21 Day Challenge – Day 15 – Good and Bad

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Is it possible, do you think, that if we are opening up to the magic and enchantment around us, our awareness of everything is heightened? Isn’t it possible that once the door is open, it is open to everything?

It is true that once the decision has been made to find enchantment, it is always easily found. But just as we’re looking for a lost set of keys and we come upon that IRS bill we forgot to mail, other things come into view.

So the question then is not necessarily about enchantment versus all that isn’t. It’s about perception.

Can you see it all? Can you experience the tiny butterfly landing lightly on a delicate branch with the same awareness as watching the vulture cleaning up a dead squirrel?

Buddhists believe there must be good and bad. You cannot know good without having first experienced bad. There must be a frame of reference. They are equally part of life and they are relational, which is to say, it depends on the perception of the individual.

It is about taking the good with the bad and being okay with either.

As a young child mud is every bit as magical as a kitten.  Enchantment is about returning to that child-like nature; experiencing everything with curiosity. In the natural world a butterfly is no better than a vulture, the acts they commit are received the same.

As humans we have the ability to discern with emotion, allowing us to ascribe human-like qualities to animals and inanimate objects and assign what is good or bad. This can lead us to perceive situations as good as someone else has the opposite experience.

So if we are opening up to all that is around us through the lens of magic we cannot discard something because it displeases us. We must look further, deeper into the maw of perceived darkness. There is always a light, there is always an upside. Sometimes it’s just being aware that our own awareness is expanding.

It is a process, this awakening to all that is. The rawness of newness. The work is in not abandoning the process. Don’t close your eyes to avoid seeing, simply turn your head and look somewhere else. Eventually you will turn your head all the way around, once more taking in the vulture and the squirrel. It is at that point you can appreciate it all. You can thank the giant majestic bird for doing what we as  civilized humas, disconnected from nature, cannot fathom doing. Accept it all, take your time with it. Wonder about it. It’s all magic.

[Photo: What’s your perception?]

21 Day Challenge – Day 14 – Focus

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I can’t do it all. There I’ve said it. My to-do list on a daily basis would make a Marine quake in her boots. Probably not, but she would surely see that even getting up at 4:00 AM would not help me accomplish the ridiculous tasks I have set for myself.

In truth my list is ongoing, it’s sort of a weekly list, spill into next week, sometimes never get done list. Focus. That magic word has eluded me so much of my Gemini existence. I want to do, see, be so much and believe I can, really believe it. If I focus too intently on one thing, I might miss other awesome things.

My ability to jump from this to that and back again has been a source of frustration to me most of my adult life. Shiny Thing Syndrome. Right now I am actually supposed to be looking for clip art, but I saw the blank page and jumped on it. Hopeless. Others find this to be a somewhat attractive quality.  While I may find the single-pointed focus person admirable and believe I could be that way if I wanted, they may find my ability to let go of the balloon in order to pet the puppy impossible.

My laptop and I have a lot in common. At any given moment there are 5 or 6 programs open, with at least as many tabs and/or pages open within them. No less than 90 files cover the beautiful photos rotating as my screensaver. The more that is open the slower it runs. Hmmm.

I throw a bunch of balls up in the air with the best of intentions only to either become overwhelmed and duck and cover or lose interest all together and wander off. The balls drop, some roll away, the ones that are left will get tossed up again.

It is with age and perspective – possibly an iota of wisdom  – that I have learned to appreciate my way of being. It has its challenges, but I am aware of them now. I have smoothed some of the edges and refined some of the processes. When I get caught up in the list and the lack of check marks I can just shrug a little, promising to do better next time.

Whatever better is.

I know I’m in danger when the list has become the priority rather than its contents. When I let go of a physical list there is always a mental one.

Focus. Let go. Focus. It’s a distillation process.

When I was in India I remember watching an elderly man in the country side from my bus window. He was some sort of shepherd. He had a handful of goats and he seemed to be walking them from here to there. I remember thinking, but what does he do? What I was really thinking was how does he measure his success? Then it hit me. He doesn’t. It doesn’t matter. He is being, not doing. It was such a revelation for me, that someone could be content just by being content.

He has no list, no schedule, no time card. For all I know he doesn’t even have a birthday or a permanent address. What he does have is peace.

I have no goats, but I can have peace, I just have to see through the mirage shiny things. The yoga helps, the writing gets it out and photography brings me present. These are the doing practices that help me be with the rest of it.

Focus. Let go. Focus. Be. Repeat.

[Photo: Catching the morning light making shiny things out of nature. Just add water.]

21 Day Challenge – Day 13 – Gut check

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I have this internal gauge that lets me know when it’s time. It tells me when I’m done with something, usually kind of big and potentially life changing things: a job, a relationship, a town. Lately I can feel the valves beginning to close on an aspect of my life. Marriage is solid, community is strong, this has to do more with work.

