Throwing Open the Doors, Come What May

May the guesthouse of your soul know no January days...

Beloved Tess over at Anchors and Masts shared this poem by Rumi the other day:

This being human is a guesthouse;
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all.
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture.
Still treat each guest honourably.
She may be clearing you out for some new delight
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them all at the door laughing and invite them in
Be grateful for whatever comes
Because each has been sent as
A guide from beyond!

The last day of my maternity leave is nearing its end.  Though I will only be going into the office three days a week and will be with Moira much more than I am away from her, I somehow feel like I am leaving a remote island where the world has not been able to touch us for the last two and a half months.  We have journeyed out a bit, but when the waves crashed too high we could always retreat back to this country of two, of mother and daughter where the spell of the womb still lingered.

I still belong to Moira in ways I will belong to no other entity.  No job, no obligation, no passion will be stronger than my devotion to my daughter.  And yet, she is not the only being in my guesthouse.  Of course, my husband, the rest of my family, and my friends fill up many of my rooms with laughter and with love, but still, there are also the public spaces where others must be permitted to tread.

A week ago I looked to this time of returning and considered about how I grow through each interaction with those difficult people that my work life sends into my orbit.  In weakness, I still cringe a bit at having to walk back into certain rooms where the air is heavy with mistakes of the past, where relationships have soured and interactions have become strained.  In strength, I can let that old smoke dissipate with one deep breath.  I can willfully forget damaged histories and walk back to the office a woman reborn because hey, I was in many, many ways.

Since Christmas, ghosts of answers to those prayers I was slinging into the Universe about finding a way to stay home with baby girl seem to be finding me.  There is a long way to go to be sure, but little lights are flickering on and little windows are opening in the house of my dreams.  I am realizing that if I am going to fling wide the doors so that such bits of opportunity can make themselves comfortable, then those doors will also have to be open to Rumi’s “cloud of sorrows.”

Right now, I am in a mood that allows anything to be possible, and that includes being grateful for all the good and all the bad that I may encounter in this fully lived life.  Going back to work tomorrow may not be my ideal way to spend a day, but it is the only January 5, 2010 that I will ever see, so I might as well show up and be a good hostess, come what may.

January 5, 2010… Sounds like a pretty mundane sort of day.  What sort of magic will you allow to find you in all its wintry midst?

Courage, For Crying Out Loud!

The word of the year is going to have to be courage.

I tried strength, but I worry there is blindness in just muscling through.

I was debating between manifesting and allowing, but that just proved how confused and addled I have allowed myself to become.  Will I be coming or going in 2010?  Forcing it or just letting life happen to me? Ugh, too much stress to solve THAT in one word.

I need a middle road that keeps me an active player in my fate and yet allows me to surrender to the larger forces of the Universe.

And so, instead of trying to craft a yearlong strategy, I will focus on how I will face life as its challenges and mystery emerge.

With courage.

Growing up, I was never aware that moms could cry.  Since Moira’s birth I have been blessed with tons of quality time with my mother and she has told me plenty of stories about being a fully human mommy to my sister and me, occasional tears and all.  I don’t want to start weeping in the pantry, but at least I have some validation that it is possible to be frail sometimes while still keeping your kids secure in the (perhaps mythic) idea of the Power and Might of the Mommy.

The tidal waves of hormones through pregnancy and the “fourth trimester” have been ample excuse to dissolve into sobs.  It’s time to change that.  Not because I want to start bottling up my emotions or because I want to stop dealing with my feelings (impossible anyway), but because I need to take on the world with all my wits about me.

This is such a confessional turn (more than usual, even) for the first day of the year, but I do not think that I am alone in this.  For all that we may be proud of how aware we are, of how good it feels to “get it” about so many things, there is still a tendency toward leading with our weaknesses.

We have examined our pasts, our spirits, our souls, and we feel pretty comfortable there.  Light has been cast on the wounds and the failings and the idiosyncrasies that make us weird and wonderful.  All this plumbing of our inner depths can leave us holding buckets of pain and pounds of explanations for why we react the way we do, why it’s ok that we’re broken.

