Time for Loving Kindness

I’ve heard that as we choose love over fear, the possibility of peace increases exponentially. I believe that as we work together our universe provides enough for everyone, and I sense that shifting humans into easeful co-operators begins with individuals. We are not so far gone that we cannot crack the code, but this cracking takes time, diligence, and patience. 

My personal progress creeps along. Just this morning I noticed: when a woman has a quality I dream about possessing, knee-jerk competitive mode creeps in through my ego.

I feel myself toss a sliver of spite toward a good communicator, an artist, a bold sharer, the one who regularly accomplishes goals and receives compliments…And I can see why that in the presence of a strong woman, I sometimes imagine I will either have to show off quick to stay in the game, or I must abstain from all efforts, recognizing that I could never achieve her skill level. My petty jealousy ruptures into instability, or panic maybe. 

Wow. Fight or flight!

One time at a meeting I growled to a colleague that a certain man was “mine.” The truth of that situation? No way was I prepared to flirt with his rough masculinity (yeow!), but I hissed her off, knowing she could easily have pounced on him, with her wild, enviable heat. 

What was that about?

Here’s what I know now. We are no longer cave people, scrabbling to dominate and survive. We’re here together, learning and growing at various paces. Each of us co-creates reality, along with the trees, the moisture in air, worms in the earth, newborn babies, glaciers, music…I remind myself again and again, there is enough for all of us. 

So when I stumble, universal truth props me up and walks me home. 

My prayer: May I practice appreciation. May I delight in the successes of others. May I love unconditionally, beginning with myself and radiating beyond. 

So Long, Pandemic Funk

If I cook a dish and it doesn’t wow me, down I go into the “I’m incompetent” suck hole, squishing myself low and believing I’ll never do better even though I certainly have concocted crazy good grub. There’s evidence. So why doubt?

When I cook with my mind in the future tense (imagining perfection) instead of in the present, the food will ultimately turn out unsatisfying. How do I keep forgetting this? Good question.

I’ve never been terribly disciplined, but in early 2021 getting grounded through a practice of some kind is paramount to sanity. These days test us. The masks are hard. Not touching is hard. Now, eyes have become uniquely important. This is how we can be close. We’re learning to change our perceptions. So while living in a pandemic is challenging, it’s also teaching us to pay a new kind of attention to ourselves and to each other, which isn’t so bad. 

Here’s where intention comes in, because each time I fall off my practice I forget who I am and what I already know. Presumably each of us has ways to come back to authenticity, to presence, but it’s the mat and cushion for me. Pretty simple, really.

Then I’m going to eat whatever I made and be grateful to have food on my table, glad I got up off of my nest to prepare it.

Swami Stop Swimming

Feeling the need to hug my peeps. That Covid!!!

Took dog Beanie to Rhode Island Historical Cemetery, Cranston, 61. A crow called overhead. Tiny, uniform headstones had only numbers carved into them, so naturally I explored. 

A Potters’ Field? Prisoners? I wondered. Then some flat markers appeared in the faded grass, indicating remains of ones who’d died a hundred or more years ago in the state infirmary, asylum, or almshouse, alone and unloved until recently (or so the newness of the stones indicated). 

A river flows alongside the plots. 

We walked on a path flanking the water, some parts sunshiny and others murky, as if unsavory acts haunt the woods. We turned around.

Driving home I felt alive, free. 

Whatever dark places my mind goes, I am not, at the moment anyway, dying unloved in a state institution. I care about my tribe, in my own messy way, and they connect with me like I matter to them. I try to be compassionate with everyone else. Somehow I find myself living with relative ease, and am grateful for the absurd minutia of this time around. It’s been rough and tumble for all of us, but many of us are learning patience and flexibility, adaptation.

When currents rush against my flailing self, I want to change my perspective. How? Let go into the bliss of life, and be led to safety. 

Emotional Hygiene

another altar

I swear this is the last time – or I hope it’ll be the last time – I fixate on housework. But
I’m investigating self-discipline, looking for a more sharpened focus in the hopes of clearing my mess(es) for good(ish).

Looking around my living room, I spy an explosion of god-only-knows-what littering most surfaces: coffee table, day bed and day stand. I’m in the middle of this and that and this and that because so many worlds exist simultaneously, and most of them seem worthy of a few moments, at least, of my attention. A couple of flash drives. Mailer for a newish Asian food spot (in Garden City). Crochet patterns. A well-used cloth napkin. Lip gloss. Empty, used mailing tubes (but they’re so pretty!). A commemorative jigsaw puzzle from Shri Yoga. 

