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Too often, it seems to me, people limit their idea of contemplation and mindfulness to a single spiritual activity: meditation. Sitting meditation, to be precise.
This can be frustrating for people who don’t have the time or the patience to develop a regular practice of meditation. And let’s be honest—who does?
Now add to that differences in personality types and learning styles. Try to imagine a extraverted kinetic learner sitting silently for an extended period. Or anyone with ADHD.
And perhaps almost ironically, as an Myers Briggs intuitive introvert who spends a lot of time sitting alone and pondering “life’s persistent questions,” the idea of a regular spiritual practice of sitting silently in solitude seems a bit of a stretch to me.
After a day of reading and writing and answering emails alone—almost all done while sitting—I’m ready to get up and do something!
So while there are a lot of benefits…
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“No” is very powerful.
How many of us were raised to know our place, to be polite, to do what we were told? Parents, teachers, even siblings, laid down the rules of behaviour for us at an early age. There is no doubt that the belief systems we were born into and have acquired throughout our lives are deeply entrenched in who we are. Yet as we get older and build lives of our own, these rules may no longer be in our best interests.
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A memory, from a longer work in progress.
I remember a parade,
Tho’ not the kind with trumpets
And colored balloons and crepe paper;
No, this parade was a slow train
Carrying a draped box
While an entire country of people
Lined the tracks
And the boulevards
I remember the images
Hushed and monochrome.
I was six years old
And didn’t understand.
I hear the voices calling me forward –
Voices familiar, and dangerous.
At once, I am seduced by their visions
Of power and beauty, and I am filled
With fear for the sacrifice required.
Where once was a man
Now stands a quaking child,
Unsure of himself.
Days and nights move in a frenzy,
Blurred into meaninglessness.
I know I am walking toward death.
My skin is moving away.
No one walks with me, none could.
This is the loneliest of roads,
This dirge-trail of accepted destiny.
Shades gibber and bellow
From somewhere out of sight.
I gather sticks for the pyre
And carry them on my back.
I have the flint
I am the tight pinecone
Requiring fire to release
The seed of new growth.
Through fear and doubt, I travel.
I do not speak, no words relate.
I listen to the sound of voices,
The call of psychopomps
Leading me on.
It is time for the old story to burn.
I am a Storyteller,
And the hour of new myths is near.
Loudly a clock struck the hour: Gong, Gong, Gong, Gong.
Standing in the middle of the old street, Jackie looked around as all the buildings burst into flames. Terrified, she began to run.
Glass, hot and sharp, exploded from windows. It crunched beneath her feet like malevolent snowflakes as she ran. She could smell singeing hair where a few shards had landed, and several others left small, bleeding cuts on her arms.
In her panic, Jackie almost ran past the girl standing in on the sidewalk, looking into a flaming storefront. Wearing a winter coat, hood pulled up and zipped, and thick mittens, the girl seemed unaware of the holocaust.
Jackie ran to the girl, turned her around, but couldn’t see the girl’s face – it was hidden in the hood.
“We have to get out of here!” she yelled.
From somewhere deep inside the hood, a small voice asked, “Why?”
She must be in shock, a part of Jackie’s mind said.
“Because it’s all burning!”
The little girl turned back toward the gaping hole where the plate glass window had once been, and said, “It’s been on fire for a long time. You just never noticed before.”
Stunned, Jackie stood up and looked around. Suddenly, the street was familiar: she’d grown up on this street, in this neighborhood. It was impossible that she could be here…
Jackie looked at her watch, but she couldn’t make out the face no matter how hard she tried. It kept shifting, changing.
I’m dreaming, she thought.
The flames froze, waiting.
Jackie walked to the middle of the street, and took a deep breath in. The conflagration came rushing toward her. The fire surrounded her, dancing, burning away her clothes, lifting her into the sky.
She gathered it to her, compressing, condensing it until she could hold it in her hands. Then soaring above the burnt out street, she ate the inferno.
As the blaze infused her, she woke. Beside her, gasping loudly on his back, her husband shook as the booze burned its way out of his body. He, and the room, reeked of stale sweat, cheap vodka and fear.
Jackie got out of the bed they’d shared for eight years. Still feeling the heat in her body, she walked to the small closet and dug deep into the back until she found the suitcase. She’d packed it over a year ago after he’d smacked her down during a fight, leaving her with a bruised jaw.
She got dressed in the darkness, even though she knew Tommy wouldn’t wake up if she turned on the lights. Then, clothed, she looked at him.
There was no emotion; no sadness, anger, nothing. She watched him shivering, laboring to breathe.
She put the suitcase down and, reaching under him, turned him on his side. His feet kicked a few times but his breathing came easier and he never woke.
Then, recovering her suitcase, Jackie walked out of the bedroom, through the small apartment and out the front door.
The fire in her belly kept her warm against the October night.
The decision made,
All things moved into perfect alignment.
World follows desire of the heart,
The truest passions:
I am coming to you,
My journey, my soul, my home.
Neither distance, or barren plain, or jagged mountain
Oh! How you sang to me –
Your trees, your river, and your days and nights
All chanting of the divine!
I catch echoes of that song
In all my hours and dreams
‘Tho surrounded by streets and bricks
Of this graveyard metropolis.
You possess me, a call I cannot ignore,
To come, and become.
So, in all ways and places,
This journey is made manifest
And what will be uncovered and birthed
Is of no more consequence
Than the obstacles and excuses
That once seemed so very real,
Yet melted away
Once desire set intention
into heavenly motion.