Showing posts with label Spirituality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spirituality. Show all posts

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sinking The Boat...and other great ideas!

I remember this moment as if it were yesterday.  This was our first stop on an island that what would soon become our favorite spot in the boundary waters canoe area of northern Minnesota.  We had not been resting long when my husband looked at me and said, “I think I’ll try to sink the canoe.”  The fact that this was my very first canoe trip, combined with the fact that we were a long, long way from any sort of civilization, as well as any cell phone reception, made this comment one of great concern to me. Doing the best I could to hold back any indication of doubt or panic, I simply said, “Why would you do that honey?”  He went on to explain to me that all canoes must be tested to see if they float after being capsized. He and his father had tested the canoe many years prior after they had first built it, but since he had re-fiberglassed it recently and made some fixes he had not yet tested it again to see if it would float.

I still didn’t like the idea. What if it didn’t float? What if we couldn’t get it back out of the water? What if we damaged it – this beautiful forty-year-old canoe? What if…? I simply did not want him to do it and I remember a bit of an argument because of his determination to find out. And so, with me standing on shore ready to take a picture of this most sure disaster to come, he gently rocked the canoe back and forth. With each dip the water slowly filled the canoe until only the stern and bow could be seen.  And then, in a moment of silent stillness, he stood and waited. Holding tightly to the rope, he watched as the slack let go and the canoe floated gently, barley above the water’s surface. The moment captured here in this photo.

My husband has taught me a great deal about fear; mostly, how to respect it and learn from it – and not run from it. It’s taken me books upon books to understand something that has always been second nature to him. Reality is exactly that – REALity. It’s what’s REAL. And it is far better to move towards that which is real than to struggle against it or worse yet, to pretend it does not exist.

This does not mean that life will always be easy. There’s risk and vulnerability involved. And sometimes we have to take on a lot of water before we realize whether or not we can float. But it’s not until we understand the truth of the matter that we can live in the honesty where joy and freedom reside. It’s in this space that we experience this world fully – not holding back, not preparing an escape route, not looking for alternatives – living fully in the reality of the present moment. 


I wrote this post for my facebook page today. Sometimes the idea for what I want to write comes to me with little to no work involved. This often happens when I have been reading something really good or I have had some sort of event in my life that demands my writing of it. And then, there are other times when I go looking. Today was one of those days. I often start by either flipping through some of my favorite books or I begin to scour the thousands and thousands of photos my husband has on file, waiting for something to jump out at me. The flipping didn't work. Nothing seemed to grab my attention. So I opened up our picture warehouse and began my perusing. Immediately, this photo pulled me in. 

I've looked at this picture hundreds of times. It's in our BWCA 2008 folder and is one of my favorite places to look. The trip itself changed my life. But for some reason, this picture told me something different today. As is often the case, it told me what is going on inside of me. Which, of course, I did not realize until I finished the writing! Kind of like a dream will do upon waking. 

I had a "boat load" of appointments over the past two weeks. It seems like my main doctors reached their six month evaluation point all at the same time. But it was during these visits that I made some rather big decisions. Decisions that came on the heels of a lot of pain and frustration. Decisions based on the potential for serious long term side effects, the ongoing inability to recuperate from chemo therapies and the recent "leveling off" of certain blood work. I have decided once again to try and taper off the prednisone that I have been on for three years as well as taper off the IVIg infusions. 

I've tried twice before to taper off the prednisone, only to return back to higher dose due to intense pain and illness. Prednisone is the drug people "love to hate", or so the saying goes. It's a miracle drug in regards to my illness, but the side effects, both long and short term, have serious consequences. But after reading Coping With Prednisone by Eugenia Zuckerman and Julie R. Ingelfinger, M.D., I have come to the conclusion that I have not given tapering a fare shake. In a nut shell, it is normal to feel extremely ill during the tapering and for months thereafter. As I gauge what I was experiencing with what seems to be acceptable withdrawal, I have decided that I can give this another chance. But I'd be lying if I did not tell you that it scares the shit out of me. 

In regards to the IGIg, this is my thinking. I've been on infusions for well over two years. When I began on them I was not on two of the other major chemo therapies that I am on. I would like to see if these drugs alone can manage my illness. The IVIg was not treating the autoimmune illness itself, it was treating a symptom - the peripheral and central nervous system issues I have been having. The other drugs I am on actually control the illness itself. It could be quite possible that these medications are now keeping things in check and I would no longer need the infusions. And the only way to find out is to fill the boat with water!

