Showing posts with label Consciousness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Consciousness. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What Can I Do?

The Orlando shooting happened this past Sunday morning. As was the case of many on social media, my facebook feed was inundated not only with posts of sadness at the world's recent events, but it was full with aggression. The combination of this horrible and tragic event, on top of all that is going on in the political world right now, spewed anger and hatred all over a feed that is generally speckled with posts from artists, spirituality websites, funny cat videos and summer vacations. They simply went away. Or some facebook algorithm pushed them so deep that even my unusually high amount of surfing today didn’t reach them. Understandably so.

The first time in my history with facebook I had to unfriend someone. Someone I hold dear. Someone I would rather keep in contact with. Someone, who like me, has suffered great illness and understands what it means to still be walking on this planet. This was very hard for me, for a number of reasons. Mostly because I care about this person, but also because I value the opinions of people who don’t think like me. I truly do. But this friend became so angry, so full of hatred, their language so hurtful that the conversation was just shut down. It no longer retained the basic characteristics of “an informal exchange of ideas”. There simply was no exchange. One view, full of anger and hatred, limited in fact and gross in overgeneralization - with an unwillingness to hear or respect the views of others. I had blocked this person from showing up in my newsfeed a while back, but today my attention was brought to something this person had said recently. Upon reading the words written, I decided that as difficult as it was, I had to do something. My passive “hoping” that the situation would resolve itself or that I could maintain the relationship by avoiding this person’s behavior was no longer a solution...if it ever was.

Feeling not well enough to really do anything physical today, I spent an unusual amount of time paging through my facebook newsfeed, surfing news articles and listening to online news radio. I purposefully read and listened to as much as I could from both sides of "the story”, trying not to get involved in sensationalism on either end (which is basically impossible, but I gave it my best shot). The Orlando news, intertwined with all the political agendas on both sides, made it intensely difficult. Beyond my ideas of why this happened or how it happened or what the solution is, lies a profound sadness and the heavy feeling of helplessness. Over and over and over again, the question in my head... What can I do? What can I do? What can I do ? This sense that the world has gotten so out of control left me feeling like the only thing I truly can change is me . Overwhelmed with the bigger picture, yet longing desperately to do something. What can I do ?...

Then, I stumble upon a video shared on facebook of Stephen Colbert’s reaction to the Orlando shooting. These are the words he ended on,

It's easy, it's almost tempting to be paralyzed by such a monstrously hateful act, to despair, and say, 'That's the way the world is now.' Well, I don't know what to do, but I do know that despair is a victory for hate. Hate wants us to be too weak to change anything. ... Love is not despair. Love makes us strong. Love gives us the courage to act. Love gives us hope that change is possible. Love allows us to change the script. So love your country, love your family, love the families and the victims and the people of Orlando but let's remember that love is a verb. And to love means to do something .

And again, as I surfed aimlessly, I found myself watching a video of the Dalai Lama at the Youth World Peace Conference. In his opening remarks he offers a few moments of silence for a time of prayer and then says,

Although some are quite skeptical about the effects of prayer, it has to come through action. Serious action, continuously, despite difficulties and a lot of obstacles, we cannot lose our determination, our courage. And on top of that, some prayer is ok, no harm. Without action, it is just prayer.

Love, in action, is compassion. Compassion, by definition, is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate that suffering.” What can I do? What can I do? What can I do ?

There was a lot hate and anger and finger pointing and blaming and judging on facebook today. So much so that by tonight I felt like I needed to sage the house just to help myself let go of it all. It hung heavy on the humidity that came rolling in with the storms. Heavy and dark. I understand these reactions. Because that is exactly what they are - reactions. And quite often, they come fast and they come heated. But one post, one very well written and brave reaction to an article describing the complicated history of the shooter, dared to show compassion for the shooter. She wrote, “While I utterly, utterly condemn his atrocious actions, I also believe we must extend some compassion to him for his own distress.” Unimaginable? Maybe. Impossible? I don’t believe so. And it really made me think.

After sitting here today, reading all the news articles and surfing through all the posts, I found myself so angry, so full of what feels like hatred to me. A justified hatred. A hatred that comes easy in light of such tragedy. A hatred that comes easy when listening to racism and sexism and rape and murder and lying and all that fills our news. We’ve had enough. And nothing seems sweeter in light of fear, than justified hatred and anger. Yet nothing is further from the solution.

