Thursday, December 10, 2009

Acting by Heart

In my last post, I sang the praises of self-care and the beauty that emanates from holding one's Self in high regard. And, I described in that post my belief that true honor of one's Self involves not only hearing the whispers of the inner voice, but acting on them.

This past Thanksgiving, as has been my M.O. in years past, I allowed my sense of obligation, my over-active sense of responsibility to override the wisdom of the voice-beneath-the-voice. I felt pressured by the need I saw at work and offered my services to go above and beyond even knowing all the while it wasn't my best choice.

And I got sick.

Two weeks later, mostly recovered, I am able to give this experience some broader perspective. Reflecting on the immediate consequences of my actions, it is clear to me that this is how my body, my soul knows to get my attention. It worked. Getting sick stopped me dead in my tracks and I knew beyond a doubt that I was being told to slow down. Further still, that I am not in charge -- no amount of mind-over-matter would keep me immune from the realities of ignoring what I know. If I'm not going to take care of myself by choice, my circumstances will see to it that I do so out of necessity. What is the saying about the size of the 2-by-4 being equal to the level of our own stubbornness?

The ego likes to play this game with us to get us to go against what we know. "Oh, just this once won't hurt. It doesn't really apply to me. I can ignore it just a little bit longer. I'm tougher than that. It doesn't really matter." Whatever our triggers are, our ego knows and will use them to get us to listen to the lies it tells us rather than act on what we know to be our truth.

I like to think that most of us want to uncover the truth of who we are, why we're here, to make sense and meaning of our lives. But we look outside of ourselves, to others, to the jobs we do, the ways we busy ourselves in the world for the answers to the mystery that is our existence, that is our life on this earth. When all the while, everything we need to know, the guide to where we need to go, what we need to do (or not do) to live our most authentic life, is within us. Every moment. Every day.

I am continually amazed at this. How when I stop to consider our part in things, our part in the miracle that is this life, it occurs to me that all we're being asked to do is trust. To trust what we know in our hearts to be true enough to act on it. The first time.

I can't help but wonder, what could our lives look like then?//

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wanting to Fly

I had a dream last night that my dog could fly. In the dream, my husband and I were driving along a beautiful coastal road and the big fat moon was rising. We pulled over and got out of the car to witness the moon's journey, to catch a ray of moonlight on our faces, in our hearts. Trooper was with us romping around and paying homage to the beauty of the night. As Terry and I stood with gaped mouths and full hearts watching, Trooper took flight and was riding air currents under the light of the moon, tail wagging, undeniably joyful, liberated, free.

This dream struck me as particularly interesting because of an experience I had at work yesterday: as we talked about the holidays, the bakery schedule, all that needed to be done, a voice in my head began offering that I could work any and all hours, whatever was needed I would do. Keep in mind, "any and all hours" means beginning work some nights at midnight, doing such physical labor as to make one out-cold for the gatherings that holidays are built upon. This voice in my head is not unfamiliar. Traditionally, this is what I do...offer to go above and beyond with no thought to what I want or need. I have done this for going on ten years and while the holiday hoopla is a part of my job and a part I readily take on, it occurred to me yesterday that there was really no reason to draw attention to myself as a willing workhorse. What if, I thought, I could enjoy the holidays more fully because I was taking better care of myself? I would always do my job. I would always put forth my 110% effort when I was there. AND, I didn't have to selflessly sacrifice myself to make my contribution.

Hearing the voice that wants us to be more, do more, give more -- as if who we are, what we do and how much we give isn't already enough -- and knowing that doing what it prodded wasn't best for me in the long run felt like flying! Listening deeply for the voice-beneath-the-voice requires psychic space of sorts, the space that allows us to witness rather than react. If we can hear the voice of our inner wisdom, we have the time to consider it, to trust it and to act on it with intention.

