Saturday, November 05, 2005

poverty

everything we touch
and everything that touches us
is a gift to be treasured
our lives...abundance

to have too much
becomes much the same
as not enough
if so much
causes not enough time
to treasure what we have

Friday, September 23, 2005

gama

several weeks ago i wrote this for gama in honor of his love and support for fellow writers. i bring it out today to wish blessings on him and his family, and on everyone in rita's path. may blessings of peace and safety be with you now...

i've heard it said
when a butterfly flutters his wings
in China
a breeze is felt in the Western world

if a butterfly's delicate wing
can touch a life
and that one worlds away
how much more so
have we the power
to touch another's life

use it wisely
photo by permission graham jeffrey

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

strength and trust

"when energy leaves you in any way except in strength and trust, it cannot bring back to you anything but pain and discomfort. an authentically empowered human being, therefore, is a human being that does not release its energy except in love and trust."

several days ago i received these words written by gary zukav, and i have read this small paragraph again and again. i continue to read it several times a day. these words are changing me at an elemental level.

this has become the framework for observing my own choices and actions.

holding up the concept of "trust" next to something i am about to say or do gives me enlightened contemplation. am i doing this in strength? am i doing this in trust? i search for words to describe how poignant and piercing this is for me.

this has become a beautiful practice...

Saturday, September 10, 2005

my studies

i feel a sense of responsibility to maintan a continuous thread of conversation on this site rather than jump from topic to topic, and yet my purpose is to reflect what is happening within and around me. in my life there are usually several conversations (various reflections) occurring at one time, and disparate topics may show up in my writing here.

i am currently studying and writing about relationship with body image and relationship with food, and this is becoming a big work. i had hoped it would be simply a healthy-sized magazine article but unfortunately it seems to be a book (sometimes we don't get to choose). its task is intimidating, even overwhelming, but i remind myself a book is created one word at a time just like a poem. more than discussing carbs and fat grams, exercise and recipes, this is a study in the psychology of personal relationship with food and how one experiences her own self. the work is becoming quite spiritual.

while i have never been significantly overweight (i am now two pounds under what my doctor claims is my ideal weight but i had previously gained 15 pounds), my relationship with food has been a bit disordered for as long as i can remember. perhaps much of the american population has disordered eating. i have been attentive to what happens within me and i am now responsible for writing what i have learned. (poetry would be more fun...)

one element i am uncovering is a need for stimulation. i began observing it in my relationship with food but have discovered it to be persistent throughout life, crossing disciplines. one of my most important practices has been to observe the intention behind my eating (true hunger, exhaustion, boredom, frustration, etcetera). when i initially started amending my eating habits (i pursue a holistic practice), i began chewing sugarfree gum or sucking on sugarfree candy to satisfy the desire to have something in my mouth. i realized rather than addressing what was underlying my constant need to eat something, i was merely substituting something that would not contribute to weight. my next step was to address this tendency to reach for stimulation. this became my work. our american society pulsates with constant stimulation, be it in caffeines and chocolates, spirits and entertainment, branding and advertisements, or many other forms. this need for stimulation has created a bloated society and one with little satisfaction. i am discovering a rich spiritual experience in sitting in the desire to be stimulated. i have begun to believe answers lie in the longing, not in the fulfillment of the desire. and in my exploration of my own eating habits i am discovering my own answers. the size of this post doesn't even touch that of an introduction to my work, but writing "in here" and looking at this reflection of my own self moves my work forward. i hope my attempt to be brief is not creating a confusing message.

i have much to do.

photography by graham jeffrey

Thursday, September 08, 2005

life as a mirror


i have from time to time been complimented (even by complete strangers) on my ability to park a car precisely and to do so in impossibly small spaces. while i can attest to its being a matter of geometry, its accomplishment is clearly a result of knowing how to manipulate a machine through the skillful use of mirrors (i had a good teacher).

more astonishing to me is someone who performs surgery using mirrors or images on a screen to view the patient. how can one execute such meticulous maneuvers by watching a reflection instead of viewing the organ being repaired or removed? astounding...

our experience with life is something akin to that.

our work is to discover our own selves and our means to do it is through the use of our mirrors. everything in life is a mirror.

everything…is…a…mirror.

i remember not so long ago in my beginning lessons leading to this understanding when someone said, “you are able to see only that which is within you.” and my response to her was “but what i see most clearly is the beauty in others.”

“exactly,” she replied, “and the beauty you see is the beauty in you.” it was the beginning of my discovering life as a mirror.

of course, i learned the converse is equally true, in the things that annoy me and irritate me in others also being reflections of something inside me.

recently i listened to a friend’s rebuke against men, anger even, in defense of women. surprisingly, i found his words to give a keen description of himself in ways he did not seem to see. i thought then how deeply life is a mirror. my discussion, of course, is not about my friends and their ability or inability to see themselves in their own descriptions. my witnessing this exchange is my cause to look closely into my own descriptions and to pay close attention to those things that create a strong reaction in me.

these paragraphs are but an introduction to the work i am doing.

my absence from posting here during the past few days is not indication of inactivity but rather is a reflection of my work being too much to capture in sound bites. i work hard to tease apart what i am feeling and thinking and then devote myself to being able to capture it in words. sometimes it takes a little while...

i have so much more to continue on this…

photography by ron porter

Monday, September 05, 2005

happy labor day

i have never celebrated labor day...

every year i have the day off as a holiday and sometimes there have been cookouts or picnics, but i have never actually "celebrated" labor day...

i have thought of this as an undistinguished holiday. i have not explored the labor movement. i have not appreciated labor laws. i have not considered my personal learning and growing through my own progress through labor...

so today i take a moment to celebrate labor day and give honor to every position i ever held, even those i may not talk about today and those i don't care to list on my resume. every job i ever held has contributed to the person i am today...in fact, every job i interviewed for and was denied...has contributed to the person i am today. what a lovely thing now to take time to give tribute to my own work history...

a shoe store clerk, i fitted people for shoes and sold them laces and socks. i delivered the washington post (as an adult) and learned how to start my workday at 4 a.m.. i waited tables and began the practice of patience (and the customer is always right). i cleaned a bank and a clinic during the night while the buildings were closed and discovered the significance of positions that receive little honor. i was a computer operator for the bank and then a teller and became humbled by my clients’ deep appreciation for kindness. i sold avon when i was young and then tupperware when i was just a little bit older and developed wonderful customer service skills during those sales years. i went through training to sell cars but i quit before my first day (the organization was a hugely sexist organization and it was not for me). i have been a secretary for brokerage and accounting firms, where i developed professional strength and business acumen. I have conducted several hundred seminars across the united states and the united kingdom and found the work that inspires me most. I have taught writing, have had a couple of articles published, and am now in a book manuscript, which has become the love of my life. And, of course, i honor the depth of experience from my years of raising children and managing a home.

having work to do is one of our greatest gifts and one of our best teachers. but i have learned what you do is not who you are, whether you are proud of what you do or whether you are ashamed. what you do is simply what you do. what you learn from it becomes who you are.

today i honor and give tribute to the jobs i have held, the bosses i have had
(pleasant and otherwise), and the companies who have employed me.

and i wish you a happy labor day.

photo posted with the permission of artist and friend ron porter

home offered in katrina's wake

it is a little bit scary...

interrupting my peaceful routine and opening my home to someone displaced by the hurricane...

accepting the responsibility of providing for another...

making this commitment...

but after deep thought and consideration, i have listed my humble home as available to share with someone in need...

it is not so difficult a choice, though...

for what is it all about, really, if it isn't about lending a hand...

photo posted with the permission of artist graham jeffrey

Sunday, September 04, 2005

lilacs in bloom

her lilacs are in new bloom...

she returned home from hospital tests and found her lilacs in bloom. now that's a funny thing, she thought, as autumn now settles in and her lilacs have always only bloomed in spring...

then she was told it looks as though the first diagnosis was incorrect. and the second diagnosis too. she may not have the cancer they told her that she has. the x-ray and the mri may not have been correct (or not interpreted correctly) and she may not be in the stage they said that she was in...

this may be a second chance to become fully present in the life of someone i love...

there are a few more tests awaiting results, but we all are cautiously optimistic, very much so. because the cancer may not be there...

