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Ten Thousand Days

Unconditional

July 20, 2018

Photo: Laula the Toller

Day 1416-Day 1422

Last night, a member of the extended family was put down.  She was a 3 year old husky, and she wasn’t my dog, but without my knowing it, she had become a member of not just ‘the’ family but of MY family.  I’ve never had a pet – well, not a pet with a personality – do goldfish count?  My friend TCBC says that fish have personalities and I told her that it is limited to swimming, turning, surfacing, diving, eating, and the dreaded one: floating.

Growing up, for some reason, we were not allowed to have pets.  I guess my mother had enough to manage with 3 children so widely spaced apart in age and with my father spending all of his time in the office.  We didn’t have a lot of money when I was little and so I guess feeding and caring for a dog would have cut into the budget as well.  I really don’t know why we weren’t allowed to have a pet, but we weren’t.  And having known the dog R- that belonged to someone else but became a part of my family, I wish that had not been the case.

When I heard that she had been put down, I was shocked.  I can’t believe that I will never see her again.  I know it must be a thousand times harder for the one whose pet she was, and for the part time caretaker that took R- during exam times and holidays.  But, even though she wasn’t my pet, I loved her.  I will miss having her run to the door, her tongue hanging out and pouncing all 200 pounds of her puppy physique onto me.  She loved everyone and was the friendliest dog I’ve known.  She was an office dog and I’m pretty sure that those who ‘worked’ with her will miss her as well.  She had a personality that made you just want to treat her to the world.  She exuded joy.

I’m grateful to her for warming me up to the canine world, and for her care when I slipped on the ice, one winter. She stood guard over me until I was safely up and away from danger.  And I’m grateful for the friendship she provided to everyone who knew her.  If I am feeling the loss, I can’t imagine what those who knew her better than I, will be feeling.  I know that they had, at times, a feeling of spiritual connection, a kind of oneness that comes with interspecies communication.

Because she isn’t my dog, I’m surprised at how sad I am today.  TCBC texted me this morning, that in some ways, losing an animal is worse than losing a person.  It has something to do with the fact that the love between you is unconditional.  R- never cared if I was wearing hip shoes or had my hair done.  She didn’t care if I weighed more than I should or if I was a slow walker.  She was a breed that wanted to run but whenever I was with her, she’d keep looking for me to make sure I was able to keep up with her.  She loved with enthusiasm the way that children can love with enthusiasm.  She was well treated and so her heart was open wide.  There was never judgement or aggression and she never competed with you for air time.  She did, however, like to watch you eat, hoping for a little morsel and to sprawl on the sofa, leaving you a little armchair – until she decided that the armchair was cozier.

Her love was unconditional.  And that inspired others to love her back.

There are few places in life where one truly experiences unconditional love.  Mothers are supposed to have unconditional love for their children but unfortunately, mothers often don’t live up to this.  In romance, we often say we will love one another forever, come what may.  But all we need to do is look at the divorce rate to see that is not the case.  The only unconditional love I can think of at the human level is a kind of agape love – a non specific universal love for all of mankind.  That I have experienced and am able to say I can achieve.  But personal love, that is unconditional?  I’m not sure I have ever experienced it.

She had a short life but she gave us all that experience of being loved completely and without judgement.  And she gave everyone who met her the chance to get to know her endearing and playful personality.  We all loved her.  I sometimes wonder why bad things happen and what is the purpose and meaning in it.  She was certainly just out of puppy hood and nobody would have expected her to fall ill.  I don’t know what the purpose of this sad event is, but what I can say is that she lived a life of purpose by being a good companion to her owner and to her caretaker and giving them the love that they needed at a particular time in their lives.  I lived overseas for half of her life and didn’t spend much time with her except at holidays and for the occasional walk.  I probably knew her the least of the whole family.  But I have been surprised by how deeply I have felt her passing and how much I wish I could have one more joyous greeting at the door.  I’d rub her belly and whisper, in her one floppy ear, that I loved her.  I am grateful to R- for bringing that which is unconditional into the lives of all who knew her.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Old Friend Bookends

July 12, 2018

Photo: Kinga Cichewicz

Day 1402 – Day 1415

In the summer of 2015, I played.  I was recovering from an illness and taking a break from a life of 90 hour work weeks and intense responsibility.  The summer of 2015 was all about fun. No responsibility, no real direction.  I was carefree, living in the moment,  and I danced all night.  And, riding the wave of an upsurge in my health brought on by play and gratitude, I fell in love for the third time in my life.

On the way, I found myself in a sort of gang of friends.  We all met on a warm night in Shoreditch, at a bar that long ago closed its doors to gentrification.  We were a rag tag band of outsiders.  In some way or another we were all involved in the outsider activity of street art.  Some were painters, some were photographers and some were representatives of those artists.  That night, they became my ‘crew.’

We spent the summer together being silly – some of us spent more time in the group and some spent time together painting.  Some of us grew quite close.  When the summer ended, one of the crew returned to LA, and we had a send off party for him where we took a photograph.  We didn’t all fit into the frame.  As I recall, only my hair was in the shot.  Being a bleach blonde, it was pretty distinctive.  It was a ridiculous photo,  indicative of the laughter and the fun and the carefree nature of that summer.   We were One.  We were friends.  We loved one another.  And we meant it, in that moment.

Later that night, one of the crew got arrested for creating street art somewhere illegal, where he shouldn’t have been, and over time it became clear that the night finished his career as a street artist.  As one of us left for LA,  I left to visit Canada.  While I was gone, two other members had an explosive argument and stopped talking to one another.  When I returned, just two weeks after we took that photograph, my crew – as a group – was damaged forever.

Over time, the two South Africans made a life together and had a baby.  The two who had argued never spoke again.

I waited in London for the one from LA to return to live in the UK, as he had said he would.  When he finally admitted that his life in the UK was over, I moved to North America.  It was hard to leave the rest of the crew, but once I reached North America, the one from LA and I entered into an intense relationship like none I had been in, and after several months, he talked about making a life together with me.

And just as we were about to begin that life,  he threw a bomb in the relationship and ran.  He left LA and moved to a town just 45 minutes from my house.  Rather than leave my life cleanly, and give me the peace of fading out at a distance, he now lingers like a ghost, intersecting the social circles that I inhabit, here in North America.   I’ve run into him on more than one occasion, and I’ve treated him as he is: a ghost of a man who never was.  Conscious reclamation of space, identity and story has had to be an important part of my healing.

