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Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Three: Messages from Up High

5 Jul

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Three: Messages from Up High.

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Signal Hills, Temples, Fortresses, Domes and Steeples: It has struck me today as I climbed up to Signal Hill on Pender Island, that I am always climbing to communicative vantage points. In almost every country that I have visited, I have this fascination with getting to the highest points where their citizens have found inspiration. In turn, they have used these places to communicate with their people because of the visibility from up high. These citadels, minarets, bell towers and other have been used throughout the centuries for various military, political and religious reasons to protect its people, and present important communication over land and, sometimes, sea. There was a sense of security in each community beneath these communication points knowing that someone was manning these towers and could communicate key pieces information to other relevant parties through light, bells, voice, instruments, flags, semaphore, Morse Code, and other agreed upon signals.

I remember, in particular, when I visited Boston, the story of Paul Revere warning his people of the British Red Coats coming. Beyond all odds, he found the highest point in the city in the steeple of The Old North Church:

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Mass Communication: Since then, we communicate through all sorts of modern means: mail, radio, telephone, email, video conferencing, etc., and in some respects, we are relying on our highest points of satellite to be our newest technology temples. We have become quite connected through multi-media across various communication management systems and social media venues. However, what seems most interesting is that the more connected we become (with less of a need to stand on mountain tops in order to be heard), the less clear it is becoming about what are truly the most important messages. The key messages are being diffused by the trillions of other messages that are being transmitted millisecond by millisecond to millions of sources in the immediate and global vicinities. We are left decoding: “What is important? What should I pay attention to?”

Messages from Up High: What becomes critical then, is to consider the source. All of this information may be coming through a place of high visibility, with what seems to be very interesting news. However, these sound bytes of information, often static in their importance and tentative in their longevity, may not be meaningful for long. What we need to be listening to, instead, is our information from our higher collective power. Our intuition and our connection to the spiritual energy within and around us is what is most important. It helps us receive information that is authentic and meaningful from the external sources from around the world.

Through these spiritual lenses, we filter and make sense of the valuable signs and symbols. We then learn to appreciate the magical synchronicities of these messages and our experiences. We learn to know what messages are the powerful ones because we start to trust ourselves with how we receive and interpret them. We become both the signal towers and the receivers. Therefore, instead of looking up to find the high places that have traditionally been the telegraph hills, look within, and in doing so, the messages we hear will be certain to be the necessary ones. The “lanterns” hung up at the steeple are never lost where we pay attention.

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
― Mary Oliver

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52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 28: Sparking Serendipity

24 May

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Bonfires of the Heart: When listening to the song by James Blunt called “Bonfires of the Heart” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1j1qwQQ8-Q) the other day, I realize that our lives are often very much about laying down the paper, kindling and firewood with the hopes that the fire in our hearts will set ablaze when the right situation, opportunity or person comes along. Too often we are searching for exactly what we think will turn us on–that little spark that ignites the flame. I’ve spent much of my life thinking that there is a certain type of person–an alterego, that fits a profile that would be my perfect match. However, when “Mr. Perfect” happened to come along recently, fitting all of the criteria that I had outlined for myself, it ended up being very ordinary, and not longstanding. I got swept away for a brief time, thinking that I knew what I was talking about, and that I had actually found “it”.

Magic Happens: What I learned is that the Universe prefers “magic” to happen instead. It is not satisfied with the ordinary for any one of us, unless, of course, we insist upon it. If we arm wrestle with the powers that be, we will get what we want, and that is often very average dreams embedded in fear-based outcomes that demand assurances and security. However, when we let the universe call the shots, real change and opportunity come alive. This life altering shift is no ordinary change, but it often involves a quake that results in massive “second order change”. Second order change is not about tweaking what we are already doing, but it can sometimes mean blowing up the house and rebuilding it from the ground up. It means that after the earth quake that can shake up our worlds, we have to look down into the faults that have opened up in the earth around us, and let the spirit rise inside of us.

In other words, we have to let ourselves fall back into the abundance that is being offered to us and trust that the spirit will catch us.

Serendipity can be defined as “look[ing] for something, find[ing] something else, and realiz[ing] that what you found is more suited to your needs than what you were looking for” (Lawrence Block). This requires us to shed the expectations that we held up so highly in our hearts in the first place. When we “accidentally stumble upon something truly wonderful, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated” we have to stop and open our hearts to the possibilities. I am finding that the more I shift my own path to the one of my inner calling (a disconcerting process), that serendipitous moments are opening up all around me. I notice them where I may not have paid attention before. They resonate with me to my core.

