Sunday, May 18, 2014

Do You Create or Maintain?

As I watched a woman in a well-to-do neighborhood open the door to her housekeeper and child at 8 a.m. on Friday morning, I mused, wouldn't we all prefer to be the one living in that house rather than coming to clean it? Perhaps. Yet Nature herself continually creates, maintains and destroys; that's the essence of the life cycle.

While I think of myself as primarily a creator, the world needs daily maintenance — not least because of the mess we bipeds tend to leave behind. I wipe down sinks in public restrooms and often have to clean off outdoor tables before I can sit to eat at places like Whole Foods; even the staff can't keep up with the detritus.

Daily life is one of maintenance, renewal. Poet and novelist Marge Piercy writes,

            "The work of the world is common as mud.
            Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
            But the thing worth doing well done
            has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident."

(excerpted from To Be of Use, © 1982)
Yet I find myself disdaining some whose work entails tidying up the universe rather than contributing something fresh. The maintenance manager at a local community center seems comically addicted to keeping the exterior doors locked and "undesirables" (read: homeless people) out. When I've sat inside to use their high-speed WiFi, I witness him check and lock the doors at least a half dozen times within a few hours. It seems almost a pointless exercise, because people stream into the center for classes, meetings and other events all day long.

Directly across the outdoor quad from the community center is a new senior wing. It's ADA compliant in every way — except the architects didn't take into account seniors' diminished upper body strength and agility. Several women have become trapped in the restrooms, whose heavy oak doors are almost impossible for someone using a walker or wheelchair to negotiate. So the community center's counterpart now has the additional responsibility of constantly making sure all eight restroom doors (two for each gender, at opposite sides of a long corridor in a 2-story building) remain stoppered open each weekday from 9 to 5. There's a poetry to this, and a bit of Divine humor as well.

Years ago, metaphysical teacher and author Louise Hay made many tapes accompanied by the musical group Alliance. One I listened to repeatedly was, "Doors Closing, Doors Opening," and while it focused on personal growth rather than physical structures, I find it amusingly applicable to the situations I've described. The main lyric went, "Doors closing, doors opening, doors closing, doors I'm opening. I am safe, it's only change. I am safe it's only change…"

Are you opening doors or closing them? Do you create or maintain? Does your life weave between the two, and if so, are you growing in ways that feed your soul? Mother Nature is always in motion. It's important to clean up our mess and keep the doors to possibility open. And maybe, unlocking what seems a necessary barrier will let in some surprising gifts that may change your perception and release a fresh flow of creativity.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Remembering Angeles Arrien 1940-2014

Yesterday I picked up the May/June issue of Common Ground, an alternative magazine I sometimes read here in northern California, and turned to the final page, Last Words. I found a quote by one of my great teachers, Angeles Arrien, and below her name, two dates with a dash between them. It took my mind several seconds to process what this meant. NO! Angeles can't be gone; she was only 74. She was in the midst of a teaching schedule for her newest book, Living In Gratitude. She's a pillar of wisdom. And now, she is an ancestor.

While so many have transitioned already this year, including my own mother, Angeles' death hits me hard, because it's out of the blue. Judging by the events planned for later in 2014, I imagine it must have been sudden. But though I've scoured the web, so far I've only discovered the date, (April 24th) not cause. Not that it matters. She was obviously complete here.

What a gift this woman was, and what a gift she had: the extraordinary ability to meld anthropology, psychology and comparative religions to help those of us privileged to study with her learn how to live a practical spirituality, or as she referred to it, to "walk the mystical path with practical feet."

I took her Four-Fold Way Foundational Training at Esalen, on the ruggedly beautiful California coast, in January 1994. I'd read her book, The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary the previous summer, and the talk I attended then convinced me she had much wisdom to share. I enrolled in the weeklong training, though by the following winter I was deep into my awakening odyssey (disguised as serious illness), and could barely function on the physical plane. Nevertheless I made the 5-hour journey, and my emerging state of unreality probably enhanced my absorption of her teachings.

