Restfulness – Simplicity

Always this beginning:

Twelve years ago my friend sent me the following stanza by poet Marge Piercy from her poem, The Spring Offensive of the Snail. She also added this note, “This is a great poem to start off the New Year. There is a ceremony among some First Nations people, which involves throwing water over their backs seven times. In doing so, they wash away any habits or thoughts no longer beneficial for growth.  People forgive those who have harmed them and ask forgiveness of those they have harmed.  Now they are ready to start the year anew.”

“…But remember to bury
all old quarrels
behind the garage for compost.
Forgive who insulted you.
Forgive yourself for being wrong.
You will do it again
for nothing living
resembles a straight line,
certainly not this journey
to and fro, zigzagging
you there and me here
making our own road onward
as the snail does…”   excerpt from Marge Piercy’s poem

Restfulness

I am interested in restfulness as we enter this year. It’s a bit of a quandary that at a time when we are predisposed to hibernate with a need to curl up in front of the fire there are many demands to exercise our will in all manner of goals and resolutions for the New Year. Common ones are to eat less and exercise more, get started on the unfinished projects from last year and create BIG new goals for 2022. I am reconsidering all of this and looking at the first three months differently. Possibly as a time to cultivate restfulness.

Restfulness doesn’t mean feet up and doing nothing. It certainly doesn’t mean laziness. Rather I see it as wisely using our time to do the things we need to do while leaving enough space in between each activity so we are not agitated.  Rather than booking our calendar back to back and relying on our will to see us through why not try something different. How about adding rest notes throughout our day, not just at the end.  Maybe we take 5-15 minute intervals, (without turning this also into a task-oriented life) in order to actually enjoy this wonderful gift of waking up. In order to enjoy our contributions.

I’m thinking of the pauses we could interject to breathe, gaze out the window, read a poem, scribble in our journal, close our eyes. A mindful walk through the day where we aren’t running to catch up but rather walking and noticing the beauty of the sights and sounds. Being present to what unfolds.

Your important work will still get done.

The longer we are bound to our desk chair the harder it is to pause. To take three breaths. To stand and stretch our legs. Little breaks can help us to accomplish our important tasks without breaking our backs or our psyche. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has a good definition of overwhelm: he defines overwhelm as “life is unfolding at a pace that I find unmanageable in my psyche and in my nervous system.” If that is the case we can do something about it.

Life is a banquet with so much to choose from. We can’t have it all without serious indigestion.  I want to savour a few things this year that I love by saying no to other things that I would also like. It’s all about limited time. I’m not good at any of this but I want to experiment.

To Be Present

I know my heart is wanting simplicity and meaning, and restfulness is part of this. Poet and philosopher David Whyte claims that we aren’t meant to work 8 or 9 hours a day through will. For instance, it takes no will at all for me to prepare and present my Friday webinars at Wellspring Calgary because I love doing them. I am preparing a conversation and finding a poem and music to complement the topic. All things I love. Friday is my Wellspring day and it is topped off by spending an hour with wonderful people.  I don’t take on competing purposes that day and I am rested and rejuvenated and filled with delight when the day is done. It allows me to be present.

When we can do something like this we can give the best of ourselves. And as Whyte also says we get a glimpse of what we have already been given.

In the spring when the sun is coming up early and the evenings are getting longer and the earth is coming back to life is time enough for considering some of my more audacious goals. I might take advantage of spring fever instead of demanding constant service from my willpower. Will power is important but we demand a lot from it and I want to modify my thinking a bit – give it a break.

So, my wonderful readers, each day is a new day. We don’t need a new year to make any changes we are curious about and I have no idea what is best for you. The truth is, YOU are the expert on you.

As for me, this new year, I am aiming for a few more contemplative and meaningful moments without rushing. Restfulness. I am curious about the possibilities.

Notes

1:) Once again we are in difficult times. Like the others, it will pass, but not without angst and suffering for many. Please, take heart! May you stay safe, yet, not isolated. We all know ways to do this now.

2:) “There may be a good reason to move quickly. there is never a good reason to rush…what happens if you soften and slow, just a little bit? Feel how that changes your experience. Your sense of yourself. Your capacity for ease in the moment.” Martin Aylward, “The Art of Slowing down.”

3:) I am honoured and delighted to start off 2022 here with you. Please accept my best wishes and my thanks for your generous and encouraging words and know I so appreciate them. A thought – if you have a favourite poem or two you would like to share, you are more than welcome to send me a copy. Warmly, Trudy

PS the photos: Both from Gottfried’s library. The banner was taken in Yellowknife in January 2003 (I think) and the second one from  Gabriola Island looking across the coast Salish Sea in the general direction of  Vancouver.

