Posts Tagged With: Core Self

The Re-membering Process

The chaotic times we’re living through right now are calling upon our values and beliefs to surface — when otherwise they’re mostly unconscious, but structure how we live. They’re rising to the forefront for us to consider who we are in relation to the larger world…and our Core Self. At the most significant level, it will call into question how aligned or misaligned we are, in our daily life, to those things of deepest importance to us. It’s a time ripe for clear choices and mindful transition to a greater lifepath.

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Ceiba: Tree of Life. ©2018 Carla Woody.

I’m sharing an article of mine — The Questions We Live By — originally published in 2001 in a professional journal called Anchor Point for Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP)* practitioners. It is still relevant today. Over the years, my clients have found what I describe here to be quite helpful. They are able to pinpoint where they are in what I consider a spiritual growth process and provides a map of sorts to guide them as a foundation, along with any other inner work they undertake.

As synchronicity would have it, this morning a short article by Carol Dweck, A Summary on Growth and Fixed Mindsets, popped up in my newsfeed. I suggest you read it as an overview in conjunction with more detailed guidance below in what I call The Re-membering Process.

The Questions We Live By

The edge of our reality depends on what we hold inside our minds as true and possible. We tend to recycle our lives — past, present, future all becoming one in the same  — continually validating the filters through which we live.  We continue to attract to us what we self-select through rote unconscious processes until we don’t. When we don’t, it’s because something has awakened us to a wider life. With that wake-up call, different metaquestions are projected into the psyche from a place of higher wisdom. We begin to run those unconscious questions in our minds instead to attract to us the answers that will fulfill them. In alignment with the new metaquestions, a particular stream of metaprograms enact themselves to provide the thought and behavior orientations that serve us to step into the forest beyond the familiar compound where we used to live. As well, if we take on certain creativity strategies we better support ourselves on the journey.

In my book Calling Our Spirits Home: Gateways to Full Consciousness, I documented the path of what I call the Re-membering Process. I overlaid a variety of world traditions, transformational modalities and tied the process to examples of everyday people undertaking the leap. The model I present in this article is drawn from my book, as well as additional observation and research.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell named three phases to an unfolding:  Departure, Initiation and Return.  From an intimate viewpoint of my own journey and my work with others, I’ve seen that there are two other main developmental points to the path.  While there is no prescription or prescribed schedule, I’m aware of these stages:  Sparking, Separation, Search, Initiation and Re-Entry.  Many of us are on this path, in different phases and timetables. We are being propelled forward by the energetic momentum present with us in the world today demanding transformation now. If we’re not involved and committed to the Re-membering Process, then we’re still anesthetized, betraying ourselves and deceiving others.

THE SPARKING

Sparking is what awakens us from sleep and an unconscious life. It usually happens over a period of time, but can happen within an instant.  It often occurs at mid-life, but if we’re lucky or more conscious it happens much earlier.  Even the Indian prince Siddhartha Gautama, who later became the Buddha or Enlightened One, was once asleep behind the castle walls.  It was only when he finally stepped outside the compound in which he lived that he began to see the wider world.  So, we all live within a container of some sort and are in a stupor to some extent.  We can’t escape it.  It’s part of the human condition. The questions are:  how deep is the sleep? How big does the spark to awaken us have to be?  What will jostle us out of the daily shuffle?  What will cause our heads, bent over so intently eying our shoes, to rise up?

There are some of us who unconsciously decide, without really knowing why, to look up one day and really see the sky or a tree and the Sparking takes place.  For others of us, it may be a seminar we attend or a book someone gives us at just the right moment.  Only a month before, we wouldn’t have heard the message or heard it in a lesser way.  Then there are some who must be dynamited awake.  These are the souls who have to experience a major crisis in their lives.  For them, it’s a significant illness, loss of a loved one or way of life that finally gets their attention.  The important point is that no matter how we receive our Sparking it happens as it needs to for each of us.  It’s at that point we begin to be more aware of how we have been living our lives.  In our semi-wakeful state, we slip ourselves these questions:

Where am I?

What am I feeling?

What am I lacking?

These are the unconscious mantras that run within our minds at this stage. A state of confusion exists that seeks to reach out into the fog and grasp onto explanations. The task of the Sparking is to wake up. We have an orientation to the present. Soon we may even become hyper-aware of the state of our lives.  At this point, we transition to the next phase in the journey.

SEPARATION

 The task of Separation is un-learning. Once we begin to wake up, if we are truly going to continue on the journey, then leave-taking has to take place. It’s a prerequisite of the course.  We cannot travel a path toward authenticity maintaining a false life.  The Separation phase is a major sub-transition in the evolution of Re-membering.  Those who successfully carry it through find within them the great internal resource of courage to hold firm against the forces — internal and external — that struggle to re-establish homeostasis.  It may be particularly dicey for individuals who are externally motivated and used to dependence on others for validation of their identity.  What is required of Separation is a shift to internal motivation.

It’s at this point that we begin to look at our lives and notice what really fits for us and what doesn’t.  Having been metaphorically asleep for so long, it was very easy for things to  sneak in under the cover of night to nestle comfortably around and within us without our real knowledge — becoming a sort of prison containing our very self-expression.  Through the conditioning process we all received messages, verbally and non-verbally, regarding what was “good” and “right” from our particular families of origin, schools and other societal institutions.  Needless to say, “good” and “right” varied greatly depending upon our environments.  In order to make sense of it all, the mind set up “look-outs” to filter out anything that didn’t conform to the inherited paradigm.  But during Separation the “look-outs” are somehow duped into guarding a decoy instead and an opening is provided.

During the Separation phase, we wonder where we went in all the previous years and what stranger is there instead.  Operating in an away from metaprogram, the Critic becomes resident and runs these metaquestions about the past with a slight consideration of the future to move out of pain.