What I learned is how deeply Angeles embodied what she taught. The tenets of the Four-Fold Way are:

Warrior: Show up and choose to be present
: Pay attention to what has heart and meaning
: Tell the truth without blame or judgment
Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome.

I internalized these truths into a little sing-song: "Show up, pay attention, tell the truth and let it go!" It's a credo for living that serves us well throughout our lives.

What Angeles brilliantly modeled transcended the personal growth community. Her books and practices have found a place in corporate, academic and medical milieux, as well as the non-profit sector. When I think of her, some of the words that come to mind include authenticity, generosity of spirit, wholeheartedness. And joy.

Heaven has gained another angel, so aptly named. Thank you for shining your Light in my life, dear one. In boundless gratitude, blessings.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Grace Notes: Other Mothers and The Mother of All

I didn't send my Mom a Mother's Day card this year; she made her transition in January. I did send a trio of cards to a beloved 100-year-old friend who's been a spiritual mother my entire life, from the days when I'd paste my artwork on the kitchen window she'd pass on her way to work (and to which she'd respond in poetry), to our adult friendship spanning four decades. Ellie and her husband never had children, yet I don't think that's why so many "young people" (as she characterized those in their 50s when she was 92!) have adopted her as a surrogate Mom. It's because, by her very essence, she engenders the deep love and appreciation we associate with mothering.

I've been blessed to enjoy this kind of relationship a few times in my life. Another was with a woman whose husband I met in the park, not long after I'd graduated from college. He brought me home to meet his wife as though I were a flea market find, and the three of us became fast friends during the year before I moved to California. I was just launching my life at 22, and Sten and Ethel provided the support and encouragement I needed to thrive — right down to lending me their old car for the final weeks prior to my relocation, so I could get around town once I'd sold mine. Ethel had multiple sclerosis (MS), and her optimism and sunny disposition in the face of her illness seem even more amazing to me now. For her birthday that year I sent a singing balloon-a-gram; the center balloon was shaped like a heart. She told me this balloon kept its helium for weeks and followed her around the house! That's the power of Love.

Another spiritual mother for 26 years and counting is Louise Hay. An old friend gifted me with Louise's signature book, You Can Heal Your Life in 1988, the same year I was blessed to meet Louise in person when she held a "Hay Ride" event in San Francisco. Her breakthrough personal growth work has sustained and healed me on many levels since then. Louise is just nine months older than my biological mother, so in many ways she really does feel like my Mom.

Who are the "other mothers" in your life? Mother's Day is a beautiful moment to let them know how much you cherish their love, their support, their wisdom. Whether they know you personally or are a public figure who's helped you via their planetary service (Oprah springs to mind), take a moment to acknowledge this gift. In the level playing field of the digital age we can connect with almost anyone, yet your thank you needn't be splashed across the social landscape unless you so choose. If you send your message via the quantum field, it will be received — at an even more profound level.

If you can and want to connect in 3D, that's always a delight. I'll call my 100+ year-old friend in the morning, and thank her again for shining her Light in my life.

Finally, there is our collective Mother, Gaia, in all her (wo)manifestations. During my awakening journey I realized how profoundly I yearned to nestle into the nurturing archetypal arms of the Great Mother. I found her in trees, in our animal kin, in metaphysical bookstores and sacred ceremony, and in the wisdom of those who had gone before me and could give a name to this longing.

Reaching our Light means daring a descent into the dark, to the ancient womb of Mystery that lives within each one, calling us to awaken and claim our power. Men and women alike are capable of this kind of birth, which knows no gender — only the willingness to open to the immanent truth of our being.

Everything arises from this awareness: how we move through the world, how we effect change, how we define what "matters" (which comes from the same root as "mother".) Uncloaked, we are cut from whole cloth — "material" in its original sense. When we abide in the Mother, who we are matters — and we are always Home.

Mother yourself, today and every day. That's the greatest grace note of all.

~ Much Love to you ~