Gratitude for…

Gratitude for...

This physical body that houses my unique spirit.
This life force energy that propels me through the day.
This mind that has thoughts both spacious and focused.
These senses that absorb the world around me.
These hands that work with dexterity.
These feet that feel solid underneath me.
This heart that has felt the spectrum of emotions, from complete desolation to boundless joy.
For this life, I am grateful. I am complete.





HOME

There’s no place like home.

Dorothy Gale

I have spent some time recently in my home town of Wichita, KS. I have not actually resided there since 1996, yet it still gives me a sense of home when I am there. I never had aspirations of leaving Kansas. Life was easy there and I had close friends and family around me. As new job opportunities came up, we took them and that took us away from home. We have moved more than we planned to over the years…that’s how life goes. But I have loved each new town we have spent time in. We have made many lifelong friends and had so many wonderful experiences because of those opportunities.

But there is just something about going home. There is a feeling of belonging. No matter how long I am away, I am welcomed back. The multiple homes I lived in over the years all belong to others now. Both of my parents and other family members are gone now too. But I still have my beloved in-laws, my brother and his family, and several cousins to connect with when I’m there.

I have spent time in my in-laws home for forty years now. When I think of home, that is where my mind immediately goes. So many memories come to mind when I pull into their driveway. I see reflections of the early years of visiting my boyfriend’s house, to a few years later bringing my babies over to see Grammy and Papa Buzz, to just recently introducing them to their great-grandchild. No matter the occasion, I’m always met at the door with love and acceptance. Which is usually followed by a cold drink and an amazing meal.

Home isn’t necessarily a place. It’s more of a feeling in your heart. Certain people and places give this to us. It’s an interesting meditation to ponder what home means to you. For me, home will always mean Kansas.

Some things that make me a Kansan:

  • I have a fascination with big thunderstorms that might produce tornados.
  • I start to feel claustrophobic if I can’t see the horizon.
  • It still feels strange to buy liquor at a grocery store, especially on a Sunday.
  • I have never lost the feeling of needing to use hairspray thanks to the ever present Kansas wind.
  • I say “hi” to everyone. Midwesterners are a friendly bunch.
  • Yes, I have attempted to tip a cow. I was unsuccessful.
  • I call them lightening bugs.
  • I say ar-KAN-sas River, not AR-kan-saw River.
  • I have come to the conclusion that mosquitos and humidity seem to work in tandem during Kansas summers.
  • I have a deep understanding of farm-to-table. The life of a farmer is not an easy one.
  • I feel a lot pride that the University of Kansas is the birthplace of basketball.
  • I hold close the memory of fried chicken dinner at Grandma’s house on Sunday afternoon.

Fear

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We are living in fear filled days. Fires, violence, sickness and death seem to dominate our news and our conversations. And even if we try and filter our news and conversations, fear finds other ways to manifest itself. Fear can come from the idea of being separated from something or someone that we think we need in order to feel secure or happy. Fear can come from being threatened by others. Fear can come from ignorance or self grasping. Fear can come from a past traumatic event that leaves a lasting influence. And, of course, fear of death can also have a very powerful effect.

When we let our fear or anger based emotions take up residence, it gives those emotions more power than they deserve. In yoga, we call these impressions Samaskaras. They are often compared to grooves in the road that get driven over again and again. Over time, these imprints begin to contribute to behavior patterns that can then lead to the forming of habits. Then that fear takes hold and feeds upon itself. One way to combat this negative cycle is to acknowledge the source of the fear and ask yourself why you feel this way.

  1. Do you have a fear of losing someone or something?
  2. Do you have a fear based on a threat from an outside force?
  3. Do you have a fear based on grasping or ignorance?
  4. Do you have a fear based on a traumatic event in the past?
  5. Do you have a fear of death?

Once you ask yourself these questions and acknowledge their presence, say to yourself “I am feeling this way because of my fear of ______ and I am not going to allow these feelings to create a Samaskara.”

Let that fearful thought move through you and don’t allow it to stick or create a rut or groove. It’s as if your mind/body is a filter and you let the worst of it pass through, not allowing it to take up residence. Then see if there is something positive or loving to focus on in its place.

