Sunday, January 6, 2019

My Epiphany

Last night was the first new moon of the new year. I’d cleared out my inbox, my apartment. and my calendar in preparation for focusing on writing the book I've been working on. . . . forever. I felt nervous but determined. Despite a body-crushing fever and head-splitting migraine this was the day! (Yes, this "do-or-die" attitude has both helped me focus and taken me off track before.) This morning, in the tradition in which I was steeped as a child, is Epiphany- the story of the three kings bearing gifts journeying to honour the Christ-child, guided by a star. It is a story of following an unexpected light that appears in the dark landscape of not-knowing. This morning the Grandmothers of my dreams came and spoke to me. They told me what my body has been telling me for a decade: I cannot write this book in the way I have been trying to write it (as a memoir) without doing myself harm. Bodies and dreams never lie, but their languages of symptoms and symbols can be easily (and sometimes deliberately) misunderstood. The Grandmothers left me no room wiggle room for misunderstanding. "Write it as a novel. Let the truth shine through in a story that is bigger and deeper than your memory of the facts." I have faith in stories. They're what change us. They're how we live our nature as meaning-making animals. They open the imagination to new ways of seeing our own experience and our shared world. And I am terrified. I know how to write stories, but I write non-fiction, guided by facts that feel more solid than fiction. Opening the door to something that feels larger. . . . to a story I do not already know. . . feels risky. What if I can't do it? What if I write a crappy novel? And telling you about it here feels insane, because I have no idea where it will lead! (Really, it could eventually lead back to memoir, or into a spy novel, or pages filled with nonsense that will never be shared!) So there we have it: the shining star of my own longing to tell a story appearing in the dark night of not-knowing how. So, I gather my provisions (silence, solitude, and the quiet company of fellow travellers) and step into the journey, not knowing where it will take me. That's the thing about creative work of any kind- it's a lot like life: unpredictable, sometimes scary, and filled with dark nights and shining stars. ~Oriah Gratitude for this photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming- may we find the light of our own deepest longing reappearing on the horizon each day to guide us.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Being Guided

This is a little story about how prayers are sometimes answered in ways we don't expect.

I'm writing a new book. I start with stories. I think of it like gathering the raw materials- clay or stone- for a sculpture. This can evoke a sense of overwhelm as I sit with all I have gathered and struggle to find a structure for the book

Two weeks ago, I started to pray for help in finding this book's structure. A day later, I got a request to do an interview with Michael Gervais, a coach for the Seattle Seahawks  (yes, I had to look them up to find out they played football) who does a podcast called "Finding Mastery." I was leery. I know nothing about sports, and I tend not to use the word mastery because it awakens my inner perfectionist and can imply a promise of control where little is available. But I listened to his interviews with Brene Brown and others, and said yes.

To prepare, I started writing about what "mastery" might or might not be for me. An email from Gervais' office suggested I talk about the events and people who have influenced me most in my life. So I wrote some more.

At some point it occurred to me that this prep was rendering an outline for the book I was writing. And when the interview was postponed for a week, I got another seven days to refine my sense of the focus and flow for both the book and the interview.

Remembering my prayer, I laughted out loud. I had not thought of my prayer for assistance when the interview request was made, and yet here I was, finding a structure for the book.

In magic-making circles it is said that there is always "an infinity of solutions," so requests for assistance need to allow that which is larger to point to things we aren't even considering. This unfolding was a lovely reminder of just  how one thing can unexpectedly lead to another in the most delightful way. ~Oriah

I titled this stunning photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming, "Layers." Felt like a match with this little story about the layers of experience that can sometimes unexpectely lead us where we need to go.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Living With Others' Choices

How about a little pre-holiday prep for those family gatherings where we sometimes get our buttons pushed?

Let's try a little experiment: think of someone who has a specific behaviour that you feel is damaging to themselves or others or yourself. Maybe it's a family member who seems to make self-sabotaging choices. (We are always so much wiser when examining others' lives than we are our own :-) ) Or, it could be a co-worker or neighbour who does something that has a negative impact on you. Now think of this specifically in the form of "S/he won't . . . . ." (fill in the blank.) Say it to yourself a few times.

I think back to my marriage and how, over a lot of time, I discovered that the wasband was lying. A lot. About things that mattered and things that didn't. I felt hurt, angry, and baffled, often asking him, "Why won't you tell me the truth?"

On the day of my liberation from suffering about this, something odd happened. A lie he'd been telling came out (and a pretty serious one at that.) But instead of thinking, "Oh here we go- he just won't tell the truth," for reasons beyond my comprehension, I felt spectacularly calm and thought, "He can't tell the truth."

