On Death, Dying and Depression: Dealing with our Darkest Days.

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Finding a bright side to a dark situation.

Going with it. Allowing it.  Honoring it.  Moving beyond not in spite of, but because of.

Because we can learn the greatest lessons from our darkest days.

This is the natural cycle of life. And death.

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This is not what I meant to write about this week.  A whole essay on another topic open on my desk top ready to share with you.  It can wait.  This came up. And so we go with it. Ride the waves of life. For to miss out is to lose those greatest lessons.  This is living.

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Here in the high country, rain and hail continue. Clear mornings bring heavy frost. Clouds amass by mid day and the sky is awash in striations of deep grey by afternoon. Maybe in evening after a good downpour, the sun will break through far to the west and illuminate the tops of the snow covered peaks, glowing like stars on top a Christmas tree.

Leaves challenge the elements and slowly emerge, blending hillsides of the most vibrant greens into bands of waving white above tree line. Dandelions are quick to open their sunny faces in fleeting moments of sunny skies, and tuck themselves in with a sense of self preservation and practicality when the clouds wash over again.

Now is the time of rebirth, yet what I feel is the oppression of loss.

No one I know has recently died, nothing has changed, nothing is really wrong.

And yet, I feel I have lost something.

Something deep and primal and personal and essential.

A part of myself.

And for that part, that something I can not fully define, I find myself in mourning.

Amazing we can feel this way, so strongly, when on the outside it appears everything in our lives is “just fine.”

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I need to rant.  Please bear with me. I think you can take this, and maybe, just maybe, you’ve felt this way too.

Winter was hard.  It’s a long story; I won’t bore you with it now.  But the season on one hand left me empowered and with new focus; and on the other left me tired, empty, something in me missing, hurt, off, wrong.  The wind got me.  That sounds weird and I don’t really understand how and I can’t explain it better than that, and believe me, it doesn’t make much sense to me either.  But I think that’s what it was. The wind.

I thought I was strong.  Impenetrable.  (At times we may find we are weaker than we think, and the lesson may be in finding the beauty in that softness which only weakness allows.)  Well, I don’t particularly want to be weak, so I went to a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor and she noticed the wind right away.  She said my chi was weakened and the wind got in me and got me bad.  Believe what you wish, think what you want, this really made sense to me.  It just felt right.  Something deep inside was off and needed to get grounded.

So, I’ve been working to balance my chi again, and thought I was doing well… but then suddenly… WHAM.

Suddenly I am sad, angry and depressed.

What triggered this? Where does this stuff come from?  I thought I was doing great… everything was fine.

I walk down to my beloved bridge – my way to get away – and the river is so crazy high with spring melt off from the warm temperatures mixed with the abundance of rain, swirling café au lait colored brown and raging, loud, wild, powerful and intense like I have never felt her run before… and I just sit there, legs dangling off the bridge in the middle of all this powerful water… and I cry.  Hard.  I have visions of falling into that water. I think how easy it would be. Just let go, slip away. No more problems, confusion, hurt… But I don’t want to end my life or miss out on what will be or cause pain to others.

What then, can I do to end this suffering?

Don’t worry, I won’t kill myself. I’m not suicidal.  I’m just really sick of life today.

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The next day, I walk back down to the river, that bridge, and stand there over the mighty river and smile. The sun shines warm on my face and my husband holds me and says just the right things, and my dog sits by my side as I stop and listen to the strong white noise and I can’t imagine a better life.

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Nuts, you may say.

Maybe so.

Or maybe, just maybe, this is living life, wild and free.

And what can we do but go with it, and make the most of it?

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Considering balance.  Our life is fuller if we allow the cycle of life to ebb and flow and even over flow at times. Remaining in balance at all times denies us this vast array of human emotions, creative expression, wild adventures, amazing acts of beautiful passion and tremendous bravery, and ultimately, great achievements.  Balance is an over-touted safety net by which we can remain level, in line.  Mediocrity, if you ask me. And missing out.  It’s not easy, riding the pendulum, but it’s a wild ride, and well worthwhile. And I’m just starting to get it: this is what living life fully means.

(More on this can be found in the fabulous excerpts from this week’s Brain Pickings.)

