February 26th, 2016

Trump as the Shakespearean Fool

Shakespeare loved inserting the character of a fool into his theatre, as a way of being entertaining and pointing out bluntly certain truths that other characters of higher standing wouldn’t reveal. His fool was usually a clever peasant who used his wits and spoke outside the codes of morality. Not believers in the supernatural, Shakespearean fools had no idealogy or regard for appearances, or for law, order or justice.

Doesn’t it sound like Donald Trump?

Since the function of the Shakespearean fool was to wake people up, I keep hoping that Trump is among us simply for that. The way that he presents himself and the things he says are so utterly grotesque that one advantage is he makes it clear what we don’t want.

Contrast seems to be a necessary force on this human plane. We seem to need to know what we do not want in order to know what we really desire. And so maybe Trump plays an important role, in that he reminds us how much we do not want a country ruled by prejudice, mysogeny, brute force and disregard for the tenderness of the human heart.

If the great playwright in the sky placed him here for the sake of contrast, then time is growing short for us to stop snoring in our theatre seats. We need to wake up to the real dangers this particular jester poses.

First, the Shakespearean fool does not see how ridiculous he is. Unlike a comic who is doing a routine, he is serious. In this case, that is scary.

Secondly, people are falling for this stuff. Everyone loves to watch a clown, but who wants one for President of the United States? I hope both Republicans and Democrats think about this.

Thirdly, the man is using his wits. So far, he is able to live up to his name. He has trumped the pundits and kept on gathering steam, even while chalking up more and more hideous statements. In our culture, we may have reached a new low where entertainment actually trumps the dreams of our forefathers. Where is liberty, freedom and justice? “Winning” seems to trump these.

Before she died, my mother said through her morphine fog that “It’s all a play, and we are just playing our parts.” Let’s remember what part Donald Trump is playing and take a look at what we want to happen in the last act. Please.

My friend Richard Kimball, founder of Project Vote Smart (http://www.votesmart.org) recently wrote a letter in which he cited some depressing studies showing that candidates who lie most outrageously capture headlines and get the highest poll numbers.

To make it worse, other studies showed that people rarely change their minds when confronted by facts, and that they’d rather listen to a politician who will tell them whom to hate than one who tells them the truth.

Now that is not funny.

If you were in the audience watching a play about this, what would you hope the most powerful characters would do? Will they wake up? Will they act in behalf of the greater good? Or will they be trumped by the fool, who will end up with a crown on his head?

 

This post has also been sent to Huffington Post and can be seen at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pamela-hale/.

 

January 11th, 2016

Women Holding the Long Lens

women

I’m visiting family and marveling at how long my grandchildren’s arms and legs have grown, how my daughter has become an inventive and creative cook, and how my ex husband has turned into a gentle friend. As this year just begins to unfold, I’m aware of the longer arc, and of the graceful way life changes the way the path looked …way back then.

I’m reminded of the story of how an apparent tragedy occurs, only to become s portal for a fortuitous event, that then morphs into the doorway for another downturn. Age at least provides a lens for the long story, and presents an option not to get too caught up in the drama and apparent truths of each chapter of this wild and beautiful journey.

On this annual solo road trip, I visit family, see old friends, and will end up with seven close women friends who have been a group for over 35 years. We’ve watched each other meet obstacles, embrace blessings, and survive dramas great and small. Perhaps to balance out the complexity of our own sagas, we always pepper our reunion with as many movies as possible, separated by walks on the beach, home cooked food and less wine than we used to drink.

In our seventies, we know we face losses in the upcoming episodes of our reunion series. One of us has already lost a partner to a sudden, deadly heart attack. Another is recovering from a knee replacement and can’t make it this year. What will it be like when our numbers thin? How will we all get to our destination if we’re disabled? Who will die first, and how will we deal with that?

These kinds of questions are a reality of aging, and yet so far there is a saving grace. We have each other. Friendships forged at a progressive Episcopal church we all attended back in the day, our shared values run deep. We taught each others’ children in Sunday school, and so we care who they’ve married and how their children are doing. We also care whether each woman is finding joy, discovering new meaning, and whether she can take a good joke.

