7 Unexpected Insights into Meditation as a Daily Practice (First Published on June 27, 2012)

Meditation has come in and out of my life since I was little in various forms, everything from creative visualization to simple breathing to Zen practices to “oms” at the end of yoga classes, in groups and solo, depending largely on where or what was happening at the time. Some things from these experiences took hold and stayed close to my heart, but a true daily practice remained just of my reach. I would start out with great enthusiasm only to find myself a week later more confused, more lost, and in many ways, much more uncomfortable than when I began. I would unfold into the practice expecting peace of mind, and tranquility, only to hit a wall that would send me running back to my numbed little world convinced it wasn’t working or I was defective or peace of mind was clearly a myth. Clearly.

A few months ago after another round of frustrating, and haphazard meditation practices, something inside chipped just enough for me to catch a glimpse of the depth, and grace hidden behind that stubborn, old wall. It was a moment so undeniably beautiful, and drew me in so completely that I became hooked, and worse, deeply curious. I decided to take a two day silent retreat to allow myself ample time to try to go deeper, to get past the wall once and for all, and to come out on the other side with answers (to read about the 2 day solo silent retreat – please click here and here). For reasons beyond me, I committed myself to this. I surrendered to the process fully, and broke through. I had no idea the hell that was awaiting me, nor the heaven I found existing inside me all along.

I discovered a great many things, both dark and light, all beautiful, all graceful at the core, and have continued a daily practice ever since. I am grateful, because I’m fairly certain it has been the very thing keeping me on my feet (and bike) these days. So I thought I would share my experiences to date, mostly because I had it so wrong when I started, and for anyone thinking of trying this, maybe it would prove helpful.

7 Insights into Mediation as a Daily Practice: The First Few Months

1. Meditation is a perfect reflection which is sort of the problem.

Welcome to yourself. If you are lucky enough to already love yourself, than woohoo you and please continue with whatever is working for you (and maybe leave a comment with how…). For the rest of us, this meeting is probably going to get ugly. It will get a whole lot better in time, but at first, you won’t experience any blossoming lotus flowers, so just get over it, and don’t expect it. Be ready for ample amounts of pain, fear, and anger to bubble to the surface once the honeymoon stage wears off. You will shatter, and keep shattering until you finally listen in full to the intelligence of your own heart, and not one moment before. Sometimes there is a seemingly impenetrable fog, and sometimes there is cutting clarity, both states fading and renewing with no particular regard for timing or your daily life. There are other states no less confounding, and every once in awhile, when everything aligns, there is deep peace. Practicing meditation creates doors, gateways, openings, and paths into your inner world, and what you find there doesn’t stay isolated in the act of sitting on your cushion for twenty minutes. It spills over into your life, and at first, life becomes total chaos. Until you get the lay of the land, until you figure out the truth of your landscape and a way in which to handle all of the incoming information, everything goes a bit bizerk. Peace comes later. Don’t dismay, take your seat if this is what you want to do, accept the truth of yourself as best you can, have faith in those blessed moments of peace, grab a compass, and busy yourself with coming to terms with your deranged monkey brain.

2. The silence is deafening.

Oh how I would love a dollar for every time I exclaimed out loud, and usually in complete frustration, my wish for a quiet moment before I started this practice. I would be one rich lady. When that moment finally came, it scared the hell out of me. I had no idea how much fear I carried in the very quiet I believed my creativity, my true self, my sanity existed. And although those things do reside there, there are demons, shadows, and things that go bump in the night that have also rooted in, taken up residence, and balked at my search for peace. Silence contains my deepest and darkest childhood monsters, and I had no idea how crippling these would be to face, how deep the pain would go, and how hard it would be to heal. Coming to terms with the totality of silence has been the hardest-earned, most heart-wrenching, most beautifully excavated gem my meditation practice has uncovered to date. There is true peace to be found but it comes with a hefty price of many tears (of the endless, wailing variety), profound acceptance, and real forgiveness. There is no half way here – you either stand up within yourself or you retreat in fear. It’s overwhelming, potentially spirit crushing, stressful and well, just heart-breaking. I mostly love the silence now. Some days are harder than others, but for the most part, I can’t wait to take my seat, be still, and ease into the quiet. I love that deep sigh that happens when meditating, the one that lets you know you’ve crossed over. It’s the same sigh I would listen for when my children were babies that let me know they were finally sleeping peacefully, and that they had fully let go. It feels exactly like what I imagine they felt like as newborns – deeply at peace, protected, and just being. These moments of simply being, of deep sighing have become so necessary these days. So if you are still interested in facing your demons, becoming friends with your shadows, taking those things that go bump in the night out for a much needed cocktail, and transforming it all into a beautifully quiet life then godspeed. I wish you much luck, the heart of a lion, nerves of steel, and lots of faith. It’s possible. It’s intense, and it takes time, but it’s possible.

