Sunday, August 6, 2017

Renewing, Refreshing Walking in the Rain

     I love to walk in the rain. A gentle rain offers time for walking in solitude, quiet and reflection. So long as it isn't storming, walking in the rain can be restorative, healing and even enjoyable.
     It's a good thing that my husband Larry and I are drip-dry. On the second of our two walks one summer day, the sky became restless and we encountered a thunderstorm while on a local river walk. We tested our agility and speed, and dashed through the raindrops to the shelter of a building overhang until the storm passed. We stood in the protection of that dry spot for several minutes and watched the sky in all of its magnificence. Neither one of us minded being damp. We knew we'd eventually dry off. There was something lovely about just having to stand still, shoulder to shoulder, and watch for signs from the sky.
     The storm rumbled and moved quickly overhead, with sunny skies rapidly behind it. Once the rain stopped, we set out again to finish our walk. As we headed eastward, the sun touching our shoulders and the birds erupting into song, we breathed in the fresh scents of recent rain and walked toward a rainbow.
     That summer day's experience represented a metaphor for life: We will all encounter storms, some of which will be just gentle rain and others cataclysmic events with hail and lightning. We may choose to move quickly, to seek shelter, to wait it out. At other times, we might get wet. If we look at the storm as a fact of life and choose to live in the moment with gratitude, eventually the storm will pass. When it does, we will once again find the sunshine on our shoulder, the birds singing, the air fresh and new, and a rainbow overhead guiding us on.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Ah, July!

     Those of us who live in the northern climes wait for what seems like forever for summer to make its presence known. And now it's here! July has arrived and with it, the long, warm, sunny days we've been dreaming about -- a welcome feeling for those of us who tenaciously hang onto the previous summer's memory and crave July's sunshiny, sultry days, all while we wallow through winter's long, cold, snowy, dark months -- shivering along the way.
     In July, the air is fresh, sweet and warm, bordering on hot. The locally grown produce is delicious and plentiful. There is nothing like a homegrown tomato or watermelon! The sun comes up early in the day and hangs on late into the evening. It's a time for shorts, sandals and sleeveless tops, with the occasional summer-weight sweater just in case the temperatures dip at night.
     July is the month of vacations, whether a week-long road trip or a one-tank getaway just for the day. July is Independence Day picnicking time, county fair cotton candy time, summer splash-in-the-pool time, outdoor concert time, sparkly starry skies time, hang out in the hammock time, garden overflowing time. Who doesn't love the bountiful gifts of July?
     As evidenced by this post, I am one who loves warmth and sunlight. My perfect day would be 75 degrees and sunny, with just a slight breeze to keep the mosquitoes away and the skin cool to the touch. Now that July is here, I want to savor every moment of it, breathing it in slowly and spending it judiciously. That means being outdoors as much as possible.
     Each day is a blessing no matter the month of year, but July is a bright month filled with days we'll recall with a longing smile and cherish all winter long. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Listen to the Wind

I was in search of an answer, so I cast my question out into the universe. While taking a walk later that day, the answer came, a mystifying "Listen to the wind." What? Listen to the wind? What did it mean to listen to the wind? Perplexed by this mysterious message, I researched it online and found it was the first phrase in a Native American proverb: "Listen to the wind, it talks. Listen to the silence, it speaks. Listen to your heart, it knows." With each subsequent walk, I started out by saying the proverb and then I intentionally silenced the incessant and often unhelpful chatter in my head. I allowed the wind to talk to me. At about the same time, I started finding heart-shaped stones in my path. I felt as if the Native American proverb's wise words were being directed at me. I was becoming quiet so the silence could speak to me. I was listening to the wind so it could talk to me. I was finding heart stones so I could know what was deep in my own heart. Listening to the wind has become a regular activity ever since that day when I received the message to do so. I haven't talked about it much with others, so it came as a surprise when, recently, our 85-year-old neighbor said she likes to listen to the wind. We were deep in conversation about the magnificent eruption of spring, from the fragrances of the season to the song of the birds to the beauty of the early spring wildflowers blooming in the woods next to her home. As one well attuned to nature's subtleties, my neighbor knows to listen to the wind. It does talk, if we make the time to become calm, silence our internal chatter and put our hearts in a place of attention and intention. Then, and only then, will we hear the wisdom of the wind. Listen. It talks.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

