The Invitation

FullSizeRender (1)I’ll meet you here,
where the paved road ends and days are synced with the clock in the sky

where downloading silence improves our connection
and loading our bones with movement lightens the weight of the world

where curiosity is the only currency of value
and its dividends are paid in moonshine & sunsets

where stillness raises our vibration
and wisdom is written on walls of granite

where we strip down to our souls until we can hear loud and clear
the beat of our own hearts tolling for us.

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Still.

IMG_2143If I sit very still
(as still as a stone)
I can almost see the growth happening
in me, in the soil around me

as the first green stems push up
un-earthing

Such is growth.
un-earthing what is possible
what is unknown
what is to be

I can almost sense the earth’s rotation
and my rotation
around my heart,
my axis

If I sit alone
(for longer than I like)
I can almost hear my voice
small and uncertain
daring to speak up and break the silence

like a bird’s song at dawn
rousing me from sleep
inviting me to listen
to the silence that follows
to the beat of the universe

If I walk slowly
(as slow as the sun sets)
I can almost hear my blood swishing through my veins
and my heart pumping
thump thump thump
and my breath swooshing
inandout inandout inandout inandout

The symphony of Life
I am the conductor
and I am the spectator

So here I sit very still
(as still as the moon)
watching it all
being it all
allowing it all
remembering it all

So that even when I move
(quicker than I should)
and break the spell
some of the magic lingers

like morning dew
or the smell of rain

proof of what was
and what is
and what will be.

A New Year’s Resolution

As this year is winding down the phrase New Year’s Resolution has been skipping through my mind.

It occurred to me that there is one approach to new year’s resolutions that most of us don’t take. That being to adjust our resolution. Not as in I resolve to be healthier. Resolution as in the ability to sharpen our focus and adjust our vision so as to see a clearer, more accurate picture of our lives and ourselves just like the resolution on a new computer or TV would be crystal clear.

My 11-month-old baby has been great at guiding me in my effort to enhance my resolution. His face often looks at something and lights up in a fall magicsmile as if he’s just seen the most magical, amazing thing. I turn to see what he’s looking at and I see nothing. It’s a box or a corner of the wall or the ceiling.

However, when I look closer I see that my adult eyes have missed the magic. On closer examination I find a tiny bug crawling on the wall or a swath of light on the floor. A small dancing monkey on the otherwise boring box of diapers. His mind is so in the present that he sees exactly what’s in front of him.

I stopped making new year’s resolutions years ago. They remind me a lot of diets that people start and give up on when they don’t see quick results. I prefer slow, long-lasting growth to quick fixes. Goals are wonderful tools, but I find it’s easy to get so focused on where I want to go that I forget to start where I am. When I step into my present body and mind I can take legitimate steps in my direction of choice because I can see where I’m actually going.

Enhancing the resolution on our life does not happen overnight. It takes continuous effort, consistent focus, honest introspection, and an ability to readjust over and over again. It is not a quick fix and things may get blurrier before they get clearer.

This time of year I renew my resolve to stick with my process, to keep removing the veil of judgement that often obscures my perspective, to step back on the path of presence when I lose my way and to look for the light that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary and allows me to see clearly what is right in front of me.

3 Steps to Transition Mindfully

the pathWhen going through transition it can sometimes feel like we bring all of our old stuff into a new place. Kind of like moving houses. Our surroundings change, but we don’t.

I often feel resistant to change because it requires me to get uncomfortable. I sort of grin and bear it until I’m through the ickyness and back in my comfort zone.

When I approach change and transitions this way it feels as if I’m trying to walk through a door carrying five bags with me. Cumbersome, difficult, and frustrating. It’s much easier to walk through the door with one bag or no bags.

To truly transition is to “passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another.”

It is to transform.

When I find myself at the doorway of change, internal or external, I ask myself these three questions:

1) Where are you now?

Grounding into the present moment and into our reality, whatever that may be, is essential in order to move forward.

Transitions are uncomfortable, awkward, and make us feel vulnerable. Often all we want to do is get away from the discomfort. Yet sitting with our discomfort is one of the most courageous and transformational steps we can take.

David Whyte simplifies it in his poem Start Close In: “Start close in. Don’t take the second step or the third. Start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take.”

2) What do you need here? 

