Monday, March 30, 2020

a place of choice...

The Bay

"If I could catch the feeling, I would: the feeling of the singing of the real world, as one is driven by (aloneness) and silence from the habitual world."
                                                                               Olivia Laing

My park is a gated community in the middle of Tucson. I decided to stay there till the first of May -- that sounded safer than Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport which already had stopped two sick Canadians a day or two before, then hours on the plane and taking my chances in New York/Newark. Then the phone rang last Thursday morning -- concern in my daughter's voice. I told her my reasons for staying which were solid. She put forth others. I said no. However, hanging up, one of her points hit me. What if I could not get home till summer or later -- that gets me into border and IRS stuff. I called her back, told her it would take a week and a half to pack up the 5th wheel. She suggested 48 hours. Impossible, a million thing to do -- buy a car cover for the summer sun, get my Mr. Fix-it guy to paint the awnings with sun protection, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. My other daughter arranged to get my ticket exchanged.

In twenty-seven hours, I was on the plane home and arrived a week ago just under the wire. Now, of course, I am doing my two weeks of isolation along with most everyone I know. Yes, as I read the news, weeks now may turn to months while the virus follows its curve.

Someone observed last week, you must be getting a little wacky out there on the hill by yourself.  Not really, but it's early in the game. Will I be frustrated because I came here straight from the airport with one change of clothes and no files -- yet, potentially small annoyances. I may not see children, grands, or dear friends in the flesh for a time -- a higher price. (Family deliver necessities and there is no burden of worry thanks to them.)

Yet, indeed, these are challenging times and will only be more so, I expect for each of us, in one way or the other. Life was full -- family get-togethers, movies, eating out, favorite activities, and a lot of old ways of doing things -- indeed, a social life being stripped clean.  However, with these new circumstances, this new sparseness, is this not a place of choice, a gift of opportunity and possibly much more? My inner voice says, "Take it." The invitation is out, make an inner-dive.

This is a weird gift of difference in our lives, with its challenge of being physically alone or with one's house-mate or family -- being the extent of our contacts. Yet, it all has its obvious pluses, new adventures, new discoveries, as well as, its dangerous waters to cross. Thus I ask, where do I want to be in two months, what opportunities will be offered, what new land will I take, and what river within myself with its dangers will I cross?

I expect the most dangerous water for me to tread will be my thoughts. What currents will I let run through -- the small ones or the large? And how important to remember we are all larger than our feelings, our circumstances, our self-definitions, our supposed identities, and our roles. This is the creative place of choice.

Every thought is an energy that vibrates, that weighs or lightens my psyche. Thoughts create my reality, the environment, and will be the eyes I see and feel it all through. A simple little thought and where does it lead and what reality will it create?  My inner voice cautions me to be careful as thoughts are real and as solid as this table holding the computer. They have the power to calm me or upset me. They have the power to encourage a light and merry heart or depress me. Treacherous ground.

And then there is the gift of time. Two weeks ago, almost everyone I met, myself included asked, greeting-like, "How are you doing?" "Busy" was generally the reply or "I can't believe how fast the time goes." "Me either." Laing (the author above) observes, "Most of us are (usually) short of time and now we are hanging in it." Maybe these moments and hours in the next months can be considered a gift too. The world need not interfere -- an opportunity to own our time.

The manuscript is finished. This blog may get written. What else will I fruit in these days? A gift of far-seeing and near-seeing? A rare time, a space-time, an alone time. but not surely a lonely time. Am I talking nonsense, maybe?  However, as Virginia Wolfe observes, such times can be "intensely creative" and in them, one can "discover thrilling moments."