In the wisdom of Buddha:

The thought manifests as the word,
The word manifests as the deed,
The deed develops into habit,
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love.
Born out of concern for all beings..

As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become.

Buddha

A Good Scare

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The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. ~ Joseph Campbell

Fear was once our primal survival technique. The good news is that we don’t live in a time where our very existence is threatened on a daily basis. I have two older siblings, and I am pretty certain that they helped introduce me to the idea of fear. I can remember stories about the creepy house on our street. The giant bug waiting to bite me in a certain bush. The secret pathway that might have ghosts. All of it childhood play, but also a starting point to fearing the unknown.

This time of year we often explore what it feels like to be afraid. Halloween has become one of our biggest holidays. I think it’s become so popular because it gives us a way of coping with our inner fears in a safe way. We watch scary movies that have us on the edge of our seats, or in my case, pacing the room. We visit haunted houses to allow others to scare and threaten us in a safe way.

What happens when we are in this frightened state? Heart rate increases, there is a sense of heightened awareness, palms sweat, and every nerve seems to tingle. In some ways, we are never more fully alive than when we are in a state of fear. Maybe that’s why so many teens enjoy a scary movie, novel or haunted house.

Teens love to push the boundaries of what it feels like to be fully alive. As we get older, we often let go of this need. Life itself can often become scary enough. Deep fears can manifest into anxiety and phobias, which can lead to the need for professional help. But for less serious fears it can actually be fun to visit this dark side. To visit that heightened sense, in a safe way, can often give us a boost in confidence once we are on the other side. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, ” Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Mother Love

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First Lesson

Lie back daughter, let your head 
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread 
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man's float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe 
me, when you tire on the long thrash 
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you 
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you up.
~Phillip Booth

My mother has been gone for almost ten years now. In some ways, the loss is as fresh as if it were yesterday. In other ways, it feels like an ache that has been there even longer. The spectrum of grief is like that. It comes in waves. Some days are high tide, other days low.

One of the first jobs a mother has is to comfort her child. A baby responds to soothing from its mother like no other. As an adult, she is often the first person we call to get that sense of comfort when things aren’t going well. I had the feeling of being orphaned when my mother was gone. Who will I call? Who will love me as only she could?

Just as a child is taught to self-soothe with a security blanket or stuffed animal, motherless adults learn to do the same. If you find yourself in this orphan club, know that you are not alone in your pain. Remind yourself that however much time you had with your mother, you were absorbing her love and wisdom into every fiber of your being. She is as much a part of you as the air you breathe. On those low tide days, or when holidays like Mother’s Day come around where her absence is felt even more, remind yourself that she lives on in your heart. You embody her joy and delight. Her love for you could never die. So lie back and let the sea of maternal love hold you up.

"We are born of love, Love is our mother." Rumi

Vast and Singular

"Enlightenment is when a wave realizes it's the ocean."
                       ~Thich Nhat Hanh

I have just returned from a trip to Mexico. It was lovely in so many ways. Time near the ocean feeds my soul. My eyes are constantly drawn to it. I sleep to the sound of it. I walk along it and feel its immense power. Each night I watch the sun fall over the edge of it and am reminded of its vastness.

I am but one person, at this one spot, singular and unique. I am amazed by the contrast. The two words, vast and singular, kept coming to my mind all week.

Our lives can feel this very same way. We all see what transpires in front of us in our own unique way and yet we are all a part of something much bigger than ourselves. I think we forget that perspective sometimes. We are all part of something so vast we can’t even comprehend it and at the same time each of us is the only version of a human being to look, feel and live this unique, singular way.

I think we can all gain this perspective when needed. Some days the world can feel as if it’s closing in on us. That is the time to take a moment and look to the ocean or find the horizon, the night sky, or some other focal point that feeds your soul. Take a moment to remind yourself that you are both vast and singular.

Namaste’ Thich Nhat Hanh

Breathing in, I calm my body, Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment! 

I fell in love with Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings when I first began my yoga journey. His simple, clear words helped me to understand the transformational use of my breath. Each breath in each moment can be a meditation if we are thoughtful enough. I refer to his books to this day. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese buddhist monk died yesterday at the age of 95. While his earthly presence may be gone, his light will shine on through his beautiful teachings. Rest now, Thay, you are forever in our hearts.