In a process of transition and change everything is in flux, including you. What serves you here, where you are now, may be very different from what served you a month ago or a year ago. Relationships that nourished you before may be draining now. This is your opportunity to mindfully clean house internally and create space for new opportunities and experiences to take root.

If it’s one of those five bags holding you back from crossing the threshold, leave it behind. If your glass is already overflowing there will be no room for you to receive more.

3) Where do you want to go?

In yoga there’s something called a drishti. It’s a gazing point one focuses on to stay grounded externally and aware internally. Sometimes it’s external, such as focusing on a spot on the ground in tree pose, and sometimes it’s internal. An internal drishti is when we draw our awareness inward so that we aren’t disturbed by external stimuli.

In order to stay balanced when moving in new and unknown directions the focus has to be internal because everything external is changing. Setting a soft focus on where we want to go while staying grounded in our reality enables us to step clearly in the direction of our choice.

Any transition we may be going through is fertile space to transform. Don’t just endure it. Don’t just survive it. Let it transform you. Let it ignite you. Let it deliver you to a new, unexplored place and a new, unexplored you.

Take Heart

IMG_9958What do you think of when you hear the word courageous?

I think of someone being strong, brave, and trembling. They are not without fear; they are just with courage, which gives them the strength to face their fear.

When we are courageous or when we are encouraged we feel inflated, filled up, hopeful, inspired, and strong. When we feel discouraged the deflation is almost palpable.

The word discourage has the French root des, meaning away. The second part of the word, courage, comes from the Latin cor, which means heart.

To feel discouraged is to lose heart or to have our heart taken away.

The things that discourage us are numerous, but here are four that come to mind:

ILLNESS. When we fall ill or become injured we lose our ability to engage in the world in a physically healthy way. We become limited, dependent on others, and can perceive ourselves as weak.

Weakness is not a quality we’ve been taught to embrace. It makes us more vulnerable, more fearful, and requires submitting to the needs of our body instead of pushing our body to meet the demands of our minds.

REJECTION. Rejection discourages us because instead of receiving rejection as an opportunity to reflect and improve if need be, we tend to use it as a mirror from which we think our true value is reflected. Since our self seems to be of no value to the voice rejecting us, we lose heart.

LOSS. Loss feels like our heart is being torn out of our chest. It’s as if we lose a part of ourselves and not just a person we loved or an object we owned. It reduces us to our neediest and weakest state of being and it can feel like we will never recover.

SHAME. Brené Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging.” She explains that “there are specific memories that we can recall that can bring up shame for us, but there are also very insidious quiet messages that we just marinate in over a lifetime.”

Shame does the opposite of encouraging us to love and live freely. It makes us feel like we shouldn’t be taking up space in the world and discourages us from speaking our truth.

At their best these human experiences deflate us. At their worst they crush us. They make us question our worth, our value, and bring us face to face with our deepest needs and fears.

When we feel discouraged is when we need summon the courage from deep within to stay mindful, stay attentive, and stay rooted in our experience.

These experiences might appear to be more shadow than light when we’re in them, but just as a literal shadow changes depending on where you stand and how the light falls, so can the dark times in our life change shape depending on the perspective we choose.

The next time you feel encouraged, notice how your body seems to lift itself up from within.

When you are in need of courage, look within and listen quietly until the sound of your own breath is the only thing that whispers in your ears the truth of who you are; a truth no one can give you or take from you.

You were born with that truth and will die with that truth. The only question is what will you do with it in between.

 

This Too Shall Pass

rose shadowThis is the phrase we all hear when we’re going through a difficult time.

It’s supposed to remind us of the big picture of life.
It’s supposed to remind us our current situation is temporary, no matter how dire it seems at the time.
It’s supposed to remind us to hang in there.

But I’ve been thinking.

It also applies to our great times. Those precious moments, those successes, those accomplishments, those unforgettable memories.

This too shall pass.

Since the good moments are just as fleeting and temporary as what we like to call the bad ones, doesn’t that also remind us of the fragility, the fleetingness, and the brevity of life?

It does for me.

I came to this sobering analysis while nursing my six-month-old. This indescribable mother-baby bond just blows me away. It humbles me, it honors me, and I just want to capture it somehow.

I don’t want to remember it. I want to hold on to it.

