Coming Home to Myself

I had an extraordinarily beautiful experience this morning. I woke feeling sensation in my heart/sternum down to my stomach. I’ve had this before and have come to realize that I do experience things by feeling them in my body – it is not all just my brain.

This feeling carried on through breakfast and to stepping onto my yoga mat for my asana practice. This morning I was guided by my body to do a very gentle, almost meditative session, moving slow and with intention. This almost never happens where I am guided by my body. It was lovely.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe feeling carried on to my sitting for meditation. I’ve been using a book called Prayers to the Infinite by Danna Faulds. She is a yogi and poet. I went to a poem called Practice that talks about being in tune with the body during asana practice. Perfect for what I’d just experienced.

The feeling in my heart and stomach intensified as I settled in and I was almost immediately in tears. Tears do sometimes happen when I meditate, but along with it today was an intense feeling of coming home to myself, of everything being as it should be. I have had feelings of coming home before but this experience seemed to be fundamentally deeper. It was beautiful. It was a total acceptance of self, of needing to change nothing, of an end to all the critics internal and external throughout which we live our lives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI meditate for 30 minutes. The 30 minutes was over in a heartbeat it seemed so I continued on with this one. In addition to periodic tears the first lines of the very first Radiance Sutra I ever heard sprang to mind.

There is a place in the heart where everything meets.
Mind, senses, soul, eternity – all are here.

It is what I felt. Everything was in my heart and all was right. As I’ve memorized the sutra the rest of it flowed to me.

Enter the bowl of vastness that is the heart.
Listen to the song that is always resonating.
Give yourself to it with total abandon.
Quiet ecstasy is here,
And a steady, regal sense
Of resting in the perfect spot.
You who are the embodiment of blessing,
Once you know the way,
The nature of attention will call you to return.
Again and again answer the call,
And  be saturated in knowing,
“I belong here, I am at home.”

I was in the perfect spot. I was home. I pray I am called to return again and again.

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Not Becoming, but Exposing

It has been a long, slow , contemplative read of Donna Farhi’s “Bringing Yoga to Life” and I’m not done with it yet. It has been absolutely delightful.

Today I was reading through some of the notes I have taken when I was struck by a realization, one of those wonderful lightning strikes of a revelation life periodically brings us. Throughout the book Farhi says, in one form or another, “Yoga is about cultivating a relationship with our enduring Self.” In other words, the practice of yoga is, at its core, about discovering our Divine self. And what she says repeatedly, and what I believe, is that we are Divine from the get-go. It is our natural state. A state we have obscured with all the ways we learn or are led to define “who” we are.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd it hit me. This beautiful stage of life I’m in and enjoying so much is not about becoming. It is simply about exposing who I already am. It is about peeling away the layers applied by me, society, my family, and culture over all the years of my life. Exposing versus becoming doesn’t make it easier, but it is there already. And, at times, I feel it or sense it or am somehow aware of it. It’s one reason I think I am so enjoying where I am. I guess you could say this is simply all about Being.

Really, this is not about yoga. Yoga happens to be the way I find particularly useful and comforting for exploring all of this. Farhi makes it clear that there are innumerable ways that we do it:

“While yoga offers us a vast repertoire of formal practices that accommodate the different predilections of individuals, almost any activity can be used as a life practice if it reconnects us with the source of our aliveness. There is no comprehending the wily ways of the daimon, who lures us to paint, to sing, to dance, compose music, build sanctuaries, plant gardens, raise children, write poetry, climb mountains, and do all the other things humans do to discover themselves in life. All such activities can be called a form of yoga.”

This is our journey. It is particularly gratifying to be where I am and to be making progress in the exposing of me!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Silence

I am called to silence. And to an inner peace that silence seems to imbue. It is visceral. It is powerful.

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Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

I am reading Donna Farhi’s “Bringing Yoga to Life“. I love how she demystifies much of yoga, making it more approachable. Part of what yoga aims to do is take you out of all your mind-whirling thinking to allow for a few moments of just being conscious without thought. She says, “Just as the impressions left by the constant stream of thoughts and sensations tend to propel more of the same, the impressions left through participation with the silent substrate of consciousness generates a flow of itself. Silence begins to flow through us as our fundamental state of being.” (Emphasis mine.)

