Love Lights

1128 1 editedWhen the Sun of compassion arises
darkness evaporates
and the singing birds come from nowhere.”
Amit Ray, Nonviolence, The Transforming Power

It’s difficult watching and listening to the news lately. Difficult to sort out fact from fiction. A challenge to balance our personal hopes and dreams with the hopes and dreams of others. A struggle sometimes to balance what we enjoy with the health of the planet.

 In my class of preschoolers we talk about the light that is in each one of us. We call this our “Love Light”. This is the light that illuminates us from within. This same light is in everyone. All of us. The people we love. The people who uplift us and bring us joy. The people we have shared experiences with. The people we do not feel love towards. The people whose experiences we cannot grasp. The people we don’t understand. The people we fear. The people who hurt us.

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This is an inner light of love and compassion. It is what illuminates all that is good in us, all that is nurturing in us. All that is humane in us. It is the light that shines in darkness and fear. Our Love Light ignites our love for fellow beings. It lights up tenderness, generosity, empathy and hope. It allows us to wish for the dreams of others come true just as we wish for our own dreams to come true. Like a sun lighting up the dark morning sky, our Love Light is the light of our heart and soul that radiates out with an open hand of love, goodwill, compassion, acceptance, hope and trust.

“See the light in others, 
and treat them as if that is all you see.”
~Wayne Dyer

Somewhere along the way I wonder if we have forgotten how to see that light in each other. If maybe we have come to believe not everyone has a light worth seeing.

The other day in yoga during shavasana, it was very quiet and still. For  a moment I rested in that wonderfully nested place of safety, quiet, stillness, calm, awareness and was what I can only define as being present in the moment. Fears, worries, anxieties, thoughts, hopes, dreams…all those things were shuttered away somewhere and not raising their chattering heads and voicing their distracting opinions.

As my body slowly but surely softened, something in me just stopped. This is important because this is when all the thinking stops. The mind chatter stops. The anxiety ceases. The fears melt. The unknown and the what is not knowable doesn’t matter.

At the end of the class, with my heart, mind and body in this space of stillness, my teacher read:

“There is only one light shining through every person’s eyes.
When you look into that light in others, your mind falls silent.
The two of you share that one light and melt into a profound experience.”

~Swami Nirmalananda

There it was. Light. One, common and shared light. We have to remember to look towards, and at each other, not away from each other. Right in the eyes. To see that Love Light. We have to allow ourselves the trust and space to melt into each other. We have to stop  and look into the eyes of each other. Every “other”. We have to honor the one light that is shining through every person’s eyes. And then maybe we will all hear the same thing; Amit Ray’s singing birds.

 

Keeping Quiet, a poem

I am basking in the contentment and deep joy of being with family and friends and offer this poem. Hoping you will stop for a moment and keep still.

“KEEPING QUIET”
Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

cloudmh1

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

—from Extravagaria

Rest In The Grace Of The World

                                                                    The Peace Of Wild Things

heron2When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
~Wendell Berry

This is a favorite poem of mine. I come back to often, looking at the written words. Saying them out loud. Bringing them into my heart. It’s all there. All around us. The reminder of what matters. What the foundation is. A path that leads to resting in the grace of the world.

There are some days when I do feel as if I am waiting for the light of the day-blind stars. For me there is comfort in the star light of night. It is in the darkness with what appear as tiny specks reflecting light from an unseen source, that I feel small, not so important….where I experience awe, wonder, amazement in the most profound way. The world becomes quiet. Harshness softens. Reflection and gratitude have their time.

Now, obviously, given the title of the blog, I appreciate the sunrise also….that is when I wake up in awe, and listen to bird song, watch colors that cannot be recreated float across the sky. My mind wakes up and thoughts percolate. I have the feeling of being something very tiny in a world, in universe that is very large. Nature. It is Nature where I experience the sublime. This is what is holy, spiritual for me. Standing outside with the wind giving voice to the leaves, softly brushing my skin, feeling the heat of the sun or the seeing by the light of the moon, I am reminded over and over again


“we all dwell in a house of one room…”

~John Muir

There is grace enough for all of us in this world. Sometimes we have to stop, slow down, stop thinking in order to see it. To feel it. To know it. And sometimes we need to reach out and help others stop, slow down, stop talking to see it. Feel it. Know it.

