Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Grounded Ascent

I find myself (rather suddenly) in what might be described as a rite of passage - while away for 3 months both parents were hospitalized my mother passed and my father has now been admitted to extended care with dementia. I now find myself participating in the preparation of their home (the house I grew up in) to be sold. I see this as a sacred undertaking - ripe with opportunity for healing and transformation and therefore I am walking through this process with honouring and reverence.

I resume the crafting of this blog post after returning to what previously was two pages, reduced now to the opening paragraph. I specifically remember "saving" more than once, however, I must admit I don't know all the intricacies of this an online medium. So after wrestling with indignation over my lost work and ushering a reluctant peace with the unlikelihood of reproducing the previous content - I am left with the conclusion that perhaps the Universe was calling for a rewrite and the synchronicity of the need to let go of outcome, embrace again and more deeply impermanence perhaps can be no better demonstrated to me than to experience losing all the previously written material discussing aspects of that very thing.

I have asked to be the vessel through which creation itself flows and expresses - as this journey continues I am reckoning with that part or parts of myself that stand in the way: of "being written." Those attention seeking, accolade yearning, won't you please notice me and tell me of my greatness aspects that can mold what is written and become more about image management than truth. What if I were to just be greatness and express as though it was true, as though greatness and I were one and the same. I can tell you in this very moment I am moved to tears with the even brief embodiment of this. It's as though some part of me is over the moon with jubilation - exalting "I wondered when it would be that you would decide to allow yourself to be seen, first and foremost to yourself and then to express the unadulterated truth that is you."

I can say that I have a general sense that my writing will profoundly change. Gone would be the underlying approval seeking that feeds the drive to be entertaining. The self satisfaction of mental gymnastics could then be replaced with directness and authenticity. Self-censoring and an over-zealous concern for political correctness will give way to allowing what is coming through my heart, a voice.

Back now then, to the rite of passage which lies directly in front of me. The first time I walked into my family home it already began for me to have an otherness about it. Everything was as it would be had my parents just gone "out" for the afternoon, there was however already a disembodied presence about it. What had been my home was already undergoing the transformation into "a house." My eyes swept the front room and came to rest upon the chair which was where my mom regularly sat when she wasn't in the kitchen. The chair was still adorned with the crocheted throw rug, folded over the arm was a blanket that she increasingly relied upon for warmth as her declining health insisted on escalating inactivity. The chair was a daunting presence in it's emptiness - I was overcome with emotion as the permanence began to take up residence within me, rather than just visit. As I said I was out of town during her passing. I actually spoke to her on the phone on the day that she made her transition. I did my utmost to say everything that had been left unsaid. Gone were my life long stories I am grateful for some rare emotional honesty in my relating to her and being afforded this last "conversation." I didn't know at the time she would pass hours later, but at the same time recognized the absoluteness held within the statement, "if not now - when?"

Still the emptiness of the chair, coupled with the absence of my dad - now residing in an extended care facility, admitted with the onset of dementia, drove home the stark reality that I knew so very little about both my parents as people and I was now likely to know very little more. What a stew of emotions presenting, grateful for the healing work I have undertaken, the truth and reconciliation process involving my family, while at the same time grief for the present loss, unexpressed regret and remorse for years spent in disconnect. Though I never considered the idea that I would assume "ownership" of this house - I never really considered the impact of no longer having access.  I have never left Victoria as a place of residence and visited this house quite frequently - nothing thus far had animated the energies and memories of all the years spent living there like now being there alone with all of it.

I began the process of preparing the house to be listed by attending to the yard. I had taken on the care of the garden beds and lawns the year previous - so what was required was a post-winter cleanup. The yard and gardens were once kept pristine. The once large vegetable garden had been seeded and had become lawn. Evidence of my dad's increasing needs for order and ease had the perimeter garden beds covered with landscaping paper and white "ornamental rock" regular spaced concrete slabs then displayed potted plants. Nature was in the process of reclaiming these attempts at control and repression - numerous large weeds were now growing right through the landscaping paper. I reflected on the futility of trying to claim dominion over nature and felt for myself some sense of ease as I knew that finally this year - the weeds and unwanted growth would not be subject to the frontal attack of my dad "the round-up terminator." Equally futile was my trying to impress upon him the toxicity of the products he so freely welcomed in his arsenal.

