The Guest House

The Guest House

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

 

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

 

I like to think of myself as perennially optimistic. I try my best to see the positive in all things, the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if doubts persist, I rarely speak them. My long held belief is that by speaking positively, words will become a reality. The woe is me attitude is not welcome in my home and I try my very best to lead by example. It is for all of these reasons and more that when I do have days with shades of sadness, I have trouble knowing how to process these feelings.

 

Be it the celestial activity of the past month with a lunar eclipse, mercury retrograde and a solar eclipse, the change in my living situation or that pesky perimenopause that makes every day an experience, I am left slighty off balance.  Coupled with my constant ongoing struggle with MS, this multitude of occurrences has me tired. I am frustrated by the way my body defies me even after treating it with the utmost of care. I eat better than most people, exercise regularly, sleep eight hours a night and do my level best to manage stress. It is always a complete shock after having done all of this work, waking up day after day to a body that is tired.

 

It is on days such as these that I ponder why I have been given this lot in life. I work hard and give my job and family my best. Why am I constantly being taught the lesson of grace, humility and acceptance? Haven’t I been through enough already to have earned some collateral in the wisdom bank? Realizing the whininess of my internal dialogue, I chastise myself for complaining and am constantly disappointed in my frustration, wondering why I entertain such thoughts rather than getting on with my day, head held high.

 

Looking for solace,  I often turn to the written word for inspiration. I look for a way to find compassion, patience in my shortcomings and a space to allow moments of sadness and grief. The truth is that it is hard having a chronic illness. Sure, I can buck up and do my best to forget, except for when I can’t. Some days I just want to curl up into a ball and be sad. I want to acknowledge how difficult it is to live with an illness that makes every single task a challenge, even one as simple as getting out of bed. I try to never take ownership over these emotions but choose to gently observe until they move along. In the morning I may be feeling deep saddness and by the afternoon it has passed and I am optimistic once again. This does not make me overly sensitive or unstable, this makes me human.

 

As Rumi speaks to with The Guest House, I too am thankful for the ability to experience a rainbow of emotions. He says, “Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent, as a guide from beyond”.  My days of sadness, weakness or quiet reflection teach me more about myself than a constant state of  perennial optimism. I freely swim in the dark depths of self making it that much more beautiful upon returning to the light. I appreciate my family, friends, my ability to walk, read, listen and love; all things that are never guaranteed. Never be afraid of appearing human, it is in these very human moments that strength, courage and acceptance is won.

 

Feel the Universe

Feel the Universe

 

“This magnificent refuge is inside you.

Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway.

Step around the poisonous vipers that slither at your feet, attempting to throw you off your course.

Be bold. Be humble.

Put away the incense and forget the incantations they taught you.

Ask no permission from the authorities.

Slip away.

Close your eyes and follow your breath to the still place that leads to the invisible path that leads you home.”

― Mirabai Starr, The Interior Castle

 

Can you relate too feeling you are not living as fully as you could? Having a constant nagging feeling, as if something more is necessary to live authentically? Personally, I don’t think I can recall a time when I did not have these feelings in one form or another. Never one to feel a part of a group, I am a drifter plagued with feelings of loneliness and a specific separateness from all those around me. This feeling creates a constant sense of melancholy, a sense that something is amiss.

 

Mirabai Starr speaks so beautifully to this with, “Close your eyes and follow your breath to the still place that leads to the invisible path that leads you home.” These words bring tears to my eyes. Being well familiar with stillness of the mind, I suffer from a permanent homesickness for this still place that has no geographic identity. The place within that contains all that is and all that will ever be. When closing my eyes and tapping into this energetic freeway, I experience an overwhelming feeling of calm, as if all my nerve endings have been suddenly soothed by the connection.

 

Observing me when I’m in this place must appear strange to others. It is not mediation, a practice that I do not particularly care for. Rather, it is a visceral connection to the energy of the universe, that which is the creator and the created.  A look of complete surrender and abandon appears on my face. For a few moments all of the shadows of this world are lit up by the light of eternity. Quite spectacular.

 

I make every attempt to take a few moments each day to slip into this space. I try to let these moments go unnoticed as to not cause concern or worry to those around me. They may or may not understand my practice and this is never a consideration for me. Each person has their own rhythm of discovery and I am in no place to judge the speed of another. In this same vein, it is important that others do not judge or raise an eyebrow to my experience. I have no other compass to guide me except this space and the light. It provides clarity, direction and serenity in a world that has very little patience.

