Dancing into Life

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“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass,
its about learning to dance in the rain.”
~ Anonymous

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Sharing the Joy

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“Ever since happiness heard your name, it has

been running through the streets trying to find you.”

~ Hafiz


Given today is Independence Day, it seems all too appropriate to capture a few reflections on a unique experience that liberates us in powerful ways: shared joy.

In my counseling practice, I often find myself apologizing for spontaneously laughing while someone is sharing something challenging they are going through. Amazingly, they often tell me to keep laughing and say something like, “Somebody’s got to laugh at this — please don’t stop.” I continually discover that the expansiveness of playfulness and joy can dissolve the energies of tragedy and suffering so magically.


“If you think you’re too small to make a difference,

try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.”

~ African proverb


There was a time in my life when I was not laughing much, when a sense of unworthiness and painful separation from others was my primary experience. Over the years, as I’ve opened more and more to my own joy & freedom, people often tell me how much they appreciate the unbridled fullness of my laughter. Like the playful cat in the photo above, the healing presence of each other’s joy is a contagious gift that makes all the difference as we walk through our very-often-absurd life on this planet.

Whenever I give myself the gift of a retreat in the beauty of nature, I am astonished how easily I open to the flow of joy inside my heart — it simply wells up naturally and takes its rightful place in my inner landscape.


“As I headed farther into the forest, I could no longer hear the sounds of the cars or smell their fumes. I breathed in the pure wonderful air. It tasted sweet on my tongue. Everywhere I turned, there was life. The energy hit me in a wave. Gripped by the spirit of the forest, I dropped to my knees and began to sob. I sank my fingers into the layer of duff, which smelled so sweet and so rich and so full of life, then lay my face down and breathed it in. Surrounded by these huge ancient giants, I could feel my whole being bursting forth into new life in this majestic cathedral. I sat and cried for a long time. Finally, the tears turned into joy and the joy turned to mirth, and I sat and laughed at the beauty of it all.”

~ Julia Butterfly Hill


Lastly, by way of praising the flow of joy we all have within:


WELCOME MORNING

by Anne Sexton

There is a joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning.
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
thought often forget,
to give thanks
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoining
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.

All my best shining your way throughout this week, Gavin

Longing for Love

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Everything is connected

Each word each leaf

Each poem drawn

And held together

By the thread

Of our own experience

And the longing of

Our own soul

To follow the vine

Back to its root

~ John Millar


Throughout the many years I’ve been on a spiritual path, I’ve thankfully found myself continually opening to a wide range of avenues and teachers and experiences that assist me in awakening to deeper levels of love. I’ve often found that a new season of connecting more deeply to the divine is preceded by a period of heartfelt longing, perhaps of darkness, or of some measure of divine discontent. Following the whispering lead of this longing has always ushered me in new directions, inwardly and outwardly, that support me in extending my “roots” deeper down into the moist soil of life to receive new levels of sacred nourishment.


“There is only one ancient and forever work of art: the slow fashioning of life

and the gradual awakening of Love. The invitation to participate in Love’s

measured emergence is our call. Our yearning is to meet that Love face to face.

The call to awaken is an invitation to adventure — one lived on life’s

frontier — and the common experience of awakening lies at the root

of every tradition, every authentic spiritual teaching.”

~ Anne Hillman, Awakening the Energies of Love


A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of being asked to lead a memorial service for my dear friend, Catherine Engel. It was an extraordinary service of celebration, as Catherine was a woman who gave herself permission in her life to open deeply to a wide range of spiritual traditions, including profound connections with Tibetan Buddhism, Catholic mysticism, Native American Sioux, as a devoted student of the Indian teacher, Sai Baba, as well as being an initiate and minister with John-Roger in the Movement of Spiritual Awareness. She knew in her bones and in her expansive heart that all these forms ushered her to the divine formless within, and she courageously followed her longing to know and taste Love in so many rich ways throughout her life.

For the last two months, I have been immersed in studies and experiential work with a vibrant, wise, and extraordinarily generous Indian mystic, Sadhguru Vasedev. As with all new turns in my spiritual path, it was not something I was looking for, but once my soul encountered this man and his presence I knew there was a rich harvest that I was being invited to partake of. During this time, I have surrendered in new ways to the energies of healing and Love, opened to a greater level of awe for the process of creation, deepened in my reverence for nature, moved into much-welcomed levels of honoring my body through conscious nutrition and sacred movement/ dance, and am integrated new devotional forms into to my morning and evening spiritual practice. I am very grateful for this new wave of blossoming, and to be a continual apprentice to Love.

Speaking of our longings and how we are often being invited to open our hearts to the divine in new ways, here’s one of my favorite poems:


CARRYING GOD

by Hafiz


No one can keep us from carrying God

wherever we go.

