holy-week-book

meditation mondays: walking through holy week

i literally could not keep my eyes closed during my meditation this morning. i would close them, breathe deeply, and a few minutes later, i would realize that i was looking around my living room or staring out the window. i even took a few photos as the quiet, instrumental music played in my ears. every time i realized that my eyes were open + i was daydreaming or whatever, i quickly shut my eyes again and took 2 deep breaths, repeating the mantra of the day. and then, my eyes popped open all over again. repeat this for 20 minutes and you’ll know what my meditation experience was today.

ineffective? yes. what i needed in some mysterious way? perhaps.

the last 30 seconds of the meditation (which i didn’t know were the last 30 seconds) i suddenly had a feeling of presence and peace. i remembered that today is the beginning of holy week for christians around the world. and i felt my soul yearning for the familiarity of the rituals of this long, silent, mournful week. and then, i felt the presence of love within me, reminding me that i am not alone. that i am on a journey as well, a journey that leads through all kinds of terrain. and, if i want to be faithful to my journey (a faithful disciple in christian terms), then i must be prepared for the road that lies ahead – with all of its twists + turns. and, if i want to be faithful, then i remember to not give up. i remember that i am called to walk this road in life – a life of being true to myself and to who i am created to be. to be anything other than who i am, to do anything other that what i am called to do, is to miss out on the abundance and beauty that life has to offer.

this is the message of holy week. the road is long, tough, painful. and yet, there is beauty and grace all along the way as well. sharing in the sufferings and passions of jesus, of life, transform us into new people. with a new mission, a new way of seeing the world, a new way of being and loving and existing.

i came across this quote this morning, and i just new that i wanted to share it with you:

“No star stops burning in the sky because it isn’t a planet, it does what it needs to do, so must you. So be, and continue to be, until you realize what that truly means, because when you see what you really are, you start to see life differently. You were never meant to compete with those around you, you were meant to live life in a way that invites others to join you in this journey.

If you must rest along the way in your journey, choose a safe place with good company but do not stay there. Rest is good, but it is not our home. Our journey will be filled with many ups and downs, times of grief and hardship. You will have moments where you feel so alone, frightened, and confused. You will question why you chose this path in the first place; it is in those moments that you must find a quiet place to rest, to lay down and watch the stars. You have a long way to go, so learn to love the silence of the path and the still moments where all you feel is the beating of your heart. See the beauty of all that is around you, learn to appreciate that every living thing has a journey to take, and that sometimes they will be with you in your own path.

You have come so far, you have conquered mountains and valleys. You may feel weary now, so rest traveler, rest and know that when you have reached home, there is going to be real rest and joy, real peace and comfort, your tears will be wiped away and your burden taken off. You are so brave to wake up every morning, so full of courage when you make the choice to take a step and then another. May your feet always lead you to wonderful places, and your heart beat with a strength that only you can hold.

Keep walking, weary traveler, never go back; for the path that lays ahead is full of beautiful unknowns and wonderful secrets that yearn for you to discover and love. Keep walking, and know that you are walking a path that is good for you.” – T.B. LaBerge

 


my friends, no matter where you are, or what you believe, my wish for you is peace along your journey – a sense of who you are + who you are called to be. that who you feel you are in your soul, is how you are able to live your life. it is possible, friends. it is. keep dreaming. keep walking. keep believing.

 

onwards + upwards!

cathedral-candle

meditation mondays: i just realized i’ve been wandering in the desert too.

lent has begun. as last week passed, christians around the world began their six week reflective season before easter. a time of remembering who we are and where we are headed in this life. a time to look at the difficult life of the person of jesus, and see if there is anything that one can learn from the path that he walked while living on earth.

stay with me now. i’m not saying that any of you have to believe or not believe in jesus. but, i think the example of his life, as the example of siddhartha’s life + many more, have something to teach us.

lent is a time of darkness + sacrifice + wilderness. it’s like the darkest part of the night just before the sunrise. or the last snowfall just before flowers bloom. and it’s not a short period of time either.  in fact, it is 40 days long, mimicking the 40 days that jesus spent in the wilderness before he began his 3 year wandering ministry that lasted until he was killed. it was 40 days that he spent alone. doing what, i don’t know. 40 days is a long freaking time to be in the desert and all alone. but, whatever happened out there, it filled him and inspired him to follow the path that was ahead. he found courage, trust, compassion, and his purpose. i am guessing that he got to know his true self quite well after such an intense time alone. perhaps those 40 days were exactly what he needed in order to transform him – to give him the confidence to stay true to himself, all the way to his death.

