Thursday Tidbits: Ever Evolving Peace

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Although Thursday Tidbits posts remain irregular, the Bloggers for Peace movement stays the course in its challenge to bloggers. For September, participants are to post a single quote for peace, a single statement that each one of us might remember the next time disagreement seems inevitable.
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Not surprisingly, I turn to the words of the Buddha so frequently offered on the ever-wonderful blog, Zen Flash. For me, this past week has been one of discovering the broader dimensions of compassion—in more than one moment I was found lacking–all will be revealed on Sunday in a regular blog post. Between now and then, I hope you visit some other Bloggers for Peace posts:

Spunky Wayfarer

Bishop Eddie Tatro’s Study

Becoming a Writer

Indira’s Blog

Card Castles in the Sky

Thursday Tidbits: The Gentle Touch

This irregular Thursday Tidbits post features the gentle touch of Craniosacral Therapy (CST) as described in Kate Mackinnon’s From My Heart and Hands. If you have never heard of CST, as I had not, consider this concise definition: “the healing power of a gentle touch” (Mackinnon).

Essentially, CST is based on the body’s innate ability to heal itself; the therapy has a physical as well as energetic component. waters of forgiveness

Therapists’ hands are trained to feel and monitor changes in the body’s tissues to a very high degree of sensitivity. In the process of monitoring what is happening in the client’s body, therapists’ hands follow change as it occurs rather than making a decision to move a person’s body in any given direction. This is a principal difference between CST and most other therapeutic types of bodywork (Mackinnon).

The term craniosacral involves the cranium and sacrum, the bony features that protect the brain and spinal cord, our central nervous system:

These structures are further supported by membranes that line the bones of the fluid that fills those membranes, which provide cushioning for the brain and spinal cord. The craniosacral system is at the very core of our being; disturbances in the system create disease or disharmony in the body as a whole. Likewise, problems of the body also reflect back to the craniosacral system, putting it under strain (Mackinnon).

The cerebrospinal fluid of the central nervous system is essential to CST for the trained therapist’s hands are able to evaluate how well the body is functioning by feeling the craniosacral rhythm, a gentle motion that can be felt throughout the body.

It would be an injustice to Mackinnon, her book, and CST to attempt to discuss the different facets of this therapy in a blog post. It would also be quite a challenge as Mackinnon deftly explains and explores the many facets of CST. Not only is her book readable but it is an engaging and thoughtful presentation. This is a book I recommend for anyone who wants to know about CST, either as a client or as a professional. Mackinnon covers it all.

Meraki Moment She provides an in-depth discussion of a ten-step, CST protocol as well as what to expect in a session and how to prepare for a session. Each chapter includes fascinating case studies of an array of conditions that have been helped by CST. Mackinnon never presents CST as a panacea but rather as a viable, healing modality.

Mackinnon studied with the Upledger Institute, and in addition to discussing the training in various modalities that one should consider requisite in a craniosacral therapist, she includes a fascinating chapter on accessing and using what she refers to as our inner wisdom.

While CST is based upon the premise that our bodies can heal themselves, it does not mean that the body cannot use some support, even from allopathic medicine. Thus, regardless of the healing modality, it is essential to access that information within our bodies, which is not always easy.

There are various practices that help us do just that including tai chi, yoga, meditation, and CST. “We often need support to reach our inner wisdom, to allow us to move beyond our logical or rational minds” (Mackinnon). An increased level of awareness allows us a deeper sensitivity to what is occurring within our physical bodies.

Having had a regular meditation practice for just over a year and for a much shorter time, a yoga practice, I am encouraged daily. Beyond what meditation gives me, I am beginning to see the effects of having a regular yoga practice, especially for discomfort, stiffness, and flexibility. In particular, there has been real progress with the neuropathy in my legs.

CST is not covered by most insurance companies, although it is certainly complementary to allopathic medicine. Craniosacral therapists often are also licensed as massage or physical therapists. Mackinnon provides an excellent glossary and list of resources. The Upledger Institute website is among them.

Perhaps what most convinced me to start looking for a craniosacral therapist is the following from the late Dr. John Upledger:  “‘the therapist does not heal or cure. The healing is done by the patient using the help and facilitation of the therapist.’”

I will keep you posted.

