Out of all the notebooks I've amassed over 20-odd years of writing practice, only two qualified--I'm not sure how, exactly--for the transatlantic journey. With my time abroad drawing to an end, this column calling for new text, and the notebooks having sat essentially untouched over all these months, today I thought it high time to look into them. It was back in August, I think, that I had put a page marker in one of the two notebooks, a note: "Return to these around 10/08." Well, this isn't 10/08. It's almost April, '09, yet apparently today is the day.
At times like these I am reminded of the rhythm of things. I realize it wasn't procrastination at all at work but the grace of perfect timing that caused my delay. It is two years ago tomorrow that my father concluded his earthly passage, and so he is on my mind. Today I am disposed in mind and heart to complete the lines about a visit with him that I had drafted in the year before his death, before we knew of his cancer. It pleases me now to resuscitate them--and him, for a time, by way of them.My father is a tamer bear at 79 going on 80: long retired and slowing down more each year. Yet, no doubt in part due to some regret at having missed so many of those years--blowing like a hurricane, or sleeping, through them--my father came with us for lunch at the Blues Diner last Friday.It is deep winter: February. The sun is strong, but the day still cold. My mother tells me, "But he can't refuse his daughter." She has been trying to induce activity in him, to get him up and out of his easy chair to tear him away from his crosswords, with little success. And indeed: he doesn't refuse his daughter, though I have not asked directly for him. We lunch--he on fried scallops, me on a fat reuben, and my mother on a full-course turkey dinner.
By the time we leave the restaurant, we are well sated, and lulled too by the good and steady heat in the Diner. It feels colder outside than before. Maybe that's why we indulged my mother when she beckoned us into her bank to add Dad as a signatory on one of her accounts. Only now does this strike me as symbolic. At 79, Dad is fully forgiven, it seems by himself? by us? and so can be fully accepted now into the fold. I sign the card approving his joint ownership of this account I had no prior knowledge of, though I've shared it in name with my mother for some time.
We finish our bank business and return to the sidewalk, to make our way in the sun and harsh wind back to the car. At the corner, I turn and there, along with the red spots on my father's face where he'd picked a scab or two, is a smudge of ketchup. It couldn't have been longer than 30 seconds before my mind landed in a peaceful place of, in a word, "fine": I was fine, and he was fine. My father, full of scallops and ketchup and fries, was walking in his puffy green parka and "good" gray khakis back to our car. He'd lunched with us. Banked with us. And he was now walking on a cold, bright Melrose sidewalk, beside me--or almost so--with ketchup on his chin. Of course the bank clerk must have seen it. But no matter. The smudge was no reflection on him, no reflection on me. My father had lunched with us. He is alive, he walked with us, he still breathes, his breath sweeter these days, and that is that. I was not embarrassed for him or for myself. There was nothing that needed to be said or done. I turned from him and kept walking. He kept walking. I felt something like a smile inside.
The moon is two days beyond full and flat on one edge. None of us thinks there's a problem with that; it's just the way it is. The moon is dark on one edge, but otherwise full. The ketchup was like that. He would likely never know. He'd scratch his face or sneeze heartily later and wipe it away, no better or worse for it.
I see this as wealth, as a wealthy moment. Wealthy in the same way that those moments--days, weeks, years--of my youth spent hating or embarrassed by my father were, I see now, impoverished moments. I am rich in this "fine" place, where ketchup is ketchup and a chin is a chin, and when the two meet, it does not call for correction. It was just as if I had looked over and noticed my father's gloves were brown, and then registering this-- informed but unchanged by this--I kept walking.
My friend was appalled when I shared the moment with her later."You didn't tell him!?"
She'd have told him, so he could wipe it off, she said.I felt at a loss to explain to her how there was simply nothing wrong, nothing to fix or change.
I still feel at a loss to explain it more than three years hence. I was neither embarrassed for better or worse, this is my father nor prideful hear ye: this is my father who can wear ketchup without shame. Not the smudge itself, but the hurriedly cleaning his face or asking him to do so: that would have been the insult, in fact.
All I know is that my father did not refuse his daughter. He came out to lunch for once in a very blue moon. He ate his lunch, then walked to the car with ketchup on his chin, and it didn't matter. What really mattered mattered. And it still sparkles, priceless gem that it was, that it is.
What Financial Crisis?
