Why this Yoga Practitioner Believes in Science, Truth, and the Prevailing Goodness of Humanity #weareallinthistogether

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

I am sitting in my car, driving home from my yoga class, shaking my head. The radio is tuned to NPR and there is (another) program on about the pandemic. There have been other programs before it, there will likely be many more as we struggle to overcome what has become a struggle not with just a virus, but with our humanity.

The mystics of old, as well as the mystery schools, teach us that we are all, in essence, one. We are each a piece of a larger consciousness. A consciousness that we become somewhat (but no wholly) separated from for a period of time to learn and grow back into the return of unity.

This is the prevailing concept that drives my life. This is why I turned to the mysteries. To yoga. To studying Life, as best I can, in each moment.

To me, the concept of “oneness” includes the knowing that at our core there is love. It is the force of love that drives life into being. It is the force of love that sustains the continuation of Life, and it is the force of love that unites our separation into unity.

Even though I grew up with a very scientifically structured childhood and adolescence, there were seeds of spirituality scattered throughout. Seeds of this idea of unity and of a conscious energy that flows through all life. In the closet were decks of Tarot cards, no longer used. On the shelves, books about the divine feminism and yoga. In my household there was the prevailing, underlying knowing of this greater consciousness, even if it was largely ignored.

I studied biology (and English) at Bowdoin College. A place filled with brilliant minds and inquisitive students. My lust for understanding Life led me to read writing by philosophers, mystical poets, and scientific texts based on logic and theories that could be tangibly proven. After Bowdoin, I went on to study, for a brief time, at Brown University. Another place filled with brilliant minds and inquisitive students. Over the course of my years studying in the field biological sciences, I worked in four different research laboratories. I ran experiments in molecular genetics at Bowdoin, and in two different laboratories at Brown. Then, when I left Brown after deciding that a career in a laboratory wasn’t for me, I took a 1.5. yr temporary position under a neurogeneticist who was getting ready to retire at Massachusetts General Hospital. Why am I telling you all of this? Because during these years I met and worked with several brilliant minds all with a shared interest of studying and understanding Life, not for mere personal gain, but for a genuine and sincere interest in making the lives of others better.

Over the years I have moved into the more mystical side of science, yet “science” is ever-present in my life. It always will be. Science is integral to who we are. We are complex molecular structures woven into complex bodies of cells, muscles, and tissues that move and operate through a matrix of energy systems. We are science, but we are also more. Pervading through these bodies of cells and atoms is a life force that sustains us and will sustain our being after our bodies return to Earth.

Life happens. Things go wrong. We get sick. We mistreat our bodies. We mistreat each other. We are human beings having a human experience. We are imperfect. That is why we are here to learn and to grow…back into unity.

This is why I am deeply troubled, as I know many of you are, by the extreme polarity that persists in our world. That stuff that seeds war, racism, hatred, and mistrust is bothersome to me. All of these aspects of our minds that move us away from unity and the knowing that we are more alike than we are different. This polarizing movement away from the knowing that we are all, in essence, seeds of the same light.

We have our individual experiences, and hence we are different from each other. Experiences, which I believe, most often extend throughout many lifetimes. Yet are are not served well from these experiences if we do not explore their effects on us and on others.

I have a friend whom I consider to be deeply spiritual. She has studied Shamanism, as well as reiki and other forms of the more mystical aspects of life for many years. And she is also college educated, with two degrees, was brought up in a Jewish household, and considers herself a follower of both the mysteries and science. Although she has a deeply rooted fear of needles (not vaccines), which may seem illogical unless you follow the thread of experiences of past-lives, she pushed through her fears and got the COVID-19 vaccine. Even though she is health-compromised from fibromyalgia, I am happy to report she is doing fine post-vaccine. There were some uncomfortable side effects a day-and-a-half, but they have passed.

I am incredibly impressed by her strength and fortitude. I admire her ability to balance a life of science and mysticism while constantly keeping her fears in check through awareness. She believes in the prevailing goodness of humanity, even though she knows we are all imperfect beings having a human experience. My friend also believes in facts and data. She knows that “numbers don’t lie,” and that the deaths from this virus have far exceeded any fear she harbored about getting jabbed with a needle. In her case, she is not afraid of the vaccine, she is afraid of the mechanism that administers it.

