This is one of my first posts on Mikell's Hidden Treasures, 4/17/2012,
after I shifted from my live journal blog to Weebly.
The concept of vulnerability seems to be recurring.
It's been almost a month since my last post.
I've been retreating, hiding in the home I carry on my back like a turtle since the flood, a year ago on April 16/17/2011. I have slowly pulled back into the illusion of safety in my shell..
I'm hearing the word 'vulnerable' in so many contexts recently. It was the title of our Easter Service at church - one of the best sermon I've heard. I've also read several references to being vulnerable this week, and it was the common thread in last week's tele-class.
After class I began to work on the Prosperous Heart by Julia Cameron and found this quote.
"Loss is always a gain in disguise."
Julia elaborates, stating that when loss is excruciatingly painful, we need to turn to faith. "Loss puts us back in touch with our own spirit. It cracks our harder shell and exposes our vulnerability."
Years ago i found an acorn in the woods and carried it home, thinking about one of my favorite lessons from nature - "An acorn holds the promise of a thousand forests."
I carried the acorn home and put it on the shelf in the living room, but as I turned to walk away it occurred to me that it would never fulfill it's promise isolated on a shelf in my cabin. It would never reach its full potential unless it's brittle outer shell was softened by nature and allowed to become vulnerable. I took the acorn back to the place I found it, confident that the forces of nature would work their magic.
Being isolated and safe is an illusion. When we try to protect ourselves from life, we lose the opportunity for growth, interaction and joy. Vulner - ability is a word I needed to hear. I'm leaving my hard shell and going back out into the world after a period of temporary retreat. Tonight's class made me realize that we are all fragile, yet in our vulnerability lies boundless strength.
As promised, I've updated my manifesto for the eclipse and the months ahead. I'll review it again in about 6 months - either my birthday or the new year. I hope you'll all be inspired to create your own, personal manifesto!
Recently I made a new friend, Howard, who gave me a clearer picture of the war and the experience of my dad, and other veteran's service to our country. He shared this on "D" day.
"Today is "D". On 6 June 1944 the war turned in favor of the Allies. If today never happened, most people believe that we would all be speaking German now instead of English.
This country was preparing for an invasion. There were air raid practices every night; factories were camouflaged to look like villages; even German submarines came into the upper part of the Chesapeake Bay; food was rationed and hard to get. But on "D" day, thanks to the sacrifices of our men serving in the Armed Forces, all of this started to change. It took a few years but it did change.
Those of us living in this area should be particularly proud because the invasion at Normandy was spearheaded, primarily, by the 29th Division, which was comprised mostly of men from Pa., Md., Va. and D.C. and trained in Maryland before being sent to Scotland before the invasion.
So let's don't forget the importance of 6 June 1944 and how it effects our lives, and maybe we could take a little time and say a prayer for those who didn't survive that day."
After reading this, I called my brother to ask if my dad had ever mentioned where he was on June 6, 1944, or if there has been any mention of the Korean War. Mother said he was very different when he returned from service. Of course. But that is all we knew and neither of them are here to ask.
Most of my memories of my dad are associated his support for my unique perception of the world, my frustration with what i later learned was 'Dumbing Us Down' education, and his creative approach to teaching.. There are stories through out this site that are more uplifting, and as the day goes on, I'll try to shift to lighter memories. But right now, over a half a century later, my heart is heavy, and I miss him.
My last post, "Before you notice, you will have settled", raised questions on one level and resonated on another. Cabrera mentions Tuesday evenings at the library, and ironically, Mycala and I have been going to the library on Tuesdays. Last evening Zippy joined us and then we enjoyed gazpacho with guacamole at an outdoor cafe. New dish, favorite restaurant. If we are truly grateful for our experiences, that seems to the antithesis of settling, even if they are routine! On the other hand, I'm the first to admit at times I settle. And yes, as rich and full as my life is, it could be much more vibrant if I would move from automatic pilot to a greater awareness and appreciation of the present moment.
