essay – reflect

As we approach the Winter Solstice, I feel it is a good time for reflection. Typically we, who write in these spaces, often tend to write on or before or shortly after the new calendar year. In looking back, I’ve written here in at least one of each of these.

This year feels different. In fact, I feel that writing just before the Solstice, and beginning to review and reflect on the last year – no, for me, the last several years – is the proper time.

It is said everywhere, in conversations with mask-covered faces, or screens across the many miles and time zones, or splashed across the news and social media, that 2020 is unlike any we’ve seen. And when something else unusual happens, we say, “Well, it’s 2020.” I have said it myself, even as I know that deep inside my version of what 2020 seems to have become for so many, is a period much longer than one year…and actually resulted in preparing me well for this one.

As we move toward the Winter Solstice and the beginning of the natural new year, reflecting on what we have seen, felt, learned; where we have offered a hand or resources to the many who find themselves suddenly lacking various necessities – whether food, shelter or someone to listen to them – feels even more compelling and important than ever before.

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The last several years in my country have been extremely challenging. I’ve only recently begun to appreciate the heightened level of my anxiety and my hyped up nervous system for what it was. It’s as if I now see, in retrospect, how my body was responding to the various conditions here. Feeling as deeply as I do, I was unsure at times just how much of what I was feeling was mine and how much of it was from the collective anxiety that so many are beginning to admit now, to having felt. Although we are not fully beyond threatening and possible challenges, I do feel we are moving toward healing. There may still be a few more bumps in the road…and we are still on the road toward something different. For that I am deeply grateful.

I’ve wondered, at times, at the amount of anxiety and stress that I have carried in my body. Some of it, I could chalk up to having spent my career in public service. Many of those years I worked “close to the flame” as a trusted leader once said. The closer to the flame, the sooner you burn out. That, indeed was true for me. One particular administration was extremely challenging to work in and led me to plan an early retirement at age 50. As I watch former colleagues and friends begin to leave their service now, I understand.

Leaving when I did created an opportunity to  become more aware of my extreme sensitivity, and just how thick the armor was that I wore in my 30s, 40s and early 50s. Another type of freedom awaits, we we begin to peel one level of armor off at a time. Embracing feeling…rediscovering the safety of vulnerability… and finding our courage.

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The pandemic has created so many opportunities for us to have a long, deep look at ourselves and just how we react or respond to our environment and the changes therein. How many have taken the opportunity this has  – and still is – offered is unknown. I have watched as many have resisted, and done everything possible to keep their lives in the mode of their individually created normal, while others have softened into the change, following the suggestions made by epidemiological experts to adhere to new, different and seemingly unusual guidance. Why do any of this? Because we are being asked to care for and consider safety for ourselves and of others as well. The collective of humanity…ALL of us…is counting on the other.

It comes as no surprise then, that our country is in a pretty sad place. All of our seemingly well hidden secrets have been laid bare. Mind you, these secrets were not secret to those who have suffered for years and years and years while many more climbed the wealth ladder, stepping on the fingers of so may who kept trying, against all odds, to make it up one or two rungs, in order to create a different life for themselves or their families. And here we are…

Many still resist what we are seeing. Seeing the reality rather than participating in the myth is an opportunity to make necessary change. How many really see the opportunities before us, and how many are continuing to resist?

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It is clearer than ever that we cannot teach anything that others are unwilling yet, to see and learn. In fact, when we finally come face to face with our own suffering, rather than continuing to outrun it, we fall to our knees, or we reach out, or we scream in pain hoping that someone will hear us.

This morning, as I do most mornings, I read a daily meditation, written by Fr. Richard Rohr. This morning the title of his daily writing, “Letting Go is Liberation”, feels timely. For the many who are afraid of letting go of the reality they’ve created, deeply fearful that something might be lost, this title offers a different way to consider what letting go is really all about. He is such an amazing writer and I appreciate the majority of what he writes. As I continue to heal much of what I was exposed to in the religion of my early life, I experience most of his writing as transcendent of dogma and more universal, and welcoming and healing.

