leading ourselves

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.

– Helen Keller

Each of us is responsible – individually – for ourselves. We lead ourselves, whether or not we are fully aware of this awesome responsibility.

Each of us can choose to lead from a place of love and compassion for self and other – or we choose only for ourselves, without regard for other(s).

As I watch and reflect on what is happening in my country, I cannot help but wonder if it is happening elsewhere in the world. My guess is, that it is – at least to some degree. As much as I had hoped that we might all begin to find a different way forward in the midst of a sweeping pandemic, quarantining at home with some opportunity to reflect and observe; I wonder today, how much this time will have made a difference in the myriad ways we see ourselves and others.

No one outside ourselves can rule us inwardly. When we know this, we become free.  – Buddha

On this Memorial Day weekend in the US, even the opportunities to pause and reflect upon lives lost in wars past and present, seem to get lost in the fray of those who feel their rights have been violated, by the necessary quarantine. It is curious to me that at a time when a nation seeks to honor those who have died in past wars, ostensibly for the purpose of maintaining freedom for our country, we seem to be more locked down, internally, than ever.

What could I possibly mean by that? Well… I have another question.

Why do people protest about their freedoms, guns in hand? Do they believe that are not free? I wonder why they perceive their rights have been violated. Do they still have breath in their lungs? Do their hearts still beat? I wonder if they stop to consider those who have been lost in this pandemic – those whose lungs filled with disease, and were ultimately robbed of a beating heart – for just a moment?

~ ~ ~ ~

*I am not ignorant of the economic impact of the quarantine in the lives of so many people. In fact, I could write quite extensively about the many cracks and gaping holes in our fragile societal fabric, which have been laid bare in this time. The condition of our planet – the place we live – has improved and risks returning to its very sick condition – a pandemic of a different kind. We cannot look away any longer. To do so makes us complicit in perpetuating the ongoing suffering of all, from sentient beings to the living and still trying to breathe planet Earth, our home. The authentic leaders in all of us are needed…to begin to right these wrongs, to make different choices. I acknowledge this reality and am comforted by the work of communities to care for those, living at the margins, who are often forgotten and left without. Those who tirelessly stand for our planet and those who open their hearts as they reach to those who need the simplest of things to survive deserve our gratitude and support.

~ ~ ~ ~

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. – Nelson Mandela

Until and unless we realize that our freedom is truly an inside job, and that no one can grant us freedom – not another person, not another organization, not another government – many will continue to suffer in their fear, wrapped in the tight embrace of their beliefs that something as important as freedom, is being withheld.

The chest-beating, gun-wielding, deserve our compassion. For they have not yet found their freedom within – inherent in the precious Life they are given to live on this planet.

I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.  – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

If we are leading our lives with authenticity (from the best of ourselves within), we take responsibility for the choices we make. We may consider the impact of our decisions if we can foresee them before we step forward. Or, if we couldn’t comprehend an outcome, we take responsibility for not knowing and we make a different choice. We apologize for the unintended consequences, if others are affected, and we move on, enriched by the experience, so that we add to our growing wisdom.

The outer world doesn’t always make it easy for us to lead our lives. There is so much noise – distracting, challenging, shaming, blaming, etc. – which pulls us away from ourselves. Why? Because we all yearn to fit in. The siren’s song of fitting in – by itself – takes from us. It is the definition of allowing ourselves to be lead by the noise of the outer conditions and files narratives about what is valued.

We abandon our true essence for the shiny objects of money, power, the biggest and best anything, all for the purpose of fitting in and rising to the top (of what? I’m not sure.)  Are we leading ourselves? Sure. Some would argue that they made the choice to go for it all…all of the marbles, the brass ring as it were. At what cost, the marbles, the brass ring, the fitting in or rising above?

True love, freedom and peace are found deep with us. The shiny objects hold no sway when we know who we are and what is most important. Our service to others comes from a place within of love and acceptance. We offer our best, not our worst. What we offer is us – our trues selves – not a dressed up version that is driven by thoughts and shoulds.

My hope is that as the days, weeks and months unfold, we will see and honor our own fragility. This is the doorway into the most vulnerable places within. This is the place where our courage to be ourselves lives. It awaits our arrival. If and when we find our way home to ourselves, any outer acts of service – including non-violent activities on behalf of those who are not seen and whose voices are not heard – have the greatest chances to make a difference. The love in our hearts is the home for our growth, healing and evolution. The evolution of inclusion, acceptance and peace is within our grasp, I just feel it.

