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“Meaning does not come from what we do. It comes from what we are. If we are lovers of beauty, then beauty will fill us all our days. If we are committed to justice, then justice will drive us past all fatigue or failure. If we are devoted to building human community, then we will find meaning in the people whose lives we touch. It’s when we are driven by nothing other than our daily schedules that life becomes gray, listless, and dour.

Life happens quickly but the meaning of it comes into focus only slowly, slowly, slowly. The challenge is to keep on asking ourselves what it is.” These words are taken from author and Benedictine nun, Joan Chittister, in Songs of the heart, Reflections on THE PSALMS.

She offers a simple and profound book of poignant and challenging reflections on twenty five of the 150 songs of praise found in the psalms. Each of the twenty-five chosen reflections offer a spiritual oasis away from the stresses of a world that demands more than the human soul can sometimes bear and have rich meaning for people today.

In my memoir, Journey Girl, Steps in Secrets and Sanctuary, I too offer at the beginning of each chapter a brief pause for the reader that is like the spiritual oasis Joan Chittister speaks of. I call them Islands of Silence. They are easy and accessible to the at-home mother who needs a private pause from combined child-care, taxi driver, medical emergencies and unending upkeep of home responsibilities.

They are equally beneficial for the students of all ages (we are all students of life) and business and corporate ladder climbers who can find an instant cubby-hole within to take stock and quiet the busy and overworked mind.

The first Island of Silence I offer in Chapter One is…..

 

The Breath
The Easiest of All Practices of Consciousness
Wherever God lays his glance life starts clapping.
Hafiz

Your breath is an Island of Silence that is with you at all times. You cannot live without it. A baby’s first important work to do when he/she arrives and separates from the maternal umbilical cord is to… breathe.

There are many meditative practices that focus on different ways to engage with your breath for stress relief and relaxation, but taken down to its simplest level, one may just choose to watch one’s breath.

If you don’t want to go to a gym, if you are not ready to engage in Pilates or Yoga (where the attention is put on the breath), you are perfectly free to sit comfortably alone, turn your thoughts inward, seek the quiet and simply breathe… in… out… in… out.

You will see this Island of Silence will come to you and you will appreciate the restoration it gives. Beautiful scenery will not take your breath away. It will give you more breath.
If you don’t wish to sit, you may walk in one of your favorite landscapes, amidst flowers and trees, birds, and animals, still focusing on your breath coming in… going out… coming in… going out.

You may be stuck in traffic with things to do, but still… you are stuck in traffic and you can breathe in… breathe out… breathe in… breathe out.

Return to this Island of Silence many times during the day. It is perfectly fine to take short stay vacations of breathing tranquility. It is low cost, efficient, and brings rewards of renewed energy and purpose. Turn your attention to your breath daily and give this a try.

This is an Island of Silence that begins the first chapter of an at-risk emergency birth where the child is saved, yet the young twenty-nine year old mother dies. Life and death do, indeed, both happen quickly. I am the child who lived. The meaning of it and the grace held within the loss of my mother all happened very, very slowly

 

Looking at Life

“There are only two ways to look at your life: one is though nothing is a miracle; the other as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein said that.

These are a few ways I live my life and I suppose my belief system is that indeed everything is a miracle. That is hard to see though.

The following are five door-openers for living life as the miracle that it is:

1. Be silent. Become silence. Minimize your personal impact on the moment.

2. Be curious. Do you feel a need to explain, interpret, tell or exclaim. Let all your thoughts begin and end with question marks.

3. Be accepting. Be discerning. Don’t stand in harm’s way, but for now suspend judgments. Let it be as it is.

4. Be open. Bask in the mystery. Are you attached to knowing? Learn to be comfortable with not knowing. Warm yourself in the shadows, instead of the sunlight. Be awed by the beauty of the thorn, not just the rose.

These words were a writing instructor’s words in his advice to writers. But they serve how one views life as well. There are plenty of opportunities one’s voice is needed. There are many other times where no words serves one well. Where silence, not noise serves the highest purpose. I have learned to recognize these times in my own life. Yet, sometimes, I don’t.

 

 

 

I am sorting through my journals once again. This time it is not to gain any pertinent information from them in the years that have passed. Many years have passed. I have kept journals for many of those years. I have moved many times over the past fifty plus years. The journals I have kept have moved with me. The movers made note of the heftiness of the boxes housing my dense and numerous journals.

I write. I process. I create in my journals. They are my quiet space, my safe space. I give words flight that describe all the good, bad, ugly, mysterious, and almost always sacred in my life.

Even though I write a lot of words, I know pictures are worth 1,000 words. So I include pictures, both drawn and photographed in my journals.  The first year birthday of #1 grandson…

 

Holy pilgrimages taken in 2000 to Italy and Chartres and Paris, France.

