Monday, November 21, 2011


My green year is winding down, and in this last portion of it, I have turned my attention toward the last green-related item I wanted to work with this year:  money.

Money has always been a bit of a bugbear for me.  When I was a teenager I rejected my comfortable middle-class upbringing and decided I was "anti-materialistic," i.e., anti-money.

I got over that quite some time ago, but the truth is that I've never been good with money.  It tends to slip through my fingers alarmingly quickly, and my overall financial life has been very much feast or famine, and utterly chaotic. 

So I've been working with a book called The Energy of Money, by Maria Nemeth, which approaches money from a spiritual viewpoint and guides you through a series of exercises to help you become conscious of and heal your relationship with money.

I'm still stuck on Chapter One, in which you are supposed to write your money autobiography.  She provides a whole long list of thought-provoking questions to help the process.  I shouldn't say I'm stuck, really, because even though I'm moving through this process very slowly, I AM doing it.  It's eye-opening to say the least, and so I'm taking the time to really process what I'm writing.

One thing I've realized lately is that as I've been with money, so I've also been with time:  confused about where it all goes.  Which, of course, brings to mind that saying, Time is money.  I never really understood what that meant, primarily because both time and money were such abstract concepts to me that I couldn't really comprehend either of them on a practical level.

But I get it now; it means that money comes to you for time spent earning it.  Duh.  Conventional wisdom might see this as a one-to-one correspondence:  If I work so many hours, I will get so much pay.  If I have a "bad" job, the pay will be low and if I have a "good" job the pay will be high.  But frankly, I think it sucks either way, and I believe it can be different.  In fact, I know it can.  There's a sort of momentum that can be created around money that brings a greater and greater return with fewer and fewer hours.  I've seen it in people I've written about for my Taos News column, Innovators & Entrepreneurs, and I also just know it intuitively.

Recently I was browsing at one of my favorite websites,, and I came across a very interesting  page about money.  The author of the site, Kathleen Jenks, laments that in terms of earning a living, "it's been unsettling to face the fact that I've lived most of this lifetime feeling like a racehorse hitched to a plow."

Reading this really bummed me out, because I can relate.  I also recently interviewed a woman for my column whose work life as a freelance writer and a teacher parallels mine.  But she just started an online business (her website is, and she talked about how different this is from freelancing, where you're selling your TIME.

That conversation got me thinking about starting my own online business, but that's a story for another day.  The significance for this discussion is that it was yet another pointer to my need to focus on my relationships with time and money.  I began to think that perhaps a budget would not be such a bad thing after all.  And while I've always been okay with schedules, I haven't been disciplined enough about them when I'm working at home on "my own" time.  So I decided that thinking of a schedule as a sort of time-budget might be a better idea - to trick myself into sticking to it, essentially.  I've decided  that the planner I get for 2012 will have the hours of the day in it so that instead of just making a list of what needs to be done each day, I can actually schedule all of it.

I also signed up at  I had read several very good reviews of it, and then came across another one recently that finally convinced me to check it out.  And I have to say, I LOVE it.  I honestly cannot overstate how much this tool is helping me at last to really grasp my money situation and how to manage it.  It's like when you look at what appears to be the chaotic blur of a stereogram and then finally see the image, and go, "Oh wow, yeah," and your eyes relax.  For the first time in my life, I have made a balanced budget that is realistically based on what I actually have coming in, and I can see exactly where all of my money is going.

This is both relaxing and and freeing, which is ironic, considering how long I resisted budgeting because I felt it would be so stifling.

It's an interesting side benefit that budgeting my money is helping me budget my time as well.  I'm currently writing an ebook for a client who pays me an hourly rate.  It's up to me how many hours a week I put in.  What I've been able to do is put into my budget the amount of money I need to make monthly working on the ebook, and then figure out exactly how many hours a week I need to put in to make that happen.  Cake! 

