grace, lost and found.

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“In the end, only three things matter:  How much you loved, how gently you lived and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”  -Not the Buddha, but someone after him.

In class this week we’ve been exploring and practicing grace.  (Like the personal kind, rather than Grace, which comes exactly right after the personal kind.)

So, grace.
Over perfection.  Over getting it right.
Over everything.

I’ve always thought it doesn’t matter what kind of huge thing you eff up, so long as you do it with some mustered up modicum of grace.  (I’m learning.)

What a relief that you don’t have to get it right.  You don’t even have to get it half-right.  You can fail completely. But stick with grace.

Unfortunately, I forgot (could i have never known?) what grace meant for me.
I mean, i would know it if i saw it.  But a prescription for it?  Define grace?  Blank stare.
I figured maybe it was an undefinable, but i tried anyway and I asked my friends to as well.

And what grace-infused responses came, I tell you.

Always, each and every one, had a blend of strength or some kind of firmness accompanied by  lightness, sweetness or ease.

Sukha Shtira Asanam.  Again and again.

Here is what i think:
grace = courage (often to do/feel/believe/trust the thing that is the most out of our comfort zone) + self-love (which spreads expansively into everyone-love, of course.)

And then?  This miraculous thing happens; we set down the things that kept us away from an infinite supply of this universe’s grace, and the universe has got us.  Isn’t that the best news ever?!

Perfection is for the birds, man.  Bring on the courageously-flawed, edge-softening, heart/face/everything-lifting, connected-to-everything, carries-you-into light,  imperfectly-steady, beautifully-messy, beautiful you-grace.

Nature

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“Nature, time and patience are the three great physicians.” -Bulgarian Proverb

Not to be all rose-coloured-glasses or anything, but really.  Who cares what else for a moment when you are walking on crunchy, uneven, real ground, and baby ducks are learning to swim right beside you already, and you can look at this beautiful business?

 

little darlin, some sun.

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You know what’s great?  A string of rainy days and a home, despite the mixing of emotions, finally, to settle into.   Open windows.   A breeze that has been washed by the rains before it comes.   The gentle hopefulness of sun after a good rain.  A killer view that it only takes three staircases to get to.  Spring, in all of its exhausting, promise-of-a-new-day glory.   A newfound like of the Beatles, especially the george one.  Being called little darlin by them.  Sun coming.  And then rain and more sun.  Some ease.  And so on.

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

 

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This is happening around here.
Everywhere you look!
The promise of a new day is thick in the big expansive air and it’s really energizing and a little overwhelming sometimes.  I feel like i’m on speed and like my long-winter cocoon got opened by big curious hands, slightly before i was ready.  (I know it was a long winter.  Who isn’t ready for the promise of a new day, anyway?!)
Transition is hard:)

Which lured me into the thinking of how much it sucks to resist the flow; the littlest bit of apprehension and we fall out of the current that carries us into the new season, the new experience, and the life in general.

Did you notice that a lot of people die in Spring?  I’ve always thought that they must sort of resist the flow of life, intuitively knowing that they are not meant to go through the cycle of the seasons again.  That nature honours this resistance and leaves them to their falling out of the rhythm of the life and into a different rhythm.  It’s a lot of pressure having pushy spring come around and try to get you to dance when you don’t feel like dancing, i bet.  I suspect it becomes pretty clear if it’s your time or not, when extroverted spring comes around.

So, if we are going to be in this life, like really be alive, i guess it’s our job to align with the rhythm the best we can and not resist and let spring (or winter or challenge or joy or whatever part of the cycle we’re in) carry us, even though it seems like it’s a bit over-zealous, if you ask me.

Into the flow, washing the windows, soaking in the fresh air, embracing the spring.

How ’bout you?

spring

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Sometimes it starts to feel like Spring is springing when there are giant puddles everywhere and you can hear the metronomic drip of things melting and softening.  And sometimes it’s the sound of the first few flocks of geese, high above head, their honking announcing almost-spring, giant wings appearing after you hear the call.

Or rubber boots, or the sound of happy kid laughter, the feeling that the air is full of potential, or the bravest buds bursting first.

For me, it’s spring when the mysteries of nature start to stir and move with curiosity of a new time, thawed out, forgetting last this happened; everything new again in a giant rebirth.

Who knows what is possible.

This usually happens with a fox.
Always the fox looks like an apparition.
Usually he does something peculiar like follow you around a golf course and lie down on various patches of grass, watching with sharp, attentive eyes to see what you’re up to.
Consistently every one of his movements look like it’s fuelled by curiosity.
This guy showed up the other day and then again.  And again.
He let us get pretty close and we didn’t bug each other at all.
He wasn’t molting yet; he was still in his warm winter coat, but i’m sure that’s coming next.  I’ll keep you posted.

