clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world


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Pushing through phantom walls of rock

You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you. –
Rainer Maria Rilke

Talk about pushing through what feels like solid rock. On this blustery Saint Patrick’s day, the winds of change are blowing through my soul and I feel like roaring. To all the demons whirling round my head, laughing, jeering, pointing out all the faults, imperfections, and reasons why things are supposedly impossible and cannot be done: I roar, as loudly as I can, FUCK YOU!! (apologies for offending some of my more sensitive readers.) There are simply no other words that seem quite as appropriate at this moment, dear Readers. It takes the strongest energy embodied in those oh-so-american words to send those mocking brutes back from whence they came. Anger, today. It takes anger.

What weapons do you use to fight these guys?

What weapons do you use to fight these guys?

My demons have been more than just brutal, they have been full of guile and subtle trickery. All this winter I have been fighting in the shadowlands of the psyche, sometimes in full armour, sometimes with tatters and bare feet, but I have been fighting. I don’t even know how many days I have wanted to raise the white flag and beg them to stop this cruel and unfair attack. I try to understand why they so wish to destroy me, why won’t they just let me be. It does not matter why, what matters most is simply that I prevail, not them. This is an existential battle of the soul, dear Readers, of epic proportions. The humans embody all their various roles, but the play is one of cosmic proportions.

On the street today, I passed a man whom I have spoken with before. He sells a newspaper, The Voice, that deals with homelessness and its manifestations in Denver. When I asked him how it was going, he shook his head. ‘Don’t ask me that today, man,” he replied. “Today is a terrible day.” Then he went on with his rant for awhile, how it was just one bad news after another. Then he threw down his phone, then his jacket and his papers, and just said, “I am just tired of it. All of it. I can’t do it anymore.” I looked at him, then told him, “I know just how you feel. But the sun is still shining on us. Tomorrow will be a better day, we have to keep believing that.” But he just shook his head. It was an existential moment and I knew exactly how he felt.

When life squeezes you so hard that you feel you don’t have any juice left, that you are as dried up and sour as an old used up lemon that someone forgot to throw in the garbage, what then? How do we make any sense out of any of this senselessness? How can I infuse my life with meaning when I am on my knees from the struggle of existence? Over the weekend I went to a catholic mass on Saturday evening. It was in a beautiful old church where the Holy Mother reigns supreme. There was not a sculpture of Jesus suffering on the cross at the pinnacle of the altar, but a large, beautiful statue of Mother Mary, Queen of Heaven. I am not a catholic, yet I adore the Divine Feminine, which Mary embodies. The priest gave a powerful sermon in his royal purple robe, reminding us that as long as we are living for ‘me and me alone, or me and mine” we are not living in the spirit of Christ. To live in and for Christ means to give of ourselves in the most loving ways we know how, not in words only, but every day from our deepest hearts. He basically called us on our bullshit in a really direct way.

It takes the right weapon to wield inner power.

It takes the right weapon to wield inner power.

Salvation and redemption are not one-time deals. They are not just Christian concepts. The work of saving one’s soul, of redeeming one’s faults and failures and being made new in the sight of God or Creator of the Continuum or the Void or whatever terms you want to put on it, is the work of humanity now. IT is our collective work. If I fall and no one comes to pick me up off the ground, we all stay down. If I see someone hurt and fallen, and I do nothing to help save that person, we all lose. Your salvation is my salvation. We are all in this ride together, aren’t we?

A very real part of this ride is to call people out on their crap, just as the priest did at Saturday’s mass. Someone who meant a lot to me gave me some crap today, and I called them on it. I did become angry because their words hurt me. I let them know it. Just as those who love me will tell me when I have hurt them, so I can know it. We have to know when we are falling short, or else we cannot change and do better. Anger is sometimes the medicine we need, the fire that lights up the psyche so we can pick up the sword and battle anew. I know I am not done fighting my demons, as much as I would like to be. But as long as I stay passively stuck in fear, incapacitated and unable to push through it, they keep winning. Rilke demands of his god, Break in! Come into my stuck place between rock and rock and feel what it is like. Then your transforming will happen to me. Then my grief cry will happen to you. Then we will become one, human and God, united being. And that, I believe, is the whole point.


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The balance of paradox/ paradox of balance

 “To have come through it: to have joyfully survived even the happiness– quietly, completely. First the testings were mute, then verbal. Who could look back unamazed?

No one has been able, since life lasts because no one could. But the infiniteness of the attempts! The new greenness of birch trees is not so new as that which befalls us.

A wood dove coos. And again what you suffered seems, ah, as if yet unlived-through. The bird keeps calling. You are in the middle of the call. Awake and weakened.” –RM Rilke

In the middle of the call– awake and weakened. Rilke wrote those words nearly a century ago, during another age of huge upheaval and tumultuous changes. Here we are in the early 21st century, facing changes so extreme and unprecedented, it is very difficult to find balance or even remember to breathe at moments. Yet so absolutely necessary.

