It is, on this rainy gray day, I meditate on gratitude. In this bleak opaqueness, it is easy to notice only that, especially after too many long seasons of unchanging gray. It is easy to feel drained of hope for anything better to come.
Yet in a simple meditative state, how wonder-filled the breadth and wholeness of life as it shows up in all its many colors…a gentle reminder back towards my own fierce life force.
Gratitude appearing as a sliver of light on the horizon–my senses tell me as I watch its arrival. It’s Love calling home, coming to find me. Not that I was ever for a second lost to it. Support arriving–beyond circumstance and suffering, of which there is plenty.
My senses inform me, tell me of it in creatively innate ways. In touch of hot and cold, skin and touch, a stroke of kindness or endearment.
I breathe in aromas of love cooking in the oven or the familiar aura of another, the smell or warning of danger, of jasmine in spring.
I witness love in the eyes of a friend, blossoming pink Dogwoods flowers or brilliant white, ship like clouds sailing upon a blue sea sky. I see where love is not felt. I say a prayer or extend a hand.
And on it goes.
Our natural senses are a gateway to the Universe when open.
And nothing good in being alive is so small as to not be noticed and full of wonder at.
We stand here at the apex of everything that has arrived in life before us so as to support us… from the Void or God or Source of all wonder to the Big Bang to stars and their trails through the universe(s) to Mother Gaia, earthquakes, fire, shifting lands. From one cell beings and the creative evolution of our bodies through eons or a single lifetime.
We are here to expand and breathe, feel pain and grow into Love, live and die and change into something else or more.
I hear, sense, touch, see, feel, and I’m alive; and in this moment or moments to come, all is well with my soul, and I’m alive past pain or suffering or complaint or whatever life throws my way.
I am not here to rejoice in the suffering of another, but to support because I have been supported.
Love is creative in its unfathomable myriad of expression, and often arrives in surprise or gift. It will show you how and the way.
Crack open the gate of resistence.. Raise your expectation just a smidge. Find life in the moment in the sidewalk flower growing from its fissures and breaks. Notice things for five minutes.
You and I are here to make a difference, to stand for kindness and the ferocity of Love in the darkest of time or place where love has not been felt or seen…
And then there’s this, a moment to unplug…splendid, mind-boggling, joy giving beauty just waiting for you to notice. A moment so transitory in nature, we often miss it, opting instead for stress and worry, in a hurry to get things done.
Stop for a moment and receive what’s freely given you–and opportunity to take in the quiet miracles all around you, an opportunity to open your heart just a little more to each one.
Soon enough in those quiet moments of recognizing and receiving, your heart will soften towards noticing. It will become the very thing it is underneath the pain and trauma you carry in your life and body–an open door to joy.
Moments that arrive unbidden when you’re minding your own business, like a sudden break in the clouds when the sun streams through and makes light of everything, and peace becomes quite a tangible thing, floods your soul.
And you know that everything is really okay no matter what’s going on, that you’re okay, seen and wholly loved.
This journey, such a temporary thing, and then you go home.
Yet the breaks in the storm arrive as a reminder to keep going, keep growing and learning and leaning toward love. You’re right where you need to be to get to where you need to go.
And this is just a reminder that it is good and you are wholly loved.
Something I wrote a few years back. This life all around me faithful to provide carefully positioned sentinels that stand at the gate against any misery that would seek to make a permanent address inside me–a reminder of where my true north lies, a pointer home saying “This way to your heart”.
Driving down the street the other day,
I detected that fall had had her way—
and under freshly shorn trees were luminous
yellow-gold pools where sunshine had accumulated
—a riotous cornucopia of puddled sunshine in
brief reprieve between darkening days,
like some kind of joy
suddenly rising up to greet me in the dying leaves.
It left me happy for days.
My life has it dying seasons, as well.
Yet the art of dying often leaves me wanting,
absent without poise or polish.
futile attempts made at scooping up decay
of that which needs to die, staring, bare
limbed, at loss, shivering in the wind.
