Sunday, December 29, 2013

Touching Together

 As we move deeper into cold and a flu season, I find myself thinking about the word contagion. It comes to us from the Latin con, meaning “together with,” and tangere, meaning “to touch.” So contagion means, quite beautifully, “a touching together.”

It feels, therefore, a bit unfair to this word’s etymological roots to use it most often to talk about contamination. Sure, we can become infected with cold germs, but touching together can have positive effects as well. Dis-ease may be contagious, but so is ease, a word from the Old French, meaning “comfort, pleasure, well-being.”

All of us have had the experience of being brought down by another’s negativity. We have also been buoyed by a joy freely shared. A necessary step on the path of spiritual growth is becoming aware of this energetic level of interaction and living from it.           

We begin to notice how certain people and activities affect us. We recognize, for example, that hours of mindless TV feel bad, and that gossiping leaves us somewhat sullied ourselves.

We also become more sensitive to the effect we have on others. No longer satisfied with merely not behaving badly, we begin to intentionally work with subtler energies.

We notice what’s emanating from us in any interaction, what we’re adding to the mix. And we learn to shift it when necessary, with our allegiance firmly placed with the highest good.

In an online course, meditation teacher and breath worker Julia Mikk, describes this as “becoming a force field of good will.” Reminding us that we “cannot solve anything by making it wrong,” she encourages us to recognize instead that a “vibration of unconditional love can touch what you see and inform it of possibilities of wholeness and completeness.”

Imagine, for example, a tense moment with some fellow humans, a disagreement perhaps. First, you notice. Voices are strained, your breathing constricts, muscles tighten a bit.

Then, with all you’ve gained from spiritual practice, you begin to alter the flow, first in yourself. You breathe fully, relax your shoulders, ask for guidance. You welcome the vibration of harmony into the situation, and then engage in whatever way feels appropriate, doing your part to bend dis-ease toward ease. 

Will everything magically change? Perhaps not. But then again, maybe so. Julia suggests that relating in this way can awaken the "inherent divinity” present within each moment and any interaction, no matter how tense or difficult.

Ultimately, though, the outcome is really not your concern. Your task is only to be a force for love, choosing it over all else.

The Christ whose birth we’re celebrating this week was, by all accounts, supremely adept at doing this. His very presence was vivifying, and those who touched together with him were lifted out of turmoil and pain.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if, in the coming year, we enacted the deeper message within the Christmas story by allowing the love in the manger of our own souls to flourish? As that love is set free, we will be offering our essence to a contagion, both precious and powerful.

Contagious love, a touching together that touches us all together. Hallelujah, and have a blessed New Year!


Loanne Marie

Here's a link to Julia's online course, Sacred Self~Mastery. I've just finished this 10~week walk and found the weekly didactic material combined with daily guided meditations and journalling to be quite effective in incorporating spiritual principles more deeply into my life. If your journey has you stepping off the mainstream western path~~and I assume it does if you read this blog!~~you might find this delightful course to be of benefit. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Healing Happens

Imagine the following~~
A smile slowly spreads across the face of a woman whose abuse began as a toddler as she realizes, at last, that she is precious.
Two individuals, followers of religions with conflicting creeds, each find release into a similar experience of peace or ecstatic union.
An atheist contemplates a color-composite image of the NGC 300 galaxy, seven million light years from Earth, and is spontaneously lifted from a depression that had convinced him of life’s futility.
A young mother, rushing through a chaotic morning, stops at a red light. The silhouette of an old cottonwood backlit by the morning sun breaks through her agitation and peace fills her.
These are only a few examples of a phenomenon that most of us have experienced. One moment, life is struggle. The next we are liberated and, even if it lasts for only a moment, we are changed.
As a psychotherapist, I’ve long been fascinated by the question of how such healing occurs. When I was new to this work, I thought it took great effort and studied my craft hard, believing the lion’s share of change was up to me. Now, 30~plus years later, I know otherwise. I have learned, quite simply, that healing happens. 

