the tendrils of grief

The collective denial of our underlying emotional life has contributed to an array of troubles and symptoms. What is often diagnosed as depression is actually low-grade chronic grief locked into the psyche, complete with the ancillary ingredients of shame and despair.

 – Francis Weller

 

A week ago, I lost a small furry companion who had been a part of my life for the last 15 years. I have so many memories of his always being close, wherever I lived, always snuggling and seeming to know of the comfort I needed, even if I wasn’t fully aware of the need, myself. His comfort was in his sweet, soft presence. He was a male, polydactyl, tuxedo who suckled the inside of his right front paw (think of a baby). There was something about him that softened the moments of my most edgy internal feelings. Although he had been ill for a while, his passing was extremely difficult for me. I am still getting used to not having him around in his furry little body; and I know he will always be near.

As I have been moving through the days, I am aware of the many layers of grief that are still there…deep within. I’ve written several times in this space about grief. Grief is a very familiar place for me and I have found so many ways to process the multiple layers and experiences that still surface from time to time. Even with the passing of this sweet little companion, I have been taken back to the losses of other furry ones in my past. It is as if they all decided to return to help me remember that this isn’t a new experience and there is much for which to be grateful, even as I am deep in my grief.

In those moments of raw grief, I was reminded of the gifts of the presence of each one in my life. So losing my dear little Cooper served to remind me of the many gifts of his presence, while also helping me see  – one more time – that even when we think we’re alone, we are not alone – ever.

The tendrils of grief are like some plants. Consider grapes, melons and other such plants whose tendrils are long and curly and twisting in their structure. Some tendrils are soft and pliable and others are tougher, and a bit like bark on a tree. All of this serves to remind me that some feelings are soft and easier to acknowledge; and still others are more challenging to allow to surface from their deeply buried places within us. The old adage that “feel to heal” as a way forward is easy to say and not always easy to navigate. As with most challenging experiences in life, some of our processing work is our own to do. And…not to be minimized is the importance of also having a trusted other to listen, acknowledge and support us as we work through these sometimes curious and often painful experiences.

Gratitude holds many gifts for us when we open to acknowledging and expressing it, even when our hearts are aching. The beauty of memories is the potential to see, feel and acknowledge gratitude in those moments as we reflect on them. Not all are wonderful; some are challenging; and all have something for us. Therein lies the gifts of the experiences for which we can be grateful.

We must couple grief and gratitude in a way that encourages us to stay open to life.

 – Francis Weller

 

preparing…

As we get “caught up” in the busyness of preparing for the holidays, and the country prepares for the ongoing and increasingly tense machinations of our Congress in the upcoming election year, Nature is readying herself for rest. The Autumn has wrought cooler temperatures, longer days, blowing leaves and other such autumnal things. Our Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere is days away. For those of you awaiting the Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere, I wish you gentle breezes, enjoyable warmth and light.

The heavens have much to tell us about the energies above which seem to inform the energies we see and feel here on the planet (as above, so below). These last weeks have brought many challenges and there will likely be more to come.

This morning, I came across a poem by David Whyte that seems to capture where I feel I am…and I suspect many others are there as well.

I offer it here for you to read…slowly. May you feel what is there for you. May you feel acknowledged for what you may have been feeling and what may yet lie ahead as the Winter brings it seasonal rest…an opportunity for us to align with Nature’s rhythms and rest with her.

 

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb
tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

David Whyte, from The House of Belonging

 

May this season of holidays (holy days), bring blessings of love, peace, calm and quiet to you and all of those whom you love. I appreciate you for joining me here and wish you more joy, peace and abundance in the new year.

 

 

the power of words to soothe

I recently re-read one of David Whyte’s books of poetry. I feel a deep resonance to his words and deeply appreciate his use of them. “The House of Belonging” includes a poem of the same nam, and  reading it always feels like a welcome home…to me, to my inner being as reflected in the outer world of the home I inhabit.

