Shine the Divine:

Creativity IS a Spiritual Practice

When we see through our hearts, we recognize that every single one of us is infused with creativity. Divine Sparks are embedded in everyone and everything. It's up to us to be courageous, to look and listen deeply, to find the sparks, gather and release them back into the universe, transformed into something new. Join me as we wake up to the sacred-ordinary blessings waiting to greet us each and every day.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

More Excellent Lesson's from Dogs: Snowscapes, Landscapes, Mindscapes

I long for the soothing simplicity of fresh snow, the smooth surface gently sloped by wind and marked only by the dark shadows of trees slicing through the light.

Shadow and Light Snowscape

But pristine wind swept snow is a rare, ephemeral, gift.

Lunaresque Dog-Print Snowscape

Now my view is of broken, textured snow, disturbed by the footprints of living . I am grateful for this blessing too, for it awakens in me what I truly need to learn.

Rare photo:
Doodle Dogs resting in tandem!

Today's mindfulness lesson from my Master teachers, Ellie the Poodle and Muncie the Doodle, (Lesson 3) comes not from observing their behavior, but from looking at the tracks they have created in the snow and witnessing my own behavior. Dog's are good at indirectly pointing out our human failings. Well, the stuff I need to work on anyway. Thank you honorable canine teachers. You have played hard and taught me well. You deserve your deep rest on my bed!

Sometimes it is the confusing imprints left on our hearts by life's surprising twists and turns, that allow us to look at the same old landscape and mindscape in a brand new way.
The dogs have certainly left their paw-prints on the snow outside the Gnome Mound. It is starting to look more like the surface of the moon than the serene canvases I had been viewing and photographing since the first snows of December. As my days become fuller, because I am thankfully able to be more physically active, I am aware of how much more there is for my mind to be irritated by. And so I am discovering that my mindscape is agitated with new thoughts, concerns and anxieties, that had not been there before. This inner turmoil is not so different from the churned up snow outside my windows.

I already described a bit about my driving escapades in the last post. But there are other things that are stirring up my thoughts too. For example, how do I now get out of the house like a regular Mom and still budget my limited energy? (Without becoming completely overwhelmed and annoyed with myself and others that is!)

I was scheduled for a dentist appointment and Gordon had meetings he had to be present for. I had to do the drive myself if I wanted to keep the appointment. I drove down to Nashua. I found the elevator that Gordon had thoughtfully called in advance to find out about. (I had forgotten that the office was on the second floor and that the outdoor staircase was higher than average.) I never knew there was an elevator on the outside part of the building to get to the second floor offices before. I never needed to know. I made my way down what suddenly seemed like an endless concrete balcony, in the bitter cold to the office. I checked in at the desk. Hung up my coat. Picked up a National Geographic and started reading an article about neural pathways and bionics for people with spinal chord injuries and amputated limbs. I wondered about how these kinds of scientific breakthroughs might help people with neurological disorders like mine someday too. As I waited for my turn, an older, presumably octogenarian gentleman came in. He too had a cane and was more than a bit wobbly. His hygienist came out to greet him with a smile, asked if he wanted to hang up his coat. He said yes, put down his cane and began to clumsily unbutton his heavy wool overcoat. I sat across the room watching him struggle, wondering why none of the 3 able bodied women standing near him were assisting him in removing the coat from his frail body. I was feeling frustrated for him (and for myself as a kindred wobbly cane user). I picked up my cane, gimped my way over to him, asked, "May I help you with your coat?” He thanked me as I took it from him and hung it up on the coat rack by the door. This added to the increasingly pocked surface of my mind, another anxiety.
Why didn't these women see that he needed assistance? What if it had been me needing help. Who would have assisted me? As I sat back down and continued to wait for my turn I used my breath to calm my sudden anger and bring it back to a level of reasonable irritation...then forgiveness. They just didn't know. They probably never even considered that standing and taking off a coat is multitasking. They were not intentionally being cruel. They likely could not imagine how hard it is to remain standing AND take off a coat when your balance is impaired. How different was their lack of awareness from mine in not realizing there was an elevator in this building before? Being disabled or caring for a disabled person really shifts your perspective. After what seemed like a really long dental cleaning that started with me explaining why I now use a cane (MS) and my suddenly "chic", decidedly European accent, (the one I didn't have last time I was in for a check-up, because I'm from the suburbs of Philadelphia and my brain was functioning differently then!) all went well. My teeth are very healthy!

