Unique and wonderful you

Bodhi checking out 2 of my favorite Christmas decorations (characters from The Land of Misfit Toys).

Bodhi checking out 2 of my favorite Christmas decorations (characters from The Land of Misfit Toys).

Jack and I were watching a documentary last week called, Advanced Style; a wonderful film that showcases women over 60 who love fashion and seem to embrace not only far-out and fabulous clothing, but life as well. I feel like it would inspire anyone to get outside of their comfort zone as far as fashion goes, and it did this for me, but it also made me feel braver and more open.

I cannot even count the times when I’ve been shopping and an unusual piece of clothing would catch my eye, I’d try it on, love the colors, textures, and feel, only to return it to the rack because it seemed too “out there”. I know that the source of my apprehension was fear of rejection…fear that someone would look at me with raised eyebrows, a scowl, a frown, or god-forbid a sneer. The words, “Tone it down, Mary” still echo from somewhere in my past.

I wish that I could eradicate my fears by understanding where they came from, and I spent years trying to do that. Was it my parents, teachers, friends, an unfriendly priest or nun, who first implanted the idea in my subconscious that I was somehow too much and at the same time not good enough? Probably all of these people did some of that and the big question is not, “Why?” but, “So what?” Mine is not a unique story. I’d even venture to say that everyone I’ve ever talked to, no matter how successful, seemingly together, serene, or happy, could say that at some point in their lives they have felt unacceptable, not OK, not loveable, capable, or full of joy at being themselves. And I think if we were being honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit that we still have moments, or hours, when we feel like this. I know that I do.

We cannot think our way out of our irrational fears, we must walk through them. I’m not taking about ignoring guidance that says things like, “Don’t walk down that dark street” or “This person is not right for you” (no matter how much you want them to be). I’m talking about the feelings that say, “I’d LOVE to do this, but I’m afraid I’ll be rejected, criticized, or ridiculed” so I’ll just stay small, shut my mouth, watch from the sidelines, put the silk multi-colored shawl with the beaded fringe down and buy the brown scarf instead because I’m not really a “shawl person”. What does that even mean?

Who am I really?

I don’t think that is a question that can be answered. I heard a lecture by Alan Watts where he was taking about Bodhidharma who was asked that question and he replied, “I don’t know who I am. Planting flowers for the butterflies”, which seemed to say, “Do what brings you unspeakable joy. Don’t try to figure out the unhappy past. Do what you love now, and life will make sense.”

 

“If you use your mind to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll understand both.” Bodhidharma

 

open to receive

"Dream no small dreams" Goethe (for sale on MY SRTWORK page)

“Dream no small dreams” Goethe (for sale on MY ARTWORK page)

The plans that I had for today have changed. For years I struggled with disappointment and frustration when my plan was changed without “my permission”. I was always one step ahead of myself, trying to figure out what to do in the next moment, day, week, month….I was like a fast-moving train on a very narrow track, and I felt responsible for laying that track as well as travelling it, so when a piece was suddenly removed, I felt lost and empty. It was hard for me to believe that it could be a good thing that happened.

But over time as I began to loosen my grip on my schedule (and life) I started to notice the good that was always there when plans were abruptly changed. I began to see that these openings were always for me and that they had a certain magic and grace hidden within them. The key to unlocking the gift was as simple as acceptance and an attitude of being open.

As I sat outside, early this morning with my cup of coffee, I thought about one of the things that brings me the most joy in life, which is to work with people, so I am opening up today to anyone who would like to have a session with me. (If you’d like to know more about the work that I do, you can read about this on the page, PRIVATE SESSIONS. Generally, I offer 1/2 hr or 1 hr sessions but today I’m also offering 20 minute sessions (for $20). If this is something that interests you, just email me at mmuncil@verizon.net and we’ll set up a time to talk.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach…waiting for a gift from the sea.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This entry was posted on December 14, 2014. 5 Comments

The magnificent romp

Fred

Fred

I was sitting in my living room this morning, hoping an idea for a post would come to me and I glanced up to see Fred looking so regal, that I had to share his picture with you. I bought the couch that he is lounging on several years ago, but have been hesitant to use it at home because I didn’t want the cats to scratch it, so it has been covered up and basically useless. Actually, it has been worse than useless because it was also unattractive in its covered up state. I love the look of this couch: the silk fabric, swan-head ends, and the shape is so appealing to me but I was saving it, trying to preserve it, and then the question of why popped into my head last week.

