Forest Zen

So fellow travelers, this morning’s moment of zen brought this view

and these words

Under the canopy
bathed in forest healing
wisdom of the ages
sinks in and heals my heart

While doing Qi Quong to stretch out the inevitable stiffness which goes with sleeping in a tent, I looked up . Much like the moment, two years ago (almost to the day) in Joshua Tree National Park, I felt a wave of energy. The closest I can come to describing it is to say the energy lifted my consciousness into a more Universal level.

This has been happening more frequently so either I am spiritually evolving or I am losing my mind. Come to think of it the later maybe an essential component of the former.

In my early years as a Seeker one important lesson I learned was these transcendent moments find you when you are ready. The harder you try to recreate them the more elusive they become.

Still, I did come camping here at a favorite forest retreat with the intention of re-calibrating my energy. Honestly, the past three months have felt more like three years~ nothing like a pandemic and social revolution to rev up emotional intensity. So the transcendent infusion of Unity, Peace Hope and Love are gratefully received and, Grace willing, passed along to those who are well met on the path today.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may Love light our way.

Editor’s note: This post was created June 30th, but cell service on site was not sufficient to upload and edit photos, so it’s posting a few days after.

I Lack Discipline? You Lack Compassion — My Zen Brain

Editorial note: Guest Post from a fellow writer and friend who nailed it on the head. Thanks Andy!

A friend of mine sent me a link to a Facebook post that everyone should read. I’ve provided a screenshot of it here so you can read her words of wisdom. Now, I get it. The motivation behind this phrase is painfully obvious: “If you don’t come out of this with a new skill, you […]

I Lack Discipline? You Lack Compassion — My Zen Brain

Now What ?

So fellow travelers, while I have considered this space as a kind of creative “thinking out loud,” there has always been an underlying hope that my writing has served some purpose beyond my own musings.

If an uplifting haiku, an eye catching photo or a bit of humor brings joy or even insight to some of my readers, I feel I have done my part in making a difference by helping others along on their journey. 
Adjusting to the massive changes brought about by the COVID19 pandemic has proven to be more demanding than any of us thought it would be. For me just the switch to online education created an overload of new information to master. There has been little time for myself to relax, let alone write; I had even stopped journaling.

Thankfully, two practices I have maintained are daily meditations and evening gratitudes. That and frequent walks with our dog have kept me sane in a very crazy time, a time which, in the words of therapist Barbara Young, “…is a much longer marathon than we could ever have imagined (becoming) a reality.”  I found her words in an article my friend and fellow writer Kate Rantilla shared. As I read it, I realized why I have felt so pressured: I am, as she describes, trying way too hard to “do isolation well.”

Her insights have helped me make sense of my emotions and allowed me to reorganize my intentions with less self-judgment. So, although I rarely share outside sources here, it felt like the best way, at the moment for me to make a bit of difference for you, my fellow travelers. 

Barbara Young’s article “What do we do now? can be found here: “https://tinyurl.com/sx2ke7n

Walk gently on the path my friends another time-
for now save lives, stay home and be well.

Balance Point

So fellow travelers, today is the equinox (autumnal for northern hemisphere and spring/vernal for southern hemisphere travelers)

I greeted the semi annual balance point of day and night hours from a different vantage point this year. A high desert sunrise more than makes up for anything it lacks in colorful foliage.

My time here has become an annual tradition. A gathering of spiritual explorers in a sacred space. We come to renew our connection to each other and to the Light and Peace within us.

On my last walk from the Zen Garden to breakfast I heard the signature hum of tiny wings and spotted a bright Anna’s hummingbird darting in and out as it drank from a fountain . A different offering of color for this change of seasons.

Winged gem dancing
with bubbling healing waters
harbinger of joy

A bright reminder to live from joy and yes, to stay hydrated.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Through the Eyes of Love

So fellow travelers, some thoughts born from recent human interactions.

When I was a little girl I would see batches of Rudbeckia (commonly known as Black eyed-Susan) growing in empty lots along the side of the road. Growing up in the Bronx, you don’t get to see many fields of wildflowers, so these bright yellow flowers dancing in the breeze of passing cars, really caught my eye. When I asked if we could please stop and pick some I remember being told,  “Oh those are just weeds growing in dirty places.”

My gardening friends often post memes about weeds and two of my favorite quotes are:  “Weeds are just flowers growing where we don’t want them” and “God sees flowers where we see weeds.” The memes always have pretty images of  flowers like thistles and dandelions (which are actually healthy for lawns because their deeper tap roots bring minerals closer to the surface, replenishing what shallow rooted grass needs.)

Our judgements about other people bear similarities to our attitudes about weeds. 

We have expectations about how people should look, dress, behave and live their lives. Much of this is driven by culture and as the world has become increasingly connected through social media, those cultural boundaries are tested often to breaking points. Shifts in social norms also test generational boundaries and just as Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s 1970 book “Future Shock” predicted “too much change in too short a period of time” has created massive disorientation. Ironically, the more connected we are on-line, the less connected we feel individually.