(All quotations are from the Hay House print copy of From My Hands and Heart by Kate Mackinnon, 2013. As a Book Nook member, Hay House has provided me a free copy for review. My review is to be posted on my blog as well as on at least one commercial site.)

Thursday Tidbits: Into the Past for the Present

This week’s Thursday Tidbits considers the past through the lens of the present, as seen through my recent visit to the American Civil War site of the Battle of Natural Bridge, fought on March 6, 1865.

“To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think about the past, or responsibly plan for the future. The idea is simply not to allow yourself to get lost in regrets about the past or worries about the future. If you are firmly grounded in the present moment, the past can be an object of inquiry, the object of your mindfulness and concentration. You can attain many insights by looking into the past, but you are still grounded in the present moment.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh ~

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Grounded in the present moment, standing on the invading side of the battle site breastworks, caught up in the radiance of a June morning 148 years later, the breastworks and I overlook a river bend, surrounded by dogwoods. We are the anomalies.

I am conscious of lives long past and I am just as aware that my presence, my literal and figurative footprint, is already mingling among those memories. Such is presence among the past.
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Memory is always tinted, whatever the reason we recall a moment. What comes to us is tinged, softened around the edges, imprecise. No moment ever plays out exactly as it occurred for we are, and it was.

Each moment we have is a one-time shot whose existence is preserved precisely in the past. The mindful inquiry into the past acknowledges the tinted lens, whether it is the close-up of a personal memory or the wide-angle view of history.

So on a radiant June morning, a still life study in green and light, I tread the dew of a battle site. Although trained as a historian, battles and war are not stories that interest me, yet it is history that has brought me here.
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The old woman whose story I am writing discovered a part of her past that stumped me, and this battle site is as physically close to the old woman’s past as I can get. Her connection to the Civil War recalled my initial discovery of the Battle of Natural Bridge.

When I first moved to Florida, I lived near battle fortifications that local legend associates with the natural bridge battle but history has proven otherwise.  I always found the legend a great story, and after two years of walking by those fortifications on a daily basis, local legend became my version of the battle.

Now, over a decade later, it is not hard to understand how my fondness for the legend worked its way into the old woman’s story. Yet, the legend did not serve her story but history seems to, so far.
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As I look across the still waters of the St. Marks River, I am grateful the old woman’s story has brought me to the actual battle site. It has made for a lovely morning and a memory grounded in the present, an object for inquiry again and again.

Also accompanying me that morning and in the writing of this post was Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” I hope you enjoy the music and the images. Both are worth the status of memory.

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.

Thursday Tidbits: Peace in Relationship and Dystopia

forpeace6This week, Thursday Tidbits considers peace in terms of our relationships, as the June post for Bloggers for Peace. I am reminded of Pema Chödrön’s observation that we are always in relationship, even if the only other being in the room is an insect.

We are always in relationship, and the first is with ourselves. Whatever that relationship, it flies as our banner, the basis of our relationship with reality, peaceful or no.

When you enter deeply into this moment, you see the nature
of reality, and this insight liberates you from suffering and confusion. Peace is already there to some extent: the problem
is whether we know how to touch it
.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh~

Our day-to-day relationships are mostly peaceful but not always, for we are human and do not always lead with compassion. Yet, by entering deeply into each moment, we are able to try again, perhaps even to meet one another in acceptance, if not in agreement. Is that not the threshold of peace?

Just recently, I read Piper Bayard’s dystopian thriller, Firelands, a fine novel that raises question after question regarding our relationship with our world.

A cautionary tale, Firelands is as unpredictable as the nature of relationship for we are taken down paths that prove not to be what they seemed but like any master storyteller, Bayard allows her characters to reveal themselves for all that they are and are not.Firelands 0613

I am not a frequent reader of post-apocalyptic fiction but as I read Firelands, I was reminded of a favorite Mignon McLaughlin quote:  “The hardest learned lesson [is] that people have only their kind of love to give, not our kind.” Bayard’s vision is not a pessimistic one. Rather, it is refreshingly realistic.

In the theocracy of Firelands, we see what a faction-weary world can become for such a world, like ours today, “desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds” (Dalai Lama).

Storyteller Bayard affords us a glimpse into one possibility for our future and offers us the opportunity to look at ourselves now, in our present. But mostly, she takes us to the threshold of peace by reminding us that our story is one of relationship and always will be; to touch the peace within ourselves is to extend it in relationship in any world that comes to pass.

