Wednesday, January 11, 2017

* Simplicity *

Simplicity is my intention for 2017 ... along with Devotion (ah, yielding to the Gemini rising in my natal chart ... gotta have two intentions!)  I excel at overthinking, over complicating matters so Simplicity will be a real practice for me. It is already helping me find a path back in after a tumble down the hillside of illness and emotional exhaustion.

Lacking any sophisticated, clever or inspired account of the past month or so, I realize Simplicity tells me to just show up and begin again. Here's my story du jour: I thought I had injured my back and thankfully, that wasn't the case. (I worried I would no longer be able to volunteer with mucking out stalls, turning out horses - the one job I always look forward to!) What I had was a case of the shingles thankfully with no rash, just weird sensations and occasional flashes of intense and random pain. (At times it felt like I had an alien inside my body attacking my back or stomach muscles.) Still, the virus along with polar bear chilling temperatures, have kept me house bound for weeks. 

Weeks at home with only the dog and my loopy aunt of a mind to keep me company. 

Weeks to ponder my itchy navel. (Right side only)

Weeks  shuffling about the house in the one pair of comfy, loose-fitting and warm pants that I own ... weeks wearing oversized underwear of my husband's (who knew?! Men's underwear is infinitely more comfortable! No leg elastic! All cotton, no miracle fabric that tries to mold or cling to my delicate parts ... and no, I flatly refuse what my husband oh-so-gently tried to suggest to me: that perhaps I have been wearing a size too small of my lady-panties. Hogwash!)  A slippery slope for sure. The prevailing mood: Meh and What's the point?

I have no agenda. I have no plans, no real ambitions. This entire past year I have felt like the Hanged Man in the Tarot ... swinging and dangling and wondering when will I be cut down? After frustration, after despair, after confusion and resistance ... yup ... surrender. A slow but steady shedding of the layers of identity that I believed were necessary to bring meaning to my existence, to who I believe I am meant to be.

Lying in bed at 3 am, the virus attacking my back, waiting for a pain pill to kick in, with Mad Men on Netflix keeping me company ... it was a strange kind of rebirthing experience. (I felt squeezed by life in a not-so-loving way) My body, living, current events  (the world ruled it seems by upside thinking and pretzel logic) have me redefining how I want to be living each day.  "You've got to find what matters most to you." This was the advice given to the writer/doctor Paul Kalanithi after receiving a diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer. (When Breath Becomes Air is his beautiful and thought provoking memoir, published after his death)





Apparently, birds matter a lot to me. Interesting experiment: leave lots of pictures on your camera and months later, download them. I had 78 pictures of birds taken from my back window. (A discovery which means I am more my father's daughter than I have allowed myself to believe ... as inheritor of his boxes of seagull slides, the relationship is hard to miss)

These past weeks I have leaned upon what matters to me:  
- my yoga practice (choosing again The Simple: basic poses, breath practices that enliven and refresh my body and mind; complex postures are not better, merely complex) 
- creative practice (learning, playing, observing, pushing myself to develop and grow by taking a drawing class online; immersing myself in the basics of line, tone, color theory and learning about my tools and technique)
- time simply spend connecting with family and friends



Rather than fixating on making something of my life, I am focused upon the simple act of living it. Or at least observing it when weather and illness prevent me from a more active existence.

  

Having fun certainly (there has been much binge watching of Six Feet Under, Mad Men, X-Files, Vera - all in the service of knitting time, of course!) but in turn, my chance to squeeze life back. 

Simply put: to be fiercely disciplined with myself about how I show up in my life: how I speak, what I do, what I think and where I place my energy and attention. And when I catch myself stepping off track, I simply step back on path.  

 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

yielding to the darkness ...

Even though I know the short days of December will be hard, I am always caught off guard. I must want to forget how deeply the low amounts of sun light affect me. Yet the darkness of December while a challenge to my energy and mood, offers much in the way of insight and healing.



This year in addition to our advent calendar, I am marking the days with an email offering from this writer (courtesy of another kindred writer/friend). I usually don't do all that well with the discipline of opening and reading lengthy emails, especially when the bulk of my email time is spent deleting the surge of advertising emails I really ought to unsubscribe to, but the power of delete is rather a heady one for me and about all the energy I can muster these days.  Nevertheless,  I have been enjoying the coziness of this offering, usually coming to yea olde laptop (it's true! my lap top is OLDE) with a cuppa something warm and nourishing. I love the musings and the tasty tidbits offered.

