Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.




Wednesday, April 23, 2014

At the River's Edge




I thought I'd write about a moment I had this afternoon at the river. I'd love your thoughts. Please consider sharing them in the comments section. Thanks!

                                                                 

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I descended the sharp banks of the river not caring whether I could get back up its steep and slippery slope. Wet leaves and loose soil gave way under my feet and I mused at the situations I find myself in as I succumbed to the notion of simply sliding the rest of the way down in a crab-like fashion-with my feet working hard at directing my path and my hands behind me holding the rest of myself up to prevent the bottom of my pants from getting completely wet.  How undignified and primitive I become in the woods! How little I care. All the while I was doing this I could hear her rushing waters getting louder and quickened my pace.  I felt an intense longing to nestle into one of her gentle curves sheltered by the towering groves of coniferous trees lining her shapely form and chant.

My feet ended up landing themselves on a small outlet carpeted with an assortment of large pebbles-mostly various colored quartz and sandstone, smooth and rounded.  Taking a sharp right and stepping back up on the forest floor I  found myself in an area  interspersed with large rocks, lush moss and trees sporting thick roots protruding in an exaggerated fashion from the damp soil.

I settled down on a large flat rock beside the waters churning white and gently pulled  my mala off from around my neck while breathing deep and taking in my surroundings. The wind was bitter but I was somewhat sheltered by most of it from where I sat. The sun teasingly drifted in and out of dark rain clouds that occasionally expelled their icy pellets.


I began chanting my rounds. moving from bead to bead. With each repetition my mantra’s sound vibrations drifted across the river and through the surrounding forest.  I concentrated on each syllable and let my gaze loosely settle on the patch of swirling water before me. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare

It wasn’t long after I began when a flash of golden amber and deep brown in my periphery caused my head to instinctively turn and I caught sight of a most magnificent and beautiful bird of prey. Its head was white and I would have thought just by looking at his head that he was a bald eagle, though he did lack the bold yellow beak I associate with them. He was too brown with speckles of amber so I took him to be perhaps a falcon or hawk. He swooped with intent, sailing low above the middle of the river and when almost out of sight circled back and finally landed on a high branch of a nearby cedar.

I continued to chant while appreciating his stately splendor and my heart leapt  as he plunged downwards to the water swooping his lower half in her white waters. A flurry of activity commenced causing considerable splashing all lasting but a brief while and when he arose and effortlessly glided past me and then circled back to his branch. I thought it was a safe hypothesis to conclude he had missed his prey as I saw nothing in his talons nor did I see him consume anything once back on his chosen perch. 


Now on round three I watched his proud form rest for awhile and then once again plunge into the river’s elusive waters and ascend again after another flurry of activity. Just like the previous time he flew by me and back to his branch with seemingly nothing. He must have caught something there in the past as he kept returning to the same spot and yet his time for lunch had not yet come. I was okay with not witnessing death this cold spring day.  Already chambers of my heart had grown numb and dark from experiencing a fresh dose of pain and grief, mourning the loss of a sense of security, stability and trust.  I only wished to sit in peace for awhile and chant my mantra, allowing it to sink deep within my consciousness as the day opened herself before me. Branches swayed all around  being pushed this way and that by the strong winds while the dark clouds above momentarily broke open. Sunlight filtered in casting its radiance all around, the waters reflecting its brilliance in the form of dazzling sparks dancing atop its surface.

Soon it was time to leave and I laughed at the wall of shifting earth I now had to make my way back up.  Oh the obstacles we make for ourselves! But I didn't mind. It caused me to become more than intimate with the fresh smelling earth that rose before me and I was thankful for the extra physical exertion causing me to feel enlivened. By the time I arrived back at home I no longer felt suffocated nor dismayed but my heart felt lighter and my mind had a renewed sense of clarity. I was thankful I chose the time to get outside and chant rather than allow myself to be mired in self pity. I also felt gratitude for the moments I had in witnessing such a beautiful creature go about his usual mid afternoon routine at the river's edge.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jesus



I thought about Jesus yesterday. It happened rather spontaneously and unexpectedly so I felt prompted to write about it afterwards. I was with a man I work for who is 92 and who I had just taken  to the doctor’s and diagnosed with pneumonia. One unrelated concern he had expressed while at the visit was the pain he felt in his feet and legs because of his dry skin. They gave us samples to take home with us but nobody offered to put lotion on to relieve him of his discomfort right then and there.

