BUTTERFLY

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BUTTERFLY

Pressing harder now,

The body takes its determination

Without need of mind,

There is a tearing of kinds,

Opening to brilliance

Panting – unknowing

She struggles for emergence

Hanging now, upside down

She stretches forth from center to edge.

She stands at the center around the

Spectral colours pour forth

The forest stands alert

Marveling

Opening her eyes

To the world fresh and new

She stands on the edge

Of endless possibilities true

Pushing forward now

She begins to fly

Feeling stronger and stronger

With every beat she cries

“Freedom comes at such a price!”

So make the winged heart always think twice

She lets the wind

Carry her this way,

 and that.

Until it is suddenly all over,

When in one shiny moment

She is eaten by a bat.

J

Have a nice weekend. J

The Never-Ending Life of a Raindrop

Did you know that you came here first as a drop of rain? You should be told since you are bound in many ways on this unending journey of cycles and changes, only to become the rain again and again.

Once upon a time, you came tumbling from a big grey sky. Everyone thought it was an omen that they couldn’t deny. You tumbled from that big old sky, laden with billions and billions of possibilities all at once. This was exactly when time began.

You could let go then because you had nothing you wished to hang on to. In fact, you didn’t even wish.  Propelled downwards to the dark dry earth, you land with a soft acceptance, the land gratefully opening herself to receive your gift.  She simply knows that you are what is needed to bring forth the life within her.

Throwing yourself all about, within the dark soil you are carried and gently pried apart until there is nothing left to you but You.

You are taken in hungrily as are your brothers and sisters, by the start of new life.   Suddenly you are pushed upwards and onwards by circumstances beyond your control.  You burst forth into the stunning light of a day. You want to know this day so much that each day you implore yourself to stretch further and further, knowing in a place that supersedes thought and eradicates pure knowledge that this is the only way to know yourself.  Your upturned face proudly follows the trajectory of the sun. You keep pushing until you and thrown upwards and onwards into the flow of all things alive.  The sunlight hits you and once again you are nourished.  You see that the sun doesn’t need to be anything but itself to accomplish its task.

You turn your face ever so slowly ~ each day from sunrise to sunset beaming back stupendous yellow rayed petals resting on soft green leaves filled with a belly of seed.  You wait for the time to be right so that you will be able to feed the things that need feeding.

Soon the days shorten and the nights become heavy with the frozen dew. You feed yourself off the few rays that remain, but their strength has diminished – you feel yourself growing weak or “soft in the middle”, as they say.  Your head becomes heavy with all you have seen and you lean forward in the natural way of things that grow old and tired.  Here you have learned to stand still and watch the world go by.

Your seeds fall to the ground and soon you are carried piece by piece to beautiful exotic places that you could never have imagined simply as a rain drop or a flower.   In one moment you are running through open fields, inviting ecstatic expressions of unbounded freedom to show themselves.  Your body cannot help but dance with itself – leaping hedges and stopping to take long drinks in rivers running clear and magnificently.  Bird’s chirp in a way that lets you know all is well in the world, and no dangers abound.  But sometimes, even birds can be fooled. In the moment you hear the shot you see that the sky is bright with its own promise.

Now you swim up a river bed, soft mossy rocks flitting over your belly as your powerful tail pushes you against the current waiting to meet life and some liberty you will only know when you meet it head on. Scooped up into warmth and travelling now through vessels and arteries, you are spilled for into the belly of another, only to return as a symbol of love.

There is a hand on your head – warm and comforting.  Someone approaches and you feel your heart explode with a blissful rebound. You are loyal and loving dedicated and at ease at your master’s feet. Here you learn about service and unconditional love.

The day of your parting was the first such instance of heaviness and resistance to the next thing in your heart of hearts.  You did not understand it, so you could only react to it, and with a tear you are sent off to be burnt into the ashes of the next place.  This sadness and all the joys before are what sustain you from a place deep inside.

