What A Whale(s) Taught Me About Love

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

There’s a pose in EM Yoga that I call the “mother hug.” Lauren Walker, the creator of EM Yoga, refers to it as “cradling the baby.” The pose is simple, in essence. The arms are lifted to the sky, then wrapped around the waist, one crossed over the other. Eyes close while the body gently sways in its own embrace. The first time I hugged myself I wept.

Weeping is a natural side effect to the pose, as Lauren points out. Not many of us love ourselves unconditionally, and the act of self-hugging requires a surrender to this love of the self despite our perceived imperfections. It also requires the willingness to love the self despite not feeling wholly beloved. It’s as profoundly vulnerable as it is healing. The asana represents the element of Earth. The Mother energy.

In the pose, you are both the baby and the mother. You are the beloved and the one who gives love unconditionally.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself on a (different) massage table  inside the belly of a whale. As you may have guessed, it was no ordinary massage. While I lay upon a heated mat of amethyst, crystal bowls sang around me and tuning forks hummed into my cells. I was easily transported, and how I found myself in the belly of a whale, I cannot wholly say, but there I was cradled inside its womb.

I was not merely the baby, I realized, as I lay there listening to whale’s song humming inside each cell of my body. I was the child in the womb, but I was also the mother (whale) who rocked the child within. The mother inside the great mother, swimming in belly of Earth. There was no separation, only union. Three hearts beating as one. I never wanted to leave.

When I was a young child, I fell in love with the song of whales. Around my neck I sometimes wore pewter chiseled into the curve of a humpback whale and listened to recordings of its haunting song echoing through Earth’s waters. Whales pull us back to the womb to feel the unconditional embrace of the Mother.

It seems the whale has returned to me again. A few nights ago I dreamt of a beluga, and since that night it has appeared to me in images each day. When an animal messenger appears to you at least three times, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what it has to tell you.

Beluga whales live in Arctic waters, and perhaps it has appeared to me, in part because I am planning a trip to Iceland. They are white, an unusual color for whales, and are related to the narwhal or “unicorn” whale. They are also related to dolphins and can imitate the human voice.  Belugas are fascinating, as all creatures are. And I have been wondering why the one has chosen to appear to me now, and not the beloved humpback whale of my childhood.

There is a solitary nature to humpbacks, which contrasts the more gregarious personality of the beluga. Each time I saw the beluga, in my dream and in the photographs that randomly appeared in the ensuing days, it was raised up vertically, peering at me, as though in greeting. The humpback, in turn, swam through my childhood alone in the dark depths of the ocean, its voice an echo unreturned. As a young child, I felt a kinship to the humpback whale and its song.

Perhaps the beluga is heralding a time of transformation. In my efforts to accept that I will not receive unconditional mother love from my human mother in this lifetime, I have slowly come to the acceptance that the mother love is always within. I am both the mother and the child.

This year has brought another layer of unfolding and acceptance. For the past five years I have made an annual trip to England, a land where I have felt Mother Love like nowhere else. It is a pull that travels though lifetimes, deeply encoded in my cells. Yet, circumstances have unraveled so that a trip this year seems unlikely. I have found myself somewhat surprised that this does not discomfort me more. And, so, I have found myself unwrapping not just the hold of one mother, but of the Mother. Not to reject it, but to feel the knowing that I am whole without the need to be held by the arms of another.

I suspect I am not the only one who finds the “mother hug” as complex as it is simple. I suspect that I am not the only one who has difficulty surrendering to the realization that the beloved is within. Whole and complete. The child and the mother in one form. To wrap your own arms around yourself takes trust in the knowing and a giving into love without conditions. To realize there is no need to look outside, but only within. One hug will not, in all likelihood, render you feeling a complete, unbroken circle. But, perhaps it is worth it once in awhile to give into the physical embrace of the self. To wrap our arms around our wombs and rock the mother and the child whole.

Musing on a Warm January Day

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Moss and lichen cling summer green to the January lilac

It’s a gray day here in New Hampshire. Raining when it probably should be snowing. The temperature, warm enough to open windows. My phone tells me it’s 59 degrees outside. Soon it will be 60, but tomorrow will bring a nearly 30 degree drop in temperature, and on Tuesday it should be snowing.

Yesterday, when I was out with the dogs and my son in the balmy air, I recalled walking in Boston more than twenty years ago, in January. It was a surreal day. Ninety degrees in the city. In January. A few years prior, there was an April Fool’s snowfall that dumped two feet of snow on my car in Providence. The weather has been extreme for decades now. Yet it still feels strange. Surreal.

I am not comfortable with this new normal. Now, most days, the atmosphere sparks with the unpredictable. Or, rather, what shouldn’t be predicted. It can be incomprehensible how we cling to old ways, even when we should change them.