I knelt below the imposing presence of the massive Garry Oak tree that is on their front lawn. It wasn't long ago that my dad showed me an old picture of the property about the time they first purchased it - fifty odd years ago, the tree was a virtual sapling at that time. During my youth I spent many hours perched high in the canopy of that tree which was roughly the height of the lower hydro lines. Still from that vantage point I felt as though I could see the entire world, the tree was a companion to me, most certainly a place of refuge. It now towered over the highest wires and filled the yard. There was no love loss between my dad and that tree - he hated it! He tried unsuccessfully to get the municipality to cut it down. Every year he would lament the workload "it" created - particularly in autumn when then leaves and acorns fell and high winds littered the front lawn and with twigs and debris from the tree. Eventually the combination of his decreased stamina and increased angst toward the municipality and "their tree" his battle cry became "the hell with them - it's on municipal property let them come and clean up after it."

Meanwhile I'm on my knees which is frequently the case with gardening, I realized that allows for frequent and ongoing prayers which seemed to me to be a necessary inclusion in my process and a right and true reflection of my relationship to nature. From that vantage point I could feel deeply my connection to nature and see all around me, in and through me, life expressing. I know very little about astrology I do know my birth sign to be Virgo and earth sign, I certainly can vouch for it being deeply "grounding" upon my knees upon the ground. The embrace of the great earth mother was palpable as I freely allowed my emotions to present themselves. In no particular order there was shock, awe, grief/loss, regret, gratitude, rage, bewilderment, fear, freedom, hope and curiosity. It was deeply moving and fully engaging this working with the land - there were moments of joy and satisfaction, it was very fulfilling to be of service, to care and nurture the earth and in doing so seemingly receiving the same nurturing for myself.

It is a fairly recent awareness for me to come to know of my "Celtic" ancestry, though only vague in scope I am aware that oak trees hold a place of reverence and prominence in the "old teachings" of my ancestry - so as a child I seemingly knew of this kinship without "knowing." It occurred to me that it was an honour to be of service to the tree - I spoke directly to the tree and asked that it impart on me the wisdom it embodies. I was reminded that nature cares not about manicured lawns - which of course were introduced well after the tree had been established. Though seemingly alone, this tree was in fact connected to others of it's kind located in yards up the block. These remaining sentinels held the history of a Garry oak meadow that was encroached upon to become this subdivision. Nature had no quarrel with humans - though humans have spent and continue to spend excessive energy attempting to demonstrate their superiority.

I will say that as my connection and reverence for nature have become awakened I have found the portal through which I can gain relief from the incessant illusion and mistaken belief that I am disconnected. Nature has demonstrated for me my true nature where that is concerned - we are indeed one. I felt the truth of this as I knelt below the mighty oak - my heart swelled with gratitude and my emotions now conveyed and produced tears of joy as I felt held and comforted in my aloneness, sadness and loss.

