Awakening to Our Challenges

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”  Maya Angelou

What has happened to you recently that was disturbing?  What did you think about it?  How did you handle the situation?

We all have times in our lives when things don’t go the way we want.  When that happens, how do we handle it?  What we do can make all the difference in how we experience the situation.  More than once I’ve lost a job.  The reasons varied.  When I was young I thought I could speak honestly with my boss, but I quickly learned that bosses often only want to hear what they want to hear.  You play the game or you lose, but I was too naïve to understand this.

Being Shocked By The Challenge

For two years, I worked as an employment counselor at a fine arts school.  My boss had helped found the school and had developed very specific procedures for my job.  I loved the work and I was very successful helping students find employment while in school.

We were doing so well that we needed another counselor and the boss hired a second woman to fill the gap.  After a while, I realized she wasn’t following the boss’s guidelines.  As a result, her actions created conflict and affected my work, and she often flirted with him and behaved unprofessionally.

I became very upset and every day there was a new challenge that wore me down.  The only other “adult” in the office refused to become involved, and when things reached the breaking point for me and I talked again with my boss, he fired me despite the fact I was the one getting the students the most jobs.

How could I be fired for doing the best job?  The unfairness stunned me, and when I complained to the president, she apologized but did nothing.  Being fair was a basic part of my moral values and I was devastated by this experience. How could I trust any school or business?

Looking At the Source of the Challenge

I was angry for a long time and deeply sad because I had loved the job and nothing else like it was available in the area.  I didn’t understand why this could happen, but when I stopped feeling sorry for myself and analyzed the situation, I realized the attention my boss received from the other woman made him feel good and that was more important than production.

He was a hugely overweight single man whom I suspected lived a rather solitary life.  Suddenly, every day he had this attractive woman fawning over him, getting him coffee, making him laugh, behaving like his girlfriend despite the fact that she lived with a boyfriend.  While I was pleasant interacting with him, I had maintained  professional behavior.

Letting Our Negative Thoughts Feelings Go

Accepting that some situations are not fair is difficult.  One feels helpless.  While it is important to examine the situation and try to understand what, if anything, we did wrong, it is also important to let go and move on.  I had to accept the fact that I did my best, and that I did the right thing by continuing to behave professionally.

So, what can we do when these negative experiences overwhelm us?  I’ve always found that quiet time is very valuable and helps to release the negative thoughts that keep circling through my mind.  Some people may “run-off” the stress through exercise, talk to a best friend, meditate or go hiking through the woods.

Releasing the Fear

Regardless of the practice we use, we must release the fear beneath our feelings of anger or inadequacy.  My method is to quietly breath deeply and when I feel the tension releasing, I direct my mind “Release this fear (name it), it has no power over me.”  I take another deep breath and feel positive energy rising through my body, and I repeat the phrase until I feel my mind release the fear.

Using Affirmations

The validation that we are good must come from within.  Self-affirmations may also help heal for they remind us who we really are.  Regardless of what others say, I accept that “I am a loving and competent person.”  Repeating this positive message helps us to remember there is much good about us; we don’t need to believe in the negativity that limits us.  The exact words we use must be fashioned to fit our particular situation.

After this experience at the art school, I had another negative experience in the business world.  This was very scary because I was barely supporting myself on low wages and needed reliable employment.  I had thought I could make better wages in the business world, but in the end  I returned to teaching, my first love.  While the wages were low there, I was doing work that really mattered to my teenage students, and that lifted me up regardless of the challenges.

What self-affirmations work for you?

AWAKENING TO RELEASE OUR FEAR

DANCING TO CHALLENGING EXPERIENCES

AWAKENING TO BE IN THE MOMENT

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

 

AWAKENING TO OUR DANCE OF LIFE

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.”  Martha Graham

What is your dance of life?  Does it resemble a rumba, waltz, cha-cha, jitter bug or improvisation?

