The Landing-Place

 

“Life is a journey,” I said.

 

“Life is this moment,”

my Higher Self answered:

 

This moment – fully

embraced – is journey’s

end and journey’s

beginning;

 

the point

of departure is

the destination.

 

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

 

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Harbingers of Change

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Image credit: etceterawork canvas prints available at http://www.redbubble.com/people/etceterawork/works/14595185-even-the-darkest-night-will-end-and-the-sun-will-rise?p=canvas-print

After weeks of my kerosene stove registering ‘Lo’ first thing, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that there wasn’t the same need to turn it on the moment my feet hit the floor this morning.

The chill from beneath the thin wooden floorboards wasn’t quite as pervasive as usual, but it still came as a surprise to see that the thermometer in the living room was registering a full 8 degrees!

Remember, this was before I’d even turned on a stove.

To set the scene a little better, I live in an old farmhouse in the depths of the Japanese countryside where, despite the relative harshness of the winters, the older houses were built solely to help their inhabitants survive the intensity of the hot and humid summers and are ill-equipped for the cold winter months. To be able to reach a hand out of bed and leave it there, walk the floors in my bed sock clad feet without immediately reaching for the stove in February is nothing short of a small miracle – one I intended to enjoy to the full.

Once breakfast had been eaten I donned my sunhat and sunglasses and ventured outside with my beloved four-legged friend.There was a smell of freshness in the air and I realised I really didn’t need my jacket.

Pimo, my dog, has aged a lot in the last year and we no longer go very far on our walks, which often end in me carrying her back to the house. Imagine my delight when having only gone a couple of hundred metres, I was greeted with the sight of three or four small bees drifting around by the germander speedwell that was slightly straggly after several weeks of being submerged under snow, but was now opening its delicate blue flowers to receive the warmth of the sun.

Snow was still lying in all the places the sun doesn’t normally reach but the river was glittering merrily, bathed in light; the breeze was gentle and warm; even the blueness of the sky had a softness about it and, to my astonishment, I had the good fortune to come across a ladybird no doubt tricked into venturing out of hibernation by the unseasonable warmth of the day.

Beautiful harbingers of spring which occasioned a quickening of my heart and a lightness in my step.

The rush of hope and gratitude I felt was made all the more intense by their contrast to the dazzling snowscapes, the ice-choked stream that leads down to the river, the monochrome mountains made of bare branches peeking through snow, and the chill in the air that penetrates my fleece-lined gloves that are all symbolic of the winter months here.

As anyone who has ever lived in a place with distinctive seasons knows, the beauty of each is enhanced by the one before.

And winter to spring, with its hint of new beginnings in the air and the outburst of nature in an explosion of life and colour, is my own personal favourite here in Nagano and breathes a special kind of delight into my heart.

I got home and opened my Facebook page to find a quote about life being a circle of happiness and sadness, hard times and good times and it seemed to fit so perfectly with the rhythm of the seasons that had just moments before been flooding my senses.

After the cold winter there comes the spring.

And, in the cyclic nature of the Universe, day is followed by night and then by day again; and, difficult as it can be to believe at the time, our sadness and hard times are not permanent fixtures but gradually make way for happiness and good times again.

I have seen the indisputability of this in my own life. From the depths of grief so great I feared I might never surface, I rode the wave of change and renewal and now know happiness again.

And just as some of winter is carried over into spring in torrenting rivers full of snowmelt, our sadness and hard times leave their lasting impression.

But the cycle of life is always seeking balance, and gradually restores happiness where once it could not be found.

I know it is not only myself who has rode the troughs the last few years. Our planet and many of us on it are going through giant upheavals in our lives, most preceded by a period of deep grief and pain.

My own experience of riding the troughs taught me that the only thing I could do was trust in this cyclic nature of life. Trust that better things are on their way and that I was being led to a better place.

To any of you who may currently be riding the troughs not the peaks, I implore you to trust in this same cyclic nature of life and your ability to heal, and keep an eye out for the signs that better things are on their way.

