Saturday, July 31, 2010

It Was all I Ever Wanted


It was all I ever wanted.
Not that I minded the age,
it was an old key meant for it's worn place.
But something was different.
After the death and robbery, I understood.
It couldn't be any other way. Things change. Life moves on.
I've heard this.

Passing through the keyhole,
a life lived and shared was worth it after all.

So soon, it became clear to you that the shine was gone.
But did you know you were so beautiful?
Did you know that every wrinkle
opened my heart even further to your inspiration?

What was worthy became more so.
It didn't matter that your surface had a rough feel.
It didn't matter.

Your opening was all I ever wanted.
When I could turn the key and find you,
in your scuffed and worn beauty,
I was immersed in a new light.
An innocence revealed us,
I opened in the sun of you, Mom.
It was all I ever wanted.

Cynthia Pittmann

Also, published in Oasis Writing Link
(Photo credit: Willow. A writing assignment from the worthy Ms Willow of Magpie Tales)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Gazing at Magic

Photo courtesy of
http://www.moonbattery.com/
When I was very young, we lived in a small, single wide trailer. The space was limited, with the washing machine in the one bathroom, and the clothes dryer set into a corner of the small living room. It was next to the clothes dryer that we always set up the Christmas tree, against the wall to allow for the rest of the floor space to be clear. This meant that there was just enough space between the branches of the tree and the dryer for the dryer door to be opened and the controls to be reached. It was also just enough space for one wee little girl to scoot in and sit with back against the clothes dryer, feet tucked close, elbows on knees to support small chin on small hands....and gaze upward at the twinkling lights.


I was spellbound by the beauty of each year's Christmas tree. The tinsel softly shifting and catching and reflecting the tree lights. The tree lights themselves were a whole fascinating experience all their own. Who remembers the individual painted lightbulbs that had to be screwed into the individual sockets on the strings of Christmas tree lights? They also had individual, colored reflectors. stamped out of solid sheets of metal with fluted edges that could be deadly sharp, and these reflectors could be fitted between the lightbulb and the socket, securing them as decoration.

Photo courtesy of
Bing images
The light bulbs were easily the size of a man's thumb and were coated with opaque primary colored paint...red, green, yellow, blue and orange. I found this one photo to the left of these old beauties. The lady in the photo is country music legend, Brenda Lee. While these lights don't have the metal wheel reflectors I've attempted to describe, it gives you an idea of what I'm talking about. We would sit on the floor with my Mother, painstakingly testing each light socket and bulb, selecting the colors so that they didn't repeat, and choosing with equal precision the reflector wheels. We always made strings of popcorn and cranberries, as money was limited to purchase expensive garland. The few garlands that we did have were made of a tightly wound tinfoil, sometimes dual colored, others were gold or silver, and were crinkly and rustling in our hands as they were strung around the tree.


To a small child, the finished result, covered in clumps of silver tinsel when we would grow tired of the decorating process, was always beautiful. I could sit quietly tucked between the clothes dryer and Christmas tree and look at all the colors and textures. Gazing upward into the tree provided a whole different perspective than you could get from standing in front of it and viewing it. Looking upwards, all the lights cast a soft, lambent glow that seemed to fill the inner spaces of the tree and produce a fairytale atmosphere. Even at that young an age, I was weaving stories in my head about the things that captured my imagination.

Photo courtesy of
Bing images
At some point, my Mom would notice I was missing and call my name, walking by and not thinking to look for me tucked down beneath the tree. "Here I am," I would smile up at her, waving a hand to catch her attention. "What are you doing down there on the floor?" was usually her question. "Watching the magic...it's so pretty!" One evening, to my everlasting delight, my wonderful Mom didn't ask the usual question. Instead, she carefully shifted the Christmas tree slightly sideways, got down on the floor next to me and joined me in my nightly routine. We sat there, me tucked cozily against my Mom's side, her clean, soft fragrance touching my senses, her heartbeat against my ear as I cuddled close. She reached over and caught my hand in hers, and we gazed at magic together.

My older sister and brother were occupied with a game and we weren't interrupted....something very rare for the youngest of three, as I was, to get such an extended quiet moment with our Mom. She was raising us alone and dealing with very challenging circumstances. Money was always an issue, yet she found ways to make our childhood carefree, secure and content. And that particular evening, she indulged my whimsical nature by joining me and gazing at magic.

Eventually, something broke the spell and the moment ended. Dinner needed to be fixed, small bodies needed baths and bedtime loomed imminent. But for that one lovely moment, we just sat there together and gazed up from the floor into the heart of that Christmas tree, hypnotized and enthralled by the warm glow of lights and decorations. I can remember my Mom climbing to her feet, extending a hand to pull me up, and bending down to kiss me, saying, "Thank you, honey. That was beautiful. Let's do it again soon."

Have you ever tried this? This year during the winter holiday season, if you decorate a Christmas tree in your home, take a few moments to sit on the floor, close in to the tree, and gaze upwards into the center of it. I sometimes will even lie down on the floor and scoot directly underneath the tree to gain the best view. It might sound slightly bizarre, but I assure you it will provide you with a breathtaking experience. Clear your mind and simply gaze at the magic.

Perhaps it seems odd that my last two posts have had Christmas as a focal point, as this is the month of July. I don't know why the thoughts twined together to produce two blog articles with a similar theme, but I feel they are expressing completely different concepts.

Such are some of the blissful moments of my childhood. My beautiful Mom sheltered us from the challenging reality of admittedly difficult times and provided a secure, loving and nurturing home. She also allowed for those magical moments and on occasion, she would embrace them and join us. This Christmas tree moment is one of my most cherished memories. From that day and many others, I learned to embrace my ability to find magic in the most unexpected places and it is something that gives me particular joy. It is a connection to my wonderful Mom, who recognized that evening, that her youngest child was slightly different, slightly fey, and completely unique.

Photo courtesy of
Bing images
She taught me, in subsequent years, that this side of my nature was beautiful and to be celebrated. I still gaze at magic, and sometimes I'm able to share those moments with my Mom. She doesn't always see the world in the same starlit glow that I do, but she appreciates this part of who I, her youngest child, am. I gaze at magic, because I was taught by a lovely woman, my Mom, that this is a beautiful and natural thing. I hope those who read this post have those special moments as well. I would wish for you all to have the unique ability to regularly find and regularly enjoy...gazing at magic. Namaste'.
_____________________
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A gift

By Kristin at Wanderlust

Some days the right person comes along at the right time
and reaches inside the churning maw of chaos and doubt
we have slipped within
opens a hand
we take hold
and choose to walk out

It's funny how a few well-placed words can offer clarity
and the world tilts
slides open
a sigh escapes our weary hearts
and we realize we've been holding our breath
for years

And quite suddenly we know the singular joy
of sitting deeply in the stillness of our own truth
our power
our plenary selves

Blank white wall

Photo courtesy of
http://www.flickr.com/
A blank white wall. This was my very first experience with meditation at a very young age. If you grew up in a Christian oriented household, then I think most people can relate to the excitement generated on Christmas Eve night. In our family, we waited until Christmas Day to open gifts, which amped the excitement level up that much higher. After everyone was in bed, anticipation of the following morning and opening gifts would take hold of my young mind, making it difficult to sleep. Even at that age, I recognized that unless I managed to get some decent amount of sleep, I wouldn't be able to enjoy all the festivities of the following day. No young child relishes the thought of having to take a nap on Christmas Day, after all!


