The Freedom To Improvise

The Freedom To Improvise

“Attachment guarantees that you will wake up every morning with a mission: to prove you are who you think you are—today. But it’s a total energy drain. You’re so busy performing a role that you miss out on the freedom to improvise, to be real rather than rehearsed.”
― Gabrielle Roth

As a new week begins and you return to the desk or the cash register or the carpool line after a few days away from the daily grind, take a moment to reflect.  How’s your energy today?  Is it low because you are trying to live up to the expectations that you revive each morning?  Did it start high and then start to seep like a dam with a slow leak because you started role playing instead of living your own story?  Or, maybe it’s the same as it always is, a dull hum that you wish would start to pulse to the beat that you know is in you somewhere.

However your…

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It’s Only A Door

It’s Only A Door

“The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door”
~Adrienne Rich

Crossing that thresold into your uncharted future is an act of great courage and self compassion, and it changes your relationship to life in a fundamental way. It embodies your willingness to employ a new form of risk taking, to consciously choose growth-stimulating, soul-nourishing conflicts, to live through the accompanying anxiety, and to accept your life as open ended and unpredictable. Passing through the door commits you to living in the present in a way you never before have.  ~Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft

Have you seen that movie, Sliding Doors?  I have to admit that I don’t really remember the plot very well, other than in tandem story lines, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character misses her train by seconds as the doors slide shut in one and in the other she makes it and goes on with her day as planned.  Her choices as a result of missing the train and going through a different door alter the course of her life almost beyond recognition.  In the movie, at least as I remember it, she doesn’t consciously choose to miss the train of course.  But she does and goes through a different door that she normally would have chosen, and we see the chain reaction of events that emerge.  It can be a scary thing, a door.  An unwanted thing.  And it can be life changing. Continue reading “It’s Only A Door”

Shocked By The Possible

Shocked By The Possible

The first real snowfall of a newly cold season is always a little shocking.  Especially when it seems to come out of nowhere on the tails of an Alaskan typhoon. One day the ground is brown and dry, the sun is out and the corn is still waiting to be harvested…..and then next everything is blindingly white, the horizon is grey with snow-filled clouds and the memory of dry ground grows more distant with each glance out the window.  Piles and drifts of snow now cover every inch of the ground, buildings, trees and roads.

This morning as it was still coming down, I went out into the garden and woods behind the house on snowshoes.  It was eerily quiet, all sounds muted by the layer of new snow.  Even though we live out-of-town, cars can still usually be heard going by on the busier roads, planes occasionally fly overhead and people are out and about.  Not so today-it was silent, except for the thud from piles of snow that sometimes fell to the ground from the trees, or a bird calling from an unseen perch.  The only sounds I could hear were from the earth herself, relishing in the respite from human frenzy, enjoying the deep stillness, if even for just a short while.  The silence was eventually broken by a tow truck that slipped off the road and into the ditch, its lights flashing in the white expanse, but even the harsh sounds of metal clanging were overshadowed by the sense of calm.

Perhaps this sense of stillness and peace is the earth’s way of telling us to stop.  To rest.  To slow the constant push to move on to the next thing.  There are so many who may never stop to take in what is actually happening in the world.  To rest.  To be with what is happening “right now” in their lives.  I suppose that is their choice, and one that I have to accept.   I’ve been that person, too, and will probably be again.   Even on my best days, I’ve never been able to impact someone else’s free will.   And sometimes I  forget that I have my own to do with what I wish.  That’s ok as long as I remember more than I forget.   Those ‘other’ people?  They are ok, too, and they can exist how they need to.  So can I.  I can choose to acknowledge the way of stillness and peace, even in the midst of those who do not.   Even in the midst of my own inner typhoons when they start to swirl –  every storm has an eye, after all, one that provides space to remember and grab onto that peace to ride out the next wave.

So I can embrace the stillness that lives inside and give thanks for it when it is visible outside.  I can make peace with what is, what has been and what will be.  And above all, as Rumi celebrates, I can Come out from the circle of time and into the circle of love.  I can be shocked by what’s possible when I live that way.

Allow yourself to be shocked by what’s possible.

Buried Joy

Buried Joy

“Be joyful because it is humanly possible.”  Wendell Berry has written a lot of words that eloquently illustrate basic truths, but I think these seven words are some of his most important for humans to hear and embody.  Everyone has the opportunity for joy, even if it’s fleeting or hard to recognize or stuck under melancholy. The joy that is stuck or buried is even perhaps the joy that persists when things are challenging – it’s the joy that refuses to let go even when our human experience is wrought with hardship and despair and searching.  It’s the joy that is still there even when we can’t see it, or when we let our focus go to the thing with the loudest voice – sometimes joy tends to be soft spoken.  This is the joy that makes us human, the joy that is the love at our center, the joy that reminds us that though our emotions are real, we don’t have to let them control our life experience.  We don’t have to let our life situation and how we feel about it dictate how we perceive what happens, or what doesn’t.  We can be joyful simply because it’s  possible.

