A Leap of Faith

“When you connect to the silence within you, that is when you can make sense of the disturbance going on around you.” ~Richard Harris

I remember the look on her face. She was exasperated.

She’d been waiting for me to do it right so that we could all move on with the choreography. But neither she nor my partner said a word. They just waited while I went to the opposite end of the room for the millionth time, and did the step / leap combination that was supposed to end up with a twist in the air, landing me in a pose in my partners arms. For the life of me, my body could not understand what my mind was telling it to do.

Doing things upside own are like that for me.

And they all knew that it was going to take time and repetition for the connection to be made.

Until that moment came, everyone was going to be frustrated – me, too. But it came as it always does, after a lot of practice, and  I was able to fly and flip and land and feel the magic that one feels when mind, body, and spirit (aka “add the music that connects heaven and earth”) come together – when there is no more thought required to do something:

  • when the musician is the music
  • when the artist is the art
  • when the dancer is the dance
  • when the writer is the story
  • when the surfer is the wave

Some people call it “being in” or “going with the flow.”

All I know is how it feels.

Before that moment comes I feel distracted by everything going on outside of me. I’m distracted by my thoughts and feelings, too. But when the shift happens, and whatever I’m doing becomes effortless, I feel heaven. Literally. I feel like I’ve stepped into an alternate universe, and everything I’m seeing, feeling, and hearing is perfectly beautiful.

For the first time in years I’m experiencing that disconnected feeling that comes while learning something new. It’s as humbling, challenging, and uncomfortable as that day (and many like it I might add) when I was waiting for my body to connect with my mind in the dance studio, learning new choreography.

I’m learning to drive my new little Beetle – a standard (shift).

At first I watched videos, then listened as people (every one of them, by the way ) held their hands out in front of them as if pressing two pedals (the gas and the clutch) and described the “play” and the “feel.” Then I got in and sat behind the wheel and got frustrated because I couldn’t understand what “play” meant. So, for weeks, I got rides to and from work as my car sat waiting for me.

Then, on Saturday, I got stranded. I couldn’t find a ride home. It was an awful feeling. My mom finally rescued me and I vowed to never let that happen again. So, on Sunday, the next day, I drove my car. And I did the same yesterday, Monday.

Slowly but surely, what everyone promised would happen is happening –  I’m feeling my car become a part of me. The gap between mind and “body” is disappearing and I’m getting less and less anxious and more and more calm. I even took James and Kenny to the library before work and the field / playground after work.

There is no way around the doing involved in the “becoming” or “being” of life.

We can’t think our way to being.

We have to do things.

And that means dealing with the uncomfortable, albeit energizing and exciting new challenges and opportunities given or desired by us. It means repetition until there is no more awareness of thought in the moment of the doing.

There is no other way but through. (If you’ve found one, share with me.)

And that, my friends, is how growth, aka “a leap of faith” feels.

Advertisements

Great Expectations…

“All earthly delights are sweeter in expectation than in enjoyment; but all spiritual pleasures more in fruition than expectation.” ~Francois Feneion

I hurt for her. I really did.

She carried a basket in her arms, one that was made up just for her, apparently with things in it that the giver felt reflected who she was and what she loved.

“Betsy. I’m so sad.” I listened and tried to understand her pain. It wasn’t that she was disappointed with the stuff. She was disappointed with what she perceived as thoughtlessness on behalf of the giver. The challenge each week had been for the new giver to observe a person and reflect on who they were – what their interests, talents, skills and uniqueness was –  and give representations of what was learned in the basket.

Her sadness was justified by her expectation that the challenge would be taken seriously and that she’d feel a certain something when she uncovered the trinkets that she hoped would have been lovingly and thoughtfully chosen just for her.

But the giver, for whatever reason, hadn’t met my friend’s expectations. And her disappointment was profound.

“What if you look at it another way?” I suggested. “What if your expectations show you how much you love and value yourself?”

This conversation happened 25 years ago, but it’s as fresh as if it had happened yesterday.

I know we want to guard our hearts from suffering, so we either lower our expectations, or complain about our disappointments as if there really was a way to live a fulfilling life without either one – expectations, and disappointments.

Something has changed inside of me, and I don’t know when it happened. Perhaps it has been creeping up on me my whole life, one experience at a time.