Last night the deck called at dusk -- rolling dark clouds folding in on each other, a cold wind, the trees bent, and a sky wrapping the earth with a magenta tinge. I had three hats on -- my toque, my overall hat with fake-fir and flaps, and a wool scarf wrapped around both. I was indeed a sight but I was mesmerized in this half-lit night, this gorgeously, alive sky with its wind tipping me on my toes, and the lights across the Bay were beginning to twinkle. It was like standing on an ancient, sailing ship, drinking in its alone endlessness. I was in love. I knew it.  I was home in a much larger way than I could imagine. And it wasn't the chalet, it wasn't Nova Scotia, as grateful as I am. I had come home to a much larger part of what? I suppose me. I am not sure.

Yet, what I knew was, "If I could catch the feeling, I would..." And there it was, "the feeling of the singing of the real world," driven by its own aloneness and silence.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Thank you has a You in it...


Gratefulness is the great task, the how of our Spiritual work because rightly understood it re-roots us. 
                                                                                 ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast*

Through the years, I began to see a larger, smarter, and more enlightened hand than mine was helping which left me feeling cared for even in the smallest of incidences. Lately, I've taken note of how many times I say a heartfelt thank you to an invisible someone or something for the little things which are no longer dismissed. And the more gratitude I feel, the more the incidences seem to multiply and now are too numerous to be relegated to mere coincidence or a random act. 

This developing feeling of gratitude is different. It has a life and aliveness to it. I cannot personally relate to a coincidence or consider some mishap as being saved by a bell. Often pulling into a full parking lot I put up a little request for a space near the store. And like magic, there it is. I might be mildly thankful for my good luck but that is not the gratitude Steindl-Rast is referring to. 

In addition, too often in the past, I have also dismissed wisdom, instinct, and insight as these too remained more object than subject and thus, none personal. I wouldn't say thank you to an instinct even if it helped me avoid an accident. Yet, I know these three concepts are larger than mere human logic. 

So what is missing? The answer -- Relationship. Thank you has a You to it -- an acknowledgment of a relating life force behind everything which has a larger intelligence than the human brain possesses. Yet, this You is personal and is caring in an, "I love you kind of way." A dear friend of mine was telling me the other day that she was standing up on a step ladder in her entrance, lost her balance, fell, and somehow landed perfectly seat-down in a chair a couple of feet away --  that had only been put there the day before for her to catch some sunlight while reading. 

Yes, she could have dismissed it as a coincidence or concluded she had been saved by the bell/chair. However, she didn't. I also knew if she had landed on the hardwood floor it could have been serious as bones break easily. I don't know what she would call it but when she was telling me about it excitedly, her eyes were alight, and her thankfulness was catching. She knew she was saved by a larger hand than hers and exuded gratitude with its sweetness, caring, and its presence. This is the thank you with a You, felt to the bone and beyond.

 This is the gratitude that Steindl-Rast refers to as "the how of our Spiritual work" rightly understood does re-root us. It comes out of our eyes, our fingertips, causing us to bow our heads and raise our hands to the sky. The other night I was watching TV. It was desert-night cold and I was warm and cozy on the sofa. The last thing I wanted to do was go out and stand in the darkness. Yet, gear up I did. The night sky was a crystal, star-glittering magnificence. No painting ever sold at Sotheby's for millions could match its beauty and there standing, looking up, it was mine or better said, I was its. With chest swelling and eyes singing, I shouted quietly, "Thank You." 

To what? Some call the You, God, Jesus, or Mohammed.  For others, it may be Spirit, mother earth, Gaia, or the universe. Herein lie relationship and Presence -- what we personally feel and are loved by. Without a You, without the larger than human self, I miss out on reality and a relating beyond my comprehension -- where everything waits for us to look out, look within, and walk in this awareness. 

"What does gratitude mean to you?" I asked a wise woman last week who also exudes thankfulness for the rainbow she can see in a drop of water, glistening in the sun. She paused, then whispered, "Gratitude is like breathing in and breathing out. It is very large. I feel its loveliness,  Ah, it is quiet. Yes, all is done. The universe is smiling back. Now, everything is beautiful." 

