Tag Archive | path

Trees and Dreams and Frames

MaineTreeRootsTrailReflections on songs and trees, dreams and frames …

I love this phrase in one of Carrie Newcomer’s songs: “I am the fool whose life’s been spent // between what’s said and what is meant.” I find it honest and humbling; that as a writer (or even simply in my vocal communications with others) I am seeking to convey the authentic me and, through that process of honesty, to recognize the other and honor their journey as well as my own. Whether the Other is human or more-than-human matters not; all are equal, vital, precious, for we all rely upon each other for  creating a vibrant — or tarnished — whole. The words can be perceived either as real reference or as metaphor, speaking of people or spirit, of Muse or Divine; they and we are interchangeable, depending upon each moment. A dream or a real moment?

When Newcomer sings the line, “There is a tree beyond this world // in whose ancient roots a song is curled,” I’m captivated by a deep knowing of this tree and song/story as both tangible and etheric. From the mythic Tree of Life beyond this world to the multiplicity of forest and woods harboring trees of mystery and diverse magnificence, that each tree has the potential to become ancient within its lifetime and containing the generational wisdom of all those who grew before it. When I next walk among the trees, will I see all the songs/stories nestled among the roots? Will they be whispering to me of what they’ve witnessed and experienced, the conversations they’ve heard of secrets because no one thought anyone was listening? Imagine if our world does exist upon an energetic template and that the “other world” is here in every moment? Imagine the energy flowing sweetly into feet, spine, heart as we hear the song of the universe?

Old dreams may not be meant to come true — perhaps they fulfilled their purpose by being unmet. Clinging to old dreams — the past is passed — doesn’t allow new ones to manifest. I write about old dreams, setting them free through stories, and thereby further my healing through knowing them on a deeper, higher level. People change; we all do, even if we resist seeing our change, because nothing remains the same. That’s a gift of hindsight. The one who desired the old dream is gone. Who is she now? Maybe parts of the dream remain the same, just as the innate nature of the person remains, but the composition has grown richer. It is a powerful experience to observe this, albeit scary at times.

The sand has shifted beneath us and as we rub the grit from the corners of our eyes, waking to the new day, our vision clears and our song is a fraction different, the breeze dances upon our skin with a fresh rhythm, and the taste of the orange peeking over the horizon is sweet again.

I slow down, ease up in chasing both day-dreams and night-dreams, opening instead like a flower that trusts this moment, knowing the dreams will reveal themselves to me when I cup my hands invitingly to catch them when they fall like mist-become-dew on delicate petals.

Being present does not necessarily mean one is to ignore the past or future but to be grateful for special days of remembrance and trust in plans for tomorrow. In another song of Newcomer’s, she sings to “frame my life by before and after.” Yet the frame is permeable and can be replaced or changed by the healing of our hearts so that what was tarnished is gleaming, what was chipped is mended, what was burnt is sanded and painted, what was deeply damaged is replaced with a new fragment from the gift of gratitude and forgiveness. We gather what has been scattered and create a charming, unique frame that shows our jagged journey to authenticity, love and wholeness … being a personal testimony to anyone who has been ashamed of their own raggedy, crooked frame.

The joy that is the background of my spiritual presence becomes more solid at the same time it is slipping away in the passage of this life, pouring through fingers that celebrate the river’s flow for what it is. The background of joy is the container for compassion and pleasure while holding just as much reverence for melancholy and death. This is the Divine within and surrounding me, holding my sadness and grief, transforming them when relevant into peace, happiness, and a little game of hopscotch being played by butterflies among the cosmos.

Thinness of Self

handleafveilbwI had lain in bed at dawn, savoring the taste of silence, appreciating the moment of dark quiet with Widget snuggled against my side and Phoenix curled at my feet. This was a moment of sweet peace, relaxing, breathing in the silence that would sustain me during the rest of the day. A short while later, when I took the dogs outside and we stepped into the dove-gray softness of liminal light, a small bat was flitting back and forth above my head quite near but silent. Gaia’s Grace was tangible.

