Waterfalls From Heaven

I feel differently when I am outside. I think differently. I see differently. I hear differently. I smell things differently. I feel the air around me differently.

I change. I slow down. Calm down. I shed wants and unknown fears.

Nature heals.

Our part of NYS was in a pretty bad drought last year. There was briefly talk of having to truck water in to our community.

About 20 minutes from my home is a narrow, 215 foot waterfall. Not tall by some standards, but still beautiful. During the drought, the water stopped. The waterfall had become just a cliff. The thundering water was silenced. The mist vanished.

This spring we have had rain. And rain. We are now in a flood warning. Our lake is high, yards and homes are flooded.

Easter morning we walked the gentle trail to our waterfall, Taughannock Falls. The water was flowing.

easter taug4

Taughannock, photo by me 4/16/17

The mist purified and baptized me in a way no organized dogma could. The thunder of the raging water muffled noises in my head of worry, fear, doubt. I could smell the scent of the earth, damp, decaying and, also, alive. I focused on the force and power of the milky water launching off the side of rock cliff that was too old to comprehend. Somewhere in those rocks and cliffs are fossils of life from ancient sea beds.

The Waterfall at Lu-Shan

Sunlight streams on river stones.
From high above, the river steadily plunges–

three thousand feet of sparkling water–
the milky way pouring down from heaven.

Li Po

Surely our little waterfall is a tiny bit of the milky way pouring down from heaven. Heaven reaching down towards Earth. A reminder of things inter-connected. A reminder to seek beauty and tread lightly. A reminder to look up in wonder and awe at the stars in the universe. A reminder to look all around this biosphere called Earth with humility and and respect, gentleness and stewardship. A reminder to live in moderation and care, balance and understanding. A reminder to pause in gratitude and appreciation for our Mother Earth and all the life she supports.

**It’s spring!! That means Earth Day, marches and standing up to protect the only home we have: Earth. Here are some readings to ponder This Week

 

 

The Open Heart of Gratitude

“To love in the face of fear is bold.
To love in the face of hatred is courageous.
To make the choice to love even more deeply
and widely in the face of moments of anguish
is a heroism of the heart that may be our only hope to heal this world.”
Kristi Nelson

So much going on in the world. So much pain and violence, Hatred and fear. I am struggling with a deep sense of sadness. I am reaching and stretching towards what I know is bold and powerful: love.

Ultimately I know deep in my soul that I will always make the choice to be vulnerable, broken and heart broken, lost, afraid, humbled by the profound power of love rather than allowing myself to be closed off to love…I will not shut it out and allow hate and fear to take over.

I am one. It may not sound like much in a world of billions. Still, I will always stand up to fear and hate. I will always speak out in love, with compassion and always search inwardly for empathy towards others. I am one. But I am ONE MORE.

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once,
but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

~ Clarrisa Pinkola Estes

I do not live in bubble or vacuum. There are many things I can do that will have a positive impact on the part of the world within my reach. And I believe, further. Many of them require me to look honestly at myself and to re-educate myself to correct the inaccuracies I was taught. I challenge the thoughts and beliefs I was exposed to. It is okay to have to re-visit, re-think, process and revise.

“What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts,
adding, adding to, adding more, continuing.
We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace,
but only a small, determined group
who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
~Clarrisa Pinkola Estes

Accumulation of acts by a determined group. People who will not give up.

“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do
to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit
and willing to show it.”
~Clarrisa Pinkola Estes

I feel humbled by my list of things in my life to be grateful for. Mostly the same list I take for granted.  Not intentionally, but out of privilege. Yes, there it is. Privilege.

It doesn’t feel good. Yet, I am so grateful for this feeling. It is bringing me to an open door where I can turn around and see things from the perspective of others. Through the door I can begin the re-education of my heart. I can walk towards the opportunity to gain understanding. An opportunity to grow,  to evolve. I will accept the challenge to open my eyes.

I say this with full humility. I say this with determination. I am humbled and sometimes deflated by the struggles in the world. By the pain inflicted on one person by another. By the realization that there is a cloak of invisibility we throw over those we do not understand, are afraid of, don’t care about, who are different from us. Over people we judge.

