Monday, December 29, 2008

A New Year Full of Things That Have Never Been

Another year is about to dawn, one that will surely bring unanticipated joys and difficulties both. We would do well to pause for a few moments to reflect on how we'd like to greet these unknowns as we step over the threshold into 2009.

Setting such an intention is at the heart of the age-old tradition of making New Year's resolutions. While this ritual may have fallen a bit out of vogue lately, I've always been struck by the spirit it embodies. Something inside us utters a resounding “Yes!” whenever an opportunity to move forward is glimpsed. The blank slate of a fresh year, a new beginning, just seems to invigorate all that is waiting and ready to burst forth from within.

I love that! Undeveloped pieces of soul ever seeking opportunities to bloom.

Of course, we can ignore such impulses due to the belief that we don't deserve good things or out of fear that we will let ourselves down once more. We could choose to simply carry on as before, ignoring our spirit's nascent urgings. But with a bit of encouragement, permission, and trust in our own ability to grow, we can step forward with anticipation and purpose.

Perhaps you long for creative expression, social connection, a healthier body, or a more vibrant spiritual life. Maybe a new career path beckons, or you yearn for a more light-hearted approach to your days. Or you might feel no specific call at all, just a desire to cultivate curiosity and greet whatever comes with openness and a willingness to be changed.

Whatever it might be, how can that impulse be midwifed into vibrancy? By employing the same natural laws that govern all new growth, no matter its form.
  • Begin with a viable seed, since intentions which are not clearly articulated have a lesser chance of coming to fruition. 
  • Devise a realistic strategy, employing knowledge of your personal strengths, quirks, and potential downfalls. 
  • Pull in appropriate resources to meet your goal, setting in place supportive others and opportunities that will assist your aspirations in coming to fruition. 
  • Tend to the new growth, checking in frequently, noting progress and addressing roadblocks; this step is perhaps most important as new growth is a tender thing indeed, and can be trampled under the foot of busy life.
  • Modify as needed, recognizing that your resolution may very well grow beyond what you originally intended, shifting in unanticipated ways.
According to the Talmud, “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow, grow.'” In 2009, you could be the angel to your own tender shoots, loving and encouraging them to thrive.

In addition, enacting a clearly articulated intention could be your personal offering to the new year. We all know that the best gifts are the ones we make ourselves, and the best of those come when we give of ourselves

In 2009, we could give our best. We could resist settling for a humdrum existence, and refuse to deny the promise of what we could be. We could live true to the gift that this life gives us~~the ability to become the being we are already at our core.

And with that intention, as the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke put it so simply, “Let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”

I hope it is a year in which you each move closer to being the being you already are!


Loanne Marie

Monday, December 22, 2008

Seasonal Musings

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Thereafter, daylight will increase in a steady progression through the frigid days of winter and the budding of spring.

I've always found this gift of lengthening days comforting, arriving just as we hunker down for winter's onslaught. It reassures me that when things seem bleakest, the tide has already begun to turn. Increasing light as winter's harshness intensifies is proof that nothing is static. The seeds of what is to come lie within the depths of what is.

This truth is most clearly articulated in the ancient Chinese symbol of yin yang, a simple image containing much wisdom.
A perfect circle, without beginning or end, is divided into segments, black and white. This reflects the idea that the whole, denoted by the circle, is composed of complementary forces. The fact that the division between the two is demarcated by a flowing line, rather than a rigidly straight one, suggests movement. One swirls into the other in an interplay that brings to mind partners on the dance floor, each mirroring the swaying motions of the other.

Yet a still subtler truth is articulated in the fact that each segment contains the germ of its opposite. Amid the fullest portion of darkness, a white seed abides, while a hint of black appears within the heart of light.

This circle, symbolizing life itself, holds everything within it. The image, however, highlights that which is seemingly contradictory, yet entwined: increasing light within the cold of winter, potential sorrow amid moments of joy, silver linings in the gray clouds that come our way.

To the degree that we are attached to one facet of life, one portion of what is now ours, our anxiety over its loss will loom large. To the extent, though, that we can expand our vision to include the enveloping circle and welcome the interplay of all that it contains, we will be soothed.

The yin yang symbol reminds us to hold all things~~pleasurable and painful~~with an open hand, accepting that they are ours on loan only. It also encourages us to keep an eye toward the change that will make an appearance before long.