There is a line that I love in A Book of Silence: “the thinness of my sense of self” (p.17). When I read this, I felt I became intimate with the book’s author, Sara Maitland. I’ve never met her and probably never will, but with this comment, I felt we were kindred spirits. She is writing of how difficult it is for her to sit in silent meditation with others because she is so aware of them it intrudes upon her own sense of silence.

I nearly squealed in recognition of this sensation of “thinness of self” because I experience this when even one other person is in the house with me. I usually considered this due to my personal insecurity, or perhaps embarrassment or discomfiture that I was somehow being “judged” and could feel the judgment oozing through even a closed door. However, I also usually experienced this at Kripalu — though to a milder degree — in group meditation, where it was highly unlikely that others were judging me since they, too, were meditators. Nevertheless, I was often feeling a disturbance of energy in the room rather than my own peaceful silence or the group silence. I simply am not at ease in group meditation. And this went against (which added to my feeling of being an “outsider”) the teachings of all the benefits of meditating in groups to assist with maintaining and encouraging spiritual focus and energy. Occasionally, the meditation was long enough I could reach my own silent center and personal sacred space of nothingness, my core of being. But not often.

When I think it is my insecurity creating this inability to feel the silence in a group, I feel negative overtones. But what if this is a “thinness of self” that is naturally spiritual? What if it is the natural thinness that comes directly from one’s soul? Sara Maitland seems to worry, as do I, that this is some kind of “fault” in our character. But is it? Why would it necessarily be so? Why would we assume it is? Is it not simply a trait that is natural? Perhaps our discomfort or inability to rest in group silence is a judgment of our society, even a spiritual one like at Kripalu or a retreat center? A judgment that is more comfortable grouping everyone together and not comfortable with those who are solitaries in their silence? The only advantage I personally could see to a group meditation was that it provided a structure for the ritual, something that says it is to be done now, not put off, not shortened or skipped — group practice can create a sort of discipline if one has a hard time doing this alone. And yet, even if that aspect is helpful in the beginning, it is still adherence to someone else’s control of our path. At some point, will our spiritual path be important enough that we are disciplined by self?

Is it possible that this “thinness” of self goes further than imagined? That it is a gift allowing a permeability of spirit to more easily flow in and out of soul, and that solitude is needed for some of us to lower the barriers we maintain in any group? Is it this “thinness” that can sometimes be perceived by others as a “madness” or a form of dysfunction because it doesn’t adhere to the group mind? Or is it a source of creativity in some sense? At least for some of us? Clearly not for all of us because many people go deeply into meditation in groups or create marvelous works of art in the company of like-minded individuals or even strangers. But, for some of us, why do we automatically assume that this thinness is a fault, a flaw in our constitutional construction?

Some contrasts I feel here with Maitland are, for instance, that I’ve avoided groups my entire life; preferring one or two people at a time to crowds; even being uncomfortable at my own family’s dinner table at times. Whereas Maitland speaks of her joy in the bantering noise of discussions in family and other groups … that she didn’t begin to yearn for silence and/or solitude until later in life. Which shows her to be following a somewhat normal basic inclination — a healthy one — as described by Ayurveda, i.e., the Vata phase of life. Further, Maitland divorced — she began her journey into seeking silence while on her own, without a life-partner to consider, and this allowed her more freedom to fully engage with the Call of Spirit, to deepen her relationship with silence and solitude. I, however, have a beloved husband. Yet we, in our partnership, continue creating ways for my “thinness of self” to be nourished and encouraged.

Our partnership has been built, in part, upon early recognition of my need for solitude and silence. We didn’t call it “thinness of sense of self” though; an easier and more common term, though one just as socially unacceptable, is introversion. Confessedly, moving to Arizona has been a trial in this area, due to some confusion, loss, misunderstanding, and stumbling.

GatesPassHowever, come winter and cooler weather, I will be able to drive fifteen minutes into the desert, walk a short distance, and experience vast silence and that will, hopefully, induce a greater sense of solitude … one where my thinness can breathe more easily — if I can release my fear of the desert. As Maitland puts it, “the silence of the desert has a horror to it, as well as, born of the horror, a deep and joyful beauty. The desert is vast, cruel and very silent” (p. 128). Perhaps there is a way for me to replace my fear of the desert with love for the opportunity it provides in its unique manifestation of silence and solitude? To balance the environmental overwhelm I feel in this harsh landscape with a freedom of expansive space once the extreme heat recedes for the winter? In that silence, what will happen out of the thinness that is my self and the prominent desert elements of fire and air?

