Sunday, April 27, 2014

April Moon 14: Day 9-10-11 -- Yearning, Secret, Reflection


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Memories, memories....while I really can't say I yearn for the 'good ol' days' that were, indeed, not usually all that good, there are some things I miss. My parents, for one -- being able to pick up the phone and call them, hear their voices, or visit and feel those loving arms around me. There were times, often at holidays, when being with those I loved so dearly was almost unbearably poignant, even when the very next moment could bring a melt-down or create an uncomfortable tension. There was a lot of stress, though, usually in things not being said, and I do not miss that at all. 

I could say I yearn for simpler times, but really, my life right now is pretty simple, and really good -- with the exception of some pesky health issues that cause some stress and worry.

Sometimes I yearn for the ocean, and then we usually take a trip to rejuvenate our watery Scorpio selves, but that's going to have to wait for a little bit until we get some of this health stuff resolved. I love the sound, the smell, the constancy of the waves, the way I know exactly where I am.

When I feel yearning for something, I try to analyze what is triggering the longing: is it remembering times now gone? Is it a need unfulfilled in my life, and if so, what is that need, and what can I do about it? Is it just frustration with the way the day is going? Then I take a deep breath, and remember all the wonderful things I have to be grateful for, and bless the memory or the feeling.


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

I am not a big keeper of secrets. If anything, I am probably a bit too open about my life and feelings, and that's certainly come back to bite me in the past. However, I certainly can keep them tightly locked up, and there are a couple that I've held very close. When something is told to me in confidence, I will honor that -- actually, I've sometimes learned about a 'secret' someone shared with me that turned out to be fairly common knowledge but that never passed my lips!

I don't much like secrets. I think they hamper honest communication and create barriers. I don't even much like secrets like surprise parties, but that's primarily because I hate being blindsided. And I hate being lied to, especially when I can tell that a person is not being forthcoming. I would rather know the truth, no matter how awful, than hear any lie.


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you? 

Reflection is sort of like Monday-morning quarterbacking: you think about something that happened or that  you said, and then you think about all the OTHER ways the scene could have played out, or all the (better) things you might have said or done.

While I think there are real truths and lessons to be found in reflecting upon actions and words -- re-examining them from different angles and perspectives, especially with some time gone by -- there is a danger in doing too much of that and in the process diluting the lesson, even to the point of unhealthy obsession.

I confess to doing too much reflection, especially when I have time to ponder, and it usually leads to judgmental thinking, mostly negative. Somehow I usually come up with the shoulda-coulda-wouldas that could have changed an outcome, and often I am critical of my own behavior.

So the key is to find the lesson therein; be gentle with myself and then to let it go, not coming back over and over like a dog with a big, gnarly bone. Reflection is good; obsession is not.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April Moon 14: Day 8 -- Wild


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

'Not me' is what this word says to me. That'd be in the context of something unrestrained, uncontrolled. Even though I had times when I was definitely out of control, I was still IN control, pretty much, actually. I am a people pleaser, alas, and usually tried to do what was expected of me or what I thought someone wanted me to do. Even during those years when I was making poor choices in some areas, I worked very hard to make up for it in others -- and of course that didn't work well, but I didn't really get it at the time.

What I remember is the stress of trying to hide the poor choices by working very hard at other things, and feeling guilty much of the time, which of course led to more poor choices.

That was a very long time ago. I didn't let go of the stress of people pleasing for a long time, though, even after I cleaned up my act. When I finally began to understand who I really was and accepted that, everything changed for me. 'Wild' is still not really who I am, but I have learned how to relax into myself and be happy.

