Monday, October 17, 2016

A week in silence

I will not enter into great detail, such as how much relief and energy the moon - which was by the way the most beautifully glowing, orange colored wanning gibbous I have ever seen in my life - gave me in the toughest of moments, or how sensationally the sky was lit up by the stars that night, or how when the last tear snuck out a star fell...
I will not go into all of that. Because if I would, this post would become so long I'd have to publish it in a book.

But I decided still, even though it isn't easy to find the right words, to share some of my thoughts and a tiny part of my experience of a week spent in silence on the hill of Taize to perhaps inspire you to try something of the likes of it, or to at least offer some form of consolation in that you are not alone in your quest for the truth, or in your intention of finding your place in the world through the moments of joy and those of pain, but mostly through all that space of presence in between.


I woke rested and centered. Saturday's seminar in Rome continued to pulse in my veins, and I had the powerful intention to nurture that crisp energy that it went on feeding to my soul. Lighthearted and smiling, I walked back after the morning prayer to the house we (and by that I mean all the girls) called home for the week ahead of us. About half way between Taize and Ameugny I saw my roommate (whom I have already met the day before and surprisingly discovered  later that we were to live in the same room) standing there smiling at the sun that winked out warmly from among the airy clouds.
When we met on Sunday evening, rainy and cold weather was threatening the days ahead, and she wasn't too hopeful of any kind of change in that regard. I told her, that tomorrow, when the clouds part and the sun will shine, she will smile and will remember me...


A holiday spent "alone" in silence is hardly your typical dream vacation, yet to me it had such a magnetic pull. I felt guided to do it, even though I have no real answers, not even now, as I am typing these paragraphs. Lacking the serious reasoning behind this call within my soul, I playfully decided to name the search for a blue butterfly the core of my very purpose of being there... A thought silly enough to raise no resistance and a fun enough task to delight my creativity.


I was eager to take a walk along the Voie Verte to meet my friend, Pierre. I first met him, or her, I never actually checked, a year ago. Just when I needed a friend the most, he happened to walk my way.
In the afternoon I went for a long walk to find reasons to feel grateful and to meet him. I reached the house he lives in, but saw no sign of him. I called out several times to no avail. Finally I just accepted that he wasn't there, and let go of the preconceived idea I had visualized, so I walked on. Suddenly I turned right, just in time to see him running among the cows, wanly meowing and trying to look for a hole in the thick green fence to come greet me. He managed. Ran up to the walking path, put down the mouse he was carrying right after he squeezed it between his teeth a little more, making sure it would not run away. Ever. Again. And then finally ran to me.
Funny, isn't it? Humans often hold on to what they want so tightly, that they can hardly see the forest from the tree. And the moment you let go of controlling your experiences is the very space where dreams can come to reality.


I have found a secret place today.
In fact it is hardly a secret at all, except in my own experience. There is a bench, just down the road, behind a line of trees, overlooking cows feeding down in the valley. It happens to be the most perfect of benches I ever sat on; high enough even for my long legs not to touch the ground, but to playfully bounce back and forth to the rhythm of the tiny waterfall across the main street.
I closed my eyes to better enjoy the silence within.
I must have stayed like that for quite a while, when from the quiet thoughtless space the idea of a squirrel emerged. I could feel one being so close by. Just a few moments later the noise arrived too, and not long after as I opened my eyes and turned back, I gazed the tiny soul on the tree right behind me.


So what do you do when you can feel yourself falling? Nothing. You do nothing.
You just hang on tight and hope it will be over soon. The more you try to fight against the crash on landing, the harder you hit yourself.
Most of the time we are unable to recognize the fall before we actually crash.
Not this time. The truer part of me was standing by, smiling and dwelling firmly in the knowing of the process. So I let myself be drawn into the tornado that swirls up in life every now and again. I took on a different road then ever before and surrendered to allow it to gently carry me to wherever I needed to go.

I just turned the corner as we parted, looking up to the sky. Never have I had tears burst out so unannounced, from such a deep space within; one I hadn't known existed. Not shaking, not trembling. The silent kind, that builds up in the eyes and gently starts to descend on the cheeks.
Yet sadness takes up a different meaning when it is forgiven. When it is not withheld, repressed. When it is not shoved under the rug or it doesn't constitute the building blocks of the walls that were recently so magnificently torn down.

