Monday, April 25, 2011

Start your own Drum Circle

The sound of drums calls through the crystal blue sky. Beckoning. Singing. Saying, “Come play with us. All are welcome here.” The message is clear. “Find a perch on the grassy knoll, soak up some sunshine and live your own rhythm. Welcome to the World Rhythm Festival. Welcome to life.”

Saturday was my first experience in a community drum circle, but not my first in finding my personal rhythm. If you’ve never participated in a drum circle, it’s quite an experience. From out of the silence, a lone drummer begins. Soon another joins in, percussion instruments follow and, if you’re lucky, a bass carries the heartbeat. It’s a magical experience as multifarious people of assorted talent levels come together to create music. Dancers step into the mix and uniquely sway to the emerging beats. All elements are essential to creating this life-engaging experience.

One dancer swayed on the outer perimeter of the circle and I wondered why he steered clear of the middle and whether he longed to be center stage. Later as we had a brief conversation, I realized his perfect rhythm was to be exactly where he was – nothing more or less. Many of us don’t listen that well. If everyone isn’t doing it (whatever “it” is), we draw back because it might not be acceptable. We choose to listen to everyone else’s rhythm and find ourselves out of sync, and thus missing out on our unique part of life's harmony.

My part in Saturday’s experience was to sit on the knoll and play my djembe. I didn’t need to be the one to start or stop the circle. My role this day was harmony, and in that I was perfectly content. I was grateful for those who brilliantly began each round of music and less appreciative of those who exerted an odd power to bring the circle to an unnatural close. In practicing our personal rhythms, it’s important to know when we must follow the beat of our own drum and when it feels best to play harmony. There’s magic in listening to the pulse and finding the simpatico places both within and without.

Take a moment and imagine leaning into your own grassy knoll and soaking up the sunshine of your personal rhythm. What instrument would you play? What role would be yours? Where would you dance in the circle? What beat will you choose to follow?

World Rhythm Festival 2011 © lucy
My djembe & my friend, Carole © lucy 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Whidbey Island Wisdom

The cormorant perches on a half-submerged buoy, both floating in the transparent morning light – not sunny, not quite gray with a touch of gentle mist in the air. Ocean angel opens her wings and balances like a scene from The Karate Kid. What does Madame Cormorant say to me? Balance, my dear. It’s time to regain your balance.

Swallows chase playfully past the bedroom window – moving at such speed they threaten to bounce off the crystal clear glass separating our worlds. Oh, precious swallows what say you? Play. Play. Play. It’s the essential beat of your heart. Wait no longer to play. It is the air you live and breathe.

Waves rhythmically lap against the sandy shore – licking the wet gray sand with their gentle tongue, kissing the earth while holding floating fowl. Love, they whisper to me. Open your heart like the cormorant. Play with abandon like the swallows. Kiss the world with sweet compassion.

I just had the incredible pleasure of spending two days on Whidbey Island, dreaming and scheming with wonderful friends. Above is the view and wisdom the Island offered to me. May your days be filled with earthly wonder!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Review: Heaven by Lisa Miller

"As Emily Dickinson said, heaven is what we cannot reach. But it is worth a human life to try." -- Lisa Miller

In her recent book, Heaven, author Lisa Miller, takes on the challenging task of bringing new light to a topic that has been pondered throughout eternity and for which there ultimately is no conclusive proof. It is a subject rooted across religions and everyone from agnostic to fundamentalist has an opinion. In her author's note, Miller states, "While I do not aim to be inclusive, I did try to write a book that's broad and balanced enough to give every interested reader something to chew on." In that she has succeeded.

The book is filled with interesting historical facts, modern theatrical interpretations as well as literary excerpts about how our images of heaven have developed. Miller's skill as a journalist shines through with her thorough research and anecdotal interviews. My favorite passages were those in which she interviewed "real" people who were both passionate and certain about their beliefs, as well as others who answered her question "do you believe in heaven" by not answering it at all.

One rapt interview matched Miller, a skeptical Jewish woman married to a baptized Catholic turned nonbeliever, against Anne Graham Lotz the daughter of the late evangelist Billy Graham. Miller describes Lotz as warm, likable, and direct in her belief that every born-again Christian will ascend to heaven as part of the choice based in accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior. At the end of the segment (after being witnessed to by Lotz), Miller reveals a transparent vulnerability as she writes, "Lotz's certainty made me squeamish... I know she's wrong, I thought. But what if she's right?" As with universal discussions on God, Heaven tickles the curious notion of how we can take comfort in (or be squeamish about) something we cannot unequivocally know.

Along with the interviews, Miller weaves data and research as she broaches broad topics of resurrection, salvation, visionaries and the boringness of heaven. She does a beautiful job writing a book about religion that anyone - moderates, fundamentalists, nonbelievers and people of all faiths - can read without offense. In many ways, Heaven is a brief history of the major religions with a focus around a topic everyone has pondered from time to time. Parts of Heaven resonated deeply with me while others had me skimming over pages that at times felt repetitive. Nonetheless, Miller has taken a daunting topic and distilled it into 250 pages which are well worth reading for anyone fascinated with the after life.

