Learning to Embrace Suffering

Thich Nhat Hahn, (called Thay by his students), teaches that we must look deeply at our own suffering before we can see the suffering of others. We begin by working with our strongest emotions, by welcoming them, and letting our practice of mindfulness embrace them.

Thay uses the example of a crying baby. When the baby cries, the mother goes into the room, picks the baby up, and holds it tenderly. After a few minutes the baby begins to quiet, just from her presence. As the baby quiets, the mother discovers what is causing the baby to cry. Thay encourages us to do the same with our own suffering; our pain, sorrow, confusion, anger, grief and other strong emotions. He recommends saying, “My precious suffering, my pain, I know that you are here. I will not run away from you.”

At first this was difficult for me. I have been raised in the mindset of “professional distance” from the suffering of others. This taught me to delay my emotional response to their pain until I was alone. But in time, I forgot to go back to my own feelings and became distanced from my deep sadness, sorrow, confusion, despair and anger. I learned to use my personal energy to pretend “everything is fine,” and wondered why I got tired, distracted and tense.

When a strong emotion arises, I am learning to greet it and feel it fully in my whole being. It has my full attention. When suffering is crying out, it cannot show us what is beneath it or reveal the insight it holds. The mother must first pick the baby up and offer it comfort. Thay uses this image to describe mindfulness practices which can help us care for our suffering.

One of the tools I am learning to use is the Bön Chant. It reminds me of the spaciousness within and around me that can hold anything that arises. Practicing this every day makes it a familiar energy that I can draw on when something difficult arises.

There are also songs I sing in gratitude and connection with the present moment.
One of songs from Plum Village includes the lines:

I have arrived, I am home
In the Here and In the Now.
I have arrived, I am home,
In the Here and In the Now.

It can be repeated in my mind as I walk outside in the sunshine. Feeling the earth under my feet as I take each step, I am held by the compassion of creation and this makes the pain smaller and the confusion more tolerable. I recognize that all people throughout time have felt this same intensity of loss, grief, or outrage. I am not alone in the grip of this emotional energy. We feel it together as members of the human family. Today, it is my pain and sorrow, but tomorrow, I will understand the deep pain that another is going through. She weeps or wails with me in my despair, and I weep and wail with her in hers. We both know the feeling intimately and can now share it. In the sharing, the intensity wanes and we are comforted. In understanding that suffering is a natural part of life, the fear subsides.

In the meantime, while life is quiet and calm, I will sing, breath, walk, and return to the present moment. Not to brace against future disaster, but because it is here that I find joy. Here in this moment, I am surrounded by reasons for happiness and peace.

Love, Joy and Peace,

Nancy

Seeds of Healing and Restoration

I saw a gorgeous hawk sitting on the fence post as I walked over to the motor home last Saturday morning. He was perched in perfect profile and only flew when he heard the sound of my gasp of delight. His wings stretched to show their beautiful white on black pattern and he soon disappeared through the trees.

What follows was Hawk’s message that came partly in my shamanic journey and partly as I wrote this piece.

In the journey, Hawk asked me to ride on his back so he could share a higher perspective with me. We soared up through the clouds and took a stationary position high above the Earth. This gave me the view of the entire globe with the soft flow of land into water and water into land. He hovered there and let me breathe in the unity and balance of the scene below.

Tiny seed-like droplets of shimmering light began to fall past us, showering down all over the Earth. “These are sister and brother seeds,” Hawk told me.

Each one has an exact mate within a human being. These are seeds of healing and restoration that are now pouring down to touch and strengthen the love, joy, and harmony which each person carries within. Some people have been so deeply wounded that they no longer know that these qualities exist within them. The seeds you see falling will move to their core and bring both remembering and healing of the wounds that have festered for centuries and generations.

Look first within yourself to see where your seed droplet comes to rest. It may ignite your life force energy reminding you of your inner strength and freedom to live your life fully. It may rest in your mind to release all of the thought patterns that hinder your well-being. It may open your heart to understand your deepest wounds and how to embrace them with love and care. It may ignite joy and laughter within you so that you feel like a fresh fountain bubbling with delight for all life holds.