What can I say?  Don’t say a thing.  Instead, let’s hold on to our hats and stand out in the wind and pouring rain, raise our heads back and howl!

Because remember this too:  What about love?  What is level and balanced about love? Would you be willing to miss out on love in order to keep your cool and maintain control and live your life well balanced?

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And yes, that means risking a broken heart.

A little bit of death every time.

Would you have it any other way?
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And so we must die. Leave the past behind.

What does it mean to die and remain among the living?

Is this not an intense part of the spiritual journey, and like all experiences, unique to each of us?

Giving everything, going to the ends, letting go, a complete release, and opening up to that which is absolutely new.

Or do we prefer to let go of those extremes, find center, be steady and stable and secure, and live life only from that balance point?

There is no one right way.

What way do you choose?

I won’t tell you your way is wrong if you won’t tell me mine is.

~

Suddenly in meditation it all makes sense.  Fleeting glimpses of great wisdom and the Divine.  The intensity is intoxicating, though it does not last long.  I don’t have the answers, but the questions become more clear, and I can’t help but want to know more…

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There is such comfort in knowing we are not the only one. And so I share this, with you.  Maybe you’ll think I’m nuts, and prefer to remain safe and stable. Or maybe you’ll feel this way too.

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Dear Amy of SoulDipper shares the following wisdom:

We do have to die before we are reborn.  One book used in my study of the mystical principles in Sufism (borne from the wisdom of the Desert Fathers) contains a chapter titled “Die Before You Die”.    

…Rumi, the poet who was a devout Sufi, is also quoted in the chapter.  He wrote:  

The mystery of “Die before you die” is this:
that the gifts come after your dying, and not before.
Except for dying, you artful schemer,
no other skill impressed God.  One Divine gift
is better than a hundred kinds of exertion.
Your efforts are assailed from a hundred sides,
and the favor depends on your dying.
The trustworthy have already put this to the test.
(Mathnawi, VI, 3837-40)

(Amy is a wonderful friend, well known resource, powerful guide, and fellow soul searcher along this journey.  She offers two invaluable services for the awakening mind. First is her Operation Blind Spot, helping you help yourself in understanding, accepting and healing your past.  Second are her Intuitive Sessions, channeled readings bringing insight and wisdom into the Self through spirit guides, and ultimately, through the Divine.)

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Can we call it depression in the literary sense, not the clinical:  low, slow, down, dull?

Finding a bright side to a dark situation… for is not depression a little bit of our soul dying and being reborn with every wave?

I think those of us who think a lot about things like… say… life… are going to have our spells.  How could we not?

We are not taught to treat ourselves, to trust ourselves and even to understand ourselves.

I am challenging you to begin. With me.  Let’s give it a try.

To clarify depression, I do not mean the clinical term but the emotional state.  As in sad, down, low, dull (for none of us can be up, high, bright and light all the time!).

The label of Depression for disease, chemical imbalance, mental illness are of separate concern and beyond my realm.  Not that I don’t want to give this matter value, but I don’t deal with labels (nor the medical model).  I deal with life, and hope to share my little glimpses with you, not take on medical assumptions.

What I speak of here is the inner turmoil of the eternal seeker.  The natural part of life for those living fully.  The low on the waves, the ebb of the tide, and dark cycle of the changing moon.  To avoid darkness is to deny half of our life.

As we are all unique, so are our maladies, and so are our treatments.  Listen to yourself; trust yourself; know that you are your own best excerpt – no one knows you better than you know yourself. And yes, sometimes knowing our selves means knowing when to turn to others for help…

For those of us for whom depression is but a dark spot to dive into, it serves as an opening to the light on the other side.  Maybe a cliché.  But you get what I mean.

~

Because there must be death before new life.

Leaves will wither and fall before new buds emerge.

Which promise then new blossoms, fragrant and bright and wild.

~

My husband tells me he was told you haven’t really lived if you never thought of dying.

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Does the cycle ever end?

What would the alternative be?  Balance?

Missing out on the lows would mean missing out on the highs.

Am I willing to forgo all that to remain somewhere safe?

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At times I am tempted, but these times do not remain for long.

I return to life with a childlike zeal and curiosity and passion.

Lost as the young women I try to help.

