Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Loving tentacles gently holding

Listen to this post:

Water/pastel on paper/Cathy Barney
W - A - T - E - R

Wasn't that the first word Helen Keller signed to her teacher, Anne Sullivan? The wonderful cool gush from the backyard pump prompted her to want to know what it was by name.

Water sparks the same reaction in me.

One of the recent gifts in my life has been the closing of the pool at my local gym for a couple of weeks for maintenance. Of course, I didn't initially see it as a gift. I was bent on finding somewhere else to swim because I knew I'd sink otherwise. I started goggling what other area gyms had pools, if they offered short-term memberships and considering my best option.

Then it hit, they all included some sort of trial by potential members for free, so I started making the rounds. First off was the most spa-like and the one I could least afford at three times the price of my current membership, which was about to expire. Ohhh, but it was wonderful. I could show up with nothing but my suit and everything (unlimited towels, shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion) was supplied, including lap and warm-water pools, sauna, steam room, a luxurious locker room and free coffee. Next was an older, smaller and somewhat-aging facility with a more hotel-sized pool. Finally, an urban gym with a younger crowd, but a gleaming pool hardly used, steam room and sauna.

I received from one-day to one-month free trials at each of these. Of course, I had to endure the sales pitch over and over. Got to be a game with the manager at the urban gym; he knew I wasn't going to join and I knew that he knew.

Today, I went for the last time, even though my gym's pool has been open several weeks. I was lured by the empty pool and the heavenly steam room. All of that happening in the glorious water. It's enough to make the pain melt away if even temporarily. After a brisk swim and stretching, I lingered longer than usual in the steam, soaking up every morsel. I sat in lotus position, deeply inhaling and feeling the layers in me shift ... as if the steam had a healing life of its own. Then I lay down and felt the moist warmth invade my sacrum and lower back. Yummy. I took a hot shower and dried off in the sauna. I was going to make the most out of this last experience.

What is it about the water that speaks to me? It's aliveness? It's healing ability? The fact it renders one close to weightless? Or that it's 11 times denser than air, so is a great strengthener without risk of injury?

My recent astrological report said, for me, water and spirituality are connected. That did not come as a surprise. Often, as I tick off laps, I pray ... well, after burning off the stuff on my mind. It's as if I feel God's loving tentacles gently holding me, yet allowing me to move freely and make choices.

Here, nothing is a burden.

• How does water speak to me?
• What else has that effect on  me?
• Where and how do I receive healing?
• Where do I experience Spirit?
• Where do I feel the balance of being gently held and free?

that initial plunge
is so worth it
almost all weight

and I feel strangely
freed, but also held

free to work through 
whatever, but held
close enough so as not
to drown

breathing deeply
dipping my head under
propelling myself as I
can nowhere else

I feel the energy
I receive it
expend it
thrive on it

and also
pray that it's
healing properties
are there for the next

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Somewhere deep within

Listen to this post:

Seeing a physic for clarity? Who'd a thunk. Funkier yet, is my Quaker meeting sent me ... well, to scout out the fair as a potential place to staff a booth. It is the "Victory of Light" festival and Quakers believe that each of us contains God's light within. Many of us – Quaker or not, Christian or not – know it from experience.

I had always wanted to attend this event and this request sealed the deal. It also took the edge off of making it a personal journey, though it would become one. I was going as the observer.

As the observer, I was overwhelmed at the marketplace thick with readers, healers, therapists, sha-men and women, trinkets, crystals, books and anything metaphysical you can imagine. It all seemed too material upon first entrance.

I glanced at the schedule and one talk immediately jumped out at me: the past lives of Jesus. Having just come from an hour of worship, I was looking for something of depth, perhaps even familiar. I ducked in about two minutes late to hear a conversation about the many others Jesus was before he was, well, Jesus. Odd, I thought until I listened longer. The speaker was knowledgable, mentioning the Essenes, Gnostics, and Aramaic as being Jesus' original language. And then he spoke of Edgar Cayce, a name I could only vaguely recall. Cayce was a prominent last-century physic healer with a Christian tradition. Much of his work revolved around past lives. I was riveted, but a little uncomfortable. I had only toyed with the idea before.

My shamanic counselor has hinted that some of what I deal with may be "old" stuff. Now I was thinking that I should investigate this old stuff a bit. I purchased a report from the lecturer that combined my birth details (time, place, location) with readings Cayce had made for others with the same astrological data.

I am still bowled over by what it contained as well as its depth and completeness. I shared it with my longtime spiritual friend, who knows much more about metaphysics, and she was impressed.