And she owns it. In order to understand her fear she did not divine into a conspiracy. She did not search the irrational to find an excuse. She dove into herself. This is, in my humble opinion, what defines a good Life student. My friend sought to understand herself, and in doing so, uncovered the root of her resistance to getting the jab. And in doing so, she overcame it. Not just to help herself, but because she knows that we are all interconnected. She is aware that by vaccinating herself, despite the risks of her underlying health condition, she is helping others who may be susceptible to becoming ill, or worse, from a virus.

A couple of days ago, another friend of mine brought to my awareness a recent article titled “Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine Was My Act of Ahimsa.” Ahimsa is the yogic practice of living life with the intention of inflicting as little harm as possible on other beings. It is the principle of altruism based on a selfless knowing that we are all connected, and that all life has meaning and value. The author of the article wrote this assertion after her diligent research separating facts from conspiracies and speaking with experts in the field, “It brought me right back to my understanding of ahimsa. While the concept of ahimsa’s direct command is not to kill, its wider, and more positive meaning is simple: to love.”

Unlike my friend, the author of this article was at very low risk for having any side-effects from the virus or the vaccine, yet she decided to get the vaccine as an act of ahimsa. She thought not merely of herself, but of the wholeness of humanity of which she is a part. She weighed the risks against the benefits. She explored the intricacies of science and how viruses work, as well as the vaccines meant to keep them in check. And, she overcame her personal fears to do what she considers to be the right thing for the world.

Feeding mistrust divides us. A lot of controversy spun out of this article, which appeared in Yoga Journal. Some people were outraged. Others read through their personal fears and insecurities and saw the love at the core of it. They saw Ahimsa. Sometimes life requires us to surrender to trust and faith in the prevailing goodness that unites us. Yes, there will always be those that would do harm based upon their own life experiences, but the vast majority of beings walking this Earth are striving, ever-striving, towards that reconnection with Love. Including the scientists and healthcare workers that dedicate their lives toward ahimsa.

Before I get out of my car to enter back into my home, I listen to the words of the reporter on the radio, lingering for a moment in my garage. He is talking about all those thousands of people dedicated to saving lives. In particular, various healthcare workers who are emotionally and physically exhausted from months that have now stretched past a year of trying to save lives. And he is talking about some, more than a few, who are so exhausted they are considering giving up their careers. They simply have depleted their personal supply of constantly giving of themselves in the face of death and adversity. Giving up their careers is not turning away from ahimsa, it is, sadly, instead a result of too many people not practicing its principles. We cannot do it all alone, but we can, together, live in the belief of love.

Blueberry Blessings on a Dragon Hill

The Gathered Blessings of a Blueberry Hill

The first time I met my husband he told me a story about Blueberry Mountain. In truth, the mountain was a hill, and it had some other name, but that’s not really what matters. What matters is the magic the hill held for him. We were just seventeen, and we were on our first “date.” We first met on the 4th of July thirty years ago at the ASP program at St. Paul’s School. I was studying biology, and he, ecology. But on the 4th of July his dorm hosted my dorm for an ice cream social. The rest is our story…

Which, you could say, began atop a hill covered in blueberries. Although we could not leave the campus for our first date, he still took me to that special place. Together we sat in the tower room of the school’s library as we shared stories and got to know each other. Dave was working on an essay for the required writing course, and I was offering my feedback. The story was about a hill he climbed with his family during their summers at the lake. A hill topped in midseason with wild blueberries.

The hill, alas, as fallen into private hands, but I was lucky enough to climb it with my husband to gather blueberries together before the “No Trespassing” signs went up. Now we have our own “blueberry hill,” and there we went last night on the eve of our wedding anniversary to gather the hill’s blessings and enjoy the summer’s evening.

I call it “Dragon Hill.” The first time we climbed it, I saw the head of a dragon on the side of the path. There are places woven through Earth where the dragon lines are strong, and this is one of them. It is, undeniably, a special place. Even though it is a small hill in a small town, seekers find it from other states. They may not be consciously aware of its magic, but they are drawn to it nonetheless.