One part of you is dropped in a far away village, and in the summer of that year, the people find that accidentally nature has gifted them with the sweetest of all beauties. You are named after that which nourished you.   If only they knew you were just a rain drop come so far. They harvest your seed until the full moon sustains you through the seasons.

You feed and make beautiful until you are pulled apart and at the last moment – you find yourself in the heart of a child.

The days pass deliciously slowly, as you dance your mighty dances in oceanic puddles of rain drops and possibilities surrounding your feet and celebrating the gathering all around.

You swing from branches and tell yourself great tales.

You dance and play with others, laughter intertwining in the forest branches making them reach higher.

You live and learn and play and dance

And then you cry, you long and you moan – once you realize that you have forgotten where you came from.

And now that you have fully forgotten, you are compelled to remember yourself as a raindrop.

So surely I must tell you that this is best done while you dance across the shadows of the moon imagining the next grey cloud to pass.

CHAPTER 3: MANIPURA – PERSONAL POWER AND HORSES

A FOCUS ON PERSONAL POWER

THIRD CHAKRA – MANIPURA

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Manipura = “Resplendant gem”

Colour : Yellow

Scent : Ylang Ylang, Rose

Gemstones : Yellow gemstones for this Chakra are Amber, Citrine, Yellow Calcite, Fluorite, Golden Beryl, Golden Yellow Topaz, Cat’s Eye, Yellow Celestite, Yellow Jade, Golden Tiger Eye, Lemon Chrysoprase, Yellow Danburite, Iron Pyrite, Yellow Garnet, Yellow Jasper, Yellow Kunzite, Yellow Muscovite, Yellow Sapphire, Yellow Tourmaline and Yellow Rhodonite 

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RETREAT BASICS FOR MANIPURA

At this retreat we will be discussing the Third Chakra or Manipura which is Sanskrit meaning “resplendent gem”.  It is our center of human personal power and the last of the earth bound Chakras.

The horses will work with us to demonstrate how expressions of personal power can be interpreted by and through the subtler bodies of energy which we refer to as chakras. Horses are the first to sense in which way you carry your belief about your personal power. They read everything about you, in one brilliant instinctive shot.

Based on their experience with humans and their experiences with the kind of energy you bring with you, horses will size you up in one second flat. As prey animals this is their primary survival mechanism – evaluating quickly and efficiently who is friend or foe.  And like all prey animals who rely on quick flight instinct to survive, horses seem sometimes a little paranoid but it is the quickest and the most instinctive of course, that will survive.  So another lesson we learn from horses is to be very conscious of our intentions and body language when we enter into any communication, be it with a horse or human. From within, your sense of power is exuded by the way you present yourself both physically an energetically to the horse and sub-consciously to humans. Horses are more immediately aware of you because they are present in this moment, not caught up in past or future thinking.  Because horses already speak an ancient and subtle language with every part of their bodies, they integrate this understand of body, intention an energy into their evaluation.

This doesn’t necessarily mean a horse will automatically be nervous with you if you are nervous with it. Horses give you indications WAY before they act in an aggressive manner, and even this they only do when they feel cornered or unable to flee if necessary. I call it Standard Equine Claustrophobia.

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I often see people when entering the round pen who are not accustomed to being around horses with their shoulders slumped forward, like a subconscious wish to protect their center from what can be a daunting experience given the sheer size and for most people, their behavior which can seem very alien at first.  However, what the horse is most adept at sensing is the intention you bring with you into your interaction.

Many people ask me if horses will react aggressively if they bring fear with them. Horses are not predators – they are prey. Therefore, if you bring fear, they sense it as a type of insecurity, and they may find they want to move away from you, unsure whether you are the source of the insecurity or not. It is not the normal behaviour of a horse to lash out to protect itself, except in very rare and specific instances, such as stallion territorial behaviour.

Ears pinned flat on the head are a good indication that your horse is insecure and doesn’t want you close. Never try to give a horse affection when it is in this state.  In order to show your horse SECURITY you have to demonstrate leadership to him, and that sometimes means being aware of fear, but not allowing it to make choices for you!

