Archive for the 'spirituality' Category
Begins with M, Ends with S

I started walking into walls nine years ago. Somehow I just end up taking corners in my collar bone, or rubbing shoulders with the wall in hallways, or slamming my hand with all its rings into metal doorways and railings. I know everyone does this kind of thing from time to time, but I do it a lot.

For years there were also whispers of intermittent numbness here and there — on my shin, around my right eye, on my right cheek, in the middle of my back just left of my spine. At some point over a year ago, I realized I was having trouble picking up a small key and opening my desk drawer at work. Every time I unlocked or locked my drawer through the day, I felt vague dread that something fundamental was wrong with me. Multiple times a day, I swept that worry under the carpet where it could join other vague doubts and fears and undermine me insidiously.

Whether these odd little facts will turn out to be significant foreshadowing in the story of my life remains unclear. What I do know now is that an aberrant process has disrupted my central nervous system in the last several months. That aberrant process may be multiple sclerosis.

Last summer I knew I was entering a time wherein my metals would be tempered. At first a layoff seemed imminent. Then divorce. In each instance I saw the storm coming from a distance and did my best to confront whatever fears I had about it in advance, learn what I could about myself and ride out to meet it head on . . . like some kind of karma warrior, or so I fancied.

Both of those storms ended up dissipating. The layoff storm passed me by. My husband and I are back together after a few months of separation.

What arrived instead were physical symptoms. When I googled them, they suggested possibilities I was not ready to face. For one thing, my right hand went numb. Suddenly both hands felt like paws. So clumsy, I was dropping things, missing targets, having trouble grasping and opening things. And there seemed to be a prickly stocking over my right hand most of the time. And at night both hands were always going dead and waking me up. Frankly, my leg below my knee was sometimes going numb as well. That undermining dread crept out from under the carpet. But no — carpal tunnel . . . that’s what it was.

If I weren’t doctor phobic, I would have gone to the doctor right then and hopefully had the wrist surgery that a co-worker had, getting off eight weeks from work while she was at it. But there was already something subtle and sneaky eroding my hope of that relatively easy outcome. My right leg felt heavy and sluggish. The sole of my left foot hurt to walk on. I told myself the sluggishness was my imagination and I just needed new sneakers.

By January the heaviness and lack of coordination in my right leg was undeniable. I was walking funny – probably not so much that casual observers would notice but it was clear to me. My feet were often numb and felt like bricks. Walking on them, I just had to trust they were in the right position to meet the ground. Sometimes I wobbled and almost fell over. When I was resting, both feet and calves often went into painful spasms – my toes were making involuntary gangsta signs. Soon there were cell phones vibrating in my calves and feet. Putting on pantyhose or tights was difficult since it involved coordinating the movement of uncoordinated extremities. Meanwhile, both arms felt heavy – it hurt to lift them to put on a jacket or wash my hair. And my hands and legs became stiff super easily – it was difficult to drive, write by hand for more than a paragraph, hold a phone to my ear or rise from a cross-legged position, at times from a chair. I felt overwhelmingly fatigued on exertion and dopey in the afternoons at work.

I don’t want to ramble on about symptoms, but I do want to give a sense of what I’ve been experiencing because neurological symptoms can seem both routine and ridiculous to someone who’s not experiencing them piled up at pathological levels. At first I was afraid to acknowledge them. Then I became fascinated. Maybe they’ve become an obsession – a scrying device used to divine what’s happening in my body. I’ve been told to keep a log, but obviously this is not the place.

Suffice it to say there has been an evolving catalogue. Thankfully, the original paresthesia and spasms have subsided now.

Long story short(ish), I put aside my doctor phobia and saw the doctor who is supposedly my PCP. She sent me to a neurologist. Since then I’ve been through a marathon of tests. I’ve been to more medical appointments in the last three months than I have in the last 15 years. At this point, differential diagnoses have been ruled out via blood tests and so forth (though there is some compression in my neck). I’ve also passed all the neurological lab tests except for the most important one: the MRI showed “scarring and inflammation,” as my neurologist called it.

One thing I’ve learned about multiple sclerosis is that there is a complex set of diagnostic criteria that must be satisfied for a definite dx. Most obviously, there must be multiple demyelinating instances, disseminated in time or space. MS is a repeat offender — not a hit and run. And it is far from easy to diagnose.

As I understand it, I’ve got one objective area of “scarring and inflammation” visible on the MRI and one episode of symptoms suggestive of demyelination. That’s an isolated instance. One hit, at least for now.

My neurologist was putting a positive spin on things when I met him this week. He was laughing that I aced the memory test after being worried that my memory was slipping along with my coordination. (I attribute the memory test results to basic occult training, BTW.) “Do you have anxiety?” he asked. Um…you could say that. It feels like an alien has moved into my body, and the external world has not responded with a definitive answer that addresses the cause and validates my perception of what I am experiencing. I feel alone in the dark with a mysterious destroyer. At the same time, I am wondering if I am crazy.

When I asked him what could have caused the “scarring and inflammation” visible on the brain scan, he stiffened. “I don’t want to scare you before your summer,” he said, “but it could be MS.” Of course, I knew that. I saw MS as a storm in the distance from the beginning. At first I couldn’t face the possibility, but since I saw “r/o MS” in plain letters on the script ordering the first MRI, I’ve come out of hiding and started riding out to meet it. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what I suspect this alien companion of mine is.