Does she provide answers? Are there any really? Have you witnessed heaven yourself? Think about it. From where do your thoughts and opinions on this topic arise? A glimpse into Miller's Heaven offers much food for thought on a timeless topic.

This review is part of the TLC book review tour for Harper-Collins at their request.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Friend, Acedia

Oh my, I’ve had quite a few days. After reading Christine’s reflection early in the week, I realized I’ve been caught up in a bout of acedia (i.e. lack of desire or initiative.) Rather than sinking into it or being curious, I grumbled and complained about not feeling good or getting anything done. This managed to only feed the overall sense of blah and keep me from (surprise surprise) feeling good or getting anything done.

This morning something began to shift as I decided to have a conversation with my companion. It went something like this:

Me: Hello, Acedia. What do you have to teach me?
Acedia: Patience, faith and the ability to sit in discomfort.
Me: Oh. But, I like things to happen quickly. I am a fearless warrior. I like to step in and heal things – quickly. (Oh geez, I sound arrogant. Somehow thinking I’m magical and believing I’m in control. My Ego is operating on high. )

Me: Hello, Acedia. What else have you got?
Acedia: I’m here to humble you. To let you taste that place of despair.
Me: Yuk, and?
Acedia: You haven’t been there in awhile, but you are not immune. All your tricks and magic won’t keep you from feeling pain and despair. It’s time to make peace with me and stop battling. Do you not see the risk? The more you battle, the stronger my hold becomes.
Me: Hmmm. Very interesting.

Then Acedia and I had a little conversation about the should’s. Beginning with the thought of “I should know better”. Having done tons of therapy, practicing as a therapist/life coach/spiritual director and overall being a pretty grounded and solid person, I have somehow convinced myself I shouldn't have bad days or make mistakes. (How realistic is that?!?!?). Thinking the thought of “I should know better”, I felt the weight of responsibility and the amount of EGO attached to it. It leaves me trying to do other people’s work for them AND messing around in God's business. It takes me totally away from the business of caring for myself. When I let go of the thought, "I should know better", I burst out laughing as I realized what a total mind-game that is... Geez Louise.

Using Byron Katie's technique of the Turnaround, my thought shifted something like this, and with it, the acedia lifted:

I shouldn't know better... Whew! I can only know what I know.

I do know better... I have everything I need and I can see it when I get out of my own way.

God knows best... I'm part of the Universe (God) and it takes all parts - the space - the light - the dark - the "mistakes" – the acedia – the fearlessness – the glory - ALL of it – to create a whole human being.

It appears I need to keep learning these lessons over and over again. Ain’t life grand?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Shedding My Should's - or - the Albatross and the Lizard

Recently I’ve been intrigued by a friend’s interaction with her purse. Yes, her purse. She has referred to it as an albatross around her neck and has been in the process of cleaning out this “heavy” bag. As a curious companion, I couldn't resist posing these questions to her:

Why wouldn't you eliminate something that is heavy and helps bring on migraines (impairs your health)?

How would it feel to go about your business unencumbered?

Why do you keep schlepping it around?

What do you gain by holding onto this heavy "albatross"?

Since my curiosity often peaks when something inside me is stirring, it was no surprise that today's Abbey of the Arts Lenten reflection prompted me to look in the mirror and ask myself basically the same questions I had just offered my friend.

What do I schlep around that encumbers my journey? What can I relinquish today?

Answer: I want to shed my should’s. They are my “albatross” and feel oh so very heavy. Through journaling and self-reflection, I ended up exploring today’s should which sounds something like: I should take care of myself. Is this true? Absolutely! Taking care of ourselves is a great thing to which I’m wholeheartedly dedicated. So what's the problem? Regarding my personal response to self-care, I’ve discovered an interesting space where I balance precariously between finding true rest and moving into a restless or paralyzing, non-productive state. This seems a direct result of the resistance I feel when I hear the word SHOULD.

My tricky lizard (the part of our brains that thrives on fear) somehow can convince me that doing something "restful", like watching two or three episodes of Brothers & Sisters (instead of reading or sleeping) will leave me refreshed. By staying up late, however, I end up exhausted and with nothing to show for it. On the other hand, I resist a push-push-push mentality and the “should” factor of always being "productive". Nonetheless, I know I’m much happier when I’ve done some writing, cleaned a closet, gone for a walk or intentionally snuggled with Aslan. My sneaky lizard, however, can pull me away from the things I love in the name of self-care and what I should (or should not) be doing. Oh, tricky tricky lizard!

When I play with the statement: I should take care of myself, it feels heavy like an obligation (or an albatross). Should’s are extremely weighty!! Should’s take away the gift and joy of simply doing and being. When I entertain the place of should (e.g. I should be taking care of others; should be working; should be eating cardboard diet food instead of delicious chocolate), I get caught up in fear (lizard brain) which for me ultimately leads to resentment. I begin to lose my presence and joy with others, resist my work, and punish my body for holding me hostage.