Happy springtime!

Winter, still

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Thank you, longest, coldest winter in the history of the world for the reminder.
There’s no forcing nature.
Things will boil down or come up or work out, settle down exactly how they’re meant to.
There’s no stopping or starting the nature.
It’s a wild thing.

Oh, and it also is a giant practice patience.

We’ll get there someday.  (Won’t we?)  At some point, the crunchy, uneven ground of old and new snow mixed up underfoot will be replaced by (elusive) pavement, or (from wildest imaginings;) grass, even.  The jagged-edged noise of winter will fade out; replaced by the soft-curved sound of warmer times.  The cramped cocoon of winter clothes will loosen, ice will yield, arms will open and faces will lift and sunshine will shine.  (Won’t it?)

(Maybe the longest winter on earth is also a practice of faith.)

Always things will melt and soften and grow and live and shrivel and die and harden and soften and bloom and expand and then more freezing, dying, closing, and then again, after the longest winter you’ve lived and when you see it coming the very least, and when you’re not sure if it’s going to come; more awakening.

But it’s not really any of our business when nature will relinquish the old or when any of this will go down.
This is a bit of a relief.

Seize the good winter-spring day.

 

this guy

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keeps showing up everywhere.
The pileated woodpecker.
I get it.  You’re a big deal.  Endangered and scarlet-headed.  I can’t look away.

In the spirit of research, i’ve explored the woodpecker a bit/lot.  Aboriginal spirituality says he’s the strong, instinctive, unstoppable rhythm of the earth; the deep animal knowing of things.  The rhythm of the universe that happens despite whatever we do.  There is a pattern that we are part of that is woven not by us.  This guy is a reminder of that pattern, the rhythmic tapping, and the beating of life’s heart which our heart is part of.

This is a salve.

Also Tom Robbins likes woodpeckers and i like this, on magic and love and the woven pattern that we are part of but don’t make and our work within the pattern:

“When two people meet and fall in love, there’s a sudden rush of magic. Magic is just naturally present then. We tend to feed on that gratuitous magic without striving to make any more. One day we wake up and find that the magic is gone. We hustle to get it back, but by then it’s usually too late, we’ve used it up. What we have to do is work like hell at making additional magic right from the start. It’s hard work, but if we can remember to do it, we greatly improve our chances of making love stay.”
― Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

 

on a day you could barely see | crystal clarity

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hi guys!

I’ve been gone fishin’, figuratively speaking, but thought i would stop in so things don’t become stagnant and so you don’t think i fell into a well, (which i did, but i’m ok!)

Here’s a picture from my new other favourite river, on a day when at times you could barely see.

But anyway, who the shit cares about clarity when the ambiguity and obscurity are so beautiful and totally uncomfortable as you try to firm your gaze, but you can’t because of the snowy blur, so you close your eyes instead to enjoy the crystal clear feeling of the snow falling softly on your face?

thanks, tolstoy and more navel-gazing

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Dear Tolstoy,
Your instructions for happiness on this journal i got for christmas are getting on my nerves.  You forgot the other side of the coin, didn’t you?
I’m writing in it anyway, but it’s hard because your words are under so much pressure.
There are times when I agree with you, but there are times when our job isn’t to be happy i don’t think, but to be skillful, to survive, or to sit at the bottom of the wave and trust, to put one foot in front of the other purposefully and intentionally, or to do other things that are challenging.
Nobody around here believes you except for the fetal-positioned dog who doesn’t even have a prefrontal cortex to mess with her happiness.

And anyway, aren’t you being a bit optimistic for a Russian classic-writer?

And also, i looked you up, and it appears you suffered from major clinical depressions on several occasions, considered suicide and proclaimed art to be detrimental.  To be happy be wouldn’t have likely worked as well as riding it out or writing War and Peace or probably some medication (which i don’t think is the only answer, but is a good tool when things get too low for too long, Tolstoy.)

Anyway, i think much better advice is to be with the wholeness of this human experience; the wretchedness and the joy.  And I think that becomes about riding the wave of what is and it’s about survival, integrity, a bit of grace if we’re lucky and skillful.

I think Stevie Nicks has better advice: to belt it out from your wild heart.
(There is nothing about this that I don’t love.)

Or how about instead,
if you want to survive:

Don’t forget you’re an animal.  The rules of this civilized world don’t support your resurrection.
Sometimes animals happily and furryly lie around basking in the sun, but this usually happens after they’ve fought for their life.