We all have common political views, and so we complain about the state of the world. But these are women who are change-makers. We haven’t given up. Back in the 70’s we named ourselves the Women’s Quilting and Terrorist Society, which we thought was funny then. Now we just use the initials, but the desire to shake things up is still very much alive.

Everything has changed for the one whose husband turned out to be gay and still is her best friend. For the one who lives close to the bone, after using all her savings taking care of her father. For the one whose bitter divorce was healed by a surprise passionate romance and marriage, ending in her partner’s sudden death.

And nothing has changed. The big arc of our lives is trained by faith in the unseen. The dramas in each chapter have been tamed by good humor. And the shards of old stories are held in a sacred pot by women who will treasure them, laughing and crying together until we can’t do it in person any more

This year I salute these women and all women and men who come together in groups, urging you to put these meetings first, even when it’s hard to put the important ahead of the seemingly urgent. Every time you meet, you put money in the pot. And the older you get, the wealthier you feel, finding that life is made, after all, not of victories or defeats, but of the stream of love embedded in the entire adventure.

 

This post is also available on Huffington Post at my author archive, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pamela-hale/. Your comments there or here are appreciated.

October 31st, 2015

Honoring Death as Part of Life

ofrenda

On the night of Nov. 1, the whole central plaza of most Mexican cities is ringed with altars (or “ofrendas”) like this one. Each is a unique creation made by family and friends to honor a loved one who has passed to the spiritual realm. When I spent two weeks around Dia de Los Muertos in San Miguel de Allende, it was a carnival-like atmosphere, with music, vendors and crowds–and yet the process is a serious and meaningful one that honors death as part of life.

I felt again how wonderful it would be if we had a tradition in our country to collectively honor the dead. After all, death is even more a part of every life than Columbus Day or some of the other holidays we observe.

As Octavio Paz put it: “A civilization that denies death, ends up denying life.” Food for thought, no? And Mexicans have been celebrating some form of Day of the Dead for 300 years. 

When you look at this altar, perhaps what you see is the vibrant marigolds, the image of the skeleton (the “catrina,” or figure of the skeleton dressed and participating in life), candles and photos. What you may not see is the layers of symbolism encoded here. (I am drawing on information in a 2013 article in the San Miguel paper by Jade Arroyo.)

Here are some of the symbols:  The altar itself welcomes souls (children on Nov 1 and adults on Nov. 2) and guides them to loved ones’ homes. They are called “ofrendas”(offerings) because altars are for saints, and most of us aren’t those! The image of the skull is a tribute to one’s ancestors. The seven steps or levels in the ofrenda are traditional and represent the stages the soul must pass through before finally getting to rest. Items are places accordingly, so that on the top is a picture of a saint or the Virgin and the person being honored. On lower levels are salt, bread, favorite foods, and finally a representation of earth, usually done with seeds or corn.

Some ofrendas have just three levels: heaven, earth and the underworld. All of them include flowers, especially marigolds (called cempaxuchitl, their ancient indigenous name), baby’s breath and cockscombs. White flowers represent heaven, yellow the earth and purple, mourning. Sugar skulls are eaten or broken down when the ofrenda is dismantled. Often copal incense is included, as is pan de muerto, bread baked especially for Dia de los Muertos.

The cut paper banners that flew over the entire Jardin (as the plaza is called in San Miguel) represent wind and the joy of living. Candles can mark the four directions. Water is offered in clear glasses for the spirit’s thirst and is the energy of life. The person’s favorite foods are offered, along with folk art like catrinas, alfeniques (sugar figurines) and paper chains.

I always put up a Day of the Dead ofrenda of sorts in my house, and this year I’m particularly aware of honoring not only our relatives, but also our Mexican brothers and sisters. I don’t want to borrow this tradition in the spirit of cultural appropriation, but rather in the spirit of gratitude and honoring. In a country thirsty for rich symbolism, ritual and ceremony, we can be particularly glad when we’re inspired to honor all the dimensions of life in a beautiful way.

This article was adapted from a post that appeared at theSpiritedWoman.com, and also appears in the Huffington Post GPS for the Soul.

October 7th, 2015

Opening the Heart

baby

Once upon a time, I didn’t know what love was.

