Monthly Archives: June 2015

THE LIGHTHOUSE

ON BEING A LIGHTHOUSE, A STREET LAMP, A CANDLE IN THE NIGHT

June 28, 2015

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”  – Anne Lamott –

I read this quote this morning, and the following commentary: “So, you want to save the world but don’t know what to do or whom to serve or where to start? Breathe deeply. Feel your own vitality. Connect with the essence of who you are, what you love, what has broken your heart open, and what gives you strength. Be fully who you are–no resistance, no shame, no blame–and shine.”

Doing Restorative Circles with juvenile offenders is heart-breaking and joyous work. Once a young girl who found our Circle to be the first safe haven she’d known in a long time, began to crack open the hard veneer she hid inside and share her stories, her fears, her dreams. One night after an especially intense Circle, I went on a long walk along the Lakewalk. My heart was heavy with the weight of a burden I had no way to resolve. I knew that this girl, as well as most of the young people who came to our Circles, had to return to homes and classrooms that would be unchanged, even while they struggled to change themselves in the midst of these environments that had tangled up their lives in the first place.

The Lakewalk cut through a park, and as I passed beneath a streetlamp, the light went out. Strange. As I moved across the dark path toward the next pool of light, the streetlamp behind me blinked back on. As I approached the next streetlamp, it happened again. Very strange indeed; was there a lesson here? Heading toward the next streetlamp, it remained on and I came into the pool of light, passed through it, back into the darkness, heading toward the next pool of light up ahead. And so I moved through the park, light by light.

I looked back at the streetlamps winding along the pathway through the park. I realized that I, and others like me, were like these lights in the darkness of the lives of the young people we worked with. Each one of us providing a pool of light, of safety, of comfort for as long as that young person was in our care, or our classroom, or our program, or our home. And then, they had to make their own way again. But I saw that there would be other lights along their path. It wasn’t up to me to provide light all the way down their road to the end. It was only my job to make sure my light was shining in my own little space.

The world gets changed one person at a time. The Darkness is vanquished one light at a time. No, lighhouses don’t run around looking for boats to save. They simply stand there–shining. It is enough.

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OPEN THE DOOR AND COME ON IN…

OPEN THE DOORS, AND THE WINDOWS, TOO

Open the door and come on in
I’m so glad to see you my friend
You’re like a rainbow comin’ around the bend…
– Judy Collins – “Song for Judith”

It was the summer of 1972 and I was staying with my aunt and uncle. I was struggling with severe depression at that time in my life. Home alone one day, I put a record on the stereo that had been sitting out; a singer named Judy Collins–I’d never heard of her. I sat sipping lemonade listening, watching a boy and his dog playing in the parkway across the street.

Judy sang Amazing Grace and I began to cry. Where indeed was this God, this Being that I’d grown up hearing loved me so much? Was there any grace in my life I could call amazing? I was indeed lost…yet to be found. I was certainly blind to whatever goodness there might be in my small world.

I remember shooting an arrow heavenward–one of those “Is anybody there?” requests.

And then Judy began singing another song. She was putting words to exactly how I felt:    Sometimes I remember the old days
When the world was filled with sorrow
You might have thought I was livin’
But I was all alone
In my heart the rain was fallin’
The wind blew and
The night was callin’
Come back, come back, I’m all you’ve ever known…

Suddenly “reality” shifted, and although my physical human eyes could not see them, I sensed the Presence of what I will call Beings of Light…maybe Angels…and I felt waves of love wash over me as surely as if I’d been standing in the ocean with waves of water rolling over me. I felt joy bubbling up from somewhere deep inside me–

And Judy’s voice filled the room and my heart:
Open the door and come on in
I’m so glad to see you my friend
You’re like a rainbow comin’ around the bend…
And when I see you happy,
Well, it sets my heart free
I’d like to be as good a friend to you
As you are to me.

I played that song over and over again. I remember tears streaming down my face. I remember standing up and opening my arms wide. I remember twirling around, lifting my face upwards. I have known all these years, that something started that day. Something shifted inside me. Something opened up to that Force that I have never known what “name” to call It–God? Goddess? The Creator? The Source (of Life and Light in the Universe)? Spirit? Father? Mother? That song, that moment, was like the kiss that awakened Sleeping Beauty; my deeper consciousness–my soul–my spirit…was awakened that day.

