Saturday, January 30, 2010

A magenta and lavender, tangerine and keylime world

I’m in the midst of painting my kitchen and tiling a backsplash because I often feel the need to do a house project this time of year and my 1896 house is always in need of an update.

I’ve done the kitchen in bits and pieces: a section here and there. Just too overwhelming at once (stripping old wallpaper, prepping walls, then painting and doing whatever else). I don’t seem to have the kind of time for BIG stuff since the kids. It’s not my husband’s thing, so I often do it myself. He’ll help along the way when I need it.

There really is a certain satisfaction in seeing the transformation. A reclaiming of something and reshaping it aesthetically to suit me.

Today I yanked down wallpaper. As the small-print has been replaced by solid splashes of color, I see its insidious nasty factor: it was too busy and made everything look cluttered. I helped my best friend tear her old wallpaper down and she still laughs that I called it evil after it was gone. Plus, this was someone else’s choice and not as vibrant as I like. I am painting the sink wall a deep brick red, to complement the sunflower yellow walls and verdigre-splashed woodwork and cabinets. My living and dining room are a musky brown, my bedroom is raspberry and the exterior is periwinkle with foliage green and tabasco for an accent. I think you get the picture.

I LOVE color!

I wear a lot of purple and orange because it makes me feel better. It tells the world who I am.

I just can not imagine a world without color and I do know it is one of my gifts. I can see a color once and match it dead on months later without having seen it since. Sometimes I forget not everyone has that sense or appreciation for it. My husband is color blind and says he wishes he would know what it’s like to really know color. I love that friends ask my opinion when painting their houses or decorating.

On the surface, it sounds like a shallow thing, but for me it is so intrinsic to who I am. One of my favorite kids’ books is a picture volume with childlike portraits of all types of skin tones with exotic names to match such as cinnamon, cocoa and peanut butter. Have you ever thought about people’s skin that way?

It’s just how I view the world: in magenta and lavender, tangerine and keylime ...

• What really makes me explode into contentment?
• Is there untapped creativity in my life?
• Is there creativity I can and should share?
• How do I nourish my creative life?

Greece was blinding sun-bleached white,
azure blue and dazzling gold.
Italy was earthy terra cotta,
marigold yellow and
tarnished copper.
Paris was more muted,
but nonetheless joyful:
tumbled bone, a dusty
deep blue and sunset gold.

I see life in a
of color.

For which
I am eternally

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trust and I get just what I need

Why do money issues make me crazy? I consider it a necessarily evil tool and read recently that our financial system was established centuries ago as a means for English kings to finance war. I’m no royalty, live in modern times and have no taste for war (who really does?). No wonder.

It’s funny, I have a plethora of ideas for things to do with my life, but virtually none involves MAKING money, most are "helping" kinds of activities. Sometimes I wish I were independently wealthy, but I am sure that has its drawbacks and hardships (or, at least, that’s what I tell myself).

Lately, I have trouble with the idea of stockpiling: saving for college, retirement, a rainy day ... whatever. I’ve done it, but am re-evaluating if it really has any integrity or meshes with my beliefs of what Spirit calls me to do. I know the cultural wisdom says to save (not sure too many have listened given our current economic status), but the cultural wisdom spews a lot that isn’t very wise.

There’s an interesting young man, Shane Claiborne [www.thesimpleway.org], whose middle-class mindset was vastly altered after spending time with Mother Teresa in Calcutta’s slums.* He’s since traveled to some of the most troubled spots in the world and come home to Philadelphia to live with the poorest of the poor. All because he feels that’s where and how God call us. He wrote about a health alliance in Ohio of people, regular people, who pool their money and pay each others' bills and it works. Without health insurance. Imagine!

I have always detested the idea of paying for something that may never happen, but have bought into that over the years. Insurance is a vast money-sucking hole and I can’t look at what I could have done with that money or it would make me sick. It already has (the crazy part, I wrote about earlier).

When I get crazy, I have to remind myself to practice gratitude and remember I have always had enough and just what I needed (usually more.)

