Waiting for Home

images13N17I32Barefoot, she stands, waiting. A restless breeze tugs at her hair before moving on, leaving behind the faint scent of the ocean; a scent that fills her simultaneously with a soothing calm and an unquenchable restless.

Head thrown back, she stands, waiting. Her eyes search the evening sky, watching as the stars wink into existence, as the golds and plumbs of sunset fade into a black velvet background worthy of a sky full of glittering jewels.

As the light fades in the west a silence falls across the yard; a pregnant pause as if a cosmic conductor has raised his baton and all of his musicians have paused, instruments raised in anticipation of the downbeat. A moment later, with a single croak from a large frog of advanced years, the evening chorus begins; frogs from the riverbank, crickets from the meadow, a low throaty hoot from the owl that lives in the forest behind her house.

And still she waits.

As if on cue a crescent moon rises over the tree tops, casting faint shadows across the darkling yard and glimmering silver off of the tears that flow freely down her face, dribbling onto the ghostly white of her shirt dampening the grass at her toes.

She does not cry for the gloriousness of the vast array of glittering stars or the spectacular evening chorus or for the lingering scent of the restless sea. She cries for many reasons, few of which she can put into words and most of which she knows she will never understand. But mostly she cries because she waits.

She is not even sure what it is that she is waiting for. Perhaps it is love. Perhaps it is hope. Perhaps it is a sense of peace, of belonging. She does not know what she waits for, only that when it appears she will know that her waiting is over. She will know that finally, she is home.

She waits, barefoot, gazing at the stars, kissed by the moonlight, caressed by the whisper of an ocean breeze and serenaded by a chorus written expressly to touch her heart. And as she waits, slowly the tears dry and the competing peace and restlessness combine into an expansive duet whose rhythm counterpoints the beating of her heart. Slowly the stars expand until they fill not just her eyes, but her very soul. Slowly the sound of the nighttime creatures fill her head to bursting and it is then, only then, that she ceases to wait.

At last she has become.

Finally, inside of her own skin, she is home.

The Empty Shell

“You can’t ask a butterfly to scrunch herself back into her chrysalis or to go back to being a caterpillar just because you’d gotten used to her like that.  What’s worse is when you try to get her to go back because you fear the freedom given to her by her wings.”  ~SSHenry

There are some experiences; some moments in time; that change your life forever.  Perhaps for you it was a major life event such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one or a close call that shook you right down to the foundations of your soul.  Or maybe it wasn’t a large event at all.  Maybe it was something much more subtle such as a kind word spoken when it was most needed; the touch of a lover’s hand or a breeze that not only ruffled your hair but stirred up something deep down inside you that simply could not be contained.

I’ve had many life-changing moments.  All of us have.  Sometimes it seems as if these moments come so thick and fast that they threaten to overwhelm you.  At other times you feel as if your entire life is on “pause” and all of the moments having stepped out for a drink or something.   At some points in your life it is as if the moments of realization and wonder and change are so few and far between that you’ve pretty much forgotten what they are like before the next one begins to play itself out and have to remind yourself what exactly it is that you are dealing with each time you encounter it.

My most recent (and not surprisingly most profound) life-changing moment to date came the moment that I walked into my house after a two month absence and realized that there was no way that I could go back to being the person I had been when I walked out that door eight weeks earlier.

The details as to why I ended up gone for two months (illness in the family) or what happened while I was gone are not important.  Yes, I had some interesting experiences while I was off on my own for two months dealing with unexpected issues and meeting people I might not otherwise have encountered. But what really matters is that for two solid months I was detached from the life that I had been living up until that moment.

For two months I was separated from all of the small niggling everyday details that we label “reality” and which demand our attention and catch us up in layers upon layers of drama and expectation; layers that we gladly pull around us like a cloak and call “life.”

For two months I was free of those layers.  Getting rid of them was not pleasant. They got stripped away from me rudely leaving me rather raw and feeling as if I had been flayed alive and then washed down in salt water and I felt as if was being completely inundated with issues and problems and responsibilities that I really didn’t want to deal with at that moment in time.

