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When we pray to God we must be seeking nothing – nothing. (Saint Francis of Assisi)

Tonight I facilitated another Reiki Share, and walked out of there feeling like a brand-new-gal. These gatherings have been one of my greatest joys as a Reiki practitioner (for about a bazillion reasons). Tonight, we got to talking about prayer and prayerfulness. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately, and I was so glad to get the input and thoughts of others as I muse over, ponder over, and chew on the whole concept of prayer, and the attitude of prayerfulness.

God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer. (Mother Teresa)

I have had a complicated relationship with prayer, I think. Maybe most people have – I don’t know. All I know is that I was raised as a Catholic, and that was my religious foundation for a great deal of my life. I don’t even want to get into that whole phenomenon of Catholic anger, or the idea of the “recovering Catholic.” That’s not what I’m driving at here, and I don’t really identify with either of those things. My Catholic upbringing – and my specific exposure to that perspective – gave me one conception of prayer, one way to live prayer, one way to act in prayer. And for a long time, that was the only way I could think about praying.

I believe I am finally in a place where I can actually appreciate the meaning of the word prayerful for the first time in my life. Of sensing the necessary openness, instead of expectation. And I came to it through Reiki.

One part of Reiki is actually providing yourself and others with treatment – that’s the part that most people are familiar with. They’ve seen it on the news, they’ve seen it on Dr. Oz, they’ve read about it online. And, all of that exposure? It’s great. I love it. But it neglects so much.

It’s the other part of Reiki that seems to be unseen, unacknowledged, and undiscussed. The inward part – the part where the practitioner (the one who practices) commits to walking a spiritual path. The part of Reiki that is the act of living prayerfully.

In college, I read Dorothy Day’s biography, and the quote that most struck me was when she said, “I could not go to God on my knees.” For such a long time, I really thought that was pretty much the only option I had – to be penitent, knees bent, head bowed, staring downward.

Prayer is not merely an occasional impulse to which we respond when we are in trouble: prayer is a life attitude. (Walter A. Mueller)

In the intervening years between reading and identifying with that quote and today, my conception of prayer, and my understanding of what it means to be prayerful, has grown and blossomed. Yes, there are times I go to God on my knees, but I let it be in reverence, and not in shame. There are also times I go with arms held high, feeling joyful and embraced. Feeling jubilant.

Eddie Izzard, a rather unconventional comedian, does quite a few skits on religion. (I love his comedy – it’s intelligent and quick and wry.) In one particular skit, he says that one of the things that’s always bewildered him is the way that so many Christians manage to sing praise songs in a dirge tone. That was my experience growing up – attending church each Sunday and watching the congregants sing Alleluia as though they were going to the gallows. And I prayed dirgefully. Uck.

Reiki has brought me a new way to experience prayer – something which I did not expect. I’ve talked about this quite a bit in Reiki Shares and in other gatherings, but not here on my blog. For me, providing treatment for someone becomes a prayerful experience. I tell clients that it feels almost as though the entire session becomes one long prayer. There is peace, and silence, and the space for them to heal and to find resolution. For me, there is inner quiet, and a meditative state that is something quite different than the state I’m in when I grocery shop or watch tv. There is an attentiveness and openness on the part of both myself and the client. We each enter the session with hopes (a form of prayer) and intentions (a kind of petition) and openness (the willingness to hear and receive the results of those hopes and intentions).

Prayer gives a man the opportunity of getting to know a gentleman he hardly ever meets. I do not mean his maker, but himself. (William Inge)

I try to bring more of that into my day (with varying degrees of success). I try to bring myself into a state of mindfulness more often in my everyday life. I try to think prayerfully, walk prayerfully. Be prayerful.

Being prayerful, for me, has come to mean:

  • Being soft like water – able to bend with the flexible and changing world around me.
  • Being passionate like fire – able to feel all the things that it means to be human with depth and meaning.
  • Being open to new ideas, new ways of thinking, new ways of behaving.
  • Being mindful of all the world around me, and the deservingness of everyone and everything to be treated with the reverence that is due one of God’s creations.
  • Being mindful of my speech, knowing that the wrong words have such ability to harm.
  • Being mindful of my attitudes, knowing that I (like everyone else) tend to get “stuck” in them.
  • Being mindful of my part in all things – that even when I feel as though I’ve been wronged, there is something in that experience that is mine, and that I need to own.
  • Open arms. Open hands. Open heart.
  • More listening, less talking.

My intention this month was to work at being more prayerful in my daily life. I want to embrace all the ways that prayer has been a blessing to me in both joy and sorrow. I want to walk, knowing that with each step I take, I have an opportunity to walk prayerfully. With each breath, I have an opportunity to breathe prayerfully. Each word, each thought, each action – is an opportunity to be prayerful.

