Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Simple Revelation

Back in my fundamentalist church days, I learned about the great opposition- the never-ending battle between flesh and spirit.

The flesh, they taught us, was where sin came from, and it was bad, very bad- the body, its desires, its longings. The spirit, on the other hand, was where god lived. And you could not be both in the flesh and in the spirit. It was one or another. Which meant that you were, at any given time, either right with god, or wrong with god. Saved or backslidden. Godly or in the flesh.

As much as I’ve tried to delete the useless file space in my brain taken up by outdated rubbish like this, remnants of this "flesh-shame" remain. I know this because it seems that I often create a distance between me and god when I am truly inhabiting my body, when I let my desires and my fleshliness come to the surface, its as if I do not know how to let both sides co-exist and intertwine. I want new beliefs.

I want to find god in my flesh and flesh in my god. I want to believe in a god that thinks all of me is divine. I want to think all of me is divine.

I want to learn how to be exactly who I am, and know that is exactly who I’m supposed to be, in this moment. There is nothing to change or fix. No side to choose. There doesn’t have to be this relentless dichotomy. How can I be my fullest self and know that "it is good?"

Ego, ego, all this talk about ego, about death of the ego. I don't want to kill my ego! I don't want to kill any part of me. I want to live, to be fully alive- me, my spirit and my ego, one big happy fully embodied and inhabited human being, for as many days as I’m allowed. I want to own my ego, and not be owned by it. I want to own my flesh but not be driven by it. I want to fully inhabit this life of mine. I’m so tired of the relentless self-judgment- all the things I should be doing, thinking, feeling, being; 'AW, FUCK IT' is what I say.

I am ready to simply BE who I ALREADY am.

How to balance the inspired desire to grow, change, evolve with the expansive, soul-affirming desire to simply BE. For example, when meditation comes up in conversation, there is a part of me that immediately "shoulds on myself": I should be a meditator. It would be good for me. Why don't I meditate like other spiritual people? I should start meditating. It would make me more spiritual, it would make people think I’m more spiritual, I could be enlightened. Enlightenment! Ooooh....

Stop: No, maybe I shouldn't be a meditator. You know why? Cause I'm not. And maybe what I'm NOT is exactly right, too! Somewhere along the line, I picked up the man-made concept that spiritual people meditate. But I challenge that concept with the notion that just as Rumi said there are a 'hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground,' there are a hundred ways to connect to spirit, meditation being just one of them. I connect to spirit when I walk. When I dance. When I write. Can I stop judging myself for not meditating now? Sure, someday I’d love to be all Zen and chilled, mind emptied, floating around in space with my fingers in mudras, but right now my fingers prefer snapping and typing and touching and doing other fingerly things.

So today I surrender any notion of what I "should" be. Maybe someday I will be those things. Maybe not. If not, maybe I’m not supposed to be those things.

Today I relish the divinity of my flesh, my spirit, united.

Today I surrender self-judgment and allow myself to fully expand into my own perfect me-ness. I’m not supposed to be anything else except this, who I am, right now.

Today I want my actions and my words to come from the most real parts of me- and I want to know that the most real parts of me are the very best parts of me. I reject nothing.

Filled with gratitude for the opportunity to simply exist, as me, right now, right here.

Right now, right here, right me- it's all right. It's alright! Even the wrong is right! It’s all a gift and today I open wide and revel in this simple revelation: I am.

"You do not have to be good,
You do not have to walk on your knees for miles repenting.
You just have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."
- M. Oliver

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Celestial Park, Indeed

Today I needed to clear my head. I needed to listen. I was hungry for a taste of truth. I wanted a message from God. I wanted to address my spirit, I wanted to be present for just a little while and not off in Fantasy Land (my favorite amusement park.)

I had heard about Celestial Park and with some time to kill, I went to it. I went to talk to Spirit and quiet the chatter in my head long enough to hear divinity talk to me. I wanted to walk and walk and walk, no destination in mind, except within.

Little did I know I was about to get my message alright. A few of them. I walked up to the highest point of the park, a giant human sundial. I circled the sundial seven times, breathing, breathing, nothing but me, the sky, the park, my breath. I laid under a tree and it told me secrets. It reminded me to move with the wind, stay rooted, bloom, drink the sunshine.

And then, heading down the hill, this time on the stone steps on the other side, I noticed that carved into each step were messages...

"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."
- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

(I had been forgetting.)

"That the sky is brighter than the earth means little unless the earth itself is appreciated and enjoyed. Its beauty loved gives the right to aspire to the radiance of the sunrise and the stars."
- Helen Keller, "My Religion"

(What bliss to appreciate and enjoy the earth.)

"Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven." Rabindranath Tagore

(I'm listening, too.)

"The heavens call to you and circle around you displaying to you their splendours, and your eye goes only to the earth."
- Dante "Purgatorio"

(I was forgetting to see.)

"They cannot scare me with their empty spaces, between stars on stars where no human race is. I have it in me so much nearer home to scare myself with my own desert places."
- Robert Frost, "Desert Places"

(me too.)

"Nothing troubles me more than time and space and yet nothing troubles me less."
- Charles Lamb, "Letter to Thomas Manning"

(ah, to be everything and nothing.)

"Between the idea/ and the reality
between the motion / and the act
falls the shadow."
- TS Eliot, "The Hollow Men"

(thank you.)

I continued to walk, and then something shifted. Ideas began flooding me, spilling over faster than I could catch them. And of course, whenever I ask for guidance, Guidance shows up and says: "Write."

I went back to my car for paper and pen, and returned to document the experience. A deep peace ran through my veins: breath, paper, pen and Celestial Park, I received, I received more than I had even hoped for.

I love the way the sky opens up to meet me when I ask.

I love the way that poetry shows up everywhere, in the most surprising ways.

I love the way that I don't have to work hard, really, when I am ready to reconnect with Spirit.

All I need to do is surrender. Again and again and again.

And so I am surrendering. I am listening. I am writing. I am breathing. And I am taking notes.

(c)May 9, 2009 Lisa Ohhh

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shameful Spring Cleaning Confessional, with of course, a metaphor

by Lisa Olson

Once every year or so, usually around this time, I get the urge to clean.

When it comes, I must go with it, in a rare and thus far, undocumented manic cleaning frenzy, for who knows when it will come again. My annual cleaning urge showed up this weekend. My focus: the bedroom.

I didn't know dust could grow so thick. I marveled in awe, shock and wonder at the number of dusting cloths I defiled. I let go of at least a dozen styling products and body sprays and lotions that I don't use. I dusted off the thick layer of dust that had accumulated on things I forgot I had.

Cleaning out the entertainment center in the corner of our room, I found a couple of remote controls of TVs or VCRs or GKWs (God Knows What) we had gotten rid of years ago. The layer of dust was so thick on these remotes, they looked like a relics from the volcano of Pompeii. Frankly, it was disgusting, embarrassing. I have to stop living like this, I thought.

I'm doing this prosperity work and have become so aware, so alert of all the messages I am communicating to the universe, and the messages being communicated to me, and I read this message loud and clear: how can you prosper if you don't even care for what you have?

After giving myself a hearty self-flogging, I vowed to change my dusty ways. The entertainment center also held another message from the universe, custom-made for me, but probably... pardon the pun... universal.

In the entertainment center were not one, but two portable CD players that no longer worked, that haven't worked, in a long time. One was missing a cord and a battery cover. One hadn't been used since the mid-90s of last century (I knew this by the Blaque CD I found inside it).

Why am I holding onto things that do not work? Well... Because they're CD players! It seems wrong, criminal, almost, to throw them away. Wake up: They do not work.

My husband Johnny and I spent a couple minutes debating: what to do, what to do with these broken, outdated, unnecessary pieces of electronics?

But the bigger question that loomed was: why the hell do we hold onto broken things?

Do we imagine someday taking them in, to the CD player repair place? Do we imagine that someday we will become knowledgeable enough in electronics repair to fix them ourselves? Do we think someone, someday will buy two broken CD players, at that magical garage sale that, let's be honest, we will never have? And of course, I, in my precise and sometimes annoying way of making everything mean something else (because it does), asked myself, and have been asking since: what message am I sending out there, when I hang on to broken things?

So, after coming to our senses and being honest with ourselves, we let CD players go, vowing out loud, to whoever was listening, that we will no longer hang on to what does not serve us.

It felt good, like something opening up inside of us. We wondered what were we afraid of by letting these CD players go.

What are we ever afraid of, really, by letting anything go?

I think what we are most afraid of is emptiness.

The space that was created on the shelves when the CD players and other useless things went away feels new and unfamiliar. Our entertainment center actually has empty spaces now. My first instinct of course was to fill them, quickly. I did, a little bit with a couple of books that will never get read (that's another blog).

But mostly I just let the new emptiness be, and marveled at the beauty of space and the metaphor pulsing within this experience: there is nothing to fear about the emptiness that shows up when we let go of what no longer works. It's strange, and unfamiliar, yes. But it will not swallow us.