We have to step out of world of important things. We have to stop the movement, the doing. We have to turn off the noise, the music, the computer, the phone. We have to figure out how to “……..go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.”

Here, resting in the beauty we have a chance to find clarity and balance. These two things are so needed in our world today. When your back is flat against the earth and you have to close your eyes to the brilliance of the sun and your skin feels the heat, all that heals you. The music in your ears, the rythym of the rippling water and the singing birds, is the most beautiful music there is.

Go now, go and lie down. Rest in the peace of the wild things.

Enmeshed

In her beautiful article for the magazine LIFE AS A HUMAN, Lakota writer Mary Black Bonnet explains,

“For Lakotas one of our common mantras is “Mitakuye Oyasin” — we are all related.
All of us, no matter who you are (person), or what you are (grass, trees, rocks), are the same.
No one is better than anyone else.
Our lives really are circular, and yes, everything REALLY is related to everything else.
Some say related — I like to say enmeshed, because it really is.”

water treesmh1

Mary goes on to explain that along with this sense of Mitakuye Oyasin comes the practice of gratitude. Not the kind of gratitude most of us practice, but full on, constant awareness and complete physical, spiritual and mental gratitude from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until we close them at the end of the day.

Mary Black Bonnet writes, “By the time I’ve ingested my food and am ready to start my day, I’ve already offered up thanks for so many things.”

This practice of being grateful is something I am consciously working on. It is difficult. It is not about coming to the end of the day and running through a litany of things to be thankful for. It is about having the presence of mind and pausing in that awareness as things happen, and saying “Thank you.”

My hard wiring causes me to begin planning and ordering my day as soon as I open my eyes. The mental lists form. A tightening in my body occurs as I feel overwhelmed some days before I even get out of bed. (And I have a pretty easy day, job and life) Some mornings before I get out of bed I find I am anticipating how many hours until I can get back in it.

I am working on giving up that routine. When I open my eyes I look outside and focus on Nature, the world. These winter mornings it is still dark and quiet. (This past week the moon, along with Saturn and Venus put on quite a show. I could see them from my pillow. There was no way to avoid the brightness, the light, the breath-taking beauty.)  I stay there in bed, for minutes after I “should” be up and I practice gratitude. It changes my physical body, I stay soft and relaxed. It changes my mental state, there is less anxiousness, worry, feeling of being overwhelmed. It changes my emotions. I don’t feel grumpy or cranky. I am instead at ease, grounded, open minded.

That takes 5 minutes.

As Mary writes, we are all a part of everything else….enmeshed, tangled up together, caught up in everything else. Thích Nhất Hạnh calls this “Interbeing”.  Alan Watts reminds us:

If you see yourself in the correct way,
you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees,
clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire,
the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy.
You are all just like that
…”

When we begin to learn to approach our life a little differently from what the TV shows, news, magazine photos, consumer advertising, would have us believe is the life we need to attain and defines a life well lived, we may discover something else. I get it that not everyone is into this. It’s where I am right now.

I am learning that life defined in softness and stillness, in awareness and being present, in interbeing and inter-connectedness, in gratitude, is a life of beauty and wonder, gentleness and hope.

In the morning when I open my eyes and see that crescent moon flirting with Venus and Saturn, I strive to remember to  see myself “in the correct way”. The way that tells us we “are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as…the arrangement of the stars and the form of a galaxy.” I remember we are all related. “Our lives really are circular, and yes, everything REALLY is related to everything else.”

And in remembering those things I am reminded to bathe in gratitude. To let gratitude flow over me and wash me clean from things that may not be as important as I make them out to be. When I do that I am changed. Compassion, gentleness, patience, less judgement, less worry fill my days. Not always…I am still learning. But, more often.

