The wisdom of a tree …

“Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.” ―  Cindy Ross

 

I hike.  It unquestionably stands as one of my most “passionate, passions”.  To walk upon the earth, move under my own power, and feel my body carry its weight epitomizes personal empowerment and freedom.  It also is an enabler … a means of moving my mental reflections and its offerings to another level where an actual physical connection occurs.  And when out in nature underway in the moment, I feel no greater joy … no greater peace other than those rare and wonderful moments of intimate connection with another deeply loved human being.

Yes, this simple activity transcends all counter-balancing, negative forces swirling in my world.  It lifts and transports me to some fantasy kingdom where inner peace prevails, and all is in harmonic balance.  It offers me respite from the noise, the noise building up as society and its discord move through the streets of my life.  And on so many levels, the “hike” serves as my temporary savior, and creates a metaphor for living each day … providing me a model which helps me create the feelings I “feel” from the physical me aligning with the spiritual me even when unable to engage in this magical activity … in the “hike”.

And as I hike, I see.  I’m afforded ever-changing windows through which deeper scenes are viewed and deeper insights acquired.  I was granted one such moment on a recent journey … a journey journaled because of the lesson learned.  A moment of insight delivered as I moved through the magical temple of nature.  A deeper awareness revealed to me as a rich metaphor for my life, a life clearly moving through transitions defined by time and the physical changes within me that accompany it. Though often surrounded by forest and trees, I suddenly saw and felt the community of trees around me … the community granting me entry to their space and time.  And with that sense of fresh entry I felt a new understanding emerge.

I saw the “wisdom of a tree”.  I saw how gradually and gracefully a tree matures and shows its years.  How proudly it carries its broken branches, snarly bark, roots that spread … none seen as a diminishment but rather signs of character and wisdom.  I saw the scars of fires that threatened life itself yet were overcome and now simply provide visual contrast that more clearly demonstrate the inner strength to live on. I saw how this citizen of nature proudly displays its true multi-dimensional character as evidence of a life well lived.  A life lived fully and unbounded by artificial constraints or limitations and without expectations.  I saw clearly that before me stands an elder of its tribe carrying the story of its unique journey granted it up to that moment.  And I sensed that not only did it carry the story of its journey, but that in that moment it was fully satisfied … at peace with all that had passed … not having desires or needs for any future.  It was fulfilled … at peace …and simply moving from one moment to the next ready to experience whatever awaits.

That day … during that hike I saw things in a new way.  My heart was opened, and I stood in sacred space where I find my greatest peace.  And I saw … and I thought … Why is it so hard to see the aging of a man in the same fashion?  Why does the “human community” create more of a sense of diminishment rather than graceful evolution towards grandeur.  So, this day offered me a fresh way to see … gave me new windows through which to see myself and my journey.  And I knew there was a valuable lesson here … one that enriches me and softens the footsteps of my remaining journey.

So now I travel in enriched awareness, changed by a moment of insight gifted me by a special community.  A community I visit frequently, either physically or virtually.  A community which offers me rich, powerful, and insightful opportunities to live an increasingly joyful life.  I am such a lucky man to be friends with this community … and so fortunate to receive their blessings and counsel.  Yes, a very lucky man indeed …

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Gathering the good …

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” – Kevyn Aucoin

 

Today is a good day.  A day meant to hear the music of old, inner songs and learn from their lyrics and melodies.  Emotional songs … feelings … not typical music but moments from which I can see into my past, process and move through it, and set old songs aside as life’s journey continues to compose new melodies to hum as I move towards whatever destination is planned by the universe.

Each morning I spend several minutes moving through the news, gathering some sense of the world as they (those outside me) view it and choose to present it to its readers.  And each morning I re-affirm my conviction that the world’s complexity and frequent negativity, and its prevalent mean-spirited behaviors makes me yearn for the peace offered from the trees singing from the wind swirling in high mountain theaters.  That and similar images act as a vaccine against succumbing to the picture presented to thirsty readers.  So much effort … so many sources of fearful energy yet also so many reminders to look at even the smallest “good” that shows itself and applaud it while letting go of the negative.

