The Rocky Road of Listening Within

I always thought that listening within would be simple if I would just do it. Now I know doing it is hard, really hard, but as a good friend once said, “What else is there to do?”

5/7/17

The journey of listening deeply which started back in January,  moved me away from family and friends in California, back to the Midwest, back to the North Shore of Chicago. My purpose was to heal and reclaim something I may have left behind. It certainly was to re-feel life that I once new on the North Shore and see how it fit with me now.

The journey of listening deeply takes me to the nooks and crannies that lurk around the corners of my thoughts, where pockets of solitude lie. Sometimes I can think that I am doing nothing and feeling everything and forget there are pockets of solitude.

Just before I turn to listen deeply, and turn towards the whispering voice, I can experience nausea that makes me want to change channels or go do something else.  I am sure that the whispers I am hearing cannot possibly be directing me onto the right path, and it definitely must be wrong because I feel so riddled with a disquiet. But over and over, when I listen and just allow the discomfort, the nausea of anxiety goes away and I am happier and comforted by the direction I have turned.

Listening deeply has been a nagging desire inside me for too many years.

 

Scared…Sacred

The fences we create bind us to the stories we tell about ourselves.  I am looking for the light in the fences.

I have learned something about scared and sacred.  Scared wakes me up. Sacred lets me steep in an experience of what I am feeling, what I am seeing and what I am doing.

4/17/2017

After a meeting with my two daughters in which they told me that I needed to change something and it needed to be big, I embarked on a very unexpected journey.  My girls spoke from their hearts to mine with love and a deep knowing.  It was January of this year 2017 when I actually let my mind and soul consider moving and returning to the land of my growing up, on the North Shore of Chicago.  I knew that was where I needed to start.  I didn’t know what would happen past April and then May came around.  Now I don’t know what will happen past May.

I have a constant, questioning voice about my decisions or life choices. It makes me completely miserable.  I am working on a better relationship with that voice. Working on hearing it and reminding myself this is an experiment, not a done deal.  That all I can do is be where I am and when that makes me edgy, when I can, I turn towards it and look at it square in the eyes. When I have eyeballed it, I look at it from head to toe, I see the light of it and the dark of it, the shape of it.

This move was yet another life decision and I wanted to be sure it was the right choice. Embedded in my head was my father’s words just before his death, “Never regret anything, Ellen.”  It puzzled me then and puzzles me now. I regret most things at some point or another, except having my two girls and going to Del Art. Did my father really never have regrets?  Or was he saying that because he had so many regrets and regretted regretting?

My choice to move away from the Bay Area, my friends, my kids and what I have known for 30+ years felt risky, scary, and so crazy. I suffered the 10+ required days of thinking about how this would work and each day was filled with fear. I had no appetite, and a gazillion roiling thoughts going around and around in my head about how this would work, what would I do with all my stuff and all I really wanted to do was to discard everything. I was exhilarated, and exhausted, eating and sleep suffered a bit. All of that continued as I proceeded to get a renter for a year, empty my home, fix a few things in the house and leave by Sunday April 2nd.

I arrived in Evanston 4 weeks ago as of this rewrite, moved into an Airbnb with a wonderful hostess who also takes care of dogs, and the only things I know for sure are that I will be feeding and walking Henry twice a day, going to Lake Michigan and eating in or out. Other than that, I really do not know how my days will be filled when I get up in the morning and the quiet voice of doubt whips up and I am flattened by thoughts of what the hell have I done by moving here.  How will I bring in income? Maybe I will just get camping gear and stay on the road.

My days always get filled regardless of my chattering mind, some days are slower than others. Some days have been filled with what I must do. I have had to get dog permits for the Mr. to go to the beach. That alone took 3 visits and a very patient clerk at the City of Evanston who commented on my commitment to get this done. I told her that I would come back from time to time just to say hi, so we wouldn’t miss each other too much.  We both laughed and wondered if I actually would do that.  I have had to get my car tuned up, take a ring in to be fixed, get a button for a shirt and sew it on. I have gotten a library card, found art and needlework classes, continued my writing, working on my website and figuring out licensure here. I have met friendly strangers, explored cafes and restaurants. I have located sanghas that offer insight meditation, and most days I have gotten in my 10,000 steps while exploring the many villages on the North Shore.

Each errand I have gives me another opportunity to meet people, and the people I have met are really swell.  That 50’s word, swell takes me to when I was growing up here on the North Shore of Chicago. Swell reminds me of the harlequin print peddle pushers my mother made from altered hand-me-downs, of the ice cream truck with organ music that would arrive in front of our house at 1083 Oak Street on Saturdays.  Swell reminds me of the light pouring in through the glass shelves at the bottom of the long steps to the second floor of our house. It was the house where I would sit in puddles of sun which poured out on the carpeted floor. Swell takes me back to the wonderfully long summer days on Lake Michigan, and most of all it reminds me of my mother in her handmade batik moo moo dress busy in the kitchen or helping at my father’s store. I felt connected back then. Being here, in the land of “midwest, milk fed beauties” (thank you Max Greenstreet), connects me again to a place I feel I might belong.

