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Calm Waters

“To be calm is the highest achievement of the self.” – Zen proverb

“The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.” – Marcus Aurelius

Start and end each day in quiet with pockets woven in between;
Enter reflection, welcome ease;
Detach from activity, order and planning;
In calm, still waters, clarity enters;
Emergence, patterns, flow;
Let it unfold in the silence.

“Insight emerges out of silence.” – B. D. Schiers

Clear the Deck, Burn the Ships

“It’s never too late in life to have a genuine adventure.” – Robert Kurson

“Adventure is not outside man; it is within.” – George Eliot

When I got new floors in Spring, I donated a lot of items and only put back what I really wanted into my house, leaving space, organizing and eliminating piles. My goal is to have my basement and garage fully decluttered and organized by spring.

Each day, I organize a shelf, create a file rather than a pile and chip away one step at a time. I’ve collected a lot through the years plus items from my parent’s and Aunt’s house after my Dad and Aunt passed. At the time, I couldn’t part with the items, but now realize that they are not required for me to remember them since they remain in my heart, voice and stories.

As I am decluttering physical spaces, I am noticing that it creates a sense of order in my mind. I can find things easier and am not filling space with new stuff recreating clutter. Not fully a minimalist but on the path to deeper meaning which equates to more with less.

Clearing spaces naturally leads to the clearing of the mind. If we are willing to clear the shelves in our thoughts and narratives, we expose old thinking, limiting beliefs, “should” lists, “others expectations of me” lists, people pleasing habits that no longer and never served our becoming and coming home to ourselves.  It isn’t as easy as cleaning a shelf, but the journey is worth the destination. As you unravel trappings of ego, vulnerability and fear, you create space for expectation, joy, creativity, renewal, light and freedom.

And the journey both ends and begins when you arrive in a “new world” and “burn the ships.” In 1519 when Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez landed in the New World, he ordered the burning of the ships signaling that there was no turning back. For King and Country has a song called Burn the Ships:

“Burn the ships, cut the ties
Send a flare into the night
Say a prayer, turn the tide
Dry your tears and wave goodbye

Step into a new day
We can rise up from the dust and walk away
We can dance upon our heartache, yeah
So light a match, leave the past, burn the ships
And don’t you look back”

Until we are willing to “burn the ships,” we will keep returning to the past, assuming the future is a continuation and replay of what was. Clear the deck in all spaces, keep the lessons and burn the ships.

Cling to nothing so you can embrace everything.

Lucid

“When you are an aware being, you no longer become completely immersed in the events around you. Instead, you remain inwardly aware that you are the one who is experiencing both the events and the corresponding thoughts and emotions. When a thought is created in this state of awareness, instead of getting lost in it, you remain aware that you are the one who is thinking the thought. You are lucid.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” – John Burroughs

Become an observer. When too close, take a step back. When lost in the fog, focus on the next ten feet. Be present, in rapt awareness of your thoughts, energy and intentions. We are steeped in plenty of external ongoing turmoil. Unrest is rooted within. Return to yourself, quiet your thoughts to gain clarity and lucidity. We change the world by first changing ourself. When feeling lost, scarcity, cynicism, untether your soul to see possibility and light in the moment. No past. No future. Just the depth of a moment.

“You can wear yourself out struggling with the experience of a single event, or even a single thought or emotion. And you know that all too well. Eventually you’ll see that this resistance is a tremendous waste of energy. The fact is, you’re generally using your will to resist one of two things that which has already happened or that which hasn’t happened yet. You are sitting inside resisting impressions from the past or thoughts about the future. Think of how much energy is wasted resisting what has already happened. Since the event has already passed, you are actually struggling with yourself, not with the event. In addition, contemplate how much energy is wasted resisting what might happen. Since most of the things you think might happen never do, you are just throwing your energy way. How you deal with your energy flow has a major effect on your life.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul

What’s Your Mark?