Whatever name you give to your dance, there is only one person like you, and your life is a dance only you can do.  As you dance this life, it may change, redefining who you are on the inside and who you are in the world.

As Graham suggests, we are created by an inner force that is natural and vital, but if we are to create our earthly life from it, we have to become acquainted with it.  It is not always easy to look inside because we are often afraid of what we may find there,some part of ourselves we do not like.

Graham clearly looked inside as she began to create dances for her own company after leaving the Denishawn Company.  The new dances were intense and emotional, as she was, taking this element to a depth never before seen in modern dance.  In the beginning, some people found her work offensive, but her courage to be true to her creative self transformed and broadened modern dance.

Following Our Own Paths

We each follow our own path.  Externally, it may involve working for a corporation, a hospital, a school, or creating our own business, and what we do there may be an expression of our deepest self or it may only be a place to earn money.  When we can combine the two, we are most fortunate.

When I was young, my parents saw my desire to become a modern dancer as foolish.  How could I possibly support myself doing that? Because of my mother’s insistence, I got the credits needed for teacher certification, and I became a teacher while pursuing dance.

As a high school teacher, I discovered I wanted to help empower those students who were not in the main stream.  Looking back on that years later, I realized I was drawn to them because I did not feel I was part of the main stream, so I was not “good enough.”  But when I taught them, this incredible energy within me bubbled up, and helping them empowered me as well.

I also usually danced the dancer’s life along with the teaching life.  I loved the feeling of never knowing what might show up as I began to choreograph a dance because my experience had taught me that when moving or writing creatively, the most amazing and unexpected ideas could show up, ones I would never think of.

Finding Inner Peace and Vitality

The silence of creativity or meditative practices opens us to that place within where our life force can speak to us and lead us to choreograph a new life or expand the one we have to include new steps. Being with nature can also offer us a place where the outer can create peace within.

I know a group of birdwatchers.  Some of them are retired, but some still work and participate in the walks that take them through the forest to observe and name our flying friends.  At other times some of them also participate in slow hikes identifying trees or flowers in order to connect more deeply with nature because this connection with nature is an integral part of who they are.  The dance of nature is their dance.

I know how they feel.  Nature is also a place where I experience deep peace.  Upon entering a forest, I almost immediately drop into a meditative state.  I grew up hiking through the mountains and forests, learning to name the rocks and trees, but while the naming was not my focus, it helped me connect with their energy and beautiful presence.  After I began dancing, the energy of nature stirred up new ideas for dances.

Finding Your Dance Beyond the External

While dance was a huge part of my dance of life for many years, there came a time when the physical demands of the art began to harm my body.  I was frightened.  Who would I be without dance? It was the core of my identity!

It became clear that I needed to go deeper.  Fortunately, before I stopped teaching dance, I had learned to meditate.  It became a regular practice that took me deeper into the heart of my soul, where I discovered the real source of my creativity, not only for dance, but for living.

As I began to visit non-traditional spiritual groups like Science of Mind and Unity churches, I began to learn other ways of connecting with my spirituality and growing my inner life.  I learned, for example, how to release my fear so that it did not control my mind. This exploration led me to a sense of wholeness I had never known.  My dance of life became deeper and richer, undefined by what I did, defined by who I was.

What Is the Core of Your Dance of Life?

Where has your dance of life taken you? How is your life force expressed?  If you remove all the things you have, the titles you hold, the money and work that defines you, your political persuasion, your religious beliefs, what is at the core of your dance of life?

When we are expressing who we truly are, there is a vitality to it.  We’ve all met people whose vitality surrounds them and energizes those who come near them; while their energy enlivens us, we also feel the serenity at their core.  And that is a peace we all need to find in our own dance of life.

© Georganne Spruce

The Martha Graham Company

READINGS:  AWAKENING TO THE LIGHT

AWAKENING TO THE HOME WITHIN

AWAKENING TO THE ONENESS WITHIN

 

LETTING GO OF THE BAGGAGE

“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”  Steve Maraboli

Who have you forgiven lately or who do you need to forgive and haven’t?

