Category Archives: Journey

The Threshold

from Osho Zen Tarot deck

 I remembered the card differently. I had seen it so often long ago when desperate for direction I would search the deck to find my way. Recently I bought the Zen Tarot deck again, not so much for the wishing as for the beautiful symbolism in the cards.

In my mind I saw a child standing at an open door ready to take a step out of the confines of his life. Imagine my surprise in finding the gate padlocked in this card I had seen so many times! It wasn’t a card to signify moving forward but a card signifying the feeling of being trapped, locked out of a life he couldn’t reach. It was the nightmare of those years as I grieved my “failure” to be able to find the way to succeed in the marriage that had ended. The years of trying had all but erased the person I once was, still colouring outside the lines but recognized as having worth in circles of friendship, in my studies, and in my workplace. The torn pieces of hope were roughly bound together in a crooked effigy of living.

Such a contrast between that time of breaking a decade and a half ago and the breaking I have been passing through in the past months! This also began with grief as the words of another with power to do so walled me out of my passionate dream celebrated in the past years, lived in the present and anticipated for the future until retirement.

But each breaking had done its work of cleaning more of the uneven growth that had effected my ability to walk with steadiness through the stormy moments of life. Over a decade has passed since the day a short film allowed me to give myself permission to not be able to communicate with someone who chose not to communicate with me. I began to accept what I would later read in a book by Parker Palmer. My life was speaking who I was meant to be. What I counted as my successes and my failures illuminated the reality of who I was within. Decades of trying began to be unwound as I spoke the “No” in my spirit that was the beginning of a renewed, more vibrant “Yes” to life.

Though each break was a labyrinth in itself, my life has been a labyrinth of searching for that way out of the confines created by my anxious desire to please and the inability to feel good enough for the ones who held power in my life. The card showed me something I had not realized. That short film had been the centre, the revelation which would begin my return journey.

This moment I had interpreted as the beginning of the labyrinth return journey was something more. I had been on a spiralling movement for years, getting caught in the circling yet ever moving outward to a more expansive life. This moment is not a beginning of the return but a wider circle in the spiral drawing me to a place where I could see the threshold, the exit into a fuller living. 

Only, this time, the chains that held the gate shut are missing and the gate has swung open inviting me to take those final steps.

photograph by L.J.A.

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Pentimento

pentimento (pĕnˌtəmĕnˈtō) [key], painter’s term for the evidence in a work that the original composition has been changed. 

Despite my good intentions, there was no beauty in the outer lines. The peace I so longed to paint upon the canvas held the jarring discord of the reality. I did not know how to bring peace within the relationship this mandala represented. I did not feel direction in how to breech that barrier. Imposed hope, unwanted judgments clashed as colours and line created dissonance. Only the centre held promise.

How the urge to flight, to run away from what I couldn’t seem to fix held me! Throw the canvas away! Repaint the background to obscure the creative mess! What good are intentions if the product is flawed?

I was stopped by the centre, the seed and ground of my own heart. Green radiating from the spiral spoke to me. 

I raised my paint brush and began to recolour some lines. As I did, it struck me. This mandala was walking me through the inner labyrinth. This time on the journey was the walk toward the centre, that time of Release, the emptying to make room for the changed. The past could not be undone but colours and lines could be revisioned by letting go of what needed change.

I chose the colours that were darker for the heaviness of their pigments. Spiralling upward as layers obscured the colours and line below. I prepared for what will come by letting go.

It is not finished. Releasing is a spiralling process in time. It will come as I take the steps I can see. Each will draw me to that place of Revelation which will lead me to Return to the place of serving more deeply again. It will not be what was. It will have a new beauty.

I look at the mandala and see raised shadows as the only evidence of what had once been.

Only the centre remains.

 

**Credit to Heather Plett for teaching me the stages of a labyrinth

**Credit to Info Please for the wording in the definition of pentimento.

Dear Once Upon a Time

finding homeDear Once Upon A Time,

You believed the fairytales of a woman’s ability to be like a god changing the attitudes of another, bringing to life your fairytale perfect home. You believed that you could change enough, be enough to satisfy the desires of those who were the forces of power in the world you had been taught to believe. For you, the Stepford Wife existence would have been a mercy. You would not have had to deal with me.