My initial reaction to these thoughts as they entered my mind was pure fear. Fear of the "what if". But as I worked through the fear what I realized was that my hesitation in attempting this was based out of my belief that I could somehow control my illness. A control that had become blind to ALL possibilities. Which meant that maybe, just maybe, letting go would bring about something better and not necessarily something worse. Once I realized this, I felt very compelled to speak to my main doctor about it. The appointment went very well and we were both in agreement as to what should be done. Let's see if the boat floats!

So here I am, week three on my first decrease of prednisone and one half infusion later, and I'm feeling pretty shitty - but giving it my best shot! I have to say, I'm not that thrilled about potentially messing up my summer with withdrawal symptoms. But is there really any good time? Nope! No time like the present, that's what I always say!

I do have some exciting news to report!! As many of you already know, being outdoors has always been very important to me. There is no holier place for me than the depth of the woods, surrounded by Nature. I have not been camping since getting sick. In fact, there is quite a dissertation in my application for social security in regards to the things I no longer can do, and camping is a big part of that. There is just no way that I could withstand the amount of work it would take to set up camp, let alone sleep on the cold ground, be without heat or cooling (whichever the case may be) or especially be any distance from a bathroom.

So this is my most recent anniversary gift (coming up on June 4th!)...

Completely loaded with one of these... ;-)

 ...and one of these...

....and some of these...

...and air conditioning...and heat...and all the amenities of HOME, right there in the woods with you!!!

Now, in my pre-illness days, I would have shunned this whole camper idea with all the piousness of a die-hard naturalist. But today....this little home away from home has made my dream of being out in the woods a reality again. 

Did I mention I have the best husband EVER?!?! Just can't imagine how I ever got so blessed. 

So, our first attempt will be this weekend, about 15 minutes from our real home as to not travel too far away this first go-around. I can hardly wait. Now THIS will most surely give me something to write about!

Until then, peace to us all ~

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Being Comfortable In Our Own Skin

"The spiritual life is about becoming more at home in your own skin." ~ Parker J. Palmer

This quote was in my Book of Awakening the other morning. As I read it, I looked over at Jake the dog and thought to myself, there is no one in our home more "comfortable in his own skin" than Jake the dog. Nothing much bothers Jake. Quietly unassuming, disheveled...always there. Jake knows what it means to "go with the flow" and no matter what, loves unconditionally. 

As Parker Palmer suggests , all spiritual paths help us to live more fully in the lives we were given. When people ask me how it is that I deal so well with all of my illnesses or they want to know what they can do to better live with the "lot" that they have been given, I always take pause before I answer. Not because I don't have an answer, but because the answer I have is one that is of great importance to me and I want the words spoken to to be as helpful as possible.

I watched a home improvement show the other day where the previous owners of an old home had built a new wood deck over the top of an old existing front porch at least 100 years old. The new deck, which should have lasted 30 years, was crumbling before them. This is what we do in our lives. We put on clothes that make us feel better, we try fad diets that take off pounds in less than 30 days, we post positive thinking lists on the sides of our computers, we read How To books and take on the identities of the "guy that found the answers"...we build our new decks over the top of our old porches every day. It's not until we make our changes to the foundation that we can withstand whatever walks across our lives.

What changed my life, what helps me to live more fully in the life I have been given, what has had the absolute most profound impact on me has been my connection to the spiritual. The spiritual is anything that removes what grows between our hearts and the present moment. It could be the face of a child, the look of a loved one, the realization of our impermanence as we watch a robin build it's nest. The spiritual is everywhere, waiting for us in all that we do. By connecting to it we connect to ourselves, and by connecting to ourselves we heal our very foundation, making ready for whatever the day brings. 

Like Jake the dog, we become comfortable in our own skin.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Clare's Well...spoken from the heart.

                                                                  Self Portrait                       Clare's Well, February 2012

Two weeks ago today, I was on the second day of my visit to Clare's Well. I had very good intentions of writing about my trip as soon as I returned, but to be honest, it's been more difficult than I had anticipated. Have you ever had an experience so moving that you hesitate to even open your mouth about it? The mere thought of trying to grasp all that it encompasses is completely overwhelming, and the only honorable thing to do seems to be silence. I flipped back and forth between writing a summation of my time in Annnandale and simply posting all three hundred of my pictures with the hope that you would just "get it". But neither seemed right. Most importantly...I wanted what came from all of this to be honest. It seemed like that was gift given over the course of the four days. This accounting should be authentic.

