Hello and welcome to this weeks news and views on Climate Change and recycling…Thank you for all your comments last week they were all valid concerns and I hope I went some way to answering those concerns it was lovely to have that two-way discussion going…Thank also to all of you who shared the post and spread the news and views. It seems the dog/cat beds were much liked a very good use for old tyres methinks…I love the idea of circular recycling and there are so many very innovative ideas around the world.
Like Noah who knew all those centuries ago the importance of saving the animals…Many animals and trees play such an important part in the health of our wonderful world that we need to heed the signs …organisations who are planting trees and more trees but yes we know why…Well, sort of…But do we really know to…
This Saturday morning found me soaking the heat from the pellet stove and gazing in wonderment at the geranium in my window. Outside, the waking sun filtered golden light through the boughs of the hemlocks laced with yesterday’s snow. My mind was adrift with thoughts about those things that can worry us. Specifically, the state of the world and whether the inspiration I found watching seven compassionate and intelligent individuals debate amicably on a stage in my home state of NH could inspire a new feeling of hope in those who had lost it.
Sometimes frustration and despair overwhelm. Hope is lost in those shadows of darkness that seems to grow beyond our control. Yet, there is always light to be found, even in the small, seemingly hidden places. There is always the ever-present force of life seeking its source. I began to look with focus at the houseplant I had brought in from the summer. Noticing, as I pulled my thoughts into the moment, how its spring green limbs were growing with gusto even though there were no buds to be found on their tips. This life seeking the light outside my window, growing inside my home in winter because I had brought it inside.
There is a soft peace to houseplants. Roots contained in potted soil can thrive if the human hand tends to them with compassion. A gentle caress and a kind word now and then can make them flourish, just as we flourish with love. There is hope to be found in the way they accept the containment, asking only to be watered and given a space to receive the filtered sunlight. In turn, they offer beauty while their cells silently filter the air we breathe.
Sometimes, when I think of the devastation humanity is causing across the land, I think of my houseplants. I think of the air they filter and oxygenate that will enter my lungs and gratitude for their presence fills my heart. I marvel at how even in the depths of winter, I can behold green life growing as it gives back and receives only what it needs in return. I think about how this is, in essence, life. At its most basic components, and yet, there is nothing more beautiful or wondrous. Life existing in the quiet grace of peace.
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.
Her spirit lingered above the water to watch it carry the remains of her body back to the Great Mother. Along the banks her people drummed to the rhythm of Earth and she could feel their love soar into the currents of the wind. She waited with them, in silent reverence to feel the pulse of the flow one more time between the lands of the living and the lands of the dead.
High above, nine ravens circled her beloved stones. She felt their presence and a pull of longing to sit once again in the place of the Seer. One by one they had left their gifts in the small hollow of her stone. Three black feathers and a turquoise stone. Now they soared in watch. Sealing the magic she had left behind. Below, a ring of white flowers lay like stars upon the trodden ground.
She had known death would bring peace, but she could not know how much she would long to return. Her body, already breaking apart to the elements as the water carried it home, was no longer hers. Yet she knew the stones held her secrets for those who would travel to them through the pull of the heart. Here they would sit, as she had done so many times, leaning against the stone to feel the circle. Some would close their eyes to see. Their bodies finding the pulse inside the rock would hear her voice. And, when they left, she would go with them through her beloved land.
Since the writing of my last post, my thoughts have turned often towards empathy. And, specifically, how our world seems to be starving for lack of it. It is not that it is gone entirely. But it has become endangered, and more so in certain areas of the globe than others. I live in one of those areas.
