Rumi and Crumbling

February 17, 2014

Hello! It’s been a little while!

I’ve been introspective and not feeling like making entries on this blog.

Looking out at the glistening, diamond like snow, and reading a little Rumi, brought me a little gift of personal insight. So, I thought I’d share.

“Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled.
So wild flowers will come up
Where you are.
You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different. Surrender.”
Rumi
 

Our solid, rock-like defense system, whether jagged or smooth, helps us be “strong”. If we are strong enough we can keep things from getting to us, or breaking us apart. Familiarity is a rock too. Even when we feel we are hurt, or suffering, unhappy, lonely, the pattern of hanging on and just surviving the current emotion/drama is “safer”, for some of us, than trying something different.

Rumi reminds us to try something different. Let us take a risk and allow ourselves to be ground up ( just a little is ok, it only takes a small crack in the surface), to crumble apart just a little. Something new, and beautiful and full of hope might begin to grow—a wild flower, or….?

wild geranium

(photograph by me)
 

Sure, growing “flowers” might be unknown to us. We might have to learn something new. Face new disappointments. Solve different problems and crises. Different doesn’t mean “bad”, “wrong”, “impossible”, “not worth it”. Different means, or can mean “possibility”. We might end with a beautiful “garden”.

At this time in my life I am working consciously on allowing myself to soften, to crumble. I am ready. Some changes have come with little control from me, like my children growing up and moving away.  That was a big change that has allowed me the opportunity to open up to other changes. I have started to meditate. I do yoga twice a week. I’ve changed my diet. And I have intention. Intention of breaking out of old patterns of behaviors and expectations. I am looking and my anxieties, my fears, things that make me hesitate, my reactions, my thoughts……a long, long list.

Little pieces of me are cracking and crumbling in a good way. Sometimes it is very hard and even scary because now I am also asking other people to look at me and respond to me differently, because I am looking and them and responding to them differently. By making changes in myself, I am making changes in relationships….and that’s a pretty big risk…..what if the other person doesn’t want to change?

But I’m going for it!! I’m creeping out of old, deep ruts for health and growth. Like the title of the blog, POTENTIALITY, in me is a great potential if I can let it grow like a wildflower among the crumbled, ground up old self..

Let go of your worries and be completely clear-hearted,
like the face of a mirror that contains no images. 
~ Rumi
 

I am on a path to somewhere and the only thing I know is that I am here, now. But the moment that passed a blink ago seems to still be here and so do the events of a few days ago. The future, which hasn’t even happened yet, is also here…which is a great mystery. It feels as if the two things that are not here now, are having more impact on my thought process and physical body than what IS here now.

This is the stuff for “inquiry” for certain. But wait……certain? Is there such a thing?

I recently had two very different experiences. One was so subtle and opening….a glimpse at the mirror that contains no images. A breath of time that was an eternity. A hint of knowing that not knowing is all there is.

The other experience was like being hit by a Mack truck and dragged along for a bit of time. I still ache, mentally and physically.

Both are over and done with, but still “here.” One I want to erase and the other I want to escape into.

This moment right now I’m looking into a mirror that feels cracked and the images seem distorted.  I see myself but I am contorted and fragmented.

In a minute I’ll turn off the computer and sit and be with this. Be present with only the moment. I’ll try to “let go of my worries and be completely clear-hearted.”

stewie sleep

It Will Pass

December 14, 2013

 
A student went to his meditation teacher and said, “My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted,
or my legs ache, or I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible!”
“It will pass,” the teacher said matter-of-factly.
A week later, the student came back to his teacher.
“My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It’s just wonderful!’
“It will pass,”
the teacher replied matter-of-factly.
 
 

I am not a student of Zen, but I find these short stories provocative.

We could and do put many things in a file subconsciously labeled “It will pass.” Often it may be more of a wish and hope than a fact. And we tend to carry the file around with us….never letting it go. We do not let it pass.

I teach young children and I often find myself offering snippets of advice to parents. A common thread is the joy or frustration a parent feels when their young child has “made a change in their routine.” No matter what, it is a cause for minor disruption as the family has to readjust their own schedules. Sometimes the family perceives the change as “good”, other times “difficult.”

I usually find myself offering, “Wait a bit, and it will change again.”

It will pass. Don’t hold on to it.

Our mind writes dramatic dialogue and gets stuck in one scene. The whole story is: as soon as the scene is over, it’s over. Now we are here. Just here.

It will change.

buddha dandelion

Just be here. Now.

Be with your meditation, your friend, your job, your life in the moment, for the moment. It is what it is right now. And it will pass.

