The Astronomer

image

From wallpaperup.com

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

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.

sunset

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?

6966677-road-winter-snowfall-nature

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.

If you liked this piece, please consider checking out my book at the link at the top of this post or on Amazon with the link below. Thank you for coming to see my work.

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.

image

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.

If you liked this piece, please consider checking out my book, “Into Your Meditation” by clicking the link above or you may also check it out at Amazon:

Moon Pose

image

Free Bing photo

Standing in Vrikshasana the moon shines brightly upon my face. I anchor myself on its light, watching it hang in an inky darkness at the corner of my right eye. Its light dims the light of Saturn and Neptune visible on the southern horizon. It’s 4:30am and the Earth where I live is silent.

I feel a timelessness between myself and the moon, as my breath moves steadily in and out. I could be a monk readying for his vespers to pour forth from him in song in 16th century France. Possibly I am Zheng San Feng creating his first movements in Tai Chi on a grass mat in 15th century China. Or I am a Qi Gong Master preparing herself to teach a class in 1950’s New York City, standing gazing at the face of this same moon.

The ancient arts of the body have a way of making us feel ageless when we engage them. Thousands of masters have gone before me teaching, learning, shaping a simple move I step into now. I feel the cat brush my leg, but his affections must wait I whisper back to him. In this moment, I am committed to the moon and no other.

The mystery of this hour draws me from my bed day after day. A feeling of a gift only I am partaking. Possessive lover am I, the moon belongs to me, no matter how wide her light is cast. Moonlight before dawn holds the answers to a thousand unexpressed questions. They rest on my lips yet are never spoken, but the answers enter me on a single shaft of light. Exquisitely, my heart opens.

Traveling Monk Wind

Painting by Albert Bierstradt

Painting by Albert Bierstradt

Clouds hang thick and brooding above me, as I stand on the deck. The rain comes and goes at its own bidding, with thunder rolling across the rooftops with little punch. The sun sets over the hogbacks, barely visible between the heavy cloud cover and a thin stretch of blue that holds to the mountains as if it were snow. Lightning flashes and a spindly thread of electricity that whips outward toward the fading sun calls a passing goodnight.

It’s the air that has brought me to the railing, leaning out just a bit to catch it moving along the house. Over the past two years a love affair with wind has been brewing and percolating within me. I feel as if she comes to my house for visits. Sometimes a loud and rambunctious toddler, rattling my crib for attention, while at other times, so soft it’s as if she were a lover. Tonight she is the cloaked traveler asking for a night’s stay and a stable for her pony. There is something mysterious in the night air and a feeling of intensity and anticipation, all the while holding a gentleness as she moves by. I decide I shall call her the Traveling Monk Wind and turn my face more fully into her presence. I feel the air moving past the cells in my body pulling the skies electricity deep into me. There is an alchemy in this moment that hasn’t escaped me.

The rain returns, but the wind does not abate. Things seem more silent, though the sky flashes and the clouds rumble. I really should go to bed, I tell myself, but I linger and then, linger still.

Painting by Albert Beirstradt

Painting by Albert Beirstradt

Lock of Hair

43d64260ac27409fc949f29a50faaed7

Flying Buddha & Buddhist Monk: Pinterest

I teach a meditation where you actually intend to think. It’s fairly simple. Once relaxed in a seated position you intentionally recall as many memories from your life as you possibly can. You hold none for more than a second or two, just enough to know what you’re remembering, then you drop it and look for another. One of the purposes of the meditation is to demonstrate there is no thought that can’t be pulled up and dropped just as quickly. That many thoughts, which at one time, had immense emotional charge to them can be picked up and put down as easily as thoughts that have no immediate effect on you at all.

images (3)

I practice this meditation often, especially when I find myself giving thoughts more power than they likely deserve. I was engaged in the meditation several months ago when the memory of a shopkeeper I’d worked for in the late seventies came to mind. I hadn’t thought of her in decades and the sudden recall of her brought a wonderful warmth to me. I’ve found things that still possess an emotional charge are always worth exploring. They are magic jars I stumble upon in the back of my mind that possess some understanding about myself. I never stumble onto them unless what they have to give is exactly what I am looking for in that moment. It was obvious her memory struck a cord and so I spent more time thinking of her when the meditation was complete.

Florian hired me for her haute couture dress shop on High Ridge Road when I was sixteen. I was a dirt-under-the-nails tomboy, the daughter of a farm-raised mother with seven children, mostly boys. There was not much attention given to the feminine in my house. Most days my mother was buried under five feet of laundry waiting to be washed and three pounds of spaghetti looking for a pot of boiling water for dinner. To me, Florian was a pink flamingo in my chicken coop life. I knew nothing of high heels or the right baubles for the right occasion, as she’d say. Working for Florian was an education in all things womanly.
images
“Don’t slouch, dear. You look more like a sloth than the lovely young woman you are. Stand up and hold your gaze level with anyone’s eyes. Just do it softly, not as if your gunning them down. Think, I see into you, not through you”, she’d school me as she stood in her Evan Piccone suit. I often felt I was in training to be a film star, as there was something a bit larger than life about her. “Never be afraid to look at people or have an opinion. Your ideas are just as interesting and deep and delicious as the next person. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, you should make a life out of using it well.”

