Friday, November 28, 2014

twenty-three: 27 days of grateful

I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in the darkness,
The Astonishing Light
Of your own Being!
This sky where we live is no place to lose your wings
So love, love, love.
Ever since Happiness heard your name
It has been running through the streets
Trying to find you.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

day twenty-two: 27 days of gratitude

Thanks giving.
I mistakenly thought "Thanksgiving" would provide a no-brainer gratitude post during this 27 day challenge I set for myself.  Not the case.  I spent the better part of the day heaving sadness from a bottomless pit of longing (dare I say self pity)…for family, to be wanted or to simply belong.  Many holidays have come and gone without a warm family welcome or a feast and they all came rushing back to me today, each competing for a seat at my table and vying for attention, each one bullying out the good memories.
I cried often.
And still I found myself at a beautiful gratitude celebration in Mile Hi sanctuary from 10-11, then spent the day surrounded by dear people who invited me to various homes and family gatherings.  I was surprised by the heart open welcome I received at each stop.  I was humbled by the generous outpouring of abundance and food in celebration: men watching football, brothers sounding off comic parodies with the practiced familiarity particular to siblings, children playing games, many cooking and all joined together in celebration. It was a good reminder that sadness and gratitude can exist hand in hand, and loneliness can vacillate toward togetherness and back again.
Thank you to all the warm hearts and beautiful people who welcomed me in on this Thanksgiving day.  And thank you to the extended paternal families who made this day special and memorable for each of my boys. I am grateful! 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

day twenty-one: 27 days of gratitude

Whew…Thanksgiving is fast approaching and no children…no family.  Thank goodness for all the kind offers of generous hearted people who have welcomed me into their holiday traditions in the day ahead.  I was feeling a tad self pitying today and so I took myself up a mountain to breathe the fresh air of a clear, cool day.  I had to bring my busy, babbling monkey mind along because it refused to wait in the car, but all in all it was an afternoon worth giving thanks for.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

day twenty: 27 days of gratitude

I read the other day that we can build our spiritual life on "love alone".  Our impatience, irritation, unkindness, narcissism and all the unsightly human foibles when consciously observed, are humbling gifts that allow us to recognize LOVE flowing through us-  not because of us, or something we are doing right or even a knowledge of how to love.  We, at best, are a window open onto love and love shines through.
I am grateful for love.

Monday, November 24, 2014

day nineteen: 27 days of grateful

Today I am grateful for this damn 27 day gratitude challenge or I'd be hard pressed to focus on my gratitude's in light of a great number of present "bummers".  So here goes…I am grateful for:

  • Mile Hi Church and the community that I am very slowly getting to know after nine years of attending.
  • The incredible women I am blessed to work with who care deeply about the children, education and one another.
  • Netflix on demand, since we don't have cable and hardly ever watch movies, I am grateful for the ease of access when I need a break from my overly reflective brain…or just need to entertain Bodhi for half an hour so I can drink a cup of tea in silence.
  • Sprouts grocery store.
  • My gym and the ability to work out, however slowly, whenever I want.
  • Hot tea with almond milk
  • Almonds---I LOVE raw almonds.  They are my personal version of the potato chip.
  • Cell phones, that allow me to stay in touch with my big boy while he is in Illinois.
  • Hope, that promises, against all reasoning and experience, that I will feel the gentle warmth of a loving life companion.
  • Baths…I don't often take them, but today I am going to wrap this post and climb into a nice hot bubbly tub.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

day eighteen: 27 days of gratitude

I am grateful for Bodhi who wakes up full force at 5:00 AM and says, "Mom, we need to make some art!"  We spend the next hour making mandalas to welcome in our intentions.  Then we make pancakes, or I make gluten-free banana protein pancakes and Bodhi rolls around the floor singing the wonders of bacon, which reminds him how much he loves to sing.
And so he loads up his ukulele, grabs a stool, quickly makes a sign that reads, "Tips Accepted" and heads to the sidewalk in front of the house.  Where he plays music for the next 45 minutes in 42 degree weather.
When he was finished he came in and proudly showed his earnings, $2.68.
I can only hope to learn from his courage, tenacity, enthusiasm and confidence.
He really is a rock star!!!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

