1/1/11 ~ New Year’s Day 2011

kona looking down from Kona's ButteWhen I wake, the world here is white.  Snow throws itself down toward the earth, piling up across the landscape, turning even the air, and the space between things white. This is not the slow, meandering snow that comes with big soft flakes. Not today, not this first day of a new year.  No, this is fast and furious, sharp at times, like a pointed white rain.  The new morning of a new day in this new year comes with its own intent, its own resolution.  Kona and I head out for a walk, letting the wet sharp cold exhilarate our moods.
little boxes
The early morning is quiet, few people stirring, the roads thick with tire pressed snow, the sky indistinguishable from the distant view. White, white, white.  Up on a hill we call Kona’s Butte, we look down over snow covered roofs on identical houses that stretch out deep into the whiteness, disappearing into forever. We climb higher up the hill, above the town, above the cookie-cutter houses to the east  (“little boxes… on the hillside… little boxes made of ticky-tacky…” )  and the manufactured and older homes to the west.  Up here – no houses – just sagebrush, rocks, a quiet meditation in the meeting of earth and sky.

Sometimes, to climb above a city is to climb in to a new awareness, a place of stillness above the metaphorical and literal noise, a place where the brain can momentarily cleanse itself from its ordinary busy-ness.  In today’s early morning, the town below is as quiet and still as the hill, and I walk and watch as  slowly there are signs of waking: trucks with snow plows begin to move over the roads, increasing numbers of cars traveling to and fro, people up and about… the new day begins.

I could be writing here about New Year’s Resolutions, and looking back at what was, making plans as to what will be.  There are plenty of posts to that effect (here is a good one from Tiny Buddha, if you want to read a different perspective on making and keeping resolutions).  It is a good time to take stock, to recognize who we are, where we are going, make adjustments based on future plans.  But then, so is every day.  That’s the thing to remember.  New Year’s Day is an arbitrary point in time, one we have collectiva bit of greenely designated as a reminder to take a closer look at who we are.  So use it ~ not to judge yourself for all your bad habits and make promises to yourself that you never intend to keep – but use it as a simple reminder –

A reminder that today, like every day, is new, a day that has never existed before.  Anything can happen. On any given day little shifts can create big changes.  We can make adjustments to our direction,  choices to be happy,  appreciate what we have, those we love, who we are, the bigness of this life that we live.

It’s never too late to step out of old patterns, to do the things you always dreamed you could do, to create new adventures, and live with great bigness.  Whether it is a new day of a new year, or any other day,  it is possible to make a different choice ~  and as Mark Twain reminds us:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Magnificent suggestion! Whatever you do, wherever you are…. live the big life, whatever that means to you.   Seize this moment – don’t wait. Live it fully with joy and gratitude, and let every moment be your resolution, your creation.

The sun is out now, and the sky turns a bright blue.  Contrast is restored to the landscape, colors re-assert themselves.  People are awake and moving, life turns ’round on itself, and today is a brilliant day to begin again (for the first time).

On this beautiful New Year’s Day, 1/1/11, I wish you the greatest of  joy, an abiding peace, and a deep gratitude that gives you the courage to live the life you choose.

~
Peace is every step.

The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles at me.
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

pure joy

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may my words, thoughts, and actions contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom.

Om Shanti

Published in: on January 1, 2011 at 14:00  Comments (6)  
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Happy Is

August 19, 2010

It is cold this morning, and Autumn is in the air here.  The sky is clouding over, and it will rain again today, like it does in this part of the world: Rain, unrelenting.  You have to wonder about the weather in a place where “wellies” are part of the fashion statement.  Yesterday, at the train station, a woman wore wellies with her mini-skirt, making my birkenstock clad feet feel woefully under shod.  It was a fore-warning: at the other end of the journey, stepping off the train in Osende, my body was completely drenched within 2 minutes, and my feet had the long forgotten experience of wading in puddles.  I really felt as if I should have a yellow raincoat, rubber boots, and matching umbrella, just like the pictures in children’s books.

Early this morning tho, back here in Humlegaarden, birds were chirping, chattering, lively.  Someone mowed the grass yesterday (there is nothing they don’t do in the rain here!) and so the birds were in fresh grass heaven.  Lying in bed, I heard the birds, and imagined a warm summer day….

Well, it’s not quite warm, but the sun was out for a bit, and before the clouds returned, we walked down to the sea and soaked up the bright blue sky and drenched ourselves in sun and sand.  By the time we walked back for breakfast the clouds were already returning, the wind picking up, the chill in the air.