and her lilacs are in bloom...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

touch the heart of the one in need next to you

if you can't do the good you want to do
at least do the good that you can

i can't be in louisiana, or mississippi too
can't help the people there
and though i'm offering to take in someone who lost a home
i don't know if they will let me
'cause i don't really have the room
and even if i did
i would have to petition my friends for funds
for me to feed and clothe another
(i know my friends; this they would do)
i feel helpless as i look for ways to give a hand
to the part of you and me now hurting and in desperate need

i was out early this morning
for my daily fitness walk
when upon my return i saw a homeless man
i often see him in the distance
across the street or down an alley
and i thought to myself
if i can't be in louisiana or mississippi too
then at least i can touch the heart
of the one in need next to me
so i lingered on his side of the street
didn't cross until he passed me by
i dislodged my music from my ears
i stopped to say hello

he is gaunt and drawn
with most of his teeth now gone
to some he looks quite like a drunkard
or perhaps a mental kind
(but i know better)
i stopped to say hello
his face brightened
he said hello too
what a beautiful day, i offered
it's gorgeous, he replied
and such low humidity too!
i smiled back at him
and then he said to me
kindly, like a father
...he...said...
all this walking that you do
this exercise for you
is making you fit
and you are looking really good

i had never known he had noticed me
much less, that he had cared
his compliment
humbled me
he made my day
and as i walked away
i began to cry

photography by graham jeffery

Thursday, September 01, 2005

conscious choices

we talk about business and family and hopes and dreams and love and life. we talk about how hard it is. we talk about how wonderful it is. he offers his opinion (which i want). he gives his support (which i love). he has proven i cannot say anything stupid enough or do anything terrible enough to lessen his esteem of me, that his appreciation of me and affection for me are secure. he is usually the first to cheer my accomplishments and the first to check on me if he thinks i am in difficulty. he has become a definition of friendship. he is astonishingly strong. he is incredibly smart. he is extraordinarily perceptive. he is gentle and kind. i do not see him often but every time is as though there has been no interruption. he is a treasured friend of several years.

he wants to be with me. he knows the heart of me more than most, and he knows i would love to be held. he would like to be one to do so, if only for a while. he wants to hold me and he wants to touch me and he wants to make love to me.

i would love to lie in the arms of another, to be touched and explored and enjoyed. i love to give pleasure and become another’s satisfaction and fulfillment. i adore sexual connection and the depth of sharing it brings. i love passion. but he is committed to another. and i realize how invalidating being with him would be for me.

there is a part of me that is flattered, a part of me that is stirred, even a part that is tempted. but no moments of lonesomeness or sexual frustration provide for allowing what this would do to me. far more than pleasure for me would be the devastation of being with someone who is not my own, someone who would lie with me only to get up and leave me to go home to the one who belongs to him, and my solitude would then become my loneliness. his life is with another and his commitment is there.

sexual experience is precious to me, and is to be treasured and cherished, not to be rushed or grabbed or stolen in brief moments and bits of time. and not to be had to the diminishing of another. any sexual sharing with me weakens his own relationship even if she were never to know of it. this is not compatible with my spirit no matter how much i love to be or want to be or even need to be touched. and it would not serve me.

this is not about being right and wrong or even good and bad. it is about what serves him best and what serves me best. and it is about making choices that protect my heart and my emotions. my choice is for sexual experience to be in the shelter of an exclusive relationship. even if it means going to bed at night alone.

photography by graham jeffery

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

you have cancer

nothing changes everything more than these three words.

perhaps we face our own death in much the same way we face our own life.

she is an amazing woman...a sister, angel, queen, goddess, and teacher in my life. and i watch her respond to these words with the same strength, humor, courage, wisdom, and grace that she has lived every experience that precedes this one.

her facing death now pulls me more deeply into the present moment, brings me greater awareness of the value of everything and the importance of living the love we are gifted.

how is it we spend so much of our lives pretending we will never hear words such as these. or that somehow this is so far in the future as to have none effect on how we live now.

how can we be so foolish as to waste anything.

especially the people in our lives.

photo posted with the permission of artist graham jeffery

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

prayer in katrina's wake

to my sisters and brothers who have lost loved ones, health, homes, livelihoods, and for some, everything you own:

i know you can't see me or hear me but my heart weeps for you. i cannot imagine the depth of what you suffer now. i wish i could offer you a hand, a hug, clean clothes, a meal, or a room. i wish i could be with you now to offer my support.

i am sorry this happened to you. i am sorry for your suffering; i am sorry for your pain. you are our beautiful south and you are part of the beauty and strength of us all. we grieve for you.

i pray for your comfort and recovery. i wish for you strength for your next steps, guidance for your path, courage for your future, and abiding faith as you regain your balance. i will pray for you every day. and i will give through every available means to contribute to your new beginning.

be blessed. and please know you are loved...


photography by diana christine

privilege

a few weeks ago, quite by accident*, i received an email intended for another, an email containing a survey on “privilege.” not being the intended receiver, i was not required to answer the questions, but for my own curiosity i perused the survey’s contents.

the survey sought opinions on what one considers to be a life of privilege. the email was not a religious sermon, not a spiritual parable, not even a philosophy lesson, but was instead a business correspondence, and yet after my reading and forever since, i have come to understand much of the breadth of my own life of privilege (though i cannot truly comprehend its scope).

prior to this reading i had believed i held no experience with “privilege” because i had, after all, started with very humble beginnings and i continue to work hard to make my own way. i mistakenly had believed because i “earn” my own way i do not have a life of privilege. and yet, the very fact i have a job puts me in a position of privilege. the fact i have a comfortable position and one with healthy benefits puts me in a position of greater privilege.

i did not have the benefit of a formal education, neither one provided for me nor one earned on my own, and i have felt “disadvantaged” for this. but i am smart and clever and strong, and my ability to become accomplished in spite of lacking formal education is itself a position of privilege. intelligence is a gift and a privilege.

born an american citizen, i began with a level of privilege, a considerable one. just by living in the same country as mine or one similar, you too participate in some kind of privilege. being middle class, being a white woman, these give me incredible privilege i have barely been aware of. even with limited income, having limitless opportunities grants me privilege. living in circumstances that support a life of confidence and faith is a privilege. my incredible good health, though requiring my committed discipline, grants me significant privilege. family, friends, community…these bring a life of privilege.

how casually i live with advantages and call them merited. how easy it is to accept my privileges and believe them to be deserved. how easily i accept my gifts and view them as my rights. to consume a thing without seeing its gift is devastation.

may i ever deepen my appreciation for the gifts of the universe, may i increase my willingness to share with others, and may i enlarge my compassion for the world around me.


photography by diana christine

*for those who don’t know me well, let it be known i believe there is no such thing as an accident…

Monday, August 29, 2005

life's definition

life is filled with myriad moments, many of them various flavors and differing tunes. each blog posting is a bit like a photograph, a snapshot of a given moment different from the one that precedes and the one that follows. life captured in a blog is limited to the moments chosen for subjects of posting. what i plan for posting can suddenly be changed by a moment that follows.

what i planned for today has suddenly been changed.

within the past few hours i have learned two people dear to me are gravely ill. a cousin, the closest one to me. and a sister, who feels like a twin. and this sister most dear to me has been pronounced with cancer of a most serious kind.

what else could i possibly write about that matters to me now.

it is at a time such as this i am reminded the only truth of life is in the people we love and how we express that love to each other.

oh the jostling and the fumbling and the struggling in a relationship, the frustrations and the pain. the sometimes anguish. the many times difficulties.

but the growing and the learning and the laughter and the joy and the fulfillment and the pleasure and the gift of being able to receive and to give.

our life is defined by what we love. who we love. and how we love.

let me love deeply and honestly and consciously.

at any given moment, let me be committed to and faithful to that which i love.

let me be pure and holy and generous to those who love me.

for the people in my life are my truest reflections and my richest gifts...


photo posted with the loving permission of artist marc goldring

Sunday, August 28, 2005

mama mia!

it was just after dawn this morning that i stepped out for my daily walk. as i passed sleeping households i thought of all the pajama-clad bodies lingering in their beds inside. isn't this what weekend mornings are for...

i turned a corner and suddenly saw an old italian woman walking down her steps toward me, her face breaking into a smile as she watched me approach. she opened her arms wide and seemed so pleased to see me. i wondered if she thought i was someone she once knew. she was wearing a dress and rolled stockings even this early in the morning. she seemed so pleased to see me i felt i simply must cross the street and say hello.

she put her arms around me and i returned her embrace. "what have you been doing?" she asked. "working," i replied.

"doing what?" she asked. "writing, mostly," i answered. she beamed at me.

"where do you live?" she asked, and it was apparent she was not mistaking me for anyone else. she was simply delighted to be meeting me now on this early morning. i pointed to my street and told her i lived across from the school.

"do you live here?" i indicated the house and steps i watched her come down. "no" she responded, and instead pointed to a house on the other side of the street. "i am just helping my neighbors" and she explained that she was busy picking up her neighbors' morning newspapers and putting them on their top steps so they would not have to run out to their yards. "ah, how lovely of you to help" i replied.

"you are walking?" she questioned. "yes, i do this every morning. walking three miles or four" i answered her.

