Monday, May 8, 2017

See beyond what your eyes can see...

Go outdoors and see beyond what you see, feel beyond what you feel, and love beyond what you love.
                                                                                                               ~ An ancient friend

A reader was telling me this morning she had what one could call an enlightenment.
In that, it dawned on her in a totally new way that she is here for a purpose. Yes, really a genuine purpose. As she was talking, I caught this new awareness was replacing what she thought and knew before.

If anyone asks me if I have a purpose, my quick answer is yes, of course. In checking it out I discover my answers are varied. Yes, I want to stay healthy, be happy, learn how to play ragtime piano, be a good Grandma and live here in Tucson in the winters.  Yet, as I ponder, I begin to understand those kinds of purposes are not what her enlightenment is shining on.

Thus, I ask myself what is that one purpose that is embedded in all the little and middle size purposes. What is that purpose that I will be so thankful I attended to when the sun goes down? What does love, what does Being itself want of me?

Which was a reminder of what my ancient friend once instructed me, "Go outdoors and look beyond what you see, feel beyond what you feel and love beyond what you love." At the time, although puzzled,  I thought I knew what she meant but, of course, I didn't.

Scientists tell us, the goal since Galileo is to see farther and deeper into the universe. The Hubble telescope also looks farther, deeper and, apparently, the more it sees, the more there is to see. So too, I am finding with Inner-spaciousness. Attention and  Presence is required. Then in some mysterious way, a larger dimension flows in and one is met. Breathing, seeing and feeling beyond is discovered in a deeper dance. Joy, contentment, and "lightly, child lightly" arrive in the moment.

Yet, to see beyond, to reveal wonder and mystery as the Hubble discovers, I find it necessary to change lenses, focus and push out this personally, limited story called me -- and discover a different story beyond this everydayness and these old perspectives. Then, in its essence, the tree is no more a tree than I am and neither is the bird. No form ends at its label and no form is limited to what our physical eyes see.

Am I sure this is what my ancient friend meant? No, but maybe.... However, the invitation, as my reader also suggested, might be this. When one goes out beyond something else, dance it. A wonderful joy awaits in getting to know another absolute self, its intelligence, hearing, and silence. Then, we can have the fun of dancing to this rhythm in the moment and seeing with its eye.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Five minutes there, five minutes back...

Five minutes there.  Five minutes back. I should be able to make it.  Excitement makes me smile. This is my first walk outdoors for almost half a year. I step out the door backward, holding the house rail, to accommodate my healing legs. Ah, solid pavement.  Testing my weight on legs and cane -- they should be solid enough.

I remind myself, the heel goes down first then rock forward to the toe. Don’t forget to bend the knees. My hip needs to give a little jerk to ease the leg forward and slowly enough to still balance my full body weight.

Lunenburg harbor beckons me one block away, down a small incline.  The sidewalk, frost-patched and frost-heaved through many winters, looks challenging compared to the smooth gym floor at the rehab center -- I think I can make it.  Checking my watch, I have strength to walk for five minutes before having to turn back.

Only five months ago, before my accident, I had been scheduled to climb the highest peak in the Tucson Mountains, a six-hour hike by moonlight. Two days before, the world suddenly stopped.  My new motorcycle was as mangled as my legs and arm when I lifted my head from the pavement to assessed my damages.  I struggled to remember my daughter’s telephone number.  Pain jumbled the numbers.  My legs felt like a high-rise building was squashing them, yet they just both lay twisted on the road. My arm also seemed bent at the wrist at a very strange angle.  Through the haze of pain, I knew I had to keep my head and not move or be moved. No one tried.

My motorcycle had been hit by a truck and I have gone under its wheels. I also knew I was miles out in the desert beyond the Tucson Mountains.  It seemed beyond-ages before the ambulance arrived.* Yet, waiting for it, I kept my eyes on where the mountains met the sky. I remember thinking, "I love these mountains. If I live (and I was aware the odds were not in my favor), I don't want to hold this against them. I want to still love them."

Finally, a helicopter arrived. I told the air ambulance medic,  I think my legs are broken.  “I can see that.” And, he laughed.

