Karmic currency

Last week the main zipper on my backpack broke. The bag was still functional but not as much as it was before. It seems hard in these days of our disposable culture, discarding and replacing damaged items, to get things repaired at a reasonable price. Personally, I prefer to use things as long as I can, and I was really fond of this backpack, especially since as I age, I need to put everything in the same places or I will never find anything or remember to take things with me. Sound familiar, anyone?

Having called up a few places that were asking for crazy prices to replace the zipper, I gave up and went for a walk. I’m new to the area where I’m currently living, and I decided to walk up a different side street. Lo and behold, in front of one of the houses was a sandwich board advertising clothing alterations and repairs. When I called the number, the very friendly woman said yes, it was no problem to fix the zipper and she charged me a fraction of the price I was quoted elsewhere. Result!

Other than the added benefit of supporting local initiatives – something so vital in our post-pandemic age, for me, this episode the system of putting out to the universe what you need and trusting that it will come to you – though not usually in the way that you expect.

I’ve had several incidents of this happen lately, the most wonderful one being the rental of a digital piano, me currently being a pianist without a piano. The main shop that rents keyboards told me they had nothing in stock and no idea if and when any would be available. I left it for a few days and went back to look at a keyboard I was willing – in desperation – to buy, though it was pricey and not quite what I was looking for. I mentioned to a (different) salesman how I would prefer to rent and he told me that a digital piano had been returned that very day – a beautiful Roland which I snapped up with immense joy.

Though of course, I’m not suggesting this is the only way to obtain things, I think the beauty of what I call ‘karmic currency’ is that things are infinitely available, if and when we’re willing to give up our impatience and control in acquiring them and just trust that the universe will provide what we need.

The flip side is, of course, that we also need to ‘pay out’ when opportunities arise. So not knowing if we’re in ‘karmic credit or debt’, you end up with an ever-flowing dance of reciprocity, reinforcing not only our bond of community with one another, but also a communion with greater powers beyond our reach. So in addition to populating our world with unexpected surprises, this web of interconnectedness will hopefully make us feel less alone and uncertain, as we wend our way through our own particular challenges.

Creating space

I think one of the hardest things to let go of is an injustice or wrong you feel has been done to you. We can actively try not to think about the situation, but reminders can re-enter your world that stir it all up again and make you question everything that has passed before.

I received such a stimulus a week ago by way of an email regarding a book I had devoted an entire year working on and putting together, but due to the existing power dynamics, had been actively shut out of the final processes of its publication. So although I was the primary editor, I never actually saw or heard anything more about my work and only discovered by accident that the book had gone to print and was due to be launched. This email was from the publisher asking where to post me a copy of the book.

It’s hard to summarize calmly about the hurt, anger and indignation I’ve felt at the awful and cruel way I was treated over the course of several months of this project. However, while I feel it is absolutely right to stand up to injustices where people are being treated unfairly, when it is your own battle, there is also the time to know when the fight is done –where the act of fighting is causing more harm to you than good, and to start the painful but necessary process of letting go.

For me, if I know that I’ve acted in the best possible way, with honesty, conscientiousness and integrity, it is this that gives me the strength to walk away. The battle is only truly lost when we allow whatever negativity to poison and consume us, to take over our world and leave us with little space for anything else.

 Letting go is often a process, akin to grieving. But the more we are able to let go – to summon up our resilience and move forward and beyond our grief, the more we are creating space for new energy to flow in, which will heal our souls and take us to better places with further opportunities to grow.

Animal magic

Yesterday, I was feeling a bit down, struggling to deal with a situation I’ll attempt to write about next time.  I was out on my bike, and although it was decidedly grey and a bit cold, I decided to go to come home via a big park to take in the splendor of the autumn colours. The dazzling hues of yellow, orange and red were truly uplifting, but I had an even greater surprise that awaited me.

