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.

Advertisements

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

 

 

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

Are You Ready For This Day?

October 21, 2012

I came across a guide for preparing for the day. It is based on the chakras, but I think that even if you do not have interest in chakra work, the general idea is one worth considering.

It starts by reminding us that each day is a new beginning. The task for  today is to learn the practice of consciously entering your body and your day. Begin by focusing attention on your entire day from morning to evening.

Review your plans for today:

  • Think about where you need to be and with whom you need to be.
  • Do you feel stressful about this day or do you feel comfortable?
  • Do you feel prepared for today’s events?
  • Are you projecting fears and expectations into this day?

As you gather yourself and plan for the day, add these thoughts to the process:

  • Identify your fears for today and pull them into your consciousness.
  • Acknowledge the strength of the energetic circuitry connecting you to all life.
  • Visualize that strength replacing your fears for today.
  • See yourself standing tall.
  • Work: What am I going to do today?
  • Creativity: What am I going to create today?
  • Focus on your self-esteem and how you feel about yourself today:
  • Am I feeling strong? Frightened?
  • Do I need someone’s approval today?
  • Will I need to be courageous?
  • Remind yourself of your boundaries, dignity, inherent honor, and integrity.
  • Make an internal  promise in terms of how you want to live your life today.
  • Reaffirm to yourself  that you want to look at today through your heart and not through your fears; that you want to feel gratitude for events that do or don’t happen as they should.
  • Keep your attention on the right way to walk into this day, with compassion and patience.
  • Define your needs and desires for today and let go of doing the same for others.
  • Envision choices that result in positive attitudes and feelings about yourself.
  • Vow to express yourself honestly.
  • Prepare your mind to enter the day feeling good and not generating fear or doubt.
  • For today, release old grudges, beliefs, attitudes and patterns that no longer serve you.
  • Remember that everything in your life is there for a reason and to teach you something about yourself and others.
  • Pull your attention up and out, and hold the idea ‘live in present time.’
  • Let go of the past and do not anticipate the future.
  • Find moments of gratitude throughout the day.

At the end of the day, pause for a quiet time to reflect on the day, and put it to bed also.

  • Think about how you feel about yourself and your day now that it  is over.
  • Reflect on the million things that happened to you today and be appreciative of them all.
  • Remember that everything has the potential to be a valuable learning experience.
  • Look at the positive things you invested in today and be grateful for them.
  • Were you able to make choices that enhanced your life today? If so, acknowledge those choices, take a deep breath and decide to put your energy into more of them.
  • What choices drained your energy? Commit to changing those choices in the future.
  • Ask yourself “Did I speak with honesty and integrity?”
  •  How have you done with forgiveness today?
  • Were you judgmental or critical of yourself or others today or did you extend kindness and compassion?
  • Release your fears and doubt.
  • Breath and allow yourself to prepare for restful sleep knowing that tomorrow will be a new day.

Namaste.

 

 

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)

Familiar with The Society Of Friends? The Quakers? They have in their history a beautiful “dance” song called Simple Gifts. You may know it from Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, or from Obama’s inauguration when YoYo Ma and others played Aire and Simple Gifts. The music is breath-taking. The words speak of ideals few us might ever even consider: “to bow and to bend”, “tis a gift to be simple”, “to come down where we ought to be”. Words of humility.

How do these words have the power to influence our potentiality? The words remind us of what is important, no matter the time we live in, our social status or anything else. If we remember we are a part of something bigger, or that there is something bigger than us as an individual, we can be at ease with humility (to bow) , to turn and be able to compromise, to be grateful, to bend and seek simplicity rather than complexity. We can be free from self-importance, wanting, desiring, wishing for…..and find satisfaction with the moment.  We can “come down to where we’re meant to be”, and realize that for most of us, especially if you are reading this, our lives are OK.  “And when you find yourself in a place just right, you will be in the valley of love and delight”: when you look around and start saying “thank-you”, “I am thankful for ….”, “I love you”, “I forgive you”, “I am sorry”, you will be in a place of gratitude. “When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed”: Tagore said,

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”

We don’t always have to be strong, right, domineering, forceful, insistent, in control….

“To turn and to turn will be our delight till by turning and turning we come round right”. Dance. In gratitude, in peace and with peace, with others, by yourself. Dance because you are a part of Something that will work with you to discover your potential. Turn to face the light, the possibilities…when True Simplicity is gained life can change.