Not so Fast –
Today, after a busy week indoors, I was looking forward to a day doing yard work outside. A good way to tell you’ve been inside too much is anticipating mowing grass and trimming. I ate my breakfast waited for the sun to begin to shine and then headed outdoors. Unfortunately, it was at that time the skies opened up and it began to rain. It wasn’t a sprinkle but a downpour that soaked the grass and the ground enough that I’d have to wait until tomorrow to try again.
One of my first thoughts this morning was; “It’s only Friday.” Most weeks Friday is a happy day or at least one of relief. However, this has been a long week and to know it wasn’t quite over yet was disconcerting. I sat on the couch and listened to the rain bounce off the tin roof on the porch. It is a beautiful sound. I felt myself relax and remember; “all shall be well.” It didn’t take long to realize a day of ease would do me good even if it was forced upon me.
Life for all of its chaos can also be the reason we stop, breathe, listen, sense, the miracle of life and doing nothing.
Be Still and Wait –
This morning our Siberian Husky Trooper was ready to go outside. Getting to the door to open it he was dancing in circles! I opened the door to the house and the screened in porch and he darted out. Almost immediately I noticed a big rabbit in the field adjacent to our home. My eyes grew big wondering if Trooper was going to see it. The rabbit was still. I thought to myself; “Can you stay that still with danger lurking that close to you?” I watched intently as Trooper began sniffing the area and the bunny watched and didn’t move. After what seemed like a lifetime for me and the rabbit Trooper lumbered back to the porch and the rabbit was safe.
Many times in life we face trials and temptations, difficulties and decisions, choices and complications. Our instinct might be to take immediate action, react in the ways which seem best, hurry up and solve the problem. However, wisdom teaches us that when the way is clouded and we can’t see or crowded with chaos and hard to move the best we can do mentally, emotionally and spiritually is to be still and wait. To breathe, close our eyes and find our center. With a hectic mindset, we can focus on the immediate and “fix it” at the expense of the future. We can also become reckless running around trying everything at once and creating more hardships for ourselves and those we love.
A great master was asked one time by his student to help him solve a problem for which he could not find the solution. “I’ve gone over it a million times, looked at every angle, and can’t seem to see the way. The master told him; “When you step into a stream your feet muddy the waters. Only when you are still will the waters clear.”
Stillness, the quietude of the mind, is underrated. Pause, rest, be still, and the way will reveal itself.
Starting Over –
I was speaking with a friend this week who struggles with anger. We were trying to figure out how to take a breath before responding to a situation or a person who triggers his angry responses. We talked about tricks and tips to get him to breathe in fully and exhale before whatever words were forming on his tongue. I told him; “At that moment think, see with your mind what the consequences of your words are going to be.” It’s the discipline of ‘the space in between.’ The greater the space in between the stimuli and the response the better. Take time to think, to breathe, there is healing, understanding, awareness, and acceptance in that moment. Use it.”
With each breath is a new beginning, a starting over, an opportunity to live and give life.
Charging Stations –
Where do we recharge? Where is a place we can go to renew and rejuvenate our body, emotions, mind, and spirit? One of the concepts I learned in a training I attended this week in Nashville, Tennessee was that everyone needs a safe place to go and refill, as one presenter said; “the “joy” juice.
These recharging stations are especially important if your life is filled with stress. Stress drains our brains, our souls. It has a way of stealing the “joy” from us and replacing it with a toxic combination which certainly damages us short-term and can damage us for a lifetime.
This is why places such as a church, park, gym, community center, friend’s house, favorite restaurant, mall or a backyard swing or hammock, can make a huge difference in our lives. These places give us an opportunity to breathe, clear our heads, relax, let go, reflect and process difficult experiences and relationships, simply be without needing to do anything else.
Recharging is not just for phones, tablets, and computers. It’s necessary for all of us whose batteries are running low.