Years ago I worked in a fitness facility that was set up to support the efforts of people affected by physical disability.  There were special adaptive machine settings to accommodate wheelchairs, straps to secure a weak grip onto a bar and a warm water pool for bodies that craved the way swimming allows for limitless movement.  The facility attracted all sorts of people – a lot of older adults recovering from stroke, children who were learning to live in a body that just wouldn’t cooperate in doing activities of daily living, and individuals who needed a place to exercise that saw them as whole instead of broken.

There is one woman who I will always remember.  She was in her mid 40s and came rolling into the fitness center every Thursday at about 2pm.  An accident 10 years prior left her with no use of her lower body, and limited use of her torso and arms.  We spent the hour she was there each week moving from one piece of equipment to the next, and I helped her get situated by swinging the seat out so she could roll into place and strapping her hands to the bar or pulley so she could manipulate it.  Every workout was the same – I don’t remember ever increasing the weight or seeing any progress in her strength or ability.  She just showed up every week, did her circuit and moved on to the rest of her day.

What makes me remember her is that she didn’t convey frustration or anger.  She never showed disappointment in the lack of noticeable physical progress.  She didn’t complain about the ice in the winter and how her wheel chair slipped on it, or about how long it took to get in and out of her van, or about having to move from the home she loved because she couldn’t get to the bathroom on the second floor anymore.  She spoke of her life before the accident not with longing and regret, but with gratitude for the experiences that she had when she could walk.  And she spoke of her current life in the same way.  Not with longing for her past, or with anger that she no longer had a body that would do what it once did, but instead with gratitude that she had a body that could carry her through life, and the new experiences and opportunities that occur because of the change in that body.

She took the joy that could have stayed buried under grief and hardship and used it to move through a really difficult transition.  She took what could have easily become an avenue into bitterness and turned instead onto a path paved with beauty and appreciation for what the world can be .  She didn’t let the accident and its outcome shout louder that the joy that was a part of her core essence.  She didn’t let her life situation and how she felt about it dictate how she responded to what happened, or to what didn’t.   She chose to be joyful because it was possible.

All You Need Is Love

All You Need Is Love

What does love mean to you?

Love tends to be a word of many meanings: The devotion of a parent to a child, romantic love between two adults, a child’s love for a pet, the love between friends, an individual’s love of nature, and love of the self. There are a myriad of ways that love shows up in the world.  And in a world that has more than enough conflict and negativity, we might argue that the power of love has the ability to overshadow all else and has more impact than we realize when we skim the surface of what it can accomplish.

There have been studies that indicate being with a loved one or pet results in a drop in blood pressure (*State University of New York), and other reports have demonstrated that being in an intimate relationship can result in a longer lifespan (*National Institute of Medicine).   We know that building self-confidence and accepting the present, even while working through difficult situations, can have profound impacts on our physical, mental and emotional health – sometimes far beyond what we might think possible.   We might even go as far as saying that supporting someone else, no matter how far removed, as they work toward their best health and wellbeing is a way of expressing love: A love of possibility, infused with positive energy, a love for humanity and all of its intricacies, and love via a deep sense of knowing that any positive actions and words speak an ancient truth.

Eventually you will come to realize that love heals everything, and love is all there is. –Gary Zukav

So, a simple word – love – is a way shower to abundance and life: To possibilities, wellbeing, and contentment with all that is. Take the rest of this month to think about how love is showing up for you each day, and make a point to show it to everyone you encounter as you move through your own version of reality.

Come out from the circle of time and into the circle of love.  — Rumi

Living Through Strengths

Living Through Strengths

Performance reviews. Assessments. Evaluations. The dreaded annual review. Most of us have run into some kind of quality assurance technique while employed in the American workforce, or at least know someone who has.

Evaluations are a regular part of life at my place of employment and something that I am very used to by now. Typically I get good scores and the evaluation includes plenty of praise and positive acknowledgement, along with whatever constructive criticism is appropriate to the work that is being evaluated.

Usually I can look through the evaluation form, note what needs to be noted, and move on. I can accept feedback when needed, use it appropriately, and in turn notice the strengths of others and acknowledge them along the way. I do pretty well, really.

Most days, doing pretty well is enough. But sometimes I get the feeling that there is something missing. That I could still do better. That enough isn’t actually satisfactory. That if I’m not constantly evaluating how I’m doing and striving for something better, there’s something wrong. That in acknowledging others, my voice gets tired and there’s not much left for acknowledging myself.