Last night, my husband and I watched the movie Tolkein, and more than anything else, I was grabbed by the scenes of war. No wonder, I kept thinking, he wrote what he did. I was filled with frustration as I watched scenes I try to avoid in books and movies of a senseless and barbaric act we’ve woven into the fabric of humanity since nearly the beginning of our time here on Earth. To the victor goes the spoils of the greatest number of lives extinguished.

In these moments, I’m acutely reminded of the chaos of our chosen existence. The swirling darkness that lives inside of us. How we strive for power by killing life. The irony is sometimes too much to bear.

Outside my open window, it sounds like a tropical symphony. Birds sing as though it is spring and the lichens on the lilacs wear a stunning shade of aqua beside a vibrant green moss. Looking at it brings me comfort. It soothes my troubled heart. As does the happy confusion of wild birds in January.

Nature accepts more easily than I do, and I am grateful that I can turn to its soothing balm to temper my troubled soul. Acceptance can be hard to embrace these days. It can feel as helpless as it is freeing. Inside of it, though, is the knowing that I have chosen to be here in this time, as we all have. To play some uncertain role that I often cannot define. To move through each moment with an intention to cling to more grace than anger. More love than hate. And more forgiveness than resentment. And, what a challenge for this we have been given.

 

Still Presence #writephoto

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Photo Source: Sue Vincent

The land called to those who wanted to hear her. The rest wandered in idle enjoyment of the still stones. They brushed careless hands across their surfaces, and felt for holes to climb. Sometimes they took out their pocket knives and chiseled what they thought to be forever love upon their granite faces. And the land watched in silence, waiting for those who could hear her.

She sang the forgotten song to those who remembered its melody. They felt it in their bones as they stood upon her raised mounds. Her notes caressed their skin in the embrace of mother love. Her song wove inward through membranes to find the memory of home. Joy, rupturing the heart into ecstasy and sorrow, she sang of a love so deep tears fell from opened eyes.

To show her love for her children, the land danced her stones. She sent her pulse through their inert bodies and brought life to their forms. She whispered through time to awaken her mysteries and the stones beckoned to those who listened.  The long waits, well-worth the heart opened in recognition, they offered magic to the hands that hugged their bodies close.

I remember you, they whispered into pressed ears. Welcome home. 

 

Thank you Sue, for the morning cry 😉 and for the photo prompt. To participate please click here

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Finding the Light inside the horrific #australianwildfires

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Australia. Photo Credit: Pixabay

It hurts my heart to look at the photos and I know millions are crying with me. There is no grasping for logic inside this incomprehensible tragedy, as there is none. We can blame ourselves, and perhaps we should. Ignorance turning a blind eye for too long. Greed over-riding altruism. But, when it comes down to it, most would not have wanted what we are facing right now: an Earth, our home, filled with incredible and horrific suffering. I am thinking right now of the wildfires raging through Australia, as they have raged through California, Alaska, and so many other places across the globe in recent time. So many lives lost, millions of animals and plants gone. The innocent, suffering the worst.

We can blame ourselves, and perhaps we should. But, little good comes from looking backwards unless we are willing to change the patterns of our ways. In the midst of this horrific tragedy, I see the enduring light of hope. Eyes being opened, where they have been shut. Hearts joining in their collective sorrow seeded from love. That light that unites us all, igniting to extinguish the murderous blaze.

It was the late Fred Rogers who urged us to “look for the helpers (heroes)” when the unspeakable occurs. Right now, at this moment, the world is filled with them. Locals opening their doors to homeless wildlife in need of shelter. The wealthy and not so wealthy sending funds towards the efforts to abate the flames. Countless hearts joined in prayer and song calling for rain. And, all those firefighters risking their own lives to save another. This is love.

And, in some incomprehensible way, perhaps it is needed. A friend on social media made the observation yesterday that when a photo of Australia had appeared on her screen upside down, she thought it looked like a heart. It does, in a way. A misshapen heart breaking open. It also looks like a woman’s pelvis, expanding to birth. There are legends about Australia and the sacred lands in and around Uluru. Some consider these ancient lands to be the womb of Earth, and I find myself wondering if this incredibly painful rebirth we are experiencing is part of an awakening. Or, at least a call to an awakening. The future is shaped by our hands, just as the past was. How much more can the heart endure before it breaks open into love? Not just for the self, but for the other, in whatever form that other takes.

I have hope for better days to come. Australia is opening another doorway for us, just as all past tragedies have. We can enter it holding hands, find the scattered pieces of life inside, and do what we can to make our world whole again. We can, because we must. There is no longer a choice. Another doorway for us. There is only one. In essence, there has only, ever, been one. The one through the heart. Let us step through it together. Let us change our broken ways and mend this broken womb so that we can find a rebirth of what unites us all.

