Dead Calm

Waves breaking on Paradise Beach at LEsterre Bay with an old fishing boat on the shore and the turqoise sea and Sandy Island sand bar beyond, Grenada

Sandy Island sand bar beyond, Grenada: By robertharding.com

Today, I send into your meditation the plateau. Many a dieter knows the feeling. Early efforts in their weight loss program brought swift and great results, but deeper into the discipline of eating and exercising they hit a plateau and they feel as if their progress has stagnated. They lose faith and “fall off the wagon” so to speak, believing their set goal is now unattainable.

Meditators can do this, too. Make a commitment to daily sitting, have incredible experiences at the start, see great results, but then after a time it just feels routine. As if we sit day in and day out and we feel like we’re making no meaningful progress.

We remind ourselves that there are no goals in meditation or seeking. It’s not about chasing the butterfly but remaining still that it might alight upon our hand instead and other such notions of stillness. Lovely thoughts, of course, but when we see ourselves engaging in behaviors we’d hoped meditation would’ve rid us of, such as, easy impatience or irritation, we can feel we’ve hit some weird peace plateau. We’re calmer, more peaceful, but there’s a boundary of some sort we can’t get past. We find ourselves still with self-critical thoughts or battling a vague sense of unworthiness.

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Sailboat in a dead calm: from Meditationroom.org

We start looking for other strategies, believing meditation has taken us as far as we can go. Or we come to believe this is just as good as it gets, maybe.

Plateaus offer us two very powerful opportunities. The first is the state of adjustment. We see plateaus as stagnation, when really they are points of adjusting to our newer self. Just like hiking a mountain where the legs dearly love straightaways where they can recoup before the next climb, plateaus offer us the same thing. A chance to regroup and adjust to this newer version of us that has been evolving within our practice.

And too, as losing weight too fast can cause huge setbacks, we need time to adjust to new states of being. Spots on the path where we can integrate all that we’ve absorbed in our practice, before moving on. These periods of integration and adjustment help us advance our practice. It’s those, seemingly uneventful, straightaways that allow us to garner new energy for the next leg of our spiritual journey.

Second, plateaus frequently have important gifts we have yet to see. The wind has vacated our sails and we sit in calm water, because there is something here. Something important for us to grasp, learn, take in, and/or understand in some fashion. This dead calm in the midst of our journey is a gift. The plateau has a deep and meaningful purpose. There is a gem of understanding waiting for us to become mindful to that is right in front of us. Now is the time to double down and really sink into our practice.

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From Pinterest

Rarely is what we’re needing to observe hard to find. Usually, it’s staring us right in the face; requiring little more than true mindfulness. What are we thinking about day to day, minute to minute? What emotions are lingering either clearly like a constant irritation or quieter, behind our general thinking, like sorrow? How are we behaving? How do we treat ourselves and others? What are our complaints really about? What worries hold sway?

If we spend time mindfully watching ourselves in the same detached way we sit, we will often find nuggets of awareness that have become as Story Water’s refers to as ‘wallpaper’. Stuff we’ve been thinking, feeling, doing for so long it’s simply become wallpaper in our lives. Things we tolerate within ourselves that aren’t serving us at all. To see them, we often need to be stuck in one spot, until we stop seeing the spot we’re in as familiar and begin to see it with new eyes.

The plateau is here for us to stop moving, intentionally, and look more deeply at what is before us. It is not a block to progress, but rather a powerful indicator of a place we’ve brought ourselves to, to see, hear, feel, and heal something vital within us. The plateau is part of our progress, not outside of it.

So if we’ve lost our wind and the sails hang still, we need to take a deep breath. Put in check the seductive desire to complain about where we are. Take a seat and recommit to the journey we so wisely stepped onto however many moons ago. Either give ourselves permission, time and space to integrate all that we’ve developed within, to this point, or get curious and alert and look around. There are likely pearls of wisdom and understanding falling all about our feet. The moment we are in now, has everything we seek and will move us forward when the timing is right and the wind’s steady.

If you enjoyed this piece, I would be delighted if you checked out my book using this link or the link above. Namaste…

Flight of Love

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Rainy gate by Noelle


At the Delta gate watching travelers swirl all around me. Each with a life of stories about to lift off to another tale somewhere. I step in with them eagerly.

Wait staff greet me with a smile and deliver a delicious and nourishing breakfast. The manager’s hand warm as he shook mine. I feel his gratitude for someone’s awareness of his gate-side establishment. I imagine many pass this way, never looking twice.

Anonymous in a crowd.
The curse of our societies these days.

Security line a breeze, even as TSA searched my bag, tricked by four pounds of the best Block Island fudge heading to colleagues back home. The delight in a new story of fudge mistaken for C-4 explosives.

Rain pelts the runways and I am filled with an equal force of love passing through me. How fortunate to breathe in this next breath on a rainy Sunday morning, my own next tale unfolding before me on each step. It’s as if the world flows into me unabated and unrestrained.

Such small things to attend to, yet they lift me past my old mind. Lift me aloft on trade-winds that will take me to some new shore. There is a freshness in my mind I wish to deeply savor.

Energy moves down the vessels of each arm, my finger tips tingling. I look at my hands and they almost seem like someone else’s. What good can they do in this life they’ve yet to attempt? Who will I become if I unleash them on everything I touch? How much am I made of a magic so exquisite it floods from me touching ever soul I look upon? What if in this moment I am a force of love that floods this Delta gate, as the Mississippi floods the Louisisana delta?

To step into such love now, as I step onto this plane… Not later in meditation, but now, eyes open, fully wake, completely present, totally in love.

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.