Tag Archives: sacred contract

Meeting Karma

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I began to seriously study Buddhism about ten years ago. And by study, I mean reading copious books, highlighting and taking notes and incorporating various practices into my spiritual life. I’ve attended dharma talks at the Kadampa Centre but didn’t really connect to the community. It felt like everyone knew what they were doing except me. The myriad of Buddhist disciplines confuses me.

I’ve been to hear the Dalai Lama talk on several occasions and have even taken my first Bodhisattva vow in an elaborate ceremony over which he presided from his golden throne. And yet, I’ve received no formal teachings apart from the few dharma talks I’ve attended. For years I’ve longed to find my own teacher.

One of my favourite authors, Natalie Goldberg, studied with her Zen Buddhist teacher, Katagiri Roshi, for twelve years. It formed her life and infused her writing with powerful messages. I read her first book, Writing Down the Bones, almost thirty years ago, and have read almost every one of her fourteen other books she’s written since then. She has merged the words practice and writing and birthed a spiritual movement. Writing is a spiritual practice, not a craft to master, and this is both permission to let go of the critic, as well as a call to discipline. I’ve long wanted to study with Natalie, to attend one of her workshops to sit zazen with her and to write.

The Great Spring, Writing, Zen and this ZigZag Life is her latest memoir and her most intimate book yet. In her mid-sixties, with a bout of cancer newly behind her, she writes of how she is nearing the time to leave her body.

And I think, “Not yet! Not until I’ve had a chance to study with you!” With a new grandson pushing me even further away from my own birth, I’m imbued with the feeling of time pressing.

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to listen to Natalie read from The Great Spring and answer questions. I’ve had this date marked in my calendar for weeks and wanted a good seat at this free event. I arrived at the Vancouver Public Library an hour before the 7pm start time to find over fifty people already lined up along the wall outside the room. Dratigan. I stand behind a woman in a silver parka and geometric leggings just as the line curves back in on itself. She swipes her finger along her phone and I watch as more and more people join their friends in front of me. Oh well, I think and smile to myself, I would do the same thing if I had a someone joining me.

I have an hour to wait, but instead of pulling out my own phone I take the time to gently meditate, feeling the energy vibrate through me and down into the floor. I scan the crowd and write silent stories in my head, eavesdropping on conversations around me. I wonder if it is too obtrusive and obvious if I take out my notebook and actually write. Will they know it is them I am transcribing?

The door at the front finally opens and the line slowly shuffles forward. I move into the already crowded room and begin scanning the back rows of chairs, looking for an empty one with optimum viewing. Lots of seats are being saved and just as I’m about to turn into the centre aisle I feel a hand and see an older woman leaning forward to block my path.

“Are you alone?” she asks.

“Yes,” I nod.

“Sit here.” She instructs, removing a rice-paddy-straw-hat from the seat beside her. “I need someone with calm energy to sit beside me. The energy in this room is too excited.” She slides the hat under her seat.

I thank her and sit, folding my puffy coat onto my lap and resting my purse on top of that.

“I’m a Buddhist nun.” She says, leaning towards me.

I truly look at her now and see the familiar burgundy garb and the shaved head covered in an orange knit toque. I can’t believe the incredible synchronistic happenstance. I’m sitting beside a Buddhist nun in the first row directly in front of the dias behind which Natalie Goldberg will soon be standing! Seriously! Ask and ye shall receive.

“I don’t know why I’m here,” she confesses several times, “I’ve only read part of a book she’s written….Bones?”

 “Writing Down the Bones.” I affirm. I know exactly why she’s here.

I go with what the Universe has handed to me and make my own confession. I talk about my interest in Buddhism and my scattered studying. She stumps me with question after question, whereupon I finally sigh my ignorance.

“All the different forms of Buddhism really confuse me.”

She smiles, “Everything is confusing.”

And so begins a remarkable conversation. She shows me picture after picture of her teachers on her phone. We share our thoughts on how energy affects us. She asks if I’m a writer and I find myself telling her about the book I’m working on, about how it’s about going beyond forgiveness.

“Beyond forgiveness?” she asks.

Oh no”, I think, all of a sudden it feels like I’ve stepped into a world in which I’m wholly inadequate. Who am I to talk about going beyond forgiveness to a seventy-two year old Buddhist nun?

“When you’ve reached a level or an awareness that transcends forgiveness, where you realize that there is no need for forgiveness because there was no injury in the first place.” I’m talking about soul to soul contracts, but in the whispered confines of our conversation there is no time to expand. I wonder if I’ve jumped off the deep end and have lost my nascent connection with her.

