14 November 2015

Peace of Heart, Peace of Mind

By Chris Farrow-Noble
Existential Focus Talk for Women Explore
November 12, 2015

To bring us together to this question, “What Matters to Me and Why?,” I offer the Metta Meditation, which I recently rediscovered in a women’s circle in Maine.

May I and all living beings be free from suffering.

May I and all living beings be well in body and mind.

May I and all living beings be at peace.

To warm our circle, I light this candle and invite Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s words:

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

I am on a spiritual pilgrimage and feel most centered when I know my goal and see a path leading forward with clear steps ahead, one step at a time.  

What matters to me is that I feel alive, eager, excited, inspired, and passionate for the next step.  I am fully tuned in, open to the present in front of me.  It matters at every turn, looking backward and forward, to know I have done, and am doing, my very best with the information and experience I have at the moment. 

The Summer Day, a poem by Mary Oliver, speaks to me: 

“…Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
(Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, 1992)

(SING this one line):         “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

(Take one rose and put it into the vase.)

1) I begin with the first rose, representing Me in this Wild and Precious Life.

What matters to me as one spiritual being
 having a human experience at this time in this lifetime?

It matters deeply to me that I love, feel loved, and am loved.

I want to feel accepted for who I am, not who someone thinks I am, or someone they want me to be.  

I want to feel heard, to be able to speak clearly without hesitation or judgment, not feeling rushed or cut off. 

I want to be visibly present in my home.  I want people to think, “Oh, Yes! Chris lives here!” 

I want to have eye contact with the person I am speaking with.  It’s more likely to sense that they are listening to me, not looking over my shoulder or paying attention to someone or something else.  

I want to speak in person when we make important decisions.  My husband Chris and I call it an eye-to-eye decision.  It’s then less likely for one of us to think we’ve have made a decision before we have confirmed it. 

It matters to me to have open-ended, non-stressful time

I treasure beautiful golden unscheduled open-ended time for creating.  A clear desk to welcome words and images. A full afternoon to paint or an open evening to write by the fire.  Spontaneous time brings unexpected thoughts and dreams, long forgotten hopes and unexplored paths.  

Unplanned time opens the door for interactions with strangers, unpredictable relaxed conversations with family and friends that go where they will, not driven by necessity or deadlines.  I long for intense exchanges with honest emotions and reactions.  

It matters that I find ways to express myself creatively.  

I need a place to sing, usually with others but sometimes on my own.. Making beautiful music in a cozy space is one of the highest kinds of personal expression.   In the fullness of that fleeting moment, we can hear the ebbs and flows of the song: , its rhythm, lyrics, melody, tune, harmonies, pauses, personal touches of the musicians, and our own connection and emotion. 

I must write – it’s my preferred way to take my thoughts from me to others.  This can happen anywhere – in a morning cafĂ©, sitting on an Austrian hillside, typing at 5:30 AM in New Zealand.  I’ve always written to understand myself; this inbred personal therapist that has never let me down.  At two significant crossroads in my life, I wrote 15 pages in my journal and came to a clear decision and action.  I am always more settled after writing, as shown recently when I arose at 3 AM when I couldn’t sleep and wrote until I’d emptied my full heart onto paper. 

It matters greatly to me that my writing is read by a wider audience.  I am committed to getting my writing published and out to the broader world. 

Photography has led me, and now watercolor painting beckons.  Time escapes when I set aside painting time.  One color leads to another; one texture begs for another layer.  I haven’t yet found my style or perhaps even my medium.  Similarly, I delight with time to cook, to bake, to grow flowers and arrange them. 

My newest self-expression is on the stage! Last year an inner voice urged me to audition for the musical Carousel. With the New Surry Theatre in Blue Hill, Maine, I sang in 12 performances of Carousel.  I auditioned and got a part in Natural Fractal, but the play was cancelled.  I drove 40 minutes to audition for Men’s Lives, based on the book by Peter Matthiessen.  I got the leading female role as Alice in this staged reading and sang a solo of “Hush Little Baby.” I plan to audition in March for the role of  Sister Aloysius in the play “Doubt.” I have caught the bug and hope to get a chance to bring another person’s character and persona to life. 

Of course, my seven existential focus talks with TOP and Women Explore have been significant creative openings. Telling my story turns out to be important to me, and I encourage everyone to share theirs.  Since 2009, I’ve spoken on Globalization, Living with Fear, Sensuality & Sexuality Throughout Life; Challenge of Communications with Mothers and Adult Sons; Family Secrets, How the Media Desensitizes Us to Violence, and Women’s Bodies and the Media.  Thank you for these opportunities. 

It matters to me that I continue to learn. 

Whether I am learning a new culinary skill, the Italian language, the ukulele or guitar, a dialogue, or a history of a culture, I am growing and expanding. I have a sense of well being when I can take in new information and then integrate and use it.  Being an eternal student demands that I stay focused and be fully present.  Traveling is still a very strong pull; I hope to live in another culture again in these freer years ahead.