I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. (Abraham Lincoln)

It is of course possible to dance a prayer. (Terri Guillemets)

I wrote about this tonight because it’s occupying my thoughts, and I wanted to write about it to see where I was with it. I fully expect my feelings, thoughts, and ideas about prayer to change and grow – I welcome it. When I “write to discovery,” as I intended to do tonight, I tend not to be as eloquent as when I feel sure of what I’m saying – thanks for bearing with that.

I’d love to hear about what prayerfulness means for others. How do you experience prayer? How do you live prayer in your life? What things have you had to heal about prayer in order to get where you are today?

Part of walking the path of mastery is picking up all the pieces of your life one by one, like stones on the riverbank, and holding them in your hands. Turning them over and over, examining them. Seeing them again and for the first time. My growing relationship to prayer is another of those stones – one which I know I’ll cup thoughtfully in my palm many times as I walk forward.

I attended and graduated from Mount Mary College in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and I – like every woman to pass through those hallowed halls of learning – was required to take a course entitled ‘Search for Meaning.’ The class was four credits – two of which were philosophy-oriented, and two of which were spiritually-oriented. We had two instructors – translation: we had two times four credits of homework for the class, and we ended up christening it all sorts of things like ‘Search for Sanity,’ or ‘Search for my Lost Social Life.’

And despite the workload, it was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. It was a deeply important part of the formation of my growing spiritual and philosophical nature.

Every student to pass through Mount Mary was required to take that course, and despite the differences in content for each section, one requirement never wavered: we all read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. (Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who’s path led him to witness and endure some of humanity’s most horrific acts against its own members (the Holocaust) – his suffering and the suffering of those around him inspired him upon his release to write it out and send it out into the world anonymously. At the last moment, a friend talked him into at least putting his name on the title page. And this short book stands as a testament to humanity’s quest to discover the meaning of life, even and especially amidst great suffering.)

I’ve found myself thinking about that book on and off in the years since I took that class, since I graduated, and a lot of life happened, and a lot of change happened. I found myself thinking about it for a few weeks, so I finally dug it out and I’ve been curling up with it for a few minutes a day since I unearthed it from the depths.

It’s interesting to see the places where I marked the pages. What I underlined then, what I underlined now. The differences in perspective. The ability to see deeper than before, and to catch nuance and meaning in things that all those years ago, I didn’t know would become important.

I thought I’d share a few of my favorite parts with you tonight. I’ll let them stand alone, because they speak for themselves.

“When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how.’”

“…the meaning of life differs from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. ‘Life’ does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are real and concrete.”

“Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it….The prisoner who had lost faith in the future – his future – was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay. Usually this happened quite suddenly, in the form of a crisis, the symptoms of which were familiar to the experienced camp inmate. We all feared this moment – not for ourselves, which would have been pointless, but for our friends….He simply gave up….and nothing bothered him anymore.”

“We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

“What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you….human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death.”

I’ve been going through some tough stuff lately, and learning some hard lessons. Revisiting this helped me put things into perspective, and to remind me of some of the things I believe in. It helped me refocus on the core of what I hold to be true in what sometimes feels like a world gone mad. Hope you found something here for you, too.

Um... Yeah. It looks kinda like that for all of us. The comfort is that I'm pretty sure it's supposed to 🙂

When I was in high school (which will date me, but whatever), Garth Brooks was huge, and that song was huge. And every time we have a night like tonight, where wave after wave of storms rolls over us, unleashing fury in crash and thrash and torrent, the words of that song come creeping back in.

I taught Reiki tonight – to a woman who made a long journey to come and be a part of the class each day. To a woman who braved Tornado Warnings and funnel cloud sightings and sheets of rain to drive here. To a woman who so valued the training, that she made an arduous trek to complete it. I honor her dedication, and her commitment to the path that she said she’d spent over ten years waiting to pursue.

I thought about that a lot tonight, as we intermittently checked the front windows of the shop to ensure that we weren’t on the brink of ending up following the yellow brick road, instead of the Reiki path (haha). About how some of the things that we want desperately end up lying mysteriously easily in the palms of our hands, as though they’d been nestled there all along. And how other things, other longings, seemed to have to cost you, seemed to have to exact a price.

We lit candles to make sure that there would be some light if the storm managed to knock out the power. As the electricity pulsed and dimmed over and over again, I thought a lot about how it said something about her character, and the depths of her desire, to saunter out into the storm to complete her training. It says something about each of us, when we pursue the things that don’t seem to want to come easily. It says something about who we are deep inside.

I always think of it as being willing to bleed for it – not to be gross. What are you willing to bleed for, to sweat for, to sacrifice for, to bring into being? I look around at a lot of people in my generation, and in the generation coming up behind my generation, and there’s this pervasive sense of entitlement. Well, folks, newsflash – you might get to the top of the heap by lucky accident, but you’ve gotta stay there by your own will. Or you have to put in your time in the trenches, so that someday, you can stand at the top and survey how far you’ve come.

