Sometimes Really Means All The Time

Sometimes I struggle. With lots of things. My mind is a generator of turbulent, mercurial thoughts, stories, fantasies, beliefs….. On an emotional level I sometimes struggle with keeping all these things compartmentalized, organized, restrained, understood, processed, freed. Writing this post was like this today.  (It actually takes several days to write one of these.) This is incarnation eleven.

It started when I thought about the quote I have known about for a long time: “”We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.” So, I looked into it. No one ever said it. Long story short, it ends up being a misinterpretation of an ancient Buddhist text. I’m going to leave it there. No, not really. …I am going to clarify that the original writing stated it is not what we think that shapes us, but rather what we do in life that shapes us.

And then I found this poem by Diane Ackerman,

“I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.
I will honor all life
—wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell—on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.”

As I read this I thought it was beautiful. And then that whirlwind generator in my head fired up some passively floating thoughts and a vortex began to spin. I think all these things too. I really do. So many of the wonderful promises in the poem are what I tell myself everyday, although not quite so beautifully expressed.

balance

Frabel Glass, Phipps Conservatory, photo by me

And this is is where the (pretend quote) about “we become what we think” flew out of the vortex and into my blog world. Here is what my mind thought:

“Wait. Is that true? All I have to do is THINK something and it makes me so?”

Something responded, “No. Of course not. It is not that simple.”

It isn’t simply a matter of believing I do not hate. I have to actually live a life that interacts with, responds to others without hate. It isn’t simply a matter of believing I am a guardian of Nature. I have to BE a guardian. I have to tangibly protect, daily, the environment. I have to embody, physically, being a healer of misery, a messenger of wonder, an architect of peace. I have to come to terms with what it means to not just believe I honor and respect all life, but to live a life that demonstrates, without a doubt, that I do respect and honor all life.

“When deeds speak, words are nothing.”
~Africian Proverb

Make the most of today. Translate your good intentions into actual deeds.
~Grenville Kleiser

Can I do that? Can I succeed? Can I be a person who does, lives, those things and not just believes in them? Am I someone who lives what I think I believe? Am I able to be the person I think I am? Hope I am? Dream myself to be?

What you do may seem insignificant, but it’s important that you do it.
~Mahatma Gandhi

Sometimes, all the time, I need to do more and not just think.

Do not be wise in words – be wise in deeds.
~Jewish Proverb

Nourished

Sometimes I forget. I forget I need to be nourished. I forget I am no different from any other living thing. There are things I must have to thrive, to blossom, to succeed.

suna

Sunrise, March 3, 2027

Sometimes I forget. I forget I need a specific kind of nourishment. I put time and tender thought into living with certain intentions: to be loving, to be kind, to be compassionate, to be considerate, to be humble. I put time and tender thought into my job. Yet, it is so easy to forget I need to put the same, if not more, time and tender thought into remembering to be aware of, to feel the cycle of my breathing, the beating of my own heart and the tiny pauses between both. Those pauses, felt only in the fleeting moments of stillness and silence are the source of my nourishment. My source of renewal. Of healing. Of remembering.

“Even the smallest shift in perspective can bring about the greatest healing.”
~
Joshua Kai

Sometimes I forget about restoration. My restoration happens in those quiet, transitory pauses when I am able step out of the busy-ness of life and step away from “important” things and return to that which is timeless. My restoration happens when I am aware of the breath I take, when I feel the wondrous, rhythmic beating of my heart. It happens when I listen to my soft-spoken inner voice that has a connection to that which is in a symbiotic relationship with the world, the universe. Something eternal. Here, in this restorative process I have the chance to be reminded of and reconnect with my heart’s calling.

The nourishment of my “being” is about balance. It is about finding the balance that includes stillness and silence walking in unison with my daily life. It is about acute awareness of those pauses that ensure my heart will be open in order to love and serve others, but also to love and serve myself.