It’s a miraculous thing, Life. I don’t want the beauty, wonder, magic of it to be lost from me. I want to embrace and understand this state of Interbeing we are enmeshed in. I want gratitude to be the emotion that guides me.

Mary Black Bonnet’s article: We Are All Related

Link for LIFE AS A HUMAN Life As A Human

Link for Clouds In Each Paper by Thích Nhất Hạnh about Interbeing Clouds In Each Paper

*Photo by me. Roy H. Park Nature Preserve

 

 

Fully Present For Life

Equanimity is not a word in my vocabulary that I use often. I imagine that is true for most of us. It is however a word/thought/concept that does live and express itself in my internal dialogue.

noun: mental or emotional stability or composure,
especially under tension or strain;
calmness; equilibrium

Don’t we all experience moments throughout the day when we are desperately trying to find balance? Equanimity?

In Pali equanimity means  “upekkha, translated as ‘to look over.’ It refers to the equanimity that arises from the power of observation, the ability to see without being caught up in what we see. When well-developed, such power gives rise to a great sense of peace.” It includes the idea of a kind of ease that comes from being able to see the bigger picture. Perhaps “to see with patience” or with understanding. It means we do not have to take any or everything personally.

A slightly different interpretation is “to stand in the middle of all this”. Being centered and finding inner strength and stability. Balancing to keep ourselves upright, grounded.

balance

In Buddhist philosophy the concept of equanimity offers a buffer against or possibly protection from the “ ‘eight worldly winds’:  praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute.” These are the things in life we can easily become preoccupied with, wrapped up in. When we become attached to or caught up in any of these, they often become the cause of our unhappiness, our dis-ease with ourselves and our life.

Equanimity can be fostered through honesty and sincerity, conviction and confidence, mindfulness, well-being (taking care of our body and mind), nurturing understanding/wisdom, insight and letting go of our reactive tendencies.

Finding and nurturing balance is important. It is one of the pillars of mental health. It is found in all religions. It is found in the healing arts and lines spiritual pathways. Equanimity is of value. It helps us to be healthy.

By developing and using the power of observation, and finding an inner balance, mindfulness evolves.  Equanimity becomes stronger and we find that we become more balanced in the middle of stress or turmoil. We begin to experience a kind of freedom and independence as we let go of the things that blind us, hold us down and keep us living in a fog. Unable to see and afraid to go forward. I read an article once that referenced “fog goggles”. Fog goggles are the practices and choices, thoughts and actions that help us see clearly. Fog goggles help us see through this fog in order to see with clarity how to become balanced. Fog goggles show us the way to equanimity.

Through equanimity we understand compassion and become fully present to life. We can look at things and situations in the world and bear witness to those things with an open heart. We can pause, and in balance and stability, without threat, anger or fear, we can look at our individual and collective relationship to those things and acknowledge them as being real. Instead of allowing the reactionary responses of fear, anger and hurt that bind our heart and results in us closing our heart, eyes and mind to hurt and suffering, we find we can be compassionate and be fully present to the suffering of others. And of ourselves. It is balanced engagement with life.  With equanimity we find we can be open to all of life with a kind of poise and serenity. Not only do we accept the beautiful things in life, but also the unpleasant parts of life. In a state of equanimity we cradle tenderly the loved as well as the unloved, pleasure as well as pain, the desirable as well as the undesirable, ourselves and “the other”. There is nothing we need meet with reluctance and hesitation or shun with revulsion, fear or hate, anger or indignation.

In striving towards being fully present for life we can find a peacefulness that seeps deeply into our core and releases us from loneliness, worry, fear, longing….and allows us to find sweet repose in being where we are.

