fragrances, smoke, bubbles, and sunflowers?

Ahhhhh! Glorious longer days, increasing warmth, and the promise of blossoming trees, flowers, and gardens. Our outward focus celebrates the interdependence of life, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that trust is the light by which the universe unfolds.

Four times a year, we have an opportunity to honor the gifts of nature as she flows into a new season. For many of us, the Vernal or Spring Equinox is the highlight of March. The Minnesota shuffle, five layers of clothing, and snowshoes and skis are traded for sunny dispositions, rain, and park bench daydreams.

Let our intention be to honor existence, rather than dominance; equality with all living things; and a better understanding of ourselves so we can interact with others through that increased awareness.

The Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere is a time when the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of night and day is nearly equal. This balance also symbolizes new light, growth, new paths, and reflects hope in new beginnings. We look outward and soften our hearts. This year, the official first day of spring is March 19.

One of my daughters has a March 20 birthday. Jokingly, I once mentioned that Daffodil Iris might be an appropriate name for her—much to her shock and embarrassment–NOT!!! However, the story never fails to surface—and people smile.

Four energy forces within the physical universe sustain life: Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. They help us connect with nature and with an energy force greater than we are, as well as influence our personalities. When these elements are balanced, they offer physical and psychological well-being.

A short meditation guides us in honoring the four directions: north, east, south, and west. Giving thanks for Mother Earth’s gifts, we bless her as we explore how she connects us in oneness.

Let us begin. Ancient wisdom pairs the air element with the direction of the East. Air is represented by the colors of yellow or gray. This element appeals to our senses of smell and hearing.

Choose a meditation posture…Rest your left hand on your heart and your right hand on your abdomen. Now focus your attention on your breath and relax with my words:

Imagine the distinctive fragrances of Minnesota spring flowers and blooming trees: Hyacinths, Lily of the Valley, and Magnolia trees. Hear robins singing, and the delightful sounds of wind chimes.  P A U S E…

Now remember the aroma of air that is newly cleansed by a gentle rain. P A U S E…

Finally, recall the earthy scent of warm, hibernating soil that reappears after months under ice and snow. Fuse with each of these gifts. P A U S E… Feel the invitation, the richness, the Oneness. Say thank you!

The air element symbolizes communication, intelligence, perception, imagination, creativity, and harmony. Drawn by the element of air, you open to it, praising nature and the universe. You feel these smells and sounds. Give thanks!

P A U S E.

Fire represents the direction of the South, and its color is red or orange. This element appeals to our senses of sight, sound, and smell.

Settle into meditation and place your attention on your breath. P A U S E… Now, relax with my words.

Welcome unique flames of a controlled prairie burn for new growth. Crackling, popping and smoke are harbingers of transformation and purification. A more open heart, a result of the season of darkness, serves you. Like fire welling up in you, your passion ignites new visions, courage to discard the old, and strength to understand the meaning of it all. Meld into each of these gifts. P A U S E… In tandem with nature’s gifts, you feel the invitation, the richness, the Oneness. Say thank you!

The element of fire draws you to it, opens you, and fosters energy and creativity. Give thanks!

P A U S E…

Water represents the direction of the West, and its color is blue. This element appeals to our senses of sight, sound and touch and helps us to release emotions that are no longer useful, as we gather confidence and ease.

With your eyes open, settle into meditation and place your attention on your breath. P A U S E… Now, relax with my words. 

Imagine walking along and discovering bubbles under ice on a barely warm, sunny day. Feel yourself drawn to the bubbles, opening to them. What feelings and emotions come to you? Perhaps you are doubtful or carrying irritation or maybe you are simply remembering childhood adventures.

Sensing the flow of the bubbles, your body reaches out. You, too, want to be effortless as water. You want to flow in unconditional love, reaching places and people as you are led by the present moment. You trust an unseen energy. Like the bubbles during the spring thaw, regardless of your fear of rocky or slippery circumstances, you are guided by flow. You let go of control and resistance. Give thanks!

Now you move toward the light, softening and blending as you go. Individual energies combine in strength and harmony, expanding resiliency. Feel the Oneness. No need for striving or overthinking. Without trying, your energy influences others. Meld into each of these gifts.

P A U S E… In tandem with nature’s gifts, you feel the invitation, the richness, the Oneness. Drawn by the element of Water, you open to it, praising nature and the universe. Give thanks!

Earth represents the direction of the North. In the spring, its color is green. This element appeals to your sense of sight, touch, and taste. Earth represents fertility, stability, and nourishment—and treats every plant as nobility.

P A U S E… Settle into meditation and place your attention on your breath. Now, relax with my words.