Whether it’s recovering from trauma or our human proclivity to become bogged down in the particulars of our lives, grace is always here, waiting to assist us. The same force that set the NGC 300 galaxy into motion pulses through every molecule of these stardust bodies of ours and fuels each action we take. It is ever present, always available, so close that it often breaks through on its own, suddenly, gloriously. Other times, we must clear a path.
When someone comes to me for therapy, the way has already been opened. Grace has been welcomed in and is free to move. Our task is to not impede the flow, opening again and again as we allow healing to unfold and marvel as layers fall away.
Life is often painful, with wounds coming in various flavors and from many sources. Self~protection is a normal response. But shields developed for protection become thicker with each subsequent hurt, until they, too, do us harm by preventing a full experience of living. Or perhaps our wound is of the rushing too fast to notice variety, and busyness itself is our shield. There seem any number of ways we can restrict the flow. Regardless of the particulars, life’s luster is diminished or seems always just beyond our reach.
There is another choice. We can open to grace and allow it to move through us, letting it dissolve our world~hardened edges. We can willingly place ourselves into hands larger and more capable than our own,  trusting the guidance and the pacing of the healing that will come. We can, in a word, surrender.
We are like infinitesimally small icy particles enveloped by a warm and luminous sea. Our task is to allow both the buoying currents and the crashing waves to melt us. Then we will know that luminosity is all.
Yes, healing happens. And on a weekend dedicated to the celebration of gratitude, that’s something to be thankful for.

So let us be thankful, my friends. And while we're at it, let's melt a bit more, too!

Love and gratitude for your presence in this world,

Loanne Marie

And for a view of the NGC 300, click here.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Of Canyons and Still Lakes Reflecting

I sit atop a tumble of red rocks deep within the canyon, stark cliffs rising all around in shades of orange, tan and greenish-grey. My dear friend Kelli continues the steep climb to the top of Kitchen Mesa, but knee strain and disinterest in destination~~even one with such stunning views~~urged me to turn around and allow my journey to unfold in a different way. I’d been moving steadily through stands of weather~worn juniper and cedar when these red rocks called me to them. And now, I simply sit.
We have come to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu for a much needed retreat. My life has been a whirlwind of activity these past few months, and I’ve been spinning right along with it. It’s all been good, with a certainty that I’m where I need to be, doing as I’m meant to do and, luckily, as I want to do as well. In that way, I’ve felt in accord.
And yet, the rapid fire succession of experience following experience, needed decision following needed decision, loved visitor following loved visitor has left me externally oriented, focused on the temporal, tied to a world of this and that. I’ve been all motion and no stillness. I’ve been all rushing river and no still lake reflecting sky. And it is still lake reflecting sky that I yearn for now. And so this is what I become.
I look up to the cliffs, down to the rough earth, deep blue sky arcing over it all. Wind is the only sound as it rushes past my ears and whistles through the branches of nearby trees. With a prayer that it be recycled to good purpose, I release my frenetic energy to that wind, each gusty blast of clean air taking what I no longer need.
I inhale and the surrounding expanse fills me. I exhale and give it all back. Rushing water gradually settles into calm lake.
My relief is palpable. Do water molecules feel such solace upon arriving at the lake after a tumultuous dance down the mountainside? Water molecules~~some of the least likely teachers in this arid land, yet teachers they are to me now. They love it all, they tell me~~the giddy glee of rapid movement and the serenity of quiet reflection.
The secret, they whisper, is to discover serenity in the movement and spirited joy in the stillness. Yin and Yang, each embracing the other within the boundless eternal.

I’m home now, sitting at my desk, the ticking clock the only sound I hear. Life has swept me back into itself, a rushing river carrying me away once more. Yet in this moment, serenity is mine, even as my molecules dance with abandon.

Blessed dancing to ya!

Loanne Marie
But there's more...a poem that came from the essay above. But first, an explanation...

At a writing workshop I attended a few years back, there was a wonderful exercise. We were given about 45 minutes to write a few pages about some theme I don't now remember. After we'd had time to work it and become enthralled with our words, the teacher said, "Great! Now cut it down to one page." We groaned, but did as we were told, xing off whole lines, keeping what was best. After 20 minutes or so, she said, "Great! Now 25 words." What an exercise, learning to let go, to not be too attached, to find the kernel within our wordiness.

So here’s the a poem I wrote from this essay. You’ll find that it differs in ways other than length. One metaphor flew the coop while another arrived to replace it. These things happen sometimes and who am I to quibble?!! Here it is, to be read slowly, as a meditation which, in fact, it was and continues to be with each re~read…

A tumble of red rocks
Calls me to the canyon floor.
Cliffs, tan, greenish~grey.
Wind the only sound.
I sit on hallowed ground,
Hallowed ground hollowing me,
Canyoning me,
That I might better hold the Light.