Compassion for Yourself

Perspective

As we come close to the end of 2021 let’s not browbeat ourselves for all of the things we did not do. Rather, let’s take a peak at some of our favourite ordinary things that we did do this year. A bit like a mind map of what we enjoyed; what we are pleased to have done; the occasions we spent with favourite people; the books we devoured; new recipes we tried; what did we learn; any mishaps; adventures and so on. It is hard to be free of ourselves, especially our judgemental selves. Natural enough that we judge others but we are even worse critics of our own so-called failings.

This morning I read a wonderful poem by James Crews. It came my way from my poet friend, Janice, and it goes like this:

Self Love by James Crews

Treat yourself as an honored guest
in your own home. Sweep the floors,
whisking loose hairs and crumbs
into the dustpan, clearing cobwebs
as if you were about to arrive here
for the first time. Stoke the fire
in the wood stove, stacking logs
of birch and maple, whose bark
curls into flames that will warm
the whole house as you step inside
your body, learning to love its shape
like never before. Offer yourself
the wedge of brie you’ve been keeping
at the back of the fridge, pop open
whatever bottle you’ve been saving
for the moment you finally become
your own dream date, your own
special occasion. Now sit at the table
set for one, and feast on a simple
meal of bread and cheese, relishing
each taste of this new life, which has
always been waiting inside you.

Experiment

What fun to experiment a little this New Year and see if we can each find a way- a small ritual perhaps to start or end our day that brings tenderness and kindness to ourselves and thus to the people around us. Kindness is contagious too.

Personally, I am contemplating a few lovely ways to put this in place in my own life and I will tell you about it next week. The banner photo is from my friend’s Japanese Tea House. And if we can take that idea into the new year that each day is the first morning –  a clean slate – we may cultivate days of tenderness, joy, curiosity, surprise, and meaning.  And for once in our lives stop evaluating ourselves only by what we have accomplished or not accomplished. Instead, we can be mindful to do each thing that we do wholeheartedly and compassionately and notice all of the things working in our favour.

2022 holds the possibility of a very good year: beauty, truth, love, joy. Sadness too. Moments of everything.

Notes

1:) May this be a new year of discovery. A recognition that we will never get everything done but a determination to take time for what matters most, including moodling time. A time to notice that the “interruption” may have turned out to be the hi-light of our day.

2:) Always I wish for your good health, and enough of everything you need, including loving people.

3:) It is with deep gratitude that I thank you for stopping by here. It is an honour and a privilege to meet you here each week. Thank you and warmest wishes, Trudy

PS Thanks to Patricia for creating my favorite Anthem on metal.

Gratitude – my one word feeling state today

One Word

Recently I participated in an eight-week program called Living Fearlessly: Facing the Inevitable,  from the New York Zen Center. Each week we went around our Zoom room and began by stating how we were feeling by uttering one word. On occasion, we were invited to use two words. A novel approach, to say the least, and as the weeks went on I found it surprisingly useful.

This morning, on the 22nd of December, I woke up in my cozy bed,  filled with gratitude, for exactly who I was and where I was. It caught me off guard,  as I went to bed last night weary and concerned about a myriad of things.

So, to wake up, in such an enlivened state, not only refreshed but, with a wellspring of gratitude was an unexpected surprise and a great gift. And, now, as I sit here typing away, Christmas card snowflakes are falling outside my window and I have this lovely contentment of being exactly where I need to be. My one-word feeling state today is gratitude.

Gratefulness

I looked up what one of my favourite teachers, Brother David Steindl-Rast, had to say about gratefulness. Here is a snippet:

“People usually think that gratitude is saying thank you, as if this were the most important aspect of it. The most important aspect of the practice of grateful living is trust in life. Every human being every day has to make a practical choice between trusting life or not trusting life. Again and again in life, one is tempted to distrust and to fear…if you try out distrusting life and always questioning life, you find that it makes you absolutely miserable. Or you can try trusting life and whatever comes up, saying, ‘Well, maybe I don’t like it but I trust that life gives me good things—that life is trustworthy.’ To live that way is what I call ‘grateful living’ because then you receive every moment as a gift. And really the gift within the gift is opportunity. This is when you stop long enough to ask yourself, ‘What’s the opportunity in this moment?’ You look for it and then take advantage of that opportunity. It’s as simple as that.

You have a practical way to look at it—stop, look, go.

Yes, we call it stop, look, go. The first is to stop and pause long enough. The second is to look for the opportunities to find gratitude. Then go take advantage of it. Grateful living is based on having trust and taking advantage of all the opportunities to live a joyful life. People who haven’t tried it don’t believe it, but most of life is an opportunity to enjoy. When you try it, you find it to be true.

