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Surrendering to the Force

All around us, everything small and buried surrenders to a process that none of the buried parts can see.  We call this process seeding and this innate surrender allows everything edible and fragrant to break ground into a life of light that we call Spring.
~ Mark Nepo

 

Spring here in the Pacific Northwest is slowly unfolding its many layers of stunning beauty. It can last for five months. This year began with the arrival of the snowdrops in mid-January. Then one daffodil volunteered for a walk-on role in my kitchen garden. Now the long act of March opens the stage with the bulb brigade, filling yards and fields with daffodils, accented by  jewel-toned hyacinths. It’s a cacophony of color all month as the season of the blossoming trees begins with camellias, and ends with the final bow of rhododendrons in June.

But there’s a backstage and hidden part of spring that I forget when I’m distracted and delighted by the pastel heaven of the show.  It’s easy to forget the seeds still in the ground, patiently waiting for their cue. The earth is bursting with potential, but each little seed or root must be allowed its full time to be nurtured.

Late winter’s gift is just this: the sweet energy of deeply resting and growing strong roots. I trust the dark to do its magic with the seeds and bulbs still nurtured by the earth. I would no more dig up the seeds to check them in the light of day than I would unearth my partially-dreamed future. I’m not ready to leave behind the peace of the surrender to “the part we cannot see.”

And so I need to remember that these gifts are still accessible, beneath the riotous glamour of early spring. In my inner world, this is what I long to savor: the mystery, the miracle of rest, the not-knowing of how or why I’m growing, or even which way I’m growing.  I want to linger a while to appreciate this, even as my attention gradually shifts to welcome the prologue of summer.

I have learned not to dig into the dark earth and expose the seeds that are still gathering strength and readying themselves in the dark of soil and earth. The same is true for my deepest, quietest inner life. It is still imagining into its next creation.

No me moleste, Leave me be, my soul sings. The deep invitation of winter surrender must be respected fully before I’m ready to move forth. I turn my faith to The force that through the green fuse drives the flower (to quote Dylan Thomas). It is this force that I’m trusting to bring it all on, in all the glorious manifestations of spring and summer. When the time is right.

Infernal, Internal Beeping (or Why My Dog Sits on My Head)

It was 6:00 this morning, and my dog Calvin was sitting on my head. Lucky for me that he only weighs 16 pounds, I thought. He’s also very fluffy, so a head sit can feel oddly cozy. I started wandering back toward my dreams.

For maybe a minute. Because then I remembered that head sitting only happens on the Fourth of July, in thunderstorms, or for other such apocalyptic events. Then Calvin began pacing. On my head. He seems to believe that this is where “I” live. And I have no idea how he got that impression.

Okay. Enough. Time to listen. There was something amiss in the field. Not smoke, but a smoke alarm battery signal. A few years ago our son barely made it out of a house fire alive. First chance we got, we planted them obsessively everywhere. If I lay very still I could hear it: one tiny beep every minute. All the way on the other side of the house. Up very high.

This is how I came to be standing under the high beam in the living room wielding a broom, before the sun had come up.  I always knew those witching tools would come in handy, I thought. Eventually I batted down the whining smoke detector and searched for the switch. No such luck. In fact, no luck at all finding my way into the battery compartment or into anything else that made sense. The alarm box was locked tight, as far as I could tell. This is the point where I would normally call out to my ever-trustworthy fixer of a husband, George. But this time there was no quick salvation. He was out of town for a few days.

So this dilemma was totally up to me to solve.  I considered, and then rejected, the idea of dropping the white plastic case from a two-story window or clubbing it with my handy broom.

Still no smoke appearing anywhere, so I placed the box in the sunroom, already closed for the season.

Back through the house to the back bedroom and to the coziest universe I know, to the magic land that exists in my ridiculously soft bed.

One more chance for sleep; it’s still not too late.

Except for the head sitting. Which began all over again. And then the pacing of the soft white fur ball.

And that is how the thick blanket in the back of my yard ended up in the far corner of my garden. It peeps every minute, until further notice.  Or until I can find a Smoke Detector Shaman or magical directions from the internet ethers that will solve the problem.

But. Standing out there in the below-freezing weather, awake now, an amazing miraculous thing happened. I was actually fully alert for the glow that spread over the oak savannah across the way as the sun came up. I pulled a shawl around me and stood there. I was nothing. Nothing but receptivity in the moment.

And then while I stood bathing in the frigid beauty, the light turning pink, I looked across the meadow behind my house, and there it was. A rainbow.

Peace.

Then.

A minute later, the infernal, internal beeping started again.

Time to get going, it said. To focus on those goals. Get organized. Be productive.

But then, stillness. Another voice arose.

Is the desire to be in comfort, to stay asleep; is it stronger than curiosity?

How many times does a Call need to come when I’m not listening?

