A Blue-Gray Wind

 

There are colors on the wind tonight, and flavors in the rain. So I roll down my window as I drive, and let the colors float through, taste the flavors of the raindrops on my tongue.

I found a last shred of hope under the visor, but lost it when a blue-gray wind whipped through the car and carried it out into the woods where crickets are calling out for reinforcements against what has to be invading bull-frog hoards. I slam on the breaks, but it’s gone. All gone, whipped off and no longer visible, and I find tears on my cheeks, for it was all I had left, and now my heart is left empty.

But even as I sigh and head back down the slick black road, dodging puddles and downed tree-branches, I have to wonder what they thought of a blue-gray wind bearing hope. Did one side or the other see it as an omen, a sign of divine intervention on their behalf?

Or maybe it didn’t pause in those damp green woods, perhaps it drifted right over the heads of the battling crickets and bull-frogs and instead drifted off into the fields where slightly soggy lightning bugs are huddling under ivy leaves in the hopes that it will dry out enough for them to give their backsides a good workout – it’s been a very long time after all, and what would they make of a blue-gray wind carrying hope?

Or did the wind ignore the lightning bugs and instead curl itself around the legs of a late-night jogger, devoted soul, only a devoted soul would be out jogging on a night when blue-gray winds are whipping things out of people’s cars and splattering white mesh running shoes with muddy spray. Did my hope trip up the jogger? Make them fall face first into a mud puddle? Are they even now spitting out a mouthful of mud and brushing the leaf bits out of their hair?

They probably didn’t even notice the hope. They would have cursed it. What need has a jogger of hope? Focused devotion, that is the only emotion that they have room for, they probably carry it strapped to their arm like an iPod, turned up to highest volume, nothing else in the world for them at that moment in
time.

Perhaps my hope never made landfall at all, and is even now drifting off into the stratosphere, its blue-gray transport slowly turning to silver-white as it crystallizes into ice, its silver touch chilling the hope to nearly the freezing point.

But that’s the nice thing about hope you see, it can never be entirely destroyed, so even a silver-white wind wouldn’t have any effect on it – or not entirely, it might make it sluggish and cold, but eventually the silver-white wind would lose its grip, and on its way down – spiraling down to earth, it might just get caught up in an updraft, and a sliver of rising morning sun, and a splatter of raindrops, and, just for a moment, my hope, that hope I had tucked so securely beneath my visor, that hope for which I had such great plans, would be visible to the world, reflected off a million raindrops, refracted by a million photons of sunlight, and trickling down to the world – into my waiting hands, in an outpour of shimmering multi-hued rainbow light.

And I smile, because that’s my hope. I feel it in my heart of hearts, recognized it the moment I saw it. And it’s made even greater now, by having been lost, it’s finding can touch the hearts of thousands – of millions – and perhaps they will not be silly enough to fold it in half and tuck it under their visors, but instead keep it always in their hearts and souls for all the world to see.

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Expectations as a Stumbling Block

“The best things in life are unexpected – because there were no expectations.” 

~ Eli Khamarov

You have been planning something out – you’ve made plans and arrangements and have been getting excited about the upcoming event then something happens; something that throws a wrench into the works and the plans are canceled. How do you react?

Civil rights activist Eliot Larson once said that “Anger always comes from frustrated expectations,” and he had a point. I’ve met people who go absolutely berserk when confronted with a disappointment, others who sulk or get depressed, and some few who are able to shrug it off and move onto something else. Which begs the question, what, exactly, ties us to the outcomes of certain situations?

Why is it so important that something happen in the way we’ve been planning out? And why do so many seemingly attach all of their hopes and dreams to these expectations and get so worked up about it when they don’t turn out the way that they expected?

Attachment is the answer and the key to this question.  We are not content simply to let events unfold as they are supposed to, but insist on trying to shape events to meet up to our expectations.  The thing is that everything is happening exactly as it is supposed to; without our help.  We simply have to trust that the universe is arranging events in the way that they are supposed to happen and listen to that inner voice before we take any action and trust that it is leading us in the direction in which we are supposed to go.