And that’s not all, gals and guys! Here are two pictures Kelli took from the top of the mesa. Almost makes me wish I’d made the climb! Namaste, ya’ll!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Rise and Shine!

I recently came upon an excerpt from an Actor’s Studio interview with stage and screen actor Hugh Jackman. Though I’ve never seen Jackman’s work, his discussion of the acting process was invaluable.
“The life of an actor is really about being awake,” he explains. Speaking specifically of stage work, he discusses the importance of keeping a performance fresh, night after night, by truly listening to his fellow actors in a scene. "You do eight shows a week, and if you're not awake, that thing is going to be stale by the 5th show," he explains. Each performance, "has to be for the first time."

Sounds a lot like life, this amazing play that dawns fresh in each moment. 

When we move across the stage on autopilot, however, preoccupied and speaking our lines from rote, that freshness is lost. We become stale and life loses its rich flavor. But when we awaken, our authentic presence is offered to even the simplest experience, and we are enlivened in the process.           
When we speak to a loved one or greet a coworker, for example, we can do so in a daze, just another weary actor reading from a barren script. Or we can pause to truly see the person in front of us and speak from the heart.
The interval we’re discussing here is more one of awareness than of duration, as even the busiest day allows time for an authentic hello. The challenge is to cut through our inner landscape, to get out of our own way in order to perceive the person before us simply as they are in that moment. When we do so, we connect with the essence shining through. Our attentiveness enlarges the channel through which that vitality flows, and we both are nourished.
As I type that last sentence, my fingers drop from the keyboard and I turn toward the window. A deep blue sky cradles a westering sun. The garden lies in shadow and a breeze stirs the leaves of backyard trees.
It has been a stressful day. With lots to do and deadlines looming, I have constricted and become depleted. Now, as I consciously lay down my busyness, an oasis spreads out before me.
Earlier I’d discovered, not surprisingly, that Hugh Jackson is a meditator. In a 2006 interview in O Magazine, he refers to meditation as “dipping into that powerful source that creates everything.” I do this now. I steep myself in that which gives rise to it all. I awaken once more and am soothed.
Many believe we are here on this dear planet for precisely this purpose~~to awaken again and again, until living in full awareness becomes the new norm. And then, no matter our role or who shares the stage with us, we will know with our whole being that all is well.

Happy dipping! Oh, and double dipping is allowed!!!

Loanne Marie

And click here to get to Jackson's interview clip. Links to the full interview and an earlier one, too, can be found to the right.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Camellia on Moss

There’s a scene in the Japanese film The Munekata Sisters in which a father and daughter tell of being captivated by the beauty of light falling upon brilliant green moss dotted with camellias.

I have not seen the movie, but this scene figures prominently in Muriel Barbery’s novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Referring to herself as a camellia~on~moss sort of person, protagonist Renee Michel uses that image to symbolize her devotion to “the quest of timelessness.” Though an atheist in belief, Renee aligns herself in practice with mystics throughout the ages in her search for the everlasting or, as she puts it, “the contemplation of eternity within the very movement of life.”
“Why do we go in search of eternity in the ether of invisible essences?” she asks. “Those who feel inspired…by the greatness of small things will pursue them to the very heart of the inessential where, cloaked in everyday attire, this greatness will emerge.”
Most of us have experienced moments of transcendence. Perhaps a particularly stunning sunrise or mountain vista pulls us out of our reveries and awakens us to awe. It may be that a profoundly moving episode~~the pain of loss or the rush of love~~rouses a felt kinship with all life. Or perhaps grace simply arrives unannounced, or by conscious choice we open to it, and our soul lights up.
Renee refers to these incidents as magical interludes, in which “fleetingly, yet intensely, a fragment of eternity has come to enrich time…to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment.”

We’re locked up tight within ourselves and then, without warning, an opening appears and expands us beyond our former limitations. How exactly does this happen? Sages from across the spiritual spectrum tell us that eternity exists always, holding all our moments within its embrace. We are simply fortunate enough to sometimes awaken and enter into rich communion with it.
We are immersed in the everlasting, here, now and always. That we are often blind to this truth does not make Renee’s jewel of infinity less dazzling or us less worthy to receive it. We need only continue to develop our ability to perceive truly. While meditation, prayer and various other techniques and disciplines may assist us in this process, ultimately we need only recognize and wholly welcome what Renee calls “all these precious pearls in the endless movement of the river.”
Like this very moment, perfect pearl. Please pause with me now to fully savor it. And breathing deeply and in full presence, receive one last entry from Renee’s journal. “Eternity: for all its invisibility, we gaze at it.”
Allow your gaze to clear, dear reader. And may the camellias spread across the moss of your own precious life rise up, fresh and shining, before your eyes.