I'll warn you - this is going to be long. It is also going to be very real. I apologize right now, if in my attempt to let you into one of the most personal parts of me, I in any way offend - I am truly sorry. This is just me, in all of my humanness, sifting through and plucking away at the pieces of what makes up just one simple women in a very big and beautiful world.

I've decided to type word for word, the journal entries I made while on this trip. No changes, no omissions. I can guarantee you, that if I would have any idea that my journaling would ultimately end up on this blog...well, I probably would not have journalled at all! It just seems, that after reading over things, it's the most honest thing to do. My hope? My hope is that in my struggle, you find your struggle. In my pain, you find your pain. In my joy, you find your joy. In my beauty, you find your beauty. And in the end, you come to realize your own grace, your own purity, your own sacredness...
The Holiness  within.

A few pictures to begin...
Painting and sketching supplies.
The new porch recently added on to the hermitage - heated floor and all!
This is also where the compost toilet is located,  through the closed door to the right. 
The House of Clare. The smallest of the three hermitages, this holds a special place in my heart.
I was happy to be here again.
Many hours spent sitting in this space. 
A small kitchen for snacks. Meals are served up at the farm house.
Wonderfully cooked, homemade and organic - there is nothing like the food at Clare's Well.
Jeana, my dearest friend and only the second person that I have ever shared this space with.
She came for  lunch the first day. A perfect way to begin my stay.
Flowers brought by Jeana.

2/10/12    Clare’s Well
The day before I got here I saw an eagle. I was laying down in the living room. Feeling very sick from not taking my medication – medication that my mail order pharmacy failed to deliver. It’s my chemo. This “glitch” made me feel very sick as well as unsure as to if my trip would even be possible. As I lay there, half asleep, contemplating this and certain issues with my family – I open my eyes to the speck of an eagle in the corner of the window. The sun illuminating its head. In all the universe – my speck of a window.
Having my usual first day. Maybe a bit more difficult because I am sick. Having a hard time adjusting. Missing Aleela so much. Even writing the words makes me cry. Maybe I just need to cry. Missing Dave. Missing the girls. Missing the dogs, the cat. NOT usually the case. The fatigue, sinus pressure, headache making it difficult to concentrate. Hard to write. Hard to envision being creative. So that makes me sad.
Supper soon. Went out for a walk around 4:00 or so. Very cold and windy. Below zero windchill. Brought Daniel’s snowpants. Toasy warm. There were men working on the footbridge replacing old boards. Easier job when the creek is frozen. I wasn’t afraid of the woods. Maybe because the winter makes them transparent. Maybe because the men were there. Took pictures. Then the camera froze up. That’s okay, fingers not working. Wanted to walk out across the lake but too chicken. Some things never change. Maybe I’ll look at the pictures before I go. Oh, as I was napping today I realized I forgot the Ipad. I really wanted the computer to write, but gave it up for Dave. Now I don’t even have the Ipad. I’m thinking it was not meant to be – as “panicky” as it made me – a bit angry even. The hand it is! Maybe this trip was supposed to be about me.
The view from my hermitage. 
Walking into the woods. 
The footbridge leading into the woods. 
The curve and beauty of age.
The House of Clare to the left of the barn.
Walking back to the House of  Clare...home. 

Back from supper. Fire's out. COLD. Took about 20 minutes to get it going again. I love the smell of wood burning. I miss that smell in the house. Supper: chicken and dumplings, potatoes, carrots, celery. Yum. Beets, broccoli salad (with sunflower seeds) homemade bread and applebutter, brownies and ice cream. Met Ellen – neighbor of 60 years. Sad. Farmers wife. Husband is in memory care. She’s moving to an apartment to be closer to him. Nice lady – typical old farmers wife. Very active in her church. Jan is not here this week. She’s on “retreat”. Her neice  - mother of 4 ages 16 to 6 – single – just had an aortic aneurism. It does not sound good. There is so much pain in this world. So much pain.
I’m thinking that tonight will end early. Sinuses are really bad, teeth hurt, head hurts, body aches, neck is just not moving. Pajamas, bed, read…sleep.  Tomorrow is a new day. 

Slept broken, but well. Went to bed at 9pm and was up every 2-3 hours. Had to completely restart the fire around 3. Had one of those “real” dreams were I could not move. Thought there was a cat in bed with me. Maybe Jenni. The room looked completely “as is”. Just could not get my arm over to the lamp.
Got out of bed at 8. Can barely move. Body moaning. Added wood to the fire. Made Coffee. Swept. Started the “sacred dirt” on fire. Cleansed the room. So simple, it burned just right. Re-arranged my alter so that it felt right. Lit the candle. Read:
“I have just three things to teach: 
Simplicity, patience, compassion. 
These are your greatest treasures. 
Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the Source of all Being.” Lau-tzu

Havan Samagri..."sacred dirt."
A lifetime of treasures. Stones filled with the the oldest souls of this earth...