Nearing the vernal equinox here in the northern hemisphere, in the middle of a whirling, spinning soup of change we are. What to do, how to maintain balance in this storm? Virtually crocus_snoweveryone I speak with is experiencing some kind of change, whether minor or major, in their current life. These are tricky waters to negotiate, are they not, dear Readers? I read a phrase that is helping me recently, the idea of a “gyroscopic balance.” Many years ago I had a friend who was at university, studying physics. She showed me a gyroscope, and explained to me the basics of how it works. While it is in motion, it will spin continuously, thus never falling down or losing momentum. An apt metaphor for us humans these days: in constant motion, yet remaining in perfect balance. It doesn’t take much to throw one off balance, though. I am guessing that you are, like I am, getting plenty of practice in learning to recalibrate quickly so that you can become rebalanced again. This game is all about getting back into spinning balance as everything is in constant motion all around you. Every day is a new opportunity to practice.

The paradox of our times is to maintain calm and balance in the midst of every increasing upheaval and whirling change. Some days it seems as if the very ground under our feet is in motion, that literally nothing is stable or can be counted on to remain. Even the earth itself, with its billion-years old rocks and mountains that seem immoveable, is not as permanent as we’d like to believe. Unnerving at times, and downright frightening at others, all this massive impermanence is our current learning curve. After eons of living under the illusion of permanence and stability, humanity stands at a huge, Grand Canyonesque crossroads. What is next? What will we choose? Will we make it though this time intact? Or will our species crash and burn, taking many other species with us, leaving destruction, rubble and desolation behind? Will we miraculously choose to take the high road, the path of salvation for our human race and so many other precious, precarious living creatures? What will our world be like a hundred, five hundred years from now? A postapocalyptic world that no one wants to live in, or a world where humans finally got it together, came together and put an end to war, greed and destruction, to create a world where humans and nature live in harmony; the most amazing renaissance ever created in human history?

Who could look back at these times unamazed– only those who are truly asleep and refuse to be awakened to how our world is burning, crashing and slowly rising from the ashes of the old into something green and new and beautiful. Hope is a verb, after all. Hope is what we keep alive by our actions, words, and intentions. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant they might be: a smile goes a long way in this world, a handshake, an encouraging word. We are all in this mess together, dear Readers. You and I are not separate except in our thoughts. We are doing this, a little more each day. Keep up the good work, keep your chins up, keep looking up! The birds know the score; they fly all around, calling and singing, dancing up there in the sky, to remind us all that flight is possible, levity is imperative, and our eternal connection with our spirit selves is unbreakable. Rest when you need to, breathe deeply, go for walks in nature. Take heart, and courage! The lions of our souls are alive, as well as our angels.


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Reject and Protect

Dear Readers, if you have perhaps been living on a desert island, and are not keeping up with the battle against the insidious and hideous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline proposal, please read the following letter from our heroes at 350.org.  They have, along with their fearless and tireless leader Bill McKibben, been fighting this plan for the past couple of years, and NOW is the final push to protest.

If you can make it, join the protest in Washington DC on April 27th. Please tell everyone you know about it;  the more exposure this gets, the better the chances of killing it, and in turn going a long way towards saving our planet.– Leigh

RejectProtect_LogoSeal

Last Friday, over 2 million comments against Keystone XL were delivered to the State Department, sending a very clear message that opposition to the pipeline remains strong. Now it’s time to prepare our closing argument.

Below is an invitation to an action in Washington DC from the Cowboy Indian Alliance of ranchers, farmers and tribal communities along the pipeline route. The event is called Reject and Protect, and the key day will be April 27th, when we will march with the Alliance from their camp to the White House. It will likely be one of our last chances to send a message to President Obama about Keystone XL.

I can’t imagine a better way to make our closing argument against Keystone XL than standing alongside the pipeline fighters who will be on the front lines should it move forward. Once you’ve read the letter, click here to RSVP to be there on April 27th for Reject and Protect: act.350.org/signup/rejectandprotect/?source=350

On April 22nd, our alliance of pipeline fighters — ranchers, farmers, tribal communities, and their friends — called the Cowboy Indian Alliance will ride into Washington DC for the next, and perhaps final, chapter in the fight against Keystone XL.

On that day, we will set up camp nearby the White House, lighting our fire and burning our sage, and for 5 days, we will bear proud witness to President Obama’s final decision on Keystone XL, reminding him of the threat this tar sands pipeline poses to our climate, land, water and tribal rights. Throughout those 5 days, we will show the power of our communities with events ranging from prayers at Sec. Kerry’s home and an opening ceremony of tribes and ranchers on horseback in front of the White House.

On April 27th, we invite our friends and allies against the pipeline to join us as we conclude our camp and march once more to the White House for our final, unmistakable message to President Obama. Our community of pipeline fighters just sent 2 million comments against the pipeline in just 30 days. We must follow this up with action in the streets on April 27th as we march with tribal leaders and individuals currently living with the risk tar sands to show all the beauty and power we represent. Everyone is needed and everyone is welcome.

With his decision closer than ever, President Obama must know what is truly at stake, and see once more the power of the alliances that have turned Keystone XL into a turning point for our movements, and for our future.

The Cowboy and Indian Alliance brings together tribal communities with ranchers and farmers living along the Keystone XL pipeline proposed route. Farmers and ranchers know the risk first-hand. They work the land every day. Tribes know the risk first-hand. They protect the sacred water, and defend sacred sites of their ancestors every day. They have united out of love and respect for the land and water on which we all depend.