One of the most broken points in my life happened when I discovered I was supposed to be in Philadelphia at School of the Spirit on that day and not a week later, when I had made plane reservations, arranged childcare, etc. I had no option but to totally surrender.

Thankfully, my wonderful spouse helped me re-book the ticket and got me on my way the next day. It was whirlwind preparations as I had a major paper due; somehow I had finished it early. There were three flight delays in getting there and when I finally reached the comfort of my room, I realized the only thing I had forgotten was dental floss. “Oh, well,” I thought. I opened the drawer to put my clothes away to discover one, unopened package of mint (my favorite) floss just lying there. And this thought rang through my head:

“Trust and I will give you what you need.”

Why do I need a constant reminder of that?

• What are my "hot" buttons?
• Can I reconcile them with how Spirit calls me to live?
• Who are examples of how I desire to live?
• How do I follow those in my own life?
• Can I remember a time I truly trusted Spirit?

*I love Shane's story about how he made those arrangements. He wrote a letter, then waited and waited, finally getting in touch with a nun in the Bronx, who gave him a number and asked that he not share it. He made a point to place the call at a decent time in India, only to be answered by a whispy voice. It was not the grand greeting he had anticipated. He explained that he and a group wanted to speak with the Sisters of Charity or Mother Teresa about an internship. That voice WAS Mother Teresa and she simply said, “Come.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Excavating the inner child

A recurring theme in recent conversations has been how those of us who are more heart-centered feel drained by and disconnected to those who are head-focused.

I think we begin life, as children, living from the heart (the joy in watching ants colonize or finding a dazzling pebble), but manufacture filters as we age to protect us. In some ways, those filters begin to insulate us from true feelings and detach us from our bodies and hearts.

Think about all of the axioms we hear:
– Suck it up.
– Don’t be so sensitive.
– Get over it.
– Take care of it yourself.
– Forget it.
– Don’t dwell on it.
– Be a man.
– Grow up.
– Don’t be such a crybaby.

They direct us not to feel, express or explore what wounds us. So we bury those injuries. That does not, however, suggest they dissipate. I think they settle deeply somewhere inside with that hurt inner child.

For me, learning to live through my heart means resurrecting and excavating that lost inner child, opening those wounds, healing them and forgiving ... mostly myself. It’s not easy work and nothing I began short of being forced to out of pain. Of course, I had not idea what was happening at the time, I just wanted to escape the discomfort ... physical and emotional. I think we all have some experience of this. Sometimes it revolves around BIG events and injuries, others, a series of small injustices. That doesn’t matter, but how we respond does.

If we accept the invitation for self exploration and growth, wonderfully hard things can happen. We can begin to experience the heart and tap its deep roots for what we crave: love and acknowledgment.

Otherwise, the initial injury settles deeper with more sediment and, I suspect, excavation is a harder job.

• Where do I dwell, heart of head?
• What’s the difference for me?
• How can I learn to live more in and from my heart?
• What wounds have I uncovered?
• What work is left?

busy, busy head
trying to negotiate,
manage and control

easy, easy heart
open to love,
forgiveness and joy

Monday, January 25, 2010

Untainted eyes

Yesterday, I was given a rare glimpse into the heart and psyche of my youngest daughter – the one I tell “I love to the moon and back,” yet with whom I experience so much friction.

It occurred to me during Sunday silent worship that the reason she pushes is because she does not know the “unwritten” rules that my husband, oldest and I were born knowing. Because we have this innate sense, we have not realized she does not. Had she been the first born, we may have been forced to figure it out earlier and/or differently.

I am beginning to understand that she arrived into the midst of something unspoken. Something the others of us take for granted. I have known she feels like an outsider. A couple of years ago, I had her draw a circle with dots for each of us and place them where she wanted. We were ALL inside the circle, but she was distanced from the rest.

It was just an instant knowing, a gift, and I quickly journaled a poem that opened the wisdom for me. A poem from her perspective that brought me to tears.