Who am I not?

How did I abdicate?

How do I serve myself?

In fine detail, we examine our jobs, relationships, homes — virtually everything in our lives that matter to us.  As we see how we haven’t been true to our own natures, discomfort and disorientation increase until a shift occurs.  That movement may generate drastic change such as dissolving relationships, transferring career fields, or leaving a geographic location.  There doesn’t have to be a complete break with the pre-existing elements.  However, discovery in this phase will allow the loosening of old beliefs, which will in turn begin to alter attitudes, feelings and behaviors to leverage possibilities to a new way of life.  We are then brought to the next fork in the path.  

THE SEARCH

The quest of the Search is to widen choices.  During the Search we are looking at other perspectives and beliefs and trying them out.  The Dreamer has been invited along as a guide introducing metaprograms to explore options and move toward them.

Who am I?

What are the possibilities?

We will find ourselves investigating areas that are new and different immersed in the present.   The promise of a fuller life may seem endless.  So, we undertake things such as going back to school, inquiring into other careers, moving geographically, experimenting with new relationships, trying out diverse spiritual traditions or religions; many things to bring in additional data.

The Search can be as exhilarating as it can be scary.  We may feel as though we’ve jumped out into space with no safety net to catch us.  This is the time to call on the great faith held by the Innocent, the archetype who knows she will carry herself through to the other side through guidance along the way.  Otherwise, in fear we would find ourselves clawing at the emptiness in attempts to head back to the compound.  The dirty little secret no one told us before we took the leap is that there is really no turning back.  Even if we would choose to turn our backs on the future, we’re still different than who we were before.  The future is guaranteed.  It’s just how easy or difficult do we want to make it. So, we might as well press forward and happily complete the road rally.  In the meantime, our minds may expand and contract.  But if we pay attention, we will be directed by our intent to those things that fit for who we are at the core.  We will know when we have arrived to the herald of our true home not by the logic of the mind, but by the response of the heart.

INITIATION

When the heart is warm, it will feed the mind and further direct intent. After having been on the Search, the traveler comes to rest in the comfort of self-knowledge.  The undertaking of Initiation is assimilation.  The Realist is introduced and experiences the present, to move toward the future with options with procedures and queries:

What are my gifts?

Where am I going?

What do I need?

 While many formal ceremonies exist the world over, the real Initiation starts and ends inside — where the self is finally proclaimed as whole and the wearing of masks no longer necessary.  In this stage we know and appreciate the old life for what it was.  We have made the decision to take the learning and discard the rest.  We also intuitively know that there is a new life on the horizon, a deeper one that stands apart from the one that passed before.  Having been on the trail for so long, we now stand apart from those who have not yet awakened.  We also know we have something to teach — even if only by example.  This is the cusp of a real beginning and the fog has nearly lifted.  We can nearly see.  We are readying ourselves for the journey back into the world.   After a pause and full integration of who we now are and what gifts we have to share, we will re-enter those places from whence we came originally.

RE-ENTRY

The mission of Re-entry is immersion. Having tilled the ground with early questions of authenticity in relationship, spirituality, healing, lifework and ecology and found some deeper realities, we come back to a world often not even yet aware of any need for evolution.  But by holding the questions and the empty space where answers could exist, we will find ways to Reenter and fill that void.  The Dreamer, Realist and Critic collaborate, still internally motivated but include some external  reference; and consider the future for options and procedures.

 How do I return?

What gifts do I share?

What is the structure?

How do I implement?

This is the final tasking of Re-membering, which furthers our own evolution as much or more than it may impact the environments in which we exist.  If we don’t come back, then we haven’t completed the journey and we would remain floating somewhere without any real grounding.  This is the phase of our own transformation that can be equally as major a sub-transition as Separation was.  It’s not easy to enter places where what we have to give isn’t always all that welcome.  It can be frustrating and many of us will just want to give up and close ourselves off.  But we can drop hints where we may. We can watch with our inner eyes for those who are ready for the Sparking, even if they don’t consciously realize it.  These are the people we can touch, even as we go deeper into our own transformation.  These are the ones who will receive the gifts, even if we have to carefully parcel them out over time.

Patience and intent are indeed the by-words of Re-Entry that allow us to ask our own answers.  Belief in ourselves and the possibilities of human potential cleave the way for what is to come.  Questers first had to adhere to the strong possibility that the path was so.  Then over time, the attractor of that energy created the magnet for events to align themselves to make the reality.

THE PRIVILEGE OF OUR TIMES

Cultural Creatives, a name given to change agents by Paul Ray, may be paving a new world pathway.  But evolution is an ancient road.  As far as the common thread of the human condition, we are very similar to people living in times past.  Yet we are fortunate to be born in this age when so many are waking up.

Even as we travel through the cycle of Re-membering, the circle never ends.  We will re-enter the world and integrate our gifts.  Over time, we will then again become anesthetized  while we rest on our laurels.  But sooner or later, we will once again arouse ourselves to invite in an even vaster existence.  The larger the entity the slower is evolution.  But Gaia is awakening and will soon be in the Separation phase.  Being residents within Her domicile, we are privileged to further Her Re-membrance as we do our own.  Any of us cannot help but act on each other because there is no division.  There are only macro and micro interconnecting systems of existence. One touch here will be a  wind on another planet in another galaxy.

