The Song

My heart sings for small towns
not for the crumbling, faded houses
or the hollow eyes that inhabit them
but for the spaces in between humanity
the thick undergrowth of untouched hillsides
the silence that surrounds you
as you emerge at the street's abrupt end

winding roads turning to dust
as they weave through valleys
and stitch the mountains together
no turns in sight as you faithfully follow
for miles to a singular destination
in the distant country, past oceans
made of tall grasses and grazing cattle

where the open sky is unhindered
by smog and skyscrapers
and you can feel yourself shrinking
beneath the infinity of distant stars
or cradled by the buoyant brushstrokes
of soft clouds in an endless canvas of blue
swallowed up, dissolved, and made whole again all at once

I've always found safety in the subtle symphony
of places far away from people
the silent prayer of bare feet against the warm earth
sunlight filtered through gently rustling leaves
the tender cadence of countless other lives
swelling and saturating every cell of my being
bowing down in reverence to this ancient rhythm

Separation from source
is the truest form of suffering
caged inside the arrogant design of human kind
cut off from the wind and light
set aside to sit in sterile cells
tangled up in selfish isolation
eating ourselves alive

No, I'd rather wade into the cool embrace
the filthy, glistening grandeur of the river
memorize the ever changing melody
of chirping birds and tiny insects
the healing buzz of their constant vibration
lapping at the shores of my truest self
reminding me of my part in the song

Always Stay Open

releasing control
is a chance to rest
to consciously accept
whatever comes

anguish adds up quickly
when you try to achieve perfection
leaving no room for error
is a dance with dissatisfaction 

its funny how quickly I lose sight
of the intention behind my machinations
was I looking for precision or peace?
the latter is always mine when I choose it

there is nothing to fear
when you're open to everything
closing ourselves off
is the cause of all distress

a flower that only opens to the sun
under pristine conditions, perfect circumstances
will surely wither and die
from stubbornness if nothing else

the plucky dandelion that sprouts up
through the crack in the crumbling cement
will still find the light there waiting
to offer warmth and life

what we need, we can always find
if we decide to lower the strict barriers
blocking and restricting our sight
an open palm to receive what a clenched fist cannot

how absurd to sacrifice happiness
in our pursuit of it
to give up our inner peace
to exert power over our surroundings

the true trick is to learn
how to soften when we are scared
to remember that sometimes surrender
will be what saves us

Sisters, I See You

I see myself
in these young girls
passing by with downcast eyes
half-heartedly hiding superficial scars
lost inside churning, troubled minds

I understand
is what I want to say, but hesitate
I feel the venom behind my own voice
hissing hatred at those who once
presumed to know me

you can't build a bridge
to an identity centered on
being misunderstood
any attempt is an insult, an assault
to a fragile, fearful ego

all seeds sown of love
remain inert and soon sour
in dry, distrustful soil
no external light can reach us
in those dark inner places

so what planted the seed
that has since blossomed
in my own heart?
was there something that snuck through?
or was it there all along?

what brought me to the river
and laid my soul bare to the blinding light?
what lured me from the thick forest
of my addictive inner agony?
was time really all it took?

despite my desperate longing
to pluck my sisters from their suffering
I surrender to that unknown force
that found me from within
so long ago

I trust
that they are strong enough
to navigate their own private pain
and uncover their own stillness
that peaceful place inside us all

some burdens we must bear alone
because they make us who we are
shouldering that impossible weight
is what gives us the strength
to transcend it someday

Focus

there is no peace for
a heart hunted down
by phantom fears

what you seek
will soon be found
magnified, multiplied

lungs filled with flowers
dark and haunted hovels
iridescent crystals of consciousness

each frame of reality
a microcosm
of unending eternity

selections from innumerable
fractals of possibility
manifested as moments

focus, focus, focus
fear, death, joy, and love
are equally present in everything

don't be afraid
of the uncertainty
that engulfs you

it is the soft caress
of the brutal, boiling sun
that sets you free 

Little Moments

I used to think the little things
were not enough to fill me up
fear seems so much larger and closer
than the morning sun
perched on treetops

but now I know how to see it
how to bundle up all those little moments
like so many love notes from the universe
and boil them down to make a balm
that heals and fortifies the restless soul

