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Archive for November, 2013

Eternal Flame

It doesn’t take a Fifty Year Anniversary of November 22, 1963 to send my mind back to that date in the world and my personal history of the horrors of that day. Every November 22nd since that time, there has been a pause and a stillness within me and yes, still the unanswered plea that somehow, someway it could have been different…it could have been stopped….it just didn’t happen.

But it did. The 35th president of the United States was ruthlessly gunned down. The light in the eyes of a beautiful First Lady would never be quite the same. Her wide, gracious smile lessened forever. Two young children would see only the return of their mother from this political trip. John-John would not have his Saturday birthday party with his father present.

I was twenty years old, a sophomore in college when it happened. It was a beautiful, crisp autumn day, and just after noon on that day, I had completed my Friday classes and was in the Michigan State University student Union lounge. The announcement that the president had been shot came across the building’s  public announce system. Immediately, I thought and prayed “only shot”, not killed. I think Tom and I were together as we awaited the news and heard and saw  CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite announce at 1:38 pm to the United States that President John F. Kennedy had died.

Collectively, the nation’s and some of the world’s heart died that day, along with a lot of hope and vision given us by the vision and dreams of this man, as president. He meant to be a great force for change and it was already beginning to happen. If he thought we could and should do something, many of us were getting on board with him. The space race lay ahead, new things not yet tried were beginning to form for ways to forge ahead in world peace efforts. The Peace Corps inspired youth to “think not what our country could do for us, but rather to ask what we could do for our country”.  People began to hear and follow a call that evaporated the thinking of seeking the easy way out.  “We choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” A living example of courage stood before us, willing to lead. We were beginning to learn to be followers behind this shining example.

At age twenty, my life was shaping up toward fulfilling my dreams. My college degree was within reach, I would achieve my dream of being a teacher and I would be married in two short years. Now, just a short year and one half away from our own 50th anniversary, these fifty years fulfilled my heart with the family life of two daughters and three grandchildren. Jobs came and went, we moved around a bit, but always made our home where we were, filled with love, and we’ve been blessed in ways too numerous to count. My own American dream is realized and I am aware of the abundance given just in being an American.

Even though I’ve written for nearly all of my life in some form, poetry, essay, diary, journal or blog, I’ve never or at least not often written on the day of a large world event, especially the disastrous ones, like weather catastrophies, Sept. 11, or Nov. 22, 1963.  I usually write afterwards. It is like my fingers are frozen with my mind and feelings. The same was true for yesterday. I attempted to post, but it just didn’t come together. So this is my day-after attempt. Still, I will go through this weekend, remembering the numbness of the Saturday following the assasination of fifty years ago, seeing the shocking Sunday morning murder of Lee Harvey Oswald on TV just as we returned from Mass, the endless files of people in the rotunda, and the First Lady’s gracefilled and grieving presence through the burial procession to Arlington Cemetery. Forever, I will hear the drum beat of the funeral march.

In a speech given on Nov. 11, 1961, President Kennedy spoke to over 5,000 people gathered at Arlington National Cemetary on Armistice Day.

He began his address with:  “We meet in quiet commemoration of a historic day of peace. In an age that threatens the survival of freedom, we join together to honor those who made our freedom possible…It is a tragic fact that war still more destructive and still sanguinary followed (World War II.); that man’s capacity to devise new ways of killing his fellow men have far outstripped his capacity to live in peace with his fellow man.”

 “Man’s capacity to devise new ways of killing his fellow men”.  Had just one man in Dallas been able to find the capacity to live in peace with his fellow men, all history would have been changed.  It is incredible to think that the tipping point lies in just one person being able to work for and find personal peace within themselves and the whole world will be affected toward the good.

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Eternal Flame

It doesn’t take a Fifty Year Anniversary of November 22, 1963 to send my mind back to that date in the world and my personal history of the horrors of that day. Every November 22nd since that time, there has been a pause and a stillness within me and yes, still the unanswered plea that somehow, someway it could have been different…it could have been stopped….it just didn’t happen.

