Tag: Simone Lipscomb

Being an Instrument

Being an Instrument

I stood within the ancient fort atop a 700 foot cliff on the Atlantic Ocean. Metal pipes, drilled with holes for chain-link fencing, lined a small area of the site. A strong wind coming across the ocean caused the pipes to sing in otherworldly harmonies. As the strange sounds filled the air I thought, If we can be open and surrender, be still and silent, the energies of the Universe can then move through us and use us in beautiful ways.

The thunderous roar of the sea pounding on to rock walls reverberated in my heart like a drum and opened the inner door wide. As I walked around the 3000 year old fortification, all of my walls crumbled and I became an open channel for Spirit to move through–a flute for the winds of heaven to play and bring forth beautiful music to the world.

I remembered this experience from Ireland after a dream I had a few days ago. In the dream, I was a stringed instrument and a bow was drawn across me. I felt the vibrations within me, the deep tones and movement of sound throughout my body. The same reminder I received during my experience in Ireland came–be still and open and allow myself to be an instrument.

The past few years have been incredibly frustrating. In previous years I have produced videos, photographs, books…all good…but I feel that deeper work is yet to come and is yet unknown. So I wait and listen and try to be patient. The world is hurting so much and I know that I have contributions to make…but how?

I keep wondering–What is my purpose? Why am I here?What am I to do? Perhaps those existential questions are lifelong puzzles that haunt some of us. The answer I have received for many, many years is to deepen with Nature. And still…those same questions repeat, perhaps so much so that what I search for is hidden beneath the chatter of my mind.

Why is it so difficult to be at peace in that unyielding space of the Unknown?

All I know to do is to lean into the Invisible and be still and silent and listen…and call upon the strength of purpose that came with me to this life…and go outside and connect with Nature.

If we are the instrument we were born to be and are open to being played by the energies of the Universe, we powerfully stand in the space where our gifts and talents meet the needs of the world and that is a place of pure magic.


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Walk Open

Walk Open

There’s a guy where I bike and hike that walks with his palms facing forward. We usually walk with the back of our hands facing out so this unique difference captured my attention and I began experimenting.

What I noticed was my entire body opened as I simply rotated my thumbs outward as I walked. It felt as if I was unlocking an inner door. Such a simple act yielded appreciable results.

As I practiced I felt an immediate receptivity at my core. I began to sense a beautiful eye within my heart. The green of the trees was greener. The sounds of rushing water became more musical. Birdsong was sweeter. It felt like a more natural state of being…to walk exposed with mind, spirit and body.

Now as I’m walking, paddle boarding, sitting in my car or doing whatever I can simply think of opening my core and feel the connection to all life…to everything.

There are reasons we close ourselves. Good reasons. Trauma. Abuse. Emotional overwhelm. Meanness. Fear. We don’t want to walk around totally unprotected from behavior of strangers, friends or family.

As I child of maybe eight or nine years old, I was watching a Disney program. There was an old mountain man who lived in a one-room shack. He had a mule. He saved for a long time to purchase a pane of glass for a window he had kept shuttered. He wanted to bring light to his cabin. He finally was able to purchase the glass and immediately after installing it, his mule kicked a bucket and broke the glass. My little heart broke open and I started crying. My dad looked at me and laughed and asked, “Why are you crying?” “It’s sad,” I replied. “It’s only a show,” he said. It didn’t change the fact that I felt sadness and compassion for the old man. But I learned that it was risky to feel those things. I could be made fun of or judged.

We learn to close down to our emotional truths. We are ‘taught’ how to do this our entire lives by how others witness and respond to our emotions. It’s a painful process. And sadly, they teach us how to close down but rarely does anyone teach us how to open back up.

To live with emotional intelligence is to gently close when we need to take care of ourselves but to open again to feel the beauty of life when it’s safe. And that’s the problem. When we close ourselves we don’t feel the abuse or pain emotionally but when we remain closed we don’t feel the beauty…we don’t allow anything to affect us.

