What A Wonderful World…

14 Apr

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In my neighborhood, I often spot strange plants that look like aliens from another planet or vegetation straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. I know a fair amount about horticulture and yet some of the species make me do a double take.

When I see a flower shocking in color or strangeness, I’m filled with wonder, for just when we think life is humdrum and ordinary, it can take us by utter surprise. It can make us bow to its majesty and serendipity.

If a picture says a thousand words, the one above says it all.

“And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…”

Speed….

1 Apr

I don’t drive fast in parking lots because statistics reveal that more accidents happen while pulling out from a spot at the grocery store (or a few blocks from home) than anywhere else. It’s also where you might mow down a little old lady with her shopping cart or run over somebody’s toddler.

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I do drive fast on the highway. My father drove race cars for a hobby so I have some of that gene. But I drive with my eyes wide open.

Today while driving slowly in the parking lot, someone honked his or her horn at me. It wasn’t just the gesture that irritated me. It was the palpable aggression coming at me that made me want to be aggressive back. “What the hell are you in such a hurry for?!” I wanted to scream. But I didn’t. I tried to feel sorry for the person instead because s/he is headed for a heart attack.

Speed. Our culture is addicted to it. Everyone is moving too fast.

We all do it to varying degrees.

Today I got a scolding from the chiropractor for my poor posture when working at the computer. While this isn’t directly related to the issue of speed, it does reflect a failure to take the time to do things right. To sit right. To get up and stretch. And to not work myself until the point of backache and exhaustion.

Today I was a little more in touch with the here and now because speed is over-rated. In fact, it’s killing us.

Remember. In the story of the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise wins.

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Increasing Bandwidth

26 Mar

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I’ll admit it. My bandwidth is running low. I can’t process all the data. And no, I don’t want an upgrade so that I can tax my nervous system even more. I am on stimuli overload and need a break from it all. Instead of upgrading the system, I need to clear some files. Here are my thoughts on increasing bandwidth in today’s information age:

*Note – If you have children, include them in these activities. They will greatly appreciate it. Resist saying, “I have children, there is no time!” They take considerable bandwidth, so all the more reason to pay heed.

1) Surf. Your smart phone can’t find you playing with the dolphins.
2) Turn off the t.v. and go to bed early. It’s delightful.
3) Answer urgent email but then save correspondence for select times during the day.
4) Create.
5) Meditate.
6) Lie on the yoga mat. (Kids like yoga! Cats and dogs too!).
7) Limit non-stop social engagement.
8) Practice saying, “No, I’m not available.”
9) Pet an animal.
10) Examine flowers in the neighborhood.
11) WRITE – on projects that matter – not email.
12) BREATHE.
13) Daydream.

This operating system has to last and do its job.

Creating Space

14 Mar

When I was a little girl I spent considerable time helping my grandparents in their garden. Well, they worked while I slapped at mosquitoes and sang songs to myself. I remember my grandmother once explaining that a weed was anything that grew where it shouldn’t. Even a rose could be considered a weed if it was in the wrong place or choking another plant from receiving nourishment. I am a big fan of roses so it never occurred to me to consider the flower a weed. Yet my grandma had a point.

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I think about this conversation from long ago as I consider how over-crowded many of our lives are at this point in time. Talk to anyone and most will say, “I’ve got way too much going on…. I’m so exhausted. If only I had more time….” When this is the adage and refrain, I wonder if some weeding can be done, even if some of the “weeds” are the equivalent of roses. Sometimes too much of anything, even good things can overwhelm. If this is the case, we can become more conscious and judicious of what we plant in the garden and where we place things.

On the other hand, nothing is more exquisite than a wild overrun English garden. I’ve always been enamored by this style of gardening for these creations have a random and chaotic feel yet paradoxically bring a sense of calm. In them one finds a dizzy yet harmonious vitality almost analogous to a rich full life.

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Currently, my life feels like one of these wild overgrown English gardens. There is so much blooming at the moment my head wants to spin from the sea of color. And yet, if I’m honest with myself, nothing is choking out anything. Instead, the various items are delicately enhancing the others. Why then do I feel I need to control it all or take something away? Would it not be better to simply pause and sit in the garden for a moment and take it all in? How do we create space in our lives and what type of space do we yearn for? How do we find that fragile balance between order and chaos? I find it a daily process, one that requires the diligence and commitment of any good gardener and the ability to surrender things to Mother Nature as well.

In Quiet Beauty….

4 Mar

I know, I know. People in the MidWest and East Coast are sick of snow. But I find it so beautiful. Yes, it’s true that as a Southern Californian, I don’t have to drive in it, shovel it or endure it. But when I have the fortunate opportunity to spend some time in snow, I have a strange love affair with it. I guess we should never question what makes one fall in love.

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The contrast of colors makes me want to paint. The stark trees make me want to write. And the cold air leads me under the covers with a book. Unfortunately, reality hits and I too have to get up, work and resume normal life. But for those of us who see sunshine daily, it’s nice to have a break from the constant riot of light. Its nice to have a little bit of quiet beauty.