I learned that my intertwined affinity for water and spirituality is natural because my moon is in Pisces ... ok, I don't really know what that means. In terms of the past, I have a connection to Atlantis. It is so strange that I felt called to Greece several years ago and chose Santorini and Crete. Some believe Atlantis excited between them. I was drawn to the sea around Santorini and created a ritual of leaving pain behind there because it was evident that, in this place, beauty arose out of chaos (a volcanic eruption that destroyed Santorini and may have caused the decline of the Minoan culture on neighboring Crete).

The reading affirmed and confirmed my calling to ministry in writing, one on one and in groups: exactly what I am doing! It pinpointed areas in which I am challenged and can grow and indicated Jesus is my best role model.

Venturing outside of my norm has opened new possibilities into self exploration and knowledge, shedding more light within. I don't believe this was a random experience.

• How do I experience the light within?
• When have I been called into something out of my comfort zone?
• How has that opened me?
• Opened my spiritual experience?
• In what ways do I see Jesus as model for my life?

darting in
wet from the rain
not knowing
what to expect

but being drawn
to Jesus

in the midst of
crystals, reflexology
and card readings

and finding myself
somewhere deep 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Deliciously being cast about

Listen to this post:

Expelling ashy black/pastel on paper  Cathy Barney 2011
My pastoral counselor/massage therapist/shaman [how lucky and I?] says I am in my power and I am beginning to believe he's right.

But how come it's still so murky and not this even-keeled, easy way? I ask.

From a distance, it looks like it is, but when you're in it, it's soup, he responds.

So, I'm in the soup churning and bobbing and deliciously being cast about. I think deliciously is the key word. I'm not fighting it so much and, actually, beginning to enjoy the ride and the present. Currently not so attached to the future and recognizing and letting go of the hold the past has had on me. Not easy or one-step stuff.

Last night in the nurture group I facilitate, I asked a friend with an extensive knowledge of Buddhism if the state of enlightenment and not being bothered by anything is realistic. He explained that total enlightenment only comes when we all  reach that space and that some practitioners devote themselves to not attaining enlightenment in this life.

Imagine that: freedom from striving.

The group also talked about experiences and times of revelation: when we are most ourselves. Those were all times we were not striving.

For months, I have been haunted by the idea of something holding me up that doesn't seem quite right. Like it wasn't actually part of me. During a recent emdr (eye movement and desensitization and reprocessing) session, that thing identified itself as a parasite that really meant me no harm, but found a fertile place to live. Followed some days later with intense massage and release, I understand I have been holding some negative emotion or pattern in me that my body has suppressed and is now learning how to let go. Slowly. Layer by layer, the trapped sentiment is being uncovered and ejected and it feels freeing and healing.

Last night, we also talked about surrender, submission and enlightenment being a process, not one grand ah-ha moment.

I think I've been waiting for everything to be aligned in the way that I had envisioned before things can happen and not recognizing it's a process. One that should be nurtured and honored while it's soupy and unfolding, knowing it may always be soup. But delicious soup.

Who's got the crackers?

• When have I felt empowered, in the flow or most like myself?
• How did it feel like soup or something else?
• How present was I?
• How can I learn to be more present in those times?
• What's my most recent revelation or ah-ha moment been?

accompanied deep breathing
peels off the ashy black layers
revealing the baby pink
of new growth


it feels so good to
expel what does not

my body has
forgotten how to
relax, how to be

bit I am

letting go in my studio

Monday, November 14, 2011

Make turtleboxes

Listen to this post:

 Make turtleboxes.

That's IT. That's what I am supposed to be doing right now.

Not running after new clients, proving I am worth hiring.

Not looking for a part-time job.

Not worrying about making money.

Not worrying about not having enough money.

Not lacking purpose.

Not feeling useless.

Not feeling powerless.

All of those things rob my energy and define me in negative ways that aren't me.

Funny thing is, making literal and metaphorical turtle boxes is all I really want to do. It's also what God is calling me to.

So simple, but it took awhile to get here. For various reasons, I suppose.

Me and my Turtleboxes (Autumn Barney photo)
In 2005, as I was finishing a research paper, I felt I needed something more special than a fancy report cover to wrap it in. That's when the idea of creating a turtle box hit. Right away, I could visualize what it would look like: a colorful, sacred art box housed inside a turtle shape. After all, the paper contained a collection of people's experiences of the Divine I felt honored to hear, hold and share. Making the first box, the "Mother," was magical. She was greeted with enthusiastic response at our next gathering, so I decided she would spawn 25 babies when I returned in the fall: one for each peer, teacher and elder. It was a dark summer, brightened by making the baby turtleboxes.