In that one small word change I got that 1) his lying actually had nothing to do with me; and 2) it was not going to stop in the foreseeable future. I actually asked him about this and, to his credit, he replied, "I could say it would stop, and really mean it, but no, it probably won't."

Seeing what someone can or can't do makes it less personal, but that doesn't necessarily mean we will want to stick around. He could not tell the truth. And I did not want to live with someone who lied to me daily. So, I left.

The truth is that we cannot know what another can or cannot do at any given moment. When we tell ourselves that someone "won't" do something, we are assuming they have a "real" choice (one they can see, access, and act on under current inner and outer conditions.) And the truth is we don't know if they could or couldn't do something differently. But when we tell ourselves they "won't" it's hard not to take it personally.

So, whomever you thought of at the beginning of this, think of them now and try saying to yourself (about whatever it is you wish they would do differently,) "S/he can't. . . . . "It's not a "solution" to that which impacts us, but it might make us more compassionate and accepting, and from there we can decide what our own choices really are. ~Oriah

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

When We Don't Need More Information

Some days, a small inner voice arises spontaneously: "You don't need more information." I know what it means. Whether it's news about things related to my health, my community or the world- there is information we need. But we are drowning in information, often overwhelmed by awareness of how much there is to know that we can now access.

But information is only one piece of participating. We need to sit with the information, holding it tenderly; we need to listen to the intuitive and instinctual responses rooted in our body and hearts; we need to let creativity move through us to find solutions and inspiration to act. 

And, of course, there are times when I (largely unconciously) use gathering information as a way to forestall the need to act or create or just sit in stillness to consider how I might best give to and receive from our shared world.

So, I am going to start listening to that little voice that whispers, "You don't need more information," and pause and ask- Is this information I can use in any way? Is there something I need to act on, something I can work with here to contribute? Is there something I am avoiding by gathering more information? Am I using endless gathering of information to feel like I am doing something that helps shape the world?

And from this pause, from a place of quiet spaciousness we can let the thread that is ours to weave into the collective tapestry find us. ~Oriah

One of the things I love about the photos from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming is that they slow me down and offer a reminder of the beauty and spaciousness that is.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Holding It All

This song by Sleeping at Last (the name used by singer-songwriter Ryan O'Neal) both gently challenges and deeply encourages me. The song mirrors my own history of believing I had to try harder, run faster, do more. . . .and reminds us that we cannot and do not need to "earn God's favor."

It's been a very busy week in the world- the US election (with attendant celebrations and disappointments;) the heartbreaking losses at the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks; the fires sweeping through California threatening lives and homes. I cannot think of any of these without feeling both the impulse to pray for those most directly affected and to take a moment, a day. . . to rest and replenish. (Happily one does not preclude the other.)

As O'Neal sings at the end of the song:

I'll hold it all more
loosely, and yet somehow
much more dearly,
'cause I've spent my
whole life searching
to find out grace requires nothing
of me

In the end grace is a gift, an opportunity to be touched by that which is larger, to live it all, to help each other where we can, to take turns so we can both rest and love deeply by participating in the world with kindness. . . to be the flawed and fabulous human beings we are. ~Oriah

Here's the link to the song:

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Learning To Live

What if you were sent here by something larger
Not against your will or wishes
But in alignment with your deepest longing
What if it was as simple as finding what you love
And letting it teach you how to live.
                                     ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House

Photo by Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Healing Ourselves and Our World

When I told my story of being beaten and raped as a young woman, my mother said I was "just looking for attention."

Telling my story helped me heal anyway.

I pray that this is true for Dr, Christine Blasey Ford, no matter how the vote in the US Senate goes.

When I hear women say that if Ford drank at a party she "deserved whatever she got" I wonder what happened to them when they were young, and how much pain is buried deep so they can say such a thing about a fifteen year old girl.

Let's not call each other dehumanizing names, even in our own minds. Because if we can only work for fairness by making those who disagree with us something less than fellow human beings, on some level we lose the shared humanity that will let us go forward together.

When I was a child, I was taught that Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Even then I knew it was a revolutionary idea and something very hard to do. I also knew it did not mean being passive, but meant participating fully in shaping our shared world.

I pray we can find ways to stop injustice and work for real peace without putting the other out of our hearts. I know it's hard. If it wasn't hard I wouldn't have to pray about it.

When I told my story of being beaten and raped as a young woman, my mother said I was "just looking for attention."

Telling my story helped me heal anyway.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House