In many Scandinavians countries such as Denmark teaching empathy in the classroom has become a normalized part of the curriculum. The results are obvious: less bullying and more compassion. Happier students and teachers. It simply makes sense. Although we consider ourselves a progressive country here in the US, we are often slow to follow progressive-minded methods of educating our children. We are a country founded upon colonialism. I live in a place of stolen land build upon the backbones of slaves. Children are taught to strive to their highest ideals, without too much regard for the child that may be struggling beside them. Here, we still cling to the notion that the more successful you are in life, the happier you will be. Yet, our standard of success is still measured in the highest GPA, the number of goals scored, and the most money earned with the highest educational degree. I know plenty of people who are not happy and can click off all of these boxes.
So what is missing? We can look to places like Denmark, or we can simply look inside and around us. We need not travel across the globe to realize what is lacking. We are a nation of souls starving for love. Not just for ourselves, but for each other. And many of us, I suspect, do not even know how much we hunger for it.
Yesterday, I treated myself to a facial. It was the first one I have had in my 46 and a half years on Earth. Not because I cannot afford it financially, but because I never before allowed myself this gift. Last year, like this year, my husband and children gifted me a certificate for a Spa. Last year, I gave my certificate to my daughter.
I rationalized the reasons why. She was struggling with acne, and I knew how hard that struggle could be for a teen. I told myself I didn’t really need any of the services the spa offered, and if I could gift my daughter with one of them, I would. You might say I responded to my gift, in part, with empathy, but at the cost of the self. Maternal guilt had replaced self-love. I struggle with giving my children what I never had, as many parents do. Perhaps you will understand why when I take you with me to yesterday.
Despite this, I have been working on a personal vow this year. There is a mantra that plays from the muffled speakers inside of my mind. Sometimes it is loud. Sometimes it is soft. Its words are, “I am worthy.”
Yesterday, I entered the doors of the spa alone. For the past year, I had visited several times, with my daughter and/or my son. But never just me. It was my turn, and no guilt followed me inside the room where I was met with the promise of an indulgence that had been gifted to me.
I was nervous at first. I wasn’t sure what to do with the wrap, and got it all wrong. No big deal. It was soon in its rightful place around my shoulders. A pillow was slipped under my knees and I lay back upon a bed that felt like heaven. Blankets nestled around me as an almost hot and moistened towel wrapped my face.
I began to sink into bliss. Soft hands lathered with warmed oils moved rhythmically down the sides of my neck and onto my shoulders where they found my knots of tension, pressing gently into surrender. Although the hands that touched me barely knew me, they felt like love, and I was over-whelmed momentarily with the impulse to weep. I thought of my mother. I thought of my children. I thought of all that my body longed for, and what I never wanted my children to miss. This body that still remembered the last embrace of her mother, years ago. A mother who had pulled tight with a desperation for my love. My body still remembered who she had chosen, long ago, to give her love to. Not to herself, or me, but my stepfather. Long before she decided never to hug me again because she wanted to believe I had written her a hate story instead of a love story. Yet, I was being reminded, in that moment on the massage bed, that I was still worthy of receiving love.
It is not easy to give when we are not used to receiving. And as I lay there on the table, feeling the foreign hands of love, I realized what a gift I had been given. The woman who had been scheduled for my facial held an innate ability to heal and give. Her nature was compassionate and maternal, and I had no doubt she had both an empathic and empathetic soul. She didn’t know my history. She didn’t need to. She simply read my body’s needs.
And as I lay there, receiving, I thought of my children. No wonder, I thought, they both love coming here. Even though they are teens, and no longer run to me for hugs, their bodies still hunger for the touch of love. They need it, as we all do. And sometimes we need an excuse to receive it. With a twinge of remorse mixed with guilt I made a vow to hug each of them more. Adolescent indifference would no longer be an excuse. Their bodies need the regular touch of love. As all bodies do.
When I began to teach yoga to young children, I worried about how to respond to their touches. Children, by nature, are tactile beings. They use touch to figure out the world, and themselves. They also use touch to express love, and I didn’t want to shy away from their expression of it even though I live in a culture that is riddled with fear around touching a child in any way that can be deemed inappropriate. Hugs can be forbidden. Yet, I knew there is more damage that can occur if a child hugs you and you don’t hug her back. They learn through our actions, and I am discovering that I want them to know that they are loved above all else. That it is okay to give me a hug and I will return it with as much love as they gave to me.