You haven’t thought of all the things you take for granted: breathing, walking, simply being alive. Having eyes to see, having friends, having something to eat. If you take these for granted, they don’t do anything. When we meet other people, even if they are not particularly likable, we find that they are interesting and different and provide an opportunity to learn and grow. Even in politics or in the office or in the family, there are things against which we have the opportunity to protest and say, ‘This is as far as I go,’ but these are also opportunities to be joyful in the midst of unhappiness—to enjoy life.”

To Be Conscious

At this time of year, to be conscious of all of our blessings, not just our material ones, (which aren’t to be downplayed,) is a wondrous gift. It reminds me of something professor and author, Dr. Art Frank wrote:

“Suffering and loss are not incompatible with life.” From his book,  At the Will of the Body: Reflections on Illness.

Dr Frank continues: “the ill and impaired may, in the sense of fulfilling life, be far more free than healthy people. The healthy require health as an affirmation that their will is still effective, and they must continually prove this effectiveness. The ill accept their vulnerability as an affirmation that the world is perfect without any exercise of their will, and this acceptance is their freedom…we are free only when we no longer require health, however much we may prefer it.”

There was a time when I had some disagreement with Dr. Frank but I notice the longer I live the more I come into alignment with the paradox and the wisdom of this. Not just health but for our other troubles and losses as well. So many times our expectations get in the way of our chance to enjoy a moment. You know I don’t mean being grateful for everything. Noone can do that, nor should we. Rather it is going beyond our expectations, pain, and obstacles and noticing what else is true.

My wish

My wish for all of you is for the courage and strength not just to manage your troubles and heartache but to be open to the moments of beauty, laughter, and joy as well. And notice when the good surprises land on your doorstep. This too can take courage.

I hope each of you has what you need, and when your light is dim, that you move closer to the light of another whom you trust so that you can regain your warmth in the shelter of their glow. May the precious gift of health be yours. And may you seek out beauty, truth, and love – unfailing companions to see us through joy and sorrow.

I am so very grateful to all of you for your kindness and the time that you give to me week after week. And although I am not crazy about the word happiness, only because of how it has been misused in our culture, I wholeheartedly wish you contentment, wherever you are and whoever you are with.

All my wishes and an armload of love,

Trudy

Notes

1:) A traditional version of Stille Nacht by the King’s Singers

2:) A suggestion from my friend, Emma Rooney of Forest Bathing Studio fame. Three Good Things in Nature : Look out for three good things in nature. Record Your Findings. Notice how you feel. Repeat everyday.

3:) A deep bow to each one of you.

I leave you with my annual reflection from GK Chesterton.

“What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.

As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation.  I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking.  I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it.  I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them.  I had not even been good – far from it.

And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. . . .  What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still.  I have merely extended the idea.

Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.

Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dollars and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking.  Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.” 

 

May you be surprised by unexpected blessings and goodwill. See you next week.

PS the Christmas tree is thanks to Patricia Ryan Madson who each year does a watercolour of her tree. The Aurora Borealis  is from Gottfried, who kindly provides me with a vast library of beautiful photos. And a final thanks to my Mother who was and still is the icon of gratefulness.

 

 

15 min photo

Simple Pleasures in the Busy Season

Simple Pleasures

Each Wednesday my grandson Rowan comes to my place to do an online math class. Today he had a test and it was the last test and class until next year. We have our ritual: I pick him up after school and we order a personal-size Score Pizza, for his supper, which he loves. His math class ends at 6:15 and we then spend the next two hours doing math. I get to solve problems too so we can compare our answers. You can guess who is mostly right but I can still measure up, now and then.

This doesn’t sound like much fun, but honestly, we laugh a lot and Rowan actually loves this class. And I look forward to Wednesdays.

Tonight, however, there was no homework that had to be done immediately and we thought a break was in order. Coincidentally I had signed up for a drawing with coloured pencils course from the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe. A participant in one of my programs sent me a note about this, otherwise, I would never have found it. When I received the email confirmation they suggested I could bring a child 12 years and up. I wondered if Rowan might be interested and he was.

So my evening consisted in taking this 90-minute experiential lesson on Zoom with my grandson and it was beautiful, absorbing, educational, relaxing, and fun. I thought to myself as we drew grids and learned about colors and how to use them –  what a simple pleasure. We were easily engaged in the tasks and it is now a forever memory in our lives.

