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With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90  days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.

31 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Keepers of the Fire

"In the burning away of fear, love is awakened." (Diane Mariechild, January 31)

"When the mind is no longer trapped by conditioned response, what remains is love." (Mariechild, January 18)

I put together these two quotes from separate days because they speak of love and because I believe that most of my conditioned responses arise from fear: the fear of not being good enough, of not being smart enough, of not looking well enough.

And with three to five days a week taken over with migraine pain, I pretty much never feel good enough or smart enough and, certainly, wan and baggy-eyed and messy-haired as I am, not even close to looking well enough.

I just read a comment from my friend, Cristina, on the January 26 post. She is planning a wedding now and writes honestly about being caught up in worries about what will make the day "perfect." But then, after a paragraph about what is freaking her out, she says this:

So I just take a deep breath and remember all the love I share with Patrick. The amazing intangibles...the priceless perks. I also think through the fact that I do not want to be defined by material objects, and I do not want others to define me.

To me, Cristina is a keeper of the fire. Not in that she has no fear, no conditioned responses, but that she allows herself to be aware of the hold they have on her. She takes a deep breath and finds, beyond them, the love that remains.

I would love to hear from you. Please click on Comment, below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

30 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Wanting Something To Be Different

I wanted something to be different this morning. It's the third day of a rather bad migraine -- which also means this will be a short post -- and I wanted not to have the pain. I called my patient husband to whine a bit, told him I was done, and let him get back to work. Then I read Diane Mariechild's writing for today.

I needed the reminder that I am not my pain-filled head and exhausted body.

That reminder helped me see beyond the pain and remember my practices for pain management:

deep breathing;

deep relaxation;

letting go of victim status;

accepting that I am powerless over the pain but not over my reaction to it.

Peace.


I would love to hear from you. Please click on the word Comment below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com/. Thank you.

28 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Conscious Sacrifice

After my Ignatian retreat in 2001, I began reading about St. Therese of Lisieux, whose words head the selection for January 27. One of the women on the retreat had recommended her to me and I, although I knew next to nothing about Catholic saints, followed the advice. To my surprise, I became quite enamored of Therese. I ended up reading most of her writings and many biographies about her.

Frankly, much of the writing -- hers and others about her -- seems overblown and sappy to me, yet still the strength and spirit of this young woman come through. Hers is not a flowery faith, it is muscular. It speaks more of steel than of sweetness.

So, that Diane Mariechild has put a Therese writing on a page about sacrifice makes sense to me. She also makes sure to separate the traditional notions of woman's sacrifice from the steely sacrifice that is less traditionally woman's and so harder to see.

"When women are treated as unworthy and internalize this belief they often give away their power. They give to others because they don't feel worthy to receive." (Italics mine)

How many of us can look at our lives and find instances of this sort of giving? Many, I suspect. I certainly can, and I also know that I did not learn about another way of being a loving and giving woman until well into my forties.

Additionally, the sort of giving that arises from feelings of unworthiness and powerlessness is needy, often selfishness dressed up as sacrifice. It comes from a sense of victimhood. The sort of giving that is conscious, that comes from a centered place of knowing oneself and of making clear choices is compassionate, often self-less. It comes from strength.

Diane offers an example of conscious giving. Do you have examples of your own? How can you let this consciousness guide and inform your giving from now on?

I would love to hear from you. Please click on the word "Comment" below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

26 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Born of Woman

"We are reminding ourselves of the source of life. Everything we know is born of woman." Joan Halifax

"For me, home is shelter, a place of refuge where I can be all that I am. One of the Zen koans, or riddles, asks, 'What was the face you wore before you were born?'" Diane Mariechild.

These two quotes are from January 25 and January 26 in Diane Mariechild's "Open Mind -- Women's Daily Inspirations for Becoming Mindful." 

Diane, I am pretty sure, must have linked these two days purposefully: the one (January 25) reminding us that all humans are born of woman; the other (January 26) asking both what we consider home to be and whether we ascribe over-importance to our possessions or achievements.

The face before I was born? Nothing to do, I am sure, with the condo in which I live, or the degree for which I now study, or the nonprofit I used to lead. Much more to do with generations of women springing from and going to the Source. The same Source that is now my home, and when I allow myself to peacefully sit with and love that awareness, it is my refuge.

