Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Whatever It Takes

Someone I once knew used to say that his prayer was “whatever it takes.” What he meant was that he would do anything in order to open his heart ever wider to Love, to surrender ever more unreservedly to the Beloved, to fly ever more fearlessly into the all consuming fire of the Heart.

I was attracted to and repelled by his intensity of passion. Could one really live with such wild abandon? I don’t know. He seemed to. His life, at least my brief glimpse of it, did not appear to be as crazy as his devotion sounded. I felt a bit like the restaurant customer in that famous scene in When Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan faked … well, you know the scene. (And if you don’t, click here.) The customer was mesmerized and told the server, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

I wanted to feel what he felt. So I embarked on what I called my year of the heart. I read Rumi and sought to experience that rapture his poetry expresses so eloquently. I practiced five element qigong and Taoist healing exercises focusing on the heart. And I did experience a breaking open of the heart with increased heart energy. As I described it, my heart had come alive and I was “firing on all cylinders.”

But I didn’t approach anything close to the ecstasy imagined. Was I blocking it with fear? Or perhaps I was somehow defective, lacking the rapture gene. I tried harder. I read more, practiced more, meditated more, prayed more. Until …

Until I was sparring with one of my martial arts teachers. I kept attempting a particular maneuver with zero success. Finally, I stepped back and said, “I’m trying to….” Before I could finish the sentence, he interjected, “That’s your problem.”


An excellent lesson in life as well as in martial arts. One that I know and yet need to be reminded of … repeatedly.

There is a concept in the Tao Te Ching using two characters,    meaning self, and  然  meaning to be so. Together it means what is so of itself, what is as it is, what is naturally or spontaneously so. When we struggle against or interfere with what is so in this moment, we do violence to ourselves and to our environment. We suffer.

As Popeye the sailor said, “I am what I am.” No more, no less. And that is what I want most to be.

Whatever it takes.

Reason says, the world is limited in six directions.
There is no way out.
Love says, there is a way,
And I have traveled it many times.

20 thoughts on “Whatever It Takes”

  1. This is an interesting post to me. February has been the winter of my discontent. There's a heaviness weighing me down. I readily go down the rabbit hole of anxiety and depression. I vacillate between helpful remedies – yoga, meditation, affirmations- and just sitting with it and seeing where it takes me. "When we struggle against or interfere with what is so in this moment, we do violence to ourselves and to our environment. We suffer." Surrender.

  2. What a wonderful reminder! Thanks. I’m reminded of Yoda’s Do or Do Not quote. Most people only know that first line but the entire sequence is much more profound. Look it up if you like!

  3. Surrender indeed, Mona. As Adyashanti says, surrender is the name of the spiritual game. And I'm with you on February. For me it is a "thin place" month. For me, it is a liminal space/time, and often brings with it feelings of sadness and low energy. I don't think it is only an end-of-winter thing (at least in the temperate climes of the northern hemisphere), although that might play a part. Whatever the reason, your description of "just sitting with it and seeing where it takes" you seems the way to be with it.

  4. I love that Yoda quote, Jessica. "Do or do not. There is no try." I used to quote that to my kids when they would make excuses saying "I'm trying!" Is there more after that? I don't remember.

  5. As always, reading this is perfect timing. I like this 'whatever it takes'. I find it affirming. My intention is to be as fully present as possible, with my heart wide open. There is much peace and joy, and also as I learn there is some pain in the stretches.

    You've mentioned this "I'm trying to" message previously and I love it. Two days ago, I found myself so stressed, embroiled in the chaos of the medical labs mistakes, all around this one tube, which felt important to me as it is for my bone marrow typing test. I realized "I'm trying to make sure this tube gets to the right place" and that was my source of pain. Once I realized that 'trying', I let it go (it took a few moments!!) and the chaos swirled around me, instead of through me.

    The way you write, and the messages you share, resonate so well with me. It's a delight to open the emails and read each post. Thank you so much!

  6. Thank you, Joy. That is a great example of the struggle we experience sometimes in "trying to." I know you are living on the "razor's edge" of practice right now as you go through your treatment. If my posts offer some support and encouragement, then I am humbly pleased.

  7. I always love to read your posts, Galen. As usual, this one answers a question that I didn't even know I was asking. And I have to say that picture is incredible! Wow! 🙂

  8. 'When we struggle against or interfere with what is so in this moment, we do violence to ourselves and to our environment. We suffer.'

