I welcome all feedback and look forward to reading your comments. Please be respectful of everyone's voice. My intention is to create a safe, secure place where people can be completely vulnerable and express themselves fully without fear or inhibitions of being judged or criticized. I ask that you respond not react. Practice the art of mindfulness in your comments.
"When one experiences truth, the madness of finding faults with others disappears" - S.N. Goenka.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Listening to the Whisper

I can remember, with exact clarity, the moment when my father uttered the statement that sparked my curiosity about the purpose of life.

I was in my early teens – a rebel with a quest to break free from the madness that was my family life. My parents were a perfect pair. My mother, a petite, Italian woman, spoke little English and understood even less about American culture. She kept her distance from the unfamiliarity of this new world by distracting herself with perpetual housework. Despite her constant feelings of hopelessness, she managed to channel her nervous energy into keeping a spotless home, making the meals on time, and getting the kids to school or practice. Her inner turmoil created an outer world of disconnection, and she lacked the capacity to relate, to trust and to love. At the time it appeared that she just resented everyone and everything, but now I recognize her struggle as a disconnect within herself. She portrayed the life of a victim, as if everyone had the sole purpose to cause her discomfort and pain. My brother and I eventually gave up trying to convince her of anything to the contrary. Instead, we simply turned a blind eye to her despair.

Luckily, my mother had my father there to pray for her (sarcasm intended)! He proclaimed to be a man of God, which apparently translated into working 84 hour weeks, watching The Catholic Channel on cable TV, and attending Sunday mass every week. My father was my religious role model. He defined his life by The Holy Bible, yet he seemed to live in stark contradiction of some of its teachings (as I later realized). This, of course, wasn’t at all apparent to him.

My father and I very rarely had conversations. We mainly spoke in sound bites, which consisted of him saying “no” to mostly everything I asked, and of me responding with some version or degree of profanity. I suspect this may be one of the reasons I was so impacted by that conversation. He was laying on the brown, worn sofa, which had a permanent imprint of his body on it – it was his typical spot whenever he was home. The background hummed with church bells as mass was about to begin on The Catholic Channel. I remember lying on the floor, whining about life being unfair when he said, “We aren’t supposed to be happy until we reach the Kingdom of God. We are meant to suffer until we go to heaven. When we go to heaven, that is when we’ll live in eternal happiness, but until then, life is supposed to seem unfair.”

Well then, I thought, “Why don't we all just commit mass suicide and get to heaven on the express train? Why waste any more time?” But I knew enough about Catholicism at the time to know that taking your own life meant an express train ticket straight to hell! But hey, maybe we're already in hell? If he can believe something that is so fundamentally unintuitive and alien to the human consciousness – that we're actually made to suffer – then really, isn't anything possible?

I had a hard time believing much of what my dad told me as a child, and especially as a teen. When he told me that we are meant to suffer, I was almost convinced. This concept almost made sense because, at that time, most of my world consisted of some form of conflict, discontent or suffering. “I’m suffering, and I’m supposed to be.” But no matter how much I wanted this notion to ring true, it didn’t resonate – it couldn’t. Why would an all-loving God create us just so we could suffer? The concept just didn’t make sense, yet I witnessed suffering all around me. I barely saw anything else. My conflict continued throughout my teens and I relentlessly searched for answers until I finally concluded that there is no God! I proclaimed atheism.

I lived life as an atheist well into adulthood, but with this identity came emptiness, isolation, and a deep sense of disconnection. But deep within this hollow feeling there was a whisper that persistently nudged my inner core and poked me with its presence. It was as if i heard it say, "Pssst, hey Valerie, this isn't it! There is more to this life than what your mind can see." There was a truth within me that was aching for acknowledgement but my mind wasn’t prepared to sit still long enough to listen. In some ways, it was easy to live like that. I was attached to very little. I lived life recklessly, without considering the outcome. I constantly kept myself distracted, never stopping long enough to be present. I wanted to numb myself from feeling, so I kept running. Stopping posed a risk because then, I would actually have to pay attention and confront myself. It’s much easier to ignore ourselves while numbing ourselves of feeling any kind of pain or discomfort.

