Let Go

Often I think of the need to let go or the act of letting go.  This afternoon I pondered that I have indeed let go – past tense.

I let go of some guilt (because I haven’t let go of it all, of course).  I let go of some expectations (ditto not letting go of all).  I let go of nearly all of my ideas of perfection (I’m trying, folks!).

When I let go, I find that I gain something else: a lot more breathing room.  Each exhale, in fact, is a letting go of that which we don’t need; we need to exhale.  All day and night, we are taking in thoughts, emotions, worries, anxieties, joys, etc.  We take in so much.  If you’re anything like me, eventually you have to step aside or sit down or go away for a while to let go, clear the mind, and breathe some fresh, clear air — in and out.  It’s lovely to take in a deep breath, to let out a deep sigh.  If I were better at letting go, each breath would be a new moment, not holding on to anything but keenly and mindfully observing that which is before me in that moment.  (And maybe I wouldn’t sigh quite so deeply as often.)

To clear one’s mind doesn’t mean we rid ourselves of the lessons learned from our experiences, the wisdom of our lives, or the emotions we feel and have.  We are very much of this life of ours, but we do not have to be so attached, clinging to it as if it were all that this life is about or as if someone could take it from us.  Such dependency seems to me as if it boils down to fear.  Being fully mindful and present, I believe we can open ourselves completely to the possibility of being in full connection with others.  In a way, that means we become vulnerable, possibly losing ourselves into the whole.  Is that a bad thing?

We have to let go.  Let the children play on the big kids’ playground.  Let our daughters go to the movies alone.  Let the children out of our eyesight, even for an entire weekend.  God grant me strength to let my children drive, fly, go to college, fall in love, be heartbroken, and discover themselves.

Mostly, though, I hope that I can let go enough to do my best, to love as deeply as I can, and to keep on breathing in all that is the blessed life of mine.

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Where I Put My Energy

If I were to divide my day into percentages of where I put my energy, I might sound like a maid or a cook on the weekends, and I’d be a receptionist/admin during the week.  That’s what is real for me right now.  I have a family of six to tend to and a full-time job come weekdays.

It’s the other moments, though, that I have a choice over how to spend my energy.  Some things have to be done, but I also have an inner child to indulge, a gift to cultivate, a calling to follow.  Some things can’t be ignored.

So on snow days like this, I give thanks that I have the opportunity to catch up on laundry and housework, making sure the children are bathing.  During last week’s snow days, I got caught up on some (not all) of my volunteer tasks.

I’ve also been doing some of the other things, the things I do for me.  Like reading.  Blogging.  Cleaning up and clearing out some things that have been cluttered.  Spending time with husband.  Did I mention reading?  Reading is a stimulus to me to write.  I even chose not to finish a book because it wasn’t doing anything for me.  I even got rid of half of my fabric stash because I don’t have time to create several pieced quilts.  My time is precious.  Every moment counts.  Do the things I surround myself with contribute to a positive energy?  Do I spend my time and energy wisely?

If I looked at my “free” time, did I spend it writing or cultivating my writing craft?  If not, then can I honestly call myself a writer?  This is no small pondering; this is serious.

Leave it to almost two feet of snow to cave me in with my thoughts and the freedom to choose how I will spend the day and night.  Who will I choose to be in any given moment?

Where do you put your energy, and what does it say about you?

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Point of Contact

Walking in public places, do you notice the awkwardness of when to make contact with others?  Should I look into their eyes?  Smile?  What if they look up just as I’m looking away?  Should I send good energy their way or conserve?

Then I think about how ridiculous the whole concept is if, in fact, the energy isn’t mine to give but ours to share.  I sense an obligation to make contact with others who participate in this life with me, as I participate in this life with them.  I offer my smiles, my focus, even if it’s just a moment, as it usually is.  Maybe that moment of contact, of relation, with all its sincerity and lack of expectation, can be like the butterfly in the chaos theory, changing the course of events for the better.

It only takes a moment to let someone know, “I hear you.  I witness you here and now.  You are not alone.”

