Listening… as the crow flies

As I become more consistent with my meditation and prayer, I am feeling more reconnected to my life in many ways: I am reconnecting to myself, my heart and my family. My life’s daily pace, because of my illness and because of the world’s pandemic, has slowed dramatically and this has brought (to all of us really) the potential for both positive and negative benefits. This slowdown has helped deliver growing peace. Yet, I have experienced moments of being triggered and unsettled, distracted and sometimes confused by even the simplest of situations. Before I go there, let me step back a little. My days have assumed a much slower pace since my cancer diagnosis and especially since my surgery (obvious result I guess).  Nowadays, I putter to maintain some level of movement, stretching reality instead of my abdomen and joints, and reclassifying simple things like sweeping the walkway as, ‘exercise’.  This is a significant change for me. 

As a young adult and well into my forties I maintained a frenetic pace of life. Often, I was barely through any door before I needed to make my way out again. It is a fading, distant memory now: ‘fast or crash’, to steal a phrase I once heard. Somedays I wonder how I survived that period and, quite frankly, I know I wasn’t all that unique. It’s different now and thank goodness it has changed. Today I am motivated and encouraged by decreases in pain and discomfort levels, a good chakra clearing, a glimpse into my true self, a good conversation with my wife and a refreshing nap…all part of my recovery. Slow has become good and I have been more focused on looking inward than anything else. 

I truly believe in the benefits brought by quieting my mind and opening my heart to listen. I seek a higher inner peace with myself, so I can share with others around me. I have known fear and disconnection up until my diagnosis and throughout my treatment…the time for change is now and I am not wasting any more time. I have no idea what the future holds and quite frankly I am trying to make no time to think about it as I focus on now. 

“To attain a Godly state Arjuna, you must become fully immersed in the True Self through the process called Meditation (Dhyana Yoga). You have to control your mind, body and senses and become free of possessions, expectations, desire and greed. You must live alone, at least internally in a quiet place. This inner place called meditation is imperative because it is the means for achieving lofty and necessary ends.

The Bhagavad Gita – Taming of the Senses #10, the Method of Meditation

My meditation and prayer periods over this week, while I believe they are helping me significantly, have been really distracted events. My dogs have needed a lot more attention and they seem triggered by a lot going on in the back yard. My Akita unapologetically nudges my arm until I oblige her with a rub between the ears, prompting her little brother from another mother to whine until he gets love too. The hummingbirds are buzzing around the air playing their game of chase. Even perched on a wire or stopping to refresh themselves with a drink, they screech to their partners. Notes and messages buzz through with early morning salutations, questions and alerts of breaking news. The mouse in the yard attracts the attention of the dogs while a far-off motorist enjoys the enhanced rumble of their car as it finds a clear path on the nearby highway.

I can accept this cacophony of sound as I have chosen to be enveloped by the emotion of the commotion of a world coming to life at this hour. I feel blessed to be in the presence of these flickers of distraction. They remind me I am alive. More importantly, it enables me to fully cherish the silence when it can be achieved or created within myself. I choose to be outside in nature when I meditate, therefore I accept all the accompaniment that comes with this space. 

“Stillness is the canvas against which movement can become beautiful. We can only appreciate movement against the background of stillness. Were everything kinetic, we could not know what movement is. As sound is sistered to silence, movement is sistered to stillness.” 

John O’Donohue

This week however, I have also struggled with triggers that have brought judgement and anger, frustration and loss of control into my headspace. In some cases, the distraction almost became too much to make my way to my meditation and prayer. A complete stranger managed to create feelings of anger in me because of a few words thrown carelessly out into the social media world. My response put me on the same level, although I justified my response as an appropriate defensive position. I realized during this period of reflection that all I was defending was my ego and, perhaps brandishing a little ostentatious behavior in the words I used to ‘defend’ myself. It felt right at the time.  Just in time, the words in this verse from Proverbs showed themselves and reminded me of what I was really doing and the poison of the activity:

“Many words rush along like rivers in a flood, but deep wisdom flows up from artesian springs. It is not right to go easy on the guilty or come down hard on the innocent, but the words of a fool start fights. Do him a favor and gag him. Fools are undone by their big mouths; their souls are crushed by their words. Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy. Do you really want junk like that in your belly?”         

