Complaints: Our Keys to Mastery

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There’s an attitude I’ve had and that permeates much of the culture, mainstream and alternative; one of being “hard-done-by,” of complaining about what’s going on in our world, as if expecting someone else to change what they are doing or the world to become what I wish it was – and isn’t. This is NOT the world I wished I lived in; it IS the world which emerges out of perfection, not idealism.  This world emerges out of ITS wisdom, which is woven of perfect coherence and inescapable consequence. This perfection invites me to something much richer than simply wishing, escaping to pollyannish fantasy, or complaining. Perfection invites us to what it IS: perfection, mastery, attention, flow, capacity.

It’s one thing to notice our complaints in passing, or to spew them out into other people’s neurologies, but I noticed an energetic “tax” that comes with staying stuck in this attitude. To rid ourselves of energetic drains, we have to take them to heart sufficiently enough to pay attention, to be PRESENT and AWARE within and to the textures of our experience, BEFORE trying to change anything. Then we gain the awareness which reveals the connections and processes that our way of living emerges from, and true transformation becomes possible.

No one can do this for us and it’s not difficult: it just takes stopping, and noticing, deeply, seeing and feeling the connections and consequences, something few will invite themselves to. Those who do, however, will discover many amazing marvels, even in the most commonplace and ordinary.

I noticed my attitude of complaint often put me in the position of “being done to.” It had a certain weight to it, like a chip on my shoulder, or a monkey on my back. How could I put myself back in the place of response-ability, of creativity?

My attitude that somehow something out there wasn’t quite up to par left me subject to, and orienting myself in terms of, what’s out there, but without the sense of challenge that what’s out there invites me to in here, in relationship to what’s out there.

I’ve learned, by paying attention, that I’m not just a “part” of all of this, I am an active and creative participant. I see and seek no exit from Life. This Place of Aliveness invites each one of us to an amazing Adventure in Nourishing, in Birthing, in Feeding and Seeding all kinds of experiences and possibilities within the matrix of What-Is. That experience doesn’t stop; our Being continues to seed and feed Aliveness. It’s up to us to notice if Aliveness will actually be more Alive, or less so, with what we are seeding and feeding.

Everything we are is being fed by and born into another adventure of feeding, birthing and seeding new Aliveness. What do we invite ourselves to? If we just notice, we’ll recognize the reality that is the answer to that question.

Life is an Invitation to Mastery. Notice the Qualities that Aliveness Gives Birth to and Emerges In.
Life is an Invitation to Mastery. Notice the Qualities that Aliveness Gives Birth to and Emerges In.

Our participation in the unfolding universe has far more potential and consequence than most of us will ever notice, no belief needed. BE-ing out on the land and observing what is going on here on our planet makes it clear. We are adventures this Living Stone Planet is having, endowing us with incredible capacities to have and be; if we but realize who and what we are as human expressions of an unfolding, playful, creative-destructive universe. We are invited to mastery.

We are not here only to be fed, like children. Initiated adulthood recognizes and honors our role in feeding Life with ALL we’ve got and ALL we are, and to do so with celebration, artistry and gratitude.

When I talk about a journey beyond complaints, I am not talking about ignoring whatever the general culture deems “negative” or any aspect of reality whatsoever. I am not talking about not complaining, either. I am talking about becoming more fully aware and more fully skilled at navigating ALL aspects of our world and of our experience than just staying stuck at complaining. I’m saying that complaints are wonderful things, if we truly travel through and beyond them, instead of making our home inside of them.

There’s an attitude of “positive” thinking that’s been promoted since the sixties and has gone hand in hand with people becoming more and more complacent about anything they don’t “like.” Any truth they deem too ugly to face simply gets ignored, only to grow bigger and bigger with each generation.This is the culture of moral cowardice, confining life to the narrow little boxes and the trite little expressions that leave no one offended but our own spirit, intelligence, honesty and capacity.

Today I was talking with several young men in their early thirties who showed up at my campfire to share a few cups of tea and conversation. They spoke of the cowardice and carelessness they see resulting from the “me generation” of the sixties and seventies, of an infantile spirituality without groundedness or responsibility, and of how their generation is harvesting the consequences of parents so self-involved that they barely noticed the culture of tyranny, the abolishment of rights that happened on their watch and, when they did, decided to “think positive” about it all, which is to say, to ignore, pretend, and pass on the consequences down the line.