I later shared it with my husband, who seemed to believe it held some truth, so I considered sharing it with Lily. When I went to her room for that purpose, we tussled as we usually do and I was not in the right frame of mind to share. She begged as is typical and, after Autumn – she does not like the conflict, but sometimes it is necessary – calmed us both down, I changed my mind and read her the verse. She said it sounded like her, especially the part about being the troublemaker. Just as I was thinking I needed to read it again [I wanted her to really hear the poem, not just how she has been labeled], she made the same request and, while listening, looked me dead in the eyes as if I had seen her soul.

That look is engraved on my heart and I hope I never forget it.

She woke up early this morning, was ready ahead of schedule, did her chores unprompted and banished the snarling.

She needed to be seen. Don’t we all?

• When have I felt truly seen or heard?
• What was that experience like?
• Is there someone in my life I need to look at more closely and less critically?
• Is there a prayer I can say to help me open to that?

Open my heart
and dissolve
the negative

Create a blank canvas
so I may see
with new, untainted eyes

Let me know
to my core
that we are all
children of God

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Simply act and let go

Yesterday, we packed up the car and the kids and headed out for a winter hike. There’s something so peaceful and removed, for me, about hiking in winter. I think it echoes my spiritual life this time of year: I tend to hibernate, draw inward and percolate.

I haven’t always been in tune with those spiritual and bodily cycles, but now that I am, I enjoy the seasons (my own and nature’s) more, knowing it’s only temporary and I should extract as much as I can now, for this time is fleeting.

First, we walked around a pioneer village with an old Quaker meeting house, and stumbled onto something called the spirit village, a place where someone recreates ancient Native American life. I felt more comforted there than peering in the windows of the meeting house (I was on the outside). Perhaps that’s because we entered the large lean-to hidden in the woods and the sacred long house.

From there, we crossed the street and found a trail that looped through “old woods” and down a rocky, craggy peninsula to a scant beach and lookout. The small coastline was ao alluring with it’s foreign landscape: dried-out overturned trees, icy waters silently swirled around weathered trunk knobs (this lake had once been land), white sand and minute, muted pebbles. It was otherworldly, much as the whole hike had been. The only (wild)life present were an occasional bird, a lone fisherman skidding his canoe through the broken ice to a more remote area and one couple, chiseling a heart in the sand.

It was a place of detached beauty.

And the lesson I took is one of detachment. No matter what I am called to do, I must simply act and let go of any result. I learned that years ago in a meditation group when we read the Bhagavad Gita. But it’s so much easier to read about than to practice.

There’s a wonderful story I often think of when I resist that detachment:

In 1954, during President Eisenhower’s tenure, the Fellowship of Reconciliation launched a campaign to pressure our government into feeding China by symbolically flooding the White House with bags of rice. We did not aid China and the mass act seemed like a failure until a former press staffer confided that when cabinet members urged bombing, the president walked to the mailroom to see how much rice had been sent. He concluded too many Americans held a concern for China, so bombing was out of the question.

Amazing, huh? Often, we may never know the result.

• What are my attachments?
• When have I been able to fully let something go?
• Has there been a time when I did see an end result that confirmed my action(s)?
• Can I use that as an example the next time when I need to release something?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Silencing the critics

I often wonder about the void where this blog travels and if it is mostly self serving. Somehow, I don’t think so. It’s really an online journal, a thinking out loud that, I hope, may inspire others to share.

I spent years as a journalist carefully, dutifully and accurately collecting the stories of others and have begun to realize it is time to share my own. That has not been so easy as I was trained to be the invisible observer, the one asking the questions, recording the answers, behind the camera and not center stage. That’s a more comfortable place for an introvert.

Yet I also connect well with people and some are amused and shocked to think I consider myself introverted. I think there may be seasons to introversion and extroversion (boy, those sound like new drugs ... in another life I named caskets and always thought I could create personas for new pharmaceuticals) ... for me, anyway. On Myers-Briggs, I register only slightly introverted.

I came to understand the difference better when my best friend, also a wonderful teacher, remarked that it’s really more about where you draw your energy. When I need to unwind, I have to do so alone. There are times I like the electricity of crowds and groups, but I often leave drained and in need of solace.

