Thursday, September 26, 2013

September's Interview: Marian Methner and Her Messy Spirituality

On the third Thursday of each month I will introduce you to someone whom I look up to as a spiritual friend and teacher. The focus of my questions is on their spiritual practices and what nurtures their deepening spirituality.

This month meet Marian Methner whom I met when we were beginning our training as spiritual directors through Oasis Ministries. Along with meeting Marian here, I hope you will read her blog Moving Out Granni. First, here's what Marian wrote about herself:

I am a 70 year-old woman making my own map through the next stages of life with cardiomyopathy (heart failure). This is not a failure of the heart, but comes from following an irregular dance beat, cutting through jungles, and taking the Big Hook in the Sky when It lures me in.
I dreamed once that I was going to a well for water. On the other side of the fence two men stood. They did not see me. I was invisible. I know myself behind the sun and wind-weathered face when I look in the mirror.

I am a grace-filled mother and what we name mother-in-law to people who came into my life through love. I claim the role of grandmother, sister, auntie and friend as well as gardener, artist, writer, and sometimes spiritual director.

You describe your spirituality as "messy." What do you mean by that? 
I am a process person and contrary to our beliefs, process does not flow from a to b. It is messy. Play is messy. Spirituality is messy when it is uninhabited by limits or rules. Here the Mystery truly enters in.

My life is a collection of bits and starts; therefore, my spiritual practices include bits and starts. I don't attend a church. I no longer believe many of the Christian stories that were a part of my young life. I delve into Buddhist and Zen practices and am intrigued by many Jewish teachings. I delve more deeply into women's stories of the Divine--the Mother/Goddess stories. I have been paving/playing/praying my own paths into the Mystery for at least 40 years. 

What do you identify as an ongoing spiritual practice?
Before I sleep and when I wake up, I give thanks.

In the morning I make coffee, and I take a cup to the back deck where I breathe in and out, noticing the apples on their trees or the rose bush that has grown too big to flower. This morning I noticed a newly blooming, very small sunflower and smiled back at her.

That tiny sunflower became my sanctuary for a few holy minutes. While I was busy preparing food and space for an overnight visit from friends, the day became a Sabbath; a slowed down honoring the holiness time. 

Along with moving through your day with awareness of the holy moments, what else contributes to the creation of Sabbath time in your life?
The practice of lectio divina, which is reading scripture
 and then spending time in prayer and contemplation with that reading. For example, this morning, a Saturday, I read from Soil and Sacrament, A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith by Fred Bahnson, and I spent time contemplating the following:
        As we entered the driveway...a sign read: 'It's time to
        slow down.' Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the
        sanctification of time....(it) teaches a person to be 'attached
        to the holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to
        learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the
        magnificent stream of a year. The Sabbaths are our
        great cathedrals. 

Thus, sunflowers become holy, and cooking for friends days become Sabbaths. What else do you want to say about your spiritual practices?
My practices resemble what Bahnson says about a Jewish community he describes in his book. "We are a nonrabbinic community...When a rabbi is present, people don't step up as much. We're a community about empowerment, whether teaching people to grow their food or say their own blessings."

How do you empower others in their growth as spiritual beings? 
In my blog Moving Out Granni, I try to give voice to where I'm balancing on my growing edge. With my grandchildren, I try to channel my mother's loving self, not her or my own judgmental, cranky, sharp edge. Mother did caution "without a sense of humor we are lost." 

Not only do we need to step up and be vulnerable, we need to lighten up!

Who have been some significant spiritual teachers in your life?

One of my teachers is Matthew Fox. Fox teachers Meister Eckhart's Creation Spirituality whose essence is that God is our Creator, and we are made in This image; therefore, we are all meant to be creators. We each need to step up!

Another teacher is Angeles Arrien. She teaches that we must take off our masks; unzip our armor. 

What's in your current reading pile?
Soil and Sacrament, A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith by Fed Bahnson
How the Light Gets In, Writing as Spiritual Practice by Pat Schneider
Wanderlust, A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
The Golem and the Jinni, a novel by Helene Wecker

What other reading material do you want to recommend?
Original Blessing by Matthew Fox
Orion Magazine, a bimonthly, advertising-free magazine devoted to creating a stronger bond between people and nature. 