Learning about dreams has been a lifelong course. Where do they come from?  Why is this dream here now? How can I tap further into my subconscious to know more about this personal dream theatre? I am deeply moved by encounters with people who are no longer alive or in my life.  I participate in two dream groups and recently offered a workshop integrating Dreams and the Labyrinth.

It matters that I am healthy – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  

I watch carefully what I eat and how much wine I drink.  I am playing tennis again after 50 years.  I’m learning to read chords for the ukulele, and staying connected to people who matter in my life.

2) Now, I add my 2nd rose, representing Chris Noble, my life partner, who is here today.

Ten years ago on August 20, 2005, Chris and I decided to share our promises with the people gathered for our wedding.

These promises matter to me because they have held true and guide us during difficult and easier times in our life together. 

I share them again with you, dear friends:

1) I promise to raise and to be open to discuss anything that could be unsettling or harmful to you, me, or our relationship. J promise to do this as soon as possible, and not to let these issues fester or simmer beneath the surface. 
2) I promise to be totally and completely faithful to you.
3) I promise to be careful and attentive, and not to speak or act in a way that is harmful to you.
4) I promise to do everything I can to make your life easier, to encourage you to identify and achieve your goals, and to hold you accountable in a positive and loving way if you don’t try your best to do these things.
Chris and I learn each day about the realities of living with another human and spiritual being. Our promises are broad and could be edited and expanded.  We now know that it matters for us to be totally who we are.  We know better how to acknowledge our differences, respect each other’s ways, and still love each other.

Our daily lives with the ups and downs, eruptions and silences, matter deeply because I love him and he loves me.   We have made a loving commitment to be partners for the rest of our lives.  

3) I add this 3rd rose for my Immediate and Extended Family,

It matters to me to feel in close touch and connected with our adult children and their families.

I live 3000 miles away from Portland Oregon, where my son Carter, his wife Kate, and my two granddaughters, Mika and Anna live. Our close connection can include email and telephone, but in person is best.  I can see them, feel their moods, laugh and cry with them.  We can share quiet or conversation without regard to time ticking away or external demands on the phone.  We can engage with all our senses and know what is happening in each others’ lives, ups and downs of jobs, families, transitions, aches and deep pain. I can feel what they are experiencing, not just learn the facts.  I can be on the floor to hear Mika’s stories that she weaves for her little sister.

My Mom’s recent 99th birthday celebration brought us precious time together.  I could swim with 4-year old Mika, hold 6-month old Anna, and talk intimately with Kate and Carter about life.  There is never enough time, but we look forward to our next time together. I hope someday to live closer to their homes and lives so we can know the girls as they grow up, oh so quickly. This geographical gap between us is difficult for me, and I want to find additional ways to feel connected. 

One of my “new” sons, Matthew, and his wife Apple now live in the Northwest in Tacoma Washington, and Jeremy, the older brother, lives in North Carolina.  We will be together with all three sons and their families over a week in December holiday time. We are all learning to be fully ourselves, honestly and openly, and truly look forward to this time together.

It matters that I love and feel loved.  

I have quite a few gremlin visits at night when I question if I am loved.  I’m not sure where this comes from.  I don’t have control over others loving me, yet I know that I love and care deeply.  I can only be myself, live honestly, share my love and hope that people can feel that love.

It matters to know that my 99-year-old Mother is happy and safe.

My mom just celebrated her 99th birthday with family and friends joyfully sharing what she has meant to them.  Now, she is in a very challenging transition, adjusting to living in a memory care home in Ventura California, near my sister Diane and her fiancĂ©  Bob.  

From this 3000-mile distance, I want to know how she is feeling, how her days are going, how she likes her new home, how she feels about the daily pace and structure in her life.  It matters to me so deeply that she feels peaceful, calm, comfortable, loved and loving, at home, even joyful as she expressed in her poetry.   Is she happy? 

I treasure the memories of our conversations  when she was in her own home only a month ago.  In the mornings over coffee while we were still in our comfy robes, we would talk about her sense of coming back from a long long time ago -- returning to her home after dreams or another place, before time, before Jesus, before life.   She often said it was a long way from her bedroom to the sunroom, from sleep to today. 

It matters to be with her as often as possible and to be sure she is in the most peaceful place possible for the rest of her beautiful life

4) I offer this 4th rose to honor Beauty and Nature.

It matters to me to feel Beauty in me, all around me, and to share beauty with others.

I long for full relaxed time outside surrounded by beauty and nature.  It has been a long time since I felt the pull to just sit and let the thoughts flow.  I long for the open time to follow a trail into the woods to see what I come upon. 

I long to be surrounded by wind, dragonflies flitting ahead of me, lizards pausing as I speak to them.  Hummingbirds finding their food within moments of my refilling their dish; houseplants thriving as I shift their location.  Snapping turtle coming out on my labyrinth walk; frog pausing in the labyrinth pathway, witnessing the showering of oak leaves onto the green grass, hearing and feeling the wind sing among the white flags in the labyrinth.

I am blessed daily by our golden retriever Ana Luzia with her constant company and appreciative, loving eyes and presence.  I say goodnight to her every night.

