Meditation & Ponytails

Each day brings a reminder that I cannot practice enough.  I have  more to learn, more awareness to be had, more compassion to cultivate.  So I sit when I can — just sit.

Meditation often carries with it a connotation of being lofty, something mystics and monastics do because they can; their whole life devoted to being fully awakened.  I’m sure monks would laugh at this.  I know some nuns who certainly would.  They, too, live in the real world with real people.  Truthfully, meditation is for everyone.  It’s an opportunity to be still, be clear, and be quiet — mind, body, and soul. So I sit when I can.  I don’t do it often enough.

One morning not long ago I made time to sit.  Intention is part of the doing, but ultimately one does have to do it.  Ten minutes, twenty minutes.  I can’t even remember how long I intended to sit.  Most of the time I don’t set a timer.  When I’m ready to quit, I know I need to stay longer.

Sitting.  Breathing.  Counting.  Wandering.  Returning.  Sitting.  Breathing.  Footsteps . . . coming closer.

I feel the presence of our youngest creeping closer to me until she’s at my side, her mouth conveniently ear-level.

“Mom, I want a ponytail.”

Sweetness embodied in one simple request.  I smiled, eyes still half-shut.  I breathed deeply before turning to look at her.  Her gaze met mine, neither hopeful nor pleading.  She met me there in the moment.

“Alright,” I said softly.

I arose and went with her to the kids’ bathroom.  I fixed her hair into a ponytail.  Neither of us spoke.

The was no anger, no frustration.  She had a ponytail, and I continued my meditation for the day.

My teacher didn’t smile, but she did run out of the bathroom quickly, happily moving on to her next adventure.

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A Little More Fuss

I know the woman in the grocery store pushing the cart with the child in the top seat.  I have soft terry pants like that, and though I can’t tell from this distance, I wonder if her old sweatshirt is getting holes at the cuffs and seams like mine, aging from all the washes.  I’ve been this woman.

In another aisle I pass the woman carrying a couple of items in her arms.  She breezes by with a fragrance sophisticated and richly feminine.  She looks like she just came from an executive meeting, winning everyone with her charm.  Could she be as brilliant as she is beautiful?  I can only hope to be this woman.

What being an out-of-the-home working mom has taught me is that I can put forth a little more effort and feel tremendously different.  If I feel different, then how differently will others perceive me?

I style my growing hair.  (I do happen to have rollers from a post-partum drug-store visit for a massive amount of beauty supplies after our third child.)  I wear mascara along with my other makeup.  Occasionally I wear contacts.  I now have a whole wardrobe that can hang-dry only, including many pairs of knee-highs.  I bought a pair of boots (but do not plan to buy “skinny” jeans or “jeggings”).

Doing these small things, putting forth a little more fuss at the beginning of the day, reminds me that I am worth a little extra effort.  I am valuable, and I don’t mind if others appreciate me, too.  None of us really want to be invisible, do we?

Some days warrant the yoga/pajama garb, to be sure, but every day deserves a simple little beauty routine.  Simple can mean lipgloss and earrings or curled hair and a dress.

Beauty is simple by nature, isn’t it?

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Crazy Woman

Aren’t we supposed to eat whatever we want, sleep as long as we like, dress however we want to?  Maybe I need to refresh my memory as to what the feminist movement was all about.

Last night I found myself vacuuming at 9:30pm.  I couldn’t help it.  Thankfully the kids were in bed, and I just hoped that they might still have enough of their babyhood left that somehow the vacuum would be a soothing lullaby at best, at least a deep background noise.  It didn’t phase them.

But what kind of woman was I to be running around the house, completely on empty, making sure the dishes got done (or at least finished by husband), pants ironed for the morrow, and floors swept and vacuumed?  Then, when it seemed like I couldn’t possibly do more, a commitment raised its hand, and I had to answer.  It’s writing after all.  I can do it.