This Body of Water Memory

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

It is a rare night when water does not come to me in the form of dreams. It fills the basins of bathing tubs and the land surrounding me. I marvel at its form rising with ease through gravity, encompassing form until it disappears and absorbs. “Did you know water can remember you?” a friend shared on the eve of the solstice.

How can it not? Water is memory. When you pour it into a glass, it becomes the cylinder. When you expose it to music, it becomes the song. Exposed to fire, water becomes heat. Ice, stasis. We move through liquid limbs with the structure of bones. At least 70% water, we are living memories. The memory of what once was, and still is. Of what will become, and has never left time.

We are song, fire, heat, and ice. We are splinters of pain and the symphony of love in one body. Except, we are not just one body. We drink the tears of our ancestors and those that have been lost to form. We drink memory every day to fill the thirst inside. Expelling with the need to release not just our own, but those that have collected inside of us. We are memory in watered form.

In an instant, a molecule of water can transform. The shattered atoms of anger can coalesce into a star of love. Our bodies are capable of reform. Old patterns, learning new. We orchestrate the symphony of our own songs. The play of memory, ours to mold and break down. What songs do you sing to your cells? What memories do you ask water to carry for you? When I forget, I whisper love into the vessel and drink it into my cells. I sing “Om” through the well of the throat until it sinks into the womb for rebirth. Remembering I am the keeper of water and its memories, at least for some time. Time that dances in chaos or harmony inside of me, waiting to be released and rejoined in another form. Water, older than time. Held, for a moment, in me.

Chocorua Part 4: Meeting the Chief in the Clouds

As my husband and I continued our journey up the quiet mountain, I stopped now and then to place my offering of tobacco leaves in the nooks of trees and rocks. Noting, as I did, how sometimes others had made their own offerings. Small and large stones nestled into crevices of wood and stone, along with the more permanent and not so mindful markings of names carved into the skin of trees. I saw the carvings as a sad reflection of the ego’s need for permanence, forgetting that the mark that lingers is a mere shadow of the true self that never dies. How we yearn for something that is false, so often forgetting the harmony that beats around us. I found the buzz of the mosquitos oddly comforting, in its reminder of the cycles of life. The sacred spring below having given birth to the insects that followed my footsteps along a path older than the trees surrounding me.

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There are several large and impressive boulders near the summit of Mt. Chocorua, but they hold their stories in a quiet, watchful manner.

The mountain remained, to me, quiet and reserved. Welcoming, yet not offering too much. Not yet. This was my first visit, after all, and as the miles slowly rose, I realized that I would likely return someday. Perhaps not to the same trail. Perhaps not with the same companion. I didn’t yet know, and that was okay.

Life cycles as it will, and it behooves us to allow it to play its rhythm without resistance. When we push, we are often met with a counter-push. A simple law of physics. Perhaps this is why the snake appeared. Not once, but twice, as we hiked the long, winding trail, slowly losing the mosquitos as we gained elevation.

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One of two snake messengers we encountered during our journey. This one reared its head toward me as though reading for an attack as I ventured near to photograph it.

I have found the snake to be a frequent messenger that appears at points in the cycle of life that call for a surrendering. A letting go of the old “skin” I choose to wear to make way for the new, lighter sheath. They remind one of the wheel, ever-turning. Endings moving into beginnings, endlessly repeating.

I had thought that the mountain might harbor hurt. A long held wound from the legend of the chief who fell from its summit. Cursing, as he met death, the white man who had poisoned his son. As I walked the first half of the mountain, I found that I was also, in essence, curing the “white man” who had felled all the trees, and placed the wall of stone beside the path of the sacred waters. Yet, as the snake reminded me (twice), time moves on, whether we allow it to or not, without judgement. The cycle weaves its circle of life and death, over and over again, and we can be a part of it, or we can use defiance to try to resist its flow.

I could not forget that I had breathed acceptance into my body before I had left my hometown that morning. There are no true accidents to life. I realized, as I walked, that it mattered little, if at all, that I was not seeing the faces of the long passed in the rocks, or feeling the pull of the familiar through my cells. Instead, there was that quiet harmony of belonging. Of being present with my beloved in human form, and the sacred landscape around us.

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A guardian along the path

There was no denying the many gifts that had been offered. The crow who had welcomed us, the “ghosts” beside the stream, the white feather in the path before the call of my feathered seer, the snakes of renewal, and even the mosquitos buzzing life. There were also berries, full and ripened to the deepest blue of truth as we approached the final mile. Tempering greed, we reached, now and then, to pick small handfuls of the fruit and felt the renewal of life in each magnificent bite. Agreeing that there was never a better blueberry than those grown on the nearly soilless top of this mountain. A grateful gift that was even more welcomed when we discovered how little water we had left and how warm it had become during our journey, as well as how unsatisfying the apples were that we had brought. Mealy and soft, whereas our mouths hungered for a cool, crisp bite. I thanked the land for the blueberries as I offered it more tobacco in return.

