Spring has sprung

irisI love this time of year. The iris have just started to bloom. We have about a dozen different colors and varieties in your yard. I love the vibrant bursts of color against the beautiful light green growth in the background. The colors make my heart sing.

Of course I feel that way just about any time of the year when new flowers appear around our property. We eagerly spot daffodils, hyacinths, and crocus as they appear in our flower beds. I finally gave up on planting tulips after multiple years of fighting with the animals. Occasionally there is a renegade tulip that appears, which the deer or squirrels have missed eating.

In the early spring, we walk around our woods, looking for signs of Trillium, Virginia Bluebells and Bloodroot that have escaped the deer. One year I made a mixture of cayenne pepper spray and went around the property spraying the trillium so that the deer would not eat them. I’m not sure it made much of a difference, but at least I thought I was outsmarting those darn deer.

My husband has been busy pulling wild mustard and poison ivy from the edge of the woods this year. He transplanted a few bushes from the south side to the north side of the property, so that they would get the proper sunlight needed to thrive. The few dead trees which fell over during a storm last year are now cut and stacked on the woodpile. The edge of the woods looks very inviting without the wild overgrowth and vines choking out the trees.

The cool weather and rain has made the yard grow quickly. The dandelions suddenly change from yellow to the white wisps of seeds overnight. We can no longer see more than a few yards into the woods. The deer and wild turkeys remain hidden during their daily wandering through the underbrush. The hummingbirds are playfully flitting around the yard.

For so many years, I missed out on observing the activity happening right under my nose in my yard. I was too busy working, raising kids or focused on various projects. Now I am pausing to be present in the moment. I love sitting on the sun porch watching the birds and observing the daily changes. Spring is a great time of year to practice pausing. There is so much to see.

What is springing around you this year?

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Moving on to Plan B, C and D

I started to write a book in my mind several years ago. The material came from various retreats I’ve led on spiritual practices. I wanted to get this material into a format that would be accessible to others. I decided 2015 was the year to start writing.

My life coach helped me through the beginning hurdles of starting this daunting project. I wanted to keep all my options open and didn’t know where to start. At her suggestion, I made mind maps and graphs so that I could visually see how the chapters fit together. Those visual images became the outline I needed to start rough drafts of the chapters. I started writing the easiest chapters first, to gain confidence and momentum. I quickly had seven of the twelve chapters started and began fleshing three of those out in more detail.

I shared a few of the chapters with my women’s writing group for feedback. Asking for feedback is a great exercise in vulnerability. Vulnerability is hard work but it pays off in the end. Their honest feedback has been invaluable as I figure out the format and voice I want to use in my writing. Through this writing process, I’m discovering my voice.

Another friend who is an editor gave detailed feedback that helped clarify how to share the material. I spent several days reworking two chapters. It was exciting to see the material emerge in this new format.

I was careful to put my working files in Dropbox, so they could be accessed from multiple computers. This allowed me to work from several settings. I hit the “save” button frequently when writing, to make sure I didn’t lose anything. I also made a “backup” copy of the files on my desktop, just in case something happened.

Something happened.

Imagine my disappointment this week when my desktop crashed a few days before leaving for a writer’s retreat. It had been very slow all week and was not connecting easily to the internet. The computer guy gave us the bad news, that we would need a new computer. He would try his best to recover the files sometime the following week.

I figured I still had the files saved somewhere out there in cyberspace, so took my laptop with me on retreat, prepared to write for three days. Surprise! The versions of files in Dropbox were not up to date. Somehow my desktop computer had not updated the two working files to the cyberspace files. I lost several days’ worth of work and had no way to access the files from my desktop until the computer guy was free to help next week. I still don’t know if I will be able to salvage them.

Plan Backup didn’t work. Plan Cry helped release some of the disappointment and tension for the moment. Moving on to Plan Delay, I wrote this blog post instead. In a few days, I’ll be ready to tackle the material again. I think I’ll skip forward to Plan I-can-do-this.