What other words of wisdom do you want to share? 
We are attendants at the wake of the old way, and each of us--through our actions, our thoughts, our work and relationships--is midwifing a new world into existence. This is our destiny, our meaning, our purpose, and when we come to our days with this awareness, when we sense the oak in the acorn of our beings, then we will have the energy to move mountains and shift the tides.
                                             Jan Phillips, No Ordinary Time:
                                             The Rise of Spiritual Intelligence and 
                                             Evolutionary Creativity

Thank you, Marian, so much for sharing a glimpse into your spiritual life; a spirituality that encompasses your entire life. You are a blessing in my life. 

An Invitation
What questions do you have for Marian? What contemplative reading have you been doing and how has it mattered in the way you live your life? 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday's Reflection: Endings

I have a hard time with endings. 

With September's arrival comes the ending of summer. True, summer is not my favorite season and true, I love fall much more than summer, but still, the whole idea of ending something in order to move on is not so appealing. 

At least the change from one season to another tends to be gradual--first you notice a tree on the block beginning to change colors, but the leaves have not yet fallen and then you notice the gathering of flocks of geese and cranes practicing their "we're out of here" lift off. For the moment, however, you still hear them in the morning as you take your morning walk. Oh, and on that morning walk, you wear a hoodie or sweater, but as the day progresses towards noon you can shed the extra garment. Until one day there are more leaves on the ground than on the tree, and you hear the absence of cranes calling to one another, and you need that sweater all day. Summer has ended, you say. 

I expect a lot from endings, especially in books and movies. I want that satisfactory sigh of understanding and completion, but I notice frequently in contemporary fiction how often my eyebrow lifts as I read the last page. What? Really? Recently, I saw the new Woody Allen movie, Blue Jasmine, and --spoiler alert--there is no real ending. It just stops, and the surprise and even displeasure in the audience was audible. 

I've long felt that an ending in a novel is unsatisfactory because it has not been edited as much as the beginning or even the middle of the book. The author rereads and reworks the beginning and middle sections far more often than the ending, unless the ending is written first. Repetitive editing. Therefore, the ending can feel scraggly or undercooked. 

In life, however, we only have one shot at the ending. One per customer. There is no way to say, "Let me try that again. I'll do it better this time." 

I Need to Practice Endings
I tend to sag in the middle of things. 

Let's say I'm at a dinner party and for the most part have been enjoying the company and the food, but often I realize how I am ready for it to be over. I want to look back at it, instead of being there in the moment. I think about how I'll write about it or reflect on it--the conversation about caretaking parents or plans for retirement--but at the moment I would rather be home reading a book. 

Then comes the time to say, "Good night. I had such a lovely time, and thanks for inviting us," and I get a second wind. I bring up one more point related to an earlier conversation, as if we were still sitting at the dining room table. 

It is hard to take that final step out the door and hear it close behind me. 

 I reread a last chapter of a book rather than close it. I add a PS onto my letters, and after I have said "All for now," in an email, I continue with another topic. I like to watch all the movie credits and hear the last strain of music. I don't like rushing out of orchestra hall after a concert. I want more days of winter. 

I hold on to the ending and have a hard time moving on to the next beginning.

Of course, with all truths this is not always true. Usually, I am ready for vacation to end and classes to conclude, and I love getting to the end of a first draft for my blog or anything else I am writing. Noticing when ending is not a problem, however, somehow makes my trouble with endings all the more true.

What to do?
This time of our life, now that we are in our 60's or more, are ripe with endings. 

Careers are over. Friends and family members die. There just are not as many open doors as there used to be. This time of life, as we cope with change, loss, and yes, endings, is the time to examine our coping skills. Do we linger when it is over or do we gracefully smile and offer our gratitude? 

I am grateful for Dawna Markova's words in her book I Will Not Die an Unlived Life, Reclaiming Purpose and Passion: 
          When I die, I want my heart and soul fully seeded 
      with rich stories and experiences. I want to be moving 
      forward, falling upward, leaving my body well worn. 
      I want to know presence, staying with what is hard until 
      it softens, staying with what is narrow until it expands. 
      I want to know how to float in the silences between breaths 
      and thoughts, I want to know how to lift above and sink 
      below the flow of life, to drift and dream in the currents 
      of what cannot be known. It's not so much about being 
      prepared for death as it is being full of life. I want to be 
      so well practiced in crossing thresholds that dying is 
      merely another step in the dance. I want to be so
      comfortable with stillness and silence that I can root 
      in them.