Your inner healing and renewal does not take place in isolation, because all of Humanity is interwoven as cells within the same body. As the seeds of love, joy and harmony begin to emerge from the soil of your being, they will enliven all around you. Once you can look gently at your own pain, sorrow, anger, and regret, you will be able to see how others are also suffering in these ways. When you drop the illusion of how different you are from one another, your unity with all of humanity will become apparent. As you tend this new understanding, all of you will blossom and flourish.

You are not alone in tending the highest qualities within the human family. All of creation is here to water your joy and nourish your inner light. The vibrant and fully expressed life of any being within the Web of Life enlivens all. Breathing in, you receive the loving embrace of all living beings and breathing out, you celebrate the wonder of all the lives around you.

May these words and images water the seeds of love, joy, harmony and vibrant life within you as they have within me.

Nancy

The Gift of a Healing Crisis

I wrote recently about the resonance field in which interconnections result in a rippling of love, light and joy throughout the whole of our existence. In April, I encountered a number of waves of synchronous energies that have begun to expand my self understanding.

The first wave was my continuing work with the Tibetan Bön Chant. Over the months I had been working at the level of the upper three energy centers: crown, throat and heart. The crown is associated with the syllable “A,” and the image of a wide open sky which nurtures a feeling of spaciousness. The throat syllable “OM” adds the sense of sunlight pouring into that wide open sky, and a feeling of life being complete as it is. The heart is the place where the seeds of love, joy and peace are fed by the syllable “Hung.” I had not yet moved on to “RAM” at the naval or “DZA” at the root energy center.

The next wave was a healing journey that occurred when I met with the leader of our drumming circle, Della. She drummed and I sought healing for pain in my right hip and some long-term digestive problems. I met with the aboriginal medicine woman who is the one who does the work of healing on my body, mind and emotional being in the unseen world. She told me that when I decided that I would not be giving birth to children, I tied knots in the sinews at my hips and created a barrier across my abdomen. Ever since, I have sought to birth everything in my life through my thoughts, words and heart. She did the work of untying the knots and told me that over time I would discover how to birth what I create through my whole being.

These journey images resonated very powerfully for me and I knew that it was time to begin using the rest of the Bön chant to open those lower energy centers. While “RAM” is traditionally associated with joy, I found it also connected with my life force. Through Qigong, I have learned that this naval level is the Lower Tan Tien where we store our personal vital energy. This energy or fire nourishes our overall well-being and refines our deepest nature. It is a womb in which love, joy and peace can ripen into their highest form.

The root energy center is for giving birth, and “DZA” is about bringing the fullness of who we are into tangible expression. As our life force empowers the expression of our deepest being, it becomes effortless to spontaneously express it in our daily lives.

The next wave came through dental work that at first seemed to go very well, but a week afterward resulted in an infection near my lower jaw. After an unsuccessful four days on one antibiotic, I started on a stronger one, two days after my healing journey with Della. The details of the week on medication and the gradual recovery of health are not important. The outcomes, however, were very significant, revealing this as a healing crisis to aid my personal transformation.

Being very ill always opens me up to the liminal state of not being fully in either the seen or the unseen world, but drifting between the two. In this state, I found that doing my chant twice a day was one of the few things I could do. What I experienced was a broadening and deepening of my understanding of spaciousness, light, love, ripening of deep virtues and how to bring them into tangible form.

The overall result was a shift in my perception of my place as a human being within the web of life. All of us share vast space within and around us; light as our central nature; unconditional love and joy as our natural vibrational level; the capacity of our life force to nourish love, joy and peace for all living beings; and the continuing birthing of these elements into all of life.

I also experienced a shift in my eating habits, food choices and weight. The chemical changes in my body reset my system. As a result, I have a new lighter, healthier body that is best supported by smaller meals and more simple foods. It feels like I have been given the gift of a tangible change to keep me aware of the inward transformation that continues to unfold.

In the weeks and months ahead, I intend to share more about the healing qualities of the Tibetan Bön chant, and go into more detail about the images and insights it brings me. I am also beginning to write a storybook, “Stories That My Drum Told Me.” It gives me an expressive outlet for the wisdom and images I receive during my chanting and shamanic journeys.

I thank you for your presence in my life as companions in this unfolding journey of life.

Peace and Joy,

Nancy

The Resonance Field of Life

In recent weeks I have been captivated by all of the ideas, images and words that have come into my life as echoes and additions to what I receive in my shamanic journeys. I receive an image or message and within days other people share things that add to it and help me in the process of bringing what I have received into tangible form. This resonance knits our lives together to form the supportive structure that all of us need.

