clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world


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The Cruelest Holiday

There is a waning crescent moon outside my window tonight, reminding me that there is still a sliver of light within even the darkest night. Tonight is the eve of the rather ubiquitous Valentine’s day, a holiday that, more than any other which falls within the calendar year, serves to remind one of the folly and pain of love for those who are not currently in a hot relationship or happy with their partner.

Working inside my local and very mainstream American grocery store today, everywhere was decorated with products emblazoned with pink and red, while roses, chocolate covered strawberries, hearts, flowers, and every other kind of kitch imaginable to sell shoppers this holiday of love is on offer. Ugh. The whole thing made me want to run screaming away (as I do so often while working, but especially so today.) Another marketing extravaganza for the great American consumer society to lap up. And lap they do. In the cheese shop section of the store where I work, many slices of creamy, sexy (?) brie cheese were bought by couples, as well as many other delicacies for their lovemaking weekend of bliss. Now, before you, dear Readers, think I am just an old sourpuss for not thinking it is sweet or fun, please know that I understand all too well just how sensual and wonderous food and wine can be, especially in concert with other kinds of sex and romance on just such an occasion. Back to my original point, which is the pain and folly of romantic love for some of us humans walking around the planet this weekend.

For the handful of you who read this blog, a few may remember that when I started writing, I was living with my Danish love in the country of Denmark, a bit lonely for my homeland and friends, but in love nevertheless. That was back in 2012, which feels like ancient history by now. Fast forward four years, and here I am on Valentine’s day eve, with no lover to dip strawberries into whipped cream and drink champagne with, among other delights that I won’t go into but instead will leave up to your imagination. It has been a long time since I have written honestly about my personal life on this blog, since I decided that it seems more important to write about what is happening in the larger picture of Earth and humanity than my own small life and problems. But. Tonight I am indulging myself in a bit of emotional processing for my own sanity, and you are invited to either read along, or delete this blog post. Your choice, as always.

Love Day, once a year?

This evening at work, I heard a couple of co-workers’ stories in short form. One, a woman about my age and a New Yorker through and through, described her life as a series of interesting jobs, a failed marriage, leading to her life completely coming apart, a brief stay with her father in southern Florida, meeting a nice man, working with, then moving in with him, and one day about a year ago, getting on a plane with him and coming here to Denver, where they remain to this day. There was a lot in between the lines of her story that I intuited, which involved pain and suffering. Then I heard another story, by a man who started the same week as I, who told me that ten years ago he was on track to finish his degree for becoming a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), when suddenly out of nowhere, the financial aid woman told him he’d borrowed his limit of money for school, and cut him off. He had only 4 courses to go to finish his degree. Zap, just like that, there he was with a big debt, no degree and no CNA career ahead.

I am guessing that, were I to interview others who work at that big, highly corporate grocery store, I would find many more variations of the same theme: people who have gambled with their lives and mostly lost. It is a kind of land of broken dreams that I now find myself in, and I admit that I fit right in with the other lost and broken dreamers. I too have gambled with my life and lost, many times. In fact, I could make the case that I have mostly lost everything that mattered to me at one time or other. Sometimes I get very down about this fact, and feel like a real loser in this game we call Western Contemporary Society. I see others who look like they are winners, and I feel badly in comparison. Now, some of you, dear Readers, may want to tell me to just change my attitude and raise my self esteem and everything will be just fine. Well, maybe. On the other hand, when I look around and hear fellow travelers’ stories, I have to shake my head. There are many of us who have not ‘won’ in this game we are forced to play. Very often I have only wanted to escape, and somehow find another way to live that doesn’t involve winning and success in order to be happy. I have had glimpses into these other worlds, alternative lifestyles, or ‘off-the-grid” living situations. They seem nearly ideal to me, and I have wanted to be able to stay there for the duration. But never was I able to do that, something or someone always pulled me back into mainstream life again. So here I am, summoning my will strongly each day I have to go into that job, putting a smile on and asking folks if they want to sample some cheese. I am a cheese pusher now.

Tonight before I left work, I caught the last five minutes of the Republican debate in South Carolina. I heard three of the candidate hopefuls give their last pitch to the good old conservatives of that state, to try to convince them to vote for him in the primary election. Each one of those men said very similar things, and the gist of it was as follows: “I will be the man to help get our great country back to being great again, to having its values restored of one man and one woman marriage, of having God be our authority and not the government, to getting rid of Obamacare, to abolishing the IRS (granted this is not a bad idea), to keeping our enemies afraid of us, and most of all, to once again being the most successful country in the world.” After each candidate spoke, there was a burst of applause as the audience obviously agreed and liked each man’s words. What I realized from hearing these speeches tonight, is that we are still very divided in the United States between the folks who want to keep things as they remember them being for much of their lives, and don’t like the idea of anything changing (this is obviously a very large topic), and the folks who are at the completely other end of the spectrum, like me, who are very much wanting things to change radically for the betterment of humankind, starting with better laws, much greater equality between classes, races and economic divides, more honest and progressive people making decisions for the rest of us, and of course, a lot greater protection for our environment and all the beings living here. For folks like me, the concept of “winning against our enemies” does not exist, it is about quite other issues entirely.