Toward the end of the book, I happened upon a poem I had forgotten about (on page 88). I offer it here for reading and thoughtful reflection.

 

Loaves and Fishes

 

This is not

the age of information.

 

This is not

the age of information.

 

Forget the news,

and the radio,

and the blurred screen.

 

This is the time

of loaves

and fishes.

 

People are hungry,

and one good word is bread

for a thousand.

 

I share this as a reminder of the power of words…kind words…to make a difference in the lives of many. When we speak words of fear (expressed as anger, judgement, etc.) the negative energy reverberates even as the words of love (expressed as kindness, support, etc.) do.

I share this as a reminder of just how hungry we all are for one good word among the many we hear each day.

May we make a conscious effort each day to speak words of love – kindness, peace, openness to possibility, safety.

Just imagine the difference we can make if we all choose to do this every day!

Love and peace to all.

 

 

*The House of Belonging; Poems by David Whyte; Copyright 1997; Many Rivers Press, Langley, Washington; 2019.

listening

“To listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”

-Mark Nepo

Listening, deeply, is a lost art, it seems. As I have often said to many, we have two ears and one mouth…for a reason. We need only look at all that is happening in our world, our country, our communities. Everyone is talking and no one seems to be listening. So, what happens when those talking believe they are not being heard? They get louder. Louder comes in many forms. Organized protests, louder voices by individual or groups, repetitive speaking and not even attempting to allow the other to speak or answer a question, are a few of the ways “louder” is expressed.

What I feel goes hand in hand with listening, is observation. Slowing down to listen, deeply, allows us to hear, deeply, what another may be attempting to say. Not everyone speaks clearly or eloquently when they are excited, stressed or are hurting. When they are trying to be heard by someone whose not slowing down to “…lean in, softly…”, any number of outcomes is possible and none are good. Sadly, many do not even listen to their own intuition. How can they possibly deeply listen to another.

“The soul speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions.”
Parker J. Palmer

I have launched a new page on this site, Compassionate Listening. I am not necessarily a fan of the moniker, “coach” for what I practice. Compassionate listening is what I really do. Within the quiet space of presence with another,  I hear the entreaties of the heart. Listening slowly, I hear deeply, what is within the story being shared. From this place of deep listening,  I offer observations and questions to facilitate self-discovery or self-generation in another. If you are interested or feel that having an objective and compassionate listener may be helpful for you, please consider visiting my page and reaching out via the link on that page.

May we all endeavor to slow down, listen and open to the possibility that something we hear may cause us to see something in ourselves which is awaiting our discovery.

Sunset photo taken with my iPhone on the southern NC Coast, 2013.

a note of gratitude to you

Today, I am reflecting on the ongoing tumult which has become the norm in the country I live in. It’s been a tough week. As much as I seek to remain centered, so that I may be more of an observer and avoid the emotional charges or hooks that this week’s activities have caused in me, I have found it even more challenging to maintain that centered “heading” in the midst of extremely turbulent seas. I am once again reminded of the challenges that come with openly and honestly facing the days. Rumi’s beautiful poem returns to me again and again. I am also reminded of something Brene Brown wrote in one of her recent books, Braving the Wilderness:

True belonging doesn’t require that you change who you are. It requires you to be who you are.

Many days, I feel as if I am living in the wilderness…an unruly, no holds barred, desert which lacks the life sustaining dignity and respect each human deserves. So, as I reflect on what I observe in the visible collective, I wonder…is this who we are? Are we really being who we really are when we participate in the multiple activities stoking fear…anger? I will add here, that observing this behavior tells me so much about those whose words and actions are hurtful or demeaning to others. I send them compassion…for they are most in need of it for themselves before they can offer it to others.

I am grateful for the peace that I find here as I read the blogs I follow. You all offer the beauty of nature, poetry, story, photographs and even more of what I consider to be the personal expressions rooted in the creative center of love, in our hearts. Thank you for so openly offering your gifts and bringing the very best of what being human on this planet really is. This is a safe place, in a group of my choosing, to find that which inspires and returns me to the best of what we all have the potential to be.