 

Take a few moments today and “Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway…….Slip away”. Let the universe speak to you and communicate back all of your loneliness, trepidation, fear and joy. Let your internal dialogue flourish and ignore the external voices that nip at your heel. Be yourself, feel your energy flowing and remember that your heart speaks in every moment; you just need to tune into the right channel and listen.

 

Quiet Now…Listen

Quiet Now…Listen

 

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

― Henri J.M. Nouwen

 

I have felt under a microscope of late. This may be some of my own doing, but it is unsettling nonetheless. My friends, my family, my coworkers, everyone seems to have an opinion for me, albeit unsolicited. Receiving unsolicited “feedback” can be unnerving, especially when purposefully making a decision to not extend the same to others. I may be going about my life in a manner that is unique to those that I love, but that does not make it strange, wrong or in need of constant correction.

 

Listening as an act of love has become a lost art. It is rare to stumble across a soul that happily listens to another’s ideas, theories or troubles without feeling the need to offer opinions. I simply have never understood the need for others to force an ideology or otherwise and find it difficult to be around people who speak rather than listen. I am everything, yet I am nothing, drifting in and out of a collage of ideas. Nothing is taken but everything is observed. It is only with constant observation and introspection that I begin to see clear lines in place of blurred boundaries.

 

“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”

― Thomas Merton

 

It is also imperative to listen to oneself. I have many ideas of my own of which I hold tight. I rarely share all that I am even with those that I am closest too. There exists a constant discomfort that by revealing all, I will frighten away loved ones with my utopian ideas.  Similarly, I have a constant fear of losing myself in the energy of another. When deeply listening, I often become an unlikely participant in the others goals. The sharing of personal goals is often a covert invitation of participation. While honored to be included, I am constantly vigilant that my dreams do not get lost or rewritten inside the vortex of this exchange.  Having made this mistake far too many times in the past, I am protective of my own imaginative endeavors. By privately holding new ideas, I have time to come to terms with how I might bring them to fruition, irrespective of others opinions. I choose to listen intently to myself in the quite space of uninterrupted thought.

 

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Listening in all forms is an act of compassion, much different from criticism. Excessive criticism, even of self, will not toughen one up as many of our parents’ generation thought. Excessive criticism is just that, excessive. It has no place in a compassionate relationship. I am very sensitive to criticism and as such find that when my shields are up, I tend to fall back into criticism as a defense. It is a pattern learned from childhood and one that I am not proud of. Never one to yell, this criticism can be muted, but still hurtful and definitely not compassionate. I see others fall prey to this same pattern at work and can now recognize that somewhere they learned the behavior and have not yet mastered self-compassion. We all carry with us learned behaviors that do not serve well. It is our responsibility and life lesson to recognize these habits and actively work to disarm them.

 

I feel the energy becoming quietly agitated of late, ushering in a time of intense work and thoughtful and compassionate listening. With so many possibilities on the horizon, it is time to listen and slowly come to a place of decision and or action. Nothing need be rushed. My daily commitment is that I am gentle with myself during this process. I actively choose to listen, feel the shift of energy, see the Divine signs and hear my calling. Change is brewing just as with the seasons. The darkness of winter is looming on the horizon with the light airy feeling of summer fleeting. Take a moment and set some intentions, some aspirations and internalize them. Give seed to an idea that will blossom in the spring given some deep listening, compassion and patience. Dream.

 

Changing Tides and Mothers and Daughters

Changing Tides and Mothers and Daughters

I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.

I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.

I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task

I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.

I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.

I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.

I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.

I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.

I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.

I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.

I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.

I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I Believe.

Mary Anne Perrone

 

I write this post on the eve of change. I understand that life is nothing but a constant flow of change. Somehow, even with this knowing, I am constantly caught off guard in moments such as these, as if the air has been knocked out of me and I can’t catch my breathe. I understand change is my teacher and one that I continue to struggle with. Resistance is futile. Change will stampede in when least expected and demanded attention. Every ounce of denial I throw at it is rejected. I am powerless in its throes and dislike this feeling immensely.

