Notes on the Journey

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

More Than Enough

This liminal space between Christmas and New Year feels like a gap in time.  Like I'm between worlds.  If you're aware of numerology, you probably know that 2016 was a "9" year, which means an ending.  And, 2017 is a "1" year, which is a new beginning.  But, it doesn't feel like a normal ending and beginning, it feels like more than that, it has a deeper gravitas to it; not so much like the end of another year, but the end of an era.

I'm feeling some sadness for what has gone, for what will never be the same again, for what is irretrievable; and, some excitement for what's coming, the unknown, the unforeseeable.  I'm grateful for this week of quiet interlude in which to rest and reflect.  Uzes is very tranquil and fewer than usual amounts of people walk the streets.  Most of the restaurants and lots of the shops are closed now.  It's cold and clear and the wind is blowing.  The trees are bare and everything seems like its hibernating.  This is the Uzes I love.

The older I get, the more I love the winter.  When I was young, I loved the sun, the heat and the activity of summer.  Fall has always been my most favorite time of year, but summer held great resonance.  Now, it's fall and winter that speak to me the most.  I enjoy the cold, in a way I didn't when I was younger.  I like the internal nature of winter.  The starkness of it.  The essential bareness.  There is a rhythm of life and seasons that I'm connecting into here that I've been missing for a long, long time.  Modern life, in all its relentlessness, can blind us to the natural rhythms of life.  To find those rhythms, to feel them and flow with them is a great gift.

This move to a new country has required a certain amount of focus and study...new language, new ways of doing things, new people, new everything...and, this much newness takes a lot of energy.  This week I have no classes or anything that has to be done, which is a wonderful relief.  I've spent time with friends and allowed myself to just sit and enjoy the open space of not having to do anything or be anywhere.  I've started to focus some energy in a new direction in terms of my living space.  For those of you who know me well, to say that it feels like time to move again will come as no surprise.  It hasn't been my plan, and it still might not happen, but I'm looking.  After a year in my current space, as much as I love it, things have been revealed that either need to be addressed and amended, or a move needs to happen.  I'm not sure which it will be yet, but looking at some other housing options has been interesting.  I'll stay in Uzes, but am looking for quieter and cooler.

I love to bake.  It's a very relaxing and soothing thing to do.  I just took the last few chocolate snowball cookies out of the oven to cool and the apartment smells delicious.  Laundry is going through its cycles in the washing/drying machine, the sound of which is punctuating the afternoon.  I'm looking forward to cleaning the floor...yes, looking forward to it...weird, I know.  There are days I can't think about the floor, but today I'm looking forward to interacting with it.  Today, I'm feeling grateful to this floor that supports me so beautifully in my life here, and I want it to be clean and shining.  The dust bunnies try to hide themselves in the corners, but they aren't safe for long.

The soft light of mid-winter angles in the windows and shines patterns of brightness on the wall where no art but the art of life makes it mark.  For the first time in many years, my walls remain blank white canvases.  The open space of them invites contemplation and rest.  Sophie, my most beloved cat companion, sleeps on her warm electrical pad that I've recently bought her and slipped into her favorite cat bed on the sofa.  She's barely been off of it since it arrived.  It's so satisfying to give someone a gift they enjoy so much, cat or human.  Today is one of those days when I'm very aware of the simple richness of my life.  Today is a day when gratitude has taken over and pushed everything else aside.  Today my heart is at peace.  Today I'm aware that all is well.  Today the absolute brilliance of Life in all its forms shines upon me, and it's good.  It's enough.  It's more than enough.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Power of Art

One never knows the vehicle that will transport one to another awareness, or deeper awareness, or release, or transcendental moment.  Tonight, for me, it was a book called "A Sudden Light" by Garth Stein.

I was in the process of reading when I suddenly felt free.  Free, as in unhinged from the normal strictures of my being.  Free from efforting, or trying to be anything, or accomplish anything, or heal anything.  Just free.  I'm in the residual energy of this moment of striking clarity, and so I'm struggling a bit for words.  Because this moment was outside of words.  It was as if the title of the book became a reality for me.  In this moment, in this light, everything was okay.  All the anxiety slipped away.  All the concerns, all the thoughts, all the veils let go.  Everything opened up into this deep expansiveness.  I had no limits.  I was everything and I was nothing.  I just was.

