Tag Archives: meditation

Cutting The Grass With Scissors

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Yesterday I cut the grass. Literally. With scissors.

I returned home after being away for most of the last three months to find my wee yard a tiny verdant jungle full of butterflies and happy, buzzing bees. A few things had burned to a crisp, but the small patch of grass had grown way too high for my makeshift lawnmower to cut.

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Plus it had encroached into the flowerbed and I didn’t want to risk cutting any cherished blossoms.

And so I spent the afternoon sitting contentedly on a folded towel, slowly cutting the grass one snip at a time. This is what I discovered.

I loved it. Not that I want to cut my grass every time this way, but spending the time sitting and slowly cutting became very meditative. I allowed my mind to wander and daydream, something I don’t do often enough these days. Sometimes doing almost nothing is exactly what one needs.

I felt like a child again. How often do you just sit on the grass, barely doing anything? Not reading a book. Not weeding. Not making lists or even thinking of making lists.

Instead, I felt the ground beneath me. I watched a yellow butterfly dance amongst the lavender. I listened to the bees. I moved an earthworm to safer territory.

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I pretended I was cutting hair. I talked to the hydrangea like we were best friends. I swept the flagstones with my hands, softly brushing the grass clippings together like I was nine-years old playing house.

I slowed down. I stopped doing and became a human Being

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I’ve Turned Into A Crystal Lady

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My crystals missed the sun today and were, instead, soaking in their bath of mineral water and Alaskan Sea Salt while the sun was shining.  By the time I got them outside and nestled into the grass out by the rock wall the cloud cover had taken over.  In Vancouver in November, you have to be fast to catch the sun, but I figured the little crystal family would still enjoy some time sitting in nature.

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I never thought I would one day be a ‘crystal lady’ but here I am.  It started with my first pilgrimage to Brazil and has continued with my second pilgrimage.  I’ve even turned my children into crystal people, bringing them each home their own meditation crystals.

photo (22)Whether you believe in the vibrational healing qualities of crystals or not, you have to agree that they’re beautiful….

 

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Pilgrimage Into Mystery

 

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I’ve just returned from a long planned and anticipated pilgrimage through Brazil. 

 

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From the Amazon….

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…to Iguassu Falls

 

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…to Rio de Janeiro (yes, one can pilgrimage in a city)

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…to a tiny town in the interior for two weeks of healing and intense meditation.  A month of limited internet access, of relaxing into new experiences, of concentrated time for contemplation, introspection, meditation and prayer.

I’m still steeping in the changes.  Consciously calling to mind and body the knowing of peace and joy.  Slipping, always, back into allowance without grasping.  I’m fortunate to be able to ignore for a while longer what the clocks are ticking, and to step out into the morning and inhale the dawn with gratitude.

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My pilgrimage is ever onward…..

“As I make my slow pilgrimage through the world, a certain sense of beautiful mystery seems to gather and grow.” ~ A. C. Benson

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Balancing In The Sea of Creativity

I find I am unable to focus on multiple projects at once.  Multi-tasking between creative platforms seems beyond me, and so while I’m immersed in the world of acting, my writing becomes the forgotten child crying for attention.

It feels like I’ve been in rehearsal for forever, there are so many characters living inside me, like multiple personalities, that it’s beginning to feel a bit over crowded.  It’s a high-class problem, but my writing child is crying louder and louder and it’s getting harder and harder to put her back to bed.  I’ve got one more play, one more character to bring to life before I can slip out the backstage doors of the theatre and bring my writing child out to play again.

Finding balance is always a challenge for me.  Living a creative life can be exhausting instead of fulfilling.  As an actress I never know when the next gig is going to come, each job feels like it might be the last, each opportunity too good to pass up.

I’ve gone from Queen Margaret in Henry VI and Mistress Page in Merry Wives of Windsor, to Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire, to Annie in Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests.  Great characters, all of them!  And now I’ve been given the opportunity to bring a character to life for the very first time in a two-hander written by a wonderfully gifted playwright friend of mine for the upcoming Vancouver Fringe Festival.  Grace, in the world premiere of Slumming, written by Barbara Ellison.