Compassion

It doesn’t have to be with a young child either. On Monday evening I attended a remarkable one-hour event with poet Rosemerry Whatola Trommer on compassion.  For some reason, I was inspired to invite my daughter to join me. And we both loved it. Rosemerry beams compassion and her choice of poems from a variety of poets was simply perfect. She offered up bits of commentary, writing prompts for later, wholeheartedness, tenderheartedness, and laughter. She is a gifted poet and teacher.

I know it sounds like an exaggeration to say there were life-changing moments in that session. So I will be quiet about it.

Friendship

These simple and special pleasures are coming in waves: unexpectedly. Beautiful surprises that I would never have found on my own and made more precious by inviting another. They actually started on Sunday when I invited a special friend to an event hosted by poet David Whyte on Friendship. None of these events required a great deal of time or money. In fact, they all stated that no one would be turned away due to a lack of funds. It’s amazing, this generosity and the sliding scale to pay what you can.

I’m thinking of the open studio I host on Saturdays at 2:00 where a few people from one of my programs drop by to work on creative projects of their own in the company of others. It is easy and gentle and companionable. Gratis. A  simple pleasure that I will continue through the winter. I plan to open it up to a few others in the new year. It is one guaranteed way that I will spend an hour or so a week on my own creative arts. And a way for others to do the same. No teaching. Just enjoying what we do, together. I love it.

The Blue Hour

If this has not been enough, my grandson invited me to join him after school tomorrow to take photos of the blue hour. You know it is that special time before sunset, especially in the winter, where there is a cast of blue on everything. Some days are better than others. We noticed that the weather will be warm and overcast so we may be taking photos of shades of white and gray but it’s ok. We will be out walking around with our cameras noticing beauty and sharing photos.

Simple pleasures. It doesn’t get any better.

NOTES

1:) I would love to know what a simple pleasure is for you. We are all different. Another one I like on Dec 26th is to curl up in front of the tree and read for a few hours, or my first cup of coffee. When the winter sun, beams through the window, my whole day lights up. Many of us won’t be going far afield, once again, by the look of things, so having a few simple pleasures up our sleeves may come in useful.

2:) I am including the link for the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, where we took the drawing course tonight. The website is not great, so you have to look but there are a number of courses and a number of short studies to look at on various aspects of drawing and painting Georgia O’Keeffe style. The scale starts at $5.00  for courses. Here is a link to a sample course. https://www.okeeffemuseum.org/event/online-class-animal-watercolor-painting-3/

3:) I will give you more information about Rosemerry’s programs next week.

4:) I have mentioned a few times that I love Oliver Burkeman’s latest book Four thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. Believe me, it’s not what you think. It was also named (amongst many awards) one of the five best Philosophy books in 2021.

5) I do hope you experience simple pleasures this month: sitting in front of the fire with a good book and nodding off. Is that not happiness. Thank you, each of you who takes the time to read these scribbles. May you find beauty in every day. With love and appreciation, and all my best wishes, Trudy

westcoast snow on holly

Affection – the Humblest of Virtues – once again

There are traditions in my life that I love and many of them have to do with stories. This excerpt on affection is one of them and I pull it out every year at Christmas. This evening I looked back to see what I posted on my blog this time last year., and it was this post. I knew this was it, for today. It’s something like bringing out the tree ornaments, year after year, and falling in love with them all over again. What I want to say today is what I wrote last year at this time. I want to remember this short and lovely reflection from CS Lewis.

Affection

Affection is the humblest love-it gives itself no airs. It lives with private things: soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor. The glory of affection is that it can unite those who are not “made for each other,” people who, if not put down by fate in the same household or community, would have nothing to do with one another.

Affection broadens our minds: of all natural loves, it teaches us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who ‘happen to be there.’

Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.”  C S Lewis

This particular excerpt from CS Lewis has always appealed to me. I suppose it represents what I find in my own large, extended and crazy family. A motley crew for whom I have the greatest love and affection and I am also aware that they have affection for me. How lucky is that?

In an era of continual judgment about everyone’s shortcomings, I come to value the human capacity to be able to tolerate each other’s foibles,  blind spots,  and just plain old-fashioned mistakes. Along with all the wonderful things that we love about each other the whole catastrophe is what makes up our lives.

It is the same with friends. We will all disappoint each other from time to time. It can’t be helped. Life is not about ensuring that everything is designed perfectly just for me, or you, or the next person.  Like death, we all know disappointment will happen.  We will disappoint our friends and family from time to time and they will disappoint us. It can not be avoided. We are human beings. Perfectly imperfect.