So my neurologist is sending me for physical therapy this summer. No lumbar puncture at this time since my visual evoked potentials were clear. He is conservative in this regard, and this is one kind of conservatism I like. In the first week of September, he is sending me back for a second MRI looking specifically for changes suggesting MS, with and without contrast dye. I agree with this plan, mainly perhaps because it doesn’t involve a spinal tap. That’s where I stand now.

I don’t mean to dramatize my personal story. The important thing is this: whether this storm ends up skirting me or hitting me dead on, I’m learning things about myself as I ride out to meet it. Time and time again I’ve seen that a beautiful strength emerges when you take up the hero’s mantle in your mind’s eye and face a fear that has long been undermining you insidiously. You are bringing light to the darkness. In your own way, I think, you become a pioneer of light in the universe.

Namaste.

Long Time Gone

TemperanceLayoff day was surreal.  Our managers told us the day before to be onsite because there would be “communications.”  So we all came in and waited and waited and waited.  We were having a hard time concentrating on work, so we cracked jokes among ourselves in the spirit of gallows humor.  The new “open concept” workstations they have us in now made the waiting a group activity for better or worse.

After lunch they began summoning some of us one by one to the HR Conference Room.  That was the sign you were in trouble – your phone ringing and the words “HR Conference Room” showing on your phone’s caller ID panel.  Sad to work for a company for 10-15 years or more with a good record and then have it end with that phone call.

A woman who sits across from me was one those who got the call.  She’s a single woman in her mid 50s.  She has a mortgage she’s paying by herself.  I know because she had previously told me that she’s been having anxiety attacks about how she’s going to pay her mortgage if she gets laid off.

Hanging up from the call, she announced: “I’ve been summoned.” When she came back from the conference room, she had a maroon folder which she waved at us to indicate she had been laid off.  Then she sat down, put her head on her desk and cried.

After they were done summoning people, giving them maroon folders and sending them home, the director called the rest of us into another conference room to give us the official word on what had happened and to brace us to fill the workflow gaps left by the cuts.  Someone asked if they were done cutting for the foreseeable future or if this was just a temporary reprieve.  He responded that he could only say that they have no plans at this time to cut more people.

“But this is it for 2010, right?” someone said.

The director shook his head and repeated: “I can only say that there are no plans for more cuts at this time.”

He couldn’t even promise a group of ten employees that there would be no further cuts among them for the next five months.  How can so-called middle class Americans live with this kind of ongoing instability?  (I say “so-called” because I think ‘middle class’ is a bogus concept that was used to hoodwink most Americans into thinking that they’re not working class . . . and ultimately it helped to defeat the union movement, much to our detriment.)

More to the point, how can Americans make big life decisions, buy homes, save for retirement and do the things that are supposed to make them middle class — the very same things that fuel the economy?  Clearly the middle class American lifestyle is no longer sustainable.  It’s already an empty shell, but sadly people are still saddled with their middle class mortgages and bills.

And the 50-something-year-old single woman with a mortgage who was laid off — I wish her the best and hate to ask the question, but how likely is it that she’ll get another job of comparable pay and benefits?  The job market is shriveling.  Any job that isn’t nailed down has gone or is going overseas.

For now, my situation is different from hers.  I am married and my husband has a union job with no-layoff clause in his contract.  So I went into work that day with a different mindset.  I was wearing my Thoreau necklace – a silver pendant engraved with the quote: Live the life you have imagined.   I was mentally ready to take the crisis I was dealt and make it an opportunity to live more authentically.

But I did not get laid off.

In the days that have followed, it has become clear that my crisis is indeed at hand, but it’s of another type.  Not the job crisis I was consciously prepared for, but a darker, more fundamental and – for me, at least – scarier one that has been rustling under the surface for a long time now.  On some level I’ve known forever that it would eventually come to head if I continued on the Path.  But when I commenced formal study in the Mysteries over a year ago, I declared:  “I will move forward on the Path, come what may.”  I meant it then, and I mean it now.

So the task for me now is to stand by the vow I made regarding the potential layoff: to face the darkness and redeem it . . . to take the crisis and make it an opportunity to temper and equilibrate my personality and live in a more aligned, authentic manner.

That’s all I’ll say for now.  Sorry for vague personal posting.  I grapple with what I should or should not be posting here.  I don’t want to post fact-laden essays about what’s going on in the world because others do that well.  On the other hand, I don’t want to post narcissistic rambling.  But after all, the blog is called Climbing toward the Light.  Should I not be sharing my journey?  I will try to find a constructive way to share it.  And I will try to do it in my true voice instead of the stilted weirdness that often comes over me here.

Namaste

Outer Work & Inner Peace

“It has taken years to come to this place in time and space.  Your personality is resisting.  However, your Soul brought you here.”


We got the announcement this week at work – the one where the manager nervously calls everyone into his office and gulps before launching into a rehearsed spiel about the layoffs being made in other groups as we speak (QA virtually wiped out) and about how now the consultants are turning their attention to our group for “reorg” and consolidation — and there WILL be “job impacts” among us in the next 30 days.

No numbers at this time.  Might as well be a number and names drawn from a hat because that’s how firmly based in reality these decisions are.  That’s how much the people making them know.

