Thursday, October 17, 2013

Don't go back to sleep!

Last night I had the worst nightmare of my nearly four decades. When I woke up, a line from a Rumi poem began to echo in my mind, “Don’t go back to sleep!” 

And so I got up, grabbed the pink shawl my newest and most lovely guardian angel just sent me, and went downstairs. I wanted to cry. I wanted to call my dad. I wanted to find my kitties and hug them. It was a really bad dream and it left me buzzing with dread. I wondered if it was a bad omen for the trip I leave on today. I wondered if someone else I love had died. Then I closed my eyes and this is what I saw:

The world is a tragic and beautiful place. The Rumi quote knocked on my mind's door, “Don’t go back to sleep.” I was relieved that I had not gone back to sleep, that I had gotten up and come to sit in meditation and wade through the disturbing energy of a really bad dream. I felt steeped in the coziness and love of my beautiful pale-pink shawl. Then the knock came again - some of us recognize that sign from the Divine that we need to pay attention - my friend Sara gets a chill on her arms. Another friend hears a distinct buzz in his ears. I get a sharp pain in my right ovary - go figure. 

The sharp pain said, “Hey, don’t be so literal. We’re talking about Rumi here...” And I contemplated for a moment what Rumi meant when he said, “Don’t go back to sleep!” On one level, he is telling you not to sleep your life away - as in actually lying in your bed too long and missing a beautiful part of the day, losing minutes of life, and general sloth and hebetude. 

He also meant don’t fall back into old habits of thinking, old patterns of being, rutted out reactions, and limiting beliefs. Wake up to the divine spark, pulsation, energy inside of you and have a look at it! Peel your eyes open to see the God-ness inside of you. Don’t cover it up with disbelief and negative junk, and don’t go numb to the tragedy of life lest you miss its sincere and concurrent beauty. Be hard enough on yourself that you grow, grow, grow toward the light!

Incidentally, as we approach November 1 and my birthday (November 2), we approach the time of year when the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds is the thinnest; when all of our angels can most easily brush their radiant fingers across our cheeks. Sometimes this manifests as a really bad dream that gets you out of bed and into the appreciation of the blessings life constantly sends your way. 

May we all receive the gift and absolute joy of life with eyes wide open!

Here's Rumi's full poem:

“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don't go back to sleep!”
- Rumi

Friday, April 5, 2013

Get Up and Try

When I was a kid in elementary school, I didn’t like to go to school. I was wicked smart, liked my friends and teachers, and didn’t have to ride the bus, I just preferred to stay home and read romance novels all day. As kids do, I practiced all my techniques for convincing my mom to let me stay home. Consequently, I was very good at pretending to be sick. 

As a side note, I have since learned that when a kid “pretends” to be sick, he really is not feeling good on some level. It might not truly be a stomach ache, head ache, or (as I liked to say) The Scarlet Fever, but it is something keeping him or her from wanting to be exposed to the big bad world. My mom found the most loving way to help me cope.

My mom, who will always be much smarter than me, began the bartering process with the statement, “Please get up and try.” She knew that getting my warm little body out of my cozy bed and into some purple pants would get me started. Then, when I walked as slowly as humanly possible down the stairs and into the kitchen, she would use the “get up and try” to convince me to eat toast. I stared at that toast in the longest, most dramatic way a child can possibly stare until I realized that I really did want to eat it. And while I ate it so very slowly and with the smallest bites known to humans, she would pack me a lunch. 

She would close the box and as she handed it to me, she would tell me there was a “surprise” in that box for me. And most of the time, that was enough to get me to school. The surprise, by the way, was not an extra cookie or a tiny toy, it was a love note from my mom. I still have one in her perfect handwriting cut from a tan notebook page. It says, “I love you. Mom” and it will permanently reside on my fridge in whatever home I occupy for the rest of my days as a reminder that My Mom is Great - and that I should always, always get up and try.

“Get Up and Try” works for more than just getting out of bed; it also works for tackling a new and challenging bouldering problem, for sitting down to a difficult conversation with a co-worker, for busting out work or reports before zoning out to “Weeds.” It works for steep and gnarly ski runs, hours of patience for kids (and the adults they bring with them), taking a hiatus from coffee, and pretty much anything that requires that extra bit of bravery that we can oftentimes disregard with the thought, "Oh, maybe I'll do that some other time..." Get Up and Try pretty much works for everything!

I still have those days when my bed is cozy, when it’s raining outside, when I have a long day ahead or have to do something hard at work or go somewhere I dread to go. I have days when I’m too tired, kind of spacey, not feeling sociable, and would just rather stay home and look out the window, nap with my cats, and read a really long, good book. But the truth of the matter is, whenever I actually do get up and try, I usually wish I had gotten up earlier. The slow walk down the stairs and the wait for the tea water to boil start to energize me from the soles of my feet right up to my much more resistant brain. I can still look out the window for a minute, pet the sweet kitties’ bellies, and read a short bit before packing my lunch, grabbing my goods, and blowing a kiss to the note on the fridge as I walk out the door.

Thanks, Mom, thanks for teaching me to Get up and Try!!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ski Here Now

The other day I had a very palpable sense of what a waste of time it is not only to worry, but to think. I was driving to Montana in my new car (thanks mom & dad!) and thinking, thinking, thinking. I was thinking about things that happened, things that might happen, things that probably would happen, and things that will likely never happen. I was thinking about what to say, what to do, what not to do and say, and what others might do, say, or think. My head started spinning and I was reminded of Lloyd Dobler; the dude who didn't want to figure it all out in one night.

