Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Stepping Away

There is this thing I sometimes unconsciously slip into that does not work well for me. I learned it early- a coping strategy in a childhood home where th­­e adults’ underlying rage and unhappiness was like an ever-present threat beneath the antiseptic scent of well-scrubbed appearances.

What I learned to do to survive was to continuously tune into others: to vigilantly and constantly watch and listen with my whole body and being; to anticipate what might be required; to disconnect from any sense of my own life- whether casual preferences or soul-deep desires- in order to serve the other’s priorities.

I felt I had to earn my right to be for one more day, every day. 

When my marriage to my sons’ father ended I remember telling a friend, “When I live with another I turn too much of my inner face toward them and lose myself over time.”

Over the years I've become better at setting and keeping clear healthy boundaries with friends, students, clients and colleagues. But in times of great change- even desired change- as my all-too-human anxiety arises I sometimes unconsciously slip back into focusing my inner attention and energy on the other, losing track of myself on some essential level.

As most of you know I've been working on a new book. The writing is deeply personal, a story of healing losses that both cultivate self-sabotaging survival strategies and offer some life-shaping gifts. But to write this story, to live the fullness of the healing the writing offers, I have to be deeply connected to my own life, body, heart, spirit. . . . I have to turn my face toward the inner landscape..

So, I am stepping away from Facebook and my weekly blog. Honestly, social media has brought incredible joy into my life- has brought connection with wonderful people around the world; a way to offer something and engage in and be stimulated by conversations that have added insight and contemplation, new ideas and laughter. (Yes, I enjoy a good giggle-inducing cat pic as much as the next person!)

But it has also offered me a way to turn my face away from my inner world when the writing I am doing makes it easy to want to look elsewhere. The hundreds of weekly emails, messages and comment filled with stories of challenge and courage touch me deeply. It's easy for me to unconsciously slip back into the old belief that I must exclusively focus on others’ needs to earn my right to be (or write or rest or pay the bills. . . ) The more the writing provides the possibility of truly uprooting this belief (a possibility that is simultaneously exhilarating and petrifying) the easier it is to turn my face to the many others with whom I connect on social media.

Here’s what I know: I have to write this book. Whether or not it is ever published or ever sells more than a dozen copies, I have to write it. For my life. For my health. (Oh how my fingers itch to write- for my contribution to the world- but I want to let the flourishing of this one small life be enough just for this minute.)

So I am stepping away. I will leave the pages up- but I will not be posting, reading, commenting, liking, sharing. . . .  I don't know for how long. For as long as it is something I need to do.

The Grandmothers in my dreams (who usually tend toward understatement) have said repeatedly: “Write or die Oriah.” It’s not a threat- it’s just a description of what is true for me. Death can be a slow moving away from the vibrancy of life, a hardly noticeable shrinking of living deeply and loving completely. Writing from the centre of being is what opens my awareness, what brings me to the Beloved within and around me, what cultivates the fullness of Life in me.

So the adventure continues. I hold you in my heart and prayers. May each of us find the next step in our journey. This is mine. In deep gratitude, Oriah

Oriah (c) 2014 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Neither Driftwood nor Masters of The Universe

On a pretty regular basis someone responds to something I post on Facebook with an enthusiastic, "JUST go with the flow!" 

It's understandable really- our you-can-do-anything-and-should-do-everything culture tends to cultivate an inflated sense of individual control over and responsibility for all aspects of reality, and that can feel exhausting. Surely we could do with a few lessons in surrendering and acceptance, particularly in the places where we do not have control (for instance, over other people.)

On the other hand, we are not driftwood. 

Consciously or unconsciously, we are all, to some degree, co-creating participants in our shared world and life. We have free will and are often able to make some effective choices. Of course choice is tricky, often shaped by aspects of self that are largely unconscious. Effective free will expands proportional to our awareness of what is happening within and around us, and let's face it- some moments are definitely better than others on the awareness front.

To my mind (and heart) it's not about flipping between or orchestrating the perfect mix of reaching for control or passively going wherever the strongest current takes us. Being an effective and full participant in life is a different way of being, one where we hold the tension between the idea of haplessly going with the flow and the fantasy of being masters of the universe.

It's more about using our free will to come into alignment with and surrender to present-moment surges of the surf -conditions within and around us- while relaxing into our limited but profound ability to shape where a wave will put us down. Often it's about timing- knowing when to paddle hard and when to let something larger carry us.

It's about choosing the wave to which we want to surrender, and deciding how we want to ride it in this moment. 

