All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. Havelock Ellis

As I sit here in front of a course online that I don’t want to finish, as usual for me, I see the television over my computer screen playing reruns of the show “Criminal Minds” while my dog and kitten sleep, sonorously breathing in the background. I have found in life that my path is often one that is taken alone. There seems to be friendships, partners, lovers, and my beloved husband with me at times, but the path I am on, my journey, is one of solitude and self reflection.

“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”   Havelock Ellis

 

I have held on a long time to slipping back into the comfort of my lack of  self-worth, self-esteem, confidence, whatever name one would wish to call this black hole I allow inside me to grow slowly then slowly ebb away on an off for the past half century.  I do remember a time as a toddler where I knew I was connected to God or Creator.  I knew in my bones, my cells, my tiny fine hairs on my head and arms that I was an electrical current full of Light. That feeling of connection and light has visited me again  in the past eight years, on and off–and that current flowed through me when I was a young mother. The Black Hole has also visited me.  Why?  How can I be filled with such light and feeling of connectedness at one moment and then be overpowered with the Black Hole in the next moment? My counselors have told me what a strong personal journey I have experienced as a woman, and how strong I am at the core.  I know this. I survived my mother’s suicide. I have seen my beloved father die.  I witnessed my beloved mother-in-law struggle for her life with cancer and die in the arms of her family, and I saw my first cousin, a man of strength and pure love and artistry in his soul, die before my eyes, another victim of cancer.  I am not unfamiliar with the “longing” to pass.  I am not unfamiliar with the journey in spirit we all make in this life. I now turn full circle in my life, back to partnership, trust, compassionate co-existence, love.

Perhaps what I long for, right now, is the answer we all search for all of our lives.  Is the pain of loss, and the joy of love, always so interconnected?  Is letting go and holding on the same action in some spaces we hold for ourselves?  Is the purpose of my visits from the Black Hole in my youth’s soul, a survivor of rape, a survivor of abuse, there to reinforce my Light, my electrical connection to Source, God, Creator?  I had an aquaintaince friend of mine doubt very strongly that I could practice effectively “A Course In Miracles” alone.  I smiled. I told him that I had started the “course” with a friend in ’94, and had carried on with the coursework after she had moved on to Colorado.  I am there.  Back in a flash to those years as a stay at home mom, two little girls, cats, guiena pigs, toast and scrambled eggs in the morning hours, a husband rarely home on time, and the knowledge that I was the surest source of love for my girls and myself. I missed Elaine when she left, and I tried to substitute her frienship with another mom who did not have the same background or interests, but I pursued my course, my choice for love, my holy instants.

We all make the choice to join others in our search, or simply journey alone.  I feel that all paths link, cross each other’s paths, and run parallel  to one antoher at times, but we all journey here alone until we connect ouselves to Source, Creator, God.

Today –after another night alone in my mountain home–I turn off the insipid televison reruns of “Criminal Minds” and  just pause, just sit to listen to the silence of the house, waiting for my beloved Kevin to return to me next week.  I wait and listen for the annunciation of my Light each day, and it arrives.  God slips in my front door  gently and silently as always as I stare into the green foliage and hear the singing of the birds.  My kitten purrs. My mind clears. The pain of my body, slowly fades to the backgournd, and becomes a connection agian to love. The computer coursework awaits, patiently, as I take in with  a slow inhale that Light, that perfection of Life,  that Source,  that being one with all of my past, all of my present, and smiling expectantly toward my furture. I lean forward, and I smile.

Yes, the black hole slips out of sight.  Light has arrived, and stays.  It is a journey I make with the conscious choice to love.  Love.  Letting go and holding on, to Love.

 

 

 

 

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The Medicine Wheel and My Spirit Flag is South

I was married just a week when Melissa, a good spiritual friend of mine, called me one day and asked if I’d be interested in joining a tipi talk, medicine wheel evening with John Two-Hawks, a Grammy award winning musician and his wife, Peggy Hill at their home near my new mountaintop home in the Ozarks. Melissa said she thought I would get a lot out of it, and especially Kevin, my beloved new husband, who has a very nature based belief in God, Source, and Creator.  I immediately said, “YES! But let me confirm with Kevin, first.”  Kevin was immediately enthusiastic, and we signed up to be one of a total of nine people on June 27 in Two Hawks’ medicine circle, learning the Lakota ways, the Lakota beliefs, and how we must live with Mother Earth in a respectful way.