 

This past week, I returned to London for the first time since leaving the UK.  I walked the streets of Shoreditch and I was sad to see no signs of the playful times and the artwork from the summer of 2015.  I met up with two of the crew from the old days but there was little to say.  They were doing much the same things but with different people,  that I didn’t know.   I never managed to see the couple with the baby, though I feel our friendship will endure, albeit changed by our changed circumstances.  And though his name was never mentioned, the man from LA was a ghost that was present in every alley, every bar, every restaurant and every street we used to frequent and his presence became more potent in the absence of any of his artwork of that summer.   Just as he had wiped out our relationship, and denied its existence, so too, my happiest adult times, and that playful girl who lived them, were wiped out and denied, by the absence of any evidence of the summer of 2015.

I miss that playful girl.   She was sacrificed to the burden of his insatiable need, his depression and his instability.  She was left for dead when he exploded their life, his life, and her life at once. He laid down a scorched earth, burning all bridges as he abandoned his life and started over somewhere new. Those who have lived life long enough will know that we cannot run; the ghosts inevitably find us all.

A war wounded old woman returned to Shoreditch, in search of the ghost of the girl who played.  She has become saddled with sadness, and has returned, listless and shell-shocked, to the world of responsibility, alone.  Still trying to pursue a life of purpose, that goal doesn’t feel aligned with life as it is.

I both miss that girl and have been angry with her for her naïveté, for her openheartedness and for her compassion that led her at times to be pulled by her heart into his crisis,and to temporarily put his welfare above her own, so that she got used up and spit out.

Walking those streets, in search of the girl I left behind,  I felt her presence and anger turned to empathy for the loss of her innocence that she had rediscovered, along with a childlike kindness that left her open and vulnerable.   I could see how she was taken in by charm and false words, and how she had mistaken intensity for intimacy.   In the place of my anger, perhaps I can simply admire how she gave her kind heart to the world, to the crew and even, to him.

I think about the fun times we had in the joyous summer of 2015, and I’m able to be grateful for that moment, independent of what was to come.  I think about the individual relationships I made with the others of the crew and I’m grateful for the closeness we once shared.  Sometimes we drift apart and that is sad, but it makes the poignancy of the moment that much more precious.  Where things have exploded, as with the man who went back to LA, gratitude is not so easy.  What I can say is that I’m grateful for the time I played and felt hopeful, innocent and trusting.

Despite the destructive force of being betrayed by him in North America, I really was sad not to see any signs of him in London.  I loved the man I met in London and he was a part of that playful girl’s brief story.   When he left, I used to walk the streets and touch his artwork to feel a connection to him.  I don’t want to be connected to the man he turned out to be.  And the man he was in London – if he ever truly existed – is gone, along with his artwork, and so too, the playful girl that I was.  I may be kind but I will never be innocent again, and I may trust again, but never with such faith.  Instead, what is left are the lessons I take from the worst ending of any relationship I’ve ever had.

On my last walk through Shoreditch, I spotted a piece that he’d done.  It was faded and worn.  That seemed appropriate.  I thought of the song ‘Bookends’ by Simon and Garfunkel, and I took a picture of the piece to put alongside the one where only my hair appeared.

In the summer of 2015, I played with my crew and particularly with the man from LA.  In the summer of 2016, I waited for the man from LA to return to London to live there as he’d promised and when he didn’t return I went to North America.   In the summer of 2017, after he had exploded our love affair, I tried in vain to repair with him what he had shredded beyond mending, and I learned how deeply wounded you can be when you pick up the shrapnel that is left after an explosion.   In the summer of 2018, I returned to the place where I had learned to play with him, where I had loved him, and where I had waited  innocently, trusting, and hopeful.

In the summer of 2018, I buried his bones in North America. I had carried them on my back for far too long.  It was time to do myself the service of going back to the start of this story, of not only the man he never was, but that particular playful and innocent girl.  In the summer of 2018, I returned to the spots where, through his artwork, I had once connected to him, in his absence, and  I reclaimed those places as my own.  I forgave the naïveté of that playful girl, and with her ghost at my side, I pasted up and painted my own artwork in those places.

People who have posted my artwork use one word consistently: “fun”  Leaving my mark on those walls, I complete the telling of this chapter of my story, and I place a bookend on the summer of 2015.

A time it was, and what a time it was.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

The Love of My Life

June 29, 2018

Photo: Nick Fewings; Street artist unidentified

 

Day 1395 – Day 1401

I’ve written about the first, second and a man who I thought might be the third love of my life.  All of these were passing romances and while 2 of the 3 remain my friends to this day, there is only one Love of my life.

I met him in London around 2004 although I’d known of him before that.  I saw him several times a year for 13 years and then last year, I asked him if he’d have me in his life.

After 14 years of receiving his love, this week, I had to say goodbye to him.

I am deeply saddened.  I wanted more time with him.  And, I am grateful for every moment I had.  When there is true love in our lives – whether that love is agape, erotic, phillial or any other kind of love, it is an ecstatic gift that makes us seem a little mad.  We’ve become a culture that consumes and discards.  And I’ve known and experienced men capable of consuming someone who loves them and then discarding them.  To me, disposable love is madness.  A love that last forever?  That makes sense to me.

When I started to become close to the man I thought might be the third love of my life, I made a promise to love him forever, no matter what.   I made it in good faith.   I could not anticipate the way our relationship would unfold.  He asked me not to bail on him, and I asked in return that he not bail on me and that he be honest and kind.  He broke every promise he made to me, exploited my love, betrayed me and discarded what was left, when he was finished. For awhile, I felt guilty that I could not fulfill my promise to that man.  I believe that the way someone behaves towards us reveals their character, not ours.  And, I believe that shoddy treatment is no excuse for how we treat our commitments and whether or not we act with integrity.

It was the one true love of my life who helped me see that where there is lack of intention and fraud – even where that fraud is a love fraud –  our agreement is considered voidable or terminated.

While one man was defrauding me, another patiently loved me for more than a decade – maybe longer.

I am grateful for the love I’ve been given, for the time I had with him and for all that he taught me.  It was a joy to see that after taking so long to make the decision that this was “it,” that I was welcomed home, despite my ill considered distractions with men who were unworthy of me.  We shared a spiritual path and I intend to make my life an act of service to the path he showed me and to continue the work that he started with me.

He is the embodiment of Love.   He remains always and forever in my heart.

He is my teacher.  He is the Love of my life, and  I am so grateful for him.

Photo: Elijah Macleod; Graffiti writer unidentified

For what are you most grateful, right now?

 

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

Retreat

June 21, 2018

Photo: Austin Neill

Day 1388 – Day 1394

I’ve spent a very busy spring, digging up the weeds of outworn thoughts by the roots and laying the bones that I’ve been carrying on my back to final rest.  As I feel I am becoming free of a lot that has weighed me down, I am heading off on a personal retreat.