This is the time to deepen our spiritual practices, so they are not an aside to who we are and what we do, but rather that they become our being and therefore, ease and support our one to a customer ending. 

A Gift
                    This will happen
                     Oh, god we say just give
                     me a few more
                     and don't let it be
                     let it be soft
                     perhaps in someone's 
                     arms, perhaps tasting
                     laughing or asking
                     Is it over already?
                     or saying not yet. Not
                     yet the sky
                     has at this moment turned
                     another shade of blue
                     and see there a child
                     still plays
                     in the fresh snow. 
                                  --Susan Griffin

An Invitation
How well do you do with endings? What endings have you experienced in your life and what can you learn from them?
What are you doing now to prepare for your own ending? What spiritual practices are becoming part of your being? I would love to know. Please comment. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

September's Book: I Will Not Die an Unlived Life, Reclaiming Purpose and Passion by Dawna Markova

 One of my spiritual practices is reading, using a meditative or devotional book as a guide for exploration and reflection. One Thursday a month I will share reflections with you from my current reading. 

The book for this month's focus is I Will Not Die an Unlived Life, Reclaiming Purpose and Passion by Dawna Markova, Ph. D. The title is taken from a poem she wrote the night her father died. Markova is known for the groundbreaking work she has done in helping people learn and live with passion and purpose. She is the author of a number of books and was coeditor of a book you may be familiar with, Random Acts of Kindness. 

The Value of Questions
Early in the book Markova describes being on a retreat and realizing "how many questions were flying around the rooftops of my mind." She started writing them down on a large piece of paper and challenged herself to list 100 questions, knowing intuitively that the questions would become deeper and would reveal the most essential issues in her life.  When the paper was filled with 100 questions, her mind "felt clean, like a wind had blown through." 

Markova offers the reader questions to explore in order to "practice the art of stripping away false notions about who we think we are so we can deal with what is real, and release anything that is deadening to our spirits. We have to reconnect with ourselves so that we can stand for something that is greater than ourselves." p. 14. Markova's questions offer a chance to discover or perhaps re-discover one's purpose and passion. 

What's unfinished for you to give?

What's unfinished for you to heal?

What's unfinished for you to learn?

What's unfinished for you to experience?

All are good questions worthy of one's attention, but as she writes, "These questions did not demand answers. They required only that I open to them." p. 127.  It seems unthinkable to not answer questions once posed, but then I recall Rainer Marie Rilke's often quoted statement, "Live your questions now and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers." 

My Key Questions
As I read this book, I started noting my own questions; questions I posed to myself as I moved through the day beginning with "What time is it?" when I awoke to "What should I wear today?", "What should I fix for dinner?",  and "What's the weather going to be like today?" Each day, however, the main question seems to be "What do I need to do today?" 

To answer that question I consult --drumroll, please-- My Master List.  

Monday mornings I sit at my kitchen desk and consult my calendar for the coming week and create the week's master list. In addition to the "This Week" list, there is the "Leftovers List," items that didn't get done last week. As the week progresses, there is the "Add-Ons List" and then there is the "Future List."  I might have a list of writing tasks I want to do or during a number of weeks this summer a list of tasks related to my Dad--setting up appointments with the physical therapist, or contacting the senior living facility about move-in plans.

Lots of lists all generated from one question --"What do I need to do?" Is this what Markova has in mind? Not so much! 

I recall an exercise in Tristine Rainer's book The New Diary, How to Use a Journal for Self-Guidance and Expanded Creativity. The exercise, which I used often when I was a young mother,  suggested making lists in responses to several questions?
What Do I Have to Do Today?
What Should I Do Today?
What Would I Rather Do Today?
What Do I Most Want to Do Today?

The process of sorting the "Must Do" and "Should Do" from the "Want to Do" always led me closer to my purpose and my passion, and some how on those days when I asked myself those key questions I found a way to create space in my day for what I most wanted to do. 

Responding to what I most want to do on any given day leads me to live the deeper questions, to uncover "the life that wants to live in me." (Parker Palmer)

Markova's Key Questions Now that I am halfway through my sixties I find myself studying the question of what this stage of my life is meant to be about. I return to the questions Markova asked that most resonated with me:

What's unfinished for me to give?

