Unicorns, Plotting the Future, and Living in the Moment

A local radio station is asking listeners to vote on the best songs of the decade.  They must have skipped a few years on the calendar because I know I was just a junior in college watching the millennium dawn across Galway’s Corrib River.  My best friend only just said to me, “Hey, look, the Earth doesn’t care that we think we just turned 2000.”

Have ten years really passed?  Am I really a mother and a wife who has already written the story of her twenties?  I think I must be.  This morning, when it seemed like Moira recognized herself in the mirror for the first time, her dimples were on full display as she giggled and cooed.  The way the sun fell upon us made me notice for the first time that my own dimples were carving grooves in my cheeks.  Things change when you look away from your own reflection for a while.  At least those lines mean I am an experienced smiler!

These thoughts coincide well with a conversation I had with my Dad yesterday.  For as long as I can remember, he has been counting on his fingers: “Where do you want to be in one year, three years, five years?”  This time we were talking about visionaries, those who determine where corporations and culture will be in fifteen, twenty-five, fifty years.  He was taking my dream of staying home to raise Moira completely seriously and is ready to engage with me as I work on the broad dreams and the devilish details that will get me there. Not only did he want me to focus on how to envision what life will be like through the time that MJ’s gets on the bus for kindergarten, he also was inviting me to peer into a more universal future and decide how I wanted to position myself within it.

In many ways, imaging what the world will look like and what I would like my place in it to be when I am eighty years old seems completely ridiculous since I cannot even picture what it will be like to go back to work next week.  But still, it is a valid and important perspective to be willing to adopt.  Plus, it stops you from looking back one year, five years, ten years and getting caught up in the trap of regret.  (I fight every day not to fall into self recrimination for not having figured out all this stuff before I had a daughter who deserves all the attention and passion she needs.)

As much as I am on fire to pour all available energy into this new non-9 to 5 adventure (more details in time, promise!) because it is fresh and exciting and because it is all meant to be in Moira’s best interests, I am keenly aware of the balancing act it will require.  She sleeps in her swing while I fill a legal pad with ideas.  She coos in her Sleepy Wrap as I type this.  Nothing has my full attention right now, but is it possible to be focused on one thing right now?  Even if I were not trying to construct a DIY livelihood right now I would succumb to multitasking’s siren song. I’d read a novel while I nursed and I’d still be on Facebook while we watched a DVD.

But honestly, how many Zen masters have been 21st century mamas looking to contribute to the household coffers?  Call me when you meet one.  I know that there is huge opposition between the modern imperative to do four things at once and the pursuit of  focused mindfulness.  I have tried to dream myself into the latter camp, but it seems I will have to take the lessons that meditation have taught me and bring them over the world of women who successfully juggle it all.

I have to believe that I can be the mythical supermommy who can be present for her kids, bring in much needed income, and maintain her own sense of self worth.  They are as rare as unicorns, and just as beautiful.

Thing is, I do believe in unicorns, and with all of my energy and consciousness I will raise a daughter who believes in them too.

The Gaps Between Epiphanies and Manifestation

dsc00846Christine over at Abbey of the Arts is holding one of her poetry parties this week, and the theme? Epiphanies. In her invitation to readers to share their work and favorite quotations, Christine offers this in way of a definition:

Epiphany essentially means a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something. It is those moments when in a flash we have insight into something we did not see before.

“Manifestation.” This word comes up in many sources describing the significance of today: the traditional Feast of the Epiphany. The twelfth day of Christmas. Little Christmas. Three Kings Day. The night when the Magi follow the star and offer their gifts to the infant in the savior. The day that the news of Christ’s birth comes to the Gentiles. In fact, manifestation and epiphany are presented to be virtually synonymous.

Funny how dictionary definitions and sacred meanings of terms tend to develop different connotations when they end up in daily use.

When the title of this blog came to me, “epiphany” certainly had no religious meaning. Like Christine above, I think of epiphanies as those little lightning bolts that allow what was once obscure into come into phenomenal focus.

And we use “manifest” all the time when we are talking about shaping our dreams into reality. (Christine Kane is a big advocate.)

Even as Miriam-Webster links these two words, in my world, there often is a great divide between the epiphanies I have and the actual manifestations of these stunning revelations.

Like I said, epiphanies often come as lightning bolts – brilliant to behold, but gone as soon as you can blink. You only know they ever cut across the stormy sky if there is a split tree or a growing fire at the point of connection with the earth. Electric moments of searing realization cut across the landscape, but so few strike a likely target. Brilliant epiphanies tear across the mindscape, and yet so few find an opening to truly manifest.

How many great insights have seemed to dawn like a never setting sun and suddenly vanished when “real life” stormed in? Are such moments really epiphanies at all or just sweet “ah-ha!” moments to temporarily savor but soon forget?

img_0749Obviously the birth of Christ was a true epiphany. Look where we are 2,000 years later – Christianity has manifested like no other faith. There’s no need to have epiphanies to the scale that you are founding you own faith tradition, but what can you do to make you own epiphanies take flesh more effectively?

When you can open your eyes with true awareness, it becomes the clear the messages are flying at you even faster than you can read them. Epiphanies are aching to find you with every step. How can you create the openings in your life so that those flashes of insight become a lived reality?

Sunset Magic on a Monday-less Sunday

As we watched this phenomenal sunset, I said to my husband on this final Sunday evening of the year, “Doesn’t the sky look more beautiful when you realize you don’t have to go to work for a whole week?”12/28/08 sunset

I caught myself as soon as I said that and tried to take it back. I said something about working out a new year’s resolution that meant that Sunday evenings do not have to be panic laced affairs full of sorrow for another used up weekend and dread for the five day slog to the next reprieve. (The kaleidoscope above us had me feeling rather poetical, so I may have actually used that many words to say “we have to quit giving into the ‘Mondays suck’ mentality.”)

