We don't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actionsaffect other people's hearts.
Our life's work is to use what we have been given to wake up. If there were two people exactly the same-same body, same speech, same mind, same mother, same father, same house, same food, everything the same- one of them could use what he has to wake up and the other could use it to become more resentful, bitter, and sour. It doesn't matter what you are given, whether it's a physical deformity orenormous wealth or poverty, beauty or ugliness, mental stability or mental instability,life in the middle of a mad house or life in the middle of a peaceful silent desert. Whatever you're given can wake you up or put you to sleep. That's the challenge of now: what are you going to do with what you have already - your body, your speech, your mind?
May we all learn that pain is not the end of the journey,and neither is delight. We can hold them both - indeed hold it all - at the same time, remembering that everything in these quixotic, unpredictable, unsettled and unsettling, exhilarating and heart-stirring times is a doorwayto awakening in our sacred world.
Our mother, my twin John, and myself in front of our first home, 1953
Our family at home, Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, 1967
With our sons vacationing in Banff, Alberta Canada, 1997
Ron and me and all our beautiful "kids" today at our Vancouver, Washington home, September 2012 This is dedicated to my brother, John, to my parents, and to my family today. And this is dedicated to the Mystery, Grace, Wisdom, and Love that moves through each of usto teach, heal, transform, and awaken.
Sometimes what feels like a traumatic and disturbing event
ends up being the precise medicine that changes everything....
It was 8:37pm on Tuesday, February 8th, 1983. We had pulled over and were sitting in the car before parting ways for the night. I do not even remember where my close friend and I had gone out to beforehand. What I do remember is looking at the clock right after Ann broke the silence and spoke the words she courageously chose to share: "Molly, Jim is an alcoholic." ... My husband an alcoholic?! That can't be... I don't even know any alcoholics! Or so went my thinking at that time. Yet it is these words and this moment in 1983 that will always be frozen in time for me. That was when the bottom of the world as I had known it began to collapse under me. It was a world that needed to go.
Despite all my resistance and fear, a doorway cracked open that night 30 years ago. And everything changed. I have this immense gratitude for the grace that has flowed through my life which has pushed me again and again to move forward, even though the voices inside screamed to run in the opposite direction. This uncertainty and confusion and deep need to know, to take the next step before me, could not be silenced. Everything was not all under control! Damn!! Then, in 1984, and with over a year of Al-Anon and two treatment programs for family and friends of alcoholic/addicts under my belt, I had come to this place where I knew I was either crazy or I was an alcoholic. It may not just be all those other people out there who had the problem! A counselor in one of the family treatment programs even had the supreme audacity to look right at me and say, "Molly, well people don't marry sick people." While I remained composed, inwardly I seethed. I also could not shake her words, which I am again immensely grateful for today.
What followed was an overwhelming moment of desperation. Somehow I picked up the phone and made an appointment at the local chemical dependency treatment center and the next thing I knew I was sitting in front of this man who was assessing me and asking questions like, "Molly, what does an alcoholic look like?" And what blurted out of my mouth was, "Sure as hell NOT like me!" How terrifying to experience those outwardly pointing fingers begin to shift direction and come around instead to focus on me. What began with a question about my former husband set me on a course of exploration that led me 16 months later to fall through the church floor of the Al-Anon meeting into the basement AA meeting below.
The doorway of addiction was just one of many which would follow. I had caught hold of the thread of my life and was no longer drifting beside the path I came here to walk. I was rooting into my spiritual journey and what I came here to be and to do. Again and again, deeper and deeper, I was embracing and healing my broken heart and the wounds, obstacles, false stories and belief systems that kept me stuck and separate from my true nature and the Sacred within myself and all beings. I was also doing this work not only for myself, but for my children, my twin, my parents, and all the ancestors and the generations yet unborn. Today I also recognize that journeying this pathway into the heart is something that benefits all beings. Over the years, synchronicity and grace and miracles emerged again and again with each new layer, each new curiosity, each new "growth spurt", each experience of pinching my nose and jumping into the unknown of some important lesson and gift just waiting to be discovered. The suicide of my twin, the sudden death of my father and severe mental illness of my mother, the addictions and co-dependency, the struggles of my children and learning to be the mother they need, the divorce, 9-11 -- all this and more became transformed into a key part of my awakening. And as I moved again and again into this darkness, confusion, trauma, pain, and loss, everything continued to change. Amazing mentors and healers and teachers and soulful friends emerged. As did joy, beauty, laughter from my belly, and deep, deep love.
And today I get to have the family I did not have while growing up. Out of the frozen and starving desert of my childhood, and all the materialism and image management that fronted for love, today I get to know and experience in my deepest being what truly matters. And I embrace the abundance of blessing and riches which permeate my life and that of my family today not just for myself, but also for my brother, father, and mother who never found their way out of their pain and suffering. They never truly knew Love. They never discovered the truth of the essence of who they are and the Oneness which connects all.
