Sunday, 22 December 2013

Winter Repose

Oh frozen veil of winter’s embrace
Illusory in nature
Life seemingly suspended
 In your crystalline shroud
And protracted beauty both
Plunged into extended darkness
How faintly then the Call
As even now upon the stillness
Infinite forms of light
Whisper hints of an approaching dance
Listen then with ears of the heart
Fear not the deceptive silhouettes
The trickery of diminished light
Refraction can make available friend or foe
Desolation and barrenness conjoined
With soul visitation and reconciliation
Being, found in the slumber
Dreams foretell of awakenings held within.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Truth - Fact or Fiction?

In a place that might well be described as my “wildest imagination” I hope that what I write is insightful, expansive, even provocative – ultimately I hope that it serves others. It is my vison that my own introspection and inquiry reach beyond the personal and touch the universal.  Nothing I write is exhaustive – though I may well express exhaustion. I seem to think of myself at times as suffering an acute lack of expertise and yet much that I seem called and drawn to ponder doesn’t necessarily require one to have wandered the halls of academia. It’s long past feasible that I would shape my life according to some vision of my youth – I still marvel at those that have that surety of vocation and life direction. It’s fascinating to me to consider the biography of those that are framed around some sort of theme or refers to their “life’s work.” I neither intend to discount these definitive paths nor admonish myself (or others) for the lack of one.
My life it seems to me is defined, by lack of definition. If I were to declare a focus for this particular post – I might go with “Letting Go.” (That’s the “idea/theme” that is up for me).  Given the declaration in the first paragraph – I feel compelled to submit the disclaimer that upon declaring the topic – I must immediately “let go” that I have any particular qualification to write about it, or claim to expertise.
I gather that papers written to achieve academic or scientific acclaim begin with a “thesis” then weave various research and evidence to support the claim and some sort of closing argument (or at least that is my “uneducated” notion of how that goes down – I don’t know – I’ve never written one). It also seems to me from witnessing the anecdotal experience of many that have gone that route, that often (though I wouldn’t make a sweeping claim that always) that the work presented must meet the approval (and perhaps even be aligned with, the belief system of) the professor. If that were true, I think, “What’s the point?” “There’s no new ground being broken here” “How can there be any evolution if there is only dogmatic adherence to existing knowledge?” (Especially given that information that is adamantly presented today as being “scientific fact” – is dispelled tomorrow).  There is even “evidence” today that the premeditated expectation of those conducting the experiment can and will, affect the outcome).

Of course there is required – discipline, and there is a human existential journey that occurs in conjunction with the learning process.  As I say that I’m struck with the question, is the inner journey (and development) of the individual, any less important than the scholastic criteria, which is ultimately what the “student” is evaluated by. It seems to me that education has become so “commercialized” that it can be, nothing more than an extension of a hyper-capitalist economic system (as such there can be little or no attention paid to heart and soul evolution, full attention placed instead, on intellectual development and the standing that will give one in the system after graduation).
I don’t wish to over-simplify matters and acknowledge as well, that many people enter university and colleges for a love of learning and a passion that will be fed by what they learn, which might well set them on the path to do – their life work.

From that statement I then include, letting go of the need for me to compare myself to those that have chosen such pursuits. Clearly to date, I have “chosen” otherwise, it doesn’t serve to judge myself by a system that glorifies those that have such an education over those that don’t. (Even though I live within it and must accept and reckon with, certain realities as a result – which mostly consist of the views and beliefs of others). None of those at the end of the day really carry any weight with who I am in the world (though of course the judgment exists and at times includes my own).
So then, no thesis to speak and strictly speaking no “hard evidence” to “prove” anything I represent here. Yet, does subjective experience not have a part to play in the ongoing evolution of humanity? Facts and figures (“hard science” aren’t necessarily as exacting as we’re led to believe) – once again, the “truths” of yesterday become the mistaken beliefs of today or tomorrow. Everything is not at all, as it seems  - therefore paradigms and ways of being that are widely upheld through adherence of the masses, doesn’t make them a fail-safe path to successfully navigate life.
What if, as the analogy goes (one did their utmost to position themselves upon the ladder that represents the social/economic hierarchy only to discover the ladder is up against the “wrong” wall)? If one were to come to suspect that, then further participation may seem futile, or if one’s place on the game board were to “backslide” (as in for example, a job loss or divorce scenario) then it might not be as compelling to “rebuild.” Given it’s not likely to be fruitful for me to declare the whole system flawed – letting go might then look like “accept the things I cannot change” (there is nothing to be gained by trying to be in direct opposition to that which I don’t agree with). But, I might need to reconsider what I personally value and work at letting go of assessing my “worth” based on external measures.
Seen in this light some of the more useful things for me to examine, would be my attitudes and beliefs to determine the ways and means that I limit what is possible and perhaps work at letting go accordingly. Certainly it seems to me to remain true, that it is challenging to walk a congruent path and not be in opposition to everyone else.  Though I have now come to believe that I want to direct my energies toward what I believe in – not spend endless time being “against” things.  So in that respect I could continue to look for attitudes of self-righteousness, of the need to be “right” concern for “getting it right” (life), fear of failure, shame – based perfectionism, all that might have me hesitant to trust my own instincts, constantly looking outside of myself for validation and approval.
What a conundrum! I consider the innumerable examples of people that have made major contributions in various walks of life and many did so without following “conventional paths.” Of course it could be argued these were exceptional people (which I suppose is true with regard to their ability to have little or no concern for conformity – or if they did, they didn’t allow it to prevent them from making “their” discovery (contribution)– or transforming society through championing social justice, standing in the world as avatars (messengers of the divine) whatever their path, it might well have involved a “lifestyle” that was not aligned with the neighbors. What an awesome demonstration of integrity, conviction and clarity. Both “the Buddha” and St. Francis of Assisi gave up on lives of affluence in order to follow their heart-paths, Mother Teresa could have had easier “assignments” – but turned down these postings in favour of her “calling” to help some of the worlds most forgotten and marginalized people. This is not to say that a life that includes financial abundance is wrong – (much can be done that serves the world if one has the wealth to make that happen).  It just also happens that wealth and abundance comes in so many other forms none of which can be bought or awarded through formal education. At the end of the day – no amount of “stuff” is going to matter (it no doubt plays some part in the mosaic of human life) – but it seems to me less of it affords one a great deal more freedom than amassing more.
No longer is it clear to me to what degree it serves to continue to be “making a contribution to the economy” if, all that means is unchecked consumption. I believe in the value of service to others, but who says (beside the marketing professionals) that an equally or more valuable contribution, might be to consume less? A contribution “to the village” seems to me to be of great importance – it just seems to me that the consciousness that has been brought into being (one of stark individualism) – which I reckon began at the end of the Second World War, presumes that we all can work (earn), buy (consume) and amass enough wealth (security) has all but eroded any semblance of connection. There is so much divisiveness that each, in its blind pursuit of their objectives, does so at great cost to the others (and ultimately themselves).  All the while the “machine” keeps churning out new products and stirring the appetites of the “consumers” into a frenzy and the “dream” once again moves the bar higher (“once you are here you will have arrived”) only there, is not “here” and there is, no arriving – as here becomes there and you haven’t arrived yet!!!

