Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Thoreau quote October 12, 2009

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Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

~ Henry David Thoreau

 

The Return July 21, 2008

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I’m indulging in the simple pleasures right now. Watching movies: I saw both The Dark Knight (great but, well, dark) and Mamma Mia! (a whole lot of rip-roaring fun) this weekend; reading books: I’ve embarked on a journey of reading all of Agatha Christie‘s books in chronological order; and sitting around with my feet very firmly up.

This poem came to my attention last week posted on a bulletin board in the hallway shared by a bookstore and restaurant in Half Moon Bay. It conjured up similar feelings to those I’ve had over this past year’s journey. As I post it today, I’m hoping it will help me to motivate to spread my wings back out and set out on a new leg of my journey soon. And perhaps it will work that way for you, too. Namaste.

The Return
by Geneen Marie Haugen

Some day, if you are lucky,
you’ll return from a thunderous journey
trailing snake scales, wing fragments
and the musk of Earth and moon.

Eyes will examine you for signs
of damage, or change
and you, too, will wonder
if your skin shows traces

of fur, or leaves,
if thrushes have built a nest
of your hair, if Andromeda
burns from your eyes.

Do not be surprised by prickly questions
from those who barely inhabit
their own fleeting lives, who barely taste
their own possibility, who barely dream.

If your hands are empty, treasureless,
if your toes have not grown claws,
if your obedient voice has not
become a wild cry, a howl,

you will reassure them. We warned you,
they might declare, there is nothing else,
no point, no meaning, no mystery at all,
just this frantic waiting to die.

And yet, they tremble, mute,
afraid you’ve returned without sweet
elixir for unspeakable thirst, without
a fluent dance or holy language

to teach them, without a compass
bearing to a forgotten border where
no one crosses without weeping
for the terrible beauty of galaxies

and granite and bone. They tremble,
hoping your lips hold a secret,
that the song your body now sings
will redeem them, yet they fear

your secret is dangerous, shattering,
and once it flies from your astonished
mouth, they–like you–must disintegrate
before unfolding tremulous wings.

Photo: “Dreams of a Journey,” origianlly uploaded by Laura Chifiriuc

 

Inspiration: The Invitation April 22, 2008

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I remember when Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s The Invitation was just an email being forwarded from friend to friend. It was relatively early in the friend-spamming-friend era, but you still got more of those emails than “real” emails and it was tough to pick and choose which ones were worth your time. I know that I usually just skimmed those emails and deleted them, barely absorbing the messages within. This email was different, however. I remember doing my usual skim and then stopping, returning to the first line to read each word and allow it to truly sink in. To this day, I still get “Spirit bumps” when I read her words. I feel my whole body tingle with aliveness and I yearn to “dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of [my] fingers and toes.” This is definitely a message about living life to its fullest, celebrating life in all its glory, and learning to fly.

The Invitation
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon . . .
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Photo: “Big Range Austin Dance Festival,” originally uploaded by Andrew Baron

 

W.H. Murray Quote March 2, 2008

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Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!”


~W.H. Murray

 

Step 6: Come Out of Hiding February 29, 2008

From the Steps to Learning How to Fly series.

When I woke up this morning, the world was covered in a blanket of fog. I love mornings like this, when it looks like I’m all alone on top of the hill and there’s nothing past the edge of my balcony. As the morning progresses the fog lifts and ultimately burns off, revealing the beauty of the world it was hiding from me earlier. While the fog is beautiful in its own right, what lies beneath contains a much deeper, more vibrant beauty. Very appropriate, then, that today I get to talk about coming out of hiding and unleashing your inner beauty that is begging to be revealed.

