Wandering through Christianity, Buddhism, and Unity to my current interest of studying the Tao, I long ago exchanged organized religion for a more profoundspirituality. Structured religion gave me a moral and ethical compass for living life. Eastern philosophies expanded my understanding. But, my spirituality deepened after a life altering illness, decades of consciously working in the garden, and a burgeoning sense of gratitude.
“Religion…shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude…in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.”
“…In order to usefully interpret the realm of common, shared experience and history, we must each make certain “over-beliefs” in things which, while they cannot be proven on the basis of experience, help us to live fuller and better lives.” — William James
Discovering this naturally created pulpit and pews on my visit to Scotland this summer was a curious surprise.
Scotland Outdoor Pulpit and Pews
View from an outdoor church in Scotland with natural made pulpit and pews
View of sky, mountains and water from natural outdoor church in Scotland grass in Scotland
I imagined listening to a sermon among these bluest of skies, lush green mountains and clear waters. The pastor wouldn’t have to speak a word.
Blessed with three good weather seasons, I’m most often in the garden — seeding, nurturing, harvesting — plants, but also my thoughts and spirit.
For me, attending church is gliding over morning dew glistened grass to the vegetable patch or flower garden…feeling the warming sun on my skin and a serene sky’s embrace. Hearing “the quiet.” At first. And then the hum of bees, chirping birds, and steady rhythm of high-pitched crickets uniting in choir. Sweet nature gloriously sings a sermon to my soul.
Gardening teaches me so much about living life. Besides providing quiet time to regenerate, and avoid constant interruptions of marketing ploys or messages that can wait, gardening offers opportunities to look more deeply into life.
Stepping into the tomato patch today, I notice some are ripened red, some still green, some are somewhere along the way. Brighter, faster, bigger, smaller, slower — each is on its own natural path. Some are still hanging on, some have fallen, others have reached their potential, or are late bloomers. Each embodies the same components — vine, skin, flesh, seeds, juice — but they are not exactly the same. I do not understand why current culture insists humans must have the same thoughts, feelings, sensitivities, and opinions, that to be one we cannot be unalike.
We are a universe of red, white, brown, tan, black, tall, short, thin, plump beings, with indigenous dialects and languages, who think diverse thoughts, eat different foods, live in disparate climates, etc., etc., etc. Yet the Thought Police want to neutralize our inherent differences, insisting we cannot think independently, that our beliefs, words and opinions must all conform. Consider this:
An unripened tomato is not the same as a ripened one, not in color, size, taste or maturity. Similarly, a beefsteak tomato is not a cocktail tomato or a plum tomato or cherry tomato or tomato of any other name. I cannot force it to be what it is not. Some are blemished, some appear perfect on the surface, some may be rotten inside but I accept and work with each as is.
Instead of denigrating others for being who they are, or demanding an unrealistic homegeneity, a more equitable approach is through mutual respect — something greatly overshadowed anymore by stratospheric sensitivities. Now I am an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) but I honor individuality. Can culture shift its caliginous restraints on our genuine differences?
Over 15,000 varieties of tomatoes exist throughout our world in every shade of red, burgundy, pink, purple, orange, yellow, green, almost black, even streaked and striped. Numerous flavors range from tasty sweet to tart or well-balanced. I think it’s safe to say some prefer one type over another. There is nothing wrong with that. Each has its own comfort zone for thriving, and some are more versatile than others. Distinct qualities are refreshing. As with the human race. I don’t want to have just cherry tomatoes. Do you?
“Have you heard from Maria lately?” I asked another participant in Tai Chi class this week. “I’ve phoned a few times but hadn’t heard back.”
“Oh. I thought I saw something in the newspaper this past weekend. I think Maria passed away.”
I felt stunned. Barely able to concentrate, I wanted to run out of class and check the obituaries. Call another mutual friend.