When we do this, all the bumps and kinks go out of our lives and things start falling into place with an alacrity that some may find alarming, but also exhilarating, for finally you are living the life that you are supposed to live.

But it is not only events that we attach our expectations to. We also tend to attach expectations to individuals. We build them up in our head as being a certain thing, and then, when they don’t live up to those expectations; when they do or say something that shatters this illusion, we snap, accusing them of being or doing something that has absolutely no basis in reality.

The worst part about attaching personal expectations to an individual, however, is when you accept the unrealistic expectations that others have of you; when out of fear or obligation you attempt to live up to their hopes and dreams of you (or for you) even if those hopes and dreams are not your own.

To do so is probably the worst thing you can do, for when you take on others’ expectations for you, not only do you cease to grow yourself, but you also stunt their growth, for by relying on you to do or be certain things for them, you keep them from discovering the true extent of their own personal power. Perhaps it was Frederick Perls who summed this up most succinctly when he said “I do my thing and you do yours. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine.

Sound selfish? If you adhere to society’s definition (which relies heavily on individuals plugging themselves into a particular slot and then fulfilling the expectations of that definition), then yes, it is selfish.  But if instead you adhere to the wisdom of the universe and are listening to its guidance in your individual lives, then you will be able to say with the Dali Lama:

“I am open to the guidance of synchronicity, and do not let expectations hinder my path.”

And in opening yourself up to the true nature of reality; to the true nature of the universe, you will find yourself living a far more authentic and meaningful life than anything you could have dreamed up for yourself.

Our Greatest Teachers

We all have someone in our lives that drives us absolutely crazy, someone who, every time they speak, makes you cringe, someone who hurts you with what they have to say – or the way they treat you – or the way they react to you, even though they may not be intentionally doing so.

Most people consider these sorts of persons “trials” or “burdens” or perceive them as some sort of test, something to overcome.

Well, what if that person – the most difficult person in your life – is actually your highest teacher? What if that person is the person that was put in your life TO HELP YOU?

What if you thought of that person not as someone you can’t stand; someone who you barely tolerate, but as a great spiritual master? What if it were true that the person that represents the most difficult part of your life is someone from who you have vowed to learn something, regardless of the way in which they teach it?

Think about it…great spiritual teachers can be very difficult. They do not spend a lot of time stroking their students’ egos. They are much more concerned with helping their students let go of the parts of themselves that prevent them from seeing their own divinity, and although the methods that they use to get the message across may seem like selfish actions designed to purposefully annoy.

Great spiritual teachers are often unpredictable, unreasonable and irrational. They regularly engage in behaviors that defy logic and that make you come up with solutions that you otherwise might not have considered. The guru is notorious for putting their student in a “no-win” situation so that they can learn that the only way they can find happiness is to release their attachment to opinions and preferences.

Does this sound familiar?  It should, for each of us are given great spiritual teachers to guide us on our way; to bring into focus those aspects of our own lives that need the most attention; the most fixing.

Re-perceiving this person (whether they are family, a friend, a partner, an employer, co-worker or even a stranger) as a potential teacher opens up an entire new perspective on life. It can truly make us take a fresh look at the person – not as a person – but a message from god; a directive from the universe; a teacher sent to us specifically to teach us what we most need to learn.

So when does it end?  When is the lesson ‘learned’?  When can we move on to the more interesting stuff; the people and interactions that we actually enjoy and want to be a part of?  Does this mean that we simply have to tolerate those people that we find the most difficult?  That we are stuck wit them?   Is our lesson learned when we can deal with the crap that they dish out and not react to it?

Oh no my friend; it is far more than simply tolerating or not reacting.  If we are open to instruction; to direction from a higher source; from our higher selves; we will find that when it comes to these greatest of teachers, we have to surrender.

