clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world


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Negotiating the Rapids of Our Times

Today is a holiday in the United States, a day for remembrance of those who have gone before those of us who walk the Earth now. Some remember the soldiers who fought in wars, others remember people they have loved who have passed back to the spiritual world. Remembrance is a two-edged sword; it brings up many feelings that can bring us pain and sorrow, as well as joy and warmth.

Today I walked along the river again. The water level is high, due to all the rain we have been receiving this month. It is gorgeous there now, as green as it ever gets in the prairielands of Colorado. I stood and watched the water gracefully flowing around a group of old willow trees, taking in the simple, wild beauty of nature all around me. A little ways above where I stood, there is a waterfall that flows under a foot-bicycle bridge. As has been the case for many weeks, the water was mightily and majestically falling from the higher to lower section of the river. Above it, the water was smoothly and calmly flowing, then suddenly rapids, with foam and spray and swirling, and then the river again became calm and smoothly flowing downstream to where I stood.

How do you navigate the rapids when they appear?

How do you navigate the rapids when they appear?

This spectacle seems like a perfect metaphor for our lives now! There is so much energy flowing and swirling all around us throughout the course of a day or a year, it often feels that we get caught up in the rapids and must do whatever we can to simply negotiate them until we can again find a calm place to flow. No matter who we are, our station in life, or where we happen to be standing upon Earth, there are cycles of smoothly flowing and periods of rapid change. It seems completely unavoidable.

Franz Kafka reminds us, “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
( http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/f/franzkafka134853.html#E5CZPUs2jwwHbPQf.99)

Given this unavoidable conundrum, the question then becomes, How do we navigate the rapids when we arrive at them? Again, there are no simple answers for this (although some may feel they have THE answer to it), but there are certainly choices we can make that will determine the kind of experience we will have there. If we take the metaphor of the river, then it becomes clear that there are a few ways to traverse the rapids. One, if you see or know that they are coming up soon, you can try to  get to shore, and simply walk or climb alongside the rapids until you pass them and return to a calmer place to get back into the water. Two, you can make sure your life jacket is strapped on tight, take a deep breath, say a prayer, and go screaming down the rapids. Or three, you can just get out of the water before they hit, and sit on the shore indefinitely, refusing to continue. Are there other choices to navigate the waters of our life? Probably many, but you get the idea. Perhaps a key to navigation is reflection and planning ahead for what you will choose to do when the time comes. Or perhaps you are the sort of person who just takes it all as it comes, and can strategize on the fly. In any case, what we know for sure is that you will face those moments, with varying degrees of grace.

As I was watching the water falling over the rocks a few days ago, I was delighted to observe a friend on the other side. Mister Heron was standing on the edge of a large rock, watching the cascading water with his keen eyes, contemplating the fish he was sure to catch. I sat on my side of the river and watched him for a long time as he patiently watched the water, and waited. Sure enough, eventually he stretched out his neck very far and peered closely into the white water, then in one sure and quick movement, snapped his needle-like beak around a silvery fish. He stood erect and quickly swallowed the fish whole. He seemed very happy then, and after a few moments, flew up to a nearby cottonwood tree to rest and digest. Delighted for him, I stood up and clapped my hands, congratulating him on his expert fisher prowess. It was an inspiring moment.

NightHeron-763816

If I could choose what creature to be on Earth, it would surely be a heron. I have long admired these beautiful and graceful water birds, that can stand for so long, waiting so patiently for the perfect opportunity to catch their fish dinner. They are magnificent to watch flying low over rivers, and have such a spirit of grace and harmony about them. And they love to stand near white water, enjoying the rush of the spray and the force of water around them, utterly fearless. To me, the heron represents a kind of ultimate freedom while living on Earth, a creature of air and water and land: The best of all worlds.

Dear Readers, I wish you all a peaceful and happy time as you find your own ways of traversing both the calm and the rapids of your individual journeys. I honor each one of you for your contribution to the whole of humanity’s slow but sure rise in evolution. Each one of you is precious and important, and I thank you for being here. I see the Light and Love within you, and I honor it.


