Monday, June 19, 2017

Helping out a Friend

I have a friend, who I will call Amy as I haven't asked her permission to write about her in depth here. I will also somewhat disguise the situation she finds herself in for the same reason. At any rate, she found herself victimized in a scam because someone stole her friend's identity. (I do often think that if the perpertrator's would spend as much time, effort and creativity into creating a legitimate business that they and the world would be much better off.)

Amy is also in the metaphysical business but has reached out on a couple of occasions asking about the situation. She asks because she says she is too close to the situation. I am happy to ask my angels and guides about the situation and relay the guidance I recieve to her. 

In how many ways can we provide small (or large) services to help out a friend? My helping Amy today did not take a lot of time. It did not take a lot of effort. It hopefully has provided some clarity about what is going on. 

In how many ways can we proivde services to help out a neighbor just as we would help a friend? I had a neighbor knock on my door one day asking if I could follow her while she dropped off her car for a repair and then take her back to pick it up. I, truthfully, would have preferred that she had asked me a bit more in advance, but I had the time so I said sure. 

And, how do we define a neighbor? Solely the person next door, down the block? Is someone in the next town a neighbor? In a different country? It all comes down to perspective, I suppose.

A different friend commented once that she was struggling with the love your neighbor as yourself as there are people she just doesn't like. My response to her was that I didn't think that love meant familial or romantic love in this case, but rather it is wishing the best for everyone. To me, on reflection, just as you would wish the best for family and friends, loving your neighbor is wanting everyone to be healthy, having a decent safe place to live, fulfilling work, good food, clean water, and so on.

I am not trying to say that I am great because I did these things for a friend and a neighbor. I wrote about them because sometimes we all can get caught up in the idea that it is only the big, grand gestures that count, when most likely, it is the small things we do to help that make a huge difference in the world. 

Note: the photos are from my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be (here).

Monday, June 12, 2017

Shifting Things

Things happen. Things shift. The companion meditation to this one in my book, Opening the Heart: Mediations on How to Be (here) is "It is good to plan and prepare." But things happen. 

I thought about this, again, this morning. I have been going for a walk after lunch, but it is going to be 95 degrees here in Vermont today. Much too hot to take a walk this afternoon. So, I decided that I could do my work related things after my walk. I was able to start working not much later than I normally do. It is going to be 85 degrees tomorrow - not as hot - but I decided to go for a walk before I do the errands I usually do on Tuesday mornings. Just by shifting things around I can do what I want and need to do. 

The point of this exercise, I think, is to look at things from a new angle. Can I use this shifting of perception, this deciding I don't always have to do things at the same time and in the same order help me in other areas of my life? I certainly hope so. I took a beginner multi-media art course some years ago. I remember that, at times, we would turn our pieces and look at them upside down or sideways to see if the piece worked from that new perspective. I believe that this is similar to what I was doing this morning. 

On a bigger scale, say globally, if we start shift our attention soley away from the terrible things happening in the world and look at the good things that are happening as well, can we feel more in balance, more hopeful? I believe that it helps me. There are sources out there with this kind of news if you look for it. (The Optimist Daily, Yes! Magazine, and the like.) After all, we can keep working for the things we want if we don't despair. Despair can cause us to give up and give in.

One way I have looked at things is that you have to lance boil to clean out and heal it. Someone recently said to me that growth and change come out of chaos. So, I look for the change, the hope, the beautiful.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Hallelujah Anyway

Yes, I took the title of this post from the title of Anne Lamott's new book, Hallelujah Anyway. I think the phrase is apropos of the world right now. The crazy, wacky, often scary world. 

I went for a walk the last 2 or 3 days at a local park that butts up against the Connecticut River. I looked through the trees and out to the river, and, yes, I thought Hallelujah Anyway. Hallelujah despite all the stuff going on. Anne Lamott says on page 11 that: "Hallelujah that in spite of it all, there is love, there is singing, nature, laughing, mercy."