This is not the first time Cowboys and Indians have come together to stop projects that risk our land and water. In the 80s, they came together to protect water and the Black Hills from uranium mining and risky munitions testing. In the American imagination, “cowboys and Indians” are still at odds. However, in reality, opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has brought communities together like few causes in our history. Tribes, farmers and ranchers are all people of the land, who consider it their duty as stewards to conserve the land and protect the water for future generations.

The Alliance asks President Obama a simple question: Is an export pipeline for dirty tar sands worth risking our sacred land and water for the next seven generations?

On June 25, 2013, President Obama said, “Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” Anyone with common sense knows the Keystone XL pipeline would exacerbate the climate crisis: an 830,000 barrel per day pipeline filled with tar sands and chemicals like benzene will make it easier for tar sands companies to dig up and burn more of the world’s dirtiest oil than they could with any other feasible alternative.

Our actions next month will show President Obama that we are living up to his call to “be the change we wish to see,” and that we stand with him to say no to Big Oil. Together we will make a clear promise that if President Obama goes back on his word and approves the Keystone XL pipeline, he will be met with the fiercest resistance from our Alliance and our allies from all walks of life. Bryan Brewer, President of the Oglala Sioux, speaks for us when he says, “We are ready to fight the pipeline, and our horses are ready.”

Please join us this April to tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and protect our land, water, and climate.

-The Cowboy Indian Alliance


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Relics, artifacts and books

A new phenomenon has arrived on street corners here and there in the United States and England. You may have seen small, sometimes cleverly decorated boxes, much like an old-fashioned postbox, with a sign offering “Free Books, take one or leave one.” When I first discovered these in England last summer, I was sincerely charmed. What a gracious, lovely idea, to freely share books among the populace. By now, however, I have realized a darker (more sinister?) side to this free book giveaway.

Are book giveaways as innocent as they seem?

Are book giveaways as innocent as they seem?

Perhaps it is obvious to some of you already, dear Readers, that one probable reason for all these free book giveaways is, there are simply millions of books floating around in the hemisphere, and not enough people reading them. Books are starting to enter the classification of relics, artifacts from a time fast disappearing, when people loved and enjoyed them, carried them around, re-read them, passed them on to family and friends.

The age of technology has its merits and its drawbacks. In an extraordinarily short span of human time, computers have entrenched themselves in our collective psyche like a virus infecting a body, deeply and somehow irreversibly. The powers-that-make-technology in our world are working hard to make sure that everyone alive is signed up on the plan. That means every man, woman and child, no matter how young or old, is to be inextricably hooked into the beast of technology forever more. They are pushing to make sure babies are weaned from the breast to the computer screen, that no hand goes without a computerized phone-internet-camera-toaster-oven-what-have-you device, and the list just goes on ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

The death of bound books is nearly inevitable in our lifetimes, I lament. Not only is it a sad commentary on the state of our society, but just a sad thought altogether. When all the written words are available only on virtual screens or in your eyeglasses or whatever, how will that affect us as a people; our thinking, our motor skills, our ideas about life? The implications are truly enormous if one ponders them. What will become of libraries, our esteemed repository of the worlds’ wisdom, literature and knowledge? What will become of us?

The digital age we find ourselves in today has vast implications for our world. One of the most maddening is the inevitable loss of sensory perception and basic motor skills. Young children who most need to develop these skills as their bodies are growing and changing the most are at risk of not learning them, and that affects their brain development and basically their whole physiognomy. Using a keyboard or touch screen does not do the same job for developing bodies and minds as making sure a child can pick up a pencil or scissors and use them effectively. I shudder to think of how tomorrow’s children will manage in the physical world of which they are still a part. What will humans do when they have lost the ability to use their hands, their fingers, their bodies?

Will children in the future still know how to read bound books?

Will children in the future still know how to read bound books?

The world is changing so fast right now, society itself is spinning ever faster on its axis. I am watching it happen, even as I am turning into a relic of the past, along with bound books and dead philosophers. I admit that I do not wish to live in a world without books, sensory stimulus, physicality. I was born into physicality and I will remain within it for the rest of this lifetime. Probably I sound hideously old-fashioned, like those parents who frowned disapprovingly upon early rock and roll music and its proponents. And yet. This new technology age is profoundly disturbing. It seems we have been sold a bill of goods, yet what have we really purchased– if not the death of our souls?


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A sense of entitlement in an age of need

(Note: Dear Readers, as I looked for an image or quote for this post, I found out that the word ‘entitlement” is fraught with conservative political opinions that I admittedly do NOT share.  Therefore, this post has been a mini education in itself!  please feel free to share your opinions with me, and apologies if this word gave you a different impression than what I meant to say.–Leigh)

When I was young, in the 1960′s and 70′s, my family, and those of my friends and schoolmates, were solidly middle-class Americans. This meant that nobody in my little world ever experienced poverty, homelessness, or lack of necessities. Ever. As a child and adolescent, I was sheltered from knowledge of such things by my loving parents, who thought they were doing the right thing by protecting me from the sad truths of this world. They themselves, along with most of their generation, had grown up during the Depression and experienced Life Without. Being the good, kind and loving people they were, they (being my dad) worked hard every day of his life to provide plenty of the Good Life for his family, and he succeeded. We had Plenty of Everything.

