“Happiness is solely a matter of where you put your attention.” ~Anonymous.*
*I’m not sure who to attribute this quote to, if anyone knows please let me know.
Each glorious day arrives and ends. The One who witnesses, our capital ‘S’ Self, watches it all pass without commentary, or judgement. The small one, mind, ego, thought, chatters, makes trouble, takes issue with the way things are never quite right…
…If only I didn’t have a headache
had gotten more sleep
didn’t forget my computer for the meeting
wasn’t doing a performance today
wasn’t worried about politics
was spending the day with my kid
if only, instead, I wish…
When we become fully present to the moment there is no problem. There is not even opportunity, there just is. The fullness of what is. My teacher Jennifer McKeown calls it “the is-ness of what is.” Coming into presence we find that the small-self, with its needs, wants, demands, and resistances, collapses into infinity. Then we do it again, and again, and again, all day long coming back to presence the second we notice attention has left.
Walking down the stairs, thoughts come about the day, what will I do later if I don’t finish the…” Caught! Stop. Return, hand is on the grooved wooden banister, feet sink into the carpet, sun shines through the window, the body breathes. Presence. Over and over, all day long I practice.
My heart rate is up, a thin sheen of sweat builds at my temple, they’ll be home any minute… or maybe not, maybe I’ve got two more hours. I wanted to put the laundry away, play music, finish up loose ends for work, meditate again. I catch my body moving in jerky spasmodic motions, not sure where to turn next as the thoughts bombard my attention. I compulsively check my phone to see an update on their ETA. I’ve had 24 glorious hours of quiet, calm, unscheduled time.
I’m so grateful.
It’s not enough.
I need to get out of here! If I get out of here before the come home, I can finish up a couple more things before…
…before all of my attention is focused towards my child…
…before I’m at the mercy of whatever mood he’s in…
…before any rational planning and accomplishment of tasks is totally impossible.
I can’t believe how wrapped up in anxious thoughts I’ve become, I practically run out the front door to be sure I don’t accidentally see my son and husband before I’m ready to reengage with them. I realize I forgot my wallet a block away. I sneak back into my own home, terrified that I’ll hear the creak of the back door as I open the front.
Terrified that I’ll see my son’s chubby face and deep brown eyes light up at my presence,
that I’ll feel my hear melt,
my arms open,
my to-do-list fade into oblivion.
End of summer marks time passing,
watching beautiful child grow,
almost three now,
a blink and an incredible journey.
Each moment presents itself full of glory, fear, pain, love, pleasure, trepidation,
as though it is all that ever was,
gathering all focus and attention,
a storm’s lightning flashing.
And then it is gone.
The next moment upon us,
waves in the storm surge, unbearable in their intensity
or almost unnoticed in their mundanity.
And where are You? We, within this?
What are we?
We are not the waves.
Are we the shore eroding with each crash?
Are we the flower ripped from the bank?
The tree nourished by the moisture?
The water after it calms?
Where is our attention?
On the rock, the plant, the roots, the movement?
Or on every single one and ourselves too.
All as One.
The watcher and the experiencer,
never swept away and deeply touched,
dry to the bone and soaking wet
in every unfolding moment.
You make me want to sing. You make me want to write poetry, to dance. It’s as if when you passed through my birth canal you broke open great crashing waves of creativity that I thought were fancies of my youth, left long ago to die. On your sixth day of life my parents went home. I was moved to tears all day by the feeling of their absence in our home and simultaneously filled with surges of joy as your father and I worked through our first day alone with you, as parents.
That evening we ate dinner and listened to music. Dad was in the kitchen while I held you on the couch–still too sore to sit at the table. Both of us sang to the music, songs we’ve loved throughout our lives. Dad while cooking, and I looking down at you in my arms. As I opened my mouth to sing a new voice exited my lips. The voice of a mother, louder, stronger, more powerful and also more vulnerable. The cries of your labor loosened my jaw, dropped my soft palate, allowed a new openness. As I raised my voice to join your dad’s tears flowed from me, hot and fast, drenching my shirt like the breast milk that pours from me now, every time I hear you cry.
These tears, this experience of bringing you into the world, has let open my heart to the fullness and also the emptiness of love. The fullness while I connect with every parent on the planet who has known the joy of ushering new life into being. And the emptiness which is the love that underlies all in every moment, even when we cannot seem to see. The love that moves people through their lives.
“It’s so big. It’s just so big.” I said to your dad when he joined me for dinner from the kitchen.
“I know.” he replied. and we sat across from each other, with you between us, and sang while we cried.
This was written on November 17th, 8 days after Wolf was born. It’s a part of a collaborative journal that my husband Jeff and I are keeping for Wolf. Thanks for reading. I’ll keep working on posts.
I feel you move inside of me and fall in love with every action. What are you feeling when you squirm your hands and legs and elbows? Your tiny fingers tickle me in places no one has ever touched. Your mysterious presence becomes more solid and more mysterious every single day. I wonder if you can feel my feelings? I wonder on what level we are communicating with each other. I think you like it when we perform concerts, you love the joy of dancing, the sound of music, and all the children’s voices.
