What Really Matters

Rock cairns at Hendry’s Beach, Santa Barbara

I know I’m not alone when I say that every day seems like the last. Covid-19 has kept me confined to my home with occasional outings to walk my dog, forays to the local market, masked and gloved, and lots of time spent in my home office attending Zoom meetings.

I began complaining that it seemed like Groundhog Day so last Sunday, just for fun, I decided to stay home, of course, and watch Bill Murray’s 1993 movie, Groundhog Day. A fun diversion, certainly, but a diversion that kept my attention with important messages about the human condition.

If you haven’t seen the movie, Bill Murray plays a smug and selfish weatherman, Phil, who is tired of his job at the local TV station, imagining himself a national celebrity. He is sent to cover the annual Punxsutawney Groundhog Day event which he considers annoying and beneath him and he makes no effort to hide his disdain. The crew is stranded there because of a snow storm and when he wakes up the next day he discovers that it’s Groundhog Day again, again and again. As each day repeats itself, Phil realizes that he is doomed to spend the rest of his life there, seeing the same people doing the same thing every day. As the plot progresses, he tries to control and manipulate the situation to his advantage, using and abusing everyone around him. When none of this behavior changes anything, Phil finally decides to let go, to relax and to accept what he cannot change.

Isn’t this where we all are right now? We are part of a global pandemic and we can’t change this. All we can do is to accept this and follow the protocols that will ensure our safety and the safety of others. Railing against this will only make my life miserable and will take me away from seeing what really matters. Does it matter that my long-planned-for garage renovation project has been put on hold? Sure, I’m annoyed, but what can I do? My health, my partner’s health and the health of everyone around me matters more.

My project will be completed someday, so for now I’m focusing on what’s going on right now. It’s Spring and everything is in beautiful bloom. I’ve planted seeds in my vegetable garden and can already see little sprouts emerging for what will become a lovely salad. I’m noticing many little birds, enjoying a bird bath, completely unaware of this pandemic. And, I’m engaged in the process of change.

I’ve accepted the reality and I’m discovering the world of on-line, virtual connection and I’m summoning up the courage to face my fear of cyber-space! I had planned to present a workshop titled, The Spirituality of Change, and it was to have been held on March 28th. Of course, I had to cancel the event and I planned to present the workshop another day – but when and how long to wait? Just yesterday, I had an on-line Zoom appointment with my coach and found myself agreeing to diving into the deep end by doing the workshop on-line. Okay, I’ve made the commitment to face my fear and to let go of my need to stubbornly stick with what I know, so now, I have to find a bit more courage to get into action, to prepare, to learn how to use this format and to focus on what matters.

I’ll stay in touch and let you all know how everything is progressing, but, for now, I’m going to engage in some deep change, stay in the present, and practice what I preach!

We Are All in This Together





Recently, I received a newsletter from Marjorie Schuman, Ph.D., with some insightful reflections on existential shock.  This is what we are all experiencing right now as COVID-19 has caused everything to change, upending our world and our lives.

In her newsletter, Dr. Schuman says, “I see that existential shock arises as a consequence of being dislodged from the ongoing-ness of life.  We are psychologically reliant on what feels ordinary and routine, on the structures of meaning that define our lived experience.  When this structure suddenly changes, our felt sense of the continuity of being is disrupted.  And because, as the famed psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott was the first to emphasize, going-on-being is the subjective center of our human world, interruptions in our experience of going-on-being are traumatic.”  Dr Schuman continues by saying, “The existential impact of such an experience can be profound.  Crisis can be an important threshold experience and a portal to personal transformation.  It poses an existential challenge:  will we be broken down and defeated by our reactivity and resistance to change, or will we be broken open and transformed.?”

Two years ago, well before the existential shock of COVID-19, I experienced a traumatic disruption in my subjective world.  A job that I loved ended in a way that challenged my identity and feelings of self-worth.  I was shaken to my core and the old feelings of self-loathing and just plain not being good enough rushed back with a vengeance.  I was experiencing an extreme existential crisis.  As Dr. Schuman says, I stood at the thresholds of either personal collapse or transformational change.

With the help of others and knowing that I’d successfully weathered many other life crises, I chose the portal of transformational change and today, I can see clearly that my heart broke open.  I went back to school, earning a Masters’ Degree in Psychology, became a Certified Life Coach and now I’m working with others who are navigating the change process in their lives.

Today, COVD-19 is forcing us all to take a break, to reevaluate, to appreciate what matters and to be present to what is instead of railing against the things we cannot change.

I’ll end with a poem that Dr. Schuman included in her newsletter and that has been making the rounds on the internet:

“LOCKDOWN”

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.