i’m fairly certain that should any of us spend 40 days, or even a week, alone and in the middle of the wild, we’d be changed too. empowered. inspired. and proud that we’d been bad ass enough to make it on our own. life back in the real world most likely seem foreign to us in the beginning and we’d probably approach life completely differently. and, hopefully, we would have found a deep treasure of amazingness within us, propelling us to claim who we are and teaching us to never, ever be afraid of living out our calling, our dreams, and using our gifts. even the world, which had not changed at all while we had been away communing with nature, would not tempt us to let go of the power and peace we’d found out there on our own.


now, i’m not suggesting that we all pack a bag and hit the road for some place in the forest or the desert for 40 days. though that’d be pretty damn amazing (and scary!). no, we don’t have it that easy. we live in the world. we don’t have the luxury of going away for an extended period of time just to fight our demons and calm our soul. if we want transformation, if we want to change and become the person that we know we can be, then we have to do it right in the middle of the chaos that is everyday life. with all of its distractions and corruptions. not an easy feat.

but, still, something to consider. what about spending 40 days having anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes all alone? without music or tv or our smartphones. just us and perhaps a piece of paper + a pen. maybe we could find time to do that since we can’t fill up a backpack and traipse around the world. how would 30 minutes of yoga or writing or prayer every single day change us?

well, before you go getting all ready to hear me announce my little “lenten project” for 2015, prepare yourselves for a shock: i have no project. nope. nada. nothing. zippo. by ash wednesday last week, nothing had come to me. well, to be honest, i didn’t even think about it to try to see if something came to me. instead, i somehow just knew that this year i’d still be journeying during this season of lent. but, i’d be doing nothing. or, if i did, i didn’t know what that would be yet. and, i still don’t.

i mean, in some ways i feel like i’ve been on some 40 day journey for the past 7 years. from 2007 – 2014 all i did was wander in the desert. figuratively speaking, that is. it was a period of insane growth for me as a person. i got divorced, fell in love, got married. sold all my things. moved to denmark, to the states, to sweden, to the states, and to sweden again. i have had numerous types of jobs form teaching to preaching to writing to photographing. i almost lost my love to anorexia. i’ve explored every little facet of who i am, including falling in love with a woman, dealing with same-sex inequalities and discrimination, been rejected as a minister because of who i love, lost a calling, found the creative within me, merged my life with another, found new relationships with my family, learned a new language, been “big sister” again, taken care of everyone else, meditated every single day, written my story down, dabbled in other religions, gone to church, stopped going to church, traveled,  enjoyed good food + good wine and beer like never before, and reconnected with my love of nature. just to name a few things.

in short, i have experimented and learned and grown. and i have found a beautiful, grounded, connected base that i like to call my soul. now, this doesn’t at all mean that i am happy 100% of the time, or that i do not freak out or get confused or trust the universe. in no way is my life settled. in no way is my mind all at peace and lovey dovey. but, the core of me is completely content and at peace. i have found the me that i am supposed to be (at least at this point in my life).

so, i’ve done the 40 days. it’s just taken me 7 years. like other mystics, saints, buddhas, etc. i’ve spent my time alone (though i haven’t been alone). i’ve reflected + fought my demons. and, what i feel now… what i know is happening since i had no desire to do any lenten project this season, is that the energy is shifting.

it is time to say goodbye to past 7 years. to say goodbye to my old ways of doing things, and to embrace this energy that is swirling around me + within me. i don’t know what it means, and it sometimes terrifies me, but it’s time. it’s not time to think that i know what comes next or how things will work out and what my life will look like. but, it is time to turn around. and step forward.

i do not need to hold on to all of the self-focused, constantly reflective, quiet, contemplative ways of living. oh, these will all always be part of my life. but, it’s time that i focus outward again. like someone who has walked on a labyrinthian path in towards the inner circle and is now on her way out again, it’s time for my focus to change. my foundation is set. my feet are planted. and it’s time for me to take that first step. and then to faithfully trust in myself. i’ve learned way too much. there’s no going back now. it’s not even possible. it’s not time to imagine or plan. it’s simply time to do. to follow. to walk. to get moving. and, i have learned to have the courage that it takes to get moving without having a clue in hell as to what lies ahead. there’s no need to think about what i think should be happening. for now is the time to live in the present. to take it as it comes. to embrace everything. to realize what is happening – and then to live life in the middle of that. staying true to who i am.

i’m prepared. because i’ve been wandering for 7 years.

so, this lent, i am taking it day by day. doing my best to live in the moment and accept whatever comes, knowing that all will always be well. and i will always be me.