Then I hear “Well we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun…Everyone…Better recognize your brother’s everyone you meet.” – Instant Karma

Behold, a stuck place in the clutter struggle: I have so much love to give, that emanating from me is a blurry aura of placidity. I say yes but mean no, or is it the other way around? No matter. All that energy glowing from said crap scattered through my public rooms has a negative effect on productivity. A mailing envelope. A sparkle headband. A 1-subject spiral notebook.

What is worth keeping, and where can I make space? Releasing fear would be a start.

Listening next to Abandonitis by The Panhandle Mystery Band: “The doctor can’t cut it away.  You can’t operate on your own fate.” Or can you?

I like dabbling, but it promotes a chaotic home, slipping downward, aimed straight into neglect. When I forget to squint at my lack of cleanliness, it looks like a bumbling alcoholic dwells in my home. Sweet, but sad. At times Miss Havisham sad, but profoundly funnier. 

Therefore, I need a plan. Some parameters. What to keep? What to release?

Discern. 

Choose health. 

Love self.

Fear less. 

Enjoy the ride.

…While clearing the coffee table I discover two drawers in a side piece, that I never seriously cleaned out after inheriting from Grandma Anna. In the drawers I find loose, faded, photos of my grandparents’ trip to the Holy Land in the ‘60s and two little photo albums: one from my 35th birthday party (maybe) and the other from Marilyn’s wedding (I was the maiden of honor in blue),  a yarmulke, matches, a wooden elephant ornament, coasters, a spent pen, unused price tags, ivory inlay opera glasses…

After quickly tossing, recycling, and filing items as appropriate, I create a little shrine to honor my grandmother and our weird relationship. 

Coffee table, day bed, plus the two bonus drawers cleared, and I’m ready for bed. May I dig onto the dining room with a similar degree of gusto over the upcoming weekend. I dreamt about organizing in there. It’s a whirlwind created epitome of chaos, but in my dream there was hope of breaking through, so I’m going in…slowly…tomorrow.

Split Pea Soup and Hard-Boiled Eggs

Today, I go to pick up the vacuum cleaner, and some wise part of me says, “Change the filter.” Oy. Long past time to replace that bag. 

I go find a clean one, and there are four in the utility closet, white, bundled up like Pampers. 

After clearing webby remnants of a Dickensian London from the bag-holding place, cough cough, I figure out how to put the new bag in. Although I’d taken a snapshot of the old one as it came out, I still struggle a bit with the mechanics of it. Clean bag in place, I first vacuum leftovers from the overfilled bag, seated on the floor, wallowing in all that dust like a child playing in the dirt. 

Am getting comfortable with my young self, and joyfully cleaning, from time to time, for health reasons, naturally. Then I stand up and vacuum the whole apartment, including corners and underneath objects large and small. It’s time.

Dirt outside, no problem, Dust inside, congestion. 

“Let more light in,” says another teacher. “Take a walk outside.” 

Solitary Work

Overwhelmed, facing all the stuff I’ve accumulated and cast aside. How does it all fit? Where does it all fit?

I keep thinking back to what Shamini Jain said about only starting to work with the goddess Lakshmi after clearing space – after recognizing all my clutching, all my steering of the “what if I need it one day” wheel. Right into a wall! As I said to a friend earlier today, never mind the future. It blurs your vision and you misstep in the here and now. That’s how accidents happen. Last night a friend told about plowing into a snowbank during her first driving lesson. As with that friend’s teenage self, trying to jump ahead to a future filled with feats of perfection just hasn’t been working. My apartment’s bulging at the seams.

Why am I so hyped up about knowing this goddess? My intention: resonate in her frequency, with fearless love, faith, devotion, integrity, and generosity. And so…

Clearing.

Space. 

How much of my shit do I need to tidy up before I feel worthy of connecting with Lakshmi? You are already rich, she tells me. Value that. And then…

Keep intentions clear, and allow. 

Practice. 

So much of life is out of our control, but not this. 

Sheltering in Place

Learning to adjust quickly to new situations and scenarios has featured big in these strange, trying days. And that amplified self-reflection, us peering at our moving images in the Zoom – what’s up with that? Add to that the ten times daily paranoia about Covid symptoms: Am I sick? Am I sick? (I feel my forehead and quickly find something recognizable to sniff after every twinge.) Now, if you’ve been pushed by COVID 19, as well as told by (typically duplicitous) government officials, to stop running around, and you don’t take kindly to orders, you might feel feisty and suspicious, right?  So I can almost see how someone could call the virus and its relentless entourage of surprises “a conspiracy.” It’s hard not to.