The Message, Proverbs 18:4

Why would I want this poison, this ‘junk’ in my belly? Did I mention it was a stranger who triggered all of this…yes. I was judging them as their judgement sparked anger and loss of control in me. As I sat there and breathed in, I began to focus on this situation, my judgement of others and their situations. It is easy to sit back and watch from the outside, the lives of those around you and pretend you understand. Ironic that I would think this way as I seek to go inside to even understand myself a little more intimately, more succinctly. I breathed through these thoughts, forgiving myself and making a mental note that this was a process I needed to stop. From the stranger in the car on the road or my child, or my sibling…I was neither qualified nor was it right to judge. I know this, always have, now I need to practice this even more and be conscious to ensure that I don’t bring this junk into my belly.

During this reflection, I began to notice a crow had perched itself overhead on one of the tall palms. It sat on a frond, cawing incessantly in a familiar 3-line poem, ‘caw, caw, caw…caw, caw, caw’. It went on for a while and I thought to myself well this seems like a bad omen. I opened my phone and looked up the crow…the following is from the first link that caught my attention and seemed relevant. It would explain the spiritual symbolism of a crow.  An excerpt from that link. I encourage you to read it and change your perspective of the crow or raven:

“Crows and ravens have a somewhat bad rap in our history, often used to represent evil, and things of a dark nature. But the lesson in that is to not judge a book by its cover. The crow teaches us to be mindful of judging others (and crows) and to stand out in thought and action—even if it goes against popular opinion.

Both mysterious and misunderstood, the crow is often associated with death and darkness, yet some cultures have revered him as the creator of the world. Much like the coyote, the crow has the reputation of being a trickster and a shapeshifter because he fools us into thinking he is a mere scavenger when he is actually quite intelligent. 

As a totem of the Great Spirit, the crow represents creation and spiritual strength. He gets the utmost respect. To have a crow as a power animal is powerful. The crow represents wisdom, and if you have a crow sighting, you are connecting with his spirit. Together, you can travel beyond the limitations of one-dimensional thinking and laws.”

The message to me: stop judging others…and myself. It’s interesting because while I had always judged the crow as an ominous presence, I have always been impressed by their size and stature. They seem to have a confident aura whenever they were around. There are a few that used to live by my place of work and in our neighborhood and there are some massive specimens that live around the Grand Canyon. My perspective of them has totally changed and I look forward to this crow or any other hanging around my meditation space whenever it wants to. Interestingly enough, as I read through the explanation of the crow, it finally stopped crowing and flew away. I looked up at the empty palm frond and smiled at the sky. I love a good message and unexpected lesson. I straightened my back and focused on my breathing. After some clearing and cleansing, I picked up the 7 Spiritual Laws of Success and opened it to the following: 

The Law of Intention and Desire #3

The Law of Intention and Desire #3 ‘Remain in the state of self-referral. This means remain established in the awareness of your true self – your spirit, your connection to the field of pure potentiality. It also means not to look at yourself through the eyes of the world or allow yourself to be influenced by the opinions and criticism of others.” 

Deepak Chopra

And then another important reminder presented itself to me, 

“It is just as easy to be peaceful and joyful as to be worried and disturbed. Never forget to smile – not a mask like smile without sincerity behind it, but the honest, radiant smile that comes from a light, joyful heart.”   

Paramhansa Yoganada

The distractions and triggers this week had almost kept me from my morning routine: they were making me tired and weakening my resolve. I am happy I persevered and walked through these issues. I stuck to my routine. Too often in the past, I would have given up and wondered why I bothered. In fact, ‘why do I bother?’ used to be a familiar phrase that rang through my mind too often. Now, I have a response, because my peace, my joy and my truth are important to me. This was reinforced and shown to me through prayer and meditation. I centered myself even when being knocked off that center. Now, my understanding and perspective have also been impacted towards a more useful place…no judgement. Perhaps it is replaced with this final reminder:

‘Empathy…the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes; the recognition that someone else’s experience has value too. Most of us practice this without a second thought. If we see someone struggling or suffering, we don’t stand in judgement, we reach out because, “there but for the grace of God go I.” ‘       

Michelle Obama

Thank you for reading. I hope I offered some perspective to you from my own journey. Hopefully you found this when you needed it most. 

 

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