 

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.

– John F. Kennedy

the beauty of poetry

Dear Readers…

I hope this post finds you well, as you continue to navigate this period of time we are experiencing collectively. We are finding our way forward in different ways. For many of us, writing is one of the tools we have and use to walk gently through the days. Whether it is a deeply personal reflection in my journal, or a quote or quotes which inspire me to offer something in this space, I find comfort and solace in this creative process.

Some years ago, I found myself actually writing some poetry. When inspired words came through me and made their way to the end of my pen, I was often surprised by the bursts of words and phrases and the ways they flowed onto the page. As quickly as those poetry moments came, they seemed to dissipate. It would be easy to attribute that to a number of things, like life events and other distractions. What I know today is the inspiration which seemed to evaporate was more about the changes I was moving through within myself. I even found myself in a deep dark place within ( a dark night of the soul) – where I’ve spent many years of my life – and not feeling my connection to God or Spirit. No poetry, no meditation, no journaling…nothing was happening. I had no energy for any of it.

Among the many who write in these spaces is a poet whose words are inspiring and create opportunities for thoughtful reflection. Recently, she began hosting writing groups. I found myself drawn to the opportunities she announced on her site, flashlight batteries . I also found myself backing away from the opportunities, due in large part to my lack of confidence to bring forth anything meaningful in such a process. I am forever grateful to Alicia Grimshaw for her gentle leadership and support as small groups of us participated with her in the safe space we created together. I have found my inner poet…again.

I encourage you to have a look at her invitation (at the link in the previous paragraph), and consider what is in you that may be awaiting an opportunity to be expressed. This is truly a gift you can give yourself.

Below…one of the poems I wrote during one of our group meetings.

 

I wake in the night

to the sounds of the house;

creaking, cracking, startling.

 

I’m reminded of Presence –

the mystical, the grounded, the unknown.

 

My children appear in my minds eye;

their smiles, their joys, the uncertainty.

 

My heart aches for a moment;

their fears, their children, what they cannot know.

 

I listen…

To Spirit, the voices of love and compassion, peace.

 

The calm softly enters…

my breath, my heartbeat, gratitude.

 

Sleep…

 

what we cannot see

Faith is belief in what you cannot see or prove or touch. Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark.

– Elizabeth Gilbert

It can be said, that some among us fear that which we cannot see.

It can also be said, that we often choose to turn away from that which we prefer to not know or see, as it might erupt something within us that we cannot know or see and…see the previous statement.

I feel it is fair to offer here, that in these last many days of staying at home, we’ve had opportunities –  if we chose to avail ourselves of them – to seek that deep place within us that we cannot see and perhaps feel or know is there. We are afraid to “go there”.

These are the times, and this is the call – the call to go there.

Fear shows up in our lives in so many places. The way we heal it depends largely upon our willingness to notice…to notice within ourselves the places (thoughts, beliefs) where we may be stuck. “If I acknowledge that this situation or condition exists outside of me, then I must consider that it exists within me.”

Our ability to hide from ourselves is well honed. It has been reinforced in all of our societal norms and experiences from the moment we took our first breath – from familial experiences and habits to religious training and experiences to individual experiences of pain and betrayal in relationships. We cover our wounds with beliefs and thoughts and stories, and then commit to never going back into that place ever again. Sadly, our fear of what we cannot see, or choose not to see, also holds our greatest opportunity for healing and thus living more fully and authentically, this precious life we have.

I continue to learn that contemplation and waiting, rather than pushing and “making things happen” is the path forward. When we are still, we hear. What we hear or become aware of in those moments, can provide the next steps in our healing journey while we simultaneously walk softly toward what is yet to unfold – one present and precious moment at a time.

When change winds swirl through our lives, they often call us to undertake a new passage of the spiritual journey: that of confronting the lost and counterfeit places within us and releasing our deeper, innermost self – our true selves. They call us to come home to ourselves, to become who we really are.

 – Sue Monk Kidd, from When the Heart Waits

 

The “change winds” have been blowing lately, wouldn’t you agree? I wonder what you are being called to undertake in your own personal journey…

 

With gratitude to Locos Photos.

 

 

 

unmoored

“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.”
Andre Gide

It may seem odd that I would begin a post with this quote. However, where we are, collectively in this part of our human experience has created an opportunity for us to examine those places within ourselves where we may have ceased to perceive our  deception of ourselves. If you believe “the outer reflects the inner” as I do, you may be able to readily see where this is visible outside of us…compelling us to examine our individual self-deceptions.

