Lessons of the Flood

Flooded Highway 36 in Lyons, CO
Flooded Highway 36 in Lyons, CO
September 12, 2013

I was one of the lucky ones; our house was on high ground and didn’t get damaged by the flooding in Lyons, Colorado.  But my family still had to evacuate and spend a month moving between various hotels in Longmont, CO. The entire town of Lyons lost sewer, water and gas service. And it still hasn’t been restored.

A few lessons I learned from the flood:

1. Mother Nature is in charge. We humans can fool ourselves for awhile, but when push comes to shove, nature rules.

2. People are amazingly kind-hearted. I saw so much compassion and caring in Lyons in the days and weeks after the flood. My heart continues to overflow with gratitude and joy for all the acts of kindness, both big and small that I witnessed.

3. Not having a place to go home to sucks.  Just this tiny taste of homelessness gave me huge compassion for people who spend months or years living in their cars or on the streets. Not having a home is truly nerve wracking.

4. I love Lyons, Colorado!  The town is still a complete mess, but I want to be part of this community.

5. Stress can literally kill you. Our 3 1/2 year old male cat Raja didn’t make it through a month of being away from home. Even though he was staying with an amazing friend, Raja got so stressed that he stopped eating.  Good bye, buddy! I hope you’re now hunting and sunning in cat heaven.

6. Flowing water can transform the landscape in a matter of minutes. The St Vrain river valley that I have loved and walked and photographed is now a different place.

After the Flood
After the Flood

Water does NOT submit to human control. We can dam it up, and try to stop it, but we should NEVER forget that water is born to flow. And it will continue to flow whether we humans like it or not!  Water will NOT be controlled.

7. Flow never stops; Each drop of water on planet earth is on a flowing journey that never ends. This visual of the ocean’s currents, gives us a hint of just how amazing water’s flowing journey truly is:

And my own journey continues; My husband and I spent days searching for a new place to roost without any results. Then, due to the kindness of my favorite realtor, Mark Webber, we rented a great house on the edge of Lyons. This one has a septic system and well (!)  AND a kick ass view:

Blue Mountain
Blue Mountain

Was this experience good? or bad?  Like the old Buddhist story goes, it’s still too soon to tell…

Maybe Good, Maybe Bad

 

We Live in a World of Duality

Form /  Formless

Life  /  Death

Light /  Dark

Physical  /  Ethereal 

Earth  /  Heaven

Moon  /  Sun

Female  /  Male

Shakti   / Shiva

Love  /  Hate

Sorrow  /  Joy

Yin / Yang

The energy of our Universe flows and dances constantly between tangible form and formless energy. We are part of an intricate weaving of light and dark, form and formless, growth and decay. Duality is woven into the very fabric of our Universe.  And duality is a natural part of the miraculous dance of Spirit within earth, air, fire and water.

How do I keep my balance within this ever shifting duality? 

Pain and problems arise when I turn duality into polarity – when I attach an emotional charge to a person or  event. For example,  I might label something bad and reject it… or decide someone else is wrong and I am right… or push an experience away as bad and unwanted… or desperately crave something I don’t have. Pain and disconnect are inevitable when I polarize my experiences.

Judging and labeling EVERY single experience as good or bad
only makes me crazy and miserable!

What if I stop judging and labeling every aspect of Life as good or bad, right or wrong? What if I stop living in a state of charged polarity? What if I choose to actually live by the wisdom of the Tao?

“If good happens, good;  if bad happens, good. ”
~
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

One of my favorite parables about good and bad:

A farmer had only one stallion. One day, the horse jumped a fence and ran away. All the neighbors came by saying, “Oh no!  Such bad luck! You must be so upset.”  The man just said, “Maybe good, maybe bad – too soon to tell.”

A few days later, his stallion came back and brought twenty wild mares with him. The man and his son corraled all the horses. All the neighbors came by saying, “Wow! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”  The man just said, “Maybe good, maybe bad – too soon to tell.”

