Night Bird Singing

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I awoke in the middle of the night to hear a bird singing somewhere in the marsh near my house. I stood at the window, feeling the moist air of a fog that had rolled in, as if the night found a way to reach into my bedroom. I stood listening for a time. What prompted him to sing, alone with no answering calls? What had awoken him from his midnight slumber? What tale did he have to sing of in all this darkness?

The song was sweet, singular and piercingly clear in the silence. A note that seemed to carry great distances and linger well past its owner’s tongue. It was not plaintive in the least, but rather joyful sounding to my ear.

Something about his singing affected me deeply. I remained at the sill, the mystery of many things floating about me on each call. I could not sing back to him in song, but I felt my spirit reach out, as if I were a fellow bird awake and delighted to hear the voice of my brother amongst the cattails.


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We sleep and for us the world disappears, as if it too, has fallen off to sleep. Yet, we are immersed in a mystery of life that continues to swirl all around us even as our minds drift in a dreamy state. There are two worlds, one night and one day. Each a vessel for some part of us. One conscious and possibly more concrete, the other subconscious with edges that are more than a little vague.

His call comes, feeling slightly closer now and I wonder again what had awaken him? Was it his birdsong that had awaken me, or had some other mystery drawn me out of my slumber and to the windowsill? Or are he and I tethered together in a midnight mystery we are sharing in, rather than I merely witnessing in these dark hours?


Many poets speak to this mystical hour. Rumi compelled us to rise and embrace what such calls before the dawn have to give us. There is mystery afoot in this gentle breeze that moves the fog past my window. Love and light, it seems, in each call of my night bird. Maybe this is what touches us so deeply about McCarthy’s lyrics to Blackbird:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

I awoke in the middle of the night to hear a bird singing somewhere in the marsh near my house. Joyfully, I arose and have not slept again since.

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Eye of the Hurricane

image Image taken from:

Today, I send into your meditation the Eye of the Hurricane. Sitting quietly, breathing slowly, muscles relaxed, we are the Eye of the Hurricane. Quiet, peaceful, while all around us realities we live in every day spin wildly, madly, and with great velocity. In this space we observe, witness and become a presence to our mind’s creations. We may see the storm raging around us, a flurry of thoughts and emotion, while we rest in the center of the mind’s movement.

The Eye of the Hurricane has no resistance. No pushing or pulling. No stories, no demands. Silence. The perfect description of nothingness and yet is it? It is not as ephemeral as we think. It’s got a kind of solidity to it. We feel it, not just with our hearts, but in our bellies, spine, muscles, breath. We know it as we know the metronome’s point when it stops ticking to and fro and comes to rest at center.

We may see this space as inactive, passive, the pause after raging winds or the calm before the next onslaught, as though the mind is where action lives and the Eye the absence of action. Yet feel the physicality of this space within your body, does it truly feel inert to you or a place of absence?

Might you feel a pulsation? An energy burning steadily as midnight oil to a flame. This is no escape from a storm, but rather the powerful hub from which all our lives extend outwards. A center that remains grounded to this Earth and our life, always present and unaffected by the storms raging around it, yet always there in the middle of things. It is neither passive nor active. It is something that transcends these human patterns. The Eye simply IS. It’s IS’ness is substantive, even as it has no substance at all.

Here in the Eye, we can see our machinations without prejudice or judgment. Our manipulations, self-deceits, control games, our fears, our hiding techniques, our resistances and refusals, our longings and hungers, our circus performing to gain love. In the Eye of the Hurricane we sit in an atmospheric silence that is as full as it is empty and bear witness to our habits in relating. Here we are free to really look into ourselves. To know ourselves without being consumed by shame or guilt for what we see. To detach enough to allow choices to rise and change to manifest within us.

This silent energy is for our growth. Into this space we step and see how to detach from the mayhem that we might see more of what we are doing, how we are feeling, the ways we are reacting to life. The Eye can show us how deaf, dumb and blind we are that we might learn to hear, speak and see greater truth. We want this awareness. It’s how we grow in love, by coming to see where we are forgetting that we are love.

Come to feel how it is a space where fear can be seen, but not heard. Pain can be witnessed but not born. Shame can be understood and laid down. In the Eye of the Hurricane we return to the essence of us, unscathed by lightning and flash flooding. We are rejuvenated and revitalized.

We are in many ways rechargeable batteries. Going out into the world, using up our power cells, to return to meditation and sleep to be recharged and renewed to go out into the world again. We aren’t meant to live all of our life in the Eye of the Hurricane, of course, but the Eye of the Hurricane is meant to live all our lives within us.