Perhaps had I partaken in some further forms of “higher education” I might have “got it” but from where I sit – the “dream” seems like a nightmare (of course I am left-handed and it seems to me that throughout my life my viewpoint is not widely shared – in fact it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that when I arrived through the birth canal I was facing one hundred and eighty degrees in the opposite direction of “normal”) so maybe I’ve got it backwards?

Let’s see – the dream offers “freedom” (from what I wonder?) Nomads for example are afforded freedom of movement (in part I suspect because they don’t need to hire a semi-trailer truck in order to port themselves to the next destination). Of course they are faced with more immediate survival considerations – but then I imagine they are not stressed about the volume of stuff they need to pack, they aren’t leaving redundant couches on boulevards, nor needing additional income to buy a bigger house and insurance for more stuff, rent storage lockers or buy additional houses to get-away from the life they created to buy the second house.
Maybe at the end of the day the “dream” is an illusion? I’m not suggesting an end to dreaming.  Instead I’m suggesting scrutinizing the fiddler calling the tune (who’s dream is this that is being so widely embraced?) Does the dream you are pursuing resonate with your own heart? How can a dream that pits one against another – that consumes that which supports life in one place to “further” the lives of others elsewhere be sustainable, or even acceptable? If while playing “the game” you capture all the “opponents” pieces the game is “over!” What then have you won? While you sit there with “it all” – how long before it creeps into mind that someone now, has nothing? What of fear that someone will now “take what you have?” Where is the freedom in that?

The dream doesn’t seem to me to address the barrenness of spiritual poverty! (I am certainly not advocating that economic poverty equal spiritual mastery) but it seems to me that lives lived strictly by the dictates and directives of economics invite a special kind of longing and loneliness. The hunger of heart and soul (that which connects us to the greater whole) must be satiated from an entirely different menu. No amount of earning, buying, Prozac, alcohol, sex, drugs or rock & roll will quell the disassociated soul from wanting to realize its “wholeness” (holiness). One could literally destroy themselves in the vain attempt to quiet the silent roar of their soul (without necessarily knowing they are doing so).
My journey through life so far may well be largely unremarkable by many standards and at times I think I have spent more time skinning my heart and knees (to say the least) than making any worthwhile contribution. All the while I have been in quest of the truth (even while in stark denial of realities in my own life of my own creation that are rather painful).  I suppose my “research” has taken me places and circumstances that many avoid altogether simply because they were told, “don’t go there!” Apparently I have always needed to find out – why? (I inherently seem to frame things through the lens of “who says it has to be this way.”) Naturally I have often discovered there is an “easier” way to do many things that I seem innately inclined to make more difficult (but certainly not always). “Common sense” is a concept that apparently frequently eludes me (I still think one should be wary of consensus approaches – it could be that it represents some long standing wisdom, but it could just as easily be that no one thought to (or dared) ask why is it so?

 Do I represent “the truth” now? No! Am I any closer to it now than when I began in this life? Maybe.
I don’t think truth can be discussed in terms of “absolutes” – there are laws such as gravity, causes and effect for example, the truth of which defies denial. For a considerable time in my life I looked outside myself for what is true (doubting what “seemed to be true” as presented through my own perception) often reinforced by either no one else sharing in this perspective or if they did, nothing being done about it (the status quo upheld by some sort of unspoken collective agreement to remain silent and perpetually operate within an under-current of malaise and discontent). I have vacillated between compliance and speaking out (the latter resulting in various forms of “punishment/disciplinary action”) which might imply the inappropriateness of my action or serve to discover that something indeed underlies the oft touted “truth” – “to get along you go along” or what I believe is the misrepresented “go with the flow” (I don’t think that actually means to blindly participate in what is going on around you – just so as “not to make waves.”) What if there is a “flow” of deeply existing truths that one is being invited to connect with and it doesn’t involved the status quo? Fear of reprisal can be a very convincing motivator for compliance – but silence has it price to pay too. Somewhere within what is being upheld as being “how it is” there is someone (or somebody’s) that are highly invested in “it” staying that way. The “truth” isn’t necessarily being served in this case. Breaking the rules might be the “right thing “ to do in an abhorrently “wrong” situation (even when punishment is a potential outcome). Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Joan of Arc and countless others throughout history, have paid dearly to speak and live (their truth) – they did so without concern for the admiration and acclaim they received posthumously (I suppose you could say the outcome – their death, was part of their life, in a way that is not true for everyone even though death awaits us all) So often doing the “right thing” can result in what appears to be the wrong outcome – Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his life in prison, the Dalai Llama most of his life in political exile (the former once seen by the U.S. as a terrorist the latter certainly not exalted by the Chinese that occupy his homeland) yet their resistance and subsequent consequences have (and are) bringing about social/political change, raising awareness and altering the consciousness of humanity (in many of these examples long after their human lives have passed.
This brings me to consider that “letting go” could be as simple as some nutritional adjustments or picking up a book instead of turning on the television.  Discovering the truth for oneself though, might be more complex – it could come about as a result of (or the need to) let go of entire paradigms. I would suggest this is considerably more challenging as to do so might mean stepping away from ways of being and mindsets that are widely practiced and accepted as “how it is.” To renounce such things will be met with no end of resistance (including from within the self). However continued participation invites the stress of abandoning alignment with truth beyond the collective. I believe many of histories “spiritual teachers” (Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed) knew and lived the truth of this personal connection with the divine (the universal conscious) instead of embracing the lessons and embracing the paths to personal connection, spiritual freedom and oneness with all that is – religions (comprised of dogma and conformity) were created to control the masses – the truth of what they tried to teach was lost in what became presented as “the truth” (to question the truth was to be labeled a heretic and was punishable by death). Considered in this light – there was considerable motivation to live in lies and claim the true and righteous path.

Undoubtedly change is occurring but his observation seems to me to still be valid both previous to and after, the time he said this. Where is any of it going? Even a brief repose from “shoulder to the wheel” yields a disquieting view. Granted I likely won’t live long enough to see “how it turns out.” Which leaves the burning question – what then to do, while I’m here that contributes to the solution? When measured against the infinitesimal, many might come to realize that their contribution is a seed planted that they may not see bare fruit (still their heart and soul was engaged in the tilling of the soil for a lifetime).
As I ponder such things a certain irony is revealed, so much time and energy has been spent in a attempt to discover “who I am” only to have the quest turn from inward to out, as the current face of truth seems to emphatically suggest all that which has been discovered be directed in service (in other words now that you are found – lose yourself in something beyond and greater than yourself). On the one hand it feels like arriving somewhere after a very long journey and though I didn’t expect that there would be fanfare (well maybe on some level I did) there of course is none (not even from me). I suppose that can be attributed to a “hunch” that all arrivals are just preludes to departures (and vice versa).
It is said the “truth will set you free!” I would also suggest that once one picks up the sword of truth they will come to realize it is simple to carry it and even to swing it – though once it begins to reveal the previously obscured path an ongoing challenge is presented to continue to wield it.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Suffering - To Be or Not to Be?

I'm guessing many are familiar with the idea of "blessings in disguise." If your experience is anything like mine sometimes these blessings are seemingly very well disguised! It can even be true that years after various life experiences the "lessons," realizations, and relevance can still be unfolding. There exists a premise that most any experience (no matter how painful) can be transcended and holds within it the opportunity for growth and transformation.

