Archives for posts with tag: spirit

Glendalough Castle in Ireland. Obviously not the beach, but a place of adventure, and another inspiring  location where the air vibrated with fecund expectancy.

First thing this morning, as is my wont, I donned warm clothes and sturdy shoes, and, urging my trusty hound into the back seat, jumped into my CRV and headed for the beach.  I went there expecting the same wonderful experience I always receive — unique every morning, but always a gift to the soul and senses.

But today was different.

Today, after Maz and I traversed the short path onto the sands, we emerged onto a landscape tinged with fog, the icy blue of the still water blending into the serene sky with nary a division seen.  All was calm and peace, the only sound the gentlest lapping of water on shore.  I looked up and down the expanse of beach.  We were alone, yet the air was pregnant with imminent possibility.  The very sand seemed to be waiting in hushed expectation.

I felt as if we’d stepped through the back of the wardrobe into an undiscovered country, where something awe-inspiring was about to take place.

A glorious feeling to carry into the day.

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There is very little doubt in my mind that one of the greatest sources of joy in my life at the moment is Long Point Beach.  Every morning at around 7, I can be found alternately strolling or striding along its shore, accompanied by my faithful hound Maz.  I come for the scenery, Maz prefers the dead fish.  End result:  sheer happiness for both.
This morning, while driving along the causeway leading to the beach, I was startled to see a huge swarm of small black birds filling the sky above me.  From the point just above my head to one above hte marsh far in the distance, thousands of these feathered friends were beginning their exodus to warmer climes, their wings pumping madly in the chill of the morning sky.  There was no mid-air ballet today, no time for any such frivolity.  They had somewhere to go, and there were getting to it.

But the experience of all of those small bodies, those pulsating wings, dominating the heavens made me stop my car in the middle of the road and gaze upward in abject awe.

The driving force of thousands of palpitating hearts, all beating as one, created a moving mosaic of black wing against the light grey morning sky, and I was mesmerized.  But more than that.  For a few fleeting moments, I was a part of it, almost present there with them in the heavens, wings beating, core pounding, spirit lifting up and away into the promise of bluer skies, balmier breezes and tasty caterpillars only just contemplating the cocoon.

I drive that causeway almost every daybreak, and usually I give thanks for the simple beauty of the natural landscape.  But this morning … this morning was a moment of wonder in an ordinary day, and it felt like a miracle.

Tomorrow, I’ll once again rise at dawn to make the same pre-breakfast trek on those enervating sands.  Will there be another miracle?  Is there a miracle every single day, if I open myself to it?
I think there may be.  And I will be watching.

There are times when I contemplate the state in which we’re passing on this planet and this society to our children that I’m overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness.

I want to be a force for positive change, but I’m only one person, one small voice in the wilderness.  How can I possibly make a difference against a cacophony of angry or simply loud but indifferent utterances?

But, last night, I received a lesson regarding the power of a single voice.

After a sunset walk on the beach, and a lovely chat with friends, my faithful hound and I returned home late in the evening to a darkened abode.  When I turned the key in the lock, and entered, I heard a disconcerting sound.

Above the gentle hum of the fan, a shrill squealing was rending the air.  Mystified, I began following the source of this din.  It emanated from an upper kitchen shelf; at the top of the crisp cotton curtain covering the stash of preserves intended to provide local food throughout the winter, I spied the tell-tale twitch of antennae.

A cricket!  I quickly grabbed a magazine and swatted at the curtain top.  The sound stopped abruptly.  “Well,” I thought ruefully, “I may have murdered one of God’s creatures, but at least it’s quiet now!”

And it stayed quiet, blissfully quiet, as Maz dropped down onto his cushion, and I got undressed for bed.  It stayed quiet as I nestled amidst smooth sheets and contemplated the day’s events before drifting off into a peaceful slumber.  It stayed quiet, in fact, until 2 a.m. when, once more, an accursed, high-pitched squeal pierced the silence.  I clambered out of bed and snapped on the kitchen light;  the sound once again ceased in an instant.   But how, how, how could I guarantee silence, and accompanying sleep, for the rest of the night?

I knew I would never be able to find the cricket amongst the jars of canned plums and dehydrated zucchini that graced those particular shelves, so, hypothesizing that crickets chirped only in the dark hours, I left on the kitchen light and crawled back under my duvet.

But as I lay there,  the half-light coming from the kitchen creating a twilight aura in my bedroom, I had an interesting thought.

If one small cricket, simply by rubbing his back legs together, could create such a powerful noise, how much better was I equipped to raise a strong voice to be heard?

After all, some of the men and women I most admire, who have had a significant impact on both myself and the world, were single human beings, invested with only their unique personal voice.  I don’t compare myself to Thoreau or Gandhi, but they made a difference by speaking their truth forcefully yet with compassion and wisdom.  Jane Goodall works tirelessly to help save the diminishing chimpanzees of the world and their habitat.  Dr. Shiv Chopra and his small team at Health Canada were the reason that the children of this nation drink milk free from Bovine Growth Hormone.

The question, then, is what small but still significant changes of a positive nature might I facilitate by speaking from the heart with an educated and non-judgmental voice on the issues I care deeply about?  What positive changes might you precipitate in the same way?

One doesn’t need to possess the deafening force of a clanging bell to be heard through the ongoing clamor of the modern world.  Sometimes a single voice is enough.

