Invite a few friends to do this with you. What you need is a dark room and a single birthday candle or votive. Either one is fine, just as long as it is small. Stand in the darkness and feel the weight of it on your shoulders. Let your eyes adjust and listen to the silence. What do you hear? The rushing waves of your ears? The voices in your head? Let them go. When you are ready, light the candle. See how much of the room it actually lights up! Now, light your friend's candle with yours. Notice how not a single bit of brightness is lost from your candle. Take a minute to not how much the light has increased. If there are more folks keep on sharing the light always pausing to appreciate how bright it becomes. See that, even a single candle can actually banish the darkness. Be the candle today. Share your light with someone. It will make actually make a difference.
Yesterday I fell short of my illustrious goals...again.
I felt the anger and self hate begin to bubble up like an angry cauldron.
My eyes narrowed, shooting razor daggers at my own heart as she lay cowering below my breast.
My self worth began to hiss out of my body, deflating slowly as self loathing came barreling in ready to take its place.
"No," my soul cried,"Please, no."
But this is all too familiar.
As my heart began to shield herself from the inevitable pummeling,
My soul rose up.
"I forgive you!" she whimpered.
Self loathing froze mid attack.
"I FORGIVE YOU!"
My heart timidly looked up.
"I FORGIVE YOU!!!!"
Self loathing, shocked and stunned by words that fell like a shield in front of my heart, began to back up, baring teeth as if to try and rally itself. But its attacks had been blocked.
For the first time ever, it had nothing to say and simply watched.
"And.....and....I love you. I love YOU."
My heart began to beat the powerful drum beat of the loved.
Staring at the now frozen self loathing she began to rise up.
Stunned, shaken, but rising up nonetheless.
One battle won.
Many more to go.
I am a very busy woman. Eating tends to be this weird sort of priority. I enjoy eating. I want to eat, but mostly I do not have time to actually think, prepare, or cook anything.
Ok, full disclosure. I do not TAKE the time to do any of these things. When I had a family at home, I did...for them. They had to eat after all. Me, eh....I'll grab whatever. I have determined I could pretty much live on cottage cheese and canned pineapples. I don't really enjoy cooking unless it is for an event, ie. family or friends over. For myself, I grab whatever and eat on the run or in front of a screen...not so much in the car, come on, I've got standards. But this is a terrible habit I have developed over the past couple of years and it has not served me well.
I have been thinking a lot about living consciously and being aware. No, I am not talking about the New Age watered down approach to Buddhism or some other appropriated* philosophy. I am simply talking about being awake when I do anything. One of my teachers invited me to begin with eating, so I did. It's really been quite amazing. At first, since I was excited and therefore very aware of the exercise, I did quite well. Pausing before eating or drinking. Saying a blessing and thinking about the act. I was feeling pretty damn good about myself. And then life happened. I got busy. And I discovered it was all too easy to fall back into mindless consumption. The difference this time was, I did think about it. Yes, it may have been two or three bites in, but I thought about it. That was a big deal for me. I was/am building awareness.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Have or how do you practice awareness? If you would like, I invite you to try this with me:
NOTE ON THE WORD APPROPRIATION: Appropriation means to take something for one's own use, and while religions, philosophies can and, I think, should be shared (wisdom is a good thing) to say x,y,z is a true representative of such and such religion or philosophy is not okay. It has been my personal experience that there are many well meaning folks who kinda helped themselves to some pretty cool religions and philosophies and sort of ran with them claiming expertise and mastership. Again, not okay. It's fine if you learn and use something that helps you, rock on! But it is not okay to claim you are an expert in something after a weekend workshop or a couple of classes. Not to mention any names, as I would not wish to embarrass Madonna here, I think but you get the drift.
Strange that this rose bush doesn't realize it's November and shouldn't be blooming now. Apparently it doesn't care about things such a calendar propriety. There it is blooming away like it's June! Shameless plant. All the other plants have ceased to bloom. All the other plants have begun to die back and retreat into the earth. Why, even the trees have changed their garments and begun to strip themselves of their gaudy garb! Who does this rose bush think it is? Fancies itself a conifer I imagine. Ha! And yet....and yet, look it. Beautiful in spite of the overcast day that doesn't for one second diminish it's beauty. Look how she laughs at the weather! Look how proud and beautiful she is! She is her own being. Oh my, I do believe I admire this brazen scarlet beauty. She is strength. She is anarchy.
Just when I think I have gotten used to it.
The silence, the lack, the loss,
It all comes back on my like a wave….
No, more like a Tsunami threatening to drown me in it’s uncontrollable sorrow.
And all the so called stages of mourning and loss come pulling at my soul again.
I picked up the phone to call you today…
Daaaaaaaaaaamn, damn, damn, DAMN!!!