Habits create a valuable structure for accomplishing more in less time. My mornings are spent journaling, meditating, and creating a to do list highlighting the three most important things to accomplish based on my values. Creativity is a value I actively weave into projects, problem solving and time with family and friends. The last habitual morning task is walking Zippy. If I took time to decide daily if I really wanted to do those things, it would take much more time and effort than moving quickly through the steps on automatic pilot!
Yet Isabella Cabrera raises an excellent point - could there be more? Are there areas where we are settling? Could we be happier? Undoubtedly.
When I was in junior high a girl in the class ahead of me won an essay contest with a composition called Variety is the Spice of Life. I never read the actual paper but the title, which I had heard before (in William Cowper's quote, "Variety is the spice of life, that gives it all it's flavor") captured my attention in a new way!
Years later I was reminded of the essay during a speech about making memorable moments by using a variety of senses. The speaker shared stories about surprising loved ones with creative gift giving from small tokens to grand gestures, all based on incorporating imagination and variety.
In both approaches, creativity is the key. Erin, from the award winning blog Daisies and Bruises, credits SARK for the quote "The opposite of depression is expression." That may seem simplistic, and there have been times I've been depressed in the midst of expressing, but ultimately we are all here to share our gifts. There is satisfaction and value when we are expressing our life's purpose; as close as we'll get to Dharma.
Day to day, there are questions we can ask that can lead us away from settling. These are some of mine, framed around my values, and hopefully they will inspire you to consider your own.
1. Are there ways to enhance the way I exercise? Ballet or belly dancing instead of calisthenics? Finding new places to walk Zippy?
2. Can nutrition be more interesting? Could I create a stained glass mandala fruit salad or a vegetable pin wheel? Make my own vinaigrettes and marinades to have on hand to give my daily intake of raw fruits and vegetables more vibrance and flavor without the artificial colors, syrups, sugars and preservatives in commercial brands?
3.Relationships. Am I surrounding myself with caring, positive, compassionate people who share my values? Do they have warmth and empathy for people from all cultures, education and socio-economic backgrounds Do they solve problems instead of blaming people? Are they joyful and do we laugh together often? Do they share some of my interests in art, music, travel, education, nature, sports? Are we open to learning from each other? Do the people in my life understand that thoughts become things and give their attention to assets rather than deficits? Compassion instead judgement? One of the best gauges for relationships it our energy level. If your energy is depleted, ask why.
4. Creativity - Do I weave creativity in all aspects of my daily life from how i garnish a plate, wrap a present, arrange an herbal bouquet, write a blog or sympathy card or solve a problem? Am I actively seeking ways inspiration? Making artist's dates to refill the well?
5. Learning/Education - Am I always taking at least one on line course? Do I have an ongoing list of topics that truly excite me that I'd like to take or research to teach? Do I keep pen and paper with me to capture ideas and inspiration that will slip away if not captured? Do I do further research on things that interest me? Am I capturing ideas in my illustrated journals?
6. Beauty/Order - We have long known that beauty soothes the soul, through nature, music, art, architecture, for example.Thomas Moore's book Care of the Soul is an eloquent testimonial. Clutter, lack of order, and tarnish can detract. Hoarding represents a lack of faith. Do I have enough space around things I love to highlight them? Do I see cleaning and polishing a gift?
Asking questions can lead us in the right direction. There are so many ways to add gratitude, variety and memorable moments as antidotes to settling.
by Isabel Cabrera -
Before you even notice, you will have settled. You will enjoy your Monday morning coffee and think it’s just what you needed to start your day. You will visit the library every Tuesday, hoping to find some new escape in a new book, just to get away from your life. You will eat lunch with your best friend every Wednesday, order the usual at your favorite restaurant; you’re satisfied. On Thursday you go for a walk around your neighborhood to clear your mind, and look forward to tomorrow. On Friday evening you think you’ve made it, so you reward yourself with delivery pizza and an alright movie you’ve seen more than six times. Saturday, there’s still a day separating you from Monday, so you’re fine. Sunday, you dread, dread, until you go to bed.
