Tuesday, January 18, 2011

from the earth.....

"One of the greatest dangers in the spiritual life is self-rejection. When we say, "If people really knew me, they wouldn't love me," we choose the road toward darkness. Often we are made to believe that self-deprecation is a virtue, called humility. But humility is in reality the opposite of self-deprecation. It is the grateful recognition that we are precious in God's eyes and that all we are is pure gift. To grow beyond self-rejection we must have the courage to listen to the voice calling us God's beloved sons and daughters, and the determination always to live our lives according to this truth."  Henri Nouwen.

A friend sent me this quote.  It came at just the right time because I had been thinking about this very topic!  My fractured thoughts...........

 Humility is a complicated concept to describe, yet it seems to be the most simplified levelling way to be. Living, thinking, feeling, breathing, acting with a sense of quiet modesty?  Its not something you can openly aspire to "be."  Or is it?  No one announces:  "My New Year's Resolution is to lose 20 pounds and be humble by March 1rst."  Or, how about..... "Look at me!  I'm so darn humble!"  No, a person who would be described as having a presence of humility has no ego-driven arrogance around them.  Rather, it is more of an unspoken (because it doesn't need to be broadcasted) realness...... an authentic respect for themselves and others.  Humility is an equalizer.

Based on Nouwen's interpretation that humility is not the same as self-deprecation, can you think of anyone in your life whom you would describe as a humble?  There are a few people that come to mind right away.  Automatically thoughts of them bring a grin to my face and a knowledge that whenever I see them, I want to be near them. 

We describe these people as "salt of the earth...." They are "comfortable in their own skin...."

It's like they have these massaging waves of comforting energy wafting out of them that affirm you.   Friendly, balanced, forthright in what they believe in, respectful of other's thoughts and feelings, receptive to listening, kind, aware, keen to learn ......  Sure, they can be spontaneous.  Yes, they can express anger and frustration especially when it has to do with justice.  The thing about someone who would be described as humble is that when they seek justice, they also measure their responses with kindness.  Quietly.  Without showmanship.

Comfortably from the earth.
Balanced in time and place.
Contentment with self.
Confidence in others.
Believes answers may never be found
Embraces the mystery under the cloud of unknowing....
Always barefooted in the sand, walking along the shoreline, living freely in that moment.
Receptive to beauty in all things.
Justice sprinkled with kindness.

May we taste its salty presence from time to time.......

Beach in Souris, PEI, May 2010
where humility met up with a seeker

Thursday, January 06, 2011

inspirations, gifts and blessings..... 2010

Sunday morning, the phone rang as I was getting ready for church while wondering if my friend Maureen would be at the service.  Of course it was her on the other end of the phone, wondering if I was going and if I could pick her up.  Same wavelength. That's how our friendship has evolved over the past year......... on a synchronistic grace note woven beautifully into good timing.

We've known one another since our eldest children were toddlers.  Our youngest, who are now 13 years old are only a few months apart and have been friends since kindergarten.  But, for circumstances and strange reasons that will remain unknown our friendship never developed beyond acquaintance.  Interestingly, we both instinctively knew we would eventually connect in a meaningful way.  It has always been "meant to be....."

Our conversation along the route to church was a catch up talking stream.  Surprisingly, in the 10 minutes that it took to get from her house to the pew we settled into, we just about covered it.   Why?  Because we were able to agree on the assessment of our personal 2010 journeys.  

Maureen and I  experienced life altering family issues that literally brought us to our knees and through the doors of St. Paul's United Church within a month of one another (which is where we reconnected....) and had summed it up in the same way.   Our lives now are far richer, our learning much broader, our ability to feel much deeper, our wings more unfurled, our faith tested and tasted and acted upon.  In other words, despite the pain and anguish we confronted living our own stories unfolding, we learned more in 2010 than in all the years combined.

The two most inspiring and motivating events of 2010, we shared.   To think that Maureen wasn't even a key person in my life at this time last year seems impossible.  But, that was the case.  I had no idea what she was coping with.  She had no idea what I was living.  By May, we did..... in one deep  diving conversation when we realized just how much we had to offer one another. Our gifts blended well.

By the end of June, the two of us were sitting at the front of St. Paul's United Church delivering the Sunday service together.  By December 8th, we were standing in front of the government legislature surrounded by over 1000 people who heard the call of Maureen's rally cry to support the need for treatment services for youth with complex mental health issues in this province and their families!!!  (I will write about this in another post!)  From the morning  we spent in her home office in mid October plotting and planning out her "AUDACIOUS"  vision of this rally to the BIG DAY,  our lives were intertwined in this project!  

I know I've used this blog mostly to process the deep scar feelings and angry hurts from the end of my marriage.  It has been so therapeutic to write, publish and move on.  But, it has only offered up a predominantly one sided view of how my year unfolded.   I wish I had been able to have written as regularly as I used to, because there have been SO MANY amazing moments, connections, topics, ideas I have not been able to capture here.   Today, I was inspired by my Emerald friend, Pip (a gem like no other!) who posted his 2010 list of favourites.  I thought it would be a good idea to do the same.....