To those who follow me, I am also deeply grateful that you take the time to read these posts and wherever possible to offer a comment or question. Your energy and engagement is most appreciated and continues to fuel the creative process for me that is the offering of my words and experience in this space. Thank you.

A final quote from Brene Brown, that I offer as hopeful inspiration for ALL of us.

People are hard to hate close-up. Move in.

May the long time sun shine upon you…ALL of you.

the promise – the next generation of leaders

I am fortunate, as are many, to have recently watched and celebrated the graduation of a family member from high school or college. This week, I watched, celebrated and started to feel better about our future, as my grandson and his classmates/friends graduated high school. This relatively small group of high school seniors in a small borough in a northeastern state, demonstrated the very qualities that we are in great need of, if our country and our planet are to evolve to our highest collective potential.

The speeches, made by several of the graduating seniors, inspired as well as consoled me. In a time of great divide, hate and negative rhetoric, I was lifted by the diversity of the class, the stories they told in their remarks and the characterization of the class by one of the speakers, as family. Isn’t this what we all wish to see and experience each and every day?

As I have written in this space before, I believe we are all leaders. We are the leaders of our lives. We are responsible for our choices; the actions we take which are informed by our values and beliefs – conscious and unconscious – and we alone have the power to make changes which best serve and support us individually, as we serve and support others.

This group – this generation and the ones coming up behind them – has seen the best and worst of we have to offer. Just look around. And yet, their ability to be inspired by parents and faculty in the context of the ongoing negativity that is pervasive in the world offers great promise that our future is trending in the best direction. These young adults are technically astute and savvy. They have a good sense of what works and what doesn’t; what supports and what doesn’t. They have created and will continue to create a world that is so much better than the one they have inherited.  I feel this is the promise of this generations of leaders of their lives. Their service to others will be grounded in new creations; and new questions that we have not asked and need to. They will – as it is in their nature to not take everything at face value. The questions are so very important.

What can we do to support them? Look around. Work to support them by removing barriers, offering words of encouragement, and standing up rather than shrinking away or shirking responsibility. Each of us has the power to do one small thing every day – every moment – that contributes to the positive momentum that is underway in many places in many ways. As different as we all are, we are here, at this time, for a reason. We chose it. We have the opportunity to facilitate the positive momentum necessary for a better future, a safer and more loving place for all to live and thrive.

To the classes of 2019, who have endured an extra dose of fear injected into their daily experiences from a very young age, you have my deepest respect, my heartfelt apologies for what we handed you and my loving support for your forward momentum. I offer to all graduates and to those who love and support them, the following as a reminder of just how powerful we each are:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. 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, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

 

Congratulations and thank you!

acceptance is a process

“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”

 – Eckhart Tolle

Actually my experience these last few weeks has shown me that acceptance is not only a process, it is often multi-layered. What does that mean, you ask?

Let me start with a major life transition. I am home – or what has felt like home for a few years; and from which I have lived away for the last three years. The details of this transition are interesting at most and boring for some, at worst. So, I will not entertain or bore you with any details. However, in this process, I have cultivated deep listening, objective observation and in the absence of quiet time, enjoyed more than a few podcasts with Eckhart Tolle and Oprah as they replayed the webinar from 2008 on his groundbreaking book, “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose”.

My experiences these last weeks have shown me that the idea of acceptance can be overwhelming at times, regardless of how much practice I have had in the past. I am still human and living a human life at this time on this planet. That alone presents challenges that we may not realize – again –  until we do.

What I accepted yesterday seems, at times to show me another layer of the same thing the very next day. I cannot conjure one example to share with you at this moment. I can only tell you that in this transition, with all of the details, challenges and blessings, I’ve had opportunities to witness my acceptance of self, others and in multiple situations.

What have I realized from all of this?

Acceptance can be a layered process.

Gratitude is the very best way of being. Gratitude for what is (acceptance) can unfold blessings in ways unimagined.