"mama mia!" she exclaimed. she grabbed my elbow and squeezed me hard. "mama mia! you be careful!" i said i would.

i continued my walk and returned to my writing but her beaming face and her tender care have kept me warm all day...

breathe out

it's all in the breathing out...

several years ago i read a book on meditation that helped me develop my practice, a book that taught me not to worry about how much or how many breaths i take in, but simply choose my pace in how i breathe out. until then i generally ended up hyperventilating whenever i attempted a breathing practice. from this reading i learned to choose how i want to breathe by pacing my breaths out, and my breathing in would respond according to what my body needs. it worked for me and i never hyperventilated again.


in my august 23 post "keep walking" i wrote of having to remind myself to breathe out during a stressful walk. during the days that followed i've been increasing my speed as i walk in my early hours, consciously and deliberately pacing how i breathe. while i walk i think maybe this breathing lesson crosses through the rest of my life. maybe it is all about what i put out. after all, what i breathe out goes into the universe and the universe is what i breathe in.

what i love, what i want, what i seek, it's all in what i am putting out...

photo posted with the gracious permission of artist graham jeffery

Saturday, August 27, 2005

from my heart to yours, my favorite links

pure gold


graham's golden tree photograph was taken two years ago at a place called coombe park; the park was once the gardens to coombe abbey, which dates back to the 11th century. the abbey is still there but it’s a hotel now, a very expensive hotel. the gardens were landscaped a couple of hundred years ago by the famous landscaper lancelot ‘capability’ brown.

post script 8/30/2005: graham says this about the tree, "i was there this morning, at coombe park, but I didn’t get as far as the tree. i should tell it of its fame. it’s good to talk to trees. best regards, graham."

indeed, it is good for us to talk to trees...

Friday, August 26, 2005

synchronicity continued

i will be giving a speech in chicago next month.

i will be giving a wonderful motivational speech as the featured keynote for a conference of several hundred business people in an industry i have never touched with a language i don't speak.

i have wondered where to begin and how to start.

but the Universe has gifted me far more than i could have designed.

the company hiring me is in jacksonville, florida. the conference will be held in an elegant hotel in chicago in rooms that overlook the water. of all the hotels in all the cities across this country, the company chose for the event to be held in chicago.

i know only one person who lives in chicago, a man my age, a cousin i grew up with in ohio.

i called him on the telephone.

this cousin happens to be the only person i know in the business that equals that of the conference i will address. he started his business five years ago, a burgeoning, blossoming company that now houses three corporations. and his largest customer is the company in jacksonville that hired me to speak in chicago.

the Universe has gifted me an inside look at the industry and a coach for the language, and has provided me a real-life model for illustrations of success. God is lovely.

synchronicity is Divine.


used with the loving permission of photographer marc goldring

Thursday, August 25, 2005

harsh judgments

during the past 14 days i lost another six pounds. this was not without beautiful effort and celebrated achievement. i have reached a new plateau.

i have sometimes been faithful to a fitness program (but while eating ferociously) and have other times been dedicated to a diet (but while neglecting to work out). now, finally, i have stepped into this space of merging my fitness program with a committed nutrition plan. i am becoming whole. and i am losing weight. i have 8 1/4 pounds more to lose but i know all i have to do is continue the path i am on. this is not a diet but is a way of living that will continue for all my days. i love my morning mileage and my evenings with my weights. and in the days after labor day i will start swim lessons* with a personal coach in early morning hours (at six a.m., no less!). i could not be more pleased.

but back to the newly lost six pounds, which brings to eighteen pounds my weight loss since year before last. suddenly in my morning walks men are honking as they drive by and i cannot help but think of the difference a few pounds make in the eyes of the world. i think of the harshness with which i have believed men to judge me.

and i think of how i have viewed my own self.

while it might be true that men, perhaps even many men, have judged me harshly in light of a magazine's cover...

it may also be true...

that i have been harshest of all...

~ ~ ~
*i simply must give thanks for this wonderful new gift. a man called my office, having heard i long to become a swimmer, and offered his best staff to me, gave me v.i.p status, and granted me an employee's discount. this is a beautiful gift from the Universe...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

the artist

a friend gave me this quote today...

art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does, the better ...andre gide

i speak and i write, and i have been doing a bit of both the past two days.

it seems to be the more i step aside and allow the gift to flow through me (not coming from me), the more beautiful the work...

and the work has been blessed...



used with the permission of the artist marc goldring

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

keep walking

i don't mean to have dropped the topic of depression. in truth, all of my efforts are in light of working with this. i realize for much of my life i have wanted it kept in the shadows, believed it to be only in my past, despised its presence in my life, pretended to others it was not mine. and yet, for all the much happiness and enthusiasm i hold in one hand, in the other hand is my relationship with depression. usually silent but often peeking from just around the corner, depression is part of my life experience.

this morning i walked but this time i could not bear the thought of music so i walked without my newly recovered cd player. but i walked. every step i took i wanted to turn and run home. but with each step i took another step. i started with the sound of crickets but returned with early commuters passing me on my way. sometimes i had to remind myself to breathe out, as i found it easy to breathe in but would forget to breathe out. deeply i breathed out. and i walked on. i walked among pink flower petals strewn across my path. i still wanted to turn around on each step but i kept walking. i found huge sunflowers, far taller than i, towering over me. how bold they are, challenging our perception of flowers being small and quiet and sweet. their stems look much more like stalks in a large cornfield. and i thought how the sunflower is truly a feminist flower. i walked several miles. now at home and freshly showered, i feel my spirit moving through me, sustaining me.

sometimes our work is simply to keep moving forward. and keep walking.

Monday, August 22, 2005

healing

i walk gently
this is a holy place
a whisper is like thunder
a breath feels like the wind

i stand within
reflections of my image
refractions of my light
i am the mirror of mySelf

i touch the very things
that make my life my own
accept my own perfection
in my imperfect ways

i step carefully
sweet treasures at my feet
my gentle touch is called for
my softest voice required

my spills, my falls, my blunders
my messy starts and stops
create the path i walk on
become the crown i wear

each broken part
each healed and mended
gives greater strength
than if no break occurred

for every time i'm broken
every time i trip and fall
gives way to still more strengthening
makes room for one more light

my failures aren't for mourning
my mistakes not for despair
for these my precious jewels
my gifts that bring me sight



posted with permission of the artist graham jeffery

acting

i have been struggling so to get my act together
but maybe having my act together is simply that
acting
and not fully being

synchronicity / something being born

i'm seeing a lot of synchronicity at the moment.

like finding my little cd player that was missing for weeks.

my home is small and is pretty much an organized place, too small and orderly for a thing to be misplaced and not found easily. but for the life of me i had been unable to find that cd player anywhere. until yesterday in the early morning hours...i checked online to see if i had any email and while sitting for that one moment (there was no mail) i glanced up and saw the little cd player perched nearly out of site on a top shelf amongst my books. i had given up on finding it, thinking perhaps i had left it in the office gym or i had let a neighbor kid borrow it, a kid who had recently moved away. i no longer looked for the player, didn't give it any thought. and now here it was, plain as day, and on the one day i needed it to do my morning walk. normally i walk in silence or in the sounds of the birds and the awakening morning. but on this day my stress and my disorientation and my desire to stay safe in my own home would easily overtake the silence and prevent the strength for my walk. only favorite meaningful music could pull me from my morass of lethargy and make me feel safe enough to walk through a busy world full of people and noise. the music in my ears would provide something of a parapet against the noise that could overwhelm me and make me hide at home.

so i walked. four miles i walked. and all because the cd player showed up just when i needed it.

even better is finding anne lamott.

one month ago i met a woman on an airplane, a writer who mentioned to me a book on writing by one anne lamott. bird by bird she said. an excellent book. a couple of days later i found traveling mercies by anne lamott sitting in my office book basket. i picked it up and took it home, thinking i would try to read it, wondering why i did so when i already have so many books to read. i have an astonishing number of books i plan to read and long to read, but many of them simply remain on my elusive list. for three weeks that anne lamott book languished in my home, quickly becoming another unread book on my list.

now i found myself in a moment of crisis of faith. while i may find myself up and down about a lot of things, about my faith is not one of them. my faith has become an implicit part of my being. rich and full and constant. yet suddenly and unexpectedly i found myself in quite some despair saying aloud "perhaps there really is only me in here..." and as shocking as i found myself to feel it, i felt as if there is no higher Source, nothing Else.

i had been feeling lately that my life was all going wrong. my finances imploded. my work was uncertain. a job i would love to have can't offer the compensation i need. my relationships became tangled and seemed not to understand me despite my best attempts to express myself. i was falling apart. and it began to seem lamott's book was in my way everywhere i turned. i moved it from one table to another. i picked it up again. i said i need to return it. i moved it again. finally i began to read. and i found deep, rich treasure.

from one boon to the next i discovered huge nuggets of gold, true treasures. and i read this...

