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52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Nineteen: What to Learn from Oysters

1 Jul

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What to Learn from Oysters

Oyster Boat Trip: In June, 2013, I took a boat trip from Comox to Union Bay to an oyster farm known as Holly Wood (named after the people running the farm). They raise fairly expensive oysters to sell to reputable restaurants in the area, most notably, the Kingfisher restaurant known as the Oceanside. The boat ride towards Denman Island was spectacular as we made our way by Goose Spit, past Royston and over towards Fanny Bay. Everyone knows that the Fanny Bay oysters are the best in the world, and yet, I have not paid much attention to oysters for their own sake aside from the fact that they have beautiful shells, and, in my mind, unless heavily dosed with hot sauce or horse radish, they taste pretty slimy.

I think that most people know that they are supposed to be an aphrodisiac. As well, it is common knowledge that sometimes, if you are lucky, you can find a pearl inside some of them. Although I recently learned that the “cultured pearls” are the ones everyone wants to buy as they are “worth something”. Someone artificially inseminates them with little marbles, and the oysters weave their magic around them to create what appears to be natural pearls with various degrees of “perfection”.

Oyster Resilience: What I did not know is how interesting their little lives are from the seeds that make them through to their harvesting. I was also intrigued that this husband and wife oyster farm team had made it their life work to be on the water in what seemed some pretty grimy conditions to nurture these crazy little sea beings through to adulthood.

They are interesting little creatures that make the little annoyances around them part of their lives. For example, barnacles don’t faze them. Oysters, in their natural habitat, absorb these ocean nuisances; grow over them, around them or underneath them. As well, oysters are resilient and turn little granules of sand that make their way into their shells into natural pearls. Oysters help maintain the ocean ecology, and it is a good thing when we promote them into any ocean system. Sometimes, those beautiful ochre and orange starfish have been known to take over some of the areas where oysters tend to live, and mussels sometimes get in their way too. However, for the most part, oysters tend to do very well through most circumstances provided that we keep our water clean.

If there are toxins in the area, oysters will become poisonous to eat, until the sea area becomes clean again, and then it takes a few weeks for them to clear out so that we can eat them again. They are the creatures that tell us a bit about how our ocean waters are doing and it makes me worry when the coal mining industry might be allowed to continue up above Royston and Union Bay, and potentially interrupt the environment (http://www.coalwatch.ca/5089-name-petition-asks-bc-government-stop-comox-valley-coalmine. The islanders have been petitioning against it for some time. Coal stories rarely have happy endings, and especially in this valley, despite all of the good intentions of the big corporations.

Why am I writing about oysters? I think that it occurred to me on our boat ride back from the oyster farm as the head chef from Oceanside served us clams and oysters (raw and cooked on the BBQ, and I still wasn’t turned on by their taste), that there is something very peaceful about the life of an oyster. Oysters have this way of turning what might be perceived as nuisances into beautiful gems.

Often when we are bothered by a problem, our immediate reaction is to extricate it, or do what we can to ignore it. Instead, what if we embraced the problem, and turned it into something better? It strikes me as a noble concept, and one that I am not sure how I can employ into my own life. What does this mean, exactly?

Philosophers have been talking about living with pain for a long time. Buddhists say that the first truth is suffering. What if the suffering was actually a means of identifying an issue and then transforming it into something beautiful instead of simply a mortal acceptance or denial of it? What if we just believed that out of the suffering, we would intentionally and actively turn the problem into a beautiful pearl? It is our nature to do so as we all come from the sea, just as it is the instinct of the oyster. We just need to remember how to do so.

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Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Eighteen: The Message of the Whales

12 May

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Eighteen: The Message of the Whales.

Gowland Point Facing States

The Message of the Whales

He handed me several beads, and sat quietly and knowingly on one knee in front of me, as if he were not a complete stranger: “You have several strengths.” Each sea shell or rock bead that he slid into the palm of my hand had something very unique about it. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so he placed his hands one on top and beneath my hand protecting them. “Each bead represents a separate strength that you know you possess, but have not brought to life yet”. His beauty and energy were hypnotic. “You wrap it in this small cloth and I will come around later with some red wool for you to cherish it safely. You can keep these beads with you, or you can keep them somewhere else near you for safe keeping once we are done”. He looked directly into my eyes. His intensity was powerful and I had to look away. I hadn’t been able to hold eye contact with anyone recently, except at work where it was professional, safe, and expected. He continued to sit in front of me. “Do you understand?” He sat quietly in my discomfort. I nodded. “Good. I’ll come back later.” He walked over to sit next to the elders or “siem”. There was no “chief” here. Chief is a government-applied term, although it was apparent that some of them held a greater position of respect than others.