In our Circle of Trust, during our small group time, we conclude each focus person’s time with “We hear you.  We honor you.  We bless you.  We love you.  We are blessed by you.”  (something like that,  anyway)  And the miraculous thing is we really mean it.  How often do you get to say these words and feel in your heart of hearts the deep connection?  This practice is spreading into the rest of my life, opening my heart so that it’s not just those with whom I work closely that I feel a connection, that I experience a deep, genuine love.  I daresay this practice of compassion is growing into Compassion.

There is no one point of contact, no quantitative measure of when and where to do this or that in society, regarding when to smile and/or make eye contact or not.  It’s just as true to form not to make eye contact, so long as we feel the connection, honor the other and participate in our wholeness.

Your suffering is my suffering.  Your joys are my joys.  Your life is mine, as mine is yours.  I bow to the Buddha in you as you see the Christ in me.  Here we are, as One.

I hear you.  I honor you.  I bless you.  I love you.  I am blessed by you.

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Who Are Your Heroes?

Part of this blog is sharing my spiritual journey, lessons and discoveries.  With me taking a spirituality-based class at church, we all have much to benefit.  (for legality purposes, know that none of this information is used for or meant to be used for financial/personal gain)

From what I’ve gathered so far (not just from this class but from every spirituality book I’ve ever read), we have to sit in quiet — whether it is in zazen or contemplative prayer — for as long as we can each day.  Sometimes three minutes is all we have.  Mother Teresa would pray for four hours.

To figure out where you are going, you have to know who you are, who you are meant to be (which is who you are already but haven’t realized yet).  The first part of the Journey to Authenticity class I am taking is about discovering your spiritual gifts.  You have to have the right tools for the job, right?  It’s good to have goals, to know where you’re headed.

The first exercise was this:

  • List at least 10 of your heroes/heroines.  Don’t have heroes, per se?  List people you greatly admire.
  • Underline 6 of those.
  • For each of those 6, list three characteristics that embody that person’s greatness to you.
  • For those 6, now describe more specifically how that person has exemplified, lived into and through those characteristics (i.e. Mother Teresa was compassionate, self-sacrificing, and wholly spiritual through her service to the poor, ultimately living into and through the will of God.)

Now, it’s best to do this kind of work in groups, to share with others your heroes, their descriptions.  Many found, as they described those they admired, they were overcome with emotion.  Sharing the descriptions of your heroes out loud/in writing helps more fully to revive those characteristics that speak to you.

The punch line, of course, is that these characteristics you admire are within you.   These are you at your best.  This is what you need to be doing to be living at full potential.  This is a close glimpse of what God has in store for you.

Don’t believe it?  Sit in silence/prayer a while each day and see what happens.

Peace be with you.

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Outward Habits of an Inner Journey

Driving through town, I look at every house that’s for sale, no matter what neighborhood or price range.  Could I see myself living there?  Would it be better than where we are now?  And anything I see and think is beautiful, I ask myself if I could make it.  Chances are that I could, if only I had the right tools.

Feeling the rhythmic tug of “gotta do something different,” I am forcing myself to face these behaviors within.  Why do I do this?  Is it healthy or beneficial, or am I just continuing a pattern of looking for happiness outside of myself?

As for the perpetual house-hunting, I figure part of that is that we don’t see the house we’re living in as our house we want our grandchildren to know.  In five years, we hope to be building our eco-home, the home we’ll grow old in.  Beyond that, however, I think it has to do with being comfortable with where I am in life.  I’m not exactly where I think I should be, as ridiculous as that sounds, for where else is there to be but where you are?

I’m sure my friends will attest to the fact that I have some great supplies for sewing, pottery, card-making and gardening.  I love all these things, but rarely make time for them (except for the occasional bursts of creativity which are shared here).  If I need a tool or supply, I want to get as high quality as I can because it makes the task easier, right?  Better?  There is no substitute for time, effort and inspiration — the best tools out there.

So as I continue my inner work, taking classes like my Servant Leadership and working more in my journal, I hope to further deepen my awareness and move further into living into my true Self, being comfortable with where and who I truly am and with what I can best do.

After all, isn’t that what we’re all trying to do?  I believe that would help me keep every day truly simple.  We all need blessings on this journey!

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For women, this topic is HUGE.  Boundaries?  What is this of which you speak?

As women, I feel there’s a general expectation that we are to be loving and compassionate to all, and little thought is given toward our personal, individual well-being.  Champions are the women who sacrifice everything for the sake of others.  Selfish snobs are those who have a defined sense of their personal space and time.  Shame on us for letting such boxes be drawn.