Much of my working life trained me to be pulled and guided by the negative.  With encouragement from a close friend I now re-frame those patterns into more positive descriptions when doing the same work.  At times, the old patterns still misdirect me, so I constantly work to program my cells to respond in more positive ways.  Training my cells to see a healthier way of reacting … gathering the warmth of kind acts and conditions around me like cuddling inside a soft, warm comforter.  The world will not promote it … so I must create it.  I must discover that which gives emotional warmth then make choices that place me in the room holding it, not the rooms dark and drained of joyful color. I guess it’s my work … I guess it’s what needs to be clarified and processed as each of my days are spent moving towards becoming pure energy.  Thinking … reflecting … feeling … gathering the good … letting go of old patterns … discarding expectations … and forgiving the world around me since I know that everyone is doing the best they can do.  It is indeed a sometimes-confusing journey I am on … but it is the journey.  A journey given me along with the ability to choose … choose to do whatever possible to wrap myself in the healing warmth of my joyful comforter.  So, I learn to embrace it and make it mine … accept missteps and forgive myself … make choices bringing joyful luminescence regardless of the cloudy skies that might gather.  Yes … it is my work, but it is also my choice and the life rhythm I wish to create.   Yes … gather, collect, choose the warmth … and take yet another step … and another … and another …

Searching for the spiritual self …

“The essential lesson I’ve learned in life is to just be yourself. Treasure the magnificent being that you are and recognize first and foremost you’re not here as a human being only. You’re a spiritual being having a human experience.” – Wayne Dyer

 

At times I feel like such an odd creature … a man forever changing and forever sensing new aspects of his day-to-day relationship with his world.  And with each new discovery, my life improves.  Joy flows more freely now than ever before.  Listening to myself … my feelings … and charting their spoken course is now my tool for daily guidance.  And though I embrace such change, and even enthusiastically welcome it, I feel adrift at times … without roots … without ground beneath my feet and lacking a spiritual center or core.

As I continue my journey of maturing and purposeful aging, I sense that my transition becomes more and more a movement towards the spiritual and away from the earthly.  Each step taken seems to create an increasing sense of “shedding” … shedding that which is material and taking on that which is ethereal.  And now I find myself in that dreaded “gray zone” where one more step forward detaches me from the earth beneath my feet while I’ve not yet discovered the new ground upon which to land.

More frequently now … daily or more … I yearn for that spiritual landing place … that place comprising my spiritual home.  That place where attachments disappear, clinging is released, and I simply relish in the moment, totally at peace with accepting what “is” … leaving resistance checked at the door.  The search for joyful feelings found by living in the moment continues and is becoming more intense.  Many routes are being explored, yet the home meant for me remains elusive, so the sense of drift lives on within me.  It churns me … it causes me to feel incomplete … it brings a sense of emptiness. Yet I remain faithful to the belief that my answer still lies ahead and that my feelings will illuminate the way.

So now, in this moment, I continue my quest.  Will I give up … will I give in … will I abandoned my quest because at times the search seems endless?  The answer is No.  The journey itself is rich, plus the potential prize at its terminus offers the possibility of enormously wonderful feelings of completeness and peace.  I will continue my walk … I will be friends with the transitional darkness … I will continue to travel and listen … I will continue to experience and assess … I will remain an explorer and hold myself open to the Universe so that when the winds of discovery finally blow upon me, I will be ready to receive, embrace, and richly feel it.  Like Don Quixote de La Mancha, onward I go …

I get it now … it’s for yourself …

 “Turn your wounds into wisdom.” – Oprah Winfrey

 

Recently I was streaming an older TV series whose episode involved a bomb and its removal from a hospital setting.  The story span two episodes, and over that time one got to experience the tension, witness the heroic efforts by medical and law enforcement staff, and know in depth the individual characters.

As with a story, the commitment to helping and keeping others safe seemed to finally prevail as the ordnance was extracted then walked out of the OR.  As a breath was taken by us voyeurs as the bomb personnel slowly walked down the hall all hell broke loose as a fatal explosion emanated from where the bomb personnel once stood.

My heart sank, wounded by the wholesome efforts given by all yet the eventual demise of those that gave such effort.  The feelings were emotionally painful.  And though it was simply a story, the feelings that this created in the moment were very real and for several days afterwards drew my attention and reflection because they are feelings I’ve gotten in the past from similar themes.

I’ve observed that as our days unfold, so many instances follow this theme.  A few examples might include:

  • a young person contracts, battles, makes “the good fight” then succumbs to cancer
  • a military person remains behind to defend and protect his or her team as the enemy overwhelms their position
  • a firefighter loses his or her life trying to save an occupant of a burning home

There are many more examples, but my point is to illustrate that even when one is pure in heart, makes supreme effort, and is doing what we would define as “the right thing” they still come up short … loosing their life in many instances.

I see from the intensity of my feelings that some significant inconsistency exists between the scripts I hold deep within me and what happens in real life.  I hold on … resisting letting go of the fantasy inside me.  There is some “holding force” keeping me slave to this old script … this scrip that doing good for good reasons should “earn” you success.  And it is a fascinatingly strong force.