3. Life is going to suck for a while.

All that stuff you push down and don’t want to deal with is conveniently waiting for you just under the surface, just under the noise – and I mean ALL of it. In fact, in many ways it’s probably pushing back at you through body aches, headaches, anxiety, illness, addictions, instability, ect. ect. And as all of this crap comes to the forefront, you are not going to like it. No one around you is going to like it either. They are going to fight it. You are going to fight them fighting it, and you are going to fight yourself too. Your resolve will be tested over and over to the point of exhaustion, and you will watch in horror as your life cracks open before your eyes, wondering why peace and tranquility are alluding you and why your life has gone from bad to worse when you are supposedly making positive lifestyle changes. The reality is that your meditation practice does not care a rat’s ass about your positive lifestyle changes, cutting right through your bullshit, and everyone else’s too. It mostly sucks for a good long time, but it will heal you…eventually. Underneath these first and probably ugliest blocks, your true self is waiting for you. It’s worth it. Just keep sitting down. Try your best to find something resembling center. Keep your faith. Speak your truth when necessary, be quiet when you can, and stay the course. You are going to be cranky. It will pass.

3. Illuminations are coming, and usually when you think you can’t take one more minute of yourself or this “healthy transformation”.

There will be moments that change everything, and somehow these will help you find the strength, and courage to keep going. Usually this seems to happen right at the time I feel there is nothing left to smash, that I have been reduced to complete and utter dust. Then, there will be a small give somewhere, a tension released, a place of breath, another opening that connects to another puzzle piece, that connects everything you have gained so far, and that moment is so lovely that there is no way to go back, because now you know. And you can’t un-know. On a deep level, you’ve shifted and there is no going back. And then, you are in this beautiful state of openness, until you come to a new block, and it all starts over, and you reach your breaking point again, and once again there will be a moment that changes everything. I believe this is what people refer to as “healing”. All of it eventually settles down, but not just yet. First you have to understand the cycles, and the triggers, break them down, and rebuild. This takes effort, and time. And will probably drive everyone in your life a little crazy. It will probably drive you a little crazy. Again, don’t despair. It is all temporary. Things change on their own. Take deep cleansing breathes often. Surrender. Your true path is clearing. You are moving towards center, and it is all ok. This is your choice. Keep moving inward, or just say screw it, grab a bag of cheetos and the remote, and head for the couch. Both count, and are a part of the process. You decide which path to follow.

4. It will teach you everything you need to know.

From the way you take your seat to meditate. From the way you sink into the quiet. From the way you open your heart. From the way you surrender your thoughts. From the way you sit like a mountain, like a temple, like a tree, like a river. From the way you glow. From the fear you release. From the love you radiate. From the way you embrace it all. From the way you hand it all back over. From the way you breathe. From the techniques you use. From the beauty and trust you create. From the depths you go. From how you close your meditation. From how you stand up to move about your day. From how you take in what you’ve learned. All of this is a pure reflection of how you are in your life. It will show you everything you need to know. It will affirm your most beautiful parts, your gifts, and will light those things that need attention to grow. It’s a door that swings both ways – discover or change your meditation practice, your life changes in reflection. Change something in your life, your practice shifts too. It’s never ending and it just sort of takes over, and before you know it everything calms to the center. Closing a door, opening a card, taking a sip, releasing a hand, accepting a hug, smiling at a friend. You get the idea. It’s pretty amazing. And there is always something new to learn, ways to go deeper, and more ways to sink in to the wonder of your life.

5. Emotions aren’t numbed through meditation. They become finely honed, ninja sharp, and a bit over the top for awhile.

Eventually, you’ll mellow, but at first the only way to stay in this process is to address these intriguing new things bubbling to the surface called “feelings” and “emotions”. And since you were probably pretty bad at “feelings” and “emotions” before you started meditating, chances are things are going to get a whole lot worse. There will be no serenity until you get past this part, so I recommend pouring your heart and soul into your emotions until you have a firm grasp of their purpose, and what all of these feelings mean to you. All of them. This is the part where your true friends sort themselves out from your un-true friends, because as you begin to sort out your own emotions you are also simultaneously learning about the emotions of others. You begin to see with acute clarity other people’s bullshit, making you almost impossible to be around for a while. In contrast, there will also be truly beautiful, resonate moments of love and friendship, helping you come to terms with this hurricane that has become your waking life, and to further define for yourself what these words really mean as you move forward. The people around you who can withstand this crazy stage and not hold it against you are the ones worth keeping around, as for the others, let them go, and create space for friends, mentors, and loves that will accept all of you, in all of your stages of growth, and love you anyway. Emotions are your safeguards if you are willing to listen, understand, and honor them. Those that block this process are probably already fading away anyway. Don’t hold on, wave goodbye, and be grateful they are gone. Better things lie ahead. Others come forward in support, and be grateful for that too. Emotions aren’t numbed through meditation, turning you into a Zen-ned out zombie. Your emotions are awakened, and peace follows once you fully accept the breadth of what, and who you are – in forgiveness, in acceptance, in wisdom. If you are still in and wanting to engage in this both amazing and insane process, forgive yourself for the confounding things you will do during this stage, wake up anyway, sit down anyway, go easy on those sticking by you, enjoy these beautiful new “feelings” in all of their glory, know that this thrashing will soften and still, and rest peacefully that this process is indeed keeping you safe, protected, free to experience all that you are, and genuinely loved.