A few weeks later, one of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, and broke the boy’s leg in 3 places. All the neighbors came by saying, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”  The man just said, “Maybe good, maybe bad – too soon to tell.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed many young men from the region, but the farmer’s son was spared; his broken leg prevented him from fighting. All the neighbors came by saying, “You are so lucky! Your son didn’t have to go fight”  The man just said, “Maybe good, maybe bad – too soon to tell.”

~Author Unknown

 

What if I stop judging myself and all my experiences? What  if I meet EVERY experience with the energy of, “Maybe good, maybe bad – too soon to tell”?

God already has everything under control, no matter how it looks in this moment. Maybe I should just open up and embrace the natural and inevitable duality of this world.

Can I stop judging and polarizing everything that happens to me? What if I allow my world to just be however it is today?   To allow is not polarized; to allow is a loose, easy state where I am open to possibilities. When I relax and allow my life to unfold, peace fills me. And balance follows.

——

Al·low    v.
          al·lowedal·low·ingal·lows

1. To let do or happen; permit
2. To permit the presence of
3. To permit to have
4. To make provision for; assign
5. To plan for in case of need
6. To grant as a discount or in exchange
7. Chiefly Southern & Midland U.S.

a. To admit; concede
b. To think; suppose
c. To assert; declare
(from http://www.thefreedictionary.com)

Resistance is Futile

Flame Tree
Flame Tree in Snow

Change is inevitable. Nothing stays the same for very long.

I take the same trail beside the St. Vrain river almost every day, and yet it is never quite the same path two days in a row. One morning last week on the trail, I was surrounded by tree branches filled with fiery autumn leaves. A few mornings later, snow completely blanketed the flaming trees and the sights and sounds of winter engulfed me.

Life is filled with cycles and shifts. From the passing of seasons to the aging of my body, change surrounds and engulfs me. And life continues to shift and change every day, every month, every year. Grasping at the old form, resisting change, makes today hurtful rather than joyful. I learned this lesson the hard way;  years ago I owned a property south of Kansas City that I loved.  I adored every inch of those 3 acres – every tree, every bush, every blade of grass was special to me.  The property was so significant and special that I wrote an entire book about the place (my first book, A Still Place).

And there was nothing bad or wrong about my love of that little parcel of land. The only problem was I clung to it and vowed to live in that spot until I died.  Silly, silly woman!  Well, life happened; I got divorced from one man and married another. I had a second baby and still I held onto that property. I refused to even think about moving. Then my husband’s job dried up and we faced a move cross-country to Chicago. And I had trouble letting go; I resisted leaving my lovely little property. But we needed to move!  The only thing my resistance caused was a slow, slow house sale and a ton of pain and angst.

We eventually sold the property and moved to Chicago. I was so sad, missing my little plot of land, wishing things were different, wanting to roll back the clock and undo the move.  But gradually, I let go. And when I finally stopped holding onto my past, I “woke up” and discovered that I was living in an amazing spot.  I found myself LOVING this new place and my new life.  All it took was letting go of the old life.

That experience left me knowing that my life is WAY less painful when I allow things to change and shift without resisting or pushing against the change. Resistance is futile! Resisting change only leads to pain and misery. 

I seem to periodically have to revisit this lesson in letting go and allowing life to unfold organically.  I can still make myself miserable trying to force today to look like some “perfect” day long past – or some fantasy day that I’ve never even experienced.  I can be so stubborn!  But when I remember that little piece of land that I adored so many years ago, I remember the value of letting go.

It’s odd; I have so many fond memories of that land south of Kansas City. 🙂 But now, I also remember all the amazing and wonderful stuff that happened to me when I let it go and moved on with my life.  And you know what? Today, I live in a space that is even more amazing!  And I would have never ended up here, if I hadn’t let go of that old place.