Remember a time when you first cared for a plant.  Maybe it was a sunflower seed that you nurtured in elementary school. You gave it special attention with nutrient-rich soil, not too much water, and plenty of sunlight. You were so proud to discover some green poking through the soil one day. And what a mystery that it happened all by itself—as if by magic! As you worked with plants during your growing up years, maybe you remember the miracles of magnificent leaf texture or bounteous fruit. Perhaps you encouraged growth with song or words of kindness, feeling a kinship with plants. Give thanks!

Yet, it might have taken years for you to realize the hidden benefits that Mother Earth freely supplied: prosperity, dependability, and wisdom. Like the plants, parented by Earth, you have everything you need inside to unfold. Your wisdom and talents, like harvested sunflower seeds, are your gifts to the universe. All are miracles.

Drawn by the element of Earth, you open to it, praising nature and the universe. Fuse with each of these gifts. P A U S E… In tandem with nature’s gifts, you feel the invitation, the richness, the Oneness. Give thanks!

In honoring gifts, may you remember

  • the interdependence of life,
  • the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and
  • trust is the light by which the universe unfolds.

From a higher vantage: As you protect, use wisely, understand, and teach the value of air, fire, water, and earth, may you feel the web of interconnectedness.  

See Nature’s beauty,

Feel her inner nudges,

Taste her mysteries,

Smell treasures in her moments,

And hear her nurturing.

Above all, witness and give thanks.

© 2020 in the thick of things

A greater energy knows

Everything that is happening to you is meant to be happening. For some of you, reading this is grounds for instant resistance: shock, argument, or eye-rolling. “Everything…that is happening”? Maybe, if it points only to the positive, familiar, and comfortable parts of life. “Meant to be happening?” There’s a purpose behind things, yes, but a predetermined course of events? What about free will? Who is calling the shots, anyway?

There are no coincidences. Often, you can’t see this until you engage in hindsight, and even then, you may not make the connection. It takes practice and contemplation to recognize that a greater energy has been with you throughout your life, overseeing the shots.

In my growing up years, I was always helping someone: parents, siblings, or friends. It seemed to be my inner nature. No resistance, just following the expectations of my parents and, later, those of my heart. Of course, my ego had to play devil’s advocate: What would happen if I refused to help. Consequence was a deal-breaker. Stop challenging or I would have limited time with friends or greater restricted phone privileges. Soon I understood the meaning of “under the thumb.” Fear and conditional love went unchallenged during an era when some parents offered few, if any, choices. In my world, adults were calling the shots and didn’t welcome a second opinion.

For many years, I couldn’t understand how a tight leash could result in anything positive. Why didn’t a greater energy intercede during this controlling time? During the early years of life, parents and guardians decide what is meant to be. They do the best they can with the knowledge and means that they have—realizations that became evident to me only after many years. I learned complaints were futile, a strong work ethic generates praise, and perseverance pays, life traits that are, indeed, valuable. Conversely, these years further prepared me for my own child rearing and adult work life. I learned what not to do by example. Everything that is happening to you is meant to be happening.  

Even then, I must have been influenced by the guidance of a greater energy. I deviated from how I was brought up and cherished the spontaneity and lovingkindness of life and my own children—despite the usual whining and button pushing—while learning life lessons from them. Parameters are necessary, but not ones of fear. Authentic encouragement is essential, and voices need to be heard—even when the truth hurts. Unconditional love changes everything for the better. These were my positives.

Incorporating these lessons in my work and volunteer lives, I was often thought of as being too soft and not assertive enough. People tended to take advantage of me. However, a greater energy, oblivious to me, must have offered support, nudging Press on!

Teaching English to secondary-aged students and later training adult learners in business writing honed my own writing, storytelling and curriculum development abilities. Developing these skills and applying nurturing lessons created positive results that served others. Individuals learned to value themselves, find the good in situations, and become empowered. This had become the foundation for all my work.

Another example of wondering if circumstances were really meant to be happening to me was during the mid-1980’s when there was a glut of English teachers. I was unable to find a permanent teaching position. A substitute teacher for four years, I was convinced that being an English teacher was my most suitable option. In hindsight, I had not been open to working with the will and timing of a greater energy. I was consumed with thinking that I knew best.

Miraculously, several corporate training positions materialized. I was a bit hesitant, yet the prospect of corporate training was exciting. Grateful to generous individuals who believed in me and helped me to network, I quickly was able to segue much of my English teaching portfolio to reflect adult learning styles and business writing curriculum. By meeting adults at their level of understanding and using creativity and humor, I knew that I was on the right track. Everything that is happening to you is meant to be happening.

