Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Celebrate this unlikely oracle,
this ball of fat and fur,
whom we so mysteriously endow
with the power to predict spring.
Let's hear it for the improbable heroes who,
frightened at their own shadows,
nonetheless unwittingly work miracles.
Why shouldn't we believe
this peculiar rodent holds power
over sun and seasons in his stubby paw?
Who says that God is all grandeur and glory?
Unnoticed in the earth, worms
are busily, brainlessly, tilling the soil.
Field mice, all unthinking, have scattered
seeds that will take root and grow.
Grape hyacinths, against all reason,
have been holding up green shoots beneath the snow.
How do you think spring arrives?
There is nothing quieter, nothing
more secret, miraculous, mundane.
Do you want to play your part
in bringing it to birth? Nothing simpler.
Find a spot not too far from the ground
~ Lynn Ungar ~
(Blessing the Bread)
FEB 2, 2011 BREAKING NEWS:
Punxsutawney Phil emerged just after dawn on Groundhog Day to make his 125th annual weather forecast in front of a smaller-than-usual crowd who braved muddy, icy conditions to hear his handlers reveal that he had not seen his shadow.
Including Wednesday's forecast, Phil has seen his shadow 98 times and hasn't seen it just 16 times since 1887. There are no records for the remaining years, though the group has never failed to issue a forecast.
The celebration took place on Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill in Punxsutawney, a borough of about 6,100 residents some 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
The celebration is rooted in a German superstition that says if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow was seen, legend said spring would come early.
Friday, January 28, 2011
SENSATION OF THE MYSTICAL
The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience
is the sensation of the mystical.
It is the sower of all true science.
He to whom this emotion is a stranger,
who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe,
is as good as dead.
To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists,
manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty,
which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms --
this knowledge, this feeling,
is at the center of true religion.
~ Albert Einstein ~
(The Merging of Spirit and Science, cited in
All Things Give God Glory, ed. by S. Rena)
Dreams are real as long as they last. Can we say more of life?
-- Henry Havelock Ellis
When we wake up from a dream into waking consciousness, we do not pass from unreality to reality; we pass from a lower level of reality to a higher level. And, the mystics of all religions say, there is a higher level still, compared with which this waking life of ours is as insubstantial as a dream.
Yet until we do wake up, nothing sounds more absurd than the assertion that we are dreaming, and nothing seems more solid than this world of the senses. Why should this be so? If original goodness is our real nature, why are we unable to see it? The answer is simple: because we see life not as it is but as we are. We see "through a glass darkly," through the distorting lenses of the mind -- all the layers of feeling, habit, instinct, and memory that cover the pure core of goodness deep within.
-- Eknath Easwaran
Easwaran's exceptional book, entitled ORIGINAL GOODNESS:
Monday, January 24, 2011
Some say we choose to be here, we choose our parents, we choose our lives....I don't know, but what I DO know is that life is not easy and at times it almost seems unsurmountable.
Many friends are struggling right now...five come to mind -- one whose partner is dealing with a serious cancer diagnosis, one whose new beloved is entangled in a difficult closure of a painful marriage, one who is facing chilling existential fears and closures of chapters of life, one whose children are both dealing with serious life-altering challenges, and one who feels very alone and vulnerable as she struggles with health and hearth -- and this is just the tip of the iceburg of what I see day-in and day-out.
Don't get me wrong -- there is plenty of beauty to bathe in and friends to help lighten the burden. But the beauty is always edged with the sorrow of so many, in my own "backyard" and around the world.
I struggle with my own problems and sadnesses, and a heavy heart that I continually work on lightening in many ways...spiritual practices and retreats, joyful encounters with friends, service to others, university, travel, etc. Sometimes it helps and other times the heaviness threatens to bury me in its folds.
The friend whose birthday I celebrated this morning is my former partner in whose cabin I live (in the back). He is deeply wounded and it has, in the last years begun to surface as progressive emotional crippling and paralysis. It's heart-breaking for me to see this bright star dimming and diminishing. Though any kind of normal relationship is not possible, I try to "be here" for him to help with the mundane aspects of daily life. But it is not an easy environment to be joyful in. It requires constant presence, detachment, and mindfulness...qualities I'm a novice at using well and consistently.
