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

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This is a very personal entry. I know not everyone will “get” it. As alluded to in the title, this is my form of processing a retreat at Springwater Center for Meditative Inquiry.

You can read about the Center and founder, Toni Packer, here: http://springwatercenter.org/ It is helpful to read a little here to understand the origins of Springwater and who Toni was.

Springwater Center is nestled in the rolling hills of the Genesee Valley in New York state. It is located on 200 acres of beautiful land that acts like a buffer not only from the active, busy world of our life, but from the noise…..even internal noise. The retreat is a silent one. The majority of the day is spent in silence and focused on awareness…being present. There is often a short “talk” in the morning and an hour group meeting where talking is permitted. The rest of the day is silent. In the spirit of being aware and present in the moment, there is no writing, reading, listening to music, computing, drawing or painting except in the privacy of your own room. Even that possibility to gently challenged. “What would it be like for you if you chose not to do those things?”

springwater building

There is a short work time in the morning to prepare food for the day, help with basic housekeeping jobs, but that’s it. Then there is the silence. There are “sitting” times, meditation, if you want to participate. There is no “teaching” of how to sit or meditate.

This was my second visit to Springwater. On my first visit I felt a little lost, struggled a little to figure out what the place was about.

This visit was profoundly different.  And here is where this post may become murky for others. This is a reflection of MY experience. Something that happened to me, inside of me, through me, with me.

During one of the talks, Richard Witteman  (http://springwatercenter.org/teachers/witteman/) said two things that literally sprang into my brain and attached themselves there. The first was a quote by Toni: “The less you know, the more fresh things become.” Ahhhhhh!!!

The second item affected me in a very profound way, and I know out of context it will sound unusual, maybe upsetting, or even confusing……but for me it was as if a door opened. I became so full of the words I don’t know if this was a quote from Toni, or from Richard, or from someone else. And it doesn’t matter. It was:

“Not knowing is okay.”

Nothing about “what” we don’t know, but that NOT knowing is okay. It’s ok.

“Knowing” is something that is so important for so many of us. Knowing tomorrow will come. Knowing the alarm will go off so we can get up in the morning. Knowing we have our trip planned, reservations made. Knowing the doctor said we are OK. Knowing our parents loved us. Knowing we have money or a car that works. Knowing we have friends. Knowing we are liked or respected by others. Knowing we can have fun. Knowing what’s coming next. Knowing we experience pain. Knowing we experience joy. Knowing provides comfort, certainty. Knowing takes away the “what ifs”. Knowing. Knowing, knowing……knowing……

But now, NOT KNOWING IS OKAY. I felt a tether break away. I felt euphoric. I floated off my chair. Fear, anxiety, control, worry, anticipation, doubt, confusion….it all melted.

I know that sounds crazy, but I am going to let that story rest now.

The next experience came forth as a result of different thoughts, ideas, observations coming together.

Each day as I sat for meditation I looked out of four tall windows. Usually I had my eyes closed and the view was irrelevant. But when my eyes were open I was aware of the view. The grass, the trees, the clouds, the deer, the wind. I noticed how the windows framed my view. The windows highlighted beautiful aspects of the outdoors. But the windows, and the walls that held them, also obstructed the whole view.  There were parts of the scene I was not aware of. I became mindful that when the windows were open I could sense more of the outdoors…I could hear the bird song more clearly. I could smell the freshness of the air. I could feel the coolness of the air or the light touch of the wind.

The sunlight would fall across the floor creating shadows…shadows of real things that no longer held their real shapes or image. The images were blurred or stretched. The image created hinted at what was there, but it was softer, less defined.

At night the windows turned dark. The beautiful lights hanging from the ceiling glowed softly. They were reflected in the window. But the reflection was distorted. For every one actual light, there were three reflected in the window.

I got to thinking….inside anywhere, looking out through any window I experience a sense of comfort and security. I know that here inside I am sheltered from the weather. I know what the things around me are for: a couch for sitting on, a stove to cook on, a bed were I can sleep. I know what is in the next room. I know where things are. I know.

I can look out the window and “see”. But the view is incomplete. The view is chopped up. Parts of the outside are hidden from view. The sensation of the aliveness of the outside is filtered through the window, the screen. Sometimes something is reflected, but even the reflection is a distortion.

