Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ending Our Arguments with Reality

Here's a question for contemplation: What aspect of reality do you argue with? I was diagnosed with a chronic illness (ME/CFS/FM) 35 years ago. Sometimes it involves pain. At other times, there is little pain but a prostrating exhaustion. Really- getting out of bed and walking five steps can take an hour or more. 

Here's what I've noticed: I find it easier to cope with pain, particularly acute pain that renders me immobile, than I do exhaustion. 

When I realized this, I started to pay attention, mostly out of curiosity. With pain I adjust, adapt, focus on my breath, take meds that sometimes help and cancel other commitments. I don't argue with pain. 

But I argue with exhaustion. I push. I limp along when I should be lying down. I quibble with the "reality" of exhaustion. The inevitable outcome of this is more pain- and then I can surrender. 

Why? Why this resistance to, this argument with exhaustion? 

We argue with the aspects of reality that we've learned (often unconsciously) to see as somehow morally inferior to other aspects. My very Protestant-work-ethic-driven family didn't make much room for human frailty in any form that interfered with our ability to work. Or as my mother has put it every time we've spoken over thirty-five years: "What's that thing you claim you have to get out of keeping your house the way you know you should?" 

In my birth family pain was acceptable (albeit something that "should not" stop you for long) but exhaustion was weakness, a moral failing, an illusion, a con, evidence of laziness. 

This arguing with reality is largely unconscious, because a lot of the values we have were implicitly taught. For now, I'm just noticing and being with my argument with exhaustion when it arises. There are, of course, conditions we can change. But efforts to do so are more likely to be successful if we start by seeing and accepting what is. And sometimes what is, is beyond our control. When that's the case, arguing with any aspect of the present moment robs us of joy, ~Oriah

When I saw this photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming, I mentally titled it, "Gentle Morning." Gentleness is the quality I try to bring to myself when I catch myself arguing with reality, because yelling at the aspect that feels compelled to argue just pushes it into the unconscious where it can mutter endlessly and stop me from accepting the gift of the day- even a day lived horizontally. :-)



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Finding Delight

This is what I am learning. How to bring more curiosity than expectation to each moment, each task, each encounter with the other. And I am repeatedly delighted by our generosity and creativity, and in awe of how grace moves in our shared life. ~Oriah
Spectacular photo by Karen Davis from Open Door Dreaming.


Friday, November 3, 2017

When The Great Grief Cry Is Answered

Sometimes we feel abandoned, bereft, alone in a way that can paralyze or send us frantically running in circles. If we believe a sacred Presence is always with us, but we are experiencing a heart-aching loneliness, we can add to our suffering with self-blame and deep shame. Last weekend, in the midst of shared prayers, words arose that surprised me. I found myself asking for forgiveness for feeling (in the last years of my marriage) that God had abandoned me. At the time the experience had left me drowning in a sea of sorrow, and my shame had rendered me silent. The Presence that had always been there, the Sacred Mystery that had gotten me through a tumultuous childhood- I simply could not find it, could not feel it. I was lost. And then, this poem found me, and I used it as a prayer. I could not, with my will, re-establish my experience of that which I believed was still with and within me, but my "grief cry" was heard. And in a grace-filled moment I experienced, once again, being held in the arms of infinite Love. My relief was so great it left me trembling and filled with gratitude. ~Oriah Pushing Through It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone; I am such a long way in I see no way through, and no space: everything is close to my face, and everything close to my face is stone. I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief so this massive darkness makes me small. You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in: then your great transforming will happen to me, and my great grief cry will happen to you. by Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Robert Bly) As in this photo by Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming, there is incredible beauty in the moment when the darkness gives way to the searing beauty of dawn.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

In Awe of Our Humanness

Today, I am in awe of the human beings who allow me to accompany them on a small part of their journey. Many of them I will never see in person- we meet via phone or skype- but every single one teaches me something about human courage, resilience, and tenderness. We are very small, and brief and biodegradable- but our capacity to learn, to love, to be kind and generous and unafraid even after injury, even in the face of the unknowable, takes my breath away, deepens my faith that on some profound level of being, all is well and all will be well. What we do matters- although rarely in the way we think it does when fear has us by the throat and we are desperately trying to assert control over inner and outer worlds. But our willingness. . . our ability to get up after the night of grief and despair. . . to take another breath when we feel broken. . . is met and supported by something sacred and larger of which we are made. I am humbled that these ordinary extraordinary human beings let me walk awhile with them. ~Oriah I went looking for pic that reflects the awe I am feeling and this came up- another beauty from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Jack-Hammering Practice

