I am always amazed and touched by the generous spirit of the people I’ve had the pleasure to meet while traveling in Ireland. Whether I’m in a supermarket check-out fumbling with the unfamiliar coins in the palm of my hand, taking too long at the ATM for a simple withdrawal, or struggling to understand what I just heard even though it was in English and having to ask yet again, I am met with patience and kindness ~ traits which I have come to recognize as key aspects of Irish hospitality. Though I may be the source for a good laugh or frustration, I’ve been spared any embarrassment in the moment.
Kindness is a lovely balm for vulnerability ~ especially in those moments when we’re feeling uncertain, apprehensive or anxious. Traveling opens us to those tender places in ourselves and to be met with a smile and a generous spirit is such a gift. The kindness and hospitality of strangers truly defines our experience and shapes our memories. It’s what we take home with us in our hearts. It’s what we remember most.
I always say, “There’s something about Ireland”. Hospitality and kindness define part of that “something”. I’ve wondered why the Irish are so welcoming and generous with smiles and quiet kindness. I imagine it may have something to do with having so many family members over the years emigrate to other countries and hoping their loved ones will be met with kindness and comfort as they arrive and make their way in an unfamiliar place. Perhaps living through so much turmoil in their history they have cultivated kindness and hospitality along with a natural resilience and ability to laugh and have a bit of fun whether times are good or bad.
From wide smiles, an abundance of thoughtful gestures and genuine concern and support, in Ireland I feel I’m held in a climate of kindness. It is this kindness I remember when my heart is burdened. I unpack memories of shared laughter over pints late at night and the tender reminder that we’re all together in this pilgrimage of being human. Walking each other home.
“Out of clutter, find simplicity.” ~Albert Einstein
What is clutter?
From Websters Dictionary…“to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.”
My eyes glazed over by the end of the sentence. I would consider this definition a perfect example of clutter. Please! Don’t buy another vowel…
I have come to define clutter as anything you do not use or do not love. Clutter is also too much stuff in too small a space; too many utensils in the crock by the stove, too many socks in a dresser drawer or the ever-expanding knickknacks collection that is causing the shelf to bow.
It’s interesting, too, how our stuff seems to migrate. I once found a set of drill bits in the piano bench while looking for the Christmas music that eventually turned up in a box of recipes. So, clutter is also living in a disorganized space. From piles of laundry left unfolded to stacks of mail sitting on the counter to coats and shoes scattered in the hallway.
There is a direct connection between our physical surroundings and our inner world. Our thoughts, emotions and experiences are mirrored in the spaces in which we dwell; our homes, offices…even our vehicles. Each is a direct expression of the other.
When we de-clutter our physical surroundings, we feel lighter, freed from the responsibility of caring for things we do not truly need or want…we’re less stressed because there is an ease in locating the item we’re needing…we take pleasure in enjoying those things that are beautiful or pleasing to us. We can finally “see” them! The energy has lifted along with our hearts and our way of being in the world changes as a result. We feel more at peace, carry a greater sense of clarity and open ourselves to living a simpler, happier, healthier life.
Are you ready to simplify your life? Find relief from feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where or how to start? I’m offering my De-Cluttering Your Life workshop on Saturday, January 14th. I’ll be sharing my tried and true tips for getting rid of the stuff you no longer need in your life. Visit my Events page for the details and to sign up
Come have a bit of fun with others who are ready to lighten the load!
“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”—Decouvertes
How often we postpone our desires. Our hearts whisper longings hoping that we’ll listen. Too often we choose to ignore the messages; we distract ourselves with busy bits of life. To be sure, we make life choices that require our attention and responsibility. However, over time we begin to convince ourselves that there is no room, no time for those things we truly want to do, to be who we desire to be. We then step up the pace of the busyness and disconnect ourselves further from our longings. The imagined and self-imposed “Time Thief” holds us hostage. We live disengaged from the truth of who we are and how we long to be in the world.
The whispers become more persistent, shifting to shouts we often continue to ignore, until we’re knocked sideways: the only way we finally “wake up”. The “wake up” call isn’t usually welcome or pretty. Often the call comes in a physical way, with illness that demands our full attention and focus. Or we become paralyzed with panic from a deep knowingness of next steps that we must take, but lack the conviction or faith to take the first step. We go kicking and screaming, sensing that while we are terrified of what lies ahead, we know we will–we must–follow the path we’ve done our absolute best to resist.
