I remember the day before the pandemic. She was in her mid-80’s, was wearing beige slacks, beige top and black jacket with a black purse and black shoes and looking at summer tops and slacks.
The clothing she was looking at? Black sweater, beige slacks, black top. I could “see” her in lovely pastels, but all she was looking at was … more of the same black and beige.
I quietly asked “What do you think of this colour?” Her reply – “So lovely for you, dear. But not for me.” She had given me an opening – and so I gently asked – “Why not?” Her reply – “I’m old.”
I picked up two pastel tops – a lilac and a peach and asked her to come with me to the mirror. I think she thought I was going to try them on and wanted her opinion. She was half right. I wanted her opinion. Not for me – but for her.
I tucked the tops under her chin and she smiled. Then she looked at me and said “I’m too old.” And then she looked again. And smiled.
We chatted a bit. She confided that she hated wearing black and beige, but those were what old people wore and she didn’t want to have people think she was trying to be young again. And then, after she held up the coloured shirts a few more times and could see they brought colour to her face (maybe it was my imagination, but she stood straighter when they were under her chin), before I knew it, she had purchased them both.
As she went out the store with a lovely, big smile on her face wearing the peach-coloured shirt, she said “A difference – you have made a difference.”
Nawww, it wasn’t me – it was her. In the moment she decided to wear colour, she decided to enjoy her life.
Those colours really suited her. And yes, I’m *sure* she was walking straighter as she walked out of the store.
Limits. What limitations do we put on ourselves that stop us from living life to the fullest? Are we self-critical … of our self? … our art? … our … ? Do we compare ourselves to another? Have we said or thought “I can’t do this because …”? I know I have.
And each time I catch myself placing limits on myself, I think of this wonderful octogenarian and imagine her, living her life in full colour. Literally. 🙂
Limitations. Those others put on us. Those we put on others. Those we put on ourselves.
Today is Canada Day in this country. I honour and pay respect to the privilege and reality that I live on unceded aboriginal land – meaning that Aboriginal Title has neither been surrendered nor acquired by the Crown / government. On July 1, 1867, Canada became a self-governing Dominion. That’s only 154 years. The People of the Land have been here for over 15,000 years.
Our history with the People of the Land was not good long ago. It is not good now. Many in our land continue to reel at recent news of discoveries of over a thousand unmarked graves of children on properties of former Residential Schools and the ongoing reality of missing and murdered indigeneous women.
Can we “celebrate” this Canada Day? If the word “celebrate” means to ‘honour, especially by solemn ceremonies’ then I can. If the word “celebrate” means to ‘participate in a festive social gathering’, I cannot. What I can do is remember the gentle word “Mamawi” which is Cree for “All together” … a word which holds before me a hope that reconciliation can happen and that this country can heal.
It will take time. It will take sacrifice. It will take work. But it is possible.
The combination of this “O Canada” video
(shared by Revv53, a Calgary-based performance ensemble of over 50 singers representing a wide variety of walks of life in Canada) offers a powerful “prelude” read by Richard Harrison, reminds us of exquisite scenes of this country, from coast to coast, and reinforces the powerful words of our national anthem “God keep our land, glorious and free”
may help us find some way to acknowledge the hurt in our country’s history; in some way, express gratitude for the good that has emerged from our history; and offer a glimpse of hope.
As we move into the next year of the history of this country of Canada, may we respect the traditions of the First People of this land. May we honour their love of and care for the land, waters around it, the animals and life that live on that land and in those waters. May we stop pointing fingers at “those people” and recognize our role in their sense of helplessness, anger and fear by the colonization and racism.
It’s not something I experience very often. When I do, I try to work with it and not let it capture my mind, my soul, my body because when it isn’t dealt with, when I’m not willing to let it go, when it escalates, relationships suffer, people can be physically and emotionally abused, political unrest can happen, wars can erupt.
What is “it”? “It” is anger. Anger can be a brief feeling. Anger can stay for weeks or months or years. Anger can be generational.
