To Begin Again – Barn Burnt

23 May 2017

Barn’s burnt down —                                                                                               now                                                                                                                                      I can see the moon.                                                                                             ~Mizuta Masahide, 17th c. Japanese poet and samurai

To Begin Again Barn Burnt

And occasionally, there is this kind of beginning again.  After a break that is not repairable.  After the damage is done.  When the loss is disabling, the sorrow disconsolate.

Barn burnt down.  The night long and cold without shelter.  The future bleakened by the loss of feed and livestock.

No life escapes losses of this sort.  We will grieve.  Life will bring us to our knees.

Some traditions have ways of helping us cope with difficult life experiences, rituals that honor the difficulty of being human and the raw uncertainty of life.  But ultimately perhaps, we must cope ourselves;  sink into the pain, grope through the dark, lean into those who love us while we find strength, or cultivate it, within.

It takes courage to recover and strength to lift the heavy beams into place for a new barn.  It takes determination to accept sorrow and build it into the structure of a good life.

In return, that shelter we create can come to foster our ability to go forward, to go ahead and care whole-heartedly again.

At some point, the resilience of life exerts itself again.  At some point, the wildflowers that spring from the blackened ground are more lovely and lush than ever.  At some point, that which is not mendable becomes a softness in our hearts.

At some point, the full moon comes into view in a new way, reminding us that life is big, impossible to contain within any single event.

 

 

 

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To Begin Again – Here Again

16 May 2017

Quiet the mind and the soul will speak. ~Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

To Begin Again Here Again

I value contemplative practices.  Yoga and mediation have a strong hold on me.  l’m enchanted by the dynamic spaciousness of a quiet, calm mind.  A place that, for me, can be utterly elusive.

I begin meditation with several deep belly breaths.  These breaths are a wonderful, expansive welcome, like opening the front door and receiving a warm greeting.  Yet, despite the years that I’ve been sitting down to meditation, I can entirely forget to center and ground myself this way.  Instead, I barge through the door laden with armfuls of grocery totes and daily baggage.  Or I find myself, five minutes later, still pacing the door stoop.

And so it is then that I remember.  To round my belly with breath.  To feel the oxygen sifting into my cells.  To begin again.

This is practice.  This is why meditation is referred to as ‘a practice’.  It is always, naturally and inherently, beginning again.

Often a sense of restlessness or unease reminds me that I have been too much on the surface and that the deeper drifts of life are calling me.  Nudging me to loosen my grip on the wheel, ease off the gas, turn onto the less traveled road in order to connect with the values I hold and the intentions I hold dear.

Those small voices are urging me to return and create space.

Many times when I sit, instead of a still pool, my mind is wind-tossed and tumbled.  But each time I begin again, I’m practicing.  Beginning again is a muscle, a resolve that strengthens with each use.

The contemplative practice does not yammer or yell, shout or shove.  It waits, patient, quiet, unassuming and powerful.  Always willing to help me find my way.  Always ready for me to begin again.

Is there an urge within you?

 

 

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To Begin Again – Your Alphabet of Now

12 May 2017

     Presence is a state of inner spaciousness.  ~Eckhart Tolle

Alphabet of Now

Life is dynamic.  As bits of the cosmos, we are dynamic.  Ever-changing like the warp and weave of spacetime.  To begin again gives us a chance to get current.  To take stock of who we actually are now.

We harbor old tapes.  I have ideas about my appearance that sprung directly from the girl who sat behind me in 5th grade and enjoyed tugging my ponytail and whispering mean-spirited things.

She still ripples through my personal spacetime, but when I notice this I have a chance to choose different voices.  Perhaps my own.  I can ask myself, ‘Who am I today?  In this moment, what do I value?’

This week, a friend inspired me to play with the alphabet as an entrance into exploring inner landscapes.  The game is to randomly choose three letters from the alphabet and spontaneously name a character trait or emotion that begins with each one of those letters.  Then, poke around into each.  Is this trait or emotion something I admire and want to cultivate, or not?  Do other people tell me I have that quality?  Do I agree or not?  Why?  Can I be sure?  What do I know about myself in relation to that quality in this moment?

Like the universe we are part of contains many unsolved mysteries, we, too, are full of  enigmas we might never understand.  But, beginning again, fresh and open with ourselves, creates intimacy within that provides space and authenticity for intimacy beyond.

