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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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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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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Honoring My Self

If I am to honor my Self, I must be willing to feel, willing to become familiar with the dark places, with the shape of my fear. 

Honoring my Self means offering myself compassion, gentleness and generosity, although my habit is harshness and cold.

It means celebrating the myriad gifts that are constantly coming my way.

Honoring my Self means strengthening my energy so that I can choose discomfort when ease, even when I know it harms me, tempts me.

It means committing to my practice of stillness so that the noise of confusion can become quiet, and the Wisdom that resides within me can emerge in my awareness.

Honoring My Self means using the tools I have acquired, instead of simply contemplating them.

Especially, it means remembering that I am greater than my thoughts, greater, also, than this instant, and yet, simultaneously, very much in it.

Photo Credit: Lars Sundström

Photo Credit: Lars Sundström


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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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Dialogue

self: Am I doing the right thing?

Self: How does it feel?

self: It feels right, but maybe I’m doing it wrong, I think I read, or heard—

Self: Does it work for you?

self: Well, yes…

Self: You doubt what you are Knowing with your body and mind.  Bring in heart, and Spirit, then there will be only alignment.

 

Photo credit: TouTouke (Agnes Scholiers) on RGBstock.com

Photo credit: TouTouke (Agnes Scholiers) on RGBstock.com