It occurred to me this morning, as I was thinking about empathy and children and what the world seems to hunger for, that perhaps I had a new mantra to share. The word “Namaste,” used so often in yoga, is often translated, “I honor the light in you that is also in me.” This phrase is more easily understood by older minds, and I have not quite found the words to replace it. Until today. The simplicity of the solution, I realized, is not just in the replacing of the word “light” with “love,” which is what I have done before, but in the emphasis that this love is ever-present. And that it is for you, and also for me. And so, I think perhaps we will share these words upon greeting and parting:
“I have love in my heart for you and also for me.”
It’s been a strange couple of weeks, but then again, strange seems to be the new normal. Barely a minute goes by when the POTUS does not make some angry outcry or ignorant blunder. It’s so common, most of us barely bat an eye. Others rise up to toast hatred. Rage is infectious. For some strange reason, it’s now normal to be inhumane. Which begs the question, what are we striving for?
Last week, I posted a brief notice on Facebook in support of a teenager in town who is championing an environmental cause. She is seeking signatures to bring a petition to the legislature. And, like so many young and not-so-young environmental activists who are actively looking for ways to save our planet in crisis, her only M.O. is altruism. Imagine my surprise dismay when 9 out of 10 people who chose to comment, did so from a place of anger. When did altruism become a bad word?
Also last week: a senior in my children’s high school banged a teacher’s head against the cafeteria wall because he wasn’t happy with her, and three men armed with machine guns robbed a house in my town. My children are wondering if the world is going mad. They don’t know how lucky they are. Things like this aren’t normal around here. But, are they becoming normal?
A few weeks ago, school officials in neighboring towns came together for a common cause. Teachers are living in fear. Elementary school teachers. Children are acting out in anger and rage on a daily basis, and no one knows what to do. Yet, thousands of years ago, a group of people discovered that they could calm young and restless bodies and minds through the practice of yoga. The end result, peace. The answers are more ancient than time itself. Five minutes of silence everyday in inner city schools where crime and violence used to be the daily norm, have resulted in dramatic shifts towards harmony. Yet, many of us still resist the doorways within.
Two hours ago, I was wrapping up my walk with my dogs when I saw two of my neighbors across the street from my house. I thought I’d stop over to say “hello,” but on my way I followed their fingers to a stray dog hanging out in my front garden. After hurrying my agitated pets inside, I went back out to see what I could do.
The dog in question was a gentle spirit, and I was pretty sure I’d seen her on my walks before. As one neighbor pointed out, she had no identifying tags, so while she leaned into the other neighbor, I photographed her to post on FB. I was certain she’d soon be identified. She was a pure-bread, and someone had probably spent a pretty penny on her.
Seconds later, a car zoomed around the corner, and, suspecting the owner, we waved it over. Instead of relief and gratitude, we were confronted by an irate man filled with accusations and blame. Blame not for himself for losing his dog, but for the dog and its dog-nappers rescuers. Alter, my neighbor told me she was sure there was another dog in the car. I was certain there was also a child, in a carseat.
The entire scene played out in mere minutes, and all I could manage to do, as well as my neighbor (the other neighbor had gone home) was to try and help corral the dog as kindly as possible while her owner yelled and raged at it. It was distrubing at best. Yet, it also seems strangely like the new normal.
If you follow the POTUS and his army of supporters (which I try my best to avoid), all of the above will seem like mild day in the land of the good old USA. We are a nation gone mad. Or, were we always mad, but just did a better job hiding it?
Six or so years ago, I decided, or rather it was decided by some unseen muse, that I would write a book about six teens who would travel a labyrinth filled with darkness to bring back the light. Thinking they are on a mission to repair the light in Earth and heal the planet, each teen is faced with the discovery that the darkness inside the labyrinth in Earth is also inside of them.
