May I find the Equanimity that will lift a veil of shamed despair and acquaint me to the perceived and perceiver absent of greed, anger, and ignorance.

 

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This journey with saldage has brought me to a place and time in which to unweave and sort through the pseudo-beliefs I have simply, without question, absorbed through the lens of childhood fantasy and comprehension.  To begin this process is to reformulate beliefs through a process of mindfulness and analysis and then to know for myself, “These things are bad, blamable, censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill… These things are good, blameless, praised by the wise… These things lead to benefit and happiness.”

It is not an easy undertaking to not simply believe what has been learned within family, school and church as well as conclusions reached through readings. The invitation to not simply follow tradition brings to the surface conflicts with compliance and opposition that come from an avalanche of values and guiding principles that outlines how I understand the roles and expectations of women.

To not adhere to that which was surmised within family stories about an ancestor, who upon seeing a swarm of locust “knelt in his patch of grain and pleaded with his Maker to spare his wheat” and then saw them divide and not damage his remaining crops. Or within the story about the ancestor, who during a trip from New York to England, calmed the seas with a prayer, and while in England, after much fasting and prayer administered to a deaf and dumb boy who was subsequently healed. To not simply believe opens a door of pondering about generations of family members who intimately knew powerlessness and insecurity, who eased their feelings of incompetence through prayer, and whose conceptions blinded them to their neighbors’ plight.

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To not simply believe that I must endure suffering is to reject the axiom that there is an absence of fundamental faith and goodness. To not adhere to the assumed abilities of ancestors frees me from the belief that a sincere act of making amends for my sins will open the doors to Shangri-La.  To not simply draw upon scripture unbinds me to the shame that I don’t have the faith – even of the size of a mustard seed – to be deeded as “good and without sin” so what I wish for, even that which goes counter to nature’s laws, will be granted.  To ease the suffering within discontent is to not simply hold to be true that I am to acquiesce to pain until the final judgment of death, and only then will I be forever at peace, or forever condemned to an existence of even greater suffering.

To not simply believe opens my ears to the incongruence within a belief in an all-knowing presence who, if not validated, punishes, absent of the grace within loving-kindness.  To not simply believe brings a compassionate acknowledgment to the painful efforts to sway God into granting me my desires through bargaining, sacrifice, negation, and suffering, and to finally surrender with acceptance to “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  To not simply believe sheds light upon the greed, aversion, and delusions that are intertwined into my conception of and relationship with life.

I do hold that my beliefs and the subsequent desire for their illusive promises of validation, forgiveness, or reunification have set me upon an unending path of suffering.  These beliefs lead to harm and ill as they are like thorns that tear into my heart.  This searing pain releases resentment intertwined with envy, awakens alienation, and denies me the essence of Christ’s wisdom and loving compassion.

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Christ stood before self-righteous anger and commanded that only the one without sin was to cast the first stone of punishment and, at another time and in the midst of his own suffering, sought forgiveness for those who “know not what they do.”   Within these written words, I hear compassion speaking for the suffering intertwined within anger ungoverned by moral shame and moral dread.  Compassion is telling us how suffering, entangled into knots of mental, emotional, and social turmoil, deafens us to our guiding principles and blinds us to the horrors our moral shame will witness as it awakens from darkened ignorance.

 

The practice of the presence of God as being comparable to that of consciousness finally makes possible “full awareness” applied to every thought, world, and deed.   ~ Unknown

Excerpts from B Koeford, A Meditative Journey with Saldage

May I find the Loving Compassion that will soften the shield embracing my heart so that I may love absent of greed, anger, and ignorance.

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I find myself standing on a dry dirt road with two deep parallel ruts cutting winding dark ribbons into the road until they unite and disappear in the horizon.  The sun greets me with the same dry warmth that soothingly penetrates my skin as I wrap around me a towel just pulled from a tumbling clothes dryer. The air messages that it is a time of transition and I see the slight touch of autumn’s mustard yellows and crimson reds upon the tips of trees lining a distant hill.  Before me stands a child of about twelve years of age.  Her head is bent down with absorbed attention upon the small puffs of dust clouds her bare feet stirs up before her.

