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Sunday, April 30, 2017


Solitary Time

I asked myself the question, 'What do you want of your life?' and I realized with a start and terror, 'Exactly what I have—but I want to be commensurate, to handle it all better.'”
May Sarton (Journal of a Solitude; 1973)

In Journal of a Solitude, May Sarton wrote of longing for “open time, with no obligations except toward the inner world and what is going on there.” Time alone, time to think of nothing if that's what one chooses; time for idle hands and wandering thoughts. Time to devote a whole day to piddling around with no discernible goal in mind. Think of it!

How often do you take time for yourself? Most of us don't even consider it. We are like those antique postcard images of the mule tethered to the center cog of a cider press, walking around in a circle all day. We just keep plodding along. Unfortunately, that is a recipe for waking up one day and realizing that most of your life is behind you and you can't remember what you did with it.

Solitary time is essential to self-knowledge and self-actualization. Time to recharge, rethink, reconnect. Time to touch base with Spirit, and see how your soul is doing. Time to think about what comes next. Time to dream, scheme and plan.

A hefty breeze blows this morning, turning all the trees into dancers. The clouds speed by. Birds sing at the top of their lungs. This is truly Sabbath! “Make it so, No. 1.”

                                                               In the Spirit,


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Giving and Receiving


For it is in giving that we receive.”
Francis of Assisi

Are you a giver of gifts? I have a cousin who shops all year for Christmas and birthday gifts for the people she loves—friends, family, sometimes folks she barely knows. She'll see something, and say, “Oh, that looks like so-and-so. I'm going to get that for him.” She has a designated “gift closet!” I have a friend who gives other people gifts of things that he likes, whether the receiver does or not. “Oh, you need this!” For some people, giving material gifts is equal to expressing devotion. Their gifts are intended almost as “love offerings,” like those left at sacred sites.

In my family of origin, material gifts were given only when something was needed. They tended toward the practical, like clothes, shoes, food. When my mother died, all her jewelry fit into one small box. She had a few earrings, and a necklace my father had given her for their 50th anniversary; no bracelets, no rings other than her engagement and wedding rings. In no way was she a frivolous woman.

I, myself, have a strange relationship toward gift giving. I like to give when I am moved to give, and not when something is expected. I, like my mother, prefer to give gifts that are useful, as opposed to impractical, or purely “kitsch.” Unless it fills up my heart to give something, I prefer not to give at all. And, when it does fill up my heart, that full heart IS the gift. When we give from a open heart, we share equally in the gift of joy. When we receive a gift that has been thoughtfully chosen, and lovingly given, we are doubly blessed. We receive both the gift, and the love that goes with it. You can't beat that!

                                                         In the Spirit,

Friday, April 28, 2017

Let's Meet in...

Rumi's Field

Out beyond ideas of
wrongdoing and right-doing
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
Rumi (Coleman Barks translation)

This very famous, short poem by Rumi succinctly sums up the key to happiness. Non-judgment. Extended to self and others, non-judgment is the supreme challenge of a lifetime. I won't even pretend to have arrived at that “field beyond” at this stage of my life, but when I am able to call back a judgment, I feel better about myself. I feel lighter and happier.

I had a conversation with one of my sons this week about why it is that we humans judge. We agreed that the ability to read a situation is an adaptive skill. We are not the only creatures who have it—certainly dogs do. Possibly all sentient beings have the ability to feel the energy of another being, or of a given situation, and judge its safety. Maybe it's one of those instinctual abilities associated with the “lizard brain.” But it's also true that we, in the 21st century, are still more tribal than we like to admit. We like and trust our own, and until proven otherwise, we hold anyone who is not our own with a certain amount of suspicion. Like our dogs, we sniff them out.

