Thursday, September 17, 2020

The sweetness of breath and the wrong doing...

 















Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
 and rightdoing is a field.
 I will meet you there. 

When the soul lies down in that grass, 
the world is too full to talk about.
                                                         ~ Rumi

In my case, Rumi's "wrongdoing" was my body, the shingles ached, the rash burned, and the body dominated as I was driving to an appointment.  The clinic doctor called it, in a two-second look, "shingles." It was drowning me and drowning the moment. I keep writing about how we are not our bodies. Yet, not that day. My body was me and certainly was keeping me from experiencing "the field." Gratitudes, enjoying the beauty of the trees and lakes I was passing was lost. 

The body ached -- breathing was thin air going in and thin air going out. Everything else was an effort. Then, a thought, I have a choice -- let the body do me in or just breathe, which takes no effort I was doing it unconsciously, anyway. I decided on the latter. (By that time, I was parked outside the office waiting for the receptionist to call me in.)

After a few minutes, I began to wake up to the fact, I was beginning to feel a little more than thin air. My breath contained an aliveness. I searched for a word, oh yes, sweetness, a seemingly funny little word for what I was feeling. Then drawing the air in slower, with a long draw as if I was pulling a thick liquid of magic up through a straw -- yes, this is the sweetness.  Then I let it out slowly savoring this soul-ness moving in and out of my chest. And the more I breathed the sweeter it became. Then my mind went back to my body of aches and burn, my discomforts were all still there but I wasn't. I was escaping into Rumi's "field."

A thought flickered, "Oh, this is how I would like to take my last breaths, as breathing is the last thing I will do on this earth plane when making my transition. 

I reflected later, this sweetness of breath goes into my body, nurtures the sweetness in myself (which I can hardly call mine,) and renders a quietness. This breathing maintains me, does something inside me. I know what I am seeking is seeking me. This intake of air is not an object or a thing I do. This breath is breathing me as I am breathing it. It is more than me. It comes to me. I give it back. It is not what it is, but who it is. 
 
Indeed, breathing does take one out beyond "rightdoing and wrongdoing", beyond the ache and the burn to the field of love and loveliness. My soul-self says, "In this place that's where I want to meet, My Darling. I want to meet You there -- beyond perception, death, beyond this reality of flesh and bone -- out there..."  



Thursday, August 27, 2020

Summer play, cultivating a sacred space...















I cultivate my garden, and my garden cultivates me.
                                                                         ~ Robert Brault

Her face was lit with life and excitement. She and a friend are taking off for the weekend. She began to tell me how much work she should be doing for her Doctorate as she is coming to its completion.

As a writer, I too have felt a slight guilt that goes with taking the time to go to my favorite play spots. Yet, on reflection, how valuable. I have just come back from a long weekend at the beach. A garden of sunrises, sunsets, evening breeze on the cliff, walks, swims, and vast amounts of the sky's all velvety patterned.

I tell my friend about my book-friend Thich Nhat Hanh who is a great spiritual teacher. This renowned Buddhist monk, whom I quote often on this blog, was gardening one afternoon. A woman watching him asked why he uses his time gardening when he could be writing or sharing his enlightening presence with others. He replied quietly, that tending his garden is why he can write.

Another enlightened human being Jesus, who was teaching a new way, had a similar take. The crowds were waiting for him to heal the sick and perform miracles. Yet, numerous times, he would leave the people who had come for healing and wisdom and go off into the desert to pray, rest, and tend to his sacred garden.

After listening, my young friend hugged me, "Oh, I need to hear that." And I too, indeed, need to hear it again and again for I have a garden to tend -- a garden of awareness, of consciousness, prayer, and of holding sacred space.

Two days later, she texted me a selfie. Two friends in sun hats, laughing, having a glass of wine, and sitting with the sun setting behind them. New energies, new growth, a new freshness of scent -- and obviously, tending to their gardens.

 


Monday, July 27, 2020

Second-guessing death...


















For life and death are one,
even as the river and the sea are one.
                                                      Kahlil Gibran

My doctor turns and looks at me, without any prior conversation or thought, at least on my part, he asks, "Do you think death has to be morbid?" The question is so sudden and seemingly out of context, it shocks me.

