blogging · creativity · nature · poetry · spirituality

Conscious Breathing

Inhale – chest rises –
exhale – chest falls – summon new,
expel old; repeat.

(Haiku written for Ronovan Writes Haiku challenge:  rise/fall)

creativity · culture · nature · poetry · spirituality · writing

Mindfulness

Even as we harvest
the fruits of our endeavors,

as the leaves of summer
give over to golden dreams

and light reaches through
gathering clouds, illuminating,

celebrating; we must not forget
that we are a part of this living

miracle, that our lives, in harmony
with Nature, deserve reverence.

adversity · aging · life · nonfiction · recovery

What I’ve Learned From Trees

Meditating on the majestic beauty of the trees outside my window, I come to recognize something about myself. I cannot help but think that even though they are symbols of quiet strength, trees are not without their own vulnerabilities. Acts of Nature, or even human folly can bring them down, and so they, like me, are not immortal.

th-3Perhaps none of us is meant to be an impenetrable force: the kind of force I aspired to in my youth.

You see, I always thought of myself as a strong woman, however; unlike the trees I contemplated in my last post, I was not flexible – bending graciously to the winds of change – but belligerent, resistant, and arrogant. I was a right fighter. Having grown up in an atmosphere of relentless uncertainty, I commanded myself to be strong, believing that with an iron will, I could gain control of life – not just my own, but the lives of those around me. I adopted an air of superiority – pretending to know better than anyone else – even though on the inside, I never measured up. Showing vulnerability was never an option. Instead, I must have appeared the fool, and undoubtedly hurt many others.

True strength, I realize now, comes in retreating in the face of adversity, and the willingness to see beyond personal righteousness. It involves an openness to understanding alternative perspectives, and the wisdom to perceive the truth underlying the turmoil.

th-4My current life circumstances have brought me limitations: physically and mentally. My awake and energetic times are severely restricted. I am challenged to create a new definition of self, and what it is to be strong.

I dreamt of my dear cousin Bev last night. Bev passed away recently after battling cancer for ten years. In all those years she faced her struggle with a quiet strength: maintaining her outer poise, surrendering to the times of severe illness, and establishing healthy boundaries. She was a model for gracious living. Truly a strong woman.

Illness has brought me an opportunity to retreat for a while. It is allowing me the possibility of real change: measurable change. In surrendering my old sense of self, I will surely emerge new.

In the meantime, I remain open and vulnerable – not comfortable – but then at fifty-six years of age, I am well rooted. Like the trees.

disability · health · mental-health · poetry · spirituality

As a Tree

Confined for hours at a time to my bed, I cheer myself by contemplating the trees outside my windows. There is something in their stoic beauty that both calms and inspires me.

Be as the tree a former meditation instructor taught me.

If I were a tree
my roots would run deep into the earth
and spread in all directions
grounding me.

Present.

My trunk would be wide and solid
weathering all storms
supporting other life
a tower.

Strong.

My branches would reach up to the sky
and dance with the breezes
and bend with the changing seasons
and bow to Nature.

Flexible.

If I were a tree
I would be calm, yet strong;
have heightened awareness, yet be rooted in reality.

I would yield to change,
yet stand proud in my own existence,
growing with grace.

If I were a tree
I would live in harmony
with Nature.

Present, Strong. Flexible.

Fully alive.

(Image from: www.nbcdfw.com)

Humour · mental-health · nonfiction · spirituality

Bathroom Inspirations

“Meditation will open whole new worlds for you,”  the psychic proclaimed.

“I know nothing about it.  How do I start?”  I was really just being polite.  Dragged to this session unwittingly – I thought we were going to be playing euchre – I didn’t want to burst my friends’ bubbles by telling them how skeptical I was.

“It’s really very simple.  Find a place and time where you know you won’t be interrupted, clear your mind, and focus on the center of your being.”

Really simple.  I decided to try it, since the woman had said a few things that hit home.  Maybe she was right about this too.

