“To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.” – Agnes de Mille
“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
To mix it up, I took the girls to a new dog park at the end of the day. Acres to explore, fresh ground to dance on. When we crossed through the gate, leashes came off and they bolted into the field with joy and delight. They kept circling out and back to ensure that I would be a part of their adventure.
We need not travel far to find fresh ground to plant seeds of exploration and reap the fruit of play. Dance on fresh ground, feel the earth under your feet, breathe in the immensity. Expand.
“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” – Wayne Dyer
“Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself.” – Annie Leibovitz
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” – Khalil Gibran
“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg
With workdays filled with back to back meetings, an unstructured day is a gift. I’ve been weaving a day off here and there to open space. Yesterday, after a slow start, I took the girls to the dog park, unhurried, no rushing, no watch watching, no place to be, nothing to do. Sauntering, wandering and throwing one ball after the next. With a string of sunny warm days, the snow is almost gone, soft fresh mud taking its place. As we wandered down the path along the field, Sasha and Abby jumped over dead trees, ducked under branches and explored with great abandon.
As we were walking back for some more ball throwing, the girls decided to dive into the swamp where ice was last week. They could not have been more pleased with their decision. While I wasn’t too delighted, I decided to respond with laughter rather than angst. It was fun to witness their joy. As Sasha worked her way out of the water, she emerged looking like a skunk. The walk turned out to be a good bad decision because I chose to to go with the good rather than the bad. A choice each of us has every day.
The next stop was the self-serve dog wash. While the dirt washed out, the fun remained fully intact. We jam our days with meetings, activities and busywork with little room for good “bad” decisions of frolic, play and exploration.
Make room each day for silly, goofy and even a little mud. Make a cannon ball into the deep end of the pool of delight and splash some joy on others. It is not only good for the soul, it is required.
“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing.” -Charles Schaefer
“Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.” – Buddha
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Buddha
On our daily trip to the dog park yesterday, the girls and I wandered outside of the fenced area to the open field to wander through the maze of frozen cattails. The girls took off as fast and when they realized that they were out of my sight, they would loop back to check on me and to make sure that they still had permission to take the “field” trip. Permission granted with a smile and wave.
With great abandon, weaving, exploring, dancing, flying, all senses in play and at play.
Today is the first day of the week, the first day of the month and marks the meteorological spring. On the cusp of a new season, change is becoming more apparent. Change is always happening but it takes attention and awareness to see it, to enter it with joy and abandon. Each day is a blank slate, a white canvas to fill with colors.
This morning upon waking, I began writing an email in my head as I planned the activities for the day. After five minutes, I stopped the swirl and returned to the field yesterday with gratitude for a beautiful weekend and plans for a glorious day ahead. When we observe our thoughts, what field trip that they are taking us on and decide if we want to take the trip, we can break old patterns, stale reactions and respond with intention and attention to transformation and metanoia, a change of heart resulting in a change in way of life.
You write your own permission slip daily. Stop asking others for permission. Stop making excuses. No past. No future. Just now. What will you do and where will you go on your field trip today?
“To share out your soul freely, that is what metanoia (a change of mind, or repentance) really refers to: a mental product of love. A change of mind, or love for the undemonstrable. And you throw off every conceptual cloak of self-defense, you give up the fleshly resistance of your ego. Repentance has nothing to do with self-regarding sorrow for legal transgressions. It is an ecstatic erotic self-emptying. A change of mind about the mode of thinking and being.”― Christos Yannaras, Variations on the Song of Songs
“A merry heart does good like medicine.” – Proverbs 17:22
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” – James 1:17
On a quiet Christmas morning, we were greeted with a fresh blanket of snow on our daily trip to the dog park. The new snow creates a challenge for ball chasing if you don’t keep your eye on the ball. If Abby looked too far ahead or back in anticipation, she missed the ball when it went deep in the snow. She searched with intent and focus to look for the lost ball.
This season is a time to reflect on and celebrate the birth of Jesus who entered a broken world in a stable filled with animals and ordinary people. The promise and gift is that He remains with us each day on our imperfect, beautiful and flawed journey. He searches for our time and attention to lighten our days and create meaning from the journey.
The Christmas story is not one of the past but of what’s present and available to us now. Today and every day, heaven comes to earth to save us from ourselves. Accept this incomprehensible, undeserved gift of peace, grace, mercy, light and love. It’s as real today as it was that cold, lonely, miraculous day in a stable for there was no room at the Inn. Make room at your “Inn” for God to participate in your life.
Not too far back or ahead, keep your eye on the ball. Merry Christmas.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15
“On your journey, don’t forget to smell the flowers. Take time out to notice that you’re alive. You can only live in one day.” – Ray Fearon
“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” – William Morris
Last week, I took Abby and Sasha for the first time to a dog park in Hastings when meeting a friend to pick up a Christmas gift that she painted. When we first arrived and I took them off leash, they were perplexed. Surely I made a mistake, they were in open space with other dogs and new territory to explore. Once they acclimated, they absolutely loved it.
