Lately, I cannot help but notice...the "world situation" is making any number of people angry, and in very personal ways. Because world situations are always very personal - they have to do with human life.
It is indiscriminate, the outrage. If you are angry about something, and the more openly you express that anger, I can just about guarantee there is someone across "the divide" who will match it willingly, or even without thinking.
Sure, I have felt it, I have at times expressed it. Openly. And not so openly. But I'm thankful I have gradually learned throughout my life to find a way to deal with it (even if imperfectly). I'm dealing with it now. Right here. Right now. Because something made me angry earlier today, and I consciously chose a different approach.
I claim no particular expertise, except to know what I have observed: When we are angry, we are generally judging more than we are observing, and we are very rarely breathing, or at least not particularly well.
What if we could do our best to put our anger on a shelf and decide to understand instead?
What if we could actually make an attempt to glimpse the other side?
Wouldn't that be astonishing!?!
(OK, fine, that last remark was just a little bit angry, because you see, I'm just a little bit angry about the anger itself and what it's doing to our lives and to our society. I choose to see mine too, when it arises.)
What if you could try on someone else's shoes by trying on their hearts?
You might begin to hear.
And some of "them" might very well begin to hear you too.
I must include a warning. It takes a lot of courage to "try on" someone's heart, to allow yourself to understand. Because the absolutes begin to fade, and that can feel uncomfortable - if you decide to tell your friends, some of them might choose to judge you, and you need to let that go.
The starkly outlined blacks and whites begin to shift.
Some say they blur to shades of gray. And you may see the gray at first, the mind sees gray, you may only see the gray, the mind sees ambiguity. Keep going through the gray, keep going, keep on going (this is a very important step, it's still in process for me too). Because when you keep on going, when you consciously choose to understand, you begin to see the colors, at first they come in softly.
There is a knowing that is impossible, yet real. It embraces every contradiction of the mind. It is a knowing that can only arise from Love, from heart to heart to heart to heart.
And the anger falls away.
You can look into "their" eyes, completely, without flinching...you can look into their eyes and See.
And the tears begin to flow.
The New Earth doesn't exist on one side of the bridge or on the other. The New Earth is the Bridge.
It's a rare morning when the front page of a city's newspaper shares the heartfelt words of Ella Higginson, a poet laureate of Washington state. I'm happy to discover Ella - she and I are clearly kindred spirits on the path in many ways.
Apparently another study (this one by Baylor University) has awarded Portland the distinction of being the most unchurched city in the entire United States - and Oregon the most unchurched state.
This particular study took a rather unique approach:
"Researchers compared the richness of natural amenities in every U.S. county to religious adherents per 1,000 people. They found that areas with higher rates of amenities have lower rates of religious adherence."
I'm not at all surprised. Like Ella, I walk the passages of "Nature's church" most days of the week, and even when I must remain at home, my church sends missionaries to my door.
"Live free, and beauty surrounds you, the world still astounds you, each time you look at a star."
~ Born Free by Don Black
The other day I read a post on Facebook inviting us all to spend 5 minutes per day on a dream, suggesting that if a dream isn't worth spending 5 minutes per day, then it must not be all that important to us. It's one of those posts we might tend to see one moment, forget the next. Yet every once in a while, the simplest of instructions actually takes hold.
You see, like many people, I have all sorts of projects in progress. Some of these projects in progress have been in progress for years. It might be months between visits to some of these projects. And I asked myself: Can I spend 5 minutes?
It wasn't long before I realized 5 minutes isn't necessarily enough, though in some cases, it is. 5+ minutes works even better. I have made a few compromises too - not every project gets my attention every day, but I'm finding the 5+ minute rule invites me to at least visit some of them every few days. It's a very simple thing to do.
There are some things that aren't exactly dreams, but they bring us Joy. Playing the piano is like this to me. I am a highly imperfect piano player and was a reluctant student through most of my childhood, with a very strict, unpleasant teacher at the start. I can save my childhood piano stories for another day. Imperfect or not, even as an adult, playing the piano freely brings me Joy. And it's easy to use the 5+ minute rule with the piano.
And so I just did.
And I discovered a song in a very old stack of music many of us have heard (far too many times in elevators in the 70's) and ignored or forgotten. It gave me astonishing Joy to rather imperfectly play this on the piano just now, while dinner is cooking.