When Kathleen shared within the drumming circle of her journey to Grandmother Spider, this guide gave the advice to not worry about trying to build life in a linear fashion. It does not help to concentrate on one strand and ask it to hold all of our forward movement. Instead, we are to remember that each bit of energy, light, insight, or sound that sparks anywhere within the web enlivens and strengthens the whole thing. She spoke of a resonance field which fuels intuition and which is enhanced by joy and love.

During the same drumming circle, I experienced Humanity as the collective of all of us as cells in one being. We were each lit with our own inner beauty and wisdom. The whole Being of Humanity shimmered with light, love and possibility. Then as I watched, there were sympathetic vibrations within the Web of Life surrounding this Being of Humanity. As light, color and sound waves danced through the creation around us the outline between humankind and all of life faded. Every pulse of energy that was initiated anywhere in the Web of Life was felt as gift to every other part of the web.

A few days later,  I read an article about the shattering of the collective consciousness of humankind. Our shared cultural and societal assumptions about who we are as individuals and as a human species cannot carry us through this current evolutionary transition. They are breaking apart to allow new perceptions and a new understanding of our interconnection to emerge. What if the resonance field of the Web of Life is now beginning to provide new connective tissue to knit Humanity into unity with all living beings?

Within the week there was one more piece dropped in by my friend Karla, who has practiced Buddhism for decades. We were dialoguing about how to work with the strands of Karma which move through our lives. She taught me that I do not need to know the cause or even if the Karma is something from my own history. Facing the feeling, sensation, energy of it head on, feeling it in my body and letting it pass on through is how it is cleansed. Doing this work benefits not only me, but all living beings everywhere.

The way I am putting these pieces together leads me to great hope. I had been looking for a cumulative awakening of individual people until we reached the critical tipping point within the collective consciousness. Now, it feels like the whole creation is working together to transform the most fundamental connections among all living beings. Humanity, far from being outside and separate from the Web of Life, is part of a resonance field which is rewriting human consciousness along with every pulse of light, love and creative vibration throughout the cosmos.

I continue to use my chant from the Tibetan Bön tradition to do my own inner work.  As I encounter fears, angers, frustrations, mental barriers to feeling whole and united with all of life, I use this form of vibration and visualization to of clear them. As the vibration of the chant clears the clouds of mental chatter and the physical sensations they cause in my body,  I experience the peace of a wide open sky. I do not try to create the feelings or ideas, but work with what I am experiencing in that moment. As I do this, I am adding my experience of relief and openness back into the resonance field of all people everywhere. As I clear blockages from my own being, a spark of light is released into the whole web.

I am still in the process of seeing how all of these hints and ideas fit together. This is an amazing and complex web of being. If this sparks images and ideas for you, I hope that you will share them in the comments section. Each one of us carries strands of the web that weave together to bring wholeness to our world.

Peace along your path,

Nancy

Lesson from Hare

What I see outside of myself depends on the filters I use to interpret the information flowing in. If I put images through the same conditioned framework, I am bound to see the same old things. In fact those thought patterns keep me from seeing what is right in front of my eyes.

A hare taught me this the other day. I was sitting reading a book and glancing up occasionally to look across the yard to an open area in front of the manzanita bushes. At first he just sat there motionless. I watched this statue-like form for about five minutes and wondered if he was all right. The next time I looked up, he was munching the grass near the base of the nearby bird bath. A half hour later, there he was again, just sitting, appearing to stare into the yard. Over about an hour and a half he was somewhere in that scene, sitting motionless or eating, any time I looked his way.

I had not seen a hare do this before. I usually see one haring off out toward the open field. They have kept their distance and if they pause to nibble the bushes, they are soon on their way. This behavior was different and therefore my mind began to see a problem. “Is this hare ill or injured? Does it realize that there is a coyote in the neighborhood and that lingering in one spot might be dangerous? Do I need to put extra food out for it?” All my thoughts circled the feeling that there was a problem with the hare and I needed figure out what to do for it.

That night, I asked Hare (the archetype of my visitor) if there was a message for me. In a dream Hare responded, “I was not concerned looking into the cabin and seeing you reading your book and drinking tea, even though you usually do not sit in one spot for so long. Why should you think that there is a problem with me when I sit, eat and enjoy the first warm afternoon?”

