Monday, June 26, 2017

Losing and Finding Our Way

Years ago- in the final years of my marriage- spiraling down into physical illness and despair, I went to a healer and described my symptoms. But it took me a long time to admit to the biggest symptom. It stuck in my throat and constricted my chest. Finally, barely able to breathe, it came out in a wail of anguish: "I cannot pray!"

Just saying the words crushed me. I had survived a brutal childhood held in the arms of the divine, in the sense of a loving presence bigger than it all. And now. . . . I could barely reach out, and when I did. . . . I could not feel that Presence, that Love. I was bereft.

To marry this man, I had abandoned myself, and in abandoning myself, in cutting myself off from that which was real and whole (which would have had me leaving that relationship long before the marriage,) I could not make myself available to that which sustained me. God/the Mystery/that Love which had always held me may have still been there- but I could not experience it, could not feel that Presence..

When we abandon ourselves (and in this as in so many things, that which creates us in every moment gives us free will) we separate ourselves from the deepest truth of our experience.

All of this- the darkness, the desperation, and the homecoming- flashed through me today as I read this piece from poet Leonard Cohen:

"I lost my way. I forgot to call on your name. The raw heart beat against the world, and the tears were for my lost victory. But you are here. You have always been here. The world is all forgetting, and the heart is a rage of directions, but your name unifies the heart, and the world is lifted into its place. Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller's heart for his turning."

In some ways, it is such a small turning, this coming home to our deepest selves, to our own heart, to this moment. . . .this breath. . . . to the Love that sustains us.But in other ways, it is a shift in worlds.

I am filled with gratitude for this day- with all of its beauty and its challenges, for the Presence of Love that creates and holds me, and - if I let it-  teaches and encourages me to never abandon myself or our shared humanness.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017

Deep gratitude to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for this spectacular image of the light that comes at dawn.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

How To Live with the Uncontrollable

Sometimes, things happen TO us. That's a hard truth to face. We all do the best we can to deal with what arises. Sometimes our best - the way in which we cope with hard things that happen- causes suffering for ourselves or others. If we are able- if we have the insight and courage to see the need and the means to find assistance- we get help.

Telling someone who is ill or injured, someone who has been raped or beaten, someone who has lost a child or encountered real cruelty, that they must have "chosen" this, isn't about empowering them. It's about trying to reassure ourselves that what happened to them could never happen to us, because we would never "choose" it.

Telling people who have borne great injury that they are "playing the victim," is about blaming them for things beyond their control, or telling them that their wound "should" have been healed by now. Sometimes we don't have the resources to listen. Let's own that- acknowledge our own human limitations- instead of making it about the other.

We control very little. Which does not mean that we don't have choices- although a real choice is one we can see and one we can make because we have the inner and outer resources to act upon it.

I can't tell from the outside what your inner resources are, so I cannot know what real choices you have. We can support each other. We can share our stories of finding and developing new resources with which to expand our choices- but we cannot give ourselves or others "control" over life.

The Grandmothers of the dreamtime told me years ago, "Trying to get control is always driven by fear." Sometimes, when we see ourselves desperately trying to get ourselves or others under control, we can recognize that we are afraid and invite the fear to show itself, can hold that fear with some tenderness.

And sometimes we can't. Sometime unconscious dread has us by the throat and terror has us paralyzed or frantically on the run.

This is not an argument for giving up. It's an appeal for kindness toward ourselves and others. It's a plea for compassion.

Courage is getting out of bed each day just as we are, knowing the vastness of what we cannot know or control, and finding a way- our way, which will look a little different for each of us- to fall in love with what is over and over again.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Using Life To Practice Being Here

Oooo, don't you love it when life sends us ways to deepen our practice. Ha! My landlord is planning a loud, and somewhat chaotic summer- replacement of all windows; new balcony resurfacing and removal/replacement of railings; new apartment to be constructed right below me (in what was a storage room so much smashing of concrete to create windows and framing of whole new apartment). . . . new finish on exterior walls, lobby and roof.

What a challenge NOT to anticipate beyond that which is needed to ensure places to sleep or do my client calls if and when it all happens.

Sometimes I catch myself starting to worry, mull, obsess about the options, the work, the timing, the cost, the impact on my health. . . .  I can feel my body tense with a long silent, "Nooooooo!" in anticipation of what might need to be done. 

Eventually (although not always as quickly as I would like) I ask myself: Is there anything happening right now that requires or offers an opportunity for action? If there is- I do it. (I did speak with someone about tenant rights.) If there isn't anything to be done, I ground myself and lay aside my anticipation of what may or may not happen. I say a prayer for help in being with what is. 

The challenge is in the practice of - Being. Here. Now. Weirdly- truly almost unbelievably- I find myself grateful for the chance to see how quickly I can unconsciously be pulled off centre and, on a good day, how I can firmly but tenderly pull my attention back to my breath and the present moment.. 