This blog is such a departure from my public writing, where everything is outlined and carefully constructed. It’s a hybrid of my journaling (free, loose with not much concern – yes, I am still a perfectionist – for grammar and spelling) and my professional writing. I do write here as if for an audience, unlike in my private journal, where I am brutally honest. That’s meant for no one’s eyes but my own and if someone else were to read it and be offended, “OH WELL,” as my youngest always says. It’d be their own fault.

Hopefully, I’m not offensive here ... just blogging away into the void.

• How often do I do something without being motivated by others?
• Is there a place I am totally honest with myself?
• Can I ever silence those critics sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear? How?
• How freeing is it to do something “just because?”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Humble Servant or Goddess of the World?

Today I was reading a family history that includes a Quaker from 1655, about the time they were founded. Apparently she was of royal heritage, but cast that aside and accumulated somewhat of a following as a “preacher.” Over time, the family left Quakerism.

Until me.

I grew up always hearing about that Quaker, Dorothea Scott Gotherson. There was a mystique to her. Someone revered and special, yet I hadn’t really a clue why. I have felt her energy and spirit in my journey to and into Quakerism, a sort of ancient resonance for me.

I have never felt comfortable saying I was Christian because that carries so much baggage and is loaded, in some respects, with judgment and superiority. But I can easily say I am Quaker and I’m not certain why. Perhaps because of the constant discovery, exploration and waiting for Spirit. It does instill some humility. Of course, I know many other Christians of all denominations who are humble.

What does being humble or full of humility really mean? It is something to which I aspire in my humanness. To me it seems to mean going about life in a quiet, unpretentious way, caring and being compassionate, following the heart.

Other times, I am really tired of feeling like the Mother of the World and would like to dabble in the opposite: having a fiery fit, throwing my wants and desires out in the open and having them met with no effort on my part. Yin and yang, maybe? I also want to be the Goddess of the World -- or myself, at least. Sounds like more fun than the humble servant. What’s the blend or balance?

Seems Dorothea figured it out.

• What speaks to me out of [family] history that may be a spiritual guide?
• How does what has come before influence me right now?
• Will how I live my life change the future for others?
• In what ways?
• What role does my body, my heart call me to today?

Not minding the small tasks one minute
and wanting to live large the next.
How do I claim what is really mine
from one moment and whim to the next?
Or are they all parts of myself?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is multi-tasking a spiritual practice cheating or more fully living it?

Beginning to wonder if this regular blogging (almost daily) is keeping me from journaling the way I had been and where/what the right balance is.

Someday it seems there’s extra time and others, not.

I also wonder if this is more or less of a spiritual practice than what I have been doing. There is more of a push to keep this up [imagined?]. I don’t journal daily ... just when I feel the need. I have tried Julia Cameron’s (the Artist’s Way) morning pages at times and they were wonderful, but my life doesn’t allow for that daily. Or am I the obstacle?

At a retreat last weekend, someone mentioned they felt as if they lived their day as a practice instead of setting aside a specific time. That’s how I’ve begun to feel the past couple of years. As if an aperture was opened and keeps getting wider and wider, thinning the veil between realities.

I find myself multi-tasking: using my daily swim as meditation, praying in the sauna, meditating on the treadmill. Is that cheating (myself, mostly, I guess) or making the spiritual more a part of my daily life?

I wonder.

• Do I have a daily spiritual practice?
• What suites me?
• Have I experimented or explored a variety?
• How do I feel when I am without one?
• Are there seasons to a regular practice?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Serendipity or something else?

My 12-year-old and I are floating on cloud 9 after a serendipitous gift yesterday. We were given symphony tickets for a 3 p.m. concert yesterday at 1 p.m. and my inclination was NOT to rush around and go, but Autumn kept interrupting and hounding me. Not her usual style. I was in the midst of too many things and unthinkingly said yes – but we had to go home first and re-group.

So, we went. Zipped right downtown to a $1-per-Sunday parking spot and into a beautiful Cincinnati church, St. Peter in Chains Cathedral. We did not realize our tickets got us into the reserved section, yet we managed to scout 2 consecutive seats in the almost-capacity crowd from the balcony. We were across from parents of my college roommate and behind a friend with whom I swim regularly ... all by chance. I’ve since had a facebook message from a college friend saying she saw us.