Then it’s the same old routine, slowly getting through life, thinking you enjoy it, when you could easily learn to enjoy something else. How do you know what you need to get through the day is just coffee? Maybe it’s just telling yourself, hey, I can do it, there’s more to look forward to. Instead of living your life through books why don’t you go on an adventure and take a risk like your favorite fictional character? How do you know that meal is really your favorite thing at a restaurant when you’ve never let yourself taste something else? Is looking forward to the end of the week your motivation to actually get through life? If it is, why? When you’re just living the same old shit week to week, nothing will change. You won’t change. You think you’re happy, but couldn’t you be happier?
Yesterday my dear friend Carrie sent an e-mail describing her day. Sent her this in response . . . just as much to myself as to her. A reminder that the joy, beauty and grace in life come from the little things.
Carrie, it’s the little things. Isn’t it? It’s the sparkling pink and the coffee, and the wrapping paper, being at home and a few extra moments before an event!
For me it was weeding and planting herbs in the rain and going to our local library for the first time and finding wonderful books and stopping for a bottle of wine on the way home. A friend stopped by for awhile and then I walked Zippy and fed Mycala’s cats. And now I have an evening alone with the books and an e-mail from my dear friend Carrie, whose name means love in Japanese or English! Life is bliss when we turn off the television and live it!
"Only people who are willing to put all they've got on the line
. . . make a difference."
~ Perry Noble
Yesterday I turned in two course proposals for the fall. One was a repeat of my course on Herbs, and another is on seeking the sacred in everyday life - not a new concept, but one that needs to be repeated.
Workshop description: Our world is filled with beauty and wonder but we often miss the miracles as we are bombarded with fear based, negative messages. What we put our attention on increases, yet too often we focus on illness, not health: fear, not joy. This course will include readings and video clips from some of the world’s most innovative thinkers, past and present. There will be exercises for self reflection, and techniques for finding daily treasures.
Last night I started to have second thoughts. Maybe another topic would be more valuable. Today several messages crossed my path validating the need to speak if there are words that are helpful, even it we feel we are taking a risk by sharing an opinion that may not be understood or embraced.
And this from a friend -
"I think your class sounds absolutely amazing! And you have been waiting for something to pop up for you in regards to direction....perhaps this is your purpose? Is to teach wellness and give people a compass for happiness? It is dearly needed in this world! Mikell I honestly believe that people no longer know how to actually feel happiness or have a compass for well being. They have become so immersed in the world they don't even recognize the horrible level of negativity they are exposed to on a daily basis!!! These are much needed skills!"
~ Carrie Faden
Carrie's observation that some of us don't remember what health or happiness feel like rings true. Someone very dear to me has been diagnosed with lung cancer. He has trouble breathing and a cough that sounds painful. His energy is depleted and he walks slowly with a cane. Yet he keeps reassuring me that he "feels fine." It reminds me of the story about the frog who is thrown into a pot of water and it is slowly brought to a boil. It happens so gradually that he doesn't realize things are changing and he is in danger. If he had been thrown in at a rapid boil, he would have jumped out immediately.
Being aware of how we want to feel, and comparing it to how we are feeling, can guide us to making better choices. We can begin by asking questions.
How many times a day do we stop and consider out blessings?
Do we spend more time in the present, or are we living with the fear of the future or regrets of the past?
Do we actively use our senses? (for example, do we gulp down fast food instead of preparing and savoring quality meals with a variety of colors and textures)
Do we realize the power and impact that words have on us? Do we carefully chose the words we use? (firing off Instantaneous e-mail response instead of thoughtfully composed letters)
Do we spend time in nature and value the lessons she teaches?
Are relationships deep and meaningful or are we paying more attention to our screens than the person across the table?
"To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing."
When people are born they are gentle and soft.
At death they are hard and stiff.
When plants are alive they are soft and delicate.
When they die, they wither and dry up.
Therefore the hard and stiff are followers of death.
The gentle and soft are the followers of life.
Thus, if you are aggressive and stiff, you can't win.
When a tree is hard enough, it is cut. Therefore
The hard and big are lesser,
The gentle and soft are greater.
- Yi-Ping Ong, from the introduction, Tao Te Ching
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
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