Archive for August, 2012

“If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.”

— Orville Wright

What is true, is true.  There is no escaping the truth.  Ultimately, the truth will make itself known.

Where we go astray is in assuming that we know what is true.  If there is anything I’ve learned in my six decades of living, it is that there are very few things that we really know.  Mostly, we live our lives based upon assumptions that we have decided to accept as our own truth; but even those assumptions sometimes break down and leave us to gather our wits and decide the next place to invest our trust.

Whether we like it or not, we live a life of experimentation.  We test our hypotheses and hope to discover that we have moved in the right direction.  What is important is that we continue to question, to posit, and to explore.  An inventor like Orville Wright certainly could reflect on all the times he was told that something heavier than air would never get off the ground; but what about us?

We are the inventors of our own destiny.  We reach and sometimes grope, we step and sometimes fall as we make our way along the trail we blaze toward discovering our truth.  Do we lose confidence when people tell us we will never reach our goals?  Worse yet, do we deliver the message to ourselves that accepts something less than our truth as being all that we are?  What if we could accept that the truth is a treasure to be discovered and not a destination.  Could we stop thinking that we have arrived and stop criticizing ourselves because we still have not uncovered the absolute truth?  What is important is the journey.  Let’s not limit our truth by putting a lid on it.  Keep asking questions.  Keep imagining new hypotheses.  Who knows where it might lead?  What is important is to be truly ourselves and never stop walking.

“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.”

—  Dalai Lama

Yesterday I had a hard time remembering that.  It’s a little complicated, but suffice it to say that we did something good — something that was definitely the right thing to do — and now it is going to ruin our budget for a very long time.  And it came at a time when we were just beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We were starting to believe that one day, before we are too old to enjoy it, we might be retired.  We dreamed of taking a couple of trips together and celebrating our long-awaited honeymoon.  Now we face another round of serious belt-tightening, all because we did the right thing. It’s funny how we can hold to our high ideals when life seems to be moving in the direction we want to go.  It’s funny how quickly our confidence can be shaken when the things we want don’t come our way.

This is not the first time we have perched on the edge of disaster and wondered where the fairness is in life.  It is not the first time we have been reminded that life is not fair and that the control we think we have over our own destiny is limited at best.  The question that arises is how such times can be construed as wonderful strokes of luck.

The answer is this:  it is only when the things that really don’t matter are stripped away that we see with crystal clarity the things that really do matter.  It matters that we will face adversity together and be there to remind each other that doing the right thing is its own reward.  It matters that we are resourceful and experienced, due to other unexpected strokes of luck; and it matters that deep inside, we know that we will learn more wonderful things about who we really are as we refuse to sell out our principles for the price of exacting fairness.

Yesterday I had a hard time remembering that not getting what I want can be a wonderful stroke of luck.  Today I am feeling fortunate and confident and incredibly blessed.  Bring it on, world — whatever you have to send my way, I will remember to do what is right.  Because that’s how we roll.

“The only thing that stands between a man and what he wants from life is often merely the will to try it and the faith to believe that it is possible.”

— David Viscott

“I just took a leap of faith,” you hear people say.  We all have done that at one time or another when we reach a crossroads and need to decide which way to turn — left or right.  We can see the options clearly, but can only imagine where our choices might lead us.  And so we jump, we make the leap of faith, and land on the path we have chosen.

Leaps of faith are different from the everyday decisions we make, the ones that don’t really alter our path but seem to be the logical choice that will lead us in the direction that is most advantageous.  In a leap of faith, the pieces that allow for a logical choice are not all available, and we need to follow our hopes and our dreams in the direction we choose without full knowledge of what lies ahead.

Faith.  It is the deep knowing that we carry that everything will be all right.  It is the deep conviction that no matter how rough the road might be, we will reach our destination.  Leaps of faith are training exercises.  They prepare us for the times when the fog lowers and we cannot see beyond the tip of our own nose.  It is then that our choice closes in and we are called upon, not to leap, but simply to step into the unknown and trust that there will be a place for our foot to touch down.  Baby steps of faith are powerful things.  They are the way we keep on going when the whole world seems to want us to grind to a halt.  And so we step, unable to see beyond the tip of our own nose, but confident that the things we need for the journey are not lost in the fog but deep inside of us.  Sometimes the ground is solid when we step, and sometimes we find that we have stepped off the edge of what we know.  It is in that moment that we notice we have sprouted wings and have learned to fly.