Step one turned out to be a problem.  I was twenty-eight years old, and pregnant with baby number three.  Finding a consistent time and place to practice meditation was a challenge.  If and when the girls did nap at the same time, I would use those moments to do laundry, prepare a meal, or try to catch a few winks myself.

“Make time,”  she had insisted when I told her about my busy schedule.  “It is up to you.”

I felt so inadequate as a spiritual being, and at the same time driven to prove I could do it.  I grabbed every minute of solitude that I could find.  I would learn to practice the art at the drop of a hat.  I would become super meditator.

The psychic was right.  I had profound revelations, and discovered a new source of wisdom from within.  It was amazing.

“Doing it in the same place, and at the same time, communicates your intent to the subconscious, unleashing the inner wisdom,”  she had explained.

It was true.  With practice, every time I went to my meditation place I would experience that connection, and sometimes even without seeking it, insights would flow.

Then one day, an amazing thing happened.  I was out for lunch with a business associate and we were trying to figure out a mutual problem.  Neither one of us could find a solution, until I excused myself and went to the Ladies’ room.

Clarity overcame me before I could even flush the toilet, and as I excitedly revealed the answer to my colleague, I marveled at how easily the idea came to me……in the bathroom…..the same place where I practiced meditation at home.

It seems that my subconscious mind is not particular about which bathroom I use.  Now I experience inspiration when nature calls.

 

culture · health · life · nonfiction · spirituality

Meditating

“There are several steps to this meditation,” Dora Kunz began, “and with each one, if you hit an obstacle, just set it aside.”

I had come, as had those around me, to learn more from this enlightened soul.  Having experienced the sense of renewal that meditation could bring, I was excited to be learning from such an expert.  Dora Kunz, co-founder of Therapeutic Touch, had practiced meditation from the age of five, she’d told us.  Now in her nineties, she had endless wisdom to impart.

“Take a deep breath in,” she started, “and as you exhale, release any tension in your body.”

I breathed in, noticing that the area between my shoulder blades was knotted in tension. I tried to envision it breaking up with my breath, but it wouldn’t let go.

“If your tension won’t release, just acknowledge it and set it aside.”

I could do that.

“Now, without speaking, affirm to yourself: I am at peace with myself; and allow yourself to feel it.”

Breathe in.  I am at peace with myself.  Breathe out.  A niggling in the pit of stomach said, No you’re not.  I knew it wasn’t true.  I was not at peace with myself.

“If you feel doubts, set them aside.  If you are unable to do that, than act as if you are at peace with yourself.”

It is as if I am at peace with myself.  Ah, that felt better.  I could imagine as if.

“Now allow yourself to become aware of the person on either side of you, and beyond them to the circle gathered here, and affirm:  I am in harmony with those gathered here.

This was easier to do.  We’d come together with a common goal.  I inhaled the warmth of our kinship, and felt myself relax a little deeper.

“Continuing to breath deeply, allow your awareness to expand beyond these walls and connect with the nature that surrounds us. State:  I am at one with Nature.

The meditation room was surrounded by nature on all sides.  Following her instructions, I imagined myself breathing in the fresh country air, the vivid green of the trees vibrating around me, and the trickling sound of the brook flowing through me.  I am at one with Nature, I repeated to myself.  With each breath, I felt as if my body and my heart pulsed with the rhythm of nature; everything interconnected.  I was now deeply relaxed, surrendering.

“Now pull your awareness back into your own center.”

Focusing on my center, I drew my breath in, the sensation of relaxation filling my belly with a calm strength.

“From this center of calm and strong, connect beyond this room, beyond nature and the world, beyond the galaxy, to a universe of order and compassion.”

Slowly, she spoke her command, and my awareness obliged, expanding and reaching beyond the beyond,  feeling that connection, as if a silver cord of consciousness tied me to an eternal, omnipotent intelligence.  I connected with order and compassion; and the presence of unconditional love, and in that moment knew that all was as it was supposed to be: life has reason, and purpose, and meaning.  I wanted to remain suspended in this realm of knowing: free.

