WINTER 2013 ~ LIVING AS BEINGS
What if the Mayans were predicting, not the end of the world, but an end to the way we live our lives?
I’ve long been awed by the number of people in the last fifty years who’ve been seeking a spiritual path and practice. Surely, this inner migration is amazing. Something has been drawing us beyond the confines of thought toward a new way of being. So when a friend’s New Year’s greeting began, “Happy New Era!” it seemed the Moment to say, “It’s Time.”
If we were to step up to that challenge, to take responsibility for entering the New Era in each moment and in each day, what would that look like? Might it lead toward a new way of being? To a new identity as Being? To speak from Being . . . listen from it . . . live from it? How could we establish ourselves in that new way of life?
What if in each moment, we simply practiced one thing: we came to rest in our own Presence—our own Divinity—and didn’t judge or resist what that moment offered? It would not be easy. But each time we dropped down into our bodies, fully Present to the moment, to ourselves, and to each other—that would be a true letting go. For that moment, the old would pass away. Perhaps, in time, we’d come to realize that we are indeed, Beings—that what had dawned in this New Era is a Living Light—and that Together, we are a Shining. We manifest it, unabashed and unashamed, and pour ourselves out: our lives, our gifts and our passions. Our Light.
Photograph by Anne Hillman
See more in “Taking Root: An Unbroken Intimacy with Life” in the Fall Kosmos Journal
2013 Three Upcoming Retreats:
Toronto area, April 19-21 An Unbroken Intimacy with Life, A Weekend Retreat
Filed under Alignment, Allurement, attention, Awakening, awareness, Balance, Change, compassion, Consciousness, Cosmic Creativity, Creativity, Inner peace, Instinct, Intimacy with Life, Intuition, living with contradictions, Love, Nature of Change, openheartedness, overcoming fear, presence, Surrender, Uncategorized, Whole-bodied attention by Anne Hillman
Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
*See more in “Taking Root: An Unbroken Intimacy with Life” in the Fall Kosmos Journal
|2013 Three Upcoming Retreats:
Toronto area, April 19-21 An Unbroken Intimacy with Life, A Weekend Retreat
Madison WI, 3 or 5-day options: April 23-25 Taking Root ~ A Depth of Intimacy with Life or with additional days, April 25-27, Depth Perception ~ The Sensation of Light
Artist, Marci Graham,“Radiance” from The Cosmological Powers of the Universe Series
There is so much more to a human life, possibilities we are normally unaware of, innate gifts we might bring to the world. To learn what they are, some of us have to be broken: confronted by something that compels us to surrender. Until then, we may have been reasonably satisfied with our lives, content with our own point of view. But when we’ve been humbled by storm or earthquake, illness or shame; by loss or just the ordinary process of aging, grace comes, and with it, opportunity after opportunity to deepen our way of perceiving, so we can ‘hear’ with more of ourselves.
Then, we learn to give the larger life our whole-bodied attention. We ask in the moment, What now? and listen with all our faculties. We dare to follow what allures us. This is the relationship that matters now: to move with the deeper movement ‘of the earth, of spirit, of the unknown’ in an unbroken intimacy with life. In this communion, we live in time and eternity intertwined, one day, one moment at a time.
We live in a Time of great upheaval, challenged on all fronts by conflicts in our world, our political systems, our religions and often those most difficult to see, the conflicts within ourselves. When what we know doesn’t seem to be working, life can seem dark, and we may feel lost and even afraid.
Times of darkness are choice points. They press us as individuals and as a species to choose from one of two ways to proceed: we can either change ourselves, meaning change our constant orientation to our thoughts, or render ourselves extinct.
We have in us, have had bestowed on us, everything we need to respond to the Time in which we’ve been born. We just need to know where and how to look,where to put our attention. There is no room for creativity in minds chock full of old ideas and old views. Perhaps, instead, we might let ourselves be lost and not know. When we’re lost, we can do three simple things: Create a quiet moment, a clearing in the forest of our activities. Sit in the stillness without trying to figure anything out. Turn our attention to the simple movement of our breath and let the thoughts drain away. And in the spaciousness of not knowing, allow the New to unfold.