Yesterday, as day settled into dusk, we walked the back of the dragon with our two dogs and I found joy peeling away the outer layers of stress. It has been a trying couple of years for many of us, for a variety of reasons not just related to the pandemic, and in that moment of walking I felt some of that holding release. I was reminded, in the walking, that Earth offers us healing when we seek it through the space of the heart. It merely requires an opening.

What a gift it is to walk the Mother-body of Gaia. To feel the surrender to her love. There is a joy in the unity that comes from walking into her embrace. She might not actively reach for us, but her arms are always open to receive.

We had not thought to bring a collection bag with us. In truth, we were going for the sunset, which gave us in returned a clouded sky. When we saw fellow climbers gathering the ripe fruit from the hilltop, we paused but continued on. It was only in the turning back that we stopped to gather. Taking a small bag meant for the dogs’ waste, we opened up to the gift of the hill’s abundance, recalling the hill that thirty years before symbolically brought us together.

Although the area had peaked with its offering, we took just enough to make a batch of muffins and perhaps some pancakes. Not enough for a pie, but enough for joy.

Emergence

I contemplate emergence while watching dragonflies come into form...
Rocks emerging out of Merrymeeting Lake, New Durham, NH

We spent the past week going back and forth to the lake. It was supposed to be a quiet week, but life has a way of pulling us into its force without giving us directions. We were sort-of prepared for chaos. We knew my daughter would have morning sessions for her summer program to attend. Then there was work. She trying to fill in for the weeks she would be missing during her three weeks residence, plus my scattered yoga classes, and my husband’s half-day he didn’t want to give up.

On Wednesday, the day when no one had anything to do beyond noontime, the sky decided to dance rain while the fridge went on vacation. It could have been worse. We were home anyway, as who wants to water ski in a rainstorm?

As I shoveled bags of frozen food into coolers I began to think about fortune. How lucky we were to be home to save this food that would surely perish in a day or two if it had warmed, with our fridge, to room temperature in summer. The fact that we had so much food to save only reinforced our fortune.

The modern convenience whose generator had run its course also brought to mind dependence. I do not can. I freeze. My tiny garden has yet to yield the bulk of its bounty for the season. While I was digging through the thawing treasures in the freezer box, I found three bones filled with peanut butter banana ice cream. Zelda, realizing she had hit the treats jackpot decided she’d better save one for later. Within seconds, half my crop of ready-to-be-picked lettuce and two budding pepper plants disappeared into the dirt along with a bone.

Yet, how fortunate I was to have peppers and lettuce from the grocery store. Grown by someone else. How dependent I was. How interdependent we all are…

It can be an uncomfortable state to be in, this state of interdependence, but I’m not sure it has to be. The next morning I found myself in bed thinking about how the big can appear small and the small big, depending upon perspective. The Earth, from the scale of the universe, a mere dot orbiting a tiny sun that will eventually burn out, holding our all of our breath in check. And how very few of us will ever emerge out of its atmosphere to take in the vast expanse beyond our Earthly existence.

Back at the lake, I watched dragonflies emerge from their nymph stage of life. Ugly prehistoric brown bugs emerging into exquisite winged beings. Tiny dragons. Magic in corporeal form. And here I was, sitting at the edge of the womb of the lake, watching beauty being birthed. Watching, without seeing, the force of life propelling the push into existence.

A dragonfly on the verge of beauty

The Labyrinth of a Life

Following the lines in New England

Outside my window a falcon calls out his hunt. A screech piercing the too dark morning. It doesn’t feel like summer today. It’s cool and the air is laden with moisture yet to be released. Just now I hear a few fat drops plucking the gutters. They have squished through the membrane of the clouds, which stubbornly wait to release their bounty. I have not felt much like blogging since Sue’s death. Sometimes I even ask myself what the point is to all of this writing about a life perceived through the lens of my eyes.

And some days I wait for the play of her light across my screen, scrolling the darkness to bright. I hover somewhere in the middle most days. The canvas of life fills with vibrancy and shadows. A play of sun and night. Such is the fate of our human existence. This strange world where disorder appears as order and chaos plays with truth.

Yesterday, while hiking together, I told my friend how Sue gave me the ending to my book. But I still haven’t finished it. When she fell ill, I let it sit, mostly, simmering on a back-burner fueled by hope, denial, and everything in between. Now she must know the dedication holds her name and that of the winged being who grasped both our hands and held tight.