What's unfinished for me to heal?

What's unfinished for me to learn?

What's unfinished for me to experience?

Markova says, "...we are totally free to live fully alive. Now. In this moment. Free to define ourselves. We are what we choose to be. I don't mean free to have. I mean free to be. p. 133

And there's the adventure. 

An Invitation
I invite you to share some of the key questions in your life right now. What questions are restlessly waiting for exploration in your life? What keeps you from living your questions and what would change in your life if you did?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Reflection: The Great Wall of Corn

Recently, my husband and I drove out into the country. The day was warm, and we felt free. We had a destination, but it didn't matter how long it took to get there. Driving in his Mazda Miatta or the "little car," as we fondly call it, we were dwarfed by the cornfields. Great Walls of Corn towered over us. The culmination of summer's growth. Thick and tall. Imposing, impressive, and almost impermeable. Worthy of a travel advisory, "Beware of reduced sight lines at country intersections." 

Occasionally, we caught a quick glimpse of a view beyond the immediate rows of corn, but for the most part we only saw what was right in front of us. We had the Wisconsin platte book with us, guiding us from county road to county road, but rarely was there any other landmark to tell us where we were. We just relaxed into the journey. 

The Need to Relax
I haven't been doing such a good job lately of relaxing into the journey. Oh, there are moments, such as that weekend drive or when I am sitting on the front porch lost in a book, abandoning all sense of time passing, or when I am at my desk writing and studying. Or when I remind myself to close my eyes and meditate for 20 minutes. 

Most of the time, however, I want clarity. 

I want to be able to see what might be coming when I stop at an intersection. I want to know what's beyond the Great Wall of Corn. 

I want my summer to end in that same kind of fruitfulness. 

I want the harvest. 

From Spare to Bare
Cynthia the Stager's instructions were quite clear. Move back the living room chairs closer to the bookshelves. Take out the bookshelf full of cookbooks in the kitchen. A piece of furniture here and another one there. Oh, and repaint the den. Repaint the kitchen. 

I liked her decisiveness. She was nonthreatening and collaborative, but assertive.  I was surprised she didn't make more suggestions and pleased when she announced how staged the house already appears. 

That's all good, but now we are living in what feels to me like a bare house. Not spare--I've gotten used to spare-- but bare. 
I told my husband I didn't know how long I could live like this. (A bit of drama never hurts!)

And then I pulled back. Of course, I can live like this, for as long as it takes. I just don't want to!

What is hard is not that our home no longer feels like our home, it is the suffering I cause myself by holding onto my expectations and my attachments of what is supposed to happen and when it is supposed to happen.

More Lessons to Learn
During this in between time, I've been exploring my ability to wait and be patient and have been trying to grow those qualities within myself. I think I have grown.  

Clearly, however, it is time to get out the heavy machinery and dig deeper. It is time to uncover what else I need to explore. 

Several times these recent days I have sat quietly, reverently and asked Spirit to help me identify what else I am to learn. Unfortunately, when I open my eyes after meditation time, no neon sign floats down from the living room ceiling with the magic word blazing.  

And then.... One morning when I was waiting for a spiritual directee to arrive, I started thinking about how it takes trust to commit to the spiritual direction process. The directee trusts that what is said will be received with an open and wise heart, and the director trusts that what the directee needs will be offered. Both trust that Spirit will be present.  

Opening to Trust
Trust. A magic word. Do I truly trust that eventually we will be able to move forward in our plan? Do I trust that when the time is right the buyers will appear and we will sell our house and then find a new home just right for us? 

What happens if we do all this and we still don't sell the house?

Well, we'll do something else. We'll figure it out. We just need to trust that it will happen. 

My focus on patience and active waiting has been comforting, for it means I can do something. The doing, which includes all the staging efforts and the constant attending to the daily appearance of our house, is limited, however, if underneath I don't deepen my trust that all will be well. I need to broaden my trust to include a quiet awareness that I am not alone and instead, am a being in partnership with something far bigger than myself. 

Trust, it seems to me, is a form of letting go. 

Therefore, when we come to an intersection where the sight lines are limited and where it is difficult to see around and through and over, we do what we can and then we trust and move forward. 

