Toni Morrison Revisited


Many will recognize Toni Morrison’s name; some will have read her body of work; a few will feel they truly know her. For me she was a symbol of creative inspiration. Back in the 80‘s at George Mason University, before she had received national acclaim, she spoke and read an excerpt from an unpublished book, “Beloved.” She didn’t really explain what the book was about, she just quieted herself and read to us. It was perhaps the most profound experience, I had ever received from a public event. In that still warm room of people from all walks of Life, she pour her feelings into her words; and, as she said often, “words have power.”


Perhaps I would add that “intention” behind words have power. It seemed her only intention was to share what she had written and let us choose what we would do with what we heard. What I did was write about her strong presence and belief in her words to convey a message; a different message to each of us to be sure. She seemed to have no attachment to how we received her words. That was their power for me. It freed me to write more and to share what I wrote more freely.


Last night after viewing a powerful documentary, her friends spoke of who they and others believed her to be: limited by her chosen subject matter, skilled at writing because of her study of the written words as an editor, impatient, unrecognized, entitled, confident, insecure, loving, direct, change agent, funny, task master, etc. to mention a few. No one mentioned her power as an orator, but in the documentary, it is her speaking directly into the camera that carried most clearly a piece of who she was in each moment. The introduction to the documentary was created by puzzle pieces of photographs of her face as she aged and grew into her fame and award winning presence in the world of literature. It seemed she was many pieces to many others, and it seemed that she was okay with that.


In response to a question about her popularity, her friend said, “she wrote without judgment of the behaviors and identities of her characters.” Of all that was stated last night, this rang most true for me. Words have power, but what they create is at the sole discretion of the listener. Knowing that is liberating for me in so many ways; free to share without responsibility of how it will be received. Radical!


It was mentioned last night that in “Sula” one character felt she had been wronged by another character. They were depicted as close friends. The character who felt she had been wronged yearned for an apology as most humans do after feeling harmed. She asked through Toni’s words if hurting her didn’t matter. The character depicted as the one whose actions caused these feelings of harm answered, “yes, it matters, but only to you.” Harsh or just true? This is the power of Toni Morrison’s writing. Each of us decides for ourself.


Today as I walked and photographed leafs laying here and there, I thought of what non-judgment means to me. It was easy to not judge that one leaf left the tree too soon or that another had just the right amount of color. Their appearance and placement was a product of their environment and then they were carried about by a wind of which they had no control. But what of people? Does the knowledge that beings have the power of choice prevent us from being non-judgmental about another’s character or actions? As beings with choice, will we cling to our environment and live out our days captured by our cultural beliefs or is it possible that we can study our own beliefs and choose to use what we learn to fly? Toni Morrison suggested that we not write about “our little life’s.” My interpretation of her message is to write about Life experiences in the context of a bigger more global idea of acceptance of their power to enrich me first and then perhaps others. There are no little Life’s.


For me this is the power of language in a skilled writer like Toni Morrison. Her ability to convey without judgment a piece of the humanity puzzle that inspires me to give it more than a moment’s thought, opens my heart and makes it impossible to see things as I did a moment before. Once a long time ago, I had the honor to be in the same room with unassuming unrecognized greatness. Because she dared to share her words, a small piece of Toni Morrison lives on within me still and I am grateful.

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To Toss or To Mend?


The two old tables laid in pieces damaged during my recent move. Tired from unpacking, I stood contemplating the possibility of saving them. My mind said, “Time to Toss,” and my heart said, “In time Mend.” So I closed the closet door and turned to more immediate needs to get settled in my new place.


Time passed. The two old tables remained on the floor. They came to me over 20 years ago along with the purchase of my condo; they were old even then. Looking down at them, my heart closed with detachment; they were old so time to toss. Feeling numb, I suddenly stopped closing the closet door because the thoughts of  detachment concerned me. In many ways during my Life, I turned with detachment from pain and sorrow of loss. This numbing of pain that resulted in closing my heart protectively had turned in time to the numbing of other things including the joy of living. For a very long time, my intention has been to allow the pain and healing of wounds to be felt within my body. So in that moment my heart reopened and it ached with a stabbing pain. The tables had a long history and my imagination painted a vivid picture of what that history might have been before they came to me. The tops are made of marble; from where might that beautiful marble have come? What person where spent energy to build them and for whom? How old were they really?


It occurred to me that what I needed here was not detachment from loving them, but non-attachment to the outcome of my effort to save them. Admitting how much I love them and by giving myself permission to attempt to mend them opened me to a third possibility. It was time to do my best to repair them knowing that they may be beyond saving; and if so, my grateful aching but open heart could let them go.


As a carpenter’s daughter, my head knew it could go either way, and so I began. It took seeking advice, it took missteps and patience, it took acknowledgment of my love for them, it took courage to see the limitations (mine and theirs); the process was as joyful as it was tedious. My open heart was rewarded with new learning about the difference between detachment to what is and non-attachment to perfect outcomes. That in itself would have been worth my efforts. And the two tables have been restored, not quite to perfection, but to function. Each day they remind me of the dangers of viewing my world intellectually without feeling the emotions resident in my body. My Life-history is long, filled with losses and triumphs; and over the years, my growth has allowed me to view them as the same with gratitude for the experiences and the deep feelings of caring that come with them. Remarkable!


Small Steps Of Letting Go


It is a snowy evening in late winter. Because of my decision to sell my home, I have spent the last few weeks assessing what I will keep, and what I will donate to others, and what I will simply throw away. It has been fun and entertaining to do this. Each day I am sorting and taking small steps of letting go. It has brought up deep memories of sorrow and joy. In a lot of cases, the memories have been filled with both.


Yesterday felt like a milestone of letting go. Fifty-six years ago I married my best friend, Elvie. Our marriage ended in divorce 36 years ago, but our friendship never ended. He died when he was 60. During his eulogy, I spoke of all the gifts he had given me and especially his greatest gift to me, my children. My oldest friend had left the planet, and I could not let go of the deep pain in my heart for the perceived hurt I had caused him and our children.  It didn’t occur to me at the time that I had also given him many gifts. I met him when I was 17. We married when I was 20. We became friends and then we married. Then we stayed friends.


Early in our Life together, one of the gifts I gave him was a solid oak desk and bookcase for his birthday. After his death, it came back to me. For many years, it was too big and too heavy, but I did not or could not let it go. I had surprised him with the furniture by saving the money for its purchase out of our grocery money. I remember my excitement when the delivery person put it together. It needed to be ready to use the first time he saw it; no effort on his part required. Perhaps it was the first time his money had not indirectly paid for the material gifts I gave him. We had two small children and we were frugal.


Yesterday Elvie’s young face returned in my mind’s eye as Tosey and Ron broke the furniture down and packed it on their flat-bed. We talked about how sturdy old things are and how heavy they are to cart around. We shared some of the early history of the desk. We laughed and talked about Life and loss. Tosey gathered the other heavy things from years past and loaded them along side the desk and the bookcase. One of the things was a 50+ years old Singer Sewing Machine, which had helped me co-create a leisure suit from scratch for another Elvie Birthday. Remember those? The memories of me sewing into the night made me laugh. Most of what left my home yesterday was connected to the early years Elvie and I co-created. It reminded me of so many experiences that had been kept in deep memory.


After the pick-up, I felt lighter than I had for years. Two rooms and the garage had gaping holes so I set about rearranging furniture to fill them. It occurred to me that I had done exactly that same thing after I lost my oldest friend; perhaps I felt I did not deserve to grieve openly.  So in those early months after Elvie’s death, my small steps filled the gaping holes that I could for my children, my family, our friends, our Life. When I could do no more, I intellectually let go. My life continued much as it had before. It was filled with joys and sorrows too many to name. Perhaps my heart felt slightly closed at times, but I was okay. Over the years, as I filled the gaping holes that living had made, I felt more than a little numb. It was a gaping hole in me, which I hid mostly. Gary Zukav and Linda Francis (The co-creators of the Authentic Power Program) supported me to regain first the numbing pain and then the budding joy of Life. For that I am grateful, and my healing has come in small steps of letting go of how I thought Life should be.


So yesterday as my rooms began to come back into balance, I let the tears of sorrow and joy flow completely; feeling all the pains of sorrows and all the exaltations of joy. Then with small steps, I let go of both. The memories of the shared gifts my choices have brought to me and to others are not contained in those things. They are the reminder of how many special moments there have been. As I begin my next journey, I am excited to see who shares this next phase of co-created Life, and what small steps will be required to live in the moment and then let go when necessary.


This seems a bit strange to share, but yesterday’s gifts to the Universe have offered back to me the gift of freedom: to grieve, to share, to remember, to laugh, to live out loud in each moment. The moments may be painful or joyful, but I must never stop feeling them. Someone out there today might notice light bursting through the cut glass of an old, burnt-orange, Tiffany swag-lamp that was living in my dark closet yesterday. Now it isn’t! That makes me so happy I can’t stop smiling. So you could say small steps of letting go bring gifts of many kinds; presents shared.

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Anger As A First Response


Anger as a first response was a common behavior for me earlier in Life. It has taken hard work and a willingness to look without judgment at what emotional pain that anger was hiding in order to heal the unacknowledged pains I’ve carried for a lifetime. Reactive anger is seldom a part of my life now. When I don’t carry it, I don’t draw it into my environment. It is a cliche, of course, but the energy we have is often the energy we find.


During the last few weeks, I have observed anger as a first and sometimes only response in others. At times it has triggered mine. Pausing in mid-anger is not an easy task for us mortals, but it is my path of learning and healing. During the pause, I notice pain in my chest, knots in my stomach, tightness in the back of my neck, and inner thoughts that shout, “I am right!” Sometimes there is blaming of myself or the other for lack of awareness of my perception of the real issues. Then the difficult questions arise out of my willingness to pause and to learn: What am I missing? Where does the anger that disturbs me in others reside in me? What will I have to feel if I do not react with similar anger? What really matters to me? What can I learn about myself through these experiences?