candle2

onwards + upwards! xoxo

cathedral-uppsala

fat tuesday + uppsala’s grand cathedral: time to move forward

there is a huge cathedral in uppsala. it’s twin spires reach high to the heavens, and can be seen from almost anywhere both in + out of the city. they let me know where i am at all times.i like to think of them as my own little landmark. the old, huge cathedral has been around for a long time, since the 1400s, no doubt a guiding light of sorts for many people throughout the hundreds of years.

today, as i walked downtown, headed in the direction of the cathedral, i suddenly felt the urge to go inside. “yes. that’s exactly what you needed today”, my soul said to me. so, i detoured just a tiny bit and approached the grand cathedral, saying hello to a beggar sitting on the steps, as i pulled open the giant wooden door. as soon i was inside, and i hadn’t even seen the great sanctuary yet, i felt a tear fall down my cheek.

uppsala-cathedral-outside

i suddenly remembered that it was fat tuesday/mardis gras, the day before ash wednesday, the beginning of lent. and, lent has always been one of my favorite seasons because it’s all about a journey.

as i stepped from the entryway into the great, huge, majestic space, i immediately realized that one year ago i was doing the exact same thing, only in asheville. yes, one year ago, i began my 40 days in a cathedral challenge. last year from ash wednesday until easter i visited the basilica in asheville, spending time in the quiet every single day, seeing how that time would transform me.

today, i couldn’t believe that i just happened to feel the desire to enter the cathedral in uppsala today, of all days. i’ve been in it before, but not since we moved here. i haven’t even wanted to enter it, just because i’d already been inside. but, today, i was drawn there.

and, oh how i needed it. though i only stayed for a very few short minutes. long enough to sit in a pew and let the power and solitude of this place surround and envelop me. i breathed + cried. i don’t know exactly why. but, sometimes you just gotta cry. i couldn’t even form any concrete thoughts of any sorts. i wan’t sure what i was feeling. i only had one question going through my brain… what now?

uppsala-cathedral

i’m thinking that my lenten journey this year is going to be something i have never experienced before. i do not at all feel the desire to go inward and reflect in the ways that i usually do. i feel that i have processed and reflected constantly for over a year now. i do, however, feel called to a more outward expression. that my reflecting and processing is over. something inside me is telling me that it is time to turn around and face what is ahead.  and i have no freaking idea what that is. but, i know that i feel called to be more active. it’s time to leave the past behind.

and while i feel all mixed up inside today, i also have achieved a sense of balance over the past year and a half that is deep within me. something that stays calm + steady, even when the surface of everything is shaky + confused. yes. it’s time to turn. time to look forward and move forward. time to take the first step – though i have no clue where i am headed. and i’m terrified, to be honest. still, i know that it is the right thing to do.

so, i’ll not be spending 40 days in this cathedral. at least, not right now. instead, i’ll be spending this lenten journey on the streets. what that means, i don’t know. stay tuned, if you wish. i’ll keep blogging about my continuing journey. and, by the way, i love having you as companions.

onwards + upwards xoxo

dreary. rainy. and full of purpose.

as i click my computer keys, the rain pounds on the pavement outside. it has been doing so for the past 24 hours. it’s cold and dark and dreary. as if spring has gone into hibernation today, just in time for this day of intentional pause.

as you may know, i have been celebrating lent in my own special way – successfully and unsuccessfully. i challenged myself to 40 days of being in a cathedral, but i have not been there every day. what i have committed to, and followed through with, is some time for mediation and prayers for others every day – and i have done that successfully. but, it’s been two weeks since i stepped through the doors of the cathedral downtown. my last day there was during a memorial service for a woman i had never met. (read about it here).

in any case, successful or not, i have learned a lot. and one thing is that, for me, my connection with the divine energy/force/love/god is not found only in a cathedral (which i already knew, but it has become profoundly more apparent to me throughout lent). the days that i was not in the cathedral, i was outside. or with others. or in a time of meditation  by my private altar at home. all that to say, i do not feel guilty for not accomplishing my challenge of 40 days in a cathedral. in fact, i feel more free in a sense. especially after this past week…

IMG_1301

on monday of this week, i started a 21 day meditation series. and, so far, so good. i have intentionally sat down on my amazing pillow (made from a woman’s wedding dress from india), lit candles, and begun a series of meditations on “finding purpose.” to be honest, it was a topic that i didn’t think i needed. but, i did need committed silent meditation time, so figured: “what the heck.” little did i know that this just may be exactly what i need right now.