I looked up the word ‘Retreat,’ and in all cases, it is a withdrawal from action.  I am, to be honest, exhausted from all the work of clearing and planting my garden.  As much as it has brought me joy and peace, it has caused me physical pain and cut into all other activity in my life.  I have, for all intents and purposes, become planted and rooted on the spot and withdrawn from all other activity to get my garden going.  I have my fence and a bit of transplanting to finish but from now on I will mostly need to weed, water, tend and harvest.  I am told (as this is my first, ever, garden) that this is the easy part.  I am looking forward to returning to other activity and interactions with old friends.

I have been grateful for this time of communion with the earth and today, on the summer solstice, as I tend to my garden, I will be saying a prayer for the planet.  And then, I shall retreat for the weekend.

In the case of the military use of the word, retreat is a kind of withdrawal to safety, to regroup.  And, in the spiritual sense of the word, I suppose it is the same.  I’ll be offline for 3 days – a short period in the scheme of things – but I hope it will be as helpful as it was, last year.  I’ll be at a retreat centre in the woods outside of San Francisco and I’m looking forward to looking at art, to sitting in meditation and to hearing a lecture to a group from around the world.  And, I’m looking forward to walking the labyrinth that is a feature of the centre – at least one more time.  The food is not good and the rooms are – well – what one would expect of a nunnery.  It is not a luxurious setting but it is a joy to be there, with this particular teacher.

I am fortunate that I have encountered some true spiritual teachers in my lifetime and that I’ve had the opportunity to sit at the feet of many gurus around the world.  From Montreal to India to New York to London to San Francisco and all points in between, I have had the good fortune to meet teachers who have given me seeds and stones that I could carry with me on the next thousand steps of my journey.  I never know what I will find when I go on a retreat, and sometimes it is not apparent until months or years later, what I have been given.

Mine is not the life of the norm.  I believe many people have a spiritual path on which they travel, but I don’t know that a lot of people have dedicated their lives to the service of that path.  I’ve been fortunate to meet many who have and to have their spiritual friendship along the way.  The fact is that although the path leads to a deep sense of Oneness with all that is, the path is always a solitary one.

Spiritual friendship is a gift, and it comes in unexpected places.  There can be no spiritual friendship, however, without proper respect for one another.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently.  I have a couple of new friends whose company I enjoy.  I’ve got plenty of friends who are fun to be around and who have earned my fidelity despite not being what they would call spiritual.  But there comes a time in a friendship where the question needs to be considered – is this something for fun and fraternity – or is this something that can be lived at a deeper level and approach moments of agape?  Just because one is on a spiritual path will be compatible as friends, let alone deep friendship.  But those rare encounters are sublime.

I’m going into this weekend with wonder about several things.  I don’t hope to find all my answers, and if I’m given some, I will take them gladly.  The best I hope for is to be led to the most pertinent questions for myself at this time.

The teacher who is to lecture has been overextended for some time and there is a chance that the meeting will need to be cancelled at the last minute.  If it is, then I will continue with the day in silence and seek to find the meaning in what arises for me in that time.  I hope that wherever you are, you have a restful and refreshing weekend full of fun with friends, or that you take time to withdraw to a place of safety to regroup for what is ahead.

Photo: Artem Bali

For what are you most grateful today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Good for the Soul

June 15, 2018

Photo: Tom Ezzatkhah

Day 1381 – Day 1387

We are having a cool and rainy June.  Since so much of May was spent working under a blazing sun to clear and weed my garden, I am grateful for the cool and wet days.  On days like today, I like to sip cups of tea and gaze out the window and let my mind wander.

Yesterday I was at the garden and, like a first time parent, I was doing what amounts to watching the grass grow.  I have a lawn chair tucked into my plot because I find myself getting tired when I’m working all day in the garden, and I need a little rest from time to time.  A visitor to the garden asked if it grew better when I watched it, and I wondered.  I do know that my tomatoes grow better when I talk to them and sometimes sing to them, because one emits carbon dioxide which the plants can use.   I wondered if just being present and really attentive had any impact.

It certainly has an impact on me.

I stood and bent over my garden looking for weeds.  I noticed what looked like alfalfa and I had pulled several similar shoots from the plot when I was first clearing it.  I was curious how I could have so many new weeds in such a short time.  I enlisted a neighbour and together we tried to discern weed from pea from bean from broccoli.  When we could not be certain anymore, I left the sprouts intact.  I was, however, delighted to see my cucumbers, sweet pea and bush beans sprouting along with a yellow squash emerging from the soil.

There is no need to water today , so I find myself yearning to go and spend time in the garden, just looking and paying attention.  I have a kayak race tonight and so I won’t have the chance to go see…but I am wondering how they are doing and if they’ve grown more overnight.

Nurturing something, it turns out, creates a deep sense of connection with it.  Research has shown that we are more bonded to those for whom we have done favours than to those who have graced us with their service.  I suppose that is why mother’s love for her children is unconditional but – to be frank – a child’s love for one’s mother is often self serving.

I’m a nurturing person, and a healer.  I know in my heart that the work of tending this garden is a part of my service to tending to the soul of the planet and changing – in my 200 square feet of soil – some of the energy that is attached to the relationship of the modern humans to the earth.  I do this with attention, and by treating her as sacred.

The earth is our mother and yet I have become a surrogate mother to a part of her bounty.  My children are peas and beans and broccoli and my foster children are the worms that aerate the soil, the birds that come to visit and feed on the worms and the bees that find sanctuary in the flowers I have planted, and in turn, who pollinate the vegetables.  Although I build my fence to protect my lettuce and greenery from them, even the bunnies that come out at night and race one another around the garden are a part of the ecosystem in which I watch these alfalfa-like delicate shoots become bean stalks.

I live in a valley at the edge of the Cascade Mountains.  And to the west of me is the ocean.  There are plenty of opportunities to feel the presence of that which is bigger than oneself by floating on the vastness of the ocean or by standing in awe of the vastness seen from the mountain summit.  And yet, there is something quite egotistical in basking in that grandiosity.  It is humbling and also deeply personal to spend time with the smallest of creatures and watch, with full attention, the micro-movements and changes in the earth.  To participate in the bringing forth of life and to be deeply enmeshed in the ecosystem is a very different experience and fosters a true intimacy with that which is bigger than ourselves.  Rather than feeling our smallness in the cosmos, we become assimilated into the microcosm.  We become not awestruck, but ‘of service.’