This has been a years-long practice of self-discovery so the answers come without resistance through the pains I feel in my body: Sometimes a feeling that I am not good enough. Sometimes a feeling of being unlovable. Sometimes a feeling that I do not know how to love well. Sometimes a feeling that no other person can know me as I am and be ok with that. Sometimes the pain is intense and the only release is to feel it, cry with as little self-pity as possible, and share it. The pain although perhaps triggered by another’s actions, lives in me. Numbing our deepest pain is the primary source of reactive anger. Numbing ourselves except for angry outbursts is the most difficult and intense pain to recognize, and it causes much dis-ease. Feeling the pain, staying with it as it passes through is the only way to liberate suffering. The deepest human pain comes with resisting the universal truth that we are powerless to control and make the world behave as we want it too. Ultimately the greatest powerlessness is deeply knowing that we will die and we can’t stop it; but once acknowledged and felt, the fear and suffering abates. It’s just a fact.


Anger as a first response is no longer my pattern, but as I observe it in others, I must take notice. Changing another is not within my power, but if I see anger masking deeper hurtful emotions in others, I must have similar pain within me. My job is to find it in me and heal it there. It will take courage to scan my body, look at my judgmental thoughts, feel the pain, and change, but my past practice has demonstrated that I have it.

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Where Is The Balance?


Where is the balance in cases of conflicting truths between genders? My approach to the recent occurrences in the Senate was to listen to the entire hearing and weigh each side to come to my own conclusion. Now weeks later, it is unclear to me what happened between these two young people some 30 years ago. What is clear to me is that the double standard I witnessed in Corporate America for decades, still exists.


Some will say it was a different time. and I am filtering my observations through an old lens when “it’s a man’s world” was the norm. Perhaps. Back then when a young woman brought an accusation to management about an older man, she was asked to leave the company or she decided the only way to put it behind her was to leave voluntarily. He, on the other hand, was supported as a “good old boy” by other “good old boys” and was often promoted. My own experience of handling unwanted sexual remarks and behaviors in that climate was a direct one-on-one conversation with the offensive man; and only once found it necessary to bring it to the attention of human resources. Funny, I don’t remember the date he used inappropriate language, but I clearly remember the embarrassment I felt when another man I admired heard and said nothing. Their two faces, one with a smirk and the other with shock, are vivid in my mind. I remember exactly who they were. Since the verbal sexual comment was witnessed by another executive who apologized for not taking immediate action, I was believed, and the offensive man was given a warning of misconduct. He retained his position and I was told he was just too old to change, but that he would not bother me again. In truth, he lived in unawareness that he was crossing a line because, in those days, it was sport to comment on a woman’s body parts and tell “off color” jokes at a woman’s expense.


So as I observe what is happening in our world today, I see a person, the current President, standing up in front of a cheering crowd and ridiculing a well-spoken intelligent courageous woman for sharing what she believes happened to her. May I say here, sexual abuse and the painful aftermath is never a joke. On the other hand, I saw an angry condescending man painting himself as a victim being supported by other angry men and ultimately being appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States for a lifetime. So I ask again, where is the balance in cases of conflicting truths between men in positions of power and the women who are 100% sure they were sexually abused by one of them. Has the world changed so little?


Earlier this week, a male co-worker made what he considered a joke about the situation that is transpiring on the global stage between this woman and this man. It triggered an old part of me that becomes angry when it seems an injustice has occurred. He was surprised by my reaction. A few days later he brought it up again; thinking it humorous still. He said he was laughing at my reaction, which was to voice in no uncertain terms that the situation and my reaction to it was not and is not funny to me. My anger amused him. Expressed anger can be a cover for deep sadness within me. This I know. These two fearful parts of me dance together; one being activated by the other at times. So, of course, there is work for me to do to heal old wounds that have shown there is more attention needed. Emotions are intended to be felt and to deliver a message. They are to bring learning and then create an action. This is my process of learning. This is my work always.


I have not been a political activist for a long time, but it is also my work to point out injustice where I see it. My action vs my reaction to my co-worker could have been to ask if he thought men’s anger was funny? Now I ask again, where is the balance in cases of conflicting truths between genders? And if imbalances can be observed, how do we heal what we see? I make no apology for my indignation to the behavior of the current President in this situation and many others. I find his actions appalling, and I will cast my vote and encourage others to do the same to remove him from office. I make no apology for my indignation to the behavior of my co-worker; I expressed my truth. It is my intention to continue to speak up in the presence of others who mock and/or be disrespectful of anyone including me. Anger brings with it the passion for change when it is directed from a compassionate heart that truly wants a kinder and more equal world. May that be my deepest intention and may I find compassion for those who if they knew better would do better, that includes me.


Jury Of His Peers


The small court room is filled to overflowing with potential jurors, one of whom is me. It’s quiet, filled with anticipation of which of us will be chosen. Mine is the third name called. My eyes now travel to the defendant and his accusers with no knowledge of what has occurred between them. It is difficult not to speculate, but speculation is not my purpose here. So my attention comes back to what is happening right now as the other jurors are selected and take their places in the jurors’ box.


Fascinated by the events unfolding, my intention is to listen deeply; realizing the challenge that could bring during a long day of discussion about domestic violence that involves a minor. The defendant wears a striped jumpsuit, the accuser wears the face of sadness, the minor wears a face of practiced calm. Each of their memories of the violence have discrepancies and contradictions. We have been invited to use common sense in matters of this kind. So I listen closely as the defendant takes the stand as his only defense. He talks of bodily pain, he talks of his own lack of receiving love, he speaks of issues between himself and others, he speaks using obscenities, he speaks of how he shows love, he speaks of being disrespected, he tells a story of showing physical power over others so they will leave him alone, but he stops short of admitting that he is guilty of the worst charge against him, strangulation of a minor.


We, the jury of his peers, are sent into a room to decide his fate. We discuss, we listen, we disagree, we sit in silence, we soften or toughen our positions. We find him guilty. As the judge reads the verdicts, “guilty of all charges,” I observe the defendant. He sits in motionless numbness; the pain of a Lifetime, that has left him emotionless until he erupts in his anger, sits on his shoulders an imprisoning wall of self protection. He appears unfeeling, but in his eyes it seems there is a broken spirit longing for what we all long for, love. My heart opens to embrace the sadness in this, what can only be described as dysfunctional, family seeking love in destructive ways. For the moment they are safe from physical harm, the defendant will be in prison. The spouse looks into the defendant’s eyes with her soft perhaps forgiving eyes, and my common sense tells me they will continue their patterns of living. They have two other very small children together, to nourish or to harm. I send them healing energy with my thoughts. I believe change is possible.


Leaving the courthouse, my heart is heavy with the pain of others. I have witnessed the visible pain of a world that all too often I deny exists. The punishment for physical abuse seems appropriate, but the power to stop emotional pain seems absent.


As I feel the deep pain of what I have witnessed, my heart remembers other times in my Life when powerlessness and numbness sat on my own shoulders. I invite that pain in and sit with it, because I have learned that numbness to inner pain is the greatest of human pain to bear and can last a Lifetime. My chest feels as if it will burst and still I sit. And then, as has happened in similar times, my heart grows large enough to hold us all with compassion: the defendant, his accusers, the jurors, and all those I perceive as ‘others.’ The phrase, “jury of his peers” takes on a new and deeper meaning for me. We, he and his peers, have created a world that grows through fear/pain instead of compassion/love. The person I perceive as ‘other’ represents different parts of my personality that need healing. My fear may not manifest in physical abuse toward others; it may show up in my harmful judgments of others or myself, or in aggressive words toward something I don’t understand in the moment. Fear manifests in so many subtle ways. May we, he and his peers, find the awareness and courage to face and be with our pain and our humanness long enough to heal with compassion in the only place possible, inside ourselves.

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Joyful Freedom


It has been a long two months of attempting to accept an environment that challenged me, and yet, did not nurture the part of me that wants healthy growth and learning.


Looking for a new growth path, I stumbled on a job that required the learning of many new technologies and databases. When I began, I had a sinking feeling that the environment would also require considerable patience and acceptance of limitations, mine and the job’s. The job structure required sitting at a desk, ear phones on, many telephone calls about many things, and immobility. Could I really be happy here? Those who know me well are undoubtedly laughing at the improbability of that being the case.


In addition, the existing staff represented many parts of my personality, and I recognized them all: the one who believes she knows everything and feels free to be bossy, the one who grows impatient when her methods are questioned, the one who is quietly efficient, the one who listens/teaches and encourages, the one who is new and loves the process of learning. All the personality characteristics within me were there on display in other staff members; the ones I have nurtured and the ones I don’t especially care for and have attempted to give less control in my Life. In addition, I encountered a characteristic that has not been a big player in my own past, anxiety! Woe is me. How did I get here? How do I get out of here without letting others and myself down, etc. Woe is me.


I met with my supervisor for clarity. I brought nurturing items into the workplace to brighten my space. I attempted to see my situation in new ways with new eyes. I worked harder during my off days to learn more details about processes. My natural optimism and joy entered the building each day, and within an hour, my energy dropped, my anxiety increased, and the characteristics I mostly did not want to control my actions seemed to challenge the healthy ones I have taken years to cultivate.


It was clear, this job was not nurturing the parts of me I sought: e.g., adventurous, spontaneous, openhearted, physically active, enthusiastic, good humored; in other words, loving behaviors. However, it did show me where I needed more work, and it had nothing to do with technology. So I resolved to stay a few weeks more to allow myself to challenge my fearful behaviors, to gain the knowledge that I could do the job, and ultimately, to gain the wisdom to understand that I didn’t want too.


