and what IS the plan?

What religion a man holds, to what race he belongs, these things are not important; the really important thing is this knowledge: the knowledge of God’s plan for men. For God has a plan, and that plan is evolution.  –

 – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Year ago, I walked away from organized religion. I found its contradictions, admonitions and judgments irreconcilable to the truth I felt deep within and the questions that had been in my heart for most of my life. The time space between walking away and then learning about what living was really all about was fraught with many challenges, as life can always offer us. Meeting my emotions without as much self judgment and fear was an eye opening experience. As more and more perspectives, information and options came into my awareness and experience, I started to create my own patchwork of beliefs. These provided useful and realistic “containers” within which to hold my experiences so that I could truly begin to embrace what I’m really up to in this life of mine.

Along the way, I found many authors, teachers, coaches, healers, to name only a few resources. I’ve read so many books, blogs, quotes, email messages, etc. And like everything else in our human experience, my beliefs and feelings about them continue to evolve.

I found that a lot of my understanding of what I was learning in organized religion seemed dependent upon an experience of passivity in beliefs about our life experiences. “God has a plan,” is what I heard. “Maybe this is a part of God’s plan for you.” As if I am to be the punching bag of life and to relax in the knowing that my “reward” was in “heaven”. When I hear intelligent adults speak these words today, I reflect on how these words used to make me feel. We all experience life through the lens of our beliefs – regardless of what we have heard, learned, read or been exposed to. I’m quite sure there are quite a few walking the planet today who are quite comfortable with allowing life to have its way and surrendering to the idea that “Maybe it’s God’s plan” without giving any additional thought or reflection to the experience, or what may have been underlying it in the first place.

“Controlling people try to control people, and they do the same with God—but loving anything always means a certain giving up of control. You tend to create a God who is just like you—whereas it was supposed to be the other way around.”
Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For and Believe

To be sure, in the early days. I didn’t’t encounter anyone who dared offer another way of looking at life…or another lens through which to look at life experience in order to, at a minimum, consider what was at the core or the cause of the outcome or the experience. In fact, I recall with great clarity a question that I seemed to always ask myself about why certain things happened when I was such a good person –  honest, caring, generous, etc.

It is not easy to release an old belief that really doesn’t work for you. And embracing something that is new and seemingly “out there” is harder still.

Thought is cause, experience is effect. If you don’t like the effects in your life, you have to
change the nature of your thinking.
– Marianne Williamson

And who knew how powerful our thoughts (borne of our beliefs) really are? I certainly didn’t.

It has taken me some time to expand my beliefs and to embrace a bigger knowing about the universal energy that many refer to as God, Spirit, Universe and so on. What doing so has provided is a pathway to peace – within. By embracing what I now know is the intention of my soul in this lifetime, I see past traumas, and joyful moments as very much a part of it all. I know that our intentions, our words and actions, return to us. Love and fear are returned.

“For God has a plan, and that plan is evolution.” We have a choice to be active participants in our evolution, or to be dragged, suffering as more and more of the planet moves on – by releasing the old beliefs, and claiming responsibility for choices – cause and effect.

on creativity and play

While I was still a full time (plus) employee – at any level in the organization that I served – I relied upon ideas which seemed to come to me when I was listening, reading or attempting to figure out how to do something better. Whether it was an employee problem, a business process inefficiency or failure, or an organizational concern, self generation was in play, and I didn’t even know it. Unconscious creativity, maybe? Of course, anything that is self generated needs an opportunity to be evolved through sharing with another who can provide perspective, feedback, additional “meat for the bones”, or to facilitate the abandonment of an idea or thought for reasons which make sense.

When I first encountered the quintessential question about creativity (you know, whether I am or I have “it”); I thought immediately of one of my sisters who is quite a good artist. Whether using pencils or charcoal to sketch, oils or watercolors on canvas, she has created some lovely images. So, of course, my answer to this question was, “No, I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” I had no appreciation for or knowledge of the origin of creativity or the myriad ways in which it is expressed. Today, I see clearly that creativity was very much a part of my being for my entire life, including during those years of busyness.

I have tried quite a few things that fall under my previous definition of creativity, including playing with water colors, colored pencils and doing a bit of art journaling, as a part of an on-line class offered by Brene Brown a few years ago. I had some fun with it and still wish to return to it from time to time. I haven’t quite gotten there yet.

Unused creativity is not benign–it metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgement, sorrow, shame. We are creative beings. We are by nature creative. It gets lost along the way. It gets shamed out of us.