“No injury…” She repeats, leaning back slightly, and then nodding her head she begins to share her own story about a physical injury she’s being challenged with. Now we are simply two women sharing tips on healing physical injuries and operating on an energetic level within a potentially litigious world.

Just before Natalie Goldberg takes the stage, my Buddhist nun friend takes my contact information and forwards me an email containing dharma talks that may interest me. She promises to text me and we make tentative plans to have tea together.

I spend the next hour listening to Natalie Goldberg read and share bits of writing-practice wisdom. I smile to myself. I’m sitting in the front row listening to one of my favourite writing and spiritual teachers, and beside me Karma quietly murmurs. The Universe has placed me exactly where I asked to be – both in front of and beside a Buddhist teacher.

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Before The Rain

I’m sitting here in the chair by the window in the family room.  Just finished a Whole Foods take out meal from their deli – stuffed acorn squash, asian cole slaw and sesame tofu.  Bailey is nestled beside my son on the couch who, in turn, is nestled beside his sweet girlfriend.  Everyone in the quiet on their laptops.  Having Patrick come home for the night is a delightful surprise.

The weather has turned.  Still not the relentless rain yet, though we wake up to that pressing down grey sky that seems to press me right down to the earth, making it hard to even get out of bed.  The leaves are dancing off the trees and one has to almost carry an umbrella to avoid getting leaf bombed.  Soon the rain will come and I will wish for these days back again.  Until then the melancholy wraps around me like a grey cashmere shawl, somehow comforting yet constricting, like wearing socks in flip flop weather.

I can see the end of the year down the street waiting for me.  October is usually one of my favourite months and I’m caught off guard by these restless, “what now?” feelings that thrum through my body.  I’ve spent the last twelve months working intently within the paradigm of Caroline Myss’s Sacred Contracts and have come to the end of my Fate/Lock journey.  Suddenly I feel abandoned in unknown territory without a map to follow.  I’ve come to the end of the road but I don’t know where I am…..this is where faith and hope reside, quietly waiting under the stirrings of anxiety and fear.
I wish my east coast were here to chai with me.  But then, I always wish for that.
I just came back from six days walking the streets in Chicago with my youngest daughter.  That sounds wrong, but you know what I mean.  Six days of uninterrupted time with my wandering daughter exploring a beautiful city was wonderful, but all that speed-walking has made my feet hurt and my legs sore.  Small inconvenience for such a big payoff.  We stayed at a small, gorgeous, bed and breakfast in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood – the only place we could find that had room when we booked months ago.  We thought all the hotels were full of Thanksgiving Canadians visiting Chicago during the peak leaf viewing day, which is apparently October 9th.  Turns out Chicago was full of marathon runners.
Sometimes life seems like one marathon after another and all we can do is put one foot in front of another.  And sometimes, even during the seemingly never-ending run against the wind, there comes the beauty of the falling leaves before the rain.  Sometimes the grey warmth of melancholy is a welcome interlude, reminding us of change.  Joy comes in all forms.
Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift. ~ Albert Einstein

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Seeking my Lover…

*I started this the middle of December!…..rather than begin again, I decided to simply jump back in and carry on. :-)*

Caroline Myss Lover Archetype card. Light Attributes: Great passion and devotion. Unbridled appreciated of someone or something. Shadow Attributes: Obsessive passion that harms others. Self-destructive devotion.

This month I am tasked with animating my Lover archetype, in companion with my Seeker and Pioneer.  In October I made a Sacred Contract with myself to spend the next year working to pick open a fate lock in my life.  One that is keeping me locked in a lingering pattern of pain and suffering and away from a path of Destiny.

Working with my archetypal energies and with the support and guidance of my Soul Sisters, four much cherished women working on their own fate/destiny journey, I am using the method and manner I’ve spent many months learning from Caroline Myss at the CMED Institute.  I’m passionate about the process and the deep inner work.

“Take your Lover out for a walk, to places you’ve never been.” Jim advises me via phone from Los Angeles.  I like the suggestion, but as I look out my window and see the ever-present rain coming down, I pull my blue, fuzzy blanket closer around me.  I can feel the cold dampness seeping through the window right into my bones.  Jim has never been to the rainforest we call Vancouver.   It’s close to Christmas and my kids are home from school bringing with them their exuberant energy as well as bags of laundry, dirty dishes left by the sink and expectations of a stocked fridge and pantry.  I’m wondering where my Lover archetype will find the time to take solitary walks.  I’m wondering if my Lover archetype likes walking in the driving, freezing rain, because I’m not too sure I do.