Life is a river; it keeps flowing and changing and moving. And in every moment I have a choice;  I can cling to the riverbank and wear myself out trying to stay right here in this spot. I can fight and resist moving downstream. Or I can let go and allow the flow of life to take me. I can let go and trust that  life can be even better around the next bend.

☾☽

Can I stop resisting and be grateful for change?

Can I let go of my urge to control and push and grasp?

Can I allow life to unfold and shift organically?

Can I just breathe and allow today to be?

Moon Musings

Mother Moon

I bought a lunar calendar this year. It has the year divided into 13 moons instead of 12 months.  After years of looking at the year as the month of January followed by  February followed by March… it takes a bit of adjustment to track the year by moon cycles.  After all, I have been trained since Kindergarten to track what month it is!  But keeping track of which moon cycle we are in this year has opened my eyes to nature’s rhythms and cycles in a deeper way.  And it’s shown me yet another way of looking at my world that is filled with wisdom and truth.  And I have discovered that I can use and learn from both ways of looking at the world; I can follow the cycles of the moon and stars  AND I can honor 4th of July and celebrate Christmas on December 25th again this year. I do NOT have to choose and lock into only one way of looking at my world. Truth and wisdom can be found in many forms.

Tracking moon cycles has deepened my awareness of my own cycles.  I am female, which means my emotions ebb and flow and cycle like the moon. It is the way nature wired women to operate. Don’t believe me?  Well if you’re female, find a lunar calendar and start taking note of how your mood ebbs and flows during any given lunar cycle.  And if you’re male, track your wife or girlfriend’s moods.  Try it and you’ll see how lunar women truly are.  It is not just our menses that are tied to Mother Moon. And how cool is it to be intimately tied to Mother Moon.  I find it somehow comforting.

Every year on planet Earth contains 13 lunar cycles. That’s actually not just Native American folklore – it’s astronomy.  The length of our year is determined by how long it takes the Earth to go all the way around the Sun.  And Mother Moon cycles around the Earth 13 times in the time it takes the Earth to cycle around Father Sun, whether we believe in and honor pagan rituals or not.

For those of you who haven’t ever paid attention to the moon before, a new moon is the time every month when the moon is dark and cannot be seen in our night sky. A new moon lasts 2-3 nights and then a tiny sliver of the waxing (growing) moon shows herself again in the night sky. In many earth based traditions, each new moon marks the beginning of a cycle. Many ancient cultures who were more intimately tied to the natural cycles on Earth, believed that new moon energy marks the perfect time for renewal and / or beginning new projects.

We entered the 10th moon cycle last weekend.

Several years ago, I discovered a wonderful book that shares Native American wisdom and legends about each moon cycle on our Earth; it’s called  The 13 Original Clan Mothers  by Jamie Sams.  One Clan Mother or Grandmother is said to watch over us in each lunar cycle. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE the idea of Grandmothers guiding and watching over me (some would label me a female chauvinist). And I also adore the magical names that Sams uses to describe the energy of what each Grandmother focuses on.

1st Moon:   Talks with Relations
2nd Moon:  Wisdom Keeper
3rd Moon:  Weighs the Truth
4th Moon:  Looks for Woman
5th Moon:  Listening Woman
6th Moon:  Storyteller
7th Moon:  Loves All Things
8th Moon:  She Who Heals
9th Moon:  Setting Sun Woman
10th Moon:  Weaves the Web    <== Our current lunar cycle
11th Moon:  Walks Tall Woman
12th Moon:  Gives Praise
13th Moon:  Becomes Her Vision

This past weekend, we entered the domain of Weaves the Web Grandmother. Weaves the Web is a favorite of mine, probably because I spend HOURS  exploring creativity and writing.  Here is a snippet of what Jamie writes about Clan Mother Weaves the Web:

“Weaves the Web represents the creative principle within all things…Working with the truth is her Cycle of Truth.  She teaches us how to use our hands to create beauty and truths in tangible forms… Weaves the Web is the Guardian of the Creative Force in all things. She helps us express our creativity in a positive manner and use the energy available to us. This Clan Mother is also the Keeper of Life Force and instructs us to create health, to manifest our dreams, to develop and use our talents, and to access our spiritual potentials…”

Several things light up and become more obvious to me when I read about and meditate on the energy of Weaves the Web; First, as a writer I’d like to remember that Creative juice flows through all of creation on Earth. And what I write and create with that juice is not really mine to “own” – it’s just my interpretation of the the magical creative juice that fuels our world. And that juice carries fundamental Truths that permeate every corner of our Universe.