We arrive at Two Hawks’ tipi and are escorted to a circle around a not yet ignited camp fire for introductions and small conversations. Two Hawks appears dressed in  his Lakota Medicine Man hides and beaded chest coverings with his hair braided back. I am in immediate awe of his calmness. I am glad we are here in his and his lovely wife’s presence on their land, Creator’s land, about to have a spiritually filled night. Kevin and I learn that  the home of the Lakota is a tipi is not spelled with “e” but with  an “i” and that the medicine wheel is one of contemplation, prayer, and connection to spirit. Two Hawks teaches us the Lakota way of prayer ties, the path of red or the path of black or blue in life which we much choose, and how to construct a prayer tie properly with a pinch of tobacco and simple cotton cloth in one of the four colors–red, yellow, white, or blue.  We all make a red prayer tie to honor the nine recently killed victims in the St. Louis hate based church shooting and one more for a personal prayer. Kevin and I choose yellow for our prayer ties to represent new beginnings, new love, future.  The prayer ties each of us did for the shooting victims are in red, for blood, passion, and forgiveness. The powers we have as humans are to change, to evolve toward love and compassion. The Lakota knew this century before, and the prayer wheel represents a union of all races and all beliefs, as Two-Hawk explains each color’s significance. We adjourn from the introductions and are instructed in prayer ties, and begin our entrance after a sage smudging into the prayer circle walk.   As I walk around the stone enclosed prayer circle, stopping at each position to feel the peace, I look to see where I will tie my prayer ties to overhanging branches, In front of the next to last direction, the white prayer flag, the point of spirit, south’s sacred vibration, I feel my heart buzz and expand in my chest. There is not a doubt in my mind that this IS my place in the world.  I am happy and circle once more to the overhanging oak branches at the entrance, which is East, to place my prayer tie for those who died in the shooting, and then again I circle to the pines near the West  and the South prayer flags, representing the storms of life we must overcome, to place my yellow prayer for a good future, half way between the South and the West, as I see my marriage, so many storms passed, and so much “new life”  —spiritual life after the death of  my former dreams. It is all good, and Creator blesses us with a conversation and very touching historical talk from Two Hawks, a campfire song in Lakota, and his flute music filling our ears and hearts with love.

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Lakota Medicine Wheel

Medicine Wheel

The medicine wheel is a sacred symbol used by Plains tribes and others to represent all knowledge of the universe.

The medicine wheel consists of a circle with horizontal and vertical lines drawn through the circle’s center. Sometimes, an eagle feather is attached in the wheel’s center.

Design Meaning
Circle – The circle represents the sacred outer boundary of the Earth often referred to as the Sun Dance Circle or the Sacred Hoop. It represents the continuous pattern of on-going life and death.

Lines – The horizontal and vertical lines represent the sun and man’s sacred paths, respectively; the crossing of the two lines indicates the center of the Earth where one stands when praying.

Feather – The eagle feather is a sign of Wakan Tanka’s – the Great Spirit’s – power over everything.

Color Explanation
The directions, as they are called upon in the medicine wheel, are often associated with a sacred color. Each direction has a messenger.

Color placement on the wheel varies based on individual band customs.

East:

  • Color – Yellow
  • Messenger – Brown Eagle
  • Associated with the sun, brings light to all creation.
  • Because the sun travels east to west – in a clockwise manner – all good things conform to the same pattern.
  • The Morning Star – the star of wisdom and new beginnings – comes from the east.
  • Elk people call the east home.

North:

  • Color – Red
  • Messenger – Crane
  • North is home to winter and is believed to promote good health and growth.
  • Those who misbehave look to the north for the wisdom needed to walk a straight path again.
  • Home to the Calf Pipe Woman and the buffalo people.

West:

  • Color – Black
  • Messenger – Black Eagle
  • Connected with the power of rain and the purity of water; joy and growth follow the rain, releasing ignorance.
  • West is home to the Thunder-being. His wings produce thunder and lightening flashes from his eyes. The bird-like being stands again evil and ensures the respect of others.

South:

  • Color – White
  • Messenger – Bald Eagle
  • Associated with warmth, happiness and generosity.
  • Connected with life after death, directs men as they walk toward the next phase
  • Life begins in the south.
  • Nourishment of every kind comes from this direction.
  • Home to the animal people.

– See more at: http://aktalakota.stjo.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8592#sthash.52c8wIi8.dpuf

From the draft of COUNTING STONES, A Memoir of Spiritual Development

Chapter 3

Mothers of  a Different Flock —from a Stairwell to a Stairway

The pain and abandonment and the incredible need and drive to feel love comes from a place that must be healed. The healing really started to take place in me as I grew into my adulthood assisted by a very wonderful woman, my father’s hand selected psychology,  and a counselor who was older than my bilological mother, her first name was Sabra.  I adored her. She was for me, the mother figure, the father figure, that sought to help me heal my wounded child while I was still a teenager. Without her assistance, I know I would have been more wounded and possibly not made to my adulthood intact. She suspected the molestation even though I had no memory of it as a teenager. Ah, the gentleness of her therapy was amazing. Her strict boundaries she set for me just as amazing. I think in many, many ways I emulate her to this day in my teaching persona, and in many ways my mothering abilities. I remember one day showing up too early, as usual, for my appointment, and she sat in her office, door open, and had me wait on her as she sewed a patch, a badge, on her daughter’s Girl Scout slash. It was  elegant and a very simple boundary setting exercise, an example. Sabra was always gentle, tough as nails, when needed, but very gentle.  I didn’t show up quiet as early the next few sessions.