Like the Israelites who wandered in the desert for 40 years, the journey that began that day would take me a little over 40 years. One morning this year I woke up and knew in every cell of my body that something had shifted. Some part of me had opened up that had not been so before, like a dam that had only allowed trickles of life and love, light and grace, understanding and strength, suddenly gone. Nothing remained to obstruct the flow other than my own choices at any given moment. I could argue that this was always true, it is always about our choice. But there is a difference between fumbling for the door in the dark, and standing in front of  that same door in the full light of day knowing you only have to reach out and throw the latch and turn the knob.

Each cell in our body is surrounded by a membrane to protect it and to help give it form. I recently learned that even within our cells, there are membranes surrounding each part of the cell. What I understand is that these membranes, in addition to providing some protection and form, are the connective tissue that allow communication throughout our body. Think of it! These connective tissue membranes within the cells, surrounding the cells, layered then around our bones, our nerve, energy, and blood pathways, around our organs, around the outer most layer of muscle, beneath our skin…every cell, from the microscopic level to the fact that our skin is itself a connective tissue membrane on the outside of our body! Micro to macro.

But these layers of connective tissue membranes have to do something in order to pass along communication, nutrients, hydration, and all the myriad of functions our cells are responsible for: the membranes have to choose to “open”. They have to allow the information, the nutrients, the hydration, or the literal “electric” energy to come inside. They have to let down their defenses and become permeable to the process. Surprisingly, I am also hearing more frequently these days that our own consciousness–our own will–our own thoughts have much to do with whether these membranes will open or remain closed.

Yesterday I listened to someone share from both a spiritual and scientific perspective that there is also a membrane of consciousness that surrounds us energetically. He said that only through our “faith”, our “belief”, our “intention”/”will” can that membrane open to receive energy that is sent to us, or that we have called to ourselves through prayer or intention. When we ask someone to pray for us, or we ask for grace or healing, or we set intention to receive guidance or wisdom or perhaps, provision of needed resources–do we expect to receive? Do we have faith–“the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” standing in the gap between the time of the prayer or the setting of intention and it’s manifestation? Do we believe we are loved, that the Creative Source of the Universe is benevolent ?

Belief, faith, trust–I am discovering that it is these that open the door. These make the membrane of consciousness permeable. This allows the flow of the Energy–the Light–of the Universe to flow into and through my life. This allows the flow of Love to well up from the Eternal spark of Life (or “God Inside”) me and to flow through me and out from me.

I have a planter whose soil has become compacted and hard. I water the plant, and the water runs right through–the dirt remains dry, compact, hard as cement. It cannot absorb any of the water. The energy of Love comes to us, often, but if our heart is hard and closed, that Energy disperses and flows off somewhere else.

Someone prays for us–the Energy of Grace, or needed guidance, or maybe healing comes to us in response. But if the doors are locked, the windows shuttered, the Energy disperses…and flows off somewhere else. I once asked a group of young students with whom I was working what they thought being “open-minded” meant. A ten year old girl raised her hand and said, “Well, it’s like having a door in your brain. If the door is closed and locked, nothing can get inside. But if it is open, then lots of new ideas and stuff can come inside.”

Open to receive help from someone instead of thinking we have to do it all by ourselves. Open to receive a gift, or a compliment instead of deflecting it. Open to receive someone’s love, however rough around the edges, instead of shielding ourselves from it because we are afraid we will be hurt or disappointed.

I have come full circle. Like the day in my aunt’s living room singing with Judy Collins with my arms flung wide, I often now will lift my arms and say–“I open, I open, I open…like the flowers to the sunlight, I open to the Light that is pure Energy that creates and sustains Life. I open, I open, I open…like the Earth to the rain I open to Love flowing from God Inside me, through me, out into the world around me–with grace and kindness and compassion. I open to Joy. I open to wellness and strength. I open to all the blessings that can possibly fill up my life today!”

Open the door and come on in
I’m so glad to see you my friend
You’re like a rainbow comin’ around the bend…

ON BEING UNWILLING TO FULFILL OUR PURPOSE

Reposted from December, 2011…

SAYING “YES” TO LIVING…

June 11, 2015

I am cleaning up my older blogs that underwent a transfer from Blogspot to WordPress when I made the switch last year…I had not realized how many had carried all their computer-language into the main body…what a mess! In the process, I came across this little gem…I remember that day and that walk up the hill in the snow…  And it just seemed a fitting companion to this morning’s piece about coming to the end of the road…the last of our “somedays”.  It is early summer now as I re-post this, and winter is a long way off. It is NOW that we are called to plant and to prune, to tend and to harvest…

December 2, 2011

Yesterday I walked up the road to the tracks in an inch of fresh snow fallen during the night. A bright blue sky, sun diamonds at my feet and sparkling along the boughs of trees. A red-headed woodpecker inspected a tree I stood beside. Above me a family of little House Finches were playing musical chairs.