What I wouldn’t give for one more phone call.
I would not ever hang up.
I would just listen to you breathe into the phone, happy you were on the other line.
I wish I had saved every snarky answering machine message you left me.
I miss your voice.
I was fine yesterday you know.
I was happy and absolutely peachy keen.
And then you visited me in my dreams
And I had to wake up.
And I missed you all over again.
As if it only just happened.
As if I had just held your hand to say good bye,
I miss your hands so much.
Your beautiful, slender, perfectly manicured hands.
I miss laughing at you as you tried to ball them up into a fist,
I see you almost every day y’know.
When I look up at the moon.
Or hear a crow cry out.
When you left the crows became my friends….funny how I never thought much about them before.
But they came to me to mourn with me and I loved them for understanding my heartbreak.
So many did not mourn with me mommy.
Many abandoned me, but then others lifted me up.
Unexpected, I dance because of you.
Because of them.
You see mommy, you are around me always.
In every butterfly I see.
In every breeze that blows by me.
And mostly I am ok.
Today I am missing you and wanting you back and I feel like the motherless child that I am.
And it sucks.
I discovered this cicada, newly emerged/shed from its shell. I was amazed at the beauty of its #wings. It sat there for some time and I couldn't help but think about the lesson here. I wondered at how difficult it might have been to get away from that old shell. I wondered how long it took for it to do that. And then I wondered at why it faced the old shell? It seemed to make more sense that it would be facing the other way if it emerged the way I think it did, turning its back on its old self. But there it sat, staring at its old self, face to face as it were, and I couldn't help but be human and think of myself. How often have I stared at my old self and wonder at my old ways? How much time have a spent contemplating the past? I watched that cicada for a long time and then finally, when it was ready, it was gone. It didn't stay staring at its old self for very long, just long enough I guess to dry off and prepare for its flight to its next adventure. In fact, I am pretty sure that cicada will never return and look at its old self again.
I wonder if that too is not the lesson for us.
Let's just think about this for a moment. You know the whole caterpillar into butterfly metaphor folks like to use for personal change and growth. Well, this year in my classroom we had caterpillars that changed into chrysalis and then some into butterflies. During the chrysalis process my assistant pointed out that it looked like one caterpillar had lost its head. I brushed that disturbing thought aside but she looked it up. Well, what we learned shocked us both and to me sounded like a scene out of Aliens. The truth of this metaphor, I have since learned, is that it is an ugly, messy process. In fact it can even be a bit horrifying at times. During it you must rest, take time for yourself, maybe even take a break from the world a bit. But at the end of it all, you will be changed. And in that change you will be able to go farther, to contribute more, and bring more beauty to this world.
I met a boy today. A boy who I will never forget because he stole my heart. He was a boy who fell on what is known as the Autism spectrum. How do I know? Well, it is a spectrum after all, and he exhibited more than several characteristics. I mention this because, as you will soon see, he got in trouble. He got in trouble for being him and doing what he does. I cried on the way home today thinking of him and I had to write him a letter. A letter I imagine he will never see, but it is here nonetheless. I did change his name a bit, but maybe someday he will read this and know. He will know he was seen, accepted, and loved.
I saw you. I saw you as you excitedly ran onto the playground eager to play with anyone of the children there. I saw you and noticed that you could not maintain eye contact or look at anyone directly. I saw you as your father walked onto the playground after you and felt the need to immediately apologize for you, as if your very presence on the planet was something that needed to be apologized for.
“He just wanted to play. I had to bring him to the park.” he said to me. I looked over at you and saw all the tell tale signs. Ah, dear boy... What a good looking little fellow you were. What a nice coat you were wearing. I particularly noticed that because your dad was wearing a weathered coat to match his weathered face.
He looked over at you concerned and informed me, “He got kicked out of school. But I can't take everything away from him.” I guess because he realized I was a teacher he felt he could confide in me about you. I agreed with him, no you can't take everything away especially playing on the playground which I was sure was something you dearly needed. Your dad followed me a bit, as I was checking on all my young friends, still apologizing. I kept watching my children, glancing over at you as you played near several of my own. Your dad told me how he took you somewhere and they were gonna help you, teach you how to behave. I glanced over at you again. You seemed like so many other children I know.
He pulled out your file, and handed it to me seemingly desperate for some kind of affirmation. “These people, they're gonna help him." I sighed inwardly thinking, “But who will help you to parent your special boy.”