Is this call to silence in me a call back to a fundamental state of being? When I go to my yoga mat in the morning, which I do prior to meditating, most days there is this call, this longing, this deep satisfaction at stepping on my mat and entering quietude.

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Danish countryside near Tved

Is it possible that our fundamental state is one of silence, of being present to the here and now? It is hard to imagine, enveloped as we are in thought from the moment we wake until the moment we hit the pillow at night. Yet, as Farhi points out elsewhere in the book, there are endless ways that we, in the course of our lives are fundamentally drawn to our inner selves, to that abiding calmness and quiet.

Perhaps a heightened alertness to a voice that may have been obscured much of our lives is one of the great benefits and luxuries of being older and of being retired. I could, I suppose, let the call be drowned out with all the stimulus the world offers us these days. But I have not. There is such peace in these few moments of my day. It is not as if my mind doesn’t wander constantly, for it does. But the simple act of stepping on the mat initiates an inner calming that is with me regardless of the wandering mind. It is lovely.

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Photo at the Viking Museum in Roskilde, Denmark

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Schooled by my Kids

Kristi and I have been traveling internationally for 25 years. We have always been adept at finding our way around, locating nontouristy (our preference) businesses, restaurants, neighborhoods, and places to stay. Scoping it all out is fun and we’re good at it.

But this fall we were thoroughly schooled by our kids. We are not techno dummies or neophytes, but it is incredible what they do, how quickly they figure things out, how much they can find in a very short time, how much easier it is. It made me wonder how in the world we ever used to get around!

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Megan and Patrick as we waited for the ferry

Our first day in Denmark we drove from Copenhagen to the penninsula of Jutland taking a ferry at one point, and ultimately to our little apartment deep in the country. First part, no sweat. I knew where we were going, the route, the ferry time, had prepaid the crossing, everything. Patrick was tolerating my antiquated ways as he traced our route using Google maps. Then it got dark. We were on dark, country roads and the signage was nonexistent. Without the least problem he led us to our destination. The next morning when I walked the roads I was astounded at how tiny they were and how remote the area was. There is no way I could have found our place in the dead of night with nobody about.

His Google map mastery continued throughout the trip. I am astonished at how much of the world they have mapped – and accurately. So I asked for lessons. It is so much much easier navigating cities and remote country in a car with this tool. When you screw up, which I did more than once in Sicily, it got me back on course. I love a paper map, but I am a convert.

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Denmark is very rural, the only agriculturally self sufficeint country in the EU.

Then there was getting us around Copenhagen. We drove into the center city thanks to him and parked the car. He found an app that let us park where we were, using the phone to pay the parking fee. Everybody in Copenhagen rides bikes, and there are plenty of places to rent them. Patrick got on his phone, was able to remotely unlock the bikes, paying for them when we were done based on how long we’d had them. So easy – for him anyway!

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On our rental bikes in Copenhagen

Did this multiple times. Then he played tour guide using his phone to find off the beaten path, amazing food. We could have done, but it would have been in or near the neighborhood we were in. With the bikes we traveled afar for our food. Dang!

Then there is Megan. She is more traveled than we, having been around the world and, so far, visiting about 40 countries on every continent save Antartica. On previous trips we had come to trust her judgement completely when selecting places to eat. She has a nose for it. But we learned some new tricks. She told us that many cities have free tours. You pay the guide whatever you think it is worth at the end. She found us a great one in Copenhagen. It is a new trick for us – one we used in Palermo later after she had left us.

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Fabulous organic restaurant to which Megan treated us (badly out of focus!)

Then she does searches online for organic restaurants. You may not find any, but you are likely to find restaurants with some great food. She did this in both Copenhagen and Palermo and we had two of the best meals of the trip at her finds.

We don’t use our phones much at home, but this trip opened our eyes to some of the magic they can provide when traveling. Thanks to our kids!

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Such a treat traveling with our grown children!!