How can we humans possibly resolve the gaping split that divides us? How can we meet and agree upon the most pressing issues of our times, when half the population simply wants to pretend that we can keep doing business as usual, and even return to pre-catastrophic times here on planet Earth, just denying and not even being willing to see the state that the planet, the country, and many many many of the people are actually in? Just right now, on this rather depressing evening before Love Fest 2016, it is feeling slightly impossible. Then again, I recall my dear friend’s admonition to me: “We’ll do the possible today, and the Impossible tomorrow.” Tonight I can only say, We’ll see.

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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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Musings, shocks and obscenities

Hello again Dear Readers! Here it is, a double whammy weekend, with the summer solstice and June’s full moon as bookends, along with Saint Johns Day (Sankt Hans, here in Denmark), otherwise known as Midsummer’s eve. High summer, call it what you will, the fact remains that for us north of the equator, it is the apex of the year, the longest days, and the light is unfathomably bright.

Guess that’s why one of the blogs I read today spoke of possible ‘shocks to the heart’ around these days. I realize that I have hardly been blogging at all lately, and when I do it has not usually been about anything very personal. It isn’t because I am not aware of the immense changes happening, both within and without, but more perhaps because of all this energy… it is nearly more than I can handle, at least in a way to be able to write about.

The darkness that we humans have been living with and under for all these long eons of time simply has nowhere left to hide, in a manner of speaking. It’s all coming out in the open, collectively and personally.

Because I am so interested in the evolution of the soul, including my own, I have a strong desire to evolve, ascend to a higher level of being, and finally and truly realize my own divine nature as one with all-that-is. But, as all of you who are on a similar path already know, this path is fraught with difficulties, all stemming from our long-held belief in the illusion of being separate from our source.

In order to strip away that illusion, we must do the work. This work involves every level of being, from the physical to the emotional, mind, soul and spiritual. No wonder I am tired so often these days!

One such shock to my operating system came in the form of a roundabout conversation between my husband and I this evening. We were speaking about Art, Beauty and the Erotic, which went along fine for a while, and we were both feeling well about what was being shared. But then something shifted in the dialog, and it ended up with him telling me about some news articles he had read in one of the Danish newspapers, concerning pornography and young people. So he felt the need to inform me that the vast majority of the youth in Denmark find out about sex by watching hard-core, American pornography. He mentioned one or two particulars concerning this topic, until I had to ask him to simply stop. This little news item gave me a most unpleasant shock to my whole system, and as I am writing this blog tonight I am actually making an effort to work through what this is actually about.

One thing is obvious: I am quite naïve about what is happening in the mainstream world, by choice. The thought that young teenagers (and probably even children, who knows how old) are learning about sexuality by seeing professional ‘actors’ performing the most lewd and often degrading sexual acts in this part of the world (and I suppose in much of the western world) makes me really, really sad. And it shows me again, just how much the darkness of human nature continues to unfold and unfurl, and be exposed to the light. Of course, it has to be exposed, out in the open in order to become transparent, before it can be transformed into the light, into something higher, into a more loving way of being human. It seems to me, hardcore pornography has nothing whatsoever to do with love, and in fact is quite the opposite. One can ask, does sexuality have to be connected to love? Obviously the answer is no, at least that is how it has played out in the world for eons. And, consequently, sex has been misused, misunderstood, and become something both taboo and flaunted in the west, to this day.

when does erotic become pornographic?

when does erotic become pornographic?

Just type in, well nearly anything, into Google images, and if your filters are off, sexual images, mostly of women in various stages of undress but also of men, will undoubtedly come up. Breasts are especially popular. We seem to be fascinated with nude bodies, especially women. Given our society’s huge fascination with sexuality, we still don’t really know all that much about it, past basic mechanics. What makes one image pornographic, and another sacred? It is a question worth pondering, dear Readers.

During the time I have lived here in Denmark, I have come to see that in this part of the world, sexuality and nudity are much more accepted as a natural part of being a human being, that people here have no sense of shame about their bodies or the sexual act. During the late 1960s, when the sexual revolution came here, it came to stay, apparently. Never in my life have I seen so many news articles, in the ordinary, mainstream papers and magazines, about sexuality. Age makes no difference– there was a magazine article this past year about older couples and sexuality, where they had interviewed, and photographed, several nude older couples. Not your ordinary fare in a comparable American magazine!