When we create the space, the necessary openness required for us to be ready, available for something new, something more beautiful, more functional, more important can finally take its place. Or not. Maybe we just allow that space to be, and find that we breathe easier, once the dusty old broken things are gone.

I'm done holding onto broken things. I'm ready to release all that doesn't serve me. Ya hear that, Universe? But mostly, I'm looking forward to the space that opens up when I let go.

(c)2009 LisaOhhh

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Body Memories: After the Epiphany

by Lisa Olson

"The wounds of childhood, deep and pre-verbal and way beyond the grasp of memory, are like footprints covered by new snow; they get hidden with time, sealed over, the traces of felt anguish difficult to perceive, even harder to access. And so the sorrow behind hunger tends to be acted out, described in symbol and code instead of nouns and verbs, the body and behavior communicating what words can’t quite capture.”
- Carolyn Knapp

I rarely felt safe as a little girl, growing up, in my home. It was a tumultuous place, where my parents played out their dramatic, rocky roller coaster of a marriage filled with unpredictabilities and even when things were going “good” I quickly learned not to trust those times, fleeting and ephemeral as they were. It was a constant carnival ride of passion and withholding, love and anger, pain and apologies, sadness and laughter. I never really knew what to expect. Would they love each other today? Would they love me?

And so I became an expert at listening, watching, monitoring everything from the sounds of doors closing (hard meant mad, soft meant happy) to voices, whispers, footsteps, faces. I learned to read them all.

I had to keep a close watch, had to stay on top, monitoring moods by the minute, that’s how quickly things could change. I would know by their response, the tone, the lilt, the punctuation, whether they were happy or mad, mean or nice. By their tone, we knew when to hide out, we knew when to lay low, play quietly or be extra good.

I’d also quickly grown adept and reading faces. As my mother's alcoholism developed, I developed the talent of being able to tell by the look on her face within one second of seeing her whether she had been drinking or not. I could look at my dad's face when he walked in the door after work whether or not we would have a good night. I could read my father’s footsteps down the hall and tell you whether he was in a mean mood or not. I could even tell by the “air” in the room if they were fighting, without hearing a word. They call this “hypervigilance” I’ve since learned. Back then, it was simply survival.

I’m only now beginning to make the connection with my chronic muscle tension and the chaos I grew up in. Loud noises meant something bad was happening. It makes sense to me now, that I jump and my muscles tense up when I hear an unexpected noise, even something as mundane as a door opening or shutting, any type of change in my auditory landscape.

How does a kid growing up in a home that doesn’t feel safe develop a sense of safety, so necessary for well-being and wholeness?

How do we survive upbringings where our physical and emotional well-being are threatened, where fear is the normal state?

Where does that fear go? It doesn’t just dissolve. No, unfortunately, the fear simply gets stored, written on the body, recorded in musculature and nerves, chemicals and mechanisms.

Being in a state of fear or having needs unmet as a child, being afraid of bodily harm, or damaging swings at the spirit creates a life-long pattern for the child, and the adult they become. Muscles tense when one is in fear, they contract in a “ready to spring” fight-or-flight instinctive response.

Eventually these muscles learn to always be tense, to always be on guard, ready for anything. It’s no wonder I’ve suffered from chronic back pain for years. Tension is my natural state. I wasn’t born that way, but it’s what I learned.

Unfortunately, simply learning these things about myself is not the out, the epiphany is not the reward, the cure. “Insight is the booby prize…” I’ve heard.

But the fact that I am bringing awareness to my back, to this tension, where before there had been unawareness is major progress, I know. I know that nothing changes until something changes. It has to start with awareness. Then comes the desire for a different way.

I've been looking for healing for a while now, seeking out cures, fixes to this pain, tired of resigning to it day after day. However, armed with this new information, this new understanding, I know that all the therapies and drugs and treatments I have been going through to bring end to the back pain will be ineffective until I retrain my muscles to exist in a relaxed state. My body must learn a new natural state.

Oh, if only simply knowing were enough, but no, that’s not how the Universe is designed.

After the knowing comes the work. After the epiphany comes the effort.

- (c)2009 Lisa Olson

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This Moment

by Lisa Olson

"The only time you ever have in which to learn anything or see anything or feel anything, or express any feeling or emotion, or respond to an event, or grow, or heal, is this moment, because this is the only moment any of us ever gets. You're only here now; you're only alive in this moment."
- Jon Kabat-Zinn

Tonight I found myself cranky, snapping at my family, feeling waves of overwhelm, splashing around in exhaustion and wading around in martyrdom. Until I came unexpectedly upon that quote. Whoa. I read it once. Twice. I thought... "Do I want to get to the end of my life and wish I hadn't wasted so much time being cranky?" If this were my ONLY moment, is this really how I'd want to spend it?