So a few days ago, after those few weeks, I entered the office. It was as if I was seeing it in slow motion, and I knew with great clarity that this job was not what I wanted to be doing even for one more day. With my focus turned inward to ask of myself what I should do, a wise inner voice said, “let this go!” So I cleaned up past activities, walked into my supervisors’ offices one by one, and resigned.


It was important that I let them know I appreciated their part in my learning what was important and what really mattered to me. I completed my last day, cleaned out the space I used there, said my goodbyes to those who had been my teachers, and walked energetically into the sunshine. And there it was jumping up and down on my shoulder, right where I had left it, waiting to be noticed: a moment of authentic presence and joyful freedom. I danced onto my shuttle with a deeper knowing that my learning was finished here, and definitely knowing that I was not finished with learning about myself nor with continuing my quest for healthy growth. Gratitude for my courage to change what I could and let the rest go danced with my feeling of joyful freedom. Experience doesn’t get much better than that. I offered a Metta Pray: May all people everywhere know the joyful freedom of being themselves and knowing they are enough.


It is said, “if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Sometimes that thing is you, or me in this case.

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“Daring to Begin”


The yard is overgrown from all the rain this spring has brought. My physical condition is in recovery from full-knee replacement eight weeks ago; still a bit of swelling. I am no longer a young woman eager to prove my worth, because my worth is no longer measured by what I can accomplish. Right? Yet here I stand with clippers in hand feeling what my thoughts are calling overwhelm. So I stand in stillness to discover what “overwhelm” actually feels like in my body. My stomach feels knotted, my heart feels heavy, my thoughts are critical, my energy is quiet. Lifting my head to breath deeply, the poster that has been in my garage for a very long times springs into my vision. It is a man standing ankle deep in the ocean facing the sunset with one arm stretched out above his head touching what appears to be a transparent kite. The caption says: “All Glory Comes From Daring to Begin.”


My anxiety leaves my body with my deep breathe, and I simply step to the nearest bush and start clipping. It is clear the whole yard will take some time, and maybe I will require help to get it groomed as I would like, but I can do this one bush, and then another, and then another. So two hours have passed and I have done 8 medium bushes and 4 small ones. I have weeded about 1/3 of the front garden; it looks better. I need a shower and quickly. But, my eye catches the beauty of my clippings resting on my Buddha. So I dare to take a minute to capture it.


My shower thoughts are about other times I have dared to begin. Since I decided to have my knee replacement surgery, my thoughts about being independent have been up and down. Before surgery, in the face of horror stories, my thoughts were to prepare well and to trust the process. There were also some not so supportive thoughts about what could go wrong and what the consequences could be to my life style, but I gave them no time. My deepest intention was to heal. To be completely mobile required this surgery and with a wonderful support system, I faced my inner fears and dared to begin that process. My progress has been glorious!


A few weeks after surgery, I began a new job that presented me with the technical challenges of learning a lot of new databases at the same time on unfamiliar computer systems. My hard-work ethic was visible, but so was my anxiety and feeling of overwhelm; there is that nagging word again. One of my new co-workers suggested in a way that triggered my annoyance that I needed to slow down; that I couldn’t learn everything at once. Although it triggered me emotionally, she had a point that rang true; but I didn’t like her tone of blame and shared that dislike. That night I left work feeling that perhaps it was going to be too much for me to go back into an office setting and to learn what was needed. My energy was low and my thoughts of failure were loud in my head. On the drive home, I set the intention to relax into my fears and just let the learning come to me over time if it could. The next day at work that same co-worker said to me that I seemed more relaxed. I told her I had listened to what she had said although I didn’t like it, and had chosen to push my own reset button. She shared with me that she too had looked at her approach to helping me and had learned some things too. So together we dared to begin together, and my new job and new co-worker are sources of joy now even though there is much to learn.


Taking on new things has been a way of Life for me, and I cannot imagine what Life without this need to learn new things would be like. Each time I begin though, it creates a need for me to remember that I grow through taking one small step, and then another, and then another. My growth has never been in leaps and bounds, which is why my poster hangs in my garage as a reminder when I need it. The man in the poster is on the beach and does not appear to be performing for a crowd or seeking external glory. So for me, the poster is speaking of the “internal glory that comes with achievement” in order to give this Life purpose.


Of course not all beginnings come to glory, but Glory could never come without “Daring to Begin” when the thing before me seems difficult. Recently a friend asked me what I would like people to remember about me, and because I had not articulated that to myself, I fumbled with an answer about bringing positive energy to each moment, etc. If I had dared to relax before beginning my answer, it would have been easier to answer her clearly. I began to use “Namaste” in my Life the first time it resonated with me years ago. It means, “the light in me honors the light in you.” May I bring that light and the knowledge of the other’s light to every interaction with enough presence for them to know they matter to me. May they know that they matter not for what they accomplish, but for the light inside of themselves just as it is. May they know that All Their “Glory Comes From Daring To Begin.” May something in my supportive energy be remembered as they make that choice.


Theodore Roosevelt once wrote in part: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles.... The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.... if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.”


The Body - In This Case, Mine


The human body is an amazing instrument with it’s ability to withstand day-to-day wear and tear mostly without complaint or even acknowledged appreciation. Fortunately for me, I inherited a strong constitution and the stamina to work my body hard while it remains mostly stable. This physical strength seems a family characteristic that goes back many generations. For years now, I have observed and monitored the strengths and weaknesses of my physical and emotional states with the hope of maintaining balance and good health. My deepest intention throughout the years has been to be aware enough and prepared enough to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible.


Physically that has come quite naturally, but emotional balance through awareness of my fears, the ability to challenge those fears, and the pain of deep unacknowledged feelings has been a long-term effort that still leaves me surprised at times.


When the decision to have a full-knee replacement was made, I began to prepare my body through exercise and study of just what would be required of me. I figured good surgeon, good preparation, good support system, and good self-aftercare would equal good outcome. So in the beginning, each step I took carried a deep intention for my own healing. My decisions were based on an authentic need for a return to complete mobility.


Somewhere along the way, I started listening to my thoughts of how things should go and listened less to the actual pain of my body. So my genuine health need became an ego need to heal faster, heal better, with less medication than anyone else ever had. A need based in fear of failure of not living up to my ideal-self, rather than the need based in the love of a healthy body to support my independent Life. My ego’s need surfaced late last week when I met my physical therapist at the door without my cane and announced that she should be prepared to be “shocked and amazed” at how flexible my knee had become and how little pain meds I needed. As I heard my words, I wondered why they had felt necessary. It was clear my healing was going smoothly. She was already very pleased with my progress, as was I.


But, my egoistic thoughts were now fully in charge. Feeling quite proud of myself, I decreased my Tylenol from 3 pills, three times a day to one Tylenol, three times a day, along with an aspirin morning and night for blood thinning. I was walking without a cane and was back to my pre-surgery yoga practice in addition to assigned physical therapy. I had become my own HEROINE in my own healing story. Also I had noticed that my discomfort was steadily approaching the edge of pain, but I could take it. Yay me.


Then my crash happened. I woke up at three in the morning with severe knee pain, a 9 on the 1-to-10 scale. Then my thoughts began to cast, what Buddhist call, the second arrow of blame for not having seen this coming. This blame and mental self-abuse added to my mystery. As I hobbled to the bathroom for my Tylenol bottle, my heroine had all but vanished, but not quite. So I decided to take only one Tylenol and watch a movie to distract myself. It hurt a lot, but the Tylenol kicked in and took the edge off the pain so at 7:00, I hobbled back to bed; fell asleep and slept through my first out-patient PT appointment. I quietly called their office (no heroine in sight) to explain, and they were kind enough to reschedule for the afternoon. In those moments of confession, it was clear I had lost sight of my authentic need to heal through body awareness. It was time to regroup with my original intention to care for this body that had taken care of me for so long, to listen to my actual pain level as I had in the first few days after surgery. It was important to be aware of the fear based need of the ego to be admired and allow that mental need less power.


So, I ate a healthy breakfast and lunch, took 2 Tylenol, and climbed into my car a more humble and yet determined patient. Instead of entering the physical therapist’s door with my ego of accomplishment blazing, I entered with a feeling of gratitude for all those who had supported my path to healing. I entered with a feeling of gratitude for observing this human body at its best and worst with an attitude of learning and patience. I entered with gratitude for this human body that continues to heal even when I am too busy looking good to notice. I entered with a humble knowing that I had prepared well, had worked hard, and had been given the grace to heal in spite of my egoistic tendency to ignore my body’s warning messages. As the young physical therapist approached, I reminded myself that the most import thing is to remember the most important thing. I was in pain. He smiled. I smiled. All I felt was gratitude for his patience and skill. Quietly we worked together toward keeping my mobility for a while longer. It felt good and it hurt a lot. He reminded me to observe and listen to my body because creating a pain loop would slow my healing. I heard him and remembered that I had heard a similar message from each of my caregivers before. It had been a painful, good day of revisiting my original goal of observing and supporting this human body toward healing as it had continuously supported me for this lifetime. So, Tylenol at 11:00 with no ego based hesitation. Yay me.


I Don’t Need Help (August 2017)

The world I live in is filled with patterns. I love observing them as their structure often supports my wellbeing and survival. My own patterns of living are deeply embedded in and sustained by the choices I have made or will make in each moment of experience.

Looking back I can see how some old patterns no longer support the healthy life I wish to live now. My youth was spent in a world designed around “power over.” Parents had power over their children (children should be seen but not heard), men had power over women (the woman’s place is in the home), bosses had power over employees, big and strong had power over little and weak. The list could go on, but you get the drift. The pattern of “power over” is always based in some fear of loss. So feeling unsafe at times supported me in self-motivation and independent actions. Needing “no help from others” protected me from their perceived power over me and it brought me success. The choice to “not need help” became a life-long pattern. Today, it is my intention, to rewind that internal choice and accept help from wherever it comes.

