Cenotes Into Ourselves

August 18, 2013

Warning!! This post might be a stretch!!

A little while ago I wrote about ecotones. “Ecotone” means a  transition area between two biomes. An ecotone is where two communities meet and integrate. I tried to relate it to our personal experiences in life and self discovery.

Today we move onto “cenotes”!! A cenote is  is a natural phenomenon, a sinkhole in the Earth’s surface.  Found in Mexico and the Caribbean, a cetone is primarily made up of porous limestone. Over millions of years, rainfall slowly eats away at the limestone and a huge system of underground caves and caverns is formed. Many are filled with water from rain or from the underground water table. When the roof of a water filled cave collapses, a cenote is born. The water found in a cenote may be fresh water, salt water, or both. Structurally it may be completely open, like a lake, almost completely closed with just a small opening at the top, or somewhere in between.

In the Mayan language “ts’onot” means sacred well. Cenotes were the main source of fresh water for the ancient Mayan civilization. Mayans believed the cenotes contained curative elements and considered many of them to be sacred. They also believed cenotes to be portals to the spirit world and a way to communicate with the gods. Some cenotes were the site of Mayan sacrifices.

cenotes google images

(google images)

Now we have the definition and history. Here comes my twist.

For those of us on a quest of some sort, to find our “true” self, to quiet the ego, to discover what is hidden within us, we often find ourselves slowly peeling away layers of our outward self to find our inner self. Not unlike the the rain slowly dissolving the limestone. Our “rain” comes in many forms: religion, meditation, service…..Our limestone is apathy, doubt, ego, mis-information, immaturity, not being ready, ignorance, selfishness…..

But once something has worn away enough of our personal limestone, a shift begins…….we find ways to energize and speed the dissolving process along. We are ready for the breakthough. Ready for the bottom to fall out, to open the barrier to the cenote.  A place the Mayan’s believed to be curative, sacred and a portal to communicating with the gods.

Whatever journey you are on, is it so different? Are you not slowly melting away the layers of ego to discover something deep inside of you? A place, a state of being where you can discover the “sacred”, the true “self”, inside of you?

Once a cenote is born the fresh water falls, joining a vast underground system of rivers and caves. Areas of haloclines form: where fresh water and salt water meet creating eerie pools of mystical waters. Waters flow along underground rivers and hundreds of miles later, they exit the underworld and join with the ocean……they mingle with the salt water and become something new and different. A smaller part becomes a part of something bigger as it also changes from fresh water to salt water……

So as you travel along your path to self discovery maybe the imagine of the cenote will be like a lantern guiding you along.

 

Have We Lost Silence?

August 11, 2013

I am a quiet person. I like to be quiet and I like to be surrounded by quiet. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy people and good conversation. I enjoy music and plays and movies.  I enjoy the noise of cities and the lull of ocean waves. I am grateful for the bird song that wakes me in the morning,  And for me, there is nothing more joyful than the sound of my children’s voices and their laughter.

However, I came across an article written last year that made me go “hmmmmm”.

http://www.canyoncountryzephyr.com/2012/10/01/pointblank-how-we-lost-silence-and-why-we-need-to-get-it-back-by-richard-mahler/

“In 1998, for example, natural sound recordist Gordon Hempton toured 15 states and found only two-remote parts of Colorado and Minnesota-that were free of such human-made clamor as airplanes, amplified music, chain saws, gunfire, and all-terrain vehicles for more than 15 minutes during daylight hours.

A few years earlier, Hempton had found those same areas to be sanctuaries of the kind of hear-a-pin-drop silence that most Americans under 30 have probably never experienced. Deep silence is critically endangered. As the 21st century unfolds, the mechanical racket of the Industrial Revolution and the electronic beep of the Information Age conspire to obliterate the balm of natural silence that once soothed humankind. Not only does our clatter invade nearly every public space-from beaches to mountains, shopping centers to airports-we seem compelled to let it invade our inner-sanctums of as well. We walk in our front doors and immediately flick on TV sets, radios, computers, or CD players; replay voice mail and answering machines; amuse our children with video games; and push buttons on gadgets we’ve installed in every room of the house.”

sapwoods

(Photo by me, of Sapsucker Woods, Ithaca NY)

There is one restaurant in my town that does not play music. It is like entering a kind of paradise. We can actually sit and relax, talk to each other, eat, hear our server, breathe. We can BE. We can “stop” and think and process. We can hear ourselves and each other.

What is the impact of “loosing” silence in the world? Being alone and silent in many cultures used to be a rite of passage. To be alone with oneself in order to learn who we are from the depths of our spirit. To hear that which IS silent.

