I've created a special tribute to my friend, Becky King (1958 - 2015). Fly free, dear friend!
"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.
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." ~Albert Einstein
Do you believe that miracles actually happen? I do! I sign my emails with the above quote by Albert Einstein and I strive to live every day by the passion and power of that belief. But, sometimes I forget. Sometimes, when bad things happen -- to me, to my friends and family, to those whose lives are woven with mine in one way or another or even to complete strangers (since we are all connected) -- I fall so quickly into fear, lack, limitation, or the quicksand of despair, that it makes my head spin and my heart hurt. Sometimes it feels like my life is a wildly pitching ship being swamped by stormy seas, while I am trying to keep my balance and avoid getting battered to bits or swept overboard.
But then, like the bright warm rays of sunshine flowing out from the clouds, I will be touched by grace, by beauty, by love and friendship. And, just like that, the stormy seas of my emotions calm, the sun appears, I find the center of peace. There are so many constant beacons of beauty and abundance, goodness and miracles, that I am usually powerfully reminded if I can just open my eyes and heart to receive them. It is a kind of dance of willingness. You see, the miracles are there, but you have to be willing to open in order to receive them. If you keep your mind and heart stubbornly closed, they cannot enter.
I love this quote by Rumi. It always speaks to me when I feel damaged by life quirks and challenges: "The wound is the place where the light enters you." Yes.
If you feel hurt, damaged in some way by life's chaotic moments, can you quiet the internal racket and focus on being willing to believe in at least the possibility of a miracle?
The soul would have no rainbow
No more tears. Do you remember that great slogan for Johnson & Johnson's Baby Shampoo? What a stroke of marketing genius! After all, what mother would not wish her baby no more tears?
Thinking about tears recalls a childhood event in which my 7-year-old self, an intrepid explorer even then, found and cut myself on a rusty something or other, requiring a trip to the doctor for a tetanus shot. I wailed and sobbed in his office, the tears streaming down my cheeks. In an attempt to comfort, he told me not to cry in a gentle, kind voice. I hiccuped to a stop finally, saying, in all my childlike innocence, that I might run out of tears. He gave an immediate assurance, with an ironic chuckle, that he didn't think that would ever happen. Hmmm. I guess I must concede that point.
Life does bring tears to our eyes -- of grief, of pain, of joy, of sympathy, and the whole gamut of emotions in our human repertoire. It is part of our uniqueness as sentient beings that we have deep feelings and that we can allow them to express. And according to John Vance Cheney's poetic pronouncement, out of the well of our tears, rainbows of the soul are born. That is a truly lovely thought!
Rainbows have special significance for me, and living in south Florida, I'm fortunate that they occur frequently. I have come to think of the rainbow as my own personal message from God (but, don't worry, I'll share). Rainbows have shown up in my life at just the moment I needed reassurance that all would be well, when I was fearful, despairing or feeling abandoned. They are a sign - a covenant and a promise that God's love is always present. And a rainbow is also a reminder: if there are tears in your eyes or rain in your skies, just look around when the sun peeks out for the rainbow! It's bound to be there. You have to let the light shine in order to make a rainbow.
I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers;
I had the wonderful good fortune to experience several weeks of the loveliest Spring at our farm -- filled with nesting birds & bursting blossoms, full moon magic, chattering chipmunks, zipping hummingbirds, bounding bunnies, yipping coyote, dancing deer...it truly was an awesome display of the beauty of Mother Nature at her finest! These are just a few of the photos, since, of course, most of the time I was without camera when the antics were happening. Nevertheless, I soaked them up with my soul and they are continuing to nourish me every day.
This special time "apart" was a sort of working retreat, and work I DID! So much was accomplished by the toil and sweat of my brow (and other places) and it felt so completely in harmony with everything. There is something deeply gratifying about hard, physical labor and the immediate results it brings! I think I seriously annoyed the critters who've been inhabiting the barn by cleaning out their various nests, webs, and hiding places, and by moving the tractor and all its attachments out (they went to a very good home with a collector who will restore them to former glory!) It was a very emotional moment when the 1935 Massey-Fergusen tractor "led" the 1949 Ford out of its hibernation of a decade or so into the light of day. I'm very pleased that it will be lovingly restored and have a whole new life!
