Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Change in the Season and A Change of Attitude, A Post by Nancy L. Agneberg

Sometimes I shock myself--and not in a good way. I am stunned and embarrassed by how attached I can be to my view of how things should be and how I want them to be. Having our house on the market has certainly revealed that tendency. This past weekend a home just down the block from us came on the market at a price far below the assessed value. I obsessed and fretted about how that will affect the potential sale of our home. I tried to lift compassion towards the owners, knowing there must be a logical and perhaps difficult reason for their decision, but frankly, I was wrapped up in my own plans and hoped for outcomes. As I said, I am embarrassed. 
     I mentioned the new development to my exercise buddies Monday morning, saying, "It's done," meaning that our chances of selling our house have greatly diminished, but the minute I said that I realized I actually meant something quite different. I should have said, "I'm done. I surrender."
     Sara Davidson in Leap! What Will We Do With the Rest of Our Lives? says that giving up is being defeated, but surrender is an "expansive state, something active and pulsing...You open yourself to the unknown." As I said "It's done," I felt a physical response. I could feel myself expanding and opening. I relaxed and released, as Michael Singer encourages over and over in Untethered Soul, The Journey Beyond Yourself
     I have not given up. I will continue to welcome showings whenever they are requested, but I am not waiting for them nor anticipating them. If the house sells this spring, I will be delighted and will take a deep breath and shift gears into packing mode, but I am not counting on it and instead will be surprised and pleased. No, I don't feel defeated, but rather, I surrender, and amazingly, the fruits of surrendering appeared in my life almost immediately. 
     I am swelling with ideas for the writing projects I have started and increased interest and energy for working on those projects. I have an idea about a group I would like to start and am swirling with thoughts about developing that. I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if it is time to get up so I can return to my desk. I feel like popcorn exploding, and I am exhilarated gathering the ideas as they burst forth. At the same time I am relaxing my tight hold on the house and my vision of a constant "showing ready" state. It is all good. 
    Of course, surrender is a process, and I realize there will be setbacks. My challenge will be to let go of the thought that these past months have been a waste of time. I don't like wasting time, and it will be hard for me to reframe these months into a time of inner growth and greater insight into my spiritual being. Once again I turn to my well-worn copy of The Little Book of Letting Go by Hugh Prather (What? You don't have this book? Locate it immediately!) and read this statement, one I have read and reflected on many times, "By letting go of our desire to dominate outcomes, we don't sacrifice anything real, but we do open our heart and mind to the experience of wholeness." 
     We are in the midst of both Passover and Holy Week. Passover is a time to express gratitude for movement towards freedom, and Holy Week leads from Christ on the cross conceding "It is finished," to resurrection and new life. Yes!

What is hovering within you waiting to be surrendered? And what new thoughts and ideas and attitudes are poised to be born through you?   


Friday, March 22, 2013

Would-a, Should-a, Could-a, a Post by Nancy L. Agneberg

No doubt you are familiar with the slogan for V8 vegetable juice, "Ah, I could have had a V8!" Well, I have had my own version of "could have had a V8" moments recently; moments when I wasn't living in the present moment; moments when I wasn't aware of what I really needed right then. I need V8 Moments to remind me that there is a choice.
     An example. Recently, a friend had a serious physical incident, and when I learned about it, it shook me deeply, but only when I got out of my car with the keys still in the ignition and the car still running did I realize I had not allowed myself to be present to what I was feeling. Instead of stopping and taking a deep breath when I learned about her situation and acknowledging the fear and uncertainty I was feeling for my friend and for myself, as well, I do what I so often do--I did. I stuck with my plan for the day, did errands, moved through my list, all the while feeling turmoil about this situation, and in the process almost locked my keys in the car with the engine still on. "Ah, I could have had a V8." 
     What I could have done, should have done, would have done if I had been more mindful was GET QUIET. A focused moment of centered awareness, a moment of noticing the tightness in my neck and shoulders, a moment to breathe deeply, a moment to relax and release, a moment to stop and hold my friend in my heart would have stopped my mind from racing where distraction and fear and unawareness live. 
     The good news is that I caught myself before I locked the keys in the car, so I know I am learning. I am making progress, but I also know my tendency is to resist the present moment. I am more apt to focus on the past or the future and be lost to the present moment.  
     Lately, I have been meditating on a Bible verse, "NOW is the acceptable time. NOW is the day of salvation." 2 Corinthians 6:2. My first thought when I came across this verse recently is that what I have been hoping for (a good offer on our house) is  coming, preferably today. Now. The acceptable time. The day of salvation. But as I sat with the verse, I stopped reading it as a piece of fortune-telling, but instead, as a reminder that no matter what, NOW is the time I have. Right now and it is good.
    This weekend our daughter and two grand children are coming to spend some fun time with us and with their arrival is a magical opportunity to be in the present moment. At the same time it is our son's birthday and even though we are not physically with him, this is an opportunity to hold him present in my heart. Every moment, each moment is an opportunity to be present, and every moment is an opportunity to practice my own V8 slogan, "Experience contentment in the present." 