Experiences of late have allowed me to see in another person’s actions the part of me that still needs “power over” in order to feel safe. At the same time, I understand it is part of my conditioning that has allowed me to flourish a good deal of the time. It is this conflict between perceived needs that keeps me growing. Moving toward life as a spiritual being within the limitations of being human can be challenging. So as I judged another recently, I also asked myself the hardest question: Where does this fear of lost power I see in a fellow human still reside in me?

Within days, the Universe responded with examples. A fellow worker instructed me in something I already knew how to do. Breathing deeply I truly saw and appreciated his helpfulness instead of responding with a curt, “I know.” We continued to support each other for the remainder of the event, relaxed and connected with each other. I saw his face soften in a way it usually did not when we worked side by side. A family member took me shopping without telling me in advance. With less annoyance than I felt, I asked her to give me more information next time. Her response was that I did not need to come along, which was true. She didn’t need my help. Suddenly I knew that my time with her was more important than the discomfort in my feet. We actually do have a shared need for the other’s support. I mention only two examples but there have been many during the last few weeks. These small choices during common experiences have the potential to change patterns of a lifetime.

Recently I saw a video created by Elizabeth Gilbert that said, “do no harm; take no shit.” Taking no shit has been a lifelong pattern too; I have been a warrior of sorts. It seems now that “do no harm” requires my attention.

It is my belief that “shared power” is our current phase of evolution and I do not want to be the human who is left behind. The time for “power over” is slowly passing and its final protests are very loud in our ears. How long the screaming continues is partly up to me, because it begins with me and is manifested in the larger human community over time. My intention is to work toward changing my internal message of “I don’t need help” to “how best do I give and receive help.” Thoughtful choices during times of need must be made if I am to change a deeply ingrained pattern created by an old world perspective of  “power over.”

_______________________

The Courage To Touch (August 2017)

There is one thing I know for sure. When words and thoughts are coming from closing hearts to and from another, the courage to reach out and hug one another is the fastest way to start the healing process. When there is suffering or a need for support, the courage to tenderly embrace another creates a climate of healing.

Years ago at a time of great loss when others cried and said compassionate words, and rushed to help me manage a seemingly unmanageable experience, one moment of healing came to me through a simple and long hug from my brother-in-law. In a crowded room of loving, kind, and grieving family members, he and I stood alone in silence with our hearts exposed. Our love stepped into the broken air between us, he held me for as long as I needed him, and I began to breath.

As he breathed with me, our connection became one breathe and my healing began. It has been many years since that moment, and my beloved soul brother has now left the Earth school. He gave me a gift for which no thanks was expected and no words about it were spoken or needed. It was simply pure generous love without judgment of my brokenness. He lives in me. My healing process has been difficult at times and new wounds can trigger the pain of that long-ago wound.

It does not help to resist the pain. It is old and familiar and is the one collective human pain of feeling powerless to make a difference or have things go as desired. I have learned to just let the pain grow as big as it needs to be and feel the deep physical hurt in my chest. It becomes an unspeakable aching grief and then transforms into stillness and calm.

In the peaceful space that follows, my healing deepens and my heart reopens. Then I remember that other time and that other place when two suffering hearts found the courage to beat in vulnerable unison. In that moment, my deeper healing is to be found in the courage to touch the vulnerable heart of another. And I can breath. The path toward wholeheartedness can be messy. So be it.

_________________

The Need For Autonomy  (August 2017)

Within conflict there is always an element of need that is not being met on one side or the other or both. It has long been my habit to ask myself a difficult question when something outside of me triggers anger or hurt within me: What perceived need was not being met? The answer is not always immediate, but the patience of just letting the question be there brings awareness in time.

We humans have a strong need for autonomy, which when unmet triggers fear of being harmed in someway. As we encounter a world of rules and rigidity, personal autonomy can sometimes be lost. Always when sharing a task with someone else, there are rules to follow, systems to uphold, and differing opinions. So today I am asking how one person within the same set of rules creates cooperation and goodwill while another contributes to disharmony and triggers defensiveness. The answer seems to be in the approach. One person seems to issue commands and demands while another seems to explain the process and exhibits trust that the person with the delegated task will use his skills and knowledge to create a desired outcome. Each say the same words, but is perceived differently and does or does not trigger defensiveness. Why? Communication requires open listening on all sides and is difficult when fear is present. In any fluid situation the need for judgment and decision making is not only desired but essential. This autonomy, of course, means a mistake could be made, but without autonomy the rigidity of rules could create conflict within a situation that needs to be fluid to accommodate the needs of the persons involved.

My need for autonomy is somewhat greater than I have observed in others. This I know. I love problem solving and doing what seems appropriate in the moment. It is clear to me today that my fear of not being trusted to do that triggers defensiveness within me. Combine that need with the perceived need of someone else to have complete control and the potential for conflict exists. Add a perceived lack of respect and we humans are off to war.

So now another question arises within me. How do I express a need for autonomy within the set guidelines of another as well as see and have compassion for their perceived need for adherence to a set of rules? Seeing in the moment that their need is as great as my own is a place to begin. Disagreeing without being disagreeable could help. To know that an element of kindness and respect within me is always there and is my place of peace. In any situation, remember personal autonomy is available to me and I could choose to act rather than react to the perceived need of another. For this human that can sometimes be difficult. This I know. And so I grow. 

__________________

Desire and Passion

For many years a small mirror, with a frosted scene depicting wolves standing on rocks, had occupied a small wall in my garage. It was beautiful and had belonged to my now deceased son. To see it took a deliberate act on my part, and it triggered a sadness and a deep desire to see my physical son. So I didn't look often.

This year seems different. While preparing to work in my yard, my eyes fell upon the mirror. I was drawn-in to see it closer and wondered why wolves seem to howl at the moon. Now drawn to this subject my son had loved, wolf behavior, my curiosity led me to find out more. To remind myself, I took the small mirror inside and leaned it against the fireplace. The light reflection drew me in even more as it seemed to create a horizon-line deep in the mirror beyond the frosted images of the wolves and rocks.

Later when the yard work was completed, I fell, tired and relaxed, into my chair. Again the wolves in the mirror drew me in. Computer in hand, I discovered that it is believed that wolves do not "howl at the moon," but "howl when they are lonely and/or are seeking a mate." They are nocturnal animals and use their voice to play or tell their location to other pack members. They rarely howl alone and turn their noses into the air for better acoustics and harmony with their fellow howlers. This may protect them as they can mimic many sounds and appear to be more wolves than are actually present. They my be more active during a full moon as there is more light for hunting. Very interesting! Native Americans believe that a lot of their spirits come to them though the wolves as their tribal behavior mirrors humans; like humans singing around a campfire with friends. To them the wolves are sacred.

The mirror is now hanging in my family room and the image changes constantly with the light. My new interest brings me so much joy.  I love seeing the mirror image and now have a better understanding of my son's passion for wolves. The mirror no longer triggers a desire for something that cannot be. It triggers a passion for  more and more learning about the wolves’ behavior, the process for creating frosted glass, the angles of light, etc.

This experience supported me in seeing more clearly the difference between "desire for" and "passion for." When desire is present, I seem to want something I don't have in the moment. It could be a longing for something that is not possible or a longing, if worked toward, could provide me with something I want or think I need in the future.  The result in me overtime is low energy. When I have a passion for something, it draws me in and I want to know more about it for it's own sake. I want to give myself to it, to learn about it, perhaps create something relevant to it. It triggers curiosity and high energy. It could be a thing, a person, writing, drawing, yard work, the behavior of wolves, or anything. 

The difference between "desire for" and "passion for" seems to be reflected in my energy and can clarify my intentions;  desire triggers wanting and low energy if I don't get it, and passion triggers an ongoing interest and high energy and is not result dependent. And just so you know, I still love moon dancing!

Quiet Energy

The movement of energy has always fascinated and amazed me. Sometimes unseen but always present, it flows between and around and through with what seems like a natural rhythm of its own. As the wind shakes the trees today, I watch its changing strength and direction. Where did it begin, what conditions in our universe brought it into being? What is its condition in this moment and this one and this one?


It is easier to wonder about external energy than to examine my internal ebbs and flows. But wonder I must, if I am to understand myself and make wise choices. High energy is my most familiar state, which allows me to be connected to the world around me with mutual support and laughter and joy. Quiet energy is the source of my creativity; it inspires me to write, to paint, to clean a closet, to dance in my kitchen, to wonder.


Quiet energy and low energy can look the same, but within me, the results are very different. Quiet energy inspires while low energy keeps me from the Joy of living. As I wonder why it is present today, I can feel the restriction of my heart and can hear a thought that says my world should be different. Where did it begin, what conditions in my universe brought it into being? What is its condition in this moment and this one and this one?


It is spring and all around me is new growth, and the sun warms my face. I offer gratitude to this amazing Universal time of growth. Yet again, I wonder, ""Why the low energy?" What unhealed wound needs my attention? What fear is present that needs acknowledgement? As I sit here, I hear a soft voice from within, "fear of loss."  The fear is heavy and pervasive in this moment. Low energy does not appear without cause, and resistance to what is happening in this moment seems to be the culprit.


Spring has brought many losses to my family over the years. Some of them expected: aging parents, jobs, friends, etc. Other losses, three siblings' children, do not seem like the natural rhythm of things.  Logic tells me that in Life difficult things happen, but now and then, the human heart wants what the heart wants. I feel and mention this fear and it's pain, because in my experience, denied pain becomes the low energy of unhealed wounds. Without compassion, loving attention, and the courage to feel my pain deeply, unhealed wounds remain. Today I remind myself that I am a spirit having a human experience, and like magic, quiet energy returns on tiptoe. So I write.

