Stillness

Lately, this extremely unfamiliar but very welcome deep calm has come for a visit. Paradoxically, it is a little unsettling in its newness. I laid down to meditate for 10 minutes yesterday and over an hour passed without my noticing the time. I sat at my computer to be productive and chose instead to wander aimlessly about the house adjusting little details.  I pulled into my driveway from errands, turned off the engine, and felt no desire to ambulate for many minutes.  I had an intention to create some art, but found a truth that I could summon the beneficial feelings of those practices without actually getting out of my seat.
I can see how some of the mystics get so unkempt, seriously. It’s a quiet that is more about my mouth not moving. I’m having stretches of no mind, no thought, no desire, even no desire for movement because this moment is so engaging. And then this moment and then look here is yet another that is so worthy of my full presence.
I’m sure there is a name for this. I know it is a normal part of the process, but my analytic mind insists it needs some context, lest I allow myself to fear the pull of drifting completely into stillness that won’t serve my basic needs like work and food and child care.
But when I think too hard on the nature of this stillness, my ego is all too pleased to respond with less peaceful thoughts, my learned personality offers to shatter the calm with obsession and worry over details, my mind rushes in to stir the pot.  But on a deeper level than these friends is the truth, and it gently emerges to offer them a reminder:
This is a practice. It takes time.

Riding the Wave

Today, I’m thinking about the wave(s) of love, the balance:

between autonomy and connection,
between stability and freedom,
between effort and surrender.

This Tedtalk by Reuben Margolin inspires today’s musings on love.

A wise woman once said she expected I’d “figure it out” in relationship (whatever IT is). So, I had a sense that deep dive into relationship could offer an opportunity for growth and then I ASKED the universe for this chance to see what it is like to be all the way “off the couch” with a partner and growing constellation of beloveds willing to do the same.  Before that, I studied for my second life: meditation, workshops, books, therapy. I selected a new life for myself with care and clear intention.

So here I am, deep in it. And I was right. I belong here. And there is an ease to noticing that when I am on the right path, the universe comes up to meet me. And also, there is still struggle. Every time we reach a new level of light, shed a few unnecessary layers, what gets exposed is excruciating, beautiful, challenging.

It’s like a wave…

We ride up, exhilarated, hands clasped together, big toothy grins. We reach the peak, look around together at the horizon, amazed by the possibilities.

Deep breath, and then comes the ride down, the natural pulling back into self for integration, passing through the baseline, noticing it is a little higher than it was last time, but still feeling the contrast with the peak.

To the bottom, where each of our egos and wounds and past lives poke up, asking to be witnessed, embraced, taken “With” for the inevitable ascent. That long pause at the bottom, with the view completely obscured, is the real invitation to faith, to awe, to gratitude. I dig in. He digs in. I reach out. He reaches out. In this low light place, we offer each other insights into what we can each feel out, like the blind men and the elephant, we share what we know, begin to form a mosaic view of the wholeness.

Which kicks off the ascent. No rushing that either, it takes its sweet time pulled by the memory we share of what it is like up there, we “pass Go,” collect our sustenance, humble ourselves to the way this game is challenging, but almost impossible without a play partner, appreciate each other’s growing skills and effort.

I don’t want anything else but to be on this journey, in this life.  This isn’t needless drama or some kind of manic cycle. This is soul work. It is right effort, and effort nonetheless. So I bow my sweaty brow, deep and low, to the mystery, invite my body to be supple and steady, to maintain balance in the movement.

Wave

There is a vitality

The first time I heard this letter read aloud was in a Soundstrue podcast by Rick Jarrow that is no longer available. I hear these words, in his voice, echoing in my head regularly when I see a beloved struggling to let themselves out, to be seen. I would love to have a recording of this again in a beautiful voice. Any volunteers?

 

A Letter to Agnes De Mille from Martha Graham
There is a vitality,
a life force,
a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique.

And If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine
how good it is
nor how valuable it is
nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.

Keep the channel open…
No artist is pleased…

There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes “us” MORE alive than the others.

Martha Graham
( – a letter to Agnes De Mille-

 

sunset

Something happened. It’s called Undefended Love.

Something happened.

It was just a thought, really, when you look deeply enough. So some thought happened, and everyone involved had really big ideas about what that meant. Big ideas. Thoughts about a thought, as if that is what matters. But this time, we did something different – we tried letting this thing completely BE rather than trying to make something else happen.

