“There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.”
― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
(Artwork by Lucy Campbell)
This quote and artwork were paired on a Facebook post from “Shaman Tube.” I really resonated with both the words and the image, so I thought I would re-post them here.
Yesterday – not quite on the spur of the moment but almost – I had the opportunity to attend a workshop by a gifted woman named Songbird Grandmother. What an amazing journey this young visionary is on! It was so fun to gather with others who were drawn to this event.
We shared something of our journeys and experienced a wonderful meditation – a shamanic drumming/vibrational session leading us to our deepest selves of the past, present and future. I had a wonderful revelation about my gifts and purpose. We connected with each other and our common spiritual or mystical journeys. And we created the first pages of our “medicine books.”
When I returned home, I was so filled with energy! Today, I have a sense of peace and calm. It is amazing how we call and are called to the people and places we are supposed to connect with if we are open and rely on the guidance we receive.
To the universe, I keep saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” for the journey, for the connections, for the experience – for a partner who supports my exploration. It is a wild, amazing, and ever-expansive ride.
Ring the bells that still can ring,
forget your perfect offering –
there’s a crack, a crack in everything…
that’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen
Since we first stepped into our Colorado home, over a year ago, I have pictured a gong in the main room. That isn’t everyone’s first thought, I suppose, but there was just something about the space. Our nice wooden floors and high ceilings, a view of the mountains…what else could be needed? A gong, of course!
But as we refreshed things with paint, wood, and tile, the cost of a gong seemed too much to think about. We finally made our move to the house from California last July. One August morning, my husband told me that my three-year-old granddaughter had a surprise for me. She did indeed! They blindfolded me and brought me into the living room where this little one rang the gong for the first time.
I was in shock! They had taken me completely off guard. I stared in awe at the beautiful symphonic gong that hung in my living room. It was just like my beloved friend and teacher, Shanan’s, gong. It gleamed there in the sunshine with its beautiful circular rainbow of metal around the rim.
And then, I suppose you would assume that I began to play? But I did not. I was truly overwhelmed and felt inadequate. I was at a loss to know how to begin. I dabbled for a few minutes every now and then, but then put the mallets back on the shelf. It would come in time I was sure, but I had no idea when or how.
It is unfortunate that the first instructional YouTube video I watched began with a warning by a spiritual teacher – a sound healer – saying that if you used the gong in the WRONG way, you could do damage to those listening. Oh no! Now I had reason to be intimidated.
To make a long story shorter, it took three months. I stared at the gong. I thought about it. I wondered how to begin. And then, yesterday, I assembled my little stool, my singing bowl, chimes, a rain stick, mallets and my wonderful gong. I began to play. I finally understood that if it was approached with respect and sacred attention, there would be no wrong way to play. An hour or so later, I felt as if the forces of the universe had initiated me as a gong player, a sound-healer-to-be.
And today, I experienced my first healing session! I was in an irritable and impatient mood – a little bit out of sorts after spending a morning on the laptop filling out forms. I sat down in front of the gong and grounded my energy and made my best attempt to set my irritability to the side. The gong vibrated and sounded deeply – sometimes fast, sometimes long and slow, wave upon wave of sound – a deep, metallic “OM.” Gradually my breath became peaceful, my thoughts calm, and my mood shifted. Wow! There is something mystical and awesome about this calming, healing sound.
So now, if I only share this gift with myself and my family it will be enough. But I have the feeling that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship and an opportunity to share the waves (good vibrations) with others.
It is interesting to watch what gets in the way of us owning our power, our connection and knowing. Fear, self-consciousness, inadequacy, and so on. When we finally step into the light – relying on the forces all around us that are assembled for our good – the magic happens…at last.
What is extraordinary and eternal does not want to be bent by us. I mean the Angel who appeared to the wrestlers of the Old Testament: when the wrestlers’ sinews grew long like metal strings, he felt them under his fingers like chords of deep music.
Whoever was beaten by this Angel (who often simply declined the fight) went away proud and strengthened and great from that harsh hand, that kneaded him as if to change his shape….
– Ranier Maria Rilke, The Man Watching (trans. Robert Bly)
I am just home from a two week road trip visiting family and friends – visiting beauty here and there. It is also three weeks since I received my Level One and Two Reiki attunement and certification. And today I’ve been just soaking in the gratitude for all of it and for being home now, with my wonderful husband and partner.