On Saturday afternoon I burned a pile of branches, old newspapers, and other miscellaneous items. The smell of the ashes and leftover debris lingered in the air the next day. I had forgotten to grab an old wooden rocking chair out of the reading room which also needed to be disposed of. When I noticed it Sunday afternoon I wondered if the smoldering ash would still be hot enough to do anything. I took the chair out, broke it into several pieces and put some under the coals, which were still a faint orange, and put the rest in a pile on top. I checked it after a while and noticed the smoke had increased. About an hour later the wood was ablaze with a good flame. It didn’t take long to consume it once the fire restarted. Not too long afterward the chair was gone.
I wrote last week about the struggles I have when February rolls around. Many years have passed but the layers of hurt, anger, and uncertainty still lay buried, ready to ignite when fuel is added. What I try to do, instead of dwelling on the past, is not feed the flames. When I am aware and notice my mind drifting back to the place of pain I find a place to breathe. I close my eyes and take deep breaths. I remind myself of the truth that I cannot change the past but I can be present in the now. Does it always work? No. Does it work? Yes. Maybe one day I will be healed, maybe not, but I don’t want to give up on living today because of the difficulties of yesterday.
Don’t Resist –
This afternoon I stepped outside and the warmer temperatures wrapped me like a blanket. The sun shone on me and the warm breeze stirred my soul. It’s been cold the past few weeks. Only a couple of days ago the ground was covered with snow and ice. Today, there is little snow to be seen and the remnants are being chased away by the balmy weather. The kicker is I didn’t have anything to do with the high and low temps, the sun or the clouds filling the sky, the wild difference between now and the near past. All I did was stay warm on the cold days and breathe in the warmth this afternoon.
Life is mostly filled with things we have no control over. We want the ability, the power to make things bend to our will but this is an illusion. If we pursue this type of control our lives will be filled with suffering. The secret to contentment and peace is to allow life to progress at its pace and accept what we think is good and bad, wanted and unwanted, desired and abhorred.
When we are able to practice this discipline we discover the ever-present now is exactly what it needs to be and so are we.
On Wednesday night of this week, I was speaking with someone about being truthful and honest to the people in our lives. He stated that being too open can lead to betrayal and pain and therefore he doesn’t share his story for fear of being taken advantage of. It was a fair argument but I told him maybe his issue wasn’t being fearful of openness but being open to the wrong people. People we can trust, who won’t use our words and experiences against us, who will listen to understand and be a shoulder to lean on are invaluable.
Earlier in the week, I shared a fatherhood presentation to a group of fathers who have young kids in school. There were dads who were going in to work late and some who had worked all night diligently sitting there to learn more about how they could be involved in their children’s lives, especially when it comes to education. After the presentation while saying; “goodbye” to the fathers one of the attendees came up and began speaking with me. She had some questions about getting a father involved and shared her story. What she told me was hard to hear with many issues and other challenges she’s had to overcome. I couldn’t believe how open she was being when we had just met a few moments earlier. She believes I am someone she can trust with her family.
Openness, transparency, is something most say they desire in themselves and others. However, these can bring feelings of uncomfortableness, questions that aren’t easily answered, and an unsettling fear of not being skilled enough to meet the need. When these thoughts are rushing through our minds the need to breathe and be still must be remembered. Most people don’t want you to fix them they simply need someone to listen without judging. If there are problems to solve and mysteries to unravel we can do them together as we travel this path called life.
Today has been a quiet day, save a few thunderclouds which have threatened rain. The word “Sabbath” is defined as; “a weekly religious observance by Jews and Christians. A day of abstinence from work” and since I’ve done nothing today I think I’ve met the requirement of this command.
It’s amazing how many days we work. I’m not referring to just our “normal” jobs but also the additional duties we take on, extra curricula activities we participate in, chores, responsibilities and the mundane tasks required of everyday living.