“The warm and radiant yes of the heart is perfect, like the sun,
in bringing all things to life and nourishing all that is truly human.”
~John Welwood

What I’ve been reading:  This Week

Drifting

Saturday morning the sunrise was soft. It made me think of cotton candy.two2a

Later in the morning we went to yoga. It was not as calming and grounding as it usually is. The room was too hot. The sequence felt disjointed. I kept feeling like I was drifting away. Like a cloud. Untethered. Might seem like a nice feeling, but it was disconcerting.

When I got home I re-read something that had caught my attention earlier in the morning:

“We are participants in a vast communion of being,
and if we open ourselves to its guidance,
we can learn anew how to live in this great and gracious community of truth.”
~Parker J. Palmer

I believe this very deeply. No matter who we are, where we live, what we believe, what our name is, the color of our skin, our gender or sexual orientation, our “good-ness” or our “bad-ness”, the religion we follow, the job we have, the amount of wealth we have, the level of poverty we live with, we are, all of us, in a

vast communion of being.

Rather than being open to the vulnerability, intimacy and trust achievable within this communion with one another, it seems some of us doubt the possibility and hope offered by the sharing and exchanging of intellectual and spiritual ideas. Instead, the doors are closed. Some of us turn away from possibility, clinging to old, familiar, comforting thoughts and beliefs. Instead of walking together in fellowship, there are those who find themselves wincing at the unfamiliarity of that which is different and turn away.

No matter our level of openness or hesitancy, we will have to learn how to live in this great and gracious community of Truth. The Truth is there is only one human species. There is only one Earth. There is only so much food and water. There is only so much…..of so many things.

Without the trust to live in communion with one another and all that is on this pale blue dot twirling through space, we will perish. If not physically, most certainly spiritually and intellectually. All of us.

So, I still feel as if I am drifting today. Soft as this drifting may be, it is an unsettled feeling. I reach out my hand, and offer my heart in fellowship and communion. I see a hand reaching towards mine and it is instinct to reach out to grab hold.  But as I watch others in places of suffering and hurt begin to extend their hand, it often seems instead as if they have to hold their hand up as a shield of protection against hate and fear. I watch and worry that hearts are closing due of lack of understanding and knowledge, because of  anger and mistrust….and hearts and souls are drifting. I see people all over the world looking for a place of community and communion in which to stop drifting, and settle.

I don’t mean to sound doom and gloom-ish, but the tone of the leadership of this country and the voices of ignorance, intolerance, hate and racism that it is sanctioning, does weigh heavily on me…my heart and soul.

There is so much work to be done. There are so many divides and barriers. Only with open hands, open hearts, the spirit of trust and fellowship can we become the gracious community of Truth.

My life is fine. There is much I am deeply grateful for. That is not what this about. It is not about me. It is about the voices we don’t want to hear. Voices we don’t listen to because our lives are okay. Don’t listen to because we don’t want to…we don’t want to risk creating a ripple in the security we depend on and believe in. We don’t want to because the “Others” are not one of “us”. They are different. Can we shoulder all the hurt and suffering alone? No. Together? Hopefully. To tend to and heal one another we have to come together because

“We are participants in a vast communion of being,
…..learning anew how to live in this great and gracious community of truth.”

Be tender. Be compassionate.

Take a hand. Offer a hand.

Listen. Learn.

Wisdom Dreams

I once dreamt I was telling stories and felt someone patting my foot in encouragement.
I looked down and saw that I was standing on the shoulders of an older woman
who was steadying my ankles and smiling up at me.
I said to her, “no no come stand on my shoulders,
For you are old and I am Young.”

“No no” she insisted, “this is the way it is supposed to be.”
I saw that she stood on the shoulders of a woman far older than she,
who stood on the shoulders of a woman even older,
who stood on the shoulders of a woman in robes,
who stood on the shoulders of another soul, who stood on the shoulders…

~Clarissa Pinkola Estés

21917sunrisea

sunrise this morning

I admit it. I am a firm believer that some dreams are messages that I need to pay attention to. For me, they can be a processing tool, a problem solving tool, or sometimes, even a window into the future. There are times when my dreams are like an encyclopedia that has blown open to a page of facts, truths, possibilities that I need to know.

