Tag Archives: struggle

THE FIGHT SONG…

November 4, 2015

GRACE…

Today I have to send out my gratitude to Rachel Platten and to The Piano Guys and to my daughter Susie who sent me the link to the Piano Guys rendition of Rachel’s Fight Song.

I stood at the top of the hill in the mist, looking out over the trees into the thick soup of grey cloud. Nothing more. There was the road, the trees at its edge and then solid dirty white nothing. I live here, so I know that hidden in that tired, dirty cloud are houses and schools and businesses, roads and railway tracks, cars and trucks and buses. Beyond them, far below me is the busy harbor with ships and bridges and industry. On a day when the clouds mind their own business high above us, from this spot I can see the strip of land we call Park Point that separates the harbor from the southwestern tip of the Great Lake, Superior, Hiawatha’s Gitche Gumee, the Shining Big Sea Water. Often there are a ship or three at anchor out there, waiting for clearance to enter the harbor.

But today, all that can be seen is this grey stuffing smothering everything. A stranger in this place, or a bird happening upon this land would have no idea what lies below.

The day reflects my life. I have had a dirty grey cloud engulfing me this past month. It presses against the joy I want to feel. It silences the song that wants to rise up inside me. It fills up my brain until I find myself lost in an obsessive circle worrying over endless lists of incomplete tasks, petty offenses,  unresolved situations and their unknown outcomes that have a 50/50 chance of coming up roses or shit. And I’m worried about the shit. Some days the cloud has been so full of heavy stuff that it has wrung out crusty old garbage that I forgot to throw away and had left in some trunk in a forgotten closet of my brain.

I find myself on the good days keeping my eyes on the path in front of me, taking one step at a time, doing the next best thing to do, the good that is in front of me, offering gratitude for my ability to navigate the path through this fog.

On the bad days, I can’t shut off the steady assault of condemnation for every mistake, real and imagined, five minutes ago, five years, five lifetimes–it doesn’t matter, they’re all screaming at me. I can’t redirect the rage that bleeds from the old wounds that have opened up. Neither breathing or walking or chocolate will ease the chaos churning in my body that makes me want to crawl out of my skin. I don’t enjoy living with myself on these days…and neither does anyone else.

I have been given some answers, some guidance through the month–hours or minutes when the sun burns through a patch of the fog and reminds me that he’s still up there shining in a blue sky.

The best day was the one when I was pondering what exactly this part of me called my Soul, or my Higher Self IS–the bit that is eternal, has come from the Creator, the Source of all Life, God if you will and always returns there when completing a life cycle here on Earth. (Yes, I happen to think that living multiple lives here on the Earth, learning, growing, working, contributing, makes more sense than spending an eternity singing in a celestial choir. I’m tone deaf.) For many years when I try communicating with this part of me, this Soul of me, I imagine her as a young woman–but she doesn’t really even look like me. But, there has been for many years another image who has visited me in dreams, and come to me at other times when I’ve been searching for answers, or healing. She is a little girl who looks like I did when I was five years old–complete with short brown hair, navy blue pedal pushers and a white tee shirt. I called her, “Little Mary”. When she first started showing up, I thought this was my “inner child” that I was learning about in therapy. But, she never acted like a wounded child that I needed to take care of. Instead, she would teach me, or offer guidance. The first time she “showed up” I was in a class on chronic pain, lying on a yoga mat, being led through a breathing meditation. I had started crying softly as deep emotional pain began to rise up inside me. And suddenly I was aware of this presence–this five year old child sitting on the floor next to me. She reached out and stroked my cheek and the love I felt coursing through me was so intense, I almost couldn’t bear it.

In Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s book, The Call, she asks us what the one word is that would describe what we understand is the central, most important thing we have come to this Lifetime to learn–and then to teach. When I read that a few years ago, I knew immediately that my word is Grace. Because it is the most difficult state of being for me to allow to touch me–or to live (to learn, in other words), but also the one thing I want to BE more than anything–grace-filled, gentle, compassionate, kind. And in my work in Restorative Justice, it is what I teach.

