Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Girls' (Imaginations) Gone Wild

Is there anything better than having an out-of-control belly laugh with a friend, laughing so hard that tears pour down your face and you’re gasping for breath?  I hesitate to tell this story as there is a detail that might shock some- but I can’t resist the urge to share the laughter.

Last week I was on the phone with my dear friend, Linda, who lives in British Columbia. As usual our conversation launched heart-first into catching up with each others’ lives and discussing the meaning of life in both the big picture and in the small choices we make daily.

All of a sudden, I heard a strange noise. “Wait just a minute,” I said to Linda. “There’s a very odd noise coming from my bedroom.” As I walked into the bedroom the noise got louder- sort of a buzzing, mechanical noise like a drill or some other kind of power tool.

The apartment building I live in is concrete with hot water heating, so airborne noises (like voices or music) do not travel between units. However, if someone drops a penny on the hardwood floor above me, I hear it loud and clear. I figured someone next door was drilling into the concrete wall, except. . . . except the sound seemed to be in my bedroom.

“What is that?” Clearly Linda could hear it too.

I moved slowly toward the area from which the sound seemed to be emanating, right next to my bed. I’d recently made the seven by nine foot room feel larger by getting rid of the two dressers, and replacing the bedside table with a low wooden cabinet with one file drawer below a smaller shallow drawer.

“I don’t know.” I could hear the trepidation in my own voice. “It sounds like it’s coming from this room.” I crept up on the cabinet. The sound got louder. I held out my hand and touched the innocuous looking piece of furniture. “Ooo!” I pulled my hand back as if I’d touched a hot burner. “It’s coming from inside the filing cabinet!” 

“Don’t hang up the phone!” Linda shouted, responding to the fear in my voice. “What do you want me to do?”

Do? What could she do? She was three thousand miles away! Call Toronto 911 if the phone suddenly went dead?

“Do you think it’s the mouse?” Linda asked. I’ve been having an on-again-off-again relationship/argument with a small brown mouse who is trying to make my home his.

“What, the mouse went out and bought a power tool to try to intimidate me into letting him stay?”

“Well, what is it then?”

“I don’t know. . . .” My voice involuntarily slid up a half an octave. “. . . but it’s definitely coming from the filing cabinet.” I moved my hand slowly toward the top of the low cabinet, and laughed nervously. “It’s like the filing cabinet is . . . . possessed . . . I can’t even think of what it could be. It’s filled with . . . . files!”  I took a breath. “Okay, I’m going to open the top drawer.”

I jerked the drawer open, jumping back. I don’t know what I expected. A drill-wielding mouse? Some kind of angry file-drawer-ghost? 

And then I collapsed onto the floor laughing. “Oh no!”

“What it is?”

I was laughing so hard I could hardly speak. “It’s . . . . the vibrator. . . . that’s in the top drawer. Somehow it turned itself on!”

(That’s right folks- deal with it: Oriah Mountain Dreamer has a vibrator in her bedside table. And clearly it’s something she uses so infrequently she can’t remember it’s there so the batteries are bursting with unused energy!)

Linda was laughing now too. “Oh, that’s too funny.”

“Good grief. I was actually scared of the filing cabinet!” I sputtered back.

And we just kept laughing, our giggles egging each other on. My sides ached, tears streamed, and I had to gulp for air. 

“Attack of the pent up vibrator!”

“Ghost of vibrators past!”

Is there anything more able to dissolve tension held in the body than belly laughter, more able to make you feel like you are nine years old again than laughing over something completely silly with a dear friend? After awhile we wiped our eyes and calmed down- but what a treat shared silliness is, what a blessing and a release to laugh about our own active imaginations and something so harmless and fun. 

That’s what I wish for you- for us- for the world this week: belly laughter that shakes out all the stored tension, that reminds us of how silly our fears sometimes are, that lets us feel that the gift of being human is about more than meaningful co-creations, as wonderful and necessary as those are, but also includes our capacity to laugh together.

