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sailing towards insight – july 2009


A few weeks ago, I woke up to my alarm sounding at four forty in the morning. Around me the summer air was cool and still. I looked out into the early morning and found to my surprise that the night sky was already warming up to blue around her edges. Peter, Amy and Josh and I packed ourselves into the car, our dreams still lingering in our sleepy minds. We sailed down the dark lane past the sleeping cows towards the twentieth annual Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic. The park was dark and people were rugged up in coats and scarves. Children were staring in awe at the fabric of balloons limp and damp against the grass. We stood with hot drinks in our hands and became those children as one after another a wooden basket with an elated couple, held gingerly inside, sailed up into the early morning. The canopy of color and smiles was followed by a distinct whoosh of great flames of fire heating these beautiful jelly fish like balloons up up and away. At one point we lay down on our backs like we used to do under July 4th fireworks. Instead of the popping and explosion of light, this was a silent scattering of giant pieces of color. Sailing above me, was each individual’s dream, clearly being lived. Their insights into their own joy shouting vibrantly against the early morning sky.

This month, I sail off towards the sky of my own dreams. On Friday, I will step once again on that mystery of a plane that will soar me back to Australia to reunite with the big blue skies, the arching harbour bridge, the white shell of an Opera House and the friends and family that represent a dear home to me. The decision to go back to Australia for six weeks is one that is good for me. It comes from a place of insight that tells me that reconnecting with the people dear to me gives me a strength that I need right now. It comes from the experience of living overseas for so many years that tells me that waiting more than a year to visit a home is too long. It comes from the place in me that delights in planning for pockets of joy in my life.

Whenever I sail up into the night sky out of San Francisco, I imagine the fog pulling off behind the plane in long scarves of white. I sit back in my seat and trust in the mystery of the plane that can take me through the night to Australia. There is a freedom in that take off and in that trust, the letting go of one country for the next. Responsibilities are set down gently on shelves, or in this case in boxes as we pack up our home, so that a grand clarity can occur. I find that I am able to see clearly the chapter I have just lived, its lessons, pains and joys. I usually spend the first hour writing in my journal or staring out the window in reflection, as if I too, have been taken up softly in a hot air balloon to look down upon my life. And as I lift off, perspective gently seems to lend a hand. It speaks softly, “See how you thought that relationship would never change, and it has…” and “Isn’t that interesting how that job unfolded even though you were so afraid to start?” and “Isn’t that surprising how that leap led to friendship and joy?” and “Do you see how fear is still stopping you there?”

This clarity and freedom of the heart is also known as insight. And insight, however it is found, leads us down an alternative path. Even if the variance in our path is only slight, over the years the gap between where we would have been compared to where we are, is wide. Insight into our own lives comes in many different forms. Sometimes it is a film that opens our eyes, or a consequence to our actions that we hadn’t seen coming or a conversation with someone dear to us. Sometimes it is standing up to face a fear that we’ve had in our pockets for years. Whatever it is that lends us insight, it is so important that we need to actively seek out opportunities for it to come through.

The things that block insight can be subtle. Sometimes it is fear or denial or lack of belief in ourselves. We ignore the stirrings of our heart towards a different direction because the old path is comforting in its familiarity. But the change needn’t be dramatic. Often the world will invite us to face our fears in a gentle way. When I was twenty-three, I was desperately unhappy in my job as a waitress that was supporting my life overseas. The people that I worked for spoke to me terribly and my self esteem was plummeting. On a Sunday afternoon, I had just gotten off the train and was walking to my writing group when I passed a little cafe that I loved. A student from my Women’s Studies class at University was sitting outside having a coffee. She asked me to join her. I had a few minutes before my group so I sat down and ordered a coffee. During the conversation, we learned that we worked for different restaurants owned by the same people. She had experienced the same treatment that I had. Something in me told me to stay with the conversation, that it was more important than my writing group that day. Over coffee and then lunch, we both were able to finally articulate the real damage that the patronizing and sexist comments that were being made towards us were having. At the end of that conversation, I had torn out the front page of my book and posted a sign on the cafe wall saying “Nanny Available” with my name, qualifications and number under it. We walked back to her parents home in Austinmer and under a canopy of leaning palm leaves, we each called and resigned from our positions.

The book that I had with me was Sharon Salzberg’s beautiful book titled Lovingkindness. I still have that copy and I read from it in my yoga and meditation classes regularly. When I open it, my hand often habitually goes back to the first page where the rough edges of that missing page still sit soft and torn. It reminds me of a slight variance in my path that was born from listening to my heart rather than my head. I did get a nanny position and a part of me was kept safe from further damage spoken unconsciously by the people I worked for. At a young age, this taught me that insight and strength are put in our paths in many different forms, we just have to be open enough to receive them. In her book Salzberg writes:

Consider how the sky is unharmed by the clouds that pass through it, whether they are light and fluffy-looking or dark and formidable. A mountain is not moved by the winds blowing over it, whether gentle or fierce. The ocean is not destroyed by the waves moving on its surface, whether high or low. In just that way, no matter what we experience, some aspect of ourselves remains unharmed. This is the innate happiness of awareness.”