Dog represents loyalty in Native American spirituality and as it often appears in my dreams, Dog has always represented loyalty to self. So perhaps in my dream, Trooper flying is a kind of psychic happy-dance -- Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer learning he can fly from sheer joy, realizing the love of his girl, Clarice. In my case, realizing the love it takes to hold myself and my highest good with respect. Maybe true liberation is learning to act on our own behalf rather than depending on someone else to see what we need and expecting them to do the work for us. Isn't our biggest task, truly, to be stewards of ourselves? To take care of ourselves, to honor what is best for ourselves and to act on that knowledge? To trust ourselves implicitly to know what we need, what is truly in our best interest?
If we think we're here, above all else, to take care of everyone else, I think we're missing the point. Yes, community and family are part and parcel of a full, meaningful life. But if we are all One -- all living beings in nature cut from the same divine energetic cloth -- and we only focus outwardly on others, we're missing the greatest opportunity to show respect to the gift of our lives by befriending, loving and taking care of ourselves. This is loyalty. And when we truly learn to care for ourselves as well as and with the same conviction as we care for others, we can fly.

And when we can fly, who knows what is possible for our lives?//

Friday, October 30, 2009

Season of Bounty

My hiatus is over. My much needed respite has come to an end. For now. As we wend our way into Fall, thoughts turn toward nestling in, mulling over all the experiences from past months. For the purposes of this blog, it might have been nice to have been writing about them as they occurred. But like the seasons, there is a time to reap and a time to sow. Turn, turn, turn...

Fall is about celebrating the bounty of the harvest. And what bounty we have this season! As I write, I'm looking out from my new library at the myriad trees that make up our new backyard -- maples and aspen in transition from green to gold -- giving thanks for new space that we're fortunate enough to call our home. There are birdfeeders to fill, gardens to dig in, leaves to rake, a lawn to mow and I find myself overflowing with gratitude at the simplicity of domestic chores to occupy my hands while my mind gets to flit from thought to thought as the birds from branch to branch.

Soon, these chores move indoors for the winter. But until then, I will spend every possible moment communing with what is now "our" land, which is less about ownership as it is partnership -- this land is simply ours to steward as best we can for as long as we're able with open and loving hearts. This is our gift -- to give and to receive, to welcome and be welcomed, to love and be loved. What I've learned is this is not just about partnership with our land, but with the whole of our lives.

It is in this new space that I invite the changes that the natural cycles of life and death and rebirth bring when we're willing to pay attention to their wisdom. Who will I become with the room to spread my wings? With space to open to the full range of possibility? Earlier this year, I dared ask the question: what is available to me here, right now, in this moment? The answer was simply to open to my part in the great dance of this life and to embrace that my part is ever-growing, ever-changing as we all are. I couldn't have been more amazed at what new adventures showed up when I did...

So I ask, what question will you dare to ask of your life?//

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Winds of Change

"I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be." ~Albert Einstein

It has been an unusually windy and dry spring. I've spent more time this year staking my irises, moving fledgling vegetable plants and flower pots around to the least breezy locations, all in an effort to protect them so they have the opportunity to grow and thrive for months to come.

It makes me wonder: when the winds of change come, do we perform the same dance for ourselves in the service of protection? Who's to say that facing the winds won't make us stronger? Or prepare us for some next step, some next challenge, some new version of who we will become?

I had a dream last night of strong winds -- not quite a tornado, but of winds strong enough to tear out bushes and small trees at their roots. In my dream, I watch roots pull out from the earth, witness the destruction inherent in change, but am not scared. Somehow, in my dream, I know that what is happening just is and I have no control over it. Somehow I know that when the winds move through, a new reality will be there waiting to welcome me to grow towards and adapt to. Such is the way of the natural world. Change just is.

Back in waking life, I realize I think I'm doing the plants -- and myself -- a favor in my protective actions against change. But what if the task at hand isn't heading change off at the pass, expecting that we know the outcome and avoiding it? What if, instead, we are being asked to surrender to the moment, to let go of what is and wonder with the giddiness of a child, what might be?