In this piece, he offers six kinds of liberation. You can find today’s meditation here. You can also sign up to receive them each day on the same page. It’s worth a few moments of your time to read and reflect on where you find yourself. There is always more to realize (real eyes).

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As we move closer to the Solstice, I feel it is also important to consider the deep and long shadows that we have an opportunity to take a look at. I recently offered a short post on the shadow here. Shadow work is so important. I also saw the quote in my inbox this morning:

“The keys to freedom are in your shadow.”

 – Danielle LaPorte

Finally, the upcoming Solstice is unique. The Great Conjunction, as it is called, also occurs on that day. As the planets, Saturn and Jupiter enter the constellation of Aquarius (Air sign), and in so doing offer an opportunity for a beautiful spectacle in the sky, maybe…just maybe, we will all begin to liberate ourselves from so much of what we continue to drag around, and open our hearts to look deeply into our shadows – or continue to do so – and breathe, deeply.

Blessings to all for whatever holiday you honor and celebrate. May the new year bring us all more love, peace and expressions of compassion to other sentient beings.

With gratitude to Loco’s Photos. I remain grateful for the permission to share these amazing and beautiful photos.

 

 

essay – thoughts and observations about hate and healing

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
  – Nelson Mandela

The quote above is from Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela.

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The country I live in, like many others across the world, is seeing it’s ugly underbelly of fear, hate, and violence in full view, as it seeks to be seen and while seeming to take center stage. Anyone who lives here or watches from afar, has seen it becoming more visible. It has always been there, and many of us (me included) had or have been so busy minding our lives – working all of the time, raising children, tending to families, etc. – that we may not have been as aware of the deep pain of ongoing and systemic racism, income inequality, and all manner of rule making and policy development that codifies and grounds the practices which both underlie and underline the existence of all of these.

If the pandemic has done anything, aside from the devastating loss of life and income with the concomitant grief of so many losses, it has provided the opportunity for us to slow down and look; to observe what is endemic to our way of life. The loss of life at the hands of those who have “sworn to protect and defend” has been occurring for far too long, and is now seen in ways it never was before. The advent of technology – put so easily into our hands – has changed everything. What had been hidden is visible. Along with that visibility has been an uncovering of the laws which protect those with the power, when their use of force is inappropriate or too much. It’s reminiscent of the laws that award power largely to the white male establishment (patriarchal power) at the expense of humans of color, women and children of all races, and those who live on the very margins of our “democratic” societies.

How is all of this related to hate?

Let’s first recognize that hate has its roots in fear. Hate is a derivation of fear; an expression of the same. Then, as we reflect on what we have seen, heard, and read some clarity emerges. Fear of the loss of power is playing out in full view today. Fear of the loss of power and control; fear of the exposure of what is and has been hidden, are just some of the examples so visible. Could this be the outer reflection of what is within us?

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Several years ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of policemen in my community at an annual dinner sponsored and provided by a local foundation. Many of us from the community participated in serving meals to officers – “serving those who serve”. A few members of the community were invited ahead of time to make some remarks.

My Dad had served as a police officer until he died in another community in another state. So, participating as a volunteer member on two community teams as a part of their implementation of community-based policing, at the time, felt like an opportunity to give back and in so doing, to honor my Dad’s service to his community. Although I no longer have a copy of my remarks, I know that I sought to honor and thank the officers and their families. In addition and regarding safety in particular, I recall this phrase with great clarity, “When fear meets fear, the outcome is never good.”

Today, I know there was so much I simply did not know about the overall structure of laws in this country regarding qualified immunity, among other long standing laws designed to protect officers. I have no regret about my involvement with my local police agency or my sentiments about it or my words of gratitude and encouragement when I spoke. I grew up in a police family – and that comes with many, many thorny issues – and I know the dangers officers face, the cost of that chosen profession, borne by them and their families…and they are all human. And so are the people who die at their hands – human.

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My reverence for life is real and fundamental to my being. And it is often a painful place from which to observe the growing and increasing light being shown on the underbelly of crumbling societal structures.