All of this has resulted in an incredible feeling of awakening and empowerment in these areas of my life.  I realize now that I've always let money and time just kind of happen to me, but I'm increasingly feeling like I'm in the driver's seat.  Money and time are tools, and while there will of course be unexpected things that happen and certain limits beyond my power to change, overall it's possible to exercise control over how I receive and use them, and in doing so, the mysterious result is abundance.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Little Things

To step over the south-facing threshold of this darkening house and out
into the surprising almost light, the winter smell of cold and diesel,

to turn one way, west, toward a silhouette of shoes,
laces tied together,
flung over a wire
beside so perfectly unstraight a stroke
of pulsing black, a pole,

then nine strides north to where
those two horses made of grass and wind
draw changing angles to the ground,
whose soft noses break

my green heart, oh what it is.

I had merely thought to smoke.

Why would I call these things little
when they live me
as the life I do not have,
as large as this only moment.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Heart's Content

Last night as I was lying in bed, I landed on the word "content" to describe how I've been feeling lately.  This is not a word I've ever given much attention to; it's not phonetically beautiful, and definition-wise it's always seemed a little boring and naive to me.  But when it came to me last night, it floated into my consciousness in a way that made me see it as if for the first time.  I began to consider what it actually means to be content, to not desire anything more than what one has, because that is truly what I was feeling as I lay there.

We live in a culture that so values goal-setting and achievement, that it's no wonder contentedness is barely on the radar, that my automatic response to the word has been a sense of dullness and disinterest.  I mean, if you don't want anything, what fun is that?  What would motivate you to get up in the morning and DO anything?  Who would ever receive special recognition for how content they are?

It had never really occurred to me that the meanings of the word as an adjective (con-TENT) and as a noun (CON-tent) are actually related.  When I did a little research this morning, I discovered that they in fact have the exact same source - the Latin contentus, meaning "contained."

And this is perfect.  The feeling of contentedness that I've been experiencing on and off lately has everything to do with the content of my life - not the circumstances, the content.  The substance.  It's all about what's inside the container of my life, which is related to circumstances, but only in the sense of how I perceive, experience, and integrate them.

Contentedness, I'm finding, is not a position of dullness and complacency, but a dynamic state in which the things my life wants to move into are contained.  They find satisfaction first within my being and then flow out into form.  It's not that I don't want anything, it's that want is reduced to its essence, a recognition that it's more about merging with energies than attaining objects.  By merging with those energies within first, even the energy of desire, there is a first-level satisfaction, a contentedness created, which then allows the manifestation of any desire outwardly to be a natural momentum rather than a future-based striving.  

In other words, my heart's cont-TENT because of its CON-tent.

The heart my very best friend crocheted  for me.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Back From the Hive

Today is my two-year blogging anniversary, and I couldn't let that slip by without making note of it.  The last time I posted here was in March.  Seven months ago, wow.  With the advent of my new blog, Home Sweet Hive, about my housebuilding/off-grid adventure, I've sorely neglected this one.

It's been interesting to have a blog that's so very different from this one, with different subject matter and a new variety of virtual community.  But I've missed those of you who I used to connect with through The Whole Blooming World, and I've missed blogging about the kinds of things I've written about here.  I'm about to move back to town for the winter and one of my jobs is about to end, so I'm planning to spend more time here over the next few months, and to make time once again to read my "old" friends' blogs. 

I love the fact that picking a color/theme for the year came out of blogging.  This green year has reflected "greenness" in a variety of ways.  Reflecting on it lately, I've been thinking about the Green Tara, and how she stands for "enlightened activity."  This has definitely been a year of activity, of outward movement and energy.  It's been great:  challenging and rewarding in ways very new to me.  Fulfilling.  

But now I find myself thirsting for the inwardness of fall and winter, taking the time to retreat and rest a bit and process all that has happened, all that I've learned and done.  I look forward to sharing some of that here. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Giver of Rocks

So it turns out I'm not quite done with the San Francisco de Asis church after all.  And it occurs to me that really, as long as I'm living in Taos, I will periodically find the time to stop by and sit by Clare and the hawkmoths.

