Following Our Inner Guidance System

I have noticed I’ve been getting somewhat better at recognizing guidance for the larger issues in my life, but I still sometimes miss the smaller intuitive nudges that come my way.  I had written about this very subject two years ago, and it appears I still have so much more to learn.

I am beginning to realize that these nudges do happen.  They happened four times in the last two days, and I didn’t recognize or honor one of them!  They were quick little thoughts I had and then just as quickly discarded.  I didn’t recognize them as my Internal Guidance System!  They seemed so subtle.  I just didn’t realize how important these thoughts were.

So, here are some examples.  The first couple were not about anything life-altering; they simply would have made my life a little easier had I listened.  But the third and fourth ones!  Why, oh why, did I not listen???

  1. I was going with my sister out to do an errand or two.  I had the thought to bring my sneakers and the book I was reading.  I discarded both thoughts because I rationalized I was going to be with her and I wouldn’t have time to read a book or take a walk.  Well, as it happened, we passed an art fair in town.  If I’d had my sneakers, we could have enjoyed the art fair.  And then when she went into the pharmacy to collect a prescription, she was there quite a while.  I could have been reading my book.  (See?  Nothing earth-shattering.  Just simple guidance.)
  2. I went to the grocery store and one of the items I picked up was a carton of eggs.  I was going to check to see if any of the eggs were cracked—in fact my hand was on the carton ready to open it, but it was one of those overlapping plastic things and it felt like “too much work” to open two flaps.  (Ridiculous, I know.)  I thought, Oh, if there happens to be one cracked egg, no big deal.  Well, when I got home I went to put some eggs in a pan to hard boil them for egg salad and, guess what, two eggs were missing from the carton!
  3. I went to the bank to make a deposit.  While in my car, I got out my phone to call my brother-in-law to remind him to take out the giblets before he put the turkey in the oven.  But when I went to make the call, it wasn’t going through; it just wasn’t working.  I had the urge to call and I didn’t extend the extra effort to find a way to get through rationalizing that I’d be home within half an hour or so anyway.
  4. After the bank I had the thought to run home to my sister’s house before going on to the grocery store for some items we needed for dinner that night.  But I discarded the idea thinking that I could probably finish the errand and be home within half an hour.

So, why was it important that I listen to my inner guidance?  While I was sitting in the car at the bank, my brother-in-law was lying on the floor with a fractured hip.  If I had called and gotten no answer, I probably would have stopped home before going to get the groceries and I would have seen him and could then have called the EMTs that much sooner.  As it turned out, my brother-in-law was lying on the floor in great pain for about an hour before my sister arrived home, rushing in the door, heart in her throat, because he hadn’t been answering any of her calls.

So, the upshot is this.  I’m guessing we all get these little thoughts all the time.  And many times we probably just rationalize them away.  But we have this Inner Guidance System for a reason, as I hope the above illustrates.

Sometimes our inner self (or whatever Force or Being puts those thoughts in our head) is wiser than we realize.  We just need to listen better.

 

Note: This was originally published on my website (www.cynthiagreb.com) in April 2016.

The Spiritual Lessons of Politics

I seldom talk about politics publicly.  I’m uncomfortable with how antagonistic and “us vs. them” we tend to get.  Political sparring, which can get quite vile, doesn’t fit in with my vision of the peaceful world I want us to co-create.  And while I very much want “good” people in public office who will be kind, smart, and wise (oh how idealistic I am!), I don’t enjoy fueling the fires of hatred and fear as the subject of politics is wont to do.

A week or so ago a friend voiced an opinion on Facebook about a candidate whom she favored. One of her friends commented on her opinion in a way that I didn’t perceive as particularly nasty, and my friend (for whom I had previously had a lot of respect), rapidly spiraled down into some incredibly nasty name-calling.  And they were both in the same political party!  If there is going to be such odious behavior even within parties, then how can we ever hope to achieve a modicum of civility between parties?!

How can we learn to be more respectful to those with differing opinions?  I wish we could remember that we are all human beings who basically want the same things; we just have very, very different ideas of how to get there.  I think people react with such extreme emotions because they are, beneath it all, quite simply, afraid.  They are afraid that such and such a candidate will ruin their chances of stability or financial comfort or peace or whatever.