We're never too old for love and sex

We’re never too old for love and sex

Yes, I know it is 2013, for goodness’ sake. By now ought we not be beyond guilt and shame concerning the human form, and for liking, wanting, and thinking about sexuality? The answer is, yes and no. Yes! To going beyond guilt and shame. But No, to simply saying, Everything goes, everything is permitted, at basically any age. What kind of society are we building, by allowing very young adolescents to see people treating each other like a commodity, something to be used and thrown away, or worse, to be abused, hurt, exploited, and all the behaviours that stem from what is NOT loving? You can see the result of that the world over, the sex slave trade is alive and well in many areas of the world, especially the poorer countries. Yes, in 2013.

Honestly, dear Readers, as I write this tonight I feel more and more that I have real reason to feel appalled by this news. Exploitation of one human by another is NOT the way to build a better world and future. Of course we are moving forward and cannot go back to forbidding behaviours: that is what the extremists in all the world religions are still doing, and we can see the disastrous results thereof. It is important to work for greater understanding of human sexuality; not to repress or deny it, but also not to use it for commercial gain by making it seem attractive when in reality it is terribly degrading and worse than animalistic. I realize this is a big topic, not easy to approach in a short blog post. Still, I make the effort this evening because I feel that sexuality is one of the Biggies that we need to bring into the open and discuss and work on in our world. We need to heal our collective sexual wound, one could say, before we can live on a higher level. As always, your thoughts are welcome here.

(photo credit: http://gwynethcolleenphotography.blogspot.dk/)


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God is Love

Dear Readers,

This evening is calm and free here in Denmark, as we head straight into the longest days of the year…. it only becomes truly dark after 11:30 and the sky begins to lighten about 4 am…. right now I am taking it easy and resting a lot, doing quite a lot of inner process work, so apologies for not writing too much these days.  Once I regain some strength, I will continue blogging in a better rhythm, I hope.

In the meantime, I found a truly magical and beautiful song on Youtube and want to share it with all of you, my friends in the blogosphere.  The song is called Aloha ke akua, which means “God is Love.”  It is written and sung by Nahko Bear and Medicine for the People. Please take the time to relax and watch this video, it is very relevant for our current times on Earth.  in the spirit of Aloha,  Leigh


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The Revolution is Love

“Give yourself to love, Love is what you’re after.” – Kate Wolf

What is it about May? Perhaps it is because of all the loveliness surrounding us here in the northern hemisphere, with so many kinds of flowers blooming and all the songbirds calling from the treetops… whatever the reasons, it simply feels like there is a lot of love hanging around in the atmosphere right now. Even die-hard Danes have given up (mostly) their standard costumes of black-on-black, and are clad in spring greens and orange and blue. It is the season of color, which means Life and Love.

This past weekend I spent a lovely time in the city of Århus, located on Denmark’s mainland. It is a lovely city, with a nice balance of old architecture, new and progressive thinking and attitudes. The old, young, and everyone in the middle seem to live together in relative harmony there, and the fact that it is the home of Denmark’s second largest university gives it the fresh and free-thinking atmosphere in which good things can grow. Århus is a harbor town, situated on a large bay, and close by is a very beautiful nature area with mature beech forest and a very nice stretch of sandy beach. Here I spent some precious hours in contemplation last Saturday, taking in the colors, sounds and scents of the beautiful shoreline, for which I was extremely grateful.

One evening was spent with in-laws and a new friend, a woman a few years younger than myself. We had a nice, quiet dinner and afterwards we sat around in her airy, light living room and chatted. After a while, the conversation turned to me and my current life. She asked me several pointed questions about my work, my relationship, etc., and once she got a small sketch from me, she began to lecture. She told me many things concerning my root chakra and how important it is for me to have a grounding with some kind of basic, steady work, no matter how boring it may be. She gave me her own situation as an example, stating that though she herself has this and that education, she does very boring data entry work a few days a week, which gives her a steady paycheck and allows her the structure of a regular schedule as well as time for her more personal inner work. She talked at length about this subject, and the need for me to do something similar, regardless of my creative urges and desires. The underlying, strong message was: set aside your dreams and wishes for a while and get really practical, Leigh. No matter how dull or uninteresting the work may be, you are obligated to get some, so that you have a real grounding for your soul and can get money enough to feel independent of your man. Strong words, and I heard them loud and clear.

I-came-here-to-change-the-world-cauldrons&cupcakes=blogNow a few days have gone by. I have had increasing pain in my right foot, to the point where today it was quite painful to walk on it. Out of necessity, I bore the pain and went through my tasks anyway, all the while noticing this pain and asking it what it wants to tell me. I asked myself, are you truly ill? Possibly dying? No, was the answer. The pain is about something else.