The Universe just keeps sitting on my head. Until. I. Get up. Get my feet cold. Do…however reluctantly, what is the next thing to do. The next thing, all day long. Follow the simple directions and listen for the beep when I don’t pay attention.

 

From the Chaos of Love to the Practice of Remembering

The past month has been a blur of reacting, creating, learning, reacting again. And those words don’t even begin to describe the chaotic, warm loving mess of the Holidays.  A quick glance back at the circumstances helps me give myself kindness and credit. About two weeks before the holiday, my daughter was hit by someone making an illegal left turn. Her safe car and its airbags saved her, but she’s been spending time with us to heal, with the help of the amazing body workers I call my friends. Just before that, one of my best friends died of a brain tumor that had haunted her (and her loving family) for years. On New Year’s I flew to LA to be inspired by Byron Katie’s World Summit. Then back to daughter and client support. Lots of intensity on both counts.

And then last night, a dream. I’ll spare you the details, but in summary I was lost and searching for my dorm room, at a writing conference, of all things. Once I got that figured out, I discovered some lost earrings on the floor of the hallway: very specific earrings I that I had treasured fifteen years ago, with a rose-colored flower and a crystal. I had found the Place of Lost Special Tiny Things that I Love.

Seldom has a dream seemed more obvious, and so I sit myself down and write it this morning. And what comes up for me is how deeply powerful it is to Remember when I’ve been caught in the trance of life’s circumstances. And then I remember that the very act of Remembrance is the source of many rituals from the world’s religions, from Christian Eucharist to Sufi Zikar. And that the contemplatives in most traditions, Eastern and Western, excel in preparing the mind so that the voice of Remembering can be heard. So that what’s truly important CAN be remembered.

Every year but this year, I’ve reserved a day in the first week of January, as close to January 6th as possible, to celebrate my private version of Epiphany. It’s a time after the holiday hubbub when I choose to focus on this process of clearing. And remembering.  And deep listening.

This year I gave myself a Sabbath to return to Winter’s quiet, and the magical right-brain work of dreaming showed me the way. Instead of moving headlong into my day, I grope my way from the dreaming to the lighting of candles and the writing of it. I get very quiet.

And here I am again, where I was a year ago, and a year before that, in an Epiphany of the mind, and I remember what I had forgotten for a while. I collect the tiny jewels I sometimes forget and spread them in the light of Remembering. And there it is, my hidden jewel of a soul is revealed.

And I remember. I can allow. Let go of the strain of trying to control the uncontrollable. Trust the beauty of the process that seems to come without pressure.  Come to be.  I breathe a deep sigh and my mind settles in. I write these words as a part of the sacred and time-honored process of Remembering.  Life can be trusted. Gentle. Kind. It shows the way.  And my own private ritual of listening, of writing this right now, helps me remember .

This Longing. This Advent. This Future.

She was brought up in a Southern Baptist church, where Catholics were widely believed to be a bigger danger than Communists. So she’d never heard of advent until someone gave her kids a cardboard calendar with chocolates. This seemed vaguely suspicious and sophisticated in a European way. It intrigued her.

So on the first Sunday of that December she woke up curious. She looked up Advent on a couple of Google Sites. The words left her with a couple of impressions which seemed vaguely mysterious and therefore attractive:

Ritual Time for Patient Waiting.

The Beginning of a Deepening Relationship with the Divine.

Longing for Union with the Possible.

Remembering.

She’d never liked the idea of waiting, and when the virtue of patience was handed out, she’d come up short. She had no interest in longing either, but apparently she had no choice. Even with all the gratitude journals, the positive rewiring and the inner work at Letting Go, she wanted. There. She’d said it. Even though she hadn’t wanted to admit it before.

In truth, there really was something she truly wanted to come true, something she longed for, as long as she was giving herself permission to long for anything. She needed a solution. Now that turkey soup was running out, and she could see it coming. The holidays. They were looming near, like a tornado about to pick her up and to drop her off who knows where? What she did know, if the past had anything to do with the future, was that it would likely be a disorienting month.

Then she saw it. There was the longing. She wanted it all. The jingle bells and authentic holiday joys of family and friends, the making merry, the too-muchness. And she also wanted to find and hold the peace. Now that she thought about it, she wanted more yet. Even while she was in it, there was a longing to be on the other side of this holly and mistletoe storm.

A pull of hope stirred from some mysterious inner source. A longing for a deeper connection with something deep and wide inside, a wanting to know herself as more than she had ever believed she was, as something she didn’t even have words for. She could feel confusion stirring. And then there was a slight hint of a trust she had never known before. She listened closely. And it was at that moment that her body whispered a memory of another time in her life. And then she remembered.

There was a birth she was waiting for. This was the longing. Her mind relaxed as if it had figured out the answer to some complicated puzzle. And then a breath. A new hint of confidence from some deep pilot light. It was as if a new faith in possibility was born. There it was. An answer key had showed up from some unknown source. She simply knew that she could trust her inner directions as she listened. That this was the way to discover what she could do for all of those who suffered around her. She could almost see it coming, this new faith in healing, in forgiveness, in the future, in the possibilities hidden inside and beyond herself.