Be wild a bit.  Move or sing or create or tell a story or be with abandon,
or withdraw ferociously.  Sometimes lie in bed until it passes.
Or don’t even make your bed for a few days, even if you have never done this in your life.  (My wildness is relative.)
But also don’t dwell.  That’s holding on.  Open palms.
let go when it’s time to.  the empty, sorrowful places are where the most excruciatingly, curingly beautiful light is.

Cracked open is not broken.

Wail and yell and moan and scream and laugh.
You are not just letting go of the thing at hand.
There is more than meets the eye.

Don’t forget to be astonished by your healing.
You and it are a miracle!
I don’t think we were made to just be happy (be), but all my bets are on the healing.
And of course on the really living:  the biggest, fattest elephant tears mixed in with sparkling laughter in a messy concoction and everything in between.

Let the waves of everything come and wash over you.  One will take you somewhere else, and it will be magic.  Many will just hurt like hell.  You’ve gotta take your chances.  Life is wretched and life is beautiful.  Too bad.  And then a wave of happiness will come and things will be nice.  And then, if you want to be happy, be.

You’ll cook.  With love again.  Cutting up vegetables will not feel like climbing a mountain.
There will be crackers made from flax that are homemade again, but maybe not today.
All of this work of survival will pay off and things will feel easy.
You’ll eat a meal happily and smile at a friend and think:  this is nice.

If you feel it all, you will be effortlessly enchanted again.
You will have amnesia about the pain because you’ve really healed.
You’ll ache for the smell of a clean spring day, and you will be soothed to the bone when it comes.
You might feel the heaviness of holding onto your unmet hopes.  Hold them, but not tightly.  Somewhere your wildest dreams are alive.  

Don’t forget your spirit.  

I don’t get this part yet, but as an act of devotion, i’ll do it:  Don’t forget to look in the mirror and at yourself deeply into the eyes and say: I love you.  And do it until you remember it and it becomes easy.  You’re doing great.  You’ve done your best.

And then, one day, in a little or big fleeting or lasting (who knows?), beautiful, simple moment, you’ll feel the sun on your face, and if you want to be happy, you’ll be.

ps.
And lastly, my book club that I’m not going to on account of working, but that I read the books for, is reading this book.  I’ve read it, but thought i’d read it again in the spirit of learning more and also reclaiming my attention span.

So, this:

“The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you’re supposed to go up and down when you’re supposed to go down. When you’re supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you’re supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there’s no flow, stay still. If you resist the flow, everything dries up. If everything dries up, the world is darkness.”
―Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

sky/winter

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You know that guy, Shane Koyczan, who wrote and spoke that anti-bullying thing awhile ago?  That one that was beautiful and breathtaking and made you cry giant tears at the vulnerability and overcoming?

He made this too.  Isn’t it a beautiful warrior monologue and doesn’t it reach into the tenderest part of your soul and doesn’t it feel like a witness to your amazing human experience?  Even though the music feels too loud and distracting for me, his voice made of earth and sorrow and strength and honesty and hope is big and sounds like everything will be ok.

I like this part the best:

Be forthright. Despite your instinct to say “it’s alright, I’m okay” – be honest. Say how you feel without fear or guilt, without remorse or complexity. Be lucid in your explanation, be sterling in your oppose. If you think for one second no one knows what you’ve been going through; be accepting of the fact that you are wrong, that the long drawn and heavy breaths of despair have at times been felt by everyone – that pain is part of the human condition and that alone makes you a legion.

And this too.

Admit to the bad days, the impossible nights. Listen to the insights of those who have been there, but come back. They will tell you; you can stack misery, you can pack despair, you can even wear your sorrow – but come tomorrow you must change your clothes. Everyone knows pain. We are not meant to carry it forever. We were never meant to hold it so closely, so be certain in the belief that what pain belongs to now will belong soon to then. That when someone asks you how was your day, realize that for some of us – it’s the only way we know how to say, be calm. Loosen your grip, opening each palm, slowly now – let go.

Sometimes the words how was your day? called down to a dark well, (to be dramatic) are the only things simple enough to make their way down there.  (Not that i would know.)  And sometimes, they carry with them the smell of the world that isn’t in the dark well, which is synonymous to the scent of hope because it tells you there’s a world still that isn’t the dark well, which saves your life even if you don’t fully buy in.  On a bad day.  You know.

My hands are too cold for pictures, and the batteries freeze in seconds.  The camera being picked up is the success, and I guess for that matter, so is the walking.  Up there is the one picture before hands fell off from frostbite today.  It is of things reaching for the sky in the deepest part of the Winter.  I also saw a bright yellow house.  Both smelled of hope, which i trust a little bit.

How was your day?