"Please Call Me by My True Names"

Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply:  I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
In order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my hear is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
 to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and 
loving.
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to my
people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like a spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.

My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Happy New Year!

Wrinkles mean you laughed, grey hair means you cared and scars mean you lived.

I had a spill on my bike the other day. I fell on my face, literally. My eyebrow split open and was in two places on my face. A good samaritan took care of me until Rob could pick me up and take me to the emergency room. All this man said in the face of my injury was, I think you might need stitches. His gentle kindness kept me calm even though I was bleeding profusely.

Having a gash on your face is humbling. Not knowing how it is going to heal makes vanity rear its head. It’s also an opportunity to be with what is. I will most likely have some small scar the rest of my life. I am doing all the things I am told to do hoping to not look like Harry Potter in such an obvious way. And at the same time I keep reminding myself that scars mean I lived.

As my birthday and the new year approach, my 58th time around the sun, I am filled with gratitude that I am able to lead an active lifestyle. Most days I live with an ease of well-being. Sure there are times when I feel every bit my age but not very often. I am fortunate that way and well aware that that is not the case for so many people. I have also had several reminders lately of just how precious life is.

In my birthday/new year’s blog last year, I talked about being an ageless goddess. Meaning, not attaching who you are to the age on your driver’s license. I hear many of my peers talking with a kind of resignation. Because I am this old, I can’t do this, or remember that or try this. Why let a number define who you are and what you can do? For 2022, my plan is to say YES. Yes to adventures, to trying new things and to continue to grow. And yes to babysitting! Our first grandchild arrives in Feb. and I can’t wait to see what this new chapter brings to our lives.

So cheers to wrinkles, grey hairs, scars and living life to its fullest.

New Years

Another fresh new year is here...
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt and fear,
to live and laugh and give!

This bright new year is given me
to live each day with zest...
to daily grow and try to be
my highest and my best!

I have the opportunity
once more to right some wrongs,
to pray for peace, to plant a tree,
and sing more joyful songs!
       ~William Arthur Ward

My Latte Runneth Over

"Decorate yourself from the inside out."                 ~Waleed Basyouni 

I like this quote at this time of year. We often get caught up in decorating our exteriors and not dealing with our interiors, especially during the holidays where positive and negative feelings bubble-up. In this case, it’s important to do some personal, internal decor. One way to “decorate” yourself is to find things in your life to feel grateful for. This is called cultivating a gratitude practice. There are gratitude journals, calendars, bracelets, etc. These are aids that can help you with your gratitude practice, but at some point you may need to go it on your own.

This is not to say that we aren’t allowed to feel the feelings that arise in bad situations. That is important work and must be done and felt. I am saying that it’s equally important to look beyond that source of pain and find what is still good. Even the smallest thing to feel grateful for can create a shift. And that shift is where the healing can begin.

This “decorating” from the inside comes from an open heart. A heart that feels the pain of humanity but at the same time can stay connected to the power of love. Life is a roller coaster ride. There are going to be extreme highs and lows. It is my belief that when you can keep gratitude in your heart, the highs will feel more joyous and the lows can be weathered with more ease.

My latte pictured above is in my Christmas pottery mug. We have a full set of Christmas dishes thanks to my dish-loving mother. Each year we swap out our regular plates and use these dishes in December. These dishes are at least thirty years old at this point. They have seen so many Christmases. There have been the Christmases after the loss of a loved one. Christmases spent with lots of family together and those with just a few of us. Christmases that have been a challenge to find the budget to get those “it” gifts and those where it was easier to fill all wishes. Present in each of those Christmases past is joy and love.

So when I hold my cup of joe in my hands, I connect back to all those memories and am filled with gratitude. It is my hope that despite all the sadness and grief of this past year, that you too can find some gratitude for your heart. Happy Holidays to you and yours.

"I don't know what to do! cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath, and making a perfect Laocoon of himself with his stockings. I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!"
          ~ Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens' " A Christmas Carol"