Having more wrinkles than I might like, having said a good-bye to most of the people of my younger years, I am glad he asks the question. My doctor works in many countries so I am sure he has his reasons. I look at him saying, "No, death need not be morbid. Because there is no death." We discuss it, then driving home I pondered it further.

My first encounter of aliveness, after what I thought was death, I have written about a few years back in this blog.* If anyone had died a morbid death it was my father. I was in my twenties. He was fifty-seven. His suffering was a darkness for him and us that lasted months. No light at the end of that tunnel or so I thought. Yet, coming home from the grave, relieved and thanking God it was over, I headed upstairs and was stopped on the first step. There was my father, healthy, whole, and standing looking directly at me, laughing. So much so it was catching. He stayed and I looked. He was more alive and free than I had ever seen him. That was the day in 1968, I first second-guessed death.

About twenty years later, my ancient, spirit friend, the cottage woman, kept correcting me every time I said the word death. She would always respond, "Death is change, a transition, a continuation of living, of life. There is no death as you humans use the word." Then added kindly, "We do not use the word and suggest you don't either." So I try not to.

The cottage woman also allowed me a look at times. I had a dear, older, friend who had a great faith that was challenged by her family which disturbed her. When she died I asked the cottage woman how she was doing. She said, after a pause, "A lot of energy. Very happy. Ah, yah, like a kid in a candy store. She received a lot of what she was seeking in her time on earth -- indeed, like a kid in a candy store."** Maybe a somewhat irreverent observation but, nevertheless, an answer full of joy, aliveness, and a certain sweetness.

 The invisible does not have to be visible to be real. Life and death are doorways to another reality, to other possibilities, and other dimensions. The ancients, the enlighteners, and the quantum physicists know that all is energy. The wind blows because the leaves move, we know about virtual reality now, you press a button and are looking at a half dozen people in your living room, and flick a little switch on the wall then poof, fire in my fireplace, or the room lights up. A hundred years ago,  fifty years ago, we humans would have said, "No no, only visible life is real, only what I can see, and physical touch is real."

Life is a kaleidoscope of dimensions, levels, planes, and realities -- and death, I believe is, too. We have been too quick in dismissing what is not visible to our human eyes.



* Also referred to in my first book, Moments That Blink Back (Amazon and in major book stores)
** From the book, The Cottage Woman which is being published later this year or early next.



Friday, June 26, 2020

Prayer comes in disguises...















Considering what to write about this month, prayer is forefront. Demonstrations are happening around the globe as the COVID is seemingly catching its breath. Under the threat of a pandemic, in spite of the violence, the rubber bullets, and the flash grenades, the walkers just keep coming. And in such times as these praying needs to hit the streets.

Like fingerprints, praying is different for each of us humans. Some of us pray without saying prayers, some use words, and some have different physical positionings. Others sacrifice their lives as do the caregivers going to work each morning in a pandemic and some walk their prayer. Five hundred doctors in Russia have died and that is probably the least of it. In fact, whatever the religion, non-religion, or nationality, praying is a heart business, a compassion business.  Are not the demonstrators walking for justice, fairness, and for healing?

Yet, how do I pray? It all seems too big, too overwhelming. Where do I start and would it do any good anyway? However, I do have to join them. An inner voice says, "Take the leap." Looking out over the bay and beyond, I slip down from my head, that place of conventional reality that keeps telling me, my little prayer won't work. Then entering my house of compassion, hope, and daring, I know differently. The heart is never overwhelmed. Here is where I can sync with the walkers and the caregivers. This is not about being religious, or pious; this praying is about vision and humanity evolving.

This prayer, I can feel. As the days pass and in spite of all our human imperfections, it dawns on me, I am watching a flowing, golden river, not separate walkers.  They are desiring and demanding something fairer, more just, and more caring in this world. A slice of humanity struggling for a new paradigm of meaning.

Now I am part of the river. It is beautiful, elegant -- a heart and mind coherence transforming us en route. City buildings form the banks as its water spills out into parks and thoroughfares -- cautiously beaconing us each to a new spring and to be a living prayer.

P.S.
While I was writing this piece, I woke one morning to an aliveness in my room. Words fail here, however, I felt silken, gentle waves of energy that I only can call love. Not the conventional "love" but the deep, abiding, faceless source-kind that was flowing through me like a river, through the bed, the air, and then, I realized it flows all the time tangibility through each of us. I began singing quietly the old, worn-out folk song, "Love is flowing like a river, flowing out through you and me..." And I had never sung it or felt like this before.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YRM-eHgXCY

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The everything-ness of One moment...