When among the hoped for fairytales, the nightmare took root you fought with virtual tooth and claw to keep me trapped within the prescriptions of your schedules and I tried to comply, tried to find the line between your ridged expectations and the fluidity of my visions of a world of creative possibility waiting to be explored. It was never enough. He had called me frivolous, an escape. And you did not have the talent set that would have made it all better, that would have finally brought the acceptance you so longed for. The anger and despair in you built, an anger you could not accept. You broke when finally you came to realize things would not change.

Someone saw me in you then. She called me an eagle locked in a cage. Her vision gave you hope that perhaps I was not a chain that held you down but wings waiting inside and tentatively you began to seek me again.

For many more years you would struggle to find a way for both of us to be accepted without breaking the code they  had set you in throughout your life. It was an uneasy alliance for your world had become one that had little room for me. As before, when despair robbed you of the energy to hold me down you let me emerge to write words of hope that you could read or to record a memory you would someday need. In those years, you let me create at times as well, practical crafts, nothing too frivolous.

You even tried to kill me when you realized my presence would never allow your world to have the stability of acceptance in a fairytale romance you had fought for so long. It was easier to blame and discard me then to face your humanness which kept you from being a god with power to effect the choices of another.

Ironically, when you finally accepted the reality of your life and began to heal in the aloneness of distance, you still could not accept my presence in your life. You still blamed me for being. They called it anxiety and depression. I knew that it was your raging grief at not being god enough to meet the expectations of the world of thought you had been raised in. The day you finally came face to face with your freedom not to be responsible for the choices of another, you began to heal.

I had learned to wait, that even within myself I could not impose a vision on the part of me still in the pain of disillusioned dreams. It would be years before I would meet the images of the hurt woman in a way that you could begin to see the painfulness of a life without me. Our uneasy alliance would find more compatibility in our house of disappointing or distant relationships.

You still held a separate face within the mirror. My face aged yet yours remained trapped in the age your dreams stood still. Mine was a face you did not recognize as the lines slowly changed from the rigid prison of your lost dreams. There was an uncomfortableness when you looked in the mirror. You could not accept seeing me so clearly etched into the surface of your life.

A few days ago I looked in the mirror and only saw this face. The specter of your trapped image was gone. It has not returned. I can not feel you anymore. I can feel the legacy you left of finding order to build my life within, but your anxiety and discomfort are gone. There is a quietness within of just being.

Like other trapped pieces met through the years of healing you have faded into memory. I only hope you found that  inner island of healing that was hidden from us years ago when time came to put so much of the past to rest. I hope you are finally happy there feeling the acceptance you IMG_3118longed for.

But I go on, inwardly whole and healthy, living fully in this life that was always mine to live. I can only hope I am wiser now and aware enough to see the changes in direction that are needed when anxiety sends signals of danger ahead.

I have learned from you. Thank you for all you added in my life in the years you did not recognize your worth.

Peace to you,

Myself

 

 

It feels like home

I didn’t know what to expect. After having only lived here two weeks while finishing the school year and unpacking boxes, I left for a trip. For 19 days I would travel to Northern Manitoba, across country to Edmonton Alberta, fly to Victoria, B.C., ferry across to Vancouver, fly back to Edmonton and drive back to northern Manitoba where I would collect my car and come back home.

Leaving my vacation behind I felt unsettled driving back to my city. How would it feel coming back to this place that hasn’t yet developed the familiar lines of my space/?

I found myself worrying about what bills might have come in while I was away. Would I have late fees to start my time in my new place? Would the incessant rains that have fallen while I was away flooding areas just west of my city have caused any havoc in the basement? Worries tried to whirl in my brain until I reminded myself of mindfulness and the reality that all I would find when I got back wouldn’t be anything I could deal with until I got back.

For the time being, the sun was shining but it wasn’t so hot that I was roasting in my non-air conditioned car. Yes, I had to roll up the windows when I would slow neat the side of the road. The dark shadowy “bull dogs” swirled around my car like a tornado of hunger. I had heard they bite and I didn’t want first hand experience with that.

Then there was the construction that slowed down my return. All well in good. The drive gave me time to transition forward. Leaving my friend behind in his home up north and not having that surety of familiarity when I got here made it easy to take it slow.

