Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Little Silence

There seems to be a theme here.

I received a cryptic and prescient text message from a friend in Colorado last Wednesday. All it read was "slippery elm." I felt that it applied to both the friend I was spending the day with, in Buffalo for a brief time while her show "sat down" at University of Buffalo's Center for the Arts, and to myself. So after seeing if Wegeman's had the little boxes full of magical dissolving lozenges for throat heath, we learned that they didn't, and headed to the Coop.

I took one and let it dissolve on my tongue, a more stubborn part of my self thinking "What do I need these for? I'm not sick.. "

Next morning, after a lovely day spent with my friend I awoke to a tightness in my throat and some pain and laughed. Got up and called to reschedule my early morning session with a client, toddled in my animal slippers ( animal, that is from the Muppet's) to the bathroom where I massaged some sandalwood oil mixed with a carrier oil on my neck and throat, had a cup of throat tea, and took some echinacea and then went back to bed. Woke up a few hours later, no pain. "I licked it!" the competitive, warrior part of me rejoiced.

No more throat pain, but some mild sniffles and breathing difficulty. I had to fill in for a friend, who runs the program in Buffalo for the baby's music class I teach, and duck into her house quickly to pick up something, her house full of boys home with the flu jumping on the couches... I put a shield of wellness around me and ducked out. The girls downstairs me have each had a fever over 102 a week apart. "I'm upstairs." I would tell myself. "I have a killer immune system."

Meanwhile, during my busy days, I would take a few minutes while enjoying a meal to thumb through a yoga magazine. This month was taking about retreats... for all budgets. One right at home, in your own home; or in another city; or the luxurious kind... I was pining for that. Like many I have been feeling that peculiar rhythm of the fall, as things sprint and then halt, and so many new projects are all happening at the same time, leaving you trying to find some balance and breath. "A retreat, that sounds nice."

"And I'm going on one, in mid-December." But it's mid-October, or was last week.

While I've been running around, trying to commune with "she who is not busy" inside, even if everything is whirring outside, there has been a part of me longing to just be home. I really love the nest I've created and I'm looking forward this year to Buffalo's long winter as a time to hibernate and do some deep reflection. Over the weekend I was looking for my keys in my bag and my hand found a little box, "what's this?" I wondered. "Slippery elm... oh good, thing I don't need that anymore!" And my digging and sprinting resumed.

Monday morning. I wake up and do my morning pages, and take a pause to notice that as my internal chatter quiets, my ears prick up and I can hear the music in everything around me. So we speak about listening, tuning in at class. Not only feeling and paying attention to one's breath, but listening to it, its actual sound of the ocean moving through you, curling and uncurling. A similar theme continued in my class that night. Learning to listen to the little voice within, making some space as we clear through the mental clutter and chatter for that much quieter voice, that wisdom that lives within us, the home of "She who is not busy" to come peacefully to the surface. Also noting that when we expand our listening sense, we also aren't ruffled as much. The cars driving by are part of the music, not an interruption. I took a long soak when I got home from teaching, spoke with a friend on the phone for a bit and turned in early.

So yesterday when I woke up and went to speak and sounded like Marge Simpson, I realized my wish had been granted inadvertently. I was on retreat. Now was my time to be quiet. To listen.

As I am writing this, sirens are moving past, and moving through me, I am sending breath to their destination...

The past few days have been a strange gift of a retreat from the universe. Long walks during this glorious fall weather. A nice long soak in the bath. Flannel pajamas and sheets. A much needed respite from the phone, as no one could understand me where I to try and talk on it. Normally I teach on Wednesday nights, but had to cancel due to lack of voice, so instead I actually was able to go take a class. What an amazing experience to listen to and receive and contribute through "audiating" (or hearing sound in one's mind/consciousness) oms and chants without making any physical sound. My voice may be shifting, and there's sometimes a light cough, but my practice was deep and meaningful, and the theme... Michelle's focus for the class was remembering that we already have everything we need inside of us, the internal to the external, letting each sequence originate from within. Closing eyes during many of the asanas, and locating that internal center again and again...

I came home after a restful and rejuvenating practice and made some ginger carrot soup with orange juice and a wild rice dish with veggies. I don't always have the time for slow cooking food in my kitchen, and it was a delightful restorative process.

Through all this I have had a smile on my face, and a lilt in my step. I am enjoying not speaking. Yes I have to sing on Saturday, and I have a rehearsal tomorrow night, but for now I can be in that "retreat" mode, even in the middle of everyday life. Barbara Brennan, author of "Hands of Light" says that "Illness is a pathway back to ourselves." I identify with this phrase. Sometimes it is easy to put more layers on top of the imbalance and blame ourselves for our being sick, rather than noticing that this is a deeper opportunity to come into balance and love and nurture ourselves in thought, word and deed.

