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Category: Musings of a Mystic

For My Children: Move to Your Own Music

For My Children: Move to Your Own Music

 

FOR ANY DAUGHTER/ FOR ANY SON

Do not let yourself be blindfolded early on.

Do not accept harsh or kindly lashing, slashing …

even when it is called “traditional,” “required.”

Do not be lulled by sensations…

soft velvet wrapped around your head

will blind thee nonetheless.

Do not hide behind, “It can’t be bad,”

“It’s not that bad,”

“No real harm’s been done. . .”

Do not try to convince yourself by bargaining,

“See, they’re such exquisite velvet blinders. . .

a cut above the usual.”

Be wary of “doing what we do here,”

“doing as we have always done.”

Withstand grinning Death in his many disguises;

he will promise fleeting excitement ,

a once a year glory in exchange for forfeiting

your one precious and wild life forever.

Do not pour salt

into the earth of your mind

and expect lilies to grow there.

For us, resistance is ceremony.

We are the proof that the soul’s truths

transcend the oldest time-honored lies.

 

“For Any Daughter, For Any Son” by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

Nothing feels stronger than the tug of tradition, an incredibly magnetic pull toward the past. Traditions are an important part of any family story. What would we be without those that have come before? That being said, it is important to understand that we have no obligation to take ownership of what may not be meant for us, including our family traditions. We flex our courage muscle each time we resist doing things as they have always been done as opposed to listening to our hearts and moving in that direction.

 

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes, “Do not pour salt into the earth of your mind and expect lilies to grow there.” Breathing in these words, I experience an instant release of the unwanted. Salt is an abrasive yet essential mineral for life. The metaphor of a mind filled with this life mineral, yet unable to blossom, is powerful.  Why not sprinkle salt and leave some room for the lilies to germinate? After all, beauty is discovered only by giving breathe to an otherwise constricted way of being.

 

Resisting the status quo can be difficult. By its very nature, resistance can be insidious.  If I wish my daughter and son to be strong minded yet gentle hearted, I must let them forge their way into this role even if their path differs from mine. Who is to say one way is the only way? Walking through life with a different cadence does not dishonor.  It takes many cadences to create the beautiful music of a symphonic variation. One cannot possibly bloom if trying to walk, act or behave as everyone else.

 

The harsh words of the critic will sound, seeing all that is different and speaking to these differences without permission.  Forget what you hear and see. As Dr. Estes writes, “For us, resistance is ceremony. We are the proof that the soul’s truths transcend the oldest time-honored lies.”

 

The following thoughts are for my beautiful children. My wish for them is that they continue to honor the voice within and dance to their own music, no matter how different it may be. Dance my loves and live fully.

 

Know your truth and honor it with every action and thought. Be freely and unabashedly yourself and revel in knowing that no matter the outcome you have lived life on your own terms.

 

Be brave and circle your on wagons as need be. Bravery is hard fought each time you face a fear that is not yours to hold. Toss out the ceremonial makings of the expected and dance a new war dance of your own. Listen for direction on the winds of change and let the breeze elevate your soul.

 

Face hardships with a humble heart and know that this life was not meant to be easy. Everyone, no matter how they appear, has experienced darkness bringing them to their knees. It is only face down in the dirt that one can finally let go of all expectations, inhibitions and unwanted observation by committing to the blooming of a beautiful soul.

 

Let go and flower into the sun, dance in the wind and smile broadly. This life is such a beautiful and precious gift. Remember that each new day is filled with possibility no matter what obstacles you may experience.

 

Smile at your troubles, laugh during your hardships and release the fear of the unknown. Silence the voices and refuse to change the music of your own drum. It is only when being completely self that life unfolds as it should.

 

Love unconditionally. Love those that make you uncomfortable, love family that you do not understand, love strangers that appear odd and love those that argue for the obscene and confrontational. Approach all with love in every instance. Think before you speak and hold your tongue if you do not trust what might be said in haste.

 

Do not acquiesce to others but simply send them love as you move in your own way. Try not to hold hate in your heart. Hate is a darkness that will take root and strangle the bloom before it has seen the sun.