Maybe you’ll have fun playing with letters, too.  What is your alphabet of now?

 

 

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To Begin Again – A Place of Inquiry

9 May 2017

This is why I value that little phrase “I don’t know” so highly.  It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. ~WisÅ‚awa Szymborska

A Place of Inquiry

Illustration of Gravitational Waves

In any given moment, no matter how much we know, no matter how detailed and secure our arrangements, there remains an infinite number of unknowns, unknowables, uncertainties.  Every moment is alive with this.  In a very real sense, we are beginners in every moment.

Last year, for the very first time, scientists observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime.  They believe these tiny ruffles in space and time that they detected were created when two black holes sunk into each other and merged into a single more massive hole 1.3 billion years ago.  As part of his theory of relativity, Einstein had mathematically concluded that these ripples, called gravitational waves, existed.  Later, he would flip-flop several times:  publishing papers that reversed that position, abandoning it, then taking it back up again.  One of the most spectacular physicists of all times worked from a place of not knowing, of probing into and re-examining his own assumptions about both what is known and what is not.

Knowing can be comfortable.  Not knowing can feel risky and vulnerable.  Sometimes these uncomfortable feelings are exactly what lead us into an understanding, or a connection.

Newtonian physics works incredibly well.  Einstein’s theory of relativity predicted amazing phenomena that scientists are finally able to observe 100 years later.  Quantum mechanics has opened up an entirely different perspective on reality.  They are all true.  And yet, they are all at odds with one another.  Let us accept that, much as we know and continue to learn, we do not understand everything.  The universe remains chock-full of mysteries.

The human heart, mind and soul are universes of their own, as complex and varied as the physical world.  Acknowledging ‘I don’t know’ opens the door to some of our most human qualities – curiosity, astonishment, empathy.

What notion or fear is tugging at you, asking to have its knots teased apart?  Do you have a recurring idea, perhaps that you don’t have enough time?  Is this idea true?  What thought has become entrenched and inflexible that would like to soften into a place of understanding?  What might want to be peek out from under the cover of ‘knowing’ into a place of inquiry?

 

Curiosity has its own reason for existing.  ~Albert Einstein

 

 

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To Begin Again — Beginner’s Mind

5 May 2017

In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.    ~ Shunryu Suzuki

Shoshin, beginner's mind

In my kitchen is an orchid, a magic flower that has been blooming for the better part of the 3 years that it’s been sitting on my counter.  Most of the time, I don’t see it.  I’m focused on chopping.  I’m flipping the eggs.  I’m wiping down the counter.  I’ve grown accustomed to that flower.  But sometimes I stop.  Like this morning.  And look what I found….

beginner's mind

Gobsmacking, eh?

It smacked me right into beginner’s mind.  I shifted gears to linger, to peer into the portal of color, to study the textures and structure of the ineffably elegant design.  It was as if I’d never seen such a flower before.

Zen Buddhists use the lovely word/sound ‘shoshin’ to express this concept of engaged interest without preconception or expectation.  Shoshin means to poke into something with the curiosity of a beginner, even if studying a subject at an advanced level.

Children exhibit inquisitiveness naturally.  But as adults it’s easy to get busy ‘knowing’ and to forget to look into, or beyond, what we think.

Practicing shoshin is an opportunity to put aside expectation, bias, perhaps a sense of ego, and to appreciate the familiar in an unaccustomed way.  It’s a chance to realize how brand spanking new this moment is.

Wonder can propel us right into shoshin, like it did for me with the orchid.  A friend’s experience differing from our own is another chance to examine our thoughts from a different vantage point.  Choosing to break an habitual action or perspective and try out something new stirs up creative insights.

As I do on Fridays, I water my orchid.  I tuck four ice cubes in among the roots at the base of the glorious blooms.  Water flows from my tap.  Under the spell of the orchid, I notice that the water is still cool from the earth where it has lain in the dark for millennia, soaking up minerals, seeping through cracks, exchanging ions, and now arriving here, clear and lovely against my skin.  An unassuming miracle that meanders through my everyday.

What tugs at your child-like curiosity today?  What snaps awake your beginner’s mind?  What invites you to begin again?