In 2020 we have all been called by Nature herself to change our pace and examine ourselves, but it’s not easy, or it’s not easy for everyone. Some fall apart when life…must…slow…down. At the same time, the present moment can be an adventure, with interesting wonderments and tidbits of light to spur us on. Putting our former lives on hold isn’t out of the question when we have such an unprecedented opportunity to evolve.

I tell myself this: If you’re not enjoying aspects of being hemmed in by Corona, maybe you haven’t been gazing at the sky enough. Maybe you haven’t brought your gaze inward, at all. 

Many of us have been trained to ignore our dark interior. That place is a jumbled up mystery! But really, the less we consider, the more easily we can be manipulated. Now there’s a conspiracy! People who ponder threaten the status quo. Obviously not every thought needs to revolve around me, but seriously – my advice to me: How about making time every day to keep tabs on yourself, to learn something new, and to count your blessings? Then go outside and sit quietly. The chaos soon evaporates, restoring harmony.

Trail of Breadcrumbs

This morning two clocks played tricks on me. One jumped to an hour earlier, but I swear on everything holy that I did not touch that clock. Another fell back two hours. How the? What the? Going haywire here on the eve of an Empire Strikes Back kind of national election, bracing ourselves for civil war, holding our collective breath.

I choose to redirect and breathe, inhaling faith and exhaling love. 

My home is in as much chaos as our country is, no doubt reflective of my/our inner concern, impatience, excitement…and scattered attention. Tidying up, I find little crocks of dusty ephemera and ask, “Does this still give me joy?” But some items request a second and third question: “Does this pique my curiosity? and “What is the lesson?” 

One could ask, why not dwell in joy all day and all of the night? Why live in squalor? First, I am no Lotus Eater, no slave to pleasure. I would feel like I was in a hotel if my home were too pristine. Plus, clearing is good for my soul. Anyway, attaining the highest of joys, with full body and auras a-tingle, doesn’t come from denying shadows a place to rest. Not in this lifetime. Here I love the darkness as well as the pure light. Clearing, I discover that a message once tossed carelessly up in the air, today transmutes into a lesson.

One lesson from today’s junk purge: I/we have accumulated so much useless crap. I/We reached for it to comfort our wounded places, but the sales pitch that compelled purchase has no merit, and all that plastic will never improve our lives. Now it’s going to the landfill. 

I wish to learn from my mistakes, so am trying now to prioritize what matters most and avoid grasping consumer promises. I wish this for others, this intention to get rid of excess junk. May we continue clearing. Blessed be the shadows; blessed be the light.

We will learn and evolve and grow stronger together. Then, my/our house can shine brighter, bit by bit. Each time I notice my brain veering off from a task in front of me, I stop – inhale faith exhale one love, trusting that all is well, so that whatever happens tomorrow I/we will respond with courage, love and ingenuity. 

Clearing

I found the envelope I thought I’d misplaced. While searching, I wondered about the importance of the contents of that envelope and about why I should be the keeper of those contents: family birth and death certificates, armed forces records, and my SAT scores. In triplicate.

Am re-filing all kinds of items I believe I have to archive, even if no one ever looks at them again. Maybe I should burn the lot of it, to remind me of the perpetual potential for rebirth. Let go of what does not serve.

Then at the same time, I can’t. Am trying to learn that just because I once lived something, that experience doesn’t need to be carried for a lifetime. Not just the barbed lessons and the most enchanting sprees, stuck in amber, but endless catalogs of sparks in various forms. Do I need to carry the clutter of so much history? Isn’t remembering it enough, without the need for verification?

The memorabilia? Paper weights. Illusions. Life does not depend on preserving the past. Life cares about balance. Life chooses to nourish itself. I let go. Breathe. Make space for the release.

Rain stopped. Feels almost balmy outside. Soft.

Hopping back into the flow, with no attachment to outcome. 

Standing up to Autumn

The chill. It approaches, and I have no more strength to fight it. 

Until I remember. 

Surrender.

Stop fighting everyone and everything 

not lining up with interpretations and expectations. 

This is a free for all, and I think I understand.

Again. 

Surrender.

Stand in the center.

Listen, without taking sides. 