The light has changed since we left on vacation. The morning we left, there were a dozen or so white-tail deer in our front yard as we headed down the driveway. Only a few yards away in the neighboring meadow, I said, “I think that’s an elk!” As we got closer, there she was, and there was the rest of a small herd eating grass behind her in the pine trees…they had been camouflaged. About seven miles down the road, we saw a larger herd of elk by a little stream and later that morning we saw a group of mountain goats. We were in awe. That set the tone for our trip. For the rest of our journey, we were soaking in the beauty – of creatures and fall colors, of the ocean, of spectacular geology, of our loved ones.
And now we are home. The sun is shining at a different angle and there is a chill in the outside air. We turned on our heat for the first time. There has been a shift: of light, awareness, and vibration.
The day of my Reiki I and II attunement I was so excited as I drove there with my friend! I thought big dramatic things might occur over the course of the day. Instead, big subtle things happened. I felt the Reiki energy in the room as we were attuned and as we worked on each other – learning hand positions, mantras and symbols. I realized that the whole experience was not at all unfamiliar – it simply amplified or magnified a resource with which I was already familiar. And as we met our “guides” (which some call Reiki Masters or angels) – mine was very familiar – a being on whom I rely daily to assist me in keeping my balance. No new revelations there! My world view and perception shifted dramatically, however, the day I first “met” or became aware of her a couple of years ago. I had to open my mind to things I had previously dismissed.
Next week, I will experience advanced Reiki II, and in December, I have the opportunity to receive the Master level attunement. What am I learning? That the universe is filled with loving assistance and support for us. That love and life-force energy has the power to shift what we may have previously believed could not be shifted. It alters the unalterable. And it is all available right here and right now.
Perhaps not by coincidence, I have been preaching that message for years (literally). I am now learning that it is simpler and more profound than I previously dared to imagine. If we open to the Sacred, the Source, we are transformed – sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. In the process, our reality – our world – is transformed and shifts with us.
It is worth overcoming our doubts and fears. The miraculous is in our midst.
Heaven and earth, the Celtic saying goes, are only three feet apart, but in thin places that distance is even shorter.
– The New York Times, March 11, 2012
Last Wednesday, Johnny and I arose a bit early to get a head start on the sun. We were hoping to miss all of the “leaf people” by going on Wednesday and still get up to Guanella Pass before the aspen leaves pass their peak. Johnny is fussy (or so I say) about light. He only likes his light for photos at dawn and right around dusk – first light and last light.
Anyway, the drive was gorgeous, we continued to climb toward the pass. Who doesn’t love a mountain drive, in fall, along a rolling river? I began to get anxious, however, believing that we hadn’t left early enough for him to get good early morning shots. All of a sudden we came up over a tall hillside and stretching out in front of us was a tundra-like landscape and a several tall mountains. No aspens here. We were above the tree line! I hadn’t expected that. The last photo outing had been up a neighboring pass – lots of trees up there. But we couldn’t stop to take it all in – we had some light to catch.
The short version of the story is that we arrived in plenty of time. This time the views from the road and neighboring woods were wonderful enough – we didn’t need to hike in any distance to get our photos. As usual, I ran around like a nut for a couple of hours looking at every possible perspective on the hill full of golden aspens and taking random shots while Johnny stayed put, focused on one thing and got spectacular photos of the mountainside. (There is a fairly obvious metaphor for how each of us approach our lives in that description.)
We continued down from the pass, stopping a couple of times for new perspectives. We parked at the base of the mountain in Georgetown, enjoyed a delicious breakfast and then walked around window shopping. It was the perfect fall day. Happy people milling about, chatting, smiling. Sunny, but delightfully cool air.
Then we headed back up the hill. One of our thoughts had been that if we spent enough time enjoying ourselves we might catch some acceptable afternoon light filtering through the leaves. As it turned out, that was indeed the case. But it was not what made my afternoon unforgettable.
We made our way back to the summit and parked in the busy lot so that I could use the restroom. Coming out, I could see that Johnny had set up the tripod and was taking some pictures. So, instead of getting back in the car, I headed over the nearest hill. As soon as I stepped over the top and onto the trail that headed into the distance, I was awe-struck. The plain, golden “moose bush”-covered landscape stretched out before me and Mt. Bierstadt’s rocky presence pulled me in.