She sends me birds and feathers. Signs from Horus and her beloved Raven clan. It couldn’t be more fitting. Three times she grew the light on my screen so that I would not miss the dragons and suddenly I knew where she was waiting for the ending. Of course she knows. How could she not?

Now I am blessed with an ending that feels like chaos and order. Is she laughing? I can see her face filled with the sun. Oh yes, she undoubtably is, but it is a good laughter. Full of mischief and knowing. I try to imagine what time must be like loosened from the confines of the body. Woven like the tapestry of the spider web. Her labyrinth, but also mine.

I follow the lines now, here. She knew that time would come, but how I resisted! It is not England, but it is New England. I don’t always like change. It is with a great deal of reluctance that I release the pull of the old home to find magic in the new. Yet the dragons stir beneath my feet when I walk new paths back to memories that must also be mine. Underneath, the labyrinth joins it all. Invisible, yet visible when the eye opens. The fire quickens the breath and life returns to the place of magic. In these moments the mundane slips into the dull corners of the canvas and sighs with release.

Another friend passes into the light

Image by dae jeung kim from Pixabay

At the cemetery, a solitary cardinal sang her eulogy. Beautiful. Perfect. Heartbreaking.

Rachel loved birds, particularly herons. “I keep waiting for the heron to appear,” her husband told us later. Perhaps she is waiting too, knowing he has promised its form in a bench beside her final resting place.

“I keep waiting to feel her presence,” he added.

It is impossible to assuage grief. You can be present and bear witness, but the journey is mostly solitary. Like the heron’s.

To her funeral, I wore the turquoise beads she lovingly strung for me years ago after I told her about a dream. That was the type of person she was. Her heart, in many ways, too big for a world that couldn’t hold her here long enough.

It’s impossible for me not to compare and draw parallels between the two dear friends who have passed in less than two weeks. Both unfailingly generous and kind. Giving more than they received. Leaving behind voids not empty, but filled with their never-ending love.

They both loved birds, the beauty of words, painting their dreams, and the wild wonders of nature. While one found home in the moors of England, the other found solace on the riverbanks of New England. I am certain if they had known each other, they would have seen a bit of themselves in each other.

But I am lucky to have known them both, if even for what feels like too short of a time.

For the past week I have worn Sue’s gifted necklace, and now I wear Rachel’s. Despite grief, peace envelops me. In the raw moments of love, grace stretches the veil. I saw it today, witnessing Rachel’s strength in her daughter as she shared beloved memories. I saw it in her husband as he covered her body with dirt. If she ever doubted how much she was loved, she doesn’t now.

I, like I suspect many others, find myself regretting not having told her how wonderful I thought she was. The last time I saw Rachel, she was swimming in my pool, catching me by surprise. I remember being annoyed that I had not cleaned it, embarrassed. She, smiling in simple gratitude for its cool body while her husband worked inside.

Unlike with Sue, there was no forewarning. No chance to say what sometimes goes unsaid. Instead, I let memories filter in as they want to. And sometimes, as I do with Sue, I find myself talking to Rachel as I try to weave together what feels unfinished inside a world that feels raw, a little broken, but still beautiful.

Clinging to the Essence of Individual #stillgrieving

Image by Wayne Linton from Pixabay : A messenger from my dreams last night

I still weep at least once a day. That is okay. I’d rather the body process and release than trap sorrow.

Each day I open my inbox to see her smiling face framed in a halo of red curls. I click the link to read a memory of her life. It is a gift that I sometimes find heart-wrenching, but always soothing. Part of me dreads the day when these posts will disappear. I’m not ready to retrieve the words she wrote for me during our years of correspondence. I am trying not to need them. I am trying to let go of what once was and move into what is.

As my mentor through the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, she taught me about the mysteries of what we call “life.” All those illusions we hold onto that bind the larger truth called “union.” You’d think I’d know better. I stand before my own students and teach union. Together we practice yoga, which translates into “union.” On our individual mats, we move the energy of the body to release what binds, while focusing the breath on what unites. Together, and individually, we create union. Or should I say reunion. Sometimes it is more accessible as a concept than it is to practice.

Knowing that she is now in all things is not enough for me yet to bring a steady state of solace. I search out the essence of her that lingers in the words she wrote, reading each post that appears in my inbox. It matters little that I’ve read most of them before. Each one brings a fresh wave of her magic.

