I've created a special tribute to my friend, Becky King (1958 - 2015). Fly free, dear friend!
"Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." ~Victor Borge
I lost a very beloved friend this week. She had a loving, compassionate heart, gentle kindness, and a witty sense of humor that had everyone within a large radius of her laughing. She also had a deep abiding faith that shone through her actions, as well as her words.
Though I am very grateful she is free of the pain and ravages of cancer, it is still hard to let go of the friendship we shared--even though I know love never ends. The many childhood and teen memories keep flooding in and filling my eyes with tears and my heart with sadness at her loss. The world is dimmer without her shining presence of love.
I release her into God's loving arms with such a grateful heart to have had a wonderful friend like Becky King. And I believe I can hear heaven laughing to greet her. Go with God, Becky. You will live on in the hearts and minds of all those who love you!
Be the change you wish to see in the world. ~Gandhi
Today, I came upon a 1 minute video (created by Louie Schwartzberg, narrated by Morgan Freeman) that will be the opening for the United Nations climate talks on September 23. It is one powerful minute of truth. Please spend one minute of your time to view it and see how it affects you. I, personally, believe that we are all powerful elements of change, according to our own inner integrity. We can spend our energy, like that of the waves, in affecting change for our planet and for the future generations to inhabit it. Use your ever-renewing, ever-unfolding expression of life to be the wave of change and make a difference!
Wisdom of the wave
Stand on the shore at night. You can hear the sound of the waves. You can see them break and whiten on the rocks. But the sea itself, vast and imponderable and strange and deep, you cannot see. A wave breaks on the rocks and then is gone, and all that is left behind is a fading line of foam. Yet the sea is more than the foam that fades on the rock. The sea is more than the wave into which it shaped itself for a moment. When wave and foam are gone, the sea abides to shape itself into another wave and fling itself in foam on the rocks again. You are like a sea that shapes itself into a wave. The wave will expend itself, but you will not expend yourself. You will shape yourself into an infinity of waves. You are the ever-renewing, ever-unfolding expression of infinite life. You are the spirit of the Infinite moving across infinity.
"The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems." ~Mahatma Gandhi
This piece is an homage to the awe-inspiring friends who make a difference every day by choosing the path of love and service. They are ordinary, everyday people doing extraordinary, miraculous things. They look fear and loss in the eye and spit in it, choosing instead to use their creative talents and gifts to perform a sort of spiritual alchemy that has incredible power to transmute despairing into caring, and chaos into peace. They do this by choosing the expansive path of love and service over the contracting one of fear and limitation. They do this every day. So can we all.
The friends I'm speaking of come from all walks of life: a nurse, a poet, a fiction writer/yoga teacher, a spiritual healer, a retired teacher, a singer, a flight attendant. They are the unsung heroes (or sheroes) who know the secret of life -- choosing love one moment at a time.
The news of Robin Williams' death hit me with the impact of a double-hoofed kick in the solar plexus. I felt such a depth of sadness at his bright, incredible talent being silenced by the demon of depression. It's incomprehensible. As the shock waves washed over me, I thought about the duality of the human spirit: its vulnerable frailties and its equally amazing strengths. We are all caught in a raging sea of human need brought to us each day by the media in a vast array of war, poverty, hatred, intolerance and greed. If one focused only on the horrible news of the day, it would be easy to surrender to fear and curl up into a shivering little ball of misery. But the human spirit has this deep innate resilience. And hope is hard to kill. Thankfully!