♦︎ ♦︎ ♦︎

*Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is known as the study of human excellence. NLP has precision processes that allow you to quickly cut to the core of your own template. You are able to gain a profound understanding of how you operate. Through NLP, you are able to uncover the unconscious beliefs that serve you well and lead toward your successes in life. You are also able to discover specifically what blocks your progress. While NLP builds an even stronger foundation for your strengths, it also enables you to break through the barriers that have held you back by transforming limiting beliefs  — creating movement beyond the dictates of old programming to a enjoy a wider life.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Healing, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Music Review – On the Wings of a Butterfly

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Kathy Marshall has released her third CD in just the time we so need her thoughtful, heartfelt lyrics. On the Wings of a Butterfly took five years to come into being. Worth waiting for, her words and music are reflected against the backdrop of a world that has gone off the rails. Kathy poignantly acknowledges her own challenges in these times, but gently pulls us back toward realignment. And she reminds us…together we matter in building a world that embraces love. We gather strength for this journey. That is the effect this new album has on me.

Some works of art unconsciously, naturally create themselves as a whole within the artist first. Then emerge in purity and perfection to touch others in such a way that we—the listener—become the one singing the song, having the experience.

From It Takes Love: Carry me across the water…Fly me through the air…it takes love to flow that way…Help me light the fire…Walk with me on the earth…

From Help Us Now: We were meant for these times…We were born to be here…The world is changing and fighting for her life…Today I said a prayer…That Love and Light is there…Shining brightly like the midday sun…

All lyrics and music written by Kathy Marshall. CD available to purchase or download via her website and CD Baby where you may also listen to individual songs.

For my review on Kathy Marshall’s second CD, Standing on Sacred Ground, go here.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Healing, Honoring the Earth, Music Review, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Churning, the Empowerment

Sometime in the fall an idea began to form that I would participate in the retreat taking place at Garchen Buddhist Institute over the turning of the new year. It was called their Winter Event—with Garchen Rinpoche and Lamas—for the Long Life Ceremony, Mahakala Empowerment and Bodhisattva Practices. I was actually surprised when the thought arose. I hadn’t been drawn before and knew absolutely nothing of Tibetan Buddhism. But somehow it seemed clear to me I was supposed to be there, so signed on for three days of the seven.

As the raven flies, Garchen Institute is about ten minutes away from my home. But because of the dirt roads between my place and theirs, it takes me about four times that to get there. As my first attendance day approached, I decided I’d better do a dry run to see if I could find it. I’d been out there about seventeen years ago, a few years after it was established, curious to see what was there. It’s fortunate I went with a friend then who had a vague idea where it was because it felt like we were lost for sure. But finally, all those years ago, there was a tiny sign indicating where to turn.

This time, on my dry run, I was alone and took my GPS which turned out to be no help, trying to take me down a cow path and then in the opposite direction, which I knew wasn’t right. It occurred to me that such places need to be hidden in a certain sense. When I did find my way, prayer flags were flying and it was clearly marked. But no signage along the way.

Garchen 2

I arrived that first day knowing nothing, which for me has usually worked out best. Little to entangle my mind, and the staff was kind in advising me of basic protocol—no shoes in the temple—and showed me to my place on the floor for the next few days.  I also did not know…

His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche is one of the foremost Buddhist masters and accomplished Tibetan Lamas alive in this world today.” Instead, I began to know so by his overwhelmingly compassionate presence when he first entered the room, something maintained throughout my experience there.

I had a rough time the first day. For years I’ve been able to sit cross-legged, straight-backed without support for hours without discomfort. One time in the middle of another retreat a long time ago, it just suddenly happened, like I was planted, and had continued ever since until this time. Every muscle in my body ached, and my right leg was restless. My mind wandered from the Lama’s teachings, and I kept fidgeting. I wasn’t able to follow what was presented. Frankly, I couldn’t wait for the day to be over.  But overnight something happened. I can only believe I’d been experiencing unconscious resistance in the face of something profound. In order to shift, there’s always conflict between what was and what is coming into being.

Over the next two days, the gentle smiling presence of Garchen Rinpoche, the chants and ceremony took me, culminating with the Mahakala Empowerment. Again, I had no idea what was coming. For me, the teachings were complex. Better to overwhelm my mind with. One of the nuns passed out a card to everyone with an image of a very scary looking deity. It was from the two-armed Mahakala, through Garchen Rinpoche, we were to receive blessings and the empowerment. I only understood this Mahakala to be one of the protector bodhisattvas.

People began to get up from their places and line up. They all had white silk scarves draped over their outstretched arms, seeming to appear out of nowhere. I touched the woman in front of me and told her I was unsure what to do as I didn’t have the length of silk. She smiled widely at me and said, “Yes, you do! I’ll pass mine on to you.” People were so kind. Then suddenly I was standing in front of Garchen Rinpoche. He took my face in his hands and touched my bowed head. One of the Lamas threw the silk scarf around my neck. I felt something. I was passed from one Lama to the next accepting sacraments from them in the form of a seed to swallow, dribbles of juice and a packet of seeds to keep. Somehow, I made it back to my place, closed my eyes, engulfed in energy. A few times I opened my eyes slightly to gaze at the Mahakala image on the card and close them again, as we’d been told to do. Then something completely unexpected happened…and I sat with it for days before I even attempted to express it to a couple of trusted friends. I’ve found that sharing such things, once I’m able to articulate them somewhat, helps to ground them.

Garchen 1

The retreat went on for a few days but it was the last for me. I emerged from that sacred space to hear that Trump ordered the murder of Iranian General Suleimani, that we were on the precipice of war. And it broke me apart. My great sadness and horror that yet another thoughtless act could be perpetuated by this president. The contrast was just too great.

Today I listened to Justine Toms of New Dimensions Radio interview mythologist-storyteller Michael Meade discussing Recreating the World. It was timely and reminded me of what I already know. Meade says we’re in a place the Irish call the Betwixt and Between. I call that place the Edge of Limitation. The end has already happened. We’re in the middle of it. He calls this state the Great Churning, when things come up from the bottom, those things we’ve sensed all along but now clearly laid out in front of us. We’re faced with the cynicism of politics where so many of our elected officials don’t stand for the wellbeing of Mother Earth and all beings. But acting for the 1% and their own self-interest, bought by large conglomerates and the extremely wealthy with an agenda. We’ve lost our Innocence. We experience loss and tragedy.

