Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Beauty of Where I Live

I was driving home from my chiropractor appointment in the nearby community of Woodstock (no, not that Woodstock). I turned off the radio so that I could pay more attention to the beauty of the scenery that I was driving through. We had quite a bit of snow on Christmas Day. The sky was blue. The snow had "iced" everything. So much snow was on the ground that I couldn't tell where the Ottauquechee River was except by knowing that it was at the bottom of a somewhat shallow valley.

Times may be chaotic and changing. My financial situation may not be quite where I want it to be, but I have a home that keeps me safe and warm. I have enough money to pay my bills and the growing wisdom not to buy things I don't need. Plus family and good friends. I have much beauty that surrounds me in the physical sense and in the figurative sense.

Spring will bring the greening of the area. Come summer I will be surrounded by the flowering of nature. One of my favorite places is a park located next to the Connecticut River with a view of New Hampshire on the other side of the river. Then comes the fall which can be quite spectacular here if the temperature and rain fall cooperate.

Much of the beauty of where I live is in my choosing to see the beauty that is here rather than to only focus on the chaos of the human world. 

I hope to keep my focus, at least at times, on the beauty that surrounds me. I hope that same for you.

The first photograph is by Patrick Bald and was found on unsplash.com. I took the second photograph at a local park.  

Monday, December 18, 2017

Where to Look at This Time of Solstice

I was wondering what to blog about today and decided to open up my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be, to find inspiration. I flipped to a page with my eyes closed and thought right for the right side page. 

This is the image that I found. It seems appropriate to me as we move towards the winter solstice and the darkest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere. We can see this as a time of reflection as the world settles further into hibernation for the winter months. And, where better to seek it, whatever it is, in our hearts rather than in our egos or minds. 


It might seem as if we are seeking in darkness, in the void, but I have had the experience of the door in my heart opening and being able to see what lies inside. It might happen like that, it might be whispers in the heart or mind. Sometimes it might just be knowing. 

I wrote a poem inspired by this meditation. This is it: 



It Resides in You


It, whatever it is
to you, exits in you.
It, whatever it is,
waits on you
to seek it, to find the
seed, the germ of it;
the seed that is
buried in your heart.
Imagine it, breathe into it.

Your breath,
your dreaming
is how you find it
and nurture it—as
you would plant
and water a seed.


©2017 Kathryn L. Samuelson 

Then there is the allowing it to flower. I have much work to do on the letting things flower, nurturing them and bringing them into being. Work to do on bringing things into being without being desperate, the kind of emotion that gets in the way and makes things not happen.

The first image is from my book (here). The second is by Chen YiChun and was found on unsplash.com


Monday, December 11, 2017

My Hopes for You During this Season

My hopes for you during this season (and all year) revolve around growth, transformation and love. I hope that all of you, to paraphrase the loving kindness meditation, will be safe and secure, will be happy, will be well, and will live with ease. 

I hope for abundance of love, community and work that you love. May you have all that you need to sustain yourself and your family. May you be rich with friends and laughter. 

May you feel that you are more than enough and that you have enough, that you have no voids that need filling.

May you have the kind of connection to yourself, others, the world and the divine that sustains and fulfills. 

May you have clarity of vision. May you have inner peace and compassion for yourself that leads to creating peace and compassion with others. 

I hope that you learn to leave fear behind along with the anger and hate that it generates. 

And, may I have all these things as well. 

May we all come through to the light.