Another point of connection between the two days:

"We respect this great power by...living peacefully, even in simple ways, such as choosing to let go of irritation when things aren't going our way...We must always stop to think: Is what I'm doing creating peace or creating conflict?" Mariechild, January 25

"Meditation and reflection on such a question [the koan, above] is a way of shattering our usual perceptions, our own ideas, opinions and all the ways we have become attached." Mariechild, January 26

Simply put, attachment to our things or to our ideas of who we are and who we hang around with does not make for peaceful living: no attachment cannot connect us to the Source. (Not even attachment to connecting to the Source, however noble or right it may feel, can help us live peacefully.)

Attachment can be at the root of much of our impatience, anger, fear, and lashing out.

How do you pull yourself back from an attachment or the way you are allowing it to keep you from living peacefully in this world?

I would love to hear from you. Please click on Comment, below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

24 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Being

Freedom will come when our life energy is not limited by our fears and grasping. Our nature is pure.

How many of us believe in or are connected to our pure nature? How many of us even truly understand what Mechtild of Magdeburg means when she says:

How could I resist my nature
That lives for oneness with God?

Sadly, I too often live for other things than my oneness with God, or Goddess, as Diane Mariechild says in her reflection.

I think I will be more important, better in some way, if I get my book published.

I tell myself that when the migraines go away, then I will truly be able to be the person I am meant to be.

I look at women prettier and more stylish, or younger and energetic and I envy them.

I realize that I am grasping at things to buy or make or keep.

All these things keep me from feeling my oneness with Goddess. When I allow myself to be caught up in such thoughts and feelings, I am far from God and so far from my true nature.

As I write, I look up at my little dog, Sierra, who is stretched out on the couch, asleep in a patch of snow-brightened sunlight coming through the window.

How much I have to learn from her.


I would love to hear from you. Please click on the word Comment below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

23 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Gifts

The readings for January 22 and 23 tell us about two of the wondrous gifts of life: play and love.

We need to play so we can rediscover the magic all around us. Flora Colao

I didn't have time to post about yesterday's reading in Diane Mariechild's Open Mind, but this one sentence links to it. We were told to let our feet touch the earth, feel the earth, be held by the earth. (Although, as my sister texted me, January on the east coast in 30-degree weather may not be the best time to try this.) This sort of experience, just being in the moment with playful intent or without agenda, is something that seems hard for us Westerners to do.

I don't know about you, but I could find a lot more time for play in my life. For me, what keeps me from play is pain; for others, it may be work, or raising a family, or taking care of an elder. Yet I have the means of play -- immediate, always ready and always pleased when I make the effort -- in the form of my little dog, Sierra.

What do you do to bring play into your life?

I used every gift God gave me. The gift of love is the greatest. Janet Collins

I try not to say or even think things like, "there are people I know that I cannot stand," and "they are terrible people." My way of living in this world departs from Collins' in that way. So I focus on the first two sentences, which I have quoted above: using every gift God has given me; knowing and living in such a way that I affirm always that love is the greatest of these gifts.

This I can do whether I am in pain or not, as I wrote in my post of January 6, I can remember to perform even the most mundane of tasks with love. It may be hanging the laundry or cleaning the bathroom or sweeping the floor or making dinner. It's a conscious choice, and one that I do not always remember to make. But when I do, I am more at peace, more in tune with my world and myself; less judgmental and less prone to spike into anxiety; more merciful with myself and others.

It's a spiritual practice, really, and thus becomes a pain management practice as well: when I am calmer and moving more slowly and feeling kindly and patient toward myself, it is easier to allow myself to rest between tasks. I am less stressed and so not quite so much in pain.

I love the Buddhist concept of "equanimity." I have posted about it before, here and in other posts that you can find if you click on the word in the Labels column to the right. To me it seems that when I practice equanimity I am much closer to being the loving person I long to be.


I would love to hear from you. Please click on the word, "Comment" below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

20 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Guest Post by Joan M. Sparks

This is Joan, Carol's "big" sister.

Carol and I shared many things growing up. Of course we shared a family life with a sister, brother, and two parents committed to their relationship and their children. Our outside activities were also shared. We competed on swim teams together, although very differently. I was a distance swimmer, and breaststroker. Carol was a very fast sprinter. So many exciting meets rested on her shoulders during the final relay which she anchored. She was amazing- always winning, often against all odds.