Again, it sometimes takes several persuasions of looking back to realize that you are exactly where you need to be at any point in time. Thirteen years ago, an accident lead to torn ligaments and tendons in my left ankle—the ER doctor said it would have been better if I had broken my ankle. Shocked by the reality that this was happening to me, indignant that I could do nothing about it, and frustrated that I was not in control, and never had been, I began my healing adventure. I was not a happy camper; although experiencing the paths of the Carleton College arb from a luxury wheelchair (pushed by my husband) was an attitude booster. When I reached some acceptance of my situation ten months later, hindsight told me, Everything that is happening to you is meant to be happening. My accident was the initiation of accepting my spiritual journey, and I am grateful.

Everything that has happened in your life was meant to be—especially the difficult or horrific circumstances that you don’t want to revisit. Finding one positive characteristic about negative circumstances and then focusing on it helps to pass the time and keep your sanity, leading you into the next moment, and into the next. Acceptance lets you see that you are not separate from others. You and they—we—all weather impermanence or change, good times and challenging ones, and a host of other dualities. When you allow all these conditions to happen, in their own time, you live more fully.

From a higher vantage: I Invite you to revisit the mileposts of your life, its turning points. See if a greater energy wasn’t in the thick of things along with you. Rich aha’s and understandings are waiting. A greater energy knows.

a flash of awe

Long ago and far away. Freedom from allegiance to Britain. Freedom of common defense. Freedom of friendship among states to include assistance to each other in times of disagreement based on unlawful authority, religion, or trade. These freedoms—taken from specific Articles of Confederation—are part of the Declaration of Independence, officially signed on August 2, 1776. This is our nation’s 243rd birthday celebration.

Amid fireworks that symbolize these outward freedoms, guaranteed in writing, let us acknowledge that, individually, we can take the initiative to pursue an inner freedom from personal distress and pain. Yes, it is possible to experience less stress, pain, and heartache.

Ancient wisdom suggests we create this downward spiral for ourselves. How? By expecting more: more experiences, more options, more knowledge or more “stuff.” The choice of “more” often derails us from dealing with the truth of our challenges. We believe we are effectively becoming more aware yet, we are simply chasing illusions.

When we meet with what we do not expect or want, (terminal health prognosis; a lesser job, no job, or forced retirement; unrequited love; or the struggles of raising a differently abled child), we dig in and oppose. Then, going beyond the initial resistance, we end up fighting what comes to us, “what is.”

It is this internal battle that increases our distress and deepens our unhappiness. Resistance may show up as doubt, insistence of preferences, negative thoughts, a constricted or tight heart, or the belief that we know all the answers.

Spiritual teachings share: “There are four unavoidable physical sufferings: birth, old age, sickness, and death. There are also three forms of mental suffering: separation from the people we love; contact with the people we dislike, and frustration of desires.”

~www.rabe.org/thoughts-on-buddhism/cause-of-suffering/

There will always be life challenges—that is the nature of impermanence and humanness. They will never go away. We never will completely solve all problems—not that we should stop trying—yet a more expansive viewpoint could be helpful. Turning to acceptance, the absence of negativity, we begin to be aware of the things we need to release. We will be fine without them—quite possibly, we will live even better. Coming to terms with this revelation is not always easy.

Seeking the little things that bring beauty, pleasure, and connection with a cause greater than ourselves, encourages us to breathe and be in harmony with life. Observing nature, feeling exhilarated from an invigorating walk or run, reconnecting with friends, hearing the story behind a stunning piece of artwork, writing, recreating a family heirloom recipe, or experiencing heartfelt music transcend the mundane.

We experience awe in the moment, no longer overthinking a situation. We accept just this moment, even though it may seem like a limitation. Up close and personal. Within all the freedoms we currently enjoy, we seek some freedom from our situation. Some form of beauty, some small thing that resonates with our heart. We focus and are grateful, stretching out this feeling of beauty and gratitude until we begin to feel calmer and more aligned within. A greater energy moves in, around, and through us.

This is not about “the situation”; rather, it is about each moment that comes to us, as it is, in the thick of things. How do we handle those moments? We practice glimpsing one, small instant and finding awe in it. Gratitude will naturally follow. Then, it’s choosing to find beauty in each moment, over and over, until answers are made known to us.

From a higher vantage: The more we accept the moment, the more stable we are emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. We feel freedom from much of life’s drama and welcome less personal suffering. We are safe and deeply loved.

© 2019 in the thick of things

an antidote for snap judgments

Uninterrupted, gnawing pain! Face-to-face with something that hadn’t happened in years, I instantly recognized the feeling and immediately judged my circumstances. BAD! I had been practicing yoga almost daily with no problems. So, why now and why me? My lower back was in serious trouble. I didn’t want to label this experience as good or bad—it just happened. A snap judgment! My thoughts continued to spiral down.

Thanks to support from my compassionate teacher, I made my way up the studio steps and to my car. I drove home, still not reconciled with the pain. Several hours later, after contacting my naturopath, I had a recovery plan. It was time to be. I was still upset.