The mostly Bach concert was astoundingly beautiful. Autumn was so excited to hear the French horns, which she is learning. We lingered after and learned we had been invited to the reception [for what we weren't entirely certain]. So, she and I wound downstairs together to an intimate, friendly gathering. As we were perched with our snacks, a man dropped his coat on the chair next to Autumn and, at recognizing his face, I promptly spilled my plate of food all over the floor. It was the conductor, one of the most renowned in the world: Paavo Jarvi. Autumn said she had never seen me so flustered. I collected myself and asked if she’d like to meet him. She said sure as she recognized him from the program. We approached and said the music had been such a gift and that Autumn was a young French horn player. His face lit up and he encouraged her to practice, practice and she could become as accomplished as the symphony’s principal player, whom we met by circumstance this past summer.

On the ride home, I told Autumn more about who Paavo Jarvi is and she soaked it in, so excited that she treated me to Starbuck’s enroute. When we opened Sunday’s paper, we found his face plastered all over. She’s now making a scrapbook.

I know it wasn’t chance or circumstance or serendipity at work yesterday. On some level Autumn was nudged to go and she listened even when I didn’t. It was a once-in-a-lifetime meeting that will nourish both of us for a long time. And for me came the added element of seeing what it brought her and revel in her excitement as much as my own.

• How many times have I written off something wonderful as mere chance?
• Do I pay attention when I am being nudged?
• When I have listened, what’s the reward been?
• Can I recall that childlike wonder when something BIG happens?
• How am I a child of God?

* It was also a VERY historic concert, celebrating Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk's 50th year in the priesthood and the first time the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has ever played at St. Peter's

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Finding our own way

My mom is teaching me to knit and I am struggling. She finds it amusing as she says I do all of these other creative things, I should be able to pick knitting right up.

I think I’ve been making it harder than it really is, visualizing an extra step where none exists and not finding comfortable fingering on the needles. I am also having trouble checking my perfectist tendencies as I learn –
learn being the operative word – at the door. Every time I missed a stitch, I'd untangle the work and restart with new yarn on different-sized needles. I finally went to thin yarn and small needles to magnify my mistakes; that’s when I began to see what I had been doing wrong.

Sounds like a metaphor, doesn’t it? Certainly seems like one for my life.

I make my own patterns to sew, draw and paint in my own way , often create one-of--a-kind things, never cook the same way twice, birthed children later than most, and am still trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up. I really do find my own way.

Even spiritually. I have turned from places and people that tell me what to think, do or be. I’ve always had to figure it out for myself and truly, deeply
know whatever it is I am conquering. I suppose that’s why Quakerism resonated with me. Someone once said being Quaker requires a lot of hard work, which doesn’t appeal to everyone. It does not prescribe what to believe, but to wait in silence for that still, small voice ... the voice of God. Often I wait and I wait. Rarely, by grace, I don’t wait at all.

In high school, the best teacher I ever had, my art teacher, saw me struggling to use watercolor. I was sitting by a kid who could mimic any military craft ever designed in minute detail on paper. The teacher knew I was figuring out my style (which would be large and loose) and gently wrapped up the paper and brushes and sent me home to play alone, finding my own way. That was such a gift and one I return to again and again.

• When I am struggling is it because I try to do things in a manner not my own?
• How do I learn and grow in my life, spiritually?
• Do I ever sabotage those efforts?
• How and why?
• Can I learn to live in my own skin, in my own way?
• How does it feel to be authentic?

I couldn’t get it,
kept looking at
my neighbor
why envy,
doubting myself,
chastising my gifts

And then you
approached so gently
and with such care,
then sent me on my
way, on my own

to figure it out
from somewhere
deep within

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shadow play

Anybody else a little antsy about the economic picture?

I try not to be, but it is affecting our daily lives and I observe what it’s doing to others. I also see the positive impact of hunkering down, spending and wasting less, growing more of our own food, more quality time with family and friends, turning inside ... I think it makes me more grateful and less busy with the business of the world ... work, spend, work, spend, drain yourself dry ...