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Travelling Home to Myself

We’ve just returned from 7 weeks of travel in Europe. I am glad to be home despite how wonderful the trip was. As always, travel provides great benefit because it takes you away from the norm, challenges your beliefs and understandings, and usually works on you in ways quite obvious or in ways that may take time to unfold.

This seven week voyage took place exactly one year after the eight weeks last year when we conducted our last trips as owners of Adventures in Italy. We sold the business and retired, so its been one year. It has been a busy year yet I cannot say that I have figured out what this retirement will be about. And I may never figure it out. But I have returned to find that something is percolating from deep within, beginning to manifest itself, wanting a voice – I believe an outgrowth of the trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat I know so far is I want to go deep. I am being pulled to go deep. I want to read and explore what it is to be alive. I want to get to my spiritual core: to feel it, experience it, live it. I want to wrap myself in myself.

I want to go slow. I want to have less to do. I want to be less distracted and fractured by all the screens in my life. I want to study, and I want to sit and do nothing.

It’s not as if I want to retreat or turn my back on the world. But I am less concerned about all that is screwed up out there. I’m not going to resolve it, and the pull from within is just so much more insistent.

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The Ionian Sea seen from Ortygia, Sicily

I have no idea what this means or what I’ll do. I have a stack of books and keep ordering more. The deeper aspects of yoga are certainly at the core of what I’ll be exploring – at least for now. I want to reread How Yoga Works that I finished just before leaving for Europe. I think I’m ready for The Secret Power of Yoga that I tried once before unsuccessfully. Now, it seems like the most accessible book I’ve seen for delving into the yoga sutras.

So here I am, not knowing where I am going. But, it does feel like, having travelled to Europe, I’ve returned to travel home to myself.

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Church in Palermo, Sicily

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Siracusa Cathedral

The cathedral of Siracusa is beautiful. It is ornate and simple all at once: a combination of Baroque on the outside with simple Greek doric columns embeded in the walls and visible from both inside and out. The Greek temple around which it was built dates to the 5th century B.C., while the Baroque is middle 1700s. Such extended history in one building!

Doric column next to Baroque detailing

Baroque entry with Moorish influence

The Greek columns are much more visible inside than out

Beautiful simplicity

The lights provide a warm glow to the stone

The Greek columns are massive

The central nave carries the simplicity

The side chapels have the more ornate Baroque

Definitely Baroque!

For me, the simplicity, the absence of painting in the central nave, all the light colored stone imparting a lightness to the interior, complemented by the statuesque Doric columns make this an exceptionally lovely church.

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Being Disconnected

I’ve been completely without phone or Internet for 24 hours. That’s not entirely true as I’ve used Kristi’s tablet to do what had to be done via email. But my phone just stopped working and my tablet, for the second time on this trip also stopped connecting. So no news, Instagram, Facebook, email, texts.

And it has been eye opening and a blessing. This morning and last night (not to mention just being on the street yesterday), blessed with a rooftop terrace in our apartment, I’ve rediscovered just how interesting the world is outside of these screens of ours.

I’m watching a guy and his helper installing new water tanks on an adjacent roof. One guy on top putting cement down out of a bucket. Handing the empty bucket to his helper on a ladder who goes down for another bucket. Takes time. So the guy on the roof smokes a cigarette and admires the view. Then the plastic 4 foot square cubes for the water hauled up with a rope and stick that fit inside the round opening of the container. We won’t be here to see the entire setup and hookup. But this is every bit as interesting as my screen.

And I discovered that all these tiles on the rooftops aren’t cemented down. First course is, but the rest are just laid on top. Guess they are heavy enough to withstand strong winds. And perhaps it’s why some have stones on top, presumably to help hold them down.

Then there’s the lady hanging her laundry on her rooftop. The woman opening her door onto her patio to get some morning air. Scoping out the roads in the distance that we’ll be driving on in a couple of hours. Looking at the sea and coast to which we’re heading. Watching the light play across the buildings as the sun moves higher in the sky.

There’s a lot going on. It’s entertaining. And it’s quite peaceful. Can I take the lesson and be less connected once I’m connected again?

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