“Living Simply Through the Day”

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photo by Ginny Schneider

 

I’m reading Tilden Edwards’ book, “Living Simply Through the Day”, one of those “simple gift” kind of books we stumble upon unexpectedly. The author reminds me early on to have a “clear commitment to holy simplicity,” “a deep acceptance of ourselves”, and to “enter each day with a naked confidence”. I don’t know about you, but I feel washed by these clean and simple statements.

It’s funny, when I read “holy simplicity” I automatically think of priestly robes, glowing with embroidery and halos, or destitute monks ambling the streets of Assisi. But really, I think it means, set-apart simplicity- the simplicity that alludes us in the traffic jams of daily life. Another way to put it might be, a remembering; that life is a series of open moments, not a solid, unmoving, pre-determined wish list, or a clattering clutter of must-bes and regrets. Open moments. Possibility-moments. Clean air, winds of change, fresh breeze moments.

“A deep acceptance of ourselves” is a tough one for me, and maybe for you as well. Wow. A deep acceptance goes beyond tolerance or avoidance, it means actually loving and deeply caring for your own state of being, no matter what it is.

And “to enter the day with a naked confidence” just stretches me beyond anything I’ve ever known. It means I can confide in the day. Look at it as an intimate friend with all the joys and troubles it places in my lap. It means fear can be a forgotten tag-along, left sorrowing at the back gate. It means stepping out “con” “fide” with faith that the universe is my ally and life is my friend.

May you live beautifully, simply today.

A Sky-full of Possible

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It is a grey flannel day in the Pacific Northwest- the sun once again decided to hide its head under a dark cloudy January blanket for the past few days. My body is creaking and complaining at the sounds of the alarm, the too-many steps, and the uncomfortably cold downstairs kitchen, also yawning its complaints. The mandate among the marinade of busy-ness these days always seems to be, “breathe”. I want to take this a couple of steps further. “Stop. Breathe. Say, ‘yes’.”

This takes an extra moment or two, but I find it extends the breath into the realm of the possible. And it could be a small “yes”- a very small “yes”, or a big one. “Yes” to whatever you can right in front of you. “Yes! there is a hot pot of coffee in front of me.” “Yes, this day, no matter in how many ways I have to give it away, is mine.” “Yes, I can take a minute out here, a small section of time there to find myself, and enjoy what I find.” Yes to a conversation. Yes to a short section of reading you’ve been wanting to begin. Yes to yourself. Since having surgery, I’m learning to have to say “yes” more and more. “Yes, I need to move.” “Yes, I need to stay still.” “Yes, I need this time for myself, so will need to call this person back later.”

You may find, as I have, that slowing down, and considering your “yes” can lead to a sky-full of possible.

A New Year Heavy with Desire

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As I cross the threshold into 2014, I don’t want to heave across my shoulders a backpack full of resolutions, but a backpack heavy with desire. Let me explain. Resolutions, even good ones, like eating healthier, volunteering more, spending quality time with important people in our lives are just that: resolutions. “I resolve to do this!” But, in reality, I can resolve and resolve, but inevitably, as I learned this year, there are many things out of my control. I have quietly, in essence, resolved to fail in the things that wash unasked for and ephemerally out of my hands.

But desire is another thing. If my backpack is heavy with desire, it blushes with the things I truly want to accomplish, experience, and enjoy-  oozes with it even. And often it is double-heaped with twin deeper desires. For example, “I desire to write a memoir this year” becomes (deeper desire), “so that I can bring a little bit more healing into the world by giving hope through my own experiences.” Or, “I desire to eat healthier” becomes “I desire to learn more about my body and become a better caretaker of it so I can live my life more fully.” Working with the contents of your load can ripen the fruits you hold within.

So I’ve resolved this year (o.k., not resolved, but desired) to heap my bag full of desires. Which, I know from past experience, if not completely fulfilled, will often wonderfully transform into stepping stones, pathways, and bridges into broader envisionings of that initial heaviness- and become so sweet, so full-flavored, and eventually, so deeply satisfying.

Christmas at “The Outpost”

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This year, I am celebrating Christmas at what feels like “the outpost”. Miles away from our closest friends and family, I sit up here in these colder regions wondering what the holiday will look like. I mentioned to my daughter the other day, bemoaning this circumstance, “I’m missing the sparkle!”. “The sparkle” representing those gatherings where the tinkle of laughter, the way the candles glow on wine or punch glasses, or the wintry magic of holly flutes a descending staircase.

Not this year. Travel costs and body reparations post surgery forbid it.

