Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The 365 Grateful Project

Speaking of what's meaningful... and enough here to be grateful for my entire life...

...and because I've lamented so in this space about how difficult a transition it's been having my older daughter living out of state these past two years, I will share the good news also: tonight I leave for maybe my last trip ever to Seattle, to help her move back to California (to UC Davis, a short hour and forty-five minute drive away!!) to pursue her lifelong dream, graduate work in creative writing. Not only that, but last weekend, I helped my younger daughter move from SF to Berkeley, closer by only about fifteen miles or so, but when considering traffic, crossing the bridge, traffic (!) it feels like a whole world closer.

I know now how precious this time of close proximity is, and I will never again take it for granted. To be able to hop in the car and drive up for lunch, no checking baggage, no taking off the shoes, jacket, and scarf to get through security screening, to have her able to easily pop in for the occasional weekend, to be able to spend birthdays together again, not to mention watching her dreams unfolding, just feels incredible, and I am so excited and so grateful...

Speaking of which. Here's something I've been wanting to write about for a few weeks now. There is something I want to do but that feels like a huge undertaking, a serious commitment requiring daily awareness and effort and discipline that I'm not sure I will be able to see all the way through, and I just want to begin to articulate it, to put it out here, to maybe get some feedback, encouragement, support.

A few weeks ago I ran across the blog 365grateful. It's possible that I'm the last person in cyberworld to find it, but oh well, once discovered, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. The 365 Grateful Project started simply as one woman seeking to help her depression through finding one thing each day that she was grateful for and photographing it. For a year. She began posting her photos on Flickr, they began to be noticed and before long, folks around the world were doing their own versions, it has taken off, and lives are changing forever.

I am not one to jump onto the latest, trendy bandwagon. But there is something here that feels so meaningful, and it seems a wonderful way to put into daily practice that shift in attention I wrote about a couple of posts ago. It seems simple and huge and risky all at the same time. Can I do it? What if I can't do it? What if it's too much? What if I fail? What if I do it and it doesn't change my life...?! 

And yet I SO want to do this. And it strikes me that as with anything that feels large and intimidating and possibly impossible, it's all about one step at a time; here, one day at a time. Forget the 365 part, just find one thing each day that I'm grateful for and take a picture of it. What could be simpler, really?! One thing. Each day. Snap a pic. Right?

What do you think?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Living the Questions: A Bit of a Dark Ramble

I've been saying for years that we can trust life, trust the things that are happening; trust that there are no mistakes or accidents or coincidences. How do we know the right thing is happening? Because it is happening. This I've heard over and over from people who seem to have experienced true awakening and observed life and our world from that perspective, from authentic knowing and seeing as opposed to intellectual conceptualizing.

I've also seen from the years on the spiritual path - and to my surprise - that the more I learn and think I "know," the more I see that I don't know, and the further the mystery deepens. I've always loved this, it's felt like its own brush up against the mystical and sacred, and an invitation, as Rilke put it, to live the questions now, rather than the constant quest for the illusion of security I think answers might provide.

Until the dark night that is...

Because the truth is, I have no idea what is truth and what is not. No idea if the right thing is happening, if there are mistakes or not, if it's even in our power to make lemonade when life hands us lemons; if life is the canvas to the imagination. (Though it sounds great, oui? though on second thought, maybe Thoreau had stumbled upon some wild mushrooms out there on Walden Pond :) I used to think so, I used to think we had much more control... before the Dark Night. Sometimes Life takes away even our ability to decide how we respond to things. This I do know from first-hand experience.

I think again of telling my teacher Isaac that I no longer have a clue what's true... and knowing his answer as surely as I know my own first name... Congratulations. And there is a sense that Life is not finished stripping it all away, any ideas, thought, beliefs about what is true or what should be, anything that stands in my way (of what...??), that as I go through my possessions and jettison ever more stuff, as my house continues to fall in value and I lose more and more money waiting for it to sell, as my mood rises and falls like waves on a stormy sea, I am left wondering what it's all really about, pondering the whole idea of mistakes and regrets and security, of what we know and don't know, can ever know or not know, of what is of value and what is not, what, if anything, can truly be trusted.

Living the questions... what choice do we really have? Well, other than making art - and even that doesn't feel like a choice, it seems to just happen - and enjoying the hell out of how people put words together to form a poetic and lovely and inspiring whole.

