Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Here, I Am!

Here, I am, flying. And I love flying! Something happens at 37,000 feet that awakens my senses and stimulates my spirit. I’ve always felt flying lifted me higher.

I have just taken off and in a few hours, I will arrive home for the first time in 40 days.

I gave my window seat to a young girl who was separated from her sister. You could see, she was visibly upset sitting in the middle of two strangers in row 20 while her sister sat in row 25.

I am now sitting next to a church youth director who has a quote from Isaiah 6:8 tattooed in Hebrew on both her wrists. It reads, "Here I Am, Send Me." “Send me where?” I ask her. “Send me anywhere God wants me to go,” she answers.

In this section of the Bible, Isaiah has just learned that with all his human infractions and all his limitations, he had been totally cleansed, forgiven and purified. His iniquity was removed. And out of this pure moment of being fully enlivened by God’s divine grace, he responded spontaneously and unconditionally to the call.

If Freud were sitting next to me, he may discount the synchronicity of this moment but Carl Jung, on the other hand, would be applauding the magnificence of the grand design, for we are all being called.

I essentially lived in my friend Doug’s studio for the past 3 days, recording then listening, at least a half dozen times, to every word written during my 40 day retreat. I relived the joy and sadness, the healing and the insights, the longing and the purification the desert delivered.

The awareness of presence has been etched into my consciousnesses yet each moment requires a recommitment to living in this presence, to listening for direction and responding from the heart of compassion.

The final exam came a few days ago when my beloved husband fell ill and I was asked to see with new eyes. I can now love without wanting and can allow life to be as it is.

I still want to control outcomes. I still see how I love to do things my way. This aspect of my personality is very present. I can witness it and get caught up by it. Yet now, it bows to evolution.

And so this journey has been a blessing, a gift and an experience that I cherish deeply. The audio book, Summer Solstice… 40 Days and 40 Nights, will remind me to be… to listen and to respond unequivocally by saying… Here, I AM!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You Don't Have To Figure It Out

I don't have to figure it out! It is more fun to be moved by life, by the wind, by beauty.

Listening to flute music in the background, a fountain in the foreground, my friend, Numerologist, Michael Brill, has welcomed me back into the world.

It has been a gentle re-entry -- caressed by the beautiful and enchanting New Mexico landscape.

Upon leaving Crestone, I had the opportunity to visit with John Milton, the father of the environmental movement. "It's too late," he said. "We have already screwed up the earth. Maybe Ronald Regan should not have removed the solar panels from the White House and undone all Carter's efforts to prepare for the travesties we are experiencing today. The forests and oceans are so compromised that the damage has been done. It is only a question of how much. Everyone must become aware and conscious of their relationship with Gaia. NOW!"

We walked together on sacred land, practiced some chi gong and appreciated the simplicity of nature at her best. John was preparing a small group to go on Sacred Passage and invited Michael and me to partake in the conversation. We truly learned about the life of the rock people, the stones and the water. It was a beautiful gift -- a morning with John Milton .

Leaving the ashram was very emotional and I cried for two days. I learned to surrender, to love, to be loved, to be reverent, to bow to sing to chant (japa) and to work - also known as karma yoga. The ashram offered a huge teaching about the divine lila -- and all the characters were wonderful teachers. I am forever a grateful student.

I met great international teachers including Loving Relationships Founder, Sondra Ray, Swamiji from Sai Maa's Ashram, John Milton, as mentioned above and Shaykha Fariha al-Jerrahi from the Sufi Order, with a heartfelt thank you for the beautiful green glass earrings.

I also had the opportunity to meet Roshi Joan Halifax at her Zen Center, Upaya, in Santa Fe. Our conversation was relevant to our fast paced society and she offered this bit of wisdom... STOP! Get off the activity treadmill -- STOP! Go Deeper. Cultivate compassion and kindness.

I will post our conversation on my website when I return home in August. In the interim, you can listen to great interviews in the archives with well-know teachers and authors including, Ed Begley, Jr, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, John Tesh, Joan Borysenko and lots more.

The ashram chants are still in my head. This is very good. Instead of noise, I hear God's song. But don't get me wrong, I can have noise and God's song playing at the same time. And I can see how they play simultaneously. Fortunately, the noise is quiet right now.