At the same time, Innovation is also revealed in a multitude of ways, speaking to the possibility of unity, the potential of coming together. We must enter the Imaginal Realm, identified so by Henry Corbin, where we must dive deeply and attune to our true inner nature. Now is a phase heading toward Initiation, unveiling all that’s light and dark.

In the last minutes before I arose from the cushion where I sat eyes closed in meditation— removed from the world in the temple at Garchen—I had a vision. One so real and powerful that…even now as I write this…I feel chills.  There was a great pile of rubble and earth. It began to shake, to come apart. A terrible, strange being climbed out of the gaping hole…and came to stand squarely…in front of me. It was the two-armed Mahakala, protector, remover of suffering for sentient beings. He then vanished and, in his place, was a control panel of the kind in the cockpit of an airplane.

Mahakala

Initially, I was overwhelmed by this vision and remained that way for some days. Now I know it was a clear message and the empowerment…and not only for me.

Now is the time for all of us to make the choice…to journey on…to be leaders in this transition.

I’m reminded of walking the Camino Francés. By the eighth day of my pilgrimage, I was in a great deal of pain, my right foot having sustained a mystery injury. I shuffled along slowly, pulling myself by my walking stick. I was alone. I was in the middle of nowhere…somewhere in northern Spain…

The trail was pretty much empty. I just toddled on. Another older gentleman, this one French, checked on me in passing, “Ca va?” In the middle of nowhere there’s nothing to do but go on. He must have taken a break somewhere because later he whispered as he passed again, “Courage!”

—Excerpt from The Essential Way

 

 

Categories: Compassionate Action, Contemplative Life, Global Consciousness, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Beyond the Edge of Limitation

We’re up against that marker in time—the new year—when so many of us create a space to consider personal evolution, maybe revolution, the threshold and what we intend beyond.

Previously, I’ve offered the practice of choosing a word to frame your new year, one to deepen your spiritual path, a quality to grow into… But there are points of contemplation to inform any movement or choice of word: readiness and the edge of limitation. These two areas are a perennial source of inquiry for those who want to transcend the status quo.

Note that any change involves a natural conflict, a necessary tension, between what was and what will be. So, part of readiness is identifying your personal edge of limitation because that’s the point at which you risk pulling back and becoming stalled—often totally unconscious until you begin to dip into that territory.

I’ve written about these two areas in a variety of ways before. Here are introductions to use as prompts if you wish.

Lake Najá Photo

The Crossing. Photo: Carla Woody

On readiness:

The point of readiness is exactly that.  It’s a pinpoint in time, a moment of decision when we are poised at the threshold contemplating intent’s power to move us to a farther path from where we’ve been…

…Some people dance back and forth or even all around it. Others try to ignore it. But it’s hard not to notice a strong wind at your back urging you to go somewhere, to fly over the landscape.

Still others go willingly, pausing for a moment and then stepping deftly through the doorway…

…The question here is to consider: How do we know when it’s time to go? To jump? To move through? To evolve?

Read original post.

Resistance

The Resistance. Photo: Carla Woody

On the edge of limitation:

For years I led a meditation group…One time during the open frame a longtime participant asked a question.

What is the edge of limitation?

…It was a question that—over time—framed a journey of my own, an odyssey into self-inquiry and the nature of a spiritual journey. I went on to write an entire chapter on this question in [my book] Standing Stark and, in the process, generated other queries to further define the question. Some of them are below.

Where is the meeting point between complacency and possibility?

Where is the meeting point between pain and healing?

Where is the meeting point between control and surrender?

New considerations will open to places that are unfamiliar. I use a variety of metaphors to describe that state. Perhaps it’s a dark forest where the path isn’t visible. Maybe it’s a membrane you bump up against; to break through the sheathing involves an identity level shift: how you are in the world. Or it’s a threshold, the precipice where a decision is made to retreat or move forward. So, the edge of limitation is the pinpoint in thought, time and space before Separation from the old self of status quo…

Read original post.

Adding in several more directly from Standing Stark:

Where is the meeting point between denial and recognition?

Where is the meeting point between control and surrender?

Where is the meeting point between loneliness and solitude?

Where is the meeting point between withholding and intimacy?

Where is the meeting point between aversion and acceptance?

Where is the meeting point between fear and distinction?

…The outcome of this scrutiny will be the finely honed attunement of the tensions we hold. Perhaps we will allow the overlay to occur that will dissolve any separation. The edges will cease to exist. The energy of the threshold will carry itself. We will know That which lies beyond the doorway to be ours.

Invitation

The Invitation. Photo: Carla Woody.

I wish you warm holidays and a meaningful transition to the new year.

Categories: Contemplative Life, Healing, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The Internal Constant in an External World

A couple of months ago I had two curious dreams in quick succession. First, meaning it was curious for me to even remember a dream. Second, that they came within a few nights of each other. My remembrance of any dream is a significant outcome in itself. Rarely literal, they present as a metaphor—realized after the fact—alerting me to shifting sands. A signal to pay attention, but its explication not quite straightforward.

I faced myself in a mirror and didn’t know who she was.

This one was quick, maybe a fragment of a longer dream. Quite disorienting.

I was in a celibate marriage of sorts but couldn’t see my partner.

This one was so real that, when I awoke, I continued lying in bed for some time searching to see where in my material reality it was true, and came up with nothing.

The last eighteen months for me have been quite intense. Never mind I had become more and more susceptible to the chaotic, tragic happenings in the world—especially in my home country—increasingly dealing with a sense of helplessness, anger and sadness…consistent perforations to my soul. Additionally, the nature of my work and family health was calling for ongoing attentiveness, sometimes venturing into places I hadn’t psychically visited, in the process generating much more than normal (for me) travel.

