Tag Archives: heart

Fetid Little Lies

Recently, while travelling to promote books in a region where I had once functioned professionally, I took time off to care for my physical frame by having some bodywork done. Bodywork seems to redress the compression travelling produces in my body.

Because I was in an area where I had once worked, I still know a few of the regions most long-standing alternative-care professionals. Still, for this trip, I opted to work with a practitioner who was completely new to me.

Spirituality

While working through the compression in my body with this new practitioner, the name of yet another of the community’s stalwart alternative-care providers came up. My sense was that this new-to-me bodyworker was about to recommend the work of this other woman. Yet, taking a deep breath, I felt the need to stop her short.

Hearing this other woman’s name for the first time in many years, I informed the new practitioner that although this other woman may be a completely competent alternative-care provider in her chosen field, she behaved uncharitably toward me during my professional tenure in this community.

Because I felt the statute of limitations had passed on my self-imposed silence, I explained to the new practitioner that this other woman had insisted–among friends and clients of hers–that I had “taken her job.” This was her widely propogated story and not the reality.

After this other woman had been released from her job at a local center, I was in fact the “hire” who had replaced her. This employment circumstance did not turn me into the person who “took” her job.

Ultimately, the experience taught me this. We all tell fetid little, or big, lies to protect ourselves,  cocoon our egos, shore ourselves up professionally while undermining someone else’s constructive efforts or blind ourselves personally from the various truths in certain of our life circumstances.

In the end, I had to move into forgiveness because, upon carefully combing through my own uncensored history, I unearthed select junctures in my own life where I too had told myself fetid little lies, which kept me separate from the Light in my heart and may have dimmed the Light in the heart of another.

Going Mobile

Honky-tonk oldies play over a battery-operated radio strapped to a neighborhood man’s indoor/outdoor scooter. The twang of the tunes announce and accompany him on one of his daily “walks.” While steering his scooter deftly around me and my two dogs, he thumbs his well-loved VFW baseball cap to gesture, “Hello.” He does this whenever he sees us approaching.

Spirituality

Because the tires on his scooter are wide, getting out into the weather is not much of an issue. We both pass one another without talking almost daily—wanting to feel the fresh air on our faces, the thrust of the sun when it is out, or otherwise enjoy the spitting moisture of an early morning—a gift from the sun-obliterating clouds above.

Once past us, I watch the long plastic stick with the small fluorescent-orange flag attached to it sway and flutter in the violent wind. Today, the man in the scooter is bent in his seat leaning into the chill of this morning’s headwind with the flaps down on his billed, winter hat. Yet, the weather does not keep him from dancing in his seat. I wonder what steps and with whom, in his mind, he is taking the polished floor.

The music playing in my head is audible only to me. Sometimes, I wonder whether or not I would ever have the gumption to share the music I play as liberally as he shares his. Maybe. Maybe not. What his free-wheeling passing teaches me is that whether we are running, walking or rolling, we all need to carry music inside (or outside) of ourselves which causes us to sway with joy in all manner of weather.

Good Deeds

“One sage has said that God prefers the joy to the mitzvah. (How he found this out, I do not know.)”

—Leo Rosten

I am relating a tale to you about an anonymous mitzvah, which will no longer be a mitzvah of the highest order after today’s telling—nor will it be completely anonymous, because you and I will know.

Spirituality

Not so long ago, we had as a very dear neighbor, a hard-speaking saint of a woman, whose heart was so full of Light and generosity that, when we returned home at night, we would often find whole pastries, pots of rich stew or other fine, fresh baked goods waiting for us outside of our front door. We were a family of three, and she was but one person—living solo.

Now, as the story goes, we were a struggling young family. Our monies were limited, carefully counted and thoughtfully metered out. Our neighbor, too, was careful with her change. Yet, she loved to indulge in one favorite pastime.

One November, five weeks before Christmas, we learned that our neighbor had splurged and purchased an expensive piece of equipment in support of her pastime—on layaway. After some discussion within our household, we decided to make our neighbor’s December layaway payment anonymously.

Bewildered and grateful as she was, our neighbor never did find out who made that payment for her. So, be sure that you do not tell.

Spirituality & the Weight of Words

“Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move. Move the way joy makes you move.”

—Osho

Starting back to university after several years away, I find myself in an awkward social position. I am too old to be a typical university student and too young to be classified as an older, returning student. In addition to the issue of age, I am now married and the mother of a young child. As much as I want to be able to focus exclusively on my renewed studies, I also hope to find a few close friends among my new classmates.

Providence rewards my hope with a friend in the design studio, who is both my peer in age and who is also in a committed relationship.