This Spring, what if we could set our attachments aside and let the winds of change bring us possibilities to grow and change that we might never have imagined? I, for one, am willing to give it a go.//

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Flowering Consciousness

Allergies aside, I absolutely adore this time of year. On my morning walk yesterday, the apple blossoms were poised to burst open at any moment. A few overachievers had already flashed the deep blush of their inner petals, permeating the air with a scent that stopped me dead in my tracks, nose raised skyward to locate the source. What joy to be led by a sense other than seeing or hearing! Those senses -- the usual suspects -- that we grow almost bored with because our experience of the world is limited by their slim range of capabilities. We begin to expect, in the habitual way humans tend to find comfort, that this is the only way...the right way.

Since my last entry, it's been a month of purging -- spring cleaning like I've never known it. Moving all the furniture, having carpets cleaned, rearranging, painting, sorting through the accumulated gunk, getting rid of what no longer serves us, making space. It feels as though the fog of confinement that a winter in Minnesota inevitably brings has finally lifted. And with it has come the openness and willingness to allow, sometimes through different senses than I'm used to utilizing, what yearns to be expressed -- and how.

The past year-and-a-half of writing from the intention of publishing has taught me many things, not the least of which is that that is not my preferred M.O. I want to create for the pure act of expression, the way it wants to come, sharing what it wants to share, living in the moment rather than being driven by external expectations, pressure and definitions of success. For now, I'm letting writing be what it's always been for me -- something that comes in cycles, its natural ebb and flow, pulling me in at will and setting me free when it's done.

I've always felt this way about my creative endeavors but have never quite allowed it. Being present to the process of creativity, to the now, I can be open to catching the scent of apple blossoms on the breeze and willing to follow wherever it leads.//

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Behold the Mystery

Spring has finally sprung, and with it, comes the desire to finally emerge. It's been a long, hard winter, even by Minnesota standards, and I couldn't help feeling over the past month, that we were due. Where was the warmer weather we so desperately deserved? Hadn't we been through enough? Funny, isn't it, how we try to control through our expectations, something as uncontrollable as the weather. Who can predict the wind?

I'm pretty sure Mother Nature wasn't making Spring's late arrival personal. And yet, at times, it can feel that way. Just as, now that it's here, it feels we've been rewarded -- personally. Temperatures teetering at 60 make below zero feel like a dream from the dark and distant past. I wonder, is it our compulsion to live in the past and the future that makes a "long, hard winter" long and hard? What if, we allowed each moment to be what it is?

It's easy to do when the days are gloriously sun-drenched and warm, with nights that are still and cool. When the birds outside my bedroom can't contain their joyful warbling much past 5:30am. When our evening walks at the park reveal so many new discoveries -- returning red-wingers, budding birch, sunning snakes -- that we are called back again and again just so we can be sure to take it all in.

But, doesn't each moment hold this kind of wonder if we simply open to it? Like the crocuses springing up from out of nowhere, can we live free from the encumbrances of the past, free from our expectations of the future and behold the mystery inherent in each moment as it is? Can we choose to move toward the light in any situation? At any time? For no other reason beyond that it's there and we're drawn to it?

Maybe it isn't even a choosing. Maybe it will happen naturally, like the coming of Spring, if we just allow it.//

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Getting Out of the Way

I've been thinking a lot about my book project lately. It is out for an initial review and I have honestly no idea what the response will be. Strangely, for the large part, this feels OK. Will I be told it's crap? That it has potential? I don't know that it matters. There's something here that I fear is ambivalence which actually feels like freedom. As if I have some degree of non-attachment to the whole thing, which isn't because I don't care or don't want to finish a completed, polished manuscript or that I don't know the woman reviewing my work, therefore I'm not invested in her comments.

Is it a knowing, perhaps? That I'm on to something, even if I don't know exactly what it is? Or how it will turn out?

I recognize it now as my style to have pieced together my first draft, regardless of how shabby, to then be able to reshape and re-vision and spiff it up from there. Like roughing in the framing of a remodeled room, I can now sit back with the parameters set and imagine the possibilities. It's a, "what do I have to work with here" mentality that lends itself perhaps not to endless options, but to more options than I could ever want or need as long as I remain open to what's available.

It's a bit unnerving to be here, in this place I've never been. But exciting, too. Each successive step in the book-writing process is its own animal, yielding rewards and complications and wonders unique to the moment...that I will come to know each time, for the first time.