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Monsoon dawn. Photo: Carla Woody.

Now that I’ve been home for a few weeks, I’ve come to realize I was exhausted, close to burnout. Not an unusual state for people in the encouraged busyness, demands and fragmentation of this Western culture. I had experienced near burnout years ago and successfully backed out of it. I knew the territory.

A significant factor: I’d had little time for myself. I’ve been a daily meditator for more than thirty years. Yet, I found I was unable to do so. It felt shallow if I could even bring myself to sit as normal. There were a few cases where I behaved in ways uncharacteristic to me, felt badly afterward…and decided I was unfit for public consumption. Even remarking so to a few close friends. Clear signals something was off.

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Monsoon dusk. Photo: Carla Woody.

Then came two gifts in quick succession, not unlike the dreams.

Last week I flipped the calendar page and discovered I had an entire ten days with absolutely nothing scheduled with the exception of a massage a few days away. I blinked my eyes and thought, Oh no, what have I forgotten to mark down. I wracked my brain. Realizing there was nothing, I exhaled. I decided it was a minor miracle, and the Universe had a hand in it.

Then within a day, I somehow stumbled upon an interview of poet David Whyte, part of Julia Bainbridge’s mini-series on inner lives on her podcast The Lonely Hour. I was listening to it as I worked on one of my mixed media sculptures that had been languishing for months. Listening to David Whyte always puts me into an altered state. When he said this…I backed up the recording to hear it a few times more then wrote it down…

One of the nourishing things of being alone again is who this stranger is inside you. I feel you always meet a new you in the form of a stranger, and to meet that stranger you have to spend time alone.

 It stopped me short. I remembered the first dream from a couple of months ago.

And he mentioned inviting in invisible help.

 I remembered the second dream…and what I call my council that has been with me for as long as I can remember.

I’ve sensed for a time that some kind of personal evolution is on the horizon—potentially a revolution. I can’t tell you what exactly. This I do know. When any of us are at a threshold of spiritual passage, our internal and external worlds collude and collide somehow in an attempt to maintain the status quo or even regress us. It’s that biological response of the amygdala mistakenly recognizing opportunity for threat.

The times that I’ve experienced major spiritual breakthroughs are rarely when I’m with others, although the circumstances and interactions certainly may orchestrate the launch pad. It’s only when I retreat into my inner world that I’m ushered through another threshold by whatever means arrive. Silence, the abject beauty of the night sky, the words of a poem, the stroke of my paintbrush, and the quiet feeling comes that something is now different or renewed.

I’m a confirmed introvert, almost off the scale. I must have those empty spaces of remembering, engaging the Internal Constant always there with me…or I suffer. I’ve always wondered how extroverts do it in the ongoing involvement with people they thrive on. How does the break appear proactively, not being forced into it by circumstance?

In mainstream Western society, the need for retreat and being alone—even if only a few hours or days—is often misunderstood. It can be thought of as an act of withholding or selfishness. In reality, for a major portion of this society, it’s the gift they need to give themselves in order to be whole in the world. Also the allowance for easing back into the places and spaces usually frequented so as not to be shocked and overwhelmed by the contrast. It’s not a luxury. It’s necessary…and often the ground of change.

Categories: Contemplative Life, Healthy Living, Solitude, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Retrospective, Part II

Several months ago, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2016 interview of Neil Gaiman on her podcast Magic Lessons discussing the creative process and other people’s expectations. If you’ve done something they like, they want you to repeat it. They don’t want you to surprise them with something else. The gallerist who wants a body of work. The publisher who wants a genre. No matter the author has a history of bestsellers. Write outside the genre they’re known for…and the publisher isn’t interested. What they’re really saying they want is consistency without risk to the bottom line…marketability.

Gaiman told a story. There are two types of writers: dolphins or otters. Dolphins are very good at doing tricks a trainer wants them to do — in exchange for a fish. They’ll do it over and over again. There’s some banter about the dolphin living in captivity and being very good about training the trainer to get what the dolphin wants. It all sounds like manipulation to me.

Then there’s the otter. No one can train an otter. Why would you want to do the things you just did when there’s the next thing to be done? That’s why there aren’t any otter shows…

It’s plain to see Neil Gaiman is an otter, quite the successful one. He’s readily described as a prolific creator of works of prose, poetry, film, journalism, comics, song lyrics and drama.

Consistency — in the terms it’s meant by gallerists, publishing houses and art collectors — bores me to tears. That’s why I took a long break from oil painting. I’d done it off and on across nearly 40 years, with long pauses, until I just couldn’t stand it anymore. But the creative urges kept calling. So, I took up writing. Quite the divergence.

In hindsight, that was the point where I gave myself permission to be as diverse as I liked, and wish I’d done it much sooner. I’ve been so much happier ever since. It matches my nature, and I’ve never done well with attempts to box me in. I refuse to create in a formulaic manner. Fine for others. But for me, it would dull things down and dispel any feelings of awe the process can bring.

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Rolling Clouds. B/W photography, gelatin silver print. ©2004 Carla Woody.

My return to visual arts, finally, was black and white photography. It had always fascinated me. It was emotive. With tips from a photographer friend, I purchased a manual camera and began shooting black and white images. A few years later I discovered mixed media. By virtue of its very name it encourages exploring, combining things in ways to make it more than it would otherwise be using one lonely medium.

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Prophet Series: Warrior of the Spirit. Mixed media on gold leafed canvas. ©2013 Carla Woody.

Here at long last I’ve found a home. What it took was making the decision to create in the way that was most inspirational to me, not by the dictates of the outside world.