I knew it was a good word, a desirable feeling, but I wasn’t sure I had experienced it. How was it going to feel? I was a child, trying to team up words and concepts with real-world feelings.

In 7th grade I made friends with a girl named Missy. I went to her house a lot to spend the night on weekends, and I started to notice something. Every time I went there, I got this odd feeling. It was like a tingling in my chest, a kind of light, airy feeling, and it seemed new to me.

Now, looking back on it many years later, I know what that feeling was. It was love. It was my heart opening. It was a time when my own household did not feel predictable to me. My mother was ill, and so one minute she was lovable and the next minute, loving her felt impossible. After all, she wanted me to brush her hair, and I wanted her to brush mine.

Missy’s house felt different. Her parents seemed pretty much the same to me every time, and so I felt a trust that I’d have a good experience there. Missy felt reliable too, and so I dared to trust her. I dared even to trust myself in those situations. So my heart opened a little and felt more spacious. Lighter.

Again, looking back I can relate this feeling to other times. To times when my mother was well, and when I loved her beauty, her brightness, her laugh. When my dad was barbecuing in the back yard and I felt  happy about more than the yummy chicken I was about to enjoy. When my baby brother was born, there was a magic about his being in the house. These were heart openers.

Babies do it for us, don’t they?

When mine were born, I knew that I was discovering what real love was all about. It was as though I’d never felt it before. I barely knew who they were, and yet knew I’d give my life for them.

Now I have five grandchildren, and so I’ve been blessed with many heart openers. Many times of feeling that spaciousness, that tingling, that lightness.

And, in all these years, I’ve had heartache, tragedy, betrayal, disappointment and pain, just like you. Just like all of us. And so, I’ve had many times when I’ve closed my heart.

What to do about my heart opening like that, only to close again?

Well, for me, it’s important to do some proactive things about this very human dilemma:

1. I practice opening my heart. My meditation practice is all about this. It’s meant to “polish the lantern,” to clean off the gunk, to let the light shine. It’s about attuning to the Big Heart.

2. I try to be conscious of when I’m closing my heart. I try to notice what triggers me and how my habitual response is to close. And I try to keep aware that it’s a choice on my part. Do I really want to keep doing that?

3. I try to be grateful for all the heart-opening experiences when they come, and to be grateful to myself for noticing.

These simple steps seem to help me change my habits. They help me keep that heart open more often. More and more I notice that it’s all related to how I choose to see a given event or situation. If I choose to see it through the eyes of the heart, I may feel pain, but I can survive that. It’s better than closing my heart again and having to figure out all over again what that word “love” feels like.

September 30th, 2015

Healing vs. Curing

mesaBreast Cancer Awareness month is October, and so this month I’ll be focusing on how any of us facing illness can take steps to explore more than repairs and curing. We want healing as well!

Allopathic medicine focuses on repairing what is broken and on fixing symptoms and altering structures that cause disease. I am very grateful for our advances in these areas, since I feel that allopathic medicine is responsible for at least half the reasons why I’m alive today after my two bouts with breast cancer.

And, I’m grateful for my training and experience in the other half of the story, which is about healing. The word “heal” means to make whole again. (And my birth name, Hale, comes from the same root as “heal,” and means strong and hearty. This is why I use that name as my author and professional name. I am becoming more and more “Hale.”)

When we “get” or “have” an illness, there are some steps we can take to make ourselves feel whole again.

 We can remember that it’s “both…and.”

On one hand it’s horrible, frightening, evil, a bad sign, and all the other things we could say along those lines. And, it’s still true that the way the shadows of the mesquite trees are dancing on the wall outside my window is beautiful. Can I hold both the horrifying and the beautiful? Actually, I can. And so, I’ll bet, can you.

We can feed the white wolf.

Remember the story about the man who is followed by a black wolf and a white wolf? He visits the village shaman and tells him how these two wolves fight and follow him, and asks which one will win. “The one you feed,” is the answer. How can you feed the white wolf of beauty, truth and meaning right now?

We can decide to be the well ones.

There is plenty of toxic, sick, fearful, angry energy in our world. We are all tempted to join in, and when we do, we feed that black wolf. So we can decide to say Yes to life, even with its pain and imperfection. We can decide to be healthy emotionally and spiritually even when our body is suffering, and to have well-being.