Take a leap of faith when you reach a crossroads.  Do it every time and be confident in your choices.  With enough practice, you will be ready to fly when the fog descends.

“The means to gain happiness is to throw out from oneself like a spider in all directions an adhesive web of love, and to catch in it all that comes.”

— Leo Tolstoy

Earlier this year, I participated in a class called Soul Love. It was based on a book with the same name, written by Sanaya Roman.  During our time together, the group that met expanded our awareness of love — its infinite potential and the limitations we place on it when we love conditionally.  This group of women has met many times to explore many ways that we can help to bring healing to the world, and one focus we always try to maintain is to limit duality in our thinking.  It is not “either/or,” but “both/and” that we hope defines our lives.  Love — soul love and love with limitations — fits this bill nicely.

We are human; and that means that we suffer all the conditions and limitations that our minds and emotions might place on us.  It’s really okay, because that is the thread we add to the tapestry of life — a colorful one that fills the picture with with many varying shades of pigment and many varying spots of darkness and light.  But beneath all of that, if we explore the space inside ourselves, we discover a sort of love that is not dependent on circumstances or fears or thoughts or emotions.  It is a pure and crystalline sort of love that lifts us above the pitfalls of our humanity and reminds us that we carry within us a spark of the divine.  This is Soul Love, and this is what we aspire to send out like a web to trap others in its radiance.

Our humanity might want to tell us that our love is limited — that it is either/or.  Either we attain such a level of spiritual awareness that we love only with purity and without judgment, or we are something less — something limited and judging and hobbled by the conditions we place on ourselves and others.  Our soul knows the truth.  It knows that we are both/and — both human and divine — and that our divine nature forgives our humanity while our human nature is drawn toward the part that is divine.  What matters is that we don’t forget to love both parts of the creature we were created to be.  Only then can we hope to send out the web of love that can capture another soul with its sweetness.  Unite with others and encourage one another.  Send out your webs of love and trap all who pass your way.

“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.”

— Ethiopian Proverb

“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”

— Will Rogers

Have you ever had one of those days?  You know the sort I’m talking about.  Yesterday was one of those days, and every time I told myself, “well, it can’t get any worse than this,” something else would go wrong — not huge, life-altering stuff, but just snag after snag after snag in a day when I ended up feeling like I should have stayed in bed.

I have been sleeping really well lately and having nights filled with vivid and memorable dreams.  Only yesterday — uh-oh, there’s that day again — I had remarked to my sweetheart that I was really enjoying the sort of uninterrupted sleep that spawns dreams and leaves me feeling truly rested in the morning.  I should have kept my mouth shut.  Yesterday brought me vivid dreams, but they were filled with squirrels who scampered around my living room and ate holes in the walls.  I suppose those squirrels might have been the snags of yesterday, come to life in a chaotic scenario.

I woke up this morning feeling like the squirrels of yesterday still were gnawing holes in my being — but that was yesterday.  Today is a new day, and I have my spackle all ready to patch the holes.  Yesterday was one of those days.  You know the kind.  But I refuse to let yesterday eat holes in today.  Today is a fresh, new opportunity to live and love and rise above the snags that are really very small and hardly last a minute or two.  The huge pile of snags and the squirrels who want to consume my day belong to yesterday.  Bring on today.  I am ready for it!

“Truth is not only stranger than fiction, it is more interesting.”

– William Randolph Hearst

When I was a girl, I loved to read.  Fairy tales and fables were my favorites, and I devoured several volumes of the Junior Classics many times over before my childhood ended.  As I grew older, I began to enjoy all sorts of fiction — love stories, stories of suspense, dramatic stories that were filled with excitement — and always, in the end, good won over evil and the hero(ine) lived happily ever after.

Maybe it is part of the aging process that has changed my tastes; but the older I get, the more I enjoy reading the true stories of human existence.  I love to read the tales of folks who have faced challenges or adversity and managed to prevail.  I love to hear about the courage that overcomes the struggle, because it encourages me to dig beneath my own exterior and find that part of myself as well.

