A Blessing for Your Dreams

May your heart be welcome soil
for your dreams,
whether big or small:
Dreams of Love,
Beauty,
Grace,
and Peace.

May you be curious about
these dreams and show them
kindness.

May dreams become vision,
and vision become the work
of your hands, feet, heart, mind,
and soul.

May you have the courage
to find your dreams,
to name them,
and to live them into being.

 

Maple Buds

pussy willows2

Apple tree buds

 

Practices for Paying Attention: Dare to Be Slow

cyclamen

“The self has become anxious for what the next instant might bring. This greed for destination obliterates the journey.” –John O’Donohue

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ~ Ferris Bueller

Does hurry infect your life like it does mine? Hurry is hard to treat, hard to change, and its consequences aren’t pretty. That is why I think the daring practice of slow may be one of the most important spiritual practices I’ve stumbled into. Slow is not only an opposite, but an antidote to hurry.

When I was in high-school, my family spent a day running around Disney World. We were determined to experience both Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center in the same day. My dad’s long legs led the charge as we zipped from Space Mountain to the Pirates of the Caribbean and then on to other attractions that I’ve forgotten for some reason. I think we had lunch at Epcot’s Japan, and we probably bought marzipan in Germany. That’s what we did the first time that we visited Disney. It’s probably what we did the second time we visited. We are creatures of habit. I don’t remember too much about that day. I couldn’t tell you what the weather was like or anything about the day’s textures and tastes and sounds. I think we had fun, when our sides weren’t splitting. But I don’t remember a favorite ride or attraction or experience.  I remember the running.

Isn’t that how we spend so much of our lives? Hurrying from one experience to another, trying to pack in as much as possible. When I was in high-school I bought a t-shirt that said: “It’s not the pace of life that concerns me, it’s the sudden stop at the end.” For some reason, I thought that sentiment was great. Now, I’m trying to live by another motto: Be Slow.

Slow is hard. Especially when there are places to be and getting my little people out of the door is a lot like herding cats. Being late brings out the stress-ball in me.

But hurry makes it nearly impossible to pay attention. Hurry makes it difficult to see, let alone appreciate, what is right in front of you. Hurry is the opposite of being, really being, where you are. When I hurry, I am going through the motions of living; I am not really inhabiting my life.

I don’t want to look back on my life and remember the running. I want my children to have the opportunity to taste, touch, smell, and see their way through childhood. I want to move slow enough to notice–to move with reverence rather than hurry.

“When you take the time to travel with reverence, a richer life unfolds before you…. Take your time and be everywhere you are.” — John O’Donohue

I have not perfected the practice of Slow, but here are some of the ways that I try:

 Permission to Say No

My time is valuable. So is yours. It is okay to protect it. It is okay to say no.

It’s important for me to realize that while some people might thrive on busy, I am not one of those people. I try not to compare myself with people who appear to be accomplishing superstars. Saying no means I won’t accomplish as much as somebody else. I’m learning to be fine with that. Being busy doesn’t mean that you are hurried, but I find that the two often go together in my life.

Saying no is really hard if you want to make everybody happy. When you say no, you imagine that you are letting all sorts of people down. In reality, people probably aren’t as disappointed as you imagine. If they are, they’ll probably get over it fairly quickly. It’s okay to disappoint people; it’s inevitable. But sometimes saying no is necessary in order to journey slowly. If you ever want permission to say no, talk to me. I’m all about encouraging my people to just say no.

Breathe

When I find myself hurried, I breathe. I notice the way my breath fills my lungs and then slowly leaves my body. I try to slow down my breathing and to breathe deeply. We breathe all of the time without noticing it. When we stop to notice our breath, we bring our attention to wherever we are at in that moment. We can’t help but slow down, just a bit when we connect with our breath.

Touch, Taste, Smell, See

dark chocolate

Engaging our senses can be a deliberate act of slowing down. Savor that piece of chocolate; taste its rich, sweetness as it melts slowly on your tongue. Inhale the smell of outdoors and fresh air on your boy’s head when he finally comes inside after dark. Let your eyes delight in the way the light and shadows bring out countless shades of pink on the blooms sitting on your kitchen table. Listen to the raindrops as they hit the windowpane. Take time to look into someone’s eyes. To see them. Feel your feet on the ground; let them remind you where you are at right now.

Keeping our senses open helps us to keep our hearts open. Have you ever met a hard-hearted wonder-filled human being? At least, I would imagine that it’s nearly impossible to be both at the same time.

“The invisible and the visible world meet and join ever so briefly, but constantly, in this world when our eyes are searching for God’s presence.” –St. Hildegard of Bingen

Slowing down helps us to pay attention. Paying attention helps us to slow down and prepares us for glimpses of the holy in the midst of the ordinary everyday.

 

Do you try to live slow? Have you noticed a difference when you do? What practices do you use to slow down?

 

 

 

What Makes You Come Alive?

Who am I? What have you made me for, God? Why am I even here, right now, on this beautiful planet? What is my role here?

These are questions that haunt me. The answers somehow eluding me. Maybe that is because I have been looking for a job description. Something that comes with pay would be nice.

Last week, I found another question that perhaps led me closer to the answers.

What makes me most Alive? When do I feel most Alive? When do I feel that deep and inherent “Yes!” welling up inside of my being?

I spent time remembering and writing these moments down. Moments like deep, rich conversation, when soul glimpses soul. Those “A-ha!” moments when something clicks and I see things in a new way. Poetry. The first few notes of practice at All-State Orchestra camp when we played a Bach piece that broke my heart right open with its beauty, beauty that I got to be a part of. Creating. Gardening: I delight in each seedling that makes its way through the dirt stretching toward the sun. Snuggling my children. Watching ducks hurtle across the sky. Taking time to watch the sun set over the backyard in the summer. Reading and sharing good, good words. Sinking into silence. Paying attention. These are the things that keep me Alive. These are the things that I am made for.