Last Sunday, Eliana kept saying she wanted to go for a walk, so we went over there together, which is something we haven't done very often, and the last time she was still too little to walk by herself.  But this time, we went side by side, and it was lovely.  And when we walked through the grove that is no longer a grove, I noticed that the huge tarp they left there after enjarre last summer was still there.  (To be honest, part of what I was looking forward to about this walk was seeing if the tarp was still there, because 70% of my thinking these days is about where to get building materials and equipment, and tarps are needed to protect earthbags from UV rays during the building process.)  When I stretched it out and saw how big it really was, I realized I would need help folding it, so I called Graeme and he came to help me and then carried it back home.

Then Eliana and I proceeded on to the church, and I came across my second great find as we walked through the alley next to the gift shop.  They often leave boxes of empty used glass 7-day candleholders out there, but this was the first time they seemed of any use.  I've been researching making windows using old bottles and jars lodged in cob, so I was very excited to find these.  Now I will have part of the church permanently built into my house.

Do you see the cross design?  So cool!
Over at the church, there were quite a few visitors milling about the courtyard, and I found myself sitting at St. Francis' feet engrossed in a pleasant conversation with a couple from Dallas.  Meanwhile, Eliana was running happily around the courtyard, picking up rocks and then running up to whoever was nearby and saying "Here's a rock for you."  One couple was so delighted with this, they even included her in the photo they were posing for in front of the church doors.

It was a beautiful spring day, one of the first of the season, and I felt rich in my relationship with that place again, and blessed with the abundance of gifts of the day.  A tarp, a box of candleholders, a daughter who's an exuberant giver of rocks.  In my Lenten practice of giving up "stuff," it's these simple things that are coming to me in the new space I'm making.  I think Francis and Clare would approve.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Into the Desert

Lent is upon us again; I can't even believe a whole year has gone by since last year's life-changing Lent of giving up negative thought.

I've been so caught up in my housebuilding plans that I haven't given much thought to Lent at all this year, until a couple of days ago, when it suddenly struck me that I'm literally going into the desert for Lent this time!

Over the past few weeks, the occasional thought has crossed my mind about what to give up this year, but nothing was really jumping out at me.  Then the other day, as I was perusing the many tasks ahead of me before I can start building my house, the one that settled on my brain like a giant bloodsucking leech was about having to move out of this house.  Dealing with all that STUFF:  sorting it, selling it, throwing some away, taking some to the Free Box, dividing some up between my two oldest daughters to take to their respective apartments, possibly putting some in storage (ugh!), and ultimately just narrowing it all down to what is essential - because I'll be living in a 32-foot bus for several months.  And even after my house is built, I will need to live more simply as it's going to be on the small side.

Sigh.  I hate moving.

Today though, it occurred to me that I could just give up "stuff" for Lent.  Dress the whole dreaded task as a spiritual practice, thereby enlivening and redeeming it.  Now I'm actually excited to begin this process, and it's nice that I have a couple of months to do it all.  This way, I can focus on one little area at a time and be thorough and unrushed.

Just one of the many places in my house where there's TOO MUCH STUFF
I happened across an article today called The Zero-Waste Home from the January edition of Sunset magazine, about a family who lives very simply, producing almost no garbage.  I don't know if I'll ever live as austerely as they do (they don't even have any pictures on their walls), but it definitely inspired me to pare down quite a bit, to get excited about the challenge of choosing to keep only those things that are functional and/or inspirational.

My plan is to release at least one thing from my possession every day of Lent.  Some days it will be much more than one thing, but the goal is to be fully prepared to be out of this house with a minimum of - well, everything - by Easter.

And when I finally do get out into the desert, I will be carrying a much lighter load.  Literally.

