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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teacupping : oceaning

I found myself teacupping again the other day. You may not have ever heard this term – I made it up – but I know you will understand it immediately.

Teacupping: When you become so small that almost every experience causes a storm inside you.

You slosh over the edges. You rant and rave inside (or if it gets really wild: outwardly as well) over the little things that should not even cause a ripple on your surface.

  • The way your neighbours put out the wrong trash on the wrong day of the cycle
  • The way someone eats a doughnut – when you can see they need to eat healthier
  • The way someone at the office left sugar scattered over the entire kitchen counter
  • The way someone whines about their rich people problem
  • The inanities people post in social media or publish in the news
  • The way someone chews too loudly

Admit it, unless you are remarkably phlegmatic, you know how this is! And I am sure you can add many more examples here. All instances of storms in a teacup.

Why does this happen? And more importantly, how does one solve this problem? Because if you have ever teacupped before, you will also know that it is exhausting. There is nothing that can burn up your energy as quickly as this over-excitability in the world. Not to mention the strain on interpersonal relationships this can cause.

I have written before about the need to expand your container, and it is exactly for this reason. The larger the container of your spirit, the less disruptive your experiences. A drop of poison that falls into a teacup can be deadly. But into the ocean? It would not even be noticed. And quite frankly, I want to be the ocean.

Terry Pratchett wrote: “The big sea does not care which way the little fishes swim.”

I find that to be a profoundly powerful statement. If your container is as big as the ocean, the little fishes don’t bother you at all. They can swim in whichever direction they want to, they can jump out of the water (they will just fall back in) and they can even devour each other – it is not going to affect you.

So how do you change from teacupping to oceaning? How do you expand your container so that the little fishes don’t bother you anymore?

  • Meditate – For me, this is the easiest and best way to do it, because when you become mindful you find peace again. You enlarge from within. There are many guided meditations to help you achieve this. Compassion meditation works especially well, as does mindful breathing.
  • Walk – Or do something physical. Once you get your blood flowing, your mind is able to settle much easier, and your perspective is corrected.
  • Spend time in nature – We need big spaces to remind us that we are big, too, and that all is well. There is something mindful and rejuvenating about being outside; it can’t be duplicated by man-made spaces.
  • Pray – First for yourself. Then for whomever or whatever tips your cup.
  • Listen to music – It might be that you need loud, passionate music, or slow, gentle music. Find out what works for you to expand your consciousness again to a point where you are bigger than your challenges.
  • Get out among people – Especially if you are introverted or melancholy by nature, you might need that gentle reminder to place yourself among other human beings from time to time. Exposure to other people helps remind you that your challenging experience with one person is not all there is.
  • Practice gratitude – Remember the good things that fill your life.

There are more ways in which to ocean, to expand your container. Some of them may be unique to you, to what works for you. That’s the point: find out what clicks for you, what keeps your container as wide and expansive as the ocean, and as freely and abundantly giving, without any concern for which way the little fishes swim.

Art by the amazing Pascal Campion

Art by the amazing Pascal Campion

it’s good and natural

Photographer unknown

Photographer unknown

I was touched reading this article in the New York Times: Getting grief right.

Why? Because to me it highlights one of the key things we tend to nowadays forget about losing a loved one: it is good and natural to feel sad.

You have permission to grieve.

The fact that you are sad does not necessarily mean that you are depressed – it means that you loved that person well. And that is good!

Instead of accepting that, we labour under the lie that we should get back to coping as soon as possible, show the world that we’ve put the grieving process behind us. So we put on a mask for the world and push the sadness down. And we think we are doing a good thing. We are not!

Let me tell you this from my own experience and everything I’ve seen in other people: forcing emotions to go undercover does not take care of them – they will grow in the hidden darkness, and they will demand attention. It may not happen now, but sooner or later they will exact the respect you did not give them.

Because that is what it boils down to: respecting our emotions and accepting them, whatever they are. There rests immense freedom in the ability to do that!

Be honest with yourself about how you feel.

And then, when you’ve been honest, accept it with compassion. There is no way you have to feel, and no way you are not allowed to feel. There are no shoulds.

There is only the truth of what is. Be tender with yourself, accept it lovingly, and respectfully allow grief to work its intended healing.

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!

safe

safe
the keys on the keyboard are placed close together
.
.
S
A
F
E
.
.
the fingers of your left hand can dance over them and create the word
safe
.
.
ring finger
pinky
index finger
middle finger
thumb for the space
a whole hand dance for that one little word
.
.
it wouldn’t have been the same if the other hand had had to get involved in typing it
fracturing the word between two hands
.
.
no, this is contained
one word
one hand
one dance all independent
.
.
a little fort contained between the bones of the fingers
and the dome of the palm
safe
secure
protected
.
.
and you are grateful for the grace of a word that is what it says to be
even on the keyboard
 
large-keyboard

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.