To have a day in which nothing is attempted let alone accomplished is a rare joy in our busy world. We can almost feel guilty for not breaking one of the ten commandments, for following the (religious) law. However, this is what we are supposed to do; rest, sleep, breathe, receive the blessing of the Sabbath and be thankful.
grace and peace,
What is Received –
Some friends and I were talking the other day about listening. More to the point, we were talking about people hearing things which were never said.
In communication lectures I emphasize the importance of knowing your audience. To the best of your knowledge; have they had a good day, how are they feeling, are there any stressors and pressures weighing heavily upon them? All of these determine what they hear when you speak to them.
What about environment? What is the location of your conversation, do you have privacy, are there bystanders, can you talk without being interrupted by eavesdroppers? Again, these have a lot to do with how your words to another are perceived. And of course, what is your history with the person whom you’re speaking with?
Communication is 80% non-verbal. Only 20% of what we say to another person, or a group of people, is said with language.There are many other factors to be considered to ensure your words are received with the right intent. Unfortunately, even taking most or all of these ingredients in mind, it doesn’t guarantee the words you speak will be what the listener hears.
As one who speaks one on one and to groups of people regularly I have many stories of folks excitedly telling me; “What you said today really spoke to me!” When I inquire about the specifics they share about topics I didn’t talk about and hadn’t even considered! “Thank you!” they say. “You’re welcome!” I reply and walk away trying to figure out how they received what I clearly didn’t give.
It also happens in my writings. A few months ago I wrote about an ugly shirt and a comment someone made about the unsightly garment. As I try to do in my daily writings I gave a lesson learned from the encounter. I thought it was well written and to the point until someone responded to my post in an aggressive way. Though I tried to explain that what he received wasn’t what I wrote, it didn’t matter. Eventually I had to accept what he read and the meaning he took away from it even though it wasn’t my intent.
Wisdom tells us to measure our words. They are incredibly powerful. They build and destroy. Lift us up or tear others down. Too often we are careless with what comes out of our mouths and never consider the consequences until after the words are spoken. Breathe, before your speak and when what is received offends and harms, make sure you apologize with words more carefully chosen then the one which came before.
Last weekend I opened a bag of Iams dog food for the pooches. Chances are it was the last bag of dog food I will buy at our local PetSmart store.
Scooping some out for the dog’s dinner Monday night it hit me that the next time I buy a bag of dog food I will be living in a new place, doing a new thing. Each evening, every serving gets me closer to the unknown and a new normal. Like sand slipping from the top of an hourglass so the bite size bits are disappearing and when the bottom is reached I will need to find a new place to shop for sustenance and nutrients for my furry ones.
As I begin my sabbatical next week I also wonder where my sustenance, nutrients will come from, who/what will feed, inspire, heal and help me.
Reflecting on this yesterday I observed that the dogs aren’t worried about the food running out. They have a lifetime of being taken care of, provided for and have never gone hungry.
Maybe a lesson can be learned as I scoop away the past, embrace an uncertain present and unknown future. Wisdom teaches me to live with open-handed mindfulness, approaching every moment, each experience, ready to receive and release.
So I will trust, and remember that even though I will soon reach the bottom of the bag, I too have never gone hungry.blessings, bdl
Everything is so expensive!
Last week, while eating breakfast with friends, I told them my wife and I were hoping the oil for the furnace would last for a few more weeks until we moved. Alas, that very day, it ran out. We called the oil company, explained our predicament and were informed the minimum amount they would deliver is 150 gallons. This is much more than we need. Instead, we bought a couple of Kerosene containers and have been pouring fuel into the tank ourselves every few days. It’s not convenient but it does save us several hundred dollars.
Yesterday, at our campus, my wife told a group of people about our great oil adventure. Following the service a lovely couple invited us out to lunch and when we got home one of the men from the campus was sitting in his work truck parked in our driveway. In the back of his vehicle was a 55 gallon tank filled with oil. He asked us where the fill pipe was located, pumped the oil into the tank, told us we were loved and left.