day seventeen: 27 days of gratitude

Today I am grateful for loneliness because it has been knocking and knocking on my door (Yes I see the Poe reference, quoth the raven) and it is time to just open up and let it in.  Thank you for this visitor, loneliness, and whatever gift it brings with it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

day fifteeen: 27 days of gratitude

I am grateful for time, it's weathered hand and constancy.  I am grateful for the changing seasons and the transience of all things, experiences and ideas (even though I cling to them with uncommon veracity).  When I walk the trails I find beauty everywhere, in the young bloom, the withering petals moving toward seed, the dry remembrance.  I see that same beauty all around me, on the streets, at my work, in the store.  When I see magazine covers advertising one fleeting phase of life's grand display as "beauty", I want to cry, "REVOLT! REBEL!" .  
What is the modern equivalent of bra-burning to signify anti-ageist, anti-sexist, anti-sizeist, anti-bullshitist, pro-being, pro-shining, pro-breathing, pro-aliveness?  If I could come up with it, I would surely start a movement or at the very least create a memorable scene.  As it is, I quietly remind the reflection in the mirror that she is no less beautiful than the various stages of life blooming along the trail.  I try to remind the people whose paths I cross the same thing, not through my words necessarily, but in the mirror of eyes embracing the hands of time.

day fourteen: 27 days of gratitude

My bedroom, with its iron bed, down comforters and African woven bed covers, with buddhas and incense, with meditation chair and comfort, is my sanctuary.  I am grateful.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

day thirteen: 27 days of gratitude

One year ago, today, I had heart surgery.
One year ago.
This heart, that still beats erratically is MY heart; my beautiful, big, loving, caring, open heart.
I have been carrying it around for forty years like it was some kind of liability.  Believing its intensity was too much to bring to anyone's table, that my heart was somehow deficient because it cared and felt and beat to its own tune.  I no longer believe that is true.
To my beloved heart, I commit:
I will no longer apologize when I am mistreated, feeling that the fault must lie with me.
I will no longer hide who I am in an attempt to be enough.
I will no longer love in excess in the hopes of convincing others of my worth.
I will recognize that anger is not an enemy to be feared, but the first feeling to arise in the primal brain when a boundary is violated.  I will learn to respect its wisdom.
Today I am grateful for my heart, exactly as it is, beating beautifully to its own unique rhythm, since this body drew its first breath on planet earth. One beat at a time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

day twelve: 27 days of gratitude

Holidays... as a single mama, I share the holidays with a wider circle of family.  This translates into spending many of the anglo-christian glory days alone.  Adaptable as ever, our little family developed the tradition of celebrating holidays whenever we decide and so Sunday was THANKSGIVING at our house!  Our time together, between Owen's Thanksgiving and Christmas trips to Illinois, is short, so with a desire to maximize on holiday cheer we put up our tree serenaded by Frank Sinatra singing Silent Night.
We spent our afternoon preparing a delicious feast consisting of requests made by each of the boys: Owen wanted mashed potatoes and gravy with homemade cranberry sauce and Bodhi wanted turkey and Grandma Mojo's special steamed red cabbage recipe.

For dessert Bodhi helped make his favorite gluten-free peanut butter cookies (he always leaves one cookie "unsmashed" to remind him which one to eat first).
We watched the documentary Happy, sipped warm almond milk eggnog and munched our cookies together in the living room with Christmas lights sparkling nearby.
While we watched, we worked on mandalas, drawing the areas of our lives we wanted to invest with intentions for healing and growth in the year ahead.
Then I read a chapter in Peter and the Starcatcher while rocking Bodhi in our cozy chair.  He fell asleep in my arms. As I sat watching Owen completing his mandala and listening to the sounds of Bodhi at rest, I realized that I have more to be thankful for than I have words to express.  I am so grateful.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