And she lit a single candle for advent.

Acceptance or Connection?

What’s the difference between a desire for approval (a strategy for gaining acceptance) and a desire for connection? I’ve been sitting with this question during the past week.
Here are some of the what I’ve noticed, in the form of “Questions to Self.”
Where’s my focus? A dead give away. If it’s on others, I’m usually thinking about what they expect of me. Is it on my own sense peace and well-being? It’s connection.

Personalities want something.

I’m reminded this morning of one of Byron Katie’s oft-repeated phrases:

“Personalities don’t love. They want something.”

I’ve been looking at my need for approval and appreciation this month, and this is the refrain that keeps showing up in my mind. When mind is quiet, I’m just simple and present. There’s a space for love to show up, and I love sharing that.
When my “personality” (my social self) runs the show, I do want something. I want others to do what I want them to do so that I can have what I want.

The “Look Good” Religion

I was raised in a traditional religion, but my family had another religion that was more powerful. I call it the Look Goods. As a principal’s daughter in the rural midwest, how I looked and whether I fit in seemed like the bottom line. I can imagine now the beliefs forming in my six-year old head. “Please approve of me,” which carried another assumption: if you did you wouldn’t leave me.”

I would belong. A powerful motivator for a first grader. What did I stand to lose if “they” didn’t approve? Everything. Security. Comfort. So what I did was become inauthentic to gain that approval. I began to do, to dress, to say what I thought would win them over. I became a false version of me.

“Personalities don’t love…they want something” Byron Katie

This week I’ve been noticing when I use my well-honed charm and persuasive personality to get something from other people. Something like approval. Appreciation. Respect. Income.

Something like love. But, I notice, it’s not love. It’s about me. When I put on my “look goods,” I’ve found, I can get the approval I think I crave. But there’s always something missing. I tend to believe, deep down inside, that they’re buying my act. And then I need to keep acting or manipulating to get more of it.

It’s an expensive addiction.

Self-Understanding Quick Course

Yesterday I was a guest of Cath Duncan, as a part of her Bottom Line Book club. What fun! Cath is an astute and kind coach who is offering a wonderful service to folks who want to find a fast track to self understanding. She offers a “Cliff Notes” to self-help programs and interviews an expert every month. I was quite impressed by the program, and by the expert questions she asked this “not really an expert.”

The Cost of Dodging Disapproval

I’m noticing another aspect of my approval-seeking habits. My inner Disapproval Dodger may even be more powerful than my Approval Junkie. Hard to admit.
I got started people pleasing early in life. About the same time I decided I needed their approval, I also figured out I REALLY wanted to avoid their disapproval. (What kid doesn’t?)

Bottom Line Book Club

Imagine if there was a way that you could take the masses of personal development books out there and apply a filter that extracts not just the best books, but the 20% that’s the highest-leverage ideas and change-tools that the top coaches use…and get step-by-step coaching on how to actually use those tools…so you can focus on only the stuff that really makes a difference and start getting the results you want now…

That’s exactly what the Bottom-line Bookclub does for you…

Refreshing Your Screen

One important thing I learned about cyberland is that you have to refresh the screen when you return to a site you’ve visited before. This allows you to see changes that have occurred while you’ve been doing other stuff.
The same is true for the process of change. If I don’t refresh, I run the same old loops, have the illusion of being stuck. For me, refreshing the screen means pausing, checking in, noticing that things aren’t the same. How could they be? It’s simply not possible.

Always We Begin Again

These are the opening words from the Rule of St. Benedict. I’m not a Catholic, but I owe so much peace and clarity to my training in spiritual direction with the sisters of a nearby monastery. These words continue to remind me, each morning, of possibility.
Especially when I’ve fallen off the wagon filled with my best intentions the night before. It hardly matters what I did, but let’s just say I let myself down when I unconsciously ate half a bag of chips at midnight. In the past this kind of thing has given me enough proof of hopelessness to pull me off the wagon for good, a rebellious child running wildly amok, with no regard for the future.

Groundhog’s Day and the Same Old Loops

I awoke today thinking about how appropriate the movie Groundhog’s Day is to the patterns I experience this time of year. My new year’s resolutions have begun to wear off, just when I was noticing some success. My mind is a little more peaceful, my body is a little lighter, and then I get a “Change Back Attack” sending me back into the same old loops of thinking and eating and living that inspired the resolutions in the first place.
Today I’m deciding to REALLY wake myself up from the movie. So I’m going to the ancient wisdom of the Celtic religions. Today is also known as Bridget’s Day or Imbolc, because it’s exactly between the shortest day of the year (Solstice) and the Spring Equinox, when days and nights are equally balanced.