The Ultimate Om

Day 15: Soundtrack of 2015
Day 15: Soundtrack of 2015

I heard my 2015 soundtrack during an early morning walking meditation when our retreat leader played Jonathan Goldman’s “Ultimate Om” on a powerful boom box in the middle of a magic garden. I watched the sun come up to the sound of monk hum, whale sigh and universal lullaby as dew sparkled on the grass. I was home.

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.

Between

Day 14: The Space In Between
Day 14: The Space In Between

Celebrating the pause between breaths, the shift between thoughts, the ledge between seasons, and the space of thin veil in between individual and One.

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.

Sacred Souvenirs

Day 5: Sacred Space
Day 5: Sacred Space

My life’s souvenirs of bits and pieces, joys, discoveries, messages, intentions, prayers, promises, solace. Collected reminders that sacred space is all around, and everywhere to be found.

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.

This Little Light

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Day 12: Yellow

Because there is always a source of light in the darkness.

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. I’m looking forward to my third go at participating in Susannah Conway’s August Break by posting prompts here on the blog and on my Instagram account. There are no rules, really. Simply take a photo every day for the month of August, based on the prompts or not. I take a photo a day all year long, but you can’t lose no matter how many days you keep this up. And the more, the merrier!

Earthwalk

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Day 9: Earth

I’ve just returned from a retreat at one of my favorite places to be. Every morning, celestial music was played in the garden while we took off our shoes and walked barefoot in dewy grass, connecting with the mother.

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. I’m looking forward to my third go at participating in Susannah Conway’s August Break by posting prompts here on the blog and on my Instagram account. There are no rules, really. Simply take a photo every day for the month of August, based on the prompts or not. I take a photo a day all year long, but you can’t lose no matter how many days you keep this up. And the more, the merrier!

Slippery Slope

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It was second grade recess on a windy day. After weeks of watching kids fearlessly hurdle down the big kid’s slide, I lined up with the others, climbed endless steps while watching the legs in front of me — and froze at the top. The air was different up there. From that great height, I clearly saw the terror of my ways. How could I foolishly believe I was just like the others?

The line behind me hanging off the rungs and on the ground began to whine and grumble. The playground authority was called over, and yet I would not move. The lady tried to coax me down but I wasn’t buying any of it. From where I sat, this was a fast track to quick destruction and untimely end.

Finally, the long-suffering teacher stuck with recess duty made the kids behind me get off the ladder and back away from the scene of the crime. I crawled down through unforgiving disgust and crept off humiliated, once again an alien among my own kind.

For weeks after my cowardice, I hung around that slippery nemesis until my classmates’ attention was preoccupied with tether or kick ball, monkey bars, see saws or a scuffle under the one basketball goal bolted to the school’s red brick exterior. When I was sure no one was looking, I carefully positioned my bottom in the seat of triumph at the base of the sinister slope, and scooted up as far as I dared, using my shoes’ rubber soles as traction. When I was high enough, I pulled my feet up, and slid down in an all-too-brief moment of pure joy.

Each time, I rose a little higher out of the doldrums of my shame and disgrace. Each time, the feeling of release and flight lasted a little longer. Until finally, one day, I ascended the infinite ladder once again, adjusted my breath in the thin air, took in the bigger picture at the top, and pushed off into my life.

Last month, fifty years later, my family and I came upon a playground in a state park, clearly built in the Sixties. And there stood my old nemesis, with the same tall silver board reflecting a forest of memories, and the thin metal poles supporting my recollections on either side. Each rung on the ladder spelled out America as I climbed up and I wondered if I believed in them anymore.

When I arrived at the top, I found to my surprise that the air was still rarefied, and the view still too big for me to comprehend. And when I let go, the journey to the bottom was just the same, only slower.

Holy Grounds

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I pull open the bag, and there’s that whiff of enlightenment that I’ve sorely missed, the rich caffeinated earth resting inside, denied to me by an elimination diet’s fanatic demands. The steeping pots of loose leaf tea that my husband makes have helped pass the time, but it’s just not the same. As hot water moments off the boil is poured carefully into a filter’s waiting bloom, I reflect on the many ways I’ve prepared the morning’s elixir over the years.

It began as a child, begging for a share of my father’s daily routine, with more milk than coffee in the cup. I remember gagging on the diluted insipidness, disappointed that this didn’t come close to the wonderful flavor of coffee ice cream. By college, however, I had learned to drink the cafeteria’s dark sludge (with very little cream) as a badge of sophistication, while I gulped down big burnt carafes during all-nighters in the art studio.