But I recognize now that we cannot selectively numb ourselves – we end up numbing all of life, which includes joy, love, peace, and wonder – all the sensations that define living as a whole person.

I may have continued to live in this lonely shell of existence the rest of my days but instead life brought me a gift that cracked that shell wide open. I became a mother, and in an instant my life held more meaning than I ever thought possible. For the first time, I experienced a profound sense of connectedness to another life. This kind of love is so raw that it forces you to feel with your entire body and being. I finally recognized the power of real love and the essence of life, and it felt nothing like pain or suffering. It was a bright glow of comforting light that filled me with warmth and ease.

With this intense feeling came profound vulnerability. My fear of losing what I had discovered eventually consumed me. With motherhood, I experienced my moment of bliss, but I didn’t know how to hold onto it. We are all able to catch those moments of clarity, of inner peace and solace. We know what it feels like and we spend our life continually chasing it, oftentimes looking in all the wrong places.

My moment of awakening happened almost two years ago. I was running on a clear, warm day. The sun was set high, and the sky was lit with a bright shade of blue. I’ve been running that path for almost two years, but that day I noticed the scene for the very first time. I noticed the way the green leaves swayed in the gentle breeze, the small ripples on the lake, and the geese sitting contentedly by the lakeshore, with their goslings. I stopped, I paused, I breathed and I found the stillness and the silence.

 I was there in that moment long enough to finally listen. I must have been ready and open enough to hear the whisper. Sometimes you have to go to a place of great darkness before you can turn around to notice the light. And for some reason, at that moment, I saw the light and heard my inner truth speaking to me. This is what it said: You can imagine a life of suffering, a life of pain, but can you imagine living the opposite reality? What does the polar opposite – a life filled with joy, comfort, ease and happiness – look like? This life has to exist as a possibility, doesn’t it? It’s a law! Newton’s third law of motion says - for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Thing exist in pairs, in contrasts, and I’m convinced that this applies to everything.

And so, at that moment, I made it my mission to discover that life. And with that decision came this incredible sense of freedom and liberation – I felt as though I was five years old again just taking off on my bike for the first time - without the training wheels. I looked out in the horizon, lay down on the warm, dry grass, stared at the sun and smiled with my entire body.

From that moment forward, I started to learn how to connect with my whole self, with my mind, body and, especially, with my spirit. Instead of viewing these parts of myself as separate, I needed to integrate them to fully discover my truth…So I began to walk the path of self-discovery. I started to meditate, I immersed myself in my yoga practice, I read LOTS of books, and I wrote even more journal entries. I joined an amazing life-changing, psycho-spiritual group. Slowly, my life began to unfold in front of me.

Through this blog I’d like to share with you my journey, my insight and my discoveries. Using this platform to discuss topics like - the purpose of each our lives, oneness, the law of attraction, the law of opposites, forgiveness, faith, religion vs. spirituality, the meaning of vulnerability, the inner truth within each one of us that connects us all, the distinction between fear and love, and why we suffer. I’d like to start a forum where we can all meet and raise awareness - about ourselves as individuals and as a society - by generating discussions we will bring light to our world and create a safe place for each of us to connect. I look forward to reading your comments and am hopeful that we can continue an ongoing discussion that will captivate our interests and raise our awareness to sever the better good.

"Your internal world -- the reality that you encounter within your mind and emotions -- is a world that you and only you control and create." - Neale Donald Walsch


Anonymous said...

Anyone who can put up with Pete's "big mouth" deserves a successful blog. Thanks for putting up with his passionate pursuit of truly bi-partisan talk radio.

JOHN J KNAPP said...

Very well written initial blog post. I look forward to your thoughtful insights and commentary!

Louise said...

Pete's big mouth got me to link to your blog and I'm very glad I did. I'm intrigued and will enjoy seeing where you take this. I grew up in a very religious home and, as a teenager, chose to leave organized religion. I strongly believe that you can be spiritual without religion. My belief system did not leave me empty as it did you, but I have worked to define my "faith" so that others can understand that I don't need to be saved (I know they just love me). Can't wait to read more.