I’ve noticed that I no longer want to save things for some future that I imagine I’ll need them in, and yet there still is a little admonishing voice in the back of my mind telling me that I must be sensible about life. The older I get, the more I can feel a force pushing me away from the edge of fully engaged living to the center where it is safer, more secure, padded, and predictable. When I was younger, I never turned down invitations for fear I’d be tired the next day. When I was younger, I wore all of my favorite clothes and never worried that I’d spill something on them and ruin them. When I was younger, I didn’t worry about our cats scratching the furniture.

As I age, I’ve noticed a tendency in me to try to preserve/save things, and I think this is really just a hidden fear that life is changing….much faster than I ever realized, but I don’t want to hold back anything because of fear anymore. If I spill tea down the front of my favorite cashmere sweater….fine, I’ll donate it to the cats. If my couch gets scratched, I’ll cover it up or re-cover it or leave it and maybe I won’t care.

In the depth of my being I believe that life is meant to be a magnificent romp and how can you romp without getting a little dirty, scratched up or tired? I believe we are supposed to be laughing, playing, and breaking rules about what we should look, act and feel like. Is there something you’ve been saving for a special occasion? Why not wear it, use it, give it away, today.

 

“Let’s be naughty and save Santa the trip” Gary Allan

This entry was posted on December 11, 2014. 23 Comments

a perfect life

“There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t even wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked; it can’t do otherwise; in raptures it will writhe before you.” Franz Kafka

The earliest memories that I have of myself are ones of me trying to figure out how to make things happen; how to get something that I wanted, or not lose something/someone that I thought I had. In high school that search involved “getting” friends, boyfriends, alcohol, drugs, money, cigarettes, popularity, a car, a better figure (less fat)… It didn’t really matter what the thing was, the energy that I had around “it” was pretty much the same. It was as if I attacked life thinking I needed to wrestle what I wanted away from it. Living was a battle. Sometimes it was what I considered to be a virtuous battle; when it involved getting something for someone else, or it could be a selfish battle, but struggle was at the heart of it…always.

Back then, I don’t think I could have grasped the concept that life unfolds perfectly and that everything I needed (and this includes ideas, people, the right work, money, cars, inspiration, loving friendships…) comes to me in perfect, exquisite, timing. Maybe I would’ve believed this, but nobody I knew was talking about it and frankly, I liked action. I was someone who would walk a half hour out of my way, instead of waiting in line for 15 minutes. It was the standing still that I couldn’t tolerate, the apparent doing nothing that seemed like a waste of time. My mind was so busy trying to figure out how to make something happen, it didn’t have space to hear, see, or sense, that the thing I wanted was either already here, on its way, or possibly even something that I didn’t, deep down, want.

I also felt quite proud of the fact that (I thought) I could make most things happen. I believed in will power (at least my own). But a few years ago, this began to change. The words, “You are not doing this, Mary” started to repeat themselves in my head, so of course, I wrestled with them, trying to figure out what they meant. There can be just as much striving, struggling, and grasping, with things that are labeled as “spiritual” as those that are considered “material”…I’ve come to see that there is no difference. If I’m struggling to achieve enlightenment, inner peace, or happiness, then it is still my ego (even if it is sitting in the lotus position) trying to become something or someone it thinks it isn’t.

But eventually I stopped struggling (as much) with the concept that all of life is happening for me, that everything is unfolding perfectly, and that all of my needs are met, and I began to simply observe this spiritual truth. And the more that I observed it, the more I woke up, and began to see how harmonious life was. Years ago, I heard a teacher say, “The sense of struggle creates the struggle” and I didn’t understand this at all….but now I do, now I notice when I begin to worry and fight with life (people, places, and situations) in my mind and most of the time, all I need is a gentle reminder like the words, “All is well, or This is working out perfectly, even if you don’t understand how” to bring me back to center. Sometimes I’ll ask myself the question, “If I refused to worry about this, I wonder what would happen?”

So this might be something you would like to consider too. What if you believed that everything you needed/wanted was here or on its way into your life; that it could not be late, that you couldn’t miss it and the only thing you needed to do was to relax into this knowing. For me, I had to prove this for myself. I had to take it on blind faith that it was a spiritual truth and then I had to be open enough to see if it was Truth. I can tell you that it is, but the only way to move from knowing to Knowing is to walk it out yourself.

I invite you to walk this path with me today. If you try it, you will never be the same.