Like the improbable bees and the ladybird the harbingers of spring, what harbingers of possibility can you find showing up in your life today?

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Image credit: twitter.com/jean_jullien
Image credit: twitter.com/jean_jullien

*I would just like to emphasise that this is an account of my personal response to the events in Paris, which may or may not coincide with the opinions of others.

 

 

Today I attended “gift curry,”

an event at a temple

tucked away in the hills

behind my house.

 

“Gift curry” the event

was inspired by

Himself He Cooks – 

 

an award-winning

documentary which takes us to

the Golden Temple in

Amritsar where, each day, 300

volunteers prepare and serve

up to 50,000 free meals,

all made from donated food.

 

It took one young woman

with an open heart and a

willing soul who watched this

film and thought, “If they can

do it there, we can here.”

 

One young woman with her

enthusiasm and the

strength of character to

believe in herself and

follow though on her

dreams.

 

One young woman with a

desire to champion caring,

community, and giving without

expectation of

anything in return.

 

One young woman and her

receptive friend who

stepped up; said

“Let’s make it happen.”

 

And they did.

 

They invited others to

share in their

vision, to give of

themselves in

service.

 

And today it came about –

the culmination of several

months of hard work and planning.

 

From early this

morning there was a

team of volunteers on kitchen

and car park duty at the

temple. Gifts of rice and

vegetables were

gratefully received and the

volunteers went to

work.

 

Knives chopped non-stop in the

kitchen as strangers worked

side by side, united in their

common purpose.

 

A very different context to the

free kitchen in Punjab for

sure –

I know without a doubt that

all of the people at the

temple today could afford to

buy their own lunch

several times over.

 

But an act of service all the

same, motivated by the genuine

desire to create a space for

community –

 

for giving; for receiving;

for sharing.

 

For working together towards

a greater good.

 

People sharing their time, their

gifts, their experience, their

hearts; remembering what

community is

all about.

 

Over a hundred people were

served a meal of three kinds of

curry, two kinds of rice and

a selection of pickles. So many people

brought gifts of food that there was a

whole host of other things besides and

more tables had to be found to

accommodate it all.

 

A local dancer gave us the gift of

her art performed in front of the

temple’s altar, and a man

who had traveled extensively in

India shared with us the

gift of his knowledge.

 

And everywhere people lent their

hands in any way they

could –

wiping tables,

washing plates,

carrying chairs,

befriending those of us who came alone.

 

I drove home with a

warmth in my heart.

 

I was thinking what a beautiful

world we live in.

 

Of the love and generosity in

people’s hearts.

 

Of the power we have to create something

bigger than we are when we

unite.

 

Of the power we all have to follow our

hearts,

make a difference in the world.

 

The beauty of the temple’s

gingko tree in its full

fall splendour, its yellow

leaves distinct against a

magnificent backdrop of

rain and mist soaked

mountains etched itself

on my heart and I thought –

“What a wonderful world

we live in; what a paradise

here on Earth.”

 

That was before I got

home and turned on my

computer; saw the news –

 

At least 120

dead

in terrorist attacks in

Paris.

 

Many,

many

more injured.

 

The magnificent city

devastated by the

senseless act of

terror;

its people grieving,

numbed.

 

It was at that point that my thinking was on

the verge

of turning itself around.

 

“What a f****d up world we live in,” I heard –

a sad, disillusioned voice in my head.

 

And it was then that I decided I

wouldn’t

let my heart be

hardened.

 

Because by God this is a

world of beauty and

goodness as well as one of

pain.

 

And if we let the ones

who want to cause us

terror

harden our hearts so that

we can no longer see that, then –

in every way –

they’ve won.

 

Yes let’s mourn and grieve the

irreplaceable loss of

life. The senselessness and

brutality of the violence

perpetrated against the

people of Paris.

 

The pain and darkness in

the lives and hearts of some

that bring them to the

place where they pull that

trigger, detonate the bomb.

 

The misplaced

nationalistic, racist or

religious zeal that is an all-

consuming fire in the hearts of

others, persuading them they’re

justified,

within their moral right to

commit such an

act – one that contravenes the

sanctity of life.

