Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Awakening the bubbling true self

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Broken open: not a subject of comfort for most of us and, yet, that's what has been lain before me. Certainly not by choice, rather necessity – the necessity to survive with my soul in tact.

Last post, I wrote about an inability to worship, then involuntarily sharing that, as if something were guiding me, in my faith community. The results have rippled within and without. I am reminded that I do belong in this community even though I have clung to the outskirts in my woundedness. Reminded that I am loved, cared for, honored here for my whole self ... even the one that falls apart publicly. Reminded that I need community. An effervescent bubbling has internally erupted out of the fault within my heart and spirit. One that pumps, thumps and wants to go somewhere, but not just anywhere.

It is that bubbling, I believe, that reconnected me with a book I have always meant to read: Quaker Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak, Listening for the Voice of Vocation. I want to find out who I want to be while I am growing up instead of taking on work that is short-lived and incompatible with my soul. I happened upon the book while [re]searching something else on the internet and told myself I'd borrow it from the meetinghouse library Sunday after worship. As I was perusing the shelves, the minister [well, Quakers consider everyone a minister; our congregation is a hybrid and we have a hireling (paid) minister] came in with a book in hand just donated and asked if she could help me find something. "We do have a copy of one of his books, but I think it's checked out. However, we just got this one," she said. Instantly we both knew it was the one I needed. Synchronicity of Spirit?

bubbling i/ii/iii – pastel on paper
I am slowly savoring each page; it's as if the man knows me, my life and circumstance.

Right off the bat, he describes being so unformed that the only thing holding us together is an exoskeleton when we are "trying to live someone else's life or to live by an abstract form," which, he writes "will invariably fail – may even do great damage." Exoskeleton? That's my word, the one I use to describe the hold fibromyalgia has on me. How can he know?

And that faithlessness to our true nature, he says, is wreaking violence.

Wreaking violence? That reverberates in unknown interior places. The reverb makes the bubbling in my chest grow, spilling lower to the places I store my emotions; the personal-power and self-esteem chakras  a recent check determined are closed or weak. The froth has nowhere to go but down, swirling with heat and opening my solar plexis and root.

Palmer writes about exploring liabilities, limits and shadow as well as strengths, virtue and the light, letting our lives tell us things we don't want to hear because "the dark journey strips ego of the illusion its in charge, so the self can emerge." This is where I have been living, in what feels like the negative, though Palmer also says that "vocation at its deepest level is something I can't NOT do." He relates the wisdom of a plainspoken, life-experienced Quaker who says she has learned as much from "way closing" as "way opening," terms Friends use for Spirit's direction.

"There is a great gulf between the way my ego wants to identify me with its protective masks and self-serving fictions and my true self," according to Palmer and my experience.

A bit of brokenness, I understand, is exposing the masks and fictions as well as their harmfulness to me and others and forcing me to consciously choose the nature I felt behind in childhood. The nature I have fought against and, in doing so, caused great emotional and physical pain.

And yet, the nature I know is mine and that I am embracing once again. The bubbling is my true self awakening and being acknowledged.

How have I been broken open?
• What has it taught me?
• In not following my true self, how have I caused violence?
• How can I reverse that?
• What gulf exists between my ego, expectations and my true self?

lodged right in my heart,
so tightly knitted,
I didn't know

until one day
it burst open

its way down

soothing, healing,

the parts of me
forgotten, locked
and frozen

and now that my
real self and
creativity are joined

the sky's the limit,
no matter what
the damaging ego has said

no matter

Friday, August 26, 2011

Stopping the story spinning

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I know I'm a gifted storyteller; after all, I trained and worked as a journalist. For years, I spun the most positive stories for businesses. I began journaling 12 years ago, exploring my inner stories. Now, I'm finishing a book about my spiritual journey and how its individual movements are universal. I'm constantly listening for and composing stories.