Here is a poem I thankfully saved, and will not have to re-write. It is a sample of a nested meditation. Kevin Anderson describes this practice in his book Divinity in Disguise: Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul (Center for Life Balance, 2003.) Each stanza adds a new phrase to the previous sentence. Changes in punctuation create new sentences with surprising meanings and themes that loop and nest around each other.

I yearn to write beautiful words.

I yearn to write. Beautiful words, flowing freely on the page, are jumbled.

I yearn to write beautiful words, flowing freely on the page. Are jumbled inner thoughts the beginning?

I yearn to write beautiful words. Flowing freely on the page are jumbled inner thoughts, the beginning of my heart’s song.

I yearn to write beautiful words. Flowing freely on the page are jumbled inner thoughts. The beginning of my heart’s song emerges like a phoenix from the ashes.

I yearn to write. Beautiful words flowing freely on the page are jumbled inner thoughts. The beginning of my heart’s song emerges. Like a phoenix from the ashes, the words sing a new song.

This nested meditation was a big encouragement for me today. Like a phoenix from the ashes, my book chapters will emerge again to sing a new song. I’m ready to write again. This time I’m saving my work on a flash drive.

When life throws you surprises, how do you move forward? Where do you find encouragement? Have you had a “phoenix rising from the ashes” story in your life?

Self Care for Introverts

Life feels busy this month. Each week appears balanced at first glance. I have steady work, time for friends and even an art day scheduled. I’ve been checking things off the “To Do” list with great satisfaction. Perhaps I’m feeling busy because I don’t have a large block of uninterrupted time to work on a writing project I’d like to complete. Despite a writer’s retreat next week, I am still feeling busy.

Busyness: noun
1. the quality or condition of being actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime.
2. lively but meaningless activity.

I finally realize the answer. While I’ve been taking time for various types of self care, I have not been taking time for my morning meditation. I’m an introvert. When I don’t get that block of quiet time first thing in the morning, it feels like I spend the rest of the day rushing from one task to another. I need quiet time to create a center of balance for my day.

How do you create time for yourself in the midst of busyness? Do you block out time on the calendar? Do you say no to something that drains your energy so you can do something that energizes you? Do you take time to sit in silence?

The first rule of self care is to say YES to yourself. Saying yes is a way to give yourself permission to do the things needed in order to be well. Life has a way of changing. Sometimes we need to say yes multiple times.

Silence is important for introverts. Silence creates a pause in the day which creates a still point. This stillness allows you to listen and hear your quiet inner voice that cannot be heard over the constant activity and noise of daily life. Silence allows you to become present in the moment. As the brain chatter and stream of thoughts slow down, you begin to notice what is happening within your inner landscape. The inner landscape is another term for the sensations, thoughts, feelings, images, messages or other cues that are present inside a person. Your inner landscape informs the body’s intelligent response system and intuition. This awareness or knowledge of what is happening to you on the inside is called the inner wisdom. Silence helps you listen to your inner wisdom.

Begin your day by pausing in silence. Take a few deep breaths, then allow your breathing to return to normal. Take a moment to set some intentions for the day. Taking a moment for this simple practice is helpful for introverts.
The Conscious Examen is a way to pause at the end of the day and review the events. St Ignatius of Loyola developed this form of prayer as a way to “find God in all things.” The five steps of reviewing your day include:
  1. Gratitude: When did I feel closest to God? When was I most grateful?
  2. Grace: How has God been working in me? When did I notice God’s grace?
  3. Sorrow: Where did I fail? When did I feel separated from God?
  4. Forgiveness: Reconcile my shortcomings through confession and forgiveness.
  5. Hope: Ask for God’s help and guidance for the future.
Are you creating time for silence in your daily self care routine? What are you saying YES to this week? I’ve said yes to quiet time every morning for silence and meditation.
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