Happy New Year

Happy New Year

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“I think over again my small adventures
My fears, those small ones that seemed so big
For all the vital things I had to get and reach
And yet there is only one great thing
The only thing
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.”

– Unknown Inuit

Another year on the calendar has cycled through. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions….a commitment to starting the New Year fresh and with purpose. Sometimes we say these hopes out loud, sometimes not. Many of us joke, wondering how long before we break the promises we have made to ourselves.

I’ll make mine again…..

This year my resolution is to be present in the moment. As in the poem above, I want to be aware of and attentive to the blessing of life, the wonder of the rising sun, of light filling the world and of each and every moment. I want these things to be the stepping stones for each day. The path that guides me.

I will remind myself when I become worried and anxious, that the fears that may seem so huge and painful now, may not still feel that way after some time has passed.

I will put into perspective the things I hope to attain and achieve and put effort into remembering what is important at the end of the day.

Somewhere along the way, over the years, it’s been easy to fall into the habit of thinking right now is not enough. I’m not saying it is not important to work towards some things, but rather to put thought into what is important. Each of us measure success and happiness in different ways. On occasion, we may find ourselves wondering, after having reached the thing or event that we thought would make us happy, why that sense of happiness seemed so fleeting, so short lived. We find ourselves planning to attain some other milestone we believe will be the key to true, long lasting happiness.

At the end of the day I want to be able to look back on the day and to see that I was truthful, kind, compassionate, of service to someone, contributed something to a larger group/society. I hope to be able to say I was patient, gentle, a good listener. Add to that gratitude that my body was nourished with food and water. I will remember I have shelter and clothing to protect me. I will be thankful that my mind was engaged and active, and hopefully I learned something new. At the end of the day as I take inventory I know my family will be first on the list of people to rejoice having in my life.

Someone asked the other day if I was happy. I was a little taken aback. Not because I wasn’t happy, but because what I was experiencing was contentment, peacefulness. I was fulfilled in the heart, grateful, healthy. Maybe those are the ingredients to happiness…. What does happiness mean to you? What is “happiness”? How do you define it? Attain it? Measure it?

I’ve shed a lot of anger and resentment over the years. I just became tired of the burden of carrying them around. I owned up to my feelings, expressing them all. Then I said good bye to them and pushed them out the door and shut it. I feel lighter. I don’t miss the weight, the emotions, the hurt. It was a lot of work. I had to give up falling into the trap of dwelling in the darkness of old memories, emotions, hurt and anger. I had to work at knowing it was ok, for me, to let them go. Those things would no longer define me. They would no longer hold me captive. I still work on this…

Now I really try to be in this moment. To be attentive to what is happening. Trying not to place labels on those experiences…just letting them be. Good or bad, happy or sad, relaxed or anxious. It just is what it is. When it passes, which it will, it will be over and gone. Done. Anything that remains or lingers is of my own doing. Anticipation and effort towards something is often exhilarating and I embrace that. Memories are what they are, but for me I find they tend to morph one way or the other. They either become more significant than the real event, or more distorted and painful as my ego creates an ever expanding fictional interpretation of the story it is currently reliving. What is real at the moment is THIS moment. Not the moment before, or the moment coming next. Only this one moment.

I know this isn’t for everyone. We all have our own paths to walk on. We all struggle to make past, present and future have meaning and purpose. Some of us have hurt, pain and anger that are very strong. Others don’t even think like this.

I’m on a journey towards awareness, an adventure to being attentive to the present moment. This year my morning meditation will be based on this quote from John O’Donohue’s “Connemara Blues”:

“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”

To awaken and unfold afresh each day and to live in moments filled with surprise and wonder sounds pretty extraordinary to me.

Peace to you all. And Happy New Year.

Where The Heart Dwells

The Winter Solstice is here. The shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year. Now Nature moves towards rebirth, moves towards light.

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(… sunrise 11/28)

The sun rose this morning. It was not full of color and sparkling light. Darkness gave way to grayness. I stayed warm in bed longer than usual wanting to really be mindful of the Solstice. Thinking about light.

I did a long breathing meditation. Just focused on breathing. Just breathing.

Eventually I thought about how lucky I am to have my family together for Christmas. Both of my children are adults and live out of town. So much gratitude fills my heart.

And I thought about that: a heart filled with gratitude. My heart dwells in gratitude this morning.

What a beautiful place of residence for the heart.  Gratitude.

Where does your heart dwell?

Emily Dickinson has a poem titled “I dwell in Possibility….” What would your day, or life, be like if you chose to dwell in possibility?

“All the possibilities of your human destiny are asleep in your soul. You are here to realize and honor these possibilities. When love comes in to your life, unrecognized dimensions of your destiny awaken and blossom and grow. Possibility is the secret heart of time.”

John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom  

What would your day, your life be like if your heart lived in a place of possibilities, and by allowing love to come into your life, you saw people differently? All people. Any person.

What if you saw the hungry as not just being hungry for food, but hungry for truth, love, compassion?

What if you saw those in need of clothing/naked, as those who have been stripped of dignity, care or respect?