For me this was a moment of awareness, of being present. I knew that until I opened the (metaphoric) door next to the window (in my life), and stepped OUT (into reality?) I could never experience life fully. I would always be living a life looking out and not a life EXPERIENCING fully. And in stepping out of the door I had to trust that it is okay to not know what is around the bend in the path, over the hill, across the stream, up in the sky, under the water. It was and had to be OK not to know. Because, in the false comfort of believing we “know”, we “believe” we have control. And we don’t really. We have no  more control over the events of our day, our emotional responses to others, or other people reactions to us, than we do to controlling the weather. We may think we do, but we don’t. That is scary. And freeing.

Finally, Richard also read something attributed to Buddha: “Seeking but not finding the house builder, I traveled through the round of countless births. Oh, painful is birth ever and again! House builder you have now been seen. You shall not build the house again. Your rafters have been broken down; your ridge-pole is demolished too. My mind has now attained the unformed nibbana and reached the end of every kind of craving.” (Dh. 153-54.)

I felt as if my (limited!) “understanding” and being able to open the door and walk out was my “house” being broken down…the rafters falling. Oh, I know this only the beginning of some sort of journey and I will most likely get lost along the way. Hopefully though I will be okay with the not knowing what comes next.

Thank you for reading this experience of mine. I’d love to hear from you.

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

 

 

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

Ernest Hemingway

How well do you listen to others? We know we listen with our ears! And people talk about listening with their hearts, but do you listen with your other senses? What more can you “hear” when you isolate that sense and close your eyes? What do you “hear” by observing body language? What do your eyes “hear”? What do you “hear” in the pauses, the silence, the in between moments when thoughts are collected? What do you “hear” when your hand is wrapped in another hand, or resting on a shoulder and the skin feels cool, or warm, or twitches? What do you “hear” through the sense of smell?

I work with young children. When the first snow of the season falls, it is always a moment of magic for them. When the snowflakes are big and heavy and there is a glittering layer of diamond snow already on the ground, we go outside to “hear” the snow fall. Really!! For a few moments the children themselves are frozen. Then their eyes light up and they smile!! Have you ever heard snow falling?

When we practice listening, totally, using all our senses and all the things we know and have learned about one another, we HEAR differently. And we have an opportunity to be invited into a very personal and private place of the person we are listening to. The place we can only get to through respect, patience, kindness, listening……a place where maybe there are not even any words to hear.

I think Hemingway was talking about listening to words and the sounds of the world around him. There is no question about good listening skills being a valuable tool. When we learn how to become a complete listener, we will, as Hemingway says, learn a great deal about the other person, about ourselves and about the world around us.

“We are constantly invited to be who we are.”

Henry David Thoreau

Everyday, as the sun rises and we open our eyes from the fuzzy interlude of sleep, dreams and silence to find a new invitation before us: You are invited this day, to be who you are.

While there may be routine, mundane, predictable parts of the day set before you, there will also be moments of spontaneity, unpredictability and surprise. These moments of synchronistic opportunity that catch us off guard provide us this invitation to be who we are. Not who we are expected to be, predicted to be…but who we ARE. And most of us, I believe, find we are able to RISE to a level we never expected.

Perhaps though , we have to train ourselves to be aware of these opportunities…mindfulness. Perhaps we will be called to muster up some courage and will ourselves to say “I will allow myself to submit to this moment in order to come closer to being the person I am”.

I go through days that are fairly routine, and within the routines, I find myself at risk of being in a rut. If I am in a rut, I most certainly am not living up to my fullest potential…the person I AM. I am not that routine, I am not that rut. I may have to live through those moments, but when I open the invitations that are presented to me throughout the day, and have the mindfulness to take action, I have greater, longer, more frequent moments where “I” am truly “me”. And I surprise myself!!

Sometimes it is an invitation to be kind, or take a risk, or say “no”, or for that matter “yes”. Sometimes it is closing my eyes, or taking a breath, or standing up instead of sitting down. Sometimes it is something big and scary, other times small and seemingly silly. Sometimes it may mean being assertive or confident, other times humble, accepting,  or forgiving. But an invitation is an invitation. And if we don’t accept them and take action on them, they may stop coming. And then we may be alone with our routine, mundane, rut living self, rather than OUR SELF.

So, when your invitation arrives today, open it right away! Accept the invite and explore who you truly are!

The In-Between Spaces

August 4, 2012

ECOTONES: the in-between spaces in an ecological setting.

It is a  transition area between two biomes

or different patches of the landscape,

like the space where the ocean meets the shore.

