“The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” – William Wordsworth
“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” – Barbara De Angelis
While snowshoeing, I saw a family walking from the ski hill to their car. A Dad with a rope pulling a child on skis and a Mom with two kids on her arm and holding a hand to pull them along as well. All three could have taken off their skis and walked on their own, but their parents pulled them along patiently, generously and lovingly.
It was a sweet gesture reminding me of how each of us can extend a rope to pull another, an arm to walk with someone on the path, an ear to listen fully present. We share the road and are connected on our journey. We can both walk along side another and continue our own journey simultaneously.
The gift of the ropes of listening without solving, guiding without advice, saying nothing so the other can hear their own voice by speaking it aloud is more than enough. Simple gestures of a smile, a call, a card make a difference, start a ripple that always returns to the giver.
Be kind and generous while not picking up rocks that are not yours to carry. Extend a rope of kindness to others and self. And cut ropes that anchor, hold back and bind.
“Be kind to yourself, dear—to our innocent follies. Forget any sounds or touch you knew that did not help you dance. You will come to see that all evolves us.” —Rumi
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton
“Keep every promise you make and only make promises you can keep.” – Anthony Hitt
As February enters, the energy, enthusiasm and rush of New Year’s resolutions have waned. You’ve either made progress, are stuck, disappointed, encouraged or a combination of it all. We make big plans and forgo the daily practices and habits to transform them into changed behavior and new destinations.
While it feels like it’s time to give up on resolutions, now is the precise time reflect, recalibrate and promise to keep moving and starting new each day. Promises are commitments that we make with our heart. If your heart isn’t in it then you’re going in the wrong direction. Spend the next week asking yourself what you want more of in your life like laughter, joy, a renewed sense of wonder.
In the beginning of January, I chose to do the 30-Day Mindfulness Challenge with Insight Timer, in addition to my daily meditation practice. I wrote everyday for Cast Light. Not all of the posts were complete, perfect or finished to where they could have been, but I overcame resistance by doing it imperfectly. I’ve been active daily with snowshoeing or running, “dog parking” with the girls to be reminded of simple joy of open spaces to run freely and with abandon.
Make promises to yourself and hold them up with resolve and daily imperfect action.
“Wise to resolve, and patient to perform.” – Homer
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” – Khalil Gibran
As you enter this new year, focus on resolutions, rituals and commitments that bring you joy, delight and ease. Regular play should be on the top of the list. Creativity, exploration and adventure multiply and deepen our sense of wonder and gratitude. Focus less on outcomes and more on the process of unfolding, becoming and blossoming. Venture and wander daily and experience your life by actively participating in it while it’s happening.
Last week, Liam was skating on the pond practicing hockey. Suddenly, he decided that it was time to make a snow angel. He skated to the side, dropped his stick and plopped down, promptly beginning the snow angel making process in fresh snow. Sasha joined him to ensure that he did it correctly with abandon and delight.
When caught in the “doing” grind, break the pattern and rest in being, in frivolous activities that restore your capacity for awe and wonder. It’s a pretty simple formula. Go for a walk. Try something new for 10 minutes. Flop down and make a snow angel. Today is your “someday,” so be present. No past. No future. The gift of now.
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it disses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” — Lewis Carroll
“The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory.” — Gary Zukav
Two days ago, it was winter solstice, the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, marking the start to the return to light.
Last year at this time, we were doing our final preparations for Christmas. One more gift. The forgotten whipped cream standing in long lines at the bustling grocery store. Assembling the green bean casserole. Retail stores packed and last-minute happy hours before the family festivities began. Busy, busy.
This year, our gifts are on our doorstep, Amazon became the store of necessity, small businesses closed and big family dinners around a too small table are replaced with zoom calls after we stream Christmas service while laying on the couch.
If I wrote that last year, no one would have believed me. It would be a fictional story. And it’s not.
The entire world had no idea that we would be in this moment right now, 11 months of a world-wide pandemic. It feels like one long winter with no promise of spring.
Today, like each day that has been and each day that will come, we have the power to choose our perspective and outlook. It’s the one thing that we actually control and that we too easily surrender to other people and our circumstances.
If we look at the full story of this long year, we can find the gifts and lessons. We’ve become more creative, innovative, resilient, flexible, agile, quiet, deliberate, slow and aware of our blessings. We are stronger, softer and vulnerable all at the same time.
While this year is exceptionally different with our traditions put on hold, dare to create new traditions. On the threshold of 2021, be aware and hopeful with vaccines that have been developed in record time. Anticipate and prepare to not just return to your “old life,” but create a new and deeper life filled with optimism, hope, gratitude, beyond your imagination.
“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – Hal Borland
Today, choose what you will do with it, so when you look back next year on this time, you will remember not only the pandemic-style Christmas, but what you made of difficult times through the lens of daily gratitude, light and awe. If we can choose light amidst a pandemic, we can live it out daily no matter our circumstances.
More light is coming and while we wait, we can enjoy the light that is here right now when we look for it. Gratitude, optimism, hope. Spring eternal.