Relationship Building (Added 22 March 2017)

The dictionary definition of relationship is “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.”


We are celebrating her birthday; we are laughing and talking about where we are going, future illnesses, family, weekend plans. Some thought was expressed and these words followed: “Expectations are the seeds of disappointment.” She asked, “What did you say? You should write that down.” Over the next few days, I used what I had said in that moment as a mantra inside me and shared it a few times. Also I looked at the relationship with this very different being and saw beyond our differences a deep loving connection. How did this happen?


What does all this have to do with the definition of relationship? Somehow for me one informs the other. It is easy to relate to a familiar energy because the energy is similar enough that we recognize it without much thought and seemingly without expectation. The energies are already connected. My learning from this exploration is that if energies are not similar and/or disconnected, both people attempting “relationship building” must be willing to look beyond their judgments and/or expectations of the other. We must be willing to look at the dynamic at work within ourselves. Without planting the seed of disappointment, which may create an unwanted separation, each must listen longer or more closely to discover the path of connection beyond his or her fears. Humans learn patterns of behavior based on their reactions to earlier experiences. Our fears of not being able to be who we are may stop us from listening to an opinion that would make us question these long-term patterns. To change how we hear may be a difficult courageous choice in a moment of misunderstanding.


If we do not like the feeling of being criticized, we must listen closely to see how often we are critical. If we do not like harsh tones, we must listen to see how often our tone becomes harsh. If we feel bored with someone’s low energy, we must examine our need to stay busy. If we find joy only in our own comfort and contentment, we must look to see that “state of being” within us in shared circumstances. If we express our love differently than the person with whom we want to connect, we must be willing to hear and to see the other person’s needs. Perhaps an old learning of my own is a new learning yet again. In order to connect and build relationship, we must have a deep understanding that the other person’s need is as important as our own. Not more important, but equally important. Since by definition relationship implies two, the seeds of disappointment must be challenged by recognizing that they are a product of conflicting expectations, which may or may not be foreign to each other.


In theory, with this knowledge, relationship building should be a snap. But time and time again, fear becomes the dominate “state of being” when all that is truly wanted is to be loved for who we are in the moment. When love becomes our “state of being” connection becomes the norm and differences are just differences. Something I know for sure is that building an intimate relationship may be difficult and it is worthy of all effort. May all people everywhere experience the Joy of Living connected by their natural “state of being” which is Love. And Rumi tells us that “Love is the absence of Fear.” May it be so as we celebrate this Equinox and welcome the light of Spring.


To Watch or Not To Watch

Tomorrow is the inauguration of Donald Trump as our next President. The contrast within me of Barrack Obama’s inauguration and this one is as interesting as it is heartbreaking. Obama represented to me a change toward a more liberal and inclusive world, and attending his inauguration demonstrated  to me how many of us saw him as a Savior, which by all measures was not possible. Now many of us speak out and say they will not attend or watch President Trump’s inauguration because of what this new President represents to each of us.


To me the idea of not watching is a “pursuit of the perfect past,” which is just as impossible as finding a Savior who will make “everything better.” This president-elect will become our next United States President; that is the fact. I feel it is my duty as a citizen to honor our flawed and complicated democratic process with acceptance of what is true in this moment; to watch, to listen, to learn, to trust, and to act if I can to make a difference in the present for the future. If I spend my energies looking back to “what might have been,” how do I remain present enough in this moment to see what action I might take?


There is much to observe. Our collective energies and choices have created this experience. Our collective energies will help to create the future of this generation and the next. As I sometimes see clearly, my need to judge and complain contributed to this environment of fear; it also seems clear that my approach to this moment needs to be based in a more loving energy.


So as I look inward, the question for me is not “to watch or not to watch” but “how did my apathy, judgments of others, and protective thoughts of self-preservation contribute to the collective energy that surrounds this event. Although I am saddened by the behaviors of Donald Trump, I will watch as he is sworn into office and will wish him success as he evolves through the consideration of agreeing and opposing views. May all our experiences lead us to an awakening of spirit that is inclusive and compassionate even of those who see tomorrow and our new President differently.


Red Birds and Blue Birds Flutter

Some days are perfect in every way; like today. The sky is crystal clear. The air is warm and dry. Sun speckled shadows come and go under the trees. Red birds and blue birds flutter in the air, crossing and re-crossing the path. Two and a half miles into this walk, the shimmer of Lake Monacan will soon appear. Peace and tranquility will mark the spot.


But wait, up ahead beyond the trees are voices, unfamiliar voices, breaking my silence and my contemplation. First comes awareness followed quickly by thoughts about what is obviously the intrusion of visitors to the lake for the summer weeks, especially this week. The beach at the lake is lined with lounge chairs. Paddle boats dot the horizon. Round lifesavers hang from hooks with the life jackets anchored nearby. Small boats are stacked ready for renting. The snack bar is open for business. People are sauntering down from the parking lot with arms full of coolers, sand buckets, and beach attire.


My mind begins the judgments that can push me away from others: solitude is so important, this is my quiet place, others are intruding, and other humans bring congestion and noise. But wait, my heart has a different vision. Three small boys and their Mom appear on the path. The three boys are carrying glow sticks and talking excitedly. Their Mom is loaded down with food and drinks, shirts and blankets, and her face relaxes into a beautiful friendly smile. My face smiles back and my heart opens to this family’s presence. A voice inside finds it’s way to the surface. It comes from deep within me, “Welcome, enjoy the lake.” The Mom says, “We have been so eager to get here. What a treat.”


As my mind begins to judge my earlier, less than generous thoughts, I shake my head and continue my walk. My heart softens with understanding of the duality I experience from being human; my mind protective, my heart open. Some days are perfect in every way; like today. The sky is still crystal clear and red birds and blue birds still flutter about. A broken tree leans across another for support. Crossing the damn, the small creek to my left bubbles full and free, and to the right the sun paints diamonds upon the lake.


But wait, a child is jumping on the trampoline in the middle of the lake. He is screeching and laughing and the lake is alive with his presence. What joy the sound of happy children brings. When asked about living in this quiet place, I say often, “What I miss here is the sound of children playing.” My mind grows quiet, my face smiles from its cheeks, and my heart pauses to take in those sounds and stores them for later when my world grows quieter than I prefer.

A Different Kind of Celebration

Over the years, for me Winter Solstice has become a sacred time of reflection. This year as I planned my first shared celebration with family, I was struggling to come up with a way to keep it simple enough for those unfamiliar with my process and still retain its deep meaning for me. It became a co-creation. By opening my heart to the creative process for which I have such deep gratitude, the Universe supported me at every turn.


Since lighted candles can be problematic with puppies in the house, my friend suggested we build an electronic-candle bonfire and sent her husband to buy just the right ones. My daughter wanted to help me return my rental car early in the day so I didn’t get a chance to shop to support an idea of celebration I had come up with earlier. So I accepted the challenge to create with what was available to me. As I sat in my room in stillness, I noticed a small box of cards resting on my luggage. The box contained laser cut art pieces of the Tree of Life. They were beautiful. So without thought, I let a Metta Prayer come through me and wrote a part of it onto each of the five cards. I mixed them up and put them each in an envelop; mixed them up again. Added the meaning of Metta (kindness) to the outside of the envelop along with the definition of Namaste (the light in me honors the light in you). Somehow this Metta Prayer was to be the corner stone of our co-creation the next evening. I  wasn’t quite sure how.


There we were indoors instead of outdoors. There was a full moon, but we couldn’t see it. It was too cold in Southern California for an outside fire. Somehow in the moment, all that mattered for me was that we were together. Their energy was receptive and I love them. So we began. It was a different kind of celebration. I spoke briefly about how much this time of year means to me and how in ancient times people built bonfires to remind the sun to return. We opened the candles Brenda had suggested, and it was a creative process to get them to work. My intention to let it unfold in whatever way it did supported me. The candles were eventually lighted and our circle was formed by our combined effort to make it happen. In each of their faces I saw a different energy, but the one constant in all of them was their willingness to participate.


I spoke briefly about the Buddha tradition of offering a Metta Prayer; first for self, then those closest to us, and then to everyone everywhere. I scattered the small cards on the table in no particular order and invited each of them and then me to choose one. Each of us read our part of the prayer out loud: May you have a deep and abiding peace, May your life be filled with wonder and gratitude, May you know the source of well being, May you know joy, May your life be filled with abundance. Our collective energy grew quiet and this collective prayer became my spoken hope for our family and everyone everywhere.


To celebrate the creative spirit in all of us, I presented each of them with a drawing I had done of each of them based on an earlier time in Life. They seemed grateful that I didn’t make them meditate in silence for 30 minutes. We laughed together.


Here now, there is no way to know if this different kind of Winter Solstice celebration had meaning for them, but their upturned faces will live in my memory as a time when my intention was only to share love for them, for me, and for the creative process which is Life. Now as I write here, I am reminded of a Christmas Day long ago when I was wondering how different people with different traditions could possibly find a common ground. It was in an unexpectedly quiet moment after we sat down for dinner that my 2+ years-old grand-son said almost in a whisper, “Merry Christmas Grams.” He went on around the table wishing all there a Merry Christmas by name. It was a beautiful expression of the love that holds us together still.


As this new year begins, I offer this Metta Prayer: May everyone everywhere receive a moment of pure love that can sustain them through Life’s many changes. May everyone discover and illuminate their own creative light. May everyone everywhere awaken and be free. Namaste

Stopping On The Mountain (Added 081415)

There on a picnic table he sits; a small figure at the top of Afton Mountain. He is middle-aged, his abdomen is rounded, and his legs and feet are swollen. And although there is a summer breeze, the air surrounding him is quiet and filled with calm. He is so very still as he gazes out into the vastness of the Shenandoah Valley.


