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Archive for February, 2012

101 people (and counting) have signed up for the 40 Days of Silence Project and I am looking forward to hearing more about what others have experienced and I thought that I would share some of the ways that I and others have invited silence into our lives.

About a week ago, in preparation for Lent, I initiated silence while driving alone; no radio, cds (or talking to myself) and the difference has been soothing. It takes a fair amount of mindfulness to own a thoughtlessness.  

I also nearly nightly enjoy something my mother did. After we’d all gone to bed, she would turn off the lights in the house, open the living room blinds, sit in her easy chair (light up a cigarette ~ times were different then) and gaze out at the night sky. I kneel at the stairway window, open the sash, stick my head outside to see the moon and starts and breath in the crisp night air. I (try to) think about nothing! Helps me sleep.

Ann M.

I thought of you and this the other day as I was drinking coffee and watching our dog – just watching him. It was such a peaceful experience to just observe an animal – I guess that is why I love having animals. Today I observed a crow on the roof of the medical center that I can see from my window – was only 5 minutes, but somehow was rejuvinating…

Cara S.

When I was little I always thought it was so amazing when we would be at the pool and there would be so much noise, so many things happening all around and I would hold my breath and float beneath the water allowing my whole being to be submerged and suddenly there was this silence and stillness that would fill me and I would just float away. 

Another moment that never ceases to bring more peace to my heart and silence to my soul is to go out at night and look at the moon and the stars, to feel the veil of darkness descend and to feel the peace of the evening wrap around me reminding me to be still and breathe deeply. 

A few other ways to invite silence into your life:

  • Taking a moment of silence before a meal.
  • Sit in a chair and simply close your eyes for a few moments.
  • Repeat a mantra until your mind stills and then enjoy the silence you have created.
  • Cuddle with your partner, your kids, your four-legged family members.
  • Sit in front of the lake or the ocean. And if you don’t have the ocean out your front door here is a video of a Caribbean beach for you to enjoy.
  • Walk without your ipod or ask your walking partner to do half (or all) of your walk in silence.
  • Make veggie soup, and as you are chopping the vegetables allow yourself to simply be mindful of the love and care you put into the soup.
  • Light a candle and watch the flame.
  • Turn off the ringer on your phone for an hour.
  • Designate a spot, a chair that is the official “quiet spot” in your home.
  • At the office turn off your monitor, shut the door and take five minutes of your lunch break to simply sit and be still.
  • Watch a sunrise or a sunset.
  • Put a commercial on mute if you are watching television, or simply breathe in and breathe out 10 times during the commercial.

How are you inviting more silence (in big or small ways) into your life?

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Today was a day where words are so inadequate, where one can’t hold all that it contains into a sentence, a post, my hands or my heart.

I was blessed to have spent the day with family and friends near and dear to me honoring life, grieving loss and holding hope. I was reminded of how powerful ritual is, how love can weave together broken hearts, how vital community is and how important we are to one another.  Looking at the people that surrounded me with all of our lives flashing before us, from the picture above, to the moments now so many years later with so much love, light and loss woven within each year, each milestone, each step taken together.  Weaving in and out of each others lives, creating a safety net of community, of connection I was overwhelmed with so many emotions.  With the angelic voice of Heatherlyn lifting our hearts, a moving message about the power of marking the time and the acknowledgement of the difficulty of the firsts of a year after loss an ordinary Sunday afternoon where time was suspended and love was made visible.

Last night I was blessed to hear beautiful music from the talented Leslie Ball whose beautiful stories, sharing and music broke open the hearts of the audience and drew them in from the very first strum of her guitar.  Followed by a reading/talk by Matthew Sanford about his memoir: Waking- A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence. 

When Matthew Sanford was just thirteen, his family’s car skidded off an overpass on an icy Iowa road — killing his father and sister, paralyzing him from the chest down, and changing his life forever. Years later, yoga would dramatically change it again. In WAKING: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence (Rodale, June 2006), Matthew chronicles his journey from the intensive care unit to becoming a paralyzed yoga teacher and founder of a nonprofit organization. Along the way, Matthew gains a deeper understanding of the connection between mind and body, and formulates an entirely new view of existence as a “whole” person.

For years after the devastating accident, Matthew felt a schism, or “silence,” between his mind and his body. As he grew into adulthood, he began studying philosophy in an increasingly frustrating search for answers. Then he discovered yoga. At first, he didn’t even know if a paraplegic could do yoga, but he was willing to try. Guided by his teacher, Matthew began to explore what it truly means to live in a body, and discovered new meaning and purpose in the “distance” between mind and body.

Then while standing in line to get my book signed meeting Joe Stone and learning more about his amazing story.  And being reminded this weekend at every turn, about how people every day experience trauma and transcendence, how people experience love and loss, how we move forwards, backwards and everywhere in-between.  And sometimes it is our own volition that keeps us moving, sometimes it is friends, family, others that share their hope and healing with us, and sometimes it is a moment from a book, a blog, a movie, a stranger that offers what we need at that moment if we are willing to receive the gift.

