Chanting

Some of you asked me to post a video of me singing.  Here’s a video of me singing a sacred chant I learned at Findhorn and then revamped.  It speaks of love for the divine.  It is filmed in the Nature Sanctuary at Findhorn.

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Meditation on Love

Findhorn Heart Art

It is my first morning back from Scotland and I am up wondering about love.  What is it? What does it mean for me?  What is this yearning in my heart all about?  I know those are pretty deep questions for 6 am and I may disappoint you when I say that I don’t have definitive answers, just more questions.  I wanted to share a quote by the editor of this book called LOVE put out by National Geographic of images on the subject:

“Love is a driving existence, the root of our survival as a species, a common denominator of every culture, race, and religion, existing wherever people live.  Politicians may govern nations but love rules everyone with or without our consent, exercising immense power to bring goodness and joy… Love touches us from before we are born until we die.  So great is love’s reach that its absence can be felt as acutely as its presence.  That primal power makes love an obvious subject for artistic expression.” (Ferdinand Protzman)

What grabbed me most was an image taken by Dario Pignatelli of the bones of a neolithic couple buried 5,000-6,000 years ago in an embrace as they died (see below).  In my mind, this image expresses the reason for our existence as a species.  If we didn’t love our babies and our lovers, it is unlikely that our species would have survived; parents would just have abandoned their babies, that is if we would have loved each other enough to make them.  As I looked at the skeleton lovers, I wondered what things will have been most precious to me in my life when I die.  And the answer that always comes to me when I ask that is: How well did I love myself, others, and the planet?

After working with someone on a challenging problem they had the other day he said, “You are a miracle worker.”  As flattering as that was for my ego, I could not take credit and told him so.  But I also didn’t know exactly what to give the nod to except to say that it is that Great Mystery (Great Spirit, God, Allah, etc.) that I feel love is that was doing the work.  Sometimes it works through me and I get to experience some of its grace.  Love is the force that seems to hold the whole universe together and keeps it moving forward on a wave of evolution and growth.

A quote from the book says that love is “universally desired and uniquely experienced.” So if it is so great and if we all need it in order to survive, why do we have such a hard time giving and receiving it?  Some of us have a harder time with one than the other.  I know I’ve had to consciously learn to receive as giving comes much easier to me.  Another photo that stands out for me is of two male lovers, both facing the camera.  One is hugging the other from behind with love emanating from his eyes and the other is holding his own head in his hand with a steely look in his eyes .  The caption reads: “Manny loves me but I am too strong to love him.”  It evoked feelings of sadness in me as I wondered what it is about humans that we do not always recognize or accept unconditional love when it is present.  It is around us all the time so why do we separate from it?  Maybe some of us have come to believe that love equals pain.  Maybe it is too painful for us to realize that it is always available and that it is our choice whether to live in that reality or not.  Maybe rejecting it is one of the ways we punish ourselves for our mistakes.

A few years ago, I watched the movie SCARED SACRED by local filmmaker Velcro Ripper.  The film explores the goodness that came out of the ground zeros in the world.  In it, there is an image that flashes by of soldiers fighting in a backdrop of these stunning jungle flowers.  I remember thinking how wondrous it was that those amazing blooms did not contract and close their beauty off in the presence of violence but instead kept giving their love and beauty to the world.  I think there’s a lesson for me in all this.  I want to be like that flower that just stays open…as much as a mortal woman can.  If I can do that to the best of my ability in any given moment, then I think I will be able to look back at my life on my deathbed and be pleased that I lived well.  And maybe the best way to do that is to have enough regard for myself to allow love in and to send it back out with gratitude.

Maybe you have some answers to these questions or some reflections of your own. I’d love to hear them.  Feel free to drop a comment.

Findhorn: Love Bench

Jen’s Scotland Photos

Sherlock Holmes?

Relaxing against a Scots Pine

Alisa and I in Edinburgh

Photo taken outside Stills Gallery in Edinburgh by Alisa

Haggis Dinner

Findhorn Chakra Garden (Blue for 5th Chakra)

Region of Angus: Wheat field and old stone wall

Edinburgh: Balmoral Hotel at sunset  (photo by Alisa)

Say Hello and Wave Goodbye

I am now in Edinburgh on my last day in Scotland.  I spent the evening last night with a new American friend from Findhorn and her Scottish fiance named Kevin who live in the city.  Alisa toured me around last night as the sun was setting on the city.  I got a lot of fabulous pictures that I wish I could post.  Esthetically, Edinburgh is stunning.  I’ve thouroughly enjoyed wandering around taking pictures of the new and old architecture that seem to co-exist side by side without being obtrusive to the eye.  I spent my morning at Edinburgh Castle after a Scottish breakfast.  YAY meat!  After a week and a half of vegetarian food at Findhorn, I was ready for some bacon.  Back to the castle…