And so I can only ask this: if there were no questions arising even in the midst of a peaceful and balanced time, would there be any new answers? Are these contrasting times not an invitation to deepen our trust and nurture the tiny seed that has always been planted in our hearts, the little seed that is ready to sprout whenever we allow it to...

After all, it is not every day that I sit face to face with the soul dearest to my heart and in the same time the one I must accept living without.


There I was, walking into the calm of Thursday morning, marvelling at the beauty and complexity of our world, with a heart filled with questions that lack the very words that make them up. And then a blue butterfly fluttered its sky-blue wings in front of my nose.

I can hardly expect myself to figure out the path to which I am guided toward in the blink of an eye. And I am hardly more capable of convincing my heart to abandon a feeling, than my ability of using logical reasoning to persuade the flames of a fire to cool down. Recognizing that going down that old path of sadness no longer suits the intention I hold up for myself in life was such a discovery!

So for now I rejoice in the sole quest of the discovery of blue butterflies.


Halfway through our week; and by the time the night had settled in, I could feel the depth of the purpose of my choice to spend this week in this manner so vividly -and yet so very mysteriously- widening.

After taking a shower in the afternoon, I made myself a -what I like to think was the thousandth- mint tea, and went out to the back wall of the "Silence House" property, sat under the tallest walnut tree to dry my hair in the fading sun. It got me thinking, how a life such as this may be appealing. I have always enjoyed living in community with people, while living in different volunteering sites; but a spiritual oriented community living is truly something else. Life's pace, and orientation of self... like one no longer belongs to oneself... tending to the common life first and foremost naturally returns to fulfil one's own journey. And I cannot help but contemplate the possibility of such a way of life, in colors, building a family rooted in letting go of personal ambitions and instead surrendering to a higher purpose.

Later that evening I remember standing in awe, witnessing the most breathtaking, vibrantly sharp pink reflection of the setting sun on the horizon contrasted by light blue and rich ash grey -a swirl of colors which seemed to match the depth of sensations I was about to experience within-, that a feeling came up in my heart out of the blue. A feeling so powerful and revealing that I could feel my whole body trembling in excitement on the inside. Like it was the answer for my existence, the very purpose for everything that I am and all I will ever be.


There are so many things we think we know, just to realize we never really did. So much of what constitutes our knowledge is conditioned; planted into our unconscious from a very early age by the environment we live in, by the society we actively or passively participate in, by the experiences we create. How much more valuable is the knowledge that is born from a reversed process, from the inside out? So the next time you find yourself having a very strong opinion about something, ask yourself where it comes from and how does it make you feel. Your soul will always guide you to the truth within.

Towards the end of the week people start to understand each other. Not through the superficial means of words, but on a deeper level. Where knowing your grandmother's name is entirely irrelevant to truly knowing you (read that with a hint of irony). You tend to open your senses to receive emotions just by carefully observing, and thus getting to know a perfect stranger you've been living with for almost a week now so much better than you would through conventional communication.


There was a silent agreement among the girls to meet after the evening prayer and walk those two kilometers to the house back together. Some felt a little bit uneasy about having to walk alone in the pitch dark. But I've always enjoyed to spend time alone in the resting nature.
Later that night as I laid my head on the pillow of my sleeping bag I exhaled and felt my heart overflow with gratitude, for there is this place in the -often considered harsh- world, where a woman can still walk alone in the middle of the dark night of the country side, waltzing her way back home to the song of night-bugs, with her head among the stars and her arms wide open, and be safe without a trace of fear.


The alarm in the room next door went off. I could hear it clearly even through my earplugs.
I sat up and quietly turned to the side of the bed, searched for my glasses with my eyes still closed and placing them on my nose I looked around in the room. There is hardly any furniture. Just the three beds, three chairs and a desk. I have my luggage at the end of the bed I'm sleeping in, and my roommate has her backpack at the feet of the bed next to the window. The bed in the middle of the room is empty, so she stacked her clothes neatly on top of it.
There I was, by then fully awake, contemplating how little we really need.
Much of my adult life was spent living out of a suitcase. Only in recent years have I been offered a lifestyle which allows for cupboards and drawers.
All the stuff we tend to gather around us, properties, furniture, appliances, clothes, gadgets and more... I wonder how much we truly need. Or want, even.