What about you? What V8 moments have you had? 

PS: My friend is recovering well and the outlook is bright. 


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Discovering the Sacred: Sacred Objects, a Post by Nancy L. Agneberg

Recently, I met a woman who had moved with her husband from a five bedroom home to a 750 square foot condo. Let that image sink in. She assured me that they had not led a spartan lifestyle. A great deal of stuff had to go, and the process (Note the word "process.") was not always easy and involved negotiating and decision-making and some grieving. Her husband had a harder time with the process, and she admitted there are still things languishing in a rented storage compartment, but the result for her is FREEDOM. She feels free. 
     Almost everyone I know in the 60-70 age range talks about simplifying their lives, and what is meant most often is "getting rid of our stuff." It is a common topic of conversation, but is often more talk than practice. One dear friend, however, methodically and on an ongoing basis since her retirement, has been relieving herself of much of what she has collected and loved over the years, and while it has not been easy, I know she feels lighter and clearer. 
     When we put our house on the market, we went through a "staging" process, which now is something that is almost a real estate law. Even though a house is almost the most personal evidence of whom one is, the idea is to remove your own personality and create a stage set anyone could adopt. "Staging," however, is not the same as "simplifying." It seems to me that "simplifying," is more of a permanent decision, a way of adopting and adapting to a different chapter in our lives. Simplifying is something I do for myself, and staging is for the benefit of others. That being said, I don't miss most of what we have eliminated from our current living space--much of what is now in our own rented storage compartment. 
     I yearn for the next stage--moving into a much smaller house. I am ready to make clear decisions of what stays and what goes. I want to know which of our possessions will make the cut and will create a sense of home in our next living space. What I am striving for is a place where care of possessions and home doesn't bypass the pleasure. I believe that is possible. 
     One of my favorite books on organization is Organize for a Fresh Start, Embrace Your Next Chapter in Life by Susan Fay West. One of the author's key questions is, "Does an item make my house feel more like a home?" This morning I considered this question as I packed a number of favorite items gathered on the bookshelves in my office. I altered the question slightly. Do these things add to the sacredness of the house and aid me in living a more sacred life? Will they live in the next house? They have been favorite things, but are they sacred objects? 
    What is a sacred object? Here's one way to think about it, according to Jean Shinoda Bolen in Close to the Bone, Life-Threatening Illness as a Sacred Journey: "Whenever we are in love with what we are doing or who we are with, whenever we are totally absorbed, engaged, and fascinated, we are in Kairos." Without getting into an involved analysis of "kairos," I think of it as a time when something special happens or is possible, and for me one time when I experience kairos is when I am fully engaged with a sacred object
     The sacred objects in my life right now include my laptop, my journal, the books I am currently reading, and a fountain pen Bruce gave me years ago, which I use when writing letters and in my journal. I suppose I could classify these objects as simple tools or even as pleasures or luxuries in my life, but when I approach them as a way to know my essence, when I see them as spiritual tools, they become sacred objects. When I use them as spiritual tools, I am fully engaged in reflection, in discovery, in connection. Use of these sacred objects takes me deeper. 

    "Pausing often helps us to remember and value our ability to choose. Doing so with awareness, remembering to ask, "What's enough here and now? takes us deeper. We will find ourselves ripening into another way of being. It happens as silently and as slowly as as an apple turning red." Inviting Silence, Universal Principles of Meditation by Gunilla Norris 

    The good news is that these beloved sacred objects travel easily and will fit into whatever space I inhabit.
     What are the sacred objects in your life? How are you simplifying your life and in what ways is doing that a spiritual practice for you?  