It is actually built on a rock on the highest point of the city.  Inside the walls, they’ve built war memorials and museums devoted to Scotland’s military history.  This is also the place where the crown jewels and the stone of destiny are displayed.  I highly recommend the movie THE STONE OF DESTINY for those of you interested in modern Scottish history. The stone was stolen back from England in the 1960s by university students who wanted to  buoy Scottish nationalism.  Here is the trailer:

I was surprised at how beautiful the stone is.  It has silver flecks all over it and really shines.  I was told by a Canadian alady at Findhorn that St. Margaret’s chapel at the castle is built on a power point so I went to check it out.  It is a modest wee chapel inside the castle walls with beautiful stained glass windows.  It is also the oldest building still standing in Edinburgh (c. 1130 CE).  I loved walking the Royal Mile to the castle and sitting with a coffee outside listening to the international jazz musicians perform that are now starting to file into the city for the festival.  In truth, there are a ton of things to explore here so two days is not enough to really do the city justice. 

“Never have we had so much need of storytelling and its healing powers.”

-George Mackay Brown

I spent the afternoon at the Scottish Storytelling Center today speaking to a local storyteller and listening to her spin her tales.  I asked her why she thought oral stories were so important.  She said that they carry traditions to future generations but they are also a way to teach people about life.  Often, these stories are encoded with morals and storytellers can tailor them to the audience and their particular needs and questions.  She told me about the Tinker people of Scotland (like gypsies) who are master storytellers and are now giving permission to contemporary storytellers to tell their oral stories so they don’t die out.  Ironically, the Church of Scotland is the body that funds the Scottish Storytelling Center here in Edinburgh.  It is a non-denominational center.  I enjoyed exploring traditional Scottish stories like: Deirdre of the Sorrows, Thomas the Rhymer, St. Columba and St. Magnus, Fin MacCuill, and Bride and Angus. 

“Stories are told eye to eye, mind to mind, and heart to heart.”

Then in the evening, I joined Alisa after her photography class at a new gallery that was showing a photography exhibit called THE PURSUIT OF FIDELITY by artists Alexander and Susan Maris.  This exhibit is inspired by a 15th Century tapestry in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow that shows a pair of lovers following a stag through the forest.  This image captured me immediately as did the theme.  The dogs at the lovers’ feet a symbol of loyalty and devotion- a steadfastness that is necessary in any longterm relationship.  The caption reads: “we are searching for fidelity and if we find it we would rather live in no dearer time.”  The pursuit of fidelity is a search for truth, faithfulness, and accuracy.   The artists follow this quest through photographs that are based in nature.  I was really taken by the pictures of tree roots that looked like stag antlers and mossy forests that were romantic and enticing.  This is not from the exhibit but I liked the image of the stag:

After the exhibit, Alisa and I headed over to a local food place to eat haggis, mash, and greens.  Now, with tasty haggis eaten at long last after a 10 year lapse, my trip was complete.

My time in Scotland has altered me and I come home renewed and transformed in many ways by the land, the people, and what I learned about myself, the world, and the universe on my journey here.  I will definitely be going on other pilgrimages in the future.

As for my blog, it will continue after I get home so if you want to stay connected to what I am up to, log on every once in a while and share your thoughts with me. I welcome them!

Last Day at Findhorn

I really wish I could show you my pictures of this place.  It is beautiful.  I spent the whole morning over at the Park walking the sand dunes and snapping last minute pictures of the Universal Hall (pictured below from the outside when the lights are on) where all the performances take place and the beautiful mosaics all over the sidewalks there.

This one is a tree mosaic that presents itself to you when you are leaving the Universal Hall:

I have enjoyed my stay here and I can see myself doing more programs here in the future.  The Foundation offers a lot of different kind of training and from what I hear from people that come all the time for courses,  the experience is magical each time in a different way.  Tomorrow, I am off by coach in the morning to Dundee where I will visit some ancient Pictish sites around the area.  Then I will spend my last 3 days in Edinburgh where I visit the castle there and spend time with friends.  Mubbasher might come up to meet me from Manchester and another lady I met at Findhorn is living in Edinburgh and invited me over to meet her fiance.  I fly home on the 30th.  I will try to get another post in there somewhere before I get home.

Findhorn: Reflections on Peace

"What matters is creating the space where people feel safe to share their truth and support each other."

-Deepak Chopra, M.D.

As I looked around our group this week, I saw people from many different backgrounds, cultures, life experiences, gender, sexual orientation, and professions.  It amazes me still that peace and common ground can be found in such diversity.  I am not sure why it surprises me; nature thrives on variety.   Certainly, my creative ideas seem to come from places that my imagination reaches but my logical intelligence cannot always access.  I believe that Brent Cameron (founder of Wondertree Foundation for Natural Learning) is onto something when he says that creativity is human kind’s best bet at getting out of the problems we’ve gotten ourselves into; the same thinking that created the problems will not get us out of them. 