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We are so connected

For the past 48 plus hours, I, along with many thousands of others across the world, have been reading of and seeing through the internet, the plight of those affected by Saturday morning’s devastating earthquake in Nepal. As I am sure you are all aware, it is an utter emergency situation, with many suffering humans and not nearly enough able-bodied ones to help them.

Gazing at the photos and reading the news stories today, my heart grew larger and heavier with compassion for these people. In an instant, their already fragile and overburdened world toppled, crumbled and was destroyed, leaving thousands dead and thousands more without electricity, no way to communicate outside of their immediate surroundings, no way to cook what food they do have, very little in the way of medical supplies and many are too afraid to sleep inside their homes for fear of another quake killing them and their loved ones.

Echoes of Japan’s tsunami in March of 2011 conjured in my mind and heart, as I vividly recall being glued to the internet and watching that catastrophe unfold over many days. Now, as then, we watch helplessly as many humans suffer in another part of the world. Nepal is halfway across the planet from where I sit and write this tonight, yet they are close because we are so connected. For a long time, many years in fact, I heard these words and although I knew they were true, I could not really feel their truth. But now that has all changed, and as I have been laying in bed for many hours during the past three days, wondering what is wrong with me and why I can hardly move or even get up to eat, I finally understand. Some of us have reached a level of consciousness now that no longer allows us to ignore when others are suffering, whether we wish to or not. My empathic capacities seem to have reached an all-time high, and part of my soul is there with the Nepali people–crying, grieving and in pain, in utter solidarity with their plight.

Nepal Earthquake

A day or so ago, I read a blog post by a woman I have followed for the past three years. She has written volumes about humanity’s ascension to higher dimensions, and a lot of what she has written had a lot of wisdom and what felt like truth in it. The post I read was her impressions of the perhaps ‘higher’ perspective of this earthquake, where she pointed out things like ‘the male-dominated culture of the world was for eons of time centered in this part of the world, and it is symbolic destroying of this old system,’ etc etc….whether or not any of that is the case seems to me to be utterly beside the point.

The degree of dispassion in her writing was not only disappointing, but in fact angered me quite a lot. How can a person who claims to be so enlightened and evolved write about people’s suffering in such a callous and unfeeling manner? I simply do not understand it.

This point brings up the larger picture of the current state of our human world: its serious lack of compassion generally. True, many people on earth today are genuinely concerned for the welfare of their family, friends, maybe even neighbors and co-workers. Perhaps they belong to a church or other community organization and give to it in various ways that shows they care. But what about people who are perceived as strangers, foreigners, or even worse, enemies of one kind or another? How many earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, floods and other major disasters will it take before the collective that is US, ALL of US HUMANS, wake up to this obvious fact: WE ARE SO CONNECTED TO ONE ANOTHER. What happens in Nepal affects everyone else on the planet, whether we realize it or not. And that is just the human world. What about Nature?

042615-ap-nepal-earthquake-aftermath-crying-man-img

A destroyed temple in Kathmandu after the April 25 earthquake.

Dear Readers, I can well imagine that for most of you who read my blog, I am singing to the proverbial choir. You already know all of this, right? And yet. This seems to me to be the crux, the heart of what is so desperately needing to change upon our earth: the illusion that we are somehow separate from each other and everything else. This lie has been so insidiously pervasive, so cleverly buried within our psyches over the course of myriad lifetimes, that most of us simply cannot see our way out of it and understand that it is a lie. Again I return to the story of the hundredth monkey: at first, only one little monkey and it’s monkey child changed their behavior. Then a few more, and then even more…. and then, suddenly one day they ALL changed.

I believe this is the metamorphosis we are currently experiencing, right now in this time, right here on this planet we call home. Sure we can point to those few absurdly privileged humans who seem to own and control nearly all the planet’s wealth and have all the power in their grubby little hands, and say  “They are at fault!!” And in a way it is certainly true. Yet, when we do this, we give our own power over to them. Yes they have billions of dollars, and have bought every person, place and thing possible in order to keep their bottom lines flowing…. but We The People have something they do not yet have, nor understand: The Power of US. Together, as ONE people, we are seven billion strong, and if you multiply that times the power of LOVE, which is Infinity, well folks, that is an unbeatable power.

Here is a power that is stronger than we might realize.

Here is a power that is stronger than we might realize.

