Life is a balance of holding on and letting go. Rumi
What better time to write about transitions then when fall is slowly turning to winter. I’ve always used the seasons as a way to look at my own growth. In fall I love walking in the crisp air and seeing the vivid colors that tell me fall is in its prime. I watch the leaves let go and fall to the ground, and ask myself “What do I need to let go of.” I mourn the slow loss of my roses, dahlias, and other summer plants. I watch them die away, going dormant, preparing for the rest winter offers for renewal. I ask myself, “What is dying within me?” “What wants to be birthed?” These are questions of transition. Questions many of us ask, and often want quick answers. I turn to Rainer Maria Rilke’s quote reminding me to be patient:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
It is often hard for me to “live the question.” I let the questions free float as I do walking meditations. I make space for the answers by slowing down and listening to what comes forth.
May you find the time to be patient and “Live the Questions” of your life.
There 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 definition 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 you feel alive.” Hafiz.
May you feel the aliveness of miracles throughout your day.
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 amazing 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.
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.
As you read through these three measures, ask yourself, “How do I react to change and its inevitability?”
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.
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.
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.
All I need is beauty to keep my heart alive and all beauty needs is my attention. Joyce Rupp
I have come to see beauty as one of my deepest spiritual practices. When I pay attention and see the beauty that surrounds me I am fully present to this amazing Universe. It took me a long time to recognize beauty as essential to my life. I was too busy working, doing, proving to stop and see what was right in front of me. Below are quotes from some of my favorite authors regarding beauty.
Beauty awakens what is sleeping in our spirit. It relieves the reins of tiredness and stirs up what lays dormant in our over-emphasis on activity. Joyce Rupp
The Earth is full of thresholds where beauty awaits the wonder of our gaze. John O’Donohue
When we embrace beauty we come home to that part of our self that cries out for nurturance and renewal. Joyce Rupp
Beauty is a central source of connection with the sacred. Joyce Rupp
To cherish what is left of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope for survival. Wendell Berry
I have learned after many years of activism that anger does not change anything. It is when we love and care for something that we work toward saving it. May we teach our children and to love and nourish this beautiful home we’ve been given.
I hope some of these quotes speak to you. May you find beauty throughout each day.