Anger can arise for a variety of reasons — systemic racism … betrayal … corruption … abuse … injustice … illness … death … financial instability … and so much more. We have all experienced the emotion of anger at some time and will experience it in the future. Anger is a natural response to pain of some kind (be that physical or emotional). It’s a human response as this little tale recounts.
“You have no right teaching others,” shouted the very angry young man to the Buddha. “You are nothing but a fake!”
The followers of Buddha tried to overpower the man, but the Buddha stopped them and said, “It is not always necessary to counter anger by anger” Then he turned to the young man and with a smile, asked, “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?”
The young man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, “It would belong to me, because I bought the gift.”
The Buddha smiled and said, “That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not feel insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself.”
When the Buddha continued, “No matter what the situation is, if you fully surrender yourself to anger, the anger will always take your life away from you,” the young man understood.
The issue isn’t the anger. The issue is what we do with it. Do we experience it? Do we bury it? Do we let it fester? Grow? Do we let it motivate us into action that would bring about positive change?
Over the years, I have learned to ‘name’ my anger – admit its presence. I’ve not ignored it. I’ve worked at it. And ‘worked’ is descriptive, because I find that dealing with anger is ‘work’ because it takes focus … energy … intention … time.
I choose to work at dealing with anger when I feel angry so that it doesn’t possess me – so that it doesn’t take over my life – so that it doesn’t lead me to decisions I otherwise would not have made – and so that I can be motivated into action that would bring about positive change in some small way.
Simply acknowledging the anger in and of itself is a step in the road when it no longer has its lethal grasp. In the acknowledgement that we are not ‘fully surrendering’ to the anger, anger can dissipate. As the Buddha is reputed to have “No matter what the situation is, if you fully surrender yourself to anger, the anger will always take your life away from you.”
Ultimately, fully surrendering to anger robs us of life. Fully surrendering to anger can bring results of bitterness, dysfunctional relationships, and/or illness, and possibly cause us to make decisions that will be anything but positive or healing. It’s much easier to react, rather than respond. But when we “fully surrender” to anger, it becomes something we can pass anger on to others … a spouse/partner, a child, future generations.
As for the situation that raised this post and my immediate sense of anger – it was the recent discoveries of the remains/unmarked of over a thousand indigenous children – students at Roman Catholic Residential Schools in Canada. Politicians are involved. Canadians are signing petitions. Requests have been made to the Pope to offer a formal apology, as the leaders of both the Anglican Church and United Church (who also ran residential schools in Canada) have done. To date, the Pope has not responded. And if the discovery of these unmarked graves wasn’t painful enough, there is a growing sense that the discovery is only the tip of the iceberg. Anger has already resulted in the burning of some churches. If (when) more graves are discovered, what then? More anger. And then what? And then what? And then what?
We cannot “fully surrender” to anger – let it overtake our life so that we cannot be part of the solution of reconciliation, be that with another or within ourself.
When anger envelopes me in its snare, I try to remember to ask myself if I am willing to work with it. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I am not. Yet.
Then I ask myself if I am willing … to be willing. Somehow, that seems to open a door. I hope I will always be willing-to-be-willing to open a door to possibility – to healing – to learning – to personal growth.
How can I not be fascinated by them? Their grace, beauty, agility … and oh yes, their symbolism. Reflection emerges.
For the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Coast, the hummingbird is a messenger of joy. But not just joy – also intelligence, beauty, devotion, love, protectors and defender of their territory.
Yesterday and today, this particular hummingbird has returned over and over again. In each visit, a cloud of sadness, began to lift. And through that cloud of sadness on this, the fifth anniversary of my husband’s unexpected death, love shines.
Long before I knew him, our paths began to intersect. Some call it “fate”. Some call it “co-incidence.” We called it “Divine Love.”
In Montreal, he and his family lived about three blocks away from my family. In North Vancouver, he and his family lived a few miles away from me. On the Sunshine Coast, his family had a summer cottage in the community I worked. We never met in any of those places. We met by happenstance at a Christmas Fair, three years after his wife died. It wasn’t “love” or “sparks.” It was simply a meeting of two people who shared common interests and who began a friendship.
