Author Archives: Mary Skillings

About Mary Skillings

I am coming of age...a new age. It is my Autumn Season; the time for harvesting what I have sown and tended through the years. Having raised a family, earned my degrees and spent many years working in the field of Restorative Justice, I have retreated now into a quieter time. I have wisdom to share and stories to tell and my wise brother made me promise to make time to write them down. I make time too for my little grandsons who help me see the world through fresh eyes. I take long moodling walks and read a lot of books. I have a lot of projects piled up; I don't know if I'll finish them. This new age that I'm becoming feels strange and slightly uncomfortable, but I think I'm growing into it well.

STANDING AT THE FORK

March 13, 2019
THE CHOICE
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
     Robert Frost; The Road Not Taken

Last Weekend:

Twenty-one men and women who are involved in doing Restorative Justice work sat in Circle for an evening, a day, and half a day. Fifteen hours. A number of us were descended from people who were the original keepers of these American lands, many descended from people brought here by force from Africa as slaves, one who came to be in America from Korea through adoption; a few more who had come to America to study and to work; twelve altogether. Nine more of us were descended from ancestors who came to America from European countries, most of them in need, escaping oppression, famine, servitude, and poverty.

We had come together to work at bridging the divide between white-skinned people who enjoy privileges we barely know we have because we take them for granted, and black and brown-skinned people who have been deprived of even the most basic human rights of respect and safety.

The United States is a country who lays claim to being the greatest, to wearing the white hats in an evil world, to being the benevolent keeper of whom we perceive as lesser brothers around the globe. The United States is a country whose hands are bloody, and whose heart is sick with the lies and corruption it has hidden, whose foundations are crumbling under the weight of its violent legacy.

I am one of the white-skinned descendants of European tenant farmers who came seeking a better life for their children. Like the majority of Americans who are seen as “white”, I grew up believing what I was taught in school was true. I and my peers and my parents and grandparents were conditioned by our communities, our religions, our cultural backgrounds to see the world through a particular lens — America was great and good; a land of opportunity and equality.

Depending on where we lived, some of us white skinned Americans grew up entrenched in views that feared and dehumanized black and brown people. Many others, my family among them, did not hold with such views, but were oblivious to the subtle ways systems we took for granted — education, housing, economics, employment — were booby-trapped, even closed to non-white people.

But no longer. Very few remain who can honestly say that they have not been confronted with an alternate reality. The truth of America’s founding legacy of genocide, appropriation, theft and plunder, of slavery, and of our continued oppression of non-white people in many insidious forms is pretty much available for everyone to know. The silence has been shattered. The truth is mainstream news now. Perhaps in part because of social media. But even still the lies proliferate as those in power and those who are afraid (of what?) try desperately to discredit these realities. But even as the lies are told, reality and truth are holding their ground.

The first question posed to the Circle in which I sat was, “So, what are YOU going to do about it?”

It is a question that every white skinned person in this country needs to be asked, and needs to answer.

Most of us who are white, if we are even willing to look at the depth and breadth of the pain and suffering, don’t know what to say.

Many of us, at least initially, shrink back from the magnitude of our nation’s crimes against humanity. Many of us are shocked when we uncover the truth of the perpetuation of these crimes by government and corporate power and wealth. Those of us who are educators and social service providers feel trapped and entangled in the oppressive and harmful rules and regulations to which we are expected to comply.

I feel very small standing before this Goliath. I feel very weak looking up at the mountain that needs to be moved. I feel very confused by the chaos swirling around me.

It isn’t enough to say, “I’m sorry.” What am I sorry for? How will that change anything?

It is a beginning, though. Victims who have suffered great harm might say they want revenge. But often this actually translates into, “I want you to understand the pain you have caused me. I want you to acknowledge the suffering you have caused. I want you to take ownership and responsibility for it.”

So I begin by listening and acknowledging the pain that I hear and saying, “I am sorry for what has been done to you”.

But then what? What can I do to make amends? What can I do to make reparations? What can I do to bring healing? What can I do to dismantle the systems that have prevented my black and brown brothers and sisters from participating in the same privileges that I have taken to be my inalienable right? What can I do to stop the suffering?

