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Milestone, Ten Thousand Days

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

June 23, 2022

Photo: Robert Thiemann , Cathedral of St. John The Divine, NYC

Day 2868

Twenty years ago today, Sgt Pepper might have taught his band to play, but more close to home, I was ordained as a Minister. 

It was a journey that started out as a calling that I couldn’t even put into words.  But from childhood, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to God.  In time I found that renunciation was not the life for me, and that I was born to serve, with one foot in the spiritual life and one foot in the secular world.  It was a long journey to the altar, but my dedication really began in childhood.

I was raised a Catholic and to think of dedicating my life to God and not be a nun was not going to go down well with the older generation of the family.  On my other side of the family, my mother was from a spiritual tradition that did away with clergy and believed only in the direct relationship of the individual soul to the divine, without any need for intermediaries.  Where I chose to become ordained was a Seminary that celebrated all faiths and trained Ministers to serve people of all faiths, within their own traditions.  That is not to say that I am an expert in all of the world’s religions, but I had a broad enough training to conduct ceremonies and rituals in the major traditions and to serve in the spirit of these traditions, with empathy, and compassion.  There is a church to which I am affiliated, but there is no congregation or institution that supports my living.  I’m not paid or supported by a church and, like all of my cohort, I have had to find my own way to keep one foot in heaven and one foot on earth.

Of all the things I’ve decided to do in this life, I think that this has been the most profound journey.  First, to dare to manifest that still small voice that was within me, calling me to God, then to study to become ordained, and then to dedicate myself over and over again to my own spiritual path, in order to serve others more profoundly.  One thing that I think we forget, when we take vows, is that we need to continue to do our own spiritual work.  Without this, we can easily become the same sorts of hypocrites that caused so many to flee the boundaries of traditional religions.  Doing our own work, as Ministers, is crucial.

I struggled for some time to figure out how to serve without a congregation and without a wedding officiant business (as many of my cohort have done).  Over time, I found that quietly serving God is possible anywhere – even in the corporate world.  I found this matched the work I did especially in the world of Sustainability but I also found that I could serve in the world of Governance, Risk and Compliance.  Wherever there are people, I’ve found, there is a chance to serve with compassion and empathy.  I may not have been overtly serving religious needs, but I have found that I am always confronted with the opportunity to serve the spiritual needs of others – sometimes simply in their process of facing redundancies.

Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude has become a primary vehicle for me to serve.  I want to thank my readers for witnessing my own journey and for allowing me the privilege of thinking that perhaps I might have something to pass on to my readers.

I am grateful to the many friends and family members, who supported me along this entire journey.  On the day that I was ordained, my sister (now deceased) and her husband travelled to New York City to witness my ordination and the church was filled with so many friends who have been on this journey with me.  Although the door is a door one must walk through alone, I am grateful that I had so many supporters there to witness it and others (not present) cheering me on.  It is a lovely warm feeling to be so surrounded with that affection and, over the years, their witnessing it has helped to keep me accountable to my vows.

The thing is, it doesn’t require such a momentous ceremony and all the pomp and ceremony of a commitment to God in order to be of service to something greater than oneself.  All it takes is the decision to find what matters to you and to be of service to that.  It might manifest in serving a cause, or an ideal.    Volunteering for a cherished cause is a great route, for many people.  

Service does require sacrifice, sometimes.  I made vows and some have been easy to keep because they go with my natural inclinations but there are others with which I’ve struggled – like everyone who tries to live their values.  But living a life misaligned with our values creates a kind of spiritual discomfort that can lead to hopelessness, a sense of lacking meaning, and ultimately, despair.  Whether happiness, or spiritual enlightenment is your wish, the sacrifices of living a life of integrity is essential.

Service, especially when it aligns with what we value the most, gives us purpose and it makes us feel like our lives are meaningful.   I encourage you to experiment with ways to be of service and see what feels right, and most rewarding, to you.  I wish you so many blessings on your own journey.

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

We Never Know What’s Coming

June 19, 2022

Photo: Johannes Plenio

Day 2853 to Day 2863

A year ago, this weekend, I saw my sister for the last time.  She had been unwell but my family chose denial and missed the preciousness of the moment.  It wasn’t long afterwards that she went into hospital for the next few months.  She never came out again.  Because of Covid, we were not allowed to visit her.  This pandemic has been cruel to everyone who lost someone.

When you are witnessing someone’s illness, I think that if you’re emotionally mature, you will understand that we never know what is coming and so you will begin to make your peace with them.  I’m grateful that I was able to do this.  But, nothing prepared me for the day when I got the call that she had passed away, and there was nothing in place to help me to put closure to her death.  Of course, I have a strong enough spiritual practice that I was able to make my own ritual to help me to make peace with the moment and mark the passage in my own way. 

For the most part,  I’ve been grieving my sister’s death on my own. It hasn’t been a full year yet since she passed away.   I did not anticipate the way that her death would change so many things for me.  How could I?  I’ve never been down this road before.

Yet, her death is just one of the many losses I have faced in the last few years and this has been one of the toughest times of my life.  My grief has layers.  This whole journey of gratitude has been a journey of tribulation, for me.  I began this journey deep in grief, and I chose gratitude as my companion.   I’ve been very ill,  I’ve had a broken heart, I’ve suffered losses in my career, I’ve given up all that I knew, and I have been bereaved so many times in the past few years that I’ve lost count.  What gets me through is the hope that we never really know what is coming.  It could be worse, but, it could also be better.  All we really have is now.  So I work to make peace with what is, by practicing gratitude.

I am grateful that I have a strong faith in my God, and that I’ve had the benefit of spiritual fellowship throughout this time.   I am grateful for all the friends who have stood beside me through this prolonged period of difficult times.   

