When did you stop being comfortable with silence?

As the snow continued to fall last week and we experienced more snow here on the coast than I ever remember, I kept going outside to experience the wondrous and white world growing on trees and fences, benches and stones.  Even the bee hives were sporting white puffy and voluminous caps. Everything was wearing “white.”

Bee Hives in Winter

Bee Hives in Winter

In the white wonderland i recognized a silence I remembered as a child. Growing up  in Ontario we would pray for “snow days” when we could have the day off school and head outside into the huge piles of snow that had grown overnight.  The trudge of our snow boots would break the silence that seemed to spread with the snow like a blanket all around us.  “Shhhhhhhhhhhhh,” my friends and i would call to each other and then stop walking and stand listening.

The silence of snow was different than any silence I have ever encountered.

A different silence?  What does this mean?  What is the experience of different silences?Is there such a thing?

In John O’Donohue’s book on the Four Elements he speaks beautifully to these different silences.  Here is a short version – check out his book for deeper notes.

 

1.  silence underneath and between words

 

2.  awkward or embarrassed silence / tension

 

3.  silence beyond words – unity, intimacy and belonging

 

4.  silence of the animal world – interiority at one with itself, a seamless self presence

 

5.  silence of one’s own presence – the silence that lived in the space one now occupies before one came to earth

 

6.  silence of absence – silence of death/final absence – each deceased animal and human (I would say tree and stone, etc.) leaves behind them

When I discovered this list, I became curious about what the experience would be with each.  This curiosity has lead to a wonderful exploration that seems limitless in scope and infinite in the capacity for discovering other forms of silence.

I often stand on the deck overlooking the pasture to listen and feel into the silence of the horses.  Again, the silence is like no other.

And then, sometimes when i am listening to the words of a friend, I also include that I am listening to the unique silence they are occupying by their presence here at this time.

When this card, that became the cover for the packaging of Question Everything, a deck of inquiry, came into creation, through several hands as I recall, I loved it’s simplicity and invitation to the silence of nature as well as people.

The question came from the work of Angeles Arrien’s in The Four Fold Way (angelesarrien.com) where she speaks to the four questions that one might be asked in some land based cultures if one was experiencing malaise or “soul loss”.

And you, When did you stop being comfortable with silence?

when.did.you.stop.being.comfortable

 

 

 

 

 

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How are you answering the call?

Years ago I was called to attend a Writing Conference in San Francisco focused on “change.”  Writers, Agents, Publishers, Facilitators and readers converged at Grace Cathedral to explore the theme of “Writing for Change.”

While in attendance I showed one of the publishers the deck of cards, which are the subject of this blog – Question Everything, a deck of inquiry.

She quickly flipped through the cards – word side only, not once pausing to turn the cards over to see any of the images.  I stood still beside her, waiting for her response, excited that we had already self-published 250 decks, which had sold out, and were wondering about how the cards might now find their way into a larger audience’s hands through a publisher.

As abruptly as she had flipped through the cards she thrust them at me, and I will never forget what came out of her mouth.

“These questions can never be answered.  What’s the point?” she said curtly, dismissing me with her gaze, and looking back at her desk.

Stunned to an awkward silence I stood without words.  I managed an uncomfortable smile as I slowly turned and walked away.  At the time I had no verbal response, nothing came forth from my lips, and I met up with a friend for lunch and shared my experience.

My lunch friend, a published writer, laughed and said something to the effect that rejection was part of the process.  Although i didn’t argue at the time,”rejection” was not what i was feeling, I couldn’t really articulate what it was until later.

At the time I might have been able to tell her of the physical sensations I felt as my heart dropped into my belly, where –  thankfully,  there was an open space for it to rest, while I tended the absence of kindness in the exchange, and the feeling of how little value the woman had given the moment of our meeting.  I didn’t expect to get an offer on the first exposure of the cards, but certainly not to experience such a brisk exchange.

Later, in a discussion with Deena Metzger, (who inspired this blog) she immediately responded when I shared the experience, and offered that the woman was speaking on behalf of so many people who clearly do not wish to acknowledge the unanswerable questions, of not just the young ones, but of the greater inquiry into being human. How ever will change occur, if we do not ask these unanswerable questions?