I know that shedding the should’s leads to greater joy and balance in life. It’s something I experience on a regular basis. Now, if I can just convince that sneaky lizard to leave me alone perhaps I can enjoy this present moment. Perchance the albatross and lizard should make a play date? Hmmmm.

Today, I want to relinquish my should’s. Care to join me? I’d love to hear what should’s keep you feeling heavy and encumbered. What albatross is hanging around your neck? What is your lizard whispering in your ear?

© port orchard heron; aslan doing what he does best

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Happy to be an Outcast

(Abba Nilus) said, “Happy is the monk who thinks he is the outcast of all.” (Nilus 8)

“Both the inner monk and inner artist are border-dwellers. Neither fit neatly into mainstream society as they both call us to new ways of being and seeing. The monk calls the world to spaciousness and presence rather than rushing and productivity. The monk takes the hard and demanding path of inner work and growth when the world constantly offers possible ways to numb us from these struggles.” - Christine Valters Paintner

Living on the edges while fully participating in life is a paradoxical way of being. For some reason I am reminded of the movie “Field of Dreams” where the principle character, Ray, played by Kevin Costner received the message, “If you build it, they will come.” This prompted Ray to step out of the normal paradigm of life into something that appeared crazy to the world around him. His rewards were more magnificent than anything he could have dreamed.

My life has turned into a field of dreams. It happens by living on the edges moment by moment. Stopping to smell the roses. Being in awe of the fresh green sprouts pushing through the earth. Cherry blossoms burst into full bloom and take my breath away. My world continues to expand as I follow my heart’s desire.

Living life as an “outcast” is exhilarating (while also holding moments of isolation). At a time when my peers are extolling the woes of aging, I’m in the best overall health of my life. My passport acquired in 2003 is annually adding new countries – sometimes as a woman traveling alone (gasp). I started graduate school at 47. Skydived at 49. I’ve been known to break into fits of uncontrollable laughter for no apparent reason or run through a public fountain in the midst of gleeful children. I am more in touch with God/Spirit/Life than ever before even though I “left the church” years ago. My children are quite “nontraditional” and still I’m a very proud mama.

The top comes down in my convertible if the temperature breaks 45F and it’s a particularly sunny winter day. I say 'No' at times when others expect me to say 'Yes'. A pink tutu topped my Christmas list last year. Crows call me Magic. Friends call me Crazy. I call myself Brilliant. (Audacious, huh?)

My cat, Aslan, can occupy my attention for hours by purring in my lap or doing circus tricks with my spouse. Bella, my desert ship, always makes me smile even though she snarled at me during her break. (I might have done the same thing.) My world is driven by Spirit. Refining and expanding lead my way, because even though what I have in this moment is Enough, I know abundance is my friend and thoughts of scarcity keep me limited.

I offer gratitude for my trials and rejoice in new opportunities to learn. I rage & scream & bellow at injustice, and then I let it go. I don’t “play nice” anymore. Nice kept me locked up like a prisoner for too many years. I am kind and I am free. Sanity is boring. Kookiness means loving life as it is. If this is living on the edges – it rocks!!!

Where do you long to break free and live on the edges? Invite your inner monk and artist to guide you toward the border. Perhaps you're already there. Woohoo! Let's play!!

Bella © 2010

Monday, April 04, 2011

Get Your Shine On!

Join Our Mailing List

"See how far the little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world." -- William Shakespeare

Western philosophy has taught that suffering is a normal state of life on earth. Enjoyment is something reserved for children, retirees or hedonists. If we're super busy then we are important. If we work limitless hours and don't have an extra moment then we're successful. If we feel really good about ourselves then we must be slacking off in another area. Striving toward perfection is a noble goal, but one that must be minimized with humility and false modesty.

Bottom Line? This line of thinking is flawed and in my humble opinion, a bunch of hooey. I am a sincere believer that we are all created perfectly and joy is our natural state of well-being. Over the course of life our perfection gets marred with expectations of what others think and then our own minds take over and we become mired in a world of "I could never" or "If only." We get stuck in mediocrity and our brilliance loses its shine.

What if our mission in life became to return to our original perfection? What if we were called to peel off the layers of expectation and ultimately gleam in all our glory and return to a childlike state of joy? I invite you to take a moment and play with the following statements: First allow yourself to ingest this... I am a worthless person who doesn't deserve anything. Notice how that proclamation sits in your body. Now, try this one on: I am a glorious creation designed to bring beauty and light to the world. Can you feel the difference?

Wouldn't life be more enjoyable and fulfilling if you lived as a glorious creation rather than a worthless nobody? The key is to trust your felt experience. Seriously, it's OK. If a thought causes you suffering then it isn't true. (This doesn't refer to tangible pain from physical injury or grief over actual loss.) Suffering is that suffocating, deadening, hopelessness that keeps you stuck in circumstances. It is not to be confused with the wild, sometimes raw and exhilarating excitement that comes from letting your inner self shine and living into the person you were created to be.

Think about it. What will you choose? Mediocrity or brilliance?

Ready to move toward brilliance? diamonds in the soul invites you to Get Your Shine On today.