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Active Hope

Active Hope is not wishful thinking.
Actve Hope is not waiting to be rescued
by the Lone Ranger or by some savior.
Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life
on whose behalf we can act.
We belong to this world.
The web of life is calling us forth at this time.
We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.
With Active Hope we realize that there are adventures in store,
strengths to discover,
and comrades to link arms with.
Active Hope is a readiness to engage.
Active Hope is a readiness to disvover the strengths
in ourselves and in others;
a readiness to discover the reasons for hope
and the occasions for love.
A readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts,
our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose,
our own authority, our love for life,
the liveliness of our curiosity,
the ususpected deep well of patience and diligence,
the keenness of our senses, and our capacity to lead.
None of these can be discovered in an armchair or without risk.

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Solstice Lessons on Life and Death

Walking along the beach, I’m drawn into the bramble of a small grove.
Explorer’s eyes wide-open. Shells and sea creatures washed ashore catching my attention. A scanning gaze joltingly stops at a large dead bird. A pelican’s body, twisted and strewn out. Recently deceased as is evident from the perfections of life still intact.

I’m drawn in by its beauty. The elegant lines of its head, its feathers, fur, colors, shape. And yet… I’m scared to approach it. I circle the perimeter, maintaining a wide distance.

Why? Why must I stand so far away? Why am I afraid to approach this dead bird?

I stand with reverence. A moment of prayer. May you pass peacefully along on your journey.

The beauty beckons me forward. I’ve never been able to be so close to an animal such as this one. To gaze at its lines and shapes, to drink in the size of its life and presence. And yet I’m resistant. With fear. Why this fear?

I realize that I am afraid that it might not be totally dead yet. If I get close, I may see it move, last grasps at life. Its shape hints at an unexpected death. I project suffering. I recoil from fear of that suffering. If I get close, I might personally feel it. It will make me suffer too. And perhaps even the irrational fear that death will jump up and take me too.

I don’t want to see it suffering because I don’t want to suffer.
I don’t want to die.
I don’t want to feel that pain.
So I stay away. I stand back. I create distance.
Somewhere inside me I have been programed that I am doing this for my own protection.

I disagree. Not right now. This moment of beauty and death is calling to me.

I breathe with the realization that in this moment I am afraid to get close and genuinely feel what-is if there is a chance that I will feel suffering.

I must walk in. Walk closer. Push beyond this internally polarized force, repelling and invoking.

I flash to bigger picture, parallel patterns. In order to invite growth, change and transformation I believe that we have to start by accepting what-is, and then discovering what we can love about what-is. Often situations that are in need of transformation and change have a coating of suffering that surrounds the core. To face what-is means to be with that pain and suffering, to feel through that contraction and seemingly awfulness… for only in that acceptance is there room to travel beyond into the opening and fruits of possibility.

And so on this solstice day I dance with the balance of beauty and death, suffering and possibility, my own personal fears and universal patterns. May the light grow increasingly more abundant and may I discover new acceptance in the caverns of the darkness.

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At Home in the World

First train home, I’ve got to get on it
First train home, I’ve got to get on it
First train home, I’ve got to get on it
First Train home
(soundtrack for this post)

So what? What matters to you?
What are your strongest feelings? What is your central wish? What stirs your inmost being?

Are you home yet?
Lying awake, enchanted by the natural world, caressed by the powers that envelope you, genuinely relating to the beings and things in your life, aligned with a divine presence that permeates everything? everything? It’s there… is it here? Can you see it? Can you touch and taste and smell and hear that divine immanence resonating in the world around you? through you? connecting you… to you… to me… to a tree… to much, much more than we can see? Can you feel it? Is it here?

A lover is trying to seduce us into her wonder and mystery, into the heart of her beauty, home. Day by day, moment by moment, the waters of life are pouring forth into our soul, fed by the little encounters of being that happen without effort… simply because we are alive. We are alive! Can you feel it?