Fantasy is fun, but it is the true story of heroic perseverance that provides the sort of meaty feast that this reader prefers.  No writer of fiction could possibly dream up the twists and turns that real living has to offer, and that is what makes truth so much more interesting than fiction.  Stories are writing themselves all around us every day.  We can dream of smooth roads with predictable ends, and that can be fun to do; but for the real adventure, we must simply open our eyes and see how amazing it can be to travel the rocky road of life.

Enjoy your truth.  It really is more interesting than fiction.

“The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by.”

— Felix Adler

Several years ago, I became enthralled with a television series called, “Heroes.”  It was a science fiction sort of program, and the plot centered around seemingly ordinary people who had acquired super-human powers which designated them as either Heroes or Villains.  There was not much plot between those two extremes, and the battles of good vs. evil were almost as clearly written as those of the westerns I watched as a child — the ones where the white hats always won.  I think we enjoy these sorts of dramas because they take us to the two ends of our own humanity — good and evil — and we see ourselves in the heroes and in the villains.  We get to choose where we will live on that continuum.

I have no super powers, and I never have met anyone who does.  We live in a world where such things are simply science fiction, and we live in a world that cries out for heroes.  Perhaps our journeys to the world of fantasy can take our spirits to the heights necessary for us to aspire to heroic actions, even within the limitations of simply being human.  We cannot lift trains off their tracks or leap over tall buildings or fly to the rescue of humanity; but we can be heroes.

No man or woman can solve the problems of our world alone.  It takes the combined commitment and effort of many to make even a dent in the troubles that are part of being human.  Still we need heroes; and the heroes are the ones whose light shines so brightly that it not only illuminates her own path, but also lights the way for other travelers.  When dark days come, it is tempting to wish for super powers that could eradicate the darkness with one wave of the hand.  This is the stuff that science fiction is made of, but reality is another thing entirely.  In the very real world, the hero is the one who perseveres at shining light into the deepest darkness.  The hero is the one who trusts that even a bit of light can make a dent.  The hero is the one who never fails to shine and encourages others to shine as well so that together we can overcome the darkest night.

None of us can fly.  None of us can stop a train with an outstretched arm.  But we all can be heroes if we simply remember to shine.

My calendar is marked for next Wednesday, August 16.  That is the day of Noah’s scheduled arrival, our seventh grandchild and third child of our son, Daniel.  Noah had other plans.  A week before his scheduled arrival, he woke his mother in the middle of the night, demanding to be born.  Within hours, our daughter-in-law was in the operating room, and the doctor began her c-section delivery.  And life stood still.

There is a pause in the life of a family when a new baby makes his debut.  We inhale, hold our breath in anticipation, and as soon as the fingers and toes are counted we breathe a sigh of relief and gratitude and start the clock once again.  Early Wednesday morning,we sat in the waiting room of the Labor and Delivery suite and drew in a deep breath.  On Friday afternoon, we finally exhaled, and life began again.  Noah apparently likes hide-and-seek, and he was hiding behind the placenta.  This meant that the doctor had to go through it to deliver our little guy.  Mommy and Noah both lost some blood in the process, and they ended up in the perinatal unit and the NICU instead of the cozy family room they had planned.  And life stood still.

It stood still while Noah’s tiny lung was partially deflated by air that had leaked into his chest.  It stood still while his mommy had transfusion after transfusion of blood, plasma, and platelets in an effort to help her heal from the unplanned trauma of such an unusual birth.  It stood still while she returned to the operating room for additional intervention that allowed her to mend.

So much takes place in that breathless silence between the inhale and the sigh of relief.  We returned again to see a baby in the NICU — five years after Cheyenne’s five-week stay in a similar place.  Memories flooded back of the very sick little girl whose first three years were filled with trips to “Cheyenne’s hospital,” as the girls call it.  Now we stood at a tiny bedside in “Mommy’s hospital,” and our concerns for little Noah were tempered by the perspective we had gained about what was serious and what was life-threatening.  Our strength from Cheyenne’s journey carried us through with little more than a twinge of worry.  This baby would receive the excellent care they provided for only three days, and then his life would be boringly normal.

Other memories surfaced for me, memories of the story of my own entrance into the world.  That time it was my mother who hemorrhaged and nearly did not come home from my birth.  I marveled at the fact that I would have been the baby in the NICU — but there was no such thing when I was born.  As I entered the unit — named for the pediatrician who cared for me more than sixty years ago — I was overwhelmed with the wonder of how miraculous it all is.

