Archive | September, 2013

Love’s Beautiful Ache

27 Sep

I have always been in awe of the heart’s capacity to experience a constellation of feelings. When we love we are plunged into a vortex of energy as vast and mysterious as the inside of a flower.

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Yet my feelings associated with love are not always as beautiful as these photographs. On the contrary, I often see the flower at the end of its gorgeous era.

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I can’t help it. This is how my brain is wired despite the fact that all my life wise people have told me that I need to rethink my perspectives on love. Instead of associating it with feelings of sadness and longing, it would be more fruitful to think of its relationships to pleasure, joy and fulfillment.

But ever since I was a little girl there was an aspect of loving that brought an ache and hurtful feeling in my chest. I loved summer but then fall would come. I loved visiting my grandparents but then would have to leave them and board a plane. I loved it when a playmate spent the night but then she would go home and I’d return to my only child status. I was way too sensitive as a child and that personality trait hasn’t changed much after all these years.

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Somehow I instinctually knew that love, no matter how strong would still entail loss. Even in the most constant of relationships, there would be a parting. The couple that has been happily married for forty years will eventually say goodbye at the deathbed; the teacher who has nurtured a class all year with tenderness and dedication sees her pupils off to the next grade or phase of their lives; and the wonderful holiday with friends and family ends with hugs in an airport.

What is it about the people, animals, and places we come to care about that induce such tenderness we sometimes can’t even bear it? Why is a baby so soft and sweet you feel the presence of God when holding him or her and why does a loyal cat or dog make you feel safe and secure?

It is a week since I lost Rumi and Hafiz and I’m at that point where I can’t even bear to think about them. I actively push them from my mind and yet I can’t even turn on my computer without seeing Hafiz’s picture come on the screen when I have to enter my password. Sigh.

And so it is – love’s beautiful ache that fills us with all the ups and downs of letting others into our lives as we watch the flower bloom and fade.

“Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.”
From Bette Middler’s “The Rose”

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Flight

22 Sep

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Being grounded in reality can be a good thing. It unflinchingly forces us to face what needs to be addressed and plunges us into eventual acceptance whether we like it or not. But being too immersed in day to day life creates stagnation, boredom and monotony. It limits creativity, vision and growth. And that is when it is time to take flight.

While being in the air temporarily uproots us, it allows us to soar into new possibilities. As long as we are not flying to escape into a disembodied state, the journey to new horizons refreshes us. And upon landing again, we better appreciate our roots. For this reason, I will always balance having my feet on the ground and being up in the air. Here’s to flight, even when the airport is crowded and you’re not flying first class.

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“The soul takes flight to the world that is invisible and there arriving, she is sure of bliss.” Plato

Where the Red Fern Grows

20 Sep

When I was a little girl I was enamored by a book called Where the Red Fern Grows, a children’s novel about a boy growing up in the Ozark mountains during the depression. He so longs to own two coon hounds that he saves his money for two years in order to purchase them. What follows is a tale of his adventures with Little Ann and Old Dan, two magnificent companions and hunting partners. At the story’s end, Little Ann dies and Old Dan expires almost immediately afterwards following his dear heart to heaven. A few months later a red fern grows over their burial plot. According to Indian legend a red fern marks sacred territory.

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My eight year old heart was profoundly moved by the story’s end – the fact that the dogs died one right after the other and that their burial area became sacred ground. Now at forty-four years old, I am struck by my memories of that story as I watched one of my cats follow the other to heaven yesterday.

My cat Hafiz had been battling some kind of illness for months which ultimately was determined as intestinal cancer. As I watched him lose half his body weight, I knew he was living on borrowed time and began the grieving process. Yet the other cat, Rumi had always been the epitome of health. He’d only been to the vet twice in his life. I was therefore shocked to discover that a day after I made the decision to put Hafiz down, Rumi was suddenly panting, vomiting and frothing at the mouth. I rushed him immediately to the after hours vet where they claimed he was critical but could tell me little more without a smattering of tests. As his panting subsided I took him home with me and then watched as he became lethargic, peed blood and holed himself up in the closet. My vet, the one who comes to the house felt a tumor when she examined him and thought perhaps he’d been incubating cancer all along but had been asymptomatic. Yet now he was quite sick and we realized he was going fast. In fact, in the end he was more ill than Hafiz. To keep him alive would have been cruel. And so they went together.

They came into the world and left it in tandem. And there was something deeply sacred about the whole process.

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There was also another story I latched onto as a young girl. It was a picture book called Annie and the Old One that the school librarian read to us. It told the story of a young Navaho girl, Annie who adored her grandmother. One day the grandmother told Annie that when she finished the rug she was making, she would leave Annie and go into the forest to die. Each night Annie secretly pulled a strand out of the loom unraveling her grandmother’s progress from that day in an effort to keep the rug forever unfinished. The grandmother eventually realizes what is happening and pulls Annie aside to love and comfort her but explain that death is inevitable.

