Dear Readers, I hope this finds you today, in a place of relative calm in a world that feels so out of “order”. The world does feel “out of order”, more or less chaotic at times, and the future is anything but clear. I do feel, however, that out of all of this will grow, albeit slowly, new seeds which are being planted now.
For the last three weeks, I’ve been reading a series written by Fr. Richard Rohr, of the Center for Action and Contemplation, on the topic of “order, disorder, reorder.” There have been several daily writings in that series which have inspired me in deep ways and given me much to contemplate and consider. Today, what he shared resonated in a different way. Perhaps because I am a mother and my sixth grandchild was born earlier this month. What is quite beautiful to me in reflecting upon the entire piece, is that one doesn’t have to have given birth in order to understand the powerful metaphor presented. In fact, the period we are living in at this time, has felt like a period of labor…before a child is born. We are all living in this right now, whether or not we see it through this particular point of view.
Fr. Rohr shared an excerpt from Valerie Kaur’s most recent book, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love. I offer it here for your reflection and discernment, if not clarification of where we all find ourselves in August, 2020.
“The final stage of birthing labor is the most dangerous stage, and the most painful. . . . The medical term is “transition.” Transition feels like dying but it is the stage that precedes the birth of new life. After my labor, I began to think about transition as a metaphor for the most difficult fiery moments in our lives. In all our various creative labors—making a living, raising a family, building a nation—there are moments that are so painful, we want to give up. But inside searing pain and encroaching numbness, we might also find the depths of our courage, hear our deepest wisdom, and transition to the other side. . . .”
The spiritual journey, that road we walk in order to find and heal ourselves, can feel like a long series of “labor pains”, until we transition…we let go…we find our freedom from fear. Does that mean we are finished? We have made it to the top of the mountain and we can live an easier life? No. It’s a bit like caring for our children. The joy that comes when we receive them is challenged by fear when they are hurting and we cannot seem to “fix” it; or when they begin to test the boundaries of rules and safety that we create (or impose) and we grow concerned for them as they enter the big world of unknowns. Yes, the ups and downs there are very similar to the ups and downs we continue to face as we live our best life and walk our spiritual paths.
What changes, then?
The way see, what we see, from a place of love, peace and acceptance within, is different. We develop a different lens through which to view and experience our life’s challenges. The challenges don’t stop coming. The ways we respond – rather than react – do change.
As we live in this period of disorder, I feel the very best we can do is care for ourselves, so that we are well equipped to help others. Not all of us can be out in the world, on the front lines as so many people are. That, by itself doesn’t mean we cannot help another. We do it every day. The words we say or write either help or hurt. The choices we make either support or separate – ourselves or others. It’s all connected, anyway. Chief Seattle’s quote – which I’ve used here before – really gets to the heart of just how much impact everything we do and say affects the collective.
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. – Chief Seattle
The disorder has within it, the seeds of reorder. Truly we are planting them every day.
What we choose today is creating tomorrow.
If you or anyone you know is struggling to come to terms with the chaos we are living in and could use a compassionate “ear with a heart attached”, please have a look at the Compassionate Listening page on this site.
“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.”
― Andre Gide
It may seem odd that I would begin a post with this quote. However, where we are, collectively in this part of our human experience has created an opportunity for us to examine those places within ourselves where we may have ceased to perceive our deception of ourselves. If you believe “the outer reflects the inner” as I do, you may be able to readily see where this is visible outside of us…compelling us to examine our individual self-deceptions.
When we become unmoored, it can be very scary. No longer tethered to something stable, sound or secure, we may feel lost; without an over-structured schedule or life; perhaps even feeling that we lack a guide for what is next or how we will find our way forward. Many are also talking and writing about a new, as yet undefined, normal.
Before the “new normal” begins to unfold, we must each let go of what defined our collective past. What, you wonder, might some of those beliefs, thoughts, habits, and actions might be? We need look no further than the places – no, the people – most affected by the virus and if still healthy, are feeling the rippling impacts the most.
Rather than developing a list of all of the affected groups, segments and the greed that seems to know no bounds, I will simply offer this.