While still on my knees and cleaning out a small garden bed containing an azalea beginning to bloom I discovered a small oak tree which had begun to grow from one of the fallen acorns. I knew instantaneously that I was being gifted with a direct ancestor from the tree of my youth. I carefully dug around it in order to preserve all of it's life sustaining roots and transplanted it into a pot. The small tree is now on the balcony of my condo and has grown already. I will allow it to teach me how to best continue to nurture it, I will remain open to it's teachings while it's in my company and feel confident I will know when the time comes what the future holds for this young tree. Not much thought went into the collection and transplanting of this small tree - the "idea" was immediate and I followed through without question. This relationship represents that which I have felt has been missing for me most of my life a connection with and knowing of my ancestry. It occurs to me that though I may have had know intellectual knowledge of this heritage life itself and the powers present in this heritage have pushed and pulled throughout my life in order that we meet face to face when the time was right. "Children of the oak" the idea has presented to me since bring the young tree home or perhaps more accurately the young tree is bringing me home. I don't know what that phrase means, since it's arrival I swim in delight as I consider the possibility that it calls to me with a resonance eons old. Perhaps it means nothing to anyone else, that doesn't actually matter, it's not a phrase that has been part of my consciousness previously and yet now it presents. Could be that it might have meaning to me and me only - thank you to the unseen yet every present creative intelligence that has shown up in my life to impress upon me something new or old, either way, new to me. What is the place in a "modern world" for the teaching of "old" are they lost for ever due to not being written down? I suggest much that has been deemed progress is largely only on one plane of existence and while not entirely inherently bad, a myopic framework cannot possibly consider the "whole." Nature constantly demonstrates the very "nature" of symbiotic relationships - though humans innately are subject to the same laws of homeostasis they are consistently ignored - though they are the very nature of our existence. These are not laws imbued with human egoic qualities such as "justice" read vengeance, self-righteousness, capriciousness, punitive or petty still ignoring them does invite a equalizing response that is the very nature of the law it does so without judgment - plain and simple it is just the law being what the law is. I believe nature continually reflects this - humans can embrace it and align with it or choose to ignore it neither denies or affirms it's existence nor will it be "overcome." It can't be selectively applied or interacted with,  any more than to fully embrace an eagle is to be awestruck by the magnificence of it in flight and yet the perception of "cruelty" when witnessing the raw power and efficiency with which it kills it's prey, carries it off and devours it, as an rationalization to eradicate them. This is the full expression of nature through the unique representation of an eagle being completely what an eagle is. My judgment is not going to change that nor am I (nor thousands of my kind) going to change the laws of nature but just as if I could get close enough to an eagle to stick my finger in its face I could likely expect a nasty bite, perhaps the loss of finger so I suspect is the predictability of a tangible result in response to a more widespread ignoring of natures laws.

So think the "old" ways aren't about ignoring technical advancement but they would include a more mindful approach which considers the entire web of life versus arbitrary acceptable levels of collateral damage as long as financial gain can be demonstrated. I believe strongly they absolutely have relevance right now - I also don't believe they should have been abandoned entirely nor are they lost entirely because they weren't written down. They have seemingly been "lost" because they principals were no longer seen as a priority so the listening was abandoned. The "source" of the teaching is still alive and well, it's a bit like doing what is necessary to pick up the radio or cell phone signals, those frequencies are bouncing around out there all the time, but without the correct receiver there is no reception. It is not necessary to resume all cultural practices of ancient peoples but nor is it prudent to throw the baby out with the bath water and presume economic considerations will exclusively address the needs of the web of life - which includes us and that everything they knew and lived was backward and outdated.

I believe that my personal story and journey is about "clearing the channels" to become a better listener. It's about examining my relationships comprehensively and honestly, those with God, self and others. All my relationships can be reduced to how I relate to and within myself. Therefore this rite of passage involving my family is of paramount importance. It's no longer about blame, it's about taking full responsibility for how I carry myself in the world, the beliefs I hold, conscious and unconscious were first created by me in relationship to my family, nonetheless I created them - how I relate to the world and the people and all of life then, are projections of those beliefs.

There is so much "external static" and distraction that it can be very challenging to listen to what life is trying to say. It is further challenging to discern through the interference what is external & what is installed in me, the receiver. I believe nature/life itself provides the mechanism through which we each can tune in more clearly and once we reach and familiarize ourselves with our personal frequency - the hardware is installed, my current journey is about creating optimal conditions within for listening so that distortions no longer continue. I am grateful that my life teachers are infinitely wise and unconditionally loving - thankful today that conditions came about in my life that helped me recognize my own blindness. As the fog lifts I don't claim a constant state of humility but I am constantly humbled by the vast array of teachers that are right there once I can say "I don't know can you please show me?"

Friday, 18 April 2014

Knock First and Await an Invitation

I'm in the midst of writing one blog and now something more pressing seems to be presenting. I could claim to be upholding a vision and commitment to see the first piece through to completion. Alternatively I could practice a new allegiance to what is calling for expression, now. I have plenty of experience at dogmatically clinging to some notion or task, while it does get it done - it suddenly occurs to me that just because I expended considerable energy and demonstrate vast productivity doesn't mean it was expended on what might have been a more worthwhile pursuit.