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. Blaise Pascal
www.annehillman.net Art by Joan Brady
I tend to think that new life emerges from seeds, and forget a far more ancient truth. Today, I find myself celebrating the way it can also arise from the very old–like these tiny seedlings sprouted from the living root of a giant redwood tree. This new life simply claims the giant’s root as its own, surrenders to its impetus, and grows towards the light.
How do we cooperate with life’s gradual shaping of the human mind, its painstaking work of drawing us towards the light of greater awareness? As I see it, the action required is to trust the great root on which we stand, and learn to surrender. Some see surrender as defeat, a capitulation to an outer force, but it is really an inner relaxation, into the root. What does this use of the word ‘root’ mean to you? That matters. For when you know what you rest on and can relax into it, your heart opens to life’s secret, its creative impetus conveyed beneath thought: a feeling, an intuition, an image, or a confirming synchronicity. Subtle clues like these remind us that there is infinitely more to life, a reality we barely notice but that the body knows intimately, a wisdom built into the great root on which we live. When we remain exquisitely attuned to life’s presence in this way, it will often surprise us: nudge us to be more authentic, to improvise, to move in a new direction. Its whispered hints may feel absurd, even impossible. But if you dare to follow them, you will be adding more light to life’s deep need for it at this time.
Photo: ‘Redwood Scion and Sprout’ Anne Hillman
WINTER LETTER 2011 ~ THE QUICKENING
Dear Friends, There is something in the air, a quickening, do you feel it? I find myself looking with amazement at the events we’re experiencing together on this planet, and at the same time, am aware of the fullness of life: not just days filled with activities, but days that are rich in the quality of interactions with others; the sudden political shifts in the Middle East; and the sheer majesty and power of nature’s wildness. A friend wrote: “I’m feeling a huge surge of conscious energy in the world in the last month or two. Do you? I felt it listening to a speech recently: that life was not about how much money, or power [or safety] we have, but how we have loved. More and more, I hear people expressing empathy, feeling greater compassion. . . It’s like an evolving that is almost palpable.”
Another wrote: “It’s like a convergence of time and place, a rhythm playing itself out. Still, people’s expectations can be quite different. Some may be afraid for the planet, for democracy, or for the world’s economy with good reason, but reason is not all. My imagination tells me that perhaps we’re thinking too small: that the confusion,even chaos, we may be inwardly experiencing holds the seeds of something very new and that we need to open ourselves to possibility, what has never happened before.
To sustain an essentially outward focus on the violent swings in politics, or economics, or the weather, is to miss the deeper movement, one that promises great creativity. For if we are aspects of the universe, we reflect its creative unfolding. Each new emergence in its long existence, galaxies and oceans; the evolution of living things; social changes like the black or women’s movements or the colliding forces in our world today, was born of a gathering energy: a current of creativity and destruction. To the degree that we can contain both dimensions of these fierce cosmological energies in ourselves, we will begin to shine like the sun. In any moment, we have a choice: either to fight the Current that is pulling us along or to ride it, to wait and wonder if what we’re experiencing is a creative opportunity awaiting us; to listen within for the leading edge of what most profoundly inspires usâ€”and attempt to reflect it in who we are and what we do.
Every time we honestly embrace both sides of an issue within ourselves instead of making another wrong, we cooperate with life’s painstaking work of testing and integrating new forms, in this case, the gradual shaping of the human mind. Each inner embrace adds more light to life’s deep need for it at this Time.