Had a late start this morning and was moving slowly. Five minutes into my meditation practice the jackhammering on my building started, right above my head. (Honestly, it felt they were jackhammering in my head!) My ear plugs and noise-cancelling headphones make little difference as the vibration moves through the concrete and into my bones.
Construction work is a lot like life: largely unpredictable and beyond my control.
So, I decided to see what it would be like to meditate while they were jackhammering. I won't lie- it's not ideal. But as I relaxed my body where I was unconsciously (and impossibly) trying to pull away from or resist the noise, I realized I could still be aware of my breath, could quiet my inner protests, could be with what is in this moment.
As I finished my meditation I thought about people in California and Puerto Rico dealing with fires and floods, and focused on sending prayers that they may feel held in love. And those prayers slid into prayers of gratitude for my home, and prayers for the construction workers using the jackhammers (can you imagine what that kind of work does to the human body?)
And the jackhammering continues.
I will go out today to seek a quiet place to do some writing. But I am grateful for this morning. Life will have its way with us. Sometimes we can and need to create changes. And sometimes we have to continue with what sustains us, even when conditions are not ideal. ~Oriah
This is the photo Karen Davis posted today at Open Door Dreaming. Good to remember that even when there is disruption in one place, there is quiet beauty in another.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Loving What We Do

Woke up this morning with the sound of a woman's voice following me up out of dreams. She said- "Do something you love today. . . . or love something you do. This feeds the soul of the world."

I have been sitting with these words as I see photos of some homes burnt to the ground in California and others flooded with water and leveled by wind in Puerto Rico. I will pray for those impacted, and send resources to help.

And I will do something I love today- I will love something I do- which is to say, I will bring my full attention to the moment and savor the sweetness of reading or writing or walking in the park.

Individually we are small, and brief, and highly biodegradable. Humanity's strength has always been found in community. There are people scrambling to evacuate, or find clean drinking water, or fight a blazing fire today. I can send prayers and monetary help, and I can participate in communal action to prepare for and prevent these tragedies where possible.

The voice in the dream suggests something more- suggests that moments of loving what we are doing, tasting the sweetness of this day, offers something to the collective consciousness, feeds the soul of the world that somewhere, every day, faces challenges. It seems like a small thing to ask. And there really is no down side to loving what we do- although I admit, it might make us question some of what we do on any given day.

I suppose you could call consciously loving the moment a prayer, a way to add a drop of that which sustains us all to the collective consciousness we share. ~Oriah

Came across this photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming. Her eye for beauty, ability to photograph it and willingness to share it with us is just one way to add to loving the world.


Friday, September 29, 2017

A Little Solitude

A quiet, steady rain this morning - seems to mute all movement and sounds of the city. The air is cool and the light is soft beneath the dove-grey sky. It all seems to be an invitation to stillness, slow movement, and quiet contemplation.

I live alone, and sometimes my health dictates that I do not see others for many days. I have come to love the solitude- the way it encourages me to be honest with myself about my own humanness, to stop outrunning the things about myself or the world that make me uncomfortable.

I think I was attracted to a shamanic tradition because it involved periods of time alone in the wilderness fasting and praying.

As a child solitude was hard to find. My eagle-eyed mother kept close scrutiny on what I was "up to." But at night and in the early morning hours I would revel in the darkness and have what I thought of as conversations with God.

Whatever you call that which is larger than yourself, solitude and empty time are needed if we are to hear that which reminds us of what we are, why we are here, and how deeply we belong. The world will go on even if we unplug for an hour or a day or longer. And if the flood waters are rising (literally or metaphorically) our neighbours will knock on our door and let us know if there is something that truly must be done right now.

I am not advocating abandoning the world. Such a thing is not possible- we are the world and the world is us and so much more. But a little stillness, a turning inward, a quieting of the inner and outer voices before or after all the tasks that hold life and limb together, might just make it easier for us to meet whatever comes with an open heart.

May we each find the moments of solitude and stillness that we need. ~Oriah

I cannot always get down to the lake here in Toronto, but the photos from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming always make me pause and slow down to take in the beauty.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Quiet Courage

This floated up in my writing this morning in response to a Facebook post by Isabel Faith Abbott about the losses and grief that comes with having a chronic illness. 
I wrote (34 years after diagnosis): I was mulling this morning how, despite the lack of stable progress and the almost constant presence of pain, I have always thought that "one day" I would get better and be, if not 100% restored at least 80% or so. Is this hope or denial? Is it a way to cope and continue or just postponement of real acceptance? 
There are books I want to write, workshops I thought I'd share, places I thought I'd go. And you are right Isabel- facing that these may (or, at this point for me, most likely) not happen is facing real loss and grief. Life is still good in many ways- and yet most often coloured with pain and prostration, I am waaaay too familiar with the tiles of my bathroom floor. :-) I wonder if my "hopefulness" might sometimes rob me of fully relaxing into and enjoying what there is to enjoy in this present moment? (Yes, even on the cool, supportive bathroom floor where there is nowhere to fall.) . . .
We live in a culture that loves (reveres) the heroic, (and I do not want to take anything away from the heroes who rise when circumstances truly call for heroics) but so much of life is about a more quiet kind of courage. ~Oriah
Gratitude to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for this photo that seemed to mirror my feeling - a sun rising beneath cloud cover, the beauty even where there is no blazing light





