Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Greatest Gift

“Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.”
~Winnie the Pooh
There was a group of children from the U.S. that were asked the question: What is love?
These kids ranging from four to eight years old eagerly responded and here are some of their responses...

Micah, age 6: If you want to learn to love better you should start with a friend you hate.

Jessica, age 7: You really shouldn't say I love you unless you mean it, but if you do mean it you should say it a lot because people forget.

And my favorite...Bobby, age 5: Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and just listen.
This has been a very different holiday season for me – having a broken arm, limited mobility, and lots of time at home alone without being able to work.  Somehow my heart knew there was a gift hiding in the mystery of this broken arm…in letting go.  How very much we cherish holding on and clinging to the familiar. But this time I wanted to see what would happen if I truly surrendered.

At first I struggled to do even the most mundane of chores, like folding laundry.  Have you ever tried folding laundry with your dominant hand tied behind your back?  Mornings I prepared meals, washed the necessary dishes, and vacuumed one-handed, then later in the day, once I got my cast off, that same left hand spent hours massaging, stretching, and rubbing the weak right hand and arm with soothing oils and creams.

Somewhere along the way I stopped struggling.  I stopped trying to keep up.  My left hand was tired.  But more importantly my whole being needed a rest from all the doing of daily life.  I let the dishes soak and a light coating of dust settled like new fallen snow on furniture and floors. Laundry stayed heaped in baskets and the few folded things languished on chairs and my massage table because it was impossible in most cases to put them neatly on shelves or in drawers without them falling back out.  I found ways to make meal preparation simpler; no easy task for someone who is gluten intolerant and cooks most things from scratch.

Thankfully a few friends insisted that I not buy Christmas gifts.  The mere thought of struggling to wrap gifts or write Christmas cards with one tired non-dominant hand seemed daunting and funds are temporarily in limited supply.  When friends stopped by and offered to take on my household chores, give me gifts, prepare meals, and massage my wounded “wing,” I let them.  

Days and weeks went by so quickly.  It felt like I was accomplishing nothing.  I didn’t spend much time actively seeking storytelling or speaking engagements. Just as chores were left by the wayside, I hardly lifted a finger to write stories or poems the way I dreamed I might have if I had two functioning hands.  Even tapping computer keys was at times frustrating because I accidentally hit buttons I didn’t want to hit and partial emails would sail off into cyber-space or be deleted altogether.  

Normally I would not give myself over to these things easily – to being only the receiver, to doing nothing - and there were still a few dangling threads of guilt, like the last few strands of tinsel that cling to the Christmas tree branches. But in light of my recent mission of learning how to “let go,” I even let go of asking how I would ever catch up or repay the favors and allowed myself to float along in the warm river of Love.

So what DID I do?  I walked.  I read…some.  I did what little yoga I could do, because it takes me to my calm place.  Any time the temptation crept in, I consciously turned my thoughts away from worry.  Mostly I was alone in a quiet bubble and thought about people, living and in Spirit; all those who have passed through on their way to somewhere else and those who have stayed or joined me on the path recently.  There’s not one that I would give up, even in the painful times, for the things I’ve learned and the ways I’ve grown from knowing them.  

I cried more, which some might see as a depressing thing, but for me it was one more way of being vulnerable, opening my heart to what is, and letting life flow through me instead of blocking the dam.  There is something so incredibly touching in allowing someone else to wash your hair or clip your fingernails.  I thought of all those in worse positions than I – the handicapped and elderly – and it became clearer than ever how very much we all need each other because at some point most of us will be required to receive in our infirmity.

Perhaps it was losing the use of my arm that brought me to missing my deceased parents and my estranged brother and family more than ever.  Losing those you love CAN feel like losing a part of yourself because in truth, they ARE a part of you.  Was I living in the past by giving in and letting tender memories wash over me?  Some might say so.  But in those memories there is so much good and beauty.  Why would anyone deprive themselves of that?  Our Creator made the yin and the yang for a purpose – night and day, sunshine and rain, the tears and the smiles – and gave us memory to turn to for comfort and an honoring of sorts.  In the quiet moments when I remember those past times and the people I shared them with, the free flow of tears opens my heart.  Only then, with that open and vulnerable heart, can I be fully open to YOU who are here NOW.  

