Friday, June 7, 2013

bird song

my window is open to the cool morning air. red headed woodpecker drills a cedar post, the rat a tat solid, up close. red wing black bird calls from his cat tail perch on the pond. warbler song drifts from the top of the oak. henry crows out in the garden. a summer morning before the heat of the day pushes me into the river.

one of my best friends told me, two nights ago, she has one year to live. her news like the heat of the day. oppressive. i will be walking with her to that doorway. i've done this work with loved ones too many times before. life seems to have tapped me on the shoulder and given this work to me. but then...we all lose people we it not the work we each have been given?

someone asked my friend 'what does it feel like to know you will die?' i laughed long and loud when i heard this. in a culture generally afraid of death it is a precious question. my friend turned to the woman and said, 'you tell me. you will too.' the woman was stunned into silence, realization stripping blinders from her.

another friend told me there is a workshop called one year to live. seems like a worthy exercise. how do i show up to each day without autopilot talking over? am i really hearing those i  care about in my interactions? do i let the miniscule joys of the moment fill me? can i float with grace and ease with my friend rather than feel oppressed? will we fill our days with laughter?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Your Wild and Precious Life

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Mary Oliver says in her New and Selected Poems. I first saw the quote painted high up on the wall of a one hundred year old house. I sat in a large rocking swing with my daughter eating organic homemade ice cream, our rhythmic movements soothing, the ice creams' delectable flavors (lavender vanilla) rendering us speechless for a time. Olivers' quote is painted in large cursive meandering along the top of the wall, food for thought while experiencing food bliss.

How wild is my one life? Do I view my life as precious every day? My mother's house was sprinkled with calligraphy. I inherited one piece reminding me, "What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it." There are many days in my life which pass by without extraordinary events occurring. And then there are years in which hardly a break exists and the pacing is relentless. But right now my life is fairly quiet. I have the luxury of contemplation. And the subject often on my mind is the plan for my wild and precious life. Or rather the meditation is on what to make of the rest of my life.

I've accomplished many things in my life so far. "You're an amazing manifester of creativity," said a friend visiting recently. I acknowledged her compliment and yet feel distant from that woman, me, who has created so much. The near death experience last year is still teaching me, though my body has recovered. One of the things it has given me is retreat. Stillness. Forced me to it I will admit. But once I accepted it would not go away, the recovery taking longer than I expected, I surrendered my pushiness and have even, I dare say, embraced the stillness. I look into it, listen in it. Feel it. Revel in what comes out of it.

The silence speaks. Or maybe the small voice is that of my heart, a voice I have heard over the course of my life, which is gaining far more respect from me now than ever before. I wonder how fully we inhabit our own lives. How fully we make our life what we want. Or do we even allow ourselves to dream? Do I take hold of my thoughts and consciously channel them along lines I chose or do I let them meander as led by others, media, ancient history?

I've been told that we are now in times in which people are able to manifest quite rapidly. I've been told that everything in my life is what I have created. So the still point of the last year is of my own making. Oddly what most keeps me still is the deep sense that I am creating my one wild and precious life. Exhilaration and awesome responsibility course through me. Sitting at the halftime break, as I have come to view this season of rest, I have taken apart everything that guided the first half. I step consciously into each act of the present moment.

The most recent illumination coming from the silence revealed a subtle course of movement in which my choices were guided by how others would respond. Important. Sure. Considering others is a very good and necessary part of getting along. But it is not the only thing. And how or whether others appreciate, validate, approve or understand what I do is unimportant when living my one wild and precious life. I say this with deep understanding of the law of love, that which holds my actions to a course honoring the life and choices of others. But so much, so very much, of what I choose to do with my life is "none of your damn business" as my grandmother would say.

I woke with a vision of a person, the fullness of life which is possible holding the smaller life being lived within. I wonder how many of us inhabit our lives fully, letting ourselves bloom and grow and live planted free and outside of a bonsai existence?  What a lively garden we would all make if we give ourselves the gift of exploring our wild and precious selves.

Monday, February 4, 2013


So many different kinds of silence. Comfortable. Awkward. Long. Easy. I've felt many nuances of silence. Both as the one offering it and receiving it. Silence can be unnerving. Endless. Nonexistent. And yet there really is no lack of sound in silence.

I loved that song from Simon and Garfunkle. "Hello darkness my old friend...I've come to talk with you again...and the vision that was planted in my brain...still remains...within the sound of silence." How many hours have I sat on my deck looking over the pond? If silence is a lack of human voice, man made machinery, then I've logged a mite few hours of silence. But what gets me up out of my cozy chair by the fire this morning but the first song of the red winged blackbird returned. Yes! A voice calling in the wilderness. A voice of a friend from summer. The slightly raucous song calling me out of hibernation. Offering hope of warmth soon. Telling the news of earth, spring coming soon! After a winter with uncharacteristic amounts of snow on the ground this is good news. Fragrance rises from the thawing ground welcoming red wing blackbird back again.