Friday, August 18, 2017

Healing Our Shared World

Here's what I've learned from my own inner work that applies to our collective life: we have to deal with the past because we carry it with us, in our cells, in our institutions, in our unconscious assumptions and daily behaviour. What is buried, repressed or denied is not gone. Here, in Canada, we are just beginning to look at what was done (and continues to be done) to the indigenous peoples that called this place home long before our European ancestors arrived. We have to be willing to look squarely at what has been done, to listen to those most effected, and find ways to redress the wrongs, to compensate for grave injustice, to stand up and say, "No," to those who would have us pretend that it was or is all okay or justified, to say, "No," those who would insist that "might is right."
Many of us who had violent and abusive childhoods have learned the hard truth that although great healing that allows for a fullness of life is- with clear intentions and deep work- possible, we do not erase the past. There will always be a catch in my throat when I hear of how another's mother loved them. There has been much healing, but still, on some terrain I walk with a bit of a limp. But it does not keep me from dancing.
The hardest part of my own healing journey has been facing the truth of what happened. I did not want it to be so, and for a long time I did not even know I was rewriting history, pretending it had all been okay. To survive we often "normalize" that which is a long way from acceptable.
What many of us have done individually we must also do collectively. We must look at what has been and is still being done that is deeply harmful and unjust. We must listen- really listen- to the life experiences of those who have been most effected and let these stories break our hearts open. And together we must find ways to redress the wrongs, to heal the wounds, to ensure that no more harm is done. There are infinite ways to do this: to speak out; to participate; to lobby, legislate and demonstrate; to support and listen, listen, listen, to let the reality of what is and has been touch us, change us, motivate us.
So, I will end this post as I have so many others, with the words of Arthur Ashe, the first African American professional tennis player, born in Richmond Virginia in 1943. His words have become a mantra for me when I am overwhelmed by all that needs to be done and unsure of how to contribute:
"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."
Thank you Mr. Ashe. I can only imagine what challenges brought you to this wisdom. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Conversations That Create Change

A thoughtful, timely piece on how to contribute to conversations and take actions that remake our communities and the world. Brene Brown is clear, articulate and, as she puts it, not afraid to speak truth to bullshit in a way that does not shame but holds us all accountable. Support for right action in difficult times. Blessings, Oriah

https://tinyurl.com/y9kcmdy2

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Just for Today

These words are just for today.
Just for this moment, this slow inhale. . . this soft exhale
They are bits of green sunlight filtered through leaves
Small shadows moving across the grass
They are not for posterity
They do not promise prosperity
They do not pretend to be other than what they are:
The way I get through
The way I taste joy, bear sorrow, and feed hope
The way I remember that each moment is holy
These words are just for today

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017

Deep gratitude to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for the beauty of this photo. We all weave our days in different ways, creating beauty by being present.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Losing and Finding Our Way

Years ago- in the final years of my marriage- spiraling down into physical illness and despair, I went to a healer and described my symptoms. But it took me a long time to admit to the biggest symptom. It stuck in my throat and constricted my chest. Finally, barely able to breathe, it came out in a wail of anguish: "I cannot pray!"

Just saying the words crushed me. I had survived a brutal childhood held in the arms of the divine, in the sense of a loving presence bigger than it all. And now. . . . I could barely reach out, and when I did. . . . I could not feel that Presence, that Love. I was bereft.

To marry this man, I had abandoned myself, and in abandoning myself, in cutting myself off from that which was real and whole (which would have had me leaving that relationship long before the marriage,) I could not make myself available to that which sustained me. God/the Mystery/that Love which had always held me may have still been there- but I could not experience it, could not feel that Presence..

When we abandon ourselves (and in this as in so many things, that which creates us in every moment gives us free will) we separate ourselves from the deepest truth of our experience.

All of this- the darkness, the desperation, and the homecoming- flashed through me today as I read this piece from poet Leonard Cohen:

"I lost my way. I forgot to call on your name. The raw heart beat against the world, and the tears were for my lost victory. But you are here. You have always been here. The world is all forgetting, and the heart is a rage of directions, but your name unifies the heart, and the world is lifted into its place. Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller's heart for his turning."

In some ways, it is such a small turning, this coming home to our deepest selves, to our own heart, to this moment. . . .this breath. . . . to the Love that sustains us.But in other ways, it is a shift in worlds.

