Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Courting Kindness*

I've been thinking a lot about kindness, watching to see when it is easy and when it is hard for me to respond to another with an open heart and kind words or actions. One of the things I notice is that when I feel connected to my own, deep centre (and so, clear about my own available energy) it is much easier to be kind, because I don't feel at risk of agreeing to something that I really cannot do without serious consequences to my own health.
To be kind, we need to take responsibility for knowing our own limitations of the moment. This doesn't mean that we cannot, at times, stretch- we can- but if we never really consider our own inner and outer resources, we may become unkind in a desperate effort at self-preservation.
And, of course, sometimes we make a mistake- we think we can be available or helpful to another in a way that it becomes clear, we cannot. It can be tempting to blame the other, to communicate that they or their situation are "too much," instead of letting them know that although we want very much to there for them, our inner resources need replenishing right now.
Healthy self-care enables us to be kind. ~Oriah (c) 2016

Arianna Gray came up with the title for this little piece when I posted it on FB. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dancing Anyway

Wounds can be healed
Some leave a scar
Some leave us walking
with a bit of a limp
We can spend years
trying to walk as if
we'd never been hit
Learning to pass as someone
who has never felt the blade
never been burned by the fire
Trying to fade every scar

Or we can accept what is
and move to the music as we are-
a little lopsided
tilting into the wind
coming to a sudden stillness
when a voice or a movement
ignites an old neural pathway
with the remembered scent
of blood and burning

We pause for just a moment
not breathing
Then exhale
and inhale
and move to the the melody once more

Some wounds
even after they're healed
leave us walking with a bit of a limp

But they cannot stop us from dancing

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

Photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming

Monday, June 20, 2016

Time Off-line

Blessed Full Moon and Solstice dear friends. Longest time of light here in the northern hemisphere, and longest night down-under. My heart, body and dreams are telling me to take a break from online life, including Facebook and this blog. I am off this week to a lakeside cottage - and then hope to get further up north to the wilderness I love a little later. Mostly I need to unplug, to step out of the stream of constant information, to go (internally and externally) quiet. And so, I will heed this call on this day of the fullness of the Summer Solstice light. I don't know what it will bring. I do know I will miss many of you. Following inner promptings- Oriah
And if you find yourself missing Karen Davis' spectacular photos like this one, please go to her Facebook page Open Door Dreaming

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


I've been thinking a lot about kindness, about how it is often not my first (or second, or third. . . ) impulse. At some point I realized just how daunting and life-changing it could be to make my moment by moment intention, kindness toward myself, others- family, friends, strangers- and the world.

Kindness, in any specific instance, leaves no one and nothing out. Sometimes kindness requires that we walk away. Sometimes it asks us to dive in. Most often I find it asks me to pause, to slow down, to feel my way into the moment asking, what would kindness look like here?

In a world shouting that you must live your BIGGEST, BEST life, kindness can seem too tame, too quiet, too ordinary. But I begin to suspect that making room for kindness. . . .could take us beyond where we thought we could go, would unleash the breath-takingly wild and generous stuff of which we are made.

 ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

Gratitude to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for this wonderful photo.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Little Things

So here's how the day started: I opened the fridge door to take out a one liter pitcher of homemade iced tea and. . . . dropped it. In the fridge. From the top shelf. Small picturesque waterfalls of brown liquid trickled down onto all the food below. I’d planned to take some tea back to bed and start writing there, in a leisurely way. Which is exactly what I did, leaving the fridge as it was. An hour later I went into the kitchen to embrace the opportunity to clean my refrigerator. (Ha!) As I opened the door and felt the cold tea dribbling onto the floor soak into my socks (happily black, not white) I flipped on a cd by Mary Chapin-Carpenter. She sang, "Some days you're the windshield, some days you're the bug. . " And I started to laugh. Of course, there are many things that are much more serious than kitchen spills. I recently spent time with people who were reeling (and still are) from the sudden and completely unanticipated death of a woman who was wife, mother, sister, friend, colleague and inspiration to many. One of the enormous privileges of living where I do, is that very few days are about life and death. A few are, and- as we would say in the shamanic teachings I’ve learned and shared- when death comes we have a chance to make it an ally. It is the reminder of impermanence. It is that which puts spilled tea and wet socks and most other things into perspective. My fridge and kitchen floor are cleaner than they’ve been in months. The sun is shining, and the children in the park next to my balcony are squealing and laughing as they run around as children do. Life is good. I am grateful. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer " House I love this photo- makes me smile. Like this little guy we are small and beautiful, and although sometimes solitary, always connected.Thank you Karen Davis at .Open Door Dreaming.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Try a Little Tenderness

Sometimes, preparing a meal when I am tired and cranky and want to argue with the assertion that popcorn is not an entrée, I catch myself grumbling, and I stop for a minute. I sit down in a chair and take a deep breath. I feel my weariness and I lay my hand on my heart, and wait for a little tenderness to arise.