This week three men and the lineages, teachings, and life experiences they embody are helping me travel home. Their messages and essence swirl in my being, chemical reactions activating holy sparks and snapping authentic living into the cells of my waking body.

ahhhhhh
{{{ insert your favorite sound for the divine here }}}
{{{along with one deep breath }}}

You can read my full notes from an evening hearing Brian Swimme, the next night listening to Bill Plotkin, and all the while reading Martin Buber‘s book, The Way of Man. And below (as well as above) are some of the pieces that are cooking me… igniting me… wanting to be shared!

Brian Swimme’s central point was that we humans have forgotten the sacred dimension of nature. We need to renew our capacities to recognize the presence of the divine throughout the natural world. He believes that people have a deep hunger to:

  • Know how we fit in
  • Make sense of the world
  • Live in alignment with the powers that envelope us, with the divine presence that permeates everything

Buber says that here is a fulfillment of existence that a quiet devoted relationship to nearby life can give us. Developing genuine relationships with the beings and things in whose lives we get to be in, a mutual gift, creates true, fulfilled existence.

By hallowing our relationship with the things and beings that we meet on our way and that attract our hearts, we get in touch “with what manifests itself in them as beauty, pleasure, enjoyment. Hasidism teaches that rejoicing in the world, if we hallow it with our whole being, leads to rejoicing in God.” (Buber)

Bill Plotkin defines soul as “our place in the world.” He sees a true adult as someone who knows how they belong to more than the human world. They understand their place in nature, not just their place in culture.

He talks about how we humans long for our own unique and vibrant participation (membership) in a world that works for all beings. At a soul level we want to be contributing, being of service, and we want to feel at home in the world. We can both contribute and thus feel at home in the world by embodying our deepest passion. Plotkin believes that each individual has gifts, ways of being of service, they were born to embody. Finding our service is both deeply fulfilling and incredibly challenging. Embodying those gifts that are unique to each of us is the biggest contribution to social change that we can make.

And Buber supports this belief,

Every person born into this world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique. ‘It is the duty of every person… to know and consider that he is unique in the world in his particular character and that there has never been anyone like him in the world, for if there had been someone like him, there would have been no need for him to be in the world…

Every man’s foremost task is the actualization of his unique, unprecedented and never-recurring potentialities…‘Everyone has in him something precious that is in no one else.’ But this precious something in a man is revealed to him only if he truly perceives his strongest feeling, his central wish, that in him which stirs his inmost being…

He must find his own self, not the trivial ego of the egotistic individual, but the deeper self of the person living in a relationship to the world…. A man [must see] himself … as a genuine person, whose transformation helps towards the transformation of the world… The task of man, of every man, according to Hasidic teaching, is to affirm for God’s sake the world and himself and by this very means to transform both.

And in order to “belong to the world in the ways nature birthed us,” Plotklin acknowledges the challenge for many of feeling at home in the world. Most people have never learned to feel themselves as a natural element in the world and so cannot feel a part of it and at home in it. Not feeling at home in the world creates a core restlessness and anxiety. Humans have the ability to experience the enchantment of the natural world, they can learn how to be at home in the world and wonder about the world. Feeling at home in the world leads to treating the world as our home. And as these men point out, in order to do so, we must recognize the presence of the divine throughout the natural world.

Swimme uses the story of the cosmos to paint visions of and personify some of the wonderment and divine essence of the universe. For instance, he explains that the atoms of our skin and the air that we breathe are from an exploding star.

Carbon and oxygen exist in the core of a star. When a star explodes it releases these and many other elements into the universe. Our own solar system and planet with its minerals and life forms were created out of these supernova explosions. Every single atom of carbon and oxygen (of which humans are made of) is foraged in stars. The atoms of our skin are from an exploding star. In order for these atoms to exist, stars had to blow up. “I am a cosmological event!” (source)

And when I breathe, I breathe the creations of stars. All the life I will live is possible because of the gifts of those stars. These facts/stories help to illustrate for me the immensity of each moment and they invite me into a direct experience of the divine presence that exists in the natural world.