But the point is that for two months I was not just a wife.  Nor was I just a mother or a daughter taking care of her own mother.  For two solid months – I was me.

Just me.

I was not free of obligations or responsibilities (caring for a sick family member brings with it its own responsibilities and expectations).  But for two months I was free of the obligations and responsibilities and expectations in which I had wrapped myself up for the last 22 years; those responsibilities and expectations that come from being a wife and mother and homemaker extraordinaire.

For two solid months was completely and totally myself.

It dawned on me as I was driving home, to wonder just how I would ever be able to go back to living my old life.  But when I pulled into the driveway and saw my house for the first time in eight weeks; when I walked through the door and took one look around me, I knew that it was patently impossible.

I can’t go back to the way things were; ever.  The person who lived that life is gone.

I could feel the shell of her; that old me; waiting for me around every corner.  “Come on” she whispered, holding out the old life as if it were a soft but comfortable pair of sweat pants. “Don’t you want to slip back into this?  This is where you are comfortable.  This is where you belong.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.”

“Oh yes it does sweetheart” I whispered back “you have NO idea!”

You see, the old life has a lot going for it.  There are many things that I would like to keep and incorporate into my new reality, but not if it means having to go back to being the person that I was.  The person I have become cannot possibly fit into that old skin. Not without giving up who and what I have become.

It would be like asking a butterfly to scrunch back into her chrysalis.  Or better yet, to turn back time and become a caterpillar again.  It’s not going to happen.  I could pretend, but I’m tired of pretending.

I am simply going to be myself.

My whole self.

I will start again.  Here.  Now.  As myself.  If that is not enough, or more likely if that is too much, then so be it.  I have wings now baby. There’s no reason for me to go back to crawling when I can fly.

On Awakening

There is a moment; a moment in time when everything falls into place and it doesn’t matter what you believe.  Suddenly you know, and the knowing makes all of the difference.  It all makes sense; all of it.  Everything that you’ve been railing against finally slips into its niche and you can see for yourself why things are unfolding the way they are.

There are people who stuggle all their lives to reach this moment, and there are people who were born knowing.  Sometimes it comes to you in a rush of trupets and buglehorns, or with the happy bumbling of a playful puppy.  But sometimes it comes upon you gently; a gradual knowing that suddenly blossoms like a rose opening itself up in the morning light.  And sometimes; sometimes it steals into your heart like a lover’s kiss and leaves a searing mark on your very soul.

The important thing is that you have finally experienced this moment for yourself, and once you have, it doesn’t matter what anyone says or does, that moment can never be taken away from you.   People can make fun of you until they are blue in the face and you’ll just smile and shrug it off.   They can demand proof that what you say is true and argue their point until the cows come home and you find yourself sitting back and smiling at their enthusiasm.  They can claim that it is all in your head and that you must be suffering from some sort of mental illness and you’ll l augh.T

The knowledge that comes in that moment; that knowing; it doesn’t make you better than anyone else.  It doesn’t make you smarter or more worthy. It doesn’t get you any brownie points with any deity.  It simply marks a rather momenteous milestone on your own personal journey; one that you will wish that you could share with everyone that will listen, but which you will instinctively understand can only be experienced in order to be truly understood.

ON AWAKENING

Somewhere in the space between one blink of your eyes and the next;

When your heart is poised between heartbeats;

It is there that awakening occurs.

In that moment you open your eyes and the world has changed;

completely, totally and irrevocably.

You are seeing everything for the first time and exactly as it is.

And when your heart deigns to beat again

The wonder of it breaks you wide open.

A Clear Blue Soul

Seeing beneath the surface of reality sounds like such a romantic concept.  The idea of seeing things as they really are; of experiencing the truth; of getting to the heart of the matter; all of it sounds so incredibly exotic and spiritual.  The reality of seeing what is really there instead of what you want or expected to be there is something else entirely.

The reality involves stripping away any illusions that you may have had; any preconceived notions as to what reality is supposed to be like.  This can be hard enough when dealing with circumstances and beliefs.  Beliefs alone can change your entire way of thinking, especially when something you have always believed to be true is proven otherwise.  When it comes to people however, seeing to the heart of things takes on an entirely different perspective, primarily because you are dealing with souls; that fundamental core of each of us that is the essence of who and what we really are.