I confess that my default setting is not political, but spiritual.  And so I tend to think in terms of spiritual growth and evolution.  In that vein, my fellow citizens, here is our growing edge.  Can we learn to be more civil with one another?  Can we learn that the venom with which we treat one another ripples out into the world in ways we cannot begin to imagine?  If we all want, deep down, to live in a more peaceful world (and I believe we all do — except possibly the arms dealers), then we need to learn to model more peaceful behavior.  We cannot hope to ever see a more harmonious world if we cannot learn to control our hostility within our own interpersonal interactions. And that includes our posts on Facebook and other social media.

Among my peers, there is one candidate whose words and actions many of us find abhorrent.  Truth to tell, it is very tempting at times to ridicule him; and many, many of my friends fall prey to that temptation.   Well, here is another HUGE spiritual lesson.  It’s a really, really, really hard one, but once achieved, it is absolutely transformational.  Can we learn to (bear with me) … hate the sin and love the sinner?

I know, I know.  The very thought of loving someone who is so unlovable is hard to swallow.  It’s like asking you to love Hitler or Stalin.  And yet, even the most vile and evil among us were once children.  Something happened to them somewhere along the way and they… swerved.  My guess is these villains act in such extreme ways because, deep down, they are afraid.  They cover up that fear with megalomania and narcissism and acts of inhumanity and horror.  But that doesn’t mean we should be as vile as they.  It does, of COURSE, mean we shouldn’t vote for them.  And we can do whatever is necessary to prevent them from getting into political office.  I’m just saying, can we do it in a more civilized manner without sinking to their own abhorrent behavior?

There is one candidate who tries really hard to not resort to name-calling and mud-slinging.  I respect him enormously for that.  What a role model.  Can we learn to espouse our views passionately without being vicious and obnoxious?

I, for one, would like us to try.

 

The Labor of Death

Unless there’s a sudden trauma,

dying is labor.  It’s clearly labor.

The breathing becomes more rapid,

almost a panting.

However, instead of laboring to enter this world

from the comfortable confines of the womb,

there is the labor to exit this world.

There is a struggle as the self gradually allows the soul to separate

from the familiar womb of the body.

Except the body is not a womb,

it is more like a cage

or a very heavy coat

encasing a soul whose nature it is to fly.

But we forget that.

We cling to the body because it’s all we know.

It’s all we’ve known our whole life long.

We forget.

We forget what it was like before we slipped into the womb

to begin this life.

If only we could remember.

If only we could remember

how very different dying would be.

 

~ Cynthia Greb, 2016

http://www.cynthiagreb.com

Beauty and Loss All Commingled

Today I spent two hours with my ailing mother instead of the usual four to six.  And as I indulged in the sacredness of time alone, I discovered myself sinking deeper into my “feeling body.”  Once again, I discovered that being too busy is anathema to the soulful existential questions and emotions I need to let bubble to the surface once in a while.

Mom’s health is declining.  It hasn’t been that stellar for quite a few years, but now her body is starting to fail in ways that are no longer remediable.   I found myself wondering how conscious she is of her decline and when is the right time to discuss it all.

My mother has suffered from mood swings and a fair amount of depression these last several years.  Even when she was living in her own home, surrounded by her loving (albeit increasingly demented) husband, excellent and compassionate caregivers, and a regular rotation of visiting children and grandchildren, she frequently found reasons (not always easily discerned by us) to dissolve into tears.  Being in a nursing home the last year and a half has not resolved her feelings of depression.

Fortunately, when I inquired recently of the RN on duty about the possibility of an anti-depressant, it was subsequently approved by the facility physician.  I am not someone who ordinarily believes in indiscriminate pharmaceutical solutions, but her crying jags were disconcerting and I simply wanted her to feel better.  (And Mom was, in no way, open to therapy.)

So the question of the hour is:  do I open the can of worms that end-of-life discussions precipitate?  Or shall I let her “feel good” for a little bit longer?

Unlike Dad, who embraced the idea of heaven and, though he loved life, looked forward to “going home,” Mom has only ever talked about death when she was unhappy with her life.  I find myself hesitating to talk about something that will likely send her back into a downward spiral.

On the other hand, as someone who worked for two different hospices, I know how vitally important it is to have the opportunity to talk about these matters and to work through all the myriad emotions which certainly arise.