I begin to feel it as an exasperation, there’s a lot of sighing involved. ‘I don’t wanna’ whiny vibes emanate from my gut. Then my head starts to tell me a bunch of stories about how good this job/person/place (we’ll call it ‘noun’) is. Trying to trip me up. Sometimes it works, it usually delays the ultimate act, but rarely changes the decision.

In response the gut speaks louder, it gets angry and starts to find fault in everything having to do with noun, down to a single unrelated incident that somehow is now noun’s fault. The mind reminds me of the good things noun has done for me and strongly recommends I maintain status quo. That’s its job.

The gut is pissed off. It’s time. The mind just wonders if this is really the best time to make such a big change.

The gut is done. The mind makes one last ditch effort; you know making this change now will affect everything you want to do, your whole life could change, is that what you really want?

YES!

And so it is. I have been playing this game for the past few months. I know what I need to do on an energetic level. It’s the financial level that scares me. A good chunk of my income is wrapped up in this decision. At the same time, my enchanted living is suffering.

I can see what is on the other side, I can feel it. I know what I am supposed to be doing, I get reminders and signs every single day. Every day.

I believe everything I have done that is perceived as negative; poor eating habits, lack of exercise, disorganization, financial debt are all ways to slow down my leap into this life that is waiting for me. It’s the mind protecting me from my bigness. It’s very scared of the unknown. Same is safe. New could be a mistake.

As I move through this challenge and begin to chip away at these bad habits and obstacles, the mind is fighting back. Rather than trying to convince me that I shouldn’t do what I feel called to do it’s guiding my hand toward the leftover Halloween candy. It pats my head and tells me to rest today, there’s no need to do yoga every day. It suggests I put the computer away for just one day so I can recharge so my writing will be fresher, bolder.

But I am onto it so I go to my mat, I open my computer and I continue. The key for me is to call up the vision, plant both feet firmly in it and dare the mind to knock me over. And if it does, the proof will be in getting back up. So far so good.

 [Photo: Bay tree after some much needed rain today.]

21 Day Challenge – Day 12 – Gratitude

birdy IMG_1892As I selected my cart at Whole Foods today I did not expect to find a passenger. I was making my way up and down the aisles when I noticed a little movement on the outside of the top basket. A lizard. He was moving a little slower in the cooler temperatures of the store but was able to make his way to the handlebar where he looked at me perplexed and asked to be taken outside. I obliged. As I exited with unpaid merchandise I walked about six feet toward a grassy area. Before I got there he jumped off. Warmed by the 90 degree November sunshine he was once again feeling frisky. I watched to be sure he made it to safety lest some unsuspecting human find him beneath their shoe. He made to the grass, he’ll have to take it from there.

It is in these moments that I find complete gratitude. The dragonfly landing on my dress. A squirrel frozen not 3 feet in front of me because we surprised each other. Deer wandering in my suburban neighborhood. A bird peeking down at me from the porch roof. The wind.

It is the first of November, the official month of gratitude.

I am grateful for all the people in my life. The fun ones, the encouraging ones, the humorous ones, the spiritual ones, the loving ones, the kind ones. And the mean ones, the rude ones, the whiny ones and the sarcastic ones.  The button pushers and naysayers. Oh I think I am most grateful for those last two.

The button pushers allow me to learn more about myself. Because it’s not them, it’s me. It’s my button. If I were to pay very close attention I could probably find the thread that connected the various pushers to the specific button. Once I identify the button I can work to eliminate it.  Another person cannot make me feel or act a certain way without my permission. If a person drives me crazy, I am the one behind the wheel. They are my teacher. And I have much to learn. And for that I am grateful.

The naysayers show me the holes in my theories, they show me their vulnerabilities which are merely mirrors of my own. If they believe I can’t do something it is most likely because they don’t believe they could. They need me to succeed so they can see the possibilities for themselves. I owe them my successes. And my gratitude.

Each person we encounter that we have any kind of reaction to, good or bad, is a mirror. The perceived negative reaction lets us know exactly what we need to work on. The perceived positive reaction shows us our magnificence in another. We cannot see in others that which we do not possess. If I walk by 100 people and don’t react to them, they have nothing to share with  me. But that one person that cuts me off in traffic when I am in a hurry has the lesson.

Once I was aware of this, life became considerably more interesting. It became impossible for me to blame others for anything, instead I had to own my reactions and what I believed to be my shortcomings . A confrontation or a reaction was now the gift. Or rather the gift was somewhere in it. If I missed it, it would be back.

Gratitude is a portal. Once stepped through the magic in the mundane is revealed. Colors become more vibrant.  The sound of people laughing overcomes the noise of those complaining. The one beautiful flower among the weeds comes into focus.

So on this first official day of Gratitude Season I say Thank You. To everyone. For everything.

[Photo: My bird friend that was perched on the roof line of my patio.]