Although this is Piper Bayard’s first book with StoneGate Ink, we can look forward to more fine writing, including a seven-book series written with Jay Holmes. I am a constant reader of their blog, Bayard & Holmes, for their posts are thoughtful and thought-provoking. Often, they reveal a perspective I had not considered.

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.

Thursday Tidbits: The Way to Fall Apart

This week’s Thursday Tidbits post considers retreat as a meditative withdrawal and as the idea of falling apart. As Pema Chödrön says, “Everything that comes together at some time falls apart.” Ours is to experience pain and pleasure–usually alternating but not always–for the nature of existence is impermanence.

Recently, I attended an online retreat offered by the Omega Institute, featuring Pema Chödrön. The retreat covered the four marks of existence–impermanence, egolessness, suffering, and peace–during the first minutes of the retreat, Chodron referred to the four as the facts of life. I felt a familiar stirring.

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I had been drawn to the retreat from the moment the invitation arrived in my email box, about 72 hours prior to the event’s first session. I was not aware of having any connection to the Omega Institute, which is not to say I did not but is to say I do not remember a connection. Still don’t.

Serendipitous email or no, the retreat affirmed my suspicion that I was, indeed, falling apart again–health, writing, life–but the initial session on impermanence revealed how adept I had become at avoiding falling apart. That was an unexpected moment yet it was obvious I had been creating various bubbles of escape for some time. No wonder they felt so familiar, so comfortable.

You might think all my posts about allowing bubbles to float up and through us while remaining in present moment awareness might have had some effect on me other than escaping with the bubbles. They did, ultimately.

A few months ago when I started reading Pema Chödrön’s books, I chose The Places That Scare You over When Things Fall Apart. I felt a familiar stirring of avoidance when I made my selection but convinced myself I needed to read the former title–for what reason now escapes me.

Not surprisingly, the phrase that I kept hearing in the online retreat was “when things fall apart,” more by participants than by Pema Chödrön. That was not surprising, either.

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. And they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy” (When Things Fall Apart).

The words falling apart have always been difficult for me. I eschew vulnerability in the same breath that I advocate an open mind and open heart; however, I do know “strength does not come from a bubble of safety” (Chödrön).

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My bubble burst within the first few minutes of listening to Pema Chödrön, and my tears streamed right along with the video; Chödrön is quite a wit so my tears were from laughter as well as from the pain of recognition. It was a great way to fall apart, actually.

Nothing has changed and everything has changed. I am still dealing with a significant lupus flare and adjusting my life accordingly; as always, diet, meditation, and yoga figure prominently. For me, it is not a matter of being less but a matter of being more, just as I am, which is new.

If I avoid the discomfort that is part of being alive, I am living in a bubble. Bubbles burst; it is their nature. If I open to both the pleasure and the pain of life, I am vulnerable but strength resides in accepting that things fall apart and come together. It is the nature of existence.

*****

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.

Thursday Tidbits: Like Water Through Rock

(Regular posts will resume May 30)

This week’s Thursday Tidbits post considers the open mind, essential to mindfulness and perhaps “the gentlest thing in the whole world” as Byron Katie maintains.  Not surprisingly, that which is gentle may also be the most powerful for the open mind, in its awareness, accepts what is.

Acceptance may be the power behind the gentleness of the open mind: “Ultimately the truth flows into it and through it, like water through rock” (A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony With the Way Things Are, Byron Katie). Undoubtedly, accepting some truths may seem like water flowing through rock yet imagine the power of that possibility.
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The power of the open mind seems similar to Tonglen, a Buddhist teaching often translated as “sending and taking.” Tonglen “refers to being willing to take in the pain and suffering of ourselves and others and to send out happiness to us all” (Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You).

What we take in, we send out in a gentle flow if “…we drop the storyline that goes along with the pain and feel the underlying energy” (Pema Chödrön). In many ways, the open mind is “the bottom line” stripped of judgments and labels, the stuff of storylines.

It is not easy to drop storylines, not easy to resist being pulled in one direction or the other– it is much easier to react–but in the open mind of Tonglen, we stay with the energy that is stirring us. No matter how long or short our stay, in choosing response over reaction, we keep our options open.

