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An Epidemic of Loneliness

The Worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.   Mark Twainbacklit-bench-lonely-1280162

A sense of separateness comes from feeling disconnected from community, families, friends, and our own selves. Lion’s Roar, a bimonthly magazine recently had a full section on loneliness.  The introduction showed the number of research studies that are currently being done on loneliness. There are commissions on loneliness and campaigns to end loneliness. The United Kingdom  has a Ministry for Loneliness. Loneliness is a hugh societal issue. We are connected to our phones, computers, and virtual relationships, but no longer look each other in the eye or have actual conversations.

One author recommended completing the sentence; Loneliness is a child….  Without consciously thinking of my own childhood I finished the sentence with the first thought that came to my mind. My sentence stated, “Loneliness is a child, in the midst of a family,  feeling not seen nor heard–feeling invisible.” After writing this I realized this was my childhood. Much of my adult life has been spent yearning to be seen. I also know that I often feel more lonely in groups of people then by myself. I invite you to complete the sentence without forethought. Write what pops up for you.  Write the sentence several times. An interesting exercise to give yourself insight to when you feel lonely.

Natalie Goldberg wrote a piece in this section sharing her sense of loneliness. She states, “Loneliness has followed me all my life……but no one every dared mention the dreaded word loneliness or utter its experience. Did only I feel it? That’s what loneliness is, believing you are alone in the whole world.” Loneliness is something we don’t talk about with others. We often believe we are the only one that feels lonely.

Martha Beck states, “Loneliness is proof that your innate search for connection is intact.” It is when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to share our sense of loneliness with another that we begin to feel connected. Taking time to be alone helps us get to know who we are beneath the cultural norms that say we need to do more, have more, be more. Solitude gives us the silence needed to let go of what is not working for us.

May you find time in your days for quiet heartfelt conversations and the stillness silence brings so you may get below the layers of societal expectations.

photo credit, Jeswin Thomas

 

Miracles

70404619_2413056612106815_8560608121511215104_n.jpgThere are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is to see everything as a miracle.     Albert Einstein

I have lived in both worlds. I now choose to see everything as a miracle. Living as though nothing is a miracle creates a darker world. I lived in a world of cynicism, distrust, anger that shaded my interactions and experiences. A wonderful definiIMG_1084tion of a cynic is “One who is a disenchanted idealist.” That was certainly me. Coming of age in the sixties I believed anything was possible. For a decade I thought we could change the world. Becoming a cynic protected me from the reality that change is slow and one step at a time.

Today I believe that everything is a miracle. I still have my moments of anger as I live in a world that is deeply divided and hate-filled. Instead of raging I feel deep sadness and know that this too shall pass. I know that my presence can make a difference through kindness, a smile, a word of encouragement. Bringing a smile to another’s face is a miracle. One step at a time is all we can do.

When I notice myself getting down, I walk outside and let nature renew me. How can I not see the miracles of a rose unfolding, or a flicker bathing itself in my bird bath? These are small everyday events and true miracles. Taking a hot shower each morning is a miracle. There are so many hands that help bring the hot water to my home. I know how blessed I am, as so many people in our world don’t have this luxury. Miracles are in front of us every day.

These are two of my favorite quotes that speak so simply to life as a miracle.  “If you are bored, you are not paying attention.” Fritz Perls, and “Stay close to anything that makes IMG_1122you feel alive.” Hafiz.

May you feel the aliveness of miracles throughout your day.

 

New Beginnings

I continue to ponder the questions I asked in my post, “What’s Next?”  I was asking  how I wanted to live, to show up, for this next phase of my life.  The questions led me to one of my favorite authors, the late John O’Donohue. He wrote the poem below  entitled  For a New Beginning. 

FOR A NEW BEGINNING by John O’Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,DSCF0959 copy 2
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Reading this poem, so many lines popped out at me.  I have spent time reflecting on the following lines.

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

There is much for me to learn from these lines.  I invite you to read through the poem slowly a couple of times and see what words or phrases pop out for you. In these lines you will find new ground to explore.

May we learn to live in the unknown, which is continually unfolding the mystery of who we are.

 

 

 

Living without Shoulds

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Free to Be Me

Have you noticed your self-talk is often accompanied by the word “should?” When I use the word should, such as, “I should,,,,,,,,,,,,.” I am telling myself that I am lacking in something. Most of my life I have had a script in my self-talk that repeats “I should” for any number of reasons. I should lose weight, I should try harder, I should do more, I should spend more time___________, fill-in the blank.

All these “shoulds” create a since of not doing enough, not being enough, or not having enough.  We live in a culture that continually tells us that more is better. The advertising industry is based on prompting us to buy more to be happy. The cycle is never-ending. We try to be more beautiful, successful, kind, spiritual, or put the words that you strive to be. Whatever your answer my guess is you have a lot of “shoulds” that follow you’re thinking.

I asked myself, “What would my life be like if I did away with all “shoulds?” The first thing that came to my mind was freedom. I would be free of:

–worrying about what other’s think about me,
–attempting to meet unrealistic expectations of myself or others,
–doing it right the first time,
–rehashing past conversations, or rehearsing future conversations.

