Healing Comes with Awareness

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Ohsu.com


First, this from the Enneagram Institute’s daily quotes:

Wisdom teaching about waking up: “Awareness is vitally important in the work of transformation because the habits of our personality let go most completely when we see them as they are occurring.”

I’m sitting in a meeting and someone I don’t care for much, speaks up. No surprise, I don’t like their idea. A very non-spiritual, unenlightened or even kind thought crosses my mind. I catch it almost as quickly. I’m immediately disappointed in myself. I note that the thought comes with a feeling of tension in my belly and irritation. I breath to relax and notice my left toes are curled up in my shoe. I release them. Another breath, but my chest is tight. My brain is wanting to give a rebuttal to my colleague. History has taught me the rebuttal will fuel more than I care for. I hold my tongue, but feel the effort causes my jaw to tighten. I breathe again, and relax my face and shoulders.

I now notice my thoughts are quickly winding into a story. I ask myself, “Why are you telling yourself this story now?” The answer back is “I’m still irritated and I’m right.” Since I’m not giving that impulse to rebut my colleague’s statements sway, my brain is unleashing the tension in some sordid tale where I, of course, am more brilliant, kinder, innovative than my counterpart in the meeting. I breathe again. I feel the boat that sails on the sea of peace within me listing a good bit. I feel my deep desire to be right, to have greater influence over the meeting battling inwardly with the part of me deeply rooted in peace, that wants to let go of this whole mental and emotional affair I’ve got going.

My mind suddenly throws up a picture of an old circus ride from my youth. The Gravitron which spun you round and round with centrifugal force. I feel like I’m watching myself on one side of the ride and feeling myself on the opposing side, simultaneously.

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Soft.net

I check in, my toes are curled up again. I unravel them, take another breath, and loosen my tongue that I’ve cemented to the roof of my mouth, apparently, to not speak up. I’m still irritated, but the self-inquiry has infused curiosity in there, too. I feel a sense of command over my reactiveness arriving, that’s comforting somehow.

I breathe again and relax my butt cheeks, loosen my hands in my lap, undo the tension that’s grown behind my eyes. The activity has taken me off my colleague. The meeting has moved on. No decisions were made. I feel relief. I relax. I note the pettiness of my thoughts, the need to grab control over an outcome I desire, the tension that built, the emotional ride I took myself on all aloft inside of me. I breathe again, letting it all go with a growing commitment.

I query myself on what is at the heart of this? Why does this person’s character disturb me so or their ideas?

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Espritsciencemetaphysiques.com


The answers arrive like parade floats passing across my mind. I’m competitive: a familiar idea and I feel the yucky feeling of catching that in me, yet again. They have a condescending tone when they speak to me. I feel that even yuckier twinge of unworthiness or ‘less than’ vibe roll through. If I’m wholly honest, I might have to admit they are smarter than me. Again, competitive, and an idea I’m not willing to concede quite yet. An amused smile crosses my lips as I catch my own arrogance. I feel the outcome on the issue is outside my control, and feel a helplessness there. I dig down deeper and sense a boredom in the meeting and have the very unpleasant realization, that some of this internal drama was simply to give my mind something to engage. That might be the most unflattering notion to me of all of them. Drama as a kind of mental amusement. My desire to rebut likely had a need for attention, too. Huh… some self-esteem issues there and I’m finding the ‘drama as antidote for boredom’ returning to my mind, as if it has bells on its feet.

I move from looking inward to looking outward. I see the politics of the issue that are affecting my colleague and me. I sense the uncomfortable temperature of the room and the length of time I’ve been in the meeting and how all of those, too, are affecting what is happening to me here.