 

Where do I begin? If you have read a few of my previous posts, you know that my daughter and her boyfriend live with me at present. My daughter has lived with me for the past few years beginning during a time of great distress and upheaval in her life. It was a difficult transition at first. She headstrong and secretive not exposing her coming and goings, me newly divorced and just beginning to flex my independence muscle. Suddenly and without premonition, we were thrown into a partnership that was anything but comfortable. In fact, for the first full year, she slept on my living room floor of my small one bedroom apartment that represented my first foray into independent living.

 

I struggled to find my new normal. Faced with a constant assault of chitter chatter, facetime conversations and late night arrivals I was unsettled. I would often find hair dye on the bathroom cabinets and bad food in the refrigerator. Forget my no shoes in the house rule, that went out the door as soon as she moved in with her high heels and sneaker collection that screamed style next to my clogs and sandals. My living room had become a hostel with pillows and blankets strewn about. At the same time, she was traveling periodically for work, the side effect being a permanent piece of luggage lying about and used as a dresser in between jobs. Her schedule was the complete opposite of mine. I woke up at 5:00am and went to bed by 8:00pm. She was up by 10:00am and often went to bed just as I was getting up.

 

I worried about her late at night as I had never done when she lived alone. Having her under my roof somehow increased my responsibility and I demanded that she text me if she was not coming home so that at least I knew she was okay and not on the side of the road. It was an uneasy relationship but one founded in love. We had all the right reasons for “putting up” with each other and our love for one another was the glue that kept us from screaming in frustration.

 

Over time, the waters began to calm. We learned to speak our mind without crying and had meaningful conversation instead of arguments. I learned to loosen the rope and only voice my opinion in matters of practicality such as finances and cleanliness. I reminded myself that her personal life was just that, hers. I even managed to sleep some nights and not lie restless in my room waiting to hear the door open, breathing a sigh of relief that she had made it back to our sanctuary safely. She had moments of manic cleaning in which she vowed to “get her life together” and was a whirlwind of activity inside our little apartment. The blankets folded, clothes tucked neatly away organized. These would often be fleeting, but progress is progress no matter how small.

 

The good life starts only when you stop

wanting a better one.

—Bertrand Russell

 

We made the joint decision to move closer to my work and into a bigger space. She began paying rent and was a roommate in every sense of the word. What had once been passing moments of adulting now became more regular and we eased into a more mature relationship of equals. She began dating a wonderful young man and he too moved in with us as he struggled with the time between college and medical school. I dove into my work and strived to find some sense of balance with my health needs and desire to forge my way in a new field. At the same time she signed me up, despite my great reluctance, for online dating. A moment that will forever be a point of humorous recall between the two of us. In just a few seconds she was chatting with men online as if she was me as I stood back appalled. The tables were turning in the most interesting of ways.

 

As I took tentative steps with a heart in recovery, she was by my side encouraging me to just try. No expectations and no promises. I on the other hand, encouraged her to look forward to a career transition and a more permanent work situation. In many ways, there were times our roles saw a complete reversal and we established a sisterhood of togetherness as two adult women. We talked about many things that I never spoke about with my mother. Sometimes uncomfortable, but freeing in the letting go of what had been held inside far too long. No more shame about past experiences, just love.

 

With my daughter moving out into a sanctuary of her own, I cannot help but reflect on the time we had together. As women, we push our daughters to leave the home and experience the world, yet we do not provide avenues for them to celebrate their womanhood soon enough. The power and beauty of a strong woman resides in her acceptance and love of her feminine power. I like to think that our time together was an opportunity for both of us to reclaim this power. We will forever be as different as oil and water, but it is in spite of these differences that we have found the perennial common ground. We see each other as beautiful souls and respect the journey we have taken thus far. I have no illusions that life will be easy moving forward, but I am sure that I have a kindred spirit in my daughter. We can talk about the things that concern us and the prospects for the future. Our love for each other has survived the heat of unrest and will continue to persist no matter what life has in store.

 

Becoming Alike in Our Differences

Becoming Alike in Our Differences

Sometimes hidden from me

in daily custom and in trust,

so that I live by you unaware

as by the beating of my heart,

Suddenly you flare in my sight,

a wild rose looming at the edge

of thicket, grace and light

where yesterday was only shade,

and once again I am blessed, choosing

again what I chose before.

