Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How Change Happens

My eldest son, Brendan, works as a manager of a fast food restaurant. And he tells me stories. This is a small story, but it gave me hope for our shared world.

About a month ago, Brendan walked into the restaurant and noticed that two of the young women working on the counter were huddled together whispering and looking upset. When he asked them what was going on, they told him that a male customer had just told them he wanted to pay them to have sex with him. They pointed the man out- he was sitting at a table nearby with his coffee.

Brendan went over to the man and started to chat, asking him how he was doing. The man, no doubt wondering why the manager of the place was talking to him, asked, “What’s going on?”

Brendan replied, “Well it sounds like you said something completely inappropriate to a couple of the staff.”

Instantly, the man got to his feet, walked over to the counter and started asking, “Who said I said something inappropriate? That’s a lie!” glaring at the staff standing behind the counter.

“He was pretty convincing- so indignant,” Brendan told me, “I really started to wonder.”

“Wonder what?” I asked.

“Oh I never doubted that the women were telling the truth- but I wondered if I‘d walked over to the wrong guy. But I didn’t have to wonder long.”

Before any of the women could reply, one of the young men behind the counter stepped forward. “Nope,” he said. “They (meaning the women) don’t need to identify themselves because I witnessed what you did. I heard you tell them you wanted to pay them for sex.”

The man left.

Now the timing of this incident is was what intrigued me. In early December, much of the country had been involved in conversations about the stories of sexual assault involving a popular radio host. Social media sites were buzzing- and in the beginning the most asked question was: If they are telling the truth, why hadn’t these women laid charges? (Charges have now been laid.) That question lead to thousands of women sharing their stories about being raped, about not being believed, about the horrors of going through a trial and dozens of other reasons why (for some of us) it often didn’t even occur to women to report an assault.

And something surprising happened: people who had taken a pretty firm stance, changed their position, got that it was not simple, understood that although there had been some good changes in the law, the culture- the ways in which women who report rape were viewed and treated- had not changed.

I asked my son if he thought the young man’s choice to step forward and speak up with such speed had been influenced by these recent public conversations.

And Brendan said, “Well, it might have. If it did, it would be because the stories we've been hearing tell us how this kind of stuff impacts women. Most guys, unless they were particularly homophobic, would just brush off a comment like the one this guy said to the women. They’d tell him to get lost or just ignore him and figure he was a jerk. But the stories that have been shared- just the sheer volume of them- highlight that our experience (as men) is not the same as women’s, so something like this can have a much bigger impact on a woman than it would have on most of the men I know. If we get that, we- the vast majority of men who never assault a woman- are going to step up fast, like this guy did, in a situation where a man is doing something that is understandably disturbing to a woman."

Listening helps us get how similar and how different we are, helps us "get" that we do not know what it is like for the other who is of a different gender, skin colour, class, culture, sexual orientation etc. 

Because this is the paradoxical truth of our inter-beingness: We are all One, made of the same sacred stuff and participating in a Sacred Wholeness that is both what we are and larger than us all AND each other is wholly other, a mystery to me, someone with a different experience, history, and perspective than my own.

If we know the truth of the first part of this paradox- that we are One- we do not create artificial separations, we extend ourselves, seek connection and welcome each other as another myself.

If we know the truth of the second part of this paradox- that each has his or her own experience that is not identical to our own- we approach the other with an open heart and receptive mind, ready to listen deeply to how it is for them, ready to let what we hear change us and shape our actions. 

That's how we make change- together.

Oriah (c) 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Waking Up With The Beloved

As I pulled up out of sleep in the morning light,
I felt the Beloved sitting at the foot of my bed
beaming such love,
I felt every molecule of my being singing.
I struggled not to wake up,
afraid I would lose awareness of this Presence,
frightened that the way it filled my heart
with all I had ever ached for
would fade if I opened my eyes.
But a voice said: “It’s okay.
Open your eyes.
I am everywhere.
Your awareness flickers on and off,
like sunlight moving through clouds,
but I am here, always with you.”
~Oriah (c) 2015
May those who are suffering today- those who have lost loved ones (thinking in particular of the many killed in Nigeria) feel held in love, by Love even in the midst of deep grief.
Another wonderful photo from Karen Davis at https://www.facebook.com/OpenDoorDreaming

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Learning When To Let Go

Sometimes, even when we make a choice that is good for us, good for our life, perhaps even good for others, there can still be loss and grief.