I ask you to forgive my absence from this page over the past several weeks, gentle readers.  The extreme heat and other pressures of life began to overwhelm me, and as is so often the case, I retreated into the relative safety of my little world, which has recently revolved around health and canning nature’s bounty and, of course, finishing the requisite changes to my thesis.

But, last night, I had a sort of epiphany.  Part of that epiphany recognized that the times when the world overwhelms is absolutely the right time to express that feeling through the written word.  And the other flash of understanding I will attempt to illustrate through parable.

When the weather becomes unseasonably warm, my thoughts inevitably clang like a clapper to the side of a bell, pealing out negative thoughts regarding the havoc we are wreaking on this poor planet.  No matter how I try to lift my spirits, the resounding knell of global warming rattles my bones, and at these times, I despair of mankind, assiduously proclaiming to anyone who will listen that even a dog knows not to crap where it eats.

The heat at Long Point was so extreme last week that my poor canine boy was unable to traverse the scorching sand to reach the cool of the lake unaided.  Halfway there, he began to limp, then his hind legs literally buckled under him from the pain of his burning foot pads.

This is exactly the sort of scenario which causes me to plummet into a downward spiral, and the apex of this slippery slope is the following limiting thought:  “This is awful.  This has always been awful.  This will always be awful.  Forever and forever, without the amen.”

But being reasonably stoic, at these times I remind myself of a tale brought down through history in the writings of the Eastern mystics.

The story tells of a village which was overrun by the army of a feudal king as he plundered and conquered far from his own lands.  This lord had given the order that the villagers should be put to death, but, being of a whimsical nature, he bowed to their pleas for mercy, offering them this challenge.

“I will spare your lives,” the king said, “if, by this time tomorrow, you give me a very special gift:  a gift that will make me sad when I am happy, and happy when I am sad.”

At first, the villagers were struck down by despair.  How could they comply with this strange request?  What gift could possibly achieve what seemed impossible?

But their wisest elders and their craziest fools joined forces, and at the appointed hour, they approached the king, bearing a small, plain box.

When the king opened the box and saw the villagers’ gift, he was filled with awe at the perfection of it, and holding it high in the light of the new day, the sun shimmering off its surface, he immediately ordered their release.

The gift was a silver ring on which was inscribed, “And this, too, shall pass.”

Last night, I stood outside in my backyard orchard, gazing at the stars, set like jewels in a cobalt sky, and felt the first cool caress of autumn on my bare arms.  “This awful heat may come back,” I thought, “will certainly be back next summer, but in this present moment, I know in my soul that it is just now, and not forever.”

Whatever the joy, comfort, anguish, confusion of an instant, the only certainty is that it, too, will soon pass.  Surely the secret, then, is to fully inhabit every moment; to embrace every aspect of this divine comedy we call life, secure in the knowledge that each tick of the clock brings with it a transition into a new experience.  It is the accumulation of these moments and experiences that make us who we are, and since we are all on our own perfect journeys to becoming our fullest selves, whatever the moment holds is, in itself, a silver circlet of fleeting perfection.

So today, I give myself this hero(ine)’s challenge:  I will slip the king’s ring on my finger, and try to encounter every one of life’s moments fully.

And make no mistake, the ring is there, patiently waiting for the present moment in which you choose to grasp it in your palm and allow it encircle your life.

Yesterday, I took a break from thesis corrections to watch Dr. Wayne Dyer in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on her Super Soul Sunday series. (Gosh, you gotta love that, if only for the alliteration!)

After speaking of a spiritual healer he credits with curing him of leukemia, Dyer related his faith in manifestation — that our thoughts become things, and that the universe responds to our committed requests and beliefs.

In regards to the well-being most of us desire, he suggested that one should act as if those states were already present in one’s life, and further, should actually act as if they, a spiritual being in the midst of a human experience, were those qualities.  Rather than thinking, “I’m sick, I’m poor and I’m unlovable,” one should fill one’s thoughts with, “I am Health, I am Wealth and I am Love.”

The notion that the configuration of the universe responds to our thoughts and desires isn’t all that different from the Hindu concept of “Maya”, the illusion of the physical world.  And the idea that we can create scenarios by believing we are already in possession of them resonates with me of the great psychologist, Fritz Perls and his Gestalt therapy:  his watch-cry was, “Lose your mind and come to your senses.”  Perls would poke and prod his patients into assuming the form of happiness — “If you were happy, how would you sit right now, stand right now, talk, act?  So, do it!” — and the emotional state would tend to follow the physical one.

This morning, I was walking on the beach with Maz.  It was a little later than usual — 8 o’clock — and the sun was beaming down on us as we both meandered barefoot on the sand, and paddled in the water.  The lake was calm, a serene glass blanket, twinkling coquettishly at the sun’s caress.  A man and his grandchildren were frolicking in the water, and farther from shore, a lone swimmer rose and dipped in a measured front crawl.

It struck me that, despite whatever else is going on in the world or in my life, I needed to put very little effort into obeying Dyer’s suggestion, if only I could open myself to the experience of that moment.  As I strode along the warm sand, my canine companion at my side, I felt completely at peace, and in harmony with nature and my fellow travelers on this planet.

I am Health.  I am Wealth.  I am Love.

The challenge, I believe, is to bring this openness to every moment of one’s life — not just those spent on the beach.  The joy is there, if we can see it and feel it and believe it.