So you see, the fact that I have been unable to get out of bed since the earthquake began affecting me actually makes a lot of sense. And my act of sending as much love, compassion and healing light to those suffering in Nepal tonight also does a lot of good. Words from an old song I love:

We can change…yes we can change…the world
Rearrange…rearrange the world
It’s dying…if you believe in justice
It’s dying…and if you believe in freedom
It’s dying…let a man live his own life
It’s dying…rules and regulations who needs them
Open up the door

(song Chicago by Crosby, Stills and Nash)

Related:  http://indianexpress.com/article/world/neighbours/nepal-earthquake-toll-over-4350-nepal-pm-says-rescue-ops-not-effective/


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Who’s leading who?

Time seems to fly by these days now, doesn’t it? More often than not, I experience my life with a kind of detachment, simultaneously observing the life I am leading as well as living it from within this fragile body. Curiouser and curiouser.

Every morning is such a gift, though. I repeat my morning routine and ritual each day, take on whatever sweater and jacket I will wear, open the front door, step outside, lock the door behind me, and walk onto the street. The trees are blooming now, wearing their new spring green so joyously, as the morning birds sing songs from their branches. The air feels soft and clean, the sky huge and still. It is the rarest and loveliest moment of the day, as the sun rises and the world is still undone.

The internal work continues. I doubt if there is anyone alive right now, if they are at all conscious of themselves, who is not dealing with any number of issues, dramas, situations, or other moments where their self, their mind, the part of them that wants, needs, is reluctant, afraid or grasps, is not demanding something, wanting the limelight, grabbing the attention. The small self is acting up just like a three-year-old, and we had better listen. What is up with that, dear Readers?

A website that I’ve recently found, www.jeshua.net/, has some interesting and wise advice concerning this phenomenon. I’ve just read an article by Gerrit Gielen, where he makes the following points:

The soul is the creator of our human personality, we as a human being reflect one aspect of our soul similar to how an Archangel represents one aspect of God. The two most important factors that determine our human reality are: 1. our soul and its intentions for us, and 2. our willingness or unwillingness to work together in harmony with our soul, the source who created us. Our soul has a life plan for us that may contain goals that differ from our ideas about what is desirable in our lives. The basic creative force in our lives is our soul and not our human thoughts. We can work with the creative force of our souls, or we can work against it. Positive thinking aimed at wishes and desires that do not comply with our soul’s plan is not effective. But positive thoughts that are aligned with our soul’s intentions, support the creation process and add a sense of grace and ease to it.

If you do not follow the way of your soul, go against your deeper feelings, and try to control life too much, you lose touch with your soul’s wisdom and you start to feel empty inside. As with most of us, you may become carried away by earthly concerns and focus your attention on matters that you think are very important, but that essentially do not contribute to your inner growth: recognition, possessions, success, money, etcetera. Thus, the angel and you follow a different path and you start to feel unhappy and lonely.

You try to solve this dilemma by working harder, by gathering even more success, money, or power, because the society in which you were raised has taught you that these things are very important. Or you try to solve your loneliness by searching for the ideal partner. You are looking for your inner angel in the outside world. That will fail, because another person can never fulfill the role of your inner angel; the result will always be disappointing. Rather than restoring the connection with your soul, you end up feeling even more alienated from it.

Often, at this point a crisis will occur that challenges you to wake up and realign with your soul: perhaps illness or other adversities such as a divorce or losing your job. It is vital that you now turn inward and actively seek to restore the connection with the angel. If you want to create a new and more fulfilling life, positive thinking alone will not help you. If your positive thoughts aim to only remove the setbacks so you can return to the life you were used to, they will fail, because they go against the soul’s intentions. And if the positive thoughts or mantras are aimed at merely eliminating the disease or misfortune, they will be a way of denying or suppressing the inner darkness that needs to be dealt with up front. Only by facing your deepest feelings and fears, and restoring the conscious connection with your soul, will a true solution arise. Your soul will create that solution for you, if you are willing to face your inner darkness and listen to what your heart truly tells you.