I am filled with gratitude for this day- with all of its beauty and its challenges, for the Presence of Love that creates and holds me, and - if I let it-  teaches and encourages me to never abandon myself or our shared humanness.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017

Deep gratitude to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for this spectacular image of the light that comes at dawn.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

How To Live with the Uncontrollable

Sometimes, things happen TO us. That's a hard truth to face. We all do the best we can to deal with what arises. Sometimes our best - the way in which we cope with hard things that happen- causes suffering for ourselves or others. If we are able- if we have the insight and courage to see the need and the means to find assistance- we get help.

Telling someone who is ill or injured, someone who has been raped or beaten, someone who has lost a child or encountered real cruelty, that they must have "chosen" this, isn't about empowering them. It's about trying to reassure ourselves that what happened to them could never happen to us, because we would never "choose" it.

Telling people who have borne great injury that they are "playing the victim," is about blaming them for things beyond their control, or telling them that their wound "should" have been healed by now. Sometimes we don't have the resources to listen. Let's own that- acknowledge our own human limitations- instead of making it about the other.

We control very little. Which does not mean that we don't have choices- although a real choice is one we can see and one we can make because we have the inner and outer resources to act upon it.

I can't tell from the outside what your inner resources are, so I cannot know what real choices you have. We can support each other. We can share our stories of finding and developing new resources with which to expand our choices- but we cannot give ourselves or others "control" over life.

The Grandmothers of the dreamtime told me years ago, "Trying to get control is always driven by fear." Sometimes, when we see ourselves desperately trying to get ourselves or others under control, we can recognize that we are afraid and invite the fear to show itself, can hold that fear with some tenderness.

And sometimes we can't. Sometime unconscious dread has us by the throat and terror has us paralyzed or frantically on the run.

This is not an argument for giving up. It's an appeal for kindness toward ourselves and others. It's a plea for compassion.

Courage is getting out of bed each day just as we are, knowing the vastness of what we cannot know or control, and finding a way- our way, which will look a little different for each of us- to fall in love with what is over and over again.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Using Life To Practice Being Here

Oooo, don't you love it when life sends us ways to deepen our practice. Ha! My landlord is planning a loud, and somewhat chaotic summer- replacement of all windows; new balcony resurfacing and removal/replacement of railings; new apartment to be constructed right below me (in what was a storage room so much smashing of concrete to create windows and framing of whole new apartment). . . . new finish on exterior walls, lobby and roof.

What a challenge NOT to anticipate beyond that which is needed to ensure places to sleep or do my client calls if and when it all happens.

Sometimes I catch myself starting to worry, mull, obsess about the options, the work, the timing, the cost, the impact on my health. . . .  I can feel my body tense with a long silent, "Nooooooo!" in anticipation of what might need to be done. 

Eventually (although not always as quickly as I would like) I ask myself: Is there anything happening right now that requires or offers an opportunity for action? If there is- I do it. (I did speak with someone about tenant rights.) If there isn't anything to be done, I ground myself and lay aside my anticipation of what may or may not happen. I say a prayer for help in being with what is. 

The challenge is in the practice of - Being. Here. Now. Weirdly- truly almost unbelievably- I find myself grateful for the chance to see how quickly I can unconsciously be pulled off centre and, on a good day, how I can firmly but tenderly pull my attention back to my breath and the present moment.. 

And in that moment, I am grateful to be practicing, grateful for the sounds of wind moving the trees and the birds singing outside my window, grateful to be here, now. ~Oriah

Grateful for the photos like this one from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming. Beauty always brings me into the present moment if I let it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Good News

Someone wrote me last week (when I was acutely ill) asking me how I felt about a spiritual teacher/healer on Facebook (I honestly don't remember their name) who had declared that anyone who is not 100% healthy (physically, psychologically, spiritually etc.) cannot offer assistance to others and is, therefore, a fraud.

Honestly, I chuckled and muttered, "Yeah, good luck with that one, honey," meaning- good luck with finding or becoming someone who has no illness or neuroses or struggles. And why would you want to?

The truth is, there are many traditions around the world that honour the wounded healer- the one who knows the terrain of human struggles because they have lived them, hopefully somewhat awake to and compassionate toward the many levels of being human (and, let's face it, some days are better than others for all of us on the awareness and compassion fronts.)

The person who wrote to me was outraged. I was a little surprised at my own lack of reactivity, but the older I get, the more I trust that life will handle some of our bigger delusions and ideals about how we or others "should" be.

But as I lay in bed, unable to do very much else because of pain, I wondered about the effect of such an assertion. Perfectionistic ideals do real harm (and yes, on this I speak from direct experience.) They urge us to present as someone (or something) we are not and in so doing, encourage duplicity, denial and dangerous inflation that do not lead to a happy place.