“See, he don't behave at school.”, pointing out the slip of paper in the pocket of the folder. I looked at your suspension notice and noted your name. Kayden... I looked at the suspension notice. At first, being an imperfect adult, I was surprised by the behavior, but then I thought to myself, "This? This is why he was suspended?!” I thought of all the reasons why you may have acted out this way. How many other ways the situation could have been handled and then I was shocked to discover that you were only 6 and that you were in kindergarten. You were so tall, like your dad. Oh, for sure this should have been handled differently. I handed your dad back the folder.
“My sister said i shouldn't have brought him to the park, but I can't take everything away y’know. “ your father said once again.
“No, no you can't.”, agreeing, yet once again.
“Thank you ma'am.” was all your tired, worried, father could say. Your dad needed to be validated. I saw him too.
I watched you as you played with my children. They welcomed you and you did the best you could. Yes, I needed to redirect you a couple times, and even though you did not seem very verbal you listened well. When you and the other boys found that treasure of a piece of cardboard, what fun you all had!! Finally it was time to go and as my young friends quickly lined up, you came to me holding that piece of cardboard with a twisted face.
“Are you crying?”, I asked. You nodded yes. Dad piped in, “He's sad cuz the kids is leaving.” I smiled at you and as I turned to take up the caboose of our line, you sat on the bench as your father informed you it was time to go. You were so very sad you did not realize you had dropped your treasure. Your dad grabbed your arm to leave. “ C'mon we gotta go!” and you fought him, struggling in his grasp and pulling your arm.
"Oh dear G-d!" I thought. I knew what you wanted! I saw it there like the trash that any unseeing person would think it was. But I was afraid to intervene. You were not my student. I had no relationship with your family. Was I overstepping a boundary? But I knew and I saw you. I SAW YOU!
Gathering my courage I went up to you, kneeling so I could try to see your eyes, “ What's your name?”, already knowing the answer. You couldn't look at me. You didn't answer. “Tell her your name!’ your dad instructed. Almost instantly dad answered, “It's Kayden.”
“Your name is Kayden?" I asked, and you nodded in affirmation. “Kayden, your dad didn't realize you wanted the cardboard. Just tell daddy, ' Hey daddy, may I have the cardboard?' "
I don't know what I was expecting. I hadn't heard you speak the entire time you were there and yet you turned to your father and you said these words a bit mumbly, “Daddy can I have the cardboard?” I saw as your dad visibly relaxed and said “Yeah, go get it.”
I was so happy for you! I wondered if you liked the cardboard so much because it was a symbol of all your adventures you had that afternoon. That afternoon you were just a fun loving, active little boy.
I want you to know Kayden that I love you. I love you wherever you fall on that big, beautiful, broad spectrum. I wish that you would always be met with love. But I know that is not what's going to actually happen because you, and so many other children like you, are not seen. Your behaviors are seen. Your diagnosis is seen. But your light, that beautiful, highly sensitive light, is not seen.
I cried on the way home tonight because I am worried about you. Who will support your dad in raising you? Who will support you while you grow into a man? You stole my heart little one.
I'm so sorry your teachers didn't see you, Kayden. I hope and pray that someday they do. I hope and pray we all do and realize that you and your spectrum self is becoming a new normal...and it's beautiful and there is nothing to be afraid of.
With deep love and respect,
I grew up thinking I had to do it all. Not only did I have to do it all, I had to do it all by myself. I remember when I wanted to go to college, my mother told me, "You're on your own kid. I don't know anything about that." She meant it too. She didn't know how you enrolled in college let alone how to pay for it and that topic was not even up for discussion as she was a single mom of four. Unfortunately, neither did I. Sure I had Guidance Counselors, but they always sounded like they were speaking a foreign language to me when they tried to explain things. Furthermore, I simply didn't know what I was even looking for or even how to ask the questions. I was alone and I had no one to really guide me. I needed a village to help me get to where I wanted to go, to fill in the blanks my mother left, but there was none.
Fast forward to motherhood. Again I was clueless. I did have my early childhood memories to lean upon as my mother was an angel of a mom when I was very young. I had lots of books (which my mother did not approve of as the babies never read the books) and a couple of friends, but they were as clueless as I was regarding the subject. Fortunately, I have a pretty good maternal instinct and I had the north star of "I will not raise my child the way I was raised." (ie. my father's authoritative abuse) but I didn't have a picture of what that even looked like or how to live it day to day. I began a search to find families and in particular mother's who raised their children well. I found several along the way and forged friendships with them. In each one a learned something valuable, but I made a very critical mistake. I thought they had THE answers. All of them. To every question. Foolish, I know now, but as a young mother I thought that was the way it was. As I slowly realized they were trying to figure it out just like I was, I adopted the old adage, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water" as my motto. In other words, take what you learned and what serves your family and move on.