Whether you are aware of its presence of not, each of us has something special, something unique to share with the world. As children, we often learn that being different is a bad thing, and yearn to be just like everyone else. We ask our parents to dress us in the same clothes the other kids are wearing, enroll us in the same activities our friends are engaged in, watch the same TV shows and movies, play the same games, eat the same foods. Even when we rebel we tend to do in along some socially acceptable guidelines, just falling into another clique with its own rules for how to fit in. As adults, this same idea shows up in the kinds of work we do, the places we live, the cars we drive. This conformity is all outwardly focused as we worry about how other people view us, looking for external accolades to make us feel like we’re really doing okay.

Your uniqueness, your specialness often gets hidden away in all of this, which is somewhat ironic considering the surest way to really feel like you’re doing okay is uncover your gifts and share them with the world. There are quite a few forces at play here–need for approval, discomfort with vulnerability, lack of belief in yourself, fear of commitment, of making a mistake. I know for me that the process of eliminating these issues is ongoing and somewhat circular–the more I learn about myself and the world I live in, the more what I know to be true really sinks in, the more I can release these issues and allow the real me to come out and play. For me coming out of hiding is a practice, like meditation, that I make a priority every day, with three primary pieces to it:

1. There’s no such thing as a mistake. I don’t know where I first got the idea that mistakes were something to be avoided like the plague, especially since now I recognize there really is no such thing. When I look back over my life I know now that I would not choose to have anything play out differently, because each moment in time makes me who I am today. The relationships that turned sour, the jobs that didn’t lead where I’d hoped they would–I learned so much from each of them, knowledge I get to use now as my life unfolds in the direction of my dreams.

The natural extension of this is that there is no such thing as failure. The world’s most successful people are also the world’s biggest failures in the sense that they have explored many different avenues in life until they found the one (or the many) that worked for them. Without that experimentation, those supposed mistakes and failures, they would not have discovered where their true talents lay, where their success would be. The lesson I take away from all this is that I need to explore more, try more, put myself out there as much as I can. Not everything I attempt will result in success, but that’s okay–I know to keep learning, keep trying new things, keep exploring until I find what works, and then explore some more in order to expand that success into new realms.

2. What you think of me is none of your business. There are days where I need to write this in foot-tall letters and display it prominently around me. The gist here is that we do not need external approval. Seeking the approval of other people means you’re living someone else’s life, not your own. The point is to discover what makes you happy and then do it. If people want to approve or disapprove, that’s their prerogative. Trust me, even when you’re doing things that impress those people whose approval you’re seeking, they often find ways to disapprove anyway. How they feel is about just that–how THEY feel and what’s up for them right now–it really doesn’t have anything to do with you.

Harold Whitman offers me better inspiration: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I try to ask myself this question everyday–what makes me come alive? Some of my answers so far: loving my friends and family, myself, my world; connecting with people, with Source; dancing (with and without music); learning new things; living consciously; making a difference in other people’s lives, in the world; creating just about anything; being in nature; and, perhaps most of all, laughing.

3. Will the real me please stand up? One of my daily goals is to allow the real me to stand up and announce its presence with authority. In fact, that was the first sentence I wrote when I was putting together my initial notes for this topic–this idea just speaks to me in such a huge way right now. The persona I developed as a child was shy, with very few opinions of her own, a follower. I was somewhat surprised to discover that my natural state, although always open to learning new things, was to be very clear on how I feel about things, to be a teacher and a leader, and while I am introverted in the sense that I get my energy through my time alone, I love to meet new people, to spend time with my friends and family, to share and connect.

I’ve learned to stop labeling myself, to stop trying to pigeonhole myself, to allow myself just to be who I am with all of my quirks and differences, and I’m learning to apply that concept to others as well. What I’m still working on is integrating all of the different parts of me into one cohesive whole, and then showing up as simply myself when I go out into the world. I am spiritual, I am playful, I am peaceful, I am powerful. The more I show up like this, the more clarity I have about my choices, and the more the universe seems to open up, provide me with the answers I’m looking for, and say “Yes, please!”