All 3 photographs are from unsplash.com. The 1st is by Andrik Langield. The 2nd is by Brigitte Tohm. The 3rd is from Aperture Vintage.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What I Think I Know

I finally picked up a book that I have had for some time to start reading it. This is a book called The New New Testament edited by Hal Tussig. I even started reading the forward to the book by the biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan, although I often skip the Forwards, Prefaces, etc. I learned something new. Well, I knew that not all the letters that were attributed to St. Paul were written by St. Paul, however, I had come to believe that St. Paul was a misogynist. It turns out that the misogynist writing were in letters written at least 50 years after St. Paul died but attributed to him. Crossan says on p. xiii in the forward that: 


"There is a massive scholarly consensus--based not externally on political correctness but internally on linguistic differences--that the three letters, 1-2 Timothy and Titus, were written well over a half century after Paul's death. They were reacting flatly to his radical views on equality for all those in the Christian community--whether they entered as Jews or gentiles, females or males, slaves or freeborns (Galatians 3:26-29)." Crossan then talks about what caused this reaction. Patriarchal dominance in his view. It was also because his radical call for celibacy and for women to choose violated what was considered normal in the Roman world.

So, what else do I assume I know? What does everyone, in fact, assume that they know. I heard a woman caller to the On Point program on National Public Radio make a comment during the discussion about the possible move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. She said that the Muslims lost the battle 3000 years ago, so they should give it up. 3000 years ago? Really? Lost Jerusalem? Really? She clearly was convinced of this as fact. (I suppose I could take a side track here and write a longish lament on the sorry state of history education in the US, but won't.)

Many people blindly believe what they read on Facebook or other social media sites. They pass it on. I'm sure that I have been guilty of this, but I do try to check something out before I pass it on. I now also check things out on snopes.com and politely (hopefully) ask the person posting it or messaging it to please check before passing things on. A recent message I received on Facebook claimed that women were dying by smelling poisoned perfume samples. Snopes said it was a hoax which was my first reaction as it didn't seem likely to me. But, clearly the woman who had sent a mass message out believed it and thought she was being helpful. 

I think it is good to question things, to look things up myself. Years ago it was circulating that the there was a bill in Congress that would ban home gardens. Then it circulated that this same bill would force home gardeners to use pesticides and herbicides. This is where that law background becomes useful. I looked it up. Nope. It was a bill to give the appropriate federal agency more authority over the manufacturing and the importation of food. Nothing anywhere in the bill about home gardens. 

Another time it was circulating around the the Federal Drug Administration was going to make it so that only doctors could practice acupuncture, and I think reiki as well. I looked at the guidelines. It was merely issued to clarify things, and, in fact, the regulations being explained had been in place for about 10 years. The guidelines clearly said that the FDA doesn't regulate the practice of anything. 

The people circulating these rumors clearly believed they were true and didn't question the source or look into this themselves. 

And, what do we truly know about others? I know that what I know is my perception of others, how I read what they do or say. So, I suppose it is not unreasonable to assume that the same is true of those that I know: that what they perceive or think they know about me is from the outside.

So, I hope I continue to read, question and think about what I think I know. 




The first 2 images are images from my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be. I found the 3rd image on unsplash.com. It was taken by Kyle Glenn.




Monday, November 27, 2017

Everything That Rises Up Sweet

I feel the need to balance the bitter with the sweet, so I'm writing a post to hopefully do that somewhat. I chose this photograph because I frankly am a chocolate fan, as well as the fact that it is a little tower rising up. Truthfully, I eat some chocolate almost every day. But, this not really the sweet I want to talk about. 

Because the Velveteen Rabbi's post was really about the internal sourness that we can create and hang onto, I wanted to also think about the internal sweetness that we can help rise up to make our lives calmer and more compassionate. I think it is better to hang onto internal sweetness rather than internal sourness.

I have taken the poem that Rachel Barenblat wrote and created its opposite. Here it is: 

Everything that the rises up sweet
Everything that rise up helpful
Everything that rises up out of wisdom
Everything that I am that is not sour
whether I embrace it or not
May all this join with all that 
is sweetness in others
Amen amen
selah

I hope that I can sweep out the sour and not let it ferment in me. I hope that I can see through the fermented sourness in others to see their essence, their similarity to me. I hope that I can join in laughter and community and not let the bitter, the sour divide me from others.

