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One Person's Trash
I subscribe to Instructables, an open-source website that features projects made from scratch or with ordinary objects lying around. It never fails to amaze me how creative and productive people can be when they see something different than the rest of us. My uncle Bob was such a one. Ever resourceful, he could fix motors and machines. On weekends, he descended upon yard sales to haggle and buy "broken" things only to repair and sell them for a handsome profit.
Alice and I also marvel at how imaginative designers get on home improvement shows. One of our favorite TV couples is Ben and Erin Napier from Home Town. It's not uncommon for them to reclaim wood pulled from a demolished wall and convert it into a window box garden or porch swing.
Back to Instructables... one of their bylines is "A Happy Place" and reads: Making things makes people happy. We can't prove it, but we know it to be true. Find your happy place... Where's your happy place? I don't mean an address or location... rather, what do you do or love that promotes your inner joy? May I suggest that if it's not coming from within, it probably won't last long. Perhaps some of the trash of these trying times might inspire you to consider a hidden treasure that was there all along.
An Easter Virus
Who could have imagined last year that we’d still be wearing masks and physically distancing at this time?
It’s easy to understand the reactions of people who feel robbed of time and events, lonely because of isolation, financially strapped due to loss of income. We know of a family of five who have survived well only because of separate rooms and a robust internet for each device being used.
Hope, like Spring, is the air with now-familiar names such as Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. Memes of masks have been replaced by pics of vaccine cards.
In a sense, all of these last 12+ months have felt like a somber, sterile Lent and now there is light at the tunnel’s end. Easter might not yet boast of packed churches and proud choirs, but normalcy inches toward us with every age group allowed to be jabbed.
Isn’t that a funny concept which, with each flu season, we can easily take for granted? To be healthy, we must be jabbed. We get protected from…because what is to be feared OUT THERE is now inside, telling our body how to fight off the potential threat from outside.
Imagine if that were true for positive thinking and proactive living? The Good News is that it is! This Easter, no matter what your religion or spirituality, could you embrace the idea that once you’ve been INNOCULATED with the knowledge of your original goodness and authentic grace, nothing and no one—no personal issue or problematic relationship—can sicken you anymore.
We’re not saying things won’t bug you ever again or you that you’ll never have to re-assess the way you think or say or do what you do; but what you can be confident about is that your inner alignment is true and trustworthy. With the Risen One, fears and falsehoods have been crucified between yesterday’s regrets and tomorrow’s torments; in a sense, as St. Francis has it: you have died to your old self in order to be born to eternal life.
Happy Easter. Amidst the eggs and chocolate bunnies, the meal and music… we wish you and those you love health, joy and much love.
"It is easy to be bleak about the human race, but there are people who have proved to me that we can be better than we are,"" writes Dr. Peniel Joseph. After the mass shooting in Boulder, CO yesterday, Alice and I continue to look for and draw inspiration from people who remind us of our best and highest. Proofs of human goodness are everywhere and always outnumber instances of cruelty and hatred. How is it possible we are 3 months into the new year already? How relative time is, no?. I've heard parents of young children say that sometimes one minute lasts an hour and a year is like a day. The author of a memoir I read in January agrees: ""'The days are long but the years are short,' some say about the early years of child rearing. I remember some days being almost gelid in their slowness when Solo was a baby. I had never experienced time so consciously. Collapsed on the bed with him in strong afternoon sunshine, holding him up to the light and watching the light inside of him, listening to his birdsong. Time moved as though through honey." -Elizabeth Alexander, The Light of the World: A Memoir
We are only three months into this new year and there are still all sorts of possibilities. It's almost like a blank slate. We have the ability to re-start (or course correct) at any time, any day or even this hour. And there's something very rich and perfect about a RESET- ask any gamer or people who play video games. And there is no time like April- the first full month of Spring-to do this. How about some possibilities? Go to our website, alivenwell.net and click on the link that’s flashing at the top called, what else? April Powers… may a shower of ideas whet your appetite for a better you!
Flow River Flow
Happy St. Paddy’s Day! In June of 2010 I was in Limerick Ireland giving a week of talks. Good timing because while I was there they completed and opened the tunnel which runs under the River Shannon. There is something so amazing about knowing that millions of liters of water are flowing just above. The confluence, may I say, of human ingenuity, the force of nature and structural engineering is a thing to behold.
