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..

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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

Grateful

December 26, 2013

From the Daily Good, dailygood.org

Always be…grateful.

 

http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=4460

 

Blessings.

 

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.

 

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.

The Shadow

August 25, 2013

shadow
I ran into Shadow quite unexpectedly the other day….and you know the rest of the story: I got to thinking.

Carl Jung came up with the idea of archetypes years ago. In college it was considered cool to know about Jungian psychology and try to piece together the puzzle of our personal archetypes.

First things first: I am not trained in any of this. I just think about it, and write my thoughts down.

Jungian Archetypes explained courtesy of Wikipedia:

” Carl Gustav Jung was a psychiatrist and psychotherapist who developed an understanding of archetypes as universal, archaic patterns and images that derive from the collective unconscious and are the psychic counterpart of instinct. They are autonomous and hidden forms which are transformed once they enter consciousness and are given particular expression by individuals and their cultures. Being unconscious, the existence of archetypes can only be deduced indirectly by examining behavior, images, art, myths, religions, or dreams. They are inherited potentials which are actualized when they enter consciousness as images or manifest in behavior on interaction with the outside world.”

Jung defined twelve primary types that symbolize basic human motivations. Each type has its own set of values, meanings and personality traits. The twelve types are found in four basic groups: The Shadow, The Anima, The Animus, and The Self.

http://changingminds.org/explanations/identity/jung_archetypes.htm

Today I’m bringing Shadow out into the light.

The Shadow refers to the whole of unconscious—everything that we are unaware of, the aspect of our personality that does not recognize itself. All those parts of ourselves that we feel are negative, undesirable and that we try to ignore or reject, are wrapped up in Shadow’s cloak. Almost overlooked however, are the good qualities hiding there too. They become weakened by low self esteem, self doubt. They too are lost in the folds of Shadow.

The Jungian shadow often refers to all that lies outside the light of consciousness, and may be positive or negative. “Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” It may be (in part) one’s link to more primitive instincts.”

(*What are our primitive instincts? To survive?…how do we protect ourselves by empowering one aspect while perhaps closing off or ignoring another? What other of these primitive instincts can you identify with?)

Shadow likes to project. Shadow is instinctive and irrational. “Shadow uses projection to turn a personal inferiority into a perceived moral deficiency in someone else. If we allow Shadow to project these thoughts unrecognized and unchecked, then Shadow has a free hand to possibly bring about a “realization of its object” and give this situation character power…..it creates a thick fog of illusion between the EGO and the real world…” You/we give power to something that is a projection and is not real.  (Wikipedia)

As a Jungian Archetype, Shadow is made up of life instincts. “The shadow exists as part of the unconscious mind and is composed of repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts and shortcomings. This archetype is often described as the darker side of the psyche, representing wildness, chaos and the unknown. These latent dispositions are present in all of us, Jung believed, although people sometimes deny this element of their own psyche and instead project it onto others.”

Sometimes Shadow makes itself known in our dreams. Shadow may appear as a snake, a monster, or other dark or wild figure.

From Robert Augustus Masters, PhD:

Shadow is whatever in us we are disconnected from or out of touch with, whatever we have disowned in ourselves, whatever we have not illuminated or will not illuminate in ourselves, whatever in us we are keeping out of sight.

So our shadow is that zone of us which houses what we have not faced or can’t/ won’t face about ourselves. To the extent that our conditioning (especially that originating in our childhood) is allowed to run us, it is our shadow. Or put another way, to the extent that our conditioning is kept in the dark, it is our shadow.

If we are to truly evolve, we need to know our shadow, and know it very well; if we don’t, our shadow will direct our lives on every level.

So what can we do to bring Shadow out from the dark? How do we get to know Shadow?

First you have to recognize Shadow, and this hard. What is it in others you dislike? Is that Shadow projecting something about you onto another? What are your self doubts, fears?

How can you identify core wounds and heal them?

Are you able to work effectively with your feelings of anger, shame, fear, and guilt?

Are you able to step back and pause in order to see how your Shadow affects those around you.

Are you able to “be one with your pain” and ease your hurt and suffering by doing so?

Can you effectively stop the mind chatter that is the loudest critic of you?

Do you have a spiritual base? Anything? Organized religion or not?

For some meditation or guided practices may help.

Shadow, the part of us we cannot “see” is often the part of us that makes the decisions. And sometimes within those decisions, Shadow makes the same mistakes over and over again. We have to reclaim Shadow and understand Shadow.

Obviously, if this speaks to you, it is not a quick fix. Shadow holds the reigns on a large reservoir of energy. Somehow we have to tap into this.

Curious? The link below has some interesting thoughts. I’m not endorsing him, just introducing an idea to you. I have not read or listened to this person’s work other than this podcast.

http://learni.st/learnings/206576-robert-augustus-masters-what-is-the-shadow-sounds-true-podcast

“The big step is to turn towards what we are running away from” Robert Masters

 

 

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.

 

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

“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)

2013

2013 is around the corner. With it’s arrival comes the opportunity (a favorable or advantageous circumstance or combination of circumstances) for a fresh start. If you want to choose that path.

The tradition of making a New Year’s resolution is 4,000 years old! Ancient Babylonians made promises to start the New Year off on the right foot in order to earn the favor of the Gods. The “New Year” wasn’t always observed in January because a month called “January” didn’t always exist! It originally was the Spring Equinox celebration. Spring being a natural time to think of fresh starts, beginning anew. Throughout history different “leaders” have changed it from one date to another. Many religions and cultures still celebrate a different date for the New Year.

I think many of us would chuckle thinking about resolutions we have made and kept! My record isn’t very good!

However, this year it really struck me what the potential might be, if we could make changes that would provide a fresh start to parts of our lives. What if we took advantage of this quaint custom and did turn it into an opportunity?

Recent events have led many of us to reevaluate all kinds of things. Personally I found myself thinking deeply about living more in the present and letting go of past angers, disappointments, and focusing more on simply being kind.

While I still hope to “give up” a few things, I have decided to focus on “doing”.

My priority this year is to be kind. In big ways and small ways.

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Dalai Lama

aesop kindness

I don’t think there is a skill to being kind. It’s in all of us. It may be buried, or other responses and actions might be stronger, but it is in us.

I have been working on kindness a little bit this year. I have had some successes, but many more surprises.  I am always surprised how quickly I respond with frustration to things beyond my control. That frustration is a form of anger. I can feel my body change when it surfaces. When my body changes because my mind changes, it all becomes a spiral of downward momentum. Then I have a difficult time getting free from it.

Hand in hand with being kind comes being present and being in the here and now, not in the past or future. And that is even harder. I carry disappointments, frustrations, worries from work home with me every day. Sometimes it takes me days to digest them and let them go. I am always thinking and planning one step ahead so I am “prepared”. How can that be bad? Being prepared? But somehow it does fuel the anxiety. If I am being kid to myself, which is the first step to be kind to others, why do I worry, become anxious over things that I have managed to take care of for years and know they are not a big deal? Is it all in the wording……the wording my mind chatter loops endlessly around in my head? Why can’t it just be: “I will stop at the grocery store.”, rather than: “I have to stop at the grocery.”  Have to, have to, have to, have to. I will focus on making statements with little or no value regarding things that are……no good or bad, no judgement. Just a fact. By adding the word “have” it becomes a chore or burden.

So I will focus on being present in this one moment. I will be kind, kinder, kindly. I will begin with myself. I will change the mind chatter in my head. I will reach out to others and simply be kind. This is a New Year, a fresh start. I have this opportunity to start over, and allow the kindness that is already inside of me be stronger and more present.

try kindness