We also share a love of music. Her voice is truly stunning. It seems to come from her heart. We shared the stage several times: both soloists, or she in the choir and I in the orchestra. Those shared memories are precious to me.

And, we share a family member, who has chosen to leave our lives.

It is with a sense of irony that I read today's, January 20, entry in "Open Mind" by Diane Mariechild.

Loss.

Our loss has not been sudden, however, but a slow, sad decrescendo of what had been a loving and dear relationship. And then, in the midst of acrimony, this once dear person has withdrawn from us.

But in this loss, I have regained my relationship with Carol, with whom I share so many memories, passions, and now, these readings. Sharing this experience, our thoughts, our feelings about these exceptional readings is now something I look forward to on a daily basis.

I am drawn to my sister, who suffers much, but gives back with a generous heart.

So in this loss, I am sustained by the rebirth of something precious. And that is what today's reading is all about.

With a grateful heart, I write this for Carol. And myself.
 
 
Joan and I would love to hear from you. Please click on the word, "Comment" below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

18 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: What Remains is Love

"When the mind is no longer trapped by conditioned response, what remains is love."

The topic of Diane Mariechild's daily meditation is anger. I hope that some readers will share their responses to how she treats Audre Lorde's poem. I am going to reflect on how releasing our conditioned response to pain brings us to love.

There are many aspects to how we react to pain: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It is my belief, based upon my own work with the chronic pain of migraines, that when we allow our physical, mental and emotional reactions to teach us, our spiritual lives are enhanced and deepened.

The physical response to pain has to do with adrenaline, tightening muscles, and survival's basic fight-or-flight response. These automatic bodily functions are beneficial for acute pain: they make us become alarmed and energized so that, for example, we jerk our hand away from the hot stove. But in chronic pain, these biological responses become habituated and have a deleterious effect on our bodies: chronic stress can lead to heart disease, immune system problems, depression and anxiety, among other ills.

Our emotional and mental reactions to pain are well characterized by Mariechild: they are conditioned responses. We want something different, i.e., no pain, and we fear how long the pain may last, and we worry about who we are letting down because we cannot function... These are reactions built into our very make-up, taught to us from the cradle by mothers and grandmothers who suffered in the same way.

Added to all this is our natural response to the pain that seems to plague us unmercifully. It seems impossible to see it as anything but a disaster. (By the way, I have posted about this before, here.) But what Mariechild and Lorde tell us is that we do not have to be stuck. We can choose to be untrapped from our conditioned response. Mariechild gives us a few simple steps:

* Realize we are in a conditioned response.
* Look at the response. (I would add here, take a deep breath...or ten.)
* Patiently watch.
* Do not judge, deny or run away from the response.
* Keep practicing every time a conditioned response arises.
* Allow our mindfulness to become stronger and our conditioned responses to become weaker.
* Find what remains: love.


Please click on the word "Comment" below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. I would love to hear your reactions to this post. Thank you.

15 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Breathing Gratitude

Today's reading is one of the most honest and straight-forward treatments of racism and intolerance of diversity that I have ever seen. I would like to hear from readers of this blog:

Does what Diane Mariechild says about how we have been taught to fear, hate and compete resonate with you?

What are other ways that power can be expressed, aside from the dominant/subordinate model so prevalent in our world?

Gloria Dean Randle Scott uses a metaphor: a great chain of inferiority. What does this mean to you?

Finally, Mariechild gives us another practice. (By the way: how are you doing with these practices? So far, she has offered suggestions on January 5 - a prayer; January 7 - self-affirmation; January 11 - imagination.)

Her idea is to imagine a gift from another culture..

breathe in and receive the gift...

breathe out and realize how the gift has enhanced your life...

breathe in gratitude...

fill with gratitude...

breathe out thankfulness.

I work a lot with the breath both for pain management and in my spiritual life. If it is new to you and you would like to know more about how it works, here are a few links to blog posts of mine and to information on the web.

From my blog: Beyond Theory and Discussion; Inhabiting Our Bodies.

From the web: a video; a website.

I would love to hear from you. Use the Comment box below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

14 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Compassion

Diane Mariechild writes for this day in a way that settles into my heart. The subject is compassion, and she takes the opportunity to share very personally about it, telling us about her sensitivity even as a child. This is my own experience as well, yet because many important people around me were bewildered or frustrated by my sensitivity, and because others took advantage of it, it took me well into my adult years to understand, allow and even value what I often thought of as the equivalent of living without skin. What has helped me accept myself is the book, The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine Aron.