It's been an initiation -- this 40 day sojourn was not to provide me with answers or to show the way. No. It was an opportunity to see with new eyes. Here's how I know.

While in the woods with John Milton, the sacred grounds were highly charged. I even heard and sensed a being, not in form, walking through the forest ringing lovely bells. I thought maybe it was a bird, but upon questioning John, he confirmed, it was indeed a non physical being. Magical.. that's all I can say.

Anyway, after a bit of time, I took out my camera to shoot a few pictures an the LED screen was shattered. This, on my brand new Nikon, was rather upsetting. I was upset and yet, I surrendered. I went out and bought a throw-away for the rest of my journey.

Then I wondered, could I still take pictures. Even though I could only see 1/8 of the picture in the shattered screen, I could extrapolate and see beyond the screen. I did this and... it was a lesson in seeing anew.

Our conditioning is deep. Really deep. And then Roshi asks us to go deeper than our conditioning. That means to see through a new lens. This pilgrimage has been eye-opening and uplifting. It is exactly what happened while traveling from Crestone to New Mexico.

Michael and I stopped on the side of the road. I have affixed an ankle bracelet that has small bells on to my purse. A crow heard me walking and heard the bells. He was enamored and each time I gently rang the bells, he cocked his head and leaned toward the sound.

I walked closer and closer and as I was approaching, he seemed transfixed. Then the wind started to pick up and the bird was visibly being moved by the wind. Yet the bells were more enchanting and so he steadied himself on the table that was offering him support.

Finally, the wind moved him and he was forced to fly off. He waited on the ground because the bells were so enticing --- he didn't want to leave. How I viewed this experience was different from how he experienced it.

For me, I saw what happens. We get caught up, transfixed, mesmerized, obstinate, stubborn and unmoving until finally --- a giant wind moves us.

The lesson: Allow the wind to move you, even if you don't have a clear direction.

"Let yourself be moved by life," I heard Hanuman in the wind say. "You don't have to figure it out."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

She Called Me Out

She called me out with her eyes. Deep into me she could see. "What are you saying, Liz," the penetrating look asked. "Don't you want to tell the truth?"
I was frozen in the moment when a visitor to the ashram observed me rationalizing an action which became an outright lie. The crazy thing is... I believed what I said. Here's what happened.

A few days ago, I made a new raw food -- almond veggie burgers. The batter is like a pate and is dehydrated after it is shaped. The reality is I made a ton of batter. There was more than what was needed. I must have tripled the recipe.

I took the leftovers and offered it for a side dish for lunch. Everyone enjoyed it... but there was such an abundance -- there were leftovers.

The next day, someone asked what the pate was for. Oh, I said, I prepared it for lunch, to go with the salad. We didn't have enough side dishes.
This is when the ashram visitor, Jenya, called me out. She was witness the day the pate was prepared. She saw yellow and red tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkin seeds, dulse and avocados -- all available for the choosing to accompany the salad. She knew there was more than enough food. But I didn't.

Here's where rationalization comes into play.
I felt terrible for making so much batter. I know the ashram counts every penny. They make and sometimes feed hundreds of meals a week. I couldn't accept my wastefulness so I made up a story to soften the discomfort.

I told myself and believed that the extra food was needed. If it hadn't been for Jenya calling me out, I would never have known how rationalization truly works.

Now I ask myself, "Can I turn rationalization into realization, and will this help keep me honest, with myself first and then... with others?"

Monday, July 14, 2008

Field of Dreams - Field of Life

Kevin Costner brought us The Field of Dreams. Envision it in mind... create it and it will be greater than what you can imagine.

Yesterday I went back to the Carmelites for Sunday Mass. The message this week was about the mystery of life. "Do not explain away the meaning of everything you see. Do not reduce your observations to pre-conceived ideas or beliefs. Let life be a mystery - plant your seeds in fertile ground."

Witness in wonderment the unfolding of your consciousness.

Rather than a Field of Dreams, Father Eric suggests we view our world as a Field of Life -- bringing the mystery of art and nature into creation. Let everything be as it is and allow it to speak to you rather than imposing your knowing upon it.
This is an important teaching for me.

Here are some other observations:

Mind Your Own Business:
It is not necessary to offer help -- especially if not asked.