In remaining open, we find the way for any truth to flow through us–some consider this courage—we appreciate the gentle persistence of water flowing through rock for it is not how long it may take but that it is undertaken at all. That is the power of being gentle.

The open mind is where paradoxes thrive and similes “like water through rock” describe the world of infinite possibilities for what has never been a moment’s thought may be the next moment’s reality.

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On a personal note, beginning tomorrow I am attending a three-day, online Pema Chödrön retreat as an accompaniment to a lupus flare that is worthy of water flowing through rock. I do not anticipate publishing a Sunday post this week.

The Chödrön retreat is “The Marks of Existence,” exploring impermanence, egolessness, suffering, and peace. More information is available from the Omega Institute.

Also, this past week I found three other blogs that seemed related to what this post considers the open mind. I enjoyed each post for entirely different reasons.

Functional Wellness: The Body-Mind Connection is written by a medical doctor and is a thorough, practical discussion of our mind-body’s “one bidirectional system.”  This is one of the most succinct, mind-body articles I have found and includes excellent resources.

Things I have been thinking about lately offers Theodore Roethke’s poem, “The Waking,” a poem of paradox and as the analysis excerpts reveal, a great deal more.

Daily Dose of Vitamin S opens us to an everyday possibility often overlooked and a vitamin well-worth a daily dose, at least.

Finally, this week’s video features excerpts from author David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon University. It is called “This is Water: Reimagining Everyday Life.” It is nine minutes long but just may help you get through the next nine minutes you find yourself stuck in the everyday.

Video from KarmaTube

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.

Thursday Tidbits: The Art of Peace

This week’s Thursday Tidbits is the Bloggers for Peace monthly post, specifically the art of peace.  The art of peace begins within ourselves and radiates outward into every relationship we have, in particular those relationships that for one reason or another are askew or gone awry.forpeace6

To renew a relationship begins with intention, although to re-open our heart is often difficult. That is why the art of peace begins within, for when we are at peace with ourselves is when we re-connect to serve all.

In order to start, Pema Chödrön maintains it is not such a great effort to once again establish a relationship that serves, if we will just consider that a commitment we once made is now broken.

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It means we have to let go of the story we’ve been telling ourselves–the why, the what, the how, or who– and just acknowledge “…that we hardened our heart and closed our mind, that we shut someone out. And then we can retake our vow. On the spot—or as a daily practice—we can reaffirm our intention to keep the door open to all sentient beings for the rest of our life” (Pema Chödrön).

Everyday life, no matter how we approach it, is a practice that requires patience, especially when we do not seem to notice any progress within ourselves or within the world.

There are four emotions that never involve the ego—compassion, gratitude, joy, and love—these four ways have many other names including the four agreements of Don Miguel Ruiz that ask us to be “impeccable” in our speech, not to take whatever occurs personally, to be present in all we do so we are not assuming anything about anyone for when we are present, we are doing the best we can.

The art of peace is available to us in every moment we have for each moment is free from any attachment to what has been or what might be. That we affirm our intention to be the best we can be and live with true compassion for ourselves and others in every moment is what keeps peace always within our grasp. It begins with being present.

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“That’s the training of the spiritual warrior, the training of cultivating courage and empathy, the training of cultivating love. It would be impossible to count the number of beings in the world who are hurting, but still we aspire to not give up on any of them and to do whatever we can to alleviate their pain” (Pema Chödrön).

In alleviating that pain we must remember the key to the art of peace: the idea of serving rather than helping or fixing anyone or anything. It is only in serving that we view ourselves and our connection to all life as whole, not broken or weak.

When we are clear in our intention of serving, we are open to what is available for all of us. The art of peace is a celebration of the diversity that makes up the whole, an acknowledgment that uniqueness is necessary for completeness.

Here are links to other Bloggers for Peace and their consideration of the art of peace:

Kozo Hattori: Art Thou Peaceful 

Bodhisattva In Training: The Art of Peace

Grandma Lin: May Post for Peace

The Seeker: Peace is Like a River

Caron Dann: Recreationist Theory

Card Castles in the Sky: Float Upward

One of my favorite combinations of the art of lyrics, music, and painting is this well-known video featuring the music and lyrics of Don McLean and Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings.

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.