“Lost from our daily routines is time to abide calmly with ourselves. That’s too bad, because “quiet alone-time” is where I believe many of us touch the fullness of our possibilities. Clinical studies suggest that a sanctuary of stillness really can restore peace of mind, while reducing stress, expanding insight, and promoting a genuine sense of happiness and well-being.”

I know that for me the “sanctuary of stillness” is very important. Without it I cannot get anywhere near my full potential. I am not happy and do not experience “well-being” without silence in my life.

For me embracing stillness and silence is paramount to my well-being.  How about you? Care to share?

Sailing

August 4, 2013

sail

I am lucky. I live in the heart of the Finger Lakes in New York state. An area rich in Native American history and spirituality.

The lakes were formed more than 550 million year ago during the Pleistocene Ice Age. Glaciers crept through the area from north to south, and carved deep sliced into the land. The ice pushed the land and rocks south. Gradually the ice melted and the glaciers receded, leaving shale valleys of water, which are now the Finger Lakes.

When you are on Cayuga Lake, you feel smaller. It is hard to feel important, Although the lake is not large, it is deep and the color somehow reflects that.

water

The Iroquois Indians call this part of New York home. The Cayuga and Onondaga tribes specifically called Cayuga Lake home.

When I am aware of my surroundings, especially when I travel, I find myself wondering about the people who lived in the area before it was easy to live there…before grocery stores, or Home Depot. Before snow plows or electricity. I wonder about the first people to live in the area, about the first “settlers” who came over a hill and saw something so beautiful that they decided to stop and make a home. I wonder about the discord that happened between people that caused fighting or forced people to move.

And, I often think about how people, before science opened up our understanding of “things”, made sense of what they saw, heard, felt.

The Finger Lakes are called the Finger Lakes because of a Iroquois legend that says the lakes were formed when the great Spirit laid his hands on the land to bless it. His fingers left imprints that filled with water, hence the name “Finger Lakes.”

“It is said that the Finger Lakes were made by the impression of the hand of the Great Spirit on central New York State. However there are six major Finger Lakes. West to east they are; Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco and Skaneateles. As told in Iroquois legend, the Great God Manitou wanted to reward the Iroquois Confederacy for their courage in battle and their devotion to the Great Spirit. He decided to bring part of their happy hunting ground down from the heavens.

According to the legend, there are six Finger Lakes because the hand of Manitou slipped when he was pushing the portion of Indian Paradise down from the heavens, causing six indentations that later became the lakes.” Excerpt from Legends and Stories of the Finger Lakes Region by Emerson Klees  

250px-New_York's_Finger_Lakes

Could there be anything more profound than to believe your “world” was created for you by God? If you knew nothing of glaciers and geology how else could these lakes be explained? And again, the lakes reminded people, you are not as big and important as you think…..there is something bigger than you: the lakes. And if you believe in God, God.

I love living in this area. I love sailing. It is something that melds the body with nature and heals the heart and soul. It makes you stop and feel your body in relation to the wind and water. It makes you find physical balance as the water moves you in ways you can not control as the boat rocks and heels. It makes you understand the power of wind—as you feel it on your face, as you feel it move the boat. It is rhythmic and quiet. It is like a dance. As your body is rocked in the boat and cradled in the water something inside is awakened and nurtured. As a small “speck” on the water you understand you are not so important and it is a good feeling. It releases you from something. And in the wind and waves, on a small boat, in the sun surrounded by not very much, there is inner calm that reminds you to allow yourself to simply “be” without worry or hurry. Life is not about jobs and responsibilities, errands or appointments. It is not about cleaning or folding laundry. Or driving a nice car or being isolated in a large house. It is not about the internet or reality TV shows. It is about shedding all of that and knowing, when all that is stripped away, who you are.

 

It’s a bit of a lazy, rainy Sunday. I’m re-energizing after not feeling so well yesterday. Makes me grateful for the rain today because somehow the rain reminds me it is OK to go slowly and not worry or hurry.

I haven’t made a posting in quite awhile…there simply was nothing calling to me loud enough to make me think and share.

Today, however, while rummaging around Facebook I read something. This something made me think about another something and here I am trying to get it to come together.

The Facebook “something”:

“Some might counsel you not to let your past define you, but the events of our loss, the discrepancies in our upbringing, the deficits in our making – are what shape us uniquely. Our limitations are which give rise to the holy imagination, and regrets are the only stepping stones upon which wisdom can be reached.” –Dreamwork with Toko-pa

The other “something”:

The last Christmas my father was alive he gave a Christmas blessing based on an article in Process Theology about being what you “eat”. In hind sight this was interesting because it was the last time the entire family was together….in some measure, all of us being who we were then because of the people next to us in the same room, at the same table. We “eat” and are made to grow by the people we meet and surround ourselves with and the experiences we live.