Many year ago I was visiting the Alabama coast while I was residing in the Greensboro, North Carolina area. Things had been really tough for me. Very difficult. I was on the beach and was talking out loud to the Universe: ‘Why do I even bother to heal my life? Nobody cares. Most people never even bother to look inside and try to improve themselves. Why am I putting myself through such misery? Why even bother? Can’t I just forget being conscious and go back to blissful ignorance?’ Suddenly the sunset sky turned lavender and orange and I heard a voice within say very clearly: You clear out the inner blocks to being open so you can really see and experience moments such as this fully.

If we walk open, we invite life to touch us. We risk being affected by what we experience. I wonder if the root of the world’s problems doesn’t begin with refusing to allow anything to impact us.

We have all witnessed ourselves and others say, If it isn’t happening to me, I’m not concerned. When I worked in a retail outdoor clothing store near the Gulf Coast I expressed concern about a hurricane that was heading into the northern Gulf of Mexico to a customer. She said worriedly, “Oh, NO! Where is it going to hit?” I replied, “It’s east of here by about 100 miles.” Her reply, “Then I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me.” That storm was Hurricane Michael. It did horrendous damage but it didn’t touch her life so she didn’t care. But she’s not an exception. Unfortunately this seems to be the norm with far too many.

After documenting the Gulf Oil Spill for a year, I was completely shut down. Before the oil arrived on Alabama beaches I remember driving down the Fort Morgan Peninsula and seeing booms anchored in the saltwater marshes. I photographed the small, floating lines of buys and got back into my car. An unearthly scream erupted from my depths. NOOOOOOOO!!!! 

I sobbed and wailed. From that moment through the following year, I had to shut down emotionally to document what I felt called to witness. The inner voice that called me was so strong I couldn’t look away; but, to be there I had to shut down a feeling response….except for anger. I felt that strongly. It’s like rescue workers who extricate people out of car wrecks or collapsed buildings…they have work to do and later can deal with the trauma of witnessing such horrendous and sad events.

I can’t remember who referred me to Joanna Macy, but spending a week with her and 30 other people, after my year’s commitment to the coast, opened me back up in a safe environment where my peers and I held space for each other to grieve and feel the depths of our emotions.

It took me a very long time to reopen to joy and pleasure. The most amazing healers for me have been wildlife…manatees, humpback whales, sea lions, dolphins. Photographing them in their environment became profound sessions of healing and deep connection that opened me to love at a level to which I had never known.

As we open to beauty around us–receptive and exposed–we begin to see the beauty of our own presence as we come into deep communion with Nature. We discover ourselves to be part of the amazing whole. In our wisdom, we closed ourselves for protection so our psyches wouldn’t become overwhelmed. Now, let us remember what it feels like to be open…present…in profound compassion for ourselves and the world, which is really the same.

Rumi wrote, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Walk open, dear pilgrim. Walk open.

 

The Sand Ledge

The Sand Ledge

I was second in line as a small group of us walked across a huge sand ledge that was only two feet wide. On the left, a drop of 700 feet into a lake. On the right, a drop 300 feet into a calm sea. The sand was soft and as I watched the woman in front of me, I realized that one misstep could erode the edge and a fall would be fatal.

A fall 700 feet, no chance to survive. A fall 300 feet…maybe live through it but there was no way to crawl back up as the soft sand would just erode and fall away.

I stopped, nearly in panic. I heard a loud, clear voice say: You can turn around at any time. Trust yourself to make the right decision.

So I asked the group to turn back. We did, with no protest.

Back at the airport I was weighing my bags, preparing to fly back. I was grateful to have made it.

I woke up this morning with this dream strongly in my mind. The visceral experience of standing on a soft ledge, towering over two bodies of water far below still echoed throughout my muscles and even my breathing rate.

As I wrote about the experience and let the meaning unfold, I realized that it was a perfect example of where we are now in our country and in many countries on the planet. There’s no need to list the grim reasons we find ourselves in the precarious place. Readers, you know well so fill in your own list that makes up this ledge.

We are reminded that it is possible to turn around, to collectively turn from this dangerous place in which we find ourselves, to start again on a new path, in a new direction. The choice is ours. What will we do?