Spirituality

Joan is from the Coast and was reared in an academic family. Thus, she is well bred and well spoken. We share artistic and intellectual exchanges full of wit and humor. And, because some of my time away from university was spent studying in the region of Joan’s upbringing, we share certain place references, which are not shared with anyone else in the art department. The commonalities that are part of our friendship also extend, to a certain degree, to our individual aesthetic preferences.

A number of semesters, a few dinner parties and several outings later, Joan and I find ourselves together in yet another class, when a new woman, Sarah, in her early forties joins our class.

Although completely untrained as an artist or designer, Sarah has been working as a paid, freelance graphic designer in the community. In terms of temperament, she is hesitant and quite insecure about her innate gifts as a designer and draughtsman, even though she clearly has the hand of a skilled, untrained draughtsman with an eye for design. Sarah creates simple, pleasing brochures which include her own drawings. Her return to school for more training is spurred on by a handful of clients who have been requesting more advanced work from her. She hopes that some additional training will help her grow her confidence and her innate artistic skills.

As the content of Sarah’s portfolio becomes known within the department, the rift between fine art and commercial art is laid bare. And, socially, a certain amount of distancing occurs between Sarah and the main body of traditional students.

For an already insecure soul, this not-so-subtle distancing can be acutely painful. In an attempt to close the growing space around this woman, I offer Sarah several olive-branch conversations, remembering how I felt when I first returned to university with no real sense of place. But, what I do not anticipate is the painful, under-the-breath verbal sniping that Joan is soon engaging in, as Joan and I sit working next to one another in the same class as Sarah.

My intellect understands that in many respects these women are experiential worlds apart, yet my heart is injured with each uncharitable statement, about Sarah or her work, issuing from Joan’s mouth. Finally, after two weeks of silence toward Joan’s uncharitable speech, I turn to face her—knowing that my stand may cost me a precious friendship.

“Open your heart, Joan,” I murmur emphatically. It is all that I can think to say. And, with this one statement, the verbal sniping comes to a complete stop.

For several weeks, there is a quiet between Joan and myself as I cocoon myself in my studio work and wonder how everything is going to work itself out. Then, as we near the end of semester, I learn that Joan has extended not only an olive branch, but an entire olive bough to Sarah.  After several weeks of getting to know one another and finding common ground, Joan has committed to looking after Sarah’s family pets while Sarah is on vacation with her family.

Words have weight, meaning and impact, whether words are directed toward us, at a situation, coming from us toward someone else or being applied by us to an external set of circumstances. Choosing our words with care shapes the manner in which we enter into a dialogue with the world around us—to mend relationships, take down barriers or change the course of someone’s life. All of us need to continue the practice choosing our words with an ear to our hearts and supreme care.

The Economics of Friendship II

Spirituality

“We have to go now,” our host, Professor Alexander, calls up the broad, Victorian staircase of his home. I am hastily collecting the last of our belongings from the guestroom to finish packing our car.

The Alexanders, myself, my husband and infant child are all leaving to meet the Alexanders’ adult son and daughter-in-law for a quick breakfast. The Alexanders’ son and his wife are new hires at a local secondary school, after having spent eight years studying and working toward their undergraduate degrees. They need to be to work on time.

With the car fully repacked from our overnight stay, we pull out of our hosts’ driveway to follow their vehicle to the pancake house two miles from their home. We are planning to depart New York state from the restaurant to spend another eight-hour day driving cross-country.

Upon entering the restaurant, apologies are made for our tardiness at the same time that hasty introductions go around.  A small amount of light banter starts the conversational ball moving about the large table. From this, we learn that the Alexanders’ son and daughter-in-law have recently returned from a three-day weekend in Montreal, having travelled to Canada to spend time with three other couples—old college friends from their early undergraduate-school days. Most of the members from among the other couples went on to complete some type of professional schooling, becoming doctors or lawyers.

Before the conversation can continue, Professor Alexander breaks in abruptly, “You can’t keep spending money like this. You are on a very different budget than these people. Three days in a hotel, a professional sporting event and how many dinners out? You can’t afford these weekends with your old friends. May I remind you that you are public-school teachers with a significant amount of student-loan debt to repay?”

The table grows momentarily quiet, then Mrs. Alexander picks up the conversational ball with a more conventional breakfast topic. I retreat into the realm of my own thoughts to consider Professor Alexander’s paternal plea for fiscal prudence. It is one of those instances where an entire group of relevant questions surfaces at once.  I understand Professor Alexander’s genuine economic concerns for his son and daughter-in-law.

Professor Alexander is right, where budgeting is concerned. Yet, his impassioned plea for fiscal prudence has ripped a hole in my heart.