And the internal stories have taken on their own life, projecting truths, realities, emotions and suffering that do not exist. My ego spins them, causing separation between me and others, me and God. The reel loops and loops, casting me as the victim.

A good example of this exploded into my life last Sunday. For the first time, I sat in Quaker worship and could not worship. I have never had that experience. Sure, it has taken most of the hour to settle, or my thoughts would sail in and out, but I always centered at some point. Not so Sunday. My chest was pounding, much like it does when I have ministry to share, but it didn't feel like worship. And it wouldn't die down. There was something grasping my heart that I had to let go. At the end of worship, in the time set aside for joys and prayer concerns, I stood, almost against my will, and in a weak voice asked for prayer for "forgiveness issues" with which I was struggling. I could hardly get the words out before the tears formed, muffling my voice even more. I sat down, quivering, yet managing to hold the other spoken joys and prayer requests in the silence. That, I could do.

As soon as the service was over, a handful of caring souls were at my side, softly rubbing my back, praying, asking what I needed, silently hugging me and sending their loving energy to me. I believe the entire room was.

I don't want to analyze what happened, just accept it with the awareness that seeing a dear F/friend (code for Quaker Friend and personal friend) really opened me and my heart. His presence allowed my soul to pick the scab off my heart and let the wound air. Publicly would not have been my preference, but, apparently, it was Spirit's.

Sight of him, with whom I feel intrinsically connected, reminded me of my communal concern for a number of members who have left the congregation hurting, seemingly disappearing without much pause. That has been my interest for a long time. One, I sometimes have felt led to personally remedy. I had not realized, though, that it had become mine personally – that I experienced a painful episode here. I felt unheard and have been dealing with that hurt, finally stuffing it down. I believed it was gone ... til Sunday.

Vocalizing that concern, being heard and loved, no matter what, in this community lifted a heavy burden. As I remarked at what a mess I was, a kind voice instantly responded: "We love you just the way you are here." My mind, body and spirit needed to hear that. It echoed my all-time favorite movie line from "Bridget Jones's Diary," which I had just watched, when straight-laced Darcy tells let-it-all-out Bridget: "I like you just as you are."

Yesterday, I had a pivotal phone conversation with one of my Quaker mentors who said the reason I had not received feedback after the painful episode was because no one wanted to contribute to my stress.

I had never considered that, only that they did not value me, my gifts or my work, they were not happy with what I had offered, they only wanted all I had to give ... you name it, the lies about the situation have all played out in my head. In the silence, I construed so many negative and harmful story possibilities.

A recent horoscope, which I read about twice a year, said what the silence offers me is good for me, even when it's nothing. Instead, I have woven that silence into something it was not.

My desire is to learn to accept, even revel in, what is offered me now and do so without all of the story spinning. Eckhart Tolle writes in "Stillness Speaks" that deleting the stories will simplify life. I want that, though I will use my gift to deeply listen to others' stories.

• What stories do I tell myself?
• How can I see the untruth in them?
• When have they caused suffering to me or another?
• How has that erupted or called out to me?
• What practices help me to diminish that tendency?

I'm so good at the spin,
I don't even know I'm
doing it

today, I'm paying

I caught myself
thinking the woman
who cut me off in the parking lot
only wanted to get somewhere faster,
not caring about safety – hers or mine

then, I remembered:
I have no idea of her intention

maybe she was rushing to meet a school bus,
take groceries to an elderly mother or
just not paying attention

I began to realize the ridiculousness
of the spinning, how much
energy it sucks

then, I let out a big
belly laugh and, God,
it felt good

Friday, August 19, 2011


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I am being stripped. No, not because it's summer, although the thought is appealing.

I am being stripped to my core, I believe. Stripped of health, career, income, identity and ambition to name a few. Not easy things to lose in this culture. I have fought tooth and nail to cling to those standards and yet leave they must. The fighting and holding tight have only made me miserable. I hadn't understood this until I've taken my time to read, revel in and contemplate Eckhart Tolle's Stillness Speaks.