Compassion must have the final word. And compassion does not mean agreeing with everyone. And it surely does not mean letting people get by with things that are harmful. Just as I had to “unfriend” someone very important to me, there are times when difficult things have to be done (to speak on an extremely simplified level) or said. Compassion is not easy. For one thing, it threatens our ego. In order to have compassion you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Let go of what you know. Move toward the pain of the world, beyond bias, beyond prejudice and fixed opinions and open your heart to people - those we like and more importantly, those we don’t like. Compassion counteracts our tendency to stay stuck in our way of thinking and counteracts our resistance to change. Instead of acting or reacting with aggression when we are provoked, endlessly perpetuating the cycle of aggression, we trust that we can interact with others from a place of inquisitiveness, calm and caring, without feeling threatened.

I don’t claim to know the answers to all of life’s difficult questions these days. But this I do know, the answer to even the smallest of these is not hatred . It never will be. And some of the most daring work we can ever do is to challenge our own way of thinking - our fixed ideas, the labels we are so invested in, our conventional ways of experiencing things, our opinions of right and wrong. It’s not until we do this that we can move beyond bias and prejudice and actually care for people, actually make a difference. With all that I feel helpless about, this I can do.  

This I can do .  


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's All Juicy Stuff!

                                                                                                                                                          Photo by David Ralph Johnson

Pema Chodron, in her book Start Where You Are, has a chapter entitled – Abandon Any Hope of Fruition. It touches on the subject of hope, and how when it’s misused can become an obstacle to living in the present moment. The understanding is that as long as we are continually wishing or “hoping” for things to change, they never will. As long as we have an orientation toward the future, we can never just relax and enjoy what we already have. The unspoken deal we make with ourselves is that once we “get there”  - then we will be happy. The problem is…we never arrive.

“One of our deepest habitual patterns that we have is to feel that we are never good enough. We think back to the past a lot, which maybe was better than now, or perhaps worse. We also think ahead quite a bit to the future – which we may fear – always holding out our hope that in might be a little bit better thank now. Even if now is going really well – we have good health and we’ve met the person of our dreams, or we just had a child or got the job we wanted – nevertheless there’s a deep tendency always to think about how it’s going to be later. We don’t quite give ourselves full credit for who we are in the present moment.”

By letting go of our hope of “fruition” we give up the idea that at some future time we will feel good. Instead, we enter into an unconditional relationship with ourselves, having an open heart and an open mind to whatever is – and whatever “is”, is what’s right here, right now. 

There is often a misunderstanding in the teachings of Buddhism. The Buddha is not someone to be worshipped. Buddha simply means “awake”. When talking about the “Buddha in you”, one is simply talking about our inherent nature – or Buddha nature – and what that implies is that everything you need, you already have! By loving ourselves unconditionally, we slowly uncover or awaken what is already there, instead of shielding it, protecting it or keeping it buried out of fear.

Being afraid, feeling angry, feeling impatient, feeling jealous, feeling depressed – these are all part of who we are. They are as much a part of our nature as joy and compassion are. Entering into an unconditional relationship with ourselves means that we agree to no longer run from ourselves. Because in reality, no matter how hard we try – wherever we go, there we are! The beauty of this for me is that once we understand this, there is no more categorizing my feelings into “right” and “wrong”. This leaves no room for guilt – and we can all use a little less of that in our days! Our feelings are simply that  - just our feelings.

The dictionary states that the meaning of fruition is “The enjoyment of something attained or realized. The state of bearing fruit.” Unlike the beautiful fruit in the photo my husband took this weekend, there is no waiting for the perfect moment of ripening within us. Who we are in this moment is exactly who we are supposed to be – whether afraid, insecure, jealous, lonely, confident, joyful or compassionate –
“It’s all juicy stuff!”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In her book, The Places That Scare You, Pema Chodron talks about the “in-between state”. She states, “It takes some training to equate complete letting go with comfort. But in fact, ‘nothing to hold on to’ is the root of happiness.”

