Sacred Thresholds, Navigating the Corridors of Change and Retrieving the Power to Bless

This is the subject and script of a talk I gave at Unity of Taos on the cusp of the new year, January 3rd, 2016.  I offer it here as a segue and blessing into the powerful new year of 2016.

~ THERE IS ONLY ENOUGH ROOM

There is only enough room at the prow of the ship for one heart.

It is meant to be a tight spot

In that crease where the two sides meet

No crowds can gather.

Looking out from that place

From that place into the growing dark

It is always night there

Nothing can be seen.

But if you close your eyes and lean in far enough

If you really lean deep into your own darkness

You begin to feel the future

Making itself in front of you.

At first it will be the senses

Telling you about the weather

The wind and the salt spray

And you could almost leave it all there.

But if you stay on after your wits die down

You move into that other dominion

Where the eyes live somewhere outside of you

There hanging on the air

Hovering on vibration

Waiting for a moment in the world

And all the while still a child

Singing the quiet praises

Of ripe

Unpicked

Fruit.

PATTI TRONOLONE

 

Perhaps something breaks.

Perhaps something is taken from you.

Perhaps a season has simply come to an end.

It is at these threshold moments where everything is asked of you;

that it matters the most

to pilot your own crossings

to Love yourself,

And to stay present right here

in the gap.

For here is the passage.

Here is the transformation.

Here is the leap and

Here is your evolution.

the sun casts a shadow

the sun casts a shadow

The Oxford dictionary says: a threshold is a point of entry or beginning

The poet John O’Donohue takes it further. He says,

A threshold is not a simple boundary; it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms, and atmospheres... a real frontier that cannot be crossed without the heart being passionately engaged and woken up…where a great complexity of emotion comes alive: confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, hope.

There is often a pause at the doorway when we are simply standing in a sense between two worlds—all that has gone before and what has yet to come and can still be shaped by our awareness. So we often relive events from the past so we can understand fully what we have learned and in doing so move forward aware. The desire on new years to complete the unresolved things from our life and to set new visions for our accomplishment, requires a threshold. We cannot set our new vision until we have rewalked the territory of what has passed.

It is an eternal experience that often feels disorienting because it does not inhabit time in the same way, they are energy fields on the verge of becoming something else, something new. And even tho this is always true, there is something unique to a threshold that crosses a significant boundary in ones life.

As human beings we have the right and the power to bless.

To make sacred, to name holy something or someone.

Blessing difficult endings, especially in relationship can actually be the healing force that allows us to move forward. This past year I had a relationship of 10 years come to an end. No matter how much I tried to repair it, it remained broken. Once I finally accepted that this was meant to be, I blessed it, I blessed both what had been a meaningful friendship and I blessed its ending. And in blessing it I said, I cannot change what has happened but I can acknowledge its change and how I am holding it, and in doing so was able to leave all bitterness and struggle behind.

buddha with lamp and flower

buddha with lamp and flower

I am not a Buddhist scholar but long ago I heard a story of when the Buddha was visited by Mara, a great force of distraction and distortion. Much like Jesus’s tempatation by a dark force in the desert, Mara was offering some power that was in conflict with integrity to the Buddha. In response the Buddha pressed his finger to the earth, and in doing so he called forth the presence of all the witnesses to his evolution from all lifetimes, to stand beside him to face this destructive force.

In times of trial, we too can put our fingers to the earth and call upon all the forces of Good that have seen us through our own many lifetimes, invoke our highest Self to face these times of peril.

A blessing is a protective circle of light.

Blessing difficulties acknowledges that one has or is stepping through a difficult passage that has gripped the heart and calling upon one's inner priest/priestess to bless the ordeal and the moments of tenacity of purpose.

The transformative power of challenges is no small thing. It was said by Paul Valery, the French poet, essayist and philosopher,

"That a difficulty is a light; an insurmountable difficulty is a Sun."

Sometimes it is the image of our task that we carry that makes a task difficult.

If we change the image of how we perceive it, the task itself will unfold more smoothly.

Ask yourself now, with the tasks you have in front of you, what image are you holding of your tasks? When you can name the way something is being held often you can walk thru it more easily.

The New Year is a time of looking back and seeing the blessedness and blessings of our lives and the Goodness that has been with us and followed us and guided us and continues to.

Where do we bless from? We drop into the vastness where we are one with everything and everyone and from there call for a blessing, and like the Buddha,invoking the vast to be with you.