I left that Circle on Sunday afternoon heavy with these questions. Heavy with the pain. Despair had injected its venom and my stress responses had kicked in and were screaming, “Run away! Quit! Who do you think you are to do this work (teaching restorative justice in education). Who the fucking hell do you think you are to write a book for educators on creating healthy learning environments?!”

And then I took a swig of Alice in Wonderland’s elixir which packed a heavy dose of anger. Where I had been shrinking to something very small and helpless, I suddenly began to grow. I got bigger and bigger. I didn’t sleep. Through the dark hours of the night and the sunshine of Monday I sat with the questions. I walked with the questions through the new layer of snow that belied the coming of Spring. I examined my work and my motives for doing it. I will not quit. I will not run away.

Tuesday

“The great and mighty go their way unchecked. All the hope left in the world is in the people of no account.”   Ursula K. Le Guin, The Finder (2001)

This morning I received an announcement from Minneapolis based Mixed Blood Theater in my inbox. A one time member it has been awhile since I read what they are up to so I explored their website. I found the following under their [Community] Engagement page.

Mixed Blood’s Cedar Riverside neighborhood has long been a home for immigrants and refugees, including one of the nation’s largest concentrations of African and Muslim immigrants and refugees in the U.S. today. Mixed Blood is working on multiple fronts to engage with its neighbors:

Health Care — In partnership with Hennepin County Medical Center, Q Health, Cedar Riverside People’s Center Clinic, and Riverside Plaza Tenants’ Association, Mixed Blood uses artistic endeavors to help health care providers improve patient-centered care for the residents of Cedar Riverside

Education — Mixed Blood resident artists teach drama classes to neighborhood youth and host performances and workshops for teachers who serve the schools that Cedar Riverside children attend.

Safety — Through Mixed Blood’s work, Minneapolis Police officers and young adult Somali men, change places to gain knowledge, awareness, and sensitivity of the other’s experience and perceptions. One recent participant entered the police academy and is currently an intern for Transit Police.

Performance — Mixed Blood hosts plays by Somali writers and directors as well as story circles with Somali elder women.

Assembly — In a neighborhood choked for common space, Mixed Blood’s auditorium and rehearsal hall provides a steady place—without charge—for meetings, performances, trainings, and social and political events.

Hope rekindles in me when I know things like this are happening.

Here in Duluth (where I live), there have been several campaigns during the past 10 years with town hall meetings, billboards and other lectures and plays to raise awareness of Race and Racism. Next week there is another community discussion on Anti-Racism sponsored by a local TED TALK style forum held once a month on a variety of issues. Last month it was on Restorative Justice, which is the field in which I work.

Are there still mountains to move? Yes! Does it take too long? Yes! But with each swing of the pick-ax, with each bucketful of mountain dirt removed, that mountain shrinks a little more. With each white-skinned soul that wakes up, each heart that is turned to love and justice, each step taken to right the wrongs, we are closer. There may be thousands of star fish stranded on the beach at low tide, dying in the hot sun, but for each one that the small boy throws back into the water, one more life is saved.

Before Trump won the election, as I read the various articles about his campaign and those who followed him, I turned one day to my husband and asked, “As terrible as this sounds, do we (mainstream, white America) need this to happen in order to fully wake us the fuck up? To blow us out of our comfortable slumber where we expect some vague “they” to solve the problems we abhor?”

We talked a long time. I cried in anger and frustration and it took me days to rise back out of the funk I sunk into.

And then to the shock and dismay of the majority of Americans, Trump won. But what I have seen happen in the years since is exactly what I asked my husband that long ago June day in 2016. We are being dragged out of the poppy fields of Oz and waking the fuck up. We are being driven to action. To our shame, it has required these awful times for the wool to be stripped from our eyes and the rugs to be rolled up exposing the garbage that has been putrefying there to motivate us to care deeply enough to do more than read, think, shake our heads and cluck our indignation. Now we are arguing and debating, screaming in pain and reaching out to one another to do something about it all. It is chaos out there. Confusion. Pain. Just like cleaning out a house, it is messy and ugly and chaotic and layered — it has to be before it can be put back together. We have to expose the wound before it can heal. Every ugly inequity, every lie, the destructive and violent acts — whether against a culture/race, against women, against children, against our economy and our environment, or to the detriment to our health…hell, fill in the blank! Truth is exploding out of long perpetuated lies and suppression. But in my opinion, the biggest whopper of all is the myth about our great and noble, innocent, America.

