Monday, December 4, 2017

Getting Unstuck--Dealing with Difficult Emotions

We human being simply get stuck sometimes--running painful stories around and around until fear becomes the need to attack, until anger becomes hatred, until the one moment of discomfort becomes that itch that keeps us up all night. Or we slide into the near cousin of anger, a thing called depression. Our behaviors change, and grow more entrenched. We might "fake" the smile and kindness, we might run from the people who "cause us" to feel these moments of emotion, or we might find "gentle" ways to attack by saying things like "I'll pray for you" (and we know perfectly well we did not say it with good intentions). 

It's interesting when we sit with the stories, then let them go. Then keep sitting with the "hot" emotion until, slowly changing as all things do, we find at the root of all that those high-octane emotional states is often something like this: "I don't want to die alone under a bridge."  We come face to face with the tender, childlike, vulnerable part of our hearts--not our heads, mind you.  Our hearts.

Our culture does not teach us how to go from anger to that soft place.  In fact, I would argue that we actively teach the opposite.  We often encourage our children to "hate" the opposing team to gain a kind of energy, we listen avidly as a nation to countless hours of soap operas and TV dramas that trigger all our feeling of betrayal, fear, hatred and the like. We immerse ourselves in news (12 minutes a day of which is actual factual news by the way) or inflammatory "radio talk shows" that sell us painful and divisive messages with the price-tag of fear and artificial moral outrage.

And we grow so blind to the way time is passing.  Our time

When we are locked in the sleepless nights, the grasping at anyone to "share" our juicy anger, the plotting to do harm (and, sadly, when we carry those thoughts out), manipulating others to get on "our side", and other such behaviors that, in the end, keep us from feeling that soft spot, that gentle place, we somehow step out of the way Nature and the Mystery intended us to be.  We stop, we get crusty and brittle, and we begin to resemble inside and out the dry, gray rock instead of the dynamic stream that is our birthright. We lose the ability to not only nurture ourselves with the literally countless miracles around and within us--the soft fur of our animal companions, the cotton-candy sunrise of blues and pinks, the way the wind sings through pines, each tree finding a different note--we separate ourselves from the running living water of healthy community.

So how do we break these cycles?  Here are a couple of free You Tube programs from two of my all-time favorite teachers that just might help.  No, listening to this once and rerunning our habit energy may only give us a breather, a bandage.  Taking the teachings to heart, we may actually learn to not miss this one, precious life we have all been gifted with this holiday season--the one great present that will forever keep on giving. But only if we allow it.

Pema Chodron, a beloved Tibetan Buddhist nun, teaching a seminal work by Shantideva about dealing with difficult mind states:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5IWf1fDSNgps

Adyashanti, the delightful modern meditation teacher, answering a question about difficult emotions and "slipping" from more healthy behaviors:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtuJzU0HiLg





Loving in the Gray Areas: A Poem

We walked the black and white dog
through sunlight,
through shadow.
Cedar-scent,
brown fluff and pale bone of departed grouse,
hand in hand warm.
I nodded at the twin birch trees,
their bark
white paper, black linear sketches.
Data cards filled our pockets--images
of deer, coyote, raccoon,
captured on game cameras,
coy in the night, eyes gleaming.
Later, in the bedroom dark,
a super-moon's blue light
illumines fog at play in the open field,
ethereal dance of the weather changing.
I snuggle up to his back,
arm draped over him--
we know how to love well
in the gray areas.

KN




Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Forgiveness--It's the Christian Way and the World's Way


I became curious about what world faiths have to say about Christian forgiveness when a young woman of my acquaintance claimed she could not forgive her father for divorcing her mother because she was "a conservative Christian".  Now there are few things that will raise my eyebrow as much as using religion to justify personal stuck places or to marginalize another.  Did you know the meaning of the word "religion" itself means "to bind back"?  I'm doing continuing research and will add to this list as I find interesting quotes and Bible passages, and then will also add information from all the world faith traditions.  Because religion should never be a reason to stop the divine dance with God, with others, and with ourselves. And the great thinkers and scripture the world over agree.

Forgiveness in Christianity

Colossians 3:13 

13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Matthew 6:14-15
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Ephesians 4:31-32
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Micah 7:18-19
18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Mark 11:25 
25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Matthew 26:28
28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
 
Leviticus 19.18
“You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”
~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”
~Frederick Buechner

“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”
~Thomas à Kempis

“We must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.”
~Reinhold Niebuhr

“It is freeing to become aware that we do not have to be victims of our past and can learn new ways of responding. But there is a step beyond this recognition…It is the step of forgiveness. Forgiveness is love practiced among people who love poorly. It sets us free without wanting anything in return.”
~Henri J.M. Nouwen

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
(Christianity. The Lord’s Prayer)

Boundaries and Bridges: A quick review of The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr

"Maybe this is the great death, this third space where I refuse to waste the rest of my years in either flight or fight.  Where I give up the search for someone to hate or to blame - myself or anybody else.  I'm going to somehow enter into solidarity with this pain. I'll  not allow myself to participate in other people's abandonment, betrayal, rejection or marginalization."  

