Monday, March 31, 2008

More About My Own Path

And here is the rest of me. You now know as much about me as I do, ☺

When I became disabled at the age of 40, I was able to return to the rural life I had always loved with unlimited time to pursue my search for answers, the silver lining behind that particular cloud. Initially, having my career cut short devastated me, but with time I saw the benefits. I am now 63 and still pursuing my life long search.

The Native American Red Road, the Jewish Torah, the Wiccan Creed, The Bhagavad-Gita, much of the Buddhist tradition, the Christian Bible, and so much more have all contributed to my path and my exploration of the meaning of life. With the Internet, access to so many more thoughts and thinkers has broadened my search even more.

As a child, I always felt out of place. I also had memories I could not explain and a name that somehow belonged to me. Zareba was that name and it was not until I was in my thirties that I discovered it's meaning. Looking in a very large dictionary, I idly flipped to the back of the book and the word zahriba jumped out at me. It referred to the thorn bush fences built around the nomads’ encampments to keep them and their livestock safe from predators. I have also always tried to provide safe haven to all who find our little time warp, carved out of the hustle and bustle of modern life.

When I started teaching, I adopted the name Arachna to teach under. I believe the teachings and not the teacher are important and wanted to try to stay outside the relationship with students to avoid becoming an idol or guru. I also believe that by the time a student understands what the spider means, they have learned all that I can teach. When asked by a friend to try to assist in a group that she felt was in need of assistance, I again did not want to be personally associated with what I was about to do so coined the name Solo Sonder, a loose translation in to French of solitary seeker, which I certainly am.

After arresting in the ambulance on April 6th, 2006 and being resuscitated at the hospital, then returning to my life in May, two of my closest sisters of the soul gave me a new name. They told me that I must be as the tortoise and go very slowly so that I may live very long. Now in many ways I have become that tortoise. They gave me tangible reminders for my birthday, one a broach which I pinned on my purse so that when I go out, I remember not to push beyond my endurance, and the other a brass box whose shell opens to hide a treasure inside, which I keep by my computer to remind me that I must get up and move around and that I must rest. There will be time enough for all that I must do before I leave this realm.

So Easy - So Hard

I have spoken extensively about how simple and easy the meditation process is, and of the benefits to be had with regular meditation. However, a comment elsewhere made me realize there is an element of difficulty as well. As with so many other things, one needs motivation in the beginning. If we are seated comfortably in front of the TV with a snack, it is hard to get motivated to walk for half an hour a day. . Perhaps we need to want the results that the exercise brings more than we want to lounge in comfort.. Another typical human characteristic. We all do it.We often choose to meditate to achieve a particular goal, and in today’s fast paced world “we want what we want when we want it, ant we want it NOW”. With this mind set, we give meditation a short trial and if our lives are not forever altered by it, we begin having trouble finding the time.

If our need is great, we will allow for a longer trial and practice faithfully for the recommended twenty minutes twice a day. Those I have known to meditate regularly, were all looking for something more than they already had, as was I. . Even then, we find distractions and excuses to skip the meditation period.

I wanted to reduce stress and heal a very painful ulcer. It kept me meditating long enough to achieve some definite results. The results were so far beyond what I hoped for, that I willingly continued on my spiritual Journey.

True commitment is necessary in order to achieve results … and here is the catch… We need to avoid becoming attached to the goal, the desired result. This goes against everything we learn in our goal driven society. For successful meditation, we need to relax and let it flow, bringing our mind gently back to the meditation when it wanders, and it will wander. We need to find the time to practice even when we think nothing is happening. Here is where it is necessary to not become attached to the goal, but rather to meditate for its own sake, not seeking results.
When I first thought this through, it reminded me very much of hurry up and wait! We must be committed to the goal and at the same time, not be attached to it! Like any long journey, we must take pleasure in the journey itself, and not just the arrival at the destination. If we do not approach it this way, we are not likely to meditate long enough to achieve the desired results. We need to reconcile the opposites in both the process and the purpose.

In my own case, I was a young, mother and career woman in a high pressure situation., very motivated to succeed in both arenas, while nursing the mother of all ulcers. I knew I needed to make changes and meditation came into my life at exactly the right moment. The fact that my partner went through the training with me definitely made it easier for both of us.