There are times in my life where I get this; where the letting go actually brings relief to me. There is a sense of freedom when we come to accept this fact. But there are also many times in my life where placing myself in the vulnerable space of not knowing what to do makes life extremely uncomfortable. If not careful, we fill this space by seeking comfort in things such as food, alcohol or people – knowing full well that this relief is short lived and shallow, to say the least. As Pema states, a slice of pizza does not go far when you’ve just found out you have cancer.
Placing ourselves in a space we would most like to avoid is tough business. It’s a space where we agree to let down the walls we have built to keep us safe, protected. I find this most difficult when dealing with the suffering of my family. Watching the people I love suffer - well, this hurts, plain and simple. If I can make the situation right or wrong, if I can figure it out, then I am on familiar ground and my heart feels relief…temporarily. My actions or reactions, my habitual patters of avoidance, are only momentary “fixes”, and quite often they just don’t work. It’s much like putting a Band-aid on a wound that never heals.
If we can learn to stay with those moments of unease, those places of volatile energy, we slowly learn that residing here is much more comfortable that acting out or repressing it. In the practice of Buddhism, this open ended tender place is called bodhichitta. Staying with it is what eventually heals us. It allows us to let go of our responsibility to control our world and in the end, teaches us how to love.
As a mother, the idea of not “fixing” a problem can be a difficult concept to grasp. There are times when disputes arise between sisters and my desire to represent both sides clearly to the other becomes insatiable. Like sitting in the theatre during a love story headed for disaster, wanting to scream, “Look back, look back! He’s there waiting for you!” Simply listening to both sides and sitting in the space of in-action can be almost more than I can bear. But what I have found is that by doing this, I create an environment of openness. Where there is much less “re-action” and more opportunity for action based on compassion and creative thinking.
Letting go, putting ourselves in a place of vulnerability and unknowing takes courage. Allowing the future to be unpredictable (which it always is!!) and open, places us in a position to be nowhere other than in the present moment. And there is nowhere richer in possibility than right here, right now. As Pema says, “This juicy spot is a fruitful place to be. Resting here completely – steadfastly experiencing the clarity of the present moment – is called enlightenment”. 

May you find comfort and freedom in the “in-between”.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Minds Run Amok!

My bookcase...third shelf down from top. 

Lately, I have been suffering more than I like. 

I am sure that statement not only sounds a bit odd, but it most likely sounds a little “woe is me” as well.  Odd, in the obvious…who really likes to suffer at all – and “woe is me” in that…well, get over it Sunshine, we all seem to be suffering more than usual these days! One does not have to look far (maybe your own mirror) to find something that brings you great suffering.

So why the lead off?  Because when I am struggling to write, sometimes the best thing to do is to just stop forcing the situation and dig down and find out what’s going on Now.  So in a roundabout way, after letting go of a little bit of ego…ok, a lot of ego… and expectations, this is what it all shakes down to.

I am not feeling well physically these days.  More than the usual.  I’m not completely sure why this is the case, or which comes first, the chicken or the egg, but I have a general idea of some contributing factors.  Summer is WONDERFUL, but very different from the slow routine of winter. With the kids in school, Dave at work and shorter days, winter lends itself to rest. Summer, on the other hand, is full of activity. Kids home, Dave laid-off from his job with the State of Minnesota, longer days, things to do outside and scheduled summer-time events all present a multitude of opportunities to say, “Yes!”  And if there is one thing that I find most difficult to do – if there is one thing that I remain most  obstinate about – if there is one concept that I must re-learn time and time again, it is that of knowing how and when to say “no.” Especially to my family and those I love.

Carelessness in caring for Me leads to pushing beyond my limits. Convincing myself and others that, “I’m okay” or “It’s alright, I feel good today” or “I’ll rest later” only ends in an exhaustion that snowballs very quickly into increased disease activity and suffering.  Suffering for me, and suffering for those around me.  It was my inability to “think” that set me on this roundabout path to shedding a little ego today. “Brain fog”, or even sometimes more serious cognitive dysfunctions can be a symptom of Lupus as well as other autoimmune diseases. It is a symptom that I have struggled with to varying degrees since the beginning of my illness.  

Over the past month or so, updating the website, or even my facebook page has been extremely difficult. It is the reason why my entries have decreased dramatically.  I want to write, but the more I pursue the desire the farther away the reality becomes. Even reading has become cumbersome. I pick up books only to find my way through maybe two or three pages – reading paragraphs over and over again trying to connect thoughts. The same goes with my writing. What once flowed effortlessly now has become painfully slow.

Why? Why, when things seem so clear, do I let them get so out of control? I don’t have to go far to read my very own writings and think to myself, “Who IS that person?” And, “Where did she go?!?” Or sometimes I even wonder if my “togetherness” is a bit out of touch with reality! “Now this is the real world. Crazy, complicated and fast paced.  Enlightenment is easy if you’re living in a hut on the top of a mountain (or in a hippie village as I was most recently told) but this is real life here, sister!”