I’ve been working hard to get the house ready for you, but really I’m getting it ready for me. You don’t care if the cupboard are de-greased or if your nursery is blue or white or pink. Yet the urge to create a clean, welcoming nest for you is overpowering at times. I’ve been thinking lately that it’s funny how we spend so much time thinking about what we’re going to “do” with our babies after they arrive. Who will hold them? Where will they lie down? Who will take care of them while I “do” the rest of my life.
I got caught up in that too, and instead I am now focusing, not on what I will do with you, but just being with you. I can’t wait to be your mom. I can’t wait to look in your eyes and touch your skin and hold you in my arms. All the rest will come when needed, I don’t need to figure anything out. You are not a distraction or an interruption to my life, you are life. My life. Your Dad’s life. Your own life. Life.
I feel that I hold inside of me, my greatest love and my greatest teacher.
Synonyms for become: transform, change, passage, metamorphosis, development, evolution, alteration.
All of these words apply in their own way as I move through the journey of pregnancy. I have always identified with the symbol of the butterfly. Its metamorphosis from egg, to larvae, caterpillar to chrysalis, and then its magical transformation, using something that biologists call “imaginal cells,” to become a butterfly, resonates with the constant change that we experience as living beings. Before a caterpillar can become a butterfly it must die to its former self. Literally, the immune system of the caterpillar resists the change, fighting the new cells until it’s immune system fails and metamorphosis can occur. The new self cannot exist until the old one dies.
This story of the butterfly speaks to me again, in a new way, as I become a mother slowly more everyday, and as my baby grows wondrously inside of me.
This is an excerpt from the journal I’ve been keeping to my new baby.
I am becoming a mother
and you are becoming my child.
We will perhaps never be as close again as we are now-
made of one body,
nurtured by the same food,
fed by the same spirit.
We are one with all the world.
There is no separation between what each of us truly are,
though you may grow to think there is.
I will do my absolute best in every moment to teach you with my actions, words, and choices that this is so,
that oneness and connection rather than separation and loneliness, are the rule,
though the world is filled with all things.
Still, I will fail, again and again, to live from oneness
and I will surrender to this failure and in doing so, show you the way.
The enormity of your tiny presence in this life leaves me full of a new kind of living.
For you, for love, for me,
I vow to let my highest self live this life.
A note to my readers and to myself.
It’s been many month since I’ve posted here. I’m realizing I need to free myself even further from any kind of constraints in this space. I started doing this “challenge” to get myself to share writing, but it’s acted as a trap in it’s own right! I’ve been searching for some kind of a theme or a framework to write within, and I think this is what has held me back. It’s made me feel that if I’m going to post something here it has to be really worthwhile. But that brings judgment into the picture, and that’s the last thing I’m looking to add to my daily life.
The reality is I just want a place to write and share that writing with others who are interested in reading. Instead I’ve stopped myself from writing what’s actually going on, what’s really present for me. In part that’s because there have been life changes that I wasn’t ready to share on the internet, in part because I was censoring myself unknowingly. So here’s what’s next, whatever comes!
And so the aforementioned life change… I’m pregnant. This journey has been the most profound, mind-alterning, perspective changing experience of my life. It’s been too hard to write and somehow not mention it, hence the months of silence.
No more “challenges” just words. The ones that come through me, the ones that seem worth taking the time to type after I’ve written them in a notebook. Thank you for reading.
Meditation takes us nowhere, it is not a step in a journey it is a settling back into life.
Not “my life.” Life.
“Meditation is the highest form of prayer, a naked act of love and effortless surrender into the abyss beyond all knowing.” ~Adyashanti
Practicing meditation makes thoughts obvious, it lets us see them all dressed up in their different outfits–There’s fear wearing a red boa and black heels isn’t she tempting to listen to? But wait a second, oh look, there’s worry in a pink tutu throwing a fit about the trip we’re taking in a few weeks. And there’s nonchalance, stretched out like a cat in a sunbeam, smoking a cigarette without a care in the world. And here am I, watching it all go by.
I meditate everyday for 20-30 minutes. The gift of giving myself this time helps create the space for a higher Self to emerge, or for being to emerge, or presence, or for God to emerge… Whatever the noun it’s a time for that slow quiet still voice, that doesn’t say much, to be heard, or not at all.
I had a teacher during my graduate school studies tell me once that, our souls are quiet, shy things. “You can’t just go out clomping through the bushes, whacking away at the underbrush looking for them. You’ll never find them that way. But if you’re very still and patient you might be lucky enough to glimpse them out of your periphery, peaking steadily through the trees like a wild animal.”
The bushes I’ve been clomping through aren’t out there somewhere, but in here.
When I first started meditating I couldn’t believe how hard it was to sit still. Instead of discouraging me, or writing off the activity as a waste of time, I was motivated to try again. It seemed so simple, sit still for 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes everyday, yet it was more difficult than hiking a mountain or writing a book. I began with 5 minutes everyday and added on from there. Now my meditation is my favorite part of every day.