When we become unmoored, it can be very scary. No longer tethered to something stable, sound or secure, we may feel lost; without an over-structured schedule or life; perhaps even feeling that we lack a guide for what is next or how we will find our way forward. Many are also talking and writing about a new, as yet undefined, normal.

Before the “new normal” begins to unfold, we must each let go of what defined our collective past. What, you wonder, might some of those beliefs, thoughts, habits, and actions might be? We need look no further than the places – no, the people –  most affected by the virus and if still healthy, are feeling the rippling impacts the most.

Rather than developing a list of all of the affected groups, segments and the greed that seems to know no bounds, I will simply offer this.

Contemplating the upside down nature of our human collective as well as the blatant disregard for all beings in nature, including Mother Earth, is probably a good place to begin the development of the new normal. Each of us has something that we are currently contributing to the wholeness of our world right now. Perhaps our reflections will lead us to making different choices, or to expand what we are currently offering.

Anything IS possible. It is in our creative imaginations and dreams that possibilities will dawn and we will find our way forward – together.

For now, may we all find comfort in the unmoored time we are in. As challenging as it may be, it is only in this liminal space where we will realize the potential for many new possibilities as we work together to create new ways of being on our now healing Mother Earth.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
Andre Gide

 

This is a picture of a beautiful and very meaningful print that was given to me as a gift.

 

 

 

 

 

small things

On my desk sits a quote on a piece of pottery that is cradled on a small stand. Made by a local beloved potter, it is a special piece. I am a lover of quotes and when I saw this one years ago, it touched me then. I’m sure that many of you know it and are pretty familiar with it. Somehow, today it seemed to take on a very different meaning.

In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.

 – Mother Teresa

Many are finding this time to be especially challenging for all of the reasons that we are probably familiar with. Some are finding opportunities to accomplish projects and other tasks that had been on a very long list of to-dos. Still others are finding their way back into nature to see and observe the beautiful messages that Spring offers, if we watch and listen. Spring always reminds me of beginning again. And here we are.

We are awakening from Winter’s rest. Look around and you can see this is true of all of the beautiful plants, flowers, and trees are beginning to bloom. The birds are singing their beautiful songs.

We are awakening to so many new things in our world right now. Whether we are waking up to seeing our loved ones – near and far – in different ways than we have before, or mourning losses of loved ones, friends, jobs, familiar ways of life; nothing is the same as it was before. Grieving these losses is important. Our individual grieving process will take us as long as we need for it to take.

I’m reminded of a lovely poem by Rumi*.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

                             Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

                             Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

                             where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

                             Don’t go back to sleep.

Perhaps you are familiar with this poem as well. However, I offer it here for your thoughtful reflection. As we continue living in this liminal space, may we pause to reflect on what the message in this poem may be – to each of us individually.

May we also offer prayers of thanksgiving for the many people on the front lines of this pandemic – from the health care workers to all who work to support the supply chains, the firsts responders, the multitudes of volunteers who are helping others in all manner of situations.

Our gratitude can be their blessing.

We are awakening to the many aspects of our world including the multiple systems which haven’t supported all people for far too long. In our upside down world, may we also see what we need to see (rather than turning away); have the courage to throw away the old worn out thoughts, beliefs and choices which no longer serve; and open our hearts to the beauty of a brave new world, which we can all be a part of creating in our own loving way.

We can all do small things with great love.

May we remain awake…and not go back to sleep.

*From: “The Essential Rumi”, Translations by Coleman Barks (1995) New Expanded Edition

one step, then another

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.

 – Thomas Merton

There are so many things happening in our world today. I wonder if you are as curious as I about how it will unfold day after day. It is clear that many are coping in a variety of ways that are supportive of the human spirit, dignity and are grounded in love. The videos and stories that I come across that show people reaching out –  offering music, buying groceries, checking on others, etc. – provide a reminder of just how resilient and longingly supportive we can be.

It is in stark contrast to a story I read over the weekend about the apparent spike in gun sales. People are believing they must protect their families, apparently. And from what, I wonder? If fear or hunger showed up at your door, would you meet it with a gun? Fear meets fear, and rarely is there a good outcome to that meeting.

Being in community – if only virtually sometimes – keeps us from spending too much time inside the part of our brains that can spin up some pretty dreary thoughts and things which separate us from those whom we love, love us and may need our loving assistance.