Truth can take many forms. Every spiritual tradition contains gems and nuggets of truth and wisdom that are available to help me in this crazy, confusing cycle of days known as a lifetime.  If I decide that one teacher or one school of thought is the only source of truth for me, then I lock up and limit my world and my possibilities.

Finding and holding onto truth can be as elusive as trying to catch a fish as it flashes in the sun at the surface of a lake for just a brief instant. Wrapping words around the truth to explain it is a very tricky business;  no words ever completely catch the essence of a truth because truth is an energy, a sensation of lightness and expansion. My truth creates space and opens up a new view of the world to me.  Words never quite do justice to the energy that is truth.

When I search for truth, I can choose to put blinders on and follow only one teacher as though he or she holds all the keys that will unlock me and lead me to wisdom.  Many people prefer that way – it simplifies their search for truth and wisdom. But I can  refuse to wear blinders. I can choose to search out those flashes of truth from every teacher, every tradition, every corner of the Universe that catches my awareness and speaks to me. The second way takes more patience and goes against the norm, but I find it to be infinitely more rewarding.

In every moment of my search for that elusive flash of truth in my world, I have a choice. And I choose truth in whatever form it shows itself to me.

☾  ☽

 

 

The View From Here

 

What Lies Ahead?

I am pondering today:  How much do my “views” about the world actually shape my future experiences in the world?  How much do my beliefs about the world and how life works create the form my future takes? Do I usually get what I believe I will get?

This seems especially relevant to me right now as the U.S. enters the home stretch of a particularly nasty and malicious presidential election.  And it’s also an election where the 2 main presidential candidates have very different viewpoints about the world and how it all “works.”  So, which viewpoint do I vote for – Obama’s or Romney’s?  Does my vote even matter?  How much might this one little choice alter my future?

Years ago, 2 amazing change agents named Jerry Weinberg and Jean McLendon introduced me to an eye-opening model of perception and reality:

 Malicious, Stupid or Kind Universe?

Do I see my world as Mean and malicious?  Do I believe that people are out to hurt me and reject me? Do events seem to conspire against me? Do I live in fear that God is watching and waiting to punish me?

Or is my world Stupid?  Does everyone I meet seem to be a moron?  Do I believe that I am the only one that knows what’s going on around here – is everyone else just too stupid to see the truth?

Or do I live in a Kind world? Are people basically caring and kind? Do people want to assist me and help me? Is God supporting me and helping me in every moment?

(I believe this model was originally created by psychotherapist Virginia Satir)

I LOVE this model of the Universe!  When I take the time to use it,  I realize just how much I can sabotage myself by approaching the world like it is out to hurt me or trip me up and get in my way.

Remembering this model, and asking myself just one simple question can jerk me right out of my “story” about whatever is happening in my personal life OR in world events today that bothers me:

 “Which Universe am I living in today?”

Asking which Universe I find myself in right now, helps me stop whining and blaming others. Then I can back up and gain a bit of perspective. And when I ask this question a lot, I begin to see how I add to my own misery every time I approach the world from any space other than kindness and benevolence.

What happens when I assume a kind Universe, a benevolent God who is just waiting to help and support me?  What happens to my day?

And what would happen if I choose to make kindness my religion?

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
–Dalai Lama 

My heart opens whenever I see this quote from the Dalai Lama. And that’s the energy I feel  emanating from the Dalai Lama; pure kindness.  I bet HE inhabits a kind and caring Universe most days. 🙂

So, here I sit pondering my personal life and global events… How much does my viewpoint matter? Do my choices make any difference?