For all that we do, may we do it with love, but may we first make sure there is love for ourselves.  My work with Time for JOY has taught me that our offerings to others are more enriched if they come from someone who has nourished her own spirit.  (After all, JOY stands for Jesus, Others, and Yourself.)

I just spoke with a friend moments ago who canceled an early-morning obligation because stress was rising too high.  I had to commend her boundary-setting.  I know how hard it is to say no.  I don’t do it often enough; just ask my husband.

One of my fears of boundaries is that I will limit my ability to receive a true gift or <gasp> will let someone down.  Other times I’m afraid that if I don’t do something for cause x, no one will.

Fortunately, I’m working through those apprehensions.  I know that Spirit is stronger and smarter than me . . . and much more patient and persistent.

We do well to make sure that we are in a good place in every step.  First, be healthy, strong and wise, and then give and grow.  The cycle is something like that, right?

Have a wonderful weekend, and don’t forget to
header_subpages.gifFor more information about BOLD events in Northwest Arkansas, visit BirthNetworkNWA‘s site.

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Falling into Reflection

bridge_autumn_fall_234841_l.jpgThe air gets cooler every morning now, and while it’s not officially autumn yet, the leaves in places on our cherry tree are turning a deep red.  Being a fall baby, I always feel like I’m coming home as it turns cooler and the skies are gray.  It’s a time to be honest with myself and others, a great time for reflection.

In a dream night before last, I was talking with my midwives about my new pregnancy.  (Just in the dream was I pregnant, so no one needs to get concerned about me having 5 kids!)  Of course I’ll be having “pregnant” dreams now; I’ve just started two new journeys — one the women’s spirituality group (which meets Wednesday nights) and the other a Servant Leadership course (which meets Monday nights).  Also right now we’re having rehearsals for the play “Birth” by Karen Brody for our local BOLD events.  The time is ripe for potentiality even though the light will be less and the earth will be retreating into slumber.  It’s a good time to go inward.

For a reality check, where are you in your journey of life, of spirit, of health?  It’s time to be open to new discoveries, to be aware of what Spirit might reveal.  O, if only that could be how I live every day!

Blessed be.

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What’s Your Style?

Can your friends and family see you coming from far away just by what you’re wearing?  As soon as you start talking on the phone, does the person on the other end of the line know it’s you?  Do people feel comfortable in your home, if for no other reason than because you are comfortable there?

You can take style surveys all day, but when it comes down to it, only you know what speaks to your soul.  You know what makes you comfortable, what makes you feel like a queen, and only you know what makes you feel like . . . well, what makes you feel really badly.  So, why waste your time?  Rather, let’s take some time to find what echoes the sentiments that is the music of our being.

How?  Here’s an example.  Go through your closet.  Are you really going to lose weight?  Would you even wear that if you did?  When’s the last time you wore it?  If you didn’t wear it last season, you’re not going to wear it this one.  Does it make you feel loved and beautiful?  GIVE IT AWAY!!!  You have to give to receive, and the more you do it, the easier it is.  Now, when blessings and opportunities come your way, fill your closet only with what you truly need and only with items (from undergarments to clothes to shoes) that make your heart sing.  Now, when you wake up in the morning, you’ll have lots to choose from, and you’ll be dressed in a style that suits you . . . if you’re honest with yourself.  No one but you knows if you’re being truly honest, but everyone will know if you’re comfortable and confident.

When I was in high school, I bought Levi’s at a thrift store and packages of white pocket T-shirts.  Jeans and T-shirts and Birkenstocks.  That was my favorite outfit.  Four kids later, I still love jeans and a white T, but jeans right now fit a little too snug at the waist.  I feel more feet_rings_toerings_313512_l.jpgbeautiful in a flowing skirt and pretty shirt, and I have a few other outfits I love.  Comfort for me is key to my style, not fashion.

What about accessories?  For me, I only have a few pairs of earrings, each with their own meaning and an energy they give me for that day.  Every necklace that I’ve had and worn because it meant so much has broken or been broken.  I figured I was too attached, and it was its own lesson.  Everything we wear carries a message with it, offers a window into our being, even if on some days the meaning isn’t very deep (i.e., “these were on sale at the store and match this shirt”).