I hope that Barenblat approves if she ever sees this. To see her post about Hametz, click here.


Monday, November 20, 2017

All That Rises Up Bitter

Sometime ago I read a blog post by Rachel Barenblat on her Velveteen Rabbi blog. It was based on Passover or Pesach as the Jewish Community calls it. I had copied and pasted a piece of that post into Word and printed it off. I read it again recently, and a day or so later the line "All the rises up bitter" floated into my head. 

For those of you who are wondering about the dandelion photograph, the Passover/Pesach Seder requires that those attending eat bitter herbs. That's about all I know about what is eaten at the Seder. Looking it up on Wikipedia, dandelion is apparently deemed to be one of the bitter herbs.

But her post is not really about what is eaten at Pesach. It seems to me to be as much about an internal cleansing that goes along with the cleansing of the house of all the is Hametz, or Chametz as it is apparently alternately spelled. Hametz is leaven and comes from a root word that means to sour or to ferment. This is the entire section written by Barenblat in this post: 

All the arises up bitter
All that rises up prideful 
All that rises up in old ways no longer fruitful
All Hametz still in my possession
but unknown to me
which I have not seen
nor disposed of
may it find common grave 
with the dust of the earth 
amen amen
selah...

I know how easy it is to let things sour or ferment inside me. I know that many of us are seeing much that is bitter rising up. Much that is prideful and much that is of the old ways/beliefs are getting in the way of building a new community. I think that one way we can help cleanse the Hametz out in the world is to cleanse ourselves of the bitter, the prideful and the old ways. I know that I'm not perfect at this. In fact, I had a bit of slip this morning by chastisingly responding to an email this morning from a group soliciting funds by lecturing them. Sigh. As well as the other day. Sigh. (It is so easy to let compassion and courtesy slip when writing an email or using social media.) But I do try, or at least I think I do.

I suppose noticing when I slip up is one way to work on letting all that is Hametz go. Speaking or writing in a compassionate, or at least courteous manner, when I want to speak out about something - especially where I hope to plant a seed so that someone begins to see things from a different perspective.

What ways do you cleanse yourself of Hametz?

If you want to read Barenblat's post, click here.

The first photograph is by Natalie Luchanko. The second on is by Elle Hughes. I found both on unsplash.com

Monday, November 13, 2017

Being Compassionate to Myself

I am trying to be more compassionate to myself, nurturing myself and taking care of things around me to create health and safety. Sometimes this butts up against my wanting to be more frugal. And, sometimes I have to breathe deeply and not be frugal, because it will cost more in the end or not be safe. 

I started thinking about this this morning because I have another issue with the car, which will cost money. I could just keep putting brake fluid in the car, but that's not wise and not safe. Yes, it means spending money, but in the long run it is so much better for me and for those around me when I drive.

Being compassionate to myself can also be about giving myself a break, about changing the story that I tell myself, and about changing the language I use about myself. It's about not beating up on myself, not judging myself, and opening the door in my heart. 

It can be about remembering to breathe through whatever is going on to keep myself from spiraling into fear and anxiety. Neither fear nor anxiety changes the situation. Moving through the situation and being kind to myself so that I can take whatever steps are necessary is the compassionate thing to do. 


I hope to then take the lessons of being compassionate to myself to being compassionate to others. 







The first and third photographs are from my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be. (here) The second photo is by Fabian Moller found on unsplash.com. (I apologize to Mr. Moller as I don't have the ability to do the diacritical mark across the O in his name.)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Noticing Things

I was listening to On Being yesterday which was the replay of Krista Tippet's 2014 interview of Ellen Langer (here). Langer is a psychology professor at Harvard University. The focus of her studies has been the opposite of most psychological studies - she studies, as I recall, what make wellness rather than illness. Much of it through studying mindfulness. She was studying this long before Jon Kabbat-Zinn created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

Langer's approach to mindfulness is through noticing things as the practice of noticing makes us become present to ourselves, our surroundings and our day. She suggests that, for those of you who have a partner, that you notice 5 new things each day about your partner. I think that you could engage in this practice by just noticing 5 things around you, or about the people you interact with - whether they are new things or not.            