Unable to see the answer to my question, I was at least able to understand that I was suffering. And that my suffering seemed a bit out of control. Yes, I have a disease that creates a tremendous amount of pain and there is not much I can do about that. But not getting enough sleep, not eating right, giving in to bad habits, not finding time to meditate because I am “too busy”, not reaching out for help, neglecting my physical  appearance, reaching for a bottle of medication before a tall glass of water and a good nap – these things ARE in my control.

Knowing that, I went to my bookshelf and picked up Eckhart to help me out a bit. I knew I would not remember where to look, so I just grabbed  The Power of Now , cracked it open and began to read.  Funny how karma is…

I opened to page 33 – Chapter Two – Consciousness: The Way Out Of Pain. Subtitle: Create No More Pain In The Present.


“The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.”

This I know.
When I am tired, when I am overbooked, when one activity of the day blindly runs into the next activity of the day, when I eat on the run and neglect the sleep I need – there is no room for mindfulness.  In fact, I am functioning on a mind run amok. Living in pure maintenance mode - minutes, hours, days and weeks melt into a current of life that neglects all in its path and leaves me falling into bed sick, exhausted and discontent.

This is SO true! Think about it. Food never looks so good as when you finally decide to go on a diet.  “The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment.” If I’m hungry right now, and I tell myself that I am going to resist that hunger pain and not eat – the pain of not being able to eat can quickly become insurmountable. And I eat my chocolate cake anyway.  The present moment can be quite painful.  We will go to extremes not to suffer in its wake.

I don’t like not being able to take care of my family. I don’t like not being able to keep my home exactly as I used to. I don’t like not being able to be physically active. I don’t like staying home as others have their fun in the sun.  I don’t like saying No. And sooner or later, it all becomes too painful.  Moreover, if I am not careful, my unobserved mind – my mind run amok – will resist that pain at every turn. And inevitably what ensues is suffering.

The funny thing is, what are we moving so aimlessly fast towards? As we rush through our days – saying yes to everything and experiencing nothing – where are we going? What is the end result? Our illusion of time tricks us into thinking that there is some prize out there in the future. Happier kids, better life, more money, bigger house… out there – somewhere. When in reality, ALL WE EVER HAVE IS THIS VERY MOMENT. Make the Now the primary focus of your life and there is no more resistance. Instead of fighting reality – become part of it.

My reality is this. I have an illness that requires me to expend my energy very wisely. There are times when I can say “yes”, and there are times when I must say “no”.  I can fight that with all my might and suffer great pain (with the illusion of success or superwomen-hood), or I can accept the present moment and be completely alive in it. Caring for the Now, I ensure a healthier future for my family and myself. It may mean staying home, it may mean dirty sheets for yet another week – or it may mean not being able to write or paint – but what could be more insane than opposing life itself? The irony of it all is that in what appears to be saying “No”, is actually saying “YES” to life.  And once we say “YES”, life suddenly begins to work for us rather than against us. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To-Do Lists

Art work by me : )

Anyone that knows me well, knows that I am far from black and white. Not that I don't have certain beliefs or hold convictions that I remain faithful to, but for me, life is lived in the gray. It is in the "in between" where experience finds compassion, where obstinacy finds understanding and where grace abounds. It is where true joy can be found - but it is also where some of our most difficult days find their struggle.

One of the times where this gray matter becomes most difficult for me is when I am put in the position to verify my illness with Social Security or my long term disability insurance. I've written about this before. The contradiction of wanting to be well, yet having to prove how sick I am. My nature is to make the best out of things. Yet, when it comes to these situations, it feels quite the opposite. Thank goodness, these ordeals happen on a limited basis.

But there is also a sort of living in the gray that happens on a day to day basis. Balancing what I want to accomplish with what I am actually capable of accomplishing can be a trick that sneaks up on me at times. When I am very sick, these decisions are pretty cut and dry. Laying in a hospital bed does, indeed, limit my possibilities. It's not where I ever want to be, but it is a place where my focus and energies can remain on one thing - getting well.

When I was healthy, prior to getting sick two and a half years ago, possibilities seemed limitless. Often times the only thing to get in my way was my own lack of ambition. Unless hindered by some sort of an injury, setting the goal to run a marathon was a challenge that was completely doable. Balancing work, family, running, hobbies... was a task that included a conscious selection on my part. All elements holding possibility.