An Invitation
Dear Reader, no doubt you are sick of reading about our house being for sale, but I hope you translate our current challenge to whatever transitions or stalemate is showing up in your life. I hope my ongoing attempt to deepen my spirituality encourages you to examine your own struggles and to harvest trust in your own life. I welcome your comments.     

Thursday, September 12, 2013

September Reflections

One Thursday each month I will share a reflection with you about that specific month. Here's September's reflection.

I love September Saturdays, especially Saturdays when I can start the day by going to the farmers' market and then come home to putter in my kitchen. 

Such bounty there was at the market on a recent Saturday, making it hard to remember I cook only for two. Even with that restriction, I made two trips to the car. One laden with corn on the cob and apples and the other with zucchini and yellow squash and green peppers and summer greens and onions and new potatoes and golden tomatoes and carrots and hamburger buns and hamburger patties. 

And flowers. 

Gladiolas for the front porch. I love glads. I love their extroverted personalities--the definite colors and big blossoms and unwieldy stems. Many people associate glads with funerals, but I think about the front porches of the turn of the century homes at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. Every home, it seemed, had a vase of glads on their front porch, announcing how happy and lucky the home's residents were to be there. Just the way I feel about this kind of day.

Sunflowers for the kitchen. I love sunflowers. I love their disposition, their ability to find the sun wherever they are. I remember taking the train from Rome to Florence in early fall and seeing fields of them. An Italian Welcoming Committee. One day roaming narrow streets in Florence we found a small pottery shop and bought a large pitcher painted with sunflowers. Now full of American sunflowers. 

 The first batch of applesauce. In the peeling and chopping and boiling and stirring and smelling, all the previous Septembers rush through me. The years we lived at Sweetwater Farm, and I walked the neglected orchard at the far edge of our land and hoped the deer enjoyed the fallen apples. Sunday night suppers of homemade tomato soup (See my recipe for tomato soup in my Tuesday, September 12, 2012 post), grilled cheese, and applesauce and an apple for lunch at school or work. 

I think of these verses from the Apocrypha in the Old Testament:
          Why is one day more important
               than another,
             when all the daylight in the year
                is from the sun?
           By the Lord's wisdom they were 
              and he appointed the different 
                seasons and festivals.
           Some days he exalted and 
              and some days he made ordinary
                                Ecclesiasticus (also called Sirach) 33:7-9

My father frequently says, "Every day is a good day." I don't mean to contradict the writers of Ecclesiasticus and certainly my devout father would not sanction that, but it seems to me he no longer cares about the difference between exalted and hallowed days and ordinary days. It's not that they all merge into one hodgepodge collage, but rather that every ordinary day is to be exalted, is to be hallowed. Surely, the Divine rejoices.  

Sunflowers and gladiolas and apples and the rest of autumn's bounty blend the distinction for me between what is exalted and hallowed and what is ordinary. Going to the market and chatting briefly with the growers and then coming home to recipe books and time standing at counter and stove and then later serving a meal, not fancy, but oh so tasty, is my way of following the sun like the sunflowers on our kitchen counter. I joined the glads on the porch after cleaning up the kitchen, dishwasher humming, to read. Such exalted pleasures on an ordinary day. 

Nancy's Simple Chunky Applesauce
Pare, core, and slice four medium apples. (Good cooking apples--a combination of two or more types adds to the layer of flavors.). Combine 1 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar, and LOTS of cinnamon. Be generous with the cinnamon. That my secret. Bring to boiling; cover and cook slowly till tender, about 5 minutes. Makes 2 cups. 

An Invitation
I would love to know what turns ordinary days into hallowed and exalted days for you. Try adopting "Every day is a good day" as your mantra and let me know what you discover. I look forward to your comments. Oh, and let me know what your favorite fall recipe is. Cooking is a spiritual practice, too. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday's Reflection: Your Life Is Not Your Own

Recently, a new friend said to me, "Your life is not your own." She was referring to the fact that our house was for sale, and we were subject to the schedules and whims of potential buyers. True, enough, but she had no idea how pertinent that statement was soon going to feel. 

My Plans
In theory my plans for the next weeks were feasible. I planned to be at home for 4 full weeks after frequent St Paul-Madison trips. During the hiatus at home a friend and I were going to put into motion plans to start a circle for women facing major transitions in their lives. I had just started participating in an online class about blogging, which felt a bit intimidating. I had a few home projects and writing projects to restart, and I intended to reconnect with friends. 

