Day 305/365 The Sound of Silence

“Now, listen to the silence you have created.”

This what the yoga instructor said yesterday, as a group of sixty sweaty yogis attempted to land in a resting posture without fidgeting.

I know, I know…Simon and Garfunkel said the same thing some forty years ago, but their Sound of Silence wasn’t a happy nor a comforting sound.

Philip was talking about quite the opposite – the sound of silence being sweet and sacred..a bit of nirvana. He was talking about finding a place in our minds that is clear of the near constant loop most of us (all of us?) have running through our brains.

Do you know the voice of which I speak – the critic, the worrier, the saboteur…?

In The Untethered Soul Michael Singer refers to this voice within us (with the non-stop commentary) as our “roommate.” He would have us practice  bringing our awareness to the fact that we are not our roommate. He writes about elevating above the voice and noticing it as a separate entity from ourselves. I do find this practice very useful. (That is when I remember to employ it.  What can I say, sometimes my asshole roommate gets the better of me).

But….ooohhhh…to have QUIET in there – to not only rise above the useless commentary but to tune it out completely – even just for a moment –

Pure Bliss.

I loved that he said, “listen to the silence you have created”…because I do see now that it is something we need to create for ourselves. We must purposefully cultivate it.

I am finding that the more often I stop to listen to the silence, the easier it becomes to hear.

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Day 196/365 On Distress & Chocolate

At the very least, someone was going to serve me some gourmet hot chocolate.

This was how I convinced myself to try a “Sacred Cacao Ceremony” this afternoon. No, not Cocoa, Cacao* (pronounced ca-cow), which to anyone who has never heard of it sounds as though I am either very pretentious or an idiot who doesn’t know how to say “cocoa” properly.

I had heard about these ceremonies, but I had only a vague idea of what to expect. When I googled “What is a cacao ceremony?” I found this link, excerpted below:

“A cacao ceremony is an opportunity to connect to yourself and open your heart. Because of cacao’s ability to increase your connection to your inner self and your heart chakra, it aids in any transformational shift you are working towards, whether you are looking to deepen your understanding of who you are, release old patterns and traumas, or move into a more self-confident space. Whatever your path, the intention is yours to set, and the cacao allows you to the insight and awareness to move towards that goal.”

Flashback to a few weeks ago, after the Elephant arrived. I wrote to a friend, “Being the perpetual Damsel in Distress is getting old.”

Always the philosopher, he replied, “Distress is the wind spirit of transformation.”

I loved that. It made me feel as though I was headed somewhere…that all of this pain and upheaval was going to have been for a reason. Feeling distressed or weakened was actually a call to rise up, and to grow…

Still, I struggled.

So, when I read, “…it aids in any transformational shift you are working towards, whether you are looking to deepen your understanding of who you are, release old patterns and traumas, or move into a more self-confident space…” 

I was in.

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Nola, the woman who led the experience, was warm and luminous and inviting. Any residual apprehension melted away with the warm and delicious cacao.

A group of about twelve women and one man gathered for the experience. We drank, talked for a bit, and then Nola guided us through about two hours of meditation. There is always something magical about group meditation. The shared intention and energy in the room is transcendent.

Afterward a few people chose to share their experience.  There was a range of emotion that came up for people, from anger to elation. During the meditation I had even heard a woman openly weeping.

For me, it was a very grounding and empowering experience. For most of this year, I have been weighed down by the heavy (and as Nola described them, “damp”) emotions of loss, grief, and fear. I own those emotions and I know that I have been entirely entitled to them.

But…

I have come to recognize that my personal journey (or transformation) involves shaking off all of the weight of despair and worry, and standing firmly in a position of power and grace. To come from a place of light and strength, rather than of desperation, no matter what gets thrown at me.

I felt an important shift today. I hope I can carry the experience confidently with me through what lay ahead.

If not, I may need more chocolate…er, cacao.

 

 

*Cacao is a pure form of chocolate that comes very close to the raw and natural state in which it is harvested

 

Day 123/365 That Moment You Choose

I woke up this morning with an abundance of gratitude.

As I rose from my bed and placed my bare feet onto the soft sheep skin rug…

As I stepped out onto the porch and saw the sun shimmering on the water…

As I gazed at my beautiful girls, hair tousled and sleepy-eyed…

As I cupped my hands around a warm, fragrant cup of coffee…

I felt so incredibly grateful for this life – for my many blessings.

