Soul Songs #22

Parables of Love, Part III:

How Great Thou Art, A Lesson in Song

The sun shone through the time-streaked bay windows in the small chapel, appearing to reflect directly off the lawn’s morning dew upward to light the room. The space was cramped and decorated, if you could call it that, with only in browns and other shades that appeared to have transformed in the way aged pages yellow.

Dust particles danced in the sunlight.

A small upright piano stood in the center of the room, appearing out of place in the barren room. A few folding chairs, a small makeshift podium, and a bouquet of plastic flowers were the only other items in the room.

“So depressing,” she whispered to herself as she set up her music.

He had left this place nearly two years ago but it looked just as it had when she last said goodbye. She shuddered thinking about it, but still she’d agreed to do this. She had a feeling he’d want her to. Papa always loved to hear her sing.

She made a final mark on her sheet music and set the copy out for the accompanist before she sat down to wait and collect her thoughts. Eyes closed, as in meditation, her silent prayer called on the pure loving universe to fill her with the spirit of love and compassion, for her song to reach all the way to her dear papa, wherever he may be, and for her soul to be filled by His love as she sang His praise.

The room had begun to fill. Wheelchairs rolled in one at a time with the frail and infirm beginning to form an audience. A few residents made it in and slowly found a seat on their own with little support. She realized how long this was going to take and knew she could never just sit there as they all began to fill in to see her.

“Well, of course, they’re not here to see me,” she thought. Shaking her head with a smile she stood to begin mingling. “They’re here for their church services, for time out of their rooms, for a chance to sit in the sun. …not unlike me, really,” she concluded.

Several smiles, handshakes, and a few hugs later, they all joined in prayer and gave thanks for their time together. They listened to words of hope and thanksgiving. There was no lesson. There was no admonishment. There was only love.

Her heart was full by the time she stood to sing. And it was magical.

“Oh Lord my God, when I, in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,” her voice carried and seemed to lift beyond her. She would never be able to explain it but it was more than her voice. She was only the vehicle.

“I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed… .”

Bright blue eyes met hers with a steady gaze as the chorus began. An unspoken agreement was made and soon the two of them were singing in unison.

The sun had completed its ascent and its light now filled the room. She could not help but smile as it warmed her skin. She felt so alive.

“Then sings my soul, my savior, God, to Thee. How great Thou art!”

She was transported, some sort of electrical current seemed to enfolding and uplift her. Everyone was signing by the final chorus, even those who’d seemed unable to speak as she’d mingled earlier. She’d never experienced anything like this. All voices commingled in joyful shouts of acclamation. And those bright blue eyes reminded her so much of Papa.

Now, years later, she recalled the tears and joy as she held the little box of thank you’s they’d sent the next day.

“How can I get that feeling again?” she wondered. But she knew. So she prayed that her soul song be one of love and compassion on this day that it might reach all in need. And she felt the sun warm her skin. He was with her.

Soul Songs #17

Parables of Love, Part I: The Guru

“This is your time; invite yourself to just be,” she started.

The soft sound of healing breaths, in and out, began to hum as we drifted into our own inner spaces. Grounding ourselves in our breath, reminded of our humanity, and reaching with our hearts, reminded of our spirits, we commenced our yoga practice. It’s a practice designed for discovery. We struggle with poses we’re not yet strong enough to hold. We flow through stretches that push our limits. We falter, even fall, as we learn to balance. The discovery will be of our true selves, the core of our beings at the energy source that sparks our human existence. This practice is part of all we do.

The chimes bring us back as our guru intones reminders to listen to our bodies and go at our own pace.

“Thank you for sharing your practice with me today. Thank yourself for making the effort to be present. Notice if you were able to put on those yoga blinders and care only for your practice rather than comparing yourself and your practice to others. Ask your soul if you loved yourself in your practice today. That’s why we practice.”

We thought about her words. We closed our eyes and searched our souls. Then we all bowed and offered “namaste” at the conclusion of the hour. Emma sat frozen with a smile, beaming as if illuminated by the time we’d just shared as a group.