In terms of horse behaviour, one with an unbalanced third chakra is constantly displaying insecurity. It is hyper reactive and overly aware of its environment. It fears that it is powerless; and so is constantly seeking to avoid or evade something. This would be a very difficult horse to ride or train.  A good horse for riding is one that has a balanced sense of its partnership with humans.  Horses that are well-balanced in the third chakra carry themselves well and are not in constant need of aids from the rider, as they tend to be more in the flow of the interaction between the two, and are less absorbed by paranoid vigilant watch which comes from a fearful sense of powerless over the environment.

Humans are the same way, and horses are a very effective way of, excuse the irony – putting the cart before the horse. Sometimes, we can become more conscious of our behaviour before actually changing our mind about how we feel about something. In other words, we can ACT AS IF we have personal power, to help us discover where our true power lies.

In working on our third chakra, horses encourage us to have to EXUDE this outwardly before we may completely feel it inwardly.

horse_training_bottomROUND PEN EXERCISE:

In this exercise, we enter the round pen with a horse, mindful of the sensations in our bodies.  Identifying any tension, we release it to our breath, before our interaction.  Then, we release the loving energy in the center of our being, to the horse.  At this moment, we are not allowing our fears or insecurities to make a choice for us. This is very powerful and empowering all at once.  We ask our body to exude a balanced sense of personal power, perhaps sometimes before we actually feel that authentically within ourselves.

In this way, we create a new experience for our brains.  A new neural pathway, where we have taken over possession of our conscious intention and maintained a different reaction to a fear response.  This is a very healthy thing for everyone to do.

You can take this new way of understanding an old feeling out with you into your non-retreat world in so many ways!

Your boss calls you into her office, and you feel a terrible foreboding.  Maybe she didn’t like that last report? Maybe you are the next in the lineup of layoffs?  Who knows?  But often we are quick to assume a negative outcome at such times.

Yu can use your retreat experience to change the way you perceive stress and anxiety in your life.  Instead of being anxious or worried,  you can find where the feeling of anxiety exists in your body – in your solar plexus third chakra. Place your dominant hand on your  this place and breathe in through that space, remembering to place your body in the same confident way that you had it with the horse you first met.  Your shoulders proud and back. Your head high. And smile. It releases happy endorphins in your brain. Recalling your experience will help to trigger the same positive response feeling as when you were here at the retreat in connection to the horses. Every one of our experiences is recorded in our bodies. It is up to us to access that and use it to help us negotiate the waters of our lives more effectively and joyfully.chakra-3

The flow and health of the third chakra can directly impact your ability to put good ideas and plans into action.  If this Chakra is healthy and spinning freely, you are making creative decisions and feel as though your choices move you forward.  You take good care of yourself in body mind and spirit.  You are enthusiastic about your life and proactive about the positive choices you make on your own behalf.  You demonstrate a good balanced sense of self.

The Manipura Chakra lies in the triangular niche at the base of your rib cage – the solar plexus or zyphoid process, in fancy medical circles.

You can visualize it as a yellow spinning orb of energy, rotating often they say in a clockwise direction. The speed or fluidity of the spinning is our concern here. If it is not flowing as it should, this is when we encounter problems such as feeling powerless in our lives or relationships, powerless over our choices and circumstances. We forget that everything is a choice, when this energetic center is not spinning as it should.

There are things you can do to increase the flow and vibrancy of each chakra.

~ Wear the colour represented by the chakra – any kind of yellow will do.