But do you know what my first reaction to this list was? “Well that isn’t very marketable.” And my reaction made me sad.

As if my value needs to be monetized. As if what makes me me has little true value. As if true value equals money or comes from a paycheck.

I think I am being invited into something: To live creatively. To value creativity, my words, the things that make my heart dance. To embrace connection. These are not wastes of time nor worthless pursuits. These are the things I was made for.

I am invited to pay attention. To wake up. To stay awake. To wake up some more.

I love, love these words from Mary Oliver’s poem Messenger:

“Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.

Yes. Yes. Yes. What is my work? What is your work? What makes you come alive, deep-down alive? It’s a magical question. An important question. It holds all sorts of clues.

 Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is opening my heart, paying attention, and singing what I see. Participating in the song that was and is and will be.

what makes you come alive.

 

 

 

 

I want to sink into what is

A little over a week ago, I told my doctor that I was turning 40 on the 2nd. She looked at me confused.

“That’s not right, is it?” she asked.

“My birthday is on the second.”

“Yeah, but I thought you were only 38, ” she replied.

“Oh… that’s right! 40 comes next year.”

I have a tendency to skip ahead. To look toward what’s next. To miss what is right in front of my face.

I don’t want to skip over this year, this day, this moment. I don’t want to miss today’s beauty or aches. I want to sink myself into Now. To be fully Here. Who I am. Where I am standing. Today it’s with a stuffy nose and happy heart.

I want to be thankful for moments like dancing with my daughter before preschool. Thankful for waking up with a song pulsing in my veins–even if it was Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”

Thankful for waking up with a deep-down gladness.

I know that the world is full of tremendous hurt and scary things, but I am going to let this glad, happiness have its turn in me. I will let this bright, brilliant January sky warm up my soul. I will invite the light in. Welcome it. And then send it on its way. Praying that it will find its way to those who are finding themselves in those grey places today. I’ll be there again, needing to catch the light.

I want to sink into what is. (Even if just for a moment.) Not looking at what should be, could be.

There is a time for change, for shedding, loosening, and letting go. There is a time for walking away and for hoping for what lays ahead. But there is also a time to Just Be. Now. Who I am. Where I am.

Here. Where my feet are.

I want to be thankful for this moment.
Awake to this moment.
The one that I find myself in the midst of
with a hot mug of honey water,
the clock tick-tocking,
the sun bright on the white snow,
the sky brilliant and cloudless,
toys strewn on the floor.
This is my moment,
and I am awake in it.

_Just be exactly where you are

The Search for a Quiet Life

silence copy

The kids needed a break about three miles into our family bike adventure. We found a resting spot off of the trail and climbed off of our bikes. We were chatting and drinking water when I noticed that the trail was empty in both directions. We were miles from any roads. “Hey, People. Stop talking. Don’t even move. Listen.” All five of us stood still. Soaking in the song of birds, the river, and the wind dancing through leaves. For just a moment, we could not hear any man-made noise. The quiet was like a balm. There aren’t many truly quiet places like this in our lives. If we hadn’t stopped to listen, we would have missed it entirely. That is the way with quiet.

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life…”

The apostle Paul apparently said these words, but sometimes I wonder if he was joking.

Isn’t that anti-ambition?

Aren’t we supposed to dream big? Believe bigger? Live an outrageous faith?

We want to be exciting. Heroic. Extraordinary. Successful. Sorta-famous, but not really famous. Maybe just impressive. I suppose I would settle for accomplished. I would love to be somebody who accomplishes a lot of stuff. I want to cross everything off of a lengthy and important to-do list. Busy. Noisy. That equals important, right?

Surely, Paul’s quiet-life ambition must be a misunderstanding.

There are times for boldness and heroic action and dramatic faith. But what is this call to a quiet life? What is that about?

“…in quietness and trust is your strength.”

That’s what the prophet Isaiah told a nation thousands of years ago. These words are true in my life. They mirror my story.

Quiet.

Quiet means so much. We can find quiet in a number of ways, if we can find it at all.

Quiet is the time just before the sun rises and the house is still asleep. The clock ticks. The refrigerator hums. A few cars rumble by on the street outside. But my world is quiet. I often miss these moments, waking to the sound of my son’s alarm instead.

And then I spend my day searching for quiet. For 10 minutes during the day while the kids watch television and I sneak into my bedroom to breathe.

Quiet is the 2 1/2 hours of preschool when I have the house to myself–if I can settle down and sink into it.

Quiet is learning to consume less. Less words, less noise.

Quiet makes space.

For listening. For paying attention.

Transformation unfolds in this space.

Life emerges from the quiet corners.

Quiet is air. Is life. Is breath.

Quiet is stillness in a hurried world.

Quiet is this moment. Here. Right now.

A quiet life is a listening life. A life that is both deep down and spacious. Grounded and open.

Quiet leads to trust. In the quiet we learn to discern the voices competing for our attention. We learn to distinguish fear, should, and what if. We learn to hear the sound of our heart whispering the way forward. We learn to pay attention to the way God moves in our world.

We need to practice quiet. We need to search for it. Protect it. And in this practice, eventually we will find ourselves bringing this quiet with us into the midst of a noisy, bustling world.

“In nature we find silence — the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere — in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals. What is essential is not what we say but what God tells us and what He tells others through us. In silence He listens to us; in silence He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice.”

~ Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World