But, there is a whole other category of judging that wreaks havoc with community and peace of mind. Seeing all “others,” that being anyone who is not our own, as untrustworthy is a problem. Lumping all types of people who are not “like us” into one big pile of dubious acceptability, is a recipe for discontent and unhappiness. If all people with brown or black skin, or all people with white skin, or all people of a different religion, or who speak a different language, or have a different sexual orientation are unacceptable to me, I will never be a happy, contented person. And, it's not the fault of that person or persons; they are not to blame for my unhappiness—that's all on me.

The challenge is to overcome one's own tendency toward tribalism and judgment. All of us have to take this on. It's hardwired into us to be wary, but we have the capacity to transcend our lizard brain. We can choose to be in community with people who are different from us. And when we make that choice, we will be happier, more contented people. Let's allow our souls to lie down in Rumi's field, where the world is too full to talk about.

                                                    In the Spirit,


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Simple Tasks

Sacred Life

At this time I find it more and more important to have outer activities that can connect us to what is more natural and help us live in relationship to the deep root of our being, and in an awareness of the moment which alone can give real meaning to our everyday existence.”
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (“The Art of Cleaning” Parabola, Summer, 2017, p. 11)

Long ago, when I was married and had one young son, my husband and I met some college friends of his on an island in the Caribbean—St. Bart, I believe. We rented a house that offered the services of a caretaker for cleaning and cooking. Each morning, two French-speaking women came very early, before we were up. They cleaned the house and cooked breakfast, and while we were eating, they made the beds, swept the porches and even swept the sand that surrounded the house. They used hand-made brooms with fan-shaped bristles, and created over-lapping arcs in the sand. It was quite beautiful.

Those were days long before cell phones. I was an emotional mess because I was away from my child for such a long time, and the phones were down on the island, so I couldn't call and check on him. Our friends, who did not yet have children, thought me crazy--and they were right. But these women, dressed in simple cotton dresses and sandals, jet-black hair tied back with a ribbon, seemed perfectly happy doing what they were doing. They worked in tandem with total concentration and seemingly effortless movement, and watching them calmed even me. It was a demonstration of whole body meditation that I have not forgotten. Today, when my head is swirling, I head for my basement, and sweep, and organize and dust. It never fails to pull me back to earth.

There is something about performing simple, essential tasks—sweeping, dusting, ironing, cooking—that anchors us in our bodies, and reminds us of our attachment to time, and place and home. As we sweep out the debris of our living space, we clear out our mental garbage as well. These simple chores can be considered onerous, or they can be an exercise in grounding. If done with attention to detail and presence of mind, they provide a connection to antiquity. They link us to our ancestors back through the ages, because these are tasks that humans have always done. In these days of super connectivity, and technology over-load, we need them more than ever. Approaching every aspect of life with reverence makes for a sacred life.

                                                                     In the Spirit,


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Right Attitude

Right Action

Whenever you perform an action, have the attitude that you are not performing the action. Have the attitude that your actions are really the actions of non-local intelligence, the organizing universal spirit. You begin to notice a great diminution of anxiety. You will also be less attached to the result.”
Deepak Chopra (The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, p. 116)

Our culture, especially our business culture, stresses preparedness. Get ahead of the curve, take the lead, be so impressive that no one notices there's anyone else in the room. In other words, be aggressive and determined; you control the conditions, you set the agenda. We see that scenario in our entertainment, in our politics and most certainly, in our international relationships. “Let me tell you how it's going to be,” rather than, “I'm here to listen and see how we can work together,” is often the way we perceive empowerment. We are taught to argue and debate our way to a deal that gets us what we want, and we feel successful only when we have the upper hand. We have to win, and someone else has to lose. In doing things this way, we keep ourselves in a constant state of anxiety.

If you are attempting to follow Spirit's lead, you do the opposite of that. Instead of grabbing for everything to which you feel entitled and more, you wait, you listen, you allow. You are present in the moment with all your senses, and you are available for guidance. And, that guidance will come. It may come in a form that surprises you, as though it sprang up full blown in that moment. As though someone unknown whispered the right answer in your ear. Wise guidance comes, not from the ego-you, who wants to have the right answer, and always wants to “win,” but from the higher Self, whose only interest is your soul and what comes next for its well-being. You may not win the prize, but you will walk away knowing that you did the right thing. And, you will have peace instead of anxiety.