As he pulled out of the driveway I was reminded that no person, regardless of their finances, is poor who has true friends.blessings, bdl
An excellent and thought-provoking quote.
My first reaction when reading this was to think of folks I have known to whom this quote succinctly applies. However, wisdom teaches to move past the shallow critiques of others and deeply consider if it is applicable to me.
Scary. To think we may acquire knowledge and not become wise. To spend our lives accumulating that which can enlighten our path and still live in darkness is disconcerting. How do we ensure we are not someone to whom the quote; “Men can acquire knowledge, but not wisdom. Some of the greatest fools ever known were learned men.” can be hung on our lives?
A good step is to move past our initial reactions, our first thoughts. When knowledge is given to us, do we assume it is meant for someone else? Do we allow it to penetrate or just see it as data, a piece of information to file away somewhere in our minds? Do we chew on it, as a cow continuously chomps on a clump of grass, turning it over and over, drawing out all the flavor, each bit of nutrients, letting it become a part of us?
Wisdom is not the amount of knowledge we possess but if this knowledge possesses us.blessings, bdl
What happened to my hands? When did they become so wrinkly? What are these crinkles on my face? Why do I seem to have much more face and so less hair? Except, of course, on my eyebrows and ears which seem to grow hair at a phenomenal rate!
Getting older is a reality. We realize it happens and yet it still somehow takes us by surprise.
The other day I caught myself holding an item with fine print under a light, squinting, trying to read it…and I thought; “when did this happen, when did I turn into an old person?”
Time, the undefeated one.
If we can’t stop time hopefully we can make the most of the time we have left.blessings, bdl
Guest Post by Tish Cambers
People using the word “shy” is a sore spot for me. A four year old girl hiding behind her mother’s leg when a stranger approaches is shy. A 23 year old woman who doesn’t talk much is not. Once upon a time, I was absolutely that shy four year old hiding behind my mother. You could say I spent most of my childhood and adolescence being shy, sure. But somewhere in my post-secondary years, I did indeed start to “come out of my shell”.
It took a few more years still for me to not just overcome my “shyness”, but to accept it as who I am. I am an introvert. Through and through. I am proud to say so, and will happily explain what that means to people who think I’m shy, timid, socially anxious or just plain weird.
People who met me when I was 20 years old starting my first job as a cashier, not knowing me before, would use words like “shy” to describe me, which felt like a punch in the gut. I knew I had come so far from my timid, socially anxious teenage self, but apparently that still wasn’t good enough for people.
The catalyst of my journey from social anxiety to social acceptance began with my first year of college. I was fresh out of high school. At just 17 years old I was dropped off by my parents in a new city, far from home, left to fend for myself. My first challenge came just hours after my parents and I had exchanged a tearful goodbye; I had to walk to my new school by myself, ask for help to find the classroom by myself, and sit in a room of peers while completing an entrance assessment by myself. I did it. All by myself.
Over the next few months, I did all sorts of new things all by myself. I went to school. I spoke to classmates. I went grocery shopping. I even acted in classmates’ (new friends) student films and developed a crush on a boy who, by some miracle, actually liked me back! The rest of the school year had its highs (my first boyfriend and my first kiss) and its lows (depression, failing classes), but by the time I came back home for the summer, my friends were commenting how outgoing I was being around people that I wouldn’t have said much to before. I felt like I had grown so much. And I had.
Skip forward four years and I’ve been to college again, worked a cashier job for almost three years, been a cake decorating class instructor for one year and just started a job in a bakery. I’ve come a long way with the socializing thing. I can small-talk now, if I have to. I can exchange pleasantries with strangers. I can even make new friends. Yet, this word “shy” still haunts me. Some people just don’t seem to understand that there could be any reason for not speaking other than out of fear. Is it really so strange for me to not chat while I’m concentrating on decorating a cake? I like my work, I like the people I work with, but being an introvert means that I don’t always remember social interactions that come naturally to people. Things like replying “And, how are you?” after responding to their same question with an perfunctory “Good” don’t come naturally to me. I’m not rude, inconsiderate, or self-centered. It’s just not wired into my brain to be curious about other people, I guess.
