The Guest House

Rumi spoke to me this morning ~ these words showing up unexpectedly, yet with precision.  Thought I would share their beauty….

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

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Published in: on November 14, 2010 at 08:15  Comments (1)  
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Small Spaces, Large Living

I’d forgotten how the wind can blow here in the Carson Valley. Hard and strong, whipping between the hills, whirling with yellow gold maple leaves. They dance together across the roof of my tiny trailer as I awaken, making me believe it must be raining. It’s not. The clouds, tossed about by the winds, are at first dark and stormy, then momentarily relenting, they reveal bright morning sun.

We arrived here on Monday, nearly a week ago, greeted by warm sun and cold uncertainties. Our little caravan consisted of a Penske rental truck (driven by the amazing JB) pulling our small 21 ft Komfort trailer that (yes, really) would soon be home; followed by me, four cats and a dog in the Honda Odyssey, pulling our vintage tent trailer (that might soon be up for sale – it IS a collector’s item – interested?) Everything we owned was there on the road… Maybe like a turtle we are learning to carry home on our backs. Learning, I say, because even this trip we carry too much. Let go of much of what remains in the rental truck – next trip, we carry only what fits in our home.

Downsizing. We’ve been downsized, people say sadly, yet here we are downsized, and gladly. It feels good to get small, to release the extraneous, to let go of the irrelevant baggage. Really, how little we need in order to live! Some things are admittedly hard to let go of… this must be my third full library that I’ve gathered, then sold or given away. Books are good friends, and while sad to see them go, I imagine their lives expanding into other people’s lives, sharing good words, good stories, good times. In letting go, we expand.

So what’s left in that Penske truck that would require temporary storage? JB’s tools, for which I will never begrudge him. They have saved us too many times to count, fixing what needs fixing, making life simpler, and most recently – keeping us on the road, and safe. And my tools – those implements I keep for work: massage tables and accessories, Thai mats and yoga mats, and books relevant to my learning.

And kitchen things. I said to jb, as he was selling and getting rid of our many household goods – if its in the kitchen keep it and pack it – but I hadn’t realize how many kitchen toys we have! I love the kitchen – want to someday grow my garden, to be able to can, freeze, and store food; cook, bake, and play. I love good food, nutritious, home made, organic. For now, though, in the simplicity of a small space, I will keep only those things that are currently relevant, so some sorting and selling and giving away will make our stuff even smaller.

(btw, here’s a great video animation about Stuff that’s been around for some time – if you haven’t seen it, take a look.)

We don’t need much stuff to live, and live well. While life circumstances necessitate change, it is also an opportunity to be really conscious about our lives. What is our impact on our Earth, our environment? Lessening our footprint, living sustainably, supporting life, living compassionately – these are issues that matter to us, and are informing our choices as we take new directions in our life. Living in a tiny space is certain to make us more conscious about resources – how we use what we use, and what the impact is on our immediate environment, and on Earth herself.

I love this Earth. Driving, traveling, exploring – there is so much beauty. How do you ever choose one place to live? The ocean, the mountains, the desert hills ~ from desert sagebrush to open sea ~ there is beauty in every landscape. Everyone should travel, at least a bit, even if its only around their own backyard. We need to see, feel, experience the beauty of this Earth in order to come back to our true responsibility of stewardship.

JB and I, and our country dog, are living in a city now (small, granted, by city standards, but large when compared to outskirts of La Pine) – we are re-adjusting to traffic noise, occasional sirens, an overwhelming number of people and dogs, lights that prevent us from seeing the stars at night. And yet, even here, we can see the sky, the sunrise over the mountains, the cloud patterns above us, the leaves falling to compost on the earth below us, the bits of green tenacity that rise up through (creating even) cracks in the concrete city. Earth: she is determined to Live, with us or without us.

I’d like it to be with us. Our lives are intricately connected with every other life on and including this planet. So how do we begin to align ourselves with the Earth, our Home, in such a way that we all survive? How do we come to realize that our health is intricately connected with the health of the earth, that the health of our planet is intricately connected with ours? (more on that later!)  How do we come to know that we need each other, in community, for health to be realized?

It’s all grass roots. Remember that famous quote from Margaret Meade: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Living sustainably, being good stewards of our home, is a choice we each can make, individually and in community. Maybe we don’t make changes all at once, but simply becoming aware of our impact on the earth is enough to allow the changes to begin to unfold… once you know, once you really see, changes begin to happen. How can they not?

