Reflections From My True Self

Remembering Who I Really Am


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Knowing, Awakened

It is early in the day and I am returning from dropping off my children at their before-school activities. So early, I am already carrying a lead weight of anxiety in the bowl of my belly, my mind racing between “shoulds” and my heart hardening with each breath. It is a grey morning, after a rain, with small puddles still gathered in pockets of asphalt. But I am moving too fast to notice.

And that would be my state on this day —this mindless, slightly panicked energy— but for an unexpected interruption. A robin’s chortle breaks into my self-absorption. Suddenly, I am aware of the veil curtain of mist, hanging close to the ground, and the cool scent of soil rising through it. New bird song rings, further away, then closer. I can feel the contours of my body, trace my breath through my lungs.

I am alive! I am here.

And I can see! I see the crabapple tree next to me, in the fog’s embrace. I see a tiny nuthatch hopping up its trunk. And I see the nubs of leaves, waiting to unfold, gathered on spindly branches.

I am here, in the damp mist and the echoes of bird chatter, and I am also home, hurtled by my senses through time and space to the landscape my Soul loves best: the contours of the mountainside on La Finca. And the awareness awakens this knowing in me, again: here, too, I am home.

When I stop to see, when I feel with my senses that I am alive, then, wherever I am, I am home.

Photo by Jay Simmons

Photo by Jay Simmons


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Softened

I visit the dunes and the lake again. Now the snow is gone, the mountains disappeared and the landscape is barren, cleared. In spite of the warmer temperatures and stiller winds, it appears colder than when the snow heaped into canyons and the ice extended out, far over the water. 

The lake, my old friend, is unrecognizable, a different lake. Instead of that being of slate gray, of frozen convulsion, it lies placid, almost still. What was hard and dark is teal and aquamarine, and if I didn’t know better, if the cold of the winter were not still nipping at the back of my neck, it could convince me that it is as warm as the Caribbean of my childhood. 

I gaze at it in wonder, recognizing that this one, and the lake of my memory are the same, even as they seem so different. 

And I am reminded again, as I have been so often before, that this is a reflection of my Self. Or is it I who reflect it? 

Either way, I too am unrecognizable, my cold, grey edges have softened into lapping waves.

Photo by Renee McGurk

Photo by Renee McGurk

Photo by Andrea Friedmann

Photo by Andrea Friedmann


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Unseen

All around me are bare trees and, as far as I can see, blue ice and snow sparkling.

With each step, I sink halfway to my knees. The wind from the lake bites my earlobes and makes my nose run.

But, beneath my feet and that thick layer of white, beyond what I could see, are the bulbs of bluebells and crocuses, already growing.

 

Photo Credit: Hanspeter Klasser

Photo Credit: Hanspeter Klasser


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A Galloping Flame

I am gifted with a dream of the one place where my Self is fully at home, on the Finca, the farm of my childhood in Colombia. I find myself walking in a verdant field on the mountainside, surrounded by lush forest, reveling in its vibrant energy, when I see a flash of movement among the trees. I don’t have time to think before I see a small, but magnificent horse in the shaggiest burnt-orange coat racing across the field in my direction.

I don’t recognize this creature that makes me think of prehistoric horses, or the  ones from the Tibetan mountains, because of its thick, long coat that waves in the wind like a flame streaking towards me.  I am thrilled by the sight of it, and tremulous.

I know horses. They are like people. Some of them are gentle and kind, warmhearted. And some are ornery, and mean. And I don’t know which of them this one is, I only know it is wild, of a wild species that has never been domesticated. Perhaps I should take cover.

But the flame gallops past me without even acknowledging my presence, and, before my unbelieving eyes, races to the other edge of the field and right up the trunk of a tree, onto a thick, sturdy branch, standing in brilliant splendor among the leaves.  My mind struggles to accommodate what it knows is impossible, but cannot deny is occurring.

When I awake enough to remember that I was dreaming, to feel the joy of having traveled to the place I always miss when I am away, I feel a new thrill. I have written before that horses in my dreams are portentous. When I dream of them, I am left with a solemn sense of awe and bottomless gratitude, a feeling of having been somehow bestowed.

Horses often symbolize my True Self in my dreams, my untamed nature. Only in this dream, that symbol is, in fact, wild and untamed, and doing the impossible!

