"We, the compound of Sovereign, Soul, and Sediment!"
~ James Lendall Basford ~
I have come to realize that a clean slate for The New Year is not necessarily a realistic possibility. I must carry my loss and pain with me, not as a weight or a burden, but as a gift. I have been blessed by the experiences of my past, and cannot be free of them as if they had never happened. They did happen. And, while they need not dictate or disable my forward momentum, they do have their place in my heart, and in my soul. They have become a part of me. We have become one, and I go forward larger and more compassionate for all I have been through, and not in any way handicapped by it, or victimized, but grown in depth, and wisdom, and life experience, and the ability to unconditionally love.
The past bejewels my spirit, and gives me sparkle and verve.
"Christmas is a time when you get homesick- even when you're home."
~ Carol Nelson ~
The energy of Christmas feels both sad and beautiful to me. I can take or leave the jacked up crowds, and holiday fever, and egos around gifts, but the traditional music that has survived the ages mingled with candlelight and the tree, and fires, and movies, and sweets, and people gathering... these, for me, are full of yearning that is not grabby, but soft and sensuous and sorrowful and rich.
"There's always a period of curious fear between the first sweet-smelling breeze and the time when the rain comes cracking down."
~ Don DeLillo ~
Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with molten gold. This practice highlights the cracks, makes them beautiful, and allows the object to continue to be useful. This acknowledgement and celebration of injury is a far different approach from using transparent glue in the hopes that no one will notice the break, or worse yet, throwing the object in the trash.
"Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart."
~ Hugh Macmillan ~
Things are revealed in the winter landscape. We see houses and views that are otherwise hidden. And maybe it's a little the same with us as well. Much as we celebrate together and create coziness, there is nonetheless a piece of our spirit this time of year which feels barren somehow, and is laid bare.
"It is, indeed, the season for kindling, not merely the fire of hospitality in the hall, but the genial flame of charity in the heart. What bosom can remain insensible to the call of happiness?"
~ Washington Irving ~
It's been enough sadness lately. Time to turn our attention elsewhere, and look to the moment for peace and joy and glittering lights of the season and the sound of Christmas coming. The sadness will wait for us to return to it, and we do not betray our grief by enjoying the pleasures of this sensational world. Everything has its part and its place, and we are meant to feel it all!
I used to think it was helpful to make suggestions when someone shared a problem with me, but I'm not so sure about that anymore. I think it's ok to say that I had a similar experience (if I did) and here's what helped me, but to have the audacity to say, "You should try THIS," well, that's another thing entirely. Maybe they have tried it, and it didn't work for them, or maybe there's a legitimate reason why they haven't tried it, or maybe it's just not their path.
Most of the time, what people need is not to be told what to do, or what to take, or how to fix something that they may not even think is broken, but to be listened to, acknowledged, and heard.
I stop jumping the gun in communication with others and really listen from the heart.
Solid, grounded spiritual strength can co-exist with physical and emotional trauma. Even as the winds of our life circumstances beat us about, there is a core within, an anchored kernel, the source of our very existence, that remains unfettered, untouched and unharmed. It carries us always, and especially when we do not feel fully able to carry ourselves.
There is that within me which is unchangeable and vastly secure.
"Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds."
~ Theodore Roosevelt ~
Thanksgiving week has come again, launching the 2019 Holiday Season, and the gathering of families with their new additions and their loved ones lost, food a plenty, and the range of feelings that come and go and come and go. Let's be grateful for all of it and for our lives as well, and the journey of the ongoing days.
But if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul's own doing."
~ Marie Stopes ~
For those of us who live with hot flashes, perhaps we can learn to experience them as a surge of power and an intimation of the vast reservoir within us that wants expression in the world. And perhaps those who live with us can learn to accept our hot flashes like beacons from a lighthouse leading the lost and wandering spirit home. And for those who have nothing whatsoever to do with hot flashes, take a moment to be grateful for balanced hormones and your ability to be a steady presence in the world.
"Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance."
~ Confucius ~
Just because something works for me doesn't mean it will work for you and vice versa. We are all uniquely responsive to herbs, to medicines, to therapies, to supplements, and to the energies and messages of our bodies.
When someone shares an ailment, it seems to be a common trend to flippantly say, "This will fix it," and move on, completely missing the emotional and metaphysical implications of the sharing and the journey.
Let's heighten our sensitivity and stop thinking we know so much about what other people need. It's job enough to maintain the tenuous balance of ourselves.
"It happens by a thousand tiny surrenders of self-respect to self-interest."