A little while ago, I shared a post on Facebook, from the Findhorn Foundation. For those of you not on Facebook, I'm going to repeat what it is it had to say. It appeared with a photo of a diamond-shaped view through a rustic sort of a door, to the countryside, perhaps looking out upon beautiful Findhorn itself. And in this moment now, I am realizing there were windmills, which is a little "wink" from the Universe (you'll see in a moment below). There were many windmills in Kansas, where the wind always tended to blow, in the many years I spent there.
"Guidance from Eileen Caddy
You Will KNOW The Truth
When something is revealed to you from deep within, you need no
confirmation or proof that it is the Truth. You can stick by it even if
it means you stand completely alone. It is that inner knowing that
counts; it is that inner revelation which you can hold on to. The things
of the Spirit have to be understood by the Spirit; they cannot be dissected
and analysed with a human's mind. This is where you have to be
absolutely steadfast and unshakable and know without a shadow of doubt
that what has been revealed to you from within is of the Truth and not
fantasy. No one can help you over this; it has to be an inner knowing,
an absolute certainty which is unshakable. If you find even the
slightest doubt creeping in about the authenticity of what has been
revealed or given to you, be on your guard. Again I say to you, you need
no confirmation from the outer, you will KNOW the truth, whether it is
from Me, and will find an inner peace in knowing."
At first I posted the photo, and the words. I posted it without questioning. I did feel it is possible to KNOW. And quite honestly, upon reflection, I still do. That's the inner peace. Perhaps I'm still processing this. As I posted earlier on Facebook, it's our minds that tend to analyze, our minds that tend to get in the way of the Knowing, the space of the Heart. It's our minds that tend to take our inner peace away. That inner peace is our Pilot Light. It resides in the space of the Heart.
Here is what I wrote earlier on Facebook, as I reflected upon the Findhorn post:
"This is a far more intricate teaching than it appears. We don't
necessarily "know" on the surface, or that can seem to be the case.
Because the mind tends to get in the way of the space of the Heart. It
might take our entire lives (and beyond) to learn how to listen with the
Heart and not the mind, to hear with100% clarity. Perhaps we never do
completely, in this vulnerable human form, as long as we have minds, as
they tend to question Hearts.
But deep down, yes, there are
some things we tend to Know, if we really choose to listen. When I was
a child, I knew there couldn't possibly be a hell in the afterlife,
even if I heard any number of messages otherwise. The fears injected by
those voices seemed like my own inner doubt, but deep down, at the
deepest Heart-based level, it was simply obvious: No Loving God could
possibly create Hell. It's a "no-brainer" - literally! The Heart knows
what Love actually Is. And what it is not.
When we listen for the path of the Heart, our minds do tend to doubt,
because the path of the Heart asks us to be coeur-ageous, and our minds
tend to get in the way. It is much like "Field of Dreams", and the
signs are there to en-coeur-age us. Signs are utterly essential because
they quiet the mind. They are the tools of Synchronicity. They are
the Magic itself, revealed.
A rather unusual wind came up
yesterday. Around the same time, my hot water heater failed. It failed
just a bit at a time, over several hours, until we noticed all the
water was lukewarm. The pilot light had gone out, but I didn't know it
yet, or even when I did, I thought something might be "broken". My mind
tended to panic. My mind tended to worry I'd need to buy a new hot
water heater for $1000. It was just the pilot light, but it didn't
relight itself. It took a conscious intervention to get the hot water
going again. Deep down, beyond the mind, I had a feeling my hot water
heater was fine, and it was.
So don't worry so much about
doubting. Worrying about doubting is simply the mind worrying about
doubting. And we are human beings. The way of the Heart will come to
you again and again and again. Sometimes it's not "the way" the mind
envisions. In fact, usually it's not. It is generally beyond the
mind's ability to conceive. It is conceived of the Heart. And it is
Magical. The Universe's Pilot Light can never, ever fail. And that
also happens to be why there could never be a Hell...."
Inner Peace. The Knowing. It's not exactly intricate. The mind tends to make it that way. It's really very simple. God is simply Love. And so are We. I heard a piece of that in my childhood too...