* Brother David Steindl-Rast is a benedictine monk, author, and lecturer. Some years ago I was privileged to spend an afternoon with him and six or seven others which created a wonderful opportunity for personal interaction. I will never forget him.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

err in the direction of kindness...

My grandmother came for a visit several times a year when I was a child. She lived three hours away. My strongest memories were always the day she left. Sitting out on the front steps, watching the back of the car driving away, I remember feeling very inside-sad and inside-lost. Then, I probably went off to play.

However, crawling into bed those same evenings, there on my pillow, wrapped in a little tissue was enough change to buy some one-cent candy for a couple of days. I felt special and very cared for. Yet, the odd thing was that every time she came, I never remembered she might leave me something, so the discovery always held excitement and surprise. A simple act of kindness remembered decades and decades later still lights and warms me as I write.

Yesterday I happened to look down in my Tucson garden. And there was this little rock that smiled up at me with a dog, flowers, and inviting me to "Be Happy." Caring and delight washed through me. Then the question, who left this little gift next to the ceramic iguana. Later in the day, one of my neighbors had an impish little grin and twinkle.

Last week my cousins visited and more little acts of kindnesses, like tightening my shower hose (it just needed strong fingers), the flat tire of the bike was fixed quietly without a word, and from a neighbor this a.m, cooked shrimp and sauce arrived at my door. Oh, I also have a new hummingbird feeder on my deck put up this morning. This has all happened in the past week which reminds me of a quote a reader kindly sent me this past year.

"Do all the other things, the ambitious things - travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild, jungle rivers... but as you do, do to the extent you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality - your soul if you will is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare's, bright as Gandhi's, bright as Mother Teresa's... Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, and share its fruits tirelessly." George Sanders

My cousins, my neighbors, my grandmother all incline me toward the big things -- simple, little acts of luminosity. It is a new year and a new decade. I would like to err in the direction of kindness, leave little surprises of delight and caring along the way that will warm hearts decades later. I want to "clear away everything that keeps me separate from this secret luminous place," this part of myself "that exists beyond personality" which hopefully will leave such trails of luminosity.  

Monday, December 23, 2019

The little light that spreads beyond...

Christmas is a time of lights, be it a tree light, candlelight, friend-light, family-light -- all capture the divine light. Looking at the Christmas tree the other night, one little bulb attracted my attention. Spraying out from it was a wider circle of radiating, golden, white-ish glow which was four or five times larger than when the tiny, dull-ish bulb was not plugged in. Now, being connected, the little tree light was transformed into dancing, sparkling, prism colors -- it felt and looked alive.

Then a thought, are we not like that little bulb that needs to be plugged in? To be light in the world requires intention. I have to do something. This fall I re-read Sanaya Roman's book Spiritual Growth. Her invitation is to build a larger, light body. After several instances lately, I concluded I definitely needed it -- a light that spreads out beyond me where love, hope, kindness, understanding reside, and where it is felt, heals and inspires inside and out.  Light is a living presence and does come when called, is drawn to us by our thoughts. I want its warmth, its healing properties, and its heart sweetening light. I want to be plugged in, switched on, shine out, and build a light body, at least, five times my skin container.

Yet, how do I charge this body of clay? Roman encourages us to actually image seeing light like a luminous liquid filling up the spine. Initially conjure the feel of it if you have to as imagination holds power. Then wait for it, watch the spine fill gradually, then feel light as substance spread out like little rivers to all parts of the body, the heart, mind, toes, and to the parts that hurt (inner and outer). Then release this luminous light out beyond the body, expanding its magic like starlight which does the same dance as it too radiates well beyond its shape and form.

This morning I woke with a shoulder too sore to move without pain. I had a full day so somewhat in desperation and using my imagination,  I put the image of the little candle I use when praying with its spray of dancing, light particles right in the middle of my shoulder and kept it there seeing it doing its healing all day. Whenever I went into the living room, the lights from the tree landed there as well. Did it work? Yes, in some mysterious way and not so mysterious way, it always works.