This is my first garden, but I have long wanted to grow at least some of my own food.  It is part of my cultural and spiritual heritage to do so.  As humble as it may seem, having this 200 square feet of soil is a dream come true.  My friends have been delighted to see me gardening, and when I ask why it makes them feel good to see it, they all say that gardening is good for the soul – or so they have been told.

I’ve wondered about this, too.

Presence, it turns out, is good for the soul.  To be of service is good for the soul and it creates a sense of purpose in one’s life.  To be in communion with the subtle vibrations of the earth and the interactions between parts of the ecosystem – and to find a place in that ecosystem, it turns out, is good for the soul.

I’ve wondered what their happiness about me tending to my soul has to say about their view of the state of my soul.  I have been in a kind of hell, for which death seemed the only metaphor.  Emerging from that influence to find life sprouting all around me, and partly because of me – it turns out – is good for the soul.

 

For what are you most grateful today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

I (Do Not) OU

June 8, 2018

Photo: Rawpixel

Day 1372 – 1380

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of entitlement and expectation.  There are many people in our lives who will come and go and some will stay awhile.  Some of them will earn a debt of gratitude or loyalty.  And some will do nothing to earn anything from us but will – by virtue of relationship or manipulation – find a way to make us feel as if we are indebted to them.  In the wake of a toxic and abusive relationship, I’ve been considering what, if anything, I owe anyone.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my mother for carrying me in her womb and nurturing me when I was young.  I owe my father a debt of gratitude for providing for me as I grew up.  I choose to live in gratitude to that which is bigger than any of us and to live a life of service, but that is not a debt.  It is a choice.

Those friends and family who have proven themselves loyal and steadfast – to them – I offer my fidelity.

Recent research published by Berkeley provided evidence to what we all know – it’s easier to make friends when we’re young.  In college, we go from acquaintance to friend to good friend in 1/3 of the time it takes us as adults to make that same journey.  When we are young, we overestimate the depth of our friendships or perhaps we have not lived enough life experience to know what a good friend truly is, and how rare they are to find.  When I was in my twenties, I remember my eldest sister told me that if I could count on one hand the number of true friends I have, I will be lucky.  I wondered why she thought I had so few friends.  Now, after 40, I realize that a person of substance, who takes seriously their fidelity in friendship, will probably be able to count on only a few fingers of one hand (if that) the number of true friends they have.

This is not a sad thing.  It is a liberation.

We all hear that once we turn 40, we no longer give a darn what people think of us and we are liberated.  I’m not sure that is really what people experience.  I guess I can only speak for myself, but from observation of others, I can see that societal pressure lessons on us after 40.  We are no longer in our years of slaying our dragons, we are no longer in our prime child bearing years, and we are no longer in our prime matchmaking years either.  There are standards to which we are expected to live, in order to fit in to the societal norm.  If, by 40, we haven’t met those standards, society sort of sees us as outsiders and pays us no attention.

It is a much different thing to weigh our precious life in the balance against the expectations that people place on us and make the decision that we will no longer live our lives out of obligation.  I owe my mother and my father my gratitude, and I truly am grateful for the life they have given me and how they have provided for me.  I owe my fidelity to the very few who have earned it.  Realizing that my debt ends there, I am grateful.

The rest of life becomes one of choice to live on purpose with joy, excitement and integrity.

Just as I am beginning to feel solid in my path again, someone appeared in my life, uninvited, today.  He is a bit player in a subplot to the story of that toxic and abusive relationship that has been damaging to me;  a story of abuse of my rights and of my fidelity; a story of cruelty and of deception.  He is part of a story of chaos that overtook my life, and took me away from myself, for a period of time.   I try to see the best in others.  In this episode and the toxic relationship which set the context for it, the privilege was never earned.

I considered the timing of his appearance and found meaning in it as a test of my resolve.  I’m grateful for the consciousness of choice.

While I would not be surprised if he was contrite and his appearance might be a gesture of genuine reconciliation and friendliness, there is simplicity in how I feel.  I do not want chaos in my life.  I owe no debt to anyone who played a part in that toxic story.

Without guilt, when I saw him approach, I closed the door between us.

 

Photo: Alice Pasqual, Graffiti Writer: Unknown

 

For what are you most grateful, right now?

Ten Thousand Days

Lunar Cycle

May 30, 2018

Photo: Arnau Soler

Day 1366 – Day 1371

Last night I was gardening under the nearly full moon.  As I gazed at her brilliance I thought of the last time I witnessed the full moon and the great distance I’ve travelled in this last lunar cycle.

The last full moon, I was driving home from a wonderful weekend in Seattle, filled with music, art, and new friends.  I hit the most incredible downpour outside of Everett and hydroplaned on the freeway.  I am grateful that there was nobody in the lane to my right as I swerved and regained traction of the road.  I thought I had been destined for my grave.

Whenever I go to Washington, I pass through a town within an hour of my home,  where someone I once loved chose to relocate from thousands of miles away – after ending his relationship with me.  He lingers.

I’m always grateful to pass Lake Samish which nestles in the hills between Mount Vernon and Bellingham.  It is a kind of physical border for me that guards my peace.  As I rounded the last bend before Bellingham, the most brilliant light shimmered on the water.  I looked in the rear view mirror,  and rising above the mountain behind me was the full moon.  Her glow felt like a benediction after all the hazards I had endured.

Last night, I was digging a trench, readying my plot for a season of growing.  From a plot comes the food that sustains us and to a plot we will go, when our life is done.  We become food for the worms that nourish the soil that grows the food for the next generation.  And so it goes with this finite life that lasts only a precious few lunar cycles.

As I’ve dug down into the earth, I have often wondered what I might discover.  I have visions of unearthing a body.  This macabre fantasy is joined by tales told to me by others who have fears of bodies buried in the most innocent of places.   It makes me realise that there is something archetypal in this story that we carry in our collective unconsciousness.

I don’t need to look in the earth for bones.  From a ghost that lingers, are the bones that I have carried on my back.

Photo: Giancarlo Revolledo

I have wondered who I will be free to be, without the burden of those bones.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing – personal writing – during this past lunar cycle.   I have given words to what needs to be expressed and remembered, forgiven that which  needs to be forgiven, and honoured what is to be honoured.   I don’t always understand what is going on at a soul level, but the subconscious magic works its way to my consciousness through image and symbol and the meaning-making that can be made through writing.  I have painted a lot in the past year but the Word is the land through which I must eventually travel in order to do the work I’m here to do in this life.

I’ve also been reading some old passages about the one who was once flesh upon those bones.  I am awed by the poignant beauty of my own writing.