This is the season of Thanksgiving. A holiday that needs to shed the untruths of the glamoured up version of history. All you have to do is look at what is happening at Standing Rock to understand what was set into motion in 1621.

How about in honor of being able to feel gratitude for things in our life we work for change, for understanding, for tolerance, for love. How about we learn something new? About abortion, or poverty, or racism (internalized, interpersonal,institutional and structural), or implicit bias, or conformation bias, or Islam, or food stamps, or why consent matters, or about sexuality and what it really means, the facts about incarceration and how it affects the poorest and most vulnerable. How about we learn the truth of the effort to dehumanize Native Americans from the first Thanksgiving. How about we learn about Others?

You know, I can’t live up to these goals all the time. I get lost in my own ego and personal struggles. I get mad, feel anger, get hurt. Underneath all that I know there are so many millions of people who suffer so deeply from so many different things….and that puts so much into perspective.

cbe-hiSo this Thanksgiving season I will gratefully spend time with my husband and children, eat a nice meal we all work on together. And for things I particularly feel grateful for I will commit to learning about how I can help others have those same things. And I will learn why I have to help them…what is standing in their way to healthy food, a job, health care, a home, protected rights, education, a safe neighborhood,………..it’s a long list.

This Thanksgiving I am grateful that I have made a decision to care. To open my eyes. To open my heart. To become educated. To understand I have a personal responsibility to bring a little bit of good into the parts of the world that are within my reach.

in-this-house

Check out this week’s readings: This Week

It Rained This Morning

We are in the middle of a serious drought here in central NYS. This morning I awoke to the soft pattering of rain.

There are the folks who say “Uh oh climate change.” The “others” say “Good thing it’s just weather.”

Lenses. We all look through lenses. Rosey colored ones. Dark colored ones. Clear ones. Lenses that help us make up our mind and decide if it is weather or climate change.

I lay in bed, eyes closed, no lenses in use. Just listening.

rainThen the lenses popped on. “Oh, we need this rain! This great! Rain Rain Rain!” and in the other breath, “Crap. There go the plans for the day.” Both understandable. Both true. After actually opening my eyes the lens that was now focusing was the clear one. “I am glad to have my daughter home. Her friends are so fun! Maybe it will just be a relaxing day playing games and eating good food.” All lenses focused on different, real points of view. I just had to choose which one to look through.

Every morning I make a point of taking a few very deep breaths. Slow and long. Pulling in the fresh, clean air and exhaling the stale, depleted air. I try to take a few minutes to get grounded for the day. My thoughts are not so different from the ones at night. Focusing on gratitude and compassion. I always give time to remember how many people are suffering in this world and as in the Buddhist doctrine, pray for all living beings to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

And I never, ever forget a wish for peace in the world:rain bells

Prayer For Everyday For All Creation

Let us see one another through eyes
enlightened by understanding and compassion.

Release us from judgment so we can receive the stories
of our sisters and brothers with respect and attention.

Open our hearts to the cries of a suffering world
and the healing melodies of peace and justice for all creation. 

Empower us to be instruments of justice
and equality everywhere.

~Collectively authored by Millionth Circle Initiative,
5th World Conference on Women & Circle Connections.

 

I choose to look through the lens of understanding and compassion. It could easily be anger and fear. Or, longing and desire. Or, day dreams and wishes. Or, judgment and blame.

I want to understand. I want to be compassionate. I strive to be released from judgment and grow understanding instead. I try to hear the real life stories of people who live life similar to mine as well those whose lives are unimaginably and fundamentally different from mine. I strive to grow respect over ridicule. And to hear. Always to listen and hear and never become deaf. I try to use the clear lens, but sometimes I forget and the judgment and comparison begin. Anxiety may arise. I may even begin to turn or look away.

