Monday, April 28, 2014

Comfort Zone

God is...

Early Saturday I attended a “Nature of Energy” workshop focused on intentionally creating an energy boundary around myself for good self-care--for protection from harmful energy coming from others.  It made a lot of sense.  For supper that night I had Chinese takeout and my fortune cookie said, “Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort.”  Sounds like paradox where truth reigns! 

At the workshop I learned a little bit of how much I don’t know about human energy work.  I’m familiar with both Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram where the goal is balance through self-knowledge.  This human energy work also promotes knowing who we each are through different defining elements of Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Nature.  Our human nature can contain parts of each element, but one element will be dominant.  Within that dominant element are both positive and negative aspects of ourselves challenging us to become more balanced. 

I found the idea of intentionally creating an energy boundary around myself comforting.  The idea that I can deflect another’s negative energy, or I can do ritual self-cleansing after being exposed to another’s negativity, felt empowering.  And probably the most important thing I learned, and no doubt will be the hardest to remember, is that I can never assume anything I say or do will be received as intended.  Plus, offering care or advice to another must always be done with the other’s permission.

I took a walk in the wood next to the river before the sun set on that Saturday.  There I became aware of the energy boundary I had surrounded myself with earlier in the day.  I intentionally removed it.  I just wanted to be one with the ground beneath my feet, the trees, air, sky, sun, wind and flowing water.  The following morning I again surrounded myself with my personal protective boundary.  Maybe it will help remind me to first ask permission to speak and do for another. 

What if the goal of all this inter-personal balancing work is leading us to a Rumi Guest House where together we will eventually balance each other within?

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary
awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably.  He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

Monday, April 21, 2014


God is...

What if there was no mystery surrounding death? What if the real mystery to be solved is in learning how to live through the many physical and metaphorical deaths we encounter in this life?  After completing a workshop on the “Nature of Mortality,” I was reminded of what is so easy to forget—that we are each unique, with problems stemming from things that no one can assume to understand or fix; and that we can each view the same things differently—including physical death. So then, who’s the teacher?  Through workshop participants’ reflection and sharing, I was reminded the teacher is within!

Our facilitator, Cathy Gawlik, skillfully drew us within through handouts of poems to which we attendees underlined words that stood out for each of us.  Then we reacted to our selected words with pen in hand.  I was surprised how the ink flowed onto my paper from underlining these closing words in a poem by Rumi, “…I cannot say the flavor of my being apart.”  Paradoxically, what I wrote does capture the flavor of how it now feels being apart from my husband who died in 1975. 

"The void between us is so vast and yet is non-existent.
 Pain, so intense, somehow bridged the gap.
Slow healing drew a veil on the one life we shared." 

Maybe death is the Ultimate Facilitator.  It encourages me to make meaning out of life.  It reveals my heart--both its grace and need.  There I can converse with mystery, with God, in whom I place my trust.  And there I can rejoice with those who have already melted into the sun and are dancing.

What if we all took time to reflect on the many deaths we experienced and therein find new life?         

Monday, April 14, 2014


God is...
From “God Never Hurries,”  God’s living word is in our life’s stories—tell them and write them down.

As I watched Robert Reich’s documentary, “Inequality for All,” I was grateful he chose to tell his story of how he came to be an avid advocate for the fair treatment of workers.  As a child, he said he was frequently bullied because of his very small physical stature, the result of a medical condition.  He had a friend who protected him from bullies.  When his friend grew up he continued to defend the oppressed, advocating for fairness and justice in the Civil Rights movement, which led to his murder.  His friend’s death profoundly affected Reich.  He said it gave him the courage to speak out on behalf of fair treatment of others.  He subsequently became a prolific writer, Secretary of Labor under president Clinton, and taught classes at Berkley on wealth and power.  The eye opening statistics Reich shares in his documentary highlights the flattening of workers’ wages beginning in the 1970’s, and the staggering rise in corporate profits and CEO pay.

Bringing forth gifts from oppression is a specialty of this mysterious God of ours.  I am very aware that my economic status was improved with the passage of Civil Rights legislation with its extension of equal employment opportunity to women in the workplace.  That legislation spawned training opportunities that allowed me to compete for jobs that supported my three children and myself after being widowed in 1975.  I eventually came to manage one of Robert Reich’s, then Secretary of Labor, employment programs for economically disadvantaged elderly while working for the U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Region.  I remember a national meeting I attended for the Senior Community Service Employment Program in Washington, D.C. where Reich spoke.  He then held, and still does hold, my deep respect for his heart, compassion and advocacy for the less fortunate.

What if we each told our story?  Would your story change hearts? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Indigenous Wisdom

God is...

In my seeking, helpful books have found their way into my life.  One such book was “Seven Arrows” by Hyemeyohsts Storm who told of the native People of the Plains’ spirituality through story.  I think I first read it in the late 1970s after my husband died.  I found comfort in the stories’ steeped in nature.  I recently picked it up again to review the Medicine Wheel that holds the four directions to which I sometimes remember to pray while holding my prayer feathers.  I found deeper meaning in the intervening years from my first reading.

Since my earlier reading of Storm’s work I have taken classes and done some reading on the wisdom of the Enneagram and Carl Jung’s shadow work.  I now see and understand those teachings are also within the Medicine Wheel.  It represents the Universe into which we each enter through a particular direction as a unique self with gifts to share with others along with a balancing need to learn from others’ gifts.  Different totem animals (and people) come to us throughout our life bringing teachings to grow and balance us.  Storm writes:  “The Medicine Power is within all People, and in all the things of the Universe.”  I also reread his telling of the Peace Shields, worn by native women on their belts, and displayed on animal hides by the men, depicting an individual’s gifts along with what they need to learn from others to grow. 

Now when I remember to hold my prayer feathers and pray to each direction, I will give thanksgiving for my gifts and ask to see where I need to grow for balance.  When facing East, the direction of Illumination and the high flying Eagle, I will be mindful of the need to balance farsightedness with the need to stay close to life.  When facing South, the direction of Innocence and the close to the earth Mouse, I will pray for Trust and discernment in the vision of others.  When facing West, the place of Introspection and the hibernating Black Bear, I will be aware of my need to balance reflection with decisive action.  When facing North, the place of Wisdom and the White Buffalo, I will pray for wisdom and the ability to live life with warm feeling and touching others. 

After recently watching the movie, “Twelve Years a Slave,” I became keenly aware of the dominant culture I come from, the utter cruelty of slavery, and past native genocide.  There has been some progress in laws, and some change in hearts, but the continuing unsustainable pursuit of wealth at the expense of others, and the acquisition of stuff, now threatens every culture and the planet itself. 

What if there were no dominant cultures and we valued other’s different gifts.  What if we each thought about the gifts we bring to the Universe and what help we need to grow and stay balanced?  What would your Peace Shield look like?