Oriah House (c) 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Take a Walk with Me

Some days you just have to surrender and let life show you the magic.

Monday I was feeling blah- woke up with the migraine I'd had the day before. It happens. But I put on my runners and headed out for my brisk morning walk. (I'm a little late to the party on this one, having only recently discovered the profound effect that exercising first thing in the day has on mood and metabolism.)

I stuck a twenty dollar bill in my pocket, thinking I might go pick up a few things for my post-walk smoothy. I was grumpy about needing to do this (I blame the headache) but as I walked I was lifted as I often am by the beauty of my neighbourhood: the spectacular old maples and oaks; the lilacs still blooming; the kids running and laughing on the way to school; an elderly couple walking arm in arm pushing their granddaughter in a stroller. . . .Life! I was listening Bill Withers singing, "Ain't No Sunshine,"  on my earbuds ( as I arrived at the grocery store, now smiling and thinking: I love this city, this life, people.

Now the shift in my mood was magic enough, but then things started to. . . get weirdly wonderfully. An older woman (ie- a woman my age) who was stacking the produce shelves paused to help me find mint. We found one package but she frowned and took it from me, saying, "Wait." She tapped it on her hand and looked closely at the herbs, before announcing, "Okay- they are still alive! Otherwise by tomorrow they'd be no good." I thanked her, touched by her caring.

Of course, by the time I'd gotten to the check out line with my chia seed, mint and bag of kiwis (the things I'd come for) I'd also picked up an avocado and a huge elephant garlic. My total was $22.92 so I told the cashier to take off the garlic and avocado.

But before she could do that, the woman in line behind me said, "I'll pay the difference." Shocked, I turned to her and assured her that she did not need to do that, but she insisted, saying, "I've done it myself- been a little short. It's no problem."

I agreed and thanked her, in part because I was starting to get a little choked up at her spontaneous generosity to a total stranger.

As I walked out of the store, I pulled my sun glasses from my pocket. A young man standing ahead me of waved and pointed saying, "You dropped something." Turning I saw the key card to get into my apartment building on the floor. I picked it up and thanked him, leaving the store more than a little overwhelmed by the courtesy and caring of total strangers.

Smiling as I walked along, I said a prayer of gratitude and muttered, "I get it. Head pain or no, I am not alone, I am connected, I am cared for, I am part of this big messy beautiful family of life. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."

I wandered through the tree lined streets toward home. Suddenly a group of children were moving toward me on the sidewalk, herded by three women quietly urging them forward. They were in pairs holding hands, hats on, all between two and three years old. They made me think of ducklings bumping along, easily distracted, alternately wandering and trying to keep up. As they approached me I stood aside but one little girl stopped abruptly (causing a bit of a gentle pile-up behind her) and thrust her hand up to me. She was holding a bright yellow dandelion. "For you," she said with a big smile.

"Oh," I said startled. She'd caught me so off guard, I didn't know what to do.

She frowned, a line creasing her forehead between startling blue eyes, and then repeated with some fierceness, "It is for you!"

"Ah," I said smiling and taking the flower. "It's beautiful! Thank you."

And I walked into the little park a few steps away and sat down on the grass. It would be fair to say that by this time I was a little undone by the random kindness of the morning. I just sat there my heart aching with fullness.

Some days life breaks your heart with all that is hard: injustice, illness, injury, poverty, violence . . . But there is also courtesy, caring, kindness, generosity, connection, and incredible beauty. I'm not into conspiracy theories, but I think that Monday morning some power, some force- the Great Mystery- conspired to show me the simple healing magic of everyday life,  the beauty that reminds of us of our wholeness every day.

And I am filled with gratitude, carried by grace.

Oriah House (c) 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

She Grew Down

I am writing this week- and doing a bit of a dietary detox (time will tell if that was a good idea or not, to be doing the two at the same time.) So, instead of a regular blog, here's a little snippet, an epigraph that introduces one of the sections of the new book I am working on. Just where all the pieces fit never becomes clear to me until near the end, when chaos reigns and I wonder if I have a book at all. All just part of the messy creative process. But in the meantime- here's a glimpse at the landscape of the story:

She'd grown up too fast.
Now, it was time to grow down  
into the earth. 

She wanted to be a woman 
who couldn't be seduced 
or intimidated 
into abandoning what she knew
in gut and heart, in blood and bone.

So she grew down
into the life she'd been given,
into this being human.

Oriah House (c) 2014