I once wrote a poem about moving from here to there and not really noticing in the true sense of noticing how I move around. Yes, I notice things just enough to navigate without accident, but where is my attention. This is that poem:                                                                     

The Mysteries of Driving

I remember that I
learned to drive,
but I don’t quite remember what
it felt like that first, second
or third time.
So it is a mystery to me
how I learned to
successfully maneuver from here to there.

In fact, I still find it to be
a mystery how I get from
here to there.
I get in the car, and then,
somehow, without hurting myself,
my car or anyone else,
I’m there

despite all the distractions
and things to concentrate on,
the lights, the signs,
the trees wafting in the wind,
the pool umbrellas, ambulances,
and anything else I pass.

©2017 Kathryn L. Samuelson


The photograph is from my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be.


Monday, October 30, 2017

The Balance of Light and Dark

I recently heard a radio show (David Franklin Farkas' The Farkas Files) where his guest Papa Coyote talked about needing to have the balance of light and dark. This past Saturday I was working a psychic fair and had a conversation with a vendor about something. He also talked about the need for the balance between dark and light. I knew from the context of both conversations that they were both talking about good and evil. But is good and evil really the essential balance of light and dark. Or is this something else entirely? Is the necessary balance of light and dark actually about the dark, fecund void out of which everything was birthed, while light is the creative force that took the fecund energy and created the universe?

It strikes me that, if the balance of light and dark is really this deep, creative action (which might actually be continually creating life and love, and in the process keeping the universe going), then maybe we don't always have to have evil to balance the good. Then the good/evil balance is not what is the creative force of the universe, is not what keeps things flowing, moving. Maybe we don't have to submit with resignation that evil must exist.

Destruction does exist in the light/dark balance. Kali is a prime example of this balance. She is the creator and the destroyer, the birther and the bringer of death. But, somehow, I don't see evil in Kali, or the Kali metaphor if you prefer to look at her that way. Kali is life in the fullest, from beginning to end. Things arise and they die away. This just is. It is neither good nor evil.

This doesn't mean that good and evil don't exist. They do. I'm just coming to think that they are not at the heart, the essence of all things. 

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Language Matters

Sometime I think we need to remind ourselves (and I include myself in this we) that language matters, that what we name things, what we call each other matters. What we say and the words that we choose to say it matters. 

I'm sure that it's no surprise by now that I am not a fan of the current administration or the Republican Party; however, I am not a fan of the language that the progressives and the Democrats use either. I sometimes email some group back asking them to change the language that they use. Where is the insight, the compassion in the dialogue (or rather the lack of dialogue) that's going on these days?


I believe that it is a Buddhist precept to ask 3 things before we speak (and I'm sure I fail at this frequently): Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? It may be true but not kind. Then you should only say it if it's necessary as I understand this precept. If it's not true, well then don't say it. 

I receive far too many political emails to read all of them. And, the ones I do read quite frequently use rude language, especially the daily email that gives links to writing about current events. I feel that what is written can be said without calling the other side unkind names. I want to change the dialogue but am not certain how to do that, except occasionally, as I said, emailing back and asking they change their language. 


I also think that changing the language can be an act of compassion for ourselves. It might dial down the anger and frustration that can harm us as well as those around us. I'm not saying we shouldn't speak out and act on our beliefs. But, maybe changing how we speak and write can help us find the things that we have in common with the "Other." Maybe we can give ourselves some breathing room to see clearly without knee jerk reactions.

Anyone want to join me in the movement to change the language? Anyone have a clue how to do this? 

The first picture is by Soner Eker and was found on unsplash.com. The second and third images are from my book, Opening the Heart: Mediations on How to Be (here).

