Archive for March, 2012

“The Lord grant we may all be tillers of the soil.”

— Nikolai Gogol

This morning it is cold and dreary outside.  We have had an unseasonably warm start to Spring this year, with balmy temperatures blowing into town before the groundhog’s shadow had disappeared into the earth.  All week long, I’ve been walking past my garden bed — the one where I will grow vegetables this summer.  It is ready to be turned over and prepared for planting, and I thought today might be the perfect day to dive into the preparations.  Instead, it feels as though winter has returned; and I am painfully aware that the planting season really lies weeks in the future.

I just love gardening.  There is something healing about the way that getting my hands dirty cements the connection with Mother Earth.  It makes me feel like a partner in creation; and it brings to the surface the songs of my soul that play in harmony with the universe.  “The Lord grant we may all be tillers of the soil.”  Amen to that!

Not all gardening takes place outdoors and not all seeds are planted in the soil.  We all plant our seeds as we live our lives; and if we are good gardeners, we tend what we plant and bring life and beauty to our world.  Whenever we share love, something blooms.  Whenever we shine our light, we encourage something to grow and thrive.   Whenever we sow gentleness, we tend compassion.  Whenever we sow compassion, we tend peace.  Whenever we sow truth, we tend oneness.

Let us remember, as we walk through the world today, to be careful what we plant in the row we plow.  Let’s remember to water all that is good with our encouragement and to pull the weeds while they are small.

“The Lord grant we may all be tillers of the soil.”

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

— Vincent van Gogh

In the past three weeks, our life has changed radically.  Our granddaughter, Ivy, has joined a new basketball team.  She has played for years, but this time things are different.  She and a group of other girls her age have come together to form a seriously competitive team whose shared dream is to someday play college basketball.  The time commitment is huge.  Not only are their multiple practices to attend at the late end of already-busy school days, but there are day-off workouts, interrupted dinners, and long car rides to transport everyone to the gym.  These are not complaints, but simple statements of fact.  It is never easy to strive for excellence; and taking the things we love to the next level requires courage, commitment, and the devotion of our time and energy to our goals.

Not everyone chooses to pursue excellence.  There are always other choices we can make.  Our girls could be playing basketball in a recreational league somewhere.  They could enjoy their sport without the exertion, the demands, and the constant need to reach beyond their limits and become more than they are today.  Instead, they have chosen to test themselves and to break through the ceiling that limits them today so that they can see how far they can go.

It takes courage to test ourselves.  Sometimes we hesitate because we are afraid of failing.  We don’t want others to see us as inadequate  or unskilled, so we remain in our comfort zone and do only the things we already have mastered — especially when other people are looking.  We sometimes hold ourselves back in order to be comfortable with our limited success.

Worse than the fear of failure is the fear of success.  What we really hope our girls will learn as they stretch their limits and flex their muscles is the ability to see themselves as capable of solving problems and working with others and accepting their own growth toward adulthood.  When you are sixteen, it’s easy to worry that your success will increase other people’s expectations of you — and you worry that if you reach your limit, people will see you as a failure.  We hope for our daughters to learn through testing themselves that whenever they do the best they can, it is enough for today.  We also hope that they will build dreams that inspire them to do even better tomorrow.

We will have an exciting summer with many adventures in store.  We will learn a lot about our ability to commit to a goal and see it through.  We will join together as a family to help our girl reach beyond any self-imposed limits and discover that there is no reason to fear her own success.  There are no failures.  There are simply opportunities for trying again and again; but we must have the courage to test ourselves and to be truly alive.

The Last Dance

The Spring wind

Dances along the

Mountain’s edge.

Swirling, twirling,

Leaping, spinning.

Kissing the earth

With violets, and

Calling the trees

To bud.

Jack Frost

Springs from his

Hiding place,

Takes the wind’s hand,

Chilling, shivering,

Blowing clouds

Of icy breath,

Glazing the grass

Silver-white.

The Spring wind

Touches his heart,

Warms it with dreams

Of an earth renewed.

Sends him to slumber

Beneath the green.