Friday, March 4, 2011

All My Longings Know Where To Go

I love the relationship I've developed with our northern New Mexico spring.  When I lived in Louisiana, spring started in February, and by Mardi Gras, all the azaleas were blooming and I could comfortably open every window in the house.  Not so in northern New Mexico.  It took me several years to get used to the fact that February is still winter here.  Since February is also my birthday month, this felt like a personal insult.

But now, I've stopped looking for spring where it's not to be found, and embraced winter in its fullness instead.  I tend to forget that spring is even a possibility; I don't hope for it anymore.  So when it does arrive, it's always an unexpected delight.  It's a little like when you know what you're getting for your birthday, but the giver wraps it anyway so you get the pleasure of tearing the paper away.

Spring has begun to make her descent, and once again I find myself unexpectedly enlivened and delighted.  But this spring, there is the added factor of my housebuilding plans.  Spring means it's time to build, and I couldn't be more excited to begin.

A month or two ago, I copied the following horoscope from Rob Brezsny into this post draft, because it rang so true for me.
"All your longings know where to go," writes poet Nick Piombino, "but you have to tell them to open their eyes." That's one of your big assignments in 2011, Pisces: to make sure your longings keep their eyes open. It's not as easy as it might sound. Sometimes your longings get so entranced by obsessive fantasies -- so distracted by the stories that are swirling around in your imagination -- that they're blind to what's right in front of them. You must speak to your longings tenderly and patiently, as you would a beloved animal, coaxing them to trust that life will bring more interesting and useful blessings than anything fantasy could provide.   ~ Rob Brezsny, Freewill Astrology
Well, folks, my longing's eyes are open, and life has indeed been providing "more interesting and useful blessings than anything fantasy could provide."  In fact, I've been continually astounded by how beautifully different aspects of my housebuilding project have been falling into place.  I won't go into detail about that here, but if you're interested, you can read all about it at my new blog, Home Sweet Hive.

What I will say, though, is that my direction has definitely changed.  It occurred to me recently that I haven't even thought about the San Francisco church in a while, and in conversation with my dear blogging friend, Jennifer, I realized that it's time to close the door on that chapter of my life.

However, part of my plan for building a house has involved getting a 4WD vehicle for the rough terrain where my land will be, and when I contacted the man I ended up buying my new Chevy Blazer from, he suggested we meet in the church parking lot.  Walking over there that morning, I felt a satisfying sense of closure, that a beginning was happening in the exact place where something else was ending.

Another thing I copied into this post a while back (I do that sometimes, just gather snippets to build a post around later) was this quote from Thomas Merton, via Abbey of the Arts:
Forest and field, sun and wind and sky, earth and water, all speak the same silent language, reminding the monk that he is here to develop like the things that grow all around him.
The last snippet I had copied into this post was about clouds, as I noticed after I made my 2011 collage that there were an awful lot of them, which I didn't consciously intend.

I began to think about clouds as living things, and taking my cue from Merton, I pondered how I could develop like a cloud.  This goes back to longings, because I think of the expression "head in the clouds."  With this building project, I feel a profound balance of head in the clouds and feet firmly planted on the ground.

Developing "like the things that grow" is what building an off-grid house is about for me, and I've realized that it's not just flowers and trees, hummingbirds and bats that serve as models, but that gorgeous, handmade, majestic church building that I've sat gazing at for so long.  She herself is a growing, living thing, and that's how I want my house to be.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Adventure, New Blog

A few weeks ago, I had a life-changing conversation with two of my kids, which has resulted in a new direction for me:  I'm going to build an off-grid house with my own hands (and my kids' hands, and whoever else wants to help). 

It wasn't until after this conversation that it occurred to me what an appropriate project this is for the "green" year that I'm in.  Not just because of the association of green with environmental sustainability, but also because of it being the color of the heart chakra, and this is a project very much from my heart.  I've wanted to do this for years, and for a variety of reasons, now is the time.