One post has inspired me to ponder the gifts of darkness. Add to the seasonal challenges, I strained my back right before Thanksgiving and have had to buckle down when it comes to self care. (I had been joking that self care in menopause is no longer an option, but a necessity. Well, go figure my body would call me on this by DEMANDING I honor my words.) It dawned on me today that in our modern 24/7 world with lights galore, we have become incapacitated when it comes to living in darkness. The same is true in regards to silence and stillness. 

Yet the cycles of Nature offer many opportunities to move into the dark. The moon each month goes dark when she is beginning a new cycle. From the Autumn Equinox to the Winter Solstice the days grow shorter, the period of sunlight lessens. The angle of the sun in the sky is softened as well. Our human lights block out the light of the stars, isolating us further from the experience of connection and an enhanced perspective upon our place in creation. 

So I hurt my back. And the hardest part of my day? Nighttime. It was impossible to find a comfortable sleeping position. I would finally fall asleep only to wake up whenever I shifted my body in the bed. The only relief I could experience was lying on my yoga mat, breathing and stretching my body gently and mindfully.  The pain would subside. Heaven, right? Well, for one week solid I would cry the entire time I stretched. Not movie tears that soften a face with a gentle dew. No, my crying was body convulsing sobs and geysers where my eyes should be. Red faced and snotty, I moved through the stretches.  

Anna K Tarot - The lesson of the Hanged Man for me has been finding within the bright light of The Star

I have lots of ideas as to why the overdue emotional release. Yes, I have blamed current events and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. But staying in the depths of the emotional pool, I discovered vast pockets of sorrow, loss, grief and fear. Nothing all that unexpected at this stage of my life. I've said goodbye to many loved ones and watched our world change drastically (from my perspective as a "Nineteener" - what Cowgirl calls me in reference to my having lived a chunk of my life in the previous century). There is a lot to process. Making the time to do so, that's another matter. 

Darkness, like my back pain, forces me to look inward for my own source of light and relief. The shorter days (or time of day with daylight) remind me to lighten my load, to pare down the to-do list to that which sustains and enlivens me.  My bottom line is my practices - yoga, meditation, drawing and painting -  time in nature and family time.  All of these pieces nurture connection and rootedness.  They ease me out of fear and pain (funny, when I draw or paint, my back no longer hurts), and bring me back to a place of Hope. There is much to worry about but there is also much to celebrate. Drawing upon the bounty within me - my heart and my life - I am strengthening myself for the new year and the new challenges ahead. 

I have chosen my intention for the coming year: Simplicity and Devotion


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Standing Still


 But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out. Life so far doesn't have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there's a temple, I haven't found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
and the weeds. 
(Excerpt from What Is There Beyond Knowing by Mary Oliver) 


These days it seems wise to know what grounds me, what strengthens me, what nourishes and fills me, and to make of that my practice.

I've spent a lot of time wondering and worrying about purpose - my purpose to be exact. Wanting to be of purpose: to contribute and to help ... to heal and repair ... to inspire and support and of course, to fight the good fight.

It feels rather daunting right now. I suppose it has always been so and now there is some clarity in perceiving the immensity of the situation before us. Definitely the lid has been blasted off and we see clearly  (and painfully) the dark and ugly trends in our society, the gaps and the divide.

One thing that stands out for me is the tendency for helping out to evolve into mucking up. Each side of the political divide would argue for their intentions being The Good Ones. I'm not suggesting apathy or inaction, but I am taking this time to tend to that which is mine to care for: the hygiene of my spirit, my heart, and my home.  For if any real change is going to happen - and honestly, the change needed to course correct is epic, and it will require immense reserves of resilience and determination which for me demand a  stable inner foundation, and a clear and strong inner light. 

So what do I do right now? I walk. 

  I walk and I try to listen and learn. I try to understand the message of the trees shaking in the wind. I listen to the geese and the stories told by their wings as they beat overhead. I watch the muskrat glide across a pond and open myself to his wisdom of his life. I speak my prayers daily to my backyard bushes and grasses, birds and chattering squirrels. I bury the rabbit's legs (yes, two so far) retrieved by my dog and offered to me as great gifts, which they are. The leg bones picked clean, the delicately tapered feet left intact. Lucky rabbit's foot. Well, luck is a matter of perspective and time, but I am reminded that my daily practice puts me in a mindset to perceive and act upon opportunities of grace and good luck.