We have spaces like this too. In-between spaces, where the boundaries are blurred. It is not always clear where one emotion or thought begins and another ends. There is a symbiotic relationship. Each “part” needs the other to be balanced, but sometimes the boundaries change or are blurred making it difficult to feel we have completely moved on from one to another.

Emotions, thoughts, feelings that we might consider separate, actually coexist. There is no finite  boundary, no solid line where one begins and another ends.

For many of us this lack of clearness can be difficult. We want to know that one thing is ending, finished, and another is beginning. But it isn’t always so easy, so clearly defined.

We have pain and sorrow right along side joy and happiness. Anxiety can be cradled next to assurance. Perhaps trust is holding hands with doubt.

How do we live with dynamic boundaries where variables blur the edges? The in-between places where we are just not sure of what is going on, of how we are feeling, of where are going, or where we have been? What we may have lost? What we might have gained?

In nature these areas are sometimes turbulent, sometimes peaceful.  Waves on the shore may carry sand and plants away, eroding the shore. Other times the waves bring new sand, plants or animals to the beach. Sometimes these are “good” changes, sometimes not. There is a give and take. Sometimes the balance is quick and easy.  Other times, the compromises cause the two sides to give something up.  But in the end it is Nature’s way. Nature is life. And death. And violence. And supreme gentleness. In the ebb and flow there is all that represents life: change, uncertainty, risk, balance, loss, pain, joy, gain, happiness, sorrow, life, death, beauty, “ugliness”, fear, calm, love……without any one part, the other pieces are diminished.

Think about the synonyms for “transition”:   changeover, conversion, development, evolution, flux, growth, metamorphosis, passage,  progress, progression, realignment, shift, transformation,  turning point, upheaval.

What are the whispers from your in-between places telling you? Take some time in this space and listen to the possibilities.

“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  What you’ll discover will be wonderful.  What you’ll discover is yourself.” ~Alan Alda

Definition: The word ‘intuition’ comes from the Latin word ‘intueri’, which is often roughly translated as meaning ‘to look inside’’ or ‘to contemplate’. Wikipedia

Many of us know what intuition feels like. The sinking feeling in your gut. The hair rising on your arm. A nagging feeling that says “leave”. For some, we laugh at the possibility that it might be real, yet find it easy enough to say: “I had a feeling about that”.

Few of us think about the resource intuition could be, or the power it holds. Some of us may think intuition is a quirk. Some of us think it’s so random an occurrence that it could not be significant.

What if there is power and significance in intuition. What if it can be harnessed and used to help us throughout life. What if, as Alan Alda says, you will discover yourself.

I know I have had very significant moments in my life where intuition was very important. And, there were also times where what I thought was intuition was simply fear of uncertainty. Obviously we have to learn how to be aware of true intuitive insight.

A huge barrier to our intuition being able to be heard and trusted is the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. We are seemingly always scheduled. If there isn’t something on the schedule, we find something to do. We have computers to tempt us, video games to lure us, music to sooth or invigorate us, sports to keep us fit,  get togethers to keep us from feeling alone…..but very little time to just BE. To sit, to have silence. To hear the rhythms of our own body, mind and soul.

But why is it important to be able to hear intuition speaking? You know why. Those gut feelings that turned out to be true. There is something inside of us that “knows”. Not all the time. Maybe not even accurately all the time. When we learn to work as a partner with our intuition, we join forces with something powerful that is already a part of us. A part that is getting pushed further and further away from the forefront by all the enticing things that are currently available to us. What if we are loosing touch with something important?

Is it too hard, or too much to provide ourselves with time to nurture our inner voice, to make friends with it again? What do you think?

There is a car I seem to follow through town quite a bit.  There is a bumper sticker on it that says “Progress Not Perfection”.  I really like that.

I think we spend a lot of time and energy on PERFECTION. And, I think it bogs us down and sometimes puts us in a quagmire that we struggle to get out of.

I feel like “perfection” is s bad word.

My husband went to a Cognitive Behavioral therapist for awhile. He came home one day with a big grin on his face and announced with great certainty and obvious sense of relief: “I don’t have to bat 1000. 300  is okay!”

