This has been the Biggest Summer Ever for me, so it has taken some time to get back to writing. So much has changed, both inner and outer, in my world. First, congratulations to all of the 49,000 students that are back at school (here in Portland), and all the families, teachers, staff, and administration that support them. This is no small thing, teaching/supporting the youth of today, and I am grateful that you are taking on this challenge.
For me, today has been about integration. With so many changes over the summer, I am now able to land and find how all of these experiences are opening up my world now, in this moment. One major change that I shared earlier is that my mother, Nancy Lower, died on May 14th. Just this morning, I was taking some time to unpack a box of her jewelry that we had sorted when we were in Utah for her memorial (in July). I was feeling waves of gratitude, then grief, as I pulled out some of her beloved earrings and necklaces. She had a LOT of them---it was one of her passions, collecting jewelry. It really reflected her love of color, art, travel and God. As I sat and had a good cry, I noticed that one of the cats was trying to eat something on the floor. They love to eat anything and everything (brother and sister, turning two this Fall, so still very much kittens). I bent over to pick it up, discovering it was one of Claire's baby teeth! Omg. Really? I went right from crying to laughing. God/dess has such a sense of humor. A small, white tooth, I'd left on my dresser months ago, brought to me as a reminder of the impermanence of life, and to not take things too seriously!
So, how do we integrate and thread our lives together again after changes, large or small? We feel. We breathe, and we notice the Space that is created from feeling and breathing. The mind wants to create pictures and spin stories from the past or the future. We can watch the spinning and come back to the feeling/s. Easier said than done, no doubt. This is why it's called a practice: the more we practice returning to the Space, the easier it is to not get caught in the Story. The tendency might be to jump away from the feeling/s and move on to the next moment. Or it might be to judge the feeling/s for being there in the first place. Simply feeling the feelings, allowing them to move through us, and then noticing the Space that is created, is a beautiful practice of compassion, and patience. Be with the moment to moment awareness of ourselves as the Space that encompasses everything, the Stillness that holds all of the constantly changing experiences of the senses.
I've spent most of my life seeking the Truth. When I was 19, I became deeply aware of this seeking (more on that later), but I have memories of sitting in church, praying and crying to know God/Jesus, to be deeply connected to something that could be called God, even though I wasn't really sure what that meant. For decades, the mind has held onto the notion that if I'm "good enough," as close to perfect as possible, then I will feel better and better and eventually won't have to feel all of these crazy, challenging feelings at all. For most of these years, this tendency was not conscious. From childhood, there was formed an inner "holding," a waiting for the "good" feeling/experience/state that would then be maintained and uplift me above the Muck of Life (the painful, ever-changing emotions and sensations of the body).
Another layer of this misunderstanding was shattered recently when I was on retreat in Hawaii, and I could feel how this holding/waiting was based in fear and wasn't allowing me to be present with the ever-changing flow of emotions. Part of me was demanding that it all just stop, so that I could be wrapped in silence and stillness and stay there, protected from all the words, all the movement, all the changes, so that I could finally be free and know God. Fully know God. Even for a moment. Through self-effort (the retreat focused on timeless love) and Grace, I was able to release another piece of this "holding" and allow life to flow through and around me with greater ease. A subtle and powerful letting go, allowing the unfolding of the present moment to be perfect, just as it is. When the cat found the tooth, and the flow to emotion shifted, it was seamless, nothing that I was doing right or wrong or needed to change, since I was able to stay with the feeling. We ride our feelings back to the present, again and again.
When we are attentive to our own inner world more and more, we start to see the connections between our inner process and what is happening on the outside. There is no separation. Love wants to bring each of us back to itself, and is guiding us in every moment. So let's listen, deeply, to the guidance from within. Let's be honest with ourselves and with those around us. Let's notice the connections, the threads that Love is weaving (like the cat, the tooth, and the laughter). If we're getting too serious about "doing it right," or "getting it done," love will give us a wake-up call to Let Go and Let God!