The struggle with my job has been a near constant companion for the last couple of years. It was inevitable, really, that a chronic overachiever who decided against getting her PhD should begin to chafe in the confines of a traditional work week, even if it is in a gorgeous college library. Lately, the madness has cooled and I have been able to extricate my ego from my professional life so that I can appreciate the salary and the perks (including this luxurious time off and that sack of books and DVDs that walked out the door with me for the near-two week break). I worry a bit less about whether I am fulfilling my life’s purpose as junior management in a windowless office.

Still, it seems that the drama lingers on and shows its ugly little face in trite “everybody hates work” kinds of comments. I don’t hate working – I do not necessarily enjoy frittering away my time and talents on less than inspirational tasks (who does?), but for now I think the peace I have made with my job is authentic. My life is so full in every other aspect, and I learn so much every day choose to walk through the office door with an aim to practice all that my soul has learned.

dsc01574At the same time, I have a quiet sort of confidence that things will shift when they need to. Life will make way for my healing work and my writing. Things will fall into place so I don’t lose my mind and all my creative expression when motherhood becomes my main focus. In a way that still allows us to pay the mortgage and eat organic food, the job I hold now will be able to fall away and make way for these bits of self that are now relegated to the edges of my day. I just know it.

Thing is, how much “quiet confidence” is enough? When does it become time to leap? How many sunsets need to paint FREEDOM, BEAUTY, RELEASE across the sky before I realize I need to get out of a position that offers me no portal to the outside world?

It’s that age old dance between “follow your dreams” and “you need a day job, kid.”

Like I said, it is less urgent for me at the moment, but it is just this sense of relaxation that allows me to pose the question: when am I allowed to embrace the life that I really want?

Let me rephrase that: when will I allow myself to embrace the life I really want?

The beginning of the answer: as soon as I allow myself to let the Universe know I really want it.

The time for leaping into a new book of days is here.

What do you want?

Have you begun choreographing the dance that will get you there?

The Responsibility of the Dreamer

In dreams begin responsibilities

W.B. Yeats

When I first savored this line in college, I was too high on the poetry and dreaming to realize it was a simple phrase that ends with thud of adult responsibilities. By graduate school, Yeats was as much vocation as avocation, and I was so chilled by watching literature become a responsibility that I left the path of academia before I had really begun. Once I was marooned in the “real world” and trying to forget about poets and their dancing words, I eventually realized I was ducking both dreams and responsibilities. Now that I am carving out a new space for myself and trying to balance the poetic and the pragmatic, I am figuring out the relationship that Yeats described.

I have surprised myself over the last few days with my entries that call for a focus on individual choice and change even at a moment when we are all captivated by events on the national stage will shape our lives. “Responsibility” has not come up in my writing yet, but I think it is inevitable when we think about finding hope and renewal within ourselves rather than relying purely on the inspirational tones of a man at a podium.

America is the perfect example of a dream that became a most certain reality. It has not been sustained by idealists alone, but by people willing to bear the burden of its reality. It hasn’t just been perpetuated by the politicians who believe that they follow in the footsteps of the framers of the Constitution either. If we want to take part in this dream of America, if we want to resuscitate this once mighty icon and save it from its nightmarish state, then we all must take part in weaving the visions of what we want this country to be and then tend those visions as they become reality.

Dedicating oneself to birthing any creative impulse, be it a work of art, a piece of writing, service to another person, or the invention of a country quickly divests the dreamer from her airy throne. There is criticism and exhaustion and fear and doubt to contend with at every turn. In the end, finding yourself in charge of your own brilliant fantasy made sweet flesh must be worth sacrificing the freedom of being devoted to nothing in particular.

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats

Inner Light and Other Dangerous Business

Candles 1 - greyman stock.xchng“Your task? To work with all the passion of your being to acquire an inner light, so you escape and are safe from the fires of madness, illusion, and confusion that are, and always will be, the world.”

–Rumi (trans. Andrew Harvey)

Inner light. What can seem more distant as we push through our daily lives, confined to routine and obligation, trapped by the illusion that there is not enough time or energy or resources to effect change? It seems no less that the human condition to dream of transformation and simultaneously cherish the belief that altering one’s situation is inherently impossible. Certainly there are the rare few who can truly be the change they wish to see, and we read their books and celebrate their vision, often with national holidays. The rest of us, however, seem mired in the world of dashed hopes and shimmering mirages.

Am I too pessimistic tonight? I only write of this sense of shared stultification because I am so afraid that I am just another victim who reads all of the right books and says the right prayers but forgets them as soon as her trust in the beauty of the world is called into question. At work the other day we discovered what seemed the perfect e-mail signature: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your front door.” The unspoken sentiment that we all might prefer to be home with husbands and cats and perhaps even a Lord of the Rings marathon hung in the air as we drifted back to work. We just might like life better if we were not confronted with the madness and illusion that experience and the Sufi poet tell us are inevitable.

Recently I have found my capacity to walk through Rumi’s fires of confusion to be in serious jeopardy. I claim despair at the ugliness and cruelty of the world and the pettiness of the people around me. When I can call on the greater inner voice of wisdom that so often gets drowned out by my victimhood I can understand that such whining about everyone’s else’s attitude is as boring as it is useless. Perhaps it is just an adjustment period as I try to find my bearings even as my perspective begins to shift in light of all that I am learning. Or maybe it is a sign that I have to finally step up and make some of those changes that I imagine in the moments before I fall asleep each night. At any rate, I guess it is time to redouble those efforts to actually practice walking in the paths of those saints and visionaries who seem to be able to make dreams manifest. It is as simple and as tragically complex as cultivating that inner light that I know Rumi would say is already there, glowing within us all.