So here we are, JB and I ~ living small in order to live large. We are making decisions with a new level of integrity, being aware of our every choice. Yes, we still have a car – we had to use oil and gas to get to where we are, and will again, as this is a temporary location. But we also now live where our bicycles and feet can become primary modes of transportation, saving the car for only occasional use. We are conscious of where our food comes from, what we eat, how much stuff we use and how much garbage we produce. Living in a small space will help increase that awareness. Our goal is to live lightly, to be more compassionate, to love the earth, and the people on it, and to live with the integrity that love requires.

~~~~

It’s late in the day now. The winds have gone, leaving rain clouds settling in the valley and snow dusting the higher mountains, and I am remembering that there are hot springs right here in Carson City…. mmmm, cold weather, hot springs…. Oh yes. Off we go to soak our tired, sore bodies in healing waters ~ a gift from the earth for which we are indeed grateful.   🙂

Published in: on November 7, 2010 at 18:14  Comments (1)  
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Words from Rilke

If only for once it were still.

If the not quite right and the why this

could be muted, and the neighbor’s laughter,

and the static my senses make –

if all of it didn’t keep me from coming awake –

 

Then in one vast thousandfold thought

I could think you up to where thinking ends.

 

I could posess you,

even for the brevity of a smile,

to offer you

to all that lives,

in gladness.

 

Rainer Maria Rilke, as translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macey in Rilke’s Book of Hours

Published in: on October 29, 2010 at 08:36  Leave a Comment  
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Stories

Rain by Shel SilversteinRain.  Heavy, steady rain.  The dry ground soaks it up as if it cannot get enough. In an old camping trailer the rain drums rhythmically on the roof, making me feel cozy, yet restless.  Rest-less, as in unable to sleep.  A sense of urgency, of needing to be gone from here before the rains turn to snow, yet still uncertain of the direction.

There is no right or wrong, really, in terms of decision.  Any step leads to a new place, new experience, new stories.  Or unexpected repetitions of old stories. Who are we without our stories?  We define ourselves as this or that, some definitions carried forward from childhood, some developed along the way, some evolving out of radically new experiences, some out of a sense of unending sameness.  Day by day our actions are guided by what we tell ourselves about who we are and what we are capable of.  (Never end a sentence with a preposition, goes a story from high school English class.)

Our stories become our identities.

That’s not a bad thing – it is what being human is all about.  Stories, adventures, experience.  “Everyone should write their memoirs,” Tanza said to me once, her point being that every life is fascinating.  We all have a story, multiple stories that have helped shape who we are in this moment, and have brought us to this point in our lives.   Some of our stories have been adventure stories, filled with travel and excitement, while others are stories of staying home, building family and garden and community.  Some have been comedies, romantic comedy maybe, or even black comedy… Romance, drama, mystery, how about a fairy tale?  Horror stories?  Tear-jerkers?  Happily-ever-after stories?

Ok, maybe I am carrying the metaphor too far, but really, if you think about your own stories ~ the places you’ve been, the people you know, the weaving in and out of connections and paths, incidents and co-incidents ~ it is all fascinating.  Step back for a moment from the drama of your life and see it as if you were reading a book, or watching a movie.  If we can step back, become an observer in our own stories,  we can let go for a moment of  “the way things are suppose to be” and see “what is” with new appreciation.

If I step back from this drama of not knowing where I’m going (what i judge as the failure of instinct) and see it all as story, will a new door open up?  will i see possibilities where I had seen none before?  Maybe, maybe not, but I might be able to appreciate it a bit more as Adventure.

So who writes these stories?  Is it us?  The so-called new age movement had us all believing that we create our own reality – and for those of us who bought in to that we eventually found that such a unexamined belief just leads to guilt, and the overwhelming sense that we must not be good enough, or not doing something right, because our reality sucks, and it’s not at all what we meant to create…..

There is some truth to creating our own reality, as in writing our stories, making our decisions, choosing how to face the situations of our lives. But here’s the other thing…. we can’t see with the long lens of time.  We can’t see all possible outcomes from our small human perspective.  We are, in these human forms, limited.  Can you see what’s  around the next bend before you get there?

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, and for reasons we can’t figure, our stories take us in to dark places, and we wonder how we got here, how we will get out.  Other times, we unexpectedly rejoice in the glory of choices well made, stories well written.  Maybe those really dark places hold nuggets of wisdom and joy that we could not come into any other way, or maybe the things we thought we wanted most are not the stories that bring us the most joy.   We don’t know, can’t know before hand….