So in and around the tears, I also found more ways to connect to people and to be thankful that they are in my life.  Emails were accompanied by meaningful photos or videos that conveyed my heartfelt messages with fewer words.  I spent tons of time “liking,” “commenting,” “posting,” and “sharing” on Facebook; something that I have often felt was an unnecessary consumer of my time became  a welcome activity that connected me to people I really care about.  Now, having my Sunday mornings free, I was able to fulfill my dream of finding a church “home” and supportive community.  I took part in new groups of people and met with friends on the phone or in person.  There has been more precious time to spend hugging my aging doggie and caring for her special needs.  In spite of my “non-doing,” some storytelling work, offers of help, and opportunities beyond my imagination poured in! 

The emphasis does seem to center around gift giving this time of year.  All of that started with people coming TOGETHER in various traditions to remember times when the Creator bestowed gifts on humankind…the birth of a child who would become a historically revered teacher of Love, lamps that stayed lit long beyond what was logically possible, the return of the Sun and longer days, and many others.
What rang loud and clear for me in the silence and tears, the “doing nothing,” is that the holidays are not about presents, it’s about PRESENCE – now and all through the year.  I realized that I have enjoyed every minute of this holiday season more than ever before because it has been filled with Love and connection rather than being filled to the gills with doing and buying.  I know enough about the “flow” that I will be given plenty of opportunities to help others in their time of need and I will most likely give some form of material gifts.    Yet, I see very clearly that there is no material thing that can possibly convey my love better than just being there and there is no greater gift that I have ever received than someone’s generous gift of their time, even if it is to just sit quietly doing nothing TOGETHER.  In the moments when I think of my deceased or lost loved ones and the tears flow, perhaps it is they who are tapping me on the shoulder to share their love.  And though it brings tears, I wouldn’t miss that acknowledgement for anything.

I wish you all many cherished moments of Doing Nothing and sharing your beautiful and very Divine Presence!   Thank you for being a part of my life!  
Happy Sappy Sentimental Holidays with Love and Hugs,

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rose -Colored Glasses

Just catching up after a life altering journey to the World Peace Gathering in Assisi, Italy.  What an amazing trip, with wonderful people, trekking many miles over the mountains in all kinds of weather, sometimes losing sight of the valley below as we rose above the clouds and soared with the birds!  

The highlight for me, and for many of us I imagine, was making the final assent to the gates of Assisi, with most taking turns in groups of about eight at a time to push the wheelchair of our dear wounded pilgrim (who had broken her leg) up the steep incline.  At times out of breath and for sure weary after the ten day hike, all the while we chanted a beautiful song and moved as a collective whole.  As we made our way through the streets and down to the pilgrim marker – the touchstone for all pilgrims - the bells of the basilica pealed and tears of joy and triumph spilled over every face.  

And no wonder the feeling of joy and triumph!  For most of us, the journey was not what we had expected when we signed on.  We initially experienced disappointment when we found out that the Pope would not allow religious leaders to say their respective prayers, but in the end the prayers were delivered times ten by some 40 passionate souls.  We gathered with fervor each brisk morning to recite the prayers of 12 faiths from the 1986 gathering.  Did it really matter after all is said and done, how the prayers made their way into the ethers?  Are we not one body, one mind, one heart?

There were a few mishaps in the first days – a broken leg, twisted knee, and my own broken arm ,(yes, indeedy-do…it was a “trip”) yet spirits remained high and joy abundant.  As I geared up for the walk each day, with a wounded arm and heavy cast in tow, I found myself carried along easily with the energy and enthusiasm of the others.  When more energetic walkers paced alongside me for a time, I felt stronger, graced with more stamina.  Each day we were greeted with a blessing from our fellow pilgrim who was unable to walk on his strained knee.  Undaunted, it was such an inspiration to see him stand in prayer as we each passed by at the start of each day.  Our hearts carried his spirit and that of the third of the wounded, the woman whose leg was broken, who met us with a glowing smile at various stops along the way.   We left no one behind, even when their bodies could not participate.  Under sometimes extremely trying conditions and a somewhat truncated peace gathering, the group sustained a wonderful microcosm of peace (our intention & focus) with so much caring, joy, compassion, understanding, and unconditional love.

