I was at a Sunday service where the guest musician brought bells, rattles, tambourines, sticks, and all sorts of things to make sound with. She had us get up and do these songs with the accompaniment of the instruments, and suddenly the room was transformed. Everyone was acting like a kindergartener, and I thought we should have Eldergartens - where grownups can celebrate again that within us are little five year olds and all ages/no ages who want to express and be recognized. I noted especially that the older participants looked rejuvenated after we finished.
It was wonderful to see how transformative this exercise was for all concerned, But for those of the older Baby Boomer era, it was super to watch them come alive again. It's time this age group overcomes the paralysis we've been engaged in since we set the “distrust of elders” wheels in motion way back when. We have become the ones we warned ourselves about - so now it's time to change the internal program to respect, rejoicing, and response. We are certainly not throwaways... unless we choose to be. We don't need to accept status quo or what media tells us about ourselves. We just need to find that inner celebratory spirit that keeps things moving and alive...then we can shake, rattle and roll, enjoying the process as we go!
Have you ever done a jigsaw puzzle? If you have, you know that the pieces are small, cut from a larger form, and sometimes infuriatingly difficult to piece together. However, when they do come together, what had been separate pieces becomes a unity of color/shape/design that brings something bigger to life that holds together through its interlocking parts.
I sometimes do jigsaw puzzles for relaxation, and as I was piecing together a fairly easy one, I noted that while I was focused on one piece, my full attention was there – scanning and searching for just the right “fit”…the place where it belonged. Once found, there was a momentary feeling of “Aha!” and then it was as though that piece never existed. I was off to the next, and the next.
I noticed something else about the jigsaw puzzle. When you look at a piece, isolated from the rest, most of the time you have absolutely no idea what it represents. Sometimes you have to find location by color shading, other times by line value. Sometimes it’s by pure guesswork and attrition. The harder pieces have to wait. You deal with them toward the end.
As I noted in the beginning, once the picture is formed, each piece takes on more significance. You can see what part it played in the overall context. Yet, while in the finding stage, significance is not always easy to determine. And so our lives. We start out in trial and error mode, forging together loose pieces of what we are becoming within a context that doesn’t always make sense or have easily identified markers. It takes time to put us together – to see ourselves in a larger light. And so, it takes patience to become the complete picture of you or me. We can’t rush it, but need to take each moment to relish the experience of each piece as we pull them together. We are becoming – we’re in process. That’s the puzzle, and it’s also the reward.
From Seasons of the Soul print edition, Winter 2006
I was at my acupuncture appointment, looking up at a ceiling filled with beautiful pictures of nature, and it dawned on me as I thought of the beauty of nature, that human beings and nature are actually the same.
Nature is splendid and full or harmony, but so are humans. And just like humans, nature is also full of devastation and terror. The human being can be a work of art in physical form and in terms of action – just as nature is; yet we also see the results of emotional outbursts, greed, lust, and avarice.
Nature has her own set of outbursts…fire, wind, water, and earthquakes. The storms hit. Things are destroyed. Nature restores itself and new growth appears. We have outbursts, we can destroy things, yet time heals, and our lives can be rebuilt.
What this meant to me as I perceived this sameness was that there is no separation between us and nature. I’ve always thought of nature as a glorious example of Creator’s intent, and put us in another category. Yet, it is ALL one creation.
There is no separation between nature, animals, us except in our perception…we are all bound by the same potential and challenges. We experience similar possibilities for good and bad, life and death, and are part of the same cycle, only having varying timelines for life and death based on our level of longevity.
If we were able to reconcile our connection to the rest of life, we might be able to interact differently with it, and then the possibilities for greater harmony and mutually beneficial interaction could bring about opportunities that might astound us.
In the end, no matter how hard we try, we are all part of earth, and subject to her laws. We are one system, and one world. We are one people, one life force, on one planet..
One day, we may indeed see the blessing in diversity, and then we may gather together in celebration rather than derision. We may embrace our differences, rather than demean them. And we may one day gather to re-create the Garden, from which we all sprang...returning as we are intended to become One.
From Seasons of the Soul print edition, Winter 2006
Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The sages do not consider that making no mistakes is a blessing. They believe, rather, that the great virtue of man lies in his ability to correct his mistakes and continually make a new man of himself.
-- Wang Yang-Ming (1472-1529) Chinese Philosopher
I was driving on the freeway and noted the large dividing walls that have been built in recent years between the freeway and the frontage road paralleling it. The space between both is minimal, and the walls are put up for noise reduction and a sense of separation.
It dawned on me as I passed one of those barriers that the perception it gave was one of privacy and a defined differentiation, yet, in truth, the space was merely a grouping of bricks that gave an illusion of separateness to two spaces that were very close to one another.
In the Midwest, I was surprised to see no fences between houses. Back yards and front yards all coalesced, and as a person from a part of the country where fences between houses are standard, I felt naked and uncomfortable with that lack of privacy or separate space.
How often do we put up mental barriers that keep us distant from someone, even though they live in the same home, or are a neighbor, or family member, or office mate? Psychological barriers can be as persuasive as the huge roadway dividers that I passed, giving us the illusion that we are really apart from one another, when indeed we are merely partitioned from each other by the slimmest of definitions.
