Go to the flow

Like many people over the course of the pandemic, I’ve become very socially isolated. While I’m grateful for the myriad of online opportunities and meetups, for me personally, they don’t replace in-person contact or leave me with the same depth of connection or degree of fulfilment.

I was glad, therefore, that on a recent weekend, a meetup group I’d been a member of for a while but hadn’t met with for a long time, opted for a session on the patio of a restaurant. It was a chilly day, and though the heat lamps provided were valiant in their efforts, they didn’t succeed in providing much warmth. However, a dozen of us huddled at the tables in our jackets, scarves and hats.

In the conversations that followed, I didn’t feel that I was really connecting with anyone in terms of them ‘getting where I was at.’ However, there was one woman I felt drawn towards for some reason. When we finally spoke, I discovered that, like me, she has a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s, but was earlier on in the journey of care. After listening for a while to her story, I found that I could provide her with some suggestions and advice, based on my own experience.

This act of helping immediately boosted my energy and made me feel less alone. Though I had wanted someone to listen to my problems, by listening to those of another and offering what I had to give, I suddenly felt completely full. It’s a strange paradox, to receive by giving, but one that always seems to ring true.

For me, the way it works is that the universe has an infinite source of love readily available when we open ourselves up to it. When we offer our help to another with kindness, courage and compassion – the wellspring of our humanity – we become an embodiment of this pure love, and so it fills us up.

This is why I feel grateful whenever opportunities arise where I can give, both in pre-arranged volunteering, but also in spontaneous encounters, because I know that these opportunities will nourish and fulfil me, connecting me in a way that I am indivisible from my whole environment.

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 cruel and shameful 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.