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Archive for August, 2012

Discovering mindfulness in a game of Scrabble

A friend and I spent the better part of a morning recently at Starbucks, having coffee and playing Scrabble, a game that I have to believe every writer enjoys – it is all about words! What could be better than that? And the best part was that my dear friend gave me the lovely red vintage box containing the retro Scrabble board and those beautiful wooden tiles of letters – the only things missing were the bag to hold the tiles and one of the wooden tile holders. She uncovered this treasure at Goodwill for only $2.00, but soon found that her family does not share her love of the game like she does. So in a lovely gesture of friendship, she gave it to me, after learning about my love of what has to be the greatest game ever. I used to have my own Scrabble set, but it was grudgingly sacrificed in the move to Portland, as I pared down to the bare necessities. So many memories attached to that game, as I would always make my children play Scrabble with me at Thanksgiving and Christmas – and surprisingly, I never won! But fear not, I made sure that my daughter bought a brand new Scrabble set, so we could play last Christmas when I went back to visit – and as always, I lost once more!

But today my brain must have been firing on all its cylinders, or maybe it was the coffee buzz that spurred me on to an amazing score of 283 – my all time Scrabble high! I was unstoppable, as I gathered up 48 points alone for the word “quirk” – what a quirk it was to be able to even spell that word out on the board. I gathered up a slew of points with silly little words like “gem” and “zoo”, using a strategic mind I didn’t even know I possessed, scoping out places where I could rake in triple letter scores with those crazy eight or ten point letters like “z” or “q”. I challenged my friend on a word or two, and she in turn informed me of an illegal Scrabble move that I was unaware of, all the while thoroughly enjoying ourselves with some friendly competition.

And as we pondered our brains for words, and laughed at the silliness of words we thought we could use, like “yo”, as in yo-yo or Yo!, a favorite rap phrase, time just seemed to slip away. We forgot to talk about all the things going on in our lives, the things that are of a more dramatic nature than trying to figure out how to use up the last letters you are holding of c, j, l, and r, so you don’t have to subtract them from your score. It felt good to get lost in something so innocent for a time, not thinking about why I haven’t heard back about the job I recently interviewed for, or getting caught up in any worrisome fears about the future. It felt good to escape for a time in something I love, the words; and I was reminded of the healing nature of mindfulness.

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Why continue the frantic searching? I have learned where the answers lie…

Waking up to the realization that we are so much more than our physical selves is just that – waking up! Just as our physical bodies wake and stretch after a good night’s sleep, ready to face the day, our awakened souls are also bright and bushy tailed, ready to face a lifetime of living more from the heart and less from the mind. As the heart begins to open to all the love it discovers was always there, we can find ourselves swept away by all the wondrous ways to access this delicious feeling of love. And that is a good thing! For a time anyway. We find others like ourselves, and we find teachers and gurus and healers and mediums and books and CDs and DVDs and psychic fairs, all designed to help our emerging selves figure out how to live from this new found energy of the soul – phew! It can be a blessing to find the right guidance and healing, but it can also be overwhelming after a time. And numerous times I have gone into what I call my “bull in a china shop” mode in regard to my spiritual path, filling my calendar with everything I thought I had to do, to ensure my soul’s enlightenment. But the object of all the learning we gather is not to hang on the apron strings of another, but rather to find our own apron strings to hang onto; they are there inside all of us, the answers we have been looking for.

This is not to say that we don’t need all those gifted and amazing souls who help us during the start of our awakening. Lord knows, I would still be crumpled in a fetal position on my bed, crying my eyes out or else still throwing eggs at the pine trees in my ex-husband’s yard. No, all the wonderful souls on this earth and in spirit that have helped me to heal and grow have been treasures sent to me; helpful beyond words. But just as a child grows and matures, readying themselves to go out into the world, so do we in the name of our spiritual selves. Any good metaphysical teacher of any type will want their students to learn from them, rather than cling to them for constant guidance and answers. The last few readings I have had with mediums and intuitives were more like sessions of validation for me; telling me things that really, I already knew beforehand. Oh, I still came away with useful guidance, and of course I realize that the learning never stops, as I still take in various seminars and books, but in a much lesser degree. I find that I may actually be in a position to impart some pearls of wisdom, to help others as I have been helped. Granted, I have no formal training in anything metaphysical, I don’t have years of psychic experience. But I am starting to turn more and more to my soul, learning how powerful it is, actually trusting it! And you know, it feels good to be able to trust myself – confidence in what I hear and feel. I found a couple of passages that illustrate what I am trying to say – that I have learned where the answers lie, inside of me, much closer than I could have ever imagined.