What makes you happy? What makes your heart sing? she asked.

Lots of things…

The sun, after days of rain.
Good conversation, easy company.
Yoga.          Breathing.
Teaching.  Yes, teaching.         Sharing with an open heart.
My cats.  and Kona.
Seeing new things,    learning new things.
Places i’ve never been before.
Writing, sometimes.          Morning coffee.
Sharing a laugh with jb.

Simple things.

I’m a simple person, really.

But here’s a truth.  None of those things make me happy.  I mean, sometimes I can do or be all of that and not be happy.  In fact, I can be unhappy, and do any one of those things and not come out the other side happy.

Here’s what I know: the happy comes first, and only then I can rest in the joy of the simple things.  The magnificence of morning sun only stirs the joy in my heart when I am willing to be present to it.

So what is it that makes me happy?  Being present?   Being open?   Where does happy come from?

I want you to be happy (she says, I say, you say) and I recognize that when we want others to be happy around us, it is really our own deep longing to feel our own state of natural happiness.

surise after a stormIt is true that when the sun shines, it is easier for me to tap in to joy.  And yet, even in the midst of deep fatigue, even in the presence of pain, even in constant rain, and with a gray day headache, or a migraine  –  I can stop for a moment, just stop, and breathe, and drop in to my center.  I can notice the beauty around me, notice the magic of a moment, and touch in to a place of “being happy” deep within my soul.

With that knowing, I can be happy anywhere, even in a clinic with crazy doctors, and radiology departments in hospitals where I don’t speak the language. I can be happy in the presence of pain, and suffering.  It does not minimize the pain, nor does it necessarily take away the pain, or the sadness, or the helplessness of any moment.  Maybe though, happy can exist along side the pain, along with the suffering.  Happy is a deeper state, a place of wellness beyond the sick, a place of joy beyond the pain.

We all have happy in us, somewhere.  Even in the depths of depression, happiness exists.  It has to.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  At our core, at our very essence, is laughter, and joy, and real love.  It is not based on anything outside of us… it is who we are.

How do we get there? How do we access that, and remember that truth?   When pain is unrelenting, when suffering seems the state of the world, when all it ever does is rain, rain, rain….  how do we drop in, and know that behind the clouds the sun is still shining?

Sometimes, we just forget, and that’s ok.  Somewhere, somehow, sometimes, we remember. In a moment, we see differently, suddenly present to the beauty around us, to the life that exists beyond stories, beyond pain, beyond identity…. and we remember, we awaken.

We are the Life that we live, we are the Love that rises up within us, unexpectedly. We are the beauty in a sunrise, the magic in a forest, the song in a heart.  We are here, having this experience called Life, with all its ups and downs, highs and lows, joys and pains… And we are the Joy that exists always beneath it… the pure joy of experience in this human body….

What makes me happy?

Laughing. Suddenly, for no reason.

Who knows, maybe pure, honest laughter is the cure for everything.

Published in: on August 20, 2010 at 04:30  Comments (2)  
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Bicycle Yoga

This morning the sea is dark gray and opaque, with rough white capping waves.  At the beach, the wind and the waves create a comforting white noise that those (theoretically relaxing) noise machines can never truly imitate.  The skies are gray, with random raindrops…. very unlike the bright blue skies and warm sun of yesterday.
bicycle
Last afternoon, I borrowed a bicycle, and rode into Helsingor, a ride of about 8 kilometers.  It was a beautiful ride, along the coast, through tiny beach towns.  Many bicyclists, people walking dogs, sunbathing on the beach, swimming, picnicking, the deep blue water speckled with white sail boats, and closer to Helsingor, the ferries.  bicycle round-a-boutThis is a great place for bicycles….  not only are there pedestrian paths, but there are bicycle paths everywhere (even in the round-a-bouts!)  It is a very accepted and common mode of transportation here.

And can I just say….. Granny bicycles rock!  Ok, you hard-core bicyclists out there may disagree, but I think the old “Granny style” bikes (which is what Sven, a patient here, called it, as I was picking out a bike that would fit me) are definitely the way to go.  You know the kind… picture the bicycle ridden by wicked old Miss Gulch from the Wizard of Oz, basket and all.

Ok, so it probably means I am a pleasure bicyclist and not a sport bicyclist, but I really like sitting upright: spine long, heart open, smile on my face. It’s gotta be better on the body than being all hunched over, intent on the destination, forgetting about the journey.