Two days later I’m walking down streets I’ve only ever before driven.  I’m seeking new and different, simple pleasures through the eyes of my Lover archetype.  The wind picks up and I wrap my scarf tighter around my neck.  At least it isn’t raining.  Bailey, my little Yorkie mixed mutt is pulling me ahead with her long red leash, criss-crossing the narrow road from one tantalizing smell to another.  She ‘sees’ through her nose.  I’ve brought my camera with me, thinking it will force me to slow down and walk more mindfully.

I stop to take a picture of a wooden gate with a wrought iron curlicued design set into it, through which I can see the ocean and the tip of Point Grey beyond that.  Almost directly across the street is another gate, this one an older white picket framed between two dense bushes, the fence on either side missing several pickets and falling into disrepair.  I love them both equally, each one an invitation to a secret garden and my imagination is set free to make-believe entire new worlds beyond.

I’m standing in front of the falling-down white, picket fence, my mind full of English countryside and orphans and faeries and my fingers fumbling to pull my gloves back on, when I almost drop my camera.  Bailey is pulling at the leash and nearly tugs it out of my hands along with my camera; something she’s been doing the entire walk and my frustration is growing.  How can I walk slowly and mindfully, taking the time to notice new, simple pleasures if she keeps tugging me to go faster!  Plus my hands are getting colder and colder every time I take my gloves off to take a picture.  And my hair keep blowing across my face and sticking to the lip-gloss I put on to keep my lips from drying out in the wind.

A car honks.  I call Bailey back to my side of the road and smile at the woman in the blue Volvo station wagon as she drives slowly past.  She smiles back at me and waves her fingers off the steering wheel as she passes.  Something inside me softens and releases as we share a smiling connection.  Patience.

The wind picks up some leaves and brushes a new, enticing scent along Bailey’s nose.  Her Yoda ears perk up and she’s once again trotting off, following the leaf down the road.  I smile again, tuck my camera into my pocket and let my wise, furry four-legged joy lead the way.  I allow the Grace of surrender to soften my mind’s tight control over how I think this walk ‘should’ go and instead embrace, with gratitude, what IS happening.  Now I’m actually seeing instead of looking.

Two weeks later I’m lying on the floor by the fire at my sister, Shari’s, house, warming my back after spending the day cross-country skiing with my brother and his family.  I’m alone with my book in the living room, but I’m surrounded by love.  I listen to the gathering in the kitchen as Shari and my sister-in-law, Amy, chop the vegetables that will go into the vegan spaghetti sauce.  My mom, brother and a couple of the older cousins sip wine and visit, sharing about their day.  A roar of laughter tumbles up the stairs.  My five-year old nephew, Fyn, has just scored in a rousing game of knee-hockey with his older cousins.

The Lover Archetype is all around me and I think back to my moments of frustration, wondering how I could possibly find the time to animate the Lover within me during such a busy month.  I chuckle to myself as Bailey trots over and drops her new squeaky toy onto my head.

It’s not about finding the time to animate the Lover Archetype; it’s about recognizing, with gratitude, the many wonderful, simple pleasures that already surround me every day.  I don’t have to seek the Lover within, I simply have to allow her to see.  Surrendering to the joy in the moment, instead of looking beyond to what hasn’t happened yet.  Surrendering to Now….with Gratitude.

My own little Yoda, Bailey

 I could not lie anymore so I started to call my dog “God.”

First he looked

confused,

then he started smiling, then he even
danced.

I kept at it:  now he doesn’t even
bite.

I am wondering if this
might work on
people?

Tukaram

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I Am A Warrior Woman!

I am a Warrior Woman.

I’m on the phone with my spiritual director and we’re speaking the language of archetypes, a language I’m learning and a language in which Jim is both highly gifted and knowledgeable.  I’m becoming more fluent but have SO much more to learn, especially when it comes to speaking archetypically about my own life.  I am immersing myself in the world of archetypes and myths as a way of becoming more conscious and aware of the many different personalities that live within me.  I yearn to discover “who” is speaking and why.

In a blue folder on the desk beside me lays a certificate from the CMED Institute that certifies that I have “Completed the Sacred Contracts Program and Has Met all Academic Requirements Set Forth by the CMED Institute to Qualify as an Archetypal Consultant.”  Even after seven months of work and research at home and three VERY intensive, very long four-day classroom workshops, I feel like a two-year old still learning to speak.  The only people to whom I’ll be consulting in the near future will be myself and the other four members of my group, but I’m incredibly excited and energized to be learning this new language!

My phone crackles and buzzes and Jim’s voice cuts out once again.  I give up trying to record the call and take the phone off “speaker” and press it to my ear.  Jim’s voice now comes through loud and clear and I pick up a pen to begin madly scribbling notes to myself.  I don’t want to miss a word of his incredible guidance and knowledge.  I’m devoting the next twelve months to meticulously and mindfully release a fate lock in my life and allow space for the threads of destiny to begin weaving a new pattern of energy and grace.  I’m deep in the muddy muck of fate and have called Jim to help me find the tools to scrape the gumbo that’s sucking me in place and keeping me stuck.