Then I saw a sparkle of sunlight zip across a river and a huge piece of trash blew across the road in front of me. It's interesting to note how one feels about trash in the road when driving their 1997 Subie with 267,000+ miles on it versus their brand-new-to-me Outback that still feels like mom and dad's even though it has a Grateful Dead sticker on the back. 

All of this brought my attention to the absolute present moment and I heard what I have heard a million times but in a new way: "There is only the present moment." I palpably felt the importance of my moment. Not because of the blowing trash or the glittering sun, but because I was alive to experience it. I saw it and felt it and experienced it - and then it was gone - only to be replaced by another unique and fascinating present moment. I saw that the worries about the past are useless, especially when the beauty of the now is tapping my cheeks. I saw that the worries about tomorrow are exceptionally useless as they are but creations that may, may not, and already have and have not happened in the continuum that is real and that contains no time or space.

It's not an easy concept to hold for very long, that of the present. There are so many interesting, terrifying, sad, exciting, magical, and different thoughts to create at any given moment! And many times, especially when the present is less than comfortable, those thoughts seem much more desirable. But I will tell you the dangers of not recognizing the present for what it is, which is, the only thing that matters.

On a physical level, when you are not present, you risk physical and/or emotional harm to yourself or others. You can say and do (or not say and do) things so quickly and irreversibly when you're not paying attention. 

When you are not present on an internal level, you can miss very important messages from your body about what is happening, what is important, what to do next, and what feelings and intuitions are trying to arise.

And on the secret level, when you are not paying attention, you miss a lot of magic. So many serendipitous, synchronous, and lovely signs blink and sparkle at each one of us every day to tell us that we are loved, we are protected, we are surrounded by and infused with the beauty of being alive. These whispers and whisps of light and love constantly tinkle in our ears, flit in front of our eyes, and nudge our hands to play. The gentle yet powerful and full cosmic humor stands nearby always, just barely containing its laughter at the wonder and delight of our experiences. 

It's time to turn away from work and worry and waiting for life to be different and turn toward that which is right there, smack in front of us, whether it be beautiful, tragic, ugly, devastating, delicious, sour, or bland. What is it? How does it feel? What is the experience of it just now? And like they say about the weather in Montana, if you don't like it, wait 5 minutes (or in the case of my mind, .3 seconds) and it will change ... Happy Present Presence to you!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Please Help Me

A teacher of mine once told me that when she was very sick and not finding relief from some very difficult and serious health issues, a friend recommended a specific doctor to her. This friend told her that when she saw the doctor, he might seem aloof, disinterested, and brief. What was important then, said the friend to my teacher, was that my teacher mentally or internally say to him, “Please help me, please help me.” The friend assured my teacher that no matter what actually happened in the appointment, the doctor would receive and act on this internal message. And so she did it. As it was, the doctor was brief and aloof. He did prescribe some herbs and breathing exercises, and she began to miraculously heal and now experiences very little effect from the original health issue. I always found this interesting. 

Until I found myself desperately suffocating inside pain and grief. No longer was this story interesting, it was fascinating. And I did also find myself, on this same day, walking in the snow, sobbing out my eyeballs, looking to the trees, and asking for help.

Who was I talking to? I don’t know. When no one else is around, who are any of us talking to? I guess it was the trees who usually, to me, seem so loving, warm, joyful, and welcoming. That day they just looked tall, cold, impersonal, and disinterested. My personal pain seemed so insignificant compared to their own long history of trials, work, and suffering, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. And I remembered the doctor. So I asked them for help.

I don’t know what happened, but my tears did stop and everything seemed suddenly so very quiet. Then I felt embarrassed - what could those trees do anyway? What if someone heard me talking out loud in the forest? I walked away.

Leaving the forest, I did notice the sky was crisp and blue with no white clouds to be seen. I saw also, a lone dead tree, very tall and with many black branches up high against the blue sky. Then I saw movement. It was a bald eagle. I watched it closely. The eagle lifted his wings just slightly away from his body and shrugged them three times. Then he turned around and hopped down a branch, hidden from my view by the tree trunk. For some reason, my heart swelled. I walked away feeling quite awed.

Yes I have seen a lot of bald eagles in my life. Some of them have been simply beautiful, and some of them have made my heart stop. Some of them seem to have appeared randomly, and some of them have appeared just like this one, right after I have broken down inside and just asked for help.

Many of us have had our hearts broken badly at least once; most of us have had our hearts broken a number of times. I know my heart will break again no matter how hard I try to guard and protect it. I am learning to skillfully and compassionately nurture a broken heart. Amidst the pain and confusion and wishing it would all just go away, asking for help is sometimes all I can muster.

Most everyone I know does not like to ask for help. We all like to give help and offer ourselves to others, but receiving help and even love sometimes is not so easy. Directly asking for love or help can feel close to impossible. And that is why I love what my teacher’s friend suggested to her when she went to the doctor - just say it inside yourself. No one has to actually hear it to know it. You don’t even have to say it to a human being! Just keep it simple, ask bird or sidewalk or rosebush or cup of tea, “Please help me.” 

And then, after you ask for help, whether out loud or as a secret plea on the inside, watch for your answers, watch for your clues. Notice what the universe, or God, or your guardian angels or whoever you believe offers you divine help, unveils. And then trust and believe that those moments that soften your heart, give you a shiver, or make you pause in wonder - like seeing an eagle shrug its wings at you - really are signs that you are supported, you are protected, you are loved. Your broken heart is actually whole.