In spite of federal governments, singing, nature, laughter, mercy, and action continue on state and local levels. Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the Paris Accord (although I read that it will take 4 years to be able to be out of the agreement). Yet, the Governors of the States of California, New York and Washington have created the U.S. Climate Coalition because they believe in continuing to work for the goals of the Paris Accord. The Governor of Vermont announced shortly after that that Vermont is joining the coalition. Interestingly, he is a rich, former businessman and a Republican. (He also, along with the Mayor of Burlington, declared Burlington to be a sanctuary city.)

Fighting seems to be going all across the globe, whether on warfare scale, or between individuals. There seems to be so much division. So much that is good, kind, and loving, however, is happening. I receive The Optimist Daily. I subscribe to Yes! magazine. Both are full of stories about ways that people are creating new ways of being or products that help the world, the stories that you don't hear on the nightly news. 

Someone I know was bemoaning the lack of leadership in Washington D.C. I thought about it later, and my thought was that maybe he is looking in the wrong place for leadership, or possible expecting things to unfold faster than they can.

I am going to continue to try to find those Hallelujah Anyway moments to help me keep on track, keep me grounded and moving forward.

Note: The first picture was taken at Kilowat Park North, Wilder, VT. The second picture was taken at the Flume Gorge, Franconia State Park, NH. Please only use with permission and credit.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Voice of the Other

I was listening to Krista Tippet's On Being radio show recently. She and her guest, Lyndsey Stonebridge, were talking about the writings and philosophy of Hannah Arendt. (here) Arendt had fled Germany at the beginning of World War II. Something that particularly struck me was Arendt's phrase "the banality of evil." The other phrase that stuck with me is that "modern totalitarianism is organized loneliness." 

For Arendt the banality of evil is the inability to hear another voice, the inability have a dialogue with yourself or the world. Does this inability come from fear? Does it come from loss of connections with ourselves, with others, with nature? 

I do see the sense of what Arendt said about modern totalitarianism. I see that those who would institute it today seem to be practicing what the Nazis did, what the totalitarian Soviet state did. That is creating divisions, creating fear of the other, and thus, the inability to have community and dialogue. Because if you can't trust others, then you have to rely solely on yourself, be mostly with only yourself - and possibly a few others. Hence, you are isolated.

One antidote, possibly, is remembering to have compassion for others. To have compassion, I think, requires that we slow down, that we pay attention. Having compassion can help us to have connection and to have an ability to hear that other voice.  At the same time, compassion for ourselves is equally important. 

I'm not sure that this make sense to others as to how they fit with this theme, but I want to share some poems that I feel are about hearing the voice of the other and refusing to be isolated - because it all comes down to the heart, to love and (at least in my mind) giving yourself permission to be fully who you are, fully in the world. 

Before All Else

Before all else
was love:

expressing itself
created what 
came after.

Be As a Lark Rising

Be as a lark—rising—
with wings spread wide
to meet the day, existence

flowing forward, upward
only ever in the now

in sun, in rain.


Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit, you are
the one that inhabits
the spaces between
the words, between people.
A manifestation of the creator,
you enliven all things.

You are the one, Holy Spirit,
that asks us to dance and
live fully in the world.
Help us, Holy Spirit,
to abide whole-heartedly
in the now, in the world.

One of my efforts, at this time, to refuse to be isolated, to hear the voice of the other is a Women's Wisdom Circle that I have started. The purpose is to lean in and support each other, to ignite the creative spark in each other. I also try to greet everyone at least politely, if not cheefully, and to look people in the eye. I keep on writing. 

Yes, I am trying to create connection. 

All poems: ©2017 Kathryn L. Samuelson
All images: Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be (here)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Collateral Beauty

I recently watched the movie Collateral Beauty. (You can read about it here, unless you don't want the plot line spoiled for you.) I thought it was as good rewatching it as watching it for the first time in the movie theater.

The title comes from something one of the characters says to another. The statement is essentially that, despite grief, you should continue to look for the collateral beauty. I understand this deeply. My parents died 7 and half days apart. I was the executor for both estates, which in some way delayed moving through grief for me. Yet, despite all this, I had moments of laughter, joy and happiness. I miss both my parents to this day; however, I haven't stopped looking for the collateral beauty in life.