I sheepishly returned and asked Johnny if he’d be willing to hike a bit up there. “Sure!” he said. Minutes later we were winding down the hill toward a large pond in the distance. As we started downward, he asked, “Just exactly how far did you want to go?” I smiled. Clouds billowed and rolled. The top of Mt. Bierstadt looked alive in the distance as wisps of rain clouds filtered through the high valleys. We got far enough along the trail to feel the mountain in front of us. I sat in the wind and breathed in the energy, the presence. Wow. I was certain: this is a place I will return to.
The magnetism of the mountain still has not left me – that trail winding upward in the distance is still calling. Our reverie was, however, broken by the drops of rain that began to fall as we quickly covered up Johnny’s new camera. A little sprint for him and speed walk for me and we were back up the hill in no time, headed toward the car.
I’ve been pondering the moment of communion with the mountain since then. At last the right term popped into my head: a “thin place”! As my geologist daughter once said to me about Point Reyes, “Mom, it IS a thin place! Not just a metaphor.” And then she talked about tectonic plates and subduction and so on. I’m not sure but what she missed my point. Her point was well taken, though. Mountains, too, have lots of crazy plates, thrusts, and geologic activity. As my daughter says, it is a thin place and I want to get close. Yep. It is.
“Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet,
to realize our dream of constant okayness….
But when…we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation
and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment….”
– Pema Chodron
For many years, whenever my household had a financial surplus for a moment, it seemed a law of the universe that a car would break down and use it up. It didn’t seem fair at times, when friends’ lives appeared to be much more abundant. They took vacations, they celebrated special occasions in style. The benefit, however, was that this “life close to the edge” kept me always returning to my Source for comfort.
In those days, we named our Source our “Higher Power” and we found solace, guidance, strength, and peace each time we humbly returned to this spiritual well. Sometimes we found our Source in prayer and meditation, oftentimes we found these things in the words of other people – while they lovingly advised us or as they told of their own pain, struggle, or joy.
A belief that I lived by then was to “live simply.” This elevated my lack of abundance to a more spiritual simplicity – though I was never tempted to embrace the concept of “voluntary poverty.” I was fairly certain that abundance had its place, too, alongside simplicity.
Anyway, these days in a similar pattern, I’m recognizing that each time I reach a place in which it feels like I’ve finally integrated a spiritual concept that I’ve been struggling with for years, life seems to offer a challenge to put our integrity and groundedness to the test.
In the world of “manifesting” what we focus upon, I hope I’m not somehow calling for these challenges. If so, it is time to figure that one out – and soon!
No sooner do I have the sense of “Wow! I finally understand this!” that in the next breath the challenge appears. I guess if life is really and truly our spiritual training ground, this could make sense (though it seems kind of brutal!)
In the midst of our most recent crisis, on an evening in which I felt my foundation shaking, my loving daughter sent my husband some encouraging notes. The last image she sent was beautiful – like a lovely Zen tangle. I zoomed in to read the words that encircled an image of waves crashing within a turbulent sea. It read, “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.” Tears of recognition rimmed my eyes.
I read it again. This simple statement from wise woman, Pema Chodron, calmed and centered me. It reminded me that when overwhelming challenges arise, though they blow us off course and tear everything apart, they help us to grow. Though we would never knowingly wish for such chaos, they raise before us the possibility that maybe the goal is not to “have it all together.” Perhaps the goal is, when we are a shaken to pieces, to learn how to lovingly hold each tiny shard that’s been tossed, turned, broken, and tossed again. Perhaps it is also to recognize the calm, unmoving center in the storm.
So my daily practice, as we walk through this turbulent landscape together, is to ask: “Which places within need the most love and care today? And how shall I hold and honor them today – in myself and in my fellow journeyers?” In stillness, the answers arise for the moment.
Sigh. It is really pretty basic, isn’t it? And then I laugh at how complicated I make it.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
– Walt Whitman
The words of the poem, above, were printed on a poster that hung on my wall during high school. I think they were somehow emblazoned on my teenage soul, too, and have stayed with me.
I have so many friends and relatives who, in one way or another, deal with being “other” everywhere they go. They don’t quite fit. They don’t have a traditional career or any career. They are retired, but they don’t fit with the bridge group or the church circle. They are part of a spiritual tradition, but they don’t feel comfortable. They are not part of any spiritual tradition, but they know there is something more to life than what meets the eye, something deeper.