Loanne Marie

Here's a link to The Elegance of the Hedgehog, an elegant, camellia~on~moss kinda book.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dad Update

This is an addendum to my last essay on Wu Wei. So many folks have asked for an update on how my father's doing. Here's a brief one...

Moving day was a success, though there were some harried moments~~like when he and my brother arrived at the airport (after waking before 5 a.m. and finishing packing) only to find their reservations GONE! And that's two first~class seats, limited in number to begin with, and all the motorized wheelchair accommodations attached to them.  It seems similar to much of this process in that, though it all worked out fine, the suspense was rather intense at times!

Dad continues to settle into the nursing home, with all the many changes taxing body, mind, heart and soul. He's a trooper, though, and we're all absolutely convinced this move was the right one. Even he has expressed no regrets about it.

My whole family, Dad included, continues to receive lessons in wu wei mastery. Sometimes we pass with flying colors. Other times we flunk a pop quiz and are sent back to our books for further study. What a wild ride it's been!

Thanks for all your prayers, good vibes, and concern. Blessed be, ya'll!

Loanne Marie

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wu Wei

I’ve been a busy lady lately. Actually, I’ve been two. One has been engaged in the many activities of a full 21st century life. The other has been working closely with my siblings to love our 93~year~old father through a rapid decline.

The latter has required several emails daily, numerous phone and conference calls, arranging for private duty aides whose hours quickly increased from 20 to 84 a week, and finally to the selection of a nursing home that best meets our father’s needs. As this option requires a move across two time zones, we now prepare Dad for a change difficult at any age. And we work diligently to make the transition smooth.

It’s been rather stressful. Sometimes, I’m a nut, caught in minutia or lying awake at night trying to anticipate every possible issue that could arise. Other times, I live in that sweet space between control and inactivity, between doing too much and not doing enough. It is then that I am aligned with wu wei.

Wu wei is a Taoist term that translates as “without action," though those words impart a false sense of passivity. If we did nothing, Dad would waste away in his apartment, or be forced to move suddenly when a crisis occurred and likely into a less~than~ideal setting.

No, we must act. Wu wei’s guidance is in how we do so. In a delightful primer on Taosim, The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff  writes that wu wei encourages us to act “without meddlesome, combative or egotistical effort, “ but rather, “from an inner sensitivity to the natural rhythm of things.”

I await the best moment to introduce the idea of nursing home care to my father, with his reaction eliciting my next response. While his voice is strong, we continue; when it weakens or becomes agitated, we talk about the weather.
Emails to his doctor, nurse or social worker pose an initial question, with further questions or our next steps arising naturally from their replies.
My sister responds to a call from the evening aide 15 minutes before her shift ends and, using a light touch from across the country, helps Dad navigate through anger and into bed.
My brother wends his way through airline regulations about portable oxygen concentrators and motorized wheelchair travel, each call or web search laying out his next hour’s tasks.

Sometimes we push and shove, frustrated as our to-do lists grow longer, or we feel helpless in the face of our father’s loss. Other times we are budding wu wei masters, allowing things to unfold in their own way, exerting a sparse and helpful pressure at just the right moment.

And we stand amazed and grateful as things fall into place, not always as we might have expected, but as is best. And we admire this man who learns and grows even now.
As we align ourselves with the innate rhythm of this process, we find ourselves participants in a kind of improvised ballet, our steps choreographed by life itself. There’s a music that flows beneath it all, helping us keep the beat, guiding us across the dance floor~~and often surprising and delighting us with moments of unexpected grace.
Wu wei is a practice with much to teach us. Another gift from this man who gave us life.

Namaste to you all!

Loanne Marie

For those who want to read a bit more about Taoism, click here for a website to get you started. 

And for a refreshing look at that great wu wei master known in the west as Winnie the Pooh, click here for the Tao of Pooh, a delightful little book that makes a lovely gift.