The other day while waiting for my car to have a routine check at the recommended Duxler Auto Repair on Greenbay, I ate at Prarie Joe’s.  I sat outside with Mr. H. soaking in the sun and trying to remember the cold of winters here as if to prepare ahead. Good old Henry drew a visitor to us and she was the self-proclaimed mayor of Central Street, Tina. While chatting, sitting right there on Prairie Ave., Tina told me about the many different streets she lived on, all bearing the name Prairie. She reminded me of a time, before my time, when there were prairies around here, and of the time my family drove out to the so-called first McDonalds in our two-tone Ford, passing by prairies all around.

Those days of my youth could have been held as sacred if I had known what that meant. The only thing I knew was that I was alone a lot, and life at home gave me both comfort and fear. I knew where I belonged and that was a comfort and knowing where I belonged made me a little bored and antsy.  As a kid I seemed to have spent a lot of time waiting: waiting for a ride to come get me, waiting for a classmate to come over, waiting for my brother to play with me and make silly jokes, waiting for my dad to be home for dinner and waiting for him to be in a better mood.  I felt bored a lot like my mind was hungry for concepts to mull around. I needed something to think about to drown out my yearning for my dad to be okay, not grumpy, not depressed, and not angry.  I needed concepts like sacred as an antidote to being scared.

 

 

Traveling in the Present

4/7/17

“The role of the traveler today- like the role of any artist who treads outside the bounds of mainstream cultural imagination- is to be a storyteller of new possibilities, and most importantly of all, a messenger of hope.” Simon Yugler -Travel Alchemy

Traveling has a very special alchemy.  It gives me the freedom of being outside my normal day to day and places me right in the present; a much more pleasant and freeing place to be than my past or future. It helps me really know what I don’t know and I am relieved of the pressure of pretending to know. Travel gives me hope about humanity and expands my world by leaps and bounds.

There is a spirit among fellow travelers that says, hey, we are on the same road, at least for a moment. We share some unspoken part of being human. It’s as if we know in our bones that our ancestors and the many ancestors before were nomads, or travelers with a yearning to know more, learn more, see more, typically in search of food.  As travelers, we are trying on a nomadic life, sharing our stories, enjoying company with strangers in the strange lands where everything is somehow familiar, everything is new and we are looking for food, gas and perhaps a connection.

Traveling gives me the opportunity to widen my vision, open my eyes, feel the air, smell the atmosphere and take the opportunity to slow things down enough to see that every moment can be sacred, a little, tiny journey in itself. I see things I like and things I don’t. I hear things that hurt my heart and other things that grow it. I find atmospheres that sooth my soul and others that make my soul curl into a tiny ball trying to protect itself.

Now that Henry and I have arrived in Evanston, the traveling becomes something else.  It becomes the contrast to “on the road” traveling.  It is discovery and finding the places the fit us.

Evanston is a city, like every city, where you are expected to know, know what lane to be in for the turn you are about to make, which streets are one way, or where to park to go to the grocery store, what the customs are around leash or no leash for Henry, even when the law says leash and all kinds of everyday things. The expectation of a city is that you know what you are doing at every moment.  “Knowing” is how not to get in the way of anyone’s rushing and the very important business of getting to the next place or meeting, or appointment.  When I get it all right, I avoid the glances at my license plate and then at me, that clearly state that I am a foreigner here. The angry, dirty stares that say, “Oh, right, you are from California, of course, you know nothing about being here. You idiot, learn the roads here!” They don’t know I grew up here, I own this place.  Grant it, I have to relearn landmarks and roads, but I belong, even if my license plate says I don’t. At least my license plate says I am pretty cool.

At the end of the day, we are two tired travelers. We’ve arrived. Henry lays with his tail curled under in an attempt to achieve the fetal position and stop moving just to go inward. I have never seen him curl up so tightly. His eyes are bloodshot and I imagine he feels as I do, a sensation that we are still hurtling through the air, on the road at 60-80 miles an hour.

 

Tired Henry
Four Dogs Tired

I have been trying to tell Mr. H no more endless car rides for a long time but he just doesn’t seem to be listening.  It is as if he is saying, I am too tired and I’ll believe it when I see it.

 

Then Things Seem Inevitable…

“First things seem impossible, then improbable, and then inevitable.”  Angeles Arrien

Angeles was a cultural anthropologist who took indigenous rituals and traditions and taught how to walk the mystical path with practical feet.  She gave more than permission to live a life of following what has heart and meaning.  In fact, she encouraged and expected it of those who studied with her.  She gave me roots in the learnings about treating life as sacred.  She taught the work of listening deeply, going from medium to slow, saying what’s so when it is so and asking, “What’s learning ya?”