Before it’s Too Late
Have you ever had a nagging sensation where a person keeps reappearing in your thoughts? Not because you are obsessing over them but feeling a need to contact them, see how they are.
This happened to me last December. My accountant, I knew was battling cancer but this was ongoing for nearly 10 years. Still, he kept reappearing in my mind. I brushed it off, thinking it due to the approaching tax season. He died before the end of January.
The year before, my tailor kept popping into my thoughts. He and his wife were a lovely older couple and when sending them my annual thanks giving greeting I learned he passed away in October.
My friend, Maria, would have been 96 this year. I can still hear our “Oohs” and “Ahs” over the splendor of blooming ornamental trees and giant rhododendrons while driving her around country roads this spring. We planned a similar outing for autumn’s vibrant foliage but…it didn’t come about.
Maria absorbed my thoughts while driving to Tai Chi this week. I planned on phoning her after class that afternoon. Only now am I beginning to understand why Maria occupied my mind. She was buried at 11AM that morning.
intuition/ (in-too-ish–uh n) /noun
knowledge or beliefobtainedneither by reasonnor by perception
instinctiveknowledge or belief
a hunch or unjustifiedbelief
A Voice with Many Names
My yoga teacher’s ability to accurately see from the inside amazes me. Just as the physical body communicates in the only language it knows — a headache, a pain, sleeplessness, an itch — the brain communicates through an inner vision, a nondescript sense of nonconscious emotional information. Derived from deep within, some call these diaphanous sensations a “gut feeling,” “inner voice,” “intuition,” “sixth sense,” “instinctual feeling,” “hunch,” or even God.
The Answers are Deep Within
Struggling to solve problems on my own for years I could not comprehend “the answers are within.” The incessant mental chatter, like current TV commentators, blocked out any truth. And when that sense of knowing withoutreallyknowing did appear, I discredited it as irrational or dismissed it as unfounded fear. I didn’t recognize the guiding light.
I now see that when my inner voice speaks to me, I need to take notice and probably some action. Here’s what I’m doing to develop a more intimate relationship with my inner voice. You can befriend yours too.
5 Tips for Tapping Into Intuition
1. Get quiet. Intuition speaks softly. The answers may be subtle and only heard through quiet. If seeking guidance for a problem, engage in a relaxing activity like meditation, walking, music, or anything to stop the mental chatter. Then close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and ask your sixth sense to dialogue with you.
If I think of my inner voice as shy, it is more easily coaxed to speak up when I am peaceful. I must listen closely. It may be only a whisper. At first.
2. Pay Attention.When ideas, insights and impressions come out of nowhere, grasp them. Be aware that the brain, aka sixth sense, is communicating to you.
3. Respond to Your Inner Voice. When the brain says call or visit this person now, do it. You may not get the chance later.
4. Record Your Gut Feeling.This helps determine the accuracy of that sixth sense once you have chosen to either ignore or act on the insight given.
Logging in my recent experiences makes me less likely to brush off similar future occurrences.
5. Get to Know Your Self. Make friends with your intuition. Develop that bond of trust. Thank it for its accuracy. As you listen and honor your sixth sense, it will become a valuable part of who you are and a useful guide for decision making.
“It’s all about learning to use unconscious information in your brain… Just as people can become more comfortable making decisions when they apply logic and reasoning, they may also become more adept at trusting their intuition when they use it more frequently over time.” — Live Science
Have you experienced a sixth sense? Do you act on it?
Photos of Scotland appear like subdued, opalescent paintings to me. Yet, when viewing these strikingly beautiful landscapes in person, they are just as dream-like.
Visiting Scotland a few weeks ago felt just as surreal in that I was finally fulfilling a lifelong dream…but learned early on that my beloved Ceilidh’s Bess passed. As I explored the western coast to the Isle of Skye then through the northwest Geopark, Scotland’s sweeping misty lens rendered surprising transparency into my own life.
Pay attention to how you feel in any given place. The words came back to me. Is the energy uplifting or downcast? Spirit-filled or draining? Am I feeling joy? Fear?