One Sunday morning I woke from a dream.  It had been lengthy but I only remembered the last moment.  I was walking through an airport on the way to catch a flight that was leaving soon and I stopped, suddenly realizing I had left my luggage at home.  After I got out of bed and unsuccessfully tried for a few minutes to remember more, I walked over to my husband and said, “I just dreamed that I was in an airport about to catch a flight when I realized I had left my baggage at home.”

Why did I say baggage?  Then it hit me – that’s what the dream was about!  My husband who is a retired therapist began asking me questions about what I thought my emotional/psychological baggage was.  I gave it serious thought but nothing came up.  In fact, other than being disturbed by our president’s behavior and dealing with some back problems that have greatly improved, I’ve been feeling very peaceful.

Baggage I Needed to Release

Later that morning, I remembered a very significant time in the past when it had taken me a long time to forgive and when I finally did, it was transforming.

During college, I had fallen in love with a man six months before he went to the Vietnam War.  We became engaged and when he returned a year later, we married rather quickly and lived together for the next ten years before divorcing.  During those years, I taught in high school and taught some modern dance when I could.  Eventually I was able to dance with a small company fulfilling one of my life’s dreams.

But this didn’t work well for my husband who wanted a divorce.  He later admitted he had had affairs while we were married.  My love of dance angered him because he felt I loved dance more than I loved him.  

“But,” I said, “I told you before we married that I had to dance, that it was part of me, and you said that was okay.”

“Well, I thought you’d get tired of it – outgrow it.”

I was stunned by that revelation, and the pain of his betrayals haunted me for years.

Learning to Forgive

Then one day, many years after the divorce, I finally understood how I had not understood his needs.  Of course he needed a partner totally devoted to him.  His mother had been single, working a job that left him alone most of the day and evening, even when he was in elementary school. He had to fix his own dinner, which often involved opening a can of food and heating it.   He didn’t know his father who had left when his mother became pregnant.  

When his mother married, it was to a man who was untrustworthy and whose mother treated  my ex like he was a nuisance.  These were the only relatives he had to live with as he completed high school.  No wonder he joined the Marines!

Compassion Leads to Forgiveness

Reflecting on his early years, I was suddenly filled with a deep sadness.  On an emotional level for the first time, I understood how deeply he had needed a wife who was motherly, and I was not.  I was an independent woman on her own path when that was not an acceptable way for a woman to be.  For the first time, I truly forgave him for the hurt he caused me, and I forgave myself for being so blind to his needs.  Finally, I was able to leave that baggage behind.

But why was this dream coming up now?  I don’t know.  But I suspect there may be more baggage lurking in my mental closet.  Only time will tell.  

Whom do you need to forgive today?

© Georganne Spruce

Readings:  My Memoir:  Awakening to the Dance: a Journey to Wholeness

AWAKENING TO ACCEPTANCE

AWAKENING TO COMPASSION

 

AWAKENING TO THE SHADOW OF LOVE

“Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking.  The one is the shadow of the other.”  Carl Jung

Do you struggle with the conflict between love and power?  How does that manifest in your life?  What must happen for you to choose love over power?

Recently, we have seen far too many examples of the ruthless use of power. The consequences of the recent government shutdown hurt many citizens who on a normal day work  for the government.  People risked losing their homes, had to seek food for their families at food pantries that usually serve only the poor, and did not have the money to pay their bills.

Why did this happen?  Because the power to control others has become the dominant motivation of many in our government, rather than using their power to serve those who elected them. Where is the caring, love, and devotion to service that we expect from those we elect?

A VOICE FROM THE PAST

About a month ago, I was cleaning out a closet and found an old album of my high school years. It was falling apart and there were some things I didn’t want to keep so I threw them out.  Others were mementos I wanted to keep so I transferred them to a new notebook. But among the items I found, the one that surprised me the most was an essay I had written during my junior year in high school.