Ha!  I felt you cringe.  You don’t like that word, do you?  Surrender has bad vibes for most westerners; it reeks of giving up independence, individuality and control; of submitting your will to the will of another, of losing a part of yourself.  Of no longer being YOU.  But in this situation, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Surrendering to your greatest teacher does not mean that you give up and let them have their way with you; that you become a doormat for every insult they throw at you and submit to their lack of trust or their hurtful words.  No, in this case submission means that you in your mind you acknowledge them as your teacher and embrace the lesson that they are giving you and in so doing open yourself up to instruction and correction.

So the next time that you find yourself hurt by another’s words or actions do not react to them.  Surrender to them.  Allow yourself to feel the pain that is caused by their words or actions.  Feel it fully.  Where does what they are doing or saying hurt you? Can you feel it as a physical pain? Does it hurt in your heart, your mind, your gut?  What emotions does it generate?  Does it make you feel angry, sad, betrayed, annoyed, disgusted?

Pinpoint the pain; the emotions.  Take note of them and allow yourself to feel them, even if it is uncomfortable, for only in experiencing the true nature of these feelings; this pain; can you gain understanding of what the pain and emotions are in reaction to, and only in understanding can you begin to find the answers that the teacher sets you.

Something you will inevitably ask yourself as you work your way through this is “what happens when I’ve learned my lesson?  What happens when I have worked through the issue that this particular teacher was sent to teach me?”

The answer is actually quite simple.  Once you have learned the lesson; once you have worked through the issue, the person’s part in your life will be over.  Either they or you will move on and their influence over you and your reactions and attraction to them will dissipate.

Yes, I know, that gave you pause didn’t it?  It is a hard concept to wrap your brain around, especially since some of our biggest teachers in our lives are those we are closest too; parents, children, spouses, partners, friends; and the idea of simply not having them in our lives anymore may seem unbearable and painful in its own right, but in truth it is not so bad as all that.

Consider the parent/child relationship.  We have our children, we raise them, nurture them, provide them with everything that they need to learn and grow and become, and then we ALLOW them to learn and grow and become.  If they learn and grow and become what we had in mind for them, life is wonderful.  If not, we may be disappointed, and it may make us a bit sad if they choose a different way; if they don’t live up to their potential, but we know that we have done our best and that now it is time to let them live their own lives.

A healthy parent/child relationship will allow for this with the parent still caring for the child; still a part of the child’s life, but allowing the child to go their own way; to find their own meaning and purpose even if it is not what we would have chosen for them.  There comes a point in time where, no matter how much we love them, we have to let them go.

The same concept applies to every great teacher in our lives, regardless of whether we consider them to be a teacher or not.  No matter how close we are to them; no matter what we have shared.  If the lesson they had to teach us has been learned and the time has come for them to move on and learn lessons of their own; to find teachers of their own, then we must allow them to do so.  This does not mean that they will never be a part of our lives again, that is impossible.  They are a part of us and always will be.  It simply means that their part in our story is through.

This can be seen as a very ungrounded way to live; never considering anyone or anything to be a permanent part of our lives; of our existence; but the truth is that until we find the person or persons with whom we are destined to have true soul partnerships (with each partner giving and receiving equally and consciously in a particular relationship) the relationships that we enter into – for whatever reason and with whatever intentions – will wither and die by the wayside as the purpose for them is fulfilled, and to cling to them will only make everyone miserable.

The good news is that when we have learned our lessons; when we have come to an understanding of what this particular teacher had to teach us; our true soul partners will make an appearance.  Whether they are individuals with whom we will be friends; work partners, or even lovers (or all of the above) we cannot be with them, fully and completely, and will not be ready for the sort of mental and emotional intimacy that is required in order to maintain these extra special relationships, until we have worked our way through those issues that our great spiritual teachers have teach us.