 

Let us continue, in the

days to come, to

mourn and grieve

each and every

precious life

lost

to terrorism in Paris and

countries all over the world.

 

But let us also hold onto the

goodness; the

beauty.

 

The individual and combined

endeavours to shape this world

into a better place.

 

All that is

right

in people’s hearts and

in the world at large.

 

Let us hold it

up;

 

an act of

defiance against those who

want to besmirch our hearts,

minds and lives with their

darkness.

 

And, in solidarity, let

us unite –

 

world citizens of and for

a peace

a hope

 

that transcends all

borders,

 

transcends the superficial

distinctions we

impose on ourselves.

 

United in our

humanity

 

as we hold the

people of Paris up,

honour them in our hearts.

 

What Is a Man?

Picture credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ce/Da_Vinci%27s_Anatomical_Man.jpg
Picture credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ce/Da_Vinci%27s_Anatomical_Man.jpg

I don’t pretend to

understand

the intricate complexities of

who and

what I really am –

 

an ego housed in a

body it’s true, with

hopes and dreams,

fears and doubts,

desires…

 

to be or have or do

something

more.

 

A history,

memories…

 

some of pain and suffering,

some of light and joy.

 

And that’s not all…

 

I’m the rich inheritor of a long

lineage of DNA that

bespoke who I have

become –

 

the kink in my hair,

my slender wrists and ankles,

the veins breaking through my skin –

 

gifts

given to me

by my ancestors.

 

And surely it is also them I

have to thank for the

less visible legacies of

intellect and

character.

 

And I am, too, the

product of my

environment –

 

a love of books and learning

instilled when young

well-worn companions to this day.

 

Now an anomalous

blend of

East and West after

half a lifetime spent

in a home away from

home.

 

And yet…

 

None of this even begins to

penetrate the ambiguities,

barely grazes the surface of my

depths.

 

I’m so much more.

 

I’m the compassionate heart;

the perceptive mind;

the determined will;

the loving soul;

the blood that runs through veins;

the prana that enlivens;

the eyes that see;

the ears that hear;

the hands that touch and comfort and hold.

 

Hold onto what?

 

Hold onto whatsoever

I

deem

important.

 

And now that I think of it,

it’s not just the hands that hold…

 

My mind – conscious and not – holds on to

concepts,

beliefs,

outlived emotions,

all the things I’ve been told,

all the things I’ve read and

seen and heard…

 

All the things I’ve thought I am.

 

Until awakened

questioning – yes;

but not contemplating if a

thought-form was conducive to

wholeness or not…,

 

holding on to

so many that

weren’t.

 

And still I love this mind of mine,

this deep unfathomable enigma…

 

for even as it holds fast to

limited notions of who and

what I am,

it’s all the time

grasping

for the truth

beyond.

 

Broaching the subject and the

boundaries of intellectual

understanding I would have to say

from lived experience that it’s

when we let go of everything –

break through our preconceptions –

that we come

closest to the

 

truth.

 

And what do

I

find

 

when I allow myself to

look and really see,

to perceive with the

heart

as well as the

mind?

 

To look with the

eyes of the

soul?

 

That I’m everything and

nothing

all at once…

 

a divine spark of

life

in human form…

 

an entity made of the same

cosmic building blocks as the

stars in the sky,

the fish in the rivers,

the leaves that rustle in the wind…

 

Nothing more.

Nothing less.

 

Everything – for the

Universe

is contained

within my depths.

 

Nothing – for there is no

“me,”

only the

breath of life

that flows through

all.

 

I am

Life

Love

Birth

Rebirth

Change

Regeneration

Dying

Death…

 

An impermanent

Infinite

breath of

Life.

 

What are we

really

when the flesh is

burned away to

reveal

charred and

brittle bones

and all we are left with is

Truth?

 

That answer will come in its own time, but

for now…

 

I love the

breath of life

that

breathes through me

graces me my days.

the path unraveled before me

Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Goodman.
Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Goodman.