It isn’t a coincidence that my fellow sangha member, family members, classmates, acquaintances, and neighbors fall in this category. So do I. My life has been a richly woven tapestry – its patterns and circuitous routes often seeming without a unifying scheme. Good and bad, up and down, try this, now that, and so on. But as this website indicates, there is a common thread that runs through it all. I call that thread my spiritual path.
These days, I am integrating all kinds of things that I have learned from all kinds of places. I see the golden thread between traditions and non-traditions sparkling like crazy. One friend calls this “energy.” Yes. That’s it. Another friend calls this “God,” another “Vibration,” and another “Goddess.” Yes. Yes. Yes. Another says it is silence, mystery. One of my less spiritually-oriented friends calls it health and fitness, another “art.” Many call it nature. A teacher calls it the landscape of our dreams.
Each of these people is sorting out what it means to live in such a way that his or her life is in harmony with a higher purpose. They have each tried the traditional path and often it didn’t work, or some part of it doesn’t work. They were miserable. I say, “Yay, misery!” Very often it is a gift that sends us in our new direction.
Yesterday, I was part of a discussion in which a room full of people shared this sense of “social dis-harmony” – or being out of step with traditional values. I could hear the struggle, which is often my struggle: the challenge to believe that our Way counts. Maybe a person gets paid for what he/she does, or maybe does not. Perhaps a person has a degree of fame or appreciation and maybe they’re completely unknown to the world. Is their way valid? Perhaps they have a plan or goal or perhaps they don’t. Maybe, instead of a goal, the present moment, lived mindfully or peacefully or with joy, is the whole reward.
I know that one thing I’ve learned on my circuitous route is that it IS real, it does count. I know this, because my pay is in my inner well-being, not cash. The real currency of this journey is good vibration, grace, peace, wholeness. Whatever our higher path or purpose, living true to it affects EVERYTHING.
We are children quickly tired:
children who are up in the night and fall asleep as the rocket is fired;
and the day is long for work or play.
We tire of distraction or concentration, we sleep and are glad to sleep.
Controlled by the rhythm of blood and the day and the night and the seasons.
And we must extinguish the candle, put out the light and relight it;
Forever must quench, forever relight the flame.
Therefore we thank Thee for our little light, that is dappled with shadow.
We thank Thee who hast moved us to building, to finding,
to forming at the ends of our fingers and beams of our eyes.
– T.S. Eliot, “Choruses from the Rock”
Some seasons are about tending the flame. We want to prove to others that we are worthy – of love, attention, appreciation. Others of us need to be needed. And one way to be needed is to make oneself indispensable…which also requires a lot of activity. Historically, this is how I’ve spent my time.
I’m noticing, though, that recently things have started to change. I’m less concerned about showing my worth by doing. And, remarkably, I’m beginning to actually know that it is better for the people around me and the people I love to do their own work, whatever that may be. I don’t need to be indispensable.
When I tend my own inner flame, it means taking time – to breathe, to exercise, to create nutritious meals, to rest and play creatively. I’m finding that I’m less interested in teaching and more interested in absorbing and observing.
One part of me that I’m beginning to trust and rely on is “the Observer.” She is quiet, centered and peaceful all of the time. I can rely on her as a steady presence who isn’t swept away by mood or emotion. She notices those things, but stands outside of them trusting that “all shall indeed be well.” She seems to have one foot in this world and one in a higher realm, a place of knowing.
I was listening to a teacher last night who said, in giving advice for spiritual growth, to take some time to meditate and go outside each day, and then “be a bit lazy.” Hearing this actually affirmed what I’ve been doing lately. I’ve been trying to break the cycle of go, go, go – seeking to live a life that is more about “being” than “doing.”
Spiritually speaking, I often feel like I should be doing more – reading another book, studying another teacher, integrating another practice. Yet part of me knows that this is not the way. Less is truly more. Simply being fully present in the moment is actually all we need to do.
So here’s some advice that I’d like to pass on: “Be a bit lazy.” Take the time to breathe and be aware. Here. Now. That’s it. Relax and enjoy the ride. Allow beauty to draw you in, and joy to touch your heart. Let your rest be peaceful and luxurious. Soak in the splendor of this moment. And again, just breathe. That’s what I plan to be doing.
