Resting After The Work is Done

Let the neck be free
Begins as quiet suggestion
(thanks to Alexander)
And strengthens with repetition,
Echoing through darkened cords of tension
Down corridors of history
Where a sweet child hopes for safety
And long ingrained habits
Turn soft pliable flesh into steel cords
And soften them again
Like waves retreating back to the sea
After breaking.

Let the head be free
Turns attention inwards
To the weighty center of perception
Thinking mightily, powerfully, yet
Unsupported without the tower of living flesh
It rests so lightly upon,
Inextricably entwined and so utterly
Dependent on that intricate balancing act
Through which it finds it’s sustenance,
It’s ground, its wisdom, it’s very life.

Why stop there?
Let the whole being be free!
Let this miraculous creation be
What it is, without the chains
Of habit and history locking up
The un-dimmed light within.

Unfettered, let us walk through our days
As reflections to each other
Of what is possible,
Of what it is, when
Love’s eyes look upon the world
And see the truth beyond the shadows.

 

 

 

 

Martin Luther King Day

 

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Martin Luther King has given me a day of rest from my busy job today – a chance for quiet reflection instead of busy productivity.  Though this neglects to say what his greater legacy to us all has been, it does at least allow us a moment to consider it. 

Martin Luther King’s voice spoke out at a time when his message was unwelcome to many.  This fact alone serves as an example of courage still very much needed today:  Courage to speak what needs to be spoken no matter what others may think, no matter what the personal price may be for having spoken out.  

Each of us may never know what the effects of our own lives may be on society as a whole. The smallest word or action that we might make could possibly have the most effect. How our lives affect others and affect the whole always remains a mystery to be unraveled only in hindsight or perhaps not at all.

Thank you Martin Luther King for my day of rest today, and this moment’s reflection on the value of one life.  Nelson Mandela’s life stands out now too, through the fact of so recently having come to an end, and can be seen in such a similar light.  These men’s examples of what one life can do, can inspire us to use every moment of the life that we have been given as fully as we possibly can.  My life may not stand out to others as theirs do, but in another way it is no less significant in terms of the possibilities that it offers each one of us to serve as an example, an inspiration to the lives that intersect our own. 

Knowing this to be true for each one of us sheds light on the power that we all hold and so often ignore.

Thank you Martin Luther King

For showing us what is possible,

For each one of us 

Every day,

For each moment

We are here, 

Full of life

And ready to take up

Our part in the great dance

Whatever it may be. 

Guidelines for Coming Together in Presence

The essay below is something that I am working on as the old year closes and the new one arrives — putting together some basic group guidelines which might be useful to anyone wishing to experiment with this thing I am so interested in at the moment.  That thing could be called a number of different things: collective wisdom, a field of resonance, broadened attention, collective awareness, relational field, collaborative inquiry or we-space.

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Coming Together in Presence: Accessing the Collective Field Beyond Our Separate Selves

Are groups of individuals able to learn to tap into a larger field of awareness beyond their personal mental constructs?  Is such a “field” able to guide those people who are willing towards what is healthy for the whole, and help us solve those intractable problems which modern life presents us with?  These are the sorts of questions that fascinate a number of people today, and those people have begun experimenting meeting with others in order to explore this territory.

Such meetings are easily sidetracked in many ways and it is my own sense that there needs to be clear intentionality about what is appropriate for those gatherings and a willingness for each individual to contribute to the effort of keeping such meetings on track.  In the spirit of helpfulness to our collective endeavor, the points below are suggested as starting points for the meeting guidelines, even as they must stay open for revision and refinement as each group learns and grows together.

1- A curiosity about what is possible is basic – a spirit of mutual exploration and discovery about what is or is not happening.

2- A willingness and ability to drop one’s personal agenda and opinions is needed. A commitment to, as best we can, assume a “beginner’s mind” about why the meeting is occurring and what will happen in it.

3- Deep Listening , involving a willingness to both welcome, allow and listen to the silences in the conversation.  When listening to words, listening for and, if prompted, responding to the deepest thread that can be found.  We listen to others for the places where they speak about all of us as they speak about themselves.

