Reflections From My True Self

Remembering Who I Really Am


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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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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


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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


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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


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Soul’s Friends

It is my good fortune to have lived long enough to have met a few people who naturally play the right tune to go with my own score, with whom I felt instantly attuned, with whom I just “clicked,” with whom I never had to strive to be understood. Truly, this is my fortune, in the most literal, materialistic sense: I am rich in these relationships, these friendships of my soul that fill my life with light and love.

And now I see my daughter struggling to find a social space for herself, a space that does not require her to squeeze herself into a different shape, that doesn’t require others to do the same for her. I see her feeling lonely in the world, while at home, her brother, her best companion in play is sending unmistakable signals that he is moving away from their childhood games and leaving her with a sense of loss, even if he is not physically moving away.

I don’t know when it will happen, but I do know that my daughter is an old soul and, sooner or later, she will find that other, perhaps those others, who know what matters about her without needing introductions, who see all of who she is, who, even at a distance, are always right there with her.

Photo Credit: Michael & Christa Richert on RGBstock.com

Photo Credit: Michael & Christa Richert on RGBstock.com


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To Stop Putting It Off

Once, in another time, I was working in an internship that was very important to me. I was living what felt like a desolate life, and trying to recognize what choices had gotten me there and what changes I could make. The internship was one of the places where I could get perspective, it was like a tree that gave me shade as I explored a sun-bleached landscape.

 

I am remembering that internship because one of the things I had to do was go through a long list of contacts and make cold calls to them, to tell them about our program and see if they would work with us.  Picking up the phone felt utterly terrifying.  I found all kinds of urgent things to do for a few days, before I could simply no longer put that task off.

 

I am intending, now, to recall what I did, what I thought, when the day came that I finally had to make those calls.

 

I know that, once I started, it got easier and easier. To the degree that making cold calls, even today, is something I can do effortlessly, without any moment of pause. There’s nothing to it. I don’t think about it, I simply pick up the phone and dial.

 

Sometimes, when there’s something I just have to do, that feels paralyzing, but that I have been shown in so many ways, ever more urgently and forcefully by my Soul that it must be done…well, I simply have to stop thinking about it, breathe deep and just take the plunge!

 

Photo Credit: ©Tnimalan at RGBStock.com

Photo Credit: ©Tnimalan at RGBStock.com

 

And if I allow myself to recall that internship, and so many other times after it, I can remember, too, that once I do that terrifying thing, it is not half as scary as it was when I was contemplating doing it.


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Sometimes Quiet Doesn’t Come

Sometimes quiet doesn’t come. Even though I do everything that I should. I sit in the same place as so many times when I have achieved it. The door is closed, there is no noise, my eyes remain shut, a white sheet drawn over my thoughts. But images push their way into my mind’s eye, a story engages me and I find myself so taken that I forget it is a ruse and I gallop off with it.

Then I remember, rein myself in, allow the story to drift off without me. My third eye blazes in my forehead. My energy is aligned, flowing freely.

And all that notwithstanding, still, the white noise roars on in my ears.

Sometimes quiet doesn’t come. Sometimes, the stillness through which the directions of my soul can be unveiled seem out of reach.

Then, I have to tell myself that my efforts must suffice, that this is the equivalent of a silent “no” from my Self. I have to tell myself that I will sit again tomorrow, and perhaps the noise will lessen, or the story will be colorless.

I rise with a sigh, and go on with my day.

And sometimes, that is all.

And sometimes, when I finally step out my door, the sunlight drips through the tree with such radiance, it lights up the  blooming tulips, their green velvet leaves, and the loamy soil beneath them, and, unexpectedly, the quiet is spilling within me and the world is suddenly, splendidly, transformed.

tulips