    Galen, this is so true. Its a lesson I have been learning for the past 2 months. I was subjected to a sudden condition called Tinnitus and I posted my thoughts on it recently in my blog. I first responded to this terrible ringing/buzzing in the head with resistance to what is.
    It caused great anxiety and fear to my inner core. Its a condition you can do nothing about.It took awhile but the lesson for me was resist and suffer or surrender to what is and find peace. When I decided to live a heart based life several months ago, it began a process of deep teaching and cleansing. Suffering leads us to surrender and non resistance eventually. Its hurts us to the core but we come out of the experience with a deeper sense of reality. We become more human with more compassion, love and empathy. The choice seems to be clear, resist and suffer or surrender and come to peace with what is currently there in your life experience at this moment.

    Good post Galen , Thanks!

  9. You have my sympathy, Brian. I have a friend with Tinnitus, so I have heard about his experience with it.

    It sounds like you have incorporated this condition into your spiritual practice and made some peace with it. The Buddhists say "everything is workable" meaning that everything can become part of our spiritual practice.

  10. Hi Galen,
    Before I fire off with what I was going to say about your post, I noticed the mention of tinnitus above from Brian. I've had tinnitus is both ears since I was 18 possibly sparked off by a virus (now 57 – in all that time never went away). Now my hubby has it, my mother has it, so it's on the up! Accptance and not listening-in is THE BEST approach. Give the brain less to 'worry on' by not taking notice all the time. Just float and saying to it, 'yes, yes i hear you, but you're not going to bother me' (otherwise the brain listens in and the tinnitus gets louder and louder. I've done masses of research over the years on how best to handle it – relaxation in mind and spirit and bags of acceptance is the only way not to suffer it.As Brian has so astutely concluded, surrendering is the way. I just call it my sound of silence – and I used to take heart from Barbara Streisand having it. If she can handle it, so can I, I used to tell myself.

    Right, over to the post – I feel a sense of surrender most noticeably in my daily routine,when driving my car. I don't go 'anywhere' blissful or joyful, I simply go abstract as if the bonds of what is usually covering me and 'driving' me on in my present moment of action fall away for a while. If I am by a stream or in nature in a place I love when this happens, I feel connected to the environment and mind-less. This is as far as I ever get in a natural way, without striving, to something that feels truthful, and dare I say it, Taoist.

    Cheers for now, Galen :>)

  11. I wrote some thoughts and then they disappeared. I feel sad becuase I don’t know if I can capture them again.
    Basically, I do enjoy reading about your searchings. You bring up many things that stretch my mind and help me to understand more your beliefs and intellectual thoughts. Even today, I find that love is truely the key to opening the heart with in and outward towards others.
    My life seems a little simpliar in that I basically have just centered my life in Christ. Through him, I find peace, love and increased desire to serve and love others. As I do these things; it brings me great joy. I know that what I believe is true beyond any doubt. I feel the spirit bring comfort, peace, and answers to questions and prayers. I’m far from perfect but I am working on being complete. It will continue to take a life time.
    Again, I love our friendship and I enjoy reaing your thoughts.
    Blessings and hugs!

  12. I'm sad too, LeAnn, that your first comment disappeared. I'm sorry for whatever cyber glitch caused that. But I'm grateful that you took the time to try again, and I always value your thoughtful comments as well as our friendship. You always have a lovely way of connecting everything back to your deep faith, which clearly brings you much peace and joy.

  13. Thanks for your reflections on tinnitus, Lynne. I alerted Brian to make sure he sees your helpful comment. Your description is a wonderful model for handling many challenging things that life brings our way. Your suggestion of not listening in to the tinnitus ringing could apply just as well to the constant mind chatter that is always going on in our brains.

    And I like your thoughts about how you "go abstract." In martial arts we try to "soften our gaze" so that we are not looking at or focusing on one thing in particular. It sounds similar to your description of being connected to the environment and mind-less. And yes, it seems very Taoist!

  14. " Accptance and not listening-in is THE BEST approach."

    That seems to be the best advice from so many who have had this condition all their life . The not listening and concentrating on it would work wonders. I have accepted it but it gets to me at night. Sometime masking with other sound is not enough. I just have to not pay attention to it at night,trying to sleep. Thanks Lynne

  15. 'Give the brain less to 'worry on' by not taking notice all the time. Just float and saying to it, 'yes, yes i hear you, but you're not going to bother me' (otherwise the brain listens in and the tinnitus gets louder and louder'

    Lynne, I tried this today and its working, thank you so much for this excellent advice on Galen's blog…answers come in amazing ways … something shifted in me over the past couple of days and I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

  16. This is so good to hear, Brian, I'm so happy to help. Night time is the hardest aspect in the early days and whenever for some reason there is a flare up (usually stress induced I find). At those times I did need to mask it at night. Ocean wave tapes are good and listening to nature sounds. If you should need any more tips in the future, please don't hesitate to get in touch, Brian.

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