As we sat on the granite ledges and took in the views of the landscape around us, my husband and I noted the time and how far we had come. We felt the ache of the climb in our bodies and the hunger in our bellies. Ahead of us was the head of Chocorua, perhaps another half mile away, we could not be sure. Its side looked steep and a bit dangerous as we realized we would either have to make our way around it to find a more gentle side, or allow ourselves to finish our journey below its peak. I was surprised that I did not feel disappointment. That there was no resentment bubbling up inside at the possibility of not “completing” our journey. Instead, I felt acceptance. It was enough, all of it.

We did not turn around then, though, but decided to walk a little further. I was grateful, as we continued on for this small final leg of our journey forward, for the soft presence of the land and it’s hallowed feel. For the berries that continued along our way, and for the knowing that we had just enough daylight ahead of us to get back down, and just enough water to quench our thirst if we needed it. I thought of that sacred stream and the yearning of my body to feel its cool release. And, as I turned my gaze one last time to follow the path of a vulture around the neck of the mountain, the mighty bird moved toward a cloud that hovered beside the rock face. Perhaps it was my imagination, but to me it looked like the head of a chief in profile. Its face pointing away from the summit that would need to wait for another day.

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Where we stopped to rest with the cloud formation of the legendary chief in profile. It was a bit more clear in person.

 

 

 

Chocorua Part 1: The Journey There

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Chocorua in early August

Sometimes the spirits of the land study you before you are allowed to study them. Their secrets held inside the membrane of earth and stone until you have proven yourself worthy of receiving.

Before we left that morning, I sealed acceptance into my aura. There was the knowing that I would be given what I needed to receive and perhaps not all that I yearned for. There is no rushing the land and its protectors, but a grateful, open-heart is always accepted.

I had met Chocorua over the winter, when I had turned a bend in the road and found myself faced with its head of stone, balded in patches of white from the snow, looming before me. It was one of those moments when the body defies words. My daughter looked at me, and I at her, with the same knowing. Someday, I would return. There was no discussion.

We drove the rest of the way to her ski meet immersed in our own thoughts, my eyes blinking away the moisture bought on by our encounter with Mt. Chocorua. Why, I wondered, have I not seen you before? 

I have lived in NH since I was nearly five years old. The mountain I had just passed, a mere 1.5 hours from my childhood home. I must have heard of it, even “seen” it in my travels.  I have learned, thought, that we do not truly see until the land is ready to be seen.

And, so I found myself traveling the roads to Chocorua six months later. Now mid-summer, there was no snow, but plenty of heat. We had just over twenty-four hours for our trip, and this would be our first night away without our children, ages 14 and 15, since they were born. A strange way to celebrate a slightly belated 20th wedding anniversary, perhaps, but my husband, like my daughter, understands my desires even if he doesn’t entirely comprehend them. When I found out he had booked us a night in North Conway so we could celebrate two decades of marriage by hiking the legendary mountain, I was deeply touched. My only reservation was that we would not have enough time.

Which was part of the letting go.

The morning began with tension after the release that yoga brings. I had a morning class to teach, and when I returned home, it was to find my husband nowhere near ready to go. I have a long history with time controlled by the minutes that tick by on the clock. I loathe being “late,” in whatever circumstance that involves. It’s not easy for me to let it go. I had breathed acceptance into my body at the start of the day, and it was not going to allow me to forget it.

When finally we got on the road, an hour after I had hoped we would leave, my husband and I found ourselves doing our individual best to release the threads of tension between us. That is until twenty-five minutes into our journey he realized he had forgotten his dress clothes, and, true to his nature, blamed it on my long-battle with time. Once more I found myself breathing into acceptance as we turned the car around.

It was a mostly wordless journey back home. When we arrived our daughter, just recently having woken, greeted us with some surprise as she smiled above the top of the couch. We had now lost about two hours of the day, by my calculations with the clock, but my body knew it was what we needed. This test of letting go of what we tend to hold onto, if we could.

And we did, gradually at first, as we settled back into an uneasy silence. My husband making the first offering of peace by placing his right hand on my thigh as he navigated the road back toward the mountain with his left. I felt the letting go as I met his offering with the wrap of my hand around his. Our journey now officially underway with all we needed packed in the car, even though later we would lament not having brought more. Not in terms of clothing, but in terms of supplies for the long walk ahead of us. In our determination to hike 3.5 thousand footer, we had not given much thought to the long, indirect path we had chosen to get to the top.  Chosen as though it was not a choice, because it was the path walked before the white man had landed on the shores of New England.

To be continued…