“Now bring your awareness back to your center, maintaining the essence of your experience.”

I felt stronger, somehow, and very calm.

“When you are ready, let your breath bring you back into this room, to the awareness of your body in the chair.  Gently move your fingers and toes, allowing yourself to return to full consciousness, renewed and restored, and at your own pace, opening your eyes.”

Reluctantly, I became aware of the room around me, and ever so slightly moved my fingers.  With a yawn, I let my body wake up, breathing life back into it and stretching.  I felt so good, so alive!

A universe of order and compassion, I thought to myself.  What a wonderful idea!  If only I could remember it in my day-to-day living.

education · health · life · nonfiction · spirituality

An Enlightened Life

“What would you like to learn about?”

“Tell us about your life,”  one woman called out.

“Well, yes, that,”  the tiny woman responded, “but there’s nothing to learn there.  What do you want to learn?”

After several protests, our teacher promised that she would fill us in on her ninety plus years at the end of the weekend.

I had anticipated this workshop for months, without really knowing what to expect.  Dora Kunz, co-founder of Therapeutic Touch, had published several books about her work, but I found them difficult to read, and hadn’t gained much from them.  Unlike her partner, Delores Krieger, Dora did not have a nursing background and so remained somewhat of an enigma to those of us who pursued understanding of this simple, but powerful technique.  I had taken several workshops with Delores, each of them long and gruelling, packed with information and experiences, Delores being a tireless lecturer.  Krieger’s workshops were always accompanied by an outline of curriculum expectations, and formally conducted.  Participants would have to ask for breaks, as Krieger’s passion for the subject matter precluded any need for a break in her presentation. It was immediately apparent that Dora Kunz’s approach was in stark contrast to that of her colleague.

My initial reaction to Kunz’s opening question was disappointment.  I had signed up for a workshop on meditation, did she not know that?   Was this woman too old and senile to be able to put a program together?

“Well we signed up for a workshop on meditation.”  Someone else must have been thinking the same as me.

“Yes, but what about meditation would you like to learn?”  I had to admit, the lady was charming.  She must have been all of 4’10”, with waves of white hair caressing her gentle face.  A warm smile, and twinkling eyes embraced her audience, and an obvious sense of humour set us at ease.  “At my age, I don’t plan for these things, you know.  I find it’s better to just go with the flow.”

So that’s what we did.  For three mesmerizing days, we listening hungrily to the words of this tiny guru, whose vast bank of experience and pragmatic approach to teaching guided us to the deeper understanding we sought.  For me, her greatest lesson was yet to come.

At the end of the weekend, as promised, Dora told us about her life.

“I was only five years old,”  she began, “when my parents, recognizing there was something different about me, built me a meditation room.”  As a young child, Dora had an awareness of energy and other realities that most parents would brush off as an active imagination.  Dora’s parents decided to nurture these gifts in their only child.  When Dora was eleven, she was invited to study with a man at an institute continents away, where the spoken language was different from her own.  Her parents told her to meditate on it, which she did, and decided to accept his offer.  “I looked like an eight-year-old boy,” Dora laughed, “when I arrived at this institution full of adults.”  Dora stayed and studied with this man for several years and then moved to another foreign country to further her studies.  Her work eventually led her to the United States, where I would have the privilege of meeting her.

When asked how she knew which offers to accept, Dora responded:  “No was not an option for me.  I trusted that this work was my calling, and so I always looked for a way to say yes when opportunity knocked.”  It was not always easy, she went on to explain.  At one point in her life, she was asked to speak about her spiritual beliefs to a group of convicts.  She was just a young woman, and felt incredibly vulnerable and intimidated by the gathering of murderers and hard-core criminals she encountered, but she said that was all soon forgotten when the men found something comforting in her words.

Dora continued her work, and I would encounter her again at another workshop, still teaching, just two weeks before she passed away.  She was 95.

Dora Kunz remains for me an icon of someone who has led a complete life.  She lived her life inspired by a passion for learning and helping others.   She was dedicated to a life of service.

(Image from nancybragin.com)