Monday, October 16, 2017

Even Though We Might Fail

I was flipping through Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic, looking for inspiration this morning for today's post. I have a lot of little post-its throughout the book, and I happened to flip to the one marking her discussion of fierce trust. She says on page 258: 

"Fierce trust demands that yo put forth the work anyhow, because fierce trust knows that the outcome does not matter.

The outcome cannot matter."

To distill the essence of what she says next, I would say that she is talking about doing no matter what because it is the doing, the creation that is what it is important to focus on. Because if we focus on the outcome we might give up. I suppose another way to say this is to keep moving, keep acting no matter what. Because, while sitting and breathing is useful, it is as important to act. 

Interestingly, on page 259, Gilbert asks not what would you do if you knew you wouldn't fail, but what would you do even if you knew you would? Sometimes we gain a lot of insight by changing perspective or turning things around. True, she is writing about the creative life, which most people think of as art, writing, music, dance, and the like. But she is also talking about living your life itself in a creative way. 

I would say the indigenous people of Ecuador who sued to the government to prevent the sale of oil and gas leases on their lands (and won) were operating on fierce trust and living creatively. As are the indigenous peoples in other parts of South America who are working to protect the forest around their homes, and in doing so, have found ways to partner with North Americans and Europeans to do this. (See John Perkins' book, Shapeshifter, for example.) The Native Americans gathered at Standing Rock and lost, but haven't given up. They haven't given up for 500 years.

The suffragettes who imagined being able to vote acted even though they might fail - and they did over and over until they didn't. Martin Luther King acted with fierce trust and vision. Fierce trust, though, is called for in individual lives as well as movements. Someone who changes jobs or occupations can be acting through fierce trust, even though the change might bring failure. Someone who moves across country or falls in love does the same.

Fierce trust is moving on down the road. Acting even though we might fail is moving down the road. Whether it's working at a business, at our art, finding healing for ourselves or others, it's all about continuing to move on down the road. I confess that I often don't see the end of the road. I do have a current worry about the possible slashing of Medicare and Social Security as having both of these has made a difference in my financial life. I am, however, attempting to cultivate a fierce trust that I will be fine. So, I keep moving forward even though I might fail. 

The first photograph is by Jungwoo Hong. The second is an image from my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be. The third is by Kyle Glenn. The first and third photographs were found on unsplash.com





Monday, October 9, 2017

Laughter is the Second Best Weapon

Radical hope is a primary and necessary weapon to move through times of fear and distress, along with practicing radical ambiguity and radical persistence. These three can help us move through tough times. 

However, I think laughter is right behind radical hope as a weapon. Life is dull without laughter, without fun. I blogged about laughter previously (here), but thought it might be good to remind myself and hopefully others about what good medicine laughter is. 

In fact, I have decided to lift part of that blog and quote it here again. It is a message from my angels and guides: 

"Laughter is an antidote to fear and anger. It, in fact, may be the best antidote to fear and anger. Fear and anger want to be taken very seriously, but if you laugh they have no ability to attach themselves to you. It is not that you should not take the times seriously. And it is not that you should not take mindful, heartful action, but rather that you should clear out fear and anger from your energy field and your being with laughter. Then you can see, feel and send out love and compassion rather than fear and anger. Love and compassion are the tools to the deepest transformation."

(I also wrote about this in an article for Off the Cuff ezine. I recommend this magazine to you. You can find it here.)

Today, my angels and guides had this to say: 

"Laughter is what is required at times like these. Laughter drives the dark of doubt away. Keep laughing no matter what."



The first photograph is by Leong Lok. The second photograph is by Nathan Anderson. Both were found on unsplash.com

Monday, October 2, 2017

Enoughness

I contemplate the question of what is enough or enoughness from time to time. The rose in the picture strikes me as enough in and of itself. it strikes me that holding the rose is enough in and of itself.