I didn’t have the words at the time, however when Deena spoke these, they resonated within me.  And probably in resonance with that which “called” me on that day, as my heart rose back into my chest, to wrap the cards in a soft silk scarf and place them back in my bag with care, return home from the conference and begin the process of self-publishing the cards again, with packaging, and printing locally to offer them into the world’s hands in the kind and “slow food” way of their creation.

These “calls” we all have come in every possible and ordinary way.  Some are whispers, some shout loudly, some are deeply felt, auditory or envisioned.  Some will not find resonance with others, while some will find a host of bandits willing to share the journey of a call and serve the fledgling into creation with you.

David Spangler in his book The Call, says:

“a call is more like an ongoing dialogue.  It is a relationship that grows and changes and matures throughout a lifetime.  It can be resonant at times, and silent and subtle at other times.”

Sometimes “the call” seems to be on hold, or has lost our number or is calling someone else.

I remember one time, in what I judged as a dry period of “the call” when I was riding the ferry to the city one morning. Inside a wave of deep inner reflection, integrating a long period of answering too many calls without discernment, over extended, and finding myself in a time of “ashes” as Robert Bly would say, I overheard a basketball coach talking to a team of young girls behind me.  “I want you to want the ball! I want you to want the ball!”  he kept repeating.  As I sat listening it occurred to me that I didn’t want the ball at this time.  It was relieving to acknowledge this. What I needed was to rest on the sidelines and witness others catching the ball.

Something settled for me and I began to land on the bench of the life that was – well – “calling” me at that time.  Because it did not have the velocity and exuberance of the earlier call in the beginning I felt I wasn’t being called at all.  Come to find out I was catching a call/ball of another kind.

I love the images on this card.  In reflecting on them today I see the generative fire of the call in many who have answered, and shared a call – perhaps, as David Spangler calls the most primal call of all –  to love.

He goes on to say “the call actually comes from the person standing in front of you, who in their heart of hearts is saying, “Will you be kind to me? Will you value me? I am valuable, after all.  Will you honor me?  Will you see the sacred in me, the sovereignty in me?”

Blessings as the call finds you in ordinary time and ways, and we’d love to know,

How are you answering the call?

how.are.you.answering.the.call

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What deeply touches you?

Selamat Tahun Baru!  or Happy New Years! from Bali.

This year John and I are blessed to be in the magical land of Bali for New Years (16 hours before you on the West Coast of Canada and home for us)

Returning here after a 12 year hiatus, I am deeply touched and moved by the resiliency and richness of this culture and people.  The West has made an impact for sure, however the hearts and sincerity of the people still move me in each meeting I have.

Greetings come with hands in a gesture we might call prayer position or Namaste mudra  –  palms together in front of the chest.  Then, with bright and engaging faces and eyes, and a small bow we greet with our respective “hello’s.”

Touched.

In the Four Fold Way, Angeles Arrien offers “four rivers” that are used to track ones experience.  In the Teen Circles that were the birthplace of this deck of cards, Question Everything, we used these four rivers in our lives to track experience.

The “River of the Heart” is where we notice the places and experiences where we are deeply touched.

When we think of touch we might initially orient to what we are touching physically. Right now, as an example, the cushion i sit on, the contact of my feet with the tile floor, the touch of fingertips on the keypad of the computer.

Then, we can take this inquiry a little deeper and ask “What is touching me?”  Again, to bring it to the sensation level, can i be touched by the cushion, the floor, the warm humid air, the  clothing I am wearing, the breath that is breathing me?

What do you notice?

The images on this card invokes a deeper inquiry with skin, however we can experience “touch” in so many ways.

I leave you with this inquiry as the New Year arrives,

What deeply touches you?

What deeply touches you?

What deeply touches you?

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Where do you receive the grace and comfort of the Great Mother?

I am painting a photo of our first horse Kal.  He is lying with his head on his forelegs, curled in a c-curve… embryonic…cradled.  A photo of the image has been on my wall for the past few years since he passed away.  The photo was taken one day while he rested in the field.  When I shared it with people they always remarked how rare it is to see a horse actually lay their head down in such a way.  Horses are prey animals, meaning they are always on alert and need each other in the herd to watch for predators if they are to feel safe and truly take rest.  I would watch over the land while Kal rested, as he did not have another horse in the field with him at that time.  As I paint the image I can feel the gift and embodied experience of my time with him.

