Long ago, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was born. Considered to be one of the most important Stoic philosophers, Aurelius penned these words: “When you arise in the morning, think of what a privilege it is to be alive: to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
The world seems to be going crazy on so many levels. It would be easy to give way to the fear, the anger, the hopelessness, etc.
It would be easy …. but I refuse to give power to evil.
Today, I awoke. … I am grateful.
Today, I awoke. I could breathe. … I am grateful.
Today, I awoke. I could think. … I am grateful.
Today, I awoke, I enjoyed something. Many things. … I am grateful.
Today, I awoke. I loved. … I am grateful.
Each day, may we waken and find something each day … no matter how small for which we are grateful.
Today, I picked these flowers in my garden. I am grateful for them and I am grateful that today, I awoke.
Fear seems to be on the rise. There’s climate change, mass murders, fires, the Delta variant of the COVID19 virus. What to do? We could get guns, or attachments to make guns even more potent. We could become a more militarized society. We could let the fear grow and grow until emotional and spiritual paralysis sets in.
Or, we could transform our understanding of fear – and our approach to it.
We could turn fear into hope and F ace E verything that is A gainst R eason
with H ealing O penness and P ossibilities of peaceful action and response, by and for E veryone
Will changing our approach to a single word bring about change within our Spirit?
Will changing our Spirit bring about change in our actions, our attitudes, our abilities to cope with the pandemic?
How will we know … if we don’t try?
When fear attacks, may we Face Everythingthat is Against Reason with Healing, Openness and Possibilities of peaceful action and response by and for Everyone.
Letters of the alphabet … They can be fascinating. They can be a focus for artwork. They can remind us of our childhood as we recite the letters. They can lead us to better awareness of our world and ourselves as an Alphabet of Life.
Here’s one suggestion Why not make up your own Alphabet of Life.
Accepting of self
Be-ing (not just do-ing)
Creating something each day
Drawing on our inner resources
Elevating our thoughts to new heights
Feeding our soul
Graciously accepting compliments
Initiating contact with a friend
Joyfully receiving the gift of life
Keeping our head while the world seems out-of-whack
Loving ourself as we do our neighbour
Mirroring the goodness we admire in others
Nourishing our spirit
Opening our heart to receiving love in new ways
Paddling through each day in spite of the blocks
Questioning the imponderables
Realizing our potential
Smiling when we meet a stranger
Treasuring the transient moments of each day
Understanding that we don’t have all the answers to life
Valuing our education and those who have been/ are our mentors
Weaving experiences of life through a loom of learning
Xtracting information from the Universe so we grow in wisdom
Yielding to the holy, however we understand that term
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.
When I transplanted the bleeding hearts in the garden, I didn’t think they would “take” in their new location.
Oh, me of little faith! They survived the transplant and blossomed!
Each time I walk by them, I am reminded to pray
… pray especially for those around the world
who live in situations where bleeding hearts are inside human bodies
… pray on this July 4th day in particular, for my neighbours in the United States.
On the Fourth of July, the U.S.A. marks the adoption of their Declaration of Independence in 1776.
It included the phrase: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men <sic> are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It is difficult to wish them “Happy July 4th”
when so many are struggling with fear.
It is difficult to wish them “Happy July 4th” when many do not believe that all men <sic>
are created equal.
It is difficult to wish them “Happy July 4th”
when so many are convinced that conspiracy theories are real.
It is difficult to wish them “Happy July 4th.”
But I do.
And as I do, I pray.
I pray for the leaders.
… the individuals who can make a difference
And I pray for the other kind of leaders
… the individuals who can make a difference and choose otherwise.
This day, I particularly pray
for the bleeding hearts of the people of the United States.
May the Holy Force (the Fourth) be with them.
With us all.
As always, you are welcome to share with accreditation.
When life hits unexpectedly, it hurts. And when it hurts, it can wound
not just physically
not just emotionally
not just spiritually.
Sometimes all three.
When life hits unexpectedly
when life happens and pain results
when life brings exhaustion beyond imagining
when the rain of sadness is in our heart
Hopefully, the God of Compassion will be with us (you/me)
holding us close when we are weary, hurt, alone (May Holy Compassion be with us – you / me.)