I wandered back down the length of the balcony of the office building to the elevator, got back into the car for the 25-minute drive home and thought about Belin. I knew she needed some zip up hoodies because she is having difficulty lifting her arm and getting shirts on over her head because of her brachial plexus injury. I decided I felt "ok" still, so I could stop at Kohl’s on the way home. After all, the Jr.'s department is directly to the left of the entry doors. I found a handicapped parking spot…but not one in front of the set of doors I wanted to go through. So I had to walk further than I had intended. I shopped in a way that was new for me. I had to keep focusing on “hoodies only” and deny myself the pleasure of browsing through anything else on this day outside of the Mound. But I was on a mission with limited energy. I was able to carry the tops in my left hand (which gradually became numb from holding them) and walk over to the registers leaning a bit more heavily on my cane than when I entered 15 minutes before. The line was long. There were not enough cashiers for the number of customers. The head cashier made an announcement over the loudspeaker asking for back up. I stood there for just 10 minutes waiting, but in that time that felt eternal, I could feel the energy being sucked out of me. As I stood there my left hand became heavier and more tingly by the second. My back was beginning to cramp up. This happens when I become fatigued and then my neurons don't communicate as well with my legs and feet...making walking pretty difficult and hampering my ability to speak clearly. I was scared I wouldn't be able to make it back to the car without assistance, and not sure anyone would understand my impaired speach if I did ask. I had to self-talk in my mind, just like with driving. “You can do this, you are doing this…just 2 more people ahead of you…just one more guy.” The cashier cheerfully fired the requisite questions at me: “Do you want to keep the hangers? Do you want to open Kohl’s card? Is it getting any warmer out yet?” And I leaned against the counter, smiling as politely as possible, declining the additional weight of the hangers to carry out to the car with me, the charge card I do not need and could not imagine standing up another minute let alone 10 to fill out the application for. I nodded and mumbled something about the weather, wondering how it was possible she could not see the desperation in my eyes, the slump of my body, the desire to just pay for the freakin' clothes, slowly amble across the parking lot to the handicapped spot that was too far away (but the only one available when I arrived) and sit in my car for 10 more minutes of rest before attempting to drive another 20 minutes home. Again. My breath and awareness carried me through the rising frustration, irritation, physical discomfort and growing fatigue and soothed me enough to recognize that this young woman could not read my mind, she was busy with a long line of other people. She was doing her job with a cheerful countenance. There is no crime in that! If I had not been self-absorbed in my own momentary suffering, I would surely have been grateful for her smile.

I made it home safe and sound, hung out with Belin for a bit as she was home resting on pain meds and had a cup of tea. And then I crashed for a while. Just zoning out snuggled in my bed, flanked by a doodle and a poodle.
I replayed the morning's adventure and thought about the compassion that was lacking when I was feeling tired and irritable. How judgmental I was of others. I was recognizing areas of my heart/mind that I really need to work on; patience, and compassion, not just toward myself (the qualities I had been cultivating at home over the past 5 months), but toward other people now. I always had believed I was practicing kindness, patience, compassion in relationships, even casual ones in the past. Being cranky and fatigued unveiled some ugly judgmental aspects of me that need some serious attunement.

I have the same mind I had before. But it has new footprints, (I mean besides brain lesions) new concerns, new anxieties, new levels of irritation and frustration whirling me about in many different directions. I am doing some old things again….traversing the physical landscape of my life; the same dentist office, the same stores, the same roads that I have known since we moved here ten years ago. But my experience of these familiar places and how to “be” in them is completely different now. In some ways I am starting over. I am beginning to reassess every situation and relearn how to navigate the world as I knew it, on new terms. Not just the actual topography of places, but my inner mindscape, the way I think about things, the way I respond. I am searching for the footfalls that will take me where I want to go. I am struggling to discover how to simply "be" amongst the chaos, until I can find my way with more ease and true kindness again. (Realizing too that once I think I know the path, it will surely change, like the pesky staircases at Hogwarts castle!)

My inner world may be slightly shaken up right now, and maybe yours is too, with your own "stuff" but the lives of the people of Haiti have been tossed about in terrifying ways most of us can barely begin to imagine. Please consider a generous donation to assist our brothers and sisters in Haiti. You can find a bright red link at the top of the side bar of this blog that will direct you to organizations that are doing their part to be aid them, won't you help too?

*If you are interested in learning more about meditation and looking for some terrific mindfulness resources join the sacred community over at my friend Jan Lundy's blog Awake is Good, for her on-going 28 Day Meditation Challenge.