The whole world is home –

right where I find myself is

right where I belong.

Setting Myself Free

Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Goodman.
Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Goodman.

 

I’ve done too many years

of being

scrunched up,

hunched over,

less than;

not feeling Worthy,

Good Enough,

Deserving.

 

Not knowing that

I

have the right

to walk the Earth

with the same confident footsteps

as others do.

 

Let me tell you,

it’s not fun.

 

This unworthiness

and lack of self-love

translated itself

into bodily terms,

informing my posture

as I tried to be smaller –

hunchedoverscrunchedup –

Not Really There…

 

endeavoring to walk

Unseen,

Unheard,

Unnoticed.

 

(For what goes unseen escapes

the often critical and always evaluating

eyes of others).

 

Tightness in my shoulders

and back –

manifestations of the

tension –

physically felt – in my efforts to

please

unpleasable others;

believing

if I just

tried

that little bit

harder

I’d unlock the door to

their approval,

recognition,

acceptance and

love.

 

(Not knowing that really

all it’s about

is approval,

recognition,

acceptance and

love for

self).

 

Sacrificing my first loyalty  – to myself –

in my mute lack of protest, as I

chose

not to have

a voice.

Letting them

say

what they would.

 

My silence

an implicit compliance

with words that

cut to the

bone.

 

My body – faithfully –

absorbing it all.

 

Well, I’m done with that now.

 

Done with

self-denigration;

making myself wrong,

(To placate others

and make them right).

 

Done with

not speaking up for

myself

and what I know to

be true.

(Even when it’s clear

that the other person is expressing

deep pools of pain and frustration –

nothing to do with

me

at all).

 

I am choosing

instead

a new way of being.

 

One that’s self-sustaining –

kinder to me,

entreats me

to put myself first.

 

The foundation of my

well-being.

 

It started by extricating myself

from detracting relationships –

the kind that only served to

sever me

from my

self.

 

And forged ahead with self-forgiveness;

accepting

the role I played;

absolving the person I was

through long and

painful years of

reckless

self-abandonment.

 

Deepened,

as I started to heal

my hurt inner child.

 

And then the process

took over

under the force

of its own momentum.

And I started to

heal

in all sorts of

unforeseen ways…

 

Asserting my right

to walk in this world

an

equal.

 

Respecting that

nobody

has the right to hurt

anyone else.

(And that includes me).

 

Accepting my responsibility in

the burden

of pain –

people only interact with us

in the ways we

allow

them to.

 

Wisening to the worth of

my softness,

kindness and compassion:

(The same qualities

that – not tempered with boundaries –

opened the doors

for people to

interact with me this way).

 

Using my breath to

release

tension when I

hunchoverscrunchup

as I walk in the world.

 

And as the healing

deepened,

took roots;

a beautiful flower

blossomed inside and

 

I noticed…

 

the miracle that I am.

 

Recognized:

 

all I have been,

all I have done –

already! –

in this lifetime.

 

Learned to love myself

and what that really means:

something as simple and profound as putting

my own greatest good first.

 

(Even when that means

disappointing others.

 

Accepting that that’s to do with them.

Nothing to do with me

at all).

 

It’s been a time of quietness,

solitude,

as I gifted myself the

time and space needed

to excavate

the deepest

darkest

recesses of self;

 

bringing them to the light.

 

I’ve been resting underground

like a cicada –

though not nearly as long –

as I’ve learned

to love,

to nurture,

to value

my

truth;

 

to love,

to nurture,

to value

my

self

 

just as

I am.

 

Only allowing

into my kingdom

those who supported,

sustained my growth.

 

Now I’m stretching my wings,

(Yes, now I have wings, where before there were only stumps!)

Making ventures

into the world –

exploring

this new way of being.

 

Committing

to be honestly

authentically

me.

 

(Whether others like it

or

not).

 

To say what I really think and feel –

not hide behind

walls of convention.

 

To find the strength to

speak up (with

compassion)

when conflict occurs,

not silently cry

inside.

