Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Letter to My 9 Year Old Self

Hi Sweetie,

Some of the friends you steered yourself towards have just been using you to make themselves look good. They will never respect you. Stick with friends who you feel equal to.

Don't believe it when people compare you to your sister. Your edginess is there for a reason. Accept it without shame or regret.

Remember that magic "piece of chocolate" moment that evening in the backyard. That moment of insight, when you realized that the way to get what you want is to accept that you don't have it and move on, was important. You'll find it brings things to you that you thought were out of reach.

Just because you don't feel you have a talent for art, doesn't mean you can't draw. Your creativity crosses all boundaries and lights up every area of your life. If your teacher says you're not an artist, he is not right. He just doesn't know what to do with you.

Follow your heart and intuition as much as you can.

It's okay to cry. Save it for a not-too-public time, but cry all you like. Tears are a necessary function, made to release difficult or intense feelings.

No choice takes you down the wrong path. Some choices may lead to tougher circumstances, but each will bring you to what you need to know.

Just because your Mom wished you'd settle in one field (or on one hobby) doesn't mean you are supposed to. Who you are is changing every day, and not being locked in to a specific path gives you the freedom to explore. Perhaps exploration and discovery are your life path.

Pay attention to your dreams. Dreams like the one where you learned how to ride a bicycle can make life easier.

Understanding why someone acts unkind to you doesn't mean you have to stand there and take it. You are entitled to walk away, even when it is someone you love.

Do what you love and what comes naturally. You may think that flute is a good choice in music class, but baritone is more fun. Tuba even more.

Just because someone is older doesn't mean that what they say is true. Different people believe different things. Don't accept everything they tell you uncritically. You don't have to agree with them to get along.

When someone says you aren't living up to your potential, remember that no other person is capable of telling you what you are supposed to be or do to fulfil yourself. Many of them are hoping you'll fill their own unfulfilled dreams. Others may just be parroting what others told them. They are only human.

Think about the kinds of things you love to do: taking the dog to the river for a splash, solving puzzles, riding your bike, reading, singing harmony. These are all aspects of who you are, and you'll carry the essence of these wonderful things through your whole life.

You may not feel like it sometimes, but you can trust yourself, your life, and the loving intelligence that brought your life into being. You are unique, supported and needed.

(First published in Starry Night in April 2011)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Spiritual Journey

I started taking an interest in my spiritual life decades ago. Once I made the commitment, there was no going back.

When I first started, my interest was huge, followed by a long dry spell when I forgot about it all. Then something a while later caught my interest and I explored some more.

It seemed to come in cycles. Interest built again and then receded again, like waves washing to shore with a natural rhythm. Yet over time, the ups and downs stabilized, the dips seemed less intense and lasted for less time while the upsurges lasted longer as I adjusted and found joy more easily. One of the happiest insights I found about the journey is that when I really feel stuck - even despairing, it's an indication that things are already on the rise again. It means the deepest dark is behind me and I am more in touch with the spiritual voice calling me home.

Over millennia, saints and masters have suggested things we can do to help us move ahead in our spiritual journeys. Here are a few of their ideas, processes and techniques:
  • be in the moment - it's the only thing that's real
  • develop awareness
  • be kind
  • appreciate what we have - even the little joys
  • take time regularly for prayer, reflection or meditation
  • surround ourselves with work, activities and people that reflect our inner values
  • quit the blame game
  • listen to our inner wisdom
  • learn humility - disassemble the conceit of ego
  • accept both good and bad fortune - life never goes according to plan
  • trust that we are being led to grace
One thing to remember though. It's not me that calls all the shots. I can incline myself in this direction and take whatever steps may work well for me, but in the end this is about more than just me. If I am drawn to a spiritual life, it is spirit calling to me as much as me calling to spirit.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Circling the Wagons

A potential client told me that she liked my website. Then she asked me before placing an order if I believed in God.

I don't remember what I answered her. It's a loaded question intended to place me thoroughly inside or thoroughly outside her circle. She needed to vet me as acceptable or unacceptable.

That's lazy thinking, but I can understand it.

When we are stressed or overworked, it's easier to read the tl;dr version or just scan the headline without reading the piece, even when we lose something important by taking the shortcut. When feeling helpless or vulnerable, we use whatever strategies we have on hand to cope. And that can include circling the wagons around our values, beliefs and associations. Safety in numbers - or something.

Perhaps one day she'll slip one toe outside her circle to see if life has something better for her. Perhaps she did when she looked at my website. Perhaps not. She arrived at her position honestly. To give up everything takes tremendous strength and courage and a willingness to be wrong. She could be putting not just her way of life at risk, but perhaps her livelihood, family and friendships, too.

I don't lose hope though. She may not have stuck her toe outside that circle, but she looked over it.

