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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Falling to a Shifting Perspective

Can you tell by the title that I had another Spiritual Direction session? These are impressions left on my heart after integrating sweet time spent with Nancy, Divinely inspired wisdom and my thoughts & feelings. The quotes are not word for word, just my memories of what was said after the fact.

We sat. We listened. We waited.
In my mind I asked "God where are you?" And God answered: "In the shadows and the light." In my mind I asked God "Where am I?" And God answered: "In the shadows and the light." I had taken a few snow photos just before our session. I love the interplay of shadows and light on snow. The way one cannot be revealed without the other. Hmmmm?
We talked about an awareness I have had in the past week that with the subtle improvement in my walking and the gradual return of my natural voice, my "artist's eye" is also being restored. I am starting to see beyond "object" again, enjoying the simple beauty of light, shadow, form and color playfully interacting. I like to think of this process as witnessing what is...capturing a moment of mindfulness in a photograph. I do re-adjust the "frame" of the image on my computer to hone the composition afterward, a form of abstraction I suppose, or perhaps a zeroing in on what caught my attention in the first place.

I recognize now, several hours after our session, that as my neurons heal, my brain has the energy to devote to things beyond basic functioning. I am witnessing a rebirth of this ability to look at the world in a more visually discerning way. It may be several more months before I feel physically stabilized and strong, until my accent is more Suburban Philadelphian than European (still an unidentified national blend)…but my health is definitely improving.

We sat some more. I opened up about some of my fears as I begin to heal. The growing expectations of my loved ones for me to do more, maybe before I'm really ready. We talked about compassion fatigue. We discussed how I need to be very clear in my own body about what is too much in a given moment and telling my kids: “I just can't do this or that right now”. Later after our session I realized I suffer from compassion fatigue. I am tired of being sick. I am the one with the great expectations. I became conscious of my legs. When we started I was sitting on a cushioned folding chair with my feet flat on the carpet. This was new for me. Usually I'm a cross-legged, on the floor kind of girl. Sitting cross-legged has always felt grounding. But I decided after my doctor suggested not crossing my legs in an attempt to prevent them from falling asleep so often and after working through a seated posture in a chair with my friend Art Baner, a Qigong master in Bellingham, WA via the techno-miracle of Skype, that I would try this new position in SD and see how that felt. Somehow my legs were now tucked up under me, as though I were on the floor anyway. I remarked to Nancy how there seems to be an urge in me to return to home, to familiar again and again. My body, my legs were instinctively moving to that safe, "home base" position. Nancy mentioned Pema Chödrön and how she is a gifted teacher when it comes to *groundlessness and the art of falling away. She recommended I check out the book When Things Fall Apart.

And we sat silently.

In my minds eye I saw a leaf falling toward the snow. I said, "Maybe for me it's more like falling to...I don't know where I'm falling to...but I know I'm going toward, not away."

We talked about the grace of falling...how we don't normally speak of "falling" and attach it to the word grace...but this kind of falling, the kind a leaf does is effortless. Effortless Effort. Grace in falling. Falling to...and I realized it doesn't matter where I'm falling to. What matters is this effortless, effort. And I said something like "A leaf falls toward the ground...it touches down and rests for a while before the wind lifts it up and carries it to a new place. Then it rests again. The leaf repeats this over and over until it finds it's final resting place. There is no struggle. It falls, it rests, it rises, it falls, it rests again."

“Like our breath” Nancy offered.
“Yes. Like our breath” I agreed.

We talked about me listening to my body and knowing when enough is enough. Resting without struggle. Falling to that resting place without struggle, with grace. Nancy spoke about ballerinas...how their movements look completely effortless, but we know they have worked for many years to achieve that kind of graceful movement. She reminded me that mindfulness is exactly so. The effort is in practicing, returning to the present moment. Witnessing without struggling. I noticed that my body posture had changed yet again. I was now resting my mid back against the cushion of the chair. I felt supported. It felt good. I was in such a heightened state of awareness that I remarked it was as soothing as a massage, resting this way against the back of this simple cushioned folding chair. I felt held. Relaxed. Present. As my body shifted so did my perspective. My awareness was dancing gracefully like a ballerina; falling to calm and acceptance, falling to myself, to Divine Presence like a leaf released from the long fingers of a winter tree’s branches, like shadows falling across the snow, distinguishable only because of the interplay of light. Shadows that would move to a new resting place as the world turned and the sun appeared to move across the sky.

*click on this link to read a transcript of an interview in which Pema Chödrön discusses "groundlessness" among other fascinating topics with Bill Moyers.

PS...all of these photos were taken through the smudgy windows of our house (because it is only 11 degrees out!) with my very simple, Kodak Easy Share digital camera, and slightly shaky hands. Thus the blurry quality of some of the images!