And then, moving more slowly now, I prepare the meal, noticing the crispness of the red peppers, the scent of the cilantro, the creamy smoothness of the avocado. And, on a good day, if I can let go of rushing, I can allow my desire to nourish myself or others infuse and guide my preparation of the meal.

And I swear you can taste the difference.

Because intent- HOW we do something- shapes and to a large extent determines the impact of our actions. Actions taken solely out of obligation lose the fullness of their ability to touch the other or the self with that which is healing, expanding and renewing. Tenderness becomes elusive, and the effort is exhausting.

This holds for self-care as well as care of others. I have a long list of things that I know are good for me: eating well, going for a walk, doing my morning practice. . . .But if I do them out of obligation (to some ideal or “should”) and without any real tenderness toward myself, I find I am going through the motions somewhat mechanically and the impact- the restoration of balance and energy- is diminished.

And yet, I don’t want to make this quality of caring another “should.” Some days, all we can do is go through the motions- and sometimes that’s enough to make us available to the grace of a larger Mystery that carries us beyond obligation to our true and compassionate nature.

I am learning to catch myself when I move too fast, when I am driven by real or imagined obligations. I am learning, as the song says, to try a little tenderness with myself and others.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House 

In keeping with this theme, as I look at this photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming, I think of Stephen Mitchell's translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching: "Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water. Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Impossible Decisions

Last weekend was the first real summery weather we’ve had. It was sunny and warm, lilacs exploding with scent, and blossoming trees heavy with flowers. And then, someone I know- a close friend of a heart-sister- had a massive stroke. In the blink of an eye, life as she knew it- filled with loving family and friends, an exciting new business and seemingly boundless energy- changed. She is on life support. There is brain damage. Doctors are waiting to see what happens next. There will probably be some hard decisions for her family to make. A couple of weeks ago I sat with another woman I admire deeply. Some routine medical tests revealed that she has a brain aneurysm. Doctors want to operate. If they don’t and the aneurysm bursts, she will likely die. But surgery will impact the brain in unpredictable ways. And I think to myself, “We don’t have what we need to make these kinds of decisions!” And yet, there is no one else to make them. The truth is, we can never know all the variables that deeply effect our lives and the lives of those we love. Part of me would like to have a chat Whomever-Is-In-Charge, would like to lodge a complaint: We are not equipped for this kind of responsibility! There is so much we don’t control and cannot know. There are real limits to life as a physical being: blood damages the brain. And yet, sometimes people recover when doctors thought it was impossible, and ongoing research is expanding our knowledge of many areas including neuroplasticity. Our impulse to hold on to life and each other is rooted in our very being. And yet, I think of my father before he died of Alzheimer’s. Over and over, in rare moments of lucidity and in the fog of his confusion he begged me to help him die, to help him escape the daily hell that Alzheimer's was for him. The best I could do for him was to ensure he did not get medical treatments that would prolong his life. How are we supposed to make these decisions that so profoundly impact our lives, when we don’t have all the information, don’t know what is truly possible or impossible. . . . when we would give our lives to help someone we love? But that is not what is asked of us. What is asked is something much harder. What is asked is that we do what we can with what we have to work with- incomplete information, few certainties, limited perception and aching hearts. Some of us have spiritual practices that help us feel held by something larger. Some of us do not.

We do the best we can with what we have. 

Often we stumble in confusion and anguish. Sometimes we are alone with our choices. Hopefully, more often we are held in the arms, hearts and prayers of others. I am in awe of how we do what has to be done, how we make impossible choices, how we hold each other in tenderness.
Last weekend- as is true every day on this beautiful planet we share- some people struggled with life and death decisions; some people had the life they knew changed forever; some people faced unexpected heartbreak and hard choices. 
And still the lilacs explode with scent, and blossoming trees are heavy with flowers.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

Photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming