Sunday, December 11, 2011

Living our beliefs and the Gifts We Bring

If I try to act in accordance with another’s wishes and beliefs rather than my own, then I am trying to live that other person’s life, which leaves no one attending to mine. Where we share beliefs, and that happens often in life, then I will be living out of my own life when I act on our shared belief. But, where our beliefs are different, I must follow my own, live out of my own life, or the world has lost something. No matter how small or insignificant my life may seem, what I have to give through it is unique and, in the end, touches all life in some way.

Others must live the beliefs that have grown out of their own living. They are attending to their business when they do this. What they have to give in this life is important; only they can give it. We need their perspective, even when we don’t agree with it.

I recently heard the idea that without friction we cannot grow. We need challenge in our life to change and grow. Challenge pushes us to move beyond our comfort zone. Meeting challenges in our lives allows us to grow more deeply into the fullness of the beings we truly are.

The gifts we have to bring to our beautiful Earth are born as we respond to our challenges. Our entire Earth community is blessed as these unique gifts spread out in ever widening circles from the unique individual beings that we are (my song, Gifts We Bring, speaks of the process of finding our way into this expression of our gifts).

The truth is that we must live our own lives because no one else can. If we do not attend to our own lives, then the gifts that could come from us and those lives will remain ungiven; people will not have the support and the benefit of them. Everything I have learned in this life tells me that we are all needed and all have our own unique and worthy offering to make.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing Chants

The chants I write are the chants I myself need to hear. They are the songs of my heart, beginning with the first chant I ever wrote, God Hold Me. This simple chant was a complete surprise to me, just as the notion of writing music was a surprise to my life. The way songs and chants form still amazes me. They aren’t just written; they are begun, then sung and sung and sung, until slowly their final form rises to the surface of my being. The recording process is much the same; the recording begins with one instrument, is then added to, listened to, taken from, and then added to again, until its final shape rises to the surface, a coherent whole.

I’ve thought a great deal about how this process is best nurtured. Life has many interruptions. Just as a piece of music, or a musical process, gains momentum, life can jump in with a whole different agenda. It is so very easy for the everyday calls of life to take hold…the daily activities that serve the body, the home and the garden; the work that protects the future with income and maintenance; and all the small ways we each take time to care for others. These are all valued parts of life, necessary and beautiful, each in their own way.

So, how does one nurture the gift of creativity and then share it with others, with so much else of life calling. The washer just stopped; do I go and get this load of wash into the dryer and the next load into the wash, knowing that if I don’t keep on top of this process, the week’s laundry will not be finished by the end of the day (and then I must go to work tomorrow)? Or, do I trust that the spaces of time when I leave my creative work to do something that does not seem to be creative at all, are in fact creative time? That the creation continues to work in me, grow in me, taking shape in the quietude of seeming neglect and abandonment? When I return to the work, as a writer does after taking a break, will I see something new that grew without any apparent help from me?

Today, as the short day darkened toward our early evening, I took a walk, feeling that the day had been filled, for the most part, with questions, perplexities, and laundry. As I walked, I thought “what single next step can I take for the chant I am now working on? Perhaps I am asking too much of a single day. Perhaps I am trying to circumvent the process, trying to leave it behind in the quest for the completed chant. Perhaps, once again, I need to accept that the next step is actually all I can do and that this next step is the only path to the finished work.”

I decided that the next step was to change the speed of the piano track; it seemed too quick to me. I sat down at my computer, tried that (and failed). But somehow that led to experimenting with the guitar, then with the dulcimer, and then with a counter melody on the dulcimer. After a timeless period of musical immersion, another piece of the chant had flowed to the surface. I was blessed again by the process.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hollow Reed

A hollowed reed, played by wind and breeze, has long been an image for me of God working in me, moving through me and out into the world. The reed, being hollow, has nothing of itself to catch or hold that movement, nothing that begs to control it. It makes, instead, a channel, and from that movement of breeze through it, a kind of music emerges, music shaped by the reed and individual to it. No other reed can create the exact same music, and the music can only be complete when God’s voice moves through the reed unhindered.