The pandemic isn’t over but we are just learning how to live with it.  There is war, economic uncertainty and climate disaster threatening our peace.  My wish for you is that no matter what is going on in your life, you, too, will remember that we don’t know what is coming (some of it might even be good).  No matter what, I hope you will make peace with what is, and that you will find a way to choose gratitude.

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

The Buddha in the Road

June 7, 2022

Photo: Indra Dewa

Day 2842 – Day 2852

I get very distinct impressions in my meditations sometimes. Sometimes, in my meditation I see my spiritual teacher and I am told to do something and sometimes it makes no logical sense.

I got a clear instruction from him once, and I didn’t follow it.  Disaster ensued.

Now, I’m much more inclined to make a leap of faith, and find a way to take on the task, if I get a directive in meditation.  In a meditation at least a year ago, I was told to write to the man that has appeared in my dreams (the so-called Twin Flame) and I was given the directive to write to him a particular phrase that, to my taste, smacked of possessiveness, cultural inappropriateness, and a creepiness which borders on the weird.   Even during the meditation I resisted this and I was told again, firmly, to do it.

I found a way to include the phrase in a social media comment rather than in a letter.  I’m not sure that he ever saw it.  At the time, I felt that I had fulfilled the directive and the comment is still there for posterity. I can remove all other comments, if I wish, but that one must always remain, no matter how weird.  I did what I was told to do, if not in the exact way it was pictured in my meditation.

This week, during a meditation, I got completely absorbed and again the phrase returned. And I saw an image of me handwriting the phrase, again.  Presumably, this is in a letter.  Given how dismissive he’s been to me, it would be an understatement to say that I’m even more resistant now.  He’s also a married man.  Writing him in a letter, after all this time, could easily be misconstrued.  And, I just don’t want to be expending energy on him.

I care for him and I wish him well.

I want to keep my focus on myself and my own journey.

Maybe I’m just prideful and stubborn in my resistance.  Or, perhaps there is a part of me that clings to the story of him for drama and distraction, and so my ego makes it appear that this is a directive from my teacher.

After this week’s gathering, someone in my Sangha started talking about a situation in their life that highlights the fact that we are not to encourage anyone to join our path. We can offer spiritual companionship, suggest writings by our teacher, or direct people to the whole website of resources, but we are not to invite people to our particular path.  They need to choose it – if it is the path for them – on their own.

The phrase I have been given could easily fall afoul of this, if I’m not careful.

Why do I not just reveal the phrase, if I’m going to bother talking about it, here? Like a mantra, it is intended to be kept secret.  If it is a gift from my teacher, it contains spiritual energy.  At least in this, I can be faithful, and keep it sacred.

In keeping with our Sangha’s conversation, I have also lately been thinking about the way that I have, in the past, actually attracted men who are a little spiritually lost.

I wouldn’t say that I attracted the Twin-Flame man, but in the time I knew him, he’s claimed to be in a spiritual wasteland.  The idea that he felt spiritually alone touched me and I offered him Sangha but he didn’t take up the offer.  That is a clear boundary.  While my door will always be open for spiritual companionship, he’s the one who has to choose to walk through it, if he wishes.

The men in my past were lost and searching for something.  I think they were attracted to the spiritual in me.  They put me on a pedestal that I could not possibly stay atop, and then they were bitterly disappointed with me when they realized that I was just a fellow seeker and not some kind of guru.

Maybe this “directive” is my ego’s way of subconsciously inviting this pattern to repeat.  Maybe there’s some ego payoff in that drama.

At the same time, maybe their disappointment was their invitation to a kind of spiritual maturity. The more lost one is, the more one looks to the teacher to take that responsibility.  It reminds me of the Buddhist saying that became an old bestselling spiritual book by Sheldon Kopp If You Meet The Buddha in the Road, Kill Him.

Eventually, spiritual wayfarers must stop projecting their own divinity and spiritual responsibility onto another person (even the Buddha).

We are called to embark upon the hard work of an inner-directed spiritual life.  We can, and we should keep company with other seekers, but we must listen to the direction that comes from within ourselves. On the spiritual path we must release attachment to everything: our desires for money, for love, for companionship, and even for enlightenment. Eventually we must let them all go.  Even our dependence on the mantra, the spiritual practices, the Sangha and the teacher must die.

I am not so spiritually evolved that I’m ready to let the practices, the Sangha or the teacher go.  Real change is not easy. It’s easy to think you’ve got it all sorted, only to backslide, again.

So, what is the source of my resistance? Is it my ego not wanting me to make a fool of myself?  Maybe this is a test of my faithfulness?

Faith makes fools of us all.  Yet so does the mind, by manipulating us. The closer we get to absorption in meditation, bypassing the ego-mind, the harder the mind will work to keep its hold on us, with trickery.  The mind will play you for a fool if you believe every thought you have – especially those that arise in meditation.

The more inner-directed one is, the more foolish one’s actions may appear.  That doesn’t mean that just because something appears foolish, it comes from a true “inner knowing.”

Discernment is an important companion on the road to spiritual maturity. I will wait upon discernment to see the truth in this situation.  And even then, if I think I have the answer, that will be the time to start asking deeper questions.

If one meets the Buddha in the road, eventually one must kill him.

For what are you most grateful today?

Ten Thousand Days

In Twelve Moons

May 27, 2022

Day 2833 – Day 2841

Today marks another 12 moons.  My sun sign is Gemini but my rising sign is Cancer.  Cancer is ruled by the moon.  Alas, my moon is in fiery Aries so the combination of Air, Water and Fire makes me a whole special brand of something, indeed.  Of all the planets that are supposed to rule me, I relate to the moon the most.  I can wrap my head around its cycles and map my moods with the pull of the tides.  And, I cannot get too attached to them.  They will pass.