 

Finally, dance. Dance to the music in your heart and the soothing sounds of the universe. Feel the rhythm of your day as if turning pages on a score. Balance moments of excitement with moments of repose just as an allegro meets an adagio. Feel joy in your body and do not be ashamed by this. Jump into the freedom that comes from moving your body in your own unique way. Embrace the oneness you experience in this movement and cherish the togetherness of body and soul.

 

Dance your way through the hardship and heartbreak and continue to listen to the music of your heart…turning it up loud. Be simple in your complexity, an open book that sits on a shelf waiting for those that wish to read you. Stand in honor of this authenticity and refuse to back down. Never forget, you are a beautiful soul and deeply loved.

 

Pieces to Our Puzzle

Pieces to Our Puzzle

 

“Longing may be our legacy, but wholeness is our birthright.  It lies at the heart of the disappointments and delights of everyday life.  In weeding the garden and burning the toast. In falling asleep alone or enfolded in the arms of another.  In reading poetry instead of watching the news. In missing the grandmother you adored and becoming the father you never had.  In weeping for the suffering of the oppressed, the degradation of the planet.”

-Mirabai Starr

 

As spiritual beings, we are made up of a unique collection of pieces to our very own life puzzle.  These pieces represent the work in moving from immaturity to spiritual wholeness. It is often with this soul work of reassembly that one can get stuck, wondering how to bring wholeness to a chaotic and sometimes unforgiving worldview. This begs the question, maybe we are not meant to reflect some spectacular version of perfection after all.  Could it be within our imperfections that we exist in our truest form?

Growing up, I loved doing puzzles. What began as an unorganized slurry of parts, transformed into the most beautiful of pictures. This final image instantly made sense of the mess, as if it had been there all along waiting to be discovered. Working on this discovery was meditative in practice. Methodically lifting each piece, trying them in numerous places and looking for the smallest of details was a deeply introspective activity. I remember the tangible exuberance when arriving at the very last pieces. It was as if all of a sudden every angle sharpened and each piece seemed to effortlessly slide into the whole exactly where it was meant to be. The simplicity of it was startling. What seemed impossible from the beginning became instantly possible.

Life is not much different than the work of completing a complex puzzle. We enter this world with such possibility and many different pieces of self that will be tested in a plethora of ways. Each role that we try on is evaluated and considered. Is what we are doing or who we are leading us closer to this wholeness or further away? Each day brings new opportunities to evaluate our pieces under new circumstances, lending to endless amounts of feedback.

 

“Many of us have made our world so familiar that we do not see it anymore. An interesting question to ask yourself at night is, What did I really see this day?”

― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

Just as with a puzzle, when finding ourselves at a dead end, we can remove layers that do not serve and rebuild our puzzle into wholeness. It is in this constant evaluation, continued work, and correction that one experiences the true practice of spiritual discovery. It is never too late to redefine our life. We are each given a blank canvas along with a bag full of pieces that represent our genetics, personality, birth status, family orientation, etc. While some of these pieces may be ill fitted from the start, we have the ability to build upon them in order to create a more beautiful self.

My marriage was a good example of this correction. In marriage, I tried out a piece of myself and worked tirelessly to make it “fit” the reality in which I found myself. It was only after years of hardship, I finally discovered my path was harmful and not in any way healthy for my heart and soul. I slowly became to undo these pieces, all that tethered me to another in an unhealthy way, and began the arduous work of rebuilding my puzzle one piece at a time.

 I will most certainly encounter many more moments of setback in which I move away from that beautiful image awaiting me.  Life is an endless cycle of expansion and contraction. All that matters is my intention. If I set an intention of spiritual growth, I can use this intention as a reevaluation tool along the way. If a piece does not seem to be fitting my intention, it may be time to make a change. In doing so, I continue to learn, grow and test this bag of pieces in as many ways as my precious life will afford. These pieces will begin to fill in the shadows of my soul leaving a beautifully clear image, representative of all that I am and all that I will ever be.

 

Life is Not A Rough Draft. Write Your Story

Life is Not A Rough Draft. Write Your Story

The Mystic Cookie mobile writing sanctuary. Photo by Dylan Mattina

 

All the “not readies,” all the “I need time,” are understandable, but only for a short while. The truth is that there is never a “completely ready,” there is never a really “right time.” As with any descent to the unconscious, there comes a time when one simply hopes for the best, pinches one’s nose, and jumps into the abyss. If this were not so, we would not have needed to create the words heroine, hero, or courage.                            