All this self examination does no always bring us to the place of wholeness, to strength, to courage, to passion, to forward momentum.

That takes another kind of work, a fiery kind of work that requires more energy than it might takes simply to look within and endlessly ask “why?”

I know a lot about who I am, and I know why I behave how I do.  Now is the time to act on that knowledge, cultivate the behaviors that serve me and abandon those which do not.

Now is the time to turn outward to not only look upon the world with courage, but to move through the world embodying the Damn Fine Courageous and Outrageous Mother that I know I really am.

Tossing Aside the Halo

Sister Mary Epiphany has left the building.

img_2031By that I do not mean that I am making a departures from being the Girl Who Cried Epiphany. Instead, I am giving up on my bid for sainthood.

This whole awakening to my true self and realigning with my spirit has been a long time coming. There has been time to consider the girl I was and the woman I started to be. There has been anger at the mistakes I made. Fortunately, it has taken some time, but I have come around to forgive a lot of those failures and cruelties and misjudgments.

In this whole process of eliminating all of the static that was sidetracking me from really figuring out what I wanted from life and what I was meant to do in my time on the planet, I forced myself into a type of penitence that was probably more extreme than the modern Catholic Church would ever have asked from me.

I lavished my energy on trying to undo the wrongs of the past by looking as benevolently as possible on my present. A good plan, for certain, but the way I was going about it all was rather exhausting.

A friend and I would discuss the differences between necessary venting and soul-sapping complaining. I would see her point about how repression is a really bad thing, but I was pretty convinced that I had to mind my manners and police my exclamations of frustration as much as I could. I had years of snarky negativity to make up for. It was time to start accentuating the positive and willing the negative into oblivion. No matter what I was going to clean up my act and letting the universe know that all along I had secretly been a compassionate, tender person trapped under a brash and bristly exterior.

Of course, it was impossible to be so unbearably good all the time. Invariably, the angst would bubble forth and I’d end up feeling so damn guilty for getting lost in the crusade to find my inner bodhisattva. Not only was a mean and dark-tinged person, I was also lousy at being a good person!

(No worries, I am quite aware of the ridiculous nature of these extremes. It just seems I have to walk through these sudden fires to learn my lessons all too often!)

But lately, I realize that some things are just, well, true. It is still more than true that everyone is carrying around her own universe and that infinite galaxy of experience deserves honor. But, it is also true that sometimes people are uninspired or lazy of bigoted or just plain nasty.

dsc00207Recognizing that every unique snow flake of a human being who crosses my path may not be pleasant or kind doesn’t have to lessen my commitment to spreading love and light. Instead, it offers a much needed reality check. And beyond just recognizing that some people are not fulfilling their potential as bearers of similar light, I am now allowing myself to admit that I do not have to like them or excuse them.

I have found great freedom in just being able to say, “Yeah, well, we know he’s always been arrogant and dismissive. So what?” I think that it is ok to recognize something like that and then just move on, incorporating that knowledge as necessary so the job can get done and the day can still flow along.

When I got tangled up in delusions of grace, trying to look with my benevolent, saintly eyes on all of the ugliness in the world, I was left feeling too unmoored. I was not living fully in reality when I refused to admit that sometimes I got angry and sometimes things were unfair and sometimes people were disappointing.

So, I think I will probably lose my place on the ballot to be voted the next Saint of the Hudson Valley. But hey, the angels just might be ok with occasionally letting my otherwise kind heart tell it like it is…

The Return of the Wayward Corporate Refugee

From the back garden you will be able to see the wild wood.
The deep well you walk past leads to Winter’s realm;
there is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here,
you can walk back, safely;
you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.

(Welcome wisdom… BlissChick offered this Neil Gaiman poem, “Instructions,” today)

I have been away.

Digging for a new sense of purpose...
Digging for a new sense of purpose...

I have been on a journey. Not far, just a journey that took me from the once-upon-a-time a church organ that is my beloved writing desk to the more public realm of the kitchen table.