Until, once again,

His season comes ‘round.

Melt

©Pamela Stead Jones 2012

“Each of us has a soul, but we forget to value it.  We don’t remember that we are creatures made in the image of God.  We don’t understand the great secrets hidden inside of us.”

— St. Teresa of Avila

One of my favorite things to do when driving in my car is to listen to audio books.  Last winter, I was introduced to the mystical thoughts of Teresa of Avila through Caroline Myss’ Entering the Castle.  My time in the car became a journey, not only from one location to another, but to the inner recesses of my own being.

I know, I know — that’s just a bit weird; but the most wonderful part of such a journey was the discovery that perhaps I am not so weird after all.  Perhaps I am a mystic.  I like the sound of that so much better than, “weird,” and it speaks to the source of my weirdness — the soul that truly defines me when all the external pieces fall away.

Some people love to drive.  They enjoy being behind the wheel and navigating through traffic or exploring the back roads.  I am not one of those people; but as I became a part of the journey to my inner castle, I began to enjoy opportunities to put myself behind the wheel.  My Lumina suddenly became a DeLorean, complete with a flux capacitor, as I traveled back to the future of my own awareness.  I thought of Teresa, an unobtrusive Carmelite nun, and how it must have been for her to find herself on a journey that lifted her out of the mundane and into the presence of the divine.  Perhaps she, too, thought she was a bit weird.  She certainly had far more to risk by speaking of her mystical experience than we do in present times.  The more miles I logged in my time machine, the more connected I felt to this woman I never met but know with all the depths of my being.

We let the words roll easily off our tongues — “made in the image of God” — but we should look past the mirror on our wall and into our soul’s mirror to see there the reflection of the Almighty who called us to shine his image into the dark corners of a tired world.

We all are busy.  We all have demands of work, of relationships, of puzzling our way through our lives each day.  In the midst of all that we do, let’s remember to value what lies within us.  Let’s take time to remember that we have a soul — that truly we are that soul.  Let us embrace the secrets that lie within us and remove our self-judgment so that we can let the image of God shine in all we do.  Let us cast aside the “weird” and pick up the mystical.  Go ahead.  Say it out loud.  “Mystic.”  Then slide into the driver’s seat of your own DeLorean and let the journey begin.


“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.”

— Joseph Campbell

Winter is done and Spring has arrived.  With the longer hours of daylight and the warmer weather, we’ve all been coming out of hibernation.  Friends who have been invisible during the cold winter months now appear here and there as I, too, return to the outdoor world and breathe out the stale indoor air and replace it with the fresh newness of a world reborn.  “How’s life?” we ask one another, again and again.  Invariably, the answer is one form or another of, “busy.”  There is nothing like a little spring fever to prompt us to fill our schedules with more than the hours of the day can accommodate.  It is good to be busy.  A full plate provides a satisfying feast at life’s banquet; but where can we go to take stock of who we are in the midst of what we do?  It is easy to allow ourselves to be defined by our activities.  What is more important is knowing who the person is that we bring to the things we do — keeping track of our purpose and intentions as we participate in life and making our own unique contribution to the time we share with others.

In order to participate fully in life, we need to take time to separate ourselves from the busyness long enough to stay acquainted with our own essence.  We must explore the sacred space that we carry in our soul and spend enough time there to stay in touch with who we really are.  Do you have a sacred space?  What does it look like?  What does it feel like?  When was the last time you took the time to sit for a while with yourself and discover who it is that you bring to the world?

I would like to share with you my own place of sanctuary.  Wishing you a bit of silence and reflection as you live your abundant life.

Sanctuary

In the sacred depths of being

Dwells a well of Light and Peace;

A holy place where Soul is whole,

And Truth is known, with no forgetting.

*

Set aside the heavy burdens

Of the world and misery;

Come away to new beginnings,

Rest in brief Eternity

*

Life, it’s said, is to be lived

And as we Journey, this is true;

But, step inside, take flight and live

The wholeness of created you.

*

Be still and listen; hear the music

That your Soul was born to play.

Accept the gift of this, your birthright,

Carry it upon your way.

