Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Week 8 - Safe Haven

If you choose to be present, then gradually the hidden treasures will be revealed. ~Leonard Jacobson

Sometimes the winds of change take us places we don't expect. Turmoil instead of safety, chaos instead of stillness. Someplace bad when we were hoping for someplace good. For all intents and purposes, I would say I had a bad morning. Yet I still abide by the belief that life is just life. Good and bad are opposite ends of a spectrum of judgment that on a spiritual plane don't hold much weight. They're easy labels, certainly, and useful in the way that we all have an idea of what they mean, how they feel. They are a common language we all can speak with one another. But what if we suspend use of those judgments? Especially in the heat of the moment when we want to strike out or close down or let our ego soothe us in our misery by recounting for us all of the ways in which we were wronged?

I'll be honest, I don't do conflict well. Really, who does? But the longer I walk this path the more I find I'm willing to step up and the less I'm willing to brush things under the rug. If something needs to be handled, I handle it. This has worked well in some cases, not so well in others, and either way is not a road without its bumps and bruises. Yet in the end, what is, is. And in my belief that life is just life, what we need to experience arrives and we either step in willingly, or turn and run the other direction only to encounter it in some other guise at some other time. Neither good nor bad.

As I stepped into my situation this morning, as the emotions flooded in threatening to hijack me completely, I sought space...the space I settle into in my meditations. The buffer between the impulse and the reaction. I admit that looking for the space wasn't my first response -- on some level I had to move beyond the intensity of the interaction and choose it. My ego kept vying for my attention, poking at my sore spots and trying to get a rise out of me, to get me to defend its honor. How could someone say I was wrong? Made a poor choice, handled something badly? I kept choosing the space. To my surprise, it helped. And the ego's diatribe simply faded into background chatter instead of being the most important thing in the world.

Yes, the tears were flowing but somehow that was the beauty of what was revealing itself: this space of meditation that we tap into doesn't make the hurt go away -- riding the full wave of Experience does that -- but provides a safe container to hold it in. A safe place in which to sit with it, honor it, feel it and not figure it out, but let it be. My inner voice kept telling me to stop, to breathe into my anger and frustration and to not fix it, to surrender it, to leave it alone. Let me tell you, I'm a fixer to the nth degree so this felt like going against my very nature. But when I listened and heeded the call, when I honored the wisdom of my heart, I found peace. I may still have felt rotten and beat up -- this is sometimes just the way of things -- but the peace was like stepping into a warm embrace. That place that imbues us with the uncomplicated knowing that this too shall pass. Even if we don't fix it. Even if we let it go.

Meditation isn't meant to fix anything, but allows us access to a safe haven to be with our hurts, lick our wounds, learn our lessons and move on without accumulating the baggage that the ego means for us to attach to and carry with us indefinitely. Who knew? Not me. Not really. But now I know.

The ego can have its grudges and revenge. It can have its drama. I'll take the haven where it's safe to listen to my heart.//

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Week 7 - Gratitude

The Universe is naturally abundant. The things you truly need or want are here for the asking. ~Shakti Gawain

Preceding the season of giving is the season of giving thanks. Given that it's two days before Thanksgiving, this seems as good a time as any to shout out to my supporters, my guides, my mentors and friends and express my gratitude for your presence in my life. Anyone who takes the time to read these words, I thank you. It is such a gift to be able to muster the courage to write, to do this thing I love, and to put myself out there. And to think that someone might read the thoughts, feelings and musings I thread together -- much less get something out of it -- well, it's almost too much to ask for. I guess that takes some courage, too. Most of all, though, I'm just grateful. Wholly, humbly and profoundly grateful.

As I was meditating tonight it occurred to me that I'm still only halfway through my first "trimester". If I were really pregnant, what would it be like to be a mere seven weeks in? Man, wouldn't I just be getting used to the idea of being pregnant? The myriad ways my life was bound to change just a glimmer on the horizon?

I think about the changes I've encountered so far, and I'm amazed. The peacefulness that permeates most of what I experience in a day. Creativity that beckons me in all aspects of my life. The patience to deal with the needs of those most important to me. And gratitude -- I find myself thankful for everything...even in challenge there is some gem of a lesson to unearth to be grateful for.

Now, I like to think that I've always been a person who was quick with a thank you. To co-workers for a job well-done. To friends for their thoughtfulness. To the Universe for the sheer beauty that surrounds me daily. In fact, it was bred into me -- my mom had me and my brother writing thank you's as soon as we could write. Even Santa was in on it -- we always got thank you notes in our stockings on Christmas morning...how did he know?

Maybe now it is simply about a deepening. Maybe this daily meditation just helps me to focus more on what is good in my world, to not get caught up in what is or might go terribly wrong. And when it does, to be thankful for the inevitable blessings that come with it. Being more present surely allows us to see the beauty of what's right in front of us. To reconnect with the joyful souls we were born to be.