Florian taught me to tuck my blouses into my panty hose to avoid shirt wrinkles beneath my skirt. She’d pass on her dress shop wisdom as we worked to set up displays, “You can tell a well-made blouse at a glance by the buttons. If they match the color or the fabric of the blouse, it is likely a more expensive shirt”. A great tip when quickly perusing the Goodwill racks, I’ve found. She had a way of buttoning up a shirt on its hanger that seemed almost Zen to me. She never rushed, even when we were busy. She really enjoyed the clothes she sold and relished their quality. Her focused way of moving through life utterly captivated me.
images (7)

Growing up with six siblings everything we did seemed rushed and everything we owned looked a decade old within a month of its purchase. Florian cared for things that would be intimately connected to her body as a gardener might tend her roses. When I think back on how fascinated I was by her style I realize she was my first Zen master. I had to slow down and breathe to keep up with her. She taught me to think of myself with reverence and care. That what touched my body should feel good to me and make me feel good about myself.
images (4)

I’d watch her walk down the center of the shop, moving with the grace of a swan, her arm aloft lazily, as she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. I’d mimic her stance in the employee bathroom as I practiced different ways of seeing myself, other than the poor, awkward teenager I’d always thought I was.

“A little blush to the chin, nose and forehead make for a more natural appearance”, she’d note, as she applied her makeup meticulously. “Makeup is meant to enhance your beauty, not mask it.” She offered me her compact once and I practiced applying foundation. Another time I laid the eyebrow pencil too heavily and she called me Groucho Marx for a week. I wasn’t simply fond of her, I loved her and how beautiful she made me feel about myself. She had no children and I was as feral as a cat when I first came to work with her. When I look at the timing of our meeting I realize it was as perfect as one of her cashmere sweaters.
images (1)
Women flocked to her dress shop to partake not only of her clothes but her special joie de vivre. My home life, post my parent’s divorce, was a rocky place to be. Florian provided me a stable and very feminine haven that I would allow few other adults, at that time, to give me.

“Spend your money on classic pieces”, she’d advise as she held a pencil thin skirt in front of her before the mirror. “They’ll last a long time and you can get away with cheap trendy stuff thrown in for flare and style.” When the shop was slow she’d pick out an outfit and have me try it on. It was the supreme game of dress up. I don’t think I was comfortable being a girl most of the time. I spent more time acting like a boy, so to this tutelage I arrived like a fat sponge. I took everything she’d give me. Though, in looking back, I see now what I wanted more than anything was her confidence as much as her panache. She commanded a room even when that room was teeming with people who had demands.
images (5)
I looked her up on the internet after these musings, but only found her obit. A wave of nostalgia mixed with sadness rolled over me; like the passing of a great silver screen icon of old. Not very old, just my silver screen old.

We often think of meditation as escaping our thinking and separating our spirit from our human history. I have never found much richness in that. For me, meditation has taught me not to fear my thoughts or anything in my life. Not to be afraid to let my story rise and fall like flotsam on the ocean, for inside my thoughts are many of the stories I am using to create myself. Some of these stories serve me, while others do not. Meditation allows me to discern what to let go of and what to keep. Florian is a story that serves me, I think, as I lazily tuck a lock of hair behind my ear.

 

This piece was inspired by an exercise sponsored by blogger, Holistic Wayfarer on memories of our past that can be found at https://holisticwayfarer.com/2016/03/31/bonjour-texas-summer-1966/

Some wonderful pieces worth a read, I promise. 

Double-U Trifecta

Photo by Noelle

Photo by Noelle


I stand in the parking lot and let the wind and snow penetrate my clothes. I think of standing at bus stops as a kid waiting on the bus for school or trudging home from after-school jobs because my mother forgot to pick me up. She wasn’t mean, just a little ADD and most certainly not on time for a single event in her life. She’d always say, “There you are!” as if she’d been looking for me a good while or naturally expected me to arrive out of thin air.
Photo by Noelle

Photo by Noelle


It’s occurred to me, of late, that my problems as they relate to the notion of waiting really do stem from this. Years of waiting for my mother to be ready to leave or to show up. I’m not blaming her now. Just aware where this whole crazy waiting bus got started.
Photo by Noelle

Photo by Noelle


Christianity, as a rule, teaches a lot of waiting, too. Waiting to be worthy for things, waiting on God’s good graces to slide your way. Not knocking the Christians either. Like my mother who got her “waiting” from somewhere else, then passed it on to me, the Christians have been passing it along, too. The rolling wave of work hard, worthiness and waiting. A ‘Double-U” trifecta that forms the worst sort of box. Always feeling like you have to prove yourself somehow. Push more, demonstrate more, work harder, than wait for that tipping scale when your worthiness reaches some magical goodness quotient and all that you strive for will arrive.
Photo by Noelle

Photo by Noelle


As I stand and feel the snow beginning to cover my lashes it occurs to me I shall let this wind take these old notions out to sea. They no longer serve me. The whip has cracked long enough at my back. The old beggar woman inside of me is finally turning to dust on this gale. How absolutely lovely to know that. Really know it down deep somewhere near my solar plexus. Like a winter sun suddenly pulsating into a white wind.

Now… ah, now, to live it.

Photo by Noelle

Photo by Noelle