Heart of the Universe

Oh Heart,

Can you take me there?

To the still; to the quiet.

To the place that speaks the silence.

To the soul that reaches for strength.

Through the wisps and whispers of the leaves.

Oh Heart,

Can you take me there?

To the edge of the forest.

With the valley languidly in view.

Through the tall stalks of bamboo.

To the center of my heart.

Oh Heart,

Return me to you.

Through the softening and the ease

Through the rocks and hills and soil.

To the place that knows me best.

To the Heart of the Universe.

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Being of Service

The world is full of possibilities to be “of service”.  Just open up the newspaper or your newsfeed and one story after another will make you want to open up your heart…….and your checkbook.  During this very difficult period that we, as a collective society are traversing, I have spent a lot of time wandering around the creases and folds of my being, searching for answers.  More succinctly, searching for “my” answers.  In attempting to answer those questions, I have come up with the following conclusion…….it’s different for everyone. So, with that in mind, I am listing a few thoughts that might help someone else find out best where there answer might reside.

Flattery could get you nowhere. Being approached for a “service” opportunity does not necessarily mean it will be appreciated.  Check in with your “heart of hearts” and see if the opportunity speaks directly to you.  If it does, go for it!  Don’t let anything get in your way of helping, assisting and generally getting your hands dirty.  It’s good for the soul, your own sense of self respect and someone else’s mission.  However, if the opportunity doesn’t resonate deep within you, gently decline and walk away.  I can assure you there will be more requests where that came from.

Hitching a ride on the “Guilt Train.”  If you have a sneaky feeling that someone is attempting to guilt you into doing something for the “greater good”, they probably are.  Don’t make any sudden movements.  Breathe deep, realize what is happening and find an opportunity to give that doesn’t involve making yourself feel bad to make someone else feel better.

Servitude is NOT being of Service.  Getting a little distance from a situation, even if it’s been a mess and blown up in your face as well as all over your clothes, will give you the insight that you just may have been used.  And it’s ok.  Any loving, giving, kind hearted person has been there.  Some situations hurt more than others – usually because we were unable or unwilling to see the wolf in sheeps clothing.  The take away from these types of situations is this – at least you did something.  Yes, it didn’t turn out the way you wanted but it turned out the way YOU needed it to.  We are given the lesson until we learn the lesson.

If you have to make yourself smaller in order to give – it ain’t giving. The feeling that the situation or person that you’re giving to is just so much more important than you are is mostly a smoke screen.  There ARE important venues and values that are very worthy of your efforts – but they shouldn’t be making you to feel small.  Healthy giving opportunities raise everyone up, not just the recipient.  If you are feeling like a “minion”, yeah you guessed it, you’re probably being perceived as one.

“Give, but give until it hurts.”  Mother Teresa.  Giving, even in the most purely authentic ways, can damage the giver.  It is wise for each one of us to check-in with ourselves, getting very quiet, and realize what are limits are.  You may need to take a break from being a “giver.” And it’s ok.  That break may last years.  And it’s ok.  I can assure you, there will be many opportunities to give of yourself. Time and time again.  The act of giving is best served in Joy – not in obligation.

Include yourself.  There may be long stretches of time that giving to others is just not an option.  We all have a right and a responsibility to handle our own lives.  Sometimes, that means a period of self reflection is warranted before any additional “outflow” can occur.  If the well dries up, the possibility of water doesn’t exist.  Fill-up your own soul, whatever non-malicious way that means for you, before you go trying to fill someone else’s heart. Giving while in a state of resentment, lack or anything less than whole heartedness isn’t just unwise, it’s a crime against oneself. Perhaps you may want to look at it this way; if you take the time to truly give to yourself, you are not the only recipient of your graciousness.  Everyone you touch, talk with, work for or love will be the beneficiary of that grace.  You will not be able to contain it.  It will seep out of your pores and encompass those that you hold most dear.

And then, you will be ready to give again.

 

 

Ode to Joy

For each person in our lives, there seems to be an emotional “meter”. A certain amount of emotion that we can expend for one another. When we feel tapped out or drained, usually it’s due to over giving, while not holding enough in the container to feed and support ourselves.

