48 hours of silence… (First published on March 14, 2012)

These 48 hours of silence began this entire blog adventure – from becoming sick and uncovering the truth of my health, to discovering drawing, my love for writing, and re-discovering movement and dance in new ways. Meditation took up roots in me a long time ago, but it wasn’t until these 48 hours where I finally dropped all of the self-prescribed bullshit that apparently was holding me up, and started down a path of my own making. Reading this again makes me want to do another one…     Jill 7/22/15

On Friday morning, I will wake up fully immersed in my first ever 48 hour silent retreat. After a pretty tough few years, my focus for this retreat is to shed any residual anger, heartbreak, and grief left after the many changes in my life. I have come so far, but still have a ways to go. Dedicating time to exploring my deepest roots, pulling up what is no longer serving me, nourishing what needs to be supported and taking a firm step on a freshly cleared path seems to be just what’s needed. So to support these desires, I have designed these 2 days to be at home where I can feel safe to focus on building a stronger meditation practice in the very place I hope to grow and prosper – my house/studio. I am taking this vow of silence willingly (gleefully) and with heartfelt purpose to re-connect, to re-set, and to satisfy my nagging feeling that there is a much happier me underneath the triggered reactions to the continual, seemingly never-ending, barrage of incoming stimuli that is my daily life.

I am a mom of two beautiful boys (Mac 8 and Riley 6) who will stay with their Dad (Marshall) for the two days. Because I am a mom, I had reservations, and of course, guilt about taking this time for myself. I am slowly learning the flight lesson of putting the oxygen mask on myself first – so hard to do when I have been grinding myself into patterns of exhaustion for so long, and I have experienced the depth of burn out so many times – I’m ready to do this differently and emerge with tools to maintain a steady balance with my children, work, family and friends – calming the waters so that we all may thrive. Over the 48 hours, I have coordinated two quick check in texts with Marshall to confirm all is well on both sides. Hopefully, this action will support a smooth retreat for me and a fun weekend at Dad’s for them.

My intentions for this meditation are vast, but I am only hoping to take a step…here they are: to begin earnest communication with my inner compass, inner voice, and higher self…to say goodbye to residual resistant anger, heartbreak, and grief…it is time…to say hello to grace, gentleness, ease, safety, self-care, and comfort…to do something differently, to reset, to spring clean my spirit, clear out the cobwebs, shine light into the darkest corners and to breathe deeply and fully.

The vows ­– to not speak or communicate (except the two texts to Marshall) for 2 days, to turn off and disconnect my iphone/ipad/computer/tv/ipod, no novels or other external entertainment for the purpose of taking myself down to the quietest of levels, to keep the above intentions close to my heart and to dive as deep as I can within this framework.

My loose-ish schedule – since this is a meditation of my own creation and is focused on care and gentleness, I will not be fasting (everyone keeps asking..) I will however be cooking my favorite healthy foods, having full meals with a focus on veggies and fruits, and two snacks if want – one being tea and cookies:) I need to know what true abundance feels like – I’ve been way too familiar with starvation to see how fasting would serve me in these particular goals.

Thursday: clean house, clear clutter, shop for anything i might need including groceries, candles, oils, flowers, do laundry, set-up spaces by clearing out all entertainment, digital communication, novels, ect., put flowers, candles, lay down rugs, floor pillows, extra blankets. Have dinner with the boys and kiss them and hug them and wish them buckets of happiness for the next two days. Last thing before going to sleep, cut everything off and take a last check to make sure everything is prepared so upon awakening on Friday morning, I will find myself in the middle of the experience.

Friday and Saturday: Wake up naturally, have tea/breakfast, stretch, meditate, write (with snack), do something (garden), repeat starting with lunch and longer sessions of each – stretching/meditating/writing in the studio instead of in the house (more on that soon – there is a genuinely significant reason for this), repeat starting with dinner except the do something will be a bath and the stretching/meditating/writing will be back in the house and back to the shorter sessions. End with deep, deep sleep and then repeat. Simple yes?

My hope is that this will become a seasonal ritual that I take to keep myself strong and healthy so that I can be more present for all of the people I love and care for in my life. I hope to keep going deeper and exploring and clearing, nurturing and supporting, becoming myself more and more. I hope these retreats will help solidify my daily practices in stretching/meditating/writing, and that I will discover the secrets to carrying these ideas from their 48 hour macro form into the moment to moment daily micro form. I also hope to see how these practices allow for greater space, love, freedom, and care in my relationships.

These next few years promise to be exciting, challenging, rewarding, and superfabulousamazing both personally and professionally. I need and want to be ready to meet the wonder of my own life and those I love with clear, purposeful intentions and big, big dreams (more on this to come!). It is my highest goal to have these practices be the foundations upon which to build a truly happy, possibly even giddy future – woohoo! Here’s to trying something new:)

The first 65 color experiments of Series 4! Only 60 to go…

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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