-Brene’ Brown

I have always been (and still am) a very serious person. The idea of play hasn’t ever come easy for me. When my sons were very young, play was fairly easy for a brief time, and then it was back to serious “mom” stuff. To say that I have always taken life seriously, is an understatement. In fact, I have always been someone who felt that the “work” had to be completed before any “fun” could begin. And of course, the “work” never really gets to a place where “finished” can be declared and play can begin. I’ve noticed that my being serious even spills into some of the creative things that await my attention even now. Whether I feel a need to organize (over-organize) before I begin or that perfectionist, still lurking around in my mind, is attempting to steer my efforts, I find that just getting started can be the most challenging step to take at times!

I am grateful to work with a Spiritual Director who listens and asks the deep questions that cause me to stop and really consider what may be going on within. She recently asked me two powerful questions that I continue to observe in myself – my choices; and to reflect on regarding past experiences; and to write answers to in my journal on a fairly regular basis.

  • Where in my life do I need to “lighten up?” 
  • Am I making things harder than I have to? 

Reflecting on these questions, so many different feelings, habits, and other such things are bubbling up for me to see and to consider what shifts are essential in this period of my life. Is it any wonder that play and creativity are present in my mind these days?

“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
Alan Watts

I can conclude from Watts’ words that presence is at the heart of creative play.

As I continue to reflect on my questions and find my way back, again and again, to the creative play that is always waiting for me, I invite you to examine your owns experience. I’ve learned that when something isn’t fun or doesn’t enliven or lighten my heart, it becomes work and should probably be set aside for a time, if not abandoned. And…I know that this…this blog, this writing that all of us who choose to be in this space…is creative.

 

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

—Mary Oliver

 

 

the sacred…

…experience of my depression is on my mind as the season is about to change from Summer to Autumn. The Autumnal Equinox arrives on Monday, September 23, at 3:50 AM, EDT.

This used to be a time of darkness for me. Yes, the days get shorter and I used to find this to be a nearly unbearable experience. It is the season of my birth – my arrival on the planet – and it was not a favorite time in my life for most of my life. When I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, after having been in therapy for most of my adult life, I thought I had found the answer to why I felt as I did – for as long I had. What I realized at some point down the road, as I was told by a psychiatrist I respected, I would have to be medicated for the rest of my life. What was interesting as I reflect on it today, was the voice in my head that said after the pronouncement of life-time medication –  “No, no. I am NOT going there.”

Little did I know that hearing a message inside my head – I believe it was the voice of my soul – would be my path to healing. Having heard that message, I can honestly say that I was not committed on a daily basis to doing anything except simply getting through the day. Did the medications help? I guess you could say that they did. I didn’t commit suicide. I use the term medications (plural) because I was taking more than one at the time. The drugs also took my emotions and made a straight line out of them (no up or down feelings), and took my tears completely away. Straight lines and tears just didn’t exist together in my world. Even in the midst of all of this, I managed my multiple roles quite well.

The Autumns and Winters were very difficult. The short days (of sunlight) and the long days of work were at times a rough slog – as if I were trudging through mud with concrete shoes. Januarys were the hardest. I used to drive to South Carolina in February/March because Spring blooming generally started then. I went for the main purpose of seeing and experience some early Spring as a way of taking in some hope that the long Winter season would be ending soon.

I found my tears again at a four-week residential executive leadership program. They came, unexpectedly, during a plenary session on wellness and the speaker read a quote on mindfulness. It was as if my heart cracked open to all that had been held back, behind an emotional dam for more than five years.

Four years later, I started down the road of weaning myself off of the medications.

Having found Parker J. Palmer, who writes so honestly and eloquently about his experience with his depression, I’ve found deeper healing, appreciation for the gift of depression and a full embrace of my life.

“Depression was, indeed, the hand of a friend trying to press me down to ground on which it was safe to stand—the ground of my own truth, my own nature, with its complex mix of limits and gifts, liabilities and assets, darkness and light.”

 – Parker J. Palmer

Because I have embraced the deeper and darker parts of myself – the ongoing journey into my healing – in a place where the seasons are fully expressed and visible in all of nature, I now look forward to the Autumn and Winter with the shorter days, longer nights and opportunities to go inward and be still. This is my true nature. Time for rest, reflection, meditation, writing, creating – all of these – could not occur in those years of busy “doingness”. That is not to say that serving others – my children as a parent and my co-workers as a partner and leader – were not rewarding or “soulful filling.”  Indeed they were! What was missing was the essential balance of what I truly needed for me, from deep within me. I used to say that I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. I defined creativity so narrowly – reserved for those who painted, played instruments or wrote beautiful words in poetry, prose or song – as if what I did every day wasn’t creative. Today, I know differently, and most importantly, I feel differently about all of it.