6. Be careful what you wish for.

Your heart’s deepest desires, dreams, and wishes also come forward along with a seemingly endless river of questions, and a genuine curiosity to seek the answers. So be careful in these moments, of both what you wish for, and how you wish for it. Take care to slow yourself down, and take your time. Allow these deep desires to mature a bit, and make sure you are grounded and centered when you craft the details. What you clearly state as a want is what you will get, so take caution, be courageous, be certain, be specific, harm none, be focused, and dive. The universe is profoundly wondrous, and open to collaboration. If you show up, it will answer with a gift, a lesson, a moment, an experience. Sometimes these gifts are returned in beautiful, and deeply meaningful ways, touching your now un-numbed heart, and confirming what you need to know. And sometimes the world likes to display it ‘s grand sense of humor, and impeccable timing, offering the delightfully humbling gifts of great irony, slapstick pies in the face, and/or just a good laugh at your expense…lest we take ourselves too seriously at any given moment. And then sometimes, the universe hands you an all out smack-down. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Whichever way, or some mix of it all, you will get what you wish. And don’t forget, you asked for it. It’s possible it might hurt a bit. It’s definitely going to inspire wonder at the head-shaking mystery of it all. And it will always be in the exact form of what you need. Every time. Hello humility. Hello grace. Hello Universe. Hello heart. Hello self.

7. It will transform you, show you real love, and light your path, but only after it has completely kicked your ass.

Ah yes, here in lies the truth of meditation. Every one of us has to come to grips with ourselves. Every one of us has the choice to keep running in circles, creating chaos, creating more drama, or to stand still, turn around, face down the hell at our backs, and learn the truth about ourselves. There are a million ways to accomplish this – as many ways as there are people on the planet. None better or worse. Choose heaven. Choose hell. It all counts, and is out there in the greater web of all of our existence. There are balances, and the only way to tip the scales, to create beauty where there was once pain, is through transformation, and transcendence. Take the energy of hell, and create heaven, and in so doing, rise up. The world is doing this all the time. So yes, I’ll take the ass kicking if it means a shot at living my life on my true path, illuminating my gifts, in my own time, in ways unique to me, and in hostage to no one, and nothing. Thank you Universe. May I have another?

Last notes…

I have come a long way. I have been to hell and back countless times in the last few months, and the hardest part at this moment, is to allow, and support myself in these vulnerable places I now exist. There is wisdom in this vulnerability, and much to learn about my own strength. I’ve made the choice to stand my ground, as weak as I feel, and heal with grace. I won’t rebuild with illusions, with lies, with someone else’s distorted idea of who I am, or with anything but my own heart leading the way. My energy is re-balancing, my soul is re-calibrating, and my spirit is coming back to life. This time, I’m building a temple, and this is the path I’ve chosen. I’m also working on becoming a biking super ninja, but that’s an entirely different post…same path, but definitely a different post.

Over these past months, I have used a few different meditative techniques. Currently, I am working with the book (ironically) The Blooming of a Lotus by Thich Nhat Hahn along with a podcast of these teachings on iTunes – you can find the recordings under Right Diligence. My boys think the gongs are funny. I think they are amazing. These teachings concern guided meditation, so I’ve taken a small break from total silence to let these lessons shape where I’m heading next in my practice, and to improve my technique. The silence will still be waiting for me when I return.

Thank you to everyone who has stuck by me through this journey. I am staying the course, and my gratitude for each of you is endless.

Amaranth Arts Fall Fundraising Campaign on Indiegogo is here!!!

The dance company I am a part of, Amaranth Arts, is embarking on its first internet fundraising campaign on Indiegogo. Please check it out and see what we are up to and where we are going. Lots of beautiful choreography and fantastic perks if you make a donation. The best part of the promo video is how much Scott Putman, Amaranth Arts Artistic Director, and I deeply love this company and the work we do. Enjoy!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/amaranth-arts-2014-fall-season/x/8363505

Amaranth Arts: Jill and Amy in "Through Clouds in a Midnight Sky" Photo by Richard Finkelstein

Amaranth Arts: Jill and Amy in “Through Clouds in a Midnight Sky” Photo by Richard Finkelstein

Crossing A Threshold, A Hard Goodbye & A Language Without Words

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Photo taken by Jill B. Ware at the lovely home of the Di Napoli’s in Rhode Island while on tour with Amaranth Contemporary Dance. My youngest son, Riley, went on tour with us and we found this leaf on a beautiful, clear morning:)

Threshold: 1. a piece of wood, metal, or stone that forms the bottom of a door and that you walk over as you enter a room or building. 2. the point or level at which something begins or changes. 3. gate, door 4. end, boundary: the place or point of entering or beginning. 5. the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced. 6. a level, point or value above which something is true and below which it is not. 