Blessing:  Martha and Max.  When I looked at them on Christmas Day all smiles while opening their Santa stockings, I whispered a big thank you.

Place: My back deck last summer..... On my own or with a an old friend, to share dinner, star gaze, sip wine, listen to music, marvel at the fireflies..... when the sun was shining, or when the early evening summer breezes were cooling down the day, I found solace.  Sunrises, Sunsets..... my Saint John river flowing.  I began to heal.  I grew new roots.  I belonged.

Moment:  Canada Day.  In the woods near Petticodiac, New Brunswick with a friend.  For a few hours I sat peacefully still on a large flat rock situated right in the middle of a glorious waterfalls. Bliss defined.

Learning:  I could fill a book with all the learning I gathered up in my arms!  What guided me along were learning three pieces of wisdom I wrapped my heart in.........
Faith is a verb.
God provides minimum protection but maximum support.
Tears bring strength.

Song:  Michael Franti, Sound of Sunshine.  It pulled me up onto my feet every single time I heard it!!  Have a listen!!!

Album.... Mark Knoffler, Get Lucky.  Dont know when he recorded it.  I discovered it in 2010.  MY GOD, this whole album puts me in a place of comfort. Strikes a soul chord where tears and smiles meet.  I'll always travel in  my mind to a summer's eve sitting quietly and alone on my back deck with this playing in the background.  Here's the title track.

Author ..... John O'Donohue's book of Blessings and book on Beauty.  Neither left my side.  One blessing in particular I read quietly aloud many many mornings as a way to centre myself, as a way to find my strength.  An excerpt:

"I arise today
Blessed by all things,
Wings of breath,
Delight of eyes,
Wonder of whisper,
Intimacy of touch,
Eternity of soul,
Urgency of thought
Miracle of health
Embrace of God."

Book.... Henri Nouwen's workshop book on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  It literally shifted my perspective and allowed me to see the issues in my life and the role I played from a very different angle.  I learned how resentful I had become and how much anger I had swallowed.  Once I realized I connected most with the Son who stayed behind, and how his resentment killed the joy in his life, I set out to let go of the chains of resentment, and began to seek joy through forgiveness.  I have returned to this book time and again since last winter when I discovered it.  Life changing. 

Hurt.... Going through yet another blip in my job when there was an attempt to clip my wings again and not allow me to be a counsellor.  Long story, but very hurtful and came at a time when I didn't have the energy or focus to fight back.  Things seem to be back on track again.  And I am in a different mindset.  Counselling isn't a vocation.  Its a calling.  It's who I am.  It's like breathing.  No matter how it is defined, I am who I am.

Personal Achievement.  Returning to church after a 30 year hiatus last March with the encouragement and love of my friend Andrea.  She held onto me that first Sunday I went with her.  I was so numb and so heartbroken, but she was there right beside me handing me kleenexes and singing hymns in my ear!  Three months later and lots and lots of love shone on me?  I stood at the front of the congregation and spoke about  "God's Abundance."  I entitled it  "Found Blessings...." a term I had read once in a John O'Donohue book.  Here is the link to the sermon......

Inspiration.... My friend Maureen.  Hands down!

Scar..... on my heart.  It is shaped like the Hope Diamond.

Gift..... Last spring when I was in such emotional pain, my friend Charles (crazy man blogger) gave me a big gold cross.  It was a gift his Priest had given him when he was going through a grieving time.  He gave me the cross to help me when I needed it.  His kindness left me teary and speechless.  That cross travelled with me wherever I went.  I held it in my hands often.  Now?  I gave it back to Charles so he can pass it on to another in need. 

Weekend..... Late October when I took part in a weekend prayer/writing retreat at a place called Tatamagouche.  Led by two beautiful women, I personally experienced two moments of enlightenment which left me changed forever. It was as soul shifting as my experience at Greenbelt in 2009 when I spent time in a place called "Soulspace...."  I need to write more about this experience as well.  I've talked about it and touched on the experience a couple of times in a few blog posts, but haven't managed to find the written words to capture it.

Thing.... My glowing blue ball, a gift from my friend JOY which sat on my back deck until the fall and brought good karma back into the home!!!!  And a few good laughs!!!! I wrote about it here!!

Frustration....... I am no farther along with doing something with my writing as I was this time last year.  I have more ideas, but my procrastination continues to bite me in the arse.  As much as I want to let my writing lead the next part of my life, I can't seem to stop jumping into things that act as diversions. HOWEVER, those diversions have been healing, helpful and have made me WHOLE! 

Bloggers...... My Emerald friend Pip's blog!.  Food for the soul.  Click HERE  
And my beautiful Aussie friend, Selma's blog.  Her prose, written from deep corners of her soul always leaves me smiling and applauding her gifts!  Selma?  You are a gem too!  And one day, we will go on a book tour together eh?  :)   Click  HERE!

Reflection.... Sitting in a Cathedral in Toronto last April, feeling such hurt and pain, I was able to find my stillness through centering prayer. Since then, I have returned to that "place" of comfort when I've needed it. Reflection has been a place i have visited the most this year as I learned the lessons of humility and forgiveness.