Recently I met someone who is the type of person who I was attracted to when I was younger. He is not the person that my grown-up persona would assume is my right match. He has not followed my ultra-responsible path, nor is he a duplicate of my polished personal and professional resume. He is instead, this charismatic person with sky blue eyes that pierce through to my soul and ask me questions that I haven’t had the courage to ask myself in a long time. Interestingly, he is from Salt Spring Island which I can see from my Pender cottage. Mount Tuam and Mount Maxwell loom in the distance across the Swanson Channel. Unbeknownst to him, he took me on a couple of our “dates” to explore these vantage points where I can see down on my little island. Fortunately, we are both in love with nature and its healing power. We are joyful souls, disparate in our circumstances, but completely aligned in our intense spiritual connection. Together, we flow into each experience we have the opportunity to share, one to the next, side by side in utterly fluid comfort that is fed by the heart and the spirit. It seems to make “sense” as it unfolds, even when I think it isn’t “sensible”. It ends up reminding me that this is exactly what was intended for me in my life at this time.

Ignoring the Road Signs: When someone touches us in ways that soften our edges and allows us to see ourselves with kinder and more loving lenses, we are being warmed by the bonfires of the universe. It will not burn us if we trust it. It is asking us to step up and get closer to warm our bodies and souls next to the fire that we were meant to experience all along.

For example, when I was younger, I naturally and intrinsically knew exactly what turned me on when it came to the opposite sex. I was closer to my essential self at that time. I had not had years to convince myself of who I was supposed to be, and to be led by my overly-responsibly parenting standards, nor an ego that steered me away from the things that are most important to me. In my early years, I gravitated to the type of people where I could truly be myself which has always been a feisty, sassy girl who liked to speak her mind, dance, play sports, debate, race, enjoy cards at night, listen to music (and actually hear the lyrics), swear on occasion, read and write poetry out loud, appreciate being outside in the middle of the woods (lost sometimes), party late, write often, compose music, crack jokes, laugh a lot, and more importantly, have fun.

I am designed to have fun and what a joy it is to remember how to do so when for so many years, reason stepped in and held up the signs that said any one of these things: “you have things to get done…you are too old for this…you have a child to take care of and launch…you need to be safe…other people need your attention…you might get hurt…make money…be responsible!” In following these road signs, I accomplished a lot, and I don’t have many regrets because I made a solid career for myself, and raised a wonderful son. However, what I forgot was my biggest asset (and one that I hope that my dear friends will remember about me), and that is my ability to abandon myself to joyful moments.

Reminders from the Universe on the Fairway of Life: I believe that we know that we are being nurtured by universal serendipity when all of sudden, something wonderful catches our attention. The essence…taste, smell, look, touch, sound…whatever, take our breath away, and we cannot move. It jolts us awake. In my case, I could not breathe. If I tried to walk away and ignore it, I had a visceral response to the pull. I had to turn around and wonder, “What just happened? Who are you? What is this?” I had envisioned something like it, but when it came along, it caught me by surprise.

Life feels just a little bit differently when something or someone comes along that we are supposed to experience. Some people describe it as falling in love, but I baulk at this description because it implies that we are relying on the “other” for our happiness. For me, serendipity is more powerful than simply a chemical reaction between two people that captivates their attention, and draws them together for awhile. Serendipitous experience involve spirit at a profound level, like a falling into self. In my case, I feel like I can rest into it. When I swing, it follows through. The sweet spot connects, and before I know it, I catch myself looking up a fairway that I didn’t even know that I was playing. There is remarkable joy to see my little white ball landing right in the middle of the green. How did that happen? The universe seems to answer: “It has always been there, and where the hell have you been? It is your turn to putt. Everyone is waiting for you.”

The Spirit Moving
Shelley Robinson

Asynchronously around me
The playlist
Bursts everyone open into flame
A free flow frenzy of dance
I lay pressed to the floor
Shallow breathing
Heart flatlining
Tears trickling
The wooded floor vibrates
Their footsteps recalibrate my soul
I stir, and breathe, and wake
Quietly

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

1 Jul

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

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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.

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

1 Jul

981265_10151727318141383_451742269_o

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.

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.