We co-workers looked at each other in silence.  Although we have been through round after round of company layoffs over the last few years, this was the first time our small group heard the announcement directed at us in particular.  Up until now, the impact on us has been friends lost and crazier working conditions because key people in sister groups were let go and their work was outsourced to offshore vendors who have no clue about our products and customers.

Now it is our turn on the block.

We have been working together for years now.  The core group of us has been together in one capacity or another for over ten years.  We have been through a lot of changes in the company and seen many CEOs and top executives come and go.  This one now – the one who brought in the current crew of consultants to radically “reorg” us yet again – he has been with the company for a few months.  He has very little understanding of the actual business.  He specializes in coming into a company, ‘shaking things up’ and leaving.  He specializes in not dealing with consequences.

He is a former jock and has the blithe unblinking confidence of a dolt.  He sends us a lot of email communiqués using acronyms we never heard of to describe our organization.  He has the facilities guys busy putting up posters and distributing desk drops with slogans and goals that are hard to decipher because of all the unfamiliar acronyms.  He expects us to attend forced social events involving football jerseys and fake beer.  This while the work piles up on our desks because they’ve already laid off too many people for there to be time to spare.

The current CEO was brought in after the previous CEO was let go.  The old one was let go by the next bigger CEO in our company’s convoluted global structure, which is like a contraption Dr. Seuss might have dreamed up in a nightmare.  There is at least one other CEO above the bigger CEO’s head, not counting any of the sideways CEOs and assorted bigwigs with “dotted line” authority over us.

The old local CEO was smarter than this one, but he was meaner.  He liked to summon us randomly by personal invitation to attend lunch with him in small groups.  You were not allowed to decline and woe to those who showed late.  At these lunches, after staring us down for a while to stir up anxiety, he would pontificate about his grand plan for the company, quiz us on matters we did not have access to and then tell us testily that if we wanted to keep our jobs we had better jump to attention and take ownership.

Not literally, of course.  Just work AS IF we had ownership.  AS IF we were making millions like him.

He lasted a little over a year.  He had his own crazy acronyms, posters and desk drops.  All went into the dumpster when the new guy came.

So we – long-time co-workers and in most cases friends – looked at each other in silence while our manager nervously delivered this speech.  There was a curl of a smirk on more than one of our faces.

Not because we don’t need our paychecks and medical coverage.  We do.  Not because we feel invulnerable to the axe.  We don’t.  Just because of the sheer absurdity of our company, the global economy and the leaders of all of the above.

The day had started out with a thought-provoking weekly horoscope from Risa D’Angeles at Night Light News.  She is a fellow Pisces and her esoteric horoscopes are uncanny.  The last line of the current one is quoted at the start of this post.  I was mulling it over at my desk while I worked that morning.

It has taken years to come to this place?

I didn’t feel I was any place yet.  I was feeling more or less like I always feel – like I am trying to get to that place.

So, yes, my personality was resisting.

All my life I’ve longed to do meaningful creative work that serves humanity, in alignment with what I feel within.  This desire has translated into me on a perpetual quest to earn my Right Livelihood.  For a number of reasons too complicated to go into here, what I have done instead is back myself into the corner of a crappy job in a crappy company, so that most of my time is engaged in empty work that is beneath my abilities.

Meanwhile, the contradictions in the world are coming to a head, and we seem to be arriving at a crossroads.  The hour seems to call for heroic works to realize the Brotherhood of Man – not soulless busy work to enrich The Man.

This contradiction has been bothering me for a long time.  But as the morning wore on, I was thinking that I’ve had it backwards by focusing on my outer work as a precondition to my inner peace.

Maybe the most heroic thing any of us can do is to take up the reins of our lives wherever we are now and set out to master ourselves from the inside out – without feeling ground down by external conditions, without feeling like we’re on an amusement park ride that is not amusing.  Maybe the most heroic thing we can do is to go within, face the darkness and redeem it.  If enough of us do it, we redeem the world.

I can’t say I’m not afraid of losing my job within the next few weeks, but I can see it’s time to face this monster head on.

*      *       *

P.S. I have haven’t been posting because I am studying and, to a lesser degree, working on a novel, but for what it’s worth, I do want to clean up this blog and make it a place for emerging thoughts.  Just not exactly sure of the shape of it yet…I hope to get rolling soon.

If anyone reading this is also facing a layoff or is already out of a job, I wish you the strength and vision you need to face this crisis and turn it into an opportunity to become more true to who you are.

Namaste

7/3/10 UPDATE: After tiptoeing through the month of June, we were told there’s been a delay and now we won’t hear until “mid July” by one account, “after the holiday” by another. We all wish they would just get it over with. If they lay me off, I will use it as an opportunity…part of me hopes they do.

Attention in the Age of ADD

MagicianThere is so much noise now.  Many people seem to be taking it for granted – or more likely embracing it, going around with the cell phone glued to the side of their head and playing movies in their cars.  Blackberries, iPhones, Game Boys, even my beloved iPod – these are not the tools of BE HERE NOW.  Instead, their mantra is BE EVERYWHERE AT ONCE.  Without a trace of irony.

The teenaged daughter of a good friend was texting her way through a hike in the woods and literally walked off a cliff.  Thankfully, she tumbled less than twenty feet down to the next ledge.  It would have been around seventy feet more if she had gone all the way over.  As it was, she survived without major injury.

