Be In The Conversation, Not The Fight

Be In The Conversation, Not The Fight

I’m involved in an online course right now called the Space Between Stories.  The short explanation (if you haven’t read the other two posts about this course yet) is that it’s about figuring out what it means to be a human right now on an earth that is struggling in a myriad of ways: from climate change to wealth inequality to health disparities to war to fresh water scarcity…the list could go on and on.   The course calls the space between stories the time when the old story of who we are, what is real and how to navigate has essentially broken down. It’s a time when familiar ways of making meaning and operating in day to day life are no longer relevant. And it’s a time when, every now and then, glimpses of what could be present themselves.

peacetogetherbw1

Activist Jodie Evans spoke during the last session, and she shared stories about her work standing up for non-violent communication efforts, protesting various war activities, and her experiences from a life spent working to promote local peace economies. She’s an advocate of not forcing an outcome, but of instead taking action that aligns with her values and being ok in the unknowing of what might come to pass as a result. She bases her work on cultivating hope from positive change, regardless of scale. But the thing she said that resonated with me the most was when she said, “be in the conversation, not the fight.” In her work, she has seen firsthand how operating from a place of love, even when the outcome is completely unknown, has proven infinitely more effective than simply going to battle for a cause. Continue reading “Be In The Conversation, Not The Fight”

A Heart Opening

A Heart Opening

Stand with your bare feet on the ground, hip width distance apart, if you are in a climate that allows doing so, or in front of a window if you are in a part of the world that is currently covered in snow. If standing isn’t an option for you, sit with your back straight; in a chair or in a comfortable cross legged position on the floor.

Let your arms dangle at your sides, roll your shoulders on your back and let your gaze roll down the tip of your nose, or close your eyes.   Engage your core.

Breathe in through your nose, deep into your belly, and let your arms reach out and up above your head. Bring your palms to touch and look up. Exhale and let your arms float back down again to your sides.

Repeat.

Breathe in through your nose, deep into your belly, and let your arms reach out and up above your head. Bring your palms to touch and look up. Exhale and let your arms float back down again to your sides.

Feel the energy from the core of the earth rise through your breath and ground you fully into your being.

Feel the energy that you hold in your own core mesh with the energy that pulses through all of creation.

Feel the energy and let it offer a sense of calm.

Feel the energy and let it offer a place of strength that you can always return to. Continue reading “A Heart Opening”

Little Bits of Good

Little Bits of Good

January.  A time to take stock of what’s working and what’s not.   Resolving to do better this year.   Worrying that nothing will change. Again. Losing those 30 pounds… for real this time.   Giving up all foods that contain white sugar and flour.  Going gluten free.  Joining the gym.  Taking up yoga. Quitting smoking.  Quitting drinking.  Quitting gambling.  Quitting failing.  January in the western world is full of anticipation and anxiety as we look for a fresh start – as we look for something that will keep us moving into the life that we want.

54760

How might we take the start of another calendar year to surrender into a version of life that is simply… enough?  What it would be like to be satisfied – really satisfied – with exactly where we are, regardless of what our external life situation might look like? How can we use our everyday actions to illustrate a way of being in the world that promotes joy instead of suffering?  How can we make January about what is, instead of what isn’t?

I wonder how to accept the present – to really, truly accept it and be in it.  I wonder how to discern the direction my life needs to take to best serve my family and the larger collective.   I wonder how to be in the world as one of the privileged, and how to accept that for what it is.  I wonder how best to use the abundance that I have to help others see their own.  I wonder how to use ideas that don’t work as stepping stones toward those that do. Continue reading “Little Bits of Good”

Waiting for the Sacred

Waiting for the Sacred

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”

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.

Gifts of the Ordinary

Gifts of the Ordinary

Kahlil Gibran once wrote, “We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” There is not a day that goes by that I do not have the opportunity to dwell on 30 seconds of disappointment, or 2 minutes of worry, or a half hour of wishing I was somewhere else. There is ample challenge, heartache and disappointment to be found in all sorts of places if I want to find those things. The world can be a place of fear and grief, of anguish and loss, or of longing and dashed hopes. When we dwell on what’s not right in the world, when we shut out the beauty that persists despite the hardships that pepper our experience, and when we don’t open the gift that ordinary offers, the world aches.

I can remember glancing out the front window during a lull halfway through my work day this past September and seeing my husband swing our one and a half year old daughter up onto his shoulders as they made their way to the garage. The sun was filtering through the newly yellowed leaves on the maple tree, and a gentle breeze was ruffling them, hinting at the coming of autumn. Nick walked slowly up the stone path. Eva rode tall on his shoulders, happily smelling the tiny green blanket that goes with her everywhere and occasionally hooting like an owl. They rounded the corner and were out of my sight lines in about 30 seconds.

It was only 30 seconds, but it was 30 seconds of pure joy.

One tiny slice of joy, added to the other tiny slices that infuse themselves into my consciousness over the course of a day eventually bind together into contentment. Sometimes it takes a while, but at the end of the day, contentment somehow settles into my veins. Those little slices of joy force me to acknowledge that when I look for gifts in the ordinary, when I notice what’s right in the world, and when I see the beauty that punctuates every moment, the world gets better. When I choose joy, the world weeps in gratitude, and the ache subsides.