~ eat foods that support the nutritional requirements needed to optimize this chakra:

Granola and Grains: pastas, breads, cereal, rice’s, flax-seed, sunflower seeds, etc.
Dairy: milk, cheeses, yogurt
Spices: ginger, mints (peppermint, spearmint, etc.), Melissa, chamomile, turmeric, cumin, fennel

SCENTS: ~ surround yourself with scents such as Ylang Ylang and Rose

Here are some quick questions to ask yourself regarding your third chakra:

1 – STRONGLY DISAGREE 2 – DISAGREE 3 – NEUTRAL 4- AGREE 5- ABSOLUTELY

  • Are you easily      irritated – do you have an explosive temper?
  • Have you found that you have an Inability to prosper, no matter how hard you try?
  • Do you      tend to prosper at the expense of others?
  • Have you      ever made yourself feel better by putting another person down?
  • Do you have      difficulty in taking responsibility for your actions and the consequences?
  • Do you alternate      between feeling immensely powerful, only to feel like a victim the next moment?
  • Do you      lack willpower?
  • Have you ever      suffered from ulcers or diabetes (sugar imbalances)?
  • Do you ask      yourself why      am I here (in this life)?
  • Do you like yourself?
  • Are you nervous in social groups?
  • Do you think people believe      negative things about you?
  • Finish this sentence: “when I      grow up I want to….”
  • Are you self-motivated?
  • Do you achieve most of your      goals?
  • Do you      have a strong drive to live and do you feel that you have a right to      exist?
  • Are      you connected to your emotional self and do you understand that feeling      and expressing your emotions are your right?
  • Did      your family of origin make you feel capable of doing anything?
  • Does      your belief system include knowing that a higher power exists and do you      use your personal power to openly discuss your beliefs
  • Do you      always communicate your inner truths and are you open and honest with      others regardless of the situation?
  • Are      you afraid if you act confidently that others will think you are “full of      ego”?
  • Do you know what you want?
  • Have you ever suffered with      anxiety?

1-   Meditate and colour one of the Mandalas below as you focus on these questions and see what answers come to you.

2-   Answer the questions using the numbered scale. Don’t overanalyze! Your past is only a reference point for current understanding.

3-   Choose 2 or more questions that resonate as important to you – write on these in your journal. Share what you want with group.

4-   Share with (your) group. (can be done in circle or individuals groups.

It’s all about personal power – which begins with caring for yourself. How well you take care of you, is very relevant in this chakra.  Your ability to shine forth is directly impacted by how much energy and intention you have invested into developing yourself from the.

Power is defined as “the ability to influence people”. (wiki).

By maximizing the flow of energy in this central portion of your body, you release the possibility of blockage and are able to enter the higher realms of subtle understanding and wisdom brought to us by the study of chakras and the lessons of the horse.

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Through My Mother’s Eyes…

When my mother was in the hospital, I had a chance to spend allot of time downtown which is something I really haven’t done very much of over the past 20 years.  I found myself invigorated by the energy of the city. I loved watching the beautiful people dressed in clean clothes, women walking stealthily on high heeled shoes, people distractedly crossing streets while multitasking on their cell phones.  The hospital was near many amazing attractions in Montreal, like the fine arts museum, china town and St Joseph’s Oratory, and after my visits I would go somewhere to fill my energy levels back up before going home to face my family and busy life.

One night, like he often did, my husband met me at the hospital after work to say hi to my mom for a while and take me somewhere nice for dinner to distract my mind from being sad.  “A dinner adventure”, we called it when we would allow our intuition to guide us to some cool new restaurant where the food was inevitably delicious.  Our gut never lead us wrong.  That night, we headed into China Town. I was having a particularly hard time with my sadness feeling as though the hospital environment and the disappointing narrow mindedness of the doctors were making my mother even more sick.  It was a hopeless feeling, and I left with a heavy heart, only to find myself following my husband in our dirty old dented Ram pickup truck, fresh off the farm with one tire half flat and going down. Traffic was horrendous. The road was a sea of cars and impossible construction hurdles.  People sat mostly patiently in their cars waiting for the next inch to open up ahead. Meanwhile,  I felt like a complete country bumpkin, in my cheerful little yellow beetle feeling like the weight of the world was crushing me. The radio not working and there was no escape from my thoughts or feelings. Compounded with sitting in the heat and the stench of a downtown traffic jam not exactly knowing where to put my car – I felt my mind edging on a good therapeutic primal scream. It seemed like no one was very aware of the space around themselves and I was at constant odds with one car or another vying for space. Soon I found myself tossed like a salad by aggressive drivers into some place on the right side of the road which I hadn’t realized was a bus lane.  After shifting to the left as much as I could, an angry frazzled completely freaked out bus driver pulled up beside me. The size of the double bus making my little bug look like a Tonka Toy.   She gestured for me to open my passenger side window, and yelled frustratedly  irate~