What I know for sure is, physical pain and emotional suffering are the two quickest routes to becoming old that humans have available. The catch-phrase these days is the ‘pain body’ and it is an apt description. When the pain body kicks in, all other activities come to a quick halt. It is the number one attention-getter. On a day like today, the thought of having to work at a mindless, boring job (or any job, for that matter) becomes nearly unbearable. Today my new friend’s lecture has been replaying in my mind. Obviously there is practical wisdom in her words, that is undeniable. On the other hand, another, stronger part of my psyche seems to be crying out in protest: ‘haven’t you already been through all of that, for many years? Why would you go backwards now, when you have come so far?’

Remember the saying, “do what you love, and the money will follow?” Well I think it is high time to change that one to this instead: “Do what you love, and Love will follow.” It seems to me that the future we are beginning to create together is about Love as the new currency, not money. I am no longer interested in basic survival. That was the old me, for too many years. This new version wants to do whatever it does for the love of it, for the exchange of love given and received. Perhaps it sounds completely naïve, and yet. It seems that I am not the only one who is thinking along these lines.

Occupy-your-heartCase in point: Occupy Love. Apparently some of the people who were gathering at the Occupy Wall street protests have also been thinking along these lines. They have even made a movie, called Occupy Love. This film is about the Occupy movement as a true revolution of Love here on Earth. Yes of course it is a call for action, to stop the greedy tyrants who have been ruling our collective lives which have led us to the brink of utter catastrophe and collapse of our planet. But it is more, it is truly a time when the real call to action is a call for Love to rule. Every day, more humans are awakening from the nightmare of the illusion we have been living in for so long. Only last weekend, millions of people in over fifty countries around the globe gathered in protest of Monsanto’s atrocities with genetic food modification. People are simply tired of being slaves to an outworn, ugly and exceedingly unhealthy system of economics and energy production. They are standing up and saying Stop by the thousands and millions. Soon it will be by the billions, and eventually the tyrants will simply have to stop.

In a world ruled by Love, instead of fear, mind-numbing, work-simply-to-survive mentalities, along with the jobs that keep them in place will be non-existent. It will no longer be a society based on people ‘going to work’ as they love to say all the time in Denmark. People will think differently, and do work that they want to do, that they are glad to get up for, that isn’t simply to ‘put food on the table.’ It cannot be this mentality any longer, if society is based upon love. Then, people will be asked, ‘what is it you would like to do, what do you enjoy doing, what brings you joy?’ It isn’t that work itself is a four-letter word, it is the intention behind it. Something I read on a blog the other day suggested, Find out what seems to feel the most right to you, what fills your heart with joy, what makes you eager to begin?

Always-know-you-are-loved

When I think in these terms, I cannot imagine finding some truly boring or menial down-on-my-knees kind of work, ever again. I cannot agree with the one who lectured me that it would be good for me and grounding. Yes to steady income, at least until we are a bit further down the new evolutionary road. Yes to working with my hands and heart and mind in good, healthy, creative ways. And above all, yes to having love be the basis of all of it, every day.

related links:
http://occupylove.org/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifa33dLp6OA

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/05/25/global-protests-monsanto/2361007/

http://www.activistpost.com/2013/05/hey-monsanto-did-you-hear-that.html

http://news.yahoo.com/millions-march-against-monsanto-over-400-cities-222259976.html

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Forgiveness is a process

“It is very important for every human being to forgive him or herself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. If we all hold onto the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror, we can’t see what we’re capable of being. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that, we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.”– Maya Angelou ( http://en.thinkexist.com/quotation/i_don-t_know_if_i_continue-even_today-always/9187.html)

What hasn’t already been said on the topic of forgiveness? It is intricately connected to our deepest heart, our most painful wounds, our most intimate places. We are human, we make mistakes. It is impossible for us not to err while we are in these limited human bodies, using our human minds to muddle through our lives. We know the old adage, ‘to err is human, to forgive divine.’ Actually, though, to truly forgive is precisely what all of us need to learn more about while in human form, as the practice of this art is one of the greatest assignments of the times we are living through.

Nearly every day, it seems, headlines appear of yet another covert scheme which has been uncovered, another wrongdoing exposed, another human being admitting their deception and lies, another scandal unfolding. Whether the mistake or misjudgment was huge, affecting many thousands, or small is simply a matter of scale. The issue remains the same, that of recognizing human frailty and human error, with the same opportunity: to forgive.