Now months later, with these same legs, this five-minute walk seems as challenging as my six-hour moonlit hike. I am half-way down the block before I dare to look at anything but the frost heaves. A flash of light to my left comes from a welding torch in the blacksmith shop. It distracts me, momentarily.  Yet, trees, houses and a few seagulls cheer me on. My legs swing forward with an odd waddle. Wet spring snow disappears on my cheeks. The yellow crocuses, struggling to come up through the spring grass, seem to fold and take cover on the lawns.

Yet, unlike them, I feel stupendous. I am free. And my five minutes are up. The masts of the fishing boats just across the road tempt me onward. I don’t dare. I still have to climb the slight incline back to the house.

My breath feels exquisite in the salt air. The house is just ahead. I enter the driveway with a poem dancing on my lips.

i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings...
                                            ~ e. e. cummings

*As the police report later stated, I had waited, apparently, sixty-five minutes on the pavement before the helicopter arrived. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A worm, a cricket and wing-magic...

If we look deeply, we find that we do not have a separate self-identity, a self that does not include sun and wind, earth and water, creatures and plants, and one another.
                                                                                                        ~ Joan Halifax

Tibetans have a great reverence for life in all its forms. In the fifties, as a young boy, the Dalai Lama wanted a movie theater built and asked his western friend Heinrich Harrer to build it.* They had just begun the foundation when all work stopped. The workers had found a worm and refused to dig further -- maybe it was someone's mother who had reincarnated. The problem was solved. Each worm was dug up and reverently, in scooped hands, passed to a group of monks waiting to transplant it in a safer place.

Do I understand it? No, but maybe this is not the level from which it is to be spiritually understood. My wise old friend, as well as, enlightened teachers like E. Tolle explain there is only one consciousness --  no "my consciousness" or "your consciousness" but one consciousness coming through many channels and forms. Thus, when I move to Presence, is not a tree, a bird, a worm or maybe even a cricket part of this one consciousness, as well?

A reader has been telling me about her experience with a cricket. She first discovered it in the bathroom by her make-up case, then her bedroom and later, on her kitchen counter. After a few weeks she tells me, "I think it likes me. It seems to follow me around." And a cricket who is even moving in a Nova Scotia in winter creates a question. She can't put it outdoors at ten below.

Is this faithful piece of life following her to bedroom, bathroom and kitchen? Could it be relating in some fashion to her vibration? I have no idea. At the head-level, I label it, define it, objectify it and dismiss it.  Yet maybe if I see with the eyes of awareness, the eyes of Presence and not the mind of mental concepts, I will recognize a mysterious aliveness that breathes in and out.

This morning she tells me the cricket died. I feel a little sad.  She asks, "Do you know where I found it? I know instantly. She loves her bed.  "I found it between the sheets." She pauses, then says,  "You know, I might swat a fly but I had a caring for that little cricket and maybe it even cared for me. I couldn't throw it in the garbage."

Asking what she did with it, she replies, "I put it in the sun. And, oh Augusta, the color of its tiny wings were gold, copper and shining bronze. You know there is a wing-magic when we relate to something."

Here in lies the secret sauce of humility. Here in lies the sacredness of living.  I might not understand it with my head but thankfully, the eyes and ears of my heart are wiser.  Maybe those ordinary Buddhist back in Tibet, whether I share their belief or not, invite me as does the cricket -- to another awareness beyond label or definition. Maybe, at core, at center, we are invited to relationship, to a sacredness where in essence, we do all beat as one.

Joan Halifax and the Dalai Lama
*Movie: Seven Years In Tibet

Friday, March 3, 2017

Stillness, I hear...

Stillness is your essential nature.... You are that awareness disguised as a person.
                                                                                                                 ~ Eckhart Tolle

I have been fidgeting, standing on one foot, then the other. Minutes tick by, nothing. Stillness is my destination: that land of Being, that land of no thought, no story, no judgment and no second-guessing myself. Yet, I have not arrived at this velvet inner-space, this sense of presence.

I keep watching the Santa Catalina's  rise just beyond the dry, river bed, hoping somehow my Being will awaken this essence, this truer identity, with its eyes, its ears, and its heart -- often a different one then when trapped in thought and mental noise.