But it did. The 35th president of the United States was ruthlessly gunned down. The light in a beautiful First Lady would never be quite the same. Her wide, gracious smile, lessened forever. Two young children would see only the return of their mother from this political trip. John-John would not have his Saturday birthday party with his father present.

I was twenty years old, a sophomore in college when it happened. It was a beautiful, crisp autumn day, and just after noon on that day, I had completed my Friday classes and was in the Michigan State University student Union lounge. The announcement that the president had been shot came across the building’s  public announce system. Immediately, I thought and prayed “only shot”, not killed. I think Tom and I were together as we awaited the news and heard and saw  CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite announce at 1:38 pm to the United States that President John F. Kennedy had died.

Collectively, the nation’s and some of the world’s heart died that day, along with a lot of hope and vision given us by the vision and dreams of this man, as president. He meant to be a great force for change and it was already beginning to happen. If he thought we could and should do something, many of us were getting on board with him. The space race lay ahead, new things not yet tried were beginning to form for ways to forge ahead in world peace efforts. The Peace Corps inspired youth to “think not what we could do for ourselves but what we could do for our country”.  People began to hear and follow a call that evaporated the thinking of seeking the easy way out.  “We choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” A living example of courage stood before us, willing to lead. We were beginning to learn to be followers behind this shining example.

At age twenty, my life was shaping up toward fulfilling my dreams. My college degree was within reach, I would achieve my dream of being a teacher and I would be married in two short years. Now, just a short year and one half away from our own 50th anniversary, these fifty years fulfilled my heart with the family life of two daughters and three grandchildren. Jobs came and went, we moved around a bit, but always made our home where we were, filled with love, and we’ve been blessed in ways too numerous to count. My own American dream is realized and I am aware of the abundance given just in being an American.

Even though I’ve written for nearly all of my life in some form, poetry, essay, diary, journal or blog, I’ve never or at least not often written on the day of a large world event, especially the disastrous ones, like weather catastrophies, Sept. 11, or Nov. 22, 1963.  I usually write afterwards. It is like my fingers are frozen with my mind and feelings. The same was true for yesterday. I attempted to post, but it just didn’t come together. So this is my day-after attempt. Still, I will go through this weekend, remembering the numbness of the Saturday following the assasination of fifty years ago, seeing the shocking Sunday morning murder of Lee Harvey Oswald on TV just as we returned from Mass, the endless files of people in the rotunda, and the First Lady’s gracefilled and grieving presence through the burial procession to Arlington Cemetery. Forever I will hear the drum beat of the funeral march.

John F. Kennedy made his first formal visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1961, to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. At the conclusion of the ceremony President Kennedy spoke to more than 5,000 people gathered in the Memorial Amphitheater.

President Kennedy’s address began; “We meet in quiet commemoration of a historic day of peace. In an age that threatens the survival of freedom, we join together to honor those who made our freedom possible. … It is a tragic fact, that war still more destructive and still sanguinary followed [World War II]; that man’s capacity to devise new ways of killing his fellow men have far outstripped his capacity to live in peace with his fellow man.”

“Man’s capacity to devise new ways of killing his fellow men”.  Had just one man in Dallas been able to find the capacity to live in peace with his fellow men, all history would have been changed.  It is incredible to think that the tipping point lies in just one person being able to work for and find personal peace within themselves and the whole world will be affected toward the good.

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napkinwriter banner

Please share an example of your flow writing in the Practice Circle. 

 7:45 am, Sat. Nov. 9, 2013 – FLOW WRITING (assignment for course)

 I close them, then I open my eyes and what do I see? My computer looking back at me.

 I have a Google morning schedule file. I am making a practice of filling it out for the day and beginning my morning practice of quiet and writing time with it. It is my practice time to connect myself to my soul, to my writing and to my guidance for the day.

