Friday, August 18, 2017

Healing Our Shared World

Here's what I've learned from my own inner work that applies to our collective life: we have to deal with the past because we carry it with us, in our cells, in our institutions, in our unconscious assumptions and daily behaviour. What is buried, repressed or denied is not gone. Here, in Canada, we are just beginning to look at what was done (and continues to be done) to the indigenous peoples that called this place home long before our European ancestors arrived. We have to be willing to look squarely at what has been done, to listen to those most effected, and find ways to redress the wrongs, to compensate for grave injustice, to stand up and say, "No," to those who would have us pretend that it was or is all okay or justified, to say, "No," those who would insist that "might is right."
Many of us who had violent and abusive childhoods have learned the hard truth that although great healing that allows for a fullness of life is- with clear intentions and deep work- possible, we do not erase the past. There will always be a catch in my throat when I hear of how another's mother loved them. There has been much healing, but still, on some terrain I walk with a bit of a limp. But it does not keep me from dancing.
The hardest part of my own healing journey has been facing the truth of what happened. I did not want it to be so, and for a long time I did not even know I was rewriting history, pretending it had all been okay. To survive we often "normalize" that which is a long way from acceptable.
What many of us have done individually we must also do collectively. We must look at what has been and is still being done that is deeply harmful and unjust. We must listen- really listen- to the life experiences of those who have been most effected and let these stories break our hearts open. And together we must find ways to redress the wrongs, to heal the wounds, to ensure that no more harm is done. There are infinite ways to do this: to speak out; to participate; to lobby, legislate and demonstrate; to support and listen, listen, listen, to let the reality of what is and has been touch us, change us, motivate us.
So, I will end this post as I have so many others, with the words of Arthur Ashe, the first African American professional tennis player, born in Richmond Virginia in 1943. His words have become a mantra for me when I am overwhelmed by all that needs to be done and unsure of how to contribute:
"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."
Thank you Mr. Ashe. I can only imagine what challenges brought you to this wisdom. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Conversations That Create Change

A thoughtful, timely piece on how to contribute to conversations and take actions that remake our communities and the world. Brene Brown is clear, articulate and, as she puts it, not afraid to speak truth to bullshit in a way that does not shame but holds us all accountable. Support for right action in difficult times. Blessings, Oriah

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Just for Today

These words are just for today.
Just for this moment, this slow inhale. . . this soft exhale
They are bits of green sunlight filtered through leaves
Small shadows moving across the grass
They are not for posterity
They do not promise prosperity
They do not pretend to be other than what they are:
The way I get through
The way I taste joy, bear sorrow, and feed hope
The way I remember that each moment is holy
These words are just for today

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017

Deep gratitude to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for the beauty of this photo. We all weave our days in different ways, creating beauty by being present.

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