And beneath the pumped up ideal there is, inevitably, a sense of unworthiness crying out for attention and tenderness.

The good news- seriously the Really Big Good News- is that we do not need to be perfect, do not need to be completely healed, awake, enlightened or consistent to offer something of real value to each other and the world.

Now isn't that a relief?

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Snippet of a Story on A Sunny Day

On the way home from yoga I pause to watch a small group of three year olds (clearly a daycare group on an outing) standing on the sidewalk gazing up at a young kitten poking his head out of the third floor window of a frat house. (I live near the university- lots of frat houses.)

“It’s too high!” a girl with bright red bows tied to the ends of two dark braids, calls out to the cat. “You can’t jump from there- you’ll hurt yourself.”

“He doesn’t know what you’re saying. He’s a cat,” one of the small boys tells her with just a whiff of budding mansplaining.

The girl puts her hands on her hips and narrows her eyes as she turns toward him. “Animals,” she says with a certainty I don’t ever remember having, “always understand what I am saying.”

The boy shrugs and looks back up at the kitten.

“And now,” the girl informs him, “he is looking at you.”

The boy hesitates and then replies with just a touch of awe in his voice. “I think you’re right. He is. He is looking right at me.”

I walked on, smiling. I love when the warm weather arrives and life moves outside onto our shared sidewalks. I learn so much and find my heart is lighter just from listening.

~Oriah

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Un-Mothered

I have a request: with Mother's Day approaching, can we just set aside the generalizations about mothers? I honour the care-giving that mothers do. I am a mother of two wonderful men. Becoming a mother probably saved my life- it was the first time I was actually fully IN my body and consciously connected to my life-preserving instincts. Without thought, I was surprised to find myself moving instinctively to protect my sons from my mother. I was shocked to realize how abusive my own childhood had been. There were no surprise memories- I had not forgotten anything. But suddenly I saw it for what it was and not the "normal" I had accepted as a child because there was simply no other option.

Every time I hear someone say something like, "Oh, to go back to those wonder years when we were all children and free to be who we wanted to be;" or "What a wonderful time- when our mothers took care of everything," I cringe.

The hard truth is that some of us spent our childhood terrified of and/or longing to please mothers who were unable to be caring or kind or present, and sometimes mothers who were violent and abusive. I am so glad this was not true for many- and I do love hearing people's good-mother stories. I just want us to remember that not everyone grew up that way.

So maybe we could just talk about our own experience being mothered and mothering in "I" statements, without claiming that it was what happened for "all of us." Yes, I feel a pang when I hear adults talk about mothers who were loving and supportive- but I am okay with that. I have accepted that, even after all the healing, I will still sometimes ache and grieve for something that never was.

A wonderful line by Adrienne Rich comes to mind: "There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors." Let's be that for each other- a place where there is room for acknowledging all of what has shaped us and still be known as whole.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017

Image from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

When We Are Done

It's good to know when something- a job, a place, a relationship, a project, a way of seeing, a struggle- is done for us, to know when it is finished even if it is not, by some external standard, complete. Some of my most peaceful, expansive moments have come when I have realized that what I was holding in my hands was simply no longer for me, and have been able- without fanfare or gnashing of teeth- to just set it down. Oh, sometimes the gnashing of teeth- the second guessing and grieving- came later, but in that moment there was just knowing, clarity, and peace. I don't know why this came to mind when I looked at this wonderful morning photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming- perhaps it is the blaze of light, the bird about to soar, the spaciousness of the image. Or perhaps there is something I am holding that needs to be set down. ~Oriah

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tax Time Musings

I recently visited a friend who had a biking accident at the rehab centre where she is recovering from a fractured femur and shattered elbow (yeah- ouch!) in downtown Toronto. The facility was spectacular- bright, spacious and beautiful, with skilled staff focused on getting folks back to their everyday lives, large rooms,and a patient kitchen for refigerating or warming food brought from home. On my way out I was thinking about how much such a place must cost to build and run, and how proud I am that our tax dollars are being used to provide such great care to everyone (all covered under our healthcare.)

And that- along with recently doing my taxes- got me thinking (as I often do) about all the things we collectively enjoy that are made possible through taxes: great public schools and healthcare, spectacular parks, public transit, roads, emergency services, neighbourhood libraries, community centres. . . .

So, once again, I fill out and pay my taxes with a prayer of gratitude that I am able to contribute and with deep appreciation for the beauty and resources we share. ~Oriah

Monday, April 10, 2017

When Our Maps Fail

Last week my life was interesting in a less-than-fun way. I became ill. Now most of you know I have a chronic illness (CFS/ME/FM) so dips in functional health happen. But this was different in that it did not conform to pattern- I had not done any of the things that sometimes trigger a relapse, and none of my trusted strategies made it better. In fact, some seemed to make it worse.