It started years ago when I learned about my circle of influence and the things that only I had control over. When I realized that I was here on earth with billions of other people and the only one I could “control” was me, I couldn’t help but reflect on all of the sadness and turmoil in my life and see the common thread of dashed expectations – expectations I’d put on other people and circumstances to behave and turn out a certain way:

  • I expected people to be kind and patient
  • I expected people to keep their word
  • I expected my close friends not to gossip or hurt me
  • I expected everyone to love me
  • I expected everyone to work as hard as I did

And then it dawned on me; what if my expectations were merely a reflection of what I value, and I was being given opportunities to see that? If that was true, then there would be no room for disappointment. Ever. I’d be free from thoughts that somehow I needed to “fix” something or someone, and instead I’d feel like I was understanding my heart better.

Does that make sense to you? Words are so limiting. Aren’t they?

So, what IS it that I’m trying to say?

Here goes.

If life is a series of moments, and I want to live fully and feel joy, then I have to see the gift in every moment I live. And if I feel sorrow, disappointment, or anger, I can see those reactions as a reflection of my heart and its desire for perfection…not someone else’s, but mine.

It’s as if the dashed expectation is a witness of perfection that I yearn for and now have an understanding of – for that thing, not for everything.

And then I feel peace and compassion. I see people and their flaws, but actually enjoy them more! Laughter comes easily because it doesn’t depend on what’s going on in the moment, but in my feeling close to “heaven” all the time.

My mind stops fixing the disappointment, looking for reasons and trying to figure out how to not make “that” happen again.

My heart stays open.

I don’t feel hatred or judgement, or the need to complain.

It’s the same for people’s expectations for us. If we live our lives trying to please others we will always be disappointed with life and will never feel good enough. But if, when someone expects something of / from us, we can see our values and desires uncovered by our reactions to their expectations of us.

It’s very interesting to watch that unfold!

So, what if today, we expected to feel a depth of joy for life in every situation, regardless of how we’re treated, what we have, or what we’re asked to do? And what if we knew that nobody else’s expectations for us should sway us from being who we are and how to feel our own personal joy?

What if we expected that kind of growth inside of ourselves and lived each moment accordingly, without complaint or confusion?

In other words:

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”~Mahatma Gandhi

(And then you won’t be able to stop yourself from having some fun!)

Healing the Pain

“Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.” ~Robert Gary Lee

“I won’t! I promise!”

“I think you’re going to touch it like you did before. You tricked me,” he cried, tears rolling down his cheeks and dropping into the bath water.

James had a huge rubber tire burn on his calf from the day before with a piece of paper towel fused to it. It had needed to be covered with something and there hadn’t been any Bandaids, so we improvised with a doubled-up piece of paper towel and a tube sock to hold it in place.

It was looking scary by the next morning and my daughter and I had tried everything to get him to either agree to let one of us pull it off, or take it off himself.

All we got in response was tears and hysterical screaming. He was remembering the night before when I nearly sat on him to clean it up and get it covered so that he could have a restful sleep.

My daughter sat down and waited. I was perplexed. Part of me said, “It’s his leg. Leave him alone. What’s the worst that could happen?” The other part of me said, “He’s only 4. He’s scared of pain. You have to help him somehow.”

So I carried him kicking and screaming to the bath, stripped him as he calmed down, and set him in the water that my daughter had drawn.

I held the leg in the water, telling him that it was only a matter of time before the paper dissolved and he wouldn’t feel any pain in the process. I was euphoric when the first layer floated off. So was he. We both thought that the event was over. But the layer adhered to his skin mocked us both. Small tugs by James made him anxious and furious.

“What time is it, Kel?”

“9:20.” I had 15 minutes before I had to leave for work. Giving up and leaving the paper stuck to the sore was not an option. James wanted to go to the  county fair later that day and his leg needed ointment and a fresh bandage which were being delivered in a few hours before I’d let him go.

For 25 minutes I sat on the floor beside the tub, regaining James’ trust. I’d point to a corner that I thought had softened, only to send him into a panic, grabbing my hands and holding them far away from his leg. The paper wasn’t budging and I was starting to wonder if it was time to rip it off myself. But, I’d promised him I wouldn’t trick him again, and I needed him to believe me.

So I sat and stop pointing.

“I need both hands,” he whimpered, warning me with a look that interfering with his efforts was against the rules.

I cheered and encouraged when he decided he was ready to tug at a corner and he succeeded. Little by little it came off, five minutes between each success, and we both breathed a sigh of relief when the last piece let go.I dried him off and carefully helped him get dressed. I passed him the ointment which he applied bit by bit, and then made his way out to the living room.

“I’m brave.” he whispered. He’d grown so much with that one experience.