It's one thing I never expected would come of living life more and more "in the flow," listening for versus deciding my way, following nudges and intuitions. But here it is just the same, what I will call--what feels like--becoming Love. I am, of course, already Love; I don't have to become it. But there is a definite phenomenon occurring here in my cells and in my days.For years I have been teaching, among other things, that what one focuses upon grows, multiplies. In my Tao of Journaling classes, we dissect this claim, break it down to its component parts, so it can be fully appreciated as inevitable.Last fall I spent four days in Cassis, and part of that time hiking les Calanques. Tucked into cove after cove of this deeply undulated coast of limestone are marinas, moorings for yacht after yacht after yacht. They sat there untouched, most of them: tranquil and comely adornments to the teal-colored waters. My overriding thought upon seeing them I immediately spoke aloud: "I don't see any financial crisis here!" I asked my partner, "Do you see any financial crisis here?"-- rhetorically, of course.I understand that in the eyes of many, the world is falling apart at the seams, at least as far as economics is concerned. Lehman Brothers, AIG, banks closing, corporations folding, layoffs as far as the eye can see. Prices are up, stocks are down. We are experiencing downturns worldwide the likes of which we haven't known in decades, if ever. Yet I still don't see any financial crisis here.Something is afoot for sure. These plunges in value, these closings and parings down are real, a known fact. But what is happening really? Is this a problem or a perfection? Is this a catastrophe or a correction? The latter, of course. Imbalances are being leveled out, is all, and through it all, there is still plenty of money. Or, to be more precise, there is plenty. There has always been plenty, and there will always be plenty."Mine" and "yours" is at bottom an illusion, a false distinction. Imagine the bay telling the open ocean, "Mine, mine, mine: this is my water, and you can't have any!" It's a ridiculous thought. Yet how many of us live this way?I see evidence of rearrangement everywhere, but I cannot find true scarcity anywhere. And I suppose that's where "becoming Love" comes in.Whatever it is I claim to lack is but something I have alienated from myself. More and more these days, I find I am living the fact of my inalienability from Love, that which I am. More and more, I live Love as my substance, as a given. Rather than reaching for Love as an ideal or a place or ultimate state to attain, holding it out and apart, I relax into.... No. I don't even have to relax into it, any more than I have to relax into being a brunette. My hair is brown, and that's that. I don't have to think about it. I am Polish-American: I don't have to think about it. And as for Love, I am that: I don't have to think about it. I am prospered, full of life and healthy--wealthy in all ways--because I AM abundance itself.Never has it been more clear to me how completely our lives are the product of our consciousness. I find no evidence of lack in my life, surely because I don't believe in lack. Because lack makes no logical sense to me. I find none because I have stopped looking for it.In another time, I would pray to angels or God or whoever would listen, and usually unsuccessfully, because I prayed the kind of prayer one makes when doubtful, when unconvinced that anyone is listening. I had it all wrong. I thought there was something to get. Something that I didn't have that someone or something else had. Inherent in my prayers was the assumption that I had no power over, no capacity to solve my situation. Now, I understand.Prayer is not beseeching. It is not wishing, it is not entreating--at least not effective prayer. Effective prayer is distinguishing, informing the ever outpouring All, the ceaseless flow of Abundance Itself where to point Its spout. Effective prayer is providing a muffin cup for the mix. It's saying, "OK, batter, let's make a muffin!" while putting out a cup and knowing there is batter and that it will pour when we ask with confidence. We don't even have to say "please."I do believe--wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles--that I have stopped doubting. I have amassed way too much proof of "flow" by now to legitimately maintain doubt. It has taken me seemingly forever to get this. Holding out my muffin cup while insisting "There's not enough batter! I'm sure there's not enough batter!" does not constitute a request to pour, so pour It does not. It has also taken awhile to get that when I say, "There's no financial crisis," and my neighbor laments his financial crisis in progress, we are both stating facts. We are both right.I do still forget. I forget to say, "OK, muffin batter," or "OK, this," whatever the 'this' may be. I resume my old habit of forgetting I Am That, forgetting that I am not separate from that which I want, forgetting that I already have it given that I am it.A recent lapse in my knowing what I know had me creating all sorts of drama and difficulty at Immigration for my return to Ireland last fall. I was putting out my muffin cup and asking that it be filled with trouble--until I caught myself. I remembered that it would go however I said it would go. So I chose to make it smooth. I decided I would enter on Angels' wings, and that's precisely what happened.I am getting better at remembering to ask. Just after returning to Dublin, I put out my muffin cup and asked for "lots of euros." Three days later, eight 50-euro notes were left for me on my living room table.There is plenty, ready for the asking. So say I, anyway. What do you say? Financial crisis, or none?It's your call.