Today's passages focused on suffering and that the light can only fully shine through when we are free of psychological suffering and the mind-made ego has been dissolved. Within the stillness of witnessing another human die and totally giving into that natural transformation, realizing there is nothing to do, we receive the benediction of peace.

The end of suffering, Tolle writes, is living as if we choose whatever we feel or experience. What a radical thought. I've been bumbling around in victim mode, cursing my woundedness. I have tried to practice gratitude and see the silver lining, but it wasn't until today that I realized why I should accept whatever surfaces: because I can't change it, only my attitude and the pain it causes. If I can detach and become observer and not live so rooted in my bodily pain and mindly story-spinning, I can free myself of so much dead weight. Namely, my ego. I have so completely convinced myself that I am irreversibly damaged, when that is so far from the Truth. That's my egoic trap, miring me in the self doubt that has plagued and paralyzed me.

I am not my body or my mind. I am something freer, more connected and eternal.

Years ago when a friend of my parents' mentioned at a wedding reception she didn't feel anything like the 70-something-year-old face she saw in the mirror, I didn't understand. I have begun to since. Part of me is blossoming while the other is withering. Actually, my body is not withering, aging, yes, but not withering as I have projected. I swim a half mile almost every day. There's no way I ever could do that when I was younger. Maybe I didn't experience pain then, but I wasn't pushing so hard and, honestly, things were more lubricated. But I was asleep.

Physical pain woke me up and set my course. Then my mind chimed in and I have been trapped in that endless loop. Now, something outside and within has awakened and wiped the tarnish off the mirror so I see the role of ego more clearly. I choose not to participate in that ruse anymore.

If I stay in the NOW, I've WON – my new mantra.

• How does ego rule me?
• Where am I trapped?
• What have I glimpsed of freedom?
• What has been stripped from me?
• To what do I cling and why?

take it 
take it all 

it's not mine

the desire and envy
jealousy and drive

my identity or the constantly
spinning story in my head

I only want
what's now

the place I am

Monday, August 15, 2011

Unshrouding my light

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Last week, I had a blog half written in my journal about my fixation with the darkness. And I am still inclined to share that, although this morning's meditation landed me in my grandmother's pocket Bible from 1956 on this passage from John [12:35-36] in Jesus' words:

"... Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not wither he goeth. While ye have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of the light."

On reflection, the wisdom that came to me was this:

I must let my light shine, not shroud myself in darkness, that which is not of Spirit.

My thoughts on darkness were sparked by an Eckhard Tolle passage in "Stillness Speaks" that the most sacred thing in life is death. I don't fear death, rather, I believe, I fear living .. the pain, the struggle, the separateness.

As for darkness, I could always walk up to the casketed body, feel what had been there and know what to say to comfort the bereaved. As a child, I touched the yellow waxiness of my grandmother [whose Bible I was directed to], unconsciously knowing this cold, lifeless, dull form had represented her, but was not her – now or ever.

It was harder as a young adult when the reclining figure was my best friend. Still, I approached and my heart sent a prayer elsewhere.

Vampires have always transfixed me, long before Edward and Twilight: Nosferatu, Dracula, Barnabas. All, creatures of the night, banished from sunlight, burned by Holy water, sucking the life from others, sleeping in coffins and condemned to eternity. And yet, I recognized their humanity, pain and desire not to be so ... alone.

My mother said I found the perfect job when I went to work for the casket company. I felt honored to give elegant names to gleaming, velvet-lined metal caskets, contemplating the comfort it would give those left behind, but do little for the departed spirit. Watching bones burn was less romantic, yet a reminder of dust-to-dust and ashes-to-ashes. I enjoyed the company of funeral directors, who cut loose at conventions and felt their care of the living and non-living a calling. I learned a lot about grief from the national expert who consulted for the company and the miscarriage I experienced while working there.