Father Richard Rohr in The Divine Dance


At this time in my life, these words rang with a clarity and beauty I have seldom experienced in the written word. Richard's new book about the Trinity was not only historically interesting, it was concerned with what I feel is Christianity's greatest gift to the world: relationship. 

By relationship, I mean the word in all its dynamic elements--relationships between ourselves and others, ourselves and God, and even ourselves and our delicate blue ball of a world. And for Richard, this relational way of coming at the folks and environments around us requires flow, a give and take, a non-withholding, literally a dance. God, he finally summarizes, is all about diversity, about opening the table to the marginalized, rejected and betrayed. God never dominates or chooses sides or people. "God loves us not because we are good, but because God is good." This is theology that deserves to be more widely heard.

The work touched me personally because while it holds up relationship, Richard also points out, as in the quote above, the need for personal boundaries when "abandoned, betrayed, rejected or marginalized".  Walking firmly away from such relationships does not mean you can't forgive folks--it means you stop being the "battered wife", the "unfairly hated step-parent", the "victimized Other."  Once you make that choice to neither fight such relationships nor run away in any kind of FEAR, you enter a space that is full of possibility.  You move beyond hatred and blame for the person who is abusing/neglecting/rejecting you AND you move beyond the shame and guilt, depression and self-recrimination such people may bring up within you.  In other words, you gain freedom, and "the peace that passeth all understanding."  Even Jesus counseled his missionaries to "shake the dust off their feet" when people did not welcome them into their homes or actively tried to hurt them.  Wise advice.

I also believe in the dynamic of relationships, ebbs and flows, the door that is never really closed because if people cannot truly change, then what is the work all the great religions tout? My heart will always have room for the prodigal son, daughter, step-parent, parent-in-law or friend.  That way I remain open to flow and a willing partner in a dance of mutual respect. This is the message of the spinning, laughing, loving Trinity at its best.

Ameyn (May it be So!)


Thinking Christmas? Think Family Wild!


Our company, Family Wild, encourages family relationships based on hunting, fishing and outdoor/recycled arts. Create your own extended family clubs, earn certificates or brass-plate awards as you work through the exercises and discover the rich and ever-available beauty of the outdoors.  What children grow up learning to love and respect, they will protect.  Give the gift of nature and yourself to your child this year!

http://familywildprogram.com/

Monday, November 20, 2017

Comparative Religion Audio Books You Won't Want to Miss!

Here are the links to my comparative religion titles, ranging from deep inquires into the Gospel of Thomas to the perfect beginner books from my Easing Into Collection of work.  Soon to be released: Easing into the Gospel of Thomas, Easing into the Dhammapada, Easing into the Mahabharata and Easing into Patanjali's Yoga Sutras! 

The audio books feature narrators Jack Nolan, Rosemary Watson and Collene Curran

The Hidden Message of the Lost Gospel of Thomas: Exploring the Ancient Practice of Unitive Christianity | Kim Beyer

The Hidden Message of the Lost Gospel of Thomas


Easing into the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras | Kimberly Beyer-Nelson

Easing into the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras



Easing into the Bhagavad Gita | Kim Beyer

Easing into the Bhagavad Gita



Easing into Lao Tzu's Tao te Ching: The Easing Into Collection, Volume 6 |  MA,Kim Beyer

Easing into the Tao te Ching



Links to Lovely Poetry Audio Books

I invite you to explore these professionally read and produced audio-book versions of my poetry collections.  From finding the sacred in the daily to flights of mystical theology, you're sure to find a voice and a poem that touches your soul.

Read by Jack Nolan and Pegge Ashcroft


An Invitation to Openness: Poems for Individuals and Communities Seeking the Sacred in the Present Moment (with Rev. Sue Sutherland-Hanson)

An Invitation to Openness: Poems for Individuals and Communities Seeking the Sacred in the Present Moment | Sue Sutherland-Hanson,Kimberly Beyer-Nelson



At Matthew's Knee: a poetic commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1

At Matthew's Knee: A Poetic Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1 | Kimberly Beyer-Nelson



This Nurturing Awe:  Poems inspired by the 99 Beautiful Names of God

This Nurturing Awe: Poems Inspired by the 99 Beautiful Names of God | Kimberly Beyer





Sunday, November 19, 2017

Radio Interview with Audio Book Producer Collene Curran

http://www.artistfirst2.com/ArtistFirst_Kim_Beyer_2017-11-15.mp3


Take an hour to hear about the life and work of an audio book producer, the spirit of collaborative art and where the future of literature and non-fiction may be headed!  Collene was my guest on Deep Communion, my monthly radio show hosted by artistfirst.com.  You can pay that site a visit to explore past shows.  Here is a little bit about Collene.