It occurred to me as I sat at the hearth of the largest fire that I had ever seen at this First Nations Big House, that I was spiritually depleted. One of the men continued to put large pieces of Douglas fir into the fire, feeding its hypnotic inferno. My eyes followed the plumes of smoke escaping upward into the open-air ceiling. I marveled at the magic of this place made up of polished cedar poles all standing tall and grouted one beside the next. After a long trip back from a conference for work in San Francisco, I considered how much I had changed in the past seven months of being on the island in “the valley”. The male elder sang his prayer to us to the beat of his drum. His plaintive, jagged aboriginal inflections filled the space around us. Until now, I had been reciting what Robert Bly had advised his readers“…to suck out all of the marrow of life’…” as I pursued my lifetime dream to move West. Fate finally pushed me out of my Alberta nest as another bout of pneumonia and a job as a school principal exceeded my capacity. I took a leap of faith and left the cold prairies to be in a place with a kinder climate and a chance for a fresh start, on my own.

What I noticed right from the beginning was that it smelled right here. The pungent earthy smells of forest and ocean welcomed me. I had found my new relationship, and it was one with the setting around me. I had chosen the earth as my new love. Island life, both on Pender Island and Vancouver Island, took my breath away from the phosphorescent night time stars to the violent winds that assailed the trees and forced me to seek sanctuary by real fires that I had learned to light. I had found the right fit for me in what K’omoks referred to the valley as the “land of plenty”. I felt a sense of joy every time I found a new path, and experienced a new flower growing somewhere that I had not known flowers to grow before. It was a healing place, and I would grow here.

Food tasted good in the Big House. Sockeyed wild salmon cooked on cedar planks over a real fire was not only powerfully delicious, but exciting to my psyche because it had been so recently alive and swimming in the Puntledge River next to us. The faces around me were masked by the smoke and flickering shadows of the big fire. The strange prayers chanted in this other language by the descendants of the Northern Georgia Strait Coast Salish held my mind captive until I let go and fell asleep.

I opened my sleepy eyes to the face of the young Salish man who had given me the beads earlier. “You are tired.” He had come back to hear my strengths that he has assigned me to attach to each bead. Embarrassed, but too dizzy with the fire and the food to care, I shared a list of ideas with him in a quiet whisper, and ended with the last one: “relationship”. He smiled, and bowed his head a bit so that I could see the top of it as he kneeled in front of me. I was warm with the fire and a blanket over my lap, but I was also warm with our connection. “You have travelled a lot and seen the world,” he surmised. I nodded. “Now it is time to travel inwardly so that you can be in relationship.” How many people had he said this same message to in this special ceremony, I wondered. He smiled, guessing at my cynicism. “You are very strong minded.” Yes. I agreed with this young-elder. “Hang on to those beads.” He put his hand in his pocket and took out a stone with the image of whale on it and handed it to me.

“You know the power of the whale.” He assumed a knowledge that I did not have. It occurred to me just then that throughout my life, I had either bought, or been given pictures, ornaments and jewelry with the images of whales on them. It truly just dawned on me then that they were everywhere in my home. Until now, I had never really made the connection to my fascination of them. In my young adult life, I had sought them out, but they had never appeared. It was a joke I had that I would never see one, even though I had sat on several West Coast beaches for hours with binoculars waiting for them. However, later in my life, on a trip to Pender Island, I had witnessed my first Orcas at Thieves Bay. I never forgot the magic of seeing the pod as they swam by spouting plumes of water out at us. Later in life, when I was in Newfoundland, my almost adult son and I marveled at the grey and ming whales that seemed to be in every harbor we encountered. The whales had finally found me.