Once we start to see all those thoughts clambering for our attention, all dressed up with nowhere to go during the quiet of mediation, we can begin to recognize them in our daily lives. And slowly we realize also that there is a choice about whether to listen to what they have to say, whether or not we want to bring that fear forward into the world with her red lipstick, feathery boa, and stiletto heels, or whether we’ll act from somewhere deeper and quieter, giving that wild animal the space to come forward into the light.
When we let go of what we thought was going to happen, space is create for what is happening to blossom. I find myself over and over remembering this, and each time, the relief of the release is gorgeous.
Every time I hold onto something, that didn’t work out the way I thought it was going to, I get a beautiful reminder that my thoughts are based in nothing more than just that, thoughts, which is to say not much at all.
The last few months have been full. So full I haven’t had a chance to write anything I’ve wanted to share here.
And last week I woke up–my first day as a 34 year old–and noticed the temptation to pick up all the worries. Everything from not enough money to live, to not having time to buy cat food before I leave town, went through my brain in a great wave. It sounds ridiculous when I write it on paper, and more so when I transfer it to this computer screen, yet this is the content of this mind. And the stress response in my body to thoughts about the future is the same, whether it’s fear of homelessness or remembering to buy more kibble.
Each time I reach one of these moments I am asked to recommit to the practice of watching thoughts and not identifying with them. Here’s what I’m tempted to do.
Thought: We’re not going to have enough money!”
Reaction: check bank balances, solicit more work, draw up new ideas about how to get more. Create a story in my mind that the work I’m doing is not worthy. That I may have to switch careers, give up on creative work etc.
And this is a perfectly “normal” response in our culture. We give thoughts weight in America, and it because of this it seems to make sense to create actions based on what they say.
But what if I investigate the thought in the first place? Not believing it outright but questioning it? When I do this I see the thought out in front of me, not a part of me, but a thing to be looked at. And I let the questions come from the stillest part of myself.
Thought: We’re not going to have enough money!
Question: For what?
A: The future.
Q: For what in the future?
A: For the things we’ll need.
Q: Do you know you’ll need these things? What are they?
A: I guess not. I don’t know exactly what they are.
Q: What do you need more for?
A: To live.
Q: Are you living now?
Q: What are you afraid of?
A: I don’t know.
Like a persistent and patient three-year-old full of innocent curiosity I ask myself the questions that come, without judgment, until I get to the bottom of the worry, which is almost always some kind of fear.
And suddenly, as if it never were at all, the worry, the fear, the hurry, is gone. I haven’t solved anything, or changed anything, because the basis of the problem was false in the first place. I have no control over the events of my life, only choices about how I respond to the things that happen and from where in my self I reach out.
The circumstances leading up to it are always different, a disagreement with a friend, a fight with a lover, a comment from a relative, or even just a thought inside my head. There I am feeling stuck. It’s a hot stuffy place inside my body and I want to get out of it. I name it disappointment, frustration, anxiety, anger, annoyance, and in that moment where there is a choice, I want. I want to get away from the hot prickly, stifling space of that too warm room.
I can see there is a way out! If I fling open the windows and let the cold air stream past the curtains the heat will subside. Or maybe I can run quickly out the door, so fast perhaps no one will see me leave. As the heat increases, coming up through my body, I want to move and jump, to shake off the anxiousness, to rip open the roof and let the sunlight pierce the dark. I want release, I want no more discomfort.
The way forward in these moments, seems absolutely clear. Do It! Open the windows, express my frustration, reveal my thoughts, place blame somewhere else, jump up and down, flail my arms in anger, never mind the consequences, right now I am upset.
In the past I would do this. One of these things, or many of them. In the past I would think nothing of this seeming release, it felt righteous. It felt important. Now, when I get to this moment, I know I have a choice. I know that, “Suffering is life telling you, you are misperceiving or resisting what is Real and True.” ~ Adyashanti.
I know that blame and judgment placed anywhere (inside or out) is poison. I know that any movement to remove or attempt to escape the discomfort will result in more suffering, not only my own but also for those around me. And yet… it’s so tempting, still after all these years, to just get it away. In that moment, when desire burns so hot and obvious it seems essentially impossible to make another choice.
But if I can wait. If I can watch the part of me that wants to scream, and flail, and push away, and blame, throw its daggers against the inside of my brain, instead of out into the world, which is already full of so much of this already, all urges will pass. It is a passing storm across a placid lake. The waves and lightning seem to shatter the peace, yet the content of the water is unchanged after the squall.
In this life there is no control. But there is a choice. There is a choice to respond or react, to listen or attack. There is a choice to live as love and oneness, or to live as a separate self with an agenda. Sometimes I face that choice a thousand times in a one day, sometimes I face it a thousand times in one minute. Many days I fail over and over again. The goal is not perfection.
Sometimes I experience the beauty of release,
of letting go of all stances and opinions,
right in the middle of a sentence,
that seconds ago I was completely and entirely identified with,
and the ground I was standing on so solidly, crumbles beneath my feet.
And everything I ever believed, is called into question
in the most delightful way.