How can I help when I don’t know the answers?

Somehow just being there, reminding others they are not alone, you are not the only one and this is not wrong… in fact, within this is something very beautiful indeed.

I am still on the path.

Walking beside.

Some days wildly wandering.

~

I don’t know where I am going with my writing.

I don’t know where I am going with my life.

Saying that at nearly fifty seems wrong.

I want to know. I think.

Some days I don’t want to be searching still.

I want to have found the answers.

Truth.

Maybe we never do.

So, I write.

Words come.

I can’t keep up though I try, and have no idea where these words will lead me, will lead you, if you will even read.  And somehow this matters, not for vanity so much as sanity, and just the same, I must write.

I want to reach people, help people, that’s why I write, I think that’s why words come to me, through me.

Some days I just don’t know.

Maybe today is one of those days.

Tomorrow will be different.

~

After nearly fifty years of asking questions, suddenly I find myself being asked the very questions I have asked a hundred times. Although I still feel so often like a child in body, heart and mind, what others see must be different:  graying hair and spreading wrinkles like hoar frost on a winter morning.

The natural progression of things. I’m not sure I understand, but go along with it. What else can I do?

This is the curious order of awakening minds.

And the random wisdom we share,

as both the asker and teller

Receive.

~

Widen your gaze!

Embrace all of life.

The light and the dark.

My world is wild, and natural, and trusting and nurturing.  It’s cruel, harsh and raw and real at times, and more beautiful than anything I could dream up other times.  I don’t want to refute, refuse or change my world, only make the most of it, be fully connected, and do my best to understand, integrate, and be one with it all.

I want to live.

As fully as I can.

~

Working in the high country yesterday, along the Continental Divide.  Pouring rain, soaked through slickers and boots well packed with mud and I’m just grateful it’s not snowing.  We’re wet and chilled and working with saw, shovel and ax until we feel we can’t do more and then of course we do a little more because really it just feels so good to be out there in the elements and giving our all and this is living, and that’s how I feel so alive.

~

Once again, I am re-born.

~ ~ ~

 

Creating Connection: Finding Balance Between Nature and Man.

gunnar on walk

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Random thoughts on awakening where we are.

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We are all connected.

Then why too often do we feel so alone?

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Within us all is a universal need to find our sense of community, of belonging within this big beautiful world; to find the special place where we belong, the special few to whom we belong.

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I want to belong.

(Don’t we all?)

And yet, here I am.

Hiding in the trees.

Is not, then, here

where I belong?

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Here, it is all around.
Surrounding, encompassing, embracing.

My community, where I belong, where I find myself, allow myself to be.

Nature and the wilds.

 

For half of the year, a white, still, silence shared between the trees and me.

Now, a passing motion, stirred by the heavy rains on raw spring soil.  Rocks shifting in loose dirt, river roaring brown. Trees holding vigil as the seasons come and go and come again.

Slowly the mountain livens not with her accord but for the elk, deer, hummingbirds and humans that begin to migrate upwards.

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And still, I reach for more.

The challenge of finding our place and space.

Becoming or creating a community to which we can be apart.

Expansive and inclusive.

Challenging and creative.

When it’s too easy to fall for same, similar, safe, close, closed.

 

Community can be that which awakens us, or that which suppresses us.

The choice is ours.

 

Community can be the pillow of protection, surrounding us with assurance.

Or it can be a matter of contention, rebellion.

The comfort of connection, or the battle to define one’s self.

Seal ones position or deny one’s place.

Surrounded by like minds, or contrary minds.

Absorbed in a similar reality, or forced to defend your views, define your truths.

What are your challenges in finding where we are meant to be?

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Being a part, or being apart.

As we can not be all places at all times, or all things to all people, how do we realize the Self and place of Self within our world?

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Here in the high country, spring is late to come. The leaves are only now opening and will remain attached for merely four months, at which point the trees release and we begin the big slumber that remains here for half the year, while the other three season share the other half.

Spring is a time of adjustments when I go from being the happy hermit to becoming the social misfit.

It is happening now.