Upon arriving back to his house that afternoon I made sure he was comfortable, handing him a cool glass of his favorite juice and then began organizing his pills for the coming week. In the back of my mind I was thinking about the pain in his feet and calves and how he must still be feeling this discomfort which he had complained about even before our trip to his doctor. While making his breakfast that morning he had lamented that it had kept him awake half the night. I knew I would be the last person he saw that day and that it wasn’t in my job description to apply any lotion to him. If I were to do things like that I would take on a different “title” and be paid more. None of his other aids that came to his house were paid to do that, nor did it seem very likely they would,  having heard about their limited willingness to do extra things for his comfort in the past. If he wanted it done he would have to do it himself and, having Parkinson’s and limited mobility, the chances of that were low.

Everyone has their own sense of comfort with things and I have never been much of one to enjoy touching other people that I am not particularly close to. It would not be unreasonable necessarily to shrug off his needs coldly and simply ignore them- using the description of my limited role at his home as an excuse. Surely I was not expected to help out in such a way as applying lotion to him.  However, I couldn’t help but think that to reject such an opportunity to help another would go against my “job description” as a human being.

As I was nearly done with my shift I began filling out the appropriate paperwork and my eye caught view of the sample tube of lotion in my periphery. I looked up and saw him shifting his legs uncomfortably while seated on his favorite pull-out chair worn from years of use.


“Is your skin still bothering you?” A dumb question for sure. “If you’d like I can help put some lotion on.”
 


His eyes lit up and he responded in the affirmative.

 

I inhaled deeply  and took hold of the bottle of lotion and knelt down in front of his legs.  As I squeezed a generous sized lump of the cool white solution onto my hands I remarked that he should feel a lot better after his skin was hydrated and truly hoped this would be so. The skin on his calves and feet, almost a century old, was very delicate and I had to be gentle and careful as to not be too rough and cause any damage. It was desperately thin and shifted around under my hands as I moved about, slowly working from his calves downwards.

An image of Jesus flashed in my mind. Of him washing his disciple’s feet. Of him serving others with compassion and walking amidst the most broken among us. It occurred to me that when I think of the sort of heart I am aspiring to have-one of love and compassion, one that longs to serve and help, it is the heart of Jesus that I see myself as wanting to aspire to. Even though I am now probably the furthest thing  from being a Christian, the thought of Jesus still inspires me and floods my consciousness with a sense of peace. I felt a sense of love, compassion and joy. Love and compassion for this man who I have come to know over the past couple of months and a sense of joy in being able to serve him. It seems that the highest expression of love is service. And the world would be undoubtedly a more habitable and peaceful place if more people felt inspired to simply serve those around them. Not just humans either, but all sentient beings.

As I drove home that day my cynical nature took over while pondering Jesus and questions came up regarding his true nature as expressed in the New Testament. Yes, he served others and taught compassion but then there is the fact that he walked amidst so many broken people and yet chose to not heal everyone. Also, he taught and preached an exclusive rather than inclusive path. Not everyone was welcomed into God's arms at their passing. You know, the whole "narrow is the path" concept. (Matthew 7:12-14)  Perhaps all of that is a  subject for another post though. Regardless, I think having archetypes-images that can embody ideas and realities that are meaningful and inspiring to us and that help explain facets of our nature in a way that sometimes words fall short, can be useful. And in this instance, on that afternoon, the image of Jesus manifested itself unprovoked as a clear archetype for compassion and service.


Thoughts? I'd love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments section. Thanks!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Moment






Driving home today from a visit with my grandfather I had what I could only consider to be a profound spiritual experience. It was like someone cut a vein open deep within me and I became like an empty vessel and all of life was flowing through and around me, washing me with its brilliance, pain and fury. A  divine humor threading them all together.  My senses took in sounds more audibly and life painted itself into view on a more vivid canvas than ever before.

