Sunday, November 28, 2010

Every year I indulge in my favorite, personal Christmas tradition of trying to find or figure out what my presents are before Christmas day.  As a child I was often happily successful but now that I no longer live at home, it's nearly impossible to pull this off.  Instead, I upgraded my tradition to impassioned attempts to convince my mother that it's customary to open a present on christmas eve.  When this inevitably fails I resort to a gleeful re-enactment of my childhood waking-of-the-family-before-dawn ritual.  Mostly it's me exclaiming 'PRESENT TIME!!!!!' and jumping on the beds of sleeping people.
I'm grown. I *could* simply turn the excitement off.  That's what us grown people do.  Except so much of the joy and magic of this entire holiday season is made of anticipation.

An exquisite, collective waiting.

We wait for Santa, presents, warmer weather, snow to come, snow to melt, family to come, family to leave,  Christ's birth, the birth of a new sun.  We watch the light steadily succumb and in enveloping darkness we are left alone with our waiting.

I am inundated with pressure to create, make things happen, act, do, manifest.  But once you have collected all your faculties and applied them generously and thoroughly to a goal, there is always a waiting.  Whether you surrender to Time or not, it will have it's way.  So much agony settles into our sinew from the strain of resisting our portion of waiting.  So much of what we want, what we work for, what we invest ourselves in all have a price in the form of time.  Their fruition depends on the participation of other people and circumstances we have no control over.  You just can't make the sun any stronger any sooner.  Whether you seek healing, your soul mate, a better job, a richer spiritual life you must do the work, plant the seeds, and then you have no choice - you must wait.  These things need a nourishment only time can provide.

So what is the quality of your waiting?  An anxious, fretful waiting does you no good, the antidote to this is not 'make it happen faster', If you happen to succeed what you get is likely to be feeble and sickly.    The space where our dreams swell is sacred space.  The hibernating Earth, the resting sun, the gestation of love and hope are decadent in their stillness and patience.

When it comes to receiving presents I choose to wait excitedly - it helps that I know the end date to my waiting so it's like an energetic sprint.  I know I can sustain my excitement for that period of time and for that time it's like baptising my system in holy water  (you should see me at birthday time!).

  For longer, indefinite waits, those waits for things that are complex and profound there is no pressure to be constantly, or gushingly excited. Instead, I find ways to honor what I am waiting for, to prepare the space for it and keep that space in ready.  I slow down and attend to smaller or more concrete things. And when my body tenses with impatience and urgency I find a way to remember that waiting can be a state of worship and the things I value deserve to be honoured by waiting well.

What you are waiting for is blessed by how you wait for it.  I hope that you wait with hope, with a sense of the sacredness of this in between time in your life and in a way that draws the wisdom of patience into your bones.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for -
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

~ Mary Oliver ~

Tell me, today, what captured you so stunningly it took your breath?  What made you pause long enough to forget yourself and be lost in wonder?  What reached deep inside your gut and tugged at you and said "pay attention to me because you were made for this.'?  Whose prayers did you overhear and to them add your own?  What colours painted and washed your day?

For me
it was the quivering
that looked like a frigid breeze
on bare skin
but was really
knowing myself so intoxicatingly
it was unbearable
and the excess leaked out
in shivers

It was the small blushes
of bluesky
on a skin of cloud
the kind of tell
that gives it away
to anyone paying attention
that you have been touched.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Having a sense of meaning about things is nothing like understanding in the intellectual sense at all.  I can be immersed completely in a sense of meaning in a moment or circumstance and still find the question 'what does it mean?' utterly bewildering.  A sense of meaning isn't about explaining something away -  It is an experience in my body, the way I can *feel* a physical location with all of my senses.  A sense of meaning is an ambiance that permeates the way I am experiencing my life.

Within the experience of meaning the layers of what is true exist without compromise, including all our ambiguities and contradictions.  We can experience simultaneous joy and sadness.     Our intellect urges us to pick one or another,  to smooth the wrinkles of our understanding and make a linear explanation of ourselves.  But, I know for myself, that I need more than one world at a time to feel whole.  I can't trim out anything, I can't synthesize anything - I need a vehicle to experience all of it simultaneously - and when I am in that state of being I call it 'meaning'.  The things around me are luminous with their own aliveness.

For some, sense of meaning comes to them through the architecture of religious and spiritual beliefs which create context for the ways life falls apart and changes and causes suffering despite our best efforts at living spiritually or consciously.  But a sense of meaning can come without religious structure.

My wellbeing thrives on being sensitive to the subtle aliveness of the things around me.  For me, I find that connection in poetry and story. A quote I found by M.L. Richards (in Poetic Medicine by John Fox) says: "Appreciating poetry is probably like appreciating anything else.  It means having the generosity to let a thing be what it is, the patience to know it, a sense of the mystery in all living things, and a joy in new experience."

There are many ways to invoke the magic of appreciation to connect us and bring us into our own lives more fully.  What is your way of being in all your worlds at once, travelling between your layers and living with a sense of meaning?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This poem, to me, captures the essence of a good therapeutic connection.  Whether it's 
between you and a counsellor or you and a striking grove of trees.  
First I get a sense of rest, calm and even safety before it mentions the work.  And then
it reminds me that we don't struggle in a vacuum cut off and cast out of life, but in the midst
of a vibrant world innocently unaware of our despair.  To me this is as beautiful as it is
harsh because the world's role is not to comfort us, but to remind us of how to be.
Finally, this poem reminds of the most powerful healing tools we are given - imagination, 
the ability to be inspired and create, to love and connect with life and those around us
simply by employing our attention.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -- 
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things

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