 

…and some of the first words written on 9-11 –the attack on America. I was in a professional capacity of feature writer, so there were many words written outside of my journal as well.

 

 

I particularly liked Master Mind journals. Here is a page that shows that this journal keeper did not always journal on everyday. Yet, I can read back in the journal and be inspired by the affirmations that continue throughout the book. Also, many times they are a great writing prompt for me to “tell it like it is” when I come to that page.

Their monthly calendar was an easy read – shorthand accounting for what was important in that particular month.

Their pages, however, were cardstock quality, so the journal itself was quite heavy, then multiply it by almost ten year’s worth, plus other kind of tablet and book journals, and you have to have a muscle-man lift to transport these journals…which we did from home to home, then to condo, and several apartments, and two homes again.

Something I’ve practiced in all areas of my life is the grace and ability to LET GO.

And it is now time to let go in the apartment in which this two-some abides. I have let go of enough of them that what I have left is a full dresser drawer of Master Minds journals and several book style journals on one bookcase shelf. Yet even these bookcases will not make the next move which will come anytime within the next three years, near as we can guess, and it will be to senior independent or assisted living space.

No longer is it by our carbon foot print that we are measured, but by our age, and the lessening of possessions deemed necessary.  The journal was most important to me in writing about the PRESENT time. A great tool for processing either joy or grief, and all the things that have made up my life. Just like numerous photo albums kept over the year, now facing the same minimizing process, these images and words reside in my heart. They do not need to take up space in a drawer,  hardly ever opened or a book shelf, from which they are not frequently chosen.

The tearing and shredding of paper has begun. But in the middle of it all, I had to stop and write once more on this Napkinwriter file what I would put in my journal for today:

Tearing up journals, mixed emotions, opening up to new days where I might jot down a word or two. Next year begins a new decade 2020. I will be 77 on January 2nd,  just after the new year begins. I hope the big news of the beginning of this decade is that I will be busy marketing and selling Journey Girl, Steps in Secrets and Sanctuary that I have just finished writing.

 

 

Watercolor Waterfall by Susan Heffron Hajec

I received this reminder to love today from my favorite reminder person, who has given us these reminders on a daily basis for a very long time now. Betty Lue — these words definitely help me today.

 

Betty Lue Lieber – Loving Reminders
Affirmations:
I love well and live well.
My life works well because I love!
I forgive myself for withholding love.
I easily and freely love all the Good I have.

August 14, 2019 Loving Reminders- Love Well and Live Well!

Love Well and Live Well!

How you love, you will be living.
It is by our consciousness of love that we choose to remember to love others.
It is with love for others that we begin to recognize how well love works.
It is with love for ourselves that we realize how fun, safe and easy to live well.
Take time to pause and enjoy your life right now and right here.
Say “thanks” to each one who comes to show you the way.
Some show you how to love and some show how not to love.
Everyone has a gift to give and receive.

When we are learning to love, we know we can do better.
We listen to what each person or child needs or wants to receive.
We watch what works and doesn’t work.
We can easily see the call for love with those who need to experience love from us.
Loving well requires that we have love for ourselves.
Loving well asks that we access the love within us.
Loving well invites us to choose to love no matter what.
Loving well shows us how to love with words, thoughts and behaviors.

When you lack in love, surround yourself with people that are loving.
When you need love and affirmation, join groups, read books and listen to music that inspires love.
When you forget to love, give yourself daily reminders of how to love yourself and others.
When you deny or withhold love, practice regular forgiveness of limiting love.

Life truly is a gift of love, when you are open and receptive.
Life teaches us to be love, when we are ready to learn the lessons;
Life is an experimental laboratory, we have not believed in love.
Life is a clear reflection of the effectiveness of loving and living well.

Enjoy the life you have and love it well.
Appreciate the love you have and live it well.
I love and appreciate YOU,
Betty Lue

It is fun to draw because it really does affect how you see. We often draw on paper what we think something looks like. But we are seeing with our brain, not our eyes. When we stop to draw what we are observing, we make an entirely different image…it might be an exact representation or it may be subtle hints and shapes of the object that help the viewer also see the object more clearly.

Not much in our world is clear these days, judging by the large picture. New memes seem to be forming and staying that cloud our perspective that good and kindness and wisdom still exist. Too much constant shouting, too much “me too”ism’s, too much random violence wrought upon the innocent. Everyday in every way, we are witness to what we wish would not be. Just when did human communication focus and grow upon harmful, hateful expressions. Words have power. Words are real. Hateful words are sticks and stones and they do hurt others.