It's as if my consciousness felt drunk. Not drunk, though, in the way one gets when they wish to forget the world and lose themselves in their chosen poison. No, rather, it's as if I drank to the dregs an elixir that intoxicated my spirit to a degree in which reality filled every fiber of my being. I began to feel a combination of a sort of headiness overpowered by a  surge of energy magnifying and intensifying my awareness of the present. 

It was as if everything I saw was a living poem or story. Volumes and volumes of poems, novels and stories poured out of somewhere deep beneath the depths of my consciousness rising swiftly and momentarily to its surface. It was almost as if I reached a metaphorical hand up and took hold of one of the volumes spilling forth I would be able to turn its pages and read them in full. Creativity churned her mighty waters and pressed through the floodgates of my soul, effortlessly unhinging it and causing  it to swing open. Life presented itself before me and I saw within myself a thousand souls clamoring for attention but past them a bottomless depth of stillness that carried with it the weight but also release of uncertainty. It is there I felt I saw the answer to the riddle of where peace and realization may be found. It is beneath our layers of multiplicity to the core of the present. I swallowed whole these thousands of souls and plunged towards the stillness.

I pulled my car over to a church parking lot I was about to pass. I was nearly home but wanted a few minutes to just sit and be and gather my thoughts. To savor the experience a little longer as it still pulsed through me though more faintly than at its conception.

There were a few scattered cars left but the lot was absent of any other humans. I pressed my head into its rest and breathed deep turning my car momentarily off and  looked up at the church's spire. A line of crosses encircled its base as other ones dotted its exterior on its ascension towards the heavens. One, larger than the rest and the color of gold, adorned its peak- displaying a symbol once so prominent in my past. A symbol that once defined who I was and what I believed. Now, it reflected the sun's radiance and shown brilliantly yet left no impression on my spirit any longer.I found it now more foreign than familiar.

After jotting down some thoughts and taking a few moments to listen to nearby birds that  seemed to be  singing wistfully of warmer days I started the car once again and let it roll away out of the lot. The crosses appearing smaller and smaller as I glanced back at  them in my rear view. My heart was light and my mind eager to try to capture the moments  I just had in prose when I finally made it back home. I hope I was able to do that!


Thoughts? Please consider sharing them in the comments section. Thank you!






Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pain's Precipice








My ears strain to hear his constant chatter as I take orange halves, breathing deep their scent, and push them over the top of the little juicer. My palm feels the hard ridges belonging to the circular piece that spins methodically round and round as I press hard against it. It scrapes the pulp off the peel to spin below as juice slowly trickles out of the small spout at the bottom and into the ornately carved glass below. The tiny glass sends me back to the days of my youth. Of sitting at my grandparent’s kitchen table after a night of sleeping over with my sister. Poached eggs, grapefruit and canteloupe before us as well as my grandparent’s loving eyes and warm voices drifting melodically in a shared space made sacred. A time of memories being woven deep in the fibers of my consciousness. My heart winces as I know my grandmother is no more. Her remains now in a marble urn atop my grandfather’s dresser. Those days gone forever.

I answer in short phrases as I catch the majority of the conversation. The fragments I can’t quite make out I try to fill in with what would make sense and am relieved when I can finally turn the little apparatus off and place a fresh glass of orange juice in his outstretched hand. It shakes profusely, an outward symptom of his Parkinson’s.

I feel a sudden surge rise forth within me. Compassion. I want to bring him comfort, joy. He looks so vulnerable and weak, laying in a bed that has been put in his living room for his convenience.  He has lived such a long and extraordinary life. He tells me stories of being in WWII, of working for the Associated Press designing art for their publications in New York City and of losing his young wife to cancer. He is an accomplished painter who has managed to bring to life the ocean, busy harbors, fighter jets and Marilyn Monroe on simple canvas. I look around and marvel at his talent. Pure brilliance is captured within the frames that adorn the ordinary walls of his humble abode and his eyes brighten as I voice my appreciation towards them. Others that come here to care for him that I talk to think him a silly old man that rambles on and on. I see him as a genius and if one only cares to listen he reveals a life where splendor shone daringly at its crest. I seek to bring him some sense of peace and ease as he now sinks to the trough of a wave he once fearlessly mastered.