American people have done some great and noble things. And everyday great and noble people live and work and write and make art and teach and fix cars and dispose of our garbage and save our lives on operating tables. But the other side of that truth is that these United States were founded on genocide and slavery, both of which have been perpetuated into today even though disguised by other names and practices. The absolute dishonoring of life in this blatant way has allowed us to do the same in all the other categories where we are complicit in the destruction of life — whether of the minds, bodies or souls of people — especially our children, or of the Earth, or of animals, or of cultures.

It is a hard choice to leave safe havens and walk straight into the war.

Because of my white skin, my European ancestry, and the privileges accorded to me because of that heritage this debt and the responsibility for it is laid as equally upon my shoulders as those directly responsible, past and present. My attitudes and past actions have sprung from a heart that as long as I can remember desired to bring healing and restoration and equality. But since most of our current destructive systems were developed and are still perpetuated by white people, systems that have benefited me, I am complicit simply because my heritage makes me a member of this mainstream culture who wields the power.

It has been said, “to whom much is given, much is required.” My white skin has inherited a measure of freedom and privilege. The question I am confronted with is “What do I do… and what will I do with this privilege to make a better world for everyone — especially for my brothers and sisters who are Indian, who are Black, who came or are coming  from countries torn by war (a war probably supported by my government), or who came because they had little to no opportunities to better their lives. Within my small world, within my sphere of influence, within the possibility of what my personal strengths and gifts and resources are… what will I do with this privilege I carry in my skin?

“Fear lives in the head. And courage lives in the heart. The job is to get from one to the other.”    Louise Penny, The Long Way Home

A group of educators and I were recently discussing the idea that hurting people hurt people. Healed people, heal people. There is a lot of information out now about how stress and trauma affect the brain and our behavior. There is also a lot of information about how to heal our trauma, how to manage our stress, how to move from mindless reflexive reactionary behaviors that ultimately perpetuate harm, to responses that allow us to remain compassionate and kind even in the face of someone else’s negative behavior.

Those of us who have the privilege of being able to do our own healing work have no excuse for ignoring it. I don’t have bombs blowing up in my city. My children are not starving. I am not fearful every day that my son might be shot or arrested for just existing. I have all I need at my disposal. I need to do whatever self-work I need to do so that I might be able to be a source of healing and help in our world — whatever that might look like based on my gifts and skills and sphere of influence.

That is the beginning.

I will do what I can do today to make a difference for healing, for change, for equity in my city, my state and my country. And tomorrow and next week? I will know what to do as I listen, as I pay attention, as I choose to keep my heart and my mind open.

I am standing at a fork in the road of my journey. A choice lies before me.

I choose the road less traveled. It is the one my heart knows it is meant to walk. The one that disappears in the undergrowth and I can not see where it leads. I fear it will not be a comfortable or easy journey. I fear there may be land mines and monsters. But I also know it is where love flourishes. It is the only path that will allow those of us who travel there to attempt to heal and re-create this suffering world.

I hope I find you there. We can walk together.

 

 

 

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WE THE PEOPLE…OF NO ACCOUNT

April 28, 2018

WE ARE THE HOPE LEFT IN THE WORLD

“I had forgotten how much light there is in the world, till you gave it back to me.”   Ursula K. Le Guin,  A Wizard of EarthSea (1968)

My eyes came to a halt on the page. I closed the book upon my finger and sat, with tears trickling down my cheeks, so grateful for those who have brought light and beauty into my life the many times when I have despaired that there is any hope remaining; hope that the world might be whole again; hope that I can make any difference.

