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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.

 

Finding My Way Home

Finding My Way Home

 

“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

 

Frustrated by disparity between the self-help movement, religions that profess acceptance and actual practice, I find myself in the gray once again.  People are imperfect, yet it baffles me when those that profess to be pious judge with utter abandon. It is for this very reason I made the personal decision to explore all practices but claim none. Each has something to offer along with something that speaks directly to me. In my view, if everyone practiced love as a core belief, judgment would be counter to any belief.

 

In this way, reading the words of the mystics has offered a specific calmness in my life. I share their depth of feeling as well as a misfit sensibility demonstrated by disconnect with the progression of others. Everyone else may be thinking about a to-do list or how to capture success while I am in that quiet place of serenity and solitude dancing with my thoughts. No one seems to notice, I make no outward appearance to this fact. I slip in and out of this realm with a practiced ease, questioning everything.

 

Of the many questions I ponder, one remains. Why is it that so many faiths lay down strict rules of engagement prescribing how one should experience the Divine? Who has the authority to tell me how to experience what should be freely given.  It is important to allow room for spiritual discovery in the way that speaks to one as an individual. No organization, ideology or otherwise can hold weight over this self-discovery. Mysticism allows for this space, a space to experience spirit in a personal way, a space between all else.

 

“If you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another.”

― Gautama Buddha

 

There are many ways to the same end. The faithful practitioner may come to the same conclusions as one that has spent a lifetime of immersion in mystic thought, empowering the individual experience over the group. No one-way is the only way; I refuse to accept that premise. Mirabai Starr speaks to this beautifully with, “Be bold. Be humble. Put away the incense and forget the incantations they taught you. Ask no permission from the authorities. Slip away.” Another soul that feels as I do!

 

Never second-guess your path. It is unique to you and therefore requires no further scrutiny from others. Be bold yet humble, just as Ms. Starr states. Take chances, but ask questions of yourself. Face your fears and do so with a loving heart. Forging your own way does not require announcement or explanation. Quiet the voices and silence your mind. Trust in your ability to discern the truth from all else. Take as many detours as needed, approaching all misfortune with patience and love. Find your way home.

 

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.

 

The Space Between

The Space Between

Oh Beloved,

take me.

Liberate my soul.

Fill me with your love and

release me from the two worlds.

If I set my heart on anything but you

let fire burn me from inside.

Oh Beloved,

take away what I want.

Take away what I do.

Take away what I need.

Take away everything

that takes me from you.

-Rumi

 

I comfortably reside in the space between, constantly vacillating between two ends of a spectrum. The space in which night meets day, darkness greets light and in which ideas percolate like a strong cup of coffee. This space is calm, no unnecessary posturing. Ideas bounce off the boundaries as if molecules of a much larger universe. Nothing is claimed but all is examined. It is a space of introspection and deep thought, a place I like to stay in until ushered out by the demands of the world.

 

If asked what my favorite color, book, food or movie is, I have no answer. It is not that I don’t harbor strong opinions, because I do. Nothing floats up to the surface from this between without great introspection and review. I prefer to let things simmer, mulling over the merits of all positions and the reasons why people hold the beliefs they do. Rumi speaks to this with “Fill me with your love and, release me from the two worlds, If I set my heart on anything but you, let fire burn me from inside.” I wish to be released from the world of right and wrong and black and white. I wish to live in the muted world of gray. I wish to be left alone with an uncluttered brain, free to think and write without the noise of others constant chatter about things that mean very little to me.

 

“When you start to notice the mystical, the mystical will start to notice you.”

― Dacha Avelin

 

Because of these desires, I am often seen as wishy-washy. On the contrary, I have a constant internal dialogue going at all times. I am able to see all sides of an argument, the only exception being when an idea goes against my core beliefs. If this should happen, God be with you. I can be very stubborn and disagreeable about the few things that I hold dear.