She looks up at me with expectant eyes that suddenly overfill with tears. “I don’t remember who or what I’m looking for,” she says, as miniature rivulets begin to flow down her cheek.

Then I notice a three-year-old boy with wispy blonde hair and mesmerizing oxen-eyes as he emerges from his hiding place behind the girl. As he takes hold of her right index finger, he reaches up with his left hand and touches a teardrop that is forming along the girl’s chin, asking “Find mummy?”

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Nikon D750 f/7.1 1/500 50

Suddenly, as if a whirlwind came down from the heavens in response to the boy’s voice, I come to myself standing in the center of a frozen lake. I am shivering and see nothing more than a dark and shadowy forest surrounding me.  I hear in the distance the sound of children’s voices repeating a refrain with a haunting tone, “Broken hearts, frozen hearts, shattered hearts.” And then I see them: four–no, five.  Five hungry, child-like, ghosts with needle mouths, long twisted thin necks, and bloated stomachs.

They come out of the forest and stand along the lake’s shoreline, repeating their refrain, “Broken hearts, frozen hearts, shattered hearts.” Their words travel across the surface of the frozen lake and encircle me with the sounds of unfilled longings and infinite emptiness.

Then I awaken to my own craving for those who have been lost to me, those who have died.  Within the darkness of this forest memories of past days rise and intermingle to become a swirling chaos within the image of emptiness where there once was a home, a family.  Confusion, anger, and loneliness flash within as these memories incite feelings and memories that pummel upon me, one frozen memory after another.

 

I hear questions from a child.  Confused, they come as fragments: “His heart was broken? Why did I have to go? They moved?” The sound of adolescent angst intertwined with arrogance swirls around me, as the questions become assertions: “I won’t be here if he comes back! I’ll do as I please.” The mist in the air surrounds me with the chilling voice of others, accusing: “If you had faith, she could hear. You were her companion. It is you that must leave. It does not matter, it is over. I cannot help you.”  Then, “There was an accident.”  I feel myself falling upon the ice as I have fallen before with broken promises, beliefs, and dreams shattered all around me. I feel the layers of iced grief, anger, sadness, confusion shielding my heart. Again, the refrain, “Broken hearts, frozen hearts, shattered hearts.”

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The night cloud’s fingertips drift away from the moon. In the silvery light I see visions of a small child, alone in the gray-toned shadows, planting seeds in the moist soil of despair.    Her sob-filled voice fills the night’s emptiness, “You are too stupid to understand. I don’t need you.  I’m special.  I’ll hide my tears.  I won’t tell you anything. I won’t need you.  I’ll show you that I don’t need you.”

A veil lifts and my observing mind sees a raging powerless ego annihilating self-in-relationship, suppressing feelings; and all the while, unknowingly creating her shadowy forest of worthlessness, hopelessness, alienation, and pseudo-independence.

Anger tells me that I am nothing;
love tells me I am everything.
Between the two, my life flows.

I feel a golden-toned voice, vibrating the soft and gentle touch of loving-kindness.  “These hungry ghosts are visions that arise from years of tears closeted within your soul. Is it now time to cut this intertwining craving and clinging to your yesterdays?”  She encourages a thought that to be freed from this frozen place and time begins with a true comprehension of the refrain, “Broken hearts, frozen hearts, shattered hearts.”

This voice says, “Call forth these five hungry ghosts, one by one, by their true given names and see each true ‘I’-in-self hidden behind veils of greed, anger, and ignorance.  Ask what it is that will cease their yearning and release them from this frozen forest so that they may finally rest in peace. As you hear their request touch your heart, open yourself to share with each that which will release you from this bondage.  Melt this chain with loving-kindness and forge the golden key that gives admission to a room of healing serenity.”