For all the tragedies and human suffering that are on display seemingly everywhere you look, there are also tender-hearted, generous, breathtaking instances of people who are moving through the impacts of life circumstances to bring forth their own miraculous talents in service to the screaming need of others. Let me give you a few examples of several inspiring friends who are doing just that:
First, there's Wendy, a nurse who has lived through numerous challenges including losing almost everything in a house fire, and surviving some very tough health issues. Yet she is not only surviving, but thriving. She is leaving on a mission trip to Arua, Uganda today to bring her medical knowledge and her compassionate heart, along with 5-gallon buckets filled with hospice supplies to teach those caring for the dying how to practice good hygiene and comfort care. Wendy is one shining example of someone who has transformed the pain of loss into the path of service. She rocks as a shero in my book! If you would like more information about the Bucket Project Hospice Kits, as part of the Baptist Global Relief program, you can find it here:
Another friend who is answering the creative call is Pamela. She is currently sharing the amusing and inspiring story of her spiritual journey through her multimedia one-woman theatrical presentation, called "Confessions of a Spiritually Promiscuous Woman", and her new book, Confessions of a Passionate Seeker: Bridging the Gap from Ego to Essence, and in her speaking engagements around the country. Pamela is a whirlwind of creative talent and energy who has shared her gifts with many through establishing empowering women's groups called Women of Wisdom, her two Higher Tea books and the Blueprint for the Human Spirit. Her journey continues to touch lives and inspire. Her website can be found here: www.PamelaGerali.com
Yet another friend, Shannon Danford, brings lightness and wickedly funny humor to others through her Blues series of books set in SW Florida. She creates totally outrageous characters and places them in hilarious situations which could, or might still, happen and releases her own inimitable witty/ironic style in the process. She actually offers a laughter dare/guarantee for her work. I couldn't read them without laughing out loud so often my husband came to check and see what I was doing! Yup, another shero! So if you need some laughter in your life, check out her books here: http://www.mamasluckymojo.com/ or here: http://www.sandmanbooks.com/florida-authors/danford-shannon-florida-author.html
Heather McHugh is a friend of a friend whom I originally met at the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, in North Carolina years ago where I was working and she was teaching. Heather is a poet, a translator, an educator and a shero who has touched countless lives through her deeply insightful and inspiring poetry. She has won awards too numerous to list (You can visit her Wikipedia page here). In 2009, Heather was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant for her dazzling body of work. Yet rather than simply basking in the honor and accolades, Heather chose to take the award money and use it along with her own resources to launch the non-profit Caregifted.org which provides respite getaways for weary long-term caregivers. But Heather's generosity and vision didn't stop there. She also is spearheading the fund-raising campaign to keep the Caregifted program going and growing, and she is dedicated to producing a documentary called Undersung, which tells the stories of awe-inspiring love that carries these long-term caregivers on their mission of service. This vitally important visual vehicle for sharing the stories of people (the Undersung heroes and sheroes who represent the 90 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S.) is so necessary to raising our collective consciousness about this crucial but mostly unacknowledged role. What a marvelous mission Heather has accepted, to bring the spotlight of awareness to these caregivers who are unselfishly, quietly and courageously giving every day, year after year, in service to others. If there is some title beyond shero, (supershero?) Heather certainly deserves it!
Friends Lois and Ken Werner visited Guatemala and were so strongly impacted by the depth of poverty, malnutrition and disease there that they were moved to found the non-profit People for Guatemala to raise awareness and funds to help. They have now moved permanently to Guatemala and are establishing assistance programs to bring clean water/sanitation, education and computers, medical assistance and safe, non-polluting cooking stoves to the people there. Last year, their campaign at one local church paid for installation of 800 vented cooking stoves in small huts where the families had previously been exposed to disease-producing smoke from open fires. They are also offering instruction and materials to Guatemalan teachers, introducing reading skills to young children and technology to older children to assist in their education. They are literally changing thousands of lives, bringing healthier conditions and hope to those who were being crushed by poverty.
Another angel who felt impassioned about helping the people living in such poverty in Guatemala is Penny Rambacher. She founded Miracles in Action which seeks out under-served pockets of need in rural Guatemala and researches projects that focus on education, vocational training, and sustainable development. These projects achieve long-term results, improve quality of life, and allow truly impoverished people to help themselves-- by working in partnership with poor Guatemalan people, giving them a hand up, instead of a hand-out. Miracles in Action is currently collecting items to fill five shipping containers with goods for Christmas gifts for Guatemalan children. I love the fact that Penny has developed a plan that allows the Guatemalans to use their own talents to make products that bring them good, which is truly a hand "up", and a win-win for all.
In my own career as a singer, I seek to make a difference by singing programs for those with Alzheimer's or other dementia, allowing the music to soothe and uplift, bringing light to dimmed eyes, and smiling, toe-tapping, clapping, joyful moments to those whose memories have been stolen by disease. It's incredibly beautiful to watch the awakening and transformation that so often happens with music -- familiar songs, eye contact and a gentle pat on the shoulder can work miracles. Music is the magic agent of alchemy here, and I'm the one lucky enough to be observing and participating in the miracle. Singing is what I can do to make a difference. It's one way I choose the path of love and service over fear.