And then ‘love’ entered the scene … not between the two of us (just yet) … but through a rescue dog – Hans’ little King Charles spaniel named Shandy. As the years passed and the friendship Hans and I shared grew, ‘love’ entered the spaces that had been empty for far-too-long. He asked me to marry him. I said “No, not yet.” He asked again and again and again and each time my response was “not yet.”
Then one day, he phoned and invited me for an afternoon drive. We often did that so when he came by with the four-legged canine blessing called Shandy, off we went for a drive to Qualicum Beach – one of our favourite drives on Vancouver Island. On a bench overlooking the ocean, he asked me to marry him. This time, I knew that the obstacles we had talked about were nothing if we faced them together. I realized that his love for me was so deep, as was mine for him, that spending the rest of our lives together, no matter how long or how short, was Divine Love.
Six weeks later, he had sold his rancher, I had sold mine, a new home was purchased that we both loved, and we married, October 17, 2009. Even though it was a day marked by ‘clouds’ for a number of reasons, we knew that we would face any and all clouds together. And, we did.
We were the love of each other’s lives. Laughter filled our home. Deep conversations filled our home. Joy and peace and hope filled our home. Divine Love filled our home. While he unexpectedly took leave of this Planet Earth on June 26th, 2016, he has never taken leave of my heart. In that lovely voice of his, perhaps he is calligraphically-rendering the six words of his reality … “It is well with my soul.”
Through a cloud of sadness, love still shines. Thank you little hummingbird. I am grateful.
The next time you see a hummingbird, may it bring comfort your way and in some way, be a sign of Divine Love in your life.
May you continue to rest in peace, my beloved Hans. Rest in peace.
This past week, I completed the training, added three new initials after my name (CZT) and am now a Certified Zentangle® Teacher). It was four exhausting days of tangling … and fun! If you’re not familiar with the term Zentangle®, once you Google it, you’ll discover a method of teaching for an easy-to-do art form. And I do mean “easy”! If you can write your name, you can tangle <g>. It is fun to do and you as you put one line on a piece of paper (or ’tile’), you’ll quickly discover and engage with yourself as ‘artist’ for each of us is creative in some way … and has an ‘artist-within’.
You don’t need a lot of “tools” to zentangle®. A pen (permanent ink), a piece of paper/your Journal and the side of your finger (or something called a tortillon) to help “shade” your piece is all you need. You don’t need to know how to draw or sketch or paint. Really! It’s simply putting down one line at a time. One stroke leads to another stroke and another stroke and before you know it, you’ve completed a ‘tangle’ and … art emerges.
If you’ve connected with Soulistry in some way over the years, read/subscribed to the blog, taken a workshop or retreat, read the Soulistry book, you’ll know that the Soulistry philosophy is to encourage a connection between spirituality, creativity and life, acknowledging or beginning to acknowledge that each of us, in some way, is an artist.
Back to the certification training … one of the projects was to encounter the tangle ‘Mooka’ (part of the fun of zentangling is learning a new vocabulary) in a new and fun way. When I realized what we were about to do, I gave the piece a name: Mooka Critter. At the very beginning, I had difficulty with the Mooka tangle in its placement. I’d drawn it before – it’s simple and easy to do – but for some reason, placing it the way we were invited to place it, became a problem for my brain and eye/hand co-ordination issues. Mooka Critter didn’t look right – at all. I called it quits and went to bed. When I woke in the morning, I was curious and wondered: “What would Mooka Critter look like if I added another tangle (called Tipple), a wee snail (called Bijou) and put a simple one-line-frame around the whole thing?”
So, I added them all. I looked at it … close up … far away. It still didn’t look right to me. I remembered the Zentangle® theory of “no mistakes” and set it aside. Again. To be truthful, I actually turned it over so I wouldn’t be tempted to throw it in the recycling bin. <sigh> When the day ended, I went to bed. The next morning, I looked at Mooka Critter. And I smiled.
She was unique – not like the way others had created theirs, but she was unique – and I had created her.