Second chances

For many people, this month of December can be painful. And it is sometimes because of fractured or disappointing relationships. I am a believer in second chances and mending fences.  There is enough suffering in the world and if we can do anything to ease that suffering within our own circles of influence, while we can then I am all for it. It is a tradition handed down from my mother and her mother that is a treasure worth preserving.  Don’t misunderstand – sometimes it doesn’t seem to be possible. We all know that too.

This month, affection is my current favorite word. It rises to the top of my list every year in December, as this season prompts so many memories of joys and sorrows. Affection for all the perfectly imperfect people who have been part of my life and a humble affection for my own humanity. We are all in this together, so let’s make the most of it.

May you create moments of enjoyment, and experience affection every single ordinary day.

“I don’t think I’ll last forever,” said Peach.

“That’s okay,” said Blue. “Not many folks do.

But until then, you have me, and I have you.”

-Peach and Blue, by Sarah S. Kilborne, 1994

Notes

1:) It is true that there are many things wrong in the world but there is a whole lot going right.

2:) A beautiful short (1.5 minutes) seasonal song, Ebel: “Leise rieselt der Schnee,” (translation is Softly Falls the Snow) from the Vienna Boys Choir. Listen here.

3:) Thank you for reading my blog each week. I appreciate your notes and encouraging words. Please take care and stay safe. Reach out to friends and family and find some new and old ways to celebrate. See you next week. Warmest wishes, Trudy

If You Must Rush – do it Slowly – Dec 1st

Tis’ the Season

December 1st prompts both angst and excitement for the upcoming holidays. The gong rings out, “are you ready?” My response to that call – “no I am not.” No matter how evolved I become (haha) I am forever disappointed in what I won’t get done. I can already picture the future. No one else will know this, except all of you. So, how to struggle without agitation during this beautiful season? And if we must rush, how do we do it slowly?

I have reduced my expectations, yet as time draws near, I start to doubt myself and fret about what I have chosen not to do. Choosing is in play here. Unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others are like adding a sack of rocks to our bent shoulders. Best set that burden down, over and over again.

The practicality of Living well with illness reminds us that nothing needs to be fixed. I/we can co-exist with some of these old tapes and still continue along the new path that we are making for ourselves. A more realistic path, perhaps. A path of our own. Not the path of Amazon and big business, nor even the path of our ancestors.

My current favourite book, Four Thousand Weeks, by Oliver Burkeman has ten good suggestions, and here is one I am curious to try:

Decide in advance what to fail at

“You’ll inevitably underachieve at something, simply because your time and energy are finite. But strategic underachievement – nominating in advance areas of your life in which you won’t expect excellence- helps you focus your time and energy more effectively. For example, you might decide in advance that it’s ok to have a cluttered kitchen while you finish (writing) your novel, or to do the bare minimum on a particular work project, so you can spend more time with your children.

To live this way is to replace the high pressure quest for work-life balance with something more reasonable: a deliberate kind of imbalance.”

What matters most to you in this season? Do you have traditions you love? What new ones do you want to include? What can you set aside?

We all need to make tough choices throughout the year, as to what we can actually do. To say yes to the most important things we will need to say no to many other attractive offers. Bear in mind that this will be different for all of us because we have unique circumstances, obligations, energy capacity, and personal well-being. Age does matter, 75 is not 55. Just as 55 is not 35.  I am convinced that we can lead full, active, joyful, and useful lives for decades if we are willing to adapt to our changing circumstances.

Several years ago my stepfather was discouraged that he could no longer do what he used to do. My mother looked him in the eye and said she didn’t want to do all that she used to do anymore. And in fact that she had too much to do now. He paused, reached for the phone, and put their home on the market and they moved to a condo in the city. They both got to enjoy more years of active living and travelling. I want to be that person who will adapt: I no longer ski but I can snowshoe. ( this year I will give it a try) I don’t skate but I cycle and walk.

December

December can be a beautiful last month of the year with light, love, music, good food, and wonderful people. Let’s reduce the pressure and pick a few important things to focus our attention and effort on. Maybe we can let go of cooking the entire dinner and bring in the others to help.  Laughter and chopping in the kitchen are part and parcel of a fun Christmas for me. However, there were times we ordered a fully cooked dinner because it was the reasonable choice for that year. There are no hard and fast rules. We can adapt and enjoy.

I hope you enjoy the preparation for your holiday traditions as much as the day itself. And we can, as long as we build in time for fresh air, naps, and doing a little less. Card and letter writing, if done in the spirit of love, can be meaningful, not a duty. We may not get them all done but let’s not beat ourselves up nor wear ourselves out, during this festive season. May you enjoy this special month.

Warmest wishes and gratitude, Trudy

NOTES

Note 1:) Rumi’s message for today.