Fighting Spiritual Obesity

We are a society obsessed with calories regardless of whether they are nutritional, intellectual, or spiritual.  We have diet soda, calorie free snacks, lite beer, thought free entertainment and substance-free beliefs.

Instead of choosing those things that hold the most nutritional value, most people pick what tastes good or has the best packaging or is the most convenient to warm up or that can fit into their schedule or into their lunchbox, or into their life.

The result, of course, is a crises of physical and spiritual obesity combined with mental anorexia; flabby bodies, bloated beliefs and weak minds; all suffering from a lack of any real substance; from the ingestion of too much convenience food; too many processed and chemically or genetically altered  beliefs.

Do you think you’re immune?  Do you think that just because you adhere to a particular belief system, have a college degree or practice a specific sort of physical exercise that you are spiritual, physically or mentally fit?  Think again!  In fact, chances are that if you adhere to one belief system, one way of looking at things intellectually, or one type of exercise that you only have the illusion of fitness.

Let’s take a look at diets and religions.

Religions are like the exercise programs and diets that you find in the self-help books.  You’ve seen them; the age defying diet, the muscle builder’s diet, the tummy fat diet, the pregnancy diet.  All of them specialize in one particular area, and they are good at what they do!  But they don’t address all of the issues.  They leave a lot out and, while by following the program you’ll feel a bit better; more in control; none of them teach you how to tone your whole body, and no religion addresses all of the issues, though each of them is good at what they DO teach.

But just like following one diet will get that part of you in shape, so too does following one religion address one particular aspect of your spiritual needs.  Look at them!  If you are Islamic, the main issues are pride vs. peace.  For Christianity it is sin vs. salvation, for Confucianism it is chaos vs. order, for Buddhism it is suffering vs. nirvana, for Judaism it is exile from god vs. return to god, Hinduism is endless misery via reincarnation vs. spiritual liberation, and in Taoism it is lifelessness vs. life.

Each will tell you that by following THIS path you will find hope, peace, salvation or order just as each diet out there tells you that you will obtain the body you’ve always wanted by following the guidelines in THIS book.  But there is one thing that every religion and every diet fails to take into consideration, and that is the fact that every individual on the planet is unique, and that each needs a different approach not only to nutrition, but to spiritual sustenance as well.

This realization of individuality when it comes to nutrition as well as mental spiritual substance does not mean that you simply pick and choose those diets or religions or ideas that taste the best, that smell the best, that you enjoy eating or thinking about.  This does not mean that you choose the exercise of least resistance; diet that is the easiest to stick to; the religion that makes you feel the best about yourself, and the entertainments that provide you with the most mindless entertainment.

No, what this means is that it is time to go beyond the ‘recommended daily allowance’ beyond the self-help books, beyond the ideas and beliefs that are dished out as “healthy” by our governments, societies and religions.  It is time to stop simply following a way that we have been told is right and instead get to know our own bodies and minds and spirits. Listen to your body; to your heart; to your inner essence; to that core that speaks to you in the language of the soul.

Listen and then follow its direction, even if it takes you in directions that make the flabby and out-of-shape part of you feel uncomfortable; even if it challenges ideas and beliefs that you have always held to be right.  LISTEN.  Find out what your body needs, what your heart desires and what makes your soul sing.  Listen to them and create for yourself the person that you were meant to be and the life that you were meant to live.

 

Firewalls of the Mind

There are a lot of complaints about firewalls – especially in the corporate and government spheres and in fact the term “firewall” has become a byword for restricted access to outside websites.

But firewalls DO serve a purpose. A firewall is dedicated software running on a computer that inspects network traffic passing through it and allows or denies passage of said traffic based on a set of pre-programmed rules. They are necessary to prevent unauthorized Internet users from accessing private networks which are connected to the Internet.  They are also used to keep unauthorized information from leaving the protected system thus protecting the company’s assets.