As I mature and travel this path of life I speak of so often, I see that there are no guarantees that doing what’s right, from a wholesome heart, and giving 110% brings reward.  Many have pointed that out to me, and I thought I embraced the “no expectations rule” more fully.   However, my recent experience demonstrated to me that an old paradigm still prevails … One SHOULD prevail when one does the right thing in the right way for the right reason while giving his/her all.

Why it took so long for this Ah-Ha moment I don’t know, but things finally gelled and I get it more clearly.  I’d fall apart when seeing the inconsistency between fictional or real events, and the old paradigm.  Each time I would ask … “Why should one even try if the formula has no relevance?”  Then the answer (again, told me before but not fully internalized) came to me.  The answer relies again on those “feelings” I talk about often.  The answer is that choosing to do the right things for the right reason in the fullest way is simply done because it makes ME feel good inside … and for no other reason.  There is no right or wrong … there is no moral construct … there is no universal truth in play  … there are only the feelings that will result from taking certain actions once I make a choice.  IT IS ALL ABOUT ME!!!   If others react positively that’s wonderful but the risks of allowing that to create expectations is great … almost too great.  Instead, my focus MUST be in the moment in which the choice must be made and based upon what feelings the possible action pulls from within me.  It also MUST be done independently of any sense that making the “good fight” choice is meant to reflect how one should act, live, or believe.

I feel that this slightly new way of seeing things may help me let go of the tight hold I have on my old belief.  I certainly can hold it in my hand and examine and rotate it, but I need to ensure that I fully embrace that it only belongs to ME, and that no greater moral philosophy or universal truth need exist. When the “good fight” doesn’t prevail, it doesn’t reflect a violation of a universal truth.  It only reflects one’s personal choice to do what felt good inside.

Yes … still work to do.  But there’s progress here … progress that’s felt … progress that may enable me to detach and let go, and land more squarely on MY feet absent of expectations of the world surrounding me.  It feels lonelier in a world without expectations … but it seems that is the way it needs to be.  Yes, an explorer’s life is lonelier, but it is richly adventuresome too.  And even though it’s a bit lonelier there is a sense of greater freedom given I can choose more freely and selectively in order to create those wonderful feelings inside me.

Writing my book with no ending …

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot

 

With the sun’s awakening of the sky, my role as an explorer becomes clearer.  I am learning in this role that each day I travel a journey.  These journeys are comprised of the unknown paths of this explorer which may at times consist of steps where the distance covered is hardly noticeable while at other times the steps reach out beyond the horizon.  These daily travels … these incremental journeys … each is constantly moving and each collectively change my personal landscape forever.

Life’s meant to be so … separate travels lived in momentary increments … collectively tied together.  And the product is my life … my story … a story whose ending has yet to be seen or sensed but known to exist out beyond some unclear horizon.  And my task … my choice and accepted responsibility is to write … create new and exciting chapters to build upon this ever-expanding novel.

And the excitement is great for I see I am more creator than observer, actively engaged in this process still taking shape in my mind.  I create and write chapters regardless of their color or clarity.  An exciting process without end … explore, discover, then add this explorer’s experiences to my book of life until my hand no longer can hold the pen, nor my mind create the thought.  It is a book with no ending.  A book simply made up of chapters yet to be defined but influenced by my choices and the spirit with which I engage.  A book that will ever expand until my life force transends to its next phase.  Create rather than observe … then capture, reflect, then move on … such a wonderful opportunity!  An interesting pursuit this thing called “life” … an interesting responsibility and role one may choose to accept … very interesting … very interesting indeed …

The sum of my years …

“A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning.” – Carl Jung

 

I recently began a significant journey.  I crossed a boundary … a mental construct having self-imposed meaning.  I became 70.

Equipped with 70 years of life experience, each moment now is different as I reflect on the sum of my years … reflect on the collection of moments comprising my life that now are blended into a unique tapestry of “ME”… something like living life in the moment while surrounded by a symphony playing music expressing the emotions and feelings of my life journey of 7 decades.

As my life clock turned to this new number, I initially felt the need for renewed directional clarity.  Experience formed by steps and missteps along my life journey and reflecting many, many changes within me left me feeling the need to identify and refocus on purpose and path.  Things had changed.  Seven decades produced a man much different than earlier images formed in my youth … much different than ever anticipated or visualized in early years.  Feelings were pushing me to believe a pivotal transition was imminent, demanding attention and fresh modeling to insure the best life lived until I crossed my final horizon.