How do we accomplish these three things? I think we draw on the creative energy within us. For creativity isn’t limited to art; it refers to the ability we have to decide, to make choices, to change and shift things in ways that affect our destiny.

The Divine One isn’t the only Creator; we are co-creators.

Healing involves our claiming our role as co-creators.

We stepped into a world that was already formed, but we create our own experience every day. We create the world within. We create the lens we use to see ourselves and our lives.

How will you create wellness and wholeness for yourself today?

 

This post was adapted from the original, which appeared as Creativity & Healing on theSpiritedWoman.com.

September 24th, 2015

The Pope: an Embodiment of the Sacred Masculine

PopeFrancis-8I write this fresh from watching the Pope’s address to Congress, an historic moment that fills my eyes with tears and my heart with hope. As a non-Catholic who has left organized religion, I am deeply moved by the transparent heart he presents to the world, and by the heart-centered leadership he models for us.

My husband is a legal mediator, and so I hear many stories of people who come armed with their stories and their positions, angry and righteous, feeling predatory about getting rewarded for being right. Jon has to try to lift them to a little higher place, where they can look through the lens of their  real interests. Then they may be able to see what those interests have in common with their adversaries’.

The Pope is a mediator for the world right now, reminding us of principles that are in all our interests, regardless of political positions, religious affiliation, class, race, sex or nationality.

All life is sacred. We can all agree on this, and ought to give each other credit for believing this, no matter what we think about abortion.

All people want and deserve the same compassion we want for ourselves. We can all agree on this, no matter how we would vote on social justice issues.

All people want the same possibilities we want for ourselves. We could all agree on this and then move forward with our dialogue about how to provide those possibilities.

We need to protect the earth. This seems like a basic, a principle that would be hard to argue.

Even though these principles could be considered a lecture to Congress, it was delivered in a way that satisfies our human hunger. The Pope, arriving in his little grey Fiat, is humble and real. He comes from poverty. He speaks in a gentle tone, and uses flowing gestures and a soft voice. I would say that the Divine Feminine within his own heart is palpable in his presence.

And, as Holy Father, his role is to embody the spirit of the Christ, updated for this moment. If he is doing this, then that spirit is tender, protective. Who wouldn’t want a figure like the Pope as a kind uncle or grandfather?

The thousands who greet him are clearly hungry and thirsty. Maybe not all of them for religion. But we are hungry for a leadership that “mothers” and “fathers” us in the best sense. A kind of leadership that marries the Divine Feminine and the Sacred Masculine that lies (sometimes hidden) within our own hearts, waiting to be awakened.

The magic alchemy of this awakening is, in this case, a gentle kind of alchemy. Something is touched, and so people appear. Hope is kindled, once again. Maybe we have another chance to save the earth. Maybe we can rise above our silly political positioning. Maybe we can stop demeaning ourselves and others. Maybe we have another chance to be human.

September 2nd, 2015

Who is the Divine Feminine?

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Have you heard a lot about the Divine Feminine re-emerging? What does this mean? Who or what is the Divine Feminine and how can we benefit from Her?

When I traveled in Nepal, the Divine Feminine was everywhere. In the middle of the market were shrines to Kali, or Durga, or other Hindu figures. People and filth abounded and it was hard to tell sometimes if the goddess smelled of incense, urine, food, sweat, or all of the above. She might be covered with filth and/or flowers, but she was accessible, part of life. Sometimes she was portrayed ripping apart an icon of evil or falseness.

Not exactly the image we have of the Divine Feminine as the Virgin Mary, for example. Shouldn’t the Divine Feminine be pure? Beautiful? Enshrined and protected? Full of peace and tenderness?

Of course in many traditions, she is. But as the force in charge of births, she knows about pain and blood and suffering as a way to usher in new life. And as the force in charge of death, she knows about destroying the false that has to die for the true to gain ascendance.

In America, the Divine Feminine is harder to find. In the southwest, we have the Virgin of Guadalupe, who is much more prominent these days. In Latin America, the Virgin is a mainstay, especially for women. In Europe, one can find the Black Madonna.