 This morning my computer does not connect. I got into this moment without my “skeletal” schedule for the day. That’s ok. Flow Writing is not new to me. It’s been a long-time practice and many of my journals are filled with it. I am so grateful there is paper to run to so I can record “flow” I am hearing in the midst of other activity I am engaged with, for I know it is “flow” and does not necessarily come back by demand or whim. It is the message of the moment and that moment does not return and I will have to find its wisdom some other way.

 I’ve called Flow Writing by many names…Free-write, the Artist’s Way….Writing Down My Soul…..Soul Between the Lines. It is a trustworthy prompt.

 My life always “flows” more smoothly when I am in the practice of it; when I follow its discipline; when I yield to its guidance; when I open to its surprises; yes, when I enjoy its delights; and when I search from its challenges.

Today, once again, my hand takes the pen and my words and my moment of now flow onto the page.

 Christina Baldwin

Christina Baldwin

 I am all tied up in timelines. This is because I have begun the work in Restorying Our Lives, led by author Christina Baldwin, a leader of intertwining the mysterious spiritual with our human experience in this thing we call “our life”.  By the looks of my timeline, I think I am following the storyline that I came from Infinity and I shall return to Infinity. For now, I am concentrating on just the part that follows my birth up to my 70th year. A new chapter begins on January 2, 2014, my 71st birthday.

This course guides us to consider what stories in our lives still serve us. We try to discover what stories need revision, renewal or simply releasing. But releasing is not always a quick process. We may have to be intimately acquainted with the process of forgiveness in order to truly release…and set ourselves free. But that is a whole other course!

When we “restory” something that truly happened in our lives, we are not “lying,” nor  rewriting our factual past or present. We look at it, as honestly as we can and do a “time-lapse” picture with words that view this event and what it means to us at certain points over the course of our life. When we have learned enough from it and even discovered the gift given, even where there was pain or regret, we can transform our lives with words and new insights of understanding. We are changed in our present life today with this process.

It’s not all pain and grit either. There is much joy and delight that is recalled and appreciated in new and deeper ways. The oft-repeated, “if we knew then what we know now” is bound to release some real belly-whoppers and hearty, healthy laughter. “Someday, we’ll laugh about this!” And now we have the chance.

This type of reflection, both spoken and written, is sometimes referred to as “life review.”        

Life review is often viewed as hospice activity, end-of-life reminiscence. Maybe that’s the time most likely for people and their friends and families to slow down enough to make this process conscious.  This is a combined spiritual and writing practice. Sometimes, if this occurs at the latter stages of one’s life and during an acutely ill period of time, another person does the writing, but the writing comes from the subject’s life experience and reflection. And both receive a transforming grace of satisfaction and peace.

But there is no need to wait! Examining the stories that guide our lives is sustaining creative and spiritual activity at any point. The sooner the reviewing begins, the sooner our stories are set free to guide our inner compass to the rest of the life we truly want to create.  And the sooner we do this, the more opportunity we have to  reframe those stories in ways that liberate and empower us. Then we get to live the new stories!

 I knew the reasons why I wanted to do this work. It fits right into the work that lies ahead for me in writing books that have long been awaiting the discipline and my true effort to make them real. I also feel it will help me compose and round out some curriculum outlines for courses I want to offer in the senior centers to help people find the spark of themselves in the spark of their stories. Stories they can write, whether they think of themselves as writers or not. I am very excited about this.

So, now that the course has begun, it appears there are over 200 people who have introduced themselves and given their reasons for taking the course. These reasons, I find fascinating and I share some of them below:

        “Writing does not come easily to me! My intention for this course is to use its structure to re-energize me to continue the memoir I began last year for my 7 grands, and most of all, for me!”

 –        “As ‘writing’ has been calling to me for some time, I am taking this course as a beginning.”

       ” I knew I had to leave the victim mentality behind or perish.”

 –    ” This course appeals to me, because it offers a way to discover the story of my relationship with God. My intention is to open my eyes to and put words to Who God has been and is for me,..”

 –     ” I journaled and journaled until the grief began to write itself. Then I took a writing retreat with Christina about four years ago and the experience allowed me to find my way when I was feeling lost…”

 –     ” Uncover, through my own writing, where I’ve held myself back from experiencing the fullness of my life and spirit and to discover the keys to my freedom.”