I write the above in case any reader of this post have a similar make-up and would be interested in better understanding and accepting herself.

Now, as for more general topic of compassion. Joanna Macy says that compassion is uncomfortable. (By the way, her website is remarkable. I encourage you to visit it.) We wall off our compassion in order not to feel. Isn't that why we say to the grieving survivor, "You'll feel better soon," rather than take a moment to truly get inside her grief? And why some of us can watch the news on television, with its photos and videos of violence and death without pausing in finishing our meal and without horror? And why nonprofits talk about "compassion fatigue"?

Yet there is a cost to this momentary avoidance -- not only to the general well-being of the world, but to our very selves:

When we harden to the suffering of others, it limits our capacity for joy...This denial also makes it easier for us to harm others.

Our self-protection denies us a full expression of our human-ness. I find this easier to understand, possibly, because I have learned to embrace and accept and learn from the physical pain of migraines. My own experience of pain, from which I have not walled myself, teaches me that I have places of compassion and a corresponding strength that means I will not die in attending to death; I will not crack open in being present to the hurt in the world.

And even more than that:

...If we are willing to experience the discomfort of others, we will be able to access our closed reservoirs of love. And love expressed does not harm.

Love expressed is risky, partly because love expresses itself without an eye to results or outcomes -- without expectation of return or gratitude. But the psychic numbing that Macy mentions is far riskier, both for the world and for our selves.

I would love to hear from you. Please use the Comment box below to share your thoughts about this or any post. Or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

12 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Exploring Pain

Today's reading is related to much of what I have written in this blog over the past couple of years. It seems as familiar as an old glove. Why attempt to say it all again when the miracles of technology allow me to create links to relevant posts?

In Ayya Khema's quote at the top of the page, she mentions feeling "the skin under the skin." I also like the way Eckhart Tolle talks about the "inner body." In the Labels column to the right of this text, you will find "inner body." When you click on that, you will have the posts.

Mariechild speaks of exploring pain with "deep interest and attention." Here are two posts with my own take on that concept, what I call "befriending pain": Link to first post; and link  to second post.

I have also written about using what Mariechild calls "mindful movement," and that I learned from Eckhart Tolle to call "inhabiting the body." Here is a link to that post.

Did anyone try the treeness exercise yesterday? I must confess that I did not, being down with a migraine and then battling a bit of stomach flu. But I think it important for me to try the practices that Mariechild mentions if I am sincere about becoming more mindful and open. At the end of each month, I think I will list all the practices suggested for that month, and then we will have an easily accessible list for a reminder.


I would love to hear from you. Please use the Comment box below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

11 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Experience Treeness

January 10: I read this page in Diane Mariechild's book, "Open Mind -- Women's Daily Inspiration for Becoming Mindful" at two levels. One was at the level at which she and Sue Silvermarie (whose poem is at the top of the page) intend -- that of accepting the fact of our own death and allowing our acceptance to enhance our life.

I don't have anything to add to this except to quote from my sister, Joan, who is reading the book and with whom I consult regularly as a way to share what we learn, challenge one another or just commiserate. Here is what she wrote to me:

I believe that it is the responsibility of us all to make peace within ourselves so that in our dying we give that gift to our survivors.

The other way I read this page was in relation to living with chronic pain, which I sometimes regard as living a series of small, and sometimes large, deaths. For example, I had to leave my work at a non-profit that I founded and loved for seventeen years. That would qualify as a large death, and even as I went through it, I was aware of my grief and of allowing myself to work through a process which I then could apply to pain management and living with chronic pain. An example of a small death would be having to cancel an outing at the last minute due to a migraine.

As I accept such deaths with equanimity, I prepare for a peaceful ultimate death. May it be a gift to my survivors.

January 11: Mariechild takes quite a trip on this one page, from a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic saint, Theresa of Avila, to speaking of Goddess as the universal source of energy to meditating on treeness. I just love it.

When we live solely in our heads, life becomes stale. When we act from our source, our lives are fresh and abundant.