“The great and mighty go their way unchecked. All the hope left in the world is in the people of no account.”   Ursula K. Le Guin, The Finder (2001)

I went for a walk. I sat and watched the Spring-thawed creek tumble happily over the boulders and brush, freed at last from Winter’s grip. I have felt like one “of no account”. And in terms of society, I suppose I am. Of no account. I have not done anything spectacular. I am an unpublished writer. I am an unemployed teacher. I am a very quiet activist. I’m a bit of a recluse.

But again and again I have been brought back to this: That simply BEING here in the world matters. And if I am willing to allow the Light that is in me to shine, if I am willing to keep on the journey that allows my heart to be open so that Love and Grace can easily flow, unrestricted, uninhibited into and through me, radiating beyond my physical space into the world… I am nourishing life. If I take deeply to heart that words matter — that there is great power in words — that all things are created through our words — if I consciously and diligently choose words drawn from love and not from fear — I am creating life.

“You can’t hide true power. Not for long. It dies in hiding, unshared.”     Ursula K. Le Guin, The Finder (2001)

I began to scribble in my journal…

“Why do I hide? What Fear drains away the energy to act, to do that which I set out to do? Is my small act of kindness or my words on paper so insignificant that I shouldn’t bother — an insignificant drop of water? How many times over how many decades now have I heard that we are powerful… that we hold the Creator inside? That the power to create worlds lives in the cells of our bodies?

We are not, I am not without power. Love is not powerless against Fear and all that Fear spawns. What is intolerable is that I listen to the Lies and shut down; hide.”

And so I call gently to my Self… come forth again. Just Be, today. Just Be Grace.

And I call gently to you, as well. Just Be, today. Be kind. Be Grace. Be Light.

“Fear lives in the head. And courage lives in the heart. The job is to get from one to the other.”    Louise Penny, The Long Way Home

 

WHAT’S UP WITH HER?

APRIL 17, 2018

THE MOODS OF MOTHER NATURE

One day last week…

I open my eyes to a lightening sky, grey melting into translucent blue — faint streaks of pink deepening into rose; setting the sky on fire. The ball of the Sun, orange and shimmering shyly peeks over the hill. The rosey clouds turn yellow then white as the Sun gathers all the color back to himself, now a flaming golden sphere slipping through the trees, breaking free, leaping high above the rooftops. Piles of charcoal grey clouds come racing across the ocean of sky, sails full. Soon a ceiling of slate has slidden into place, closing off all view of yellow Sun and blue ocean sky. The light of the Sun filters through — a cold drizzle of grey the color of water.

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

Three days ago — April 14, 2018…

I wake up in the dark of dawn — the windows and doors are rattling, a great howling swirling about the eaves. After breakfast we decide to drive down to the Lake. It is difficult to open the back door as the wind presses hard against it. Running for the car, my mug of tea is nearly snatched from my fingers.
Arriving at the pier, we stand stunned watching Mother Nature roar and rage. FuryShe comes twisting down the Lake, pushing 12 foot waves over the pier walls, beating against the lighthouse, the bridge, and flinging herself as far out upon the land as she can reach, seal coating everything in ice: people, lamp posts, benches, birds, bushes and branches of trees. The parking lots are filling up with water. I stand silent, leaning into her, witness to her grief. My coat is crunchy with ice. My mittens stiff.

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

Today — April 16, 2018

I drove past the Lake this afternoon. She is flat and brown, the color of rage spent.  She quietly kisses the shoreline.  The Sun is breaking up the clouds, shining through.

 

* Photo of Duluth Lighthouse on the shipping canal taken by David Jensen on 4-14-2018. Used with permission.

THE POWER OF WORDS — PART 3

April 4, 2018

THE RIPPLE EFFECT

The more you sense the rareness and value of your own life, the more you realize that how you use it, how you manifest it, is all your responsibility. We face such a big task, so naturally we sit down for awhile. — Kobun Chino Ottawa Roshi 

Recently I watched the movies The Shape of Water and A Wrinkle in Time.

Guillermo del Toro, the director of The Shape of Water, describes the film as “a Fairytale for our troubled times.” He says, “The shape of water is the shape of love. Love and water are the most malleable, powerful things in the Universe.” Sally Hawkins (who plays Eliza) said, “The film is about the transformative power of love. …we need this film in the world today. ”

Similarly, the primary message I took away from A Wrinkle in Time was the power of love to overcome fear, to overcome evil, to call us back to ourselves when we are lost in the pain of our own dark places.