Fully present for Life

*************

~~photo by me. Frabel Glass exhibit at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh. Frabel Glass

 

 

Digging For Treasure

We need more sand in the sandbox at the little school where I work. At least that’s what the adults think. The kids don’t seem to really care. Now they are busy digging. Really digging, in hard compacted sand and soil. There are holes and trenches. Many holes are large enough for them to curl up in like a cat ready for nap. Some trenches are long enough that they actually walk in them from hole A to hole B.

My assistant tossed in some “things” a few weeks ago. Some small shells, glass stones, sparkly things.

“TREASURE!!!” came the cry.

treasure(the actual treasure)

Three, four and five year olds came flying to see the discovery! It was like Christmas, or a birthday. Treasure had been found.

After they had collected all the obvious treasure they decided it really would be best to bury it again. They had to dig new holes and not use existing ones, because…well…I’m not sure…

When all the treasure had been buried they were off running and playing something else with complete abandon, confident that their treasure was safe for now.

Days later the group decided to dig up the treasure. Buckets held the shells and glass stones. They became ingredients for cakes, ice cream and soups. Then came the cry, “HEY!!! LOOK at this!!” A child help his open hand up high to show he had found a walnut!

“Ohhhhhhhh!!!!!”

Apparently walnuts are the true gold standard in treasure hunting. The walnut was passed around and everyone looked at it and turned it in their hands.

I want this in my adult life. To be amazed each and every time. To be joyful and totally surprised when I rediscover something forgotten or stored away. I want to know that if something is buried I may or may not find it again, but if I do it will be a treasure. I want walnuts in my life. Small, almost insignificant items that are like the gold standard of awe. I am reminded this kind of treasure I seek  is not always big, showy, of monetary value…it may be small, seemingly unimportant.

The treasure I hope to discover, like the children’s treasure, is usually always known….just put aside and forgotten. I’m hoping to “rediscover” enough, contentment, empathy, compassion, caring, simplicity, slowing down, breathing, joy, awareness, being present, kindness, patience, truth, and me. 

Some days and sometimes these things get away from me. Even the me in me gets lost. I become a robot of sorts, going through the day. Sometimes I feel like there is even a programmed script. So, I am trying to talk less and listen more. I want my words to be meaningful as in the quote to help us THINK before we speak. Are our words ” True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind”? (there is no agreement as to the originator of “THINK”.)

I hope to bring these things to the forefront of my life again recognizing them as treasures to be shared. I hope that each of these will be like that dusty walnut shell, the gold standard of my humanism.

I don’t need the glittery, fancy stuff. I don’t need to have people think I am important or special. I want to live a life that is grateful and does not take things for granted. I want my days to be filled with sharing  kindness, expressing empathy, showing compassion, caring, slowing down, practicing patience and mindfulness. I hope I can navigate the responsibilities, routines and pressures of each day and hold tight to these treasures, like the children holding the walnut. I don’t want to just be good at remembering these treasures, I want them to be, hope they will be, who I am all the time.

The Delectation of Childhood

Delectation: pleasure and delight.

I grew up with a small woods in my back yard. If you took a quick walk through these woods you might not notice much color. The blue of the sky above. The brown of the ground and tree trunks. The green of leaves and plants. But, when you were 6 and pretending to be a scout , moving slowly with deliberate steps so as to not make one sound, you paused automatically to look around. To listen. There wasn’t one shade of green but dozens: new green, dying green, bright green, dark green, leaf green, moss green, etc. The tree trunks were not brown. They were sable and black, taupe and gray. Ochre and ecru were colors I didn’t even know then. There was a hint of white or cream, and rust and doe brown and soil brown. Dry soil brown and damp soil brown. Little dollops of red from berries and the dots on mushrooms punctuated the greens and browns like exclamation points. The sky was blue, but the shades were infinite. The blue was different if you looked east or south. Even the brightness or drabness of the light in the woods was uncontrollable, unpredicatable. Some days brilliant sun rays jabbed at the ground. Other days it looked like a dull yellow veil had been draped over everything. Birds sang joy filled songs and cried out dire warnings. Chipmunks called to each other and repeated clicks and clucks in an endless alert to imminent danger. Leaves on trees danced and sang as the wind softly blew. Decaying leaves rustled as snakes slithered by.