 

Practicing self-awareness,

catching myself

when I

slip,

revisit

old patterns.

 

Honoring myself and honoring others –

for in acknowledging the

sacredness of self

I must accept the

sacredness of all, and, with that

everyone’s

right to their own path.

 

As I walk in the world

I wonder

how will I respond,

how will I hold myself,

when I cross paths with

words of blame and shame;

come face to face with those who –

whether consciously or not –

try to tear me

down

with their words…

 

I hope I will no longer give them permission.

 

That their words

will reflect off the deep well of

self

I’ve been nurturing;

unable to penetrate

my depths.

 

Minute ripples

on the surface that

soon disperse.

 

I hope that

I will bless them silently and move

gracefully on.

 

Knowing they’ve crossed my path for

a reason,

but that doesn’t mean I have to walk with them

hand in hand.

 

Knowing I have the choice.

Staying on Course

Photo credit: Wikipedia..

I was walking my dog by the river when a white egret that had stood motionless perched on a rock launched itself into the air with a flap of its wings. As my gaze followed the magnificent bird’s trajectory across the vast expanse of blue sky a sudden gust of wind came from nowhere buffeting the egret mid-flight, sending it into a momentary flutter of wings and feet as it fought to recover its momentum and remain airborne.

I was taken with how quickly and gracefully this beautiful bird managed to come back to center and right its course – if I had but blinked or shifted my gaze for a moment its flight path would have seemed an unbroken line across the sky.

Back on course with a minimum of fuss, the egret continued on its way. The path it traced was purposeful and full of conviction – it knew its destination and was headed straight for it. There was no way it was going to let a ‘little thing’ like an adverse air current knock it off course, let alone distract it from its goal.

I admired its purposeful determination all the more because it’s something that can, at times, seem lacking in my own life.

It’s not that I don’t have a overriding ’flight plan.’ Embracing the idea of myself as conscious creator of my own life I have decided that this year, besides teaching, my focuses are to write, to pot, and to continue to expand and evolve.

So the trajectory of my path, in my mind at least, is clearly mapped out and defined.

And yet… I often find myself knocked off centre and blown off course, going in directions that are so far from being connected to my flight plan that they don’t even show up on the map.

And what does it take to knock me so far off course? A simple ‘gust of wind.”

I’m not even talking about the big ones like doctor’s diagnoses, unemployment notices, relationship breakups, deaths of loved ones and other such unpredictable events that blow into our lives to change their course.

Ninety-nine per cent of the time the ‘gusts’ of wind that pull me off centre are nothing more than the paraphernalia of daily life – meals that need to be cooked; phone calls that need to be made; classes that take too long to be prepared; an unexpected encounter with a neighbour while walking my dog that turns a ‘short walk’ into a two hour break from my day. Lunches with friends; a trip to the post office; a function here and there; obligations that feel like they need to be met. Conversations I let linger a little too long; mails and short mails waiting for me to respond; a ‘quick look’ on Facebook that takes up the best part of an hour; the myriad host of other unanticipated things that creep into my day…

I know that these things, although they can feel like interruptions – especially when too many of them come at once – are the things that make up a life.

I know that they are part and parcel of my trajectory even though they aren’t written into my flight plan – are, in fact, ‘my path.’

I know that I want to be fully present with the people and situations around me; and that at times that will mean putting aside my own flight plan so that I can give my full attention to what is happening right here, right now.

But sometimes it feels like the ‘distractions’ take over the day. I find myself spending more time on them than on the things I have decided are important to me; committed to put my focus on.

And once I’ve been distracted away from my flight plan I find it hard to get back on course. Before I know it yet another day has gotten away from me… with zero time spent at the pottery wheel or weaving threads of thought into meaningful sentences.

As to the third element of my year’s flight plan – my desire to expand and evolve – I’m of the opinion that these are things that will occur anyway, regardless of whether I try to make them happen or not. Doesn’t everything we encounter in our life present us with the opportunity to grow, evolve and expand; including the daily paraphernalia? So with regards to this destination at least, I’m content to set my intention to expand and evolve in the ways that are for my greatest and highest good and leave it in the hands of my higher self to guide the process.