This one is for all of my Christian friends, some pine needles and berries resting on the snow outside the window seem to be singing out:



Merry Christmas!

25 comments:

  1. Lovely post laura & the photos are beautiful... perfect for the the thoughts & insights you offer. Its good to hear of the progress you are making physically too... long may it continue. I'll check out your links later, but for now, so much love & blessings x

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  2. i like the fuzzy photos, the softness of them. i use my fuzzy photos too. Sometimes it's nice to be reminded of photography for the feeling it invokes and not necessarily the sharp, "realistic" details. At least it is for me.
    ~nutmeg

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  3. How wonderful that your body is continuing to heal in gentle ways and that new clarity comes. Nancy is such a blessing to you, obviously! A true anamcara who sensitively companions you just where you are but encouraging you to take a nano-step if you desire. :-)

    I think you will love the Chodron book. I highly recommend it. When my life imploded years ago a former Dominican sister recommended it to me. It changed my life...

    Believe it or not, I had not heard the term "compassion fatigue" until just lately. I am pondering what that might mean for me. I am wondering, can you say more about that? Here or in a private e-mail to me? I am confused about it, I think....I keep wondering how--if we truly are in compassion--how we can be fatigued? How can we tire of love if we are love? It would seem if we are playing at love (or compassion) or posturing it through the ego, which can be very wily and even feel quite spiritual, only then would we be tired. Hmmmmmm....Perhaps I am missing something...Do enlighten me wise friend. :-) Love to you.

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  4. Suzi,
    thank you for your well wishes...healing is indeed a journey...but isn't everything?

    Nutmeg,
    so glad you found my blog...I peeked at your photos a little while ago...we are kindred photographers apparently...we certainly have a similar way of looking at things...very cool!

    Jan,
    I'm going to respond here, because this is such a good question re: compassion fatigue and I think perhaps others who are care givers to their loved ones or are care givers for themselves will be interested in exploring this question further. As always I do not answer as an expert, but just from my personal understanding of this phrase and from my own experience. I don't think that this is about a lack of love or even compassion...you are right these are boundless qualities. I think the key is the word fatigue. It's not a matter of being tired of loving...it is a matter of being exhausted period. I get to a point some days where I just don't even feel like "giving in" to my own needs...I want this to be done...I want to be able to do/be the person I was physically before these last three exacerbations and I want it sooner than my body is ready. I think it is the same for my kids some days. They love me...they understand how I am impacted by this disease and at the same time they just want their "normal" Mom back...the one who can do for them, not the one they need to help all the time. This has been going on for not just months but years on and off. Their love for me is not diminished, but their ability to give (not their capacity to give) but their ability at some moments becomes impaired like my body is impaired. It's like compassion overload...similar to the neurological overload I experience when there is too much stimulation in a room...too much noise, too much movement...I start to shut down, slow down, my brain cannot keep up with everything. Think of how impossible it is to be present all the time...no one that I've ever met...no matter how much they engage in spiritual practice is present in all moments. What would be the point of practicing then? Of living, if not to continue to grow and learn...sleep and wake up? When someone is sick for a really long period of time, it would be unreasonable to expect everyone in the house hold to be fully present with wide open hearts in all moments. This doesn't mean love is less, or compassion isn't there...but everyone (including the sick person) needs to just step away from the illness once in awhile...not denial exactly...no not denial. Just kind of going to sleep. So Awake is Good...but sleep has some benefits too. So for the care taker of others, self care is essential. For the sick person who is tired of being sick...well, self care is also essential. That means, in my case, feeling my feelings, seeing them, hearing them (all of them including anger, sadness and frustration) with out judgment and allowing compassion/love to rise up again, after I've wallowed for a wee bit in the darkness. Sometimes it means I have to do too much because I'm tired of being tired (my form of self-compassion fatigue) and then my body will remind my Mind that "hey...you totally over did it...now rest" and compassion returns. "oh yeah, I love you/me...I'm sorry, lets rest".

    So compassion needs a little nap before it can return fully.

    I don't know it this makes sense to you...but that's how I am understanding compassion fatigue in this moment.

    feel free to jump back in and add your thoughts on this, Jan, anyone who stops by. I think this is worth deeper exploration...so I will sit with it some more myself and listen for more wisdom to be revealed around this.

    xoxo
    Laura

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  5. i feel emotional after reading this post. i am so happy you are doing these healing things for yourself and listening to the wisdom of your body. i can't help but think about my mother when i read your posts about your journey with MS. my mother always talked about having her traditional christmas cry; i guess tonight i am experiencing mine.as is so often true for me i am feeling more than i can call up in words right now. anyhoo...
    i am so happy that you are experiencing those subtle restorations in body and voice and feeling. your photographs touch my spirit and i love the way you have edited them. im glad you are able to do that.
    i always feel so blessed when you find your way over to my blog, and tonight i found myself thinking about you, so here i am.
    many blessings to you, my friend

    sue

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  6. Oh my goodness Sue,
    Now I'm a bit teary. It is so good to feel so much love and support from so many dear, dear people. You know how much I love your soulful mandalas...I feel honored that my photos touched your heart.

