Can We Begin To Find the Temple in the Place We Call Home

Goddess of the Mountains by Laurie Crain

Goddess of the Mountains by Laurie Crain

And why it’s vital now more than ever.

In conversation with a dear friend the other day, we shared some personal pandemic ruminations. He said there are some things he is in no rush to do once restrictions lift. Like drinking in a bar.

I understand that, I said. That particular activity isn’t one I indulged in often so I haven’t missed it. I’ve missed being able to throw parties and have people over; I’ve missed rummaging through thrift shops for treasures. I have missed most having a sense of freedom and being able to go somewhere and travel.

Despite not even having a budget for travel, there is still something of a ceiling on even my imagination that I have felt. The right word to describe it is probably ‘depressing’. As in this stark reality, pressing down upon me: you are trapped here, you can’t go anywhere.

Yet, to be honest now, I am not feeling in a hurry to travel.

Home has been Toronto (Tkaranto, the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit) and during this time, due to poor leadership and mismanagement, we have had one of the longest lock-downs in North America. I am fortunate and privileged in having a place to live and food to eat and still it has not been without challenges.

I have taken myself out for daily walks in my neighbourhood. I have reminded myself of my fortune and privilege in living both close to the city’s largest park and the waterfront — which has always factored into my decisions when choosing where to live. I will gladly sacrifice some comforts for nature and beauty at my doorstep.

I prepared myself mentally for a long-haul winter but the early spring, as per usual, was the challenge. Especially with no prospect of escape. Here I was walking the same old streets like a crazed mouse in a maze. Where was the reward? When, freedom?

We are still locked down being taunted with things slowly re-opening. Soon. Soon. I, like many others, like my friend, are watching places from afar opening up again. It’s unsurprising to read of flights selling out as travel resumes in some of these places. While obviously I understand this, I’ve come around to feeling disappointed about it.

What is it about our ‘homes’ — cities for most of us — that we relate to as pit stops or perhaps just ‘good enough’ that we have to escape from as soon as the ticket queue opens up?

Is it possible or desirable to begin to relate to ‘home’ differently?

Has it become clear that cities are difficult places for humans to live in happily and healthily for extended periods of time? Here in Toronto, we have seen one of the largest condominium booms in the world. On and off for the past decade, I have worked in one of the most condo-dense areas in the city. There has never been a single time in these past 10 years that at least one hasn’t been construction literally surrounding the building I work in.

(Meanwhile, the number of people pitching tents they call home in the city’s parks grows.)

I have watched and felt how these condo-dense downtown areas have become darker and shadier as more of the sun is blocked out. I have noticed how the green and open spaces have disappeared to be replaced with scraggy random token trees not given enough soil and space to grow so they die after a few, sad years.

I understand that if you live in such a dense area, you are likely experiencing more of this itch to escape. I would be too, I don’t blame you. But it highlights why it is important to look at where we are living and how our environments may support or harm us. I also understand not all of us have a lot of choice in the matter. It’s complicated.

Once upon a time not so long ago, commercial travel was expensive and it was rare. People did (and many still do based on ability) live their lives in one relative space without ever traveling very far at all in their entire lifetimes. Travel was a luxury and a privilege. It’s disappointing, though again unsurprising, that many of us want to pretend that everything was great and okay before pandemic times and that we can seamlessly go back to cheap travel and the way things were.

Pandemic times have not erased the reality of climate change and the cost of cheap travel to our environment.

So in good faith I am not in a hurry to travel. I will not be first out of the gate in booking a flight out. Part of what has been illuminated in this time for me is how important and possible it actually is to see where I live with ever new and appreciative eyes.

So we come back to how I titled this piece. How to find the temple, and the sacred holy ground in the place where we call home, where we lay roots, the place where we spend most of our lives. Ask:

  • Where is the holiness to be found here?
  • Is there more to be seen and known beneath the surface of this familiar and ‘known’ space?
  • What have I not opened my eyes and heart to?
  • Should it be that I’m never able to travel anywhere again, can I be happy and content here?
  • What can I create?