Wounds Heal - With Love

People Can Appear Broken: Love Them Into Wholeness

Do Something You Are Resisting - Observe Your Growth

Count Your Blessings -- Everyday

Love the Earth... Please!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Rebel... Without A Cause

My middle finger, left hand, is infected. I cut it a few days ago prepping for lunch and didn't pay attention. Now, it's got my attention.

"What's it all about," I ask myself. "It must mean something," I surmise. And even though Freud said, "Sometimes a rose is just a rose," this middle finger is up to something.

What has happened in the ashram is very interesting.

Having left home at the ripe age of 13 -- you could say I was a rebel. And I've noticed, as many of you have too -- I like to do things my way. If you tell me to do something I don't like, I will either mumble something indecent under my breath, or I'll just plain give you the finger... the middle finger that is.

So what I have noticed is very interesting. The is no room for doing it my way in an ashram. It's their way --- or the highway. Full conformity. Up at 5:30 am. Fire ceremony at 6:30. Aarti at 7:00. Breakfast 8:00 - 9:00. Service, Seva -- Karma Yoga from 9:00 - 1:00. Lunch 1:00 - 2:00. Free time 2:00 - 4:00. Karma Yoga 4:00 - 6:00. Prep for evening Aarti 6:00 - 7:00. Aarti 7:00 - 8:00 and a light dinner and bed by 9ish.

It is now 10:00 PM Thursday evening. I am not rebelling in this case, just carving out some time for myself. It's your tomorrow and will be my tomorrow too when you read this and it just goes to show that sometimes, time doesn't really matter, although eras do.

So why the heck is my middle finger infected?

I'd say it's to show how deeply our wounds can infect our psyche and to bring the puss of yesterday to today -- or tomorrow. And I believe, it is time for our wounds to heal.

I may have mentioned the Taiwanese family that's visiting the ashram. This evening, the auntie of one of the young girls, pinched her very hard on her leg for not complying with the rules. The young girl was aghast and demanded of her mother that she communicate with the aunt and explain that this kind of behavior is no longer acceptable and even though the culture approves --- this young 9 year old is carving the way for a new reality --- healing the wounds of the past and forging a new tomorrow. Especially in a culture that is dominated by controlling the youth. I was moved to see this come to the fore and to partake in facilitating a multi-generational healing.

So even though it has taken me 1/2 hour to type this with one finger less -- I certainly feel full -- of hope and enthusiasm for a better tomorrow; free of the deep wounds that fester and stifle our full expression.

You may just say ... there was rebel among us -- and now -- she's without cause.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Just The Way It Is... Again

I’ve pretty much gotten over trying to figure out why I am living in an ashram for 2 weeks – and am actually beginning to experience it --- just the way it is.

Life here is very busy. There are always things to do. I work a lot in the kitchen preparing the mid-day meal which usually serves a dozen or more people. Yesterday I made granola – it’s really easy and it was cooked in the solar oven. Life is constant – demanding and easy at the same time. Living off the grid and eating 80% raw is another story.

Today is day 19. I will be traveling for a total of 40 days – so it’s another almost half way point. I do find my thoughts periodically wondering what the purpose of this is and what I will do when I get home and then I hear myself say, “You’ll know when you know. It is--- just the way it is."

On Sunday, I attended the Carmelite Mass. The sermon was entitled Beautifully Broken. The Carmelites are great. They recognize our human struggles, foibles and the suffering that comes from shame, hurts, compromised self- image and an over active ego. They have a unique way of embracing it all. A wonderful poem by Mary Oliver was read and another by D.H Lawrence.

Imagine feeling perfectly worthy of being fully loved and knowing your imperfections do not impede the capacity to receive love. You know what this means, don’t you? It means… we can love ourselves our beautifully broken selves--- just the way we are.

Today is Tuesday and it is my day off. Each week we get an entire day off. I am borrowing a summer resident’s car and traveling to the closest large town, Alamosa. It’s about 50 miles away. I will go to the food co-op, the pharmacy, the supermarket and I will pick up some Vietnamese food for lunch. Then I will go to the hot mineral springs to soak for a few hours in the Lithium water… and I will be meeting the dentist I met in Boulder for dinner at 5:30. (Read about my Trans IN Dental Experience – Blog dated June 22)

I feel like I am reporting and sense a rather different tone to this blog than the many others I’ve written before. And that’s Ok because –

It is --- Just the way it is! Hey, you know what… this little saying really works. It allows everything to be as it is. Try this on for size today and let me know how it works for you. Would love comments and will post them too!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Living on An Ashram -- Yes I Can!