    Merry Christmas and a Healthful New Year
    xoxo
    Laura

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  7. Laura,
    I appreciate you taking the time to expand on this. I am pondering this more. I do know (at least from my experience of what you speak. Fatigue is just fatigue. Yes, we get sick and tired of feeling bad or not like our "real" or original selves. So I think I am understanding a bit better what YOU mean by compassion fatigue. Thank you for clarifying.

    I do wonder though if just giving in to the fatigue and not doing anything at all might just be a very high form of compassion. It is a true letting go, letting go of any shoulds, and just being with what is--even exhaustion. That seems to me to be the most compassionate response. What do you think?

    So often I think concepts like this just defy description. And when we try to put the "right" words to something (like "compassion fatigue") words fail to capture the essence of what is being felt. That is why I don't spend much time on blogs that "debate" esp. over the use of words. Words can be clarifying and also very limiting, as you well know. :-)

    Anyway, hugs to you this night my friend. May you sleep with peace in your heart. Love, love...

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  8. This is a beautiful and meditative post Laura,
    I love the pictures, the reawakening of your artist's eye, the restoration of your voice and physical strength, the falling falling gently falling into place... I have a feeling you'll love When Things Fall Apart. Pema Chodron is a favorite of mine, too :)
    Much peace, light and love to you,
    Karin

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  9. merry christmas laura, here's to shadows and light!

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  10. Jan...Perhaps you are right, so much of our understanding of world/self/life is undefinable through words...thus the value of imagery, dance, music, hugs, kisses, tears, sitting in silence to open us to Mystery. Yes, reframed in this way...this "shutting down" or "compassion fatigue" could truly be renamed (if words are helpful) a "hightened compassion". This is the essence of why I make art, write, sit in silence...to allow for new perspectives to arise...this is healing work. Thanks for assisting me in continuing to step to another place and seeing this from this lovely view point of being a deepening of compassion, not necessarily a shutting down. More for me to contemplate.
    xoxo
    Laura

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  11. thanks Caterina :)

    Karin, I ordered it on Amazon, so I'm really looking forward to reading this. I have a wonderful cd of Pema teaching about shenpa which has been helpful in the past and also a copy of the Wisdom of No Escape that I bought years ago.

    May you continue to feel better and gently fall to your "place" as well.

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  12. Thanks Shadow, although I don't celebrate Christmas myself as a Jewish person, I fully appreciate your message and receive your well wishes with an open heart knowing that the intention goes beyond words or specifics.

    Here's to celebrating joy and compassion all around the world no matter what "holidays" are part of our spiritual practice...every day is an opportunity to embrace holy-ness...here's to shadows and light revealing that holy-ness!!!

    Merry Christmas to you!

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  13. Your words and beautiful, open spirit always move me, Laura. Yes, may we all embrace our innate holy-ness and wholeness. May compassion for self and others BE who we are so we can embrace the ALL of us--to the best of our human ability. I continue to learn that this life is not about getting it right, but BE-ing that from which we are sourced, BE-ing that which we innately are.

    This life seems to be so much about remembering, then letting go of all that prevents us from living AS compassion--effortlessly. As humans, we seem to make this extra hard for ourselves, don't we?

    My dear anamcara friend Ingrid (tendingjoy.com) said it well--tis all about finding our true selves then, when we have, abandoning her in service to the greater Love, to others. This is where I seem to find my "self" these days. :-)

    May your Hanukkah celebrations be light and joy-filled. I love you. xo

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  14. Wondrous photos, Laura, of what winter looks and feels like. I am fascinated by the thoughts you and Jan shared about compassion and self care, many layers to ponder.

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  15. Hi Laura,

    All your post touch my heart but this particular one really resonated with some things that are happening in my life. A lot of what you wrote confirmed some things that have come to mind.

    I love your term of "compassion fatigue" and how you described it to Jan in your reply.

    So much is happening in my life at the moment and it is all good. It is just interesting how God sometimes chooses unique methods to get His point across.

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with all of us. I know I say that in almost every comment but you have no idea how beautiful it is to connect to someone who is so open and real. I am very grateful that we "met" my fellow Philly girl!

    Lots of love and blessings,
    Nadia - Happy Lotus

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  16. What an intense post. I almost felt like I was in the session with you.

    Are you not well? I hope that your health is returning to you.

    Your post was a gift and therefore I say thank you.

    Love Renee xoxoxo

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  17. Thank you all for stopping by...every time I open my email I am gifted with more responses. I'm so happy that this post-words/images seemed to awaken so much for so many.