 

Giving Thanks

November 28, 2013

It’s the one day of the year when we are reminded to consciously be thankful. I think the observance of the first Thanksgiving is one thing, something historical, albeit controversial these days. However, I feel the concept of giving thanks on a daily basis is something different.  I try to give thanks daily. While I appreciate the time allowed to be with family and loved ones, that does not happen on a daily basis, I try to be grateful EVERY DAY!!

This morning I am sitting in the dining room of a hotel, waiting for my family to wake up. I am so full of joy and gratitude when I think about my children and my husband. When we get to be all together, I feel as if the movement of the universe has cooperated to bring me this magnificent blessing.

I was searching the internet trying to find some sweet sentiment of the day to post on FB, when I stumbled across a favorite: Tiny Buddha’s blog. http://tinybuddha.com/blog-posts/

Celestine Chua posted an entry titled: 60 Things to Be Grateful For,  http://tinybuddha.com/blog/60-things-to-be-grateful-for-in-life/  It is fantastic!

She reminds us to be thankful for:

Our Sense of Sight for it allows us to see the colors of life.

Our Sense of Hearing – For letting us hear trickle of rain, the voices of our loved ones, and the harmonious chords of music.

Our legs and lungs. Our tears and disappointments. Our happiness and sadness.

Our mistakes and heartbreak.

Our home, our beds.

Our enemies and kind strangers.

In short, she reminds us that everything is deserving of gratitude. Every day.

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” 
— Henry Ward Beecher

To paraphrase another saying circulating the internet:

Today I will count my blessings,
practice kindness,
listen to my heart,
and breathe.

If I hope to practice gratitude and thankfulness fully, I will do these things every day not just one day in November.

Celebrate giving thanks!

It’s Still a Great Mystery

November 16, 2013

“We are all part of the great cycles of things.
And so magnificent and harmonious is this universe, it’s still a great mystery.”
— from the Prelude to the Thanksgiving Address,
Ted Williams, Tuscarora Elder

The November full moon will be tomorrow night. There is a chill in the air and a rush to find all the visually beautiful ways to materialize Christmas.

Christmas aside, what about Thanksgiving? I don’t care so much about the commercialized Thanksgiving, but I like the idea of remembering to be thankful. I wish we didn’t somehow feel, that by designating one day to it, we don’t have to think about it very much the rest of the year.

I wish we could remember we are all part of the cycle of great things.  And that it is all still a great mystery.

TV ads, store fronts, radio, magazines….anything and everything remind us incessantly to want, want, want, need, need, need, own, own, own……but what about everything else? What about just being grateful?

If you just pause for a few moments, turn off the noise, the computer, the phone….the rush, the to-do list, the whirlwind of life, what is there? In the silence and stillness, what moves your heart to be grateful?

Anyone want to share?

One Quiet Morning

November 9, 2013

“We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”

– from “To a Skylark” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Last Saturday in the wee hours of the morning I received a text that my cousin had passed away. Honestly, my first reaction was a sense of peace. He had been suffering for 15 years from the effects of cancer treatment. Then I felt the grief of his family—the loss of a husband, a father, a brother, a grandfather. Then I felt the loss of his friends: long time friends, new friends, even those who would never know him.

And then, as tears washed my cheeks I began to think back to a time in our lives when things were magical and innocent. Michael and I were close in age. He was a little older. He had huge brown eyes, thick auburn hair and a smile that outshone the sun. His heart was huge, his kindness and gentleness were effortless.

Some of you may know I often use Gratefulness.org as a source for quotes and information. This morning I found this:

“Even if an experience crushes you, can it not serve as a wine press that releases an unexpected sweetness? Is there some way in which it allows you to reclaim a part of yourself that you’d forgotten? Did it release courage, compassion, a deeper awareness of what matters? Ponder each of these qualities and see if you can find them in your own experience: courage (take a moment for this); compassion (for whom?); a deeper awareness (of what?). And can you name other sweetnesses that can flow out of the grief that crushes you? Pay attention to the faintest taste of sweetness.” (from Gratefulness.org)

And that is what happened to me that morning, and the following week and today. A sadness that seemed to cover me like a soft blanket, yet an awareness of a sense of sweetness. The sweetness Michael brought to my life.

My memories of Michael and I during childhood are full of vibrant emotions and color. Movement and energy. Laughter and tears. Joy and total frustration.

