Category: Hero’s Journey

Stay Wild

Stay Wild

SimoneLipscomb (6)A whistling duck stood in the sand frantically flapping his wings while three other whistling ducks stood in a semi-circle in front of him. They gave a half-hearted attempt but he kept whistling words of encouragement. It didn’t matter that he and his friends and many other shorebirds were in a permanent enclosure due to injuries. He refused to give up hope.

I stood witnessing the exchange and felt his wild heart yearning for, hoping for freedom. He was determined to keep his flight muscles strong so if the time comes, he will be ready.

SimoneLipscomb (31)An osprey was also on the ground looking up at me. Usually they are soaring high above looking down on me. To see such a majestic bird of prey grounded due to broken wings was heartbreaking.

I pondered the wildness still found in these precious creatures. They are fed and cared for by humans and yet there is still a spark of the feral within them at a very deep level.

SimoneLipscomb (40)Later as I wandered through Florida woods with stately palm trees, palmettos, spanish moss and sweet bays, I wondered how many of us stay connected with that wild part of ourselves. How many of us feel at home in the woods or a forest? Do we maintain that spark of wildness that helps us feel at home…in the truest sense.

Whooping Crane...one of a breeding pair. These endangered birds are part of a captive breeding program....hope for the wild!

As I stood photographing an endangered whooping crane I made a soft, little whooping sound and she immediately looked skyward. I saw the kinship this regal bird still carries within her being for others of her kind that pass overhead in migration. She longs for flight. She longs for freedom. And even though she is in an enclosure, she maintains freedom of spirit.

SimoneLipscomb (7)The little whistling duck’s message will stay in my heart as a reminder. Stay wild! Stay connected. Be ready….and above all…don’t forget you can fly!

Light of the Soul

Light of the Soul

SimoneLipscomb (4)Seeing the light of a person’s soul is one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever known. He had a wide open heart and unbounded love shining forth for me and I had an open heart and mind to receive it. To know love as given through an open heart can be rare, but it need not be.

While it wasn’t a forever relationship for me, the love generated from it lives on strongly in my heart. And I continue to be grateful.

SimoneLipscomb (9)As humans we have moments of allowing our light to shine and other moments when fear takes over and creates a cloak around the light. It can be scary to be open if others are changing around us. When life events create change, the temptation is to withdraw and not risk being open, not risk being vulnerable. That’s when all our filters kick in and we see the world through our wounds instead of with the eyes of spirit. Every person alive has most likely experienced this.

SimoneLipscombLast week a three hour lunch with a friend produced pages of notes as we bounced ideas off of each other about how to make a difference, how to be a positive force. One of us chewed food while the other spoke…all the while the chewer listened and allowed inspiration to come forth. Then we switched roles. Both of us have experienced frustration in our life’s path and the direction we feel guided. What came from that meeting was the simple idea of allowing love to move through us and open the way. An answer for all?

SimoneLipscomb (1)I find that when I become fearful, I get tense. As I tense my body, my thoughts follow and I feel smaller. And then…love is struggling to shine through the tiny cracks of space left open in my heart. But when I relax my body, my mind relaxes and then my heart opens and there is room for love. Or maybe the mind is first…or maybe the heart. But somehow the mind, body and spirit all work together to create an expansive and open heart. Or one that is shut down. The choice is ours.

As I have worked to move forward in life, I have struggled to understand why my heart keeps returning to that relationship. After months of no contact, my heart still feels the love. Clarity arrived as I finally realized that seeing the light of his soul changed my life for the better. Knowing the light of another’s heart was profound and I’ll not settle for anything less in relationship. But I also understand that maintaing that kind of openness takes a lot of work. And it begins with me. To find others whose hearts are open requires that mine be open. And it requires that I am willing to be vulnerable.

SimoneLipscomb (11)Each of us has the capacity to allow our light to shine. We have choice. When we live more open to love, love becomes the reality, the expectation…the way of being. As we are grounded in love, determined to stay open, we must be disciplined for it is easy to close down, to hide. But love is what will sustain us..not our fears or our anger. Love generates both urgency and patience. As we intend to live love, love changes our reality.

I have tried anger and frustration and impatience. I have tried to force change…but none of that ever works. Only through softening…and opening…and embracing light and love has my life shifted, has my vision cleared.

SimoneLipscomb (2)Love has known me. Light of another’s soul has touched me. That isn’t something I want to forget…ever. This is how we are designed to live.

May we collectively shed the cloaks of anger, hatred, frustration, hurt…. the past….and be willing to show the light of the soul to all.

SimoneLipscomb (12)

 

 

What Love Can Do

What Love Can Do

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Lately I’ve been asking the question, How can we really make a difference? Actually, for several months now I’ve been walking with this prayer in my heart and mind. I breathe it in the morning….walk with it during the day….rest my head on my pillow at night with this koan echoing through my spirit.