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”― Maya Angelou

Yesterday, I purchased a new car. My car was almost 9 years old so it was time and the interest rate was excellent. After online research and insights from family and friends, I narrowed my search to two models. When I went into the dealers, my first questions were about the towing capacity and the drivetrain. I don’t think he was assuming those would be my first questions, but I could hear my Dad asking these. This is the first car that I bought without him with me. He passed away in 2016 but remains a part of my day-to-day.

The lessons that are instilled were more from his actions and deeds rather than his words. He had quiet strength, humble confidence, soft-spoken with nothing to prove to anyone. Live a good life, work hard, be kind, generous and hone your critical thinking skills so you make good decisions.

After I finished at the car dealer, I went to show my Mom and sister and then drove to the cemetery to thank Dad for his help. I was excited about getting my first red car. It may not have been his first choice but he would have loved it because I did.

Each of us has the power to instill lessons, be a positive impact in our world and be remembered for our love and contribution rather than our opinion or judgment. What are you casting out into the world? What’s your mark?

Lecture or respectful exchange?
Judgment or acceptance?
Taking or giving?
Laughter or complaint?
Ego or empathy?

We will all leave our mark behind and how we are remembered will be in how we made people feel through our actions and deeds. Love, kindness, laughter, listening with full attention and how to pick a good car transcend time and place. Make your mark and desire to be missed deeply.

Breathe

“Gratitude is not a limited resource, nor is it costly. It is abundant as air. We breathe it in but forget to exhale.” – Marshall Goldsmith

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius was the Roman Emperor during the Antinone plague which lasted 15 years, resulting in 5 million deaths, 1/3 of the population lost. During this time, his journal turned into the classic Meditations, which can inform and guide us especially now. In our most challenging times, we must choose to keep going in the darkness and to never let our spirit be kept down but for more than a brief moment. Fall two times, get back up three times.

Focus on what’s good, hold tight to hope and never ever give up. There are plenty of dark and heavy moments. And woven through it all is goodness, light and growth. Light always remains and works its way through. Streams, beams and then full sunlight. Take time several times throughout the day to stop and breathe.

Strength, resilience, gratitude, joy and hope. Carry on. Breathe. We are and will be alright.

Not More of the Same

“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.” – Henri Nouwen

“Forgiveness is the economy of the heart… forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.” – Hannah More

The past year, the past few weeks and yesterday in particular, being positive, hopeful and optimistic feels like a futile pursuit. If we believe that all of humanity is what’s represented on the news and Facebook, it does seem hopeless. The world is disappointing because it’s made up of flawed, broken and imperfect humans. Humans are fundamentally good. Our circumstances, other people and our own thoughts inflict pain that’s carried forward from one generation to the next, continuing the cycle of hatred, self-loathing and scarcity.

We are put here to bear fruit, to be salt and light, to walk peacefully with others not on them. Real, meaningful answers come through difficult conversations, hard work and resilience in the face of obstacles and complexities. If we focus on the destination and accept that the solution doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker, we can get to the hard work that requires authenticity, strength and resilience to stick to it and keep going. Cynicism, hatred, judgment drain our capacity and energy to do the necessary, difficult work grounded in love.

Stop the rhetoric, stop the “they” accusations, stop pouring gasoline on open fires. Start with yourself first before casting stones. Self-awareness leads to empathy, kindness, conversation, forgiveness, compassion, honesty, generosity, accountability, grace, mercy, optimism, hope, understanding and love. Hatred never has and never will be the answer to anything.

The pain in this world is very real. Healing is optional. Choose to be an outlier, a rebel. Dare to be optimistic, hopeful and be light. Enter the world with enthusiasm and resolve to be part of the solution, not the problem. We don’t need more of the same of either side. We need different and more of it. Sow seeds today, cast light.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” – Francis of Assisi

The Light of Spirit

“Solitude sharpens awareness of small pleasures otherwise lost.” – Kevin Patterson

“Once we’re awake, the struggle is often whether we live in the world of things while glimpsing the light of Spirit or in the light of Spirit while moving through the world of things. It is a practice just to be aware of which is driving us.” – Mark Nepo, Finding Inner Courage

In Minnesota, we take winter seriously. After we accept its inevitable return with a few complaints on the temperature adjustment and icy roads, we proceed to make the most of it by going out into it. I started snowshoeing this year and back at cross country skiing as well. Out in nature, in movement, breathing crisp fresh air. At the local golf course, they groom the trails as well as make snow for a small hill for snowboarding, skiing and sledding. They keep making snow all season to keep the hill in good shape.