I was reminded of a poem by Brian Andreas:

“It’s not what you first think

There is no effort of will,

No firm resolve in the face of this thing called living.

There is only paying attention to the quiet each morning

While you hold your cup in the cool air

And then that moment you choose to spread

Your love like a cloth upon the table

And invite the whole day in again.”

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I love the intention of it – “that moment you choose to spread your love like a cloth upon the table and invite the whole day in again.”

My day wasn’t perfect – few days are.

I do notice, though, that the days I begin with gratitude and intention –

Those are usually good days.

 

Day 73/365 Be the Lighthouse

Lately my moods have been a bit…unpredictable. Sometimes I feel fine, but all it takes is that one tender remark or question to set off the floodgates.

It’s embarrassing.

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewing a job candidate and she asked me, “What is it like to work for you?”

In all honesty I’d normally say working for me is a good gig – I’m even-keeled. I’m patient. Sometimes I give unexpected bonuses or raises, or I randomly buy lunch for everyone. I never say no to time off for a vacation or to make it to an event at their kid’s school.  I want my employees to live a life of balance. I want them to be happy. I am often a sounding board and trusted confidante for their personal and professional struggles. They trust me.

What is it like to work for you?”

The question caught me off guard. All I could think of was the time I’ve taken away from work throughout the past few months due to personal struggles. I thought of all the support and understanding I’ve needed from my co-workers…and I fought back tears. (Why is being a recipent so hard?)

On the one hand I understand that I need to give myself time; to be patient with myself. On the other hand, I know what it’s like to be a light-bringer and to function at a high vibration. It’s a high like no other, when you tap into the universal love and trust in the flow of all things. Life is f’ing good.

I have missed that.

So, I went to a group meditation on Saturday. It was a last minute decision.  The class was a 66 minute Tattva Siddhi meditation.  The idea behind this particular meditation is to “become a beacon” – to shine your light and to feel oneness with others.

“You become as still and silent as a lighthouse.
Grounded firmly on the shore, your presence becomes a beacon. “

I want to be a lighthouse. I want to a be a beacon.

No more of this crying bullshit.

I hopped in my car at the last minute to go, and checked my GPS just to see if I’d make it in time. Nope, I’d be three minutes late. I messaged the studio to say I wouldn’t make it in time.

{Why was I trying to talk myself out of it?}

Come anyway, they said.

I’m not dressed properly, I said.

Come anyway, they said.

We’ll set up a mat and meditation pillow for you.

So I went. I crept in three minutes late, and found my mat. There were about twenty people in the room. Many of them were dressed in meditation clothing, complete with head scarves (I’m sure there’s a name for those but I’m not up on the lingo). Some had yoga clothes on. There I was in my ripped jeans, feeling a bit silly or…disrespectful?

We will have our eyes closed for this entire meditation…” (Oh, thank God.)

We started with some chanting. She said the phrases once, and they were to be repeated three times each. Everyone seemed to know the words (not English, by the way) but me. I peeked to see if there were some sort of cheatsheets with words – something I’d missed because I was late. There weren’t, so I just listened, feeling a bit like an imposter.

The meditation would proceed like this – for eleven minutes we would take four even “sniffs” in, and one breath out. The next eleven minutes we would take five sniffs in, and one breath out – all the way up to nine sniffs.  I assume the idea here is you are so focused on the breathing that your mind can’t run amok.

So we started the meditation. I was ready to be a lighthouse, dammit.

Then I heard it – someone “sniffing” SO loudly.

SNIFF, SNIFF, SNIFF, SNIFF

pause

SNIFF, SNIFF, SNIFF, SNIFF

pause

SNIFF, SNIFF, SNIFF, SNIFF

Really? Is it necessary to sniff so audiby? Am I to be tormented by this sniffing for sixty-six minutes?!

I cracked one eye open to see if I could spot the loud sniffer.  I momentarily considered snuffing him or her with my meditation pillow.

Oh, the irony.

Way to be a lighthouse, Bethany!!

I stifled a giggle.

THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS IS TO SPREAD LIGHT, AND YOU ARE MAKING JOKES ABOUT HOMICIDE.

What is the matter with you?

Okay, breathe. Let it go…

And I did.

I let it go, and whether it took twenty minutes or sixty-five minutes and fifty-nine seconds, I don’t know…but I felt it.