And then Swimme teaches about the sun. Every second our sun is transforming 4 million tons of itself into light. The sun doesn’t get back that energy. Once it transforms itself into light, the light disperses in all directions. The sun gives it away. Everything that’s happened in the life of this planet is directly dependent upon that light. We’re moving here and talking and thinking only because coursing through our bodies is the energy from the sun. All of human activity is powered by the generosity of the sun. Our existence directly depends upon the giveaway of the sun; this is a real sacrificial, ongoing event. (source)

All of these men are extending deep invitations to directly experience the divine presence permeating the world. The Baal-Shem (founder of Hasidism) teaches that no encounter with a being or a thing in the course of our life lacks a hidden significance. ‘God dwells wherever man lets him in.’

To go, to go, to go
Get, get, get, get
Out, out, out, out
Now, now, now, now
soundtrack by Imogen Heap!

                    
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Rituals for Healthy Living

Over the last couple of years, off and on, I have been experimenting with healthy living rituals. I tend to be a pretty spontaneous person, following what is most alive for me in a moment. I try to listen to what I need (my mind, my heart, my body, my soul, my relationships, the whole) and take action from what I hear. However, I recognize that I lack discipline in my life and that often I favor what my heart wants over what my body needs. Imbalance has a way of creeping into my sense of order, causing a lack of order. If I listen carefully I notice the sounds of disharmony inviting me to pay attention to some aspect of my being. I belive that rituals, activities that I do regularly and purposefully with the intention of adding value to my well-being, can help support me in maintaining balance… and so I experiment!

Some of my experiments have included meditation, dancing, toning, singing, yoga, journaling, walking, prayers, breathing practices, and practices to help me tune deeper into experiencing the moment. In this mode of exploration and inquiry, I realized one June day that I have an incredible network of people and I bet some of them do rituals to help keep their life in balance. I decided to inquire and find out. So far 40 different people have shared with me the activities they do to help nourish their life. What a gift! I couldn’t keep these treasures to myself so I have started a new webl where I will be posting all of the rituals I recieve. Come have a peek…

Rituals for Healthy Living is the new site and it’d be great if you came and joined the inquiry that we’re in over there! And if you have rituals of your own to share, please do.

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Fear, Nourishment and Beauty


Last week my heart was nourished as I spent 5 days in Atlanta with family and friends. A place of intimate relationship and comfort with a dear friend of mine was restored. I am beyond words with gratitude. I am touched with love’s grace.

Fear
I also went to the oncologist with my dad and his wife to learn about his chemotherapy treatments that begin on June 5. It’s time for me to make friends with cancer. I figure it’s here so we might as well get to know each other.

For me, being directly connected to cancer generates a lot of fear while also illuminating much beauty. I’m witnessing and am an integral part of this story where a cancer diagnosis of someone I love initiates transformation and growth to many in his circle… touching hearts wide open and inviting expressions of life and love to travel closer to the surface. For this I feel thankful. At the same time, I feel guilty for feeling thankful. (My judgment towards myself can be quite harsh.)

And still, there is the big fear of Cancer.

Being back in Seattle, I noticed last night that it feels good to step away from that fear for a bit. I also feel guilty that I am able to take a break.

Cancer is scary. Cancer is powerful. Cancer is unpredictable. Cancer is unknown.

What am I afraid of?

I’m afraid that my dad will fall into the sickness… that he’ll be taken over by being sick and fall away from being alive.

I’m afraid that I won’t have my dad in my life for a long time to come… that I won’t always be able to depend on him to answer my questions, to gather family together, to dazzle people with his charm, to be my little girl’s daddy. That’s a big one. The little girl inside of me won’t always have her daddy around.

I’m afraid of seeing him suffering… of being held hostage to the helpless feeling that there is nothing I can do to relieve his suffering… that he is in pain… that is the reality… and I must just accept and be with him in the pain. I’m afraid that I will be overwhelmed with my own pain… that I will be flooded.

Nourishment
My friend was recently at a workshop for compassion fatigue and she reminded me again of how we can’t take away another person’s pain. No matter how much we would like to, we can’t change what is for them.