Impermanence had struck on the heels of four, intense months of doing—a writing immersion—and I hadn’t taken time to unwind. My striving mind was in deep conflict with my body. It was as if self-compassion never existed. How unfair! What an inconvenience! I’ll just push myself a bit more! My body was doing its best, given the circumstances, yet it was my mind that needed a time-out.

Not able to move well gave me plenty of hours for being. I realized, at an even deeper level, what was meant by seeing adversity as a profound teacher. I had heard from and read about people who welcomed their terminal diagnoses or injuries from a car accident. Welcomed these events! They had learned amazing lessons about themselves and life. They became forever changed in how they interacted with people and viewed life events. Life became more inclusive and meaningful. They discovered what really mattered—unconditional love and others. No snap judgments there.

Able to do very little for myself but rest, I was a tangled mess. The more I tried, the more pain and constraint I felt. My body was defying me. It seemed that I had aged before my very eyes. No amount of mind over matter would allow me ease or mobility. It was very humbling to be living within narrow parameters. I continued to judge my circumstances. A captive audience, my body commanded my full attention. These circumstances touched a familiar vibe. What lesson was unfolding?

Up until that point, I was feeling pretty good about how life was unfolding. Believing that my inner core was resilient and that I could handle any misfortune, I was zapped by reality. That’s right—control is only an illusion. Reminding myself to accept the experience that had come to me, I softened my heart to a different perspective. Had I been abusing or loving myself?

In slow recovery, I observed my pain as part of the moment, not labeling it. I stopped using negative self-talk regarding why I did not do preventative back strengthening exercises or how my computer posture might have been questionable. I made no excuses. I recalled the Buddhist practice of Tonglen that I had tried in earlier years without much success. Had I evolved enough spiritually that this practice might be helpful?

Tonglen practice helps you to interact from your best Self in both challenging and celebratory circumstances—whether thought about in advance or done in-the-moment. The first action for either kind of circumstance is no action. Step back and simply observe without judgment. Think: Something is happening. Do not identify the situation as good or bad or apply any other dualities. In circumstances of challenge, Tonglen statements help you to observe adverse circumstances, negative thoughts, or impermanence and work through humanness.

Stay with the  pure feelings of the moment; there is nothing to distract you from the past or future. This focus can be difficult, since most of the time you are used to making snap judgments. Remember self-compassion. As you breathe in these pure feelings—what does not work for you—you realize that you are honestly facing your issues. For some, this may be overwhelming at first and a bit scary. Your anxiety may be out-of-control. Stay with the negative feeling. Next, breathe out substitute feelings—antidotes—that are reassuring. You begin to feel calm. Repeat the statements as you inhale and exhale any number of times until you feel you are a part of them.

I usually want to turn away from agony, seeking a fast fix. This time I lay with the pain, felt it, and breathed it in. I breathed in dark and negative feelings, naming frustration, discomfort, arrogance of knowing (rather, thinking I did), and delay in finishing my work. These statements resonated to my core, to the point of tears.

To balance those negative feelings, I breathed out positive statements, characteristics of the true Self:  ease, patience, forgiveness, and calm. I continued to repeat this pattern of inhaling and exhaling my feelings. At the time, it was all I could do to work with my own feelings. Yet part of Tonglen practice seeks inclusiveness—to remember that others (family members, as well as those you don’t know) experience similar circumstances and feel distress and pain. As I became more aligned through my statements with an energy that was greater than I, I was able to breathe in similar negative feelings that others experienced and breathe out the antidotes for those feelings. Inclusivity emerged, as separateness faded to the background. The more I worked with this practice, the more oneness I felt.

I developed the following Tonglen statements for three challenging situations. Although it is still tricky to catch myself before making snap judgments, I find that this practice offers lighter and more connected feelings. You might want to start reading the statements and then sit with the experience until you know the statements are right for you. Some of the situations and supporting declarations may have to be changed, customizing them to your circumstances. Be courageous and develop your own statements. It is worth your time. You will know what resonates when you feel something quicken within. Recognizing which statements symbolize your situation, repeat them until you feel you are a part of them.

It is easier to state declarations for yourself first and then state the declarations on behalf of family members and unknown others who have similar distress or pain. Breathe in what does not work for them and breathe out positive feelings that strengthen them. All energies are connected. It is important to remember that even though you may not know whom you support with your declarations, you will feel a kinship with them. This is also a sign of oneness. I invite you to consider these Tonglen statements for challenging circumstances.