I was originally thinking I would blog about this journey here, but soon realized it needs its own space, so I have started a new blog called Home Sweet Hive, and just published my first post. In building a new physical structure, I will be simultaneously build a virtual structure for it.  I hope you'll check it out.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mother and Child

*I've been told this didn't post right the first time, so I'm trying it again.  If you've already read it, sorry for the repeat.*

I'm not just the innocent that needs protecting, I'm the compassionate mother who weaves and wraps the blanket. I'm the child who is healing and the resurrected woman both.

That's one of the conclusions I came to in my Recovery post last Sunday. (Achtung: If you haven't read that post, this one is not going to make much sense.) This insight, while connected to the bat orphans, the Raccoon card, and the Inanna story I spoke of in that post, comes most deeply and directly out of these images from my 2011 collage:

This one is at the very top center of the collage.

This one is at the very bottom center.

When I chose the top image, it was because she was green and pretty; I felt drawn to her for no articulated reason.  I chose the little girl at the bottom because she exuded innocence to me, she represented the return to childhood that I have been experiencing in various ways and want to continue nurturing.  And she was pretty.  I put her on the green apple because I'd already chosen the apple image (because it was green, and represented abundance) and needed somewhere to put it; they just fit well together.

It wasn't until a few days later that I thought to do some research on the top image.  The little book I got her out of, A Gift of Happiness, had the picture labeled as Green Tara, but I didn't know anything about her at all.  So I Googled her and found out some wonderful things, which I printed out in green ink, put in a green folder, and read through, underlining things that particularly interested me.  What really caught my attention at that time was that she is known as "the Mother of Liberation," "the Mother of Mercy and Compassion," and she represents enlightened action.  And it struck me how perfect it was that the mother is at the top of the collage and the child at the bottom, and that both images represent aspects of myself.

After the protection and fierceness themes came up, I went back and read my folder about Green Tara again, and lo and behold, this is what I read; it didn't really register the first time:
During our spiritual growth we need to turn to our Holy Mother, Tara, for refuge.  She protects us from all internal and external dangers (
Tara is a female Buddha, and Green is only one of her 21 manifestations, but is also the most popular.   According to my source, "she is the fiercer form of Tara."  In other words, she is fierce compassion, fierce blessing, fierce protection.


Buddhism is not a religion of deity worship.  It's more like a system of spiritual practices, although I'm no expert.  But the existence of Tara goes back way far in both Hinduism and Buddhism, and it seems that she is primarily related to as a meditation deity.  There is a mantra associated with her:  om tare tuttare ture svaha, the reciting of which is said to "untangle knots of psychic energy," among other things.

According to Wikipedia, the Tara practice consists of meditating on the visual image of her in order to incorporate her qualities; in this sense she becomes an "indwelling deity," which is the same idea behind all good Christianity.  But Buddhism takes it a step further, because by practicing this as a disciplined meditation, the practitioner eventually comes to see that Tara has "as much reality as any other phenomena apprehended through the mind."  The result is "the realization of Ultimate Truth as a vast display of Emptiness and Luminosity" because "one dissolves the created deity form and at the same time also realizes how much of what we call the "self" is a creation of the mind, and has no long term substantial inherent existence."

All of this makes wonderful paradoxical mysterious sense to me, because as soon as I knew she was the compassionate protective Mother, I began imagining a story about her and the Child of my collage.  The Child knows she is protected: she doesn't have to look up to make sure the Mother's still there.  She is protected by her innocence and trust.  She knows she is safe and loved, and so she is going about her business, making her daisy chain, her creative offering.  She is aware of all that is around her and yet completely focused on her task.  The Child IS the "enlightened action" Green Tara gives birth and form to.

The Child's face is hidden, yet her essence is not.  We see the Mother's face instead, the Child's source.  We see what the Child is doing, which is playful, beautiful, and innocent, and is made possible by the Mother's protection.

In my Recovery post, I used the metaphor of a blanket for maintaining warmth, but the Mother and Child in my collage are warm without a blanket; the Mother is in fact partially naked.  This points to the time when the blanket will no longer be necessary, when the Sun itself will be my warmth.  But now it is winter, and I will continue to wrap myself close for the time being.