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Some days

I feel

closed in

Today

People in four directions

When what I reach for is

air earth water trees

 

Naked branches suddenly

thickening with leaves

views enclosed and narrowing

Silenced is the rushing river

 

Tonight in moist and mild spring air

I see lights in strange cabins

Brighter than the big spring moon

Dancing silver on winding river

 

I lose touch

With  her

With me

 

Now is the time

I hole up

Withdraw

Turtle retreats to his shell

 

Is that where he belongs?

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So, we’re coming out of the Wilderness. My dog and me.  I am armed with my camera. Nothing more.  Perhaps a half eaten granola bar in one pocket, a bandana in another, and chapstick in the third. What more do I need for a day hike?

 

What should I really fear our here that I cannot handle? What are we told?  Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  Yes, we have those.  But it’s not them I have learned to look out for.

 

We’ve been hiking for how many hours, how many miles, on a trail that has not been used since the hunters were run off the mountain in last November’s snows.  Tracks of elk, moose, deer, coyote. And my dog and me.

 

We’re almost back to the trailhead, and it feels like returning to civilization. This is often a strange and bittersweet place to find myself.  My dog is ahead of me.  I see movement just past the trees, so quite calmly I say, “Gunnar, wait.”  He stops in his tracks and waits.  Good boy.

Two more steps reveal a woman in day-glow colors and day pack, and odder  to me still, a man with a big stick in both hands, held over his head, shaking it at my dog, who reads people well enough to know not to get close to this one.

 

Maybe it was Bear Phobia. Here he is, going into the Wilderness, and you know what he thinks he’ll see.  Not some little wild woman and her friendly dog.

 

Is he friendly, the man asks, still shaking the big stick.  Yes, I reply, he is.  I call my pup and continue on, growling beneath my breath something about how I’m the one he should watch out for, not my dog…

 

See, it’s not the bears I’m afraid of up here.  It’s the people.

 

This was my first chance encounter with the human race on this mountain this year.

Is it any wonder why I long for the return of winter?

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Take a deep breath.

Don’t go there, I remind myself.

Open up.

What matters more than connection?

We are all connected.

Then why do I feel so detached?

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Here I watch people come, people go. At times my heart sings when they leave; other times it aches as they vanish like a passing storm that left the soil soft and ripe.

With each chance encounter, we have the opportunity to learn, laugh, love.

Upon fertile grounds of compassion, we open, expose our souls, and though we risk being left empty when they take what they want or need and leave, we also chance a great awakening, or a simple story, or something beautiful shared.

Passing though, they come and go, unlike the certainty of the seasons, but with the season.

~

For years I fought to leave

Time and again, she pulled me back

(kicking and screaming at times)

And tied me down

Only now do I see here is where I belong

Not because I have given up, but because I have opened up.

~

My community, I found in the trees.

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Here we learn the natural adjustment to the seasons.

The cycle of life

To which we are a part

Neither above nor beyond.

~

As the leaves emerge bright and shiny and as suddenly the size of squirrels’ ears, only to fill out and wash the hills in a lush green wave, until the brilliant gold of late September in long shadows lays the land back to rest, and under the white we remain.

~

Expand into this world

Like breathing…

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There is neither right nor wrong

There just is.

Along with our need to find our place

Within some precast mold to which we may not fit.

And when we learn to let go

And be

We may find ourselves

Way out here.

And still

Fully connected

A part of it all.

~

Still…

I sit with the evening sun on my face

Bound by the lull of a rushing stream

Dandelions aglow on the moist hill on which we rest

Leaning on and into each other, wordless now, my husband and I

The dog on vigil behind us

And…

For one beautiful moment

This is exactly where I belong.

Where I want to be, without wanting more

It feels so right to say that, to know that, to feel that,

to finally believe that,

until the wind reminds us to leave.

The adventure of standing still.

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Am I wrong to say this is where I belong

This is my community

And find connection, wisdom, soul

In wind, water, bark and branches?

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Do trees have soul?

The collective soul.

These are the old wise ones.

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A walk deep in the woods with a small glass jar in one hand, sticky fingers in the other, gathering pitch from my beloved once blue spruce. The old ones, the big ones, are now long gone; their sap dried and brushed into the earth by elements and time. Now it is the smaller ones putting out their last liquid essence in a vain attempt to hold life, when what they are doing is dying.  I am collecting the blood and tears of their wounds to create a healing salve. To honor my neighbors, my friends.