So, I’ve decided I may be a crazy woman.  Yes, I have a weird obsession with wanting to have a clean house (at least on some standards).  Lord knows my house wouldn’t pass a sanitation or white glove test.  Fly Lady was onto something when she suggests making sure you keep a clean sink.  Not to worry, though; I don’t care what other people’s houses look like.

I’m on Day 2 of this 5:30 am writing adventure.  Along with this post, I’ve also written a brief article, thanks to aforementioned commitment.  Again, Lord knows I’m tired.  Somehow I’m given the energy to do what I find needs to be done.  I even managed an hour body sculpting workout yesterday . . . and making a casserole for dinner.

Even working full-time I’m managing to talk to my friends (a little bit), let my children, husband and home know I love them, and take care of myself.  It’s exhausting and tremendously rewarding.  It sounds crazy, juggling so much, and I just know it wouldn’t be possible if I weren’t also running with grace and blessing.

If we truly think about all we do, we might find that we’re not crazy.  We are fueled by passion.  If our intentions are good, we are tapped into a greater energy than we ever thought possible.  Of course days come when we will or want to sleep until 10am, if we are so lucky, but we can accept it as a gift of renewal and carry on, continuing to move forward with love.

I may seem like a crazy woman at times, to others and to myself.  More importantly, I am a blessed woman.  If you’re reading this, I’m certain you are blessed, too.

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My Lint Bowl

Yes.  I have a lint bowl.  It’s quite small and irregularly shaped.  Actually, it’s from the first and only pottery class I’ve taken.  It wasn’t the first piece I made (that “gem” went to my mother), but it’s one of the first few for sure.

This little bowl sits atop our dryer, and after each load, I put the lint in it.  Or maybe I just set it there . . . or squish it on the top.  It started out in laziness, really.  The small trash can has a lid and is low to the ground and squeezed in between the dryer and the wall that has the broom and dustpan hanging there.  Why twist and stretch every time I switch the clothes?

Then I realized that I liked watching the lint bowl fill up.  The clean clothes these days have been dispersed rather quickly to where they need to go, but the lint . . . it fills up and becomes a little abundance of accomplishment, a monument of achievement.  When I think it’s time to dump it and start over, I do, knowing I can watch it grow again.

It’s the little things, right?  We are all working so hard every day to keep the wheels running smoothly.  Whether we’re working outside the home helping some company/business/organization to thrive or working in the home to make sure those nearest and dearest to us are thriving (and chances are, all of us are doing both, whether we’re paid for it or not), we are all working hard.  Sometimes we just need little signs to remind us that our work adds up.  What we’re doing makes a difference.

I have a lint bowl.  You might have a diaper pail, laundry pile, crossed-off checklists, clean dishes . . . who knows.  Keep tally marks on a post-it if you have to.  I’m telling you that you make a difference.  The work you do is appreciated.

And you will always be loved more for who you are than what you do, anyway.  So, as the card I received from a friend says: “be a beacon of fierce and potent love.”  May my family always remember how much I love them.  I know they won’t know how many times I empty the lint bowl.

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Letting God

When a mom leaves her family and home for a weekend, it’s not a light decision.  Plans, preparations, arrangements, etc., are made for both home and destination.  What could be so important as to invoke extra work?

This year was the sixth year for the Time for J.O.Y. retreat at Camp Mitchell, sponsored by the Arkansas Episcopal Church Women.  I think each year has taught me something that enriches my understanding of my spirituality.

  1. Part of the mystery of Grace is revealed through Beauty.
  2. No two retreats will ever be the same.
  3. We make sacrifices to do what we love, but family is always a priority.
  4. Just because you don’t think it’s a good idea doesn’t mean Spirit won’t work through it anyway.
  5. When living into your call, expect to be surprised by the potency of Spirit.
  6. Not everyone needs what I need to experience Spirit deeply, and laughter goes a long way to feed the soul!

Needless to say, the time and energy I put into helping orchestrate these retreats is rewarded by the lessons and insights I gain.  I never regret taking this time apart, even if it does take me a day or two (or three) to recover afterward.