If I want lights on the tree or in me I do have to flip the switch, be it on the wall or in myself in order to become consciously aware of the divinity within. Here is the glow, here one sees with eyes of love, compassion, and beauty even in the darkness. Like the wise ones who followed the star in the desert to the child of light, one discovers en route that our hearts are the star.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Are you in the wind?

My Ex made his crossing Sunday gently and normally. One minute he was breathing and the next he was not. His wife was with him and then our children, myself, and hers arrived minutes after. We had held the watch and his younger sister took the nights for his last few days. He was never left alone.

Sitting at his bedside I thought, "Your presence, your love, and your wit were stronger and met us at every turn in spite of a label called dementia. You've been with us through it all. And now leaving your body, it is time or almost past time, almost."

Love seemed to saturate the room, yet I found myself thinking, "But you are so obviously not here." I kept feeling myself out. Yes, at least a million memories, at least. And no matter we were divorced after being joined for decades as life grows its issues but they were not soul issues, or integrity, nor love issues. And, we have been indeed blessed since with decades of caring.

Later in the afternoon, the minister gathered us around the bed for prayer, his wife on one side of his body and me on the other. In joining our hands, I reached for his wife's hand and she for mine. I don't know how it happened but we each took one of his. It was still warm. The circle was joined and we bowed our heads.

Next morning and waiting for one of our sons to arrive at Cora's for a very early breakfast, I step out of the car into the wind, its freshness, its chill. I love the wind, it often speaks to me. Thus, I had to ask, "Are you in the wind, my love?"  As if alive with force and presence, a gust tips me back on my heels. I laugh at the possibilities and feel connected in this simple mystery we call wind.

An ancient friend years ago, when hearing me dismiss the wind as merely wind, reflected quietly with compassion, "Ah, and you think of it only as wind." Now I needed to ask, "How come you are so present here in the parking lot, so here in the wind, more so than when you were alive and living twenty miles down the road? How come I feel elated, but the question is, can I trust it? I feel happy. Can I trust that? I don't understand. This is like walking on thin ice and I don't know when I will go under. I expect to feel hollow lostness, a bleakness but it is just not there. Should I feel guilty? No, it's definitely happiness."

Rabindranath Tagor, who I have mentioned before, wrote a poem in the Gitanjali after his beloved wife, daughter, and best friend had died within months of each other. Mourning his loss, he went up to the mountains for months by himself. From there he wrote, "Light, my light, eye kissing light, heart sweetening light, the dances my darling at the center of my life, the light strikes my darling the chords of my heart, the skies open, the winds run wild, and laughter passes over the earth."  I have wondered for years how could he feel such a heart sweetening light after such loss?

Now, somewhere in my awareness, I must have arrived at a new point. I get it. At least enough to say,  "Maybe you, who left your body yesterday are more in your essence, your greater understanding in your here-ness, now. This has nothing to do with belief, this I am experiencing.

"So, yes my love, I do feel you in the wind. You are as free as the wind in the Bay we brought our children up on. How can I not be happy, you gem of a man?"

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

It doesn't matter...

My Ex has had a type of dementia for a decade. Sometimes he is better than others and some days he isn't. Today was an isn’t. On the good days, he could always remember the past. For years when I would leave, he would come to the door of the unit, I'd unlock it, he would hold it open and wave, knowing he was not supposed to go further.

In spite of this afternoon being an isn't day, I drove back from his complex after a lovely visit of two people caring for each other. I felt it. I have been away in Tucson for the winter, it didn't matter. It didn't matter if I hadn't seen him for a while, it didn't matter if he could remember where he was, or who I might be. And I had no interest in asking.

When I arrived his eyes had just come from sleep and there is -- what to say -- a slightly absent look about them almost as if they are out of focus. It didn't matter that we divorced twenty-five years ago after being joined at the proverbial hip for thirty-four, plus the two years of seeing life differently. No, none of this mattered this afternoon, none of it.