The next morning, the memory of the dream made me laugh. The gift of the hare was to show me what my mind does when I look out at other people, places and situations with the wrong eyes. Over the previous week I had been focusing not on my friends and family, but on the challenges they are currently facing and the frustrations they are experiencing. Instead of seeing the capacity, strength, inner light, and creativity of each person, I was scanning for “problems” to be help them solve. This is one of those well-worn thought paths that I can slip into without noticing.

No one needs my suggestions about what they should do or how to move forward in their lives. When I launch in with my ideas, I often interfere with their ability to listen to their own deepest wisdom and find guidance within.

When I share a challenge or puzzle, I do not want someone else to grab it away and try to solve it. I want the chance to listen to how I describe it and see what pops up. While possibilities sometime emerge as a friend adds their comments, it is still up to me to sort through what is offered and to see where it fits for me. Most often their gift is the compassion of listening to my words with open acceptance, and reflecting a confidence in my ability to find my way along my path.

I have not seen the hare in recent days, but I sense he is still afoot enjoying the longer warmer days. His presence is a gift. This animal let me bounce my thoughts and projections off of his lovely, peaceful form so I could see them more clearly. I’m deeply grateful for hare and all the four-legged teachers who visit me bringing curiosity, playfulness and peace.

Peace along your path,

Nancy

Humanity’s Sacred Light

I have been spending a great deal of time in gratitude and light for friends and family. I am learning that instead of seeing them in need and me somehow sending something to them which they lack, I see them in their glory, inner strength and innate wisdom. The sacred wholeness in them shines and touches the same sacred wholeness within me. I often feel like we are enfolded together in an affirmation of life.

As I went into my shamanic journey this morning, my helping spirits pointed out that I am not treating the Being of Humanity with the same honor, respect and faith that I extend to my friends. I have been thinking of and writing about the Being of Humanity as a fevered and fearful child. I have been feeding the inner assumption that the unity of humanity and creation is broken. I have been arrogant in taking the “caring mother” view and working from the illusion that there is something wrong with my species and with the flow of planetary shifts and changes.

My guides in the unseen world invited me to hold the Being of Humanity with respect and honor, unconditional love and light. From this perspective what we are currently experiencing is the newest step in our human evolutionary process. Our species carries within it all we need for this transformation, even as it carried the potential to walk on two legs, and to learn how to use fire. We have been working our way toward this growth crisis for hundreds if not thousands of years. Every living being who has shared in the life of this planet has played a part in creating what is unfolding now.

We have finally come to the place where we cannot be fooled into thinking that the micro shifts and adjustments of our intellect will allow us to regain control and dominance of a failing mechanistic world view. Our illusions are being shattered and our thought patterns are being rewritten. The pressure is building to provide the needed energy to propel us from this cliff into a new understanding of our place within creation.

Humanity is not alone in all of this. We are part of the interwoven unity of the Web of Life. All of the beings of nature and the elements of which we are all formed are with us as we move through these shifts and changes. I am grateful for every living being who is on the Earth right now, and I greet all that is coming into form every day. Each one of us carries our own unique gifts and energy to contribute to this Web of Life as we are lifted and carried along our path.

It all comes back to the words from Paul McCartney’s song, Blackbird, “All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.” That is the light in which I hold all of us today. And as I do, I feel the light of our sacred being shining bright.

Let the Energy Dance You

“Dance, sing, move, drum and let joy bubble within you.” This is the message I have been receiving in my recent journeys into the unseen world. I am led to a field where there is a celebration gathering around a bonfire and all are exuberant in their welcome of the flow of life they feel. There are waves of love, light, wisdom and transformative energy sprinkling down like gentle rain, pouring out like a waterfall and drifting gently down all around us like fluffy snow flakes.

When I try to move into this sacred circle with my fears or agendas about healing the world, I am invited to step into the bonfire and let all of that burn away. It is my inner being of light that can join in here. This is a place to express my essential nature and to remember that billions of people around the world are doing the same thing every day through their own rituals and sacred devotions.

This morning, I was greeted by four-legged animal emissaries. There were large wild cats and bears, deer and gazelle, rabbit and lizard all moving around the fire dancing. I was invited to join them and was soon in elephant form to experience the movement of energy through that amazing structure.