The past two weeks have been very gray. At one end of the spectrum I have an upcoming graduation celebration and family coming for a week. At the other end, I have a flare that seems to be continuously smoldering in the background and a heart condition that is being barely kept at bay with a medication that makes me less than "energetic". Add in two parts perfectionism, one part avoidance - and you have a recipe for suffering. My first clue... not having time to meditate.

So... this is the To-Do List on my kitchen cupboard. It's actually list number two. List number one went up about three months ago and was accomplished (mostly by my husband) this past weekend. The current list includes details that are supposed to be "accomplish-able" by the 17th of June.

Unless you are the Buddha, not many human beings ever attain complete enlightenment. Even the perfectionist in me has a very realistic idea of what I am capable of. What we can hope to attain is an awareness of who we are, where we are at or what we are doing. This morning, after a few hours of ridiculousness, I became quite aware of who I am and what I was thinking...and I just had to laugh. There I was, at 7am, standing out in the front yard in my pajamas, trying to hold a hose so that I could water my flowers (number one on the sub-set list made this morning). I hadn't taken my medicine. Heck, I hadn't even taken my first sip of coffee. About 15 minutes in the sun and I felt like I was going to pass out. Frustrated at my body, I just kept pushing forward. Water the flowers by the driveway...don't forget the ones in the front of the house...oh, bring a pail out to the mailbox where the new sunflowers are coming up...bring the hose to the back deck...make sure to spray the pollen off the furniture...sweep the pine needles... STOP!!!!!!!!! This was the complete insanity that began to flood my brain. All the while - feeling more and more sick. Barely able to walk in a straight line, I dropped the hose and walked back into the house. 

This is me, in my chair. These are my pajama bottoms, of which I am still sporting at this very moment (12:42pm). I have no intention of taking them off today, nor do I plan to go pick up that hose or even look at a list. Today I am going to be well - both physically and mentally. My ego would like to convince me of the importance of a perfect home, a completely organized graduation and the title of "Super Women". 

If I listen closely, my heart tells me that what matters most is taking care of this moment. And my taking care of this moment is the greatest gift I can give my family. 


Friday, May 27, 2011

The Color Of Our Thoughts

"Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; 
for the soul becomes dyed with the color of your thoughts. 
Soak them in such trains of thought as, for example: 
Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible." 
~ Marcus Aurelius

All the wisest and greatest teachers of our time - from Aurelius to Jesus, to Buddha and all the modern sages and scientists - tell us the very same thing: if we can not control the "stuff" of our consciousness and temper the ghosts of fear and anxiety and self-doubt, none of the rest of the stuff matters. Period. says that the opposites of optimism are doubt, gloom, hopelessness and pessimism.That being said, why do we ever choose anything but optimism? Brian Johnson, in his book A Philosopher's Notes, talks about a study that was done with two dogs. They are both given shocks at random intervals. Both have levers in their cage. One can press the lever to stop the shocks and the other one can press the lever, but it does not stop the shocks. The first dog figures it out right away and is fine. The other dog, the one that can't do anything about it, eventually gives up and curls up in a corner as the shocks continue. (horrible test, I know!!!) Yuck. 

In the second part of the test, the same dogs are put into a new environment together. This time, both dogs can easily avoid the shocks. The first dog quickly discovers the trick again and is fine. The other dog, even though it now has the power to change things, just gives up - curling into a ball as the shocks continue. The dog has learned helplessness

                                            Star Prairie Gallery
We work in much the same way. After being shocked by life so many times, we fall into a pattern of behavior - a habit - that seems to erase the possibility of change from our minds. We forget that we have a choice to change our consciousness and choose a more effective response to the "shocks" in our life! And the more we buy into these negative habits, the more they are strengthened and empowered. And the stronger they are, the more likely we are to be swept away by their momentum we feel disappointed or betrayed. 

So how do we stop the momentum? First of all, we must at least have enough consciousness to acknowledge that we are suffering. Knowing we are responding with old habits, catching ourselves in the process, is the first and most difficult step. Without compassionately recognizing this in ourselves, we will remain stuck. It's impossible to free yourself from something you are not aware of in the first place. 

Secondly - change your environment! Do something different.