Whether we are present enough to be aware of it, every person we meet, every word that is spoken to us or heard by us, every stumble we make, each summit we attain, the words we read, the lyrics we memorize, every single thing feeds and gives life to who we are. We are fed and molded by a smorgasbord of things outside of us.

We do, however, have some say in the matter.

transform body and mind

What has fed and molded you? As you reflect, is it the regrets and flaws that have had the most impact on you or the joyful uplifting experiences? Or both? As a result did you change something? Have you chosen to be fed something different? Figuratively, do you shop for the ingredients for life at a discount, basic food store or a farmer’s market of fresh, locally produced food? Do you fill up you bags with processed foods, natural organic food or exotic food?

Tell me, who are you. And why? What do you “eat”?

 

 

The Goodness of The Day

June 25, 2013

Sunsets grant us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the movement of the day. They remind us to take time to be still and quiet as the passage is made from day to night. To experience gratitude for the goodness of the day.

“When the sun is setting, leave whatever you are doing and watch it.” 
-Mehmet Murat ildan

sunset2

(photo by me, Oregon coast. Sunset)

In our daily lives we often participate in many things that might not fall under the category of “good”, or “pleasant”, and too often it so easy for us to hang on to those things as if THEY were our life threads, our defining moments. They are not.

At the end of the day the sunset comes. It has no judgement on our day. Yet the sunset can give us that moment to reflect on all the wonders and beauty in the world, and in people, that we may not have noticed during the day. The sunset reminds us of things that are greater than our evaluation of how we did during day. Greater than our evaluations of how we think others did during that day.

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
– Rabindranath Tagore

The raging colors splattered across the horizon, the muted sorbet wisps translucent against the day blue sky: the sunset. It reminds us to give pause and notice the beauty and harmony in the natural world. To reflect on the goodness of the day and to be still and fully present in the beauty of the moment. THIS moment. A time of transition from day to night. Where there is nothing but the sunset. Events , struggles, pain, sorrow, laughter, joys of the day are gone…behind us. The next moment has not yet come. This is what is. It is natural. Ever changing. Impermanent. Beautiful. Miraculous. Inspiring. Healing. Breathtaking.  This is the cessation of the things that maybe are not so important. This is the interlude between misunderstanding and truth. This is the respite that says “Stop. Be mindful of the goodness of this day as it passes. Be present to this stillness and let the silence of the stillness echo throughout your body.”

What The Hell Is Water?

June 22, 2013

Please just watch this.

http://www.christinecarter.com/community/blog/2013/06/friday-inspiration-this-is-water/

From a commencement speech.

Have a beautiful weekend.

I live a life that mostly revolves around my job. I work with preschoolers….little 3, 4 and 5 year olds. There is a daily routine, a fairly unvarying menu of social, emotional and developmental scenarios. There are the predictable dramas of someone not wanting to be friends with someone else, someone calling a 4 year old a three year old, and similar grievances.

My days are very ordinary. Predictable.

Yet, as I reflect back on the day’s events I am often amazed at how clearly, how assuredly my own perspective has a direct impact on whether my ordinary day is, well, ordinary, or whether my ordinary day is magic. It’s all me.

So now, as I go about my morning at home I give myself a pep talk. “What surprises will there be today?”. “How am I going to get so-and-so to do such and such”. “How can I make someone laugh, or light up their eyes?” We have to remember:

 “You may think that in life, a lot of things happen to you along the way.
The truth is, in life, you happen to a lot of things along the way.”
–Dr. Shad Helmstetter

Sometimes the pep talk includes reminders of traps I don’t want to fall in to. Familiar ruts that take me to the same dull places. We have to break free of established patterns of response and thinking in order for new ideas and solutions to be born. Some days I feel like I am on auto-pilot…..reacting the same way to every situation, and it doesn’t always work in life. Some days I have to make the conscious effort to turn the auto-pilot OFF.

I ask my self “Why?” or “why not?” more often. Why do I do the same thing over and over the same way? Why am I surprised when I get the same response? Is that the response I was looking for? Why not approach the same thing differently and see what happens? Why not try something outside of the box?

I give myself reminders:  pause before responding so my responses are not reactionary, but of value. Reminders that everything that happens is not a personal attack on me…on my ego. Funny to think that a 3 year old could make me feel that way….and sometimes it’s the adult co-workers!!

“How you choose to respond each moment to the movie of life determines how you see the next frame,
and the next, and eventually how you feel when the movie ends.”
–Doc Childre

Reminders to pause as to whether my response brings something to the table (necessary) , is it kind, is it truthful?

“When words are both true and kind, they can change the world.” ~ Buddha

When I am thoughtful about the choices I can make during the day, my day is “different”. When I practice patience and kindness, compassion and creativity, others respond differently too. It isn’t hard. It just takes some practice and being mindful. It requires I give up reacting, and instead respond with something thoughtful.