*Space (detail) from The Cosmological Powers of the Universe Series
Artist, Marci Graham
Yesterday, I went out into a summer field and was stunned once more by the immense creativity that surrounds us. What an amazing variety of trees, grasses, scents, and birdsong! The wildflowers a riot of color! It is easy to forget this glory as we reel from the many disasters in our world. Rather than awe, we may feel helpless, frustrated, or afraid. Surely, we need to make room for these feelings. But the sheer wonder of existence is that each of us also shares in the vast creativity of the universe. It is our inheritance, and the kind of creativity that is most needed in our time. Every one of us has an inborn gift to bring to the world. It may not be ‘fancy.’ But it is uniquely ours. We may be completely unaware of what our gift is; it can be different from anything we’ve ever done. Still, we’re more likely to learn about it when we’re far from the culture’s noisy demands for attention and undistracted by a mind full of thoughts: when we’re in a field, in a forest, or on the beach, simply there: no book, no computer, no iPhone. In moments like these, nothing separates us from ourselves or from the upwelling life around us:
In the wilderness
my mind spreads out like water
reflects green boughs
and blue sky . . .
I listen to the trees whispering
and think no thoughts
(From Awakening the Energies of Love, p. 78)
When we sit quietly and listen, not to our thoughts, but to the silence that surrounds them, we occasionally tap a vein of intelligence that clearly doesn’t belong to us as individuals. Like a hint that bubbles up from energies moving through the cosmos, it comes out of the blue like a whisper or image arising from a deeper place than imagination. The kind of prompt our inner antenna detects rarely seems like anything important. It feels more like an inclination to do something very small. But when I actually take a step in response to that inclination, I find it becomes a way of participating in the world more fully than just by following my own ideas. I call it ‘following my thread.’ I like to think of it as one of the many threads the creative energies of the cosmos are weaving into a tapestry larger than I will ever understand.
Few of us find our creative gift all at once; we come to it by degrees when we listen to the silence, prepared to say ‘Yes!’ to what emerges. Then we follow our thread. The keys to following are these: We need to know we are enough. That what we have to give is welcome. And that the more we immerse ourselves in the natural world and listen, the more we’ll find of our real selves. Then we can give to others what we alone have to give.
In celebration of the wild creativity of the universe, and with Love,
The ground is saturated here in California. The small lake over the hill is brimming, and there’s an unmistakable scent of warm mud in the air. I know that smell in my bones: After every March thaw in New England, we’d put our lawn chairs on some bare ground between patches of snow and sunbathe. We knew it wouldn’t last: it would snow again in April. But the smell of mud held a promise of new life and we reveled in it. We lived our little bit of spring in the midst of winter.
Once in a while, we get a glimpse of something new half-seen in another person or an event, a promise of something that wants to be born. It signals a different take on things and a manner of living it fully. Even in the midst of discouragement and fear, all of us can develop skills that will lend energy and impetus to that kind of creative possibility.
It is very difficult to see the many kinds of suffering around us and to live with the infinite slowness of change. We want to solve these problems and get results. Much as we long for solutions, they don’t always happen on our watch. Then it’s easy to become disappointed, discouraged, and afraid. Fear is a powerful god. For some of us, the more natural response to fear is to recoil, give up, or get cynical. Others may be more likely to take sides and try to trounce the opposition. These old kinds of reactions, the winter we live in, are taking a huge toll on all of us. But there is a more creative way. The alternative, when things go very wrong, is learning to give our attention to two things at once: To focus directly on the pain (rather than denying, ignoring or repressing it), and at the same time, hold it in a much larger awareness than thought. This capacity to embody and live from a mind that is not divisive, but instead heals, is available to all of us. You can find several examples in Awakening the Energies of Love and The Dancing Animal Woman. Even as things fall apart, we need to hold the larger vision, together. We can hope to live spring in the midst of winter!
In these early days of December, as a soft rain falls in California, I remember the first snowfall in New England; how it blanketed the earth and muffled sound—and silence became a spacious and holy presence. As the winters progressed, however, and we shoveled snow and pulled soggy socks from our children’s feet, that dark stillness often brought depression. We forgot that it held promise, hid something deeper: new life gathering itself to be born. We live in a dark time. Many of us have sought to help solve some of the immense difficulties confronting us, to learn the truth of each situation, and to grow in understanding. We’ve taken stands on countless issues and made the best decisions we knew how. But we are beginning to see that the kinds of solutions our cultures have to offer are blunt instruments—and we begin to realize we need more refined means of resolving our dilemmas.
