Promising Emptiness

Lost in the empty noise of my desperate mind,

I close my eyes and suddenly You reappear.

I want to cry, to cling to You,

to fold myself into the space

between Your arms and I do –

Your loving hands bend and mold me

into driftwood, a sailboat,

white swathes of fabric floating

above me and You release me –

floating downstream.

 

Then the boat pitches off the water’s edge,

an end unnoticed, disappearing.

Shiva, ever gentle,

You hold Your hands over my eyes.

 

What have I not yet learned about surrender?

Why do I see time like a jailer,

above me rattling his keys?

when every day You pry open bars

and invite me with Your patient smile,

Come out, come out into the sun.

Let me care for you 

as the most doting of parents.

Why do I, so many days, choose

to stay in familiar darkness?

Day 21: Temple to Truth

In a sanctuary with walls

made of paper and stories,

I fall to my knees, with reverence still,

and whispers surround

of the tales and the turnings

they have left here for me.

Here, let me soak in a thousand languages

so I can ask in a thousand ways

Why? How? Tell me more.

Show me spirit from a million refracted angles,

let me catch its shadow

in centuries of dusty mirrors.

Lift up your feet,

what marks has your journey left on you?

I trace your scars like fault lines

and ache to know their origin.

Teach me, as I sink my hand in

the green water at the lure of a coin,

why the bubbles move that way

and tell me all the things we still don’t know.

May I expand till a world’s worth of

wisdom fits inside me,

as I build bridges of myself

with leather-bound volumes

and fractals of

poetry.

 

 

P.S. If you like, check out my Etsy store and support The Humane League!

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Day 15: Waiting in Time

I sat down in the middle of the road.

While others hurtle past

I bend myself into the

petals of a flower born in mud.

I take my horse from the horse,

my name from the hat,

the phone from the hook.

I hit pause, not break, not quit.

I let the water still

and listen for the silence

that houses all.

I chase my happiness like

a pile of papers dropped on

the sidewalk, tumbling in the air.

The chase, that looks to you like stopping,

is spinning my insides upside-down,

moulding me back into star stuff.

Just wait till this cocoon splits.

Day 6: How We’re “Supposed” to Feel

I went upstairs a couple of hours ago to see my mum watching a video on Facebook.

“This is yours,” she said.

Mine? I hadn’t made a video. Watching it, I saw a request from a family who seem perfectly lovely for a nanny/homeschool teacher to travel around the world with them for a year.

An incredible opportunity, right?

A friend of mine had tagged me in the link and my mum was actively encouraging me to apply. They very sweetly thought of me and quite innocently suggested I take a look.

A suggestion my brain chose to interpret as … an expectation. Continue reading “Day 6: How We’re “Supposed” to Feel”

Blindfolded on a Tightrope

I’ll be honest with you. I have no idea what I’m doing in my life right now. I’m single, unemployed, and I’ve moved back in with my parents. I have no intention of living in this town or getting a job here, but no clue if I want to move somewhere or travel for a while or get further schooling. I have a degree in English literature and a certificate to teach English in a second language, and absolutely no desire to teach. Everyone keeps telling me my whole life is before me and I have so many options (which is true), but everything I encounter my heart greets with an unequivocal “Meh?” I always thought I’d find something that would leap out and grab me, that I’d have no choice but to devote my life to, that would have everything make sense. But nothing’s appearing. Is this what is meant by a quarter-life crisis?

Lately, however, I’m trying not to mind so much. The one thing I know is a constant in my life, the thing I feel most dedicated to right now, is my spiritual practice. And it so happens that part of the deal with a spiritual practice is learning to let go of all our plans for the future, and our visions of how life should look. Think about it: if you make the decision to walk straight forward into Light, you’re going to have a hard time seeing where you’re going. And that’s scary. No wonder so many of us on a spiritual path go through periods of shielding our eyes or turning our heads or flat out heading in the other direction, where at least the road ahead is visible.

There’s also the added bonus of going against the grain. While it seems everyone else is walking with the sun on their backs, gazing at their goals, their five year plans and security, we’re stumbling into sunlight, palms upwards, asking how we can be of service today. And that earns us some weird looks sometimes.

That said, no one promised me this would be easy. This mind/heart training, this internal shift, this unlearning of everything our culture teaches, it’s hard as hell, and there’s no curriculum. All I can do is trust in the wisdom that lies within me, that refuses to tell me more than what my job is today.