In response to my desire to hold on, I remind myself I need to let go. Not just of this, but of every other amazing moment in my life.

This too shall pass.

I know there is no holding on. There is just showing up.

All I can do is show up. All I can do is dig deeper than I’ve ever dug and become radically present for these precious moments, because when they’re gone they’re gone.

And I will rest more peacefully at the end of my life knowing I showed up for my life than if I have a mind full of memories that I was never fully present for.

There’s a poem by Mary Oliver that I love called In Blackwater Woods.

The portion that speaks to me is this:

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go,
to let it go.

That is my work in this lifetime.

Hold it close.
And let it go.

There’s No Prerequisite for Presence

I’ve been practicing Yoga Nidra (also known as yogic sleep) the last few months to help me unwind and rest. The tape I’ve been listening to has this instruction early on:

Bring your attention to what’s already happening.

I like to think of attention as being my full awareness, senses, and being. This is altogether different from merely bringing my mental attention to something. The first is a tangible, full-body experience, with the latter often being a distant, detached evaluation.

In the context of yoga nidra it’s referring to bringing your attention to a particular body part, but I love the phrase because it can be lifted out of my yoga nidra practice and applied to anything in my life.

Bring your attention to what’s already happening.

It does not ask me to change or fix anything. It asks me to show up for what is already there.

The most successful shifts, progress, and change I’ve experienced in my life have come from this simple act of being with what is. The more aggressive approach of trying to fix or change something has never worked very well for me.

But I forget that sometimes.

I forget that the most powerful healer, shifter, and connector is presence. I forget I have this tool with me at all times, and I forget how simple it is to use.

I like to make it harder than it is. I tell myself I need to meditate or I need to do yoga or I need to get outside or I need to rest before I can be present.

While those things make it easier to show up and soften the resistance I often bring to the present moment, the truth is they aren’t a prerequisite to presence.

There is no prerequisite for presence. It’s simply a matter of bringing our attention to what’s already happening.

When I step into my reality I find a unique clarity as what is comes sharply into focus and everything else fades away. This clarity and focus allows me to step consciously in the direction of my choice.

From Here anything is possible.

“You Reading This, Be Ready”

Antoinettes Yoga GardenThat’s the title of a William Stafford poem that contains this powerful question:

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? 

I’ve been contemplating how I hold space for others and how others hold space for me, mostly because I’ve recently been on the receiving end of people holding space gracefully and generously for me.

This concept of holding space I find most palpable in a yoga class. There is ambiance, there is energy, there is conscious movement and words. It’s easy to drop into the present moment because there is a safe, supportive space for us to do so.

I find it to be the same in life. When someone physically holds space for me by listening to me, accepting me, acknowledging me, holding me, or just being with me it becomes easier to drop in to my current experience. I feel supported by whatever or whomever is surrounding me, and it turns me from defensive or scared to receptive and soft. I’m guessing it’s not just me who finds this to be true.

I’ve experienced this in the form of a 30-second hug, a 2-hour conversation, and moments of silence. It’s more the intention and energy than the act. I find being patient with someone else’s process, experience, or moment to be a very nourishing way of holding space for them.

The wonderful thing about this is the more we practice it the easier and more natural it gets. I’ve found that while initially it felt awkward to extend myself to someone, even a stranger, who needed a hug, a listen, or sincere word, it also felt natural. At times I’ve felt compelled to reach out by something seemingly bigger than me. The next time I found myself in a similar situation, I trusted myself a little more easily, I hesitated a second less, I reached out a moment sooner.

Holding space for others is the ultimate gift, both to others and to ourselves, as the last line of Stafford’s poem reminds us:

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

photo credit: Robert Bejil

The Secret of Life

These days I’m not too picky about where I find revelation, inspiration, or dedication. It doesn’t have to fit a certain image, philosophy, or point of view. I redefine what “sacred” is every day, and it doesn’t have to come in a pretty package, be perfect or palatable. In fact, I often find the sacred in life’s rawest and most difficult moments.

My only prerequisite is that it wake me up, humble me, reach deep inside me, and reveal to me what I often forget. One of these gems being:

Whatever path we’re on always leads us back to Here.

Think about where you are when you finally get where you’re going. Where is There? It’s Here. There becomes Here, so there’s really no There.

The more I step into the Here, into the Now, into the This, the more I live my fullest, most fearless, most rewarding life.

