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Posts Tagged ‘being’

Slowing Down

November 5, 2013 6 comments

shaker-adult-cradleMy husband and I turned the clocks back twice this past weekend. We turned them back on Sunday of course, because we like to keep in step with the world around us; we also turned them back—in a more metaphorical way—on Saturday when we took my mom to visit the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts.

The Fruitlands property was at its autumnal best, surrounded by big sky and sweeping ranks of leafy rolling hills. There was little intrusion of modern reality as we browsed the loosely connected mementos of other lives preserved in the museum’s collections—from Native American settlements, to the 18th century beginnings of the local Shaker community, to the 19th century Utopian commune of Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane.

We saw many reminders of how our relationship to time has changed over the past two centuries. Long hand-written letters and carefully crafted furniture and textiles suggested the deep breath and steady heartbeat of people absorbed in painstaking tasks. But nothing stopped me in my tracks like this adult-sized cradle that the Shakers used when caring for the sick and dying. This humble object, and the tender images it conjured, made me wonder if—for all our positive advances—we have been losing our capacity for patience and presence in our rush toward the future.

What slows you down?

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Shifting Vistas

For all my friends and clients who fret about feeling guilty or lazy when doing “nothing,” here’s a guest reflection from my wise sister Clare, reminding us all of the necessity for gazing…

NYC Skyline from Long Island CityGazing at eternity in skyscraper and pond

I guess I’ve always been a gazer. For as long as I remember, I’ve loved  to take time in the midst of my busy life to sit quietly and gaze, resting my eyes on vista—grand, simple, natural, human-made, moving, or still. The sights on which my eyes rest are portals to inner vistas; as I gaze out, I also gaze in, my consciousness free to wander in comfortable silence. This feels passive—but is it really a form of active inner learning?

I remember the last time I gazed out at the New York skyline. As I sat on my terrace on the East River’s east bank, bidding goodbye to my New York life, I felt the poignant turn of my own personal tide. The skyline show was a visual symphony of memory and feeling, and my emotions rose and fell with the surge of my shifting inner experience. This visual play allowed me to cement my inner understanding of my years there and to surf forward to what would come next.

And here I am now, in what came next. My newest vista is the small pond in my Virginia garden, with its cascading waterfall, graceful Japanese cherry tree, and ever-patient statue of a girl reading. When I first arrived, I was afraid my inner vista would shrink in this smaller life-view. But in fact, I think the opposite has happened. My reveries at the rock-edge of this pond have helped my awareness shift to the turning cycles of life, not just my own but the planet’s organic thrust and pull. Here, I feel the pulse of my consciousness as a member of the human community—dangling my feet in the water, I understand that we all recede and we all pour forth in an endless dance of connection and separation, growth and diminishment, life and its final cycle out.

And so, I realize that gazing is not just a passive rest from activity, but a necessary activity in itself, a practice of recharging of my inner eye to better equip me for my busy days. I wonder what my next vista will be?

Nowhere to Put It

February 2, 2011 3 comments

Light through snowy branchesGreg Heavener, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey, might have been speaking for all of us when he reported a couple of days ago, “There’s nowhere to put it.”

He was talking about the snow, of course, but he may as well have been referring to the sense of beleaguered exhaustion that this relentless winter is visiting upon us here in the Northeast and elsewhere across the country.

Now, I know, I’m the one who’s always cheering us on to adopt new perspectives when circumstances have us feeling defeated. And I stand by that! But part of exploring new perspectives is getting perfectly clear about the one you’re in.

Robert Fritz, an important voice in the realm of personal growth, identified the creative potential inherent in the “structural tension” between what we have (our current reality) and what we want (our vision). His formula calls for a frank assessment of the now. And sometimes, let’s face it, a frank assessment makes us want to scream or cry.

I think of John McEnroe exploding into a fit of rage on the court after a line judge didn’t see it his way: “You CANNOT be serious!” He probably reaches his breaking point quicker than most, but it’s a sentiment we can relate to as we absorb one more layoff, one more foreclosure, one more rejection letter, or 21 more inches of snow.

So, yes, I’m all about getting from here to the vision. But I also know that tears and tantrums are built into the system for a reason. Don’t be afraid to let them do their work. They help you know when you’ve reached your limit. When “there’s nowhere to put it,” there’s nowhere to go but up.

Good To Be Home

photo by Mike SchubertAre you like Dorothy Gale who, when she finally makes it back to Kansas vows, “I’m not gonna leave here ever, ever again…Oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home!”?

Or are you more like the roué in Johnny Mercer’s classic, Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home? (That’s a yummy Susannah McCorkle rendition.)

I think I’m somewhere in between; far from rootless certainly, but happy to carry a definition of home that’s got a little portability.

For example, these days, I don’t have too many chances to sit on the back porch at my mom’s house and shoot the breeze with my sisters and brother long into a summer evening. But there’s something about being there that I can take with me wherever I go.

That sense of home might lower my blood pressure in a tense situation at work. It might lift my spirits when I’m feeling discouraged or low on energy.

It’s right there on Wikipedia: “As an alternative to the definition of ‘home’ as a physical locale, home may be perceived to have no physical definition–instead, home may relate to a mental or emotional state of refuge or comfort.”

You can really Be Home no matter where you are.

What takes you home? What is there about home that you take with you always?

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