Monday, July 16, 2012

overflowing (i look closer ... inner excavations)


A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master.  While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen.  The master poured the visitor's cup to the brim, and then kept pouring.  The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself.  "It's over full! No more will go in!" the professor blurted.  "You are like this cup," the master replied.  "How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup."

I left for a week's vacation an empty cup.  No expectations but to relax, be present and enjoy the time with my family on Cape Cod.  With the exception of one year, we have taken Cowgirl back to the Cape for a week at the beach.  Growing up, summers for me revolved around the Jersey shore.  When I was in college, my parents bought a house on Cape Cod and it became my place of retreat and renewal.  Before Cowgirl came home with us, I knew I wanted to give her a week at the beach every year if possible.  I tell the Husband it is a right of all children to know long days spent playing in the surf, sand, collecting shells and stones and drinking icy cold raspberry lemonade from the beach kiosk; to go to bed dusty with dried salt from the ocean and the sound of the waves echoing in her dreams.  

So much happened this week at the beach.  We played hard and we were gifted some amazing sights: 24 giant humpback whales splashed around the whale-watching boat, dazzling us with their power and their grace;  


seals lumbered by in the distant waves as we swam in the refleshingly icy waters off of Nauset beach (no, we did not see any sharks!);


our backyard was a theater for birdsong and nocturnal antics of raccoons, owls, coyotes, and cats (and daytime naps in a cocooning hammock) ; snowy egret bestowed a blessing upon me after navigating through some intense horsefly country; 


and much ice cream was consumed.

But more happened under the surface.  So much, I find my cup overflowing and I am unable to begin to decipher the meaning of all that was gifted to me.  But being me (terrier girl, always tugging an internal sock) I will make an initial stab at it.

I returned to this place of pilgrimage, carrying with me powerful tools for self-reflection. I began a mirror meditation practice shared by Liz Lamoreux in her book Inner Excavation and in her retreat kit "The Gifts of this Moment."  The first night I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror (fan on so no one would wonder why I was camped out in the bathroom!) and immediately I was confronted by the fact that I carry much of my father upon my face but also deep within me.  I witnessed the lines life has etched upon my face, the wear of years upon tired, hooded eyes and fading red hair.  I acknowledged the stories I have carried within my heart and the heavy toll of parts of my past.  Being in this place with ties to my father's family, those stories and the burdens placed upon his soul, I recognized my place within that narrative.  Or rather, I realized the potential purpose to that past and its connection to the trajectory of my future.

In SouLodge we were thinking about Voice and specifically the voices of our ancestors.  In this place full of memories, I felt like a veil was being lifted and that a light of Hope and healing was being shined upon the possibility of my story and Cowgirl's story being new threads woven into a narrative of loss, loneliness, silence and disappointment.

Seeing so many whales and learning of their repeated travels to these waters with their young - 30 years in the case of one whale we saw - I felt like an important piece of my purpose, my work, was being given to me by Grandmother Whale.  I am still digesting the teachings shared with me during the week as I sat upon the shore watching the seals and my girl splash within Ocean's healing embrace.  

Right now, my heart feels like a teacup overflowing.  I took a closer look at myself, my life and then I listened and boy, did I receive!  I wrote every morning and evening; words poured from me.  I took pictures and each day marveled at how present I felt. 

Now I hope to sit with it all - the images, the words, the emotions, the dreams and the visions - and let it all sink in.  Like Whale, rising to the surface to take a conscious breath and then diving back into dark, rich, waters.

Meanwhile, I sit and marvel at the fearlessness and full-on joy and pleasure this girl exhibits whenever she is near water.  If Whale is talking to me, then Seal is definitely claiming this child as her own.



 In the end, Whale says it best: dive deep and when you do surface, make a mighty splash.  

Thank you, Grandmother. 


  1. I am also participating in the Inner Excavate-along and Summer SouLodge Session and love how they dovetail together with "finding our voice"

    It looks like you had a BEAUTIFUL Cape Cod vacation. I love that you were able to do some whale watching while there. Thank you Grandmother Whale indeed! :)

  2. Your writing is amazing here... I felt held as you led me through your thoughts and revelations. I really enjoyed this post!

  3. through your pictures and words i can hear the surf and smell the beach. what a wonderful way to "fill up your cup" and recharge. i admire the way you are always working on yourself, something i want to do but continue to find ways, and reasons, to avoid. someday soon, i promise myself, i will dive in like the grandmother whale.

  4. Ah Nauset...this is the first year in a long time that I'm not going to the Cape and it makes me a little sad. your post is beautiful and overflowing indeed.

  5. and the treasures we find when we dive deep....never an easy journey but as one little blue sings, 'just keep swimming, just keep swimming' - a beautiful heartfelt post, lis. xx s

  6. As always I love your posts. You amaze me with your insight and honesty. I especially loved your final thoughts. That may become my knew motto: Dive deep and when you surface make a big splash!! Love it. I feel like I'm just embarking in my deep dive. Soulodge is really making me confront so many things and I'm learning so much! I think it may take years to truly sink into my bones but I'm absorbing it all slowly.

  7. ohhhh YES YES YES YES YES

    oh Lis--- YES! all of this, all of this THE CUP IS OVERFLOWING-- this is all my favorite things in ONE PLACE. wow. xoxoox, e