As I reach into the dried bare branches once green and lush and flexible, snapping them off with no more than the weight of my extended arm, stretching towards the last of their golden, glowing life oozing through their wounds, my flesh is scored by a broken branch. My tears and blood blend with theirs.  Different colors, mine warm and red, and yet all the same, is it not?

 

Their souls remain after the needles fall.  Perhaps a secret stillness remaining in their roots for a year or more in the silent soil.

And then they are silent.

Where do their souls move onto?

~

In  winter

I bloom

Fragrant and bright and wild

 

Where am I going,

you ask

And I tell you

I do not know.

~

alyssa 2

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A Meditation on Simplicity

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sweet alyssa 2

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We live in the daze of busy-ness.

We’ve got one hand swiping the big screen trying to keep up with the latest greatest, and a phone (yes, we still call these things “phones”)  in the other with a text coming in, post going out, photo being shared, a meeting coming up, appointments overlapping, multi-tasking, yet, sorry, we’ve been crazy busy and we don’t have time and got to go ‘cause we’re running late for what we’re not so sure but we know it’s the thing, think it’s important, are certain it matters and we don’t want to miss out.

We’re caught up in this epidemic of busy-ness.  The social norm. Self created.  Self inflicted.  Some days we feel sucked in, stuck and see no way out of this powerful spinning spiral. This is just how it is.

It’s all about accomplishment, achievement, goals and success…

Or is it?  For who defines your success?

As if busy-ness might bring us self worth and social status, help us understand where we are in the bigger picture, and what we’re all about.

Does it?

We’re usually too busy to be certain.

On the other end, there is stillness, silence, just being.

Nice as that sounds, really, we don’t have time for those things.

We don’t take the time. We’re completely caught up in this cycle. Too much else going on.  Big stuff.  Important stuff.  And really, we’re pretty important people. You know how it is.

Simplicity seems so far away.

But if we stop for just a second and take a serious look, we’ll see it’s pretty darned close.  It’s just a matter of choice.  If you’re ready, you can choose it. Just for a minute. Try it. The world will go on just fine without you.

And if you’re not, that’s okay too.  Keep on going as you were.  If that’s working for you, great.  No need to read on.  Keep on with what you were doing, because chances are, it’s a Very Important Thing.

~

Simplicity.  Sounds so simple.  Maybe it is.  Maybe we just make it complicated. By choice.  Just a thought, if we choose to take the time to think about it…

Busy-ness has become our comfort zone, our identity, our understanding around which everything else revolves.

What happens if we let go?

Will the bottom fall out and we find ourselves floating, out of control, without the safety of social identity, title, label, status and involvement?

The emperor without his clothes.

What do you think would happen if we release that stigma and allow ourselves to be.

Be what? If you ask that, you’re missing the point.  Just be.  Nothing more.  No strings attached.

Maybe we’ll go through a period of unrest. We’ll get fidgety, restless, look around, at our watch, at someone else, surely we should be doing something.

Because, we are told, something is always better than nothing.

Fill ‘er up, stuff the holes, fill in the cracks, don’t leave yourself with empty space, free time, and certainly not silence.

Free time is frowned upon, unless is snuck in, scheduled or under the disguise of Something Very Important. (Like the number of hours spent at our desk keeping up with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest when everyone thinks we’re working… we hope.)

Silence, well, few of us know what that is.  Maybe it’s the wind. Flowing water.  A singing robin or rain on the roof. The usual traffic we hear come and go without attachment, or judgment. It just moves like waves, never ending. Silence is without the busy-ness in our head filling up and masking over those background sounds that just are.

Do we think busy-ness will make us more important?  Does being important matter? Why?  And who is to judge?

Of course one might stop to question in all this busy-ness, how much are we actually getting done?  What are we actually accomplishing, and how much does it all really matter?  But I don’t mean to be going there now. (Would you believe I don’t have the time?)  That’s a whole ‘nuther can o’ worms. You can think about that on your own sometime, if you have the time. (or should I say:  if you choose to take the time).

~

Okay, so, now… let it go. All of it.  The phone. The big screen.  The text coming in.  The appointment coming up. The work to be done.  The things you need to do and say, places you need to go… Leave it.

