Tag: spiritual growth

Listen to the Silence

Listen to the Silence

Found on something-everything-nothing.tumblr.com
Found on something-everything-nothing.tumblr.com

Winter weather has descended on many of us in full force in recent weeks. My brother called from New Hampshire to assure me that while yes, he is buried in snow, he is surviving. That’s what they do in New England!  At that point, the total was 96 inches. Yikes! We’ve lived in the south for close to twenty years and while it’s not uncommon for us to be turning on the air conditioning when he’s pulling out his snow shovel, this year the heat has run pretty much non-stop. That was until our heat pump decided it was tired.  The silence was deafening and noticeable even before the temperature in the house began to plummet. If you have forced air heat, like we do, you know what I mean!

True silence is hard to come by these days. I don’t know about you, but when a background noise like our heat stops, my whole body heaves a sigh of relief. It’s a reminder to me of how much stress can be created by sound.  The sensation of our bodies relaxing is their way of saying, “Thank you. I really need the quiet.” Silence feeds us. External noise, especially extraneous sounds that are not particularly pleasing, is a stressor that can zap our energy.

There’s another kind of background noise, and that’s the running commentary that chips away at our self-confidence throughout the course of each day.  It’s often a very unconscious dialogue, but it’s there nonetheless. I’m talking about those thoughts and comments to ourselves  that are less than kind.  I’ll give you an example, though it may not be necessary. You walk into a coffee shop to get a cup of coffee on your way to work. There’s a line at the counter and you’re running late. Your inner conversation may be something like, “I should have gotten up earlier. I’m already late, I should just go. But, I really want coffee. I stayed up too late. I should have gone to bed earlier. God, I wish I wasn’t so old. I wish I had more energy. I wish I looked like that woman there looks. I bet she isn’t going to be late for work.” You know what I mean, right?

In order to turn off, or turn down, the noise in our lives, internal or external, we first have to become aware of it. Occasionally we receive a free reminder when circumstances occur like our heater breaking. At other times it is necessary to be pro-active, to take specific steps to create a quieter world.

I have begun to turn off my phone and simply check it periodically for missed calls. Not everyone is happy about that, but it’s the best way I know how to downgrade my stress level and to create the quiet I need. How can you create a quieter world for yourself?

“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it.

It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”

Chaim Potok

 

 

 

 

 

Simplify Your Life

Simplify Your Life

By Jim Daly Americana Artist
By Jim Daly
Americana Artist

Windows to Wisdom: “Simplify your life. Make room wherever and whenever you can for new ideas, new experiences, new friends, and new experiences.”

Have you ever asked yourself, “What do I really need to be happy?” Most of us live wrapped in a cocoon of material abundance. Even if, and maybe especially if, we think we do not have enough, most of us have everything we need. Perhaps it is our propensity to keep looking and striving for more that makes it impossible for us to appreciate what is right in front of us. The noise in our head blocks the path to our heart.

Many over fifty, particularly women, have fallen on hard times financially. Choices and happenstance, divorce, job loss, medical expenses can pile up to the point where we feel as though we are living in a vice. If we’re not careful, self-pity and despair will become our outlook on life. We may become so focused on what we do not have, on our lack, that we forget to be grateful for all that remains.

Simplifying one’s life in all areas creates space for the “enough” to filter through.  Eliminating the longing, the self-pity, the demand we place on ourselves to keep up with our own expectations,  opens a window and allows the fresh breezes of a new perspective, a new appreciation for what is right in front of us, to blow in and wash away the debris of the past. Contentment may just be right in front of us, right within reach. We simply need to make room for it.

Simplifying is a process and a practice, not an exercise we do once.  To carry the expectation that we can sweep through our lives, strip everything away and walk away free and at peace is an illusion. You see the process of simplifying is both internal and external and one depends on, and supports, the other.  It requires changing many thought patterns, habits and behaviors, each one a valuable step in the process. If we do not walk through the process we may find ourselves back where we started in no time.

Wherever you are in the process of simplifying begin there. Even if you’ve already eliminated all the extraneous things in your life that you think you can, take another look. Is there a habit of thought that does not serve you? Is there a book on your book shelf that someone else might benefit from? Push the edges of your comfort zone. It keeps us on our toes, it keeps the air moving within us, it keeps some space for the voice of our hearts to emerge.

Unraveling Ourselves

Unraveling Ourselves

“Unraveling external selves and coming home to our real identity is the true meaning of soul work.”

Sue Monk Kidd3c15e6af5a296dd861c2bd8ba93aa29e

There is so much to be done in the unraveling department. The good news is that once true unraveling begins, one starts to feel lighter and lighter. The heavy weight of pain and confusion begins to lift and the challenges one faces are laced with hope. Feeling one’s real and honest identity become interconnected with one’s soul is both energizing and life affirming.

If anyone had told me years ago that I would feel younger, happier and freer at sixty-three than I had ever felt at any other time in my life, I would have been convinced they were smoking something. I lived pretty much most of fifty something years under a black cloud, fighting, struggling, despairing…suffering inside in a way I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I was dedicated and earnest in my pursuit of self-understanding from a very early age. I was drawn to the spiritual life, like a magnet. I understand the human need and desire for a connection with the divine, implicitly. What I didn’t understand was my pain in the world. I didn’t understand how the world and the divine spoke to one another. The divine was speaking, but no one was listening.

Repeatedly throughout my life, I moved toward God and then fell away. I moved toward spiritual teachers and an understanding of an inner life, but when I attempted to carry it into the world I felt frustrated and alone. I did not know how to put words to any of what I knew to be true in a way that would convey to others.

The symbolic language I found and used to describe such things no longer worked in my practical, modern surroundings. I desperately wanted to find a connection between the two. I did not want to leave the world behind and go to a mountain top, although at times I wish I had. It could not have been more painful to be alone with God than it was to be alone in the world.