No matter what stories we live – this direction or that,  this choice or the other – there is no right or wrong.  It’s all an adventure. We are humans,  maybe just many expressions of god experiencing an amazing range of emotion and actions and stories.  Whatever the plot, our storDeuce and the Dalai Lamaies shape us, give meaning to our lives, create ways for us to share who we are.

Maybe that’s the important thing here: stories need to be shared to be appreciated.  We need to share our stories with one another, give up harsh self judgment for self appreciation, and come together in community to appreciate all stories – to laugh and cry and love and share in the full experience of being Human.   Our stories give us food for relationship; they are beautiful no matter the content, and bring out the tenacity and beauty in each one of us.

How do I write my future story?  I cannot see with the fullness of time what outcome my choice today might ultimately have.  My view is narrowed, limited by the current version of my story.  All I can do, all any of us can do, is to make our choices with integrity and maybe a bit of faith, trusting instinct, taking action, being in the moment, and loving the adventure of once upon a time.

Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 13:12  Comments (2)  
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Presents

sunrise

I give you an emptiness,

I give you a plenitude,

unwrap them carefully.


– one is as fragile as the other –


and when you thank me

I’ll pretend not to notice the doubt in your voice

when you say they’re just what you wanted.


Put them on the table by your bed.

When you wake in the morning

they’ll have gone through the door of sleep

into your head.


Wherever you go

they’ll go with you and

wherever you are you’ll wonder,


smiling about the fullness

you can’t add to


and the emptiness

that you can’t fill.


poem by Norman MacCaig

Published in: on October 15, 2010 at 08:54  Leave a Comment  
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Emptiness

Cold and Dry.  The autumn air deepens into winter’s bite at night ~ below freezing temps in the high desert of Central Oregon.  Time moves on:  autumn, just arrived, already merging into winter. In the moving, stillness.  The dryness of this day, in this place, is crisp, cold, unyielding.  Waiting.

I find myself depleted, emptied of purpose, watching, listening. Waiting.  Dry.  My skin is dry, my body craving water, moisture. Even my spiritual center feels dry, crisp, like an autumn leaf that crumples when you fold it in your hands, bits drifting down into the earth.  Compost.

I imagine walking barefoot on the thick, wet carpet of a rain forest  (avoiding slugs) under drips of rain from bright green mossy branches, or diving in to the wild waves of a cold, salty ocean (not that I would really…being the cold wimp that I am, it is more a romantic notion than a practical one, no matter how thick my bathrobe may be).  I crave the idea of moisture, of wet, of wild water, of a fertile flow that might feed some new step, some new force of creativity.

Dry spells are normal, I suppose. This emptiness, this nothing…. creative types know it well.  Writers block that comes after a period of prolific writing, blank canvas that stares back at a painter as if nothing could ever fill it, architects or web designers who lose, momentarily, that creative flow that builds something out of nothing.

And if it happens in creative endeavors, why wouldn’t it also be a natural part of spirituality?  Spirituality is nothing, if not creative (in fact, when creativity is separated from spirituality, there can be no true inspiration, but that is a thread for another day).

Contraction precedes expansion.  Expansion requires contraction.  Perhaps contraction is necessary to integrate creative and spiritual expansion, and maybe emptiness is part of a letting go that allows space to open for a different kind of creative expression.   Yin and Yang, and All that Jazz.

oceanEven the ocean contracts and expands in response to some greater force that we can only marginally grasp.

This dry, brittle spiritual center is, I know, a momentary contraction.  I’ve known it before, know that this too will pass. Creative contraction is always temporary, no matter how absolute and devastating it is in a moment.  The emptiness is not really empty. My friend William used to say: “even numbness is a feeling,”  and Pema Chodron reminds me that feelings are simply energy, they come and they go, none of them are permanent.  Change happens.  Contractions give way to expansions, emptiness invites form, and is filled.

For now, all I can do is allow the emptiness, allow the dry spell.  Here God, this too is yours.  It is all I have to offer in this moment.

doorway

Published in: on October 12, 2010 at 09:13  Comments (2)  
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Autumn Equinox

I arrived home yesterday, the Autumn Equinox.  The earth turned toward a full, bright, harvest moon, and Jupiter sparkled with sunlight.  A rare occurrence, they say – the harvest moon on the date of the equinox, the moon in conjunction with jupiter and uranus, jupiter in opposition to the sun: a night sky watcher’s paradise.

It is a time of change ~ seasons shift, the earth moves, the journey continues.  “Home” is also in transition. Boxes are packed and hearts are opened as we wait, listening, for the unfolding of what comes next.   This Is.

Tonight, we enjoy the full moon.