Hopefully, the God of Mercy will be with us (you/me)
forgiving those who have caused pain,
forgiving Holy Other. (May Holy Mercy be with us – you / me.)
Hopefully, the God of Gentleness will be with us (you/me)
caressing us with sunlight, rain and summer winds;
and shining through us to all who hurt and are lonely. (May Holy Gentleness be with us – you/me.)
Hopefully, the God of Wonder will be with us (you/me)
delighting us with sunrises, daisies, songs, baby’s laughter
enchanting our senses
filling our hearts; giving us wide-open eyes. (May Holy Wonder be with us – you/me.)
Hopefully, the God of Simplicity will be with us (you/me)
opening us to a clear vision of what is truth;
and dealings with others will be marked by honesty, which is simplicity. (May Holy Simplicity be with us – you/me.)
Hopefully, the God of Patience will be with us (you/me)
waiting with outstretched arms
and encouraging us to “be still, deep within ourselves.” (May Holy Patience be with us – you/me.)
Hopefully, the God of Love will be with us (you/me)
listening, drawing us close as we tremble,
lighting fires of faith and hope in the hearts of all.
May God’s love glow in our eyes.
May we meet God’s love in the eyes of others. (May Holy Love be with us – you/me.)
Hopefully, the God of Tenderness will be with us (you/me)
enfolding us with the desire to bring warmth
to those who are dis-eased in body, mind or spirit. (May Holy Tenderness be with us – you/me.)
Hopefully, the God of Strength will be with us (you/me)
holding us close, on eagle’s wings;
and we will be the sacrament of God’s strength to others. (May Holy Strength be with us – you/me.)
Hopefully, the God of Peace will be with us (you/me)
stilling the heart that hammers with fear or doubt or confusion,
bringing the warm mantle of peace cover those who are troubled or anxious. (May Holy Peace be with us – you/me.)
Hopefully, the God of Joy will be with us (you/me)
thrilling us with holy nearness, filling our heart to fullness,
and our soul with an awe that is profound. (May Holy Joy be with us – you/me.)
And hopefully, the God of Forgiveness will be with us (you/me)
encouraging us with strength, peace, and love. (May Holy Forgiveness be with us – you/me.)
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.
There are times when we experience wilderness moments
… when temptation calls us to sow seeds of negativity in our social media posts, blogs, conversations,emails, thoughts
… when wild beasts of anger, fear, disillusionment, bitterness, resentment are ravenous and eat at the core of our personal peace and corporate unity.
Those wild beasts and temptations can be deadly.
How can we resist the temptations
remain steadfast in the face of the wild beasts
raise one another up, instead of tear one another down
be encouraged when we falter
have willing hearts to forgive one another and ourselves
be mindful about what is good in this world
repent of those moments when we allow temptations and wild beasts to detract us
Those times when we feel unloveable,
may we feel unconditional love.
Those times when our bodies hurt,
may we know a gentle, healing touch.
Those times when our minds are confused and stressed,
may we be blessed with a sense of peace that passes all understanding.
Those times when the storms of life have battered us,
may we experience a soft embrace.
Those times when all we seem to hear is a cacophony of cruelty, gossip and negativity,
may we know a comforting, encouraging and affirming ‘still, small Voice’ within.
When life seems bleak, the future seems uncertain and/or frightening,
may we discover a glimmer of a spirit of hope.
Yes, ‘Poohiah,’ because it was a most unexpected Winnie the Pooh who once said: “Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get. They’re things which get you. All you have to do is go where they can find you.” (A.A.Milne author of “Winnie the Pooh”)
Music speaks to my soul. It nourishes my soul. It delights my soul. Winnie the Pooh knows whereof he speaks and maybe I should have titled this blog post “A Poohian Theology of Music” rather than “A Poohian Theory of Music”?
The “poetry and hums” get to us! And when they do, the body expresses emotions, being experienced in the soul, as fingers rap out a rhythm, toes tap a beat, heads nod, larynx hums a tune or sings out loud.
When the “poetry and hums” get to us, healing can happen … feelings of sorrow, anger, frustration, fear, rage, passion, grief and even boredom can be relieved … courage can be awakened … love, passion, happiness and devotion can be nurtured … our physical body can become stimulated with increasing blood flow, speed of circulation, muscular energy, and metabolism … and we can be connected with the Source of All Life in a unique way.