I had gotten a “A” on it, but I usually made good grades on essays.  So why had I kept this one?  Was it just a coincidence that I found it at this time? As I read it, I was shocked by how relevant it was.  Every day we either read, hear about or experience the prejudice and horrendous treatment of minorities and immigrants and the persistent inequality toward women.

I don’t like to write about politics on this blog, but I believe this essay makes an important point for us to remember as we navigate today’s muddy waters.

THE SLAVE DRIVER WILL BECOME THE SLAVE

Written November 17, 1960

Those who believe themselves to be supreme cannot endure.  Any man who is so self-righteous is defying the moral laws given to us by a just and true God.  The man who believes he is master of all will fail in the end, for his thinking has become twisted by selfishness, prejudice, and ignorance.

The American Civil War resulted in the abolition of the southern confederacy.  The Southerners had been the masters of slavery, chaining the Negro to a cruel, inhumane life.  This the southern gentleman did in order to provide himself with riches.  After the war, this same gentleman found himself a slave. He was a slave to poverty, hunger, devastation, and depression.  The suppresser had fallen headlong into his self-made pit.

From this has stemmed the discrimination we have today.  It has been vicious and it is almost unbelievable that such a thing exists in this democracy. Prejudice is a master.  It enslaves those who are ignorant and cruel enough to refuse the divinely-given freedom to others.  Its agitators have been filled with a superstitious tradition that comes from lack of reason and the lack of knowledge of truth.

They are not aware that they are dragging the name of liberty through the mud.  They do not care if they are mocking man’s greatest dream.  These people, who at the risk of doing this, are willing to join in mob violence against a minority, are forging the chains of their own slavery.

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God cannot long retain it.”  These words of Abraham Lincoln are the greatest hope we have for the future.  At times it seems as if men who are evil receive all the power and benefits.  They certainly do not deserve it.  We must continue to believe that they cannot triumph. We must continue to believe in the providence of God.  We must learn to respect our fellow man and let liberty’s torch shine bright.  Only then can we feel free from the slavery of prejudice and the punishment of a true, just God.

The End

After reading this, I felt sad that these same issues are still dominant today, that the shadow of love, the need to be powerful, fills our society with injustice.  Over fifty years after Martin Luther King’s death we have still not “reached the mountaintop.”  While we cannot change our government over night, the energy we put out into the world in our daily lives does matter.  We may choose to step out of the shadow of power and act in the light of love.

What love will you express today?

Readings:  AWAKENING TO THE POWER OF PLEASANT THOUGHTS, 

AWAKENING TO COMPASSIONATE COMMUNICATION

©2019 Georganne Spruce

AWAKENING TO THE GIFTS OF SOLITUDE

“Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions.  It needs the whole sky to fly in ….  A place apart—to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.” Mary Oliver

Do you find any value in meditation or writing?  Are they similar in some way?  What does quiet time mean for you?

The Challenge of Distractions

I keep planning to do daily meditation again.  The life in this country seems so chaotic and crazy that it’s too easy to get upset and distracted and I know meditation will help me find the peace for which I long and clear my head and heart.  It will also help me get back to writing, quieting my mind so new ideas may rise to the surface.

But I don’t.  I need to check my email.  See if I have enough left-overs for lunch.  Make another doctor’s appointment.  Check next week’s meeting time.  It never ends – because I don’t end it.

I’m old enough to remember the time when we all communicated only with phones.  We didn’t have the distractions of Facebook or even email.   I also was unmarried most of my life.  Now I’m married but to a man who is very disciplined about doing his writing work in his home office.  While we do have a life together, I can’t blame him for my inability to find time alone. He respects whatever I need.

Sitting in Silence

In some way, I think I’ve forgotten how rich the aloneness of meditation is, but I was reminded in a very dynamic way last week at the Jung meetup we attended.  The topic was “projections.”  After the speaker gave us a meaningful introduction to the topic, we sat in silence in the dark to get in touch with our inner Selves.