I was determined to start enjoying summer. 

Change of Plans
Can you hear a quiet giggle in the distance? Do you recognize the sound of a "behind the hand" chortle? When was the last time you made plans, big ones, meaningful ones, ones that meant something to you, a turning point, a step forward, and then you heard a cackle, a snicker or snigger, even a snort that turned into a genuine belly laugh? "You forget, my dear, your life is not your own, and I have other plans for you."

What happened? 

My father needed surgery. The surgery he had in May did not work, and he was in terrible pain and he made the decision to have it done again. The surgeon was available, and the date was set. Soon. Now. Not quite three weeks before his 90th birthday. 

Off I went, tossing plans for what I thought was my life into the nearest wastebasket. 

We had already wisely cancelled our plans for a fall vacation. knowing we would need that time to move my Dad into his new senior living apartment.  Instead of spending our usual long summer weekend in Door County, we travelled back and forth to St Paul for one necessary reason after another. Summer was escaping, but we hadn't. And never mind that the house had not sold and the main plan, the really big plan, of moving had not come to fruition. All that time devoted to keeping the house clean every minute of every day was for naught, it seemed. 

I say all this not to elicit sympathy--although empathy would be welcome,  but instead as a reminder that "Your life is not your own," and to ask you to consider what that means. 

A New Voice
I was frustrated and irritated, but I was also scared. Worried for my father, yes, but also wondering if I had what it takes to be there for him. Really be there. 

Finally, I sat in the stillness and allowed myself tears, but then breathing deeply and returning to my own rhythm, I heard whispers. No taunting titters. No voice crowing "Plans? That's what you think." The words were the same, "Your life is not your own," but this time they were a lullaby, a nurturing oasis of love and calm. 

I thought of the words from Isaiah 43:
                  I have called you by name, you are mine.
          When you pass through the waters I will be with you;
                 and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
           when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
                  and the flame shall not consume you.

           Because you are precious in my eyes and honored and
                  I love you.

Dad's surgery went well, but we won't know for awhile if it is a long term success. He is not experiencing pain, however, and for that we are so grateful. Yes, my plans changed then and have continued to change. Actually, I surprise myself with my flexibility. 

I am grateful for the fullness of choices in my life and the ability to respond to change, but at the same time I hope I can rest a bit more contentedly in the knowledge that my life is not entirely my own. 

An Invitation
I invite you to share times when you were aware of your life not being your own. What did you learn from those times? When is that awareness shadow and when is it light? What helps you get through those times when you need to respond to life changing in front of you?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Your September Meditation: First Days and New Beginnings

The first Thursday of each month I will offer you a meditation to use during that month. Here is the meditation for September. 

The One guiding you leads you into a country fruitful and promising. You are standing on the edge of a good land. Be grateful and never forget your guide. 
                                  Macrina Wiederkehr 
                                  Behold Your Life, A Pilgrimage
                                  Through Your Memories

Our grandson begins kindergarten this month, and he is so excited--and so ready. As he heads into his classroom on the first day I expect his backpack will not only be full of his brand new school supplies, but also a range of emotions--eagerness, along with a touch of anxiety; delight that the big day is finally here, but also an unconscious awareness that there is no turning back now. 

Remembering Firsts
Thinking about the "first day" for Peter, I am reminded of all my own first days of school--both as a student and as a teacher. 
I moved many times as a child and my first days of school were often colored by the fact that I didn't know anyone. I had never been in the school, let alone the classroom. Not only did I not know the teacher, but I also did not know any of my classmates. As nervous as I was on those days, and even as I missed the friends in my former school, I was also hopeful, anticipating new friends and looking for acceptance and a generous welcome.   

It seems to me that most first days or new beginnings, whether a first day at a new job or the beginning of retirement or moving to a new home contain a backpack full of emotions. Such teachers those first days have been in our life. 

 Your Firsts

As you think about your own first days of school, what memories do you have? 
What emotions do you recall? 
How have those same emotions recurred in your life as you have experienced other kinds of "firsts?" 

A Meditation on Firsts in Your Life
I invite you to sit in a quiet place and close your eyes, lightly not tightly. Take a couple deep cleansing breaths and allow your body to relax into slow, even breathing. 