I notice birds sitting on a wire that hangs across the wash. Sixty-one birds I count. All are facing south. I watch these silent silhouettes against a grey sky. Minutes and more go by -- it does take a little time to count sixty-one birds on a wire. I wait. A lone bird flys in. Will it disturb? No, it just slips in between two others, wing to wing.  Now, sixty-two birds are sitting on a wire.

Then something shifts. I am settling down into this rich texture of silence. No need to fidget. This stillness is teaming with life, energy, intelligence and truer identity. The bud knows its spring, the silent tide follows the moon and the bird will fly north faithfully in the spring. Their stillness feels, in me, higher than these mountains.

Tis almost like these birds throw this line out, inviting me to grab hold and swing out into their inner-space, their stillness, into their sense of larger being. We feel another's sadness, another's love. If there is laughter we often find ourselves laughing. This borrowing is happening more often, be it watching a cloud, standing by this mesquite tree or listening to the (rare) rain on my umbrella.

These are the forms of this stillness that are beyond this word I am writing and beneath this thought I am thinking. This is the stillness that is between us, that acts like fragrance in our loving be it a flower, a child or a friend. This is the stillness that lives between the fingers, in the space, when the breath is caught by the beauty of sixty-two birds sitting on a wire.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Discovering a "Wilson"...

A reader who is losing a very special person asked me the other day how he can prepare himself. Those that part from us due to sickness, geography or even death leave a soul absence. Of course, there really is no answer to the reader's question, no balm of gilead, no substitute, no pseudo relationship to fill the gap. Soul has met soul and that is an eternal.

So how to respond? I posed the question to a wise woman. She asked me if I remembered the movie Castaway a few years back. Tom Hank's character is marooned on an island. To cope with the isolation and loniliness he makes a face with his blood on a volleyball that had also washed ashore from the plane crash. Being desperate for companionship, he begins to talk to the ball and names it Wilson. Over time, Wilson becomes his friend, guide and confidante.

Nothing has power on its own unless we are related to it until we give it life and until we bring our life to it. Then it becomes a vital force be it a parchment, a close friend or a "spiritual guide". My wise friend continued, "No matter how many people are in your reader's life or are not, he would do well to find and relate to a "Wilson." After all, we can be lonely in a crowd and soul absent in a marriage."

In the fourth year, Tom's character builds a raft and secures Wilson up front. A storm comes, the ball breaks loose and drifts away. When he sees his companion in the distance he jumps in the ocean but the currents have their way. Devastated, he cries Wilson's name over and over as his beloved friend drifts out of sight.

Apparently, these months spent filming had also imprinted Tom Hanks, himself. The New York Times and the UK's, Daily Mail wrote about his being emotionally re-united with "his beloved Wilson" at a New York Ranger's game "on Wednesday." Apparently, Mr. Hanks frowned a bit when spotted in the crowd until someone handed him a volleyball looking very similar to Wilson. The Daily Mail said he couldn't hide his delight once he recognized his former cast mate and turned the ball around to show the packed stadium, joyfully exclaiming, "It's Wilson, It's Wilson." And this is fourteen years later and many a good movie after that one.

My "Wilson" developed more or less by accident in the middle of community and soul friends.  She was given to me by a friend a couple of decades ago. At first, she was just a foot high paper-mache figure. They can be bought for a few dollars at any market here in Tucson, although this one came from Mexico. For some (long forgotten) reason, I set her where I meditated. She gradually became a presence standing there in her silence. I eventually named her the Desert Woman.

One evening, her neutral face caught my attention. I crooked my head this way and that. Was it just me, my mind or did she have a hint of a smile?  Several weeks before leaving for Tucson, shortly after I was given her, and with no thought of the Desert Woman, I asked a friend who sees beyond the ordinary how my time would be in Tucson. And there (in her mind's eye) was the Desert Woman with a suitcase packed and ready to go! We both broke up laughing. Since then, she has made every trip to and from Tucson in a shoe box which often takes up much-needed space in my carry-on luggage.

Spirituality, life and soul do wait for us to relate in all sorts of forms. If we will meet life, life will meet us anywhere and everywhere. Life itself has its own heart, its own intelligence independent of me. Sometimes it shines a brightness and other times I find myself arguing with it as Tom's character did with Wilson. One can give life to depression, to negativity, why not to a "Wilson"?