All this noise around us – our lives are built on distraction – just at a time when the contradictions in the world are coming to a head.  Perhaps a time when attention is more important than ever before. 

The wheels have come off the global economy.  Our news is all hype.  Our culture is in a freefall of decay, catering to lowest common denominators and worst impulses.  A storm looms ahead, and we seem to be barreling straight into it, too busy with all our multitasking, twittering and frittering to look up from our various handheld devices – metaphorical and literal – and step mindfully.

Honestly, I can’t take the noise for granted because it is overwhelming to me.  I can easily lose myself in it and float rudderlessly out to sea.

So in the midst of the din, I find myself returning, after years of exile, to memories from early childhood.  They are my most vivid memories – before the trauma, before the socialization, before the build up of desensitizing sludge. 

I perceived small things with such clarity back then.  The crackling of ice-cloaked walnut trees swaying in a biting wind.  Crocuses poking through the snow in the rock garden outside the kitchen door around my birthday.  The fragrant bed of long soft needles under the bows in the enchanted pine grove beyond the fields.  The velvet brown ooze of the river bottom, with minnows darting from my feet.  The orange glow of the late afternoon sun flooding the kitchen before dinner.

I find myself returning to these memories for their innocence.  Their delicate focus and understated beauty.  Their quiet perfection.  No noise to spoil them.  No worries or impending deadlines to take them away.

They are perfect imprints. 

I am trying to reconnect with the mindset that created them.  That mindset opens a quiet, clear space within.

Attention is one of our most important faculties.  We forfeit our creative power when our attention is diluted or handed over to external sources in exchange for shallow entertainment.  We need to stop being restless adolescents forever in search of diversion.  We need to take up this powerful faculty and direct it with conscious intent. 

Namaste

Book of Tokens

I was wandering around in a metaphysical shop back in the mid-90s.  I wanted to browse, but my Marxist boyfriend was with me and I felt obliged to sort of explain myself and translate in the hope that maybe my secret passion for the esoteric wouldn’t seem like deluded idealism.  Suddenly there was a small figure blocking our path and looking at us rather severely.  She reminded me of Wednesday Adams, but in her early twenties, clad in jeans and a drab t-shirt.

 “What are you looking for?”

 It was not so much an offer of help.  More like a curt request: Tell me what you want.

I didn’t know what to say.  Honestly, I was there to browse.  I was a seeker just starting to seek – and I was embarrassed about it, especially with my Marxist boyfriend standing there.  But I had been experimenting with the Tarot for around two years by then.  I had a Rider-Waite deck, a pop interpretation book, a feminist explication book and a desire to learn more.  So I told her I was looking for a book on the Tarot.  She disappeared without a word.  Relieved that she was gone, I went back to browsing while trying to explain myself (quietly) to my inner materialist critic, whom I was projecting outward on my Marxist boyfriend.  I was ambivalence in action.

Suddenly she appeared again looking severe as before.  She didn’t say anything – she just held out a little book.  I took it from her and she hurried off.  I was at a loss.  I wanted to explore and pick out something on my own.  I didn’t want her help to begin with.  And looking over the little book, I could see right away that it was something I would not have selected.  It was strange.  It seemed she had brought it out of the back room where it had been absorbing incense smoke for years, judging from its heavy scent.  I thought about ditching it on the shelves I was browsing – I had my eye on another book – something bigger and glossy, but then I saw the glossy book from her perspective and knew it was cheesy.  I suspected that Wednesday Adams was issuing me a challenge to move beyond fluff in my seeking.

So I bought the strange little Tarot book.  I took it home with me and tried to find my way in.  The heavy scent intrigued me.  But no, it just wasn’t what I wanted.  There wasn’t any direct instruction.  It consisted mainly of short poems and illustrations of cards that were slightly different from the ones I was used to.   There was Biblical-sounding verse and “O Israel” exhortations.  It seemed way too much like prayer and religion for me, half-Marxist that I was. 

I stopped experimenting with the cards and put the strange little book aside.  But I did not get rid of it.  It survived numerous painful book purges when I moved from apartment to apartment and eventually to my own house. 

The book was The Book of Tokens, by Paul Foster Case.  In more recent years, it came in handy when I was reading essays that referred Major Arcana images as they appear in the BOTA deck.  It wasn’t until last year that I read Paul Foster Case’s more directly instructional The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages and finally understood the point of the strange little book I’ve had sitting on my shelf for the last fifteen years.

Of course, the Tarot cannot be explicated in mere prose.  The cards are to be meditated upon for their symbolism speaks fluently to the subconscious mind.  And through the subconscious they can help bring us into conscious communication with superconsciousness. 

So after all those years of sitting mostly unused on my shelf, the strange little book is now picked up and pored over every day.  I was taking it for granted that it was always there waiting for me until I was ready.  Lately, though, I’ve been musing on the odd way it ‘fell into my hands.’  Why did Wednesday Adams thrust this particular book on me?  If she was bent on directing me to something by Paul Foster Case, why not hand me the more accessible A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages? 

Whatever her reason, I appreciate the result.  So thank you, dear Wednesday.  The metaphysical shop in Belleville is long gone, but its incense-laden scent lingers in the pages of my strange little Tarot book.

