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?

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Wise Woman Nurturing

Months ago, when I was trying to describe my vision of why the Girl Who Cried Epiphany had to rise from the virtual ashes, I tried to craft an title for my pursuit of wisdom and spiritual connection. I came up with Wise Woman Working because a wise, wise woman was just who I wanted to be.

Yet again, it was an Ani song that has been my soundtrack.dsc00871

it’s a long long road
it’s a big big world
we are wise wise women
we are giggling girls

Wise Woman Working. I loved the way “working” was such a multi-layered verb. It encompassed both the idea that I was an active creature, trying to get something done and also that I was like a piece of wood, being worked and crafted by my experiences.

The other day in a talk with my husband that covered the mysteries of marriage and the growing pains of personal and collective growth, I kept talking about the work that we had to put in. Usually it is my role to dole out the relationship maxims, but I know I am not the only source, especially when my love is the one to urge me to stop with all this talk of “work.” “Let’s talk about nurturing each other,” he said.

And so I look back, three months after my initial dance with all this Wise Woman Working and realize I need heed my own wise man. How does my vision shift if I think instead about Wise Woman Nurturing?

dsc00860Life is full of work and struggle, but true, respectful, and focused nurturing are all too rare.

This change in language helps me understand in one more way that I am not the only one in control. I cannot force my way to wisdom by putting in long hours and gritting my teeth really hard. I have to wait and coax and midwife this wisdom with all of the tenderness and honesty I can muster.

“The business of life.” “Working on a relationship.” “Spiritual exercises.”

I know I have used all of these phrases to show that I understand the rigors of conscious living. I want everyone to know that this stuff is hard and is worthy of all my efforts. Thing is, I am realizing that my work ethic is very rarely in question, in my spiritual life or anywhere else.

This delicate process of awakening so rarely requires elbow grease. What it does cry out for is sensitivity and creativity, patience and passion. Just like when a couple journeys through life-long love, when an individual walks the path to wisdom she needs to be nurtured. Neither wisdom nor love will be wrestled and forced into submission.

And so, like any good plan, mine is open for constant revision. For now, farewell working, hello nurturing.

Yeah, Work Is Work, But What Else Might It Be?

img_0784I have written many times about the tension between having a day job and wanting to pursue my writing and healing live full time.

Green as a Granny Smith apple, I look to the bloggers and friends who can dedicate all of their time to their creative pursuits. I wish constantly for the financial freedom or the artistic warriors’ courage that allows them to refuse the constraints of the nine to five.

I shadowbox with guilt that my work ethic isn’t strong enough, that I should knuckle down and realize I wasn’t born independently wealthy and that I love this new house and have to earn the salary to pay for my piece of it.

At the same time I try to sort out the root my aversion to my job. Is going to a temple of knowledge every day and being paid for my pains actually painful or is it just an amplified version of the drama everyone experiences on Monday mornings? What if my soul is trying to tell me that I must do something else? What if I just don’t realize how good my job could actually be?

These are all still rhetorical questions, because I sure as heck don’t have any of the answers to them. Yet.

One thing I have sorted out, however, is helping me find new peace with my job as I continue to show up there each day. It sprang from a great deal of soul searching I did over my vacation when I started to realize how worried I was about returning to work.

I have been afraid to either like my job or give it my best effort because it might lead to contentment.

Huh?

You see, I worried that if I was content in my work, the Universe might start to think that all I could do was take care of the logistics of a college library and design a few publications and manage a few budgets. The Universe (or God or my boss or myself) might start getting the idea that this life was ok for me and I could quit striving for that elusive something better. Even worse, I feared that that “something better” might stop trying to find me.

And so, I offered about 42% of my energy and attention to 40+ hours of my week. Somehow, I still expected to come home and switch into being able to give 110% of myself to writing and healing and loving my husband.

img_0788But, there is this thing called inertia. It the law that says that an object (or a redhead woman) is most likely to persist in a given state once she is already hanging out there. I am not sure what sort of magic I thought might happen during the commute home, but I guess I was hoping All Things Considered offered the alchemical secret of turning disaffected, scattered working girl into inspired, focused epiphany girl in the span of a thirty minute drive.

And so, I still have absolutely no idea if I am supposed to work toward escaping the relatively safe and predictable world of a salaried, benefit laden job in higher education (not that anything is all that stable these days) or if I am supposed to take all those risks and step into a “career” of my own creation. But, at least I am coming to understand the law of physics in my professional and creative lives and have stopped believing that I can make gold from the ashes of an unlived day.