There was a time when life was measured in moons, because my grief was too acute to believe I would not die of a broken heart.  With each passing moon, my heart recovered just that little bit more and eventually, when enough moons stacked up one on top of the other, I was able to climb out of the hole that I was in.  The moon was my friend.

The moon is still my friend, and now I am measuring my life in moons again.  In 12 more moons, life will be very different, and rather than keep my eyes on the small changes from cycle to cycle, I am keeping my eye on the moon and where I want to be in 12 cycles.  In 12 cycles, I want to be in Malta.  I used to go to Vienna every year for my birthday and enjoy the art and coffee culture and (if I was lucky) photograph the gorgeous blooms in the Vienna Rose Garden.  Vienna has always been a happy place for me and I look forward to being back there again one day.

But in 12 moons, I’d like to be in Malta.  I spent much time in Europe seeing the works of  one of my favourite painters (Caravaggio) until a comprehensive exhibition in Budapest brought all his major works from throughout Europe to one place.  I still enjoyed travelling to see them again – particularly my last trip to Rome, where I went specifically to see one remarkable painting that did not disappoint.  I had to book in advance a limited entry to see the Rest on the Flight into Egypt.  And, I think of my trip to Madrid where I had one of the last private tours of the artworks including the Caravaggio piece in the Royal Palace, before it tours shut down for some time following the abdication.  There is at least one of his major works in Malta, that I haven’t seen, but Malta was also an important place for Caravaggio in his later years and so I look forward to spending some time there.  And that sea is so very blue.

This has been a very frustrating period in my life and I’m looking forward to leaving this era behind.  Rather than look backwards at what I have given up, or what I have lost or what I have had to let go, I am looking forward to where I will be and Malta is my touchstone.

I look forward to sending you a postcard from a seaside cafe.

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

Under Construction

May 18, 2022

Photo: Umit Yildirim

Day 2828 – Day 2832

You may have noticed that the website is changing and things are moving around and some posts are going to no longer be available.  I’m envisioning some ideas for the future of this project and this will mean editing the website.  It might be under construction for a while.

It makes me think about the way that the self-help movement and the new spirituality gurus can leave us always feeling like a human-becoming, work-in-progress, never-quite-enough person.  If you’ve ever lived in a house under construction, you know how uncomfortable that can be.  

Last year, I spent some time depressed because I felt I had not fulfilled my potential – despite the many, many, many accomplishments I have achieved.  This has been a theme in my life borne from parents who motivated achievement by pointing out failure.   I grew up never really savoring the moment of an achievement, before moving on to build the next accomplishment.   I suspected that I was not alone and I asked around.  Whether it was a specialist surgeon, a multiple time New York Times bestselling author, a leadership coach, artist, accountant or grocery clerk – nobody I spoke to felt that they had reached their potential and it causes them some regret.  This is the human tragedy of the spirituality and self-improvement machine.

Our potential is infinite; we can never reach the apex.   As we grow, so does our potential.  We must not live our lives under construction.

I encourage you, dear reader, to do everything in your power to shift your mindset from believing that you are a human-becoming, and come to understanding the truth of yourself as a human-being.  And, as a human being, the only place we can BE is in the present moment.

Let’s not waste our time with regrets about the past or yearnings for a seemingly elusive future.  It’s trite but true: life is about the journey and not the destination.   As we spend this month looking at Purpose (capital P, of course) and MEANING (OMG!), we can get caught up in the comparison game with our peers or where we thought we should be.  

We may have a yearning within, because we have a sense of how great our gifts are.  And still, where we are at – right now – is the only gift that ultimately matters.  It is the gift of the present moment. 

Yes, I encourage you to refine your values and your vision, but as long as we are fully present with what is happening right now,  and as long as we make our choices in alignment with our values and vision, we are fulfilling the potential that this moment holds for us, and we are building our characters to take best advantage of the next.  Do the work, keep to the practices and enjoy life, now.  

I hope you will also enjoy the changes that are coming with this website and with this project, and for now, let me just say: Thanks for visiting and being a loyal reader.  It gives my life meaning to be able to write for you, to encourage you to stay the course of the practices and live your own purpose, in a meaningful way for you. 

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

These Foolish Things

May 13, 2022

Day 2822 – Day 2827

I’ve been clearing out things from my cupboards these past few weeks.  I’m in the mood to get rid of everything.

I released all of my research for my Master’s Thesis.  And, being a lover of all things South Asian, I am finally releasing many yoga/ayurveda/philosophy books from Gurus I have known and loved and my entire collection of Hindi films.   Even photographs have outlived their use –  the Temples at Tiruvannamalai and Arunachala mountain where I did several pilgrimages, the tea plantations of Ooty, Kovalum beach,  the slums of Mumbai, and the late afternoon lovers’ walk at Juhu’s Chowpatty beach – these are all a part of me now.

And yet, it is the sentimental things that keep getting fished out of the pile to take to the charity shop – that book that was inscribed by a summer lover, all the books written by friends, and those inscribed by famous heroes of mine.

My mother passed away so many years ago that memory becomes challenged.  I remember that she wore a pink sweater and I used to tease her for being so brightly clad.  But, when she passed, I kept that sweater.  I never thought I could ever part with that sweater because it embodied a story that she and I shared.  I have now only kept a single button to remind me.

We need a few touchstones in our lives, and these foolish things, remind me.

Keeping some things is unhelpful.  What do I do with the 8 foot by 4 foot painting that was painted by the Young Man who ended up being so horrible to me?  I don’t want his energy in my house – and yet, the painting cost me a lot of money.  I’ve tried to donate it but even that is problematic, as I’ve discovered in my many attempts.  This is, as yet, a problem that remains unresolved.  Throwing out art seems wrong, but it may simply get left somewhere as a charity shop donation and the financial hit will be my touchstone and reminder of a hard-earned lesson.