I have been thinking a great deal about the power of love…of courage… and about the ripple effect of our choices. Sometimes it is one small, seemingly insignificant act or word on someone’s part that opens a door in someone’s life — or slams it shut.

In an interview, author Elizabeth Gilbert once described that she regards her ability to write as a sacred trust… she’s been given a gift that is meant to be shared. What happens to what she writes isn’t her problem, she said. Only that she makes the time to write and does her best. I may never meet her. She may never know of my existence. But her comment, recorded in an interview… changed my life. It is why I keep hanging in there with my writing, even if sometimes I abandon it for months at a time. I come back. Because of Elizabeth and her sacred trust.

What if Harry Potter had said, “Hey, I’m just a kid… I can’t deal with this.”

What if Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings) had said, “This ain’t my ring… ain’t my problem.”

What if Meg Murry (A Wrinkle in Time) had been unwilling to gather her courage, remaining frozen in fear, unwilling to act ?

I realize these are characters in a story, but like all great stories, they accurately portray the choices we all struggle with. No superheroes here, no easy answers. The hero’s journey is not an easy road. So why do we bother?

Frodo : I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam : I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo : What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

Yes, our world is worth fighting for. My grandchildren, your children, all the children — they’re worth fighting for. But most of us won’t be packing our bags and heading out on a quest. We won’t be marching in the streets or laying down in front of the bulldozers. We won’t be arrested for refusing to stand up or stand down when ordered to by those who abusively use their power.

Most of us will be minding the store, minding the children, doing what needs to be done to keep the world going.

The opening quote by Kobun Roshi was my pardon for sitting down — which I seem to often need to do. It was also what helped me get back up. I agree that every day I am responsible for how I use my life, for the energy that I radiate into the world through my thoughts, my beliefs, my emotions, my actions; for what I create around me. There is no one to blame, no one else responsible for my choices, neither my presence nor absence negates that I am making an impact in the world around me. Because I am.

When I remember this, when I allow it fully into my being, I realize that I am changing the world every day — for better, or worse. I am radiating energy into the world that is either aligned with the energy of love, or the energy of fear. This energy attracts like energy… and so it grows, it multiplies, it merges with like energy and makes stuff happen.  And it ripples out… through time, through space…

 

 

THE POWER OF WORDS — PART 2

March 14, 2018

NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN

My husband and I have begun reading The Four Agreements, a Toltec Wisdom book by don Miguel Ruiz about the power of our thoughts and words. I remember the first time I was introduced to these ideas. It was the late 1990’s and I was attending a Truthought Criminal Justice conference titled Mind over Matters — Corrective Thinking. It was there I first learned a formula that has stuck with me ever since:

  • Our repeated, ingrained thoughts become our deeply seated beliefs —
  • Our Beliefs become our individual and collective values —
  • Our Behavior is a result of these beliefs and values.  As are our words.
  • ThoughtsBeliefsValuesBehavior (actions and words).
  • Feelings? They are the messengers…but, like our behavior, they are a result of our thinking, our beliefs and our values.

Our words are the building blocks with which we construct our world. But it all begins in our mind, with our thinking. You want to change your behavior? You have to first change your mind.

When the movie What the Bleep Do We Know? hit the theaters in 2004, followed soon after by the movie The Secret, positive thinking and manifesting abundance became a hot new topic. But as Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9 of the Old Testament, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Books on the subject had been coming out way before the movies of the early 2000’s opened the floodgates. Napoleon Hill’s 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich, and Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 release of The Power of Positive Thinking were two well known books from the early 20th century.  The behavioral sciences had been studying the power of our thoughts as the conference I attended attests. In the early beginnings of the field of quantum mechanics (physics) researchers stumbled upon the impact that the thoughts of the observer of an experiment had on the experiment’s results, which has led to greater research into consciousness. Scientists studying water and the effect that our thoughts and words have on the properties of water have been going on since the middle of the 20th century.

And yet, none of our “discoveries” are new.