I do regard my depression as sacred. Finding myself as close to darkness and an unknowable (at the time) end, I found my way to my light. I am clear today that my out of balance Libra nature contributed significantly to this condition of life. By allowing myself to have the time and space necessary to care for myself – all aspects of my life experience – without concern for what anyone else thought or said about it, I learned to create boundaries. My healing answers were there all of the time in the nature which surrounded me and in which I existed then and now.

“Our inward winters take many forms-failure, betrayal, depression, death. But every one of them, in my experience, yields to the same advice: “The winters will drive you crazy
until you learn to get out into them.” Until we enter boldly into the fears we most want to avoid, those fears will dominate our lives. But when we walk directly into them-protected from frostbite by the warm garb of friendship or inner discipline or spiritual guidance-we can learn what they have to teach us. Then we discover once again that the cycle of the seasons is trustworthy and life-giving, even in the most dismaying season of all.”

– Parker J. Palmer

Welcome Autumn!

 

healing hatred…begin within

I was perusing a book, looking for a meaningful quote for a card for a wedding. On my way to a specific chapter, I found this:

“The source of violence is in our heads. as it would not be appropriate to ignore “just a little” cancer in the body, so it is not appropriate for us to ignore “just a little” violent thinking. A little cancer, unchecked, turns into a monstrous killer. So do small, insidious, seemingly harmless judgmental thought forms become the pervasive cancers that threaten to destroy a society.”

“As the body’s defenses against cancer center around a healthy immune system, our chief defense against violence in America is our own individual efforts to cleanse our minds of violent thinking. Each and everyone one of us tends to be angrier and less tolerant of others than we know in our hearts that we should be. A healthy, civilized society can absorb some anger and dysfunction, as a healthy immune system can absorb some disease. But a massive buildup of anger and mean-spiritedness bombarding our social system day in and day out in millions and millions of individual doses overwhelms our societal defenses.”

“Violence is routed out of the world by being routed out of our minds. Hatred is diseased thinking. Just as a cancer cell was a healthy cell that then transformed, so is hatred, love gone wrong.”  

“Each of us is a cell in the social body.” Whether we are a malignant or a healing force is up to us on a moment by moments basis. With every thought, we decide whether to be a cancer cell or a healthy immune cell, whether to give in to the tendency to place blame on others or to be a vehicle for God’s love and forgiveness. Either we clean up the anger, or the anger will overwhelm us.”

These are excerpts from a book, published in 1994. The author, Marianne Williamson. The title of the book, Illuminata: Thoughts, Prayers and Rites of Passage.

As I continued to read, I couldn’t help but think it had to have been written far more recently. And yet, here we are. The condition addressed here is not limited to the United States.

We are each responsible for our thoughts. We may be outwardly kind, and inwardly angry – judging other and self – and that is where it begins. The metaphor of hatred and cancer is one that makes sense. Cancer is a disease that we are generally familiar with. If you or someone you know and love has or has had cancer, what Marianne says here is relatable and compelling.

Let us all search deeply – our hearts and minds – to find those places of anger, or hurt, so we can begin to find the light within that can indeed transform the hatred into love; can add healing light to the cancer to transform the love gone wrong. The pace at which we seem to move each day, leaves many feeling there is no time for such things. I submit that to not make time to look within – to realize (real-eyes) where we harbor pain, anger, unacknowledged grief –  is to continue to add to the hatred that is boiling over in our country and on the planet. We can participate in our healing – individually and contribute to the collective – or continue live in an unsettled space within while projecting that discomfort and pain onto others. I’m reminded, yet again, of a question posed by an author I was in retreat with years ago (paraphrased); “What hurts you so much that you feel you have to hurt me in order to heal it?”

Make time…to listen; to plumb the depths; to be still, reflect, and feel. This is a journey that must begin in solitude and can continue with assistance from a compassionate listener or health professional. The most important step is the first one.

“Every step taken in mindfulness brings us one step closer to healing ourselves and the planet.”

 – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

To circle back to where I started this post, I did find a quote for the card. I returned to the place I had begun – to love.