So, the Divine Feminine is complicated and multi-faceted. Not to be explained by logic, or tamed by too many rules. She is, in fact, wild. And that is why she has been oppressed in so many cultures for so many years. Along with her human feminine counterparts!

These days a lot of spiritual teachers are writing and teaching about the re-emergence of the Divine Feminine. She seems to be showing up everywhere. As Mother Earth, she has been turbulent, unpredictable and changing. As Venus, she has been hidden from us, traveling the underworld, to reappear as a sign of love. As the Virgin, she shows up on screen doors and tree trunks. As Mary Magdalene, she tends those who suffer, and as Kwan Yin, she is the heart of compassion. As the goddess, she has been honored in a variety of renewed ceremonies and myths. And in the form of certain women, we see her incarnate.

These are times of planetary crisis, and so if we ever needed a dose of compassion, tenderness, unbridled fierce protectiveness and signs of death and rebirth, I’d say this is the time.

So, if the Divine Feminine is calling us to awaken, how can we respond? We might begin by looking for her presence, veiled by tradition or culture, at the essence of things. Even, and especially within our own hearts.

Whether you’re male or female, you have the Divine Feminine within your heart. You have that wild, tender, compassionate, fierce force in charge of births and deaths, all within you.

And so I invite you to begin looking everywhere to see signs that it is time to welcome the Divine Feminine back into full equality—in the outer world and in our inner ones. When she has been fully welcomed, hopefully a new balance will begin to be possible in this wild, beautiful complex Earth home.

August 25th, 2015

Is the Divine Feminine Working on Wall Street?

woman in market

Seeing the global markets tumble is as unnerving as an earthquake. Beyond questions like, “Will I be able to retire?” and other understandable, personal fears, lie other more global and cosmic ones.

We’ve long suspected that the current way of running the world is not sustainable. And we know that if something isn’t sustainable, it won’t be long before it begins to crumble. We’ve seen institutions and systems crumbling all around us. With them,  we can watch the crumbling of our illusions that the very ground beneath us and the climate around us are stable.

One way to frame this is to say that the energy responsible for the trouble we’re in is the energy of the wounded masculine. The predatory, win-at-all-costs, short-term way of “winning” through force, oppression and marginalization is the masculine in its most harmful form.

Like the masculine, the energy of the feminine has many forms. She is responsible for birth, but also death. Her realm is all matter and the passages it goes through: from seed to flowering, to dissolution, to decay, to rebirth. And so in many traditions, she has both a creative and a fierce aspect.

She is sometimes Kali, who wears the necklace of skulls. She roars onto the battlefield with a sword and cuts off heads of everything false. With the dead bodies strewn around her, she calmly sits down to nurse her baby.

In western culture, images like this one disturb most people.  When I traveled in Nepal, I saw shrines to the Divine Feminine in her fierce form everywhere. In the midst of the marketplace, many of them were covered with filth, and then strewn with flowers. They were honored just as they were, right in the center of human activity. They were not neat or pristine or protected. Many of them were destroyed in the earthquake. They are icons of the Hindu faith in the process of death and rebirth, the faith in destruction of the false as a path.

And so I look at this photo I took of a Nepalese woman in the marketplace of a little mountain village, and I wonder some things. How did she survive the earthquake? Can she still farm her vegetables and support her family? How well is the world and the marketplace supporting her? Is her faith sustaining her?

She is a reminder to me as I glance at the paper or hear the frantic debates in the media. What would be the saving grace of the Divine Feminine in this situation? What are the falsehoods the fierce feminine would destroy? What is trying to be born?

We know that our economy is largely built on a house of cards that is too false to be sustained. Our own welfare is complicated. We are in debt to the Chinese, and everyone is in debt to someone else. So the falsehood of the “dollar” will collapse at some point.

And what is trying to be born? Wall Street may be the most difficult arena for this, but the Divine Feminine in her Creative aspect is a birther, a nurturer. She is at the heart of Creation, and is the heart of Compassion.

And so as she works on Wall Street, she might be seeding a question: what would a compassionate economic system look like? What would truth look like translated into economic terms? It’s time to consider these questions.