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Delicate Balance

Rain Clouds by Philip Neelamegam

Clouds hang low and dark, spun sugar and licorice cotton candy. The sun ghosts on the horizon, little more than a light gray swath sweeping across the horizon. Rain can be seen falling at various points across the city and plains. It seems an ominous mood at dawn.

It’s counterpoint are a handful of purple finches chatting away at the bird feeder and a robin singing for worms. Even in the gloom Spring’s blooms can be seen shining like starlight in the darkness.

There is a wonderful balance between these two states. Rain soaked clouds suppressing all indoors and Springs push upward with life calling all back to their doors.

I feel my breath rise and fall between these two states. Heart beat slow, muscles languid. I neither feel nor hear the clock.  I rest my mind between the delicate balance feeling this curious morning scale as if it rests upon my heart.

How can any of us sleep when such mysteries as storms and new life battle for dominance in these quiet hours?  I surely cannot.

The Egg


Today, I send into your meditation The Egg.

Meditation is a fabulous tool for developing deep intimacy with oneself. It connects us to the movement of feeling within us and our thought patterns that are generating these great rivers of emotion. Meditation practiced routinely can show us the subtle ways we hold tension in our bodies and minds. It can bring us into a keen awareness of our rhythms and energy patterns and how those are playing out in this specific moment — now. It is a beautiful window to how we expend ourselves in life and how we nourish ourselves.

It can also be a tool we use, usually unconsciously, to isolate ourselves.

Relationships with others can be messy affairs. They are perfect mirrors for what we hold onto, believe in, are actively pursuing, and/or hiding in our subconscious. As soon as we begin to interact with others, we are scanning for what is similar and what is different, even if not aware that we’re doing it. In this comparing, areas of low confidence may suddenly arise making us seek to control others or situations. Relationships bring up feelings of vulnerability, exposure and insecurity. They can be places of love and nurturing or competition and struggle.

Certainly, our hearts are never more exposed than when we love. For many on the spiritual path, bumpy relationships are what brought us to the cushion in the first place.

Meditation can be a cozy blanket we wrap ourselves in to hide from that exposure. We get to feeling we know ourselves well, because we are so snug and comfortable in our silence. Alone, everything is peaceful and clear to us. We may struggle with the silence, but we see it as our struggle in a modality that promises an end to that struggle up ahead. There can be a clean edge to meditation for us, whereas human relationships often have undefined territories. To some degree, meditation feels like something that remains under our control. We determine how our meditation practice will play out.

When we enter into relationships with others their perspectives, beliefs, daily noise and beingness begin to affect us. Often, instead of engaging the mirror, which is what relationships offer us, we retreat back into the silence where everything is peaceful and warm. Where no one challenges our inner worlds. We might even tell ourselves the quiet is somehow better or higher in consciousness than the mayhem we may experience all around us. But is it?

It does take bravery to leave our aloneness and step into the seas of human discourse, because as soon as we do we’ll struggle. We’ll see things in ourselves we don’t want to see, nor did we see when we were alone. We’ll feel our views, perspectives, and beliefs being challenged in ways we never saw coming. We will, at times, have to change our way of seeing things, admit wrongs, see limitations and feel the tension of adapting to something new. Yet, there is so much adventure, discovery and growth when we find courage to open our hearts, expose our underbelly, and allow others to step inside our weird, little, mental worlds. To allow that tension of change to unfold within us.

Meditation used wisely can shore up our courage to allow ourselves to be exposed, not in silence, but in the noise of human life. To allow another’s ideas, presence or choices to show us how we love or don’t, how we engage or don’t, how fear holds us back or emboldens us. In relationships we see how we hold things we need to let go of like jealousy, anger, low esteem, fear, or whatever we’ve been dragging around in our personal kitbags of instability.

To connect with any other, we are risking discovering we aren’t who we think we are and that terrifies us. Alone in our quiet, we get to determine who we are. With others, well it’s a bit more like a Picasso painting. Clear and not clear at the same time, but that jockeying around of view points has immense potential for strengthening us and pushing our well of love ever deeper.

It seems counterintuitive, but the crazy, rocket-ride of living a human life is meant to be just that. A ride to show us vistas both outside and within our very souls. Sitting in our homes, alone, quietly, is only one piece of the equation. And should you believe because you are married, work in teams, live with five roommates and so on, that you’ve got this “connection” thing down, be wary. Some of the most alone places on this Earth are in the company of many. Taking a risk with ourselves in relationship with others isn’t merely about physical locale, but about the depth of our heart-risk.

Every living thing benefits from a quiet, supportive, nurturing egg from which to gestate and grow inwardly, but we aren’t meant to live there indefinitely. Every life eventually must crack out of that egg and enter the world or diminish.

image. Art egg carving by

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The Astronomer



Today, I send into your meditation “The Astronomer” by Kahlil Gibran.