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

Here I stand, on the precipice of great change, with a familiar shudder barreling up my spine. A feeling of extraordinary unease settles in, as if crawling out of my skin. I know change is coming and contemplate what it might feel like. This story of mine will shift and become new, unfamiliar and written in wet ink. My current place will be forgotten just as in the past, a turned page to a well-worn book of my life.

 

As with any book, I may or may not pick it up and reread sections, sharing stories of the past and lingering in that space. If I linger too long, I risk never writing the final pages. I could quite possibly overstay this chapter and ultimately miss what is meant for me. What a tragedy to never fully live into potential by becoming frozen in the now.

 

Writing is a metaphor for life in so many ways. A writer begins with an idea, broad in vision, small in detail. As each page is completed, the characters come alive. Characters may surprise by leading the story in an unintended direction. Life, just as in writing, begins with the stories we tell ourselves. We “write” an idea of who we are, what we do and how our life should evolve. It is often quite a surprise when our story veers off into uncharted territory.

 

As one that rewrites this internal narrative many times over, I am still caught off guard when being assaulted by the winds of change. It is clear that people, including myself, struggle with discrepancies in our stories. I compare this struggle to a new pair of shoes that just don’t seem to fit, but after being broken in become the most comfortable shoes owned. This “breaking in” of fabric is time consuming, uncomfortable and may result in blisters. A new direction will feel alien at the onset. It takes some time to declare ownership over any new perception of place. Soon, it will be as if the now has always been, fascinating how this new reality becomes singular so quickly.

 

Even with this feeling of trepidation, It is important to make every attempt to sit with this discomfort. As the author of my life, I am afforded creative license to rewrite anything I choose. Why wish for a riveting story, when I can write and live into it! Remember, it is not only in moments of joy, exhilaration and passion that good stories emerge. It is also in moments of trepidation, sadness, anxiety or fear when a story becomes intensely meaningful, profoundly moving and beautifully intimate.

 

Write your own story and enjoy the process. Don’t be afraid to edit at will, making adjustments as needed. Find the joy in the process, not the conclusion. Just as with a good book, curl up in a window and find joy in observing the unfolding. If lucky, our stories will have more twists and turns than a great mystery novel. Given the journey I am about to embark on, I am certain mine will.

 

Womanhood and Finding Beauty in the Divine Feminine

Womanhood and Finding Beauty in the Divine Feminine

Feeling the sacred energy at Trona Pinnacles. Photo: Dylan Mattina

Imagine A Woman

Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman.

A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories.

Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman who trusts and respects herself.

A woman who listens to her needs and desires.

Who meets them with tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman who acknowledges the past’s influence on the present.

A woman who has walked through her past.

Who has healed into the present.

Imagine a woman who authors her own life.

A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf.

Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and wisest voice.

Imagine a woman who names her own gods.

A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.

Who designs a personal spirituality to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman in love with her own body.

A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.

Who celebrates its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.

Imagine a woman who honors the body of the Goddess in her changing body.

A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.

Who refuses to use her life-energy disguising the changes in her body and life.

Imagine a woman who values the women in her life.

A woman who sits in circles of women.

Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.

Imagine yourself as this woman.

© Patricia Lynn Reilly, 1995

 

Women, sisters, daughters and mothers; the beauty of the feminine takes many forms.  Being a woman comes with a veritable list of expectations, inhibitions and even privileges. Women are expected to be caretakers, lovers, nurturers and collaborators. At the same time, we are encouraged to aspire to lofty goals albeit, politely, gently and fairly. All character traits forced without consent, by a society that values female submissiveness.

 

Being one that is sensitive and soft spoken, it stands to reason my personal conflict between expectation and reality is minimized. This has not always been the case as I have struggled stepping into my true self, finding my voice and shedding layers of expectations. This paradox is confusing. I cherish being a part of the divine feminine, the wellspring of all life and the universal heartbeat that connects us all. At the same time, I have a deep desire to live strongly, independently, authentically and free. The idea that I need to be taken care of is foreign to me. No one can own another person. We all must ultimately stand alone when our end is near and answer for the choices we have made.