So sick or well, see how you can retreat into yourself a bit, walk the pathway back into the self.. find a respite, however brief from the world. Maybe shut off the phone for an afternoon, or even an hour. Make a date with yourself for a bath. Meditate in the music of everyday life and sounds... walking or sitting, doesn't matter. I am going to do my best as I emerge from this real world retreat, to let some of its lessons linger and resonate and continue to surface, the most important one, to take moments each day to be quiet and still.


Friday, October 2, 2009

The Fall

There are moments when one feels free from one's own identification with human limitations and inadequacies. At such moments one imagines that one stands on some spot of a small planet, gazing in amazement at the cold yet profoundly moving beauty of the eternal, the unfathomable; life and death flow into one, and there is neither evolution nor destiny; only Being. - Albert Einstein

Come into this moment. That's the invitation. Again and again. Simply noting when the mind runs like a wild horse into the future, or slinks into the past snail like... just find yourself present once more. Scanning breath, energy, and thought to move past those very limitations. Enjoying the roots under your feet, the sky above and the air on your skin.

We have all had those moments, however fleeting of interconnectedness, of dissolving beyond form, and feeling "at one" with our surroundings. Perhaps on a walk, or noticing the unbridled joy of a small child in a restaurant, or the rhythm in the nature around us, within us- even the symphonic dance of cars on the highway.

When that horse or snail emerge once more, we can sometimes want to cling to the moment we just had, mourn its loss, want it back, want to recapture...

Our work is to let each moment flow into the next. Letting go of needing to nail it down, capture it, save it, savor it.
That felt so good! I want to stay here! This is a pain free place, I need to keep this!

In our ecstasy of being deeply present, we are carried away again into longing and desire, knocked off the steadiness that is found between, the very act of opening sending us spiraling.

Yet another path presents itself. Let yourself go for the ride. Learn to breathe with whatever is coming next. Allow yourself to say "yes" to each and every moment. Notice where you are saying "no" and send yourself compassion and just tap in once again. No judgment, no self-criticism. Just patient, loving and tireless observation and practice.

How long must I walk the path? When will I know? When do we get there?
The walking itself is the destination.

Consider this proverb: "Life is a bridge. Cross over it, but build no house on it." When the seasons change we are thrust palpably into the transitioning, reminded of what it feels like, smells like, tastes like. Work with this flow, with its interplay on your body as we wax and wane between cool and warm weather, as the leaves dance to the ground, as all is swirling to a slower pace and circadian rhythm.

Take some time to get outdoors, to get moving, to notice the ebb and flow of floating between form and formlessness. Notice the temporary shelters we inevitably build. Give yourself permission to dismantle them as you are ready and keep moving. Again and again and again.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Creativity is the Divine Order of the Universe"

I read this quote some years ago in a seminal work many creatives and aspiring creatives have come across: Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way." A dear friend gifted me with this life changing book, which I credit for the years I have now spent as an artist and holistic health-care practitioner. For those not familiar, the full title is "The Artist's Way: The Spiritual Path Towards Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self."

The reader commits to 12 weeks of morning pages, artist's dates and signs a contract that reads: "I,________________, commit myself to the regular use of the basic tools. For the duration of this course, I will write Morning Pages daily and will take an Artist's Date once a week. Additionally, I commit myself to excellent self-care, adequate sleep, good food, and gentle companionship." Morning pages being a half hour to 45 minutes each morning that you write whatever it is that comes to mind upon waking, part meditation, part brain-drain, clearing the form for the day ahead, but doing it each day and watching what emerges. Artist's dates a wonderfully magical time, spent by oneself, in creative transfusion playtime and sometimes pure frivolity: a time to be like a child.

Quite a contract. A nurturing one indeed. I just signed it again. Over the years I have gifted this book, that delves into the deepest parts of our hearts and psyches, exploring our blocks, freeing and identifying deep creative yearnings, and giving voice to that inner child artist within all of us, to many friends and clients. I've led a few groups through the book, guiding their journey and providing gentle and ongoing support. And as someone who considers herself a mad scientist of self-discovery, I commit to regularly embarking on similar such journeys. I have done Ms. Cameron's second book "Walking in this World," as well as "The Vein of Gold," and other similar books by wonderful authors.

Once again, I found myself encountered with a dear soul, like we all do from time to time, wondering what to do with their deep passion in an economy and time that is not exactly nurturing dreamers and artists. So I bought this friend a copy of good old "Artist's Way," and while online, Amazon, in its precient way suggested "Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance" the third book in the trilogy. How had I missed this one? Had this come just in time for me as well?

After seeing a stirring production of "Waiting for Godot" recently, I shared drinks and a beautiful night with a bunch of artist friends. Somehow the topic turned to our shared "apologies" for being artists, that we had had to find ways to justify being creative beings, that somehow that was outside the realm of "productive memebers of society." Each of us recounted our anecdotes of times we felt our work couldn't hold a candle to more serious needed professions like science and medicine. And although we knew in our hearts this wasn't true, that OF COURSE the arts were intrinsic and vital to both personal, economic and societal well-being; that American culture, despite its best intentions, make artists feel vestigial, a luxury- something for "when times are good,"

Thusly, I decided, for solidarity with my searching friend, but also to replenish the well and optimism that can run a bit dry from time to time, to embark on a journey to stoke the embers of the creative individuality that resides in us all. Add to the mix of artist's dates and morning pages, weekly walks, solitary ones, to stoke the imagination, release, take in what's around, to listen, observe, go on "walk-about,"- all that a good walk can provide.