Seeing beneath the surface of a person’s exterior to that clear blue soul that lies beneath; that can be an incredibly profound and disturbing thing. To see them for the first time as who and what they truly are instead of how you want to see them or how they project themselves; to see them in all of their perfection instead of with all of the human faults failures that you (or they) have attributed or ascribed to themselves or adopted as part of their worldview; it is definitely an experience that you will not soon forget.  In fact, it will definitely rock your world.

In a heartbeat every preconceived notion you had of whom and what this person is; what they are like; what they have done to you disappears.  In its place you find the clean, clear essence and purity that is at the heart of each of us.

So why is this so disturbing?  Why is it that when we catch a glimpse of the true nature of things and of people that it shocks us so profoundly?

Well, one of the primary reasons that most people find themselves so disturbed by seeing beneath the skin of reality is that it reminds them that nothing they see is actually real, that it is all an illusion.

If you will, it’s like what happens when you are watching a movie and suddenly the DVD freezes up.  In a heartbeat the moving images that you were so engrossed in a moment before turn into a blizzard of unrelated pixels and suddenly you are forcibly reminded that what you are seeing is just a recording.

We’ve built our world; our entire reality on a foundation of illusions.  From the illusion of the solidity of physical objects (electrons moving so fast and furiously that they give an object of being solid and dense when it really consists of more empty space than physical matter) to the illusion of separateness when it comes to consciousness, we’re working with illusions.

In order to experience physical existence; in order to interact with people and things around us, we have to act as if the illusion is real.  This is just one of the reasons that it is so disturbing when we see through the illusion, when, for a heartbeat, we see things as they really are and we are forcibly reminded of the fact that there is more to reality than the web of illusions we have created for ourselves.

But if we can get past that fear; if we can step beyond our need to view our reality from one preconceived notion of how things are supposed to be; into the heart of that clear blue soul, you will find yourself looking into the true nature of reality; into the heart of god.

X Marks the Spot

YOU ARE HERE.

How many times have we seen those words – usually on maps – and almost always accompanied by a large red X (with or without an arrow pointing to it) so that you know that THIS X, not some other random X, is the one you need to be paying attention to?

But be honest here, how much attention do you actually ever pay to the X?

I know exactly what happens because I’ve done it myself.

You pull into the rest area and run up to the map. “Okay, we’re here” you say, pointing to the X “and this is where we need to go,” you add, pointing to a place that is where the X is not. “So if we turn left…” and off you go, determined to get to your location to “do” whatever it is that you’re supposed to be doing or to get to where it is that you think you should be going.

The poor X never stands a chance.

But do you want to hear the really sad thing? Once you get to your destination, most people don’t pay any attention to it either – even though it’s a completely different X! Once they get to where it is they think they should be going, they are so busy doing what they think they should be doing; or planning out another leg of the journey, that they never stop to look around them and see just where it is that they ARE.

I still remember the first time I actually paid attention to the X.

We’d stopped at a roadside rest area (the kind with the lean-to of snack and soda machines and the big area map standing alone with its own small roof and helpful spotlights so that you can’t miss it – and a BIG RED X – with an arrow pointing to it.

In bold black words written beside it, this one said: YOU ARE HERE

and underneath, scribbled in messy black marker was one additional word: WHY?

It made me chuckle, but it also made me think.

You ARE here. Now. For good or bad, for better or worse. THIS is where you are at this present moment in time. I don’t care if the place where you currently are is a good place and everything seems to be going swimmingly, or a bad place where one more day is going to send you over the edge, or a place that is non-descript and really rather boring. The point is, YOU ARE HERE, and I bet you haven’t even taken the time to really look around you and appreciate the view much less to see if there is anything interesting going on.

Why?

Perhaps it IS just a stopping point, a rest area; a red X on the map of your soul journey, but it is still a part of your journey, and if you’re going make the trip, you might as well enjoy the scenery, because who knows, maybe there IS no destination.
For all we know, experiencing each moment of now; each moment in which we find ourselves; may be all the purpose there is.