What I increasingly know to be true is that, while it is special and wonderful to be able to travel and experience different climates and cultures, it can be borne of a restlessness and search for meaning that will never be quenched. If I can’t be happy and fulfilled and whole in the place I call home then I will not find it by roaming elsewhere. I will, at best, distract myself for a time.

I keep at it. It isn’t always simple or easy. I step out from my house and it can feel as though there is nowhere new to go, nothing new to see. So I search. The sky is always different, the way the breeze feels on my skin. Every day brings new growth to the plants and the flowers, the trees. In the park there are so many, how could I have ever thought to know them all?

Walking this familiar maze of streets, I’ve been able to open my eyes and melt my heart into seeing the pulsating life, the ever-changing yet eternal renewal, growth, and decay of the earth. It moves me to deep reverie and a growing connection to this place.

I have seen in the Bosnian mountains shades of Oahu. There are times here in Toronto, in the park, where I’m brought back to the feeling of being in Sedona. I gaze at the vast pines, their crowns high in the distance of the sky and I sense that I’m in British Columbia.

It is all one Earth and the holiness and divinity of this place can’t but be everywhere if we allow ourselves to soften and see. We don’t have to go anywhere to find it, it is already always where we are.

As the world begins to open up, many of us will like, or expect to, jump right back into the familiar ways of living (and let’s face it, consuming) we’ve known before. This may be possible for at time but for how long? The reality is that many places in the world are still struggling to contain this virus. Nothing is assured for any of us.

Which is why it makes the most sense to cultivate this connection with ‘home,’ wherever it may be. To touch and commune with the ground underneath our feet. We don’t know what awaits around the corner. Most of us could never have conceived of enduring the situation of the past year. Anything is possible.

But to feel connected, nourished, and held exactly where you are without need to escape…that is an immense gift. It needs nothing added, nor can anything be taken away.

Will you try it today?


Where freedom is found

IMG_0997Some days send me a gift. Like this vision of the water at the end of the street around the corner from my home. I turned the corner and, here, suddenly it feels like I’m in California.

I gaze at the water on the horizon… I pretend it’s the ocean and I’m walking westward.

I drop myself fully in the feeling of being in California walking toward the Pacific Ocean a short distance away. I feel myself melting, relaxing.
I consider why the flavour and the feel of the west coast soothes me in ways that Toronto seems to fall short. It comes down to a feeling of freedom and so the gift of today is to show me, freedom is a state of being, internally, either available wherever I am or, in fact, not at all.

This isn’t easy for me to fully embody at most times. I need to build this muscle of knowing and feeling myself to be free.

I walk down the street, amplifying California in my cells, and make my way to the water. This was not the original plan but I didn’t know setting out of my house today that I would be visiting the west coast.

This body of water is not the ocean, we call it a great lake but with the wind being what it is today on this vividly bright, beautiful fall day, it feels like the ocean. Waves crash onto the shore. To my ears the sound is music. The mist travels on the wind and gently sprays my face. I sit on the beach for a while and I watch the seagulls too, and they are a trip.

This is what they do.

In the air, wings spread, they are carried by the wind. It is all allowing.
A slight tuck, here and there, a slight re-angling, a slight withdrawing of the wings has them slip through the wind, drop down to a landing if they would like or be carried a little differently in the sky. All of them offer this allowing and surrender to the wind.
There is not a single one attempting to fly against the wind. They don’t do it. There is no imposing of will on the direction of the wind. There is no struggle.
Just a simple allowing of being carried by the wind. I consider how I’m witnessing intelligence and wisdom here.
And also, the most free of all creatures.


Nana’s Kitchen

gerald-a.-frank-crone-in-the-kitchen

Crone in the Kitchen by Gerald Frank

My grandmother stands
at the large wood stove
in her kitchen built of stone
at a time before the luxury of pipes and running water.
(do you remember to stop for her and see such as luxury?)

Actually, her kitchen sits unchanged
maybe for centuries
still not knowing such luxury.
Maybe just more broken open,
overgrowing, overrun.