I check in. My toes are curled up in both shoes now, my shoulders have risen up, my breathing is shallower, stomach tight, the irritation – now focused on myself – has grown. I don’t care for much of this, but also see the value in witnessing these things in myself. I don’t try to change what I’m seeing. I breathe and let myself see them as I detach from them. I feel my meditation practice in full swing. I am a witness to my personality’s various machinations. They are there, noted honestly, but I focus on offering myself compassion. I breathe into it. Unravel everything one more time, only this time, I keep going for several minutes. I focus on a point just outside the window. I let the noise of the meeting pass over me, as clouds traveling the breadth of the sky. I stay this way until I feel myself return to a monk sitting quietly in the conference room chair.

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In5d.com


Now, I am ready to practice some ho’oponopono with my colleague. The Hawaiian prayer of forgiveness, “I love you, please forgive me, I’m sorry, thank you”. By the time I begin, I see the gifts I’ve been given of insight into my personality’s weird little dynamics. I’ve had the chance to disengage the machine and return myself to center. The boat floating inwardly on my sea of peace is no longer listing.

When I begin the Hawaiian prayer I mean every word. My colleague has not changed at all, and I may never be close friends with them, but the part of me that was attaching who I am, to who they are, has been unhooked. As such, I can see them more clearly. They, like me, have the same little shit show going on inside their personality. That single insight softens my heart tremendously. A gift to me of awareness. I’ve been shown something and given the chance to practice a new pathway, charter a new course. I don’t ask myself for perfection. I might have to repeat this little scene at some other point today, tomorrow or next week. This is the path. I am not the same at the end of the meeting, as I was at the beginning. As the quote indicates I am, by means of my awareness, transformed.

Day in, day out, this is the road we travel. Thousands of years meditators have been walking this path. I am comforted to know I am in good company.

If you liked this piece, consider checking out my book either at the link below to Amazong or the link above to Lulu.com publishing. Thank you

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

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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.

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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.
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“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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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

Hungry to be Ptolemy

Copyright: Tartu Observatory Virtual Museum

Copyright: Tartu Observatory Virtual Museum

I stand in my driveway for a few minutes each morning looking out at the night sky. On my iPad is an app, Star Walk that I can put up to the sky and it will identify each constellation. I have loved staring at the stars but have never really known what the various night forms are, and so have taken to trying to find them. I marvel at their names, Ophiuchus, Serpens Caput, Centaurus, Bootes, Corona Borealis, and Hercules. So much magic and myth in each name. The map above is of the sky as I saw it this morning: Scorpius, Lupus, Sagittarius, and Corona Australis. “Look who watched over my home this night”, I think to myself.

zenandpi.com

zenandpi.com

This is how our ancestors saw the night sky. A cast of characters galloping across the firmament each night. Each one part of a larger story, part of a mystical journey each of us could partake, if we chose. Or we could look upon the third brightest star in the Northern hemisphere, Arcturus glimmering in the night sky and know from that brilliant light erupts Bootes, the Plowman, first cataloged by Ptolemy in the 2nd Century. There isn’t just stars floating up there, but histories and stories and ancient mariners or philosophers charting unknown lands.

Richard D. Serros: www.serrosstudios.com

Richard D. Serros: http://www.serrosstudios.com

With all our technological advances and our hunger to know as much as we can, I often think we’ve lost a little of the mystery and wonder at the world and skies around us. We’ve forgotten to tell stories about the curious things we find in plain sight. We’ve lost touch a bit with the magic that looking upon a night sky to see peacocks and lovely, floating maidens can elicit.
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We focus so keenly on the day ahead, we forget all around us is beauty and mystery that could alter our entire day if we would pause only briefly to look up and know a king’s crown or a great hero of old hangs gracefully there.
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sagittarius-constellation