~ Robert Brault ~
Dealing with an efficient, high-integrity company is a pleasure, but sadly, not all companies fall into this category. Recently, I ordered some things online, and a few days later got an email saying there was a problem with the coordination of the credit card information and billing address so could I please call to verify.
When I called, I waited on hold for twenty minutes with the constant haranguing of the techno-voice telling me she appreciated my patience and please hold for the next available representative, who finally picked up, and then couldn't understand why I had gotten the email in the first place because all was actually in order with my address.
I was reassured that my items would be shipped.
But no shipping verification email came; instead, another notice that the order could not be processed because of a problem with the address and could I please call. So here I am on hold again, listening to the techno voice, and it's been twenty two minutes and counting. They have lost all my future business at this point, and my patience, and my respect.
I celebrate the efficiency of high-integrity companies.
"No one understands that you have given everything. You must give more."
~ Antonio Porchia ~
Some of us are internally driven by the idea of making money, some by the idea of being famous, being in love, achieving a goal, having a child, healing an illness, being at peace. And none of these are wrong and none better than another. Still, it's helpful to understand for ourselves personally what in particular motivates us so we can use it to guide our compass and point our True North.
"The level path is easy, but it will not bring you to the mountaintop."
~ Dr. Idel Dreimer ~
We've been working on burying drainage pipes in ditches for water runoff from the equipment sheds and barn. It's challenging work shoveling dirt, making sure the grade is running steadily downhill, and negotiating all the uneven ground climbing up and down the ditch banks. My body is sore, and I'm tired, but we mush on to get the job done.
"There are people who have money and people who are rich."
~ Coco Chanel ~
I am tired of being fearful about money, of feeling anxious and worried, of becoming a kind of crazy person every time I have to pay bills or some unanticipated expense pops up. I have always had what I needed and then some. It's time to take a deep breath and commit to a new way of being relaxed and trusting around all things financial.
More than once, I have tried to pay bills and do paperwork in a cozy environment to make it more palatable- sitting in front of a fire in a comfy chair, or something of the sort- but I need a desk, and space for organization purposes, and a certain mental intensity to get the job done. It goes better that way, and faster, and I don't have to suffer the frustration of piles of paper slipping constantly off of my lap.
I accept that some approaches are better than others to honor the job at hand.
"Body tired, brain tired, soul benumbed, heart aching, a worn out human drops into a seat."
~Leigh Norval ~
Emotional exhaustion is different than physical exhaustion, and arguably more debilitating, so when we've experienced heightened feelings and traveled the heart journey of deserts and mountains, it's best to allow for rest. We need time to process and time to integrate and time to just be.
When emotional exhaustion comes on, I go easy on myself.
"All beings everywhere, suffer; let your heart go out to them in spontaneous and immeasurable compassion."
~ Rigpa Glimpse of the Day ~
We are all wounded in one way or another, and our woundedness connects us.Though we might want to pretend that we are above or beyond all of that, that we have forgiven all that needs to be forgiven and let go of all that needs to be let go, the effect of our pain remains like a stain on our soul. And that's a good thing, because it's our wounds that make us authentically human and our wounds that make us useful to others. We can be compassionate only because we really do know how it feels.
"Eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."
~ Hans Hofmann ~
I went to another funeral for my Aunt Mary that was completely different from the one for my Cousin Nat. Hers was simple and straight to the point, just the way she wanted it. Six of us stood by the graveside while the coffin was buried. We played a bagpipe version of Amazing Grace on a cell phone, it was sunny with a cool fall breeze, and we stood around talking gently while the cemetery guys systematically filled the hole, and replaced the sod.
It was soothing in a way, and peaceful, and natural, and beautiful. No fanfare, no service, just a few loved ones present for the closure of a life.
It's difficult to see the ones we love suffer physically. To have them be weak and not feel well inspires compassion and also frustration, empathy, and a bit of irritation as well, perhaps from our fear that they will never be well again. And as with all difficult things, it's an opportunity to practice spiritual principles, but that doesn't make it any more palatable. No matter how I come at it, I find it leaves a taste of discomfort in the soul.
I believe the most important, most helpful, most evolved life skill we can learn is how to be present; how to be vigorously aware of everything around us, and be tuned-in to our inner energy, and instantaneously and appropriately responsive to anything new that arises.
Presence gives us spaciousness.
Presence gives us ease.
Presence gives us vitality and appreciation and a sense of well-being and the feeling of love.
And presence gives us that thing we long for
that we often cannot name.
Presence gives us peace.
I practice the art of presence.