The work I was doing was pulling me from my shell (often against the will I insisted on trampling upon) and was asking me to consider pulling open some other people’s shells as well.

With the belief (or was it an excuse?) that getting involved with a multilevel marketing company that offers a great product endorsed by Deepak Chopra was going to propel me along the path to being a healer, I gave the last month to this new project. The economic pinch we’re feeling made it seem like an even more acceptable idea. Unsure what was healthy skepticism and what was irrelevant fear,

I plunged in.

But now, as I look at empty slots on the blog calendar and barely remember the names of beloved characters from my neglected novel and realize I really owe Grandpa an email, I wonder if it was worth it and I wonder how to proceed.

It is only just past Imbolc (Brigid’s Day I barely gave myself time to recognize) and I find I have slipped out of 2009’s intended alignment already. Or rather, I was forcing myself into a new alignment that was so far off my present course that it seemed like so much chaos. I was aligning with my need to help save up for impending school taxes. I was aligning with the dreams that my teachers in my healing school had decided would light their own paths. I was aligning with my hope that skepticism was unnecessary baggage and that some corporate promises were fueled by something more than deception and greed.

Finding contentment with where I am
...finding contentment with where I am

I didn’t use this space to describe my brief journey with Zrii, and I have little desire to use it to describe what is probably going to involve walking away or at least drastically altering my relationship with the whole affair. It’s been a tremendous learning opportunity, and I have been plunged into some lessons I didn’t think I was ready to absorb. It all came on the heels of other personal shifts that I thought would take a long time to sort through. I assumed the universe would give me the luxury to focus on one bend in the road at a time, but here I am, once again trying to understand: I am not in control.

So, I believe that I return from this little sojourn with new wisdom, something risked and something gained. I opened arms wide enough to risk humiliation, and so I learn some humility. And so I return to my own path, one that has no logo and no endorsement, one that is shrouded in no illusions but the ones I cannot yet leave behind.

Remember your name.
Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have
helped to help you in their turn.
Trust dreams.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.

Moonlight and Roadkill and Making Peace with the Past

imageafter, everystockfile.com
imageafter, everystockfile.com

There was a time when my spiritual life was anchored by two things: the moon and animals that had been killed by oncoming traffic.

Seeing a white crescent hanging in a blue sky would bring an unaccustomed smile to a face that was creased with worry over a life I could not figure out how to live. I’d whisper “Hi, Lady” and feel the glint of some divine power in what I considered a very bleak existence.

Catching sight of a crumpled, furry corpse would make me shiver in the way you might expect, but it also offered me my only experience of prayer. Again in a whisper I would say, “I commend your soul to the Goddess.” I’d drive on, convinced, at least for a few moments that a great, compassionate Being watched over us all, especially her most defenseless creatures.

I was in a relationship that dissolved my sense of self and power and I was working in a job that truly soul destroying experience. (If ever I weary of an idyllic college library, I need to remember the gigantic orthopedic surgeons’ office in a high rise; I’ve never met people so miserable as the female secretaries of all those male doctors.)

dsc01228My boyfriend, whom I thought I had to love beyond all sense and reason, was a great guy – but just not for me. For all that he could not understand or reach me, he did have his own stores of wisdom as he tried to create a life with the very depressed woman who shared his home. I remember him saying that he wished I had a cat to come home to so that I could be able to look forward to coming home each night to a creature who loved me (he worked nights, so he was apparently looking for a four legged substitute for himself). As much as I yearned for a pet, I know I despised him a little for that comment and for leaving me alone so much that I needed to find friendship at the ASPCA.

Of course, looking back I salute him for being so right.

Each day I awake to count my blessings. A man I love with all the right mix of sensibleness and unreasonableness and everything in between. A pair of cats who greet me at the door and make me laugh every day and warm the bed each night. A clear, open sky full of the moon and the open eyes to see her. An awareness of the Divine in all things, not just departed squirrels and waxing celestial bodies.