These Little Earthquakes

Geo Survey Marker on Champlain SummitLast night I was getting ready for bed when I heard a loud boom and then the whole house shook.  My first thought was that there had been an explosion out on the street so I rushed to look out the front door.  There was nothing but snow falling quietly in the dark outside.  My next thought was that a tree had fallen on my house from behind, but no, the backyard was quiet as well.  I didn’t find out until this morning that it was a 3.0 earthquake and we were basically in the epicenter.

 Now, a 3.0 earthquake is nothing in the scheme of things, and indeed there were no damages.  But this is Morris County NJ and a significant earthquake here is sort of like a snowfall in Florida.  It does happen but it’s not common and people tend to make a big deal about it.  I personally have never experienced it before.

I’ve been keeping an eye on earthquake activity in the world, especially since my trip to Bar Harbor this past September when I was surprised to learn that there had been an earthquake there in 2006.  We have taken several vacations in Bar Harbor during the Autumnal Equinox.  On such a trip in 2004, at the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, I had what I believe was a spontaneous heart chakra opening.  Our trip this Equinox was our first time back since then.  This time we found the East Face Champlain trail closed and a notice saying it was damaged in an earthquake in 2006.

Significant earthquakes in Maine are about like earthquakes in New Jersey.  They do happen but they’re not common.

As I wrote in Right Place Revisited, the land at Acadia National Park felt different to me this September, even before I knew about the earthquake.  The energy was still there, but something seemed off and metaphors for upheaval abounded.  I did a little googling upon my return and learned that it wasn’t just one earthquake but a series of earthquakes that shook the park in 2006.  The first occurred on the Autumnal Equinox.  If we had taken a vacation that year, chances are we would have been there for it.

All of the quakes were minor.  The first was 3.4 and over the next 11 days there were some aftershocks, a 2.5 and a 3.9 (summarized by USGS here).  There was a pause and then one more on December 20th.  Apparently, the damages occurred in the 3.9 quake.  (A NPS slideshow showing some damages to the trails and Park Loop Road can be found here.)

Anyway, Acadia was as beautiful as ever this September, and we had a great time.  Still I came back with a nagging feeling.  It was like the 2004 experience had been the grand banquet at the Grail Castle, and this fall was waking up the morning after and finding the guests gone and the Castle empty.  I felt like Parzival — had I failed to ask the question?

Vague ideas about this have been itching at the back of my mind.  Last night’s earthquake, centered practically on my front lawn, prodded me into writing about it.  To what end, I don’t know, but somehow these events seem meaningful to me.  And as Acadia’s earthquakes opened on the Autumnal Equinox, last night’s earthquake here at home coincided with Imbolc.  This, too, seems meaningful and appropriate.  Something is ‘in the belly.’  

Right Place Revisited

right-place-revisited.JPGI returned to the heart-shaped island in the western North Atlantic.  I climbed a mountain and listened.  In the golden light of the Equinox sun, with a chorus of crickets and chickadees around me, I called out to my higher self.  I affirmed my intention – to evolve and, in so doing, do whatever I can to help carry the evolutionary tide forward.  My will is thy will, I said.

I then descended steeply into the underworld between two mountains where I passed through a tunnel formed by twin slabs of giant stone.  There an orb of light greeted me, though I didn’t know it until afterward when I saw the picture I had taken. 

Having passed through the tunnel, I climbed steeply back up the mountain – a different mountain in 3D but it doesn’t really matter.  At its summit, once again on the bare pink and green granite, bathed in the golden light with brilliant blue for miles around, I affirmed my intention and listened. 

Nothing specific.  Nothing immediate.  Just a subtle release of fear and a resulting clarity inside.  One step after another.  Mindful.  Unhurried.  The path stretches long ahead. 

The trails were mostly empty.  I had the thought that another 911 could have happened hours ago and all hell could be breaking loose in the world.  But on the mountain that world was far away.  Our world was the perfect serenity of granite, pitch pines, wild blueberry bushes and cricket song awash in the golden angles of the September sun, with ocean and sky spread endlessly on all sides.

champlainsummit.JPG

Et in A(r)cadia ego

Back at sea level, I traveled through the woods to the sacred boulder.  Fallen trees lay everywhere. I passed through the grassy channel where I saw the bear crossing our path four years ago.  A few steps later there was fresh bear scat.  Very fresh. 

Bear is my guide.  He sits on my right shoulder.  Nevertheless, I could not overcome the fear of meeting him in the flesh.  I took out my keys and jangled them.

We pressed forward and his scat was everywhere.  So distracted by fear this time, I missed the boulder on the first pass and we had to double back.  When we found the boulder, I was dismayed to find more bear scat its base.  My husband climbed on top of the boulder to meditate, but I could not relax enough to trust myself to attempt the climb.  Still jangling the keys, I meditated on a ledge at the bottom.  I found a chrysalis there which I refrained from touching out of respect.

Despite my fear, I managed to enter that rich dark matrix where Wolfie, the spirit of the boulder, resides.  Just for a few moments, though.  For four years now, I have been eager to return to sit with him again.  Thinking that I’ve grown since the last time, I loaded the moment up with hope and expectation.  Unfortunately my fear of the bear muffled all of that.  I was still jangling my keys after all.  But I did sense him – Wolfie, that is.  I also asked him to help me heal my relationship with work so that I can earn my Right Livelihood and work in alignment with my higher self and the evolution of the planet.   This request might seem silly, especially now, but what can I say?  We each bear a cross — my woundedness in relation to work has been mine.