What if you saw the guilty as yourself, someone who made a mistake and is full of regret or need and trying to find their way again?

What if saw someone who was ill as yourself, needing help, care, compassion, someone to listen to them?

What if you saw your enemies as people who are suffering, denied basic human rights, in great need of basic life sustaining things, feeling threatened, feeling hopeless and realized they are people who can be turned into friends?

If your heart dwells in possibility.

Possibility is everywhere. The need to be loved is all around you. The opportunity to dwell in the possibility of offering love abounds.

Where does your heart dwell? In Possibility? In Compassion? In Hope? In Love?

If we choose to take up residence in one of these houses, Possibility, Compassion, Hope, Love, then we may find we have the unique opportunity to open the door and give a truly amazing and extraordinary gift…..the gift of love that turns enemies into friends. The gift of care and concern that heals the sick. The gift of truth that mends injustice, oppression and suffering. The gift of humanism that clothes and wraps people once again in dignity and respect. The gift of forgiveness that washes guilt and shame away and offers another chance. The gift of compassion that says “I care about you.” The gift of possibility that chooses to believe anything is possible.

Where does your heart dwell?

What doors will you open?

What gifts will you offer?

May this season of light and hope and promise fill your heart with compassion and love.

Peace.

Woven Together

“There are moments when the heart is generous,

and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here,

one with one another and with the place and all the living things.”

― Wendell Berry

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(sunrise on new fallen snow Nov. 28, 2014, photo by me)

December, the month of the Winter Solstice. Much, but not all of Nature sleeps or slows down. Nights are longer. The air is cooler. By instinct we move inward. It is a time when quiet and stillness come naturally. On the Wheel of Life, winter is the season of rest and preparation for renewed life, similar to how some animals go into hibernation.

Winter is a time of allowing yourself to be softer, quieter. To listen more, to speak less. A time to observe and see the sparkling stars after the sun has set. To see the absolute beauty of the bare, stark branches of the trees against the azure winter sky. It is a time to remember our lives are intertwined with the rhythms of Nature.

For better or worse, as Wendell Berry writes, our lives are woven together. There is no way to say it is not so. We may forget or try to deny, but when the heart is generous, we know.

Our horizons can shrink and creativity can seem to diminish when we forget our inter-connectedness. The compassion and empathy of our common humanity ebbs when we forget that we are woven together.

With the turning of the seasons, the rebirth of light after the darkness of the Solstice, we do have the ability, with continued disciplined practice, to construct new patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior.

So, let’s do it!! Let’s work with the turning wheel of Nature and life and set out on a quest to see, feel, hear and think differently. Release resentments and regrets. Turn from fear and anger to tolerance and understanding. Grow in empathy and compassion. Let apathy turn towards action. Allow hopelessness and routine to soften and be infiltrated by hope and purpose. It can be in any part of your life. It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, as long as it is important to you.

As you prepare for whatever Festival of Light you celebrate, religious or not, maybe just go outside one night and look up at the stars. Or go outside when it is snowing and close your eyes to hear a snow flake land on a soft bed of fresh snowfall. Look at your partner, your child, your friend, sibling, parent, without speaking, and see and hear them. This is a time for reflection and renewal. A time for mending and strengthening our common threads so the weaving of our connected-ness can grow.

“There are moments when the heart is generous,

and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here,

one with one another and with the place and all the living things.”

Let this be the season of the generous heart for all of us.

What We Need Is Here

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( wild geese, west hill, photo by me)

The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

~Wendell Berry

Fall is turning towards winter. I took this photo near where I work.  The honking of the geese seemed disjointed from the smell of brownies wafting through the the air from a lovely bakery next door!

Wendell Berry is one of my favorite poets. His observations and description of the power and wonder of Nature never fails to open my heart.

Harvest is over. The longer nights naturally turn us inward. Time to reflect and remember. Time to wonder about the future. Wendell Berry uses the sunrise colored persimmon to remind us of the gift of life, and of hidden seeds….little bundles of wonder and possibility buried deep inside the ripening fruit. Like all seeds, they carry the promise of the future. The potential to germinate and sprout what will become a new persimmon tree. The future tree found within the seed, that is within the fruit, is the promise of new life, new growth. New possibilities. The tree that stands in promise.

Geese fly over head. Abandon holds them to their way, clear, in the ancient faith: what we need is here.

What we need is here.

If we can only slow ourselves down, to be quiet in our hearts, to see with our eyes clear. What we need is here.

Everything around us reminds us, what we need is here. The wild geese who fly with certainty, following an inner compass. Knowing the way to go. There is the persimmon seed, ready to ripen, soften and grow. It’s all here, around us, in us. There is the inner compass, ready to guide us. Inside of us there is the seed of renewal and awakening ready to come to light, maturing with every breath we take, every beat of our heart.

We hold within us instinct, history and wisdom from the past. We have today to look up and see the geese and to hold and taste the sweet persimmon, and to know and remember. Life, wonder and promise are here today. All around us.

What we need is here.