Music is gift. Music gifts us with the ability to reflect, remember, and become re-created. Maybe it’s the combined right/left brain activity that takes place when we sing, play instruments or listen to music on the radio, tv, CD’s, stereo or at a concert. Maybe it’s the soul-soaring as hymns are sung, psalms are chanted, sung prayers are offered. Maybe it’s the unique embodiment of theology, art, truth, wisdom, lesson and emotional release in word and song that captures our heart and mind.
Whatever it is, music appeals to our soul and senses, and society reminds us that music is a wonderful part of our existence: music awakens astronauts (and us!) first thing in the morning … music entertains at concerts … music enriches movie experiences … music can be found in stores, elevators, airplanes and even restaurants … and music has an endurance that is retained in the deepest recesses of memory.
Those who have worked with stroke victims and neurological disorders know that people who have forgotten so much (even the names of their partner, children) have been known to play music on the piano, hum the melody of beloved hymns, toe-tap to remembered songs, and respond to meditative choruses.
One of the greatest conductors of all time, Leopold Stokowski, once said that “there are regions so elusive in our life of feeling that only music can express such intangible and sublime visions of beauty.”
There is no doubt that music awakens the soul and that an inner part of ourselves connects directly to the Holy Other whether that music be Rock, Country, Classical, Reggae, Chamber Music, Jazz, Latin, Folk, Celtic, Gospel, Spa Music, Country, Blues, John Philip Sousa marches, Gregorian chant, Chuck Berry, Celine Dion, Paul Anka, Barbra Streisand … whether it be penny whistle, French horn, bass, bagpipe, bassoon, cello, comb and tissue paper or even one’s own whistling!
Music can make us dance and skip, move us to tears, and encourage us to be as happy as Winnie the Pooh on a fine summer’s morn!
It’s true, Pooh, music can be a wonderful bridge between the body and soul. “All you have to do is go where they can find you.” May we make time to go where music can find us. And may we give voice to the “poetry and hums” that nurture and touch our soul beyond cognitive understanding.
“Create” said my friend with enthusiasm. I looked at the blank piece of paper and was numb. “Create? Create what?”
“Let it flow. Put paint on brush, brush on paper. See what happens.”
“She’s got to be kidding” I murmured to myself. “I need her to show me what to do. I’ve never painted before”. The others were mixing paint colours, adding water, having fun. One was even humming. And I? What was I doing? I was looking at the others, trying to figure out what to do … looking at the instructor … trying to have her tell me in simple, easy, step-by-step instructions, how to create. But there I sat. Immobile.
Schoenberg created twelve-tone music. Bette Nesmith Graham invented liquid paper. Picasso created cubism. Maria Telkes & Eleanor Raymond developed the first solar-heated home. Auden made verses. Gates created Microsoft. Gutenberg invented moveable type. Cartwright invented the game of baseball. Earle Dickson invented bandaids. Anna Connelly created the outdoor fire escape. Walter Hunt created the safety pin. Grace Murray Hopper invented COBOL, the first user-friendly business computer software program. Jack St Clair Kilby created the microchip. Arthur Wynne created the crossword puzzle. Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper. And then there was Einstein, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Pasteur, Eli Whitney, and …
They all created. Were they ever ‘immobile’? Why was I? Thoreau wrote “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”
The Deuteronomist wrote “Choose life!” So what did I have to lose?
Paint went on brush. Brush touched paper. Creation! Finally.
Another life lesson: … risk … go confidently in the direction of your dreams … choose life … create. Just begin.
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. 🙂
The first time I heard someone look at something I had created and say “June, you are an artist,” I was taken aback.
An artist? No, not me. I can’t draw or paint or do calligraphy or sculpt or quilt or … I just play.
And then it dawned on me … just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is artistry / creativity. But for many years, I denied that anything I had made was creative or artistic. Each time someone made a positive comment on a handmade card they’d received from me or a painting I’d done or a book I’d made, I mumbled something along the lines of “oh, I’m not an artist. I just like to play” and never uttered a “thank you” to the person for their kind comment.
And then one day, I heard my husband deny his artistic talent to someone who had just admired his work at an art show. I was shocked. Hans was an artist! His sketches, paintings, and calligraphy had sold; he and his artwork had been featured in national magazines and art shows; his work was proudly displayed by many in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia. That evening, I asked him why he was so negative about his work and didn’t thank the person for their comment. His reply echoed my thoughts about my own work … “I’m not very good, compared to …” Ahhh, there was the key – comparison.