We let the thing be and we paid attention, and that lead us to the thoughts and then the thoughts to unveil the feelings, and we let those into the light as well. And those all just turn out to be either desire or aversion, and we let that be, and under that, we could see the deeper truth, and I’ll tell it to you now:

It isn’t about the thing. It isn’t about the thought. It isn’t about the desire or the aversion, or about what happened or who you think you are. It’s about where this all comes from, and what is below that. That’s the lesson. The thing, the decision, the outcome of that decision, these are nearly irrelevant.

Letting myself be fully seen, to see with undefended love, has changed me. I think I just shed half a person and am now bare, light, released from a lifetime of story. That thought experiment brought so much into focus for me. Life is short. I want my time to matter. I want to live in love and nothing else matters. In love with art, in love with myself, in love with my people, in touch with whatever those people call God. I want each moment, the love making ones, the ones where I am a wretched puddle on the floor, the ones where I’m preparing a meal for myself and my family, to be fully experienced, unburdened by what I think should happen or how I feel about what happened before.

Today, the absurdity of e-mail and washing dishes and that there are practical things like bills to pay and train schedules is making me laugh. I used to think it was about these things. Sometimes, I used to even cry about these things. Ha!

So I say to myself: Give the people attached to these things a bare look. Such sweet small souls, each carrying these giant heaping piles of armor and baggage, making these Herculean and inherently flawed attempts to connect through all that. Look at yourself doing the same. Isn’t it amazing how much energy we have to keep trying this experiment in belonging, in knowing ourselves?

And then I say: I love you.

And that is all that matters.

http://undefendedlove.com/

Awareness (rewrite)

My mind invites me to collect the data of this moment,
My mind would pretend to name it’s truth,
My mind is present in this moment, but it is not this moment.
There is no data, no analysis.
There is only this moment.

My body invites me to be industrious.
My body would have me pushing or pulling or leaving.
My body is present to know pleasure and suffering.
There is nothing to do right.
There is only this moment and the ability to sense.

My ego invites me to predict and control.
My ego would have me regret, anticipate, manipulate.
My ego is present to provide awareness of my Self.
There is no good enough or not good enough.
There is only this moment, sensing, and awareness of self.

My heart invites me to feel this love.
My Heart would have me lean in or lean out,
My heart is present to feel this love, but it is not this love.
There is no sadness, no joy.
There is only this moment, sensing, awareness, and love.

This moment, love, awareness, sensing,
These are the gifts that invite me to connect.
They guide me to gather with others
To connect minds, hearts, egos and bodies
Into a collective awareness.
To become One.

This isn’t something to work on, it is a celebration of life

At Kirtan on Saturday, for the first time, I reached a stillness so deep, that I could feel the clarity and intensity of my own heart beat like I was being rocked by a wave. I found a deep slow breath, a gentle placement of my closed eyes slightly up and centered. I felt my heart open. I became presence.

From there, I could open my eyes, smile, and see. Not look around – See.

There were children dancing joyfully, some were rambunctious, some cooperative, some silly. There was a flow to their play, coming together, and pulling back into their individual trajectories. The young warrior fathers danced with the children, gently powerful and potent. The young mothers held hands and danced and spun, or sat strong and ready as their little ones flitted over for a pat before going back to the celebration of movement. This observation landed in me as a very simple statement. I could see these families choosing to spend their Saturday evening together in loving joyful tribal community.

I felt these words: They are doing this right.

My lover danced in the joy of feeling his body. He invited me to dance, and I knew my place in this moment was to witness. He danced a lyrical communication of the mystery of spirit and love which I don’t yet understand. I feel honored to be his student in this. And he danced the longings in his heart, longings I also know well, and I feel honored to be one of his teachers in this. I felt sadness at my recent struggles with seeing him as a gift for me, rather than for this truth.

Again, words arrived: Hold this one lightly.

The older people and the young seekers, the guides and the musicians, were the roots of the room. I could feel them each, and I could feel them all, and I could begin to understand the mystery that I’ve always had, and always will have, a place in this continuum. Even before this understanding, I have offered myself in service as the child, the seeker, the lover, the mother. With this awakening, I will now be able to offer myself as the guide and some day, as the elder. And always as the seeker and the lover and the mother, and as the student and the teacher.

Here more words: I belong.

I reached these words in the stillness.
In these words, the stillness reaches me.
My mind is not here to make these words, it is here to understand them. I felt tender and naked from this human awareness, electrified and alive from my loving relationships, and harmoniously connected to myself. And I could see with clarity. I could feel what matters, how what matters is always in abundance, and how little the rest matters.