Ordinary days become magical. Ordinary days become extraordinary days. Ordinary days become a gift. Something to look forward to.

Ordinary-Day

Only For Today

May 24, 2013

I always look for new ideas on how to be more mindful of the present moment. Sometimes it is so very difficult to do that. There are always thoughts jumping ahead to what is scheduled next, what might happen, what will never happen.

Today I ran across a little article that was directed instead on focusing on the day today. As I thought about it, I felt that really that is what I try to do. I keep the day as a whole in my head, and as I wind my way through the hours and events, I then focus on those specific things as they are happening.

The Ten Simple Rules for Daily Living came from the website Greatfulness.org

DSCN0499

(photograph by me: Oregon coast)

Here are the thoughts, in my words:

* Only for today, I will live the day being positive and not try to solve the problems in my life in one day.

* Only for today, I will be mindful of my appearance. I will dress as if my appearance is an expression of my thoughts and values. I will not raise my voice. I will be kind and compassionate to others. I will not criticize others. I will not judge others.  I will only work on improving myself.

* Only for today, I will remind myself that I have within me the capacity to be happy. To be content.

* Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances around me without requiring that all circumstance adapt to my own wishes.

* Only for today, I will commit 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering to feed my thirst for learning, knowledge and understanding.

* Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.

* Only for today,  I will make a plan for myself. I might not follow it exactly, but I will do my best. I will be mindful of hastiness and indecision.

* Only for today,  I will remind myself that today is a gift.

* Only for today,  I will have no fears. Within the hours of the day I will focus on each moment.  In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness and compassion.

 

Perfect

May 20, 2013

I am in my mid 50’s. I need to loose some weight. My hair is gray. There are some wrinkles on my face. Freckles have changed into age spots. I move more slowly than I used to. I wear glasses to read.

At 50 I took up Svaroopa yoga and it has breathed a new life into me. I embrace myself. Even when I look in the mirror and do not see the person I see myself as….25 years younger, flawless skin, light reddish hair……inside I am that person.

Today I did a 3 hour yoga class. As always, the class begins and ends with shavasana (the Corpse Pose) and a guided mindfulness meditation. I have moments where I experience what some people call the” zen-like mind”. No thoughts. Just a blank silence.

shavasana(from Google images)

Today when my teacher began the end of the class shavasana, she said what she says every time: ” As you settle into shavasana notice how your body feels.”

I momentarily held my breath as I heard my inner voice answer, “Perfect”.

That is a word I never associated with yoga. Or with myself. But there it was. Perfect. And that IS how I felt. In every sense. The whole moment. My whole being. My thoughts or lack of thoughts. The silence and the mind chatter. The muscle twitching.

perfect

It made me think of the mantra I sometimes use: So Hum. It means “I am that” or “I am this”. And that is what that “perfect” meant: “I am this”. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just this.

It was a lovely moment. A lovely place to be. Just this. And it was complete in itself. I was complete in myself.

 

 

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once,
but of stretching out to mend the part of the world
that is within our reach”
 
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

hands

Some days the world is so full of pain and sorrow I just wish there was some way to have it all righted, and have everything “fixed” and made OK. It is overwhelming.

Staying grounded and keeping things in perspective means we have to understand and accept we cannot fix the entire world. We have to find balance and reach our hand out to that which is within our reach, and slowly, with love and care, mend the broken and wounded parts that are within our grasp.

Sometimes it means starting with ourselves: making sure we are whole and healthy. Many of us resist taking care of ourselves if we perceive we can spend our energy, resources, time on someone else. Truly, for us to help others we have to be healthy and strong. Sometimes we might not even know what we need in order to take care of ourselves.

Sometimes fixing things means we have to let go. Letting go in all kinds of ways. Letting be. Leaving alone. Walking away.

Or maybe we need to sit with something. Be present and simply experience without doing or changing. And then letting it go.

Or, maybe we need to take a first step that might be hard for us….to speak up or out, to stand up.

I listen to the news sometimes and cringe. I hear parents screaming at their kids in grocery store and cringe. I listen to college kids speak jokingly in ways that are really mean, callous and misogynistic and cringe. I listen to lyrics of songs that are violent, that demean women and others and I cringe. There is no way I can change all those things.

I read of pollution. I read of deforestation. I read of rising sea levels and melting ice fields. I can’t prevent those things from happening.

My arms do not reach that far.

But, there are things within of my own grasp. My choices are within reach. My words and actions are within reach. My voice is within reach.

I am within my own reach. I can start with myself.

I can work towards reaching out, and stretching a little more to take a step towards mending what is within my reach. And with patience, someone else might try too. And the reach will be a little longer. A little more mending will happen.

Maybe we can reach out together.

(hand mandala from google images)