Like one retreatant said this year, society knows the power of a group of women, but we seldom honor our potential.  I encourage you to honor yourself and your peers.  Gather together with common purpose, united for something true and good, and watch what can be revealed to you.

And no matter how much planning we do, the magic happens when we do our best and then let go.  Most of the time it takes less energy than we think.  If you’re like me, you set your expectations so high you almost always set yourself up for failure.  Well, drop it down a notch or few.  I left my husband without a menu for the weekend.  He did the grocery shopping and no one starved.  We have some great friends who helped make sure the house was clean when I returned.  We never know how grace will be revealed in our lives.  But by not planning every detail, we allow room for pleasant surprises . . . or at least worthwhile lessons.  We allow room to let God work in and through our lives.

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Religious / Spiritual

It was my pleasure to be at a weekend women’s retreat this past weekend, to go away to a mountainside campground, share a cabin with amazing women and experience the presence of Love.  Episcopal women really do have some great times, and I think it’s made even better by the depth of conversation.  We’re really not all that much into small talk.

The term “legalistic” has come into my consciousness these past couple of months, particularly in contrast to “spiritual.”  Why is this so?  What do I have to learn from this distinction?

According to Merriam-Webster, one who is legalistic is one who adheres to moral legalism,  “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code.”  Whereas, one who is spiritual is one who is relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit.”  When I looked up the definition of “spirit,” I could not in good faith attribute any of them to my interpretation of Spirit.
seesaw.jpg
When I think of someone who is religious, perhaps it is because their seeming focus tends to be more heavily on the legalistic side of the see-saw.  I believe, however, that a “strict conformity” to anything has a tendency to build a box, to close some in and to keep others out.  I know few who are truly legalistic.  Most on this side are religious, manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity . . . or devoted to religious beliefs or observances.”  This person probably knows creeds and
scripture by heart, can recite what they believe at a moment’s notice,
without hesitation.  Ah, how I admire that knowledge, that assuredness.


When I think of someone who is spiritual, I think of my experience with them, how freely the energy, the Spirit, flows between them and me.  Their very life seems to be caught up in Spirit, ever-present in all they do.  But there can be haze; it is ever-changing.  As with Merriam-Webster, the person experiencing Spirit has a hard time describing what exactly It is but knows without a doubt what the response is to it, whether it be laughter or tears, joy or uncertainty.  Indeed, it compels us forward in all we do.

Of course, I tend to find myself more spiritually inclined.  My see-saw has plunked to the ground on the spiritual side and sits there, perhaps at times stuck in the mud.  Would it be ideal to get a good balance going, to hover in the air as the scales are balanced, enjoying it as if laughing with a friend, knowing that there’s really nothing to do on the stuck see-saw except someone get off, hopefully gently?  Is it better to go back and forth, appreciating the other’s strength and weight, watching closely to technique lest you miss something that might enrich your own experience?

As with everything, we have to be aware.  We have to be open to each other.  We have to learn and grow.  At our core, we are all spiritual beings.  Sometimes we need beliefs to help explain ourselves, but all the time, we need to live with and through the Spirit, the Love. 

Skip the small talk.

(photo by *Claudine from everystockphoto.com)

 

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My First Homily

(Homily I offered on Sunday, April 26th, 2009, at the Time for JOY retreat, Camp Mitchell.  The theme of the weekend was “Birthing the Woman Within.”  I’m sorry that I can’t invoke the waves of emotion, the movement of Spirit here that was present at the mountain chapel.  Thanks be to all.)

I love that Time for JOY is during the Easter season.  Now is a time when we are still new in the remembered contemplation and sacrifice of Christ; our alleluias are still fresh.

This JOY weekend, I’ve talked mostly about the Yourself of J.O.Y.  For the full JOY, we also need Jesus and Others.  In our daily lives, we are pretty well-trained.  We’re good girls when it comes to helping out when needed . . . as long as it’s for someone else.  We focus so much on You here at JOY because you are more likely to neglect yourself than others, but you have to remember that the better cared-for you are, the better the quality of service you provide.