So, I would lie in bed, tossing and turning and attempting to relax enough to sleep. I have no idea where the concept occurred, but I suddenly realized that I had to corral my racing thoughts. My way of doing this and blocking out all distracted mental images, expectations, hopes, etc., was to imagine myself standing in front of a blank white wall. Standing very close to it so that my entire vision was taken up by the clean expanse of uninterrupted white. I also imagined this white wall to emanate softly blowing cool air, because I've never been able to fall asleep in warm surroundings. That first moment worked like a charm - I imagine that it only took me 10-15 minutes for this meditative process to calm me enough to fall asleep.

From that point forward in my life, I employed this calming technique of standing in front of a blank white wall to clear my mind. I still use this technique to this day when I am having a particularly extreme amount of mind chatter going on in my head. Insomnia seems to be a common experience as we grow older, and sometimes this method will help to relax me enough to allow sleep to come.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.hubpages.com/
I also employ this method occasionally for meditation, simply to drop my breathing and heart rate into the proper level to access that deep state of calm and reflection. It has become a Go To exercise when life seems to be throwing a huge amount of activity in my direction. In order to meditate, we do have to find a way to control mind chatter. I spoke of this very thing recently with an old friend who is getting back into meditation and yoga. I believe it is very common for anyone new to meditating, or long absent from the practice, to experience the challenge of mind chatter. Micro-moments where seemingly random thoughts pop up and refuse to fade away. One leads to the next, to the next, until eventually you lose focus. Those thoughts come rushing in the moment we settle down to meditate....or to sleep....or to pray. Who hasn't turned their bedside table out and started their nightly prayers with all sincerity, only to get distracted by some random thought? It happens to all of us and is certainly something we should forgive ourselves for; it is simply a physiological response the brain goes through as our bodies are at rest. A method of processing all the minutiae of the day.

I don't know that the blank white wall method will work for everyone to calm mind chatter and make meditation or sleep come more easily; I just know it has worked for me since childhood. For a good twenty years, I never correlated that this practice had any connection to meditative mindset. When it did connect in my mind, I found it slightly bemusing that a four year old child had managed to cobble this concept together and be successful with it. Granted, it was born out of a child's excitement about opening gifts on Christmas Day, but as I grew older, it became a valuable tool in my own inner growth and spiritual studies.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.mindflowmeditation.com/
I am guilty of straying from the practice of daily meditation and my recent discussion with this old friend reminded me how much I have been neglecting this vital part of my life. With daily meditation, I am centered and better able to roll with the inevitable punches that Life delivers. I am better able to access my inner spirit and intuition, and I am better able to release those niggling, annoying moments that bombard us minute by minute. One would think all of the above would keep me very strict and true to a daily meditation regimen, but it doesn't. I get lazy, I get busy and I forget. One day turns into two, turning into a week and multiplying. You glance at the calendar and suddenly realize that many weeks have passed without true nurturing of your Inner Light.

So, the blank white wall beckons me from childhood memories to return to this vital daily practice. Meditation is an individual duty and joy, although I realize that not everyone will embrace the practice, or even care to learn about what it really involves and how it can really benefit each person. This isn't a post to encourage readers to embrace meditation. It is just my thoughts on the topic and the path that I set my very small feet upon at a very young age.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.minimalwall.com/
I do embrace meditation, although as I admitted above, I fall out of daily practice on occasion. Perhaps that conversation with my friend was all that was necessary to nudge me and get the mental gears turning. Once that occurs, it is inevitable that a blog post will be born, and I am ultimately a better person for it. Writing, you see, for some of us, is its own form of meditation. I reach a very profound Zen state when I write. Time ceases to exist, hunger and sleep do not even impinge my consciousness. Writing the thoughts out and weaving them into a cohesive and lyrically flowing fabric consumes me until that zenith of purity is reached. Then I am washed in a level of satisfaction and bliss that is sublime.

And all of these thoughts coalesce and return to that pivotal year in early childhood when I somehow devised a way to calm my thoughts. I didn't know at the time that this was a form of meditation - I didn't even know what that word was at that young an age. I simply knew that blank white wall method worked to help me sleep and I continued to employ it as I grew older. For whatever reason, as a wee one, my brain was receptive and hardwired to esoteric concepts and by the time I was in second grade, I began to search for answers. Today, the blank white wall still works for me when nothing else will; for sleep, to drop into a true meditative state after a hectic day, or simply to check in with myself and process through the myriad experiences of a given week.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.wallpaperstock.net/
As I come to a close, I recognize that it is time to get back to daily meditation. There are no accidents with conversation between friends; I have no doubt that this was God/Universe/Spirit gently nudging me, reminding me that this is an important energy in my life. Time to come back to quiet, time to come back to calm, time to process and grow. Time to visit that blank white wall and allow it to work its magic, settling chaotic, erratic thoughts into a smooth, even flow that gifts the Spirit with beauty and peace.
__________________________
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

UNWANTED VIRTUE


Dear Mother Ursula, (wherever you are)

Remember that time when you wanted to know about something personal and secret about us? You patiently waited for my answer as you sat behind the large wooden desk that seemed to shield the teachers from the students and the world. Most of the girls responded as honestly as they could, "I am kind, I am smart, I know how to cook, I can outrun my brother, I am good at math..." When it was my turn, I couldn't think of a gift, something I was good at or anything I loved. I must have lacked imagination then, because I couldn't even come up with a lie. Maybe my "gift" was honesty, but this was the first time anyone had ever implied that I had to have something good that made me special and the very question was unimaginable to me. I thought you were a saint, Mother Ursula, for asking such an innovative and soul provoking question.

"Patience. That is your virtue." you said, rescuing me after a long, uncomfortable pause. Then you proceeded to tell me why/how you saw patience in me. But let me tell you (now that I'm no longer a little afraid of you) that you were wrong. You mistook patience for lack of confidence, shyness and passivity. Your opinion has actually turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy though, because many people, including myself, have perceived me as "patient" most of my life.