It was therefore mysterious, and disturbing, to my family that as soon as I could possibly manage it, I left home and plunged myself into poverty. I won’t bore you with the long details of my life, dear Readers, but suffice to say, I have never been as well off as an adult as I was as a child. It was as though I somehow, unconsciously, understood that I had been entitled to good education and a clean, orderly and financially stable life without ever knowing why or having a clue as to how lucky I was.

After plunging myself willingly into poverty at the age of seventeen, I began to learn about the other side of life on planet earth. The hard way. Over the course of the next thirty years, I received a fairly comprehensive education about the school of hard knocks, and what life is like when one is not living under the illusion of entitlement.

Now it is 2014, and I find myself living again in Denver, Colorado, ironically enough. Fortunately I am not in the suburbs where I grew up, but in the heart of the city. I have written about what it is like to be here and the people whom I meet and see each day. Obviously, there are many classes of people living in this metropolis of nearly three million, from the richest to the very poorest. My current part-time work is as a reading tutor for some kids at an inner city school. Today I attended a meeting at this school, where the principal and his colleagues spoke about what it is like to teach there. 60% of the students are “English language learners,” meaning that English is their second language and more likely than not, not spoken much at home. This school contains mostly working class families, and many are at or below the poverty line. Through the meeting, I found out that the single biggest challenge the teachers face is concerning parental involvement in their children’s education. As the principal said, many of the parents themselves had a hard time in school, didn’t like it, didn’t do well, perhaps did not finish their education, and they pass those values (or lack thereof) onto their children.

What is a sense of entitlement, and where does it come from? Many of you might have quick, short answers to these questions, and to some degree, you would be correct. And yet. What are we humans really entitled to in this world? Is it having a basic human right to something, like clean air to breathe, clean water to drink? Or does it go deeper, into our constitutional rights to free speech, to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness? Or does it have more to do with fundamental rights to a good education, a clean and warm home, loving family and friends, healthy and plentiful food to eat, etc?

Or does entitlement have more to do with the idea of not having to work or struggle for what you receive in life, in having things handed to you simply because you are alive and born into a particular family or societal strata, and think that you deserve and have the right to all of it and way more? Perhaps in the way of landed families of old, that the younger generations inherited the wealth and land from their forefathers from antiquity, giving hardly a thought to the poor who had no inheritance, who simply had the privilege of being able to work on the lord’s land, and had nothing in the end to show or pass onto their own children.

Tonight I am simply pondering these questions, dear Readers. My idealistic self would like to change the structure of society towards a more equitable direction, so that it is not only the rich white kids in the suburbs (or the private and charter schools) who receive the best education, but somehow create a society that everyone can thrive in, become truly educated and contribute their gifts to the whole. Where the concept of entitlement becomes something for all people, involving health on all levels, both personally and socially. Dear intelligent friends and readers, your thoughts please!

Related articles
http://privilegeofparenting.com/2009/11/25/the-secret-pain-of-the-entitled-child/


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Attempting to keep calm and carry on

Dear Readers, as the sun shines so extremely brightly today in Denver, reflecting upon the white, frozen snow and ice everywhere, I feel I can hardly stand all the energies that are pounding us puny humans right now. Weird happenings are popping up all over, including school alarms and closings due to strange chemical leaks and possible bursting pipes the past two days at both schools I was to work at in the afternoons. Accidents, the possibility for accidents, and just all around INTENSITY is the order of the day and night. Plus, the temperatures here have broken records for cold on this date: Not so hideously frigid as the midwest has been this winter, granted, but still miserable enough for this body to try to grapple with. I despise extremes, and with extremes becoming the norm, there is not much one can do except to work on the ‘Accepting What Is’ theory of life. Sigh.

It feels like the rubber band of polarity is becoming stretched to the point of soon breaking completely. What will happen when it does, is anyone’s guess. One thing it clear to me, there is no such thing as ‘business as usual’ anymore. The past couple of days have been rough. Yesterday I spent two hours traveling by buses to the farthest outpost of civilization (well, sort of), at a big school for my after-school art class, only to be greeted by a police officer who was reluctant to allow me to enter, as a chemical leak of some kind or other had closed down school and all activities for the day. There I was, in the middle of nowhere, in freezing cold temps, with no choice but to turn around and wait for another bus to bring me back to central Denver. No phone, (because I have no funds to sign up for the plan yet) no car of course, and I really felt helpless. What the hell (that has frozen over) is going on here, I asked God. What am I doing here and why? The futility of the situation was ready to overwhelm me. Then, mercifully, the site coordinator for the after-school program drove up in her warm car, and offered to take me home, miles out of her way. The moment of Grace arrived once again.

Knowing that I am not the only one having a hard time is cold comfort, however. I am trying to find the humor in all of this, or the irony, or basically ANYTHING redeeming in it, but am not having much luck. My mind wanders, as bits of all sorts of strange thoughts, memories, song snippets, lines of poetry, overheard conversations and all manner of detritus float through it. At moments I feel as if I am in a waking dream, unable to fully focus or grasp what is really happening here, on Earth. It becomes surreal, unreal, with only the biting cold or empty purse to remind me that oh, yes, I am still embodied, I am a human in a physical body, and it is not pleasant right about now!!