I began to be a collector of wonderful mothers. With most they were part of my life for a season, but never to be forgotten because of the gems they shared or modeled for me. Others became precious friends I could walk the journey with. This was when I realized that I was building my village. Enter the next mistake. Thinking they all had to live right next door to me. I cannot tell you how many countless hours I spent fantasizing about finding THE community of like minded thinkers who were gonna start the homestead with me and raise our families together. There were a couple times I really thought I had come close, only to be fiercely disappointed in the fact that they were just as human as I was and possibly a bit more judgmental. Regardless, it just never happened.
After a time of mourning my dream community, I finally realized that I had actually been creating it all along. I had created a strong support net of mothers, lovers, poets, artists, and mentors already. They were all right there in front of me. Except they weren't. They were at my bellydance class, the weekend retreat I went on, a homeschool blog site I used to write on, etc. Some lived near by, others far away and one dear sister I have never had the pleasure of meeting face to face yet. Nonetheless, they are my village.
You need a village. You really do. You can't live this life on your own. I mean you could, but it is so much harder and painful that way. You need support and more than likely it is not coming from your blood family. If you do happen to be one of the lucky ones, please take a moment to breathe gratitude into the world and then tell them how awesome they are.
You need a village. Not just your partner, not just your parents or your family, not just your best friend. Think about it, you are TOO big a soul to lay down on one human being. And is it really fair to expect only ONE human being to contain all you are, to support all you need, to give you all the wisdom you seek. We are meant to live together and support each other. Create that community through any and all means possible. You need the support and wisdom of others. Let them do it! Seek them out! You will probably find that they have been looking for you too all along.
By the way, in case you are wondering. I am part of your village and you are part of mine.
Thank you internet.
Yael (Your local Village Wise Woman)
I don't know what it is exactly about autumn that thrills me to my very core.
Maybe it's the leaves transforming into flames on the branches, burning out and then falling to the ground spreading riotous piles of color everywhere.
Maybe it's the cool air and the freedom to throw open my windows and feel the breeze cleanse my home of summer's stifling heat.
Maybe it's the comfort of sweaters and scarfs and the yummy feeling of layering my clothes even more than I already do.
Perhaps it is the holidays, all the introspection that I happily indulge in during Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. I fall so easily into rediscovering my soul and that which I love during those days. I am comforted by the ritual and shofar blasts and I eagerly look forward to sukkot and the meals I will share with friends.
More that likely it is all that and more, because you see, it is hardly ever one thing with me. Many things will lead me this way and inspire me. Many things will add to my daily revelry and thoughts thrilling my soul along the way. And why shouldn't they? I am not one being. I am not the product of any one thing, or any one moment, or any one experience.
I was always envious of those people who have had that "ONE defining moment" that changed their lives forever. That one experience that made them lose weight, find G-d, move to the homestead, start the business, etc. I have never had that moment and I am now quite confident that I never will.
I am not one. I am, ONE.
I am a sum of my parts. A whole being filled with all the experiences of my life. Light and dark, positive and negative.
I am a myriad of thoughts and opinions. I am complex and sometimes even a bit confusing, but that is only if you try to figure me out.
Do us both a favor, stop doing that. That is about as useful as fixing a hole in the ocean.
I mean, I haven't figured me out and at times I even confuse myself!
Why? Well, because sometimes even I want me to fit into a cute little box tied up in a bow that I can just hand you and say, "Here I am!" But I can't. My soul is too big, much too big to fit in that box, no matter how cute it is.
Integrations. I am ONE. A whole being. Multi faceted and beautiful.
I think that is what it is about autumn. It is a season filled with similar integrations. Things are dying yet they are so filled with color and alive creating a breathtaking picture of life and death! The fields and trees are filled with harvest, yet the squirrels busily gather acorns feverishly hiding them for a time of seasonal famine. It is the whole picture of Life! It is so unlike the other seasons to me.
Not spring with its promise of new.
Not summer with its promise of frivolity and fun.
Not winter with its promise of rest.
No, autumn offers no real promise.
In this I find that Nature teaches us to simply accept what is. There is no promise really. It simply is. Just fiery shades of light and dark, dappled colors shiny brightly in the sun, calling us inward to simply be. It is quiet. It is burning. It is resting. It is pulling oneself back to the Source and resting in the beauty of what is.
I am ONE. No promise except to be.
I am fiery passion and watery emotion.
I am sage wisdom and childlike innocence.
I am Victorian lace and Harley Davidson Leather.
I am an edgy Urban Shaman and a cottage dwelling wisewoman.
I am a Spiritual Guide and an occasional atheist.
All of this is me. The Whole. The Integration of all I am and all my experiences.
My Journey and my Story.
Does this resonate with you dear reader?
I thought it might because I know I am not unique in this. Many, many of us are this way.
We are autumn. We are integrations.