You stand up up from all of the confusion and from all of the wants surrounding you. Something is wrong. Something doesn’t feel right. This was supposed to be a better place. Wait, it is better isn’t it? You look around. You listen. You use your senses. You make a concerted effort to silence the noise. Everything seems to be in order, but you just know there is a thorn, a pea, a synthetic buzz, a not right something settled in somewhere deep. You just need a moment to think, to feel what it is – what is it? You take a deep breath in and let the air calm your thoughts. You focus. Once quiet, a real question forms, and the world fades away for a moment. You ask your heart this question with sincerity and hope, and wait for the answer.

In the meantime, you move. You snuggle your children. You stretch. You breathe. You cook. You yoga. You dance it out. You draw. You water color. You love. You cry. You wash dishes. You light candles. You sing really loud. You let go.  The universe shifts beneath your feet. You feel it happening, but you have no idea of the set-up barreling towards you, and now, there is no way to stop it. You tell yourself that maybe this time will be different, maybe it won’t hurt. Maybe the lessons will be kinder. You ask yourself what is this incessant need to question things?  A mild panic sets in, and slowly escalates. The question you asked your heart was of the big and deeply felt-kind, and you start to wonder if this whole thing was such a good idea. A shiver crawls up your spine, as you remember the last time you had a big question to ask. You know you can’t stay here, and pretend everything is fine. You know this. You’ve lost your foothold. It’s just gone, and there is no getting it back. And like the silly human that you are, you think you will be strong enough to weather all of the changes hurling towards you. Maybe you will be. Maybe you should start making deals with anything that will listen. Maybe you should count your blessings. Maybe you should bolt everything to the floor.

After a while, you begin dreaming of a door. Night after night, it stands there, beautiful and still. There are symbols carved with care into the wood, a lotus, a swan, a fox, a rabbit, flowering vines, moons, hands, eyes, rivers, gardens, paths, caves, and it glistens with fresh oil. It’s been painstakingly created, lovingly shaped. And in your deepest heart, you know it was made just for you. You eye it, and wonder where it leads, wonder what it would feel like to walk through it, but night after night, you won’t walk through it. Instead you pace back and forth in your sleep, mumbling no over and over. You tell yourself there is no way you can walk through this strange, unknown door set before you even thought it’s obviously your door, you recognize every symbol, but no. It would be crazy – you don’t know what is on the other side. You can’t walk through it because there are a million reasons why you can’t. You list them for yourself so that you remember, so that you stay right where you are. You try to convince yourself that things aren’t that bad. There is no thorn, there is no pea, and there is definitely not a buzz, and even if these things actually existed, you can work with it. It’s livable. You wake up and feel as if you haven’t slept at all. And you haven’t. Not really. Not for weeks.

But then one exhausted night as you tumble through your sleep, you walk over to the door, and rest your head against it. You immediately recognize the pulse, the warmth to it’s surface as familiar. You reach into your pocket and find a key that you didn’t know was there. You take the key and place it into the lock. You turn it. You shake your head as the irony sinks in. You place your hand on the door knob. You take a deep breath, open the door and you step through it against every no you’ve ever said to yourself, and in that moment, the action becomes your answer. And as you cross the threshold, you exhale as you watch the last of your constructed world fall apart. You exhale more. A million band aids are pulled from a million wounds. You exhale the last of it. And the pain is unbearable, but you keep walking through anyways. It hurts like hell, but it means everything, at least it means everything to you. It feels like forgiveness. It feels like acceptance. It feels that way, because it is.

Standing on the other side of the door, you hear a half giggle from the deep underbelly of the universe at the drama of having to come to this place to remember what is real and what isn’t. The destruction. The illusions. The dismantling. The absurdity. The heartbreak. The lessons. You take out the thorn that is now plainly visible in your side. You remove the large pea from under your mattress, and you shut down the power source to that incessant buzz.

When you wake up, you hold your children close. You look straight into their eyes, you take their hands into your hands, smile at their beautiful faces, and explain how the largest oceans, the highest mountains, the most expansive sky has nothing on how much they are loved, a depth that knows no limit in any time or space. You stand up while still holding on to their hands, you look around at all that is now present and surrounding you. The clarity is beautiful, and peaceful. Breathing comes easily. So does a smile. You take note of all blessings, all triumphs. You take stock of this moment, and with your fullest heart, begin to rebuild once again.

The question I asked myself was this…what stands in my way?