But it is imperative that you take back your words, your proclamation of the goodness you saw in me. You committed a grave mistake and now even the Universe has unrealistic expectations of me.

Lovingly and kindly I am supposed to respond to complaints - repeated daily, it seems hourly, more like every minute - which are dramatically executed by mother-in-law. Her litany of hypochondriac ailments is endless - her stomach, her veins, her legs, her left heel, an itch, no sleep (though she often appears for breakfast after ten), etc. On and on she proceeds as I...
S C R E A M (internally, of course) with frustration at having to be her helpless, captive audience. Can this be the attitude of someone who is patient?

Lately, my mother too has jumped onto the complaining band wagon and has acquired a strange malaise, that miraculously happens consistently right before her scheduled shower (which she is increasingly less fond of taking). My I R R I T A T I O N is hard to disguise as I go back to her room several times before she finally consents to her grooming (which, by the way, is no picnic for me to witness and endure). Does this sound like patience to you?


I thought nuns were always right, but obviously you were dead wrong. I am not patient! What I am is angry, furious, disappointed, livid, enraged.


I write to you because I wonder if your false prediction has something to do with the fact that I am stuck in a revolving door of existence, in which every day, I confront the exact same challenges. It's as if all forces conspired to test my patience, which I don't even have.

I don't mean to say that you put a hex on me. But did you? Even if you did, I know you didn't mean it and any repercussions were unintended. So, could you please take back your words? Release me from ...

Oh, Mother Ursula, here I am impatiently complaining to you about the complainers in my life. I'm so sorry. I know it's all in my interpretation of it. I could just see all this as the opportunity of a lifetime - a chance to be virtuous, a chance to help those who have no one else, a chance to love.

Mother Ursula, please don't be offended, but if I am to be virtuous I must enrich my honesty. And honestly, right now, this moment I feel like ...virtues suck!!! Still, I hope you have kept all of yours.

Sincerely,
Myrna

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mocking bird salute

I've lived in a two story townhouse home for the past seven years and for the last five of those years, I have had a yearly visitor in the form of a Mocking Bird. For those of you who aren't familiar with this bird, here is what Wikipedia tells us:


Mockingbirds are a group of New World passerine birds from the Mimidae family. They are best known for the habit of some species mimicking the songs of other birds and the sounds of insects and amphibians, often loudly and in rapid succession. Wikipedia

Tennessee Mocking Bird
Mimus polyglottos
http://www.flickr.com/
It is an ironic sidenote that the mocking bird is the Tennessee State Bird genus Mimus polyglottos, which my home state adopted and made official on April 19, 1933. Why am I writing about mocking birds? Because these hardy little birds, if you have read the above Wiki information, are very LOUD and PERSISTENT in their yearly nesting and mating habits. These habits include finding the highest point available for them to perch and warble their little hearts out, pitching woo...loudly and persistently....to the night. And to hapless townhouse inhabitants attempting to grab a few precious hours of sleep.

I'm happy to share with you that not only do mocking birds imitate the songs of other birds, insects and amphibians, they imitate cats and dogs, machinery and musical instruments, and the occasional slamming door or rusty hinge. They trill through their repertoire with great and lusty enthusiasm, rarely pausing as they skillfully switch from bird song to cat meow to truck engine revving continuously. At times, it can be amusing listening to the sheer volume of calls they can produce. My bedroom happens to be the tallest peak of this row of townhouse units, so this is why I am the lucky recipient of the nightly serenade and mocking bird orchestra.

Again, you're probably wondering why I'm writing about this topic. For months now, I have been turning over in my mind the fact that humans and wildlife aren't that greatly different. I've written before about social masks that we all employ to get through our daily existence. In a similar manner to the mocking bird, we also adapt our speaking voice in tone, inflection, volume and emotion to communicate our thoughts and emotions to those around us. We wear different clothing, hairstyles and cosmetics to project various public images, to denote our current mood and again, to use as social camouflage and quite often, as a courtship tool.

http://www.musicalexpress.net/
The thing that always strikes me is how cheerful mocking birds are, every single night, in their pursuit of procreation. I am sure that to the mocking bird, this is not a cause for amusement. Indeed, their nightly concert is a life and death effort to continue their species. My human ears cannot help, however, finding charm in the widely varied trills, chirps, barks, cricket sounds (those are the exception to the finding charm part as they really drive me nuts) and engine noises. These small birds are quite aggressive in their display of auditory talents, finding no shame at all in adopting sounds from another species or object to further their goals. In some ways, I would liken it to a painter painting, using colors to express different emotions and messages, or a conductor standing in front of an orchestra with arms raised, wand at the ready to coax a stellar performance from all the musicians. Mocking birds simply do the same with their calls.

http://www.paintinghere.com/
Of course, when it is 3:30 am and I am still hearing incessant bird calls, cat screeches and hissing as well as various motorized noises in rapid succession, it isn't quite as charming or amusing anymore. There are many nights when I lie awake listening to the endless, noisy litany that I am suspicious my particular mocking bird is perched by my window with a calculating, crafty, borderline maniacal gleam in his beady little eyes, fully aware he is costing me a decent night of sleep. I also wonder about the female counterpart to my serenading friend; is she sitting out there in the night, listening, brought to a feminine birdie swoon, thinking, "Oh my! Now that is one sexy, masculine, attractive boat motor sound! That must be the father of my future children! I must fly to him now!"? Even then, when these thoughts are chasing blearily through my tired mind, I do admit to a certain level of admiration for this little bird's plucky spirit.

We as human beings could take a leaf from their book as we navigate our own daily lives. Shine our emotions brightly and enthusiastically, be unafraid to show every facet and skill we possess in a lyrical manner, perhaps borrow someone else's form of expression momentarily, communicate with others with absolute enthusiasm...and most of all, find a high spot to proclaim our love widely and loudly to the masses. Wouldn't that be an interesting, entertaining courtship process?

There is no great or deep message here this time around. More a tangle of sleep deprived thoughts that have been assailing me for several months now during the nightly mocking bird salute. As annoying as my current feathered visitor can be each night, I still wind up missing the sounds as fall weather sets in. I feel a sort of kinship evolve in the months each mocking bird sets up housekeeping outside my bedroom window. From it has sprung a blog post that I'm not sure will capture readers' attention in quite the same way as other posts, but perhaps many of you will remember similar memories of your own with a mocking bird salute. And perhaps you will smile at the memories.
__________________________
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.

Footsteps

The needle on my compass is broken. It used to be quite reliable as far as my navigational partner, but currently it stopped pointing the way. Now what?! Maybe it is a good thing.