 

 

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To Begin Again

2 May 2017

I think that I remember Spring                                                                                              and then                                                                                                                                     its loveliness takes me by surprise                                                                                      again.                                                                                                                          ~adopted from Sweet Basil & the Bee

To Begin Again 1

 

Hello Dear Folk,

I’ve been feeling the urge to return here with you.  I sense it’s time.  It’s time to begin again.

In my neck of the woods, spring is irrepressibly pushing out into the world.  Showers and sunshine have danced a duet that has drenched the hills in both moisture and light.  Lavish flowers unfurl themselves to the bees and butterflies.  The quail flush in pairs from nests hidden in the deep grasses.  The trees are garbed in sparkling verdancy.  So many new beginnings.

What I am thinking in my own fresh start here is to explore a topic a month.  And over that time, to let the topic unfurl, like a flower, to reveal layers of color, to sway in the breeze, to open to pollination.

Sometimes, beginning again seems like a chore;  laundry, weeding, work.

But many, maybe all, of the qualities we hold in the highest esteem hinge on beginning again;  proficiency, devotion, patience, integrity, kindness.

Beginning again is a seed of opportunity.  With a different approach, an increased attention to detail, an emergent willingness of heart unforeseen shoots can emerge from familiar soil.

This is the process of evolution, global and personal.  Of life recreating itself in endless patterns and infinite variety.  The same…. and yet not.

In the ever-changing world, there are few constants.  And so, we find our place in the moment and bring ourselves to it, to begin again.  To do what we can to know our nature and our needs, and unfurl ourselves into them.

I’ve an enduring optimism about life and the power of friendship and beauty, yet also a deep respect for the difficulties and confusions and heart-aching vulnerabilities that twine through our days.  Stop in here when you have a chance, walk the path with me a bit, let me know how things are with you.  Let us create understandings.  Let us be stronger together.

 

 

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Touchstone – Party On!

29 April 2016

The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.  ~Pablo Picasso

Touchstone - Party On

A year ago when I set an intention to explore life satisfaction in 2 posts a week for a year, I didn’t know whether I could achieve this goal.   That uncertainty stuck with me through most of the year.  I’m pretty dang delighted to have accomplished this!

I want  each of you to know that you have helped me get to this post 52 weeks later.  I am deeply appreciative and grateful for your presence here.  Every one of you has supported and added to this blog with your caring, your comments, your knowing.  I have carried you with me, tucked into my heart, appreciating the time, and sometimes the courage, it has taken to tap in here and read.

At this, the last official post of the adventure, I’m not sure what, if anything, is next in this space.  I have gained so much from writing here and being a part of this connection that I would like that to continue in some way but am unclear on a forward path.  Perhaps it could be picking a topic to explore for a month with one or two posts.  Or not.  So, I’m going to let ideas percolate.  Whether or not I pick the posting back up, this website will remain here, open and available, at least through next March.

I’ve learned a great deal in this practice of letting life guide me to topics, puzzling thoughts into words, letting new threads of understanding weave new cloth in my mind and my actions.  I have not arrived at any one place that feels final or comprehensive.  At one point in my life I would have wanted that.  Now, I’m fully accepting life as a process of ongoing change and unfurling opportunity.

Authors are occasionally asked if it was all worth it.  Sometimes they answer that if their book changes one life every minute of effort and hair-pulling was well rewarded.  In one such conversation I heard, the interviewer asked what if the one person that was changed was the author herself?  Was that still worth it?  At the time I heard this, that question stopped me and made me uneasy.  I wanted and needed there to be bigger gains.  But now, I am comfortable with a ‘yes’ answer to that question.

Because one of the things that’s come very strongly out of this year is recognizing that there is value in doing the thing that may only change our one individual life.  There is importance in honoring the creative urges and the yearnings to explore that may only serve us, may only enhance our personal experience.  I believe this is part of bringing ourselves to life wholly, with the vulnerability of not knowing how things will turn out but yet showing up and celebrating the fact that we matter.  The fact that we each dance our one precious life.

I encourage each of you to listen in to what calls you, what you would like to try or discover but that you might turn from thinking someone else would deem it silly or unimportant.  Do those things!  Open the gift of your life.  It belongs to you.

My great thanks and love and best wishes to all of you.  May you engage with life in a way that pleases and satisfies you.

 

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