I'll be sharing from my journey, as I renew a sacred commitment to all that is creative, and discovering new insights. Whether you consider yourself an artist or not, know that one resides within you, and see about carving some time with him or her in the weeks to come. Feel free to pick up a copy of any of the books and join in. :-)


Monday, July 27, 2009

Feeling the Subtle Shifts

"When we practice listening, we become intuitive."

Perhaps evident by my lack of blogging since the first post, I have been a bit busy, a bit caught up, as we all can be from time to time. This project, driving here, planning this, planning that...
yet all throughout this subtle, quiet voice has been gently speaking to me. I can't quite hear it when the din of my mind grows deafening, yet know it is there from those times when I have remembered to take a breath, a pause, and go within. To enter into this moment fully.

And with each breath, this opportunity to do just that renews itself. No matter what has come before, how hectic, no matter what is coming, how important, whatever's pending. Again and again we have the gift and the ability to practice listening.

So much of this deeper listening comes from letting go. Letting go of our agendas and our to do lists, as well as our self-doubts and criticisms. They will surface again and again, and we must do our best not to let this be an invitation for further criticism, but begin to be a pathway to deeper compassion and respect for the self. As we begin to know ourselves better and recognize our tendencies, we will begin to let go of what is not serving us, and trust in our intuitive abilities more and more, or with a renewed commitment.

I fought with my intuition this past weekend. Finally back in my apartment after a month and a half away, busy with 15 hour days of creative projects, my adrenalin pumping energizer bunny self wanted to keep up that pace. I had an opportunity to drive to see a production I had been involved in, and assist a friend with rehearsals, and see a dear friend who will soon be going through a frightening procedure. I felt a huge sense of responsibility and obligation to go and be with these people I care about and whom I had worked with, yet in the few moments of quiet between my fast paced moves, I kept hearing that I needed to recharge my batteries. I had not been sleeping much, and when I had, it was not fully restful, as my mind bandied back and forth all that I had to do in the coming day. My apartment had been a rehearsal space, and was anything but calm. I had, and have, as many of us do, friends going through serious transitions in different locales, and I was speaking to them on the phone, and channeling them healing. The dregs were beginning to run low.

I discovered, that in many ways I wanted to escape from taking this quiet time, and wondered what the cause of that might be. There was a fun festival going on locally and I "didn't want to miss anything." Yet each time I checked in, practiced listening, I realized I just needed to be home, and quiet, that I needed to recharge. I gently and methodically began cleaning my apartment, and in the feng shui tradition, balancing the energy of my space. As this happened externally, it began to have the same effect internally, and I fell into the deepest sleep I've had in some time at 10:00 that night.

Waking the next morning naturally before 7, I grappled again with the decision as to whether to begin a 7 hour drive, or to just be in the growing peace in my home and self. I meditated for a bit and practiced listening, and heard loud and clear that I should stay here. I worked to let go of any guilt, and called my friends, who of course were understanding and sent them love and support.

Again that morning, I continued my cleaning and clearing, finally able to prepare a meal for myself and a simple cup of tea, noticing my inner tempo gently beginning to slow down, and the voice within ever more audible. I practiced listening all throughout the day, and observed how I felt moment to moment. What a relief to give this gift to myself!

Not surprising then, that as I finally heed this wisdom, I am led back to writing and to sharing.

Right now, find a few quiet moments, free from outside distractions to close your eyes, place your hand on your belly and just listen. Just listen for what you should do next. In the very next moment, that is all. And when you have done that, listen again. When you feel your mind begin to fill, just take a few deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, and begin again. Try this for just five minutes a day. Begin to take note, then, of all the times throughout your day, you can very simply "check in" with yourself, and be led from this place.

Namaste all!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Our Gift

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. - Albert Einstein

There is a wisdom within us.
Each one of us.
Deep inside, beneath layers of skin, bone, nerves,
A place of light and knowing.
A quiet place, that we must grow quiet to even enter.

There is a gift within us.
Each one of us.
It is a gift that will never lose its magic or its power.
We can open it infinitely and with it infinite possibility.

There is a sage within us.
Each one of us.
A knowing old sage who leads us like a river its landscape.
We can consult, confer, construct a path-
their voice in our ear, encouraging and all-knowing.

Scientists have found that there is a nerve plexus in our belly.
That the organs have wisdom, and emotions that live within them.
Just now, a nudge, a gentle urging led me, who has never blogged before, to come to this site, that I know of from a friend who also has a blog, to write- this. I am listening, and being led.

Welcome to All That's Possible.

Copyright Megan P. Callahan