It happens every year in many parts of the world. The days get shorter, the gardens get tilled under, the lawnmower goes into storage. Heavy coats and hats and sweaters get pulled out of storage, and chili starts sounding good again. Frost appears in the morning grass where dew used to be, and you can see your breath when you walk around the block. And then it snows. Winter is coming.
Granted, not every place on the earth sees harsh winter weather, but plenty of places have their fair share of cold and wind and dark.Daylight in the northern hemisphere wanes as the winter solstice approaches, and sometimes if we aren’t careful, whole days can go by without feeling any sun – however cold it might be – on our faces. Cabin fever sets in, and we start to wait for spring.
But…..maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. What if we could embrace whatever Mother Nature decides to dole out and made getting outside a priority no matter how cold or wet or snowy or dark it gets? I think it’s worth it to give old man winter a little love. Because a whole season with no natural light and letting a little cold weather keep us inside? Every year? No way, man. No. Way. Life’s too good to spend it waiting for summer. Continue reading “5 Ways to Fall in Love With Winter”
Part of my day job is calling people to schedule coaching appointments. Usually people are polite and respectful, and even sometimes downright kind hearted and pleasant to talk to. Which is good news, since I’m calling them to put them on my own coaching calendar, so we’ll be talking again. It’s helpful to start the relationship off on a positive note.
But today I called a gentleman who wasn’t any of those things. Quite the opposite, really, he was quite mean and disrespectful. I asked if he wanted to set up a call, and he responded with sentences that tended to start with “you people” and “do you even realize” and so on, punctuated by sarcastic chuckling. In short, he made it personal and he wanted me to acknowledge that I was in the wrong. I was the enemy, and he was going to let me know it. Usually I am good at being able to internalize the fact that everyone is dealing with a plethora of issues that I do not know about and that are quite probably very challenging, resulting in unfriendly behavior; and hey, maybe this man was just having a tough day, or week, or year. His energy is absolutely the product of our broken culture, and at the end of the day, he needs love, too. But today when he was essentially scolding me for not being able to meet his expectations, all I could hear was “you aren’t good enough” and “this is why it’s doing me a disservice.” I felt like the bad child who doesn’t measure up, and I found myself apologizing and trying to hold back tears. Which is really interesting, as 1. I did nothing “wrong” and 2. I was quite kind, professional and offered what I had to give. He just didn’t find it acceptable. When on the call, I knew intellectually that his issues and his anger were not about me at all, but in the moment his energy triggered a response that I couldn’t control. I had to hang up the phone. Continue reading “The Other: Crumbs of Despair”
Productivity doesn’t equal worth. Right? Deep down, I know this statement it absolutely true. At the core, each living being on earth is of infinitely more value than can be measured or quantified. Each person, or creature, or plant, or river is so much more than whatever is accomplished or produced in a lifetime. Yet we have a hard time accepting this. We see our land-base as a commodity more often than we see it as a partner in life. We tend to use water and air and soil for our own gain with little thought beyond what our actions might mean for someone across the world or a child born three generations from now. Often we mean well and even start to change our ways, but then life gets hard and it’s easier not to. We slip back into believing that more is better and that getting ahead and making the grade is what’s important. We start to see high productivity as the ideal and we lose faith in believing that it really isn’t when we are trying to tell the truth and the people who have the power to create change don’t believe. Or don’t want to.
I say I am trying to be ok with mediocrity. In another blog post recently, I wrote,
I’ve recognized that if I’m going to stay in my day job and thrive as a human being, mediocrity is my new goal for success. It’s hard to let old tendencies of wanting to be a top performer or make good grades or always receive glowing reviews go. But I’ve realized that, at least in my current life and work situation, being a top performer isn’t what matters to living the life that I want to live.
Continue reading “Productivity Doesn’t Equal Worth”
How beautiful can life be? We hardly dare imagine it.