It's Time to See the Light - In Each Other

     I realize I've been carrying a heavy load of stress over the past months and I'm ready to shed it. You can't live with heavy burdens for too long before they weigh you down miserably. I've been stressing about the increasing divisiveness in our country and our world, with people pitted against each other over race, ideology, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation. I see it played out in news reports. I see it played out in business. I see it played out in families, among friends. I even see it played out in my own church denomination. I am ready to see the light.
     How did we get here to this growing chasm of insecurity, anger, bitterness, judgment, hostility and, with increasing frequency, violence? Where did we get so afraid of our changing world? Surely, change is happening quickly, but with that change is an opportunity for us to change, too. We have the ability to replace our fear with curiosity, our rancor with understanding, our hatred with love, our darkest feelings with the light of kindness.
     We don't live in a sanitized world where we are only with those who are exactly like us. It's impossible. We all have our own experiences and values that form us into the people we are. As much as we might like to live in a 1950's sitcom-kind of world where everything was perfect and squeaky clean, the ending was always happy, Dad came home with his tie and briefcase and Mom was polished wearing her best dress and apron, such is not life. 
     So that means we need to change in order to live in the world that actually exists. I believe we all carry the light of God in us and that we are called to seek out that light in others, never to diminish or suppress it. We are called to look at our differences with new eyes and see instead those things that are common to us. 
     Nothing good comes from a place of profound fear. That is where worry and anger are housed. It is there where the seeds of hatred are sown. It is there where we form a mindset of scarcity. It is there where we see differences instead of commonalities. 
     We are blessed, truly blessed to live in a world that is rich with the complexities of its fabric. The next time I'm heading down a path of judgment toward someone, I intend to stop myself, breathe and then look deeply to find the light in that other person. Only when we allow ourselves to see that light in another and then seek common ground, will that light truly be reflected back to us.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Fresh Air

     When you live in a cold-weather climate, there's nothing as lovely as opening windows for the first time in the spring and letting in fresh air. My routine spring tasks include sweeping out the mounds of sand from the garage floor that had accumulated over months of snow, washing winter salt off of the car and putting screens back on casement windows. I practically dance whenever I do these chores, for it means one thing: spring! Warmer weather is on the way. It’s a time of newness.
      It's been our habit in recent years to remove the screens from our home’s windows in the fall, washing them down and storing them for the winter so we can get the most out of the precious daylight streaming through our windows during the long, dark months. Whenever I hear the temperature is supposed to soar into the 60s, I wash the insides of the windows, reinstall the screens and then let in the fresh breezes to release the stale, cooped-up winter air.
      Such activity makes me think of the stale energy that might be cooped up and cluttering my mind and heart.
      A few years ago, I didn’t want to admit I was stuck in a rut. Things were difficult in my life at that time between my own illness and caring for a dying parent. I felt stuck in chaos. In looking back, however, I realize I was indeed stuck in a rut. I was stuck in the mindset of how I thought things should be in my life, not how they actually were.
      Once I identified my true feelings and set into motion some new thoughts, I opened my mind and heart, letting go of the difficult things that weighed me down. That new perspective brought about an acceptance and gratitude that helped me through a tough time. Rather than staying stuck in “what should be,” I found peace in “what was.”
      When I breathe in gratitude and change my way of thinking, it’s as if that old energy dissipates and a new, affirming energy sweeps in to take its place. I grow by gaining new insights. Where I had been stuck, there is now release. The windows of my world become clearer. The salt and sand stuck in the crevices of my old mindset are swept away. That’s one type of cleaning that doesn’t have to wait until spring.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Going with Flow

I had a particularly busy time several months ago when I was over-committed and overdoing. I knew it, but I had made a promise and the dutiful part of me wanted to see my responsibilities through. By the time I was done with my obligations, I was overtired in mind, body and spirit, and it took me quite a while to rebuild my strength and find my groove again. In retrospect, I see that putting myself in such a state was not exercising my best judgment and it took away something that has become a precious commodity to me: Flow. When I'm "going with Flow," I am using my energies wisely. I'm able to get things done with ease. Life is more enjoyable. I am in a happier mood. I feel less stress. I am my better self. It seems so easy, too easy to say Yes, when perhaps the greatest response of self-respect may be saying No. Setting limits for the use of my energies allows me to better utilize those energies and to do something that is satisfying. It also opens up Flow. I saw a tweet not too long ago that read: "Always take care of yourself first." That means setting limits, devoting time each day to self-care, hearing the voice of self-compassion. It means saying No in order to leave room for all of the right Yes things in life. Such self-care is essential, vital to health and well-being. So, with each decision going forward, I will ask myself if saying Yes will help or hamper. It's all about going with Flow. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

