram .(A father and son rabbit try to outdo each other with declarations of their love.)
  • And my all-time favorite, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, especially the version illustrated by David Jorgensen. (A stuffed rabbit discovers for himself that “When a child loves you for a long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”)

I will leave you with a story of my own about the mysterious power of bunnies…

I found Scrooby, the feline love of my life (nicknamed Sabu), in the woods when he was still quite young. Lost, upset and very loud, it became quickly apparent that he was handicapped in the motor skills department. Covering territory with a determined, drunken-sailor kind of gate, he fell so frequently that many of his teeth and whiskers were already broken. The abilities that one takes for granted in a cat—leaping, stretching, stalking, rubbing up against a leg, running fast—were all beyond his capabilities. For the five short years we shared, we both did our best to compensate for this: special doors, ramps and eating bowls on my part, and sweet and fierce determination to be a ‘normal’ cat on his part. I don’t think I had ever seen any being try to live so fully, despite limitations.

One of my fondest memories of Sabu occurred on the day that my neighbor’s pet rabbit escaped from his cage under my deck. Keeping tabs on my cat, I looked out across the grassy yard to see cat and rabbit hopping and leaping high, side-by-side like old friends. Something about that bunny had pulled a leaping joy out of Sabu, in spite of his handicaps, and I will be forever grateful to have witnessed that small miracle. The power of love and friendship… and bunnies… is astonishing!

“The Bunny Buddies” (watercolor, pen & ink)

Visit Susan’s website.

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