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Jelalludin Rumi

Note 2:)  Janice Fall’s beautiful poetry site. She is brilliant in finding amazing poems and her commentary is equally beautiful.

Note 3 🙂 A Year with My Camera  For budding novices and more experienced photographers this is a free online course with UK photographer Emma Davies. If you have an SLR camera tucked away and aren’t using it much anymore, you may want to take it out and have fun this winter. Our digital devices do not do well in the cold.  Emma is an excellent teacher with clear, simple and fun examples. She does have products for sale but you are not pestered. One instructional email a week. Best I have seen.

I know that most of us, including me, use our phones for photos, and they are amazing.  There are tons of courses for this too, but so far I haven’t seen anything like Emma’s and certainly not for free. There is an iPhone for Dummies by Mark Hemmings, whom I know and respect and can act as an excellent resource for beginners to make the most of these cameras.  His version was published last year and includes the iPhone 11. It is the only one I personally know.

 

I Woked Up Today –

I know nothing about enlightenment and I do not pursue it.

I have, however,  read about it so I am aware that it has  something to do with waking up. As for myself some days I am more awake than others but never in the way I have read about it. However, I came close in 2008.

It happened like this. I was going through an extremely difficult part of my chemo and my son from Vancouver and my daughter and two year old granddaughter Sophie from Ottawa, flew out to spend a week with me.The first morning after their arrival, I woke to the sound of Sophie calling out: Nana. Where are you?

I stumbled out of bed and padded across the hall to where she was sleeping. I opened the door and there she was standing up in her crib and practically vibrating with joy.

Nana! Nana! I woked up, she exclaimed, her sweet face ablaze with happiness. And in that instant I woke up too with a surge of joy, laughter and love that has carried me through ever since.

My enlightenment was not the kind the mystics describe but it was oh so perfect for me. After all these years, when I wake up I already know my day is off to a good start no matter what else is going on.

This old memory arose in my heart today as I was out walking with a friend. The sun shone and the great blue heron lifted off across the canal with his majestic wingspan in all of his glory. And I remembered that moment when Sophie declared that she woked up. And I am grateful now as I was then.

Everyday that we wake up we have an opportunity to do at least one lovely thing for ourselves and for another.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,

author, distinguished professor of Psychology and Management, and thought leader, had this to say on “waking up.”

“Wake up in the morning with a specific goal to look forward to. Creative individuals don’t have to be dragged out of bed; they are eager to start the day. This is not because they are cheerful, enthusiastic types. Nor do they necessarily have something exciting to do. But they believe that there is something meaningful to accomplish each day, and they can’t wait to get started on it. Most of us don’t feel our actions are that meaningful. Yet everyone can discover at least one thing every day that is worth waking up for. It could be meeting a certain person, shopping for a special item, potting a plant, cleaning the office desk, writing a letter, trying on a new dress.

It is easier if each night before falling asleep, you review the next day and choose a particular task that, compared to the rest of the day, should be relatively interesting and exciting. Then next morning, open your eyes and visualize the chosen event—play it out briefly in your mind, like an inner videotape, until you can hardly wait to get dressed and get going. It does not matter if at first the goals are trivial and not that interesting. The important thing is to take the easy first steps until you master the habit, and then slowly work up to more complex goals. Eventually most of the day should consist of tasks you look forward to, until you feel that getting up in the morning is a privilege, not a chore.”

― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (1934-2021)

Please carefully note that Mihaly is not talking about the treadmill or just being more efficient and productive. He speaks of something to look forward to.

Children and certain adults are great examples.

Sophie at two was aware, in her own way of the joy of waking up. My friend John who died twelve years ago was also aware of this great privilege. In a phone conversation shortly before his death I was telling him about a particularly great day.

He gently reminded me that they are all good days. “You woke up,” he said. And I agreed. When I hung up from our talk, at that time, I thought about Wu Men’s little poem written hundreds of years ago that I love. I pass it on once again. A little gift for today.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.
Wu-Men (1183-1260)

Notes:

Note 1:) The seminal work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.  You pronounce his name like this: (Me-High  Chick-sent-Me-High) Once you know, it’s easy.

Note 2:) Rumi has a special suggestion for what to do with a day. I think of it as an invitation to mend our fences when appropriate. “Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Note 3:) For those of you who enjoy landscape photography here is a link to this year’s winners I spotted this first in The Atlantic but I prefer the original site where you have more options.