Oriah (c) 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Looking Back to Move Forward

Ever find yourself wondering, “What was I thinking?!” (Usually muttered when we're living with unanticipated but now, in hindsight, painfully foreseeable consequences of choices we've made.) The plus and minus of being a writer, is that I can find out what I was thinking- because I wrote it down!

Creative work incubates within us long before it manifests in sounds or colours or shapes or stories. So, when I start to write a book, I go back and sift through the journals I’ve filled since the last book was written. I look for the luminous ends of threads and follow them down into the story that wants to be told. I dive into the recorded thoughts, feelings, choices, fears, joys and dreams in one small life, partly because it's the information on our inner lives to which I have the most direct access (augmented by the truth-telling journals- memory is often not reliable.)  

Since any tale of my life in the last few years will include some reflection on the ending of my marriage (two years ago now,) I thought it would be wise (if not exactly fun) to go back and start reading about my experience as my ex-husband and I got together in 2000. It has been. . . .  humbling. I am reading about the daily struggles of a woman (me- although there are moments when I would like to disavow ownership) earnestly and repeatedly talking herself out of the serious qualms she has about the relationship that is unfolding, and talking herself into a commitment that some part of her clearly knows is unwise. And this after years of deep psychological and spiritual inner work, a consistent daily practice, and supportive community!

Here’s the thing: we cannot be more conscious than we are. Knowing now what I did not know then, I can see how unconscious fears, stories, wounds and beliefs were shaping my choices. I'm not judging myself for this- it's simply what was.

But I’m looking for something else that I know is there, something I can feel in the shape and colour of the comments and stories, in the scent of the details of one small life: the arc of the healing my soul was seeking, orchestrating, creating. I have tremendous faith in the sacred Mystery that creates us and in what we are. Although, at times, we all self-sabotage, go unconscious, and make unwise choices, soul/psyche is always aiming for awareness of our essential wholeness, always using whatever is available to find the healing that will support us in making the choice to live fully and deeply.

So, with gentle curiosity (and a little trepidation) the soul-sleuthing begins. I continue to read and write, seeing the arc of my own soul/psyche exposing the primal wound I had never faced,  bringing about the healing I have always ached for, opening me to the ever-deepening spiral of loving myself, life and the world. 

It’s not always an easy story, but that’s okay. It’s still being told, is unfolding with increasing ease and joy, and I have every confidence that it ends well. 

Oriah (c) 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Finding The Truth That Takes Us Home

How do you make yourself available to the truth, even when it's hard?

Whether I am journaling or working on a book, or just posting a brief comment on Facebook, the act of writing brings me to the truth of the moment. Oh, I’m not claiming to be accessing “Absolute Truth” when I write, and it’s not that I drag readers through every detail of my daily life. But, as much as I sometimes try to wiggle away from the truth of the moment, (watching movies, or working too much to avoid some feeling or situation I am not enjoying) I can’t do it when I write.

It’s Facebook that has really brought this home to me. I post daily and my purpose is to offer us all a little daily encouragement because. . . . well, because sometimes  life is challenging and we can all use a little encouragement. But, even if I want to write something I hope will inspire gratitude or inner peace, something I’d like to reinforce our natural courage and compassion, if I am not connected to gratitude or peace, courage or compassion, I can’t write about it. It feels. . . . false. Even if I plan to use a quote from one of my books, I can’t post it if it feels miles away from what I am experiencing in the moment.

Now, this having to write from the truth of the moment, is not always convenient. Sometimes my moments- like everyone’s- suck.  But here’s the great thing about this: because I am committed to posting each day on Facebook, to writing a weekly blog,  a new book, first thing in the morning as part of my daily practise, and because I find it pretty much impossible to lie to myself on the page, when I encounter a  moment that is filled with pain or grief or some other less-than-fun condition- I can write my way into being able to be with it in a truthful way.