This has been the deepest prayer of my heart for years and years and years. This is the direction of my inner life, how my soul centers in God. This new song speaks to this movement in me, in each of us.

Let me be a hollow reed, through which you blow, oh God….

Hollow Reed
Lorna Carolyn Aites, 2011


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Hollow Reed by Lorna Carolyn Aites is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Concentration of Energy and Focus

Recently, I teased a much loved younger sister about a pile of old newspapers she has kept (an accumulation of newspapers with useful articles). The energy behind the comment was impatient; making it was unkind. As I thought about it later, I realized that my comment meant that there must be something in my own self that I needed to look at, something about hanging on to piles of things.

So, I did a bit of The Work. For those of you who haven’t met Byron Katie and her work, I highly recommend reading her book Loving What Is (or start with A Thousand Names for Joy, the first of her books that I read, a beautiful journey into spirit). You can go to her website, The Work of Byron Katie, or find one of the many videos of Katie doing the work with individuals by searching “Byron Katie” on YouTube. Two that I particularly like are: "What's the Reality of Pressure?" and "Prison of the Mind". Katie shares, from out of her own life and experience, an absolutely wonderful way to work through the tangled thoughts we engage with every moment of our lives, thoughts that cause us everything from uneasiness to despair.

I came to see, by doing the writing and reflection that Byron Katie (known simply as Katie) teaches, that I, too, have some piles that I am hanging on to. I also saw how very much this hanging on blocks the flow of creativity in my life. I realized again that clearing out old piles of things can clear and open the way for new inspirations and resources to make their way into my life.

I am at a turning point in my life (not the first, probably not the last); in this turning, I find my commitment to writing and recording music deepening. I find that I need to choose to make this work my primary focus. To do this, I need to let go of some other things that I also love to do but which fragment my time and energy and keep me from my music. Even when I am not doing these activities, they hang over my head, large weighty projects that would be wonderful to do, but only if I had 3 or 4 concurrently running lives! I identified several of these interests and will now let them, and the physical things that support them, go…not an easy process, but, in the end, very liberating.

When I look around me at people who are really giving their gifts to the world, I see this kind of concentration of energy and focus.

And here’s the wonder in it. Shortly after I began to take action on the letting go process, I found myself rewriting two songs that I first wrote some years ago and then set aside. They were songs that had promise but that just didn’t satisfy me. Now both the music and the lyrics are complete for each song. I believe that the way opened for this by my effort to release activities that do not support this main focus, my music.

So, my gratitude to my dear sister, for pointing the way to something I needed both to work out within myself and then to act on in my external world. And, my heartfelt apology for my impatience with her; she needs to take whatever time she needs to take to make changes in her inner and her outer world. So, apparently, do I.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

One Step at a Time

I am comfortable with the word God. I also know that there are many many ways to speak of the spirit at the heart of our beings, and there are many many people who live from the center of spirit without calling it God, or, for that matter, anything at all. What is essential is that we live from truth, from our deepest inner selves, expressing it with our actions to others in every way possible. A life lived in this effort is a life well and truly lived.

The song One Step at a Time was one of the first songs I ever wrote and recorded, and is in the style of a victory chant, a form of devotional chanting in India. It speaks to my life’s quest to find the center and the truth of my being, to live in and from that center, and to act from it in every way that I can. It speaks to my understanding that I do this little by little, immersed in the small moment to moment actions of my life.

I know in the heart of my heart that each true movement of spirit into the world, even if it is infinitesimally small, is infinitely important. It is the voicing of the truth in us that changes the world. It doesn’t matter how big the action is.


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One Step at a Time by Lorna Carolyn Aites is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Grace and Humility

Years ago, at a retreat, I was introduced to the practice of choosing a word for the year, a word to inspire and nurture inward expansion and growth. I loved the practice and have been doing it ever since.

I thought this year’s word was “grace”, but have come to realize that another word has been whispering to me from behind it, and that word is “humility”.

A dear friend recently told me that the Jewish word for humility, anavah, means “taking up the appropriate amount of space”. It was the first definition of humility that really spoke deeply to me and I have been reflecting on it since our conversation two weeks ago.

If we take up the appropriate amount of space, then we do not threaten others because we are not pushing into their space. If we take up the appropriate amount of space, we are calm because we are not trying to do more than our own work in the world. And, if we take up the appropriate amount of space, we are not trying to use more than our share of the abundance this earth offers to all of us. We give our own unique gifts to others while we honor their space and their needs. We do this and honor the Earth’s needs as well.

I will be thinking more about humility as this year continues. I may actually find my way back to grace…though this gift of the word humility, in all its richness, is truly grace in motion.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thoughts on the Word "Ought"

This morning, I am struggling with an inner list of things I ought to do. “Ought” is a dangerous word. When it appears in my thinking, I know I have strayed away from paying attention to my inner voice and, as a consequence, may miss an opportunity to allow God’s voice to move through me and into the world.

The first glorious whisper from within was to go back into the garden (where I spent most of yesterday afternoon in the sun, working a little, reading and dreaming a lot). Is the garden the best choice, my mind whispers back? Is there something else I “should” (another dangerous word) be doing? I slide headlong from that thought into stress and anxiety.

There are many times, I believe, when each of us allows that Divine voice to work through us. It doesn’t matter what we call it; the Divine is that energy that leaves us feeling right about ourselves, satisfied at a deep level of being with how we are conducting ourselves, able to connect in a loving way with the people and the world around us. We are immersed in our work, whatever it may be in the moment, and the resonance of that holds us in a stillness that exists even amidst the noise of life and the activity around us.

If we identify the inner guidance emerging from the center of our being, and then act on it, we can regain our balance when we are assailed by a list of “oughts”. Though the very things that are on my “ought” list may, in fact, at some point soon flow from my inner guidance, they will do so for different reasons. I will not be stressed by an inner struggle to find my center and act from it. I will act from the center of my being, not the center of what I perceive the world’s wishes to be, and that makes all the difference.

I finally realized that the first whisper of the day, to go into the garden, was truly the right one. I donned my hiking boots, grabbed my water bottle, and went outside. There, I swept, weeded and pruned, mulling over the changes in motion and yet to come in the tiny patch of yard I was working on. Just as I came to the end of my inner inspiration to work in the garden, the first raindrops fell. I put away my tools and came indoors. Now, as I write, the rain is falling and I am content to follow the next inner whisper.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Openness

Being open may be the only way to receive inner guidance. Often, this openness comes from change, the result of major difficulty, an internal crash, or loss. These events strip defenses and leave us wide open to illumination and transformation.

But, what if we could learn to let go of the defenses we set up? What if we could learn to respond, consciously, with increased openness, to the more minor forms of change in our lives? Could change, transformation and illumination come more gently, more kindly?

Change taken in smaller doses, deliberately, doesn’t activate our flight and fight response. Practicing change could allow us to become more at ease with it. Slowly, our boundaries can be pushed outward, a little at a time, enlarging the capacity to move with change and uncertainty.

To start, we can choose a change we completely enjoy (later, we might test the waters of more difficult challenges). I love to rearrange house and garden spaces; I find it gives me new perspective, allowing me to clear energy in my environment and do some deeper cleaning. It’s a lovely way to make way for new projects and new insight. I am refreshed and renewed by the process, inspired for the work to come.

I want to do this year’s spring cleaning early; I’m ready for the change in energy and perspective now. We have a small house; I plan, during the coming week, to take time for one room each day and to spend only one hour doing everything I can do for the room. Then I will let go of it.