A few old favorites and a few "in progress".
Homemade granola, fruit, yogurt and organic coffee...heaven.

 I truly am drawn more and more to the simple. I long for it. Ache really. So much so that I have to be careful it does not keep me in the future. Away from what I have right now. I am trying to learn what it means to take that longing and give release to it in the present moment. I don’t have to wait. It’s difficult with a family. There are so many other lives to consider. Lau capitalized the word Being. When I saw the eagle before I came I felt a very strong affirmation of the Source. I told Dave on the ride here that religion is mankind’s attempt at finding solid ground. Seems true for all cultures. “We” all feel the Source. The Being. The Source of ALL Being. In our humanity we try desperately to “pin it down”. That’s our tendency. I don’t believe that’s our nature. Tendencies often times come out of fear or ignorance. I don’t believe the Source is to be understood. In our limitedness, it can only be experienced. Accepted for what is. We do not have to label it. When we label something we begin to think we know the truth of it. “This is an Apple.” Done. “I’m not sure what this is…” Open! To all possibilities. Like Tolle says, when we think we know the truth, we stop looking. We would not know the truth if it showed up at our own front door.
I want to live a life present in the moment and open to all possibilities. Simple in actions and thoughts. 
Today will be about being simple. 

Home sweet home.
A friendly hello!

Some scientists are led to the undeniable truth that God exists.
Some scientists are led to the undeniable truth that God does not exist.
The truth is to be found in both scientists. 

Looking in.

A copy of a painting/poem I made for Sister Agnes before she died.
Sunday Morning. Beautiful, beautiful sunrise. Only a breath of wind. It will be a good day. Slept better last night. Only got up once or twice , but was sleeping very soundly. No fear. Pain started about 3am. Very difficult early morning. Could not get comfortable. Meds and heating pad would not even touch it. I think my massage yesterday caused some trouble. Treggor may not be my thing…or at least my joints don’t think so. I liked it, for the most part.
I let the fire go out in the night. I stoked it up WAY too much before bed and had to get up a few times and open the window. Fell asleep with it wide open – below zero. Crazy. Woke up to close it and it still was pretty warm in here.

Homemade poppy seed bread...a delightful addition!
Out of bed at 7am. Made fire. Swept. Made bed. Made coffee. Read my 4 affirmations. First I lit the candle and spread sacred dirt smoke all over the room. First time this felt completely natural. Without thought or doubt. I felt connected to Tanuj and Moon – to all humanity. Even the Catholics…ha! Found a new book up at the house – earth Prayers. Talked about how our prayer to the Sun (or whatever) is not about what it does to the Sun, but what it does to me. I can feel myself moving away from the guilt and responsibility of religion. In the middle of my prayers I had to poop. In the past, I would have felt guilty about that. Not doing it right…again! Not having the strength to force myself in some sort of “martyr-like” fashion. There is no martyrdom in Buddhist philosophy/thought. Loving self is the greatest/first good. I felt that this morning. Taking care of my needs was part of my meditation. I felt as if I was taking care of one of my children. That the interruption and returning was ALL GOOD.  Hard to explain. 
I hope I remember.

Me...completely and utterly content. 

I listened to Jack Kornfield and another lady last night. Tapes by Sounds True from up at the house (these are just the greatest nuns ever). I really need to listen over and over again. They are so good. But one of the things that resonated with me was this idea of naming things when they arrive. It finally meant something to me. If I had any advice to give, it would be – Just try it! I’ve heard this many times before, but never really practiced it until recently. It’s quite amazing how just naming something helps it to pass. “That’s an itch.” “That’s my back hurting.” “That’s uncomfortableness.” “That’s hunger.” It’s crazy! Like when you were a kid and you tell your mom that you hurt your knee. If she does not acknowledge it you feel like it’s going to hurt forever. You sit alone weeping about how you think you’re gonna die. But if she says, “Oh, I bet that really hurt!” and then kisses it…well then, off you run! All better! This is how we care for ourselves. Like a child.
Simply amazing.

The back  side of the wellness center. 
Inside warms a host of chickens, a not so sociable cat and a  momma goat.
Ah ha! There are TWO of YOU!
Inside the front porch of the main house. That's as far as they get!