And that was when I learned about pain and our roles in how we show up while the ones we love are struggling. I thought I’d understood. But what I didn’t know until that moment was that I really wasn’t sure about roles, responsibilities, boundaries, and growth that occurs when we truly grasp the significance of pain and suffering.

Sometimes we’ll be invited or begged to hold someone’s hand.

Sometimes we’ll be asked to leave someone alone.

Sometimes we’ll know instinctively that the pain will only start healing if we choose to leave because the person in pain needs to stand in quiet, self-reflective spaces.

Sometimes we’ll listen, laugh, or hug.

But rarely if ever will we be asked to do their work for them.

And if we are, remember my James – his growth happened when both of my hands were being held tightly away from him both literally and figuratively.

We never heal or help heal another person’s pain.

Isn’t that so freeing?!!

🙂

On Seagulls…

The gull sees farthest who flies highest.” 

~Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

I’d been afforded many days of bliss, and much to my chagrin, yesterday I felt a wave of melancholy wash over and settle in. It wasn’t due to heat, humidity, hormones or fatigue.

It was just time to learn again. Growth comes when I feel weighed down – when another ballast must be untied in order for me to go higher and deeper. And I’m not open to growth when I’m comfortable, content, or blissful. I haven’t mastered that one yet. It’s when I suddenly realize I’m close to the ground again that I start to reflect…

In the meantime…

I wrapped my towel around my middle and reluctantly went to the beach. I’d wanted to work on some unfinished artwork, but my pen broke. A nap was tempting, but two little boys needed their mom. So, we drove to a very windy beach where I sat in the sand, watching the massive waves swallow and spit out my boys.

Fast. Fasting always helps by quieting my mind and helping me tap into the deeper spiritual part of me. So, I started a fast. Moments later the lessons began.

“Notice how you’re not in the water. You love the water. Do you know why you don’t feel like swimming?

“Yeah! I’m in a horrible mood and can’t shake it this time.”

“No. I brought you here to watch them.”

“Them” were the seagulls.

I know all about seagulls from the dump, playgrounds, and parking lots where I’ve seen them swoop down on unsuspecting nibblers of food, stealing whatever they could grab a hold of and fly away with. Scavengers of freebies, they are.

“Look up.”

For a few minutes I watched four gulls floating with the air currents, barely needing to flap, staying aloft effortlessly. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be learning or understanding. There was a lot of symbolism there, but nothing that lifted my thoughts higher. They were tremendous, those gulls were. There was such a stark contrast between the gulls on the beach, picking the sand around the beach-goers, doing what they’d been taught to do by generations of gulls in the area, and the four peaceful ones overhead. The floaters were perfection to me. Everything they did seemed effortless.

I felt like they were wiser – trying to teach me something about where my melancholy was coming from. Maybe it comes from the same place as yours?

You see, I seek wisdom. All the time, in everything. Nobody knows that. But I do.

It wasn’t that I was sad because I wasn’t blissful, if that makes any sense. I wasn’t down at all. I just yearned to be higher.

(Bear with me…I’m working this out!)

When there was more ocean inside James and Kenny than outside, we left the beach behind and started for home.

As we drove I was reminded of a book I’d read when I was a teenager: Jonathan Livingston Seagull. by Richard Bach. I remembered none of it, but couldn’t shake it from my thoughts. So I came home and listened to it on Youtube (part 2 here) I was comforted and uplifted as I was reminded again of spiritual growth born of flight to “higher” places. (You can read a brief synopsis of it here.)

I’m not searching for truth. I’ve found a lot of it and am sure I’ll stay open to more. I’m on the right path. I’m struggling for freedom to feel like I’m not “living to eat”, but instead, “living to fly.” Do you ever feel like that?

Flying makes people nervous. They like it for a while, but eating always calls with a louder voice, as does providing shelter, paying bills, and managing the stuff that makes those things possible. It usually means being in and of the world more than feeling joy and learning from it.

So, I choose to “fly” while doing normal, every day things, like sitting on a beach, in the middle of an ordinary day, with gulls as my teachers. But there are other teachers – nature being the best and easiest to access. I’ve learned truths from studying the nature of things like fire, and trees, and have journals full of notes about my insights.

Maybe there are many people sitting on beaches around the world also quietly and imperceptibly learning from gulls. All I know is that….

“We choose our next world through what we learn in this one. Learn nothing, and the next world is the same as this one, all the same limitations and lead weights to overcome.”  ~ Richard Bach, JLS

…and I want to fly higher.