When things are shaky and nothing is working,
we might realize that we are on the verge of something.
We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place,
and that tenderness can go either way.
We can shut down and feel resentful
or we can touch in on that throbbing quality.”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart:
Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times
It has been a while since I have put pen to paper. It may be that I have been:
in the midst of seasonal change
confused (When someone I’m close to is struggling, I’m not sure how to stay in my own stuff.)
It is possible that the scattered and distracted energy I have been experiencing is more or less on purpose. If I’m scattered, then I don’t have to focus on what is really going on inside or around me. If I’m distracted – by tasks, urgent emails and phone calls, silly addictive computer games, and so on – then I can stay somewhat numb. After one is substance-free, food isn’t the only thing we can use to numb out!
So today, in this lovely fall weather, in the quiet and somewhat solitary journey I find myself on – instead of being distracted, busy, confused, I’m just hanging out with myself. When painful thoughts or feelings arise, instead of slamming them down like those little whack-a-mole, pop-up games in the arcade, I’m trying to soften into them.
Having compassion for ourselves sometimes means stopping completely when we’ve been going full-tilt on our favorite numbing behaviors. Sometimes seated meditation is just sitting still and breathing – allowing what we feel to be there without running from it.
Can I love and accept everything that bubbles up inside and just let it be? Gently sitting with ourselves with the same unconditional acceptance that we find for others is often the most powerful therapy we can experience.
I know about this. I’m sitting here meeting each temper tantrum, screaming fear with love…and it is the most peaceful I have been in weeks (or months).
Welcome autumn. Let the leaves fall. I’m just going to observe them them and maybe even find some beauty in the process.
Few things can make us feel crazier than expecting something from someone who has nothing to give. Few things can frustrate us more than trying to make a person someone he or she isn’t; we feel crazy when we try to pretend that person is someone he or she is not. We may have spent years negotiating with reality concerning particular people from our past and our present….
– Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go
Hmmmmmmm…. During my morning meditation today, this passage (one I have read many, many times) returned to me. This time, I was not thinking about a particular person, but about all people, every situation.
I think the dominant motivator in my life has been to try to keep everyone around me happy and well – and the bonus for me is that I then feel needed. There is some completely insane part of my brain that believes that I can do this – keep others happy (and well)! But when has it succeeded? With my parents? My ex-spouse? My kids, siblings, and extended family? My workplace? The world? Again, I say, “Hmmmmm….” And then I have to let out a big sigh and step back.
Is anyone else like me?
In Melody Beattie’s reflection, above, she goes on to say, “We take responsibility for our life. We go ahead with the process of loving and taking care of ourselves.” Essentially, she states, “We detach in love.” So, we take care of ourselves, we continue loving, we forgive whatever needs forgiving, and we allow the other person to live his or her own life, to learn their own lessons – painfully or with grace – and find their own growth and truth. And she reassures us that we can give ourselves permission to do what we need to allow this to occur.
Growing up in an alcoholic household, that is not how we rolled. We learned to control things – be quiet, be funny, be helpful, be conversational, be heroic – all depending on the family’s mood. It was our job to make peace, make harmony, to bring happiness. The trait is deeply ingrained.
Strangely, the question that ultimately opens up, when we stop doing all of this is, “If I’m now taking responsibility only for myself – no longer focusing on others and controlling the world – do I have any clue how to be happy?” Often, my answer has been, “No. I don’t have a clue.”
In this, I’m guessing everybody’s response will be quite different. In the past, discovering the answer has meant making some radical shifts in my life. Today, it seems more simple. It means getting out of my head and more into my body – yoga, walking, swimming, breathing, and nourishing with wholesome foods. It means opening my eyes to the beauty around me and soaking it in. Living with gratitude for the love and friendship in my life. Staying in the moment instead of the past or future.
And for me, it means holding with tenderness the place inside that needs to be needed in order to feel worthy. Sometimes that involves recognizing the child-Self that needs some extra love and attention. It always means having compassion.
Byron Katie talks about “Loving What Is.” Whatever is churning around inside is my reality at this moment. Whatever is spinning around in the world around me is also reality. It is craziness to think we need to change it. It is what it is.
The hilarious part is that – instead of fighting or fixing – all of it is transformed (changed) by recognizing and lovingly accepting our reality and moving on from there. Who knew?