                                                             In the Spirit,


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Finding Courage

Your Voice

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says, 'I will try again tomorrow.'”
Mary Anne Radmacher

Everyone has a voice. Everyone has something to say, whether they utter the words, or not. Some of us do roar—we protest injustice, we march, we demonstrate, we petition our representatives to do our will. Some of us write letters to the editor, post protestations and testimonies on social media, and some of us just talk among our friends. Albert Einstein once wrote: “Nothing that I can do will change the structure of the universe. But maybe, by raising my voice I can help the greatest of all causes—good will among men and peace on earth.”

Sometimes a small voice is called for. On a personal level, when a boundary needs to be set with a co-worker, a family member, or a friend, one is wise to use a small, non-threatening, and yet crystal-clear voice. Sometimes, “Please don't do that again,” is sufficient. We do more harm than good when we take our personal displeasure to the very public pages of Facebook. Our voices should not be stifled, but public humiliation is something else altogether.

It is also good to think about what you want to express before you open your mouth and speak it. Sometimes we just say whatever thought drops onto our tongues, and then spend the next twenty minutes, or the next twenty years, trying to undo or explain what we meant. That is doubly true when it comes to social media. When you put out a rant, the repercussions may surprise you. Reputations and opportunities have been erased by one swipe of a twitter feed.

Your authentic voice is important. But, just as important is speaking in ways that others can hear and understand. When we roar, sometimes people just plug their ears and run for cover. If we truly want to be heard, clarity, authenticity, non-blaming, non-threatening, non-sarcastic words work best. Courage is demonstrated, not by volume, but by clear language backed up by honest action.

                                                        In the Spirit,


Monday, April 24, 2017

Spiritual Fruit


If we keep a green bough alive in our hearts, the singing bird will come.”
Chinese Proverb

The 2017 Summer Edition of Parabola Magazine has a lovely article titled “Joy” by Christina Feldman that begins with the quote above. In it, Feldman writes: “Joy, it seems, mostly comes unbidden. We cannot plan or contrive joy, yet it touches our lives. Joy gladdens our hearts, it eases the mind; it has the taste of delight and happiness.”

For most of my life, I had no expectation of joy; in fact, I believed it to be a fleeting thing at best. That singing bird perches on the green bough, trills for a moment and then flies away. According to the Galatians 5:22, joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, along with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I don't know about you, but I don't have a lock on that list just yet.

What I have found, however, is that as I have done my psychological work—and by that I mean look deeply and honestly at myself, my life, my relationships, and my role in all I have lived through—joy seems to be a by-product. It's not the Hallmark sort of joy, with balloons and parades, but quiet contentment. I can tell you this: it feels good.

Feldman makes the case that mindfulness plays an essential role in joy. Being awake and aware of the world around you, taking note of simple pleasures like a good cup of coffee, a sunny day, the leafing out of the trees as spring settles in. All of this requires being present in the moment; being in your body and not just in your head. I confess to being a “heady” person—my imagination, my thoughts, my mental planning and arranging are a great distraction from being present in my body and aware through all of my senses. I wonder whether you are like that, too. I can spend an entire day inside my thoughts, and completely oblivious to my surroundings. Sometimes that is necessary, but it limits the possibilities for experiencing joy and contentment.

To allow Spirit to lead, we must first be awake to her presence, and aware that she works through serendipity and synchronicity; through small, everyday miracles. When we are present and mindful, we become aware of the beauty of Spring all around us. We see the greening and blooming of the plant world, we feel the sun on our shoulders, and hear breezes and birdsong. We actually taste whatever goes into our mouths, and smell the fragrances of newly mowed grass, jasmine and honeysuckle wafting in the air. When the senses come alive in springtime, joy cannot be far behind. I wish you some today.

                                                           In the Spirit,