Those men and women who are devoted to the Divine Feminine within us all can be devoted now to her re-emergence in the world. She is surely at work in the massive shift we are experiencing. Let us take a stand for her. Surely that could be the revolution that could save us all.

August 19th, 2015

How to Clean a Foggy Lens

Tibetan mandala
For me, everything is material for our personal, spiritual, collective treasure hunt. And so I offer you some reflections that have emerged from my weeks of solo retreat…

My journey has had its complications. When two weeks out from surgery my “index toe” still remained blackish purple, the surgeon admitted there was a question about its being viable.

Since amputation was not on my list of desirable activities, and since medically there was nothing to do but wait until outer layers of dead tissue peeled away, I had to do something. What “different lens” was I going to use on this situation?

My spiritual first aid drill was first to call in good help, in the form of local healers and mentors. Next I decided I’d better pull together all the healing tools and experiences I’ve gathered over the years and use them on myself.

The first way to clear out some of the fog over my different lens was to re-frame this as an adventure. 

*******

Metaphors are a way for me to see the bigger picture.

As the purple skin turned blacker and crustier, it began to look like a caterpillar in a chrysalis. Now, there’s a metaphor I could hang onto! A little butterfly was forming inside, and so nothing to do but surrender to the transformation. 

So as if it were under my control, I gave the toe permission and let go of any parts of it that needed to die in order for new life to emerge. During this period I had a lot of tears, and many of them seemingly unrelated to the toe, or to anything else I could identify. I just knew certain old ways of walking in the world were passing away.

I did ceremony every day, and made my house even more of a sanctuary than it usually is. It became my own Red Tent for healing and transformation. I read spiritual wisdom, chanted, prayed, and also watched some great movies and ate too many chocolate chip cookies for someone sitting on a couch 24/7.

I was happy when a friend came to visit who had taken a toe reading class. That’s right, toe reading! She told me the left foot is connected to the inner world, the big toe to the soul’s path, ad the second toe to the inner voice. So I did work with healing the parts of me that have muffled that inner voice and strayed from that soul’s path, and called in a new day.

Seeing in metaphors gave me a way to enter that temple within and to do the deep work needed for healing to have a chance. 

 ******

My new art photography collages have emerged from my theory that part of making lemonade out of lemons is calling in the muse.

For me, having creative work is another way to “polish the lamp,” as the Sufis would put it, or to clean my foggy lens.

My future book is taking form, and as I read voraciously and listen to some online teachers, ideas pop onto index card and into my journal and my spirit is happy.

Way back in my cancer journeys I found that one’s world can shrink severely during illness, and so one way for the body to be able to exit that crisis cascade of chemicals is for the soul to remind it that we are creators, capable of unexpected glories, even when our bodies are limited.

Having lost too many body parts at this point, I had to admit that even if worse came to worse and I lost my toe, I would still be me, still live, and walk on. It wouldn’t be my favorite, but I remembered I was more than my toe and more than this particular time. Creating helped me get there.

 ******

I learned to live with limits

Of course, a lot of my learning was the practical kind that we all experience when we’re limited by illness or injury. I learned to get around on a scooter and crutches. Learned how to re-organize the kitchen enough to make simple meals. Figured out how to take a shower when I couldn’t get my foot wet. Signed up for some great online courses so I wouldn’t be bored. Figured out how to do an upper body workout sitting down. And figured out what makes me tired and when to give in to that.

Two things come out of my experience living with limits.
First, gratitude, for sure. If you’ve been on crutches, you know how you tell yourself you’ll never take walking for granted again. I’m so fortunate that my disability is temporary, and I bow to those who have made life work with physical limits.

Secondly, I realize that being human is about living with limits. As spiritual beings, we are limited in certain ways on this earth plane. It’s hard here. Our minds drive us crazy and our bodies don’t always cooperate.

So bringing heaven to earth is about bringing an the reality that we are unlimited to a plane where we perceive ourselves as limited. I want to live with limits in gratitude, while continuing to stretch beyond them and remember my greater being.

******

How to Clean a Foggy Lens:

1. When you can’t see, do a re-frame. 

When all I could see was fog ahead a possible loss, I had to re-frame this incident as an adventure where I would discover and learn some crucial things.