 

With all of this being so, why is it so difficult for women to be heard without shouting, be taken seriously without being brash or express emotion without being labeled neurotic? Why is it a woman’s outside appearance becomes an open invitation for criticism, a way to discredit simply by the clothes worn or the style of hair?

 

“A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is. Who celebrates its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.”

-Patricia Lynn Reilly

 

As a former dancer, I was judged on my physical aesthetic, never my intelligence or depth of insight. Dancers are silent tools of a choreographer’s vision, very much like clay to be molded. This extreme drive for a perfect aesthetic was difficult to let go even after I retired. I suffered from some degree of body dysmorphia and an acute discomfort with my sensuality apart from the characters I played on stage. If not pretending to be someone else, who was I?

 

Despite this long and hard fought battle with body image, I now feel absolutely no shame in embracing my femininity. Every single thing that makes me courageous and adventurous is seeded in this strength. I am stubborn yet soft, determined yet pliable, wise yet young at heart and sensual while intelligent. All states are a part of the whole and it has taken many years to welcome them all back to my table with an open heart. I no longer feel a sense of the forbidden when feeling my sensuality bubble below the surface. I no longer feel stern when stating a difference of opinion and I no longer feel meek when choosing not to be boisterous or openly bold. I honor my gentle hearted manner and pay little mind to what others opinions.  

 

“Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman. A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories. Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life”, I too have shed layers of shame for choices made out of fear, carried forward from generations that came before.  These ancestral cords are shared biological remnants of abandonment, low self-esteem and self-hate. I no longer have to remain tethered to these emotions; they were never for me to begin with. I freely cut these ties and feel stronger for doing so.

 

Perhaps someday there will appear a poet courageous

enough to give expression to the voices of the “mothers.”

~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 386-387

 

Similarly, women in my family are incredibly sensitive to energy and well aware of the emotional temperature of a room. It stands to reason that we hide some of these gifts in an attempt to avoid labels of “hormonal, overly sensitive or believers in wacky pseudo-science.” Imagine having the intuition that something is amiss and not being able to find words to describe why? Very few are able to move forward when a woman answers “I just know” to the question of “Why?” There is no tangible data to cull, no statistics to list and no definitive proof. It is a matter of faith, in being a woman and embracing self.

 

If I could share one thing with women today, I would implore them to wear energetic shades deflecting expectations, norms and criticism. Embrace all that is beautifully feminine about you and pay no mind to the naysayers. In an effort to be seen, do not change your manner by becoming aggressive or loud. Those that need to see, will. They will notice you just as you are and embrace all that makes you so beautifully strong, nurturing and feminine. Be yourself and relish in this wholeness with each breathe, hearing the whisper of the Divine feminine all around you.

 

Unconditional Love

Unconditional Love

 

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”

― Thomas Merton

 

 

It can take a lifetime to understand how to love unconditionally. Later in life, reflection and a deep sense of regret can occur when a relationship misses the mark. Age heralds clarity, shining a light on the shadows the sit between two people. This is especially true among those who have allowed unrealistic expectations to be voiced as harsh judgments. Harmful criticism forces distance and is never acceptable in a loving relationship. Sadly, this revelation often present after the damage has been done. Such is the irony of life.  

 

 Each generation seems to become more and more consumed by self, completely missing the importance of showing compassion to others. Separateness is the norm with love of self being paramount to love of others. This is no more self-evident than in the intimate relationships forged with close friends and family. The “need it now” and “me before all else” mantra leaves little room for the practice and disciple of deep love. In addition, the voyeuristic culture of social media lends to a feeling of greater importance or unnatural hubris fashioned from the imaginary world of pictures on the internet. It is a viscous cycle.

 

In practice, love requires a letting go of the desire for control in all instances. This letting go while difficult, is necessary for love to flourish.  One must peel away a multitude of protective layers intended to soften the weight of living in a less than forgiving world. This takes great courage and an ability to feel fear but not be paralyzed by it.  Unconditional love finds breathe, when changing the lens in which one views another from the rose colored glasses of the ideal to the clearer lenses of the actual.