The morning was soft-spoken. A tree laden with brilliant orange berries hung over the road, backlit by the brilliant blue of the sky.

An apple tree came into view. A few dozen apples, grey and shriveled hung from the branches where they had lived the one life they had known. Each wore a little white cap of snow. Too afraid to give themselves to their greater purpose, they clung steadfastly to the first truth of life they had known. Though the time came to grow beyond the delight of summer sun and gentle rains and give themselves to nourish others—to experience falling into the hand of a child, or the pie-maker, or the embrace of Earth and the hungry Doe—they clung to their little branch until their time expired. There they remain, lifeless, swaying in the brilliant winter morning.

A wave of sadness washed gently over me. They would not share their life, but in their death they have inspired me to live without fear.

SUNSET

SUNSET

June 11, 2015

I am sitting on my comfortable old porch, watching the sun set behind the bluffs. Water burbles as it falls into the little pond in my rock garden. Birds are having multitudinous dinner conversations. My thoughts wend their way to my dying father-in-law, sitting in his chair in a bright yellow room in a building 200 miles away.

What does it feel like, I wonder, to be removed from the familiar rooms and gardens of your home to spend the days that remain of your life in a single room in a building full of old and dying people? What must it feel like to live with the knowledge you will never return to your home–never sit in your old chair or wander through the cluttered rooms to sneak a slice of pie from the refrigerator?

….One day you drove to a routine doctor appointment, and just never came home again…

You wheel down the long hall to the patio entrance. You cannot even walk on your own now. The gardens here are lovely–meticulously cared for by some hired gardener. You miss the ramshackle mess of your yard with its overgrown tangle of shrubberies and perennials and weeds. Here there are no deer, no squirrels raiding the bird feeders. Here, everything is tidy. Everything is sanitary and sterile.

You live here now. You will die here. You’ve run out of somedays and tomorrows. The spool of your life thread has fed itself into the warp and woof of your story. You know that this path you’ve traveled so many years is coming to its last bend, its last mile before the unavoidable Door through which you know you must pass, leaving this old wreck of a body behind in the world to which it belongs, along with the ramshackle house and the tangled gardens and the stacks of books and the closets full of old junk you found intriguing those golden days when you hauled it home.

You wonder what lies beyond the Door? No matter…you’re going to find out whether you want to or not.

*************************

Back in the ramshackle house with the tangled gardens she sits at her table in her little kitchen world, stubbornly clinging to what was–to the familiar–refusing to acknowledge how swiftly the days are rushing by as she is carried on the currents toward that same Door her husband fast approaches. There can be no retreat, no turning back, no camping on the banks of this swiftly moving river. But oh, how hard she tries to swim against this current, back upstream somewhere where life made sense and she was comfortable and unafraid.

We watch as little by little her life slips through her frail fingers–its brilliance fading fast. We would take her hand and comfort her; help her relax into the inevitable flow. But the fight still blazes in her eyes. She’ll have none of it.

**************************

With one last brilliant flash, the sun sinks behind the bluffs, below the horizon. The birds have finished their dinner parties and are wheeling in the dusky sky, heading home. A dog trots by, absent a human companion. A mosquito is whining in my ear, looking for her own needed sustenance. The world is quieting.

My heart is full of love, and sadness; but as I watch the stars begin to wink into view, I wonder what incredible beauty, what wonders and joy wait beyond that Door to which we all must one day come. A passage to look forward to with excitement, rather than dread? An event to embrace, rather than resist? Perhaps on this side we see the setting of the sun, but on the other side is its rising.

GENTLENESS AND GRACE

June 3, 2015

BECOMING GRACE; LEARNING GENTLENESS

I did it! I completed my 21 day detoxification program! The program required I abstain from eating foods; all nutrition was juiced, or made into healthy, cleansing pureed soups. There were also supplements to take. I stayed nourished and energized, but my body was allowed to focus it’s energy on eliminating built up stores of toxins, and to rest and heal. There were detoxing baths, lymphatic drainage massages, connective tissue healing massages, kidney flushes, a liver flush, colon flushes (colonics)…  It was intense. I went through two healing crisis where I was down for the count for a day; and a few days of lowered energy. Otherwise I felt good. I lost about 15 pounds. I learned a lot.