Situation 1: Anxiety over health issues or terminal diagnoses

Breathe in…

  • Nervousness
  • Despair
  • Fear of leaving loved ones, incomplete work projects, not fulfilling my purpose

Breathe out…

  • Knowing that this experience is mine by design
  • Knowing that I’m not alone
  • Knowing that I’m part of a greater energy
  • Knowing that I’m deeply loved

Situation 2: Relationship setback

Breathe in…

  • Lack of unconditional love for another
  • Guilt, shame
  • Insensitivity to circumstances
  • Presumption that I know, or know better

Breathe out…

  • Self-compassion and love
  • Forgiveness for my humanness
  • Strength to create a new habit or approach

Situation 3: Tight heart; carrying a grudge

Breathe in…

  • Frustration
  • Arrogance
  • Judgment
  • My timetable

Breathe out…

  • Ease
  • Patience
  • Understanding of and forgiveness for my role in the hurt
  • Unconditional love in the form of expansive relief

At the other end of the spectrum, Tonglen statements also encourage you to recognize celebratory feelings of good will, caring, and joy. When you are feeling personal gratitude, fulfillment, or awe, it is natural to want to recognize the circumstances that created those feelings. A greater energy around you is supportive. Sharing your happiness, whether privately or overtly, raises your vibration.

You’ll also want to share your positive experiences with others who are celebrating similar circumstances or with those who could benefit from some positivity. This gathering of celebratory feelings raises the vibrations of all energies throughout the collective universe and those of the general universe.

Breathe in examples of optimism and breathe out the gifts of your experience, sharing with others to uplift them. On behalf of others who might benefit from positivity, breathe in your observations and breathe out inspiring declarations. 

The following Tonglen statements point to three celebration circumstances. Starting with these declarations may move you to develop your own. Again, you will know which statements are right for you because something within will stir. Repeat the statements until you feel you are a part of them.

Situation 1: Beauty of nature – Contemplating a small twig of crabapple blossoms

Breathe in…

  • Red and green gradient foliage
  • Tender, pink flowers with delicate magenta and gray stamen
  • Quiet, unassuming beauty that speaks to strength of being

Breathe out…

  • Appreciation for nature’s spontaneous gifts
  • Innate goodness that augments circumstances
  • This moment that encourages wholeness

Situation 2: Improved health because of professional care – Hooray for craniosacral therapy!

Breathe in…

  • Gratitude for intuitive perceptions and skilled hands
  • Release of tight ligaments and muscles
  • Relief that overrides pain

Breathe out…

  • Awareness
  • Love in the form of body alignment and mobility
  • Zest for life

Situation 3: Reconnection of Friendship

Breathe in …

  • Like-minded thoughtfulness and common values
  • Shared focus, honesty, and appreciation of differences
  • Acceptance without judgment

Breathe out…

  • Friendship that weathers impermanence
  • Lightness, humor, and ease of being
  • Uncompromised support

Words can never fully express the interactions and effects of Tonglen practice. It is about reaching an understanding at a higher level among all energies. After working with Tonglen, I feel that my heart and mind are no longer at odds. When I feel a snap judgment lurking and begin to label an experience as fortunate or unfortunate, I stop because I realize that my thinking and feeling patterns are no longer stable. I may or may not be going down the “rabbit hole.”  I return to the present moment, breathe, and begin Tonglen statements. Because my mind and heart have stopped judging, they are more open to new understandings. This is a good thing—a form of loving myself and others.

Applying a diligent practice like this whenever life’s experiences lure me toward snap judgments, I find my thoughts and actions are more consistent. When I begin with something is happening and then move to breath declarations for myself and others, humanness doesn’t trip me up as often.

Awareness of this change seemed to come out-of-the-blue. Yet I know differently. Nothing happens by chance. It was a wise and resourceful greater energy that believed I was ready. Now I have more clarity within the moment. I think of others in similar circumstances and want for them what I am experiencing. I am a work-in-progress, and this has made all the difference.

From a higher vantage: Resilience is gained from not accepting the lure of immediately labeling circumstances as good or bad, happy or sad, or hopeless or optimistic. Simple acknowledgment is enough. I don’t have to judge, thereby not feeling separated from others. Instead, I am creating a new pattern of how I deal with the on-going challenges and celebrations that Impermanence is sure to deliver. Distress and pain are eased while joy is enhanced.

Hen Speaks

If Walt Disney (“Silly Symphony,” one of several animated short films produced during 1929-1939, staring the debut of Donald Duck) and Ronald Reagan (1976 political monologue) can spin new perspectives on the 1918 Old English Folk Tale, so can I. But first, the back story leading to integration.