Anyway. I am grateful for the rain. I obviously can’t make it rain or choose where it will fall. I know it is needed, that it is helping to refresh, feed and cleanse the world…..even if it is just this little part of the world right now. And I know I don’t have any kind of power like that, but I do have power and choice. I choose ever day to help the next generation learn what conversation and communication is. I help them understand the power of their words. Words that can hurt, deflate, cause fear or pain. Words that mock and humiliate. And words that can ask to be forgiven, heal, comfort, uplift. And you know what? These very young children learn this and they grow and they become compassionate, forgiving, and uplifting to their peers. One mother told me her 3-year-old talked her through a panic attack by helping her do mindful breathing.

It is a small but effective thing I do. But it matters. Just like this small amount of rain. I can pray my prayers and send my wishes of goodwill out into the world all day long. If I do not take some form of action I feel I am in part responsible if those prayers do not seem to be heard and answered, if the good wishes and kind intent seems to never go very far or anywhere at all.

In this world today with all the contentious and combative words, with all the posturing and flexing, with the all hatred that seems so much more fashionable than forgiveness, with fear that seems to be filling some of our lives rather than hope, all our lenses become covered with dust. When the rain falls near you, and cleans and refreshes your little bit of earth and washes the dust of uncertainty and fear off your heart, and fills you up again, which lens will you choose to dust off and put on, to walk out into the fresh and new day?

 

Rest In The Grace Of The World

                                                                    The Peace Of Wild Things

heron2When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
~Wendell Berry

This is a favorite poem of mine. I come back to often, looking at the written words. Saying them out loud. Bringing them into my heart. It’s all there. All around us. The reminder of what matters. What the foundation is. A path that leads to resting in the grace of the world.

There are some days when I do feel as if I am waiting for the light of the day-blind stars. For me there is comfort in the star light of night. It is in the darkness with what appear as tiny specks reflecting light from an unseen source, that I feel small, not so important….where I experience awe, wonder, amazement in the most profound way. The world becomes quiet. Harshness softens. Reflection and gratitude have their time.

Now, obviously, given the title of the blog, I appreciate the sunrise also….that is when I wake up in awe, and listen to bird song, watch colors that cannot be recreated float across the sky. My mind wakes up and thoughts percolate. I have the feeling of being something very tiny in a world, in universe that is very large. Nature. It is Nature where I experience the sublime. This is what is holy, spiritual for me. Standing outside with the wind giving voice to the leaves, softly brushing my skin, feeling the heat of the sun or the seeing by the light of the moon, I am reminded over and over again


“we all dwell in a house of one room…”

~John Muir

There is grace enough for all of us in this world. Sometimes we have to stop, slow down, stop thinking in order to see it. To feel it. To know it. And sometimes we need to reach out and help others stop, slow down, stop talking to see it. Feel it. Know it.

We have to step out of world of important things. We have to stop the movement, the doing. We have to turn off the noise, the music, the computer, the phone. We have to figure out how to “……..go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.”

Here, resting in the beauty we have a chance to find clarity and balance. These two things are so needed in our world today. When your back is flat against the earth and you have to close your eyes to the brilliance of the sun and your skin feels the heat, all that heals you. The music in your ears, the rythym of the rippling water and the singing birds, is the most beautiful music there is.

Go now, go and lie down. Rest in the peace of the wild things.

Enmeshed

In her beautiful article for the magazine LIFE AS A HUMAN, Lakota writer Mary Black Bonnet explains,

“For Lakotas one of our common mantras is “Mitakuye Oyasin” — we are all related.
All of us, no matter who you are (person), or what you are (grass, trees, rocks), are the same.
No one is better than anyone else.
Our lives really are circular, and yes, everything REALLY is related to everything else.
Some say related — I like to say enmeshed, because it really is.”

water treesmh1

Mary goes on to explain that along with this sense of Mitakuye Oyasin comes the practice of gratitude. Not the kind of gratitude most of us practice, but full on, constant awareness and complete physical, spiritual and mental gratitude from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until we close them at the end of the day.

Mary Black Bonnet writes, “By the time I’ve ingested my food and am ready to start my day, I’ve already offered up thanks for so many things.”

This practice of being grateful is something I am consciously working on. It is difficult. It is not about coming to the end of the day and running through a litany of things to be thankful for. It is about having the presence of mind and pausing in that awareness as things happen, and saying “Thank you.”

My hard wiring causes me to begin planning and ordering my day as soon as I open my eyes. The mental lists form. A tightening in my body occurs as I feel overwhelmed some days before I even get out of bed. (And I have a pretty easy day, job and life) Some mornings before I get out of bed I find I am anticipating how many hours until I can get back in it.

I am working on giving up that routine. When I open my eyes I look outside and focus on Nature, the world. These winter mornings it is still dark and quiet. (This past week the moon, along with Saturn and Venus put on quite a show. I could see them from my pillow. There was no way to avoid the brightness, the light, the breath-taking beauty.)  I stay there in bed, for minutes after I “should” be up and I practice gratitude. It changes my physical body, I stay soft and relaxed. It changes my mental state, there is less anxiousness, worry, feeling of being overwhelmed. It changes my emotions. I don’t feel grumpy or cranky. I am instead at ease, grounded, open minded.

That takes 5 minutes.

As Mary writes, we are all a part of everything else….enmeshed, tangled up together, caught up in everything else. Thích Nhất Hạnh calls this “Interbeing”.  Alan Watts reminds us:

If you see yourself in the correct way,
you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees,
clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire,
the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy.
You are all just like that
…”

When we begin to learn to approach our life a little differently from what the TV shows, news, magazine photos, consumer advertising, would have us believe is the life we need to attain and defines a life well lived, we may discover something else. I get it that not everyone is into this. It’s where I am right now.

I am learning that life defined in softness and stillness, in awareness and being present, in interbeing and inter-connectedness, in gratitude, is a life of beauty and wonder, gentleness and hope.

In the morning when I open my eyes and see that crescent moon flirting with Venus and Saturn, I strive to remember to  see myself “in the correct way”. The way that tells us we “are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as…the arrangement of the stars and the form of a galaxy.” I remember we are all related. “Our lives really are circular, and yes, everything REALLY is related to everything else.”

And in remembering those things I am reminded to bathe in gratitude. To let gratitude flow over me and wash me clean from things that may not be as important as I make them out to be. When I do that I am changed. Compassion, gentleness, patience, less judgement, less worry fill my days. Not always…I am still learning. But, more often.

It’s a miraculous thing, Life. I don’t want the beauty, wonder, magic of it to be lost from me. I want to embrace and understand this state of Interbeing we are enmeshed in. I want gratitude to be the emotion that guides me.

Mary Black Bonnet’s article: We Are All Related

Link for LIFE AS A HUMAN Life As A Human

Link for Clouds In Each Paper by Thích Nhất Hạnh about Interbeing Clouds In Each Paper

*Photo by me. Roy H. Park Nature Preserve

 

 

No One Reads A Blog On Thanksgiving Day, Right?

“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.”
–Mary Oliver

No one reads a blog on Thanksgiving, right?  Well, perhaps….I’ll take a small chance.  In this country today is Thanksgiving….it has different meanings for different people. Here’s my take….a day to commit to transforming the way I live.

heron

As I grow older the choice to make each day a day to give thanks, to feel gratitude, grows stronger. It is not enough to have one day to pause and reflect and count blessings. Living in gratitude has become a resolute intention. I understand, as Mary Oliver says, “I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.”

To share each day with a loving, giving partner and to watch our children grow into loving, compassionate, grateful, aware individuals, who strive to make a difference in the lives of others in the world, is a blessing. I never want to take them for granted.

I feel blessed every day. To wake up from sleep in a soft, comforting bed and take in a breath as I open my eyes to a new day is a blessing. I do not want to ever take that for granted.

At the end of the day as I shed clothing, activities, words and emotions from the day, I am blessed to be able to recline in a tub of hot water and reflect on having had a day where I did not have to think of food, safety or shelter. I never want to take that for granted.

As I fret and worry of things I could have done better or differently, or worry about things that may or may not happen in the future, I recognize the relevance of living in the present. I pause to “stand wherever I am to be blessed.” I am blessed. I do not ever want to take that for granted.

When I get in my head I need or desire something and it lingers and hangs on every thought as if it were important and can’t be put aside, I pause and look around. I live in plenty. There is nothing I need. I do not ever want to forget that or take for granted what I have.