Within a second or two, a life lesson surfaced. Before making a decision – fully “engage” … consider possibilities … give the decision “time” to emerge. It took days before I looked at the tile and made the decision that not only was I pleased with it – but I was pleased with myself for not jumping to conclusions and throwing it into the recycling bin.
When looking at life and its decisions, I’ve learned that it’s helpful to ‘engage’ the decision.
In the case of Mooka Critter … fully engage her, or any Zentangle® tile … before making a judgement about its completion or quality.
In the case of daily living, fully engage in the situation before jumping to any conclusions and making a decision.
That word “engage” became important to me because of Mooka Critter and is partly why ‘engage’ is part of the the title of a new Facebook group under the SOULISTRY umbrella, about tangling. I’ve called the new group ZENGAGE … which is a neologism of two words: ZEN + ENGAGE (not surprising as SOULISTRY is a neologism (two words put together to form a new word: SOUL + artISTRY).
You’re welcome to come and explore the ZENGAGE group. Its purpose is to share photos of, and information about, zentangle® classes (especially if there’s no cost to participate) … support CZT’s who offer classes so that we can all benefit from them … encourage newcomers to begin zentangling … further the conversation about the Soulistry connection between spirituality, creativity and life … and to play.
It’s been well over a year since most of us have travelled beyond our own town, city let alone our own Country.
I’ve missed travelling. I’ve missed seeing places I’d only read about in books. I’ve missed connecting with family and friends. I’ve missed exploring beyond where I live. I’ve missed the anticipation, the excitement, the adventure, the learning. I’ve missed the making of memories of it all.
My last ‘trip’ was to the Netherlands to visit family of my late husband, Hans van der Werff. It was a bittersweet trip where my camera captured images of windmills, tulips, cobblestone streets, picturesque villages, family birthday parties, historic buildings and oh, so much more. And where my heart captured images of previous visits, grief, beauty and healing.
This past year, travel has continued – in spite of the pandemic. Travel happened in front of my computer on ZOOM. I’ve zoom-travelled to India and Japan, Croatia and China, Russia and Australia, Singapore as well as many provinces in Canada and states in the United States. I’ve zoom-travelled with one or two others and zoom-travelled with many others – taking classes, visiting museums, experiencing European cities. I’ve zoom-travelled to listen to speeches, to exercise, to take classes and workshops. It’s been quite the year of travel!
And the cost? Time. That’s it. Just ‘time’.
I’ve not filled the gas tank – haven’t stood in lines at the airport – didn’t need to go through security – wasn’t frustrated when travel arrangements were changed.
I slept in my own bed – ate my own food – got up from the computer and made a hot cuppa. I’ve learned a lot. Seen a lot. Made new friends. Developed new interests. Uncovered hidden dreams of exploring the streets of Paris and Venice becoming real. I’ve become familiar with different time zones – discovered accents I didn’t know existed – gone on a safari and oh, so much more.
Medieval scholar, writer and traveler (travelled more than any other explorer in pre-modern history), Ibn Battuta wrote: “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then it turns you into a storyteller.”
When I have travelled to and worked in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Uganda, as well as various parts of Canada, the United States and Europe, I was left ‘speechless” and the memories of the experiences of those trips continue to bring blessings my way. Stories – oh the stories I could tell. 🙂
The same thing has happened since I’ve been zoom-travelling … blessing upon blessing, making memories. And yes, stories – oh the stories I could tell.
Until I find it safe to travel beyond my own province/country, I’ll be very grateful for and content with, zoom-travel. This week, I am travelling to a four day international conference – via zoom. I suspect that when it is all over, I will have stories to tell. 🙂
Ibn Battuta was right … when we travel, we are left speechless … and we have stories to tell. 🙂
Maundy Thursday. It’s today. – a day that shocks in its intensity. Jesus, the beloved rabbi is about to be betrayed. Not by an enemy but betrayed by a follower, a friend, a disciple, someone who said he loved Jesus.