 

This is part of a channeled message I read somewhere, sadly not having made note of the source, but the words really resonated with me and still do:

“Our true purpose is to help you connect with that higher part of yourself that is God. Once that is accomplished it is easy to see that you will never need to ask for answers outside of yourself. Hold your own power of free choice ever at the forefront of your being. Take your time and re-align your energy where it best suits you.”

 

And here is part of a passage from Luang Por Chah, a revered teacher of Buddhism:

“In the beginning you must rely on a teacher to instruct and advise you. When you understand, then practice. If you understand the practice it’s no longer necessary for the teacher to teach you; just do the work yourselves. You may wish to travel, to visit other teachers and try other systems. This is a natural desire. You will find that a thousand questions asked and knowledge of many systems will not bring you to the truth. Eventually you will get bored. You will see that only by stopping and examining your own mind can you find out what the Buddha talked about. No need to go searching outside yourself. Eventually you must return to face your own true nature.”

 

 

 

 

The fear of imperfection

Life is not all neat and tidy, presented to us all packaged up in pretty paper, with a lovely bow attached. No, more times than not, life can be messy, wrapped up in the funny papers instead. I tend to forget about the messiness of life when my own life is flowing so smoothly, with a few bumps in the road but not having to bust up the boulders that were in the way during so much of my life. But in recently reconnecting with a friend who is trying to find her way in life, having relocated to a new home many miles away just as I did, I am reminded of so many things; things about life itself and things about my own self.

My view of life here on earth is that of a classroom, with most of the lessons being learned in the experiential way, much like my internship I went through after studying various subjects in a school setting. And really, why else would we come here, if not to learn lessons from the messiness of life? Otherwise, wouldn’t we choose to stay in heaven, cavorting about in blissful perfection? No, we leave that place of wonder because our souls know how much growth comes from vast array of experiences on earth. And I remind myself that I chose to come here, to this place of many challenges, so that I could learn from all the imperfections. Relationships here are the perfect learning environment, as we dance our dances with one another; sometimes in step and sometimes stepping on each others’ toes.

After I woke up from my life I had been barely awake in for most of my years, I was able to realize and admit to myself that I struggle with issues of co-dependency and insecurity. When I did the test to determine what my Enneagram number is (the Enneagram is a system to help determine personality types), I came up as a nine, the peacemaker. Of course! I was always so afraid of conflict, of disagreements, of anything that would color my world and those in it less than perfect. And in my co-dependent way, I tried to control everyone and everything so they would be perfect and happy and peaceful. Now I can see that life and relationships are not always meant to be smooth as silk, although of course our ultimate goal is to be happy, especially with the ones we love. But along that road to happiness may be sacrifices made by one or the other, and a relationship is about loving honestly, not giving in to please everyone else just to calm the waters. Sometimes the sea has to boil, as well as ourselves. My ex-husband and I never argued in 27 years of marriage. I used to think that was something to be proud of, but now I see it as something that was so very wrong in our relationship.

So I welcome the teacher called imperfection, not running away and hiding in a corner until the storms pass. I find it is possible to love myself and others so fully with the constant knowing that we are all earth angels here together, all so perfectly imperfect.

Remembering Elliott

Those souls who have left this earth for heaven, or whatever we believe is beyond are missed and remembered by those close to them. But there are those souls who leave us that were able to affect a great number of people by their time on earth, and Elliott Smith is one of them. He touched us with his music; words creatively brought together that often spoke of heartache, of sadness, of anger and even hope in the midst of despair, paired with achingly beautiful melodies that often betrayed the mood of the words. He was able to get us to listen to the sad reality of life that it is sometimes, in the guise of musical notes that danced with joy. In doing this he created a following of listeners who empathized with him and felt that Elliott understood the pain in their own lives.

During his many live shows, Elliott brought himself even closer to his followers, as they hung onto every word and every note he played in utter admiration and devotion; all eyes and ears completely focused on the lone man  playing his sweet and precious music. Elliott had a gracious way of making his audience feel so involved in every show, so appreciated; never putting himself up on a pedestal. Song requests were shouted out, or oftentimes Elliott would ask what the audience wanted to hear. He would tell little stories that fed the camaraderie he had with his fans, and they felt as if they knew him intimately.