I seek a greater spiritual appreciation of the desert. I seek this so that even though my preference is cave and forest, where I feel safe (and, interestingly, another contrast is that Maitland does not feel safe in the forest), I can move into a state of gratitude for this opportunity of spiritual exploration through desert presence. After all, Maitland who lives in the United Kingdom had to travel to the Sinai Desert whereas my desert is all around me. Maybe my “thinness of self” will facilitate my becoming one with the desert silence, and, through that grace, find a deeper peace here?

May Bast guide our journeys to self through silence and solitude.

Words Fly Free

3flowerswrittenFields of Forever beckon but I look away from those Fields to the garden of Home and breathe in Love. Blessings push up through the compacted soil, the sweat of my beloved’s effort sweetens and amends, filtering out the stark barren expanse so that green is unearthed and new life sprung through hair-like roots, see them wriggling? Three rows of agave curve around a corner, softening the drama and edge of sharpened perception. Little green plants poke up tall, finally in a place to spread their feet wide, spread arms out long and far away. One tree in, two to go, three in a row, all around they fall in line along the wall, to share color, texture, air — breathe in and out, we share life. I stay sane, they grow safely; we are protected and encouraged.

I no longer pretend to be someone I’m not, no longer hide the shadow that is part of my skin, but neither do I let it rule and make all the decisions. Time leans into place and I know an urgency building; I keep at my work, my efforts. It’s not “hard” or “easy” — it has become purpose and something I am meant to do. I don’t know why, I just am. Perhaps it is as simple as keeping me “here on earth,” to love and be loved, to care and be cared for, to provide the arc for someone else’s rainbow purpose and journey.

E.D. #613 (randomly selected) ~ Emily Dickinson Poetry as Portals

They shut me up in Prose — 

As when a little Girl

They put me in the Closet — 

Because they liked me “still” — 

Still! Could themself have peeped

And seen my Brain — go round

They might as wise have lodged a Bird

For Treason — in the Pound

Himself has but to will

And easy as a Star

Abolish his Captivity

And laugh — No more have I 

I, too, grew up with the hobble-phrase “children should be seen, not heard” though home was more often a boisterous household of chatter that by its very noisy nature held my tongue silent and my mind vocal, conversing with the people in books.

pathThe prose of story set me free, though, it didn’t restrict; stories were the adventure into which I happily shut myself, a diversity of experience without needing to leave my closet at all! A joyous adventure through words and worlds, where poetry was the puzzle, the mystery, where I didn’t fit. And now I welcome the freedom to write however I wish to, without limitation – ignoring “do not enter” – because the expectations are nearly invisible. I don’t care if I should write like so-and-so says, because I write like me. I could do the structure well if I chose … sometimes I do … I’d rather flow and when structure leans in the window frame, allow it to set a panel or hang a margin or plant a verb.

Me and my shadow enjoy the closet, the comfort of walls all around that allow few visitors. But prose is not a closet but a castle in the forest that tells me secrets and holds mine in its roots; my closet keeps me “still” but I like the stillness when mind expands and all the birds fly free!

When I am out, walking, connecting with the world, the voices are listening, gathering petals, leaves, acorns, twigs. I am not a captive; to be so is delusion and weakness — my open eyes see possibility to choose a path. The only captivity is imposed by Self — my mind is always free. And so I write. And even set my writing free … in blog, in book. There was a time when I wouldn’t have been able to let the letters fly; no more.

I honor the women who have been part of creating a world, a society I am blessed to live in, where my words can be let out and about. I honor, too, the women whose words are still confined to mind … by writing mine down.

And like these free words, I will travel for as long as I can — another freedom that has been hard for women to own as their right; not to be doled out like a long leash, but to sever the leather strap, the chains. My beloved partner understands that setting me free is the way to love … and why I return to him with love.