We rediscover our truths at a pace we can assimilate them, and so it is with meditation. We progress at a rate that our subconscious determines is the optimum for us. Patience is required. Commitment is required. A certain level of faith is required, particularly in the beginning. Once we start experiencing results, finding the time and avoiding distractions becomes much easier.

Friday, March 28, 2008

My Own Path

Some have asked where I come from and how I got here, so here is a little about my early years and my search for my path.
Each of us has a unique path to follow, individual goals to achieve, a Journey similar to, but different from all others. We begin in different places. We have different questions to ask and answers to find. We may search in the company of others with similar goals or we may find ourselves in situations where we must walk a solitary path. At different times we may experience both companionship and solitude.

As a child, I felt isolated, different, lost even. If it had not been for my grandparents great goodness and integrity, I doubt that my Path would have found me in this lifetime. I had half-formed memories, feelings of something missing in my life. They provided me with a safe framework within which I could search for meaning in my life.

In my teens, I began searching in earnest, reading the Christian Bible from cover to cover, the Book of Mormon, the Koran, Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist texts, the Teachings of Don Juan and many others followed, but I was not finding my answers because I still did not know the right questions to ask.

In my early twenties, I met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and learned the Transcendentalist form of Meditation. I was off and running. Again it was not the answer I was seeking, but it gave me a tool to use as a light to seek both inwardly and outwardly. I did not stay with the group, but I am eternally grateful for that chance encounter. It taught me that so many answers are already inside us, waiting to be rediscovered.

I think it was then that I picked up my candle and mirror and began my Journey in earnest. The candle to light my feet over the more treacherous passages on the path and the mirror to reflect back the truths that are already inside all of us. We know when we have found a truth because it resonates within us with such a surety that we cannot doubt its veracity.

A full life with a partner, children and a career did not allow a great deal of time for this but meditation became a first thing in the morning and last thing at night routine. I methodically began reading the holy literature from other cultures and other religions. I came to the Native American Tradition because of a mirror meditation that put me face to face with an ancient Medicine Man, who somehow was also me. A friend from India made me interested in the Hindu faith. A set of books on the world's great religions gave me even more jumping off places. A local branch of Tibetan Buddhism sent me on a search through the Buddhist literature and an ad in a magazine sent me to investigate the Rosicrucians.

In each and every one, I found something that spoke to me, often only a small message, and sometimes almost a coming home but none satisfied all of my questions and needs, so I ended up being a solitary seeker on the road to enlightenment. I have met many on paths similar to mine that kept me from being too lonely. Each seeker I meet teaches me something. I hope that I have been able to contribute to their paths as well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Seeking Kathy recently of Bamboo Shade

I hope you see this, Kathy. Renee is looking for you. I thought you had a new blog and that I had a link to it. Guess what. No such luck.

I would also like to see you on line again.


Control and Meditation

When we speak of control, we are referring to "self" control. Much of what happens to us is not under our conscious control. However, we can always be in control of our reaction to it. Many do not understand that we have this ability and feel that they are cast adrift in a mighty storm, able only to try to hold on until the storm abates.

In one sense, what occurs in our lives is brought about by our own actions. "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction". "As we sow, so shall we reap," even "the golden rule" all allude to this truth. We do bring into our lives that which we need to further our growth and understanding. Since we often don't notice this, we miss opportunities to change our ways, feeling instead that life has been unfair to us. This causes the same event to present repeatedly until we come to understand what we are doing that causes it.

I once expressed sympathy for a woman in a nursing home who was celebrating her 100th birthday alone. My friend responded that if she had been a kind and generous woman through her life, she would not be alone on such a momentous occasion. This did not relieve my pity for the woman, but it certainly gave me cause to think.

Many, if not all, of the basic truths we seek in life have already been distilled down into such familiar homilies. We just don't notice them while searching for an obscure, difficult path to enlightenment. Instead, we search for the ultimate guru, the most obscure path laid down by someone long dead, or at least totally unfamiliar to us.

