Monthly Archives: March 2011

Ghost of the Younger Me

There’s something about visiting Victoria that always seems to push me moderately out of whack with the rest of the world – or I should say the rest of MY world.  I’m shifted somewhat out of phase, like in the gap between here and then but not quite in the now.  It’s slightly unnerving and I spend much of the time trying to figure out what’s going on.  Trying to find the experience on the tip of my tongue but never quite grasping it.

It happens most vividly while driving down Quadra street, the ghost of my memories coalescing so strongly into a whisper of my younger self that my entire being seems at once to vibrate and separate so that I’m living two life lines at the same time. The string of my life is cat cradling together & I’m neither here nor there. Now is my past and my future as the gossamer strings touch together in science fiction truth.

Me, being me, I try to figure out what I’m supposed to be learning, what I’m supposed to be hearing.  Who is the teacher, who the student?  There walks my nineteen-year old self along Quadra, there she is riding her white ten-speed bike in the days before helmets.  Alone, always alone.  Where am I headed? Away from home or towards home?  Am I leaving or going?  I am a ghost, yet I am here.

Ghost Bike in New York - art installation. Image found on the web.

I’m driving in the car with my 21-year old son beside me while my 19-year old self appears and disappears in front of me.  I’m here to visit my youngest-by-seven-minutes son who is nearing the end of his third year at the University of Victoria, my alma mater.  His UVIC experience is different in so many ways than mine was another lifetime ago.  Is this why I haunt myself?  Because I can see the possibility of what could have been or might have been?  A shimmering glimpse into the road not travelled, the path not taken?

I’m filled with a quiet sadness.  The sun shines but doesn’t quite burn away the melancholy that has settled into me.  I need to sink within this sea of sorrow and swim down into the dark depths and see what is pulling at me with such strength.  I feel strongly that it’s related to my life work right now, in fact I know it is.  That I’m encountering the vibrational energy imprint of my much younger self here in Victoria is not surprising.  I’ve been much on my mind of late.

It is here in Victoria where I started my life with the man who is still technically my husband.  The man with whom I shared my life for almost 30 years.  The man who is the father of my four children.  The man who was my Knight in Shining Armour who took my hand and rescued from a world of confusion and then eventually catapulted me into the dark abyss of rebirth. Knights in Shining Armour can sometimes wear nefarious disguises.

I’m sitting on my son’s sagging, stained, blue couch nestled between him and his seven-minutes older mirror image brother.  My feet propped up on the found in the alley coffee table, six empty beer cans pushed to the side along with the jar of ashes from the communally owned houka.  My two nephews, who share the house with Braden, plop down on the other couch beside us.  All four boys are simultaneously watching the Whitecaps first away game on TV while reading and typing on their laptops.  This is most obviously a resident of young males.

I push the worrying mother voice aside, “Are they drinking too much beer? What are they doing contaminating their young lungs with smoke…..” and try to find the small speck of a girl buried under years of fear.  It’s her words that need to be voiced, her voice I need to hear.

And so that is the part of the work that lies in front of me – to breath life back into this young girl, to give her the strength I now have to hear the words she unconsciously feared.

Forgiveness begins with compassion directed inwards.

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The Journey by Mary Oliver

Lately I’ve been contemplating Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey, which I rediscovered while reading the latest Oprah Winfrey magazine – an issue delightedly devoted to poetry.

Poetry is best read aloud – so take a moment and a breath and send the words out into the world.  Feel them as they rumble through your soul and vibrate back in through your ears, your skin, your body.  Take the time to let them settle into the swamp of your being.

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,

Keukenhof

though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations –
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough,  and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

A good place for contemplation 🙂

As I swim back into the sea of poetry I’m making a long overdue promise to myself to incorporate a daily poem reading/contemplation practice into my routine.  I wish I had done this when my children were younger – carried on reading poetry aloud long past the nursery rhyme ages.  Mother Goose was long a favourite story-time book, I now ask myself why I didn’t see Frost, Walden, Cummings, Yeats, Oliver as obvious carry-on choices.

However, it’s never too late!  My children may all be in their twenties and no longer all living at home, but what a wonderful way to connect and begin a new tradition.  Once a week I will post a poem that speaks to me and invite them to let it percolate through their bodies.  And so, my children, what do these words stir inside of you?  And what of you, dear reader?

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Scattered Meditations

Some days are more scattered than others despite my ever so hopeful intentions.  Today has turned out to be one such day.   Thoughts cluttering my mind like the books, papers and ‘stuff’ that are piled on every surface in my kitchen.  My son and I work opposite each other at the old pine table while Cliff, my way too frequent appliance repair guy works on fixing my stove and oven.  His sighs and mumbles join the energetic anarchy bouncing around the room.