Our lives are not ground to salt by our labors. We lose the luster and vibrancy in living when we won’t take our eyes off our labors to see the marvels that exist effortlessly around us. Life dulls under the weight of brooding instead of delight in something extraordinary as a single crocus pushing up through snow or the wonder that comes from gazing upon Betelgeuse in Orion’s belt. When we release the need to stare at our troubles and turn our gaze upon the beauty that simply awaits our notice life becomes so much easier to bear, so much easier to awaken to each day, so much more fun to really live.
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Birthdays and Fire Monkeys

seerseekersayersage.blogspot.com

seerseekersayersage.blogspot.com

Being my birthday, I decided to reflect today on what I wish this year to be for me. What I’d like to open up more in my life and what seeds I’d like to plant and see come to fruition? Earlier this week we celebrated the Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey. This is the Chinese year whose focus is about letting go, shaking things up a bit and transformation. It bodes of possible chaos, tumultuous turn arounds and the need to go with the flow more than anything else. I suspect for many of us we’re thinking, “Wasn’t that the last five years?”
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One of the key notes for the year is letting go of things you’ve held onto for too long. There’s that part of my mind that wants to rise up with, “Ugh more personal work. More changing things and less having fun.” But I thought, “How often have I cleaned out my closets and gone to the Salvation Army with all that I’ve collected and felt that awesome feeling of release? How wonderful it’s been to come back home and see all that space now available for something new. How much more lies within me I could jettison for that delicious feeling of release. That wonder at what new might come in.”
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Maybe that’s the trick of this year. The monkey antics we need to embrace. Instead of feeling daunted by work, see ourselves as wild chimps tossing things out of our tree. Swinging from vines and laughing uproariously at what we thought was so important. Maybe the story is not one of chaos and turmoil, but stepping into the wild dance that is unfathomable and letting ourselves go with it.
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So this is my Fire Monkey Chant for today and all the year long:

Bring me storms and bring me rain
Bring me flash floods that wash away my dams
Bring me turmoil that exposes my tenderness
Bring me chaos that shows me my stillness
Bring unexpected turns that I fly around, a monkey girl on her tree
Bring me exposure that I might laugh at what I did not see
Bring me whip cream pies in the face and slips on banana peels
Bring me surprises that I might remember this is all such a wondrous farce
Bring me chimps, macaques and marmosets, sniggering giddily at my flaws
Bring it all down on me until I cannot help but laugh.
Bring me so much that I laugh and laugh until my belly hurts.
Bring me storms and bring me rain.
Bring me flash floods that wash away my dams.
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Bring me the Red Fire Monkey Year that I am left at the end, completely changed, for this is what I wish for my birthday this year. The chance at an adventure that leaves me empty and entirely new.

Peace of Snow

Bird Eagle Snowfall

Bird Eagle Snowfall


The silence pulls me and I offer no resistance. The flakes swirl past the window and I could fall forward, Alice down the rabbit hole. I was born in winter. My name conjures up winter, my colors are winter, my very nose smells the scent of it a month before it arrives. Everything about it fuels my engines and releases me from a thousand worries. I cannot explain it. Winter heals me. Snow invigorates everything I love within myself.
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I sit watching the snow fall now, thick and dense. The world of human chaos comes down with it. The streets empty and the store fronts close. Mother Nature calls all to home, soup to the stove and a fire burning steadily into the night.

miradna.com

miradna.com

This is the peace of snow.

A Hole in Me Pocket

Clement Park at dusk: Photo by Noelle

Clement Park at dusk: Photo by Noelle

I most certainly have a hole in me pocket. Every day I am full of time, but before I know it half of it is gone out a hole in me pocket. I stitch the blasted thing up, but the next afternoon I find myself in the same straits. Too much to do and not enough time to do it in. For someone who praises peace and breathing room this damn hole is most bothersome indeed.

It seems no small irony that all of our technological advances were intended to give us time and yet I feel more robbed by them every day. I was reading an article about the Greek isle of Ikaria. The New York Times dubbed it the place where people forget to die. They have an extraordinary number of octogenarians. They say their lifestyle hasn’t changed in a hundred years. They walk everywhere and garden. They remain connected to their faith and dine on fresh food and good wine. They never hurry. They sit in the sun without sunblock. They laugh a lot. This story plays itself out in Okinawa, Japan, too. People bike and carry their own groceries, and eat fresh food each day. They stay connected to their passions and talents. They breathe slower and speak less of troubles.

