Changes

Change is an ever constant, in fact it might be the only constant in our lives.  Lately I have noticed some big changes in our beloved dog, Chesky.  His back legs are starting to give out, his breathing is labored most of the time.  He can no longer can join me on my forays into the mountains for hiking.  I don’t like it at all, and yet today when I read these beautifully crafted words by Roger Housden it gave me hope that even in change, all is well.

My memory is not what it was. My face is not what it was. I am changing before my eyes. I didn’t used to look like this, but then they don’t make mirrors like they did. Three years ago I had money. Now I have no money. This morning I was peaceful, at lunch I was impatient, this afternoon I was joyful. Tomorrow will not be a repeat of today, nor will next year be like this one. We are walking, all of us, into the glorious unknown of the rest of our lives. Only two things are certain: it will keep changing, and sooner or later, it will end.

Change happens in every moment. Not just the events of our lives, but the cells in our bodies, our thoughts streaming by, our moods shifting with the tides, even our sense of who we are and where we are going. Sometimes we ache for change and sometimes we dread it. We harbor notions of what is good for us and what is not, and try to organize and strategize accordingly. We like to be in control.

We need to know who we are and where we are going. We like to have structures in place — a family, an income, a job, a place in society — that tell us who we are and give us a sense of worth and meaning. Of course we do, this is hardly a neurotic need for stability and control over our environment — it’s a normally adjusted way of being in the world.

But if the ego, healthy or otherwise, is the only avenue through which we have experienced life, then we will cling to our familiar structures by our fingernails when they are threatened, as they will be, by change. We will desperately want to steer our ship in the direction we want it to go. When the ego won’t let go of what it knows, it becomes hard and brittle. There is no space for any larger view. A brittle ego cannot bow to the larger truth of change.

The ancient Chinese had a saying — ride the horse in the direction it is going. It was an attitude that encouraged cooperation with life, with its variables and unknown quantities, rather than trying to control the outcome in advance. It didn’t mean you merely drifted through life like a leaf in the wind (you were still riding the horse, after all), but it implied that your intention is best served by an open, attentive mind — one that is inclusive of the larger forces of life around it, whatever they may be.

No one wants their life upended. No one is free from fear. But life has scant regard for our control needs. The show goes on, like it or not.

The Chinese saying urges us to join what is already happening; to align ourselves with the fact of change, to flow with it rather than struggle upstream to try and keep things the way they are or to make happen what doesn’t want to happen. It doesn’t mean you need to be a wet rag. You and I are immersed in life; we have a say in it. We have agency, just not all the agency we might like.

“Pour yourself like a fountain,” Rilke says in his Sonnet to Orpheus XII. To pour yourself like a fountain, to ride the horse in the direction it is going, is to choose willingly to cooperate with what is already so. When we struggle against the way things are, we suffer. When a knowing emerges in us that comes from beyond our binary reflex, beyond opposites altogether, and when we have the courage to follow that knowing, regardless of where it will take us, we are riding the horse, out of the reach of either hope or fear. Then everything, no matter what it is, becomes part of the adventure. Knowing this is more than enough to inspire faith in our life, wherever it takes us.

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This moment is all there is. ~ Rumi

 

 

 

 

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“Glo-Up”

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Gratitude

We must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast

Making space for new, clearing away what no longer serves us is always a valuable action, however, in the last few days of the year as we approach the New Year, we have the perfect opportunity to do some inner housekeeping.

One way that I have found and often teach to individuals in journaling classes and/or grief workshops is to hold a practice of gratitude. One can do this by writing in a journal every day for 30 days, perhaps at the end of the day, three simple things that one is grateful for that happened during the day. Taking it a little further, if you write about gratefulness for 10 weeks it has been proven by experiment (Emmons & McCullough 2003) with hundreds of subjects to show an increase in happiness and joy.  Participants in this experiment also exhibited:

  • Fewer symptoms of physical illness
  • Spent more time exercising
  • Were more optimistic and satisfied with their lives
  • Reported an increased positive affect and decreased negative affect
  • Were more likely to offer emotional support to others
  • Felt an increased sense of connection with others
  • Slept more hours and with a better quality of sleep each night

Not bad for a simple shift in focus!

In a 2011 study, Rash, Matsuba and Prkachin found that grateful contemplation resulted in increased physiological coherence, suggesting increased activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation response) and decreased activation of the sympathetic nervous system (the stress response). Their research indicated that being grateful reduces stress and increases wellbeing.

Make a list of things for which you would like to be and feel more grateful in the coming year. These can be:

  • Aspects of your life you would like to stop taking for granted
  • Blessings you want to keep in your daily awareness
  • Privileges you want to be sure to leverage for the greater good
  • Opportunities that appear even in challenging times
  • Daily gifts of the body and being alive, etc.

Invite some room into your life as you close out this year and see what shows up. Create that space to honor your soul. Richness can be found when one has the courage to peek inside and sit with whatever comes up. For me it has been a year filled with many personal accomplishments, and yet I still see my insecurities strongly being fueled by fear. Knowing I need to release that fear in order to bring more light into my own life, I need to create some space for it all to change. I invite that into my life.

Happy New Year! With deep gratitude I wish you all peace, unity, and serenity.

