December 26, 2013
From the Daily Good, dailygood.org
December 8, 2013
“Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.”
~Bill Morgan, Jr.
It’s early December and winter has crept out of her summer hibernation. Snow fell softly last night, laying her blanket over already sleeping grasses and flowers.
This is always a reflective time of year for me. While childhood memories of summer are many, the memories of winter bring stronger emotions to the surface.
I can close my eyes and smell the pungent scent of evergreens in the church. I can see the flowers of Christmas, the showy red and white poinsettias. Soft lights everywhere, shining and glittering like stars. The sounds of traditional and ancient music and song, stirred my heart. I remember wishing my mother wouldn’t find a parking spot for a few more minutes so I could continue to look out the car window and watch the people lightly stepping over snowbanks, and see the lights and street decorations of our little town. Shop windows held puppets, elves, princesses, nutcracker princes, polar bears and icicles. Red ribbons and bows were everywhere.
I remember that our house also was adorned for the season. The sliding glass doors in the living room became the canvas for the Nativity that my mother would paint every year. The colors of blue, green, yellow and brown blended in to the colors of living room, making me feel like the life sized Mary, Joseph and newborn Jesus were guests in our home. At night a colored spot light outside would turn pure white snow into drifts of muted red or blue.
On the ornate carved oak “buffet” was a seemingly magical gingerbread house. It was just high enough to be at eye level for me. I would look in through the windows while the subtle perfume of ginger spice transported me to an imaginary place where all houses were made of gingerbread. Every year I hoped I would see the children who lived in these sepia colored houses peek out at me through the windows.
On the mantel leaned a glitter draped Advent calender that my great aunt Mimi would send every year from Switzerland. As each cardboard Advent window was opened it revealed a wondrous scene that was like a little tease saying, “wait till you see what tomorrow’s picture will be!” The glitter would cover my hands and end up everywhere as if to say throughout the day “Don’t forget to open a new window tomorrow.”
Over near the dining room was the “record player”. It was housed in a sleek console that complimented the modern Danish dining room set.
I could barely reach into the console to turn it on, but I would stretch and turn that dial and watch the record begin to spin and the needle drop. Then I would sit in front of the speakers listening to vibrant voices and look at the cover of the records and drift away to places that were only reachable during December of every year. That one picture on the cover was enough to kindle my imagination through the whole length of the record.
My mom would usually knit sweaters and make bow ties for the “boys and men”. I remember lots of plaid ties. Often they had little sprigs of tiny red holly berries.
When Christmas morning finally came I would wait patiently sitting on top of a floor vent with my flannel nightgown stretched over my bent knees. The warm air would inflate my nightgown like a balloon and I felt as if I might float away. We had to wait until dad was ready with his movie camera. Then we would line up and walk into the living room to see what Santa had brought. I remember board games, new blue skis, a Thumbelina doll, Barbies, Cecil the puppet and Gumby.
Mary and Joseph watched silently as the living room floor became a sea of wrapping paper and ribbon. The house smelled of Christmas tree. Over in the dining room the record player sang Christmas songs.
Then we would get all dressed up and head to church. It was always stuffed to overflowing. Perfume, pine and frankincense soaked into our wool coats and sweaters and remained with us all day. The lights were dimmed and the sanctuary sparkled. The organ player coaxed air through the pipes till it vibrated and became music. The choir sang songs that I still have memorized by heart. People in the aisles and pews reached hands and arms out to greet one another and it was hard not to feel loved by everyone.
Later in the day, turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy nestled in silver serving bowls and trays and we bowed our heads for grace. In the fireplace the fire crackled and warmed the room.
Memories are funny things. I’m sure my siblings have a different take on the scenes I have described. I also remember Christmases when I did not get what I wanted and the magic didn’t feel so strong. Disappointment dulled the senses. Back in the 60’s Christmas was about gifts, but with life sized Mary and Joseph as family members, limited TV and few or no Christmas specials, it felt gentler than it seems to feel now. I believed in the birth of a babe that guided the hearts of people everywhere. The season of Holy Days moved more slowly.