In the shadow of the temple my friend and I saw a blind man sitting alone.
And my friend said, “Behold the wisest man of our land.”
Then I left my friend and approached the blind man and greeted him. And we conversed.
After a while I said, “Forgive my question; but since when has thou been blind?”
“From my birth,” he answered.
Said I, “And what path of wisdom followest thou?”
Said he, “I am an astronomer.”
Then he placed his hand upon his breast saying, “I watch all these suns and moons and stars.” Kahlil Gibran


The first time I read “The Prophet” by Gibran I was alone in the apartment of a friend who’d leant me her place in New Orleans, while she returned to Honduras. I had been in a disastrous relationship at the time, that on that very weekend had come to a screeching halt. I had little cash, no wheels and too much pride to admit my folly to any number of people who would’ve gladly helped me.

I found the book, old, well-read, and detailed in gold leaf upon her bookshelf. I felt drawn to it as a butterfly is to a bloom. His words were my companions that long weekend and my undoing from the life I’d known and the first profound steps on a spiritual path that has not left me since.

Though I loved “The Astronomer” the first time I read it I did not, in any meaningful way, understand it deeply within myself for many years. Understand what it means to feel the grace and wonder of my hand laid upon my breast and sore into the heart of me, surrounded by suns and moons and stars. And even as I now find great expanses of time when I revel in such wonderment, I am equally astounded how quickly I forget the mysteries of the outer and inner galaxies I orbit within.


To remedy this I adopted a small practice.

Each morning, when I leave my home for work, I stand outside my garage, whatever the weather and look up at the sky. Snow, clouds, rain, stars, doesn’t matter for though it is the shortest meditation of my day, it is in many ways the most anchoring. I remind myself of how great and vast the firmament is. How precious are the moments before daybreak and how simple a pleasure one final star upon the horizon is. I absorb the quiet watching how it turns my hearing into that of a blind man. So keen to the slightest movements of life in the pre-dawn darkness. I take four to five cleansing breaths from that cool, fresh air that takes no more than a minute. If the moon is present, she always receives a bow and greeting, then I leave my home for work. As I drive, I try to see how long I can carry that sky with me, held within my heart. In what places within me can I hold a falling snow or the great North star? How long can I see the sunrise, deep in reds and oranges through my heart’s eye?

If they slip away, I see if I can call the feeling state of them back to me, rather than merely the visual or mental image of them. Can I remember how it felt to stand there and open myself to the beauty of that moment?


Bird Eagle Snowfall

What does it take to live an intimately spiritual life, as Gibran seems to ever be calling us to? I suppose the answer is no more complicated than that of the blind man, but must be understood not within the mind, but rather with the heart. We must feel our way there. To pull more than the mental memory, but intentionally step back into a state of bliss that lives forever within us. No different really than turning the mind back to the breath to the peace that is always there.

“And what path of wisdom followest thou?”
Said he, “I am an astronomer….I watch all of these suns and moons and stars.”

Possibly this is why I read more poetry than dogma. From the beginning, it’s had a way of bypassing my elaborate and overly analytical mind and allowed me to live within the simplicity of each heart beat. One beat after another… a series of shooting stars.

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Scent of Spring

raingrass Prairie grass with rain water. Photo by Noelle

The scent fills my nostrils the moment I open the front door. A curious mixture of earth, rain and prairie wind. Winter storms in the Rockies have come and gone over the past few weeks, hiding spring’s arrival under wet spring snow. Buds can be seen and crab-apple blossoms, but the distinct scent of the season has remained elusive.

Every season comes with it’s own aroma. Something that enters your body and quickens the blood within the vessels. Consciously or not, we are moved by the shifting elements. Our psyche bends, just as light refracts in water, to the qualities of each new season. We sense just below our conscious mind the new wind of potentials.

Much of humanity’s power lies in our ability to defy the seasons or even the times of day. One hundred years ago we didn’t live as we do now. Out in subzero temperatures while remaining toasty warm, up till midnight in well-lit homes, able to move ourselves from point A to point B with little regard for weather or season. There were no fruits or vegetables out of season back then, because no shipping brought us things as they do today. One hundred years ago weather and the coming season factored far more into decisions. Humanity has learned to live outside the constraints of Earth’s cycles and a planet with varying elements. There is great wonder in that.

rainleaf Verbascum Thapus with rain water. Photo by Noelle

Still, there is something, too, to allow oneself to be moved deeply by the shifts of the planet’s axis. Allowing our being to be altered by the new angle of a setting sun. To celebrate and embrace a new constellation of stars in the night sky or the first call of an early Robin from the South. To stand long enough in the open air that the microscopic water that floats all around us begins to collect on our skin.