 –      ” Keys to my freedom. I know they are inside of me waiting to be seen, acknowledged and seized.”

 –    –  “I am wondering how to move my story forward.”

           “Some of my old stories have strings to my present life that I want to “cut.” I have new stories to tell and can’t wait to write them.”

         “I am in year two of coming to grips with the loss of my husband. In the first year, I coped by being busy and moving forward in my life. Just now I am in an open, empty place and allowing more feelings and reflections. I journal, but this course may help me focus, frame and discover myself in a new way.”

         “My INTENTION is to honor my 79 years with writing and reflection from a positive, compassionate and loving perspective. I hope to see my life as a whole, woven and patched, perhaps beautiful like a crazy quilt, and to get some new perspective on the painful parts. But I also deeply desire to see more clearly what is my sacred work now in this place and officially retired.

         “My intention for this course is to explore what the future holds. I will be 63 in a few days and am not sure what path to take at this point. I am hoping that writing will open my heart to spirit and possibility.”

        “Create a quiet space, and the time to write.”

         “Realize I am not alone in my searching for who I am, who I can be, who I will be

       I think I am in good company.

 

 

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Does It Make A Sound?

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I have answered an age-old riddle. If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

The answer is yes.

This morning our one-hundred plus year old tree was cut down  at its roots.  We had called the tree doctor last year to see if there was anything that could be done to save it. It had been suffering since the one next to it was cut down during home construction. The diagnosis was dire. The tree was dying. It needed to come down.

Today was the day, but we did not know that. I was up early in my own room doing my prayer and writing. Not as early as usual, but earlier than Tom. When he got up, he was startled to see men working down by the tree. We watched for a bit and knew the tree was going to come down today.

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Then he went into the bathroom  and I returned to my writing in my room at the front corner of our house.  Within a very short period of time, I heard a sound, which I did not identify as the sound of a tree falling but it must have been that. Because when Tom walked past the sliding glass door after exiting the bathroom, I heard, “Sue, they already took the tree down!”

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Indeed, they had. So while, like the situation in the forest, I had not been present when it fell, I heard the sound it made when it did. It was different from what I expected.

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I would have liked to have been there when it fell. Tom said he would have too. We didn’t think it would be so quick. We ate breakfast and gazed out at our fallen tree, digging into the earth’s grass and soil made soft from the night’s rain. We both feel sad at this loss. We would have loved the company of that tree into the coming years. We will miss it.

That spot on our property held the passage of over a century’s witness to all around it. The sound of leaves coming from soft summer days, the change and rustle in brisk fall winds, and the silent limbs ripe with spring’s expectation and new growth — these are the “phantoms” left behind in the open space of that corner in our yard.

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A man just stopped by and told us that he and the guy walking around by the tree will be cutting it up and taking the wood away. He says he knows the area trees well and there are some over 150 years of age and that some just fall down in the woods atop the hill adjacent to our subdivision.  From old age. He said they would return this weekend after the ground hardens up to finish the job.

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It kind of looks like they are a pair from Duck Dynasty.  Maybe they are between shows.

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Grounds - Fetzer Center

I have just begun working on my timeline, one of our first assignments in my new E-Course with Christina Baldwin on Restorying Your Life. I think I have a lot of work to do because so far I’ve only made it UP TO the event of my birth on January 2, 1943.  It seems like I’ve reflected upon and traced my timeline back to Infinity, itself. The first four sections of “little Sue’s” timeline are Infinity, Big Bang, Evolution to Homo Sapiens, and Ancestors.  Then my Human Timeline begins as conception in April of 1942.

Talk about “reframing and restorying”. This is going to be exciting.

The major reframe of my story has already emerged (and I have 29 days to go) as: I came from God and Infinity. My birth mother gave me expression as human on Earth, bringing me forth from Infinity and God, where she, herself, returned shortly after my birth. Her expression of this event (being pregnant with me) was given to me by her best friend so many years later. She had told her friend, upon knowing she was pregnant with me, “Now I know the purpose of my life.”