Autumn Leaf: Photo by Noelle

Autumn Leaf: Photo by Noelle

John Muir wrote in 1912, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” I wonder how such a man as this was not the most guiding force in our country’s evolution? How did we get money and busyness confused with the acquisition of peace and contentment?

There is a deep lesson here I don’t want to forget. Something that moves me about laughter and sitting in the sun. How much do I really need to get done everyday? Who is cracking this whip? What would happen if I planted something and sang to it, rather than worried about what was on my schedule? What would happen if I consciously found ways to step outside the machine?

I feel I might find others and there would be wine with some good cheese, time spent gazing at the horizon, all enjoyed after a lovely, scenic bike ride. I think this might be true. I think there are others like me wanting to feel dirt on the bottom of their feet.

Bike trail, Ken Caryl: Photo by Noelle

Bike trail, Ken Caryl: Photo by Noelle

Into Your Meditation

Book cover and photography by Noelle Vignola and Lulu.com

Book cover and photography by Noelle Vignola and Lulu.com

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, than this absence from my blog has certainly been so. My book has finally launched on lulu.com. It will arrive to Amazon and Barnes and Noble in late February. A labor of love and community that has taken three years to bring to fruition. Although in truth, I began the road to publishing almost twenty years ago. If I step back even further, I hear my mother’s voice of oft regret at not writing more or sending her pieces into magazines that goes back almost fifty years. A line of women longing to see themselves in print. It is a very difficult feeling to express holding your book for the first time. I have never had children, but I imagine the feeling might be akin to the feeling of holding your child for the first time. Something powerful and deeply intimate.

We have a tendency of being overly focused with outcomes, objects, and the far-reaching stuff we’re seeking. Yet, life has nothing to do with stuff. Even as I hold this book, I realize the entire journey was the gift for me. The book is a lovely reminder of an adventure well taken, but not what all of this time was about. It was a wonderful carrot tweaking my rabbit-y nose when I would wish to listen to the voice of defeat or fear. It was the light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel that said I would get here eventually.

We have many fantasies about our long-wished for successes. When we arrive at something it is never like the fantasy, because the person having that fantasy had not taken the journey yet. The one holding the book or the film or the painting or stands on the floor of a new business has. From this perspective the fantasy seems paper-thin and a bit silly even. The reality of who you have become on your way to that success far exceeds anything you could have possibly imagined. I feel deeply that what happens from here is all icing on the cake. I am compressed carbon, a winking, bright diamond in the sun. Success has already been awarded to me.

For now, if you wish to check out experts from the book or even more lovely wish to buy it, you may click on the link here or the one to the right of this post (Thank you Lulu.com for a lovely website):

http://www.intoyourmeditation.com/

New Year’s Eve

From vivaboo.com

From vivaboo.com

The door is not nearly as grand as one might think. The knob of solid brass, though tarnished from use, glows enough in the dark of the unknown to show me where to lay my hand. The threshold is clear, clean and unobstructed. The frame sturdy and the width large enough for me to pass with anything I wish to carry into this new year. Though not a word is spoken as I stand here, I also know it offers me the chance to walk through naked and with nothing at all.

From wallpaperup.com

From wallpaperup.com

I pull in on the great billows of my lungs the promise of this fresh moment. I let the taste of adventure and mystery to linger deliciously upon my tongue, savoring the prospects of all that I have yet to become. Each new day, of course promises this, too, but there is something unique about New Year’s Eve that speaks to the magic of transformation and opportunity. That calls out into the twinkling darkness of the heaven’s one’s excitement at what’s to come.

From Pinterest images

From Pinterest images

To the wise and quieted mind this wondrous anticipation has all the charm of a child on Christmas morning. It holds the wild hopes only a seaman stepping onto his ship bound for uncharted seas can know. This moment in the dark hours leaving one year to enter another is a sacred passage to those with an open heart. A heart that whispers as it passes through the doorway, “I am ready”.