My independent spirit, though often terrified and insecure, nevertheless gets up and walks, travels, writes. I have to — when I haven’t, I felt dead. I am nothing yet everything because I am not the outer result but the inner growth that comes from earthing true in manifestation. I know myself in all my fear, pain, sorrow, insecurity, and I breathe in the courage to step into my Self. I breathe in the courage from all those women who lived before me, doing their best to live true. Little steps that might transform into courage. I keep on, believing. The stories I hear and see in my mind and heart, the ones written and unwritten, are powerful ways toward courage — encouragement.

path2For those of us who live in the caves, or at the edge of the valley where sunlight is scarce and shadow abundant, for us to know our nature as worthy and beautiful and powerful — this is a blessing. Not to be taught and restricted to be someone we aren’t but to instead harness our own ability and gifts, darkly elegant, often sensed and felt rather than seen through bright floodlight. We are the night, our actions held forth at dawn and dusk: gray, pastel, deep, soft, slow, quiet.

We are hard to picture, difficult to photograph or identify clearly…

Eternal night is a welcome friend that we hold at arm’s length, touching often, yearning for that kiss but knowing the sweetness of divine union must wait a little longer — for now, there is one more word, one more walk, one more loving embrace by an understanding physical partner. We live fully present, each moment a choice to be here now.

Footprints

We are the Shakti within our own footsteps.

white sands my feetI am the toes that bend and wriggle and stretch creating a forward/backward balance upon which the solid bone can find dance and play. I am the ball under my big toe that rocks me gently into a step here and skip there, receiving the placement in my world right now yet knows the ability of shifting into a new beginning from soft sand to cool grass that tickles to hard rocks both round and jagged and my feet partake of the blessed planes of standing still and moving. I am the arch, reaching up, reminding my foot that even when I am touching the ground, I am also reaching high to the sky to feel the caress of air and the expanse of space. I am the outer edge that joins front to back in a line of continuity unbreakable when honored and accepted as the connection between disparate sensations and purpose. And I am the heel of trunk that grounds and sends my roots deep into the Soul of Gaia’s womb until our blood flows as One.

With each step, I make an impression and someone else will follow though our gazes may never meet and our fingers never graze the skin of our individuality yet here where my foot was, upon the past impression of another being, coms eventually another and another to infinity in Gaia’s cellular memory. The impression is resonant with what I was thinking and feeling, and I want to leave an impression of love and abiding joy that is deeper than the pen or words, deeper than the weight of this body-temple, deeper than the distractions that cause me or someone else a momentary pain from lack of conscious connection, deeper than the practices that carry my mind to the Infinite within and without, above and below.

It’s the vibrational footprint of love that I want to leave behind whenever I go. Loving Gaia and all beings though my personality may have been less than loving at times. Loving existence though I was fine with going to the next one. Loving each of the precious beings who chose to be with me in my home and out on the walks of inhale and exhale where impressions of others were digested and assimilated. Loving and transforming those impressions through compassion into gorgeous notes left behind upon the sky story of thought and earth story of soul and spaces of spirit that sing to the flowing rivers and lava that give generously to the sustainability of ocean and land.

Could there be a better purpose than to leave an impression of love in the footprint of one’s life?

Bear

Bears ringing in my ears, voices strong and growling out the fierce love of Pachamama. Bears lumbering up and down my spine leaving imprints of claws on tips of toes that dig in to say “we are here,” puncturing the surface of ignorance. Bears flipping rainbow trout out of the icy shards of red rivers within. Bears rolling down the greening hills in playful abandon with new cubs, new life, breath fresh from cave hibernation. ROAR! JOY! Buddha bears with full round bellies ripe and gestating love. Bears pull aside the rotting trunk of a long ago tree to find the precious nourishment of grubs that others would turn away from.

Bears visiting one who is unfamiliar with them though I honor their magnificence. Bears with their thick fur and thicker skin and thicker-still layers of fat to live upon while dreaming the world into new possibility. She is Bear … and I welcome Her presence, a special gift this morning, unexpected following an exhausted deep sleep.

Bears dipping into honey for sustenance sweet and delicate, hours spent licking the soma from long claws while bees hurry to make more that would be wasted without the bears to partake. Bears stretching high to leave marks in silent woods of solitude. Bears of great hunched shoulders and broad hips and feet so wide the river narrows to go between and around the presence that show the way inside to the starry center of mystery.Bear Statue

“Go traveling with us!”