Because the program encourages ending with a liver/gallbladder flush, my colonics therapist lent me the book, The Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse: An All-Natural, At-Home Flush to Purify and Rejuvenate Your Body by Andreas Moritz as it contained much more extensive information and better directions for doing the flush. Previously I knew very little about the functions of the liver. Reading her book I was astounded! Thinking like so many, that my liver is just fine and dandy unless I develop obvious symptoms of difficulty or disease, I had no idea how many small “hints” my body already is showing of a congested and unhappy liver. Having known people who have had gallbladder surgery and witnessed their pain, I did not suspect that I might be carrying around a load of liver stones of my own. I was. It was remarkable to experience passing (painlessly) literally dozens. According to the book, after the initial flush, one should do a liver flush once a month until no more stones are passed. I’m going to take this very seriously after witnessing what I was already holding and just how incredibly important it is to have a healthy liver!

I also learned a great deal more about colon health. I have paid only minimal attention to these two major organs in my body. But I now realize that they are the two organs most directly linked to our health; the cradle where disease is first spawned, and most linked to the negative aspects of aging. I learned that nearly all other organs and functions and systems in our body depend on these two organs to keep the rest of them functioning and healthy.

I think the thing I appreciate the most about my experience, though, is how much more connected I feel towards my own body-self. I feel kinder, gentler, more compassionate toward mySelf. I feel gratitude toward my body and it’s incredible wisdom and what it allows me to experience and do. I feel contrite at how much I’ve taken it for granted and how I’ve abused and warred against mySelf all these years. This first came forcefully to my attention early on in the program after my 2nd colonic. Determined to make this detox work, I was militantly going to make sure I got all the toxic garbage out of me. Directed to massage my abdomen during the colonic, I aggressively kneaded my colon and went 30 minutes longer than the average colonic. Afterwards, instead of losing weight, I gained two pounds. By that afternoon I was quite ill. The next day I could barely make it to my lymph massage. My therapist is a very wise, intuitive woman. After listening to me she told me that those extra 2 pounds of water had been reabsorbed into my system along with probably a lot of toxins–hence being so sick. She said, “Mary, you were to GENTLY massage…more like just laying your hand on your abdomen to encourage release. The idea is to relax and release.”

I realized then how difficult that has always been for me; to allow my body to do its work rather than beat it into submission. I wasn’t very good at listening and learning when not well. Instead I would be angry and feel betrayed by my body. It is time to call an arms truce and make war no more; to allow the flow of Life in and through me and all around me. To simply let go…  To enjoy who I am and be gentle and merciful and compassionate. I realize how much easier it will then be to be kind and gentle with others.

In her book The Call, Oriah Mountain Dreamer proposes that each of us have come to this Life to learn and then to teach (because after all, we can’t exactly teach something we haven’t learned or experienced, can we?) one primary attribute–one that can be summed up in just one word. Years ago as I read her account I had only to think for a moment and I knew immediately that my special word is Grace. This became a central theme in my personal journey.

GRACE: Favor or goodwill (kindness, kindliness, love); forgiveness, mercy, pardon; gentleness; elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action.

First to learn, then to teach; but I have also learned that the most grace-filled teaching is that which is done simply through living out what we believe.

In Native American tradition, the energy (medicine) of the Deer is Gentleness and grace. Where I live there are a lot of deer in the neighborhood. Often they wander through my yard, and occasionally when I walk in the woods in the hills above my house I will come across a few; sometimes I have even walked unwittingly into the midst of an entire herd of 20, 30 or more. It amuses me that too many times to be a coincidence, deer will walk into my space on a day when I need a gentle reminder to be gentle, to be kind, to be grace.

Now and then some light breaks through regarding having that grace for mySelf. Going through this Detox program was such a time. It was a pivotal lesson. I feel differently toward mySelf and my body. I will care for mySelf in a way I haven’t done before, and I will accept what and who I am with myIMG_7349 glory and my limitations, my beauty and my wrinkles, my strength and my weakness, my successes and my failings, my growth and my ripening.

I am becoming Grace.

And, beginning today, I get to re-introduce myself to chewing real food! Today I made a salad. It was delicious! Tomorrow I get to also have fruit! A mango! An organic grapefruit! And Sunday I get to grill myself a piece of salmon! Oh joy!

You know what though? Chewing salad is a lot of work!