The outer is a mirror of the inner. Always. We all know the saying, “peace begins within.” And, to get to that place of peace, we must travel the darkness within. We must face all of its ugly and fear-filled forms. We must confront it. Untangle it. And above all else, we must love it.
In one of my first yoga classes with preschoolers, there was a young girl who troubled me. She had blue eyes and stringy blond hair she’d often twist into knots with her fingers. She could be cute, but during my classes, she most often wore an ugly face twisted by inner turmoil. Some might say she looked possessed. And, in a way, she was. There was clearly something that was eating away at her happiness and ability to share joy with others in the class. And to find her own joy with the class. Sadly, she made it through one 6-week session, but never returned.
In some ways, I felt like I had failed her. I was not able to give her the individual time she probably needed, and was instead often looking for ways to ensure she wasn’t pestering her fellow classmates. I shared concern with her parents and teachers, and it seemed to be understood.
Even though she is no longer attending my yoga classes, I still see her in passing most weeks. She stands in line when I arrive, waiting to head outside for recess while some of her peers wait for me on the rug. Each time I see her, I make a point of catching her eye, as I do with all children who are waiting. And each time she catches mine, I smile at her.
In the first few weeks, after our time together had ended, my former student would look at me with the eyes of distrust. As though I was perhaps mocking her, or in some way had an intention other than kindness. I continued to look for her eyes and smile. About two weeks ago, amidst all this recent chaos, I caught those two blue eyes looking at me and my smile was met with a smile. A smile of trust and friendship.
I can’t say what this little girl’s demons are, or why she was more tormented by her darkness than some little kids are, but I do know it exists inside all of us, in various forms. We carry the fears of our own lives, and the lives we lived before this one. We carry the fears encoded into our DNA passed down to us in our genes, and we absorb the fears around us. We are solitary beings intricately connected with all life. When one of us is in pain, we all are.
I know that man who collected his wandering dog was acting out of his own deep seated fears, even though it presented itself outwardly as hostility. Our POTUS is doing the same thing. As well as his devoted followers. What troubles me is not their fear, but their unwillingness to travel inside of it. To follow their own labyrinths of darkness to find the light. A light that is filled with the core of love that feeds joy. What troubles me is that so many seem to be okay with, and even embrace, a life fueled by self-righteous anger and hostility, rather than choosing the path of darkness in search of their own light. Granted, it’s not an easy path to take, but unlike with anger and fear, we don’t walk it alone. The POTUS and his followers, and the many others around the world who are choosing hatred as their M.O., may think they are united in a cause, but there is no union with fear. There is only destruction, of the self and the community.
I think perhaps that little blue eyed girl with blond hair who used to take my yoga classes has already discovered this. Yoga may not be her M.O., but kindness now appears to be. I’ve noticed she not only smiles at me, but holds the hands of her classmates eagerly on her way out to recess. I image the fresh air and being close to nature is a balm for her, as it is for all of us. I embrace her choice to find joy in her chosen way. And, more than anything else, I am happy in the knowing that she seems to know, in her five-year-old self, that joy is her birthright.
Photo: kids in Zimbabwe along for the ride to fill water containers
I’m currently en route from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe to Colorado, wrestling with the joys and tragedies I witnessed of a courageous people under the siege of a bankrupt economy.
Why are kids orphaned in Zimbabwe? What are their lives like?
Travel along vicariously with me. Consider the stories of these families I met this week through the organization I work with, Hope’s Promise (adoption and orphan care) of Colorado. (Note: To protect the kids’ privacy, I’ve changed all their names.)
John and Eli
John used to be the boy who never smiled. At age three, his parents died. His maternal granddad took him in; until grandpa, too, died. John’s maternal grandma (“Gogo”) then claimed the boy. They developed a close relationship, but Gogo ekes out subsistence as a squatter on farmland owned by a church. As Zimbabwe’s economy spiraled…