As I purged my second bookcase last night, I came across a postcard I had purchased for someone.  He once described a yearning  to connect remotely with people in a small town in Saskatchewan, who were broadcasting via the airwaves.

When Covid hit, he said he’d like to receive postcards.   I considered asking the chamber of commerce of that town to send him one but everything was in Lockdown.  In my travels around the internet, I found an Australian with a vintage photo (c 1900) of a town in Saskatchewan that had been turned into a postcard.  And so, I corresponded with the kind owner and bought it.  It wasn’t posted until June, and with the Covid shipping slowdown, it arrived several months later, in late Summer, 2020.  By then, I had had a disagreement with the man for whom it was intended.  I never sent it onward.

I had forgotten that I had tucked it away on the top of my bookcase, in case things healed between us.  My intention was generous: to send it with kind words.  I’ve done that already several times, in the past, without that particular card.

I had made an attempt to heal the discord between us but he remained silent, and disconnected.

 

 

Perhaps I can make a piece of art out of the card and out of the beautiful Australian stamps that decorate the mailer in which it was so carefully shipped.  Perhaps, in that act of transformation, the card – which connected me to a stranger in Australia, which once held hope of another connection, which memorializes 3 people and a hotel long gone, and which has already travelled around the world to come to rest with me – will then fulfil its purpose of expressing the human yearning to connect.

I will give my heart to beauty, and create some new connections from this.

 


We need some foolish things to remind us, and there are some things we need to let go.

As I part with these things, I am thankful for the good experiences that they represent, like graduating from the London School of Economics, and visiting so many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and South Asia.  I am also noting the progress I have made, in learning the lessons that the more challenging memories evoke.

In every item, there is a decision – does this represent who I am now, and who I want to become? Can the item and I both fulfill our purpose by staying together?  If the answer is no, it is time to thank it and let it go.

I hope that if you are spring cleaning, that you will be gifted with the spirit of non-attachment and hold only those foolish things that are truly meaningful to you.  Meaning is what we make of our lives and meaning remains, independent of the things.

I hope that you will be able to release those belongings which no longer belong with you.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

The Sanctity of Vows; The Sacredness of Values

May 7, 2022

Photo: Rui Xu

Day 2814 – Day 2821

This month, those on my email list are working on purpose and meaning.  One of the definitions of living a purpose guided life is to live in alignment with your values.

If you think I think I’m a Guru on all these things, I don’t.   I might be further down the path than some, but I also need the rigour of the practice.  I gain so much from the various ways I give daily and weekly and monthly focus to the practices.  Everything I suggest is something I’ve either done, and found helpful, or is a task that I am currently working through, myself.

Last year I did all of the values exercises that I offered for resources on purpose.  I just ended up confused.  There were so many great values and so many things I cherish.  I couldn’t find a way to narrow it down to a handful.  I’m sure we all have many values that we think are desirable.  Finding the core handful of values that drives you and guides your life may be a challenge.

Sometimes we don’t value the things we think we should.  Sometimes we value the very things we don’t know how to achieve but having them would heal childhood wounds.  These wounds may be there to help guide your soul’s evolution, yet sometimes our conditioning and traumas make the very values we need for healing, and transformation difficult for us to uphold.

Values are things that we hold sacred.  If they weren’t sacred, they would be mundane which means they would not have great intrinsic worth.  Some of the problems we have in living up to our values come from an increasingly secular world that lacks the ability to recognize and revere the sacred.  How can we narrow down our values if we aren’t used to holding anything sacred?  How can we build the character strength to, for example, put the needs of our children before our own ego needs, if we haven’t been raised to honour sacrifice for what we hold sacred?

There are many books that aim to inspire us to live a life of purpose.  We might come to believe that this is what everyone is doing.  That is a false perception.  Many struggle to define their values, and everyone struggles to live them.  Values are aspirational and therefore, living a life fully on purpose is also aspirational.

Values are like our compass to the sacred and our purpose is like the path.

Recently I came across a well-worn, hand written list of my personal vows as a Minister.  As a group, we took vows essentially to serve the spiritual needs of all, without any form of discrimination.  We also had the opportunity to write our own personal vows.

These are the only vows I have ever taken and probably the only vows I ever will take.  They are sacred.  As I looked at my vows, I realized they were a large part of my core life values.  I have edited them, for precision, and I would combine some vows into a single value.  That I chose to make these sacred vows demonstrates the core values of Service and Devotion to God.    To the list of vows, I would add values of Creativity, Beauty and Wellbeing.  Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service are aspects of my values.

I wanted to share my vows because they aren’t and shouldn’t be secret – I made them in a sacred space in front of my Seminary cohort, clergy and God.  And, these are the vows to which I hold myself accountable.

  1. I will stand for those who seek Justice and cannot stand for themselves (this is a form of Service);
  2. I will live in the spirit of Non-Violence (as a value this is part of my penultimate vow);
  3. I will live Simply and Sustainably;
  4. I will remember the Divinity of all beings and Love All; and
  5. I will live in Truth.

The last one is a doozy if you grew up in a family where there was triangulation and where there were secrets.  I did, and my experience last week may serve to illustrate how we can choose a value because it is something we lacked, and where living that value is difficult because of our conditioning.

Last week, I spent a lot of time writing and re-writing my previous post.  As I thought about the dream, I was gaining more insight into its lessons and clarity into how the dream applied to my life.  The post became less about the person in the dream because the way dreams work, as I’m sure you know is that it’s not really about the person who appears in the dream.   I always post my first draft of a post and sometimes, I will decide to go back and edit, many times, until the work is done.  But, if I’m telling the truth, that’s not the only reason I re-wrote it many times.