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Winter Solstice Mixed media on wood cradled panel. ©2015 Carla Woody.

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The Ancestors Speak to Me Mixed media on wood cradled panel. ©2018 Carla Woody.

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Of the Jungle Mixed media, 3D. ©2018 Carla Woody.

Second, after study about such things, I recognized how my mind works and why I rejected the formulaic method often preached. I accepted my difference instead for the formula my mind came up with that produces efficiently for me more often than not.

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I Hold the Keys Mixed media on canvas. ©2019 Carla Woody.

My personal strategy is in first creating the vision in my mind — the outcome — then gathering up piece parts, considering fit of different media, combining them in such a way most likely to induce the effect I envision. It’s a consistency I can abide by, and it’s rarely the same twice. The strategy isn’t step-by-step and usually not conscious, but a flow when functioning well.

But the most important thing I found? I said it earlier. Giving myself permission to hold the inspiration and strike out beyond any confine. Here is the same thing said in another form of mixed media.

***

Read Retrospective, Part I.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Healthy Living, Personal Growth, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The Fierce Devotion of Noor Inayat Khan

For nearly a decade I was involved in the local Sufi community. I studied the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan who first brought Sufism to the West in 1910 – directed to do so by his own Sufi teacher in India. I attended zikr, a devotional chanting practice, regularly and, in the late 1990s, went to India with a group led by Pir Shabda Kahn, now spiritual director of the the Sufi Ruhaniat International in San Francisco. In Delhi, we paid our respects at the dargah of Hazrat Inayat Khan and, encircling his grave, raised our voices in zikr. The vibrations of this dogma-free Path of the Heart remain with me.

Noor Inayat KhanYet never did I hear of his daughter Noor Inayat Khan in all that time I was so immersed in Sufi practice and study. Somehow, I came across a reference to her on the Internet. Curious because of her name, I did some research and was baffled by what I found.  The source said this first-born child of Hazrat Inayat Khan had been an agent for the Secret Operations Executive (SOE), an espionage agency known as “Churchill’s Secret Army.” I thought to myself, how could a young woman raised within that sacred lineage become a British spy? I delved more deeply and could clearly see what drove her.

Noor’s father — descendant of Indian nobility, Indian classical musician, Sufi mystic — met her mother Amina Begum né Ora Ray Baker — niece to a US Senator, cousin to Mary Baker Eddy who founded the Christian Science Church — at a public lecture he gave in San Francisco. Their love came quickly, but their courtship and prospective marriage were unacceptable to their families. They left the US and married in London. Four children quickly came along.

The family moved frequently and was largely dependent upon the generosity of followers. Her father traveled widely much of the time introducing Sufism to the West and forming centers. The family finally found a home in 1922 in Suresnes, close to Paris center, purchased for them by a wealthy Dutch devotee. Fazal Manzil, meaning House of Blessings, became their home and, for three months each summer, a Sufi school that overflowed with followers. There Noor grew up surrounded by family and community steeped in Sufi mysticism. She was a musician who played traditional Indian instruments and a singer of ragas, taught by her father. She was a poet and writer of children’s stories. Noor was consistently described as gentle, dreamy and shy even into adulthood. In some ways, it was an idyllic, if insular, upbringing. But her life changed dramatically when her father passed in 1927 while in India. Then in 1940 even more so when the family was forced to flee to London as the Germans advanced.

That was the significant point of departure from her former life. This introverted young woman, a practicing Sufi, was set on doing something to defend France. She volunteered for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and was randomly chosen to train as a wireless operator. Noor was noticed by the SOE and subsequently invited for an interview, then offered a position.

At times she gave her superiors fits for she refused to lie, that necessary tool of a secret agent. They had to reframe the requirements of the job and relanguage things she would need to say in order for it to be palatable for her sensibilities. However, she wasn’t tricked into what she was about to encounter.

Radio operators had about a six-week survival rate in German-occupied territory. Their job of tapping out coded messages back to England made them prime targets by the enemy. Noor was the first woman to be dropped into occupied France, making her way to Paris. She had to move frequently to avoid detection, and faced danger continually. The radio had to be carried in a clunky briefcase, readily noticeable and an instant giveaway if cracked open.

The SOE espionage networks fell apart. One agent after another was caught, interrogated, jailed, executed or, worse, shipped off to concentration camps. Finally, she was the only remaining radio operator. Noor was alone. She was told to evacuate by her superiors back in England. She refused and persisted radioing coded missals on her frequency, Poste Madeleine.

How she remained calm in the middle of terrible danger can only be due to the great spiritual strength she carried. She steadily gave the Gestapo the slip until she didn’t. Enduring lengthy interrogation and torture, she gave away nothing. Dachau was the final stop.

She called out one word in the split second before her execution. Liberté!

Noor is a sacred Sufi word meaning light.

***

There is much to this story not mentioned here. Although posthumously awarded the honors, the George Cross by Britain and the Croix de Guerre by France, Noor’s incredible bravery and all the lives she saved by such fierce devotion went otherwise unsung for years. She was in the company of many equally as courageous but outside mainstream. She wasn’t a white man.

But over the last 15 years she is being given her due. The Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust was founded in London to “promote the message of peace, non-violence and religious and racial harmony, the principles Noor Inayat Khan stood for.” And her memorial was unveiled in 2012 in Gordon Square by Princess Anne.

The 2013 film Enemy of the Reich gives a good overview of her war years. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime.

If you really want to understand how this unlikely young woman was so inspired, risked her life and maintained her unshakeable courage to the very end, read the 2006 book Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu. Available in the public library and wherever books are sold.