Most religions discuss the interpretation of dreams. Theologians, psychologists, therapists, musicians, poets, people who pay attention to dreams, see them as a connection, a nexus between the body, mind and spirit. There is a universal understanding that dreams connect us to something greater than ourselves. They provoke a sense of wonder and awe that by their nature are the essence of mystical experiences.

That which the dream shows is the shadow of such wisdom as exists in man,
even if during his waking state he may know nothing about it….
We do not know it because we are fooling away our time with outward and perishing things,
and are asleep in regard to that which is real within our self.

~Paracelsus

So, if you’ve been following this blog, you know I am an admirer of Clarissa Pinkola Estés. When I read the above quote the proverbial light bulb of understanding lit up. As a Jungian psychologist and story teller Pinkola Estés’ dream integrated the ideas of messages found in dreams and the importance of each person being a story teller.

In our world today I believe that both of these things are important. I think we have become disoriented and separated from spirituality and our connectedness. We no longer know our own stories of where we came from, who we are, what matters to us, what our connections are, how we are related and connected to each other. We have become impatient or disinterested in hearing the stories others cry out for us to hear. There is a restlessness, an uneasiness in me that worries that we have lost the connection to and understanding of a compelling gift: dreams.

Pinkola Estés not only reminds us to allow and pay attention to the dreams that arise during sleep, but to remember we are standing on, supported by, encouraged and emboldened by those who have come before us. The falterings, the successes, the hopes and dreams of others are the foundation on which we stand.

Those pillars of known and unknown persons in the past gently tap us with encouragement and with a reminder that we must give voice to our own story as well as give witness to the stories of others.

We are the dreamers. We are the story tellers. We are the pillars for those still to come.

“Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking.”~ Black Elk

“A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read.’
~The Talmud

Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you.”
~Marsha Norman

“Dreams say what they mean, but they don’t say it in daytime language.”
~Gail Godwin

 

 

 

“Into The World”

College seems like a lifetime ago. Ha! It really was! I reminisce with college friends and we laugh as we try to piece together fading memories. There are some beautiful memories that thankfully haven’t faded. They are the ones that were built on the pillars of love, trust, hope, respect.

I met my husband in college. He was building a wooden sailboat. I asked him if he would sail me to Nepal. He said yes. We were not geographically impaired. We were making a commitment of sailing through a lifetime together.

I went to a small Quaker college. It was founded on the idea of experiential learning and being a citizen of the world. I learned weaving in Greece and  Tea Ceremony at the Urasenke School in Kyoto, Japan. I worked at the International School in Kyoto and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete. I worked in Montessori schools and learned from Waldorf teachers.

One required reading was Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere Learn more  I was happy to discover it is still required reading in the field of education.

Heading to Japan I was asked to read The Chrysanthemum and the Sword  Learn more

Books by Lawrence Durrell helped prepare me for life in Corfu and Crete. Learn more here Books by Durrell  The legend of Theseus and Ariadne came to life as Ana Lisa and I walked through Knossos. Ariadne’s Thread by Judith White explored the mythology that ruled ancient Greece, and it translated nicely into the theories of Jungian psychology. Learn more

theseus-and-ariadne

I also discovered Anais Nin, DH Lawrence and Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Along with Nin and Pinkola Estes I read powerful books by Jean Shinoda Bolen, The Tao of Psychology and The Goddess in Every Woman.  Learn more

It’s cliché, but it feels like life was simpler then. Maybe it was as a college student traveling the world, fairly carefree. I saw beautiful places and met wonderful people. I experienced a lot of things that were very uncomfortable, and in hindsight also unsafe. I came to understand what it meant to be a world citizen. Firmly believing in the binding threads of humanity, the power of love, inclusion and respect.

In the crazy world of today it feels as if the Global Citizen, with the ideals of inclusion, respect and interconnectedness is at odds with the fear mongering, hate powered belief that is “Us/We” vs “Others/Them”.

So, I offer this feminist oriented peace poem from Jean Shinoda Bolen with the sometimes dispirited, but mostly fervent belief, that we can live in peace and respect with one another.

Peace Poem

Untappped source of peace,
The only real hope
Is to draw upon the collective wisdom of women. 
Those with direct experience of the cost of war:
The life of child, grandchild, sibling, spouse.
The loss of limb or mind of someone near and dear,
The loss of laughter, the pervasiveness of fear,
The loss of hope for the future.