P1220006

One of my new paintings (for sale on my artwork page)

 

 

This entry was posted on December 4, 2014. 15 Comments

This moment

Bodhi sleeping on the radiator

Bodhi sleeping on the radiator

A while ago I had an appointment at 9 a.m so I arrived 15 minutes early, which is something that I like to do: arrive early. The 15 minutes past, then 30, then 45, and I found myself getting increasingly annoyed. I had just enough presence of mind to be aware of this as my body began to heat up (literally) and become restless. The thought that was producing this uncomfortable feeling was, “He (the man I was meeting) is really inconsiderate”. And yet another part of me knew that whenever I was thinking a negative thought about someone else, it was my projection that was causing the pain… to me. The next thought, which actually surprised me was, “I am being inconsiderate….to myself”.

I grew up in a family that “prided itself” on never being late. People who were late were looked down upon and severely criticized as being irresponsible. Growing up in this atmosphere, I adopted it without question and believed it to be Truth. I began to hate it when someone was late and became extremely irritable when I even thought that I would be late. My emotional response was so far over the top that I almost felt possessed by anger when it happened, but I also felt powerless to stop it. What a hellish thing to put myself (and everyone around me) through in the name of being a responsible, “good” person. I always wince a little when someone prefaces a statement by, “I pride myself on…..” because this usually means, “I think I am (secretly of course) better than those who don’t do it like I do”.

So back to how I was being inconsiderate to myself by judging lateness as wrong.

As I sat waiting that day, I realized something deep within myself. I realized that I was thinking that some moments of life were insignificant. As I sat there, impatiently “waiting”, I could see that my mind found no value in that moment. I was alive, sure, but I wasn’t really living, I was waiting for something better and more important to happen (in that moment the more important thing was the meeting). I saw that I had put myself on hold, counting the present, waiting, as something to be gotten through. What a waste of my life. How could I even be more inconsiderate of myself. Sitting there in that little ball of self-righteous anger, all upset, unhappy, and uncomfortable, because someone wasn’t following “the rules”, I realized that I was, in that moment, throwing away and ruining my life, and I was blaming him.

I began to look around me. I noticed a beautiful light-catcher in the window. I saw a lady bug crawling on a screen and thought, “My god, that is alive! With little legs, eyes, a heart even? Where is it going?” The moment suddenly seemed sacred and valuable beyond words. I recalled a story that a spiritual teacher, Byron Katie, told about her awakening and how a cockroach had crawled across her body and she only felt awe and love. In that moment, I understood what she meant; there is no moment less important, or more important, than another. Driving in my car, making my bed, painting, visiting with clients, sleeping, eating, waiting ….all equal….unless I judge them to be otherwise.

After that day, I thought (hoped) that I’d never feel upset about lateness again, but this hadn’t been my experience. There are times when my mind will revert back to the old belief and I can feel the familiar, crappy, feelings coming back. But I now have the presence of mind to catch them before they take me over and ruin my life. I have become considerate enough of myself not to do this anymore.

“This stroke of insight has given me the priceless gift of knowing that deep inner peace is just a thought/feeling away. To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life. …The feeling of peace is something that happens in the present moment. It’s not something that we bring with us from the past or project into the future. Step one to experiencing inner peace is the willingness to be present right here, right now.” pp 159 from the book, “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.

 

 

Everything I need is right here, right now

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.”
Wendell Berry

 

I came home on Wednesday afternoon to find our cat, Noah, barely moving. Noah is a very old cat, and we’ve been getting the feeling lately that he was at the end of his life. After I washed him up, isolated him in the bathroom with a warm bed, litter box, water and cleaned up the considerable mess (he had been incontinent on the couch, happily I’d put a heavy quilt over it the day before) in the living room, I called the vet. When I made his appointment I thought it would probably be to put him down. The appointment was for yesterday at 10 a.m.

Before I went to bed, I checked on him and he seemed very peaceful. I prayed that he would pass away quietly at home. As I tried to go to sleep, my mind kept running scenarios about what I should do for him. How can I help him pass in the most gentle way? Should I try to find a vet who could come to the house? Should I even take him in for his appointment (Noah, like most cats, hates going to the vet). Do I really want his final hour to be spent so unpleasantly? After about a half hour of this thinking, I realized the problem: It wasn’t what to do with Noah, it was what to do with my mind that was not resting in bed at 10 p.m, letting go of the day, but was off in the next day trying to figure out what to do tomorrow. Hopeless.