Every transformation is the culmination of a long and continuous process that goes deeper and deeper, and we keep thinking we’ve arrived only to find our journey is not over.  But in every journey,  there are liminal moments.    Last night, I was alone under the enormous full moon and I felt a Oneness with that which is bigger than all of us.   I have witnessed, with consciousness, the moon’s journey through the sky and her nightly changes.

And she has witnessed mine.

Bathed in her glow, I was aware of what was passing into legend with the fullness of the moon.  There has been a gentle peace in setting those bones to rest.  Free of that weight, I am able to stand upright, and feel my heart, once again, filled with love.

 

For what are you most grateful, right now?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Weeding

May 16, 2018

Photo: Markus Spiske

Day 1360 – 1364

I’ve been spending time in my community garden.  When I got my plot, it was in a state of sad neglect.  The weeds in the garden cover the entire plot and are a foot high.  I’ve managed to clear about 10 square feet of it.  There is an old bed frame and dead plants in there, as well.  I have no idea why someone would take valuable soil and let it go to this state but I don’t understand people that feel a need to pollute the earth that they touch.  My first task has been clearing the piece of land, and weeding.

If you don’t get a weed at the root, it will keep coming back.  Even if you do get the root, the influence of the gardeners around you can spread seeds and you have to start all over again.

As I’ve been unwinding the past, I’ve been tilling the soil of my heart and mind and I’ve unearthed a lot of ideas – ideas about him, ideas about what is acceptable to me, and ideas about myself.   I’ve had to decide what, if anything is worth keeping.

I’ve discovered a lot of ideas about me that I would consider to be weeds.  Many of them were planted by parents that grew up in an era when survival was still a prime concern and the luxury of having dreams and aspirations was considered unrealistic paths to ruination.  Like weeds, each dream was crushed or pulled out by the roots and self-limiting ideas were planted in their place.

I feel like I’ve already done the job of weeding many of them out but they’ve reappeared.  When I was in my twenties, I snipped the flowers off of these ideas and threw them away as I skipped after my dreams.  But they grew back, and as much as any life circumstance, I got in my own way of fulfilling my dreams.

Not content to believe that this was all there was to hope for, I did a lot of work on my psyche and I dug up the ideas by the roots.  And after many years, of this, I found the soil relatively free of these pesky grasses and in their place, I planted wildflowers and I learned to dance in the meadow of my own heart, mind and soul.

It is a fact of life that not everyone has good intentions towards us.  And while we may be dancing in the meadow and welcome anyone with a joyful heart to join us in the dance, there will sometimes come a stranger with ill intentions.    I danced, and I forgot to put up a fence and query the stranger at the gate.

When the wind blew the stranger into my life, carrying what looked like a lover’s bouquet, I failed to see that it was, in fact, a bunch of weeds, gone to seed.

Photo: Robb Leahy

 

Today is the new moon and it is a good time for planting.  Last night I had a wonderful walk and talk with a friend who is quite remarkable.  She said that if your dreams are not laughable they are not big enough.  I’ve been noticing that there are a lot of people that are quick to tear apart your dreams but few who encourage you to reach for the stars.  My dreams, I realise, are not laughable.  They have been dampened by the landscape fabric I have thrown down to keep the weeds at bay.  I’m grateful for this awareness, as sad as it may be.  And, at the same time, I feel a sense of delight and hope that dreaming laughable dreams is not something to hide, but to celebrate.  This alteration in my worldview has fed nutrients into the soil from which I will build the next phase of my life and I am grateful.

I’ve been wondering what – if anything – I can take to be the greater meaning of my experience with the stranger.  I haven’t come to any conclusion on that.  But I am grateful that I’ve managed to clear a lot of the weeds, again.  A friend says that she is grateful to her ex husband because if he had been even a little bit nicer she would have stayed with him and never become the person she is.  I can’t say that of myself – I had already done a lifetime of work to become poised to be a fully actualized individual.

I am grateful that I really have solidified how important gratitude is to achieving resilience in difficult circumstances.  Without this practice, I would not have had the strength to keep pulling at the weeds.  This time, I feel I have truly gotten at the root and I am poised again – albeit a few years later – to step into that new cycle of growth I was ready to embrace when the stranger appeared.

The sun is shining and the world has stopped spinning.  I have a couple of weeks of weeding and planting ahead of me in my garden.  This was a dream we shared, – that stranger and I – to grow our own food.  I used to feel that I had been discarded so that he could live our dreams without me – or, more to the point –  with somebody else.  Somehow, imperceptibly, I’ve found myself moving in the direction of this dream without him.  I’ve been a bit lost and moving through life like a zombie, but I’ve kept moving forward.  Without being conscious of it, I have planted the seedlings of a new, meaningful, dream.  I no longer care what he is doing or who he is doing it with.  It is a joy to see some of  my germination has begun to produce exciting new shoots.

Photo: Markus Spiske

I put my hands into the soil and I feel One with the earth.  As I work on my plot, I  improve the conditions of the earth beneath me.  This is a deeply spiritual act of service for the planet and all her creatures.  Whether I grow food this year, successfully, or not, I will have achieved a purpose in working this piece of earth, with love.

 

For what are you most grateful today?

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

Spin

May 11, 2018

Photo: Ahmed Odeh

Day 1321 – 1359

Recently a new friend – a young talented actor and musician was admiring my paintings and I told him that I enjoyed my most recent paintings the most, out  of all of them,  because the journey of learning to paint has been one through more than 18 months of grief, rumination, second chances and finally unwinding from an exploitive and toxic relationship.  The journey is all there in the artwork and the stuff I’m painting now feels so much more like me – the me that I am, and always have been, in the centre of my being.

It is no surprise, then, to think that in dealing with all the gunk of that unwinding, there has been a roller coaster of health and un-wellness.  There is a natural cycle to unwinding trauma in the body.  It is a kind of spiral dance we do, as we unwind the physical, mental and emotional pockets where we have stored what we could not process: the gas lighting and the deceptions, the exploitations and the manipulations.  As we realize that all the things we accepted at face value were really falsehoods, the moment is another shock.  The way we need to frame our story and our position in the world needs to be adjusted for each of these shocks.  Each time I recognized another pattern or level of deception and abuse, I would fall ill as I released the grief that belonged to it.   There are people in this world who can lie with a straight face and whose lack of empathy borders on, or is pathological.  Most of us don’t operate at that level and so when we find that we have been fooled by a disordered person, it sends our world spinning and coming back to balance again takes a lot of unwinding.