Marianne Williamson’s book, Illuminata: Thoughts, Prayers and Rites of Passage is as beautiful a text today as it was when it was published. I refer to it often, and even found a passage I was honored to read at my son’s wedding last year.

cause and effect…and then reaction

Awareness is the greatest agent for change

 – Eckhart Tolle

Another Sunday morning…and more avoidable effects, followed by multiple reactions. Where one sits determines what one sees and no doubt, has impact on what they say, and how they react. The sadness of such senseless loss of life to such senseless violence is hard to take. If you have never lost a loved one to violence, perhaps you observe these events differently. Losing a loved one to violence – gun violence – brings up familiar feelings of loss; questions of what, why, how and when. If you have lost someone to gun violence, your what’s, why’s, how’s and when’s may be similar or different than mine. However, as I see the pain and anguish on the faces adults, themselves parents, siblings, or children and imagine the younger children whose parents are gone, the result of an unexpected and violent end to a necessary shopping trip or a fun night out, I imagine our questions are very much the same.

The fear in our collective is everywhere and is palpable. So much so, that even those who hold elective office or are seeking such a thing find it impossible to speak about what we all know deep inside is painful, horrific and somewhat preventable. Words have power. Surely we know that. There is cause; there is effect. There is reaction…and there is response.

The above quote by Eckhart Tolle was in my email inbox Sunday morning. Reading it and reflecting deeply on awareness in our collective helped me gain perspective on what I am observing rather than getting lost in the overwhelming sadness at the senseless loss of life. I am reminded that our unconscious reactions to events like these follows the effect of the cause. We often do not stop to consider the cause. Are we so busy that we cannot consider that the cause(s) which are the root of these devastating effects are where the true solutions lie; awaiting our opening to a deeper awareness?  Indeed the response we await is there…deep in the wound(s).

Chiron comes to mind to me today as well. “Chiron embodies the spirit of compassion and selfless service that all good physicians must have to master and practice the medical art. Through his supreme sacrifice, willingly given, Chiron gave mankind the art of healing. Chiron’s agonizing wound symbolizes the transformative power of illness and affliction. Through pain and suffering, our personal wounds, both psychic and physical, can transform themselves into sources of great moral and spiritual strength.” (From the website, greekmedicine.net; Greek Mythology: CHIRON: Father of Medical Art.)

So today, I wonder. Do we have the courage to look deeply at the causes, all of them over a long period of time, to heal these wounds? Can we step fully into the process of looking deeply at our own individual wounds, with the intention of healing them? Until and unless we take that first and most important step, we will not be effective at offering healing to the larger collective which has so many simmering wounds that burst forth in so many different ways.

Cause and effect are two sides of one fact.

 – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Cause and effect; reaction rather than response; these are related. If we keep moving, allowing our pain to fester, it will grow. How it will manifest is unknown even to us – within us or in those we observe. Is this the cause of so many violent events, our unhealed pain? Is the manifestation – the violent acts –  the effect? Do we then react in a variety of ways without knowing or considering the true cause in the first place? I believe the answers to all of these questions is a resounding “YES”.  When feelings are ignored, or we talk ourselves out of what we feel, we contribute to the wound(s). When we embrace our feelings, especially the difficult ones, we begin the important process of healing.

I made multiple investments in my healing when I lost a loved one to gun violence. I joined a grief support group; I continued psychotherapy and over the years I deepened my studies of universal truths. I sought various modalities for healing the mind/body and two years later, wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper in the locality where the loss occurred with some of my what’s, why’s, how’s and when’s related to the lack of action following the violent end of this loved one’s life.

Today, I ask that we all pause to consider the wounds we have which are awaiting our awareness. What are you feeling today? Why are you feeling this way? How can you take a first step to dive into the feelings to discover the root cause(s)? When will you give yourself the gift of peace within?

The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.
 – Brene Brown
I wish you peace.
I wish reconciliation for all peoples.
I wish you love.

the power of the spoken word

“Spoken words have power beyond measure.”

 – Debasish Mridha

I have written here, in the past, about the power of words. What returns me to this truth today is the theme which continues to dominate the collective psyche related to the words used by those who hold extremely visible positions of responsibility.

“All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

I believe that Niestzsche (1844-1900) was definitely on to something when these words were spoken or written by him many years ago. The process of writing is necessarily slow, provided it is literally pen or pencil to paper. However, today we have all manner of media and methods to express our latest joys or our latest frustrations; and these are the least of what generally occurs on the various platforms referred to as social media, oxymoronic as the term for that phenomenon is. Being engaged in that arena keeps many people off balance, constantly triggered and more often reacting – either outwardly or inwardly stuffing responses lest they get drawn into the fray. In either case, it is simply not healthy. The impact of these feelings, reactions and responses on our physical bodies is not positive and cannot be minimized.