I still try to look for the collateral beauty around me no matter my circumstances, the current political climate, or the global situation. I believe that it helps me cope. I believe that it helps me continue my work, my writing. Otherwise, I think I might be subject to despair. Despair would only get in my way, keep me from acting, from hopefully helping others through my work.

Flowers keep blooming. Waterfalls keep falling. Swans still swim. I am able to walk, talk, read, write, think for myself, and make my own decisions. The view out my study window is trees and a mountain. I can spend time contemplating the Conneticut River from a lovely park in my community. I see interesting lichens around. Ice formations in winter can be quite interesting and beautiful. The list of physical beauty most likely is endless.

But, most important, I have the beauty of relationships and family. Beauty is seemingly everywhere, and truthfully, it's not really collateral; it becomes collateral if I don't take the time to notice it. It is here. It is almost a living entity. I hope to continue to be able to see it, really see it, and to take it in. 

I hope that same for you.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The More Beautiful World

The title of this post is the first part of a book title: The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. Yes it is quite a mouthful. The idea for this post came to me when I was listening to Krista Tippet's Interview of Marie Howe on On Being (you can listen here). In this interview, Marie Howe talks about an assignment she gives her students. The assignment is to write 10 observations a week, without using metaphor. Just 10 "naked" observations. It can be an observations of an apple sitting on a table, for example. The point of the exercise, I think, is to really tune into the world around her students, to make them pay more attention to the world. 

I believe that when we do this we see the beauty, we see the connectedness of things. We can possibly find ways that are possible for us to take care of the world around us. The world, to me, includes not just the physical world, but ourselves, our family, our friends, our neighbors. After all, we are all part of the world, part of the earth. 

I also think that when we focus, when we breathe, we can see that there is much to be grateful for. lt can give us a way to see beyond the fear that is so pervasive, to keep hope alive, because, after all there is much beauty in the world, even if it is "just" an apple sitting on a table. 

An observation for today: There is a folding knitting basket sitting to the left of my computer desk. It contains knitting tools, boysenberry colored yarn, teal colored yarn, a darning egg. The basket has wooden handles and wooden cross supports. The handles have a diagonally cut circles incised into them. The fabric is beige with palm trees on it. Some of them a slightly darker color of beige, others are green and brown. 

It would most likely be impossible to pay that much attention to everything around us. In fact we apparently have a brain chemical that helps us filter out much of the stimuli coming in so that we are able to focus. But, taking time to make an observation like this can be a way to slow us down for a few moments, to make our "monkey minds", as meditators call it, slow down and let go. 

Let go and see.

Just a note: all the images today are from my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be (here).

Monday, May 1, 2017

Crossing Thresholds

I recently read a piece that explained why we forget what we want to do when we go from one room to another. It's because we cross a threshold. I don't remember now where I read this or what the explanation for this phenomon is. I do remember thinking how interesting this is. (I do now wonder why people study these kinds of things.)

This has set me to thinking about thresholds. There are the ordinary door thresholds - even if they are painted red. Then there are the not so "ordinary" thresholds. First is conception and then birth. We cross from non-being into being with all that entails. This threshold is marked every year as a birthday, a change in age. Somehow various cultures decide that a certain age is a threshold, such as thirteen for bar or bat mitzvahs. In the US, sixteen for driving, eighteen for voting, and twenty-one for for being able to drink hard liquor. 

We mark the crossing of thresholds when someone graduates from school. When we retire from working. These are the ones that I can think of off-hand. I'm sure that you can point out more. Each of these are meant to mark a change in someone's life circumstances. 

The last threshold to be crossed is death. In American culture, the discussion of death is almost taboo. You don't talk about it in polite society. Some people don't want to make a will or create an estate plan because it means thinking and talking about death. 

Yet, in the work that I do, when someone asks about a deceased loved one, the answers almost always talk about the loved one was escorted across this threshold. I hope to hold onto that so that I don't fear the final threshold for this lifetime of mine. I want to be able to welcome crossing this last threshold.