The morning is sunny. With a laundry bag in each hand and still here at the chalet in semi-isolation, I head down the hill to my daughter's house to use her washing machine. Starting across the lawn, I turn to glance at the bay. The beauty of it stops me. The sun is brilliant, the Atlantic is endless, islands sprinkle its edges and the sailboats lean in the distance. Yes, here is the "eye kissing light, the heart sweetening light,  my darling..." in ocean-blues and island-greens with the distant horizon disappearing somewhere out there -- somewhat like myself as I am beginning to see/feel as if from another place, in another space, yet all so very right. This I have not experienced before.

I want nothing more. Suspended out of this life, yet totally in and through it. Amazing, this is the one-ness that I always think I understand but not like this. This is something else -- inside and out, around and under. There is no time here, no past, no future, no death, and there is no me.

Ah, so this is it, there is only One moment, this moment -- holding everything -- all of heaven and earth. This is what the ancients know, the mountain monks, the yoga's, the enlightened ones of history who went before us, created morphic fields so we could follow. Everything, all I could want to be, and could never guess -- I am standing in it, right here, right now. A nothingness which is an everything-ness. What words? Really there aren't any. I, like the words, can only point...

And if I hadn't set my laundry bags down and stopped to look at the bay I'd have possibly missed the most important moment of my life? Wait, but how can I write that when I think of all the trillion moments I have lived? Yet, not like this one. Breathing in, I feel Tagore's great lines from the Gitanjali again, "Ah, the light dances, my darling, at the center of my life, the light strikes, my darling, the chords of my love; the skies open, the winds run wild and laughter passes over the earth."

Post Script:

I expect the experience to fade. Yet, a wise woman tells me, "bring it back and live in it. Then it will expand like a rainbow into prism colors."

Four days later, my granddaughter has a birthday, her tenth. Her aunt and I drop in on their lawn (keeping our social distance) for a visit. Both Grands, freed from house confinement, momentarily are attempting handstands and cartwheels. Watching them, a little breeze brushes by. Turning, fluttering cherry blossoms fill the air. And instantly, again, the everything-ness in One moment.

Monday, April 27, 2020

How do I hug the wind?





















"The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind..."

Several Nova Scotia readers have told me of their tears for the carnage that was wrought here in the province several days ago. Indeed when one thinks of the lives lost, the suffering of those who loved them, family, and community members, the experience is devastating. And of course, the backdrop to this horror is Covid19 and its threatening presence to each of us. Tears indeed, sometimes I think even God cries.

Thus, I need to pray but that will be as hard as hugging the wind in this heaviness of spirit.  How do I become the prayer? I will be lost if I follow such tragedy down its steep slopes with my conventional heart, thought, and mind. I can't clunk around in this dense solidity called skin and bone which feels at zero frequency in the moment. I know the feeling is the prayer and this isn't it. After all, the frequency of the vibration does create the nature of the particle - plus or minus. And, mine is the latter.

I do have to go somewhere else, invite those elevated feelings that wait in that deeper caring of spaciousness with its seeing beyondness -- that inner vibration for prayer with its compassion, healing, and the peace that truly does pass all understanding -- possibly better known in the Christian scripture as the balm of Gideon.  

Is the answer in the wind -- that east wind, that south wind? I love it and know it as a companion. This divine wind that tips me on my toes and roars through this roof every few minutes in perfect timing, which makes me jump as I write. Its invisible power invites me to bow my head in reverence and reminds me of a childhood poem by Christina Rossetti.

Who has seen the wind,
neither you nor I,
but when the trees bow down their heads
the wind is passing by.

"And you think of it only as wind?", my ancient friend observed wisely. Then I did and now, like the tree, I also bow my head. Prayer transforms this solid density.  The divine, by whatever name, meets me.  I lift my hand, place on a little leaf, my compassion, caring, and the feel of a peace that is a balm for such suffering. The wind takes each on their way. And, on arrival at the doorsteps of their destinations, some broken hearts may feel a holy breeze and say, "Oh look, a little leaf ...

How do I hug the wind and know it's hugging me? Of course, the answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind..."


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.