It was like some gear shifted into place and the lock clicked open...in one second.  And, all I was doing was reading.  Yet, I don't want to discount what I was reading or its power.  The character in the book was having a transcendent moment, and it's as if the book transmitted that moment to me.  I have read other books that are transmissions of energy and/or information, although it's more unusual for this type of transmission to be embedded into a novel.  But, that's just it.  We never know where the keys are.  You decide to read a book and your reality changes.  Such is the power of art.  In this case, the art of writing that is so connected, so deeply felt, so authentic, that it has the ability to touch you and change you at a cellular level.

Another work of art that has changed me recently, releasing me from a wound so deep I thought I might never be free of it, is a painting that I've been in relationship with for most of the last year.  When I first saw it, it pierced my heart and brought me to tears.  The vibrant life it held reminded me of the life I had stifled within myself for so long.  I'd go in to the gallery to visit it, even before I bought it, and was always reduced to tears when I saw it.  After I bought it, when I'd go in to make a payment on it, because I'd put it on layaway, and the gallery owner would offer to bring it out to show it to me, I often would turn her down because I knew I would be reduced to tearful incoherence.

While the painting was waiting for me, a friend who reminded me of the person in my past who I felt had inflicted the wound I was unable to resolve, triggered an awareness within me that allowed me to forgive that person.  And, that allowed me to forgive myself for blaming them for something that wasn't their fault, but that had pushed me into a limitation of my own making that had lasted for years.  A pain that had been so all-encompassing that it had shaped my life, suddenly opened up and lifted off.  I was free.  And, the person I had held responsible for my pain and perceived loss for decades was free as well.

After this long-time pain moved through, I no longer cried when I saw my painting.  It no longer pushed me into my pain, because the pain was no longer there.  Now, when I look at my painting, it only gives me joy.  It makes me happy.  When I see the life in it, I feel the life in me.  And, I'm grateful to the painting, and to the artist who painted it, and to all art everywhere.

We're going through a global transformation that will push us to the limit of our endurance.  But, it's an alchemy we must be forged through.  We are in the birth canal, using all our strength to push ourselves into a new way of being.  And, we're going to be in this process for a while, so we're going to have to get used to the pressure.  We're literally reshaping our reality and creating a new world.  No small task, but this is what we came for.  And, one of the things that will help us through it is art.

Art reminds us that there is beauty when we've lost sight of it.  Art lifts us up and helps us see the best that Life has to offer.  Art lets us express the deepest parts of ourselves in ways that heal not only the artist, but the ones who receive the art as well.  Art crosses all boundaries.  It pays no attention to nations or races or religions or to any of the things that separate us.  Art brings us together, opens our hearts and connects us in ways that nothing else can.  It's amazing the power that a song or piece of music has to transport us and inspire us.  Sometimes, all it takes is a look at a photograph or a painting to lift us out of despair.  A few lines of a poem or a good book can touch our soul.

I'm grateful for every person who continues to create art and express themselves in a way that lifts us all up.  I'm grateful that artists are able to imagine and create in ways that are able to set us all free.  I'm grateful that artists can see into the essence of things and bring them into being in the world in a way that benefits us all.  I'm grateful to every person who lives their life as a connected whole, whose life is art itself.  Each and every person who is able to live life in this way is an inspiration to all of us and lifts us all up by their example.

I know there's a lot going on in the world right now that is hard to make sense of.  But, there is also beauty and kindness and compassion and understanding.  There is love.  And, there is love incarnate, which is art, however it shows up...in a person, in a painting, in a song, in a book, in a dance, in a look, in a touch, in a leaf, in a snowflake, in a wave.  The ways of love and art are endless.  Love and art are always expressing.  And, all we have to do is open to receive and perceive them.

My heart has been breaking over and over and over, day after day after day recently.  It has been pummeled and cracked and worn away and smashed into mush.  But, maybe that's what I needed to be able to open it, to be able to let the hardened parts of it be chipped away, to be able to feel the pain that has kept it closed for too long.  An open heart, and the inherent vulnerability that comes with it, is not comfortable when one is used to numerous layers of hardened protection.  But, for Life to be able to flow through us unobstructed, the protection has to go at some point.  Life has been brutally cracking me open lately, and I'm on my knees in gratitude.  Sometimes it's "A Sudden Light," and sometimes it's a long-time-coming light, but however the light comes to us is exactly the way we need it.  Hallelujah.