When I shared what I was doing within my Quaker Meeting (church), an artist F/friend disclosed her affinity for the turtle and how in Native-American lore (also in many Eastern cultures I have since discovered), the turtle represents Heaven/Divinity (the domed shell) and earth/humanity (the under belly). Of course, I thought, these boxes are the space where they meet and the right container for these stories.

I have been making them ever since, pausing at times, but never abandoning the idea. In fact, the book that has been forming from my spiritual journey the past 12 years now shares that moniker: Turtlebox Stories: Nurturing the Divine within. That's where I have been placing my energies the last year and a half. A month ago, I began facilitating a small group based on the idea of the turtlebox and the contents of my book. I realize I have the gifts and call to help others, along with myself, create our individual turtle boxes (the space we create for God to enter ... I do believe God is always available, it is we who are not). There is the place in each of us where God resides and we need to learn or remember how to locate it.

I had become stuck with my book, feeling that teaching it might provide new opening or insight. And, it has. I had a recent request for an actual turtle box I am honored to fulfill and it got me thinking that it's been awhile since I've made any and that, right now, is what truly makes me sing.

I don't let myself sing very often because I was told in junior high my voice was worthless. Unfortunately, I listened. I wouldn't even sing in church. But my babies came along and they were the only one listening, so I sang to them.

Yesterday, I did something very much outside of my comfort zone: I sang in my Quaker Meeting as worship. It was terrifying and I argued some with God that I had to tell people first that I was not a strong singer. She said: "Just sing and do it now. Don't stand up. Just sing."

Now She says to make turtle boxes and I have no choice but to listen and obey because my heart knows this it my deepest desire.

• What is something Spirit has made especially clear to me?
• How am I following that?
• How did I initially argue, object or not listen?
• What happens when I surrender?
• How does that make my heart feel?

I thought it was just
something I did for
a project

yes, I loved
every minute of
doing it

and I made more

they elicited
wonderful reactions

guess you could say
they brought joy

something so
seemingly insignificant
from my hands and heart

straight from God

and now She whispers
that is my work

the work for which
I have been searching for
so very long

for now,
I am just
resting in that

Friday, November 11, 2011

Surrendering the burden of myself

Listen to this post:

I am brokenness,
and also healing

I am weak, but able
to tap inner strength

I may hurt,
yet can find the
prayerful place in myself

My pain overwhelms me
until I surrender
from within

I feel diminished, devalued
and still have a piece
of Divinity dwelling in me

I am nothing
and everything

I feel alone and isolated,
yet sense You covering me,
holding me, living
in me

I may think no one
cares or understands,
then I remember Jesus
is here and he
knows the depths of
my sorrows and pain

When I am too full
of carrying the burdens
of the world, when my
back sags and shoulders
ache, I remember to
lay them down

When I believe all
is lost, that life
is just too difficult,
You help me find
peace, courage and serenity
from new depths I am
just discovering

When I lash out at
myself and others,
You gently remind me
that’s my anger, not
me because I am
also Your reflection

When all hope ceases
and I cry for an end,
that is when I feel
Your presence most
and regocnize I have
never been alone

You live within me, not
just above or around,
but inside as a
constant companion

• What's your prayer? Please share it here if you like.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hand in hand with Jesus

Listen to this post:

Last night, in the spiritual-nurture group I facilitate, we talked about early, childhood experiences of the Divine. Seemed only fair as we started out three weeks ago sharing our pain, often stemming from childhood. And, last week, we did an exercise, heart play, that tapped our inner child. Participating in and witnessing that free-form play was magical – and so were the explanations of what each temporary "sculpture" represented.

I [Who am I kidding? I am not in charge, just the messenger who can manage, occasionally, to listen] wanted to use and build on that openness, which was last week's topic, this week as we explored "Deepening Connection."

Our spiritual foundations are laid so very early and we don't often acknowledge or share them, whether joyful or painful. In nurturing children (who really end up nurturing and teaching me), I have rediscovered that natural openness. They have not yet acquired the filters, wounds and baggage we adults bring.

Of course, I have an evening outline and know what the queries we discuss will be. However, I never, fortunately, seem to have time to give them personal thought. I do think that would spoil the movement of Spirit within the group and be an unfair (dis)advantage. It's not an over-thinking, but rather a deep response these questions aim to elicit.