When I consider this I wonder - is it then a given, that pain must precede growth? Well, certainly it is implied in such ideas as "growing pains." Physiologically there is a great deal, of energy required to support physical growth. Likely no less true for emotional/spiritual growth.  What of the idea that suffering is the result of resistance to what is (or as per Buddhist teachings) non-acceptance of impermanence. Said another way, "the only thing that is constant is change." (Heraclitus)

Therefore if change is inevitable - resistance to change (is both the cause of suffering and is a choice) then suffering could indeed be seen as optional. Pain I hear tell is also "inevitable" (but a distinction can be made between "pain" and "suffering" - usually along the lines of acute and more chronic respectively. For example one might "expect" to feel the pain of loss (at the end of a relationship, or passing of a loved one). I wonder though, whether that too is "necessary" or more a consequence of conditioning and therefore assured through belief systems.

I'm not suggesting ignoring or repression of emotional pain - I just wonder to what extent (if any) or for how long, the pain would exist, if it literally wasn't believed to be a circumstance that required a painful response or that if it were, commonly held time frames for such a "process" didn't apply. In other words an entirely different healing paradigm or even view of life. How much then is this pain brought on by the belief it is a "required" "natural" part of the process (and therefore it is so) and that it will take a more or less predetermined amount of time to heal or "get over it."

So then perhaps suffering is more about trying to avoid change (by for example, staying in various circumstances beyond their continuing to serve any higher purpose) than it is, "required." Nothing stays the same - it's ultimately futile to resist the reality of this. Nonetheless resistance to change can be pretty far-reaching both collectively and personally. I'm also not suggesting that the idea of impermanence (and change) be used as a rationalization to justify such things as unbridled development (those sort of changes should be ushered in mindfully and with foresight - not just done in a non-sustainable way and summed up as "change is coming whether you like it or not."

I acknowledge that it may be required experience, the emotional peaks and valleys that present as various circumstances play out in our lives, or as Shakespeare suggested "to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." However, my own personal reflection, introspection and self awareness also has brought to my attention what I might call habitual suffering. This might be tagged a part of victim consciousness in some schools of thought - it's a way seeing oneself, so that when unconscious of these mistaken beliefs, I might routinely conclude that I can "expect" to suffer. From this perspective, most anything I might take on - at best, will be defined by mediocrity or just as likely will end poorly. Obviously if this is the prevailing mindset, the powers of self-fulfilling prophecy most certainly will come into play.  My point here is that it is possible to discover that one can identify so completely with painful outcomes and the inevitability/necessity for hardship and suffering that virtually nothing else is possible. (I would suggest that this is true for different people in varying degrees, in my case I didn't necessarily have a continuous sense of foreboding and approached many things with relative confidence and enjoyment. At the same time there were countless ways I limited what was possible in my life by believing certain non-truths about myself, living them as true and creating pain & suffering along the way, by repeating many of these patterns. It's rather fascinating to me (well.. when I'm in a philosophical frame of mind) to come to realize there are such energies operating in my life. Of course on the one hand I have choice and personal responsibility, but at the same time it's not as though I get up each morning and make a "to do list" of various ways to create suffering in my life. Regardless when one is granted more of a "birds-eye view" of their own life, the ability to be the observer and see these some of these things - it's intriguing to consider, that was me, I was doing that (even though when I was doing it, I couldn't see it?)

For the purpose of illustration I will share a couple of contrasting experiences - both involve the rather seemingly pedestrian service of oral hygiene. What I have learned over time is that it doesn't matter how I come to learn different things about myself - because the behaviours and underlying programming are in operation throughout my life (not just where I discover them).

For quite some period of time I went to a particular dentists office, the visit with him was unremarkable (given it was usually for all of five minutes - the rest was spent with the hygienist). Suffice to say my experience with her was such - that I generally had some degree of anxiety running before I even got in the chair.  The experience varied from visit to visit depending on how diligently I maintained consistency with flossing etc. (the primary variance being time in the chair). The tension and anxiety I experienced naturally included my jaw muscles (which would just ache) while she was doing her cleaning routine ( which at times felt to me like she was supporting her entire arm weight on my jaw) I would try to relieve the tension by moving or asking for a break. Her response to this was an audible sigh, which I suppose could be an expression of her concern for workload and time management given this was a multi-chair, high volume clinic (which felt to me more like a assembly line than a client care setting). Of course it was possible that she was "intolerant" of my expression of discomfort.

I was just watching an old Bill Cosby stand-up comedy routine and he was doing a bit on being at the dentist. He commented that if he were ever to lose the use of his legs, he could ambulate adequately using the muscle of his buttocks ( I laughed at this as I related to the imagery) - I did exactly that while in the chair with the hygienist, as she put more pressure on my teeth I would wiggle down the chair trying to get away from her. Then occasionally, she would slip and poke under my gums with one of her cleaning implements, I would jump, jerk my head away and close my mouth.

She would admonish me - telling me I "really need to hold still and that it would go much easier and faster if I would just relax." Then she would go on to tell me that there was a "fair amount of bleeding under my gums and that the inflammation contributed to my "sensitivity."

Personally I'm fed up with a prevailing consciousness that considers sensitivity a pathology (without question at different times in my life I have done my utmost to "desensitize" responding to a world that seemed to expect it of me) more recently my journey seems to be about reclaiming myself (including the gift of sensitivity) - I am far more aware of my own humanity as a result & would submit that many of the worlds "woes" might be addressed if more people didn't perpetually cut themselves off from their own hearts.

I said - "you don't suppose it would have anything to do with you sticking your precision made, surgical stainless steel hooks and claws under my gums, wielding them like you were ploughing a field - while you do your gum-gardening?" "At home I use soft synthetic thread and a rubber tip pick!" (here the tool-kit looks like it belongs in a medieval dungeon.")

I will acknowledge it is my responsibility to take good care of my own health (including my oral hygiene) - it is not my responsibility to sit back quietly when I am uncomfortable, and make someone else feel better about causing me discomfort because they are in a hurry, or their technique and practices don't include empathy & compassion for the client. I say this now in hindsight because for a variety of "reasons" I kept going back to this clinic (though it wasn't unusual for me to procrastinate about confirming my appointments when the reminder cards would arrive in the mail) - so it was my choice.

The contrasting experience took place quite recently. I had heard good reports about a clinic in town that offered the services of a hygienist (the focus was on a thorough cleaning & they could still assess anything concerning that would require the attention of a dentist). My experience began with a phone conversation with a fellow at the "front end," he was patient, pleasant, informative and in a non-hurried fashion, gave me all the answers I required to make an educated decision.

I arrived early the day of my appointment, anticipating new client paper work and also brought a book to pass the time. I found that the book wasn't necessary as the same fellow I had spoke to was at the reception area that day and was very engaging and seemed interested in conversation (which was a pleasant, relaxing way to await my session.