When did we ever think that this was supposed to be easy? Just where in the heck did that come from? Where did we ever get the idea that it wasn’t supposed to hurt, wasn’t supposed to cost us, wasn’t supposed to leave scars? Life does that – if you’re really living it.

If you’re really living it, going deep, and putting yourself out there, you risk – and those who risk gain the rewards. Those who show up in their own lives every day risk much, but gain much. It is just as much work to maintain a true apathy, as it is to cultivate the ability to be PRESENT in your life.

Do you show up? Do you risk anything? What hill are you willing to die upon? What are you willing to hurt for? I think about that, as I listen to the “where’s-mine-ers” and the “me-too-ers” and everyone else who thinks it all just comes so easily – all the people who think that they should just have it handed to them.

And then I thought about my student tonight, and I realized that she valued what she came to receive. She knew that sometimes, things have to cost you – and the things you’ve longed for – the things that fill your soul to bursting – are worth the price you pay for them.

Thanks for letting me rant a bit. It felt important to acknowledge this, and to talk about it tonight (as the thunder rolls, and the lightning strikes…)

My niece Abby and me, July 2010.

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Once upon a time, I was a high school English teacher, and in that life, there was something that I sought out eagerly each day, attempted to create, and leapt upon like a tigress when it appeared – the teachable moment. That happy circumstance when I had attention, interest, engagement, and most importantly, opportunity.

The funny thing is, that when you’re a teacher down to your bones, from the moment of your birth, the way that I am, finding the teachable moment is actually a kind of sixth sense – one that (to the dismay, and eye-rolls, of many of my associates), I can identify and take advantage of no matter the circumstance. I kind of can’t help it – I see the perfect moment to provide illumination, and I take it. I’m a teacher – and I can no more let the opportunity pass by, than I could stop being who I am.

Today I went to my folks’ house to do laundry and hang out with my three-year-old niece, Abby. She’s both the best and most important ‘student’ I’ve ever had, and the best and most important ‘teacher’ I’ve ever had.

We had a great time today – she loves her Auntie, and we have all sorts of adventures together when I’m there. She has an incredibly rich inner world, which she’s pleased as punch to draw me (and anyone else who’s handy) into.

Today, we had one of those unexpected teachable moments. I was in the laundry room folding a load, and she grabbed what she calls her ‘Jesus book’ – a children’s book of Bible stories – and her duckie, and planted herself next to the washer. I sank down onto the floor next to her, and asked her if she’d like me to tell her the stories in her book.

With the dryer humming in the background, and the washer swishing away behind us, we went through the entire book – a rare thing with that three-year-old attention span. I didn’t read what was on the pages, but told her the stories from memory. I pointed out all the major players, and gave her the gist of each tale in a few sentences.

The last story in the book was the one about Jesus and the little children – the one where the man tries to shag off the kids who’ve gathered around Jesus, and Jesus stops him and tells him to let the children stay. Abby was really tuned in, and I could just feel all of the tumblers working in her quick little mind.

She’s had a kind of rough time of things for being only three – nothing horrid, but not a whole lot of stability. I told her that she could talk to Jesus anytime she wanted to, and He would always listen to her, always. I asked her if she wanted me to show her how – she nodded and then got to her feet to stand in front of me. I held my hands in prayer in front of my heart, and I started, “Dear Jesus, I had a hard time today…” She mirrored my every movement, repeated each word, on her own.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me; and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19: 14)

I am her godmother. Once upon a time, when my sister was pregnant, she debated whether, with my unconventional spirituality, I would be a suitable godmother for her child. That was like a dagger in my heart – and I’ve had a hard time healing it. No matter my own personal spirituality, I told her, that God-forbid, if something happened to her, I would do everything in my power to do all that I thought she would have done, and more.

So, I became Abby’s godmother – a role I take seriously, despite my distance from the faith I was raised with. No matter how far away I get from Catholicism, it’s never gone – it’s just become a part of the broad and deep pool of spiritual knowing and experience I’ve built for myself. Every child needs spiritual teachers, no matter what tradition.

Today, I taught my niece to pray. I told her that she did have someone to take all her troubles to – that when she has a hard day, and things feel crummy, she had someone to talk to in every moment. Someone who, though they may not answer back, would hear everything that she told them. She seemed to really take it in. She paused. She was quiet and thoughtful.

Today, I was more grateful for my innate teacher habits than I’ve ever been – today, I had a golden moment with my niece, my goddaughter. Today, I was able to act as her spiritual teacher, the role I was given when she was born, and one I cherish the opportunity to fulfill.

It was especially poignant, because they will be moving in a few weeks, and I know she’s not terribly pleased about it. It will be her third move in as many years. I wanted her to have somewhere to go with all that she will feel about it.

I totally realize that she’s three, and that there’s a whole lot more to prayer than what I was able to tell her today, but this was an important moment. It was the first of many to come.