treetops2

 (photo by me)

The side yard held a swamp. Here there were different colors and light. The sounds were muddled by peat moss and water. Insects chirped and twittered. With wings whirling and buzzing, they landed, kerplunk, on over sized swamp leaves. In the swamp the wetness galumphed and gurgled.  Summer heat felt different here. The swamp smelled of life that was both in fullness and in decay.

dragonfly2

 (Photo by me)

My sandbox didn’t interest me so I pulled wild plants up and planted them, turning the sandbox into a garden. Wild roses opened their pale pink petals that smelled like spice. Somehow wild forget-me-nots found the sand hospitable. Violets reappeared each spring. A scraggly maple sapling sent roots deep through the sand and gravel to find the nourishment it needed. I tried everything. The things that grew were incorrigible, totally disinterested in planting guide recommendations. (Now, I am not so lucky with my gardening!!)

These were my favorite places as a child. I saw, smelled, heard, tasted and felt things that mattered to me. Things that moved something deep inside of me. The comfort of Nature enveloped me and nurtured me. There was nothing ordinary or mundane in these environments. Everything was extraordinary and worthy of notice and appreciation, of understanding and protection.

In my woods there were five particular trees that formed an almost square.  I would, at age 6 or 7, traipse to the edge of the swamp and collect cattail leaves. Long, sharp, dark green sword shaped leaves and carry them to “my trees”. I would wander the woods collecting slender branches and sticks. Sometimes my dad would come out and help as I somehow tied or rested the branches around the perimeter of the five trees and bent the cattail leaves over them, making walls to what would become my “fort”. At least one of these trees was a pine tree. It’s broken and living branches provided the perfect spacing of  ladder rungs for me to climb and survey my surroundings, watching for friend or foe. Pine needles carpeted the floor. I can close my eyes and smell the pungent pine scent.

My dad showed me what the wintergreen plant looked like and how to chew the leaves for a refreshing uplift when the summer heat became tiring. I think perhaps that led me to discover identification books…for plants, trees, flowers, animals, mushroom, insects….whatever I could get my hands on. I don’t know how I came by these books: if we had them in the house (my memory is that we had a least a million books) or if somehow I asked for them.

I learned where the animals lived. Some underground, some in trees. After a rain or a light snow, using field guides, I learned how to identify their tracks….and discovered their trails to food and water sources.

I learned how to identify the swamp and forest plants. Marsh marigolds and stinky skunk cabbage. Spongy peat moss fascinated me with it’s drippiness and damp, musty scent. Forest moss was my favorite with its tiny forest of sporophytes holding up seed capsules. I wondered if fairies lived in these miniature forests.

Mushrooms seemed like cartoons. Someone was very careful in teaching me about mushrooms…I never touched or picked any. But I loved the frills and spots, the pores and the musty smell. Mysterious fairy rings would sometimes grow in our yard, supporting the notion that fairies lived in the moss forests.

I learned about popping jewel weed buds and that often it grew near poison ivy. Poison ivy just so happened to grow at the edge of the woods by my yard. I also discovered, much to my mother’s dismay, that I was not allergic to poison ivy….but she was. I learned why Milkweed was called Milkweed.

Yet, the most vivid memories are of finding Indian Pipes, Monotropa uniflora and Jack-in-the-Pulpits. Arisaema triphyllum. These two plants were not always easily found. Finding either one was like receiving a gift from the woods….something special.