Collene Curran
is a Colorado native and voice actor.  Upon completing a degree in journalism at Colorado State University she spent several years in Taiwan where she lent her voice to numerous projects from teaching materials to cartoons and corporate videos. She is also an experienced public speaker who has presenting stop-smoking seminars across the country since 2008. She has narrated a number of fiction and nonfiction audio books. Collene currently lives in Denver with her husband Vince and their two canine children.

Let's Get Beyond "Levels" of Faith Maturity

You are not finished yet. You are “in the making.” You have the capacity to learn, mature, think, change, and grow. You also have the freedom to stagnate, regress, constrict, and lose your way. Which road will you take?

—  Noah Levine

Why do human beings tend to gravitate toward restriction, tribe, legalism and exclusivism?  I suspect because, in our wonky-world, such movements of "constriction"  tend to feel safe, protected, and help folks truly believe they are in control and cherished within those strict boundaries. And let's face it--that means less stress, less fear and less "aloneness", all of which are pretty compelling reasons to support what some may think of as "immature" or "stagnated".

Some of the forms of Christianity (and other world religions) that preach exclusivism and literalism certainly fall into this camp. To me, such theology  has its place because when people are scared by life experiences and the milleu they live in, when they need a place to be held, when they require answers or to "know" they are on the right path and others are walking with them, these kinds of theologies deliver. For some, this will be the place where the encounter with God happens, in a bowl that has high and thick sides and the sense they are not alone in their society. And that is where they will stay, which is right and beautiful for them. Within that bowl, their particular faith will mature, grow and deepen. Their experiences add to what we collectively mean by referring to "God". 

For others, though, the call of a different kind of knowing begins to chip windows in the walls of those bowls.  They hear the spiritual call to explore, to question, to wrestle.  I'm not sure saying "mature" or "grow" is quite right, though--perhaps, it's not about levels at all.  It's about responding honestly to impulses of the heart. For some, they need more space to create a new kind of bowl to hold them in community, in safety and protection.  

The "maturity" and "growth" aspects come when people from two "kinds" of safety, freedom and support are asked to coexists as brothers and sisters of their parent faith.  It requires of folks an ability to understand that diversity of faith opens windows and doors into the heart of the Mystery that are welcoming for different kinds of people. And it is an invitation to appreciate a wider sense of the divine, even if it is a "view" that does not feel like "home" to the viewer! Daily, I am working my way around to an important scriptural injunction: the very heartbeat of diversity of religious expression.  It goes: "judge not lest ye be judged" (Matthew 7:1-3), to me, one of the fundamental and shared aspects of the Christian journey, and one of the surest ways to get past stages, levels and intimations of maturity.

Ameyn!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Autumn Flower Consciousness: a poem

Where the driveway gravel hatches
into charcoal-sketched weeds
let us sit for a time
and watch Buddha, Jesus and Rumi
trying on autumn flower consciousness.

No talking here.
Intimations of whirling,
some breeze that raced Himalayas
and slumbered, rolling, on a Pacific wave,
now flirting with browning, withering stems—
even its language sometimes fails.

Roots suspicious of the taste of sunshine,
petals shuddering about shadows,
the leaves already hunched in a shrug,
“I don’t know,” inscribed
on the breathing seed heads
as they stare at the clouded and always moving
sky-scape.

They can’t find the scent of the stars.

The boys finally sigh, letting wind tear them a little,
apologizing by unraveling yet again,
teaching over and over the great sin
of
trying to cram God into
one
or even endless

words.

KN

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

PVC Tapestry Loom and Home-Made Lamps


My favorite fall-winter activity is weaving.  There's an amazing quiet spot that builds up like layers of yarn, over-under, over-under, over-under, the rhythm rocking me, the textures of the fiber running through fingers soothing summer-dried nerves.  If the day is rainy and windy, like today, so much the better! This piece is nearly three feet wide, and about four feet tall and is being created on a PVC pipe loom that I made for under $15.00.  You're already looking at over 14 hours of work.  One thing is true, you'll never get rich being a fiber artist unless you are a self-promoting genius.  HA! 

All the fiber has been donated to me--just pieces and ends of yarn other knitters and weavers and cross stitch folks didn't want to bother with.  I have about four containers of such pickings, and it's fun to watch it come alive on the warp threads.  This is a great project for a small group as well--warp the loom, have folks bring yarn scraps and even strips of cloth and each time you meet, have each person add a bit of weave to the tapestry.  It's an exercise sure to get you over any control-freak inclinations you might have! HA!

In a later blog, I'll break down the steps to create your own floor or table-top loom.  I will tell you I am getting some flex in the pipe with this loom, and will have to add some wooden dowling inside the pipes to help make it more rigid.  