Even though we recoil at the word ‘betrayal,’ if we were honest, betrayal by Judas of his friend, his mentor, his rabbi, betrayal didn’t end “back then.”
When we allow fondness for wealth or fame to overwhelm our call to be persons of justice and mercy If we name ourselves Christian, yet think unloving thoughts about another When we are selfish and put our wants before the needs of others Have we betrayed God?
When we refuse to be uplifted, enabled, and transformed by the wisdom or experience of another When we only see how right we are and ignore the learning that comes in acknowledging that we have made a mistake Have we betrayed the Creator?
When we will not accept God’s support and grace, strengthening us for the tasks we have been asked to undertake, or the new ministry roles we are challenged to experience Have we betrayed the Beloved Rabbi?
When we, who say we love God, have answered ‘yes’ to any of the above is our connection to Judas tangible?
Today, known as Maundy Thursday, is a day to feel the pain and shock of Judas’ betrayal. Today is a day to consider moments in our own lives when we have betrayed the trust of others. Today can also be a day to receive a redemptive blessing when we are willing to name our own betrayals.
As disciples of Jesus, this day offers an opportunity to honestly look at the betrayals that emerge from within us and confront the moments ~ when we have betrayed God ~ when we have not forgiven another those times ~ we acknowledge we dislike another ~ or when we speak or think unkindly of another betraying our common humanity by our words or thoughts or tweets or texts.
On this day, with less than twenty-four hours left on earth, the man Jesus gathered the disciples away from the crowds in a ritual of gathering for a meal, so familiar to them, yet this time, is so very different.
As Jesus rises from his place, ties a towel around his waist, surely the disciples looked at each other and asked themselves “What is he doing?”
And then they see and understand. He washes their feet. He gives them his final teaching: the commandment (mandatum – from which we get the name Maundy Thursday) … to love one another.
Jesus gave a way of remembering Him with a simple ritual: “Sit at table. Take bread. Break it. Share it. Pour out wine. Share it. Feed one another. Love one another. When you do that, you remember Me. When I’m gone and you feel lost, uncertain of my presence Do this and remember Me.”
If churches weren’t closed because of the pandemic, many around the world would gather this day for a simple service of worship that might include foot washing, sharing of bread and wine and even stripping of the Altar as a reminder that living the Life of Love Jesus lived, led him to be stripped and taken away.
Loving one another as Jesus loved long ago, and as Jesus loves today, through us leads us to be ‘stripped’ of the unimportant things in life and bring us closer to the One who loves us unconditionally.
On this holy Maundy Thursday, may we receive the story of Jesus in a spirit of humility and draw closer to one another and to the One who loves, unconditionally. Amen.
It is Tuesday in Holy Week. As the world continues to deal with the pandemic, those who walk this Holy Path in this holiest of holy weeks seek to make time to reflect, pray, consider Jesus’ activities on this day.
What was Jesus doing on Tuesday in Holy Week? Some say that this was the day that Jesus told the story of the fig tree (Luke 13:1-9) which goes like this: Once upon a time, there was a fig tree that did not bear fruit. For three years, the owner looked for figs, but there were none to be found. Finally, in frustration, the owner called the gardener and told him to cut the tree down. “Why should this tree go on using up good space and nutrients? It’s a waste of resources. Let’s get rid of it and plant another tree that will bear fruit.” The gardener was more patient. “Don’t cut it down just yet,” he said. “Give it just one more year. I will give it water, dig around it and fertilize it. Then we shall see if it will bear fruit. Give the tree another chance.”
On this Tuesday in Holy Week, perhaps we might reflect (in our thoughts, our Journal, our prayers) how we’re like the fig tree owner – more willing to write people off than give them ‘another chance’ – more ready to swing at the base of any trunk/person we don’t find to our liking – more ready to bring him/her crashing down to the ground by our negative thoughts, unkind comments, gossip, rather than give them ‘another chance’?
And not just “how” but, “how often.”
Some might say that those actions/reactions are part of our human nature. Perhaps so – initially . But do they have to be part of us forever? Do we have to be like the fig tree owner for the rest of our lives? Can we change? Do we want to change? Are we willing to change? If the answer to any of those questions is “I am open to changing” then we don’t have to be like the fig tree owner for the rest of our lives.