But the pottery and the writing are a bit different. They are not an inevitable part of life that will naturally occur whether I put my attention on them or not.

The only way they are going to happen is if I make them happen.

And in order to do that I need to stop being quite so flimsily moored, letting myself being carried hither and thither on whatever air currents happen to be blowing my way.

Instead of letting the day and the situations that arise in it control me and my use of time, I’d like to be able to stamp my mark on the day so that I can successfully carve my own flight path through it – one that feels true to me and is in alignment with my destination.

I wonder if this is part of the problem – could it be that I don’t have a detailed enough picture in my mind of my destination? That I don’t quite believe enough in my ability to get there? And that without this ‘homing device’ it is harder for me to bring my words and actions into alignment with it?

It’s also true that although I have a relatively good idea of my overall flight path, I haven’t really been mapping out the points along the way. I’m not in the habit of setting myself concrete goals for each day. It’s more like I decide that tomorrow I’m going to take the day and focus on pottery, and of course I have an idea in mind of what it is I want to make. But as to how many of those I’m going to have made and by what time, that I leave up to fate…

And of course when you don’t have clear coordinates for your day, it’s far easier for the things that come up to take over and distract you from your purpose.

The creative part of myself protests at the idea of strict scheduling and goals, along the lines of a blog post written by lunch time and five cups made before afternoon classes. It knows that creative projects take the time they do and you can’t rush them, you need to allow them the time they take. (All the more so when you’re still very much in the process of learning, as I happen to be).

But it feels like there is a need for me to have greater self-discipline and to consistently carve out the time in the day for me to do these things I have committed to put my focus on.

(While at the same time being mindful to watch for the ego playing its tricks and mind games… trying to tell me that these are things I have to do, to turn them from a joy into a chore…).

It feels like it’s a case of turning off the computer and phone when I sit down to pot or write. Limiting distractions outside of myself; refusing to give them the power to control and dictate my time by not letting them into my sacred space. And, in so doing, taking back my sovereignty over my day.

Not to mention the need to get the better of my self-sabotage tactics – learning to see through the distractions I create for myself and mastering them, instead of letting them master me…

Another part of it is learning how to say no graciously to the things that I know in my heart aren’t in alignment with what I really want to be doing – the things that feel like they’re pulling me away from my mapped out route, delaying my arrival at my destination.

And even this idea of there being a destination that I need to get to, when I get too caught up in that that doesn’t serve me either. It makes me separate from where I want to be, and bleeds the joy out of the doing in its focus on outcome not process.

I believe what the sages say – that the key to happiness and fulfillment is found in our state of being, not in our achievements, or even in the things that we spend our days doing.

When I succeed in protecting my time in this way and use it in alignment with my goals, that in and of itself feels good. It’s a joyful quality of being that arises because I’m being true to myself. When I’m in that place the joy is in the process, and how much I manage to  quantitatively achieve takes on less importance.

As long as I am making my promise to myself my priority, I am content to accept that sometimes the words and the pots will flow, and at other times they will stumble over themselves and slow to a trickle – I am content to let them take the time they will.

What matters is that I’m honouring my commitment to myself, using my time in the way I have promised myself I will.

When I do this, I’m in alignment with my deepest, most sacred self.

And it is this that feels good.

It is when we don’t do the things we have promised ourselves we will – letting ourselves be knocked off centre and pulled off course – that we fall out of alignment with our truth, and the feelings of being disjointed and separated from self arise.

So as I watched the egret counteract the wind and right its course in a moment, I knew that this is how I want to be in the world. To model myself on this beautiful white bird, bringing myself back to centre quickly and easily whatever gusts of wind may blow themselves into my day; with a clear picture of my destination in mind, so that my footprints trace a trajectory straight for it; streamlined and focused, offering no resistance – external or internal – to my chosen route.

When I can do this I’m at peace, embodying the grace and the conviction of this magnificent white bird, as the silence within the depths of my being tells me I’m right on course.