Clearly we can affect those in our midst in profound ways, depending on our attitude about the events around us.  Upon my return to the U.S., I could not return home due to an unusually early snowstorm & power outage.  This kept me in the company of my friend Dina & her family for 3 days and when I was finally able to return home, my friend Kristin moved in for the week, until her power came back on.  Both incidents were a blessing in disguise, that I was graced with much needed assistance as I adjust to doing without the use of my dominant hand.  Similarly, I heard several stories of people helping each other out without a thought of inconvenience; opening their homes, sharing food and warmth, literally and figuratively.

Our journey here on earth is not always what we expect or hope for.  I have a silly pair of heart-shaped sunglasses with rose-tinted lenses that remind me to choose a positive way to view my world…to find the blessing in every day, even in the most trying circumstance.  Yes, sometimes I cry…God’s relief valve.  Yet as the last of the tears are drying, a rainbow glows in my heart and I am grateful to be alive.
The greatest thing that came out of the trip and prior preparation was the idea of carrying peace within and the importance of cohesive community in any situation.  May your walk in life continue to open you to the grace and blessings that are so plentiful.  I send my love and hugs to you all!  GROUP HUG!   I arise each day through the strength of heaven…of which YOU are made…
“I arise each day through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun, radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire, speed of lightening,
Swiftness of wind, depth of sea,
Stability of earth, firmness of rock.”

Love and many Blessings,

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gifts of Nature

Wherever I am at any given moment on this planet, I am always open to receiving the wisdom so freely given by nature.
My usual walk through the countryside, though accompanied by a constant drizzle of rain, was made more beautiful by opening my heart to the deeper levels of what lay before me.
Rain. How often do we disdain rather than be grateful for this sometimes elusive gift, especially when we live in an area that receives more than its share. While in San Antonio recently, I observed my host jumping from his seat to watch a passing 5 minute shower, hoping, praying that it would last long enough to end an almost year long drought. He spoke of the “rain lilies,” a flower that only appears after enough rain has fallen. None appeared the next morning and that neighborhood in Texas continued their vigil with heads turning toward the heavens with undaunted faith.
As I walked I thanked the rain for feeding the wildflowers, grasses, and trees that grace my yard; for filling my well so I can quench my thirst, enjoy a refreshing shower, wash my clothes, and fill buckets to keep my home clean; and finally for dowsing me with hope that keeps my heart and eyes forever scouting for rainbows.
And in spite of the rain, or more likely because of it, nature was bursting with messages. As I watched the creek water slipping over the rocks, she told me to keep dancing and singing as she does no matter what kind of news is circulating. She goes on, sometimes racing toward a destination, sometimes pooling to provide a cooling respite for frogs and fish. She eases her way over and around obstacles. All this she does while her bubbling song fills the air.
Trees. So many varieties reaching toward the light, reaching out to one another, sinking their toes deeper into the rich nourishment that supports them. One little walnut called to me as I looked right through a hole piercing her entire being near the base. There appeared to have been an ambitious woodpecker who left several attempts, then finally succeeded in drilling all the way to the other side! Though the little walnut had been invaded and used, she stood tall as every leaf-filled, green branch attested to her strength and fortitude.
On a walk through a well-known battlefield, a friend commented on an ancient sycamore. The first twenty feet or so were knarled, twisted, and knotted, while the upper portion grew gracefully with her branches reaching this way and that like a seasoned ballerina. My friend imagined that the knots and tumor-like knobs were from the trauma of witnessing war. But then as the tree matured, the war a distant memory, she recovered and moved on with a determined beauty. I thanked the trees for telling me to keep growing, have faith, and to steady myself by focusing on what’s truly important.
Flowers. Chicory is commonly a cornflower blue roadside flower. Known as a healthful stand-in for coffee, chicory like most plants possesses medicinal qualities. Aside from these facts, I viewed the chicory through the eyes of the heart and saw how he thrives in the harsh, pebbly, salt laden, conditions closest to the road. One little chicory flower stood out adorned in the purest white; more pure than one would expect from something constantly exposed to carbon monoxide and soot. These soldiers of the flower world practically shout, “I’m a survivor!” Together they folded up their individual petals as though to make sure their undersides were washed clean in the rain. Then, when I visited them awhile later, they had all unfurled themselves to try catching any fleeting rays of sunlight that might be pushing through the clouds. Again I offered my thanks for this subtle display of courage and the ability to flow with the rhythms of their surroundings.
May you be blessed by these gifts of nature and find many more of your own!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Return to Innocence

Things are just settling down from a stressful afternoon of trouble shooting a computer virus…one that finally got me after a week of bogus emails coming in from every direction using the familiar names of my friends. Now I understand what it is about Free Hugs that tugs at my heart so strongly. It invites people, for a moment, to return to their innocence; something I feel that the virus mongers have forgotten.