Rev Kate said...

Beautiful insights...thank you for sharing them.
Your words make me wonder...What If?

What If all we have been taught is a lie?

Here in the west we are taught that this world is a world of lack...that in order to survive...we must compete for our share...that we are individuals...separate from one another...and our survival depends on looking after number 1 first.

We're taught to believe that we are human beings who may occassionally have sprititual experiences...that we are separate from God and that we
need to make sure we please God.

What if it's not the truth.

What if...
There is abundance not lack. That if we each took just what we needed there would be enough for all.

What if:
It's working together vs.competing that will insure our survival. And what if that is our natural state.

What if
We aren't separate at all ...but all part of a bigger whole and that each of our actions effects everything and everyone

What if
We are spiritual beings having a human experience

What if
We aren't separate from God ...what if we are God?

What If ?

HudsonValleyPoliticsAndLife said...

You are a wonderful writer. I hope you continue to post, and share yourself with your readers. Self-dicovery is not an easy thing. Thank you.

Vari Stunatu said...

Bravo! Great first blog post. Very insightful and it fits very well as an introduction.

Anonymous said...

Another self absorbed whining person trashing their own parents as unhappy idiots who didn't "emote" enough or "enjoy" enough perhaps because they were too busy keeping a clean house for your sorry ass and working themselves into the grave to provide for your sorry ass just so you could later bore others with oh so useful revelations about "your truth". YAWN

Kristalyn Mowers said...

After an interesting morning, including a discussion on faith/spirituality with my devout sister, this was exactly what I needed. I found it very interesting. I have been going through an awakening of my own recently.

Valerie Vendrame said...

Thank you all for your comments and insight. I appreciate your feedback and hope to hear more in the future!

In reference to the above anonymous comment - 1eea – I’d like to take this opportunity to point out how reactive and impulsive we are as individuals and as a society. We are so quick to judge. The poor don’t have strong work ethics, the obese are lazy without self-control – we see a snippet of someone’s life and we make assumptions. We have ideals, beliefs – what’s “good,” “bad,” “right,” “wrong.” Ever wonder where these beliefs come from? Our reality is seen through our perception of it..and our perception is formed from our own life experience. If we only see hate – it’s because we live it. If we instead see the world in all its glory, we are able to live with more compassion and love. Often times we react outwardly because we’re lacking insight within. If someone strikes a cord with us – there is something within us that needs attention. It had nothing to do with the other person - it has everything to do with us. If we stop long enough to pay attention, we’d gain insight on our own life and our own experience. And then we’d view those moments or situations as gifts – because they brought us closer to our truth. Every experience is here to serve – if we allow it.

When we judge we perpetuate the idea of separateness – those “other” people. And separateness breeds hostility. When we connect with ourselves on a deep level, we judge less, because judging begins to serve less of a purpose.

The anonymous commenter judged me as a “whining person” - I wonder if he knew my whole story, if he knew the specifics, I wonder if his perception would be different.

"there is no they, there is no them, there is only us." - The Dali Lama.

Vari Stunatu said...

Regarding the venomously negative post by the ANONYMOUS poster/ 1eeae2aa, I will say this:

Confucius say....

"He who get off high horse must do so cautiously, for he may step in shit"!

Cara said...

Valerie, that was beautiful! As you kinda know I've had a rough year and a half and this was really so inspiring. I am officially a fan. :) xoxo

Anonymous said...

You say your mother "managed to channel her nervous energy into keeping a spotless home, making the meals on time, and getting the kids to school or practice" and your father "He proclaimed to be a man of God, which apparently translated into working 84 hour weeks, watching The Catholic Channel on cable TV, and attending Sunday mass every week."

Would that this described MORE people's father and mother, despite human idiosyncrasies and human FAULTS that make them less than perfect to the ungrateful children who BENEFIT from the meals and clean house and practices provided by the "nervous mother and workaholic father."

Look around, lady. Look at all the poor and obese and uneducated and hopeless kids that would give their right nut to have a nervous mother who takes them to practice and a workaholic father who pays the bills and adopts a religion to give him a reason not to abandon his family.