And that’s the joy of it – not only is the bicycle something to get me from point A to point B, but it is also something that allows me to enjoy the journey… To see the sea, to smell the air, to open to all sensations…  feeling the breath, completely in the moment, this too is yoga.

Yoga is not all about asanas, although I love asana practice. Asana practice, hatha yoga, is invaluable for learning how to be in the body, how to be in the moment, how to be present with breath, and to stay centered in the midst of stress and chaos.  When you learn the focus of hatha yoga, you begin to see yoga in all of your life….

like on a bicycle.  Of course any activity can be yoga, or not.  I can take that same ride, and be lost in thought… thinking about yesterday,  and wondering how to make things happen in the future, and not be present to the air, or the sea.  That would be good too, and it would be healthy for the body, and good exercise, but it’s not yoga.

My preference is to take that same ride, and feel the air on my skin, the breath in my body, smell the sea and ride right out of time…. letting it become a meditation, a grounding activity, connecting me back to source.   Life giving, life affirming yoga.

When I can do that, on a bicycle, in an asana, in a sitting meditation on the beach, with joy, then I can also remember to ground and center even in the chaos and stress and pain that life may bring.

A street in Helsingor

Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 05:39  Comments (2)  
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Near the Baltic Sea

Sunday, August 8th, 1:30pm Denmark time ~

The rain came today.  Dark gray skies offer up a steady downpour, much like the rains in the Pacific Northwest. The past few days were beautiful, warm days, intermittently overcast with delicious breaks of sun.  The quality of light here is different…. perhaps because we are so far north? Or just different than what I am used to… I have been searching for a word to describe it, but have not been able to settle on one.  “Soft” is a word that comes to mind, and I realize that maybe the quality of light is more a feeling than a visual.  I did try to capture it in photos, to no avail.

The Baltic Sea is a 5 minute walk from the clinic here, and looking out The Baltic Seafrom the beach you can see Sweden, and the ferries and sailing boats that traverse the waters from here to there and in between.  The water is fairly warm; someone mentioned it was 18 or 19 degrees celsius (around 66 degrees F).  Many local people jump in for a swim early in the morning, and again in the evening. I haven’t been in yet, but it occurs to me a rainy day would be a good day to test it out.

Summer House with Thatched RoofThis morning, before the rain, we walked down a road that runs along the coast, lined with what must be summer cottages. They are so sweet, with windows that open wide to the sea air, and thatched roofs where birds peck around, presumably for morning insects.  Joggers and bicyclists passed by us, as we walked slowly and meditatively.

The days since we arrived here have been very full, and it is easy to lose track of the perspective of time. We’ve only been here 4 days, and already it feels much longer. There is a sense that time might pass too quickly here, and yet at the same time, the moments are so full that there can be no thought of the future, and what will happen next.  Those decisions will come when it is time…. my mantra since all of this began is ‘one day at a time’, and often I find myself shifting the focus to living even one moment, one breath at a time….

I want to write, to tell a story here.  Not Tanza’s story, for that is hers to tell, but a story of my experience here: what i am coming to know in the presence of this healing place, in the role of caregiver, in the connection to source and family and life…

The words, though, are not here yet. Perhaps I am still too close to the experience. I remember some writer somewhere, sometime, saying that you must have distance to write truly about a place, and maybe that is true for experience as well.

For now, I will keep it simple, share what there is to share in the moment.

I do know this – it is good to be in a nourishing and nurturing healing environment.  Imagine if hospitals routinely put more emphasis on treating the person rather than the disease: on helping a patient understand their treatments and meds, and giving them more personal responsibility for their own healing, on offering high quality food and conversation and connection, and allowing them to move and walk and participate in their own healing rather than confining them to a bed with wires and tubes and distracted personel who forget to take the time to listen.

Is it such a novel concept to care for the whole person?

It is a gift to be here, in so many ways, and I know without question that this is a healing space for Tanza, and for me, and for all who are connected to her, no matter what may come of it.  It is good to wake every morning, here, and alive.  It is good to feel the power and preciousness of life, and to take joy in the little things, and celebrate the beauty of each day…

Here is my wish for you, and for everyone: That you celebrate each moment, knowing that you yourself are a gift to this world. You (and that is every single “you”!) bring something to this world that no other person can bring…. celebrate that gift, whatever it is! Know your beauty, feel your connection to the earth, to this life, to our source, and remember, whatever you do….

Laugh, and feel the Joy!

That, my friends, is Real Yoga.

🙂

More Baltic Sea photos are here

Published in: on August 8, 2010 at 12:54  Comments (1)  
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