I often find that often the compass is not necessarily “broken” as much as it has an intrinsic intelligence that pauses its function to allow us to switch to our intuitive devices. I think things happen to keep us from plodding along life’s path in a “lemming-like” state just because. Like early sailors, if they were caught out at sea without a map or compass, they switched between what God placed before them, mixed in with a little “gut”, and they fearlessly tread onward driven by passion and fear of standing still.

However, when the path forward sometimes seems rather dull, frightful, unchallenging, or perhaps dismal at a given moment, we can take a peek in our rearview mirror. Although not always wise to “live” in yesterday, we can retrace a few paces and maybe examine our impact.

Is where we have been only what it appears on the surface? Is our past only comprised of our own circumstances? Are we travelling alone? I think we leave footprints.

In our travels we leave behind visible markers of our presence. Sometimes we leave perishable traces of where we have been–momentary evidence that we have passed through. It is our footprint on life’s sandy beach simply waiting on the tide of time to erase it. From the simple gestures, assistances we have loaned to a stranger, and idle banter with passers-by we can indeed leave a footprint along our daily path. Think back at the end of your day to simple moments of truth where we maybe encountered a stranger, exchanged contact, and then proceeded onward. Do you remember them? There lies a footprint. They took the place of another thought. In your absence you live on in someone else’s life–even if momentarily. Who knows where the nudge will take you?

Sometimes we walk through damp concrete–our steps indelibly present–proof of our presence strong and visible eventually hardening. Maybe they were words of encouragement that turned another’s life around at a crucial moment. Many times we are not always aware of the depth and impact our presence can make on another. We may not be aware of how close to another’s core we come. Sometimes with a simple anecdote we may save a life somewhere down the line.

Some of us are teachers. We share our skill so that another may flourish. Words, trades, jobs, and knowledge are precious gifts never to be taken lightly. Used in the hands of a creative master, we never know what momentum may be given to a simple statement or craft. Maybe our footprint here was simply stepping first in the right direction allowing others to follow.

As mentors past or present, we must not concern ourselves as much with where we are now going, but to remain at peace that we have fertilized another’s journey. Being a parent is one of the most crucial of this example. “Do as I say, and not as I do?” I still think we should lead by example noticing that a child learns life through our footsteps. If we are mindful now of our steps, less apology and reconciliation may be needed later. Time passed through anger and pain that could be well spent exchanging quality time–time spent laying a dual set of steps for future travelers. Lay your footsteps for your children as if they were pavers to cross life’s chasm. Often they are.

Sometimes our footsteps go through another’s garden. Sometimes we tread where we are unwelcome. We may have good or bad intention but still we find we have trampled another’s field. As with flowers, they can be damaged; they can be destroyed, but can also be replanted–seeds can be re-sown. We must realize that we may not be welcome to help in the recultivation. Even though we may be willing to dirty our hands and dig, and be willing to water the seeds for new growth, sometimes we must move onward and create our own garden where our footsteps are welcome. Maybe this new space must be fertilized with the lesson learned that we need to be aware that we also travel in a path shared by others, and that we must respect our fellow journeyers.

I find as I venture onward, I have become less attached to the path I leave but have increased in my respect of it. I realize that I am not the only one stepping. I also realize how much my steps leave behind a part of me both good and bad, and sometimes they are brief in their presence, and sometimes will remain long after I have left this Earth.

In my presence, and my awareness of where I am now, I can at least try my best to be respectful in where I leave my footprints. I also realize that sometimes I may leave them where I am completely oblivious to. I hope I don’t trample your flowers.

I finally realize that at some point along the way, I was often uncertain of what lie ahead, but now as I look back, I realize I kept walking onward. Sometimes I needed faith to keep moving to be able to put the story together later by examining the footsteps. I just hope when I reach the end of my journey, my steps were flanked by my loved ones, that they were pointed in a good direction and that when in a deep or dark area, the steps continued out of the valley.

Thanks for walking with me today.

Repost from - Artisan of the Human Spirit by Tony Anders

Thursday, July 22, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 203: Find Your Enthusiasm


When I was in junior high, I had to take Health. It was required and I was not too enthused about that as I was going through my rebellious teen years. On the first day of class, once everyone was seated, the teacher, Mr. Baerveldt yelled out, "How's your PMA (Positive Mental Attitude)?" We all just sat there, a bunch of preteens staring in emptiness at this man who looked like he might take flight from all his cheerfulness. Some students even rolled their eyes, but Mr. Baerveldt would not give up on us. He let us know that whenever he said this at the beginning of class we were supposed to jump out of our chairs, full of vigor, and yell back, "Boy am I enthusiastic!"

He tried it again and there were a few muffled voices feigning enthusiasm. He tried again. A few more people. Finally, just to get him to stop, we all jumped out of our chairs, fists in the air like Superman, and shouted back in unison, "BOY AM I ENTHUSIASTIC!"

And then we couldn't help but laugh. We all felt a little ridiculous. Day after day, this was how we started our 5th period Health class. I have to say, by the end of it, maybe through osmosis, I did feel enthusiastic.

My goal as a teen was to avoid enthusiasm. I was supposed to be cool. Cool people weren't enthusiastic, they were just "cool." I'm sorry now that I missed out on what a lot of great teachers had to offer because I wasn't in the frame of mind to "receive the teachings" so to speak. However, maybe some of it stuck with me. I can't forget Mr. Baerveldt after all these years and even when I see my best friend Lena and she says, "How's your PMA?" I automatically throw my arms up in the air and shout, "Boy am I enthusiastic!"

I have a book in my library that I think is right up Mr. Baerveldt's alley. It's called Do It! Let's Get Off Our Buts. I love this book. And I love that "buts" has a double meaning. Now that's "cool."

Even cooler is when the authors, John Roger and Peter McWilliams, explain where the word enthusiasm comes from:

Enthusiasm comes from the Latin en theos-one with the energy of the Divine.

And they go on to quote famous people who wrote about enthusiasm:

The real secret of success is enthusiasm.
-Walter Chrysler

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
-Emerson

I rate enthusiasm even above professional skill.
-Edward Appleton

I couldn't agree more. If you are enthusiastic about what you are doing, how can you fail? After all, the Latin speakers of the world believe you are in tune with the Divine; the word "fail" is not in your dictionary.

If you are having trouble finding your enthusiasm, I recommend the exercise my Health teacher had us do way back when. If you say it long enough and loud enough, maybe you'll start to believe it. Maybe it will become your mantra. Maybe a life filled with enthusiasm will become "cool" for you. Maybe it will become your way.

Also published on my blog, Lessons from the Monk I Married.

Sharing some things I value.