Kindness always rises above being right. Kindness is what we all have the capacity to be.

We attract what we are (i.e. like attracts like).

Nothing happens for nothing. There are blessings, lessons and reminders all around us in each and every day that we wake up and step into life.

Each day its new – if we can open our hearts and minds to greeting each one that way. We have what we need for whatever we may see, face or experience in any moment, any day. Each moment is new; if we can slow down, breathe and allow it to be.

“This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.”

 – Maya Angelou

My hope for all of you is for the renewal that is available in each moment. May the impending Spring unfold new beginnings for us all.

“…old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

 – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Desiderata

This is a favorite. It has been for a very long time. It fell to the back of my memory for a very long time and I was absolutely delighted when it reappeared, triggered by the simple memory of one phrase  – “you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”

My framed print of this has been in storage for nearly three years, and again, I remembered it when considering a verse to write in a book, a gift for a baby, yet to be born.

As I reread it this morning, I was reminded of the beauty and the simple, inherent inspiration of its universal truths. I offer it here as a reminder for us all in this new year of possibility. May we all be grateful.

Namaste

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender

be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others,

even the dull and ignorant;

they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs;

for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals;

and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment

it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,

be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,

and whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1952

gratitude

To live a life of gratitude is to open our eyes to the countless ways we are supported by the world around us.

-Gregg Krech

Seems many have resolutions, words, phrases or commitments for a new year. I shared in my previous post that last year, I held the Zen Proverb of “let go or be dragged.” Yes, I “held” it as an intention. In the process of reminding myself of this intention, many things seemed to change. I can honestly say that 2018 was a lovely year, even thought it had a very rocky start. I had to let go of that, too.

Gratitude is more than an intention for me. It is a way of being, of living, of seeing experiences – mine and others – for what is. “What is” can often be challenging to observe and experience. We are accustomed to jumping in to fix, or clean up whatever is broken, or not going the way we think it should go or be. When we let go, and see what is there (without attachment to specific outcomes), we are free. We are free to see more clearly; free to feel what we feel and free to allow “it” to be as “it is” without judgment, angst or any other action oriented emotion that we may stuff back in, only to stoke more of the same until it becomes toxic.

Sounds easy enough. And it’s not always that easy. I am human and can find myself facing experiences or people, that might trigger something in me (that I wasn’t aware was still there) or I am otherwise vexed by what I observe as their apparent behavior. Both of these can take me away from the essence of myself and keep me from seeing what may be there for me to see or better understand about myself. And, as I am disconnected in those moments, I may not see what is really there in someone’s behavior beyond my own negative feelings. In other words, I may not see with my heart. Compassion would not be the first feeling that arises when I am triggered – not for me and certainly not for the other.

So, how does all of this relate to gratitude? Well, for me it is this way. As I have worked on becoming more of an observer of my life, my experiences – past and present – I see the “what is” as exactly that. It is “what is” right now…in this very moment. There is no need to hang on, become emotionally triggered or jump into the old habits of behavior that many (including me) expected. For all of this, I am grateful. In fact, when I AM triggered or vexed, I am grateful for those moments as they are revealing to me something else that has been “in there” and not yet disinterred for observing and healing.

As humans, we are very powerful. Our thoughts matter; and with our words, our reality unfolds before us. Now that I am clear about the impact of my thoughts, words and actions on my individual experience, I find that observation is even more important. When we slow down to observe; to pause and not react, we find a different response – if any response is necessary at all. That is something for which I am deeply grateful.

Gratitude is being grateful. Gratitude is taking the time to offer a “thank you” to another person or to the Creator (God, Spirit or whatever you call him/her). Gratitude is a celebration. Gratitude is life. Gratitude is love.

“When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”
– Elie Wiesel

The greatest “thank you” we can offer is expressed in one of my favorite quotes from Meister Eckhart.

If the only prayer you said was “thank you”, that would be enough.

 

“a new day” by Loco’s Photos. Thank you, Lori.