Which brings me to Brigid, whose holiday, Imbolc, is February 1 and/or 2, depending on your source.  She is connected with fire and water, poetry, and healing.  She is another fierce Mother, and is a goddess (or saint if you'd rather) who I've felt connected to for a long time.

One of the traditions associated with celebrating Imbolc is to make a pledge for the coming year.  Because her day affirms the promise of spring to come, the planting of seeds is a symbolic sealing of the pledge.  But because this day also marks mid-winter, the blessing and lighting of candles is part of it too.  To me, this recognizes that there is a season and movement to everything - a time to bundle up and withdraw and a time to dance naked in the sun, so to speak.

When I lit my room with many candles on Imbolc night and meditated on what my pledge would be, I sat before my collage until it became clear.  In choosing "bless" as my word for the year, I had only thought in terms of giving blessing - blessing as enlightened action, I suppose - but in gazing at the Mother and Child, I suddenly understood that it must also be about opening to receive, gratefully, the blessings of my life.  And so the pledge I made is to both give and receive Life's blessings.  

The Mother blesses the Child and the Child blesses the Mother; they dissolve into one another, into pure Being.    

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Marvelous Idea

Via Eryl, I am taking part in a most wonderful exchange.  This is how it works:

I promise to send something I make myself to the first 5 people who leave a comment on this post and who, in turn, promise to make the same offer on their blog. The rules are that you need to make the items personally and send them to your 5 folks within 2011.

I am so excited about this!  Eryl has been crocheting characters (you really should go see them), and she says she will be crocheting me something green. 

But what I'm really excited about is what I'm going to make.  The first 5 people to comment will get a personalized collage from me.  (Just keep in mind, if you're the fifth person to comment, you might not get it until Christmas.) 

So who's down?

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I have a deck of Medicine Cards; each card features a different animal, and the book by David Carson and Jamie Sams gives you an interpretation of the significance of each animal.  I don't consult them much these days, but my 3-year-old, Eliana, likes to lay them all out, naming each animal.  Often she'll do this when I'm sitting in my room reading or writing in my journal, and she's pretty good about putting them back in their box when she's done.  But recently I found one that had somehow made it out into the living room and was face down on the floor.  I picked it up and it was the Raccoon card, then I went to the book and read about it.  The gist was the need to consider the meaning and uses of protection.  Kinda random, I thought, but okay - I'll take it.

I started asking myself questions like, What is worth protecting, and from what?  What do I truly have the power to protect? 

I looked up the word "protect" in the dictionary, and was particularly caught by two concepts:  guarding and covering. I thought of the verse from the biblical book of Proverbs:  "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

Since I was still musing over the "heart surgery" metaphor from my last post, this protection theme began to take on deeper significance, especially in connection with healing.  When I looked up the word "heal," there was an emphasis on "closing," as in closing a wound.  It occurred to me that one cannot heal until after the surgery is finished, because by its very nature, surgery is an opening, not a closing.  To heal is to re-cover.

Then a Facebook friend of mine posted a link to this article and video about baby bats that have been orphaned in Australia due to flooding and were found on the ground covered in maggots.  This post would get way too long if I went off on a tangent about the significance of bats for me, but I will just point out that they are pollinators, and I do hold a strong connection with them, which I may post about some time.  Maybe it is because of this connection that I was so profoundly moved by these images:

Or maybe it's just because they're so darn cute.  Regardless, this got me thinking that one protects what is weak that it may strengthen, what is young that it may grow mature, what is wounded that it may heal.

Then, a couple of days later at Abbey of the Arts, Christine posted the theme for her 49th Poetry Party and it was "Fierceness and Courage."  She asked, "What are the things of your life you are called to protect fiercely?"  I love the word fierce, and one of the best compliments I ever got was from someone who called me fierce.  (The same person also told me I "look good disheveled" - another of my favorite compliments.)