Last Wednesday evening, I attended the introductory meeting of the Northfield Medical Aid in Dying Interest Group. I wanted to learn more about the status of The End-of-Life Option Act of 2017. Two prior introductions of the bill had previously been presented. Most recently Bill [145.871] HF1885, “adopting compassionate care for terminally ill patients; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 145” circulated in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

At the same meeting, I became aware of the New York Times article, “At His Own Wake, Celebrating Life and the Gift of Death” by Catherine Porter. In this highly compelling story, Canadian John Shields offers personal reflections of one man’s decision to end his life with the blessings of his family and friends. Suffering from a hereditary form of amyloidosis which, among other symptoms, caused his heart to stop periodically, he subsequently became approved for assisted dying. Medically-assisted death for terminally ill people was passed in Canada on June 17, 2016.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/25/world/canada/euthanasia-bill-john-shields-death.html

In providing much external information that stimulated my internal brain, the meeting also included an informal presentation by Sally Settle of Eagan. She shared a personal story of her mother’s death from leukemia, promising her mother in her final days to champion end-of-life choices. Since then, Sally has shared her mother’s end-of-life journey with newspapers, Facebook, and other numerous audiences. Her friends admire her for the work she is doing. They applaud her energy and cheer her on. They see externally. They feel internally, yet they do not move one pinky toe forward to further the possibility of additional end-of-life choices, regardless of their individual stand-alone issues. Thinking only of themselves, there is no integration, no unity.

This frustrating quandary reminded me of the basis of the children’s short story, The Little Red Hen,” retold and illustrated by Florence White Williams, The Saalfield Publishing Company: Chicago-Akron, Ohio-New York.          http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18735/18735-h/18735-h.htmhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Red_Hen).

In it, the little hen, who was busy scratching the ground for worms to care for her entourage of baby chicks, found something that looked very similar to a worm. After inquiring throughout the barnyard as to its identity, she learned that it was wheat seed. In spite of her endless responsibilities as a mother, Little Red Hen managed to see great possibility in the wheat seed and importance to the whole of the barnyard society. Offering choices beyond worms and greens, she decided that working with the wheat seed should be explored. Needing assistance for the momentous task, she asked her dear friends to help her plant the seed, care for it, harvest it, grind it into flour, and make it into bread. To her amazement, not one of her friends (represented by the cat, the rat, and the pig) agreed; each, in turn, replied, “not I.” They were willing to watch from the sidelines, live their lives as they had become accustomed, and not be associated with anything that differed from the status quo. They were unwilling to consider or act. Realizing the seed’s marvelous potential to change barnyard life and the personal value of having choices, the visionary Little Red Hen said, “Well, then, I will do these things myself.”

I’m choosing to stop the story here. While most people recognize perseverance, hard work, worthy causes, and the quality of daring to step into the unknown or unproven possibilities, they balk at action, caring more about what people will think than about staying true to their higher Self. They let busyness make excuses. Is this integration?

The cat, the rat, and the pig were happy to watch Little Red Hen from a distance, in the present moment. Only the protagonist saw possibilities for the wheat seed and was willing to venture into the unknown with no guarantees. Her actions demonstrated a trusting alignment with Source and the courage to meet whatever life brought to the moment. This is integration.

Knowing of choices beyond the standard diet of worms (even if they were fat and juicy) and greens did not occur to cat, rat, or pig. They were complacent and in denial. Little Red Hen, however, was willing to explore something new and different. Options may not be used by the entire barnyard society, yet, with choices, every animal (everyone) is free—free to make decisions within personal circumstances. This is why we have free will. This is integration.

 

From a higher vantage:  Choices should not divide us. Instead, let them unite us in free will and the joy and satisfaction of being able to accommodate our personal circumstances.

 

©2015 Barbara L. Krause

your heart song is forever

To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart and to sing it to them when they have forgotten.

~Arne Garborg, 1851-1924, Norwegian writer; translated The Odyssey into New Norwegian

In witnessing over one hundred external and internal experiences with Source, I believe that Arne Garborg’s quote is exactly how Source takes care of us. This infinite font of grace and supply continuously loves, supports, and offers us messages for our highest good—messages of awakening—with complete acceptance. Yet, because we are human, many of us sleep right through the wake-up calls. Possibilities to open, be compassionate, and understand our oneness with each other pass us by as we blindly tick-off the boxes on our “to-do” list. Still Source patiently waits for us to understand.

For many of us, identifying with “being” is unfamiliar. We are bulldozing fixers, arrogant believers in our own knowledge, and “doers” supreme. We have spent most of our lives differentiating ourselves and competing at all costs to be successful through accumulation of wealth, reputation, and material goods. Feeling fairly smug, it’s hard to admit that most of the time we have slogged through life disregarding Source, never believing that a true Self existed, let alone that we would someday meet face-to-face.

We have struggled and suffered, chalking it up to the naïveté of Adam’s and Eve’s apple munching, shaking our heads at the fate of generation after generation. The more we demonstrate our omniscience, the more we convey the way of Ego. Busyness keeps us distracted so we can manipulate our outcomes. We are on top of the world. We are invincible. With state-of-the-art medical technologies, we can even outsmart death, at least for awhile. This finality is for others—so sad for them—yet we cannot spend time thinking about it (because then it might happen to us!). On happy days, we welcome caring for others, particularly our aging parents. Our hearts are comforted by the availability to purchase in-home care or insurance. No biggie. Impermanence? What’s impermanence? We are separate from Source and loving it. Who needs an “awakening” journey or a heart song?

