Friday, November 30, 2012

Spread a Little Thanks Around

"When we habitually count our blessings, we don't concentrate on the bad things that happen....When we consciously count our blessings in one arena, we start to see them everywhere else." Christine Carter.

How are you fixed for gratitude? Got enough? Want more? Start saying the two magic words and see what changes for you. Last night a friend and I had a long before bed conversation. I particularly appreciate her for the support and encouragement she gives me as an artist. After we hung up, I was asked if I'd said thank you. I didn't. I think I'm right in assuming she knows how thankful I am, but what if she doesn't. What if she needed just a little more appreciation. What would we each gain if I did say thank you?

Research is showing gratitude is associated with increased self worth, increased social connection, and when we habitually count our blessings, we don't concentrate on the bad things that happen. Now don't we all need a lot more of that? I sure do.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for pointing me in the direction of writing a morning prayer. I am so grateful for the many blessings this has brought me. I'm grateful for readers who appreciate what I've written and who let  me know about it. I'm grateful I've become happier and more relaxed with myself and others as I've concentrated on finding three things each night I'm grateful for and exchange that list with a friend. Help me remember to share my appreciation and gratitude by saying thank you. My goal for the day is to thank at least five people for contributing to my life. Amen

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Learning to Listen to my Life

"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis, all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace." Frederick Buechner

Grace isn't a word I grew up with, though the concept is there in my upbringing. I like this definition: blessings that come from above regardless of merit. I like the idea of listening to my life and recognizing all moments are key moments. The trick for me is to hold on to this concept, hold it lightly and recognize that I sleepwalk through my life a good bit of the time and take myself much too seriously. My hands are often grasping my to do list or fisted through tension or anger or sadness and not open in supplication to receive what each day offers. What if today I admitted my life is a fathomless mystery and I went around with my tongue out to taste it, my nose twitching to smell it, and my ears turned inward and outward listening for its hidden heart beating minute to minute no matter how I hold my fists? If I could just hold on to this idea through breakfast, I might know things I've never known before.

Baruch ata my goal is to pay attention to how I hold my hands. May they be open, inviting, relaxed. What could I hear through them if I listened. I'm on the right track, right? Amen

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Morning Musing

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Howard Thurman

What would make me feel most alive today? When I was raising children or had a job, this great expanse of an unscheduled day to do anything I want seldom happened. Everyone who reads this today will wish this were their biggest problem of the day. I can hear one friend, you know who you are, telling me to shut up, go eat breakfast and stop thinking so hard. The day opens before me, and I can do anything I want, but this day starts with a requirement: ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. What would I miss if I spent the day in bed? I want this day to mean something.

Baruch ata adonai... I need silence. I need the kind of silence where I'm not talking to anyone and especially not to myself. I hear you saying, "and don't talk to me either." I think I'll make prayer flags today and see where they take me. Then I'll give them all away. Amen

Monday, November 26, 2012

Committing to Art Every Day

"Despite our culture's well-earned reputation for encouraging instant gratification, we are not encouraged to act decisively upon our creative desires. We are trained to think about them, doubt them, second-guess them. We are trained in short, to talk ourselves out of committing art or committing to art." Julia Cameron

After writing the paragraph above, I decided to check out the website Creative Every Day to see what she had to say about talking myself out of committing art. I will follow her beginning in December. By clicking on a provocative box on that page, I came upon a blog devoted to improving my experience on Blogger, the platform I use to write to you, and then I thought to myself, my, aren't I avoiding something here! Next thing I know, I'll be cleaning out my studio again. A great way to seem to be doing art but not.

There is an assemblage I'm enjoying talking to that's not coming together, yet I'm confident it will. Each day I move things around and ask what's missing. It has changed a lot, and while it is changing, so are my thoughts on what I want it to be. I am committed to it. Then there are the unfinished paintings. I've moved them so my eyes run smack into them first thing in the morning. "Hmmmm," I say each day. "Let's start drawing. Or maybe I'll write." Here I can see I'm more into doubting and definitely into second-guessing.

Creating art is a slow process. There's plenty of time to doubt, to second guess. Each day I sit down to write or pull out my drawing pens to do a page of imaginary animals, I tell myself I am creating art. Even though I don't have a finished project, I am setting my mind in motion and heading in the right direction.

Baruch ata adonai...I am excited about admitting to myself I create art every day. Each time I sit down and draw or consider an unresolved work and add to it in some way, I am taking myself seriously. How refreshing! Amen

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day 2012

"Accepting the person next to you as a fellow human, struggling and striving and falling down just like we all do, is hard. Looking at a family member with new, unconditionally loving eyes often requires a letting go of years of small and big tensions. But to exercise that love, acceptance and gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day is good for our hearts. It is great, soul-expanding, heart-stretching stuff. Hopefully, it re-orients us in a deeper way to what really matters in life."  Ann E. O'Shaughnessy

Baruch ata adonai... today may I look at my world through loving eyes and allow my heart to soften. May I have the strength to focus on what really matters. Thank you for being with me and leading me on my way. Amen

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Picture the Answer to Your Prayer

"Your desire is your prayer. Picture the fulfillment of your desire now and feel its reality and you will experience the joy of the answered prayer." Dr. Joseph Murphy

I'm on the waiting list for an art retreat in Mexico in January 2013. I attended this year and it was the beginning of a vibrant year of art for me. When I saw this quote, I wrote it down and put it up in my office where I'll see it every day. See me there in that lovely courtyard in San Miguel de Allende playing with color and stretching myself to the max? This morning I thought it's a good reminder for the big and small things in our lives and a wonderful quote for Thanksgiving too.

Baruch ata adonai...I am thankful to be celebrating Thanksgiving Day with family and friends. May our drive there and back be safe. May my heart be open and grateful. May my friends be safe in their journeys on this national day of football and thankfulness. Amen

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Blessing of Awareness

Funny thing about Thanksgiving, the opening event of the season of ritual correctness and hopeful anticipation. It seems the entire cast of our inner feelings and voices want to be invited in too, especially the ones we don't usually allow in the front door: the painful pitiful ones, the ones who lurk in darkness, the ones that make us numb ourselves. So before you leave for the event, be sure to fluff up your inner witness.

If you've ever meditated, you have that witness in your tool chest, that witness who is present to the rise and fall of emotions without being carried away by their power. The factory model comes equipped with compassion, curiosity, love and tenderness. When a bit of fear or resentment or a feeling of being left out or under appreciated comes into your awareness, it's important your inner witness puts her arm around her and breathes with her and then lets her go. She does best if she doesn't become the center of attention.

Martha Beck has a great suggestion. Think of a person (or situation) you love, but about whom you feel some level of anxiety, anger or sadness. Think how your loved one (read that as the dark anxious part) must alter her behavior before you can be content. Then complete the following sentence by filling in the name that fits (a person for example or a feeling) and the way you'd feel if the change occurred.
If _____would only_____, then I could feel_____. Then scratch out the first clause and all that remains is I could feel _____. This last sentence is the truth. The cooperation of others or even parts of yourself would be nice, nevertheless, you can feel the way you want to. Even peaceful.

Perhaps something that has worked for me when I've gone to events I'm not sure about may work for you too. I imagine I'm in a foreign country. I don't know the customs or even the people. I'm an interested and neutral observer entertained by the local way of doing things.

Baruch ata me to enjoy my big noisy family and their many friends. Help me to use all my tools and  be amused and enriched by their enthusiasms. May I feel peaceful and thankful. Amen

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Blessing of Family

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
Jane Howard
Live long enough and you’ve acquired lots of families. For me, there’s the family I was born into and lived with eighteen years, the real and mythical family two friends and I invented and wrote stories about still going after fifty years, the many different groups of friends who became family, the family my husband and I created, and now the family of my grandchildren including their friends and in laws. These are the people I celebrate with, the people who often remember my birthday, remember my history when I’ve forgotten it.  They are the strength and the snags in the fabric of my life. I miss my family when I’m not with them. I’m happy to leave them after we’ve spent time together. All my families have created who I am today. Writing about the blessing of family is a huge topic and is as confusing as family itself. 
Baruch ata I’m writing this prayer, I keep getting stuck. I wanted to write a simple thank you, and then I wrote and erased thoughts about being lucky and then you started talking to me about it not being luck...that I’ve worked to create relationships, and then I started talking to you about how I could do better, and then you agreed. Thank you for bringing me to this Thanksgiving season and letting me know I’ve done well and I can do better with the grateful part. Amen

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Blessing of Friendship

“Existence takes on the character of a still-life in a Cezanne. There is a table. Upon the table, a plate. Upon the plate, some apples. Nothing else....There is more in these things than meets the eye: more than the simple individuality of each thing....It might even be that mystery is the very stuff of being: things, events, everything that happens and which we call life.” Romano Guardini

I recall with some clarity the beginning of many lasting friendships, especially the ones upon which I pivoted to meet a new world in myself. Friends have shaped who I am as a person. With friends, I come close to the being person I always intend on being. My friends are forgiving people. They know the me that turns up one day with a bad hair day mood is only the person I think I am at the time, not who I really am.There are mysteries in the heart of friendship. Why am I attracted to you? Why are you attracted to me? Why of all the people we know are we still friends after all these years? Do you know I’m me because of you? 

Baruch ata adonai...I am so profoundly grateful for the blessing of friendship. Amen

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Blessing of Community

“We’ve gotta have a great show, with a million laughs...and color...and a lot of lights to make it sparkle. And songs-wonderful songs. And after we get the people in that hall, we’ve gotta start em laughing right away. Oh, can’t you just see it...” Judy Garland, “Babes in Arms” 1939

“There is a certain ecstasy that you experience when you work collaboratively with other people....The rewards are built in. It has to do with your own growth and development.....We need to be together in community.” Julie Glover, from Issue 4 of  Heron Dance

In the past month, I’ve laughed until I cried (isn’t that something we don’t get enough of), watched the latest James Bond movie, spent two happy hours singing, talked books and politics, created art, Googled, talked films and politics, and the common denominator that created joy and sparkle, color, intensity and satisfaction is community. It’s hard to describe connection; I know it when I experience it, and the more connected I am, the happier I am. I’m a person who loves alone time, and I especially enjoy that when I can look forward to being with others.

There's a difference between being alone and being lonely. In the past I experienced great swaths of loneliness. Now I recognize that old companion when it comes knocking, recognize it as a real feeling, but not a reality. It's a gimmick that reminds me I'm feeling depressed or sad or temporarily helpless. It's a reminder to stop being the Lone Ranger.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for the blessing of community and for my ability to reach out and create it for myself. Amen

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Blessing of Health

Have I been naughty or nice? Will I count my blessings or the number of people at the Thanksgiving table? Can I make changes now rather than resolutions seven weeks from now? I’m beginning to take stock. 

Today I’m thinking about the blessing of health, not the absence of illness, but the kind of health that allows me to have emotional equilibrium, mental clarity, physical endurance, energy, vigor and vitality. Though on occasions I slide off the tail end of the emotional equilibrium scale, though I now accept different standards for mental clarity, though I now have the slower steadier pace of the long distance runner rather than the sprinter, though I’ve had surgeries, broken bones, difficult diagnoses, I’ve always been willing to work for health, and I’ve been lucky!

I am so grateful for the gift of curiosity and the creative and physical energy that allows me to follow where it may lead. This year I’m also grateful for medical science that has enabled my husband to continue to pursue his interests and activities, when for too long it seemed he wouldn’t be able to do so. 

Baruch ata adonai...I never imagined I’d be in the prime of my life in my seventies. Amen

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Act on Your Truth

“What is your truth? Ask your heart, your back, your bones, and your dreams. Listen to that truth with your whole body. Understand that this truth will destroy no one and that you’re too old to be sent to your room.”

There are times in our lives we must loosen our tethers and bravely strike out into new territory. We may be holding our breath, biting our cheeks, crossing our fingers, raising our eyes in prayer, all rather awkward positions to sally out into the world, nevertheless we go because we know we must. Because it is actually harder not to go forth. Remember the first day of school? Remember the last time you held your breath, said a prayer and took a first step into the unknown? Remember the thrill of it being over and knowing you did something more than you ever had before and now you know you can do it again? If you believe in what you are doing, eventually you must take a step out of your favorite nest and fake flying until you realize your wings are flapping like crazy. Right now. Listen to yourself flapping.

Baruch ata adonai...please watch over my friend who is taking a mother-may-I giant step in life. Watch over all of us who know we can do what we haven’t done before. Help us to trust ourselves and be brave and bold. Amen

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No More Than Anyone Else

No more than anyone else, I’m relieved it’s over, relieved not to be sickened each morning by the billions it has cost in this election cycle for so much hypocrisy, so much cynicism, for so many lies, for the same vacuous phrases repeated with so much sincerity. I take heart that more women have been elected to the senate. I take heart in the multicolored election night supporters who waited for the President to make an appearance in Chicago. I take heart that two more states support the right of gays to marry.

I wanted to write about something else, but I couldn’t while the election hangover sits like a mould crusted boulder in my path. I wish I had something else to say this morning. Right now, my imagination needs to be revived after so much sand bagging. 

Baruch ata adonai...I’m looking for positives this morning and I want to say how grateful I am for the farmers and for the organization that delivered a box of fresh vegetables to my front door at 4:30 AM, even though it woke up Gracie who didn’t stop barking. There are gorgeous beets, winter squash, fennel, onions, chard, leeks, kiwi waiting for me. The colors are intensely green and red. I want to bury my face in their freshness. Thank you for the integrity of those who provide fresh healthy food for my body. Amen

Monday, November 5, 2012

As Long As There Is Joy

I am lucky to have found a creative life that suits my spirit. The two are synergistic, and when I feed one, the other seems to grow. Yesterday I emailed a friend and found myself putting out goals for next year. Sharing makes what I’m doing clearer to me too and putting it out makes me more accountable to myself. At the same time, I’m all about what I wrote the other day: doing for the joy of doing. I would, however, like to push myself to go a bit farther, to take myself a little more seriously, delve more deeply into what I am currently doing and find more there. As long as there is joy.

Baruch ata aren’t surprised, but I sure am. Thank you. Amen

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wisdom on a Hang Tag

"Continuous, calm, powerful use of the will shakes the forces of creation and brings a response from the infinite." Paramahansa Yogananda

While cleaning out a box of art supplies, a lovely tag with these words dropped out. Where did it come from? I pick up stuff from the street...virtually everything can become an art supply. This one may have come from a yoga bag I bought from REI or a mat from TJMaxx. The white print message overlays what might be a river bed, though one of the rocks could just be a shark. The tag was printed on 100% post-consumer waste with soy-based inks. It's a piece of art in itself.

As an artist, I think this message showed up now as a reminder to me to keep doing what I'm doing because I enjoy the doing. I haven't found powering through or using will power very helpful as a positive creative tool. It does take a fair amount of will though to keep writing every day, to practice drawing every day. Every once in a while I have a great breakthrough. Every once in a while I write with ease or am delighted by a drawing I've never seen myself do before.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for this serendipitous reminder to breathe and to be mindful and patient. Amen