Yet, we humans seem to, or at least most of us, constantly be seeking more, never seemingly having enough. Are we fearful that we won't be able to have what we need when we need it if we don't get more now? Are we trying to fill voids with stuff?

I have had the pleasure of having some sessions with some local energy workers - a husband and wife who work together during the sessions. He goes into deep meditation to do his part of the work. You meditate at the same time. During the most recent session, I spontaneously started chanting in my mind: "I am enough. I have enough." It helped make a shift in me. 

Yet, on my own at home, I have changed the mantra slightly to be "I am enough. I have enough. I will always be enough. I will always have enough." There is that smidgeon of fear coming through. If I am enough and have enough, will that always be so? I realized while writing this that it would be good to put a stop to this. I bet that the butterflies in the picture never questioned the enoughness of themselves or their world. They just are. 

I have a safe, decent home. I have clean water and clean food. I have work that I love (although here is where I would like more). I have a book that I've published. I am able to think, talk, write, laugh, love, and more. I have the money to pay my bills and buy a few treats here and there.

I sometimes ask myself, how many houses does one person need to own? How many cars? Does having lots of stuff make us happy? Does it make us more productive, more connected to our communities? How much money does any one person really need? What do the people who make vasts amounts of money do with it? Hoard it? Spend it in a generous way? 

I have said to myself that I don't really want to own a car that costs what some people might make in a year or what might go towards buying house. I just need a car to get from one place to another. On the other hand, it might be nice to have the extra money in the amount that a Mercedes, a Ferrari or some other really expensive car costs. I am, after all, a work in progress at the enoughness practice. 

My MorMor (Swedish for Mother's Mother) used to say that you can only sleep in one bed at a time and only eat 3 meals a day. She was one of the calmest people I have ever known. I think she was good at the practice of enoughness. May I become as good at it as she was.

The first photo is by SHHTEFAN, and the second photo is by Boris Smokrovic. Both were found on unsplash.com


Monday, September 18, 2017

Radical Hope is Our Best Weapon

I was inspired once again by listening to On Being yesterday (here). This time it was Krista Tippet's interview with Junot Diaz, author, Boston Review fiction editor, and the Ridge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at MIT. Professor Diaz has a piece that was published in the November 21, 2016 New Yorker magazine about radical hope in light of Donald Trump's win.

I have, for sometime, felt that it is necessary to live with radical ambiguity and radical persistence. I also have felt that hope is necessary so that we don't fall into despair and inability to act. I will now say that I want to live with radical hope. In his piece (here), Professor Diaz quotes the philosopher Jonathan Lear's definition of radical hope. Radical hope is not warm and fuzzy. 

This is a quote from Jonathan Lear: “What makes this hope radical,” Lear writes, “is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” Diaz then talks about radical hope is something you practice. 

This piece is succinct, but quite lovely - or at least I think so. It talks about the type of hope that can keep each of us moving forward, taking one step at a time to get where we want to be. To help us not give up. To keep finding the light in the darkness.


The first photo is Ron Smith's and was found on unsplash.com
The second photo is from my book Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be (here).

Monday, September 11, 2017

Love Your Country

I was quite surprised when this saying (and it's companion Love the world) came through for one of the mediation pairs for my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be (here). I think it would seemingly be hard to love my country right now with all the things going on here. 

But, I find it still easy to love my country because there are still many things right about my country. Yet, I think there is more to loving a country besides what is right about it. The meditation text that came through for this saying talks, in part, about loving your country meaning wanting the best for it and for those who live there.

What aspirations and hopes do we have for our countries? I think we can work towards those things, doing what we are able to do.

I wrote this poem to accompany this meditation image:

Love of Country

Sometimes I find it
much too easy 
to say how rotten 
my country is, to focus
on all that I view as wrong.
By doing that I can end up
living in fear and amorphous
terror and anger.

What I'd really rather
do is live in love,
nurture the compassionate, 
the kind, the growth of
change. Focus on the
good-heartedness, the
strength of character that
underlies so much.