I welcome this energy into my waking life, keeping my senses alert for signs of it, opportunities to experience it, as I move through my day.

Photo by Funky Tee on Flickr.com

Photo by Funky Tee on Flickr.com


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Another World

I stand on this familiar bridge, looking down through the spaces between the steel, at the place where it seems so recently I spotted a lone turtle swimming through the unnaturally green river water. At the time, I was surprised that anything could survive in there, and I can still feel the warmth of joy spilling through me at the realization. Not long after, as I paused on my way across the river, I saw a great blue heron poised at the water’s edge, still as a statue, unblinkingly observing the flow.

Today, as I look down, it is another world. There is no sign of the electric green water. No sign of birds or turtles. Looking through the steel grid, my stomach does not quiver, there is no inkling of the vertigo that comes of gazing into flowing currents from such heights. There is no sign of movement of any kind. There is only a thick crust of white ice.

It is another world: static, cold, hard.

I yearn to see movement, a turtle surfacing gracefully or a red leaf swirling in the flow. Instead, the only sign of life is the cloud of my own breath.

The hairs on my arm rise, under all the layers of clothes, as the wind rises against me. I cannot stay here any longer, searching.

As I turn away, I remind myself: if I wait long enough, the water will flow again, and the trees alongside it will grow leaves, and, if I am quiet, and patient, I will find wildlife here too.

Photo by Christine Landis

Photo by Christine Landis


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Transported

I lie in bed, sleepless, ill, waiting for daylight, or sleep, or for another fit of coughing. I cannot take in enough air to feel my center, to deepen and quiet my thoughts, to feel the stillness that clears my mind of petty thoughts and meanings.  I put my hands on my chest and call up Reiki, hoping for sleep, or rest, or comfort. I drift in the flow of it, warm.

There is a sudden fraction of a moment, a splinter of an instant in which I forget my body, my illness, my idea of myself.  In that sliver of a second, a sound comes to me, familiar, sweet —and not of this snowy place. I hear, briefly, the call of frogs in the darkness and I am instantaneously transported to the Finca of my childhood, to the unmistakable, lonely echo of night sounds lifting in the crisp air towards that endless black sky, punctured by starlight.

I can smell rich soil, the moisture it holds, and the scent of crushed grass on a breeze. Momentarily, I am quietude, stillness, I am unfathomable depth, timeless, endless, infinite—for one instant.

And then, as the awareness comes to me that I am here, in my bed, in this urban night, my heart creaks, cracks, opens with longing, with regret, with desire, to be there, again, to be that.

Photo Credit: Barun Patro

Photo Credit: Barun Patro


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A Reminder

Even though I work this way with others, I have not gone into retreat for a long, long time. I am inspired by the effect of retreating on those for whom I am companion and guide. But I forget how vital this work is for me.

I determine that it is time again, to go into retreat, in preparation for the turn of the year. As is to be expected, this feels inconvenient to do now, hard to find time for, requiring too much from me.  Still, I persevere, and sequester myself in silence, light my candles and bring out my rattle.

The past year floats under the glare of my gaze, and I rescue forgotten blessings, feel my heart tighten with unresolved pains and fears.  I honor all of the energies I find, witness them wholly.

In the smoke of the incense, I release what does not serve me, and feel lightened, heartened.

Then I remember, one last thing.

This year, too often, I have felt disconnected; disconnected from Nature, from the cycles of the year and my body, from awe and from what is sacred in my daily doings.  As this recognition comes to me, along with the question of how to release this large, heavy energy, a movement outside my window catches my eye.

It is a great bird, with powerful wings, gently coasting past, and my mind is slow to grasp, to process, to return to me: owl.  The bird alights in the high branches of a towering tree, the tree that I gaze on as I do my daily practices, the one that reminds me that trees are also my relations.

It can’t be an owl, I think. This is the city. It is broad daylight. Could it be?  The bird is still, imposing, enormous, unblinking. It is indisputably an owl.

My mind is startled into stillness. I remember the thought of disconnection and, immediately, a new thought arises: I could never be disconnected from Nature, from what is sacred, from my Self.

No sooner does this thought rise in my awareness, as the great owl takes flight and coasts away into the white sky, disappears from my view.

I could never be disconnected from my Self; Owl has come to remind me of it.

Photo Credit: Jay Simmons

Photo Credit: Jay Simmons