4- A willingness to refrain from lengthy storytelling, and every other exit strategy that one normally employed to avoid the depth of engagement and the avoid what is available in the present moment.

5 – Risk Taking. A willingness to be authentic rather than nice, and to speak ones truth to others in a vulnerable way.  A willingness to speak up authentically even if we are likely to be in error or feel embarrassed. Welcoming both the light and the dark of ourselves and each other to the best of our ability and supporting each other in doing so.

6 – Prioritizing caring for the life force, the depth, the energy in the center of the room, the resonance, the way the group feels, or how it feels to each to be in the group, even at risk of personal loss of face.

7-  To bring, as best we can, a trust in the larger process of our evolving humanity and a personal interest in participation in it that overrides our personal self-interest in being right or in keeping up appearances.

With a group of people coming together around guidelines like the above, the next thing is to set up a space with some care for a meditative quality to it.  Starting with a small number of people can sometimes be helpful for keeping the focus.  It is a broad focus that this kind of group is seeking, as opposed to the narrow focus involved in getting things done or individual problem solving.   A flower, plant, candle, mediation bell or such things can be helpful for holding open this broad kind of focus, or anything else that encourages individuals to drop the focus that allowed them to drive there and be on time and step into a broader awareness. It is also best to have a  specific length of time for the meeting agreed on beforehand, so that the time can become like a container for a specific kind of work/thought/awareness.  Taking it out of that container into daily life is a different kind of movement and will happen differently and separately for each individual.

© 2014 Alice Gardner

Exploring Relational Space

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We spend so much of our time with people, at home, at work, with friends and so on. I am finding it to be an extremely interesting exploration to see what the difference is between the state of consciousness I am in when I conduct my relationships and to compare that to the states available when alone in nature or in meditation.

What I find true for myself historically, is that when I am in the presence of others, my mind is busier and more full of itself, analyzing the other person’s responses to me, forming opinions about them or planning how I might respond to them. So historically I would say that I lose contact with deep truth in relationship generally, entering a social modality where mind gets to define (and limit) the quality of the relationship.

In nature, in meditation, or even just alone in my room however, I have had for quite some time an ability to let mind take a back seat in my consciousness. This allows me to enjoy a blissful sense of life’s perfectness and grace, even in the midst of troubled times. Why it is harder or secondary for me to bring this kind of realization into my everyday human relationships I am not sure, but it seems to be how it has worked.

In the past few years I have been discovering that there are some very amazing relational possibilities that I have not known about before, except maybe in relationships with spiritual teachers, which of course I considered to be in a different category altogether than my relationship with my colleagues at work for instance. My education in this began one evening when a friend and I sat down in her living-room after dinner (intending a social evening) and we both inexplicably dropped into a deeper space together than I had ever experienced on my own. For me it was completely unexpected, to find myself in the deepest meditative space of my life-so-far without having meditated. To have dropped into such an unbelievably rich and nourishing place with another person and to be sitting there talking about it, marveling out loud. Another defining thing about this was that it did not feel personal at all. It wasn’t about us. It was about something far beyond the personal people who had come to it.

We were being shown something new that was possible.

This experience has continued, at first rarely but now more commonly, with new people, new explorations, meeting in person and even over the telephone. It feels as if this “relational field” is teaching us, those of us who will tune in. It also feels like we are developing a new muscle of some sort – an ability to meet each other in this deep place and let go of the reins there. In my experience so far it has been women who seem to have an easier time “dropping in” in this way for whatever reason, though I very much look forward to having these kinds of meetings with men too. I very much look forward to being able to bring this sort of relational space more and more into my daily experience too and I can feel it’s movement in that direction, though I feel to be a complete beginner.

As I get more practice in this, the habit of relating in a shallow or mind-based way to the people at work or to my family or acquaintances, stands out more and more in contrast to it. It is also obvious that there are degrees of this – that how I am relating to others is not black and white. I can feel when, in an ordinary everyday conversation there is a thread of openness to this deeper relational space between us. It does not seem to need me to know the person conventionally either. While familiarity brings trust and the feeling of safety is I’m sure helpful in creating the container for this “relational field”, it seems also able to show up in a word with a passing stranger. It looks like it is probably just my own mind’s ideas about where it is and is not safe or possible that has busily constructed limits to it.