BWCA 2007
Pema Chodron , in her book, The Places That Scare You , says, "doing something different is anything that interrupts our ancient habit of tenaciously indulging in our emotions." She points out that anything that is non-habit will do. Sing, dance, take a walk, play with a pet - do anything that does not reinforce our crippling habits. This is not simply an exercise in avoidance. For example, when depressed, eating a quart of ice cream may indeed take your mind off of things for a bit, but it still reinforces our inability to be compassionate towards ourselves in response to life's shocks. Be careful to interrupt the momentum with a heightened state of consciousness and not one in which your are numb to the world.

And lastly, remember that this is a work in progress. Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our consciousness is not something we do once or twice and master for a lifetime. This is a practice that, with time, will become easier, but will remain with us throughout all of life's ups and downs. Gently reminding us and offering us unlimited new possibilities for our response to suffering.

"Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible"!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Picture This

                                           Photo by David Ralph Johnson

One of the wonderful things about having a husband as a photographer is all the beautiful art that surrounds our home and fills our computers. Sometimes I forget. I take things for granted. Beauty becomes commonplace. 

While sifting through some of his work on facebook, I happened upon this picture. One of our friends had commented on it saying, "When you can get people to pause and try to figure out what's going on or imagine a dialog, you've got a good picture." I have heard the same idea stated by another photographer friend of ours when he says, "A good picture asks more questions than it tells". 

This is a good picture.

I won't ever know the dialog was that filled this moment, I can only imagine. But one word resonates - pain. Emotional pain.

We are not without suffering in this life; it's a given fact. Despite even our best attempts at understanding or coping - or our attainment of complete consciousness - disease, loss, death... these things find their way into all of our lives and bring with them very real suffering. They come without warning and without choice. 

Emotional pain - the kind I imagine in this picture - is inevitable as long as we remain identified with our minds. As long as we are unconscious, spiritually speaking. Being "unconscious" means not living aware of the present moment. Instead, we live caught up in the pain of our past or the worry of our future. This type of living is consumed with thought. When we are consumed with thought we can not, at the same time, be aware of what is truly happening right now. And when the unobserved mind runs our lives, we create our own pain.
As long as we are unwilling to accept Now, we resist what Is. As long as we resist what Is, we will continue to suffer. Acceptance means freedom. And freedom means peace. 

One of the biggest problems with emotional suffering is that we project our pain onto others. If I am without joy, I will project my discontentment with life onto all those I come into contact with. And sadly, as is human nature, I will do so much more with the people that I love.  

When we project our own pain onto people, we can not see them for who they really are. 

Let me give you a real life example of this. My husband is a photographer. There are two main aspects to being a photographer (in my mind). There's the part about going out and taking pictures. And then there's the part about sitting at the computer...downloading, organizing, filing, working the pictures up, posting them to the web or online gallery... it's a big part. This can take hours. And hours. And hours. You get the picture - figuratively and literally. 

If I am suffering, in any way, the second aspect  can create an irritability in me that feels nothing short of toxic. After hours of self-talk (consumed with thought) I can feel slighted, jealous, angry, hurt, mad, self-righteous, vengeful, irritated, unhappy, discontent... Oh, the list could go on. And in passive-aggressive form, I will eventually make some sort of hurtful comment. Yep, that really can be me.  

If I am not suffering, the situation can be quite different. Lets say I am physically feeling on top of my game. Because of this, I make plans to be with my girlfriends - who completely fill my cup. Maybe it's an afternoon away, or maybe I am fortunate enough to spend a weekend at Clare's Well. Maybe I even spend a little money on myself. I feel good. How do you suppose I react now, to the hours and hours my husband has been on the computer? You guessed it. No problem! In fact, I may even feel joy in knowing that he was happy while I was gone and not preoccupied with loneliness or upset that he had to make his own supper!

What's changed? 


The second aspect of photography remains the same. It is my resistance to what Is, my preoccupation with the past and worry of the future - my very own pain - that  keeps me from experiencing peace. Or joy. Or happiness.  

When we find ourselves emotionally unpleasant towards others, it's a good indication that we need to pay attention to our own pain. 

Be still. Sit with it. Listen to it. 

Picture this ~
In accepting what is
we can transform the moment,
and become awakened to the beauty 
that surrounds us 
and lies


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Letting go...

This is what I have been doing lately. I didn't actually know that I was doing this until today. Twisting and turning and pulling, trying desperately to "arrive". Thoughts flood my brain. Frustrated by my minds inability to hold on to or organize any ideas. Discouraged by the barren screen in front of me. Exhausted by disease. So much to say.