But,

They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise, you can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet, the sky is no longer thick with fumes,
but blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi, people are singing to each other across the
empty squares.
Keeping their windows open so that those who are alone may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman is busy spreading fliers with her number through the neighborhood, so that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting. All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way, with empathy and compassion. All over the world people are waking up to a new reality – To how big we really are. To how little control we really have. To what really matters. To love.   So we pray and we remember that – Yes there is fear.  But there does not have to be hate. Yes there is isolation.  But there does not have to be loneliness. Yes there is panic buying.  But there does not have to be selfishness. Yes there is sickness.  But there does not have to be disease of the soul. Yes there is even death.  But there can always be a rebirth of love. Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now. Today, breathe. Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic.

The birds are singing again, the sky is clearing, spring is coming.  And we are always encompassed by love.

Open the windows of your soul. And though you may not be able to touch across the empty square, Sing.  

– From Richard Hendrick (Brother Richard) in Ireland, March 13, 2020

Like it or not – Change

Covid-19 is here and we are all being forced to change.  My reactions have been changing, too.  At first, I was dismissive, then annoyed, then worried, then I felt neutral followed with resignation and acceptance.  I indefinitely postponed a workshop that I’ve been working on for a long time and felt relieved. I suddenly had free time and no performance anxiety.  Now with reality sinking in, I find myself feeling as if I’m on the precipice of change.  The trajectory of my new career did not include a pandemic – this wasn’t supposed to happen, right?  But, it did and now I have a choice – I can sit in paralysis or I can move into the new flow.  For me, this means that I have to get comfortable with the virtual world of platforms such as Zoom.  I have to walk through the fear of these new technologies believing that I can learn how to successfully and proficiently navigate these waters.

When I was doing my prep work for my workshop, I was directed to the graphic design site, Canva, and created the poster that is included in this post.  I had planned to use this as a visual aid outlining the six steps that lead to successful change.  So now, I’m going to practice what I preach.  I’ve moved through the steps of awareness and discovery and find myself in an awakening – I’m becoming willing to be willing to learn something new and to let go of my fears of the unknown. 

I’ll keep you posted, sharing what I learn, accepting tutorials and assistance of any kind and together we can weather this storm.

Take care, be healthy, practice safe social distancing and wash your hands.

Making Space and Finding Joy

I went to church today and the sermon was about letting go of things and ideas that we no longer need or no longer serve us. On the back of the Order of Service I found these quotes that I’d like to share:

Anything I cannot transform into something marvelous, I let go. – Anais Nin

I realize there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go. – Jeffrey McDaniel

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar. – Raymond Lindquist

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. – Charles Darwin

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. – Havelock Ellis

The mental and physical space we create by letting go of things that belong in our past gives usthe option to fill the space with something new. – Susan Fay West

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need. – Tao TeChing

You’ve got to make a conscious choice every day to shed the old – whatever “the old” means for you. – Sarah Ban Breathnach

Reflections on the Event, “Experience the Labyrinth.”

Yesterday, September 21st, the Fall Equinox, 25 people came to an event I put on titled Experience the Labyrinth.  The purpose of the event was twofold – first, as a community offering for my graduate Practicum class at Antioch University and, second, as one of the steps that I need to take to become a Certified Labyrinth Facilitator.

I’d been planning and preparing for this event for at least 3 months.  Sandra Mistretta, MA, LMFT, Clinical Director of Casa Serena, Adjunct Professor at Antioch and my practicum supervisor helped me throughout with her savvy skills in online technology and social media sites not to mention, moral support. Finally, the day arrived and with lots of nervous energy, I went to Antioch to begin setting up.  My much appreciated helpers, Eric and Patrick, came to literally move tables and chairs out of Community Hall so we could spread out my brand new, 24’ canvas labyrinth.  It filled the room. When I backed up to look at it, I noticed how the energy in the room had changed.  The room no longer felt utilitarian – a spiritual quality seemed to be emerging.  With table cloths, flowers, low light, candles and lovely music, the mood was set.

Before the walk, in another room, I told the story of my first labyrinth walk, showed a polished Power Point presentation about the history and meaning of the labyrinth and then facilitated the walk. We all processed the walk afterwards, and soon, it was over. 

Just like life, we are always in a stage of beginnings and endings.  I have learned that I can’t move through life alone.  I need help along the way and I’m grateful to have learned how to ask for help, thankfully realizing that these connections create spiritual experiences.  

I’ll end this post with a quote from the Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress: “Walking the labyrinth clears the mind and gives insight into the spiritual journey.  It urges action.  It calms people in the throes of life transitions.  It helps them see their lives in the context of a path, a pilgrimage.  They realize that they are not human beings on a spiritual path, but spiritual beings on a human path.”

Blessings….. 

My Labyrinth Experience

Twelve years ago, when I was in treatment for alcoholism, I attended a workshop on the History and Meaning of the Labyrinth.  This was a half-day workshop organized by the Spiritual Advisor at the treatment center.  I was very depressed at that time and being at the workshop was a requirement, so I was there, in attendance, as I was expected to do.  I assumed, as many people do, that labyrinths and mazes were synonymous and before the workshop began, I was engaging in negative reflections, equating my entire life as being stuck and lost in a maze.  The Facilitator began by explaining the difference between a labyrinth and a maze.  She said that mazes have many entrances and exits, many paths with dead ends and cul de sacs but that labyrinths, although resembling mazes upon cursory observation, have only one path.  In spite of the winding nature of the labyrinth, there is no way to get lost if you follow the path.  When I heard this my interest was piqued and I listened with more interest.   