SimoneLipscombDocumenting the Gulf Oil Spill broke my heart and mind open. It brought me to my knees in the truest sense because I saw how everything precious and sacred can be taken away by careless human acts and ongoing choices and behaviors that are centered on profit…at any cost. After struggling with emotions of anger, grief, frustration, helplessness and more I connected with Joanna Macy‘s work and traveled to spend a week with her and others committed to creating positive change in our world. Without hesitation I can say that the week spent in Massachusetts helped me climb out of the emotional hole that I fell into witnessing first hand the oil spill.

Once among the living, however, my sense of direction faded. I realized I could no longer approach my work with anger or frustration because what I felt so strongly was love…for the planet, for creatures, for humans. I couldn’t bombard people with the horrific images that had filled my nightmares any longer. I didn’t want to be in denial about what is happening in our world but focusing on the terrible seemed only to perpetuate more of it. I felt that people were grieving the destruction of life, even if they weren’t consciously aware of it. And perhaps seeing beauty would inspire them to engage, encourage them to care a little more.

Water captivates me and my favorite images center around water...waterfalls...big water...underwater.

The theme of beauty and more specifically, focusing on beauty, became the answer I began to hear each time I asked the question, What can I do to make a difference? Yet that answer didn’t give me complete satisfaction or a sense of true direction. It was a start though.

Many more months have passed and the question still pulls me to deeper understanding. It seems quite simple but how difficult it can be to live the answer I received: Love. Love is the answer I’ve been hearing lately.

It sounds cliche. It sounds so ’60’s. Yet as I’ve explored and read….listened deeply to my core…it’s that simple.

Standing in love doesn’t mean we are powerless or squishy. Sometimes love looks powerful and strong. Other times it is enfolding, soft. It seems we are at a point of powerful change in our world. It takes radical courage to live from Love for most of what is modeled in our world is power-over, squishing the competition, winning at any cost….more…more…more. To observe this way of being and step away from it, to stand centered in love and compassion is radical. And yet history  has proven that power for power’s sake never works.

Or moments of intense stillness and inner quiet.

In some philosophies there is a diagram that is helpful. In it two lines intersect. One runs up and down and is considered to represent Spirit. The other crosses it and is representative of the physical path. In the center, at the intersection where Spirit and physical meet, is the point of becoming. It’s the place where we can, in a physical experience, balance our life with the qualities of Spirit, of Love.

Wendell Berry states, “Love isn’t a feeling. It’s a practice.” He also said, “What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness.” This leads me to conclude that what leads to love isn’t hate…it’s love.

800_1019If we really want to change the world for the better, our first task then is to clear all obstacles within ourselves that keep us from truly knowing love. This means letting go of judgment of self and others, letting go of hate of self and others. Selfishness, ego…all must go as we open our hearts to the absolute power of love. When we do this, when we have such radical courage, we will see what love can do.

Possibility

Possibility

SimoneLipscomb (6)As I worked in the yard clearing, cleaning, trimming dead plants after the polar vortex put a deep freeze on the deep south, I noticed that one of my large container trees had standing water around it. I had not noticed it before because of the mat of asparagus fern growing around it.

The container stands at waist height so I had to find a metal rod to try and open the drain hole. When I inserted the rod there was mostly water and roots. No wonder the tree had been failing to thrive. A very muddy job quickly became obvious.

First, I removed the ferns. Their massive roots system had been all that was holding the tree upright. Once I removed them it was relatively easy to remove the tree. Only one snag held it in the pot and with a bit of tugging, it came free.

SimoneLipscomb (7)Once the tree was removed and ready for in-ground planting, I returned back to the mess in the container. Still no drainage of the mucky water so I began scooping it out. I finally reached a five inch layer of muddy sand. That was the extent of soil left in the pot.

After removing the dirt I found the cause of the clog–a root. But even after great efforts of digging with a screwdriver, the root remained in the drain hole.

The container weighs over 200 pounds…much more than I can lift with my arms and back…but I do have strong legs so I sat on the steps and padded my lower back with my hands and pushed the container to lift it. Viola! Something released…and thankfully not in my back or legs.

Then with careful implementation of proper lifting or sliding technique I was able to move the container…inch by inch of turning and twisting it to a new location. That was a heavy beast! What I found after moving it was quite amazing.

The root that had clogged the drain came out the bottom of the pot, went through the brick pavers and into the soil far below my courtyard. I marveled at the determination my tree friend used to survive, grow, find nourishment and move beyond the limitations set by a container.

SimoneLipscombAs I planted the tree in the beautiful soil I felt a sense of relief, of gratitude that it was finally being given an opportunity to grow into its full potential. Free of boundaries, free to grow into everything that is tree. I sat back on my heels, covered in mud, and wished it well.

How often do we live with self-imposed limitations or boundaries set long ago by others and we accept as okay, as part of the plan? What if we removed ourselves from the mentally-created containers and dared to grow free? How would our lives be different? What could we create? How could we change the world for the better?

SimoneLipscomb (8)How can we reach for that which nourishes and supports us? How can we release ourselves from limitations created by our minds? Everything is possible. Every thing.