With some of the issues I've been working through regarding a severed relationship in my life, I began to see how all of these things apply in a practical way.

I thought about St. Paul's definition of the armor of God.  I realized that the only way to truly guard my heart is to bless from it.  I saw that the thing worth protecting in me now is innocence, and the only way to protect it is to bless.  This came out of a sudden understanding that my only choice in a situation that causes me great anger and pain is either to curse or to bless.  And because the temptation to curse is so strong, so fierce, I realized I have to turn that into fierce blessing.

Did you ever see the scene in Tomb Raider when the villain has thrown a dagger toward someone, and, while time is stopped and the dagger is freeze-framed in midair, Lara Croft has to turn it around and point it back toward the villain?  It takes an immense act of will, concentration, and strength; she has to use both hands, which she cuts in the process.  That's what it's like turning cursing into blessing.

The sense of being unhinged that I spoke of in my last post, the image of a cut-up chicken, the metaphor of surgery - in contemplating protection and healing, I began to see what the next step was for me.  Interestingly, around the same time as all the rest of this, I read in Sue Monk Kidd's The Dance of the Dissident Daughter:
In an old Sumerian myth, the Goddess Inanna, making a descent to the underworld, moves through seven gates.  At each gate she must strip a piece of her clothing away until at last she is naked, arriving without any of her former trappings.  At the depth of her descent she is turned into a piece of meat and hung on a meat hook for several days before being resurrected as a woman.
All of a sudden I can see my journey over the past year or so as an integrated thing.  Starting in October of 2009, I began posting around the theme of nakedness as a metaphor for what I was experiencing in my life.  (If you click here, it will take you to those posts.)   Now I've had the meat hook experience.  Which is exactly why protection has come up, I now understand.  I'm like those baby bats - I'm fresh and new (green!) and I've been through the wringer, and now I need a warm soft blanket around me.

The mistake I've made in the past is unconsciously believing my coldness and anger can protect me, but in thinking about what a blanket does, I'm coming to understand it a new way.  A blanket protects you by keeping the warmth you already have within you from escaping.

Epiphany:  Keeping one's warmth close to oneself is not the same thing as being cold toward others.

I'm not just the innocent that needs protecting, I'm the compassionate mother who weaves and wraps the blanket.  I'm the child who is healing and the resurrected woman both.

Taking all these signs and insights that are coming to me from multiple directions is how the blanket is woven.  Or maybe a quilt would be a better metaphor.  A quilt is, after all, a kind of collage.

And speaking of collages, I haven't yet told you how all of this connects with my 2011 collage.  I'll save that for next time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heart Surgery

God has to work on your soul “in secret,” according to the saints and mystics.  If God gave you any idea of what God was doing, which is always radical surgery, you would do one of two things:  you would try to stop it, or you would try to engineer it and take control of the process.  God has to operate in darkness to get the job done.  ~Richard Rohr
I chose the word bless as my word for the year because of a book that friend, author, and fellow blogger, Jonna-Lynn gave me.  This book is called The Gentle Art of Blessing: A Simple Practice That Will Transform You and Your World and was written by a man named Pierre Pradervand.  The premise of the book truly is simple; it's the idea of practicing blessing any- and everyone who (literally or mentally) crosses your path (including yourself).  And in terms of freeing the mind from negative and obsessive thoughts about the self and others, it really works.  For it to work, however, the blessings must be sincere, they must come from the heart, and this of course is the hard part.  But I've discovered that if I am the least little bit willing, and can muster up just one simple blessing-thought, it quickly blossoms into more.

With this blessing practice combined with green as my color for the year, which is the color related to the heart chakra, I already feel enfolded in an intense gentleness, energized by a vibrant airiness, circulated by a  lush bright flow.