Sabra Stair —like a stair way to adult thinking for me, she was. She was, and is, to this day, a woman I see as a spiritual mother—full of honesty, passion, the ability to ask questions, and the ability to be compassionate with a half crazy adolescent girl.  I was so envious of her daughter at that moment, but also so very proud I was witnessing a working mom, who combined her love of her family and her career seemingly so effortlessly. I knew then when I had a family, I would somehow continue my service to others, somehow be more than just the mom stuck in the traffic of daily caregiving, smothering myself as I had seen my mother do.  However, what I did not fully see was that my wounding as a child had doomed me to a type of repetition of my mother’s smothered life for many years. We all have guideposts in our lives, and if we are lucky, they are living guideposts, not just words on a page, not just ancient wisdom passed down through the generations, but true people who live honest lives. We all need to see the wisdom exemplified, given credence by a human being walking the path, the path of pure intention and pure love. We then can see, with our eyes and our souls, the possibilities of life, the joy of life, the life well lived.

The healing humans all seek is there, but each human being must  be willing to dig deep, to let go of preconceived notions, preconceived way of living, and breathing—even existing. There are scriptures, ancient ones, and religions to guide and to soothe and possible direct wounded or confused lives. This aspect of innocent suffering is not a new aspect for human kind. This aspect of suffering with grace, with an intention of love, instead of resentment and revenge, a newer concept than some others, has been in existence a little over two thousand years.  There is healing for each trauma, for each hurt, and it begins with acceptance of the hurt.  Recognizing the pain, finding the source of the pain, then letting that pain have its day, its way with the soul for the necessary time it takes to really feel the pain, and then letting of the pain. This is the healing. This is the plan. No, it is not always a plan that is comfortable, at all. No one gets out of this life without some sort of pain, some sort of growth through pain. I know that for me, that this journey to myself, began as a child and continues to this day.  My dad told me multiple times as I grew up that if I ever stopped growing I would be dead. Well, Dad, I am here. I am growing. I am continuing the path you began for me.

As of last year, I was and in my mind still am a secondary teacher in an urban school with over 70% free and reduced lunch as my group of students. This past year I relocated to another district, rural, but still the same make up of assorted teens in need. I teach seniors, mostly, with sophomores and a few juniors scattered in the mix. I have the honor of being around some great kids, some excellent kids. I have the dubious duty of sharing my life with some great adults who are teachers and some teachers who are pretty selfish and self-promoting adults.  It is the same in all schools, and yet my school seems to promote a sense of safety and family more than most. I was nicknamed Momma Means one year by my senior girls. I accepted the appellation as an honor. Teaching someone to keep her head above water in life, whether as a teacher of writing or literally teaching someone to make it out in the real world, that is being a mom. I was a mom only for a while to my own daughters, it seems that I did a pretty good job as long as they were just this shy of teenage time. I was thinking that might have been because I was “mothered” well more by aunties and my father, and by age 12, my mom was too distant to really connect with me. My determination to stay home so long with my girls had roots in my mother’s suicide attempts when I was a child and her eventual self-inflicted death when I was just 27 years old.  My father, although completely dedicated to his job, was in many ways  an influence as a parental force for my future parenting of my two girls, and subsequent teenagers as a teacher.

When you learn to swim in any new place, work or a lake, remember this.

“Gasping for breath is to be avoided,” my father instructed.” It is the sign of a weak swimmer. “Try to take in even breaths, every three to five strokes,” he instructed. He flipped on his back and then turned gracefully over in the water like a pale pink dolphin. He glided down the length of the pool, popping his balding blond head up above the water line every so many strokes, opening his mouth just enough for a breath, and eyes closed continued to swim in a perfectly straight line. Then he stopped, ducked under the water momentarily, and rose slowly up, facing my fascinated 5 year old face. “Come on,” he said. “I will hold you under your tummy while you practice your strokes and breaths.” The water was freezing even in the oppressive Arkansas humidity of mid-summer. The sun had set behind the oaks and hickory nut trees surrounding the pool at Devil’s Den State Park. I skidded off the rough cement coping of the edge of the pool. I plopped contentedly into his waiting arms. Small, pale, happy in the water, I felt my feet leave the floor of the pool, as my dad lifted me into the appropriate position.