When I feel sad, small, confused, I know I have only to reach out my hand to find the absolute love of family and friends. In their embrace I am uplifted and restored. I never want to take that for granted.

thanxgiving morning 2015

It Was Early

It was early, which has always been my hour to begin looking at the world
and of course, even in the darkness, to begin listening into it,
especially under the pines where the owl lives and sometimes calls out
as I walk by, as he did on this morning. So many gifts!
What do they mean?  In the marshes where the pink light was just arriving
the mink with his bristle tail was stalking the soft-eared mice,
and in the pines the cones were heavy, each one ordained to open.
Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.
Little mink, let me watch you.
Little mice, run and run.
Dear pine cone, let me hold you as you open.
–Mary Oliver

May you know you are blessed. Each and every day. In the joy and hopefulness of your day as well as in the bruised and distressed moments, you are blessed. The pilgrimage towards inquiry includes the effort to stand still and receive and acknowledge those blessings. No matter how small and feeble they may feel, they are there….the sun, your breath, your shoes, a glass of water, a smile received, a hand held…..

Stand where you are, be silent and still. In that stillness may you be filled up with gratefulness for all the blessings in your life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Digging For Treasure

We need more sand in the sandbox at the little school where I work. At least that’s what the adults think. The kids don’t seem to really care. Now they are busy digging. Really digging, in hard compacted sand and soil. There are holes and trenches. Many holes are large enough for them to curl up in like a cat ready for nap. Some trenches are long enough that they actually walk in them from hole A to hole B.

My assistant tossed in some “things” a few weeks ago. Some small shells, glass stones, sparkly things.

“TREASURE!!!” came the cry.

treasure(the actual treasure)

Three, four and five year olds came flying to see the discovery! It was like Christmas, or a birthday. Treasure had been found.

After they had collected all the obvious treasure they decided it really would be best to bury it again. They had to dig new holes and not use existing ones, because…well…I’m not sure…

When all the treasure had been buried they were off running and playing something else with complete abandon, confident that their treasure was safe for now.

Days later the group decided to dig up the treasure. Buckets held the shells and glass stones. They became ingredients for cakes, ice cream and soups. Then came the cry, “HEY!!! LOOK at this!!” A child help his open hand up high to show he had found a walnut!

“Ohhhhhhhh!!!!!”

Apparently walnuts are the true gold standard in treasure hunting. The walnut was passed around and everyone looked at it and turned it in their hands.

I want this in my adult life. To be amazed each and every time. To be joyful and totally surprised when I rediscover something forgotten or stored away. I want to know that if something is buried I may or may not find it again, but if I do it will be a treasure. I want walnuts in my life. Small, almost insignificant items that are like the gold standard of awe. I am reminded this kind of treasure I seek  is not always big, showy, of monetary value…it may be small, seemingly unimportant.

The treasure I hope to discover, like the children’s treasure, is usually always known….just put aside and forgotten. I’m hoping to “rediscover” enough, contentment, empathy, compassion, caring, simplicity, slowing down, breathing, joy, awareness, being present, kindness, patience, truth, and me. 

Some days and sometimes these things get away from me. Even the me in me gets lost. I become a robot of sorts, going through the day. Sometimes I feel like there is even a programmed script. So, I am trying to talk less and listen more. I want my words to be meaningful as in the quote to help us THINK before we speak. Are our words ” True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind”? (there is no agreement as to the originator of “THINK”.)

I hope to bring these things to the forefront of my life again recognizing them as treasures to be shared. I hope that each of these will be like that dusty walnut shell, the gold standard of my humanism.

I don’t need the glittery, fancy stuff. I don’t need to have people think I am important or special. I want to live a life that is grateful and does not take things for granted. I want my days to be filled with sharing  kindness, expressing empathy, showing compassion, caring, slowing down, practicing patience and mindfulness. I hope I can navigate the responsibilities, routines and pressures of each day and hold tight to these treasures, like the children holding the walnut. I don’t want to just be good at remembering these treasures, I want them to be, hope they will be, who I am all the time.