What lives in my heart?
Love for my country.

©2017 Kathryn L. Samuelson 

The first image is from my book.
The second image was found on unsplash.com. The credit goes to: mcml-xxxiii-steal-my---art






Monday, August 28, 2017

Inspiration Needed

I was out for a walk this morning before settling down to work. I was mentally mumbling to myself about feeling uninspired about taking my walk - it felt like just so much work. 

I haven't written any poems to finish out the set that I've started to accompany my mediation book. I have felt just uninspired. I know that if I force the words that the poems will be stodgy and clunky. I haven't even felt like continuing to edit the ones that I have written. sigh.

Am I trying to hard to be inspired? Do I give up too easily when I don't feel inspired? I know that inspiration comes in different ways for people - it is most likely rarely exactly the same for everyone. What gateway to inspiration should I be trying right now when the voice in my head says: "I don't want to. I just want to play."

I have read Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic, twice. Even it isn't providing me any inspiration right now. Sometimes the inspiration merely needs to be the discipline to sit down and do the work. But I truly seem to be in a space right now where I'd rather go for a walk, watch a youtube video, or something similar. sigh.

Maybe I just need to see this as a bardo period for any creativity. LLama Surya Das describes bardo in his book, Buddha Standard Time. Bardo is a Tibetan Buddhist concept of the life between human lives. Surya Das says that, to him, bardo can also be a period of, for example, illness between periods of health. Fields have fallow periods. I suppose I can see this as a fallow or bardo period and not try to force creativity. 

I know that some would say that you need to do whatever it is for you every day. But, it just never seems to work for me that way. 

I just hope that I can begin to harvest creativity again soon.

First photo by jebshoots.com
Second photo by Matthew Brodeur

Monday, August 21, 2017

Once to Every Man and Nation

This hymn popped into my mind recently. I used to love singing this hymn when I used to go to church - a lot for the music, but also for the thought. A time comes to choose, although I'm not sure the it comes only once in the life of a person, a generation or a nation. 

James R. Lowell, the author of the hymn lyrics, wrote a 90 line poem in 1845 as a protest against the Mexican American War. A part of the poem was put to music as a hymn. But, whatever Lowell's reason for writing these words, I think we really are at the cusp of choosing which direction to go - for the good or evil side. I don't think that you have to be a follower of Christ, or even believe in God, to appreciate the meaning of this hymn. The lyrics are: 

Once to every man and nation,
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Offering each the bloom or blight, 
And the choice goes by forever, 
’Twixt that darkness and that light. 

Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
And ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses
While the coward stands aside, 
Till the multitude make virtue 
Of the faith they had denied. 

By the light of burning martyrs,
Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever
With the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth, 
They must upward still and onward, 
Who would keep abreast of truth. 

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown, 
Standeth God within the shadow, 
Keeping watch above His own. 

You can hear the hymn here.

As I said above, I truly believe that we, each and everyone of us, are at a time to choose. But I also think that the choosing does not necessarily mean that the action we take is necessarily the same for everyone. I don't expect the deeply introverted to be in the front lines of protest marches. Not everyone can write blog posts. I do hope that as many as possible of us, including myself, will speak up in when people are shamed, ridiculed or treated badly wherever that takes place. We can sign petitions, call our legislators, give money to causes as we can. I believe that it all has to happen at the local, state and federal levels. 


Choosing can be letting our light shine in anyway that is meaningful to us. It can be reaching out a hand. It can be standing up and saying no. It can be camping out at the next Standing Rock. It can be signing up for a Muslim registry, god forbid it ever comes to be, whether or not you are Muslim. (I read that all the Danes showed up wearing the Jewish Star during WWII) It can be following the steps of Martin Luther King, Jr. I know someone who is on her second water blessing journey. For some it can be many things at once. 