There are times in all lives that things feel out of control. We all face uncertainty. We may not be able to control what happens, but we can always control our response to what happens. Love is the path out of fear and we can consciously choose it every single day. What will you choose today? How will you make a difference in your life or that of another? We all have gifts, we have power to make a difference. I'd love to hear your choice!
Misty is my 19-year-old kitty, who likes to share her vast experience of life from a feline perspective, here on my blog. I am just the conduit for her "whisker wisdom". Hope you enjoy her insights and musings!
1. Follow your inner feline curiosity. There's a big wide world on the other side of the window. You can decide whether to view it with fear and uncertainty or with curiosity and delight. Choose delight!
2. Groom yourself to look your best. Good grooming is very important. Wash your face and ears often and keep your fur in place. Getting all ruffled is not attractive. Neither is getting puffed up to twice your size unless the neighborhood bully is bothering you. In that case, it's perfectly acceptable. Claws can even be unsheathed when there is something crucial to defend. Like your food bowl, or your mousie toy.
3. Be vulnerable. Misty has mastered the art of vulnerability. She turns on her back with feet up in the air exposing her belly, inviting a rub. We can all find our individual way to express that trust and vulnerability to those we love. It's a sign of great strength to be open and invite others to metaphorically rub your tummy.
4. Be peaceful. Sometimes the very best thing to do is curl up on a cushion and meditate. Or take a nap. If we want peace, we must be peace-full. Cats know this. You can't "fight" for peace, you simply live it!
5. Creaky doesn't equal cranky necessarily. At the advance feline age of 19, Misty knows all about being creaky. But creakiness doesn't give you the right to be cranky. We all have days when it's hard to get motivated or we are moving slowly due to pain or injury. Go ahead and lick your wounds, but don't let grumpiness cause you to snarl at others or bite the hand that feeds you. Life isn't perfect, and at times it can be downright messy. But remember, misery is optional. You can always choose your response to life.
6. Stay active and engaged with life. Stretch yourself, mentally and physically (cats are good at the physical part!) I often observe Misty doing her morning yoga and try to follow her example. She sometimes assists me with mine, also, usually by rubbing against me or dragging her tail by my mouth. Do yoga, chase birds or geckos, be alert for mice and other interesting creatures crossing your path (or whatever your human equivalent of these activities may be). Have fun, play, learn new things, stretch your life to new dimensions! Hiding under the bed is not an option! Be brave and have an adventure today!
7. Practice looking cute. If you find yourself drawn into any problem or communication issue, such as putting your paw (foot) in your mouth, simply looking cute can prevent escalation. Misty is the absolute master of looking cute. She does it pretty much all the time, to varying degrees, making it very difficult to be angry or upset with her at all. Try it. Hint: it helps to practice with a mirror so you can experiment with various expressions and gestures. Too bad we humans don't have whiskers and multidirectional ears to generate extra cuteness, like cats do. I love Misty's "Yoda" ear position, which indicates relaxation and her whiskers-forward move, which means she is intensely interested or curious or about to pounce on something. If humans had feline type ears and whiskers, I'll bet we'd have far less miscommunication!
Karma (kar' ma) n. 1.Sanskrit word meaning action, work or deed. Refers to the principle of causality where intent and actions of an individual influence the future of that individual. Good intent and good deeds create good results, bad intent and bad actions bring about the opposite. 2.the cosmic principle of rewards and punishments for acts performed. 3.the good or bad emanations felt to be generated by someone or something.
Last night I had the great good fortune to be at a gathering of girlfriends (old and new) to celebrate our creative courage to change our lives and to say 'so long' to those who are parting ways for the summer. It was magic! There were hugs and heartfelt sharing, fabulous food, fine spirits (all meanings of that word) and as the group dwindled down to a core of five, uproarious laughter ensued (the laugh-until-you-cry-and-almost-pee kind!) And it just felt soooooo good. It also made me realize just how much I have been sucked into seriousness lately and I want out! My inspiration from this experience is that laughter is not only the best medicine - it is also as necessary as air for survival in an increasingly insane world. My soul sure felt lighter as I left the party, so I decided that this kind of en-light-en-ment deserves to be shared.