When we accept that the only way to the other side of winter or other challenges is straight through it, we can embrace a lightness of Spirit, an ease in being. Each season offers unique gifts. There’s a quietude and solace in winter, preparation time, reflection.

Choose to move through the world awake, aware and grateful. The Spirit is all around and within each one of us ready to be held and to hold.

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” – Saint Francis de Sales

A Simple Shift

“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” – Bernard Williams

“What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?” – E. M. Forster

Change it up. Take a different route. If you always do something at the end of the day, do it in the morning to see it from a different view.

Snowshoeing at sunrise this morning flipped the day. A simple shift can break patterns, create new patterns and connections. Build your capacity for awe in ordinary, daily miracles of a sunrise, of fresh air in your lungs, of the joy of mere being.

Gratitude, optimism and hope are powerful actions accessible to all. Use them early, often and without fail. Allow the sunrise and sunset to enter your life. A simple shift.

Yeah! It’s Monday!

“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” – Khalil Gibran

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Einstein

We fall into patterns and mindsets that don’t serve us well. Sundays before Mondays are heavy as we contemplate the “to do” list for the week. Fridays we sigh with relief that we made it through four grueling days. We find joy in three days and forego the other four.

Enough. Take each and every day back! Be as excited on Monday as you are on Friday by changing your expectations, trying new things and not falling for false narratives.

Each day is a gift ready to be seen and opened. Pay attention and tune out the noise. Be willing to accept joy in ordinary moments and create memories on a weekday rather than on vacation and long weekends.

As we come off a few weeks of holidays and respite from the grind, commit and build time into each day for self-care, delight and celebration of ordinary moments. Life is meant for the grand not the grind. Dare to be light and carefree, even and especially on a Monday. Repeat on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Get into the grind of joy!

A few hours with Jeanne and the girls proved to be, yet again, good medicine for the soul.

Yeah!!! It’s Monday. May we each have the wisdom to say this daily prayer, “God, I am blessed and I know it in my bones. Thank you and Amen!”

“Miracles come in moments. Be ready and willing.” – Wayne Dyer

Create and Restore

“You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things.” – Nate Berkus

It is in the pursuit of discovery and rediscovery that we unfold and expand. Learning, unlearning and relearning create space for growth and transformation. What new things do you want to start this year? What has fallen away to restart?

Years ago, I used to refinish and restore furniture. Stripping layers of stain, sanding the wood smooth and applying fresh stain to reveal the grain and character in the wood.

My favorite restoration project is a library table which belonged to my Grandmother who immigrated from Poland. She was a talented seamstress, using the table in her sewing room. She could take bolt of cloth and transform it into beautiful dresses, no pattern necessary, sheer craft and imagination.

“A tree’s wood is also its memoir.” – Hope Jahren

Each piece of furniture is rich with stories and memories. Both of my Grandmothers passed away before we could meet them so these antiques have a deeper meaning, to connections that transcend time.

While I enjoy restoring antique furniture, I’ve always wanted to learn woodworking, creating a piece from scratch. My brother has done it for years. Last week, he showed me and my niece Emily how he built a sensory table for Liam. Since other people are interested in getting these, Emily and I are going to start a new hobby this year and explore other items to create as well.

“It is the accuracy and detail inherent in crafted goods that endows them with lasting value. It is the time and attention paid by the carpenter, the seamstress and the tailor that makes this detail possible.” – Tim Jackson

Each of us has innate creativity waiting to be released into the world. Keep searching for ways to explore and express your imagination. Design your days. Create and restore.

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