Weekend Percolations: 05September2015

Janie earth bounty
Photo: J Halteman Aug 2015

Fall is a great time to contemplate earth’s bounty. Here is a short meditation by my friend Janie, who shares a collage of pictures from her garden. What is blooming in your soul garden?

Let’s have some fun this Fall. I think I’ll head to the the Farmer’s Market and grab a pumpkin.

Fall is also a good time to let go of things. This letting go practice by the Fetzer Institute uses a great visual for letting go.

Did you know foods can heal your body? Try these self healing recipes from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective. Or consider taking an afternoon nap to recharge your body.

We are all different. We have different styles of learning and experiencing the world around us. It makes sense that we need to find spiritual practices to fit who we are. Which type of meditation is right for you?

dalai-lama-planet-needs-peacemakers-lovers-7u2aI like SimpleReminders. “What this planet needs is more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” Dalai Lama

Five ways to declutter the mind and body: Stretch. Sing. Move. Remember. Gratitude.

I’ll end with a music video, The Colors of the Wind by Chief, who will plant trees for each video share. A two for one deal: inspiration that is also healing to the planet.

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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?

Holding on and letting go

I didn’t feel like celebrating Advent and Christmas this year. Grief reappeared as the holidays approached. The usual festive celebrations made me feel tired or irritable as I remembered the events a year ago, leading up to my father’s death in early January. I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate either the “secular Christmas” or the “sacred Christmas”.

IMG_20141228_161916953We decided this year to keep the decorations simple so we could focus on spending time with the family. We put a string of lights in the window for a bit of hygge cheer in the December darkness. We chose a few favorite nativities from our collection to place on the mantle as a reminder of our Christian traditions. We replaced the tropical scene hanging above our fireplace with a beautiful winter scene from Yosemite, since there was no snow predicted for the holidays. We looked forward to our boys returning home for the holidays.

Minutes after hanging that picture above the mantel, it came crashing down. Three of the nativities and a beautiful stained glass candle globe were swept off the mantel. They shattered on the wood-stove below, leaving shards of stained glass, broken ceramic pieces and a cracked gourd retablo. The entire nativity set of thorn carvings from Nigeria were completely beheaded as we watched the little heads roll across the floor. My first reaction was tears, then laughter, then a slow realization that nothing would ever be quite the same again, since my father’s death.

Something began to shift inside of me. I realized this incident symbolized a new beginning. A time of letting go of the past, celebrating in the present moment and starting some new traditions in the future.

It was time to let go of the past. The stained glass candle globe and a few nativities were gone. So was my father. I didn’t have to attend every Christmas event like I usually did.

It was time to be present in the moment. We could fix the picture with a secure hanger. We could choose other nativities to be our new favorites. The thorn carving figures could still be salvaged. We could celebrate the lasting legacy my father and other ancestors passed on to our family. My father’s memory and presence was still very much alive in my heart.

It was time to start new traditions. The picture was securely placed back on the wall. We found all the missing heads and glued them back on the little carved bodies. Mary was missing her hair covering, but that was OK. It would serve as a reminder that sometimes we are stripped of the comfortable things in life, like our rituals. Sometimes we are vulnerable and feel uncovered. Sometimes we just have to show up, be present in the moment and keep moving forward.

I added an angel statue beside the nativities as a sign of hope for the future. I breathed a sigh and felt ready to face the rest of the holidays. As I reflected on this incident over the next several days, new insights were gleaned.

Christmas morning I woke to a small lit Christmas tree in the living room. My husband decided that rituals were still important when living with grief. He secretly put up the tree and ornaments as a surprise. He intentionally chose one ornament from every stage of our lives to represent the many Christmas celebrations we had as a family. It was fun seeing all those years represented on the tree. It made me appreciate the gift of celebrating traditions in slightly new ways. We enjoyed a new tradition of tacos for Christmas lunch, made by our young adult sons. Something old, something new, nativities salvaged, traditions reviewed. It was a good day.

A little angel on our tree gives me a sense of Light in the darkness, Joy in the sorrow, Peace in the midst of conflict and Hope for the future. Blessings to each one of you as you navigate the past, present and future.

Angel of hope
Angel of hope