The silence I live within, a silence found along a rather uninhabited dirt road, has been broken with the visit of my children. News from the outside world. Enthusiasms in full flow. The deepest, darkest days lived in solitude are ended for another year. That particular silence of wilderness winter has passed. Their youthful energy a rare gift and a pleasure. Their love of the life lived in and around silence pleases me. As does their ability to navigate urban life. Balance. Important in silence.

Living in silent solitude offers the voice within an audience. Will I listen? What do I hear? Can I let the silence be or do I rush to fill it? Can I decide to tune out long ago dialogues? Can I create new material? New songs to sing? Meet head on and acknowledge the songs I would rather pretend do not exist? And how about learning that there are some things I have no answers for? Plenty of stuff to MSU (make stuff up) around as well. And then there are times when no voice at all speaks. When I am simply part of all that is. Not a separate I. All of this arises in silence when I am living solo.

Is the silence that comes between two people different?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Real Presence

Contemplating being in the moment I wonder about real presence. Clear presence. It popped into my head this morning that the now moment could be used as an escape. You know, one step ahead of a past you would rather forget. Of issues you would prefer remain unaddressed. Doors kept firmly shut. Rather than a dwelling place. Sanctuary.

The difference between the two is found with intention. Do I intend to live a life with integrity and clarity, or am I looking to let myself go with abandon? The paradox is that the present moment offers both. Finding presence as a way of life means recognizing that now holds infinite possibility as well as nothing at all. Resting in presence is possible when I am at peace with all of who I am and what I have done in my life. There is nothing I hide from myself. And I am willing to let others see me fully. It does not mean I have to show others everything, but I am not actively hiding.

Clarity is an ongoing process. My mother would say, "more will be revealed," and as clarity unfolds do I allow myself to continue to open my eyes? To accept what is? I know from personal experience it is a precarious balancing act to stay in now presence when I am working hard to keep from feeling, being real, holding back anywhere. Then it is an effort of will rather than surrender of same. It is not sustainable. This is when staying in now is escape, not home.

I once heard the Dalai Lama talk about being two faced. It was a beautiful talk, so generously addressing what many suffer in finding their way to self love. We carefully construct a mask of who we think or wish we are, or who we think others want us to be. The mask serves to cover anything we do not like about ourselves, of those things we have learned others may not like if they really know who we are. And of course we are another underneath this mask. HHDL said it is always known when we meet someone who has these two selves. Humans intuitively feel this dissonance.

The dissonance makes staying in now presence a teeter totter.  Taking off our masks is a brave thing. Letting myself be imperfect, less than my idealized self, is a gift. The beginning of self love. Masks off, the tipsiness stops. Now presence remains for longer periods of time.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Staying in the Moment

"What is my attraction to leaving the present moment?" I was asked recently. "This is what I want to explore in depth with someone," the same person said. My immediate thought is somewhat the about exploring what keeps me returning to the present moment?

It does not take much. Simply taking a small peek at the world around me and giving a breath of attention to it. The frost on the lawn, the cry of a hawk. The feel of a cats paw on my arm as I write and he purrs. All of this grounds me here, now.

Last year I had a near death experience. My best friend did as well. We were laid low for long months. Painful slow recovery. Agonizing struggle with emotions. Lack of appetite. Inability to be who we once were. Uncertainty about who we would be should we emerge on the other side of the darkness.

Oddly it was submission to the present moment, however painful, which kept me from insanity. When the pain became huge one dear friend told me to stay with myself and breathe. To allow myself to feel beneath what the obvious pain was and into the deeper issue. Most often it was fear. That I would not recover. That I would never have joy again. Fear about the permanent loss of zest for life, friends, any passion for anything. Fear that I was letting go of life and that life was going on without me. The paradox of allowing myself to sit with myself in the fear without pushing any of it away was a return, very gradually, of love. Little by little things lightened up by miniscule steps. Slowly the balance shifted.

Important to the staying present was simply feeling, releasing my mind from having to tell a story about what was happening, to let go of grasping to understand or explain. I gave my brain permission to not know. Often I would find tears streaming out of me and at those moments just stopping to sit and literally wrap my arms around myself and stay with it was soothing. The NDE facilitated the release of so much I did not know was no longer serving me. After the pain came the deep disorientation of having lost my way. Sitting with this, in the moment, was not fun. But the more I let it be OK the easier it became to rest in the unknown. Next came boredom. The time when I memorized the treeline, the couch molded to my body and I waited for strength to return. Through all of this I found out how to live in the deep peace that exists underneath all the chaos of life.

My best friend discovered a most important tip which pointed both of us into joy. Noticing the tiniest beauty, now. Letting myself rest in it. It was her gift of insight which led us both out of the depths of darkness and back to the light. Bit by bit those small recognitions of beauty have grown.

On the other side of the year which shattered me I am able to say that no one moment is better than another. No preference. The gift is learning to simply stay in now, stay with myself, no matter what. A fundamental element of loving myself, staying present to myself. And now...I can stay present to others as well...because I know how to do this for me.

And as my mother would say..progress, not perfection!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Exercise in Self Love

Look into the mirror. Look yourself in the eye. Say, "I love you."

Do this for a month any time you pass a mirror. Out loud.