Uphill Just Got Easier

Uphill Just Got Easier

Moving from coastal flatlands to the mountains has certainly challenged my ability to cycle. In fact, I haven’t even ridden my road cycle since arriving here in the Smoky Mountains in late November. And that bike is my sweetheart. There aren’t really designated bike lanes or worse, flat places in which to ride. Nothing comes close to that blistering 33 foot elevation I’d experience while riding through Gulf State Park.  Or the 77 foot high bridge. No, here the elevations are in hundreds of feet. There’s even a chart for the Blue Ridge Parkway of elevation gain per section…and it’s not exactly a comforting document to behold.

The intimidating road cycling here prompted me to invest in a mountain bike. It has been years since I did off-road cycling but I figured I could at least break into elevations on the trails before trying the roads. Where I’d ride 20 miles and know I could have gone many more in the flatlands, if I make it 6 or 8 miles on my mountain bike I feel a nice accomplishment.

But yesterday I had a breakthrough and I think it’s a breakthrough that applies most wonderfully to the rest of my life. It seems simple but it made an incredible difference in my ability to pedal up some challenging hills.

On the usual 8 mile ride I do on a wide, gravel trail there are a few hills that prompt me to get off and walk my bike. Even in the lowest gear my legs protest too much. When I attempted them yesterday, I noticed I was energetically pushing myself up rather than staying centered over my bike with my attention and energy. When I brought my focus into the exact present moment and location in space, I found my bike was moving up the hill with much less effort and pain.

That may sound weird but it happened on several hills and I was able to continue pedaling up inclines that had previously caused me to give up and walk up. After the first success, I begin to fine-tune my attention and recreate it with other hills.

In the frustrating bike-walks, the moment I gave up I noticed my energy and attention was focused far up the hill and it seemed impossible to continue. In fact, my first ride there a rider was pushing up the hardest hill and so that outcome seemed normal. It’s what my mind accepted as true and right. But then I read a review on the trails at Deep Creek and the writer said the cycling was easy there. WHAT!?! As compared to what? Cycling up Clingman’s Dome?

But that came to mind as I was pedaling. How can I make this easier?My body took over and basically said…watch this.It was as simple as pulling my energy back to the exact place where my body was working. I had been directing my attention and thus my energy far up the hill and leaving less of me to actually pedal.

It’s difficult to accomplish one task if my mind is elsewhere. But if I give it my full attention, without focusing on the final outcome, I have more energy available to complete the task in front of me.

We are taught to live in the future, to always focus on ‘down the road’ to create a life of success and affluence. To support ourselves we are taught we must always think of the future. Yet when we do this we often miss the true beauty and richness of life. If our energy is tossed out into some unknown place far ahead, our daily lives can be more difficult because less of our self is present to create, live.

My goal is to make it up the hill but to do so I have to be totally present and keep my energy right here with me to make the effort less difficult. That’s what my bicycle teaches me. I can’t thrive in daily life if I am constantly worried about the future, if my focus is on some imaginary moment down the road of life when everything comes together. That place comes along organically by the everyday present moments of attention given to the quality of life in the here and now.

Struggle increases when we project our energy outside of ourselves to force an outcome. When we ease off and just stay present, life changes…for the better even though it still requires effort.

My road bike just had a tune-up. She’s ready to ride some off-the-beaten-path paved roads….am I? I’m getting there. Definitely…getting there.

 

My Anger Practiced Yoga Today

My Anger Practiced Yoga Today

During my yoga practice this morning I felt anger arise. My thoughts kept returning to racial prejudices, white terrorists, environmental laws and regulations being abolished, violence, meanness, insanity of political leadership. At first I redirected my mind to stay with the practice and steered it away from the anger but my body, opening more as I stretched and breathed into it, led me to be present with my emotions. As I stretched and breathed I invited my anger to be with me on the mat.

Too often we judge ourselves negatively when unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings arise–yet isn’t a foundation of yoga to be present with ourselves no matter what?

So today, my anger and I practiced yoga together. It doesn’t have to hide from me any longer. Perhaps the most spiritual practice we can do is to simply practice self-acceptance, self-love. For that is the basis of love that can then flow to others freely and without judgment.

All of who I am is welcome to be here…now and always.