I’ve gone full out since early spring doing what I absolutely love, and jumping with both feet off the highest cliff into my deepest fears and my biggest, thickest blocks.  And I really feel in need of a deep rest.  This month of rehearsals and production meetings, heading towards our opening night September 6th, I’m working to find balance.  Giving myself permission to sit quietly and read out-side, surrounded by my over-run garden and allow my physiological, spiritual and creative batteries to recharge.  Finding balance.  Creativity needs some alone, quiet time.  Simmering time.  Meditation.  Balance.

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Filed under Meditation, Spirituality, Theatre, Writing

To Thine Own Self Be True

**I wrote this in 2006, shortly after the illusions of my life were suddenly and painfully illuminated.  Then, as now, I strive to live in the truth.

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Veracity is adherence to the truth.

Veracity is the heart of morality  ~ Thomas H. Huxley

my hand outstretched over a background of summer grass, the word truth written in red inside a red heart

Love the Truth

What does it mean to live in the truth?  Is it true that to be dishonest is to be amoral?   Can you keep a secret, or tell a little white lie, and still honour the truth?   I find myself growing wings and embarking on a journey to discover what living in the truth means.  It has become my quest, my search for the Holy Grail, the only way I know to learn and grow from the tsunami that has hit my life.

Nine months ago, as my twenty-four year marriage was exploding and my world was dissolving and evolving without me, my soon-to-be ex-husband asked me a question, “What do you want in life?”

I sat with that question for a while and the answer came to me – I want to live a life of truth.  After living for so long with my head planted firmly and deeply in the sand, with my eyes and ears cloaked in so many years of lies and denials, I needed to be immersed in the truth.  I needed to know what that looked like, what that felt like.  I needed the truth to guide me on my voyage of discovery.  I needed to know what living in the truth meant.

Galileo said “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”  In this ‘age of enlightenment’, my spiritual quest for the truth is not unique. A search on Google for “inner truth” spits out 5,500,000 possible matches; over 2000 titles on enlightenment are available from Amazon. As the baby-boomers hit middle-age and beyond and are confronted with the undeniable truth of their impending mortality, more and more people are becoming seekers, looking to uncover their own meaning of life.

I set out to discover my own truths.  Eihei Dogen, one of Zen Buddhism’s most prominent figures, wrote, “If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”   I believe in a Higher Power, that everything happens for a reason, and that wherever you are, is where you are meant to be.  These were the truths I carried with me on my journey.  When I was falling into the abyss of grief and fear, they were my lifeline which kept me from drowning.  I studied dozens of books taking notes and highlighting as I went, journaling about what I read and learned, discovering insights about my life as I wrote.  I began seeing a psychologist to help unravel my ‘self’ from that of my ex-husband and to slowly peel back the layers of protection that covered the truth.  I began to unwind and separate the threads of my truth from his truth.

I spent time cleaning the clutter from my closets and cupboards, filling boxes for a garage sale and giving away bags of clothes and shoes and in so doing I began to clear my mind as well.  I learned how to practice meditation and incorporated that into my daily life.  I began to sit in stillness, to immerse myself into whatever thought, feeling and emotion that flowed through me. I began to find the truth hidden within.  My discovery of myself and my truth became my vocation.  Peeling back the layers of the onion to reveal my authentic Self has been the most wrenching yet rewarding task I have ever done.

I needed to learn the truths about myself which I had long been denying – to acknowledge and take ownership and responsibility over my own actions and choices during my life and my marriage.  I needed to own and accept all my ‘selves’, the dark as well as the light.  Marianne Williamson, spiritual activist and internationally acclaimed author and lecturer, teaches us that “Emotional wholeness is the acknowledgment and integration of all our qualities.”

