Sunday, April 27, 2014

tying myself to the mast...

In Greek mythology, Odysseus is warned against the songs of the sirens on his sea voyage which would lure him off course into dangerous water. Initially, their songs are beguiling and irresistible. When they begin to sing he orders his men to put wax in their ears and tie him to the mast. Thus, he can steer his course home. 

What siren songs lure me off-course? What mast do I tie myself to? Oddly, I find my songs are sung in the seemingly little things. My sirens meet me on waking. Too often coffee has more allure than meditation. I forget I am putting my feet down into six inches (at least) of Love merely getting out of bed. After coffee another song begins its seduction. "Get on with the day, you have places to go, chores to do." Then the morning is gone -- lost in forgetfulness and distractions. I dive into routines, habits and become myopic, just trying to get by. 

When I lose my connection with feeling, life becomes robot-like. Spending an afternoon with Brother David Steindl Rast, a Benedictine monk, and knowing how hard it is to stay mindful, aware of the love that waits in our breath, our steps, and the dishes we do, someone in our small group asked him why he stopped each afternoon at three for meditation. His reply was, "To stay alive." I didn't quite get it then but felt the weight of his words. Now, years later, I want that kind of aliveness, that joy-filled purpose and happiness in the momentum of the day.  

Another enticement are the best chewy cookies in Tucson. The sirens say "Eat five," and I easily could but a god-sense knows, one will do or maybe two. 

What do I have to Do, to love where I am standing, to hum a finer, higher frequency in the moment and to know essence when night-falls? Tie myself to the mast, try to practice disciplines I know will bring me a sense of well-being, moving my body to self-love and Other.  Then I settle down feeling a wholeness that I don't want to end.  Everything looks sweeter, not from a song outside but one from within. On good days, I leave my meditation with an inner smile, walk in this velvet feeling of expansiveness.  Now I hear the yellow finches singing three feet from me in the mesquite tree and am moved by the sentiment of an old hymn, "You speak and the sound of Your voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing..." 

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Friday, April 11, 2014

the solitary bird...

The conditions of a solitary bird are five:
The first, that it flies to the highest point;
the second, that it does not suffer for company, not even of its own kind;
the third, that it aims its beak to the skies:
the fourth, that it does not have a definite color;
the fifth, that it sings very softly.
San Juan de la Cruz, Dichios de luz y Amor

The first winter I came to the south west by myself, after thirty plus years of marriage, family, and community, presented me with an intimidating challenge - - loneliness.  Any phones calls were measured by dollars and letters took two weeks (no iPhone, no Skype). And I knew no one.

During my marriage I had a wonderful relationship with alone-ness. I could never get enough of it. Words such as solitude, silence were easily romanticized. Although as a child even though I liked being alone, loneliness could leave me feeling desolate and disconnected from others.

Here in the south west, almost four thousand miles from home and community, loneliness scared me again. Like a diver coming up from the depths, changing one’s pressure drastically ideally needs to be done in stages, to avoid an attack of the bends. My question was, do I have enough inner resources, personal security to generate and sustain a healthy, creative, balanced life on my own? How would I respond living without the daily physical presence of community? The answer scared me, I did not know. What inner demons, what old wounds and messages would haunt me left solely to my own company?

What is meaningful alone-ness? What is holy solitude or a deep diving into loving silence rather than loving community?  Besides I needed time alone to write. I wanted space to meditate, to know myself in a larger way.

Then, weeks later,  in spite of the odd hike, saying a passing hi to a new acquaintance, a telephone call or email from home, I was lonely. Not even my writing provided me with joyful purpose. I had a manuscript ready on the shelf unpublished, rejected -- a little like I felt myself. The demons messages were there. I felt isolated, defeated, and scared by my helplessness. I am not an instant friend maker.  The TV is a great reliever of loneliness so I unplugged it and put it out in the shed. Who was I without any “props”? I had questions to be answered.

I discovered the night. Dark comes early here in the southern desert. Often I turned off the lights, wrote by candle light, listen to a solitary bird’s final note for the evening, heard the coyotes hooting from the sage.  Some nights  I stretched out on the warm sand, losing my lonely self in the stars or remembering  some poetry, ”Be alone, and feel the [Oleanders] silently growing... Be alone, and feel the cosmos silently rocking." (author unknown)

Christmas day. Three months had passed. My daughters were flying in for the holidays.  As I looked out the bus window taking me to the airport I was excited. I had missed them dearly. Yet somewhere in those past months, like the solitary bird, I must have reached high, for even in the night I no longer suffered for company or from my alone-ness. As the bus pulled into “airport arrivals" I was in a faceless Love. Through the bus window, I whispered, “I won, thank you.”

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*written when I first came to the southwest, alone...