What happened to enjoying each other’s company over a shared, potluck dinner at a person’s home? Must we relinquish cherished friendships when we can no longer afford the same recreational adventures?

Hanging back from the general conversation, I recall my grandmother’s stories about how she and my grandfather made things work while going through the Depression as a young couple–by taking turns with other young couples on the issue of hosting dinners and taking turns with covering fuel or travel expenses.  What these stories from my grandmother taught me is that where the heart is concerned, there are always solutions.

Discovering the Heart

On an exhaling breath, release all of that which is not of your true essence.  Then, on an inhaling breath, draw fresh sunlight into the core of your being.

Spirituality

On the next exhaling breath, match your exhale to a count of seven, purging your body of that which is not of your Light. And, on the next inhale, count to seven, filling your body with pure, warm sunlight.

As you slowly work your way through your body, until you are completely luminescent, observe the various emotions, memories and thoughts that filter through. Nod to them. Notice them. Allow them to pass through or rest in your awareness until they are ready to be released.

As you work, you may notice that your established sense of time is giving way to your heart’s sense of time and pacing. Allow the heart to move into this new sense of time and pacing. Continue filling, mending, opening and basking in the warmth of the light you have drawn into your body, while observing the even cadence and rhythm of your breathing.

Peace to you.

Spirituality: Furnishing the Heart

Standing in line at the post office,  I hear two gentlemen behind me talking about current events.  One man observes in summation, “When a person’s heart is full of that much hate, there’s no room for love in it.”  Picking up the thread of their conversation, I begin to consider with what emotions I have furnished my own heart.

Spirituality

On most days and in most moments, when I remain centered and am flying solo, my heart is furnished with gratitude for the trust extended to me in my contemplative life.  I am often guided to offer up internal words of kindness for people who cross my path during my daily errands.  It is in these moments that my heart feels the most spacious and light, bearing an almost Japanese aesthetic to it’s furnishings, where the focus is on functional minimalism, simple beauty, respect, honor and the quality of light coming through shoji screens.

Still, there are times when I break the cord of my sacred connection by becoming preoccupied with a past experience or some unpleasant, current scenario that bumps me right up against an old piece of emotional or conceptual furniture.  This is when I scrape my knuckles or stub a toe.

Yet, while wishing to lug that ancient, giant chifforobe out of my heart, I find the furniture piece so unwieldy that it is virtually impossible to move it, let alone remove or jettison it, on my own.  And, if we we are genuinely interested in refurnishing the heart so that Love might abide, this process requires single-pointed focus, tremendous effort, unbelievable tenacity, and, possibly, a non-attached witness to our current working narrative, as well as assistance from Grace.

Antiquated furniture is moved out of the heart through a combination of will and Grace.  The moving process is taxing, emotionally messy and–if we have compromised our own integrity through inappropriate actions–grimy.  We often see changes in relationships, locations and circumstances, once the old bedroom set left by our second-to-the-last boyfriend has been properly packed up and released.

So, be tender and patient with yourself as you refurnish your heart with Love.  As with almost everything, it is a process. Open the door of dialogue between your searching child and your wisdom keeper, the Self.  Surrender to that which the true hand of Grace will provide.

Spiritual Intimacy

So much is made of intimacy in the West.  We fantasize and romanticize about finding the “one” who will understand us, help lift us up when we are down and hold us physically as we explore what it means to be embodied.

Spirituality

But, the real, rarified intimacy we so crave only comes about when we learn how to hold ourselves.  We must come to know how to hold the cares of our heart with tenderness, to attend to our physical needs with the same fastidiousness of a consistently loving grandparent and become capable of talking ourselves up (or down) in stressful situations.

When was the last time you made yourself a full breakfast to enjoy in bed on a weekend morning?  Drew yourself an extra hot bath?  Or, simply sat through and listened to a full album of music with no other distractions tugging on your mind?

Pursue the workings of your sacred heart with the same passionate ardor you would apply to a new relationship. You just might find yourself falling in love.

Grace

Grace is something flowing in and around us at all times. Grace, if it could be solidified, is that nugget of wisdom helping us affirm our own lives, as well as the lives of others–when we listen and allow.

Spirituality

Grace is natural generosity, mercy and compassion.  Grace removes the harsh strictures from our hearts when we will to forgive and choose to move forward in the face of our own or another’s non-life-affirming behavior.

Listening and allowing, initially, take consistent practice, committed intention and attentive effort.  Quite often, we must participate in our own behavioral “retooling” to learn the way of Grace.  And, yet, the path need not be difficult. Let go.

Love will begin to fill the spaces of your days with Light