Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Generosity of Geese

One evening in early August I was strolling in Stewart Park, at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, when I spotted a couple carrying a large animal crate toward the lake shore. Intrigued, and anticipating a release of some kind, I followed and watched the following scene unfold…

The door of the crate was opened, and the couple stepped aside as they waited for whatever was within to emerge. Nothing happened. The crate was then up-ended, and out slid two young geese. (I later learned they were the outcome of a school project involving eggs). Our lake is a big lake and the geese stood as though stunned for a few minutes as they gaped at the expanse of water. Uncertain what to do or what was expected of them, they shifted from one foot to the other, and paced nervously along the shoreline. The couple settled on a log to wait for the moment that the geese would take their first step to freedom.

 In the meantime, the new arrivals had been spotted by some of our local geese gathered on the lake. A pair, apparently a mother and adolescent, separated from the rest and started to float a bit closer. Lingering about 50 feet from shore they expressed obvious interest and curiosity by establishing eye contact with the new arrivals and maintaining an open stance as they ever so slowly drifted forward. There were quiet calls. The orphans watched them for a few moments. 

Then, suddenly, the two geese on shore lifted off as one and flew low over the surface of the water to a point just beyond the welcoming pair. Upon landing they turned and swam – quickly – over to the mother and child, taking positions on either side of the smaller goose.  The youngsters appeared to be the same size and age. They looked like they belonged together. The new family turned, and quietly paddled off into the fading light.

I have sat for some time with my memories of that night, from the initial uncertainty and not knowing to the creation of a new family. As an introvert, I appreciate being approached with gentle curiosity and interest. Seeing this play out with the geese was stunning. I was especially struck by the sense of welcoming and of being welcomed. Recalling times when I have felt welcomed with a warm embrace, I have also wondered how often I am truly welcoming. There are so many examples in the world today of “us” vs “them”, of building fences, turning back and pushing away. Where do any of us truly belong? Even as a small child I remember feeling like an alien, looking around and thinking “this is not the way it is supposed to be”.

What does it say about humans that I find the highest ideals I aspire to being played out by geese on the lake shore? I'm afraid they are better at this than I am.

Their generosity of spirit continues to reach deep into my being and fill my heart with amazement and something akin to joy. Watching our native geese so simply and graciously gather in the outsiders reminded me… this is the way it is supposed to be.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spring Gratitudes

Doors were flung open and people tumbled outside to feast on a sky unmarred by clouds and alight with a blazing sun. Sixty degrees and a soft caressing wind invited us to come out of hibernation and celebrate the end of a brutal winter. Bikes, trikes, scooters, skates and strollers rolled happily along. You could feel the solar panels sucking up the sun. Pairs of osprey wheeled overhead, calling faintly to each other. Two bald eagles flew low down the inlet, a sight so unexpected and surprising that I cannot be sure I actually saw them.

But my first gratitude blossomed yesterday, at the annual return of a pair of mallards swimming in a nearby roadside ditch flowing with the winter melt. They pique my curiosity… why the ditch, when there is a lake, a creek, and a pond within a half-mile radius? Spotting the ducks feels like a homecoming. Something in me loosens when I know they have come back, and some piece of the world swings into place. Here is the ditch where they hang out.

The second gratitude is simply relief. Warmth, unmarred by the piercing of a bitter wind.

Third – a lightness of being – no coat, or scarf, or mittens, or hat or any of the other paraphernalia required to master the winter.

Fourth… with any luck (and I won’t count on this, although I will hope) I will not have to scrape frost off my windshield until November.

So, the animals and birds are returning to their summer home and we are emerging from our winter homes into the light of day. Hallelujah.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Rousting the Mice

Recently my tremor has expanded into new territory, leaving me with the sensation of a couple of mice running up and down my arm. For the the most part this is not obvious to others and certainly not debilitating... but it is bothersome just the same. Hopeful that the stress-free atmosphere of a week's vacation would help this I was disappointed that the tremor continued unabated.

The other night as I lay in bed it occurred to me to see if imagery might provide some relief. I have a densely populated inner world, filled with various aspects of myself, as well as guides and magical beings. Sorting through the mix of characters that could assist on this it occurred to me that since I'm feeling mice racing around in my arm that I should use a mouse to help, so I called Sebastian to the foreground. He is similar to Reepicheep from Narnia. Sebastian came over, inspected the situation, then began to squeeze my arm gently. Moving upward, he crowded the mice up toward my shoulder... and when they reached the top of my arm those mice jumped ship and squirted right out of my shoulder.

Almost unbelievably, even to me, my arm was immediately still.

It is now three days later and only occasional twitches are present. A 30-second fantasy stilled an arm that had been trembling and shaking for weeks. I guess this should not surprise me since I'm an imagery guide. Yet I confess to being astounded. What else might be possible?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Language of Choice

The recent brouhaha over the Coca-Cola ad at the Superbowl, in which America the Beautiful was sung in many languages, suggests that at the most basic level language matters. The truth is that language matters deeply, at every level.