An Enthusiastic God Within

I read recently that the word enthusiasm comes from two root words that, combined, mean God Within or Full of God. Learning this bit of information caused me to reflect on a word I have often used and often felt: Enthusiasm. I tend to be a positive person who, when given the opportunity to immerse myself in an experience, will do so with gusto. During those times when I am most enthusiastic, the experience is contagious in that it spills over into other parts of my life and, hopefully, spills over into the lives of others who may be sharing the experience with me. On January 31, I closed a professional chapter in my life that has been filled with its share of enthusiastic moments. As I leave, I reflect with joy on the many times when the group's energy and eagerness have been palpable, its collective hope sincere and its enthusiasm the propellant by which we have moved forward, even when the way seemed uncertain or perhaps tenuous. It has been a period of creativity and joy, strategy and action, truly an exercise in enthusiasm. As I exit this wonderful organization, I take with me lessons of what an eager, hopeful, creative and joyful group of people can accomplish when being enthusiastic together, even when the odds may appear against them. I will hold close the lessons I have learned from our thinking and speaking positively and dreaming expansively, while at the same time, shedding negativity, closing out doubt and forbidding critical, harsh words to be spoken. This professional experience has opened my heart and mind to the vital role of enthusiasm in our lives and because of it, I feel the God Within.

Monday, January 16, 2017

How to Find Joy in Uncertain Times

The transition of U.S. Presidential power that will take place later this week has caused many to be concerned about the changing vision and policies of our country and where they will fit into the new President’s agenda. At times of uncertainty, how do we find joy?

First, turn off the TV, put down the newspaper, stash the electronic devices in a drawer and simply be. Be. Be a human being.

Now, more than ever, we need to reach deep into ourselves to find the good that still rests in each of us and to make every effort to truly see it in others.

When we seek to find the light in another human being, it can’t help but shine back on us.

When we focus on gratitude for the abundance in our lives, it multiplies.

When we reach out with compassion and engage in active listening, we find more similarities between us and fewer differences.

When we clearly identify what we can control, what we can change -- and what we cannot, our energies become more focused and we can take appropriate, positive action.

When we engage in an act of kindness, no matter how small, the world becomes a more loving place.

When we confront our fears, hand wringing and worry dissipate. Our fears become feathers and they float away when they are no longer empowered.

When we adopt a mindfulness practice to rest our minds and souls, our thoughts quiet and we become renewed.

When we spend time in the quiet of a church service, we connect to a higher power and our spirits are fed.

When we exercise and eat in a healthy fashion, we fuel the gift of our bodies.

When we spend time in nature, we discover our connection to something much larger than ourselves and we come away refreshed.

When we volunteer our time for causes that are important to us, we lift up others and ourselves at the same time.

As a three-time cancer survivor and someone who has suffered two benign tumors, one in my brain and another in my spine that caused temporary paralysis and many therapy sessions to learn how to walk again, I understand on a personal, visceral level what uncertainty is. But, I also know hope. I know faith. I know love. I know goodness. I know joy. I know blessing.

When the uncertainties of life feel overwhelming, hang onto hope, look for goodness, count your blessings and use your energies to take constructive action. We’re all in this together.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Good Wishes for the New Year

As the calendar turns over to a new year, it gives me time to pause and reflect on what I would like this fresh, new time to look and feel like. The slate is clean, the opportunities vast. What will we do with them? In a time when news comes to us instantly and constantly, there seems to be a growing trend toward the negative. Such heightened negativity poured into our minds and hearts can only lead to increased stress, anxiety, divisiveness and a focus on lack and our differences. More than ever, I feel the need to focus my energies on joy, abundance, love, hope and kindness. I choose to see the abundance of blessing, rather than becoming drawn into the depths of fear and unhappiness. If each of us were to devote our hours to kind words, happy thoughts, loving gestures and respectful responses, I believe the world would be a more peaceful place and the turmoil and injustices that plague our society and world might be resolved with more creative, communal solutions. Through our differences of opinion and thought, consensus can be reached. However, the more we focus on our differences, the larger the chasm becomes. The less we see hope, the more we create despair. The more we focus on hatred and violence, the less energy we dedicate to lifting each other up. We live in a time of uncertainty, but those times have always been and likely always will be. What we, as individuals, do with today will have a ripple effect on the shaping of our collective tomorrows. May this new year be one of hope and kindness, where extraordinary joy comes from our ordinary moments and our affirmation of each other becomes the norm.