We don't exist here in a vacuum -- we're connected whether we realize it or not. With our fellow human beings, with Nature, with the creative Source. In partnership, by asking for what we feel would satisfy and inspire us in our lives, we give the Universe the opportunity to collaborate with us...to shower us with the abundance it has to share. But it's a team effort. We need to show interest. We need to learn how to ask. And we need to be willing to say thanks.

What amazes me more than witnessing how I've grown thus far, is to imagine what thirty-three more weeks of this may have to offer. And to know that the act of meditation itself is the asking, both for what I want and need. I am grateful to learn firsthand that nothing is as simple as that.

Happy Thanksgiving!//

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Week 6 - Cultivating Stillness

Sometimes in order to hear my intuitive voice, I have to cultivate stillness enough to experience a connection with my soul. ~Shakti Gawain

With a layer of snow now on the ground, cultivating stillness should not be so hard to do. Walking outside, any time of the day or night, there is a silence that can only be described as "winter" as the snow insulates every noise, every footfall -- even the shhh-shhh-shhh as my dog gallops across the lawn to pounce on imaginary critters is soothing as it hits the ear.

Oh, but we don't like stillness...not like that. Or at least most of us don't. We like to say we want peace and quiet but the truth is, it makes most of us uncomfortable and edgy. To be so quiet as to hear what's rattling around in our heads, witnessing the ego on some rampage about a past hurt or barking orders about what all we need to accomplish before we're allowed to rest. Or worse, to hear what remains when the ego takes a break. It can be unnerving to hear the Voice beneath the chatter. Yet it is the one that knows who we are at our core, the one who will guide us on our way if only we will listen. If only we will connect and allow ourselves to hear.

I've been thinking much this week about why I'm really doing this meditation project, and it's this -- to foster this connection with my soul in order to more clearly hear my intuitive voice. This is accomplished by cultivating stillness, by meditation or walking in Nature or creating or even by doing the dishes. Yet I wonder: this cultivating stillness, is it a goal or an intention? An expectation or a hope? Does it matter? If not, why do I keep wanting to name it?

It seems that if I can name it, I can put it in a category that has a known outcome -- when I do x, I get y. It strikes me odd that the unknown -- especially in this case, where the unknown is my deepest wisdom -- should be so scary that I seem to want, above all else, to be able to anticipate the outcome. Why not open to what my inner voice has to share with me? Why not, indeed. What am I -- what are we -- so afraid of?

As the holidays approach and life gets busier, what I do anticipate is that I will hear more chatter and less wisdom, where working more is my x and feeling frazzled is my y. There is a certain amount of comfort in this known cause and effect, even if I truly wish for it to be different -- slower, calmer, more peaceful, more connected.

Perhaps the best we can do for ourselves this season is to cultivate stillness as often as, and in whatever ways, we can. To let our inner wisdom know that we are interested in what it has to say and to create the space it needs to shine through, in whatever way it arrives.

And to remind ourselves not to peek, because a surprise makes the best gift of all.//

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Week 5 - Good Day Sunshine

I need to laugh, and when the sun is out
I have something I can laugh about
I feel good, in a special way
I'm in love and it's a sunny day
~lyrics from The Beatles' Good Day Sunshine

My last post reflected on a supposed promise of howling winds, a turn toward winter and a most unforgiving Mother Nature to come. And yet the weather continues to be stunning. This past week has been nothing but mild temperatures and sunshine. Wait, this is Minnesota in November, right? It occurs to me that while we may intend to live in the moment, often it is our minds that take us forward into the anticipated future or back into memories of the past that keep us from enjoying the here and now. Even when it's as glorious as this.

Meditations this week have been easy, relatively short but sweet. In my fifteen minutes or so once or twice per day, I've been feeling connected and content. It doesn't seem like all that much is going on. No wild dreams while I sleep, no anxieties as I sit. All is well, just mellow and peaceful.

Surely there must be something wrong? I hear the voice in my head say. Maybe I should enlist the timer and the rule book and start making myself sit longer? Why isn't anything happening? Shouldn't something be happening??!?

I can't help but laugh now when I hear these cries for attention from the mind, the ego, whatever you want to call it. The part of us that just won't let go. Who, when everything is going swimmingly, starts looking around for signs of disaster. The one who waits anxiously for the other shoe to drop.

What good is peacefulness if we feel we have to brace ourselves for its passing? Don't we at least get to enjoy it while it's here?

Now, it's true. As the adages say, "All good things come to an end," and, in speaking of the more challenging aspects of our lives, "This too shall pass". Nothing lasts forever -- we know this. For better or worse, we are all changing all of the time and as part of this cycle of Nature and life, we are born and we die. We want so much to hold on to what is impermanent, to grasp tightly to what we love, to keep it while knowing full well that just as autumn turns to winter, what we love will fade and expire. This is human nature. The trouble is, we let the anticipation of pain and loss keep us from fully savoring the joy of presence -- being with what is. We get so distracted by impending doom that we unwittingly keep ourselves from enjoying the pleasure while it's here.