In her ground-breaking book Change Your Questions Change Your Life, author Marilee Adams introduced the Choice Map, which pictures two paths representing two very different mindsets: Judger and Learner. The questions we ask ourselves can lead us into the Judger Pit (What's wrong with me? Why are they so stupid?), or they can lead us down a path of thoughtful choices  (What's possible? What can I learn?). Simply by being aware of a handful of useful questions it is possible to shift from a negative to a positive outlook. Your language matters.

A Human Resources manager I know sometimes prefaces her remarks by stating "The story I'm telling myself about this situation is..." This alerts everyone that she is aware she might not have the full story. That, in fact, her story might have nothing to do with reality, but this is how she was experiencing the situation. Her approach invites  feedback and dialog. She claims responsibility for her thoughts and feelings, and lets people know the story might change over time, with more information. Such a simple sentence to convey so much... language matters.

While most of our communication takes place via words, the language of our subconscious is imagery.  By developing personalized mental images we can control our autonomic processes and immune system. In addition to healing applications, we can also direct and affect the outcome of our actions. More than twenty-five years ago I conducted my first experiment in this arena. Ready to look for a new job, I realized that I was not so interested in the specifics of what I would do; rather, I wanted a job in which I would feel connected with people and in which I would enjoy collaborative relationships that buoyed and supported me. I developed a particular image that embodied the desired feelings, and focused my energy and attention on that image in meditation and throughout the day. In short order I had a job that has more than fulfilled and embodied the feeling state that I was seeking. Although my role has changed over the years, the essence is still there. Language matters, whether it speaks in words or appears as images in your mind's eye.

Living your life with intent focuses the mind on your choices.  Notice your language... are you on the Judger or the Learner path? What stories do you tell yourself? What is your inner language, your personal imagery, saying to you? Intention, responsibility, action... the language you choose matters.

For more information on the power of questions, go to the Inquiry Institute for many great resources. Their training programs are recommended.

"Your language matters" is the second recognition in David Robinson's book The Seer.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Playing with the Patterns

You do not have a problem. You have a pattern. This intriguing assertion is the First Recognition in David Robinson's new book The Seer. Emerging from a year fraught with problems of my own making I was startled into the recognition that, in fact, the problems I experienced were the result of deeply ingrained patterns. It took me only a few minutes to identify about a dozen specific behaviors that led me down the garden path into a pit of misery. The cascade of emotions when I get triggered became very obvious. My control issues were glaring. I realized I'm still not living fully in the present; rather, I try to make the future known by rehearsing my part in it. (It doesn't take much imagination to know how effective that strategy is.) I anticipate things that don't happen.

Upon sharing these insights with a friend I was asked "what about all the good things you do?" and she promptly rattled off many positive aspects. I engage deeply and personally. There is an ebb and flow to my life... yes, I get bogged down... and I always come out of it. Nature sustains and nurtures me. I take risks and look for fresh challenges. Noting that I never considered these more positive traits in my list of patterns I realized that I, like many women and girls, am still subject to the belief that I am not good enough. On the face of it that is patently ridiculous. By all standards I live a good life and am successful. And still, it is all too easy to get mired in these false belief systems. And so I recognize that some of my patterns arise from personal experiences while others reflect the impact of cultural norms.

The Seer is about changing the stories we tell, changing our patterns. It's about allowing ourselves to be curious, to be present and to be ok with not knowing. To be willing to act without knowing what will happen. What story do I want to tell? Are my behavior patterns supporting or undermining my efforts? How can I change my mindset? Finally deciding that I needed an infusion of something other than"gray blah" I turned to Sebastian, one of my inner guides. Sebastian is fashioned after Reepicheep in the Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis. He is a debonair and gallant mouse, always the first to confront any foe and face any challenge, and he does so with a decided spirit of grace and adventure. His goal is to go the the end of the world. And to the end of the world and beyond he goes, eagerly striding into the unknown, looking forward to the next adventure. This is the story I want to tell. Spending a moment with Sebastian shifts my outlook and my lightens my mood. I act. It is just that easy.

David Robinson is an artist and author. When he's not painting, writing or performing, he guides people to the field of possibilities. Get the book here: The Seer

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sacred Journey

Check out the December issue of ImagiNews Journal to see a piece I wrote (page 6). Published by Imagery International, a professional organization of Guided Imagery Practitioners.

 Sacred Journey

I am the boatman
ferrying my selves
to the distant shore.
I am the grief for that
which is left behind.
I am the eager anticipation
of a child’s heart.
I am the thoughts
that stand before me like sentinels
and obscure my view.
I am that
upon which I rest.
I am the farthest shore.
I am the opportunity
awaiting my arrival.