This landed in me as this simple mantra:
This isn’t something to work on, it is a celebration of life.

Holding the stillness and this mantra together, I allowed it to become an exploration.

This relationship isn’t something to work on, it is a celebration of life.

This child isn’t something to work on, it is a celebration of life.

This role isn’t something to work on, it is a celebration of life.

My work isn’t even something to work on, it is a celebration of my life.

The tears that accompanied this truth poured gently from my eyes, and I felt no need to hide them or wipe them away, so they created a sweet stream that caressed my face, my chin, my neck, and pooled in my heart.

This was gift enough, more than I had expected would happen, and then I received even more. As the evening began to come to a close, the last mantra was an invitation for each of us to envision the way in which we can use a portion of our lives in service to one another, to our families, to our communities, to spirit, to the earth. It wasn’t a call, or an order, it was an offering of the gift of knowing. In this sacred space, I received a clarity.

First and foremost, my service is love, and absolutely nothing else matters. Any detail of location, destination, logistics, who is there, what shape it takes, is secondary, or even insignificant.

I explored this.

What of my adult loving relationships? The answer was Love. Who to love and what it means for my future, is secondary. Because there is always enough love, and if this one beautiful person has his or her own calling, my love gives only one choice: joyous celebration. This isn’t something to work on; it is a celebration of life.

What of my children? Love. This, so simple. Nothing to engineer, nothing to do right or wrong. Lovingly witnessing their becoming and joyously celebrating their choices and empathetically holding them in their struggles, even if their struggles include me, is all I’m required to do. Loving is doing it right. This isn’t something to work on; it is a celebration of life.

What of home? Also simple. My home has spaces for stillness and spaces for joyous celebration for me, for my children, for whomever feels drawn to join us here. My home will be a place of refuge and community. For love. This isn’t something to work on; it is a celebration of life.

What of work? This one particular ego struggle became the lightest and most insignificant of my mysteries to understand. My employment can be my work, or it can be the source to fund my work. If it is the source to fund my work, it can also be an opportunity to live lovingly in every one of those interactions. This isn’t something to work on; it is a celebration of life.

This isn’t something to work on; it is a celebration of life.

So I set an intention to reconnect to this stillness, this mantra, during the next day, to allow it to become familiar, a new form of muscle memory. I realize this will be a practice. The next day turned out to be a day, precisely like every day, in which I was invited to contemplate connection, commitment, the preciousness of time, and living with purpose. It was a day in which I was invited to ask how I will choose to live this one life. And I know. And this knowing isn’t something I needed to invent or create or work on. It was given to me.

So, during the day, I experienced sadness about the times when I believed there was not enough. I felt the pull to drop back into that familiar story of scarcity and grief. And also, I breathed, I found the stillness. And I felt gratitude for this moment when there is enough.

And I experienced regret for my past actions when I was disconnected from living love, when I was driven by neediness or ego or my unreliable thoughts. I felt the pull of self-pity. And also, I breathed, found the stillness, listened to this awakening heart, and found gratitude for having made my own discoveries of doing it wrong.

And I experienced a joyful noticing of how the abundance I receive when I stopped trying to collect, is a profoundly infinite abundance my egoic mind never could have imagined in that misguided desire to control and predict. I found surrender.

I experienced longing for home. And in my breath, in my stillness, gratitude for the chance to create.

And I lived this one day as true to my calling as I ever have.
I honored love. I honored the struggle. I honored the path –
For myself, for my family, for my community.

photo

An understanding

My mind invites me to collect the data of this moment,
My mind would pretend to name it’s truth,
My mind is present in this moment, but it is not this moment.
There is no data, no analysis.
There is only this moment.

My heart invites me to feel this love.
My Heart would have me lean in or lean out,
My heart is present to feel this love, but it is not this love.
There is no sadness, no joy.
There is only this moment, and love.

My ego invites me to predict and control.
My ego would have me regret, anticipate, manipulate.
My ego is present to provide awareness of my Self.
There is no good enough or not good enough.
There is only this moment, and love, and awareness of self.

My body invites me to be industrious.
My body would have me pushing or pulling or leaving.
My body is present to know pleasure and suffering.
There is nothing to do right.
There is only this moment, and love, and awareness, and the ability to sense.

This moment, love, awareness, sensing,
These are the gifts that invite me to connect.
They guide me to gather with others
To connect minds, hearts, egos and bodies
Into a collective awareness.
To become One.