“Whales take away illness,” he explained. “They represent family.” In retrospect, whales had been a symbol for me of the mysteries of the ocean that were always a world away from my cold prairie life. They represented my dream of a different life style. Now the whales were part of my new ocean world. Did they really have the power to heal me? Perhaps the whales had brought me to Pender Island where I now lived just above where they travelled either alone or in pods in the spring and summer months. I had not known until I moved in that I was so close to them. Again, he held my hand and I focused on the earing he wore sparkling in the firelight along with his silent charisma. “Listen to the whales,” he explained, as if I knew what he meant. I finally looked into his eyes, and I knew that this message was intended just for me. The whales had been speaking to me all of these years, and it was only now that I had finally paid attention. Unconsciously, I had sought out places where they lived, and also, how interesting to note that I now lived in the “valley of the whale” as the glacier called Queneesh has much First Nation significance as the powerful whale that saved the people (http://beyondnootka.com/articles/queneesh.html)

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Eighteen: The Message of the Whales

12 May

Gowland Point Facing States

The Message of the Whales

He handed me several beads, and sat quietly and knowingly on one knee in front of me, as if he were not a complete stranger: “You have several strengths.” Each sea shell or rock bead that he slid into the palm of my hand had something very unique about it. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so he placed his hands one on top and beneath my hand protecting them. “Each bead represents a separate strength that you know you possess, but have not brought to life yet”. His beauty and energy were hypnotic. “You wrap it in this small cloth and I will come around later with some red wool for you to cherish it safely. You can keep these beads with you, or you can keep them somewhere else near you for safe keeping once we are done”. He looked directly into my eyes. His intensity was powerful and I had to look away. I hadn’t been able to hold eye contact with anyone recently, except at work where it was professional, safe, and expected. He continued to sit in front of me. “Do you understand?” He sat quietly in my discomfort. I nodded. “Good. I’ll come back later.” He walked over to sit next to the elders or “siem”. There was no “chief” here. Chief is a government-applied term, although it was apparent that some of them held a greater position of respect than others.

It occurred to me as I sat at the hearth of the largest fire that I had ever seen at this First Nations Big House, that I was spiritually depleted. One of the men continued to put large pieces of Douglas fir into the fire, feeding its hypnotic inferno. My eyes followed the plumes of smoke escaping upward into the open-air ceiling. I marveled at the magic of this place made up of polished cedar poles all standing tall and grouted one beside the next. After a long trip back from a conference for work in San Francisco, I considered how much I had changed in the past seven months of being on the island in “the valley”. The male elder sang his prayer to us to the beat of his drum. His plaintive, jagged aboriginal inflections filled the space around us. Until now, I had been reciting what Robert Bly had advised his readers“…to suck out all of the marrow of life’…” as I pursued my lifetime dream to move West. Fate finally pushed me out of my Alberta nest as another bout of pneumonia and a job as a school principal exceeded my capacity. I took a leap of faith and left the cold prairies to be in a place with a kinder climate and a chance for a fresh start, on my own.

What I noticed right from the beginning was that it smelled right here. The pungent earthy smells of forest and ocean welcomed me. I had found my new relationship, and it was one with the setting around me. I had chosen the earth as my new love. Island life, both on Pender Island and Vancouver Island, took my breath away from the phosphorescent night time stars to the violent winds that assailed the trees and forced me to seek sanctuary by real fires that I had learned to light. I had found the right fit for me in what K’omoks referred to the valley as the “land of plenty”. I felt a sense of joy every time I found a new path, and experienced a new flower growing somewhere that I had not known flowers to grow before. It was a healing place, and I would grow here.

Food tasted good in the Big House. Sockeyed wild salmon cooked on cedar planks over a real fire was not only powerfully delicious, but exciting to my psyche because it had been so recently alive and swimming in the Puntledge River next to us. The faces around me were masked by the smoke and flickering shadows of the big fire. The strange prayers chanted in this other language by the descendants of the Northern Georgia Strait Coast Salish held my mind captive until I let go and fell asleep.