And so begins the soulful journey of questioning. A pilgrimage of carefully examining what is sacred to you. Asking yourself what holds genuine meaning and purpose. What does that still, wise voice inside want you to know? What truths are genuinely yours? Where does your heart find shelter? Are you held in the beauty and truth of your inner landscape in tandem with allowing yourself to be held by the beauty of the natural world that surrounds you? What needs to change? Are you willing to tolerate feeling uncomfortable while integrating these changes, these shifts, this slow turning toward your heart?
All the questions you’ve been afraid to ask amount to fear trumping love. When we choose to dive into the deep end of the pool, to face the questions that lie beneath, we begin to realize that our belief-driven fears are not the Truth. The relief that follows makes way for renewed energy borne of freedom.
When fear falls away, a climate of love emerges to shelter and awaken your Imagination to support you in creating your life–your life as a genuine reflection of what brings you alive and allows you to thrive in the world.
“These are the days that must happen to you.” ~ Walt Whitman
There is a rhythm to dying – breathing becomes a dance of letting go. An effort is demanded of the body as it lets go of the life it has known – the places fed, nurtured and touched, the people we’ve loved, the beauty of color, textures, music, letters, smells, glorious sunrises and evening birdsong. And for those in the place of witness, holding space for the letting go…shared memories, regrets, joys, and remembrance – a sacred circle of love forms, often trumping familial patterns not always so loving.
Where do we go when we die? Not far, I’m thinking. I like to imagine those we’ve loved – who have shared life and being human with us – remaining close to us beyond their last breath. That the veil is thin between the worlds and an infinite sacred thread connects our spirits always and forever.
As their human presence turns to absence our hearts must adjust to this change in our lives. Grieving begins – allowing the ache of loss to have its way with us. Time stands still, dazed as we are by this inevitable loss, we realize that life goes on…the world outside our window knows nothing of this grief. How is that possible, we wonder?
A soft tenderness invades our hearts as we go about our days, at first buoyed by the details of dying that demand our attention…obituary to write, memorial service to arrange, the endless stream of cards, flowers and consoling phone calls. Relatives and friends gather, a life celebrated and remembered in an hour’s time on a Saturday afternoon. As the last car pulls away from the curb we are left alone with our grief raw and aching, our bodies bone tired. I close my eyes and imagine the thread wrapped around me and I keep breathing, not knowing what the next moment will feel like.
Life, though forever changed, beckons us forward – bit by bit we find our way back into the groove of living. We come from Mystery and we return to Mystery. It’s the living in between that offers us the joy of a life worth living – a rugged landscape of adventure and wonder that is over all too soon.
Rest in peace, Ruth and Jack. I’m a better person for having known each of you.
I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. ~ Bob Dylan
It’s fun to feel my heart growing younger with each passing year. The part of me who began to know playfulness and lightheartedness at 50 has decided to continue to play long past dark, pretending not to hear the distant call saying it’s time to come in for dinner – willing time to expand these glorious clear winter days – delighting in the minutes stretching like magic into the lengthening light.
Childhood offered me little in the way of lightheartedness. It was my children who awakened in me a sense of wonder and imagination I’d not known before. I clearly remember glancing over at my beautiful baby girl, lying on her blanket, still as a statue as she stared out the window. Kneeling down next to her I looked out the window. It was just beginning to snow. I watched as she tracked the snowflakes – locking her sight on a single flake – her eyes following it as far as she could – and then another. I lay down next to her and began to do the same. I’d never thought to watch a single flake of snow. I felt something open inside me and time fall away. Pretty soon there were too many flakes coming down too fast and we traded one bit of magic for another.
Maybe that’s what I’m doing now.
We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can – namely, surrender our will and fulfill God’s will in us.
~ Saint Teresa of Avila
Despite my desire to write, I’m a great one for finding every distraction possible to steer myself away from my writing desk. The plants need watering, there’s always laundry to tend to, teeth to floss (thank goodness) and when all else fails…clean the refrigerator.
Today I discovered the one distraction that sent me running back to my writing desk. No sentence too elusive, no punctuation queries that a quick glance in Elements of Style can’t resolve, so what if I’ve only one paragraph to show for an afternoon’s work? Sweet relief compared with the challenge of untangling Christmas tree lights! With teeth clenched and brow furrowed, I surrender after what feels like hours but is actually only 20 minutes. I stand surrounded by strands of lights in various degrees of entanglement in a very small amount of square footage.