The more I silenced my mind, the more my heart spoke out. It is the inner space that needs nurturing, not the surrounding environment. The latter will naturally be tended to when the former is the priority.

On the last full day of the week in silence we had a small sharing in the morning where each of us was invited to share, in just a few sentences about our discovery, direction, conclusion or whatever words came up after such a reflective week.  A little over 15 young women living under the same roof for a week, sharing meals, sharing time and space, smiles, chores and priceless moments of silent acknowledgement of each other's existence... And while I was fully aware that each of them had a world of their own, the moment one of them had whispered the simplest words of her discovery to trust, I felt a warm glow in my chest, felt my eyes fill up with tears and my heart with the deepest kind of gratitude, and stood there, marveling at how beautiful they all were in their quest of finding their way in this magnificent univers. Being there with these young women is silence, in words, in prayer and in presence was, without a doubt, the biggest gift this week had in store for me.

Our true potential, as human beings, has no limitations. And the moment we understand that the challenges we face do not just happen to us, rather they appear in our life for us is when a shift begins to come about. Once we truly get that, we not only rise above the problems we face, but we use them to guide us on our journey.


That early morning air, that freshness caressing my bare arms, the gentle scent of fall entering my lungs and my entire body... As though there is nothing before or beyond that very moment in time.

I walked through the field to the back wall one last time to face the rising sun. And in that space of clarity I heard the voice of a man I once met on a plane saying, that on the threshold of a new era in life I must always remember to set an intention and allow it to guide me.

The fullness of that moment is indescribable.

I intend to let love guide my entire existence. I intend to be a prism of God's love. Always. Under all circumstances. And forgive myself when I fail to become it. I intend to rise from that moment of failure, I intent to rise above it and return to a state of joyful, compassionate and loving center. I intend to be more forgiving not only with the people around me, but also with myself. I intend to speak from a space of love, and act from it. And mostly I intend to dwell in that space even when I am asked to lower to be with someone outside that space. I intend not to go there with my emotions, but listen, and then through my example I intend to lift others. I intend to allow life to happen, instead of making it happen. And I intend to be persistent in my commitment to deliberately return myself to my foundation.


Now some of you may be inclined to wonder what the purpose of - foolishly- rambling about clouds, cats, benches, butterflies and who knows what other non-sense I went on and on about in great detail is. I was after all spending an organized week in silence in a christian monastery, praying three times a day, asked to reflect on Bible texts and pray with verses, meditate with them. And here I am sharing my experience and basically all I can recall is how different acorns were from the ones I collect at home. So what about all that spiritual revelation I at times refer to and refrain from elaborating?

I could do that. But as I said when I started this post, I fail to see the point. My discovery is mine to hold onto. It is my responsibility to nurture it and keep it alive and active. After all, the abundance of words I could ever find would never really educate, but actively living what I speak might...
Yet if I were to suggest anything, it would be for you to never cease to explore the variety of options God lays out before you to fulfill the assignment you were given. And remember, that the very purpose most people are so diligently seeking for their lives is to trust. Yes. To trust. We might think we know a concrete purpose every now and again, but we never truly ever do, because it is always changing, always unfolding, always becoming. And in the ever changing scenery our life unfolds in perfect orchestration. Our only task is to trust and allow that which we could never even be able conceive to manifest.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Seeing people for who they are

Sipping tastefully bitter yarrow tea, I am pondering what I loved about last night the most. Was it the gratitude my heart was gradually warming into with every next step I took in the neighborhood park covered in the soft darkness of the night, feeling so, so very safe. Or was it the moment I turned the corner, adding an extra lap to my jogging routine, when I faced the -almost full- Hunter's moon just as it has lit up the path of an airplane steadily following its course. I imagined those up there in the air, flying to meet people they love or heading to places they have never been, their expectant hearts, the excitement in every cell of their body... I could, for one moment, feel part of that excitement, that joy, that light in looking forward to something new.

Earlier that morning I went to the post office to ship Jasmin Blanc orders, before taking Sziszi to the Vet. When I entered the room I saw the only employee I have always had a hard time connecting with in the past (to be very diplomatic in the manner I express our relationship). She is not a regular, she is just called to fill in, when someone from the service team is on holiday or on a sick leave.
I was standing in the doorway, feeling the sudden urge to turn around, leave, and come back in the afternoon when the later shift comes. I had one hand on the door handle, then stopped and made my way back to the queue. I closed my eyes for a moment.