Once the image came to me of Shiva standing me on a tightrope stretched across a lake. He tied my hands behind my back and put a blindfold over my eyes, whispering “Trust me.” I had no choice. I took a step forward, and another, and every time it seemed I would fall I was somehow righted, without a drop of water on my skin. When at last I reached the other bank, my body cracked open like an eggshell, and Shiva stepped out. Because if I let go of my need to control and trust something far greater than myself, the idea of separation disappears. I stop defining myself by what I hope to achieve or who I hope will love me or where I hope to live; in fact, I stop defining myself at all. I give myself away and for a split second am reminded of the truth under everything: that all is one. I don’t belong to myself, we belong to each other. And with that knowledge in mind, the most sensible thing for me to say in the morning seems to be “How can I help today?”

The rest will take care of itself.

No Wrong Way

I recently spent two months at an ashram in British Columbia, a life-changing experience where I practiced karma yoga, but also rediscovered my love for mantra, prayer, bhakti yoga, and met incredible people who have given me the courage to continue on my path.

When I arrived I was struggling with how I should do some good in the world. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to do a bunch of volunteer work or donate all my money. I was searching for my way to serve, and had only a very narrow idea of service to build from. Because that idea didn’t feel right at this moment in my life, I’d feel stuck, then guilty I wasn’t doing enough, then I’d try to motivate myself to serve again – it was an increasingly frustrating cycle.

So in one of our workshops when we were asked to bring forward a concern, I asked:

How can I best help or show compassion to others?

To clear our minds, we chanted for a few minutes to Shiva (Om Namah Shivaya) and an answer formed itself in my mind, the mantra acting as a lens so I could focus on it:

Be humble, dedicate everything you do to Me, and be an example for others. Don’t be scared, I’m with you.

This answer came so insistently from my Internal Teacher I couldn’t ignore it. So let’s break this down.

Be humble – I’m not going to change the world. I am one tiny person. Chances are, no matter how much pressure I put on myself, I am not going to cure cancer, save the rainforest, or stop cruelty to animals in this lifetime. I can give my support and a little of my resources to these causes, but I don’t have to be up to my elbows in them all the time. It doesn’t hinge on me. Humility has kind of a bad rep these days in our hyper-competitive world, but to me it’s become very closely related to freedom. I don’t have to carry the world on my back: it’s not my job to save everyone, and I’m not capable of it anyway. It’s a relief, not an insult. God has given me my own tiny part to play and the rest I don’t have to take on. I can be concerned, I can be compassionate, I can be filled with indignation about what’s happening in the world, but I don’t need to bully myself into thinking I need to solve it all. My small contribution of light is enough. My presence is enough.

Dedicate everything you do to Me – When I act with the intention of serving Spirit instead of myself, I surrender the results. If my motivation is getting the paycheque, or the dream partner, or the vacation, I try to control the process. Instead, I strive to allow it to be. And so it unfolds with far less effort and suffering, and less stress for myself and those around me. When my actions are in service to the Divine, I hold them loosely, knowing they aren’t mine, and I’m better able to release them when the time comes. I trust that whatever happens is for my Highest Good.

Be an example for others – To me this means implementing my beliefs, showing outwardly what I’ve learnt through my practice. It’s trying every day for kindness, understanding, patience, all the things I value. It has so much more power than I give it credit for. I know in my life where a kind word has been a catalyst that took me down a different road, gave me faith in myself, or showed me a new perspective, but I discount my own power to do that for others. My ego likes to tell me it’s not enough, I’m not enough. But we are enough. We always have been. And there’s nothing we can ever do to lose that.

Don’t be scared, I’m with you – I’m not alone in anything I do. I am supported beyond what I can conceive, even when it doesn’t feel like it. God and fear can’t coexist in the same moment, because God is love. And love is the opposite of fear. Every time I am lost in fear (about a thousand times a day), the universe is patiently waiting for me to realize my unity with it again.

So for now I’m trying to stop pressuring myself to save the world, and just surrendering all my ideas of what I think I should be doing. Give it all away, so I’m hopefully left only with love, so whatever I do is putting light into my little corner of the world. It might be helping my mum with the groceries, it might be encouraging a friend through a rough day, or perhaps it might be through poems, love, and prayer.