I have this vision that each emotion is a tiny little seedling. With the exchange of support between two people, the sprout grows; tended and cultivated it can result into a blessing of a harvest, the basket always full, always multiplying . A solo dance with the life giving force headed in only one direction creates depletion and the meter runs low. At some point, that blessed tank hits empty. Good luck attempting to manufacture anymore. The seedling dries up, curling into itself and gently blowing away like the last puffs of smoke from a busted muffler. Unless balance is restored, the relationship is doomed to end up in the trash bin of misery and discontent. The capacity for love, understanding, acknowledgment, compassion and kindness are seeds of fortune just as stark in contrast to the seeds of discontent, judgment, violence, hatred and greed.

An Native American elder explained to his grandson that we all have a dark wolf and a light wolf living within us. When the grandson asked which will one will win the battle, the Grandfather replied, “the one you feed.” So it is with our emotional and spiritual lives. We will always be challenged by others as well as our dark side; to be less than we are, to fall into judgment, to take more than we give. To be conscious of our ways marks the delineation point between our reactionary dark side and the light of awareness. Whether are thoughts and actions are from being fully awake or sleepwalking, we are making a choice with every touch, every turn, every word, every deed.

Allowing others to find freedom, even if it means we lose them; allowing yourself to find joy in your everyday life is no small feat. Yes, it’s scary…….but the lighter your touch, the more gentle your grip on the steering wheel, the more freedom we give ourselves to just breathe, the more room there will be for Joy ❤️

The Blessed Dirt of Santuario de Chimayo

There are places on the face of this sweet, troubled planet, that I never thought I would visit. Being raised by a fairly pissed off, excommunicated, Italian Catholic Mother, the church and all of its offerings never really appealed to me. I learned as a young teenager the cause for my Mothers hostility and bitterness and, I must admit, I agreed with her.

When my Mother was at her most vulnerable, laid out on the floor by the discovery of her husbands adulterous affair with her best friend and subsequent divorce, the church turned its back on her. She was sent packing – the compassion and inclusivity of that which the church preached was sorely lacking when my Mother reached out to it for comfort. It has taken me many, many years to forgive the church for that. In some ways, I am a more compassionate person due to watching her struggle with the isolation and rejection she endured. Compassion resulting from emotional cruelty – strange bedfellows indeed.

When I was presented with the opportunity to visit Santuario de Chimayo, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to go. Would my self righteous indignation for the way my Mother was treated flare up? Could I see my way through the enormous contrasts and contradictions within my own heart? I will tell you now that I couldn’t visit the entire site. However, I did visit the vestibule of the church which housed the blessed dirt room where people with all sorts of maladies, whether physical, emotional or spiritual embark on a pilgrimage to touch the sandy earth; holding, rubbing, praying, crying, hoping and finding peace within the walls of that sacred space.

While I was waiting on a bench just outside for my turn to touch the place that had brought so many healings, I witnessed a man and a woman – she was standing barefoot in the dirt and he had bent down on all fours, laying his hands on the earth so that she could lean on him. They stayed that way for quite some time. The intimate nature of the scene was incredibly poignant and I closed my eyes to give them privacy while turning my thoughts inward. I reflected on the support I have received from so many beautiful souls, just as she was receiving that sweetness from her husband.

Walking out, they sat back on the benches and closed their eyes to rest and reflect. A calling to touch this woman was undeniable. I resisted, thinking that I would be intruding into the sacredness of her experience; I resisted, not wanting to feel foolish; I resisted not knowing if it was my place. Through all of those doubts, I walked across the narrow room and kneeled before her. As she opened her eyes and saw me there, I gently placed both of her feet in my hands and began to gently massage them. To be of service, to stand in the light, that was all that was needed.

When I finished, she reached out to me and we embraced – both crying, both holding each other tightly for quite some time. In this moment, this very tender moment, I was able to let go of any lasting bitterness or resentment that I once carried for this way of loving God.

