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"

Thoughts

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I am not my thoughts. I repeat, I am not my thoughts. What a liberating thing! I don’t know about you, but I can have some dark, snarky, petty thoughts. Sometimes they play in my head over and over again. That isn’t the real ME. It is my brain at work doing what it does…thinking.

As Judith Hanson Lasater says in “A Year of Living Your Yoga,” thoughts are just neurotransmitters locking into receptor sites: they are not the truth. Just as “movies are flickering pictures that appear to have form; so are my thoughts,” says Lasater. Our job, if we choose to do the work, is to become the master over our thoughts. We do not have to be ruled over where our mind tends to go. We can become aware and choose a more conscious path.

Our mind and our breath are linked together. If you notice during times of stress, thoughts come quick and breath is shallow. For many of us, this is our constant state due to stressful jobs, high anxiety and fast-paced lifestyle. In this place of stress, thoughts tend to gravitate to the negative.

When a dark thought comes to mind, become aware of it. You have the power to flip your own narrative. Notice where your mind went and think of an alternate, positive idea. Rather than react to a grumpy server with anger in your mind, consider how overworked and underpaid they might be.

When I first sit to meditate, my thoughts tend to be quick and constant. Then, I take my awareness to my breath and watch the flow of inhale and exhale. I link my mind to my breath as a focus. As my breath becomes slower, so do my thoughts. I feel as if I have hit pause on the incessant tape recorder of my mind. Even if you don’t have time to meditate, taking a break to breathe consciously can be an easy way to take control back from the chatter of the mind. By the way, folks that don’t have time to meditate would benefit from it the most.

“Simply by slowing down the mind- the first purpose of meditation- much of this tension can be removed. Then we are free to respond to life’s difficulties not as sources of stress but as challenges, which will draw out of us deeper resources than we ever suspected we had. A one-pointed mind is slow and sound, which gives it immense resilience under stress. With a mind like this, we always have a choice in how we respond to life around us.” Eknath Easwaran in “Words to Live By, Short Readings of Daily Wisdom”

The Pregnant Pause

We are going to be grandparents! It is a moment we have hoped for but didn’t dare assume would happen. Since I learned this joyous news, I have been filled with so many emotions.

This time before our sweet grand baby is born is full of potential, anticipation and excitement. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “pregnant” as “full of meaning” and in use dating back to the 15th century. This goes along with the definition of pregnant pause. The pregnant pause is a “silence full of potential in the way a pregnant body is full of a new human being. A pregnant pause leaves the listener full of anticipation, just like a pregnancy is full of excitement and the forthcoming baby.”

This news officially takes us to a new stage in life. Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar talks about the four stages in human life in his book “Light on Life.” The first stage is called Brahmacharya in Sanskrit. The translation suggests self control and discipline. This stage is our childhood and adolescence. We go to school and channel our childhood energy into learning. Our parents inform and discipline us to be able to conform to society.

The second stage is called Grhasthasrama in Sanskrit, meaning “house.” This is the householder stage. We have finished with school and live on our own with potentially a home and a spouse. Books and school work are now replaced with the joys of family life.

The third stage, Vanaprasthasrama , or “transition” is the stage that Rob and I have now entered. This is a time to transition away from work and career, and focus on a deep involvement with one’s family. It is a time to continue to learn and grow but to let go of goal driven activities. In other words, letting the ego soften. It’s also a time to share the knowledge that has been acquired over the years.

The final stage, if one is lucky to live long enough, is the Sannyasa stage or a time of renunciation. It is the stage of ultimate detachment and a time of preparing for death. There is deep rooted wisdom at this stage learned from a long life. It is often referred to as the “old crone” period.

Being in our current stage, transition, fills me with joy. I find myself thinking back to the days when our children were little. I have lost the memories of the day-to-day care and stress of family life. Now what stands out to me is the joy of what children bring to life. I think this is nature’s way of guiding us into our new role. It’s our turn to help our kids see the big picture. We can support the new parents in the way that our parents supported us. Rob and I have had such great examples of this in our own parents.

In particular, Rob’s folks were there in ways that were so valuable to us. I don’t think they ever said “no” to anything we asked of them. This included leaving our eight month old baby with them so we could vacation in Mexico for nine days. The kids loved being in their home. “Vanilla Milk” was invented there to make our daughter feel better about not liking hot chocolate. One of Grammy’s favorite things to say to our son was, “let’s see how much trouble we can get into.” That usually meant getting two toys at Toys R Us instead of one.

As new parents, they soothed us with their gentle wisdom. There was never judgement, just support and love. In their minds, our kids and all of their grandkids were the most special people ever born. And they still are the best cheerleaders for us all. They are the example that I keep in my heart as we wait in this special pregnant pause. In six months our new grand baby will arrive and it will be our turn to see “how much trouble we can get into” as we love, cherish and support this brand new family.