It could even be, couldn't it, that the Dark Night is a true and real, even necessary part of the path? That any idea of it being bad or wrong exists in the mind only. That what we can see, what we can know, pales completely in comparison to all that goes on in and around us invisibly, the tip of the iceberg being all that can be seen with our human eyes, all else lying beneath the surface, dark, mysterious.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Things We Love

This photo has four of my favorite things: turquoise blue, pink, a tiger swallowtail, and the word joy. As a kid, there were few things I loved more than butterflies, and especially the large, beautiful swallowtails. They were magical to me, how they changed so mysteriously from an ugly and ungainly caterpillar into such colorful, graceful little beings; how they danced, flitting from one thing to the next; the joy they brought then, and still do today when I am lucky enough to spy one, how both my attention and my breath are held in such rapt wonder.

I think about those things that are closest to my heart, the ones that make my soul sing, if even for a brief moment, if only a tiny parting of the gray veil. I'm talking things, not people, the people being obvious and foremost of course. And I'm wondering as I write, what things light you up? What takes you from the normal realms into something quite spectacular, warms your heart, sings to you?

Other than butterflies, for me, it's dolphins, Moloka'i, Maui, the ocean anytime, anywhere, and in any whether, snorkeling, my friend Sharon's mountaintop, a beautiful and profound poem, the music of Lono, a perennial flower garden, taking pictures, Mt. Shasta, Happy Isles at Yosemite.

Speaking of, I still can't quite believe that in six weeks I will be back on Moloka'i. I have never known such sustained joy as I experienced my three months there, the last month in particular. Here on the mainland, real life has intruded once again, the doors of the excitement that animated me as I watched unexpected things fall into place and I made my plans drifting invisibly shut. Sleeplessness, fatigue, the things I long to do but can't quite get going on, the chronic low-grade depression all returning.

Thank goodness for the people and the things that we love. Because life can be hard. I look around at my friends and my family and I see that we all struggle. In our own ways. Like the butterfly must struggle to leave the cocoon. My teacher Isaac has been saying this for years, in a different way maybe, but I get it's the same thing. He says, just find something, one thing, that you can enjoy in this moment. I often resisted, because for some strange reason, I wanted desperately to hang on to whatever the problem was. And yet, except when I was in the darkest of holes, there has always been at least one thing. The vase of flowers sitting on the table next to him, the pink rose in particular; the small stained glass window in the old craftsman style building where we meet; my friend sitting on the floor next to me making jewelry. Right now, my cat Sassy Girl sleeping on my lap, the picture on the mantel of my daughters, the absolute silence, except for the soft hum of my computer.

Getting that it's all part of life; that we walk hand in hand with every bit of it, the good, the bad, the easy, the hard, is my constant learning. And knowing the lesson is also, inexplicably, to no longer favor one over the other; but also, paradoxically maybe, to take the idea of enjoyment - gratitude even (maybe they're really one and the same?) - more to heart. Not as preference, but as practice... not to resist what is, but to make room for more breadth of experience, more totality in each and every moment.

For the first time, I'm posting at Lisa Gordon's Creative Exchange, where the theme is, "Your camera in one hand, your heart in the other." (I love it!) Click the icon below to visit and see others beautiful photos from the heart.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Big News

East Side Moloka'i, the silhouette of Maui in the distance

Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you... you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say follow your bliss and don't be afraid... Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.
~Joseph Campbell

The last few weeks have been flat out amazing. Awarenesses have shifted, possibilities have appeared, doors have swung wide open, incredible love and generosity has flown in, emails and phone calls have been exchanged , reservations have been made, and in eight weeks, eight weeks, god willin' and crick don't rise, I'm going back to Moloka'i !!!

Probably my Number One Secret Dream... 

It is too early to even begin to really articulate what these weeks have been like, the completely unexpected things that have happened, and the very real feeling I have that the entire trajectory of my life may well be shifting. I am still walking around dazed, a bit blown away, and in the serious process of integrating. Though I can say that I am more excited than I have been in a very long time. The feeling buzzes up and down my body, takes my breath away in a good way, and leaves me in awe again, AGAIN, at the magic and mystery of how life can work. 

My heart is blowing wide open...  a strange effect Moloka'i has on me, and I'm not even there yet.