The answer was me.

When it came down to it.

I learned that an awakened spirit is a spiritual gift that is only the beginning of the story. Fully  accepting that spirit as beautiful, perfect, and whole is something else entirely, and takes a continuous, generative commitment to life and love. For a moment, I saw my path clearly.

But then my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and three weeks and one day later, he was gone. I watched him disappear in front of my eyes, and it felt as if a bomb went off where my soul once lived. Now, I’m numb, hollow, and more sad then I have ever been in my whole life. I watched my Mom lose her husband, my brother lose his father, and our worlds change forever. The waves of grief that people talk about are real, but they are only a small part of the story. They don’t talk about the daggers of grief, or the grief that jumps out at you from nothing, or the physical heaviness. I said goodbye to my Dad and talked to him while he left our world, and the realness of that takes my breath away.

The hardest hit area of my life has been my dreams – running through endless houses with endless stairs – never getting where I need to be, navigating through wooden furniture, porches, fields, white pianos, words carved in wood – sweetheart, the smell of grass, clear night skies, re-experiencing scenes from growing up, and endless conversations with someone that I can’t see but I know that my dream-self knows who it is…so frustrating. I know I am trying to make sense of the trauma my Dad experienced, the trauma I just experienced. I know I’m trying to make sense of the un-sensable. I know that I settle my deepest things in a language without words.

I thought I had found some sort of solid ground for myself, and for a moment, I think I did. But for now, I’m not even in the same realm of time or space. I don’t know where I am, or which way to go from here, and I’m not sure I even want to go back to where I was. Nothing will ever be the same, so wouldn’t it be a waste of time to try to get back to something that is gone? I’m not sure of anything.

At this moment, I’m just trying to breathe, and keep our lives going. I’m trying to say yes to this experience. Even this experience. Because even though the pursuit of the question I asked my heart happened before my father’s illness and death, the lessons I learned and continue to learn through the answering of that question has led me to the present moment, and the love and acceptance I have found for myself and those closest to me. Everything happens in the moment, and only in the moment can anything really change, can anything really be honest, can anything be felt or truly experienced. So I take these lessons forward, even in grief, in joy, in whatever is next for me, for my children, for my mom, for my brother, for my family. I say yes to this unknown, unrecognizable place, and what it has to teach me. I hope all of my Dad’s family and friends say yes to this experience too even though its hard, and sometimes seems impossible.

I hope they say yes anyways.

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A Weekend of Superheroes, Lounging like Sloths, Water Colors, and Bike Rides

20121001-162713.jpgThis past weekend was amazing! We did not have a single thing to do on Saturday – not a one of us. This rarely happens, and it was awesome. We spent the day in our pjs watching old Justice League cartoons, water coloring, reading, hanging out, eating, playing with legos/cars, and lounging around like sloths. Peaceful, warm, and lovely all around. We ended the day with a delicious dinner, and watched The Avengers with homemade popcorn thus bringing our day of superheros/lounge slothing to an action packed close. Or at least sort of, Riley, my youngest son, passed out midway through the movie sprawled out in my lap…so snuggly and wonderful, especially since I am unsure when another one of these days will come around.

Sunday was a little busier. I rehearsed with Amaranth Contemporary Dance in the morning, and went for a bike ride with my oldest son, Mac, in the afternoon. Riley made caramel apples with his Dad while Mac and I were out on our adventure. Once home, Riley and I water colored for a while, before having breakfast dinner made by Marshall (Dad)  – another favorite thing to do on the weekends…Sunday night breakfast dinner – yummy! I love these kinds of weekends.

And although it is Monday (bah!), I have managed to find music for my new work in Denver, finish writing a report, and purchase my plane tixs to Paris! Yes, Paris! What promised to be a not-so-easy week, is brightening considerably:) Yay me!
So because I spent lots of time water coloring this weekend, here is update #2. I deepened the blue, although I’m about to start adding other colors to the water to add ripples – it needs to go much, much deeper and swirlier. I worked on the fish a bit, added color to the skirt and the flowers, and began adding more depth to the trees. I mixed the purple myself, and felt very proud of the tone! One step, then the next. Onwards to skin color and lantern light…I’ve lost count of the layers, but there  have been many, with many more to go.