At first, I was just grateful that this quiet time was structured into the event.  I had no excuse not to do it.  I was so involved with the evening’s topic that I had already let go of the day’s annoyances.  Taking a few deep breaths, my mind cleared and kundalini energy raced up my spine and opened my mind to the universe.  I was so surprised by this that I dropped back into my body.

Wisdom of the Inner Self

Slowly, I moved back into a meditative space to ask, “What do I need to release?”  The quiet settled in.  The answer came—“jealousy and anger.” The anger didn’t surprise me, but the jealousy did.  “I’m not jealous of anyone,” I thought.  “I have everything I need.”  But that wasn’t what my deeper Self was saying.

Then a picture formed in my head.  I was sitting and listening to a person talk about his years growing up and all the advantages he had, and I was overcome with a deep sadness that he had opportunities I never had growing up as a child whose family had little money.  There were many things we didn’t have or couldn’t afford that others I went to school with had.  I couldn’t buy a dress because we could only afford what my mother made for me.  I couldn’t take dance lessons or buy the best dolls.  We couldn’t afford to go to Disney World.

As the meaning of this message became clear, I took a deep breath, I smiled and sent love to the child within me, letting go of the feelings of lack that accompanied the message. I’m an adult now and have more than I need.

Our time was up, but I felt peaceful.  I would look more closely at my anger issues another time.  We wrote in our journals then left in silence.  I wrote, “The Universe is there for me with its gifts of silence and love.  Within it, I am One and all creativity connects and flows through me.”

Loving Our Inner Selves

Today, after many months of not writing my blog, I have written. It feels good.  I love writing because my inner Self is good company.  She thinks a lot and feels many emotions.  She perceives life in interesting ways.  She reveals insights that my mind alone would never conjure up. She can also be outrageous and crazy, but she’s never boring.

And perhaps this is the greatest gift that solitude affords us even if we aren’t writers:  to like whoever we are in that solitude and to be a friend to ourselves.  We may be different out in the world where so many challenges press upon us.  We may not always handle them well.  We may not always find the best solution to a problem, but whoever we are in that solitude is the self we must love.  By doing so we can become the person we truly desire to be.

Footnote: On the day I started writing this blog, Mary Oliver died.  I love her poetry and am very connected with nature.  I feel a tremendous loss as, I’m sure, many of you do. That day my husband sent me the following piece written by Mary Oliver.  Please read it.  It is beautiful as always and applies to any creative endeavor.

https://voxpopulisphere.com/2016/10/23/mary-oliver-the-artists-task/

 

 

 

 

 

MORE THAN MOTHER’S DAY

“Look deep into Nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein

What does Nature mean to you?  Is it part of your spiritual life?  What has it taught you?

This year Mother’s Day fell on a Sunday.  Knowing that would be the sermon topic at church that day, I decided to spend the morning with the only mother I still have, Mother Nature.  I was longing to be with her after days of torrential rains, and it was unlikely to rain that morning, so I headed to Beaver Dam Lake and the Bird Sanctuary to meditate.

It was lovely.  A gentle breeze blew through the warm air and caressed me.  My soul opened letting the concerns of the day drop away. I started walking through the Bird Sanctuary at one end of the lake and followed a rough path around a small pond where I used to see beautiful egrets balancing on one leg. I was startled.  Something had changed.  The pond was perfectly still and covered with scum and debris.  Just beyond it, the lake it fed into sparked blue and green in the morning light.  “How strange, “I thought, “they usually take excellent care of this place.”

As the path led away from the pond, I followed it along the far side of the lake, and after a while, realized I was on an old path.  The new path was above me.  “Oh well,” I decided, “if this ends and I have to back-track, that’s okay. All I care about is being here.”