Meditation helps us to go within ourselves and find these basic truths, bringing our lives into harmony inside and out.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Musings on Love

Yesterday one of my daughters by choice married the man of her dreams in a quiet civil ceremony in the living room of their home, followed by a dinner and dance reception in the local Fire Hall. Many families these days are blended, bringing children, pets and what not from a previous partnership. I have observed these two young people over the past few years as they learned about each other, learned to make a family with the two daughters she brought with her,learned to seamlessly integrate a baby into that family,and learned to be each other's best friend.

There is no vine covered cottage, no happily ever after, but they are both committed to each other, their partnership and their children. As I observed this very simple, but very profound ceremony, I realized that what they have is rare in this day and age. Happy tears flowed from both them and their daughters. Vows were said with deep conviction.Love and happiness shone from all of their faces.

It took me back to my own simple wedding ceremony 35 years ago. I sense the same commitment, joy and love in them as I have shared with my partner all these years. It was truly an honor to witness this special event.

On the Many Faces of Love

A recent conversation led me to contemplate the many faces of love and the need for forgiveness in light of the fact that none of us are perfect. It is impossible to go through life without both hurting and being hurt. Forgiveness, therefore, has to be learned and practiced if we do not want to end up unloved and unloving.

It had been over twenty years since my younger sister had spoken with me. When our mother passed away she could not deal with the anger and grief she felt. Since I had been unable to travel half away across the country at that time, she found it easier to direct her anger at me.

When I was so sick last year, my daughter phoned her and discovered that my sister had wanted to reconcile for a long time, but was afraid I would reject her. From my point of view the choice had always been hers. Originally we began corresponding by Instant Messenger once a week. We did not try to reclaim the lost years; it would not have been possible. We simply began the process of getting to know each other all over again.

From the time she was born, we had a deep spiritual connection. She needed only to think about needing to talk to me, and even from a thousand miles away, I would phone her. This was not mind reading, far from it. I simply knew how she was feeling emotionally, and would respond without thinking when she wanted to contact me. This strong a connection is not that rare. People often pick up the phone even before it rings, knowing in advance who it would be. Or they would think about calling someone only to have that person call them before they could follow through with the call.

When she let me back into my accustomed place in her heart, she found it a bit strange initially. I had been there from the time she was born, but had to block her out when she disowned me. It was simply too painful to feel her sorrow and anger without being able to do anything about it. She had forgotten that I had always been there, but as soon as I reminded her, she recalled how empty it felt when I was no longer there. I had not stopped loving her; I just had to do it from a distance.

It was not until last Christmas that I allowed myself to believe that she was back in my life to stay. It was not the gifts she sent, it was the wrapping, the same way we used to do, with a tree ornament on each package. I cried and cried and cried and finally believed. When she flew half way across the country two weeks ago, and showed up at my door as a complete surprise, she also finally believed that all is as it should be and we are truly connected again. It was only a weekend visit, but it was so packed with love and renewal that I could not wish for more.

Forgiveness is very hard to do, it is right up there with I’m sorry. In fact, I think it may be harder to forgive than to apologize, but it can be done. It has to be learned if we do not want to go through life with a heart filled with bitterness and anger, unable to love and losing those we have loved. That does not mean that we forget totally, but the open wound does heal and become a scar. It helps to remember that people don’t usually start out to hurt us, it just happens while they are trying to get their own needs met. The scar is always there, but no longer painful. Many things wound us over the years and we must learn to let those wounds heal for our own benefit, if not for others. I will always bear the scars but it does not stop me from loving.

My love for my two chosen sisters, sisters of my soul, as close to me as it is possible for people to be close runs deeper than I could ever express. They have walked in my soul. I know of no other way to describe what happened in the hospital in April 2006. They came through the mist to bring me back. The image created in my mind was of the three of us sitting around a small bistro table in a glorious garden, while they told me that I could do this. I could come back through the mist, I just needed a bit of help and some extra strength to do so, and both of them gave me all that they had. One of them provided the direction, the other provided the visualization and made her strength available. They created an unbreakable bond between the three of us. They were not even sure they had succeeded until I wrote them from the hospital to try to thank them, although there are really no words for the love and gratitude I feel for them.