So, on this foggy day a few weeks ago, I was meditating about what, or who, this part of me is that is my Soul, that is the real, true, core Self of me. And the image of the young woman popped into my mind…okay, yeah, sure. You again. But who ARE you? “Do you have a name”, I asked? Immediately the word Grace dropped into my mind. Right. And then she said, “Hail, Mary, full of Grace” and giggled like a little girl. I stopped right in the middle of the street I was crossing. WTF?!

My father named me Mary–after, yes, the mother of Jesus. Who it is recorded in Scripture was greeted by an Angel who said, “Hail, Mary, full of Grace!”  And then of course, there is this notion that our Soul is what fills our corporeal body and animates it. Without our Soul, our body is just dead meat. So…Mary, full of Grace was just the most clever, ridiculous pun–and I have never found puns particularly amusing. But she thought she was hilarious.

The next ray of sunshine that found its way through the fog of this storm raging through my life came a few days later when the image of my Soul, “Grace”, showed up not as the young woman, but as “Little Mary”. She had a few choice words to say to me about my needing to embrace joy, stop resisting the very gifts my Life was trying to bring me, and and as my imagination had her dressed in her usual pedal pushers, she put her hands on her hips and said, “Really?! Pedal pushers? Again?!” She ended up dressed in jeans and a raggedy red shirt and cowboy boots and had a fairy wand stuck in her back pocket. And she had long dark hair in braids. (Because I always wanted long hair in braids…and my mother wouldn’t let me.)

In some other dimension in my mind she took me to an archaeological dig in Egypt and started moving a grain of sand at a time until she uncovered a treasure. She told me, “When you finally discover a truth, a treasure, or a revelation to shed light on the mysteries or the problems in your life, you have already done more than 90% of the work. You are finished. And this is true in your life now, you have finished the hard work. Now it is time to gather the treasures and celebrate! Share them!”

But then the clouds whirled about and drove the rain and the wind and shut off the sunlight again. Sealed me off from Grace, again. If I could just get it through my head that Grace is not “out there”, but here, inside me, then it wouldn’t matter anymore if there is fog, or sunshine–storms or balmy waters. I have Grace inside me. I AM Grace.

But still, the anxiety in my guts has me writhing; the cacophony of critical and condemning voices in my head rail on into the night. The despair weighs so much it is difficult to breathe. I open my heart over and over to the flow of the stream of Light and Life, to love, to joy. I offer gratitude for the simple things. I cry. I write a little. I yell at my husband for something stupid. I want to crawl out of my skin and run away. I freak out over the bills. I slam my fist on the rocks on which I’m sitting, furious that the help I pray for isn’t showing up.

Today I stood at the top of the hill in the mist. I told myself all I can do is keep on keeping on walking the path in front or me. The part I can see. Doing what I know to do in this moment. And wait out the storm.

I came home and watched the music video by The Piano Guys–their rendition of Rachel Platten’s Fight Song which they wove together with John Newton’s Amazing Grace. Of this project they wrote:

We all struggle. …to make the most of our lives. To take what we’ve been given and turn it into something better… But to do so seldom is simple and more often requires we fight. Not against each other. But against the current threatening to drown the ambition in us. There is tremendous purpose in struggle. From our youth we’ve been taught that when faced with insurmountable, unthinkable odds, we cheerfully do all that lies within our power, and then stand still with the utmost assurance to let fate, destiny, karma, or to let God do the rest. …the closer we get to the furnace of the affliction the more our obstinance and pride burns off revealing the best way to win a fight in ourselves is to let Grace fight the battle instead. There are those that have been through so many defining moments that they are intimately acquainted with Grace and know Her to be close cousins with Hope. They know that when they can’t fully understand the purpose of a struggle, they instead recognize that knowing there is a purpose is enough.

My Soul has a sense of humor. Grace, indeed.

Rachel Platten’s Fight Song...

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Advertisements

THE END OF A LONG, LONG JOURNEY

WHEN YOU GET TO THE END OF YOUR HERO’S JOURNEY
YOU CELEBRATE…AND THEN SIGN ON FOR ANOTHER!