In this moment of complete and utter surrender I begin to see how these tangled lights represent the myriad thoughts and ideas within me, all desperately clamoring to transform first into words and then sentences. I know that after a few fits and starts I will untangle the lights. I do it every year because a tree filled with hundreds of tiny white lights brings me such delight. It’s worth the energy and effort it takes.
I imagine a night sky filled with twinkling stars as I wrap strand after strand around each branch from top to bottom. At long last, with the room lights turned down low, anticipation rivaling the Griswold’s holiday light extravaganza, the tree lights come on and magically the heavens are within my gaze, the earlier unraveling forgiven.
The same holds true for my experience of writing. Resistance is always there to greet me, cleverly disguised as harsh critic, procrastinator or distract-er extraordinaire ready to sabotage every sentence. Self-sabotage is a formidable foe, yet my heart is equally powerful in its desire and determination. Eventually I write through the resistance, committed to writing because I feel myself come alive as the words and sentences unfold across the page. I’ve untangled my inner lights one more time, and it was worth the wrestling match with my ego to allow my voice a place in the world.
Resting in the quiet beauty, I take joy in the gift this tree and its lit branches offer. May this season of Advent hold you in its stillness as our hearts begin their gentle turning toward the light.
“Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.” ~ Jonas Salk
How often have you had that “gut” feeling, or that flash of inspiration that carries the answer you’ve been looking for? Pay attention to those flashes, hunches or goosebumps; they’re real and the delivered vision, idea or guidance may be wrapped with wisdom.
Intuition is a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence: a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why. Our culture doesn’t tend to support or respect intuition, leaning far more to valuing and accepting only what can be proven logically and rationally.
Learning to build that trust muscle when it comes to our intuition takes time and practice. We’ve been taught to ignore our inner knowingness, to disregard what is considered non-rational, to look outside ourselves for answers. Think back to times in your life when you’ve overridden your initial gut feeling and looked back with regret. “If only I’d trusted my gut” or “I knew I was right.”
How do we build that trust muscle when it comes to our intuition? There are practices we can integrate into our lives to allow greater ease and flow when it comes to accessing and accepting our inner wisdom.
Meditate. Don’t panic, you don’t have to sit for hours everyday. Begin with 5 minutes of quiet and work up to a comfortable and sustainable practice on a regular basis. Even taking a minute to stare out the window at the sky, or a tree several times a day is valuable in expanding your connection to your inner landscape, to become familiar with how to recognize your inner voice.If sitting’s not your thing, try a walking meditation. Here is a link for more info ~ http://www.meditationoasis.com/how-to-meditate/simple-meditations/walking-meditation/
Pay Attention. Practice being an observer of life around you and yourself; consciously choose to be mindful of your way of being in the world. Take time to be aware of how you “feel”. Notice how you behave in different situations; do you tend to act from a conditioned, reactive place rather than from a responsive, open and receptive place? So many of our behaviors are patterns we continually repeat without thinking. Patterns of behavior are often habits. And, the good news is we can change habits. Your intuition can help guide you to create new habits to support you living a more meaningful and lighthearted life.
Question Everything. As you uncover your “default” behavior patterns and decide to make some changes, “How can I do this differently?” becomes your mantra. We tend to hold polarity vision, that familiar black and white, either/or thinking which limits our ability to imagine our behaviors or situations truly shifting. It’s a cocktail for staying stuck. Challenge yourself to go to the edge of all possibility when entertaining new ideas for change. When the desire for change is approached with the excitement of creative possibility the imagination is awakened and new ideas “pop” in. Creativity invokes intuition.
So the next time your mind tries to monopolize your dance card ~ feel that quiet tap on your shoulder and gracefully allow your intuition to cut in and lead you in discovering your next steps.
“You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.” ~Teilhard de Chardin
From the moment we’re born there is a part of us that longs to return Home, to a place we can’t name. We live our lives haunted by a longing we aren’t entirely conscious of. Our hearts yearn for a sense of belonging that nothing in the material world can satisfy, at least not for long. We spend our days and years searching and adapting ourselves to values and beliefs that are not our own, with the hope of feeling we fit in…to be happy, to be loved…to belong.