-Wendell Berry    

 

Speaking with some of my student employees, I found myself in a philosophical conversation that was familiar ground. Always slightly out of step with my peers, it was refreshing to tread the fertile ground of the “why” question with younger minds. I should preface this by saying the school I work for is an experimental art school and both faculty and students tend to walk the edge of what is considered fringe in thought and practice.

The conversation turned to the idea that people in close proximity become inadvertently like-minded.  Is it human nature to form tribes and alliances with other like-minded people?  My question for the students was, “In your differences, are you not becoming more alike?” This caused some head scratching and much debate back and forth. Is it in societies push to diversify that we have stepped beyond embracing uniqueness into siloed tribes of like? Uncomfortable question to be sure.

People like to feel a sense of belonging. Even in fringe communities, the casts of characters often dress the same, eat the same and think the same. I am baffled when I see this happening even at an institution of creative and exploratory practice. Look closely and you may notice the similarities of people in these groups. Yes, they exist outside the social norms of the day, but in their own tribe, they are alike.

As one the wanders from one group to the next, I find it more challenging to be separate. By choosing this lifestyle, I am often alienated from the most unique groups of people. Maybe it is because I am a free spirit yet do not buy into every crystal and aura reading ideology, maybe it is because I am a hippie yet will not run around in a tie dyed shirt barefoot in the woods. These sensibilities do not speak to me in totality. Parts of the lifestyle do, but never everything. This may also be why I find organized religion difficult. I enjoy pieces of most practices, but tire of the all or nothing mentality that is required to call myself Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. I prefer the beautiful flow of mysticism that encompasses many different views but asks the same questions. In the realm of politics, I am an independent. Politics has a pack mentality that sickens me. I am allowed to have my own ideas separate and apart from a party. God forbid I am a conservative that believes in abortion rights or a liberal that believes in lower taxes.

 

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu

Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East

or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not

composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,

did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace

of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two

worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that

breath breathing human being.

-Jelaluddin Rumi

 

Reading Wendell Berry, his “wild rose” speaks most specifically to me as one that hides under the radar but blooms nonetheless. Each group of people that I interact with has something to teach and that is what is so fascinating to me. Whether I borrow some of the ideas or not is completely up to me. Being different requires strength in standing alone. Solidarity with self can be difficult in practice. It is saying no when everyone around you is saying yes; it is being comfortable being the only voice for your point of view. Maybe the answer is not to continually seek out people more like us; maybe it is to flourish among others that are different. In this way we can celebrate our differences with no expectation to conform to a specific type of rebellion.

We are all members of the human race. In this way we are all the same. Given the freedom to explore our personalities we flourish into a gorgeous field of wildflowers, each different but as beautiful as the one before. A daisy does not try to be a rose or any other flower for that matter, the daisy just blooms. Each flower, standing alone and blooming creates the togetherness of the field, breathtaking in totality only because of these differences. The next time you are in a group of people, find those most different from yourself and spend some time with them. You may discover a few things that interest or speak to you, even if just to observe, listen and learn.

Kipling and The Metaphorical Shoebox

Kipling and The Metaphorical Shoebox

‘Brother Square-Toes’

If you can keep your head when all about you   

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;   

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;   

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling

 

Rudyard Kipling has managed to weave together everything that I aspire to be in one poem. In reading his writing, I am reminded that I spend many days listening to others who for one reason or another have chosen me as their confidant. In this listening, I am often left wondering why some are left so broken from life while others continue to move forward with hope regardless of circumstance. What is it that separates these two very different approaches to life?

 

My first thought is that this separateness is created by a gap in faith, but I believe that does not fully explain the dichotomy. The fact that some are left struggling with darker emotions while others rise above is both fascinating and terrifying. Terrifying in realizing these lost souls could easily be me. We are all only a few thoughts and decisions away from being stuck in a dark place . We all have the potential to embrace the darkness rather than the light.

 

One possible answer is in the weaving together of our stories while not clinging to this narrative as if a baby to a beloved blanket. It is in feeling the scars but rising above the pain. It is in leaving those behind that have treated us as less than while not lingering or looking back. It is in not hanging on to a metaphorical shoebox of wrongs hidden deep away in the shadows of our psyche.