Then it happens. Impermanence abruptly turns our heads. We’re sorry that we hadn’t thought about the “I” word, nor wondered what it would be like should it become part of our life. Now Devastation walks right in and throws around its weight. How come such horrible dis-ease is happening to us? We’ve led a golden life, with a golden career, a golden spouse or partner and children, a golden home, and golden friends. This can’t be possible! Life does not come with guarantees; events simply happen. Where is this God that is always supposed to protect us? to be in “our corner”? to allow only the good things to unfold? What a ruse! Surely it’s an oversight. We’ve been brushed aside, forgotten. Anger, guilt or shame consumes us. Barely surviving these emotions, we realize that something exists that is greater than we are, and it’s to our advantage to reach out to it.

Have we really been forgotten? Has Source actually given up on us? That’s just Ego whining. We apologize and bargain. After all, we believe that we’ve done all the “right” things: listened to Ego’s advice, ate organic foods, drank only purified water, exercised on schedule, volunteered, and offered kindness. That’s enough, isn’t it?

Enough for what? To feel good about hearing accolades for being a highly celebrated person? To ease our suffering at the time of death? To get us into heaven? Our busyness actually blocks Source messages from coming to us. Quickly we change our thinking and remember that when we feel forgotten by our higher power, it is we who need to clear some blockages. Urgently we ask the questions, How do I find an awakening journey? Does a heart song come with it?

How much of our day has been spent reflecting less on drama and more on what really matters in life: ways to slow down in order to find portals to Source; thankfulness for everything in life, both great and small; the role of initiating self-compassion and compassion for others; and the discovery of a softened and relaxed heart that opens to the wisdom of consciousness.  It is never too late or too early to start pondering.

Many of us accomplish our secondary purpose, to find our talents and gifts and share them with the world. Our primary purpose, however and one that we all share, is to increase awareness of oneness with all other energies and move confidently toward remergence with Source. Have we made strides in that direction? Have we taken time daily to reflect on the questions, Who am I? What constitutes a meaningful life? How fulfilling are my relationships? Now we know what has been deep within our core and all but forgotten.

Clarity through infinite answers and direction waits for us, now that we know where and how to look. Source cares for us, loves us, and sings our heart song to us, as we gently awaken to connectedness. Benefiting by knowing our own heart song, we extend love to others by signing their heart songs.  We connect and daily walk toward the light.

Integrated perspective: Our humanness sometimes interferes with our “being,” and Source whispers our heart song. We stir. Sometimes we overlook our capacity to love and receive love, and Source chants our heart song. We yearn. Sometimes we forget how important it is to recognize and celebrate the connection of all energies, and Source soulfully sings our heart song. Remembering, we leap for joy!

Song: To Love Someone by Paul Krause:

© 2015 in the thick of things

By Divine Appointment

In our busyness, we encounter many challenges, some mandatory and others, elective. However, none is as revealing or as life-changing as the exploration of our personal sacredness: the exploration of our soul. Walking this path is neither mandatory nor elective; it is by divine appointment and offers the choice for new awareness, contemplation, and vision. Untouched by the traditional measurements of time, subjective merit, or competitive scores, this journey requires times of committed solitude—a leveled playing field unlike any we’ve ever known.

 

Often, after the bulk of our earthly experience (somewhere around fifty-five), Source in its immense wisdom, nudges us with time and fills us with questions about our true nature. Deserving, loveable, and qualified in the highest sense of the cosmos, each of us, when we feel moved, can choose to embark on this journey. Our inner knowing will tell us when the time is right. Or, as the old adage states, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

 

Yet, this path may not be for everyone—it is a personal decision. Make no mistake, this arduous journey challenges everything we’ve believed to be real; explores the depths of our heart and mind, exposing emotional and potentially painful “stuff”; requires consistent “showing up” in the face of glitzy distractions; and necessitates the surrender of attachments and old habits—without arguments! Truly, we know nothing of this exploration and are not in charge.

 

Absolute trust in Source is fundamental because there will be moments when we feel like we’re moving two steps forward, only to stumble three steps back; moments when we are completely overwhelmed and want to give up; and moments when we feel that we have been abandoned. A refrigerator magnet verse captures this dilemma: Old age isn’t for sissies! Discovering our truth takes boldness and a willingness to be transparent; the journey to understanding our sacredness is not for the faint of heart.