“Hey! Stay out of my lane. You’ve been blocking me the whole way”!

My mouth opened, my mind snapped, and I told her to go do something very unspiritual with herself.  She yelled something about a report and took off amazingly fast. I felt immediately remorseful for my actions.  I quickly realized that I certainly could not even come close to fathoming what it must be like to drive that bus up an down the insanity of that road every day, five or six days a week, through traffic.  I would be insane too.

Compassion came too late and karma bit me in the ass as I watched the bus plow into  into the passenger side mirror of my big dirty truck being driven by my husband.

When we arrived an hour later (usually a five minute drive) into the Asian part of town, he jumped out of his truck and said “Hey! Did you see that bus driver hit me!?”

How was I ever going to explain that this was entirely my fault? I had to laugh and must admit it took me a while to explain how it all happened between fits of laughter.

We had a nice dinner though I didn’t eat much.  I was busy looking around and kept seeing things I wanted to show my mother. I wanted to take a pictutre of the pretty food on my plate to show her my dinner and where e could go when she would be bnetter. I wanted to take a picture of the handsome Spanish guitar player doing flamenco on his guitar in the square and ask her if it reminded her of our trip to the Canary Islands? I knew deep niside me that her condition had worsened too much and she would likely never see these things, from her body anyways, again. But I still wanted to share all of the amazing things I was seeing.

When I would go and visit and talk to her, she was so tired and on so many medications, that she could not focus. I could see it made her feel bad. She didn’t want to waste any time with me with sleeping, but she just couldn’t stay awake. So I thought suddenly, that I should take pictures so she could see what I was talking about without it taking so much time and energy. Maybe it would make her feel still like part of life.

I began to take random pictures. Statues and Fountains in places I hadn’t ever noticed although according to the plaques they had been there since the mid 1800’s.  Stores with beautiful displays I would have liked to visit with her.  A Puppet store in the oldest part of town in an arboretum type place that reminded me of Italy and I knew how much she would love that little corne. We saw the Old Port. The Horse drawn carriages and the nice people we met. I even took pictures of them.

Each day we would visit and I would see and go to different places.  Someties with John, with kids, or alone.

The first time I found myself alone at St Joseph’s Oratory surprised me. I am not aligned to any religion – I feel no pull by them, but I have learned how to listen to the universe when ti wants my attention. Even when I think the request is strange, it usually makes sense later.

One day after leaving the hospital, I got lost, in my distress – completely turned around.  I had found myself baffled by the same horrific construction loop 3 times and each time I went around I found myself passing the immense  and mysterious St Joseph’s Oratory. A place reputed to have been built by a sainted priest who healed crippled people. His heart was inside in a jar. Cool.

My path was pretty clear. No matter which “short cut” I tried to take,  all other exits were blocked.   I had never been to the Oratory except once as a child when I was doing my first communion. It meant nothing to me back then. It was boring. A place that no one in Quebec can help but see, perched high atop Mount Royal, visible even to remote communities like where I live nearly like from Rigaud mountain, nearly an hour away. Local mythology says that Mount Royal is an inactive volcano.