He does enjoy his talking.  I keep listening as I start his breakfast and place his pills before him. Mind still full of energy and ambition, he rattles on about the art classes he is still teaching and businesses interested in products he sells that have his artwork displayed on them. Mugs, coasters and other such items. At a time and condition in life when many just decide to lay down and succumb to the encroaching illness that is slowly ravaging and inhibiting his body he is still making business deals and sharing his wisdom with a new generation. All of this makes me want to shake my first at nature. At the cruelty of life that would hinder the dreams of someone truly passionate towards a life worth living when so many  seem perfectly content sleepwalking through it. Many times it is those of us who reside comfortably within the confines of mediocrity that are free from such impediments as faltering synapses and dying brain cells that bring rise to shaky hands and the permanently afflicted gait that causes him to grab hold of furniture in order not to fall when he tries to navigate without his walker. Something I gently chide him not to do!

Later on that day he asks me to come up to his studio with him. He is still trying to finish a painting that he began months ago and every time I’ve caught glimpses of it my heart sinks more and more and my consciousness shudders at the realization that his gift has withered away and no longer manifests itself in the form that once defined it.

He longs to just make one more piece of art. To paint a portrait of his daughter who died years ago of cancer. I hear every time he speaks of her that she was the bulwark of his family and a constant source of joy and strength, of inspiration and love, especially after his wife died. And now she is no more like so many others he has known and loved.

An enlarged printed photograph is pinned up beside the canvas that attempts to capture her image on its surface. I look around at the portraits of others he has painted throughout the years. They look so real and lifelike, as if the acrylic they are composed of could easily transform itself into flesh and they could rise out of their framed dwelling and live once again. His daughter’s portrait, however, has deteriorated more and more so that now as I come to face it I don’t know what I should tell him. If I tell him I’m impressed or it looks fine I would be lying. My mind momentarily drifts back to the words of Sam Harris in his small book Lying where he asserts that any lie, even a small lie, is wrong.  I decide to keep silent and that works as the silence is soon filled in with his ongoing monologue.

The painting consists of crude lines and now her visage is inundated with a dark hue of blue. She looks sad and disfigured. There are two places where you can see he started her forehead and either one would make sense if the other were absent. As my eyes settle on the image before me he laments that he is having trouble deciphering the differing colors and thinks he might have added too much blue. An understatement if I’ve ever heard one. That’s all there is, varying shades of blue.

His eyes are slowly failing him even after multiple surgeries.  I begin to sort out the different tubes of acrylic, caked so heavily with multiple layers of different paints I have to look at each one’s opening, putting them one by one up to my eyes and scrutinizing them carefully, to tell what colors they contain.  He laments openly at the condition of the painting and goes to point to the eyes of his daughter in the printed photograph and the unthinkable happens. His fingers wet with paint now smudge one of her eyes that have been gazing at him for so many months. He takes the photo down immediately and reaches for a piece of paper towel but he gets the paint from his fingers on it and as he desperately tries to clean the photograph he gets it even more embedded with dark acrylic paint. He looks up at me, pain's precipice etched in his features in the form of a woeful expression and asks if I can help.

I reach out and gently take hold of his shaking hand that is moving towards the picture once again. In despair it squeezes tightly the crumpled piece of paper towel wet with paint. I cup his hand with both of mine and slowly take the paper towel out of it.  I place it on the table. The picture is not a glossy photo but a printed copy so one cannot just wipe away the dark smudges of blue and black. They are absorbed in the fibers of the paper.


I tell him I’m so sorry. That I will try but I don’t anticipate any success as I think any more efforts to remove the paint that is there will just ruin the picture even more. Eventually he tires of the pursuit and pins it back up beside the canvas. Now two distorted faces of a daughter he once cherished with his whole being stare gloomily back at him. The brilliance of the lake skirting the periphery outside of his window and whose surface dances with the sun’s rays shining from on high is a stark contrast to the mood within the small room. A room  stacked with canvases and frames, layered with heaps of tubes of paints and brushes and in this moment impregnated with sorrow. I tell him that perhaps he could have some lunch and come back to all of this another time. He thinks that’s a reasonable suggestion and I help him downstairs.