This is a tricky business in many ways. A typical human reaction to pain is to want to strike back, usually with anger. Another is to run from it as quickly as possible. We come up with all sorts of ways to continue the fight, with many justifications for our response. No one wants to feel they were wronged or mistreated, so we invent all sorts of reasons why we are right to be angry, to pass harsh judgement on another, perhaps to hurt the other in kind. It truly takes a larger perspective to turn away from wanting some kind of vindication or revenge from our tormentor.

be-kind-quote-tumblrHumans have created a world filled with heartbreak. One small example comes from the local Danish newspaper, which ran a story about a family of refugees from Kosovo, who came to Denmark in 1999, when Serbians began a horribly violent campaign against their neighbors. About 2800 Kosovo-Albanian refugees came to Denmark to escape the violence. Of those, over 500 gained asylum. This particular family stayed in Denmark for a year, and then in 2000, it seemed that things had improved in their homeland, and they were offered a package by the Danish government to return to Kosovo, in the form of some funds and a promise that they could return if things went bad again. So they returned, finding their home destroyed and their city in a shambles. Then they discovered, to their dismay, that it was impossible to get back to the larger city in order to obtain visas and return to Denmark. The mother of the family, Florie, told the reporter that nothing functioned, everything was in chaos, and the officials would not give them permission nor passports so that they could get their Danish visas. They were stuck in Kosovo with nothing and no possibility for more help from Denmark, or the EU.

Now it is twelve years later. The family somehow manages with very little money, and still misses Denmark, longing to return. Even though there is formally peace there again, the Kosovo-Albanians and the Serbians do not live in harmony. There was too much bloodshed and violence. Florie told the reporter that in 12 years, the Serbians have never apologized for harming their children and raping 20,000 of their women, whom will never completely heal and be human again. She said, “We are trapped. Kosovo is a little closed land, that the EU has abandoned.”

How do people forgive each other for such extreme trespasses against them? For raping, harming, hurting one’s family, one’s children? Conversely, how does a person live with himself, ‘look himself in the mirror,’ and forgive oneself for the pain he has wrought upon another? To my mind, there is only one way, that of compassion. Only through coming to a heart awareness and sense of the other’s pain, can a person find the place of forgiveness within. The story of the Kosovo-Albanians and the Serbians is an extreme, though sadly not uncommon, example of how humanity abuses itself through unawareness. It seems an unfortunate fact that humans learn best through experiencing pain. The act of forgiveness is a radical one because, if done completely, it will give total freedom to one’s soul. Yet, complete forgiveness is difficult to achieve for most of us, and it takes practice and patience. Wounds go so deep that one can live for many years without being fully aware that they remain, until one day something happens to reopen the wound. Though painful, this is actually very healing– what was festering for so long can finally be soothed and cared for, much like a physical sore which has been left for too long, enabling it to heal.

mistakes-forgiveness-peaceA powerful process for healing is to practice looking at yourself in the mirror, without judgment of any kind, just gazing…. and softening as you do, breathing deeply, until you can see yourself for who you truly are: a flawed human being who is nevertheless beautiful and holy. If you practice this, in time you will be able to have much more self-compassion, which in turn will enable you to have more compassion for all others. As Maya Angelou says, ‘If we can’t see our own glory in the mirror, we can’t see what we’re capable of being.’

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Waiting on the world to change

Today’s musings are about various impressions I’ve had throughout the past days, the nicest being the simple fact that the sun has been shining upon us here for nearly three days. This has made the snow melt, the birds sing, and the first spring flowers bloom. Small yellow flowers which resemble a kind of buttercup, and small, white snowdrops are the first flowers to appear in Denmark at this time of year.

girl+flowers_early-spring

I find that no matter how many springs I have seen, the very beginning of the growing season never ceases to make my heart glad. I have never once taken this time of year for granted and have always seen its sacredness. New life, something to truly rejoice over. No matter how low I go during the dark, grey and lifeless days of January and February, I cannot help but find hope again when I feel the first stirrings of spring in the air and on the land.

Today I walked home again along the edge of the farmers fields and the highway. The sky was blue and the sun shining. As I walked I noticed all the garbage that thoughtless, sleeping Danish people had strewn along the roadside: beer cans, sandwich wrappers, empty liquor flasks, papers…. and then I came across a magazine which had also been carelessly tossed down. It was a magazine full of nude and semi-nude young women in various poses, from simply welcoming to outright biology lessons. One picture was of a smiling young woman, gazing at the viewer over her shoulder, as a man’s penis was up inside of her crotch. Of course all the viewer could see was that part of him, and all of her. I couldn’t help it, I took the magazine, rolled it up tightly as I could, threw it down into the ditch, and kicked dirt and rocks over it until it was almost buried. And as I walked on, I pondered this. The magazine and the women had provoked strong emotions inside of me. I wondered about who those girls (none were older than probably twenty) were, what kind of lives they had led, what made them agree to be photographed in all their open glory, some while having intercourse, while knowing that all sorts of strange men and boys would see their most intimate parts revealed. I wondered about their families, their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers and friends, and how they might feel knowing that their daughter (sister, best friend) willingly posed in those ways for a porn magazine. I wondered how those girls must have felt about themselves, to let themselves be used in that way in exchange for some money, maybe some alcohol and a few compliments along the way.