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Crossing a Threshold, A Post by Nancy L. Agneberg

It's Sunday morning, the first morning of the new "spring forward" time, and a house showing was scheduled for 9:15 a.m. I am never thrilled with a Sunday morning showing, but this one on a foggy, wet, and cold morning was even more of a stretch. I reassured myself, however,  as we walked back into the house at 10:20, that at least now we have a whole uninterrupted day ahead of us. A lazy Sunday is still possible. 
     At the same time I thought about the potential buyers who had crossed our threshold that morning. I am always curious about the story. Who are they? Where are they from? Why are they looking for a house now and what are their hopes and dreams for their new home? Do those hopes and dreams consist of more than granite counter tops in the kitchen and an open concept floor plan? Instead, do they think about how they can grow in a house and how a house will shelter them in good times and bad? Do they imagine gatherings in the dining room and where they will put the Christmas tree or the menorah? Do they envision themselves becoming older and wiser in this house? 
     We have welcomed over 50 different sets of buyers and realtors to our home since putting it on the market last May. Out of those 50 a number of them have expressed interest, although, much to our disappointment and I admit, surprise, there have been no offers, and of course, I wonder about their situations. What needs to happen in their lives in order for them to move forward? When their next step happens will we also be able to move forward? 
     I wonder as the door opens to our home and potential buyers step over the threshold if they realize they are taking a sacred step. Anthony Lawlor in his book, A Home for the Soul: A Guide for Dwelling with Spirit and Imagination, writes, "The Threshold marks the boundary of transition, the line which must be crossed to enter new realms of experience." Sarah Ban Breathnach in Moving On reminds me that the French use an expression, le foyer, which refers both to the entry space surrounding the door where one enters a home, but also the pleasures of the "hearth," an invitation to come in, relax and feel at home. 
     Recently, as I crossed the back threshold into our home --screened porch to my office-- after a showing, I was overwhelmed by an almost melancholy feeling. I felt the light touch of a veil separating me from my life in this house; a momentary view of this house where I live becoming someone else's house, a house where I once lived. I experienced a brief, but real moment of separation anxiety. This is what we are wishing for, right? Are we doing the right thing? I imagined the fleeting fear or doubt of a bride who has said "yes," and is standing at the threshold, the long aisle in front of her. 
     The feeling only lasted a moment, but was real, nonetheless. I felt my cheeks flush. I even felt slightly faint. Am I ready for this next step? This next sacred step. The unknown new and next threshold in my own life. Yes! 
     I have started working on a writing project that centers on the topic of moving, something I have done many times in my life, and here I am preparing to move yet again. As I explore this topic in my life, I realize what I am really writing about is transitions. Transitions as rites of passage, as "sacred right-of ways," as Breathnach says. What transitions are front and center in your life right now? In what ways are you ready, but are there also moments when you feel the need for more preparation, a pause? What spiritual practices support you as you cross a threshold? 
     I have no idea what this morning's guests to our home felt as they crossed the threshold and walked from room to room. I hope they felt a welcoming spirit, even if this is not the right home for their future. I wish them well, and I hope they left us good wishes for the transition we are hoping to make in our own lives.   

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Not Quite the End of Winter, a post by Nancy L. Agneberg

Driving home from St Paul the end of last week, my companion and I spotted three sandhill cranes in the sky. We wondered if they had wintered here or were they returning from warmer climes? Was this a sign of winter melting into spring? My companion, a passionate and proficient gardener hopes so, but I am not ready yet to let go of winter, and thanks to today's snowstorm, I can enjoy winter's pleasures a bit longer. 
     Entering the month of March, that transitional month to spring, I think about what I have not done these winter months: the boxes of photographs untouched and unorganized, the piles of books unread, the stews and other slow cooker recipes not made, the naps not taken, the days of not leaving the house and instead lingering in pajamas unspent, and the fires in the fireplace not built. 
      One more winter, in spite of today's fresh inches of snow, is in fact coming to an end. How many more winters will I be blessed?  What in my life comes to an end with this winter? I recall someone saying that every year we pass the anniversary of our death. We just don't know what that date is yet. Will mine be in winter?
     Recently, my husband and I drove some country roads we had not explored before. The white on white carried our eyes out over the valleys.  The bareness of the trees revealed farmhouses normally hidden in summer's fullness, and we marveled at modern homes, normally private and unnoticed, reminding us of the rich architectural heritage of this area. Hills with their tall straight, dark  and undecorated trees reminded me of porcupine quills. Turkeys in parade formation trudged through the shiny unbroken snow, and hawks judged the proceedings. Beauty all around. 
    There is a certain clarity that comes with winter, a clarity I would like to discover in my own season of life. One can see forever, or at least it seems that way. And yet, we can't quite see how or when exactly it will end. Winter asks us to let go of the need to know for sure. Winter reminds us to rest in the surprise of the present moment. Winter assures us that it will melt into another time, but in its own time. Not ours.