We would spend weeks at our grandmother’s house in what was then rural Ohio. Her house nestled in a quiet corner of land that bordered the Olentangy River. The river at her house was more of a stream, but nonetheless it was a child’s delight. We would run down the softly banked lawn to the slender trees that signaled the river’s edge. The water slipped over rocks and made small, bubbly rapids that sang the song of a child’s freedom and joy. We played for hours in the river. Was there ever any more fun than collecting sticks for no reason? Throwing rocks at nothing just to hear the “plunk” and watch the ripples? Talk wasn’t even required because we could read each other’s mind.

My grandmother never “called” us in. We would play and explore and just be kids until we went back up to the house. If we had fish in hand we were usually sent back outside. If we were wet and muddy we were dried off and warmed up. At night we slept in cherry wood beds with sheets and blankets that smelled like lavender. When the morning sun woke up, so did we and we started all over again.

As we began to grow up, we still could be found together: climbing behind waterfalls in the many gorges of Ithaca, skiing in the crisp white of winter, sailing on the Finger Lakes, swimming in the chilly waters of Cayuga Lake.

And then, adult life happened and we drifted a bit. We married, raised children and put aside the companionship, but never the love. At my uncle’s (Micheal’s dad) birthday, when Michael was in a very painful part of his  recovery and had little strength and energy, my aunt wanted to take a picture of the two of us “because we had always loved each other so much”. I remember those words because, for some reason I didn’t think anyone else knew that……

Michael’s passing is like a press squeezing sweetness from my memory. A  kind of nectar that tastes of joy, and laughter and love, freedom and companionship, innocence and lightness. It does help to reclaim that inner magic that was childhood. It helps remind me to make time and space for those things again.

Thank you for letting me share this.

Teacher

November 5, 2013

I think we all have someone, or many someones, who we would refer to as a “teacher”.

Maybe your kindergartner teacher comes to mind. Or your minister, therapist, boss, friend, grandmother, father….

Some of these are spiritual teachers, life teachers, vocational teachers, educational teachers. Teachers, teachers everywhere.

” A true teacher is someone who can offer us a map,

a question, an insight,

or simply a listening presence that sparks a fire in us. “

Joan Tollifson

I read something recently, and I will include the link at the end, that called into question the label of “teacher”, and the value, power, importance we place on that person. Sometimes we put them on a pedestal. Sometimes they put themselves on a pedestal.

But who IS a teacher? What is a teacher? How does someone become a teacher? Are we all teachers? Could we be? Should we be? Is a “teacher” finished being a “student”? Can they continue to learn from others?

What do you think? Who are the teachers in your life? What kind of teachers are they? Are they the kind of teacher that have some kind of piece of paper that says they are a “real” teacher, or have they become a teacher through life experiences? Do you view them as “different” from you, “better” than you, “smarter” than you? Do you regard them as someone “special” or “gifted”? Do you feel you could never be “as good a teacher” as they are?

Are you a “teacher”? To whom? About what? Do you think you’re “pretty special”? Do you feel as if you are a “student” too?

What happens when we stop being a student? What happens when we see ourselves as “above” someone else, or “better” than someone else?

I am a teacher and a student. Right now my most significant teachers are a group of three to six year olds. Sometimes I feel like they look up to me way too much, figuratively and literally, so I often sit on the floor. I am not smarter than they are. They teach me important things: “Just be kind” they say. To them that’s the answer. To almost any question they face.

I hope you have good teachers in your life. I hope you still see yourself as a student. If there is a pedestal involved I hope you can gently remove it.

“I’m not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way.

I pointed ahead- ahead of myself as well as you.”

George Bernard Shaw

http://www.joantollifson.com/writing18B.html  Go to entry 10-30-13, scroll down

Settling Into Yourself

October 26, 2013

You know the feeling: the way you feel when you sit down in your favorite chair. Or, the way you feel as your head rests on your pillow in bed and you pull the blankets up and close your eyes. Settled. Comfortable. Secure.

bed

What about settling into ourselves?

Today my yoga teacher said, “Settle into yourself.” I thought, “What a beautiful, tender thought,”  Then I thought, “How do I do that?”

So now here I am trying to figure it out. If I think about a workday morning and all that happens from the moment I open my eyes, get out of bed and begin the day, there is really nothing at all about settling into myself. I am settling into the day and the morning routines, but really not into me.

At work, it’s a similar pattern. First there are all the routine things to do, then the checking in with people and then the doing of being a preschool teacher.

And the day continues on in much the same way. I give no thought to “me”. I get caught in routines. I get wrapped up in feeling rushed, frustrated, hungry, tired, or grumpy. I do things automatically, like driving to work without really thinking about it.  I never settle into me. I settle into “me in the world with rolls to play and jobs to do”, but not  into the essence of who I am. My true self.

Why not? Do you?

What would settling into myself even look like or feel like? Checking in with how my body feels? With what my mind is thinking? With lists of things to do today?

