From sea to shining sea

Seven years ago today, at sunset, the ashes of my mother and my aunt were scattered at sea.  It was a misty evening — with fog and rough waters.  Having grown up by the sea, it was the final request of each sister — with the hope that the waves would guide their ashes from the Atlantic shores of their adopted country to the land of their birth, along their beloved azure Mediterranean coast.

They are deeply missed, but we know — deep in our hearts — that they are Home … and at peace.

“As we return to the earth and sea from whence we came, Divine Creator of all in heaven and on earth, we bring before you these last earthly remains, returned to you, to do with as you will, and to set free for all eternity; and to remind us that forever they shall live in the wind and the waves and on the earth in substance. 

Even though the spirit is already with you, we ask that you receive these ashes of the one that you created, that you might create again from them life anew.”

— Prayer for Scattering

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To Listen (and really Hear)

A few days ago, I spoke about how (as we age) we become more appreciative of our five senses.   Although the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch are — in each their own way — unique and valuable, one stands out above the rest :  Hearing.  

Now, I am not speaking literally (i.e. hearing a sound). If I were being literal, I would give first priority to the physical ability to see.

But, I am speaking metaphysically.  

I am keenly fascinated by Taoist philosophy. Taoism (modernly referred to as Daoism, which is a more accurate English pronunciation of the Chinese word) is an ancient Chinese philosophy and religion whose core belief centers upon the Tao (also referred to as Dao).  Tao means the Way (or Path) … the underlying law of the universe.  Tao is not God, nor is it worshipped.  It is a religious philosophy of  unity and opposites:  Yin and Yang — where the universe is composed of complementary opposites like  dark and light, hot and cold, action and inaction, feminine and masculine.  Harmony or unity with nature, self-development,  the pursuit of spiritual immortality, and living a virtuous (humbly so) life — these are  the basic tenets of Taoism.

The theory of Yin and Yang is also central to all Oriental health practices. And, the root of all health is Ch’i.  In his book “The Book of Ch’i: Harnessing the Healing Force of Energy,” author Paul Wildish writes:

“Ch’i is “breath,” it is the air that we breathe and at the same moment the energy and vitality that sustain us.  Everything we see, or touch, or experience is composed of ch’i and is merely an arrangement of this energy into recognizable form.  It is a concept comparable to the explanation of quantum physics for the structure of atoms and molecules as accumulations of energy organized into distinct patterns.  Our whole existence is determined by this energy.  All facets of human life, our physical health, mental alertness, and emotional stability are conditioned by the levels and the relative flow of ch’i in and around our bodies.  Summoning, conserving, and using ch’i therefore is vital to maintaining a happy and healthy life  …. Ch’i operates through the bipolar dynamic of yin and yang, in a constant process of transmutation.  When we breathe in it is yin and when we breathe out it is yang … Good health is founded on establishing a natural cyclic equilibrium of these two forces.”

So, now you understand where I’m coming from when I say that “I am speaking metaphysically.”  I view the importance of the senses (notably the sense of “hearing”) as harmonizing with nature and thus contributing to our quest for self-development.

The 6th century Chinese philosopher (also known as the Father of Taoism) Lao Tzu (“Old Sage”) best articulates what I am trying to say about the importance of listening (and really hearing):

“It is hard to hear anything when you are doing the talking. Appreciate the value of silence, listen to the world around you and gain understanding from the insights it offers. “

In my reality, as perhaps in yours as well, this may mean listening to someone (be it friend, family or even a stranger) who needs a sounding board, a compassionate ear.  Or, it may be someone who wants you to go beyond listening, to really hear what he is trying to say (although he is not speaking).  In this case, you have to hear what his silence is telling you.  And then, understand.

Aye, there’s the rub.

Images via sheknows.com  and fertility-health.com.

