‘I see you’ – a path to intimacy with self and others?

We can neither see ourselves as a whole, nor can we truly conceptualize that in ourselves which experiences. The answer to the question ‘Who (or what) am I ?’ is by its nature a koan*. But perhaps it is a profound act of self-love to be able to affirm our emotions, our joys, our pain (emotional or physical) with the simple words ‘I see you’, without latching onto them and giving them power over us.

That loving acknowledgement can release the threads of attachment that so often ensnare us. It can enable us to own our darker thoughts and feelings, our shadow selves. We can experience what is as ‘real’, but within the context of the transience of all things. We can embrace the things we perceive as difficult or challenging and let them pass. We can also accept life’s gifts without clinging to them – these too will pass, yet the fact that we have experienced them will not.

One of the greatest desires of every human being is the longing to be seen . . . this is the miracle of love and friendship. (John O’Donahue in Four Elements)

It seems to me that when ‘I see you’ begins to permeate our way of being, it underpins all interactions. It is the grounding space that anchors each human encounter. We find it easier to enter the powerful place of deep receptive listening.

It is also the loving recognition of each creature, great or small, that crosses our path.

‘I see you’ directs us to the wellspring of love.

Unless you see a thing in the light of love, you don’t see it at all. (Kathleen Raine)

* koan – a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment


 

Water lily

Who am I?

‘I am’, cries the wind . . .
the song that stitches together
the seams of my life,
its melody
a ribbon running through it.

Crackling flames 
feed the fires of passion,
compel me forward,
agonized and exultant
and alive.
But it is in the still,
red coals
at the heart
of the fire
that wisdom lies.

Feet, firmly planted,
dig into the earth,
skip over fields
and frozen puddle-drums
and hot sand.
Odd that it is in
the dynamic of dance,
as my feet
leave the ground,
that I put down roots.

Held in the flow,
luxuriously floating,
buffeted, battered,
water brings me home 
to the self 
that is so much water,
as I learn and become
the depths
of its calm
that is and was and always will be.

‘I am’, cries the wind . . .
and the invisibility of air
surrounds me,
and I know ‘am’
as the invisibility of air . . .

“Who am I?”

July 2018
written during a retreat focused on Awakening Devotion and Heart Wisdom

Flexing very stiff poetry muscles, exploring eternal life

In a still very tentative flexing of underused poetry muscles, the idea behind the poem below came to me so vividly that it had to be written, even if not well! It speaks to a sudden deep internal awareness that particles are more or less constant in the universe; so all of us, in a way, have an eternal existence.

Eternal Life

When my human days are done

and I walk the path of the long goodbye

I will not be gone.

 

Will some particle of me take form

in rock or stone,

ruby’s heart or emerald’s gleam?

 

Or will my flash of green and red,

touched with gold,

draw your eye to the blur of hummingbird wings?

 
Lake and sky
 
 
Within the flow, catching the light

of the lake’s constant changing –

Is it there I’ll be?

 

Perhaps, in the creaking of branches

and the susurration of leaves,

you’ll sense a trace of me still.

 

Or maybe I’ll be a sprinkling

of stardust on indigo

somewhere far out in the universe.

 

It’s somehow comforting to know

that the particles that make up ‘I’

may scatter, but they (almost) never die!

 

February 7, 2018

 

I wrote my first poem before I could actually transcribe the words onto paper.

Then, in my teens, poetry and my deep connection to the natural world saved my sanity in an era when no-one considered the impact of significant loss and grief on an adolescent.

Every now and again, amid the roller-coaster demands of just living a life, the poetic impulse has bubbled briefly to the surface.

Now it feels as if it is time once again to tap into this part of me. But oh how rusty I feel, how hard it is not to become self-conscious, to lose the flow, to try too hard or not enough – I’m not yet sure which!

 

Gratitude is good for you!

(The third of three interconnected posts on gratitude)

Increasingly science suggests that gratitude is good for us.

Research by Robert Emmons indicates that people who consciously focus on gratitude experience greater emotional wellbeing and physical health than those who don’t. Gratitude:

  • Brings us happiness, boosting optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm and other positive emotions.
  • Reduces anxiety and depression.
  • Is good for our bodies, strengthening the immune system, lowering blood pressure, reducing symptoms of stress, illness and aches and pains and encouraging us to take care of ourselves.
  • Improves sleep
  • Makes us more resilient
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Promotes forgiveness
  • Feeds altruism and compassion

In particular, says Emmons,

“I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.”
Greater Good Website – Why Gratitude is Good

He suggests that “true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others”, whether other people or ‘higher powers’ and lists four reasons for its transformative power:

  1. It allows us to celebrate the present and magnifies positive emotions
  2. It blocks toxic, negative emotions
  3. It provides resistance against stress
  4. It results in a heightened sense of self-worth

He acknowledges that the practice of gratitude can be challenging. It is predicated on acceptance rather than control. It is at odds with the ‘self-serving bias’. It contradicts the ‘just-world’ hypothesis, which says that we get what we deserve, and the sense of ‘entitlement’ that rest on this.