I opened my sleepy eyes to the face of the young Salish man who had given me the beads earlier. “You are tired.” He had come back to hear my strengths that he has assigned me to attach to each bead. Embarrassed, but too dizzy with the fire and the food to care, I shared a list of ideas with him in a quiet whisper, and ended with the last one: “relationship”. He smiled, and bowed his head a bit so that I could see the top of it as he kneeled in front of me. I was warm with the fire and a blanket over my lap, but I was also warm with our connection. “You have travelled a lot and seen the world,” he surmised. I nodded. “Now it is time to travel inwardly so that you can be in relationship.” How many people had he said this same message to in this special ceremony, I wondered. He smiled, guessing at my cynicism. “You are very strong minded.” Yes. I agreed with this young-elder. “Hang on to those beads.” He put his hand in his pocket and took out a stone with the image of whale on it and handed it to me.

“You know the power of the whale.” He assumed a knowledge that I did not have. It occurred to me just then that throughout my life, I had either bought, or been given pictures, ornaments and jewelry with the images of whales on them. It truly just dawned on me then that they were everywhere in my home. Until now, I had never really made the connection to my fascination of them. In my young adult life, I had sought them out, but they had never appeared. It was a joke I had that I would never see one, even though I had sat on several West Coast beaches for hours with binoculars waiting for them. However, later in my life, on a trip to Pender Island, I had witnessed my first Orcas at Thieves Bay. I never forgot the magic of seeing the pod as they swam by spouting plumes of water out at us. Later in life, when I was in Newfoundland, my almost adult son and I marveled at the grey and ming whales that seemed to be in every harbor we encountered. The whales had finally found me.

“Whales take away illness,” he explained. “They represent family.” In retrospect, whales had been a symbol for me of the mysteries of the ocean that were always a world away from my cold prairie life. They represented my dream of a different life style. Now the whales were part of my new ocean world. Did they really have the power to heal me? Perhaps the whales had brought me to Pender Island where I now lived just above where they travelled either alone or in pods in the spring and summer months. I had not known until I moved in that I was so close to them. Again, he held my hand and I focused on the earing he wore sparkling in the firelight along with his silent charisma. “Listen to the whales,” he explained, as if I knew what he meant. I finally looked into his eyes, and I knew that this message was intended just for me. The whales had been speaking to me all of these years, and it was only now that I had finally paid attention. Unconsciously, I had sought out places where they lived, and also, how interesting to note that I now lived in the “valley of the whale” as the glacier called Queneesh has much First Nation significance as the powerful whale that saved the people (http://beyondnootka.com/articles/queneesh.html)

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Seventeen: Seeking a Spiritual Connection

8 May

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Seventeen: Seeking a Spiritual Connection.

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52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Seventeen: Seeking a Spiritual Connection

Renunciation: What happens when you arrive at the most spiritual setting of your lifetime, and realize that the culture of people residing in it are those of any small town, fraught with issues of ego and judgment? Even though I am new to small town life that has many advantages to it, there are some challenges that require me to reconsider my approach to how I accept or detach from them. Fortunately, I have made key connections with people (through work and other) that remind me of the strength and goodness of the valley. However, there sometimes appears to be a sense of fear and judgment that permeates some people’s experiences here.

It is difficult to watch people (young to old) in this small valley talking behind each other’s backs. This is not a phenomenon unique to this locale as this state of egoic dispassion is evident everywhere that I have lived or travelled (in large cities, small towns and villages, and even in remote cultures). Humbly, it is something that I myself struggle with daily in my humanness, and I have noted a distinct need on my part to rise above this type of toxic mindset in this smaller centre. Perhaps it is because I am new here. Perhaps it is because I am in a position of caring for people. Perhaps I am ready to consider a better way to co-exist with people as I transform my spiritual experience.

The Ego is Always Right: It is all too easy to get caught in the vortex of one opinion against another as there is often a need for people to be “right”. I believe this need arises from a fear that what has happened to other people who have been “wrong” might happen to them. Failure, or the perception of it here and in other places, is not always handled compassionately. However, those who are a bit more enlightened (I have noticed this here in the First Nations culture, alternative lifestyle communities, spiritual communities and some leadership roles), are held in very high regard because of their loving kindness toward others.