When the waves close over me, I dive down to fish for pearls. ~ Masha Kaleko

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Going nowhere. . . isn’t about turning your back on the world; its about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.

~ Leonard Cohen

Nowhere, yes, I have been nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Joyously reading all your beautiful writings for the past couple of months, I have been renewed time and again with the grace and poetry of your writings. Thank you for sharing your beautifully crafted words.

These months have been both difficult as well as rewarding in my personal life. Passing yet another milestone of the loss of my late husband, 12 years, having my son and his wife return home from an extended year of travel all over the world, only to have them leave again to spread their wings elsewhere, and to the place that brings me here this morning to these written words on these starchy white lines of paper.

This week brings to conclusion a step on my pathway to study yoga deeper with the completion of my 200-hour RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) Certificate. It has been a journey for me, one I began with a small voice in a class bursting with the effervescence of youth. Writing about finding one’s voice, there I sat without much of a voice, lacking confidence in my entire being partly due to age and many other constructs I scripted in my mind. Last night I taught a full C1 class and stood comfortably with my age and used my voice to bring forth all I have experienced in life to hopefully touch other’s souls and empower them to stand in their own voice in not only their yoga practice, but in their life.

Life is a journey, and every now and then we have to go away by going nowhere in order to step back and experience big magic. Today as I sit in this picturesque cold, snowy environment having had this beautiful experience of being able to teach something that I am passionate about, yoga, I feel love much more deeply. Namaste.

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(photo credit:  Kurt Hayden)

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Let it Go

We often cling to our problems, and our past because it gives us a sense of identity, holding onto pain far behind its ability to serve us. There is a natural inclination to cling to lost love, to brood, to avenge, to revisit the hurt from which you should have been protected, to right wrongs that can never be erased.

As we see the leaves falling from the trees at this beautiful time of year where we experience such extraordinary beauty in decay, let it also be a time of year to let it go. Let the problems that you are needlessly clinging to fall to the Earth just like the lovely leaves fluttering to the ground.

Often psychology will advise us that in order to move forward we must look back. However, there comes a point where appreciation of your past locks you in place and impedes any forward motion. Not to discount what has come before, but that is the very point it is over, done, past. The power to move forward requires some mental fortitude in order to push away some of the emotional debris. To become unstuck we do need to remember an injury, but what if you reconsidered it from a more empathetic perspective. Reconfigure your viewpoint don’t amputate it. Be truthful with yourself about how you are still feeling about the past – – angry, sad, or anxious.

We never really get over these injuries, but we can find a different place to hold them where they no longer intrude in daily life. We don’t ever get over things; we get past them, move forward and heal into growth. Notice who you are right this moment and just like the beauty found in the decay of the falling leaves, take notice of the beauty that is to be found in your shadow for it brought you here to this very moment, which is all there is.

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Fail Better

Fail better means you begin to have the ability to hold the rawness of vulnerability in your heart, according to Pema Chodron. Each time we fail at something we are offered the ability to look into our hearts and see it as our connection with other human beings. The place where we are all interconnected as the greater humanity. Each time we find ourselves in this place we are able to choose to lean into it and grow, to move forward and communicate our vulnerability with others. What a wonderful gift, and we all have the ability to tap into this place. What is even more beautiful is that the more times we fail and get back up, the easier it is to come back to standing. To me, this is a beautiful gift. The more times we get knocked down and get back up, the easier it is to get up! When we are able to cultivate our courage and bravery, as well as a sense of humor, you keep getting up and moving forward.

No one likes to be knocked down, that much is a given. However, it is going to happen in life because it is this crazy little thing called life. When we are able to work with the feeling of failure instead of shoving it under the rug, blaming someone else, or (what I tend to do) come up with negative self-image talk, we are actually able to get up easier and move forward with more grace. Failure will always hurt, and people you love will die, your heart will be broken.  However, you can hold that loss as part of the collective human experience, which connects you to other people, and move forward. What a wonderful blessing if we simply allow ourselves to be vulnerable. The next time you feel like you have been knocked over, see if you are able to stand up just a little taller when the wave knocks you down. Reach into your heart like the Lion in the Wizard of Oz to that courage spot and pull yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward knowing that you are part of this beautiful experience called being human. Love yourself enough!

The Guest House

~Rumi

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

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Cycles of Change

In the northern hemisphere we are experiencing the stunning season of autumn. It is of course an oxymoron in that in everything that dies we are afforded great beauty to behold. This may in fact be the lesson for us all, to learn to think of death as beautiful. Okay, understandably some of you are shouting that death is not beautiful. Perhaps if we leaned into it a little more and looked at it as natural part of the process of life, part of the cycle of life, we would be able to accept it and all that it has to offer us.

What I have learned from experiencing the death of a loved one is to not take life for granted. Every day matters, every moment matters and to not leave things unsaid by allowing fear to get in the way. For me that is a beautiful gift.  I now practice BIG LOVE. It can be messy, sweet, complicated, joyful, but it should be BIG. I refuse to play small. The world awaits and I may only have this one day.

One of my favorite poems is The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper,

I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention,

how to fall down into the grass,

how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed,

how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

This poem serves to remind me that my life is first and foremost what I make of it. Each and everyday I have a choice as to how I come to life. Even when touched by grief, we have a choice to remake ourselves and live again, to shine our light brightly. What will you do today with your one wild precious life?

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