You may wonder why we have desires that go against our soul’s plan, or why the soul has intentions that go against our plans. The reason why this gap exists is that our soul’s primary purpose is inner growth, while we often seek external solutions to our problems. From the soul’s perspective, negative experiences are often there to guide us toward inner growth and liberation, but we generally want to avoid those experiences. We want to rid ourselves of emotional or physical pain, and it is a real challenge to open up to the possibility that this pain has meaning and leads us into deeper self-understanding. Only if we recognize the wisdom of our soul, which often surpasses our human understanding, do our thoughts really gain creative power. Only positive thinking that acknowledges the value and meaning of “negative experiences” is aligned with the divine force that creates the universe.

To know whether your thoughts are aligned with your soul’s purpose, you can also ask: “Is my positive thinking based on fear or on love?” If you have wishes and desires, it is wise to check carefully whether they originate from love or from fear. If it is fear, go inward and face the frightened part in yourself. Face it with kindness and honesty. Ask yourself: “What does this part of me really need at this time?” If you do that, you will often find that the answer refers to something internal, rather than something external: what is needed are qualities such as self-esteem, trust, the ability to set boundaries, compassion, or a sense of humor. You are often able to give yourself what you need by developing these qualities in your everyday life. In this way, you will heal the fearful part of you and your wishes and desires may change because of that. They will be based on love and genuine self understanding rather than fear. Healing inner darkness is a deeply creative feat. Facing fear and surrounding it with the energy of love is more powerful than any affirmation you can think of! The result is that you become closely connected with your soul. Your soul light begins to shine through you and it is this light that is creative. It will create an outer reality (work, relationships) that provides inner growth, joy, and happiness.

You can apply positive thinking and affirmations as much as you want, but you will still grow old. Your thoughts are powerless against the natural aging process. But now look at this issue from the perspective of the soul. Is the soul interested in keeping us young? From the soul’s perspective, we are timeless, only our bodies are aging. To connect with your soul’s viewpoint, look in the mirror: see how your face is getting older, while sensing at the same time that there is something inside you, behind your eyes, that does not change. This is who you really are. While you, the human being, would perhaps want to stay forever in this body, your soul does not. The soul knows that there are infinitely more worlds and dimensions to be experienced and explored. The soul looks beyond what our human eyes can see and knows: the universe is waiting for us. – Gerrit Gielen, http://www.jeshua.net/

Reading Gerrit’s words today has given me strength and been an excellent reminder that what is happening in my life, in all of our lives, truly has meaning and purpose– the soul’s purpose which is the reason for me being in this human body in the first place. So much has happened in my life that I simply have no good answer for the question, Why? It is a question that I ask myself often, usually without coming up with a very good answer. But when I take it to this higher level, and am able to drop the small me’s ‘but why?” through my tears and heartache, I realize the power, wisdom and strength of surrendering to my soul’s purpose. Aligning with your soul is no easy task, is it? Your angel, as Gerrit calls it, will ask you to do things and go places you probably will not want to do nor go. Ain’t gonna do it, no way, your small self protests. And yet. In the end, if you listen to your soul, your angel, or the Higher You, he or she will win out. And you will grow from it, and learn the lesson you need.

You must do the thing-EleanorRooseveltThere are so many days when I take myself in hand, make myself do the thing I do not wish to do. And I do it because I am committed to my Soul’s growth and I love Her. Once I asked an old teacher of mine about God. He replied, “You have to know what god you are praying to, as there are many in the hierarchy of Heaven.” At the time I did not understand what he meant. Now, many years and miles later, I think I understand more. Our lives and the human-spiritual world connection are complex systems with vastly greater workings than we can possibly understand in these human bodies. The times we are living in are a whirlpool of constant change. There are huge forces at work upon all of us and the planet in every moment far vaster than we know. But we feel it in so many ways, each day and night. What do you think you are doing when you lay down and sleep at night? You are very busy, dear Readers. We are off in who knows how many dimensions, working with angels, guides, councils, other humans, other life forms throughout our sleeping hours. No wonder we often awaken and feel so very tired!! Our lives are a constantly shifting, moving roller coaster ride. We all signed up to be a part of this great shift that is happening to us long before we incarnated into these peculiar human bodies during the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries C.E.,or however you wish to describe our time in history. Are you tired? Do you remember that you wanted to be here and be a part of all that is happening on Earth now? Hard to believe sometimes, I know. But we did, we all wanted this. Because without us, the Great Shift won’t happen, and our world will continue to degrade and eventually die.