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As much as I held watch while Kal rested, he was actually the one who taught me how to deeply rest, how to lye down in the green meadow and give my weight to the great mother of us all.  Some warm summer days, after he was resting for a time, I would lye behind his thousand pound body, asking silently for him to transmit the possibility of that much surrender to gravity. John would tell me to be careful, and that he might roll over onto me if I got too close.  One day I moved in back to back with him, breathed by the same breath, together held in the embrace of she.

Kal was even-tempered, gentle of spirit and a great first horse for me to get to know, and to be with in subtle and profound ways.

Dancer came into our life the year before Kal passed.  We wanted a companion for Kal as the winter’s chill was getting a bit much for his old bones, and we thought another warm body beside him, and a friend in the field, would do his heart good as he entered his 28th year.

Dancer is Arabian, head strong and firey.  We did not know what we were getting into when we said yes to this big-bodied spirit. His nervous system ran high, he jumped at small sounds, startled at the branches moved by the wind.  He came with a leg injury and did not know how to let down and rest like Kal.  They met over the fence and Kal, (left) clearly through his gaze, let Dancer (right) know who was in charge.

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My tenant said it was like having Adam Sandler and Walter Matthauin the field, when she witnessed the two of them together the first day. Kal curiously watched, one eyebrow bent, as Dancer ran and raced about, snorting and fussing, spooking and startling his way into over extending himself and then limping around for the rest of the afternoon.

After Kal passed away the following year, Dancer was difficult to settle.  I knew he missed his friend and that now he oriented to me when I was in the field.  One particularly difficult day for his sore leg I kept encouraging him to lay down and rest.  After a while of him not taking my verbal advice, I decided to lay down and rest myself.   I heard him moving and then opened my eyes to see him limping towards me. He then knelt down beside me and rolled onto his side, exhaled like he hadn’t been on the ground in a long time, and we laid there together in the sun’s embrace.

Shortly after, Cocoa, a new horse who had arrived for retirement here in Paradise, also walked across the field, and to my amazement laid down on the other side of me.   I was stunned and awed by the moment, lying between these two huge beings.  We all rested together for quite some time.It was one of those moments not captured in image to share, but captured in a deep felt sense of transmission, one being to another.

I shared with John and others of my experience laying with the horses.  Some were hardly able to believe what had happened.  Others would well up with tears in the embodied imagination, touched by the grace of the experience. To this day the memory of the experience feeds me in moments of disorientation and dis-ease.

This past summer I looked out to see Dancer lying in the middle of his pile of hay in an awkward position.  I was concerned something was wrong with his leg and called john, who was nearby.

John slowly walked down to the lower field.  I watched as he attuned to Dancer and slowed his pace.  He knelt by Dancer’s head and the two of them held each others’ gaze for a time.

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Then, john began to roll down slowly onto his outstretched arm and rest onto his side.

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Dancer followed, allowing the full weight of his head and body to release down onto the earth.  I stood on the deck in the field of their embrace, stilled by the beauty and potency of what was before me.

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This image shows Dancer reaching his hoof out and resting it against John’s leg as they both closed their eyes and rested together.

I share these images with you as we continue to fall into winter’s embrace, along with a new inquiry from Question Everything, a deck of inquiry:

Where do you receive the grace and comfort of the Great Mother?

where.do.you.receive.the.grace

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What brings you back to life?

Happy Harvest!!

Blessed by the bounty of harvest here in Paradise Found this year, I continue to be humbled and deeply moved by the earths reciprocity and generosity, despite our human foibles and down right desecration of her intelligence, beauty and gifts.

In the aroma of dehydrating pears, the pop of apple sauce bubbling on the stove and the rich sensation of dirt under my nails an inch thick after garlic planting, there is an aliveness in these 72 trillion cells in these autumn days.  In the gaze of willow and fern, stellar jays arguing over the sunflowers and the chill of autumn air, hair and skin come alive to meet the layers of sensory abundance.  Even a hormonal fog cannot over invade the natural call to awaken, get outside and move among the green ones.