 

Yet, taking this journey is highly gratifying and, ultimately, raises the vibration of the overall energy in the universe. It fosters connectivity among us. It is crucial to remember that Source loves and welcomes us, and that our soul is immortal. Our body is safe as we move toward the light of awareness. This exploration is priceless.

 

What might we encounter when we choose this journey into personal sacredness—who we are? Quiet ah-ha’s. Shocking illusions. Outright resistance. Denial. Forgiveness. Tears. Pieces of our history coming together. Acceptance. Laughter. New appreciation and gratitude. Immeasurable love and compassion. A new way of being. Because this path exists outside of time and space as we understand it, familiar navigation strategies are not effective. Pushing, forcing and striving simply do not work on this path. In fact, it is best to forget any tips, tricks, and workarounds that have been picked up along life’s way. Survival on this path is quite different. This is the way of new understanding, of “being.” It is a way to dissect truth and clarity from stories and illusions. Through perseverance we learn who we truly are.

Experiencing nudges from “out of the blue” and questions where answers are indistinct or seemingly non-existent are signs that it is time to embark. A dedicated space, a commitment to uninterrupted time, and the intention to begin cue the path. The search for our sacredness is always tied to the present moment, where life really happens. Repetitive action completed in a focused way keeps the mind from wandering. Walking, painting, star gazing, gardening, or peeling fruit are practices that help our mind override distractions. Without commotion, there is more space for Source to reside.

 

Now to the all-important question: Who am I?

 

 

Inwardly speaking:  Find some time and space where you can simply “be.” Are you hoping, wishing, or praying for direction? Do the same questions arise, almost haunting you? Do you have a burning desire to know? A divine appointment is calling you.

 

© 2015 Barbara L. Krause

fifty layers inward

Fifty blog entries since November! Opened to the awareness of Source, we are surprised, amazed, and perhaps even delighted to discover that an energy greater than we are is everywhere—confirmed by our senses—when we intend to be open to it. Our desire for awareness of Source, on a weekly, if not daily basis; commitment to stillness, and time to reflect on the concepts from In the quiet moments pave the way to a more meaningful life. The result is wholeness, body, mind, and Ego joined; genuine gratitude for our life and for those lives of others; and unwavering peace of mind. What could be better?

With this state of new-found awareness, what’s next? A natural segue is to turn inward and explore who we are and what gives meaning to our life. Exploring the layers of our life brings us face-to-face with the truth of who we really are. It may be the first time, in along  time, that we take deep breaths, sit without an agenda, and actually pay attention to our caffeine fix as it caresses our throat with warmth and comfort. It may be the first time that we realize the impermanence of things we thought would remain forever. It may be the first time that we question old stories and beliefs. It may be the first time that we contemplate what is truly important to us. And, it may be the first time we look at who we are beyond our labels. Continuing with our numerical theme, let’s explore fifty layers inward.

Our body is the most obvious place to start our inward journey. This unique presentation of intellect, desires, abilities, and personality is precious and special to Source. From birth to our twenties, our identity is derived from those with whom we connect on a regular basis: parents, teachers, and friends. We think. We interface. We communicate—all in a similar fashion. We are socialized beings, yet we are still works-in-progress, green to the art of controlled self-expression.

Our mid-years focus on three levels of body training: the external quest (toning the body), the internal quest (steadiness and ease of mind), and the innermost quest (compassionate spirit). Balancing these three quests helps the body to express its full potential in the areas of family, career, and community. Purity and sensitivity are key attributes to achieving human potential. Purity, generally aligned with internal honor and high moral standards, can also be defined by the external deliverables of compassion to see clearly, followed by specific action. Sensitivity is the defeat of rigid thinking (prejudice) and egotistical action in any situation (tyranny). [Paraphrased: Light on Life, B.K.S. Iyengar, p.24-25]

It is into our fifties that most of us become more financially and emotionally stable. We begin to assess our lives and determine what should come next. The state of our body is no longer taken for granted. Comparison and grasping for the next best situation is trumped by reflection. B.K.S. Iyengar in Light on Life, p.23 states, “Health begins with firmness in body, deepens to emotional stability, then leads to intellectual clarity, wisdom, and finally the unveiling of the soul.”

When we are in balance, our internal light is bright and stable; we meet the difficulties of life without increasing the drama around us. We accept the present moment, regardless of what it brings. Repeating this acceptance until we are on the upswing gets us through challenging times.

 

Inwardly speaking:  Over the next six months, you may discover fifty ways to leave the self you currently know. In doing so, you enter a sacred time of turning inward. You welcome a bit of withdrawal, silence, simplicity, peace and love that is understood. You begin to care for your essence in preparation to some day remerge with Source. The first step is setting aside time to calm your mind, then engaging in the quiet, and then appreciating the solitude.  Remember self-compassion as it may take multiple attempts.

 

© 2015 Barbara L. Krause