Jump in when instincts and reason work together.

It’s a dance. Connections inspire movement.

Movement generates warmth.

Yes.

Of course.

Honoring Ruth

Countless challenges have shown up in this year of horrors. Difficult as it’s been, I say the horrors have pushed us to our limit, compelling us all to stand in our power. The downright meanness has to be stopped. Because I want to stay balanced and tuned in to my allies, the distractions that have kept us from moving forward cannot daunt me. They were put in place to frighten me or to throw me out of alignment, but instead I am consciously standing up for justice. 

To be fearless, I need to be both centered and in touch with a community of life affirmers. Each of us has areas of expertise, and our collective skills can work together to abolish tyranny. We need each other’s strengths. This is what I can do. I can get in touch with the elements, like those benders in the kids’ show Avatar, because warriors must stay awake and balanced. I can also call on our ancestors; I can clarify my objectives with them as well as with with various divinities and other guides.

This is me, working to discover how the four elements can support my intentions.

EARTH: The physical work I do reminds me that I live in a body, on a much larger body, our planet. Matter is undeniable. As a kind of practice, maintaining my physical space by cleaning it requires me to move my body, which keeps it healthy. I try to stay absorbed in my work too, and as loving as I can be with everything I touch, with all my actions, and with the words I speak.While I like to feel the joy of a job well done, serving the Mother also quiets my inner princess. A bonus!

AIR: Work that requires sharp focus and organizational skills stimulates my brain into a pretty balanced place – at least when I’m truly applying myself to the tasks in front of me. The psychic Miss Daisy told me I’m meant to do “ordering” jobs in this lifetime. I think of them as a way to tether my mind, since clearly I lack the strength to meditate regularly. My brat self might think no control is necessary, but honestly – my practice is all over the place. I like lots of approaches to personal evolution, but all this flitting? Different kinds of challenging concentration snap my brain into balance. (Thank goodness for my Virgo moon and ascendant.)

FIRE: Am trying to cultivate a relationship with fire, but I only seem to get so far. I can look at flames and pay attention to them more intimately than ever before, but energy and creative fire have often alluded me. I try to remind myself to stay with it, because some extraneous BS can only be burned away. Ignition required. So friction, spark, space, fuel, a touch of air, and fwoom. Voila. No big deal. “Hey!” I say to that trauma that’s cock-blocking my courage: “Yes, fire can destroy, but the other elements can too. Enough with the worrying. Lighten up. Have some fun.” And then I call on Kali Ma for help.

WATER: Flowing water soothes, and I aspire to embody some movement of this material that is not quite matter, which makes me slippery and hard to grasp as well as capable of healing. Here, I want to nurture the breadth of my love everywhere I go and with everyone I meet, and I think that’s from water. Am getting there. Like fire, water needs a touch of air to get it moving. It also needs gravity to help it flow. Water is my native element, so really just a pinch of support helps. Showers are nice, and so is swimming. They bring me back.

Think about your own skill sets and pitch in. Even if you’re unsure how to contribute, we can all build our physical resilience and each others’ confidence. We can communicate with our neighbors. We can speak up and speak out. We can join phone banks. We can pay attention.We can make art. We can watch out for each other.

I don’t think it’s enough to just vote. We need to act now and displace those who have no respect for humankind or for the planet. They’ve had their time, and now it’s ours.

Moving On

The cooling, September ocean played rough, pulling all swimmers northward. She invigorated me though. 

Blue Shutters Beach in Charlestown, RI, has an interesting topography: the waves break unusually near to shore, and at about where they break, the sand drops down close to a foot. One minute you’re up to your thighs and the next you’re going to capsize, meaning you need to leap in or retreat. I jump off the sandy ledge and shriek, exhilarated, every time. Returning to land isn’t so easy though. You need to time your exit so that the incoming waves impel you forward fast enough that the undertow doesn’t drag you back or down, into a salty, sandy wipeout.

Relationships feel like this to me. 

Yesterday I swam two times. First, I stood in the shallows, allowing the water’s rhythms to fuse with mine. Once situated, I drifted far from where I entered. Heading back, as a friend noted, felt like swimming in one of those fancy lap pools. I only made it halfway to my starting point before giving up, but then I got out with smooth grace. I asked Grandmother Ocean to help me, and she did! My presence, initiated by my early merge with the water, helped.