On this Tuesday in Holy Week, perhaps a particular rayer? “Creator, thank you for your constant presence in our lives. May you encourage us to be gentle with ourselves, and one another, in our words, our actions, our thoughts. May we choose to place the ax aside and nurture the tree so the production of the fruit of the Spirit (“for the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, thoughtfulness, gentleness, self control” – Galatians chapter 5) can be manifest in this world. May we remember that you continually give us ‘another chance’, and may we receive your encouragement to give others ‘another chance’. Amen.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Comments are most welcome. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A Soulistry reflection on each day in Holy Week will be available in the “SoulistryChurchYear” group on Facebook and on the Soulistry blog (www.soulistry.com/blog). You are welcome to subscribe to the Soulistry reflections (www.soulistry.com) and as reflections are added, they will automatically come into your inbox.
Learning Some things are easy to learn. Some things are not so easy to learn Some days the learning is huge. Some days it is subtle.
Some days the learning is about … what I believe … who I am … things I need to work on. Some days the learning is about others who are hurtful or loving or kind or mean-spirited or generous or resentful or kind or angry or how gracious and compassionate people can be.
Some days the learning involves a new approach to technology, art, gardening, writing, music or even a new checkerboard move. Some days the learning is about politics, history, literature, religion, cultures, language. And some days it’s a combination of things.
Each night before I go to bed, I ask myself “What have you learned today?” Usually, the answer comes swiftly followed by a silent prayer of gratitude for the lesson.
But when a difficult moment happened and I experienced betrayal … a promise had been made … then broken … and then lied about … and it hurt … what did I learn from that?
The more I thought about it … the more I thought about it. And I found it difficult to forget … difficult to let it go … difficult to move on.
When I went to bed that night, I asked myself “What have you learned today?” But there was no answer and I didn’t sleep well that night. I got up in the wee hours, made a cup of crystal tea and in the stillness and asked the question again: “What have you learned today?”
The answer came quickly. “Forgiveness. You could have learned about the importance of forgiveness.”
I could have but … questions began to surface … was the individual apologetic? … was betrayal acknowledged? … did I want to forgive? I knew the honest answer was the same each time: “No.” and I could feel the hurt rising again. I knew I needed to review the questions again, so I began with the last question: “Do I want to forgive?”
*Want* to forgive?
When I experience betrayal or someone gossiping, making assumptions about my character, or experience cruelty, injustice, downright meanness, the word ‘forgiveness’ enters my thoughts and I try to move in that direction. But sometimes, it takes me a long time. A. Very. Long. Time.
I understand forgiveness to be integral in spiritual and personal growth, so I work on it. Not for the sake of the other, but for my sake. Maybe that’s why forgiveness is called soul-work.
It’s ‘work,’ alright. Hard work.
I wish forgiveness came easily. I wish I didn’t have to experience some lessons over and over and over again. And yet because I know that the end result can be personal growth, I persist.
Two situations this past year were challenging. One situation was two-part and the first part only took a few days for me to forgive. But then it happened again – the second part of the same situation with the same person who, once again, apologized and promised to not let it happen again. I found myself back in the lesson-mode again, trying to determine the advisability of trusting that person again and of trying to forgive. It took me a little longer but gratefully, I was able to forgive that person again.
But the second situation, took a long time to move into a state of forgiveness. A full year. 🙁
Eventually, I was able to forgive – not for the sake of the other, but for the sake of my own soul.
It’s true … learning about and then entering into a posture of forgiveness is soul work. And it’s worth it.
The snow is beginning to leave (hurray!). And this afternoon, these flowers began to surface in my back yard.
The promise of new life emerging in spite of the weather in spite of the pandemic in spite of political upheavals in spite of it being the Season of Lent in spite of what any of us is going through personally.
Deep within the winter snow the promise of new life!
May we not let anything deter us from this reality. Deep within the winter snow is new life – hope!