When our lecture about the history and meaning of labyrinths was finished, we were invited to walk a large labyrinth painted on canvas in an adjacent room.  I cleared my mind and set an intention of just being open-minded as I began my walk.  I found myself reflecting on my life and letting go.  When I reached the center, I was calm and able to receive an intuitive message that my life was not wasted and not a dead end.  The paths I had taken were the ones I needed to travel in order to be at the center of that very labyrinth, right then and there.  I felt the freedom of a release of psychic burdens that I had been carrying for a very long time.  I meditated, mindfully, in the center of the labyrinth and when I felt ready to leave, I experienced a mounting sense of energy, forgiveness and joy.  In the space of two hours, my whole perspective had changed from one of despair to hope.  I had experienced something transformative.

I recently attended a workshop in order to become a Trained Labyrinth Facilitator and the woman leading the workshop was The Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, labyrinth scholar, Episcopalian Priest and Therapist. Dr. Artress is the person most responsible for renewing interest in the labyrinth as a meditative and spiritual tool in 1991. I’m certain that the labyrinth facilitators that put on the workshop that I attended in 2007 were influenced and inspired by Dr. Artress and her work and here I was attending her workshop! I felt as if I had come full circle – from someone in need of the transformative powers of the labyrinth to someone helping others along the way.

…………..

“The labyrinth, in its strange and uncanny way, offers a sacred and stable space to focus the attention and listen to the longing of the soul.”

~Dr. Lauren Artress

Mystery

By Gordon McKeeman, Unitarian Universalist Minister (1920-2013)

How does one address a mystery?

Cautiously – let us go cautiously, then, to the end of our certainty, to the boundary of all we know, to the rim of uncertainty, to the perimeter of the unknown which surrounds us.

Reverently – let us go with a sense of awe, a feeling of approaching the powerful holy whose lightning slashes the sky, whose persistence splits concrete with green sprouts, whose miracles are present in every place and moment.

Hopefully – out of our need for wholeness in our own lives, the reconciliation of mind and heart, the conjunction of reason and passion, the intersection of the timeless with time.

Quietly – for no words will explain the inarticulate or summon the presence that is always present even in our absence.

But what shall I say?

Anything – any anger, any hope, any fear, any joy, any request, any word that comes from the depth of being addressed to Being itself – or, perhaps, nothing, no complaint, no request, no entreaty, no thanksgiving, no praise, no blame, no pretense of knowing or of not knowing.

Simply be in the intimate presence of mystery, unashamed – unadorned – unafraid.

And at the end say – Amen.

FREEDOM FROM ……..

In 2007, as a newly self-identified alcoholic, I often heard the phrase, Freedom from the Bondage of Self.  How could I be in the bondage of self? I believed that I was enslaved only by alcohol.  I simply could not stop on my own, and I knew that once I could stop, all would be well again. At the time I did not understand that my alcohol consumption was only a symptom and that my addiction was the result of causes and conditions far deeper than I could ever imagine.

Physical sobriety came with relative ease and I willingly engaged in the type of self-exploration and analysis that I was told would lead me to the prize – emotional sobriety.  As I looked at my childhood and analyzed all its aspects – nature and nurture – I realized, with a sinking heart, that I had been doomed and fated for alcoholism! I began shaming myself with a vengeance and then began resenting everyone who had a hand in my rearing and ultimately those who were unfortunate enough to live with me.

It was so much easier to blame others for all my fears, insecurities, and my inability to cope with life.  I wouldn’t need to drink if only everyone else would just behave perfectly and have the same sensibilities as me. The thought that I could change the aspects of my nature that kept me feeling powerless, unworthy, incapable, ashamed, fearful, and unable to connect never entered my mind. I was so negatively wrapped up in “self” that I felt paralyzed.  Many of these behaviors and mind-sets were learned, certainly, but I kept them alive and well-nurtured because this was all I knew, and I believed that change was impossible. I felt imprisoned by all these manifestations of “self” and I was able to justify drinking to relieve the pain.

Slowly, and with lots of help, my “bondage of self” began to loosen and I began to change.  I had to practice, write, share, accept, and practice some more, over and over again.  And, I’ve learned, that this will be an ongoing practice for me – one that I consider to be spiritual in nature.  My spirit had been lost to all these varied forms of fear. Now my spirit feels free most of the time. Every now and then, I fall back into this type of negative thinking but, today, I’m able to cope with the challenges life presents me.  I’m able to work through my problems instead of hiding from them and because of this, I feel free!  I feel lighter, brighter, and I can breathe.

To me, this is FREEDOM.

Megan Moyer

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