I was feeling hungry, so stopped on my bike in a field near some bushes to dig out a small granola bar I had brought with me as a snack. No sooner had I unzipped my backpack than a red topped downy woodpecker landed on my bag, peering in, as if to say, ‘And where’s my treat?’ I was quite surprised and then immediately sorry that I didn’t have any nuts or seeds with me, as I usually do when planning an outing in nature.

Well, there was nothing for it, but to share my granola bar, hoping it was suitable avian fare. I broke it up into little pieces, and the woodpecker, which had flown away, soon returned, popping onto my hand to snatch the little nuggets. He was soon joined by other chickadees and nuthatches – some feeding out of my hand, some on the ground, along with the ubiquitous black squirrels scurrying about for any missed offerings.

The scene instantly transformed me into a joyful, timeless space. It never ceases to amaze me the restorative power of animals – of all kinds – to our wellbeing. It put me in mind of a donkey sanctuary I visited recently, run by a dedicated older couple, who care for rescued donkeys. It’s truly a labour of love and heartening to see how well looked after the donkeys are, but my most recent visit taught me something more. The man has dementia, and his wife said that looking after the animals gives him a purpose and a focus to his everyday life and that the animals have truly rescued him.

Animals give by just being – by exuding a strength just from existing in their true natures, pursuing their basic needs with a clarity and focus we humans could benefit from emulating. The donkeys, like the birds, were engrossed in eating – delighting in their treat of pickled hay, and my just watching them eat was soothing and grounding, reminding me of the basic necessities of life and being present within them. Such moments release my fragmented thoughts to flee in the wind.

The gift of nature – of wildlife – is that it is always there, always available, always giving of its presence, ready for us to receive and lift us from our fractured state and join and be part of an eternal whole.

Tickled pink

I had a lot weightier things I’d planned to write about this week, but instead, I’m going to write about a pink hat. This venturing off piste from something a bit more serious to a more lightweight and fun entry kind of sums up the story too. Before I set out the other day, there was, needless to say, no thought about a pink hat entering my life in any description, but enter it did, despite the fact that I set out looking for more practical things like a kitchen colander and shoes. 

Somehow I ended up (as I often do) looking at hats, which hold a strange fascination for me, perhaps because I metaphorically wear so many different ones in my life. At least this time, I was drawn into looking at useful, warm hats, unlike the wildly impractical Downton Abbey style cloche hat I recently bought in London on a whim and then had a bedevil of a time packing and carting back to Canada without wrecking it (cue – schlepping it with me on board the plane). So at least I thought, as I plunged into the alluring array of cozy looking hats, this would be warm and practical, especially a non-nonsense black hat. So how did I end up with a bright pink one? Suddenly in that moment, I didn’t want to be practical and sensible. I wanted a bit of colour and life and joy exuding out of the top of my head. And so, the bright pink hat is what ended up in my basket.

Needless to say, I didn’t come home with shoes or a colander (though I did look for them, truly) but instead, unintentionally making an outward statement of what I internally would like to manifest – exuberance, happiness and light – and perhaps the pink hat will also succeed in making others smile too. I think it’s important to be the change we want to be, walk the talk, or in this case, wear the hat that speaks your truth to the world. And that truth can also entail veering wildly off a sensible course and just living and breathing and celebrating life – spontaneity being the gloved hand of creativity. Ah gloves, but that’s another story…😊

The act of giving

I think we all face difficult decisions trying to live our best lives while fulfilling what I call ‘karmic responsibilities’ to other people and commitments that we’ve made. Sometimes it can feel like a constant pitched battle of having to choose between situations that impossibly conflict with one another, and that whatever choice we make, we will either feel guilty for neglecting our responsibilities or disappointment at missing out.

 I think the truly fortunate people are ones whose passions align with their responsibilities, such as those who care for animals or children, for example. But for many of us, responsibilities like those to family or community members can often result in us feeling robbed of spontaneity, freedom and joy.