That night I had a mundane dream that was interesting for being a new spin on an old recurring theme.  Usually I find myself in class on the last day and there is a final exam being handed out or a seminar paper due and I’ve done nothing – I haven’t even been attending class because I didn’t know I was enrolled.  My usual response is a frantic scramble to pull out a good grade at the last minute.  This time I decided not to bother taking the final.  I knew the class wasn’t meaningful to me and I shouldn’t waste any time on it.  I also knew that people would say that I “failed out” but that didn’t matter because I had to stay true to what I felt was important. 

The next night I dreamt that I was at a conference in a building that was a cross between a school and a workplace (the two are often conflated in my dreams).  Outside on the road there were fanatical nationalists waving the American flag and throwing firecrackers at passing cars.  Someone threw a lit firecracker at me as I walked by.  I threw it back and they called me a terrorist.  I tried to argue – next thing I knew I was inside the conference and embroiled in some drama I don’t remember.

In the hall on my way to the next conference event, I saw a dark-haired guy with an infinity symbol on his t-shirt.  I told him I liked it.  Then I saw “2012” spray painted in silver on a whiteboard nearby.  I commented on it to those around me, but no one knew what it was. 

Later I saw the dark-haired guy in a silver leotard outfit with the infinity symbol on the chest.  He was with a crew of people dressed just like him.  They were all gathering underneath a strange room.  The room was actually on the floor above us but it had no floor so we could look up into it.  All four walls were spray painted silver in countless rows of alternating infinity symbols and 2012s.

Suddenly the silver leotard group was gone. 

“Aren’t you going, too?” someone asked me.  I responded that I would like to but I didn’t have a silver leotard outfit like theirs.  A voice told me that didn’t matter.  It was my choice and here was the moment I’ve been waiting for.

And so I went to the silver room, which was some kind of gateway.  The dream dissolved as I was transported.

Both of these dreams were about freeing myself from the bonds of external expectations (good grades) and prerequisites (silver leotard) and choosing my next step based solely on my own internal compass. 

The next night I arose from a deep sleep in the wee hours and looked out the east-facing balcony of our motel room.  The night sky was bright and overwhelming.  It confused me at first, then I realized that it was the Big Dipper emblazoned over the ocean looking giant and surreal.  I went to the room’s lone window, which looked southward, and saw Orion framed perfectly over the mountains and lit up the same way.  Don’t know what it means if anything other than the fact that I am so accustomed to light pollution that I am stunned when I see the constellations unobstructed by haze.  Somehow, though, it felt meaningful.

*   *   *

Bear made his presence known — so did Falcon.  Falcon was everywhere in the flesh.  Once I saw him catching prey in midair.  Sad for the prey, but it did communicate that now is time for seizing the moment.

 

Earth Activation

upheaval.JPGEvery time I visit Acadia, the trails present me with a coherent theme in imagery.  Last time it was splits.  Split trees, split rocks — all kinds of splits were underscored with a synchronistic glow.  The lesson I took away was that there was a split within me and I needed to align my will with my heart.

This time the imagery was about upheaval.  Uprooted trees were a frequent sight – much more so than in the past – some were bearing the bright blue paint of a trail marker.  The path itself was eroded in spots, certainly not everywhere but again more so than in the past.  The East Face Champlain Trail was completely closed due to damage and subsequent rock falls stemming from an earthquake that occurred in October of 2006.

Please don’t misunderstand.  Acadia National Park is a treasure.  It has not fallen into disrepair.  It is amazing in its natural beauty, and its many trails are lovingly kept by brigades of people who are passionate about the place.  I would gladly live there if I could.  What I mean to say is simply that the trails presented metaphors for upheaval to my eye this September.

As I’ve written before, I feel I was activated by this place and have or had some kind of connection to it.  In past years, I’ve seen familiar faces on the trails – others who kept returning and had a glow about them when they were here.  This time I saw no faces familiar from previous years.  It seemed like the activation party was over, the guests were gone and now the host was alone and possibly in need of assistance.  For all my meditations on the mountaintops and at the base of the sacred boulder, maybe I really should have done only one thing and that is ask the question: Dear friend, what ails you?

Toward sunset on the last day, we drove up Cadillac Mountain to say goodbye to the island, just as we did four years ago.  We haven’t hiked up Cadillac in a long time – mainly because it can be a let down to spend hours climbing up a mountain and then be greeted at the top by tour buses and a gift shop.  (Cadillac is the only drive-up mountain on Mount Desert Island.)  Nevertheless, this was where I experienced what I believe was a heart chakra opening last time.  It seemed that Cadillac Mountain was a powerfully active volcano, but instead of lava, it was spewing energy of a high vibration.  For those keyed to it, being in range of its energetic broadcast was a blast to the chakras.  That was my theory, anyway.

This time I got out of the car with some concern that the mountain would be quiet – that it was stressed and wouldn’t have the same power.  But ultimately, at the top of Cadillac, the energy was there.  It was somewhat subdued from last time, but it was still pulsing bigger than all of us.  Bigger than the upheaval at hand.  Bigger than the mountain, the sky and the surrounding ocean.  Maybe bigger than the Earth itself.