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The Third Layer of Color of about Fifty…

20120925-072342.jpgCurrently, I am working on a watercolor to go with a letter that I wrote a while ago but have not posted. I wanted a particular image to go with the message of the letter, so I decided to create my own and use my spiffy new paints, brushes and this amazing iridescent medium I found. So awesome! But it’s going to be awhile before the post is complete, because watercolor takes an extraordinary amount of patience, wonder, a commitment to freedom, to surrendering to the elements at hand, and a true love of space and time colliding in unexpected ways…it can’t be forced, bullied, or pushed. It just sort of has to become what it is in its own way. All I can do is guide it as safe as I am able, and honor its unfolding…

As synchronicity would have it, this watercolor also goes beautifully with a new choreographic work I am dancing in by Scott Putman, the Artistic Director of Amaranth Contemporary Dance. This work is touring to Denver in a little less than a month and I am honored and excited to perform…something I didn’t think I would do again, but opportunity came knocking and I answered! There have been so many changes in my life these last six months, and there is something both nourishing, and centering about going back to my roots, being back in the studio with people I adore, rehearsing phrases and timing, trying to get my body to work…which it does very differently now after the seizure. My head has to be completely quiet, and I have to fully concentrate in order to do anything with any amount of coordination. Movements that I wouldn’t have thought twice about, I now have to be fully present to accomplish. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing – it’s just a completely different experience from what it used to be like. In an odd way it feels better, more connected not less, atoning, humbling, yet affirming too. A time to release past pressures, and just dance again, and enjoy not having the weight of the world on my shoulders, because I can’t allow that pressure in, or I would fall over – ha! Life is such a joker! While in Denver with Amaranth, I will also choreograph a new work for the beautiful dancers at Denver School for the Arts. I am so blessed, grateful, and excited for theses experiences! True love of space and time colliding in unexpected ways indeed.

Now these similar ideas (the one for his dance, and the one for my watercolor/post) were birthed in different ways but they are deeply complimentary. So without further adieu, here is progress report #1 for my as yet untitled watercolor. This is the third layer of color of about fifty…the blue has a long way to go – it needs much, much, much more depth, and I haven’t even begun the skirt (my favorite part, besides the fish) or the flowers (another favorite part). But the movement of the work is slowly emerging, and that is what I had hoped to accomplish at this point. So much more to do! I’ve also included a close up of the fish who will be doused in iridescence when the time comes.

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A Proposed LMN Music Montage

It’s not the end of the world. It’s not even that bad in the grand scheme of things…but, it is life altering. Some of the surrounding elements are pretty scary, but life goes on yes? So maybe, I’ll just make myself a pretend music montage of this past weekends events and try to hold on…Lifetime Movie Network – this is your official heads up to pure gold.

Thanks in advance to two of my current faves Birdy and Marina and the Diamonds – I’ve distorted your work for my own needs, but I am a true fan of both of you and hope you can forgive me. As for the rest of you, if in fact any of you are still reading this, just use your imagination and go with me…maybe I’ll make some actual montages of this new adventure I have found myself on, because no doubt they would be hilarious, but for the moment, just go with the written word…feel free to laugh – at this point, there is really nothing else to do. Laugh and adapt.

So first, the set-up. Two opening clips and some preliminary music appropriate for an existential crisis…

Cue music 1…

Clip 1 –

At the neurologist’s office, close up on my face when told I am at a high risk for a repeated seizure and I may not drive for 6 months. In fact, it is now illegal for me to drive for SIX MONTHS, and if something were to happen while driving during this time, I could lose everything. Insurance would not cover it. It is recommended that I turn myself in to the DMV. I need tests, maybe a cardiologist – electrical problems – brain scarring or heart issues or both. The look on my face is shock and awe. The thoughts running through my head; I have two jobs, I have two children, I am trying to start a business, I need my car. Six months means November, unless I have another episode, and then the clock starts over. Shit. I live in a place where mass transit stinks. How am I going to get the kids to camp? How am I going to get groceries to feed the kids? How am I going to get to work to have the money to feed the kids, and the insurance to pay for all of these tests? Shit. What the hell am I going to do? My body is fritzing out. Shit.

Clip 2 –

At home at my kitchen counter, weeping. The sun sets, on my sobbing self and music 1 fades. Dramatically.

A New Day – Some Proposed Montage Titles – Surrender & Acceptance – Ouch!, or Spiritual Irony: The Smackdown, or The Queen of Swords: The Blade Falls or Out from behind the Wheel: A Tale of Mass Transit, Extreme Planning, and Deep, Deep Breathing

The sun rises on a new day, signaling a change in attitude and perspective of our heroine, an essential in any “go get ’em” lady movie. Cue music 2…

Clip 3 –

Shot of handwritten “when life hands you lemons…” List –

Transit Options – Bus, Bike, Cabs, Walking, Friends (w/#s), Family (w/#s)

Grocery Options – home delivery service (called and confirmed)

Dr. Appointments – Schedule STAT

Provisions – another list…a sub list of all the stuff that would suck to run out of – beauty products, batteries, light bulbs, cleaning supplies, coffee, wine

Clip 4 –

Marshall picking the boys and I up for huge shopping trip foreshadowed in clip 3. Cuz you know, I can’t drive…for SIX MONTHS.

Clip 5

At Kroger, handing money to the nice cashier for three bus passes.