There is certainly no perfect fix for this, and it can be a constant struggle to get the balance right, so that we are not always feeling anxious or unhappy. I think at times when we feel that we have chosen to sacrifice our time, our energy over doing something we truly want to do, the most healing action we can take is to try and step back and to view it as an opportunity to revisit our shared humanity. This can be hard when we’re immersed in the midst of a challenging situation, but it’s worth considering that we are all in a continual dance of giving and taking, and the act of giving can be in response to a time when you have taken in the past, or more pertinently, you are making the space for reciprocity to occur in future when you need to ask for help and will receive it from others.

Though it can feel upsetting or draining or even a wrong choice at the time, I think when we meet our karmic responsibilities and give, we are embodying humanity’s greatest treasure – the gift of compassion. And while it is equally important to have compassion for ourselves and our own needs, and not to neglect them and to honour them when we can, when we can give with compassion, we are actively engaged in a process of liberating our souls. And if we can develop the ability to give with compassion in a way that also brings us joy, this is the time when we are truly free.

A bridge of sighs

I wish I could say I’m writing this from Venice, but for me, Chipping Sodbury has equivalent charms. As I was looking at a little bridge over the River Frome on my early morning walk, it occurred to me what a wonderful name for a bridge this was. What is it about bridges that makes us want to sigh when we see them? Is it the hypnotic flow of the water rushing past underneath? Or is it the significance of the melding together of two places and the transition that takes place between them?

I’ve always been very drawn to bridges, especially old stone bridges, which must have seen an enormous amount of traffic of all kinds over the centuries. I’m sure it’s because I’m someone who lives in two different places of the world and is always trying to straddle the substantial distance between them. I think also that most of us have some kind of divisions in our lives that split our affiliations and loyalties. It’s human nature – to be a part of a family and move away from it or be divided between a job and a relationship – so many ways we section ourselves, especially as the world has opened up and is full of infinite possibilities.

In this way we all need effective bridges in our lives – something that helps us navigate between two areas over what is often a turbulent, unsettling divide between them. I think if we can all find what can work for us as a bridge and how we can use it to safely navigate across our different realms, we would find these transitions less harrowing and fraught. Whether this bridge is a specific location, activity, person or even state of meditation, we all need a safe divider to help us translate, transform and to be in peace in the different spaces of our lives.

On the road

My friend and I recently attempted another road trip. We enjoy ourselves – much of the time – but the driving aspect is always stressful. He drives, I navigate. And we’re talking paper maps – no Satnav. Sometimes it works and a lot of the time it doesn’t, as I’m directionally challenged and he won’t get involved in figuring out how to get somewhere. So we often get lost and sometimes turn up late for things – another source of stress. I also have to plan everything and he just goes along with it without any input into what we do on these trips. Fine, but when there’s a problem, he tends to overreact.

So such things cause me to be annoyed with him, but I’ve started to realize that when problems arise, reacting negatively doesn’t remotely help the situation. It’s hard, but with some newly acquired self-restraint, I’m learning that instead of lashing out, to take a step back and try to approach the situation calmly. Not always easy, especially in the spur of the moment, but what helps me is to look at the situation from an entirely different perspective. Many people behave negatively or overreact because they are suffering in some way internally. We all have our own particular anxieties and issues that lead us to act in outward negative ways – myself included. Wouldn’t I want someone to show compassion to me in these moments, not anger or irritation?

So this is what I (try to) do now is to modify my own reaction – to act instead with compassion and to focus on finding a solution to the problem. This decision to let go and approach the situation calmly has brought me so much peace, and more profoundly, into a whole other realm of humility – the realization of how vulnerable we all are and our sense of connectivity and responsibility to one another as members of humanity. I’ll write more about humility another time, but please don’t get annoyed with me for leading you on and not saying more about it now. 😊

Lemon meringue pie

I’m not actually a big fan of lemon meringue pie, but would be the first to say that when life throws you lemons, sure, you can make lemonade, but sometimes you can go one step further and make a fully formed lemon meringue pie.

