Reflections From My True Self

Remembering Who I Really Am


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

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


2 Comments

A Gateway

There is a pain wedged beneath my ribs, radiating like heat into the rest of my body. My heart rests on it. Together, they make a formidable weight.

I want to banish the pain. Obliterate it. Erase it.

All of my energy turns towards it, intense and focused. The rest of me is left feeling tired, weak, drained.

I drag myself around. Then I remember this is also a gateway, this pain. It is a gateway into discovering, as I have so many times before, only to promptly forget anew, that there is no separation between that pain and me. There is no me versus it.

I pass through the gateway, armed with all of my “going on an adventure” gear, including my curiosity. And the pain begins softening, dissolving into my tissue.

And my heart, it is floating free.

Photo credit: Kevin Tuck at RGBstock.com

Photo credit: Kevin Tuck at RGBstock.com


2 Comments

Fickle to My Calling

That calling, that pulling, forceful energy that awakens a  yearning inside me, I feel it again. I recognize it. I know that I am meant to move towards it, as it moves towards me.

But when I think I can almost define it, almost close my fingers over it or pull it to me in an embrace, I lose it, the way a soap bubble pops and leaves only moisture behind. And then it’s gone, and even that moisture is insufficient proof that it ever existed.

I remember those stories of olden days that I read as a child, of two young people who recognized something in one another when they met and were then separated by life circumstances. They parted, then, with a soft promise, followed by a long separation, perhaps of many years, without any more connection between them than the fading memory of their encounter and their promise. In those stories, they held faith across vast expanses of time until they were finally joined by life once again.

My first thought is that those stories do not describe me. I know how fickle I can be! I need reminders, reconnections, a gentle wind over red embers. I need that calling held before me continuously, palpably, in order not to fall back again into oblivion.

Or, maybe not?

Is it possible that the fading memory of my encounter with that energy, of the promises I fervently made in its presence are powerful enough to hold me up until life joins us once again?

Photo Credit: John Boyer

Photo Credit: John Boyer


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

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


2 Comments

Hiking, Then and Now

When I was growing up, my father often took my sister and me, and sometimes friends — of his, or ours— on beautiful hikes of varying length, through the green patchwork of the Colombian mountainside and its cloud forest.  Occasionally, there was a defined path to follow. Most often, there was a starting point and a destination (a lake, a mountaintop, or a town), and, if we were lucky, the remnants of the ancient native paths or a few scattered cobblestones and the sporadic boundary stone remaining from the colonial caminos de herradura, built for pack mules.

We would be up with the sun and drive to our starting point, carrying some water and a picnic lunch, and we’d set off in the general direction of our destination. We never knew how long it would take to arrive, or where we could end up if we strayed from our course. I remember many times when asked for directions from a campesino tending his fields or feeding her hens. More often than not, especially if we were heading in the direction of a town, they would point us towards the highway, where we could catch an inter-municipal bus that could take us quickly. More often than not, they would chuckle at our foolish obstinacy for wanting to go the long, “old way,” through the fields and forests.

We had no cell phones in those distant days of last century. No way of letting anyone know where we were, or, more importantly, no way to contact anyone if we needed help. We didn’t know CPR or wilderness first aid, and I am pretty sure our first aid kit consisted of my dad’s Swiss Army Knife. There was little certainty regarding our hikes, other than that we would eventually arrive, somewhere, and that the journey would be beautiful.

The potential dangers we could encounter never stopped us —not even when we had to slither, single-file, along a fallen tree trunk to cross from one bank of a river to the other (with a couple of babies in tow, that time).  The uncertainties were simply part of the experience. We hiked in rain, through mud, and under sweltering heat. And, surprisingly, we never did have a situation where we needed help we couldn’t get!

Today, when I think back —especially since I have had kids of my own— I think of all the things that could have happened, all the dangers we could have encountered and lost to. Nowadays, I take gentle walks along wide gravel paths with a wide shoulder of mowed grass on either side, keeping the wilderness out of arm’s reach.  I travel with my cell phone and follow carefully placed, colored trail markers at each junction. Today, I check the weather before I set out.

No wonder, then, that I feel a captive of caution. No wonder that I seek certainties in all that I do, on the trails and in the quiet of my sacred space. It is time to reclaim the sense of adventure of my childhood hikes. More importantly, it is time to exercise the unseen powers of orientation and intuition.  It’s time to see past what danger could appear, set aside fear —or invite it along, as a passenger, not as a leader.  It is time to remember why it is we took those back roads, instead of the convenience of the highway: for the gifts unfolding out of that unique experience, for the excitement of the unknown and the beauty in the landscape, for the company and the satisfaction of testing ourselves, and for the stories we could tell once we arrived, before we slept the deep, untroubled sleep that renewed our sweetly tired bodies. For those same reasons, and in order to reclaim my Self, I must stand at this starting point and set my direction for a destination I may reach, eventually, sometime.

Typical Colombian landscape on a rainy day. Photo by Pedro Szekely on Flickr.com

Colombian landscape on a rainy day. Photo by Pedro Szekely on Flickr.com