There are so many faces of love. The love is no less strong and it is not a matter of loving one more or less than another. Love simply is, it courses through us, bringing beauty to all that we see and do. For instance, my love for my biological daughter began even before she was born. She carries a part of my soul, the part that animated her when still in my womb. Another bond forged of love that cannot be broken.

My love for my daughters by choice is based on the need they had for a maternal figure, which I could provide. It has to do with never refusing to help when there is an observed need. My love for them is no less for that, but I am much more prepared to let them go when the time comes that they no longer have that need. We must all let our children go when it is time for them to pick up their adult responsibilities and create their future. The love remains even as they go forward toward that future.

My love for my partner wears yet another face. It is based on many lifetimes spent together, the trust that comes from knowing each other so well and each putting the needs of the other first. He completes me.

When we are here on this earth, in these bodies, we cannot be perfect. We inevitably hurt one another, not on purpose but because we are unable to totally avoid it. We are simply trying to get our own needs met. We must remember to forgive ourselves as well as those who have caused us pain.

On Finding Happiness

Buddha taught that the root of all pain is desire. My grandmother taught that when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. TV and the books of fairy tales taught us to expect the vine covered cottage and happily ever after. The third statement does not belong with the fist two, and is, in fact, an impossible dream that has caused more pain than can be measured.

My grandparents and my partner’s parents both managed to make it to the fiftieth anniversary, and after a rough start with a ten year relationship, my second marriage is in its thirty third year, having known each other for forty years. I have no empirical data, just personal experience and observation. None were or are of the vine covered cottage variety. It has taken hard work and commitment to get through the worse years but the good years more than make up for them.

First it is necessary to take responsibility for one’s self, one’s actions and one’s own happiness. If we only stick around for the honeymoon phase, then separate at the first sign of trouble, we will never find our happiness. We will create a life where we are either on top of the moon, head over heels in love (or lust), or in a deep depression over the loss of yet another potential “happily ever after”. We become experts at beginnings and endings, and know nothing about middles, which are the areas we should be expert in.

There is so much we need to know. We need to be able to argue and negotiate without denigrating the other person, sticking to the issue at hand and be willing to compromise. We need to remember to take the other person’s wants and needs into consideration.

On Marriage

As we approach our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and forty-two years of knowing each other, my thoughts turn to partnerships, both formalized and common-law.

It is hard to believe in these days, that a marriage can become strong and stay that way. So many young people cop out at the first sign that the honeymoon might be over. That does not mean that we never make mistakes, sometimes we do. In such a case it is best to separate before doing permanent harm to each other.

In order to build a strong foundation together, both parties have to be committed to making it work. Each obstacle that is overcome, makes the parties and the partnership stronger.

Again, I draw on my grandparents and my husband's parents for strength and wisdom. My husband's parents celebrated their 50th before my father-in-law passed on. Mom missed him terribly and I think she was almost glad when a stroke took her through the mist to be with him. My grandparents married young and the union lasted for their lifetimes. Grandma passed on in her early 60s, and Grandpa never even looked at another woman before his death at 87.

I know that it was not all sunshine and laughter. They survived many conflicts and traumas together, partly because of society's demand that marriage be 'till death do you part, and partly because surmounting each obstacle made the union stronger and more prepared to deal with the next. In their twilight years, they did not become bitter old people, they did not regret the way they had lived their lives. They lived honorably to the best of their ability and were content.

I hope to be as content at the end of my days as they were. Although my first marriage was a mistake, I do not believe this one is. My only real regret is that this being my second marriage, we will not likely be able to celebrate our fiftieth together, rocking on the front porch in companionable silence.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Forgiveness (Response to a Question About Identifying It)

When we have been deeply hurt, we don't tend to ever forget, but we can forgive those who have harmed us. In fact, for our own benefit we must find a way.
I suspect you have still not forgiven them. When we can look beyond the pain they have caused us and see that they deserve pity more than anger, we can move on knowing that they have harmed themselves more than us. We will also come to the realization that our anger is hurting us more than the original wound. The wound can heal, but the aggravation caused by the constant blaming and anger are keeping the wound open and even causing an infection that could well destroy any hope for our happiness in this life time. It is impossible to move on while clinging to the hurts of the past.