When I leave that day he is sitting in his favorite chair and it appears as if his spirits seem to be in order once more. His usual optimism revealing itself in the form of future plans. As I look back a final time I see him close his eyes in fatigue. I silently hope that his dreams take him to the ships and sea that have so long been objects of his adoration. May the sound of busy harbors and lapping waves cradle his consciousness in a temporary peace that can only be attained in the comforting folds of the depthless world of the dreaming state.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Temporary Lamentations of a Mother: A Poem

                                            Picture taken recently on a solo hike through  a state park near our home.




The Temporary Lamentations of a Mother


Where are you Peace? Like a mirage
Her form shimmers and taunts,
Dancing alluringly in the distant horizon;
Calling, beckoning, only to dissipate into
Darkness when I come close. Impossible
To grasp, too elusive to seize.

Thoughts go back to this morning,
Perched attentively in a half lotus
Position. Listening to the harmony of
My home slowly enter into my awareness
I became one with my breath, rising and falling
rising and falling, to its own uneven cadence.
Sounds of birds in the distance outside my windows,
their songs accompanying the rising sun
spreading her glorious garment
open wide before a new day,
the hum of our refrigerator, the muffled sounds of my
Husband snoring; all participants of
The disjointed orchestra of life playing
Its rhythms out all around me.
My breath having its own small role as
I bear witness to it all; my soul taking
A momentary break and simply resting
In the moment.

Hours later I find my bedroom door locked.
Mommy just gave herself a time out.
Two little criminals, bliss-snatchers,
that once gestated in my womb
are now placated after a bout
of intense bickering and whining.
Tears dried following stern admonishing
they now joyfully watch a movie together,
snuggled close beneath a cozy blanket.

I try to breathe deep again, finding grounding
in the present, finding a foundation of peace
from which my words and actions can compassionately
extend themselves from as the day continues.
I am no fool. I know full well that the crashing waves
of ambivalence and resistance will once again rise up and fall
Down mercilessly on the shores of my experience.
This temporary break in chaos is temporary indeed,
So dictates the law of Impermanence.

But there is no foundation, that’s all an illusion.
There is just a watery flow of intentions pirouetting
with various inputs and outputs, some dark, some light,
shifting and pulsing. Life’s river beckoning me in to either
Drown or heal me who knows.
I laugh at the absurdity of it all. Life, a kaleidoscope
of pain, loss, sorrow, ecstasy, peace and joy. And plunge
myself into her dark and swirling waters.

I know soon I will exit my room, already feeling
A bit more whole again after vomiting up my
reflections In prose. My soul putting on her dancing
shoes, for she now realizes she chooses to dance
amidst Joy’s gay tune, after all, why not?
Leaving sorrow in broken shards at her feet,
unlocking the bedroom door only after unlocking
the light hidden within her deep recesses,
I will welcome my offspring once again into my arms;
realizing  that we don’t need to seek light,
We have it within ourselves all along and
we can conceive and bring it forth on our own.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Alone: A Poem










Alone



I wish this world would leave me alone for awhile,
We've danced our dance and she offers little worthwhile.
Just a sea of ever swelling absurdity,
Phony characters wearing garbs of superficiality.
Give me the shelter of an old oak tree,
Skirting the curves of a gentle river.
It is there my heart will fly free,