There is a distinct feeling of importance to this, beyond that which drove me to meditate for years, but not so different from it. It seems that this next phase of development is now about who/what we collectively are, and about what we know together from the various perspectives we collectively inhabit. It seems to be all about our ability to enter an active impersonal relational space, from which we can interact with each other in new ways according to what we see happening around us and each of our roles in it.

I would love to hear about it if you are having any experiences that are similar.

Alice

May – The World Awakens

In the high country the frozen snow begins to flow with the warmth of spring!TheHighCountry
Trickles turn to torrents.
Mist rises from the snowfields and the waterfalls, causing even the air to enrich the earth with new life.

In Yosemite (the photo to the right) only the highest places still hold frozen snowfields from winter now.
Their cold stillness has birthed action, and fed the flow of the waterfalls.
Even the waterfalls that aren’t usually there, spring to life, dancing with the joy of movement, of falling, of flow.

In the valleys below, as in the second photo, the frozen places have burst into color and delight with a profusion of flowers – explosions of color turning the formerly grey flood plains along the river into decorations beyond belief, and the hillsides into upliftments of spirit as well as body.

The natural world, each year without fail, gives us this metaphor for our own movement, for our own evolving way of being here in our lives, of letting ourselves come alive. We can get so caught in the little stuff and forget to look to the metaphor of spring, playing out its inspiration in front of our eyes every year.

Even beyond that, the natural world also constantly offers a look behind the changing scenes, the details of our lives, even the flow of change of our living and dying, as we look to what doesn’t change.

Below is a piece from “Finding Our Way Forward“. It is from a longer poem “The Bedrock” (also coming from the grandeur of Yosemite) which is seeing in the rock beneath the flowing water and the ebb and flow of the seasons a larger movement, requiring more quiet to discern, but definite and palpable:

The bedrock lets me know my place
in the larger scheme of things.
My human life is a flash
in a broad interplay of life and time,
insignificant when seen separately
yet held now inseparably
within the greater life
animating the whole.
The bedrock speaks
in a language without words
that feels familiar,
that beckons, no, welcomes me
back to the sanity
of something longer, quieter and more steady
that I had nearly forgotten.
It is an open invitation
to relax into an expanded perspective
that includes me in something grand,
beyond the breadth of galaxies.
Something vibrantly alive, and close,
Something right here,
in the center of this human life.
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Finding Our Way Forward – Kindle version now available!

I am excited to announce that my new book is finally out in Kindle, with the paperback version on it’s way shortly.

We stand at a significant evolutionary transition-point!

Can you imagine that the current world situation could be inspiring a significant transformation – a promising leap forward towards a new earth and a new awakening of human nature?

Do you feel that you would like to change the world for the better, help establish world peace, etc., but you don’t know how?

In this book, learn immediate and powerful ways to make a difference during this transitional time. Ways to change the world and bring a new awareness and peace to all that you are involved in. Learn to broaden your perspectives, revealing expanded possibilities for addressing the monumental world issues. This breakthrough information allows you to immediately become a part of the solution!

Awaken to find yourself taking a creative part in this unparalleled breakthrough in human development.

In Finding Our Way Forward, Alice Gardner proposes an inspiring view of transformation coming directly from our troublesome world situation. She then engages the reader in an introspective journey to the core of who we are and back again to all of the world’s intractable issues. We are then led to find the unique part each of us has to play in humanity’s grand maturation process. This is as significant an evolutionary transition-point as was the beginnings of our logical/analytical thinking. Now, again, our old ways of thinking are becoming obsolete, and we need to move forward.
We can and do make a difference, no matter how small a part we play!
This is how we can be a part of leaving behind a world which we are proud to let the children of the future inherit. This is how we can know what peace is; know how our consciousness affects everything, and how love can today begin to direct all the actions we take.