~~~~~~~~~~
Full Moon Festival, by Thich Nhat Hanh

What will happen when form collides with emptiness,
and what will happen when perception enters non-perception?
Come here with me, friend.
Let’s watch together.
Do you see the two clowns, life and death
setting up a play on a stage?
Here comes Autumn.
The leaves are ripe.
Let the leaves fly.
A festival of colors, yellow, red.
The branches have held on to the leaves
during Spring and Summer.
This morning they let them go.
Flags and lanterns are displayed.
Everyone is here at the Full Moon Festival.

Friend, what are you waiting for?
The bright moon shines above us.
There are no clouds tonight.
Why bother to ask about lamps and fire?
Why talk about cooking dinner?
Who is searching and who is finding?
Let us just enjoy the moon, all night.

Published in: on September 23, 2010 at 21:01  Comments (1)  
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Excursions and Sightings

We leave Humlegaarden tomorrow. Farewell to Humlebaek and the Baltic Sea, the chaotic doctors and cancer cohorts, the blue herons and the bathrobe people*….  and i just was thinking… what kind of a tourist would I be if I didn’t make a post about some of the local sites before I leave here?  I suppose I could write about the radiology waiting room at the University Hospital in Odensa, or how to get from the dungeon to the penthouse in a single night at Riggshospitalet in Copenhagen. Right. Not exactly blog material.  OTOH, there are a few local tourist-y things I can share…

Every morning we walk down by the Baltic Sea, each day walking a bit further.  Last Sunday, we took an extra excursion and walked a bit further to the Louisiana Art Museum, which we had been hearing about.  The grounds are beautiful, and overlook the Baltic Sea, great picnic and “just hang out here in the sun” spaces (when there is sun!)  The art museum itself was nice – not being a big fan of Andy Warhol, the main exhibit, I was not overly enthused, but there were a couple of other nice exhibits.  My favorites: a series of photographs of missing monuments, photos of the places they used to be, with written descriptions by people who remembered them; and a photographic narrative in which the artist found an address book and recorded his experience contacting each person listed in the book in order to find out about the owner… that was interesting!   The only photo I have from the Louisiana excursion is the one to the left here….  happy rocks in the garden.
Carmelite Monastery
Helsingor is about 7 kilometers away from Humlebaek – an easy ride on the bicycle on a sunny day if you are feeling strong, or a quick 10 minute ride on the bus if its raining, and you’re not quite up to a bicycle.  The Carmelite Monastery and St Mary’s Church is a medieval monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Only the west wing of the monastery remains, and we were able to walk through the corridors and visit the chapel.  Beautiful – some photos here.

Kronborg CastleCastles are plentiful in Denmark, and I reckon I couldn’t leave without visiting at least one. The Kronborg Castle in Helsingor dates back to the 14th century, and besides being an actual castle, it is the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Located on the sea, and surrounded by moats, the grounds are beautiful.  The castle is large, and it takes longer than the time I had to wander through the entire thing, but I did get to see the royal chambers and palace ballroom, the chapel, and the (very dark and scary) casemates, otherwise known by me as the creepy, dark, dank dungeon.  You can see a few photos of the castle here, as well as a view of the sea from the grounds.

Speaking of the sea, and walks along it, I can’t end my (admittedly limited) tourist blog without mentioning the many sightings of a local species that we call *The Bathrobe People.  Yes, really.  They come to the sea, every morning, no matter how cold.  They arrive at the shore, every morning, in bathrobes. Red, yellow, blue, black, white.  Big, thick bathrobes.  They come in cars, on bicycles, by foot.  They carry a towel over one shoulder, and on their feet are sandals, or thongs, or sometime…. dress shoes.  It does not matter how cold, or how warm.  Every morning… rain, wind, sun.  They walk to the enBathrobe Peopled of a dock, disrobe (sometimes a bathing suit underneath, sometimes not) and jump into the sea. Just for a dip!  Rarely do they stay longer than a couple of minutes.  Some will swim, but mostly they are in, fully submerged, then out.  Dry off, don the bathrobe, and off they go (Presumably home for hot coffee!!)