There are numerous references in the texts of various religions and spiritual practices that describe the importance of “positive thinking”. In the New Testament we are counseled to “take every thought captive to Christ” (who embodied love, compassion, forgiveness) and to think on: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

The Buddha taught: “What you think you become. What you feel you attract. What you imagine you create.”  

Abu Amina Elias in his commentary about the teachings of the Quran wrote: “After understanding the effects of positive and negative thoughts, we then need to direct our thought processes towards positive trains of thought and learn to dismiss negative thoughts before they take us into a downward spiral. Many of the Prophet’s companions considered the skill to direct thought in a positive way as the enlightenment of true faith.” 

And then there are the Toltecs. The Toltecs lived thousands of years ago in southern Mexico. They were scientists and artists who formed a society to both explore and preserve the spiritual knowledge of the Ancient Ones. The Toltecs came together as Naguals (Masters) and students at Teotihuacan. But over time, due to European conquest and misuse of personal power by some of their apprentices, the Naguals were forced to conceal the ancestral wisdom. They embodied and passed it through the generations of different lineages of Naguals. Their ancient prophecies foretold the coming of an age when it would be necessary to return the wisdom to the people.

That “future age” has come. We are living in it. don Miguel Ruiz is a Nagual from the Eagle Knight lineage, and has come forward to share the powerful teachings of the Toltecs, one of which is, The Four Agreements. Ruiz says that if we were to take these to heart and live them, all conflict would be resolved. I believe him. Certainly all my conflicts would dissolve. These agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable (do no harm) with your word;
  2. Don’t take anything personally;
  3. Don’t make assumptions;
  4. Always do your best.

These agreements are where the rubber meets the road and expose how we really think. Being “into” positive thinking and intention and manifestation is a good thing to  be “into”. But, are we living it? How well are you able to live according to these Four Agreements?

A VALUES AND BELIEFS EXERCISE

Consider what behavioral values are really important to you in terms of how you show up in your relationships. Maybe honesty, or kindness, or with humor. Jot down a few.

Now think about what you believe about how life works that makes those values important to you.  Write down a few sentences about these beliefs.

For example, it is important to me that I show up with gentleness and grace. I believe that in doing so, the other person feels safe enough to be themselves.

Now, choose one of your values and think about the last time you violated that value. Lied, lost your temper, used humor to harm.

Now, here’s the tricky part. Figure out what belief was bigger in that situation than the one you just wrote down that made living that value important to you.

After you have identified this “other” belief, think about which belief more often runs your behavior. Many people doing this exercise, if they are really honest, find that their idealized values and their lived behavior are frequently not in sync. Rather takes the stuffing out of some of us.

I believe the verdict is in. Our words are raw, creative power. They do create our experience of life. It is our thinking, our beliefs, and our words that construct the world we live in. We are waking up to this powerful truth at a time when it is absolutely essential that we begin deconstructing the way we’ve been running the world, and build something better. We cannot do this with marches and posters and petitions and elections alone. We certainly cannot do it with violence — we’ve proven that over centuries of carnage! But maybe, just maybe, if each one of us begins to make serious changes in our own mental constructs of the world, if collectively we can imagine a thriving world, we will indeed heal our Earth, and build a world of peace, where all are allowed to thrive.

But even if I don’t live long enough to see such a world, I at least can heal my little corner of it. I can create my own wild, wonderful life, sending out vibrations of love and joy and peace. Who knows where the ripples will end — in what time, in what place?

Next:  The Power of Words — Part 3: The Ripple Effect 

THE POWER OF WORDS — Part 1

March 11, 2018

WAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

The chaos and suffering in the world frightens me. It feels overwhelming, especially when I contemplate the fact that the power to change it not only lies within me, but the responsibility to do so is also mine, ours, all of us together. I echo what I hear others say, “What can I possibly do?”  The words are said with a sigh of defeat. I feel helpless. I want to turn away, go back to sleep. 

Waking up is hard to do, none-the-less living wide awake and taking responsibility for how I impact the world around me. Shifting deeply rooted paradigms and habits of being is no easy task, no matter how much I intellectually agree with the idea! But I see no other way. So I am choosing, day by day, to mindfully, intentionally co-create a thriving world beginning in my own small corner of it. Beginning with mySelf.