PS I was interviewed on this topic, and you can watch that interview, along with many other inspired interviews here. Just scroll down to find my name.
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
~ Thomas Paine ~
We carry around energy from the past without even realizing we are carrying it, and then wonder why we feel so weighted down. All the ways we've repressed emotions, the silences we've kept when we would have done better to speak up, having pretended to be ok with things when we weren't really ok with them- this is the build up- like plaque on our teeth- and every so often we need to get at it and break it up so we can live free.
I am willing to see what I might prefer not to see.
I am always on time when it really matters, but I have gotten a bit sloppy when my appointments don't feel so obviously critical, and I'm tired of being a few minutes (5...10?) late. It lacks respect and integrity and affects the way I feel about myself as well. So let this be my testimony and intention: no more. Barring an act of God, I will arrange my schedule in such a way as to be consistently prompt.
"I have an almost religious zeal- not for technology per se, but for the Internet which is for me the nervous system of mother earth, which I see as a living creature, linking up."
~ Dan Millman ~
Some people like to gripe about Facebook like they gripe about the weather, and it seems pretty normal to feel a certain condescension for posts of dinner plates full of food. And yet, if we have a broad spectrum of friends, Facebook is also a source for amazing photographs of people and places, inspiring videos, enlightening information, and updates on growing children and grandchildren and weddings and deaths and points of true interest. So let's remember to express some appreciation for Facebook as well; for all the wonderful ways it expands and enriches our lives.
"A penny will hide the biggest star in the universe if you hold it close enough to your eye."
~ Samuel Grafton ~
The awe inspiring effect of fall leaves is best captured from a distance. As we approach a brilliantly bright tree and stand beneath it, we observe that the leaves up close don't feel at all the same. They are duller somehow. And maybe our life and other people's lives are like that also- glittering and luminescent - but only from afar.
I understand that a shift in perspective can change the whole picture.
"I have looked through the list of illnesses, and did not find cares or sad thoughts mentioned among them. That is a mistake, surely."
~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg ~
We do ourselves a great dis-service by taking ourselves and our life circumstances too seriously. To lose our sense of humor and the lightness of our being is cumbersome and weighty, and our interactions with others become unforgiving and intense.
Let's keep things easy and breezy instead, and drop the burden of whatever it is we've picked up as soon as we realize we have it in our grip.
I let go of mental and emotional heaviness and enjoy my life.
"Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world."
~ Hans Margolius ~
Any kind of heightened emotional expenditure, whether for pleasure or challenge, takes its toll. We rally through with genuine laughter or nervous tension and at the end are wiped out and need recovery time.
There may be a sense that anything enjoyable should rejuvenate us, and perhaps it does, but the immediate aftermath does seem to require rest and retreat, just like emotional ordeals do. It's a process to integrate whatever has happened and all the ways it may have rocked us, or lifted us, or swung us around.
Life requires that we take time to integrate emotionally energetic experiences.
We look for fall color to be dramatic and impress us strongly with its glory and brilliance; and yet, so much of autumn beauty is subtle. Yellow and rusty colored grasses, gently falling leaves and leaves on the ground already fallen, the shorter days, the feel of the wind; wood smoke, honking geese, red weed stalks, bits of colored dripping vines, crisp mornings and cool evenings, the angle of the light-all these subtleties and others like them are as satisfying in their own way as the trees that shiver us with their glorious, showstopping luminescence.
"Love one another and you will be happy. It's as simple and as difficult as that."
~ Micheal Leunig ~
Gruff's Birthday is this Sunday, and it's an honor and a privilege to celebrate with him! He's a fierce-hearted man with a gentle nature, equally suited to wield a chainsaw and nurture a baby chick. He's the best of friends, the master of problem solving, and a true Renaissance man.
His humor, his integrity, his talent, and his great capacity for love make him a partner extraordinaire, and I am blessed and grateful to share life with him, and conversation, and laughter, and challenge, and adventure, and vision, and silliness, and whatever the day serves up!
Sometimes trust is instantaneous and feels immediately secure, and other times it builds slowly over time by degree. And perhaps, the second kind is more reliable in the end, for how often have our spontaneous trusting instincts been mistaken?
Sometimes we just have to say yes- to do it- in spite of our resistance, our fear, and all the different ways our desire to not do it might manifest. We can trust that once we have committed, then the activity itself will support our next move, and our next one, and break us out of inertia and into flow and rhythm, and the unexpected joy of taking on something we weren't going to do at all.
I am willing to take a risk to experience something new.
"An educational system isn't worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living, but doesn't teach them how to make a life."