Morning air brings me back to life!

A month ago I opened a bag of potting soil from northern BC.  As I slowly took handfuls of soil and placed them into a pot being readied for winter kale transplants, something moved.

I paused and waited.  Something was stirring under the soil.  The movements were jumpy and random, and I thought perhaps a mouse was in the bag!  I waited longer, and to my astonishment a frog slowly and groggily emerged from the soil.

There were no holes in the bag, and I realized that this frog must have gone into dormancy in the darkness of being encased in soil inside a bag.  Frogs, in winter, actually find a living space called a hibernaculum to protect them through the cold months of the year.  Their metabolism slows and they sleep, as their body uses it’s energy stores.  When the hibernaculum warms they awaken into the call of spring.

I opened my hand and to my surprise the frog walked, yes! – not hopped, but walked onto my hand.  He was slow, blinking and disoriented.  He reminded me of how i awaken some mornings after a night of deep dreaming, finding my way between the worlds and sheets out into the day.

Carrying the frog, I walked across the yard to the apple tree  garden in the front of the house as he moved slowly along my hands which I placed one in front of the other to support his slow journey.  I marveled at his growing vitality, his quickening breath and marveled as his body plumped before my eyes.  The frog, then climbed up with his front feet onto my forefinger, and hung his long body down the inside of my fingers.

I asked if he would prefer to land in this garden, close to the house, or the food garden further a field.

I waited still.  He tentatively brought his back feet up one at a time so that all four were now perched on my extended index finger.  I continued to watch as he tottered slightly, orienting through his four feet, before leaping with vigor into the space of the garden.  I called out “Welcome to Paradise!” as I lost sight of him in the hostas.

That evening as i returned to the house from the barns I heard frog song coming from the front of the house.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was actually autumn he had arrived into, as to him I’m sure this day heralded spring and a return to life.  I laughed out loud at the perfection of his song of renaissance, and that soon he would tune into the chilling autumn air, and have to find a new hibernaculum.  A short spring indeed!

As the hostas descended in all their golden glory, I imagined them falling over this little frog gently like a blanket, and that the composting green ones might provide a perfect hibernaculum for his winter dreaming.

Autumn Hostas

I have a human hiberniculum, that we call the Dream Lodge here in Paradise Found.  It has been a conscious practice of mine for the past decade to follow the mirror of nature when I can, and in this season to slow down as the days grow shorter and the winter solstice appears on the horizon.  My practice includes a weekend of deepening into the mysterium of silence, rest and deep listening. I emerge with more space to breathe, seeds of future creative offerings and an ever deepening reverence for this precious human life.  You are invited to join me here the first weekend of December.

See www.pennyallport.com  – Darkening into Light, a weekend retreat if you feel called to join us.

And you????

What brings you back to life???

what-brings-you-back-to-life-e1383196705710

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What clears the traffic of your thoughts?

Morning!

Long time……… no write.  Actually not true.  I have been writing, just not here!  Writing is definitely something i do everyday.  Whether it’s writing a dream as I awaken, a letter to a friend, working on a “work in progress,” or more recently updating my website.

Writing clears the traffic of my thoughts.  I write and then look back at what I’ve written.  Some is useful.  Some, well…. was useful in the process of writing…..  that’s all.

I love the feeling of writing.  The movement of the pen across the page.  Yes!! the pen across the page…..  There is something sensuous and deeply satisfying to see words arriving in the wake of the pen, in my own handwriting.   I open the mail first that is addressed in handwriting.  For one thing I know it isn’t a bill!  I love to receive handwritten mail, and read not only the words, but the feeling of my friend Marlow in England having touched the paper that is now in my hands.

Our handwriting is our signature.  It reveals our breath, movement and unique expression.  A lost art as the computer allows us to click out words quickly and the tips of our fingers tap a keyboard instead.  It’s sensual in it’s own way I guess, I just prefer the notebook on my lap (paper notebook!!) and the ink drying in the sun as I sit under the old cedar and look out over the pasture.