Do you remember a time when you so sweetly wanted to hug everyone who passed your way? Your antennae had not yet developed to be on the lookout for anyone with malicious thoughts or motives. Perhaps, like my own early childhood, there was no one to be on the lookout for.

I grew up in small country towns on the fringes of Buffalo in Western New York. We moved often, yet from one town to the next, you could pretty much expect the same kind of atmosphere. Everyone in town knew who we were and what we were up to, yet no one ever thought of trying to upset the day by purposefully wreaking havoc in my Dad’s office and nobody ever heard of identity theft. It was a time when you could take your TV, radio, record player, or electric tools to a repairman and he would tell you, without charging you, if it was repairable or worth saving.

My mother, like many moms of that time, was perfectly comfortable allowing me to walk down the block to school, to a friend’s house, or the candy store by myself. Our only concerns about Halloween candy were rationing it out to avoid tummy aches, which kinds were our favorites to stash away, and which we would share with parents and friends.

The welcome mats of front and back doors were worn thin by neighbors and friends, who visited frequently and let themselves in after just a light knock and, “Hell-o-o.” Anybody home?” The postman, Mr. Hall, would sit to chat wherever anyone was offering a hot cup of coffee. We had a small angel carved in the woodwork of our front entry, by vagrant men who wanted those who would follow to know that this was a welcoming home. They were called “hobos” then and my mom always invited them in for a hearty meal and sent them off with a fresh shirt. My dad quite regularly picked up hitchhikers with no concern for their intention being anything but a ride to the place they needed to go.

Years later, my dad continued to live in small towns where he walked from the post office, to the general store, and the coffee shop calling everyone by their first name and they knew his as well. In the late nineties, just a few years before he passed away, I was visiting and marveled that the crime deemed to be the worst of the season made the headlines…a stolen jar of olives!

This is why I’ve often said I’m glad my dad chose to leave this world just short of a month before 911. He still had a good portion of his innocence in tact at the age of 72. What happened that September morning would have been too much for him to handle. And had he allowed me to get him a computer, he’d have probably thrown the darned thing in the trash at the first sign of someone tampering with his peace of mind.

The computer virus that happened today may be “just one of those things” that’s to be expected in this new millennium. As for this country girl, it is something I still don’t expect and will never get used to. Why would I want to get used to that? It may be na├»ve, yet they don’t call me Pollyanna for nothing; I’m glad I’ll be passing out Free Hugs this Valentine’s weekend. It is my hope that, whenever and wherever Free Hugs is happening around the world, at least some of the people at the receiving end will be the ones who have nothing better to do than to cause other people stress with their malevolent ideas and talents. I hope the hugs they receive opens their hearts just wide enough for a spark of LOVE to enter…innocence remembered. And from that spark, may a creative fire burn out of control…a fire that turns them toward using their brilliance and cunning for something that will change the world for the BETTER!

Enjoy the video (copy and paste link below)and please join us for Free Hugs Philly, Saturday, February 12th, 2011 at 2:30pm at the LOVE sculpture, 16th St. and JFK Blvd.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Condition of Being…A Snowflake

Snowflakes fall from the sky. Or is it rather like when I was a child and my mother told me that angels sifted powdered sugar from their places in the clouds? Either way, the journeyers travel long, carried on winds, eyelashes, and the occasional bird wing.

Snowflakes gracefully skate toward a wonder-scape; glistening in grandeur. Some hurry down, straight to the task of weaving a blanket for the Earth. Others sashay and pirouette, dancing this way and that. Their show becomes a lively playground for young and old! Still more flakes scurry, wander and float, until at last they settle alongside their companions. Though each is unique unto itself, they band together, uncomplaining, to carry out the chores of dressing trees in majestic robes and tucking in flowers for the season of night.

Gentle purveyors of silence; who can more than whisper in their presence? My ears care no more for piano or violin, than to hear crystalline “toes” touching down. My head tilts back as one brave flake sacrifices itself for my pleasure; the quick burst of icy electricity on my tongue.

Are these merely tiny, frozen objects? Or, are they our spirited help-mates, urging the joy of awe to melt and spring from our wintry hearts?