i realized that i don’t have a specific goal right now, that i’ve been feeling disconnected from myself, ungrounded, undisciplined, and a little bit without direction. i’ve been thinking about money and jobs. and i’ve let my dreams go a little, chalking it up to practicality. i mean, last fall and winter, my life was crazy awesome with all of these amazing dreams coming true. i was making shit happen all over the place.

but, right now, even though there are plenty of beautiful, amazing moments, i’m tired. weary. unmotivated. and, somehow, without purpose it seems.

and then, i started meditating this week… noticing that everyday i was focusing on what i have already within me. security. love. power. happiness. creativity. wisdom. it’s all there. and i’ve known that all along, but i needed to truly meditate on it. experience it, instead of just say it. and, it was these meditations that revealed to me that i am not living in a calm, peaceful state of being right now. and here’s the key thing: that i’ve also been blocking, or holding back, my unique expression of life, of who i have been created to be at this time in this moment. i have failed to live the life that i dream about. 

now, i don’t now why or how this happened. perhaps (most likely) it has been a necessary bit of blah-ness, in order for me to move forward in my journey. all i know, is that this is not me. i am not the person who just sits and wonders what comes next. and i’m tired of being that way. i have a life to live, more dreams to chase. now, it’s time to discover what they are and make some shit happen again.

IMG_1443

today is the day before easter in the western christian church. it’s the last day of lent. to be honest, i just let good friday slide right on by yesterday – without taking part in any death/cross/jesus rituals that have been part of my life for as long as i can remember. and every now and then, for a few moments, i thought about that. but, then i realized that that is not who i am right now. another thing i’ve noticed throughout lent is this move from christianity to an exploration of all religions. now, christianity is and always will be my foundation to spirituality, but right now i need to embrace some other forms of spirituality along with christianity.

in any case, today, unlike yesterday, i have found myself drawn to the christian focus of the day – the day of waiting. of nothingness. jesus is in the tomb. dead. and others are weeping. and we all pause. they journey is on hold. lent is over. but it’s not quite the day of  the celebration of life.

so, this rain that’s falling here in asheville… it’s appropriate. and the fact that i am still in my pjs and in bed writing and reading, as i have been doing all day long… it’s appropriate too.

i soon realized that i was making this day a personal retreat day, which felt perfect. and wouldn’t you know it, i came across a little holy saturday reading this morning that touched me deeply. according to biblical scriptures, joseph of arimathea is the person who took the dead body of jesus to the tomb and laid it there. such a huge task, and this man is only given about 3 sentences in the whole bible. much like a few other biblical characters. he comes, does his thing, and leaves. never to be mentioned anywhere in scripture before, or again.

that got me thinking: just like this man, joseph, who had a specific task and purpose to fulfill in that moment, we do too. and this is exactly what i meditated on this week:

we are each created and living in a particular time, in a particular place, with a particular purpose – to express our unique selves through our true selves. to live an authentic life, expressing our specific passions and gifts and desires.

IMG_1461

and today is the perfect day to reflect on that i realized. in honor of joseph of arimathea who lived out his truth. and jesus, who was willing to die in order to stay true to himself. how am i doing in that department? have i been true to my self? and, if i haven’t could that be the root cause of my unsettledness?

perhaps my disconnected feelings have come from the fact that i have not been rooted in my true self. i talk about it, i write about it, but i haven’t been living it. however, there is no need to worry: meditation has reminded me that everything i need is already within me. the spirit of god dwells within. the universe, the light, the love, everything i could ever need is already with me. it’s just up to me to tap into it and to let it flow freely. because you and i, we are here today, in this specific time in history, to share our lives with one another and to live our lives to the fullest expression of who we are.

“be yourself. life is precious as it is. all the elements for your happiness are already here. there is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. just be.” – thich nhat hanh

yes, today, life is dormant. just like recently, my life has been dormant. but, perhaps, it’s actually just been sleeping; like the winter, simply waiting to give birth to something new.

we pause and wait a little while longer… new life is coming.

namaste.

40 days in a cathedral: week 5

last friday i walked into the cathedral known as the basilica of st. lawrence in downtown asheville ready to spend an hour or so in quiet. it was the first day i had been there all week. and, while, i had not been in the physical building monday – thursday, i know that i had been taking some time to meditate.

you see, my brother got a new dog last week. and then he remembered that he had workshops out of town everyday and would be leaving home really early in the morning and returning quite late at night. so, he enlisted my help during the day to take the dog out and spend some time with him. of course, i did not hesitate to do this… because, what would be a more fun excuse to take long walks during a beautiful and warm spring week than to walk a cute dog?