The advantage about the lifestyle I live is that I am able to have the flexibility to be where I feel I need to be in life when I need to be. I mostly work for myself and this has allowed me to be a stay at home mom while raising my three daughters and it has allowed me to take time to recover when I’ve had health setbacks and then return to whatever work I choose to do when I am healthy enough. I’m grateful for this but it has also meant that our finances have gone up and down over the years, and when my children were very young, we really had to make a lot of sacrifices while I spent most of my time tending to them while managing my chronic health condition.

I never felt that we were sacrificing that much because I felt we were always focusing on what was truly of value to us: our family, our passions, guidance from within and always seeking to expand that to a higher level of thinking and behaving, our health, and our community. We have had our ups and downs, I’ve come close to dying a couple of times because of my health; my heart stopped under anesthesia during surgery that I had to undergo a couple of years ago that ended up being more extensive than the surgeon originally thought would need to be - it was surgery to help me be able to walk.

I credit a lot of my ability to manage my health as well as I do because of the alternative methods of healing that I use. Doctor’s and other health practitioners tell me time and again that they view me as a walking miracle. I’m grateful I’m walking and alive whether by miracle or hard work and constant focus, either way, I’m grateful.

I do work at it. I come from a long line of hardy, determined, independent, and proud people. They have also been an ancestry of cold, bitter, distant people who have also struggled with being involved in victim consciousness; acting from both sides of the coin in being both victim and victimizer. There are extremes in my lineage; often the first step toward an issue turning into a problem is having it go to the extreme.

I seek to walk a balance and look for the qualities that can carry me through and discard those that have held my family back for generations. There is a deeply entrenched, unequal, and unfair patriarchy to my family’s imbalance among strong women who have often been left to pick up the pieces even though all they may have had left of themselves after the settled dust of abuse and abandonment were fragmented pieces. I have sought to reclaim the role of strong matriarch for my family moving forward and it begins with my three daughters.

I had daughters. I choose not to see this as an accident but as an extension of the will to do better; another chance to heal and to try to do it better moving forward. I also see it as no accident that so many in my family, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, chose not to have children, even if they chose to marry, they made the decision very deliberately not to have children. The lineage is dying out and I have to say that in many ways I am grateful if no one was willing to take on the task of trying to do it better.

In my family the way paved was with little to no support, and very little understanding. There was little to no guidance because it was new unknown territory, so there was no guidance to be given. In my lineage one would be on their own in the wilderness, an ostracized member of a sick and dying tribe struggling to find the path to surviving much less the path to thriving.

I write as one of my coping mechanisms, I also expose myself to anything that will uplift and inspire because my life has been very challenging but I refuse to give up, though I will surrender. Surrender is a whole other thing - I actually find freedom and release in surrender. I surrender to the answer, which so far always comes as soon as I surrender. I choose to expose myself to that which inspires but that doesn’t mean I shy away from being exposed to something terrible or challenging, if I did I would have to be living in complete and utter denial. But when I come across something terrible or challenging, I try to seek out the inspiring. I search for the solution to a problem, or the way through the challenge; I look for the lotus in the mud.

I have always been a journal writer, I started when I was very young, and this blog is an extension of that exercise. I really use this blog as a reminder to myself to be inspired and to be inspiring. It is a part of what gets me through the day, and there are days where getting through the day means getting through the moments. I appreciate the exchange with my readers, and I am very grateful to those who are reading this and getting something out of it and comment this to be the case.

Thank you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Belltones

Photo courtesy of
http://www.franckh.be/
For those of you who grew up and went to grammar school in the 1970s, you may remember the special days that everyone trooped to the library to watch an 8mm filmstrip on some educational subject. I say 'filmstrip' because that's exactly what it was - a roll of film on a large metal spool that was threaded through a projector, which then projected the images of each frame on the filmstrip onto the screen that pulled down from a casement on the library wall.


If you were one of the lucky ones chosen, you were able to sit next to the projector and manually twist the little knob to advance the filmstrip, frame by frame, as a recorder told the story being watched. A belltone would sound when it was time to advance the filmstrip to the next frame. Before I moved on from grammar school, a wonderful new device was introduced - a small hand held wand with a button that was pushed to automatically advance the filmstrip frame by frame. This cylinder still had to be manned by some lucky child. I have no idea what type of audio-visual equipment is used in grammar schools these days; no doubt they are using DVDs.

What is my point? Belltones. I can distinctly remember, on the occasions that I was chosen to man the projector, how clear that belltone sounded to my ears. I have always been a student of esoteric and spiritual concepts, even going back to my formative years in grammar school. Those belltones always captured my attention because quite often in my personal life and spiritual studies, days after I would run across a particularly pertinent bit of information, I would hear a similar belltone.

When it first happened, I was certain other people could hear it too, but I learned that this sound was one of spiritual origin and thus, something that was meant for me to hear alone. If I could describe it, I would say that I always hear this belltone at the top of my head, slightly towards the crown, or fontanelle area. Those of you who have had children may recognize the word 'fontanelle' as being the soft spot on a newborn baby's head. This soft spot exists to enable the baby's head to pass through the birth canal more easily, as the bony plates of the skull are more malleable; they ossify, or harden completely by the age of 2.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.answithin.com/
The other noteworthy aspect of this spot on the skull is that it is the location of the Crown Chakra, also known as the Cosmic Consciousness Center, the "I Am" awareness. It took me a while during my formative years to connect this belltone sound with the fact that I could "hear" and "feel" it close to my crown chakra, and to also assimilate what that meant in spiritual terms. What does it mean, you might ask? Since it did, and still does happen to me, my interpretation is that this a type of spiritual "red flag" to capture my attention and get me to focus on the lesson at hand. I have mentioned other flags such as yawning and feeling goosebumps or shivers (Shivers + Yawns = Growth!) in past blog articles. I am certain that every person has their own quirky little method or flag to recognize when something of great import is occurring. This belltone that I hear hasn't ceased as I've grown older. Indeed, it has grown stronger, more clear and definitive, reverberating from that crown chakra down through every subsequent chakra point and literally waking up my whole spiritual, etheric body.

I have a whimsical mental image of some cosmic hand at the controls of the projector displaying the story of my life, advancing it frame by frame on the spiritual filmstrip, sounding that belltone emphatically at those watershed moments. I firmly believe that we are masters of our own path, but I also firmly believe we are gently guided by a Loving Source, or Presence steering us in a direction which will afford us the best opportunities to learn, whittle down rough edges and grow.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.earthmoonfire.spaces.live.com/
Sometimes I also think our lives are similar to those old-fashioned movies....long, separate filmstrips addressing every layer, every high and low point, triumph and failure of our lives. Laughter, tears, accomplishments; moments where we learned and grew. Moments where we hurt and cried. Bell tones sounding as some unseen hand pushes the button to advance the frames of our lives, knowing we would continue...find a way to persevere. Old filmstrips removed from the projector to be tucked away in some mysterious library for us to study when our time comes to cross over.