My own children are grown now. We are redefining what this time of year means to us now as a family. Gifts aren’t so important. Church doesn’t seem to fit. As I write this post, I am grateful for the childhood memories, and for the memories I have of my children experiencing Christmas when they were young. For me, this time of year has become more about going inward. Of finding gratitude and awareness for what we are “given” every day. Given in the love we receive from friends and family, in the softness and beauty of new fallen snow, of a sparkling star in the night sky, or a crescent moon. Given in abundance we find in the grocery stores and restaurants. Given in the service we receive from cashiers, garbage collectors, road crews, doctors, factory workers and everyone else. Given in the freedom we have to celebrate whatever is dear to our hearts in a way that has meaning to us personally. Given to us by this planet that nourishes our souls, waters and feeds our body, provides us with shelter and medicine and air that fills our lungs. Given in the potential for us to be tolerant, compassionate, hard working, contributing, empathetic, forgiving , accepting individuals. Given in looking into the eyes of our children, spouse, loved ones and knowing that is enough.
Given in the possibility that what we have is enough.
May you be content, healthy, and filled to the brim with love and gratitude.
“Winter came down to our house one night……….and we were children, once again.”
November 28, 2013
It’s the one day of the year when we are reminded to consciously be thankful. I think the observance of the first Thanksgiving is one thing, something historical, albeit controversial these days. However, I feel the concept of giving thanks on a daily basis is something different. I try to give thanks daily. While I appreciate the time allowed to be with family and loved ones, that does not happen on a daily basis, I try to be grateful EVERY DAY!!
This morning I am sitting in the dining room of a hotel, waiting for my family to wake up. I am so full of joy and gratitude when I think about my children and my husband. When we get to be all together, I feel as if the movement of the universe has cooperated to bring me this magnificent blessing.
I was searching the internet trying to find some sweet sentiment of the day to post on FB, when I stumbled across a favorite: Tiny Buddha’s blog. http://tinybuddha.com/blog-posts/
Celestine Chua posted an entry titled: 60 Things to Be Grateful For, http://tinybuddha.com/blog/60-things-to-be-grateful-for-in-life/ It is fantastic!
She reminds us to be thankful for:
Our Sense of Sight for it allows us to see the colors of life.
Our Sense of Hearing – For letting us hear trickle of rain, the voices of our loved ones, and the harmonious chords of music.
Our legs and lungs. Our tears and disappointments. Our happiness and sadness.
Our mistakes and heartbreak.
Our home, our beds.
Our enemies and kind strangers.
In short, she reminds us that everything is deserving of gratitude. Every day.“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” — Henry Ward Beecher
To paraphrase another saying circulating the internet:Today I will count my blessings, practice kindness, listen to my heart, and breathe.
If I hope to practice gratitude and thankfulness fully, I will do these things every day not just one day in November.
Celebrate giving thanks!
November 16, 2013
“We are all part of the great cycles of things.
And so magnificent and harmonious is this universe, it’s still a great mystery.”
— from the Prelude to the Thanksgiving Address,
Ted Williams, Tuscarora Elder
The November full moon will be tomorrow night. There is a chill in the air and a rush to find all the visually beautiful ways to materialize Christmas.
Christmas aside, what about Thanksgiving? I don’t care so much about the commercialized Thanksgiving, but I like the idea of remembering to be thankful. I wish we didn’t somehow feel, that by designating one day to it, we don’t have to think about it very much the rest of the year.
I wish we could remember we are all part of the cycle of great things. And that it is all still a great mystery.
TV ads, store fronts, radio, magazines….anything and everything remind us incessantly to want, want, want, need, need, need, own, own, own……but what about everything else? What about just being grateful?
If you just pause for a few moments, turn off the noise, the computer, the phone….the rush, the to-do list, the whirlwind of life, what is there? In the silence and stillness, what moves your heart to be grateful?
Anyone want to share?
October 4, 2013
Still floating along after a few days in silent retreat. Processing. Thinking. Realizing I took a fork in the road slightly divergent from where I thought I was going. Now I find myself kind of recalculating like a GPS system. Where exactly am I going anyhow?
I am going to where I am right now.
I scrolled through lots of search results: Toni Packer, Krishnamurti, meditative inquiry, mantras, Buddhism, ………I found myself reading less and less thoroughly. The words were getting muddled. My mind was doing some self talk: “yeah…I know that.”, “OK, I get that.”, “How am I supposed to do THAT?”.
I tried to translate the information. Tried to have it make sense.
And then I stopped. Just stopped. There weren’t any answers on the internet. Certainly none on Pinterest!! LOL!! Reading some books helped to clarify a few things.