The second time I went in, a dark swirl distracted me. Checking it out, I discovered one of several traveling schools of herring, with occasional flips of silvery brilliance. Distracted, I lost my presence. So this time when I tried to leave for shore, the waves knocked me over. Twice. The only injury, fortunately, was a bathing suit full of sand.

Lesson learned. Relationships work best in the present moment.

Step by Step into Power

Many years ago, the first time I tried to find my teacher in animal form, I balked. I got scared. I heard and then saw an animal – the same one – but told myself I was wrong, that it couldn’t be. The very idea of that beautiful creature taking time to be with me? Utterly unlikely. I spaced out.  My thoughts humbled me, but also highlighted my shame.

I heard: I came here to help, and all I’ve been doing is fucking up.  In truth I haven’t always lived up to my highest potential, to my true nature, but since I’m a human living in a confusing society, I’m as of today giving myself a pass. I need to tap into that nature and trust her judgment, with no letting sticky thorns pull me down. I rip them out and laugh! Yes, I have made mistakes. I dream up untruths. I have many excuses for not delving into my soul shadows. But dwelling in memories associated with shame’s destructive influences tends to suck me into a twirling cyclone of mental chatter which generally results in my needed to sooth/medicate my dizzy head. So I’m giving that up. I’ve decided to step into my power instead, which is a pretty AND fun place to be. 

I discovered that the animal I vaguely heard and saw in my first shamanic journey had in fact been looking for me. He didn’t mind so much that I’d gotten lost last time. We clicked and have been close ever since. Some connections can’t be explained. 

The other night, guidance told me to serve now, rather than wondering what’s in it for me, rather than taking cover in my “shameful” vulnerabilities. I heard:  Be fully alive, without doubts. Do not let yourself be silenced. Step up. Clean all the way into the corners. Clean without emotion, then admire the shine , grateful that such heartbreaking beauty exists. 

This is when I like to snap photos. In the zone. 

This is how I bring myself back from the edge.

IMG_1331For a warrior, falling into despair feels like quitting. The Dalai Lama says, “Never give up.” I firmly believe that staying positive during these dark days has the potential to bring us all back from the edge.

We stay positive with humor, we support the people dear to us, we zone out sometimes because we need rest, we open our minds and keep learning, and we open our hearts as well as we can. Activities like these, working together, can keep us afloat.

Teachings are everywhere when you set your attitude in a positive direction. Tune in to your surroundings. Listen. Watch. Pay attention.

But what about the ugly as well as the appealing?

Here’s where I can get stuck. When I observe everything, some harshness trickles in. Some stuff doesn’t seem amusing, lovable, tolerable. All the littered places: inevitable garbage piling up in gutters of neglect. These places – in nature, in our nation, and in myself – draw my attention and stimulate frustration and disappointment; they morph into seeds of unhappiness.

I leave these in the soil to compost. That’s my project, my methodology: notice everything, but find ways to recognize and then release the negative.

Because focusing on opening my heart fully, instead of getting sucked into fear of the darkness, is me not giving up.

Hanging onto my morals, knowing my limitations, and clarifying my boundaries all keep me safe. A small dog keeps me safe. The support of people who love me keeps me safe. And I trust that the universe has my back. Has all our backs. Remembering this aligns me and maintains my peace.

Be love. No strings. No transactions. No fear. Cultivate a heart that intends no harm. Be sacred love.

peace and justice…spreading love, listening inside…

What will you bring with you? 

Listening for answers from the wise and the foolish alike,

wanting to live somewhere in the middle – a doer and a feeler.

Loving love, all kinds of witchery slides through. 

It’s for everyone and anyone who lights up, this love.

For a little dog sitting on my lap too.

Art reveals truthful moments in time.

Mantle of green on a mermaid bird, surrounded by rocks and shells.

Air Kiss nail polish collection “for one another”

flanked by guilt and half a prayer.

Strange magic.

Assessment

I like writing. It helps me clarify my thoughts. 

Even if they’re a jumble in delivery, something 

concretizes in my brain. 

Ohhh – it’s that

What’s strange is this compulsion to share my experience. 

Maybe it’s the only way I feel safe opening up. 

I like to edit before releasing. 

I need to see where I’m heading. 

I’m trying to watch myself be me, with a realistic eye. 

Trying to discern between the valuable and the unnecessary. 

I classifying, looking for patterns.

As with jigsaw puzzles, which feel like creating wholeness out of chaos. 

Same idea.

As with photography, which strives to capture the magic of ordinary life. 

A new idea – 

flying sparks from consciousness into the literal.