Her petite frame was shrouded in atypical exercise attire. But then Emma was no typical yoga instructor. Mousy brown hair went all directions, appearing to spring from her delicate pink face; it was pulled up as usual, in a style none could, nor would likely attempt, to replicate. Her baggy clothes looked as though they could slip off her narrow shoulders and hips without warning. Yet she held her balances with unwavering strength. She moved with beauty and grace none would expect from such a disheveled waif. She looked like a wood sprite or faerie playing at being human and unsure how to fit in. But when she spoke she lit up the room. She was truly beautiful.

“So, how was that on your your neck, Sarah?” She asked as I gathered my things after class. “Was that buggy? Because we don’t want it buggy. Remember, if you’re over it, you’re over it–just like anything in life. Yoga teaches us that, right?”

I snickered a bit. I couldn’t help it. Her phrasing always made me smile. “Who talks like that?” I thought.

“It was great, Emma. Really. I’ve been trying to listen to my body and honor my limits, …” I demonstrated what I’d been practicing, propping my head against my forearms on the mat. “It actually feels better this way and, look.” I pushed out the last word with a bit more force as I kicked my legs to the ceiling and entered my headstand.

“So that’s two goals met: crow pose and a yoga headstand,” I beamed upside down still.

“That’s so awesome! You amaze me.” She waited until I righted myself and returned to sit, crosslegged on my mat in front of her. “Sarah, can you believe that you’re stronger now, so many years after your diagnosis, than ever before? … I mean, that’s really powerful. You should be ecstatic” She searched my eyes, tearing up as they often did when the subject of my health and happiness came up.

“I am proud of myself,” I replied. “I know I can do whatever I set my mind to.”

“But you’re not happy. I can tell.” A tear escaped as she leaned in and seemed to see into my soul.

“I can’t explain it. It’s like I’ve just discovered who I really am and it makes me sad that I haven’t honored my identity but, more, like I don’t know how to.” I admitted, wondering why and how she brought this honesty out in me–and why I kept coming back to share more.

“Sarah, sweetie, you do know. It’s why you keep coming.” We embraced at that and I let the tears flow.

It’s true that I’m a cryer, although most would never guess that. I would rather suffer great pain than cry in public. Tough. Strong. Hilarious. … those are the descriptors I make sure I demonstrate in my day-to-day activities. They’re also what I tell people I am. Emma says crying is a sign of strength, and I almost believe her. But I still think being able to hold my tears until I’m alone is a sign of even greater strength. Every time I say that she speaks of the need for vulnerability, but I’m not there yet.

But today I cried, sobs and sighs, and gasps for air included. It was no dainty or sweet cry. It was the heavy healing kind of cry.

“Well it’s about time, cutie,” she whispered. “I knew you had that in you. And now you’re ready.” Her smile soothed me as she spoke.

“Sarah, you’re about to begin a journey.” A mysterious shift in the room’s light, as if the sun had broken free of dozens of clouds, seemed to welcome me to another dimension as she spoke. The only way to explain it is to say it felt like church, that light and airy and thankful feeling of peace when church is the way it’s supposed to be and love is the lesson.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Today’s lesson will begin to explain it, so just go with it.”

“Okay, Emma. I’m all in. ”

“Cool,” she said informally. “Let’s do this!” She smiled, beamed really, as she began. “Today’s lesson is the parable of the guiding light.”

And, with that, I was transported to a morning more than two decades ago. namaste-yall

My Soul Songs #4: Sunlight on Snow

Sunlight on snow has always been one of my favorite scenes. Cool, sunny skies invigorate me. But it’s deeper than that. It’s not just that this girl from the northwest still gets excited at the sight of snow. There’s something almost spiritual about the way the light dances on blankets of snow, the way a gentle wind picks up the crystals to create swirling patterns of glitter in my path.

It’s the balance of energies, fire and water that inspires me. We tend to think of these as opposites and as opponents. Water quenches fire. Heat evaporates moisture. But with sunlight and snow we can see how the two energies can exist in a complementary harmony.

Snow reflects sunlight. Sunshine amplifies the beauty of the crystalline water. The cold helps us appreciate the heat. And the heat slowly supports the shift from snow pack to life-giving water.