[a man who works for the dalai lama said]...they believe when a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born--and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible...

my greatest grief has been in the belief everything has gone wrong because of my mistakes, my misperceptions, my failures. but here, in these words, i discover perhaps everything is falling apart so something new, something big and lovely can be born.

and perhaps here in my ruins, i will give birth to my own treasure...


used by permission of the artist marc goldring

treasure

sometimes a single line, a single note, becomes a stronghold...

i read a rumi line that says where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.

i know this. i have experienced this. i trust this.

even here, in the midst of my ruins, i will find treasure.

rumi expressed it exquisitely...

where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.

wrestling in the dark (or, struggling with depression)

it is like struggling with the wind
i can't see it
i don't know where it begins or where it ends
it comes with little definition
or at best it shifts and moves how it's defined or how it's known
i mostly only know it by seeing what it leaves in its wake
sometimes i am aware of its presence only after it has knocked me down

i did not think i would be writing this post. first, i did not think i would be in this place again, and certainly not at this depth. and second, if i were to be here again, i would not expect to write about it in a public forum. after all, i spent much of a lifetime in silence and embarrassment, in determined work and struggle, with its recurring presence. i made peace with it, found ways to stave it off, developed tools to work with it and recover from its touch relatively quickly and easily. i thought of it mostly now as part of my past. but suddenly, actually quite unexpectedly, i find myself in the heart of depression. if life with depression is one of rising and falling waves, i can say i did not see this one coming.

i feel helpless to explain it to someone who has not its curse. at best i can say a layer of distortion has been placed between me and the rest of life. everything i experience is now through this distortion, everything i feel and everything i think. even recognition of my own self becomes blurred, deeply uncertain (its greatest pain is losing the ability to trust myself).

if i could i would opt out, use any distraction or absorption to lessen its pain. but i have come to live in a mostly pure physical state and the things i once could have used to ease the edges of this place are no longer part of my life. chocolates and caffeines to pick me up, sleep aids to give me slumber..not part of my life anymore (their effects are extremely temporary anyway and give no solution). alcohol never was a solace for me, for once i drink something, i find it impossible to want to drink again for months. an early allergic reaction to an attempt at medication propelled me into pursuing holistic means of addressing it and mostly i have been successful. knowing i have been here before and knowing as certain i will recover again is my greatest defense. while i would be happy just to sit and stare at the walls, i am now called upon to give this my greatest attention as well as devoted gentleness with myself. which i will do. and i will record this deep and personal work.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

sometimes love means being there

sometimes love means being there.

i did not want to go out. as much as the world around me perceives me to be an extrovert, i am frequently reclusive, and far more so when i am troubled. and today of all days, my son was playing guitar and drums in a performance. i wanted to be there for him, be the face in the audience for him that was smiling at him, cheering him. and i wanted to see how he is coming along as he continues to develop his skills as a musician.

but i hated the idea of going out and being with people.

i remember when i was young and my father did not want to attend my performances. he worked hard and he was tired and i understand that now. but i found it painful for the people i loved not to be with me. as much as i wanted to stay home now and nurse my own struggles, i wanted even more to be there to share in my son's work and his presentation. i summoned everything within me, downloaded directions from mapquest, and drove to the church where he would perform.

gosh, he was beautiful, a handsome man amongst the other musicians. exquisitely beautiful. i loved him and my mother's heart was filled with pride to see him. i was proud to be part of him. with the band's first number he scanned the audience and saw me in the back of the room, caught my eye and smiled and nodded to me. that moment made every struggle worthwhile.

and i knew then, sometimes love just means being there.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

emotions

at the beginning of stepping into silence from a busy, noisy world, i felt i was stepping into nothing, and it through me off balance. i then discovered its fullness and its depth.

stepping out of emotions seems to me to feel the same way. i am accustomed to emotions, those that feel good and those that frustrate, and stepping out of emotions feels as though i am stepping into nothing, and i find myself reaching for some kind of drama. but when i spend moments in the stillness of non-emotion and non-judgment, those moments incredibly re-shape the hours and days that follow.

silence...stillness...i am discovering a wonderful practice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

sanctuary

i grew up knowing the inside of a church as well as, or perhaps even better than, the inside of my home. over the years i have worshipped in and visited every possible kind of sanctuary, from humble wooden one-room churches on unpaved roads to grand cathedrals in europe, brand-new modern structures to temples that have served countless generations, churches where women were not allowed to speak and churches run only by women, churches with young stylish bands and churches with music only a cappella, churches that offer pomp and circumstance and churches whose congregations gather in silence, churches where women and men sit on opposite sides of the room and churches where families sit together. i have joined worshippers in christian, jewish, hindu, buddhist, and other faiths.

i love sanctuaries.

i live in a suburban neighborhood with an anglican church just a few doors away. as i travel 16th street to my office in the mornings, i pass 39 sanctuaries in my thirty-minute drive. the last street i pass before turning onto my street is church street. my office building is next door to washington, d.c.’s oldest baptist church.

i love sanctuaries.

as is my custom on many days, today i took time to leave my office and spend a few minutes in the sanctuary, a beautiful old church filled with stained glass windows and towering stone columns. i entered and stood in the softened light at the foyer and stood still, allowing my soul to embrace the spirit there. as my feet walked the stone floor that led to the front, i was awash in the beauty and riches of this spiritual place. i was alone, surrounded by the sound of organ music. i reached the front of the temple and by now my face was wet with tears. in this place i am open. i am cleansed. i am whole. i often weep (but not from sadness, from wholeness). here i am on holy ground.

i love sanctuaries and come here as often as i can.

what i am drawn to, what i love, is a message to my life. life is a mirror and our work is to see our reflections and discover our truth within. everything, absolutely everything, is a message.

i am drawn to sanctuaries not because i am in need of a sactuary, a place for God to reside. i am drawn to sanctuaries because i have a sanctuary, a place where God resides. this is my reflection. my time inside a sanctuary brings me in touch with my own Sanctuary.

i have a Sanctuary.

and if what i have is a reflection of what i am, what i have is what i am.

i have a Sanctuary...

i am a Sanctuary...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

longing to be more

not long ago i walked into a restroom and surprised a cleaning lady working in the middle of the afternoon. she looked directly at me until i met her gaze, then quickly looked away. from that point on she kept her eyes focused on the floor. she apologized to me. she kept apologizing as if she were inconveniencing me and as if her presence were somehow improper.

i was the featured speaker in a conference being held in the building and this woman was not expecting me to be outside the meeting room or inside her ladies’ room. she was deferential and treated me as though my value exceeded hers. i could not speak her language but wished i could let her know the work she does, the service she provides, is just as important as that of my own. even if she knew my english, i was uncertain how i could have conveyed that same message. she just kept apologizing. it felt very strange for me.

i used to be the cleaning lady. while it has been quite some years back, in a lot of ways it feels to me it was not so long ago. i entered the business world with a broom. i cleaned executive offices and wondered what it would be like to wear a suit, to be the one behind the big desk and work on issues that make a contribution to the world. and i wondered what it would be like to have people need what i have to give. i longed to be more.

now i am wearing a linen suit; i have addressed audiences across this country and also another. people hire me for what i can teach them. but i struggle to be successful in my work. i am sometimes uncertain. i work hard and often stumble. i long to be more.

until i am reminded there are those who see who i am and dream of the gift in my hands. there are those who long for the position i hold. even when i held a broom, there were those who did not have a job and envied my gift. how careless of me to spend any time outside that of appreciation for who i am and for the work i do. my friend ehj2 once wrote to me of his own meditations, “to want to be further along my own path is a form of greed. it's placing a goal above the process of achieving the goal. if i do not love the Path, if i am not following my Bliss, i will never make the destination. to think i am not enough for this moment is a form of self-pity, a belief in insufficiency and want. to think that doing more is an answer turns spiritual practice into a form of athletics..."

my work, the cleaning lady's work, your work, we all have holy work in our hands. and we have a holy gift of who we are. any time spent longing for more is time wasting our gift. and precious time away from our own holiness.

let it rain

last night i fell asleep during a storm that knocked out power in much of my neighborhood. i slept without air conditioning with my windows open, and through the night the storm continued. the rain fell for hours. as the rain fell on the metal of the porch roof, the closeness of the sound made me feel the rain was upon me and around me and within me. i could hear, and feel, and taste the rain. i hardly could have felt it closer if i were lying on the open ground.

i awakened in the early morning hours to the sound of crickets and to rain dripping from the rooftops and from the trees. long before the rest of the neighborhood awakened, the world's silence intensified the sound of the crickets and the drip…drip…drip.