And so today I live, I love, I laugh, I open more deeply with each year I am alive and I know this great gift I have been given - this great gift of knowing the beauty of my true nature, and yours - is not just for me. That we each work to awaken is a gift that blesses all beings.
The period of greatest gainin knowledge and experience is
the most difficult period of one's life. ~ The Dalai Lama
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the
barriers within yourself that you have builtagainst it. ~ Rumi
Action creates its own courage and courage is as contagious as fear.
You must do the thing youthink you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Everything we think, feel, and do has an effect on our ancestors and all
future generations and reverberatesthroughout the Universe.
It comes to me again to post Wild Geese, which is among my favorites by Mary Oliver. Tonight while walking along the beautiful Columbia River with Ron and our two retrievers, this poem came to me as we were twice greeted by huge throngs of geese. First would come the distant sound, then coming closer and closer, stopping us in our tracks as we became mesmerized with the sight and sound of the wild beauty that permeated our bodies and hearts and spirits, reminding us of the Wildness within ourselves and all of life. And I felt my despair, despair and grief for my mother and myself... It is hard to find the words to describe what it is like to see my aging and ill mother this past Tuesday for the first time in nearly 15 years, ... then to not have her remember the next day how we had hugged and cried as we embraced just hours earlier. Now it isn't just the mental illness separating us. There is also the illness that is devouring her memory. And there is the son of my mother's deceased third husband whose illness is greed, and whose retirement plan is my inheritance and that of my children. At every turn, there he is blocking me with his intention to crush any threat and cling to what he believes is rightfully his, my mother and me be damned.... Meanwhile the beautiful geese continue their wild song. And I remember my warrior self and that I am strong and fierce and grounded in intention and prayers that the highest good prevail. As I listen and open, I am able to reconnect with love and gratitude and tenderness for the suffering of us all. And the joy and great gifts of being invited again and again and again to remember our place in the family of things. Blessed be.... Molly
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -- over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
Discovering and living in balance in an increasingly expansive way is not easy. It takes courage, humility, intention, support, vulnerability, rooting into the Sacred, and so much more. This process of opening to the beauty, wisdom, compassion and peace of our true nature is often not easily discovered - even though it is ever present. First many of us find ourselves blindly traveling on painful paths that become deadends... again and again and again. So often the peacefulness, love, and connection we yearn for remains illusive.
I certainly did not know that the peace I was desperately seeking outside of myself was to be foundwithin. And in the experience of interbeing. Then, in the earlier years of my healing and awakening, I was given the gift of this metaphor: I was to visualize that the peace I/we yearn for is like the stillness of the deep sea. While great storms arise, the turbulence of the surface does not disturb the quiet depths. This great stillness within is always there for us....
I had hoped to be two years, in and out (of 12 Step Programs, therapy, grief work, etc.), then done, fini, graduated and living happily ever after. Of course, there was no magic, no way to snap out of all that I carried inside and teleport myself into an awakened being living in blissed out wonderfulness. There was no fast track to enlightenment, no special prayer tht could suddenly get rid of all that I had wanted to shed. Quickly. No, instead there has been this life, death, rebirth process of gradually lifting the veils of my distortions, my wounds, my fears and losses, and going deeper to embracewhat scared me and what I had been denying and neglecting for decades.
Certainly, I needed to learn about forgiveness, which I had been confusing with denial. I was gifted with this anonymous quote 25 years ago:
"Forgiveness does not change the past. It does not make what happened a non-event. It doesn't erase something that has been done. Forgiveness is an offer to reestablish a broken relationship. It says that loving is more important than nursing a wrong. It doesn't correct the past, but it does give back the future. It permits restoration of relationship."
Of course, what I learned is that the primary relationship that first needed to be restored was the one with myself. I had gotten so lost, I had become so much the stranger to my own being. And I certainly knew very little about forgiveness, and even less how the journey through the doorway of my tears would lead me beyond forgiveness to compassion, understanding, and love.
Miracles happen. Somewhere on this amazing journey, as I awakened to remember more and more pieces of a much larger story, so much began to be transformed, deeply,and continues to be. At some point I crossed over a line and there simply was no going back. Ever.The pull to go back to the darkness of my ignorance, judgments, addictions, unhealed wounds, and disconnect from myself and others has been replaced with this passionate gratitude and joy of living a rich, full life. Right down there in the thick of things, I found the love that will not die.
The Love That Will Not Die
awakening is frequently described
a journey to the top of a mountain.
leave our attachments and our worldliness
and slowly make our way to the top.
the peak we have transcended all pain.
only problem with this metaphor is
we leave all the others behind --
drunken brother, our schizophrenic sister,
tormented animals and friends.
suffering continues, unrelieved
our personal escape.
the process of discovering our true nature,
journey goes down, not up.
as if the mountain pointed toward the
of the earth instead of reaching into the sky.
of transcending the suffering of all creatures,
move toward the turbulence and doubt.
jump into it. We slide into it. We tiptoe into it.
move toward it however we can.
explore the reality and unpredictability
insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away.