 

“Real intimacy is a sacred experience. It never exposes its secret trust and belonging to the voyeuristic eye of a neon culture. Real intimacy is of the soul, and the soul is reserved.”

― John O’Donohue

 

As is often the case, people are much harder on those they hold dear. Business associates and acquaintances received endless amounts of patience and support while a spouse, child or sibling can be the recipient of a critical barrage of judgments. I am just as guilty of this as the next, especially with my siblings. If not being careful, I only see the things that irritate or rub and completely overlook the beauty in the other. This beauty is always found in differences rather than similarities, the way in which one navigates the world apart from a tribe. What may appear to be foolhardy or even ill advised to one can be a great learning opportunity for another. If I love someone, I love all of them. I love the many ways in which they chose to show up in my life and at times, I love them from a distance as is necessary for my well being.

Holding pain for another is yet another way in which unconditional love thrives. We are all delicate and fragile souls, baring scars from both intentional and unintentional wrongdoing. No amount of letting go will set us completely free from the conditioning of our upbringing and life experiences. It becomes a choice, when seeing scars in another, to gently soften the wound rather than rub salt. It is always easier to find fault in foreign ideas, actions and thoughts rather than looking intently within ourselves. Mirroring or projecting on to others all that we dislike about ourselves will never improve our lot. Reflecting pains and sorrows outward in the hopes of improving self-worth is not love but selfishness.

 

Therein is the beauty of unconditional love. It demands holding another’s heart while setting boundaries needed to honor spirit. There is never a rule book as to how this should play out, each individual is gloriously unique and so too is the act of loving. The goal should always be compassionate listening, gentle guidance and a letting go of the outcome.

 

Ask Me

Ask Me

Ask Me

Some time when the river is ice ask me

mistakes I have made. Ask me whether

what I have done is my life. Others

have come in their slow way into

my thought, and some have tried to help

or to hurt: ask me what difference

their strongest love or hate has made.


I will listen to what you say.

You and I can turn and look

at the silent river and wait. We know

the current is there, hidden; and there

are comings and goings from miles away

that hold the stillness exactly before us.

What the river says, that is what I say.

   

William Stafford

 

We all have our secrets, if someone tells you differently they are selling a mistruth of the highest order. Each person harbors shadows and darkness that linger among the embers of the light. It is because of these shadows one can see how extremely fragile we are. This life is living as if a delicate flower waiting to bloom yet instead choosing to close off out of fear and a need for self protection. No one leaves this world unscathed, in fact we are all marred by missteps, regrets and an underlying sadness for what we had hoped life to be.

 

Nothing speaks more beautiful to the irony of this condition than William Stafford’s Ask Me. He states, “Some time when the river is ice ask me mistakes I have made. Ask me whether what I have done is my life.” Having always cherished time spent hearing others stories and words of wisdom, it is difficult to comprehend that I too have a plethora of life experiences, yet feel less than worthy of imparting any wisdom earned onto others. Simply put, I am still trying to figure it all out and am doubtful that I will ever have complete understanding. Can it be possible that life continues to ramble along leading one further into the clouded beneath of uncertainty and fear? Is the only true meaning of it all persevering regardless of uncertainty?

 

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

― Pema Chödrön

 

I am not alone in holding illusions and fantasies of what living a storied life entails. The house with a picket fence, well behaved children excelling at everything they undertake, a job that is both satisfying and financially rewarding, physical health the sustains throughout the years and love. All possible scenarios but not always accomplished in the same stride as others. The frustration of delays, detours or missteps along the way can lead one to doubt what if anything holds meaning and true value in the wells of our soul. What if anything matters at the end of days?

 

As a young girl I pictured myself experiencing a great love affair with someone that held my heart just as I held his. This love would know me from my earliest of days until my ultimate departure from this world, a familiarity that would be both comforting and enduring. As fate would have it, this was not in the cards for me. I did in fact have a long marriage that proved to be barren of love and appreciation.  A dear friend once told me that nothing is more painful than indifference and this did, most sadly, prove to be true. I made myself small for two decades of my life and for that I harbor deep regret. Stafford’s line, “ask me what difference their strongest love or hate has made” speaks to me like no other. Hate can be as transformative as a powerful love in ways that reverberate throughout a body and soul. Hate and indifference block energy, creating barriers that can only be overcome with much time and self work. Pains such as these will be worn for as long as the river runs deep.