I drove into the gates, finally surrendering to the loop of lostness I had found myself in.  I felt out of miserably place in my cheerful little yellow bug, peering sadly up at the man at the gate who asked for a 5, 00 parking donation to help support the church. I remembered then I was completely broke. I shuffled nervously through my change and found I only had about 3.50 and no other money.  I felt utterly dismayed.  I was pretty sure if I couldn’t find some peace my heart would break right then and there and if I couldn’t get into Gods own house, as they say,  because of a lousy $1.50, I decided I would break up with my faith. I would write it a Dear John letter to God and be done with it.

Which is of course when the man looked down into my dark eyes and smiled kindly –

“This is fine Madam, please enjoy your visit”, he said in a gentle French accent.

Relief. All of a sudden everything felt warm.  My hands which had been numb with cold despite the warm summer day \began to tingle coming back to life.  I smiled up pretty weakly, but he got the point.  I later came to see that this man’s kindness, from his heart, transferred to my heart and helped it to beat abit more normally.  I needed that connection and it shows me proof that there are no small acts.

I parked the bug on the side of the sloping lot where the stairs begin. You couldn’t miss it, big and round and yellow sticking out amongst the sea of greys and blacks and browns.  I got out beside the The stairs of Pilgrim’s where people come from all over the world the climb over 100 stairs on their knees, saying a prayer for each stair. The supplant themselves in the hopes that God will look upon them more favorably for ther obvious act of humility.

It struck me that in our culture, seeing people in open public prayer was a strange thing to see.  I  I felt like I was seeing something private that is between you and God.  I never knew I felt like that before and I’m not sure I still agree.  “Maybe sharing prayer like that will help everyone around them?” I wondered as I try not to stare at the reverent face of the Hispanic woman saying prayers to the Virgin Mary in Spanish. Her daughter only a few stairs behind bowed her head kneeling on the stair in quiet mumbled prayer.   The woman reaches the top stair and places her hands on the landing like she is making a statement, leaning forward, her face upturned and unabashedly says her payer to the door in front of her.  The door beside the next set of fifty stairs. Fifty more prayers before what? “Is God listening yet or is It too busy comforting her poor knees”, I can’t help but wonder.

There are hundreds of stairs to climb to get to the main entrance of the oratory. Once inside, a sweet faced girl greets me openly shoving a pamphlet into my hand and asking me if it was my first time. I told her that I was especially interested in the legends of Brother Andre; the sainted priest who was reputed to have healing powers and had cured many people of terrible illness.  I had heard about the crutches and canes lining the walls outside of his crypt.  Then of course there was his heart, which was apparently in a jar somewhere. I didn’t ask her about this. I’m so sensationalist – my mind smiles.  I would fnid it if I was meant to. But secretly  nd between you and I, I looked for it the whole time, and never found it.

I tell the greeting girl I’d like to see the place of the miracles.

Ah yes!”, she says as if everyone comes in looking for miracles.  She refers me to the map pointing to several places.  The place is an absolute labyrinth.

“You will find the best way is through here “, and she makes a zig zag squiggly line with her finger ending up pointing to a chapel with an exit on both sides. The place is an incredible maze, and I am pretty sure I’m going to get lost. I always get lost but I usually like it.  I think I do it on purpose secretly looking for the places no one else sees.  Or maybe being continually lost is a sign that I am incredibly distracted and really don’t care where I am. Either way, I am used to finding my way through places I am not familiar with, both figuratively and practically.

I go up a long escalator herded together with a bunch of other people.  I am suddenly a tourist in my own city and I like it.  I hear some American accents, maybe from New Jersey. The young boy is wearing a black torn wife beater covered ostensibly by a plaid shirt.  He has multiple facial piercings and a momentarily grim look.  I start to make some negative assumptions about him and catch myself when he looks up at me with eyes that smile – and all I see are his eyes.  They are young and fresh and he has gentleness inside of him that maybe his outer appearance doesn’t belay right away. It makes my heart feel good to and I smile back.

At the top of the escalator I enter a chapel and I go inside to the front row. I say a prayer.  I don’t actually believe God hears me better just because I am in a church, but I do believe that She pays attention to my heartfelt intention and my spontaneous expression willingness.   I think God really listens to willingness because that’s when we are able to hear.