Kitchen table clutter

I am unable to settle down or settle in.  Settle in to settle down.  I’ve been writing for two hours and I have one paragraph before me.  My thoughts are like scatter spray and my mind follows the trail of each one with equal importance, leaving behind all too easily the thesis I mean to follow.  Uncorralled divergent thinking.

My body happily follows my hop-scotching mind.  My fingers checking Facebook, email, NYTimes, I jump up to make a pot of tea and get side-tracked into unloading the dishwasher, into taking the bacteria laden dish cloth to the laundry room and putting on a load of laundry before sitting back down in front of my lap top.  I’ve put the kettle on three times and am still without a pot of tea.

My morning meditation was a rushing river of thoughts.  A reminder of why we call it a practice.  I sit in my daughter’s cast-off leopard print chair, a tiger-striped pillow at the small of my back helping me to sit upright with comfort, and my moss green resort blanket on my lap and bunched under each knee.  I am of the mind that it’s better to meditate in comfort than not to meditate at all.  I light a stick of Sage incense, set my BB alarm for just over ½ hour, turn it to silent, cup my left hand into my right on my lap, close my eyes and begin with a cleansing breath.

I practice Primordial Sound meditation, so I have a mantra upon which I focus my awareness.  Over and over and over, because my awareness is a bouncing rubber ball playing jacks with my thoughts.  It’s amazing how many gossamer layers of diversions I can maintain in my mind!  I am, at once, daydreaming about an upcoming episode of House, running through my grocery list, witnessing my distractability – all the while my mantra is running still silently at the bottom of the river bed.

The muscles around my eyes are tight.  I bring my awareness again and again to the tension and release it with an out breath.  Then keep my attention on my breath.  If I’m having difficulty slowing the parade of thoughts while meditating I usually find that focusing on my breath for a minute or two allows my inner Self to gain a foothold.  Not so in this morning’s practice.  My breath brings to mind the opening stanza of a nursery rhyme:

The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

Clogged sinuses and the North wind doth blow inside my head!  So my morning meditation practice went until the alarm quietly chimed 35 minutes later.  It was a practice full of restless energy and near the end even my body joined my frenetic, kinetic mind. My usually upright seating position has degraded to a teenager’s insolent slump, my half lotus legs uncurled to rest on the floor.

But it is a practice with no goal of perfection and my job is simply to be present in body and invite my Spirit to my practice.  To help soothe and settle my restless mind I open my Living the Wisdom of the Tao by Wayne Dyer and am drawn to the 15th Verse.

The ancient masters were profound and subtle.

Their wisdom was unfathomable.

There is no way to describe it.

Once can only describe them vaguely

By their appearance.

Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream,

Alert, like men aware of danger.

Simple as uncarved wood.

Hollow like caves.

Yielding, like ice about to melt.

Amorphous, like muddy water.

But the muddiest water clears

As it is stilled.

And out of that stillness

Life arises.

He who keeps the Tao does not want to be full.

But precisely because he is never full,

He can remain like a hidden sprout

And does not rush to early ripening.

Labyrinth rocks Miraval Resort in Tucson, AZ

Moving sculpture at Miraval Resort

By evening the muddy water is clearing and I can feel the stillness that is always present in me rising.  Even when that place of stillness is buried deep beneath the sediment of clutter and chaos I know it is still there.  That knowing is enough.

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Sharing my House with Woody Woodpecker

I share my house with a woodpecker, which is a challenge.  He announces his arrival every spring with a loud early morning thrumming on my roof.  He found us four years ago so I should be better prepared, but this year he arrived in February, which seems awfully early.  Especially given the unseasonably cold weather we’ve been having in Vancouver and besides, February is still winter!  Someone needs to have a talk with this woodpecker – get him straightened out on when spring actually starts – which isn’t until this weekend actually – so technically, he shouldn’t even be here.

And while we’re at it – someone please teach him the difference between a house and a tree.  My house, with the four front pillars wrapped in reclaimed rough-hewn cider siding, is NOT a tree.  The forest of deciduous and coniferous trees which surround the house ARE trees.  So many trees for Mr. Woodpecker to choose….and yet he still prefers my house.  Specifically, the metal gas chimney on the roof which produces such a nice, LOUD, reverberating mating call so early in the morning and the four, now pock-holed pillars in the front.