For some, while we are here, the bell tones are too high a frequency for our human ears to detect. Our Souls hear it though, and recognize when it is time to take that next step, to move forward to another filmstrip, or to increase the length of a current one.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.faqs.org/
Perhaps this sounds outlandish to some readers. Perhaps some of you are reading and nodding your heads in complete understanding. Perhaps many of you have a similar experience with some Divinely Guided prompting that reassures you that you're making those strong, centered choices. I'd love to hear your own stories in the Comments section below if you do experience a similar type of confirmation, a similar "A-ha!" or 'lightbulb' experience that makes you stop and take note of that specific moment in time. It may be not so much a physical or auditory manifestation such as the one I experience. For you, it may be a gentle knowing deep inside. I experience those moments also, and they are beautiful, touching and profound in their simplicity. The moments when I hear a belltone tend to be more life changing events - a big walloping cosmic wake up call to grab my attention with strong emphasis.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.stanlyconcert.com/
We are all beautifully unique beings, going through daily life tripping along to our own special harmonies. I surmise that the manner and manifestation of being nudged in this direction or that, of becoming acutely aware of a spiritual lesson are as widely and richly varied as we are as individuals. For me, a belltone occurs. Clear in tone, strong and mellow in tenor and lasting in effect as it reverberates through my being, marking a bright moment.

As I grow older, the tone of this bell has changed, deepened and grown richer in sound. I can only believe that it is adapting to the harmony of my own Spirit as I grow, learn and change; lifting my own vibrations to a higher, deeper, more clear resonance. I don't question its presence; I am happy that it occurs with regularity in my life, as it gives me affirmations as well as guidance. The Unseen Hand which guides us all with loving intent, for me, making itself known in the pure, sweet tones of a bell.
__________________________
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In the Mist

Surrounded by mist,
unable to see the contours
of the road
that rushes ahead,
I stand very still
upon my rocky path.

The sound of a stream
flowing in the distance
touches my ears.
A cold breeze attempts
to stir the morning air.
The leaves of a tree
rustle.

A squirrel scuttles
across my path,
vanishing into an abyss
of cloud.
Like a dream
that has neither beginning
nor end.

Locked in
the embrace of a white canvas
upon which this moment
is painted,
I close my eyes.

In the darkness
of my mind's eye,
I see the brilliance
of a thousand suns.
Upon the glistening horizon,
a little bird
makes a leap of faith
from its nest
into golden skies.

I smile, for I know
you are here.
Enchanting this moment
with your beauty,
permeating it with the serenity
of your vision,
blessing it with the silence
of your sweet soul.

(Also posted on my blog)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This art called napping

*Photo courtesy of
http://www.hahastop.com/
Naps - doesn't the very word just make you smile? Well, it does if you're past the age of 8, probably. Childhood is about the only time in our lives when the word "nap" is a bad thing. There's playing to be done, after all....trees to climb, siblings to pester, the whole world to explore in your backyard. Who has time for a nap when all it does is interrupt all the fun? Adults are just weird that way.


Flash forward to adult years and oh my, yes, the concept of napping takes on overtones of sinfully decadent indulgence. Snoozing an extra five minutes in the morning can honestly save your sanity and keep your co-workers safe for one more business day. The thought of snatching twenty minutes in the middle of the day to zone out and recharge can produce a wistful sigh, as very few of us are granted that luxury during the business week.

Other countries are smarter than the United States in that they do recognize the logic behind resting during the middle of the day. Mid-afternoon naps exist and thrive in numerous countries, all of whom embrace a much slower, more sane and, I daresay more healthy approach to life. Naps are a good thing from all perspectives.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.parade.com/
For each of us, the ideal nap has its own persona and location. Some prefer their beds with crisp, freshly laundered bed linens and tons of poofy pillows. Others are couch napping afficianados. Many prefer a hammock or porch swing, and there are some who will stretch out on the floor for a quick snooze. My older sister has this incredible ability - incredible to my way of thinking because I don't possess this ability - to nap at will. She can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, in noisy and/or uncomfortable conditions. Not so for me. I have to have quiet and at least a bit of comfort to snooze during the day. But ohhh...on the rare occasions it does happen, I find a nap to be a thing of beauty!

You have to throw in the question of what constitutes a nap, I suppose. Some argue that a nap shouldn't be longer than twenty minutes. Webster's Dictionary defines a nap thusly:

Main Entry: 1nap
Pronunciation: \╦łnap\
Function: intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s): napped; nap·ping
Etymology: Middle English nappen, from Old English hnappian; akin to Old High German hnaffezen to doze
Date: before 12th century
1 : to sleep briefly especially during the day : doze
2 : to be off guard
So, according to the above definition, to nap is to sleep briefly. Those of us who are true nap connoisseurs will disagree and staunchly defend the concept of a 2-3 hour stretch of sleep as fitting into the parameters of a nap. I fall into this category, as sleeping for only twenty minutes actually makes me more tired, groggy and irritable than I was before I napped in the first place! I feel a nap should be at least one hour or longer to qualify as a true experience of the act.

*Photo courtesy of
http://www.rockingrocker.com/
I prefer a longer nap and cooler temperatures, but there's also something to be said for being outside and catching a stretch of sleep in some shady spot. Fresh air, the sounds of nature around you...that's just pure bliss to fall asleep and wake up to! Some people enjoy napping on the beach, out under the full blaze of the sun. I'm not one of them. Sweating and napping don't go together in my world. I'm more fond of the porch swing nap, as it keeps me out of the sun but allows me to still hear the birds chirping and feel the breeze blowing, smell the flowers blooming as I drift off to the gentle sway of the porch swing.

Animals seem to be the most savvy nap takers around. Watch your cats and dogs - they know the value of a well executed nap! That cold spot on the kitchen floor keeps their tummy cool and who knows, when they wake up, one of their people might be around to dole out a snack.

Perhaps that's another reason we as human beings love naps so much - we remember our own childhood naps in a similar way. Mom would always be there to hand out a snack and give us a hug when we woke up.

We know from a medical perspective that getting sufficient rest is healthy and necessary. The pace of the modern world is such that unfortunately, many people find naps to be their most common source of sleep. This is saddening, as we all deserve a truly good, solid night of sleep. Naps should, in my world, be a treat - that icing on the cake, that cherry on top of the sundae, that extra bite of a delicious meal - something to indulge in with gusto and enjoyment! No agenda, no particular place to be but right there in that spot that invites you to settle in and snooze peacefully, allowing your body, mind and spirit to rest, regroup and recharge.

*Photo courtesy of
http://www.fineartamerica.com/
I think that porch swing is calling my name....