 

Last week I found myself flattened with vertigo.  I’ve struggled with a lot of malaise and I’ve gotten used to this being my baseline but when the world started spinning and I could not walk, all I could think was – what fresh hell is this?

I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t drive and I couldn’t work.   So I was forced to stay home and follow doctors orders while I waited for this to pass.  I could not lay down without being nauseated and I could not sit up and focus my eyes to read or even to watch a film.  So I sat in my tall drafting chair which has arms on each side, to keep me upright, and an easel in front of me to keep me from falling forward.  As I tried to paint,  straight lines turned curvy and curvy lines turned straight.  And then I had to laugh.  Like a dervish who spins towards the heart, I sat in the centre of the spin.

And what I found there was my innate but buried sense of play.

“Playing As Fast As I Can, 1 & 2” by Tania D Campbell. Acrylic on recycled book pages

 

Play hasn’t been too easy for me for about 18 months.  It has always been a feature of my personality but I’ve been pissed off like I’ve never been pissed off, before.   I’ve been mad at people who wronged me, mad at my situation and mostly, I’ve been furious with what I would call God, for some time now.  I felt like I was led by my faith to go against my psychological defences and I followed signs that took me down a metaphorical dark alley where I was beaten up and left for dead.

In the midst of the spin, I  had a wonderful talk with a fellow graduate of the seminary I attended.  We spoke of faith and spiritual beliefs and world views.  I told her that on the path I’ve chosen, which is an eastern path of mysticism, one can expect everything to be taken from us and our ego destroyed on the road to preparation for enlightenment.   I was angry for following the mystical signs and ending up down the dark alley and beaten within an inch of my life.   And my friend said to me:  If you are meant to have everything taken from you to cleanse the ego, then why is this loss not a cause of celebration?

And the world around me spun faster and the earth tilted a little more.

Yes, many things have been taken from me.  My life has been completely changed in the last several years and some things are no longer possible.  But what has arisen in the cracks of my broken and beaten body, left for dead in that back alley,  is really quite glorious.

While I mourn the passings, I’m grateful that while a part of my cognitive processing takes a backseat, the artistic, mystical and musical side of my mind has come to the fore.  I made it to the second round of an open call for artists in London to which 8,000 artists responded.  I didn’t make the final cut of 40 artists, but I did make the short list, and that tells me something about what I’m able to express with colour and form and line.  And if it is speaking to others, then it is something worthy of continuing.

I will, by the way, have two paintings in a group show here in Canada next month, and that is a cause of celebration.

I’m grateful that I found my voice again and although I feel myself pulled in too many directions, I can always squeeze in a bit of singing practice in the car.  It’s not ideal but what it does say is that my life is full.   I have worked as a healer and I know that sound vibration is the most subtle form of healing that there is.  It can create dissonance and disease but it can purify and heal as well.

So, while it hasn’t felt good to be left for dead, I’m grateful for the opportunity to consider what is holding me back from rejoicing when the people I love, the life I have lived, and the illusions  that I held dear are ripped away from me so that I am forced to face myself and my remaining life on deeper and deeper levels.

There has been a return to joy, despite this spin.  I went to listen to my new friend Harper Stone sing this week, and it made me so happy to be well enough to go and listen to his sweet music.  I drove home with a mile-wide grin plastered on my face.  When I pulled up to the border, the guards took one look at my massive smile and pulled me over for a sobriety test.  All I had consumed (and all I ever consume) was a cup of mint tea, so I passed it immediately.  But even the nuisance of it made me laugh – we are so quick to be suspicious of joy.

I feel more grounded now than I have in a long while – a strange thing to feel in the middle of a spinning world, but I do.  I feel confident in myself in some areas and I can see a route to growing confidence and putting the meaning back into other areas of my life.  Sometimes I can get out and mingle and sometimes I have to miss out on events.  But whether I am home and sitting with myself – perhaps painting or singing – or I am with my new and growing circle of friends, I feel a sense of Oneness with a tribe that I’m beginning to identify and explore, in this strange new land.

I’m not really sure what I can say that I have done this month by way of service except to try to keep productive and restorative in equal measures so that I don’t fall into being a burden on anyone.  Sometimes I can gift some beauty into the world.   What I’d like to be able to convey is the beautiful depth that is at the centre of life and that this depth contains both our joys and sorrows.  Both are gifts, if we can see them rightly.

I don’t know that I’m yet fully living a life of purpose but I heard the Shaman Christina Pratt once talk about how to find your purpose.  Finding our purpose is about doing what we love to do and doing it in a way that brings good into the world.  We might make our living from that work and we might not.  But that does not remove the fact that it is that which sets our soul on fire, that is our purpose to be fulfilled in this world.

“Blossoming” (A study after Chagall) by Tania D. Campbell – Acrylic on 5 x 7 recycled book page

 

I sang for my voice teacher, Paul Russell, last night and I felt like I was truly in resonance with the tone of G.  Each time we truly vibrate, we manifest.  What I will manifest, I don’t know.  Maybe I don’t need to know.  Perhaps, as long as my vocalizing is done with integrity and purity, as long as I can stand still and resonate with the tonal centre, while the world spins around me, perhaps then the Source, from which all sound emanates, will take care of the rest.

 

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Persephone will be a little bit late to the Party

April 3, 2018

Day 1315 – Day 1320

If you celebrate Judeo-Christian traditions then you had a feast day over the weekend.  For me, I recognize that is is again the time when the world begins to bloom.  I’ve been feeling under the weather and I have a little bit of FOMO and frustration at not being able to get out and about as much as I wish I could.  I look back at my winter and I wonder if I have been more busy with activity than I had been in the prior year.  I travelled a fair bit in winter of 2016/17 but 2017/18 was filled not only with travel but several weekly activities on top of weekend adventures.  I’ve been burning my candle at both ends and unfortunately my candle is a lot shorter than it once was.

If I won’t listen to my body, my soul will tell me.  I’ve had a series of dreams – irritating dreams – that feature a person I’d rather forget.  Rather than fuss about what the dream might mean in terms of any unfinished business between us, I’ve decided to look at the dreams in terms of collective symbols and metaphors.  And what the dreams are telling me is that I need to be kinder to myself and protect myself – even from myself.  I push myself.  I always have.  You don’t get a Masters Degree from an ivy league school when you are a slow reader unless you push yourself.  You don’t three times earn professional designations whilst working full time unless you push yourself.  And yet pushing myself has not been good for my health.