September 2nd~~For anyone who'd like a brief update on how my father's doing with the move, click here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


I have watched our beloved mountains burn. Smoke billowing white or a ghastly orange~gray, told of trees igniting, flames rising high in the air, sparks showering down. Fox and bird, bear and rabbit fled en masse, individual hearts pounding as one and breaking, too, if young were abandoned. Fire fighters risked death, friends evacuated, tents filled the football fields.
As we walked through our home deciding what to take if we, too, were forced to evacuate, we recognized a second list forming as well~~the tally of all we would leave behind. Goodbyes, actual and potential, filled the air. Impermanence greeted us at every turn.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being was an eighties~era book and movie whose title returned to me in those first days of fire. Our existence is utterly transitory, so light it can be erased with one clot to the brain, or a single meteor hurtling through the atmosphere. The particulars of our outer lives are likewise uncertain. To the extent that we are attached to things remaining as they are, such lightness feels unbearable indeed. And yet…
If we shift our perspective just a bit, that lightness becomes exquisite. Each discreet moment then shines as an expression of a larger Essence, one that comes to us unbidden, asking nothing in return. This beloved dog, that wounded soul, a dear family member, the power of a summer storm unleashed…each a grace embodied, every one a blessing enticing us to open our heart.
Those who have lived through disaster seem to unanimously come out the other side with a greater sense of what truly matters. Though their words vary, they tell us that love is all that counts. Love and the ability to spend another precious day open to it all.
Years ago, national television coverage of the devastation wreaked by a summer hurricane included an interview with a Caribbean man. In his beautifully accented English, he said it well. “Big wind come along, blow it all away.”
At any moment, a big wind can come along and blow it all away. Or a lightning strike upon parched earth, whipped to a frenzy and ravaging everything in sight.
Life and death are inexorably linked, as are creation and destruction, hello and goodbye. Maintaining a balance amid these extremes is our challenge.
As we become more skilled in fully perceiving each moment in all its uniqueness, we grow better able to recognize the beauty shining through. We attune to that radiance, and learn to welcome it no matter the outer form. Impermanence is a fact, but how we greet it is up to us. Unbearable or exquisite, the choice is ours.
The Exquisite Lightness of Being. The book and the movie of our lives.

Namaste, dear friends!

Loanne Marie

P.S. The fire is now 100% contained and no longer visible to us. We never had to evacuate and no human lives were lost. Now we watch as Earth replenishes herself, using this devastation as she does all things~~to beget further life. You go, sweet Mama!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Blossoms Flowering

It was a night of delightful jazz. Vibes, cello, percussion and vocals all swirled and leapt and spun forth a rich tapestry.

This was the gift of Primal Mates, the chamber jazz duo of Chris Lee and Colleen O’Brien. Superbly talented individually, together they lit up the stage. Conversing with one another in clear, vibrant sound, with notes both planned and improvised, they mixed their own compositions with those of others, often adding original lyrics of pure poetry.

One line, set to a tune by jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, has stayed with me. “Like a blossom flowers, without knowing why…” Those words speak of the Essence that shines through each of us, bringing us to the fullness of flower, if we only let it~~and even when we resist. 

And as the lyric asserts, we can never fully grasp that process. While most of us have our pet theories, perhaps some firmly held spiritual beliefs, just like those blossoms flowering, we can’t truly fathom the Mystery of it all. No, our human minds are too limited for such vastness. Always thinking, rehearsing, reliving, preferring this to that, fashioning images in our own likeness for good or ill, we are too often pulled away from a direct experience of what is.

How often, for example, do we truly see, in all its miraculous beauty, the tree we pass each day~~a marvelous creation of bark and leaf, nestling deep into the Earth while yearning toward the heavens, photosynthesizing all the while? Truth be told, we move through this world entranced, seldom perceiving any part of it fully. This is why we benefit so from activities that bring us to the moment. Primal Mates offered such an experience that night, one of sound and merriment.

Under Colleen’s guidance, I also developed a deeper appreciation for scat. Her voice was joy liberated from the confines of words, elation freed from the tyranny of meaning. 

And yet there was meaning in the song whose line grabbed me. Colleen wrote Blossom after a day with her dying mother. Chris and Colleen had wheeled her hospital bed onto the patio outside. Springtime in full bloom might have been miracle enough but, like embers roused by a light breeze, her mother was awakened from an advancing dementia by the fresh smell of flowers and sunlight warming her face. Mere days before her passing, Patricia Walsh O'Brien was granted full presence once more and a delicious lucidity. 
Blossom ends with, “A mother smiles, like a blossom flowers…Heaven's near....” Heaven was near as Trish flowered yet again. Indeed, it seems so whenever our blossoms flower.