Contemplating the upside down nature of our human collective as well as the blatant disregard for all beings in nature, including Mother Earth, is probably a good place to begin the development of the new normal. Each of us has something that we are currently contributing to the wholeness of our world right now. Perhaps our reflections will lead us to making different choices, or to expand what we are currently offering.
Anything IS possible. It is in our creative imaginations and dreams that possibilities will dawn and we will find our way forward – together.
For now, may we all find comfort in the unmoored time we are in. As challenging as it may be, it is only in this liminal space where we will realize the potential for many new possibilities as we work together to create new ways of being on our now healing Mother Earth.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
― Andre Gide
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.
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.
Recently, I was talking with a very dear and trusted friend and fellow coach about the inherent challenge in learning to hold two seemingly opposite sets of feelings about the same thing, person, situation or experience. Her response immediately provided a broader context for my growing awareness. She said, “It’s the water we swim in, right?” We are not necessarily shown that the “both and” is an ok place to be with anything. In fact, we are taught that the “either or” is the way forward.
After a brief pause, I realized just how profound her response was. Here we are, in this crazy time in our human history, seeking to find a way forward that is peaceful, loving and mutually supportive of all…and holding opposite feelings or perspectives is generally not what we are taught to realize as normal. Somehow we learn that we have to choose one feeling or the other feeling…as if the two, on balance cannot truly co-exist. Perhaps this isn’t as true for you as it has been for me…for my whole life! And perhaps it is also true that our collective reluctance to hear or see those who are different or hold different beliefs than we do may be rooted in this “either or” culture we live in and unconsciously perpetuate.
Full disclosure…my sun sign is Libra and I have a Libra stellium (Sun, Jupiter and Mars) in the 12th house. Yep…a LOT of Libra!! So, my tendency to live the extremes is well entrenched. Throwing the “baby out with the bath water” isn’t an uncommon way to describe the ways I can be extreme in my behavior and choices. Learning to moderate this part of my being – slowing down or completely standing down, when I feel that overwhelming need to move quickly in one direction – has been an interesting process over these years. Many believe that we Librans are balanced by nature. Nope! We are learning balance!
“What is behind your eyes holds more power than what is in front of them.”
– Gary Zukav
What I have found to be true with my habit of believing that I must choose one feeling or perspective over the other is that I begin to tell myself a story about my present situation or growing dilemma. It’s as if I force myself to choose one side of the apparent dilemma and create a story that is supposed to make the choice alright. Except it no longer works for me. I have begun to see and feel the discomfort and outright suffering that I have created for myself all of these years.
“Men are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.”
If none of this is making sense, here is an example.
About a year ago, I relocated back to a place I left in 2016. I left rather quickly after the sale of my home. I had always wished to return and it took more than two years and an evacuation for a hurricane to facilitate my return. I had a home built. It was ready in four months. When I moved in, there were multiple issues which were completely unexpected – one was potentially life threatening. I was so grateful to be back in Virginia and I did NOT like my new home. I tried. I really tried to fall in love with it. It wasn’t happening. For months, I attempted to convince myself that it was fine. After all I was back in the place I wished to live and I further told myself I just needed to get over it. That wasn’t happening either. Late in the afternoon one day last Fall, I admitted out loud – I heard myself say it – that I was so very happy to be back here and the house just wasn’t where I wished to live. In that moment, I realized how the creation of a story had trapped me – in a place within – in which I was miserable. More importantly, I became aware of the reality of choosing one side or the other side of a dilemma (“either or” thinking), over the realization that both can be true and can co-exist (“both and” perspective). Since that moment, I’ve opened my heart and mind to the possibility of moving again as soon as the right place become available or apparent.
A weight was lifted in that moment, too. A weight that I had placed on myself (and was quite good at doing for many, many years) was no longer there…and I lifted it myself!
The water we swim in can be dark and murky or it can be clearer and easier to navigate. As I have said many times, perspective is everything.
“The moment you change your perception, is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body.”