Now all these years later I’m beginning to see more clearly what happened. A product of my times, I found nowhere to go with my spiritual yearnings. Even seminary was an environment that was decidedly pragmatic in its approach to spirituality. One believed in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, even questioned and discussed them with other believers, but when all was said and done it was understood that the ultimate goal was to bring our faith and belief to others in the context of the church setting. What about bringing it into the world at large? Why must we put it into a box only to be brought out on Sunday morning in a pre-programmed environment? I couldn’t buy into any of it.

To my way of thinking what was always wrong with the “church” was what is still wrong with organized religion. It’s religion in a box. It’s not about spiritual listening and learning and becoming. It’s not about looking for God in the everyday world of board meetings and while making peanut butter sandwiches for your kids. We paid lip service to that, but there really was no support structure for such a lifestyle.  Religious traditions are too small, too narrow, too limiting for what I believe God to be and the spiritual life to require.

When “religion” didn’t answer my questions or satisfy my yearnings I didn’t abandon the Divine that lived in my heart. I just stopped paying attention to her voice. She was still there, calling to me, needling me, tormenting me. I chose instead to turn my back on my soul and sought refuge instead in the psychological realm. Therapy. Medication. Pain. More therapy. More pain.More medication.

I learned much about the human psyche, but it did not help me grow in self-esteem or  value the gift of life, because at my core I remained disconnected from my essential myself, my soul self. I was ignoring that place from which all real self-esteem comes. If we are not listening to our deep, inner voice and hearing the messages and guidance of our soul, we will never find peace. We will never understand who we are or what we have to offer the world. We will never trust that we are valuable, or that we matter, no matter what. No therapist, no religion, no worldly structure  or construct can ever teach us that.

Reclaiming Purpose

Reclaiming Purpose


This month’s selection for the Aging Abundantly Book Club is a recent favorite, I Will Not Live An Unlived Life: Reclaiming Passion and Purpose by Dawna Markova. I posted a copy of her poem from the beginning of the book not too long ago. I am enjoying it even more the second time around. It’s a book that at its heart is poetic and filled with images, metaphors and enough symbolic language to keep me giddy for weeks. That’s just me. Something like Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea – if you liked it, you’ll probably enjoy this one. Here are just a few of my favorite quotes from the second chapter where she shares her thoughts at the beginning of her healing journey.

“I need to recover a rhythm in my heart that moves my body first and my mind second”

“I need to take a sacred pause, as if I were a sun-warmed rock in the center of a rushing river.”

“I need a safe place in which to tell myself the truth.”

and maybe my favorite in this chapter:

“Through fear of knowing who we really are we sidestep our own destiny.”

Her words speak to me. Everywhere I look I see people racing around trying to be someone and do something only to cause unrelenting “soul leakage” as she calls it. I know I certainly felt everything she describes as I entered mid-life. It finally had all caught up with me. Many of you tell me the same thing. It just came to be the time when it all needed to stop in order to allow something different to blossom.

Change isn’t easy. Living with the rhythm of our heart and body is. It’s not perfect. It’s not without it’s challenges, but it feels like living and breathing with the universe not the world.

If you like reading non-fiction of the psycho-spiritual variety we will be doing more of it. We also read fiction so drop in. We’d love to have you!

writer, poet

 

 

 

 

We Cannot Ignore the Cry

We Cannot Ignore the Cry

embersWe dig beneath the surface of our pain not only to eliminate the pain, but to grow into and beyond it; to discover who we are in the corner of our heart left unattended as life passed by. We grow weary of living on the surface, of trying to catch up with the cultural ego or our own, of trying to be something we are not.

The pain is a reminder. It teaches and instructs us. It tells us where to look, what needs our attention. An ember burns within each of us, a smoldering, glowing energy that calls to us, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes in a scream. It speaks our name. It knows us. It understands us, and it will not abandon us.

We can ignore its cry. We can drown out its voice with the loud, crashing sound of a carefully constructed external reality. We can numb it with each and every one of a myriad of addictive behaviors…both small and large…dampen it, drive it down, imagine it is gone as we turn our heads away to binge on cookies, or computers, or anger, or work, or fear, or exercise, or friends, or talking, or worrying, or…..we run away. Like children, we put our fingers in our ears or hide under the dining room table.

Or…or until…we rise up, shake off  the shackles of denial, of fear and open our arms and our hearts to that great something…and with each breath we take, we breathe the breath of life into it, watching the flame grow and burn once again or for the first time…hot and fierce forging strength and courage and a boldness we never knew we had.

We dig beneath the surface of our pain not only to eliminate the pain, but to grow strong and bold and wise, and fully present to that we value.

Gut It Out

Gut It Out

378a445020743408715c4111ffb81adaSometimes it just takes guts. Sometimes we can’t think our way to a solution. We can’t whine our way to the answer. We can’t emote our way to healing. Sometimes it just takes guts and putting one foot in front of the other and doing the thing we think we cannot do, facing that thing we think we cannot face.

I haven’t been writing lately. I’ve been gutting it out, head down, leaning into the pain. Pushing through, breathing the baby into the birth canal. She’s so ready to be born, so done with carrying the weight of the past, so ripe for life.

There’s a bit more pushing to be done before I can embrace the miracle of birth that will set her free, though it feels as though the hardest work is done. The months of sickness and burden, the trimesters of struggle and straining toward freedom and understanding.

A new consciousness has awoken. A new beginning is at hand. Birth, life, death. Birth, life, death. The cycle of life continues unfolding the fullness of you, the fullness of me. Lean into the pain. Gut it out. Let the birth take place. It simply needs your cooperation and above all else, your fearlessness.