I read positive words galore: rejoice Humans!! You are doing great, you are magnificent beings, doing great work on behalf of us, your spiritual counterparts. I read lots of stuff by other humans, who sound so wise and positive and upbeat, like nothing unusual is going on, like everything is hunky-dory.

But it sounds hollow to me, not quite real. If ever there was an unusual time to be alive, this has got to be it, wouldn’t you agree? England is drowning in floods, California is dry as the driest of bones, snow in Cairo a few months ago– and weather extremes are only the most obvious signs of significant changes for us humans.

Keep-Calm-and-Carry-OnThe collective energies are imploring us to “keep calm and carry on,” as evidenced by this slogan, from WWII England era, now revived and popping up everywhere. It is an apt reminder for us all. In moments of near despair, I find myself torn between wanting to stay under the covers all day, and being down on my knees in prayer. The prayers often do not even have words, though. Because what is going on is so huge, so beyond anything we have experience with in recent memory, that it is more like a state of profound awe. These words from Aisha North’s blog seem to sum it up for me right about now:

“By and by, you will find yourself becoming very new indeed, but still, it may not even feel like that to you. At least, not superficially, for as all of those brand new parts of you start to kick in, your focus will automatically shift, and you will switch seamlessly into your very new way of BEing. Those deepest and most profound transformations that you go through may not be perceived as such, for they are so profound, you will lose any contact with that old version of you, and looking back, it will be like looking back on someone else’s life altogether. Or it will be like looking at a piece of fiction if you will, a play acted out by actors, each one performing their designated part in what has been titled “your life.” And this is in fact exactly what has taken place up until now, for what you have lived through, has all been designed to give you the opportunity to be exactly where you are at this exact point in time and so, as you are reading these lines, we can only congratulate you all on a job very well done indeed.” – Aisha North, Manuscript of survival part 394


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Heart wide open and vulnerable

Do any of you feel like you are on a roller-coaster emotional ride these days, Dear Readers? I know I certainly do. One day, one moment up, or at least holding steady, then the next– bam, slam, and down again. Awake again at 4 am, I finally decided to get up and at least make an attempt at something other than sleeping. The buzzing from an old fluorescent light in the kitchen kept me company until there was a horrendous crash, bringing the framed picture on the wall over said light, down into the kitchen sink below in pieces. Weird, right? Until some moments later, our landlord-upstairs neighbor and friend Bob knocked on the door, asking if we could hear a strange buzzing noise. This was just after 5 am. Sheepishly I mumbled, ‘oh, yeah it is the old kitchen light I have on, couldn’t sleep, so sorry,’ and quickly turning it off again, proceeded to sit in the darkness with only the computer screen for company. Not the best way to begin a new day.

Today was a whirl of emotional states, mostly on the low end of life’s spectrum. I watched myself go through grief, anger, overwhelm, confusion, blahness, and other such things. By the aftLove-quote-elephantjournalernoon I was so tired of myself that I walked over to the part of town where others are also experiencing similarities, known as Colfax Avenue. At least there I could see that I am far from alone in my suffering. First I went to the women’s place, which is a large three story building containing kind-hearted volunteers and helpful women who are helping other women who aren’t having such great lives at the moment. There I received information about all the various services and resources available to me, made a couple of appointments for next week, and left feeling slightly better. From there, I walked a couple of blocks down to Urban Ministries, which is a truly wonderful place. They offer help for the homeless and basically anyone who needs some humanity, in the form of a food pantry, legal aid, help with obtaining ID and birth certificates, job information, computers, the use of telephones and one’s own voice mail box, and access to other resources a person who is down on their luck might need. Today I was there to see about using their food pantry, seeing as ours was a bit empty, as well as my purse. An hour later, I had been given not only an amazing and healthy array of all kinds of wonderful food (thanks to the local Whole Foods market who gives their nearly out-of-dates and perishables to them each week), but also a very kind and friendly young woman was there to listen to my rant and my rage today. I entered nearly in tears, and left with profuse blessings on my lips.

The past weekend I attended a Kadampa Buddhist meditation and talk. The leader spoke about anger, and its cousin, aversion. She said that whenever we have the impulse of No, I don’t want this, and want to push it away, that is a form of anger which has not yet manifested outside of ourselves. As always in Buddhism, the invitation is to look at whatever it is that comes up in the soul, or the mind, acknowledge it, and then simply let it go. Simply let go. Of course, this is the tricky part. Today as I spoke with the young intake worker at Urban Ministries, I realized a kind of vehemence in my words. I had thought I was simply discouraged, sad and frustrated, yet my words once out of my mouth, told me how very angry I am, how helpless I feel. There is so much need in the world now, so many hurt humans walking around not having a clue what to do, where to go, how to fix themselves or anyone else. We are a broken people. Yet, if we ourselves are okay enough, getting by alright, managing our lives even barely well enough, then it becomes easy to simply forget our less fortunate brothers and sisters on the street. What I am finding out now, living in Denver, is that there are many people who are in need. And there are many people who are doing what they can to help. There are hundreds of charity organizations in the greater Denver metro area, working at every level to raise up our brokenness, to offer help, both material and emotional, to the youngest, the oldest, and everyone in-between.