*

Silent, in my Sanctuary,

There within my holy space,

I gaze into the Peaceful water

And, in that moment, see my Face.

© Pamela Stead Jones

From One Small Voice:  Poems of Peace & Light For a New Century, 2012 Edition

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls”

— Joseph Campbell

Suppose that the universe is a huge maze with many different solutions.  Suppose that the path to the end — or is it the beginning — for each of us is unique.  Suppose that the secret to finding our way is to follow our bliss.  There is something tempting about walking the road that already is paved.  We feel confident and secure when we see the white line along the edge that assures us we are staying on track.  The problem is that sooner or later we may discover that we are on our way to someone else’s dream.  When our own dream collides with the one that stands in our way, a wall goes up; and before we realize it, we find our nose flattened by the impact of running into the barrier.  We awaken from another person’s dream and change our course as we call back to life the dream that is our bliss.

Looking from above, we see that the labyrinth takes on a new shape.  It is the web of life, its threads spun in all directions from the source in the center.  Each place that someone walks, a new thread appears, and each thread is integral to the beauty of it all.  There are no barricades along the path that is blazed by our dreams.  There are no walls along the way to our bliss.

When you set out today to spin your own path and weave it into the web of life, remember that your own bliss is the only thing that will add the beauty you are born to bring to the world.  Without it, the web is incomplete.  Without it, you are incomplete as well.  Take up your spinning bobbin and unwind your thread.  The world is waiting for your bliss.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.  Without them humanity cannot survive.”

— Dalai Lama

Last week, as I walked across the porch at the side of my house, I spotted a tiny sparrow perched among the bare vines of the kiwi plant.

His colors blended so well with those of the vine and the post that stood behind it that I almost missed him until he called out and flipped his tail a bit as I approached.  Sparrows are such friendly little fellows.  Sometimes it seems that they actually beckon to me, eager to pose for my camera.

Last week, in response to another photo of a sparrow, a man shared a story about a time when a sparrow had become trapped in the warehouse where he works.  His compassion for the little bird was stirred; and he turned out all the lights, hoping that the little one would fly toward the open doors that led outside.  Instead, the sparrow found the light of a closed window.  The man gently cupped his hands around the bird, carried it to safety and released it to the sky.  “Oh!  How that felt!  Great!” he said.

I looked again at the sparrow, nestled safely in the vine.  I wondered whether he thought he was invisible there, since his own colors matched those of his surroundings.  I wondered whether he knew just how open the latticework really was and how easy it would be for someone to breach its barrier.  I thought of the gentleness that lay behind the man’s loving act in holding the other sparrow, without really touching it with anything but his deep compassion.

There is no reason why any sparrow or any human being in this world should have to worry about whether his hiding place will keep him from harm.  There is no reason why any being on this earth should want to touch another with anything but the compassion and love that is essential to our survival.  With gratitude for the sweetness of the sparrow that stirs our hearts to respond in love, let us walk into our day, let us extend the cupped and gentle hands of compassion to every creature we meet.  With love and compassion, we can heal our world.

That time of year is upon us again.  The forsythia is gleaming golden along the banks of the stream.  The maples have budded and bloomed, and the birds are courting in their branches.  After thinking about it for a week or so — because such things require serious thought — I finally concluded that the time had come to clear away what was left of winter and mow the lawn.  A late October snowstorm had blind-sided us with winter, and we never really did clear away the last leaves that blew into the corners as winter crashed the party.  The yard looked so nice this winter, covered in the light snows that came and went, and inconspicuous against the monochromatic winter sky.  Now, with all the world springing back to life, it was clear that there was work to be done.  I laced up my recycled sneakers — the ones with the permanent grass stains — and slowly trudged toward the shed that held the mower.  After a fill-up and a few attempts at priming the engine, a pull of the cord brought it roaring to life.  I began to walk the old familiar pattern that covers every square foot of our irregular backyard.  Like a hungry beast, just awakened from his winter hibernation, the mower gobbled up everything in its path.  Roar!  There goes a twig!  Grrrr!  The leaves along the edge of the berry patch are pulverized and drawn upward to the collection bag.  From time to time, I stop to empty its contents into the vegetable bed.  Soon it will be turned over for this year’s planting, and the mulched leaves will be mixed with the soil to enrich it as they decay.