The reason you can luxuriate in your whining and pondering this and that is that your parents worked hard enough to provide that ability. The reason you can "smile with your body" is that you didn't get hooked on drugs or prostitution because your parents made sure of it.

No problem with some of what you write here but you SUCK for criticizing and blaming your parents here.

Valerie Vendrame said...

Let me state my point in my last comment a little more clearly - you do NOT have enough information to judge my life. And even if you had the entire picture right there in front of you - still, your opinion of my life, is really a reflection of your own. If you see me as whinny, it's probably because you have had issues with 'whinny' people and your projecting those feeling right onto my lap. If that weren't the case, then everyone would have the same opinion when presented with an art form, or a situation....but we all have different perceptions because we all have different life experiences to draw from. I don't see myself as blaming my parents for anything. I stated my perception of a snippet of my life, in the past and now in the present - mainly to make a point. what you received is the truth in your own reality. And I can almost guarantee that if you knew the entire story, you'd have a different opinion entirely. I can appreciate someone looking at a piece of information and recognizing what it brings up within them. And then maybe having a civil conversation discussing it. It is clear it touched a nerve in you - maybe that's something you need to sit with. But to cross the line, and call me a "sorry ass" or tell me I "suck" - well, that's why hatred breads in society. Through impulsive judgement that perpetuates anger and creates separateness.

Anonymous said...

You're right, I have had issues with whiny people. I know so many of them and they suck the life out of everything. They don't "sit with" anything, the force other people to sit through their whining.

The only thing we can go by is what you wrote in your blog post you blamed your parents for your dissatisfactions when it sounds like they were too busy taking care of your ass to "sit with" their lives and figure out if they were up to your standards.

And don't knock "numbing" because if they didn't do it, maybe they would figure out that you would some day attack them in the most personal ways on a blog and would have turned you over to foster care. Maybe your mother was too busy taking you to practice to have a "moment of stillness" that changed her life or your father was working too hard paying your bills to have a "moment of stillness." Do you realize that most people don't have enough leisure time to gaze at their navel?

Maybe if they decided that suffering wasn't a worthwhile part of life the next question would be why the hell are they wasting THEIR lives working hard to support ungrateful brats? Look around at the number of people coming to this very "enlightened" stage in this country now and the fates of their kids.

If they beat you, molested you, or hated you, I take it all back. Doesn't sound like it. But all you disclosed was personality traits you seemed to think made them awful people without crediting them with the very things those personality traits produced for your benefit. That's what all the (without exception upper middle class) whiners and victims I know do. God they're boring.

HudsonValleyPoliticsAndLife said...

1eeae2aa-9484-11e0-98d9-000bcdcb471e: You are a total douchebag. Valerie is being too nice to state this fact. I'm sorry that are/were a horrible parent who's children hate you. If you are a father, I hope you have a horrible fathers day. Where do you get off berating someone who opened up and is willing to be vulnerable to the public. go f-yourself. Do you know the term nurture? Children need to experience warmth from their parents, otherwise they can get shelter and food from the local food pantry. You are an ignorant person. Thats all. I hope I didn't ruin any kind intellectual conversation, it just needed to be said.

Jose said...

To the anonymous poster. Get a life. If you don't like what she writes then don't come back. You're a judgmental a-hole. If you were a man you'd post with your name.

Val, I loved your post. Look forward to more.

kathleen Mahoney said...

great job on your blog, its ok to have a different opinion but lets be kind and compassionate with them.

MDarrall said...

Ah, Val. You know what they say: "No good deed goes unpunished!"

Thanks for sharing; the truth is we ALL have some part of our lives that is similar to what you describe.

Lisa Green said...

Hey Val,
You are such a lovely writer. Congratulations!I am really enjoying your blog. Clearly anonymous writer is not a happy person and you have struck a nerve.That does not, however, give them permission to be abusive.I truly hope they can find their way through their anger but in the meantime, I hope you do not engage any further in this dialogue,unless they can find a kinder more respectful way of communicating. Stay with you truth.
Lisa Green


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