Shifts and permutations can then be greeted as confirmation of the eternal dance in which we participate. From this perspective, we become more inclined to consciously, and perhaps even joyfully, add our own unique steps to the mix.

This week as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child~~light amid the darkness~~we might also reflect on that which lies within us and within our own lives, waiting to be born. As we greet the coming of Santa, we could welcome, too, the ultimate and perpetual Gift Bearer, by cultivating a receptive attitude toward whatever comes our way.

And as we begin to notice that it is not quite as dark when the alarm sounds each morning, we could remember the wisdom of words spoken centuries ago by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus: “Nothing endures but change.”

Nothing, that is, but the circle that holds it all and the dance that is eternal.

May your gifts be many and your steps joyful!

Loanne Marie

Monday, December 15, 2008

Trust in Yourself And The Answers Will Come

Our lives can sometimes feel like tropical storms gaining speed while heading for landfall. We're buffeted by multiple demands, and things are spinning so quickly that we can barely see a path before us.

Fortunately, these storms that our lives sometimes resemble come with centers--calm eyes around which the wildness flies. We need to remember to head for that eye when things are threatening to spin out of control--preferably before! We'll find not only a stillness there, but access to valuable promptings.

I am of the belief that we are not given challenges without the ability to meet them. Whether speaking of a particular difficulty or a quest to lead a more vibrant life, we have what it takes to not only prevail, but to learn something in the process.

Intuition points us in the appropriate direction. This sixth and sorely underrated sense tells us just what is needed in a given situation, and is an essential tool at our disposal as we negotiate the rough and tumble of a human life. 

The trick is to distinguish authentic perception from wishes, fears, and the usual chatter of a busy mind. Practice, as in most things, is the key to increasing this skill.
  • Begin by nurturing the notion that you have the capacity for intuitive discernment. Yes, even you! You needn't believe wholeheartedly--accepting the possibility that intuition is available and valuable is sufficient.
  • Now set your intention to open to it and trust in it. 
  • With this resolve in place, articulate an issue that has you stymied. The clearer the question, the better sense you'll make of the guidance that comes.
  • Be alert for answers. You may need to be patient as well, for often intuition is like yeast dough and requires time to rise. 
  • When a direction suggests itself, sit with it a bit. Try it on and see how it feels against the skin of your soul. Beware of the urge to rush. Impulsive action often arises from the tumultuous periphery of a psyche rather than its sage core. 
  • Run the idea by your intellect and moral code, making sure there are no areas of legitimate conflict. Check it out with trusted others.
  • If the challenge of these steps is met, your intuition is likely true. Now enact it, remaining alert to needed modifications as you move forward.
  • But you're not done yet. Reflection is needed, for it is often in hindsight--seeing how it all played out, what worked and what didn't--that perceptive abilities become refined.
Intuition is literally a Godsend. We regularly receive inner promptings, nudging us down the path our soul requires. We often just don't listen. While the problem may be as simple as not taking the time, I think it often goes deeper than that.

I believe we frequently do know exactly what our next step needs to be. We just don't trust ourselves enough to take it. Lack of direction is not usually the problem. Fear is.

By honoring and developing our innate intuitive gifts, however, we gain skill and confidence in their appropriate use. In the process, we will also strengthen our connection to that ineffable Source from which all things flow.

So, next time you're swirling fast in the storm that somehow has become your life, get thee to the eye! And while there, trust-and enact--the guidance that will surely come.

Wishing you a week of calm centers!


Loanne Marie

Monday, December 8, 2008

This Daughter Returns Once Again

I've always had trouble with the parable of the prodigal son. In that teaching, the younger son returns to his father's home after years spent away and is welcomed with open arms.

I had identified with the elder son in the story, the good boy, who found the lavish welcome unfair. This son had toiled dutifully for years without, he felt, such rewards as given the one who had walked away.

So, I didn't get it. Until now.

In the last couple of weeks, I've seen my plans for a much needed change continually thwarted. I did my best to listen and make adjustments, but the roller coaster ride of hopes raised and dashed continued.

I didn't handle it well at all. My emotions ran the show, and trust and inner peace seemed always just beyond my reach.

The prodigal son squandered his fortune in loose living and cavorting with harlots. I spent mine in fear and its various manifestations: anxiety, doubt, worry, and choppy sleep.

It wasn't a lot of fun.