Many spiritual traditions tell us that heaven is right here, now and always. It’s just that some moments awaken us from our forgetfulness, just as Colleen’s mother awoke that spring day.
We are all improvising our way along, unable to know the whole score, or comprehend the composer’s intent. This is as it should be. As blossoms, our calling is merely to flower again and again.

Flower on!

Loanne Marie

To learn more about Primal Mates~~and thank you both for such great music~~click hereAnd a special thank you goes out to Colleen for allowing me to share her mother's farewell flowering. Blessings to you~~and to Trish, wherever her blossoms now flower!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Love Is All

It was one of those evenings when, tasks satisfactorily completed, our conversation meandered through a plethora of topics. “I’ve been feeling recently,” my husband offered, “that love is the only thing that really matters. Everything else is irrelevant.” So began a delightful discussion of love, the meaning of life, the best way to use our limited time on Earth~~and optical illusions.
The Rubin Vase is a well~known illusion that demonstrates the distinction the brain makes between figure and ground as it processes visual stimuli. The eye naturally perceives the figure~~in this case, a vase~~but with practice can learn to shift focus. Two faces in profile then arise from what had previously been mere background.
Spiritual practice is a bit like that. We learn to shift our focus in order to attend more fully to that larger ground, while creating lives~~our unique vases~~that are in harmony with it. The word harmony comes from the Greek harmonia, meaning both “accord” and “framework”, and the verb harmozo, meaning “to fit together”. 
To live in harmony means, therefore, that we identify more completely with a framework of accord, in which all fits together with ease. Human actions which are in sync with that framework flourish. If, however, disharmony is the norm, the structure~~whether it be a political system, a family unit or a human body~~will weaken and fade away.
As we train ourselves to perceive that larger framework~~the ground that holds the vase~~we learn to love more purely. We come, too, to abide more fully in Love with a capital L, and to return to that ground more quickly when we stray.
In my work as a psychotherapist, I regularly see folks who seek a spiritual realignment, though they most often choose other words to describe their need. Often their disharmony is a legacy of the unhealed wounds of their parents. It may also be self~made, the result of having chosen to live at odds with their own values and greater knowing. 

And it can also be simply an expression of the human condition, as we are called individually and as a species to know more fully a larger Love, one that moves beyond and through the vases of our lives. Harmony of spirit is our birthright, and we can always return there. That greater field of Love that gave rise to us, that never went anywhere and continues to fuel our every breath, seems ever waiting to welcome us back, ever waiting for us to wake~up.

But it doesn’t really wait, not in any kind of passive way. It calls to us in each moment, in every spinning atom and twirling galaxy. It is we who grow in our ability to listen and to respond. It is we who awaken and decide to choose harmony again and again and again.
This was the result of my conversation with my husband. We both once more affirmed our commitment to a greater Love and to honor that commitment in all our actions. For, as my husband said, all else truly is irrelevant. 

So, this column ends with love streaming out to you, dear reader. Can you feel it? I hope so. I hope, too, that it reminds you of that larger Love that holds you always.


To have some fun with the Rubin vase and some renditions, click here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Oasis Amid Infinity

In 1948 astronomer Fred Hoyle predicted that, “Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available…a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” So begins Overview, an extraordinary 18~minute video. In it, astronauts share their reactions to, not a photo, but the real~time beauty of our planet as viewed from space.
Gravel~voiced and craggy~faced Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell describes his experience in a spacecraft rotating in “barbeque mode” as it travels back toward Earth after a lunar mission. “Every two minutes, a picture of the Earth, the moon, the sun and a 360~degree panorama of the heavens appeared in the spacecraft window...That was pretty awesome.”
Mitchell goes on to describe his scientific brain’s struggle to understand the personal effect this experience had on him. He was led to an ancient Sanskrit term savikalpa samadi. Mitchell defines this as a visceral state of “ecstasy and a sense of total unity and oneness.” The echo of transcendence is still evident as he adds, “That’s exactly what the experience was.”
Most of us will never see Earth from this vantage point. We now, though, have pictures galore, many of which are included in Overview. We have, too, the words of those who have been there.
Shuttle astronaut Ron Garan describes the Earth as a “beautiful oasis out in the middle of nothingness…this oasis against the backdrop of infinity.” Having seen it first hand, he shares how sobering it is to realize that the atmosphere, “that little paper-thin layer, is all that protects every living thing on earth from death…(and) the harshness of space.”           
As Hoyle suggested decades ago, images from space have loosed a new idea~~that Earth is a uniquely hospitable abode within an unfathomable vastness. Earth's elements provide us these bodies. Her dynamic, living ecosystem nourishes them and offers the air that, at this very moment, flows into and out of our lungs. And this miraculous offering comes amid such beauty!
To the scientific mind, all this is the result of eons of life elegantly begetting more life. To the spiritual heart, this bounty is love bestowed, a wondrous offering of life to be lived. When human hearts are healthy, love given is easily returned and demonstrated in tangible ways. When human minds think clearly, they foul not the exquisitely intricate garden that feeds them.