It’s not that I simply am a prude. Yes, I admit I do find pornography highly repulsive. But not simply because it shows people having sex or inviting the viewer to look upon their bodies. I find the human form very beautiful, and believe that lovemaking is a beautiful act, when it is. What I find intolerable is to see people having such little regard for the sacredness of the body, who see their own and others’ bodies as simply another commodity, easily bought and sold, traded for money or other things, as carelessly thrown away as those liquor bottles, cans and other trash on the side of the road.

Seeing those pictures of those women just made me incredibly sad today. Sad at the utter lack of people’s consciousness  here, to throw so much garbage out of their cars as they drive along the highway, to look at the most intimate area of a woman’s body and throw it carelessly away like it was just another piece of trash.

There is so much that is simply Wrong in this world right now. I really am trying to not get up on my high morality horse and ride, dear Readers. But I really do believe that as long as we collectively look the other way, saying “oh it is just the way things are, no big deal’” to all the obviously unjust things that are allowed to continue in this world, the world cannot and will not change. One example has to be that ludicrous Youtube video of the Korean guy called ‘Gangham style.’ The kids in the school showed it to me one day a few months ago. Later I found out that on December 21st, one billion views of that video had been reached. To me (and I daresay to anyone who has any inkling of good taste) this video pretty much sums up what is wrong in this world, all in one neat package. It is absurdity in the highest, an Asian man flaunting his materialism, his body, his garish women, in the most grossly obscene way. It is homage to American-style materialistic ugliness, and a billion viewers (I assume) think it is pretty cool to act that way. I asked the boy who showed it to me what he thought of that video, to which he answered, “ it’s funny.” Well, there is really no accounting for taste in post-post-post modern life, is there?

That’s my rant for today, dear Readers. I hope to go beyond this low mood I have been mired in lately, and find more positive themes to muse upon in the days to come. Until then, I wish you all a beautiful early spring, wherever you are.


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A Shining, Glorious Moment

Well they did it. Damn if they didn’t! I admit, I had my doubts. But when their moment came, they were right there, shimmering, resplendent, hilarious, absurd, and utterly, naively, gracefully, gleefully, lovingly, Real. Seventeen Danish kids rose to the occasion to perform their own perfectly imperfect version of Alice in Wonderland, and it was simply brilliant.

A good friend of mine in the States likes the metaphor of seeding, growing, tending and harvesting to describe how life cycles work. Borrowing from her, I can say that this season took basically everything I had to plant, tend, and weed, along with doing what I could to wheedle, cajole, beg, bribe, and get down on my knees and pray for it to work. My degree of frustration, not especially with the kids themselves but with the supposed adults around them, was at times extreme. But. As usual with projects involving a group of people, there were a couple of humans without whom it would not have been possible to create the mini-masterpiece of fun and frolic that we accomplished this week.

There are times in life when all the messiness, chaos, disappointment, and daily sweat of working in the world somehow, magically, gives way, blends together, simmers long and slowly enough, to produce the most beautiful rainbow parade. The two evenings of ‘Alice I Eventyrland’ was one such great moment. All seventeen of them, from the shyest and least actor-like, to the loudest, brashest, and silliest, found that in themselves which produces greatness. Both of the performances were a great success, with the audience of parents, siblings, grandparents, friends and others, giving them extra rounds of applause, (and, with a little help from yours truly) some very fine cat cawls, yowls, loud whistles and the like. The kids drank it all in, basking in the lights, the sounds, the utter appreciation, finally, for what they had accomplished. And not a moment too soon.

As for me, the teacher with whom I had undertaken this enormous project, (and who, very often, left me alone to deal with it all) also found the place of gratitude and grace within himself and did indeed thank me publicly at both the beginning and end of the performance. Flowers had been purchased and were given to each actor and to him, and finally to me. I grinned through it all, simply happy to be witness to the children’s growth and flowering brilliance in carrying off this adventure. I had held the flame of faith for them throughout the past two and a half months, and they all came through, even more magnificently than had I dared to hope.

Now that the play is over, so is my temporary position as the co-teacher of these two classes. After this spring, everything will change for these kids, as many of them will leave Freja Skolen and begin at other schools in the area, make new friends, have new teachers, and continue to grow up. It occurs to me now that this unusual year has in some ways been a great gift and blessing to them. Even though they did not learn so much in the world of academics, they have had a kind of freedom within their middle childhood which is rare in the western world. They have been left to their own devices many days, which they took as opportunities to play, to laugh, to dream together. At this moment they are bonded deeply, and the love which they have shared will undoubtedly nourish them for years to come. Though I have a twinge of sadness because I will no longer see them every day, I too have gained something of great value by knowing these Danish kids. The show went on, and now it is done. There will be more shows, more art, more creations to unfold for me in Denmark. I will take their smiles and laughter and love with me to the next place I journey, with lots of gratitude for all the lessons given and received.