This is what I am missing most these days. The magic that felt uniquely hers. We may be sparks of the same light, but through the process of our individuality, this light morphs into personalities that cannot be replicated or mimicked. I have convinced myself she is irreplaceable, and of course she is. It is now that she might remind me that I should not look for a replacement. That this is both futile and unnecessary. She would tell me that she has not disappeared, but is now in all things.

It is true. When I walk outside she is the woodpecker, calling me home. At night, her love pours out of the curl of the cat nestled into my legs. In all moments of stillness she is the soft dance inside each cell. I am familiar with this transfer of love. I have felt it in other losses. But it is not yet enough.

Doubt and Density at the End of a Tough Week

I took this photo during my first Silent Eye Workshop

I imagine anyone who knew Sue is having a tough week. I am no exception. Forgive me for processing my grief so openly. Writing is how I come to terms with struggle and heartache. It is how I come back to myself. I am trying to get there again. Back to the center where peace resides.

Each morning, when I open my inbox, Sue’s name appears. Another post penned in her hand flows her essence onto the screen. For a few moments, she has returned and I find myself wrapped into her landscape. It is with reluctance that I leave the past and move into the day’s reality. Which, basically, has not been great this week.

“I hope you are finding time for self care,” a friend of mine messaged me yesterday.

Grief is a tangle that only the self can unravel. It shuts out the world and one must walk into its darkness alone to explore each knot that binds the path back to light. No one can know these knots, but you. The individual’s own pain body creates them, and thus must set them free.

I am not a master of self-care. I’ve spent the majority of the week caring for others. Tending to my family’s needs, teaching yoga, and covering classrooms in my local middle school. By yesterday afternoon I felt entirely drained. I have only myself to blame. I am not good at asking for help or admitting I need support. I have carried on as usual, and my family has allowed me to. I live with needy beings and balance is upset when “mom” is not okay.

So mostly I pretend that I am okay. I cry when no one is looking. I sink into memories when the house is silent.

It is cold today, as it was yesterday. The sharp bite of the return of winter’s wind reminds me of the Aprils that brought me to Peak District of England. Outside, my frozen fingers pinching laundry onto the line, I remember standing on a hillside exposed to the elements to welcome in the new dawn. I see Sue’s face smiling into mine, her hand pressing the day’s gift into my palm.

Had I known we would only have a brief time together in this lifetime, perhaps I would have altered my role as a caregiver to create more. But, life has a way of creating circumstances that, in hindsight, are more right than they are wrong, even if we would have preferred them to be different. I felt Sue’s hand softly pushing me out of the nest three years ago when I completed my studies with her through the Silent Eye School of Consciousness.

Sue was, as those who knew her are aware, both ready to leave her earthly form, and reluctant to do so. Sometimes, during her illness, I would cope with this impending loss by imagining how Sue would return to me, and others. I’d see her form in the shifting clouds. Her spirit drifting into my dreams. I’d hear her voice guiding me through obstacles. Feel her hand, nudging to find the magic in the wild places.

Now that she has passed, I find mostly doubt and emptiness. I found myself wondering if my fantasies had any value but to deny this inevitable cycle of life and death. Each journey, as Sue taught, must ultimately be walked alone. Teachers can enter our lives for a period of time, but we have no control over how long. They are there to guide, but not take over the journey. When we become too attached to the hand, we become dependent upon it. In turn, we neglect the inner light that persists inside of us. And we doubt that it is all we need to connect to the light that surrounds us.

Maybe by tomorrow, or many not until several tomorrows, I will find my way back to that place. It is here, I know, that she will be. In that soft, quiet place that weaves into unity.

Day Two without Sue #denial

Where I imagine Sue and Bratha found reunion

It is said, by some, that when we think of the beloved who have departed from their earthly forms, their energy rushes through dimensions to embrace us. I am not the only one who has noticed the soft cocoon of her light.

“All is light.”

I keep thinking of her words before and after, as I imagine what she would say to me each time the labored hand of grief seizes reality.

Sometimes we laugh at my absurdity.

While chopping vegetables for dinner, I tell her I am “not happy.”

“I know,” I imagine her saying, but she is also smiling. We both know better.