Hardy folks, these Humlebaek Danes. I wonder if they do this all through the winter too?  Brrrr….. Don’t think I want to stay to find out.

So, we’re off.. Copenhagen to Paris tomorrow, where (so the weather report says) it is warmer and sunnier….

Magic

sailboat at dawnToday is a new day,
a day that has never existed before,
and never will again.

The morning contains all potential, anything is possible.  Today may appear to be the same as yesterday, repetitive, as we move into our habits and routine ~

But is it?

Right now, in this moment,  Stop.  Listen.

Insert an awareness of New-ness.

Notice: your breath, the air on your skin, the wind, or sun, or rain.
Notice: sensations in your body, the color of the sky, the shape of the day.

This is presence.

In this breath, aware of presence, aware of the fleeting nature of this moment, in this stillness…. we open, and create a little space for something we don’t quite know yet to come out of  potential and into being.

Today…heron's breakfast

Allow for Possibility.

Open to a Miracle.

Be on the lookout for Magic.

Let Life fill you,
from your toes to your head,
with wonder
and with amazing gratitude
just know
on this day,

that you are very much alive.

~~~

“you are here? you are alive? so this is very GOOD!”
echo the brilliant words of a cherished doctor named Mohamed

blue heron and duck

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 05:02  Comments (1)  
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Blessings

Feels like winter arrived in Humlebaek while we were down in Copenhagen.  Most definitely Autumn, anyway.  This morning, early, I could see my breath.  The sun is out now, and it has warmed up some, but the air still carries the promise of a cold winter.

tanza and the water devasIt’s not home, and it is not a perfect place to be, yet I am grateful for this clinic, for the sea, for the opportunities that continue to come our way.  Blessings abound, and it is important to be aware of them.

A dear friend recently shared some words about the nature of blessings, and how offering a blessing can create an opening for feelings to shift. It is good to recognize the blessings that are bestowed upon us, but maybe it is just as important to be the bestower of blessings.  Life is full of situations that we think of as “good” and “bad” – what if we can let go of the judgement, let go of the definition, and simply recognize “What Is” and in that recognition, offer a blessing?  Could that blessing, offered in purity, create an opening to shift from pain into freedom?

Bless this moment, bless this pain, bless these people who are witness to the pain… and suddenly I can more easily drop in to gratitude, and feel the bigness of All That Is.  Within a blessing, there is an element of surrender, of letting go.  Surrender does not mean giving up, or denying pain.  It simply means that we can recognize this moment as it is.  To be in resistance to the moment creates an incredible amount of “stuck-ness” and resistance in the body.  We cannot see clearly when we resist what is.

Maybe a  blessing momentarily frees up energy, lifts us out of the details, so that we can see more clearly the choreographed dance that is life.   It is hard to see the big picture when we get stuck in the details.

“The pain,  the illness in the body is the healing,”  I heard someone say, and perhaps he is right. Perhaps pain is the gift that can crack us wide open, the process that allows us to see that healing already Is.  If we bless every moment, and open to gratitude for life, then maybe we can see that we are already whole, that healing has already happened, does in fact, happen in an instant.

And maybe too, these are just words, spoken by a witness to pain.  In the dark depths of agony, none of these words matter, they are just philosophy, just ideas.   In the depths of pain, we can’t know anything for sure.

Which is why we all need a witness to our pain, someone who can step back and bless the moment, feel the gratitude, be there.

We need each other to heal.  In the presence of suffering, in the presence of pain, we want to fix it, to make it all better, easier.  When that is not possible, the best we can do for each other is to stay present. Be willing to stay, be the witness, allow the pain to crack us open.

All that is necessary is our presence.

~~

I am grateful today for the blessing of friends, for the love of family, for the generosity of people I have never met. I am grateful for the doors that open, and for those that close; for the obstacles that rise up guiding us in different directions, and for the unexpected removal of obstacles that allow us to see more clearly.

Today, I am grateful for this Life.


~~
May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
and may the pure light within you
guide your way on.

~

Sat Nam
light

Published in: on August 30, 2010 at 01:35  Comments (3)  
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