How is it that I have gotten older and still think that I’m in my 20’s? What is the point of the mind thinking “young, young” and the body showing up in the world as “middle-age, middle-age?” I know that with all of the years behind me that my teeter-totter of life now weighs down heavier on the side of wisdom, and lighter on the side of knowledge. Even as I still spend much of my time still being curious about the world around me – from the profound to the pedestrian. Why just yesterday when I rolled through the drive-through window at McDonald’s on my way up to a Matthew Fox workshop, I just had to know how they keep the orders straight with dual drive-through lanes (FYI – they take pictures of you and your car and store it along with your order).
With the speed of changes in the world, I realize that my wisdom may not translate to those who are younger but it does provide the roadmap for my life – that which I believe in, that which I value. But, it has caused me to rethink many things. I no longer know for sure if homeownership is something to strive for, or whether going to a 4-year college makes sense – thoughts that I would not even entertained five years ago. If I thought I knew and now doubt, I at least have a set-point to drop back to. For those who are younger, I’m not sure what ideational scaffolding exists to provide meaning and direction to what looks like chaos and feels like decline in our world. Over the weekend, in listening to Matthew Fox, I felt comfortable to be among others who have come to realize that the structures that exist today – religion, work, and education – are no longer working and need to be reinvented, rather than repaired. And, those filling the room were both young and old.
On a greater scale, what can be done? The need for people’s heads (minds) to reconnect with their bodies (hearts) is the starting point for going forward – all head or all heart won’t work. On a smaller scale, what can be done? Compassionate listening between the generations – to really hear, to really make a difference – together. I’ve started being more attune to my teenage son – listening to his ideas on more mundane household issues, and have already shifted some of my ways of being. The toaster setting of 6 really is better than 4; and, sleeping without the sheet tucked in really is more comfortable for the feet. These changes won’t make a cosmic difference, but the underlying listening will. And, I’ve allowed him to find his own path (even though he says it would be easier if I just told him what to do) –learning drums, playing ice hockey, becoming a motorcycle mechanic.
Thanks to rptnorris (Flickr) for the photo of the teeter totter sign
I seem to have a journal for each aspect of my life that I find interesting. I have one in which I record money that I’ve found over the years – what coin, heads/tails, where found and what I was in the process of doing/thinking at the time. I take the coins and toss them into a small cup, and when it starts getting to full, I unload them into a plastic baggie, insert a brief note that states “money found reminds us that prosperity abounds,” and put it into the collection basket at a Sunday service.
I started this back in March 2009, and have kept it up over the years. Certainly, it’s not for the wealth that it provides to me or those I give it to. But it is for the story, the capturing of that moment in time – and its potential future significance for meaning, correlation or perhaps, idle curiosity. 2009 – 15 occasions totaling $1.04; 2010 – 14 occasions totaling $1.48; 2011 – 7 times totaling $0.35 (see, we’re still in a recession!); and, 2012 – zilch, so far.
So why bother? Consciousness – being aware of environment, being aware of money are both good things. Circulation – putting money back into the system in a way (albeit a small way) that is for the greater good (it sure wasn’t helping out where it was). Story – I like nothing better to weave a small incident into the fabric of the day:
“Found $0.25 (quarter, tails) while meditation walking on the streets surrounding the Hinshaw Greenway. Found it after seeing eight crows in a yard and seven other crows flying up to the roof of a house; and, just before finding a dead dragonfly at the greenway’s trailhead with its wings fully spread out. The picture on the quarter was that of an oak tree (1999) with the words “the charter oak.” The tie into “money found” is huge on this first day of July (new month, new quarter, new half-year) after having been laid off from my job last month. This is a great sign for the path ahead.”
I’m still trying to figure out the meaning for 2012 –More of a recession? Or, less focus on my part?
Thanks to Norm Walsh (Flickr) for the coin photo
Posted in Everyday spiritual practices, Other journals
Tagged abundance, Cary, coins, found, journal, journaling, Leslie Gernon, money, NC, recession, spiritual practice, story
The other day, a pair of my favorite clogs wore out – the stitching that held the sole to the upper toe leather had come undone. They had come into my life nine years earlier, and were as well-liked at the end as they were at the beginning. So how is it that we let go of the things that make up our lives (or they let go of us)?