Categories: Book Review, Film, Sacred Reciprocity, Sufism | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liminal

FranceCezanneRefuge2bWhen I was in my late thirties, I became certain that something big was on my personal horizon. I had no idea what it was but just knew it was out there waiting…and would change the very fabric of my life. I remained open to discovering what was in store because it was so compelling. But in another way…scary. It contained uncertainty. A few years passed when suddenly the threshold appeared. It happened quickly. It was palpable. I was standing before it, and all looked so much brighter on the other side…even though I still couldn’t make out exactly what was there.

I had entered liminal space, the territory that holds the material and imaginal worlds equally…until they come together as one. Once done, you can step blithely through the threshold, never looking back. To do so necessarily involves un-grounding, prying your feet off the soil you’d known in order to set the stage for a wider life. It’s uncomfortable. Depending on your nature, it can be downright anxiety producing. Then those internal looping messages start to roll and can be incessant as they attempt to keep you tethered to where you were. They may get their reinforcements from external sources as well.

But there’s another part that clearly knows the old ways no longer seem right. Stick with it and know this is a part of the process. In fact, the internal and external messages often exacerbate before they flame out and dissipate.

Even so, the new landscape hasn’t made itself quite visible yet. In this transition, the imaginal realm is your great ally. I tell people I’m working with to pay considerable attention to their dreams during these times, to inexplicable visionary experiences and insights that swim up from some place you can’t name to land solidly in your lap out of the clear blue. This is the great gift of bonding with your Core Self, learning to trust metaphoric or literal messages as guidance. Creating clarity is key at this point. The imaginal world is your friend. When you know – and recognize you know –  a foundation starts to form.

In reality, the threshold didn’t appear suddenly. Coming to readiness is a required piece, getting unseated enough to wake up and discover it’s time to move. Life is happening without you. Readiness isn’t necessarily a smooth trajectory but may involve dancing back and forth until the call is just too insistent to ignore.

Rites of passage aren’t prevalent in Western culture. Whatever may once have existed has been forgotten or downplayed. Know what I’ve been discussing is a rite of passage. Call it so. The time when you are no longer who you were but who you’re becoming. This particular rite is completed when you step through the threshold and fall into the next iteration of your life.

If what I’ve written here sounds all too familiar…and you recognize you’re smack in the middle of it, just name it. You’re in liminal space. It’s sacred. Treat it so. Getting to a place of full knowing – recognizing connection with the unseen world that is more real than what your logical mind would have you believe – is integral to this rite of passage. You’re not alone in your experiences.

Here I am nearly three decades later, having recently passed a milestone birthday, looking back over the years I have thus lived. While the big rite of passage occurred all those years ago, putting me on the path I’ve been on ever since, there have been smaller rites along the way. They further aligned me to my intent. Be thankful when you sense your own threshold coming steadfastly toward you. I bless all of mine.

 

 

Categories: Healing, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Great Unsettling

Maybe you’ve been in the same place or still are. I started experiencing a sense of generalized, underlying dread. Like waiting for the other shoe to drop. A kind of existential angst…over which it felt like I had no control. For months, I awoke in the morning and steeled myself to face the day. What new outrage would be presented? How do I navigate the low-level grief – or overwhelming waves of sadness and righteous anger – and be able to function reasonably in my everyday life? My energy was sapped by some stealthy foe.

Then I realized I’d started to grow numb to what occurred…and that’s not healthy. That would only indicate that it was becoming submerged to the point of becoming the norm.

That isn’t who I am or how I choose to live my life. I can pinpoint exactly when it began – and it turns out I haven’t been alone.

Oh, I’ve been through the intensity of the Dark Night of the Soul, thrashing around in the invisible landscape, and came out the other side. You can read about those years in my book Standing Stark. That’s not what this is about. Nor is it about all the times I stood at the threshold – restless for change – sensing, but not seeing, the next realignment of my life. Those times I actively chose. Those were personal. As much as any of us have any control whatsoever, I felt as though I was the rider of that horse who, in partnership, would take me where I was meant to go.

After the many months, I finally determined I’d relinquished the reins and wasn’t on the horse at all. In shock, I’d allowed myself to be thrown off by a dangerous runaway, out of control, underbelly completely visible.

Here’s what makes this different: This challenge was delivered at the meta level. It affects the world community and our collective future.

***

In June, I was in France for the month, the last leg two nights in Toulouse. A little rest before the long flight home. I was walking along the river when I glanced back toward the Pont Neuf bridge and saw the most curious thing. There at the edge of the circular opening between the piers closest to this side of the bridge sat a figure, its legs dangling over the edge. A red devil. At first I thought it was someone dressed in costume, maybe a street performer. I snapped a photo and posted it on my Facebook timeline, jokingly labeling it The Entrance to the Underworld. A closer look – and the fact it hadn’t moved the next day – determined it to be a fixture.

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Overnight I’d done some research and learned of Notre Dame de la Daurade, less than ten minutes from my hotel, that contained a Black Madonna. Excitedly, I struck out the next day. I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t noticed the church previously when it was located along the river, quite close to Pont Neuf. Then I saw why. It was a blocky building, looking more like a Masonic Temple or maybe part of the art school whose walls adjoined it. Plus, it was partially hidden by fences and restoration equipment. But the front door was open. So I entered.

The inside walls were shrouded in dirty draping, dust everywhere, building materials scattered on the floor. No pews. Nothing really. Not what I expected. The few workmen I saw paid me no mind. It took me a minute to get my bearings. I knew the Black Madonna was supposed to be in the southern transept and picked my way through. I was about to go through a small opening in the drapery that segmented the back part when a man, probably the one in charge, told me I couldn’t be there. I attempted to talk him into it, “Even for a moment?” But he was firm.

Disappointed, I turned to go. I was nearly out the front door when I felt a strong pull coming from my right. I paused to look around to see if the coast was clear…then followed the energy. That’s where I found her. She was stuffed into a dark niche, stripped of her finery, behind tall iron bars, a padlock barring entrance. It seemed so disrespectful. A couple of candles burned just outside. I stayed for a long time. If anyone saw me, they let me be.