As it turned out the previous appointment went a little overtime and due to my delay in booking a session, my cleaning was to be more extensive than what it might have been if I had come in sooner. The hygienist explained what was going to be required - she said due to the later start and the amount of work, that she might only do the lower half and book another time for completion. Her concern was both one of time and for my comfort (she indicated that even if she had time to do it all in the one session, it might be more uncomfortable for me afterward). I appreciated that she was upfront about all this at the outset, that she wasn't going to trying a rush through and she was sincerely concerned with my well-being (she was not of the mind that "productivity" ruled the day and the client should just "suck it up," with regard to discomfort).

She let me know that there was a "topical" freezing gel available (in other words no needles required) - I indicated that I was keenly in favour of using all that was available to me! I was encouraged to let her know at anytime during the procedure if I felt the "slightest discomfort" and she would apply more freezing. The difference was so stark - I suppose I didn't imagine before having the experience that it could be so!

During the session I shared a little of my past experience (without specifically identifying the clinic or staff) - she was aghast. Her perspective was that she "couldn't keep showing up doing the job if it meant that degree of discomfort for the client." It was so affirming to hear that my concerns and well-being were not "unreasonable expectations." I sat back in the comfort of the dental chair (which previously would have been an oxymoron - "comfort - what comfort?") this chair even had a pulsating back massage feature). I never felt anything through the whole procedure, it was amazing! I was even sent home with some acetaminophen (in case my gums were tender later) - as it turned out I didn't need it, but I certainly appreciated the consideration that I might.

I guess what I have learned from this is to listen to my own assessment of a situation - if it doesn't feel okay to me, then it probably isn't. I also recognize that I don't have to "settle" - because something has always been a certain way doesn't mean it's right, or that nothing else is possible. It does mean I need to speak up, move on or create a better way for myself (or for others). Some things are what they are - if my continuing to show up in it, causes me undo suffering, then my response to the situation needs to change. Chances are if I keep coming back for more, that is what I will get. The change then is, I decide I am worth enough (as is my well-being) to say no to the current situation, "enough is enough." There is no virtue in suffering (and at the very least, some of the time, it is not necessary).

In other words I will find myself in more loving circumstances - by expecting it and beginning with consistently loving myself.

Friday, 15 November 2013

You Raise Me Up

I suppose generally speaking raking leaves on an autumn day might not be what many would consider an emotionally stirring day! Nonetheless it was just such a day for me. At the risk of sounding cliche the idea that an experience is "what you make of it" does come into play here to some degree. But I reckon the afternoon might require some set up to put things in context.

The morning did start with the expression of love and a conversation which centered on the heart and being heart-centered. At one point the conversation touched on the idea of "unorthodox" parenting which involved a deeply committed stand to consider the unique needs of the child, rather than have them conform to the wants of the parent (which could be further homogenized by the parents succumbing to the mores of society with regard to raising children - i.e. education etc.) The love and acceptance represented in the very idea of that touched me deeply and I knew instantly, the truth of the need for it.

As one that has outwardly (and internally) rebelled against a world that attempts to orchestrate conformity - I highly value freedom of expression. For many years I have pushed against systems and authority (in what I would say in hindsight was a largely unconscious misguided attempt, to be myself). So often I have found myself looking at what is going on around me (or what is being taught to me) and thought: "it's just not right - I don't get it, it makes no sense, I don't want to get it, who says it has to be that way?" For so long I thought the problem was me - it felt a bit like I'd been dropped off on the wrong planet.

Much has changed since then (about me) I don't so much see the need to rebel (nor do I see myself as defective or deficient) - from here on in I intend to lovingly and more consistently stand in who I am. I wasn't meant to "fit in" (though God know the lengths I went to try) - I don't happen to believe anyone else was supposed to either - but that is for each to determine for themselves. We each have been given such unique gifts that could be of such value to the world when fully expressed - to live only to fulfill the expectations of others, is perhaps one of life's great tragedy's.

So now when I describe my afternoon of raking leaves as so much more than mere drudgery - my intention is to express the extraordinary present simultaneously (within) the ordinary. It is not a question of my viewpoint being superior to that of anyone else - I am just less inclined to surrender mine in order to blend with the "popular consensus."

To begin with it was a gorgeous mid-November afternoon. I quickly discovered that I was over-dressed for the mild temperature - it really felt more like a Spring afternoon. My objective was to rake the front yard at my parents place. The municipality begins "leaf pickups" next week - but they must be piled at the road side so that they can just come along efficiently and remove them.

The front yard is blessed (or cursed) again it would depend on your point of view, with a massive Garry Oak tree. As I worked below it's extensive canopy, limbs twisting and turning their way skyward, reaching to the  heavens - I was reminded of a time of my life when I was considerably younger (& the tree significantly smaller). I used to climb to the top of that tree and sit there alone, pondering life. One might wonder what I teenage boy might have to ponder at that "tender young age" - suffice to say, that as far as I could tell most of my peers seemed to be fairly care-free (I don't remember ever being such). So perched high above the world the tree afforded me a vantage point and solitude that wasn't so readily available on the ground.

All these years later, I have come to know that oak trees were held quite sacred in ancient Celtic spirituality which as it happens is my blood ancestry on my father's side. Though as a teen I neither knew of my ancestry or the oak tree connection (as I was adopted) unless of course I did, and was naturally drawn to this place of sacred refuge.

I continued to drag the fallen leaves into piles and began to consider the age and wisdom of the tree - it's connection to trees of past generations, the connection of all the trees, to the lives and ways of being of my ancestors - and therefore my connection to all that and more. What then could the tree offer me in relation to my ancestors - what wisdom of theirs could I now access? Clearly I reasoned, what was necessary, was to ask the tree.

I marveled at the awareness and answers that "came to mind" - realizing the beautiful "unseasonably warm" day - at the same time that I raked fallen leaves denoting Autumn, there was in the rock garden at the front of the house, a miniature rose bush with numerous buds and some in full bloom. There they sat pink and embodying the perfection associated with roses in seemingly, a contradiction to the calendar. The wonder of creation was right there in my midst (or me squarely in the midst of creation) with a clear demonstration that calendars and various means of linear marking of time is of little consequence to nature. It is laughable to try and contain the great Mother Earth and all of her marvels in such limiting parameters (and yet "we" try). She thinks nothing of having the roses of spring blooming with the oak tree shedding it's summer foliage. The cycles of nature will not be pigeon-holed and held to some standard of predictability and routine, performing her wonders within a predetermined timetable! (Why then is humanity so fixated on the enforced futility of premeditated dogmatic paradigms for each other?) Our very nature is one with nature, ignoring that -  it's a bit like trying to lasso the wind. The inevitability of natural rhythms versus my agenda was further reinforced by a light breeze coming up and my then turning, to see dozens of pirouetting leaves spiraling their way to the ground landing softly but assuredly where I had previously raked. The dance was captivating, no two leaves took the same flight path to earth, each was released in it's right and perfect time. (Not yesterday, not tomorrow - right now).