I am trying to view this as an opportunity to practice forgiveness and compassion.  Woody is merely engaging in his seasonal song of finding a wife and to him my house is a ready-made orchestra of instruments.  I admire his persistence, I would just rather it not produce so many holes.

I’ve used an entire roll of tinfoil.  Stuffing it into the already huge holes and wrapping entire pillars until it looks like we’re getting ready to defend ourselves against an imminent alien invasion.  To no avail.  The next morning I find bits and pieces of shiny foil nestled amongst the hydrangea, blown across the road and into the ditch.

So I send out little prayers that my woodpecker friend soon finds himself a mate and they move into a nice refurbished neighbourhood tree.  In the meantime I’m becoming crafty and making shattered mirror mosaics to hang on my front porch pillars.

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Sacred Contract Part 2

I am eating an early dinner, or more like a late lunch, with my son this afternoon and I’m telling him about my intention to write a Sacred Contract with myself.  As is often the case, by explaining to him it becomes even clearer to me.  Speaking the words aloud helps clear away the fog and this is something I don’t want to rush.

I have a practice I call ‘sitting in silence’, which is exactly what it sounds like.  I sit in silence.   Without anything distracting me I explore what emotion is thrumming through me.  I take the time to sink deeper and deeper, beneath the surface and thoughts that try to distract and dissuade me.  My favourite place to practice this is in my bathtub.  For me there is something about being surrounded by water that helps bring clarity.

By taking the time to reflect and ruminate, to sit silently soaking in a bath of Epson salts while tears of pain and sadness run from within.  By letting the emotions simply come, or come simply, without judgment, as with passing thoughts in meditation.  By asking the right questions, “Where?” Why?” “What?”  the fog of distraction slowly dissipates.

Where do these emotions come from, from what wound do they bleed?  Why are they rising to the surface now?  What lesson do they bring and what am I guided to do?  Slowly, as the tears ebb and the bathwater wrinkle-prune my fingertips the truth settles in and I know what I am meant to do.  Forgive.

It will take a book to explain the deep, strong roots of the wound, where the need for forgiveness first grew alongside.  When the long-held and deeply loved illusion of my marriage and my world both peeled away slowly and exploded suddenly and violently around me.  A period of time that began with a second and lasted 18 months.  A time in the past that continues today.  This moment began yesterday and will continue tomorrow, but here, right now, I can work on healing my yesterdays and tomorrows.

As we eat too greasy fish and chips in the fading, much welcomed, all too infrequent Vancouver sunlight, I explain to Patrick what I have come to realize about my Sacred Contract.  It is less about a singular goal and more about a process.  And it is much bigger and much more important that I had originally thought.  What was I thinking?  It makes me laugh now – a joke played on myself by my Self.  I invoke all that is inherent in the word “Sacred” and expect to get away with small intentions?  Funny how life can trick us into doing what we were meant to do all along.

The idea of writing a Sacred Contract with myself began to grow on our flight back from the recent Sages and Scientists Symposium organized by the Chopra Foundation.   Alison Rose Levy wrote about it for the Huffington post here. It was an amazing weekend of learning, growth and connections.  At first I imagined my contract to be a way of keeping a commitment to myself.  By actually writing the words down in the form of a contract and then witnessing and signing it I would be compelled to adhere to it.  A Sacred Contract above all else must not be broken.

I pick a piece of haddock free from the greasy fried batter and try to explain to Patrick the evolution of my Sacred Contract.

“I came to realize….I became conscious, that what I was thinking of as my Sacred Contract was actually just a series of steps….”  I’m frustrated because I can’t find the right words, but Patrick knows exactly what I mean.

“A plan of action,” he inserts, pushing his plate away from him.

“Yes!” I smile back.  “That’s exactly what it is!  I wasn’t writing a Sacred Contract at all!”  Which is not to say that all was lost.  In fact, what I found was that I now have a Sacred Contract and the guidance to follow it.  Guidance in the form of a Plan of Action.

The seeds of awareness are often planted long before we hear the bugle that calls us awake.  In my case, for the knowing birth of my Sacred Contract, the seed was planted just over a year ago and the strong, persistent little plant pushed its way up from the earth of my own denial two weeks ago.  It was going to grow despite the thickness of my blindfold.  I would feel it in my mind’s eye if not clearly in front of me.  It slammed into me and burrowed a hole in the scab of a time-to-be-healed wound and the blood that flowed became tears that will turn toxically bitter if I don’t do the work now.  The work of forgiveness.

Two weeks ago, on a day not unlike today, with the sun shining warm unexpectedly after too many days of grey Vancouver rain, my son Patrick took our dog on a forest walk to take some pictures for his upcoming photography course.  He returned satisfied and with a happy, tail-wagging dog and said, “I ran into dad.”