The intent of celebrations like wedding anniversaries and Christmas is to encourage a felt gratitude every day and a living awareness of our connection to something greater than ourselves. 

May it be so with us in relation to our planetary benefactor this Earth Day, Monday, April 22nd, 2013.


Loanne Marie

You can see Overview by clicking here. I promise you, it is well worth the time!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Shamans, Shamans Everywhere!

As a psychotherapist~~and human being myself~~I’ve grown familiar with our tendency toward anxiety and other fast tracks to suffering. Like scratching an itch until it bleeds, we seem particularly skilled at grabbing on to unhelpful attitudes or behaviors and not letting go.

A classic antidote to this tendency is the safe place relaxation exercise. Let’s do it now.
Envision yourself in a place of beauty and peace. It can be any soothing spot~~a beach, alongside a mountain stream, amid wildflowers in a field that stretches forever. Allow yourself to enter this place fully, filling in as many sensory details as possible. Tune in to the visuals, sounds, smells, a myriad of tactile sensations. Close your eyes for a few moments now, and fully immerse yourself. Marinate in the particulars of this space.
If you were able to fully enter this experience, you most likely found a palpable calm. Not such a surprise, since we all know, for example, the agitation that arises from recalling upsetting events. In this exercise, we merely choose to direct our attention for the purpose of relieving unease and imbibing that which is good and wholesome.
Consciousness is amazingly pliable~~and powerful. It shrinks or expands to fit any vessel we choose. We can also leave all containers behind, letting go into what a dear friend calls “an expanse of light, luminous ocean.” Let’s try that now and let's begin by returning to the imagined scene above.

Let yourself move into this place, experiencing it from inside. See the slant of light and the colors it gives rise to. Know the smells and sounds, feel the sensations on your skin. Yet more than any of these things, note that sense of peace and calm awareness. Now let all the particulars fade, floating in a space beyond it all. Consciousness without boxes, awareness without borders.
Of course, it's not necessary to enter this state through any imagined place. That light and luminous ocean is always present, thrumming beneath and within every moment of our lives. Most of us haven’t yet learned to live in such openness always, doing the dishes and communicating with others while steeped in pure Awareness. That’s why specific practice periods are so helpful, as are reminders to awaken at various moments throughout the day. As with any underdeveloped muscle, repetition is key to strengthening this capacity.
In my meditation area, I have a sketch of a shaman sitting alone in a desert, surrounded by the tools of her trade~~rattles, drums, earthen bowls filled with colored sand, images of spirit guides and mandalas. This is a person skilled in attending to what’s appropriate in each situation, someone adept at freeing herself from life’s upheavals long enough to intuit the most helpful next step. She likely submerges herself often in that vast ocean of Consciousness, light and luminous, and returns knowing the best medicine for what ails.
We are all shamans of our own lives, apprentices to that larger Awareness. We are learning to travel to places of our choosing, and to employ and develop our own unique tools. And as we become more proficient in weaving that larger Consciousness throughout our small lives, we continue to do our part in growing light and luminous Awareness here on Earth.
Apprentices all. May we learn our craft well.

And as spring returns once more, may the gardens of your lives set forth new and bounteous growth!