I live on 11 acres of mostly wild: my landscaping is 'natural,' meaning that there is no grassy manicured lawn, no flower beds, no intentional plantings. I have blue oak trees and natural grasses and wildflowers sometimes, and the deer come practically to my back door. The bird feeders attract hundreds of brilliantly yellow goldfinches and red house finches and opalescent mourning doves and fiery-throated hummingbirds -- all wild, and we sit at our table and listen to the squawks and chirps and whistles as we watch them vie for seed and nectar. We hear coyotes in the evening, not far away. Raccoons and skunks and possums will visit the front porch to raid the cat food if we don't bring it inside quickly enough at dusk. Big jackrabbits hop across the meadows and sometimes we have a flock of wild turkeys lurching their way through. We hear the hunting cry of hawks every day, and the turkey vultures soar with the air currents across the trees, casting big winged shadows on the ground.

That's the kind of wild I love. We get to watch from the safety of our house, get to walk over the property and sit outside  and observe what goes on, feeling the energy of the life around us.

I'm content to be 'in' the wild but not 'of' the wild, to be who I am.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April Moon 14: Day 5-7 -- Focus, Nuance, Texture


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Like many women, I tend to have several conversation threads running at the same time in my brain: "I can use these leftovers and create _____ for supper," "Let's see, no appointments today, yay, so let's file those long overdue papers," "Need to make time for the latest Oprah-Deepok meditation," "Oops, still laundry to fold," "Wonder what the freebie Kindle is today," and you get the picture. All jumbled up at the same time, but following each one.

FOCUS  is when I follow only one thread at a time. The other conversations, to-do lists, and worries fade away. My attention is riveted only on one thing. Like in meditation: I am focused on my breath, in and out, and if necessary, use a mantra to help me focus only on that. (Sometimes it works for a brief time too! And then I bring my focus back to the breath. And again. And again.)

Sometimes it's called multi-tasking. Actually, it often results in things done poorly, incompletely, or dropping off the radar completely (until you're trying to go to sleep, that is, and then whoosh -- there it is).

Focus helps me do a better job of nearly anything I'm trying to do. It helps me pay attention to conversations with my friends and loved ones because I'm not thinking of what I'm going to say, I'm LiSTENING to what they are saying. It helps me appreciate what is around me every day -- my home, the beautiful countryside, the individuality of our kitties. When I focus, I see more, feel more, and it stimulates great gratitude for what is there.

Less multi-tasking. More focus. Yeah, you, there, in the sweatpants. One. Thing. At. A. Time. Listen. Open. Be Present, right here, right now.


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

OOOOhhh--Nuance is another step in FOCUS, actually, where you pay extra close attention and see a slightly different viewpoint, hear a slightly different tone, see a slightly different perspective, understand something in a slightly different way.

You must be very focused, really immersed in something, to capture the nuances. As you look and listen and examine and feel and see, focus expands not off the subject or thing or person, but wider, sort of like a macro lens on a camera, where you see subtle variations that enhance your perception and appreciation, and expanding your knowledge and understanding. It is the difference between strolling through an art gallery and studying one picture.

When I pay attention, I see nuances. Again, being where I am, present in the moment, will open me to subtleties of life and what I experience.


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you? 

Years and YEARS ago I wrote an essay for a high school English class on visiting a fabric store and discovering the texture of the different fabrics: corduroy, lace, damask, tulle, flannel, cotton, linen, silk, etc. Even now, I can recall the feeling of these different fabrics on my fingertips and how different each texture is, and even the emotions the texture evokes: the soft warmth and nubbiness of the flannel makes me think of cold winter nights and warm flannel sheets and jammies, for instance. The open, slightly stiff but airy weave of tulle says PARTY to me, even more specifically, WEDDING! 

Food texture also stimulates memory: the silky warmth of creamy tomato soup and a crunchy melty-smooth grilled cheese is pure comfort food and memory for many of us. I love the sogginess of graham crackers well-soaked in milk, a kind of slurry almost, that slid down sore throats easily and makes me remember that treat when I didn't feel so good and the comforting care my mother gave me when I was sick. Crisp, fresh lettuce straight from the garden, still slightly sun-warm, and drizzled with a good olive oil and a bite of fresh Meyer lemon makes my mouth pucker in anticipation.