That's what living in the now is all about, isn't it? For evolutionary purposes, we have been designed to retain all our old information: what happened here or there, where are the potential pitfalls. We needed this to survive, to anticipate what would happen before it actually occurred. I would argue that in this age of relative ease and convenience, the same rules do not apply -- at least not in the same way. Suspending our preconceived ideas and expectations of what we think something will be or even should be allows us the freedom to imagine what they could be. Or at the very least, appreciate them for what they are.

All experience is just a microcosm informing something deeper -- our personal process for living our own lives. Experience is a tool by which we can witness how we view the world, either as another dragon to slay or as an unfolding of possibility, each moment flush with its own potential.

Working on this book project, for me, is such a tool. What I've recognized is: we are the now. Each of us is this present moment, ripe with the potential and possibility just waiting for us to get out of our own way to see what -- or who -- will arise.//

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Holding Space

Last fall, a friend introduced me to Vipassana, which is an ancient form of insight meditation practice based on the concept of seeing things as they are. By watching the breath, observing the body and its sensations and how these sensations condition the mind, which in turn informs action, self-transformation can take place. Typically, Vipassana retreats last a minimum of ten days, however we attended a three-day retreat. After an intense three days of silence, alternating sitting meditation with walking meditation, I knew that the time was too short and that I needed more.

After the retreat, I tried to incorporate this meditation into my daily life with little success. For Christmas, I asked for a zafu meditation cushion, sure that this was they key to what I needed to support my fledgling practice. Until last weekend, the cushion sat in my closet. I have no where to put it, I reasoned. So, in the closet it sat. I've pulled it out and used it a couple times, randomly here and there. But the point of course, is to make a daily ritual of it. This is especially important as I prepare for a ten-day Vipassana retreat in July (gulp!).

As with all new things we introduce into our lives, they require a certain amount of dedication, discipline and resolve. And a willingness to explore our own process and determine what we honestly need to make the new habit, whatever it is, possible. Excuses abound if we let them. My favorite excuse is that our house is modestly sized and I don't have my own meditation space. I do, however, have an elaborate sketch of my ideal studio especially for writing, painting, yoga and meditation, in view of what would be my magnificent flower and vegetable gardens, and acres of trees. For some future house, at some future time. Which does nothing for me or my mediation practice now.

Last Sunday, I was in our office and in a flash, saw my meditation cushion nestled in a small space between two bookshelves. Ah ha! I thought. I pulled out a tablecloth I had purchased at a flea market years ago for no other reason than I fell in love with the pattern and the fabric (which has incidently almost never been used for its original purpose), and smoothed it out on the floor, in half, to mark the space I would need. I fished the cushion from the depths of the closet and set it on the tablecloth on the floor. The space is small; my husband and I share the office and while it's more or less out of the way, it's awkward. And, it's perfect.

In the spirit of Vipassana, of seeing things as they are, we need to be present to what is currently available to us and live from there. It doesn't mean we abandon all dreams for the future. Being present to our circumstances and living inclusive of them rather than in spite of them, we are able to create the space -- literally or figuratively -- for whatever we need to live our fullest life. Having my cushion holding space for me makes it infinitely easier for me to show up to the task...however, it is still up to me to get there.//

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Peaceful Celebration

I completed the first draft of my memoir yesterday and sent it off for review. I had been sitting on it for a couple months, knowing that I had the opportunity to have it looked at once I completed it, yet couldn't quite manage to get it done. Jumping into it in fits and starts over those months, the task seemed too daunting, too hard, too taxing...all the things I tell myself for why I can't see a thing through to completion.

So I questioned it: why couldn't I get my manuscript done? Because the Saboteur told me I couldn't, that's why.

The Saboteur has been lording over me for more years than I can count, the fact that I never seem to finish anything. "Never" and "Always" being those exaggerations that the Saboteur is so particularly fond of to keep us paralyzed, under control, reigned in tight. Faced with the prospect of needing to finishing my manuscript, I was downright terrified.