Wrapped among impassioned layers of enchanted forests and glens, glacier sculpted landscapes, pristine waters, and steep majestic mountains that hold thousands of years of stories untold, my spirit felt at home in the Highlands. Similarly, but on a wee scale, my northeastern American residence is sheltered in a mountainside of woodland lushness and sparking streams. I know now that north is true for me.
Learning about the Scottish Clearances and feeling the feelings of my long ago homeland illuminated my ken. I knew truth stood before me.
In the Clearances, inhabitants were ordered off their land then watched as their houses were burned.
Fighting the natural gas pipeline is my personal, modern day experience of the Clearances. I understand powerlessness when forced against one’s will. I know the heartbreak of loss.
Learning through Grief
I began this post before the untimely loss of my best friend — Bess my beloved 14 1/3 year old border collie. Acceptance soothes my broken heart when acknowledging this will happen to each and everyone of us and everyone we love, that this behest of time is a transformation of life. I continue learning through my loss of Bess…such as doing what I can then letting go, and the power of thought and perspective. I anticipate sharing more from time to time on insights gained through this experience…
“All of life’s experiences are to be either enjoyed or learned from.”
— Alan Cohen
Bess gave me both.
I am curious to know how you process grief. A sage shared this short (18 minute) video with me. Hopefully, you will benefit as well — not just in a time of need.
Familiar with that black and white yin-yang symbol, known in ancient Chinese philosophy as taijitu? Surely you’ve seen dogwood trees gracing the landscape but have you seen their taijitu?
Look closely at the blooms on this glorious tree. Each stunning bract (appearing as one of four flower petals) appears marred like a bruise or singe blemishing its perfect beauty.
The contrasting cleft reminds me of my Qigong instructor’s explanation of the taijitu: “The small dots on each side indicate that life is not perfect; nothing is 100 percent.”
That visual concept widened my black and white perspective to realize nothing is all good or all bad. I became more accepting of life as is. Even to say a perfectly imperfect life is perfect as it is. Hmmm. Seems Mother Nature already knew this. Am I surprised?
Some More Thoughts on the Small Black and White Circles (in Taijitu)…
“Located in the areas of their opposite colors, the small circles show that nothing is absolute. In each of the opposing forces there is a small part of the other. In all yin, there is yang and in all yang, there is yin… In every good, there is a little evil and vice versa. Nothing in the universe or in life is simply black or white. Each exists in the other and each needs the other in order to exist.” from the Complete Guide to Yin Yang Meanings for Life, Work, Home and Balance by Feng Shui Practitioner, Sally Painter.
I love this time of year — one foot stepping away from dismal winter, the other turning toward spring’s pulsating energy and invigorating growth.
Mother Nature turns her pages as weeping cherry blossoms invite sleepy trees to leaf out. Rosettes emerge beneath woody stalks from last year’s Autumn Joy…lifeless looking rosebushes begin to swell…rain purges pollen while transforming blue skies into grey and flourishing winter’s grass resplendent green…alluring buds rouse allergies yet spring’s intoxicating sights and scents are ecstasy to my spirit.
“It feels as though the beginning and the end are intertwined, thus leading to a never-ending cycle. Surely this will not be the end. Just as it can’t be considered the beginning. Just as it can’t be determined where the beginning or the end is.”
Bleeding heartsemerging at this time of year remind me of all the compassionate Moms, their generous hearts, inner beauty, and unconditional love. Somehow these mothers don’t readily give up, resilient with an abundance of blind faith and patient hope.
Still, I doubt there is a mother whose heart has not been broken at one time or another in child rearing. I’ve known a number of Moms who could be considered dangerously softhearted, to the point of not honoring their own needs or health. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that these Bleeding heart beauties appear in time for Mother’s Day… or that they are perennials, steadfastly returning year after year. Isn’t Mom always there for you too?