Abby chased tennis balls with her usual vigor and delight. Sasha was the social director, introducing herself and making friends with other dogs inviting them to chase her and she would reciprocate. I was so pleasantly surprised and wondered why I hadn’t done this sooner.
There’s a dog park just blocks from my house that I’ve passed for years and never stopped. This week, we went there every day. Each time, they were excited as the first time, meeting new friends and dancing through leaves to hunt balls.
So often, we have places, people and blessings in plain sight, right in our own “backyard.” We miss them going on to the next thing, to the “better” yard, the “other person’s” yard. We pass them each day, not noticing, taking them for granted, as if invisible. In the middle of our ordinary days are extraordinary gifts.
Start noticing and exploring your own “backyard” with gratitude, awe and joy. It’s a beautiful view right outside your window.
“God is in the details.” – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” – Karl Barth
According to research, 40% of our happiness relies on our thought patterns and behaviors, 10% our circumstances and 50% our genes. If we focus on the 40% in our control, we may also be able to shift our perspective on our circumstances, making it 50% in our hands to make better days. And better days = better life.
Practice gratitude – list three things that you are grateful for each day (three of mine are in the photo);
Be kind – assume the best in others and show empathy. You never know what someone is going through and you can be that beacon of light that pulls them through;
Practice optimism – stop the spiral of complaining, comparing and criticizing and fill that space with imagination, play and positivity. Flip worst-case scenario thinking to best-case scenario;
Avoid rumination – let it go. When thoughts bounce in your head like a pinball machine, stop and ground yourself in the present. The past is done, move on.
Physical exercise – training for a marathon which turned into a virtual marathon kept me focused this year. You don’t need to run a marathon. Getting out every day into nature and moving your bones is good for your soul;
Meditation – I’ve tried meditation on and off over the years and it wasn’t until I downloaded the Insight Timer app that it stuck – 80 consecutive days and counting. Download it – 5-10 minutes in the morning and meditative music to fall asleep to will shift your very foundation;
Religious/spiritual observance – I strive for deep faith and meaning beyond myself. It’s the anchor, the rock that has held my hand through life and particularly valuable this year. No preaching, just fact – God’s holding all of us, let Him;
Forgive others – we free ourselves when we forgive others. Let it go and live your life;
Pursue goals – set goals and develop the steps to get there. The world needs you to bloom and give away your gifts and talents;
Savor – stop the monkey mind and be fully present in this moment and allow joy to soak in. Each of us can find things to be grateful for. Gratitude shifts our energy and attention and lifts our spirit.
You find what you are looking for so look for light, joy and laughter, available to all of us if we choose to partake.
“Life is an adventure, it’s not a package tour.” – Eckhart Tolle
“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” – Joseph Campbell
Abby is nonstop in the water at the lake, a dog fish chasing ball. After returning from dinner, rather than calling it a night, we went back down for one more leap into the lake. A little skinny dipping by the moonlight.
When presented with the option to go to bed or to go down for one more dip in the lake, always choose skinny dipping by the moon. Joy is soon to follow. Adventure is available to all!
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru
“A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world.” – Leo Buscaglia
“Wherever you are, be there totally.” Eckhart Tolle
No matter the season, these two always know how to have fun. Summer brings rolling in the grass and some serious ball chasing. When I get caught up in my “to do” list and my swirling thoughts, they bring me back to focus on gratitude, presence and joy.
Life is not a continuous puzzle to solve, a checklist to be checked off, a hot pursuit of what’s next. Life is hidden right in front of us in simple moments, in a walk with a friend, in laying next to your best pal and flipping a tennis ball into the air to show off your ball handling skills.
Breathe, laugh and take it all in.
“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
“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
“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” – Abraham Joshua Heschel
“Get busy watering your own grass so as not to notice whether it’s greener elsewhere.”― Karon Waddell
On our daily jaunt into the woods, I let the girls off leash to run full throttle. Abby chases balls in an open field trying to catch them on the first bounce and Sasha chases her. It brings a new joy to them each day like it’s the first time. Dogs and kids are experts on being fully present and aware of the moment at hand, or paw in this case.
When I threw one of the balls, it went over the barbed wired fence by the water tower. I threw the second ball but Abby was intent on the ball on the other side. She suddenly downgraded and became human, focusing on the other side while a ball was by right next to her and easily accessible. How often do we reach for something out of reach when the same and often better is right in front of us?
Wake up and see what’s in reach and embrace it with gratitude. If we don’t recognize the blessings that are already in front of us, it’s impossible to receive new blessings. The grass and the ball are not always greener on the other side.
Happy ending to the story – I decided not to scale the barbed wired fence, but my arm did fit underneath and Abby walked out of the woods with two balls in mouth. Big win.