Renowned calligrapher Peter Thornton often says “When you look at your neighbour’s work, you see it for what it is. When you look at your own work, you see it for what it isn’t.” Why do we do that? Why do we see the value of our efforts and work in comparison with the work of others and not for their own intrinsic worth?
There will always be people who do what we do, only better. There will always be people who are ahead of us on the learning curve – who we admire and want to emulate.
But that doesn’t mean our efforts, our work, is of any less value.
That evening, as Hans and I talked about the way we both denied that we were creative/artistic, we agreed to not compare our work with others and try to see ourselves as artists. I’d been a teacher for decades and loved seeing the light come on when a student “gets it” – whatever the subject.
After that evening, I found myself consciously encouraging Soulistry workshop students to see themselves as artists, not to compare their work with someone else. In so doing,
I hoped that seeing themselves in such a way would make a difference.
This past week, a student wrote and reminded me of the import role of encouragement – of one another – of ourselves. “I just want to thank you. I drove on a stormy day in October to attend your ‘Picasso Portraits’ class. During that class you quietly said to me, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not an artist.” I so needed that comment at that time. I was questioning why I was “wasting” my time making art and asking myself what the heck I was going to do with all that so-called art that I was generating. I held your comment in my mind. Repeated it to myself often, when needed. And yesterday I sold my first painting!!! I entered a piece on a whim, and it sold on the first day. I am encouraged to continue making art. Because it makes me happy.”
She is an artist! Not because she sold one of her pieces, but because making art makes her “happy.”
I believe that expressing our creativity, our artistry, deepens our spirituality. That deep belief was the inspiration for the birth of *Soulistry* – the workshops, then the book, then the blog, the website, and the Facebook page. And, and it’s why the Soulistry book has a sub-title: “Artistry of the Soul,” for I believe that every person can be an artist.
Whether we are a flower arranger, sculptor, writer, painter, paper artist, surgeon, chef, book-maker, musician, fabric designer, singer, sew-er, cartoonist, dancer, poet, graphic designer, woodworker, gardener, knitter, card-maker, doodler/tangler, inventor, jewellery-maker, calligrapher, hair stylist, blogger, weaver, quilter, car builder, beadmaker, etc. … whether we sell our work, win awards, are ‘the best’ in our field, isn’t the issue. When we create, we make a spiritual connection, we are nourishing our spirit, having fun, playing, challenging the synapses in our brain, learning something new, exploring our playful nature, experiencing a sense of happiness and indefinable joy.
Many years ago, at the end of a Soulistry retreat where retreatants zendoodled, decorated wooden mirrors and made their own paper beads, each person was presented with a certificate with their name and the letters C.S.A. – Creative Spirituality Artist and encouraged to add those letters after their name. 🙂
I like that – not because I made it up <g> – but I like it because it speaks to an understanding of who I am when I create … an understanding of who I believe we all are, when we create. We are creative artists connecting to spirit aka “Creative Spirituality Artists”.
May we all be Creative Spirituality Artists with openness, with abandon, with play and with joy!
With Mother’s Day on the horizon, I think of, and pray with thanksgiving, for … the women who are rejoicing for they gave birth to a healthy child … the women whose child had children and they became a grandmother … the women who adopted a child.
With Mother’s Day on the horizon, I think of and pray for women who are experiencing a wide range of emotions … the women who never birthed a child … the women who miscarried … the women who were infertile (or their partner was) … the women who had an abortion … the women whose child was stillborn … the women whose child had serious health issues … the women whose child ran away and put into custodial care … the women whose child was raped … the women whose child was taken away at birth by authorities … the women whose child was kidnapped … the women whose child died due to the pandemic, accident, overdose, illness, murder … the women whose child lives in COVID19 fear. … the women whose child became alienated from them and there is little or no loving communication … the women whose adoptions fell through, artificial insemination didn’t work … the women whose surrogate changed her mind and kept the baby … the women whose children are in prison or still in cages … the women whose child had a debilitating physical/mental disability … the women whose child committed suicide … the women who were surrogate mothers, carried the child to term, but who never became that child’s parent.