I am now living on an Ashram. How to go from complete silence and solitude to communal living, with constant activity, is beyond my comprehension. It has been an utter shock to my system and simultaneously, a dramatic test to anchor the wonderful practice of being present in the moment.

I have been helping in many ways, performing Karma Yoga, caring for the many guests that have arrived for the holiday weekend, cooking up a storm in the solar oven and learning the fine art of raw food preparation. I collect the lettuce from the garden for the salads and have learned to make a really good chai.

This morning I had a lesson in making chapati (Indian flat bread) and have been enjoying homemade Indian feasts. Everyday is bandara day at the ashram.

Yesterday was wonderful. I was the guardian for two young Taiwanese girls. Their mom had to drive 9 hours round trip to Denver to pick up her sister, who just arrived from Taiwan via San Francisco. The young girls, Lucia and Romona are 9 and 5 respectively. As a matter of fact, yesterday was Romona's birthday.

We began the day at a wonderful home town parade and enjoyed meeting the local children. Then we sauntered over to the horse stables, fed the goats and walked across the very cold creek, while throwing pebbles and taking pictures. It was a carefree day and reminded me of outings I had with my own children 15 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed day. It was fun.

Someone asked me today if I was having fun here at the ashram and I could not wrap my mind around the word fun. Why was yesterday's fun so far from my conscious recollection of fun?

Maybe it has to do with my old perception of life as being fraught with responsibility, preparation, maintenance, having to's and not able to's; living with worry, concern anticipation.
OK, OK, it's true, I'm still falling victim to the worry wart mentality.

The spiritual leader of the ashram, Ramloti is leaving on Tuesday for a week and I'm feeling concerned about how the ashram will function without her. As these thoughts are stirring in my mind, I overhear her on the phone reporting to a friend that she is confident to leave the ashram because I am here.

It is just then, that I realize, I am being counted on and all the old performance anxieties rise up. "Stop it Liz," I command myself. "Step into your confidence. Be all that you are! Rise up from your little befuttled self and feel the glory of your being. "

Wow, this feels good. Yes, yes, I am competent, confident, fully able to serve and perform all my duties as they arise. I know I can, I know I can... just like the little engine that could. I remember reminding my own children of their wonderful capacity to meet all of life's challenges ... or opportunities... as the case may be and to this, I say... YES I Can - Yes, I AM!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Something Happened - It Was Nothing

Something happened yesterday. I barely moved… didn’t read or listen to much of the CD's I checked out of the library. I didn’t write either. I just sat. I watched yet another storm roll in. The thunder clapped for a continuous ½ hour. I meditated, and meditated some more. I listened to the rain turn to hail pinging on the roof and watched the lightening forage through the darkness for the perfect place to transfer its powerful energy. Everything seemed to drop away for a few hours. No desires, no wants or longings. No fears.

Then, as if in synchronicity with the bolt of lightening, a lightening bolt went off inside. This is it. This is what I came here for. Not to read Bernie Glassman or listen to David Whyte or draw or paint or do yoga or stretch with my various colored bands of different tensions. No. None of that.
I experienced what called my soul here. No explanation is adequate or warranted, so I will not attempt to define it any more than I already have. Suffice to say, being, fully exists in not being anything... it exists in everything and it is really nothing at all. (Oh, I can see my Zen teacher now, hand to chin, and an almost audible, hum…)

So a few tears -- a moment of ananda – Sanskrit for bliss… an open heart and a long walk in the light drizzle that persisted for 2 more hours, and then, the unexpected walked across my path. The most elegant and gracious Buck I have ever seen. He paused. Looked me in the eye. Stood his own ground and allowed me the gift of a few pictures.
I realized that the unexpected is worth a thousand words and in the silence... it is even more welcome.
Today, I truly see with new eyes through a lighter heart.
24 Hour Review

Shifts in perception are also known as miracles.

Desert animals prepare for the storm of the day.

The unexpected can be quite refreshing.

Don’t try to be spiritual. Be present.

With eyes of wonder, even a faucet can turn you on.

Even with a heavy load, in nature, you can bear the weight.

Use less toilet paper. Pledge to make conservation your commitment.

No matter where you are, you’ll be somewhere else… now!