I felt the light and the love FILL the room.

Everyone began to radiate it. It was palpable.

When it was over, we danced.

The people in the meditation garb danced. The people in the yoga gear danced, and the formerly homicidal lady in the ripped jeans danced, too…

Afterwards I stepped into the restroom, leaned against the door and doubled over, sobbing. I was so moved by the whole experience…

And I have felt lighter ever since.

I may not be a lighthouse yet, but I’ll get there…one flicker of light at a time.

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Day 71/365 Gifts From The Heart

That’s not why I came,” he said, cradling my face tenderly in his warm hands. I felt them there on my cheeks so viscerally, despite the fact that at that very moment I was sitting entirely alone on the rocky Maine shore.

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When I first moved out of the home my husband and I had created together, I felt a sense of relief. We rarely fought, even toward the end of our time together, but there was so much tension. Pushing feelings of anger and sadness inward can wreak havoc on the body and mind.  We were not living a healthy existence. So when I moved out, for the first few months my predominant emotion was relief. It was as if I had been holding my breath, and finally I could come up for air.

Relief was followed by grief.

Divorce is not unlike a death. I mourned the loss of the life I had expected to have. I grieved for myself and for my husband, and most of all I grieved for my children.  This wasn’t how things were supposed to be, not for us. Not for them. At times the sense of sheer disorientation was excruciating.

Although I knew the only way for us was forward, the unknown was scary. I felt so lost. That’s when I turned to meditation.

Keith, a childhood friend of mine, is a meditation teacher. He’s the kind of peaceful meanderer who will gladly accept fresh garden veggies and eggs from strangers in lieu of payment at his classes, and who loves nothing more than to teach others the gift that changed his life.

He eagerly agreed to come to my house once a week to teach a class. I gathered a small group of friends, and we learned how to meditate. I had some beautiful experiences with that group, by the warm fire in my little cottage.

Unfortunately, once we stopped meeting as a group, my practice fell away, as things do when you don’t give your energy to them.

That summer, my friend invited me to join her on an impromptu stay in a little Airbnb beach shack.  Knowing what I needed (as moms do), my mother offered to take the girls for a few days, and she encouraged me to go. It was just the two of us, Monica and me.  The place was tiny and barebones. Blissfully, there was nothing to do but be.

One morning I got up early and walked around a nearby cove.  It was so peaceful and quiet, only the sound of the gently lapping waves and the calls of the seagulls to keep me company. I’m not sure what compelled me to do it, but I found myself sitting in a meditation pose right there on the beach, though it had been months since I’d last tried.

I closed my eyes and I breathed deeply. I used one of the guided meditations I had learned in class.  I imagined I was in a one room house on a beach, with a floor made of sand. The windows and doors were open, and a strong breeze blew the white linen curtains.  Each time a “thought” entered my head, I imagined it being blown out the windows.  I sat there a while, blowing things out – reminders, regrets, grocery lists…

Then, without fanfare, there he was – sitting with me in the sand. A man I had loved deeply – a lifetime ago. He had truly not crossed my mind in ages. This was not a conscious conjuring.

What happened next came through me, but not from me.

There we sat in the sand, he and I, in the house with a sand floor and white linen curtains dancing around our heads. Our fingers intertwined, and our foreheads gently pressed together as we leaned into each other. I felt completely calm, centered. When we pulled away to look at one another, I tried to kiss him. I realized I had missed him all this time.

“No,” he said, shaking his head gently, “That’s not why I came.”

I became aware that we were not alone. A woman was standing quietly in the corner of the room. She gave me a look that let me know it was okay; she had wanted him to come. I understood –

She had brought him there for me, but he was hers.

He cradled my face in his hands and he said, “I came to tell you that I think you are so brave. You are so much stronger than you think you are. You are going to be just fine.”

I felt a flood of relief.  I knew he was right. 

I could feel the tears streaming down my face as my mind came back into my body; into the present moment.  When I opened my eyes, through my tears I saw this perfect heart nestled among the rocks where I sat.

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Three years later, I still have that stone, and I still know…

I am brave.

I am stronger than I feel sometimes,

and above all,

I am going to be just fine.

 

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Day 39/365 Watch Your Head

“She is a good student…when she’s here with us,” my third grade teacher informed my parents. They looked at each other quite bewildered, knowing I’d been getting on the school bus every day.  Where exactly does a truant eight year old go? 