As for your personal life style, you know your disposition.  Are you optimistic?  Sincere?  A pessimist?  A cynic?  Do you prefer Victorian or contemporary?  Intelligent?  Practical?  A ditz?  (I know, some days vary!)  Do you reflect this in your voice, your expressions?  I don’t have to ask if this plays into your relationships.

I’ve asked a lot of questions, but really there’s only one here.  How well do we know ourselves?  Our true self.  The one that when you come to end of all your days, you know that this is who you are, who you’ve really been in every moment.  May you live fully into that being.  Can we be so honest with ourselves?

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Life Is But a Dream

My husband shared a poem with me referenced in a Zen book he liked very much by Charlotte Joko Beck called Nothing Special: Living Zen.  It’s a poem by WH Auden:

We would rather be ruined than changed

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the moment

And let our illusions die.

Searching for the poem, I found that it is often quoted, for motivational purposes, Zen talks and literary purposes, to name a few.  Perhaps I’ve heard or read it before myself.  But I believe that important words cross our paths at different points in our life with particular relevance.  Last week, it might not have spoken to me in the way it did today, and it may not reverberate for me next month, either.  So this day, how is it significant for me?  Does it speak to you, too?

I think I have made great strides in accepting change, facing death.  Something happens every day where I have a choice to be bull-headed and go forward with my horns or let the ego die another death, take another blow.  Of course, some times it’s easier than others to take the proverbial higher road, but that isn’t always the case.

There are changes I still want to make, changes that my ego isn’t prepared for and is applying all resistance toward.  My illusions hold strong, my dread ever present.  I want to have what I have, live the way I live, says one part of me.  You don’t need all this, for there is a better way to live, more healthy, less debt and attachments, says the other.  I don’t think I need to emphasize which part represents which.  This dichotomy epitomizes many of my struggles, grand epic battles that are seemingly brought up weekly if not daily.

I daresay that when people (including myself) talk about true balance, what we might mean is a balance of the inner struggles, a balance between mind, body and soul.  Complete harmony, I would imagine, would be a balance between the three yet where the mind doesn’t represent the “i” ego but the true I, the Self.  Your balance, your harmony, is possible because you have let go of your illusions, experience the moments for what they are, accepting at once your limitations and infinite possibilities and potentialities.  Ah, isn’t it pretty to think so?

Our lives are mere dreams when we live enshrouded in our illusions, living solely in the mirror.  When we can let go of what we think we see and live here and now, we dare to live this life for what it is — the real thing.

Feel free to comment, share your thoughts and experiences, even disagree if you feel so inclined.  Blessed be.

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A Time for JOY

TimeForJoy.gifAs you’re getting this, I am off amidst a group of wonderful women at our annual Time for JOY retreat.  You needn’t envy me.  Just visit our site and plan on coming next year . . . if you’re a woman, of course!

Since the first year of the retreat here in Arkansas, I’ve been hooked.  This is what living spiritually as a woman is all about — Jesus (or insert your religious inspiration here), Others (because we all serve each other and receive great rewards in giving) and Yourself (because a Self properly nurtured has a quality of life inspiring to others, fulfilling to the self and beneficial to all).  You can’t truly put it into words, however.

Spirituality is the experience of this life in the realm of the Spirit.

At our weekend retreat, we try to emphasize the presence of the Spirit, making it obvious in all you do so that when you go home, you are better able to recognize it in your daily round.

Many feel like they can’t get away for a weekend.  Trust me.  I know!  But it’s like putting premium fuel in your car, which you probably don’t do until you start hearing the knocking.  It’s like getting the flu when you need to slow down.  Rather than waiting for something bad to happen, give yourself a little preventative medicine, the sort that nourishes you mind, body and soul.

If you’re not here with me at the retreat, I hope to see you next year.  If you can’t make it at all, is there something similar near you?  Can you make a weekend retreat for yourself?  Do something to recharge your batteries, your spirit.  Get a good night’s sleep.  Eat some good food.  Pamper yourself.  Stimulate your intellect.  Evaluate your life.  Imagine your life as you hope it can be, and do something to make it happen now.  Yes, you can, and I give you permission.

Live every day simply with great joy, and join me Monday with a renewed Spirit.

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