2. Find a metaphor. 

What object or symbol does this incident or challenge remind you of? Brainstorm until you find a metaphor that makes you smile. My toe as a caterpillar in a chrysalis did that for me, and it gave me hints about how to process my own transformation inside.

3. Call in the muse. 

You are creative, and so whether you play an instrument, paint, arrange flowers, or whether you solve corporate problems or are a techie, you ARE creative. So create something that delights you, and watch your world expand.

4. Learn from your limits.  

What is limiting you now? How does it feel? How can you adjust your world and learn to live with the limits in a way that frees you a little? How, how can this situation point to ways you could expand beyond your limits and remember the essential you that has none? 

What happened to the caterpillar?

Even though I was feeling optimistic, I held my breath in the doctor’s office as he peeled off the part of the now-black, crusty skin on the outside of my toe.

It was pink underneath!

I cried and he beamed. Told me I could start putting weight on it. Encouraged me to peel the rest of the black off when it was ready.

I have been celebrating this small miracle, and as I venture out, now able to walk with crutches to my car and drive to the mailbox or even the grocery store…I can’t help marveling over all the butterflies in my yard. They seem to be loving the flowers that are blooming and thriving with our summer rains.

One butterfly lives on inside the house. She’s protected by a boot cast most of the time, but from time to time I unwrap her and let her flap her wings. They are still wet, a bit tender, and not flying yet. But we know what possibilities lie ahead.

August 12th, 2015

What You See Is What You Get

IMG_4862

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”–Henry David Thoreau

When I traveled in Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan last fall, I was of course struck by the wealth of sacred art. The particular ceiling in this photo was taken in a private home, so these arts are not relegated to skilled monks or to antiquity–they are still practiced by village craftsman. (Granted, in Tibet these craftsmen are an endangered species, since the Chinese are co-opting and controlling everything about Tibetan culture.) Imagine living in a home where your neighbor painted this extraordinary piece of art.

How would looking up at such a ceiling every day affect your vision of the world?

I think sacred arts have been created for many reasons, but one of them must be that the piece of art preserves the vision of the sacred world–and the invisible one–and passes this vision forward, preserving it as part of reality.

When we create any kind of art we are preserving or encoding a view we have of a certain aspect of reality. In that sense, what we saw when we made the piece is what we get as a future.

There’s another sense in which “what you see is what you get.” All the theories that abound today about creating your own reality are based on the idea that our thoughts can become manifest. And our thoughts are largely visual. It’s as though we have a vision–whether it be of ourselves coming down with a cold, or reuniting with a friend–and often we are either grabbing a tissue or answering the phone, delighted at the “coincidence.”

Vision has been proven to affect performance so strongly that  most serious athletes visualize that perfect high dive or ski run. Since I’m recuperating from foot surgery and don’t want all the muscles in my left leg to forget they’re muscles, I’m picturing myself dancing, hiking and walking on the sand. Science tells me that my muscles will believe they’re really doing it.

The link between vision and manifestation works from the inside out, and also from the outside in. When I traveled to the Berlin Wall in the ’60’s, I was shocked to see the wall, even though I had studied about Berlin and knew intellectually all about the efforts to divide people from each other. We know there is a big difference between intellectual and emotional knowing. Once I had seen it, I knew I would always be against such walls and would take a stand for what unites rather than divides us. The seeing changed my mind and heart, and became part of me. What I saw was what I got.

So how can you use this notion that what you see is what you get? I can think of three ways:

1. You can purposefully go on treasure hunts for beauty. With your camera or just your physical eyes, you can collect images that will become part of you, in mind, body and spirit.

2. When you see something disturbing, do a re-frame. Instead of focusing just on how disgusting or sad or scary something is, you can ask what the deeper purpose of your seeing could be. That way, you will literally “see” this scene differently, as if you put a filter on your mental camera.

3. You can point out beauty to others. Everyone does not see the subtleties of the pearly light on the foggy mountains. Some people just see grey and “bad weather.” You can always ask if someone sees how many different shades of green there are in the forest. It may literally expand their vision, and thereby their experience.

Beauty is good medicine. If what we see is truly what we get, then I’ll choose beauty any day of the week.