In this quiet, sacred space you create for yourself, allow memories of "firsts" in your life to wash over and through you. Note the feelings you experienced, but then allow them to move on. That was then, this is now. 

As you continue to breathe steadily and evenly, ask your heart to open to a new beginning, a new first day. 

What is yearning for new life within you? What new day, new beginning do you desire? Be with that awareness and the feelings that surround this desire. 
What do you need to move forward into the next "first?" Be with this question and open to the possibilities. 

Once again, take a couple deep cleansing breaths and when you are ready, open your eyes.

Take a few minutes to note, perhaps in a journal or by whispering to yourself, what you felt or learned during this brief time of meditation. What will you now bring into your life?

A Blessing
May the memories of the many firsts in your life, firsts you have survived, but also those in which you have thrived, be your teacher and your guide.
May you feel surrounded by a spirit of growth and courage, eagerness and openness as you reach towards a new beginning  and yet another "first." 

An Invitation
I welcome your thoughts about "firsts" in your life and especially your comments about the meditation.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tuesday's Reflection: Waiting for the Paint to Dry

Recently, we had our front porch sanded and freshly painted. One of our favorite places in the house was looking shabby, and our realtor reminded us of the importance when your house is for sale of "first impressions." I had been irritated by that reminder, for I have been devoted to keeping our home "showing ready" for almost a year and a half, never having anything out of place and attempting always to present a "this could be your home" welcome.

 The early summer had been rainy, however, making this project impossible, and I couldn't get painters to return my calls anyway. Finally, when we took the house off the market, the time was right to re-establish the front porch as the welcoming place we have always felt it to be. 

The process took several days, but my husband and I were thrilled with the results. All we could do, however, was admire it from afar while the paint dried completely.  

No Entering, No Leaving
I stood inside the house looking out the front door. I could see the porch and the steps and the sidewalk beyond. I could see the view of woods across the road, but I couldn't go out the door. 

To leave the house I had to go another way. The back door. 

You've heard and probably often yourself the trite, but true statement, "When one door closes, another door opens. It is also true what Nora Gallagher says in her book, Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic, "But it's hell in the hallway." 

And that's what waiting for the paint to dry felt like. Hell in the hallway. 

The Invitation of Waiting
I know deep in my heart that what happens as we wait for change, for transformation, for a new beginning is often something that can't happen any other way. I thank Nancy Bieber in her book, Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment, The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way for reminding me of that. I know that life continues to happen even while waiting. I know that waiting is its own kind of sacred time. I understand I don't know all that may be happening while I wait. 

I know I need to continue to live fully while waiting, and I even know "If you can't be still and wait, you can't become what God created you to be." Sue Monk Kidd

But I want to go through the door. Now. I want to go down the steps. Now. I see the other side, and I want to be there. Now. I don't want to wait anymore. 

The Activity of Waiting
Waiting for the house to sell has been and continues to be challenging. I don't know what this time of waiting is all about. I pray for patience. I immerse myself with other projects important to me. I re-acquaint myself with trust in the Divine. 

One of my guides during times of waiting has been the book Seven Spiritual Gifts of Waiting by Holly W. Whitcomb. She writes,
         When we face an extended period of waiting, we have
       an opportunity to engage in a radical kind of patience that 
       can take us beyond surviving to thriving. We can partner 
       with the waiting rather than treat it as the enemy. We can
       involve ourselves in an active waiting that opens doors, 
       creates opportunities and stretches our minds, bodies, and
       souls. While waiting may necessitate a certain powerless-
       ness, this does not mean giving up intelligence, action and
       hope. Active waiting teaches us to trust that each small
       step is part of a larger process--a process in which we can
       participate with steady determination and lively
       (p. 24)

Therefore, we are making some suggested changes in the house as a way to make it less personal, less specific and less suggestive of our taste and personality. Over the past year we have edited and edited the house, but now we are stepping aside even more, making room for a new owner. We trust that the paint will dry eventually, and while it does, we know we don't need to remain trapped looking out. We are using the back door. 

We know the waiting will be worth it.

An Invitation
Are you currently in waiting mode? How does waiting challenge you? In what ways is waiting a spiritual practice for you? How has waiting been a gift for you? I welcome your comments.