I learned many things from this retreat time. One very dramatic impact was being "unplugged" from my usual electronic, internet and media sources, since there is no TV, only one decent radio station, and no internet readily available. I was depending solely on my smartphone, and found I quickly tired of squinting to see things on a 3-inch screen. Consequently, I was able to be disconnected from most things and it changed my whole sense of the passage of time. Everything slowed to a gentle, soothing pace. I worked, slept, ate when I felt like it, rather than according to a preconceived or habitual pattern. My time was truly my own to spend pretty much as I wished--well, almost. The quiet was palpable and awakening to birdsong, heavenly!
I am now back in my "usual" routine, but striving mightily to hold onto that profound sense of peace and connection to nature that was born of my time with her. It is indeed humbling to realize that the world does go on without our constant attention and input, and that we are empowered by our choices, wherever we are, as to how to spend our precious life moments. The incredible difference in the quality of my experience of life while unplugged will stay with me, deeply nurturing my spirit, and I will attempt to share it here through words and images, so that it might encourage those who are needing "more" from life to see that there is a tremendous, often untapped and unnoticed array of beauty and blessing available simply by stopping to smell the roses. Or howl at the moon. Or watch a bird build its nest. Peace, be still...
"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
Is your soul feeling a little bit dusty today? Mine was too, until I started listening to this magical CD of plainsong (chant) done in exquisite perfection by the Trinity College Choir Cambridge - it's titled simply "Voce" for voice. It is soaring and creates in me an inner awakening or dawn. If you have not ever listened to this kind of music, I encourage you to be open to it and see if your soul needs dusting. I certainly feel brighter and richer for having rediscovered it today.
Passing it along for your en-JOY-ment! Check out their wonderful YouTube channel to listen to others of their recordings. My personal favorite on the Voce CD is the choral version of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings (Angus Dei).
He who works with his hands is a laborer.
I've been thinking a lot about work lately: the definition of work, finding right "livelihood", creating meaningful work, loving your work, being of service to others, finding deep beauty, peace and healing in work. I have always found ways of engaging fully in whatever work I do and I've also been very fortunate in being able to be in mostly nontraditional lines of work -- music, teaching about innovative new concepts, creative arts & crafts, writing, healing arts, caregiving (yes, that can also be a wonderfully rewarding kind of work when it is done engaging hands, head and heart!)
So now I am at the crossroads of change, and like most people, change is a little scary for me. I am seeking to embrace it with all of my being, looking for signposts to the pathway that will be most beneficial in my own spiritual growth and also wanting to find that which will provide financially for my family. But, I am very wary of the trap of trading life energy for a paycheck. Been there, done that and it was miserable! It may provide a sense of comfort and quasi-security, but ultimately, it is just "settling" for a comfortable rut. And, I was recently told, the only difference between a rut and a grave is its depth. A bit graphic, but oh, does it ever ring true!
As I seek to avoid ruts (and graves, as well) I want to tap into that which is nurturing and enlivens me and those around me. Music has that kind of energy. Service to others has that kind of energy. Being active and involved and a lively participant in life creates that kind of energy. Art has that kind of energy.
How I envision putting these elements together is my task.
I am putting it out there to whomever is reading this blog: how do YOU create change, bless and embrace change, create a nurturing, healthy path to right livelihood and service? I would love to share ideas and inspirations with you! Please add your thoughts to the discussion and share with your social networks. I can't wait to hear the responses!
The holiest of all holidays are those
The new year starts with fireworks, parties, celebration of all kinds, but I think the real joy and beauty may belong to those who go "in silence apart" to search their hearts deeply for wisdom in two things: what they want to release of the "old" (habits, stuff, damaging emotions, ideas, limitations, excess weight or addiction) and what they truly wish to create "new" (peace, nurturing relationships, meaningful work, space for spiritual practice and contemplation, service to others, healing).
To me, the new year has always felt sort of sacred -- a little oasis of time in which to reflect on the year just ended and all it brought, for good or not. To find any lessons we can count as "learned", growth that happened, mistakes made, and also triumphs to celebrate. Often, a year will contain a theme that recurs, such as change, loss, joy, love, awakening...but, no matter what challenges the year brought, they can be set aside, somehow, at the ending. You get a fresh slate, a new shining chance to start again to identify and solidify thoughts, desires and actions. It really is a happy time if for no other reason than that!
I have seen an idea to "capture" moments through the year, since they are often fleeting and can easily be lost in later experience. In order to properly recall and cherish the moments that bring joy, write down a short (or whatever length appeals) reminder in prose or poem, or even pictures if you are so inclined. Place them all in a glass jar or other decorative bowl or vessel and let them accumulate all year long. Then, on New Year's Eve, take them out and revisit each one, to reawaken the beauty therein. After all, it is quite easy to remember the traumas, the events that feel as if a cosmic 2x4 has walloped us! But, we surely also want to bring the joys alive and appreciate them fully, rather than let them be lost along the way.