Clip 6

At Beauty Supply store, buying copious amounts of beauty products, shampoo, conditioner, and bubble bath…for all of my long-term beauty needs. Another nice cashier:)

Clip 7

At Old Navy, bravely trying on sensible shorts with lots of dramatic sighing, but consoling myself instead by purchasing gold flip-flops…Flashback to me, pre-neurologists in a pretty dress and adorable heels, wistful, because I know it will now be impossible to wear said items while attempting to bike up the enormous hill near my house on my way to work…I also buy t-shirts, leggings, and socks to wear with sneakers…ugh. Boys get Sonic and Avengers tees.

Clip 8

Lunch break at 5 Guys – cuteness abounds with sweet boys and french fries:) Voice over music – adorable son, Mac (8), proclaiming that as soon as he gets his license, he’ll take me anywhere I want to go…Riley (6) chimed in saying he would too. Full heart. Cut to my face again…this time, beaming, clearly I believe them. Never mind the 8 and 10 year wait…

Clip 9

Back to shopping. At the fabric store, buying all the must have fabrics, yarn, ribbons, and notions that I might need to satisfy my design, and creativity needs…this replaces the usual and standard cute dress try-on section of any self-respecting montage. And as those scenes serve to show us the charm and adorableness of the heroine, it also generally signals the girl is going to be alright – “See she is dancing in a fluffy mini-dress, all is well!” Think quirky patterned fabrics, tangles of ribbon, and stage diving into yarn! Ooooh is that elastic on sale? Cut to Marshall and boys entertaining themselves at the WaWa next door with milk shakes…

Clip 10

At Costco, buying huge vats of laundry detergent, dish soap, coffee, and WINE. Enormous crowds and my children running around like deranged monkeys.

Clip 11 –

Last stop of the day…what’s this? A surprise cheer-me-up/b-day gift? For me? Nothing makes me happier than to induce a little Pinterest jealousy, and with my new gift of adorable, mosaic-tiled bird cafe table, and matching cute chairs with cute cushions for my front porch, I can do just that:) Maybe bumming around my house for SIX MONTHS won’t be so bad…

Clip 12-

Last shot – Me sipping Costco wine at my new table in my new chair on my front porch…happily searching for bikes on google, blogging this post, making more lists, and at peace that I have enough conditioner and coffee to last me at least six months.

END SCENE

Some time ago, I had my tarot cards read. This was before the latest seizure. After the reading, I worked on Glitter Spell #4. The reader had lots of lovely information for me, but one thing stung – she believed the cards were pointing to a tendency to deny my own abundance although she could clearly see it in every area of my life. It hit home, and shone light on a whole host of things I need to work on. From that reading, I started asking friends how they connect to their own richness – some said it was the ability to trust their intuition, some said it had to do with the people around them and the help and comfort they receive from them, some said it was celebrating their true gifts and/or honoring their full self. Some had no idea. Some offered hints at my own abundance – what they saw in me – and what they said was beautiful, but the reader was right, I’m always a few steps back from my own experience, either hoping to control it in some way or feeling undeserving. Yuck. Hence the spell.

In a stroke of spiritual irony, I asked for my true abundance to become clear to me. I asked for my true power to come forth. I asked for my heart to release and to let go of everything preventing joy in my life. I asked for the courage, and faith to let go, and just be. The universe always answers, and usually pretty quickly – it’s just never happens how I think it should happen, but it is always true and exactly what I need.

All these things are woven together. Energy. Movement. It’s connected. It’s relative. It’s deep. It’s rich. My health. My heart. My joy. My truth. My children. My life. Your heart. Your health. Your joy. Your truth. Your children. Your life. Is it justice? I don’t know. But if there has ever been a time to employ faith, to celebrate my gifts, call on friends and family, it is now. If there has ever been a time, to believe in myself and my own resourcefulness and strength, it is right now. And if there has ever been a time, to start laughing, this would be the exact moment. I know I am lucky to have what I have. I know I am loved. I know I am deserving and rich in all the ways that count. And so are you.

Here’s to feeling it from the bottom of our hearts and souls too.

Drive by falcons…

My sons and I decided to go out onto our front porch for a snack late this morning to take in a little sunshine and do some reading/drawing/scootering/general yard-playing good times. We were enjoying all of those things, AND then, out of the blue, we were visited by two beautiful peregrine falcons, bringing all of our laid-back activity to a screeching halt. The falcons flew around our house for about ten minutes and then the larger of the two (female – I’ve read) dived down to street level straight for us and flew within about 15 feet. Amazing and so, so very beautiful! We were completely entranced – Riley set out an old bird cage hoping to catch one (ha!) and Mac filled up the birdbath and set out grapes hoping they might choose to stay…