― Charles Eisenstein
I’m taking an eCourse over the next six weeks called the Space Between Stories. It’s being put on by author Charles Eisenstein and will include guest speakers as well as the opportunity to connect and process the materials and ideas put forth with other course participants via online forums. I’m not sure exactly what it will be like, and I don’t really have any expectations going into the experience, but Charles’ writing and verbalization of ideas has resonated with me over the last few years so it feels like an important thing to participate in. The course calls the “space between stories” the time when the old story of who I am, what is real, and how to navigate life has broken down. It is the time when my familiar ways of making meaning are no longer relevant. I don’t know who I am. What had seemed so permanent, reliable, understandable and real is revealed as an illusion.
In The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, Charles makes the case that we are currently stuck in between two stories: the old story of Separation and the new story of Interbeing.
You might already have an inkling of what the old story of Separation is all about. It’s about achieving success in life by doing well in school, getting a well-paying job, contributing to the growth of the economy; basically, it’s about following the rules of society and relies on human advancements to keep everything continually moving forward. It’s about getting more, doing better, and “making things happen.” In Chapter One, Eisenstein writes about his childhood,
Life made sense. If you worked hard you could get good grades, get into a good college, go to grad school or follow some other professional path, and you would be happy. With a few unfortunate exceptions, you would be successful if you obeyed the rules of our society: if you followed the latest medical advice, kept informed by reading the New York Times, got a good education, obeyed the law, made prudent investments, and stayed away from Bad Things like drugs. Sure there were problems, but the scientists and experts were working hard to fix them. Soon a new medical advance, a new law, a new educational technique, would propel the onward improvement of life. My childhood perceptions were part of a narrative I call the Story of the People, in which humanity was destined to create a perfect world through science, reason, and technology: to conquer nature, transcend our animal origins, and engineer a rational society.
Continue reading “A More Beautiful World: The Space Between Stories”
It is three weeks into the month of December and across much of the continental United States it feels like winter has arrived in full. The solstice – the official turn of the season – was yesterday: the end and the beginning. Those of a Christian faith continue to wait in hopeful expectation for the promise of light to arrive on Christmas as another season of advent progresses. The sun continues to rise and set in an ancient rhythm. Undertones of anger and injustice remain alive and well in too many places. Living creatures die at the hands of other living creatures, for reasons that are as wide ranging as the stars even as they mirror patterns that have repeated for generations. Traffic moves across the globe, we continue to consume, and our footprints seem to go deeper by the day. Yet I hold onto expectations and hope that something better will reveal itself in a way that can be recognized.
Professor Debra Dean Murphy writes,
“Waiting” works if you live in a world where you know that a little more patience generally would do you good. “Hopeful expectation” has a pleasant enough sound if your life is going reasonably well at the moment.
What does “hopeful expectation” sound like, look like in places where justice has long been delayed, meaning, of course, that justice has been denied?
Hope is not wishful thinking; it is risk and action and the courage to undertake both.
But …… it is also vulnerability and a willingness to walk alongside those whose hopes have been crushed.
Continue reading “Waiting for the Sacred”
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.
It’s not just schools that often lack gentleness. Workplaces can rub us raw too, as can public transit, shopping malls, restaurants, and daycare. The levels of noise, advertising, and stressed-out people dealing with other stressed-out people can leave us feeling bombarded and drained.
Creating more spaces of refuge, like public parks, is one option. But another option is to integrate gentleness into all our spaces and daily interactions. It could be something as small as turning down the music in cafés. Or as radical as a mother making the commitment to care for herself with as much tenderness as she does her family.
[and at the end of the day]…
It is me saying to myself: “I’m so in awe of you, I must treat you as if I truly understood what noble means.” It is me saying to others: “I get it. We’re wounded and taking a thousand risks simply by showing up. And I see that. I honor you.” ~
Gentleness forms the under-song of survival — the hidden face of evolution, wars, famine — and the partner of resilience. It is the loving touch that reminds us we are not alone, and there is hope. There is healing. Gentleness exists between people. And it dwells within each of us.
How do you cultivate gentleness within yourself? When encountering others?