I needn’t have worried. My hyper vigilance had left a credit in one bill for my apartment that was transferred forward to my new address. The other  ended up being due today so with a quick strike of a pen I was up-to-date. Things were in place ready to move forward when I got here.

It’s quiet though. The sound of the vehicles rushing by is my city stream. I don’t really hear it as more than the sound of life around me. There are no other voices to listen for, no conversations in this space. The silence pillows my mind in peace.

Yes, I loved the time with others in the past weeks. I look forward to the busyness of my volunteer shifts at the local Fringe Festival in the coming weeks. I hope not long will pass before I see my children and grandchildren again and for visits with friends to fill the days ahead. I look forward to Dave coming for a few days. His room stands ready.

But for these moments, my body sinks back in my chair while my fingers dance their familiar steps on the keyboard. I have yet to sort out all the corners of the town house that now holds my possessions and my hopes of what I  can make of it. That is okay. I have many tomorrows to figure that all out.

For now, it is a time for resting and reflecting. It is easy here. It feels like home.

Okay, so I didn’t do so well

DSC03670cToday the cleaner I hired worked in my one bedroom apartment pulling out appliances, cleaning walls and carpets, all the things I am limited in my knowledge or physical strength in how to do. I am surprised how much less apologetic I am then I would have been in the past about such things. I think my ability to handle letting someone into the corners I missed comes from the timing of this move.

In January I began seeing someone again to deal with some of the last residual dregs left behind by those dark spaces in my life. Cleaning out the corners of my psyche, I have room to accept the need to clean out the corners of my physical space.

This move is a chance to begin again with more understanding and awareness then I had at the time of my last move. It is a challenge though, too. Starting fresh, in any form, is a new chance to make decisions about where you will go from here.

This is where I am glad I have learned about mindful living in the past years. I get to begin in this moment I am in. I am able to acknowledge that this is where my life has brought me. This is who I am. I have the power to grow from this now because I accept this self as my identity in this moment.

There is something that feels strong in accepting yourself right at the place you are. The feelings of stress that come by striving to be something else aren’t there to take energy away from living what is. Within each moment there is a recognition that choices matter. I am not longer waiting for something out there to start me living. I get to choose to live right where I am.

DSC03672cI am thankful that I began finding this out before my home changed to something more spacious (to me) and more freeing. If this inner freeing is tied to things or others than if they are lost, it can be lost. By learning to center myself no matter what, I give myself freedom to live no matter what is gained or lost in my life.

I have not arrived in some place of peaceful bliss. I still have fears. I still have my “if only” lists that play through my mind. Yes, I would have like to have not felt a bit of humiliation of having someone come to clean the places I didn’t know how to reach into in a space too small to move large things. These are all a part of this me where I am right now. By not trying to pretend those things aren’t there, I free energy to move forward.

Yes, I think I am going to like this new stage in my life.

 

A place to begin

 

DSC04782Not every story

has a telling

Some lay fallow

on the heart room floor

Left to grow

in quiet contemplation

Seeking answers

yet unknown I

Gently loosen soil

Giving room

for roots and stems

DSC02292

Secrets. Those special memories that can’t be shared. We often seek to bind others to the secrets in our lives even those that are better told out loud. We need to let them loose and so they fly to other hearts to lodge there within the garden there. And yet, we don’t release the other to do the same. We bind them to the holding of the seed even if it might be an invasive plant in their garden.

We often choose to do this out of hope for some lessening of the pain and terror of our own vulnerability should the other share the tale where it shouldn’t be heard. We seek to trust the load that is too heavy for us to carry alone will be able to be shared. If there is a mutuality, and ability to transplant secrets to balance the listeners heart, then the new seed can be given the space needed.

DSC01533Too often I am remiss at listening to what is within the other to see if they can handle my seeds. Is it something that can find beauty within their garden, something they can clear out if necessary or is it a tenacious weed that can take over what is already growing there?

Unless I want to slam the door of this blog, there are stories that I cannot share without violating the sacred trust of others. They are stories that must be shared with care if shared at all. It is so easy to sensationalize the pain of another, or to project our own responses on them. If I can find my way into writing fiction, perhaps there will be a place for that. That place isn’t here and it isn’t now.