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

Words conjure images — paint pictures in our minds. Words generate feelings. Words create the structures of the stories we create and within which we live our lives.

Many years ago I read a number of books about intention and manifestation and how we create our reality with our thoughts. I was fascinated.  I dove right in. After awhile, the shine wore off. It wasn’t working for me. I saw it working in the lives of others, but I wasn’t manifesting what I wanted. I had a wish list. And I intensely wished for the things on it. Yet, my life continued much as it had been, and it wasn’t the life I wanted.

I’d get another book about positive thinking. I would try to shift my thoughts. But in too many of my real-time moments I didn’t have the energy to work through the negative thoughts inundating my brain. It felt more satisfying to wallow in the role of victim, to be angry, to hunker down in depression and despair, or to blame others for the lack of happiness and abundance in my life.

Then, eureka! One day it dawned on me that this power of thoughts and intentions thing was working! I was indeed creating the story I was living with my thoughts and words. I was creating the real experiences of my life with my beliefs about myself and others, with my assumptions, with the stories I made up in my head about situations and people. Yep, I had a wish list, but what I manifested was linked to what I actually thought, actually believed, actually felt, and from the words that I spoke, too many of them pessimistic and negative. I had a little tiny smear of positive thinking on top of a whole mass of negative thinking. Sweet frosting on top of a bitter, burned cake.

That was the turning point for me. What followed was a journey of exploration to search out old, gnarly and deeply rooted negative beliefs living in the shadows of my Self. Craggy giants, parasites quietly hogging all my energy.

I had to wake up. I had to face up. I had to ferret out the agreements I had made in my past as to what would keep me safe, or make me acceptable. I had to open my heart. I had to change my mind. The Old Guard had to go.

I often walk along the railroad tracks that run along a service road carved between the trees that climb the bluffs above my neighborhood. The tracks became a metaphor for the path to the life I wish to be living. The only way to manifest this life, is to keep my feet on the track, walking it every day, step by step. If I lose my balance and fall off, I must courageously step back up and keep on going. My life, at least the life that I wish to be living, depends upon my keeping my feet on this track: It is a path of Love and Joy.

It has been absolutely necessary for me to fire the Judge who pompously struts about within my mind and  arrogantly assumes she is in charge. Unfortunately, she keeps showing back up for duty, and sometimes I forget that I fired her and before I know it, she’s taken charge again, and I have to rein her in and dismiss her from her post yet again.

I have to choose each day, sometimes hour by hour, what I will think about, how I will perceive others, how I will respond to the situations I am experiencing. Sometimes it is as easy as choosing to smile when otherwise I may have remained glum of face, and a bit rough in my thoughts. Sometimes it is as difficult as choosing to bless someone that I have perceived has wronged me. Sometimes it is as crazy as imagining the world differently — cleaner, safer, happier, more compassionate. It is as simple as looking for the beauty in the world and in the people I encounter. It is as unsettling as trusting that health and wealth are flowing to me effortlessly.

I am aware of the ugliness and the cruelty and the insanity happening in the world, yes, but as I respond in the “now” — offering compassion or comfort, signing a petition, contributing money, attending a meeting, voting, teaching, writing — I also choose to imagine it transformed. I look for what already may be wonderful that otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed or may have dismissed in the face of the overwhelming chaos that surrounds us daily.

As the sun quietly rises this morning with feathered scarves of orange and pink and purple, I am happy. Because I choose to be. I am grateful for the blessings that fill up my life. I open my heart to the flow of Love, my mind to the Wisdom of the Creator who dwells within. I choose to allow the Light that is within me to shine today.

Next:  The Power of Words — Part 2: Nothing New Under The Sun 

 

THE MONTH OF DEEP DARKNESS

December 10, 2017

WISHING YOU A KIND AND QUIET DECEMBER…

…She closed her letter with this wish for us. The words jumped off the screen and lodged themselves in my heart which for days had been stressed, angry, afraid, and lost. Really lost.