And Jesus?  Well, if we’re not likely to care for ourselves, how much more likely are we to spend precious time on someone who doesn’t seem to play an active role in daily life?

Therein lies the rub.

We are sisters in Christ.  We are daughters of God.  There’s a suffering Jesus endured for us to show us true peace.  There’s the spark within us that is also of God, of Christ.  Our seed of potential and purpose is none other than that which exists in Jesus, of God.  The potential remains in each of us to live fully as a child of God, but how willing are we to step forth and call God ours?  How willing are we to see the risen Christ in each other?  How willing are we to believe in miracles?   Would we have been any less disbelieving and wondering in the presence of the resurrected Lord?

The woman you’ve been coaxing out of hiding is “the deep root of your being,” your inner Jesus, the one willing to claim God, the one that is Whole, the One.  In our human form, our best is to love others as we love ourselves, but only if we know who we really are.  Given a purpose to Love, we are also given talents and gifts with which to do this.  There are ways our seemingly trivial work creates more positive energy in the Universe, thus creating more love.  Don’t ask me to explain it because I don’t understand it, but it works.  So what brings us joy is important.  We have our thread in the beautiful cosmic tapestry.  To know ourselves is crucial, tantamount to Love.  When we know, feel and trust the love of God within, then truthfully we can witness to others as we extend the blessing of Christ that “peace be with you.”  It’s not solely about the fact that Jesus died.  I tell my kids Jesus is in their heart.  He’s in mine and yours, too.  It’s about life — living and loving.

Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori reminds us of our responsibility.  “We’re meant to be heralds of resurrecion to a world that still thinks death is the last word.”

Birth is an everyday miracle.  I believe in miracles. 

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Guest Post: A Journey

by Maggie Beason, wife, mother, student, Army gal, aikidoka, hair stylist, runner, woman-extraordinaire shares her latest adventure after the Hogeye Marathon.

It is hard to fall asleep when you’re flat on your back. It’s
especially hard to sleep when you have a pillow wedged between your
legs in a desperate attempt to keep your knees from either touching,
straightening or bending too much while still trying to maintain a
modicum of comfort. You wrap a blanket around you, tucking in the lose
ends around your aching body while carefully avoiding your toes; any
weight on your toes is almost unbearable and the thought of donning a
pair of socks is simply out of the question. You close your eyes and
will yourself to fall into the blissful slumber that continues to
eludes you–a side effect from having eaten five packets of Gu (Energy
in goo-form. Necessary, but rather unpleasant.) earlier in the day.

The five medals that hang on your bedpost make a jingling sound as
you fold your arm underneath your pillow to support your head as you
stare at the ceiling replaying the day’s events in your mind. Today you
added one more medal to your small, but growing, collection. It took
it’s place at the headboard with the other four medals, your goggles
and your Buddhist prayer beads. You’re not actually Buddhist, but you
are a runner. A slow one, but a runner nonetheless.

Distance runners are usually depicted as “crazy” or “nuts” and
people often say something to the effect of Willy Wonka’s famous line,
“If God had intended us to walk, he wouldn’t have invented Roller
Skates.” Silliness aside, there is something about running that gets
people in the way that shoes get Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in
Sex in the City: you just get addicted.

Once you get bit by that bug, you will run–by your own
choice–through the pre-dawn chill of a ten-degree January morning. You
will run through rain and snow for miles and miles with glee. You will
relax (or try to, anyways) in an ice-cold bath with a drink in your
hand, a smile on your lips and joy in your heart because you just ran
eighteen miles. “Uphill both ways. Man, that was a great workout,” as
you’ll later reminisce to whomever will listen. If the idea of
running for five hours over the hilly terrain, thirty-something mile an
hour head wind, freezing (or at least what feels like it) temperatures
seems like fun and you don’t mind that you are the last person to
arrive, you are a runner. If all of this seems like fun to you, well,
need I say it?