Another idea is to use a technique taught to children: write a letter to God. Children tend to be very direct in their observations and requests (and often quite funny, too!). Why not do your own adult version of a letter in which you put your fondest desires for the new year into words. I challenge you to take the time to do this exercise, and put the letter in a safe place to be opened next New Year's Day and see how life has changed. You may be quite pleasantly surprised that many of those things you deeply desired have come to pass. A treasure map also works to produce these results, if you find that more appealing. You use photos, magazine clippings/images, words, or whatever represents your desire and place them all upon a poster board or other surface, adding and changing as needed. This is used to then focus and concentrate your attention and intention. It has amazing power for many folks. I've done this and then forgotten it and rediscovered it later, to find so many of my desires did indeed manifest, even without my continued energy.
Whatever method you choose, do at least find a creative, fun way to capture the moments of your own life and rejoice in those that have blessed you. You can think of it as collecting cherished ornaments for your heart and inner life. And may you find peace and prosperity in all your special moments in 2013!
"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
As a lover of cats and a musician, I heartily agree with Albert Schweitzer in this quote/life philosophy and even have it engraved on a plaque hanging in my study. I would add one more crucial item to Schweitzer's list of useful refuge-remedies: books! Every now and then, the perfect book shows up in your life by some mysterious serendipity, at the exact moment you need the comfort, information, inspiration, wisdom, beauty, escapism, or higher vision to heal your inner being. Just as a song can become your "mantra" in lifting you out of sadness, so can a book lift you to higher emotional ground, insight and understanding. The little gem of a book titled "The Dalai Lama's Cat: a novel" by David Michie, was just this sort of soothing-serendipitous-balm-in-a-book for me. It is part allegory, part comedy, part fantasy, part teaching tale, and entirely charming!
The story captures the reader in the opening paragraph by its unconventional viewpoint -- seen through the eyes of a kitten/cat, who is rescued from abuse and almost certain death on the streets of New Delhi by none other than the Dalai Lama to become HHC (His Holiness's Cat). It cleverly interweaves colorful characters and their all too human foibles, simple tenets of Buddhist philosophy, teachings & history, intimate moments of insight, details of daily routines of the Dalai Lama, and some pretty awesome life lessons-- all while telling the story of this privileged feline who shares the inner sanctum (and lap) of the Dalai Lama. As the cat, HHC, also known as Mousie-Tung, Snow Lion, The Most Beautiful Creature That Ever Lived, Rinpoche (Precious), explores her new environment and life (both inner and outer), struggles with lessons such as disengaging from the basic instinct to kill (hence the Mousie-Tung title), to yearning for a "relationship", to overeating, and the causes of suffering, many precepts are introduced in a skillful, entertaining way. The mind is opened through HHC's cat's eye observations of celebrities, heads of state, and important people of all walks of life, whose meetings with the Dalai Lama change them in subtle and life-altering ways. The warmth of the storytelling, and the engaging atmosphere of the setting brings wit and wisdom together with insight and truth to give this book it's appealing and yes, enlightening power. If you are looking for a good read, that is at once amusing and deeply inspiring (in a sneaky cat kind of way), this one will bring a surprising array of gifts and delights. I heartily recommend this cat tale of amazing depth and insight. Pull up a comfy chair, next to a cozy hearth, and let HHC and this sweet book purr its way into your heart!
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for review purposes.
My heart goes out to all those suffering the effects of Superstorm Sandy. The heartrending stories, the incredible losses, and surreal photos of the devastation are so deeply moving -- touching at the core of our humanity and vulnerability. My prayer is that those in need find help, cheerfully and freely given. That those whose nerves are shattered from destruction and disruption find the necessary courage and strength to rebuild their homes and their dreams, and that all of us rise to our highest and best selves to assist them in so doing.
My wish is for peace to come to those who have been ravaged by the storm -- a deep calm, a quiet acceptance, and a spark of hope fueled by the love of neighbor and stranger helping neighbor and stranger alike.
As the storm caused destruction, may the elements of nature now become a force for healing! My heart is holding this Gaelic Blessing for all (though this arrangement is in the Christian tradition, my prayer is inclusive of ALL), after the storm:
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ,
of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.
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.