And so, I pray for guidance to know when the time is right.

Meanwhile, after leaving the nursing home earlier today and finishing a couple errands, I arrived home and dressed for a walk in the cool October air.   As I ambled down the road, I was struck over and over again by sights so achingly beautiful, I found myself invoking God’s name in whispered awe.

The trees are aflame with color this year—golden yellows, vibrant oranges, corals, and scarlets.  Breathtaking and heart-opening beauty is everywhere.  Even the skeletal remains of Queen Anne’s lace and the dark petal-less heads of black-eyed Susans are beautiful.

In addition to the splendors of autumn, there are lingering roses, hibiscus blooms, and purple clovers—splashes of summer in the midst of dying grasses and fallen leaves.  Life and death are all mixed together in this seasonal transition.

As I walked I found myself feeling the grief of Dad’s absence in my life.  Like me, he loved nature.  We would have had some fine walks together this year had he still been alive.  But I know we are both immersed in beauty and love—he where he is and I where I am.  And Mom, too, though she is not as skilled at recognizing it or appreciating it.  Then again, her childhood was not as special as that of Dad or me and my siblings.  When she was little she was abandoned by those who brought her into the world, and so abandonment is often her default emotional setting (even now, over seventy-five years later.)

Beauty and Pain.  Life and Death.  Love and Loss.  It’s all here.  We are surrounded by it all.

As my wise friend Kristy recently said, “Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.”*

May I carry it all with grace.

 

http://www.cynthiagreb.com

 

The Next Season

This is day #6 of being with parent #2 as she makes her slow exit from this life.

It’s been an important and exhausting time.  I am so grateful to be here with her, the woman who gave me birth.   And, as anyone who has maintained a long vigil with someone who is very ill knows, it’s a challenging road.

Today I was feeling very low energy.  I was tired, sad, overwhelmed.  Are these the correct words?  I don’t even know that I can accurately categorize how I was feeling.  I only know that I was depleted.

Fortunately other family members were going to be spending time with my mother this morning, so it gave me the opportunity to indulge in some alone time.  I am one of those people who needs a lot of time by myself, and I hadn’t had much solitude this week.

I walked to the side of my brother’s property and down the long leaf-strewn path toward the edge of a beautiful stream.  I found a rock in a pocket of sun and sat myself down upon it.  And that’s all I did.

I didn’t have the energy for anything else.  I didn’t pray; I didn’t prod myself to change or shift or buck up; I didn’t try to figure anything out.  I just sat.

I felt weighted.  I felt listless.  My spark was gone.

I just sat.

Gradually, eventually, the world began to work its magic on me.   After maybe ten or twenty minutes, I had the energy to lift my head.  I noticed more trees had changed color since the last time I’d walked to this particular spot.  There was one tree with beautiful bright coral-colored leaves.  And the sky was a clear blue with no clouds in it.

I began to notice leaves dancing through the air, letting go of the trees onto which they had held themselves for many months, and spiraling toward the creek which gently carried them downstream.

I became somewhat conscious of the beautiful metaphor unfolding around me, but mostly I became aware that my energy was ever so slightly beginning to rise.

The world is a beautiful place.   When I’m sad or tired, it’s harder to focus on the beauty.  But it’s there, just waiting to uplift me when I take the time to immerse myself in it.

 

Can I help my mother release her grasp on this beautiful life so she can embrace the next even more beautiful one?  I don’t know.  That is my prayer.  My prayer is that she be at peace with the change of the seasons.  Not just spring and summer, but fall and winter, too.

We cannot stop the wheel from turning.

And there is no end in a wheel.  There is only the next season.

October 2013 583

http://www.cynthiagreb.com

Releasing the Old, Welcoming the New

Hello friends,

Those of you who know me know I love living in this wonderful small Colorado community in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  So perhaps you will be surprised to hear that I’ve been getting guidance that I am supposed to move.

At first I wasn’t clear whether I was  supposed to simply move out of the home where I’d been living or whether I was supposed to leave Crestone.  So I made plans to do the first while endeavoring to get clear on the latter.  Soon the guidance got very clear.  I am being strongly called to move to Mt. Shasta.

