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?”
Year-of-the-Fire-Money

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.

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/

The Force

From Star Wars: Part 4: image take from fanpop.com

From Star Wars: Part 4: image take from fanpop.com

Today, I send into your meditation The Force. From Star Wars comes the famous line, “May the Force be with you.” The curious thing about the phrase is it suggests there are times when The Force might not be with you. As if it were a bit like luck. Either you have the good fortune of its company and have been given the special training to use it, or so sorry little Jedi, The Force is with Darth this night.

Possibly the greatest spiritual revolution in the last five hundred years is the awareness that we can never be separate from this great Force. Regardless of religious or cultural understanding we are always in The Force. There is no outside of it. We can resist it, ignore it, refuse to acknowledge it, but “it” is never gone. Even without one prayer given we are never bereft of its presence or available guidance. Any sensation of separation is entirely on our part. Any story we tell of our bad luck is a story we are creating to explain things we don’t understand. It is a story based on a Force that has forgotten us to avail itself of what we believe to be worthier warriors.

We all have a kind of romance with the notion of “The Force”, yet here we are fully loaded with all the power we could ever need, yet find ourselves frequently feeling adrift on galactic winds. Floating directionless in a foreign galaxy longing for a master like Obi Wan to help us find our way or bestow upon on us the wisdom we so desperately seek. We tell many variations of the general theme that we are, somehow, lost and alone. We’ve come to believe we need a nail-gripping challenge of a death star to push past our limits and know the true depth of our essence.

Image from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: taken from blastr.com

Image from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: taken from blastr.com


All of us have an inner Yoda. A voice, an inclination, an intuitive compass that guides us at all times. We may be lousy listeners or worse navigators, but what we seek is in this immediate now. This Force is within us, because we are it and it is we. We quiet ourselves in meditation that we might come to hear this Force, not so much in words but in feeling and a deeper knowing. In fact, we are so beautiful in our power that naked we possess the ability to heal beyond our wildest dreams. Sitting here all alone in our small lives we have the power of the greatest warriors that ever walked the Earth. We are not alone for we have been deeply woven into the fabric of this universe by an energy that spins the finest silk thread out of stardust.

Spoken more accurately, the line should read, “May the Force be known to you.”

 

Yellow Submarine

Electrical lines, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO

Electrical lines, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO

As I look upon the post-processed images I often feel I have stepped into another life. A life separate from the hike that actually took place. As if I have been given a second life laid on top of the first where art, light, and shadow burst into life and I get to live the experience in some other fashion. I see the blues and blacks or deep yellows inside the photographs as if through Yellow Submarine glasses. Glasses that alter the reality of the land into patterns of shapes and highlights. Nothing is really the same in the image as it was on the trail. The other senses are suddenly shut down and my inner eye is the only thing firing on all cylinders.

I am also different, curled up under a blanket, nose deep into my smartphone. I am pouring back out within a very tight focus, what the trail poured in.

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

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

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

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

I see the four Beatles long-legged images from the Yellow Submarine poster flash through my mind. The psychedelic movie and madcap song that have nothing to do with dirt trails, but in my artistic mind they seem connected. I am distorting the image, the way their music often distorted our minds. A little Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds again. Nothing is as it seems.

Electrical lines, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO

Electrical lines, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO

I am there in the image, as I was when I took it, but I am also not there now, as the image has a life of its own separate from the hike. I am hearing birds and feeling the frost, but as I tweak the image I hear Ringo Starr’s throatier voice proclaiming that we all do live in a yellow submarine.

The beauty of all creative endeavors is they shift our focus, even if only briefly, from what we believe is real, to what is also real, but must be powered by our psycho-emotive-spiritual energy. My creative world is no less real to me than the feeling of cliff face beneath my hand.

Bear Lake Valley Park, Morrison, CO: photo by Noelle

Bear Lake Valley Park, Morrison, CO: photo by Noelle

A few years back my friend, Juan Crocco in Chile turned me onto photography. Up until then photography was for me just people standing by monuments taking pictures of themselves or photo albums filled with images of children opening up Christmas presents. I didn’t even own a camera and hadn’t taken an a photograph in over a decade. I’m not particularly nostalgic, so have never spent much time looking at photo albums. In my last couple of house moves I had, in fact, jettisoned ninety percent of my photographs and albums.