Tonight I facilitated another Reiki Share, and as I left, it struck me again how grateful I am to be who I am, doing what I am doing, where I am doing it. It struck me again how wonderful it’s been to have this opportunity – how wonderful it feels to be doing something that feels so exactly right for who I am and who I’ve longed to be.

I know that I write a lot about the discomforts of the path of mastery…and not a lot about the blessings. Tonight I thought about those blessings – and about how they are ever-present in my life.

I used to have moments when I felt utterly bereft, as though there was no solace, no corner of comfort for me anywhere, in my entire life. I haven’t felt that way in a long time – I have found my solace, I have found what gives me succor.

Tonight we talked about the Reiki precepts, and we talked about walking the path of mastery and what that means. I think that anyone who’s ever embarked on any kind of spiritual journey, or a journey to self-mastery can say that, at least once, they wished they’d been the kind of person who was content not to question every bloody thing. That they wished for a ‘normal’ and ‘quiet’ life. And tonight I said, “But that is not what it has been given you to do.” And as I said it, I realized that that statement was for me.

There is no way on earth that I could live another life than the one I have. There is no way I could just decide to derail this path, hop off, and get on another one. It is not given me to do. There is no way, because I would be miserable. This is what has been given me to do.

I asked for this – longed for it, in fact. As a child, I was fascinated by the Christian mystics, by the hermits, by those who heard a call deep within their souls to take up their banner and march down a rockier, steeper, bendier path than the others around them. I was intrigued by those who held aloft a lantern to light the way for so many others who trudged similarly fraught paths.

The conditions of the path are really immaterial – whether I was a nurse, or a police officer, or a nun, or a coal miner, or a Reiki master, what I could not forsake is this need to look deeply, to question, to ponder, to explore. That is what has been given me to do.

When I finally was able to pursue Reiki training in the way I’d longed for so long to do, it was like a homecoming. It was like some fretting bird finally quieted and was soothed in my soul. Because I’d found it, finally, the lantern I would bear for others, and for myself.

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

My path has been winding lately, with bends and switchbacks that leave me unable to see the coming terrain. It’s been uphill, and I’m scampering, fighting to keep the progress I’ve made. The pock-marked dirt is littered with rocks that poke through the soles of my shoes. Uncomfortable. I want to get past this part of things, and there’s a part of me that wants to rush through this, and just get it done. There’s another part of me that knows that I need to sink into the discomfort, and BE IN IT.

Every single one of my relationships has been undergoing shift and change – and I know it’s for the best. I know that following this time in my life, I will have found my tribe. I know that I will feel surrounded by people who ‘get’ me and appreciate who I am and what I have to offer – and what they have to offer me. I feel like I have no one to fly to in the night, when I am all alone, and the pressure of everything that I hold up is crushing me to death.

I am seeing everyone around me with new eyes – I misplaced the rose colored glasses that held them all in soft reflection. I see all of their hard edges, all of their faults, all of the places where they take and do not give back. And in seeing it, and taking it in, I cannot return to the time when I chose not to know this about them.

I am making decisions – can I continue the relationships, now that I know what I know, and see what I see? And moreover, do I want to?? Implementing change starts with defining what you DO NOT WANT, so I am doing that. I have a mental list forming, a collection of behaviors that I do not want to put up with anymore. I am trying to be careful not to toss out the baby with the bathwater – a fresh start with something doesn’t require you to throw out all that has come before. It requires you to step forward onto the pebbly path with care and certainty, bearing with you the resolve born out of your growing pains and your fumbles.

I acknowledge that I am not perfect. I admit that there are things about me that become obnoxious, or require understanding, patience, or forbearance. I acknowledge that I tend to hold people to high expectations – I have faith in people, I see their potential, I see the ideal of them. It’s always a little tough when they tumble off the pedestal and turn into the real person that they were all along.

I am actively engaging in the process of excavating my own bullshit and stories to try to figure out the places where I fail others and myself. I am seeking the ways that I could be a better friend, partner, and compatriot. I am trudging along that rock-strewn path because I said to the Universe, “I want to walk the path of mastery,” and that means that you need to get intimate with your inner workings, and pull the wool from your eyes – about yourself and about what it means to be human. So, I’m doing the work – I asked for the work. It’s borne fruit – both bitter and sweet.

I know that I teach people how to treat me – so, I’ve decided to be a better teacher. I’ve identified some of the things that are huge, glowing, red button issues for me. And, I’ve come to realize that just because someone wants a relationship with me, it doesn’t mean I am obligated to return the sentiment – I can be compassionate, and be discerning. They are not mutually exclusive.

For the past few months, I have been trying to get to a place where I could feel good about the evolving nature of my relationships – and I think that I’ve gotten there, but not by the road I thought I’d take. I thought that I would get to a place where I would stop feeling bad for wanting to “prune my friend garden.” That’s not what happened – I got okay with feeling crappy about it, and still being able to step forward and do it anyway – because that was what was good for me. I got to a place where I cared less about ‘what kind of person it made me’ to want to walk away from others – and I got to a place where I realized that self interest is not selfishness, although this society would have me believe otherwise.