Whenever one person takes another into the custody of their heart, they have the authority to bless. When we love someone we turn toward them with our Divinity and the Spirit itself is the wellspring of blessing.

Acts of kindness carry their own luminosity and in themselves become beacons of light that bless.

Seeing and acknowledging someone, raising them up in your seeing these are ways in which our blessing holds great power for the transformation of another.

Recently I left to take a long trip overseas.  I went to see my landlady before I left.  She is an elderly woman.  She looked straight into my eyes and said to me, "Always remember where you are and may God go with you." I felt the sweetness and the realness of her blessing and I thanked her.

A blessing is to call some quality of wholeness upon a person to make whole a loss, to make good a journey, to raise a life.

We do not bless by ourselves but we invoke the power of the universe in the name of love.

You will never know the true potential of blessing, the forms it can take, the ways it can alter one's life and the lives of others.

It is a private act, a sacred act of great power and humility. It says, I cannot change the past but I can bless it and say "so be it" and move forward.

There are places that are containers of blessedness. Places in nature, places such as these­­– of devotion and respect. The ancients knew this, we still know this. It is here right now.

How do they come?

Thresholds arrive in all shapes and manners.

Perhaps We have come slowly to realize that what we have been doing or what we have taken ourselves to be are no longer alive in us, we can look at it differently instead of resenting it we can see that this loss of aliveness is actually an opportunity, which will require some growth for a necessary change to occur.

So in this way, the challenges of change can be reframed as a portal to an entirely new sense of aliveness, life and possibility. What if we looked upon everything that occurred to us in our lives as an entry point to the new. Would we ever think or say the word calamity again? If our life is made up of a myriad of entry points what benevolent conspiracy is this thing called life? And how close to us is our soul?

John O'Donohue, in his book Anam Cara, writes:

"Behind the facade of the familiar, strange things await us."

Their beauty and mystery is that they come often when we need them most or when we are not the least bit aware that they are going to arrive. They are always a challenge; a challenge that demands great courage from us, especially when one opens up for which you are not prepared.  This could be illness, suffering, or loss. It could be a great and unexpected surprise or invitation.

Some Years ago I was living on the Cape in Massachusetts and my partner at the time was out of town when a hurricane blew up. His sailboat was in the water and I took it upon myself to save it from being blown away. In the midst of it I misjudged the depth of the water and I began to drown. I was so surprised by this I heard myself say out loud—now, now I am going to die now? If it be Thy will I give myself to You but if it is not Your will, I Choose Life. In an instant a great wave rolled over me and washed me up onto the beach. Over the next days and weeks, I wept. I realized that I had always felt a bit ambivalent about being here. The tears came because I saw that I had just been given the opportunity to say out loud, "I Want To Be Here". This was a threshold moment. They are not always like this but sometimes they are. The important part, in my experience, is to accept them and learn to look at them with great respect because they are being offered from our souls.

What do they serve?

Thresholds serve the destiny of our individual souls. They form us and draw color and the unusual into our lives. The things that happen to us tell us a little more about who we are. What aspect of our nature is trying to evolve and strengthen, what gifts are hidden in these life events, gifts that we will come to share and teach to others.

The script of each person's destiny is a secret, we never know who we are actually looking at when we face another human being. And so we do not often even know ourselves.

That we are even here is a huge confirmation that somehow life needed us here and wanted us to exist. To really take this in can open a large well of self-acceptance and self-love in the heart.

A threshold need not be a threat-instead it can be a call, an incitement to promise. We can trust that if it has come we are somehow completely ready for it.

How can we serve them?

We can learn how to rein back on the innate drive for accomplishment. And to really listen in the stillness of these transitions.

To recognize when we are somewhere in the corridor of a life transition and to accept that it has its own timing, divine timing. We cannot rush them. It doesn’t mean it is easy.

So too when a threshold is a great loss, the loss of the familiar has a grief period. Loss of the familiar can be devastating.  But it can also reveal the hidden resources we did not even know we had. Often we are numbed by what we are used to and we stop knowing ourselves as the creative gifts that we are.  We stop seeing the ones we love, the place we live, we are not guffawed by beauty. This is the hidden gift of change- it shakes us awake to what is happening all around us, to what has been happening. Transitions are crossings.  They are full of potential as well as challenge.

Loss of the familiar has available within it great creative forces  if we can learn to listen and appreciate the aspects of ourselves that don’t get seen when we are driving our ambitions, or making each moment part of an agenda. All that we have taken for granted gets eclipsed by a threshold.