Someone who had been in my life since I was seventeen years old and I haven’t seen in over two years.  Someone I haven’t spoken with in over four years.  The someone who led me to the edge of an abyss and pushed me over when he chose to betray our marriage vows for two years with another woman, before I woke up gasping for air and the truth.  Someone who has then chosen to cut me from his life so completely that I no longer even know his phone number or email address.  That someone.

“Did he have his dog with him?” I asked.

“No,” Patrick replied.  “He had Susan with him.”  And with that, the little fledgling plant of forgiveness punctured into my wound.

‘Susan’ is The Other Woman.  Someone from the same small hometown as Kevin and I.  Someone who went to the same high school.  Someone I used to run into and talk with at the local grocery store.  Someone who I used to think was one of the sincerely, genuinely, nice people of the world.  Until she wasn’t.

Until I learned how complicit she was in the deception and betrayal.  Someone I haven’t “run into” since she ran away with my husband.  Someone none of my four children have even met before now.

Forgiveness.

There is much, much more to the story than what is written here, but it is necessary to include even a brief illustration of the personal apocalypse that is leading to such a powerful transformational journey.  I am finding it difficult to find just the right snippet of thread to unwind, because the spool is so knotted and tangled.  Part of the work of the transformation lies in patiently and truthfully working those knots free and unraveling the truth.  In separating the facts from the ‘story’.  Forgiveness.

And so my Sacred Contract is the work of Forgiveness.  Finding, feeling and embodying forgiveness.  For myself.  For Kevin.  For Susan.  For all of us.

My Plan of Action is simple.

  1. Maintain my daily meditation practice
  2. Incorporate a practice of compassion meditation
  3. Journal daily
  4. Share my journey into forgiveness via my blog

When my world first fell away and I found myself at the very sharp edge of just wanting the pain to end, the mantra that kept me breathing was, I will show my children what is possible in a time of crisis. Those words still guide me.

I do this for my Self.

Terri Anne Taylor

 

 

 

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Sacred Contracts

Every time I make a promise that I don’t keep I chisel another crack in core of my truth.  I patch these cracks with the lies I tell others and the lies I tell myself.  Little white lies made of papier maché that crumbles under the weight of the truth it is holding back.

Sacred Vows are promises made of the highest level, witnessed by the highest Self.  A marriage oath, the covenant made when you bring a new little being into the world – these are examples of Sacred Vows.  Break these vows and the earthquake is felt throughout your entire body.  A continental drift between the truth that is known in every cell of your body and the lie that is perpetuated by the Ego mind.  A disconnect so great that illness – of body, mind and soul – seeps into the schism.  An energy-blocking gluey pustule of disease.

Dis-ease:

1.  a disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or      developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors; illness  sickness; ailment.

2.  any harmful, depraved, or morbid condition, as of the mind or society: His fascination with executions is a disease.

Each Sacred vow is a contract witnessed from within.  Negligently break any part of that contract and you break with your Self.   If you seek to end such a vow, do so with great integrity and gentle grace of spirit.

When the sacred vow of my long-term marriage was broken it felt like the force of a tsunami had walloped me and it kept pounding into me over and over again.  The power of the pain was great enough to break me open and for that I will always be grateful.  But this is a story that deserves a much longer visit – I’m mentioning it here simply to illustrate my experience with broken vows.  That I know, intimately, the consequence of breaking them.

And this is all just a rambling interlude – a preface to what I’m going to do.  I intend to write my own Sacred Vow to myself.  A contract from within to without, from me to Me, between self and Self.  Perhaps the most sacred of all contracts.

I make resolutions, intentions and challenges every New Year, and again in September because since having school-age children it has become the ‘real’ new year.  This time it’s slightly different.  This time I’m fully committing, deeply committing.  What it actually feels like is not that I’m having to write my Vow – but that I only have to LISTEN, for it’s already inscribed in my soul.  I just have to get out of my own way and let the truth come forth and then commit to hearing it every day.  In short, my Sacred Contract with myself is to be a congruent human being.  Live in my truth.

And so I’ll be writing the HOW of the Vow…..included in my Sacred Contract will be what tools I’ll use to help guide me.  Also included will be the grace of forgiveness.  As one of my great acting teachers said, “Stumble, bumble, fumble, forgive, let go, go on.”

I’ll post my Sacred Contract when I’ve transcribed it.  After I’ve taken the time to sit in silence, to meditate and to listen.  What would your own personal Sacred Contract look like?

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