True connection requires going beyond the quick “scroll, click thumbs up or down” patterns of social media feeds. The relative anonimity and illusion of safe distance makes it too easy to spout off a bit of vitriol, hit “comment” and move on without having to take responsibility for our words. Authentic connection requires us to take the time to understand the hows and whys of other people’s behaviors. Those behaviors are outward expressions of how humans feel about themselves. This is particularly true of children, whose ability to express themselves with raw, unfiltered honesty usually triggers a negative response in adults. Acceptance of differences is hindered by our fear of “otherness.” This is where bullying begins; bullies are terrifying because they are terrified. 

Working with differently-abled students and having transgender children within our own circle of family and friends has granted me the opportunity to become more aware of my own judgements (many of which, I will admit, focused more on the parents than the kids.) This in turn has allowed me to be more mindful of my judgements towards all other people. When I find myself  upset, disgusted, hurt or angry about someone’s words or actions it is a reminder to stop and ask myself what my feelings are telling me about myself. Those feelings alert me to something about myself I am either ashamed or afraid of. 

Fearful of our own imperfections, we are quick to point out the flaws in others. Our judgements are a diversion tactic, “Quick look over here at the terrible behavior of this other person lest you notice this other terrible flaw I carry inside me.” God knows I’m no saint, judgement comes to my mind just as quick as anyone’s. I am particularly adept at judging people who are judgemental.  There’s a poetic irony in that trait isn’t there? What I’ve learned is judgement of others is really about our own feelings of unworthiness. At the core of judgment is this fear our errors are unforgivable and our flaws make us unlovable. Judgement separates us from the grace of God and by this I do not reference the “God” of any particular religion. My experience of God is the Universal Power of Love which flows in, through and around all life here and beyond. 

Clover blossom

Our fear of being seen for who we are, in all our imperfection, with all our hidden secrets and shame, prevents us from seeing others as God-who-is-Love sees them.  If we allows ourselves, we too can learn to see flowers where we once saw weeds.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

Home and Back Again

So fellow travelers, fueled by a good strong cup of coffee to remedy jet lag from yesterday’s return trip,  my morning meditation by our pond stirred up mixed emotions swirling like fish gliding in and out of the water lily leaves.

Portland Street Art

~

Sudden flash of gold

Revealing hidden darkness

Morning Reflections

~

Oppressive heat and humidity welcomed us on our return, adding to my longing to be back to PDX where each summer I feel increasingly more at home. Instantly I missed cool misty mornings, I missed 60% humidity, I missed random glimpses of Mt. Hood shrouded in hazey clouds, I missed innovative brunch menus and bird themed drinks, I missed eating dinner and playing board games with my kids.

Only one thing could ease all this yearning.

The happy yelps and ecstatic wiggling of one very happy dog.

In some ways it is good to be home here too. 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Faith Full

So fellow travelers, being aware it’s easy to pass off yesterday’s ardent post about my week with Switchfoot as the spellbound babble of a star struck fan I wanted to follow up

Photo courtesy of Switchfoot Getaway ©2019

because these exceptional musicians are such genuinely accessible humans they allow us to feel more like family than fans.

Drew Shirley gets some Millie Grace time with her parents.

Photo Courtesy Switchfoot Getaway 2019 ©

Take for example the day on the itinerary which I most look forward to which, it may surprise you to know, is not necessarily one of the musical performances the band graciously shares with us throughout the week

My front center view for the sunset concert cruise

nor is it the outstanding fun and excitement of the beach day where the guys hang out with us decorating souvenir magnets, building sand castles and surfing right alongside beginners as they navigate the waves~

Photos courtesy Switchfoot Getaway 2019 ©

or the tour when they invite us as small groups into the sacred space of their private recording studio and each member takes time to share their creative process, answer our questions and let us experience the joy of recording a little chorus, which they will mix into a song and then send us to download as a keepsake~

Photos courtesy Switchfoot Getaway 2019 ©

all these bring waves and waves of joy which will carry me through the challenges of the space

Westward Home

So fellow travelers, this past week brought waves of joy, healing, grace and some damn fine rock and roll

I am still integrating the experience and as the insights begin to take coherent form those will be shared with my favorite images of the week’s events and memories.

For now, having traveled to PDX, I am supremely content to catch up on rest, laundry and time with my kids. Greeted by the welcoming sight of Favorite Older Daughter’s guest room, these words rose from my grateful heart.

If adage is truth 

And home is where the heart is

Then I have arrived

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

Home

So fellow travelers, last night, at a small music club, Switchfoot gave a special performance for the fans who have gathered for their 2019 Getaway week leading up to the Bro-Am beach festival later this week.

It was a once in a lifetime concert experience.

Honestly, every concert I have seen them play since the first time I saw them live (Sept 4, 2009 at the NY State Fair) is a profound experience; that’s why I go to as many shows within my reach as possible ( nine so far and many more to come.)

This is music with a message of hope, words which speak honestly of the healing and joy possible if we reach out to one another and choose love in the midst of the struggle, the doubts, fears and losses life brings. Make no mistake, these are not quiet church hymns. Switchfoot is a faith based group but they are a rock band through and through. The driving rhythms of the drums and bass and the electrifying guitar riffs make it impossible to stand still. These songs transcend inspiration; at times they have quite literally saved my life and every show is a baptismal healing which renews my soul.