In our group this week, I set my intention to sit in my heartspace while being with people and listening to them.  I didn’t always agree with what they said or how they did things, and yet I understood where they were coming from with their words and their actions.  There is something interesting that happens with deep listening from the heart: all those differences evaporate and don’t actually matter anymore.  I think it all goes back to a principle that a wise kindergarten teacher once shared with me when I was a student teacher:  all behaviour makes sense.  A ten year old girl I  worked with when I was a teacher in public school once threw a chair across the room in my direction when she was frustrated and angry.  Needless to say, it got my attention.  I knew I had a choice to make in that moment.  I could have chosen to ignore her pain and go about punishing her by giving her a detention or sending her down to the principal’s office.  Or I could do something different.  Truth be told, I didn’t know what that something would be or if I was even qualified to deal with the reprecussions of what I discovered by doing it differently.  So I said nothing and just gave her my presence while she worked through what she needed to work through.  When she calmed down, I asked her what was going on for her.  She said, " I was stuck with some of my work and I needed your help but you were taking so long with Raymond.  I was scared I wouldn’t finish before the bell went and I didn’t want to take the work home with me because no one there would be able to help me."  What I was hearing is that she really wanted to do a good job and she needed support so I let her know that I appreciated those qualities in her of excellence and being willing to ask for help.  I asked her if she could think of another way to get my attention next time she felt like that.  She was blank, which told me she could not think of any new strategies to deal with this problem.  So after a long wait time of seeing what she could come up with, I asked if she wanted some suggestions.  She said yes.  We came up with a list of things:

-you can come over and put your hand on my shoulder while I am finishing up with the other person so I know you are waiting for me and so that you know that I know you are wanting my help with something.

-you can ask someone else that you trust and feel comfortable with in the class if they wouldn’t mind working with you.

– you can skip the problem you are stuck with for the moment and go onto something else that you do understand how to work with.

-if you don’t finish, you can request some extra time with me after school where I can work with you before your bus comes to pick you up.

I found out at the end of the year that this child lived in a foster home and was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  I am glad I didn’t know that about her beforehand.  Although files were available for me to read, I always wanted to go in with fresh eyes and make my own mind up about the kids I worked with.  This child had some challenges and she had some gifts like all of us.  So the information about FAS helped me to put her behaviour into another context but I believe what really caused the transformation was my choice to come from a place of compassion and to offer her tools she could work with for next time to make different choices.  For the rest of the time I was at that school, she volunteered to come help me at 3 pm each day preparing anything I needed for the next school day.  We used that time to bond with each other and her outbursts in class diminished steadily throughout the year. I felt good that a kid who really needed some one on one time and love from an adult that could really "see" her spirit got that care.  If I had continued modeling the violent strategies she grew up around, nothing new would have been birthed. 

And this week, I saw that with our group.  The angel card we drew for our group was SUPPORT and I really saw people holding each other with openness in their hearts during some pretty rough moments.  And I think that is really what brings about peace.  Can we leave room for people to show up exactly as they are and hold a loving space where they have the possibility to transform a pattern in their life that is not working for them?  We were proof this week that this could be done cross-culturally.  And I find myself sending up prayers that world leaders, nations, and citizens of the planet wake up to this way of deep listening in order to access creative solutions to the problems that threaten to wipe out the human species.  As Brent said, these are human created problems.  We got ourselves into them and I know from experience that we can get ourselves out of them with knowledge, creativity, willingness, and putting our love in action.

"To end the cycle of violence and bring peace to our families, communities, and the planet, we need to expand our ‘I’…and connect to the compassion of the cosmic….The ancient wisdom traditions of India offer three powerful principles for transformation and peace- one loving thought, one loving word, and one loving act at a time."

-Deepak Chopra, M.D.

Shining Your Light

I didn’t write this but I sure wish I had.  Toko-pa Turner (regular contributor to Synchronicity Magazine) speaks for me.

"…our self-hatred is actually loneliness. It is the pain of our separation from the Family of Things. We have created a self-referencing system which habitually takes of the Earth and gives nothing back…

Our alienation stems from the negligence of reciprocity. It is the spiritual cul-de-sac we have built ourselves into. It is the worst kind of loneliness to live as a turncoat on the soil of your origin.

Only worse than that, is to not have your gifts received.

During the rebellion of teenagehood, many individual spirits are broken irreperably. Our gifts are disciplined out of us with systemic etiquette. Eventually we accede to the sandcastles of security, relinquishing our personal, intraservicable genius, triggering a lifetime of felt alienation.

Amazingly, some of us have retained passion. Some of us continue to be disciples of the things we love. We drag our addicted, programmed asses out of deeply-worn ruts. We walk against the grain and the odds, turn away from apathy and accumulation, and stand for something.

You may stand to write a poem, sing a song, sculpt or illuminate. You may dance. You may plant an urban garden, caretake someone in need, endure long learning which qualifies you to help others. Maybe you undergo, least acclaimed of all, your own healing. You open those unexplored regions of the self, vicariously opening the unknowing of the earth itself.

It may not look like much while you’re doing it. You may feel crazy. You may experience terrifying loneliness which can not even be lessened by description. But you are doing your duty by giving your gifts to the world. And for that, I thank you."

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