I've always read in the dark, much to my mother's chagrin, showered without flicking the light switch on and spent much of the past 12 years exploring my inner darkness.

Yet the light in which Quakers worship draws me like a moth. As does the flaming inner core that yoga and meditation reveal.

Occasionally, my mother sends me a Henri Nouwen passage from a daily meditation to which  she subscribes. I think the one she passed along today aptly describes some of my perceived darkness:

"If indeed the spiritual life is essentially a hidden life, how do we protect this hiddenness in the midst of a very public life?   The two most important ways to protect our hiddenness are solitude and poverty.  Solitude allows us to be alone with God.  There we experience that we belong not to people, not even to those who love us and care for us, but to God and God alone.  Poverty is where we experience our own and other people's weakness, limitations, and need for support.  To be poor is to be without success, without fame, and without power.  But there God chooses to show us God's love.

Both solitude and poverty protect the hiddenness of our lives."

All of these messages seem to confirm my need for shadows and hiddenness, but I can't neglect the yang to the yin: the light to which I am also utterly attracted. I believe it's time for me to unshroud my light as I feel I knoweth not wither I currently goeth.

• How do I live in the light?
• In the darkness?
• What begs to remain hidden?
• What cries to be revealed into the light?
• If this light is with me now, how am I called to show and share it?

the flame from my meditation candle
is not stagnant

its singularity is flowing, a
graceful dance

guided by another force

seeking the heart,
my heart and its darkness,
joining it to

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer of my discontent

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This long string of hot days has suffocated me, made me crazy, feeling cooped up inside and disconnected ... from nature, Spirit, my calm self. I feel like a package tied too tightly with thin string and I am busting out all over, constricted and ready to blow at any minute.

Who is this person?

In summer, I feel as if I am on call ... to the world, taxiing this kid to camp and the other, somewhere else, visiting the hospital and completely ignoring my studio, the place I am free.

I am carried away by the tide as if I had no choice. And yet, I do.

I re-installed the AC in my studio Friday and am trying to meditate daily, grounding and reconnecting.

My wise spiritual friend has likened my dilemma to a strong river flowing with too many tributaries draining its energy and flow or the chaotic cornucopia of requests calling my gifts to action. I seem to think I have to tackle them all, then become paralyzed by doing them superficially without depth, meaning or, most importantly, my heart.

I am too open, not discerning what really is mine to do. That discernment seems to be birthing something. I feel the pain and long months of a seed growing slowly, but surely. It's been the summer of my discontent, but something deep is surfacing and only recently have I been able to articulate that it's I want my vocation back; perhaps not what it was prior to mothering, but something new that is mine. Something influenced by my experiences outside the workplace.

I have slowly revised the book I am writing – it's getting better and better – and crafted a tighter, more focused and more-me book proposal. My spiritual friend sent me an intention for publishing she had run across some time ago in a workshop. It's exactly what I need:

I am now announcing that I am [completing] a book and sending this announcement out to anyone who is a publisher and to anyone who is involved in bringing this work into publication for those whom it will serve best. It is my intention that the person to publish this book discover me and be brought to me and I promise that I will be available for that recognition. I understand that I have very little to do with this. That part is not mine. I understand that I am to broadcast the announcement like I am sending out a birth announcement and that a response will be sent to me. In this I trust.

There it is. Out there. My prayer now, is one for trust and patience ... some joy, too.
... also open to any suggestions, contacts, etc.

• How has being inside or sweltering outside affected me/my groundedness?
• How can nature center and focus me?
• Do I know another person who can also help me in that regard?
• How can I be a spiritual friend?
• What intention is it time for me to announce?

locked inside my house
feeling every movement 
and breath of another

I could scream
can't concentrate
hard to meditate

and the vicious circle builds

I am anything but grounded

a palpable, almost painful, energy swirls
in my chest, fighting for release,
birth, but it's not time yet

its laboring for calm,
peace and wisdom
to come forth