Even as conflicts escalate the world over, we can lend the weight of our presence to a different kind of action. We are learning that it is possible to integrate a more subtle form of activism with social action, and that one can flow quite naturally out of the other. We’re discovering in groups of all kinds around the world that our lives are deeply joined; that we can participate at a level of sensibility that is complementary to problem solving and does not seek to make one side right and the other wrong. Entire groups are awakening to this truth as they dare to take the position that they do not know the answer. Instead, they choose to embrace opposing views, give focused attention to the silence, and trust. Then a common voice may arise.
This week, the Indigenous Peoples of the World are gathering in Fort Collins and Carbondale, CO at the same time the UN Climate Change Conference takes place in Copenhagen, the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne, and the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded President Obama in Oslo. In any group in which you have more than a casual membership, I invite you to set aside conversation for a short time, postpone closure in your own mind, and listen in the silence for something new. After all, it is that time of year, and as nature has always shown us, it is out of darkness that light is born again.
I have always been grateful for the work of artists and as some of you know, relied entirely on art and photography to express the first intimations of what eventually became the book, Awakening the Energies of Love.If you haven’t yet learned about the free link to that presentation, The Evolution of Stress, please see the sidebar. When I look at that sequence of paintings now, I’m still astonished at how visionary those artists were! It was as if they’d painted the conflict, the confusion, and the feelings we are experiencing in our time, as well as the beauty of their potential resolution.
Last month, another painter, Mary Southard, created a glimpse of that potential in her graceful poster of ‘The Song of Love’ from Awakening the Energies of Love. It can be seen on the Ministry of the Arts website and would make a lovely gift for yourself, or for a friend, a grandchild, or someone’s graduation. Though their catalog shows the framed version here, it is also available for $10, unframed. MOTA produced the poster and will receive all the income.
Brian Swimme calls this creative process ‘Fire igniting fire igniting fire!’ So let’s ignite some creativity together! I was amazed at the breadth of responses that The Dancing Animal Woman inspired, among them, stained glass windows, CD’s for a cancer support program, videos at a celebration with indigenous peoples, calendars, and more. There’s now a page on my website for your own creative work. If something from Awakening the Energies of Love has inspired you, I’d be honored to display it with a link to your url. Please send your creative work here. In the meantime, here are the words on Mary’s poster of ‘The Song of Love’.
The Song of Love
You are loved. You are accepted, held in a vast embrace. There is nothing in you, nothing of character or tendencies, race or sexuality, accomplishment or failure that is not held, not needed. You are a child of God. That which you are is deeply wanted.
You are not alone, not left to your own devices. There is more going on than can be seen. You belong to an activity that is beyond comprehension. Trust it.
You are known. That which you have sought is seeking you. That which you want to offer life is greatly needed. You may not yet know what it is, but it is exactly the right gift and only yours to give. Give it.
You are part of a great leap of loving such as the world has never known. You have work to do. Begin it. There is only one ancient and forever work of art: the slow fashioning of life and the gradual flowering of Love. Find your way. Find your companions. Give your life to Love.
The world sings in its many voices,’Do you love me?’ It stumbles across your path a hundred times a day. Respond.
Be bread. Be broken. Let go of what you know. Find in your heart what your mind can’t comprehend. Moment by moment . . . place by place . . . person by person . . . wound by wound. Dance! Fall! Fail! You will be busy, but not with the busy- ness of the world.
In the heart of you lies Love. Without your opposition, it shines through you. You have only to let yourself be held in the larger embrace, let yourself be loved, let yourself be known as you areâ€”and you will be lit up.
Thomas Merton said, ‘There’s no way of telling people they’re walking around shining like the sun.’
You are a shining. You are not only the small being who wants to be safe.
You are Love. You are Life. You are Light.