I write in the midst of an intensely busy week, a day surely too busy to write. Still, I am here, because this song is going through my head, and my Heart.
Asia generally wasn't considered a "good" band of the 80's, or so I tended to hear. Still, some of their songs really reached out to me, and a few were definitely popular. This one really wasn't "known", but it carries a message. It did then. It does now. It does always.
"The truly holy person welcomes all that is Earthly." ~ Hildegard von Bingen
Tonight, a diversion from my transistor radio of long ago. We go much farther back, to the 12th century. A portion of this transcendent piece by the astonishing Hildegard von Bingen came on my radio as I was driving.
Voice of the Living Light. The segment I heard earlier had to do with Dawn. It is worthy of reflection in the evening too...
"Take to the sky, higher than high..." ~ Silvery Rain, Olivia Newton-John/Hank Marvin
They have been spraying significant amounts of Round-Up near a trail where I love to walk. This particular song re-released by Olivia Newton John in 1981 (and written a decade earlier) is not at all well known, but it made an impression on me long ago. It was also an early music video.
We sadly have not changed our ways all that much since the early 1980's. It's up to us...
"You might say he found a key for every door..." ~ John Denver
I grew up in Denver with the wonderful John Denver, his musical creations flowing through my days for years. I can't remember the first time I saw John Denver at the legendary Red Rocks, but I know it was more than once. I was surely listening to this song already in the Summer of 1973. I play it often still. It too is all about Awakening.
I tried to touch the sun a couple of times. I took it into myself. But I didn't need to take it in at all. It was a part of me all along.
"...elbisrever si cisum ehT" ~ Electric Light Orchestra
Back to the basement with this one, on a lazy summer's day, it was time for a "laser light show" with the brother closest in age to me. The song we always played? Fire on High by ELO. It was right around the mid-70's.
The first part of this song is rather jarring then and now. It is eerily reminiscent of a series of experiences I had much later. The entire song in retrospect mirrors the aspects of a spiritual emergence. When you journey through your darkest fears, on the other side is Light.
This piece carries reminders of "the backward masking" craze. If you weren't an evangelical, you might have missed all the excitement - the PTL Christian cable network in particular warning evangelical children and teens not to listen to songs with backwards messages from Satan. And of course we all immediately started destroying our records and stereos that way. The song Stairway to Heaven will need to wait for another day...
Around this time I experienced real lasers at the museum and thought going to a laser light show in the planetarium was even better than astronomy (which I already liked quite a bit). We were blessed to have an old-fashioned planetarium - now they are all digital and not nearly as effective. But back in the cool confines of our basement around 1976, we created the best "laser light shows" of all - with music, flashlights and creativity, plus the volume turned up high.
P.S. I almost never hear this song anymore, and it came on just the other day. I was thinking about blogging about it tonight, and there it was again...
"Turn around, turn around, it's on the other side." ~ Kansas
The summer is 1979, my transistor radio mostly in a drawer, my sister's discarded basement stereo now in my room upstairs. I can't remember when I first encountered Kansas. I actually visited the place itself around that summer, my now weatherman brother working the storms he loved. Later I'd encounter storms there too. It takes storms sometimes to trigger an Awakening. I have Kansas to thank for some of that, in many more ways than one.
This song was all about the empty page for me. And also about much More. I still listen to this song today. We think we know the empty pages we are supposed to write. The ones we are supposed to write are never empty.
I will find it if I look. My red transistor radio from radio summers long ago. There were many radios growing up - this was only one of mine, amid the household record players.
Music was much different then, it seems, the 70's. It could fill a home to overflowing, or drift in through the windows from the house across the street.
I have a special memory, from a very special Source. It was my first synchronicity, the first I can recall. I didn't have a label for it. But I never did forget it.
It was some time near the end of June, and I was in the basement listening to the radio in my oldest sister's room. The basement rooms were best of all in summer - upstairs all we had were fans.
"Up, up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon...." It was surely 1970, this song a few years old, and I was 6 years old.
Someone shouted from upstairs and then came running down. "Balloon! S-----u-----e Balloon!" It was my oldest brother, and he was already running up again.
I quickly made it up the stairs, leapt out the door to the garage, then out another door, and raced across the lawn of our backyard, to where he pointed with a smile. He loved to show me wonders in the sky, a weatherman in training.