I have only written two or three blogs this year. A handful of journal entries. Maybe a writing exercise here and there. What writing I did was mostly focused on writing  curriculum, powerpoints and handouts for the classes and workshops I led, working with educators examining Restorative Justice in Education.

The nature of my work calls me to invite, encourage and sometimes challenge educators to engage in self-reflection and to embrace some deep changes of heart and mind. I cannot do this if I am not regularly looking at the issues in my own life that obstruct or waylay my ability to remain in a heart and mind-state of kindness,  compassion and peace. I have to live very present, releasing resistance and fear, and embrace the Courage to live honestly, and to engage in the change that our world so desperately needs.

As the months of 2017 rolled along, everything seemed to get harder. By August, I was dissolving into tears at the slightest provocation. It became more and more difficult to even read the headlines in the news, none the less the articles. Never-the-less I was scheduled to lead three significant workshops in August. One of them was for 40+ school administrators looking at the attitudes and practices of Restorative Justice in Education — why they make sense and have the ability to transform school climate.

But in September I had no contracts. No longer distracted, no longer having to put one foot in front of the other no matter what I felt like, I rapidly unraveled.

I was lost. Angry. So very, very angry. Some days I didn’t even know what I was angry about. I wanted to climb out of my own skin. I found myself envying my dear mother who just turned 90 and probably won’t have to endure this world too much longer. The darkness was so heavy, I could physically feel it squeezing my chest and churning in my stomach.

I said to my husband, “Imagine if someone was incessantly running their nails down a chalkboard and no matter what, the noise won’t stop…that is how I feel inside my skin.”

Some days were better than others.

One day I was driving my mother to her eye doctor appointment. All day I had felt like a hurricane was battering my insides. It was violent, unrelenting, loud and screaming. But on the outside, as always, I was trying to smile and be cordial and do all the right things. It was exhausting.

On my way to pick her up I’d thrown an SOS out to the Universe…and now, as we drove down the road, a Bald Eagle flew over, briefly following my car… then moving on. In the Indian world of Animal Medicine, this is significant. It indicates that our prayers are being carried to the Creator.

And nearly every day since, some help has come including the quiet kindnesses of my husband and a homeopathic remedy called Rescue Remedy for fear and anxiety! (btw, it works!)

But most of all, this lovely closing wish in a brief note:  Wishing you a kind and quiet December.  In the moment that I read it, peace flowed over me, head to toes, and then began to fill me up on the inside.

It is the darkest month of the year. And given the state of the world, and the headlines in the news each day, it feels like the darkness is so deep that whatever light exists is obscured by deep fog. Even so, everywhere I go there are bells jangling and lights and sales and crowds… And I repeat to myself my new mantra:  a KIND and QUIET (i.e. PEACE-FILLED) December).

Slowly, I feel this heaviness lifting. I offer gratitude for the Light and goodness that is shining in the Darkness. I stood by the stream that tumbles down the bluff behind my neighborhood the other day, marveling at how during this monochrome time of year the water gets to do art. The ice forming along the edges and over the rocks; amazing, beautiful art that will be different tomorrow and the day after.  I released my heavy heart and all my worry and fear and rage into the stream and let it be carried away. And the water reminded me that “resistance is indeed, futile”. That the key is allowing the flow of my life, honoring my life.

I didn’t blog this year in part because I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to be able to write what would bring joy, and courage, and strength to my readers. I wanted to write something funny.

I had so little of any of that to offer.

But now, in the darkest month of the year, during the deepest darkness we have known in this country in a very long time, I offer you this little sip of hope; this little sprinkle of joy; this small peace: please create a kind and quiet December. Do what you need to do to make it so. Maybe if we all would be kinder to ourselves, we could be kinder to our partners and to our neighbors and to the tired clerk at the store. Maybe if we took the time we need to just stand quietly under the trees, or next to the frozen stream, or looking out over the city from the hill — the screaming inside the cells of our skin would stop.

No matter what those who currently hold power do to this world, there are people to love. No one can prevent us from practicing kindness, or choosing gratitude and joy. No one except for ourselves. Myself.

Wishing you a kind and quiet December. Wishing you a year filled with kindness. And may Peace fill up the space inside your bones.