I was told that the energies of the universe are familiar to all of the living beings of this world and that the animals in all their forms dance with them. “Humans think that this is all for them and that they need to figure out how to make use of it,” they said. “But we have danced to the energies for the blessing of Gaia from the moment we appeared within this Mother Being. There is no thinking, only experiencing. This is a physical sensations for us. More life energy floods us and celebrating is the way to feed it throughout the web of life and deep into the heart of our Mother.”

The circle continued to expand and I recognized that now there were winged ones and swimmers and all other forms of what we call “animal life” joining in. There was a powerful swirling of the energy that seemed to pull and gather all living beings into this dance of Life.

Near the end of the journey, this swirling energy began gathering human beings into this circle to join the animals, birds, fish, trees, mountains and all of the other forms of nature. We were all there together and the spiral was gathering more humans with every second. All were being swept up in this rush of vibrant energy to celebrate Gaia together and to feel the glory of our tangible forms.

We are not alone in these days that feel so dark and heavy. We are invited to learn from all of the nature beings around us how to sink from head to heart, and open to all of the grace pouring into us right now. It is not for us to think of how to put it to good use. Instead we are invited to find our place in this luscious flow of life and let it move us and pour gently on through us. In this way, we find our place within this pulsing, dancing web of life that nourishes and enlivens all of living beings on this wondrous planet.

Take time to sing, swirl, play, laugh, chant, pray, and delight in being you. Let the beings of nature lead you in your very own joyful dance of life.

Nancy

Images of Springtime

I wanted to share with you some pictures of Springtime at our home near Mount Shasta. This time of Stay-at-home has allowed us to move from late winter into glorious springtime, which invites us to work on some projects, tend the land and enjoy the life and beauty of this place.

Rock Garden BillOne of Bill’s projects has been constructing a rock garden near Salvia in Rock Garderthe cabin. He loves interesting rocks and this is the kind of space he enjoys creating. With the addition of a few flowering plants from the back meadow, there is now more color at our doorstep.

 

Bill Qi Gong 1We had long known of Qi Gong’s roots in Taoist practice, but recently learned, that its origins spring from shamanic dance. It’s slow, flowing movements enhance the movement of energy through the body, and connect the heart and mind with all of nature. I love doing my afternoon Qi Gong under the trees and feeling rooted to the earth and lifted by the sky.

Nancy Holding up the sky

We had a week of good rain and now that the sun is out there are tiny wildflowers among the grasses. I feel like there are a dozen expressions of life volunteering in the Water can and flowerscorners of the yard and throughout the meadow-like field.

Grasses and Flowers

But of course, when the rains and sunshine mix, there is also the need to cut the grass. Mower BillThis is Bill celebrating the arrival of a new electric lawn mower. It is much easier than the old push mower. It may be hard to keep him from trimming the lawn every few days.

Stay well. We send our love to all of you.

Bill and Nancy Martin

Congratulations to Michelle

The Miracle Happening Now

Tree_at_sunriseIn these turbulent times, I sometimes bounce from one “really good resource” to another. I search and try one thing and another to see what feels like it will “help” me and those I love. The other evening, I did a shamanic journey which helped me come home to this ancient practice of seeking wisdom from the unseen and timeless world.

 In the journey, one of the women took me by the shoulders and began to place me in a position in the circle, facing outward. 


“You must grow still and allow your feet to be planted into the ground. You must root yourself deeply in the Earth.” I could feel roots growing from the bottoms of my feet, and then my feet were sinking into the ground up to my calves. “You must raise your arms like the limbs of an ancient tree,” she said. I lifted my arms wide and found that they were light as feathers. It was as though all of these years of hanging to my sides was a misunderstanding of their design. They were resting on the breeze and moved softly as the wind stirred – effortless in their upward reach.

“You will let the light and love of the Universe pour down through the crown of your head and the Love of the Mother flow up through the roots of your feet. Open your heart and your throat and let the light and love pour out of you. You are a beckon (One who invites).” I felt that experience deep in my being, knowing at the same time that we are all in our own way invitations into love for one another.

She showed me that I was facing the Southeast. “This is the point where the dawning of the new day meets the place where the unseen creative flow begins to take on a tangible expression – where it becomes visible in the seen world. This it the direction of your focus. Keep your eyes focused at this point. This is your service and your place.”