So this poem by the contemporary saint, brilliant sage, and creative force John O'Donohue, is dedicated to my five friends. You know who you are...and you know that with all my heart I support you and love you and encourage you as much as I can.
As they say..."This one's for you!"
FOR A NEW BEGINNING
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
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 gray 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.
~ John O'Donohue ~
(To Bless the Space Between Us)
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Yesterday completed the personal challenge that I began on November 28. Though I only dropped 1/2 pound this week, I lost seven pounds overall, which puts me half-way to goal, and I'm happy that I'm again practicing better habits that will sustain optimal wellness.
My weight had begun creeping up uncontrollably -- er, I guess more accurately it was ME, eating uncontrollably and NOT moving -- and I was at 145 (I had seen the RED FLAG of *150 lbs.* over prior weeks, but -- small miracle -- the scale had decided to hover at 5 lbs. below that). Thank the goddess, something in me yelled "Enough!" and I rebbed up the focus and motivation to begin showing "the right stuff, thanks to all the resources of SparkPeople!
*Chris Downie, founder of SparkPeople, is not only brilliant, but SO accessible. Thank you Chris for the powerful network of resources and friends that is SparkPeople!*
There are layers of the same angst ("why bother?", "why does it even matter?") and self-deprecation ("I'm not worth it", "I can't do it") that have plagued me for years. So for me, the spiritual practices are just as important as the behavior modifications. Maintaining a meditation practice, a gratitude practice,
and a focus on service and some fun are essential to my mental health. My home situation is *dicey* and frequently results in anxiety, which messes with my sense of well-being. But the practices and focus prevail in helping me through the difficult periods.
*Yoga asanas are nourishing on many levels.*
Under the fun focus I began the spring semester at university last week with seven units, two academically challenging Spanish classes and voice class. I'm not taking piano this semester, but the professor of last semester's class agreed to work with me informally if I find time to work on some pieces. And unfortunately the time for choir conflicts with one of my Spanish classes. I'm happy to be back in the *stream* of my Spanish major and I have the greatest admiration for the professor of my classes (the same for both classes luckily), as well as finding the course content fascinating.
*Spring 2010, the back right building is World Languages.*
The major ongoing challenge for me is to live a life of balance in all aspects, which means keeping current with classes in order to maintain the healthy practices in the area of eating and exercise that I've reignited, including most importantly, continuing to track food and exercise.
I continue to have curiosity about the shape of my life in these latter years of my life...it has taken on so many different shapes and textures up to now. My 69th birthday is coming up next month. It's mind-blowing to think that this will be the last year of my sixth decade on the planet this round! I feel vibrant and capable, though I am clearly aware of the deterioration of this mortal temple!
*Camille, the friend who started the prison project I volunteer for, during last year's celebration*
My upcoming trip to Ecuador at the end of this semester will be fun, interesting, and a joyful *homecoming* of sorts. I am looking at the possibility of living there at least part-time and I'm exploring this idea during the trip.
*Playing with my goddaughter Amrita outside the house in northern Ecuador*
As I finish the last blog of this challenge, I want to share an email I just received from Terri, a dear friend who lives in northern California, which underlines my feeling about the importance of friends as an essential component of a joyful life, so necessary for optimal wellness (SEIZE JOY is my mantra for 2011 -- www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
"I just finished taking an evening class at Stanford. The last lecture
was on the mind-body connection -- the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends. At first everyone laughed, but he was serious.
"Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality 'girlfriend time' helps us to create more serotonin -- a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings? Rarely.
"Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls, and evidently that is very good for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym. There's a tendency to think that when we are 'exercising' we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged-not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!"
YES! to The Sisterhood, to loving self-care, and to FUN!!!
*Sister-Friends! Silver-haired Diana is a wedding minister on Maui and the other four dear hearts live in the San Francisco Bay Area.*
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