I was also concerned about protecting the feelings of the person in my dream, should he ever read my post.  This has been a theme in so many of my dreams about him, and a theme in my life.

I think it’s loving and non-violent to seek not to purposefully hurt someone’s feelings.  However, protecting the feelings of someone who has not protected mine is a form of keeping secrets, rather than boundaries.  Being evasive and avoidant is a waste of time and compromises my ability to live in Truth, reflecting a coping mechanism I learned as a child, of walking on eggshells, in order to survive.  If you break it down, the whole dream was a play within a play within a play that was a colossal time waster.  The dream itself was calling for me to cut through the crap of all the “stories” we tell ourselves and others and look to the Truth.

I’m sure that if we all look at our lives, we will find at least one example of this struggle to live our values.  For example, if someone has the value of fidelity, but were sexually abused as a child, they may experience a sex-addiction that keeps them from being faithful.  That failure can keep them locked in a cycle of self-hatred and addiction that separates them from that which they hold sacred.

So, as we work on values and purpose, it is important to take a penetrating look at how we are really living, and whether this is how we WANT to live, according to our values.  Living a life that betrays our values can bring lots of pleasure, and gratification.  Sacrificing our values might seem easier than the discomfort of living them, but denying that which is sacred is soul-destroying, in the end.   With compassion for ourselves and for others, we can break the patterns that keep us separate from the sacred.  We can, and we must, have enough self-compassion to seek help, if we cannot do it alone.

I am grateful that I kept this hand-written list of vows, and that I came across them just at the right time.  I am grateful for the lesson that struggling to live in Truth has taught me about the sacredness of values and the difficulty we will all face in living them.  I’m grateful for the reminder that we must always have compassion and forgiveness for our failings and the failings of others as we strive to live our purpose. 

I hope that you, too, will practice self-compassion when you encounter the challenges that your values bring your way.

 

For what are you most grateful, today

Ten Thousand Days

Eternal Flame

April 29, 2022

Day 2802 – Day 2813

Over the last few years, I’ve written occasionally about the idea of a Twin Flame that is a popular idea in the new age spiritual community right now.  I’ve been on the fence about it.

I do not believe that one soul is shared by two people.  I do believe there is a collective soul and that some people have the spiritual gifts of mystics.  But, what do we know about the contours and shape of the soul? All we can do is approximate its dimensions through our yearnings.

I’ve had a lot of dreams over the years about a certain man.  He recently got married.  And, because we don’t have a strong pre-existing friendship – in my mind – that kind of ends whatever story might have developed between us.

And yet, the stories told by the subconscious mind, or the soul, always persist.

I should say that, in my spiritual tradition, there are dreams and there are “experiences.”  Experiences happen when someone – usually the spiritual teacher – visits in the dimension of sleep.   Experiences are very rare and I am told that you will know it when it happens.

Then, there is the dream. My spiritual path draws on the work of Carl Jung.  Dreams are symbolic and reveal our hidden emotions about someone else, a situation, and about ourselves.   I always like to ask what part of me do I see in those who appear, and where is the strongest energy in the dream?

Dreams are fundamentally important to soul work. They tell us the stories we can’t tell ourselves by using symbols we recognize from our lives or from the collective unconscious. They are an invitation to deepening our experience of our own and the collective soul.

Last night I dreamed of this man again and I noticed something had shifted.

As I said, I have had many dreams of him and I even dreamed of his wife, in early 2021, probably around the time that he was considering marrying her.  In my dream, he really wanted me to like her.  He wanted me to spend time with her but I knew right away she was not my cup of tea.

It wasn’t like she was a horrible person to me. In my dream, she was blonde and tall and sporty – attractive.  She was also status-conscious, wanting to go to all the “in places” and eat at trendy restaurants.  She was very materialistic. She was ambitious and driven to “succeed” materially and keep up with the Joneses.  Not. My. Cup. Of.  Tea.

She must be his cup of tea, and that is what should matter, to him.  But, in my dream, he wanted my approval, which I couldn’t give and when I ran into him after spending time with her, I ignored him.  This angered him, but I felt that he had not been a friend to me in this life, and so, I felt he had no right to expect me to affirm his choice of partner.

To be clear, I have no idea what his wife is like. This is about how my subconscious saw her.

Over the last year, my dreams of him have been pretty much the same theme – every time he appears in a dream, he wants approval or my help in some way.  He often tries to charm me and push past my boundaries to achieve it. And, in my dreams, that always annoys me. I awaken, feeling annoyed.

Our interactions, in reality, have always been pretty one sided as far as affirmation and approval goes, though he solicits it.  And, when he has had the opportunity to respond (he’s had many) he has dropped the ball.  He’s been rude and arguably exploitative to me, both personally and professionally.  Expecting affirmation without being able to reciprocate reveals the kind of childhood narcissism that doesn’t have a place in adult connections.

One time he made an effort, but made it all about himself.  He took a private gesture from me and made it public, leaving me feeling foolish.  I was embarrassed though he was the one that had crossed my boundaries.

It is not uncommon for those who have routinely had their boundaries disregarded to feel the shame that belongs to the transgressor.

Annoyance (Anger) and Shame (Embarrassment) are powerful red flags.

Last night’s dream saw a new theme.  To set the context: in real life, I don’t understand him.  There’s a very good chance that who I thought he was, was my own projection,  but he seemed to change, significantly, when his (now) wife came on the scene.  He has a pattern of morphing his personality to match those around him.

He’s become much more successful, materially and maybe even socially.  From his behaviour, though, it appears that he has set aside his more professed spiritual values.