 

All of this makes me question what really makes something wrong as opposed to right? Obviously, some values are clear and non negotiable. Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not bear false witness and so on and so forth. I don’t think many would argue the merits of the Golden Rule. Rather, it is in all other instances, that I vacillate. On a thousand fronts whether it be tattoos, religion, reading material/genre, intimacy or political ideas. I stand in the middle and enjoy a panoramic view of the world discussion.

 

Why then is this space foreign to so many? Would it not be a better world if everyone dwelled closer to the middle rather than the extreme? We are all fragile souls having a very imperfect and human experience. It can be a painful experience when not given breath and space to live an examined life. We require this space to spread our wings and learn how to fly, each in our own unique and beautiful way. The next time you are pressed for an opinion or pulled into a debate, move gently and quietly away from the noise. Do not make a scene; do not hurt the other person. Retreat into the space between and into the calm and serene waters of understanding, faith, hope and love.

 

Slowly

Slowly

 

Slowly

Walking out of the darkness, shrouded in a specific heaviness

I see rays of light so bright in their intensity

Heat sears my face and a fullness grows in my heart

One foot in front of the other, slowly

 

My back guards against all misdeeds

Eyes gazing towards absolution

Comfort in the mystery, seeded in the unknown

One foot in front of the other, slowly

 

With each passing day I make some progress

Inching closer to everything

Leaving behind nothing but my shadow

One foot in front of the other, slowly

 

I begin to shed layer upon layer

Seeking a blissful lightness

Butterfly wings emerging from a cocoon

One foot in front of the other, slowly

 

Sadness, sickness, loneliness and fear

Celebration, joy, tenderness and togetherness.

Every emotion under my skin makes an appearance

One foot in front of the other, slowly

 

Days change, seasons change, people in my life change

I continue to walk forward, bit by bit

Deliberately, thoughtfully, towards only myself

One foot in front of the other, slowly

 

At first I resist, frightened and scared

Now I press forward for me, no one else

Willingly, excited with possibilities

One foot in front of the other, slowly

 

Time passes, my heart beats with anticipation

Living each adventure as it comes and goes

Slowly, I surrender to the path and allow hope to sing

Peacefully, I take yet another step and take flight.

-Lavinia Busch

 

 

Why is it that the answers I seek always seem elusive?  In practice, the old adage one step forward, two steps back leaves me disillusioned and lost. To this end, I had a deeply emotional experience while walking a few days ago. Writing poetic verse in my head with each step, I simply could not stop the words and emotions from pouring out.  After having written a full piece and walking over five miles, I cried.  Not bitter tears of sadness but tears of a profound letting go.

 

Having an experience such as this, I often question what in my personal life may be out of sorts. Troubles I have pushed down into the depths of my psyche, afraid of what a closer analysis might reveal. I am also aware that it takes a combination of events to ruffle my feathers rather than just one. I may have personal things on my mind, professional matters that are pressing and family dynamics that are stressful.  It is never just as simple as one thing; I am far too complex for that.

 

Walking and writing, I was reminded that life is not a sprint but a marathon.  Anything that is troubling me will find its way to resolution. Whether a resolution of my liking or not, it will come nonetheless.  I need not always have the answers. On this particular day, walking up one of my favorite hills, I once again made the decision to let go and resigned myself to living in and accepting the unknown.  My tears were tears of relief, fear and anticipation welcoming the space between conflict and resolution, doubt and understanding, an uncomfortable place to be sure. In my case, discomfort is always a precursor to growth. Like it or not this has always proven to be true.

 

“It has taken me quite a few years to realize the fact that most of the thoughts in my head are not necessary.”

― Bert McCoy

 

I inherently know that my life will end.  Upon the moment of my death, I may find myself still befuddled and bewildered, caught in that space between.  With this knowledge, I alone am left with the choice to step off the treadmill of indecision and soar. The process of enlightenment can be laboriously slow. Each life event comes with a specific lesson and opportunity for growth. Some of these lessons arrive quietly without much notice while others are abrupt and painful in the unfolding. The only guarantee is that the lessons will continue to present, even when I have had enough and think I cannot bear another.