I had such an experience the other night when I was getting ready to go to a play I had been planning to see for months, a one-off outdoor performance at 7.30pm in a country town seventeen miles away from where I was staying with my friend. This friend, who was driving, had packed up the deck chairs on his way to work, in a town thirteen miles in the opposite direction.

He assured me he would be back in time to go to the play and he would have been, had it not been for an accident that occurred just as he was returning home, and which blocked traffic for miles in every direction. He was stuck in town and would not make it in time.

What was I to do? I had been looking forward to this play for the whole summer, and there would be no opportunity to see it again. I sprung into action calling taxi companies – there being no public transit out these parts – but none were available until later in the evening.

I finally had the idea of knocking on the door of my friend’s neighbour, who I had only met once, but seemed like a nice girl and more to the point, was younger than me, so more likely to have an Uber app (my relationship with technology being of the dinosaur variety). Luckily, she was home and was more than willing to help. Although it was nearly 7pm by this point, she miraculously found a driver willing to come. While we were waiting, we chatted away easily, and made a really nice connection.

The driver then whisked me away along the windy Cotswold roads, where I catapulted onto the play about five minutes after it had started. My friend actually arrived five minutes after me, in tatters, but soon calmed down enough to enjoy the play, which was wonderful and worth the monumental effort in getting there. And, as I brought over a thank you gesture to the neighbour the next day, I was glad we had connected this way and I appreciated how kindness truly exists everywhere – something we all need more of these days – along with a sturdy helping of pie – of whatever flavour. 😊

A chirp in the dark

I had another bad night recently, where I was too hot and kept waking up, and when I did sleep, I was ridden with anxiety dreams. By the time I woke up for the last time at 6.30am, I felt tired, achy and completely uninterested in moving a muscle.  

But then out my window I heard the unmistakable whizzy sounds of a flock of goldfinches. These are particularly lively and colourful birds, and this morning’s visitors were mostly juvenile birds, whose faces hadn’t yet formed the distinctive red hue. They were whirring about the garden, flapping energetically between the big trees, especially favouring the buddleia tree just outside my window with its plentiful seeds. There were a couple of very young, hapless looking birds, flitting their heads about with uncertainty. Soon enough, one of the parents swooped in with tasty treats to feed them until they were satiated.

All of this succeeded in instantly lifting my mood, and even amidst my aches and fatigue, reminded me that there are always possibilities, always the potential for new energy and life. A bad night doesn’t need to carry on into a bad new day. When you are open to the infinite flow of the universe, there are always opportunities for healing and for things to take an unexpected turn for the better, if we are able to let them in.

The flow of stars

I was sitting in the back garden the other night at 3am, as it was too warm and I couldn’t sleep. When I looked up, I saw an enormous sky full of stars – a rare sight – and the air was crisp and cool. During the time I sat in the garden, the sky clouded over, erasing the stars in their wake. I felt immediately disappointed but then it gave me pause to reflect. Perhaps my appreciation of the stars, as much as it was for their beauty and luminosity, could also have been for their transient and fleeting nature.

Maybe this is the best way to value the special things in our lives, by being present when they enter into our orbit and appreciating them for the time they are there, knowing, but accepting that they too will pass. This is what can enable us to properly appreciate them. Possibly if we had such things all time, we would cease to be aware of their value and at best, take them for granted and at worst begin to tire of or even resent them. Even silence, a precious commodity in today’s world can take on an oppressive form if we had too much of it, too much of the time.

We must remember that we are like a river, forever flowing through the various ebbs and streams of our lives and it is impossible to stop and stagnate – we can either flow forwards or backwards. It is through our flowing that we encounter our special moments along the way. Often times these people or experiences flow along with us, or we are caught up with their own particular eddies, but always there is the flow. Like the stars, the true gift of all encounters and experiences is how and when they touch our lives and our precious, sweet memory of them when they float away.