We all have a path to walk. Every single one of them is inordinately opulent, dark, troubled, joyful and as individual as we are. Only we can know which path will bring us into the light. The road to Mecca begins with a single step.

How Do I say Thank You?

Today was my final day at Ghost Ranch.  It was filled with a trip to watch the magnificent dancers of San Ildefonso Pueblo perform for their annual Feast Day.  Although it was cold and windy, the sun was shining and it was a brilliant day to watch this powerful tradition.

At one point, there were two large groups performing different dances in the plaza at the same time. Just for a moment, I was uncertain what I should do. How could I choose which dance to watch? As I stood there quietly the answer came to me……. stand between them, close my eyes and just listen.  As I did so, I began to absorb the power of the drums and the voices of the warriors as each dance progressed; each one feeding on the beauty of the other.  Every dancer and drummer mingling with the wind and sun, raising the vibration from the earth to the sky.  I could visualize the drums as the heartbeat of the land and the voices of the warriors as prayers to the heavens in gratitude for the abundance of the tribe.  The sounds reverberated throughout my entire being and I felt myself lift with the power of the moment.  I knew then, exactly the reason for my trip. To give Thanks.  

To give thanks to the people that I love and love me in return, to the clay that I cherish and for the lessons I have learned.  All of this has made me who I am in this very moment.  

Whenever I am feeling drained or powerless, whenever I am uncertain of the road ahead, I will remember this moment in my life.  I will call upon the power of gratitude and thankfulness of my time spent in this wonderful place and know that all is well.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you❤

More……and Less

If you have read any of my posts since I have been staying at Ghost Ranch these past two and a half weeks, you will quickly realize that my trip was not just about studying a new way to create within my medium of clay.  I had many things back logged in the “I’ll think about that later” file.  

The act of daily living can take up a lot of time.  Moments of slowing down, breathing and introspection can easily be cast aside when there is internal resistance. I am a self admitted “Do-aholic”.  Having a big giant to do list is a perfect excuse to avoid the big questions. However, while being away from my routine, I have been made more vulnerable to my need for clarity.  

Today, I realized that I have been giving myself away to other peoples problems, causes and emotions. My intention has always been to be of service to others.  Believe me, I find great joy in this; however, in doing too much of this, I have sacrificed my creative abilities and have struggled with my own evolution as a person and as an artist.  This act of self disregard is not a good move if you want your Muse to stick around.

It is my sole responsibility how much of me I give away – no one else has to carry the burden of this little nugget.  Now – here’s the other, more wonderful part…….I get to choose who, what, when, how much and for how long.  You see, we are all in the drivers seat when it comes to our gifts.  It’s ok to keep some for ourselves – it truly is.  When we keep a little of our own goodness, just for us, it actually creates more goodness to go around!  

I also realized that in working through my grief of yesterdays pieces lost to the fire, I failed to honor and give love to those that did.  Below is a photo of one of my favorites.  The mica, the heat and the smoke made her shine like the night sky 🙂
  

Walking toward Stillness

There have been many “firsts” on this trip to Ghost Ranch.  Hand building my first functional mug (the handle looks like it was made by a five year old and it makes me laugh), my first tribal dance, my first view of the beauty that is New Mexico.

Today, I walked a Labyrinth for the first time.   I sat in silence for a few moments before I began and simply asked for clarity and wisdom.  It’s not so much that I am searching for answers, it’s that I am looking more for the appropriate questions to ask.  In my daily living, I tend to get distracted with searching for answers to other peoples problems, thinking that if I could help them, I could somehow help myself.  There are definitely times that that holds true…..and other times, when it is not only a disservice to them but to myself as well.

I walked slowly, mindfully, stopping frequently to look up and around me.  I breathed deeply into the present and thought of nothing else other than the next step.  When I reached the center, I sat for awhile.  As I was gazing up toward the mountains, the moon was rising clearly in the late afternoon sky.  A bird was flying effortlessly in the distance and as I was watching this majestic creature, I realized that what I was really in need of was stillness and space.  Stillness and space  to breathe, stillness in which to create more space and space to create more beauty. 

I think I will be walking this Labyrinth again……..