....and I'm on my way to answering!

There is an art to resting, and one facet of this art is called napping.

Take a nap, my friends. A long, extended, absolutely self-indulgent....nap. It's good for you, and you'll thank me!


_____________________________
*No financial return was received from posting photos and links to the websites above.
_____________________________
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How will you be remembered?

Loving, caring, compassionate
Wife, daughter and friend
Enjoyed writing
Cooking
Playing with toddlers.

Funny in her sarcastic way
Witty, intelligent, feminist
Traveled the world
Wrote numerous
Bestsellers.

Taught others
How to pause
And smell the flowers
Appreciate their loved ones
And count their blessings.

Always sought
New knowledge
Asking questions
Relentlessly
Of friends and strangers.

In her own small way
Made
A difference
In the lives of those
She touched.

---------------


---------------

Needy, selfish, confused
Imposing wife and daughter
With no real friends
Enjoyed being a
Loner.

Staunchly believed
Her viewpoint
Was the
Only
Right one.

Feminist who sought
Equality for those
Who did not seek it
Was full of
Idealism.

Led a nomad life
That didn't amount
To much
Thought of writing books
But never did.

Died dissatisfied
And unhappy
Writing her own obituary
Because she knew
No one else
Would.

-----------------

Copyediting the obituary for Santa Clara's former president (who died two days ago after a short battle with pancreatic cancer) made me realize how our every day actions control what goes in that homage when we have passed.

We will be remembered as who we are today, not who we can become tomorrow -- for who knows, tomorrow may never come...

Some of us have will have a series of accomplishments; others will have adjectives.

Some will see the tide of time; others will pass away before they reach their prime.

Some will be missed by millions; others just by their families.

Some will change the course of history; others will be remembered for simple deeds of kindness.

No matter how or when we die, the bottomline is all of us will.

How do you want to be remembered?

Also posted on my blog.



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New shoes in the gym

I never really know what the topic of my next article is going to be. I've often said this is one of the joys of writing for me...that endless discovery and enjoyment of the unexpected moments of inspiration. Today, inspiration visited in the form of a quote:



Don't be afraid if things seem difficult in the beginning. That's only the initial impression. The important thing is not to retreat; you have to master yourself. - Olga Korbut, Olympic Gold Gymnastics Medalist

This quote immediately brought to mind the days when I used to work out with a personal trainer at my gym. I was assigned a trainer who eventually became one of my dearest friends. Two people could not be more different. I'm not athletically inclined and I do not enjoy exercising. I do it because I know it's important and necessary. I chose to go the trainer route so that I was accountable to someone and wouldn't tank on the intention to stick with a program. My trainer turned out to be a 6'5" muscle bound guy who truly loves exercise. Loves it so much, he calls a ten minute stint on the exercise bike at Level 8 a "cardio break". As in, "Okay Dawn, let's finish up this set on your triceps and then go over to the bike and have a Cardio Break...it'll be fun! We'll do Level 8!"

Photo courtesy of
http://www.pycfitness.com/
Picture me shooting said bike a look of pure loathing as I climbed on and groaned, complained and grumbled my way through Level 8 for ten minutes. If you haven't tried Level 8, let me just share with you that it feels like pedaling through mud....hip deep, half dried, very thick mud. It never felt like a break to me. Breaks are something that give you rest, right? Pedaling through hip deep, half dried, very thick mud is not a 'break'. It is torture. Unless you have a very strange person next to you who thinks it's the best thing since sliced bread and you love that person. Then you do your best to get through ten minutes of torture without too much whining and complaining. I admit, I whined and complained plenty; I laughed too.

But I digress. My point in bringing up the gym and personal trainers is that each time my trainer would introduce a new exercise, I would have a curious reaction. Almost 100% of the time, my body would try to throw a proverbial tantrum which manifested in the form of nausea. Serious, gut grinding nausea that had me positive I was on the verge of throwing up. Sorry to be graphic, but it's true. For some reason, a new demand on my physical body would result in that reaction. It put me in mind of a child throwing a fit to avoid some unpleasant task or chore. I had a mental image of my stomach saying, in cartoon balloon text, "Okay, that's not fun. In fact, that hurts. What she's doing hurts! What can we do to make her stop doing that thing that hurts? Let's make her sick. Seriously sick. She'll stop if we make her feel like crud. Bring on the extreme nausea!"

I learned that if I breathed through the nausea and kept right on with the thing that hurt, usually within about 5 minutes, the nausea would recede to a manageable level. With continued activity of this new exercise, the nausea would finally stop. My trainer must've had experience with this phenomenon, because he would gently, but firmly keep pushing me to continue. While sometimes it was downright unpleasant, it taught me something about myself. Although this was a reflex reaction that I was experiencing, it also underscored what Ms. Korbut's quote mentions - new things can give us pause.

Fear of the unknown, even with something as simple as a new exercise being introduced in the gym, can cause myriad responses on both an emotional and physical level. Most of the time, we're so busy with the detritus of daily living that we don't always pay attention to those micro-moments of unease. Because I tend to be one to ponder, when this experience happened at the gym, I paid attention. I wondered about it, studied it, even went home and dragged out my old anatomy and physiology books to understand the mechanics behind that knee jerk physical reaction. While most people aren't going to go to those lengths to understand a short moment of discomfort and unease, I believe it can definitely benefit every single one of us to stop and pay attention when something feels bad or unusual.

In this case, I discovered that I have a tendency to react on a primitive level to new physical challenges. My body and my emotional persona want to STOP THAT NOW! The good thing is that I'm fairly stubborn and really dislike admitting defeat. I also was blessed with this wonderful personal trainer and friend who was so cheerful and happy as he put me through 90 minutes of torture that I felt badly if I didn't at least try when he asked me to do something new. So, I would grit my teeth, push through the nausea and force my body and mind to adapt to a new experience.

This is something I've carried with me many years later. I no longer have a membership at that gym, and my trainer friend is now working full time at a local university in the athletic department. Our friendship is still solid, but I admit that I've slacked on daily workouts such as we used to tackle three times a week. What I took from that time in my life was, first and foremost, a beautiful friendship, and secondly, a newly discovered way to identify when I was reacting in a fear-based manner.

The mind is an incredibly complex organ that is constantly changing and adapting to new stimuli and experiences. We grow as long as we are drawing breath. The primitive reactions that we all feel, if we take time to stop and analyze them, can be quite handy tools as we go about our daily lives. There are always going to be new experiences to weather, new people to meet, new challenges to embrace and lessons....always lessons to learn. Paying attention to those reflex reactions can give us valuable insight if we just pay attention!