Nietstzsche’s “paper and something to write with” of yesterday is the social media phenomenon of today. The fingers race across the keyboards of smartphones, notebooks, and computers without passing through any other part of our being.  Our hearts are completely left out of this fast-paced, reactive process when words have been published which diminish or otherwise denigrate another individual or group.

To be completely forthcoming, I offer this. I lived in the district of the representative currently targeted by the President of the US. I spent a lot of time in the City of Baltimore, which I came to love and appreciate for its diversity, culture and location. To see the negative words, which have been spewed numbers of times and directed primarily to minorities, continue unabated, is deeply sad and disturbing. I now live in a city where those divisions spilled into the streets two years ago and were deemed by this President to have “…had some very fine people on both sides.”

I am not going to use this space as a place to jump into the war of words currently ongoing in our national political discourse.

I AM encouraging us all to become mindful of what we say, to whom we say it and how we offer our perspectives or beliefs. We are human. We have feelings. Some of us feel more anger than love. We get to feel our feelings. It is how we express those feelings – especially the painful, angry, fearful ones – that can make a difference in the quality of our lives and most certainly in the lives of those who may be the recipients of our projections. Whether we project our anger (fear) onto those closest to us or to many who are nameless and faceless to us, we are having an impact that will be lasting. Is this how we wish to be remembered – individually or collectively?  Or do we wish to be remembered for loving; offering healing, and supporting those who are most in need?

Although my children are grown and have families of their own, I am mindful of the eyes and hearts of the children watching all of the behavior of the adults who are behaving as they do. Our anger teaches them how to be and what is acceptable behavior. Our loving approach to extremely difficult events and experiences also teaches them what is acceptable…and what feels better.

I am reminded of a post that I read recently that amplifies the point: Sacred Flower . What if we all regarded our relationships this way?

Today, tomorrow and into the week, we will have opportunities to speak. Whether we speak kindly or we choose to use harsh words, we will feel the effects. If not right away, we will feel them.

Pause before you speak. If what is arising within is anger, pause to ask what is hurting within before you hurl those angry words. As we learn to slow down and listen, and to write with pen or pencil rather than surfing the wave of keys with our fingers, we allow ourselves the necessary time to pause and reflect, and most importantly to discern whether speaking is necessary and if so, how might we speak with less vitriol. Remember, what we do to others (that includes angry words) we also do to ourselves.

I leave you with this quote from Henri Nouwen, as a gentle reminder to carry with you as you begin this new week.

Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.

Love and peace to you all.

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.

what would you say?

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Albert Einstein

All of us who read or write seem to have a love of the words of others; especially the words that deeply resonate, that we can feel as we read them. Many bloggers I follow include quotes, as I do, and are likely inspired by those quotes. I know this is true for me and I sense it is true, to some degree, for others.

As I have continued to reflect on the times we are living in and the never-ending challenges of co-existence juxtaposed to the groups of young people whose curiosity and energy for creating new things, new pathways, new ways of seeing old things; I wonder. If someone, anyone, stopped you on the street, asked you for a piece of advice about how to live a life of purpose, peace and freedom, what would you say? It is one of a number of questions that I feel I am in as I continue to observe the world I am living in.

I consider the greatest gift I gave to myself in the last 18 months was going “off the grid” of social media. I didn’t realize how much of my vital life energy was being lost to the many stories, pictures, memes and comments which often triggered me, even if I didn’t respond as I told myself to observe and not react. If I did choose to offer a thoughtful response, by taking the “high road”, my attempts made no difference in the face of so much fear, expressed as amped up anger…or rage.  Our “smart” phones sometimes cause us to lose ourselves. If asked why you are still on or have left social media, what would you say? If you are still engaged with social media, does it feed you? Do you feel you can exist without it?

The questions we ask ourselves are so very important. To do this, we create quiet time and space to read, reflect, write or walk without earbuds, so that the questions can be heard, considered and if necessary, resolved within. This is how we grow and this is one way we facilitate our individual evolution. It is our curiosity, not the knowing that we have in our brains alone, which will help us find our way forward; to open our hearts and minds to possibility, and allows us to use the individual gifts we have in service to others. It’s about the questions.