~ Author Unknown ~
I deeply believe in the need for and value of life skills education in the classroom. Learning how to set boundaries, manage difficult emotions, be present, form good habits- these are arguably as important as math and history, and possibly even more so. In an effort to further this idea and move it into the realm of reality, I agreed to participate in an interview series with Laura Durance, founder of The Up Inc, a nonprofit organization committed to changing education in this way.
The series is not just for students, however. It's for all of us!
If you're curious to know more, want to do your part to further life skills education in the classroom, and/or want to participate/listen to one or all of the interviews, click HERE.
It's the obvious thing to do to assume that others, especially others that we know and respect, are just like us in terms of what they need, what's healing, what feels good, what hurts, and what helps. We assume that our experience of the world is also their experience, that our indignation is also their indignation, and that our joy is their joy.
And yet, that's simply not the way it is. When we sincerely listen to others for understanding in conversion, we discover a broader view, their true perspective, and the exciting terrain of uncommon ground.
I don't pretend to know what others like and don't like and want and don't want. I let them show me and tell me and trust them when they do.
"Every hour proves to us that change and decay are written upon all things... As surely will the proudest monuments of human labor pass away, as the morning mist from among the hills."
~ Charles Lanman ~
Although I live by repetitive routines, my experience of them each day is new, because I am new- made fresh by sleep and learning and evolution and letting go. As I change, so do the things I notice, and the sensations I feel. And thank God for that. I am ever curious, and never bored.
"Prejudices are the chains formed by ignorance to keep men apart."
~ Countess of Blessington ~
We are so quick to judge others, even without knowing anything at all about them or what they've been through. We think we know.
Each of us is ever evolving and forever new, and unpredictable, and capable of great wisdom and unexpected insight and kindness and their opposite. It depends on the day, the weather, our mood, and our state of consciousness. Consequently, acceptance of whatever may show up is helpful when dealing with people, and compassion, and the honest appreciation that whatever negative judgment we dole out could just as easily be said about us.
Being human means we're all changeable and ever fresh.
Sometimes there are things that we've forgotten that we might do better to remember, and sometimes there are things we remember that we might do better to forget. Life is fluid, memories are like dreams, and it's our choice what we hold on to and what we let go.
I have power and choice in this moment. That is where power and choice live.
The past operates on us subconsciously through old survival tactics and emotionally charged triggers. We can free ourselves by looking back and acknowledging how we learned to cope. Our understanding can free us because then we can figure what needs to be forgiven and start anew with the light of consciousness on our side.
I get over the past by objectively acknowledging what actually happened.
Anger is as natural to our being human as happiness is, yet we villainize it as bad, wrong, scary, out-of-control, and inappropriate. Learning to acknowledge, feel, and express our anger is healthy and ok.
Anytime that we pretend we don't feel something that is human to feel- anger, fear, sadness, joy- we shrink our lives and freeze our vitality. Wanting to be happy all the time is like playing music with one chord. We need the whole scale to fully experience the song.
In an effort to protect our hearts, we inadvertently shut them down. Being open to life and vulnerable to the whole experience, other people included, is a risk to be sure, but well worth it. The reward is connection, authentic self-expression, and love.
There's a kind of thrill in knowing we were right about something, even if it's bad news for someone else. It bolsters our spirits. "I KNEW it," we repeat over and over to anyone who will listen as if that makes us extra important.
If we're honest though, there are just as many things we're wrong about, if not more. And we overplay them too as if we can't believe it.
We might do better to simply acknowledge quietly to ourselves that sometimes we're right and sometimes we're wrong, and be able to take them both equally and gracefully in stride.
I catch myself exaggerating and get back to being right sized.
"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh ~
I noticed wrinkle lines around my mouth the other day from setting my face in a determined kind of resistance to life, and then I saw something online that said those lines were an indication of bitterness, and, not wanting that, I've been consciously setting my lips in a gentle kind of smile, and it's amazing how it changes the way my eyes feel, and my face feels, and my heart.
We truly do create a world with our thoughts, and every so often, we are given a glimpse behind the curtain and become able to see what's really there, and when we do, it's baffling, especially if we have felt strongly in a certain direction for many years and based our behavior all those years on our false belief. There's freedom in finally seeing, and yet, a new question arises. If we have been wrong about that one thing, what else might there be?
As certain as I may feel, I remain open to new ideas.
"Most of us are inclined to keep too many old and useless things in our houses and in our minds as well."