“We are the only living thing that upon going one direction, wishes we had gone another.” I have to think about this one for a bit.

Sitting on my front step in the sunshine, listening to the birds. They are just chirping and calling like crazy! Spring is so close. I ran inside to get my journal as thoughts just keep pouring into my mind.
Last night at supper we read these beautiful “Grace” cards. All very feminine. Written from the perspective of women, but also as Mother/Creator. I felt sorry for the lone husband. Wondered if it made him feel at all like he was a “visitor” in this women’s world here at the Well. Ran into the same couple in the Wellness Center this morning. Had the same thought. Now, sitting here, I see them walking up the hill together, towards Francis, where they are staying. I wondered again – does he feel uncomfortable in this women space. And then I thought of Carol – making the statement that we need to “get the men here”. So I then wondered if they would change anything to make it more “man friendly”??? AND THEN  - I was blown over with this feeling of “All of Time”  - and the patriarchal foundation of almost every culture. And I am filled with love and admiration and pride…and sadness for women. How they have survived. Continued to be the carriers of faith and tradition and ritual throughout generations despite our exclusion. Things are changing slowly. Adding another, more beautiful layer to the earth takes time.
I don’t think anything should be different from how it is right now – constantly changing. I think this direction is good. Where the Well is at in this moment is exactly where it should be.  The farmer ladies just arrived back from Mass. 

Pictures from inside the wellness center. A warm and inviting, very peaceful place to sit for reflection.

Looking out from inside the sauna. Of course, it was NOT on!
Lupus and heat  are not a good match!
Sister Agnes, you are dearly missed.

Sunday evening meal in my hermitage. Leftovers never tasted so good. 
I decided to make some very small bookmarks and  hide them
in some of the books in the House of Clare.
This one is maybe twice the size of a postage stamp.

Monday. Final Day.
“I don’t need another mother in my head.” Moving away, being distracted, naming it, moving back, being distracted, naming it, moving back, being distracted, acting…not acting…moving back, All without guilt.  Because being true to what IS is what is most Holy. Going with the flow of Nature, of the Universe, of all that IS is the right thing to do.
Can you imagine what the world would look like if the nuthatch looked at the woodpecker and “gave it a shot”. Everyone has their nature – what they do, what they are meant to do – because of who they are as individuals. “Humankind is the only living being that goes in one direction and wishes it had gone another.” We must be like the nuthatch. Waiting its turn, hopping down the tree from branch to branch, grabbing its seed and flying off. Or, the woodpecker, who pecks his way through life. Never wishing, wanting, hoping, trying to be the nuthatch.
You know what your true nature is because it is always there with you. Uncover it! Peel off the layers of fear, doubt, longing, inadequacy…find what kind of bird you are and just BE.  What clothes do I like? What food do I like? What does my art look like? What words do I write? What books do I read? What places do I want to visit? How do I like to spend my time… Be careful though – seeing our true nature is difficult. Always question why.
The morning is floating by like clouds on a Fall day. When I try to hold them, they disappear.

I wanted to dedicate some of my quiet time to Sara, one of my twins. So I decided to paint her.
Still quite unfinished, I decided to give a "sneak peek"!
There are very few times that my hands work well enough to do this type of work,
but lucky for me - I found a few hours where things seemed to cooperate. 
The view from my porch.
My chair looking out the porch windows.
Fun work. The rules when painting in this book are...NO RULES - MISTAKES WELCOME
My very first day I was greeted by a hawk flying from right to left over the lake.

My very last day I was greeted by a hawk flying from left to right over the lake.

A snapshot of my journal.
This is the tree that held the bird feeder - which was right outside my front window.
I quite often sketch things so I don't forget. 
Moving slowly. Paint. Pack. Paint. Pack. Slowly put jewelry back on. Wedding ring. Friend’s bracelet. Medical ID bracelet. (last)
The hermitage is clean, journal written in…4:05. Dave will be here at 5 for supper up at the house. Front porch painting is done for now.
It’s been a good visit.

A reminder of the Holiness within. 

If you've made it all the way to the end...thank you for sharing in the wanderings of my heart. Without knowing really what to do, I was sure of one thing - I wanted you to be a part of it. With every thought, with every frame of beauty, with every awakened moment - I longed for your knowing of these things. So much so, that at times I felt like weeping for the hope of it. There is so much suffering in this world - for sure. But I promise you this...there is infinite beauty, and it originates in you.