The other interesting project I am doing is gathering fresh herbs, a cinnamon stick, a shake of dry herbs and then some interesting pine cones or stones and making globe lamps.  I have ceramic wine bottle inserts that I will be using rather than just the open wick you see here--don't want to blow up the house.  :-)  But it gives you a sense of the finished product.  I used lamp oil but you can also use olive oil. The unusual shaped container you see here used to contain rum.  No, I don't drink but have friends who can "donate" their empties!  It's the same way I get beautiful blue wine bottles which also make stunning lamps and delightful re-purposed Christmas presents for the Season of Light.

Also, look for an upcoming blog about building a deer blind from pallets and Restore materials--a 6 x 6 blind can be made for under $50.00 and I have the pictures to prove it!  Until next time, happy St. Antler's Day and blessings.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Today, i Am Content

Today, i am content
to let wind become chime
chime to ignite chickadee song,
song to twine, colors on white
into an improv tapestry.

I am at my best,
my best not scaled or evaluated,
evaluations saved for fiber fingers
fingers finding ways
to weave impressions.

How can you tell I'm happy?
Happiness does not compete-
competition teases apart like
raw unspun wool
in greens, in blues, in reds,

nestling together,
wind-driven sleet
and the pure black-white of
a momentary winter bird.

KN


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Only Constant

Blow steam from the cup-rim,
delicate laughter in the way vapor and breath
create a ever-fraying tapestry, 
broadening beyond the track of the eye
until a fine, milkweed seed trailer 
vanishes.

This is family.
This is your favorite cup.
This is your pain
you have steeped for so very long,
all rising together, gossamer.

Even if you cling to the contents,
cooling, crusting, molding, dropping, falling, breaking,
swept into plastic containers 
strewn over landfills
where some visitor,
long in the future
may bend, 
trying to put pieces back together--
laughter still echoes,
light riding water,
teasing apart.
in joyous movement.



Adyashanti's True Meditation

Enlightenment is, in the end, nothing more than the natural state of being.  If you strip it of all the complex terminology and all the complex jargon, enlightenment is simply returning to our natural state of being.

Adyashanti
"True Meditation: Discover the Freedom of Pure Awareness"

As a teacher of both comparative religion and meditation, I have come to deeply appreciate the work, humor and presence of Adyashanti. Over the course of my life, I've sat in Zen, Pure Land and Tibetan meditation halls, danced with Sufis, chanted and meditated in retreat centers and ashrams with a Yogic flare, worked with Contemplative Outreach (the home organization for Christian Centering Prayer), and read heavily the work of John Main (the creator of Christian Mantra). From Tonglen to mindfulness meditation, from Zazen to shamanic journeying, I've tried on just about every way to work with the mind I've bumped into.  I've taught and been a student of Yoga, Qigong, Mindful Walking, labyrinth work, and 5-Rhythms dance, entering consciousness via the wisdom of the body. I even "chant" with the beat of my feet when I walk the track at our local hockey rink. But when the technique falls away, when my attitude is simply "be here" no matter what, a spaciousness opens within me.

At this point in my life, I find I agree with Adyashanti--the state most traditions and meditation forms is seeking is right here, right now and it does not require fancy techniques, hours of teacher contact or even that fancy sitting cushion I love so much. It simply asks us to sit down and be.  His premise that anything added to our natural state is artificial is bang on.  Not in a Zen Way or a Christian Way or a Hindi Way--in a human way.

What I most enjoy about his writings is what is not there--rules, protocols, disciplines in the strict sense, dogma--all the veils we human beings so love to hang between ourselves and the Mystery. The naked sitting down and doing, well, nothing, is actually one of the most loving experiences I have had in meditation. Technique requires control, manipulation and the attentive spotlight of the egoic brain.  True Meditation, Adyashanti's "style of no style", is a gentle letting go into grace, into your actual surroundings, into your actual messy, crazy, joyful, bored, crafty, creative racetrack of thoughts until everything simply is what it is--a thought, this room lighted with the first rays of an autumn sun, a rush of quick anger, the snores of this standard poodle, a pop-up memory. 

What I love best?  This technique-that-is-not-a- technique begins to work just as well off the sitting cushion as on it, gently encouraging me to simply meet Reality as it is.  In Buddhism, one of the great quotes goes something like this:  "If you are suffering, you are not accepting reality as it is."

Amen.



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Two New Radio Programs/Podcasts to Enjoy!

http://www.artistfirst2.com/ArtistFirst_Kim_Beyer_2017-10-17.mp3

This is the link to the newest segment of Deep Communion, my radio show.  Deep Communion explores the many faces of spirituality, sometimes occuring in rather unlikely places.  This show looks at both the spirituality of golf, and the Easing Into Series I am releasing in book, Kindle and audio formats and soon, as online classes through Udemy. Check back in on November 15 to hear an interview with my audiobook producer, Collene Curran.

http://www.artistfirst2.com/ArtistFirst_Family_Wild_2017-10-11.mp3

This link will take you to the first Family Wild radio show.  Family Wild is a company Mike and I started to help families reconnect with each other through fishing, hunting and creating outdoor art.  It's a fun overview of the scope, mission and vision of the program.