 

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

― Gautama Buddha

 

Staying with the metaphor of a river,  I can review  my life and see that I continue to flow whether under the ice, in the depths or on the surface. It is never a matter of time standing still but rather a rushing forth of water the proceeds all else. Water can move mountains and so too can time. In fact, the only constant I see thus far is the march of time. Stafford continues with, “and there are comings and goings from miles away that hold the stillness exactly before us.” What may seem like only the distance from one side of the bed to the other or one chair among many in an open room, is an acute representation of stillness often left unspoken. Distance is palpable even if only a few feet when defined by emotional numbness.

 

One of my main regrets is remaining in this space, this stillness, this separateness far too long. I am imperfect as are all others, yet I now choose to stand and speak my voice regardless of imperfections. If only I had known this a few decades ago, my river may have represented a much gentler flow with far less rapids and undertows. One might say however, that without all of those rapids I would never have reached this point of letting go. This may be true and as Stafford says in completion, “What the river says, that is what I say”. Here is to many more years of gently floating down the river of life, observing, learning and living.

Geography of a Life

Geography of a Life

 

“Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.”

― John O’Donohue

 

Have you ever looked at an old map and wondered how the cartographer viewed the world so differently than what is known to be true today? It was not very long ago when scientists believed the earth to be flat. As a lifelong student of geography, I have always been fascinated by this historical lens into human nature.  Reading and even touching old maps allows for a certain connection to past ideas along with a knowing that all things are relative with time.

 

Expanding on this, I find the field of astrophysics to be absolutely mind blowing. Framing all that ever was and all that will ever be within a set of scientific laws is an impossible task. Those who work in this field seem to have a particular ability to blur and bend the lines of this reality in the most creative of ways. Science and mysticism are kindred spirits, both resting on the unknown rather than the known. Highly speculative and ever evolving, the universe is akin to a good book daring one to read, yet never allowing the reader to reach the final chapter. A constant thirst for knowledge, that given the current information, can never be quenched.

 

“For millions of years, an ancient conversation has continued between the chorus of the ocean and the silence of the stone.”

―John O’Donohue , Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

 

Because of this similarity it is possible to state with certainty that mysticism inhabits universal curiosity in a way that parallels science. Asking “what if?” and “why not?” echoes the constant state of questioning that is required of a seeker. Just as one ideology has been discovered and explored, another presents that speaks to the soul in a way that begs for attention. To some this may seem indecisive, but this could not be further from the truth. Mysticism allows for a constant push and pull of ideas without prejudice. Therefore beauty lies within the questions, not the answers.

 

With all of this being so, the map of ones life will vary widely from all others. There is no true way to a specific destination, but rather a multitude of possible roads that will lead to the same end. My geography may look much different from a friend or loved one. It is never for me to compare, but to focus on my unique map by following the directions therein. If I spend my days comparing and allowing the voice of the critic to rear its ugly head, I would be ignoring all that has been provided by spirit. The truth being that the geography of my physical body will change with age and eventually transform to the next. With patience and even some grace, my spiritual geography will also transform into exactly what is meant for me.

 

“Your body is your clay home; your body is the only home that you have in this universe. It is in and through your body that your soul becomes visible and real for you. Your body is the home of your soul on earth.”

― John O’Donohue

 

Just as a maps paper fades becoming yellow and frayed, so too does our past. The sharpness of past experiences should never remain brightly in the forefront but rather muted and distant, referenced only as a tool and not a crutch. Holding to the past will only delay the inevitable change in direction that is expected during moments of great transformation. Holding will delay the drawing of a new map and all the wonderful experiences that encompass the letting go of what no longer serves.

 

Embrace your unique geography, both inside and out. You are a beautiful child of the universe and exactly as you should be at this point. Learn to sit in this place knowing that more is yet to be discovered on the grand tapestry of life. Take heart in the roughness and discomfort and face each new day with interest and curiosity. One day, you will acknowledge all the detours and obstacles that you traversed and stand in awe of the beautiful work of art you have become.

 

Between and Beyond the Stardust

Between and Beyond the Stardust

Sunset

Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors

which it passes to a row of ancient trees.