Nothing lasts forever – impermanence rules in the physical world! I see my “letting go” of things as three distinct categories – those that I throw away, those that I give away, and those that wear out.
- When I throw things out, it’s because they are no longer useful to my family or anyone else. These go into the trash along with a gratitude (“thanks for the pleasure that you have given us”) or with a less than celebratory mention (“piece of junk #@&!&^#%#%”).
- When I give things away, it’s because they still have a function that they can provide for others. Whenever possible, I want these to be “re-used” or “re-purposed” rather than being converted to cash for an organization. So I spend time finding the best fit; and, I spend time making this a gift for the next person (e.g., cleaning, packaging, labeling, including tools/instructions). For example:
- I take my newspapers (sans inserts) to the Wake County SPCA to line animal cages
- I sent my old wedding dress to a non-profit organization that sews them into burial clothes for infants/children whose families could not afford these otherwise
- We donated a bunk bed (along with mattresses and linens) to The Carying Place to help furnish an apartment for a family to shift from homelessness to temporary housing
- But those that wear out, that leave before we’ve hit a “we’ve-outgrown-this” phase have a different feel. I can sit here today and remember my favorites – the black leather clogs, the cotton patchwork nightshirt, the U. Pittsburgh sweatshirt, the ‘Who let the dogs out’ t-shirt, and many others.
When I think about these groupings, three things strike me. First, the quantity of things in each respective category – many, some, few. Second, the energy level associated with things in each category – low, medium, high. Third, the type of energy in each category – positive and negative, somewhat positive, uber positive. And, what amazes me the most, at the time of purchase I have no idea how it will end – trash, give-away, or worn out.
On January 1, 2012 I committed to a daily photo gratitude practice – taking and posting (Flickr) outdoor “great-full” photos. My passion has always been the outdoors (mostly nature) so it seemed like a good fit. Now, at the three month mark I decided to take a look back at what this practice has meant to me. Taking pictures as a gratitude practice:
- Makes me so aware of scarcity and abundance - the two ends of a mental teeter-totter. Some days I can’t imagine what is worth taking a picture of (“OMG, why did I commit to this insanity?”); and, some days I can’t imagine ending this practice when the 366th day rolls around (“geez, I could take a picture of a pile of dog poop and be grateful that I didn’t step in it”). After three months, most days are abundant. I’ve learned to take a few extra pictures (my “spares,” so to speak) to turn down the pressure of EVERYDAY, yet in doing so, the small space that opens up allows me to slow down; and, in slowing down I see more; and, in seeing more … well, you know the rest. I rest in the “just right” sweet spot on the teeter-totter between the stress of too few photos and the depleted, disconnected-in-time energy of too many photos.
- Dwarfs the actual importance of any given photo compared with sitting with a photo and allowing it to conjure up feelings, memories and associations. And, it’s from this emotional wellspring that the words get written – so it’s the words that are imbued with positive energy. Then, the photo itself imports that energy – creating a circular buzz-fest of gratitude.
- Gives the “thrill of the quest” an energy of its own. What will I see today that makes my heart soar? When will I see it? Will it take me by surprise, or will I go looking? Will it be of the natural world or the man-made world? I leave myself wide-open for everything; and, I truly live with my camera to honor this anytime-anyplace energy.
- Creates pure magic. I remember two times where this played out. First, was the day I went searching for daffodils and instead came across two feasting vultures and a hunkered down squirrel. I learned that behind the drama of life (the two vultures) is a quieter, more interesting story (the squirrel). Second, was the day I was sans photo and asked the universe for assistance. An “EYE AM” license plate appeared in front of me; and I was then stopped at a railroad crossing. I learned that gratitude has amazing power – my next two times at this rarely used crossing had me waiting for trains. And, I recognized my affinity for license plates (who knew?)!
- Demonstrates that using different camera equipment really matters. On the day of the vultures, I gave up my cell phone camera for my go-with-you-anywhere camera; and, on the day of the turtles I knew I wanted a go-with-you-anywhere camera with a zoom – to feel as if I was on the log with them!
Through this gratitude practice, I see deeply all that is around me. At times, I know that there are things to SEE but not photograph, but never the other way around.
Posted in Everyday spiritual practices
Tagged camera, Cary, gratitude, great-full, Leslie Gernon, nature, NC, outdoors, photo, photograph, photography, picture, Raleigh, spirituality