My mother hated swimming. She was petrified of the water. Somehow, she had learned from someone, I suspect my father, how to simply float on her back, but that was all. No real ability to swim a stroke existed in her, but she made sure that my brother and I could swim like proverbial fish. In the 1960’s kids didn’t learn to swim as infants, as my daughters both did in the 1990’s.  I had my first lessons in the arms of my father, and then a year or so later, Red Cross lessons at the public pool in my home town. After those were over, my mother was motivated to hire one of our favorite Red Cross instructors to teach David and me to swim in private lessons. My mother paid hard earned dollars per hour to the young beautiful raven haired life guard named Barbara. She loved us and we adored her.  She taught us more complex strokes, diving, and how to hold our breath for minutes at a time. We dove for pennies in the deep end of the pool, and later on we dove for pennies in the twelve foot diving pool.  It was a magical time. Blue water, chlorine in our eyes and nostrils, bleached out hair, which for me meant white hair with a light green cast since I was already so blond.

If I got my mouth full of water, or my nose, or swallowed half the pool, as my dad used to say, it never helps to struggle. Just get up to the top, rest, hold on, regain strength. Struggle is part of learning, but so is rest, so is regaining strength, so is being a stairway for someone to climb up to his or her next level. The deep end of the pool is always deep, but humans can float, can swim, and can learn how to manage the struggle. That is the point, I guess, I want to make, be the stairway not the stairwell.10349878_705970222825497_4641290809203357945_n

Snowbound.

It is winter in Northwest Arkansas, and for the past four days I have been snow and ice bound inside my home in Fayetteville. It is a nice place to be when it snows, and when the power stays on, and the coffee is hot.  I haven’t been this inactive since the winter my  East Fayetteville home, in the posh neighborhood of divorced doctors and real estate agents had 17 inches of snow and an ice storm, and at that time I lived in a mentally and spiritually different neighborhood. I was not just on the opposite side of Fayetteville, I still was bound to a way of thinking just coming out of its frozen state.  I was and am still on the journey to self. That last huge ice and snow storm winter was a time of recovery –just recovering surgery,  from three moves in two years and a botched divorce,  —my fault, not my beloved lawyer’s fault. Shakespeare said “kill the lawyers…”  I say “kill the institution of marriage” from the standpoint it rests today. So many men and women—angry or confused or sad— stay past the due date has expired. It has been a transition of not only place in physcial space this snowstorm, but a transition of mental and spiritual space as well in this last six and a half years of my life. And,  being snowbound is one way to assess the temperature and state of my journey within. I am no longer frozen, a bit stiff, but certainly in the later stages of a glacier’s thaw.

This journey of my  seeking my temporate and warm Spirit started with a planned family vacatioin in June and July the year my oldest turned 17. The family trip was aborted due to too many “conflicts” with my then husband’s work and my children’s varied summer commitments. I felt that this  aborted family  trip was the sign for me to strike out on a journey alone, as many other things had been in the past–this trip was not to be denied–I was to go, regardless of my family’s wishes,  a sign of personal choice, a sign of impending growth and mistakes and joys and recovery.  This would be the true beginning, the true watermark of my journey that had began when my daugthers were merely toddlers as  I read for the first time A Course In Miracles and the series, A Conversation with God. Their innocence and my beginning in that moment, would change my life and theirs forever. From the realizations of selfhood as I saw it in 1995 to the realizations of selfhood in 2006, on that trip to Montana, I would take strides that summer that would change that present time’s stagnant status,  and that journey would be a miracle of sorts as seen in the future.  I hit the road to Montana alone that summer.

Faith gets us a lot of places in life, and during that mild June, in the  summer of  2006, I was in a place of not having a “google maps” or a Siri to guide me in a “soothing mechancial voice”  in my truck; what I did have was just an old fashioned Atlas, my mind, and faith that I could drive the 1698 miles to East Glacier Park Village, Montana alone and be okay. I had God. I had my map, I had my tears. I took off. Never did I even look back once that first trip. Not looking back, not turning around when I hit the main road from the narrow county lane that veered off in curves and swoops from my rock bound lake home, became the first step in a journey of 10,000 steps. I was alone, alone, alone.  I was going to experience a Blackfeet Sweatlodge, a Pow Wow, a friend who spoke brutal truth, and big sky. That was the apex of the beginning of an ending that birthed a newer way of belief and of thinking. That trip resounds in my soul, a church bell calling the community on an Easter Sunday. That journey was the toning of my heart toward the Om of my soul.  As Buddha says,

“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.”

My purpose here, in this post, and upcoming series of posts ,  is to begin to explore my joureny in life— a chronical  of experiences… not a pure and unstained journey, but a journey of love, compassion, and acceptance. A journey that leads the self from destruction into a place of contentment.

Namaste.

Shannon