 


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All the world’s a stage

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an actress. During summer camp the year I turned 6, I got the honor of playing the lead role in our camp’s production of Mary Poppins. There I was, dressed up in a red and white striped nightgown, my long brown hair curled and coiffed by my loving mother, singing and dancing my heart and soul out for the campers and their families. An illustrious start to what might have been an even more illustrious future…..

Comedy-and-Tragedy-MasksAs fate would have it, my acting career has been erratic and always unpaid, since I have never had the kind of ambition for fame that one needs to push their way through the ranks and into the limelight. My youth’s dreams were spent without the benefit of Youtube or the X-factor. At 23, I stared my future as squarely in the face as I could muster, pondered the wisdom of packing up my belongings and heading out for that dreamland called Hollywood to seek my fortune, but instead wound up meeting my future husband and father of my children, whereupon my dreams of becoming a successful movie actress were effectively squelched.

Such is life. Instead of confining drama to a theater stage, I have brought the stage into my own personal story (as so many of us manage to do) in many intricate and interesting ways, through relationships, changes of venue, livelihoods, spiritual quests, and of course, by vicariously living through three lively daughters. Although I shelved that old dream of fame and fortune along with my youth, the core of it has remained forever inside my heart. Watching my daughters grow, I applauded every one of their creative endeavors along the road, and faithfully showed up to each recital, performance and play over the course of sixteen years. In turn I was rewarded with wonderful songs, skits, plays and performances as they spiraled up the path of childhood into adolescence, their talents ever-growing along with their beauty, cleverness and charm. I may have never reached my potential as an actress, but my daughters, by the time they were in their mid-teens, had already far surpassed me.

“Hamlet play-Hunt

Fast forward to here and now: the middle of Sjaelland, Denmark, the middle of winter, the middle of my life. Now I have taken on the role of producer and co-director of an ambitious undertaking, performing Alice in Wonderland with a very nice bunch of Danish kids, ages 11 to 15. Dear Readers, this is no small feat, attempting to coordinate a play in a language I speak falteringly at best, with 17 pre and pubescent youth, a co-teacher who has many other things on his Danish mind most of the time, with only my wits and imagination to keep it all moving along towards a finished piece. The old herding cats analogy applies here many mornings, when no amount of coffee would really help. And yet. After several weeks (with the Christmas holidays sandwiched in-between) of preparation, creating a script with the help of the cleverest boy, Søren, and many moments of telling myself to ´´just breathe,´´ Alice i Eventyrland is, well, coming along.

There have been some beautiful moments. The creative process never ceases to surprise and amaze me with how it works: one moment you are knee-deep in mess and chaos, and then, as the alchemical process of creation takes shape, you suddenly relax and realize that something wonderful is unfolding before your very eyes. alice_wonderland-ellenvgregoryOur homemade version of this famous story is not a musical (thank GOD!!) and contains 10 different scenes, 27 different characters, including 14 animal characters and 7 playing card people. What was I thinking? I ask myself over and over during the more stressful moments. Then the ghost of my old art and drama teacher comes to me, and I remember how he methodically and calmly (well mostly) carried out all of the hundreds of tasks involved in producing a play, and I am strengthened. Christopher Guilfoil, that old curmudgeon, that taskmaster, that sometimes hated and dreaded teacher, perfectionist extraordinaire, would wheedle, cajole, command, be perfectly still, go up on stage and practically drag us around by the nose until he got what he was after, made us practice until we were weeping and sighing, raw in the throat, ragged in body, empty in soul. Twenty actors,what was he to do?  The play was called Dinny and the Witches, a practically unknown work found in a dusty corner of Powell’s Books up in Portland, Oregon on a rainy winter’s afternoon, once found, the light broke across his furrowed brow, the angel hovered, radiating her vast glow upon him, saying ‘yes, this is the one, my friend,’ and so it was. Three witches, who controlled Time and Space, Death and Life (played by me, she was the ditzy one named Luella), a young man named Dinny who played the trumpet and was unsure of how to proceed in life, an innocent young woman with whom he falls in love (of course) and then the 7 deadly sins, each played ingeniously by my fellow schoolmates. It was a long, unwieldy, heady monster, but the first night we performed it was pure magic. No longer were we mere ordinary mortals running the daily round of existence, but for a pair of magical hours we were transformed into an elevated status, embodying archetypal images from the great melting pot of the collective unconscious: controlling mortals’  lives, death, time and space itself! What a glory that play was!