Because in the loss of the familiar we cannot see ourselves in the same way we become privy to our essential self in a new way and we can ask new questions:

  • Who and what am I,
  • What is this container – the human being and what powers does it hide?

We can learn to see all the varieties of presence available; listen inward with complete attention until we hear the inner voice calling us forward that The time has come to cross.

And then one day, the way in which spring secretly overtakes winter, barely discernible, we pass thru the doorway, sometimes in a sweeping motion, sometimes in a gradual dissipation of small moments and sometimes both. We wake suddenly or gradually to a new present. And we are aware we have changed.

As we sit here together, or at any time you can ask yourself:

At what threshold am I now standing,

At this time in my life what am I leaving?

Where am I about to enter and

What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold?

What gift would enable me to do it?

Who would I be if I were to make this crossing?

What would my life be like if I were to gather myself

Trust that all that I need is within me?

To say to life to the cosmos to God

Here I am

I am ready.

I choose life.

I would like to end this talk with a blessing by John O'Donohue called:

Blessing for a New Beginning

In out of the way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you

Noticing how you willed your self on

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back; learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

 

Eating Elephant and Facing the Impossible

I would like to present two dreams. Both dreams employ a kind of foretelling quality. These dreams stop the mind from its usual ability to make sense of things and grounds one in the immediacy of another reality. Because in order to get a sense of the dreams you must inhabit a greater presence. The point is not always to understand some literal explanation of a dream but to embody the reality that is offered in the dream, to value it enough to try it on. The first dream came shortly after I moved back to Taos New Mexico in 2007. The dream arrived in the night of Christmas Eve, an auspicious time for such a startling dream.

Moses

Moses

December 24, 2007 Facing the impossible

I dream I am with an older woman and man who are a couple and a young child. We are out in nature having a good time together. Then we come back to the home of this family. The young girl and I are playing in her room. She lays down on top of me naked face to face. I can feel all my sexual energy arise thru my body. It is incredibly delicate, sensual and sweet. And very subtle. She and I  kiss and stay in that position. Then I prepare to leave and the mother and the father bring me home in their car.

At home I am in my house. This house was new from the one I previously lived in . And with me in the house lives a young boy – an adolescent. He is using the dryer and that annoys me and I think it is because I have a lot of laundry to do as well, but in reality I carry a burden. In the dream I know that I am going to have to deal with an enormous task—one I have done before, and I am facing this task with much dread. There is a sense that because I did it once before, I know all the aspects of it and the fact of these aspects is weighing heavily on me.

My horse, which is in the house, downstairs, is going to die and I have to skin the horse and remove the head by myself and carry it upstairs. The older couple has told me it will be all okay but I am feeling overwhelmed by the task and feel strongly that I need help to do it. The young man in the house –they have told me to get his help and I say, “He is useless.” I am left alone to my task. I wake up.

This dream filled me with a sense of foreboding because there is no getting around the fact of the enormous task. A task that filled me with a kind of horror that such a thing would be my responsibility.  So all sorts of bells went off upon waking--outrage, disbelief and fear.  That a reality like this was on my plate.  What did it mean and why had it shown up now? There is no explanation in the dream to make the task understandable and that adds to its sense of magnitude.

Interestingly the dream starts out with an encounter, a transmission so to speak, with Innocence, Eros and Guidance. We often assign innocence to childhood and forget about it as we grow older.  But I have come to see innocence as a quality of the soul--the original and indelible condition of being a human being. The qualities of the soul are interwoven, one cannot take away one without ripping in half another. Eros is the generative life force in a human being’s existence. John O'Donohue has written beautifully and profoundly in his book, "Anam Cara", about the sacred nature of Eros. He says, "that the body is the Angel of the soul, that the body is our only true home on earth."  He goes on to say,  "that the senses are the thresholds of the soul—to be sensual or sensuous is to be in the presence of your own soul."  He quotes Wordsworth who wrote in his respect for the senses, "Pleasure is the tribute we owe to our dignity as human beings."

These are the gifts silently acknowledged by my dream character as the unusual and touching experiences they were. These gifts from the child became conscious through my experience of her and thus became part of the tool kit with which I was to face the task I was going home to do. And the fact is that I had somehow done it all before. And in that way my dream character is free of illusion. But she is focused on the difficulty she knows is ahead of her. In the greater Reality, the home of the unconscious, there is no time. Everything we have done and will do in our lives already exists there. It is the occupying of time that makes things arduous. So in a way when we pierce time and draw from the realm of complete Possibility we gather ourselves anew.  This dream was in a way a heralding and a summoning of strength for a task that was about to begin—an undertaking both sobering and daunting but ultimately liberating.