After walking the 2,000 feet of tunnel, I bought a scone and sat on a bench overlooking the river. From above all you can see is the flow of water. If you told ancient Celts that people were walking beneath the river, they would have ridiculed you with a shillelagh.
All which brings me to ask, what are the invisible currents going on in your head? Is the flow of thoughts in your mind mosquitoey and constant? Are you able to stand under (understand) that you are not your thoughts, nor your feelings? You have them and that’s better than your thoughts having you! No, YOU have them and can notice them and let them go.
Just as I saw a herring gull riding the current on the River Shannon, watch your thoughts flow downstream and observe them.
You can also be moderately interested in them- curious might be a better word, but don’t let them pull you in. Don’t drown in yesterday’s could-have-beens or tomorrow’s might-bes or even today’s why-is-this-happenings. The water, whether flowing slow or swiftly, is not your speed. You are not moving…you are on the shore….still. No need to let what is floating by move you. This is not so much stoic as sensible.
Jon Kabat-Zinn says When we are able to find stillness within an activity, we touch moments of freshness, insight, and an awareness that allow us to see what’s right in front of us in completely new ways—when the mind gets out of its own way.
Perhaps an ancient Irish blessing might guide us today and for many days:
“May God give you
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
a faithful friend to share,
For every sign, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.”
Up or Down?
An elderly friend called some time ago. Recently, because of stability issues, Patrick relies on the help of a cane. He told me that the nurse had to instruct him by saying, "Don't look down when you walk!" It must be quite a change: 80 years walking without assistance, putting one foot in front of the other... and you wake up one day and have to learn to lean on a stick for mobility. I can't remember the first time I skated, but I can imagine how often I looked down at my feet. When my father took the training wheels off my bike, I was ecstatic; but I was apologetic and embarrassed when I slammed into the back bumper of a parked car on the street because I was looking down. At times we'll ask someone who appears sad, "Why are you looking so down?" When I was taking counseling classes, some fellow students would make fun of psychology as "navel-gazing", or looking too much inwards. But perhaps there is some truth to that. What I've learned from Life is that there is so much to miss if you don't look up and around. Sure, there's a place and time for looking down (at your self) and behind (where you've come from). But Life is so full of teachers and lessons, gifts and surprises, new experiences and constant reminders... looking down can--well--get you down! The ostrich may never see unpleasantness, but she doesn't see reality either. A wise teacher once wrote: "How you see is what you see." Do you see? If not, look up!
"Have you ever experienced the frustration associated with installing a computer or smartphone update which touts improvements and "fixes", only to find out it's maddeningly difficult to get accustomed to and navigate? Apple and Microsoft often want us to upgrade the software versions of our hardware. All this leads me to ask, What version of your life are you on? Come on- you can't still be living out of the version you were when you were a child or teenager or even young adult? For sure there are tones and hues from those days, but you have radically changed. So...what ""fixes"" have chiseled you to be the person you are now? What are you still working on? Carl Jung once wrote, ""You are what you do, not what you tell me you do."" Are you living your best life now? Is your operating system set on the highest volume of Integrity and Passion? Cheryl Richardson, life coach and best-selling author, says that your mission is not where you currently are, but where you want to be. Whenever I watch basketball or soccer I'm impressed when a player simultaneously does three things while on the move: controls the ball, evades a defender and--because he snatches glimpses of the playing field in front of him--knows which teammate he'll eventually pass to. His eye is on a goal, but the next smartest move might be to give it to someone else. To be a good player you have to have a wide view, determination and patience. What are your goals? What have you been kicking around these past few years? What would be your next move and why? The third month now into this new year, take a moment and realize that if you don't act on life (choose what YOU want to do), then life will certainly act on you. Isn't it true? How often do we let someone else's mood or another driver's carelessness change us? Why do we give away our peace so easily? And what can we do to maintain peace in the face of circumstances that challenge it? The first step is to recognize the fact that we're dealing on the level of thought. And then to understand: I can choose to think differently despite how I feel. Once you recognize this freedom, know that YOU are the director: you can write the script of how your day will go- at least internally. Years ago, perhaps on a gloomy day, Robert Frost penned these words:
The way a crow Shook down on me The dust of snow From a hemlock tree Has given my heart A change of mood And saved some part Of a day I had rued.
Imagine if the rankling remains of this pandemic is what awakens us to be the best version of ourselves?