 

That day on the hill, I found a momentary sense of calm and serenity. Even though life is forever proving the security I crave to be elusive, I am okay. I know I will persist, carry on and live my life to the best of my ability. Everything around me may continue to swirl and flex but I can stand in the middle of this vortex and free myself from the outcome.  I can create a steady and secure environment regardless of what outside forces move against me and become stronger for having done so. With this momentary enlightenment, taking a deep and soulful breath, I smiled. Feeling the wind on my face, the sun shining down, I allowed my mind to be still. I reveled in this stillness, a peaceful surrender to all that is unknown and may remain so. Continuing to live in the mystery is one of my greatest challenges and at the same time a beautiful gift.

 

Know Thyself

Know Thyself

 

Know Thy Self

A person who knows not

And knows not that they know not

Is foolish – disregard them

A person who knows not

And knows that they know not

Is simple – teach them

A person who knows not

And believes that they know

Is dangerous – avoid them

A person who knows

And knows not that they know

Is asleep – awaken them

A person who knows

And knows that they know

Is wise – follow them

All of these persons reside in you

Know Thy Self

And to Maat be true *A modern adaptation of an ancient proverb (From “Nile Valley Contributions To Civilization, Exploding The Myth, Vol. 1” by Anthony T. Browder, p. opposite Contents.)

 

The Greek phrase, “know thyself” or γνῶθι σεαυτόν rings true even after thousands of years. It is in the simplicity of the phrase that the beauty resides.  No need for verbose language to get this point across, the ancient Greeks may have been on to something. Just as we have the propensity to make things more complicated than they are, this phrase very quickly quiets the noise with the idea that the answers we seek are within. No vision quests, walkabouts or midlife crises will assist with this discovery.  A deep knowing is earned only by introspection and spiritual questioning which can be accomplished from any zip code, in any life situation and at any age.

 

Why then are so many failing to do the work required to know thyself?  As one that has a constant curiosity about others and the way in which they navigate the world, I find that many seem lost.  By this I mean they have not done the personal work of self examination. This apparent lack of interest in introspection finds many still searching outside of themselves for answers.  I have never professed to know much of anything, but what I do know is that I have no desire to walk the path with someone that is still looking externally for validation and comfort.

 

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”

― Lao Tzu

 

It therefore becomes difficult to find a tribe, a soul mate or person at the same vibration as myself.  I have no interest in a parent child or student teacher relationship; I am looking for someone in the same place as myself, a partner that can travel the road beside me rather than before me or behind.  Granted I am an odd nut. I have been seeking answers to the deeper questions since elementary school.  Yes, I have lived a colorful life and in doing so have made many discoveries along the way, yet I have so much more room to grow. I have learned that a prerequisite to knowing self lies with the understanding that knowing is not knowing. In my view this is the first step in a long and thoughtful journey.  It takes a humble soul to stand before the world and recognize that everything is not as it seems. The world as we know it is just external circumstance for a larger lesson. The tools of the lesson vary from person to person, but I suspect we all follow a similar syllabus in the end.

 

“The one great art is that of making a complete human being of oneself.”

― G.I. Gurdjieff

 
How does one go about this work?  I believe the path varies, the key point being in the attempt.  We are all fallible and none of us are perfect.  The work is in the commitment to continually walk the spiritual path. This may look different for each person, but the end result should be the same. I would even argue that one must work on knowing self before giving themselves to another. It is a symbiotic relationship and when approached with some intention, a beautiful one.

Prayer as a Practice

Prayer as a Practice

 

I have always prayed.  As a young girl I remember very clearly having an internal dialogue with my guardian angels. I spoke to them often and asked for their guidance and intervention on numerous occasions. I also recall saying the Lord’s Pray anytime that I was frightened, which was quite often given the house I grew up in and my natural proclivity to be anxious and fearful. In addition, prayer was an open point of discussion in my childhood home and nothing outside of the realm of usual family activities.  