This is the link to it on Kindle

It will be free for two days on July 4th and 5th!

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Looking at Current Events

The world situation being presented to us in the 21st century is a natural outcome of the state of consciousness that created it. People navigating through life guided by thought processes that are based on a view of themselves as separate and insecure individuals, naturally would create a world full of conflict and fear. But consider that this may also be part of a perfect unfolding.

This may be how life works: that each level or stage of development along the way brings with it, as it approaches obsolescence, its own crisis. Each time of crisis forces individuals to question their current reality system, and to try to find a new stability by stretching into new versions of themselves with more advanced capabilities. We are also pushed by crisis into outgrowing any old habits that no longer help us survive successfully. As our old paradigms and models begin to fail us and we can’t find answers on the same level that we find the problems, we are forced to let go of our old ways of constructing reality and look again to see what we might have missed.

The world seems to have a habit of presenting us with problems for which we have no solutions within our existing mental frameworks. Take overpopulation as an example. There seems to be such limited responses we can make as individuals to overpopulation. An alternative way to live with something like overpopulation without frustration or without avoiding thinking about it, would be to develop new ways of perceiving, understanding and responding to what is happening. The ability to change our perceptions, understandings and responses is not a capability humans have when totally immersed in current thought processes and can’t see beyond them. This is a relatively new development; a new option. People are currently evolving the capacity to observe their thinking from a vantage point that is slightly outside of the limitations of that thinking – to see their own thought processes at work. The ability to find adequate solutions to something as difficult as overpopulation may seem out of reach at first, but the possibilities are far beyond what could be seen when we looked through old mental filters and obsolete ideas about what is possible.

© 2011 Alice Gardner

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Not Above Life, But In It

All that was empty
Has inexplicably been filled.
All that was separate and alone
Swims now, in the warm, sweet waters
Of the one life, living itself in awe,
Animated by vitality and love,
Moving forever towards
Who knows what…

Far beyond our power
To imagine the new land
We travel
On wings built of
All that has troubled us.
Not above life
But firmly and
Solidly in it.

Alice Gardner, 2011
Author of “Life Beyond Belief, Everyday Living As Spiritual Practice”

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Life in Motion

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This photograph is from a recent trip to Yosemite.  There is a deep snow-pack in the mountains at this time of year, but the weather during our trip was warm and water was running in little waterfalls from every rocky crevice, except in the deep woods where the forest floor was still buried deep under heavy snow.

This is such a wonderful metaphor for what is happening in the larger cycles of our world.  Egypt is in turmoil as I write this.  Its young people are no longer willing to live without freedoms that we Americans take for granted.  Both snow-melt and current events are about (sometimes tumultuous) change and about how life is never frozen in place for long, but needs eventually to break into motion.Our human ability to change and what stops us from fundamental change that is needed (as opposed to surface-level improvements) has everything to do with our overall human condition. It is about our ability to adapt, evolve and be creative in a fast-changing world that requires us to let go of the things that worked for us previously and move forward into new habits of mind that work better for us now, just as the winter’s snow is transformed by warmth into waterfalls.

We are at a significant and exciting evolutionary transition-point in our human development!Life is giving us the opportunity to notice the limitations and blind spots of our current ways of making meaning in our lives, and to stand free of what no longer serves us. Our essential identity, our beingness, does not change at all, and does not need to.  But of all the things that do shift in our lives, the deepest kind of learning and change seems to be exactly what is required of us to fully meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Meanwhile the bedrock of who we truly are rests like a foundation, below all the changes, supporting and steadying our creative movements in response to whatever is happening.In the heat of the drama, the frozen places in us change form and move on into something new, like the waters from the mountains running with tumult and beauty on a warm day.

Christmas Eve Letter, 1513

— by Fra Giovanni Giocondo

Fra Giovanni Giocondo (c.1435–1515) was a Renaissance pioneer, accomplished as an architect, engineer, antiquary, archaeologist, classical scholar, and Franciscan friar.  Today we remember him most for his reassuring letter to Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve, 1513.

I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.  There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.  And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you.

Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.

With grateful thanks to www.gratefulness.org