This is not the first time I have worked with this story. My spiritual and writing mentors and guides tell me, and I think correctly, the first story that needs to be written is the mother story. I have many facets of this story down in words, for there are truly many facets and secret silences around my birth and heritage. I am going to welcome the tools I will be given in this course to open up this story more than ever before and let its graces fall upon my life today.

Now I share Joyce Rupp’s poem of birth with you — Every word is a word of truth for me; I have asked permission from her before to reprint her in my work and received a surprising personal note back from her that it is ok to do so for my writing purposes.  And I will share her website with you. I see she has a book, published in 2002 Cosmic Dance, where she knows what I am just discovering, that we are truly made of the stuff of stars, and we date back that far, so I feel very comfortable and confirmed in the timeline for me that appeared on my paper this morning.

http://www.joycerupp.com/

In her book (one of her many, many books), Joyce Rupp, in the tradition of the Wisdom Writers, opens the path to the inward journey to a deep awareness of Sophia, the Spirit of Wisdom.  She is a member of the Servants of Mary, a free-lance writer and retreat director. And a most prolific writer, to which she remains true.

The words in bold text in this poem speak to me and of me deeply; the truth of these words resonates warmly deep, deep in my heart of all knowing; all the words wrap around me and flow through my soul, but the words in bold text are places in the poem to which I will return in silent meditation.

This poem expresses so joyfully for me the true magnificence of the nature of all of our births. This is what I want to remember in my dying hours.

Gathered together am I
from a history-held mystery,
a bundle of memories am I.

Caught from smiles and heartaches
of faces and places past cherished,
given in love from the heart of life.

From kisses and lovemaking,
from caring and growing,
from vibrancy and vitality,
the gathered memories of my own named person
have been gifted into existence.

Surprises from seeds and secrets,
gifts from unknown voices and events;
here am I, so ordinary, so unique.
here am I, so simple, so complex.
knowing that the seed of myself
has the touch of gathered memories;
gleaned from the ages of another time,
seed and sperm seeking, making known.

a birthed bundle surprised into life
light filling the center of a new spirit;
the blessing of eternity passed on:
urgency always to seek the face of God,
first gatherer of all good memories.
(c) Joyce Rupp

 

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Today is November 2nd, All Souls Day. In my quiet time prayer this morning, I am aware of this. I hold two holy cards of Tom’s parents in my hand from my Bible. Many scriptures of blessing flow in my consciousness and from my open, loving heart. Many of the dearly departed, whom we pray for in the Mass, seem to drop in for a brief visit. I remember their gifts in my life.

These “ghosts” are much more real and enduring to me than the ghosts of recent Halloween night. And right after that candy-giving and image-popping experience came the Feast of All Saints Day, celebrated in the Catholic Church. Here, we call to mind the examples and prayer lives of saints, whose history has been shared down through the years by dedicated writers who wished to carry the faith forward.

Surely I have been influenced by many, none more vividly than the Mother Mary and St. Francis of Assisi. While I don’t aspire to Francis’ loyalty to stark poverty of owning nothing (not even wanting his brothers to own a bible), I do practice his dictum of “preach always, use words if you have to”.  Even though writing, hence the use of words, falls high on my praticum scale and prayer practice, I subscribe intently to both: “actions speak louder than words,” and “walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk”.

What does come up for me though as I remember All Souls Day in the early training we got  was this. To think of the fiery locations of purgatory and hell and that when we remembered our loved ones and dearly departed, we were focused on prayers to “get them out” of purgatory, and purely lament them if we thought their errors had been so great that they were condemned forever to hell. That pretty much wiped out thinking of them in a relaxed and gracious memory.

What I believe today is that this exit from our earth, via death, is always an attainment of being either closer to God and God’s universal, all-completing love, or a realization of the Oneness Jesus came to tell us that we actually are with God.  “I am the Vine, you are the branches.”  “Do ye not know that I and the Father are One?” And so many other scriptures, based on love, verifying….”I Am the Resurrection and the Life!”