As I walk through the streets on these mostly sunny January days, I see myself reflected back in all the faces– on the bus, in line at the grocery store, everywhere I look I see the human condition. They are me and I am them– we are all part of a great organism, we are each important to the whole. If the man on the street is without a home, money, and self-respect, then a part of me is also. Conversely, it must also be true that the ones who are extraordinarily blessed with wealth, beauty, and every material object their heart desires, also dwell within me somewhere. Inexplicably, it is much more difficult for me to experience them inside of me than the ones who are hurting. Obviously I still have much more soul work to do.

My heart is wide open and vulnerable now, more than ever before. Perhaps this is why I have days like today, where I so profoundly feel the pain of the world within my own personal anguish. Yet I would rather it be this way, than to have a closed heart and mind, unable to empathize or be compassionate. There is nothing else to do: once one’s mind and heart are awakened, there is no going back.


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The thin rope between emotional states

Balancing between the old life and the new is big work, dear Readers. I don’t know how many of you are feeling somewhat the same, but if you are, I have total empathy for you. There are several things I could choose to write about this evening, as my life now is full of so many impressions and thoughts and ideas within the course of a day. But tonight I find myself wavering yet again, even as I am walking along that dangerously thin rope bridge which hangs so high above the vast, bottomless abyss of the unknown below me.

Denmark pulls at my heartstrings again tonight, calling me to remember moments there when I was happy, when Danish was in my ears, all around me, and even though it nearly constantly frustrated me with its difficult intonation and impossible pronunciation, I grew to love it in some strange sort of love-hate-love relationship. Three years and more of living in any foreign country has got to rub off on a person, after all, and those Danes got under my skin in a particularly fond way, I admit. I miss my friends there, and the kids that I taught at the little school. Of course you all know that I miss that man who remains there,even as I am now thousands of miles away on another continent. The other night I wrote that I was ‘way beyond self-help books by now,’ — well, I guess that was not entirely the truth.

What I meant by saying that is, that reading books and hearing phrases and even listening to others telling the ways to overcome one’s neuroses and issues and stuckness is all well and good, but until I take the words and make them my own reality and truth, they remain just nice words on the page.

walking_alone_by_pix_cel-d4pky45In other words, I can tell myself that Today is a New Day! Be in the present moment, don’t live in the past or the future. Be mindful. Remember to breathe. Let go of the past. Focus on what I want now for my life. Go beyond the little me, embrace the Divine Me! And so on and so forth, til the cows come home. But. What I am learning, every single day, in a hundred small ways, and a few big ones, is that I simply HAVE to honor where I am at NOW: in Each Moment of my life. Some moments I am really so fine, smiling, embracing the divine me, walking along, even singing a tune for no particular reason other than I feel glad. And then, at other moments, some trigger will get tripped, and the next thing I know, I am in pieces again. This is not the same as wallowing in self-pity for long periods of time, or anything like that. Perhaps I am finally comprehending the Buddhist exhortation to simply Be what you are Now. Whatever that is. If you feel angry, Be the anger. If you feel sad, Be the sadness. Don’t push away the emotions as they rise up, instead allow them to come, feel them completely, and then let them dissipate again. I am finding that this is the most useful method for dealing with all these emotional states I find myself in. Those old masters definitely knew their stuff.

Recently I read a highly enjoyable and wise novel, called The Humans, by Matt Haig. It is the story of a being from a faraway planet, which is based purely on mathematics and logic, who comes to Earth to fulfill a certain mission. This book is screamingly funny, and also poignant and very, well, human. Haig is a master at showing ourselves our human frailties and absurdities. One thing that has stuck with me from it, is that he (the otherworldly being) makes the observation that on Earth, everything is apparently a Test of one kind or another. The being cannot go anywhere or do anything or meet anyone, without being tested in some strange way. I really am in agreement with him about this. In some very real ways, Life on Earth truly is a whole series of tests and quizzes, designed to see if a person can jump through enough hoops and perform enough tricks well enough to ‘pass’ and so go on to the next level. Kind of like one of those computer games that are so popular, where the player must go through all sorts of dangers and enemies, in order to proceed to the next level. Trouble is, we really have no idea what actually exists on the next level, although it is a good bet there will be more of the same, only even trickier, once we get there.What a tiring game this thing called human existence is, all too often.

I watched a fascinating Youtube video the other night, by a man named Matt Kahn. Regardless of what you might think of him, he certainly made some salient points about human nature and the reason for being alive. At one point, he told the audience, so calmly and clearly, that our lives are really all about learning How To Live. That we actually do not really know how to live, and so we are here to learn how to do it. I have pondered this statement, and I agree with him. Our overall mission here is to learn How to Live as a human being. After so many lifetimes, you would think that we would have figured it out by now. But no. For I believe that if we had, life would not be nearly so difficult. Or confusing. Or painful. Or would it?

Related:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kSnt5n4ADw  (the Divine Plan by Matt Kahn, worth watching!)