IMG_0767

so, church for me last week was outside, in the urban oasis of the five points neighborhood in downtown asheville. i walked with gunni (the sweet new family member) through the neighborhood, taking a different route each day. we took some drives together, and even found ourselves at a park by the french broad river one day. gunny rode with me to pick up lina a couple of times, and he curled up beside me on the sofa to nap, a few other times.

IMG_0887 IMG_0961 IMG_0849

while i walked and talked with him, i also stopped and soaked in the beautiful changing of the seasons happening all around me. i thought of all of you that are on my list, and i meditated with my footsteps.

but, on friday, i found myself in the cathedral. only i was not alone. in fact, there was a service going on when i walked in. so, i took a seat in the back and settled in to observe and perhaps participate. soon i realized that this was not just any service, it was a memorial service for a member of the congregation. i wondered if it was weird for me to stay, but i decided that it wasn’t. i decided that i could stay and honor this woman’s life, while at the same time, celebrating the joy of being alive.

IMG_0979

i did participate in the service, standing when the congregation stood, and sitting when they sat. i also decided to sing along, especially since the hymns were familiar ones from my childhood. in fact, the very last one, “how great thou art”, was incredibly touching. it was my late grandfather’s favorite hymn – and my granddad is the man who inspired me most through out my life, though he died when i was only 11.

the service lasted an hour, and at the end, as everyone began processing out, i felt full of life. full of gratitude. and a complete connectedness to myself and to the divine presence that connects us all.

IMG_0817

so, from celebrating new life appearing in my natural surroundings on long walks for most of the week, to celebrating and remembering the life of one specific woman who i never met, i felt the simply joy of being alive; of knowing that, though life is fleeting, we have the choice to decide how we want to spend our days.

i was blessed last week to live my moments in solitude and in the presence of amazing people, including my family. but, on top of that, i had the joy of remembering that slowing down and connecting to the presence that is within me, means that i am also connecting with you.

i think i’ll leave you with some of the lyrics from the hymn i mentioned above. if you don’t use the word “god” in your life, simply think of the presence of whatever you do believe in – or not. still, i personally cannot deny the existence of some being/presence/connection that unites us all – to each other & to the world around us. i don’t use the word “god” all of the time, but the lyricist’s expression of gratitude for the world and the beauty and grandeur of life, is what touched me. the words are poetic, and a perfect summary of my week in a cathedral: the basilica and nature.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

namaste

a pilgrimage down into the deep

the fabulous paige at for the love of wanderlust went to europe a few weeks back. she asked me if i wanted to write her “wanderlust wednesday” post while she was gone. “of course”, i replied! so, i did. and my post appeared on her blog. i loved doing the post so much and i thought that i had come across such amazing places, that i just had to share them with you all… my loyal readers and friends. so, this is a copy of the post that appeared on paige’s blog…

my case of wanderlust is quite serious, as i truly want to visit every corner of the world. so, i could write a post on my wanderlust-y places every day.

and there are so many different kinds of trips that i want to take, all of them with a different purpose or meaning: like, a historical trip to old places so i can learn more about the world. or a relaxing trip to some place tropical and warm. or a wilderness trip filled with  hiking and camping and nature and sunsets.

but, one of the most intriguing trips i want to take is a pilgrimage. of course, i actually think of traveling of a spiritual experience in and of itself. but, to take a pilgrimage to holy, sacred, spiritual places would be incredible. think or  ashrams in india or temples in china or ancient ruins in south america. think about the great pyramids in egypt or mythological places in greece or jerusalem, the heart of three different religions.

i just imagine that a trip like any one of these would be inspirational, transforming, powerful, and empowering. so, today, i’d like to share with you some places that i ran across that seem to fit this style of traveling that i never knew existed. and the amazing thing is that these, for me at least, count as spiritual and wilderness/nature trips. two for one!

apparently there are buddhist temples located in caves. of course, we usually think of holy places reaching up to the sky, but these are buried deep within the earth. perhaps to reflect the practice of meditation, of going within… because you literally go within the earth to visit these holy caves.

Phraya Nakhon Cave: Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Thailando-CAVE-900

Datdawtaung Cave: Mandalay region, Myanmar

o-IN-THE-CAVE-LEOPARD-900

Khao Luang Cave Temple: Phetburi, Thailando-TEMPLE-CAVE-THAILAND-900

Yathae Pyan Cave: Kayin state, MyanmarA man walks past Buddha images inside Ya The Byan cave

Wat Tham Erawan: Nong Bua Lamphu province, Thailando-TEMPLE-CAVE-THAILAND-900-1

i can hardly believe these places exist! but, how amazing would it be to visit them? 

namaste. xx