i knew i was on holy ground.

i got out of bed and did the only thing there was to do.

i found one more window to open.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

the sound of silence

several weeks ago i wrote, “i am being called to greater stillness...and fewer things...and more quiet.”

while i was absent from writing i remembered those words and began to pursue a place of quiescence.

i turned off the television.

i turned off the surround-sound cd stereo.

i turned off the radio even in my car.

i turned time alone into time of silence. how very different from my customary world of constant commotion.

i began to limit the number of things around me. i created space around my events.

i stopped constant excitation--sugar and chocolates and coffees (even decaffeinated ones) and various stimulations.

at first it was unfamiliar and disconcerting. i felt noticeably alone. but as i allowed silence to settle around me, my world began to transform. i had no idea how noise and other stimulants had interrupted and altered my body's natural rhythm, confused my knowing when to sleep and how long and when to eat and how much.

initially i found it challenging when business obligations demanded long hours and i refused to use anything artificial to keep up my pace. no chocolates to stimulate and no coffees or colas. i didn't even use music to stir or alter my energy, and i struggled to manage a bloated calendar without artificial means. how do i pull an all-nighter without something to keep me going? but as i pursued my new practice my energy began to level out and i was further quieted by not having to "use" to compensate for having "used." too much stimulation leads to trouble sleeping, and using something to sleep (even non-prescription) leads to the need to stimulate. this becomes a very slippery slope and its acceptance makes the problem invisible.

i actually started this practice long before i wrote the words in my blog (writing them from the call to pursue deeper quiet than i was already experiencing). for several years i frequently used benadryl to help me sleep but you know, for the life of me, i cannot remember the last time i even had it in the house. my new practices have been making a difference.

constant food and drink stimulation had been one kind of noise but now i was called to greater silence around me, not only within me. i turned off music and television to discover more quietude. no more voices to fill the silence in my empty house. this felt different, strange and unnerving. in my home it was just me, fumbling around in the quiet. at first i thought the silence made me feel alone. but as i began to acclimate to the silence it seemed to me it was not the feeling of being alone that was so strange to me but it was the feeling of my own presence. i had thought the hugeness of silence made one feel small but i discovered it is noise that makes one small and even lost. silence affords one the opportunity to discover her own being. i began to hear my own voice. hearing my own voice is the most solid ground i have known. i love my own becoming.

as i felt called to "greater stillness...and fewer things...and more quiet” i began to find more than the awareness of my own being and the sound of my own voice. deeper still i found a Presence in the silence, something more than merely the absence of sound. silence became not emptiness but fullness, a wealth usually displaced by noise. this silence and its Presence became a place of healing for me, a place of refuge, a place of restoration. of course, one can be surrounded by silence and never notice (having noise inside)...for fully experiencing silence means actually stepping into it.

my tendency toward noise became my tool. every time i felt the urge to turn on the music (sometimes reaching for it almost unconsciously) i used that urge to take a moment to step into the silence, if only for a fraction of a minute. again and again and again during my day my habit to reach for the dial meant another conscious moment of stepping into the silence. my habit toward noise became my incredible awareness of the silence.

i live in a world filled with noise--tools and construction, advertising and branding, billboards and bumper stickers, conversations and confusion, foods and smells--but as often as i am able and in increasing amounts, i go to my place of refuge and find myself in the silence...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

vapor

sometimes when i awaken from a dream i can’t quite remember what it was. i almost can but i can’t. i feel an image but can’t quite see it. or it appears for a fraction of a second but just as i reach out to touch it, it vanishes between my fingers. i almost remember it but the dream is no longer there.

yet it feels so close, as close as if i had just walked out of a room and the door closed behind me and that closed door now prevents my seeing what i’ve just walked out of. so close and yet not there.

that’s how my life feels sometimes, that i am so close to its making sense to me, and then it doesn’t.

and then sometimes i’m not even close.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

knowing

i am
without knowing
until i know
that i don't know

then knowing
that i don't know
puts me in a place
where now i know

until knowing
that i know
puts me back
into not knowing
because knowing that i know
means really i don't know

so my purpose is to know
without knowing that i know
or to not know and hold onto
that it is that i don't know

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

noise

i have been noisy...

my life has been noise and movement and stimulation.

as i have come to experience moments of stillness, i am aware of how constantly stimulated i have been.

with movement . with taste. with sugar or chocolates or caffeines. with music. with talking. with something new and different. with exuberance. with confusion. with longing. with obligation. with hope. and with constant taking in (even many times without regard to what i was taking).

i am not suggesting it has all been bad. much of it has been noble and generous and loving. it has been about nurturing or giving or helping or working hard or achieving or accomplishing. much of it has brought me forward.

but as i have had longer and longer moments without stimulation or have had moments with complete quiet, and then returned to noise, the difference has become far more clear to me.

i am now called to greater stillness.

it isn't easy.

in spite of the rewards of deeper life, it isn't easy. as stressful as noise and frenetic activity might be, silence can be more difficult. initially for me silence felt huge and i suddenly seemed lost in an abyss. i felt incredibly small. but i began to see that in my noisy world i am perhaps not present at all, so feeling small in the silence makes me far more aware of myself than i am in the noise.

silence and stillness can be huge and overwhelming. but there is also a place in the quiet where i find mySelf, an existence that isn't found anywhere else.

i am being called to greater stillness.

and fewer things.

and more quiet.

i wonder why it seems so scary. and so hard.

when it feels so good...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

action re-action

holding you
or being held by you
when i step deeply into one
that one seems to become
the other
so much so
that what i give to you
becomes
what i'm receiving too
and what you give to me
becomes
the thing that's serving you

but look beyond
this curious phenomenon
between two lovers
and we begin to see
a true philosophy
that resonates
through all the universe
that what we're giving out
becomes
what we are taking in
and what we do
becomes
what's being done to us

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Holy...

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by so much to do and so much to learn...

When my learning and moving are large I find it harder to be here and write it all...

In truth I cannot write it all...

A message was given to me several days ago that our work is to do what is doable. This is where I need to be...doing what is doable. Not doing everything or even doing the biggest thing. But doing what is doable. And when we do what is doable, we change everything...

I do not hear every message. I struggle in trying to remember every one that I do hear. But what is doable is to pause each day and write a message I am given, a truth attempting to penetrate my consciousness. This I can do.

~ ~ ~
I am holy.

You...are...holy.

Sacred.

Belonging to or coming from God.

Holy.

We are holy.

And when we lose sight of our own holiness, our behavior forgets to reflect that we are holy.

This is my message today. This is my meditation today.

I am holy...

Friday, April 22, 2005

becoming conscious

drawn to the light
i struggle
to become conscious
and wrestle more
to remain so

coming into consciousness
is an eden
and yet how easy it is
to slip into unconscious ways

my efforts
not only to progress
are to hold dear
what has been opened unto me

i am saddened sometimes
when my mirror reflects
a moment of too little awareness
and yet that moment of recognizing
my own unconscious ways
seems in itself to make me less so

perhaps consciousness
like humility
the more i realize i don't have
the more i begin to have

then, too
the question begs an answer
how conscious is conscious
to be considered such

upon awakening
with consciousness stirring
can one be called so
or only fully into being
is one to claim his place

(am i become a swimmer
when i barely know one stroke
am i only so when i know all there is to know
…or is it somewhere in between)

it seems to me
my own consciousness
is not about how long i have been here
or how much of it i might possess
but that i am here this moment
and that i do it again
each moment in time

Friday, March 18, 2005

Thich Nhat Hanh's blessing

Sometimes we are gifted by the studies and the growth of our friends. My friend Carol is doing some wonderful work with a book calld The Zen of Eating. Wow, her work is powerful...

Carol shared with me her learning of mindfulness in eating. What a deeply moving experience this has become for her.

She shares with me a blessing from Thich Nhat Hanh...


As food is served:
I clearly see the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence.

While looking at a full plate of food:
All living beings are struggling for life. May they all have enough food to eat today.

Just before eating:
The plate is filled with food. I am aware that each morsel is the fruit of much hard work by those who produced it.

While taking the first four mouthfuls of food:
With the first taste, I promise to practice loving-kindness.
With the second, I promise to relieve the suffering of others.
With the third, I promise to see others’ joy as my own.
With the fourth, I promise to learn the way of nonattachment and equanimity.

Upon finishing the meal:
My plate is empty. My hunger is satisfied. I vow to live for the benefit of all beings.