I appreciate honesty and wonder why it is that, out in the world, some go on as before. Life is change and I don’t know how we can ever go back to before, whatever that place is. It’s just occurred to me on a deep level (it always takes that bodily knowing for me to really understand) that things are not going back to how they were and if I don’t learn how to cope with change in a healthy way when it’s just money, how will I ever learn when it’s something much more important.

My shamanic counselor says it’s a fear of not surviving and located in the lowest chakra and feeling cut off from maternal and mother earth’s love. He’s always right even if it takes me weeks, months or years to figure that out. He talked about how it’s so easy to live up in the higher chakras in Lala Land, but it’s more interesting and messier in the underworld of the lower chakras.

And somehow that underworld has been pulling at me recently by renewing my interest in vampires and the dark side of things. I think it’s a call to play in the mud -- more deeply explore my shadow and wild side.

Anyone else ready for a mud pie?

• Where in the body chakrawise do I tend to live?
• Am I being called elsewhere?
• What/where haven’t I explored?
• How is my life changing?
• Am I adapting?

You can’t be whole
unless you give me
all of the parts of yourself
even the dark and diseased

Silly for you to think
I only want the perfect
parts. You can’t be whole
or healed unless you give
me ALL of them

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sin is just nis spelled backward

Yes, I took a day off yesterday from blogging for my birthday. I don’t think that’s a sin, is it?

That’s a word I really have never liked and am still uncomfortable with it, but less so since I became acquainted with the idea of it being out of sync with God. The concept I grew up with was one of judgment and always smacked of human control over others.

I have recently wrestled with something that stuck deep into my core way back when I was a preschooler. In Sunday school, at that young age, we were handed a black book of colored pages and, when we opened to the black ones, were told our hearts were black with sin. How on earth can anyone tell a three-year-old that – or anyone else? It still makes my blood boil. If anyone ever says that to my children, I may temporarily drop my pacifist tendencies.

I wonder if that experience set me up for self-doubt struggles or just pushed a button somewhere.

I do realize that even at 3, I intuitively knew that was not the truth and, as a result and over the years, tuned out anyone telling me what to believe. Why wouldn’t I when something so basic I was taught went against every fiber in my body?

It’s been a wonderful lesson in knowing that children really do get things spiritually -- perhaps more so than adults as they have not accumulated the filters we have. That’s been reinforced by my own children and those in a spiritual nurture group I facilitate. I have learned so much from them.

Just look at my daughter Autumn’s blog [http://autumnsaffirmations.blogspot.com] She amazes me with her depth and wisdom. Several years ago we attended something called The Gathering, a weeklong time of Quaker worship, workshops and community on a college campus. I helped a friend with her sessions and we fell into this pattern of the girls and I setting up the room each evening after dinner. They began doodling on the chalkboards and leaving little messages of encouragement for the class the next day. The adults loved it and came to expect those affirmations.

My best friend’s son, my “other” child, can read auras and sees images when grasping your hand, which he then interprets. I call him my mountain sprite.

Reminds me of once when I said to my husband: “God is just dog spelled backward” and little ears were listening. It became a joke, but there was a kernel of truth about how limiting (or loaded) a word can be.

Sin is just nis spelled backward.

• Am I as open as I was as a child?
• What was hurtful to me then?
• Have I explored and learned from that?
• How do I feel about the word sin?
• What’s my definition?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stilling myself to truly listen

Almost thought about skipping today, but I have tried to make this a daily practice. And no time to think of a topic. Though these, generally, have just materialized as I sit at the keyboard. Maybe you can tell. A sort of stream-of-consciousness spiritually written meditation?

Or, maybe not.

It does have a different quality than the hand-written journals I have kept the past dozen years. Funny thing about those journals, I was really hoodwinked into keeping them by a very cunning, but wise soul. She was an art coach who said I should write about my art and just use a journal. Well, that seemed non-threatening. What I came to recognize, over time, was that my art was about the important things in my life. I was keeping a journal. I had been a journalist for years, scribing other people’s stories, not mine. My role was as the invisible observer, bringing the story forward.

