Reflections From My True Self

Remembering Who I Really Am


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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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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


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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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Remembering to Listen

This is one of the spaces I have consciously created for reflection, for listening to my Deepest Knowing and to explore what otherwise would find no outlet. I created it as a space for play, in the sense that it nourishes me and I lose my sense of time when I am in it.

Along the way, I learned that I have to show up regularly, that the inspiration to write rarely comes over uninvited, and often hides under many layers of “shoulds” and apparent urgencies.

I learned that I could write many, diverse reflections in one small burst of time, and I could begin many reflections that never really went anywhere more than a tight circle.

Lately, I have been forgetting that this is supposed to be play, fun, nourishment. I have been telling myself “I HAVE to blog,” and I sit down with a pout, my inner adolescent ever ready to stake a claim for independence. I have been in a power struggle with my inner Taskmaster, as one of my clients calls the ego.

Only when I catch myself, realize this and decide to let go, step back, hold up my hands in resignation; only in surrender can I begin to find my way back to the purpose, to listening, truly, and opening up.

Now, I do. I come back and sit down with joy and curiosity, with the excitement of discovery: what does True Self have to say?

All that I can feel is my heart unfolding open, like a book.  I find no certainties, no assurances, nothing to grasp. And yet, this is real: I am alive, in the energy that vibrates out of the center of my chest, and courage to be present in this moment courses powerfully through my veins. I am alive, I am present, I am Love.

Photo by Andreas Krappweis

Photo by Andreas Krappweis


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Clearing Old Energies

I don’t know exactly when I learned it, or why, but I remember, as a schoolgirl, knowing clearly and unmistakably that I had to temper my Self, tone down my light, lower my voice, hold myself back. I could let loose a little bit in some classes where the teacher shared my enthusiasm for stories, or where she held a vice-like grip on the students so no one dared breathe out of turn.  But even then, there would be a price to pay, later, in the hallway or on the school bus.

I was too proud, too obstinate, too focused on the unfairness of it all to shut myself off completely; and my Self was too present to accept that.  Instead, I took on my own version of a tough girl mask and turned every hurtful comment and each rejection into a barb that turned away from me and back to its speaker. It took deep courage and strength to keep that face of bravado, that patina of self-approval, but I did.

At the same time that I was monitoring how much of my essence I could expose at my school, I was also looking around at the people who I thought of as my peers, the kids who were in the “advanced” classes, and knew that I didn’t really belong with them.  They, unlike me, were naturally good at every thing, whereas I was just pretending —that was what I was good at.  And even that was not enough. I couldn’t even pretend my way into the advanced science and math classes.  I was just not good enough.  So I hid my shame behind my squared shoulders and my head held high.

That all happened long, long ago, in such a different time and place, I thought I grew out of it all as soon as I stepped out into the wider world and found so many places, so many people where I fit with ease.  But… those energies of fear and shame, of feeling too bright, and also not good enough… they left their mark somewhere in my energetic anatomy because I ran into them again today, while working on another matter, apparently completely unrelated.  But related enough to bring them up!

I am full of gratitude for my trusted energy tools, which teach me to recognize and work with these old energies. I celebrate the realization that I can invite them to continue to reside in me, or I can accept the gifts they bring, and dispel them with one swift, soft, metaphorical: Boo!

Photo by Palmer on RGBstock.com

Photo by Palmer on RGBstock.com