But, “the outpost”, I discovered the other day, is a great place to re-play (and I mean emphasis on “play”) old memories that still have some juice and giggle to them. I turned on a copy of an old Christmas “album” and sang along, full voice. My husband, a willing audience, got to hear the tales of sisterly shenanigans of long ago, interpreting and misinterpreting the holiday song offerings as they played on the living room stereo: stomping around the room to “The Little Drummer Boy” a la Harry Simeone Chorale with my faithful oatmeal canister as drum-drum-drum, my sister imitating the rich male voice that rings out “Rise up shepherds and follow!” with its own weird and unusual consequences of doing so (family loyalty forbids me from sharing what happened next, although, I must say, we heard the familiar words from my mother at that point, “why is your sister’s hair wet?”) And hearing “All I Want for Christmas is You”- a song that can drive some people crazy in high-voiced pop familiarity brought me merrily back to my experience over a decade ago of Christmastime in New Zealand . . . warm weather, an outdoor park concert, and holding my “adopted” nephew in my lap, eventually falling over in a heap of people due to overly excited children in the vicinity amongst a crowded field of picnic blankets.

Some years, it seems, are just meant for cherishing what’s already come. New experiences may arrive next year, but this year, it’s about re-viewing, re-living, and re-playing with the old. The toy box of the past has baubles worth revisiting and giggling about.

“Ordinary” Wrapped up in Extraordinary

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We continue to edge deeper into the holiday season, leaving the green grass and gentle breezes of ordinary time behind. This is not to say there has not been the extraordinary, both beautiful and excruciatingly challenging within the reeds and gentle winds, but the temperature is now dramatically changing. The challenge now is to find the “ordinary” within the extraordinary. The small spaces in the largely decorated places. The remembrance of warm cups of coffee and a glint of sunlight amongst a big season, loud, wonderfully in-your-face season.

I hope to be able to hold hands with both “the biggies”- the extraordinary, and the ordinary things that come my way. These are a few ways I might try:

– biggie: buy and write out cards   -ordinary: brew a hot cup of tea and let the card                                                            writing last for 1 1/2 hours instead of 1- moving a                                                        little bit slowly and nourishing the process

-biggie: shop for presents online    -ordinary: stop and read a great passage from a                                                           inspiring book, chew on it for a few moments,                                                             even have a conversation about it with someone

-biggie: try to use up all the Thanksgiving leftovers in the refrigerator

-ordinary: re-member how each dish was shared, people’s reactions to it, mine as well, and incorporate it into a new dish, now re-imagined with memory and gratitude.

May you make the ordinary feel extraordinary in the gratitude of the moment.

Can you embrace your life right now?

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photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

I’ve recently crossed the threshold of kidney surgery, wandering the strange and meandering road of recovery. Recovery sounds like such a positive word. You are recovering! You are getting better, and yet, it can be the most difficult part of the journey. Whether it’s in the physical realm, the soulful realm, the emotional realm, it’s where the shake-down happens. It’s where the questions arise. It’s where the open space of uncertainty and possibility remain open. It is where both pain and healing come to the surface. The whys, the wherefores, the what will happens are all out there wandering like lost children, bumping into each other, crying, crawling, and wondering when someone will pick them up and take them into that longed for lap of slow , motherly, rocking-chair solace.

In an act of spiritual direction toward myself, I asked myself a question this morning: “Can you embrace your life right now?”

I first had to think about what “embrace” might mean. I decided it doesn’t mean toying with myself and my situation at arms’ distance. It doesn’t mean  a quick peck on each cheek to make myself feel temporarily acknowledged. It means to hold myself during this time. To look outside my window and let life embrace me, too. For me, it’s a deep long, loving hug. It’s saying, “I fully hold you and love you at this time- hard as it is.” And I’m finding, as I embrace my life, life embraces me back.

It sounds a bit funny, but loving ourselves into the whole of our realities can be the very lap we’re looking for.

May you be deeply embraced today.

The Play is the Thing

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photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

On these “ordinary” days of extraordinary color, magic, and mystery that the subtle winds of October bring to us, I find that like the sweet nectar of savoring that swirling and cascading leaf, or the tramp, stumble, and skip down the road-memories of childhood, the pseudo indulgence (an actually necessity) of play also draws us in. We hear it whisper, “oh, please, just one game, one dance, one indulgent giggle!” And we give in (thank goodness!)

I found myself in a small intentional community gathering the other day, asking me to “come and play” for an hour or two. The format was simple: take 8 adults, an outdoor space, and a few games (like toss the ball, say a name, next person goes, remember the order, then do it all backwards!) and suddenly, enter the doorway into fun. It doesn’t take much, just a little time and a little willingness. The results are: easier breathing, lots of laughter, and more playmates!

Today I’m hanging out with my dear friend’s two boys who love to join with me in adding a little silliness to a ping pong game (can you do a dance move in between each paddle swing? let’s see how many rhymes we can come up with for our names. . . card trick anyone?) And the free and easy, breezy attitude of play releases me into movement, unpolished cleverness, and belly laughs. The drive with my daughter and a friend or two the other day belting out at the top of our lungs a well-trodden song from the nineties did the same thing.

What would you like to play today?