day eleven: 27 days of gratitude

When I began this post I wanted to write about faith, but faith implies a belief that doesn't rest on proof, it's the evidence of things unseen.  When the road ahead is shrouded with a heavy mist of unknowing, I want a faith rooted in experience.  Our busy minds tell us all manner of horror stories, could-be scenerios, terrifying possibilities and the like.  On this very hike, photographed above, my mind piped up with all manner of tid bits about hungry mountain lions lurking in the tall grassland nearby, shrouded in cloud and intent on a sinewy meal.  Minds do that.  They have accepted the unfortunate dictate to keep us safe and free from pain.  Which is of course an impossibility and an utter waste of 99.9% of our time.  If I really examine the bumps and pitfalls of my life I can see that within them were great gifts, sometimes requiring a great deal of perspective, time and vantage to appreciate them.  Today I am grateful for faith and its foundation in trust (confidence and reliance on things unseen). The mind can rest, however briefly, in the strength of experience with the things unseen, like winter landscapes that look bleak and lifeless but are already nursing the new life to come.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

day ten: 27 days of gratitude

I find that gratitudes are cairns of a different sort, they remind us to focus on the seeds of good already present in our life and through our attention the seeds grow.  And so for today, along the trail of life, I will build a gratitude cairn.  I am thankful for:
  • Bodhi for all he is and his vibrant approach to life.  Last night when I told the boys that I had read a great little quote about the meaning of life, Bodhi looked at me like I was thoroughly daft, and said, "The meaning of life is Living".  
  • Owen for all he is and his depth of vision.  A few days ago Owen texted me, "You're an incredible mother.  You love too much.  It surely can't be good for you.  But still, you somehow continue to manage and that is what I believe your purpose is, to love unconditionally.  And you are one of the few people capable of that kind of love.  But dont' forget you are loved and that you deserve to be loved.  I love you immensely and take this opportunity to thank you for all of your love."
  • I am grateful, beyond words or sentiments, for the incredible gift of being a mother and knowing Owen and Bodhi.
  • For a warm home full of beautiful simplicity and quiet reminders to breathe, to rest and to live.
  • For my body that keeps on surprising me with what it is capable of and inspiring me with its strength, tenacity and usefulness.
  • For my mind that carried me through grad school while working, mothering, recovering from brain trauma and more.  
  • For creativity that always manages to inspire me in the darkest hours.
  • For nature in all her beautiful forms, help me to see your beauty in the coldest, shivering hours as easily as I do in the warmer months surrounded by flowers.
  • For this moment, exactly as it is.
  • For the past, complete with all its horrors, bumps, bruises, successes and celebrations… thank you.
  • For my cooking, damn I'm a good cook! and for the food that fills me kitchen like a palette of gustatory possibilities.
  • For my amazing coworkers who constantly inspire and support eachother.  Thank you.
  • For my family and history, although I no longer choose to live that story, I love each of you and am grateful for it.
  • For hot tea!
  • For my gym.
  • For music.
  • For weekends.
Thank you.

Friday, November 14, 2014

day nine: 27 days of gratitude

I am grateful for life, even in the coldest months and darkest hours, even when the weather plummets and landscapes are bare bones of spring, even in the face of illness, loss or pain.  Life is. I don't get it or even pretend to, but I am grateful for LIFE living my life as me.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

day eight: 27 days of gratitude

With a high today of 12 degrees, the thing I am most grateful for is HEAT, a warm home, a warm job and a warm heart.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