Small centers draw attention to the evidence and damage of black and white thinking. People get slotted into their roles, responsibilities and reputations. Only those who have worked past this type of fixed thinking seem immune to it. Others have to grapple with the versions of self that they allow other people to determine for them. For example, many young people have confided to me that they often feel judged and misunderstood. This constant looking over their shoulders in an almost paranoid frenzy of what their peers and elders might be saying about them (live or virtually) is perplexing to observe. In a larger city, I believe we grapple with it by becoming anonymous. In a smaller community where it is nearly impossible to be anonymous, it requires a careful mindset to decide who to trust and how to be trustworthy.

The Question of Detachment: However, in aspiring to “detach”, it is easy to risk alienating ourselves from intimate connections. So the question that arises for me is “How can I be lovingly detached from difficult matters or people instead of building walls and wearing armor?”

I feel a need in my emerging role in the community to remind people that there is a more loving way to interact, although I cannot claim to have it all figured out. People seem to be relieved when they feel their strengths are acknowledged instead of any deficits that have been pointed out to them in the past. People rise to the positive assumptions we allow them when they learn to trust that I will stand behind my opinions about them. Lately, I am finding it harder and harder to dislike and find fault with people. I am fuzzy on how to get really angry as well. This is a distinct change from my younger experience. I am finding that the one thing that still does get under my skin is judgment.

I am learning that this matter of worrying about who is right and wrong requires that we model that it doesn’t matter anyway. We are all living somewhere on the path toward truth. None of us are ever really right or wrong even in situations where matters of principles and values are challenged. In these situations, we can raise our opinions where we disagree with others. We can afford people an opportunity to debate and dialogue. We might even intervene where there might be injury to others or self-harm. However, in the end, the actual “right” and the “wrong” of it is immaterial. The human spirit underneath the situation is what counts.

When our journeys coincide, we need to connect in ways that speak the following message loudly and clearly: “I care about you.” Even where a connection is toxic or unmanageable, we need to consider the connection through the lens of detachment. In extreme cases, a mentor taught me to use “compassionate avoidance”. However, at no point can we “disregard” another or label them as unsuitable, unacceptable or worthless. Everyone has value.

Spiritually Seeking: However, the matter of caring for self in order to consider others compassionately warrants careful time and attention. I have sought it in the pews of the Christian churches here; around the fire of the K’omoks Big House; and tonight on the floor of the Courtenay Buddhist Temple. When I went to hear the Dalai Lama in Calgary three years ago, I initially found his single message of “compassion, compassion, compassion” simple and sophomoric. I now see it as the seed of all successful human interaction. After all of these philosophical and religious pursuits, I still find my greatest sanctuary to be in the valley’s forests. The glorious green and the wildlife that surrounds this ocean community nurture and inspire my “nature deficit” body and soul (Louv, 2005).

Interestingly, I find that my body knows when it is in disequilibrium with self and in disharmony with others. It tells me very clearly through fatigue, pain and illness that I am too attached. It warns me when I judge, gossip and patronize. My body knows when I am in healthy relationships and with whom I can truly be intimate. My body picks up on those intuitive cues that my mind often disregards. It tells me through my breathing, posture, and muscles.

Lately, my body is telling me to sit up and pay attention. It is telling me to speak my truth humbly, but to keep my voice despite disliking conflict. By talking about my experience, I believe that I will discover a better way to connect to people in the community who are on a similar spiritual journey, and detach a bit more from those who are not. By seeking out wise mentors, I hope to gain insight into how they “renunciate, transform and liberate” themselves (Geshe YongDong, Sherab Chamma Ling Tibetan Bon Buddhist Centre in Courtenay) through various strategies (prayer, meditation, yoga, reading, singing, labyrinth walking and other). I feel a sense of optimism and comfort in being true to my voice. I also need to honor the voices of others who grapple with similar topics in their search for kindness in our community.

The goal is always to find love–to “be” love.

Namaste.

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Seventeen: Seeking a Spiritual Connection

8 May

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52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Seventeen: Seeking a Spiritual Connection

Renunciation: What happens when you arrive at the most spiritual setting of your lifetime, and realize that the culture of people residing in it are those of any small town, fraught with issues of ego and judgment? Even though I am new to small town life that has many advantages to it, there are some challenges that require me to reconsider my approach to how I accept or detach from them. Fortunately, I have made key connections with people (through work and other) that remind me of the strength and goodness of the valley. However, there sometimes appears to be a sense of fear and judgment that permeates some people’s experiences here.