So the matter at hand is sacred space. What is it? Why does it matter? Does it matter? To begin with your home could be seen as sacred space. Perhaps you think... it's just where I live. I'm here because it's close to the school my kids go to or it was in my price range. I like the view. All of these could be true it's just not the perspective I am focusing on at the moment.

As your home, it is the place that no matter what has gone on out there in the world you can return to your own personal oasis. It could be, I would strongly suggest that it is, a refuge. In that respect it can be a place of peace, restoration, an outward manifestation of your creativity. As such I would say the home should be treated with the reverence and respect afforded a sacred temple. It is or ought to be, the safe haven of its owner/occupier therefore it warrants an active relationship of honouring, gratitude and appreciation.

Just as there can be held an air of reverence and sacredness - it is possible for a space to fall into desecration. Now I know living is a full time job and I'm therefore not advocating a hyper-vigilance around cleaning. I'm also not suggesting the adopting an energy of "should" or obligatory observance. I am coming to know for myself that the state of my living space has an impact on me. I haven't studied Feng shui - but I can experience the difference between disorder and clutter and clear space, simplicity and space for energy to flow. Currently my space is in disarray - I am in the process of clearing my parents home, for which there is a finite time frame and while I don't want everything that is over there I don't want to just get rid of everything without some due consideration because of the dictates of a deadline. Consequently my space is becoming cluttered. My intention is that this is a temporary state of upheaval, just the same while in it, I can observe the interplay and impact of what I think I want and or need, what I think I "might use someday" and what the invasion of this stuff does to the previous tranquility of my sacred space. Of course it must be duly noted that I am visiting the desecration upon myself in this instance. I mean this to be a completely non-judgmental observation - which can become a useful tool for ongoing mindfulness with respect to honouring what I specifically need to uphold the sanctity of what I hold sacred and my responsibility to do so.

Beyond the "brick and mortar" sacred space I would further suggest that there is a place that each of us spends even more time - that place of course is in our own body and being. No matter whether at home, work or traveling abroad we each reside within our body and live from the entirety of our being. Truly what could be more sacred than this vessel? Yet for a myriad of "reasons" how swiftly and insidiously can the sacred temple be allowed to slip into disrepair and under go desecration.

I am not an expert on thoughts and attitudes and their subsequent affect on overall wellness and vitality so I have nothing conclusive to say on the matter. I will say that I believe it unquestionably has an impact, so I believe there is value in the consideration of such ideas as "if you wouldn't let someone speak to a friend of yours in a derogatory and demeaning way - why would you speak and/or harbour such energy toward yourself?" I will leave that to each to examine for themselves.

I am suggesting that just as there is likely someone that is charged with the care and maintenance of some of the world's sacred holy temples - so it is for each of us, we are "in charge" of upholding the sanctity and the space within. This body houses my heart and soul as such it is indeed a rather significant vessel. It also makes possible anywhere I care to bring it - the outward manifestation and expression of divine qualites such as creativity, love, compassion, healing and being of service - to name a few.

It might be required for example to remove your shoes before entering some sacred places of worship, not an uncommon show of respect for the home of another as well, which as already discussed, is a sacred space. I submit that I lay a welcome mat at the entrance to my sacred space but no one be allowed to come stomping in wearing their dirty boots and then walk all over my altar. Absolutely not! Just as in the story of the master teacher Jesus in the temple - the desecrators in no uncertain terms, are asked to leave. Whether that actually occurred I know not - however the teaching within the story is of value to me. Take your shoes off, come join me in celebration of life and worship of the sacred at my altar. You are welcome while you come and uphold the intention of being here in an honouring way. If it is your intention to come and violate the sacred space, a reminder will be issued, if you don't wish to or can't align with this intention, then you will be asked to leave. This doesn't necessarily mean the door then, is permanently closed - it would depend on subsequent visits and willingness to observe the sacred.