There is an American flag blowing above the Valley. There butterflies and bees cover the thistle growing on the side of the mountain. The sun is warm, the air is clear, and the view majestic. A few people come and go without speaking. It is the perfect setting and many photo opportunities present themselves for the taking. Quietly I begin.


There in the grass, partially hidden is a penny resting tails-up. My habit—started with my Mom long ago—is to turn it over in the hand of someone nearby to spread the luck of finding it. Still he sits in silence so I hesitate. There is a voice; it is the man asking what I have found. I tell him it is meant for us both and place it heads-up in his outstretched hand. In the stillness, he begins to share that he has stopped on the mountain to pray although he is unsure what that prayer might be. He is suffering from liver and kidney disease brought on by too much alcohol. He talks about choices and consequences, and my energy quiets in memory of other such conversations. In him I see no self-pity only acceptance, and he shares how that acceptance has left him in such a peaceful place. He has traveled from Staunton to Richmond to have lunch with an old friend; and seeing the mountain that he drives past almost everyday, he chooses to stop to remind himself of the “bigger picture.” He asks me what I am thinking about on this beautiful day. So I share my love of nature and photography and how I am practicing staying in each moment to find the richness here while grateful for all that has come before and, as much as possible, staying open to whatever the future brings. He looks deep into my eyes with what seems like the wisdom of the ancients. He says, “Me too.” I tell him sharing the “photo of the day” with friends and family adds to my feeling of connectedness. He chuckles and nods in understanding.


We stand and sit together in the silence of our prayers and observe the vastness before us. He speaks out of the stillness and says, “It is a blessed day and you are part of that.” I agree, shake his hand, and get into my car feeling at peace without further words. Then out of that deep stillness comes words of some author whose name I don’t remember echoing in my thoughts: “listening is an act of loving.” The man’s name is Jeff and he lives in Staunton and his Life is now part of mine.


We chose on the same day, at the same time, to stop and to see the mountain and each other.

Shaped by Experience (Added 060215)

So often when I consider what experiences have shaped me, my thoughts bring up the men of my Life. The strong Father figure, the older brother, the brother-in-law, the clever science teacher, my first mentor, my first love and my most current loves, my sons and grandsons by blood as well as those adopted within my heart have influenced my physical life in so many ways. The experiences we have shared have triggered within me the need to shrink at times and to grow by leaps and bounds at other times. My actions in response to those shared experiences have without a doubt had a profound part of shaping who I am and who I am becoming.


Today as I reflect more deeply about being shaped by experiences, it is the women who have continually touched my Life and who are held most deeply in my heart with gratitude. First of course is my Mother, who gave me Life and taught me the benefits of caring for my body and my surroundings. Our relationship was sometimes contentious, which created in me a need to think for myself and to stand firmly within my choices. Without any specific effort, she taught me to sing, to write poetry, to take risks, and to trust that being who I am will serve me best. Then there is my older sister. She was the person most likely to be holding my hand when my very busy Mother had other hands that needed her. She taught me to accept responsibility, to not whine, and to love deeply in the face of loss and disappointment. We take different paths at times, but we meet in the nurturing field of trusting the universal source of Life to sustain us.


Not to be overlooked are my younger sisters; together they have taught me how to care for another. Perhaps that lesson more than any other has shaped the size and content of my heart. Together we have shared victories and defeats, wins and losses, and have stood together and faced our new futures with strength and resolve; a strength and resolve built on shared experiences and love for each other. Perhaps even in disagreement, it is a bond of unconditional love found nowhere else; it is ours.


There is so much to say about the shared experiences with my amazing daughter. When she was a baby, our shared experiences taught me about determination and strength of purpose. Later her tender heart taught me to soften the edges that surrounded my protective heart. As an adult, she has stood by me with a loyalty supported by one of the most loving hearts I have known. During experiences too difficult to bare, we bore them together. She has recreated my Life by giving Life to my two grandsons. The depth of our love for them is a reflection of our love for each other. We express love differently, but the strength of our love has never wavered.


Perhaps the most overlooked experience-shaping women are all those who have given and received love without expectation of reward or credit. In my Life they have been called friends, but that does not describe who they have been in my Life and how they have shaped my choices. They have listened when I needed an ear, they have been honest with me when I needed clarity, they have called me when I was lonely, they have tolerated me when I was difficult, they have loved me when self-love seemed impossible; their loyalty has been a sustaining force as I make choices that may not agree with the choices of others. When those choices have created pleasure they have cheered; when those choices have created disappointment, they have stood with me in silence. They know who they are and they trust me to be who I am.


As I move towards “old age,” it is not how fast I can run, how well I can write, or how well my accomplishments will be remembered that sustains me. It has been my choices in response to shared experiences that have shaped my sense of joy and meaning. So today, especially for the women who have deeply shared themselves and their experiences with me, I am filled with the shape of gratitude.

____________________________

States Of Being (Added 032615)

It is easy to believe that the opposite of love is hate and the opposite of fear is courage. When examined closely as states of being, love and fear become each other’s opposite, and Life’s energy flows from us depending on which state is most prevalent. In one moment, we may act from a state of love to embrace a new project that will benefit ourselves and/or others. At other times, we may take on a project from a state of fear to avoid an emotion we don’t want to acknowledge or feel; to stay busy.


How do we know when we are acting from a state of love? If we pause and look inside, we will see positive thoughts and/or a calm body and an expanding heart. Love does not hurt. How do we know when we are acting from a state of fear? If we pause and look inside, we will see negative thoughts and/or pain in our body and a heart that feels numb and closed. In the pause with practice, we can acknowledge, feel, and act on what we discover. This pause brings us into the present moment. If we discover fear and do not want to create from that state, we have an opportunity to choose differently? Sometimes it may be simply to open our heart to our fear and do nothing. This seemingly small step may be the beginning of living in a state of love more often. It is actually a huge step and not always an easy one.


This concept is difficult to accept if we equate fear to weakness and avoidance of physical harm as the only fear. The larger concept includes fear of loss, fear of non-acceptance, fear of loneliness, fear of being blamed, fear of not being special, fear of not being loved, fear of not being able to love, fear of not being enough, fear of our own fear; the list is endless.


Franklin D. Roosevelt once put it like this: “the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself.” Years ago my state of fear came with a belief that my fear of being a victim kept me safe; anger was my protector of choice. Now what seems true is that fear of being a victim kept me from the intimacy for which my soul longed. Vulnerability felt scary. It was a painful time of self-discovery, and the process of change consisted of many small steps. Once I discovered through each small step that I could choose what I wanted to create, my Life began to evolve from a state of love more often. Fear still gets activated for sure, but I no longer need to live there. Compassion, a state of love, for the part of me that still fears victimization brings me back again and again to the present moment; the only time and place where choice is possible.

It’s The Stones

Near my home there is a place called StoneyCreek Park. It is one of my “feel good” places. This morning as I contemplate why that is true, I picture it in my mind’s eye. It lies at the end of a short tree-lined dirt road. It is a watershed for the mountains. It captures the water among its stones and sends the flowing bubbles into the valley creeks of my neighborhood, also called StoneyCreek. Sometimes it rages in noisy cascades, and sometimes it forms quiet ripples over the stones. Some of the stones are tiny and some are boulders brought down from the mountain during long-forgotten storms. This spot of nature is surrounded by a variety of trees that cast their shadows over me and everything else. One old oak tree, near the edge, anchored in the stoney bank reaches with it’s mighty branches toward the creek. The hillside behind the creek is eroding red Virginia clay made bare from it’s years of withstanding the water’s strength and speed. When I am in or near the water,  I experience it directly. It is loud, it is quiet, it is busy, and it is still; as am I.


It calls to me in every season; those outside me and those inside me. When friends or family visit, I want them to experience it with me. When friends hike or bike with me, we often pass by. When solitude calls me, my feet head toward the park. It is always the same and it is always different; as am I. The sunlight and water play among the stones and the stones glisten in their presence. Sometimes I throw a pebble into the water and sometimes I pick one up and carry it home.


Suddenly I know what draws me here. It’s the stones. Stones have been my companion since early childhood. They seem to have permanence, but when observed closely they are filled with cracks and colors created by their adjustments to their environment. Their surfaces tell the stories of their existence. I gather stones, polish stones, decorate my home with stones. I carry stones, give them as presents, and carve stones. I hold them in my hand, I look at them, I cherish their beauty, and I do not compare them with any other stone I have seen. My love for them is constant. Stones are remarkable in their unique beauty. Some are warm, some are round, some are cool, some have deep crevices, and some are so smooth to the touch.


When I need grounding, I reach for a stone and it always accepts my touch just as I am. It brings me out of thought into its presence. Looking back, it is not surprising that I would choose StoneyCreek as my place in the sun. Up until this moment, I believed it was because the wind blew my hair as I stood on the hillside. I love wind in my hair. But No! It’s the stones; of course!

Walking a Familiar Path Differently (Added 1 January 2015)

Often my walk around the lake begins with a right turn toward the dam. Today it began with a left turn making my familiar path seem less familiar. It surprised me when each view seemed completely new. Somehow this newness brought me to each moment completely. My eyes collected the views and my mind was quiet. Here was the golf course, over here were the mountains, and there was a beautiful old tree.


So new were the views from this direction, I missed the path entrance that would take me on around the lake to the dam and back home. Instead of coming to the dam, I found myself about to cross the golf cart bridge at the opposite side of the lake. Not my preferred path, but this spot offered a view of the lake that was stunning. These woods are familiar to me and so I turned and bushwhacked up through the trees back to my well-worn path. As I arrived there, I wondered where I had made my mistake; but having a sore knee, thought perhaps I should continue the short distance to the dam and home.