Cultivating gratitude, therefore, has to be a conscious choice and lifelong practice.

The infomatic below, included by Robert Emmons on the Greater Good website, gives a great sense of why you might want to cultivate the practice of gratitude.

What good is gratitude? Infomatic

For more details of this fascinating research, I would encourage you to explore the University of California, Berkeley Greater Good website.

 

(See also Gratitude and Joy – an intimate relationship and Grateful to whom?)

Buying human

“I’ve never lived anywhere where I am on hugging or flirting terms with so many of my local shop-keepers.”

I’ve quipped this to a number of people, flip, mildly amusing. But there is a deeper strand to the thought.

One day, at the Brickworks Farmer’s Market, I watched other people’s children engaging with the process of buying food. It struck me that there was an en-joy-ment that is mostly absent from the supermarket experience.

I am increasingly choosing to buy much of my food from people with whom I have developed some relationship, where I have some sense of where it has come from, how it has been raised or grown. Many of these people are passionate and hugely knowledgeable about what they do.

Bill, at Art of Cheese on Kingston Rd., really knows his cheese but is also expert in the kind of banter that keeps you coming back for that connection as well as the cheese.

Royal Beef on the Danforth are Master Butchers, skilled in their art; they keep us stocked with naturally raised beef, pork and chicken, as well as wonderful creamy goat feta, artisan Salami and more. But we also go back for the warmth of welcome from Carm and her staff, the well-informed suggestions.

Our garlic comes from Ross of Stone Soup Farms, who grows a number of different varieties north of Brockville – I never want to have to go back to supermarket garlic; this tastes so much better! A first meeting at the garlic stall at Soupstock and chance re-union at Royal Beef have grown into a friendship.

In each case there is a combination of a quality product, passion and expertise, and what I would term ‘relationship marketing’.

Similarly, when I buy clothes, more and more I seem to seek out smaller shops where, again, there is genuine passion as well as a line of connection through to the maker. Jennifer at Ziliotto epitomizes this; she seems to have an innate understanding of ‘relationship marketing’. A couple of times a year or more, I find myself at the Danforth store, sipping wine, nibbling cheese and meeting interesting people. Alongside this, I have expert input from the designer and her staff on the clothes that suit me and how to work them. I also get to meet the craftspeople behind the jewellery, belts, bags and hats that the store stocks in addition to Jennifer’s designs. The hug when I leave, often accompanied by a small gift sourced from another local business, is genuinely warm. In between times, that vital sense of connection is stoked by an excellent weekly video blog. This approach epitomizes to me the point of intersection between authentically human relationship and good marketing.

What I have noticed is that, whether buying food or clothes, if I buy from this connected, passionate space, the authenticity of the experience imbues the ‘product’ with a richness that is largely absent from my experience as a ‘consumer’.

When I have talked to Bill, Carm or Ross, or a local producer in the Farmers’ Market about what I am buying, I savour every mouthful. And every mouthful comes with a host of subliminal connections and emotions that enhance the experience. It seems to me that I even eat less, because what I eat satisfies more than the physical need for sustenance.

To wear one of my Ziliotto dresses is, at some level, to relive the sense of embrace of the buying experience. Team it with a Susana Erazo belt and I’m already surrounded by friends before I start my day! The material objects have become imbued with connections and meaning that enrich my living.

It strikes me that both obesity and the constant need to buy new things can, in some part, be traced back to the lack of connection and meaning that is so often the mark of mass consumerism. We crave more food, more clothes, more everything, because we live with a sense that our appetites are never quite satisfied.

So this is by way of a salute to that small but growing band of entrepreneurs who understand that passion, meaning, friendship, connection – all those qualities that define the best of what it is to be human – can also be good business.

Flying Free

Monarch Butterfly

A dear friend gifted me with the wonder of a Monarch butterfly chrysalis – exquisite in its own right; blue green, studded with gold. But the gist of his gift was the opportunity to witness the process of transformation.

We hung the ribbon to which the pupa was attached above our dining table, watched it through breakfast and checked back regularly over the course of the day. Needless to say, we missed the moment of transformation, which must have taken place between 6 and 8pm!

It struck me that this suited the metaphor of our own transformations extraordinarily well. We are rarely fully aware of a single moment of transition from one stage to another. Only in hindsight is the shift apparent.

Of course, the truth is that transformation is not a single moment – for a Monarch Butterfly or a human being. It is a continuous, lifelong process, punctuated by periods of struggling to break free of what we have been and those wondrous, joyous times when we find new wings!

Thank you, Real, for a beautiful gift.