The same reverence and respect could also be extended to how the sacred temple is nurtured in terms of good nutrition, some form of activity/exercise, proper rest, time spent in solitude (perhaps connecting to nature) prayer/meditation, keeping the mind active, ongoing learning and expansion.

What I am coming to realize is the walls of the temple will not come tumbling down, at least not immediately the moment neglect occurs. In fact they will often stand unwaveringly for years but there is a cost in the form of erosion of the integral structures and the quality of continuation is compromised. Though as I have suggested the stewardship of each of our sacred temples is a personal responsibility my experience is that the integrity of my temple is impacted positively or negatively by the quality of reverence, love and respect I offer at the altar of the temple of others as well.

This is not my version of "Sermon on the Mount" in other words I am seeing, the "log in my eye" presently, rather than just the sliver of wood in the eyes of those around me. In other words, the answer to the question: do I always take my shoes off before entering the temple belonging to others? is no, I do not. I sometimes think I know what is required to enter that temple and therefore walk right in. I haven't always understood the observances when they have been requested of me or am entirely ignorant of them to begin with - rather than ask, I have made assumptions and taken liberties or disregarded and therefore disrespected, what another holds sacred and have undeniably desecrated their altar.

I cannot presume a revolving door at all of these temples my lessons could and have been at times, ushered in with "access denied." It is for these reasons that I must further learn to humble myself at the door and pray that I remain so once inside. I must drop the assumptions and any pretense that I know. The richness and plenitude that is available cannot be demanded nor known in advance. I must present with an empty vessel and an attitude of allowing and then wait and see what is offered. Far too often I have been "the bull in the china shop."Pride, arrogance and self righteousness combine to produce a formidable wrecking ball. I have experienced the gifts that are made available through sensitivity, patience, kindness, openness and a true intention to connect and understand, they are exquisite, priceless and beyond compare.

The bottom line is I must go about the continued weeding of my own garden, acquire a good stiff broom and continue to sweep every nook and cranny of my temple. When I recognize fully the effort and importance of the work I do upon my own temple, when I experience the full impact of what desecration brings about, I won't just be a consumer of the welcome extended to me at the temple door of others - I will "be welcome."

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Shifting Tides

The mist entombed bay all but obscures from view
Two ocean adventure ready vessels
Multiple mast and rigging - stretch skyward
A barely discernible rhythmic to & fro
Betrays the wash of the dancing current

 Proximity implied connection proves illusory
Two become one - as an anchor is weighed
An unseen force commandeering
A voyage to waters unknown

Inclimate weather renders the beach an embraceable desolation
The Mozart collection invites consulation
But instead becomes the melancholic usher
The scene conjures deafening aloneness
No apparent answers
Yields a decision
Allow the questions to become prayers

Great Spirit I ask the the falling rain
Wash over me
May it be accompanied by your light
Illuminating the places within me saddled in darkness
Go into all the places which seemingly reflect
The maw of an endless void
From the abyss of the deepest darkness within
Search out, make visible the hidden gold
The river of tears flows
Winding its way to the sea of humanity
I am but a drop in the river
This grief is not mine to carry alone
Though I must shoulder my rightful portion
Great Spirit
As I walk the labyrinthine path through my own heart
Deepen my compassion
Show me how I might become your instrument
Where ever I find upon the river banks
Lying scattered among the rocks - castaways
May I shine forth a beacon
That sifts away that which foreshadows
Revealing their connection from within their shattered state.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Peace Achieved Piece Meal

There was an expression in my home growing up (at least in hindsight I guess I remember it as being more prevalent then) it was known as "going to pieces" (I suppose it might have been a precusor or the flip-side representation of more historically recent notions like - "keeping it together" "getting it together," "getting ones shit together," and of course avoiding at all cost, the cataclysmic onset of "having a meltdown."