Enter the Saboteur's partner-in-crime, Perfectionist. If the Saboteur gets edgy, if it thinks he needs reinforcements, he calls in his old pal for back-up. In my case, personally, this is particularly effective. Not only did I worry about whether I could "ever" get finished, I was convinced by the Perfectionist that whatever I did throw together would be crap. They give me the one-two sucker punch and sit in waiting, sure that my answer to all of this resistance will be "Why Bother?!?"

One of the things I vowed to do for myself this year is to question my assumptions. What is it that holds me down, holds me back, makes me careful and coming from fear? Listening to The Saboteur and Friends rather than my own wisdom.

Calling my hero, Courage, I found the guts to consider that as close as I was to finishing my manuscript, what if I just did it? Who cares if its crap? I mean, really. That's what first drafts are for; take a stab at it and see what comes next. Babies don't spring from the womb able to talk and walk; it takes time. And practice. And trying and mistakes and trial and error. Creative projects are just like children and deserve the time and the space to develop and grow and become, regardless of what others might expect of them.

The saying goes, we can do anything we put our mind to. I'd like to ammend that a bit: We can do anything we put our heart and mind to. The resistance we encounter through the mind isn't all bad -- it requires us to call upon the courage of the heart to continue on. We need both, in order to bring our best selves to our work. And to the world.

I have to admit, I expected some degree of fanfare when I clicked "send" and emailed my manuscript off to its reviewer. But there was none. Instead, there was a peaceful celebration, a content, satisfied quiet that let me know the Saboteur and his band of merry mischief makers were taking a break. If they're on vacation, it's all good. I'll take it.//

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Diving In

Last Friday evening, I had the unique opportunity to be a part of a Kirtan -- the ancient yogic art of mantra chanting -- through the local yoga center where I study. I have had some exposure to chanting in various yoga classes over the past couple months and I've been enthralled and intrigued. When I heard about this event, I knew without a doubt I needed to be a part of it.

Music and singing were formative for me, some core of who I was coming into this world. All the years of my childhood and into college, singing was my thing -- a part of choirs, singing solos, a memeber of acapella groups, dancing around the house belting out the soundtracks to Fame or Grease. Something in me settles to feel my own voice vibrating in my chest. And I haven't sung beyond the safe enclosure of my car in years.

As the hour of the Kirtan approached, as I did the dishes and then got ready to go, I was sick with apprehension. My mind bobbed and weaved through all the possible excuses I could come up with for not going. Not going?! I tuned into the stream of consciousness, the flurry of madness rampaging through my brain. At first, my intent was to shut it up, to reason with it, to turn it off. Then, in the spirit of the yogini I am becoming, my intent shifted to bearing witness, with interest, to what was attempting to hijack me, pleading with me to tuck tail and run, and why.

Snow was lightly beginning to fall as I pulled out of our drive. I was able to acknowledge that I wasn't nervous going to the yoga center; I practically live there these days. Still, my heart raced. I knew I wanted to go and knew that, for whatever reason, I needed to be there. So what was the problem? I sat momentarily in the car once I arrived, watching the snow drift and melt on the windshield before mustering the courage to go in.

As I settled myself onto my bolster and into my comfortable mediation position, as the music and chanting began, as my voice blended effortlessly into the chorus joined together that evening, my heart welled up with gratitude. With gratitude and relief. As we sang of Shanti (peace) and began to split into spontaneous rounds and harmonies, tears sprang from my eyes and the death-grip in my chest began to give way. It occured to me that this was what my soul longed for, and what my ego had simultaneously feared: Power born of my own voice, of my own willingness to take a risk and try something new. I showed up to myself, to the calling, and chose to participate fully in my life in that moment.

Isn't this all the Universe really asks of us? To participate in the divine creative partnership we were born into, manage to forget, and then spend the bulk of our lives trying to reconnect with?