I love this blessing. I have long believed in the practice of thankfulness (which I will lovingly discuss at length later), and this blessing takes thankfulness to a deeper level. This blessing takes me to a place of truly seeing the gift, poignantly understanding the contribution of others, piercingly points out my responsibility in receiving the gift, and leads me to my own completion for having done so. This is the acceptance of a gift. This is the giving of thanks...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

more rumi...

i love the words of rumi…

i have a number of meditation practices in addition to my work, my studies and my writing. i often run out of time to include the study of poetry. so...i listen to rumi while driving in my car, a cd from coleman barks.

i love the words of rumi...

as i travel in and out of the city, rumi’s words surround me and penetrate me. his words, his phrases, his messages, linger with me, remain within me.

give up subtle thinking (i am impelled to go deeper)

love comes with a knife, not some shy question
and not with fears for its reputation

i say these things disinterestedly
accept them in kind

there are love stories and then
there is obliteration into love

no matter how many times i hear the lines, each time is as powerful as the first time i heard it...there are love stories and then there is obliteration into love.

you’ve been walking the ocean’s edge
holding up your robes to keep them dry
you must dive naked under
and deeper under
a thousand times deeper
love flows down

the ground submits to the sky
and suffers whatever comes
tell me
is the earth worse
for giving in like that?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

forgiveness

Yesterday I learned about forgiveness.

I thought I was a forgiving person. I think I was wrong.

Yesterday I was talking with my girlfriend, and she told me a story about another friend of hers. This friend, a man, had been married 17 years when his wife left him because she had fallen in love with one of his friends. Pretty tough stuff, I think. But this man, her friend, being a conscious man, later hired his ex-wife and her new husband to work for him in his company. And why not, he said, for he had forgiven his wife as well as the friend she left him for. Pretty big stuff, I think.

I began to ponder this. And as I pondered this I wondered if I would have been able to do that. As I pondered this some more I suddenly realized I don’t know much about forgiving. I know how to “tolerate.” In my history if you abused me or misused me it is likely I tolerated it (and inside denied I’d been misused). But that is not the same as forgiving. Not at all the same as recognizing inappropriate behavior and forgiving it. And forgiveness is pretty important stuff, I think.

I’ve heard people say you cannot forgive others unless and until you know how to forgive yourself. But the converse is also true. I have struggled with being hard on myself, and in order to be able to forgive myself, I needed to be forgiving of others. And yet, I was not forgiving others but rather tolerating their behavior. And in return I could never forgive myself my own missteps and mistakes. Pretty deep stuff, I think.

So as I pondered my girlfriend’s story, I suddenly realized I have not practiced forgiveness. And the moment I recognized this, I was filled with a sense of forgiveness.

But the lesson didn’t end there. Last night I was talking with another dear friend and in his conversation the subject came up of forgiveness (he being unaware of my earlier talk with my girlfriend), something about the need to forgive a second time and a third. He said to me, of course one must forgive again and again, otherwise it wasn’t real the first time. Forgiveness is continuous. Instantly it made sense to me. This is the meaning of forgiveness.

Tolerating inappropriate behavior is neither healthful nor beneficial. Forgiveness is that and so much more. Forgiveness is blessed.

This is the practice of forgiveness.

Can I tackle the big stuff, like Emptiness?

Someone asked about Emptiness. Someone asked about the Void. And I have been playing those words in my head again and again the past several days. I have become fascinated with my contemplation. Emptiness. Void. Nothing. And I don’t know that there is any such thing.

Some people seem to think in between two things there is “nothing.” For one thing, there is space. For another thing, there is much we can’t see, like oxygen, and tiny life our vision can’t grasp, such as gnats and mites. And there is the flow of energy (which is a big story in itself.) But take away those things we understand, and still there is no “nothingness.” I think there is a lot of “otherness.”

It works like silence. Silence is not merely the absence of noise. Silence has depth, and wealth. My parents live on an old dirt road that, while I was young, had very few other people living on it. Accustomed to its quiet, I was unaware of its power. But I have one vivid memory, one that never diminishes, of living away and then making a return trip. I spent many hours in a noisy car (isn’t it wonderful how quiet cars have become today?) with a chattering family and busy radio. And when I arrived at my folks’ house and stepped out of the noisy car and into the quiet wood, the silence overwhelmed me. The silence was deafening. It was not “empty.” The silence was almost painful at first with the dramatic step from complete noise into complete silence. I was surrounded by it and overwhelmed. I have never forgotten the true nature of silence, how full it is and how rich, and how I needed to acclimate to it. I have come to know Silence has something to give me, and if I do not spend time there, I am not being fed…

Oh, and meditation. How I struggled with what I thought was the “nothingness” of meditation. The difficulty of moving from conscious thought into “nothing” and sitting still with it. But there is no “nothing.” There is Something. This Something that appears as Nothing is the greatest place of healing and renewing I have discovered. I now seek every opportunity to meditate and step into this Something.
I remember when I listened to television to disguise my own voice. I remember when I preferred the sound of music to the sound of silence. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still like to watch television sometimes (especially when I am tired), and my life is still filled with the music that I love, but I am less inclined to use it to avoid the depth of my own self and far more likely to seek every opportunity to spend time with no thing.

Monday, March 14, 2005

thank you for your prayers...

i am doing a new work, a writing project bigger than anything i have ever done before. because i have been very busy with it and faced a significant deadline, several people expressed to me they would be sending positive energy or saying a prayer for me for the weekend.

i have taught my little granddaughter something an old boss taught me about the dividing line for worry and not-worry. i told her whenever we are tempted to worry, simply ask the question "will babies die as a result of this?" if the answer is no (and undoubtedly it is), then we are not to worry. almost nothing is worthy of worry. as she visited me and heard me express i am a little nervous about meeting my deadline, she said, "grandma, will babies die?" it took me a minute to realize what she was saying, but i soon recognized her reminder not to worry. then she, too, said she will say a prayer for me as i sit at the keyboard.

i wondered if i would be able to meet the challenge of this new wonderful work. but then, i felt the presence of all that positive energy and i felt the presence of angels. in fact, i have been reminded angels fight on my side.

thank you for your positive energy. thank you for your prayers.

energy matters. prayers make a difference. i am in the presence of angels. and my work is inspired.

i give thanks.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Blog life...

I enjoy and deeply appreciate everyone who has read my blogs and has left a comment or sent an email telling me so (you are in the practice of giving when you do so). Your participation enriches my life and I thank you.

A favorite blog of mine is http://marcoclicks.typepad.com/marcoclicks_weekly/ not only for the compelling photographs but for the rich insights of the photographer. I have been following him since the beginning of his blog.

When you enjoy someone's blog, take a minute to tell him or her. I have been richly blessed with response (which encourages my writing) and I know other bloggers welcome your feedback as well.

Thanks for listening...

Friday, March 11, 2005

The practice of giving

I believe in the practice of giving…

Life is about give and take. We breathe in; we breathe out. We take in food and drink; we expel fluids and waste. Even sex, our richest and most intimate interaction with others, is an act of giving and taking—inserting and retrieving or receiving and releasing, depending upon your position. Life is about give and take. The balance of life is maintained through both receiving and giving. If we only receive, we break the cycle of life. The same is true if we only give—we interrupt life’s delicate balance.

The practice of giving is a spiritual practice, one to be honored and treasured, to be respected and esteemed, one to be attended to faithfully. Giving is not merely a responsibility, not an obligation or a chore. The opportunity to give is a gift, and to honor the cycle of life, our work is to give thanks for each occasion to give and to seek out those opportunities.

To be true, I could possibly write a book on the practice of giving as there are so many aspects to discuss. Today I simply meditate on some of those aspects.

I do not want to take lightly my own practice of giving. I do not want to be casual or unconscious in my gifts. I want to be mindful and participate in the giving. I believe in and practice two kinds of giving: anonymous giving and acknowledged giving. There is an experience in practicing anonymous giving that you cannot have any other place in life. Sometimes when I give and the receiver knows not the source of my gift, the value of the gift is enhanced and the return on my giving is deepened because my ego is out of the way. The gift and the recipient are not about me. But other times life asks my gifts to be known, and part of the give-and-take cycle includes the practice of receiving acknowledgment. Life wants me to know how to be humble in the face of another’s appreciation. My experience needs to know how to receive thanks as well as give it. It is not always easy to be quiet and allow gratitude. For me it is much easier to give it; and life wants me to be on both ends. I need to hear the same appreciation I give. I seek to practice both anonymous and acknowledged giving in my regular life patterns.

Our society and culture promote acquiring, receiving, getting, learning, growing, having. Only a little bit about giving, and certainly not an equal portion to what we receive. Even the Christian principle of giving ten percent is a tiny portion in comparison to what we receive. We disrupt our own balance of life as well as that of the universe when we do not give.

What you give and what I give are different things. Giving is not only about things of matter but is also about time and energy, ideas, help, instruction, encouragement, compliments, and oh, so much more.