Wanna fly with me? 🙂

 

Sun People

“There are your fog people & your sun people, he said. I said I wasn’t sure which one I was. Fog’ll do that to you, he said.” ~ Brian Andreas, Story People

“Wait.”

That was the only answer she’d been given for months and she really had no idea what she was waiting for. But waiting was a useless thing for her. Why wait when she could do something with the ideas in her mind?  All she knew for sure was changing big things wasn’t working for some reason, and apparently The Man Upstairs saw something significant unfolding which only he could see from his perspective.

As the months slipped away she grew more grateful that she’d waited. She’d walked straight into what she’d hoped was an oasis only to learn that it was another of her fantasies with no nourishment or life-giving water for her parched and hungry soul.

However, “things” weren’t getting done and she was starting to feel lazy and altogether useless to the world.

Then, much to her surprise, she got an additional piece of direction:

“Prepare.”

Prepare for what?

She sat and sat and sat some more, getting an itchy feeling. Having been left to fill in the blanks, she asked for just a tad bit more direction. Seems the heavens were toying with her, but she’d found them in a generous mood and was given one more piece to the ever-growing puzzle:

“Empty out.”

That was something she knew how to do. By the end of the day her plan was in full swing; plans had been made for all the stuff she’d been sharing her home with for years. She went the extra mile and said goodbye to all of her wishes, dreams, fantasies, and projects waiting for her to show up and play.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ve emptied out. And I’m tired. One more thing: I don’t care any more about the things I thought I cared about. This “waiting and preparing” thing is exhausting. But, thank you for the permission to “empty out.” If you don’t mind, I think I’ll go for a swim.”

“Exactly,” he whispered.

“Twit!” she laughed back.

And then the joy and the unexpected came to sit next to her in her new found empty places.

What Do You Need to Be Happy?

“Your friend is your needs answered,”~ Khalil Gibran

I don’t know why he did it, You’d have to track him down and ask him. I’d crossed the stream, stretched out on a rock to relax in the sun and fell asleep. I woke to a passionate kiss from the lead guide, Charlie.

“Wake up Sleeping Beauty. It’s time to go.” I was shocked and amused at the same time. I watched him walk away, grinning from ear to ear. He had barely said a word to me the entire trip. He had no idea how I was struggling with being a skinny and shy dancer who didn’t know where her place was in the world. That kiss was never repeated, but it woke me up in a way that nothing else could have at that time.

I believe that God knew Charlie’s playful nature and my need to feel whatever it was I needed to feel, and created a moment of healing for me.

That’s the way life has always worked for me: people bring the gift of who they are to my life and we both grow. And God sits back and watches. I think he’s as easily entertained as I am.

Five days later I was sitting in the back seat crying. I’d spent the best week of my life camping in Utah’s canyons and I was on my way back to civilization. The memory of how I felt on that drive is vivid because it is attached to this song. Whenever I hear it I go back to a simpler time.

I don’t know why I woke in the middle of the night last night, remembering that week. Perhaps I’d triggered the memory by my earlier reflecting about what makes me happy and feel fulfilled. Maybe it was Kenny’s daydreaming about the upcoming county fair that he’s so excited about. His happiness, he believes, is waiting for him there.

I searched this memory for the answer to what makes me happy? What do I need?

It seems like such an easy question. You know? But life can hide the real answer sometimes, and going back to our hearts can be difficult because hearts don’t lie. And realizing how far one might have traveled off a true path can be confronting.

I was quiet back then and I don’t remember talking much. But I remember how I felt.

Secure.

Alive.

Humble.

Happy.

Peaceful.

What was it that made me feel those things?

It wasn’t a big fancy house – I slept in a tent on the ground. I don’t remember feeling uncomfortable. I loved rolling to the tent door in my sleeping bag and looking up at the stars. Unobscured by city lights, they danced and twinkled silently, reminding me of how small I am in the universe and yet how significant I am at the same time.

It wasn’t a car – I walked with a 40 lb. pack on my back over rough terrain in very hot sun. I don’t remember feeling tired, although I must have been. The scenery was just so inspiring.

It wasn’t gourmet meals – I ate what a poor college student could afford; I’d packed peanut butter sandwiches, apples and oranges. That made for a very bulky and needlessly heavy pack, but it was all I had. And I ate like a queen ’cause I was hungry and grateful.

It wasn’t beautiful clothes or well-done make-up – I had no mirror to assess how I looked and I washed in mountain streams ever day to remove caked on sweat and dust. I was liberated in a funny way. Everyone was more beautiful.