Driving back from the complex he has been in for a few years, I thought, “Oh my land, you do not need head-memory to remember, to feel, to be moved, to laugh, to catch the joke, to find a situation funny, to be wise” And he was always wise in his way. We shared all those things today. He has memory, he can feel someone's love, someone's laugh, and that we did. I told him stories of people he had known well but does not remember, not today at least. However, I knew when he hit meaning, he was moved. The soul heard. I put the ginger snap cookie under his nose for a smell, enticing him to tea, down the hall to the dining room. It didn’t take much. He knew it was a bit funny and he laughed. His eyes twinkled when we caught that look of understanding and care we always had.

I asked him if he wanted to take a little walk around the perimeter of his unit. Indeed, he did. Walking, as we had done countless times, I thought, "We are like two old shoes." We were experiencing that feeling between us, we recognized each other -- all those years and all that love, we had built our own energy body together. Doesn't matter if he has a wife or children he loves dearly as he also has built a unique soul body with them that does not need a mind to be clear crystal or anywhere near it. He merely does not have head-memory, today.

Yet, the heart remembers well, his spirit-self, his soul-self recognizes and responds. No need of mind-memory today as a million, zillion moments of coming together as one big feeling of truth, that needs no words, was lapping each of us like gentle ocean waves.

I was so excited by the time I got home I wanted to tell everyone, you don't need memory to remember, as we are so full of feeling without it, so full of freedom, of joy. All this he gave me today, all this was wrapped in a ginger snap. And if someone asks how was the visit, I’d have to say “Just great.”

*I am now getting ready to go back to Tucson for the winter for a new season. Yesterday, he left his body, turned on his side as if he was sleeping. So he too welcomes a new season as well. I am sure.

Friday, September 27, 2019

When concern adds weight...

How many times have I felt badly for a person? How many times have I entered a hospital room with a heavy heart? How many times do I feel sorry for a person seeing/feeling their lead-weight of loss, illness, or misfortune? I consider myself a caring, concerned, and supportive person. And that is true and sounds good but is it really? What kind of energy might I be imparting?

The words remind me of the old cottage woman's wise caution one afternoon years ago. I had a question about a young man I was counseling. He was under a lot of stress in his home. Relating his circumstance I tell her, "He is only young but he feels tired, is not sleeping or eating well. Is he sick?

She nods, seeming less concerned than myself. "It is as it must be. When you are concerned for him it weighs him and adds to his weariness because you don't see it positive but as sick which adds to the negative force. You must help others change their perspective. Subconsciously, he knows you fear for his health." Imagine our thoughts can be that powerful. This is fascinating. My genuine concern can add emotional weight and negativity to my young friend's spirit. Amazing, it can make his energy heavy and denser. This then applies to everyone I encounter! If I look at them or at the situation negatively, with weighted concern she is telling me, I can add to a person's weariness and heaviness. And he can even be affected by my fearfulness for him.

I never forgot her comment which has me checking since, "What kind of energy do I give people under the guise of support, care, and concern? Was I wrapping them in a heavy, wet blanket of negative undercurrent through my good intention of caring ?

However, in those days of the cottage woman, it was not commonly known that we humans are not solid but essentially 99 percent dancing energy and light particles. We also were not aware then that when two entangled particles are separated by miles and scientists tickled one, the other responds instantly in kind. Plus, I had never considered thought as being a thing with weight, affecting the energy and spirit of others.

The cottage woman’s words still guide me. We are, each and every one of us, hurting about something at this human level. There is a lot to feel bad about. However, there is another place other than weightedness that is not so limiting as my old friend pointed to -- a different space in us, a place bigger than us with a bigger feeling.

Others, indeed, need our care, concern, and support as we need theirs. Yet, I have learned my Light body has more magic and power than that heavy one my old friend was addressing.  And every time I/we connect with Light as a living consciousness, we are building a bridge between ourselves, others and a larger reality that offers much more than weariness, heaviness, and possible fear.