So much to say.

I've begun this writing at least five times. Wonderful, glorious thoughts have come to me in my moments of reading and mediation. I want desperately to share. A Mother's Day, full and beautiful. Reflections of daughters' and relationships and the unconditional love that surrounds them. Hope, and the excitement that comes with experiencing 6000 people gathered together under the dream of One Heart One Mind One Universe. Sadness, by the suffering that our judgments bring.

These things keep me awake. So many things.

My ego and I, we work devotedly to each other, under the best of intentions, to bring our message. Twisting and turning and pulling in every direction. Not listening, not listening, not listening...

Under of the rumblings of my distress
I hear...

Let it go.

Set it down. 

Give it space.  

 Things become clearer when not held so tightly.

Watch the beauty unfold. 
Breathe each letting go.

Feel the freedom.
Follow the flow to stillness, as the space takes what is complicated...

Making masterpieces 
our mistakes...

...and finding

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Laying under the trees on an island, summer 2010.
Today is not a very good day for me. When the alarm went off, I pretty much surmised that getting out of bed would be difficult. And then I rolled over. A simple task for most, but when things are bad, just the pull of the sheets can cause me trouble. Somehow, as I began to roll over, I put pressure on the back of my head which sent shooting pain from the base of my head all the way down my spine.

I eventually made my way out of bed and began to move around the house. But the longer I remained upright, the more pronounced the pain and stiffness became. So my day of Easter basket gift acquisition was regrettably squelched by the side-effects of pain medications, anti-inflammatory's and muscle relaxants.Ugh.

But my desire to complain is not why I write to you. I actually had an interesting thought and decided, despite my serious inability to process things in a comprehensible manner right now - I would give blogging a shot. It does help that I can write things down and go back to them - over...and over...and over again. So we'll see how this goes.

I don't take pain medications or mind altering medications very often. For me, I need to keep them on an emergency basis only. Today, I hope they keep me out of the ER. But I have noticed something. When I take these medications, I feel more peaceful. Now don't laugh - I know we ALL feel more peaceful when we get to take a little something. Same thing happens when I drink a glass of wine. Or oftentimes, I get the same peaceful feeling when I am really sleepy. It's one of those obvious things, but why does it happen?

My husbands eye for beauty.
Most people's lives are cluttered up with things - things to buy, things to do, things to think about.... things. Our minds are full to the top with the clutter of thoughts. Winston Churchhill so truthfully stated that our lives are defined as, "one damn thing after another." This state of existence is so often our constant state of reality that no wonder our lives are out of balance. Tolle calls this "object consciousness".  "Space consciousness", he states, on the other hand, is the space we create around our thinking. Kind of like when you take a step back and think about what you are thinking about. I do this sometimes when I get really bad news. I have an intense moment of quiet when I think about what I have just heard. When all other thoughts go away and I think to myself, "what just happened to me?". There is a sort of "space" around your thought. Like it's packed in air for just a moment. You become very aware. So aware you could hear a pin drop. And awareness implies that you are not only conscious of things (objects), but you are also conscious of being conscious. (Thinking about what you are thinking about.)

Now, think about being conscious - or aware - in a positive way. No bad news, just being conscious. Able to remove all the "clutter" and think only on one thing - or just a few things. People who have mastered meditation do this very well. And those who meditate will tell you that doing so not only brings them great peace, but emotional and physical healing.

So what does this have to do with pain medications, wine and falling asleep? Why do these things seem to bring me peace? Because my thinking begins to subside. And when our thinking subsides, we remember less and less of our mind-made problematic self.

But with pain medications, wine and falling asleep - you may feel more carefree or relaxed for awhile, but eventually all lead to "unconsciousness". In the case of medications and alcohol - the price paid for temporary relaxation can be quite high. Instead of rising above your thought, you fall below it.

"Space consciousness" has little to do with being "spaced out". The only thing they have in common is that both are beyond thought. Space consciousness as the byproduct of being aware - or being Awake - to your life and all that is around you, is extremely liberating. It represents not only freedom from all that our egos demand of us, but also from dependency on things of this world - from materialism and materiality.

A peaceful roadside moment in southwestern Minnesota.

It's an empowering thing for me to know that true peace is always within my grasp. That I don't need to acquire anything to get it. In fact, quite the opposite. It's the getting rid of things - things to buy, things to do, things to think about - that I find true peace. I don't have to read a book, follow a plan, go to a certain location, take a particular drug or understand any great philosophy or theology to experience peace. It's in becoming empty that we are filled! What an amazing realization!