My latest addition to my collection of medals, is from the Hogeye
Marathon on April 5th, 2009, at the beautiful downtown square of
Fayetteville, AR. The race started out like any other: cold, windy and
in the company of old friends, new friends and friends I hadn’t met
yet. Two of my companions were running the half-marathon, and judging
by the hills that they had to run up on their return trip, I was
thankful that I was doing the full.

I stayed in the back of the pack for the majority of the race, and
once the half-marathoners broke away, it was safe to assume that only a
handful of runners were behind me. I was focused on taking in the
scenery and enjoying my first hometown marathon–plus, in a town
renowned for it’s outstanding University of Arkansas track and field
program, I knew that it would be a marathon composed entirely of elite
runners and myself, about as un-elite that you can get.

For the first thirteen miles the roads wound and wove their way
through subdivisions, back roads, and running trails. Spectators and
volunteers dotted the course and brought with them supplies,
refreshments and cheers (I must say, the aid stations and volunteers
were phenomenal. Well done, Fayetteville!).

Between miles thirteen and fourteen, some friends had set up a
celebration station of sorts. Bringing with them were gifts of
oranges, water, Gu and a surprise: a bratwurst and a beer for my return
visit at mile twenty.

The brat has been a dream of mine ever since I was denied one by
the vendor who had stationed himself inside the course at the
twenty-six mile mark at my very first marathon. He told me that I could
have whatever I wanted so long as I had the money for it, which of
course, I didn’t. Thus, effectively smothering my hopes of crossing the
finish line with a giant bratwurst in hand.

The next seven miles where spent with dropping temperatures, a
nasty headwind and having every single runner who was behind me, pass
me. I paused for a moment to celebrate the passing of my very favorite
mile, Mile seventeen. Mile seventeen is a huge deal for me as the
remaining miles are now in the single digits. Meaning: nine more miles
to go. However, the elation I experience when I realize this is often
diminished by the fact that there are still nine more miles to go!
Usually, by the time mile twenty rolls around I’m in pain, exhausted
and somewhat insane. But this time there was my tasty manna from
heaven, bratwurst and beer.

At mile twenty-three, a dear friend of mine met me on the trail to
offer her support, water and to snap a few photos. Mile twenty-five
found me running up Dickson Street, thanking the police officers and
volunteers who had stood in the cold for five-plus-hours. Mile
twenty-six found me on the corner of Block St. where I burst in to
tears when I saw my family cheering.

The urge to cry was replaced by the urge to vomit as I realized
that I still .02 miles left and half of that was up a hill. I trudged
on, more hobble than stride. Most of the bystanders (apart from my
family, the racing officials and the paramedics) had left by the time I
crossed the finish line at five hours, eighteen minutes and some-odd
seconds. I failed to break through my five-hour barrier, but was too
exhausted to care.

Running for five hours at a time allows plenty of time for
introspection and often your sanity gets called into question. After
four and a half marathons, I’ve stopped asking myself why. I know the
answer: it’s an almost-spiritual experience and a guaranteed way to
quiet an over-stimulated mind. It is a chance to commune with nature:
to watch the birds flit among the branches of trees, feel the rain on
our skin or the heat on our backs. And it is an opportunity to explore
what the saying “one step at a time” truly means.

So as I listen to the clinking sounds of my five medals from
Little Rock, Dallas, Fort Worth, Salt Lake City and Fayetteville, I
drift off to sleep smiling with a new appreciation for what my medals
really mean: it isn’t the destination, but the journey.

*  *  *

Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Maggie.
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Psychosomatic

With much delight and warmth of heart, I have resumed what my dear friend and I call “artist’s way.”  Actually, it started out using Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way, but in the five+ years since, it’s been many things — mainly our soul time.  A phone call a week, some quiet time, conversation, feedback — what every woman needs.