Note 4:) Thursday is American Thanksgiving. To all of my friends, family and my American readers. May you have a lovely day with family and friends and may you take the time to celebrate with each other and count your blessings. I send all of my dear readers my best wishes and so much thanks. Warmly, Trudy

“Our challenge is not to choose between the fragility and strength of life…” by Mark Nepo

“Our challenge is not to choose between the fragility and strength of life but to cultivate our wonder by holding both in our heart.” Mark Nepo

 

I have been a fan of Mark Nepo, poet, philosopher, and  storyteller, for two decades. Mark is someone who had a rare cancer in his 30’s and it woke him up. This poem is longer than I would ordinarily post but it has much to say that is important. If you read it aloud slowly to yourself, at least twice, you may be surprised. I will also record it on Sound Cloud and the link will be in the notes.

This poem needs nothing else.

 

FOR THAT

How could I know
creating and surviving
were so close

a membrane apart,
a pulsing, glowing film.

How could I know
each day
is
the last
and
the first

and beneath
that tension,
if we wade below it
like the surface
of a sea, a chance
only coral
can feel

and there
we grow
so thoroughly
that breaking
and healing,

creating
and surviving,
first and
last are
one, the
same.

There,
beneath
the tensions
of psychology,
beneath the
pockets of doubt,
beneath the
prospect of
days to be lived
or not lived,

a moment
so calm
it is
cleansing

and I smile
through my
whole body
just to have
a body,
just to have
this orchestra within

that plays
to no conductor.

Will you believe me then,
that like the Zen monk
who finds wisdom
in his fears,
who hears more
than he can say,

will you believe me
that no matter what
is shucked or diagnosed
or bled, I would
trade places
with no one,
spirits
with all.

My purpose,
at last,
to hold
nothing
back.

My goal:
to live
a thousand years,
not in succession,
but in every
breath.

Notes

Note 1:) Here is the link to the Mark Nepo poem For That

Note 2:) Some music to follow the poem. Gluck: Dance of the Blessed Spirits “In Gluck’s 1762 opera, Orfeo ed Euridice, the ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirits’ ballet moment is flute-heavy and beautiful. Pluck it out as a standalone piece, and allow the juxtaposition of the mournful slow melody with the light ‘minuet’ dance transport you to another place entirely.” Classic FM London, England

Note 3:) And a little humor from our sufi friend Nasruddin: “

Nasruddin was sitting in the coffeehouse drinking coffee with one of his friends. They were talking about this and that, and Nasruddin’s friend asked, “Just how old are you, Nasruddin?”
“I’m fifty years old,” replied Nasruddin, taking a sip of his coffee.
His friend thought for a moment and then said, “Fifty years old? Really? I’m sure that’s what you told me when I asked you your age several years ago.”  “That’s right. I said I was fifty years old then, and I’m sticking to my story!” said Nasruddin. “I’m a man of my word; you can count on it.”  (Attribution: Tiny Tales from India by Laura Gibbs. Version: July 8 2020.)

Note 4:) Thank you for coming by  to read my scribbles. And in the case of today, the beautiful writing of Mark Nepo. I send my warmest wishes to you all and the hope that you are finding bright moments in every day. With appreciation, Trudy

Remembrance Day – repost

Remembrance Day

In November 2010 I was in London England with my friend Nancy. Of all the things that grabbed my attention,  one that surprised me was the extraordinary number of visual tributes to the Unknown Soldier and all  of those men and women who sacrificed their lives during the wars. It was overwhelming to see all the white crosses with red poppies, covering entire sections of public and church land. All commonwealth countries observe a date close to November 11th or on the 11th, as we do in Canada, since the end of the First World War. It is a moving tribute to honour and express our gratitude to those who lost their lives and sometimes their sanity to protect our freedom.

Traditionally, the poppy is worn from November 2nd to the 11th and that is what I recall from my childhood. It acts as a reminder to not take freedom for granted. And to understand that people died, usually young people, on our behalf, in those brutal wars. Over time I have also added civilian casualties to my remembrance.

With that in mind, I will bow my head for a moment of silence at 11:00 am, on the 11th day of the 11th month.  As do the school children, who often hold beautiful ceremonies with their hand drawn art work, songs and short plays in order to remember. And in order not to forget.

Remembering Others

This day prompts me to also take stock and remember my family and friends who have died not though war but through illness and old age. I have anchored this practice of remembering to the 11th of November.    I think it is helpful  to have little ceremonies and rituals to remember our loved ones. The days flow by so fast and one year becomes ten. Many people I love have died in this past decade and November 11th is my visual cue to privately remember everybody. And it is a cue to make sure I care for the living, while I can, and to let those living, beautiful and beloved people know they are cared for.

A Reflection and Doing Exercise

My friend Patricia recently introduced me to a particularly practical, memorable, and delightful exercise, which is a tribute to those who have been instrumental in our lives. It goes like this and it too involves remembering.