ENJOY!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Why Blog?

I love writing.  That would be the very first reason I sit down and type pretty much every other day, unless I am recovering from an illness or surgery, traveling with a sport's team or other such "daily routine" disrupters.  At those times, I journal (I also do three pages of creative journaling a day above and beyond the blog. I'll write about that experience later!)

The blog allows me to touch lives in a way a journal does not. I just celebrated my 20,000th hit this week, and my voice has been heard from Japan to Russia, from Ireland to Peru, from India to New Zealand and Africa. It's a delight to share poetry, quotes of wisdom from sources all over the world, and art ideas to recycle and reuse materials in our environment.  In fact, that's a great analogy for how I write--I sometimes take absolutely crappy, garbage experiences and try to make them breathe with new life, with hope, and with a taste of what is possible.

You see, I do sometimes write about personal experiences, but blog entries are always created and then allowed a chance to sit and be chewed and reflected upon before I choose to publish them.  Yeah, I sometimes still miss the occasional spelling or grammatical error. I'm not a machine.  I try to show an honest side of my life, through my poetry, sermons and essays.  I sometimes teach about comparative religion, offer ways to work with adult spiritual formation, very occasionally, I share the trials and tribulations of divorce/remarriage with the other 876,00 couples who have divorced in just the US each year (times it by two for the people involved in any marriage or divorce, add to that number all the minor and adult kids involved, then throw in additional head-spinning numbers for the well-meaning family members or friends outside the actual blast-radius of the original family that get involved "for the good of the children" or "to protect my grandchild" or "to punish my son or daughter for their choice" or....well, you get the picture.)  It's a LOT of folks who are trying to work through relationships that have become complex, emotion-filled and sometimes incredibly cruel, often to the "newcomer" in the family system who finds him or herself in a strange land: the realm of "transference" in Jungian terms. In common parlance, they become scapegoat and target because of the inability of a family system to be honest with their complete range of feelings towards sons or daughters, ex sons and daughters, and so on.

Yes, blogging in the midst of family conflict can be tricky.  Folks read themselves into articles designed for a much broader audience (although I am always deeply amused when people who I am in conflict with read my blog and get all huffy.  I mean, really?  Aren't they bored with all the drama already and can't they get their ass in gear and move on? I have a solution-STOP BEING A LOSER AND READING MY BLOG LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO BE ALL DRAMATIC ABOUT! Pretty grown up and simple solution, actually. OK, that is my total allowance of snark for the entire year used up in one article.  Won't happen again.)

I write, I suppose, because "I" can't walk away from "me" as I touch on difficult or breathtaking subjects.  I  have to work through feelings and thoughts word by word, and by putting them on the page.  I enjoy the way thoughts lose their "energy" and become art to be crafted, smoothed and molded.  I get distance and I also get to tap places of compassion and wisdom in my heart for myself and the sometimes-other that otherwise would have simply run a squeaking gerbil-wheel in my mind for days.

It's so easy to feel isolated in a small Northern town.  But I have traveled the world, I have lived all over the US and I know, in a very deep way how artificial the environment I choose to live in is compared with the world. The blog makes me feel like I can reach out and touch that wider place that transcends a tiny Michigan town. I suspect that in places where conflict is in the streets, where family systems are uprooted by war, famine or the ever present cell phone and video game, or even the specter of cancer and heart disease, they read my poetry and perhaps see that I am not so very different from anyone--I experience pain, I have times of great joy and awe, I laugh, I cry, and of course, struggle with what it means to be alive.  And there are times when I do hit notes of deep wisdom and some times that I can feel a small child crying within, wanting only to be loved and respected in the manner I try (on my best days) to share out to everyone.

Next issue, I get back on target with the Easing Into Series and my debut work on Udemy, an international teaching platform and my newest radio show.  In the meantime, tell a stepparent you love them, reach out to a friend alienated from a new family after a divorce, ask a single parent how you can help, replace criticism and "thinking you know" all the sides of a story with an open heart and mind and choose to be the force of peace and love in the world.  For the world. For God. And for yourself.



Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Beautiful Poem to Share

One dear friend of mine is posting amazing poetry and beautiful pictures each day.  Here is one that really touched me this afternoon.  It touches on that "tender spot" between two folks in conflict.

Keep me from
judging you
when I feel 
that you have
shut me off
and dismissed me.
Keep me from
making you ugly
when I feel
unappreciated and
misunderstood.
Keep me from
closing my heart
against you, and against myself,
because I wanted to connect
with you
and didn't.
Keep me from
wanting to punish you
because we weren't connecting
at a certain moment
in time.
Keep me from
repeating this pattern
and making myself;
and you, wrong, again and again.
It was just a moment.
It is not this moment.
By Margaret Jain

Recovering from a Divorce--Facing the Stuck Needles

As a man or woman of divorce, how can you tell when you are stuck and toxic to others, including your children, friends and family?  See how many of these scenarios "sound like you".  It may mean you need some additional help to get through this sometimes traumatic time.