Her travels daily be

By routes of ecstasy

To Evening’s Sea— 

(Emily Dickinson)

Bear journeys far and near, footprints to follow, until night falls and She becomes the overhead infinite expanse of indigo sea that twinkles merrily into Milky Way and Aurora’s curtains upon Bear’s face raised, nose twitching, shifting weight back and forth in rhythmic dance to the pulsing ocean above. Feel Her?

Bear is our mother and she loves, protects, teaches, sets us free among the ecstasy of life paths, every step a full measure of space in entrance to the next as we hold her paw in our hearts. My foot disappears into the mud where she once was and I am enveloped by her.

An early connection to Bear was the statue I sculpted in a class many years ago. Yet I hear her this morning and feel her within me lending her strength, assurance, confidence. We both den and hibernate, enjoy solitude and caring for our young, lumber along hidden trails through forest groves tasting the sweetness we discover along the way, and fall into slumber as worship. My knowledge of Bear is little but her wisdom is great and I feel her presence now; I open to her chuffs and grunts that echo in my heart-forest. We clasp our round bellies … and breathe into journey, into ecstasy, into infinite sea that shines before us, a dark oval without stars our portal into deeper peace and renewal.

Hiking to the summit pales compared to trekking deep into the cavernous infinite where luminous algae softens vision and satin-damp walls invite and offer caress, brushing our fur, our skin, with the moisture of remembered creation. A subterranean sea calls to us and we plod along together toward the unknown flotilla of sleep with eager heart and patient pace and serenity upon face.

Bear stands on her hind feet and wraps her limbs around me; I disappear into her fur-cloak where no separation exists, and when we move together all the world has settled above us.

_____________

The above was a stream of consciousness flow this morning that I simply followed. At one point, during a pause, I opened at random to an Emily Dickinson poem. I love how it seemed to fit with the mood of the writing.

Barefoot Spirituality

Would it help for someone to understand my intimacy with Gaia, the journey to reach my own sacredness and the on-going path into personal spirituality? I know that one of my joys is to read of other’s spiritual journeys and beliefs, for that opens me into my own wholeness. And so I write of my journey on this path–in my books and on this blog–to share, to commune with the energy of others.

I don’t follow one faith or religion or system. I’m far too questioning — far too much of a seeker straddling a rickety fence as I cross one more field — to embrace fully someone else’s path. But, and this is significant for me, I value something in every path of Spirit I’ve read about or witnessed because of core similarities. And I know that there are many concerns in cultural groups, in indigenous peoples, in ethnic families and tradition, as well as in established religions — concerns that picking out what is appealing may be viewed as disrespectful, but I absolutely do have deep respect for these other systems and traditions.

Yet, perhaps I am genetically disposed to always be journeying along a more eclectic and individualized path in approaching the Divine. Because I am a hybrid, a melting-pot American who lives and expresses the genetic memories of German, English, Scots, Black Dutch, and various tribes of Native American, do I wander back and forth more easily? And those are only the links I am aware of; there are probably more.

I grew up without ethnicity or cultural heritage other than ‘white, working-class American.’ And, while I was raised into a particular religion, it never resonated. The Divine within me remained asleep like Snow White, waiting for the kiss of the one I would recognize. And She was years coming. I needed to grow and learn more about this personality housing my soul before I would feel Her awaken within and provide guidance upon a spiritual path.

But when she finally opened Her eyes (or I opened mine), our love and my remembrance was instant. She had been with me all along; I knew that at once. And yet, while I recognized Her, and followed at first the path of those who shared their own journeys and systems of belief, I found before long that the Divine within me couldn’t be fenced in here either, no more than my nature could. Neither of us could handle being penned up or caged, defined or labeled. And so we took the next fork in the trail, together, knowing our journey of discovery was personal and individual and solitary.