 

As happens in so many family stories, I stretched my independence muscles a little too vigorously and found myself out on my own at twenty with my newborn daughter. My husband had no formal practice for prayer and often teased me about this seamless connection I had developed between this world and the next.  I spoke much differently than he did about angels and the sharing of energy which only deepened the divide between us.  Being young and ignorant to the feminine power that I had, I became submissive on this topic and stopped openly practicing what I knew to be true. Regardless, that rich inner dialogue that had been developed in my childhood could not be silenced and I continually prayed and asked for guidance for the many challenges that faced me.

 

As the years passed and I was blessed with another beautiful child, I decided to lay the foundation by speaking openly with my children about their guardian angels and the importance of energy. Rarely did I ever take them to church, but if asked they will tell you they always knew me to be a spiritual person. I was well aware of my responsibility for the children’s spiritual growth but choose to impart it in my own unique way much to the chagrin of my parents. Reflecting back, I believe this period of time to be my first foray into mysticism and all that it means to be constantly questioning and developing a personal relationship with spirit. I did not know that was where I was ultimately headed; I only knew that it felt right.

 

Morning Prayer of the Optina Elders

O Lord, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings to me with spiritual tranquility. Grant that I may fully surrender myself to Thy holy Will.

At every hour of this day, direct and support me in all things. Whatsoever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject to Thy holy Will.

Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions. In all unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is sent down from Thee.

Grant that I may deal straightforwardly and wisely with every member of my family, neither embarrassing nor saddening anyone.

O Lord, grant me the strength to endure the fatigue of the coming day and all the events that take place during it. Direct my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love.

Amen.

 

During some of my most difficult years of transformation, my father sent me a prayer as he often did to soothe me. This particular prayer, the Morning Prayer of the Optina Elders, can still be found on my refrigerator door. When moving around my kitchen, my eyes typically fall on these two phrases, “Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions. In all unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is sent down from Thee. Grant that I may deal straightforwardly and wisely with every member of my family, neither embarrassing nor saddening anyone.” What powerful words to read many times over and internalize.

 

When faced with difficulties it becomes so easy to only think of self rather than those around us.  Our thoughts exist in a constant loop of analysis and those surrounding us can get lost in the noise.  Belief that all is sent down by a higher power, whether you profess to this or not, is a comfort when the world feels very much out of control. I also pause each time I read the last few words, “neither embarrassing nor saddening anyone”, so hard to do when feeling wronged.  It is much easier to think angry thoughts about those that have chosen to be hurtful without any consideration. It is only natural to want to defend self, but does this have to mean saddening another? 

 

It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder.’

-Aldous Huxley

 

I continue to study this prayer each time my eyes find it among the other refrigerator decor. I linger just a bit longer and try to read each word with new eyes. Reading is often followed by a sigh of recognition and a promise to begin anew, no matter what is troubling me, a prayer for the ages and one that I will continue to cherish for many years to come.

 

We All Have Hard Days

We All Have Hard Days

 

 

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

—William Ernest Henley

 

I am a strong person, this I know.  My hardships are nothing in comparison to others who have walked a much more challenging path.  I know this and am incredibly thankful for everything in my life.  I manage to be cheerful and optimistic most of the time but every sunny day has to be balanced by some darkness in order to fully appreciate the light when it once again returns. Everything is in the balance.

My darker days are the ones in which I question why I have been given the burdens that I have.  I see others that can pick up and travel at a moments notice, stay up all night until the sun comes out and see the sunrise with sleepy eyes.  I see families spending the day at the park and chasing children in the grass, running with total abandon.  I question why I married someone that didn’t love me and why I stayed for so long. I think about the oddity of my personality, one that is a loner in every sense of the word yet enjoys and needs people. I ruminate over my nutritional and physical needs in comparison to others who have such a laissezfaire attitude about the same. I ponder these things inevitably sinking into the “woe is me” mentality.  For someone as optimistic as myself, this is foreign territory and quite frankly, it scares me every time I find myself in this position.