The world wants to get better, and it does when we remember to see beauty where yesterday we saw nothing in the ordinary events that took place. Little bits of the world start to heal when we remember that we are the universe, and the universe is us. The world’s ache transmutes into peace when we remember that there is no light without darkness and when we accept the oneness that wants to flow through us.

The world is better when we acknowledge 30 seconds of pure joy on a Monday in September and when we replace worry and longing with the gifts of the ordinary.

“The world is filled, and filled with wonder. To see this is to be made free. There is transformation in the beauty of the ordinary. The grace, the light of a brief encounter, of the greening weeping willow, of coffee brewing. There could have been nothing, but there is something, and that something is very good. We forget that, in the drudgery of life. We forget to look around with the amazement of a child. We forget to be kind to each other and make apple pie and plant trees. I want to remember.” -Ellie Roscher [adapted]

Clean Blue Air

Clean Blue Air

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

—Mary Oliver

Dream Work   (Atlantic Monthy Press, 1986)

The world offers itself to your imagination. Your place in it is not set in stone – nor is it something to dread or resign yourself to. There are challenges, yes. Despair is real and familiar to all. But the winter still comes each year, as does the spring, summer and fall. Every dew wet apple blossom, every garden plot filled with creeping flowers and weeds, each crimson leaf, each sparkle in a newly white morning – each nuance of creation offers up a sense of place and rhythm. Know that you have a place in that rhythm. Your own – and you are enough.

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.

Be Right

Be Right

You might say it’s as bad as it ever was.
You’d be right.

You might say things have really taken a turn for the worse.
You’d be right, too.

You might say the world is a scary place, and we all better do everything we can to protect ourselves.
You’d still be right.
                                                                                                                                       
You might say it’s a beautiful time to be alive.
You’d be right.

You might say things aren’t easy, but light still shines in the midst of shadows.
You’d be right, too.

You might say the world is a place where peace has the power to manifest in ways that we can only imagine on our best days.
You’d still be right.

Remember the power that moves through thought. Your reality is what you make it. Look through the illusions, past the projected pain and around the fear that plagues what we are presented. Have compassion for those who suffer, but keep your energy to do the real work.  Remember that you’ll always be right.

Embody Abundance

Embody Abundance

Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves. ~Mahatma Gandhi

Embody abundance. I heard someone say those two words the other day. What does that mean, really? To truly embody abundance, do we need to have everything we want? Or can anyone who holds space for truth experience a way of being that is free of lack?

Maybe to embody abundance is to recognize the realness that underlies the illusory film that covers much of what we see in our day-to-day lives. Maybe abundance is always there, but we forget to see it.

In my day-to-day work, I usually get to practice from a home office. After moving 60 miles outside of the metro to a more rural area, I hardly ever go into the city anymore. I tend to like it that way, spending most days at home, either in a quiet space indoors or outside in the woods or garden.  When I do find myself navigating a more urban area, or even just venturing out of my familiar, natural spaces, my vision tends to get clouded with traffic, crowds, and consumerism.

When the clouds roll in, it is all too easy to forget the abundance that I am usually good at recognizing. Sometimes I forget to remember to see what I want to see.

What if I could remember to look past the traffic, past the crowds, and past the consumerism? I wonder what that view could be like. I imagine it might show me wildflowers in the freeway ditches, insistent at opening their petals to the sun, despite the concrete that mars their view.  It might show me a person, or two people, or a group of five, interacting with themselves, each other, and creation in a way that honors honesty and cooperation. It might show me vibrant new ideas that refuse to be pushed aside standing next to the whisper of peace that always keeps watch under the dull hum of advertising and shopping malls.

What if instead of seeing poverty, despair, pain, and cruelty in the world, we saw opportunities for growth, seeds of hope, room for healing, and the sharing of compassion? What if we could truly embody abundance in every thought?

Maybe it would make a difference in the reality that we live. Maybe—even when in unfamiliar, chaotic territory—if we look past the veils, under the illusions, and through the empty material desires of the current human experience, we will recognize everyday abundance in all things.  Perhaps then we can embody our abundance to experience and remember all that is, absent limits and free of lack.  Perhaps we can each take our life situation for what it is—a situation—instead of a sentence or definition; busy or not, and let it be a way for our being, our true self, to experience all that is worth experiencing.

Each life situation is a unique chance to embody the abundance that is already present. I can embody abundance. So can you. We just need to remember to do it.

So walk through a grove of aspen trees. Stand in a ray of sunlight in the middle of the city. Marvel at the way your physical body helps you carry out the mission of your soul. Focus. Spend time loving the present. Take some time off if serves you. Enjoy silence. Be loud when being loud helps.  Dance with your baby, talk to your neighbor, let the snow or rain melt into your skin, and see the art in the world. Look past the to-do list to what is. Find your abundance, and honor it.

This post first appeared at TinyBuddha.