Incongruence

Featured Image: “Dark,” © Stephen Bowler, Dec 2013. CC BY 2.0.

In the daily morning meeting, a contextualized and multifaceted discussion arises. As I lean back, my chest and arms open, hands resting in my lap under the long conference table with palms turned ever so slightly upward, I tell myself, “Relax.” There is a touch of forcefulness in the directive, just as there is a raggedness and unsteadiness to my breath. The conversation is not provocative or heated, but more evocative and inviting. And yet, I still feel the chronic tension in my body, especially the tightness of my face and shoulders and the sore lump of my left upper trapezius where it meets my neck.

Slowly, gradually, I melt into the moment, letting the quiet hush of the circulating HVAC system wash over me, settling into the background of the tonal voices that rise and fall from one end of the table and then the other. Across from me, along the far wall of the room, I see a smooth face, rosy cheeks, with deep, dark shadows underneath both eyes. I think about his three young children at home and the new baby, his wife’s recent surgery, and his obscure, mysterious life beyond these walls, of which I know very little. I wonder who he is and what experiences make him. What is buried under the surface of that face? Is he even aware of his own depth? My eyes shift from face to face, taking in the wrinkles of age, the softness of youth, the creases of concern, ringed eyes and heavy lids, or bright irises following their own wandering route. Parents, husbands, wives, children. I wonder what beauty these eyes have beheld and what pain those hearts bear. I pause when I come to a co-worker whose adult son committed suicide several years before I met him, and my eyes start to sting. He never speaks of it to me; I only know that it happened from a passing comment once made by someone else about attending the funeral. What else do the human hearts gathered in this room carry in their depths?

I begin to hear the breaths around me, and for the first time ever, I start to notice the asynchronous rising and falling of shoulders, chests, and bellies of all these gathered bodies. Mine is one of them.

How often do I allow myself to move through my day with awareness of what forms me? How often do I allow myself to really feel? How often am I open to those tender, vulnerable places in my soul? I am tempted to answer, “Never.” I think that I was more awake and alive when I returned from Walden last January, but slowly the walls went back up. I formed a hard shell around my heart, and coming to this realization hurts.

“…for the unexamined life is not worth living.”

~ Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates

Perhaps, my tranquil consciousness during the conference this morning is an invitation to be more curious about myself and others. The question it leaves me with is, can I accept this bidding to look deeper?

On January 1st, I began reading a page each day from a little book by Anne Wilson Schaef called Meditations for Living in Balance: Daily Solutions for People Who Do Too Much. I am finding the short reflections for each day both meaningful and challenging, moving me to consider differently. On the 25th, the topic was “Congruence.”

“Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak.”

~ St. Anthony of Padua

Am I a trustworthy person? Do my words and my actions align? Do I mean what I say and follow through, or do I speak and write in empty sentiments? Am I deceiving others? Am I deceiving myself? I would be doing myself more harm if I glossed over these questions. Of course I am dishonest. Every time I commit one of these incongruences, I am eroding my soul just a bit. Such self-examination is painful, but living blindly in incongruence is damaging in a more diabolical way.

As one of my favorite, pithy recovery sayings goes, “Feel. Deal. Heal.” It is impossible for anyone to live congruently all the time. Honest introspection is necessary, difficult, and it hurts, but I am not meant to pitch my tent there. I am meant to move THROUGH it and find the reconciliation with God and self that is waiting at the end. There is joy to be discovered in this process. Of course, it is an often-repeating process, but the goal is that with continuing effort, I grow in time.

“Do not let the past disturb you – just leave everything in the Sacred Heart, and begin again with joy.”

~ Blessed Mother Teresa

Calm
Calm,” © Stephen Bowler, Apr 2015. CC BY 2.0.
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17 thoughts on “Incongruence

  1. This is a beautiful post. I often wonder about this… that the people I come across every day… what is their story? Some are going through such struggles and they don’t let it show. They just move through the day to get through it, and no one even knows. I love your description of being mindful. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this post and your thoughts, Lulu. Sometimes I feel that I see some persons every day but somehow they are still strangers. I don’t know much about my co-workers, not really much about my neighbors. When we see each other, we chat of course, but what do I really know about them? It’s like knowing them without actually knowing them.
    As you know I love to get in touch with other people, but it is still not quite easy for me to fully open up to somebody. I think many people are more comfortable talking about impersonal topics. During my studies I learned about the four zones every person has. There is the intimate, friend, social and audience zone. The intimate zone is of course the hardest to reach. Probably because people we let to be this close to us, can also hurt us the most. They are the most important people in our lives. So maybe it’s good to not share everything with everyone, but sometimes it really would be great to know more about the people I see every day.

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    1. Sanny, thank you so much for sharing your insights. I’m glad you liked the post and could connect with it. I always value your perspective! I hadn’t heard of the four different zones before, but it makes so much sense when I think about them in terms of my own relationships. You’re right about the possibility of getting hurt. There can’t be love or connection without hurt, but the alternative is to close ourselves off to those relationships completely, and what sort of life would that be? Hope you’re having a good week! ❤️

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    1. Wow! Thank you for reminding me that it’s ok to laugh! It almost feels like receiving permission to not take myself so seriously. When I first started blogging, my intention was to try to find the humor along the sometimes challenging and confusing path of recovery. It’s been awhile since I wrote a more lighthearted post. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! I really needed this today! 😄 Peace to you. ❤️

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  3. Joy is there, just waiting for you to remember.
    It is possible to live honestly. To put yourself out there.
    Every time I do it gets easier.

    It is such a relief to live knowing I no longer hold secrets. I am just me. Whole, perfect, human, divine. Alive.

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  4. I love your compassion and openness here … I keep going back to this post, chewing on it a little. It’s a sure sign of growth, and sometimes even transcendence, when we can raise our head above ourselves for a minute and just see others with clear eyes and an open heart.

    And I love your quotations, especially the last, which I needed today. Thank you. 🙂

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    1. Ashley, I’m so glad that you found meaning here. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! I’m so grateful for them and for you! I keep trying to recapture the little bit of transcendence, as you called it, but I’m afraid it’s something that can’t be forced, and I think we can just try to be open and appreciate it when it comes along. It’s a new day, full of possibilities (and Friday, at last). I hope that your day is wonderful and that you have a weekend of respite and peace. ❤️😊

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      1. You’re so right about transcendence — it just happens as it happens. Elusive, as most deeply beautiful things are. Most days I think it’s enough just to be open to it; to be willing to see it when it comes.

        Besides–the best things can’t really be captured at all, & that’s perfectly okay. 🙂

        And yes: I’ll take that new day, with all its possibilities. I needed to see it that way this morning, so thank you.

        Lots of peace and loveliness to you too! 🙂 You are amazing!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for such a wonderful compliment! I am glad that it resonated with you. I’ve been trying to recapture the mindfulness that I found that morning, and it isn’t easy to do, but I think that at least trying is a beginning. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.

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