 

Kipling say it perfectly with, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same;If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken, Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.”  We have all flirted with this shoebox of wrongs at one time and stayed in this space far longer than expected. It is a dangerous place filled with a bitterness that is frightening if allowed to fester. Triumph and disaster are just that, two pivotal life moments each having a place in the tapestry of life. Without sadness, there is no joy; without anger there is no love and without failure there is no gain. One requires a concrete measure of where to begin in order to set goals and achieve tangible change.

 

It is only in lingering in this shoebox that one can get stuck. You will find those in this place proclaiming how life has mistreated them, committed great wrongs and where the blame lies. Remaining the victim allows the pain to completely dictate a life. Overcome by the shadows of the shoebox, one can only see darkness, missing out on all of the many beautiful things that life offers. Kipling speaks to this with, “If you can make one heap of all your winnings, And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings, And never breathe a word about your loss”. Heeding Kipling’s words, I make every possible effort to avoid this shoebox filled with bitterness. I no longer feel jaded, spending precious life energy pointing fingers at those that have peppered my life in unforgiving ways. I simply look at these same people as knots in a beautiful and colorful tapestry of my life, nothing more.

 

Empty your shoebox let it all go. Don’t carry around things that no longer serve, even if those that we love refuse to let the story go. The rehashing of the past does nothing but reaffirm harm. It has no value in the present. Everyone has something that they struggle with, tucked deeply away. Work each and everyday to write new stories that do not need to be buried in a box, stories that uplift and serve a greater purpose. Occasionally you may still tuck away a few morsels of regret, but do not linger. The journey is happening now and the road is just ahead.

 

Fragile-Handle with Care

Fragile-Handle with Care

A Song of Living

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I have sent up my gladness on wings, to be lost in the blue of the sky.

I have run and leaped with the rain, I have taken the wind to my breast.

My cheeks like a drowsy child to the face of the earth I have pressed.

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I have kissed young love on the lips, I have heard his song to the end,

I have struck my hand like a seal in the loyal hand of a friend.

I have known the peace of heaven, the comfort of work done well.

I have longed for death in the darkness and risen alive out of hell.

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I gave a share of my soul to the world, when and where my course is run.

I know that another shall finish the task I surely must leave undone.

I know that no flower, nor flint was in vain on the path I trod.

As one looks on a face through a window, through life I have looked on God,

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

Amelia Burr

1878-1968

We are such fragile creatures. The gentleness of the human disposition is often shrouded in a rigid shield used to navigate a somewhat unforgiving world. Underneath all of this protective gear we are naturally soft, exuding light and love. I feel this light from others even when I do not want to, inspiring instant connection regardless of outside packaging. I do not care what religion, political affiliation or race you are. I only care what softness you hide inside and how I might see it better. I question how many layers have been sewn in order to function and how long it will take for me to unlock these layers witnessing the brilliance of a soul. I have little time for those that hide indefinitely under false pretense. I want to know the real person and deeply so.

As one that walks this edge every day, I tend to wear my softness on my sleeve. I cry, laugh and become sullen at the most inopportune times. Labeled sensitive as a child, I was told to grow a stiff upper lip, toughen up and not be so sensitive. This struggle persisted and is one that I grapple with even today.  I have found the only way I can manage interacting with others is by putting up a few walls. If I hold hearts too closely, I am ineffective as a leader in becoming sensitized to the lion’s share of their pain. Once again, I find myself walking the edge. I find ways to be receptive while at the same time creating some necessary distance. The whole charade can be exhausting and one in which I never relish the process.

 

My soul is full of whispered song;

My blindness is my sight;

The shadows that I feared so long

Are all alive with light.

Alice Cary

1820-1871

 

In addition to the energetic qualities each of us exhibit, we inhabit a delicate disposition and our physical bodies often fail us. Recently, after having some unpleasant side effects from a medication, I found myself feeling my fragility more than I liked. Having no illusions as to the longevity of this body, I am well aware that I am on the backside of midlife and am heading into the next chapter of my life. You will not find me wishing to be twenty; I welcome the wisdom that only travels with age and experience. I aspire to remain functional for as long as I am afforded and do all within my power to facilitate this. It is only when I have done all that I can to improve my environment, but still find myself falling short, that I get frustrated.