The next thought was, “You will know what to do tomorrow” and this thought filled me with peace. When I woke up in the night and felt those worried thoughts try to come back I noticed this but instead of running with them I meditated on the thought that Noah was also a part of this vast “Oneness” which knows what to do at all times and which always guides, directs, and points the way. I kept thinking about how interconnected we all are. I kept thinking about the concept of Grace, which is always present in the moment.

I notice that when I try to get out ahead of “a problem” and figure it out, I feel lost… because I am. I’m lost in a mind that believes there is something to be afraid of as it conjures up unhappy scenes, one after the other, each looking more dire than the previous scenario. I am afraid that something in my life will get out of control if I don’t control it (which I also realize I am powerless to do so I feel even more desperate). When I’m letting my mind run wild like this, I am lost in fear and in that low place, everything looks bad.

When I woke up yesterday morning, I quietly stepped into the bathroom to find Noah looking up at me like, “What? Are you going to let me out of this bathroom now?” All of my thoughts about how to help him pass, blah, blah…he wasn’t ready to go, but I didn’t know that until I needed to.

When I need to know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, I will have access to that information. How? I don’t know. How is it possible that at some level, I have access to infinite intelligence and guidance? I don’t know. How can I possibly be connected to all of life (and that includes every being that has ever been or will ever be)? I don’t know. But I believe this and I know this to be Truth. I don’t know how I know this, but I do, and when I remember it, it brings me unspeakable peace. I also know that this is true for everyone whether they belive it or not.

Bodhi and Noah

Bodhi and Noah snuggled up on this chilly morning

 

Tis the season to say YES to Love

my latest painting, "HOME" (details on MY ARTWORK page)

my latest painting, “HOME” (details on MY ARTWORK page)

Many years ago a friend’s husband died. In the months that followed his death, she told me that she could no longer trust me because I wasn’t there for her during his illness and after he had died. When we were on “active friendship” status, I’d always felt that I had gone above and beyond what I could have, to be a good friend and to be there for her, but as the years passed, I realized that this had just been my ego. There were so many times that I didn’t want to do something (attend one of her many functions or events) but I was always worried that if I didn’t go, she’d be mad at me so I went (and considered myself to be a very good friend and human being for going out of my way and sacrificing my time to do something that I really didn’t want to do…I could go on but the absurdity of my thinking just makes me laugh).

Eventually this kind of relationship must come to an end, but I’m not talking about the relationship that I had with her, I’m talking about the relationship with myself. Eventually I need to become honest with myself (and my motives for doing anything) or I will live in a state of fear, anger or guilt (or all of these) that I am not enough and not trust-worthy because in truth, I am not being honest and I am not to be trusted if I do not dare follow my own guidance.

Back to my friend.

I really wasn’t there for her when her husband died. But if I had been honest and said no to her during the years that preceded his death, maybe the relationship would have ended earlier. I met with this woman many years after her husband’s passing and was struck by how guarded she seemed as she talked about several men she’d dated and how she’d been hurt and betrayed. She told me that she had always taken the morally higher road and was so disappointed in people who didn’t. At one point she said, “Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me” and I thought, “Wow. That is a limiting way to live”. Because in my experience, people who I am close to are going hurt me and am going to hurt them too…. and not just once or twice. Do people who I love lie to me? Yes. Do I lie to people I love? Yes. Am I inconsiderate, short-tempered, or mean at times? Yes. Are they inconsiderate, short-tempered and mean to me at times? Yes. Do I stay in intimate contact with everyone from my past? No. Do they stay in contact with me? No. Why? In my experience, the answer to this is that there just isn’t a yes in it anymore. Could this change? Yes.

I’ve come to see that people who consider themselves to be “morally superior” are usually the least honest (with themselves) people, and this includes me. When I am engaged in moral finger-pointing I am, in that moment, a dishonest hypocrite. So, where to go with this? Well, it is the holiday season. A time for getting together (or thinking about past get-togethers) with the people whom we have had the toughest time with. I can drag all of my past hurts, slights, insults, and horror shows to mind, or I can laugh, look at myself as a major player in all of this past drama and go forward as a lighter human being. I can come home to my own heart which never calls me bad, and never calls another bad. I can celebrate being alive as a multi-faceted being, no better than any other. I can say yes to invitations that feel life-affirming and I can extend these invitations too. I can say no to invitations that don’t feel like a yes, but I can do it in a spirit of Love (love of self, love of other). I can become free now.

“Reality is always the story of a past and what I love about the past is that it’s over.” Byron Katie (from the book, A Friendly Universe)