This clears the traffic of my thoughts too.  Looking out over the pasture.  Drinking in the lush green after a few days of rain, the horses grazing and the shhhhhhh of the creek in the distance.  A moment of embodied awareness in real time.  This is happening here on this small plot of land on this huge planet called earth and I am here…. and for a brief moment ….. without words!

Here.  How do I know I’m here?  I know in the way we can know as humans – in the weight of my seat, the smell of the autumn air, the taste of fresh mint tea on my tongue, the moist caress of thick dew as my arm brushes the branch and a shower falls into my lap.  I know I am here as I feel the gurgles of morning hunger in my belly and hear the hum of life in 360 degrees of early morning sounds in farmland. Rooster crow behind, cows mooing to the right, creek shushhhhhing to the front and raven to the left.  The senses clear the traffic of my thoughts.

Of course I could go on, but do tell me…..

What clears the traffic of your thoughts??

what.clears.the.traffic.of.your.thoughts

Alas, in inquiring of you……    a moment of no thoughts as I await your reply!!

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Where do you find sanctuary?

June 17th and the Summer Solstice soon arrives on our doorsteps for yet another turn in the wheel of the seasons.  Nature’s constant care in her cycles provides a perfect mirror of our own internal and external processes. The day when the sun lingers long in the sky and darkness comes late and short, before another early dawn is like the times when we are warmed by the receptivity of life, friends and community.  Received we feel blessed, belonging and bountiful.

Growing up I was not so consciously tuned to the summer solstice, yet as this time of year arrived, school’s demands fell away and the warm summer breezes called, I felt the call to dive deep into the crisp blue waters of the Big Rideau Lake in Ontario. Here was a body that received and welcomed me after a long winter.

Our family owned a log cabin in the back of Horseshoe Bay, where the loons called longingly in the evenings and the water on the bay sometimes appeared as still as a looking glass.  One of my favorite summer day activities was to run from the end of the dock onto the wooden diving board my grandfather had made, leap high into the air, bend in half and touch my feet and then get long in the body from fingernails to toes and enter the crisp clear lake like a knife, leaving as little wave as possible behind me.  Divers call this a “jack knife.”

The lake received, enveloped and embraced me like no other – human or otherwise ever could.  The caress of the deep wet hand of the lake brushed every hair on my head and body as I moved through the water like an arrow.  Then, with frogs legs and arms I would propel myself as far as I could out into the bay, making little puffs of exhale to linger longer in the underworld of seaweed and diving loons, eyes open in the clear water seeing the sunlight above indicating the surface.  Arriving where the edge of water meets air, a last breath would escape with the puff of a whale surfacing.  Perhaps a preparation for breathing practices to come later in my yoga practice??  Or, perhaps something organic to the organism we call a body – the playful pull to experience life moving in the stream of things.

In the heat of the day, burning with the sun’s constant gaze, I would jump from the dock in a cannonball style plunge into the cool lap of the lake.  She embraced me, no matter how I entered.  Like a slick and sleek arrow barely cutting the surface, or an unexpected explosive ball of fire, scattering water to the four directions, I belonged here.

The lake was a refuge for my teenage turmoil, a holy place of welcome and unconditional care.

And now, just a few days away from a wee trip back to Ontario I find the longing to enter the lake building in the bones and flesh of my being.  Oh, I have entered many creeks, rivers, streams and of course – grandmother ocean, in the times between my memories and this moment, and yet some thread of wisdom has called me now to drink from the healing waters of my birthplace once again.

A feeling of sanctuary in the seventy-two trillion cells gurgles and grows as I anticipate the cool touch of the lake and her unique medicine.

Malidoma Soma says “Being born into this world in a particular place is like having the signature of that place stamped upon you. The essence of your place of birth cloaks and protects your walk through this life, and whatever you do becomes registered in the ledger of that geography.”

Our birthplace – in the form of the unique signature of the elemental forces and landscape can be a form of sanctuary for us.  Of course, we will find many places of sanctuary in our lives.  Hopefully, the place where you sit right now – the 72 trillion cells we call a body is one of them!!!

and in the days to come I invite you to tend this new card of inquiry:

Where do you find sanctuary??

where.do.you.find.your.sanctuary

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