After a good day at work, feeling confident that I got everything done properly that was assigned to me, it’s a real kick in the pants to hear my boss tell me I need to stop being “shy”. Augh! That word! I’m trying my best, but sometimes it feels like my own personality, my true self, is just sabotaging me in my professional life. Can we get Introvertism declared some sort of official medical condition, so that employers cannot discriminate against it? I don’t think it’s fair to point out my personality as something I need to work on in an employee assessment. Next thing, they’ll be telling me I need to change my face. (I’ve suffered from chronic “mean-face” my whole life. I actually had a customer say to me “No, I think I’ll find someone who actually wants to help me.” after just looking at my face.) Why can’t people just understand that there are different types of personalities, that people have different ways of socially interacting? I might have to start listing “Introvert” under Skills on my resumé to warn people. Or hand out a pamphlet to everyone I meet; “Introverts: Care Instructions”.
Over the past few years, I’ve gone from wishing I was different, that I could make friends and go out and party to being very comfortable in my introvert skin. I spend the majority of my time alone, as I live alone, and only have a few friends to hang out with occasionally. But thanks to the Internet, I can keep in touch with old and new friends, and be a part of online communities that make me feel less isolated. I’m quiet around people because I don’t have anything to say, not because I’m scared to say anything. I don’t go out of my way to make friends because I’m happy with my handful of real-BFF-since-high school friends, and frankly, I haven’t run into anyone that I’ve felt a kinship towards in a long time.
So, you can say I’m quiet. It’s true, even when I do speak it’s not very loudly. You can say I’m a hermit. It’s true, I don’t venture outside unless I have plans with a friend, I need groceries, or perhaps I want a picnic in the park on a sunny afternoon. You can even point out my “meam-face” because I’ve seen it for myself. But, please, please, don’t dare call me shy, timid, scared, anxious, or weak. I am confident in my introvertness. I am strong. I am proud. I am capable of great things. You just won’t hear me say those things out loud, because, frankly, I don’t talk much. And that’s okay.
Read more by Tish Cambers
An adventurous peacock that escaped its pen at a Chicago-area petting zoo and became frozen in subzero temperatures has died in Dundee, Illinois.
According to the article, “Blue”, an unfortunate name in hindsight, died Wednesday morning, after firefighters rescued it from a tree branch about 40 feet from the ground. The temperature outside was 12 degrees below zero.
The saying, “freedom isn’t free” works on many levels. There is a cost for freedom, an expense for breaking loose from the confines which hold us. While freedom may be what we desire, there is also a need of protection so one’s freedom does not infringe on the freedom of others.
The balance of freedom and limits, no holds barred and boundaries, being carefree and being disciplined, is a fruit of wisdom.
Knowing ourselves well enough to understand we don’t need everything we crave, that at times other’s well-being should supersede our own, and the things which we think are holding us back might be the very things that are saving our lives.blessings, bdl
In a time of transition sometimes my life seems like one long season of waiting. A thought crept into my mind this morning and I have reflected upon it throughout the day. “Maybe life is one long lesson in patience.”
How counter-intuitive this seems to be.
Our world moves at such a high rate of speed. Sometimes its difficult to catch our breath before something else dashes in to take it away. Instant gratification is no longer an option but rather a necessity. Scientific discovery, technology innovations, breaking news, even updates about family and friends come quickly via social media.
In a world where everything happens so fast, shouldn’t patience be placed on the endangered species list? It is no longer a virtue, no longer needed.
What if the opposite is true? Could it be that patience, pausing, waiting, is not only required but desperately needed?