Ultimately, it, whatever “it” is, has to come from me, by me, for me. And what I am trying to understand, to achieve, is how to simply be with this moment. This moment. This moment. Only this moment.
Letting the moment that just ended, pass. Allowing the moment I am anticipating ahead not be rushed into existence. How to balance that with the “life I lead.” The one with a job, children, a husband, balancing, responsibility, being tired, being cranky, being happy……
So, this subtle little fork in the road that I am now traveling upon, where will it take me? I don’t know. Right now it has taken me to right here. That’s a good place to be.
I am aware there was something I had to do a few minutes ago, and that in another moment I will have to get up to attend to something else. I’m trying to let that past moment be done, and not give too much importance to the moment coming up. My joy now becomes to be aware of every moment of attending to that “thing.” To hopefully be able to just do it with no labeling or words.
I’m picking up this edit a few days later and wanted to quote something from Toni Packer’s book The Wonder of Presence. It’s about being present with the moment, not caught up in the drama of words, emotions, our “stories”, but being aware:
“…We have thought like that for eons and behave accordingly, but at this moment can there be just the sound of the swaying tress and the rustling leaves and fresh air from the open window on the skin? It’s not happening to anyone. It is simply present for all of us, isn’t it?”
“Why bother?” you may ask. Or perhaps you’re thinking: “I don’t get what she’s talking about.”. Or maybe “That’s just a bunch of baloney.”
Well, I’ve come to a point in my life where I want to just be in THIS moment. I’ve had a full life with a wonderful husband, amazing kids and a job I love. I’ve traveled the world. I’ve laughed and experienced great joy. I have cried and felt paralyzing pain. I’ve had the proverbial broken heart. And I’ve had the gift of a wonderful life companion. I have a house, a car, a boat, cats….bills, a bank account…..I “have” a lot.
Now, I want to experience the ‘what is’ of every moment. I want to move beyond the words that create the “story” of what I am living through. I don’t want to live “through”. I want to live in. This moment. THIS moment. I want to let go of the words that are attached to drama, desire, disappointment, anticipation, fear, doubt, anger, happiness, unhappiness, the judging, the labeling, the comparing. I don’t want to live a “story” anymore.
There are memories of things I don’t want to forget, which seems contrary to being present in this moment. I just don’t want the memories to become baggage attached this moment. I don’t want the memories to filter or influence the present. I want the moment to be as it is. By itself.
I want to be present to this moment. This moment. This moment.
Still confused? So am I a little bit. Toni Packer talks about this is many of her books. I have only just begun to discover her and to explore her writings. But at this moment in my life her words are intriguing. I am muddling through, trying to figure out what her words mean. Especially when she says “they are just words.”!!!
I know this isn’t a road that everyone wants to travel. I can’t say I wanted to either. But I came to that fork and I went slightly off course from I thought was the correct way. The real way. The important way. It’s just a way. There will probably be another choice at some point, another fork. But for now, I put one foot in front of the other and try to just be present with that one step.
June 25, 2013
Sunsets grant us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the movement of the day. They remind us to take time to be still and quiet as the passage is made from day to night. To experience gratitude for the goodness of the day.
(photo by me, Oregon coast. Sunset)
In our daily lives we often participate in many things that might not fall under the category of “good”, or “pleasant”, and too often it so easy for us to hang on to those things as if THEY were our life threads, our defining moments. They are not.
At the end of the day the sunset comes. It has no judgement on our day. Yet the sunset can give us that moment to reflect on all the wonders and beauty in the world, and in people, that we may not have noticed during the day. The sunset reminds us of things that are greater than our evaluation of how we did during day. Greater than our evaluations of how we think others did during that day.Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky. – Rabindranath Tagore
The raging colors splattered across the horizon, the muted sorbet wisps translucent against the day blue sky: the sunset. It reminds us to give pause and notice the beauty and harmony in the natural world. To reflect on the goodness of the day and to be still and fully present in the beauty of the moment. THIS moment. A time of transition from day to night. Where there is nothing but the sunset. Events , struggles, pain, sorrow, laughter, joys of the day are gone…behind us. The next moment has not yet come. This is what is. It is natural. Ever changing. Impermanent. Beautiful. Miraculous. Inspiring. Healing. Breathtaking. This is the cessation of the things that maybe are not so important. This is the interlude between misunderstanding and truth. This is the respite that says “Stop. Be mindful of the goodness of this day as it passes. Be present to this stillness and let the silence of the stillness echo throughout your body.”