An in depth analysis of why you are hurt and angry can give you a starting place to begin the healing process. These need to be "I feel" statements, not "you made me" statements. If you find yourself becoming defensive, you can be sure you have not forgiven. The blame game was invented to protect us from taking responsibility for our own actions.Unfortunately it also protects us from healing and moving on in life. Nothing happens in a vacuum. We need to accept that it takes two to make or break a relationship and if it is broken we must accept some of the responsibility, even if it is only that we failed to read the signs until it is too late.

When we get to a point that we can look at the person who hurt us with compassion and not blame or resentment, we are in danger of internalizing the blame and in effect, absolving the other person...with statements like "I should have seen it coming. I should have tried harder. I should never have trusted." and so on. Notice that these are "I" messages, but they are negative messages. Try "I did the best I could. I should learn from the experience and take that knowledge with me into any new relationship." Since we are human we all make mistakes, we just need to try to not make the same ones over again. In order to do this, it is necessary to reach beyond the ego and forgive it as a parent would a child.

When dealing with the emotions of the ego, meditation is a way of going beyond the ego and seeing ourselves as the spiritual beings we are. When trying to understand and rise above some negative emotions the problem can be taken into meditation and a solution is often found there. You might try a "Why am I ...." meditation in which you could start by asking yourself why you are angry and waiting patiently for an answer to form in your mind. When it done, it will probably not be the true root of the problem right away. If you know this to be true, you can dismiss the answer you have found and again ask yourself why you are .... whatever the first answer was. This method can scare up some surprising answers and help us farther along our path. You might even try free association with pencil and paper. Again, much can be learned from keeping an honest journal. It need not be written in every day, but record the circumstances when an event or emotion arises.

So much of what we learn is intuitive and not easily translated into words. It would be wonderful to sit down over coffee and engage in true one on one conversation, but c'est la vie. It would also help if we could develop a shared vocabulary between man and woman in order to share our feelings and be met with understanding. We will try to work on that one.

Self Blame - Self Forgiveness (reposted)

When something we invest in fails, we tend to internalize the failure, making it our fault and then spend time (sometimes years) punishing ourselves for it. Often we go against our true nature, our deep seated values, to try to make those relationships work. That doubles the guilt and sometimes even shame that we feel for the betrayal of ourselves as well as taking responsibility for the failures.

First, it is necessary to understand these feelings...look them right in the eye...then forgive ourselves for what we saw as failure. Life presents us with lessons, there is no success or failure as such. There is only learning and growing. Each step we make brings us closer to the goal.
There has been a great deal written about learning to forgive and to love our selves. We can not truly love another until we can love ourselves unconditionally. The negative feelings are coming from the ego. I believe that psychology refers to it as the inner child. We have to nurture that ego, that child, in order to bring it into balance with the whole. This is the emotional pillar that needs to be brought back into balance. The ego must learn that it is not the owner of the temple, therefore it is also not responsible for everything that goes wrong.

I'm not sure if we are born with this tendency to blame ourselves for everything or if it is something our parents and society teaches us when we are very young. I have seen this in operation over and over again. The child believes he caused the parents to break up and must bring them back together to rid itself of the blame. My older daughter passed on from encephalitis when she was five and my younger daughter was just three. It was not until she was grown that I found out she had always thought that she had caused her sister's demise. They had been playing in their bedroom a week or so before, and my older daughter fell and cut her lip against the corner of the dresser. That is what my younger daughter though had been the cause. That kind of self blame is so insidious because we grow up with it and are generally unaware that we are even doing it. By the time we are adults, we search for blame for everything that goes wrong. Sometimes we blame others and sometimes we blame ourselves...or both. As hard as it is, I believe it is easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ones self.

Self blame feeds depression and vice versa...a real catch 22. We need to break the cycle, to accept ourselves and own our actions and to see ourselves as worthy of love. A tall order, but it can be done. Sometimes it helps to sit down with a notebook and pen and try to identify why you are feeling bad about yourself, then look behind those reasons to see the root of the problem. Identifying the problem is at least 50% of the cure. With some idea of the dynamic it is possible to tailor a meditation to work with it.