What parts of yourself have you been hiding from the rest of the world? What gifts do you have that are still waiting to be shared? In what ways are you not showing up authentically? What seeds are you ready to plant today, and what is ready to blossom inside you? What makes you truly come alive? Start asking yourself these questions and others like them today. Begin the process of exploring, of experimenting, and come back and let us know what you’ve learned!

Recommended Reading:
The Holy Man, by Susan Trott
Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by M.D. Herbert Norton
Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation, edited by Roger Housden
What Should I Do with My Life?, by Po Bronson

Photo: Coming out blues, Originally uploaded by Jurek Durczak

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The Alchemist Quote February 24, 2008

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‘My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,’ the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky. ‘Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.’

~Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist

 

Step 1: Start Where You Are

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From the Steps to Learning How to Fly series.

I like to live my life by what I call wisdom according to Aerosmith: Life is a journey, not a destination. It isn’t about where you’re headed, it’s about the places you go to along the way. I personally want that journey to be full and rich, about learning new things and appreciating the beauty around me, about living mindfully and discovering my passions and expressing who I really am.

I haven’t always lived that way–even as I was learning the tools necessary to spread my wings, I spent a substantial amount of time living my life the way other people expected me to. I was a good girl, usually doing the “right” things, even as I was exploring realms that I didn’t think most of my friends and family would understand. My life took on a splintered quality as different pieces of me showed up depending on who I was with. I often felt like I was a shadow of myself, flimsy and insubstantial, and I yearned for the day when I could be one coherent me. But that was where I was, and the first thing I needed to learn was to let go of those expectations, to give myself a break, to stop being so hard on myself before I could begin the shift from living my life externally towards exploring the me on the inside and letting her light shine.

Starting where you are is about being loving and compassionate towards yourself. You may dream of what you want your life to look like, who you want to be, and often that leads to beating yourself up, judging yourself and finding yourself lacking. This is counterproductive, placing the emphasis on what you don’t want instead of on what you do want. The first thing to do is to recognize that you are where you are, and while you are capable of realizing your dreams, you have to be gentle with yourself as you take the steps necessary to get there. I like to think of it as building your muscles. If you had a dream of running a marathon, you wouldn’t try to run 26.2 miles tomorrow. You would put a training program in motion and build your muscles and your endurance to enable success. Each step in the training program is a stretch and while you get close to your objective during training, the day of the event is the day you actually achieve your goal.

This is how realizing life goals works, too. While we don’t always have a full training program laid out in front of us so we know in advance the steps we’ll take to reach our goals, life is always feeding us opportunities to stretch ourselves, to grow in the direction we want to be moving in. When a challenge comes up for you today, instead of handling it the way you might have in the past, ask yourself how you can react differently this time. The answer might feel a little outside of your comfort zone, but do it anyway. You know where the old road leads–explore a new road and see if it lands you in a place you haven’t been before. Play with it, experiment a bit. You might not land exactly where you want to be, but keep experimenting with it as situations come up until you find a new way of handling it that feels more authentic to who you are and where you want to go in life. If you’re shy, a public speaking engagement might be too big of a stretch, but talking to a stranger in a bar might be just the right size. Strengthen that extroverted muscle, that faith muscle, that love muscle–whatever it is that you’ve been seeking, that’s been missing in your life.

There is always something right in front of us, right where we are today that is a gift for the growth we have been asking for. It might feel small, it might be a just baby step, but each step is a movement, and each step opens up new opportunities for expansion. As T. Harv Ecker reminds us:

Success is a learnable skill. You can learn to succeed at anything . . . If you want to be a great piano player, you can learn how to do it. If you want to be truly happy, you can learn how to do it. If you want to be rich, you can learn how to do it. It doesn’t matter where you are right now. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from. What matters is that you are willing to learn.

Start where you are right now, in this moment, and take a step, begin the process of learning how to spread those wings, to move in the direction that you’ve always dreamed of.

Recommended Reading:
The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho
Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch
The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle
Spiritual Fitness, by Caroline Reynolds
Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Photo: Views of Bratislava, by Lukas Ondrousek

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