But there it is. How do we see clearly? How do we see beyond the appearance? How do we stay balanced? How do we define the world we live in right now? Officials speak about not letting violent outbursts and killings “define us”. Yet when it does occur it has devastating realities that run through the victims’ family and community far into the future, long after the cameras and newscasts have left. They leave behind their observations “that this community is beginning the healing”…yet they are still in shock before the real, lifelong journey of healing actually begins with each painful day of loss that didn’t have to be.

Most often, in pain and sorrow, even beyond the pain and sorrow that may hang suspended for s long time, most seek some kind of genuine love to express. It seems so huge, this hole of hurt cast upon them. And while everything hurts, they find the energy to move step by step into each new day, redirecting their purpose to live their own life in a genuine way, not covering up this horror they have been asked to bear.

Those of us untouched by what we see has touched others redirect as well. I hunker down and practice more acts of kindness, find more ways of listening intentionally, and remember that  “I and “they” are dear ones, treating them as such.

“Dear one, I am here for you”

 

 

A Long Day

 

“It’s been a long day for you,” the angel said to me. It was only 7:45pm but this angel knew the length of my day was not truly measured in the minutes on the clock. “Yes,” I agreed. “And it is the third long day this week with two more likely ahead of me.”

He listened quietly and nodded his head. This angel was the driver of the hospital shuttle bus that had picked me up to drive me across the street to the parking garage I left at 8:30 am this morning. I was his sole rider going back, just as I was the only one on the morning shuttle, most unusual.

This ride was very short and I was burdened down with two carry bags and my purse. In the course of this short ride, he learned today was my 54th wedding anniversary date, and my husband lay in the hospital, possibly awaiting the insertion of a pacemaker for his tired, slow beating heart. The conversation dribbled on between the two of us – me telling him we came to Lexington the day after we were married for Tom had gotten his first job out of college at the IBM Corporation.

“Oh,” he said. “I wished I would have gone with them. I had a chance, but I stayed in printing a long time.” The only trouble is, he lamented, was that the pay was good, but there was no retirement for him at the end.

Well, I told him, I worked in public relations so I had many interactions with printers.  Our lives took many turns after Tom left IBM, and with Tom’s health challenges and our own financial limitations I hoped God had me somewhere in the Big Picture.

“Oh, that’s certain. You believe he does.”  Yes, I said, I do.

So much in such a short trip. An old man still making his way on earth. Me, still hanging with it. I know I thanked him and told him he was kind as I stepped down the loading ramp of the shuttle.

Afterward at home, I was, sitting tired in my lounge chair, heading for bed, I thought about him again. Either as man or angel, he is why I don’t believe what they are telling us about living in a hateful, spiteful world. I, myself, keep bumping up against kind and thoughtful people like this one encounter with a perfect stranger.

I wished I had said to him, “You are doing a very important job now. Thank you.”

 

 

 

It was once a fantasy. Then a dream. A puzzle, perhaps. How would I tell the story? A story of silences and secrets encased in a contemporary contemplative silence of support from which the story grew and took on a voice of it’s own.

It is a story that lived in my heart and needed many years to grow to tell me how it wanted to be told and how it was lived. My book is no longer a wish or an untold tale. I have written this book that tells of a mother lost and mothers found. Blessings and guidance along the way and the determination to speak it in my own voice, not hindered by judgment.

Along the way I have met teachers and mentors….all along the way over many years. I have been feature writer, photographer, columnist and founding editor writing stories of so many others. But one time just two short years ago, when I entered a room I was asked my name and the second question was, “Are you an author?”

The woman’s name was Angela and she and her daughter headed up the meeting and their intention was to inspire those of us “wanna-be-authors” to go ahead and BE ONE. When I left that meeting, where I briefly described the story I wanted to write, I knew the intention was deeply set within me that I would do everything possible to become an author.

It was not a false start this time. I reached back into the many inroads to my story that I had formed and then stalled out on and brought what was meaningful forward. I enrolled once again in Janet Conner’s Intersection for Writers on-line course. I indeed worked toward achieving her AIC award — ass in chair — because that is the way you become an author.

I carved out a writing schedule around which other things were second on the list. This was a mainstay of the day, every weekday. I had to settle for best-effort on other things like cleaning our living space, planning and preparing meals, scheduling medical appointments, and physical exercise at the Y. Writing no longer happened “when I had time.” It now happened all the time. I got in a groove and it felt right.

I’ve had two very important editing and publishing professionals with me from early on in the writing of this book. Both were invaluable and we are still connecting our work together because now that the book is written, the very tedious task of getting it published and to market lie ahead. It has taken 18 solid months to write. I now begin the second rung of the journey. I am in brand new territory now but as I navigate through these open waters, I set my new intention to doing well in this phase and seeing the successful publication of my book, at which time I will be able to answer that second question, “Why, yes, I am an author.”