“Make a list of the 20 people who have influenced your life. They can be people you know as well as public figures, artists, writers, teachers, etc. Some may no longer be alive. You get to decide who is on your list.   After doing this exercise I asked myself “What needs to be done?” And I saw that I wanted to write a few letters of appreciation, to those I could, telling of their influence.”

I am slowly writing these letters over this past few years.

Notes

Note 1:) I am thinking of John McCrae, a Canadian soldier, poet, and physician who wrote the now iconic poem, In Flanders Fields. The first stanza goes like this and is why the poppy was chosen for Remembrance Day.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
 The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Note 2:) I have the loveliest of readers on my blog. Yes, YOU! I so appreciate you.  For those of us in Ontario we have been treated to a beautiful autumn that is still going on. Lots of people out and about, which is truly wonderful to see.

Note 3:) Please take care, take heart, and stay safe. For those of you who are suffering, remember that all things change. Nothing stays the same forever.  We humans seem to be able to rise to what is needed. Sometimes we can’t and we ask for help. We all need help throughout our lives. Do your best to get your daily intake of the great outdoors.  Everyday. Warmest greetings and best wishes. See you next week, Trudy

Limited Time and Beauty Everywhere

Today

I was asked for one thing that brought me pleasure today. Without hesitation I proclaimed, “the beauty of autumn leaves.” If memory is reliable I don’t recall so much colour  at this time of year. Each morning this week I walked the same loop in my neighbourhood and was deliriously overjoyed with what I saw. Because the time is getting short to enjoy this beauty, I chose to make it my priority even if it meant being late for other things.  I also knew that I couldn’t count on those leaves being there tomorrow. And the other things would get done.

The seasons are now a priority for me because I can realistically see that the number I have left are shrinking. So, I blame (credit) Oliver Burkeman for neglecting my “work” and getting outdoors.

Here is an excerpt from his book, which inspired me:

“…(in speaking about purchasing something) if something feels like a priority now, it’s virtually impossible to coolly assess whether it will still feel that way in a week or a month. And so we naturally err on the side of spending—then feel bad later when there’s nothing left over to save.

The same logic…applies to time. If you try to find time for your most valued activities by first dealing with all the other important demands on your time, in the hope that there’ll be some left over at the end, you’ll be disappointed. So if a certain activity really matters to you—a creative project, say, though it could just as easily be nurturing a relationship, or activism in the service of some cause—the only way to be sure it will happen is to do some of it today, no matter how little, and no matter how many other genuinely big rocks may be begging for your attention.

After years of trying and failing to make time for her illustration work, by taming her to-do list and shuffling her schedule, Jessica Abel saw that her only viable option was to claim time instead—to just start drawing, for an hour or two, every day, and to accept the consequences, even if those included neglecting other activities she sincerely valued. ‘If you don’t save a bit of your time for you, now, out of every week,’ as she puts it, ‘there is no moment in the future when you’ll magically be done with everything and have loads of free time.’

This is the same insight embodied in two venerable pieces of time management advice: to work on your most important project for the first hour of each day, and to protect your time by scheduling “meetings” with yourself, marking them in your calendar so that other commitments can’t intrude. Thinking in terms of “paying yourself first” transforms these one-off tips into a philosophy of life, at the core of which lies this simple insight: if you plan to spend some of your four thousand weeks doing what matters most to you, then at some point you’re just going to have to start doing it.”

Priorities

And that is exactly what I started on Nov 1st. Walking every morning and appreciating the beauty in my neighbourhood is a priority. There is never  time left over.

What is a priority of yours that you don’t make time for? When once again I made a realistic and heartfelt plan of my priorities I also discovered that I have more to do than can be done. This becomes a form of radical acceptance where I realized I can’t possibly do everything I want to do. So what more needs to come off my list? And along with that is the simple truth that there will be  things left over at my departure. As I look at the bookcase facing my computer I see the many books that will be unread. Yet, I will always have too many books. This is part of my blueprint.

And the challenge of picking and choosing may be something like “is it as important as my books? Or, is it as important as being outside enjoying the beauty of nature and moving my body? Is it as important as being with my friends and family?”  Priorities change as we live a long time. Our awareness of time changes. Creative endeavors loom much larger in my life now than they did 20 years ago. I am so curious about this end zone. And I want to make time for it.

I also want to show you a few photos of my walk this morning, in gratitude for the pleasure they gave me. It is the variety that takes my breath away, on a morning in November in the Glebe.

Notes

And I am grateful to all of you who stop by here each week. It feels a bit like a conversation  with kind and delayed responses.