I run through this list about once a week in my head, checking in with myself to see if I could use some additional support.  I do so because the cost of ignoring these "needles of truth" embedded in my own heart is not so much to me but rather, the cost is borne by friends, family and my new spouse, children and step-children.  That is far too much for me to ask them to pay.  And let's face it--the victim utimately becomes rather boring!  That's one thing I'd prefer not to be!

Circle the statements that you can see working in your life right now:

1. I fear allowing my children, friends or family to have any relationship with my ex-spouse, his or her new wife or husband, or new step-family members.  Such connections make me feel personably vulnerable, victimized or alone and I have actually observed myself trying to actively discourage and undermine such wider relationships between people.

2. I speak "for" my children, putting spin on normal and everyday relational hiccups when communicating with my ex.  In worse case scenarios, I triangulate--in other words, I step in and convey thoughts and feelings from person "A" to person "C", instead of encouraging "A" to speak directly and honestly with "B".  Rather than trusting two individuals or a parent-child to come to terms with their issues, I "protect" or "control" the situation immediately, disempowering both the person I love and the person I feel victimized or hurt by. This makes me feel powerful and "in the right".

3. I try to find or create situations where I can speak poorly of my ex and his/her new relationship because it allows me to maintain my victimhood and DAMN it feels so good, a delicious righteous anger. I like the victim role because it brings me attention, pity and a kind of "false intimacy" with my own children, family members and friends.

4. I realize I have put a great deal of my personal creative energy into revenge/hatred/control avenues, to the point where others begin to notice it and shy away from me out a sense of boredom and/or discomfort and self-protection.

5. I remain attached to a ring, photographs or momentos, my ex's last name, and other accutrements of a relationship that is no longer nurishing and loving for me. I refuse to acknowledge that such behavior keeps me stuck in a role that is no longer honest or truthful. When people lovingly point this out to me, I cling even tighter.

6. I am afraid to change patterns of behavior that were normal when I was married.  For example, I may maintain an enmeshed relationship with the parents of my ex, even if I did not like them in the first place.  Such changing of family dynamics both frightens and saddens me.

7. I seldom acknowledge kindess from my ex or my ex's new spouse because that would force me to begin to engage with him or her as fellow adults and human beings.  I even dismiss the good this would bring for all the adult and minor children involved because it would mean I was not right to "hate" and "blame" the other, and I would lose face as a victim.  I become afraid of who "I" will be when I drop that comfortable role.

8. Even in my most private momements, I refuse to take any responsibility for the breakup of my family and marriage, prefering to heap the blame on the other and failing to see any relationship has at least two people who must share both love and "blame".  I have trouble acknowledging my role and the role of my ex as the dynamic system it was and is.

9. I miss the opportunity to acknowledge both the love and the deep lost sadness of my experience, and then transform that energy into new opportunties, creative outlets and wisdom.  I miss the beauty of totally breaking down, holding my portion of blame, and then arising a new and wiser person.

10. I am tempted to say, "he or she destroyed my marriage", refusing to see that adult choices were made by everyone involved.  I don't quite believe that "no one person" is ever free of fault in a married relationship.  This basic belief allows me to stay pinioned by a needle of revenge, self-pity and blame.

No doubt about it--these points are uncomfortable to face.  I  have needed a sympathetic but "uninvested" other at times to uncover and accept these points one by one. But the amazing thing is, once explored with honesty, they become the very needles that deliver much needed medicine.  Instead of blaming, there is a soft sadness left in the space.  Instead of always looking for the fight, the chance to hurt the other, the need for monitoring and control and revenge, life flows back in juicy and creative and kind.  Instead of seeing the ex as all powerful in the relationship, self-esteem and self-worth return because these are never the gifts bestowed to a victim.  And new relationships will begin to flourish because its not the same old angry, hurt, aggessive subject matter dominating conversations and interactions, but rather, the creative, excited, loving and nurturing part of life that is the birthright of us all.

I hope you will find these "needles" equally helpful to wiggle around, examine, and finally, in your own way and time, slide out of your heart with grace and relief.

Shanti, Shanti, Shanti---Peace, Peace, Peace
I bow to my teachers--these deliciously complex people, this NOW of life.


Not all Mirrors Tell the Truth

There are mirrors that do not tell the truth.
Faces schooled in ettiquite and artificial harmony.
"What do you want to hear? What do you want to see?"
That, they will show you--
then something ugly happens when you turn away.

I wish I were more complex
and could move pixels around on the screen of faces
until Reality exposed itself, naked
in all its ravenous and excrutiating brilliance.

But be careful what you wish for
I tell myself.
Sage advice but--
only if I am content with labels like
victim
like
blind woman
like
abuser of the word hope.