If there is joy-filled reprieve, I often fail to notice it.
This letting go business—I’m not as graceful
as the golden dying leaves.
But what I’m counting on is that spring
always comes and old attitudes, beliefs and judgments
I am going through a dark night of the soul. Yet today, upon awakening, I slipped outside on to my porch with my morning coffee, sat and listened. Even the gray-skied Oregon shroud and the blur of cars racing by couldn’t keep the praise of the new day from winging through the trees in song.
Today—what a profound relief—a few inwardly quiet healing moments spent where gratitude could find me. When I arose from the chair, it was with much delight that I could feel the welcoming of it all no matter what or whom is showing up.
The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat hatov, which means, literally, “recognizing the good.” Practicing gratitude means recognizing the good that is already yours, because, as my dear friend, Mystic Meena, says, “When gratitude is your only prayer, all begging ceases.”
Nevertheless, I am, this year, recognizing where in my life I have played the part of beggar. More than any other year, it has come to me this year that begging has no place in my life anymore. There are so many ways I could describe how it has manifested in my life.
I hesitate to share, but for the purposes of this blog, I will be brief. I know I am not alone. Many of us share similar stories—a lifetime’s worth, but more recently for me in my 40’s and 50’s (now in my early 60’s), I went through a difficult and abusive marriage and divorce, which was followed by a decade of illness interspersed with multiple major and/or near death surgeries; an immediate family member with severe bipolar disorder I took responsibility for, and thankfully,they are holding their own now. Subsequently, however, my mother dropped into my life fulltime with Alzheimer’s Disease. It fell to me to care of her for six years until she passed exactly one year ago today. There was a period in between my mother’s illness and death of insane traveling combined with the end of a challenging relationship. And it almost feels like too much to even mention, but in the last thirteen months, I have experienced seventeen other deaths both near and far to or from me. It’s more than I can process in one fell swoop.
No wonder I am outright physically and emotionally exhausted—part life happening because it does and part believing incorrectly about where answers laid.
Trauma hides in our organs and brain and skin and shows itself in some interesting ways, comes back to us as fate in illness or loss or poor choices with unfortunate consequences. Three weeks ago, I ended up in the hospital with crushing chest pain.
My overdoing, my attempts to save everyone but me have become my undoing—and thank god! I’m taking the year off. No one to care-give but me; no volunteering; no wounded bird projects. My mother is gone along with so many others. I love her dearly, miss her terribly, but I am free now to play catch-up with me.
Cumulative grief, my hospice grief counselor of the last few years calls it. I have lost body parts due to profound and overwhelming cumulative grief…grief of which I managed to push back down into my body out of guilt or shame or whatever other false notion I had about my life and how I needed to show up in it. My mantra has too often been “I’m fine, I’m fine”, when in fact I was not fine.
I have decided to out myself. I’m working on allowing what needs to surface for healing, surface. My agreement with myself is there will be no tolerance for guilt or shame in myself or through the well-meaning words of friends. What’s done is done. I take full responsibility, give myself complete grace. I’m allowing the imperfection of my life or my choices or what befell me to bleed through, to give in to crying or laughter or sleep. I am holding to the idea of giving up my quest for perfection in exchange for a more imperfect authentic self. There is work to do.
Grief can be an exquisitely painful, surgically exacting knife that reduces one down to their more essential self. It has a way of stripping away the superfluous, the pretentious, and the inauthentic. No less true in my life, I am greatly paring down to what heals, what brings balance and wholeness, or what feels restorative in the most inward parts of me, even as painful memories trigger tears or the sudden wash of anger at current injustices having nothing to do with me. I have allowed so much in order to be liked or loved.
These last months, there is a pull between living and dying. Every moment I am acutely aware as I feel caught in its tautly roped tension between “what’s the use?” and the desire to push through and forward towards my long held dreams and goals—dreams that have dogged my days since I was five years old. I still want what I’ve always wanted: to feel the length and depth and breadth of my days, to feel wholly alive. Most certainly, I’ve had my moments. Profound, they burn inside me. I want to live free from the inside out, maybe for the first time in my life.