This night was a homecoming that I can only believe my ego feared I could never find...or feared for its future ruling the roost when I did. Despite the fear, we owe it to ourselves to dive headlong into the water of our lives -- and trust that the rest will take care of itself.//

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Finding Our Own Way

One of my favorite things to do, regardless of season, is hike with my husband and our dog at a 400-acre park whose previous life was that of a local resident's farmstead. When he passed on, he left this oasis of woods and prairie, lake and pond, with miles and miles of trail to explore to the city with the stipulation that it only ever be available for public use. My family can't thank him enough for his generosity. The gift of Ritter Farm is never lost on me.

Last weekend, when the frigid temperatures broke for a couple of days, we were back to our old tricks -- waking early to get out to the park to start our day. Trooper couldn't have been happier, waggling her tail as she worked the trail before us, nose to the ground, stopping to scratch in the snow to uncover secret scents. There are few things as joyful to me as witnessing her grand adventures in freedom, exploring, exploring, exploring. If only we could take in our surroundings as thoroughly and with as much abandon...

We couldn't have been happier either. Feeling the early February sun beginning to regain strength is wrought with hope. Good ol' Punxsutawney Phil informed us we still have six weeks of winter to contend with (at least!), but each moment we can soak in the wonder of being out in the cold and feeling contendedly warm, we know it won't be long now until the trees begin to bud and the red-wingers return. All in its own time.

Spring might not be right around the corner, but she's close. Close enough to taste on the wind; close enough to feel on the skin. May we all find our own way to her, and with hope in our hearts, welcome her whenever she feels her time is ripe to arrive.//

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Let it Be

Winter in Minnesota can be a harsh and unforgiving time, devoid of optimism and promise. It goes on and on with no end in sight. Or so it feels. A writer friend told me yesterday that she wakes up day after day, looks out the window and it is still the frozen wasteland it was the day before. And yet, we choose to live here.

This year, I've been unusually affected by the cold, the stark. Of course it doesn't help that it has been below zero, or close to it, for a majority of the past month. Perhaps I feel it more this year because I am consciously focusing my attention to it and have recognized my unconscious attachment to wanting it to be different.

Feeling trapped in the house, I remind myself that my hiding away is a choice. I watch the arctic sunshine bathe the deck and dream of the day I can be out there writing in my willow chair, my dog basking in the warmth next to me. Even the dog gets confused and begs to go out to soak up the sun, expecting heat when there is none. I get resentful, in spite of myself.

What if I just let it be? In how many ways do we let our expectations interfere with what is? Just as this blog is a work in progress, a creative process in its own right, aren't the cycles of Nature as well? Aren't we? If we spend so much time investing in the outcome, what energy do we have for attentiveness -- for honoring things as they are? We are so conditioned to push ahead, to drive for the destination, that we forget to slow down and enjoy the scenery. We forget to let this moment be what it is, and to be present with it.

Yesterday, as I drove to an appointment, an Eagle crossed my path, soaring on invisible currents of frigid January air. He didn't mind the cold. Who knows? Arctic air may allow for a whole new way of flying. In Native American teachings, Eagle represents Spirit; freedom and feeding your soul. Attentiveness is about just that kind of nurturing. Had I been single-mindedly on my hurried way, expecting that it was just another cold, stark January day that I wished was behind me, I may have missed it -- the majestic magic of Eagle dancing on air.

Attentiveness, in my experience, is always rewarded. Be in the moment and the moment will reveal its treasures to you. Even if it's well below zero and you can scarcely see through the frosted windshield...//

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Getting Started

Welcome to my blog, Wonder of All Things!

I'm not particularly fond of New Year's Resolutions and haven't made any, per se, in I don't know how many years. But I did have the kernel of an idea, of starting this blog. And so, on this cold winter's night at the end of January 2009, under the guidance of a sliver of moon, Wonder of All Things is born.

As with any creative project, I am setting aside the expectation that this blog will somehow spring forth in any complete and final form. The truth is, I have no idea where this will go or what it will become. Gratefully, this is not for me to know. Preserving the sense of mystery in its unfolding leaves the wonder, inherent in all of life, for us to discover. Befriending surprise in all things is a wonder-ful adventure. Ride on...

May this blog be allowed to grow and develop, breathe and unfold into whatever it wants to become. And in its becoming, I hope that we all will allow ourselves to become as well.//