And this got me thinking about maps- theories, beliefs and stories- the things we use, often only semi-consciously, to navigate what is happening now. Maps are useful. They save time and help us make sense of our own experience so we can get where we want to go.

Until they don't. Then, we just feel lost, bewildered and a little stunned. That’s where I was last week.

Years ago I took a physics course. At one point the prof was talking about sub-atomic particles, and how they left a trail in a cloud chamber set up for experiments.

I said, “Wait a minute- are you telling me that all this is just theory, that we can’t know what is leaving that trail in the cloud chamber, that. . . . for all we know it’s little green men?”

The class laughed, and the prof said, “She’s right. It could be little green men. . . . there’s no way to know right now.

Ideally we use a theory, or a map, or a story so long as it’s useful. The problem arises when we forget that our beliefs and stories about life are “just” maps that may help us navigate, and not the territory itself. Holding and being unconsciously attached to our maps means we may ignore or not even see aspects of life that do not fit with our inner maps about life and health and money and virtue, about punishment and reward, politics and physics, about the sacred and the mundane. . . . .You name it- if we’ve lived long enough, we have a map we are using to navigate just about everything.

Last week’s health challenges were not consistent with the map I usually use to navigate illness. All the data/stories/theories my map contained about my neurological and immune systems (based on a plethora of previous experience and lots of research) were not helping me get out of bed. And that’s when something interesting happened: I started to see glimmers of earlier and largely unconscious maps: sneaky beliefs about ill health as punishment; the need and ability to “earn” health; the exclusive attribution of physical symptoms to psychological or spiritual dis-ease.

And I started to bring a deeper level of curiosity to the stories or beliefs- the maps- I and others are using, particularly when we disagree about what is happening in the world and have very different strategies about how to move forward. I got curious about and tried to imagine what possible inner map/story/belief someone might be using that gives them a perspective and position I find baffling or dangerous. I started to wonder if we might be more able to communicate if we held our maps a little more lightly and were genuinely curious about the experiences that could shape an entirely different map for someone else.

Because wherever we are going, my map indicates that we go together. That’s a theory, a story, a belief that shapes the map I draw. For the moment, I’m okay with that, although I am also aware that it may not be the only way to perceive the journey or draw the map.

Old maps tend to stop at the edge of our known world, and may include warnings against going further, things like: Here be dragons! If we are afraid of the dragon of not-knowing it can feel dangerous to remember that maps are just maps. But if we can let compassion fuel our curiosity about ourselves and others, we might just discover new territory and fresh hope for the shared journey.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017

Love this image of the night sky from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming- reminds me of those who navigate by the stars.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

When Human Beings Do Horrible Things

I am regularly moved and inspired by people's compassion and willingness to help each other. But today, I am contemplating what it is in human beings, that allows us to do things like use chemical weapons on each other. . . on children. I say "us" because, although it is unlikely that I will ever be in a position to make that kind of choice (and I would hope that I would refuse to do such a thing,) it is not particularly useful to separate ourselves from those who make choices to deliberately inflict harm.

At it's core, harming another is enabled by an ability to make others less-than. That is where the violence starts. Sometimes this is mixed with fear or greed or a lust for power, but always it requires not seeing others as fellow human beings, not cherishing all children as our children.

And. . . disconnecting from others to a degree that allows us to do violence to them, always entails disconnecting from ourselves at least a little, so we do not feel our common humanity. This is true even if the level of violence is "just" verbal. .

And there it is- the need to stay deeply connected to our own precious, flawed humanity. It's what helps us live side by side when we disagree, what enables us be clear about what is good for our shared communities without having to vilify those who disagree with us as something less than a fellow fallible human being.

Please don't misunderstand me- accepting that someone who has done violence is a fellow human being does not mean we condone the action or fail to hold human beings accountable for those actions.

Not making someone who had done violence less-than is not easy. The man who raped me when I was a young woman is a fellow human being. See what I mean? Hard. I don't need to see or engage with him. Nor do I approve of or understand what he did But he is a fellow human being, And sometimes human beings do horrible things.