So there I stood wanting both things; to protect my knee and to know where I had missed the path. Suddenly a young man’s voice echoed in my thoughts. We had recently met on an airplane and just yesterday had shared a lunch and a movie. His voice in my head quietly asked, “What do you most want?” He had explained earlier, “It’s a question my Mom asked me to answer for even the smallest of choice.”


Asking what I most want is a process that serves me well for big decisions; I often sit quietly before acting. Although the answer is not always immediate, I trust the process. Why not use it for smaller choices too? Closing my eyes and standing in the stillness, I asked the question. “What do I most want?” My choice was easy. I turned back to find the fork in the road I had missed. My steps were light and my spirit soared. How simple and filled with joy and gratitude was this walking a familiar path differently.

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Open Hearts That Meet (Added 9 June 2014)


We stand face-to-face and as he explains the importance of getting his name right, the ancestors within him shine through the sincerity of his eyes and soft voice. There is wisdom, love, fear, and sadness pouring out of him; there is no pity. I listen as closely as possible. He and I are the collective experience of generations raised together separately, and within us both is the deep human need to know that we, all of us, matter. His words sooth something deep inside me—perhaps all the wounds of those who have come before me.


He is a black man in the autumn of his life; and me, I guess most would say I am a white woman in the winter of mine. He is tall and physically strong; so am I. Society has not taught us to be comfortable with each other. And yet, here we are; two open hearts meeting through the experiences we have in common and our courage to be real in the presence of the other. I feel safe and it seems that he does also. Mostly we are alone. We talk of things in our past, our present, and even our dreams. We tell each other about those we love and what sharing our lives with them has supported us in learning. We laugh out loud at the antics and experiences that have molded our very beings. We talk of the adventure of taking risks. Our eyes are moist, when we speak of those we’ve loved and lost. There is no attempt to “fix” or get something from each other, we are merely sharing our history or holding space for the other to share. It is strange and intimate in the best of ways.


At the end of the day, he asked me what I’d learned. There was so much I hardly knew where to start. I spoke of the facts about the historical site where we spent the day. I spoke of the number of bricks on the floor. I spoke with humor of the need to improve my math skills. I spoke of the things I had learned about him and me through our sharing. He nodded or smiled, but mostly he deeply listened.


As the day ended, we returned to our lives but I took our experiences with me. He taught me the importance of being present and trusting that the experience I’m having with another will be the one we need. Our differences had added humor and learning to my day. Our similarities had added strength and courage to my being. Each time since when I’ve met someone for the first time, I have quieted my mind and truly listened. It’s about getting their name right because I care; and because in that very moment, there is something beyond their name that matters. We are together separately and we are different and we are the same. One person at a time, we are capable of learning to be comfortable in the present experience regardless of our history, race, or gender—that is a huge learning. We are human, we succeed and stumble, we need to feel we are seen for who we are right now, and we need to demonstrate to each other that we matter; and what seems to be my life lesson over and over again, your need is as great as my own.


Circus Illusions (Added 5 May 2014)


From high atop the Circus arena looking down, a giant, dark-blue curtain divides two worlds.


On the one side of the giant curtain is the crowd; excited by the bright lights and colors they’ve come to see. Their voices are a drum of laughter, chatter, directions, and confusion. They look for their seats in anticipation of the performers on the high wire; performers who will become clowns, dancers, jugglers, ring masters, animal trainers, etc. There are staffers who have come to keep the crowd served, safe, fed, and comfortable. Souvenirs are available to add to the clamor of people having a great experience. Children and adults of all sizes seem open and ready to be entertained. It is a joyous sight from the vantage point high above them.


On the other side of the giant curtain, back-stage, are the performers, the animals, the equipment, and staffers who care for them. There are no bright lights. The floor is simple concrete. This side is filled with activity too. Animals line the walls. The performers are “just beings” in preparation for the roles they will play; most are in old jeans and baggy shirts and jackets. Some are on their cell phones already in costume. Some are practicing their skills. Some are running toward the dressing rooms, perhaps arriving late and rushing to make their curtain calls. Some are dressed in black so they will be less visible as they come and go between the two worlds in support of the others. That is the role they play. Some stand in small groups chatting and laughing. Their body languages are telling their stories, which cannot be heard atop the arena because of the high-energy music that fills the air around and above both worlds. The animals seem quiet for the most part from this distance and some of the people are petting them, grooming them, leading them, and seeing that they are made ready for the big center circle when it’s time for their performance on the bright side of the curtain. Now and then a dog’s happy bark floats upward and is heard even at this distance high above them. Sometimes a sharp call or a loud giggle floats upward and fades before crossing the barrier of the curtain.


At the bottom of the separating curtain, the would-be performers ready themselves to cross into the other world. One moment they are back-stage sharing and living their lives and the next moment they cross over and become their roles in the bright lights under the big top. A beautiful young girl becomes a princess carrying the American flag on the back of a giant elephant. She has transformed into a majestic vision. A small young man becomes a high-flying aerialist when moments before he chatted via his cell phone with his girlfriend on the back-stage side of the curtain. Another slightly older man, who moments before was giving his mom and dad a tour back stage, is now the lead clown contributing his gift of making people laugh to the mix. A young mother becomes the center of attention as she commands enormous animals all around her and she sparkles without fear. Looking down as some beings perform in the bright lights of the big-ring and some beings stand ready back-stage awaiting their turn, the elephants, camels, horses, and dogs are brought into the dimly-lighted area and made ready for their curtain calls. It is my amazing gift to watch both worlds; there is an instant transformation whether the performer is going into his role or coming back. The change of energy is visible even from this distance.


On one side of the curtain, are hundreds of spectators. Their faces are bright and concentrated with wonder as they gaze upon the incredible performers as they fulfill their roles. On the back-stage side of the curtain there is the intimacy of close friends and family, sharing and contributing their talents to put on the greatest show possible. It is a beautiful model of teamwork, skill, trust, and open-heartedness. It quietly warms the spirit and remains unseen by the spectators.


As the show ends and the rigging begins to come down, a young woman from the audience approaches; she asks if she can look down over the curtain to the back-stage area. I tell her “no” because that is my job here high atop the arena where both worlds are visible. The performers create their bigger-than-life magic for the center ring and my job is to protect their privacy and their illusion when they return to Life back-stage.


In that moment, it occurred to me that I too had prepared at home in private, and then had come to the arena to perform my roles. Each show my role had changed—serving on both sides of the curtain—but none of the roles were the “being” within me; my challenge is to allow the deeper me contained in each of the roles to be present if I desire intimacy; there is a deeper quieter magic to be found there. It was amazing to see both sides of the curtain simultaneously and the miracle of transformation of those passing through. When I left the arena, I gave thanks for the learning about illusion and intimacy that my visual Circus experience had offered. Role-playing is fun, exciting, entertaining, and requires support, practice and skill; however, being stuck in the illusion of a role makes intimacy impossible. Eckhart Tolle once said, “I am not a spiritual leader when I go into a coffee shop for coffee or tea, I’m just thirsty.”  Is there a curtain inside you that does not allow intimacy to flourish because you believe the role you are playing is you?

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The Long Drive Home (Added: 21 January 2014)


The movie theatre fell silent although it was filled with people; the movie had ended. The energy around me felt tense and quiet. Although I’m not sure what was going on with the others there, inside me was complete stillness and a growing numbness. There was a residue of heaviness as I got into my car and began the long drive home over the mountain.


The movie we had just experienced was “August: Ossage County.” Although it was originally a play, now it could be described as a “dark” movie. The portrayals of the characters created an environment of real feelings made visible, maybe too visible for me to take in immediately. The family portrayed was dysfunctional to say the least; it kept many secrets and the only emotions the members seemed free to share with each other were anger and disappointment. It was the story of kept secrets, addictions, betrayals, separations, denials, suicide, and judgments. These actions were stirred together with their suppressed feelings and the result was painful fear turned inward and then outward to rage. The longer the movie went on the quieter I became inside.


During my journey home, the numbness was there inside me, and I sat with it feeling and thinking very little; just letting it be there. It seemed familiar and in some odd way comfortable. From deep inside me, I felt a bolt of thunder begin to strike in my stomach. My heart began to beat harder, faster and my throat seemed closed to the air around me; breathing was difficult. Still I drove and let it happen without clarity of what was going on within me.


Suddenly I noticed my face was wet; until then I had not been aware of crying. My fingers reached toward my face and touched the wetness there. My touch was felt, gentle and soothing. My heartbeat slowed down, my stomach settled down, and my breathing returned too normal. I let the tears come for as long as they needed too. It seemed I was crossing through another stage of healing that I didn’t know I needed. Numbing out had been my false refuge for much of my Life. My intention was to stay with whatever was occurring in this moment for as long as it took to find compassion for the part of me that feels wounded by acts of past betrayal, my own and other’s.


In those few minutes of deep pain followed by a sacred touch of deep healing, it seemed like my heart expanded and I was finally free of the past. Compassion flooded my mind and body for all us humans that have harmed each other in ways we have not been able to say out loud; those who have numbed out for fear of feeling more pain than we could bare. Compassion for anyone anywhere that came into this physical existence to become aware of the rage within along with the courage to heal it. Our level of healing comes in it’s own way and time and catches us when we are brave enough to experience the deeper pain and just be with it. There was no place to go and nothing to do except to continue the long drive home in peace and gratitude.