In moments such as these I call upon my faith and remember that I too am fragile. I try to honor this vulnerability and treat myself with as much empathy as I would another. On days in which I am far less than perfect, which is every day, I try to be gentle with myself. I cradle my budding and precious soul as I would a beautiful piece of stained glass forged by multiple life experiences in the heat of living a full life. After all, we are all just shards of glass reflecting our light out into a world made of rocks and stones.

 

“Some people look for a beautiful place, others make a place beautiful.”

― Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

It is with this revelation that I find we should all have a “Fragile, Handle with Care” sign worn daily. This fragility warrants gentle handling in all instances, one crack and we become weak and prone to breakage. I would venture to say that we all have moments in our life in which we are in danger of being shattered. Amanda Burr’s poem, A Song of Living speaks to this with, “I gave a share of my soul to the world, when and where my course is run. I know that another shall finish the task I surely must leave undone.” We are all unfinished in some way, jagged pieces and all.

Simply by showing up,  we forge these broken pieces into a beautiful and loving piece of art. We will never be perfect and should never ascribe to this paradigm. We can only be the best version of ourselves each new day, learning and growing as we go.  I have known some older and much wiser people whose souls shine as brightly as the sun. They have lived into the truest version of self and their brightness is more beautiful than the greatest works of art.

Know that all glass breaks, it is only just a matter of time. When your fragile pieces become damaged, take heart in the fact that you can forge them back together with love and light. It takes much time and reflection to pick up all of the pieces and lovingly create a new version of self. Enjoy the process, look to each day as a creative expression of self, built upon newfound wisdom and the oldest of scars. Use every experience to reinvent yourself shining more brightly with each attempt. Slowly, over time, you too will shine like a thousand stars in the night sky.

The Sacred Rose

The Sacred Rose

Just as the rose consists of many petals held together, so the person who attains to the unfoldment of the soul begins to show many different qualities. The qualities emit fragrance in the form of a spiritual personality. The rose  has a beautiful structure, and the personality which proves the unfoldment  of the soul has also a fine structure, in manner, in dealing with others,  in speech, in action. The atmosphere of a spiritual being pervades the air like the perfume of a rose.

Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

Life can be limiting at times. Despite these limitations, I have the deeply held desire to unfold completely by sharing my light even when I feel constricted in the process.  My light, my spirit longs for the freedom of eternity. This journey of a lifetime can be difficult, the  pathway strewn with thorns. One is meant to walk this path with the intention to become more like a rose in its infinite perfection, greeting each new day with a continued commitment to purity of the heart.

This journey requires a freeing from the entanglements of a thorny and messy life. Rilke speaks to this unfolding of the soul in the opening poem of  “Unfolding”. His words serve as a powerful metaphor for a spiritual journey and one that has led to much introspection and participation on my part.

Reflecting on the beautiful imagery of Rilke’s poem, I cannot help but see associations in my own life. My favorite flower growing up was never the rose. Roses were far too perfect and classic for my taste. Draw to lilacs and lilies, I feel in love with their elegant yet simple aesthetic. My home had a gorgeous lilac bush right behind it. The vibrant purple color and seductive smell wafted into the house cementing the sensation of these flowers into my senses. My first memory of roses was as a dancer. I received bouquets of roses after performances; big beautiful and colorful roses that intimidated me with their boldness. I always felt undeserving of this grand gesture and found the whole experience a bit over the top for my liking.

As a newly married young woman, I rarely received flowers from my husband. He didn’t understand or enjoy the practice of gifting, stating it was a commercial enterprise and one he refused to participate in. I witnessed the many times my father bought roses for my mother even into their fifth decade of marriage and was sustained by this display of everlasting love, something I was sure I would never have. All the while I had begun the journey of spiritual awakening by taking tentative steps toward the unfolding of self. It was a rocky time in which metaphorical thorns pricked at me constantly reminding me of my own imperfections and mortality.

 

“Often the prickly thorn produces tender roses.”

–  Ovid

 

Within the darkest of days, one can always find some small ray of light. During this rocky time I gave birth to my children, rediscovered a love for education and cherished the many days spent dancing in the studio. The thorns irritated only when I choose to step off the path, distracted by my limitations. These limitations seemed to abound; a long term marriage in which I was not valued, silencing my voice while allowing others to speak for me and shrinking away from my inner light. I was tired, frustrated, sick and disillusioned. Finally, in a moment of severe distress, I was forced to evaluate everything leading to a deeply uncomfortable unfolding. Extremely vulnerable, I was forced to break down walls I had built over many years in order to navigate my unhappy life. Fearful yet determined, I choose not to look back and asked my guides to help me “see” which direction was meant for me. I did not trust my inner voice, at least not yet.