  1. Laura, your courage and compassion overwhelm me. You are able to navigate the physical world while you are tuned to the needs of others and aware of your own feelings. The word "heart" came to me again and again as I read your words, as you described your outward adventure and internal awareness. I do not think your observations constitute judgment; your actions are all about caring and compassion for others. Thank you for showing me ways I can look to help others ~ you have opened my eyes.

  2. oh Laura, when my health issues flare, I have no patience, tolerance or empathy for anything or anyone else who 'gets in the way' or makes things harder than they already are

    the way you describe handling these things is an inspiration

    and yes, how small any of our issues or life matters seem in light of the Haiti tragedy

  3. i know that i need to avoid being hungry, angry, lonely and tired in order to be be the best i can be...

  4. Hi Laura,

    Your experiences at the dentist office and at the store reminded me of when my mother was fighting cancer. It used to get me so mad to see medical professionals so clueless about what was going on with their patients.

    The irony of all of this is that my mother was at one of the best hospitals in the area and had perfect coverage. The lack of awareness to the suffering of others just makes me so sad and mad.

    Seems compassion is a rarity and that just breaks my heart. However, with all that is happening with Haiti, it is beautiful to see so many people doing what they can to help those in need. Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy sometimes to wake people up but hopefully with more awareness, this too will change.

    Enjoy the beautiful snow! The pictures were just lovely! :)

  5. Hi Sharon,
    Thank you for your warm words, for witnessing my experience from a far. It is tremendously encouraging, it really is. I do see my thoughts as judgmental, and I believe recognizing this is a guiding tool for change...fuel for continuing to act in compassionate ways. I'm glad that my descriptions will help you to pay more attention to others in need...but I'm guessing you already do a pretty good job of that any way : )

  6. Kel, is so hard not to get stuck on our own discomfort...really, really hard...I am trying to be better, kinder, softer with others, with myself when I am not able to let go and be loving...but like everything in life...this is a process.

  7. Hi Nadia,
    It is frustrating when the people who are "supposed" to be caring and kind seem oblivious to the suffering around them...and do we know what is happening in their hearts and minds...we don't...we can't...and so for me, releasing my anger and opening to forgiveness for innocent ignorance is the path I am choosing (well working on is not easy!!! but it is fair, kind and for me more comfortable than staying angry-that just continues to harm me.)

    Why is it that it takes BIG tragedies to wake some people up? The good news is that it does seem to...and Thank God for that.

  8. There are times I go numb and everything falls asleep. It is frustrating when I begin to move and everything starts back up. The tingling sensation hurts as my blood starts circulating again. The numbness flows through my legs and I can barely move. It takes me a while to start moving again. This just happens when I sit on the toilet. That really sucks considering I am on diuretics all the time and that is what keeps me in check. I can't imagine having to deal with the agony you must go through at times. I know a little about the discomfort of pain and soreness, and I kick myself for buying a multilevel house. I wish I didn't have to climb stairs all the time. I wish you peace and comfort my friend. Thanks you for sharing this.

  9. There are so many limitations, this body, this mind, and sometimes even the heart when we are trying so hard to keep it open. Just your recognition of limits and your intention to expand the heart is enough.

    Today it is enough. May we hold each other up with our stories, especially when we are feeling unbalanced. May we fall on the softness of grace that is always there for us all.

  10. I think the key is to focus on the now and nothing but :)

    I am glad you liked the recipe I posted

  11. There is such beauty in the windblown snow. Such depth and clarity and at times so surreal. The pitted snow of the activity of life.... the reality of how we live. I know I'd like to have days of smooth pristine beauty, yet that is not what this life brings. It brings a full range of emotions and activities. Though we may be housebound or out and about scurrying around, our mind is what matters. When I can quiet my mind amongst the chaos of life, I have the beauty of inner Peace. Yet life has a way of leaving footprints all over, here and there, in no particular order. We can find comfort in this as well for this random activity of the world, of the mind, is part of my life too. I can choose to run and join the excitement for a while, leavening my mark as well. You did just that my friend, by helping that old man, you joined and left your tender mark. You leave your tender mark on your blog posts too. Gentle as well as excited foot prints dancing around the yard of the soul. You teach us to be all we can be, mindfully so. You are a great teacher of life my friend. You are full of compassion and life. You are windblown beauty, you are the active imprints of life left on the souls of your readers and friends. Your path may be changing as with the wind, yet, each day, each moment you leave your mark, fresh and new as you travel through life. Now is who I am, it will change yet remain the same, it must as we follow our journey. Blessings to you and yours. Love and Light, Nina P

  12. Beaux...I think our "numbness and tingling" experiences are similar. And I feel the same way about our two story, too many rooms to care for house! Isn't it interesting though how when one lives with a chronic illness and learns to accept that "this is just how it is right now" we start to think that what we are dealing with is hard, but not as hard as what someone else is dealing with? I feel that way when I think of you and all that you have on your plate! My medical issues are so minor compared to yours and I wish I could do something to bring you comfort and relief. Sending you a big gentle hug and prayers that a liver donor who matches you perfectly will be found for you very, very soon!