However we do it, being truthful with ourselves about this moment, deepens our intimacy with ourselves, each other and life. And, as the Grandmothers of the dreamtime told me years ago- “Intimacy heals.”  

Your way of being aware of and with the truth of the moment may not include writing- may happen most deeply when you meditate, or go for a walk, or go fishing. You may find yourself most present with what is when you wash dishes slowly, or draw, when you listen to or make music, or pray, or dance, or do yoga, or play with the dog.  . . . There are infinite ways to make space for the deep truth of our lives to find us, and we don’t have to do it the same way all the time, although it’s good to find a way that works even when the truth we have to face and be with is hard, even when some part of us would rather not be with what is.

Sometimes, when I feel my own resistance to being with the truth I start writing with the phrase, “I don’t want to write about . . . . “ At other times, when I notice that I am doing everything BUT taking myself to writing, (because the utensil drawer in the kitchen is suddenly screaming to be reorganized or the urge to clean the oven  is irresistible) I ask myself on the page, “What are you trying to outrun?” and see what comes.

The commitment to living a human life fully involves being with the truth of our experience in the moment. That’s where home is. Our practice- however formal or informal- is our way of going home over and over again.

 Oriah (c) 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Favourite Four Letter Word

Monday was Labour Day here in Canada. This, combined with a week of energetically re-arranging and cleaning my apartment and a recent retreat filled with intense studying and writing, got me thinking about work- about how much I love to work, how meaningful work (along with intimate relationships) is important to a sense of well-being, how work is often vilified, depicted as something we would eradicate from our lives if we had the resources to hire others to do it.

One of the great gifts of having had a chronic illness for many years, is that I truly appreciate the times when I am able to work. I am aware of the satisfaction I feel from being able to move furniture, the “good tired” I get from using feeling/intuitive/mental abilities to write or work with a client. Doing work that makes us stretch just a smidge beyond what comes without any effort at all, can feel invigorating.

I am thinking here of work in the broadest possible way- as focused effort expended in a particular direction. Could be paid or unpaid, inner or outer, something we love doing or something we do only because it has to be done or for some other end (like putting food on the table.) Could be creatively open-ended or. . . . not so much. There are only so many ways to wash the dishes, but even there we have choices about the quality of the attention we bring to the task, whether or not we really feel the warm, soapy water (and offer a small prayer of gratitued for hot running water,) whether or not we see the task as drudgery or an act of caring for ourselves or others.  

One of the most challenging things about aging is the diminishment of our ability to work as we once could. Still, if we don’t get caught in identifying with the quantity of accomplished work, but allow ourselves to enjoy the feeling of working at whatever level makes us stretch just a little (without hurtling ourselves over the cliff of “but I used to be able to . . .” ) the pleasure in work can still be ours.

Of course, the conditions of our work can make it easier or harder to find joy in the activity. If we are compelled by circumstances to work long hours, to do work that separates us from those we love for long periods, or to work in conditions that are unsustainable for our minds, bodies, hearts or spirits, finding joy in work can become difficult or impossible

Years ago, when I was encouraging a friend to seek the assistance of a skilled guide in order to deepen her understanding of and healing around a terribly abusive childhood, she responded with a plaintive wail, “But it’s so much work!”

"Well yes," I replied, “but work is not suffering. It’s just work.”

Now, this may make me the poster child for the protestant work ethic I was steeped in as a child, but it’s true: work doesn’t need to be suffering. Work can be just work, focused effort in a particular direction. Our beliefs about work can make it suffering. Even when work is challenging, how we do it can create a little ease and, sometimes, real joy. If we are willing to bring curiosity and mindfulness to our experience while actively creating meaning for ourselves from the tasks at hand, even the most mundane or challenging work can deepen our awareness and enrich our lives.

Which is why work is my favourite four letter word. 

(c) Oriah 2012