McCook Point, Niantic, CT: Photo by Noelle

McCook Point, Niantic, CT: Photo by Noelle

McCook Point, Niantic, CT: Photo by Noelle

McCook Point, Niantic, CT: Photo by Noelle

Juan encouraged me to take photographs while hiking as a mindfulness exercise. I was going through a rough patch and he thought this might help. Wise man. It did more than help. It healed me.

I interact with images taken not as an observer to what had been there, but what I might find now. I am on a treasure hunt. Seeking shadows and reflected light. There’s a conversation going on between myself and the image. I am not cataloging my hikes. I’m talking to myself in symbols and abstractions that affect me deeply at an emotional level. Thus, for me, photography isn’t about what was there, so much as it is about what is now inside me being viewed through the effected image. An inner art I am not aware of until I begin to work with the image. It’s this crazy blending of photography and my own personal mojo that creates something else entirely in the end. I live the joy of the hike and then I live the joy of the art.

Winter Prairie at Day Break: Image II: Photo by Noelle

Winter Prairie at Day Break: Image I: Photo by Noelle

Winter Prairie at Day Break: Image III: Photo by Noelle

Winter Prairie at Day Break: Image II: Photo by Noelle

This pattern, now rooted in me, has become a pattern of living and altering, experiencing and awakening. It has been growing like prairie weeds out of the images and into my day to day life. There is what is here in this moment, physically and then there is what is in this moment more abstractly. The things in my life that live as highlights on the edges of things. Shadows that create contrast not darkness or fear. I want to alter my vision. Don my Yellow Submarine glasses and see that world from some other angle entirely. To live with a little psychedelic energy in my soul. Not through drugs or other altering substances but through the spirit in me. The bigger eye that sees so deeply into things the things I look at deeply change.

“In the town where I was born
Lived a man who sailed to sea
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines

So we sailed up to the sun
Till we found the sea of green
And we lived beneath the waves
In our yellow submarine”

(McCartney/Lennon/Harrison)

TheBeatles-YellowSubmarinealbumcover
“Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles, album cover art by George Martin

Paris

From Kandkadventures.com

From Kandkadventures.com

Today, I send into your meditation Paris. How can we best serve the wounded, the dead and the aggrieved, as well as, the angry, the vengeful, the perpetrators of such suffering? Where in our practice can we rest our thoughts of confusion, fear, and despair? In what way can we be most effective? How might we turn this tragedy into something else entirely? Something that heals, binds us in love and strengthens us in our deeper knowing that we are all one. For we are as much in the lost and frightened wandering in the streets of that great city, as we are in the hearts and minds of the bombers.

When we come to understand this deeply we see there is no escape. There is nowhere to go. We are already in it with them. We carry their pain, hatred, fear, and grief within ourselves. We are The One and so we are the terrorist and the terrorized. We are the dead and the living. We are what remains whole and what has been destroyed.

Separation from the Parisians or from the terrorists is an illusion.

In Joe Vitale’s work on the Hawaiian prayer for healing and forgiveness, ho’oponopono he speaks of Dr. Hew Len’s work in a Hawaiian prison where he prayed each day for forgiveness from each prisoner. The psychiatrist asked for forgiveness from prisoners he’d never even met, because in his culture the prisoner’s wounds were his wounds. The crimes they’d committed he believed were his crimes. Through this process extraordinary healing came to that prison. If we are one, then we each can ask for forgiveness, healing and grace for the whole. We need not wait for the accused to heal themselves. We need not wait for the wounded to become whole again, to reach within our collective being and see our own wholeness manifest before us. We can ask forgiveness now from all who suffer.

In the end are we not the best to do so? Are we not in the safest position, away from the smoke and cries to ask for forgiveness and healing? To give what others in our Oneness are not yet able to give? As we do so with love, we are laying our own hands, in this moment, on the hearts of many. We are all connected. We are not powerless. We are not trapped in violence and despair.

And so we sit. The silence descends amidst our wandering thoughts, and still we persist. We turn back again and again to the breath, the mantra, the voice leading us down a guided trail. We let go. We accept. We see our own wounds inside this situation and we seek in the next breath to heal ourselves. For healing of others begins within our own being.

Be fearless and step into the heat of this breath full of our collective pain, breathe out all the love you have to give. Do not spare your amends to the bomber you would give willingly to the baby. For us to heal, we must all heal. To be whole, we must all be whole. There is no force greater on this earth than our own willingness to except responsibility for the wounds we all share and bow our heads in humble forgiveness that we find our way together.