I have set things aside in my life because they seemed impossible and I was afraid.  Then I went through a phase in my 20’s when being afraid meant I should just do it, whatever it was. And that led to some really stupid and risky choices, so stupid they aren’t worth giving attention to here. Then I had a family and I took being afraid as something to pay attention to. I heard fears as coming from my inner knowing, speaking to me and guiding me in my mothering and “wife-ing” and in my work as a psychotherapist.

Now, single with grown kids, and collecting social security, I am back to looking at what seemed impossible, a move to Chicago.  With the realization I wanted a change and wanted to move, the move has gradually become inevitable.  And, now with the rental of my home for a year, the mess of boxes, bubble wrap, and sorting, with bags labeled “let go”, this move has become inevitable. As my father said when I moved to CA, “What do you have to loose?”  The adventurer in him could say that with the deepest of confidence in me.  The confidence I am drawing on again, for a road trip back to Chitown.

First things seem impossible and I am sure they are.  Then they seem improbable and then with a push from here or there, they become inevitable.  When I get out of my own way, possibilities seem to show up and say, “Hey, notice me”

Almost Diverted 3/19/2017

Everything changes, always.

It is so interesting to feel the rush of energy when the possibility of change seems to pop up unexpectedly.  It is a mix of anxiety, fear, wonderment, terror, muddled thoughts about how do I make this decision. Do I want this possible change or do I want to stick with my plan?  What if I make a wrong decision, and hearing the voice that says there is no wrong decision but not believing it because I am certain it is not true, it is just a good idea.

My sweet neighbors with their very funny 18-month-old have come to live with me because their house was affected by a landslide caused by all the rains here in California.  It is a crazy time. They are having to figure out where to live and I am packing up the house, getting taxes together, and getting other silly things done before I go on the road to Chitown. All at the same time, my neighbors are deciding to live in the house next to the one that is sliding.  It is actually a very lovely crazy time.

And then, the alternate reality, the Possibility, with a capital P shows its beckoning head. My neighbors will have a studio/1 bedroom for rent in the bottom of that house they are considering and it is at a rent I can afford.  I could stay in the neighborhood that has become more congenial since I decided to move away.  We talked about it and all agreed it would be so nice. And then that anxious, fear, terror, wonder and curiosity rushed up from my knees to my throat. I am getting friendlier with that experience and know when I feel it, that it means stop and wait. It does not mean decide. Those feelings and sensations are red or yellow lights, not green.  It seems so much easier if it were just a green light.  So much easier!  I just want to pretend that the light is green so the decision is made. There…done, decided, finished.

I can easily be diverted from my decisions by something safer or cozier, and my reasons for making the decision slips away only to be remembered much later after I have gone down a different road.

I have to remember why I am doing what I am doing. I want to try my work in other parts of these lands, I want to get out of the Bay Area.  And most of all I want to go home. It only took me a few hours to have that come clear.  This is my practice.  This is my work. Listening and listening again.  Am I getting a green light or am I pretending to get a green light?  Am I keeping my journey sacred? Am I letting myself see that things always change, choices and possibilities, and when? Which bloom and which die? Which things are so sacred I allow them to change me?

 

Hygge (prounounced Hoo-ga) 3/7/2017

http://www.visitdenmark.com/hygge

  • The Danish meaning of hygge. Hygge is as Danish as pork roast and it goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge.
  •  Hygge, is a Danish word roughly translated to English as coziness. As the Visit Denmark site suggests, it might contribute to a happier life. Making life intentional has something to do with Hygge. My personal feeling about Hygge is something about slowing down, paying attention to what makes you feel cozy, at home, staying with what has heart and meaning and making daily life sacred.

Making life intentional has something to do with Hygge. My personal feeling about Hygge is something about slowing down, paying attention to what makes you feel cozy, at home, staying with what has heart and meaning, and making daily life sacred.

I have always had a very close connection to Denmark and my friends there.  I didn’t really know why, but seeing the video on Hygge on the Visit Denmark website, gives me an idea of my connection to that culture.  I got to the site by way of someone who writes about their sacred journey.  It is a bit religious and that is not my bent.  But she offered up the link to “Visit Denmark” and I found Hygge. Who knew?

I can hear my Danish friends laughing at my pronunciation of hygge, having once been told I sound too perfect when learning to say Bussen gabte, which I was later told, means the bus yawned. A phrase that is so handy for travel, or really anything I am doing, anywhere, really!

Those were wonderful days, learning how to say Bussen gabte while attending European clown school in Blue Lake, California. Carlo Mazzone-Clementi, was the master teacher (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlo_Mazzone-Clementi), and being there introduced me to some of the most creative people from all over the world.  I was totally drawn to the students at the school who were from other lands and attached myself to the Scandinavians.  They just seemed the most sane, even at a clown school.  My attachment to one woman, Josefine, was deep, we were sure we were somehow related.  Our relationship has endured, even with just a few visits and travels with our families, over many miles and waters.  Being with my Danish friends and our families being together makes me feel full of Hygge. 🙂 .