November 3, 2014

“We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave–to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.”  – Malala Yousafzai –

For two hours now I have found really important things to do other than write this blog post. I paid some bills. I sent a birthday card to my beautiful niece in London. I sent some emails off to two school principals asking to interview some of their staff for my book. I responded to some texts and emails. I finished the grocery list. I heated up some of my husband’s delicious curried vegetables for lunch. I did some laundry. I checked my to-do list a half dozen times. I found some chocolate. And ate it. I did a writing exercise after reading the article it was about. That was freaky. I was directed to turn the brightness of my screen down until I couldn’t see the words so that I would focus on the feeling of writing and write faster and not be constantly editing. I toasted a piece of my yummy, homemade gluten free bread. And ate it. I opened my blog page and looked to see who is following me. A bunch of folks I never met. That’s cool.

Okay. So, I want to tell you about this amazing weekend I had. I want to use words that will show you rather than tell you, but the words seem to have scurried down the cracks between the floorboards. Or maybe they curled up in the afghan since its only 63 degrees in here. Typical November day–grey. All the leaves fell down so the trees are bare now. The hillside looks like a charcoal drawing–smudgy lines and streaks of grey and black with a few wispy shades of brown brushed through.

I don’t remember anymore what it felt like when I woke up in the morning as a kid. But since sometime in my mid-teens, with extremely rare exceptions, I have always woken up with a knot in my gut. The older I got, the tighter it got. There have been days when I woke up and it wasn’t there. Those days are so incredible that I remember vividly what it feels like. Buoyant. Light. Happy. Easy. I think the last time I was in New York City.

Over the past nearly 20 years I have been on a journey; a quest I supposeSoulCard 6. I have wanted to experience healing in my body, my mind and my heart. Despite feeling a lot of love in my heart for others I have struggled to allow that love to flow outward to them, afflicted with criticalness and judgment, anger and frustration. I’ve been on this hero’s journey to become Grace, to learn to love, to be a light in the world, to make a difference for good, to be the change I want to see–all the time wrestling with these monsters that rage and storm through me. NO TRESPASSING signs don’t work.  They barge in whenever they feel like it.

I’ve studied positive attitude. I’ve studied how to change by changing habits of mind embedded in old belief structures. I’ve worked at it. I’ve worked hard. To my credit, yes, I’ve grown. I’ve learned things and I’ve dismantled old belief and energy structures that were not healthy and did not serve me or my relationships or my work. At one time in my life frequent depressions would flatten my life completely. I used to say it was as though a Black Hole was constantly orbiting my life. I was aware of its presence at all times, wondering when it would suck me into its fathomless depths yet again. But it has been many years since I’ve even sensed that Blackness, none-the-less become its dinner.

And yet, I have still not known what it is like to wake up naturally exuberant and happy and eager to engage in the activities of the day. I love better and deeper than at any other time in my life, and yet, my inner critic is a brazen loudmouth who never shuts up and feels it his duty to include others in his constant critiques. Particularly husbands.

It has been a long journey. Ever been on a long road trip and have your passengers begin asking, “Are we almost there?” And then, more urgently, “Aren’t we there yet?” It’s the same with these hero’s journeys. (Why do they call them hero’s journeys anyway? They so do not feel like anything remotely heroic!) “GThe Hero's Journeyood God, aren’t I almost there? How much longer? This sure looks familiar, haven’t I been here before? Didn’t I already cover this section? Wait a minute–I do not have to go down inside that, do I? Really? It’s the only way through to the other side? Oh shit. Okay, so I made it through. I’m still alive. I’m on the other side… …So how come I’m still not there yet?! How much further? How much longer? I’m lost. This sucks. I just want to be happy, like, really happy. I just want to be able to do life successfully, to love well, to be light in the world, to do good work. Consistently. I feel like I’m battering on locked gates and kicking at locked doors and trying to find my way through a veil of fog. ARRGGHH!”

Yeah, that’s a hero’s journey.  Maybe it got that name because if you manage somehow to stick with it until you actually do come to the end of it, however battered and bruised, the very fact you didn’t give up makes you a hero of some kind.Beyond the Door

Okay. Last weekend. While I was sleeping, I guess, I came to the end of it. I arrived. I finally made it through the locked door into another world. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. I don’t know why on Saturday and not last year or ten years ago or not until March 15th next year. It was now. I woke up and I could feel it in my body–something had shifted. It would be like having a pounding migraine headache for 3 weeks and suddenly waking up and it’s gone. Completely gone. It was like the morning I woke up years ago and I knew the Black Hole was gone. I just knew. And it was. And it never came back.