Right there I had the opportunity to grow. And this recognition was sharp and vivid in my mind's eye.
The choice between walking away and facing the challenge was equally there, and while walking away has often been the path of least resistance, I could feel that in that very moment it was no longer the case. So I took the time I was offered by waiting in the rather long line to make peace with my decision, and expect nothing short of a pleasant encounter keeping in mind that those we interact with are a mirror, reflecting our emotions back to us.
Based on previous life experiences we often make the mistake of expecting a new situation to unfold according to past scripts when people or circumstances repeat themselves in our present... But when we commit to consciously detach ourselves from the perceived reality of life and allow space for more than that which we expect to happen is when events start taking a new course, it is when that which we like to call "miracle" starts to suddenly appear in our least guarded moments.

I smiled at her. Handed her the packages, we had a random chit-chat, she was lovely enough to look for a package I was to receive, but had no notification to show for it, then I paid the receipt, thanked her for her kindness, we wished each other a great day and I went on loving the crisp air and rusty leaves on the sidewalk. Just like that!

So next time someone behaves like a bitch to you, ask yourself what it was within you that might have mirrored that kind of behaviour...? I am by no means trying to make you feel guilty. Look at it as an opportunity to grow, to take responsibility for your words and your actions. The fullness of you is love, and it is a great sensation to let that light shine a little more gleefully each passing day.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The chances we get and the choices we make

Lately I've been taking deep breaths to withhold my tears. There's an ache in my heart, I can not yet calm, and not quite yet heal either.

I nearly lost Zsemi this past week, and this tiny soul from the photo above just woke up without one of her legs. And my soul cries. It cries for them. And it cries for injustice in the world. For hatred and ignorance concerning animals. It cries for children being killed, women being raped, it cries for young men being slaughtered on battlefields and people generating such level of hatred among each other simply just for being different. I wish I had a wall, like Sue Monk Kidd's April, from The secret life of bees. I wish I had holes in a stone wall to write all this pain out on paper and stick the pieces into the cracks, because the load is just too heavy to carry right now.

Sziszi (read Sisi) is our studio kitty. She is actually the kitten of the cat that my neighbor had brought to the property, but she chose me. For some reason animals tend to. I have found her under the casting table two days ago. I didn't notice when she entered as the front door is always open. She was silent until I looked her in the eye, then she crawled out and started crying. One of her back legs was moving in all directions. When I arrived back to the city with her and the doc took a better look than I initially did, he tried not to sound too worried because he had spied the tears in my eyes, but when I saw the bone sticking out and the leg destroyed I knew that I had to be ready to hear any outcome.

Only those who live together with animals truly understand that they are not toys who entertain humans. They are souls. Precious souls, who often communicate better than people, who teach unconditional love far better than we do and are more affectionate, accepting and caring than the truest of human friends. To me a soul is a soul. Regardless of whom it belongs. And there is no hierarchy among souls. One is not more precious than the other. To me, at least.

I composed myself, until the next day when I had let her out of the pet carrier, when she was fully awake. I saw her crawl out, look at me and then get as fast as she could get to where I was. I could not leave her, she wouldn't let me. Finally she had put her little head into my palm and held on to my thumb with both of her front legs and fell asleep. I closed my eyes, but the tears still found a way to stream down my cheeks and a strange ache, like a rash took hold of my entire body. She was grateful at that moment, when all I could feel was such deep sadness it felt like physical pain. I have a lot to learn still. Learn to choose love. Always. Even in the hardest of moments. I took her to have her leg amputated and she was grateful.

There are strong independent women out there, leading their lives so gracefully. Some raising children on their own, others run their mindful businesses alone, some go home to an empty house. Powerful women, taking their existence into their hands, placing their burdens into God's and empowering others not by becoming bitter, but by embracing their vulnerability with grace and teaching through their example. And in that moment of heartache for everything that is unfair in the world I felt a strong feeling of gratitude to all these women out there, I felt in tune with their hardship, their sorrow, but also with the grace they walk their path and speak their truth, accepting and expressing everything they are. And that doesn't mean that they do not feel alone at their darkest moments, but they know - and yes, it is a conviction- that the only way they can leave their shadows behind is if they allow the light that they are to shine. Each their own.