“Be Still – Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity.” -Lao Tzu
Lately, my mantra is stay still – take time to breathe before reacting to a situation or something said. It’s not easy when emotions and stress are involved, but I find taking time in that moment helps calm my feelings and response.
Staying still also allows us to be present to observe and experience things we might not notice in our fast paced world. Today when I walked on the beach, I was thankful for the low tide. It’s an opportunity to walk a long stretch of the beach without scrambling on slippery rocks to get to the other side. I ran my hand across velvety moss on a rock normally covered by water. I took time to notice sea creatures watching a black crab, spider-like crawl away from me as I approached it. When I peered into a crevice, a large crab with pink pinching claws looked back at me. Tiny sand crabs blended in with beach as they wobbled across.
I knew if I gazed at the ocean long enough I would see something bigger. Just then, the fins of a dolphin bobbed in and out of the water. Staying still calms our senses, enhances perceptions and allows us to catch glimpses of nature’s beauty.
“Your assumptions are windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” – Isaac Asimov
A friend called to see what was up for the weekend. I told her we were in L.A. for the Women’s March. “You’re kidding,” she said. “I thought you don’t like crowds. I couldn’t find anyone to join me and didn’t think you would go.”
It’s true – I don’t like large crowds or driving on the freeway to L.A. There were incredible winds and a rain storm the day before the March. I worried freeways would be jammed or flooded. Assumptions proved us wrong. We drove to L.A. in record time. My conviction to Human Rights outweighs a fear of being in the midst of thousands of people. Over a half of a million people came together peacefully, supporting each other, saying “I’m sorry” for bumping into someone, helping those who had tripped and fallen. The amazing experience reverberated around the world.
Last week, I helped friends feed the homeless. I wasn’t sure what to expect at a center where 60 people receive dinner and place to sleep for the night. They’re back on the street in the morning. It’s a heartbreaking plight. Their graciousness, gratitude, and pleasant demeanor touched my heart.
These examples remind us to expand our expectations. When we change our view, it can be a bright awakening.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
– George Bernard Shaw
The New Year motivates us to reflect, aspire, and re-create ourselves. We’re given another chance to evaluate our lives and determine things that either harm or help us. Like a new path on a road trip, we can keep going down the same route or we can choose to travel to a place we’ve never been before.
At times, I can be a creature of habit seeking comfort with what’s familiar and safe. When I dare to break away and try new adventures, my confidence soars from having courage to try something new or face my fears. Once on a beach – despite a fear of heights – I climbed to the highest point on a large rock. Sitting there with crashing waves below gave me a feeling of exhilaration.
This year pursue things which excite, challenge, and make you a better person. Follow your passion and enjoy new adventures!
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes … including you.” -Anne Lamott
It’s important to allow yourself to slow down, take a break from hectic schedules, unplug from devices and distractions. Some people power nap or meditate. Mindfulness is another option for enjoying peace in the present moment. In this space, there are no worries about the past or future. It’s an opportunity to observe and become immersed in your sensations and surroundings. It can be as simple as sitting quietly and feeling your breath, noticing how thoughts dissipate when you’re still, experiencing the beauty of nature. Yesterday, I sat near the ocean appreciating every aspect of the moment:
- Mesmerized by sunlight sparkling on the ocean
- Watching every beat of a butterfly’s wings
- Noticing drops of water shimmer on rose petals
- Feeling the lulling effect of waves rolling into shore
- Catching a random rainbow in a bevel of glass
- Admiring Birds of Paradise pointing to the sea
I heard a loud flapping sound and turned to see a Seagull perched on top of a lounge chair next to me. He eyed the sandwich waiting for me as I wrote. Then gave me a look as if to say are you going to eat that? If not I will. I quickly grabbed the sandwich and he flew away. The relaxing afternoon was just what I needed to recharge. I packed up my things to head home. I found the seagull floating in the pool. Guess he was having his moment to “chill.”
“There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of autumn leaves.” – Joe L. Wheeler
As seasons change, they color our mood and perspective on life. With winter’s chill and short days of light, we retreat in our homes seeking comfort within. Springtime spurts new life in nature and opportunities for us. Summer is packed with vacations and celebrations from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But ahhh … Autumn’s sunset colored leaves scattered everywhere shifts us from warm Indian Summers with pink strewn cloudy skies to crisp mornings and cozy nights, sipping hot apple cider, and kicking off the Holiday season.
Fall’s intensity ignites all of our senses. Nostalgia lingers in the air bringing a need to gather with family, connect with traditions, and reminisce about the past. That’s exactly what inspired a trip in September to visit my sister and family in England. Renting a home on a lake in the lovely countryside of the Cotswolds, preparing meals together, hiking through long fields surrounded by water and wildlife, sharing memories and special moments became the first heart touching stop on my nostalgic journey.
Two weeks later, I returned to my roots in New Jersey to visit family and friends. Instead of the usual whirlwind tour of seeing everyone, I made a point of spending quality time with each person. We dined and danced, wandered around town, ran in the rain, laughed about old times, all while making new memories.
Nostalgia helps us maintain a sense of who we are and where we’ve been. Reflecting on the past plays an important role in revealing where we want to be in the future. Fall is a time to slow down and savor sensations of the season.
“A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Reflections intrigue and inspire me. Sometimes you only see something by its reflection. Like when I notice movement in light on the kitchen counter and realize it’s a bird flying in the backyard. Interestingly, images often appear more brilliant in its reflection as seen in the sunset clouds above. Reflection photography adds an artistic element to photos. Viewing objects from a different perspective creates another dimension. There are some incredible shots on this website: http://www.boredpanda.com/reflection-photography/
Likewise, another meaning of reflection: “to give serious thought or consideration” can be powerful in altering our own perception of how we see ourselves. Here are a couple of inspiring examples:
Reflection is an important process for knowing who we are and where we want to be. Contemplating on moments, experiences and pivotal points helps us understand our feelings, values, goals, and purpose. It’s a compass to determine our path in life.
“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” – Don Williams, Jr.
For the past six weeks, I’ve captured memories and experiences in a workshop with Roger Housden. He shared this insightful advice: “At the heart of all creative writing of non-fiction is the willingness to have an open mind about the event or events you are writing about, acknowledging that a great part of their significance is likely as yet to be still unknown to you. The writing itself, over time, is what can gradually make the unknown known. So the writing of memoir then becomes not merely a recounting of past events, but an exploration of your developing sense of self through time – a journey of self-discovery.”
This is not only a great lesson for writing non-fiction, it’s an invaluable tool helping us navigate and make sense of life’s twists and turns. Sometimes when we feel like we’re trekking through mud, we’re unaware of gifts which will eventually emerge. Looking back gives us a new perception. Understanding unfolds like a lotus flower revealing reasons for our challenges.
I learned painful events become a wise teacher. After losing my first mother, I gained a new mom who turned into my best friend and mentor. Going through a divorce at thirteen instilled independence, maturity, an early awareness of responsibility. When my father died at fifty-two, the devastating loss taught me life is precious and short.
I learned we may lose love then find it again.
Life is a roller coaster – riding high one moment then falling to some unknown depth. The key is growing stronger through adversity. What matters is taking time to sit and listen to our soul so our true path can be revealed.