And in that moment, I am grateful to be practicing, grateful for the sounds of wind moving the trees and the birds singing outside my window, grateful to be here, now. ~Oriah

Grateful for the photos like this one from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming. Beauty always brings me into the present moment if I let it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Good News

Someone wrote me last week (when I was acutely ill) asking me how I felt about a spiritual teacher/healer on Facebook (I honestly don't remember their name) who had declared that anyone who is not 100% healthy (physically, psychologically, spiritually etc.) cannot offer assistance to others and is, therefore, a fraud.

Honestly, I chuckled and muttered, "Yeah, good luck with that one, honey," meaning- good luck with finding or becoming someone who has no illness or neuroses or struggles. And why would you want to?

The truth is, there are many traditions around the world that honour the wounded healer- the one who knows the terrain of human struggles because they have lived them, hopefully somewhat awake to and compassionate toward the many levels of being human (and, let's face it, some days are better than others for all of us on the awareness and compassion fronts.)

The person who wrote to me was outraged. I was a little surprised at my own lack of reactivity, but the older I get, the more I trust that life will handle some of our bigger delusions and ideals about how we or others "should" be.

But as I lay in bed, unable to do very much else because of pain, I wondered about the effect of such an assertion. Perfectionistic ideals do real harm (and yes, on this I speak from direct experience.) They urge us to present as someone (or something) we are not and in so doing, encourage duplicity, denial and dangerous inflation that do not lead to a happy place.

And beneath the pumped up ideal there is, inevitably, a sense of unworthiness crying out for attention and tenderness.

The good news- seriously the Really Big Good News- is that we do not need to be perfect, do not need to be completely healed, awake, enlightened or consistent to offer something of real value to each other and the world.

Now isn't that a relief?

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Snippet of a Story on A Sunny Day

On the way home from yoga I pause to watch a small group of three year olds (clearly a daycare group on an outing) standing on the sidewalk gazing up at a young kitten poking his head out of the third floor window of a frat house. (I live near the university- lots of frat houses.)

“It’s too high!” a girl with bright red bows tied to the ends of two dark braids, calls out to the cat. “You can’t jump from there- you’ll hurt yourself.”

“He doesn’t know what you’re saying. He’s a cat,” one of the small boys tells her with just a whiff of budding mansplaining.

The girl puts her hands on her hips and narrows her eyes as she turns toward him. “Animals,” she says with a certainty I don’t ever remember having, “always understand what I am saying.”

The boy shrugs and looks back up at the kitten.

“And now,” the girl informs him, “he is looking at you.”

The boy hesitates and then replies with just a touch of awe in his voice. “I think you’re right. He is. He is looking right at me.”

I walked on, smiling. I love when the warm weather arrives and life moves outside onto our shared sidewalks. I learn so much and find my heart is lighter just from listening.

~Oriah

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Un-Mothered

I have a request: with Mother's Day approaching, can we just set aside the generalizations about mothers? I honour the care-giving that mothers do. I am a mother of two wonderful men. Becoming a mother probably saved my life- it was the first time I was actually fully IN my body and consciously connected to my life-preserving instincts. Without thought, I was surprised to find myself moving instinctively to protect my sons from my mother. I was shocked to realize how abusive my own childhood had been. There were no surprise memories- I had not forgotten anything. But suddenly I saw it for what it was and not the "normal" I had accepted as a child because there was simply no other option.

Every time I hear someone say something like, "Oh, to go back to those wonder years when we were all children and free to be who we wanted to be;" or "What a wonderful time- when our mothers took care of everything," I cringe.

The hard truth is that some of us spent our childhood terrified of and/or longing to please mothers who were unable to be caring or kind or present, and sometimes mothers who were violent and abusive. I am so glad this was not true for many- and I do love hearing people's good-mother stories. I just want us to remember that not everyone grew up that way.

So maybe we could just talk about our own experience being mothered and mothering in "I" statements, without claiming that it was what happened for "all of us." Yes, I feel a pang when I hear adults talk about mothers who were loving and supportive- but I am okay with that. I have accepted that, even after all the healing, I will still sometimes ache and grieve for something that never was.

A wonderful line by Adrienne Rich comes to mind: "There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors." Let's be that for each other- a place where there is room for acknowledging all of what has shaped us and still be known as whole.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017

Image from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

When We Are Done

It's good to know when something- a job, a place, a relationship, a project, a way of seeing, a struggle- is done for us, to know when it is finished even if it is not, by some external standard, complete. Some of my most peaceful, expansive moments have come when I have realized that what I was holding in my hands was simply no longer for me, and have been able- without fanfare or gnashing of teeth- to just set it down. Oh, sometimes the gnashing of teeth- the second guessing and grieving- came later, but in that moment there was just knowing, clarity, and peace. I don't know why this came to mind when I looked at this wonderful morning photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming- perhaps it is the blaze of light, the bird about to soar, the spaciousness of the image. Or perhaps there is something I am holding that needs to be set down. ~Oriah