And there it was - in rainbow colors, rising, silhouetted by the Colorado mountains, our partially constructed chain link fence below, reflecting in the sun. The fence to me was almost every bit as interesting as the balloon. It was about to hold a puppy.
I marveled that the summer skies had listened to the song, and for many years I wondered. I didn't have a label for it. It was The 5th Dimension.
"I feel so very thankful to have known Frances Toepfer as a wonderful
mentor and friend. My journalism and newspaper staff instructor at
Lincoln from 1979 to 1982, she encouraged and delighted me for years
with occasional heart to heart talks and letters. I visited Fran most
recently last summer, and she was still enjoying her writing, artwork
and reading. She was actively engaged in life and beautifully aware of
her loving spiritual path. I too am a writer, and she inspired me to
think expansively from the very first day I walked into her class, not
only in my writing, but in life itself. She is even with me now,
reminding me to write succinctly (and yes, I sense she is inviting us to
smile, as all of "her writers" remember...). I express my heartfelt
"I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journeywork of the stars."
~ Walt Whitman
As I was on my walk today, a delicate pattern at my feet captured my attention. I cannot really know what the winter winds had left upon the ground, but I stopped to breathe, observe and celebrate the grace of its simplicity.
"There is always a gap between intention and action." ~ Paulo Coelho
In the two or three months before Christmas, every time I went to a particular grocery store, they would ask me if I was collecting stamps for some sort of promotional program. I always would say "Yes". Because "Why not?"
One day last week, I noticed the woman in front of me apparently retrieving her stamps for a rather ugly serving dish, too small to do much serving. It looked rather useless actually.
But when I got up to the register, I asked when I needed to retrieve my stamps. "Tomorrow is the last day."
So what did I do? I spent who knows how much time (maybe an hour?) looking for stamps obscurely stashed away in my kitchen (though I thought I had stashed them all in the same obscure place), carefully placing them one by one by one by one in little squares on a sheet I also managed to somehow find. For 50 stamps (equating to $1000 in groceries, I think), I'd get some sort of a pan, after all, "a $14.99 value".
I didn't bother to count the stamps before I put them on the sheet. But I saw my destination...42, 43, 44.........45...........................46...................................................
No more stamps.
I probably spent 15 minutes at least looking for 4 more stamps in my kitchen.
The sheet said I could pay $7.99 for the $14.99 pan with what I had. Why?
And that's the question, isn't it? Why?
I never did find the other stamps. I would have liked to take a picture of the sheet I so carefully filled out, give it a useful purpose, but it's long gone with the recycling.
Sometimes the goals we set are not really that important. Sometimes they are. And sometimes it's the intent that matters most of all.
I fell asleep last night before I could write the "sheet of stickers" post already in my head, my laptop literally in my lap as I dozed off (and I forgot when I awakened and then went back to sleep for real). I had thought I might blog every day, but my body overruled me. When the dog awakened me just now, as she does early in the morning, I required myself to write, my "resolution" shattered. Why? It's really the intent that matters. Time to get more needed rest...still, I'm kind of stubborn about such things (which is why I "almost" filled that silly sheet)...I may write twice today... ;-) I won't require myself to post a picture now...it went out in the recycling.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
~ Douglas Adams
I have an old Garmin GPS device in my car I generally only use when I'm already lost in downtown Portland (which used to happen every time I ventured down there, but lately I've been doing a bit better, especially when I take the bus).
Despite my advanced degree in Computer Science (and former life as a computer scientist), I am and always have been a very special kind of technophobe. That's precisely why I at least tried to do my share of work in "human factors" (the art of making people far less technophobic) because quite honestly most software is not designed with actual human beings in mind. Thus technophobes are made, not born, and it's not their fault at all.
Everyone in Oregon recalls horrific stories of people lost in the mountains, blindly following navigational instructions down some minor logging road. One couple was separated, and a woman lasted for weeks in her car, snowbound in the mountains, while her husband sadly froze to death trying to hike his way to help.