“The color of springtime is flowers; the color of winter is in our imaginations.” — Terri Guillemets
“God’s mercy and grace give me hope – for myself, and for our world.” – Billy Graham
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson
When in the heat of the moment, in the desire to react quickly rather than thoughtfully, at the very tip of weariness, hope wins when we choose it. Hope and joy are daily decisions that we need to consciously make again and again. Never let your guard down and let your joy be stolen by circumstances, stray thoughts or other people.
As Monday lived up to its reputation today, I thought of the Angel of Hope statute in Duluth that we walked by a few weeks ago. I was reminded to let it all go and enter grace, gratitude and ease. When your earthly journey becomes heavy, let go of the unnecessary and take flight.
Be kind, generous, grateful and filled with optimism especially when you don’t feel like it. Get your hope wings on. Look up and cast light.
Relaxing over a long holiday weekend, I am discovering yet again the necessity and utility of stillness, play and fun. Time in the sun and on the water, conversations and laughter. No schedules, demands or meetings.
We hurry and hustle to get to the next “thing” that we don’t realize that we have already arrived where we are meant to be in this moment. On this 4th of July weekend, celebrate freedom on all levels. Independence from trappings of limiting beliefs, unforgiveness, worry, and “shoulds.”
Slow down and be grateful for your imperfect, unfinished and blessed life. We keep arriving each day.
“When we can live our stories and not be ruled by them, we love ourselves into being. There is a Spanish saying, Se tu vida, which means “Be your life.” This is all that is asked of us. And yet, in doing so, we can get lost in all that living engenders.”— The Book of Soul: 52 Paths to Living What Matters, Mark Nepo
Every time I want to pull back, to hesitate, to delay, to question, to judge, I hope to dive. To jump in without knowing the ending, to jump in and get wet, to jump in and do a belly flop. May we always jump into life with joy, with abandon and the capacity to be surprised and delighted.
Let your guard down, along with reasoning and certainty. Our days our numbered. Make them count.
“Given our entanglements, one of the most difficult acts of presence is not to vanish when overwhelmed by conflict or hardship. The simplest teachers in nature, such as the sun, the birds, and the flowers, are quietly heroic in this regard, not because they achieve anything, but because they remain completely true to their own nature, regardless of what happens to them.”— The Book of Soul: 52 Paths to Living What Matters, Mark Nepo
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” – Anne Lamott
“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott
A cloudy warm end to the day. A daily run to breathe in the gift of fresh open air. Routine. Habit. Ordinary. And then suddenly, out of the dry leaves of Winter, brilliant deep crisp purple and orange pop out to awaken and sharpen the senses. The ordinary transforms to extraordinary, to delight, to the unexpected. The first and not last sign of Spring, of life, of expansion, of hope, of color invites us in with open arms. A living prayer. An embrace.
Seasons, cycles, certainty, uncertainty and clarity merge. In the midst of transition, of waiting, of the precursor to Spring, wandering in the desert with the oasis around the corner, we find life vibrant and more than well. Planting season, filled with complexity, mystery, light and color.
“When hope is not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it sometimes floats forth and opens.” – Anne Lamott
This is holy, sacred, hopeful time. Take a knee. Offer a prayer. Let go of the familiar. Be prepared to be surprised, to fully enter awe. It’s all around. Wake up!
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” ― Dr. Seuss
“Just imagine becoming the way you used to be as a very young child, before you understood the meaning of any word, before opinions took over your mind. The real you is loving, joyful, and free. The real you is just like a flower, just like the wind, just like the ocean, just like the sun.” – Don Miguel Ruiz
My nephew Liam, like all kids, has it figured out. He knows how to accept and immerse himself fully into the moment. Not looking behind and not thinking about what’s ahead, embracing the now in its entirety.
When he starts giggling and doing something fun, he’ll say “again!” wanting to enjoy the same thing over and over again until he’s fully exhausted the joy in giving yourself completely to a simple activity. His work is play and he’s mastered his craft. The joy in his eyes and his authentic smile is contagious. I count him as one of my all-time wonderful gifts in my life.
Many of the answers that we search for as adults are rooted in youth. Adults overcomplicate things and multitask our way to “success.” Kids keep it simple and delight in single-tasking. Adults pine too much over the past never learning the lessons the first time. Kids dive deep into now, let go and forgive quickly so they can keep moving into the present. Adults cling to unproductive thoughts, worry about the future and what others think or say at the expense of our own contentment.
At the end of Mary Poppins Returns, there’s a line in the third act song, “There’s No Where to Go but Up” about the secret we know before life makes us grow – look inside the balloon (our heart) and find your own individual song, sing it and always look up no matter the circumstances.
“Look inside the balloon
And if you hear a tune
There’s no where to go but up
Choose the secret we know
Before life makes us grow
There’s nowhere to go but up”
I write this on a Monday, the day we often lament – the weekend is over again! It goes so fast. As I prepare to go “adulting” which includes a ridiculous number of meetings and a long “to-do” list, I’m going to choose to say “AGAIN!” like Liam says with joy and enthusiasm and enter today with nowhere to go but up.