 

Mere Anarchy

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…
– W. B. Yeats, The Second Coming

But the center had no integrity.  Built on illusion and delusion, the tower must fall.  All of this has happened before.  What do we do now?  Do we choose the path of FEAR?  Do we try to cling to the failing order?  Do we hoard and stash and hunker down?  Do we feed on fearful rumors and panic at possibilities?  Do we retreat into old patterns in the face of the shift of the ages?

Or do we release the old structures and embrace the shift with open hearts and minds?  Do we start building the communities of the future today?   There is a huge difference between building bunkers and building sustainable communities for a changing world.

Consider the following insight from Neil Kramer’s latest post on the Shift:

The only real preparation is spiritual preparation. Psychological and emotional balance, together with a real, deep connectedness with oneself and the natural world has never been so important. Be who you really are. Dissolve inauthentic behaviours and attitudes. Allow the universe into you. The chrysalis that we thought was the whole world, is beginning to crack open…. 

Greater dimensions of being await. Observe non-attachment. Do not cling to anything, and there shall be no suffering. Easier said than done, some may say, but take the first step. Know in your heart that all is one. Feel the impermanence of all things. Know the indestructibility of your soul. We have chosen to be here now, in this time of revelation, unveiling and transformation. Stand at the centre. You are the change.      

And let it be so.

Namaste.

Ides of September (Sort of)

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Since I had a dream months ago that pointed to September 15th as a day of death, I approached this day with some caution.  I have been grappling with my darkness lately.  Interesting that despite the progress I’ve made in recent months, I feel darker than I did a year ago, darker still than I did the year before that.  I am not sure what I mean by this.  But I do know that I am experiencing my Saturn half return, and the full moon today is conjunct to my natal sun. 

I previously posted about feeling that I had finally unlocked the gate.  I think this is what Charles Eisenstein described as “a glimpse” in his essay on the seven stages of the spiritual journey (“Invisible Paths”).  He writes:

“This state does not last very long: sometimes just minutes, sometimes days, rarely for weeks. It disappears faster the more you try to hold on to it, and once it is gone it will not come back by trying to replicate the circumstances through which it came before. You might slip back into doubt and despair, you might live a while longer in the old world, but there is a huge difference now. After having had this glimpse, you now know that a more beautiful world and a more beautiful life is possible.”

Now I stand on the inside of threshold, and for the time being at least, I am overwhelmed by the lands before me.  There is a maze of traditions and schools – which route to take? 

Meanwhile, the outer world seems to be crumbling.  Everyday the state of affairs in the U.S. reaches a new level of absurdity.  Last week, someone I know dreamt that chaos had broken out and UFOs were hovering overhead and picking people off.  Everyone was panicking, but he said “I know the answer!”  Then he took out his credit cards and money, cut them up and threw them away. 

Fear and clinging to the old order are the last things we need.

But yesterday I looked at the “work” category of this blog and realized that, on the subject of my job, I sound like a broken record player on a downward spiral.  I apologize.  Clearly I need to resolve this contradiction.

The good news is that I am going on a return pilgrimage to Mount Desert Island, Maine.  The last time I was there – four years ago – I had an experience that I believe was a heart chakra opening (recounted here).  I return now in a different space.  Then it was just a beginning.  It was an ungrounded opening.  I believe I have grown and achieved some grounding in the years since. 

Now I need to be quiet with myself and the mountain to see how to carry this forward and bring the swirl inside me into being.  I am eager to listen to whatever the mountain has to say.

I will write more coherently from the trails.

Namaste.

 

Labor Day Musings on My Alienated Labor

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So it’s Labor Day weekend here in the U.S.  Labor Day, of course, is the holiday that was invented to divert the American working class from celebrating May Day with the rest of the world.  Instead of joining in international class solidarity and remembering those who gave their lives in the struggle for basic things like the eight-hour day, we Americans go shopping, lie on the beach and eat mad cow burgers at barbecues.  It’s a big party weekend signifying the end of the summer – and one fleeting workday off from the misery of our jobs.

Right now the biggest obstacle I’m facing on my spiritual journey is my job.  I dread it.  I feel chained and trapped by it – it is feeding on me and dragging me down. 

I won’t belabor why my job sucks.  I will say only that it is as if I am a flute desiring nothing but to play my tune.  But my job uses me as if I am a can opener.  Dump trucks piled high with cans are unloaded in my cube each day and I am expected to have them all opened in a couple hours.  Then I am expected to write reports about how many cans I opened, how many cans I farmed out to the Philippines to open, what categories of cans were opened, how many cans are left to open in each category, what is the rate of all the opening, what is the rate of the reporting on the opening, how many cans do I expect to come in for opening in the future.  In between, I am responding to complaints about the contents of the cans. 

To top off the absurdity, no one wants the cans – open or closed.  The customers are demanding about them because they are paying my company a premium for its services.  But they don’t really want the cans.  They serve no useful purpose in the world. 

Just as using a flute as a can opener day in day out would be damaging to the flute, my job is damaging to me.

When I was a manager, I took work home literally and figuratively.  It took up residence in my head and pushed me out of my life.  Now that I have a scaled down job, I no longer take work home.  I think I am leaving it behind at the end of the workday, but I wake up in the night after a couple hours of sleep to find that my mind is caught in a loop of worry over what I have to do at work.  This is now happening six out of seven days a week.  My only night off is Friday.