Despite emotional or physical pain, we can have abundantly fresh lives. And whatever we think of or however we name our source -- God, Goddess, Allah, Shiva, Mother Earth, Great Spirit, Jehovah -- we can make a conscious choice to live from that source and thus make our lives fresh. Whatever the difficult circumstances -- and whose life does not have difficult circumstances? -- we have a choice that brings us to our source.

The entry ends with another practice, that of imagining our treeness. Try it -- I will, too. And we can share thoughts about it in the Comment section (click on the envelope) below.

I would love to hear from you. Please use the Comment box below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

08 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Wisdom Fire

The January 8 reading seems to follow the mirror-affirmation suggestion in a very timely way.

Each time we give away, or let go of, a limiting idea, there is more space for an empowering one to come to mind.Try thinking [or saying in the mirror]: I have value, therefore I can do something of value because I am valuable.

Then she goes on to say, in a paraphrase of the DhyaniYwahoo quote at the top of the page:

True wisdom burns within us.

I hope you have read Lista's comment on yesterday's post. Let's accept Lista's challenge. I am going to begin with these affirmations:

"True wisdom burns within me."
"I have value."

I would love to hear from you. Please use the Comment box below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

07 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Do WHAT?

Oh, dear. I have no idea how to write about our January 7 entry in Mariechild's book, "Open Mind -- Women's Daily Inspirations for Becoming Mindful."

I have never been able to look in the mirror and say affirmations. So I decided to call someone dear to me to ask if she could write this post. She is, after all, a successful business woman and talented artist who must surely find mirror affirmations natural and easy. But when I picked up my phone, there was a text message from this very woman telling me how challenging she found today's reading. She wrote, "When I look in the mirror, all I see is flaws."

I suspect this is the plight of many of us women. Am I right?

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Can you say affirmations?



I would love to hear from you -- start a conversation, or join one. Use the Comment box below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

06 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Picking up our Pins with Love

It seems to me that so far Mariechild's book, "Open Mind -- Womens' Daily Inspiration for  Becoming Mindful," has been building her case for becoming mindful. The readings for January 1-4 have been setting the stage by telling us that:
"our minds can open like the wind" (Jan. 1);
it takes "enormous courage" to "look inside oneself" (Jan. 2);
"we are the ones who are veiled" and that it is possible to have a direct experience of the mystery (Jan. 3);
*  and, finally, we can choose to "live into the question" (Jan. 4).

The January 5 reading was new in that, after building her case -- "we pray to open our hearts to spiritual power, the ability to sparkle" -- as in previous posts, Mariechild offers what I call a practice: she suggests that we repeat the Chrystos poem "slowly, several times, allowing the energy to pass through you."

I tried that, last night, and since I was distracted by the pain of a migraine, I augmented Mariechild's idea by using music, something I often do to help lift me above the pain. I put my earbuds in and listened to music I have on my Kindle Fire: Georg Deuter's beautiful "Sea and Silence."

As I let the music fill and relax me, I repeated the poem very slowly, phrase by phrase. Gradually, the muscle tension that accompanies pain eased and I felt my body settling by degrees into the bed, my breathing becoming deeper, the pain becoming less important. And that opened the way to letting the poetry take hold.

January 6: I remember a quote attributed to St. Therese of Lisieux that even picking up a pin with love can save a soul. I think of those words as I read Dr. Thynn Thynn's words and Mariechild's response.

Women's traditional work...is all necessary and life-affirming activities. When done with mindfulness -- that is, care, joy and concern for all -- this is the spiritual life.

It's what Catholic nun, Therese of Lisieux, was saying in the 1890s; what Thynn Thynn, Buddhist teacher, is saying now. It's how we can practice without imagining that to be spiritual we must meditate or pray for a certain number of minutes or in a certain pose or with an expected result. We can let go of thinking that our experience at church/temple/sangha/mosque must make us spiritual or holy or, at least, different somehow.

All we need do is pick up our pins with love.

I would love to hear from you. Please use the Comment box below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

04 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: See with a Double Eye

My sister, Joan Sparks, is an accomplished musician, so I think of her when I read M.C. Richards' words about "approaching life as an artistic process." I love to see the way Joan's grace in performance translates into grace in how she lives her life, equally, through challenge and success.