Yet we can support them by making the space around them as nurturing as possible. We can be aware of where we focus our own attention and how we tend to their physical space, psychological space, relationships, etc.

I think about creating sacred healing space around someone who is ill (physically, emotionally, spiritually). To me sacred healing space does not mean that it’s somber and serious with New Age music playing and people in deep meditation. Sacred healing space varies for each person. What is sacred to you, what is healing for you? For my dad, I believe that having music playing is healing… it creates a sacred space. Sometimes that music is southern rock, sometimes folk, sometimes world, but music seems to churn his soul to a place of familiarity when it might otherwise be spinning in a realm of fear or anxiety about the unknown.

Sacred healing space has some element of comfort and familiarity. I believe it’s not just comfort for the obvious person in need of healing, but comfort for the whole. Who are the stable figures in the scene and what elements in the environment are a source of comfort for them? For me a prime space of comfort is in the psychological realm. I feel a nourishing deep breath of peace when I have some knowing of what is going on inside of others… when they communicate how they are experiencing our shared moment. This is healing to me, it invites me to surrender to this moment more fully, it expands my perspective to embrace not just my sense of the whole but also a validated knowing of how others are experiencing the whole. What makes an environment feel comfortable for you?

Beauty
If I could make a wish for my dad right now… it would be that his heart would keep opening and surrendering to life’s beauty and this moment’s preciousness. For me beauty is not an idea, it’s not even a perspective (“I find this beautiful, you find that beautiful”). For me, beauty is a profound and embodied resonance of YES!, WOW!, AHHHHH… Life’s Beauty is a sense of completion, perfection, harmony. I feel something is beautiful when my soul knows it. When I relate with something and as a result feel more alive, I know it is beautiful (or our relationship is beautiful).

Beauty is everywhere, everything is of the essence of life and existence. Regardless of how nasty and gnarly or evil and deceitful it is, it is of the fundamental patterns and origins of life. There is always a way to look into something and see the wholeness of what is currently in a not-so-whole state. To see the beauty in the pattern of a pile of shit… or the beauty of an innocent child and the brilliance of human defenses that have given way to a hateful adult. This is my optimist speaking, this perspective is the force behind my shaman. If I slow down and settle into the moment, life is cloaked in beauty and alignment with beauty and grace is effortless.

And so, of course, how can I have this wish for an opening, surrendering heart for my dad without it being a wish for me? At the core of my purpose, it is also a wish for you and all those that walk this earth now and in generations to come. How can we cultivate a sacred healing space for ourselves so that, in turn, we may help shape sacred healing spaces for others?

These are a few of the many questions and conversations keeping me company these days!

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Living With an Open Heart

I’m procrastinating. I’m scared. One more bite of toast. One more reason why I’m not comfortable at this table… one more excuse to keep me from going into what is present in me in this moment.

Today I must write. Trails of life-lived and life-living are insisting to be formed into words, to be woven into some form of expression. This morning I’m driving to a coffee shop to honor this call, experiencing the fullness of feeling inside of me… listening.

I hear an NPR clip on the radio about Iraq… and how it has become such a rarity there and a noted blessing for someone to die of natural causes… for people to have the luxury of saying good bye before a loved one passes. The tears ever-presently close to the surface swell in my eyes. Feeling and thinking tossling under the covers… emotions? grief? fortune? blessings? the world? suffering? why? what to do?

. . . love . . .

I always return to love. My car feels like it’s filled with inhabitants… so much inside this little space… feeling… driving… a truck parked along the road turns on, the tail lights catching my eye… a bumper sticker of the word LOVE on the window. The ‘O’ is a grenade. I shudder… and wonder… feel the silent tossling under the covers, the whirlpool of thinking-feeling-stimulation that has no form but inhabits huge amounts of space.

In this coffee shop now, I hold back the tears while simultaneously sort of forcing them forth. Marveling.

Yesterday I rambled through the arboretum with a dear companion, an old friend and a new friend, the same person. My heart raw and vulnerable, wide open and actively reaching for protection and comfort. The trees provided support, a mothering presence.