I used the analogy of a gym workout, but I can also say that by recognizing this specific reaction, I came to realize that in business situations the same reaction sometimes surfaced. It wasn't the same full blown attack of nausea, but it was enough of a twinge in my stomach that it would always catch my attention. I would then take that extra couple of minutes to silently reflect on the situation and people involved and invariably would realize that 'gut reaction' was a warning flag. Pay attention to those little twinges, my friends. They are happening for a reason.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.7luxuryshoes.com/
Going beyond that visceral reaction, and revisiting Ms. Korbut's quote above, adversity isn't always a bad thing. Difficulties, as her quote so wisely indicates, aren't necessarily a reason to stop and give up! New things can feel strange and uncomfortable, but so can a new pair of shoes. Look at those challenges that may seem scary as a reason to try on a proverbial new pair of shoes. Think of how differently you walk when you are wearing a new item of clothing. There's that extra bounce to your walk, that extra sparkle in your eye. The same can be true of persevering through what initially feels like a situation that will never make sense to you. Mastering your fears and putting them to use for you, rather than allowing them to convince to you stop before you even get started, can give you that same bounce to your step, that same sparkle in your eye.

So, when those uncomfortable moments hit your life, remember Olga Korbut's quote above. Take a moment and step back. Breathe through it, give thought to what you're feeling and identify the reason for the unease or fear-based reaction. Nine times out of ten, you'll realize that the fear-based reaction is just a primitive response to something that seems scary only because it is new. Challenge yourself and resolve to push through that moment and discover the exhilaration of conquering that fear. Recognize the power this puts into your hands to manifest your own success! Then congratulate yourself on the fact that you've had a bit of an "A-ha!" moment, a graduation of sorts, and you're now wearing some proverbial new shoes in the gym.

Give judicious attention also to those twinges when it is clear your instincts are clamoring and jangling away to prevent you from making a mistake or blunder in judgment. Our instincts are there to protect us, after all. Now, you may be sitting there thinking, "How do I know which is a fear-based feeling and which is an instinctive warning flag?" That's where being a responsible human being comes into play. It is up to you to decipher your body's reactions and interpret what means what. It isn't as complex as you may think, and with care and attention, you'll quickly learn to read those tell tale inward signs that your body and emotions are giving you. In time, probably much more quickly than you would imagine, you'll grow to recognize the varying degrees of internal dialogue. With a bit of practice, you'll be able to adapt quickly and maneuver through those daily bumps, obstacles and unexpected turns with ease. And I daresay those proverbial, spiritual new shoes and clothing will add that extra sparkle to your eyes and that extra snap of energy to your walk!

So, when something feels unusual, strange, perhaps uncomfortable...take a moment to identify it. React accordingly and move forward, rather than retreating in fear or confusion. Push through with that new-to-you exercise. Those new shoes are waiting to be tried on, after all!
____________________________
This post was the result of an invitation to become a contributing writer for the Australian ezine publication, Aromatique Essentials, of Julie Nelson. 
____________________________
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Simple Lifestyle

My conscious spiritual journey began as a child. My path has been marked by zigzags, detours and back tracks. I realize it's because I've been on that notorious road - the one less traveled, devoid of yellow bricks, neon signs or bright arrows to point the way.


Many years ago, while on one of my many Truth expeditions, I read a book about the spiritual and practical benefits of living a simple life. It was inspirational. I listened intently to the muffled call and hoped its source was Divine.


Poverty, like wealth, is relative. I am one of those inner city escapees, who "made it" into an unstable middle class status via the benefits of education and good luck. So, considering how poor I had been in my childhood, my adult level of abundance suddenly seemed obscene. As I inspected my immediate environment, I convinced myself that I was living in decadent luxury. My house, by my youthful standards, was huge with much of the space going to waste. I decided I didn't need it.


After reading the book, my husband became my co-conspirator in a quest to seek a simpler way of living, that would ensure our ticket to you know where. "Wow!" we told ourselves, Won't our friends, not to mention God, be impressed with our high level of spirituality? We're going to stand out in church due to our modern, progressive way of living our faith."


Humbly, we bragged about our new spiritual goal of downward mobility. Undoubtedly, many of our friends were perplexed about their feelings - a mixture of admiration and jealousy as well as a lot of condemnation for our weird way of practicing our faith.


"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
Leonardo daVinci

Our big house sold quickly and just as quickly we found a very small, modest home befitting the simplicity we aspired. Our new tiny house was cute, really. But we struggled to adjust. Both our neighbors on either side had gigantic eternally barking dogs, making it impossible for us to enjoy our small back yard. We couldn't/wouldn't use it much anyway because the unfriendly neighbors behind us vacillated between loud fights about all kinds of marital infringements and inappropriate signs of affection when they made up.


The inside of our cozy house proved inadequate for our furniture. We practically had to jump on our bed to get inside our bedroom. Collaborating on cooking was out of the question in the tiny galley kitchen. Dirty clothes spilled out of the little laundry room (if one could call it that), curtailing our access to the undersized linen closet.


Entertaining was difficult, and we resigned ourselves to what we rationalized as chic dinners for no more than two friends at a time. Christmas proved to be a fiasco, when stubbornly we decided to maintain tradition and invite the usual guests. Plates and glasses were spilled as people bumped into each other. Some people ate in the bedrooms and some preferred to stay outside.


~



The book on simplicity was eventually taken to the used book store. It was replaced with books about mindfulness, chanting, meditation and other spiritual topics in vogue. I clung to my church by a thread, perhaps more from habit than belief. Gradually, I became unable to sustain my insincerity and left.


Downward mobility, the simple lifestyle turned out to be a great unaccomplished goal. Careers moved upward for my husband and me. Salaries increased and discomfort in the cute, little house became intolerable. We both yearned for a place with solace and privacy, where we could peacefully continue our journey on a more sincere track.
~


We now live in a different house. It can be described as beautiful, private comfortable, inviting and warm...and big enough. To me it is primarily simple - an ashram of sorts, where I practice my inclusive mixture of spirituality.
I no longer need to move downward or upward. I just need to be whoever I am at this moment, at whatever stage in the journey I happen to be. I realize now that spiritual growth, any growth, any journey is a process. Simplicity, like humility and other worthy spiritual goals, begins in the heart and is not limited to the realm of possessions or material wealth. A real transformation blossoms from the inside out. A book can perhaps suggest it, but only Life can demonstrate it and prepare us for it. If we're not ready for something, we can't force it to happen.

I haven't totally given up the quest for a simple life, but now it seems to be happening naturally. Though I do focus on the need to lessen my consumerism and my personal ecological footprint, I find I actually do need and use less. I think also that intention has much to do with it, but we'll leave that subject for another day.


"Live simply so that others may simply live."
Mahatma Gandhi
Also posted on my blog: http://mydailyspirit.net/