As I wrote these different ways of being, it felt wonderful to allow myself to make mistakes, be spontaneous, and not worry about things out of my control. One might say we need those “shoulds” to keep us from hurting ourselves or others. I trust that most of us know right from wrong. We don’t need a should to tell us not to rob a store. The key is to not try to be what you are not. It is about accepting who you are and allowing yourself to be different. Marlo Thomas, wrote a song back in the 1970’s for children titled, “Free to be Me.” When I am fully at ease with myself, there is no need for “shoulds.”

I invite you to make a list of “shoulds” that seem to dominate your self-talk. Behind every should is a sense of lack. Allow yourself to look at what you fear if you don’t follow that “should.” Enjoy the journey, it is about coming home to your true self.

 

What’s Next?

As I grow older, I seem to have more questions then answers. What is my deepest yearning? How do I want to spend the next part of my life? Where am I being called?IMG_0447.jpeg Many doors have closed, some by my doing, some due to my age, and some I’ve had no control over. Yet, new doors don’t seem to be opening up. As a friend once said, “It’s the corridor between the two that is the real b__ch.”

My life has been filled with “doing.”  I have always been an active, task-oriented person. Filling my life with pushing through obstacles–pain, life—proving and achieving. As a driven person, I seem to be constantly planning. When will enough be enough? Learning how to be at peace with the slower pace of my life is hard. I am still healthy and active, my slowing down is more of a spiritual slowing down than a physical one. My struggle continues to be between “being” and “doing.” Doing is a hard task-master.

What I do know to be true is when I quit creating stories about “I should be doing more,” the questioning stops. The trick for me is to remain present to each moment. When I am able to see the beautiful birds that grace my feeders I am fully present with a smile. I feel awe more often at the beauty surrounding me, aware of the grace and beauty in my life.

Maybe this next phase of my life is about slowing down so I can show up. Learning how to let Spirit pull me, instead of feeling the need to push through. For me it is a practice of trusting that what I need comes my way. I just need to pay attention and be present. Perhaps it is not about waiting for another door to open, but recognizing that being here now is the open door.

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.                Eckhart Tolle

 

Be Astonished

Mary Oliver speaking at a gathering in San Francisco, told the audience, “I want to speak to the young people in the audience.” She said, “Pay Attention
Be Astonished
Tell Someone.”

These three instructions have stayed with me. Being astonished evokes a sense of awe within me as I am pulled out of myself and  feel connected to something greater. With the daily headlines shouting out climate destruction, mass shootings, and hate filled, divisive rhetoric, I find myself retreating to the beautiful seven miles of nature trails out my back gate. I am blessed to be so close to an old growth forest.

My garden is another refuge. Watching the flowers slowly opening to their amaIMG_1084zing beauty. Watching and listening to the various birds that grace my feeders brings me joy and peace. I often think of Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Peace of Wild Things” where he says,  

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in this beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things

Research suggest that the sense of broader connectedness and purpose evoked by awe can help relieve negative moods and improve happiness. Evoking feelings of awe may be especially helpful when people are feeling bogged down and disconnected. Doctors are now prescribing walks in nature over medication. Abraham Heschel defines awe as a “Sense of transcendence, for the reference everywhere to mystery beyond all things. It enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine…..What we cannot comprehend by analysis, we become aware of in awe.” He further states, “Awe is the beginning of wisdom.”

My teacher and mentor Matthew Fox once said, “You must fall in love at least three times a day.” Yes!!! I practice falling in love, being astonished, with the beauty that surrounds me daily. It helps me move out of a sense of despair and into awe and wonder.

May you fall in love at least three times a day, and be astonished with the mystery of our universe.

 

 

Adapting to Rapid Change

In a world that changes overnight through technology and social media, it is hard to keep up with the changes let alone adapt so quickly. It seems a new world greets us each day with new information and new crises. How do we move through these changes? Often I find myself wanting to cocoon and binge watching Netflix. I want to zone out and not think of all that is happening around me. Probably healthy at times, but not as a regular diet.

I heard a wonderful TED talk by Natalie Fratto, Three ways to measure your adaptability and how to improve it. Although she focuses on the workplace, these three measures are easily transferred to our personal lives.  The sign below shows how the Fish and Wildlife services have adapted their signs to accommodate non-english speaking visitors to the Redwoods.

IMG_1064As you read through these three measures, ask yourself, “How do I react to change and its inevitability?”

  1.  WHAT IF—Ask yourself what if questions. Develop different scenarios for possible unexpected change. What if I am without electricity for three days?  What if I am stuck on the freeway with all lanes closed due to an accident? What if my child is sick at school and I can’t get away from work? Parents could make a game of what if’s with their children–creating all kinds of scenarios.
  2.  UNLEARN—An active unlearner seeks to challenge what he/she already knows. I continue to unlearn old beliefs and attitudes that keep me stuck in old ways of doing and seeing things. Unlearning creates a beginner’s mind-set–something we all need to return to if we are to navigate this changing world.
  3. EXPLORE—Infuse exploration in your life by being in a state of constant seeking. Let go of needing to know the answers and be willing to find new ways to experience life. As a left-hander, I am currently exploring using my right hand for many activities. I have not tried eating and writing yet, but I am brushing my teeth right-handed, watering the garden right-handed and other activities . It is difficult and frustrating and challenges my brain to be flexible.

All of these ideas help to exercise your adaptability muscle, something that is mandatory for our changing world. I hope you enjoy practicing some of the above measures.