Even though my husband is not a coffee drinker, at our wedding reception I received not one but two espresso makers with open arms, and vibrated around our duplex alone or with other visiting coffee addicts whenever I made a batch of the extra-potent beverage. Daintily sipping from the tiny demitasse set that came with the espresso makers didn’t help, either.

From the exotic newlywed caffeinated experience, I then graduated to regular married life with my very own Mr. Coffee, practical, prolific, and always tarry by the time I poured my second cup. The making of smaller batches, while easier to finish without rocketing off into orbit, seemed to scorch faster on the hot plate, and this was years before you could turn off the machine and reheat in a microwave.

The quest for a good, small cup of joe led to a string of tiny coffeemakers, from the cute little drip machines that quickly brewed the right amount but lacked the flavor, to pour-over cones for a single cup that cooled too quickly, to a brief foray into steeping coffee bags (only slightly better tasting than instant coffee and just as humiliating), to a knock-off of a popular dispensing brew station that clogged into a dribble.

Then there was the attempt to get serious by purchasing a respectable grinder, a bag of eco-friendly and ethically grown beans, and a French press in trendy vermillion green. I confess that this arrangement, while producing great-tasting coffee, was messy and stressful in deciding when to press the plunger. I was irrationally terrified that the flimsy glass beaker would break and an angry, unfiltered mudslide flood my kitchen. Hardly a zen moment.

All of which has led me to my current ritual as an occasional coffee drinker. While my body still can’t handle daily doses of the good stuff without considering a spacesuit, I’ve found a method that is cheap, convenient, tasty — and mindful. The new caffeinated practice involves a small bag of good-quality ground coffee, a trusty Melitta #2 pour-over cone in unbreakable plastic, an electric kettle that boils faster than Mount Vesuvius, and a wonderful 16-ounce stainless steel thermos that lets me slowly sip hot coffee as long as I like.

All to say that once again, I can find reward in the slow passage of filtered thoughts through grounded intentions, setting the quickened pace for another productive day.

All in the Signs

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The task of taking a daily photo challenges me to become more observant in everything I do, out of necessity. Although some of my last-minute posts on Instagram can attest to late-night desperation, for the most part these little snapshots of a day in the life can reveal deeper meaning, especially in the next morning’s leisurely light.

I took the above photo last Tuesday during my early morning walk in freezing fog. I happened to spy a cut in the ground, made by some sort of manmade object, I’m sure, since there were other divots similar to this one, only more complete circles. This particular one reminded me of a crescent moon. I didn’t realize until later that I made this discovery on the day of the new moon and beginning of 2015’s lunation cycles.

I gave a talk several weeks ago about practicing small moments of spirituality and mindfulness, even for a few minutes in your busy day. Noticing the world around us as we work, such as catching a glimpse of a bright red cardinal that reminds us of a loved one, finding the bend in a tree like the one where your grandfather hung your favorite rope swing, or enjoying the exotic colors of the tropics in a sunset on the long, cold commute home are all sacred examples that take us out of our ordinary mental routines, if only briefly.

These little spiritual glimpses can be messages to consciousness about challenges and decisions we’re facing, not only at our daily jobs, but along our life’s journeys. Everything from the encouraging phone call you receive while thinking about that same caller, to the chronic flare-ups of familiar old health conditions every time you’re stressed, can be taken as suggestive nudges and supportive promptings.

As for that little slice of serendipity in the photo up there, the first frosty new moon signals fresh starts and hopeful seeds germinating inside the creative darkness in preparation for manifestation at the full moon. Perhaps for me, this is a thumbs up to new writing projects, and just maybe, the Universe is signalling that she’s got my back.

Keep on the lookout for your signs.

Packing List

DSCN4655Collect my best thoughts.
Test some new patience.
Psych to nature’s birdsong.
Drink deep from a jug of insight.
Eat from the beggar’s bowl.
Find that loving cup.
Dream of a well-marked path.
At the last moment, throw in an open mind.

So, what will you take for the journey?

NaPoWriMo #7

Very loosely based on Prompt 7 at NaPoWriMo’s webpage. I’m writing a poem a day in April as part of NaPoWriMo’s celebration of National Poetry Month. We may be able to live without poetry, but who would want to?