So, what follows is partly a wish list for friendship, and partly a manifesto on what it means to be a crummy friend (I do take into account bad days, and humanness – I know that no one can maintain all of this all of the time – it’s a majority thing: can they do this the majority of the time?):

  • Do what you say you will do! This is the hugest, glowingest, reddest button issue for me. Talk is cheap – if your actions and your way of walking in the world doesn’t match what you say and how you advertise yourself, I am not interested.
  • I am not a free counselor. I am not a sage on the hill, to be sought out to heal your drama, and then to be left alone in the cave again when you don’t need me to straighten out all your crooked thinking.
  • I am not a priest – stop coming to me for absolution. I cannot give it. Some things are inexcusable. Some things are wrong, no matter which brush you paint it with.
  • I am not a garbage receptacle – stop bringing me all of your emotional effluvia and leaving it in my lap. It doesn’t make me feel kindly towards you. Deal with your own stuff. Sit in your own discomfort, and leave me to sit in mine.
  • I am not a fool – stop announcing things about yourself in the effort to get people to not call you on your obnoxiousness. Pulling the curtain off of it doesn’t make it more acceptable – it just exposes it in the effort to appear as though you’re actually dealing with it (I can actually see what you’re trying to do here, and if I can, so can everyone else).
  • I am not an indentured servant – stop mistaking my natural helpfulness. I owe you nothing. I do things for others out of a heart-centered desire to be of help – when this is taken for granted, I take it back.
  • I do not exist in a vacuum – stop neglecting the relationship, and believing that it will exist there, as you left it. Relationships cannot be sealed neatly into time capsules. If you think your neglect of me makes you a bad friend, it does.
  • I am not dull-witted – stop peeing on my leg and telling me that it’s raining. I am a frigging writer. I am intimate with stories – the ones I tell myself, the ones I tell others, and the ones I try to live out. The difference? I know, or try to figure out, which of my stories serve the highest good, and which ones I just tell myself to decrease my own discomfort. Why are you telling them?
  • I am not blind, deaf, or dumb – I see you, no matter what you choose to clothe yourself with. I hear you – what you do say, and what you don’t. Circle-speak, double-speak, and non-speak – I am really good at hearing it when you say a bunch of stuff that really doesn’t say anything at all.

I love wholeheartedly. I reach out to others. My natural instinct is to comfort. I am faithful, and I have faith in people. I am giving. I am trusting. I want to live a vibrant life. I want to live each day of my life as deeply as I can. I take chances – on people, in life.

Once I’ve held someone in my heart – no matter how we part ways – I tend to hold them there forever. I am an elephant: I never forget – but as time passes, no matter the indiscretion, I let it get fuzzy so that I can wish you well on your journey.

One of my dear, dear, heart-friends said something the other day that twanged my heart’s deepest corners: “where are all the people who were supposed to love me forever?” I second that. Where are you? I threw my hat in the ring, I showed up, ready to play – where are all of you?

I want to be able to love the distance between us. I want to be able to look at you whole and unbroken, cast upon the skies that span our outstretched hands.

We are misled from early childhood to think that life is something you get through. Life is something to be in. (Dustin Hoffman)

I am trying to be IN the moment. I am concentrating on it. I am working to be grateful for all of the opportunities that life offers me in each day – whether they’re for happiness or healing, and whether they are comfortable or uncomfortable.

Lately things have been uncomfortable. And that’s okay. I mean, it doesn’t feel great, but I know that stuff is being brought to my attention because it’s a good time to address it, whatever it is.

It seems like the older I get, the fuzzier righteousness becomes. Things just are. I just am. We just are. Morality gets clearer, and simultaneously harder to verbalize. Soapboxes seem ricketier, and look far less appealing, as perches go.

Fighting with people at this stage of the game seems silly. Doesn’t mean I don’t still do it. I do. I just try to do it differently. I try not to be underhanded. I try to be as clear as possible, and to leave anger out of it. There are times I think I do pretty well, and there are other times I suit up for battle with the intent to make known how irate I am. That’s being human, I guess.

I’ve had a series of conversations over the past several weeks with someone who is very, very close to me. The reason we’ve had to repeat the conversation is because each time we enter into it, it’s like I am speaking Greek, and they are hearing French. Frustrating. Maddening. Infuriating.

Today, I came to them again, and I needed to just say the things that I’d been afraid to say – I hate hurting people’s feelings (I’m empathic: it just hurts me right back). At the onset, I could see defensiveness in every line of their face and body. I called attention to it, and I said, “I can see that you’re defensive right now. We’re just going to talk. I am not angry, and I am going to work very hard not to get angry.” Calling it out like that seemed to help a little bit.