Then a conversation with a loved, trusted friend offered a new, less complex model for each step along my unfolding path.  “Live like an explorer” my inner voice now urges.  This voice also urges me to partner with change, wear it as my cloak, and embrace it to seek out that which is new and unanticipated.  I’m reminded to use my feelings as my compass … use them as nectar to feed my soul and renew my spirit.  Fully live as an explorer, poised and eager to step into the unknown simply for the adventure of it all.  It’s a theme playing louder and louder, catching my attention, causing a shift, and signaling its importance in my life matrix going forward.

Though I am no expert, I realize that as years increase the ease of clinging tighter to past feelings increases.  The security of the “known” is seductive but when seen clearly reveals its inherent limitations.  So, I must lovingly resist the “known” … the seductive pull towards comfort … and push into directions demanding I embrace change and the unknown.  Where feelings offer the only guidance.  It’s what explorers do.

So, I now stand imprinted and marked with new, more fitting direction.  I’m now dressed and packed to venture into new uncharted territory and motivated by the excitement of adventure and its inherent quest for feelings.  Yes, I stand at this moment of transition … a moment when choices now move me into the newly focused life I seek, one offering this explorer moments … moments igniting his soul … moments tied together by the thread of time and filling his heart with feelings of a joyful life well lived.  Yes, I am the sum of where I have traveled but I now reset the counter and enjoy creating a new, fresh sum from which to enter the new decades awaiting me.  And it all feels good … it all feels right …

The bazaar …

“My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue, an everlasting vision of the ever-changing view.” – Carole King

 

I have the privilege of working with a team comprised of men and women significantly younger than myself.  Time spent connecting … laughing, telling life stories, sharing important endeavors, and simply working hard together … brings joy to each day I’m scheduled to work.  Many of my team have recently graduated from high school, or in the early years of college.  All seem engaged in life and eager to chart passion-filled courses towards career and life.

As I prepared for work this morning I reflected on all this, giving it time to soak into my consciousness … time to blend with other thoughts flowing through my mind such as the passage of “time” at an ever-faster pace.  I mentally stood back to see those younger teammates and was emotionally touched by the thought that I’m watching them fill the empty spaces of their personal tapestries … beginning to weave the fabric of their lives.  I also saw the special quality of this moment, me granted this view into their early stages of life’s definition … how it will be designed, colored, and woven into their lives.

Some of my young comrades talk of charting courses traveled by parents, special relatives, or family friends.  Some talk of charting courses taking them to a role close to their heart.  And some are still testing the waters, trying to sense the direction meant for them.  The space between their years and mine allowed me to sense the difference between my seasoned fabric and their freshly woven work.  I sensed the space between … the space between their emerging work and my nearly completed work reflecting my personal architecture, use of seasoned colors, repairs of tears, and changes yet awaiting completion.  And it was such a gift to be able to watch and “feel” these fresh weavers work and craft their fabric.

Yes … a gift to “feel” their excitement, energy, and enthusiasm for their journey ahead while realizing within myself that I am witnessing something of a time machine … seeing what I undertook in my early days … in my fresh, new attempts to begin weaving this personalized fabric of life we each carry and wrap up in each day.  Such a gift … to sense my own excitement and emerging awareness of seeing this rare and once-in-a-life time set of moments from a place of greater understanding and elder wisdom, becoming an observer knowing that each personal effort will be rewarded by living a life meant just for them.  A gift to know that even using great care, some of their threads will be broken, weaves missed, and colors diluted by the sun or other elements of life.  It simply is the nature of “the journey”.

I realize that I am witnessing a dance of life performed by special beings at a special time and it fills me with awe.  It’s like standing in the middle of an ancient bazaar filled with merchants and artisans busy creating and selling their wares.  An amazingly colorful bazaar … vibrantly loud and active.  A place where energy surrounds me and carries me up … lifts me up … stirs my soul … and reminds me of past and present times when I too stood in the bazaar and still do.  And I realize that it’s not only my past, but my current moments that makes me a merchant and artist like my young friends.  Like my young teammates, I too continue adding to the fabric of life … my life … repairing tears and adding fresh designs, color, and texture as I weave with each breath until I pass into yet another form, fold my fabric, and set it on the self.  And they too will continue weaving as life unfolds.  Yes, the weaving continues through life so that the fabric wrapped around them and me reflects the results of our choices, wisdom gained, and self-awareness achieved. Hummm … I wonder what color and shape best reflects blogging???  I wonder ….