Despite all the drama and despair that was his lifetime – dealing with depression, addictions, and a sadly violent death – Elliott Smith gave all he could to the career he chose as a musician. He crafted his music with a perfectionist’s touch, and toured extensively to bring that music to all who wanted to hear him play. He showed us the qualities he possessed of hard work, integrity, generosity, and compassion in the man that he was, not letting his struggles in life hold back the gift he gave to us of amazing music, created from his very soul.

Elliott Smith would have been 43 years old today, and he would still be blessing us with lovely songs. In this world he is lovingly remembered by the timeless legacy he left of music, but he will also be remembered as a sweet and gentle soul who just wanted everyone  to enjoy his gift of song.

Memorial plaque of Elliott Smith that hangs in Lincoln High School in Portland, OR

Artwork done of Elliott Smith that hangs in the Crystal Hotel in Portland, OR

Their Friend

 

Every venue he plays

Becomes an intimate setting

As if he sits

With the audience

In their living room

He greets them with a shy “hello”

Then sits in the chair

The small man and his guitar

Swallowed up by the stage

He nervously picks at the guitar

And a song starts to emerge

The crowd cheers

Then a hush ensues

He holds them in the rapture of melody

The song ends

They cheer once more

A quickly spoken “thanks”

Is shared with his followers

They talk to him

Asking him questions

He politely answers

Someone shouts “I love you!”

“I love you too” he replies

And this exchange of love

Is what endears him to them

To every face in the crowd he is

Their friend who sings

Learning what friendship is all about

I had sadly wiped the slate of friendship clean throughout the years, focusing all my energies on my husband, my children and my work. The few friends I had seemed to slip away like sand through my fingers, as I blatantly ignored them in favor of my family. My introverted nature didn’t help matters, and I found the only friend I really had to do things with was my husband. Luckily I did manage to keep in touch with a high school friend, Denise, who lived out of state – and I was a poor friend to her, not responding to her invitations to visit. Bless her though, she kept our friendship going even though I was such a weak participant. I found myself becoming so envious of women who had a close circle of female friends. I wanted to be one of those women.

Mistakenly, I thought that having my husband as my only friend was enough. But as our children grew older and didn’t need or want my attention so much, I saw how limited my world of connections with others really was. And I also saw that my spouse and I were really not on the same page in so many ways, and we divorced. Now I was starting over from scratch, trying to remember not only how to make friends, but how to be a good friend. And I have learned so much.

I have learned that sometimes we come together as friends, for reasons unknown, only to find ourselves drifting apart from each other. But that is the way of life at times, and even though we don’t connect with those friends like we used to, they are still a connection in our hearts. I have learned not to burn so many bridges, as life is an ebb and flow, and I may flow back to old friends.

I have learned that we may seek out friends on the basis of shared interests, and it is always a joy to share our passions with one another. When I moved to Portland, these shared interests were a great way to meet people – the book club, the knitting group, the walking group. But as I began to make closer friends from members of these different groups, I realized that sometimes it is so true that opposites attract! In my mind, I had to find friends who liked the same music as me, who followed the same spiritual practice, who had similar lifestyles. How wrong I was on all those counts! I am passionate about music; most of my Portland friends listen to talk radio. But because they do, we have some enlightening discussions. My friend Vanessa in Minnesota loves her political science classes; I haven’t read a newspaper for years now, and I only do so when it is an election year. I find that because of all our unique interests, it opens up the gateway for learning, for discussion, for discovering new possibilities for my life.

Now I realize what friendship is all about. Friendship comes on many different levels.  Some friendships have deeper bonds that allow the sharing of more intimate thoughts, and there are casual friendships that are all about sharing lunch together once a month. Each type of friendship is equally important in our lives. The bond of friendship is one that goes beyond the superficial aspect of shared interests. It is a bond that comes from connecting with the true self of each person, a resonating from soul to soul. My friends are like a beautiful bouquet of flowers – different varieties of lovely blooms that bring me joy in all their unique ways.

My friend Denise & I with the “umbrella man” in Portland

My Minnesota friend Vanessa & I

Out to lunch with the “library ladies”

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