Yet I need to choose. There are too many secrets inside me. What ritual of letting go will allow me to release those that need to be cleaned out so that I can hold the ones I still need to hold for my own peace and empathetic relationship with significant others in my life. How do I write the things I have learned from the stories while living respectfully with others who are a part of the story? These are the questions I still need to answer before I am ready to move beyond this P1050380blog.

For now, I am thankful for this space to begin to share in and those who take the time to interact with me on my words. Perhaps my mindful gift is right here today – this place which gives me a place to share with others and those who have chosen to let me be a part of their journey by reading.

A – Abstraction

ab·strac·tion
noun
1. an abstract or general idea or term.
2. the act of considering something as a general quality or characteristic, apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances.
3. an impractical idea; something visionary and unrealistic.
4. the act of taking away or separating; withdrawal: The sensation of cold is due to the abstraction of heat from our bodies.
5. secret removal, especially theft.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/abstraction

9781408319468It is the new societal norm as old as history – take away the characteristics, the feeling states, the experiences that don’t resonate with the guidelines in any given society and you can arrive at the abstraction of what it means to be an acceptable member of that society. Slated, By Teri Terry, is a book for youth that takes that concept to its cutting edge.

It is a society where the ability to alter the personality of an individual has reached its highest level passing an edge of ethical practice. Those younger than 16 that are deemed as deviants in society are “slated”, thoughts and memories within the upper cortexes of her brain have been, supposedly, wiped clean. For a number of weeks and months they are held in the hospital where they are retrained from infancy up. They progress at a rate faster than in the early years but often are still far below their peers in skills and knowledge when reintroduced to society. Given a monitoring system to help them stay in accepted parameters of emotions these young people are permanently marked as different even as they are being trained to fit a norm.

The story is viewed through the experiences of Kyla. With no real experiential memories, she has been re-nurtured to an age where she can now be adopted into her new family – a mother, a father, and another sister, clearly not their natural offspring. A microchip in her brain wired a bracelet on her arm helps record and alert her to levels of stimulus outside of the accepted parameters. If her levels of sadness or anger cause the number to drop too low she is expected to first go unconscious and even reach a point of death. Part of the training she receives is methods to stabilize her “happiness” level into the acceptable parameters. The changes in this status are recorded in the chip to help others monitor her adjustments to society.

It is soon shown that Kyla is different from most of the slated. An artist, she finds her motor memory in one hand is inconsistent to what she has been told is true about herself. She also finds inconsistencies in her emotions and the reading on her Levo. Within the novel we walk with her as she faces these new questions. We are drawn in to a relationship with a three dimensional character. We are caused to care for her and yet question the past that could have brought her to this state. We are led to question the morals of the society which has the power to subjugate difference into non-existence.

As I read this story I could not help but compare the society to some of the favored inspirational quotes in the social media. Are there ways that we, as a society, are already adopting some of those beliefs that label and ostracize those who don’t fit our social norms? Are we perpetuating conditions that drive those whose level of pain is outside of our accepted levels into hiding by shaming them simply through a regurgitation of clichés about what it means to be positive people? Do we drive those whose stories might help others underground by distancing ourselves from their “negativity” if they dare to question those systems that we treat as sacred icons of rightness?

I see the posts and stories where people ask the why after a tragedy comes to light. What would happen if we dared open up those places of our own brokenness not as topics in books but as parts of real conversations as real people? Is there a chance we might alleviate one more tragedy by helping one more person feel less alone?

Yes, there are those who have been taught to be dependent, and so drain those who try to be present for them. I know that siren’s call. I am a person who struggles and the reality is, I find that being willing to seek help for myself but having struggles is not a popular position to take. By choosing not to be dependent, I choose to not be of interest to those who get their validation by reaching down to the needy. However, by choosing to be open about the reality of my struggle to heal, I also close myself off from those who have the positive people view of relationships.

Like Kyla, I find myself searching faces and conversations for those who will simply walk alongside me in this journey as we encourage each other to find wholeness. Like Kyla, something inside me is not willing to just fade into external expectations. At the end of the book, I find myself willing to journey further with her.

*Terry, Teri; Slated; Scholastic Inc.; 2012