I try not to do so much as undo ... the fears, the overwhelm, the doubts, the I'm too small mindset and limitations. If ever there was a time to Be The Light, it is now. These days my spiritual practice (which can look a lot like a creative practice) feels like a daily load of laundry: soaking, washing, and spinning my inner field of thoughts and energies.  Each days there is gunk to clear out and parts of me to mend and strengthen. 

Yes, darning the holes in my soul.  Embellishing the elbow patches of my heart sweater. Doing what I can to support groups tackling the big causes and throwing myself into local action.  This past week I stepped up in my volunteer position, taking on a more edgy (for me) task. It felt good to stretch myself. I know the challenges ahead will demand more stretching, more pushing myself past my edge of comfort, and that the edge will continue to shift and move as I grow. So starting small is okay. Just start, right?


There is a young mother I see every week when I volunteer. She shows up for her son in ways that stretch my heart to the point of cracking. And yet, she often expresses feeling helpless and uncertain, frustrated and afraid. I get it. We all feel that feeling about some aspect of our lives right now. Work, community, the environment, teenagers ... the list goes on.  But I believe the way forward is what I hear inside my head every time I see this mom - Just Love. It sounds so trite, so banal. But past the sappy sentiments, Love can inspire fierceness (think of the goddess Durga.) it can motivate us to take action and stretch and grow in ways beyond anything we could imagine. I know I cannot imagine a possible solution to the woes before me ... but my heart does not think. It feels, it holds, and it transforms.  



My intention is to show up here to share this journey. It feels important to me to communicate and share where I find Light in my life and how I work to support it. I get lost when I think "Does this matter? Does this help in any concrete way?" I cannot control the outcome of any action ... I can only attend to the gesture itself, taking care to act from the truth of my heart. I cannot judge whether it will be enough I only know that  showing up for Love each and every day brings me in alignment with Hope and Possibility, and those are not small things.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

spiraling in(ward)

'Tis the season ...



This past weekend it was time to winterize the garden (even though it still feels like late summer here) and I find myself marveling at another year under the belt (or on the belly - yes, the menopausal marsupial pouch is emerging). I can't shake the feeling of my life as a spiritual strip-tease in the sense of I am paring away the inessentials to steep myself in what makes a difference, what keeps me in connection with Self and Source.

Obviously, chatter is not high on my "keep" list.

I am popping in to say I am deep in my trenches. All energy is being funneled towards my spiral inward.  What has been supporting me: this circle of lunar lovelies (The Journey Inward) ... astrological guidance and insights from a dear friend and gifted teacher Kristina Wingeier ...a community holding me accountable to daily practice and radiant living (Fierce Grace Collective) and my daily measures (how do I fill my own basket?) which include drawing, painting, cooking, prayer, meditation, time in nature, hands busy with crafts or cradling cups of tea, cuddles under the covers as my girl and I watch cooking shows or nature series ... you get the point. Daily living celebrated but also peppered with curses as I beam my hip against the concrete counter top or fumble with the settings on the dishwasher (how do I override the timer setting that I inadvertently triggered?) or search for my misplaced mailbox key (how did it end up in the trash?)

The week of my birthday I traveled to Northern California for a self-proclaimed goddess retreat. Go figure, the one week of rain coincided with my visit. Well. No matter, two goddesses will have fun wet or dry and I gratefully offered myself to some much welcomed pampering in the form of good food, hot beverages, belly-aching laugh binges and soul-nourishing discussions that sparked some deep aha's.  Oh, and hours of couch lounging watching Six Feet Under. I had forgotten how utterly brilliant and insightful this series was/is. Am eagerly awaiting season two to arrive at the library so I can binge some more.  

flexing our shero muscles; with Kristina Wingeier


While on retreat, we journeyed up the coast for a one day workshop/introduction to Equine Guided Education.  Yes, this is a process where the horse is the coach/guide! My kind of teacher :)  I had an inkling of what might happen, but I also knew (and craved) the experience of having to find my way through feeling and being. I want to shift out of so much thinking (lordy, am I good at thinking thinking thinking) and discover what lurks beneath all those busy thinky thoughts. What really is driving me right now? I keep flashing on "connection" but what does that really mean? What am I holding back from in myself and in my life?  