I can’t understand why he would stand at a fork in the road, when he was claiming to feel he was on the edge of a spiritual “awakening,” and choose a life of materialism.

I don’t want to pass judgement and maybe it’s possible his spirituality was always just for show but I got the sense that it was important to him and that he was seeking, in earnestness, but found himself in a kind of desert, wandering alone and aimless.  Seems to me that being without a Sangha (spiritual community) who are committed to enlightenment and without a solid set of ancient wisdom to guide you there, makes it easy to lose our way.

That’s exactly when our own ego and desires can lead us to believe the corruption of sacred texts that gave rise to the prosperity gospel or the cult of manifestation that came from pilfering and repackaging vedantic texts into The Secret.

There is nothing wrong with money, per se, but when the choice is materialism or enlightenment, I can’t understand turning away from Spirit, in favour of distraction.

It makes me sad, if I’m honest.

In my dream, we bumped into one another and he assumed I was in that city to attend his play (I was not).  I reluctantly agreed to go. (An interesting choice that signals my boundaries and priorities need attention).

I was given the liberty to take any place I wanted although the show was sold out.  I moved around, standing in different places.  I couldn’t make sense of the play, no matter where I stood or from what angle I watched.  I wondered if I’d had a stroke or had experienced a fugue state or if the play was in a foreign language.

His brothers were in the play with him, and they all wore cartoonish, foam costumes.  He stopped the momentum of the show, smiled at me, preening.  It was ridiculous and surreal.  Rather than be annoyed, however, I felt awkward and embarrassed.  I wondered why he, a married man, was vamping for me.

The significant shift in this dream over others is that I no longer feel annoyed; I simply don’t understand what’s going on and I am embarrassed.

I’ve told you more about myself from these dreams than about him.  I’m sure there is a part of me that is annoyed with myself for wanting HIS affirmation (and the affirmation of important people from my childhood) despite his withholding it.

The fact that the play makes no sense is a loving kindness from my subconscious or soul, to my waking myself: The narcissists that have populated my life will always pretend and withhold. There is no point in trying to understand them. The relationship with them is all smoke and mirrors.

Maybe I can stop trying to understand and just accept that they are who they are.  I don’t have to be the audience to their game, anymore.

I don’t have to waste time on things that aren’t real, anymore.

I also don’t have to feel guilty about my own acts of withholding – of my time, energy,  affirmation, or story – from people and situations that take more than they give.  I don’t have to feel shame. I have a right to my boundaries.

In reality, I have disengaged from this man for some time now – and yet, the subconscious mind processes things slowly and deeply, catching threads that weave throughout our lives.

In the dream, I was concerned about what I could say about the script, which he had probably written.  I thought I could avoid comment by saying that I prefer to give feedback on a written script.

In real life, I am a playwright.  It is an affirmation of my talent, and a reminder to keep my boundaries around my talent.

In my dream state, I was embarrassed at his vamping for me and I wanted to draw attention to the fact that he is married.  It’s time, says my soul, to stop taking on other people’s shame for their behaviour.

In the dream, I decided to be evasive and say that I was “overwhelmed by the costumes and pageantry of it all,” and that I was “distracted by events happening elsewhere.”

Evasiveness is a red flag from my soul, calling out to me to hold firm my boundaries, saying: “Stop wasting time and energy on the feelings of people who disregard your own.”  To do so distracts me from my own priorities, values, and purpose.  I want to place my full attention on my own happiness, which shows up in my dream as those “events happening elsewhere.”

I can let go of the need for my father or mother or sister or brother or teacher or baker or candlestick maker to affirm me.  I don’t need anyone else to understand or approve of me, or to give their feedback on my choices and my boundaries.

I affirm myself.

If any of my readers are struggling with similar themes, I urge you to find reliable and supportive people to help cut through the crap and see things clearly.  I could not have unpacked this dream and identified these themes in my life without the support of my spiritual group (Sangha) and some very loving and supportive friends.  A good therapist is another very helpful option.

Where does this leave that Twin eternal flame that may or may not be at the heart of this connection? Well, while the idea of a Twin Flame is romantic and I love romance, I have decided that, for me, it is a story full of nonsense.

With this story, the new age spiritual community may be doing a disservice to vulnerable people trapped in unhealthy patterns. There is a guarantee of long term clients on anything branded Twin Flame, for sure.  If you’re on the fence about this notion, I recommend the Twin Flames video by Dr Ramani Durvasula for an analysis of the similarities between a Twin Flame relationship and one characterized by narcissism.

There IS a strong pull to some people. Often it’s because  the “connection” mimics familiar dysfunctional patterns.

The soul will use this, in your dreams, if you pay attention.

The man has hurt me and reminds me of people who have hurt me. As humans, they deserve love – with detachment.  They don’t deserve a place in my life.

I forgive them for being withholding and I accept that they are who they are and not who I hoped they would be, or who I deserved to have in my life.

I remember a dream where this man appeared as a storm made of light.  A metaphor for a spiritual transformation if ever there was one!  Jung might suggest that this storm holds a lot of my energy.  Time to reclaim and integrate my own radiant light.

I forgive myself for wanting to be loved by people who – for their own limitations – cannot love me, affirm or approve of me.

I may be wrong about twin flames (I doubt it) but if this man and I have a soul connection, there will always be a bookmark here and I may always feel its contours in the yearnings that live between the pages of my story.

I can live with that.