I did manage to maintain awareness of the process, though. I recognized that rather than simply doing what was mine to do and allowing events to unfold, distrust was causing me to try to make something happen. I just couldn't seem to stop myself.

One evening, though, I'd had enough. I think I'd finally just worn myself out. As I sat down to meditate, filled with disappointment and remorse for having responded in opposition to all I knew, suddenly~~instantaneously~~ something shifted. Like the prodigal son in Christ's story, I was welcomed unconditionally back home.

In a moment, I was back in the manor house, and felt as if I'd never left. There was no need for apologies; no harshness came my way. My 'punishment', if that in fact was what it was, had already occurred in all I had brought on myself while away.

I understood some things from this experience that I'd never gotten quite as deeply before. Living in harmony is our birthright. That is our fortune. Spiritual development is about growing into that abundance and living it more fully in every moment of every day.

Yes, we can~~and we will~~turn our backs on this bounty again and again. We shall squander our fortune in the way that is our wont. But we can return at any moment we truly wish. No questions asked, although depending on our behavior while away, we may need to right a wrong done.

I also saw that we each have our favorite methods of leaving this state of grace. For the elder son, who lived and worked in the fields of his father, envy and judgment and minding someone else's business were his particular temptation points. As soon as he fell for them, he too had turned his back and left the fields of plenty. He was squandering his fortune in his own idiosyncratic way, but will be welcomed back whenever he decides to return.

And that change I needed? As soon as I got myself out of the way, things did begin to unfold. It's quite likely that the end result will be far better than I could have conceived.

Good thing I'm not driving this bus!

I hope this week finds you living within the fields of plenty! 


Loanne Marie

Monday, December 1, 2008

Grasshoppers or Sweet Nectar

Decades ago, I read that grasshoppers are considered a gastronomical delight by members of certain societies.

I understood in that moment that what attracts or repels us is largely subjective. And I knew, too, that the ripples from this idea extend far beyond which foods we consider tasty.

Our basic stance toward life itself is likewise influenced by the family who raised us and by the culture within which we grew.

But what is truly compelling is that if such attitudes are simply a result of the particulars of our experience, perhaps we needn't enact them unthinkingly for the rest of our days. Isn't it possible that our basic approach to life is malleable still?

I think so. How we view the world and our place within it is largely up to us. We can choose.

This concept is vitally important, since the perspective we bring to daily life largely informs our reactions to it. And spiritual maturity begins when we assume full responsibility for that outlook and seek to bring it into better alignment with our overall principles.

An important first step is to look inward and ascertain our general tendencies, which often function outside our awareness. The following questions can begin this process:
  • What is our customary response when things don't go as we want? Do we reflexively modify our position while trusting that we can meet the challenge, or do we become waylaid by emotions of anger, discouragement, panic, and efforts to avoid the entire situation or force one more to our liking? 
  • Do we feel deeply connected to something larger than ourselves, or fear we're dangling alone within a vast and disinterested universe? 
  • Do we search for the lesson in everything, or imagine ourselves subjected to random events in a life without meaning or purpose? 
Once our usual posture is clarified through questions such as these, we can pursue steps to alter it to one more in keeping with the life we'd like to live, the being we'd like to become.

Attitudes, like other living things, can be cultivated. In our gardens, we plant a seed and provide a nourishing environment. The new plant grows and, ultimately, bears fruit.

The same process occurs with the tender sprouts in the garden of our soul. We begin with the seed of our intention. 

If, for example, you'd like to increase your trust that guidance is available in every moment, you've found your seed. Plant it.

Now consciously tend this growth in receptive awareness through specific periods of meditation, prayer, or journaling. Pause for small moments throughout your day to actively listen, particularly when difficulties arise. Converse with others who strive to embody this quality, or read from their written works.

And when intuition speaks, when you get even the slightest nudge in a viable direction, heed it. Nurture that still small voice by honoring it.

When you forget or find yourself doubting this new approach~~which you will, since gardening is not always easy~~simply shore up your resolve. Reaffirm your intention and carry on.

The roots of well~tended spiritual growth will grow deeper. Our seedlings will strengthen and branch out in unexpected ways as they rise toward the sun. Blossoms will appear. And from those flowers will flow a nectar that will sustain us through times good and ill.

Insects are an essential element in every garden. But we don't need to eat them.

Grasshoppers or sweet nectar. The choice is ours. After all, it's our garden.

Blessings, this week and always,

Loanne Marie