There are days I often fail to make a lot of sense to even myself—those days when pulling myself out of bed seems like an insurmountable task, or my legs refuse to carry me. Then there are other days when grace shows up unexpectedly as a beautiful reminder that life is still good no matter what, and I am brought to my knees in gratitude just because.
My most important job right now is me. I am working on my vulnerability, my transparency. I am making the decision, however challenging, to give voice to my secrets, to honor my emotions and my body, who both show up as messengers of what needs more loving in me. Sometimes I don’t feel so okay, yet I am determined to walk this path, ultimately give up my beggar-hood for the deepest practice of gratitude. I have a feeling this may be the most important work of my life yet.
the little beauty soon to arrive. Right away he caught my attention as he sailed down from the sky, expertly landing on the edge of a neighbor’s roof. Settling in for a wait, he sat there, looking at me—he could feel my eyes boring holes through him, admiring his handsome beauty. That’s when he decided to strike up a short conversation with me. Anyway, he must have sensed I was kind of curious to know what he had to say for himself.
It was just about the time I happened to be leaning out the back porch door across the drive. A full bloom jasmine spring evening, everywhere birds were chattering in that wonderful kind of music they do—it was a full on orchestra playing. The dishes could wait. I couldn’t stand it a moment longer and made a beeline for the door to eavesdrop in on their conversation and enjoy the scarlet remnants of a setting sun. It’s mating season around here, and birds beginning to feather their nests, chattering from tree to tree, flying here and there. We humans seldom pay them any mind, so consumed by the frenetic pace of our lives, but this eve, I was listening.
I guess he thought he wasn’t close enough because he scooted himself over several feet to the very corner of the roof where we could get a better look at one another. I wondered if I was hearing him correctly or if I was just a silly human over-imagining things when he told me his girlfriend would soon be there. We humans can be quite dim when it comes to bird language, or for that matter, any other mother tongue of another. We sat there staring at one another for a while until suddenly he whistled the most lilting little love tune. A moment later in response, the same love notes sang out from a distant tree. And a few minutes after that, here she came, a delicate little beauty, orange breasted, swooping in, landing on the ground, hopping around, checking out this thing and that.
Swooping down from his perch, they were both unexpectedly and quickly in front of me. He had brought her over to where I was to introduce me to his little sweetie. They pranced around at the bottom of the porch steps, hopping by the garden all happy and proud, keeping me in their line of sight all the while. They stayed a couple more minutes, taking off quickly in flight at first sight of an approaching car. I bade them farewell and happy nesting.
What a magnificent gift—this gift of noticing, slowing down long enough to listen to the larger conversation that is taking place in our everyday lives, to actively find where love lives, to see who and what is paying attention to us. It surprised me that in my witness of this magnificent nature being, I was noticed in return, a continuing affirmation I am always seen, a vital part of this whole beautiful mess called life—a realization that trumps the nightly news of war, disaster and nonstop pronouncements that the sky is falling any minute now. Life goes on out there in the world, up there in the sky, creating and recreating itself over and over again when and where you think it never could. The funny thing about love, it’s always there waiting for you somewhere. Paying attention, as I sometimes forget to do, can definitely help. You find love in the unlikeliest of places, the most unexpected, too.
Tomorrow, just as an experiment, determine to notice where the love is in your life. Notice the little acts of kindness that cross your path. Notice the people that pay attention. See who is begging for love or in need of witness. Notice the natural world around you waiting to be seen, even longing to bend down and share its secrets with you, its praise songs that ring from tree to tree and star to star even when no one is listening
In any event, I have it on good authority that the sky is not falling, not today or tomorrow or ever. There’s still plenty of love holding it all together, being born everywhere, no matter how it looks to the human eye. How do I know? A little birdie told me.