I am here and alive.  Cheyenne is here and alive.  Noah is here and alive.  Our mothers, through the miracle of blood transfusion, survived to love us and teach us and care for us.  We take such things for granted until there is a bump in the road that makes life stand still.

Last night, as we sat in Crystal’s hospital room and took turns marveling at the cuteness of her only son, you could hear it.  AAAHHHH!  The exhale of our family poured out as laughter and love and appreciation for the chance to count heads and find everyone present.

Life stood still this week, and a whole lot of life took place between the time we inhaled on Wednesday and the collective sigh of relief on Friday.  Wherever you are today, whoever you may be grateful for, take a moment to breathe in the wonder.  Hold it deep inside you, at least for a little while, and then wrap your love around the exhale and let the clock start ticking again.

“People’s dreams are made out of what they do all day.  The same way a dog that runs after rabbits will dream of rabbits.  It’s what you do that makes your soul, not the other way around.

— Barbara Kingsolver

What an interesting concept — that what you do makes your soul.  We usually think of our soul as the force that drives the best parts of us and determines how we will interact with our world; but what if it is true that what we do can alter our soul?

I spent some time last school year studying Biology with my granddaughter, and one of the topics we studied was Evolution.  We learned about survival of the fittest — survival of the most adaptable — and the way that organisms (from single cells to human beings) survive by changing.  Some changes are subtle and some are more obvious; but we learned that when we track organisms over time, we notice that the ones who made changes that improved their chances of survival in the environment they inhabited soon became the dominant type of their species.

We can understand that a small frog who has changed over time in order to camouflage itself against a particular color of vegetation will be more likely to survive the attack of a predator, but can we begin to imagine that our soul might also evolve in response to the way we live our lives?

Suppose the dream channel is a two-way radio rather than just a broadcast.  Suppose that our soul inputs dreams that affect our choices during our waking hours.  Some of our finest works are driven by our dreams, and I believe that dreams emanate from that deep and mysterious source of our true existence — our soul.  It is the part of us that is unsullied by life and, in the end, cannot be destroyed by the things that can harm our physical body.  When we listen to the voice of our soul, our footsteps through the world become light.  They do not trample anything.  Instead, they invite the situations and people we meet to dance for a bit until a piece of our soul wraps love around all we see and do.  Suppose that as our dreams come to life they follow the path back to their source, enriched and strengthened and with better understanding of the world we dream into being.  Suppose that as we learn about the world we dream, we return more light to our souls than was there before we dreamed.  Can our soul, over time, grow stronger and more able to dream?  Can our dreams become more luminous and bring more light into the world?

It is our task to keep the channel open and to be sure that our dreams emanate from our souls.  Soul dreams can transform our world; and we must be ready to discover that when we bring our dreams to life, we are transformed as well.

“I am a part of all that I have met; yet all experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move.”

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson

What a vivid picture Tennyson paints of our walk through life!  Have you ever walked at night by flashlight?  As you move, and the light moves with you, the path behind you exists only in memory and the path beyond the glow remains shrouded in mystery.  I suppose that the flashlight walker could be fearful of what lies ahead or might long for what he leaves behind; but if one is skillful at flashlight walking, he is aware of how vividly the objects in the circle make themselves visible.  When we focus only on those things that are real in the moment, we have no time for regrets and no time for fear.

Tennyson paints an image with his words that remind me of flashlight walking, but they conjure up a vision of the daytime version.  Perhaps it is like life under a huge magnifying lens that focuses on the here and now and leaves the moments outside its perimeter hazy enough that they don’t distract us.  The magnifier is focused on the archway of experience that moves with us as we take each step along our uncharted path.  It clarifies the color and the sparkle, the shadow and the light, bringing the smallest detail into sharp focus if only we care to look.  Then, just as quickly as they come into view, the archway moves and leaves them behind.

Each new day brings us a fresh opportunity to direct that archway of experience toward the path we choose.  We move on, changed by what we have experienced, and carry in our heart what truly matters of the past we leave behind.  What matters is not to carry regret or long for some distant fantasy.  What matters is to be fully present and fully alive beneath that ever-moving arch.  What matters is to travel light enough to pick up whatever really matters and carry it in our hearts.  What matters is to continue walking, to continue loving, to continue engaging whatever comes our way.  Focus  your lens.  Let your flashlight shine.  Move your own light and it will illuminate your path, one step at a time.