I bask in the empathetic gaze of animal friends as well as the awesome, changing power of the moon and understand that hopelessness is a habit long outgrown.

img_2040And still, recognizing that I still greet the Lady when I see a smudge of white on the morning horizon or repeat a prayer over every departed animal, just as I did when my life was at its worst, reminds me that there is worth in every moment of life, even when it feels wasted and pointless. Back then, despite the thick fog of despair that was my twenty-third year of life, a connection to my true self still blazed forth.

I have never felt so distanced from that chain-smoking girl as I do now, but I must respect and remember that poor lost girl. She helped to create the woman I love to be today.

I honor the person I no longer have to be. She is every bit a part of me, just as the phases of the moon and a connection to animal life is a part of my every day.

Recognizing that even when life seems to be at its maddest, there is still a connection to true self. I feel so much closer to that and ususally laugh off my past as an unrecogniable dark period, but in fact, that woman created who i am now. Honoring her, just as I honor the moon and the animals who lost their battle with oncoming cars.

Life, A Constant Process of Remembering

Going through my notes from my healing class from a week ago, I came across another little sip of wisdom that is opening up a new universe of thought for me:

Life is a constant process of remembering.

Anna's shot, the lawn

Either you look at this idea with a belief in reincarnation – that we gathered this wisdom in past lives and are trying to re-collect our thoughts in this next spin through life. Or, it has nothing to do with how many times you might have walked the earth. If we all came from the Great Source, then we once sat beside God and had access to all transcendence. To live is to try to get back to that place of Oneness.

Striking out on a spiritual path can be frightening. We are shaken from our slumber when we leave behind the malaise of daily life and look at the world with wide, fresh eyes that seek the sacred in everything.

It may have been a restless sleep, full of nightmares and cold sweats, but the bad dream of an unexamined life is at least a familiar one. To abandon those chilly, but accustomed nights can be nearly impossible when the alternative is a lonely walk into the undiscovered country of the spirit.

We know that leaving behind our ties to the pedestrian and the limiting have to be dissolved, however, if we want to free ourselves an experience a new way of being. The routines that bind us to stunted dreams and unrealized potential have to be dissolved.

How might we open ourselves to the possibilities of a journey into consciousness if we think of it not as a rush of brand new spiritual revelation, but as a process of recalling that which our souls already know? What if it is not a leap into the unknown, but a gentle process of sinking gently into the loving embrace of the Mother?

Suddenly, a thought strikes me:

We go through the process of being human so that we can learn to be more divine.

Unified Soul, Unified Self

Cornaro window

The elusive it we are seeking has so many different names. Union. Wholeness. Oneness. Balance. Wisdom. Enlightenment. Love.

All are shades of a desire to feel complete, to feel as if we can quit hoping and striving for Truth and just experience it.

An idea that keeps cropping up that I think helps us to get closer to this better place: non-duality.

Andrew Harvey was the first person I ever heard talk about having a non-dual relationship with the Divine. He offered the line by Sufi mystic Al Hallaj:

Between me and You, there is only me
Take away the me so that only You remain

The simple mathematics of this wisdom always stays with me. Meet the Divine by removing the only barrier that stands between us and God: the human ego.

Harvey talks a great deal about recognizing that we are not separate from God, but that we all carry the Sacred within us. We are all containers that hold Divine love and so we are always in union with God – if only we can allow this infinitely intimate relationship.

This idea of non-duality is also a beautiful way to look at the relationship that we have with our own true selves.

When we try to fool ourselves and the world that we really are several different people (the work self, the home self, the practical self, the creative self), we are setting up another set of barriers between us and happiness. We pretend that we can be productive and accomplished only if we can create a cast of characters who manage different aspects of life.

But, where ever you go, there you are – right? We need to lose the illusion that we can ever actually splinter ourselves or get in the way of our relationships with the true self.

What would happen if we all realize that the true sense of who we are does not have to be kept separate from the real world because we feel like we need to wear masks of protection?

How sweet could life be if we stopped living according to the dictates of the fragile ego and started living through the wisdom of the soul?

Between false self and true, there is only fear
Take away the fear so that only truth remains