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.

 – Winnie The Pooh

I choose to believe in humanity. We are decent and truly wish to offer only our best to each other. It is the learned fear that often gets in our way; blocks our hearts and closes us off to those who can support us or to those who may need our support. It’s the small things that can make a big difference.

Allowing a senior at the grocery store with only a few items, compared to your larger order, to step in front of you in the checkout line, is a small thing that can make a big difference. Respectfully acknowledging others – even from a distance (“Good morning,” “Take care,” “May I get that item down from the shelf for you?”) can make a difference for anyone.

Offering our best in any moment…even a smile…can be a powerful gift of hope and light in an otherwise seemingly dark period. The people on the front lines – health care workers, grocery store staff, first responders – need our cooperation and appreciation. A simple “thank you” accompanied by a smile can go a long way to supporting them as they walk through long and tiring days.

I am reminded of one of the tenets of the twelve step programs, “One day at a time.” There are also five Reiki Principles or positive affirmations that are useful anytime, and perhaps especially in these time of great change and upset of our daily routines. They are:

Just for today I will live in an attitude of gratitude.

Just for today I will not worry.

Just for today I will not anger.

Just for today I shall do my work honestly.

Just for today I will show love and respect to all living beings.

Great guidance for everyday practice and living…and perhaps now we can begin a practice of affirming these while things are not the same, we are not moving at light speed through our days and continuing to distract ourselves from what is important.

Wherever you are, dear readers, know that I hold each of you in my heart. As I offer prayers of gratitude for the opportunities that this can offer, I offer gratitude for your safety, peace and reconciliation. May you find calm in nature, and peace in stillness. These will reconnect you to your deepest heart.

One step, then another step…

In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.

 – Howard Thurman

 

 

where to begin?

“The urgency for a radical change in consciousness seems to grow every day.”

 – Eckhart Tolle

The well worn and know by many adage, “we are living in extraordinary times” seems to have taken on additional meaning in the last few months. Many times, I have thought about writing here to offer something – anything. That is when I knew it was best to say nothing. As I continue to watch what is unfolding in the world, and in my own country, I have observed many situations, read about decisions (made or not), and listened to quite a few people as they have navigated the increasing uncertainties that continue to unfold before us.

It’s challenging for those who are accustomed to being on the move all of the time – in their activities, in their thoughts, in the commitments they make and so on – to feel the discomfort and perhaps all-out panic, as things we have come to rely upon as a normal part of our life here, are shutting down, delaying or taking some radical action to support social distancing, self-quarantine, or whatever is necessary for health and safety during this period.

My hope for us all is that we begin to see. What, you may ask, do we need to see? There is a lot to see. We can see nothing if we are reacting from our panic, fear, anger, frustration, etc. We are blocked by those emotions from seeing what is really there for us to see and remember…about who we really are, on this planet together.

Despair or Hope

There is much to see, much to remember and much to discern for and about ourselves as a member of the large mix of beings on the planet. There are many questions that we must ask ourselves, about our conscious and unconscious contributions to the current conditions we are facing, as a collective, today. There is no need to go more deeply into fear – to see all of this as some type of apocalyptic event; although that is a choice we can make.

Quite the opposite is what we have the opportunity to do at this moment. Some preliminary questions to ask ourselves may include what we are seeing and hearing with our eyes and ears as we watch or read the latest news, and hear from family members and friends. The next questions – the more challenging questions – are the questions about what we see and hear with the eyes and ears of our essential selves…our deepest heart.

Future Focus

I encourage all of you – wherever in the world you are, dear readers – to reflect on one simple aspect of where we are right now. We are all in this…this circumstance, this situation, this place in our evolutionary experience. We are all in it together. We may not know where or how every being on the planet is responding or reacting to what we are facing at this time. We are all connected. It is a fairly good bet that as interconnected as we have become – with travel, trade, the Internet, etc., we will continue to be affected, even if we do not contract the virus.

I bought a tree today. It was the same kind of tree that I’ve planted in the front of two homes that I lived in, in two different states. I lived in those homes, nineteen and eleven years respectively. This tree was a very slow-growing and delicately beautiful tree when it bloomed – in both places.