The peeks I do get drive me to despair,
then damn the seven years of bad luck,
I want to
SMASH and REND and SHATTER
it all,
a blinking eyeball there, a piece of a lip here.

I refuse to be the mirror in return.

i REFUSE to shatter myself.

Come with me, rage.
Sit here as I pour you tea
and you can finally let the dust
of all that energy
float up on some eastern wind.
Let it become ground.
Let it become creative seed.
May you be happy,
free from suffering
and the causes of suffering.

I mutter it again and again,
beginning
with
myself,
letting it blow away,
positively empty as Truth
relative as reality.

Amen.

KN

Friday, October 6, 2017

Personal Authenticity and the To-Do List: An Exercise in Self Discovery

When you retire or your life changes dramatically, sometimes you are left wondering "who am I?" Here is an exercise that can help define activity in the world that more clearly reflects the "authentic" you.

First, create a to-do list.  This can be a mix of things you wish you were doing, as well as things you think you should be doing. Don't fuss about how much is costs, what training it requires, or what people will think of you if you "do it". Just get the ideas down--shoot for at least ten items. Number each line.

Then, on a blank sheet of paper, write in the very middle that one great aspiration you have.  Here are some examples:

  • To Show Compassion to All
  • To Nurture others
  • To See Reality
  • To Love Well
  • To Create Beauty
  • To Stand for Truth
  • To be an Icon of Patience
Think long and carefully about what your central driving aspiration is.  Once you have placed it on the paper, draw a circle around it.  Then, pick what your secondary aspiration is, write it on the paper above and outside the first circle.  Draw a larger circle around both the central circle and your new word, beginning to create a mandala.  Proceed at least five "circles" out. When you are done, you should have five concentric circles, each with a single aspiration within it.

Now, go through your list and plug the number of your "to-do" list into the mandala.  For example, if I wrote down that my great and central aspiration was to create beauty, and #5 on my to-do list was learn to do Medieval Card Weaving, I'd write #5 inside that aspiration circle.  One by one, drop in the "to-do" list into your aspiration mandala.

When you are done, take up your journal and write about your mandala.  Does your "to-do" list truly reflect your central aspirations?  How might you adjust your life and choices to better reflect how you spend your time and energy in the face of the deep motivations you have for your life?

I personally was very surprised at how little of my "to-do" list reflected who I have become after 27 hospitalizations, a divorce and remarriage, a cross-country move, and a change in what I am able to physical do (or rather, what I can no longer do). I have no illusions that it will take a while to "live into" this new reality of self, but bringing my actions and aspirations together on one page has certainly made me conscious of the deeper parts of myself.

I hope you give it a try!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Choose to Love

My step-daughter recently garnered a number of important awards in High School golf, and our local TV and newspaper has made a big and wonderful deal out of her milestones.  I'm also the assistant coach on the team, making sure we keep the food and water stocked, utilizing my yoga therapy certification to help with everything from a slightly tilted pelvis to acute back spasms on the course. And when "women's issues" arise, I'm glad to take point.  I was so sad when her mom (my husband's ex) immediately texted my husband, furious that a picture of Mike, my step-daughter, and I had aired on the local television station.  "I don't want my child associated with THAT woman."

Sitting here this morning, sunlight streaming across the open field outside my dining room window, I feel such deep compassion for her. To take the joy and excitement of her daughter's accomplishment and make it about petty jealousy is just a kind of violence to self I often see in folks who have gone through a divorce.  And it is always a violence that rebounds, injuring the minor child so much more than the adult. So what do I do with such energy?

The only thing I really can do: I breathe and practice compassion. And I write.

I know there will come a day when my own children will meet a new stepmom for the first time. I pray I have the wisdom and kindness to support the new relationship they will enter into, knowing deeply that my children will be loved into a larger circle of friends, family and life. In this crazy world, that is one commodity I hope overflows into my children and their children.

Abba, 
I imagine
the empty house echoes,
when she is away,
speaking to me of the time
when she will not burst through the door,
sparkling with teenage glitter and grins,
or trudge up the path,
shoulders rounded with some small grief.

The questions will come--
Who am I now?
Who loves me now?
Who will see when I laugh or cry?

I know this energy myself--
that's why I can see it in her mother.

I am more than my children,
but they are knit into my bones-
yes, even the ones
I am not related to
for better or worse
leave wonderful and muddy footprints on the fabric of my life.

So when the little and the nasty and the rude shudder their way
into my view in print or glance,
to not weep for their mothers and fathers,
to not feel the looming empty nest
just before adults themselves learn to fly again
would slash a larger wound.

I choose love.
And to keep loving
breath by slow breath.

KN






Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Americans are Becoming Machines

With increasing regularity the past few years, I've noticed a kind of machine-level rude behavior, particularly in medical offices.  Sometimes it's a little irritant like--"Can you hold? Thank you." without being given a chance to answer "Yes" to the question.