Even though I can plainly see the strengths in others and even verbalize them regularly, I don’t always notice and acknowledge them in myself. I have a tendency to want acknowledgement but brush it off when it arrives.

I crave being recognized for doing well but hardly know how to react when that craving is satisfied.

When I receive feedback—even when it’s positive—my default reaction is usually set to “how could I do this better?” It’s easy to get stuck inside the idea that there’s always room for improvement, and then turn a blind eye to what has already been improved or what doesn’t need to be.

There is nothing wrong with striving to better one’s self, growing professionally, building skills, or figuring out how to be more effective at what we choose to spend our time doing. But I think that sometimes we spend all of our time figuring out how to better ourselves, how to grow professionally, how to build even better skills, or how to be even more effective.

We get so caught up in growing and getting better that we forget to honor the life we have right now.

I know I get caught up in our culture’s mantra of “more, better, faster” more often than I care to admit.

What if I could take my usually positive outlook and mold it into a way of being that sets my default to accepting wherever I am in my job, or my relationships, or my life situation? What if I could celebrate what is?

What if I could put the focus on the strengths and gifts that I have—like being able to see the good in a challenging situation, or finding the joy that hides under anxiety, or baking a really good loaf of bread, or always knowing where the keys are—and then accept whatever comes from that focus?

What if we all focused on what we already excel at, or what we have bettered already, instead of that thing we feel is a weakness that needs fixing?

Perhaps the intent to celebrate the perfection that we already are would allow us to evolve into a collective that is founded on acceptance and peace and less focused on longing.

Maybe accepting the perfection that lies beneath our struggles can help move us into a space beyond what we think is possible—a space that knows no limits and a space that is simply enough. Period.

Seeking to grow and building on knowledge and presence of being invites excellence by creating space for that excellence to exist and thrive. But perhaps we cannot expand without first truly seeing ourselves as complete.

It could be that the excellence I invite by way of acceptance is different from what I have been taught to strive for over the years. It could be that “living my strengths” means moving slower, or pushing forward less. It could mean resisting the urge to try to be something I’m not. It could mean listening to understand more and listening to respond less.

I think it also means stopping to notice the beauty of a pebble in the rain, or hearing the gentle rustle of leaves when the wind changes direction, or feeling the warmth of the sun after the fog lifts.

It means looking into the eyes of someone different and seeing truth reflected back.

It means accepting ourselves as whole and complete, and letting that acceptance grow into our own version of perfection.

I could say there is no such thing as a perfect life and that there is always room for improvement and growth. I think I’d be right.

I could say that every life is perfect if allowed to be. And I think I’d still be right.

Living through strengths is not easy. But living through our strengths sets us up to find our unique version of perfection.  Accepting whatever that perfections looks like reminds us that we are enough.

Read the original posting at Tiny Buddha.

Value

Value

We see value in the eight week old chickens that spend their days poking around in the sparse woods, climbing logs and honing their scratching skills in the spring soil as their caretakers commit themselves to making a new way of life. We see value in the neighbor’s greeting as he gathers the last buckets of a maple’s sweet life blood at the close of this year’s sap run, and in the children who offer their enthusiasm to the project. We see value in new trees being planted, in spring snow giving way to spring sun, and in the hints of green that cast a hue of promise over the fields. We see value in the wood duck perched high in the basswood tree, in the gentle flap of a sand hill crane’s wings overhead, and in the beaver, the keeper of the lake. We see value in life unfolding organically all around us.

Turns out the value that is needed to sustain abundant life isn’t found in a bank, a trust fund, or a gold bar. Value isn’t in the numbers of a dollar amount next to the numbers of checking account when you look at an online banking profile. Value doesn’t come from putting in overtime for a company that works for profit of a few.

Real value can be found in the sacred of life, in the people and creatures that call the earth home, and in the energy that flows between everything in the universe.

There is a Native American saying which goes something like this: “Only when the last tree has withered, the last fish has been caught, and the last river has been poisoned, will we realize we cannot eat money.” No one wants this to be the end of our story: Not the linemen who work for oil companies. Not the suburbanites who drive army vehicles to get their groceries at the nearest Walmart. Not the farmer who sprays his GMO crops with Roundup. Not the commuter who travels two hours every day to get to a high paying trading job on Wall Street.

We need to remember where our value lies, and use it. We need to remember that the reason we are alive and in communion with this place, this earth, is to experience the abundance that is possible when we make a point to notice it. We need to judge less and love more. We need to cling to the outcome we want less and accept more. We need to turn a blind eye to the cry of the earth less and listen more. We need to see value where the value is.

Goodness is the only investment that never fails. -Thoreau