When I saw the one I chose to purchase this morning, I noted it’s small stature. It’s little buds visible, it will bloom in the weeks ahead…very slowly and delicately. Rather than placing it in the ground where I live, I have put it into a pot. It can live there for years, if necessary, and can go with me wherever I may find myself living. It will take many years of growing to get to the size of the others in my past. That, by itself, is a reminder that change and growth take time. As I transplanted the tree to a pot which will provide space for years of growth, I realized the symbolism of this tree and where we find ourselves today. We did not get here overnight, and we will not climb out of this overnight either.

As we begin the healing process, there is more for us to consider than the simple act of ensuring that resources are better aligned for any future similar outbreaks. We have an opportunity now, to wake up; to ask ourselves if the world we are living in today is the world we wish to continue to inhabit in exactly the same way we have for far too long.

I know what my answer is. I know that what must change will take much longer than the years I have left to live. However, I do know that I will offer all of the very best, most positive energy I have and can muster to be a part of the healing solutions, rather than perpetuating the fear and divisions which have contributed significantly to where we find ourselves today.

May we all consider what our conscious and unconscious contributions have been to our human family.  We are capable of far more than we may even believe we are. Step, by small step, we can make a difference – a new difference.

“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
—Christopher Robin, friend of Winnie the Pooh

 

 

blind loyalty

Blind loyalty is just that….BLIND.

Open. Your. Eyes.

Question EVERYTHING.

Taking NOTHING at face value.

Be still.

Dig DEEP.

Ask your heart.

Listen to your intuition.

Trust yourself first, then your trust of others will not be misplaced.

(written in Spring, 2016)

*If seeking for answers outside of yourself is more more of a habit than deep listening, observing, and researching, be diligent. Do your own research. Do not rely on shortcuts and the beliefs at the core of others’ projections in various media for your answers, or what you might consider to be the “right” answer. Ask yourself, are these shallow perspectives? Go deeper. Look beyond. Your answers will eventually resonate through your awareness and the alignment with who you are. Your feelings will tell you.

Don’t like the answer? Go deeper. Ask yourself, “Who am I”? And isn’t that the most important question at the core of everything you believe, see, feel and act upon?

Blind loyalty – the ultimate surrender of personal power to another human being.

for reflection

To all of my dear readers:

Creating time to reflect, contemplate, meditate, pray…whatever we choose to do to be still…is an important gift to ourselves.

This morning, I received the quote below in my email box. Following the quote, the sender provided a question for reflection.  I took a few moments to read it several times; each time asking myself the question which follows the quote below.

“Remember that you ought to behave in life as you would at a banquet. As something is being passed around, it comes to you. When it comes to you, stretch out your hand gently, take a portion of it politely, but pass it on. Or, it has not come to you yet. Do not project your desire to meet it. So act always in life.”

—Epictetus

And…the question:

What are you hearing in this?

You are invited to read and reflect upon the question as well.

an invitation in the new year

What a man takes in by contemplation, that he pours out in love.

 – Meister Eckhart

As I watch the first snow of the season fall from the sky, I cannot help reflecting on the beauty of it and what it compels us to do, if we will allow it – to slow down, breathe, observe and reflect/contemplate.

The snow is quiet. It falls ever so softly from the clouds above. And yet, the planet it falls upon is anything but soft and quiet. This juxtaposition gives me pause…as I seek to stay out of despair. Compassion for the worst behaviors among our fellow humans is, at times, extremely tough to dig for and offer. Yet, these are the moments and places that call to me from the wounds within – the places which are still hurting; the places where perhaps traces of grief, unprocessed, still exist.

As I continue to cultivate my inner observer, I’ve begun to notice a few things that I wish to offer here…with an invitation for you to consider their meaning, from your perspective or experience. Comments are always welcome, and I believe that the more we explore together – which this medium allows us to do without being in the same room – the more we learn with the possibility of evolving our perspectives on long held thoughts or beliefs.

These words  – without definitions – have been floating around in my mind as I consider the state of the country I live in at this moment.

Authenticity
Conformity
Projection
Responsibility
Fear
Love

I could write so much more about each of these, to offer my perspectives on and my observations and feelings about them. However, I wish to leave the door between us for conversation to be open without my perspectives to filter them.

I do wish to offer that fear keeps us from engaging with others in a variety of ways. So I hope you will trust yourself and me enough to offer your thoughtful perspectives on any or all of these. I feel that if we hold hands as we cross the deep chasm that seems to divide us from ourselves and us from each other, we will make it to the other side – more fully ourselves – open hearts, open arms and open minds.

Thank you for being here.

Sending my love to each of you, wherever you may be, in this new year.

Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.

 – Paramahansa Yogananda