I realize now that it is time to tell my story. It’s exhilarating and anguishing.

I spent two years in a Quaker spiritual-nurture ministry program with a lot of emphasis on listening ... a gift I possess. By the response I get, I think it’s rare. I just talked to a client today who said he and his colleagues were good at listening. They are, but I also said they hear people. Anyone can listen; not everyone hears.

• Do I feel heard?
• What could make that happen?
• Is journaling a venue for that?
• What about listening?
• Can and do I do that?
• How do others respond when I do?

When I still myself to listen,
I can hear so many things:
deep longing in myself
and others,
the late-August cricket
or the snow crunching
on a brisk day.

I peel off layers of
tension, distraction
and daily life to transform
the listening to hearing

It takes all that I have.
Like peeling the layers
of an onion and handing
what’s left, my heart,
... to Spirit.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Floating in tranquility

The water felt exceptionally good today: warm, not too slick and, best of all – an empty pool when I slipped into one of the three lanes at 8 a.m.

For me swimming is like a daily dip in the Divine, a place I feel safe and nurtured as I glide through the water finding my pace (often distracted by the person in the next lane … but that’s another topic), working off the stress of life and entering another dimension.

My pastoral counselor/massage therapist (yeah, I’m really lucky to find all of that in one person) says that the experience is of the sacred feminine and I’d never really thought about it that way. He also said I need to try to replicate that on land. I agree. I know I exist differently in the water beyond mere buoyancy and breathing. It’s the same sort of feeling when I’m deep in meditation or prayer; bodily I am there, but mentally and spiritually I am somewhere else.

I hadn’t really tried to capture the experience in art until after I saw an inspiring and unknown [to me] Picasso painting in Paris’ Picasso Museum entitled “the Swimmer.” It captured that sense of freedom and the balance between relaxation, letting go and trusting enough to float. Part human, part embryo, part platypus, floating in tranquility.

So, I did my own version recently and liked the result.

• Where do I feel safe enough to let go?
• Can I let the world, my life slip away for awhile?
• Where’s my balance in letting go and trusting?
• Do I have a daily practice of some sort?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Learning to live in our bodies

I was sitting in silence this morning during Quaker meeting for worship and wondered why my heart hurt and was so unsettled. I know I haven’t been practicing much centeredness lately. Tough with only 4 schools days of the last 21 and so much family togetherness, which, really, has been a blessing. Then an amazing thought surfaced: permeability works both ways.

I struggle with fibromyalgia and, as a result, realize I have a one-way filter that let’s so much into my body, where it’s trapped and certainly not productive, often at odds with the rest of what’s inside. I have had this thought confirmed by another fibro friend and in reading research. I also think it has a lot to do with personality and the constant barrage of media and messages to which we are subjected daily.

So what if that filter worked both ways ... to let things in and out, perhaps transforming what entered into positive energy within ourselves and as it left? Somehow, I think that’s the real way things should work. I know that exchange is one of creativity.

So, while I was sitting with all of this (mainly unverbalized this morning) and trying to figure out a meditation or prayer to be the change agent, a friend stood and unleashed the pain he held for the 27,000 orphaned boys in Sundan who had walked country to country searching for a home. He did let it out, saying the ONE thing he could do was intercessory prayer. He remembered one boy in the film had said God had been with them.

That’s the other point, sometimes when we think it is ours to do, it’s not. Often our egos tell us it’s or job when it’s too big for us. That’s when we are truly called to prayer.

And in this escape, when this friend was able to share, the whole tenor of the room changed as if each person absorbed a smaller, more manageable piece of what this friend had borne alone. That each sliver would somehow work internally, and re-emerge reconstructed, transformed and better for having been shared.

• What’s my filtering system and is it working the way it should?
• What is the line/my line between doing and praying?
• How do I discern when to do which?
• Can I remember a time I shared and saw that it was the right thing?

my body often knows
things before the rest
of me does

it reminds me over and over

some days I get it faster
some days I don’t get
it at all,
but I am learning
and becoming more
aware, more attune

as someone wise
recently told me:
our job is to learn
to live in our bodies

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Doubt is my biggest shadow ...