    Jan dear, I love what you shared from Ingrid...now I must go investigate her site!

    Many layers for sure Sharon...this feels like something that needs deeper exploration for all of us...at some point we have all been, will all be caretakers or the one being cared for.

    Yes indeed Nadia...the Divine works in quite surprising ways...and if we listen/look the messages are abundantly clear!

    Hi Renee...I was diagnosed with MS a few months ago. I've been dealing with it for many years, not knowing what all the many weird symptoms were...lots of misdiagnosis...in the past 10 months I've had 3 disabling exacerbations with a 7 week break in the summer (yay...cause my kids were off from school then!)...I seem to be finally coming out of the woods again...hopefully moving toward a longer lasting remission...so that's where this post is all coming from.

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  18. Hi Laura -- Thanks for your kind words about my spiritual name posts, I appreciate it. And yes, I'm noticing too that we are commenting on some of the same blogs recently. Blessings of the day to you!

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  19. Thank you for sharing so honestly and generously, Laura. Your journey, explorations, discoveries, shifting perspectives always give me much to think about, both in relation to you and also in exploring how these things might apply to me, too. You give me new thoughts to consider, very often with an inner "yes" response to your words as they so often ring true for my spirit, too. Many blessings to you and thank you for sharing with such good heart.

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  20. Falling away and falling to. I like it. I think falling is a key skill in life.

    As I skated the first time in a long time yesterday, I saw kids fall a lot and they just got right back up. I remember thinking, I don't want to fall and I won't fall as easily as the kids. It made me think it's time for some Judo to learn the art of falling.

    Snow always dazzles me.

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  21. Dearest Laura(I was just reminded that my very best friend's name growing up, was also Laura.),

    I wrote a comment on one of your previous posts a couple of days ago which seems to have disappeared. Interestingly enough, some of my own thoughts have been that way lately. Here and then suddenly, misplaced. I am a bit scattered right now.

    First off, I love these pictures. They are so beautiful in their simplicity and yet they express so much. Kind of like your speech was when you first began to express yourself in the simpler, new accent which your brain seemed to adopt before the new treatment! Now I can almost "hear" your original voice returning, although either way, the sound of it is quite authentic. The soul speaks its own language.

    I am so pleased to hear that you are experiencing some relief. You are in my thoughts and prayers, everyday, even when I am quiet. The questions that you are pondering are questions that I have been asking for a very long time. Honestly, when I spoke to my pain therapist about "feeling better" at one point, she advised that I don't go there too quickly with my family, as it seems that sometimes people expect much more than we are really ready to do when we express even the smallest amount of improvement. It's almost like they are so thirsty for the "normal" us to return that any glimmer of improvement causes an exponential jump in expectations. Does that make any sense? I am not saying that you should be deceptive, just move slowly so that you don't overwhelm yourself.

    I should probably write to you in an email since it seems that I am composing a novel right now! Anyway, I adore Pema Chodron, and I learn so much from her writings. I will definitely check out the link that you posted.

    Continue on your journey to a stronger, more supported you! The world is a better place because you share your wisdom and insight. You have so much to offer, dear heart, and I, for one, am soaking it all in.

    Funny that my word verification today is "paint". Keep painting the canvas of life with the beautiful rainbow of colors that you bring into our days. From simplicity to vibrancy, your words are like a paintbrush of the soul. Even when you are too weak to do your SoulCollage, you create the most wonderful artwork.

    Be well, dear one. You are a gift to my spirit.

    Hugs and love,
    Debbie

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  22. After I read your words here about your neurons healing, I felt like quite a stranger, an interloper, I don't really belong. So I have read quite a few of your previous posts, ones I'd not yet, and now know of your MS. And of your great seven weeks last summer, of your hope and your journey. I am humbled, you are going through so much, yet I sense your sweet spirit loud and clear.

    You captured light and shadows And such beauty for us. The snow is so peaceful and I'm grateful for all.

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  23. Oh my goodness Jannie, you are not at all an interloper (or anteloper for that matter). I have chosen to post some intimate aspects of this journey consciously. I don't think my experience is unique...we all have unexpected things happen in our lives...often these things are not what we have chosen but life circumstances that seem to have chosen us...OUR choosing is in how we respond. My response is to open within myself to the lessons inherent in chronic illness and to in turn share what I am discovering and contemplating here through this online journal. Each day is an opportunity to grow spiritually and seek creative perspectives...whether that means finding beauty in the scenes just outside my windows when I am confined to my gnome mound or viewing my inner life from a slightly different point of view...it is all creative and has the potential to be part of my spiritual practice.

    So know that you are welcome to sneak a peek here at anytime.

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  24. Amazing photos!... wishing you a new year filled with an abundance of healing, and new images and perspectives just like these utterly beautiful ones.

    --aa.

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