~ Emily Tolman ~
Having the physical aspect of our lives in some kind of order is good for the soul. Disorganization, stockpiles of mixed up junk, messy counters, mounds of unfolded clothes: these things tangle us up on a subconscious level and close down possibility and spaciousness within.
We all want to look good, to be liked, to be listened to, and to be loved. We want to feel like we matter and that there are others who care. And there may be a voice in our heads that says we don't deserve it and we won't get it, and is self-conscious and unsure.
But when we are free from this internal mental noise we can readily experience all the goodness of love and connection. All we have to do is give it to others and then we will have it for ourselves.
"You are a beautiful soul hidden by the trench coat of the ego."
~ Mike Dolan ~
When our ego gets hooked, we're in for a ride. It may be a dark ride, or a grandiose one with visions of greatness and grandeur. What it will not be is simple and clear, and simple and clear is where authentic creativity lives.
So as soon as we are able to quiet the demands of our ego, the truth will speak and we will find our peace, and until then, we are like a fish on a line.
I beware the contortions of my ego when it wants to take the lead.
It amazes me how quickly and unconsciously I enter a state of resistance- to circumstances, to people, to the way I feel. And then I'm tense and unhappy and I know not why, until I look, and see that I want things to be other than they are.
If I want to experience life satisfaction, I have to deal with reality exactly as it is.
"Hummingbird nests are wonders of beauty, delicacy, and architecture- plant down and dried flower petals held together with silvery spider's web, exquisitely decorated with greyish-white lichens."
~ Royal Dixon ~
When a bird builds a nest, it flies out into the broad world to gather twigs and string, and whatever it can find to make its home secure and cozy; and then there's an art to putting it all together. No two nests are the same. And isn't it like that for us as well?
I gather things that catch my eye and bring them home.
"I nod to a passing stranger, and the stranger nods back, and two humans go off, feeling a little less anonymous."
~ Robert Brault
Anytime we feel lonely we can reach out to others- online, in person, through meetup, over the phone. Our options are endless. We can step into life whenever we need to, whenever we're ready, and whenever unwanted feelings of isolation exert their pull.
We have a new dryer with touch buttons, and I couldn't get it to work at first because I was pushing too hard. It's very sensitive, and responds readily to a light touch. And so, it made me wonder, where else in my life might I be pushing too hard?
Sometimes strength is called for and sometimes it's not.
I tend to be active and busy and productive. The "go mode" is my most common gear, and I'm quite sure I'm not alone in that. So when moments of complete surrender to stillness come, I feel profound gratitude for them. What a blessing to be internally quiet and peaceful, without any kind of agenda or guilt.
"O God, I pray that not too much of calm be mine, but one day let the maddened rush of waters break against my soul."
~ Muriel Strode ~
I like things in order: folded laundry, a clean desk, a clean sink, beds made, floors swept; but that's only one energy of life. Another is food and glasses spread all over the table for a family meal, messy beds from naps and lovemaking, mud from outdoor adventures, dog hair from the dog, bills unopened in envelopes in a mail pile, and pillows on the sofa all this way and that from movie watching. And if I'm honest, I like these things too. The one thing makes no sense and gives no pleasure without the other.
"A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails."
~ Donna Roberts ~
I've been caught in the "point-of-arrival" trap, wanting to get to the time and the place where our new house feels like a comfortable old shoe. Longing after the future like that though, I am missing the glory of the empty, evolving, echoing space- half done, and rich with possibility.
I can settle in to each moment. I don't have to wait until everything is just where and how we want it. The newness of the house and it's features and characteristics and shifting light is exciting, and curious and much like the beginning of a solid friendship. It takes time, and commitment, and multiple encounters, and a willingness to share it all.
We hesitate to ask for help, and yet, there is a magical kind of spiritual principle that diminishes our obstacle, whatever it may be, when we invite others to face it with us. Then they too become invested in our getting wherever we're going, and our journey is seriously empowered by the team effort, which is a far happier situation, seems to me, than struggling along all on our own.
I engage with others, and graciously accept their help as I travel the difficult road.
"Happiness is an occasional brief glance into how simple it all can be,"
~ Robert Brault ~
Some things turn out to be far more complicated than initially anticipated, and some things turn out to be far simpler. And understanding which is which is a key distinction. More often than not we confuse one for the other.
There are times when it may not be a bad thing that we can't let something go. Perhaps it sticks with us because we need to look honestly at a situation in our life we've been trying to ignore, or it may be just the nudge we need to see a Doctor. Honesty gives us power, because when we're dealing with reality, we have the ability to affect change.
When I can't let something go, I take a closer look.