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Something bothered me. The only things of significance I took away from Toulouse were that devil – on which I could find no information online – and the Black Madonna. It just didn’t sit right with me. So I sat with it for several days through the first few days I was home. It hit me.

The devil guarding the gate. The Black Madonna and child locked up. Held hostage. Renovation.

I’m one for metaphors. When I’m involved in deep spiritual inquiry, that’s where my mind tends to go. This, coupled with all the environmental upheavals across the planet, brought me to focus. It’s not like I didn’t know this at some level. Now it’s no longer hidden. I’ve got it.

This is shadow work. We’re all being called to it: collectively and individually.

We’re being asked to consider:

  • In what ways we argue for our limitations;
  • The call to re-examine our cultural norms;
  • The willingness to avert our eyes;
  • The act of unconsciously filtering because we can’t contain it all.
  • How we perpetuate implicit bias.

I’m deep in the thick of it. Sorting. I don’t have any answers yet. Just the questions that have been there all along now made plain and visible.

For me, insights come in silence and solitude – in the early morning when all is still and little is fighting for my attention – still fresh from sleep where so much is recycled and put to bed. The way through reveals itself in the aftermath of meditation, in the process of writing or creating artwork, and during the method I use to clear my brain.

Whatever answers finally come are mine and may not be yours. But my deepest hope is that all will hold the core values that nurture the collective. In the meantime, these things I write of here are helping me fine-tune the path I take.

 

Categories: Global Consciousness, Healing, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Revisiting the Wanderings of My Soul

A few weeks ago a friend sent me a note saying she’d begun her morning by watching a video that Kenosis Spirit Keepers* produced from footage of one of my spiritual travel programs in Peru. We went on to have an exchange on how such things touch us and change our lives.

Our brief discussion didn’t leave me. Over these last days a multitude of memories kept popping up, the journeys I’ve taken, people I’ve encountered, that have inspired me onto a different, deeper track. Some of these were undertaken with a clear frame of intent, others happenstance I never could have predicted.

In all of this, a particular time came to mind again and again, probably because its 3-year anniversary is nearly upon me. But I’d already been preparing for several months, intensively as it got closer. By now, I was walking 8-10 miles several times a week. It was a trial to squeeze in the training necessary to walk the Camino Francés, from the French side of the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela.  However, it was one of those things that I was so drawn to do and didn’t know why.  A must-do. I knew it would stretch me but so had many, many other things I’d embraced.

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I revisited the writings and photos from The Essential Way, the blog I created to document my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. You’re welcome to read the whole blog if you like.

Here’s one I’d like to share with you here. I wrote I’ll Know I’m Home When 12 days after I completed the Camino. I think I was laying over in Paris on my way home. It’s a snapshot of experience and take-aways.

Somewhere along the way, once I got the rhythm down pat, I began to note somewhat tongue-in-cheek differences between daily life on the Camino and home. But the more I listed the more I realized it’s an intimate glimpse of common pilgrim experiences you normally wouldn’t be aware of unless you’d undertaken the journey. I also began to have insights, reminders and resolutions related to some of them that I’ve included at the end.

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I’ll know I’m home when…

   … I’m no longer looking for markers every few minutes to tell me where to go, except perhaps subliminally.

… I’ll no longer be walking continually for 4-8 hours on a daily basis, with the exception of a brief rest or rest day.

… I’ll no longer hear the continual click-click click-click of walking sticks telling me that a pilgrim is coming along the trail.

As sometimes happens, the more I wrote, the deeper the realizations went. I began to sense, in some ways, what it was like to be homeless.

… I’ll have more than one change of clothing.

… I’ll have more choices to wear on my feet than hiking shoes or flip flops.

… I’ll keep my belongings in a closet or chest of drawers rather than a backpack.

… I’ll no longer do my laundry on a daily basis rather than weekly.

… I’ll no longer be required to vacate my lodging each day by 0800, or be restricted in any movement or slight noises between 2200-0630.

… I’ll know on a consistent basis where I’ll lay my head each night.

There are more of those listings. But then there was this…

My Take-Aways…

It’s important to be alert to the lay of the land to avoid becoming lost or overlooking tell-tale signals that things are off track or hidden. I resolve to sharpen my peripheral and x-ray vision.

Flexibility is a virtue. It’s also important to set your limits and abide by them. I resolve to identify with even more depth and breadth what is true for me.

A simple life in the best sense is a pure one, devoid of clutter in the mind or unnecessary material goods, anything that weighs down the spirit. I resolve to up-level my sorting and pitching process.

Nature is a great gift, healer and stress reliever. I’m fortunate to live where I do. Nature—miles of it—is just outside my door. I resolve to do these things more: hike, take breaks, sit on the deck, notice the wildflowers—however small—and watch the lizards, birds and other wildlife. Absorb energy given by the moon, sun, stars, wind and rain with intent to return it in ways that are life-giving.

It continues. You can read the entire piece here.

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I’d had no idea what was in front of me. Do we ever really? We think we do. It’s how we try to control our world. Things can turn on a dime, and they do. If anything, the Camino is the great equalizer. It shows us what we all have in common, that separation is an illusion. It instills humility.

Sitting with the outcome of my Camino, attempting to make sense of the learning, I had come to one understanding. Presence. That one I wrote a bit about.

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Now something else is emerging. Transience. The nature of reality. An awareness we tend to turn away from. But it makes life that much more precious.

***

*Kenosis Spirit Keepers is the volunteer-run 501(c)3 nonprofit I founded in 2007 to help preserve Indigenous traditions facing decimation.

Categories: Gratitude, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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