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In a clearing I find myself slowly warmed by the autumn sun as I return to the two children I met earlier on a dry, dusty road. Behind me is the forest I have just emerged from; before me is a field of yellowed wheat.   Just beyond the field is a house weathered gray by the seasons and weakened by the stresses of time.  In the golden rays of the morning light, the young girl is kicking up clouds, searching through the barren soil for seeds of her past, and desiring to be freed from yesterday’s delusions.  She walks over to the side of the road and bends over; as she stands, I see three keys, dangling from her left hand. One key is silver, another is gold, and the third is made of diamonds. I feel the pain of fear awaken as the warmth of this early autumn day touches the frozen shield that embraces her heart.

The air is filled with sounds of a new refrain, “May I be happy.  May I be free from pain.   May I feel emotionally connected with others. May I be at peace.

 “May these children be happy.  May they be freed from pain.  May they feel emotionally connected with others.  May they be at peace.

“May those hungry ghosts be happy.  May they be freed from pain.  May they feel emotionally connected with others.  May they be at peace.”

Excerpts from B Koeford, A Meditative Journey with Saldage

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Reflections from a Bridge    Nikon D750   f/4.2   1/400s   45m   100 ISO

I’m in a forest of tall pine trees.  Smooth river rocks and trimmed elephant grass edge a pathway covered with dark red, black, and gray colored gravel stones.  The pine trees release their scent as they sway with the breeze.  The singsong of birds fills the air as they flitter from one branch to another.  Before me I see a clearing illuminated by the rays of the morning sun.  As I step into the clearing, I feel warmth of the sun’s touch and see a house centered within a fallowed field and question, “is this home?”

As I make my way through the fallow field, I find three ancient keys lying within a dust-filled furrow.  Silver is the first key.  A knowing tells me it opens a door to a space of tranquil abiding.  Gold is the second key.  It gives admission to a room of healing serenity.  Diamonds make up the third key.  It unlocks a keepsake of my remembrances.

The awakened groan of the wood planks welcome me as I step onto the weathered porch that surrounds the house.  I find that the silver key fits the lock of an entryway door.  Before I open the door and step over the threshold, I feel compelled to turn around and, with non-judgmental awareness, attend to and then put aside all that I see within and beyond the wheat field.

I step over the threshold and feel an inviting atmosphere of affectionate acceptance that encourages me to wander unencumbered throughout the interior of the house.

I find myself at the bottom of a stairway which I ascend. On the second floor I enter a room lightened by the light of the midday sun entering a picture window painted by the landscape that extends to where the blue ridge of the sky touches the earth’s multi-green jagged horizon.  Opposite to the window is a ceiling-to-floor bookcase lined with books, aged and worn.  The warmth within this room embraces me with stillness, silence, and clarity.  My eyes light upon a small trunk and I know that it is for me.  As I pick up the trunk I find that it is light and fits with ease into the cradle of my arm.

I leave this room and again walk about the house.  I find that the gold key opens a door to a central room of calm solitude.  Stepping into this room I sense the presence of a compassionate being who introduces herself as Sophia, the aged guardian of the innermost things, “my heart hears the wordless tears and fears within your heart and feels the quiver of your heart-filled joys.  You have entered the hearth of your home, an ancient site of healing.”

I sit comfortably on the floor and open the trunk with the third key.  As I explore the contents, I understand that they are mementos of my life’s journey.  My consciousness, mind, and body move in unison with the moment of my breath’s spirit as I hold one keepsake after another. I acknowledge the memories, images, feelings that each memento evokes with the reminder that I am in a space of healing serenity and that I am not alone.

I feel a slight tugging within my heart as dark memories hidden within darker shadows accept the invitation to ride upon the in-breath of the compassionate guardian.   With their departure, my body releases long-held tears.  With my in-breath, I hear her whisper, “This is a time of healing transformation”, and I feel a wondrous golden energy spread throughout my body.

A calling beckons me from beyond this house that feels like home. I hear permission to leave with a chosen remembrance or to place whatever arose back in the trunk.  I step over the threshold; I feel an invitation to return whenever I wish.

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Is this Home?   f/4.3   1/400   45m   100 ISO

Excerpts from B Koeford, A Meditative Journey with Saldage