Sunday, November 30, 2014

All Is Blessing

Thanksgiving is now three days gone, and many of us are gearing up for the busy Christmas season. What better time to pause and reflect on the meaning of this just~past holiday.

Gratitude. We know it as a core value of all spiritual traditions. Most of us have also heard of the latest research demonstrating its many benefits to physical and emotional health. And yet, a living gratitude, one that infuses our day to day lives, often eludes us. I wonder, could we find a fresh approach to thankfulness that would serve us better?

For guidance, I turn to the Tarot. I choose the round Motherpeace deck, co~created by Vicki Noble and Karen Vogel. I sit on my cushion, hold the cards for a few moments, and then begin moving them from hand to hand in a gentle shuffle. I spread the cards face~down in an arc in front of me, and move my left hand lightly over them, sensing the card that draws me to it. And, in fact, one does seem a bit more insistent than the others. I turn it over to find this image~~

I smile as an answer already begins to form. I gaze at this woman soaking in a natural spring, healing water bubbling from deep within the Earth itself. I see the rocks of various shapes enclosing the pool, and the flowers floating on the water's surface. I note the woman's face turning slightly upward, eyes closed, as she welcomes the starlight streaming down.

Why has this card beckoned? What might this image have to teach us about gratitude? I sense the answer in the woman's face. Fully receiving the gifts of healing water and starlight, there is no doubt that gratitude radiates from her in waves. She does not need to remember to be thankful. It is not a technique practiced or something to be checked off a to~do list. No, it flows easily and naturally from gifts that have saturated her core.

Perhaps we've been going about this gratitude thing all wrong. Maybe, just maybe, the trick is to thoroughly receive the gifts in the first place, to let them root deeply inside us. Then, gratitude will take care of itself. Like the woman in The Star, if we open to the starlight and healing waters of our lives~~no more gifts half~received on the fly, but ones welcomed deeply into our cell tissue~~would not thankfulness happen naturally?

And a thankful heart changes everything~~how we perceive the world, the choices we make, our reactions to the challenges that come our way. Living in appreciation transforms, and our actions and our very presence more readily become gifts to others. Having been filled, we automatically give back.

And that's not all. As our hearts become more open and responsive, our ingrained sense of separation begins to diminish. Our discriminative minds distinguish between giver and receiver. When receiving elicits a response that is of benefit to others, those divisions begin to blur. Everything is revealed as part of a grand flow. All is blessing, the receiving and the giving, the breathing in and the breathing out.

And as we grow in this awareness, we will no longer need a special day once a year to be thankful. Each moment will be received~~and given back~~as sacrament.

Thankfully yours,

Leia Marie

For a webpage that details the benefits of gratitude backed up by research, click here.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Deep Grain of Love

Oh, my gosh, but it's been a year! 

Most notably, it was a year filled with Dad. Sitting with him for hours in his decline. Accompanying him to the edge of death and loving him to that far shore. Receiving his box of ashes, scooping some out. Standing watch as a TSA agent tested him for explosives before we boarded the plane. Honoring him with a large family crab feast he would have loved. Looking on as he was placed into the rich Maryland soil, reunited at last with our mother, the love of his life who preceded him in death by 18 years.

As all of this was happening, life continued on. An array of work challenges stretched me beyond my comfort zone time and again, culminating in significant changes in the way I conduct my practice. And to top it all off, I just turned 59. Yikes!

In his elegant poem, The Faces of Braga, David Whyte offers an apt metaphor for grappling with life's challenges. After eloquently describing ancient carvings above a door to a monastery shrine room, he urges us to be like that wood, allowing “the invisible carver's hands” to sculpt us and “bring the deep grain of love to the surface.”

A noble goal, but tricky in the execution. This past year, I was often willing wood in the carver's hands. Sometimes, though, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the chisel. But as the intensity winds down now, I know myself deeply changed. As I begin my 60th year on the planet, I trust more, control less. I am lighter, with a more immediate sense of that deep grain of love that's surfacing in so many places, including my own small life.

Often profound inner change calls for an external marker of some sort. One has appeared for me. My given name, Loanne, is a blending of my parents' names, Lloyd and MaryAnne. With them now gone, a new name has arrived.

Leia began as a spoken nickname, one that immediately resonated. It was not until I explored various spellings that I discovered that the letter combination I simply liked the look of~~Leia~~is Hawaiian, meaning “child of heaven.” Quite fitting. No longer child of earthly Lloyd and MaryAnne, I am freed now to be a child of the expanse they now inhabit. Spiritual traditions teach that that realm permeates this world of ours, vivifying each of us and the lives we live. It is this dimension I've learned to rely on more fully through the events of the past year. 

Life is not easy. We are challenged again and again, confronted with situations not of our liking. But what choice do we have? To accept and welcome the growth, or to resist. Accepting seems infinitely wiser. And more fruitful. In welcoming the carver's chisel, our true shape rises more easily from the wood, while all that is unneeded falls away. Our essence develops texture and depth. And the rest…just flecks of wood scattering upon the breeze.

Love, love and more love! May it rise to the surface, in ourselves and the lives we live. 

Leia Marie

Here's a link to David Whyte's exceptional poem, The Faces of Braga. Truly a gem!

More on Leia…It seems it can have a variety of mildly different pronunciations. My guess is it oughta be pronounced Lay~ee~ah, with a diphthongy thing happenin' with all those vowels. However, spoken quickly and without a lilt as English speakers simply must do, it comes out more like Lay~ah or Lee~ah, with the latter being my preference. (For any Star Wars folks out there, it is pronounced several ways in the various films; click here for relevant minutia. And just so's ya'll know, that fictional princess with the odd coif played no part in my name change!) 

And for those of you who know me personally and have had occasion to call me Loanne many times, I'm sensitive to the challenge imposed by changing names in mid~stream. So take your time and let the name gradually work its way into your psyche. It really is a fine change. See if you can feel the difference by repeating both names a few times, and I'm sure you'll come around in no time! But however long it takes, I do feel like Leia right now and have, perhaps, all along.