You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you

one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.

leaving you, not really belonging to either,

not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,

not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing

that turns to a star each night and climbs–

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)

your own life, timid and standing high and growing,

so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,

one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

 

What does it mean to be human? We live a paradoxical condition in which we exist between two worlds. Just as the earth has cycles, so too does our life. We experience day and night, sadness and joy, fear and courage and darkness and light. Never one to dwell in one condition alone, I dance across the invisible barrier between and feel the pulse of this oneness. Setting aside absolutes requires an acknowledgement of this paradox with a comfort sitting in the unknowns of this same revelation.

 

We are all meant to live this human experience filled with silent houses and heavy stones all the while setting our intention toward the stars. It is only with this intention that we are able to float above adversity, leaning into both the darkness and light while claiming none.

 

Nothing is permanent. Just as Rilke writes, “Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors” the night turns to day and “one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.” No single experience remains. The beautiful moments in which a child is born are blurred by the many that follow in raising that child. The quiet and intensely beautiful connection of making love with a soulmate is jolted away by the commitments of a busy day. The memory of holding the hand of a loved one as they pass transforms to an acute feeling of separateness with two physical bodies now one.

 

Wandering the earth awake, I refuse to be claimed by any one disposition. Rather than walking on either side of a flowing spring, I prefer to walk down the middle with playful waves nipping at my ankles and murky depths below. It is only in this between I feel most like myself. Never one to find any particular identity that fits, I prefer to look to the stars even when my feet are firmly planted on the ground. The unrest that accompanies me is never far behind and the disappointment in my flawed humanness is sometimes too much to bear.

 

Rilke often speaks of this between expressing a longing that persists. I am grateful in finding his poems, each word speaking to my restless soul and lifting me up when all else seems an illusion. When my final moment arrives and I am moving toward the stars, I will gladly release the cords of connection to this place and fly freely to the next. It is only among the stardust and embers of the ancient that peaceful hearts resides. It is only in giving up the repeat of a single sunset that one captures the universe.

 

 

 

 

 

The Heartbeat of the Soil

The Heartbeat of the Soil

 

Be With Those Who Help Your Being

 

Be with those who help your being.

Don’t sit with indifferent people, whose breath

comes cold out of their mouths.

Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.

 

A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces.

If you don’t try to fly,

and so break yourself apart,

you will be broken open by death,

when it’s too late for all you could become.

 

Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots

and makes them green.

Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?

   

Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

 

After having a dream that refused to leave me for days, I became frustrated with the repeated imagery and confusion about possible meaning. Aware that a dream such as this lingers as a token of importance, I still wanted the imagery to abate if only for awhile. This dream was so stubborn, it quickly became clear this was not a typical downloading of data that often accompanies a deep sleep but an opportunity to wake up and take note. The time had come to take out the proverbial notepad and start writing, regardless of potential. There was no rationalizing this task away, only the need for analysis and a way to place all discoveries within the confines of my current situation.

 

In this dream, I found myself lying on a soft blanket of soil while looking up at a very formidable tree; the kind of tree that stretches endlessly into the heavens and seems to brush the stars with its uppermost branches. As I reclined in a peaceful repose, I noticed the rays of the sun kissing the very top of the tree and skirting in and out of the various branches and leaves. It was a mesmerizing display of light that traveled at breakneck speed around the bulk of the tree.

 

“To be poor and be without trees, is to be the most starved human being in the world. To be poor and have trees, is to be completely rich in ways that money can never buy.”

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés,

 

For reasons unknown, I became aware this very same highway of light wrapping the length of the tree was in fact me. My spirit, being an energy that is free and boundless, was dancing along with the life system of the tree. I watched as this light show continued and marveled at the fact that I could be a part of an amazingly complex ecosystem in ways in which I could never have believed.

 

Moments later, the blanket of soft soil seemed to close in and become more tangible. With an element of fear, I realized I was not on top of the soil, but a part of it. Being of the soil meant I was underground and a part of the complex roots and superhighway of light connecting with the sky. Fear was replaced by a calm sensation of oneness with all else: the universe, sky, sun and this very tree with it’s steadfast roots. I was everything and everywhere, but at the same time small as a grain of soil. In this state, I was able to hear the heartbeat of the entire system in which I was a part of. I danced with a constant rhythm of energy swirling around and tangibly participated in the life cycle of this tree via a rhythmic heartbeat giving way to all else.