The Indian Pipes were devoid of color, a ghostly, translucent white. Even with the gentle curve of it’s Shepard’s hook stalk , fragile bell shaped flower and delicate frills and ruffles, they looked sickly. They grew at the base of trees and lived symbiotically with the tree roots, feeding on a fungi that grew on them. They did not need sunlight. If you touched one it was possible to believe it would just dissolve into slime on your hand. Jack-in–the Pulpits were shy, hiding in darker corners behind tree trunks. The mysterious little Jack (spadix) was always hiding under cover of a slightly striped hood (spathe). In the fall “Jack” sent up a spike filled with plump red berries.

jack2

 (photo by me)

These two plants in particular represent childhood and the wonder of nature to me. They signify finding awe, miracles and mystery in nature. And as I grew older, they became increasingly more difficult to find and see….

When my kids were little I remember walking with them through a wildflower preserve here in town. The bulletin board at the entrance mentioned that Jack-in-the Pulpits were in bloom. A pang of excitement surged through me! I could show my young children these special little gifts from Nature, memories from my childhood. We walked and walked. I looked and looked. Nothing. I couldn’t find them. I felt heart broken. Disappointed. Worried…why couldn’t I find them? We left.

I returned. I couldn’t stand it. Where were they? Other people had seen them, why couldn’t I? I felt a little silly, but this was bothering me. I walked through the garden again, looking and looking. Nothing. Finally I stopped. Stopped moving. Stopped thinking. Stopped worrying. Just like that 6 year old child pretending to be s a scout. I had the conscious thought that when I opened my eyes, everything would be special; miraculous…nothing would be mundane, ordinary or average. I would stop looking for something I thought was special and allow everything to be special. I open my eyes and walked. Seeing, hearing, smelling, sensing. Everything sang of beauty, wonder. And there, at the base of a slender tree was a Jack-in-the-pulpit. Right there next to the path.

When I allowed myself to see and experience everything as unique and wondrous, everything appeared….A reminder that everything is miraculous. A reminder to see things as such. Nothing is ordinary. It is all a miracle.

“There are only two ways to live your life. 
One is as though nothing is a miracle,
the other is as though everything is a miracle.”
-Albert Einstein

**Photographs by me.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

12302edited1

“I think over again my small adventures
My fears, those small ones that seemed so big
For all the vital things I had to get and reach
And yet there is only one great thing
The only thing
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.”

– Unknown Inuit

Another year on the calendar has cycled through. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions….a commitment to starting the New Year fresh and with purpose. Sometimes we say these hopes out loud, sometimes not. Many of us joke, wondering how long before we break the promises we have made to ourselves.

I’ll make mine again…..

This year my resolution is to be present in the moment. As in the poem above, I want to be aware of and attentive to the blessing of life, the wonder of the rising sun, of light filling the world and of each and every moment. I want these things to be the stepping stones for each day. The path that guides me.

I will remind myself when I become worried and anxious, that the fears that may seem so huge and painful now, may not still feel that way after some time has passed.

I will put into perspective the things I hope to attain and achieve and put effort into remembering what is important at the end of the day.

Somewhere along the way, over the years, it’s been easy to fall into the habit of thinking right now is not enough. I’m not saying it is not important to work towards some things, but rather to put thought into what is important. Each of us measure success and happiness in different ways. On occasion, we may find ourselves wondering, after having reached the thing or event that we thought would make us happy, why that sense of happiness seemed so fleeting, so short lived. We find ourselves planning to attain some other milestone we believe will be the key to true, long lasting happiness.

At the end of the day I want to be able to look back on the day and to see that I was truthful, kind, compassionate, of service to someone, contributed something to a larger group/society. I hope to be able to say I was patient, gentle, a good listener. Add to that gratitude that my body was nourished with food and water. I will remember I have shelter and clothing to protect me. I will be thankful that my mind was engaged and active, and hopefully I learned something new. At the end of the day as I take inventory I know my family will be first on the list of people to rejoice having in my life.

Someone asked the other day if I was happy. I was a little taken aback. Not because I wasn’t happy, but because what I was experiencing was contentment, peacefulness. I was fulfilled in the heart, grateful, healthy. Maybe those are the ingredients to happiness…. What does happiness mean to you? What is “happiness”? How do you define it? Attain it? Measure it?