Untapped source of peace,
Those who know of domestic violence:
Seen the effect of bullying on sons,
Seen daughters become silent, 
Seen light go out in their eyes.
Those who know
That when every child matters,
When none are hungry, abused or discounted
The world will become a kinder place
For us all

Untapped source of peace,
Women with empathy
Who live in a world apart,
Are safe, loved, and fortunate,
Yet can imagine
Being helpless, beaten, and raped,
Then forced to bear a child
Conceived in violence. 
Women who know in their hearts
That what happens to any woman
Anywhere
Could happen to them.

Untapped source of peace,
Women who see loved ones filled with vengeance and hate,
Hypervigilant, fear-ridden, or afraid to sleep
Because of the nightmares.
Husbands, brothers, sons, and now daughters
Home from wars,
Bearing little resemblance to who they could have been
In a peaceful world.

Untapped source of peace,
Women in circles,
Women connecting,
Women together
Bringing the sacred feminine, 
Maternal instinct, sister archetype,
Mother power
Into the world.

~Jean Shinoda Bolen

k-iraklion-port

Heraklion, Crete: a “lifetime ago”

 

 

The Place Where Potential Sprouts

the-heart-is-like-a-garden

I set aside 3 hours of my week to take care of me. It’s not a lot of time, but it is what I have promised myself to protect. In a quiet room with teachers, students, moms and dads, business owners and leaders, bankers, techies, various types of administrators, musicians, a scientist, librarian, chef and an artist, the lights are dimmed and we allow silence to embrace the room as we share and hour and a half of yoga and meditation twice a week.

There is a yoga pose called the “Child’s Pose”. Sitting back on your knees, you bend forward, like a seed, placing your head on the floor or stacked fists and you breathe. This is a comfort position. A rest position. A safe position. A healing position.

Our teacher said, “Child’s pose. The place of silence. Where potential sprouts.”

True Silence is the rest of the Mind,
and is to the Spirit,
what Sleep is to the Body,
Nourishment and Refreshment.

~William Penn

I mulled that over for awhile. If you’ve followed me for any time you know I have this thing for silence. For stillness.

With all the noise of fear, hate, uncertainty, greed, oppression, repression, divisiveness…….finding silence is difficult.

“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light,
and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.
Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

How do we find a clearer light by which to see the path that leads to Truth? The path may be similar, or very different, from others in our lives. Without the “attitude of silence” we have no way to rest the mind and spirit. No way to nourish and refresh both. No way to see the crystal clearness of Truth.

If we can invite and allow silence into our life, we may in fact allow that seed of potential to sprout and grow. Watered and fed with silence and stillness.

We have to protect Truth, Wisdom.

“Silence is a fence around wisdom.”
~German proverb

“Silence is wisdom’s sentinel.”
~James Lendall Basford

Our potential is a seed. Waiting to been tended and nurtured. Waiting for the light and warmth, for the soft rains and fertile soils.

 We have the choice over some seeds we plant. Some seeds are given to us. Our thoughts, our actions, our attitude, our contemplative silence, as in the Child’s Pose, gives life to those seeds. In the attitude of internal silence we may find a clearly lit path leading us towards our personal, and hopefully, collective potential.

Your heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. With silence as your guide what will you plant? What kind of potential will sprout from your heart?

About That Box Of Photos Under My Bed

I bet you have one. Maybe it’s not under your bed but perhaps in a closet….a box with dust on top. Filled with faded and curling reminders of moments in your life that were captured through a lens. If you’re like me, there are snapshots that make you laugh until you cry while others leave you pondering, “What the heck is this? I don’t remember this at all!”

I actually have a couple of boxes. The larger box is under my bed and I look through it more often than the other. This box contains a mishmash of memories of childhood friends, college friends. My children. There are photographs of India, Japan and Europe. There are family pictures and pet pictures. There is one of me at 6, floating in a pond in Puerto Rico getting my toes nibbled by little fish…you can see on my face that it tickles. It’s mostly a heart warming box of memories.