Loanne Marie

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Circles of Love

I’m sure it’s happened to you a time or two. Caught in some black mood, a stinginess, utter misery, perhaps even despair, you’re unable to extricate yourself no matter how hard you try. You pull out to a more spiritually enlightened vantage point for a few seconds or minutes, and then…boing!…you boomerang right back into the thick of it again.
A few weeks back, I was right there with you. I reoriented myself many times, and just as often, I ricocheted back into distress. I realized, almost after the fact, that I’d become hooked once more in duality. You know, “spiritual, groovy, large~picture me”, versus “miserable, wallowing, myopic me.” As I find the former a whole lot more pleasant, I’d been trying to force myself to that shape. And my moaning self was havin’ none of it!
When we’re caught in either/or thinking, how do we choose something different? First, by remembering that there is something different. It’s only these brains of ours that collapse life into two possibilities, our egos that identify one as bad, the other as good and try to force the more pleasant fit.
The way out for me came in realizing I needed to allow my two selves to exist at the same time. I needed to stop trying to escape to higher ground and turn to face my misery.
And so, compassionate awareness embraced anguish. My insides were no longer in opposition, but joined now as one, with this coupling also positioned within the larger context of my personal growth. I zoomed out even further, though, seeing this experience as firmly anchoring me within the larger human condition. My suffering became linked to the suffering of others.  And while I couldn’t fully conceive it, I knew all of us to be held by something larger still.
The image that came to me was of matryoshka dolls, those Russian nesting dolls in which progressively larger and larger figures envelop smaller ones. Wiser me held distressed me~~whose discomfort, incidentally, soon began to subside~~within the context of my personal, then our collective, unfolding. And we were all encompassed within something much, much larger.
These dolls, my painted Russian teachers, have stayed with me. In today’s meditation, my mind wandered to worries about a particular individual. I chose not to abandon the thought or this woman in order to return to open awareness. I brought her there with me. I nested this heartbroken and soul~weary woman within my larger awareness, trusting that we were both cradled by still larger arms.
As I now envision us all~~and that means you, too, dear reader~~nestled within progressively larger Matryoshkas, ever expanding circles of love.


Loanne Marie

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Light Through Yonder Window

Kula. At first glance, this Sanskrit word means family or community, and denotes a group that shares a common spiritual practice. In this way, kula is similar to the Christian term fellowship or the sangha of Buddhism.

However, if we open ourselves to it, this little word draws us toward a deeper reality. According to the website of West Virginia yoga teacher Randy Boyd, kula comes from another Sanskrit term, kula siddhi, which conveys the idea that, “all of the diversity of creation…is in relationship and is connected.”
Individual components, interdependent and functioning harmoniously together, create a vibrant, ever~evolving whole. An ecosystem, the human body, a beehive~~kulas all, individual strands coming together to form a much larger weave.
Humankind is a kula, also. Your actions affect me, either directly or by extension, as my actions touch you. As integral parts of a continuously unfolding whole, we remember that this is exactly as it’s supposed to be. We are all kula~mates, no matter the variations in our beliefs.
When someone behaves thoughtlessly or harshly, I can choose to feed my anger and retaliate, or I can collapse into victim mode. I can also, however, face the opportunity offered me with wisdom and curiosity. I can practice compassion, toward myself and my kula~mate and, if clear limits are needed, I can set them without rancor.
Whatever response I choose will ripple a unique path throughout this web of ours, whether or not I see the results. And as we each strengthen our resolve to act from our highest self and for the greatest good, our loving ripples mingle and morph in ways that amplify and gradually shift the whole.
“When we unite our diverse unique individual expressions of beauty and spirit,” Boyd writes, “…the expression of beauty and spirit is exponentially increased.”
We have been given a precious opportunity to learn in this earthly incarnation, and some of our most valuable teachers are those whose paths we cross in an ordinary day. What does the cashier, smiling or glum, have to teach me today? My husband? Your daughter? The angry, despairing or kind person who comes my way?
Myriad panes of uniquely colored glass in one immeasurably large window, we each reflect the same Light. It moves within us and shines out into the world. My job is to wipe clean my pane so that it reflects that Light more purely. And, if I’m wise, I’ll welcome your help in doing so.           
And, my dear kula~mates, as our glass grows ever clearer, how that Light shines!


Loanne Marie

PS. I want to share a site my sister recently linked me up to~~Gravity Glue. At first, it may not seem entirely related, except as Michael Grab is so obviously a kula~mate, but look more closely. All those stones, uniquely shaped and operating seemingly independently, coming together to create beauty. My, oh my, my! Kulas here, kulas there, kulas, kulas everywhere! 

PPS. The first comment below references the poem read at Monday's inauguration. Since for some reason comments are not able to include hyperlinks, I include the link here. You can find the poem on rosekraft's blog by clicking here. Enjoy!

PPS. Well, this is the time for links sent by readers! Marc, comment 3 below, wanted to share a beautiful song by baritone Anthony Brown that expresses the same sentiment in different words~~and with melody! Click here to find it, then scroll down near the bottom right and click on song #6, Each Other's Light. Thanks, Marc!