Here was a moment of awakening for me too. We are bombarded by so many things that tell us very clearly, if we are not perfect we are not good enough. Look at TV and magazine ads. Reality TV shows. Look around you…dress like this and you’ll be beautiful. Get hair cut like so and so and people will like your hair cut (not you). Get a big gas wasting car so people will think you are important. Do this so you can be better than them.  Appear this way and people will think you are powerful.  Bat 1000 and the world will be yours. And if you don’t, you are failing.

Well, for me, batting 300 is pretty great. And I am much happier and more confident in believing I don’t have to bat 1000 to be a good, kind, valuable, contributing, caring person. I can take pride in batting 300 and work towards batting 302, or 305.

I think progress can lead to a different type of “perfection”.  The kind of perfection that isn’t absolute. Rather, something more about being able to change and grow, something that is fluid and dynamic, not static and with an end point.

We are all thrown a variety of pitches every day. Some could be called:

CATASTROPHIZING  CURVE  BALL – Making mountains out of molehills.

RUMINATION  SLIDER- Thoughts going around and around in your head.

PROCRASTINATION SINKER  – Can’t make final decisions.

WORRY  AND  GUILT CHANGEUP

WORRYING  ABOUT  OTHER’S  OPINIONS KNUCKLE BALL

SECOND  GUESSING  OTHER’S  THOUGHTS  SCREWBALL

REGRETS  AND  SELF-BLAME SPLITTER

RIGIDITY  TO  CHANGE  FORKBALL- Usually  when we keep looking for excuses or reasons why things can’t change – or when we need to get out of our ‘comfort zone’

For each one of these we need to learn how to stand to face it with authority. We need to know how to place our hands on the “bat” so we can send the “Catastrophizing curve ball” flying. We need to learn not to flinch when a “Regret and Blame splitter” is thrown at us. We need to learn to see a “Procrastination sinker” coming. We need to learn the mechanics of how “Rumination slider” moves. And we need to adjust accordingly. We need to make progress through practice and experience, with the help of mentors and team mates. Then we can keep our eye on whatever pitch  is coming our way, make commanding contact with it and send it out of the park and out of play in our lives.

And when we begin to understand that with all of the above, 300 is really good, we can begin to believe in ourselves and work on making progress on learning, practicing, trying new things, paying attention, and seeing. We can be unflinching and live fully on the premise: Progress not perfection. Some days we’ll bat 250, or 300. Maybe we’ll get to 375 or as low at 200. But whatever our average, we know it is all about Progress and not Perfection.

Batter UP!!

The Welcoming Prayer

May 25, 2012

 

The Welcoming Prayer

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.

(by Father Thomas Keating)

What would our days be like, if when we opened our eyes every morning, we took a deep cleansing breath and said:

“Welcome, welcome, welcome. I welcome everything

that comes to me today

because I know it is for my healing.”

Those are life altering words: to see every thing that comes to us every day as a means of our own “healing”. Okay, sure: the good things, the joyful happy things….but, what about the pain, the sorrow, the disappointment, loss, failure…..healing?

 “I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.” 

If we can let go of our desire for power and control, let go of our desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure.  Let go of our desire for survival and security…..what are we left with? 

We are left with the moment. The here and now. The experience.  As Bodhidarma (coming soon in a new blog post) taught:  keep a steady mind, one that is not swayed by circumstances. A mind open to God, or Spirit or Buddha-Mind, whatever name you give it, whatever belief you have.  

By greeting each and every new day with “welcome, welcome, welcome…”, we are telling our own Potential to open every door today and welcome everything that comes to us through those doors because those things are for our healing, our strengthening.  Without opening the doors we miss possibilities. And possibilities strengthen our potential. Open the morning door wide and shout, “WELCOME , WELCOME, WELCOME!”

A little background information on Father Thomas Keating:

Father Keating is aTrappist monk (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance) and priest, known as one of architects of the Centering Prayer, a contemporary method of contemplative prayer, that emerged from St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts, in 1975. He was born in New York City, and attended Deerfield Academy, Yale University, and Fordham University, graduating in December 1943. He is a founder of the Centering Prayer movement and of Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. (Wikipedia)

“Life is a process of becoming. A combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” -Anais Nin

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
―Marianne Williamson

If we are in fact here to “become”, do we have an obligation not to be comfortable with where we are in life and personal growth, and to strive to grow/change?

If by allowing our own personal light to shine we give permission to others to shine themselves, then doesn’t that add to the responsibility we have to strive towards continuing the process of becoming to benefit others?

Do we have a responsibly to banish fear in ourselves for the the benefit of others as well as ourselves?