I recently adopted a mantra of sorts after reading this story, courtesy of Bob on elephant journal:

A young American makes an arduous journey to the farthest reaches of the Himalayas, seeking to learn the secret of life and happiness from one of the greatest Yoga gurus.

Once in the Himalayas, he travels five days up into the mountains, through many trials and difficulties.  Finally he reaches the high mountain pass where the great old man in a white robe and long flowing grey hair sits in lotus position, staring peacefully off into space.

The young man sits down next to the guru and assumes a similar pose, waiting for his words of wisdom.  An hour goes by.  Then several hours.  Then a day, then several days.  Finally the young man says to the old man, “What happens next?”

The guru answers, “Nothing happens next.  This is it.”

That’s become my mantra.

This is it.

When my mind or body want to get ahead of the present moment, I remind them:

This it it.

We are already here. We have already arrived. This is it.

It’s always a little sobering, a little unbelievable, and a lot liberating when I let those three words sink in deep.

This cutting the vegetables is it.
This ground beneath my feet is it.
This breathing is it.
This challenge before me is it.
This pain in my body is it.
This pleasure in my body is it.
This confusion over how this can be it is it.

It is similar to another mantra I used for quite some time, borrowed from Eckhart Tolle:

Honor the present moment.

His full comment goes like this:

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.

I find these mantras, reminders, and stories invaluable because they give me small, bite-sized tools to incorporate into my everyday life. Here, in our everyday life is where we do the creating, the building, the patterning and repatterning. Small practices repeated every day are what create big change.

We often search high and low for the secret to life, when it’s lived inside us our whole lives. The secret of life is that This Is It. All these unimportant, small seeming, ordinary moments we hurry past in our effort to get There, these are it.

To me the real challenge is not knowing the secret of life. It’s stepping into it with our hearts wide open and finding the sacred in all of This.

When One Door Closes…

doorI recently walked through a wide open door in my life that I had been completely missing because my I was too busy staring at a door that was closed.

The door I wanted to walk through, the door I was anxious to walk through, the door I was sure I was supposed to walk through, that I was standing in front of, timidly knocking at, half afraid it would actually open… that door wasn’t budging.

I camped out in front of this door, completely confused as to why it wasn’t opening. Wasn’t I being patient enough? Wasn’t I ready enough?

Some time passed and I kept working on my patience. One day I decided to take a walk through this great house of doors. I passed doors I had opened long ago and saw all the beautiful things I had found when I entered. I saw doors to rooms undergoing renovation. A door to dreams opened easily and all my dreams sat shiny and ready for me to choose the next one to take off the shelf.

I continued opening random doors, familiar doors… nothing really caught my attention until I opened one door that didn’t look so special. No fancy knob, no key required. Just a plain old door.

I walked through it and pulled a book off the shelf. This book is pretty interesting, I thought. This might be helpful whenever the really important door opens and lets me in. So I settled in. One thing led to the next. There was a beautiful open window in this room, a comfy couch, and everything I seemed to need within my reach.

I think I’ll stay here a while, I mused. The other door can wait.

And so I finally found my way back to my present. As present as I was being in my meditation, in my daily life, in my interactions, when it came to this one area of expectation, of hope, of yearning, I was not being present at all. I had lost all perspective because my focus was so narrowed in on the door that wouldn’t open.

I felt trapped and stuck, without many choices, because I was only allowing for once solution: the door must open. When I expanded my vision to the unknown, to the who-knows, to the unplanned and unexpected, I found myself able to move again. I found myself walking through the door of presence. This door is never locked, and when we choose to enter it holds everything we need. It is peaceful here, satisfying, and there is nowhere to rush off to.

From this place of presence I felt like I could fly. The ceiling was a blue sky and the walls were painted with ease, inspiration, creativity and hope.

At times we all find ourselves standing in front of a door that won’t open. This must be the one I am meant to walk through, we think. I’ve worked so hard to get here, I won’t move until it opens.

Sometimes it opens and sometimes we spend days, months, years, or lifetimes waiting for doors to open.

The path back to presence is always right in front of us, but not always easy to see. When you are lost or feeling stuck, remember to start where you are. It will always lead you to the door that opens every time. This is the magic and the power of Now.

photo credit: the_girl