In the past six months, I learned about creating and constructing labyrinths and painted my first original classic labyrinth on the floor of our 100-year-old Reversing Falls Sanctuary.  Last Saturday, I created what feels like a new labyrinth by putting over 200 flags along the right side of the pathway of our 10-year-old field-mown labyrinth.  I put each flag 1 long stride apart and added flags closer together when the path came to a curve or turn. A friend donated 25 yellow flags for the Center, which we marked with a large harvest orange chrysanthemum.  This so aptly represents my Mom – or Mum -- in the Center of my life now. 

5) Thus, my 5th rose, for my Friends,Tribe and Community

It matters to me to have real, honest, open friends, both men and women, who are there for me and know I am there for them.

I am blessed with deep, still growing friendships with my husband, family, Fireworks sisters, and loyal friends in this country and abroad.  I have lost several close friends and miss their loyal company. 

My sense of being part of a tribe began at Pinewoods Folk Music Camp and extends now to my community in Maine.  I feel part of a whole, acknowledged and appreciated.  I know I can explore old and new aspects of my own being over time. I can take risks, such as jamming with my newly restored Kamaka ukulele in a circle of musicians and singers last week. 

Our Alice's Field Labyrinth (Field of Flags Peace Labyrinth) near Maine home
in the process of being built. The green areas show the path of the labyrinth.

We first created the labyrinth 50 yards from our home in Maine at the time of our wedding.  For 10 years, we’ve offered meditative walks to the public.  Yet now, in using the memorial flags that have honored those who have died in the Middle East, I sense this labyrinth as more a part of the community.  While installing the flags, I focused on the pathway, the colors, the wind wafting through the flag, and the calm between the bursts.  I was lost in its creation. I am grateful to be able to offer these beautiful sacred labyrinths as a place for people to walk peacefully in the midst of their busy lives. 
Our Alice's Field Labyrinth (Field of Flags Peace Labyrinth) near Maine home
6) Now, a 6th rose for the broader Nation and World.

It matters to me to know that we are all One, all Connected, all part of the Whole.

Yet so much is pushing toward Separateness and Violence.

In this bigger context, I am still learning, reading, trying to gather information to get a sense of what I can do.  I am still asking questions and seeking answers.

What can we do about the proliferation of guns and killing?

What are the next steps in understanding the links between mental illness and suicide?

How can we raise our awareness of the volatile family relationships that erupt into domestic violence and death?

Why the Children?  Why are they the ones to suffer and die at the hands of the people who brought them into this life?

What is our next step in this unfathomable refugee migration?

It matters to me to find a way to make a difference in our world.  

Perhaps I can return to teaching English as a Second Language to help people communicate their needs and dreams.

Perhaps I can continue to build labyrinths to encourage communities to walk and talk together. 

Perhaps I can consistently walk for hunger or suicide prevention or to Save The Children.

Perhaps I can help build a bridge of music as Bill Staines suggests in his song, Bridges:  (Sing last verse below.)

“Let us build a bridge of music, Let us cross it with a song,
Let us span another canyon, Let us right another wrong.

Oh, and if someone should ask us, Where we’re off and bound today,
We will tell them, “Building Bridges,” and be off and on our way.

Oh, and if someone should ask us, Where we’re off and bound today
We will tell them, “Building Bridges,” and be off and on our way.”

7) I will end with the 7th rose for Spirit

It matters to me to feel spiritually awake

I have always been a seeker on a path with yearning and questions. When I was a younger, I tried many denominations, believing there was one true one.  I am now at peace with the idea that there needn’t be one true faith; each can offer us something of value.  

Reversing Falls Sanctuary classic labyrinth, painted in July by community

In the past 16 years, I have been involved with a labyrinth community as a writer, walker, teacher, creator, builder, dream-worker, and Council member.  I walk a labyrinth often, wherever I am and value the moments of meditation, quiet, and community.  In 2014, I walked a labyrinth every day.  I will continue to follow its path and calling.  

I will ask all the questions that come to me about God or Mystery, Spirit, prayer, meditation, unity, love, hate, death, and life.

I will continue to take one step at a time on this pilgrimage of life.  I will take risks to follow my heart and reach out to those who are in pain, grief, or difficult times. I will seek ways to be with people in person.  I will find ways to express my caring, help find solutions, and tell my story. 

 It matters to me to know that I am beautiful and to believe in my gifts and myself.  It matters to me that I love myself, my husband Chris, my family, beauty and nature, my friends, tribe and community, and the broader world around me.  It matters that I find my part in bringing peace.  

Let’s close with a song based on a Navajo prayer.  I’ll sing it once and then please join me.

“All before me, peaceful
All behind me, peaceful
Under me, peaceful
Over me, peaceful
All around me, peaceful
All around me, peaceful.”

Thank you so very much.

Christine Farrow-Noble
Cambridge, Massachusetts
November 12, 2015

Some links to labyrinth organizations and resources:
http://www.veriditas.org     International organization for training and experiential workshops
https://labyrinthsociety.org  Wonderful informative annual gatherings for interested people
www.labyrinthos.net  Amazing resource of history, photos, instructions to build
labyrinthlocator.com  Worldwide locator of labyrinths