We tend to go through life in our own little bubble, not seeing or participating in the world around us. Yet, what might be possible if we allowed the rest of the world in?
There is a little post office sub-station in an adjacent town where the “locals” go. Since it is closer to me than the post office in my own town, I go there with the rest of the townspeople and enjoy the comradeship that the place engenders.
One day as everyone was jammed into the little building, spilling out the door to get the new 41 cent stamps, a man came hurrying in to mail a letter, and the gal at the counter saw he only had the old postage on it. She told him he needed 2 more cents, and he was notably taken aback. He had hurried over from his office and didn’t have any money on him or time to stand in line. He was going to run back to get the needed money and come and wait in line- but it was obvious he had hurried to get the letter mailed in the first place.
As all of us watched him, one woman volunteered a two-cent stamp, and the whole line got very quiet. It was a beautiful moment. The man asked her if she was sure, and she assured him she was fine with giving him the stamp. He offered to go back to his office to get the two cents, and she told him not to bother.
There was a real moment of everyone feeling really good about our post office substation and the goodness of one person to another. It was a small thing, but it meant something to both of the people involved and to the rest of us. It made my day! If I’d had a two-cent stamp, I would have offered it, but I didn’t.
The fact that she did and that he was so grateful caused me to reflect on the goodness one person can accord to another, and that lifting an artificial barrier that keeps us separate and apart from one another can offer opportunities to express our humanness and goodwill for each other.
We aren’t a yard that needs defining or a freeway that needs barriers. We are human beings who can contribute to the wellbeing of each other by taking time to pay attention and interact.
From Seasons of the Soul print edition, Winter 2006
A smile for the day …
I received a Christmas letter from an acquaintance whose 5 ½ year old son had a big revelation while his mother was driving him to school one morning. “Mama, I know what the soul is!” “You do?” she responded. “Tell me about it.” He was thoughtful for a moment and then from the back seat – these words of wisdom came - “The soul is like gold in my heart. It’s like fluttery gold. It flutters in my heart and then moves up into my teeth and makes me smile.”
This reminded me of another incredible piece of wisdom from another child years ago. My friend’s son was 8 at the time, and he asked his mother if she knew what the square root of God was. She was taken aback. “No, I don’t. Do you know?” “Yes”, he said. “The square root of God is Love.”
It’s this quality of uncontaminated insight that children exhibit – especially before they are corrupted by the do’s and dont's of society, media, and peer pressure. That beautiful spark of innocence is so refreshing in the little ones, and it compliments the insight of the elders. If we would allow for the wisdom at both ends of the spectrum we would be a far richer and more substantial people. The little ones and the old ones are the forgotten cast offs. One group is too young to know yet and the other is too old to matter. Yet, it is both these groups that have a vast and rich tapestry to share with the rest of society. One because it is still fresh and unmarred; the other because it has been tested and wizened through the journey of years.
It’s time to create a format for the two to be counted. Let’s encourage the little ones to share and let’s listen to the elders—or if we are an elder—to speak up. Observations of those in the 13-40 year old range may be trendy—and they are certainly plentiful, but they certainly do not reflect in total the enormous pool of possibilities that are represented by the rest of us!
From Seasons of the Soul print edition, Winter 2005
I’m a night person—so I often miss the early mornings, but at 6:00 AM I had to drive my daughter and her husband to the airport. It was dark and crisp as we left for the airport, and as I drove I noted that there was a definitive feeling of newness about the day. After dropping them off, I turned homeward, and the dark began to lighten. The sunrise was spectacular from the east and there was a feeling of a fresh start. As I drove, appreciating the beautiful coloration in the sky, I was reminded of a saying by Tagore that “Faith is the bird who sings in the dark, knowing the dawn will come.”
This is the message in winter, and the new dawn of each morning. The promise is there for us—everything is waiting in potential, and it’s up to us to seize the opportunities, to make something beautiful of each precious gift this life provides. The bird sings in the dark. It does not wait for the light—it welcomes it in song. There is no doubt or inhibition in the bird. It does what it was created to do.
How sweet the sound of our harmonious endeavors and efforts to bring out the best of ourselves without fear or hesitation. How pleasing that must be to our Creator.
There are so many metaphors we are shown in symbolism related to what life is and what opportunities are, yet we often ignore them or think them quaint sayings from the past, rather than taking them to heart and acting on what they point us toward now.
On this day, in this moment, I find my voice and greet the day without hesitation—this glorious gift of creation!
From Seasons of the Soul print edition, Winter 2004
“I can’t stop smoking”, one volcano exclaimed angrily to another.
“Well, there’s no need to blow your top about it”, the other replied.
Who was the smartest knight at the Round Table?
“I feel like I’m slowly falling apart”, one rock said to another.
“Those are my sediments too”, the other replied.
“I’ve been stuck doing the same thing too long”, one tree said to another.
“Maybe you should try branching out a little”, the second replied.
“Why don’t you grow up a little?”, the apartment building said to the house.
“I guess I’m stuck in my story”, the house replied.