Umm... day 2, will this be a daily practice? Like Julie Powell cooking 365 days of Julia Child. Just not sure yet, but feel some commitment to regularity.

I find it interesting that I am reading
Bridget Jonses’ Diaries and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – wildly divergent, yet both based on a regular progression of documentation. One fiction and one fact. One revolving round single life in late 1990s London and the other on growing one’s own food for a year. Yin and Yang, perhaps? But something about continuity and accountability appeals to me. Also something about “putting it out there," [maybe that’s why Bridget Jones appeals to me] a message I am repeatedly receiving from a higher authority, yet also from deep within.

I have privately kept journals, in the Quaker tradition without realizing it, all through my 40s and often find it a source of comfort, problem solving and creativity. It’s a place I can turn when it seems no one else understands or wants to hear “it” again ... the “it” du jour. Sometimes I journal religiously, others, not so much.
It seems mildly amusing that as a journalist for so much of my career, I never once considered keeping a journal ... “Just the facts, Mam,” I thought. Older and, hopefully, wiser. I find what’s behind the facts much more interesting and worthy of exploration.
I have two kinds of journals: one for words and another, for images, which often convey for me so much more than words can. I plan to post some of those images here.
Yesterday was quite exhilarating launching this blog (with so much forethought: a couple of hours ... really it’s been a whisper for awhile) and seeing it gain “followers.” Also humbling and gratitude producing. I hope the novelty doesn’t wear off. I joined facebook last year at this time all excited about “finding” old and new friends, then being less enthusiastic when it seemed kind of shallow. I desire a facebook with more substance ... not sure that’s possible given that its name so clearly states the intent. Or my bigger fear: that I have nothing worthwhile to say.
Doubt is my biggest shadow and I am learning to recognize, even honor it ... like the really long shadows of the trees today on the snow in the crisp sunshine.
• What are my shadows?
• How can I more fully integrate them?
• How can I honor them?
• Do I cast them on others, projecting what’s really just mine?
• Can I own them?
I am learning to trust the dark
and see it as not merely
the absence of light,
but the presence
the presence of all
the presence of all color

– Cathy
www.turtleboxstories.com is a place I have created for gathering and sharing the deepest stories of our hearts; please visit and/or share if you’re so inclined

Friday, January 8, 2010

Today is the day I start

So today is THE day I start my blog, an idea that’s been present and forming for sometime and I guess it does not have to be fully developed to begin. I suffer from having to know it all before jumping off and Spirit (I want to be clear that you should substitute whatever word works for you; I may use some interchangeably) says in order to be faithful, I just have to start.

I assume the shape of this will arise, too, with more practice and the actuality of putting it out there. The intention is to share my story, thoughts, dilemmas, joys (yeah, a kind of online journal), etc. in encouraging others to open as well.

I seem to have all of these pieces floating about and am looking for a way to tie them together and something (greater than myself) tells me this blog could be a way. I am in a very transitional place:
– trying to be faithful in producing and publishing inspired
words and images as books
– trying not to worry about “regular” work and doing what I am
called to
– reclaiming myself from constant motherdom as my daughters gain
more independence; figuring out what that means and what to
“do” with it

I also think this time of year, a quieter time for reflecting, also seems like transition; when I can re-create myself for the coming year. Something deeper and more meaningful to me than New Year’s Resolutions. In that vein, I looked over my journal entries for the past year because I so easily tend to forget where I am and have been and it was ... hum ... what are the right words? ... gratitude inspiring. The highs and lows, the grumblings and thankfulness, the disappointments and promises. So, I think I’ll reflect on:
Where has the path of the last year taken me?
For what should I be grateful?
What lessons have I learned?
Where is the current fork leading?
What is my prayer for the coming year?
That seems like plenty.

May the solitude of the quiet snow fill the places in your heart and body that are too noisy. Let those meandering flakes melt into those places, spreading peace and love.

– Cathy

www.turtleboxstories.com is a place I have created for gathering and sharing the deepest stories of our hearts; please visit and/or share if you’re so inclined