Now, as for her question: do I believe in God? Have a look at my website and decide for yourself.

First published March 2018 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sit With It

I get snippy when I'm under stress. I'll notice the dishwasher wasn't emptied when I come upstairs in the morning and be unable to stop a snarky thought from rising. I'm usually aware enough to catch it, but I can't always stop it.

The very fact that this is the kind of thought that's rising shows me that I need to take care of myself. Do less for others and more for myself, shed a tear or three, wear comfortable clothes, eat delicious food. These actions get me back to myself. Here I can sit with whatever emotional distresses I've been stuffing down with food, and see if I can stay with them for a while, so they can move through me.

Fear is a big one. This feels awful. Fear rose spectacularly a while back when in someone's car. The driving conditions were not great and I could not influence the way the driver handled things. I sat and tried not to feel scared and upset, but there was nothing I could do.

If I hadn't been willing to sit with the fear, I'd have been mentally blaming the driver, developing an elaborate drama about how I am the innocent victim -- generally making a tough situation worse. Instead, I asked my angels for help. Basically I told them "This feeling is awful. I hate it," without really expecting anything but a sense that I have quiet support. But this time, I got an answer. "It's okay to feel scared. The feeling won't last forever." It released the layer of "I hate this" stress and left me with the simple body sensations of fear: shaking, sharp tingles on my skin, heat and cold alternating. Sure enough, after a while the feelings subsided all by themselves.

Many mornings when I am doing my prayers, tears will rise as a result of a single thought. When that happens I get out my hanky, and just let myself feel the sadness. I don't need to know why. I stuffed down a lot of sorrow over the years and in sitting with it now, I get a chance to express it in a beneficial way.

Sometimes I can sit with difficult feelings and sometimes I can't. I guess the stars have to line up just right. But when I do feel brave enough to sit with fear or sadness it does me good. It loosens my rigid patterns (sometimes even rigid muscles) and if it's powerful enough, it breaks me open, empties me out and lets me start fresh.

First published February 2018 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Black and White World

When we were kids, our TV was black and white. Greyscale. We could often sense the colours on the screen by the tone and context. We never felt as though anything was missing. But then colour TV came along. The perceptual impact was huge.

Every now and then in meditation or when quiet, I get a glimpse of colours more brilliant than anything I have ever seen in this world. It's as though we are living in a faded world, not black and white, but not fully perceived either.

If we never glimpse the colours that exist outside our reality, how can we know they exist?

Monday, December 4, 2017

An Organized Arrangement of Energies

Screen Shot 2017 12 04 at 8 19 02 AM

While walking across the lawn, I felt my feet landing solidly on the earth. We seemed separate. But we are made of less solid stuff.

We are an organized arrangement of energies that mingle and interact. Seeing the ground like that, and my feet like that make it all feel more like an ongoing story than a single solid event or thing.

The earth supports me, grows me (literally,) nurtures me, even buoys me up. So rather than thump thump thump across the earth, I can relax and know I am a part of something really big and wonderful.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Little Jots

I have little bits of paper everywhere. Reminders, grocery lists, to-do's, phrases from books or magazines. I like things organized, so I'm not living in a sea of them; they're all sitting in tidy piles or clipped to the fridge or pinned to bulletin boards or tucked into wallets.

But they're everywhere.

They are like odd little snapshots of my life from the time I jotted them down. The bit of paper that says, 'dish soap, butter, furnace filters', sits right next to, 'the world is won by letting things take their own course.' I jotted down 'Leeloo perfect' a week or two ago when I watched that sci fi movie - what was it called? the one with Bruce Willis? The Fifth Element? Anyhow I loved the woman who played Leeloo. Her name meant 'Perfection' in the movie. And I wanted to remember the name - might make a good name for a story or for a drawing or for a hamster or for a granddaughter. So 'Leeloo perfect' is in the pile of notes on my desk, at the top of the pile.

IMG 2634

I really enjoy coming across a slip of paper that's been sitting in an old coat pocket. It's better than finding a dollar. Chances are it's just an old grocery list, but sometimes it says, 'childhood slights are painful because your goodness was questioned.' And it touches me again. '...your goodness was questioned....' Feels good to read it again.

Sometimes when they float to the surface, these little jots have meaning again, even if they are a snapshot of something from last week or last winter. Different meaning, maybe. Deeper meaning sometimes, given that I have lived more life since I jotted them down. Even the grocery list reminds me of who I was that day. But not all of them retain their value. Every now and then I have to sweep through them and toss a bunch out.

But when I do, I often come across another gem that I want to keep. Like the quote from Suzuki Roshi, '... when my talk is over your listening is over. There is no need to remember what I say... you have full understanding within yourself. There is no problem.' I laugh when I see this one, jotted down on a little slip of paper to remind me that I don't need to.

First published February 2008 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.