Recently, I let go of someone, quietly stepped away from a friendship. I told the truth, told them I simply did not have the energy for what was happening between us, or would have to happen- need to be talked about, sorted out, resolved, agreed to- for the friendship to continue in a real and authentic way,

It was the right choice. I really don't have the energy to bridge the chasm that had opened up around behaviour that was, to me, inexplicable. I don't think the behaviour was intended to be hurtful. It was an expression of something that was probably true for the other on some level. Although it was directed at me, I don't think it was really about me at all.

And I could be wrong about all of that. Maybe the behaviour made perfect sense, and maybe it was about me, I can't really know for sure. But I did know that the distance it created would need to be bridged for continued connection.

One of the gifts of having had a chronic illness for many years is that I know how much energy things take and whether or not that energy is available to me in the present. It took me longer than I'd like to admit to heed this knowing, to accept when I cannot do something without consequences for my health and to the detriment of other areas of my life that feed my heart and soul.

But knowing when I can't do something, knowing when I need to step away, doesn't mean I don't feel the loss. I do.

When I was younger, to remove myself I had to make the other wrong, had to churn up anger and muddy my memories with reminders of real and imagined slights and hurts. Of course, the downside of not needing to do this, of simply knowing when it is time to step away even as I appreciate the places where we've touched each other, shared laughter, offered support in the past.. . . . is that the loss is felt fully- an ache I meet with prayers for the other, hopes for their happiness and well-being.

Learning to let go when the time is right. Knowing what we really can and can't do and accepting this. Being willing to take responsibility for our choices. Telling the truth. Not needing to make the other wrong. Feeling the loss, letting the sadness that arises keep the heart soft when the other comes to mind. Being willing to feel it all. Knowing that the future is unpredictable.

I am so grateful for the connection that was, and I feel blessed to have let go when the time was right.

Not easy. Not excruciating. Just life as a human being.

~Oriah House (c) 2014

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Beloved Beginnings

The blessing of a new year is the reminder that we can begin again and again- not just in January, but whenever we need to, with each dawn, each breath. Some days I begin again dozens or hundreds of times. We are human, so we will inevitably at times become distracted and weary. We will wander from the clarity of knowing that is beyond articulation and understanding, the moments of sitting in the centre of what we are and why we are here, the awareness that is rooted in Love.

Often it is the deep longing to reach for the Beloved within and around me that helps me begin again. But sometimes I lose even this, cannot find the end of the thread of that longing that will take me home to the Infinite Love I have tasted in moments of grace. And then I find, to my astonishment, that even this lack, this loss of feeling and faith, when willingly experienced fully, can make me available to the longing that guides me home.

Ah, words are inadequate to convey the gift of beginning again remembering those moments when the whole ball of wax (including myself) was revealed as the sacred unfolding, the Love that sustains it all. But still I try to touch it with my words, gently asking myself- Have I been faithful to what I knew in those moments when the Beloved broke through to me? What would it look like today to be faithful to knowing myself and every other as Beloved? How would I prepare food, speak to a friend or a stranger, walk on the earth, be with myself if I allow this awareness to permeate and guide me?

And I begin, again. ~Oriah (c) 2014

(Another wonderful sunrise photo from Karen Davis athttps://www.facebook.com/OpenDoorDreaming )

Saturday, December 27, 2014

In The Crack Between The Worlds

I love these days, the time between festive gatherings and the new year. Of course the "new year" is a human construct, but these days feel like an invitation to pause, to step into shamanic dreaming, to feel the shape of what is to be carried forward and what is to be gently released and left behind. 

I love the idea of perpetual creation, that all of this world- including us- is linked to and co-created in each moment by the Mystery that is both within and around us, by the Sacred Wholeness that is both what we are and greater than the sum of all the manifestations. 