When I read Richards' words for myself, I think of the way I live to approach my pain as a not artistic, certainly, but spiritual process. I have written about this often enough in previous posts (if you use the list to the right of this text frame, you can click on labels to get to other posts), so that I don't feel it necessary to go into great detail. However, there are a few tried-and-true -- meaning, tried by me and true for me -- methods that I use almost without conscious thought, so practiced are they.

Before I get to these practices, I want to say that, although I write about the physical pain of my migraines, I have also learned to use these practices with emotional pain as well. I would love to hear your thoughts about how you find my practices applicable to other kinds of pain.

"Seeing with a double eye," is what Richards says. "Living in the question," is how Mariechild responds. Here are ways I use to see my pain with a double eye, to live into the question (or the reality) of physical and emotional pain.

1. There is something about Elizabeth Kubler Ross' Stages of Grief that helps me feel more normal about my reactions to pain.

2. I use meditation aids such as deep muscle relaxation, stretching, mantras, chants and attention to the breath to take me out of the tense-bodied initial reaction to pain and into a deeper place -- "deep looking," as Mariechild calls it. (Click on the "methods" label to the right.)

3. When relaxed in body I am better able to put the pain into perspective. Not that the pain ceases, but it somehow becomes less overwhelming, not so central. I am breathing more deeply and in a state of quiet non-thought.

I live into the reality of my pain with a double eye: the pain is there and I must accept that reality; yet  my spirit is also there and my desire for discovering what pain has to teach me is freed to explore. For me, this is what redeems the pain, and in some ways, my life.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Use the Comments box below, to start a conversation. Thank you.

02 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Enormous Courage

Like many readers I know, I often become sort of obsessed about a subject and read book after book related to it -- Tudor history, for example, or the Kennedy administration, or the French Revolution. (I read a lot of non-fiction.) In the past few months I have read or listened to several books about climbing Mount Everest and K-2, the two tallest peaks in the world. It is astounding how physically and mentally challenging these climbs are. I think that's what enthralled me so: the very fact of such dogged persistence in the face of extreme everything -- weather, altitude, etc.

As I read, I had what seemed a silly, egotistical thought: I may not be able to climb Everest, but I accept the challenge of living an honest, self-aware and deeply searching spiritual life and that, in its way, is comparable. But it was the kind of thought that seems too egomaniacal for airing in the light of day, so I let it go.

Then I had a great conversation with a friend who uses Jon Krakauer's book, Into Thin Air, in the early weeks of an introductory theology course he teaches. (Note: this is one guy with whom I could see myself studying theology.) And I had my hook for seeing my spiritual life as analogous to climbing impossible heights.

Then today, in Mariechild's own words:

It takes enormous courage to stop the busy activities we have been encouraged to perform and look inside oneself and be willing to accept and work with whatever one finds. (January 2)

Being in pain so often, I have few "busy activities" to cease, but her words still apply to me. I find them encouraging and hopeful as I clamber, sometimes reluctantly and sometimes joyfully, into the mountain's heights.

Some family and friends of mine are reading Diane Mariechild's book, Open Mind -- Women's Daily Inspiration for Becoming Mindful. Please find a copy of the book and join us on this blog by leaving comments below. Thanks!

01 January 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Night Wind Woman

Don't you love the image, night wind woman? To me, it breathes of fearlessness and freedom. The image alone, if I allow it to settle within me poetically -- not prosaically -- seems to lift me away from this body that so often entraps me in pain.

I need not assume a defensive crouch when I feel the migraine coming on. I need not dread the loss of productive hours, the inevitable canceling of whatever few arrangements or engagements I have felt hopeful enough to make. As Mariechild says, wind wisdom allows me to "embrace a truth that moves beyond the individual self."

As difficult as it is -- and counter-cultural in a world that values ambition and working for material gain -- I can try to embrace the truth of the pain in a way that moves me beyond my individual self. This movement does not lessen the physical pain. It does, however, allow me to do these things:

 Relax just enough to realize how tense I have become.
Use my deep muscle relaxation practices and begin to breathe deeply, steadily.
Accept the truth of the pain and stop making it worse with physical tension and mental suffering.

What do you like about the January 1 entry in our book, Open Mind -- Women's Daily Inspiration for becoming Mindful?

How do you relate to the images in Joy Harjo's poem?

How do you relate to this post if you do not have chronic pain? Does it apply to your life?

Please click on the Comment box below to share your thoughts and feelings. Or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.