Why as a youngster I was drawn to these two stories and can remember them like yesterday, I really can’t say. I didn’t lose anyone to death as a child. And yet even then I knew deep attachments were mysterious, beautiful and exquisitely painful.

I woke up this morning sobbing. But when I meditated a little later, I felt Rumi looking down on me from the after life, a much older consciousness than I ever realized or gave him credit for.

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In the circle of life, there are no breaks.

Shalom

20 Sep

In the Hebrew language the word shalom means peace and is used as a salutation at meetings and partings.

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It is a coming and a going.

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I realize we never really possess anything despite my fierce heart that wanted to draw them near to me as if they were my children. But we don’t possess children either. Or lovers. We simply love.

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I didn’t get to say goodbye to my mother who died by suicide. I thank God I got to say goodbye today.

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I wish them peace.

Anam Cara

19 Sep

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In John O’Donohue’s beautiful book Anam Cara, he centers his exploration of Celtic wisdom and spiritual ideas around the Gaelic words anam (soul) and cara (friend). Put together the words mean “soul friend”. The anam cara is not a mere acquaintance but someone with whom one can be profoundly authentic and real. There is also an aspect of “recognition” in this relationship where the two individuals perceive each other’s essence as if they were cut from the same cloth.

In the book, O’Donohue mostly refers to the anam cara in its human form but a soul friend can present itself in the body of an animal as well. In my life I’ve been blessed and privileged to have had a number of anam caras – depth relationships I wouldn’t trade for all the tea in China. But I never imagined that the circle would include two unique felines, Rumi and Hafiz.

Rumi and Hafiz came to me seven years ago and I knew immediately that we were to be together. When Hafiz took ill about nine months ago I was anxious and devastated wondering when he would leave us. I no longer ponder as I scheduled his intake appointment for heaven for tomorrow morning when the vet comes to our house. What I didn’t anticipate was that Rumi would become drastically ill. Whether this is in response to Hafiz’s condition or some bizarre coincidence I can’t say. I only know that I watch in anguish as I anticipate my two anam caras possibly checking in to heaven together if Rumi doesn’t improve.

In my sadness I think of the individuals who knew and cared for Rumi and Hafiz who are now dead. I ask them to be at the welcoming gates should Rumi join Hafiz in his pilgrimmage tomorrow. And as I watch the sun begin to set on this hellish day I know that after the emptiness subsides, true soul friends linger announcing their presence like chimes in the wind.

The Wind in the Trees

15 Sep

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In yoga there is a position known as tree pose. To get into the position, you lift one leg up and place it on your knee while lifting your arms above your head. Basically it is a posture to build strength and balance. To maintain stability and not teeter you press your standing leg into the floor and engage your muscles to help maintain a gravitational center. You also focus on one point on the wall in front of you to avoid any visual distractions that might cause one’s head to turn and thus offset the body’s balance.

Tree pose is a great metaphor for life. In order to maintain stability and balance, we have to draw on strength, will and focus. This keeps us emotionally and mentally solid in our day-to-day existence. Otherwise, anything can offset our equilibrium. I liken this to being a real life tree that remains firmly rooted even when the wind and rain blow its leaves and branches about.

One of the greatest tools that can assist us in this process is to become more aware of our breath for when we breathe more consciously our bodies begin to naturally relax. Exercise too can help ground us in our physical bodies, which then helps quiet the mind from its racing thoughts about all we must do and worry about in the future.

As we engage the body, we begin to feel our breath moving through it. Breathing is something our bodies do automatically yet we often restrict its flow when we tense our muscles in fear and/or stress and we are rarely conscious of its life giving energy. Yet when we bring attention to it, we can feel its power to cleanse, sustain and revitalize every aspect of our being. In fact, the word breath in Hebrew and Greek is synonymous with the word “spirit” or “wind” indicating a direct link between our breath, being and the divine. Our breath is the life force that helps us fully embrace and enjoy the moment.

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One of the most beautiful passages in literature about transformation comes from the book of Ezekiel. Referred to as “The Valley of the Dry Bones,” it directly describes how the breath ushers in new life and a new moment. It reads as follows:

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

That Perfect Ride

7 Sep

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Life is filled with moments of misconnection and missed opportunities. We reach out, we effort and things often fall short or apart. But once in awhile, the stars line up in just the right constellation uniting one in profound synergy with another person, one’s work, or life itself.

I am not a heavy duty surfer chick. I only learned a few years ago and I surf on a long board at a very gentle break. But I surf for that one perfect ride that reminds me fusion with Source can indeed occur.

You have to be in the right place at the right time. You have to be out there and paddling. And you have to catch the right wave. But when you do, there is nothing like it.

For me, a perfect wave has enough momentum to quicken my pulse but not so much that I’m terrified or thrown off balance. The perfect pop up is when you land, strong and steady knowing nothing is going to shake your balance even if you drop into the wave, taking a little plunge into the heart of it. And then there is the glide. That beautiful gentle ride in all the way to shore as you sing out a yelp of exhilaration and joy.

This is God. This is connection. This is sensuality. This is flow.

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