Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cairns: Balance, Harmony & Holiness

Recently I was at an event at an independent senior living community. A group of local churches, and other organizations, lend support in a variety of ways to this vibrant community. The event included a worship service; my friend Carrie shared a message, which included a reflection on cairn building.

Listening to that message inspired me to build a healing cairn. During this message, Carrie stepped into the 

stream with me, handed me the first rock, saying: 

“trust me, it will be – amazing!”

Before I wade farther into the stream, a bit of background on cairn building seems appropriate. Cairn building has become a popular activity recently, but the history of intentional rock stacking is ancient. People have stacked rocks forever. Cairns can be found on the Tibetan Plateau, on the Inca road in the Andes, on the Mongolian steppe, series of cairns cross deserts on three continents. The Inuit people of the North American artic construct stone monuments called Inuksuk, these human shaped rock structures have been built for thousands of years. Cairns of all kinds have been erected and strategically placed for navigation, as spiritual offerings, or as remembrances. Intentional heaps of stone occur in almost every landscape that has loose rock.

Carrie talked about some of the ways in which the building of cairns is amazing. “When you balance rocks on one another, its an incredible experience because you can suddenly FEEL when the balance has been achieved. You know it - you can feel it!” As I was listening, I traveled on the stream of her words, to the stream where I would build my cairn; I saw a clear image in my mind of this taking place. My words here will call the folks who will be helpers in manipulating specific emotional / spiritual rocks with the intention of balancing – seeking that harmonic congruence.

Much like Carrie said, Spirit is always pushing me to look into myself, my heart, my desires, my motivations, sometimes it takes the hand of our Divine Beloved on my chin to gently turn my face toward the mirror. If I can be honest in these moments – I can ask myself “what are you DOING Lynn? How in the world, does this (the “this” of the moment) align, with who you were created to be, with who you are Called to be? In some of those moments, the answer is “it doesn’t… not even a little bit!”

I believe there is one path, which is experienced in vastly different ways by different cultures. We all walk, dance, scoot, crawl, and stumble our way along this path. It is the path to Spirit, to the Holy Love in the Center of All That Is. I experience this journey as a search for those moments of congruence, that agreement between my lived experience and what Spirit wants of me. Those moments of congruence, might be called moments of balance, harmony or holiness. Moments that every speck of me exalts "YES!"

Congruence is a state of agreement, when you are physically building a cairn with rocks, when you place one rock atop another, there is that moment of which Carrie spoke when you feel the congruence happen, there is a shift from instability to harmonic congruence between the rocks – a moment when they agree to support each other and the whole structure in this way.

When I am out of balance, when my cairn goes all wobbly, and falls into the stream with a horrifying ker-splash… then I have two choices, scamper upstream and just look at the dragonflies – pretending that my cairn has not just fallen into ruin… and/or that it doesn’t matter - or examine the thing that has just happened – figure out why, mobilize the folks I need to help, do the heavy lifting, and pray them back into balance. So what I’m doing here is recalling the words I heard in a different sermon, in which my pastor said, “remember, there is as much Grace in the stumbling as there is in running swiftly.” I offer prayers of gratitude for THAT, and I get to work.

What are the things that knock us out of that state of harmony and holiness, out of balance? For me at least, its so much easier if I can think that what puts me out of balance comes from outside of me – all of the crazy out of control factors out THERE!. Our culture has infused us with the habit of mind of looking elsewhere for the cause, the source, who is to blame for us being off balance – and to avoid looking in the mirror. It’s so much easier, when I don’t have to look inside myself… if I can just get rid of these things [wild gestures to something way over there]… everything will be alright. You know, if I can just get rid of that stuff, I can find that balance – achieve that state of holiness and harmony again. Many teachings point to the giant flaw in all of that, the truth being that my state of disequilibrium, my inability to build my cairn, isn’t about what’s out there, what other people do, think, feel, or bring, its about what is happening within my own heart – my own spirit.

To do this work, to build a cairn that is testament to my spiritually infused Isness, the resiliency of my spirit, my ability to hold the tension of things that make no sense, things that break my heart, things that make me angry, or leave me feeling inadequate, a cairn that stands as reminder of who I am – I will need some help. This is community project  f’realz. I’ll need a few helpers along the banks, y’all can cheer me on, sing your traditional songs, chant, tap out a rhythm, or splash your toesies in the cool water… but some of y’all are gunna have to get your happy asses in the water with me – to help with the heavy lifting.

Carrie was good enough to hand me this first rock. It is lovely, amber coloured, big, solid – and definitely a two-person rock.  As we stand ankle deep in the water and settle it solidly on the riverbed, four hands shift it side to side, to let it hunker down good and solid. This rock stands for my past and the tenuous peace I have made with it. I am the person I am, partly because of my experiences. It will never be okay that I experienced the horrors that I have. However, being a survivor has equipped me to be fully present with folks going through or reliving trauma, to offer an ear and a shoulder, scope out resources, help pick a path through the gnarly undergrowth, or “go all Southside” whatever Spirit asks of me in that situation. Thanks friend, for the good solid start here. I wander upstream, feeling for rocks. It’s not so much of seeing the right rock for this spiritual cairn, but of feeling it.