What price do we pay in our quest to belong…what parts of ourselves do we let die along the way? Often the best parts, the parts that make us come alive! The part of our selves that colored outside the lines, that asked questions, that believed in what couldn’t be seen. The parts that define our unique way of being who we were meant to be! All in the belief that we’re broken; that there is something wrong with us…if only I could be a size 2, if only I was good enough, if only I was a better person, if only, if only, if only.
I don’t believe we are broken. I don’t believe we are separate from God while we are here in human form. Think about that. What if our spiritual journey really was only eighteen inches…from our head to our heart? That within us, there resides a Divine spark, a part of ourselves that never dies, which is always with and of God. I believe our greatest challenge and our most profound joy comes in re-connecting to that part of ourselves that knows us by heart…loves all the parts we lost along the way, loves our goodness and even embraces the part of ourselves lurking in the shadow.
I am in my full upright position after being down with a nasty virus for an entire week. Having a 24 hour intimate experience with the toilet bowl is one thing – being sick for a week brought a level of vulnerability I wasn’t prepared for and couldn’t name. For someone who delights in possibility and choice, this week my body called the shots, and the waves of emotion coming to the surface demanded to be released without being understood or neatly tidied up.
Forced to be very still and quiet I keenly felt the absence of my “doing-ness”. Typically I’m a person who enjoys multi-tasking and moving through my day in a rhythm that offers time for both stillness and engagement, enjoying the satisfaction of crossing off items from my “to do” list. Not this week. Whenever I would attempt some small task, my body would instantly push the delete button.
Instead, I spent hours sitting on the couch staring at an incredible tree a block in the distance, its’ bare branches silhouetted against a winter sky that changed color from soft grays and blues to brilliant pink and orange as the sun set. I watched squirrels scamper from branch to branch – always the same branches and always at the same time of day. Crows tend to prefer the very top branches, while a hawk perched on a lower branch, closer to the trunk. I watched the branches move with the wind and the clouds move in their dance across the sky.
The tree’s presence allowed my inner stillness a place to rest in the absence of my normal rhythm of doing business; an icon to gaze upon, so majestic, strong and wise, quieting my mind and mirroring back those same qualities in me. I have a strong, wise, healthy body. I am so grateful.
At the same time…in my own parallel universe…
I had no appetite for six days. I’m not joking. I ate Saltines and drank Ginger Ale with a straw.
At some point I grabbed my beloved other half’s bathrobe. Not up to washing it, I continued to wear his robe throughout the week. That meant he wore mine…I looked like a jet-puffed marshmallow and he was now sporting a mini. Good thing he has great legs.
While dozing in a fever-induced altered state, I heard a soft knocking at the front door. Stumbling down the hall in my polar fleece slippers, my toes scrunched to keep them on, I open the door to find the young neighbor girl taking pre-orders for Girl Scout cookies. She’s adorable and on most days I would welcome hearing the whole spiel, but I had no reserves for debating choices, let alone spelling my name a dozen times, watching the pencil slowly form each letter in the designated area on the spreadsheet. Check two boxes of the Samoas, use my first name, you don’t need my address, I live right next door…you will find me. Go away.
I may permanently be off eggs and bacon. This is shocking news to those who know me.
After startling myself upon seeing my reflection in the bathroom mirror…”really????!!!” I decided to avoid eye contact. This is a bit tricky since one entire wall in our bathroom is mirrored in addition to the standard mirror above the sink. I was surprisingly successful.
I found cracker crumbs in my navel and in between my toes.
And while my body is now upright, my hair is not – time for a shampoo. With that done I’ll be good as new – a little lighter, both inside and out.
Years ago, I happened upon a Christmas letter written in 1513 by Fra Giovanni to a friend. The words in his note have echoed within me ever since. I offer them to you as a reminder that you Take Peace when you remember your connection to others and all life. You Take Heaven when you let go of past regrets and release worry about future outcomes; when you live in the present moment. You Take Joy when you awaken to the magic and miracles that are in every moment of every day. You can choose to take heaven, to take peace, to take joy in your life. As we embrace the softness of this holiday season – as we turn once again toward the light – remember you are powerful beyond measure.
I salute you.
There is nothing I can give you
which you have not,
but there is much that while I cannot give,
you can take.
No heaven can come to us
unless our hearts find rest in it today.
No peace lies in the future
which is not hidden in this present instant.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow.
Behind it, yet within our reach is joy.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.