  13. Sweet Mermaid,
    I feel so blessed to have met you through Jan's blog. Indeed we are this all moments. Thank you for your loving words of support, for your beautiful blessing.

    Thank you for stopping by my blog too and your wise words...focusing on NOW...for truly, it is all that we have. We will try your yummy recipe soon!

  14. Nina,
    I am crying. Heavy tears (not sobbing) but dense with gratitude for you kind words to me...the tears are matching the wet snow falling outside, bowing the branches of the trees. And so, I bow my head to you, bringing my face a bit closer to my heart...a gesture of thanks. How blessed we all are to be part of this world wide community of supportive bloggers. It is the most amazing phenomenon, to open my macbook every day and know that I will read soulful wisdom, see photos of beautiful people, places and moments all on other peoples blogs...that I can pour out my heart and receive kindness from remarkable human beings who might be considered strangers, but to me feel like dear friends strewn across the globe.
    gentle steps, dear one

  15. Oh Laura there is so much I could relate to in this post.

    So many things. I was feeling sorry for myself while reading about you because I could relate so well. I know I should have said I was sorry for you but you see I have been greedy the last couple of days because I feel like shit.

    I am so sorry darling that you must suffer too.

    I wanted you to know that the comment you put on my blog made me burst into tears.

    Thank you for it, it is beautiful just like you.

    Love Renee xoxo

  16. Renee...this is so fascinating. When Sharon made a comment about me not being judgmental...I responded that I saw my thoughts as such and that this was a learning opportunity-I was having difficulty accepting the fullness of what she sees in me...I was judging myself harshly and not able to just say "thank you for seeing this compassionate courageous part of me"...Beaux who is quite ill wrote a thoughtful message to me, saying "I can't imagine having to deal with the agony you must go through at times." From my perspective, in this moment, I look at his situation and think the same thing, "I can't imagine having to deal with the agony you must go through at times." And here you are apologizing for noticing your own suffering first. YOU have an incredibly complicated, serious medical situation yourself as do other members of your family.

    I'm thinking that Sharon was on to something that I missed at first. Yes of course cranky thoughts about ourselves and other people arise when we are ill...and sometimes these thoughts do take on the form of harsh judgment...AND, OF COURSE we think of ourselves first...this is direct experience, our own perspective will naturally begin with how we are feeling in the moment...this is good, healthy and logical. But this does not diminish the power of our compassion toward others or our courage, or make us selfish in anyway.

    I am breathing in healing and exhaling compassion....breathing in love and exhaling peace...breathing in compassion and exhaling healing...breathing in peace and exhaling all beings everywhere.

  17. Ah Laura, I can relate so well to the massive adjustments needed to accommodate the new body workings, and how spontaneous errands are a rarity due to just the things you've described, as the strength and energy drain away and pain climbs with what was once a given.

    Along with these adjustments I have learned well the necessity to teach others of opportunities to practice compassion and awareness of another's needs. What seems so obvious to me is often an oversight to another, so I have learned that to free myself from frustration and judgment I speak - with this I need help me, please! I have learned that to not ask I deprive another of the opportunity to do good, rather than seeing myself as weaker or them as clueless, I see caring and strengths being shared. My *weakness* then strengthens others.

    Thank you for sharing your vulnerabilities and strengths so openly and honestly, and for the reminder of great need elsewhere in the world.
    sending love and thoughts of peace, breathing in and breathing out...

  18. Yes Karin! "I have learned that to not ask I deprive another of the opportunity to do good, rather than seeing myself as weaker or them as clueless, I see caring and strengths being shared. My *weakness* then strengthens others."

    I need to work on this is a process, this is the process of paying attention and giving to others when I can.

  19. This was truly beautiful and touching to read.

    The human mind is a carnival... I am able to both appreciate and become more present with my own thoughts, tendencies, judgments, and ability to love amidst all of it because of the words you shared here.

    My gratitude and love to you.

  20. Megan...each connection we make, soul to soul feeds our ability learn and grow. Thank you Joy Girl for connecting with me and being my teacher too!


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