In this intense moment of unfolding, I recognized and honored that young girl inside who loved to write, dance,  sit in the grass while making dandelion chains and was a truly free spirit. Gentle-hearted by nature, the hard exterior I had worn for so long was now ill fitted to my new sensibility. I began to recognize that I was in fact a beautiful, intelligent, creative and loving soul. No amount of thorns could take that from me unless I choose to give it. Light was shining through the cracks in my armor ushering in a necessary yet chaotic fracturing of self. My old self that had moved about the world hidden and invisible, as well as my true self that was free to express all the light and beauty within. Each part of this fractured self was important to my wholeness. Nothing exists without a balance and as such, we are nothing without having visited our shadow and making peace with it. I continue to use light and spirit as my guide and have not looked back since.

I cannot help but be mystified by spirit. In shining my light outward I found another soul, one that gently tended roses out in the desert. Having been witness to the beauty he nurtured, in times of unimaginable grief, I can only say that when souls speak to one another it transcends all else.  I am astounded that our lives have intersected at this point, one blooming rose calling to another. A call finally heard and answered.

                                 “Little flower, but if I could understand what you are, root and all in all, I should know what God and man is.”

–  Tennyson

 

Today, I still encounter thorns on my path but they are far and few between. I am a trembling young bud continuing to bloom completely into eternal life. Each day requires a rejection of fear and a conscious acceptance of love and the unknown. As I continue to unfold, I find the thorns less piercing, more manageable and the blossoms breathtaking. When I refuse to hide who I am, I  find the limitations less constricting. They have loosened their grip and I can finally breathe. I know complete perfection is unattainable and just as each bloom is unique so too am I. With this I allow myself to just be and bloom into the unique and beautiful soul that I am called to be.

 

   

Look to the Sky

Look to the Sky

 

“I was wedded to all the stars of the sky.There was not a single star left, and I married every one of them with great spiritual pleasure. Then I married the moon.”

― Ibn Arabi

 

I have so many questions. I dwell in the space of the unknown and reside there comfortably, most of the time. I rarely become frustrated and make a conscience decision to quiet the voice of uncertainty daily. It is only when I am tired or experiencing change that my resolve weakens and I begin to question more fervently. Thankfully, I now recognize this as a symptom of stress and find that by gazing at the sky, I am able to calm myself. The immediate connection I sense with the universe feels like a warm blanket enveloping me with an all knowing wisdom. My brain stops the constant repeat of anxious questioning and for a few moments, I am at peace.

 

How does looking at the sky have such a profound effect on well being? I  suspect that frequent sky gazing creates cords of connection to the universe and the energy that is our life force. This life force, one single and universal heartbeat, encompasses all life as we know it. Taking some deep and measured breathes, I feel this life force enter my body, permeate every cell and take up residence. All anxiety is immediately lifted and a calming sensation settles in. Any lingering questions become less important in the vortex of this energy.

 

Dwell as near as possible to the channel

in which your life flows.

Henry David Thoreau

 

My frequent desire is to bottle this energy and carry it around with me every day. I make every attempt to memorize the peaceful feeling and return to this place in times of unrest. It requires a letting go that is difficult to master when overcome with the many distractions of daily life. I actively practice by visualizing the expansive feel of the universe whenever I find myself in the company of anyone that may be struggling. I make a herculean effort not to take on the heaviness or darkness of their energy.  I have my own dark corners to work on and have no interest in taking on the soul work of others.

 

The minute I heard my first love story,

I started looking for you, not knowing

how blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere,

they’re in each other all along.

Rumi

 

Finally, looking to the sky evokes the astounding beauty of creation. We are all so fortunate to inhabit this magnificent and forgiving planet.  By focusing on this miracle, I find some immediate perspective of my place in relation to all else. If I do not show up with love in my heart each day,  I will have lost a valuable opportunity to embrace the beauty of this life fully. Rather than worry about riches and professional acclaim, I worry about not having loved enough even when given this one precious life to do so.  Looking at the sky reminds me in the most intimate of ways that this journey will in fact end. Everything has a season, including me. Looking to the sky reminds me of what is important and what is not. It is all very simple even within an exterior of complexity and uncertainty.  On this day, look to the sky, breathe deeply and let the life force of the universe take the wheel for awhile. Don’t worry, it can handle it.