Mt. Shasta is in northern California and it’s another relatively small town.  It, too, is known for its sacred mountain.  It, too, is a highly spiritual place of great beauty.

I am learning to trust that when I’m guided somewhere it’s usually because I have something to learn, people to meet, and gifts to offer.  I am sensing that this upcoming phase of my life will be exceedingly rich.  It feels like really good stuff is on the horizon.

So, right now I’m in that interesting place of preparing for what’s ahead while beginning to say goodbye to the place and people I have come to love and simultaneously trying to stay as present in the moment as possible.

I don’t yet know the exact timeline for this move.  I’ve been getting direction saying “Go now!”  I’ve been telling the Universe that I have a few more commitments to honor here first but that if a place to live and some work can be lined up, I am ready and willing to go.

So, to all my Crestonian friends, I send you love.  It has been a great blessing getting to know you all.  I’ll be around for at least another month and a half to revel in the magic that is Crestone.

Meanwhile, if any of you all have good friends or contacts in Mt. Shasta, I’d be grateful if you could pass them along to me.

The adventure continues….

 

The Art of Doing Nothing

I am self-employed.  Like many self-employed people, I have a couple part-time jobs to keep things flowing when I’m not writing or painting.  Today is one of those wonderful days when no other jobs or responsibilities are pulling at me.  My schedule is blessedly free.

I have been looking forward to a day like this so that I can get caught up—on revising my book, painting a new painting, making some necessary phone calls, etc.  There’s quite a list.  And yet I find myself completely uninspired.

I finally took myself outside to the deck for a couple minutes.  I journaled about how I was feeling.  Do I analyze my resistance?  Push through it?  Or do I honor it?

My energy was so low that I decided to simply honor this resistance and not do anything at all.

What a concept!  How often do we, in this often very frenzied culture, allow ourselves to do nothing?

I sat in one deck chair with my feet propped up on another.  And I didn’t do anything.

I did casually notice the lovely trees surrounding me.  I noticed the blue sky and the warm sun.  I was aware of the sound of the stream softly flowing about a hundred yards away.  But other than that, I did nothing.  I was in a total yin place.  My yang had gone on vacation.

It was blissful.

I used to live about an hour and a half away from the shore.  Like many of my friends and neighbors, I would visit the shore a couple times a year.  There is absolutely nothing so relaxing as lying on a large towel on the beach, the sun shining down upon you, and the sounds of the surf rocking you to sleep.

Well, now I live a little over a thousand miles to the nearest shore.  It’s not quite so easy to just jump in a car and get to the nearest sea.  But I discovered today that sitting out on the deck is actually pretty darn nice.

I can wear whatever I want (or don’t want, as the case may be), have a glass of whatever I want by my side,  and let the rays of the sun caress my body. And when I get too hot, I can simply move into the shade.

Suffice it to say, “doing nothing” necessitates me leaving the cell phone inside.  Far away.

It’s what our dogs and cats do all the time.  Not to mention lizards, snakes, lions, and other animals.  Why do we humans feel we don’t deserve the same consideration?  Why do we only let ourselves do this relaxing thing if we’re on vacation or retired or at the end of a very busy day?  (And some of us have trouble doing it even then!)

I suspect I sat outside for only about half an hour.  But it restored and revived me.  (Look!  I found the inspiration to write!)

One night, about fifteen years ago, I had an incredible dream.  In this dream my body was guided to wherever it needed to go, whatever it needed to do.  I didn’t have to consciously make decisions, I had only to wait until the guidance kicked in.

It was an exquisite dream.  When I was coming to wakefulness I found myself worrying that I’d never be able to sustain that sweet feeling.  But it turned out, for at least that one morning, I could.  I simply allowed myself to do or not do whatever my body did or did not want to do.  And it was a delicious feeling.

Of course I know that many of us do not have this luxury much of the time.  But the truth is we could allow ourselves the luxury of doing nothing more often if we chose.  We don’t have to make ourselves a slave to “getting things done” all the time, every hour of the day.  We could allow ourselves more time on the deck, the sofa, a hammock, or the bed if we chose.

And if our current lifestyle and schedule do not allow for this kind of relaxation, might it not be time for a little restructuring?

Blessed be, everyone.  Enjoy some totally non-productive time  today “just being.”  You are enough.

 

http://www.cynthiagreb.com