I believe the awareness she describes is linked to the more authentic part of ourselves that remains the same regardless of the circumstances of our lives. It is this part of ourselves that carries a kind of strength, like that of a mountain, that is with us all of the time. We have the opportunity to come back in contact with this deeper part of ourselves, through meditation or prayer, yoga or simply mindfulness of the present moment and our innate strength within whatever life may be offering us. From this strength of awareness, not only stems happiness but also insight.

In August, when we arrive back from our visit to Australia, Peter will start a new job as the fourth grade teacher of a beautiful school near San Francisco. This job came up serendipitously, at a time when he had recognized and articulated in his journal and to me how much his teaching gave meaning and inspiration to his life. Packing up our life again into boxes this week, we’ve looked at each other and shaken our heads. The green lush vines sit plump outside the windows and our home over the past five months is difficult to say good-bye to. We know though, in our hearts, that this is the direction our lives are meant to move towards. There is a pull there that is so strong that elicits trust in the decision. A recognition through insight that tells us, that this too is a part of our path here in America.

This month, I invite you to tune into your own insight. A wonderful way to do this is to create a visual picture of which direction you would like your life to move towards. As I was packing this morning. I came across the vision boards that Peter and I made on a wonderful health retreat in January 2008. Pulling out the laminated sheets, my heart soared as I visually ticked off the pictures that represented so much of what we had experienced over the past two years. From the picture of Diamond Head Mountain in Oahu where we were given a housesit last summer to the images of Africa that remind me of the Safari we went on for my birthday not far from here to the winter trees without leaves that surrounded this home when we first arrived to the image of a swimmer that became a regular exercise of mine. These images, that once were just a thought of what we wished for, unfolded into what was. The path to them or the form in which they arrived may have been different to what we could have “thought” up, but their existence in our lives remains just as beautiful.

This week set aside an hour of uninterrupted time. Get a big stack of magazines, all kinds, from car magazines to yoga magazines. Grab some newspapers as well. If you don’t order magazines, take yourself on a field trip to your local charity or Salvation army store, where you can often pick up old magazines for ten cents. Start by finding a CD or a collection of music that has it all. Something that takes you from sentimental to motivated, from melancholy to dancing in your seat. Let the music take your mind on a journey. Movie soundtracks are great for this exercise. You’ll need a large piece of posterboard or cardboard, even a cutting off the side of a box will do. Grab yourself a glue stick and scissors and start cutting. Choose images not from your head, but that call to your heart. Don’t over think it. Cut out words that call to you. On my vision board, I have sentences like “celebrating life” and “defy the elements with delicate” and “go with the flow” and for the material girl in me “dyson” which miraculously came at a huge discount and makes vacuuming a whole new experience for me. Let yourself have fun with this exercise and draw from images that represent the many interests in your life.

When you have finished your board, post it up where you can see it. If friends or family members ask you about it, explain your dreams. In speaking your board, you may discover insights into what was behind the image of the music note or the suitcase, that you yourself were not even aware of. Laminating your board when it is finished is a good way of preserving it. Most copy stores will do this for a very small fee.

As we get better at articulating our dreams, we get closer to living them. Our insights are given a voice and we start to steer our path towards real fulfillment and a deeper knowing of ourselves. Give yourself the opportunity to take that hot air balloon flight. Look at your world from a place of magic. Take joy in the sound of the flame being lit under your sails, whatever color or pattern they may show themselves in. Discover as Rolf Gates writes that “if our concentration quiets us enough…something powerful happens. Where until now we have sought out experience, suddenly experience seeks us out instead.”

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This is a monthly inspiration piece brought to you by author Christina Adler at ‘everyday balance’. If you would like to share your experience with these tools, please feel free to email me by visiting the contacts section on the home page. To subscribe for a monthly reminder for these inspiration pieces, simply fill in your name and email address on the home page under “subscribe to everyday balance.” For information regarding life coaching appointments in person, by telephone or online, visit the ‘for life coaching’ section of this website. Photo taken by Christina Adler in  Windsor, California

posted under 2009 life balance

the grace of leaf green light


the dusty track
under our shoes
speaks in a smoky voice
of the grapes

grown here
for so many years
the finch
ducks and dives

so that her reflection
for a moment
with the long vase like neck

of the snow white egret
dipping leisurely
into the edge of the pond
like a lady at a spa

my gracefulness
looks clumsy
in contrast
to the twirl at the end of the grape leaf

the patience of the stallion
standing mindfully under a tree
the calm of the sky
sewn to the heat of the sun

and you as well
who walk with a lightness
contemplating this transition
out loud

and then speaking in poems
as you describe
how you have been wooed
by the soft light that filters through these green green American trees

copyright – Christina Adler – 1 July 2009 – Windsor, California USA

posted under 2009 poetry