And I realized something important. I was able to leave emotion outside the door. I was able to be calm and to articulate what I needed to. I was able to honor them and their need to respond in whatever way that they needed to. And, we still did not come to resolution. It seems we are at an impasse. I see green, they see purple – and we’re both looking at the same vista.

It’s frustrating. But a part of me feels very, very clear – a part of me knows that I do need to keep affirming that it is green, because that is my truth, that’s what I see. A part of me knows that if I back down this time, I will betray myself knowingly and without any excuse other than to make the other person comfortable – and this is hard, because I’ve spent the better part of my life attempting to make others comfortable. It’s instinctive.

Part of that realization was that I’m no longer willing to ensure their comfort at the expense of my own. I’m still a big fan of finding the middle ground, and of compromise…I’ve just been able to see the line where bending becomes enabling a little bit more clearly.

So, I’m trying hard not to look at this impasse as something to be gotten through. I’m trying to see it as something that is a part of our lives in the now, and that I should appreciate because it is teaching me some pretty important lessons…even if they are uncomfortable ones.

I’ve been reading Pema Chodron on and off the past few months, and it’s helped. She talks about how we human beings have a very low threshold for discomfort, and that we allow ourselves to follow the impulse to get away from whatever’s causing us that discomfort. This time, I am trying to be IN the discomfort – and I’m trying to use it. I want to see where it will lead me, because I know that this situation cannot remain unresolved, and running away will solve nothing. There is no true escape, only delay.

I don’t want to push things off anymore. I want to follow this rabbit hole to see where it leads. Even if I get a little battered on the way. Wish me luck.

 Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break. (William Shakespeare)

Three of Swords: A time to grieve over past sorrow, release the pain, and allow the rain to heal.

If my posts seem to alternate between giddy joy and abject misery lately, it only reflects the emotional rollercoaster of my life at present. I am in a beautiful place – I sail into the new horizon in each moment, and all things are new and bright and glorious.

Pleasure is spread through the earth / In stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find. (William Wordsworth)

I have cast away the shapes and shells of myself that were ill-fitting, and formed myself anew. I formed my new self in joy and rapture. I shaped this life with the careful attention and the playful caprice of the creating hand.

And I am in love with my life. I am enraptured with my life. I have longed for this life.

And still, I grieve. I went through a similar thing when I got divorced. I sought the divorce: After the 15-year relationship – almost 4 years of it being married to a man determined to sink further and further into waves of alcoholism – I sought it eagerly. I wanted to reshape my life, and I did.

And I grieved. I sobbed. I wailed. I raged. And then one morning, I woke up, and realized that it was like death – I was grieving the death of a dream. I grieved the girl I’d been, and the boy he’d been, and the life we’d thought to have together. And I healed, got over it and moved on.

The entire mishmash of feeling was perplexing – if I’ve sought out and chased the change, if I’ve hunted it and hungered for it, and bent the world to my will, and learned to flow with fate, all in the pursuit of a new shape….why, oh, why, on earth, do I grieve?

It’s all in the letting go. Even when what I’ve just picked up is newly settled and glistening with promise in the palm of my hand, I still look back at what I was, what I had, who I was, and feel sad. I become Lot’s wife, and build a pillar of salt with tears.

When I chose to set my foot firmly on a new path, pretty much everyone said, “Wow. I am so glad that you’re doing this!” I felt encouraged. I was encouraged. There were the naysayers and the how-the-hell-will-you-ever-make-that-work-ers, and I let that go. I did it anyway, even though there was the nasty voice in my own head that whispered that I would fail. I did it anyway.

And while I was actively going about making those changes and setting those plans into motion, there was no time to grieve. There was no time to feel anything other than the bliss and triumph of having had the guts to go through with it (well, and to be a whole-lot afraid sometimes, too). But, no time for grief.

You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present. (Jan Glidewell)

Once the day to day of things kicked in and I lived in it for awhile, I started to feel this yucko feeling sneaking in there and crapping up my bliss. This blecky, yucky, craptastic feeling. And I just couldn’t figure out where in the heck it could be coming from???? What was I doing wrong? Maybe I hadn’t been meant to do this? Maybe I would never be happy in anything? Maybe I was incapable of it? (FEAR, fear, fear).

Then I got ahold of myself. And I started to notice a pattern – I read tarot spreads for myself almost every single day. And this rollercoaster was there, in the cards, plain as day. Great joy, great grief. Great opportunity and promise, and great sorrow. Great support, and great loneliness. Both, together, at the same time, in the same moment, on each breath.

There’s definitely a part of me that wonders what in the heck I could possibly be grieving from my recently past situation – and then another part of me chimes in with the common sense that, perhaps this grief is just a part of change. Part of easing into the change.