 

No Ego Needed

No Ego Needed

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Pam Wooten, Jill Heinerth, Simone Lipscomb. Photo by Rick Crawford.

The weekend before the New Year found me in Cave Country–North Florida–once again. I was drawn there to take a course in side mount, or so I thought. It wasn’t until after the trip was over and I was home that I realized the deeper reason I made the trip.

My friend Pam and I decided to take the class with Jill Heinerth. Pam knew Jill but I simply followed the recommendation of another friend and cave instructor. I won’t go into the details of the course because that’s not my focus. But I would like to share about the women that were present that weekend.

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Connie LoRe, a role model for me in cave diving.  She has led trips to the beautiful caves of Akumal, Mexico for many years. Photo by Ed Jackson.

Cave diving has progressed from a male-dominated sport to one in which women are routinely participating, instructing and exploring. I thought it was rather awesome to be in a cave course taught by a woman with a female classmate who excels in the field of dive instruction. One of Jill’s friend’s was teaching a cavern course. Renee was another outstanding woman. As we were figuring out our new gear yet another amazing woman showed up to dive. Barbara am Ende, cave explorer and writer, came over and started chatting. I was a bit distracted with all the learning to realize the powerhouse of women standing around us.

Renee Power
Renee Power

Our first day ended with a dive in the Ginnie Bowl and Ballroom. Renee accompanied us. I’m not sure if it was because Pam and I were giving Jill more challenge than she bargained for and she was about to pull her hair out in frustration or if Renee just wanted to come along for the fun. Regardless, it was a very nice dive once we got our gear situated. We played around for over 30 minutes in the cavern and it was quite lovely surfacing after dark to a beautiful sky and clear water surrounded by cypress trees. After we finished Jill left to join her husband for dinner while Pam, Renee and I chatted. I felt an immediate kinship with Renee as we shared about our experience instructing scuba with wounded soldiers. Exhaustion finally overcame me and I headed for a hot shower and food.

At lunch Jill was telling Pam and I about an expedition Barbara had been on and mentioned something about a book. I emailed a note to myself to read the book…Beyond the Deep.

Barbara am Ende. Photo by Mark Long
Barbara am Ende. Photo by Mark Long

The following day of class I got to chat a bit with Barbara. She was super-nice and was interested in my photography of the trees, water and light. She shared her card so we could keep in touch but we didn’t have a chance to really visit too much. And for some reason I didn’t associate her with the expedition and book Jill had referenced.

I had to end the diving a bit early due to a cold virus that had been challenging me during the course and the dives. I had no energy and had to focus really hard just to stay present so perhaps that’s why I ‘missed’ the profound women gathered together. Or maybe it was because there was no ego, no chest-beating, no race to see how far or how deep cave penetration was that day. It was friendly, supportive sharing and everyone was equally bringing her best self forward.

WAWhandLOGOwebsiteOnce I got home and was recuperating on my sofa, I watched Jill’s video. We Are Water is a beautiful story of water and the importance of it to us but more than that, it is the story of Jill’s passion and love for the planet. And that resonated deeply with me. Her words echoed my own as she described entering the caves as a spiritual experience; a kindred soul indeed. I’m not an explorer into the deeps of caves or icebergs but I am an explorer of our relationship to nature. I see that in Jill as well.

After the movie, I wanted something else to help me make the best use of my down-time so I downloaded Barbara’s book to my iPad. As I started reading I thought, Oh, my goodness! This is the woman I met? The expedition to the cave in Mexico in which Barbara participated was intense. Over a ton of gear was transported by a system of belays to sumps far below the surface. I couldn’t put the book down and so stayed up late reading in awe of such an amazing journey. It was a powerful venture into the unknown.

beyond

I emailed and chatted with my friend Pam after the trip and shared with her my disbelief that such powerful women came together that weekend. It wasn’t planned. The timing of meeting Renee and Barbara was truly profound. I think this is so because there was such friendliness and approachability with everyone present.

It wasn’t just Jill and Barbara that brought tremendous strengths and gifts to those picnic tables at Ginnie Springs. Each one of us has an authentic way of interacting with the world and we each have something beautiful to offer the world. But so does every woman…every person.

 

Pam Wooten, PADI Course Director.
Pam Wooten, PADI Course Director. Photo by Simone Lipscomb

The weekend was made especially meaningful as Pam and I shared about our lives…openly, honestly. What a gift to experience the deepening of friendship.

 

Simone cave diving in Mexico. Photo by Ed Jackson
Simone cave diving in Mexico. Photo by Ed Jackson

Terry Tempest Williams said that if a woman ever honestly wrote about and shared her life story, the world would split open and be forever changed. As I reflect back to that weekend, gratitude overflows as I treasure the gift of wisdom each one shared. Perhaps the biggest gift I received was the assurance that wisdom comes with gentleness, straightforwardness, honesty, play, self-awareness in a space where no ego is needed.