That’s a bit of a challenge in itself. Limiting projects really demands creativity and thought. I must think about what is most important, what calls to me the most. I wonder if, to push my own letting-go boundaries, I might also be able to let go of one “thing” in each room that is not useful or beautiful or (in our house) potential creative material (an old shirt may have usefulness and become part of a creative project simply because it has beautiful buttons, for instance; there’s a harvest there that I may want to take advantage of before I turn old cloth to rags or quilt scraps).

And what does any of this have to do with openness? Letting go allows for openness. Every tendency we have to hold on tightly, to any thing or person in our lives, stands in the way of openness and creates a barrier to movement, inner awareness, guidance or epiphany. Wherever we let go, we make space for everything to shift, for new understanding to come, for our lives to move into new growth and greater purpose.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Listening

There are too many things that I want to do with my free time, too many creative pursuits. Wanting to make the best choices, I sometimes can do nothing. I am so full of my own wish to pick the perfect choice that I am blocking out the best advice I could ever receive on the subject: the Divine voice, the Center of Being within me.

When I let go of myself long enough to really Listen, sometimes I catch hold of an impulse, a suggestion popping up within me, which points to an action. The action may not seem to be anything at all, it is so small. But, if I say “alright” and do it, then listen again, the tiniest suggestion more will appear in my heart; and, if I will do that, then the next suggestion will come, and the next, and the next...

Trust is essential. I stop the process altogether if I strive to create an entire start-to-finish picture in my mind of the creation each of these small actions lead to. When I let go and trust, there is the possibility of surprise, even magic, emerging from these inwardly directed actions.

These impulses from within are very quick and very softly spoken. One has to learn to listen gently, to take hold of an impulse as though embracing a butterfly, and to flow with it.

I am blessed when this can happen.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Kindness

I was listening to the news tonight about all the kindness people are showing each other in Tucson, Arizona. Interestingly, it's no longer just in relation to the shooting that happened there last week; it has now spread to include kindness to many people in all directions.

It seems that we, as humans, are capable of ongoing kindness for others. It just needs the effort to keep some continued focus on it. What would happen if we did this? What would happen if we looked around ourselves each day and looked for small ways in which to be kind to one another?

What better way to change our world than to start (and then to continue) with kindness?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Clearing Energy

I am still dealing with a variety of physical issues, the aftermath of back surgery this last autumn and the healing process since then. There are moments when I feel discouraged, when poor sleep and physical discomfort weigh on me. Yesterday morning I woke up in this frame of mind and body. After doing exercises to ease my body into the day, I sat in meditation. During that meditation, I came to see that what I could focus on for the day was clearing energy, looking for and undoing the clogged up areas in my life, in every way possible.

Attitude is everything. Once I had changed my focus from discomfort and discouragement to the positive things I could do, I was off and running. I made a list of everything I could think of that would clear energy in my life, from untangling the mess of coats, scarves and umbrellas just inside the front door, to finishing a sewing project, to tidying up the kitchen. It’s not as important which particular area is cleared, untangled or set right, as it is to do the clearing process itself. When I can open up a clear flow of energy in one area of my life, that movement makes space which affects everything else. It’s as though I have several objects in front of me and remove one of them, leaving more room to move the remaining objects around. The energy freed can touch all levels of life, from physical to mental to emotional to spiritual.

My day, which started with discouragement, ended in a satisfaction. It was not so much the quantity of things I accomplished as it was the sense of movement and new possibility. As I continue to clear more of my outer world, I may find a new spaciousness within my inner world.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cloud Flight

My husband, Ed Aites, is a long-time artist who, in the last several years, has been doing time-lapse photography and video work. The skies here in the northwest have presented marvelous opportunities for this.

This last autumn, I worked on a short instrumental work for him, entitled "Cloud Flight". He paired that music with some of his time-lapse photography to create a piece by the same name. I am excited about doing more of these partnerships and am glad to share the result in this blog.