With Mother’s Day on the horizon, I think of women who are mothers, but may not see their role to be one of selfless mothering … foster moms … spiritual moms … mentor moms
With Mother’s Day on the horizon, I think of … women who lost their own mother through death or alienation … women who suffered abuse from their own mother.
May acknowledgment of Mother’s Day, be done with sensitivity. May there be acknowledgement that there are women who will be celebrating and giving thanks while there will be women who will be grieving and in pain – all on the same day.
With Mother’s Day on the horizon, I think of, and pray for, each.
Sunny. It’s a name that suits my friend well. Her easy, friendly manner encourages smiling responses in those she meets. Her patient, open acceptance of others, her loving nature and grace blesses those who encounter her. She brings sunshine in her every step. Yes, Sunny is well named.
Each time I encounter Sunny, I find myself learning something because Sunny is a gifted teacher who by example, teaches a simple lesson: “Take each day as it comes. Appreciate it as gift. Play a little!” and who embodies the saying of the Jewish Rabbi, Joshua Heschel, who wrote: “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”
Sunny points to the truth that “Yesterday was the past. Tomorrow is the future. Today is a gift, and that is why it is called the present.” (author unknown)
Sunny is right. Each day is a gift, a new beginning, an opportunity to look at the world with new eyes and an opportunity for one’s spirituality to be enriched through playful artistic expression.
When I meet Sunny, I can’t help but look at the world in a new way. She reminds me to slow down, relax, be aware of the sacredness of all that is around me, feel joy at an indescribable part of my spirit, appreciate all of life and play!
One day, Sunny came to visit. She seemed curious about the garden so I invited her to have a look.
When she returned, her attention remained focused on something that was outdoors. She watched, and seemed to be at peace. In that moment, once again, Sunny was my teacher.
She taught me to remember to look and “see” … see beauty in the familiar … see wonder in the everyday things of life … see joy in simply be-ing, not always do-ing.
Sunny reminded me that mortals are called ‘human beings’ not ‘human doings.’
I remember the day of Sunny’s visit – and will never forget it.
In spite of the day being very long a day that began very early, before the light came through my curtains a day that ended very late, with physical fatigue, I was spiritually renewed because of Sunny’s gentle reminder
I realized it was a day where I had touched the face of Creator God in many humbling ways – ways of peace, spontaneity, patience, compassion, mercy, love, thoughtfulness, kindness, humility, joy, goodness, solitude and grace in so many ways.
… In the joyous laughter of children at play in the nearby schoolyard, I met the Creator’s gift of spontaneity.
… In the busyness of the office where phones rang, people dropped by unexpectedly, emails / phone messages needed replying, letters needed writing, I met the Holy One’s gift of patience.
… In the sanctity of morning quiet time and quickly-offered arrow-prayers during the day, I met God’s gift of peace.
… In the tears shed by a woman whose marriage was tenuous and cried for solace and comfort in our time together, I met the Creator’s gift of mercy.
… In the phone call from my son who walked me through the repair of a computer problem that was delaying completion of the design of a special project, I met Spirit’s gift of thoughtfulness.
… In the wonder of the baby born at the hospital after a protracted labour and unexpected live and healthy birth, I met the Holy One’s gift of love.
… In the youth holding open a door for another, I met God’s gift of kindness.
… In the delight of the child who gleefully shouted to her mother “Look! It’s a butterfly – on my hand!” I met God’s gift of joy.
… In the unsolicited smile by a stranger on the street I met Spirit’s gift of goodness.
… In the quiet of my home which shelters me from the elements at day’s end, I met Holy Other’s gift of solitude.
… And in the gentle lesson from Sunny, that no matter how busy each day may seem, spiritual renewal comes in taking each moment as it comes, I met and continue to meet, the gift of grace.
Sunny’s visit was a gentle reminder that spiritual renewal doesn’t come in dreading the future. Spiritual renewal doesn’t come in regretting the past.
Spiritual renewal comes in accepting, entering into and being grateful for the gift of the moment, be that a moment of struggle, a moment of accomplishment, a time of bereavement or loneliness or fear or frustration or anger or anxiety or laughter or joy or wonder or whatever!
Spiritual renewal comes in ‘simply being.’
In case you were thinking that Sunny is a human being, she’s not.