A couple of months ago, while picking up a client at a downtown hotel for an early morning meeting, my Garmin told me to turn right, I obediently obeyed, and I ended up on a bridge heading the opposite direction, over the river in the dark, then by the river an unfamiliar warehouse district, then b
ack across the river on one of the oldest bridges in Portland (a draw bridge that thankfully was not letting a boat through at the time). There is really only one bridge in downtown Portland I actually know well (and now I know 3 ;-) ). I used a second navigational device on my iPhone to find my way back, stopping more than once along the way to check the map (and don't ask me why I don't use my iPhone more often).
Years ago, I will never forget driving in circles downtown while taking one of the brightest engineers at our company to an awards ceremony. She had a PhD and was from India, an absolutely brilliant woman with multiple patents to her name. The navigational device kept telling us to turn and to turn and to turn on a very rainy night on a very circuitous route. Eventually, we both laughed, realizing technology had tricked and gotten the best of both of us (and it's even possible the results of one of her papers had been embedded in the device). So we followed our instincts, parked the car and walked the rest of the way.
Yet another time, while heading to a big radio station downtown, not once, but on two different occasions spaced enough apart I forgot all about the first time, my silly Garmin told me to turn on the worst possible road of all, the "transit mall corridor" (in fact, this has happened yet another time outside the convention center). When you don't know where your going, rarely drive downtown and nobody is front of you, nothing is more scary than a transit mall corridor (except maybe one of the bridges) because at first you have no idea whether 1) you are actually supposed to be on that road at all (in some cities, you aren't), 2) which direction the traffic is heading (it always looks one-way the wrong way for some reason), 3) where the heck you are supposed to drive (when frazzled, it's surprising how confusing that can be, as there can be a bus lane next to a light rail lane) 4) did I just go through one of those awful downtown red light cameras or stop too far over the line? (I know of red light cameras in the suburbs that will penalize you for turning right on red without stopping completely behind the line before you turn, but the problem with those is you can't inch up to see if anyone is actually coming, so I usually decide not to turn at those intersections at all - except by accident downtown when a Garmin tells me to turn.) and 5) please tell me the light rail, trolley, bus, both or all are not coming before I get a chance to get my wits about me and find the proper lane (or get off the road altogether if there is no proper lane). Lately my ancient Garmin tells me my maps are out of date and usually displays a huge "?" (and since I only use it when I'm lost, I never have time to get the maps). But every once in a while, when I actually know where it is I'm going, like when I choose not to turn down a transit mall corridor, what my Garmin tends to say is "Recalculating..." It thinks it knows the route, but a now wiser me knows better.
In life, there are many times a seemingly unadventurous (yet surprisingly adventurous) soul like me will choose a special, custom route, even rambling and circuitous. My friends might say I'm lost, the maps not yet available. I have some idea of a destination (or at least what my destination ISN'T). As for my navigational device? It is actually my Heart, the best human factor of all.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it
must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and
everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would
look like complete destruction."
~ Cynthia Occelli
While walking I noticed a tree, off the trail and inaccessible. It had fallen, perhaps in the winds last month, perhaps last year, perhaps last week. Cut off from its roots, it came to rest, suspended.
I moved an ivy plant the other day, in my home, with care. Last year when I picked it up, I broke a vine, the greater portion of the plant cut off and fallen to the floor. How long did it take the leaves to know the roots were there no longer? How long did it take my plant to grow fresh new leaves and vines?
Perhaps it wasn't a tree at all, fallen in the forest. Perhaps it was a branch masquerading as a tree. Perhaps the real tree thrives, hidden from my view, preparing for the Spring.
"'Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again." ~ Joseph Campbell
At the beginning of every yoga class, there is a statement, translated and not: "Now is the time for yoga."
"Now is the time for Beauty." echoed in my thoughts, as splashes of light in the forest called me to a sunny day. On any given morning, there are many things I "need to do", but when "Now is the time for Beauty", Beauty is what I need.
Eventually I came upon an altar, its origins unknown. Perhaps it was a child at play. Perhaps it was an adult. Is there really any difference?
"But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself
when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when
you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may
happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs..."
~ C.S. Lewis
This is part of the view from one of my windows. At night, a golden glow seeps in.
I could choose to reflect on the "starkness" of winter (or the "starkness" of a view).
Or I could choose to reflect on "Narnia".
Did I mention the stand-alone "wardrobe" upstairs?