It all reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from Aleksandr Solznhenitsyn: “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

This being human- not always easy. Sometimes we have to take turns remembering who and what we are, reminding each other, leaning into each other, finding ways to live together in our shared world. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017

With gratitude to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for this image of the darkness and the light.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hope

One day you turn your head, and all that was dry and brown and broken shows signs of new life. Oh, it may just be small tender shoots poking their delicate heads up through memories of darkness, or a tingle, a small electric current running through your limbs that lets you know that you are still alive. You'd worked so hard to get here, swimming against the cold current of all you'd be taught, you'd started to wonder if there even was a shore to reach. And then. . . there it is: the welcoming curve of a new shoreline; a beach where you can lie flat on your belly, breathing into the sand and water-smoothed rocks until you can come to standing, until you can find the courage and curiosity to explore. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017 With gratitude for the inspiration of this photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming



Thursday, March 23, 2017

An Inner Quiet

Feeling quiet (in a good way) these days. Something has shifted within me, and when that happens sometimes I just want to taste it, savour it, feel the spaciousness of a deeper level of freedom from old worries and certainties. I know, dissolving old certainties doesn't sound like a fun, but the truth is it is often our certainties (particularly the ones on the edges of consciousness) that rob us of joy and shackle us to ways of being that have very little to do with who we really are. So I am being quiet, enjoying the shift, letting myself open to the joy of spring- both inner and outer. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House

In this quiet I imagine my inner landscape looking a lot like this spectacular photo of stillness at dawn from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Are We Really Here?

I am doing a little mindfulness experiment. Growing up, I was encouraged to give up something for Lent- usually something thought of as "bad" for us (sugar, coffee, tv etc.) My own take on this was to find and surrender those things or habits that made us less available to God/the Mystery/the Sacred. This year, what came as I meditated on being more available to the Unconditional Love that holds us, something new came: to give up doing more than one thing at a time.

It makes sense- but is much harder than I imagined it would be. I live alone. When I walk into the kitchen to make food or clean up I flip the radio on and listen as I work. I often watch something on my computer when I eat, or talk with a friend on a telephone headset when I am doing mundane housekeeping chores. I listen to music when I am out walking.

Now don't get me wrong- I don't think that these or a thousand other instances of engaging my mind with something while I am doing something else are in any sense "bad." But, operating this way does split my attention, and means I am rarely 100% with the task at hand.

So, I decided to try it. And what I'm realizing is how rarely I actually bring all of my attention to the present moment when I am not formally meditating. And, of course, even without distraction from the outside, I can take myself away from the task at hand by thinking about yesterday or planning for tomorrow.

And I wonder: how much of my life am I missing simply because I am almost always doing more than one thing at a time? I wonder if I love reading so much because I simply cannot do it while doing something else. Well, that's almost true- I often read while taking a bath. The challenge becomes: can I do one thing at a time- bring my full attention to cutting vegetables without simultaneously hearing the news; feel the sensation of soaking in hot water without reading; take a walk with my senses opened to the experience of shifting weight as I move avoiding cars; do nothing else while I am listening to the news, watching a movie or talking with a friend?

I invite you to join me and share what you experience here. Based on my recent experience, I would suggest keeping expectations low: try it for the morning or an afternoon and just notice what happens, or do it for just an hour during the busyness of the day.

If someone pushed me to articulate the purpose of life in just a few words, I would say, "To be here, now. To show up." Turns out that's not as easy as it sounds, but there is really no where else to be.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2017

The photos of Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming always make me pause, take a breath and find the present moment.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ashes To Ashes

Not here much these days because I seem to be down with a nasty virus. Today, desperate for a shower I got dizzy in the bathroom and accidentally brought down a glass shelf full of breakables and ended up on the floor amidst broken glass. Humbling.

Then I read Anne Lamott's post reminding us that today is Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar, a day that reminds us of our own mortality- ashes to ashes, dust to dust. In the shamanic tradition in which I practice we talk about making death the ally. I hear that message in this story Anne included in her post:

"When I was 38, my best friend, Pammy, died, and we went shopping about two weeks before she died, and she was in a wig and a wheelchair. I was buying a dress for this boyfriend I was trying to impress, and I bought a tighter, shorter dress than I was used to. And I said to her, 'Do you think this makes my hips look big?' and she said to me, so calmly, 'Annie, you don't have that kind of time.' (From Anne Lamott)

Reminds me of the Jack Kornfield quote that goes something like, "The trouble is you think you have time."

None of us know how much or what quality of time we have (says the woman so recently collapsed on the bathroom floor amidst broken glass.) Living is what it is about, to the best or our ability today. Because "this too will pass" includes both the small daily annoyances, the incredibly wonderful moments, and the human life we have been given.