day seven: 27 days of gratitude

I work everyday with some of the best teachers I could have ever hoped to find.  I refer to the children age 18 months to 6 years old that I encounter daily (though the incredible women whom I work alongside are phenomenal too).  Every week I am humbled by what the children teach me through their honesty, openness and enthusiasm.  This week the children explored self portraits and feelings.  As they finished their work, they lined up to tell me (and one another) about the big feeling they chose to illustrate.
One boy told me, "I drew happy.  Happy feels like white clouds in a blue sky.   When I'm happy all I need is food and water. " 
A five year old girl said, "I drew jealous. Jealous feels like wanting to do stuff funner and better than anybody else. Jealous feels like a tight tummy. Jealous is green. When I’m jealous I need to feel like I’m enough."
A four year old girl said, "I drew sad. Sad feels like an empty house. Sad feels like not having food in the night time. Sad is a feeling.  When I’m sad I need a tissue, a sip of water and a big hug and kiss from my grandma, my mama, my dad or my big sister or baby sister. Sad is okay."
I was impressed as they shared feelings like: missing, angry, mad, excited, scared and more. Their courage and curiosity inspires me.
Today I am grateful for my many teachers, wherever I find them: the children I work with, the person who cut me off on the road, the person I cut off on the road, the gentle old man shoveling snow, the kindness of strangers helping one another out of icy parking lots, the warmth of dear friends, the beauty of fresh snow and feelings that come and go, each carrying their own flavor. As Bodhi always reminds me, "All the world's your teacher mom and all the things they're ever gonna teach you are already in your heart".

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

day six: 27 days of gratitude

I was feeling soul parched yesterday, lonesome and thirsty for care when something remarkable occurred to me.  I want the love I give.  That's when the rains began to pour, salty tears spilling in rivulets down my cheeks in a beautiful down pour.
My love, the love that pours forth through me, IS the love I have been seeking.
Today I am grateful for my love.

Monday, November 10, 2014

day five: 27 days of gratitude

I have been told (by men), "You love everyone and no one in particular".  While I'm sure that I neither warrant such praise nor censure, LOVE seems like one of those words that can have as many interpretations as there are voices yielding it.  When I think of love (which differs in my thinking from "in love") it is generally devoid of sentimentality and syrupy affection .  When I lean into LOVE, I lean into an encompassing spaciousness in which nothing is excluded.
Here is another story that I recently encountered:

When the zen teacher Bankei held his meditations, pupils from all over Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be expelled. Bankei ignored the case.
Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter. This angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they would leave in a body.
When Bankei had read the petition he called everyone before him. “You are wise,” he told them. “You know what is right and what is not right. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave.”
A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.
In truth, it is our unlovable parts, our inner Judas, our shadows, our ignorance, our failings, our unmet needs, our unvoiced horrors, our darkness, that need the strength of LOVE.  There is an insidious belief that if I push away my unwanted inner guests and seek instead love from without, cultivating a polished identity devoid of messiness and vulnerability, than the "unlovable parts" will magically disappear.  You and I know that doesn't work.  It doesn't work individually.  It doesn't work collectively.  It just doesn't work.  If I don't turn the light of Love toward the whole of "self" in all its terrifying and beautiful disguises, what hope is there for ever knowing love?

SO today I am grateful, that no matter how bumbling my efforts or how obvious my failings, there is room for them within the spacious embrace of Love.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

day four…more: 27 days of gratitude

Sunday is our family day and it begins with a delicious breakfast chosen by whomever is awake at the time (aka Bodhi).  This morning he woke up and asked for french toast with turkey bacon (he says bacon emphatically,"BAAAACON!").  Bodhi sat on the floor and mashed bananas till they were soft then he stirred in eggs, brown sugar and cinnamon.  When it was ready he dipped pieces of bread in the mixture and placed them on a hot skillet.  Together we cooked the bacon and toast, then arranged them on plates, topped with maple syrup and whipped cream, and enjoyed.

Every Sunday generally involves some combination of nature, Mile Hi church, good food and exercise with the two incredible people that I give thanks for with every breath I take, Bodhi and Owen.
For supper I made balsamic chicken with green rice (using the last of the garden produce) and broccoli.  We lit a fire and enjoyed the final days of warmer weather before the thermostat finally plunges toward freezing.
And for dessert, S'MORES.
Is it any wonder that I love Sundays!