The magic of performing a theatrical play in a group cannot be understood fully by the audience, only appreciated. Without the audience, there is no reason to perform, as the magic is created between the synergy of the ones watching and the ones performing. Alice i Eventyrland will be no exception to this: come February these lively, somewhat shy Danish country kids will dress up, command the stage, and create an alchemy which will live in the historical annals of their school. Plays come and go, children grow up and leave, but memories, if crafted lovingly and well, forged through sweat, frustration, laughter and perhaps a tear or two, contain the possibility to last a lifetime.

related article
http://www.realitycreation.org/2012/04/play-acting-as-a-method-for-self-improvement.html

http://ellenvgregory.com/tag/alice-in-wonderland/

 


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Slow but Real progress

As most of you who read this blog are aware, I am an American living in Denmark. According to many Danes, their language is in the top three most difficult languages in The WORLD to master. After being here for two and a half years or so, I can attest to the truth of this assertion: Danish is tough, no two ways about it. It is a paradoxical language, because of the fact that its history and the history of my beloved mother tongue, English, are so intertwined. A surprising number of words are the same, or nearly, in both languages. After a certain point, the written language does become nearly manageable to some degree. However, the huge challenge of Danish remains in the hearing, understanding, and of course, speaking of it.

A Danish friend of mine, a teacher and self-professed expert of Danish dialects, has informed me that there are over thirty subtleties in the way the vowels are pronounced in Danish, as opposed to English’s paltry 20 or so (according to my Oxford American English dictionary). And the Danes are famous for their constantly evolving ‘shorthand’ speak, where they simply cut out certain sounds and up to half of the word itself, I guess in a similar way to French. At any rate, a simple language to learn it is not.

For foreigners coming here, learning the language can be rather a nightmare, depending on who you are, how old, how clever at learning foreign languages you are, and how much you are willing to stretch your brain on a daily basis. My own experience over the course of the past 2 ½ years has been mixed: a real like-dislike, its-okay-to-it SUCKS rollercoaster ride. Nevertheless, whether I hate it or accept it, I am in it every day. Working with the students and teachers out at the country Steiner school, is basically immersion in a Danish language practicum. After half of this school year now, my progress is painfully slow, and yet. As they say in Denmark, ‘Det kommer,’ meaning, It is coming along.

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I am still attending language school, and because I basically could not stand the teacher in the class I was put into in the autumn, I have now switched classes to a somewhat lower level class: it is not the high-speed train, but rather the local, with more opportunities to speak and hear Danish in a calm and understandable way. Tonight I went to my new class, with a very nice, gentle Danish lady teacher named Annette. Interestingly, instead of the high-speed class full of Russian and other slavic native speakers, this class contains a nice mix of men and women from places like Italy, Portugal, Lithuania, Afghanistan, Sudan, Poland, and a few other places. As usual, I am the sole person from west of the Atlantic but I don’t mind. The really heartening thing that I realized tonight was that I have, finally, definitively improved my Danish to the point where, in that class, at least, I am one of the better speakers. So I must admit to all of those patient friends, colleagues, teachers and my own beloved Danish husband, that yes it is true, being immersed in their language all the livelong day, painful as it sometimes REALLY is, is somehow transforming my brain to finally accept Danish into it more than before.

Having said that, it remains a fact that when among a group of Danish people who are speaking together at their normal rate of speed, I still only catch a percentage of what is being said: sometimes I get the gist and sometimes I am just plain lost. I also admit to having had a huge longing recently for Americans speaking American English at as ordinary a place as say, the grocery store or nearly anywhere, really. homesick-dollarvigilanteI had a sharp memory of being there last spring, just walking around, and how comfortable it was to simply be able to understand everything that people around me were saying, no matter how inane, it was a real joy to hear my own language spoken again. How many people throughout the world must have a similar experience to mine every day! How many walk through their days in a kind of foggy dream because they do not really understand too much of what is being spoken around them. When a person is living along in their native country, they simply cannot have a true understanding of what it is to be a foreigner there, how handicapped they are by the lack of a deep understanding of that land’s language which they take totally for granted. In Europe, and I would guess in many places around the world, it is common that many people from different countries are living amongst the natives– but in the States, ironically enough, awareness of the difficulties that foreigners have on a daily basis is sorely lacking.

Dear Readers, I am glad to be able to report my progress with Danish to you all tonight. Though I may end up living here for the rest of my life and never become truly fluent (a distinct possibility), I can see that I now have what could be called a ‘basic working knowledge’ of the language, enough to get around and more or less survive without relying too much on English anymore. Having said that, I am equally glad that so many Danes know English (for better or worse) so that I don’t have to give up my own language completely in order to live here.

The next time you are out and about somewhere, and you notice a foreign person in the que or on the bus or walking down the street near you, have some compassion for them. Chances are good that they are a very long way from home, not only in their physical surround, but also in their heart and mind, and yes, in their way of expressing themselves. Chances are, most of them are intelligent, sensitive human beings just like you are, only they have no real opportunity of expressing themselves well in English. Smiles are a sure bet to brighten someone’s day who might not have much chance to speak in words with you. Give a smile, a hand, a gesture of friendship if you can: take it from me, it means a lot.