As author of this blog, since I have ultimate control over what appears here, I hereby declare a new direction toward karmic (comic) relief through stories that cause enlightenment & laughter. Here is the first of the karmic relief stories for your humorous pleasure. (No worries, girls, I'll only share my own stories so you will remain anonymous, if not innocent :)
Karmic relief and the Parrot
Many years ago, in a universe far away, there was a neighborhood noise issue. OK, it wasn't a universe far away. It was here. The neighbors got a small dog whom I shall call the-most-annoying-dog-on-earth. It was a Jack Russell Terrier, also known as a spring-loaded jumping manic barking machine. It performed in this crazy-hyper fashion whenever I walked into my backyard. Luckily for me, it was separated by a chain link fence, so the murderous intent of the dog (and later, um, me!) was deflected in part. The barking and springing were annoying beyond belief and completely spoiled the peace and quiet to which I had grown accustomed when watering my garden, sitting on my lanai, contemplating my navel, etc.
The-most-annoying-dog-on-earth also had the habit of silently sneaking up on me when I took the trash or recycling out after dark. He would then launch himself repeatedly against the fence, just a few feet from me, barking and snarling maniacally and scaring the bejeebers out of me. If a dog could laugh, I swear he did. Suffice it to say I did not like this dog. A first for me!
Life went on, and despite my very polite complaints to the neighbors, the problem persisted. Then, it got worse. MUCH worse. They got birds. Really BIG birds in cages on their back lanai. I think there were one or two African Gray Parrots and oh, about 17 other kinds of smaller birds - a whole menagerie of birds which added incredibly loud squawking and screeching and twittering to the barking and snarling. Arrrghhhhhh!! It sounded like the jungles of the Amazon and when the whole lot got going with the barking and springing and squawking and screeching it was total bedlam!
Now, I'm normally a quite patient person. Well, mostly a patient person. OK, sometimes I'm NOT! But this noise was way over the top and was making me and the rest of the neighbors nuts! Then a minor miracle happened. After much discussion, letters, petitions, prayers, threats, gnashing of teeth, they got rid of the-most-annoying-dog-on-earth!! Yup, he was gone to chase buffalos in Montana or something. And there was quiet again in the neighborhood, well except for the screeching and squawking and twittering. So, as I am sitting on the lanai, enjoying the well-deserve peace and relative quiet, I hear the-most-annoying-dog-on-earth -- barking! What?????? Softer, but it's definitely him. How is he haunting me from afar? I peer over into the neighbor's yard, but there's no sign of the dog. I listen intently. Minutes of barking pass. Then, I realize the awful truth. It's the parrot barking!
After I recovered from the shock of the barking bird (it eventually wore off after a year or so), I will allow that the parrot sort of redeemed itself with its other entertaining emanations. For instance, I called my cats to breakfast every morning with the traditional "Heeeeeeeeeeeere kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty" call, adding my own trademark rising inflection at the end. As I wait for the usual feline stampede, I hear a faint echo of my "heeeeeeeeeeeeeere kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty" refrain, complete with my rhythm and inflection. Yup, it's the parrot. Now that really cracks me up! I wondered what the cats made of it, but I secretly hoped the parrot would get what he was asking for - in a nice sort of way. Or, perhaps in a karmic sort of way. Wish I could have gotten that on video for all posterity and maybe America's Funniest Home Videos. A parrot calling a cat would have probably been worth some money as well as some laughs.