Sound familiar?

BWCA Trip - September   2009
When you are able to un-clutter your life and your thinking, there is a sense of well-being, of alive peace. Sometimes that sense is quite intense and sometimes it is so subtle that is sits in the background of your life as quiet contentment. The ancient sages of India called this Ananda - the bliss of Being. It is the most subtle layer of our lives, the joy of living itself. It is the pure experience of  Being without thinking or worrying or judging.

This time of year can be so busy, so cluttered for us all. We get all wrapped up in what our minds tell us needs to be done, that we forget what needs to be undone. To be let go of.  To set aside, if only for a moment.

 This holy Spring, I wish for you and for me -


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Afghans and Angels

Yesterday was IVIg day for me. Not my usual Monday, but because of our trip to Florida, I had to rearrange things a bit. Most of the infusion time I spend sleeping. The IV Benadryl they give me beforehand pretty much knocks me right out. Since this is a six hour ordeal, I don't mind the nap one bit. In fact, I look forward to it!

Somewhere around hour three or four, I was wakened gently by the soft voice of this beautiful little old women. "Would you like a blanket dear? I have this one, or this one. I made them both and I would like to give one to you."
"To me? To keep?" I said.
"Yes, for you to keep. Which one would you like?"
One was quilted with a soft pink floral pattern and the other was a hand knitted afghan. As you can see from the picture - I chose the the afghan! How could I not? For any of you that know me personally, sunflowers are a big part of my wild flower garden. It was perfect!

Being extremely tired from the past weeks, combined with the Benadryl, I again fell fast asleep. If it would not have been for the soft blanket that lay across my lap when I awoke, I would have thought this silver haired lady was an angel in my dreams. But lucky for me, she was an angel in reality.

About thirty minutes before my infusion came to an end, I began to notice my heart skipping a few beats. I have a history of arrhythmia, so at first this did not alarm me much. Until those skipping beats got faster, and faster, and faster, with no reprieve. My heart rate eventually reached about 120-130 beats per minute - and there it stayed for over an hour. Needless to say, this is not something that the Specialty Infusion Clinic can handle. So I was immediately whisked to the ER where I spent the remainder of my day. Heart attack was ruled out first thing. But because of the presence of the anticardiolipin antibody in my blood, deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots, are the biggest concern. One of the tests they do for this condition is a blood test called the D-dimer Test. According to Lab Tests Online, the following is an explanation of a "positive D-dimer":

A positive D-dimer result may indicate the presence of an abnormally high level of fibrin degradation products. It tells the doctor that there may be significant blood clot (thrombus) formation and breakdown in the body, but it does not tell the location or cause. It may be due to, for example, a venous thromboembolism (VTE) or DIC. Typically, the D-dimer level is very elevated in DIC.

Well, mine was elevated. Normal range is about a .5 - mine came back at 1.3. So the next hours included just about every test under the sun for blood clots, including a lung ventilation perfusion scan where I was required to breath in (and be injected with) radio active isotopes! Not really what I had on the agenda for the day! In the end, I am happy to report they could find NO blood clots anywhere in my body. My heart eventually snapped back into normal rhythm, follow-up appointments with new doctor's were made and we were sent home.

If you have ever spent time in the emergency room, you are familiar with the "law" that ER rooms can not be above 58 degrees....well, maybe a little warmer, but it sure feels like 58 degrees. And any room that includes big machinery like x-ray machines or CAT scans falls even below that. It's never a good sign when you get wheeled into a room where the technician is wearing a sweatshirt and down vest!

painting by me!
I needed that blanket yesterday. More than I can even tell you. The comfort it gave me fell way beyond the warmth of it's fibers. I kept it with me the entire ER visit, through every test and even under the x-ray. I kept thinking about the hands that knit it. About the face that shown like an angel above my bed. I let it comfort me like my own grandmother - whom I thought of in my most difficult moments throughout the day. She made afghans, too.

There are so many good things in this life. So many good people. Some of them are still here with us and some are but memories. Some lay across our laps like blankets, or children, or pets and some just make up the fabric of our hearts. I find that when I am feeling alone, it's not the absence of these things in my life, it is the absence of my ability to be conscious of them.

This day, I have a lovely sunflower afghan to help me remember!