So here I am back to square one.  I left my managerial job to reclaim my life.  I got a scaled down job thinking I could keep it in bounds.  For a while it worked, but now it, too, is growing like a weed throughout my mind, choking out my own plantings. 

Some people tell me I should not think twice about work – I should just come in, do what I can without stressing and, if it’s not enough, let management worry about it.  These shoulds join the other shoulds in my head.  The ones from childhood that tell me I should be a good worker and always meet or exceed expectations (even if wildly unreasonable).  All this shoulding gangs up on me, telling me there is something wrong with the way I am and how I feel.

A part of me feels like a failure for not being able to keep my day job in its place, but another part of me will not relent: I am NOT a can opener!  I refuse to spend most of my time and energy opening cans that no one wants or needs.  I don’t want to separate myself from my work.  I want to play my song.  I want my work to be a true expression of me and what I came here to do.  I want to work in alignment with my higher self and the evolution of the planet.

And maybe this is not a matter of dreamy escapist me being unable to settle down and get along in the world.  Maybe this is the truer part of me pushing onward and outward into manifestation.  And maybe if enough of us manage to manifest our truer parts, we will be the change we want to see in the world in sufficient numbers to change the world.  

I’ve been thinking about Kingsley Dennis’s comment on my last post.  He quoted the Persian poet Saadi:  “If you wish to find the Truth, dive into the ocean. But if you prefer security, stay upon the shore.”  Maybe I am trying to dive into the ocean while keeping a toe on the shore with a corporate ‘day job.’  An obvious contradiction – hence my discomfort in the pose.  Something has got to give.  I have to let go.  Somehow.

Handful of Sand & A Barrelful of Water

handfulofsand.JPGLucidity in a dream can be like a handful of sand. You have it – you’re looking right at it, but even while you do, it’s sifting through your fingers. When your hand is empty, you don’t realize it. You’ve forgotten what you were holding.  You’re submerged in the drama of the dream. 

Life on this plane is like a dream.Spiritual awareness is like lucidity. The handful of sand phenomenon applies.

To make matters worse, we are buffeted on all sides by a cacophony that would drown out our inner voices and by strong waves that would pull us back down into the dream.

It is challenging to hold onto that sand. 

In three of the podcasts I recommended last time, Christopher Moors talks about the need to first withdraw and observe your patterns without acting on them. Start where you are, he says, quiet the mind and observe without reaction. When the drama surges, let it pass by. 

I have been consciously trying to master my emotional reactions for years now with only limited success. I am a person with a whole lot of water going on. I have a big barrelful and I easily slosh over the top.I think a big problem was that I’ve been consciously trying. You cannot consciously master unconscious processes. You need to deal with the unconscious directly – in its own language. 

Listening to Moors talk about “letting it pass by,” an image came to me wherein I was sitting calmly on a bank at the edge of a wood watching a river rush by me. Somehow the image spoke to me on all levels, so I’ve adopted it as sort of a mental talisman.

This is a day-by-day, step-by-step journey. Some days are better than others. Nevertheless, with this image in my mind, I have been much less swept away by my reactions. Progress, not perfection. 

A test came in a family event some weeks ago – an annual event that I always dread because of the negativity that permeates it. My family is a bit oddball, but there is a very conventional couple in my extended family. They are financially well off, politically conservative and — in my view — narrow minded in their aspiration to middle brow American culture. I have nothing in common with them except this extended family connection that forces us to socialize at least once a year. 

The husband is basically good natured, but the wife is arrogant and judgmental. She sits aloof in a closed posture of arch superiority and provides negative commentary throughout the day. She doesn’t approve of me and makes it known with several put downs at each gathering. Since she is my mother’s age and this pattern goes back to when I was a child, her put downs have a powerful effect on my barrelful of water. 

In recent years – mainly since I quit my managerial job – her put downs have focused on my writing – specifically on my lack of what she would call “success” as a writer. She makes it clear she thinks I should stop my silly scribbling and resign myself to the “real world” (i.e. climbing the corporate ladder, owning a big house, raising kids, voting Republican . . .). 

This time my mother, my aunt and I were talking about email behavior when it struck me that “Reply to All” would be a funny name for a satirical novel about the contemporary corporate workplace. Unfortunately, I blurted the thought out, forgetting that my critic was sitting nearby. “And I have an idea for the picture on the cover . . .” I said playfully. It was all supposed to be a joke. My idea for the cover art was going to be the punch line. Maybe it would not have been funny in that setting, but that did not matter because I didn’t get a chance to finish. I had stepped out of line and my critic was already snapping back.

“But you don’t have the content for the book, now do you? There’s where your writer’s block comes in.” She was looking away with a smirk on her face – arms akimbo, one leg crossed over the other. Awkward silence fell around us. 

Does this comment seem mean to you? To my ears in the moment, it was sneering and dripping with contempt. In the past, I would have taken it like a kick to the stomach. I would have felt completely humiliated and worthless. 

This time I saw that wave coming, but I sat on the riverbank and watched it pass by. 

Okay – truth be told, I did muse to myself about how she is going to look eating crow at my book-signing party. BUT this wee bit of a MILD reaction is a HUGE improvement for me, sloshing barrelful of water that I am.

:)  

Um, did I have something in my hand a little while ago?    

Image by my husband, used courtesy of a marriage license