this very moment between one breath and the next

In a sense, nothing has changed.

I am still figuring out how to be human, how to be me. I am older, stiffer, hopefully wiser and more compassionate, but I still need lessons in BEing. I thought I had conquered food issues addiction (let’s just call it what it is) but here I am, back in the same faculty, even if it is perhaps a more advanced class. I thought I had found a successful formula for keeping that black dog at bay, but depression sometimes still strikes, taking me by indignant (and usually undignified) surprise. I still battle all the old demons and doubts.

We don’t ever reach the point of ‘arriving’. We keep on having to keep on figuring things out. It is part of what makes life so unpredictable and delicious. Just when you think you’ve finally pinned it down, it snaps away, yelling ‘plot twist!’

So you start over and see what this next round will teach you. Because curiosity is always a happier and more helpful approach to suffering.

And here is what I am learning: No matter how deep the darkness, when you pause and examine this moment, this very moment between one breath and the next, where you are neither bound to the past and its regrets, nor to the future and its uncertainties, just this moment, then you realise that it is utterly beautiful and perfect all by itself.

You notice the late afternoon sunlight on your face, the gentle sway of leaves in the breeze, the dipping of the swallows against the clouds, the soft touch of your shirt against your skin, and it is all so achingly beautiful that it is simply … perfect.

In that very moment there is no suffering; there is only contentment.

In that very moment, everything is whole.

It is like discovering an actual superpower. Because every time you anchor yourself in this very moment, between one breath and the next, then the mindfulness it brings – and the spark of joy! – helps to tip the scales towards the light.

And in the end, that changes everything!

04Lovely

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learning curve

sea

You would think that looking back, a year of disabling illness would appear completely flat and bare: wasted space. The dry desert of months of doing nothing but survive from day to day. But you would be wrong.

Looking back, you’d stand amazed at just how rich a year it was. Because the physical challenges drove you deep into your spirit, into finding truth.

And you learn:

  1. Reality is not what we can observe here in the physical world. Reality goes deeper, reigns in the spiritual world. Don’t believe everything you see, hear, touch, feel, or experience. Even the most appalling suffering carries a deeper reality of light hidden within. We are not beings who can see deeply within, except for occasional glimpses. But we can trust in the truth of reality being far more right than it appears.
  2. Don’t simply believe your thoughts. Just because they are in your head doesn’t make them true. It doesn’t even always make them yours. Always examine what you think before accepting a thought as truth, before taking ownership of it.
  3. The smaller the container of your spirit, the easier it is for things to upset you, to slosh like a storm in a teacup right over the rim. Stress contracts and shrinks us. Enlarge your container! If one person upsets you, place yourself among more people to gain balance. If an experience makes you contract within, tightening your container, then breathe into you heart, opening it up, softening it.
  4. Meditate, meditate, meditate. Be mindful. We lead such fractured lives of distraction, we forget how to simply BE. Mindfulness helps to remind us how, it draws us back into the moment. This moment is all there really is. Not the past that haunts you, not the future that baffles you. This moment.
  5. Acceptance goes a long way towards alleviating suffering. When we enter the place of wanting-it-different, whether it is pain we’re not accepting, or someone’s influence in our life, or some other circumstance, we suffer. When instead we simply sit with the pain or the anger or fear, no longer trying to change it or get away from it, then we discover how fluid and alive it is, and what gift it brings. We discover that it holds no power over us when we simply accept it as It is, because it allows our I am to stand pure and strong.
  6. You are stronger than you think. Believe me. Whatever the pain, whatever the trauma in your life, you can handle it. Perhaps not on the first try, and that is perfectly okay, but you can and will handle it. You are stronger than you think!
  7. Nothing is senseless or futile or random … if you learn from it. It is your choice whether you seek the purpose in it or resist it. If you approach all experiences as containing something to teach you, you will find that treasure. It might take a week, a month, a year, but you will not be disappointed.
  8. You need balance. Always. You can’t afford to go all or nothing in one aspect of your life only. You can’t strive to be all yang without harming your yin. You can’t protect your yin at the expense of your yang. Thinking has to be in balance with doing. Exertion has to be in balance with rest. Meals have to be balanced. Like all heavenly bodies, we were designed to be basically spherical, all forces pulling in equal directions within us.