It wasn’t parties with food, drink and merriment – there was a nightly campfire where we sat and reminisced about the day, life or nothing at all as we readied our minds and bodies for bed.

It wasn’t Charlie and his kiss, although it was magnificent, and made me realize how much I love kisses! – it was knowing that I was loved and enjoyed because I radiated more than my skinny body showed….I connected heart to heart with people who’d been strangers days earlier.

There was no music, television or books to read. No distractions. Just me, nature, and new friends.

If I could put into words what made me cry on my way back to the dorms and college life, it was that I’d reconnected with God for the first time since I was a child and was going to miss that. I’d awakened in the desert and knew instinctively that I was returning to a spiritual desert of sorts.

I hadn’t a clue how to live my life and stay connected to God and people in meaningful and lasting ways without literally retreating from the world.

And that made me so sad.

I’m a lot older and wiser now, and I really do know what makes me happy and how to feel connected to God (and people) all the time. I have a very strong relationship with him and never feel alone or misunderstood, in need, or lacking in any way. I’ve come to understand that ingratitude and lack of joys is a reflection on the health of my soul.

My one and only need is deep and meaningful connections to God and people.

What makes me happy?

I do. Me. And you do, too. I truly believe that God leads people into my life to meet my needs and theirs even if I don’t understand why or how or for how long..

My joy isn’t a reflection of what or how much I have, it’s a reflection of how full I feel and how willing I am to share myself with others in my path.

You?

🙂

One of a Kind ~

“Wouldn’t it be powerful if you fell in love with yourself so deeply that you would do just about anything if you knew it would make you happy? This is precisely how much life loves you and wants you to nurture yourself. The deeper you love yourself, the more the universe will affirm your worth. Then you can enjoy a lifelong love affair that brings you the richest fulfillment from inside out. ~Alan Cohen

“It’s a story,” I tried to explain. “Pink shag is part of its story.”

Since I met my little car (read about it here: Enthusiasm…God Within Us), I’ve been increasingly aware that most of us like to feel safe and accepted. And we do things, make choices, at the cost of the world never enjoying us completely, and never connecting to those who actually love us for who and how we are when we’re fully alive, expressing all of our unique qualities and gifts. We’d rather feel safe with approval than risk rejection and/or loneliness or ridicule that is possible when on the joyful journey of self-expression.

Pink shag steering wheel and seat covers don’t make most men feel safe.

So, for my birthday I got zebra steering wheel and seat covers, a zebra towel, and a zebra travel cup. I laughed when I opened them and was extremely grateful for the thoughtfulness.

But they don’t belong in my car. Pink shag does. My heart knows it. You see, there were only two choices in the store: zebra print or pink shag….or nothing. I can’t tell you why, but the pink shag makes me laugh and feel full of life. It’s a perfect fit. But the zebra print is gender neutral.

But I’m a girl.

And it’s my car. My very first car. One that I waited for forever. I have a responsibility to it to give it the time of its life. Right? We’re kindred spirits.

And it deserves pink shag.

Do you understand?

Why do we do that? Why do we homogenize our desires, our personalities, our lives and risk never sharing with the world who we really are?

“You don’t like roses?” Kenny asked when I told him we had one last thing to do before we left the store….smell the carnations. I guess everyone likes roses. He was dumbfounded and perplexed. They smell okay. But you put me in a field of carnations and I’ll be lost in the outer space of sensory pleasure with no sense of time beckoning me home! Same with diamonds and other jewels. Can’t stand them. But onyx and pearls? For some reason they speak to me. I like talking about and to dead people (ancestors), and that makes a lot of people uncomfortable and emotionally step aside (it makes me laugh!). These are some of the things that make up who I am. I can’t deny them and never apologize for them.

I just smell carnations when I’m at the store, don’t wear much jewelry, and “do” family history among many other things depending on the mood of the day.

One more thing. When I bought my car I didn’t notice that the antenna was missing (It’s a used car), so it only played one radio station. The music was okay, but I couldn’t connect to it.

So, I got an antenna, screwed it in, and changed the station, and Voila! – music that makes me smile! It was there all along, out in the universe just waiting for an antenna to catch the radio waves  that would complete my car-driving experience.

Such is life and relationships.

And so it is with pink shag and antennas…

Our #1 responsibility is to show up as the “one of a kind” that we are, and then to catch the “waves” of others who are on the same frequency as we are – those whose music makes our hearts sing.

Easy.