No one can rob His Name

from our heart as we try to relinquish our fears

and at last stand — Victorious.


We do not have to leave Him in the mosque

or church alone at night;

we do not have to be jealous of tales of saints

or glorious masts, those intoxicated souls

who can make outrageous love with the Friend.


We do not have to be envious of our spirit’s ability

which can sometimes touch God in a dream.

Our yearning eyes, our warm-needing bodies,

can all be drenched in contentment and Light.


No one anywhere can keep us

from carrying the Beloved wherever we go.

No one can rob His precious Name

from the rhythm of my heart,

steps and breath.


Blessings to your own longings — and tastings — of the miraculous energies of Love,

Gavin

Self-Forgiveness: Opening to Love’s Embrace

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When I saw the soft, inviting presence of the water in the beautiful photograph above, I was visited by the words and presence of “Self-forgiveness.” It brings forward a yearning to be on that boat, to be surrounded and embraced by the buoyant, healing qualities of the water.

One of the great wisdom teachings of the 13th century Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, is that there is a pure place in each of our Souls that can never be harmed by anything that takes place in this world — no matter how painful the experiences we’ve walked through. I know this place of purity and wholeness inside, and take solace that it can always be returned to by each of us as our true “home.”

Whenever our mind places a judgment towards ourselves or another, we have begun the process of closing our awareness to the presence of love that is who we are. In essence, we subtly (and often unconsciously) begin the process of “leaving home.” Our reasons for judging and closing our hearts are an understandable response to pain in our lives, yet ironically only compound the suffering we are experiencing. Over time, the burden of our inner disturbance weighs more heavily on our hearts and, looking for a way to release the pain, we turn towards the healing power of forgiveness.

The ancient Greek word for forgiveness is aphesis, meaning “to let go,” and one of the bravest steps we take on our healing journey is to forgive:

“There is nothing more painful than walking around with bitterness in your heart. When we forgive another we let go of the judgments we may have projected onto them. We release them from all our interpretations and evaluations, all our thoughts of right or wrong, of friend or foe. Forgiveness is not something we do for the other person so much as something we do for ourselves. When we let go of our judgments of others, we let go of the source of much of our anger and many of our grievances. Our bad feelings may seem justified at the time, but they don’t serve us. In fact, they usually cause more damage to us than they do to the other person. The freer we are of our judgments and grievances, the more at peace we can be in ourselves.”

~ Hugh Prather


What I find helpful with myself and with clients is making the important distinction that the essential action of forgiveness is about letting go of the judgments towards myself and/or the other person. Said another way, forgiveness is not about what happened or the behavior, rather a releasing of the indictment we’ve placed against our own or another’s inherent goodness/personhood. Opening to the sacred energies of forgiveness can take place by ourselves or with the other person involved, yet I find it important to recognize that either way the healing shifts that come with forgiveness takes place inside of ourselves. From this point of view, all forgiveness is self-forgiveness, as we’re the ones who place the judgments — and we’re the ones with the power to release them. (For example, the forgiveness process might be, “I forgive myself for judging myself for all the times I betrayed my inner truth;” or, “I forgive myself for judging John as a bad person for his actions,” etc.)


“You may call God love, you may call God goodness.

But the best name for God is compassion.”

~ Meister Eckhart


I find it is essential to not move forward prematurely with the forgiveness of judgments, as often there is a need to “moisten the bed of leaves” first with an honest expression of the range of thoughts and painful feelings that are related to the disturbing incident. If an attempt to release the judgments is initiated too soon, it can lead to a primarily mental process that doesn’t open us to the healing energies of the heart (in other words, in some measure one hasn’t allowed themselves to truly release the pain, sometimes referred to as a “spiritual bypass”).

If the judgment being released involves an incident with another person, the inner healing through self-forgiveness can take place in a very real and powerful way without the other person present, and can sometimes be gently facilitated by using the imagination and speaking to them out loud in an imaginary dialogue. The key is the sincerity of intent to be honest, to express whatever thoughts and feelings need to be expressed, and when ready, open wide to the healing, releasing energies of forgiveness. They will come…….

Ultimately, Self-forgiveness is about re-opening to the healing embrace of unconditional love. For me, it is often like making a gentle and sincere apology to myself, whereby I recognize I have erred by judging and in doing so allow the judgment to lift off of me. It’s like removing a log from the center of my flowing river — an act of true Self-compassion.

THE VIOLIN

by Hafiz


When

the violin

can forgive the past,

it starts singing.


When the violin can stop worrying

about the future,

you will become

such a drunk laughing nuisance

that God

will then lean down

and start combing you into

His

hair.


When the violin can forgive

every wound caused by

others,

the heart starts

singing.

May the healing presence of water and divine forgiveness wash over you just now,

Gavin