It is difficult to watch people (young to old) in this small valley talking behind each other’s backs. This is not a phenomenon unique to this locale as this state of egoic dispassion is evident everywhere that I have lived or travelled (in large cities, small towns and villages, and even in remote cultures). Humbly, it is something that I myself struggle with daily in my humanness, and I have noted a distinct need on my part to rise above this type of toxic mindset in this smaller centre. Perhaps it is because I am new here. Perhaps it is because I am in a position of caring for people. Perhaps I am ready to consider a better way to co-exist with people as I transform my spiritual experience.

The Ego is Always Right: It is all too easy to get caught in the vortex of one opinion against another as there is often a need for people to be “right”. I believe this need arises from a fear that what has happened to other people who have been “wrong” might happen to them. Failure, or the perception of it here and in other places, is not always handled compassionately. However, those who are a bit more enlightened (I have noticed this here in the First Nations culture, alternative lifestyle communities, spiritual communities and some leadership roles), are held in very high regard because of their loving kindness toward others.

Small centers draw attention to the evidence and damage of black and white thinking. People get slotted into their roles, responsibilities and reputations. Only those who have worked past this type of fixed thinking seem immune to it. Others have to grapple with the versions of self that they allow other people to determine for them. For example, many young people have confided to me that they often feel judged and misunderstood. This constant looking over their shoulders in an almost paranoid frenzy of what their peers and elders might be saying about them (live or virtually) is perplexing to observe. In a larger city, I believe we grapple with it by becoming anonymous. In a smaller community where it is nearly impossible to be anonymous, it requires a careful mindset to decide who to trust and how to be trustworthy.

The Question of Detachment: However, in aspiring to “detach”, it is easy to risk alienating ourselves from intimate connections. So the question that arises for me is “How can I be lovingly detached from difficult matters or people instead of building walls and wearing armor?”

I feel a need in my emerging role in the community to remind people that there is a more loving way to interact, although I cannot claim to have it all figured out. People seem to be relieved when they feel their strengths are acknowledged instead of any deficits that have been pointed out to them in the past. People rise to the positive assumptions we allow them when they learn to trust that I will stand behind my opinions about them. Lately, I am finding it harder and harder to dislike and find fault with people. I am fuzzy on how to get really angry as well. This is a distinct change from my younger experience. I am finding that the one thing that still does get under my skin is judgment.

I am learning that this matter of worrying about who is right and wrong requires that we model that it doesn’t matter anyway. We are all living somewhere on the path toward truth. None of us are ever really right or wrong even in situations where matters of principles and values are challenged. In these situations, we can raise our opinions where we disagree with others. We can afford people an opportunity to debate and dialogue. We might even intervene where there might be injury to others or self-harm. However, in the end, the actual “right” and the “wrong” of it is immaterial. The human spirit underneath the situation is what counts.

When our journeys coincide, we need to connect in ways that speak the following message loudly and clearly: “I care about you.” Even where a connection is toxic or unmanageable, we need to consider the connection through the lens of detachment. In extreme cases, a mentor taught me to use “compassionate avoidance”. However, at no point can we “disregard” another or label them as unsuitable, unacceptable or worthless. Everyone has value.

Spiritually Seeking: However, the matter of caring for self in order to consider others compassionately warrants careful time and attention. I have sought it in the pews of the Christian churches here; around the fire of the K’omoks Big House; and tonight on the floor of the Courtenay Buddhist Temple. When I went to hear the Dalai Lama in Calgary three years ago, I initially found his single message of “compassion, compassion, compassion” simple and sophomoric. I now see it as the seed of all successful human interaction. After all of these philosophical and religious pursuits, I still find my greatest sanctuary to be in the valley’s forests. The glorious green and the wildlife that surrounds this ocean community nurture and inspire my “nature deficit” body and soul (Louv, 2005).

Interestingly, I find that my body knows when it is in disequilibrium with self and in disharmony with others. It tells me very clearly through fatigue, pain and illness that I am too attached. It warns me when I judge, gossip and patronize. My body knows when I am in healthy relationships and with whom I can truly be intimate. My body picks up on those intuitive cues that my mind often disregards. It tells me through my breathing, posture, and muscles.