I listened more deeply to the teaching of my towering old friend - "there comes a time to let go, absolutely and completely." "All that was once vital and necessary - will reach it's time for release." "Even in it's (appearance of) death, it continues to serve life." Evolution (rebirth) would not be possible while still clinging to what was." "There is no beginning and ending - even in the finale lays the seeds of the upcoming curtain call" "there is no stasis and truly no need to mark the transition" "upon a continuum the old welcomes the new as the new becomes the old - only to die in order to release rebirth." "Trust that it is so - as in deed it always has been and will be forever more" "As the process can be indiscernible to the eye - there appears to be a period of dormancy - indeed this is illusory in nature (pun intended) it is only in the "mind" that the unknown is perceived (and therefore fear generated) in actuality there is only the surety of completion and evolution - in this you can trust." (it is so, regardless of your accepting the truth of it - you may freely choose!"

Just then a delicate soft rain shower began to fall (it likely lasted no more than 5 minutes) and upon my iPod began to play the song "You raise Me Up" from an album entitled "Celtic Woman" - it was as though I could feel the gentle kiss of my ancestors upon my cheeks and was being serenaded by a choir of angels. The sun continued it's warm embrace and I looked skyward delighted to discover the rainbow I "suspected" would present. I no longer question the miraculous (which isn't to say I understand them) - in many ways, (to me) it seems all that is required is to allow the space to bear witness and to pay attention and the miracles can be then seen as endless. 

 To the uninitiated there might appear to be a lone figure doing yard work in a neighborhood comprised of "war era" houses - an unremarkable microcosm of suburbia. Quite to the contrary there is occurring a celebration of epic proportions - a great love affair with all that is - a most profound knowing that there are no ordinary moments and soul-felt gratitude for a heart that now has eyes - "that once were blind, but now can see!"

Monday, 11 November 2013

Room in the Sandbox (for us all)

Today's musings were set in motion by hearing, that a friend's daughter was to be confirmed today in the Catholic cathedral along with her classmates that attend a private Catholic school. The nature of my pondering then, is all things "spiritual." By it's very nature the "spiritual life" is a journey so in that respect I suppose mine is not exceptional.

I attended Catholic private school (for grades 1-6) though I was raised in a family that declared themselves to be Anglican. I do recall my classmates preparing for their "first communion" (which I was excluded from because I wasn't Catholic. Unquestionably this created for me irreconcilable  confusion with respect to the "teachings of Jesus" and my reality. I perceived myself to be on the outside looking in (which I'll grant you was also a story that I created through having been adopted - this just occurred to me to further exacerbate my perception. What of "love thy neighbor?" (not if they're Anglican - seemed to me to be the message to me). Eventually someone intervened and I was no longer left alone in the classroom while the rest of the class went to the church - I could go (even sing the songs) just couldn't take part in the other rituals.

I highly value inclusion (& have deep compassion for those that experience exclusion) - I guess I won't ever know if that would or wouldn't be the case if I hadn't walked the path I did. To this day I'm not really a card carrying member of any religious organization (though perhaps the Anglicans might try and lay claim to my soul as I was baptized and later confirmed) I don't resonate with the theology and I certainly haven't attended in those circles for years (though I have sat in various "holy" places of worship while observing my own sacred practices and connection with the divine.

I don't understand the divisiveness that so frequently exists between "differing" adherents. It doesn't even have to be entirely different groups - there is even distention within groups that both claim to be "Christian" or Buddhist. I mean I do "understand" fear and ignorance that create walls rather than bridges - I just don't get why it still, seems so difficult to overcome these.

It was years after I had largely stopped frequenting Sunday school and therefore leading I suppose what would be called a secular life, that I was reintroduced to the idea of living a spiritual life when I came through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous - where I was introduced to the concept of adopting a belief in "God as You Understand Him" (yes.... still a gender bias within their teachings) interesting in one breath you're encourage to establish your own understanding and in the next breath it is declared God is "Him." Nonetheless this (at least initial) lack of dogma gave me a refreshing opportunity to explore on good days, and seemingly, enough rope to hang myself on other days. I did gain some further insight into divisiveness (in a program that espouses "tolerance,  acceptance, open-mindedness" etc.) it was said somewhat tongue-in-cheek - "all you need to start a new meeting is a resentment and a coffee pot" (and half the group was moving across town to a new venue). So it goes seemingly in human evolution (I guess it is not a strictly linear process - individually or collectively).

Still it was a "beginning" for me - my natural curiosity, quest for the "truth" that began my hunger to find meaning in life (it wouldn't be until later that I would realize that I would be required to scrutinize myself with "rigorous honesty") good thing,  at the time I was quite sure that my outward oriented critical eye would bring about the necessary changes in the world. If I'd known straight away, I was going to have to look at myself I might have run off. 

The afore mentioned curiosity has compelled me through 12 step rooms (with a number of different focal points) over a period of some 26 years - the same time I have immersed myself in a wide variety of paths, hungry for what each has to offer with respect to "being in the world and not of it." I seek to keep the conversation alive - and have listened (to many that might experience rejection more frequently than be extended an attentive ear). Surely they all have a piece of the puzzle I reasoned - I have opted not to "join" any one group - but I deeply yearn to see them all adjoined. I have received literature and teachings upon my door step from the Jehovah's Witnesses - while on a road trip in the U.S. a tour of the Mormon Tabernacle yielded me another free book (hand delivered by a couple of finely dressed gentlemen right to my front door in Victoria - that Mormon organization has very long arms apparently.

I have been in innumerable healing fire ceremonies, sweat lodge, received from practitioners of assorted modalities different forms of energy healing, practiced martial arts, yoga and meditation. I had shamanic healing - discovered a large piece of my ancestral origins and have journeyed once to the homeland of my ancestors (that is a plot that certainly continues to thicken to this very day). I have sat in circles that base their spiritual life on "Christian mysticism" - viewing the "teachings" of Jesus as literally "the living word" and a path for a personal and profound connection to "God" (which is what I believe he was teaching all along - before the "church" co-opted - the man & then, set about to commandeer and misrepresent his teachings in order to direct the masses to "join" and willingly uphold the newly formed power structure of "organized religion." Dogma and "intellectualizing" these teachings has rendered much of it's transformational power benign (but my experience is this is a matter of practice - no shortfall on the teachings.

I have sat in Buddhist meditations and retreats and in talking circles around the fire, sat alone on the mountaintop - I have on more than one occasion had fascinating conversations with some of the local street corner evangelists (some representing a particular group - others representing a raw, authentic brand of humanity that is hour by hour, a dance that is far closer to the realities of life and death than the likes of me typically experiences). Society looks down it's collective nose at some of these folks when they could have the vision of living saints - talk about misuse of resources!!
In Ireland I sat in ancient stone circles and visited sacred sites - awakening me to the call of my ancestors. Through the Balkan countries I visited a wide variety of churches, cathedrals and even had the chance to attend a prayer session in the Mosque in Sarajevo. Again I sat on the mountain top - alone for the night on "Apparition Hill" in Medjugorje, Bosnia (where pilgrimages continue to this day to connect with Mother Mary) and kneeled at the tombs of St. Francis and Saint Clare in Assisi, Italy (though it is not my intention to take away from the beliefs and reverence bestowed upon them by the Catholic faith  - I personally don't believe they have the monopoly on them, their teaching or their energies now that they are in the spirit realm - I personally had profound experiences at these sites.

I also took the opportunity to view the splendor and grandeur of Vatican City. My personal experience connecting to all of these holy places is that the energy of reverence, worship, sacredness is present throughout (in some cases that was all I could connect with as the "sermon" was in different languages none of which I understood. Why then can't (won't) people connect at that level and forget the differences?