Let me be committed, let me be attentive, let me be faithful to my practice of giving...

Space...

I had a conversation recently with my new friend Annie O, a charming woman with sparkling energy, and in that conversation she described her experience last year of being in the audience of Thich Nhat Hanh. What she recalled from her experience was not his words but his action. She said when he reached for his glass to drink water during his presentation, he turned toward the glass, paused, picked up the glass, drank deeply from it, set it down, and returned to his listeners. She remembered nothing else from the speech, but this one thing she remembered is huge. As she spoke to me, her words came alive. Her lesson was numinous for me. A personal message for me. I took notes from the conversation so I could meditate on it later. And I have done so.

All my life I have practiced juggling. I have been acknowledged, admired, envied, even hired for my ability to juggle. I can efficiently juggle multiple bosses, multiple projects, and multiple clients. I can juggle multiple thoughts in my head as well as multiple conversations in an equal space of time. I find it much more challenging to carry only one. This writing is not to judge juggling or isolation. In our society and even in our personal lives it is in our best interest at times to be able to multitask. It is also in our best interest to know how to focus and isolate one thought and one task. Both are needed. From a spiritual perspective, however, we spend far too much time in overlap and we are missing out big time…

To experience fully, it is necessary for us to create space around a thing. Space around a thought. Space around an experience. We dishonor and do disservice to anything that does not receive our undivided attention, including our own selves. I received a telephone call recently that informed me a good friend in Ohio had died. As soon as I heard the news I hurt. The death was unexpected. This friend had cared about me and honored me. It hurt me to hear this news. After hanging up the telephone I soon turned my attention to something else and suddenly I realized I had turned away from the emotion of this man’s death. I was overlapping it with something else demanding my attention. To honor myself and to honor his life, I needed to create space around my thinking of him, and I needed to stay in that space until it was complete. Create space around the events in my life.

How often are we listening to two things at once or doing two things at once? How often are we unable to hold a prayer in our thoughts long enough for it to become manifest? How often is our meditation too short to become deep enough? How often do we fail to create enough space to give something life?

I regularly go through my home and do what I call “creating space.” I like things to have space; I like to have space. I like good energy in my home and for energy to flow freely it needs space.

I need to create more space around my words. One of the most powerful sentences I heard in 2004 was this: Words take up space so choose them carefully. We live in a country of abundance and take for granted our crowding and overcrowding of everything, including our words.

Not creating space leads to an unfinished life…unfinished books, unfinished projects, unfinished thoughts, unfinished ideas. No depth, or at lease significantly reduced depth.

Let me create space around everything that participates in my life that I may honor it and enjoy it and learn from its depth, just as Thich Nhat Hanh fully honored and enjoyed his glass of water.

~ ~ ~
Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my heroes, one who teaches me the practice of mindfulness. I read his books and listen to him on my CDs...

Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Naught-Han) is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. During the war in Vietnam, he worked tirelessly for reconciliation between North and South Vietnam. His lifelong efforts to generate peace moved Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. He lives in exile in a small community in France where he teaches, writes, gardens, and works to help refugees worldwide. He has conducted many mindfulness retreats in Europe and North America helping veterans, children, environmentalists, psychotherapists, artists and many thousands of individuals seeking peace in their hearts, and in their world.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

a separate Self

Every day and each year, I look into the mirror and see an older person reflected back to me. How quickly and how easily it seems I have become the age I have become. How did it happen so fast?

And yet, no matter what I see in the mirror, and no matter in what ways my body may feel and respond differently as time continues, the truth is on the inside I do not feel any older than I felt at any other age. I am the same person on the inside. On the inside it doesn’t feel different at 47 than it felt at 18. I am separate from the age of my body. My real person is not about the age or condition of my body. Part of my body can be ill, or I could lose a part of my body, and my person remains intact (someone with an arm missing or a breast removed is the same complete person she was before the loss). My person is separate from the age or condition of my body.

In the same way, my Spirit is not about the actions or conditions of my person. My Spirit is whole and complete and pure, regardless of my mistakes and imperfections. This is the Part that is constant, that is always Present, that is my Soul. I want to choose actions and create conditions that support my Soul and honor mySelf in the highest position. And yet, regardless of my stumbling or fumbling or even of my unconsciousness, my Spirit is whole and complete and pure.

There is a Part of me that is unwounded, unaffected by my life as it has played out, unhurt by what has happened to me or what I have done. If my attention is on the wounds or on the wounding, I am in pain. If my attention is on my pure unwounded Self, I am strong and in no pain. My work, then, is to attend to this Spirit, my true Self, and not to indulge in living and re-living my own wounding.

I give thanks to God for who I really am...

~ anyway, these are the things i was thinking as i was driving down 16th street today.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

a woman's cycle

I am a woman and far more a woman now in this time of my cycle. My blood flows from me thick with the pulse of life.

Throughout my day and through the night I meditate on my participation in this feminine ritual from the beginning of time. I am one with my universe and one with life. Life has grown within me and has burst forth from me. Still, I continue my participation in earth's cycle, join with its movement, contribute to its death and resurrection.

Some would curse this time, avoid it, or ignore its truth. Yet I include it in my meditation, give thanks for my participation, relish its cleansing, and indulge in its depth.

I am a woman and far more a woman now in this time of my cycle...

Monday, March 07, 2005

My practice...

On February 23 I wrote "I am what I practice..."

I am astonished with how powerfully my practices impact my life.

Last week I attended a meditation practice with Sharon Salzberg leading, and during her discussion, Sharon said some have come to her and have expressed they don't "feel" anything happening during their meditation practice. She asks them if their life is any different, and some exclaim, "Yes, my life is changing beautifully" or they say, "People tell me I am very different..."

In the same way, I am not always aware of major growth during my daily practices (though sometimes I am dramatically aware), but the impact on my life is astonishing.

For one month now I have been practicing mandalas, each day coloring intricate mandalas following the 12 stages of the Great Round of the Psyche. Some mandalas take several days to complete, write of the experience, and evaluate color choices. While I struggle to express the experience in words, I can say without hesitation my experience is powerful. Sometimes in the course of a troubled day I reach for my book of mandalas and lay open the pages just to see, meditate and reflect on a completed circle. Sometimes the mandala speaks to me of cascading, opening energies. Sometimes I come into connection with Something deeper, Unknown, that calms me and shows me my life is in alignment, that all is well. Mandala practice has provided me the simplest, single most powerful stress management tool I have known. And I am barely 30 days into the program.

Remember, you may be what you think. You may be what you eat. But you are most assuredly what you practice...

For a month now I have also been practicing the Labyrinth. I started by twice walking the labyrinth on a large floor in the National Cathedral in Washington (home to me) and have followed it daily in a small hand-held replication. I did not purchase the little silver labyrinth with any expectation of developing it into a meditation (I purchased it because I thought it would be lovely in a planter). But now I move through the labyrinth in a daily meditation with this palm-size version of that found in Chartres. Sometimes I am silent. Sometimes I weep. I am inside my Life and inside my Self. I am writing an article about the experience of the labyrinth and will let you know more about that later...

I practice healthful eating. To be true, this did not happen overnight. In fact, this represents a lifetime of struggle to find my footing. But with the demonstration of conscious friends, with the consultation of a nutritionist, and with the incorporation of South Beach recipes, my life has become a practice of healthful eating. I could not have imagined how much peace I would discover to have a life without craving. And without white sugar and flour I no longer live with constant craving. I start my day with a 3.4 mile walk and I now end it with a session of free weights. This practice contributes to incredible peace.

I don't want to write so much in one day that I begin to lose my readers. So I will write more about daily practice at another time.

Choose carefully what you practice. And be sure to practice what you practice.

Learn more about Sharon Salzberg at http://www.dharma.org/teachers/sharon/index.htm

Contact my nutritionist, Tim Kuss, for consultation at 303-703-3772

Sunday, March 06, 2005

impermanence

i am rested. i am settled. i am strong.
and yet, if all things be impermanent, then this state be so too,
and i can only give thanks and enjoy this in its time.

when i am not rested, not settled, not strong,
let me give thanks then, too,
for the impermanence of that state.

call nothing final. claim nothing absolute.
enjoy each moment as it is and allow its movement to the next.
but for now...
i am rested. i am settled. i am strong.

Alan Cohen

This morning I am learning from the words of Alan Cohen. I am amazed and in wonderment of how life brings the words I need to hear, the message I need to learn, at precisely the moment I need them (my work is in the remaining open...).