Lately, my body is telling me to sit up and pay attention. It is telling me to speak my truth humbly, but to keep my voice despite disliking conflict. By talking about my experience, I believe that I will discover a better way to connect to people in the community who are on a similar spiritual journey, and detach a bit more from those who are not. By seeking out wise mentors, I hope to gain insight into how they “renunciate, transform and liberate” themselves (Geshe YongDong, Sherab Chamma Ling Tibetan Bon Buddhist Centre in Courtenay) through various strategies (prayer, meditation, yoga, reading, singing, labyrinth walking and other). I feel a sense of optimism and comfort in being true to my voice. I also need to honor the voices of others who grapple with similar topics in their search for kindness in our community.

The goal is always to find love–to “be” love.

Namaste.

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Fourteen: The Pregnant Pause of Reflection

13 Jan

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The Last Steps:   The final steps of my move away from Calgary, such as formally selling my house in Calgary; giving up my Alberta Health Care Card; transferring my Alberta pension to British Columbia; transferring my doctors’ files and severing these longstanding relationships; giving much of my furniture to my son, and other endings, remind me of the finality of my “big life change”.  I have truly “done it”, and now the reality of it all settles in.  My kitties sit beside me as I sit in front of my little fireplace, and together we contemplate what this all means.  Why did I do this?  Where do I go from here?  With whom do I share the next part of my BC journey?  My son came to visit me, and I think he is proud of my hard work to get here and establish myself.  I think he is a little bit in awe of what I have done, and holds a new respect for my new found independence.  He speaks of my parenting of him with a new sense of pride.   I have modelled to him that a life change is possible with enough hard work and perseverence.

I will admit now that this has been gutsy.  People were telling me that it was, but I wasn’t really hearing them, and understanding it.  There was no time to look over the edge and speculate what I might be losing by leaving at the time, but now that I peek over, I am a little dizzy from the realization that I am here now, and I did it by myself.  I missed a work day last week out of sheer exhaustion.  I slept all day.  It is finally dawning on me the sheer scope of this move, and that the transfer of my 47 years of identity in one place to another place is truly life altering.  I have been keeping up with the unboxing into my two new homes on Pender and Comox and making them feel like home; a new job, and my new BC status in all regards.  However, the dawning of a new life is hitting me now.

Now What?  I was “called” to come here, and now I have to seek the deeper meaning in all of it and savour the changes so that the magnitude of why I am here is not lost on me.  I have been so busy making the changes that I have to now sit down and look out at the vista around me.  And rest.  For example, today I noticed that the snow looks and feels different here than in Calgary.  It holds a new meaning as everyone here marvels at it as it only comes once in awhile.  What a new perspective on the dreaded snow that Calgarians hate seeing so much of the year.  I look forward to reflecting on life in new ways.  I have been exploring and enjoying it, but all of it has not embedded itself within me yet as I ask, “Why am I here?”

No Regrets:  Don’t get me wrong, as I have very few regrets in the change.  I am not pining nor romanticizing the past, although I miss people from time to time.  It is scary to sit and face the future alone and with a blank slate on which to write my new story.  I have a home, a job, but “now what?”  I am confident that there is a “now what”, but I need to be clear and open to understand “what is NOW” first.  I am slowly getting more time to really sit and look and listen.  It takes courage to be alone and really think about things.  It is much easier to stay busy and keep moving.  I need to pay attention to what messages I can get from new people, places and things.  What can I learn from all of this newness?  Everything has a new implication or life lesson.

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way,  creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything  useful.”  Margaret Wheatley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pressed: Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen: The Job of Parent is Never Over

26 Dec

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen: The Job of Parent is Never Over.