I don't recall anyone specifically saying "don't do it," however it was spoken of rather unfavourably and the only time anyone ever emoted in any fashion it was blamed on someone else (which never went well) so the peaceful path seemed to be to avoid the whole matter. I can remember for example being in kindergarten (which would have made me 4 or 5 years old) and tripping in the playground and ending up with abrasions all over the bridge of my nose. I did my utmost to avoid being seen in the room afterward - not wanting to draw attention to myself. A few years later I severely sprained my ankle in the field at school at lunch time and hobbled back into the classroom and sat through the entire afternoon without letting on what had happened or that I was in considerable pain - by the time I got picked up after school my ankle was grossly swollen and I was being admonished for "not speaking up and telling someone." (Here I thought I was very effectively embodying the ole "stiff upper lip" and certainly didn't "go to pieces" (beside the shredding of my ankle ligaments).

Certainly men don't have the monopoly on stoicism but there unquestionably has been no end of programming and consciousness shaping over the course of history that have done very little to promote the idea of men being more emotionally aware and conversant.  Of course on the flip-side increased awareness in general with respect to the effects of emotional repression on health and quality of life has more men seeking healing and freedom from old paradigms and belief systems - but progress seems slow at times (or maybe that's just me perceiving the world through my own progress on the journey to emotional fluency - which seems a slow evolution). To venture "out" beyond the facades of "personality" & social grooming to a place of vulnerability and authenticity is not easy. Fears around criticism, ridicule or outright condemnation can indeed make attractive, the seduction of illusory acceptance (the mistaken belief being "acceptance" comes from beyond ourselves.") The problem is that while connection to self (& others) is important "acceptance" gained through emotional dishonesty yields just the opposite - disconnection from self, relating based on this dishonesty and a perpetuation of the sense of loneliness and isolation.

Henry David Thoreau once said "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”Again, I suspect that may well be true for women as well. Though I maintain the prospect of becoming "emotionally available" presents unique challenges for men, not the least of which include role expectations and beliefs dogmatically upheld by both men and women around what it is to "be a man." (three little words that strike terror in my heart - obviously not the words themselves but the implication of how they impact my personal challenge with "being myself."

Returning to this idea of being "together" (which frankly is even upheld in some healing/personal development paths) the word itself implies that if it is desirable to be together (or seen to be) I must be broken before hand (not a model that I have come to believe in). Having said that a spiritual/healing journey that has brought me from deep emotional disconnection on what might be described as walk on a developmental continuum toward emotional honesty, awareness and authenticity has at time felt literally, like I am coming apart at the seams. (Which it would seem according to my experience and fairly extensive study with regard to "spiritual awakening" and "dark night of the soul" "heroes journey" can be expected) it would seem that in order to "come together" (perhaps quite radically a new) one must first seeming fall apart (or "go to pieces.") Leonard Cohen sings in his song "Anthem"- "there is a crack, there is a crack in everything - that's where the light comes in." Personally I wonder if that might not actually be - where the light shines out! (the light of personal truth and integrity).

What would prompt anyone to willingly take on such a journey? In my case it could be summed up by saying, it became more painful to stay inside the walls of repression and my defenses, than it was to venture out. (Though "out" has not always been a picnic either - albeit it can be said, it has definitely been a walk toward more honesty and "aliveness"). Are cataclysmic events in human lives necessary to have these awakenings and transformational experiences? At some level I think perhaps yes, otherwise what would create the crack in the armour that allows the light of realization in (or out). It has been said "nothing changes if nothing changes and that change is inevitable." So it's possible then, that my resistance to this change might well be more uncomfortable than the change itself. Are the events in each given life "predestined" to create these awakenings - I think not, however I do think each is born with unique gifts, talents and potentials which are pushing to be realized - so though "shit happens" (and it does so to everyone) an opportunity to realize these potentials is continually "offered" but not inevitably developed.

Consider the idea "in order to come to your senses you must go out of your mind." - Alan Watts
The merit of this certainly seems applicable here in the western world where rational thought and the mind are venerated. Qualities like intuition or perceptions beyond the five most commonly accepted external senses (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting) are often not given much credibility. Sensitivity is treated like a pathology, emotional honesty is often seen as weakness (bringing ways of being like passive aggression, sarcasm and various forms of verbal abuse into day to day communication where it is seem as being "normal." In this light being told "your out of your mind," could be seen as a positive thing.