Summer reveries …

As a child, I used  to love those quiet summer days when I’d lie down on the grass and gaze up at the sky, marvelling at its perfection.  I’d close my eyes and feel the sun’s warmth on my skin, and listen to the gentle rustling of leaves from the large oak tree nearby.  I would lie there for hours, as midday became late afternoon.  Sometimes the weather would shift, surprising me, bringing with it a new set of  sensory delights. Mesmerized by the different cotton ball shapes, I’d track the movement of the clouds as the warm summer breeze caressed my face and I waited in anticipation for what was sure to come next:  the sun shower.  I’d laugh out loud as the raindrops tickled my skin, and stick my tongue out to taste the drops.  Before I could count the minutes, the shower stopped, leaving behind the fresh smell of rain. Then it was time for me to go inside for tea time with my mother. I’d jump up, shake the grass off, and — with the hint of a smile on my lips — I’d leave my peaceful afternoon reverie behind. There would be more summer days like that.  Plenty more.

Although those sweet childhood days have long since gone, I still enjoy summer days like that.  In youth, we take much for granted — not at all concerned about the passage of Time.  As we age, we become acutely aware of how precious each and every moment is.  We are grateful for each and every sense that we are blessed with. It becomes more important for us to look (and really see)  the beauty all around us, to listen to (and truly hear) the sounds that make us smile,  to breathe in and smell that first summer rain, to taste and savour a freshly picked apple, and to touch  the hand of a loved one (like it was the first and may possibly be the last time)

To live life as if Today is all we have, is to savour and love each and every minute.

Don’t put it off until tomorrow. 

 

Photo Credit Anita Patterson-Peppers via iStockPhoto.

Balancing time: back to the halcyon days

“The more you sense the rareness and value of your own life, the more you realize that how you use it, how you manifest it, is all your responsibility. We face such a big task, so naturally we sit down for a while.”

Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi

My greatest challenge is balancing time. With so many book projects — in different stages of development — I sometimes feel overwhelmed.  Experience has taught me that when this feeling washes over me, it’s time to press the “pause” button in my life and switch gears.  So, I put my gardening shoes, hat and gloves on  and then step out into my very own tropical garden.  When I’m pruning, weeding, planting and tending to my herb garden, fruit trees and flowers, I am in another zone.  A zone were mobile phones, emails, LinkedIn and Google do not exist.  This is a time and space when/where I am able to think, imagine, and create — not on paper, but in my mind.  This is a place of peace, of balance.  So, I’ve made some decisions as to how I should balance my time. 

In this country (United States), many people work 24/7.  Some, because they have to and, others, because they want to.  It is very easy to get caught up in that work ethic. Whatever the reason, it is simply not healthy to work continuous long hours, seven days a week.  In many locations around the world (notably, Europe), Sunday is still considered a day of rest. In Israel, Saturday (the Sabbath) is observed as a day of rest.  In the days of yore (pre-1970), North Americans happily left work behind at the end of Friday and prepared to enjoy their weekends (Saturday AND Sunday) with family and friends. 

It is my belief that those were the halcyon days.  Granted, the world is a lot more complicated and intense.   But, and think about this,  does it really have to be?  Do we not have the power to make choices about our own lives?  Can’t we figure out a way to balance work and play, business interaction and family interaction, money and quality of life?  Are they all mutually exclusive?

I think we can strike a balance between all the components of our life, although we may have to choose to let some go.  For example, does little Suzie really need to go to ballet class, Girl Guides, tennis, AND Glee Club?  Shouldn’t two extracurricular activities be enough? I’ve said this many times — to anyone who will listen — we overschedule ourselves and our children.

I, for one,  intend to recalibrate my thinking.  I now refuse to answer business calls during the weekend (yes, Saturday AND Sunday) and after 9 pm on weekdays. On weekends, I will not check LinkedIn or respond to business emails.  I will not do client work on weekends, only my own projects. 

Weekends are for family and friends. No exceptions.  I will go on Facebook and Skype, because that’s how I communicate with family and friends who live miles (and oceans) away. 

So, there you have it.  Back to the 1950’s, but with a 21st century social media twist!

As for Volume 1 (When the Child Becomes the Parent) in my 4-volume Baby Boomer Series, it’s still in progress. Spring has come and gone. I am eye-deep in research.  It will be done when it is done.  Sooner, rather than later.  I’m not getting any younger.

“Writing is not a matter of time, but a matter or of space. If you don’t keep space in your head for writing, you won’t write even if you have the time.” 

— Katerina Stoykova Klemer

Image (stones) via groupsoutdor.com.