I’ve shed a lot of anger and resentment over the years. I just became tired of the burden of carrying them around. I owned up to my feelings, expressing them all. Then I said good bye to them and pushed them out the door and shut it. I feel lighter. I don’t miss the weight, the emotions, the hurt. It was a lot of work. I had to give up falling into the trap of dwelling in the darkness of old memories, emotions, hurt and anger. I had to work at knowing it was ok, for me, to let them go. Those things would no longer define me. They would no longer hold me captive. I still work on this…

Now I really try to be in this moment. To be attentive to what is happening. Trying not to place labels on those experiences…just letting them be. Good or bad, happy or sad, relaxed or anxious. It just is what it is. When it passes, which it will, it will be over and gone. Done. Anything that remains or lingers is of my own doing. Anticipation and effort towards something is often exhilarating and I embrace that. Memories are what they are, but for me I find they tend to morph one way or the other. They either become more significant than the real event, or more distorted and painful as my ego creates an ever expanding fictional interpretation of the story it is currently reliving. What is real at the moment is THIS moment. Not the moment before, or the moment coming next. Only this one moment.

I know this isn’t for everyone. We all have our own paths to walk on. We all struggle to make past, present and future have meaning and purpose. Some of us have hurt, pain and anger that are very strong. Others don’t even think like this.

I’m on a journey towards awareness, an adventure to being attentive to the present moment. This year my morning meditation will be based on this quote from John O’Donohue’s “Connemara Blues”:

“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”

To awaken and unfold afresh each day and to live in moments filled with surprise and wonder sounds pretty extraordinary to me.

Peace to you all. And Happy New Year.

Going Away Is Like Going Nowhere

We just returned home from a wondrous vacation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan along the shores of Lake Superior. Nothing could have prepared me for the experience.  It gave new meaning to “going away”.

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(Miner’s Castle, Munising, MI. Photo by me)

Sometimes when my husband and I talk about meditation we use the words “going away”. We each approach our practice of meditation from slightly different paths…but both involve inquiry and mindfulness. “Going away” refers to sensations of time, anxiety, thoughts/mind chatter fading from prominence. It is as if we stop paying attention to the part (ego) of ourselves that occupies day to day life. Sensations, momentary life experiences go back to something simpler…..almost to a  pre-language level. There is no need to know anything. Sense of self becomes something curious instead of something important. Yet, it also approaches something much bigger….pure no separation, constantly changing existence……

I recently had a very profound experience during meditation….something that really changed my thinking, my awareness, expectations, my “goals”, my desires for what I hoped meditation would bring to me. It took me by surprise. I wondered if  I would ever have that experience again. I wanted to. Shortly after that experience I had a kind of opening up and realized I did not have to long for the recreation of that one experience, I could in fact have that awareness all the time….now, in two minutes, during bouts of doubt and frustration, in the middle of deep joy and moments of peacefulness. It was all the same.

This vacation to Lake Superior was similar. Up there it is remote, slow moving, quiet, wild…..leaving nothing to do or process, only to experience. To be with what was. The experience was more along the lines of “going nowhere”.  Just being.  Just being mindful of the one moment. I was where I was, and that was what I tried to present with. As Joan Tollifson says, “the boundary-line between “meditation” and “the rest of our lives” dissolves. We discover that aware presence is actually what Here / Now is, the ever-present ground.”

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(Grand Marias, MI. Photo by me)

The experience of being in the UP allowed for me to surrender to the simplicity of undiluted sensory experience. Not so unlike the experience I had during meditation. It was being present in the here and now. Awake. No divisions created by words, labels, ideas, interpretations….only what is. The mental realm gave way to the non conceptual realm.

“This kind of wakefulness isn’t something apart from the rest of your life that you just do once a day while sitting on a cushion in the lotus position.  It is your whole life.”

Joan Tollifson

Going away to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was like going nowhere. It just was. I just was. In that place and time, in that moment, the present moment. It was all about the here/now. It was about being awake.