Sunny is a delightful four legged creature – a pomeraniapoo (is that what you call a cross between a Pomeranian and Poodle?) who was used by the Creator that day in a very profound way.
May we all encounter and welcome the Sunny’s into our lives.
I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. Blessed to be married to the love of my life, love was “in the air” in our home on a daily basis.
The ‘gentle-giant-of-a-born-in-Holland-man’, Hans van der Werff and I met late in life. Friendship grew. As love developed, it deepened. Day by day. Life was a joy to be fully celebrated and shared. And then having survived skin cancer and colon cancer, esophageal cancer attacked, quickly metastasized and he died.
Thanks to memories of our ‘together times’ (our travels, laughter, wonderful conversations, moments of silence and oneness, creative Studio-times, mutual curiosity about life, shared playfulness approach to life, and love which was expressed in so many ways), he is and will always be, alive in my mind and heart.
And yet … and yet … while memories are wonderful, there are moments of sadness which emerge as grief from time to time. How to deal with them?
I have been a life-long, firm believer that there is always at least one thing at the end of the day (even on the most difficult days of life) for which I can be grateful. A continuation of an Attitude of Gratitude for the blessings in my life: the big, the small, the magical, the ordinary, the extraordinary, the Mystical, the seen and unseen, the known and unknown, the no-longer-here, the here-and-now … and in the midst of grief, I make choices.
I choose to hold fast to the joy-filled memories. I choose to remember the hope that the grief-clouds will lift. I choose to acknowledge the glimpses of that precious ‘peace that passes understanding.’ I choose to have an Attitude of Gratitude for the blessings in my life. I choose to be a container of peace and love, encouragement and hope. I choose to believe that (as Dame Julian of Norwich penned) “All shall be well. All shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.”
I like Dame Julian’s words. They aren’t namby-pamby-words, saying “suck it up, buttercup.” Rather, they are a pointer … a pointer to the future. Whether that future is here on planet earth (or in the afterlife / third dimension / by-whatever-name), “all” really “shall be” well … and wellness shall become a reality.
Whenever there is loss of any kind, be that in our personal lives or on the global scene, there is grief. We must give our feelings time and space to surface – not deny or ignore them. We must allow ourselves to enter and experience the grief and continue experience “love in the air” in some way each day. In doing so, healing will come.
May living a life where “love in the air” be a matter of intention and focus … even on the rainy days meteorologically and emotionally.
Do you remember Yoda from Star Wars? A legendary Jedi Master, he may have been small in size but he was quite the theologian, philosopher and poet.
Yoda said “Do or do not. There is no try” and in those two short sentences, extended a call to *do* kindness, *do* acts of justice, “do” speak up for … the bullied … the disabled … the environment … the addict … the mentally ill … the lonely … the impoverished … the victimized … the grieving … the homeless … the abused animals and human beings … the elderly … the frightened … the planet … the chronically ill – so that a choir of concern could be heard and change could begin
Yoda set a challenge and put forth a reminder that … change *can* begin … peace *can* appear … joy *can* be experienced … hope *can* be rekindled. Perhaps only in oh-so-small steps … perhaps only in oh-so-small glimpses – but change *can* happen when a Yoda Attitude begins in our heart, in our mind, in our spirit, in our action.
The change might not happen in the ways we want … or expect … or in the time frame we need. But change *can* happen.
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
On this, the fourth day of the month of the year, Happy May Fourth!
The pandemic continues its stranglehold. Life is still difficult, stressful, frightening for many. And at the same time, in this part of the world, summer is on its way and for those who celebrate the Celtic tradition of the beginning of summer, it’s Beltane! Celebration! Joy and pain.
Roses are beginning to open and blossoms bring colour, sweet aroma and joy. Thorns on the roses prick and sometimes bring pain and suffering. Joy and pain.
Like roses, life brings joy and pain.
Yet in the midst of it all is hope.
Look for it. It’s there – it’s here. Where? It’s in the kindness.
While difficult to see, sometimes even more difficult to experience, as a new month begins, let’s anticipate hope … hope that the pandemic will run end its cruelty … hope that life will return to some semblance of normalcy … hope that people will think kind thoughts, speak kind words, act with kindness
It’s the beginning of a new month. Lots of possibilities! Happy month of May!