It is this heart connection that I believe many (if not all the faith paths) describe - obviously that connection is frequently lost while different groups quibble, debate and wage wars over the particular strategy they follow.

I know in my heart exclusivity is not the way - I don't believe that the love that is espoused throughout the spiritual paths of the world, is well embodied by those that practice alienation.  I understand fear, greed and the desire for power (I also know of the illusory nature of all of these and the havoc it reeked in my life - my life is just a microcosm of the whole) in fact I have in various ways contributed to the state of the world (if only through my inaction) and various levels of unconscious living.

Personal crisis (which I believe is always "spiritual" in nature) changed my life trajectory (actually first it saved my life) and continues to do so - "does a leopard change its spots?" Yes, absolutely and completely (at least I can speak for myself) given I know I'm really no different than anyone else I know transformation is available for all those that choose it and therefore humanity as a whole. The ways and means that individuals and groups choose to seek this transformation should not matter. Love is all that matters - if you buy a cake mix from the store it doesn't matter if it's Duncan Heinz or Betty Crocker either will yield a cake. Are you going to refuse dessert at your neighbors house because you disagree with their choice of mix?

Most of the "major" religious paths have a version of "Love your neighbour as yourself" when then, will it start?

Friday, 1 November 2013

Best Served Fresh

Despite eyes I do not see
Beholding the skeletal form of your absence
Acutely I am aware of the vibrancy of your presence
Clambering through minds catacombs
Yearning hands grasp at wispy threads
Heart pleading with memory
To afford one more embrace

How many moments were spent
A wash in waves of blissful ecstasy
So clear and complete was love’s visitations
Soul launched upon a quantum journey
Did fearful self-interest bind a tongue?
That a bridge was crossed
Leaving behind only a shroud of silence?

Does vocabulary and diction exist?
To capture the thousands of love nuances
Dangling upon the vine
Fruit once ripe for shared expression
Best not left to wither in the sun!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Read Between the Lines

In my life it seems I have replaced the idea of right of way with, "Write the way." Does that mean I'm suggesting that which I lay in front of you in print, represents the true path - no. It's more like for me I write my way to healing and consequently I heal my way to write. Nothing I suppose unique or exclusive about the catharsis I experience through writing - the gift being, that my inner terrain becomes visible, where it can be visited by others and even by myself, sometimes for the first time.

Of course as the reader, anyone has the "right" to embrace or dismiss whatever it is I say - there is a vast universe of infinite possibility between my way & the highway. As I write I express what is currently there for me - I suppose the "danger" with insights, perspectives & intuitive supposition becoming finite upon the page, is that once suspended and rendered inanimate, the view conveyed may no longer represent my current consciousness and therefore be quoted out of context. In truth I don't even want to become dogmatic about my own viewpoint - therefore if one accepts the organic evolution that we all are undergoing - my words on a page are much like a snapshot. It captures a moment - no guarantee that returning there would yield the same picture- in fact more likely it will not.

Different facets of myself are expressed through writing - even to the point of some reflecting to me that they appreciate elements of my written voice that might not be aired in spoken conversation. I have to let go of a concern for "understanding" the machinations of my writing. In fact my critical/analytical mind at times is a hindrance to what "wants" to be said. If a connection is "allowed" between hands and keyboard without censorship then the vast mosaic that has been my life becomes accessible and can in turn become the palette utilized to "paint" with words my story.

I don't know how it works for others - I presume a vast store of wisdom and intelligence which is universally available then accessed and expressed differently by each person. For me writing has presented (later in my life I might add) as a portal and vehicle of expression. Often hands to keyboard is a bit like a key inserted into a lock, the tumblers all roll into place and the door opens. Ideas - past events and information come flooding forward (seemingly from nowhere) each finds its place in the weave as an element being utilized to tell the story (even if in and of themselves they were not part of the context of this story they serve a purpose). How does this all take place - I haven't the foggiest idea and believe me I have a mind that "wants to know." It's quite like being written - I fancy that as I become a more clear channel, that which I write might well be less influenced by me and perhaps be more "inspired" in content. Largely I know no other way to clear the channel than to write. One day I might even write something particularly significant.

What is truly significant at present, is that I both write and present my writing where it will be read. I intend to grow that in scope and exposure. It is intriguing to me that it is occurring - given I didn't "train" for it, didn't grow up aspiring toward it (though I did read quite a bit - more or less always have). The lack of formal training isn't even the most baffling aspect, if it were to be considered that much of my life I thought I was content to fly below the radar. I didn't let much of myself be known (even when I was behaving in ways that weren't particularly inconspicuous I would have shrunk considerably if I realized I was being seen). Now I recognize that there is very little value (from my perspective) of my just writing for the sake of writing if it is not going to be shared, therefore, I can't remain invisible. Even still I would say it is more now about being of service, using my gifts to their best possible potential and standing up and contributing - not so much "being seen."Just the same I must acknowledge how so much has changed to make any of this possible.

I suppose my point  is that not only can it be said, that "things are not as they seem" I would say that there is so much more to know about oneself  (and of course about other people). I urge anyone to look deeply within themselves - do not remained resigned that you know all there is to know of yourself. "The die is cast - it's cast in stone," it's just not true! Indeed you could make it true if you so choose but, if you even have a sliver of curiosity - some little I wonder if, pounce on it and follow that thread where ever it might lead. You may well be very surprised! The path you started on might not be the path you continue on (I mean I suppose it could all be seen as "the path") still very radical changes are possible along the way - if one can work on developing an increased capacity for change and the unfamiliar. (I'll be the first one to grant that isn't easy - but it can also be taken on in bite size pieces and made more manageable). Huge all encompassing change isn't necessary (unless it is).

I could write the book on stagnation, resignation, frustration and mediocrity - I could also say a thing or two about these not being the cards I was dealt. It was more the way I chose to play the cards. I am infinitely blessed to have had multiple crisis in my life - that shook me to my core and created an appetite for truth and meaning. Ever since then it has been very real - it has been mind-blowing, excruciatingly painful, blissful, joyful, exhilarating, intriguing, perplexing, frustrating - never has it been dull, I wouldn't trade this ride for anything and it's not over by a long shot!!

Lend Me Your Hands

"Oh yeah I'll tell you something,
I think you'll understand,
Then I'll say that something,
I want to hold your hand."

Lennon & McCartney wrote those seemingly simple words 50 years ago - my question all these years later, is why aren't more people holding hands?
I have been considering the nuances of that most basic, but powerful means of communication and connection.

So much can be said through what it seems, is a near forgotten means of human interaction (without anyone uttering a word). I am mystified by the power of one hand held by another (strength, connection, tenderness, support, healing, leading, yielding, surrender, reaching out, giving, receiving, humility, caring, compassion) all conveyed through this simple act.

What can be said of the act of holding hands? Well to begin with it can't be done alone. It seems to me it is a most profound reminder of our common humanity. It just plain feels so good! Have you ever really stopped to realize the power, the privilege, the pleasure of one hand in another? Maybe if more people considered it more often, they might be remiss to let go. The surety, softness, certainty, sensuality, love, acceptance, compassion, reassurance that is possible from one hand to another.

