Monday, December 19, 2011

Following the Stars

Meditation for me is a practical, down-to-earth experience.  Just being there attending to the present moment – my sensations, feelings and thoughts as I go through my day-to-day activities; brushing my teeth, washing my face, peeling the potatoes, going for a walk, interacting with others, and such is a very practical grounding experience.

Of course, my meditative practice – the time I set aside to quiet my mind by focusing  intently on something specific - sounds, visual pieces, tactile sensations, tastes and smells, and, most often, simply my own breathing is the backbone.  It helps train my mind to quiet the internal chatter and to be present for whatever is.

But ever since I was a child stars have fascinated me.  I remember how, as a very young child, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, would, as the song says, bring me to a place of wonder.  Later on I began scanning the early night sky to wish on the first star of the evening.  And then, as a teenager, I would watch for falling stars and the promise of wonderful things to come.

Of course that was a long time ago so it took me by surprise when the presence of stars in the early morning and night sky became part of my meditations.  It wasn’t intentional at all, but sometimes at the beginning and end of a day I feel a need to expand my awareness of what is and open myself to the universe. 

So, after quieting my mind and becoming grounded, I open myself to the sky above.  What I often sense first is the cool crispness of the air – the way it fills my lungs and cleanses my body.  Then, as I breathe deeper into the sky I become aware of the stars.  As I open myself to their presence, I feel a profound connection with them and something deep inside begins to vibrate ever so subtly.  It is as if I hear the stars singing!  I never expected to sense this; I know I can’t actually “hear” the stars.  After all, the nearest star is 9,470,000,000,000 km or 4.22 light years away.  And yet, I do.

The idea of singing stars, or the Music of the Spheres, was proposed by Pythagoras more than 2,500 years ago.  Mythology turned into science in the 1970s when astronomers found that stars do pulsate, and are not stabilised by their strong magnetic field as was previously thought.  We now have actual recordings and music composed with their songs.

So, strange as it seems, I let myself be carried into the heavens by the stars.  Initially, I sense a quiet vibration, this grows as I open myself to the 100 billion stars in our galaxy, and then to the stars beyond our galaxy – an estimated 500 billion galaxies each with approximately 100 billion stars.  As I do so, my reverie deepens and the songs swell into an uplifting celestial chorus.

As I come to the ever-expanding edge of the universe and peer into the void, I become aware of a creative presence.  To me this presence is the Divine, the Alpha and Omega, the “I Am” of creation.  I am filled with this presence, and I realize I am part of this wonderful creation – and this presence is part of who I am.

 When I bring my meditation to a close and return to my earthly surroundings this experience supports me.  I move through my days with an enhanced sense of unity with others – and with all that is.  Differences pale.  I am filled with peace, love and joy. 

Afterword –

 May you also be filled with Peace, Love and Joy during this holiday season and throughout the New Year.

To hear the music of the stars for yourself, check out the following:

·         The first piece of music composed for stellar instruments: the slowly-building Stellar Music No. 1 by Jenõ Keuler and Zoltán Kolláth.

·         An old star in the constellation Hydra. It is 130 light years away and 60 times brighter than the Sun. Its sounds, which have been featured in club music in Belgium, are reminiscent of African drumming.

·         A new class of star with a powerful magnetic field. It pulses every 11.7 minutes.

 ·         Or to hear music that is more like what I hear in my Celestial Chorus look for the CD “Canticles of Ecstasy” – the music of Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179). At a time when few women wrote, Hildegard, was known as "Sybil of the Rhine".  She produced major works of theology and visionary writings. She used the curative powers of natural objects for healing, and wrote treatises about natural history and medicinal uses of plants, animals, trees and stones. She is the first composer whose biography is known.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Big One

Last week I celebrated a big birthday – my 70th!  Coming as it did in the midst of saying goodbye to the dreams we had for our life here, it found me in a vulnerable spot.
From time to time sadness comes over me and I need to embrace it and just be there with it – tuning in to what is sad for me.  As I do this, the sadness gradually softens and is replaced by openness to the future and an appreciation of what is. 
The other day, for instance, as I climbed a hill and caught a glimpse of the ocean, the realization that quite soon I would not be able to walk here and experience this wonder on a regular basis came over me.  I noted my teary eyes and heaviness throughout my body.  So, I stood there, looking out over the ocean.  I seemed rooted to the spot as my sadness drained down into the earth.  After a few minutes of honouring my sadness in this way though, I found I had begun to move on.  The beauty of the place with its rocks, waves and wonderful natural landscape moved into the forefront of my experience and the sadness faded.
As I work through my grief in this way, I find that I am “moving on”.  It happens in many different ways – sometimes with appreciation, and sometimes even with optimism and enthusiasm towards what the future may offer.  
None the less, I was feeling quite vulnerable as I approached my “three score years and ten”.  To me it was a milestone, and I knew it was something my husband would have made a big fuss over a few years ago.  But I also knew that wouldn’t happen this year.  I was sad about that, but it was more that sadness.  The part of me who felt unworthy and unloved as a child took notice and went on high alert.  Her anxiety began to flow through my veins.  Maybe nobody would help me celebrate my birthday; maybe no one likes me; and maybe I’m just not good enough!
Fortunately, I know this needy part and I was able to support her and calm her fears to some extent.  But I still felt some anxiety as my birthday approached.  I was watching for signs that I was right.  Part of me felt the need for proof.
So when the first cards and birthday greetings began to come my way I grabbed on.  Here was proof and I didn’t want to let it go!  Sad to say that didn’t work!  Try as I might, the special moments passed and the harder I tried to hold on the less special they became.
Striving to hold on engaged my mind, and mischievously it began discounting the recognition coming my way.   There was a nagging voice: that card didn’t cost much; those flowers were likely a last minute decision, and on and on.  I wanted the hugs to last longer, and I wanted more and more good things.
I was caught in the vortex of the downward spiral.  But, fortunately, I was paying attention and I knew what was happening.  So, I calmed my neediness, and after some time was able to move on with an agreement to just be there – in the moment – throughout the rest of my big day.
Well, really it was more like a big week!  People are still remembering me.  And I feel so well loved and appreciated.  I have had many, many wonderful birthday greetings - cards, flowers, hugs, phone calls, dinners, lunches – and on and on.  So many wishes and so many good feelings that I can hardly bear it!
Just shifting my intention to being present for whatever came changed how I experienced what happened.  I held each birthday moment in my awareness for however long it lasted and savoured its special richness; the feeling, the sound, the scent, the emotion.  And as that moment passed – I let it go.  I didn’t hold on.
The richness of those experiences is still warming my heart.  Thank you dear friends and family for taking time from your busy lives to make my birthday special.  Thank you for making your love for me so abundantly clear.  How could I ever have doubted?