In this ever accelerating world we should relish the chance to sit and do nothing in a doctor’s office, enjoy an opportunity to exhale while on hold with a customer service rep, embrace the occasion to be still when waiting at a red light.
Without wisdom and mindfulness we may never realize that what’s moving so quickly is this thing called life.
No use crying, or beating yourself up, over spilled coffee.
Yesterday morning was especially busy. The carpets were cleaned over the weekend at our campus site and the main room needed to be set up. An additional classroom needed to be prepped. Coffee, donuts and other Sunday amenities had to be put in the foyer and the information handout we give to folks had to be typed up, printed, copied and folded. Lots to do and not much time get it done.
I like arriving at the campus before anyone else. It’s quiet and offers a few moments to gather your thoughts before others start arriving. After setting up the main room, organizing the second, setting out the pastries, printing and copying the information sheet, I sat down in the empty foyer with a cup of coffee.
It was my intention to breathe, relax, take a few sips of java then fold the papers. It didn’t work out that way. Somehow I moved the table cloth upon which my coffee sat and “SPLASH!” all over the “Hot off the Presses” information handout.
“Argh!” I shook my head while trying to save the sheets. Found a cloth, dried them as best I could, all the time chewing myself out for not being more careful, not folding them previously, for being a clutz.
In the midst of my inner insult fest a question popped into my critical cluttered mind, “if someone else had done this what would you say to them?” After pondering for a moment I realized I would say, “It’s not that big of deal. If this is the only bad thing to happen to you today you’ve had a great day. It happens, it’s life, you’re not perfect, it’s over, let it go.”
So, that’s what I did. I let it go.
Why do we beat ourselves up in a way we would never do another person? Why do we treat ourselves worse than we treat others? Why can’t we give ourselves a break?
Stop the inner dialogue of insults and comparisons. Life isn’t and never will be perfect, neither will you and that’s ok. Let it go. Give yourself a break.
finding the beauty in the stains,
There’s nothing like getting stopped in your tracks! Especially when it’s by a truck full of manure! On my way to an appointment this week I was breezing down the road, same road I wrote about last week with the sneaky police officer, when all of a sudden a semi-truck, full of stinky stuff, pulled right out in front of me! How do I know what the trailer contained? Aside from the smell there is a natural fertilizer plant nearby and almost all the big rigs on this road belong to it.
My first reaction was “argh!” My first thought was “hold your breath!” Fortunately the morning was cool, the air damp and this helped stifle the onerous odor. There are days when you can literally smell the plant for miles. The road I was driving is a small two lane highway with corn on either side and many twists and turns. No way around, stuck behind this moving pile of…poop. After what seemed like the longest mile the driver turned into the plant and I continued on my way.
Little did I know the truck would be a metaphor of my morning. The appointment I had ended up much longer and more tedious than seemed possible. No matter what type of business you’re involved in there are times when many people need to get together and discuss something. Oftentimes there is more talk about everything else except what needs talking about! After a while your brain turns to mush and you get what I like to call the Krispy Kreme look (eyes glazed over and drooling).
As mindful as I try to be, as centered and still as my disciplines attempt to teach, these times really get to me. I wonder, “what else could I be doing right now? Isn’t there someone or something that could benefit from the time, talent and energy in this room?” Being stuck stinks!
As much as I dislike monotonous moments such as these in my heart of hearts I know they are beneficial. They do help. There is a reason people need to get together and be on the same page and make sure the bases are covered. Although I’m not made for sitting I know if we don’t let each other know what’s going on we can’t effectively do what needs to be done and that really would stink! So, I breathe. I take a moment to release the anxiety and frustration and let go of the feeling of being stuck and know, hopefully soon, I’ll be on the move again.
Maybe there’s something in your life today that really smells! Something or someone who is stinking up the atmosphere with a bad attitude or difficult situation. You keep looking for a way out but you’re stuck. As hard as it can be, just breathe and be centered. The way will clear, the stink will move on and then you can too.
holding my nose and not my breath,