Because most things have changed for the better – the best. But some things are harder to deal with. I am alone a lot more – a situation designed to help me achieve all that I set out to achieve and give me the chance to do all that I want to do. But, I still have to get used to the aloneness. I am home: I almost never drive anymore – a situation that is totally beneficial, but after having a two hour commute each day (which I grew to hate), it is still an adjustment to just…be here. There are other things, too. This situation means that I no longer get to cling to the false sense of security that I gained from being the breadwinner – I have to trust that Jeremy will do a perfectly fine job. That is hard. I’ve had to let go of those illusions of control in a lot of areas here. And, God, it’s hard – they might have been illusions, but they were my illusions, ya know?

Sorrow makes us all children again – destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Ever since it dawned on me that this feeling of yucko was grief, I’ve tried to be kind to myself, and just feel the feelings and let it move through – a stormfront on my glistening horizon. I’ve tried not to be impatient, waiting for the clouds to part and the sun to shine again.

So, I go back to the Reiki principles, and I find comfort: Just for today, I will not be angry. Just for today, I will not worry. Today, I will do my work honestly. Today, I will honor my parents, my teachers, and my elders. Today, I will count my blessings and be kind to every living creature. And I remind myself that I am one of those living creatures to whom I have pledged to be kind today.

Three of Pentacles: Success in return for persistent and dedicated labor. Return or reward.

 

 

Looking back on the fires that made me who I am today, I know now that the person who rose from the ashes of my most difficult times is far more interesting, joyful, brave, and honorable than the young woman who thought she knew what the world needed. (Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open)

I’ve spent time in the abyss. I’ve traveled dark paths that wound into the midnight-black and charred depths of my soul. And out of that, every time, I’ve soared…eventually.

I’ve always identified with the phoenix, even in childhood. I am entranced by reinvention. By the whole process of burning down to ash, and rising up again renewed and reshaped – in essence, similar, but wholly different.

I read Elizabeth Lesser’s book Broken Open this week. So many of the things she talked about resonated, gave me that “me, too!” feeling of confirmation. I’ve been through several “breaking open” experiences and done my fair share of reinvention. Usually, when I tell people about my life, they counter back with, “And you’re how old again?” I’m an overachiever, what can I say?

When I was first going through the process of deciding whether or not to get divorced, I had the visceral feeling that life was slowly being pared away from me. That I was being laid bare, and that once everything that needed to had fallen away, I might be able to look at myself and see what I wanted to pull from the ashes.

It sucked. It was hard and I cried and cried and cried. I filled pages of journals. I wavered and I despaired. And then, I let go.

At the time, what I’d thought I was letting go of was a marriage that didn’t and wouldn’t work, but what I was really letting go of was my whole self. Looking back now, I can see that my divorce wasn’t really the catalyst for the breaking open, but sort of a by-product. Every particle of my being had been railing against being confined in the “Carolyn-suit” that I’d created and maintained and wore every day, all day long. I could not live an ingenuine life for one more moment.

Today, I’m actually grateful to my ex-husband. I’m grateful that we agreed (whenever or however we do this before we come to the human playground) to be this for one another. I wish that I had been able to look at him during all the turmoil and really see who he was, and remember that he was not only the body standing before me, but the soul who dwelled in it. Maybe I wasn’t meant to, then. I see him now, and I remember who he is. And whether he knows it or not, I’ve gotten some of the greatest gifts from that time that anyone could ever ask for.

I pray that each one of us stays awake as we fall. I pray that we choose to go into the abyss willingly and that our fall is cushioned by faith – faith that at the bottom we will be caught and taught and turned toward the light. I pray that we don’t waste precious energy feeling ashamed of our mistakes, or embarrassed by our flaws. (Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open)

I am more awake now, more aware. I still get caught in the everyday trials of being a human being, living a human life in a human world. I still get mad at Jeremy for leaving his socks in a ball when he tosses them in the hamper, and I still worry about whether we’ll have enough money to pay our bills. I still get annoyed by slow drivers and small inconveniences. Some days, it’s hard for me to let go of some of those things. Other days? They don’t even factor.

Today, I feel good about where I am, and who I’ve come to be. I am grateful for all of the trips into the abyss. How can I appreciate the blinding beauty of the light, unless I’ve dwelled in the darkest heart of the pit?

I am grateful that so much of what I’d built fell away, because I am standing here today, on the cusp of embracing my dreams and desires. Of finding out who I will be until the next conflagration burns away all the excess, and leaves me standing naked and whole and utterly, utterly changed.

 

 

Am I seeing it as a sign, because I want a sign and am looking for a sign? Or do I see it as a sign because it is a sign? I’ve always done this circular kind of questioning, this ‘which came first – chicken or egg?’ kind of wondering. Sometimes, though, I just allow a sign to be itself, and accept it, because it’s so fortuitous and timely and unquestionable that questioning feels like sacrilege.

When I first went to part time at my ‘regular’ job, in order to embark on the dream of being a Reiki Master Teacher offering her services at the shop, I went through a period of intense doubt (as do most people when they’ve made a change that feels huge). That day, standing outside of the office with my aunt, I watched a Strange Angel come to me with a sign.