Yes, I think I do not know much of what Jesus is repeating over and over again. And so I, myself, repeat over and over again readings of any part of the Bible, asking for the “ears that hear.”

But I do hear of Oneness, and Resurrection and Life. So I do not believe in death.  I hear the two great commandments of Love. And so I do not believe in fiery punishments in our passage. I believe I experience either heaven or hell right on Earth, and that in my faith and my lessons, I will pass beyond the veil of sufferings, fire and hell. I believe I experience heaven right here on Earth when I unite in Oneness with God in my daily life. And after death, it will be an even more complete experience, because God is where I came from and I am simply returning to my God….life unending and indescribable to me at this time.

I think the meaning of this is described in the term, “Endless Genesis” which comes from Teilhard de Chardin.

I believe that most people, including myself, are doing the best they can in life. I believe that when we know better, we can do better.  I believe that the purgatories and hells that we can experience, we do so as consequences of our own actions, that have no basis in love.

I’m going with that until the time it doesn’t seem to serve the highest good. For now, I can experience a holy and satisfying All Souls Day, in gratitude and forgiveness of all that exists between myself and my ancestors, family and friends. Ninety-nine point nine percent is gratitude for the being and heritage that went before me that gives me my gift of life today.  There were hardships, there were gifts. There were sins or mistakes, there were upright and noble actions. There was desire and purpose that were fulfilled by souls carrying out their destiny.

I now stand in the middle. That’s what I’m doing. Having entered into the elder generation, I can look back and I can look forward to what is to come in the children’s and grand children’s generations.  I stand my ground. The ground upon which I stand is not built of sand, but of rock.

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Flower of Life3

A Note from Napkinwriter (on a napkin, of course).

Although I have several blogs wanting to be written and posted, I am giving you a portion of a guest blog today. 

The blog comes from BettyLue Lieber from inspirations and thoughts I receive daily from her Loving Reminders website.

The photos are gifts from Linda Wilson, my Austin, Tx chief friend and gardenaire extraordinaire! 

I am grateful  to my Napkinwriter readers who are all flowers in my garden of life.

Flower of Life2 

You Are A Flower in the Garden of Life

If you would grow to be your best self
Be patient, not demanding
Accepting, not condemning
Nurturing, not withholding
Self-marveling, not belittling
Gently guiding, not pushing & punishing

For you are more sensitive than you know
Mankind is tough as war
Yet delicate as flowers
We can endure agonies
But we open fully only to warmth & light
And our need to grow is fragile as a fragrance
Dispersed by storms of will
To return only when those storms are still

So accept, respect,
Attend your sensitivity

A flower
Cannot be opened
With a hammer

Anonymous


Flower of Life1
Rules For Being Human
(from an old Ann Landers syndicated newspaper column)

  • You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for as long as you live. How you take care of it or fail to take care of it can make an enormous difference in the quality of your life.
  • You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time school called Life. Each day, you will be presented with opportunities to learn what you need to know. The lessons presented are often completely different from those you THINK you need.
  • There are no mistakes—only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error and experimentation. You can learn as much from failure as you can from success.
  • A lesson is repeated until it is learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it (as evidenced by a change in your attitude and behavior), then you can go on to the next lesson.
  • Learning lessons does not end. There is no stage of life that does not contain some lessons. As long as you live, there will be something more to learn.
  • “There” is no better than “here”. When your “there” has become a “here”, you will obtain another “there” that will again look better than your “here”. Don’t be fooled by believing that the unattainable is better than what you have.
  • Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself. When tempted to criticize others, ask yourself why you feel so strongly.
  • What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. Remember that through desire, goal-setting and unflagging effort, you can have anything you want. Persistence is the key to success.
  • The answers lie within you. The solutions to all of life’s problems lie within your grasp. All you need to do is ask, look, listen and trust.
  • You will forget all this. Unless you consistently stay focused on the goals you have set for yourself, everything you’ve just read won’t mean a thing.

 

Hummingbird(stock photo)

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