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Creating on the Edge

18 Feb

In yoga, teachers often tell students to push themselves in a stretch only to the point where it is just starting to hurt. One is NEVER to push to the point of true pain for that defeats the whole purpose. Instead, one is told to go just to the edge of where the muscles aren’t used to being stretched and to use one’s breath to ease into new territory. In essence, this is a balance between surrender and will.

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In therapy there is a similar concept referred to as “titrating the anxiety”. This describes when an individual’s anxiety begins to increase because he or she is on the brink of a breakthrough and growth. It is a process of adding an unknown element to a known one and seeing how the two ingredients settle. Yet the resulting degree of anxiety shouldn’t be so intense that it creates terror or paralysis for that serves no one.

These concepts have vital correspondents with the creative process, for in creativity, we want to have a degree of freedom and ease, yet take the necessary risks to excel and grow. Creativity demands that we walk along the edge of the unknown. It takes us into new places, which can scare and inhibit us, as well as delight us. We become like Dorothy, at first terrified by stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Then we start to see life in technicolor as we journey through Oz.

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We live in a society with a common mindset that success results from pushing ourselves to the point of collapse. This of course is the death of creativity. Instead, we want to strike that beautiful balance between rest and motion, and stability and chaos. We also want to recognize when it’s time to slow down and refuel, so that we have the energy, courage and conviction to take new risks in the future.

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Creating as an Act of Love

14 Feb

Valentine’s is one of those days that many hate. For couples, often one partner feels pressured to “get it right” while the other feels like he or she was ignored. For singles, there can be a myriad of feelings from longing to be in a relationship to being blissful that one is not….

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Personally, I like to remove myself from this cauldron of unmet expectations and pressures and think about love in a more abstract way. Specifically, I like to think of creating as an act of love.

Creating carries the tremendous power to help us transform our lives. It assists by allowing us to organize chaos while we attempt to make something of beauty from it. For instance, when I was little, I was enamored by the fact that my grandmother could knit. I’d watch her needles clicking and her fingers looping yarn around them as a sweater began to take shape. The ultimate thrill was how something could be made from nothing – or at least from a string of yarn.

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This phenomenon of creating something out of nothing constitutes the mystery and marvel of Creation itself. For something to emerge from a void or chaos is indeed a miracle. And for those of us whose lives feel shattered and whittled down to a thread, creativity becomes a force that can breathe new life and possibilities into us. Through this healing agent, we can break through stagnate situations and transcend them for as Albert Einstein once said, “Logic will take me from A to B – imagination will take me anywhere.”

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Creativity is a trait inherent to all human beings. It is not something doled out to the elite or those born with special talents. Every single one of us has the seeds of creativity woven within us. It is an aspect of how we are made in the image of God for no other creature but humans and God can create. While all animals and even vegetation procreate, only humanity can conceptualize something and bring it into existence. We are the only ones who can transform the idea of a building into the splendor of a cathedral or take an emotion and translate it into a painting.

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And indeed, creativity is the opposite of destruction. In an age where tensions are rising and impulse control is diminishing, we need tools that preserve life versus destroy it. When people are becoming prone to pulling triggers, we need a different type of weapon.

Given the healing properties of the creative act, perhaps it is not unusual that creation itself reflects this process too. For instance, in nature, events that appear harsh might be part of a greater master plan to form vast beauty. Who would ever have imagined that erosion of the land over millions of years could result in something as magnificent as the Grand Canyon?

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Yet that fantastic feat of nature directly results from wear and tear no different than how pressure and heat make diamonds and other precious minerals. Likewise, if you live in a climate where there are four seasons, you know that by winter the landscape becomes bare and desolate. The trees appear stark and it seems everything is frozen to death. Yet underneath the ground new life will spring forth when the snow melts and the temperatures warm. When that happens the riot of beauty that ensues can literarily take our breath away.

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As a young girl, I was expected to do a fair amount of gardening as a child. I wanted to rebel against this but instead found I enjoyed it. As I pulled dead leaves from shrubs, pruned and re-potted, my mind quieted until the only sound I perceived was the rustle of the wind. I discovered that cutting back limbs gave birth to new buds and pulling weeds at their stems allowed other plants to breathe. As my fingers thrust into the earth, I could feel the pulse of creation, echoing back my existence as well. And as the sun nourished the plants I tended, it also sustained me.

Because of this link to gardening, I tend to think about healing in relation to both gardening and nature. Spending hours in the garden, I began to perceive a type of wisdom inherent in creation. Although not spelled out for me, I discovered truths in what unfolded daily. Creation and the creative process itself seemed to reflect aspects of the Divine and what I perceived were expressions of God’s love. If there could be such beauty, God must exist and if new growth emerged from decay, this must be God’s regenerative grace. However, somehow we have to see beyond the dead leaves and know enough to step into the garden. We also have to get our hands dirty.

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This Valentine’s Day why not make something? You can make something for someone else or make something for yourself. And you can create by yourself or with a tribe of like minded people. Both will be an act of love.

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