Imagine politicians in a circle holding hands during "debates" - business deals done while holding hands, couples, families and neighbors discussing their "differences" while holding hands - the same with international negotiations - is it possible hearts might remain engaged more completely during these interactions, if hands were connected throughout? How could talks break down to animosity, self-interest or other forms of violence and abuse if hands remained connected?

In a day and age when media of all forms clouds the minds of the masses with imagery of explicit sexuality(so often confused with "love") one could get the impression that hand-holding is lost with the innocence of a childhood long forgotten. It might be considered naive of me to uphold what might be seen by some as a childhood act.

If one were to consider what's at stake when the hand they once held - is no longer there to hold (even intermittently) then becoming present to the longing, the mental gymnastics employed in an attempt to conjure the image of the last time those two hands met: recalling the warmth, the pleasure, the immediacy, the true significance might become more apparent. If it were nothing - it would mean nothing when it was gone. That in it's absence, it's presence is so alive, it becomes apparent that perhaps it should be given more importance and reverence.

Hands, effective implements of love or war. Is it that much more difficult to reach out a hand in love and support than it is to raise a fist in anger? Why can it seem as though love is in such short supply? If the idea can be embraced that I individually, am a microcosm of humanity, then I can offer a perspective than could be expanded. My experience is that love is not at all a finite energy - it is in fact infinite. I on the other hand have often been the hairball in the pipe (not a flattering analogy I'll grant you, but I mean myself no harm - simply a metaphor for the greater good). There is a direct correlation between my willingness to express love and my experience of it. (In fact it's probably more accurately, exponential but as I can't express that in exact terms, I'll let stand, the direct relationship). My stinginess, fear, unwillingness to express love in various circumstances in my life all contributed to the perception of a lack of love in my life and correspondingly a reduction of love expressed in the world. If my personal analogy was considered over the billions of people on the planet, a significant shift in the expression of love (one way or the other) could be experienced.

Of the myriad of ways to express love it could be said "hands down" hands are a most versatile tool for doing just that.  There is too much divisiveness, to hold hands reminds me of our interconnectedness (that at the end of my hand is you - what I do affects more than just me). Lend a hand, give a pat on the back, if a hand is out - at least shake it (a moment of love and acknowledgement might go a very long way). There is too much separateness - I believe we have been given this physical form at least in part, to get beyond our physicality, to where we all connect. One pathway is through one hand in another.

Perhaps through writing or music or painting or gardening or cooking the hands can be expressing love. Many are quick to dismiss the lyrics penned by the "Beatles" as being too simplistic - surely our complex human issues require equal complex solutions? Then again maybe just as simply as hand fits glove - "love is all we need!"

Saturday, 26 October 2013

What's the Story?

A lone human hair stretches across the chilled expanse of linoleum
Forensics could identify the source follicle
Still despite self-endowed sophistication
They might well miss the story

Could they see the endless expanse of a starlit sky?
Heavenly constellations reflected and mirrored
Upon the shimmering lake surface
Conjuring a momentary wonder - which then is the source?

What could been seen of timeless walks upon the beach
A hand held in kind – volumes, expressed in varied grip
Heartbeats and respirations echoed
Upon the wind song  & surf kissing the shoreline

Could they know of an embrace so profound?
A portal to the divine presented
Hearts coaxed to open
Through love’s healing waves – torrents of tears & soul cleansing laughter

A single solitary strand of hair
Held within, multi-faceted collections of truth
Requisite willingness of storyteller & listener
Might then yield mystery revealed or perhaps just lax housekeeping.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

An Inconvenient Truth

After spending what was a productive afternoon writing, I decided that I was both ready for some movement and fresh air. It so happened that the afternoon offered a sunny respite from what had been two days of nearly none stop rain (and accompanying high winds). The weather had been conducive to hunkering down to read some good books and to continue the process of what I hope, will yield a good book of my own creation.

It was a gorgeous early autumn afternoon, the sunlight was providing a warm glow to the seasonal decor upon the trees lining the streets. The roadways and sidewalks were also littered with the aftermath of the stormy weather.

The fifteen minute walk to the municipal golf course was the perfect warm up - now that I had arrived at the perimeter chip-trail I was prepared for a light run. The view that welcomed me was particularly stunning. The still wet slopes of the fairway shimmered in the sunlight. The grass, was now so green the vitality was palpable. Even before my cadence increased, a conversation, an exchange of life force began and I already began to feel my own energy level rising.

I made my way along the trail taking in the sights of the adjacent gardens now beginning to dress down after a dazzling parade of summer finery.  As is frequently the case, my epic natural world runs are sound-tracked by random music from my iPod. The arbitrary selection of music perhaps more so confirmed, as the "seasonally inappropriate" "Auld Lang Syne" commences, beginning with a single violin playing the melody, soon accompanied by a full wind and brass section, culminating in the full military band treatment as it is rounded out with bagpipes and snare drums.

The song reaches deep inside my soul and wrings forth emotion which both takes me by surprise and is particularly inconvenient, as I'm not entirely sure whether I'm prepared to share this experience with others on the trail.

I grew up listening to military band music - my dad was a musician in the Naden band.  When younger, I had been to innumerable concerts, parades, "sunset ceremonies" and a large military "Tattoo" held in Victoria back in 1967. I suppose to this day I am conflicted by my identifying with peace and the pursuit of such practices as "Non-violent Communications" and some deep connection with the music of the military (which on other levels represents war, conflict and strife in the world to me). On the one hand the precision, order and pageantry is alluring, conversely, I am enraged when I think of the control, loss of autonomy and hiearchy.

I have always particularly enjoyed the Scottish pipe bands - without ever knowing why. After all I was born and raised in Victoria, Canada (albeit adopted and for years disconnected, in terms of my ancestry), but there seemed to be no "reason" for an affinity for this music.

In more recent history I have come to know that my "biological father" was of Irish ancestry. Maybe all these years the "Celt" in my soul was awakened by the call of the pipes. (As in: "Hark, hark, the night is falling Hear, hear the pipes are calling") I remember singing that as a kid - I don't even remember where I got wind of the lyrics). Yes, I realize  that's "Scotland the Brave" - still I'm sure far enough back into Celtic history, there would be a connection (if nowhere else I'm telling ya, it's in my DNA!)

Carrying on with my run, the haunting refrain of the pipes continuing to stir my emotions,  I come around the corner of the trail and the view stops me in my tracks. One of the staples of my journey around that course, an elder in the Garry Oak community, is lying across the fairway. I had known it had been "windy" over that past couple days - but I had no idea the winds were of this magnitude!

This was no sapling - and yet there it lay, no longer the sentinel for that quadrant of the trail. A quick assessment allowed me to conclude that it had been laying across the trail, as now portions of its severed canopy lay in the brambles on one side - while the behemoth bulk, of it remaining lifeless form lay on the other. I approached closer and examined the gaping maw torn in the fairway which once was the shaded base of it's towering presence. It appears the whole trunk of the tree was rotten which likely means in relative terms, it was felled "easily" though of course it was still subject to a formidable force.

I was saddened at the sight (and loss) of this gentle giant - some of the highlights of my travel around the course are the greetings given and received by the "tree spirits"- which delineate and offer passage through the various worlds, through which the trail travels.