Finding a Higher Path

Eventually the path ended in a pile of logs, but as soon as I stepped over them, I was on the higher main path.  Not having been to this side of the lake in a couple of years, I realized I was already a long way from where I started.  Something was different.  The lake seemed larger and I couldn’t see the bridge across the end of the lake.  Did they move it?  Had it been near where the boats were docked?  I couldn’t remember.

Before long, the path moved out from under the trees, and as the sunlight flooded over me, I felt such a joy being in nature.  But again, I was confused as I walked down the street because it took me further than before past houses that I had never seen.  The path below the houses’ backyards that bordered the lake at this end had always been private, but now a dirt path led from the street to the path along the water.  It appeared to be public, so while I followed it to be closer to the water, I also felt a bit like a trespasser.  Besides, at this point I felt adventurous and was beginning to enjoy Mother Nature’s surprises.

The path wound around the lake bringing me to the bridge I had imagined was closer to the Sanctuary.  I stopped and took in the immense beauty of the lake, shining clean and bright in the morning light.  I smiled, delighted that what I thought would be a routine hike had been a bit of an adventure.

The Other Side

The walkway leading back to the parking lot and Bird Sanctuary was clearer and more formal, winding around the side of the lake near the street where traffic noise invaded the silent beauty of nature.  By the time I reached the Bird Sanctuary, I was sweating and thankful for the cooling shade of the trees.  Resting at one of the overlooks on the water I could see the full view of the lake.

A young boy with his parents were there, insistent that he could climb a tree with only vertical branches.  Wedging his feet against opposite branches, he made some progress, but eventually gave up. As I turned to leave, a woman I knew who was a nature lover and birder appeared and we shared stories for a few minutes.  Then she went her way and I walked in the opposite direction to my favorite ancient tree. I hugged it as I always do, then sat on the nearby bench scanning the water-filled cove for ducks or turtles. A Tiger Swallowtail flitted around the cove and what may have been a Monarch butterfly surveyed the area.

We Are All One

Another mother with a young boy appeared on the path and she and I visited as the boy climbed the ancient tree whose branches were perfectly placed for climbing.  At a limb half-way up, the boy settled in.

“Aren’t you going further?” his mother asked surprised.

“No,” he replied smiling.  “I’m good.”

The mother looked at me as if to say, “that’s a first.”  Then she asked me, “Are you a mother?”

“No, I’m not.” I replied.

She continued, “Do you have a mother who is still alive?”

“No, I don’t.”

By this time the boy had come down from the tree.  “Well, Happy Sunday then,” she said smiling as they turned to continue down the path.

Until the woman posed her questions, I had forgotten it was Mother’s Day.  When I’m with Mother Nature, all of life, past and present, is One.  While I miss my mother and grandmother, they have been gone a long time and without them, it made perfect sense to be with the only other mother I still have.

All Is Well

After a while, I returned to the entrance of the Sanctuary and discovered why the small pond there was such a mess.  There was a sign explaining that it was an ecofilter wetland.  In other words, it was the place where the water coming from the stream that fed the lake was cleansed, filtering out toxins naturally so only clean water could feed the lake.  “Brilliant!” I thought, greatly relieved that the area was not being neglected.

As I turned toward the parking lot nearby, my phone rang and it was my husband letting me know he was heading home from church.  The timing was perfect.  Filled with happiness and peace, I took one last look at the sanctuary – the perfect place for me that morning, as well as for the birds.

© 2018 Georganne Spruce

Where is your perfect place?

Related Articles:  AWAKENING TO WILDNESS, ONE WITH NATURE, Part 2

DANCING WITH NATURE’S CYCLES,

AWAKENING TO ACT WITH COMPASSION

THIS POST APPEARS ON BARBARA FRANKEN’S BLOG SITE, ME MY MAGNIFICENT SELF.  PLEASE VISIT THE SITE TO READ MY POST AND CONNECT WITH HER WONDERFUL BLOG.  MAY YOU ALL FIND COMPASSION IN YOURSELVES AND OTHERS.