Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gratitude central

It is Thanksgiving morning in America. I was up early, out walking the dog under a bright blue, gently lightening sky. I came back to a quiet house where my sons, beautiful and big-hearted young men now, were asleep. I love it when the house is full and quiet.

The turkey was in its briny bath, cooling where I had prepped it the night before. I set to work chopping vegetables, boiling eggs, and mincing parsley for the cornbread dressing. It is a bittersweet day, full of love as I prepare foods I know my family enjoys. Yet that mother-shaped vacuum persists—the holiday hole where my mother used to be.

While I enjoy the family time at Thanksgiving, my gratitude has now burst the bounds of the day. These days I actually do find myself grateful for it all. Pain and loss have played a significant role in my life: childhood trauma, the loss of dreams, divorce. Yet, inexplicably, these profound wounds, these scars, have become treasures. I find past hurts adding a texture and richness to who I am.

Often I experience each moment of each day from a place of gratitude. And even when I slide toward those dark places, gratitude is there, keeping me tethered to joy until I can resurface from whatever I am wrestling with, to breathe again.

How did I, to my own surprise, arrive here? The road was long and rocky, let me tell you. And I’ve had oceans of help along the way. The usual suspects appeared: therapy, deep friendships, 12-step work. But my spiritual practice has been the most transformative. Meditation has become my friend and, at times, my challenger. It has enabled me to really show up, to stay intensely present in the moment, regardless of the situation. In moments of profound loss, I am completely there. In moments of joyful play, able to abandon myself to it.

And so, gratitude is my steady companion. I breathe it in on this Thanksgiving Day. And I embrace it on all the others.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An update from Total Surrender Bootcamp

I have officially emerged from Total Surrender Bootcamp. I’ll admit that Monday was a little sluggish for me. It was a challenge to step back into the busyness of my life after such a deeply immersed weekend.

As I posted last time, I hit a sort of wall last week and needed to capitulate to my own powerlessness over several areas in my life. I spent quite a bit of time journaling, confronting my own fears and the way they hold me back. There were also quite some hours of meditation involved in this.

Several things came from this intense time. One is to trust my intuition. I have some powerful messages coming to me, I can feel their truth in my heart and belly. These insights are guiding me, both on the job front and in my relationships.

The other thing is this idea of choosing love. “How can I be Love?” was the thought that came again and again over the course of boot camp.

And, of course, these two things are intimately linked: Trust and Love.

I recently read Sam McLeod’s entertaining account of his Nashville boyhood, Big Appetite. It is a fun journey filled with Southern characters and food. There is one particularly poignant scene when a young Sam and his brother Mikey are interacting with Mamie. Mamie was the African-American women who resided with Sam’s aunt and uncle on their farm in west Tennessee. She cooked and mothered Sam and his brothers when they visited, providing nurture and general wisdom to all.

In this scene, Mikey is sad and homesick. Sam and Mamie are discussing Mikey’s sadness when Sam asks Mamie what makes her sad. And Mamie replies, “Laud, chile, ain’t nothing make me sad. Nuthin’ ever make a body sad. A person get to decide that. If you sad, or mad, or whatnot, it’s ‘cuz you choosin’ to be. It be your choice. Don’ never forget that.”

After my boot camp weekend, this is where I have landed: Mamie’s wisdom.

Because it is clear to me that this is about my own choices. I am constantly given divine guidance through my intuition. I need to trust that. I can choose to trust or to not trust, but the choice is mine. And as for all the rest, it is about choosing love.

And that is it: Trust and Love.

I am just humming with it, full, flowing and profoundly connected. I pray I can find my way to choose this and live in it for a while.

Trust. And Love.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Total Surrender Bootcamp

This weekend I am immersed in “Total Surrender Bootcamp.” You see, I’ve been working on some things in my life for some months now and finding no movement on any issue. I’ve been trying to do my part, take action, pray. But it is now as if I’m facing a wide, dense fog before me and I cannot see down the metaphorical road. So on Friday I decided to spend the weekend by ceasing the search, taking no action on any front, crying “uncle,” and intentionally giving up.

The details of all this are fairly mundane. I’ve been looking for a job for some months. I’ve made progress, had interviews and second interviews. I’ve met with headhunters and followed their advice. I’ve met lovely, generous people who have assisted me and advised me and passed my resume along. I’ve been truly humbled by the many people who want to help me.

Other areas of my life that are fuzzy include the health of a beloved family member and a budding friendship that took a surprising turn. Last week, with layers of emotion greeting the anniversary of my mother’s death, I just felt like: “really, I have no idea.” Done, empty, spiritually stripped to the bone. So I thought, “why not go with that, with complete and total surrender?”

I’ve spent the weekend wallowing in my own powerlessness. Powerless over hiring decisions, a loved one’s health, the relationship choices of others, and many other things, I’ve been sitting in my own inability to force movement.

Total Surrender Bootcamp has been a weekend practice facing this reality. I’ve been writing extensively about the things I want in my life, ways I am powerless over them, and the fears that I have which hold me back. Looking at my fears has been particularly helpful as it has revealed the ways I undermine myself, especially in the area of my relationships. I call this experience “bootcamp” because I have poured myself into it with hours of writing, meditation, and reading Thom Rutledge’s very helpful book, Embracing Fear.

What is happening is that I am seeing some patterns to address, finding great relief from fear, and I am living very much in the moment. All good and helpful things. Where Total Surrender Bootcamp will lead after this weekend, I have no idea. But it has helped me return fully to the very uncertain road I am traveling. And for that, I am profoundly grateful.

And after these hours of reflection and struggle, one idea returns over and over: how can I be Love? I have no answers to this but I do have a choice. How can I be Love in this day, this situation, with the people I encounter day to day? That one thought makes the uncertain road just a bit clearer.

If I can help you with your own version of Total Surrender Bootcamp, please don’t hesitate to email me.