I laugh as I walk, with the mower leading the way, thinking how peculiar it is that I always drag my heels and procrastinate when it is time for the first mowing of Spring.  Until I begin my winding path around plantings and between trees, I forget how much I love the sweet, crisp air, the predictable motion, and the way that a March morning can reach right inside my soul.  I walk the backyard labyrinth.  Like a silent monk, I walk in contemplation.  The sound of the mower’s engine escapes my awareness as it shuts out the rest of the noise and allows me to walk the inward path toward my center.  Whir!  Another pile of debris flies into the mower’s bag.  I gently sweep the remnants of winter’s rest from the corners of my heart.  Roar!  Grrrrr!  The beast devours the final scraps of a year gone by, and the last bag of debris is emptied inside the garden fence.  I look around the chamber of my heart and see that it is ready for another year.

A flash of green catches my eye as I walk toward the house; and in the garden of my soul, an iris waits to bloom.

Mysterious Morning

Shrouded in the mist,

The still-bare trees

Stand silent on

The first day of

Rebirth.

Ψ

Mystery hangs in

The unmoving air,

Thick with vapors,

Remnants of

The night.

Ψ

Perhaps at night

When we cannot see

The silent fog comes

Whispering secrets

Hush.

Ψ

Where each new bud

Prepares to burst,

Its moist caress awakens

Life, before the

Dawn.

Ψ

Shrouded in the mist,

The stirring trees

Feel the tingle

Of their buds

Awakening

Ψ

Mystery fades as the

Mist melts down,

And branches stretch

Toward rising sun.

Spring

Ψ

©Pamela Stead Jones 2012

“One never goes so far as when one doesn’t know where one is going.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have a GPS unit in my cell phone.  When I am traveling to a new destination, all I have to do is enter the address, tell the GPS to “GO,” and follow its instructions.  It has taken some of the stress out of navigating a new route when I’m trying to drive at the same time; and I like the way it predicts my arrival time.  I don’t like to be late, and my trusty GPS has the power to assure me that I will arrive before my deadline.  It has shortened my trips, and for the most part this is a good thing; but sometimes I wish I could set it for the scenic route and do a little exploring while being confident that I still will reach my destination.

Before I had my GPS, I would consult a map, plot a path, and do my best to follow it.  There was no bossy electronic voice to tell me when and where to turn; and sometimes I would be surprised to discover that the road I had planned to take went only one way — in the opposite direction.  Then I would be on my own, searching for a new way to reclaim my route and return to my pre-designed path.  I didn’t always like the feeling of being lost in a strange location.  How would I find my way?  How would I discern a friendly face in a sea of unfamiliar people — someone who would give me the right directions to get back on track?  Worst of all, for me, was the dread of arriving late and keeping people waiting and worried at the end of the line; and then there was the added feeling of ineptitude that would go along with admitting I could not follow a map and was lost.

Since my map problem is a chronic one, I have had many opportunities to experience these feelings.  What is more memorable, though, is the way that these roundabout trips always seem to be the most interesting travel experiences I’ve had.  They have allowed me to open myself to meeting strangers whose kindness leads them to help a lost soul.  They have taken me on beautiful country roads that I would have missed by following my planned route.  They have shown me wonderful little towns that are not on the maps but contain a world all their own, right in the middle of somewhere that would have been nowhere to me if I had followed my plans.

At the times when I’ve been lost and on a deadline, owning a GPS seemed like a wonderful dream.  Now that I have one, I find myself longing for the adventure of setting out alone, without the voice of authority that resides in my phone.  Now I find myself planning to set aside some time and travel without an impersonal navigator, blazing my own trail from here to there; and when I arrive late, I will not say it is because I was lost.  I will hold tight to every place my adventure takes me, and when I arrive late, I will say, “Sorry I’m late — I found a new way to get here.”