On days like these I often read the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley and find solace in the story of perseverance and strength. I specifically read over and over the passage that states, “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul”. I am reminded that I am in control of how I view my circumstance.  I can choose to view it through a lens of disadvantage, hardship and illness or I can choose to view it through a lens of joy, beauty and love.  The choice has been and will always be mine. When in the throes of a MS relapse, being so fatigued I can hardly get out of bed, I can view this hardship as an opportunity.  Severe fatigue allows for a greater appreciation of rest.  I value the time I spend talking with my loved ones while I rest on the couch, reading a book that had been set aside or simply sitting with someone without distraction.  In this sense, restful periods can be received as a gift.

 

Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you,

All things are passing away:

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things

Whoever has God lacks nothing;

God alone suffices.

           

— St. Teresa of Avila

 

It is absolutely true that we all have periods of distress and self-doubt.  If someone appears perennially optimistic, I wonder what lies beneath.  Yes, I cry tears of frustration and sadness and I also have times of anger when I shout to the heavens, “Why me?!”.  Admittedly these times often happen in the privacy of my room, usually in the shower so that those I care about are not alarmed by my outburst.  That being said, it is a grave disservice to others who may be struggling to pretend that I do not feel darkness.

 
In my case, I choose to release the emotions that are too heavy for me to bear, regroup and move forward.  I rely on my support network when I am not able to support myself and I pray.  I pray for strength, guidance and for angels to walk with me if this is indeed the path that has been laid out before me. I accept what I cannot change, albeit begrudgingly, and look to what is joyful in my life. As in Invictus, I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul and knowing this lifts me up when I feel down. Find your Invictus and let it’s words be your support. We all need a little help once in awhile.

Loving One Another

Loving One Another

 

Love One Another

Love one another, but make not a bond of love.

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup, but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread, but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together.

For the pillars of the temple stand apart.

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

-Khalil Gibran

 

On this day in which we celebrate all aspects of love, I find myself reflecting on ways in which I have personally experienced this powerful emotion. More often than not, love has been the driving force in many of my life decisions and directions. It has taken a process of growth and maturity to discern the various presentations of love and one that I continue to focus intently on even today.

 

My story is not a unique one. I come from a large and loving family. Yes, we have our differences, but we genuinely care for one another. As a young child, I recall bearing witness to the great love that my mother and father have, yet at the same time not having the benefit of discussion about what it meant to deeply love another. It was in every way, an education by example. Born into this caring environment I had no reference for the difference between infatuation and love, that lesson was yet to come.

 

Given my innate curiosity, in my teenage years I was attracted to the darker side of infatuation and unknowingly feel into its grasp. The man that would become my husband was much older than myself and had already experienced many things in life. Not being able to discern the difference between lust and love, I was completely drawn in by this relationship and felt trapped by my conservative moral obligations. It was not a healthy relationship, in fact it was quite damaging for me on many levels. Similarly, as one the connects very deeply with anyone I choose to give my heart too, it took great strength and will power to unravel these connections as well as two decades of my life to be completely free from the grip of infatuation.  

 

Thankfully, I did not leave this relationship without having experienced true love in some form. Having given birth to two children by the age of 24, I was deeply blessed to experience the unconditional love of mother to child. I am forever thankful for the opportunity to continually engage my heart in the way God intended in loving these children. If not for them I do not believe I would have felt alive during the darker years of my marriage, the despair was that intense. They are two beautiful angels that have held my heart when I could not find the strength on my own. That is love in every sense of the word.

 

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.”

-Rumi

 

Recently, beginning a new adventure that requires bravery and some faith, I find myself feeling tentative and protective of where I have come from and where I now stand. In reading the poem by Khalil Gibran, I identified with a common theme that speaks directly to my current state of affairs. Loving another is not remotely the same as ownership, it is a partnership that allows for both parties to breathe, grow and be uniquely themselves.  It is being one half of a whole and at the same time separate and apart. In a healthy love there should be no loss of self, not degradation of the other, just a gentle and persistent lifting up. When one falters, the other steps up and carries the weight of life’s many challenges until balance is regained. That being said, a loving partnership cannot and should not be one sided. It takes both people choosing to show up authentically every day, willing participants in a transformative experience for both heart and soul. One person alone cannot carry the work of the relationship; this is neither healthy nor prudent.