a seeds greatest expression-OccelliBy each and every one of us being here, saying Yes! to life, to love, to committing to each other and ourselves that We are the Change, we stand up to fear, to terror, to pain and misery, greed and hatred and all the by-products of separation, and the world changes. It IS CHANGING, for the better in thousands of ways. We must not lose our perspective to this 3D matrix that is so cleverly spun around us, we must not let it overwhelm us. This is BIG WORK, dear Readers! There is nothing more important nor worthwhile in all the universes. We have to soldier on, whether we want to or not. The future of Gaia and all of humanity depends on the work we are doing now, today and every day for the rest of our lives. Our souls want this, we want it for each other and our great great great grandchildren, for all of the animals and nature that we love on this planet. Keep going!! Chin up. Rest as and when you can, love yourself very gently, always, and be in gratitude to your Self for all that you do. When the three-year-old is screaming and having his fit, take him into your loving arms and soothe him. See yourself in this way, and care for her as you would your precious child, for that is in reality what You Are.

Thank you for being here with me, for all the good you are and all that you do to help. I love you all.


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Our lives are not our own

“This world spins from the same unseen forces that twist our hearts.” –Robert Frobisher, Cloud Atlas

It is once again the time of balance, at this Spring equinox. For a brief moment, the world seems to hover between day and night, dark and light, seen and unseen, known and unknown. We can only have glimpses into who we really are, so much greater than we can perceive through these small, fragile and often faulty bodies that house our souls. What is a human soul, if not a storehouse of experiences, emotions, ideas, memories, dreams and desires? We do not know our own immensity, our true divinity, nor our potential for harm or for good in the past, present and future. We are born, live and die to our flesh and blood countless times, for what end? Can any of us living on earth now give a definitive answer to the perennial questions that persist in our hearts and minds?

At this time of equinox, of balance, I once again ponder these thoughts. My life feels bigger, more enhanced these days. It is as if I am seeing through a larger, clearer lens, one that provides brighter colors and sharper intensity than before. Throughout the course of day and night I find myself running various film clips through my mind’s screen: from being a child to teenager, from standing in a forest somewhere in another country to walking with my children when they were no more than toddlers, to being in another world somewhere with people I do not know in this life. I often feel these days that I am walking through a waking dream more than anything I used to call reality. In point of fact, I no longer feel at all sure as to what constitutes ‘reality.’ And am realizing that I never knew what it was, I only believed that I did. As the lines between dreams and waking, this life and the former and the next continue to blur and the veil grows ever thinner, less and less of this matrix that passes for our real world seems real at all. We have all had collective amnesia for so long that most of us truly do not understand that all we see and experience around us is of the illusion, so powerfully do we believe in it.

During the past month, I have watched two films that I waited to see until I felt truly ready to experience them: The first Matrix movie, and Cloud Atlas. If you have seen them, you understand why they impacted me so deeply. If you haven’t, all I can really tell you is, these films deal with the human condition in profound ways, and touch nerves deep in the human psyche, heart and soul.

Your life can’t be measured in hours, you can’t measure the immeasurable. Your life is pure energy. You are endless, timeless. Every birth, every death is just a transaction of life forces. You are vast, you are the vastness of space. You are the beauty, you are the unknown.” Anita Krizzan

Mylifeextendsfarbeyondthelimitsofme
Dear Readers, this world we are living in has become extraordinarily difficult for me to take. Everywhere, it seems, is in a kind of chaos– extreme polarization, environmental catastrophe, political upheaval, social disasters of every description, global weather off all former records and charts, and insanity seems to be running the show. And, as many of us who read such posts already guess, things are bound to get even more so for the foreseeable future. The problems mankind faces are by now so vast and feel so unstoppable, they are a runaway train with no driver, heading straight for the cliffs of oblivion. There are good reasons why films like the ones I mentioned, along with myriad others, depict an apocalyptic world run by those who have enslaved and genetically changed human beings: because we know and understand on some level that this is precisely what IS happening to humanity, right now, today. The food we eat, the beverages we drink, the air we breathe, the jobs so many of us have, what we do for entertainment and relief from the relentlessness of this world, all of it has by now been tampered with, manipulated, artificially created and very deliberately designed to keep the human species at a very low level of consciousness, basically in a sort of sleepwalking state. It has been this way for many years by now, but only in more recent ones have some of us been waking up to the awful truth.