Long, slow breath and deep gratitude for life, Oriah

Gratitude for Karen Davis who delivers these breath-taking photos on Open Door Dreaming page daily.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Good Time to be Alive

Last week I had a few days in bed with acute pain. It happens. I was diagnosed with M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) thirty-four years ago. Some years/weeks/days are better than others. The hardest part is the unpredictability. So, lying in bed waiting for pain meds to kick in, I was surprised at the thought that arose: There has never been a better time to have a debilitating chronic illness. This was not me trying to find a “silver lining” to the situation. I am as attached as anyone to fulfilling anticipated activity for the day, although I’ve probably had more practice at letting go of plans than most. But the thought made me smile- because it’s true. Lying in bed with my laptop, I have access to the world. I can write emails, read news, connect on social media, take a course, listen to podcasts, watch movies, order food, do research, check in with family, and offer some of my writing to the world. And, I can do all of this without revealing to anyone I may be in touch with that I am lying in bed, a hot mess of pain and exhaustion. None of this took away the pain of the moment, but it did perk me up to consider how modern technology has enabled us to access large aspects of the world, even when we cannot walk outside. And, despite the pain (which I know from experience will ebb and flow- much better today) I was flooded with gratitude that made me grin, even as I tucked the covers up under my chin. It is a good time to be alive. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House And one of the wonderful things I am able to do whether sick or well is see the spectacular photos of Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming posted daily.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Living in Love

There are thousands of ways to fall in love.
At night I open my eyes in the welcoming darkness
And listen to the rain whispering to the leaves.
And I fall in love with being here.
In the morning I smile, grateful for hot showers,
Sweet tea, and cinnamon baked apples.

There are thousands of ways to be in love,
To listen to the song of another’s heart
To hold them with tender attention,
To forgive ourselves for all the moments we’ve missed
In our hurry to get somewhere
Not realizing there is nowhere to go, that love is already here.

On good mornings,
mornings when I am not distracted or forgetful,
I get up and ask:
How will I make love to life today?

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House

Happy Valentine's Day dear FB friends. With deep thanks to Karen Davis whose photos at Open Door Dreaming help us fall in love with this beautiful planet each day.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Body Wisdom in Challenging Times

Yesterday, I felt a slight tension in my chest that often leads to tachycardia (pulse sometimes as high as 200 bpm) that accentuates my regularly irregular heartbeat, (not to worry- it is being cared for and monitored.)

And the thought came, "My heart stumbles."

I've just been sitting with that. A rapid, irregular heart beat can feel like a stumble, the kind of misstep we make when walking if we are distracted, or moving too fast, or feeling very emotional.

So, I remind myself to slow down, to focus on this present moment, and to notice how too much news and passionate commentary can stir up strong emotions that exhaust and disorient. I am not suggesting that we turn away from awareness of our shared world, but I think my heart is reminding me to consider how I can be informed and participate in a sustainable way.

And when it comes to sustainability, our bodies are the experts.

So, what is your body telling you today about what you need? ~Oriah

Just looking at this photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming I imagine the sound of the waves. Perhaps a day to go down to the lake and let their rhythm steady my stumbling heart.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

No Deal With The Divine

There is no deal with the divine, no sacred scoreboard keeping track of and rewarding us for being at our best, or punishing us for lapses in awareness when we are ruled by fear. Hard things- deep losses and daily struggles- happen to good people.

But here's the paradox: There is no deal AND what we do matters. What we do matters because it funds or depletes our ability to greet what happens with an open heart; because we are one strand in an infinite tapestry that connects all that is, and our attitude and actions ripple out into this inter-beingness co-creating our shared world.

For me, this is the core paradox of being human: There is no deal AND what we do matters. If we can hold both of these truths at the same time we can make choices fueled by hope, without white-knuckled attachment to outcome, aware of how little we know or control. In the moments when we can do this, we are free to offer what we can, live with what is, and receive what we need. When we can live the paradox we can let Love hold and guide us.
~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House

Gratitude to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for the photos that remind me- as walking outside does- that life-sustaining beauty presents itself to all without reservation. Reminds me of scripture I heard as a child about how the rain falls on the just and the unjust.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How To Live The New Year

How do we want to live this year? The thought that keeps popping up when I ask this question is: I want to live as if each action and activity is an end in itself and never a mere means to another goal. For instance, today I drive to a class I am taking. Driving is the means to the end of arriving at the class- which I could easily do on auto-pilot. But what if I treat the drive as more than a mere means- as an end in itself, bringing my full attention to how my body moves and how my breath flows as I drive, noticing how my perception is filtered by the task (hopefully seeing bicyclists sharing the road and not being distracted by the mother arguing with her child on the front porch of a house I pass.) A great deal of our day is consumed by maintenance. We work, shop, cook, clean, run errands etc. What if we did these tasks, (some of them anyway) as a way to be fully present with ourselves. others and the world? Because a great deal of life goes by when we are on auto-pilot or preoccupied by what happened yesterday or what comes next. I don't want to "miss" so much of my life in this way. I want to let peeling potatoes, vacuuming under the bed, and brushing my teeth teach me how to be here fully. Of course it means taking time to smell the roses, but it also means bringing awareness to everyday activities, letting them bring us into this moment. ~Oriah Thanks to Karen Davis at Open Door's Dreaming for this photo.