I pass through into a another room, a crypt filled with lights from a sea of candles, a waterfall of each flowing down onto several prayer stations. It is breathtakingly beautiful and I find myself standing still while the world walks around and past me.  It is a magical place.   Behind me along the wall are the crutches and canes in the hundreds of the people that brother André healed.  They hang in rows and layers upon layers, all made of dark old wood. Some carved mostly plain canes and crutches each with its own history and story. I stood looking at them for a long time. I was amazed that you could touch them and they weren’t behind glass.  I put my hand on one and hoped for its magic to come inside of me.   I closed my eyes tight like a little kid throwing a nickel into the wishing well and I whispered silently to myself “Help. Thank you”.

A simple prayer. Surely one of my favorites.

A good prayer because it leaves the results and expectations up to something that knows more than I do.

I walk around slowly and notice that there are different stations of prayer.  St Joseph, I learn is the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus. He is the patron saint of allot of things. Families, fathers, virgins and the dying amongst others.  The last two interested me. Who would be the patron saint of virgins?  A man who trusted his wife when she said she was impregnated by God, I suppose.

I realized then that if you believe in the miracle of the virgin birth, then the fact that he a) believed her and b) stuck with her, makes him a really exceptional man.  I don’t know if that’s the real reason as the church says, but it works for me.

Then I came to the final station – Prayer for the dying.

I hope God doesn’t mind, but I didn’t have the 5.00 for the cost of lighting the candle. I found whatever change I had and put it in the little coffer.

Then I lit a candle, for my mother. It was probably the first moment I realize that she was actually dying.  I knelt and prayed. Not because I thought God would like it better if I did it this way, but because I felt like a heavy weight was pressing me down to my knees and I had to rest and just be with this sadness. I found it interesting to be in a place where if you just knelt down in the middle of everyone an everything, no one looked at you funny. It wasn’t regarded as ‘religious fanaticism”. It was just You being with God.

After a long healing cry with a bent head, I got up and left the station slowly.  I feel like I left something behind there – something I had come in with and couldn’t carry anymore I suppose.

I walked to my left,  unsure of where I was and come upon a beautiful golden statue of St. Joseph with a pool of oil at his feet. The plaque said that this was the oil of St Joseph that it had been reputed to have healing properties and had been continued along generations and was used b Brother Andre.  now it maintained its holiness by being blessed by his priests. Interesting…and surprisingly Pagan too, I thought secretly to myself.

I have never been comfortable with the thought that a single person had special powers that could bless anything better than the good intentions of God through any kind of people. I remembered the holy water behind me and decided to take off my Tibetan oil necklace and fill it with the water of that place.  The room, it seemed to me, must hold a powerful energy because it was constantly filled with spiritual seekers – simply people who were looking for answers.  This in and of itself felt incredibly strong. So I filled my necklace so I could bring part of that experience to my mother as well.

I loved the oratory. I walked for a while longer, visited upstairs in a place like a wax museum, vividly real reenactions of Brother Andre’s life with displays of his miracles.  I was amazed at how small people were back then. He was a teeny tiny man, maybe 4’10”-  and he helped build this gigantic Cathedral. Amazing.

I took pictures of everything I could to show my mom the next day.  I found myself wanting to see things through her eyes – what was important and beautiful. It made me pay more attention to the details that made things alive and wondrous, hoping that I could bring her this living experience as vividly as possible.

This is the first holiday we have without her. It’s very strange surreal and painful all at once. It makes me remember what is important, and all the things I am grateful for are multiplied as I understand what she would have given to have lived just a few more weeks to experience this gathering of thanks that was her favourite holiday.

At Thanksgiving, she used to make us all say something we were grateful for at dinner. The challenge would be tossed out almost ceremoniously like a glove onto the dining room table and she would choose the first person to start – always followed by a grumble and silence.  The first answers are usually short. I am grateful for my food The end. I am grateful for family. I am grateful for my friends and my job, grateful for music, for art for love…and it would continue, the last idea always contributing to a new idea of what we could be grateful for and the bubble would get bigger and bigger.