Love Love and More Love
Last Fall, I instituted the monthly "Love Hug" on Love's Freeway, an acknow-
ledgment of some person, place, or event in the world that strikes me as inspiring evidence of Love having Its ever-loving way. This month, I am prompted to share three.You may remember Tarra and Bella whom I wrote about in January. Well, not to be outdone, this feline and fawn pair have been making their way around cyberspace, threatening to kill us dead with their inarguable sweetness and cuteness! As with Tarra and Bella, this pair's uncommon friendship stands as living proof that Love comes in all shapes and sizes, and is no respecter of boundaries we might impose upon It.A big hug and hearty thanks go out to Freeway reader Jill Sady for her photo submission, and to the Portland, ME merchant who used his storefront window to raise the Love vibration one-foot block letter by one-foot block letter.And I just learned about Earth Hour 2009, a voluntary blackout that thousands (millions?) worldwide will stage on Saturday, March 28 between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. More than 1,189 cities and towns across 80 countries have signed on to plunge the Earth into darkness, an hour at a time, time zone by time zone, in the name of...well, I say, Light. Or in other words, Love. Hugs to every last one who has or will have a hand in this extraordinary event, this great big Love hug for the planet!
A life in service to Love: it doesn't get any better than that, in my estimation. Sometimes I am nearly overwhelmed with gratitude for my work, for having fashioned a faceted livelihood--each aspect in service to Love--that perfectly suits me, enlivens and abundantly gratifies me. I can't imagine a better feeling than that borne of knowing one has found a fitting place in the world. I am fortunate, to say the least.I remember--it's seven years ago now--a special forum for Executive Directors of non profits that I was invited to attend. At the time, I was spearheading The BeLoved Project, which I'd conceived as a vehicle for keeping love and joyful living alive and circulating at a time in life when it tends to do otherwise. "Unstoppable Love" was the Project's possibility, its intended contribution. Partway into the forum, we were asked to each stand in turn and make a short introduction of ourselves and our organization. I was a bit nervous to share about mine. My infant endeavor seemed so unsubstantial and unofficial compared to those represented in the room. Yet as I spoke, it seemed I was being well received. At break time, a woman approached me directly:"You're so lucky," she said. "When you appeal for funding [and such], you get to say your cause is Love. Not cancer or affordable housing or whatever. It's so much more upbeat. Who wouldn't want to support Love?"Indeed, all along the way of the BeLoved Project--a predecessor of Love's Freeway--the road was paved in Yesses. The woman was right: Love has an energy. Just as cancer has an energy, and crime has an energy, and domestic violence has an energy. A wonderful thing about that Project which is also true of Love's Freeway is that one couldn't genuinely engage in it without dwelling in Love energy. To offer the possibility of unstoppable Love to my community, I had to be unstoppable Love. What a grace and a gift that was, especially at a time when it felt as though the free flow of Love in my personal life had come to a crashing halt.I received an email from the wife of a former writing student last week. Her husband wrote steadily for several years after our first course together, and has produced over 350 pages of memoir. He's been stuck more recently, however--not sure of how to arrange it all--and she wanted to give him coaching sessions with me as an anniversary gift to get him going again.It warms me through and through when I receive such a request. Talk about Love in motion! A man has, clearly, a passion. He's gotten stuck in expressing it. What is it if not Love that moves his life partner to intervene, to give lift to his wings. He feels truly loved by her gesture. And I have the privilege of using my skills and capacities to set his passion free again. It's all Love: the gift is Love, the service is Love, and the passion is Love. We three have conspired to give Love Its way. How gorgeous is that!?
And so it is with Claritywork. A woman attracts only inappropriate men, and doesn't know why. In our session together, we investigate this phenomenon, dig to its root, and pull it out! Now this strikingly beautiful, intelligent, perfectly lovely woman feels free--is free--to draw the sort of man she dreams about into her midst. Here again, with the blockage removed, Love can have Its way. What a beautiful thing!
It is certainly no secret that I have a passion for Love getting Its way, and I am exceedingly grateful every time I have the opportunity to facilitate that, no matter the context. For so many others, a "Love agenda" is less obvious perhaps, but no less dominant. Implicitly or explicitly--from the staff nurse, the filmmaker, the custodian who befriends a shy boy in grade school, to the devoted parent, the cheerful cabbie, the doting restauranteur--Love is truly, thankfully, palpably everywhere present, driving countless endeavors. And I for one couldn't be happier about that.
Note: "Attentive Owl" sculpture by Gyr Penn