Why buffer ourselves for the fall before we even get a chance to bask in the beauty of this moment...whatever "this moment" might be?

I woke up earlier this past week with the song, "Good Day Sunshine" by the Beatles bouncing around in my head. There was no reason for it -- I hadn't heard the song recently, as often happens when I end up with a song in my head, nor could I say it was a song I had ever been particularly attached to. I couldn't figure out where it had come from. As I listened to it play on, I began singing aloud, complete with crescendos and key changes. I was swept up in the song's spirit of joy and whimsy...and I hadn't even gotten out of bed yet! From the moment my feet touched the floor, I was invigorated with the magic of simply being alive. It reminds me of the 90's television show Ally McBeal and how the characters always had "theme songs" -- depending on where they were and what they were doing, a song that echoed the mood they wanted to bring to the situation would begin playing. I couldn't imagine a better theme song for myself. What a way to start the day!

"Good Day Sunshine" has stayed with me much of the week, greeting me as I wake. Like these mild temperatures and sunshine outside, some morning I will wake up and the song won't be there. This is the way. I can think it back into being, but it won't be the same. I owe it to myself -- and the song -- to relish the magic of this moment so that I can leave space for new magic in the next moment when "Good Day Sunshine" decides it's time to move on. I would rather savor the joy while it's here than waste this time living in the idea of what it will be like to have to conjure it up once it's gone. Memory can be sweet, but being present to the moment is sweeter.

In the spirit of "Good Day Sunshine," I will appreciate the peacefulness of these gentler meditations, knowing full well that the tides will turn and that the ebb and flow that informs the ocean and the moon also informs my heart, my soul and my practice.//

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Week 4 - Surrender

"At some point, to go beyond the mind, the power of intention has to be turned to a deep abiding surrender....Pure surrender has to be living with what is, as it is, as God." ~Swami Abhayananda from The Supreme Self

What is, at the moment, is that we're dancing on the cusp of winter. Disguised in glorious sunshine and temperatures in the 50's, I see how easy it could be to be lulled into believing the next four months won't be as dark and as bone-chilling as they will.

In all honesty, I secretly enjoy when the weather takes this turn towards winter. I love when she rages inhospitably with no apology, with the sub-zero reminder that if we don't take the utmost care of ourselves while in her clutches out in the world, all could be lost. I feel the urgency of this most simple act of survival. It clarifies things for me to know beyond a doubt that our judgments and expectations of what Mother Nature offers in her most unforgiving moments mean nothing. We are reduced to our most powerless state, just like our ancestors before us. Surrender. Nature teaches us -- be humble or perish.

In our day and age the lesson of "be humble or perish" isn't as much a matter of life and death of the body as it is of our soul. We spend so much of our lives feeling cut off from Nature, from others and consequently ourselves that our souls are literally starving to death. Until we find that way to connect with the mystery from which we all came, until we learn to surrender, we will continue to feel separate and alone.

In both cases, the lesson is the same -- communing is the key to survival.

If the past four weeks have taught me anything, it's that meditation -- or any practice for that matter -- requires this same humility. A willingness to let go and let the universal energy, the creative process, engage with us and move us to new heights, to a place not only beyond expectation, but beyond imagination. This lives in the poet who comes upon the ideal turn of phrase to best encapsulate a profound experience, the musician who hears and transcribes a song that embodies the pain of a recent loss, or the child who dances with abandon to no music whatsoever, unashamed and unafraid. This is surrender in its purest form -- an admission that we understand that our lives are an invitation to participate with Source rather than independent of it. An acknowledgement that we are not here alone to live this life, but we are one with the creative force that inspires -- literally brings breath to -- all of us.

One meditation this past week yielded the following phrase: Wise and compassionate Universe, I surrender myself here to connect with Source.

I didn't know what I was asking for when this intention came -- and stuck -- but it works for me. When I utter these words as I begin my meditation, I connect to a place of humility within myself. A place where I don't have to try. A place where I'm not looking for answers or anything in return, but simply to show up to Source and hang out a while -- to keep each other company, if you will. It helps me to see that meditation isn't about becoming disciplined or even enlightened, but is about freeing myself from my own sense of pride, my own sense of isolation, feeling like I have to live this life by my own wits and effort alone. And by doing so, it allows me to connect with all of the beauty and wonder that surrounds me and recognize myself in it.

It seems ironic that by showing up and doing nothing and expecting nothing, I receive the greatest gift of all -- connection. Yes, it's harder than it looks. But if that's all it takes, count me in.//