EGE_Promo, Achille Bigliardi from achille bigliardi on Vimeo.


The day was an introduction to the process and I was able to try both round pen technique (going in and asking the horse for guidance on my questions which really are my confusions) and a leading exercise. I admit, I felt crazy stepping into a muddy, wet ring (another rainy day) with a horse and speaking out loud to her and the group my questions, my ideas, my ill-formed declaration of purpose. What do I really care about? What contribution or legacy do I wish to create, nurture and grow? It was awkward trying to find words when I came to the workshop with the belief that I am lost. And crazier still to struggle with language when what blocks me is my robust and busy mind.  

Cliched statements of belief or purpose fall especially flat when spoken to a horse in the rain. I learned a bit about my habits ... the disconnect between what I say and what I believe. My body language, manner of speaking, and the horse's reaction showed me where the true horseshit was to be found. Later on I realized much of my time in the pen was spent desperately posturing for that horse's approvalLike me! Tell me I am okay!  Of course, as long as I don't feel that way about myself, the horse isn't going to either. It is all about coherence for the horses, and this horse showed me my inner and outer realities do not line up I walked out of the pen still confused, not having dug deep enough down to discover the raw and real source of my imbalance. 

The next exercise was to lead a horse out in the field while clearly one's purpose or inner conviction/now-truth.  I admit, I was thinking to myself "I know how to lead horses! This will be easy." Ha! In a clear and steady voice I stated my truth and stepped forward only to feel the horse statue-still and unyielding. Feeling that first edge of resistance, all my resolve and confidence crumbled. Inside my head, the voices were scrambling, shouting, and panicked. I turned back to look at the horse and without connecting with myself, attempted to move her forward

all images of me with the horses by Kristina Wingeier

Again, she would not budge. Apparently, my body language mirrored my own doubts which the horse clearly understood. I wasn't connected to my own truth so much as I was grasping onto a resolve to make this happen. So when it didn't, I could feel everything inside me freeze up. I honestly don't remember the shift. I just breathed. Let go of the voices screaming inside me, lifted my heart and stepped forward. This time when I felt the resistance on the rope, I did not back away. I leaned forward, held on and decided "I want to move on." And then the horse began to walk.



As we made our way in a circle, I could feel the lead line taunt between us and for a moment I worried "It shouldn't be this way." But I also realized if I started thinking, all would be lost. I had to keep moving. To think would lead to becoming stuck again.  And I want to move forward into my life. So I kept walking and the horse followed. Eventually, I was aware of walking with my heart leading, belly soft and it was then that I felt the lead line slacken, the horse and I moving together in harmony.

It all happened so fast, I am still unraveling the experience. Believe in myself. Drop into the body, lead with my heart.  Step firmly and confidently into the Now.  Decide, then act. Quit second-guessing myself. The only one I have to convince is myself. There was a lot of talk about leadership that day. What it boils down to is relationship. I learned that the first horse, Lily - the one whose approval I sought - was the mother of the horse I led in the second exercise. In my own life, my mother never offered me guidance; she only  offered support and encouragement. The challenge has been and continues to be trusting in myself.

I understand now I was holding back in the round pen. I joked that I didn't want to step in the mud or muck. How true. Don't let things be messy, don't be difficult, don't release the confusion and frustration. Move towards the light, stay out of the mud.  Well, Life began in the primordial sludge, didn't it? 

The other piece I am chewing over is the rift between knowing and believing. I keep circling back to my need to KNOW ...  what should I do with my life? Underneath that is my assumption that there exists a single (and correct) answer for me to discover. But what I learned from Tiponi is it matters little the what of my work, my life. What matters is the way I show up for my life. Listening today to an interview with Kundalini Yogi  Snatam Kaur I heard what the horses were trying to teach me: it is about listening and being fully present in myself. It understanding my inner vibration moves out into the world ... what is the state of that vibration? Is it clean, clear, uplifting, and loving


How well am I tending to my heart? That is the key to understanding how I can best tend to my life, how I can offer myself to the world.