The bird activity over the last few months has been incredible around the house – a flurry of activity all over our yard. Gorgeous cardinals, woodpeckers, robins, and a whole host of others I can’t identify, as well as, lots of little blackbirds. I’ve seen hawks and eagles off and on over the last year. AND over the last two weeks, I have encountered four herons flying directly over my house and heading down to the James River – all separate experiences. So lots and lots of bird energy around lately (more so than last spring) and then this beautiful gift today of the falcons to share with my sons. Needless to say it has been big news and somehow we ended up deciding we need a house dragon…I think there is a connection although I am not completely sure what it is:)

Meditation is not for the weak at heart…

It’s been about 8 weeks since I came out of my two-day silent retreat where my goals were to unearth a whole bunch of pain and sadness holding me back in order to let it go and to nourish the neglected places deep inside. I also wanted to immerse myself in and shape what I wanted my mediation practice to become in the longer term. These goals were reached and are still very much in process as I continue to learn how to translate this beautiful micro silent experience into my hectic macro loud life.

Huge shifts were made during the two days that are still deeply affecting. I experienced large, mountainous discoveries and genuine moments of truth about what I have been doing, who I love, what I want, and how I want to move forward, and slowly, very slowly my truest self emerged. And even though a large part of the two days were dealing with darkness and lots of pain, I discovered that my truest self is more gentle, clear, and fearless than I ever thought possible – through the worst of times and even in the best, I had forgotten this truth about myself.

After the first day of silence, my senses started to adjust. It takes awhile for you to believe that all of the external sensory “noise” isn’t coming – no ipad to search for something on, no movie to throw on and numb your mind for awhile, no text to write, no book to get lost in, but once it registers, the body happily drops into a much slower pace. It sort of feels like that moment of takeoff in an airplane – suspended. The second day becomes about you and the immediate moment. For some, I’ve heard this sounds like hell. To me, it sounds and was, like heaven. There is something very real about unplugging everything, letting things get dark and going though it.

I uncovered many things that I am not proud of that were buried deep inside and hiding in some seriously dark and nasty corners, festering, judging, poisoning, just gross – things that needed immediate attention and immediate release – easier said than done – change is a beautiful thing. Real change hurts like a million knives slicing your heart open in super slow motion AND being awake while vultures tear at your gaping, bloody carcass. Yes – that explains it exactly. Two very real, very mortifying truths came flooding to the surface – one involving one of my sons, and one involving someone that I hold very dear. I started pulling out the roots…

It’s all just under the surface and ready to bubble forward the moment it gets quiet. The good. The bad. The beautiful. The repulsive. Everything. We are all capable of great love and we are also all capable of great pain – both in feeling and cause. No one escapes this truth no matter how you choose to numb it away.

The adjustment to the world I emerged into after my retreat has been difficult at times and beautiful at others. When you make great shifts it doesn’t mean anyone else has or understands or cares, and nor should they really – not everyone wants to go deeper, wake up, feel more – it’s not for everyone. Nor is my timetable relevant to anyone else’s or anyone else’s responsibility. Life goes on. The thing about asking to be cracked open is that the universe responds in kind – every time. And once you ask, changes come regardless of what is going on in your life. You can’t take it back and once it gets going, it goes – like it or not. I can honestly say my patience and resolve have been tested in every arena of my life since this experience. I realized that these very pressures and stresses are why I forgot those essential qualities about myself in the first place. It’s not the pressure’s fault or even the person causing the pressure, it’s mine. I forgot. Pushed here, pushed there. Be here. Be there. Give too much. Give too little. Needs. Deadlines. Facebook. Disappointments. Snaps. Cruel words. Cruel actions. And so I try to find the gentleness and the fearlessness to be honest about who I am and what I feel and what I need in the constant chaos. I’m learning. It’s challenging, but I am learning.

But then there are the moments, the moments I probably would have passed over before to move on to the next thing, when one of my sons reaches for my hand because he needs me, or slowing down enough to fully look him in the eye and talk with him and truly hear him – be gentle, be still – and they are unbelievably rich and deeply sweet, and make up for just about anything else. I’ll take it.

The best part of the whole experience was that somewhere in making the decision to do this for myself and actually doing it, I discovered that I not only possess a courageous heart but I also actually like myself – hell, I think I’m in love with myself – flaws, beauty, mistakes, triumphs – and that I am pretty amazing. Yes, I said it. I am amazing. I don’t say this lightly because there has been some serious darkness that needed clearing, and still much, much more to go, but the truth is that if you don’t take the time to become your own friend in your ugliest moment, your life is going to be filled with darkness anyway – a bought and paid for illusion filled with everyone’s wants and wishes and fooling yourself into thinking they are your own. Only when you become your own best friend, in both the good times and the bad times, will you take a stand. And only then can you deeply trust yourself.

There are many things I would do differently the next time I do this kind of retreat for myself – which I have planned for in June. My schedule will be more flexible and I’ll rest more this time and probably try fasting although I’m still not so sure about that. My wish is to continue to learn how to experience life, not just manage it. I want to stop just surviving. I’ve found my compass and I’ve taken the first step.