One awful experience occurred when I went for a vision check.  The woman who did my initial check-in sped ahead of me down the hall, totally oblivious that I was struggling to keep up. (This also happened to me at a local hospital just before a lung function test.  I had recently gone through a total knee replacement and speed was not my forte!!!)  I called up to the vision clinic woman and asked her to go slow. "I've just had my knee totally replaced so I am at full speed right now."

The woman sat down in the office we finally arrived at and what was the first question she asked? "Have you had any recent surgeries?"

I stared at her. 

Then firmly said, "what did I just say to you in the hall?"

These kinds of incidents are increasing in our society--from the check-out person who never smiles or responds to you to hospital personnel who don't listen to their patients. The ability to interact with another human being is becoming an increasingly lost skill.

And we all suffer.

So do we call folks on it when it happens?  Suffer in silence? Write a polite letter to the office or store where the behavior happened?  Shrug and let it go time after time after time?

What would you do?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dogen: "Time goes from Present to Past"

I'm revisiting an "old friend" this week--the Zen Master Dogen of 12th century Japan.

I was arrested by the phrase, "Time goes from present to past." The first time I heard those words--see it already is true--I was about 28 years old and attending Aquinas College.  They were "interesting" in an intellectual sort of way.

But sitting here today, I see time constantly moving from the present to the past--the flowers outside my window are almost instantly compared to the time when the hummingbird was sipping their pink hearts and the rest of fall wasn't showing up on the tips of the leaves.  The single Blue Jay reminded me of the riotous family of the same breed swamping my feeders just weeks ago. Every glance, there is the movement--present to past.  It happens so fast with me.

That's one of the reasons why I am not a big proponent of "linear time"--consciousness doesn't work that way.  At fifty-two, I'm not struggling with such things, though. The panes of past-present-future all flicker like a movie and I allow them to do so.

It's what the rock knows.
It's what the tree proclaims.





Friday, September 1, 2017

Delight in the Small: Tiny Treasures of a Forest Walk



Walks in the forest with a camera can be a delightful way to tune into the "small".  I am recovering from a full knee replacement (thank you Dr. Hollander of Traverse City Orthopedics!), so as my husband nips and cuts out a new forest path, I follow behind, clearing off loose branches and then sitting in a portable camp chair. It's in the stillness that the woods really begins to speak, and I notice the textures, the tiny beads of interest strewn all around. I am in no way a photographer, but I delight in trying just about anything new. In the looking, I become clear and present, going from merely looking to finally seeing.








Monday, August 28, 2017

Forest Faces: Photography


One of my favorite photography "hunts" is to look for "faces" in natural objects.  Facial recognition is one of our earliest cognitive skills--and it's fun to "revert" to childhood and see what I can find. Here are three faces I found in the cedar in our forest yesterday.





Friday, August 25, 2017

Illusion: A Poem from Easing into the Mahabharata

Illusion American-Style

More than a hundred years ago,
they raised the statue.
Hope carves like that—
stiffening onto stone,
solidifying
motion, breath,
being,
becoming.

Today, others want to tear such things down,
laying Paper Mache and blogs and airwaves
over
bird shit and weathered bronze,
sweating and cursing in the humid air
to make the outside
match
some insides.

Move the outer world around as much as you wish—
yell you are “for it” or “against it”.


All Time’s child play with objects in a sandbox.

Honor: A Poem from Easing into the Mahabharata




He greets me at the door,
a black and white brown-eyed wagging,
toenails tapdancing on linoleum
so I know that “welcome home”
celebrates in wiggles and long pink tongues.

He lays his head on my lap,
slobber and all, soaking in,
and still I laugh,
untangling unruly clumps around his ears.

There is honor in my dog—
he knows who he is
and
he sees who I am
no matter what role I am currently playing-
mother, wife, farmer, writer, child
and from that knowing
we both love deeply and well.

KN

Monday, August 21, 2017

Choice and Life: A Poem from Easing into the Mahabharata



Choice by choice
I have dropped enamel
on the tiles of my soul.
The world splashes on the rubbing alcohol
and oh!
delightful unexpected
brilliant oranges to muddy browns,
everything mixing into something
messy and alive.
Patterns I cannot always control
but I have always
brushed in with deliberation
at the edges.
That, my dear sons,

is life.

KN

Sunday, August 20, 2017

You ARE Joy: A Poem from Easing into the Mahabharata




Sunlight on a thousand shades
of yellow petals.
Scarlet maple leaf tapestry
on the shade-dabbed path.
Scent of an ancient birch,
its bark shedding the ground
like parchment inked with
aromatic secrets.
A perfect brown hen’s egg
and a side of fresh cherry tomatoes.
Yarn and paint and tree branches
weaving into art.
His eyes, crinkled with fifty- two years
of smiling
sets down his coffee and opens his arms wide.
Don’t you know?
You ARE joy.

KN