My thought is that, if we all let our lights shine in our own ways, we will create, finally, a new way of being. A way of being where we have a theology/philosophy of personhood rather than a religion of materialism. We will have a way of being where everything we do comes from a place of heart, love, compassion, kindness, and mercy rather than hate, fear and greed. 


Now I just need the courage and discipline to follow through. 

The first photo is by Yaoqi LAI.
The second photo is by Mike Labrum
The third photo is meditation image number 53 from Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be (here)

Monday, August 14, 2017

And Marley's Ghost Said



Scrooge comments to Marley's ghost that he had been a good businessman. Marley then says: "Business! Humanity was my business! Common welfare was my business. Mercy. Kindness. These were all my business...."

I'm not sure why Scrooge and Marley popped into my head this morning. I did ask for my angels and guides to help me come up with an idea for my weekly blog post, so possibly that is where this idea came from. 

Possibly because mercy and kindness seem to be in short supply, at least if all you pay attention to is the news. Because, well the news tends not to report on mercy and kindness as a counter balance to the stuff the news regularly reports. And, maybe because the idea of mercy and kindness doesn't seem to be occurring to the current US administration or whatever governmental body you might think of. Or in groups such as ISIS or Boko Haram.


Yet, I know deep in my heart that mercy and kindness are an everyday occurrence. 

Maybe we should all have t-shirts that say: "Business? Humanity is my business. Kindness and Mercy are my business." 


Monday, August 7, 2017

The Other Side of Impossible

I was inspired by the title of a book again, The Other Side of Impossible: Ordinary People Who Faced Daunting Medical Challenges and Refused to Give Up by Susannah Meadows.  Reminds me of Kelly Turner's book, Radical Remissions, and Anna Parkinson's Change Your Mind, Heal Your Body

Meadows interviews a number of people, one a psychologist (whose name frankly escapes me at the moment). This psychologist talks about the grit to get through things. Grit is made up, psychologically, of persistence, hard work, and possibly the most important element, hope. It could also be characterized as believing that you have control over something that allows you to keep hopeful and keep working. Also, so that you don't despair. Despair, I think leads to giving up.

It occurs to me that the concept of refusing to give up, believing that we have control and that there is hope can get us through many things. It might be a medical challenge. It might be keeping the dream of becoming a writer or actor alive. It might be working to clean up the local river. It might be running for political office because you don't like the direction things are taking. It might be working towards a particular degree or certification to be able to have a particular career. 

A friend asked me in the middle of bringing my book into being whether I believed it would actually be published. I told her that I had to or there was no point in continuing to work on it. Well, yes, it's self-published, but it is published. It was daunting at times (although not as daunting as facing the medical challenges written about in these 3 books), but I kept at with my book designer's help. 

What is your other side of impossible? What keeps you going?

The first photo is by Nathan Dumlao. The second is by Fab Lentz. They were found on unsplash.com

Monday, July 31, 2017

Perception is Everything

Is this door opening, or is it closing? 

It all depends on how you perceive it, doesn't it. And, yes, there are things in life besides perception such as food, water, housing, work, and the like. What I mean when I say perception is everything is that it is everything in relation to how we see the world. If our perception is fear based, then we distrust, we think we will never have enough of anything. We may very well think that things must never change, and most of the people around us are out to take things away from us or to "get us." We can become greedy out of fear.

If we perceive things with an open heart, from a place of love, then most likely we will trust, we will work to create an inclusive community, and we will be open to change and transformation. We can see a way forward, we see the beauty around us. We can relax, breathe, and let go of what is holding us back. 

Someone being interviewed by Krista Tippet on her show, On Being, said that, as I recall, perception can destroy us or it can create us. This immediately resonated with me. Change your perception, change the story you tell yourself about yourself, others and the world. And, if you are having trouble changing your perception, it just might work to change the story that you tell to help you change your perception. Changing the story is something I work with clients on. I've seen it work. I've spent time doing this myself. 

I want perception to create me, not destroy me. I want this for everyone.