The other box is buried deep in the back of the closet. Some of these photographs  are of Belgium. I was there in 1974 to participate in the Second World Conference on Religion and Peace.

“The Second World Conference on Religion and Peace (2nd world assembly) was held at Louvain, Belgium, from August 28 – September 3, 1974. Attended by participants from 50 countries, the general theme of this assembly was “Religion and the Quality of Life.” It was more of a working conference than the 1st assembly, with more time spent in four simultaneous commissions (disarmament and security, economic development and human liberation, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and environment and survival), and in working parties and panel discussions. The Louvain Declaration, adopted overwhelmingly, was widely distributed after the assembly.” ( link Swarthmore Library )

At this conference I met many people I came to love dearly. People of all ages, from countries all over the world and of many religions. This was a breath-taking mosaic of people coming together to build bridges, to foster and work towards understanding and compassion. Young and old, white and Black. Muslim, Christian, Jain, Jewish, Buddhist…and from religions I had never heard of.

There are 4 pictures from that box that I put in the other box. Of people I came to love during that week. Of myself discovering the miracle of a chocolate filled croissant.

louvain

( Belgium, 1974. Yes, there are chocolate croissants in that basket.)

I moved these photographs from one box to the other because in the hidden box are strikingly grey, cold, sterile, pain filled photographs of a Nazi concentration camp.

Breendonk.
You can take a virtual tour here  Virtual Tour of Breendonk

In 1974 I was a 16-year-old white, Christian girl. I had no insecurities in life. I was loved. I had plenty of food, trendy clothing and a comfortable, safe and secure home with a TV, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, flush toilet and running water. There were lights in every room. In the winter the heat came on. I was healthy. I had a bike, a cat, a dog. I went to school. We had a sail boat, a motor boat and two cars. Family vacations happened several times a year. I was planning to go to college in a few years. I was traveling in Europe. My future would be similar.

Then I met Breendonk.

And a man named Philip Noel-Baker, the 1959 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He was 89 in 1974.

fort-breendonk-7

The Names Room

I have tried before, and it is really not possible for me to clearly express the feelings and emotions I had walking through the halls, into the cells, standing before the execution site of Breendonk. And this wasn’t even the “worst” of the “Camps”.

It was however a testament to the greatest expression of man’s inhumanity towards his fellow-man. The perfect witness to hatred, power, violence, intolerance, fear, greed and ego.

Looking at the photographs I have of Breendonk causes a visceral reaction in my body.

After our tour of Breendonk we were gathered by our bus, collecting ourselves, our emotions and our things. Someone asked where Philip Noel-Baker was. Another person and I offered to go find him. It meant going back into Breendonk.

We found him in The Names Room. Standing before the urns holding the remains of the prisoners executed at Breendonk. Alone and sobbing.

“I do not understand.” That was all he said.

This was one of those life altering experiences some people talk about. An experience so powerful it is etched deeply and permanently into your heart. Never to be forgotten even if the concrete memory of it is delegated to a box tucked into the back corners of a closet.

Friday, two days ago,  was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In 1939 the United States closed it’s doors and refused thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing the nightmare that was the Nazi regime. Shunned, abandoned, deemed unacceptable, they were forced to return to the remaining countries that had accepted them before, and would accept them back. Unsure of and fearful for their future. Hundreds of these rejected souls were subsequently murdered by the Nazi’s. In total, the Holocaust witnessed 6 million human beings exterminated by the Nazis. 1.5 million of those were children.

The Holocaust.

“destruction or slaughter on a mass scale”

The International Day of Remembrance was created to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. It represented the call to stand in unity with the promise of Never Again. This day of honoring and remembering was Friday.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day 

On Friday President Trump closed the doors to the United States again and has forbidden the entry of thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives. They are fleeing war, torture, genocide, famine. Running from a high probability of death. Things most of you reading this can not with any sense of reality comprehend.

It has happened again. On the day dedicated to remembering and never forgetting.

We have forgotten.

donate

Speak out. Do not be silent.

As of this writing the Federal Court temporarily stayed/froze President Trump’s executive order.