Releasing an ecstatic shiver.
Peace to be found in observing life at play,
The moon to keep me company at night,
The song of birds to fill my empty heart by day.


~~~

I wrote this short poem this morning. A gentle rain was falling outside and I longed to transport myself to my favorite perching place alongside a river that has captured my heart, oftentimes mending it when it feels shattered. Longing also to drift down the trails that etch themselves criss-cross through a mantle of evergreen that broadly adorns her curvacious figure.

When I am out amongst this living sanctuary, a kaleidoscope  of earthy tones, I feel completely free to be myself, unhindered by the shallow and superficial expectations of man. Unencumbered by the superficiality that seems to define this material world. To simply be and bear witness to a living, breathing web of life unfolding before my senses.

Well, an exodus to her waters today is simply not doable.  Who knows the next time my heart will find itself soaring with the hawks that circle above her or riding her many currents that boldly race southward to sweep up more admirers in their voyage towards deeper waters.

No matter where I find myself I have her form etched in my consciousness and need only to look inward to be reminded of the peace such solitude and beauty affords. Peace that my heart aches for during times of uncertainty, restlessness and/or grief.

Do you have a place where you long to go that restores and refreshes your spirit? A place that above all others your heart feels most at home? If so, please feel free to share in the comments section.

Thank you!

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Matter of Perspective

                                                                                   Sometimes it's all a matter of perspective. 
                                                                                  (picture is a rain  drop taken while on a hike)
                                              



It's been awhile since I last posted. My family and I have been experiencing lots of changes and life has been swiftly flowing. This morning I woke up at 2 am, an hour after my  dog last nudged me awake to take her out. I realized it was futile to stay in bed as thoughts began to race in my head and I rationalized that it would only be two hours earlier than I usually wake up. Oh, what the hey, why not?

I sat in front of the computer screen and felt the urge to write. It's been so long and the house was so quiet. I love a quiet house. Lately my children have enjoyed playing video games and watching movies. That has become more and more regular now that we are well into winter and it's freezing outside. I find the sound emanating from the glorified box in our living room irritating and it oftentimes causes me to retreat in my own room while it is endlessly drones on as the wind whistles a hollow tune outside.

What to write? I wasn't sure but didn't feel too philosophical. An image of a woman I will see later on today that I work for flashed in my mind. I was reminded of a moment while cleaning her house that we had not too long ago and decided to just write about that. I put it in the form of a poem but I probably could have just made it into a post. It's just the form it starting taking at 2:30 in the morning! I wanted to share it now because if I don't post it now I'm not sure I will.  It's unedited so pardon the roughness of it. 

I would love your thoughts! Please leave them in the comments section. Thank you!






Arrows


I tell her the story of Buddha,
Born a prince and curious about the world.
Exposed to a suffering he never imagined
outside of his once insulated life,
He sought to rid the world of it.



As I sweep the floor I come to one of my
Favorite parts of the story. On the Eve of
the Buddha’s enlightenment, the demon Mara
Attempts many times to defeat him. In his final try
he sends  fiery arrows across the waters at Siddhartha.
As they sail on a sure and steady
Arc towards our hero, finding detachment and compassion
He transforms them into flowers that fall harmlessly
At his side.



We reflect on that.
I turn my eyes in her direction.
She has become more than a woman
I come over and help do the things that she can no longer do.
She has become a little oasis I find myself venturing to twice a week.
A warm place of laughter and shared moments.  
Peaches, her cat, runs her left flank
alongside my calf in a gesture of affection
as I reach up to dust the corners of the ceiling.

 



She is a woman that is no stranger to fiery arrows.
I go in her room to put the vacuum away. A bedroom
void of a bed for she can no longer get in or out of one
on her own. Living every moment now in her chair.
I remember the first time she told me that.
The image of stretching one’s legs out under the covers
On a soft mattress filled my mind. What an awful thing to
Never be able to do again. And at only fifty years.
So much more time left sitting and reclining. Reclining
And sitting.
 


She tells me of when her mother found out she had MS.
“Amy,  you should really think about the things in your life
that you might have done to deserve this.
You must have done something really
bad to make God punish you like this.”
Shocked, my friend immediately
expressed her rejection of such an idea of God.
God does not punish. God is good.
And God will turn her fiery
arrows into flowers, her sadness into joy,
her suffering into opportunities to give and to learn.




She asks me what I think and I agree. She is not overly religious
But holds a quiet and simple faith tucked in the folds of her
Heart. A sacred place I dare not tread with my skepticism.



A glowing optimism emanates from her countenance
and serves as the vessel that carries her above the
Furious waves of heartache, humiliation and turmoil.
I feel I can relate in a way as I  share that same sense
that we can transform ugliness
Into beauty, obstacles into stepping stones,
frustration into peace. Sometimes it seems all a matter of
perspective. A matter of unbinding ourselves to the
material that has a way of sticking to our consciousness
Like sap to bark.



I gently close the door when I leave,
warm skin meeting winter's icy chill.
Pulling  out of the lot and into the dark night, 
I glance in my rear view mirror and watch as
the light from her window
melts into the retreating distance.