I’ve always liked the metaphor of Persephone.  In my mind, she is the maiden that does not wish to grow up, and,  she is taken into the underworld by her husband where she must spend the winter apart from her mother.  She is allowed to return to the upper world and her mother in the Spring but she must first eat the pomegranate seeds that bind her to return to Hades every year.  And while her return ushers in the bloom of spring and summer, the other half of the year, the land must lie fallow as she returns to the dark underworld.  In all spiritual and psychological journeys (and to me this is the whole point of being embodied) there comes at least one period where we must leave the oasis and venture into the desert, leave the community and enter the forest, alone, leave the bounty of summer and go underground.   In order to grow, we must all go through a long dark night of the soul.  It is a time of going inward and of dealing with the fecal matter of our lives.  It is the time when we might feel pain, loneliness, loss and mortality – all the things we never want to face.  But only in facing that darkness and accepting what is there, can we find the way to the light and out of the hole from Hades.

I did a lot of what we might call ‘shadow’ work very early in my life.  But growth and development has a habit of presenting itself as an awkwardly wrapped opportunity again, when circumstances of life reveal new things with which we need to grapple.

My dreams are telling me what I will not hear from my body:  it is shadow work time.

And so, when I might normally be preparing to arise into the summer, I’ve had to take a break from the outer world of activity and buzz.  My body and my soul need tending.  I hope that it will not take too long, but in matters of the soul, I think its best to let them take the time they take.  They will take that time anyway.

I’m going to be a little late to the party that is the promise of spring and the energetic fruition of summer.

And so it is.

I’m grateful for my irritating dreams.  I’ve decided not to rail against the face that my unconscious mind slaps on my inner masculine because maybe that annoyance is exactly what has been needed in order to get my attention.  The dreams are rich in symbolism and much of it is not too difficult to decipher, even if the message is not something I want to hear.  But the sooner I surrender to it, the sooner things might transform.

I’m also grateful that listening to their message led me to do a lot of painting this weekend.  There is a piece that I started just under a year ago.  I gave it to someone to do a collaboration with me but it came back to me with bad energy despite no further work being done on it.  I have painted and repainted and made marks upon it for months and nothing seems to have worked to transform that piece.  Finally, I surrendered to the circumstances of the painting.  It became one of my most beautiful pieces.  Just this morning, when I looked at it, I saw a symbol I had not seen in it before:  it was my power animal. That transformation is complete and that part of my dark journey has come to an end.  For that, I am truly grateful.

The artwork is entitled “Dear John”.  It is Acrylic, oil pastel and coloured pencil on 30 lb paper stock. iPhone capture.

Pinkstarpix

 

I feel – if not joy – at least lightness in the growing sense of possibly moving beyond some things that have been creeping around in the darkness of my psyche.  There is also a growing sense of being able to get past the resistance to the circumstances and particularly the people that have brought about my being right here, right now.  If not a sense of Oneness, I am beginning to feel a sense of indifference and a touch of benevolence toward the people involved.

Last night a friend was sharing her sense of loneliness.  Holidays can highlight that for people.  What stood out to me was the way in which she was regretting decisions she made more than a decade ago.  I had advised her not to make the decision that she did, back then, because of the consequences, but she chose that path anyway.  In retrospect, the consequences were far worse than she had anticipated.  I did her the service of not saying ‘I told you so’, but of reminding her that we’ve all been in that situation.  If you are still in your first three decades of life – I’m sure that is yet to come.  Nobody makes all the ‘right’ decisions because we cannot anticipate all of the outcomes, and eventually we run out of the safety nets that our parents place beneath us.   And just as I’ve had to do in my own life, I advised her to stop lamenting a decision and an outcome that is already done.  All we can do is go forward, and find our purpose and make meaning of what circumstances we find ourselves facing.

There is an old saying that if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.  So, we are where we are.  Sometimes we think that’s a pretty good place.  Sometimes we think things didn’t go as planned.  Sometimes we just have to look at that fecal matter and accept it.  Sometimes it is life shattering and we can’t reverse the decision that shattered our lives.  At that point, if we ever hope to rise, like Persephone, and bring the party of Spring and Summer into our lives, we have to stop digging, accept our circumstances, and look for the light that shows us the pathway to climb out of the hole that is Hades.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Private Lives

March 27, 2018

Photo: Nathaniel Dahan

Day 1253 – Day 1314

I’ve been thinking about privacy and lately I’ve been feeling crowded.  An old friend from childhood spotted my comment on someone’s post in an online forum for people in recovery from toxic relationships.  From there, he tracked down my website and my public Facebook page.  I guess this is what can be expected by being online.  I didn’t think too much about it except that the man had been determined to reach out to me.

When he happened to know my dating history of more than 20 years ago, I felt really uncomfortable because I was sure I had not mentioned that old boyfriend by name and I wondered if my privacy had somehow been invaded.  A few days later, I learned that he was involved in some way with the ex-wife of that long ago boyfriend.  She contacted me and asked about my friendship with him. She had spotted his and my new online friendship on Facebook.  She seemed to know the whole story of how my friend and I had reconnected after so many years.

I didn’t like the feeling of being talked about by people separated by decades and thousands of miles in my life.  This crossed my boundaries.

When I first starting writing online, I did so under a pseudonym but my branding advisers encouraged me to write under my professional writing name on this site.  So, I’ve had to turn to disguising the identity of the people in my life to protect theirs as well as my own privacy.  But, the recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal aside, protecting our privacy online has become somewhat of a challenge.  We are tracked by our mobile phones, by the data chips in our shoes, listened to by our digital assistants 24 hours a day and our webcams can be used to watch us even when we haven’t turned them on.  Privacy is something we need to protect, but new challenges to this come up as technology moves faster than our understanding of the implications.

 

The contact from my childhood friend was initially a delight.  He reminded me of the happiest 2 years of my childhood.  We had come from the same place and we had ended up in this a similar place in our lives.  It was an odd coincidence but not something that, alone, was sufficient to re-forge an old friendship, no matter how sweet our childhood times had been.

He could not stop focusing on the woman from his toxic relationship.  My childhood friend wanted to commiserate and discuss his ex-partener’s possible personality disorder as the answer to it all.

I was in a different place in my journey.   It had taken me a long time to understand that I would never know why someone I had loved and someone who said he loved me had behaved so badlyand with such cold cruelty towards me.  And more, to the point, why he did it really doesn’t matter; all that matters is that he did.  And because he did, that relationship is over and I’m moving on.

After some concession to ‘sharing’ experiences, I set my boundary.  To rehash a painful relationship for the sake of commiseration seemed an abuse of my privacy and was harmful to my wellbeing.  I told my childhood friend that my relationship was in the past and that was where I was leaving it.   I did not want to discuss it further.