 

Love is also accepting a partner, child or family member for everything they are not, without stipulation.  It is easy to love others for their strengths, but quite another to show up each day and see the shadow side of a loved one.  Each of us has this side that we hide from the world.  It takes a strong and trusting relationship to pull the shadow out of the darkness and explore ways to support one another in that discovery.  

 

Finally, as Gibran so eloquently writes “Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” I wish nothing more than to have my soul connect deeply with another.  It is within the expansive and flowing nature of water that love is best demonstrated, moving and morphing against life’s many continental conditions. Love finds a way to erode the walls that we erect and seep into our souls, breathing new life and hope. What a beautiful thing to behold.

 

Head Versus Heart

Head Versus Heart

As one that is both an emotional being and a deeply intellectual thinker, I am in a constant search for the proper balance between the two approaches to life. My natural inclination is to lean into what my hearts says and follow my intuition, but even so this leaning is always peppered with a fair amount of intellectual analysis and strategizing of end results. This push and pull can be limiting and a place I try not to inhabit for very long.  Life having the sense of humor that it does, this analysis usually happens in the middle of the night when my mind is more prone to wander. As such, I am a frequent guest of sleepless nights and find solace in the wakefulness and introspection.   

 

Upon reading a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke I was immediately drawn to the first sentence, specifically “O Anxious one”. Anxiety is ever present when I allow my mind to take the lead and neglect the very important role of the heart.  The problem being the mind is extremely clever and can come up with a million eventualities before an event has even taken place.  If I resist this catastrophizing and allow my heart to lead, I am at peace with the unfolding and feel a sense of calm that the mind does not make space for.  This poem is a simple and beautiful way to facilitate a gentle drawing back to a state of equilibrium, especially in moments when the mind stubbornly races along.

                           

   I am, O Anxious One. Don’t you hear my voice

surging forth with all my earthly feelings?

They yearn so high, that they have sprouted wings

and whitely fly in circles round your face.

My soul, dressed in silence, rises up

and stands alone before you: can’t you see?

don’t you know that my prayer is growing ripe

upon your vision as upon a tree?

If you are the dreamer, I am what you dream.

But when you want to wake, I am your wish,

and I grow strong with all magnificence

and turn myself into a star’s vast silence

above the strange and distant city, Time.

   

Rainer Maria Rilke

 

In addition, the sentence that reads “My soul, dressed in silence, rises up and stands alone before you: can’t you see?” is like home to me. My soul is in a constant interplay with the exterior world, harboring a desire for others to “see” me by searching the silence of what remains unspoken within.  This is no easy task.  It is as if I am shouting from the top of a mountain to be seen, yet all the while hiding behind a cloud daring to be discovered. I suspect that when another chooses to look beyond my external self, they will begin to see shades of this declaration and be confused by my apparent waiving. The truth is that no amount of intellectual analysis alone will reveal the truths that I harbor.  Engagement of the heart requires a vulnerability that is not approached when using only the brain. This heart work requires strength of character, the ability to live in the discomfort of this space and even some grace. It is in the exposing of hidden truths that one really learns about themselves and about others, a lifelong task and one that is meaningful for all willing to dive in and take the risk.

 

You’ve got to get out of your head and into your heart. Right now your thoughts are in your head, and God seems to be outside you. Your prayer and all your spiritual exercises also remain exterior. As long as you are in your head, you will never master your thoughts, which continue to whirl around your head like snow in a winter’s storm or like mosquitoes in the summer heat. If you descend into your heart, you will have no more difficulty. Your mind will empty out and your thoughts will dissipate….

St Theophan the Recluse

 

As part of my journey, I continue to search for that balance.  Sometimes I lean into my heart as intended and other times I allow my brain to completely run the show.  Fascinating how we all choose to cope given any particular circumstance. Constantly striving for this balance, I will be silently drawn to the discovery of hidden truths; the simplicity of this affirmation is humbling. I find comfort in the solitude of this work with the intention to listen to my heart speak in the silence. For me this end is well worth the struggle.