I choose YES!  I choose to matter –

because in my world, change happens one kind little choice at a time.

Am I a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?

Good Witch
Bad Witch

What Else is Possible Here?

What if I am both a good witch and a bad witch,
depending on the day?

When did I decide that women are supposed to be sorted into good or bad? saint or sinner? When did I conclude that we are either innocent pure madonnas or conniving evil whores?

I blame my messed up need to decide whether I’m good or evil on too many Disney movies…  and I’m only half kidding!  I challenge you to name one female Disney character that is not some ridiculous caricature of pure good or pure evil.  And no, you CANNOT count the female dog in Lady and the Tramp!  I’m talking about female HUMANS in Disney movies – name one – I dare you. 🙂  Consider Snow White and her nemesis, the Evil Queen.  How about Cinderella and her Evil Step-mother?  Or there’s Ariel and the Evil Octopus Lady Ursula. We are talking some seriously twisted black and white views of women!

Or maybe I should blame it on my Christian upbringing… no, wait, those are ALL bad, evil woman images aren’t they?  Eve, Lilith, Salome, whorish Mary Magdalene. The only good female image I can come up with after years of Sunday School is Mother Mary and she is merely a vessel at the beginning of the story brought in to birth the baby Jesus. Then she exits quickly stage left.  The Bible expresses a pretty dark view of my gender.

But it’s not just women getting labelled all good or all bad.  The entire world seems to obsess about sorting everyone and every experience into good or bad, right or wrong, black or white.  We love to polarize! Watch what the politicians say about each other and you’ll see exactly what I mean.  Last week the Republicans praised Mitt Romney as our national savior and vilified Barack Obama as the evil anti-christ. This week it’s the Democrat’s turn; now Obama is wearing the white hat and Romney is pictured in black.  What if we chose to realize that BOTH candidates are just mere mortal men?  Human beings with both strengths and weaknesses?  What if we just stopped buying into this black and white bullshit?

If you hate politics, just watch a little reality TV and notice how black and white it is. The Kardashian sisters appear to spend every waking moment fighting about which of them is the good-est witch and which is the baddest!  Even the son-in-laws are sorted into good (Lamar) and evil (Scott).  It is so polarized and so divisive.  But it makes for tons of drama.  And we all just cannot seem to look away.

What if we just stopped playing the polarity game?  What if we chose to see the world as a thousand  different shades rather than just black or white?  Blow that black and white mindset up!  It only makes us crazy and upset anyway.

Ok, so what if I embrace both my good witch AND my bad witch?  Everyone who knows me will tell you I am quite capable of being both – and sometimes even in the same day. 🙂  What if I just relax and stop judging myself and my every experience as GOOD or BAD, RIGHT or WRONG?  And what if I stop judging everyone else too?

I remember a story I heard years ago about the dangers of judging our experiences as good or bad:

A farmer had only one stallion. One day, the horse jumped a fence and ran away.

All the neighbors came by saying, “Oh no!  Such bad luck! You must be so upset.”  The man just said, “Maybe good, maybe bad – too soon to tell.”

A few days later, his stallion came back and brought twenty wild mares with him. The man and his son corraled all the horses.

All the neighbors came by saying, “Wow! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”  The man just said, “Maybe good, maybe bad – too soon to tell.”

A few weeks later, one of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, and broke the boy’s leg in 3 places.

All the neighbors came by saying, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”  The man just said, “Maybe good, maybe bad – too soon to tell.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed many young men from the region, but the farmer’s son was spared; his broken leg prevented him from fighting.

All the neighbors came by saying, “You are so lucky! Your son didn’t have to go fight”  The man just said, “Maybe good, maybe bad – too soon to tell.”

 

What will happen if I live in a state of not judging myself or my experiences?

What will happen if I meet EVERY experience with the energy of “maybe good, maybe bad – too soon to tell”?