Everything has texture. It gives our moments depth and creates memory. It makes our experiences richer and more meaningful. And again, it is all about paying attention, being in the moment, focusing on one thing at a time, finding the nuances in the experience.


April Moon 14: Day 4 -- Sacred


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Sacred has the definition of 'revered due to association with holiness. Holiness, or sanctity, is in general the state of being holy (perceived by religious individuals as associated with divinity) or sacred (considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspiring awe or reverence among believers).'

For me, I'm not so much influenced by the opinions or practices of'religious individuals as associated with divinity.' That's probably because once upon a time in another life I worked for the Great Church. I saw 'em up close and personal, warts and all, politics and abuses of office and so on. I loved and honored many who I knew. Our clergy are PEOPLE, folks, and they have faults and idiosyncracies and they make mistakes. Many have a genuine calling to serve; I'd venture to say most of them began with that, but there are some who lost that along the way.

So. What I'm told is 'sacred' by the Great Church or its servants is not necessarily what I'd label 'sacred.'

I find much of nature to be sacred: ah, my beloved Mama Ocean, who heals, who washes away the insignificant, whose constancy is ancient. The mountains, old wisdom and that constancy again (well, maybe not so much the volcanic ones, but even they move and breathe and do as they are supposed to do). Any animal or bird or bug -- the flowers, the grasses, the trees -- how DOES a tree know when to pop its leaves, and isn't it a miracle and SACRED that they do every year, every single spring? How does that hummingbird DO that hover thing? Wow.

Our bodies are sacred temples, mysterious in the infinite ways they are engineered to carry us through life, that we are all so alike and yet so, so different. Babies are sacred little beings when they are born, innocent and unknowing and wise and perfect.

The energy of all things is sacred. We are all connected through that energy, and to practice feeling it, tapping into the ancient and endless well of energy is to touch immortality, or as close as we could come to knowing it. Meditation is a powerful way to do that. Being outside and consciously raising our individual energy to blend with that of the energy of all things around us is sacred.

I have been in places that hold a tangible energy and history, but I'm not sure I'd label them 'sacred' -- awe-worthy, perhaps, knowing the stones and wood and surroundings hold the traces of an energy that once inhabited that place, even recently. Communal energy raised in gratitude and praise and love is very powerful, and I often feel that in places of worship. Is that sacred? Perhaps.

I guess what makes something sacred for me is the purity of purpose and energy that marks a place or words or actions or even that which resides in a person. It simply IS, without agenda, without ego, and it resonates on a deeply personal, interior level. I am always grateful when I experience flashes of the sacred, and awed by the power it encompasses.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April Moon 14, Day 3 -- Home


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Home is my safe place: the people I love and who love me back are there. There is the comfort of familiar things and routines and treasures. As I have gotten older, however, I realize that 'home' doesn't have to be a structure at all, that anytime I am with my beloved husband and kitties, I am home.

The house my parents owned from the year I was in fifth grade until 1998 when they sold it and most of the contents to move into a senior living apartment was home, and, I suppose, will always hold the place in my memory as my childhood home. I knew everything about it: which stairstep creaked when you stepped on it, where the memory boxes were stashed in the upstairs closets, how to close a door quietly so that my folks didn't hear me come in. My room had a tin windowsill outside the dormer, and I always heard the first raindrops. A huge lilac bush bloomed under another window in my room, and lilacs remain my favorite spring flower, evoking security, new growth, calm, and a sense of continuity: they bloomed every year.

As a young married woman, I created several homes in different cities, and made them cozy and welcoming and familiar, with little family treasures displayed on walls and shelves, made them feel safe for us. When I moved into my own little apartment in Pacifica, having left my home in Birmingham to create a new life, I arranged the treasures I'd brought with me to help me feel safe and familiar, and I established new routines for my new home.