While firewalls may be a necessary part of the internet world – necessary in that they allow corporate entities and government agencies do their work without undue worry as to their information being compromised, there is another aspect of the concept of a ‘firewall’ that most people don’t consider, and that is how the idea of a “firewall” carries over to the mind.

Humans are complex creatures with dozens of interconnecting systems that keep us working and functioning properly, but perhaps the most complex of our systems is that of our brains.  Consider this; the average human is bombarded with over 10 million bits of information a second through the eyes alone!

Not all of the information that our senses pick up makes it into our consciousness.  Our brains filter out an incredible amount of information every second, enabling us to function on this physical reality without being overwhelmed by physical stimuli. But we’re not content to leave it at that. As humans we also put up mental and psychological firewalls to further inhibit the flow of information, but in addition to the mental and psychological firewalls we put up ourselves, we also have to deal with those that have been put up for us, many times without our knowledge or conscious consent.

From a very very young age we are programmed by our families, religions, schools, governments and societies that certain things are “okay” and other things “aren’t” that certain behaviors are appropriate, and others aren’t. This programming becomes our own personal firewalls even though we may not have consciously chosen them, and they are ingrained so deeply in our psyche that 10, 20, 30 years later we’ll still automatically “screen out” anything that conflicts with them – sometimes without even wondering WHY.

And if, by some chance, we do actually manage to consider an idea “outside” of our programming, we get the mental equivalent of a security pop up window…”An Unauthorized Program is requesting access – do you want to allow it?”

Now it may be logical to install security software on a computer system – or even on a child’s mental system so that they are not overwhelmed by extemporaneous input from outside or from untrustworthy sources, but when is it time to stop using the “recommended security settings” and begin using the “custom security settings” where we decided for ourselves which sites or information is safe to peruse?

Those same people and institutions that installed the firewalls to begin with always recommend against using the custom security settings, especially if they go against their own interpretation of the system’s operating parameters.  Why?  Well, have you ever heard of a system administrator?

A system administrator has the authority to change things in the computer.  They are employed to maintain and operate the computer system or network and it is up to them to make sure that the network of computers they maintain continue to run smoothly and continue to operate according to the parameters set down by the SOP of the company or organization.

Well, just as many individuals work computers are tied to one system administrator (who has the authority to decide what is allowed into the system or not) so too do many institutions (such as societies, religions and the like) act as system administrators for those who subscribe to them.

Granted it is simpler to allow a system administrator to control your computer for you; that way you do not have to worry about what information is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but simply follow the guidelines set down by that system, but does that make your mind yours, or is it the organization’s?

So here is the question that you need to ask yourself; Are you more comfortable allowing someone or something else to decide the parameters of your operating system, or are you going to choose to use the custom settings and decide your system’s operating parameters for yourself?

If you choose to work with custom settings it is not as easy as just flipping a switch, for at every turn you are going to be confronted with the old firewalls and security settings that were set up for you or that you allowed to be installed.  This can be time consuming and sometimes disturbing as it goes against everything that you’ve been programmed to believe, but only once you have disassembled those firewalls will you understand the true scope and power of your system.

 

©Stephanie S. Henry 2012

The Chrysalis Effect

There comes a point in the life of certain caterpillars, when they have eaten enough; when enough nutrients have been stored, then the caterpillar reaches begins to spin a silk pad on a leaf or twig and proceeds to hang itself upside down from this pad.  Slowly it begins to molt its outer skin, leaving itself encased in its green chrysalis.

The creation of the chrysalis itself is an incredible process, for this is not just some special substence that the caterpillar excreets for the job; what it is is the caterpillar’s own skin transformed into this hard green shell.  The caterpillar willingly unraveles itself so that it can allow the change to occur.

Inside the chrysalis an amazing transformation takes place. The caterpillar’s body does not just undergo a complete and total physical transformation; its body completely breaks down into a “soup” of cells which, over the next few weeks reconstruct themselves into a butterfly.