Gift 2 ..... All of the beautiful human beings in my life who are really angels in disguise.  You have helped me find my wings, find my voice, find my freedom, broaden my awareness,  through your love, encouragement and listening ears.  You have showered me with compassion and understanding.  I will forever be grateful.

Love .....  My handsome Scottish Frenchman from the Gaspe coast who not only has taught me about 50-licious romance, who has surprised me with glorious bouquets of spring flowers, he turned a potentially miserable day into one complete with champagne memories.  He also orchestrated the best, most hilarious first date ever by bringing journalist Jan Wong along.  (actually, he brought me along!) Merci beaucoup Monsieur McGregor.  Encore!!!

Journey ..... one blessed with an ever growing faith in God, on a path with no borders that continues to amaze me. 

Let me finish this list of Favourites with more of Father O's blessing........

"May I live this day.....

Compassionate of heart,
Clear in word,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought
Generous in love. "

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

oh, that face!

A physical tingling sensation is triggered when we catch a glimpse of beauty. Like a moth to a lamp, we are pulled into its presence with a warm sense of illumination garnered quickly inside our bodies.  Swiftly,  layers of negativity peel away from our thoughts and feelings, sometimes leaving us with only an "Ah" left in our speech.  Time flees. Word descriptors disappear.  Movement stops.  Our gaze tunes in.   The world as we know it is neglected as our focus gravitates fully on the landscape rendered beautiful by our switched on souls.   

Reaction to the presence of beauty is both visceral and spiritual, generating from the core of our being. Our  holy light bulb flickers as we register this closeness to ineffability.  It transforms ordinary into mystical.  Even for one slip of a moment, when we recognize the inner light of beauty, our breathing alters as we enter into the emotional realm of love.  All beauty is a slice of feeling love.  Actually, the more i think about it, the more I believe that when we recognize beauty in our lives, we are responding to the yearning to love, and be loved, but also to feel that innermost desire to belong.  We belong to the beauty of this world.

This reaction occurs as often as we allow ourselves to be aware of our surroundings, but it seems to me that it is the most profound when we recognize the beauty of the human face.   John O'Donohue describes in his book, Beauty, The Invisible Embrace (my copy is the most dog-eared worn book I own because I tend to "jump" into its pages on a daily basis), the attractiveness of the human face begins with the symmetry of it.  However, no face is perfectly balanced.  This is what makes our individual faces so unique. 

In his book, Father O'Donohue writes.............
"Ultimately, it is the soul that makes the face beautiful.  Each face is its own landscape and is quietly vibrant with the invisible textures of memory, story, dream, need, want and gift that make up the beauty of the individual life. This is also the grace that love brings into one's life.  As the soul can render the face luminous so too can love turn up the hidden light within a person's life.  Love changes the way we see ourselves and others.  We feel beautiful when we are loved, and to evoke an awareness of beauty in another is to give them a precious gift they will never lose.  When we say from our heart to someone:  'You are beautiful', it is more than a statement or platitude, it is a recognition and invocation of the dignity, grandeur and grace of their spirit."

Imperfect beautifully
Non symmetrical originality
Soul lit harmoniously
Eye-peeling sparkly
Ordinary in the extraordinary
Life marked graciously
Lovely, lovely faces...... radiating strongly.

The most profoundly moving comment said to me over the past couple of months is......... "You are so beautiful...... You have no idea how beautiful you are........."  Of course, I turned around to see if anyone was behind me!  He couldn't have meant ME!  He must've been commenting on someone else!!!  hahaha!   ME?  Beautiful??  Wow, he must be drinking something pretty hallucinatory!   I graciously thanked him but I'm sure my eyes communicated my real feelings......... skepticism.........!

  Why is it that we are so remiss in seeing our own beauty.....at seeing ourselves as beautiful?  We see in it others so easily.   On the 3rd anniversary day of the death of a man whose poetry, presence and prose.....whose spiritual philosophy he embraced with his heart and soul....... who has taught me to consciously tune into the channel beautiful with my gaze, with the way I live my life............  

On the 3rd anniversary of John O'Donohue's passing,  I want make a declaration (and welcome you to as well).  I want to declare that I will not only continue to see and seek the beauty all around me........ in the faces, in the landscapes, in the secret places it dwells......... I will learn to see it in me too.  Luminous!   As it states on my blog header..... "May you expericence this day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder," I want to strive for just that!   

Each day is sacred.  Each day allows us to visit and revisit wonderment and beauty.  If we choose to.  If we choose to make our gaze align with this goal.......  Maybe 2011 will be the year to begin to recognize the sacred gift a day is..... Maybe at the end of each day, wouldn't it be a good thing to do to simply stop to ask yourself.....  What did I gaze upon, feel, inhale, experience TODAY that was beautiful?  How do I see this day as a sacred gift?  What made that happen???

One day, I will meet him in a pub in Heaven perhaps?  In the meantime,  I hope he knows anyways just how much of an impact he has made in my life.  Father O? The flaming light of your spirit glows and grows ....  Thank you. 
Self portrait pictures of my beautiful radiant daughter.