I know how to let the little moments in
I've seen them shrink those fears
lightening the load of a heavy, hurting heart
don't underestimate the power
of fresh cut grass and spring showers

the world offers refuge
for all those who seek it
transcribed into bird songs,
babbling brooks, and the rustling
of newly budded leaves

the irony of life
is overlooking what we need
straining our necks to see the big picture
without savoring the safety found
in stillness and simplicity

when the world gets too large
you can find me with the small things
wrapped in morning dewdrops
dissolving my self into intricate
mosaics of green

Having Enough

There is purpose in pain
there is salvation in suffering
there is peace is powerlessness
teetering on the edge of oblivion
is a balancing act that brings great strength
blessings disguised as burdens
bring unsuspecting hearts new perspectives
sometimes joy is hard to find
in a life of lavish excess
the simple soothing sensations
of aching needs finally met
are lost in the gratuitous gamut 
of wealth and superfluous luxury
even small happinesses are enough
to feed a truly hungry heart
there is no need to fear the fall
it offers us cleansing from distraction
a chance to uncover the real pleasures
of a life unclouded by greed
we flee from the emptiness
clinging desperately to all we have
forgetting that letting go is a lesson
that teaches us we were enough all along

Spirituality

Spirituality is religion without shame
detaching from the dogma
to discover the true essence of the soul
a soul that's not sinful and soiled
but a small part of the grander perfection
that swirls throughout the cosmos 
and stitches the universe into one cohesive cloth
deconstructing the hierarchy 
propped up by people with impure intentions
a recognition of my inner light
in the eyes of all others
a curious innocence allowing everyone
to be their own guide, their own fractal of God energy
not offering ultimate, immutable answers
but instead offering peace and patience
in the shared presence of the unknowable
the loving awareness of uncertainty merged 
with a deep, yet inexpressible inner knowing
a humble surrender to our own unanswered prayers 

The Rush to React

Nothing is ever as pressing as the one who’s pressing would like you to believe. And I am content to walk a little slower, because there’s nowhere that I really need to be.

The Difference in the Shades – Bright Eyes

The sensation of being rushed or in a hurry has been chasing me around for years now. I don’t remember how or when it began, but that fluttering, panicked sensation in my chest seems to always be with me. I start jerking myself violent forward through my day from the moment I wake up. The last few days I’ve been lingering for just a few minutes in bed after my alarm sounds to caress and snuggle my sweet animal children, and it’s been amazing to see just how much my mind tries to resist that and tell me I don’t have time for something so precious and worthwhile. My consciousness leaps straight from the peaceful oblivion of sleep to a three-alarm fire of strict routines and to-do lists in an instant.

While I particularly struggle with giving myself the time to just live and experience the life around me without frantically lining everything up for the next moment, I think a lot of other people have this same problem. Sometimes waiting feels as frightening as death itself. If someone makes a comment, if I get an email, if I’m invited to do something, or even have an idea I feel compelled to focus my entire attention toward responding or taking immediate action. It feels strange just to remind myself that I don’t have to react. Certainly not immediately, but often times, not at all.

It’s easier to see the error in this way of living when I watch those closest to me. It’s painful to watch someone continue to leap into awful decisions just because they feel they have to pick from the ones in front of them in each moment, that waiting is not an option. When you find yourself in a situation where both paths laid out before you are unappealing, it’s okay to decide not to choose either one and wait for other opportunities to present themselves. There is so much value in waiting, in stillness, in just observing, in watching patiently, mindfully. In a world where only bold, immediate action is given any acknowledgment, we are quickly losing sight of the quiet talent of simply being.

Even when the external world isn’t keeping us busy with stimuli to force a fast response, our inner world is. I make my emotional experiences so much more painful by feeling the need to do something about them. When I’m sad, I intensify that despair by trying to claw my way out of that feeling in any way that I can. When I’m anxious, I compound that frenzied energy by running from it, wondering about it, and trying to “fix” it. Even happiness sets me off on a quest to somehow bottle it and ensure that it stays with me, rather than just giving myself permission to enjoy it while it lasts.

Our emotions are often helpful, valuable cues. Even so that doesn’t mean they always require intervention or conscious direction. Emotions and internal experiences or mental states are there to be noticed and observed. Sometimes it helps me to pretend I am just a passive observer watching the external and internal events in this life. Then I don’t feel so much pressure to get involved with every little thing. I become aware of the benefit of simply watching everything unfold with openness and curiosity.