This talented parrot, who I began to call the-loudest-parrot-on-earth continued to add to his repertoire in the most interesting ways: he did a loud and very credible wolf whistle; he "yelled" at the successor most-annoying-dog-on-earth (names Dakota), but not usually when he was actually barking; and his major feat was to "learn" the dialogue from a rather loud, nasty and highly personal argument that his owners, a married couple, had in Spanish--yelled at the top of their voices, with LOTS of emotion. He repeated this fight for months, much to the chagrin of the neighbors, and despite their attempts to drown him out with a radio, this was a regular feature of our little neighborhood. Though I don't understand Spanish curse words, I am pretty sure there were many included. See? This is what karma is all about. :)
Well, I must report that the sleep experiment is not going all that well. Instead of feeling dipped in God each night, I feel ... well, let's just say dipped in something else altogether! My cat, Misty, is not cooperating with this new plan at all. Though she can sleep up to 75% of the time, she doesn't see inclined to let me do so between 3 and 4 am, in particular. So, I have been reworking it and trying new approaches. This is what works best:
1. Relaxing before bedtime, breathing and gently stretching
2. Using quiet music to wind down
3. Listening to Max Highstein's Sleep Well Tonight - Cottage by the Sea meditation (you can listen to a bit of this by clicking the link below)
4. Taking melatonin about a half hour before bedtime.
Just thought I'd check in with everyone and see if anyone else out there is feeling sleep deprived...yawn.
Up since 3 am. Sigh. Maybe an afternoon nap will be in order.
Sleep Well Tonight
Enjoy a good night's sleep with this gentle inner journey. Take an evening walk along the beach to your secluded seaside cottage. Secure in your comfy bed on the screened-in porch, enjoy a full body relaxation, and then let the waves lull you into dreamland. At the end of the inner journey the narration tapers off, and the waves continue for another 30 minutes. More about Sleep Well Tonight...
"And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion, and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created." -D.H. Lawrence
Since I first read the above D.H. Lawrence quote, the image of being "dipped again in God, and new-created" has been flowing around in the waves of thought in my being. I long to be created "new" and wake like a new-opened flower! Doesn't that image conjure a beauty, purity and freshness of the soul? I believe that is our divine destiny. With every new day, we have a new opportunity to be dipped in the Divine. With each breath, we can renew our spirit and refresh our energy, and literally inspire our connection to Spirit, to God.
I also think Lawrence had a very deep insight that sinking into the good oblivion of sleep is necessary to the whole God-dipped experience. Perhaps it requires a complete surrender of our conscious, ego-driven, stubborn human will -- a letting go that can happen in the peaceful state of sleep, and perhaps in deep meditation. We are vulnerable in the sleeping state in a way we can rarely achieve with waking consciousness.
So, in light of recent research about how sleep-deprived we are as a nation, (according to the Centers for Disease Control, 9 million Americans use sleep aids) and how important it is to our psyche to get the deep stages 3 and 4 of sleep to clean out our brains, I wonder about the ramifications for our spiritual selves. Can we be dipped in God after a sleepless night, a night of interrupted sleep, or of chemically induced sleep?
There was a fascinating article in Psychology Today's Sleep Newzzz blog on the subject of deep sleep and how it is vital to clean out our brains. It allows the garbage removal needed to wake "new-created". Hmm. This explains a lot! Given that poor sleep is now being blamed for obesity, heart problems, hypertension, memory problems, increased risk of death and just plain old irritability it doesn't seem like such a stretch to think it might also be harming us spiritually.
I'm going to try an experiment for the next month. I'll call it the Sleep and Spirit experiment. I will seek to create an intentional path toward deeper, more restful sleep by the following: I will make a routine bedtime and time to rise, not drink any alcohol, no caffeine after 12 noon, do a relaxing gentle stretching, breathing and meditation (I have a great sleep inducing meditation called Sleep Well Tonight - Cottage by the Sea by Max Highstein) and keep a sleep journal to track my progress. I will report the results back here next month. Of course, I will have to work this out with my four-footed furry alarm clock, Misty the wise kitty. She will hopefully be amenable to the new sleeping plan. I'd love to hear from any of you who might like to try this sleep and spirit journey with me.
“May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. May your heart be as light as a song. May each day bring you bright, happy hours. That stay with you all the year long.”
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I am sending you the Irish Blessing in song. The button above will take you to my contact page. Press play and enjoy!
I am a singer, a writer, a craftswoman, a student of life and of Spirit, a wife, a friend, an inquisitive adventurer on the learning path. Seeking, sensing, sifting and now connecting! Please join the fun by leaving a comment or passing on a favorite post via your social network. As you can tell from the category list, my interests are varied and somewhat eclectic. I am seeking all that brings joy & excitement to life, purpose & passion to our daily round. I am curious about pretty much everything.