day four: 27 days of gratitude

How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun.  - Thomas Merton

There is a zen story that goes something like this:
One day a young Buddhist on his journey home came to the banks of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on just how to cross such a wide barrier. Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey he saw a great teacher on the other side of the river. The young Buddhist yells over to the teacher, “Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river”?
The teacher ponders for a moment looks up and down the river and yells back, “My son, you are on the other side”.
For years I identified as a broken self, somehow fractured off from life and intent on reparation.  By the time I was seventeen I had become an avid seeker; seeking beauty, degrees, intelligence, safety, security, stability, lovability, health, youth, style, enlightenment and much, much more.  I fashioned brilliant plans to accomplish wholeness and regain imagined perfection: some included academia, others personal growth, psychology, therapy, self work/reflection, ongoing study, service, selfishness, selflessness, arduous meditation practices, yoga and more.  Unfortunately the-one-who-seeks is certain there is something out there, something to be attained, some escape from this pain or these feelings or the unknown mystery of this moment.  I am fairly confident that if "enlightenment" could be taken by storm or through an act of will alone, I'd be in "possession" of it.  But the one who seeks can never believe that NOW is exactly what is sought.  And like an apple I can no sooner ripen through austerities, impatience, positive mantras, resistance, strong will, good behaviors, tantrums and the like. We are already on the other side, ripening in the sun of this moment, as it is.  
I am grateful for the seed of trust that continues to emerge in the busy cacophony of me.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

day three: 27 days of gratitude

Grateful for my body and health exactly as it is…exactly as I am…right now.
I lay on the grey-carpeted floor of Denver Place in downtown Denver, curled against a wall in a private meeting room, listening to the conversations of the larger group attending the symposium of which I was a part. I  waited for my heart to regain a normal rhythm and the nauseus feeling to retreat. I felt again the sadness of possessing an unpredictable body, that neither medicine nor I have been able to “fix”; a body that, in truth, I don’t even understand.  As I lay there, I wonder, “Could this experience be an invitation?”  This body with its stammering heartbeat, dizziness and pain, is my body.  It is my body now, exactly as it is.  After years of doctors, careful diet and healthy lifestyle this body can’t be pushed away or denied or solved.  I began to wonder, as I lay humbled on the floor, if perhaps the time has come for it to be allowed, deeply in this moment, exactly as it is. 

We, consciously or unconsciously, strive for a Utopia devoid of messiness and suffering, without problems and conflict, but I wonder if all meaningful encounters with Life begin with LIFE as it is right now.  Is the first step to change, an honest, open look at this moment, in all its distressing disguises?  Could the first step to a new here include a willingness to pause HERE, before rushing toward the next solution, idea or innovation?  What if the messiness of life is an invitation to pause, simply and quietly, in this moment as it is right now?

I am grateful for this moment, this body, this life…exactly as it is.

Friday, November 7, 2014

day two: 27 days of gratitude

Hiking with gratitude!
     solid ground underfoot,    
one      step      at      a      time. . .    
     Breath in, breath out.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

one: 27 days of gratitude

I was swimming in feeling, immersed in emotion, when something quite enlightening pulsed through my consciousness:
I have always felt my way through the world and although I have a wonderfully useful brain, I don't seem to rely on it as much in times of emotional distress. I am one of those INFP, feeling oriented people.  When I am around thinkers entranced by their own thoughts it is easy for me to realize, "It's only a thought.  That doesn't make it real".  But suddenly, while swimming in my own emotional current, it occurred to me that the same could be said to those of us who live our lives through feelings, "It's only an emotion.  That doesn't make it truth."
And so, I am committing to a twenty-seven day gratitude plan to short circuit this operating system.
Thoughts and feelings will always arise in the ocean of our life but if we dwell on the waves of sadness or thoughts of loneliness or whatever the next wave may be we are likely to miss the many remarkable gifts offering themselves NOW.

So here is a shout out to the blessings that fill my days with grace (I have to do a gratitude flood for day one or I will feel like I am just waiting to catch up in the days ahead):
Motherhood and the two greatest gifts my life could have ever hoped for, Owen and Bodhi!
 My job/work/joy and the unbelievable gift of doing something I love every day of my life!
 Angels on earth…my God Parents
Our beautiful home and the amazing gift of living in a beautiful space that consistently wraps me in welcoming arms and a deep sense of safety.
And I am grateful for all the incredible women, sisters, beloveds that fill my life with so much more than I could have ever dreamed of (and for all those I don't have photos of… THANK YOU!!!):

And for new days, full of possibility and promise.
I am grateful.