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Turning despair into amazement

“But there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears. And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears. Get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.” –Mumford and Sons

These days, the dinner hour is the cruelest time of day. On the fortunate days when I happen to be with others (read my sweet family members), then preparing, serving and eating dinner is alright, it is really fine. But on those other days when I find myself alone and faced with cooking and eating dinner with only me for company, that is when those lonesome blues sneak around, filling the cracks and crevices of my soul with an unshakable melancholy. After years of cooking dinner for two each evening, and then sitting down to feast after feast, served with candlelight and wine, my new habit of cooking and eating alone, sometimes with a book and othertimes just me and the plate, is the nightly reminder of my newly acquired single status. Quite frankly, I do not enjoy it.

Just in the past couple of days, I have begun to feel a little hopeful again. After plummeting to the very depths during the twelve holy nights of Christmas, this week brings me some glimmerings of possibilities, of a future that could be filled with meaning, where I am living for a larger purpose and making a positive difference in others’ lives. I can nearly see this future me, happily busy at the work of creating good here in the place I find myself now. Perhaps there is hope for me yet, a small voice quietly tells me, where I can serve others in positive ways, where my voice and my actions will actually improve lives and consequently the world. Where I matter. Where I help a suffering humanity in the ways that I can, that I invent and am inspired to create. A future where self-centeredness gives way to working for the Greater Good. Where I can finally realize my long-held dreams of doing something for the world.

Mary Oliver once wrote that when death comes, she wants to be able to say that all her life she was a bride married to amazement. I think she always knew that she had it in her to do amazing, incredible things with her life, and so she went ahead and did them, through poetry and teaching and observing life and nature. For me, she embodies a life well lived, a beautiful marriage of giving oneself to the world and at the same time, making sure she always had enough time for herself, for solitude and contemplation. She has had the great fortune of a grace-filled life. She can rest in the knowledge that through her efforts, she has touched and inspired millions of people across the world. In my own humble way, I would love to be able to say, at the end of my life, that I too have been a bride married to amazement. That I too did something artistic and wonderful and giving which made a difference to others’ lives. That people grew for having known me, that they found a creative part of themselves which they hadn’t quite been able to access before. That knowing me inspired them in some way, and made their lives richer than it would have otherwise been. I don’t think this is purely an ego-desire on my part, but rather a sincere desire to share my gifts, to fulfill the purpose I was born to fulfill. I have spent the vast majority of my life not having much of a clue of what I was put on this earth to do. Finally, at mid-life, past my prime, my physical self going to the other side of that hill we all must eventually descend, I am beginning to see, starting to know why I am here, and what it is that I wish to do with my remaining time.

It is not difficult to waste one’s life on trivialities and petty dramas. People do it all the time. We humans are masters of making mountains out of molehills, and conversely, denying and covering up our actual pain and suffering so that we don’t have to deal with them. We are all grappling with being in these human forms, and the difficulties of embodiment on earth at this time. We are all aware of the consequences of this life: addictions, violence, separation, depression, suicide, dissolution, despair, desperation. What can we do, how can we deal with our anxieties and fears?

life-quotes-inspirational-life-quotes-appreciate-life

Everybody has a story to tell here. The biggest favor we can do for each other is to listen to another tell their story. Not with judgment or condemnation, but simply for the fact that they will heal by telling it, eventually. Many of us love to read stories, whether fiction or factual matters not. We love certain characters in a novel, play or movie because he seems all too familiar, because we see ourselves in her. My story is a little bit yours too. Okay, now I don’t feel quite so alone out here on the high seas of life. Your story has given me a lifeline, something I can hold onto, a way to help me get back to shore. When I am feeling low and alone, and like no one else in the universe cares or remembers that I exist, when eating alone the tenth night in a row is making me feel completely miserable, or when the demons come in the middle of night and attack me with their punishing thoughts, what can I do? Give in, lay down in a puddle on the floor and want to end it all? No. I will not give into fear and thoughts of hopelessness. Somehow I must find strength within myself to climb out of the hole, to hold on until the morning, to find hope that I will again one day be cooking for two or twenty. Because I am not only doing this work for myself, but for every other lonely and afraid human out there also. My struggle, my battle with the darkness of my soul is everyone’s battle. The single most important work that any of us can do now, is to embrace the love and light within ourselves, while acknowledging the darkness and pain there too, and work to find all the ways, big and small, to shine it upon the world. Every single day.

By now, I am way beyond self-help books and pep talks (even though I sometimes still read and listen to them.) Life is about more than that, and is much, much more complex. Good advice is all well and good, but the times are calling for something far deeper and greater. Our world needs compassion like never before. It can be the smallest gesture, a smile or a friendly greeting to another human as we walk down the street. It can also be simply noticing others, from people to the birds in the tree above your head. Every gesture counts. Every thought also.

I am working on marrying amazement now. When I learn how to truly love what is in my own heart, it will automatically free me to love everyone and everything else which appears to be outside of me. The illusion is that there is any separation. I love you.


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The only difference between them and me

Happy New year! Wherever in the wide world you may be right now, I give you wishes of a peaceful, joyful new year.

To my faithful blogger friends who gave me encouraging comments on my last blog entry, I thank you all for your kind, healing words and thoughts. I truly appreciate you all, the fact that you continue to read my words, erratic as they appear these days, and that you all care about me and my welfare. I love you all, and feel much gratitude for your support. You help me to have a reason to continue writing here.