A sprinkling of rose petals frame the words Live in Truth with a small burning candle set inside a glass flower placed on the lower left corner.  In order to live in the truth, we need to live in all our truths, not just those that serve to present us in what we deem to be a positive light.  Williamson goes on to say that “We seem to have great resistance to looking at our lives, and our world, with emotional honesty”, yet to do anything less is to deny ourselves the opportunity to live a whole and complete life.

We also need to learn to separate our own truths from those of others, to take ownership over our own emotions and not to take ownership over the emotions and choices of another.  To take false ownership not only denies the truth within you, but also denies the right of responsibility from its true owner.  This was clearly demonstrated to me in the relationship with my good friend, Carla.

When I first learned about my husband’s affair, I was hurt, angry, devastated and humiliated.  My immediate reaction was to keep private the details of our separation as I learned to process and recover.  Carla was the one person to whom I entrusted my thoughts and emotions, and I asked her to keep my confidence.  I felt then, as I do now, that my separation and divorce and the reasons behind them, are my story to tell – when, if and to whom.

Several times during the ensuing months, Carla would accuse me of not living in the truth because I was not revealing the affair to the world at large.  Each time she confronted me with this, I would step back and question myself – by choosing to keep this part of my life private and asking Carla to keep this secret, did this mean I was not living in and acknowledging the truth?

Martha Beck, a Harvard-trained sociologist and an innovator in life coaching, compares secrets to stars in her New York Times best seller, Finding Your Own North Star.  She says “They’re hot, volatile concentrations of energy, and they have two ways of dying.  Over time, small stars simply burn out and cool off, becoming what astronomers call white dwarfs.  Massive stars collapse in on themselves, growing so dense that they create an immense gravitational vortex from which even light can’t escape.  They become black holes.”  I wondered whether my secret was a black hole and whether I was in danger of being sucked into its whirling vortex.

I meditated, studied, journaled and talked with my therapist about this.  I came to trust and believe my own instinct to find a way to define ‘black hole secrets’.  If keeping the secret causes emotional or physical pain to anyone then it’s a safe bet you’re in danger of being pulled apart by the black hole.  However, if the only discomfort felt is the need to gossip, then the only person served well by breaking the confidence is the person who is doing the telling. You can live in and honour the truth and still keep a secret.

The more I learned about myself, the more I began to trust the truth of my instincts and to listen to my ‘gut’.  As I learned to accept and take ownership over my choices, my feelings and my truths, I felt my reality shift.  A miracle happened in my life;  I began to lose the pain, fear and grief surrounding my separation and impending divorce.  A miracle is really just a shift in the lens through which you perceive life.  I realized my husband’s affair was not about me, it was about him and his choices and denials and his own hidden truths.

I let go of the life I had thought I was living and the future I had envisioned.  I let go of the person I was and surrendered to be the person I was always meant to be.  I learned from my past and stopped living in it.  I stopped projecting and expecting the future and instead, I work at living in the moment, taking comfort in the knowledge that what is meant to be – will be.  The I Ching states that “A light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognized.”  This can only happen when we have the courage to face our self-deception, denials and illusions – to face things exactly as they are.

"The Seekscape" painted by my son Patrick O'Neill

I am still learning and discovering what it means to live a life of truth.  I will forever be on this voyage.  What I know for sure is that the truth is the only path to a whole and complete life.  I have learned from Mahatma Gandhi’s principal of non-violence which declares that “moral force emanates from righteous action”.  I believe, as Marianne Williamson states in A Gift of Change, that “while such force might not have observable effects, it indeed has effects on an invisible plane.  By simply standing in Truth – not only in words but through our behavior as well – we help create a wave of power that will heal the world.”

When I embarked on my pilgrimage I hoped to find healing, solace and peace.  I wanted to show my children what was possible in a time of crisis, to grow as a person.  I needed to learn from the earthquake which had destroyed my world.  I had no idea that I would find something much more powerful.  I would find my Self.

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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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