The oak tree figure prominently in the nature based spirituality of my ancestors - I spent considerable time as a boy in the canopy of the Garry oak in the front yard of my home. A line from "Auld Lang Syne" stirs in my memory: "We'll drink a cup of kindness yet for Auld Lang Syne." (which a "Google search" informs me translates to) "FOR TIMES GONE BY."

As I consider this - I can't say that I have absolute clarity - but I do have a sense of the "finger pointing at the moon."
It's an inconvenient truth that I am moved to tears at a public venue for seemingly no reason. It's an inconvenient truth that within my heart, I have held both love and contempt for my father (as a boy growing up). It's certainly the height of inconvenience that I have rebelled against order, discipline, precision and railed against the military, citing them as being responsible for the violence and oppression in the world, rather than examine my own heart. I even find myself in a quandary as I sit at one of the remaining vestiges from my marriage, an oak dining room table and chairs (a wedding gift from my parents) and wonder how I reconcile my love of nature - reverence for the oaks and yet another inconvenient truth, that one was felled intentionally, in order to fabricate my table.

I don't believe in coincidence - though the elements of my tale cross multiple cultures, points in history, philosophies and even dimensions, they all converge in my heart - indeed the "Pipes are calling" they are calling across time and space, they are calling for truth and reconciliation - to usher in a lasting peace. They are inviting an end to my heart as a battlefield - waging war on illusory enemies - harbouring conflicts and resentments.

I hear the pipes cry carried upon the wind - "the mighty oak" stood against and was felled, your heart was meant to carry the song of love, not a battle cry - lay down your weapons, the war is over!"


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Chapter 36

Day 36

As I walk the labyrinth today my participation in a Christmas choir performance comes to mind. One of the songs involves four-part harmony and as it turns out I am the only tenor voice in the group. As we have been rehearsing and I am learning my part, I am aware of the challenges of holding to my melodic line. I notice how easy it is to get drawn into what the others are singing around me. Now if the objective were to sing in unison it would sound fine, all would join in on the same melody. However the intention is to achieve the vocal tapestry of the blend of the four parts that creates something greater than it’s individual parts. Which means each subgroup (and in my case – me) must hold to their own line for the harmony to be produced.
The point of this story is what I recognize as I consider elements of the analogy in my own life. All this introspection and self-discovery are great to a point but only if what is uncovered is then brought forward into the world to make a difference in my life and the lives of others. There are parallels to the choir story. There can be a great deal of pressure (from within and without) to be like everyone else – in other words, to all sing the same melody. I believe what is intended is that each discover their own part (and then begin by living in harmony with that) and then continue to hold one’s own melodic line (path) even when subject to the influence of the distinctly different lines of those around you. I think the key (pun intended) for me is my line might be dissonant (which doesn’t mean it’s wrong) still I seek to dance in relative harmony – there is no need to clobber those around me with my drumstick – rather I continue to focus to my own beat.
The choir of humanity has been created with a wide range of diversity – does it really make any sense that this diversity should be reduced to uniformity?  I believe the diverse voices combined would produce a divine harmony –by maximizing the power and strength of the diversity, not eliminating it. The tenors don’t look at the sopranos and say “either you sing like us or get out – no, it is critical that each know their own part and stand in it – but, no one part, is more important than the whole!

Day 36 Questions
(intended as guides for possible introspection)
1) How far should “each to their own” be allowed to go?
2) Is there a need to impose limitations on diversity?
3) Do you see the beauty of diversity or see it as threat?
4) Do you think “others” should be more like “us?”
5) Is conformity necessary for harmony?
6) If you are conforming to the environment outside you – what effect does this have on your inner harmony?
7) Does your inner harmony matter?
8) When traveling do you seek experiences unique to the area or do you look for a resort or chain franchise with “home cooking?”
9) “Globalization” what has it’s impact been around the world?
10) Are your unique gifts and talents being realized and appreciated in your life?
11) Do you appreciate the unique gifts and talents of others?
12) How does an over emphasis on competition impact cooperation/collaboration?
13) What is being “won” if doing so is at others expense?
14) Is it necessary to have someone lose – what of solutions that benefit everyone?
15)What challenges present to you when following your path?
16)Can you hold to your intention when others disagree with you?
17)Can you stay true to yourself with out behaving in a disagreeable manner toward others?
18)Do you look for a place where diversity can find harmony or focus entirely on the differences?
19)Was humanity created with so many differences only to become homogenized?
20)Do you need to give up your truth in order to harmonize with someone else?

Sample Answers (Author’s experience)
Well I can certainly attest to being aware of the challenges of being myself, in a world that seems to be intent on defining what that would look like. Certainly I’m not alone in this, nor is this something that I can address once and for all.  After all, it evolves a lifetime of discovering who I am and determining at any given time, to which of my values, will I give priority focus and attention.
Many variables influence and impact the choices I make and how I present myself. Certainly how I feel about myself figures very prominently in how I go about carrying myself in the world. There would also seem to be very little value in comparing myself to others – being more like someone else cannot result in the inner harmony I speak of. Which is not to say that for example if I desire a similar lifestyle as someone else I couldn’t attain that – I would though, want to go about achieving that in alignment with who I am, not necessarily try and follow their footsteps.
I really do value inclusion – might be as a result of feeling excluded and disconnected at previous times in my life. I have also had to examine my own judgment and criticisms and discover that I was exclusionary in my attitudes toward various groups of people, for example wealthy people and politicians. A closer look revealed I was envious of those with wealth, they had something I wanted and believing at some level that it was unattainable for me – I made them wrong and money wrong and myself out to be more virtuous for not having or wanting wealth. I might add that this line of thinking made me highly successful at repelling money (doubtful I’ll ever hit the talk show circuit speaking on that subject). As for politicians, if I disagreed with their policies, well then they were vilified, pretty simply, my way or the highway. In truth it was more about my feeling powerless to bring the sorts of things into my life, into the world that I value. I might add I wasn’t doing much about making this happen in even the smallest way – so what better target for my angst (and not a very imaginative one at that) I made the political system my scapegoat.
So I speak of inclusion while I practice exclusion. I harp about principles, all the while exercising rationalizations and justifications that only serve to reinforce my current actions and inactions. Does this seem in anyway a path to harmony?

The discovery of it, most certainly has been a vital part of coming to know more my authentic self, which I realize now, is a more assured path to harmony, provided I live it. As long as I continued to live from falsity, harmony will continue to be elusive as I would continually be out of alignment with myself.
I have come to discover the sacredness of my own heart and path, through the walking of the labyrinth – the heart and journey of others is no less sacred. The challenge for me is to create the consciousness that can hold space for both. One that seeks understanding in the face of differences, that neither surrenders my truth but also doesn’t demand of others, that they relinquish theirs.
I know this is possible I have seen it work in my day-to-day relating. Perhaps this could be said to be on a world scale, benign and insignificant. I submit that in a life that was exemplified by disconnection and disharmony, the realization of inclusion, connection and harmony is a profound shift. The ripple effect of this alone will have widespread implications and is therefore highly significant.
I can assure you that the world continually changes as I change my view of myself and not just myself on it, but myself as part of it.