When Tony and I moved in together, we mingled treasures and routines, but our safety and comfort was all bound up in each other far more than in that condo where we heard every footstep, every airplane landing at SFO, every siren. We lived there but our home was within our relationship more than within the structure.

And now, in a home we built 12 years ago and still love, we have both a safe, welcoming structure encompassing ourselves and our relationship and our lives. The very best place -- the sense of being truly home --- is at night in our bed, holding hands next to each other, our kitties settled in beside us. That sense travels with us in our little travel trailer too. Anywhere we are together has now become home: the physical parts are dear and familiar and warm, but it is who we are and that we love that has brought us to our home.

Friday, April 18, 2014

April Moon 14: Day 2 -- Juicy


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Ripe and ready is how I see juicy, and I can't help but think of it in a sexual context as well, remembering back when I was in my late 40s and into my 50s, finally FINALLY coming into who I really was. And loving it.

I was juicy: I was old enough to take charge, I was confident in who I was, I was NOT going to settle for the life I had been living for many years any more, and I was making changes, big ones, that moved me more than halfway across the country and into a completely new life. I was juicy and ready, and then EVERYTHING happened. It was the best time of my life so far, in every way: career, relationship, sex, life, happiness -- which doesn't mean there weren't times of sadness and hurt and fear too.

There are still times of juiciness and anticipation for something ready for harvest, ripe and ready for picking and exploring and creating and seeing things come full circle. Sometimes it is a project, sometimes an opportunity, sometimes just a feeling of fullness of life. By no means does that mean there is a corresponding dried-up-ness, however -- just a time to savor what is.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April Moon 14: Day 1 -- Courage

A new writing prompt series from Kat McNally, she of Reverb and August Moon and probably others that I am forgetting!

This one is for 14 days, sort of a check-in with oneself, and I am grateful for the reminders and for the timing.

Read more about it here. And play along. 

Today's prompt: Courage

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

So I'm slow actually getting started although I began this post on time and have been contemplating the concept for several days.

Courage is taking action because you simply cannot be where you are any longer, which is different from moving from one place to another because you physically cannot stay where you are. I believe courage can be both planned and spontaneous: either way, it requires coming to a place of non-acceptance within yourself for what your current circumstances are, and choosing to create or go to a different state of circumstances. Courage is always a bit scary, if not at the time, definitely in retrospect.

I'm not sure that makes sense even to me.

I know that it takes courage to walk into a classroom on your first day of school where you know no one. It takes courage to take off the training wheels on your bike or tell your dad to let go of the seat so you can pedal it all by yourself. It takes courage to read out loud a poem or a story created from your imagination to an audience. It takes courage to move to a new city and begin again, especially by yourself. It takes courage to ask a doctor for medical tests that you are terrified to do because you are terrified that they will show that your deepest fears are, in fact, accurate. (Yeah, I'm kind of there....)

I've done all these things and more. Courage has brought me tears, anxiety, opportunity, and great love. It excites me, scares me, challenges me, and sometimes eludes me, at least for a time. It is risk-taking at its deepest level: the interior risk, the risk to your well-being, your core self.

Mixed up with the idea of courage, at least for me, is the concept of faith. And no image for me more clearly identifies courage/faith than the one in the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," where, desperate to save his father from dying, Indy steps off a ledge hoping that something will be there to keep him from falling.

(Oddly enough, this exact scene and movie was referenced in our daily reading this morning, in the book The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Marc Nepo. I have always loved the courage/faith image.) 

We find courage within to do something that we believe will make our lives better for the action. We find courage to do terrifying things because somewhere we have faith that no matter what, it will be all right. Like Indy, we step out into the abyss of not knowing, hoping desperately that there will be the strong rock bridge that will catch and hold us up. So far, so good....

Another introspective opportunity I've been doing this week is the free Oprah-Deepok Chopra "Finding Your Flow" 21-day meditation series.  Follow the link to register and you can listen to the daily meditations. I am finding them strengthening and very helpful as I navigate this journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity.