Lighthearted Musings

20170224_142215It was 73 degrees out today…closing in on the end of February…a definite first for me in PA! I took the opportunity to go for a long walk with my Dave. We walked along a path carved out next to power lines that run for miles in two directions. Despite a lot of mud in some spots, it was the perfect hike. Once away from the road, just the sound of wind in the tall grass mixed with a few birds, and occasional trickling water sailed through the air.

It’s in moments like these I tend to feel completely at peace. Sometimes, it’s nice to just be. In the moment. Completely. Letting all worries melt away…letting go of the disheartening notions of the earth heating up more, and glaciers melting way up north. Letting go thoughts of those so-called leaders running the country…letting go of smaller worries…letting go of everything! It feels incredible to just appreciate the simple things…really see, and feel them for all of their simple beauties…

Leaving our trail of footprints in the mud as we held hands and walked. Picking up tiny pieces of white quartz in small streams crossing our path. Running my fingers through the cold water, grazing the soft, fine silt that rested in the bottom. Seeing mountains miles away from the top of the ridge, one mile from the road. Smelling sweet ferns, still shriveled, yet prevailing alongside the path. Molding reddish clay into a sphere, letting it dry on my hands. 20170224_141859Discovering princess pines popping up in the midst of purpled tea berry leaves, surrounded by moss. Feeling the sun’s warmth spread on my back through my t-shirt. Taking deep breaths of fresh air while observing the blue sky, winds pushing puffy clouds along.

Discovering an old spring house during our descent…wandering over through marshy grass…finding all the places where water was appearing, then disappearing again into the earth. Drinking from a pool of bubbling spring water a little further up, letting that 20170224_144728piece of nature, that moment become part of me. Stepping on deteriorated fallen trees, feeling the wood compress under my sneakers. Observing the peeled “eyes” in some trees where a foreign fungus had taken over. Looking up to find dozens of birch polypore’s poking out from a long deceased, branchless tree.  Seeing rocky, dried up trenches where water once flowed and connected to larger streams. Appreciating the bright green, plushy moss that crawled along the forest floor as we carefully made our way back to the car.

20170224_145122Take in the beauty that surrounds you every single day. If you don’t think there is any, take a look. Take a closer look. You will find it. It’s in every step you take…within every knotty tree you see…upon every smooth stone you turn over in your hands. The presence of God is woven into every atom, and particle that makes up nature.

Feel revived and fully alive.

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The Miraculous is Waiting

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“Stretching to reach it,

we fall.

Running to catch it,

we get lost.

Pretending to be enlightened,

we become dim and foolish.

Trying to ‘do it right’,

we fail.

Looking for praise,

we receive nothing.

Grabbing hold of it,

we lose it.

 

All of this strutting, striving,

straining, and grasping

is excess baggage.

The very freedom it promises does not appear

until we lay it down.”

-Tao- Verse 24 from the book A Path and A Practice


Dave and I have become enrolled in another Landmark seminar. It’s fantastic. The title alone was alluring enough to sign up right away (even though I did have my own reservations at first due to lengthy time commitments and an hour drive each way). Nonetheless- “Causing the Miraculous”. Ah, doesn’t everyone want the miraculous in their life? Don’t we all want to taste a miracle, have its very essence swirl around our being and continue to plunge into our soul where we become stirred enough to live differently? I certainly believe that’s enticing. Throughout my life, even though I was Christian and believed that God was the only one to grant miracles, there weren’t many in my life that I can count. My mom was severely ill throughout my teens. There was a time I sincerely believed that she was going to die; I had to mentally prepare myself in case this became a reality. It was during those days that I would pray hard…for a, yep, you guessed it, a miracle! Since I was in mainly in the dark with knowing the details of her condition, I didn’t have a lot of hope. As hard as I prayed she got pretty bad…a little bit better…and then worse than ever. I wanted off that roller coaster of sickening, depressive worry. I had no clue what to believe in at that point. I became angry. One friend at the time tried hard to convince me that trusting in God was the only way to not worry. So, after much debate, during the two treacherous weeks my mom was in the hospital nearly dying, I switched over to full on belief. But, I gave it up pretty quickly and flung all notions of prayer and God out the window. I remember saying at one point out loud, “God, or whoever, if this is really her time just take her already! I don’t want this, but I can’t handle the pain of not knowing.”

After all of this, my mom made it out. It was a slow recovery, but she lived. It was then I thought, ‘wow, what a miracle! Maybe now she’ll change her attitude and live a different, happier life.’ I’m not entirely sure that happened, as her gratitude for life didn’t grow as I had expected; she actually continued to be negative for a while. It was disheartening. So, instead of her having this brand new outlook on life, I grasped it tightly. I didn’t want to be miserable and negative. I realized life was too short. As difficult as it was, I squeezed my way out of it a little. Part of me believed it was the power of prayer that brought her back to life, yet that wasn’t my only miracle.

Dave was my next miracle. He was with me while I struggled with my mom’s health issues and long hospital stay. Without expecting anything or asking him, he just naturally became dedicated to helping me through it all. Talking with me and listening to me in person and emailing me profusely. Compassion flooded out of him and into me every time I saw him, which was every day, every other day at least. He just did it. Every word spoken and written to me held immense significance; there wasn’t a time when he didn’t say the perfect thing at the perfect moment. I felt peace and reassurance. Dave also was mentoring me to love my mom in ways I’ve never loved her before; he desired to see our relationship flourish. Those moments were beautiful and I will forever cherish them.

To this day, this man still releases his unconditional love to those who need it. Those who are far away in distance and those that he hasn’t spoken to in years. It totally astounds me how he is able to do this. The complete, selfless compassion that pours from his soul is beautiful and moving. Recently, he did this with someone he knows in Australia, and another friend that he reconnected with after years of not seeing her. I watched him help them in the exact way that he helped me. Honestly, lovingly, kindly, helpfully, selflessly. Miraculously! He’s my miracle.

Last year there was another incident where I witnessed Dave be generously giving. There was a homeless man that lived in an old, rusty van at our storage business. He was a recluse, schizophrenic, yet very much content with his lifestyle. One day, he was in a rage. Dave decided to drive down to the business to see what was up and to possibly chat with the homeless man. Even though the homeless man was upset and angry and yelling…Dave never got mad at him. Instead, he simply listened. He asked him a few questions about the current situation, then eventually asked where those feelings/actions of anger could have stemmed from. Due to the way Dave asked, the homeless man poured out his story of why he didn’t like being around people. Turns out, he was bullied a lot when he was much younger. Now, I wasn’t there when Dave had this conversation, but I during the recount, Dave told me that the homeless man thanked him and felt much better after. Again, true compassion.

I asked Dave how he does this. He actually said that sometimes it’s like flipping a switch. He’ll be in one frame of mind, and suddenly, when a situation would arise, he would switch to full on loving mode where he would be able to give himself fully. He admitted he loves when this happens as he “loves to feel.” Meaning, he loves feeling every emotion there is, especially the mushy ones. 🙂 And I love it, too! It’s an inspiration to me.

According to Landmark’s definition of a miracle, it’s an event in time that knocks your socks off and forces you to reinterpret life as you know it. Dave’s total soul-baring love has made me reinterpret life in the way that I question, “why aren’t more people like this?! Why am I not like this? It’s just…so natural and flowing with him. Deep and meaningful.” Everyone could use this type of deep love. In a tough situation, it takes seconds to get angry, lash out, scream, call names, blame, cry. But it takes minutes, hours, sometimes days or longer to find deeper compassion and actually express it. Whether it’s in the form of forgiveness or help. It takes more effort and time to be loving; there’s no simple chemical reaction firing away in the brain to help you do this as with anger. And that’s sad! Humanity as a whole needs to practice this sacred way of being. It would be wonderful if compassion came before judgement, if love came before automatic hate. Hate is based on fear and fear is based on the past. It’s a trend in everybody.

We need to take the time to be in the now. We need to take the time to break the trend of hate. Realize we are all full of love that’s just waiting to be poured out! In our communications, even during a difficult situation, no matter what that situation may be, think in peace. Be peaceful. Take hold of the situation and react in a kind, loving way without a loss of personal power. We are the only ones in control of ourselves. The more you practice, the more it will become natural. Realize that the moment you’re in will pass as you handle it with grace and ease. You also have to know that miracles won’t come if you expect them, if you try hard to make them happen.

I’m working on it, and yes, I’ll admit it is a bit of a challenge as I’ve been conditioned to just react in outbursts. When something happens, I try to stop myself in the moment and then think, ‘is this really worth getting worked up over?’ Usually the answer is no. Even after a situation has passed, I would think back and ask myself, ‘why did I get so upset? I just wasted a lot of time here.’

Take the time to be grateful for everything in life. Every challenge, every struggle. Everything! In the now there is gratefulness, in gratefulness there is peace. In peace there is happiness. In happiness there are miracles. Miracles are waiting for you! They will appear only if you create the space for them to live, breathe, and thrive.

Have you caused the miraculous to happen in your life lately?

What I’m Not

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Currently, I’m reading a mysteriously compelling book called, “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept” by Paulo Coelho. I’m very close to the end, but I felt that I couldn’t continue reading past a certain point without some contemplation and writing. This is the point I got to, and here are my musings of the passage.

(The main character is a young girl, Pilar, and in this section she’s walking and speaking with a priest whom she calls padre. They are talking about the beauty of God and how you can see God in everything, particularly in the enormity of the mountains.)

Padre: “Yes. But why not be like the mountains?” (Referring to their magnificent beauty)

Pilar: “Maybe because the fate of the mountains is terrible…They are destined to look out at the same scene forever.”

Pilar: “I was studying to become a mountain. I had put everything in its proper place. I was going to take a job with the state, marry, and teach the religion of my parents to my children, even though I no longer accepted it. But now I have decided to leave that all behind me in order to be with the man I love. And it’s a good thing I decided not to be a mountain–I wouldn’t have lasted very long.”


That was me. I was learning to become a mountain…to remain in one place, with the same people and to stare out at the same scene forever. I was a mountain to a degree. Growing up, it was seldom that I experienced anything new and exciting. Actually, it was seldom that I left my house, met someone new, or even got to travel. For a while I was strangely content with it all; I had slowly and painfully accepted my fate that that’s where I was to be and that’s the lifestyle I was meant to live. My house, my parents, and a few close family members and friends were all I had. In college, I branched out substantially more and absolutely loved it…but…I knew I always was going to return to the same place: back home. Going home for a break or a holiday was something that all my friends in Clarion couldn’t wait for. I remember living in the dorm, and when a break was coming up, everyone would be scurrying about packing and chattering endlessly about how elated they were to be going home to see their parents, their siblings and their pets. For me, it was the opposite. I would be leaving freedom behind for a week of (or in the case of summer, 3 months of) restriction. I worked, went places with my parents…as such, my mother was very controlling for the duration of my stay. Once home, I had to abide by her rules. As the years passed this became harder and harder, as in college I was breaking out and becoming freer and freer. I had the room to discover myself. Yes, there were tons of mistakes, but looking back, I’m thankful for all the mistakes. There were a lot of blessings as well. Everyone goes through these types of changes, but not everyone goes through the same family dynamic.

Over a year ago, I decided to never be a mountain. It wasn’t a question anymore. I had fallen in love with Dave, and nothing my parents said or did was going to stop me. That had nothing to do with wanting to rebel, rather, it had everything to do with my happiness, strength and my overall mental health. If I had stayed home, I wouldn’t have lasted very long. I most certainly wouldn’t have had all of the amazing, astounding experiences I’ve already had with Dave, I wouldn’t have met half the incredible, influential, inspirational people that I now know, and I definitely would have had a much harder time discovering my inner self. In fact, it’d be tricky to just be myself. I’m free now. I’m finding different avenues for work, I’m continuing to learn with Dave and grow both spiritually and mentally. My life is just about where I want it. Granted, there are some things not in place yet that I would like, but I’m maintaining the patience that’s needed in order to gain what I need. Overall, I’m happier, less stressed, calmer, and brighter.

Sometimes in life you have to take what you want in order to achieve full happiness. No one can give it to you. So many people go their entire life without knowing happiness. They cling to their desperation, anger, sadness, helplessness as those are the things they know most. They feel safe and secure and sadly, have no desire to transform because that’s all they know. It’s heartbreaking to watch that process. Worst of all, those that are trapped in that vicious circle of clinging have no clue of the joy that’s beyond their self-built walls–the walls are too high–they blocked out the sun, the warmth, the vast lands to be explored.

Some of my family is still crouched behind their walls. I have torn down the walls that I was in. What does that take? It takes courage, self-reliance, positivity, strength, belief, responsibility. Yes, there’s that word again. Seems a bit odd to say, but you have to be responsible for your own bliss. Too many others are negligent, and let that fragment of themselvs slip off into darkness. Therefore, they are not responsible.

Getting to where you want to be, to not be a mountain, but a river that flows and transforms whats in its path, means not taking into account the negatives that others may say. You have to rise above, let those words of hate, doubt, prejudice, etc. roll off of you, straight through you like an apparition. You can be a river…flow in the direction of your dreams and away from harm. If an obstacle appears on your journey, you can wash over it and transform it, potentially making it whole or you can find an alternate route and drift around it safely. There’s always a way.

Don’t give up. Ever. It is guaranteed that opposition will meet you when you least expect it. But, it’s not impossible to work with what you have and create a possibility to overcome it. Once you do, or as you do, take note of what the opposition was, how you felt. What did you really feel? Did you accept or reject these feelings and why? Did you learn anything new about yourself, your surroundings, or the people you were dealing with?

Lastly, love yourself. Love every part of who you are. Love the best features of your inner and outer self, along with those that you might not think are the best. Once you come to terms with your skin and soul you’ll realize there’s a whole world out there that’s just waiting for you–and they aren’t going to be mountains either.

Spread the love, spread the joy and be the river that your soul is destined to be.

Here’s a link to the Coelho’s book:

http://www.amazon.com/River-Piedra-Sat-Down-Wept/dp/0061122092/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1445648827&sr=1-1&keywords=paulo+coelho+by+the+river+piedra+I+sat+down+and+wept

What I’ve Found

I have found a path in life.

I have found God in every leaf in nature.

I have found pain and suffering.

I have found bliss and happiness.

I have found beauty in the ugliest places.

I have found my purpose.

I have found profound love.

I have found mysteries and adventures.

I have found answers and meaning.

Some of these things were easily found and some were not.

But as I collect my experiences, both good and bad, I remind myself that they are mine to keep.

No one can reach out a hand and snatch them away.

No one can speak deceitful or hurtful words, as they are like wispy smoke in dry air–light, transparent, meaningless.

They will drift off and vanish.

I have found a lesson in all of my experiences and kept every single one as to grow, shine and persevere.

And in those lessons, I have found transformation.

The caterpillar has to descend into its own darkness to emerge as a brilliant butterfly with wings that can carry them beyond any realm they’ve ever seen or been before.

In my transformation, I have found peace.

May you find peace and pleasure on your journey all the way through.

The Guidance of Nature

A fifteen minute hike over a windy, hilly moss-covered path- weighed down pack straining my shoulder blades, tautly rolled sleeping bag slug around my front, and an insulated blue bag of cheese, wine and silver chalices- this was my initiation to camping. Now, I don’t know about you, but I had the notion in my head that most children, or even teens would embark on this journey either with their parents or with their friends, typically year after year and would find it an exhilarating adventure. (Minus the wine of course). Whether my mental construction is true or not, I can say that I had never before had the pleasure of heading deep into the woods to do this…camping thing. Once, when I was little, my dad and I pitched our nifty largish tent with a little front porch on it in the backyard, just so I could at least experience what it’d feel like sleeping outside all night. Back then, I remember liking it, being mildly freaked out, and then becoming absolutely annoyed at the early sunrise, so when my dad got up at five in the morning to go to work, I headed out of the tent and back into the safety of my warm bed. Since then, until the other night I’ve never been in a tent.

Since being with Dave, he’s often talked about camping, showed me pictures and explained thoroughly that he loved it. Of course he offered to take me early on in our relationship, yet, to be unashamedly honest, I was terrified. Black night, a decent distance from the house, deep woods immediately behind the tent, potential threat for a 300 lb. bear to come stomping by…otherwise creepy rustling leaves in this blackness. Nope. Wasn’t having it. To make a long story short, in order to go camping, I had to overcome all of these fears. I guess the biggest one was feeling vulnerable. Spending the night in a seemingly flimsy tent completely isolated from civilization didn’t feel too reassuring to me.

Well, needless to say my fears were erased as time went on. We have hiked many times since my first encounter with the camping thought, and I’ve seen the exact location many times as well. Finally, I realized I could just trust Dave and that it would be fun. He assured me there were no bears on his camping experiences, no threats, nothing bad, nothing to worry about at all. I took his word. We planned the trip.

The campsite we stayed at was right on his mountain, so it’s completely private. To get to the woods, we take a short drive about half a mile down the road if that, and then get out and hike up the mountain for about fifteen minutes. In that short of a time, we arrive near the top of the mountain, the view- astounding. The entire valley below, far in the distance. Beyond the wide-spread valley, more hazy mountain ranges that appeared to be delicately layered on top of one another. You can see eye to eye with these far off mountains at least 60 miles. Thankfully, we’re not staying right in the heart of the woods, we’re in a nice open area, the ground made of huge, flat slabs of stone that probably were born out of the glaciers that once inhabited the space. There’s a small fire pit that Dave built out of loose, large rocks on one side of the flat rock surface. And at the back of this space, opposite of where we emerged out of the woods, there’s a flat, grassy patch where we placed the tent.

Pitching the tent wasn’t as tedious as I had imaged. I couldn’t be happier we tested out the whole tent-putting-up method before we set out as I had no idea how to put a tent up. Before doing so, I had crazy, cartoon images in my mind, you know, where a group or couple gets to their desired camping spot that stumble, trip and fall over each other attempting to erect a temporary shelter made out of fabric and metal. And of course that classic image came to mind of the tent being finished then as someone walks away looking all smug and satisfied with hands on their hips, comes crashing down with a puff of dust arising from beneath it. These were all of course folly. I learned quickly that tent setup was like nothing. For this, I was grateful.

The next step was gathering some wood and kindling for a fire. That wasn’t too painstaking either as there was an abundance of dried out sticks, twigs and logs to choose from. What I was dying for was the euphoria of placing a warm, crusty and browned-on-the-outside and gooey-on-the-inside marshmallow on top of a decadent Hershey bar piece in between two sweet, crunchy graham crackers. UGH. I could NOT for the life of me remember the last time I had this God-given delicacy that someone dubbed as a “s’more”. Soon after the fire was crackling and dancing towards the darkening, golden sky, Dave and I found perfect marshmallow sticks and engaged in the art of roasting.

Too soon, the spectacular sunset that set the sky ablaze with profound depth and beauty of gold, red orange, mixed with wispy white clouds melted into the horizon. The transition of day to night was breathtaking. Stars began to reveal themselves against the dark blue blanket and the moon slowly arose to the south illuminating the landscape with a surreal glow. Dave and I stargazed through binoculars and he pointed out constellations and single stars that were remarkable. After, we turned in to our tent for some late night, outdoor Yahtzee playing accompanied by Asti sparkling wine, Adams Reserve Cheese, and Chex Mix.

When it was time to sleep, I had the most difficult time finding a comfy spot amongst the lumpy grass clods beneath. I managed to wiggle myself into a decent space with my butt resting in a dip and my head against my pack. It was a rough sleep, but it worked out. In the morning, I couldn’t wait to get up, actually, I was hoping I was going to be able to move since my back felt like it was completely locked up a few times. Around 7 o’clock an extraordinarily loud bird began repetitively chirping a distinctive chirp. Over and over again it called out to the mountains and valley below. I had forgotten my earplugs and most certainly was not ready to get up yet. I carefully rolled over to Dave who was half asleep. He asked it I wanted to see the sun, which replaced the moon behind us, and cast a magical glow all around, but I was still in my half slumber, and declined.

When I finally did arise out of the tent that following morning I felt refreshed. Not because of a good night’s sleep, but because of being in the purity of nature. Dave and I took a short walk to a small adjacent meadow to look around, then headed back to pack up and make the hike downhill. I was a little sad leaving, as my first camping experience was truly wonderful and beautiful. I am thankful for my Love who owns the property and who was excited to take me. I am grateful for nature and what it told me while spending the night. It told me to relax, to feel safe and not to worry. The sky and full moon comforted me and the trees stood guard and held us tight. Even the birds we heard taught us something. When we were building the fire, Dave decided he wanted to call for a whippoorwill since they were around still, (he has an amazing ability to mimic these tiny creatures) and alas, when he did there were two of them that called back almost immediately. Their energies were blended with ours. What a magical, fun experience! I cannot wait to go camping again to feel the seclusion, closeness to nature and overall magic. 🙂

From June 12, 2014- Part of the Cycle

 Today, I finished a beautifully crafted and poignant memoir titled, Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. It is a book of triumph and tragedy. Of fact and faith. Heart and mind. The story is of a bird refuge in Salt Lake City, Utah and how with the changing of the lake and environment over the years, there was a changing of the patterns and cycles of the birds. She carefully wove that story with the changing patterns of her own family with her mom’s encounter and eventual death with cancer. What I truly admire most about this book, is not only Williams’ strength through hard times, but her true, dedication and connection to nature.

As I may not be closely connected or educated with birds, I can say that I have my own special connection to nature and feel that it’s been growing in me for years. The more I learn and experience and even meditate, the more I feel a sense of completeness. I feel more part of a sacred cycle.

As a child, I always wanted to play outside. Riding my bike, running around, in the dirt, being a boy and skateboarding and playing basketball and football, in winter sledding and snowboarding, even eating snow…all kinds of fun stuff. Looking closer, I enjoyed collecting different types of leaves and rocks and sticks. I kept them in the seat of my little plastic trike that opened up. Once I even had a bug collection. Nighttime was my favorite (still is) time of the day. I loved the dark, and felt nocturnal always wanting to be beneath the stars with wet dew on my feet. Around the time I was a teen, I began just sitting and reading and writing outside. At night, of course, I’d still be reading, and would do it in style by candlelight. Going back to being younger, my grandma would always come over on Saturdays to watch me while my parents went out. My favorite thing to do with her was to go for walks up the street and down one of the nearby side streets that loops around. I’d constantly be looking for things to collect, and loved to see the trees and comment on their leaves and incredible size. (I’ll also never forget the the couple trees that harbored all the caterpillars and how they carpeted the road and blanketed the leaves). And in winter, I loved playing for hours in the snow. As I got older, I began enjoying photography of the white stuff. And in spring and summer, the green stuff, especially the abundance of plants in our back yard.

All of these are some of my fondest memories. Now, since grown up, I feel a different sense of connection to nature. It’s not only the fascination and fun of diversity only pleasing to the senses, but a deeper awareness of life. I can appreciate all that’s going on. If you think about it enough, your brain will ache trying to picture all that’s happening in a single moment in nature. Kind of like all that’s happening in your body. Impossible. Yet amazing. Not many can truly appreciate the cycle of nature, the cycle that keeps us alive as well. Personally, I feel a connection to water. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve lived at a lake my entire life, but I just feel a bond with it. It’s brave and timid, gorgeous and destructive. A murderer and a life source. Such a yin and yang water is as it’s part of its own unique cycle.

As a woman, I have my own cycles that coincide with nature. Every month I shed my blood; life; a child that could have been. Every year, trees shed the leaves that gave us and other creatures life, only to be regrown to carry on the cycle. Nature is in a constant state of reproduction, therefore it’s not a virgin. Every creature and plant in nature possesses a freedom to intercourse. I have chosen that same freedom. I am not a virgin. I have become part of a divinity existing between Mother Earth and Heaven.

Nature is a feminist. A Mother who watches, protects and punishes. Giving sympathy to women who do the same yet don’t get treated as deserved. She weeps for the entire world. Sensitive yet resilient; not held back by anyone. Again, free. I long for a freedom such as that. I strive for it and somehow know it’s within reach. In the cycle.