The hidden character is the horse. He is dying. It seems that he must. When I think of a horse I think of power. So for the sake of the dream I can say that the vehicle of my power that I have known up until now is dying…and in the ritual of its dying I have to cut off its head, the egoic center, and skin it, making it completely vulnerable to life and carry it up from downstairs. There is a sense of the “descent” necessary to do this task and a bringing it up into the light of day to complete it.

The character of the young boy, the adolescent, in whom I place not a shred of appreciation, is in fact the unknown gem the older couple advises me to obtain help from. When you consider an adolescent and what they are capable of it is surprising that our culture does not find more ways to include their contributions to our society. They have no ambition outside of being alive; they are honest, completely self-involved and available to the new. They are strong, and somewhat fearless, and are willing in most regards to try most anything. In working with this dream I saw that I needed to locate these characteristics within myself, to rally in myself Innocence, Eros and adolescent fearlessness and strength. To find my inner resourcefulness and hutzpah to undertake this next chapter in my life. The dream alerted me to be ready for the impossible.

In reality this chapter of my life has been an 8-year passage into my unconscious.  Once again I quote John O'Donohue:  "The unconscious is a powerful and continuous presence.  Every life lives out of and struggles with this inner night, which casts its challenging and fecund shadow over everything we do and think and feel...This work of freedom is slow ad unpredictable; yet it is precisely at this threshold that each individual is the custodian and subject of their own transfiguration."

It was and has been indeed a formidable but very worthwhile undertaking. It has changed me; it has changed my life from the inside out.

This next dream seems to occupy the complete other end of the spectrum.

July 31, 2010 Eating Elephant

In my dream I am in a beautiful city park somewhere. Apparently, at this time, it is known by everyone that the world has run out of food and water and we are being asked to eat elephant. I feel no surprise in the dream at this and in fact I am laughing and joking with someone and saying, "I cannot possibly eat another plate of elephant”. There were all these tubs of elephant meat lying around the park. I didn’t feel hungry. The groundskeeper was a very matter-of-fact guy –he just did his work and didn’t seem affected by anything outside himself. I enjoyed his way of being and I trusted him. I am traveling via an electric pushcart that is attached to the back of me. It can go in all directions including up and down stairs. End of dream.

Here in this dream we are presented with what should have been the worst of all possible scenarios... something has happened to make it possible we no longer eat food and drink water as we have in our known histories. It has the feel of the future in the dream. A potential is making itself known. We are being nourished by elephant. Once again we have an animal coming that’s uniquely symbolic. When I think about the elephant I am first struck by its size, its power and its intelligence. The elephant is the most powerful animal in the world, it communicates over long distances, it is aware of its family and tribe and uses its memory to lead its own and other animal species along pathways to hidden water supplies. In Hindu astrology he is Ganesh, a Divine being capable of removing any obstacle, a Being of great wisdom.

In this dream the elephant has become the sole source of nourishment for the world. As I step into these qualities the elephant has brought up in me I have to ask myself the question– how would it be to live my life this way, and for this to be the sole way in which I draw nourishment and what would it look like for the world to do this, what things would change?

The park groundskeeper is my model of how to work with such an extreme change. He does not make a big deal out of anything. He goes about his work, he is pleasant and uncomplaining and not affected by outside circumstances. In the dream I travel easily in all directions aided by an electric cart attached to my back, my hands are free.  It is a dream of great mystery, it leaves a scent in the air of jewels to mine.

Like the first dream, this dream holds these mysterious elements – the tools I need to embody, to nourish myself in these times of great change. Power, wisdom, strength, remembering, compassion for all the species of Earth, making clear the path, flexibility, and the ability to move creatively in any direction.

This dream encouraged me to read a book called "Elephantoms" by distinguished biologist and naturalist, Lyall Watson.  His autobiographical book followed his life long passion for elephants, his first original unexplainable encounter with one, their own fate in his native land of South Africa,  and what he came to learn from them.  There is an amazing scene at the end of this book where he witnesses one of the last known elephants of his region in a cordoned off reserve park in South Africa communicating with a whale.

“Do everything from love, especially the things you are afraid of.”