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen:

The Job of Parent is Never Over

Andrew walking away in field

“Self-discipline is self-caring.” The Road Less Travelled, Peck, 2006

A Little Distance: It sometimes just takes a bit of distance to have a bit of objectivity (although I always like to think that objectivity is simply subjectivity kept in check). With a bit of an arm’s length view on the world, I have released myself from being involved in the decisions of others, especially where it is none of my business. Except, of course, when my son phones me up in the middle of the night and tells me some choices that he is making lately and how they are impacting his health and well-being. Then, I have to pull myself back out of my Zen-like reality that I have created for myself here in BC, and get back into the arena of parenting. I believe that even though I have accepted that my son and I are now heading down different life paths in his new adulthood, I also have to accept some responsibility for continuing to parent my son, although that becomes trickier, and needs to be handled respectfully. The trick is to continue to make him feel valuable and capable while helping to provide guidance from the sidelines: “The feeling of being valuable –‘I am a valuable person’—is essential to mental health and is the cornerstone of self-discipline” (Peck, 2006, p. 12).

The Job of Parent is Never Over: As tempting as it is, and as easy as it would be to follow the advice of others admonishing me and other loving parents not to be too involved (I am finding they often say this to allay their own parenting choices), I cannot sit on the sidelines and say, “my job is over”. The parent pressure from our current parenting culture is to not be a “hovering” parent, as if there is a danger that simple involvement risks being too involved. It is a delicate balancing act between empowering our children by letting go with continuing to be connected to them in important ways.

Problem solving is the basic premise of life and learning, and it is important to direct our children toward mentors. We do so by imparting the idea that we will continue to be mentors, but there are also other mentors with various skills and talents out there in the world to access. By doing so, our adult children become apprentices in life. “Tread humbly and always have a mentor”, is my motto, and once people understand this, they let go of some of the ego that drives them to know or do it all by themselves.

Parenting Due-Diligence: I like the term we use in the education world known as “due-diligence”. If anyone questions us, we can say that we did everything in our power to afford students success. Therefore, we develop systems, processes, policies and procedures to insure that we truly have done everything to lead students to successful outcomes (ideally graduation and successful transitions into the world of work or post-secondary involvement). Similarly, I believe that we also need to provide due-diligence when taking care of our loved ones in our families.

We have some obligation in life to lead our young horses to water. The drinking part is entirely up to them. However, what I am noticing, as I watch parents of adult children in this decade, is that too many are just letting these young wild horses hit the road, and they are literally crashing and burning. For example, we attend young people’s weddings, but very few of us sit and talk to newly married couples and advise them about what married life might be like, and the challenges that might need overcoming, the pitfalls to avoid and the joys to look out for along the way. Instead, we throw our rice, go to the dance, and likely never talk to this young couple again about their marriage because we assume that they will “figure it out”.

Air Traffic Control Tower: In our culture, we value this “autonomy” to the degree that our extended family wisdom and values are being ignored for fear of smothering or over-protecting our new adults. Whereas, in other cultures, the mixed generations consult each other and those with the most wisdom and the strongest skill-set in any key decision-making areas, take some leadership and responsibility for the young individual grappling with the matter. As much as I understand that our children need to step up and take responsibility for themselves, our responsibility continues to be to keep an eye out, and step in where they are about to drive over the cliffs in life. We can’t always save them, but sometimes we can help them with a loving conversation or some advice not always sought after, but later appreciated. Sometimes people don’t know what they don’t know.

I believe that just as God watches over us, and from time to time, steps in, so should we as parents of our loved ones make the effort to do the same. And who said that that was always going to be easy or feel good? The accolades and thank-you’s may never come, but we know that we have done due-diligence to steer some of the next part of their journeys from the family watch tower. I often think of parents as airline traffic controllers. Sometimes the pilots will call in and exclaim their dilemmas asking for direction and help from the tower. Sometimes, however, the traffic controllers have to call up to the pilots and say, “You may not see it from where you are, but I am advising you that from where I sit with all of my radar equipment and background in aviation, that you are heading for a crash.”

I believe that we have an obligation, as parents, to sometime hold up the “stop” sign to the people that we love, just like the woman on the road-construction crew on the Malahat Highway did to me as I was winding through avalanche territory at mock speed a couple of days ago to pick my son up from the Victoria airport for Christmas. It annoyed me a bit, but after that, I paid attention. Just as my son finds my road signs highly annoying, he knows that someone in the world is caring enough about him to hold them up, and say, “Hey, be careful!” Who better to do so than the people who really care and love them? Yes, there is grief for our intervention. It is never appreciated. However, it is valuable that we continue to try to stay connected in their lives so they are not alone.