Finding abundance in a year of challenge – and this is just the tip of the iceberg – it is all grace! And best of all? You realize that if God can shower you with such treasures that turn the desert into an oasis, just imagine what will happen in the oasis itself!

it is ALWAYS there

You feel there is no hope, no hope at all.

No light to beckon you back out of darkness.

And so you despair.

But when you experience this hopelessness long enough and often enough, you learn the real truth: Hope is ALWAYS there.

You just can’t always perceive it.

And knowing this makes all the difference. Because you can deal with simply not being able to perceive hope – that is a temporary affliction. As long as there is hope out there somewhere – always hope – you can deal with the blindness that comes over you from time to time.

Because the blind can grasp at hope too, grab hold of it, even in their darkness.

More importantly, HOPE always pursues us, knowing full well that we are not able to find it every time. It reaches out and finds us. All we have to do is to quit flailing about in panic and become aware.

It may trickle in small, in the way you notice the beauty of the sunlight caressing the lawn in the late afternoon, or how amazing it is that you can draw in breath that keeps your body running from moment to moment. It may be as simple as becoming aware of how your sweater hugs you so warmly, or the fact that you can still smile just for yourself. Don’t be fooled by how small these pin pricks of light are. They are far from trivial, because they build on each other to lift the blindness from you. They grow and let more light flood in, until finally, you can see hope in all its vastness and glory again.

If you feel hopeless, take this advice from a veteran warrior in the fight against depression:

  1. Hope is always there. 
  2. Trust in that.
  3. Breathe.
  4. Become still enough to let it find you. 
  5. That’s all you have to do for now.
  6. Everything is going to be all right.

Surely goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23:6

light

sitting quietly enough to see it happen

I sat watching the dawn unfold this morning, searching for a trace of Comet ISON, and the clouds didn’t know that I could see their excitement building at the approach of the sun.

They glowed brighter and brighter until they scattered pink light down onto the cold ocean below, light enough to let the hills make shadows over the water. The clouds, the world! It all felt ready to burst open in such JOY and GLORY that I felt like laughing and crying all at the same time, unable to contain such deep emotion.

And I thought: When You come, Lord, the clouds will get excited, too.

And we will KNOW.

“And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.” – Mat 24:30

I didn’t see the comet, but it didn’t matter the slightest. The comet brought me out at dawn to sit quietly and breathe … and see it happen … glory flooding into the day.

The moment was too holy to take out the camera. This is a shot from earlier in the year.

The moment was too holy to take out the camera. This is a shot from earlier in the year.

the promise in all its splendor

Lord, the way You shower me with Your love, oh, it moves me so!

SupernumeraryRainbow_12Oct2013

 

This evening You not only gave me a rainbow to remind me of Your promise, You also gave it an inverted twin on the outside … and on the inside, two, three supernumerary bows glowing in indigo and green … never have I seen such a thing of wonder!

Never have I encountered such a full and abundant rainbow, overflowing with iridescent color, shining out at me!

…Lord, as if You are simply bleeding out of the sky in love…

After this stormy day, You leave me with feet bare, knees to the ground, overwhelmed by awe … utterly slayed by Your love.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

the way of the tea

You learn it only slowly, the way wisdom often comes: that what you pour yourself into first thing in the day, matters. The way you do it, matters.

Image adapted from mrhayata's photo on Wikimedia commons

Image adapted from mrhayata’s photo on Wikimedia commons

When you wake up, you rush into the day straight away, and it doesn’t work. Like weak diner coffee sloshed into a mug, you get spilled everywhere, your focus fractured … your worth diminished. And afterwards the stains on the counter and the half-drunk, greasy mug of cold leftovers tell the truth: how you have compromised yourself.

You learn you cannot just slosh yourself into the day like diner coffee.

There needs to be a much deeper grace present.

You learn to pour yourself into the day like Japanese tea … slowly, attending to every detail. First taking time for yourself and God. Infusing your strength, developing the pleasant fragrance. Carefully and beautifully planning the ritual of the day. Growing aware of the beauty and function of every action, every thing.

And only then pouring yourself out carefully and lovingly, like tea. In small measures, because it is of great worth. You are of great worth.

So that your sweet fragrance, your strengthening taste, may be a gift to Him, most regal and worthy of anyone how has ever visited your garden.