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A Bed of Healing (Added 25 November 2013)


As I remember it, it was the lowest, darkest period of my life. So many recent experiences had left me reeling with misery and a deep sense of loss. No matter how I sought comfort, it seemed I was lying in a “bed of thorns” and each movement tore at my soul; so many questions and no answers. In a flash of wisdom borne out of acceptance for what was not to be, a voice asked me to begin again and I responded.


The first small step was to purchase a new bed. It was made of medal the color of pewter. It arrived on my doorstep in a huge box almost too heavy to lift, but lift it I did. As it fell from its box, its pieces glistened as the sunlight entered the room and bounced and scattered along its surfaces. Slowly, piece-by-piece it became a bed. And piece-by-piece, it supported my soul’s restoration: I slept in it, ate in it, watched TV in it, cried in it, dreamed in it, wrote in it, and laughed in it. In short, I learned to love myself again. There are many thoughts from that time that trigger sadness still, but the sight of that sweet “bed of healing” continues to stir feelings of joy within me. Even now on cold winter nights, I sometimes take my books and curl up in its softness, fall into a peaceful sleep, and wake restored.


Now as I lighten my load in preparation for my move across country, it feels so right that this beautiful bed of comfort from my past moves too. As I let go of the past and live more and more in the present, my bed has found a new home. Today its has a new owner in a new room with new dreams. Her eyes sparkle and dance like stars filled with the enthusiasm and challenge of her youth. She aspires to be a nurse and her warm infectious smile indicated she has the compassion and caring to become a very good one. She is filled with light. Instantly, she seemed to love the bed. As she tested it out and smiled up at her Mom, my heart softened with tenderness and joy for the promise such young people represent.


Each of us, the young woman, the bed, and me are beginning a new chapter. It’s impossible to know what experiences will come to support our growth. You may be thinking that all this remembering and romanticizing about a bed is just that; just thinking. I agree. Somehow though my thoughts are of sharing, caring, clarity, healing, and growth, which is a long way from thinking life is a “bed of thorns.”


At this time of Thanksgiving, the promise of each moment fills my being with gratitude for my transformation from living in a bed of thorns to joyfully sharing a life lived fully. It pleases me that one so lovely as this future nurse will share the next chapter of my bed of healing.

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Kairos Time (Added 6 November

In the Greek language there are two words for time, chronos and kairos. Years ago at a spiritual workshop a young woman got up and told a story about time. She said that chronos time was literally minutes and seconds as expressed on clocks and that kairos time was the time it took an egg to hatch, the time it took a leaf to fall from its branch, and the time it took for a butterfly to come into being. I loved the concept of time described as kairos time, but didn’t investigate the meaning further. The concept of kairos time came back to me often over the years since all the clocks in my house are set to a different chronos time, and I rarely know exactly what time it actually is. My internal clock is usually quite accurate enough for my purposes, and I don’t wear a watch, which pleases me greatly.


This week chatting with friends, someone said that I ran on my own time, and I said that I ran on kairos time. When asked what that meant, I gave the explanation that I had heard so many years ago and had embraced as my own definition of how I would like to live. One of those present asked me how to spell kairos time and I didn’t know. She tried to find it on the Internet without success so I said I’d find it and send her the web link.


On my way home, I remembered that when my children were young, I told them that in order to use a word they needed to know how to spell it and what it meant. If they did both of those things and still felt it was appropriate for their use, I was okay with that. I chuckled about the fact that I had broken my own rule about words.


So even though the hour was late, I went to work to find out how to spell kairos time and its exact meaning; here is what I found:


“Kairos. The opportune time. The right activity happening at the right moment. When circumstances of life come together. When the right events have taken place. When people are ready. When things line up in a way that the right result can happen. Then it’s Kairos time. Before then (in chronos time) the activity cannot be accomplished. Kairos is pregnant time, the time of possibility—moments in our day, our week, our month, our year or our lifetime that define us. It is a crossroads. It has the ripe opportunity to make you bitter or better. It is a teachable moment. It is the right or opportune moment. They are rarely neutral and always leave an impact on us. Kairos moments are a string of moments that possess possibility—clarity brought on often by pain, uncertainty or crisis. They force us to be absolutely present: to ourselves, to our source, and to the experience of reality that we’re facing….As human beings, all of our growth happens in kairos moments.” -  J.R.Briggs. Mike Breen.


My reaction was WOW! My understanding of kairos time was very limited to say the least. I understood the broad concept of kairos time, but did not understand it experientially. Immediately I wanted to feel inside me when and where I had experienced a kairos time moment. It occurred to me that now is one of those moments. A moment full of potential when I can go beyond thinking about something to feeling the importance of this moment in my life. I can feel my heart beating and opening again to all the difficult and pleasant moments when I was at a crossroad and took a small step toward growth. In some of those kairos time moments, chronos time stood still and in others, it raced ahead of me and I had to run to catch up. The moments were filled with pain and longing, excitement and joy, tears and laughter. They were solitary and/or crowded with other voices. They brought some new ideas and destroyed others. They were giant and tiny happenings. They brought opportunity for change and I had the courage to embrace them, sometimes with eagerness and sometimes with trembling.


As chronos time passes, I want to be more awake to the kairos time in my life; to be so present in my life that I can feel each moment with clarity and gratitude. To see the magic of a flower bursting into bloom, to watch the changing of the seasons, to hear the mating call of the owl outside my window, to feel the love of my grandchild as he shares his Halloween candy on Facetime, to feel the energy of my daughter as she prepares dinner in the background, to laugh out loud with a friend, to watch the sunset, to hear excitement in the voice of others, to feel the wind in my hair. Mostly I want to appreciate this precious life and all its experiences as they happen. It’s good to know how to spell kairos time and understand its meaning at a deeper level. It’s a teachable moment--kairos time!

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Wisdom Of The Stone  (Added 25 May 2013)


To share this learning without getting lost in the story is my intention. As with much of my experience, the story of the stone came first and the wisdom of the stone followed in sometimes painful and sometimes amazing small steps.


Seeing the beauty of another’s work inspired me to give stone carving a try. Her work was delicate, flowing, and filled with deep love for her art. The part of me that gets excited to try new things immediately searched out a “class for beginners,” or so I thought. The instructor chose a stone for me, which was my first encounter with my fear of not being in control of my experience. It was a pale pink alabaster stone, curved to one side and very flat on the other. In other words, “not perfect.” In fact, it reminded me of a tombstone at first glance. My mind leaped to judgments about how I should have been present when others were selecting their stones so I would not be stuck with this less than ideal stone. Even then a part of me was drawn to its soft color and rough texture.


To add to my self-judgment, the young woman who had inspired my longing to try stone carving was unexpectedly occupying the table next to mine along with her friend, who was also an accomplished stone carver. How could this happen? It was supposed to be a class for beginners. Again the part of me that judges was having a field day of controlling thoughts. It would be impossible for my finished carving to be good enough to stand up to the surrounding competition. As this fearful familiar thought appeared, another thought about it not being a competition was a voice of reason that I could hear clearly.  Great!


The only thing to do at this point was to begin; the instructor suggested an abstract design as he does for most beginners. Since I had no clue as to what was needed, I picked up his hammer and chisel and pounded away; a process he described as “cleaning up the stone.” It was difficult and slow and tedious; the chisel marks visible and uneven. My fear of failure was more present than the stone before me, and my mind chatter was pervasive. The more I carved the more it looked like a tombstone. Although encouraged by the others, my sense of joy at having found the class was as pale as the alabaster stone. I packed it up and headed home.


The next day it seemed like a good idea to look for photos of abstract stone carvings online. There were several that appealed to me and seemed like close fits. The next class, I was ready. I had my stone, I had my photo idea, and I had determination to make something from this imperfect stone. The cleaning of the stone continued during this class and the stone began to have a nice curve about it. Then because of fog on the mountain, I missed the next class. So as not to get behind, I started carving at home; unskillfully struggling with the stone to make it look like the photo. It wasn’t working, and after hours of grueling effort and messiness, my frustration level was high. I hit the chisel hard with a hammer and a large chip of stone sailed across the porch and away from the curvy part at the stone’s top; my design ruined. Defeated I laid down the tools, cleaned up the mess, put the stone in the garage, wrote the instructor an email, and quit the class. Stone carving definitely did not suit my temperament.


The instructor sent a supportive email, and I returned his email saying that changing my mind was not likely. The next day, with the pressure of performance for others no longer triggering my fears, I set up a permanent workstation in the garage. I would try carving for 30 minutes at a time and see if my patience and energy could sustain that much effort. But first I sat down by the stone and began to really see it. In some places it was very hard, some places very crumbly, some places pure white, some places orangey pink. It was beautiful and touching it felt peaceful. The photo was no longer the right design for this stone so into the trash it went. Together with the stone for the first time, I picked up my hammer and chisel. It was still difficult. It was still slow going. It was still tiring. The time flew by and without my knowing it three hours passed; the stone was beginning to form itself. Now I saw and listened to what this piece of nature had to contribute to the art. My deep attention to the stone supported me in actually knowing the stone. Without force, without frustration the stone art was taking a shape that was pleasing to my eyes.


The story goes on of course. I went back to class. I continued to work with the stone. My skill with the hammer and chisel improved with instruction. Love of the work and stone replaced impatience and with the stone guiding me, we co-created an abstract shape that is called, Moth to the Flame. It is delicate, it is flowing, and it is filled with deep love for my stone and our art.


The small broken piece of stone mentioned earlier evolved into two connected hearts perched on a carved piece of gray soapstone supplied by a biking/hiking friend. My process of co-creation with the stones inspired a poem and became a Mother’s Day present for my daughter. Earlier when I read that Michael Angelo said, Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it, I knew intellectually what he meant. Now with the intimate experience of sharing and being open to the wisdom of the stone, I understand what he meant with my heart. Very different!

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For Essays Written Before 2013 Click on Essays Archive at Top of Page

“We are all one!”