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.
 
  

Friday, October 7, 2016

lessons on fishing (and time) ...

[F]or me, philosophically, stress is a perverted relationship to time. So that rather than being a subject of your own time, you have become its target and victim, and time has become routine. So at the end of the day, you probably haven't had a true moment for yourself. And you know, to relax in and to just be. 
- John O'Donohue, interview in On Being (transcript here)

The first time I heard those words, I had to stop what I was doing (yes, multitasking), sit down, rewind (so-to-speak) the audio and listen closely.

[O]ne of the huge difficulties in modern life is the way time has become the enemy. (John O'Donohue)




I believe I have been shadow boxing Time for much of my adult life.  It's a slippery eel; the more I try to extract myself from a sense of being caught up in the net of time  -- rushing, running late, arriving breathless, wringing my hands at all I have to pack into one slim suitcase of time -- the more entangled I become.

To be conscious is not to be in time ... (T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

I totally agree with Eliot ...  but how to live in this modern world of school bus schedules, trash days, tax days, monthly bills and all AND to live in what an art teacher of mine once referred to as Medieval Time (absorbed, suspended within and outside of Time)?

Only through time time is conquered. (T.S. Eliot)

I'm not sure I want to conquer time so much as befriend it? It dawned on me that my frantic relationship with Time is part of a larger and deeply rooted anxiety. "Not enough-ness." It isn't so much Time fudging around with me as much as modern society perverting Time by turning it into a commodity. What is my time worth? You are wasting my time!  Words I've even heard my Girl parrot (from whom? Gulp.) 

I don't want Time as an enemy. I want to understand its deeper magic, the alchemical potential hinted at by O'Donohue when he writes "Possibility is the secret heart of time. On its outer surface time is vulnerable to transience. In its deeper heart, time is transfiguration." (Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom)

This student is more than ready ... and finally (it's about time?!) my teacher stepped forward:



Or rather, she perched forward.

For the past few weeks I have gone to the park for a walk and discovered Heron on the edges of the shore fishing.  The immediate lesson Great Blue Heron offers is that of patience. If you want to see Heron doing anything other than standing still like a avian manikin, you had better be prepared to wait. And watch. Abandon any notion of a quick walk and surrender to becoming like Heron by standing still. Looking  and waiting. 



Would say there is a fair helping of trust involved except doubt probably never enters into the heron's mind.  Now, I find myself doubting often ... getting antsy with the suspension of my walk (wasting my time?) but there is that delicious moment when an inner stubbornness wins and with a sigh I adjust my posture and settle in for the wait.

So far, I've always been rewarded.



Or rather, Heron is always rewarded for her patience, her commitment, her deep knowing This Is What I Do.  



Watching her the other day, I realized I often bemoan "Why is it taking me so long?"  The It varies - my understanding, my knowing, mastery of a skill, completion of a project or process, my finding My Way, flashing upon My Purpose - the list is long but the vibe is always that of me out of sync with some mythical timeline. I ought to be further along. I ought to have this all figured out by now.

Yeah. Right-o. 

It struck me that when I am fully absorbed and committed ... like Heron, focused upon the water that will surely yield a fish later or sooner ... I am suspended within the flow of time but not constricted by it. When I tantrum and feel the squeeze of Time -- this is taking me too long! -- then I am not fully in. I am distracting myself. I am turning outward when the call is to go in. Time  - or a fixation upon time and time keeping - is my means of side-stepping the depth diving. I don't have the time and it is taking too long.

So maybe, just maybe my frustration with time is a clue that I hiding out on the surface of time, swinging on the clock face when in fact time offers me a portal to dive deeper within. 

I know Heron's deeper teaching will be both a lesson and a surrender to time. Showing up, abiding, paying close attention, and most of all knowing when to act ...



and knowing when to stay in stillness.