This is not a passive relationship. The balance is not static, but dynamic, and the catalyst of needed change. And the fact that we are blessed with this scene and its symbolic reminder each new year is a gift. We can enter the new year inspired to seek and create such balance in the energies of our own lives.

In my yoga, I remind myself that my soul craves and creates both power and peace. In my relationships, I remind myself that I exist to both give and receive. In my prayers, I request and I praise. I seek to create balance where it is lacking and to embrace the balance that exists.

In 2016, I learned the kind of life I want to live and the kind of love I want to have. I learned better the kind of contribution I want to make and the kind of legacy I hope to leave. I learned that I need others and that I have much to offer as well.

I carry these lessons with me into 2017 with a new appreciation of how they can be balanced in my life. I enter the year with a new perspective and the acknowledgement that I do not control the elements, but the elements are my allies. I will not fear the heat, for it brings the light that I need. I will not fear the storm for it brings new life. I will live in harmony as the sunlight on snow.

sunlight-on-snow

 

 

Meditation for a New Year

The scent of lavender oil and sandalwood incense intermingle as they waft about the small, dimly lit room.  I breathe it in and let the healing begin. I offer a silent prayer and set my intention for the day. As the sun begins to peak over the mountains in the distance I begin my meditation, my role in receiving the answers to all my heartfelt prayers.

“I will do as much as I can for as many as I can for as long as I can.” I repeat the mantra as I meditate. I’ve never been able to sustain meditation without a mantra.  I go to this particular mantra often. It focuses me.

A gift from a dear friend one birthday many moons ago, I have kept this little saying in my office for more than a decade, and in my heart and mind always. It is one of my Soul Songs that reverberates with each breath and vibration my existences sends out into the universe and its pure light, my tiny ripple in the waters of life.

I am only one, but I am one. I am all that I am, nothing more, nothing less and that is enough.

Breathe in, breathe out. A deep, healing, falling out breath. I release all the negativity and fear. I let it go.

“I am enough. I will do as much as I can for as many as I can for as long as I can.”

None of us know what the future holds and that’s okay. What we are capable of is ever-changing and often far greater than we ever give ourselves credit. I take another deep breath and I remind myself of this.

“I will do as much as I can for as many as I can for as long as I can.”

I breathe in and out along each chakra as I visualize my core and every place of strength and weakness along the way, scanning my body in my mind’s eye. I send love and light to each crack and fill ache each with gratitude for doing their best to hold together the strength needed for me to continue each day with a smile. I am so thankful.

These mortal vessels we’ve been given to carry us through this life experience are amazing, delicate and strong. I am in awe of all I can do and all I continue to become. So I give thanks.

I refuse to believe that our bodies become diseased or weakened for a reason or lesson to learn, but I do insist on learning something from every experience. The succumbing of my nervous system to MS didn’t bring any great lessons; I have chosen, however, to take it as an opportunity to focus my efforts, my purpose. My purpose is gratitude and joy.

I breathe in gratitude and prepare myself to give and receive greatness. I want to live a full and fulfilling life.

“I will do as much as I can for as many as I can for as long as I can.”

I have learned from MS and from each of the challenges, lessons, and gifts along my life’s journey. I have learned that I want to live a life full of laughter, smiles, hugs, music, memories, and those who feed my soul. Such a life aligns my purpose to my actions and empowers me to remember the difference we each make. I can make a difference.

E.B. White is said to have proclaimed “I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.” This is how I choose to live and create a life of my choosing.

“I will do as much as I can for as  many as I can for as long as I can” and I am one of those. I am fulfilled and energized by interacting with and giving to others. I have a contribution to make.

I can only fully make that contribution, though, if I honor myself and my needs. I will rest and restore and refresh. I will seek support and assistance too–from all sources, temporal and spiritual, for these gifts are for me to use along my journey so I stay strong and accomplish all the good I can do. It is with joy in my heart that I make the biggest difference. And the source of my joy is that “hell of a good time” I have. So, I will have a great time. And I will change the world. Today.

The incense is nearly extinguished. The sun is aloft. The world is aglow with daylight sparkling on snow. The meditation chimes hum.

Another deep breath and I am ready for the first day of this new year. It’s going to be a good one.

“I will do as much as I can for as many as I can for as long as I can.”

Namaste.