I am dedicating myself to my job anew, and daring myself to look at every task and every person with fresh eyes. I am willing to risk offering all of myself to my position for the hours that I am paid to do so. Heck, if I do that maybe I can stop blogging about work on my own time!

What are your strategies for getting through the workday? Do you have this sense of tension too?

Those of you freed souls that we office-dwellers envy – what is it like on the other side? Any secrets you’d like to share with the class?

New Projects: Energy and Inertia and Seeking Balance Once Again

Things are beginning to speed up.

ajmac, EveryStockPhoto.com
ajmac, EveryStockPhoto.com

After a long time spent nurturing seedlings of thought and possibility, I am watching some of my work begin to blossom into the world. I have had the luxury of sticking close to the shelter of the earth, playing with concepts and ideas without risking their exposure to the elements of risk. But now, I realize I am not sticking so close to the underbrush. It is time to move outward.

For one thing, this blog has called to more readers, and while we are still a small, intimate community, I feel the pull of those who enjoy my presence here each day (thanks to all of you for the encouragement and receptivity!).

My healing work is beginning to take a new, vital shape. I find that I want and need to take loving ownership of what I am learning. I want to find the courage and the confidence to share my growing skills with the world. I am getting involved with a related business, a product I really believe in, and am both excited and a little nervous to see where all this will take me.

The productive serenity of the last week at home, when desire was my only guide, really represents the quietness that has surrounded me for the last few years. Plenty has been shifting and quaking under the surface, but externally, things mostly moved along at manageable pace.

Now I find myself back at work, immersed in my public life even as these “extracurricular” elements are reaching new and demanding heights. Some places are not so private anymore as I become willing to take the leap and put myself out there in support of my passions and my vision.

John-p, EveryStockPhoto.com
John-p, EveryStockPhoto.com

And so I decided that inertia would be my friend. I would become the woman in motion most likely to stay in motion since I could not risk a pause, lest the series of new spinning stars should slip from their orbits. In the past, all of the inner work I did just begot more inner work. Now it seems to becoming time that the outer work should lead me further toward the sun.

“Inertia” was lingering near the front of my brain because Anodea Judith uses it when she talks about the third chakra, the yellow chakra of fire, in her book Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System. She talks about the way that a fire that begins to burn will most likely continue to grow. All I could think about as I began to feel so full of all these new projects was that I needed that fire to roar and sustain me through all of my various ventures. I wanted energy to flow through my fingertips and enliven every moment. I’d fit in exercise in the thirty minutes before bed if I needed to, and if I needed to sleep less, I would do that too.

dsc01509Then I sat down to write this tonight and I remember how much I love and crave the quiet, meandering process of collecting my thoughts in this space each day. Sitting at my beloved desk with a cat on my lap has little to do with a constantly increasing conflagration in my already busy mind. Something didn’t add up, so I went back to Judith’s book and read a little more closely.

The third chakra, in her view, is all about inertia, but it is also about the will. Inertia, even the kind that keeps you moving and productive, is not necessarily a good thing. Inertia is a kind of oblivious momentum that has little to do with consciousness and everything to do with feeling powerless. How many people suffer from being chronically driven overachievers not because they are enjoying being so good at everything, but because they are terrified to slow down and see what really may lurk within their usually frantic minds? It takes strength of the will to overcome these unconscious forces and summon energy when it is needed and call upon silence when it is time for stillness.

These are lessons I have learned and thought were deeply rooted in my core. This slowing down over the last couple of years was a hard won process that enabled me to listen and be after years of running around like a woman desperately afraid to fail. Suddenly, I wanted to throw all that work away for the sake of increased efficiency the moment a few projects seemed to be taking on new life.

In the face of all my excitement that was fueled by such confidence in my freshly forged sense of wholeness, I nearly lost sight of my integrity and my truth before I even began.

I said that I wanted to align my priorities in 2009. I decided “align” was preferable to “balance” because balance seems to be all about a crazy dance between opposites. And yet, I think I must realize that though I treasure alignment as an ideal, we have so little control over things in life, even the growth of our own dreams, and we must allow things to flow as they will.

Sometimes balancing the competing beasts of possibility is the best we can do. As I look upon all that I wish to accomplish, I think I can embrace balance as a fine strategy for the moment. It certainly beats losing myself to the fires of inertia and being burnt to a crisp!

Wisdom’s Messenger

I am still very much excited and energized by the word I have chosen to be my theme this year – align (I better be, the year isn’t even twenty hours old yet!).