It’s not going anywhere.  It will be there when you’re done.  The world will manage okay for a minute without your help.

Try it.  Just for a second.  And just be.

Do we even know what that means?

We’re told this is idle time.

We catch ourselves scoffing at those sitting around not keeping themselves busy.

We praising the movers and shakers and high powered and popular faces with a thousand friends.

Society is not big on us just being.

Nor do we support it in ourselves.

In nothingness arises the frank confrontation of reality,

Seeing ourselves.

Unadorned by important people, deadlines, pressures, responsibilities, titles and rank.

These things are not you,

They are only what you cling to.

Let them go.

For just a minute.

Let me see the real you.

Unadorned.

Real and raw.

That is the real you.

~

Let’s try it.

Together.

Let’s start by letting go. Slowing down.

Just for a few seconds.

No deadlines, no pressures, no electronic devices.

Nothing we need to do or say, no where we need to go.

Relax your body and clear your mind.

Let thoughts come and go, without holding on, allow them to pass like leaves in the wind or sticks floating down stream

And you remain.

Still, silent.

Nothing.

Is the minute up yet?

Why am I doing this when I should be doing that?

It’s harder than you thought, isn’t it?

I know.

Let’s try again.

A whole minute this time.

Let’s go down to the river, or where ever it is you find your inspiration, and just sit for one minute, breathe, and listen…

Now what?

I dare you to do nothing!

I won’t guide you through the steps.

Maybe there aren’t any.

Maybe that’s the point.

Doing nothing.

Be.

That’s something.

That’s all you have to do, and it’s not as easy as it sounds.

I will only remind you, and you can go yourself.

In your time.

Take your time.

Nothing else matters.

Let go.

Do nothing.

Listen to your breath.

Count on the inhales.

Hold it.

Release on the exhales.

Feel your pulse, your heart, your moving blood.

Flowing like the river.

Watch the world around you.

You are not separate from it.

You are a part of it.

You are the river.

Flow.

Connect.

Go with it.

Let go of self, schedules, deadlines, social status, demands.

Be.

Become.

Think of nothing.

Allow thoughts to come and go, floating down the stream…

What matters more

than the sound of geese

congregating on wet pasture

in cool morning

Or the rising sun

Magenta

striking snow covered ridges

The reflection of clear sky

On a small pond

Mirror images of still leafless trees

Dancing in silky ripples

My  skin

My thoughts

My fears

Let them go.

All the he said

She said

What they think of me

I said too much

Too little

The wrong thing

Let them all go.

How can I hold onto what is gone?

The vibration does not continue

anywhere but in my

Emotive mind when I cling to it.

Let it go.

I am not this hurt

That wound

I am not a word

A story

Or language or sound

I am not what I say

Or what you say

These things come through me

And leave

When they leave my tongue

They are not me, they are not you,

they just are as I just am.

Let the rest go.

And I am what?

What am I left with?

The rock worn smooth

Solid and unmoving

Over which the water flows?

Or am I the water

A part of it

Moving or staying.

Can you tell what it does, where it goes,

What part leaves and what remains,

Or is it all just what it is,

Part of the river, flowing water?

And does that matter anyway?

What matters more

Than the air

Can I say I breathe

As if it were mine

Do I take it

Own it

Use it

Control it

Am I controlled by it

Or am I of it

In it

It

I am none of it

All of it.

Being, Connecting.  Letting the rest go.

Being in the wind, of the sun, a part of the rich damp soil.

Even for just a minute.

~

This is not about going anywhere.

Doing anything.

Accomplishing something

Picturing or focusing on becoming

It’s just about being

Still and silent

Letting it come and go

Without holding on

Without attachment

Or expectations

And yes it is hard

And yes, you can do it.

And so can I.

If we so choose.

A meditation in simplicity.

I cannot sit here and tell you what to do.

I can only encourage you to be your best

While I try to figure out mine

And sometimes our best is nothing.

Just being.

The hardest thing to do.

The hardest thing to be.

~

sweet alyssa 4

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Shared today on Conscious Life News.

And thanks again to my beautiful model, Sweet, sweet Alyssa.