Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Secret Garden

Recently, I was reminded of a spiritual practice that I have often used over the years. My teacher, Kathy Woods, was speaking of the idea of saying to the wounded child she once was, “I can help you now.” The idea is to go, as the adult self, to the child in whatever wounding situation that child may have experienced.

I have used this technique often over the years to help my own wounded inner child recover from childhood trauma. When, as an adult, those old feelings of fear, isolation, and helplessness threaten to overwhelm me, I comfort the child.

The technique I have used is more elaborate than the simple, “I can help you,” that Kathy suggested. My approach is a visualized meditation. I visualize a beautiful garden. It is fenced in with French doors opening from a safe house. There is a gate to this garden, guarded day and night, by a beautiful angel, who has long blond hair and a flaming sword. The garden is always in bloom with hydrangeas, lavender, roses and a thronging riot of abundance. There is a well tended lawn, perfect for a little girl to play.

I visualize little Janet playing there, blowing bubbles, enjoying the flowers, playing with a puppy. When that little-me is anxious or afraid, I envision the adult-me going to her, reassuring her that I am here now, that nothing can hurt her in the garden. When she is cranky and out-of-sorts, I see my adult-self erecting a beautiful open tent, hung with flowing white curtains. There are cushions in this tent, and I gently help little Janet curl up to rest. When she needs comforting, adult-me cradles her.

This visualization can be tailored to whatever works for you. If the garden feels like a safe place, use that. If it is a tree house, cave, beach, or mountain cabin that feels safe, use that image. Create a safe haven for your child-self, using your imagination. Help the child-self find activities which you remember with pleasure from childhood. Enjoy digging in the dirt? Give your child-self a shiny new shovel. Love trucks? Give your child-self a Tonka toy. Dolls? Put a cradle in the corner. Books? Place a small shelf with favorite childhood titles such as Treasure Island  or The Secret Garden. Safety, pleasure, authentic interests, comfort: these are the things that the adult-self can openly offer the child-self in this visualization.

The idea is for your adult-self to take responsibility for your own wounds. For most of us, those wounds began in childhood. For others, it may be the adolescent who needs guidance and comfort. Do whatever works for you. Use your imagination. Go to the child of your heart and, as an adult, offer that child the comfort and security she or he needed at that wounding time. Then offer your whole-self into the care of the divine, knowing that healing and grace are God’s deepest desire for you.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Spiritual practice is not one-size-fits-all

My spiritual practice has evolved over time. Currently it takes the form of 30 minutes of meditation in the mornings and 10 minutes at night with a daily poem from Hafiz to spice things up.

In the past I have practiced contemplative prayer, done daily scripture reading, used a daily reflection book, gone on long walks in the woods, prayed for help, and, at times, ignored God. What worked for me then doesn’t necessarily work for me now.

My friend Susan seeks a spiritual practice. She is an energetic person and sitting in meditation for 30 minutes a day isn’t going to work well for her. She ends up criticizing herself for not “doing it right.” For her, spiritual practice needs to be more active: a walk outdoors, acts of service to others, practice living in the moment.

Meditative practice is not for everyone. Just as outdoor activities are not for everyone. Find what is right for you and then practice the discipline. We call it “practice” because it is just that. We don’t arrive at some perfect spiritual habit or space. We meet it daily in our practice.

You might try some of these:

*Read a poem each morning. Mary Oliver, Hafiz, Czeslaw Milosz, and Rumi are a few of my favorites.

*Practice living in the moment. Regrets over the past bog us down. The past is best left in the past. The future is yet to be and is way beyond our control. Yet we each have this moment. Breathe it in and practice returning your awareness to the now, focusing your attention on what is.

*Nature walks with awareness help us stay centered. Attend to the details – the wonder of the trees, the sounds of the birds, the presence of chipmunks and deer alike.

*Many communities have groups that gather together for meditation practice. Here in Nashville we are fortunate to have Insight Nashville, lead by Kathy Woods and Gordon Peerman. Ask around your community. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.

The spiritual life is a daily practice of surrender, returning awareness to the moment, and of release. In it you will find joy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This is a blog about the spiritual journey; our spiritual journey, yours and mine. It assumes a spiritual experience on the part of the reader. It also assumes the existence of a benevolent higher power. I’m not terribly interested in defining the nature of this higher power beyond an understanding that it wants profound good for each of us and makes grace constantly available. I’m way past the “trying to figure out” the nature of God phase. Who can figure out God? This is the ultimate mystery and way beyond the limits of my mind.

An image for this constantly available grace that I’ve been given is a fire hose, gushing forth with light and goodness. This hose is on, full blast, all the time and is ours to sip. We simply need to open up to it and let it fill us. A fire hose, when on, is blasting away and is powerful and can be overwhelming. Because we are limited, human, we sip from it, a little at a time, so as not to be overcome. A little goes a long way.

Dream teacher Robert Moss writes, ‘“We will change all things if we can make imagination sacred,” Yeats wrote in The Speckled Bird. Let’s choose now to harness the great fire hose of imagination to that, and make sure we have it pointing the right way.’

This great fire hose is for us, from a loving, divine source. It will fuel our sacred imagination, fill our longing hearts, and bring us a serenity we cannot imagine on our own. Sip with me, friends, and let us be filled and be at ease.