 

As magical as this all was, I could not resist reliving this experience as the days passed. We all have the divine spark within, just as the complex energy system the tree inhabited. This spark creates a magical and connected superhighway of energy that pulsates with life force.  If I recognize this spark in another they too can recognize it within me, including all that is known and unknown in this discovery. I must make an effort to quiet the noise in my life in order to experience the mystery of this connectivity each and every day no matter how mundane the tasks presented to me may be.

 

A monk asked Zhaozhou, “What is the living meaning of Zen?.”   

Zhaozhou said, “The oak tree in the courtyard.”

–  Case 37 from the Mumonkan (Wumenguan) Collection of Zen Koans

 

Nothing else seemed to matter in this state. Not the stress from work, people that had been less than kind, illness, nothing. All that mattered was connection with everything around me.  Believing the in all matters like calls out to like, it moves me to seek others that have this same sensibility. This has nothing to do with external worldly roles, rather a knowing that the soul next to me is a seeker such as myself. A seeker is one that asks questions, sees the light in others regardless of outside packaging and looks for beauty in all circumstance. I know that I must try to find this connection in a world that is closed off to interpersonal connection, compassionate attention and even personal touch.

I will not meet this challenge simply by sitting under a tree and feeling universal energy. No, the only way to find this other is by living a full life among the weeds and thorns. In the process of living this very messy life, my path will undoubtedly cross with those whom I seek. Each time I find another who has the heartbeat of the soil within, I feel a moment of recognition that says without words “I see you”. I enjoy this immensely and cherish it whenever and wherever it may approach. Seek out those that speak to you beyond the daily particulars of life. Once found, hold on and honor the spark that shines brightly in the being of another. This very spark is what lies within you and will continue to burn brightly after having connected with another.

 

One Day At A Time

One Day At A Time

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

-Robert Frost

 

The holidays are a time of relaxation, family and freedom from a restrictive daily schedule. As we near the end of this year and stand on the precipice of the new, I find myself already thinking about the inevitable return to work and the bustle of a workday.  As a result, I find it difficult to live in the moment. I start to go over my to-do list and answer emails that have not even been received. Unfortunately, this forward thinking is difficult to turn off and I find myself strategizing everything. This continues to the point at which I beg my mind to turn off this constant internal dialogue, craving even a few moments of the elusive relaxation and freedom that comes with the break.

 

One single day, that is all we are ever promised. Tomorrow is just a dream and nothing is guaranteed. I struggle with this concept at times. As a planner I am often a few steps ahead of the curve, analyzing and coming up with necessary solutions. While this skill is helpful in some areas of life, it can be problematic when trying to fully embrace the moment. Reading Robert Frost’s poem brings to mind how fleeting life can be. If I blink by resisting the now, I might miss something meaningful and deeply regret it.

 

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”

― Henri J.M. Nouwen

 

What I have come to understand is that we must strive to find the “holiday” in everyday. I certainly have not mastered this skill but I continue to recommit to the idea. Each day that I wake up and see a new sunrise is a blessing. There is never any need for a special occasion to remember this; rather the notion of finding joy in small moments becomes a daily goal. Be it the return to work with a warm greeting from a colleague, the hug from a loved one that will not be seen for some time or feeling the sun on my face as I take a solitary walk at dawn. All are joyous moments regardless of the occasion.

“If I did not simply live from one moment to another, it would be impossible for me to be patient, but I only look at the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to forestall the future.”

St. Therese of Lisieux

 

As one that does not believe in new years resolutions, I can say with certainty that I will put more emphasis on the concept of joy in the New Year. Life can be messy with financial challenges, health issues and work related stresses. This much is guaranteed. Boldly putting one foot in front of the other is one way to conquer the fear and worry of life. With each new step I look for the moments of joy. Be it the blue jay I saw on my walk this morning, or the smile from a loved one that lets me know all is okay. Every moment is a blessing and once gone, just a memory. Cherish everything, even the difficult things. Life is best lived from a joyful heart.