So, when asked a question for which you have no immediate response, what do you say? Do you listen to an answer from your head so you quickly react, so as not to feel you may be seen as missing the point or perceived as not knowing the answer, or worse, not having an answer? Do you listen to your intuition (your heart/soul) and offer a response that may leave room for the person making the query to find their own answer?

Perhaps, slowing down and listening more and talking less is the best way to find the answers to our most pressing questions…what would you say?

Namaste

Taken with my iPhone during a day of driving a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway a few years ago.

 

 

conscious love or unconscious fear?

One of my favorite quotes – and one which is a guidepost for me – was written by Rumi (with whom I share a birthday, 750 years apart).

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

― Rumi

Most of us might say to ourselves or others, “I don’t have any barriers to love within me!” I’m quite sure I said the same many years ago when I first came upon this quote. However, I am reminded when I hear others making disparaging remarks, e.g., judgments about those who may be different (without knowing anything about them), that fear and hate are deeply unconscious. The words we say and the thoughts we think can seem far louder than any words we speak about our love for someone.

If we are truly honest, we might admit to having spent time and energy at some point judging ourselves harshly and then, no doubt, offering some of those same judgments about others, even if we did not speak them aloud. Do you see what is hidden there? Our self-judgments projected onto others – as unconscious fear.

Being or becoming conscious of love isn’t as easy at it may seem. Children find this easy – as it is their first nature until they are taught otherwise by the experiences of their outer world. Our healing of our second nature or learned habits is essentially what I feel Rumi is speaking of in the quote above. And then, I recently read the quote below by Fr. Richard Rohr and it all came together so beautifully.

The words “conscious love” ring true for me as a definition for our life’s purpose and the goal of all spirituality. When we’re conscious, we will always do the loving thing, the connecting thing, the intimate thing, the communion thing, the aware thing. To do the unloving thing is always to somehow be unconscious at that moment.

-Fr. Richard Rohr

Realizing that we have second nature wounds which comprise the deep well of our fear, anger, judgments and negativity, is an important early step in beginning to remove the barriers to love within us. Doing so is also essential to living an authentic and more peaceful life. And as Fr. Rohr reminds us, it is conscious love which is our life’s purpose. Everything that we are, that we do, that we choose, flows from that place. We are love…because we come from love.

Finally, I am reminded by so much of what I’ve learned on my journey thus far, that the work of uncovering and seeing and feeling deep wounds is not easy. In fact, it takes courage – to start; to stay with it, especially when it becomes harder to do; and to honestly claim that you see and feel lighter as you trudge through yet one more dark night of the soul. Brene Brown has offered so much to us through her extensive research and her stories, as told in all of her books. My favorite is one of her early books, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.  I end this post with a quote from that book, which can serve as an early roadmap to making that all important trip back to our first nature (conscious love) as we heal and release our second nature (unconscious fear).

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough. Authenticity demands Wholehearted living and loving—even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it. Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.”

– Brene Brown

*This is a photo of a drawing by one of my grandsons more than a few years ago.

facing the days

 

I’ve missed being here…writing and sharing quotes, perspectives, thoughts and feelings. It’s been a desert of late. These times can be challenging to navigate when one enjoys writing as much as I do and have in the past. Even my journal had become a drought-ridden area that I simply could not walk through or even attempt to nourish.

There are many reasons for this, as my life these last few months has seen quite a few challenges. Navigating our interior spaces when the challenges outside of us seem to be never-ending can often keep us separated from the best of who we are. I did find myself listening more intently to my higher self, or God, or whatever you call that which is in everything. That alone probably kept me from taking a deep dive into dark places within that I have committed to not return to again. I am human, after all.

More than once during this period, Rumi’s poem, The Guest House, popped into my head. I thought on several occasions to go find it to read and re-familiarize myself with its words and inherent intentions and meaning. I finally did this last evening. Slowly reading through it, I was reminded that indeed, being human can have some challenges; and for some of us, these can come quite regularly at various periods in our lives. I was further reminded that the ways in which we greet these “arrivals”; the choices we make about how to receive and experience them makes the difference…all of the differences. How we feel, how we see other things in the day, the week, others in our lives and many times the places we visit or otherwise inhabit are all affected by who we are and how we feeling within ourselves.

I leave it here for you to read and interpret or intuit its meaning for yourself.

Namaste.

The Guest House

JELALUDDIN RUMI, TRANSLATION BY COLEMAN BARKS

 

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

 

With gratitude to Loco’s Photo’s for her willingness to allow me to include her photos in my blog posts. You can learn more as well as see some of her latest photographs on the Images page on this site.