Angels’ Request

I’ve got angels at my elbows

tapping on my shoulder

with such reserved delicacy

it’s no surprise I almost never know they’re there.

There’s an ache in the chambers

of the seraphim,

an urgency in their auras –

they have no fingers to reach out

with the tenderness of heaven,

no lips to kiss bruised and confused faces,

no voices to encourage others

to speak, and to listen.

They’re asking all day long,

with nervous benevolence,

if we’d please be alright with holding

messengers in our fingertips?

If, perhaps, it’d be possible

for us to crack open our souls

to let love run like honey over them?

Whether, provided we’re not too busy,

we’d allow Connection’s emissaries

to treat our flesh and bone

as a boarding house for the jolts

and pulsing waves of unbridled compassion

that push out into the sunshine,

where we’ve all been looking for it

so desperately.

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She Reminds Me

My best friend is a prism.

It’s almost a party trick.

Have her walk into any room

and she’ll find the light where

it’s creeping through a windowsill

and bend it into rainbows

that bounce off the walls,

so you can almost hear the shimmer.

People blink and shield their eyes,

and I smile as in the usual way,

someone approaches her –

probably someone who gave up on rainbows

when they were very young,

and is now wondering if they could be more

than just a childish dream.

 

My best friend is a jungle queen.

In the treetops with a skirt

made of palm fronds,

she twists vines around her arms

and mixes her own paint,

trying to match the colours of the parrots

and cockatoos and birds of paradise

at her elbows.

She draws vivid peace stripes on her cheeks

then kneels to adorn the faces

of her adopted babies,

child after child with matted hair

and eyes that have seen too much,

taken under her expansive, feathery wings.

 

My best friend is an elderly monk.

On the mountaintop of her mind,

she sits in simple white-green robes,

listening to the roll of her breath

and the wind, uniting them.

She forgets herself up there,

sighs in her personal bliss,

then starts the slow descent

back to earth,

back to toil and pain and lost socks,

back for the rest of us.

 

But best of all, my friend is

the keeper of my most private memories,

a golden birdcage with wide-set bars

in which I’ve placed the shyest butterflies

of my soul, and where I know they are safe.

For the rest of my life, when she laughs,

I’ll feel thirteen again,

and recall the summers of pizza pretzels

and slurpees and 5-cent candies

in brown paper bags,

weekends of movies in our parents’ basements

and stories about boys

and confusing thoughts about girls.

When she laughs I’m reminded

that no matter what,

there will be movies under blankets

and sugar-induced brain freezes

and jokes only the two of us will understand,

jokes that make me think for a moment

we are still that young

and life is still that simple.

 

 

 

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Day 17: Meditation on Boundaries

Touch each other’s fingertips

and shut your eyes tight.

Pin out the point

where “you” becomes “them,”

and let it dissolve.

Feel for what tingles,

multiplied and pulled into concentration

where skin softly meets.

Let wisps of need and confusion dart

a dance in the interim of me and you,

till separation is muddied,

and we see in each other

an abundance of “us.”

 

Beloved, teach me to see You

in the eyes of every frightened soul,

show me that dance of light

in the cries of a child,

peel my fists from my sheltered heart

and whisper how to give myself

to every shivering hand,

to let the light spill

like sparks in the darkness.

Day 14: How It Feels to Find Your Purpose

Last summer I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to find a sense of purpose. After leaving my job and the town I was living in, and knowing I was headed to an ashram in the fall, I gave myself permission to take a couple of months to figure out what I would do next.

I didn’t get very far. I was wrestling every day with where I should go, what job I should get, how I should live? What am I here to do? played on repeat in my head.

I looked into teaching requirements in Hawaii, massage therapy school in British Columbia, au pairing in Italy, and I all but bought my plane ticket to become a Buddhist nun in France. It’s possible I was having a slight identity crisis. Continue reading “Day 14: How It Feels to Find Your Purpose”

Why I Wish I Was Santa Claus

santa

(Photo is from Raymond Brigg’s Father Christmas)

In the summer I was lucky enough to spend the weekend at a cabin on the edge of a lake with a couple of friends and at one point I happened to say: “You know what I’d do if I could do anything in the world?”

My friend said: “Be Santa.”

Which is an unlikely response, wouldn’t you say? And just goes to show how well they know me, because they were one hundred per cent correct. For a long time I’ve felt deeply envious of the man in the red suit and longed to hitch up Dasher and Dancer to the sleigh, which might be an uncommon aspiration for a twenty-something woman. Not to mention an impossible one.

So I wanted to reflect on this further: why exactly do I want to be Father Christmas? It’s not that I want to fly around the world in one night or live any closer to the North pole or even give presents to everyone in the world. I don’t want to do his job. I want to be Santa. I want to feel the way I imagine he would feel. I want to be jolly, wise, generous, and loving, to discover within myself a depth of wisdom and a deep-seated well-being and share it with others. To be so full of love that my arms overflow and the only logical solution is to give it away.

Maybe it’s the same reason retirement and old age appeal to me so much – it’s the idea of having already made it through the major battles of my life, passed the torch, and forged profound relationships, so all that’s left is to help the younger ones through their trials. It’s the idea of being a safe haven, someone people associate with comfort and refuge. I want to be someone people can tell all their secrets to, trust with their darkest shames and sharpest desires, not necessarily to get advice but just to have a soft place to fall. And I want to be able to receive everything with a loving smile, a warm hug, and a sincere wish for that person’s well-being, and then maybe we’ll eat some cookies after.

It’s possible I’m overstating Santa’s job description here, and even that retirement might be a bit of a let down for me after this. But I saw a lesson from someone I look up to that validated it for me. Gabby Bernstein said “Be unapologetic about how you want to feel.” Rather than think about what I want to do (which gets me nowhere and makes me stressed out) I get much clearer when I ask myself how I want to feel. I focus on that feeling so I’ll recognize it when it shows up, whatever external shape it takes. Then I ask God to point me towards whatever will help me achieve that feeling.

So here it goes: I want to feel like Santa. I want to be that loving, accepting energy that looks at others with so much compassion for the pain they’re in, and then smiles with a twinkle in his eye at all the good that is coming their way. I want to fill myself with love and wisdom, and then give it all away. I want to hand out joy and a feeling of belonging to everyone I encounter.

That’s what I want, and I’m not going to tone it down or apologize for it.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

 

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.