For a long time (years, really) I was unable to see or to admit that humanity is being controlled. I guess you could say I had been taking the blue pill that makes one forget about what is really happening. Now that I have awakened from that amnesiatic state, I can never return. Nor can anyone who awakens, which I realize is the whole point. Perhaps if enough of us awaken, we can begin to turn the train around and set it on another track before it goes over the edge into the abyss. It is a truly frightening thought that we humans have the power to destroy our planet to the point of utter desolation. Yet we not only have that power, but through our collective ignorance and denial, we are doing it. What will it be like in California once there is no water there for the people to freely use? Once the Megacities are in full swing, ten or twenty times larger than they are now? Once many coastal regions are underwater? Once the Arctic ice is completely gone? I do not have answers for any of this, I only know that it will be a very different world to live in than at this moment.

“Belief, like fear or love, is a force to be understood as we understand the theory of relativity, and principles of uncertainty. Phenomena that determine the course of our lives. Yesterday, my life was headed in one direction. Today, it is headed in another. Yesterday, I believe I would never have done what I did today. These forces that often remake time and space, they can shape and alter who we imagine ourselves to be, begin long before we are born, and continue after we perish. Our lives and our choices, like quantum trajectories, are understood moment to moment, at each point of intersection, each encounter, suggest a new potential direction.” Isaac Sachs, Cloud Atlas

I used to believe that my life and my little problems and dramas mattered more than anything else. When you are in the middle of it, of course they do matter, terribly much. And yet. These days I am taking a higher perspective, as I realize more profoundly that it is not just my life anymore, and it never was. It is OUR life, our collective life as humanity upon Earth, that truly matters. If I go down, you go with me. If you perish, I too will die. We can no longer afford the illusion of separation under which we have been living for so very long. We are ONE body, ONE heart, ONE being, we are connected in ways we cannot fathom nor understand with our limited human capacities. It is only by growing new capacities, by evolving into greater beings than we have let ourselves be, that we will gain this understanding of the truth. It is a truth that has been taught by the Wise Ones of all eras and cultures, nothing new. Yet it is needed now in our times like never before. Love is the Great Truth and Reality. It is the only thing that actually matters, that gives meaning and purpose to our lives. The evidence of what a loveless world is like is all around us. The time for a world based on Love is NOW.

Ourlivesarenotourown


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the Greatest Happiness

“The reason why love and compassion bring the greatest happiness is simply that our nature cherishes them above all else. The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another.” –The Dalai Lama

For the Tibetan Buddhist, peace of mind is a fundamental lifetime goal. They are taught to value contentment, fulfillment, and mental peace above all else, since one’s state of mind is believed to be the only possession that survives from one lifetime to the next.

Ignorance leads us to see everything– ourselves, others, all phenomena—as solid and separate. It keeps us from realizing that everything is actually very interdependent and connected– that our well-being depends upon the well-being of everything and everyone around us.

Compassion is at the core of the Tibetan Buddhist culture. They believe there is no greater vehicle than compassion and forgiveness to counteract the suffering caused by the self-grasping attitude.

They believe that using compassion in the face of conflict or aggression is to decide to act without the motivation to harm or retaliate– to act in a way that will best serve all individuals involved.

From Tibetan Portrait, by Phil Borges

Tibetan-girl-Phil-Borges

As the wheel of the years continue to turn, I see more and more clearly the wisdom of the Tibetan Buddhists, summarized in the passage above. Anger and hatred, both stemming from fear and the illusion of separation, are the real enemies of humanity. The evidence of this kind of thinking is everywhere present in our world. The challenges humanity now face are enormous. Self-grasping and self-concern are destroying our earth at an unprecedented pace.

Until the majority of humans living upon Earth realize the simple truth of “what I do to my brother I do to myself,” we will be unable to reverse the huge disaster we have created. The native American tribes have a saying, All living things are our relatives. It does not get any clearer than this.

Please take the time to teach compassion and forgiveness to whomever you can in the course of a day, in whatever ways are most appropriate. There is not a moment to waste.


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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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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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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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