It is easy to sit on one side or the other of what we are seeing in our collective experience. It would be easier still, to shame, blame or otherwise criticize these conditions and those involved. Yet, to do so is to be lost, caught up in the very fear, hate, and accompanying anguish that all involved are feeling – even if they can’t quite connect to the experiences in the same ways those of us so clearly see as we objectively observe them. Condemning it does nothing to change it – or to begin the healing process at the core of the pain associated with the outcomes of these seemingly intractable societal realities.

What exactly IS possible?

The easy answer is to remember our hearts. Is pain there? Yes. Indeed, the pain that we may no longer feel, because we have chosen to bury it, is still there. It is awaiting our return to see, feel and heal it. Until and unless that happens, we remain locked into our minds with deep festering wounds.

The journey from our overthinking and fear-based mind, to our soft and loving, yet aching heart, is very short, as measures go. However, the journey – the work and our commitment to it – can be longer and fraught with remembering past hurts, questioning (“why me?”), and downright resistance. Who wants to go there anyway?

Well…as we look around, among our family and friends, our communities, cities, states and nations, it is easy to see the vivid and real outcomes of living the resistance to going within to face, embrace and heal all that deeply aches in our hearts…and may even have manifested elsewhere as dis-ease in our bodies. And yet….this is the work of our lives.

It has been said, that in my country, we collectively elected our shadow in the previous general election. The shadow self is that part of us that we have consciously or unconsciously disowned.

“We’re often afraid of looking at our shadow because we want to avoid the shame or embarrassment that comes along with admitting mistakes. We feel that if we take a deep look at ourselves, we’ll be too exposed. But the thing we should actually fear is not looking at it, for our denial of the shadow is exactly what fuels it. One day I looked at something in myself that I had been avoiding because it was too painful. Yet once I did, I had an unexpected surprise. Rather than self-hatred, I was flooded with compassion for myself because I realized the pain necessary to develop that coping mechanism to begin with.”
— Marianne Williamson,

The quote above is from The Shadow Effect, by Deepak Chopra, the late Debbie Ford and Marianne Williamson.

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Generally we are terrified to take that first step to having a deep, long look at ourselves. We tell ourselves that we are too busy, can’t find the time, or cannot do it alone. And…we do NOT have to do it alone. It’s never quite as dark and ugly in there as we thought it was, once we take those steps.*

Our shame about past choices, actions, and spoken words, is so great, we often cannot find a way to forgive ourselves and we therefore are unable to offer forgiveness to others. Ignoring our aching hearts creates ripples that we are not fully aware of. The implications of not doing this work are significant – for our health as individuals and for the health of our families, communities, nations. Indeed the healing of the planet (our natural resources) will not occur in the ways we may intend (the thinking self) until we make that journey into our hearts to heal (the feeling self). Head and heart are important partners, when they work in partnership.

“Feeling is the language of the soul. If you want to know what’s true for you about something, look to how you’re feeling about it.”
 – Neale Donald Walsch

The quote above is from, The Complete Conversations With God, by Neale Donald Walsch.

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By virtue of being human, we are born with and from the light of our Creator. When our light dims, we are experiencing separation from that awareness of what and who we are. We all have this light. Some of us have experienced what feels like the dimming of this light, and the ensuing darkness of the emotional clouds which feel like they have completely extinguished this light. And yet, like the sun, it never stops shining. It is always there, shining bright with the love that is who we all really are.

As we continue to observe the situations, conditions and events from which we can no longer avert our eyes and hearts, let us all consider our own darkness. Doing so creates the opportunity for us to take that first step toward acknowledging what aches in our hearts; to embrace with love and acceptance the child, young adult, or adult within who is hurting; and to continue the journey to the heart of our being.

From that place, we can begin to heal ourselves, and all that is hurting in the world outside of ourselves  – our families, our communities, our cities, our states, our nations.

Love is always there…waiting for us to return to being that which is our true nature.

This heart was drawn and colored in by one of my grandsons years ago. The artistic creation of a child – representative of the heart of the child within all of us.

 

*Without the therapists, spiritual directors, and many other healers with whom I have worked, my journey might have been far more difficult. Having traversed the challenging road back to myself, I offer a compassionate listening heart to those who are curious about the journey for themselves. I refer, when necessary, any person to the appropriate experts if their needs are well beyond a what a listening heart and soft inquiry can provide.