 

Looking to the Full Moon

Looking to the Full Moon

Faithful Lover

The moon came to me last night

With a sweet question.

She said,

“The sun has been my faithful lover

For millions of years.

Whenever I offer my body to him

Brilliant light pours from his heart.

Thousands then notice my happiness

And delight in pointing

Toward my beauty.

Hafiz,

Is it true that our destiny

Is to turn into Light

Itself?”

And I replied,

Dear moon,

Now that your love is maturing,

We need to sit together

Close like this more often

So I might instruct you

How to become

Who you

Are!

Hafiz

 

 

I am a woman of the moon. I am a summer baby born in the sign of Cancer and a few days before the first man landed on the moon in 1969. So many of my life’s pivotal events have centered around the moon that I have begun to feel the connection is much more intentional than suspected. With the full moon occurring tonight, I cannot help but take notice of all the major life changes chasing me down.

 

To begin with, my daughter and her boyfriend have decided the timing is right to step into adult life fully and move out.  My daughter has lived with me for a few years and I can think of nothing but blessings for having had this opportunity.  I doubted we could tolerate living together at the onset given the great disparity in our personalities. I had visions of complete chaos in my home, loud music, loud voices, late night soirees and junk food everywhere. In actuality, I have had a front row seat to her growth.  It has been nothing less than an amazing evolution to observe.

 

In addition to my housing transition, I have been dating someone. He is a wonderful man that has shown me in the most authentic way what it means to truly love another. Being in this relationship has required that I move about in a much less guarded manner.  While this can be exhilarating, it is at the same time terrifying. Having closed my heart off for a number of years, I can happily say that I have embraced the fear and vulnerability by choosing to be present in this relationship each and every day. Relinquishing some of my hard fought independence has not been easy but absolutely necessary for my growth.  

 

My son is also experiencing transition. After graduating from college and breaking up with a long-term girlfriend, he was a bit lost. Unsure of his next step and alone for the first time, he took a year to explore. Watching a child struggle is never easy. I had to exercise all of my mothering skills by quietly supporting him without being obtrusive, always a delicate balance. Thankfully, he is nearing the light at the end of this tunnel. He is fully employed in a job that is a stepping-stone for his future career goals. He seems satisfied with his life trajectory after a period of disillusionment and I could not be more proud of him.

 

Bring your wings tonight

I want to fly with you

Through the galaxies and sparkling stars

Elena Notara

 

At the same time, I find myself quickly approaching the half century mark. My older sister will meet this milestone in September and I will do the same in two years leaving me perplexed as to how quickly my life has accelerated.  I choose to greet this milestone as a mid life opportunity rather than a crisis. What is it that I feel the most passionate about and how can I move toward that passion while still supporting myself in this fiscally motivated world?

 

Finally, I am also on the precipice of menopause and have the good fortune of experiencing all of the physical wonders that this life change can bring. A woman’s body is an amazing and I am in awe of how many changes we weather with gusto. I tire of the stigma that menopause is a sickness and an uncomfortable physical transformation. My body has carried me through many experiences; birthing my children, years of rigorous classical ballet training, pleasure, pain and now sickness.  I aspire to respect the current process and approach it with a divine wisdom that centuries of women have exhibited before me.

 

This is all a very long-winded way to say that I am feeling the intensity and pull of this full moon in specific relief. I feel it so deeply that at times it hurts. It is as if I am a butterfly at last being birthed from my cocoon. I feel all of the constrictions that have held me thus far and the freedom of the open sky beckoning. I have a deep desire to shed everything that is not authentic. This shedding leaves me feeling bare and unprotected from a barrage of elements.

 

Because of this uncomfortable vulnerability, I feel the constant duality of wanting to escape this transformation by hiding away until this energy passes while at the same time wanting to run directly into the eye of the storm. The night sky calls to me, mapping out my place in the greater universe. I belong out there, with the stars and the moon. I feel it deeply in my bones as if a homesickness. I know that all of these transitions, while unsettling, are my pathway to this flight. I look to the sky on this full moon for comfort and bathe in the light feeling at once as if I am home and all is well.