When, a few days later, my childhood friend announced that he was reuniting with his toxic ex-lover, I ended our engagement with one another.

In a few weeks, all sorts of drama had come into my life through my childhood friend.   That kind of drama wrecked havoc in my life once already, via that toxic love relationship.  I don’t want it in my life directly or vicariously any more.

In a way, this crazy episode of intrusiveness and boundary pushing was a gift.  It held up for me the mirror of where I would otherwise be, had I continued the toxic relationship with the man I loved, who said he loved me.  And, it made me consider again my absolute need for peace, for privacy and for strong boundaries – especially as regards anything I might allude to in my writing.

I come here and I mine my life for specific details of my personal narrative that might speak to the universal in all our lives.  That is the hook by which I engage a reader into witnessing my journey as I attempt to demonstrate one person’s attempt to live a grateful life despite the obstacles – and, hopefully, this inspires others to do the same.

I feel a Oneness with anyone who has ever loved and been devastated by another’s cruelty.  I hope my childhood friend will eventually find peace in his love life – if that is what he wants.  I hope that the man who treated me so cruelly will also find peace, too.  But those are their lives to live.  In living my own, it is my own peace that is my priority.  Peace can only come, for me, with strong boundaries.

Reflecting on the ways I’ve been vulnerable through writing here, I’ve taken a break.

Instead, I have been painting a lot lately. And, for that I’m grateful.

I’m grateful that one good thing that came of my toxic relationship was the drive to learn to paint.  I took the courageous step of painting because of my love for that man.  One of my first paintings was created, with love, for him.  I asked him to teach me to paint, but he never did.  I learned anyway.  Painting had long been a secret desire and it has been a gift to emerge from that toxic relationship as a burgeoning painter. I’m not grateful to him for that, but I am grateful for the impetus and the natural talent to paint.  It brings me joy and a fair helping of frustration, too  – just as any relationship of love will do.

 

I’m not sure how I will proceed with this website.  Writing publicly is fraught with all sorts of infringements – not just of privacy.

Six months ago,  I discovered that an article I wrote on this website about Monsu Plin was lifted verbatim and published on a site that pays crypto currency for content.  This was done by a friend of his.  I’ve since password protected my article but that is a bit like closing the gate once the horse has run away.  I’ve sought out and had a public apology for the failure to seek permission and properly attribute the article.  But my article is under someone else’s byline now, and cannot be removed from the blockchain.  The blockchain is an evolving technology that is presenting threats to our privacy and what is in some jurisdictions, a right to be forgotten.  To have it published without my permission was a violation – if not of my privacy, certainly of my rights.

I am confident that the meaning-making in writing about gratitude is part of the purpose of the rest of my life and living a life of gratitude is the best way to move beyond any sort of toxicity.  But how I will do this, and the future of the content on this website, is still uncertain.

 

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

I’m Back!

January 25, 2018

Photo: Senjuti Kundu

Day 1220 – 1253

Happy 2018 to you all!  I’ve been away for quite some time.  I’m taking a little liberty with the format of these posts as an experiment in writing style.  I’m grateful for your patience as I work out how best to share the journey of gratitude, joy, oneness, service, purpose and meaning.

I’ve had this horrible flu that has been going around.  It came back as a chest infection which turned into laryngitis and then a cold.  Given that I’ve been having singing lessons, had a recording session booked and a folk festival weekend of singing classes booked, I spent as much time as possible getting better so that I could hit all those events.  I did it.  Somehow.

Perhaps the prospect of doing something I loved was motivation to heal.  Perhaps I had some help from the Universe.

Over the past few weeks, I recorded a jazz standard, learned harmony for an Old Time ballad, sang an improvisation with a couple of groups, learned the mechanics of harmony and sang old southern Gospel and Sprituals.   There is a real earthy sensuality to my voice that suits jazz and gospel music and so I am hoping that my teachers for that class at the Bellingham Folk Festival will be creating a specific group for singing spirituals on a more regular basis.  I enjoyed the Old Time music and dance and found that the community is really an incredible pool of talent and people.  I was feeling vulnerable and so before I went off to the Folk Festival this past weekend, I set the intention with the Universe for a weekend of joy.

It was delivered.

I made a joyful noise (mostly hit the notes) and in this sense, I have also come back.  I felt it just beginning to happen before I got sick – this opening of the heart and a return to joy.  Singing is a heart based activity as a spiritual practice, and has a long association with the mystics.  It is a part of my spiritual life not only for what is sung but for the connection it gives me to creation, when I sing.   I was led, by synchronicity, to find my unique singing teacher who understands that it is a deeply spiritual practice for me.  And, I was further led to a scholarship to attend the festival and to the offer of a free recording studio session.  I was meant to be there and I am clear that this is a path I am meant to continue.

I had to get well enough to be there. Really well enough to really be authentically there.  To do that, I think I had to first fall ill so that I could repair all that needed to be healed in order for me to be present.

My heart has been a closed book for a year now and we’ve seen how I’ve struggled to open it.  I had a lot to grieve.  Each time I felt finished, I found more at the bottom of that well.  At times it became too much and I closed my heart, which cut me off from myself, from others and from my spiritual centre.

While I was sick, I processed a lot of the personally horrendous year of 2017 and in fevered dreams, I was able to come to the end of some painful threads and tie them with a bow.  I was able to cut the threads and let the beautiful bows fall away.  With a lot of time in bed, I was able to really sit with what had happened, to process and to look at what I need to learn from it all so that I could thank the Universe for the opportunity to grow and then move on to new experiences.  There is no coincidence of the timing of this illness and the fact that my chest was involved.  I needed to cough out any last vestiges from the bottom of my lungs, where, energetically, grief resides.  I coughed until I bled, and then I coughed some more.

I lost my voice for a time and so I sat in silence and listened to what I needed to understand.  I returned to meditation, and my heart was open.

I’ve overcome most of my fears in this lifetime, but the last thing that made me feel vulnerable was singing in front of strangers.  On Sunday, dosed up on antibiotics and throat lozenges,  I volunteered to test out my voice in various keys, in front of a room full of strangers who were longtime musicians.  I hit the notes in several keys and some I just couldn’t hit.  And that was okay. Just by standing up and saying – I am here and I want to sing! – I crossed the threshold to move beyond a lifelong fear to come out the other side: open, joyful and present.

In being present, I am able to offer all of myself to others and I see that in some small way, I bring a little joy into the world.  For me, this is why I came to be here, in this body, in this time.

I have found my voice, again.  I’m back.

 

Photo: Jesse Ramirez

 

For what are you most grateful, today?