Alan Cohen writes about the movie Billy Elliot (I watched that movie on a plane returning from a trip to Ireland) and tells of what he learned in the process. Now isn't it wonderful I am learning from a writing about what Mr. Cohen learned from a movie I saw a long time ago. This is what Cohen writes:

It is easy to be seduced by the idea that how things turn out is more important than what happens in the process. Manifestations, as desirable as they are, are by-products of the soul qualities that are developed in quest of the goal. The real question is not "How did it turn out?" The question is, "What happened to your spirit as you journeyed?" I studied with a healer who told me two of his most profound healings occurred with people who passed on soon afterward. "How could that be?" I asked him. He explained, "These people experienced a spiritual healing; their souls came to peace before they passed. Yes, it is important to try to heal the body, but it is more important to heal the spirit." In my seminars I often work with people who are struggling with having been divorced. Many talk about the "failure" of their marriage. I asked one fellow, "How long were you married?" He answered, "Twenty years." "And were you happy most of that time?" I asked. "Yes, we had a good marriage for many of those years. It was just during the last few years that our relationship unraveled." "Then why discount the gifts of those good years just because it didn't last forever?" I asked him. Just because a marriage (or anything) ends, doesn't mean it failed. Ideally, of course, we would like a marriage to last for a lifetime. But when it doesn't, we we dishonor the relationship by casting an aura of failure over all of it. If you loved, learned, and grew during the time you were together, there was real success. The relaionship is a failure only if you learned nothing and you go on to repeat the same mistakes. And even if you do, all of your experience is contributing to ultimate learning, so it is all part of your soul's growth.

Alan Cohen, M.A., is the author of 20 popular inspirational books and tapes, including the best-selling The Dragon Doesn't Live Here Anymore and the award-winning A Deep Breath of Life. He is a contributing writer for the New York Times bestselling series Chicken Soup for the Soul. Alan's syndicated column, From the Heart, appears in new thought magazines internationally.

Alan Cohen in Application

So, what does it all mean to read pretty words and clever phrases? What does it all mean to get a good message?

After reading Alan Cohen this morning, I pondered the message, let it seep through my bones. And throughout the day my attitudes adjusted...

For the past month I have thought much, expressed, felt, anguished over "losing" my best friend. But after reading Cohen I began to realize I did not "lose" anything. I gained very much knowledge and a wealth of understanding through this friend. I grew in spiritual depth and in professional development. I had many good times. Lots of laughter. Great conversation. Gentleness. Affection. Friendship. Lots of sharing. I am bigger. And better. And stronger. And deeper. And richer. For having known him. Any struggles we had are not in this moment and no longer exist. Is there anything I no longer have that I had before knowing him? No. I only have "more." There is no loss. There is only gain.

And I did not "lose" him because one cannot "have" another. I can "have" only what one gives to me, and that I cannot "lose." I have the gifts, and they are mine to keep. I am left with gifts and memories. It is not possible to "lose" at all.

There is only gain...

And messages, whatever their kind, are for application.

Catching up

How quickly and easily one day turns into a week and suddenly I am without having posted my words and messages during that time. Last weekend when I read the book Chasing Rumi, after reading the first half I noted what was numinous for me to that point. I returned to the book and finished reading it but ran out of time to write further. As my week progressed I did not continue my writing in this post because I still had not completed my Chasing Rumi reflections. And as the week progressed I found it more difficult to complete (I recognize the importance of my noting everything of significance I read--it is the best way for me to learn from the message). So, not only did I miss a step in my parade, I stepped out of the parade because of that missed step. Better a march with one missed step than an unfinished parade...

Saturday, March 05, 2005

morning glory...

Accept everything that arises. Accept your feelings, even the ones you wish you did not have. Accept your experiences, even the ones you hate.
Don't condemn yourself for having human flaws and failings.
Learn to see all the phenomena in the mind as being perfectly natural and understandable.
Try to exercise a disinterested acceptance at all times
with respect to everything you experience.
--Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Acceptance appears easy, but it is not.
True acceptance gives us freedom from suffering.
Only when you accept your feelings
can you begin to transform them.
--Susan Santucci

Our greatest glory is not in never failing,
but in rising every time we fall.
--Confucius

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Dealing with loss

I work hard. I study. I write. I walk. I cry a little every day. I meditate. I give thanks.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Chasing Rumi

This journal blog started as a place to pen the lessons in my life, my messages, and a means of following my own thread. It may seem sometimes I am wandering off that path, but everything written is a lesson to me.

Our lives are busy. Our lives are full. And because of our fullness, because of our abundance, most of us do not linger in the gifts given to us. We hear a song and move on. We read a book and move on. We meet a person and move on. Many times we do not take the time to stop and receive all of what the gift presents. We receive shallowly, not deeply. I do not want to miss the depth of gifts in my life. I want the fullness of life's messages to me.

~ ~ ~

Tonight my messages come to me from Chasing Rumi by Roger Housden, a book I started a few weeks ago but set aside in my busy schedule. Last night and tonight I am reading this book, at the same time wondering how I possibly could have set it down in my first reading!

You know how it is...you read something or see something or hear something and it stands out to you above everything else around it. Numinous for you, that's what that is. And I am bringing here the words in the book that are numinous to me...

Andros bid Georgiou heed two pieces of advice during his journey to Konya, and they be these. First, in every situation you meet on the way, be sure to tell the absolute truth as you know it. Second, pay attention to your dreams. If you do these two things, your way will be smoothed from the very beginning. Those words rang true to me, lingered with me, and I took note. Absolute truth as I know it requires great discipline and commitment, and becomes a spiritual practice.

Father Monas had a message for Georgiou. In the end, whatever your destiny has in store, it is always love that finds you, and not the other way around. That is why we must learn to listen. Father Monas continued, In our tradition, the most important lesson we have to learn is obedience to God. Most people think this means to be like children who do what the schoolteacher tells them. They do not know the word obey in our Greek language means 'to listen.' To obey God is to listen out for Him in every situation. This is my advice to you, Georgiou. Profit from your time alone, go into yourself, and listen out for the voice that comes unbidden. Listen to that part of you that knows all along what you have to do. This is the intelligence of love; the voice that speaks without complicated explanations, simple and to the point...Only our capacity to listen determines how much we hear it.

I read again and again a discussion on the Holy Mother as the heart of compassion but also the womb from which all things emerge and have their being. She is wild and dark because She is Life itself, which summons our demons as well as our angels. The source of all compassion is Truth. And the Truth is beyond any ideas of right and wrong. She embraces all of us without ceasing, without judgment, whoever we are. But She is also mighty and terrible and wrathful even, enough to shake us free from the grip of our illusions.

Freedom. Wow, I am discovering a richer definition of freedom than I have ever encountered. Freedom means freedom from my own preconceptions. Freedom from my own addictions. Freedom from my own preoccupations. This is freedom...

Friday, February 25, 2005

Rumi...

There is a part of me that cannot find expression in the language that we speak. There's a way I feel, the heart of me, that cannot find its voice in the smallness of the words we know. But there is a part of the longing, the loving, the compassion, the understanding, the feeling that can be found in poetry and I find myself in the lines and stanzas on the page. Poetry has become the bed on which I lie. It is the song I sing by day. Poetry speaks for me the fullness of my joy, the depth of my despair. Poesy tells of love so big I cannot contain it all and then it tells of love unwanted, unreturned. Poetry paints the picture of the inside of my life and I become the poem. I am the poetry.

When I read Rumi the first time I thought the poetry was nice. When I read Rumi the second time I thought the poetry was great. In my third time reading Rumi, I completely fell in...

CHICKPEA TO COOK

A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot where it’s being boiled.
“Why are you doing this to me?”

The cook knocks him down with the ladle.
“Don’t you try to jump out. You think I’m torturing you. I’m giving you flavor, so you can mix with spices and rice and be the lovely vitality of a human being.

Remember when you drank rain in the garden. That was for this.”

Grace first. Sexual pleasure, then a boiling new life begins, and the Friend has something good to eat.

Eventually the chickpea will say to the cook, “Boil me some more. Hit me with the skimming spoon. I can’t do this by myself.

I’m like an elephant that dreams of gardens back in Hindustan and doesn’t pay attention to his driver.

You’re my cook, my driver, my way into existence. I love your cooking.”

The cook says, “ I was once like you, fresh from the ground. Then I boiled in time and boiled in the body, two fierce boilings. My animal soul grew powerful. I controlled it with practices.
and boiled some more, and boiled once beyond that, and became your teacher.”

~ ~ ~

With this one I fell in love with each line.

The longing is the gift...the desire is the answer...


Last night a man was crying,
Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with the praising.
Until a cynic said,
So! I've heard you calling out,
but have you evergotten any response?
The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying, and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
In a thick green foliage.
Why did you stop praising?
Because I never heard anything back.
This longing you express is the return message.
The grief you cry out from
Draws you to union.
Your pure sadness
That wants to help
Is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs
No one knows the names of.
Give your life to be
One of them.