When we stopped in an area where the trees were scarce, more scattered, I felt my heart throbbing, yearning, wanting. It was like a fresh wound exposed to the elements, the wind blowing on the tender opening… I moved closer to the trees, closer to the warmth and support, the knowing forces of thriving existence… grounded, rooted, connected. I found a center where I could rest… and be… open to what is happening in this moment…showing up for this opportunity to be alive… as it is… as I am… as we are… right now.

Chris wrote recently about

“a fierce commitment to defending the territory of the open heart and a fierce commitment to training in the practice of wielding love, for communities, people, ideals, possibilities and whatever else.”

I found myself wanting to hear Christy teach from a 5-element perspective about the paricardium, the heart protector… and how it might relate to protecting and defending the heart while also inviting love into heart-space… that essence of heart that is bigger than our individual hearts. This brings to mind past writing on this topic by me and Christy.

It’s hard work living with an open heart! (my heart wells, tears swell writing that) And I rebel against the phrase ‘hard work.’ It is a deep practice, one which requires a huge amount of conscious effort and attention.

As we grow and develop, we experience life. In honor of living, we develop means of surviving. Few of us unfold in an enlightened bubble where the environment we encounter perfectly meets our needs and mirrors our essence. We are brilliant at adapting to what we experience, shaping our being and becoming to accommodate those unmet needs, organizing and re-organizing our interior worlds in creative and life-preserving formations. We are witty in the ways in which we latch onto the images we see in mirrors held up to us, whether they match our essence or not, we can cling fiercely to the labels, perceptions, conceptions… descriptions of who we’re seen to be, who we see ourselves to be… and scripts which we internalize as who we believe we are… stories which help us feel solid and grounded, inhabited by an identity that we can rest in… believe in… survive as.

Tears return again as I rest in feeling, listening for the shape of words to emerge. The theme… vulnerability. Living with an open heart is a practice of returning again and again to a vulnerable state… confronting the edges of survival that have served so reverently… and must now be softened… eased open into a fuller experience of what is happening now.

Listening to and being guided by heart’s resonance, foundations crumble, certainty and knowing break down, new feelings and sensations pierce experiences, change scraping the walls of habit, uncertainty paralyzing open static responses. Revealed, exposed, broken open and vulnerable… shaky? uncertain? scared? worried? calm? aligned? connected? fierce?

So Chris asks: “What is dangerous to the territory of the open heart?”

I notice how dangerously vulnerable an open heart is without awareness and discernment…and perhaps without clarity. Revealed to the elements, unprotected and ignorant to what-is, the defenseless heart is available to connect with anything. This is dangerous.

As I try to articulate this danger, I return to the word LOVE with the O as a grenade. We can connect with an essential experience (love) that contains a grenade, that shares its love through violence and destruction. We also can shape our experiencing to connect with love that contains a circle, a renewing cycle honoring death and rebirth, an evolving returning, an embrace of essence. In this moment my experience is that awareness, clarity, discernment and connection with loving essence empowers the open heart. (These words still feel weak in articulating… but perhaps tickle open the essence around which I’m trying to speak. Please feel free to inquire about or grow this thought further.)

Thomas stands in emotion sharing on this topic,

“I feel such sadness and rage at how fucking hard this all is. And then I feel the beauty of all these radiant souls working in the mystery as agents of change and discover a profound longing to live into the honesty and compassion of a wide open heart.”

I think that taking a stand to live into the honesty and compassion of a wide open heart means accepting the reality that symbolic grenades are always nearby… change is hard… love hurts… and with discernment and clarity, honesty and acceptance, we can align with beauty, we can listen to the wisdom of our hearts, we can follow guidance, resting in and being directed by the fierce power of love… not a violent love, an embracing love.

The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation,
we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Fire picture and mandala from Thomas Arthur, Trees from Nat Lockwood

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Crossing Boundaries

“Crossing the boundary from personal to transpersonal takes will…
takes the will of soul… and that’s fearful.”

~Finn Voldtofte

photo source

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