I am grateful for my mother and for the ways she showed me how to express gratitude in my life. Today I will feed my family and friends and feel so blessed to have this love all around me, feeling her right there where she has always been.

Namaste

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE?

I’m learning about Love right now.  All sorts of love, and the ways I experience it, where and how it motivates me and exists within me.   Consciousness urges me to understand a love that is without attachment, requirement or desire; a love that contains only Truth, like pure sweet clean water.  Is it possible that we all already have this kind of love within us and the purpose of this life is simply to uncover it?

 

In a recent conversation with a good friend, he brought up the idea of “unconditional love” recalling a previous conversation a few weeks before where I had declared to him regretfully and honestly that I didn’t think I was capable of such a thing.  Outside of my own children for whom I felt a deeper bond that what can even be described in words, I didn’t think I could love someone completely – I would always judge something about them, this was the human condition I concluded.

My friend said that he had considered my statement over the past few weeks and had concluded that I was mistaken because I was misinterpreting what “unconditional” meant.  I asked him what he meant.

“Can you love me even when I’m being a jerk?” he asked.

History had proven this to be true. We had been friends a long time.

My mind argued that this wasn’t unconditional because it was only one person in seven billion and unconditional meant I could love without condition of who you are, what you do, where you live, what you look like – separate from any judgment my mind may have of you.

So then I tried to imagine other people in my life, and found that in fact, I did love them even when they were acting in a way or saying things that I judged negatively – or even that caused me direct harm, or pain. Yes, I could still Love them, even though I didn’t like what they did all the time.

So then my question had to extend to people I had not yet met, strangers, and people in other lands – could I love those people, even though I don’t know them?

I look on the internet and see faces of people I don’t know and I look deep in their eyes. There is…something there that I recognize.  Something is there that is known to me, even though we have not met. Yes, I can love them too.

We have many incorrect notions of what love is: Love doesn’t mean I want to move in with you, sleep with you, cook your meals, solve your problems or become your therapist. Love means I realize I know nothing actually, and I am open to learning with you and through you.

I realized after my conversation with my friend that unconditional love exists as our birth-right – it is the center of free will.  Judgment is a natural human activity, designed to help us discern what may or may not be the best option for us at the time. It is freedom in action.  We are free to express love or to withhold its expression. And without sounding too much like a hippie we must conclude that if each person held love as the conscious motivation behind each choice they made, things would be very different.  We can love someone but not necessarily “judge” that it is the healthiest option for our choices to have them in our intimate life.  Since everything changes and passes, what is for today is not necessarily what is for tomorrow, But, we can always recognize that the part inside of us which express love is the same part of another that is receiving the love.

Maybe the greatest challenge we all face is to come to a place where we understand that we have to love our own selves unconditionally before we can transfer that love to someone else.  Running workshops on my farm I have had the chance to speak to many people about this idea of being “centered in self”. Although it seems logical to conclude that we can’t give away to someone what we don’t have for our own selves, our culture has communicated a very different type of conditioning to us.  We have told women that they need to put their children and families first and have created a martyr like attitude3.  This has only resulted in a multitude of generations being raised by secretly resentful women.

Men have the pressure of continued roles as “caretakers”, emotionally detached breadwinners and hunter-gatherers,  their success being measured by material acquisition and property value.  This is such medieval thinking in the modern age! The challenge for men is daunting, requiring that they take the very long journey to understanding their own hearts and emotions and putting aside the requirements of society to ignore the basic inner natures.

Unconditional love exists in all of us I see now.  The challenge is in excavating and finding out the truth about how it lives in you. When I look out of my window and see that I am life living in life, I feel a kind of love which expresses itself as joy in my heart.  This love doesn’t require anything of me, it just is.  Gratitude is the natural result of this focus.

Namaste