Last nights’s performance of a set list picked by us (that’s right, they had people attending submit requests before the show) featured many songs they have not played live in a while, one of which was a song written for the Disney movie Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Jon Foreman spoke of his love for C.S. Lewis’ writing which resonates with the longing for a true home beyond the bittersweet experience of this world. Every one of us feels that longing, whether we are fully conscious of it or not, this is what drives every choice we make. Jon’s music has that same thread running through it, a thread which has become deeply woven into the fabric of my own experience.

This is Home is the one song which always guides me back when I am so lost I don’t know how to find that Light and Love which I know calls me forward. Hearing it live for the first time last night was a blessing beyond words, an experience I am infinitely grateful has become a part of me.

And the week has just begun.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Eggs-istential Hunt

So fellow travelers, it seems this morning’s little haiku has opened a gateway to a lot more words and an awareness of what was missing.

As more experiences in my daily life connect to my inner journey, it has become impossible to filter Spirit out of my writing. Close friends and fellow creatives tell me my writing has always been infused with spiritual perspectives yet I have often been hesitant to write about my direct relationship with Spirit, lest it be mistaken for religious sermonizing. Reflecting on my recent drought of creativity I’m aware this essential aspect of my experience has to be expressed if I am to write from my heart. Going forward I will tread carefully as if navigating a path through newly sprouted wildflowers. Light and Love are gentle, patient energies found in quiet spaces and I wish to be respectful of the beliefs others hold close.

~~~~~

I have a muddled relationship with religious observations.


Sacred altar in Luzerne Vally CA

Bear in mind I am that little girl in Sunday School who wanted to know why; for example, if Jesus had risen from death, why was he still dead on the cross in church. Fortunately Lutherans do not ex-communicate, but I did obey the directive to stop asking questions. One can say the most important lesson I learned in Sunday school was to keep my spiritual inquisitiveness in check at least until I was old enough to seek answers in my own. Meanwhile the Lutheran church has graciously adopted the Cross of Resurrection as its focal point in their churches.

Even as a very young child, the Christianity I was taught made no sense to me. How on earth could one put faith in a Father who would sacrifice his “only son” to save people who seemed bound and determined to keep acting in ways which required such an extreme measure in the first place. There was also quite a bit of conflict between what I was taught and what the Voice I heard in church told me. Yes, you read that right- in moments when focused on the beautiful music, mesmerized by the colors of the stained glass windows** there would sometimes be a Voice which spoke in my head.

Before we call for a psych eval know that this Voice did not “speak” in words so much as impressions or thoughts and always spoke of the importance of love and kindness. It was a Voice which, even at a very young age, I knew did not originate from my own mind. It is the Voice which, when I choose to listen, guides me to live from my heart, to choose compassion over judgment and continues to lead me to profound, if fleeting, experiences of the Presence of Light and permanence of Spirit.

Yeah, I know

Pretty wHeird.

And trust me, as an adult, for many years, I did everything I could to disprove the existence of this Voice. Except the more I did, the more the things this Voice told me proved to be true. Things like~

~ forgiveness releases you from the prison of holding others guilty

~ hatred is toxic and accomplishes nothing; it can and will kill you

~ most anger is self directed; letting it go brings healing

~ gratitude increases joy

~ peace is possible, see all of the above

So, in this season where tradition would have us reflect on the meaning of sacrifice and the concept of resurrection, I came back to those unanswered questions from my Sunday school days. The celebration of Easter itself has a complicated history, interlaced with pagan traditions of decorated eggs and an 18th century mystical egg laying “Osterhaus.” Much like the secular garb of Christmas, these are glittering distractions which we must go beyond to find deeper meaning.

In the spring season we grapple with resurrection and rebirth, two significantly different concepts. Rebirth is a new form of life, generated from something other than itself. Resurrection on the other hand is raising what was once dead to live again as itself. Easter, which always occurs after the Spring Equinox, is a time to be mindful of what we might resurrect in the annual cycle of rebirth. Awakening lost memories, buried wounds or guilt entombed long ago can create shock waves which unnerve our resolution to move forward. Yet, much like the contemporary “Easter eggs” of digital media and video games, these hidden elements can reveal new levels of awareness which help us live more fully in the present. To live our dreams, we must emerge from the shadows of the past and embrace the person we have become. In essence, while the past has shaped us it need not continue to define us. We can resurrect lost dreams infused with the energy of who we have become.

So fellow travelers, whatever beliefs you hold as truth, I wish blessings of this holy day to you . May the Easter eggs you find on the path bring gifts of joy as sweet as jelly beans .


Favorite Younger Daughter circa 2005

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

**Photo Note: WordPress new block format randomly refuses to place some of my photo captions where I want them, so here is the caption for the window photo: The beautiful stained glass windows at Rupert United Methodist church. Several times a year I have the blessing of visiting this wonderful faith community where my friend Tom is minister. You can find his blog Two Tiny Churches at this link.