In all of this, what makes me grateful?  I am grateful that my experience of this man triggered my soul to send me disturbing dreams that helped highlight a wound that needed healing.  I’m grateful that my spiritual path values the messages of the soul that we find in dreams, and, I’m grateful that I can cut through the smoke and mirrors of the narcissist and heal, at another level, these old wounds.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Resurrection

April 17, 2022

Photo: Maria Victoria Portelles

Day 2783 – Day 2801

Today is Easter or Resurrection Sunday in the Christian faith, following the feast of Passover.  I was raised a Catholic and so not going to church on Easter Sunday is considered a mortal sin, but I prefer to just keep the Sabbath in my own way and to keep it holy.  A walk in the forest is a great way to celebrate the resurrection, in my opinion.

I suspect that the Roman church designated the death and resurrection of Christ to coincide with Springtime (and the birth of Christ to coincide with the winter solstice) as a way to bring in more pagans to the faith.  All you need to do is look around and see that all things are being resurrected in Spring.  The trees bud and begin to blossom, the daffodils and crocuses and tulips begin to blossom and the weather returns the longer days of sun into our lives.  I struggle with this natural rhythm because my mother was dying in springtime and looking back, so was my sister.  Spring always seems a little bit melancholy to me.

I’ve been spending some time this weekend tearing my house apart and sorting out what I want to keep and what I want to give away.  I’ve been going through my pantry looking for items to give to the Foodbank (people need help now more than ever, and I see that donations are way down as we all feel the pinch of inflation).   I think this ritual has something to do with “lightening up” as the days grow longer, or there wouldn’t be this universal phenomenon of Spring cleaning.  In the Christian tradition, this really is the start of the new year and so – as in all faith traditions – we clean to make way for a fresh start.

I think I have a long way to go before I can claim that.  After two years of working from home without a filing cabinet and six years of living in the same place with mountains of things that belonged to my mother (and were “gifted” (read: unloaded) to me by my father upon my return to Canada), I feel the weight of too much stuff.  I took a load of goods to the charity shop yesterday and was surprised at how much more there already is, waiting to be taken over.  Two years of pandemic pantry stuffing means we are all overflowing with stuff.

When I moved back to Canada I remember my sister saying that I would feel better once I was in a place where I could be surrounded by all my stuff.  I guess that’s the thing about family – sometimes they know you the least of anyone.  I had spent years and years in New York and London living in rented accommodation that was tiny and what you might term “service.”  The amount of stuff I had was minimal.  Granted, I had a storage locker in both countries but I’ve always found that the less I have, the better.  I feel much more free, the less I have.

I am grateful for all that I have – whether they are things, ideas that have served a purpose in my life (even if that is no longer needed), and relationships that have been a joy or, in sorrow, have been a lesson.  I hope to release them all with gratitude for how they have served me.

I hope that over the next few weeks or even months, that I will be able to cull at least half of what I own.  I probably won’t cull my crock pot or my dehydrator or my painting easel but I am beginning to feel a bit of distress over creating artworks that mostly end up needing to be stored.  I want to walk softly on this earth and mounds of artwork in a closet is not aligned with that value.

Whenever we shed, whether it is weight or possessions or relationships, there are emotions that go along with the process.  Yesterday I struggled to give away a favourite teddy bear even though it was just sitting in a cupboard.  It is in good shape and I hope that some mother who struggles with money or who values items of a second life will be able to give it to be loved by a child.  It wasn’t serving the purpose of “Christmas Bear” to sit in the closet, even though I did have lovely memories attached to the toy.

As I’m going through my things now, I am asking myself whether holding on to this item is really filling a good purpose in my life.  Marie Kondo would ask if it sparks joy.  Christmas Bear sparked joy but the purpose of a toy itself must be considered, and it wasn’t fair to Christmas Bear to hold on to it.  Holding on was also filling space in my life and weighing me down.  As we open up more space, we can feel anxious.  We might be inclined to rush to fill the space with more stuff or more relationships that may not be a good fit and only serve to bury us.  I know that this will be a struggle ahead and so I have made a low spend pledge to myself and a caution pledge on new relationships.

I’m digging out corners of my closets that have not been touched in 6 years, and digging myself out of a life that seems to have stopped serving me well.  Right now, my home is in worse shape than when I started.  Everything is out on the counters and floors so that I can assess and make choices.  With the stuff are memories, hopes, dreams and distractions and many of them need to be released.   I hope that I can move quickly through this part of my life and rise up from the ashes of all that burdens me.

A new year is a great time for a fresh start and I hope that if you are drawn to spring cleaning that you can rid yourself of outworn ideas, fears, relationships and things so that you can be more aligned with your true purpose here on earth.  I hope that this is a time of resurrection for you, as much as it feels like it is beginning to be, for me.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Still to be Still

March 29, 2022

Photo: Harli Marten

Day 2672 – Day 2782

It’s been a minute since my last post. One hundred and ten days, it seems.  That seems like an auspicious number so it’s time to write.

I have been writing weekly for those who subscribe to my email list, and that is about all I can muster at the moment.   If you’d like to read what I have to say then you can subscribe here.

I’ve also not been writing much here because there is someone who has trolled me for quite awhile – someone who I picked up on YouTube.  I enjoy being an inspiration to people, and I have now had to come to terms that this may mean that my content shows up as their content.  What I’m loathe to do is to provide a glimpse into my personal life to this person, during my time of mourning.  

But, I do not want to ignore my loyal readers and it is time to return to the land of the living.  I want to let you know I’m doing fine.  I’m dealing with life just the same as everyone.  Some days are wonderful and some days are catastrophic.  But on all days, if I haven’t yet done it, I count my blessings before I go to bed.  When the world seems to be falling apart and catching fire, being grateful is what keeps my head above water.