If so, we’re messing it up big time.

So the next time you find yourself looking at that big map comparing how far you’ve come and how far there is yet to go, take a moment to stop and look around you. Are there other people at your rest area? What are they doing? How’s the view? Is that maharachi music coming from the other side of the kiosk?
Yes, I know, you don’t want to linger too long. After all, you have a journey to undertake and you want to get there as soon as possible, but take a few moments to appreciate where you are; the HERE that you are currently standing at, and the churros at that little stand on the other side of the map.

So….are we there yet?

Authentic Living 201: Living Intentionally

There is a difference between living and living an intentional life.

No, seriously, everybody lives.  Unless you’ve been in a serious accident and are fighting for every breath you take, living is not something you actually have to think about.  It simply happens, usually when you aren’t paying attention.  In fact, one day you look up and realize that half your life has gone by and wonder where the devil it’s gone.  It was just here for pity’s sakes.

Suddenly you realize that you’ve slipped so far into routine that you’re drowning in it.  For whatever reason your life has become mundane – each day just like the one before, and it doesn’t matter how good your life actually is.  It doesn’t matter how nice your house is, or your car.  It doesn’t matter how much (or how little) money you have in the bank – your life is being lived – you’re not living an intentional life.  So, what is the difference? What does it mean to live intentionally?

What is Intentional Living?

Intentional living is not about turning your life upside down.  It is not even about manifesting change in your life.  Intentional living is about being here – now; it is about doing everything you do with complete and total awareness of what it is that you are doing and why it is that you are doing it.

From eating your breakfast to sitting through that aptly named board meeting; from playing Frisbee with your kids to walking the dog; you need to pay attention to what it is that you are doing.  You need to use your mastery of everyday mindfulness to pay attention to what is happening in your life and to be totally in the moment as you do it; paying attention to all the details and being open to all the nuances.  And yes, I’ll tell you right now, it’s harder than it seems.

You see, we have this sense of urgency that surrounds everything that we do.  I’m sure you’ve noticed it.  When you are doing something mundane or boring your mind tends to either shut off or to race ahead to what needs to be done next or sometimes berate us over past mistakes and things that we could have done better.  Very rarely are we actually fully in the moment.  Well, it’s time to change all of that.

Living the Intentional Life

Using your mastery of mindfulness to pay attention to what is happening here and now, you’re going to make some interesting discoveries.  You are going to find that there are things that are a part of your life that no longer serve you.  You may have gone years – or even decades without realizing what you were doing; the time you were wasting on something that you really have absolutely no interest in whatsoever; things in your life that are just taking up space.

So, why are you still doing them?  Why have you kept them all these years?  What is keeping you from letting go of those things that no longer serve you so that you can make room in your life for something that actually makes a difference?  Yes, I’m sure that if you think hard enough you can find a reason to keep them in your life.  But is it worth it?  Is the time, effort and energy that you spend on them worth what is given back to you in the satisfaction of possession or in the completion of the action itself? If you were fully present every time you did this – used this – would you still want it in your life?

And it won’t just be physical objects or routines that you find cluttering up your life.  You’re going to run into friendships, acquaintances, even romantic relationships that are called into question, especially if – once you start actually paying attention to them – you find that neither of you is getting anything out of it; or if the relationship is unbalanced.  Just like physical objects and everyday routines, sometimes there are relationships that have run their course; that we hold onto out of habit, but that would serve everyone better if we simply let them go.

But it isn’t just about getting rid of the excess; of the mundane; of those things that no longer serve you or that have run their course.  Living intentionally is also about coming to a realization of those things that you are missing; those things that you really want to be a part of your life but didn’t realize were missing until you started paying attention to what you actually had.   Only once you realize what it is that you really want can you go about taking the necessary steps to bring it into your life.