This IS my only moment, right now. I don't have any of yesterday's moments to relive. And tomorrow's moments aren't here yet. I only have THIS moment. It's a mind-boggling concept to accept. But when I do, I feel free. And when I do, I instantly redirect myself and commit to making it a great moment.

None of us has any idea how much time we have here. All we have is this moment. When you reach the end of your life, do you want to be remembered as the person who surfed the net a lot? Or the person who worried all the time? Will you wish you would have spent more time at the office? Will you look at all of your unlived dreams and wish you would have found a way- SOME way to honor them?

I do not want to look back and feel I have wasted time. In fact, I refuse to. I want to be remembered as someone who made the most of her moments. Let's live as if this were our only moment. Because actually, it is.

(c)2009 Lisa Olson for Sacred in the CIty

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sacred Pause: "Proof of Life"

by Lisa Olson

Ah yes, I know this feeling: This is the part where I start to feel completely and utterly overwhelmed. I've come to know this place, the Land of Overwhelm. I visit so often, I might as well move my stuff here and take residence. I keep saying I want to do things differently, but what am I doing differently, really?

I look at my list of to-do’s and the truth looks me in the eye: There is no humanly possible way you will get this all done today.

So I do what the experts tell me to do. I prioritize. I even look at my to-do’s and figure out what can be postponed, what can be put off til that nebulous ‘After-The-Holidays’ time when supposedly everything in my life will get so much easier, and suddenly I will have limitless time to do everything I’ve been putting off. (Yeah, right.) I shuffle. I cancel an appointment here, a lunch date there. I put off going to the bathroom far too long. (My bladder understands I'm busy.) I've given myself permission to turn some "yes"es to "maybe"s and some "maybe"s to "no"s. I reschedule. I apologize.

And then, this morning, in my journal, I am practicing gratitude, making my list, checking it twice, of all the things I am grateful for in this moment. Doing my best to be present, to stay true to my core, to center myself, yada yada. And Overwhelm interrupts rudely, beckoning… “Hey! Don’t forget about me. What are you doing journaling? Don’t you have a buttload of things to do?” and then I try something different.

Adding to my gratitude list, I write in my journal “I am grateful for overwhelm.” Overwhelm stops in her tracks and looks at me with a puzzled expression. I breathe into my overwhelm and decide to do it differently today. I don’t need to resist it, to challenge it, to struggle, as much as overwhelm is one of my favorite struggles. Today, I’ll simply dance with it.

For what is overwhelm, really, but proof of life? Granted, a full life, an overflowing life, and yes, I crave a simpler life, and yes I’d love to take a day of rest-but-there-is-too-much-to-do and yes, sometimes I feel like I am being swallowed, but today, I will practice gratitude for my stress- for the stress is proof of life, too. Do dead people feel stress? Do corpses feel overwhelmed? Doubt it.

There she goes again, even now, while I type this.

“There is so much to do…” her mantra, Overwhelm, whispering in my ear constantly, growing especially petulant when she thinks I have forgotten (silly notion- how could I forget?) "There is so much to doooo..." she whines "Aren’t you overwhelmed???" Yes, I am.… yes, I know. Yes, there is. But here’s the thing:

There is always 'so-much-to-do'.

Until I’m dead, of course, and then I’ll have an infinite supply of vacation days. But knowing me, I’ll probably reassign myself immediately into another body, come back right away, screaming my way back into the human race. That will be me, I bet, signing up for this thing, this messy, overwhelming, crazy, busy, stressful, beautiful thing called life, all over again.

(c)2008 Lisa Olson

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hmmm... a poem

by Lisa Olson

If I decided
not to struggle
what would there be left
to whine about?

If I decided
not to whine
what would there be left
to talk about?

If I decided to
accept what is
what would there be left
to fight and resist?

If I decided to
surrender my grip
what would there be left
to hold on to?

Yet ease calls to me
coaxing smile, gentleness
showing me another way
and I am drawn
to her grace
and I am tempted
by her promises
and I am tickled
by her possibilities
and she says...

child, you don't need
to wiggle so...
nothing bad will happen
if you

surprise, surprise!
lo and behold!

all those things
that seemed so
heavy once

all those things
that seemed so
important once

all those things
that seemed so
dreadful once

all those things
that made me feel
so small
and so tired
and scared
and martyr-like
all those sad little stories
and juicy little dramas
and tired little sagas...

all of my Favorite Struggles...

they all
shrink down
to their
actual size

as I step UP
into mine.

(The question is 'will I'?)

(c)2008 Lisa Olson