I give Jim the Cole’s notes of my life, of the wounds that are wrapped around my fate lock.  I am working to release the pattern of pain and suffering stemming from my husband’s and the Other Woman’s betrayal and replacing it with a Love and a deep knowledge of my self worth.  I have done much and worked hard to heal but I still feel the hooks of a burr rubbing against me.  In healing myself, I offer healing to all other women who have been so wounded.  We are all interconnected and what is in the one is in the whole.

I’ve finished outlining to Jim the story of my blind-sided hit and the ensuing destruction.  I’ve skimmed over the lengthy, stressful, highly complicated settlement negotiations that have just recently been concluded five long years after the end of my marriage.

I finish speaking and without pause I hear Jim exclaim, “What a worthy woman!”

Immediately the rich meaning of those words fill me and sink down deep into my being, grounding me in the truth I haven’t been able to see or feel.  Tears of knowing fill my eyes as the worthy energy vibrates through every cell.  I am worthy.  I am a worthy woman.  I am seeing through a new clarity of knowledge.

When the tsunami of the knowledge of my husband’s betrayal bashed against me I was hit hard with a feeling of humiliation and all the detritus that comes with that.  I am filled with the very visceral perception of the meaning of that word and the ever expansive wounding it causes.  It is a scatter bomb, tearing through tissue and burying little landmines in hidden places in my psyche.  Long after the initial destruction has occurred, I’m still finding the cracks in the foundation of my Self.

I am a Warrior come back from a long, dark, warring night and I share my stories with you.  I pull back my Warrior armor and show you my healed wounds and point to the injuries still seeping, still healing.  Beneath my Warrior armor lives a Wounded Healer.

Be careful when reading these words, be careful not to infer meaning where there is none.  A Wounded Healer is a healer who has been initiated into her power by way of a wounding, and it is with the mindful and active healing of these wounds that the healing power grows.  A deeply empowered and powerful Wounded Healer is one who has been greatly injured (physically and/or psychically) and who has peeled back the scabs time and time again to release the pus of toxins held within.

My Wounded Healer speaks through the voice of my Warrior, telling the stories of my wounds so that you may find the wounds within you; so that you may begin the process of healing.  I shed my armor and show you my vulnerable under belly, not because I am unhealed, not because I am still wounded – but because I AM healed, because the wounds have given me the great gift of becoming a Wounded Healer and a Warrior Woman.  The injuries remaining are not inconsequential, but I am actively healing them, I am living my healing.  I invite you to live yours.

I am a Warrior Woman and I am Worthy!

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My Yoga Truth

I gently lower myself until I’m hanging upside down suspended in the sling and tilt my pelvis to slide my butt up the wall until I feel the solid surface against my back.  My knees are deeply bent open and my feet are wound around the straps to stop me from falling onto my head, although it almost brushes my mat on the floor.  I’m nearing the end of my Tuesday morning 90-minute hatha class with Chris and challenging my fear and changing my perspective with inversion poses – with the help of straps, sling and the wall.

My mind's picture! 🙂

I’ve practiced yoga off and on for over ten years but have never succeeded in establishing anything close to a regular practice.  I have a hard time explaining why I haven’t or even figuring it out myself.  I’ve tried many times, many places and spaces but nothing stuck.  The classes were always too late or too early or too something.  Or they conflicted with my practice of choice – pilates.

So I was pleasantly surprised to recognize recently that not only did I want a regular yoga practice but actually yearned for one.  I tip toed into the concept carefully, ever so slightly concerned that if I spoke too loudly, questioned too closely or walked too quickly, I would scare away the yen.

I suspect it points back to a long held-dream realized that awakened and stirred something deep inside me.  After a year and a half of preparation, strong intention and even stronger commitment and work my Theatre of Infinity birthed it’s first production earlier this year – Daniel McIvor’s Marion Bridge.  At the same time I followed Annie Q’s (@so_you_know) wondrous writing about her deepening yoga practice with Marco Rojas.

It’s amazing what strong intention and commitment can create.  For me it brought an emerging awareness that I wanted to cultivate a more contemplative life.  That it was necessary in order to do the writing I was feeling more and more compelled to do.  Bringing forth the truth with compassion takes compassion and it begins with myself.

This time around my yoga practice is simply a result of my growing spiritual practice.  My classes with Chris have prepared me for my nascent home practice with Marianne Elliott (@zenpeacekeeper).  Complimentary.  I practice with compassion and gratitude and sometimes with just a bit of fear.  But I practice!

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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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