She went on to say, “Her head is in the clouds most days, I’m afraid. I have trouble bringing her back from her daydreams so she can join us at school.”

My parents didn’t really know what to make of this information. They said I seemed perfectly present when I was at home. Maybe I was, but I know I found plenty of time to float away with my thoughts at home, too.

I can remember spending long spells of time laying in the field beside our house. If I laid

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My field of daydreams.

down in it, the grass was high enough that it held me like a nest, cocooning my small frame. No one could see me when looking out over the field from a distance (or at least, that’s what I imagined). I would lay there and stare at the clouds. Honestly, I can’t remember what I was thinking about, laying there. Nothing? Everything?

I just remember the calming sensation of it all.

Fast forward to adulthood and I still crave that quiet space for daydreaming, and yet I also need to find the mental space for…oh, I don’t know…the bigilloin other things we must remember as adults.

A friend told me she read where a woman’s brain was likened to a computer with dozens of “tabs” all open at once. It’s a great analogy, although it seems sexist to say it’s only true of women. It must hold true for most adults, right?  The problem is, with so many tabs open we can only offer each one a sliver of our attention. We start doing things like driving past our destination, making a call and forgetting who we’ve called when they pick up, reminding ourselves not to walk out the door without something, and doing just that, five minutes later.

I can’t be the only one!

I think just as the child development experts have come to strongly advocate for more “free play” time in early childhood programs, we adults need some “free thought” time. If we could just lay in the grass and think about nothing…or everything (but not in a “to do” list sort of way), how great would that be?

I know what you’re thinking….Duh, that’s called meditation. It’s not exactly a new idea.

Here’s how I do it, though. Pay attention.

Imagine I’m laying in some beautiful, tall grass, gazing up at the clouds. I am mindful of the soft breeze and the rustling leaves on the nearby trees. Then I think…

There’s no way I have time for this right now.  I must be forgetting something I’m supposed to be doing.

Doing, doing, doing…something…missing….

It is a beautiful day. Just…look at the clouds floating by…

Oh cool, that cloud is shaped like a car.  

Crap, I’m way overdue for an oil change. Gotta remember to make that appointment before the car blows up. Oil change, oil change…

Change…Ugh! I forgot to send a note to school about the pick up change. They hate me at school, I know it.  They’re like – wait, she literally runs a school? And she never remembers to send the pick up change notes?  Well, that’s rich.

“That’s rich?” Who says that?  This is why you’re single, you know. Because you use expressions like “That’s rich.” Smh.

Okay, you only have a few more minutes to relax and be mindful!  Be mindful, dammit!  I mean, be un-mindful. Whatever. I am zen. So f’ing zen.

Uh, all I can think about is how hard to is to not think about the tabs.  

The tabs!  They’re all still open! 

How can you be bad at thinking about nothing?

Wait, I think there’s something on me. It must be a tick. WTH am I doing in this tall grass anyway? I’m practically begging for Lyme disease right now. I should get my titers checked, just in case.

That’s what you’re forgetting, genius – your doctor’s appointment! It’s right NOW. Maybe you can still make it, that is, if your engine doesn’t spontaneously combust from neglect.

Shit, shit, shit!

(Aaannnnd…scene.)

That’s what we “tab-open” people call…

Meditation.

I joke, but in all honesty, I hate it when my brain is in this “open tab” state. Too much, too many, too, too, too. I think so many of us get used to this being normal.

I don’t think it’s normal, you guys. It’s a perpetual state of “fight or flight.”

Adrenalized Insanity.

I’m feeling overwhelmed. I haven’t felt like this in a while. Maybe the grief had numbed me. Now I am slowly coming to, and it feels like I need to catch up on the last four months of “to do’s” –  get my head back in the game.

Maybe it’s not possible without a time machine, but I would love to go back to daydreaming, and when I’m asked what I was thinking about, to be able to smile and say “nothing” or “everything” (in a non to-do list sort of way) and not be completely full of shit. As opposed to furrowing my brow and saying, “Oh, nothing,” when the truth is  –  

“ALL OF THE THINGS. That’s what I was thinking about!”

They call meditation a “practice” and I definitely need to do just that – Practice it.

Namaste sane. Are you?

rubygrass

(Editor’s note: I told her “namaste sane” was a corny joke but she insisted that corny jokes and puns always amused her dad.

Also, there isn’t really an editor.)

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