Last year, I posted “upon reflection” on December 28. As we are nearing the end of this year, this decade, reflecting and contemplating, is our most important contribution to the healing and evolution of our species, and our planet. To keep moving, trying to stay ahead of the challenges and difficulties of being who we are, only slows our progression. Continuing to distract ourselves keeps us from facing ourselves. So I am offering this post again, with a slightly new title for 2019. May the new year – with all of the challenges we are facing – bring us into greater alignment with ourselves and our Creator. It is from this place that we will come to accept all that we find unacceptable; love what we have come to feel is unlovable and heal what we may believe cannot be healed.
~ ~ ~
A look in the mirror reveals so very much. We choose to look or not. If our choice is to not look, we miss the opportunity to gaze into our own eyes; to see the light that lies deep within. To look may also reveal our perspective on a deeper darkness that we prefer not to see. Often, we have a look and begin to judge what we see – eyes, wrinkles, imperfect skin, graying hair; all of the things society tells us that isn’t right about us. There is great power in looking – deeply looking – at who we are, beyond the surface which reflects back our self-judgments (grounded in our beliefs). Rather, gazing with gratitude for the beauty of the soul within can bring an appreciation for Life and the miracle of our presence here, now.
As we are nearing the end of another calendar year, many turn to this time as a period of reflection to begin to discern the blessings and lessons of the previous year.
There are many “out there” who are reporting on all of the “good and bad” of the year’s events. And yes, many of those world and national events are definitely worth considering in our reflective moments. Our challenge, and the greatest gift to be realized, is contained in reflecting upon our individual experiences – which may include our perceptions of those events.
Truth is relative, as we each perceive our own truth through the filters of both our beliefs and our many life experiences. Realizing that such filters exist is the beginning step in realizing that others may see the same event very differently. Perhaps more importantly, no one is seeing it rightly or wrongly.
The beautiful images continued in this post show us very different reflections of what is above the water. Some are clear, others somewhat distorted. All have natural light – some brighter, some darker. Isn’t this also true about the many ways in which we and others perceive our life experiences, the many events – beautiful and tragic – that occur in our world every day?
Upon reflection, we see. Upon reflection, we hear. Upon reflection, we discern the lessons and blessings of a day, a week, a month, a year…or a lifetime. Upon reflection, we come to know that truth as discerned by humans is relative. We know from nature that what is real is visible there.
You know all of this. It is intrinsic. You need only find your way back to the truth of who you are as a spiritual being…in this human experience.
How will you choose to create time and space for reflection? Today, tomorrow, every day?
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.
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.
“To listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”
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.
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
– Chief Seattle
This is one of those quotes that so deeply resonates, reading it always makes me pause to have another look at where we are collectively, as seen through my eyes, perspectives and beliefs. We all do it. In fact, we probably need to pause and reflect more often.
Today, this quote reminded me of my experiences of a recent Saturday.
While enjoying my early morning cup of coffee, I remembered the Royal Wedding was being televised here, and early! While watching the ceremony and all that unfolded after the ceremony with the carriage ride, three words seemed to float in and out of my head (and my heart)…Love, Unity, Collaboration. If you saw it for yourself, rather than reading all of the commentary in the days following the event, you saw it through your own eyes, perspectives and beliefs.
Later that evening, I happened upon the Preakness. Watching bits and pieces of it, and reflecting upon races of the past, I started to see something that I hadn’t seen the same way before. Competition. Looking at all of those beautiful animals, no longer running free and trained to run hard and fast, I couldn’t help but look at it all from the widest view possible. Many people are or become wealthy in the horse racing industry. What happens to the horses? At what cost….being first, richer or above it all?
The bookends of that day captivated me.
For your thoughtful consideration, I offer the following.
There are many aspects of our lives on this planet which are replete with competition – in one form or another. Some of it is easy to see. Some of it is not so visible…and yet, it underpins so much of our day-to-day experience. It’s not for me to identify all of the ways we as humans are competitive or to offer my observations about any of it. I’ve brought this here your consideration, reflection and comment, dear readers. We each see the world, our experiences in it and what we observe of others, through our eyes (sometimes our ears), perspectives and beliefs.