And yet, the more I contemplate the ways I will practice “align” the more I understand that this is just a tool that will get me through my year. A single word cannot hold all that aspire to, all that I expect from myself in my journey through 2009. It isn’t supposed to, after all, since this is supposed to be an alternative to those cumbersome and cruel new year’s to-do lists.dsc00613

Align is the daily breath of inspiration that will help me fly toward my larger vision – aligning with my soul’s purpose.

I didn’t exactly expect to receive the gift of a goal that was annunciated any better than that, but as I sat down in the meditation chair tonight, I was offered something slightly more concrete.

This holiday break has allowed me to pursue the activities that my heart dreams might occupy my every moment: writing, reading, meditating, healing myself and my beloved, tending to our home, and being present to watch the setting sun and the waxing of the moon. It has given me the courage to whisper to the Universe that I have so much work to do in this world that I am ready invest all of my energies in these creative pursuits.

It’s the old tension between vocation and avocation rearing its troublesome head again (or perhaps I should say still). As much as I have tried to crush it under the heels of my boots every time I walk from the car into work, this lingering conviction that I am meant to do something else, something more, still persists.

And so, tonight I was asking for guidance for the year to come and I was given this new way to frame my identity, my sense of purpose:

wisdom’s messenger

It seems the Universe sees fit to offer me a fancy title in answer to my question of who I am meant to be in the year to come. All I need to do is live my way into fulfilling such a promising offer. I have been graced with this thirst to know, this desire to serve, this yearning to connect. (Pair that with this Gemini’s love of writing and communication and call me a mortal Mercury!)

dsc005502009, please help me to walk across your pages as

a seeker of truth,

a gatherer of visions,

a messenger of wisdom.

And you, dear readers, are there any insistent messages that have blown in with the new year? Any shifts so powerful they refuse to be contained by a single word alone?

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?

A Smooth Landing Back in the “Real World”

When we stepped from the cozy den of our teacher’s home, with its great bellied wood stove and the incense flavoring the air, the coldest winter wind of the season tried to steal the breath from our throats. Naked trees shivered and swayed in the frosty air and the taste of December settled on our lips.

One of my classmates sighed and said, “Back to the real world.”

Buddha in the snow

I swear I spoke from a place of truth deep inside of me, and not from any false optimism when I replied, “But that was the real world.” I meant that though our three day healing artists’ class had been transformational and downright otherworldly, it had actually happened and it was part of the reality our group has been blessed enough to know on this earth.

This feeling carried me through to the moment, a little over twelve hours later, when I walked into my office and managed to still wear a gentle smile. My previous weekend-long classes had spat me into Monday mornings with a sense of dread and discombobulation. Meditation and healing work had nothing to do with balancing budgets and book shifting projects and I had felt lost between the two worlds.

Today, however, I was amazed by the blissful sense of integration that bore me through the day.  I had managed to bring the healer that I know myself to be through the doors of the workplace. At last, I felt a sense of wholeness that was almost always lacking when I sat down at my desk and interacted with colleagues.  I’d had enough of leading a life that was disconnected with itself.

It is time to stop believing that we are more than one person, that we can effectively slice ourselves up into little pieces and give our spirits to God, and our love to our families, and our practicality to our work. We are all complex, multifaceted creatures with our fingers dripping with all different colors of finger paint, but that rainbow is all unified by one hand, one arm, one being who dances in many different worlds.

I have been struggling with a sense of desperation because I felt like a fraud in every part of my life, especially as I tried to reconcile my professional/working self and my healer/writer/seeker self. No piece of me could get my full attention or dedication because I was so busy slicing myself up into discrete portions.

Many months ago, a dear friend counseled me that all of my worlds did have a sense of harmony and did make sense because they all had one essential element in common: ME.

Her wisdom did not take root in my heart until I walked through this workday and realized that my true self really was the fulcrum that balanced my two worlds.

I cannot manage people and projects if I do not come to everyone with an open heart and a belief in the interconnectedness of all beings. I cannot thrive as a writer and a healer if I do not use the organized, disciplined parts of my brain. My different identities have always colored the others in my closet of characters. The diversity of my experiences and abilities have always been a source of power for me, however untapped and unrecognized.

We all carry around an entire universe of possibility. How many of us have trouble finding the compatibility that truly does exists between the different corners of that universe? How much more powerful can we be if we stop drawing lines in the sand of our consciousness and embrace true integration?

What new forms of harmony and understanding might thrive in this world if we can first find a way to create such a sense of balance within?