I feel light in my body. The knots and edginess are gone. The energy of those around me no longer feels like I’m trying to tolerate someone running their fingernails down a chalkboard. The thought of “work” no longer feels like an order to climb a mountain dragging a broken leg. Even thinking of the pile of bills for which there is no money elicits rising excitement to see how on earth this will all work out!

Whatever the blockages to the flow of Divine energy through my physical and emotional body have been, they aren’t there now. I feel love, warm and vibrant inside me. Flows of LoveI feel that love flowing through me and from me. I feel sorrow for the pain I have caused others–and oh, how clearly I can see it now that I don’t feel that knee-jerk egotistical defensiveness! I’m looking full in the face the ways that my self-absorption, selfishness, and especially all my fears have harmed others, but though I feel some grief and regret, I no longer feel worthless. Instead I feel renewed responsibility to do better. And I feel like I have the energy to do so.

The beauty in the world around me and in the people around me fills me up with happy joy! I marvel that so many people in the world wake up this way every day. I marvel at what we could all achieve in our lives and how much more loving a world this would be if we could all be free from the bondage of Fear that poisons and taints every aspect of our lives. Fear is the Dark Destroyer–the Dark Consciousness–the Father of Lies and Illusion.

I am free. For those of you who are also free–you are blessed. For those of you who wrestle monsters in the dark, don’t give up. Don’t give up. And hold fast the thought that even if you cannot see or feel it, there is a loving Presence that is with you, always.

All Through the Night
Sleep my child and peace attend theeThe Guardian
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee
All through the night

Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and vale in slumber steeping
I my loving watch am keeping
All through the night

While the moon her watch is keeping
All through the night
While the weary world is sleeping
All through the night

O’er thy spirit gently stealing
Visions of delight revealing
Breathes a pure and holy feeling
All through the night

Photos courtesy of David Jensen, Northern Visions Media
Soul Card images from Soul Cards 2 by Deborah Koff-Chapin of Touch Drawing

WE CAME HERE TO THRIVE

October 10, 2014

WE CAME HERE TO THRIVE

“I did not come here to this Earth to struggle or suffer.  Nor did you.  I came here to thrive.” 

Someone I greatly respect wrote this some months ago.  It has set me to thinking deeply about my own suffering and that which I witness daily around me; to reflect on what I have been taught about struggle and suffering.  Because, whether it is our purpose to suffer or not, we do struggle and we do suffer.  Some of us wear our struggles and suffering as a badge of honor.  I know I have at times.  But if we are here to thrive, if we are here first and foremost to experience love and joy, happiness and abundance, then we have to own that our suffering and our struggles are messes we create.  If we are here to experience love and create a world where all can thrive, then the suffering is the dross to be cleared away.

We are living on a planet in a dimension of duality, where all things have their opposite and we have been given the ability to freely choose between those opposites.  Even the teachings of so many Wise Ones and Religious traditions aside, we see the evidence before our own eyes that all of the Universe conspires to create Life–and where we see life thriving, whether it is a body of water, a garden or a child, we find plenty of what will nourish that life, including love.  Love in all its forms seems to be at the heart of Life itself.  Doesn’t it make sense that we came here to learn what Love is?  Where could it be better understood and experienced than in a place where we can also experience it’s opposite?

So, I agree.  We did not come here to struggle and suffer even though we will experience these.  We came here to thrive.  We came here to Love.  We came here to contribute good to this world.  We came here to be Light.  We came here to be filled up with joy and happiness.  We carry within us the essence of the Creator of all things– the pure energy of Life.   Why would we ever wish to choose to be miserable, filled up with anger and hate, to radiate energy that weakens and destroys?

Criticism creates an energy that does not feel safe, and those experiencing it instinctively engage their “fight or flight or freeze response”.  The energy of criticism and judgment is destructive.  I have suffered the fallout of this kind of energy, and I have too often turned it on others.  It has never once helped to nurture life.  What we are drawn to are those who radiate love, compassion, kindness; it is within this kind of energy that we are able to grow, to change if need be, to become our best selves.  It is within this kind of energy that life is able to thrive.

Love, kindness, joy and gratitude, these are the badges of honor to seek.  This is what I am here to experience, what I am here to do.

I am learning that it really is a matter of choice.  And I have been given the amazing gift to do so–to choose.