one more time…an opportunity to grieve

A good friend of mine said, “You are married to sorrow.” And I looked at him and said, “I am not married to sorrow. I just choose not to look away.”

And I think there is deep beauty in not averting our gaze.

No matter how hard it is, no matter how heartbreaking it can be. It is about presence. It is about bearing witness.

I used to think bearing witness was a passive act. I don’t believe that anymore. I think that when we are present, when we bear witness, when we do not divert our gaze, something is revealed—the very marrow of life. We change. A transformation occurs. Our consciousness shifts.

—Terry Tempest Williams

These extraordinary times are exposing many deeply held fears, while we are ALL grieving the loss of something(s). For far too long, we have looked away from what we feel when we have an experience that makes us uncomfortable. We have lived too fast, and counted on others to do what we might have done – for ourselves or others.

Grief is very much a part of what we are living in these days.

We are losing loved ones or friends.

We are losing a familiar way of life.

We are losing jobs, access to social experiences outside of our homes.

Maybe we are at home with children – of any age.

I could go on with an exhaustive list of what is lost, changing or already gone at this point. You know what you are losing or have lost.

Until and unless we slow down to see and feel our individual losses, we will not be present with the feelings that others in our space may have. We will not really listen with empathy. Whether you are sharing your living space with children or other adults, all are feeling something as we continue to collectively walk down very foggy and uncertain paths; and walking is what we are called to do now. Walk, not run.

I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s new podcast, Unlocking Us. Today she interviewed David Kessler, and expert on grief and protege of the late Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Among the many wonderful and comforting words in their discussion was this quote by David:

“The worst loss is always your loss.”

He offered this in the context of a discussion about comparing your loss to someone else’s loss. There is also deep wisdom in that statement that connects us to ourselves – one more time. If we do not acknowledge what we are losing – and go into the feelings of those losses, we will (1) not authentically be present for our loved ones as they navigate their feelings of loss; and (2) the essential energy for healing and being a part of creating the new future which is out of reach at this moment, will not be available to us.

I’ve written about grief here a few times. If you wish to dive in for more perspective on what you may be grieving – or if you’re not sure you’re grieving – feel free to search on “grief” in this site. I’ve written about grief frequently. It permeates our very existence and holds our greater opportunities for healing and seeing and feeling more clearly, the light within us  – our guide into a new future that we have an opportunity to create.

Finally, here is a link to an 8 minute video narrated by M. Scott Peck – whom some of you may know as the author of The Road Less Traveled. I used to share this video with the teams of executives that I worked with years ago, at the end of our multiple weeks of work together. My VHS copy was used so often and then in storage for three years. It didn’t survive. When I found it online, I was delighted. The Rabbi’s Gift, is a parable that I hope you will find useful.

I send my best wishes to all of you, dear readers. May you be well.

Namaste.

 

prayers and miracles

Dear Readers,

I send you blessings of love, peace, reconciliation, and wakefulness in these ongoing changing and unusual circumstances.

We are all finding different ways to live our waking hours – whether we are working from home or not, caring for children or not, on the front lines of this whole thing in some way or not. The spectrum of where any of us is and how we are being in our daily lives is vast and different.

Many of us seek comfort and refuge within, as we see and experience the heightened anxiety that a pandemic of this type and magnitude creates as we begin to question so much of what we have taken for granted for so long. I’ve been reading and listening to the words of many whose objective and universal perspectives on our human frailties, needs and circumstances offer much to contemplate and consider. I’ll provide a short list of what I have found at the end of this post.

For now, however, I wish to provide a link to a prayer and a perspective on a past song by Bill Withers offered by a fellow blogger in his most recent post, Bodhisattva Prayer for Humanity. You will find Ivon’s post to be thoughtful and comforting.

As we continue to hold hands from a distance and connect our hearts through our shared compassion, we also need to remember how important our individual quiet moments are. These are more important now than perhaps we have realized prior to this period of time.

Prayers – or quiet contemplation or meditation – or whatever resonates for you and connects you to something greater – God, Universe or whatever your name for that vast energy of unconditional love and support, are essential.

Miracles are around us – in our individual lives – every day. We are often too busy to notice them. Slowing down, helps us notice them.

We can still take walks, as we physically distance for the safety of all. Nature awaits our return to it…for peace, answers, prayers, and miracles.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love..

 – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Reading and listening ideas:

Charles Eisenstein (Author of “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible”) podcasts – brief and powerful opportunities for reflection.

Eckhart Tolle

Francis Weller  Francis’s most recent newsletter was beautiful and inspiring – as his words are anytime. Although the newsletter isn’t posted on his website, feel free to sign up for them at his website, or use this: Contact and send me your email address. I will gladly forward it.

Sending blessing of love and peace to all of you.

Namaste

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.

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!

 

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.

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.