How do I settle into myself like I settle into my bed at night? How do I experience the relief of being me? Of feeling comforted by me? Of feeling safe and secure in me? This is different from taking for granted or believing that I do feel these these things because I should, and therefore, somehow, do.

feather

I had a moment during meditation this morning where I experienced something that was perhaps settling into myself.  It was a feeling of being aware of my body as a feather: light and all most imperceptible. Very little physical sensation. My mind was quiet, very few, tiny thoughts of nothing in particular. A muffled sense of my surroundings that was really only insignificant. I was aware from deep inside that perhaps I had just then settled into myself. When “everything” was taken away or absent, there was only a sense of being that was fresh and light and an awareness that placed no value, judgement, expectation on myself.

Perhaps for a moment I did settle into myself……

Being Where You Are

October 4, 2013

Still floating along after a few days in silent retreat. Processing. Thinking. Realizing I took a fork in the road slightly divergent from where I thought I was going. Now I find myself kind of recalculating like a GPS system. Where exactly am I going anyhow?

winter blue(photograph by me.)

I am going to where I am right now.

I scrolled through lots of search results: Toni Packer, Krishnamurti, meditative inquiry, mantras, Buddhism, ………I found myself reading less and less thoroughly. The words were getting muddled. My mind was doing some self talk: “yeah…I know that.”, “OK, I get that.”, “How am I supposed to do THAT?”.

I tried to translate the information. Tried to have it make sense.

And then I stopped. Just stopped. There weren’t any answers on the internet. Certainly none on Pinterest!! LOL!! Reading some books helped to clarify a few things.

Ultimately, it, whatever “it” is, has to come from me, by me, for me. And what I am trying to understand, to achieve, is how to simply be with this moment. This moment. This moment. Only this moment.

Letting the moment that just ended, pass. Allowing the moment I am anticipating ahead not be rushed into existence. How to balance that with the “life I lead.” The one with a job, children, a husband, balancing, responsibility, being tired, being cranky, being happy……

So, this subtle little fork in the road that I am now traveling upon, where will it take me? I don’t know.  Right now it has taken me to right here. That’s a good place to be.

I am aware there was something I had to do a few minutes ago, and that in another moment I will have to get up to attend to something else. I’m trying to let that past moment be done, and not give too much importance to the moment coming up. My joy now becomes to be aware of every moment of attending to that “thing.” To hopefully be able to just do it with no labeling or words.

I’m picking up this edit a few days later and wanted to quote something from Toni Packer’s book The Wonder of Presence. It’s about being present with the moment, not caught up in the drama of words, emotions, our “stories”, but being aware:

“…We have thought like that for eons and behave accordingly, but at this moment can there be just the sound of the swaying tress and the rustling leaves and fresh air from the open window on the skin? It’s not happening to anyone. It is simply present for all of us, isn’t it?”

“Why bother?” you may ask. Or perhaps you’re thinking: “I don’t get what she’s talking about.”. Or maybe “That’s just a bunch of baloney.”

Well, I’ve come to a point in my life where I want to just be in THIS moment. I’ve had a full life with a wonderful husband, amazing kids and a job I love. I’ve traveled the world. I’ve laughed and experienced great joy. I have cried and felt paralyzing pain. I’ve had the proverbial broken heart. And I’ve had the gift of a wonderful life companion. I have a house, a car, a boat, cats….bills, a bank account…..I “have” a lot.

Now, I want to experience the ‘what is’ of every moment. I want to move beyond the words that create the “story” of what I am living through. I don’t want to live “through”. I want to live in. This moment. THIS moment. I want to let go of the words that are attached to drama, desire, disappointment, anticipation, fear, doubt, anger, happiness, unhappiness, the judging, the labeling, the comparing. I don’t want to live a “story” anymore.

There are memories of things I don’t want to forget, which seems contrary to being present in this moment. I just don’t want the memories to become baggage attached this moment. I don’t want the memories to filter or influence the present.  I want the moment to be as it is. By itself.

I want to be present to this moment. This moment. This moment.

Still confused? So am I a little bit.  Toni Packer talks about this is many of her books. I have only just begun to discover her and to explore her writings. But at this moment in my life her words are intriguing. I am muddling through, trying to figure out what her words mean. Especially when she says “they are just words.”!!!

I know this isn’t a road that everyone wants to travel. I can’t say I wanted to either. But I came to that fork and I went slightly off course from I thought was the correct way. The real way. The important way. It’s just a way. There will probably be another choice at some point, another fork. But for now, I put one foot in front of the other and try to just be present with that one step.

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?