And yet, there is something else going on too, something I've been having great difficulty putting my finger on.  When I tried to write about the feelings I've been having in my journal the other day, I kept seeing the image of cutting up a chicken, and thinking of the word "unhinged," and a Bible verse came to me, Hebrews 4:12:  "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."  This is the best description of what's been happening within me that I have found so far.

I have been slowly replacing the word "God" in my vocabulary with "Being."  Eckhart Tolle points out in The Power of Now that for many people, "God" as a word has become too tired and overused (and even abused) to truly point to what it points to anymore, which is far more mysterious than anyone can fathom.  The word "Being" however, is very open-ended; an atheist could probably use it comfortably, and it points to the great mystery of sentient presence, whatever you believe its origins to be.

My point in saying all this, is that for me, "the word of God" is any manifestation of Being that I pay close attention to, which is to say, anything at all.  By this process of blessing and by simply practicing presence in the moment as I have for several months now, things have become loosened within me, and lately I have this sense of being unhinged.  When negative thoughts try to take over my mind these days, I experience it far more intensely in my body than I ever used to.  Specifically, I feel it as a trembling and weakness and acute anxiety in the area of my heart.  However, it's also much easier for me to recognize and move out of such negativity.  Moving into blessing is one way to do that, putting my attention on how I feel inside my body is another.  Sometimes all I need to do is breathe.

The dividing of soul and spirit mentioned in the verse above I read as the division of the temporal and the eternal, the self that uses mind to operate in the world, and the selfless spirit that is the eternal witness.  According to these definitions, I can say that by practicing watching my self/soul, I have become more aware of the spirit, the one who watches.  All of these words are inedequate; I have no way to really explain this.  I'm always relieved when I find a metaphor to express such things, and yesterday morning as I sat in meditation with these deeply disturbing physical/emotional sensations, I finally landed on a metaphor that fits, and the moment I did, I felt centered and calm:  Pruning.  Green surgery.

Back in June, I discussed pruning as metaphor in a post called The Ruthless Gardener, but back then, the pruning was about outer situations and relationships; now it's more intimate.  It's about thought processes, cherished mental habits and beliefs, and so on.

Somehow, by envisioning limbs being cut off a tree, I came to peace with the loss of control I've been feeling. Which has resulted from a greater and greater recognition of the illusion of any such control, that the thought-habits the mind cherishes are its always futile attempt to make control real and grasp it forever.

Yikes!  That's way too convoluted.  Let's try this instead:

The spirit prunes the soul; Being prunes everything that interferes with Itself.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Synergy of Spheres

I could start anywhere, because the collage of images I am contemplating has no beginning.  Or it has many beginnings.

But because I must start somewhere, I'll do it with the point in time just before the collage was made, which was the day before New Year's Eve 2010.  I already knew my word for 2011 was bless, and the color was green, and so I decided to make a collage that reflected these guides.  Last year was my first to use a guiding word and color, and it was a wonderful experience to go through the year with those polestars.  This year, I have taken it a step further, by creating a guiding image, or rather, a combination of guiding images, which I know I will be contemplating the connections among all year long.  And this thrills and composes me in a way I cannot describe.

As I said in my last post, I make collages usually with some kind of general intention or theme, but the specific images often continue to surprise me with meanings I did not see when I chose them, meanings that deepen and radiate with time.  I finished my collage the morning of New Year's Eve, and in the few short days into this fresh green year, I have already been amazed at what it has revealed to me. So amazed, in fact, that I had to make a mind map to start tracking the connections.

I would so love to see this in an interactive 3D version.  Oh wait - that's the world.

I did something like this last year too, and then attempted to discuss all the connections in one post.  Okay, it was two, plus an addendum and a poem.  I won't bombard you in this post with excited ramblings about how all the things in my mind map connect.  In fact, I won't even begin to discuss them.  However, be forewarned that I will likely be posting throughout the year about these and other connections I have yet to even see.  I just have a feeling it's going to be that way.

It truly is all connected, folks.  And I find no greater joy than in seeing and sharing that, one blooming thing at a time.


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