We are not separate from this Earth’s patterns, because we have developed technology to live outside of those patterns. We have gained heat in winter, air-conditioning in summer, but lost delight in simple things. The first crocus pushing up through wet, winter snow.


Wildflower, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl: Photo by Noelle

I breathe deeply of it and ignore a mind that pays attention to leaving time for work, fully enjoying a gift that will not likely be available again in just this way. The scent of spring in the Rockies: A curious mixture of earth, rain and prairie wind.

A Concrete View

redrocks3 Image by Noelle

Today, I send into your meditation a concrete view. When I was five I learned stars are out all day. Prior to this, I assumed they went home for the day and came out at night like bats. People would say, “The stars are coming out…” To my child’s mind, I assumed that meant they’d been some place else and were now returning. One day, a teacher explained the brightness of the sun overwhelmed the starlight, making it appear as if the stars had disappeared. This seemed a curious magic trick I couldn’t quite figure out.

In the summers, we camped out a lot on the lake I grew up on and the night sky was filled to the brim with stars. My brother told me how a shooting star isn’t really a star but rather a meteor burning up in our atmosphere. I’d always thought they were stars that had died thousands of years earlier and we were just now seeing the last of their light vanishing in the night sky. I liked my idea better and didn’t believe him for many years.

When I was eight, my brothers told me that if you don’t have both bottom and top wisdom teeth, that when they grow in, they’ll keep growing up into your skull and kill you. The perfect story older brothers like to tell. Apparently, I still believed that story when, at the age of twenty three I mentioned it to my dentist when he noted I only had bottom wisdom teeth. My mother was present and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her laugh so hard.

redrocks2 Image by Noelle

In first grade catechism, a nun told us we needed to be prepared to make sacrifices as Jesus had. At the time, at the front of our church was Jesus on the cross with blood dripping off of him. Even to my six year old mind it seemed as if Jesus’s sacrifices hadn’t worked out all that well for him and I wondered why everyone else would want to do that. I was smart enough to keep such observations as this to myself and merely said, “Yes, sister…”

There is not a moment on this earth, while we live human lives, that we aren’t trying to figure stuff out. We are always creating stories with the information we’ve got available. We’re making decisions what information we’ll grab, incorporating it into our world view and what we’ll jettison as poppycock and move on. These habits are easy to see in a child. They have a fairly concrete view of things. If someone says the stars come out, then logically they must have gone in at some point.

However, we’re all doing this, all of the time whether we’re conscious of it or not. Every minute of every day, we’re taking in data and trying to place it in some context we can make sense of or use. A friend is late meeting us and we’ll begin to tell ourselves stories to explain their lateness. They were in a car accident, maybe we had the wrong night for meeting them, or maybe we believe people don’t respect our time and project a sense of rudeness onto their tardiness. As we stand there waiting we are using all of our past experience to explain our now moment, thus not actually being in the now. We are telling ourselves every version we already know of why people are late. To be fully in the present, we’d have to stop explaining to ourselves why we’re standing there alone.

None of our problem solving and sorting has anything to do with this now moment. I already had the shooting star story in my head and when my brother gave me new information, I was weighing it against what I already knew. We think we live in the present moment, but almost none of us do or if we find the present, we linger for brief moments before vanishing back into the past. A bit like stars we can’t find.

redrocks4 Image by Noelle

It takes a great discipline to curb the need to explain what is happening or to staunch the need to file information into some known construct. It’s said the sign of an evolved mind is one where two completely opposing ideas can be held simultaneously by the thinker without rejecting either for need of finding the right one. To do this, you have to be able to suspend this need to explain things or the need to have the right answer. As tools go, there are few as powerful in doing this as meditation. It trains our mind to observe what it’s doing without judging what it’s doing.

The more we learn to detach from the stories and reactions we are in fairly steady states of creating, the more we find ourselves lingering in the present moment. Non-attachment is like a suspension fluid we are floating in that keeps us from using the past to constantly interpret our now with. Non-attachment also allows us to be aware of how we are creating beliefs and make conscious, present decisions as to whether we really want to create them. Meteor burning up in atmosphere (rejected, but true), wisdom teeth taking you out at the age of twenty five (believed, but false).

It’s not an uncommon complaint to hear someone say they weren’t listened to, by say a friend, a boss or a spouse. What is truly staggering is how little we really listen to ourselves. Actually take note of what we’re saying to ourselves or ask ourselves why we’re telling some story, we most often can’t even prove to be true. We just keep taking information in, weighing it against other information we took in at some other point and making stories from all that data to explain our life. Then we call it gospel, even arguing for it when challenged. Meditation is like pulling the lever on that information conveyor belt into the stop position, so that we can really observe what lays before us.

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