The “choice” to only pay attention to what “I like” is what I call the false positive. It is another direct distortion of our language, where “positive” means “what I like” and negative is “what I don’t like,” a very narcissistic worldview where the nature of the world, and my responsibilities, all revolve on whether I like it or not; quite handy for ignoring anything unpleasant. This creates an irresistible invitation to tyranny through the ages. This is a classical part of the culture empire encourages in slaves and slavish people encourage in each other.

Much of what passes as the “New Age” is thoroughly rooted in this childish mentality, where every “spiritual” teaching is evaluated as another consumer good, based on how “pleasant” it makes us feel. No excellence or responsibility required, just infinite loops of mental cotton candy spun out of the backside of whoever presents themselves as the next channeler of cosmic nonsense.

Fifty years ago, “positive” referred to that which actually had existence. Its etymology comes from the Latin positivus “settled by agreement, positive” (opposed to naturalis “natural”), from positus, past participle of ponere “put, place.” Positive thinking is thinking about that which is put in place, as opposed to that which is naturally here, and constitutes a fundamental aspect of adult response-ability to the social and cultural constructs and agreements we participate in and impose on those around us and future generations. Avoiding anything I find unpleasant to think about or consider is not positive in any measure; it degrades us and our world.

Each one of us can exercise True Positive thinking, which places something into reality, something we truly desire, with people we truly desire to associate with. This means taking the steps to discover our deep desire and to take the learning adventure into true capacities. Desire is key; coming to a true, clear, coherent expression and awareness of what we actually DESIRE. Most of us have spent a lifetime being rewarded, and rewarding ourselves, for our capacity of ignoring our desires.

Many indigenous people have “talking houses” where a representative of each household is present at all times for conversations which often last for weeks and where participants address their challenges, aspirations and what is happening in the world at large and how that impacts their community. People do not go there only to complain. They go there to find a way to continue living well, and responsibly, while acknowledging the individual concerns and facing their real challenges capably, and together.

Conquered, displaced, “modern” peoples have few, if any, such forums or conversations, face-to-face, with a commitment far greater than “getting to the point”: that of taking the Journey into the textures of our togetherness. Few of us have relationships that rely on deep and skillful mutual collaboration. Creating people without a People is an essential aspect of conquest.

But those who relearn and revive these skills, both individually and with deeply trusted and inspiring allies, will soon discover tremendous capacities and opportunities far off the two-dimensional narratives which we are encouraged to shop from, whether in the mainstream or “alternative” cultures.

So I wondered if there was another approach to my complaints than the false positive of simply ignoring what I don’t like, or the endless task of trying to get the world, and/or the people in it, myself included, to conform to my ideas of how they should be. What is there beyond complaint? Not in the negation of complaints, but in complaints, as starting, renewal, and reevaluation points in our adventure? I didn’t want to ignore my complaints, or stay stuck in complaining, or pretend that what’s happening isn’t.

What if I took my complaints to heart, but all the way? What would that require of me? What if I embraced my complaints, not as the frustrated end of dreams and desires, but as the seeds and starting points of new learning, new adventures to mastery?” I wondered.

What if my complaints are legitimate” I wondered, “what do they challenge me to? What if my complaints hold my keys to mastery?”

Once I realize that the world only operates in perfection, i.e. “is made out of a totality, completely,” then I am challenged to begin operating in and navigating a universe that emerges out of totality. I began to move beyond this deep-seated programming of continually trying to “fix” the world, or other people. That’s an interesting orientation that has us spending tremendous effort to “change” aspects of reality where we are largely powerless.

When I orient from my capacity, I discover tremendous, fun and joyful opportunities that only await my engagement to become real. When I quit trying to get the people around “on board” and just get on board and down the line on my adventure, myself, suddenly I find people for whom getting on board was their own idea, who are fun and brilliant to collaborate with.

When I complain, I often misplace my response-abilities on something exterior to me; as if I had to change things “out there.” What if I take on response-ability deeply and in relationship to an already-perfect world operating in totality? Now I discover a deeper dimension of both freedom and response-ability. I am the one challenged to change, to choose, to navigate what is from what I DESIRE.

Within What-Is are an infinite array of possibilities. Often I get stuck in a “frame” of whatever context I think I’m in, instead of a flow. As soon as I flow then I notice that the world is already flowing. This is something all nomadic peoples know deeply: in every place there is a different quality of Aliveness, not just in the place, but in us as well, and for nomadic peoples life is an adventure in flowing, in connecting deeply and fluidly with environments, seasons, climates, people and places – but through and from flow, not fixity.