Starting over is not so easy, is it? Although I have started over so very many times during this life, each time seems an extraordinarily lot of work. Now is no exception, here in Denver. Walking around the streets of Capitol Hill and up to Colfax Avenue (Denver’s longest and most famous street), it is easy to blend into anonymity among the various folk walking or hanging around. Here are street people, ones down on their luck for the moment or for a long time, ones who are downtrodden, the users and abusers of various substances that offer slight relief from the relentlessness of their position in society. Here too are smart kids, young working class, guys promoting gay rights through the ACLU, panhandlers, day workers in front of the temporary work office. I see the whole spectrum of Denver society walking or driving past me as I walk, somewhat dreamily, in the afternoon sunshine.

seeking-human-kindnessEventually I enter a bright, friendly lunch shop, called SAME cafe. What makes this place unique is that it is not only a cafe that serves delicious, healthy food in a clean, nice atmosphere, but it is also a non-profit organization dedicated to the idea that All People May Eat, regardless of how much cash they might have in their wallet or not. The sign at the counter simply says, “Pay what you can or what you feel the meal was worth,” and if you don’t have any money, then you may work for an hour in exchange for the meal. Brilliant idea, I’d say! The owners, a sweet youngish couple, have decided to take the idea of a soup kitchen to a whole new and more community-oriented level. I order the soup, a delicious cream of cauliflower, with fresh green salad and am offered a shortbread cookie, fresh baked in the morning. I stuff my donation into the donation box, as there is no cash register. After lunch, I speak with a sweet-faced young woman named Sarah, who is glad to tell me more about how their cafe works and sign me up for my first volunteer shift next week. I leave feeling glad, and full of good food and friendship.

During the past 18 years since I last lived in this city, Denver has grown more graceful, more exuberant, more livable and way more green than it used to be. Technology based businesses have moved here, bringing new energy, money, and a kind of progressiveness with them which has vastly contributed to a more lively and interesting town than the one I remember when I was growing up here.

And humane: the Denver area is home to hundreds of non-profit and charity-based organizations. Yes there is still poverty and an underserved population here, particularly among Hispanics and Black community members. But. There are many more ways to help urban folk who need it than ever before.

homeless-studentIt struck me as I picked my way across icy patches of pavement on the way home, of what a fine line there is between me and the street folk now. Maybe it was always like that, I suppose in reality it was. I am in such a transition phase of life: no home to call my own, hardly any possessions, extraordinarily little monetary resources. Without the support of my own lovely children, I am in a frighteningly tenuous situation indeed. Indeed in today’s precarious society, nearly everyone except the very wealthy could soon find themselves in a similar boat as concerning material reality, and many have experienced great losses of home, nest egg and health options in these past years. There simply is no more place in western society for the old adage ‘us and them.’ Not that there ever really was, but it was a stubborn illusion for most of the past several eons of time. When I was a young person walking around Denver, I held to the illusion that I was somehow different than the people I would pass on the street, the ones who seemed unkempt and unsavory, unstable and unappealing. In my youthful egoistic vigour, I had little empathy for or understanding of ‘those type of people,’ and in fact I remember being distinctly afraid of them, hailing as I did from the middle class, mostly white suburbs outside of Denver. Now, many years and miles of road later, I no longer fear or loathe the less fortunate humans when I pass them on the street. Now I understand that the only difference between them and me, is that I am awake to the fact that we are all One Humanity with a zillion faces and aspects, while most of them are still asleep to this simple and profound fact. Remember the quote, ‘we are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars?’ I spend a lot of time looking at the stars, including our beautiful sun, these days.

It makes all the difference.

Heartbreak and loss are a powerful medicine for the soul. We all know this. Yet it isn’t until one is forced out of one’s comfortable life, and thrown back upon herself in a new way, that one is able to see life’s troubles in an ever-more compassionate way. Life has had its way with me, as I wrote previously. Just as it has with all the people on the streets. There is no judgment, no feeling of justice, of vindication, of receiving some kind of just desserts, none of that. I wish I could go around and sprinkle some kind of magic dust on people to help them see their own true worth and dignity, to help them clean the grime off so they could even want to look at themselves in the mirror, let alone to be able to like who they see reflected back. Self Love is the key to it all. Such simple words, yet so very difficult to reach for so many.

In this new year of 2014, I personally vow to continue to work on letting go, on ever more profound levels, of guilt and shame and self-loathing. Every time that someone close to me says something hurtful to me, accuses me of being less than a stellar human being, reminds me of some lousy thing I did or said or didn’t say in the past, my practice this year is to breathe it in, remembering who I AM, forgive them and myself for the past, and breathe it OUT again, transformed, raised to a higher level. Old, third dimensional, low vibrational ways of being are NOT the way of our new world, we all know this who are reading now. And yet. I see every single day just how easy it is to allow the collective density of these lower levels throw me off, to spiral me down into the mired depths again, at the speed of a few thoughtless words thrown my way. Mastery of the new energies of Light and Love and Joy is daily practice, moment by moment. Again and again, coming back to center. Breathing. Remembering. Trusting.

related articles
http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/oct/06/tent-city-planned-in-fancy-portland-neighborhood/all/?print

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