Shamans, Christian mystics, Indian yogis, Tibetian monks and the quantum physicists know that "God" (they may not use the Christian term) is an everything "God". The sacred is not separate, not up there or out there detached from material form. We are never alone, we really are not.  What matters is where I am, how am I relating and where I am coming from.

My wise woman continued, "Find that special Wilson. Put on a coat, go out and consciously look. There is a way sometimes that something resonates that will attract you -- it will appear. Go out and bring it home, find the feeling so it can develop. Then when talking to whatever -- allow its largeness and it will become a heart. Your reader may even catch himself at times wonder who or what is talking back. Remember, Tom and Wilson had great arguments."

And why not, are we not creators of life? Yes, I will tend to my "Wilson", be it a book, a monk's garment or this mesquite tree with its chorus of bird-song this morning.
Ah, is the Desert Woman smiling?  I just looked up -- yes, she is. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

post-truth or starry-night...

Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward.
                                                                                                                            ~ e.e. cummings

On Christmas night I go for a walk. It is a Good King Wenceslas night, "'the snow lay round about deep and crisp and even...." Having rained earlier, the road is icy. Usually, I look up to see the constellations and the vast spacious kindness that holds this earth in place. However, tonight, I look down. The black ice under my boots is slippery but the ice crystals seem alive and sparkling much like this sky of stars. Beginning to play, keeping arms outstretched for balance, I start slip-sliding through the twinkling magic beneath my feet.  Sometimes losing my balance, then righting myself again. I am walking on stars.

Then I turn the corner and spot my house. "Stars" are exploding over the front of it. I published my first book several weeks ago called, Moments That Blink Back. On the cover is a star-filled night. I like the cover. So my oldest daughter bought a lawn light for the season that shines "stars" on our house which looks a little like fire-works.

Waiting to board the plane for Tucson four days later, I look at the floor and there are star-shapes in the tile. I jumped up, slide and pretend, again. On the shuttle at Philly, catching the next flight to Phoenix from another terminal, someone points out the star shapes on the bus's floor.

Later, reflecting at 32000 ft on the various star experiences a voice seems to say,  "Wake up Augusta, have you got it yet?" No, not really is my inner reply.  Then I remember, before Christmas I had asked a friend who can see beyond the ordinary, what Tucson would be like for me this winter. "Oh, she says, " I see a star with a long, long tail." And, this universe does, indeed, have its own way of talking. Maybe I am getting it.

Odd, I should find myself "walking on stars," even playfully, as my mind has been heavy this season with world news. As E.E. Cummings observed decades ago, seas seem to be catching fire and stars feel like they are walking backward. Democracies in various parts of the world are struggling. I sit in one as I write. Two new words have apparently emerged for the year 2016 -- one I forget and the other word is "post-truth". Human rights are threatened, climate change is denied in spite of overwhelming scientific proof and much of Aleppo and its people lie in rubble. Thus, in spite of this abundant life I live, my heaviness.

As I have mentioned before, years ago, my old friend cautioned me when I was weighted with concern about a young man I was working with. "Your heaviness of feeling and thought add to his heaviness -- it weights his spirit, his very being." Now decades later, scientists inform us that our thought has power to affect and change people and events around us. Realities are created by what we think. Thoughts release chemicals that change our mood and our perspective. I need to remember my negative thoughts in a "post-truth" era are caught like a bad virus.

I must also remember we are nothing but energy, in other words, we are 99% stardust. And at essence,  one consciousness attempting to manifest itself in this wonderful, beauty-filled world we are gifted to live in. I am looking out my window and here are two yellow finches having their breakfast with three on a near branch waiting. We all can manifest beauty, essence and a love-consciousness that does not depend on what is happening in the world, as does this mesquite tree and these birds that sing in it.

Now I have a paradoxical choice, post-truth or starry-night. I have a choice to follow the wisdom of my ancient friend who encouraged me to, Go outdoors and see beyond what there is to see, feel beyond what you feel, think beyond what you think. Go deeper, go Now, go Presence and go to that place that never changes -- go to your largest, beloved Self. See stars, play, slide on the black, tricky, icy. Keep your balance. Presence has no form, no name, no thought, no opinion and no post-truth.