Many people, myself included, get stuck in a frame. Many will spend their entire lives right there, in that “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” sort of false security; living like automatons out of whatever neurological circuits got imprinted into them before they could even remember. So often, the “devil” is the smallness that we content ourselves with living in, precisely because it’s known to us. As I travel and live with people I get to partake of other peoples’ frames, when I choose, for a few weeks or a few months. Sometimes I even stay so long that I’m complaining. Often there are tremendous lessons learned from staying. Other times years can be wasted trying to make something or someone what they simply aren’t, and I am not in position to make them be, even though they say they “want to.” Lessons learned.

There is a road beyond wishful thinking and complaining, but it’s only found in reality; not that two-dimensional world I lived in for decades that is only seen long enough to label, but this pulsating, flowering, tempestuous, sumptuous celebratory existence that births everything into a raucous, ribald, tender appearance, emergence and sensible, nourishing undoing. No one can mark that trail for us. We have to set out upon it, daring to imagine that beyond the world of “the devil we know” lies a realm of a Divine Beingness that is only known when we dare to TOUCH, and LIVE the Unknown, yet Perfectly-Knowable.

My teacher, many years ago, used to tell me repeatedly: “It’s your movie, man. Do your own editing. Make a change and don’t give a lot of explanations, even to yourself, because, most of the time, your explanations are bullshit. Just change. You’re going to die. Make the best of this life.”

My complaints reveal to me how the world-as-it-is doesn’t fit my frame, and some part of my smallness is rubbed to a rawness until I call myself to pay attention in new ways, to learn new skills, to make new choices, and to touch my desires with greater connection and clarity. My complaints, taken to heart, challenge me to

  • come to a new level of comprehension of the Nature of my World and the people in it.

  • master new capacities of responding, creating, and choosing.

  • transform my relationship to situations and people I wish weren’t what they are.

  • fundamentally transform my relationship to my desires, with greater connection and clarity.

When I take my complaints to heart, then I truly become the change, simply, without trying to get the world, or anybody in it, to be what they are not. I start working with perfection. I become her co-conspirator, her collaborator, her daring lover. This is wisdom: to make our way in, to navigate Living Reality; the one that’s real and lurks beyond what we think we know about, but not in, it. It’s much simpler than we imagine: Stop. Notice. Make a change, any change. Play with your universe. Dance at living, don’t just plod along.

Everything I desire is anywhere I’m at. That includes luxury homes on beautiful beaches for free, and much more than I ever dared to desire or imagine for much of my life, because of the smallness of the frames I’ve operated in, at times. My attention rarely looked beyond the frame… until I learned to pay attention to the frame… and beyond it. Our complaints reveal our frame. It’s up to me to pay attention to the world instead of staying stuck in my frame of ideas I have about it.

This is where we apply our ancestral intelligence (literally “reading and choosing between” in reality, not just words) in our world today. The thing about a geographical change – and that can mean even pitching a tent in your yard and sleeping there- is that reality is different everywhere. Every part of this planet has its own qualities of Aliveness that awaken different qualities in us. We also are different in different places.

We take our complaints to the heart of where we are most capable of truly effecting change… effectively: our heart, our capacity, our comprehension, our choices, our curiosity, our playfulness and the changes and choices that are in our power to make; no accusations, justifications or explanations required. We challenge ourselves to mastery, the courage to see clearly and act simply and effectively in a world already operating – not ideally – but perfectly, as it emerges out of and in response to the totality.

Now, when I hear myself complaining, I listen deeply for the growth and realization that my complaints challenge me to. I take my complaints to heart and recognize the learning and response-ability that they point out to me, for me to grow into, not trying to achieve some ideal state, but navigating the sometimes turbulent, and always-fascinating oceans of What-Is.

There are amazing journeys from and beyond complaints: to mastery. We move beyond the tone of the victim, to the thrill of the Hunter, the Payer-of-attention, the Student, the Celebrant of Beautiful, Capable, Creative, Care-FULL Living!

Take your complaints all the way to the heart of your authentic desires and aspirations, and how you engage with the world, with what’s here for you to learn, to pay attention to, to master, to celebrate.

Make bold changes. Although we are part of the Aliveness for the duration, our time as us is finite yet full of infinite possibilities. Are you bored, tired or disgusted with what you’re living right now? Make a bold change. Try something new. Only you can choose to live the life you love. That choice is not in any body else’s power to make real. Invite yourself to the adventure beyond your complaints, through that doorway in the heart that your complaints hand you the keys to, and on to the Journey to Mastery.

Gather Seeds,

Of Wisdom,

Which is Way-finding,

That We May Make Our Way

To Living the Life We Love

And Loving the Aliveness We Are

With and For Those Whom We Love to Live With and Love!

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