Her words and actions came as calming and healing for my recent busy mind. This pausing place, where most of us have a break from our usual routines, seems to be the miracle. Is anyone else holding their breath in hopeful anticipation that humankind may use this time to step into a new way of living in relationship with one another, with all the elements of the natural world, with all living beings, and with the Earth?

It feels like this amazing opening into possibilities we have never experienced before. We have time. We are kept from running around. We are limited in the distractions we can use. Our schedules no longer confine us, taking all of our focus and energy.

I stand rooted, looking to the Southeast. I let my vision grow soft and I feel myself within the love of this beautiful world. The miracle is not that this virus will someday leave. It is that it came with such suddenness and power that is will help transform our lives.

 

Turning Weed Thoughts into Flowers

wild-flower-meadowThere are many distressing weed thoughts permeating our lives and thoughts these days. While the specific shape and size of these energy-consuming invaders varies according to our specific situation, there is a simple practice that may help us all live more peaceful and vibrant lives.

For me, a simple checking of the WHO or CDC website for the most accurate information on the current Coronavirus can thistle up the field of my mind for hours. There seem to be far too many places for data to latch on to fear and spin me into uncertainty. This is a very old and established framework of thought for me, and this new “threat” just props up my internal reasons for maintaining the illusion that I am a separate, isolated and at risk creature in an uncontrollable world.

It therefore takes practice and discipline to let creative imagination lead me out of the tall grass and back into a fragrant garden. Let me share a bit of what I see when I tap into the broader perspectives from outside time and space.

We have a planet which is careening headlong into environmental self-destruction.  It is not possible for us to bring this impending environmental disintegration into focus, because it comes in scattered waves of evidence. We have learned too well to look only to what directly effects us and our scattered family members. Even when we acknowledge the peril to our planet’s health and balance, it is too hard to put the pieces together and to agree on how to tend to the Earth in her severe dis-ease.

Then a tiny virus occurs and we suddenly have a focal point. It enters a world without boundaries or categories, totally ignoring borders, ethnic differences, theology or any other divisive category the human mind has ever created. We discover that to care for our loved ones, we must care for all people everywhere. We are drawn together in heart and purpose to make sacrifices and rewrite our ways of life.

In my imagining, this breaks down all of the standard boundaries, even as it invites us to be more present in our lives. We stop traveling long distances and spending hours in commuter traffic. We open more time to be with family and to develop mutually supportive relationships with friends and neighbors. Creative ways of each offering our gifts and abilities in meaningful forms can replace our dependence on “jobs” which have often stolen energy and dignity with little reward.

We find that as the weather warms, we can gather in circles outdoor to hold meetings and share idea; express gratitude and envision creative possibilities. We grow community gardens and sing our songs out under the sky. We live more within our homes and take extraordinary care to keep them clean and free of chemicals so that our water and land remain healthy.

Many of the large group events which have been our distractions and taken huge amounts of financial support are released. We find more local expressions of creativity and discover that we have the resources for all people in every land to have free health care.

We use less fossil fuel on many levels and the Earth sighs with relief. We pull out the lawns and use the water for flowers and food, adding beauty and nourishment back in the land.

Perhaps we find that a few states in the middle of the country, which are free from the virus will become new homesteads. Close down the beef industry and tear out the industrial corn farms to make room for people to live at a more comfortable distance from one another as they restore the vitality of the soil. Go through a month of quarantine at the border and receive the grant of two acres of land. Relieve the press of population in the major seaboard megacities which will both ease the reinfecting cycle of illness and make it easier as severe weather events engulf these population centers.

I know that all of this is based on creative flights of fancy, but that may be the greatest healer and innovator in these times. The Chinese pictogram for “crisis” contains two elements. One is “danger,” and the other is “opportunity.” I invite all of us to take our weed thoughts of threat and fear and transform them into the living garden of new ideas. The transformation of our world and the reentry of the human family into harmony and balance within the web of life begins here.

Do you feel it? The sensation that was apprehension has become playful curiosity. There is more space in the body, heart and the mind for new possibilities. We change a thought, and then another. We entertain an outrageous idea and something amazing emerges. Wow, this is exciting!  Let’s watch the flowers grow.