There is nothing wrong with slowing down and giving yourself space to experience whatever comes in the moment. This moment, no matter what it holds, is the only place we’re meant to be. Don’t miss the beauty of it, the uniqueness of it, by trying to get to the next moment faster. This moment is where your whole life is happening, take the time to notice it, savor it, enjoy it with playfulness and curiosity. There is nowhere else that you need to be.

Stages of Cognitive Development

Childhood and Developmental psychology classes helped me learn and understand the different stages that children pass through as they grow, particularly the stages of awareness and consciousness. Piaget’s 4 stages of cognitive development highlight the ways in which we all expand our perception of ourselves and the world around us as we age.

In the first stage, we gain object permanence, we begin to understand that we are separate entities from others, and that our actions affect the world around us. In the second stage we are largely only focused on ourselves and our own perspective. This stage is also where we first begin to be able to think symbolically, grasping that images can represent ideas and objects. We still think in concrete terms and struggle with abstract concepts. The third stage is where we begin to develop our logic and reasoning skills. The fourth and “final” stage is where we form the ability to think abstractly and contemplate hypothetical situations.

You may notice that I’ve put the word “final” in quotation marks, and I have good reason for that. It occurred to me the other day when I was thinking about the idea of faith and the many aspects of reality and life that we cannot know. I began to wonder why it is that it seems so absurd to consider there being more to reality than we can hope to conceive of in our current human state. Psychology has already laid out the ways that a child’s brain is different than an adult’s and has a more limited ability to process the world. Why do we assume then that a fully formed adult brain necessarily has overcome all of these cognitive limitations? In fact, based on Piaget’s theory, it seems logical to infer we may still not have all the pieces of the puzzle when it comes to perceiving ourselves and the world around us.

It practical terms, it does us no good to try to operate in the world on this premise. All we can do is use the information available to us in order to live. However, this idea that there is potentially much more to this world than we are able to understand is one that brings me comfort. This is my rather garbled attempt to emphasize the fact that faith may not be as groundless as I, myself, once thought. It allows me to more easily surrender to that unknown aspect of this universe and trust that, even when I don’t understand it, there is some higher purpose, or meaning to all of this. There is much more going on than my brain is capable of grasping. Perhaps death is the final stage of cognitive development.

The River

“Oh, the river!…I know it’s like me…I know that I belong to it. I know that it’s the natural company of such as I am! It comes from country places, where there once was no harm in it—and it creeps through the dismal streets, defiled and miserable—and it goes away, like my life, to a great sea, that is always troubled—and I feel that I must go with it!”

Charles Dickens – David Copperfield

There has always been something about large natural bodies of water that calm the restless turmoil within my soul. When I stare out at the gentle, undulating movement of the rivers and seas, a stillness settles over me. All of my life I have found refuge alongside the riverbank. The wretched, polluted waters have become a part of me over the years as I’ve poured endless tears out into them, and refilled my own cup with their timeless wisdom.

I too know that I belong to the river. It is like me. We are intertwined in a sacred, ancient union. I can feel it calling to me – and I too must go with it. I offer up to it all of my regrets, all of my fears, all of my sorrow. I let it carry them all away to become tiny specs in the vastness of the sea. I listen to it’s soft hiss, ever so slowly smoothing the rocks along the shore. I come to the banks to be smoothed just the same, to blunt my jagged edges and have my troubles tumbled into soft sand.

How many times have I found myself here, asking it’s sage advice? How many times have I been comforted by these dark, whispering waters? How many secrets have we shared in all these years together? When did it first begin to feel like coming home as I found my way into its profound presence? How could I possibly hope to explain this connection, this gratitude for the spirit of the earth and eternity lingering in these waters?

What a comfort and a joy it has been to have such a constant companion. This flowing life force has carried me through every stage of my life. I know that I can always rely on the river to bring me back to myself, to remind me that everything is okay. Not a single moment I’ve gazed at the river has it been the same water. Not a single moment have I been the same as the moment before. We are both eternally shifting and changing, flowing and forming into something new. Yet, somehow we are still each considered a consistent entity, something concrete and tangible. So different yet so similar.

The river is my reminder. It is an opportunity to stop and listen to the universe as it endlessly unfolds, a perpetual mystery, a beautiful, unknowable absurdity. A chance to surrender to the unstoppable flow of life and existence. A confirmation in my soul that we are all one, as I gaze at my distorted reflection bobbing happily in the rough waves, wondering where we began, and where, someday, we’ll end.