“Well,” I tell her, “It’s simply not very fair. We had lots more adventures to go on.”

“Who says they’ve stopped?”

We laugh before I cry, again.

And there she is sitting beside my left shoulder, wrapped in her feathers. She is not alone.

On the other side is Bratha, but she is less defined. A haze of energy to show me that Sue has returned to her, and the others. I think of the crow, kin to raven, who flew across my path after I learned of Sue’s passing.

“I know,” I tell them. “I know, and I am glad. Don’t get me wrong, but I am also a little envious. You left the rest of us behind.”

We’ve made some sort of deal, I think. I tell her I don’t want to be needy. That I don’t expect to take her away from other “places” and “people,” which simply means I am trying my best not be needy. On the other hand, I promise to be open. To whatever is offered.

Reluctantly I accept that it may not be what I want, but what I need.

She seems to have established the realm. For the second morning I wake to what I know are her words, even though the voice has already changed.

I begin to wonder when the form will too as I think of the photos that are disappearing from my computer. She wouldn’t want us to hold onto the temporary.

“All is bright [light].”

Still infused with clever mischief, asking for the mind to be stretched.

“Don’t expect to see me as me. Be open to seeing me in everything.”

When I went to the grocery store after dinner, the bill came to $77.77.

Magic comes in many forms.

“Open your eyes.

I am still here.

I am everywhere.”

Silent Night #suevincent #grieving

Photo taken on the moors of Derbyshire during my first trip to England for a Silent Eye workshop

I knew it was coming, but there was still resistance. Isn’t there always? The pull to keep those we love here with us fights against the letting go.

The news of her passing was brought through the soft waves of a song weaving through the space between dreaming and waking.

“Silent night

Holy night

All is calm

All is bright”

It took the repeat of this refrain, over and over again, and me growing irritated by its interruption, before the dawn of realization broke. She is gone. Her soul released back into the union of light.

“All is calm. All is bright.”

Somehow she knew I needed to hear it from her, first. The delivery, perfect, as only she could create.

“All is calm. All is bright.”

I am holding onto those words as the hours pass into this first day without Sue in physical form. I am holding onto the memories that filter through the minutes to remind me of her love. Around my neck I wear one of her gifts, a symbol of the “Feathered Seer,” knowing there is a comfort that she has found reunion with the magic on the other side, and that already she has threaded it back to us.

“All is calm. All is bright.”

I need to hold onto those words, and so I do, because I am still not ready to think about the days ahead. And I know all of you who were graced by her presence will understand. For a tiny, “hobbit-sized,” woman, Sue had the capacity to hold an infinite amount of love in her arms. She was, and I know she knew this, an embodiment of the mother archetype many of us long for. How lucky I was to experience her unconditional love and grace, if only for a few years. How lucky I was to feel the embrace of her hug, knowing I was beloved in her eyes.

Wayland’s Smithy: A portal to the beyond and the last day I spent with Sue

The Soft Emptiness of a Liminal Place

I am already missing her and she is not wholly gone. When I search for her presence, I find the soft emptiness of the liminal place. Holding. Waiting. I don’t want to think about grief, again. A prolonged letting go that takes me on a journey to uncomfortable landscapes. We grasp at the tangible only to discover that we will eventually reach the cliff of letting go, not knowing when we will arrive there.

And sometimes there is no liminal place to linger.

It is a test to step into the space of soft uncertainty and feel the soul cocooned between the life and death of the temporary vessel. I do not want to think about pain and heartache. Those sitting beside her, holding the space. Holding her hand. I do not want to think of the labored breath before it breaks free. Pain seems incredibly unfair for a life filled with such grace.

I want to think of what came before and what comes after. That vibrant spirit that touched so many lives with magic, including my own, finding joy once again. Yes, I want to think of joy. The unbound soul flying free.

The liminal place, I’ve decided is not a place of easy comfort. It is a place of searching through what keeps us bound, and what must be released to let go. It reminds us of what we hold, even when it is wrapped by love. And it reminds us that we can doubt the eternal as a condition of being human.

For me it feels uncomfortably empty even though it is filled with all that binds. It feels like a void. It feels like sadness before the final wave of grief that will eventually bring the joy of release without knowing how large and fierce that wave will be before it breaks.