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.
Old News –
The last couple of weeks of February have been a rough time for me the last several years. There are painful, heart hurting memories which seem to resurface and dealing with these challenging emotions is difficult.
Today I cleaned up our yard after a round of storms and rain this last week. I threw them on a burn pile and set it afire. I also had some old fence pieces and newspapers to burn. The newspapers are from my wife. She is doing her best to understand and begin to use extreme couponing in an effort to save money. I made sure to take old piles of newspaper and watched as the flames began consuming them. I tried reading some of the headlines and articles before the fire reached them and then they were gone.
As the fire leaped into the air I thought about it being old news which was out of date and historical. I also reflected on the memories I’ve struggled with the last few weeks and tried to remind myself that healing and time can also consume the heartache of the past and that our history enlightens our present.
What’s on Your Plate? –
This afternoon, at a county health council meeting, a speaker from Vanderbilt Hospital gave us a lecture on the importance of heart health. February is Heart Health Month so it was certainly appropriate. He talked about healthy eating even stating; “If it tastes good it’s not good for you!” That certainly got everyone’s attention. He softened the blow a little by following up with limiting the amount of unhealthy, high fat, processed, high-calorie food and increasing healthy choices. The speaker had arrived late and lunch had been served before his lecture. The food wasn’t what he’d call the best in choices but not the worst either. After he sat down and the meeting dismissed someone mentioned to the attendees that there was plenty of food left over from the lunch and to please take some home. I can only imagine what the speaker was thinking as he watched people make “to go” plates. It certainly is a difficult job to get people to think differently, choose differently.
One of the disciplines of mindfulness is mindful eating. It is the recognition that everything we put in our mouths comes from the world around us. It’s not just consuming but being aware that each piece of meat, every spoonful of veggies, a bite of fruit, is a result of the creation we all apart of, participate in and exist in intimate connection. Too often, however, we just consume. Not only food but almost everything in our lives is used and abused, grabbed and possessed, with no thought of creation or consequence to our consumption.
What’s on our plate is, and is more than, the food we eat but also what we allow to fill up our lives.
Good Eye –
Last week I had an important meeting. During it, a woman walked into the room to give the person I was meeting with a message. As she delivered it the other noticed the woman was shaking. She asked; “Are you okay? You’re really shaking!” The person said she had a lot going on and was trying to fit all of it into a small amount of time. She then left the room and my meeting continued. Afterwards, I saw the woman who had been shaking and told her I hoped she had a good day.
As I went to my next appointment I thought about both the woman and the fact that I didn’t notice her shaking at all. I totally missed it. I try to be aware of people and their emotional, mental and spiritual states. I even try to notice new glasses, haircuts, and changes people make but not this time. I realized it swept by me because all of my focus was on the “important” meeting. The person I met with was at the same meeting but didn’t allow it to consume all of her attention and she was able to show concern to someone in need.
It was a good reminder that true awareness is finding the balance between paying attention to ourselves and others.
This morning I overheard a conversation involving someone who was either incapable, unwilling, or had never been taught how to listen. He insulted the people around him, calling them; “idiots” and made sure he was the “Alpha Dog.” As I listened to him not listening, I thought about our culture and the many voices, personalities, activists, politicians (especially politicians), talk show hosts, pod-casters, television and music stars and others, who scream, pontificate and insist vehemently that their view of themselves, others, the nation and the world is the only correct one and any who might dare disagree should be consumed with ferocity.
We live in such an inflammatory time when it seems most burn with self-righteous indignation and personally justified rage. We yell, fight, accuse, condemn and never stop to look around and see what this incendiary atmosphere is doing to everything and everyone around us. People burn with hatred and fear rushing to fight whatever threatens their way of life. One life ignites another and another and another…
As I listened to this man I wondered if it’s too late to change and what would be left when the flames of ego, greed, foolishness and closed ears, burned us up and out.
“Unrest of spirit is a mark of life; one problem after another presents itself and in the solving of them we can find our greatest pleasure.”
Late last week I was speaking with a friend who was complaining, again, about a co-worker. The person being lamented about doesn’t seem nice, pleasant to be around or take other’s feelings into consideration when she says or does certain things. My friend is struggling to find the good in this person.
After a few moments of listening I interrupted my friend and remarked; “We sure talk about this individual a lot.” I then asked; “Have you let her build a rat’s nest in your mind?” I explained that unwanted and unpleasant people can take over our thoughts. Like rats they chew, gnaw, scratch, bite, consume our waking moments. If a rat is in your house it has your full attention until it’s dealt with permanently.
Unfortunately most times its difficult to get rid of the “rats” in our lives but we can keep them from building nests, taking up permanent residence, in our minds and spirits.