The next rock, is rather blue/burgundy with a vein of quartz running diagonally across its face, as soon as my foot touched it, I felt the energy there and knew it to be the next piece. I worked quite a little bit to pull it free from the riverbed. This rock is much more than meets the eye on first glance. I finally heft it out of the stream, as crawdads skitter away from underneath. I feel the dual nature of this solid piece of the Earth element. This is a Two Spirit Rock if ever one existed. The thin vein of quartz that twists across the rock’s flat edge, is not a solid line, but dashed. Delineating a distinction, but not a barrier between the two aspects that coexist therein. A team of Ninjas - scampered from the banks unseen (hello - Ninjas) and were zipping around as this rock was approached and identified - and lifted from the water. Arriving at my foundation rock, I say prayers of gratitude for this aspect of me, this next component of my cairn (and for my Ninjas). Setting the Two Spirit rock atop the first one, I gently scoot it around letting the rocks get to know each other, and ask them to tell me, where their fulcrum of congruence lies. Oh! There, slightly off center, is the balance point they have agreed upon. Two essential pieces, past and identity are in harmony. [Note: My way of representing this rock draws from an actual rock I lifted from Mother Ocean].

My spouse has been exploring the banks, and calls me over. “Honey! check this out” she says, and points to an exquisite rock with many colors and splotches. "whaddya think?" Flakes of mica catch the light like tiny mirrors, reflecting the dappled sunlight. Together we lift the relationship rock in place and working as one, find that spot of alignment, of sacred agreement and the rock stands shining waiting to see what comes next.

The next rock was so surprising, wide and sturdy, looking remarkably like a turtle tucked into its shell. This one called to me, and commanded attention, insisting I pick it up. This is the rock of my Call – shaped like a turtle, a symbol of Creator, this rock, nearly laid herself on the cairn, the pull to the place of congruence was magnetic, unquestioned, solid.

Alright… you over there – swatting and cursing at the “cloud of a million gnats” and pointing at a rock – roll up those dockers, and come over and help me - wouldja?!  This one, is ours to manage. Initially we work in lovely companionship, taking this rock whose oddball shape, and wild colours drew your attention, and I eagerly agreed on this choice. We talk and we laugh as we look for the sweet spot, that balancing place, and suddenly, all I see is a retreating form. In my distraction I feel the full weight of the rock in my hands, the rock slips, slices my hand as I try to prevent the dislodging, it bashes my knee a good one as it splashes into the stream. So many points of focus at once, on the unbelievable sight of the departure, on my throbbing knee, on the drops of blood swirling into the stream. Initially, I just cry, and massage my hurt places – but before long – I’m also angry. I shout up the riverbed - “Hey! You said you were in this for keeps - you said… “no matter what!” My voice trails off and in the silence that follows, I realize I have to do it myself… the best I have is what I learned of rock lifting from this amazing guy - there's been much learning from this fabulous creature who sparkles with what I’ll call holiness – and pray like crazy that I can find the place of congruence in all of THIS, and hope I haven’t seen the last of this unique person from whom I’ve learned so much, this person, I recognized on sight, this person I love dearly. I take some calming breaths as I hold in one hand the gift of having that in my life for a time, and the hurt and anger over this stupid gaping hole in the other. I get the bless-ed rock to into its place of harmony with the others, but feel so off-balance inside. I just keep looking at it – hurting and angry and bruised, muttering. There’s a hole, in this work I am doing now, and a vacancy on my team of healers that is shaped in a very particular way, and that… friends and neighbors – sucks.

I thank our Divine Beloved for this interesting piece I am putting at the top of this particular cairn. It is singularly beautiful in its defiance of the expected, one hardly ever sees a rock that is shaped like this, not chiseled or shaped by people hands, but by its very nature it is formed defiantly different. I am grateful for the solidity of this one’s shape, for the heft of it, and for the way that even though the rock beneath is so differently contoured in comparison, it seems eager to find balance with its peer. Somehow the contours of this rock, fit my scraped up hand – and paired like that… we get the job done. I offer grateful prayers for the presence and companionship of this one. After the crazy effort and emotion of the previous rockwork, finding and settling this one in place with such ease and comfort, helps achieve that harmonic balance, of which this whole cairn was to be the embodiment.

As I stand and look at the water swirling around this piece, one of many cairns I am to build… I feel a sense of peace that no matter what actions or emotions played into the placement of any one rock… the whole is supported by the harmony, the congruence, the agreement to coexist, that the constituent pieces have achieved.

I love and embrace each piece of this work; I see the outrageous beauty of each rock – and the beauty in the unbelievable agreement at which they have arrived. I see the rocks that have scraped me. I see the ones that are healing stones. I must believe in the integrity of the whole – or this living work of harmonic holiness will splash into the stream, denying that harmony amoung such diversity is even possible.

I believe in the radical power of Spirit to guide me as I build cairns to serve as monuments, spiritual markers, and guideposts on my bold journey towards Grace. I believe that it WILL be amazing – every time. I believe that each moment of balance – is holy. I believe that no matter what… when I am battered and bruised and collapse to the ground – I’ll receive comfort and encouragement, and when the voice says “now get up” – I will get up, and resume the work I have been Called to do.

~ Aho ~

P.S :  There are so many cairns to be built... but this work is a solid beginning. Alive, aware, and motivated - the work continues.

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