I have learned something about myself in this quiet.  I’ve spent most of my life in large cities where I am constantly able to have intellectual and artistic stimulation.  I went to an Ivy League school with some of the brightest minds in the world.  Right now, I feel completely stifled and bored.  Yes, I think we are all bored after 2 years of a pandemic, but the level of boredom I have reached has me feeling like I am in a coma.  This doesn’t mean that my life is without love, busyness or companionship.  I just need more intellectual and creative stimulation and to use my talents in more challenging work.  This is a problem I have lately identified and it is something on which I need to work.  There is nothing worse than  having a gift and not being able to use it.  And, lately, I feel like I’m becoming more and more stupid, as the world around me has been so dumbed down.  At the ego level, this is something I need to address because it will add to my happiness and challenging oneself is a great way to add more flow moments into one’s life.  I hope that you are identifying and addressing those things that are limiting your happiness.

I do enjoy writing about my personal life and so, I’m going to turn to the personal letter form.  I’m looking forward to surprising someone this weekend with a short dispatch from my life.

There is no doubt that beyond our personal lives, the world is deeply troubled.  Lies and misinformation seem to be the order of the day.  I have found that not knowing what to believe can leave me feeling paranoid – perhaps this is why we see so many conspiracy theorists out there today.  Instead, I have turned to what I do know – which is an inner knowing – that of my faith. 

I have a great bible study group and unfortunately I can usually only drop in on weekends (I used to go every day but the time of meeting has changed) because of my work schedule, but they have become “fam.”  I don’t agree with all of their interpretation of the bible but I love having an opportunity to focus on spiritual life together,  every single day (or as often as I can make it).  We have time for prayer together and this fortifies.  Gratitude and the cultivation of all the practices that I’ve talked about over the years has been a lifesaver.  Spiritual Oneness is an essential part of that.  I have another group that gathers around the teachings of my living spiritual teacher and we meet every second week for prayer, meditation and fellowship and I’ve found that invaluable as well.  My groups help keep my focus on Oneness. 

Meditation and stillness is important, perhaps even more so, now that the world seems to be teetering on chaos.  I’m not a great meditator although I know that my path in this lifetime is to meditate.  I go for a walking meditation every day, at the same time that my spiritual community is meditating, globally.  I feel that in the inner stillness, we are doing some good work on cultivating Oneness, together.

This month, on my email list, we have been placing our focus on Oneness and I have been advocating for stillness.  We all want to do something but we need to get our egos out of the way and the best way I know how to do this is through meditation.  We also need empathy for others and the humility that an awareness of Oneness brings.  I believe that the easiest gateway into all of these qualities arises in stillness.  And so, in a chaotic world, I am working still to be still.  I hope you will join me.  In a world of chaos and suffering, one of the greatest services we can provide is to actively be a witness to the suffering and in the stillness, bear all that the experience entails.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

In the stillness

December 9, 2021

Photo: Sage Friedman

Day 2587 – Day 2671

It has been a long time since I’ve written here.  So much has been going on and this year has been a tribulation.  I feel that I’ve been tested over and over again and if I have not failed the tests, it is owing to my faith and to my practice of gratitude.  

I have been silent and in the stillness, I not only preserve, but I also find my strength.  Prayer and meditation are useful tools for the grieving.  I highly recommend them, in these challenging times.

I’ve been taking a lot of sleep and engaging in positive distractions and I’ve taken a few walks, but less than I’ve wanted to take.  Our weather has had a lot to do with that.  We’ve had horrendous storms that have caused floods and destruction of biblical proportions.  There has been a lot of grief in the witnessing.

It is appropriate that I am coming to the end of this year of practices (most of which is on YouTube, with the exception of the final quarter of the year, which I will create and post in 2022, when I feel I am ready to leave this period of mourning) with soulfulness, faith, hope, love and soul-work.  If you are part of my email list, you will have been getting weekly guidance on a month of practices.  Soulfulness seems the culmination of all we’ve done so far this year.  In the face of adversity, only the soul can make sense of things.  

I don’t have much to say, today.  But people have been reaching out to me because I have been so silent.  My hope has been to be an example and an encouragement to others, but sometimes, in being that example, it is necessary to model self care and for me, right now, that is stillness.  I just wanted to drop in and let you know that I’m still here, still profoundly grateful, and still faithful to this work.  Although its simple, I want to encourage you to find the good in every day.  Every day, no matter how trying, there is something good.  If you can’t find it, be silent and listen to what arises, in the stillness.

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

The Forfeit

September 14, 2021

Photo: Brian Erickson

Day 2543 – Day 2586

I’ve been intentionally practicing gratitude every day for over seven years and still, sometimes I forget how glorious life is – all the time.  Right now, my heart feels heavy all the time and that is how it is going to be, for awhile.  

The weather echoes my mood.  For the rest of the week (most likely the month), it will rain, and the clouds descended into the Valley this morning.  The amount of rain in the PNW is enough to give anyone Seasonal Affective Disorder and so in winter, I return to the festival of colour that is my artwork. Despite the dull pallor that surrounds me, I am immersed and engaged in life whenever I am Painting.  Visual art – whether painting or photography –  is like making music or writing poetry in that it expresses the ineffable.  Some things need colour, tone, rhythm and texture to be understood by the heart and known by the mind.

I stopped at the intersection that leads to my workplace this morning, and I felt myself on the verge of tears again.  I looked for approaching traffic (there is never any).  In a defiant last stand of summer, the sky glowed behind Mt Baker.  I reached for my phone to capture the image but the eye of the camera doesn’t capture light in the same way as the human eye.  And the heart captures it in an entirely different way: the only way that the beauty, love and death can be lived as one. 

The sky was emblazoned in glorious hues of yellow as the sun disappeared behind layers of cloud. Moments of beauty.  This is what enkindles our hearts.  Much like love. 

Winter is the forfeit of summer as grief is the forfeit of love.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?