June 22, 2013
Please just watch this.
From a commencement speech.
Have a beautiful weekend.
May 24, 2013
I always look for new ideas on how to be more mindful of the present moment. Sometimes it is so very difficult to do that. There are always thoughts jumping ahead to what is scheduled next, what might happen, what will never happen.
Today I ran across a little article that was directed instead on focusing on the day today. As I thought about it, I felt that really that is what I try to do. I keep the day as a whole in my head, and as I wind my way through the hours and events, I then focus on those specific things as they are happening.
The Ten Simple Rules for Daily Living came from the website Greatfulness.org
(photograph by me: Oregon coast)
Here are the thoughts, in my words:
* Only for today, I will live the day being positive and not try to solve the problems in my life in one day.
* Only for today, I will be mindful of my appearance. I will dress as if my appearance is an expression of my thoughts and values. I will not raise my voice. I will be kind and compassionate to others. I will not criticize others. I will not judge others. I will only work on improving myself.
* Only for today, I will remind myself that I have within me the capacity to be happy. To be content.
* Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances around me without requiring that all circumstance adapt to my own wishes.
* Only for today, I will commit 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering to feed my thirst for learning, knowledge and understanding.
* Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
* Only for today, I will make a plan for myself. I might not follow it exactly, but I will do my best. I will be mindful of hastiness and indecision.
* Only for today, I will remind myself that today is a gift.
* Only for today, I will have no fears. Within the hours of the day I will focus on each moment. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness and compassion.
April 12, 2013
There is part of us that
says it is never too late to be reborn
on the inbreath each morning.
(photograph by Kathryn Howlett)
Mornings have become an addiction for me. They are quiet, soft and peaceful. They are beautiful and filled with wonder and hope. There is a stillness in the air that does not exist at any other time of the day. The birds wake with the light, slowly and gently they greet the day with their song. I marvel at the colors in the morning sky…..where do those colors come from? How can they be real colors?
I recently began a breathing practice called “So Hum”. So Hum translates as “I am this/that”. http://www.chopra.com/sohum
I usually wake up before or around sunrise. I have begun to train myself to be still and to watch the sun rise. To breath in “So”, and to exhale “Hum”. To “be reborn on the inbreath each morning.”
I wish I could say I am able to carry that stillness and awareness throughout the day. But, I am not always able to do so. I try. I try every day without giving up because I believe that one day I will come to the end of a day and say “I did it!”
I like to think I make a difference in the world, even if it is to only one person. Yet, I remind myself that my “work” is not so important that things would “stop”, or someone would “suffer something” without me. When I remember, I silently say “So Hum”. I am this. “This” is simply what is. It’s not about importance or unimportance. It’s not about being of value or not. It is simply about being and doing. Of focusing on the qualities of compassion and patience and of being “this”.
When I soak in the first rays of the morning sun, feel the warmth wake my body and take those inbreath, I am “this”. It fills me with something unspeakable, extraordinary. It is a recharging of something deeply internal and personal. It is a rebirth every day.
I am so grateful for the east facing window in my bedroom. For the sky that lights up each morning, filled with color and beauty. A sky that cradles the sun and beckons me to take a long slow inbreath and to be “this”.
April 2, 2013
I’ve been away for awhile….away from the internal space that allows me to write on my blog. I felt as if I was lost in a twirling within my heart and mind, and had a hard time slowing it down. Until now. If anyone is still checking in, thank you.
Pause and Wonder
I was reading a post by Brother David Steindle-Rast about how our perspective changes if we can find wonder and surprise in more things. From the moment we open our eyes in the morning, we have the opportunity to choose to be inspired by the wonder that surrounds us. Beginning with the sound of the alarm clock. Imagine if our response to that sound was not agitation and anxiety, but wonder: wow! Listen to that sound! It is calling me to be ALIVE!!
We are waking up to surprise!! And every moment of the day will offer us more surprises to take our breath away and fill us with wonder. If. If we can be awake, aware and alert!
As I read the article I also thought of the quote above. If we can train ourselves to pause, as in the moments between breaths, we can use those moments to learn to see the surprise and wonder all around us. Perhaps this will provide us with the possibility of seeing more things as opportunities for ourselves, rather than burdens that have to be surmounted.
How would this change our lives? How would we be different? Would we be different?