As we were worshipping and reflecting on the question [What is an early, first or natural experience you had with the Divine/Spirit/God?], I was blank for a bit, except for focusing on the early negative memory I had shared two weeks ago. One that was a human/church experience, not of God. And then this precious, tattered book from my childhood floated into my heart and thoughts. "If Jesus Came to my House" is the story of a boy, probably an only child, desperate for companionship and rescued by a one-day visit from Jesus, also a boy. That book taught me more about Jesus than any formal schooling. By reading and loving that story, I realize now that I considered Jesus (filling in for God) as my constant companion. Of course, I was blessed with a twin sister, so have essentially never felt alone except for the times I let my pain isolate me.

This line has always spoken loudest to me:

And then I think I'd show Him the corner in the hall, 
where I'm sometimes frightened by the shadows on the wall.
I always have to hurry when I'm going past at night, 

but hand in hand with Jesus I'd be perfectly all right.

The black-and-white-with-a-spot-of-red illustrations have always captivated me. They're graphic and strong; no iffiness about them. When I googled the title, I came across a blog that shared the text and pages and was astounded at the responses it drew: all very similar to mine. You can access that at http://www.collectiblechildrensbooks.com/2009/04/if-jesus-came-to-my-house.html

Apparently this little book, published 80 years ago, has helped many others know Jesus as a friend when they were children. That early foundation, for me, has been a gift. One I have been blessed to recently rediscover.

• What is an early, first or natural memory I have of the Divine or Jesus?
• How has that created a foundation for my current spirituality?
• How can I tap those early experiences and bring that openness to my current    practice/relationship with God?
• How has an early book, Scripture, conversation, etc., stuck with and guided me over the     years?
• What have children taught me about a relationship with the Divine?

Small in stature,
wide-eyed and willing

through Jesus

Understood that when
someone said my heart
was black with sin,
it wasn't true

Always felt
cradled and

Believed in
the reverence
of nature and animals,
let them reach into
and teach me

My foundation
was set sturdily

Now, my task
is to clear the
clutter and see
that's what's still
holding me up

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Please, use my brokenness

Listen to this post:

I awoke with a new prayer on my lips and in my heart yesterday:
Please, use my brokenness.

Certainly, I have prayed for healing and for God to use me, but never to use my brokenness. Before the words formed, there was an image of a mosaic, specifically the cement binding all of the broken pieces together and I knew that's where God, silently and mysteriously, resides. If I can admit that I am I pieces and give them to God, then something transformative can happen. Nothing of my own volition can make this change. I have to totally surrender and let God work.

Am I brave enough for that surrender?

Yesterday in worship, I felt so empowered by the prayer even in the midst of messages about how, as Quakers, we should be socially active in the local Occupy movement. I wasn't sure how it even connected and I wanted to share my message, my new prayer, but it never felt right. Perhaps I wasn't brave enough. I am so broken, I thought, I can't focus, except for prayer, on another cause. And yet the prayer of using that brokenness charged me with energy and a feeling of empowerment. It brought me peace yesterday.

Today, I am totally broken and in pain in a way I have not experienced in several years. I thought I was healing and over this, I sobbed to myself. Why am I here again?

Of course, my tonic, a warm swimming pool, closed today for maintenance and I am at loose ends. I have committed to so much this week and having a lower back that feels like two boards that do not meet and prevents me from standing straight was not on that to-do list.

Back on the heels of a wonderful trip, I am helping an author-friend with his synopsis, writing a marketing proposal for a potential client and planning an elaborate Italian thank-you dinner for my girls' caregivers while we were away. Oh and sewing last-minute Halloween costumes.

That's the kind of rhythm I used to have, BF (before fibro). And what happens when I feel well and begin to jump back in? My body speaks up, radically. My body or God?

I also acknowledge that I was given a great gift of healing recently when a locked sacroiliac opened after 13 years. This could be the other side re-balancing for the slack it has carried for so long. But it could also still be God.

I have been trying to discern my path for what seems like an eternity. Merging my passion and talents with something that, well, actually pays me. That's the standard of success the world recognizes.

What does my heart recognize? I told my pastoral counselor that the way I live takes so much work because it's again the current. He said that's the way it is. A spiritual mentor said undertaking a spiritual path isn't easy. And I am so trying to understand the real-life aspect of living in this world but not of it. I would just as soon slip into my little cocoon of contemplation.

But God calls me elsewhere: to use, even show, my brokenness in a world that almost refuses to look.

• What new prayer have I been given?
• How am I living that?
• With whom may I share those challenges?
• How do I live in the world but not of it?
• What's my best method of discerning God's call?

a title

for me

living under the shadow
of brokenness is
not glitzy and
often devoid of
human companionship,
understanding or

and yet,
it IS where
God calls and
I have no choice
but to follow
but not always
or easily

may I find joy
along this road