These are realities I explore in contemplation, feeling their embodiment. When I first wake up, or before I go to sleep, on the bus, or while walking through the park-  I start with three deep breaths, watching the inhale, following the exhale, noticing how my attention slows my breath and makes it feel complete. And then, I let my body lead. . . . .feeling an inner and outer unfolding with each inhale. . . . letting go into gravity with the exhale and then. . . . pausing at the end of the exhale. . . . dropping into stillness and waiting without straining, allowing the impulse to inhale to arise from deep within. 

There, in the pause at the end of the exhale I touch something, open to something that is always seeking to touch me: awareness of the crack between the worlds of spirit and matter that are not separate but simply two ways of seeing one wholeness that excludes nothing; the taste of an Infinite Love that welcomes and holds us all.

Perhaps in this inbetween place we can breathe and dance together, dreaming a new year of deepening love and life for ourselves, every other and the world  ~Oriah (c) 2014 (Photo by Karen Davis at https://www.facebook.com/OpenDoorDreaming)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gifts of the Darkness

Dear friends, have not been on line at all as a nasty little virus has had me bedbound for the last couple of weeks. This too will pass, but in the meantime, I am appreciating the "opportunity" to move slowly and have lots of time for meditation and prayer. 

As usual, news of the world is a mix of mayhem and magic, of celebration and sorrow. Human beings take my breath away with our capacity for searing cruelty (thinking of the families in Pakistan who lost loved ones during an attack on a school) & boundless compassion (thinking of the Australian #I-will-ride-with-you campaign to support Muslim members of their communities after the hostage-taking there.)

Heartache and hope often hold hands. I think of this in particular as we near the Winter Solstice here in the northern hemisphere- the time of the longest darkness. I live in a culture so enamored with the light- with movement and doing, with striving and achieving- that we often overlook or avoid the gifts of slower, darker, times. It’s not that I object to the lights and tinsel, the candle-lighting and gift-giving. It’s just that I’d like to mine the gold of going into the darkness before we rush to the reassurance of the returning light.

Because there are real gifts in darkness- deep rest, new dreaming, a sharpening of other senses that allow us to feel the present moment shape of our inner landscape. A seed left sitting on the table in a well lit room remains a seed. But a seed placed into the dark moist earth splits open and pushes new life up toward the light. What kind of seeds might you be in your life and our shared world?

May the blessings of the darkness and the gifts of the light be received fully in this season of the longest night and (on the other side of the world) the longest day. May we plant the seeds of abiding peace in our own hearts, families, and communities in the way we walk through our ordinary days, the ways we choose to be with ourselves and each other fully. ~Oriah  (Another beautiful photo from Karen Davis at https://www.facebook.com/OpenDoorDreaming?ref=br_tf and thanks for the proverb to Barbara Susan Booth.) 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Feeling My Way

I am feeling my way into a different way of writing- which of course, means a different way of living. It neither abandons nor relies upon discipline of will- mostly because, although that has worked at least to some degree in the past, reliance upon discipline is not working for the new book I am writing, probably because this book is. . . . about the things that feel like they break us and the choices possible for real healing and a kind of transformation that is both terrifying and exhilarating.

And yes, I know that is a run on sentence, and for now that is how I need to write- hand-over-handing my way through the story, letting one thing lead to another. not knowing what comes next, letting the place where it takes me be a surprise.

Of course, it has always been true that to enter the creativity journey we must surrender our illusion of control.

Recently I heard James Finley describe the divine/God/Mystery as the Infinite Love that gives itself away with every breath.

And I thought, "Ah what would it be to go to the writing from that place? What would it look like to give my heart/myself away in love with every word, every sentence, every story?"

What if we came to every task that we both want to do and resist doing this way- letting go and giving ourselves to the movement in every moment? Contemplating this I can feel how this makes real mercy and tenderness unavoidable. And don't we all- doesn't the world- need more mercy and tenderness?

It is unfolding. Seeing the writing I do as one way to give myself away in love to the world helps me to keep writing, to keep praying- until the difference between the two is indistinguishable.

Oriah (c) 2014 ( (Photo by Lee Horbachewski- which I have titled in my head "Unfolded")