I knew that I might never find a ‘perfect fit’ and that was fine. It’s okay. I would try on spiritual shoes, boots, sandals, moccasins, all shapes and sizes. Some feel comfortable for a while, but then I have to pull them off and walk barefoot once more, without restriction or fancy designs by someone else. Some got too tight, cutting off my circulation with their pointy-toed sharp looks; some became floppy, loose and I fell out of them because they made no sense to me; some were heavy and I felt that I couldn’t walk on my own path at all. All were valued for the temporary support they provided in various ways, but not for me to wear long-term. I learned about beauty with pain, about fluidity within form and function, about structural support limiting freedom. Not in struggle against them were they valued but because I experienced or witnessed the joy they brought to those wearing them quite happily as they walked with compassion. I just needed to be barefoot in my own spirituality.

And Gaia has supported me every step along this path, always kind. As long as I continue to honor the gifts of those spiritual paths traveled by others, respect their beauty and depths, and the love within the mysteries and stories they hold so dear, I know all is well. I feel peace in the exploration.

Gaia has many faces and places. And, for me, She is here within and everywhere I walk feeling the earth beneath my feet, the wind in my hair, the sun on my skin, and the rain cooling my face. Her smile is infinity, and we won’t be fenced in.

Self-knowledge

“Enter the room of self-knowledge first, instead of floating off to the other places. This is the path. Traveling along a safe and level road, who needs wings to fly? Let’s make the best possible use of our feet first and learn to know ourselves.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila, edited by Mirabai Starr

What drew me to this quote instead of another? I felt like a magnet attracted to my mate … why? What unique quality held my attention?

Perhaps it was the grounded-ness of the message, the wisdom of placing my feet and soul firmly upon Gaia’s nourishing breast, squishing my toes into Her muddy puddles, and scuffing my feet along Her dusty trails to discover my own clogged emotions and powdery thoughts that puff up from under each moment’s footstep.

This is basic, this is feeling Gaia in ourselves, in our bones and upon our skin, knowing our Self in Her and She in us.

Many spiritual constructs focus upon the transcendent ignoring the beauty and peace, the thunder and lightening, of earthly experience in wisdom that She offers with such diversified bounty. We have all the time in the world, so why not partake of each delicious space? And, in so doing, we open to every nook and cranny within ourselves.

When I relish the path of my feet stepping into the foundation of self-knowledge, then I can move forward honest and compassionate. I have to love myself, warts and all. I have to know who I am; what is my nature, what drives me forward or holds me back. Knowing myself first, then I am able to open to others along with their blemishes because we are similar, we are all related in earthly experience.

I love to fly, of course. Don’t we all? I enjoy the freedom of lifting my wings and soaring to distant views, the cathedral mountains and majestic canyons. I thrill to the speed of a dive with wings tucked, then the strength of an impetuous climb. But where does this get me without first traveling the “safe and level road” to absorb its profound lessons? How long can I remain upon the constantly shifting air currents without free-falling, if I don’t know where I came from or how my wings were formed? How do I know when to fly and when to nest?

I feel blessed to have landed firmly on the Gaia Path when I felt called to seek a spiritual path out of a ‘dark night of the soul’ that enveloped me early in my third decade. There was no looking outward to a far off light to ‘save’ me–I had left that falsehood behind in my youthful 20s–rather a window opened in my own heart and I saw that She had left a candle lit, waiting with warm embrace for me to come home.

And She provided a companion to re-introduce me to this familiar resonance, someone I trusted. With my first glimpse of Gaia’s face, as revealed in a transformative text, I recognized Her. She was everything I already knew and I fell into Her with joy! She was my yearning heart and beloved mountains and furry animal guides who slept by my side. She made Herself at home within my heart and we spoke of deeply hidden secrets; guilt and shame, joy and laughter, grief and madness, delight and peace. I knew myself because I knew Her intimately. She hid nothing of Herself from me, and as I saw Her, I saw my Self.

I strode into Her cool cave of renewal and rebirth without fear of the dark for She was me.

“And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.”

~ excerpt from The Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente, modernized by Starhawk in The Spiral Dance (this book was also the above-referenced ‘transformative text’).

And the exquisite revelation of Gaia is that she is not only the ground beneath my feet, she is also the transcendent cauldron of creation, so whenever I have questions or am ready for “floating off to the other places” then I need look no further than Her, and holding hands in my heart, we rise together.