I stood there, dumbfounded, as a woman popped out of a shiny black SUV and announced that she was the Mustard Girl. She told me how she’d left behind a life of certainty in order to start a new life as the purveyor of homemade and heritage mustards. How she’d doubted it could even really happen, but that now, she’s got accounts throughout the Midwest and a committed customer base, and it all happened because she’d been brave enough to ask an old man how to make mustard, and to follow where that passion led.

She glowed. She was so happy, so utterly in the moment, that she glowed. She handed each of us a few bottles of complimentary mustard, popped back into the shiny SUV, and went on her way. It was a ‘holy sh&#’ kind of experience. And it snapped me out of the miasma I’d sunk into – it stopped the little voice in my head. The one who dirges all day long, “Who are you to think you could do this?” A new thought replaced it – “If the Mustard Girl can do it, so can I!” A strange battle cry, to be sure, but it worked.

Seven months have passed since that fated sidewalk meeting with the Mustard Girl. Since then, a million things have happened, all of which led to me leaving my ‘regular’ job in order to take a chance on…. me, essentially. So, I gave notice, and I made plans, and I talked about it to everyone. And in the past month, it seems like each person that comes my way needs me to tell them what I need to hear most – that it is possible, that they can do it (whatever ‘it’ happens to be). They need me to be their Mustard Girl, and so I am.

This week is my first week away from that ‘regular’ job, and I am grateful for the way that it’s playing out – even though I wasn’t at first. I’d intended to revel in the freedom from that old routine and simply bask in the empty space left behind and let my creativity and juiciness bubble on up. Instead, I’ve spent the week minding the shop for Dani as she gets to revel in creativity, and homecoming, and a different kind of freedom. And I’m grateful to the Universe for setting it up this way, because it was good to give me something to do while I got used to the idea of having all that space and time and emptiness waiting to be filled with the longings of my heart.

I’ve spent some time second-guessing myself this week – hovering over or behind Wittler as he attempted to blow off steam in virtual pursuits (he’s a devoted World of Warcraft player). I mostly got non-committal grunts of assent or disagreement over the background noise of virtual people virtually exploding virtual targets. Even our most devoted cheerleaders get tired of the same routine when they’ve done it a few hundred times.

So, I left Wittler alone, and I made the bed each morning, and did the dishes and went to the shop. And I took care of business. And I mulled. And I pondered. Some of it was jubilant, if disbelieving – as though I were a dog that’d finally slipped its chain and didn’t know quite how to go about achieving all the things it had dreamed of doing. Some of it came from that crummy voice that mutters the nasty stuff, “I can’t believe that you thought you could make this work. You don’t even know the first thing about what you’re doing. You’re going to fail. You’re impractical. What made you think that you deserved this?”

Somewhere in between all of that, I came to the shop today and got down to business as normal. And then, it all slipped sideways. Dani always says, “Is it odd, or is it God?”

Was he a prophet, a soothsayer, a convenient pedestrian, a madman, a holy man, a sage, a way-shower? All those things? None of them? I don’t know. I looked up from what I was doing to see a brilliantly sunshine yellow shirt, and a key lanyard that said, “God is awesome” dangling in front of my eyes. He introduced himself as Artemus, and proceeded to tell me all about all of the ventures that he had going for himself – from advertising on the sides of dogs to helping others live their dreams to scouting out new talent. I kept waiting for the pitch.

He asked me what my dreams were. I told him, that ironically, I’d started to live them this week. I told him that I’d decided to leave the known behind and to do all of my “someday, I’ll’s” today. That I was going to build my Reiki practice, and that I intended to try really writing, instead of just playing at it. I wasn’t sure why I was telling all of this to a complete and total (and rather odd) stranger.

He turned to me and said, “Your time has come. The world will meet you.” And then he told me that he was looking for all sorts of things, one of which was love, and said, “I’m a revolutionary.” Then he thanked me, gathered up his dog advertising board and binder and left the way he came. And I stood there, bemused.

And I had that choke-y feeling at the back of my throat that I get when I listen to live music (which calls emotions from me with vibrancy and insistence). I felt like crying – in the good way, the grateful way. I let myself think about it a bit more – the yellow shirt made me think of the solar plexus chakra, our power center. Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, the female warrior, the protectress of women. “God is Awesome.” Indeed. Odd, all the way around.

Maybe I see signs where others see a slightly odd man, or a condiment peddler. Maybe I see just what I’m meant to see, when I’m meant to see it.

Whatever the reality or the truth of the situation may be, what I know and feel to be true is that when I stand there, mewling about my fears and getting bogged down in that feeling of undeservingness, I am sent a sign that is unmistakable and cannot be ignored.

Thanks Artemus. Thanks Mustard Girl. Thanks to all my Strange Angels.

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)