Sunset Zen

So fellow travelers, catching a sunset never fails to give rise to a wave of emotions for me.

Gratitude is always a component, even if it is simple gratitude for a challenging day’s end and the gift of a chance to rest. November’s short damp days often end with cloud cover so thick it obscures the setting sun. So the vision of banks of grey clouds turning rosy pink the other day created a moment of insight and these words~

Swaths of grey blush pink
from the setting sun’s kiss and
promise to return

The constants of sunrise and sunset are my reminder of a Promise: no matter the darkness we pass through, the Light will return. In my teens I came across a quote which radically shifted my perception of life. The phrase from The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus, “Panta Rhei” is usually transcribed as “Change is the only constant,” although it actually means “everything flows.” Which, in fact, it does when we relinquish our resistance to the inevitability of change.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way


The Decision

So fellow travelers, it is Thanksgiving Day here in the US, a holiday I enjoy even more than Christmas ,

and I have always loved Christmas!

.

Even the few times when I was alone or grieving a great loss , Christmas Day always becomes* magical to me. Still to me Thanksgiving is a celebration of the two things in life I treasure even more than the magic of Christmas: family and food.

This year, with the increasing momentum of the COVID19 pandemic’s second wave, staying home became the only responsible choice for me. It took a long, strenuous hike to work through the emotions that hit me the day I cancelled my flight to Portland to spend Thanksgiving with our kids. We won’t even be traveling to see family in cities close by. Decisions my husband and I reached out of simple, genuine concern for the well being of others, more than for ourselves. Decisions we had to make because of another, perhaps more dangerous, outbreak plaguing our country- a viral lack of concern for the impact our choices have on each other.  Decisions which it’s clear even more people will have to make for the December holiday season. So waking this morning with a deep need to shift that mindset of loss, I sat in meditation at sunrise.  The comfort I sought came as these words

In this moment here
reach for hope find peace and joy
now and yet to come

One small ray of Light banishes darkness. Nothing outside ourselves has the power to stop us of from the decision to be that Light.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way

*PS~ The “becoming” part of Christmas Day’s magic is a post unto itself. Those thoughts are simmering with the traditional Turkey Soup yet to come.

Red Angel

So fellow travelers, when I reach the edge of emotional resilience nature is the sanctuary which brings my energy back to  center. 

One special find on the Acadia trip.

In general, I proactively make healing time in nature a regular part of my routine, even if it’s just the daily walk times with our dog. Since our  return from the early October trip to Acadia, my creative focus has been in total disarray just like the trip’s blog entry which remains in narrative limbo. Like the haze from wildfires, there is a peripheral anxiety which permeates my days and a growing awareness that this energy I am feeling is far larger than my own. It comes in unrelenting waves so persistent I have been pushed to seek a more powerful arsenal of coping practices. That quest has led me to profound discoveries about myself, which in turn have brought me to a place of clarity about what’s happening in the world around me as well. This awareness has not quite coalesced into description yet, but a moment on a long hike created an experience which reflects what it feels like.

Trekking along a path, my dog and I rounded a corner and there, illuminated by a ray of sunlight, was a tiny red angel standing perfectly upright among the fallen leaves. Feelings quickly flowed into these words

This one chose to stand
small but fiery bright lit by
compassion and love

The world is changing; there are multiple narratives playing out. We are alive in this crucial turning point for a reason. That reason differs for each of us and none of us can say what is true for anyone but our own self. Yet collectives are made of individuals so the choices we each make matter more than we give ourselves credit for. There is power inherent in every act of kindness and compassion, in each word spoken to raise awareness of injustice and each hand extended in peace. The power of many individual actions builds into a wave  which can overcome fear and hatred with the unstoppable force of unified Love.

I’ve only surfed a handful of times, but if the tide is changing and surf’s up, I’m willing to ride the waves.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way

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