The caterpillar doesn’t resist the pull of change; the instinct to stop eating and begin the next stage of its journey. It doesn’t lament what it will lose by ceasing to become a caterpillar, nor does it try to justify why it should continue its existence as a caterpillar when its heart is telling it that it’s time to let go. One other thing a caterpillar does not do is to worry about helping other caterpillars to recognize and listen to their own instinctual pull.  Instead it simply acts on its instinct and trusts that this is the best thing that could happen at this particular moment in time.

No, the caterpillar does not resist.  It simply stops what it’s doing; no matter what it’s doing.  It stops with no fanfare mid crawl; mid bite; and begins to spin its silk pad, letting everything it was dissolve into nothingness, trusting that the universe will take care of the details, and proceeding to move on to the next state of existence. It surrenders to its heart and in so doing begins the most important transformation of its life.

So too does there come a point in the life of every individual when they are prompted by signs from the universe; indeed by the urgings of their own heart to simply stop being who and what they are; to surrender themselves to the transformational power of their inner-being.  When they do heed the signs they begin to undergo an incredible transformation; a spiritual evolution that will turn their world upside down.

This transformation is not always pleasant.  In fact, sometimes it can be downright painful, for the changes involve breaking you down; stripping you of every thought, every belief, even those relationships that you associate with being you.  It will strip you of everything; reducing your ‘self’ to a protean soup of possibilities, and then will reconstruct you into the ‘you’ that you were always meant to be.

But here is the amazing thing, instead of losing your ‘self’ during the transformation, you emerge on the other side more ‘you’ than you could ever have imagined being, and with an understanding and a perspective that would have been impossible in your old way of being.  Suddenly you can see what it was that you were missing; why it was that your old life never seemed completely satisfaction.  And once your wings have dried in the sun of understanding, you will shake them out; spread them wide; and begin to fly.

 

©Stephanie S. Henry 2012

The Bluebird of Happiness

Dragons will wander about the waste places, and the phoenix will soar from her nest of fire into the air.  We shall lay our hands upon the Basilisk, and see the jewel in the toad’s head.  Champing his gilded oats, the hippogriff will stand in our stalls, and over our heads will float the bluebird, singing of beautiful and impossible things, of things that are lovely and that never happened, of things that are not and that should be.” 

~ Oscar Wilde

Dragons – Basilisk’s, hippogriff’s….unicorns…all things of fairy tales; or so we’re told; creatures from our fantasies; creatures that preside over our dreams; creatures that haunt us when we are drifting somewhere in that world that is halfway between waking and sleep.

But dreams are just that, aren’t they? Just dreams? Or are they, in the immortal words of Walt Disney “A wish your heart makes when it’s fast asleep?”

And perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps that is why the deepest most desperate desires of our heart remain just beautiful and impossible things – things that are lovely and that never happened – things that are not and that should be.

Perhaps they only reason that these beautiful and impossible things have not become a part of our reality is because we don’t listen to what our heart is telling us.

We refuse to act when our heart urges us to take action.

We hush our heart when it presents us with desires; with hopes and dreams that do not fit the life that we have crafted for ourselves.  We smile at them wistfully; smile and tuck them away, far away where they will not intrude on the reality of our everyday lives, and in denying them we may ensure that our lives remain steadfast and constant; predictable and manageable, but in denying them we also deny the very essence of who it is that we are.

And those things that we dream of deep in the dark and secret places of our heart remain forever a mystery, a pretty dream, too good to be true, too beautiful to be possible, and so we go forever wondering just what might have been, and whether or not the bluebird’s singing is not just a pretty distraction, but instead a message straight from our souls; a message for us to open our eyes; to open our minds; to open our hearts before it is forever too late.

And perhaps we have the power to do just that; to acknowledge the bluebird and to open our eyes to the possibilities that lie all around us – and especially those things that lie buried in our hearts and minds and souls; bringing them to light at last, and letting them soar free and usher us into a future better than we ever could have imagined.

©Stephanie S. Henry 2012