9 years old
on the first visit here to her farm
Old enough to be aware
of where I am
Old enough to save a memory

the rural hillsides, a village called
Boljkovci

Her kitchen is always dark,
this little freestanding hut
built away from the main house (of 2 rooms)

It is ancient. It is cold. I have to get dressed and wear shoes to walk here, to sit here. Its smell all smoky, damp and barn-like all at once.

It is so strange to me, this kitchen.
Not what I have known a kitchen to be.
Their entire home not what I have understood a home to be….
like
something yanked out of a different era
that evolution had overlooked and bypassed just about entirely.

like
a place we could be visiting on a school trip to see how people used to live…
staged, stove & furniture roped off.

only it’s not.

I don’t entirely understand this…
I am uncomfortable.
I feel sad.
I feel anxious.
(I would like to leave now but know I can’t)

I am quiet.

Grandmother prepares some eggs for me.
I don’t know if I can eat it
but then
the plate is set down before me and
something in their presentation reminds me of my mother
As does her endearment spoken to me, my mom’s ‘peeleh’
eat, my little chick

Ah….my grandma called my mom peeleh
my mom calls me peeleh
how far back does it go, I wonder…
peeleh…
who started this endearment
and when?

Her eyes are kind
I feel I can trust her
though
so much of what I’m seeing kind of
scares me…
the harsh black widow’s garb…
this hunched back…the
profile of her head reminding me of the illustrations
in fairy tales of witches….

this is where i come from

her eyes are kind, yes,
and don’t mask the suffering beneath

is this mine too?

the deeply etched lines on her face
her inflamed and scabbed legs
the gnarling hands

I eat what I can of the eggs and the cheese
but they too
taste strange to me
and tough to swallow
as though
I’m ingesting this place with each bite

I go outside into the summer day
just beyond the yard
the green rolling hills beckon me
Warm and bright outside.

I run down a hill

out of breath
I collapse on the grass
looking up at the blue skies
and rolling puffy clouds

despite all,
elated in this place

there is so much beauty

Art by Gerald Frank


A Gratitude Ritual

'Giving Thanks' Frank Polson

‘Giving Thanks’ Frank Polson

In the year I did my first Reiki training, I began a routine of gifting this healing energy to myself as I lay in bed, drifting into sleep.

Somewhere in the practice of laying my hands on my body with this loving intention of providing myself with Reiki energy, my gratitude practice was born. My thoughts would drift to the day’s events and I naturally found myself pausing to express and feel gratitude for them deeply in my body because it felt joyful and blissful to do this.

Some days were filled with so many wonderful things and it was easy to summon so much to be thankful for. Other days weren’t so spectacular and yet, it was still easy. I start there where I am. Because I am grateful every night for having a warm bed to sleep in. I’m grateful for the body that allows me the experience of this life. I am grateful for this breath.

And what happens always is that one grateful expression will lead me to the remembrance of another. And then another. And another.

Most nights, I am filled with tremendous awe and humility at how beautiful life is, how wonderful people are, how many gifts are so freely and generously given. (Of course, this isn’t to suggest that there aren’t difficult people and painful moments in my life; it just isn’t where I put my attention especially before sleep.)

My nightly ritual has become this. I no longer intentionally giving myself Reiki though it’s all kind of become the same thing. I place one hand on my belly above womb (about 3 inches below belly betton) and one on my heart centre. For me, this creates an important circuit and connection between hands, breath, body, and awareness. A way for the energy to flow through me.

Continuously connecting with the experience and energy of gratitude in my body allows me to find my way back to it quickly and easily when things go awry and when it would otherwise be hard to come to be in a thankful state. Like any place I’ve often travelled to, I know the terrain and how to find it without thinking about it, without worrying and without a map.

So as I run through my day and feel the deep gratitude for the special moments throughout, I float off to sleep feeling happy, relaxed and as a result, I sleep soundly and restfully. I never have a nightmare. I wake up in the morning in a grateful, excited and humble place. Ready to start and experience another miraculous day.

Do you have a gratitude practice? What is it?

What are you grateful for?

Or perhaps you are looking to experience reiki, contact me for an in-person or remote session.

Art is “Giving Thanks” by Frank Polson