This time is sacred and confidential, but with an open heart I believe I can share lessons I’ve learned with sincere thanks given to my friend for her insight.  This week’s lesson: psychosomatic illness.

psychosomatic (per Merriam-Webster):


1
: of, relating to, concerned with, or involving both mind and body <the psychosomatic nature of man
— Herbert Ratner>


2
: of, relating to, involving, or concerned with bodily symptoms caused by mental or emotional disturbance <psychosomatic symptoms> <psychosomatic medicine>

Friday I was stricken with a migraine, one like I hadn’t had for about five years.  Encouraged to look at causes for the killer headache, I realized there are many factors that could be at play.  Among the culprits:

  • hormones
  • post-holiday stress relief
  • change in weather
  • dehydration
  • break in a hectic schedule
In my weakened state, of course, I didn’t seek out the causes.  When we are down, we lack the energy to look beyond where we are in the moment.  When we are down, we are very much aware of our present state and what we must have to survive, even if it’s simply a place to sleep in the dark and quiet.  Pizza delivery can be a blessing.

There can be medical reasons behind a migraine.  If I go to a medical doctor, I’m certain I could come away with a prescription and repeat visits until a diagnoses is made.  But I can also listen to my body, keep a journal of the onsets, be aware of my surroundings and circumstances and see if there’s not a pattern.  I can take into account where my mind and emotions are and see how they might be playing out through my body.  After all, isn’t that what holistic care is about?

Undoubtedly I needed some rest.  Two a.m. is not a sustainable bed-time.  There are aspects of my life I need to be more aware of.  There are aspects of my life I need not take for granted.  I hope that in your life, you don’t have to be stricken before awareness is yours.  Our bodies are wise.  We need to listen and take care of them.

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Plugged In, Tuned Out & Back Again

popcorn.jpgFor me, procrastination is an issue, but when I really need down-time (the time when responsibilities are on hold, the dishes can wait and I don’t have to think about anything seriously), I tend to pop in a movie.  Let’s just say I watched quite a few movies over the weekend.  I even took a mommy date to the movies, alone.

The movies are over and the responsibilities resumed, but I notice a common theme in the movies I watched and the movies I love most.  They’re all about women’s lives, the emotions, the trials, the triumphs, the friends and the families.

Driving home from seeing Four Christmases, I thought about movie moms.  Now, in all honesty, I had also just watched The Women at home before I left (since it was due back that day).  When was the last time a movie truly captured what being the average mother is like?  And by average mother, I mean someone who doesn’t have six-figure income, a live-in housekeeper (or one at all) or a nanny.  When was the last time a major motion picture actually depicted a true birth and what a mom really looks like hours after the baby is born, the awkward first attempts at breastfeeding?  (Though I must give thanks to Four Christmases for giving breastfeeding such prominence, despite the negative connotations.)

I’m grateful that we have films like The Business of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth to highlight true birth.  I’m sure there are films out there about real life, true mothering, that I just haven’t seen because they haven’t made it into mainstream.  It’s too easy just to grab the latest blockbuster than to research a truly good film that might actually invoke thought during the movie.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the drama of the movies, that which adds fiction or exaggerates an aspect of life to make it more interesting, comedic and/or romantic.  Honestly, I don’t think I would have loved Under the Tuscan Sun so much had the movie just followed the book.  And even movies about ridiculously wealthy women, I suppose, gives me insight into another way of life.  Perhaps some day I might shop in Saks or drive a Lexus, but I won’t consider myself a failure if that day never comes.  After all, why watch a movie about real life when we have our own lives to live?

Next time I movie binge, I’ll try to remember that the movies I watch will affect me in some way, no matter how tuned out I may think I am.  That’s just the way energy works.  Hopefully I’ll be encouraged to live even better.

full disclosure of movies watched this weekend in order of my preference:
Amelie (in foreign films section)
The Women (the new version w/ Meg Ryan as Mary Haines)
Four Christmases
Becoming Jane

the kids watched:
Horton Hears a Who
The Wild
Aloha Scooby Doo
(because my kids’ life isn’t complete without some Scooby)

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