So go ahead – start today!  Start paying attention to the life that you are living.  Start living your life intentionally.  Stop living on autopilot; never fully engaged in what it is that you are doing, and start putting a part of yourself; a part of your energy; into everything that you do.  Start being fully present in every relationship you are a part of and not just because you have to; not just because you feel obligated; but because you want to; because at that particular moment in time there is nothing you would rather be doing, for in the end that is the only way to really be alive.

 

 

The First Day of Forever

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!  Live the life you’ve imagined.  

~ Thoreau

It’s going to happen.  One morning you are going to wake up and realize that today is the first day of forever.  It will happen when you are ready for it to; this first day of forever.

It will happen when you have decided to stop looking for happiness as you would an object you have lost and instead choose to be happy.

It will happen when you stop looking for wonder and mystery long enough to open your eyes and see the wondrous and mysterious things that surround you in every moment of the day.

It will happen when you stop looking for someone outside of yourself to blame for everything in your life that you have seen as evil or negative and finally realize that everything that happens to you is a result of decisions that you have made in the past.

It will happen when you finally realize that the only one who has the power to change your present circumstances – is you.

You see, there comes a point when it becomes clear that there is no one else that you can blame for the situations in which you find yourself.  I don’t care how dysfunctional your childhood family was or what negative circumstances you had to deal with as you were growing up or how many of your relationships have failed.  It’s still your fault. You brought this on yourself.  If you had been paying attention, you would never be in the situation that you are in now.

Oh, I’m sorry, is that too harsh?  Would you rather hear that it is all “their” fault?  That you can put the blame for the person that you have become on your parents or on the partners of failed relationships or on the seemingly random and chance events that have created the life that you are currently living? Or maybe you’d prefer the concept of a random and chance universe where bad things happen to good people for absolutely no reason.

It would be easier if I did that, wouldn’t it? It would be easier to be able to point fingers and place blame and sigh about how much better your life would be if only this or that hadn’t happened or if only this or that would.  Ah yes, much easier than actually getting out there and doing something about it.

You see it is your fault; all of it.  The circumstances you have found yourself in, the problems that you are being faced with, the seemingly random events that make no logical sense; they are all of them the result of your past focus and actions.  These are not tests by a divinity or temptations by an evil being.  You have drawn them to you by the focus of yesterday’s thoughts; the focus of yesterday’s energy.

And what about the seeming randomness of so many events and circumstances?  Well here’s the thing, chances are that you didn’t realize yesterday that your current attitude was going to have an effect on tomorrow’s events.  You probably weren’t paying attention to what you were thinking about; to the direction that your chaotic emotions were pointing you in.  You simply went with it.  You let your emotions control your thoughts and you let your thoughts control the focus of your energy.  And so it was that your energy was focused – unintentionally mind you – but focused nonetheless.  And what you were focused on is what you brought into your life today.

And yes, there are random circumstances that are not the result of your intentional (or unintentional) focus of energy but which are in fact the result of someone else’s intentional (or unintentional) focus of energy.  But here’s the thing, it is still up to you as to how you react or respond to these circumstances.

The random traffic accident that is not caused by anything you did wrong but rather by someone else being in too big of a hurry to stop at the light.  That accident may in no way be your fault, or even the result of your previous actions.  There may have been absolutely nothing you could have done to prevent it.  But first, that does not mean that you didn’t bring the event into your life.  Secondly, it does not mean that you have to allow your emotions to control how you react to that event.

You can choose to get upset and let it ruin your entire day, or you can calmly and coolly exchange insurance information and go on about your business knowing that while it may have seemed to be a random accident may instead have been your higher self’s way of ensuring that you’ve learned what you need to know about controlling your temper or about letting your emotions control your reactions.

And it doesn’t matter how big or small the circumstance.  It doesn’t matter how mundane an action or how life changing of an event you are faced with.  The truth of the matter still remains; you can control tomorrow’s reality by how you choose to react and respond to today’s events and circumstances.

You can stop letting your body-generated emotions dictate tomorrow’s reality and instead take the necessary steps to ensuring that tomorrow you will be living the life you always imagined.  And when you have done this for long enough there will come that morning when you wake up to realize that tomorrow is today, and that today is, finally, the first day of forever.