At the service today, to honor a young life taken much to soon, on what would have been his first birthday, last night hearing Matthew speak, and the stories and songs that Leslie shared, my own experience- they all have common threads… the love of friends and family that sustained us through difficult times, the power of using your experience to guide and help others through, reminders of how dependent we are on one another, reminders that we are all vulnerable to loss as long as we love, that life can change in an instant, that we are all so fragile and yet, so much stronger than we ever knew.

And reading the words from my journal after the funeral one year ago…

It is always the things that you can’t prepare for that hit you the most about grief. Today it was watching as S. and another man went in for the man hug and his suitcoat revealed the hospital band still on his wrist. The dead look in their eyes as shock, grief, fatigue and overwhelm numbed their souls and weighed heavy on their hearts.

It is a wonder we can literally still stand, when grief knocks you to the ground it amazes me that we continue to breathe, that we continue to function in any significant way when you just want to curl up and stop breathing.

And that is the hard part… walking away from the moment where you feel so held, where others feed you, where others tell you when to sit, when to stand, where to go, what to do next… and it is the moments when you have to figure out how to rebuild a life after… what to do next, how to keep going when you feel dead inside.

And somehow it happens. One moment at a time the rebuilding begins. The new castle in the sand. And that is the hard part, with no control over the ebb and flow of the tide, no timeline for how often, when or if the sea will give or it will take away… moments of pure joy and ecstacy in the building of a new castle and then the sweeping in of grief once again and you are left with a mound of wet sand and the decision yet again… to rebuild, to enjoy the process, to sit and let the waves wash over you again and again, to move your castle, to pout, to cry, or to find a new opportunity. Because as long as you love you will be vulnerable to loss, and the deeper your love the deeper your pain, but I have decided there is truly no choice, that my desire to live in love is too strong, even though it is a risk, but the rewards are great. The deeper my love the stronger my support, even when the waves are crashing in and in that moment of being knocked off center there is an underpinning of certainty that I will build again. I will believe in the power of creating another castle, of sharing brief moments of joy, of moments of dancing and honoring all that has been created, all that I have loved and lost. But retaining the little snapshots of joy, little moments of my love being so full and complete that it drowns out any darkness that tries to seep through to color the moment or the memory. It is better to be here… this place where I know that they will be okay… but then the pain of knowing how hard the journey is… how long and how difficult… but also knowing the treasures found along the way…

I was trying to think of how to pull this blog “together” to weave the threads together, to have a striking ending of some sort… but then remembered- that is how life is.  It isn’t packaged neatly, there isn’t always a clear beginning, middle and an end.  Once again I am brought back to the In-Between and how so much of life is lived in the mess where there are no guidebooks and no simple answers.

And sometimes it is all we can do to hold on to one another in love and trust that one step at a time the way will unfold.

We live into the healing, into the meaning of events, sometimes not realizing their full power until many years later.

I can already tell that this was one of those times.

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Monday night we were celebrating my friends birthday and I was out with my niece and nephew.  I knew that i was going to be spending Valentine’s evening with them so I had asked Q who is two and utterly adorable as you can see:

“Q, will you be my Valentine?”

He was sitting in my lap at the time and he threw his hands in the air, squealed and said with such fierce determination and a smile just like you see there “YES!”.

My wish for you this Valentine is that whether you spend your Valentine’s Day with your significant other, your children, your parents, your favorite four-legged family member, or enjoying your own company, when that question is asked “Will you be my Valentine?” You can fling your arms up in the air and say “YES!”.

You deserve a love like that, you deserve to have your needs met, your heart held, your very being celebrated.

Surround yourself with people who provide that for you, seek out those who lift you up and who honor the gift you are.

And even more importantly be sure that you are giving yourself that same gift.

 

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Learn to pause… or nothing worthwhile will catch up with you.

Doug King

Since I had pretty much four days to do not a whole lot but sleep and think, I had been thinking a lot about stopping, about surrendering.   About listening to the voice that won’t yell, that won’t clamor above the noise to be heard, the voice that requires your full attention before sharing it’s wisdom with you.

This is the voice that speaks to me when I write deeply from the heart, the voice that always speaks with love and compassion, but can also share truth that sometimes stings a little.  This is the voice that won’t play games, that won’t appear on demand when I have five minutes, nor will it disappear no matter how long I refuse to make time for it.  It is the voice that helps to balance me, that reminds me to enjoy my life, to drink deeply of each experience, the voice that helps keep me connected to me.

And I realize I haven’t been doing a good job of making time for my inner voice of wisdom lately.

I have been doing a great job of living a life I love, of balancing a lot of competing demands, of being a lot of things to a lot of people- but not carving out specific time to listen to that inner voice of wisdom.  This is one of the dangers of a life that is full… full of events, activities, people, places and things… most of which are chosen well, but I had some time to think through what it is that I want.  Is my work/life balance working, is my self-care working, is my time with friends and family enough, is my writing time/alone time enough.  What is it that I really want and need in my life right now… at least for the next six months.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen R. Covey

One of the best lessons I have learned from my friends who are parents of young children is the constant reminder that the children that you are dealing with today will not be the children you have a week from now, a month from now.  Every day they grow and change, their needs change, their ability to handle life changes, their very beings mold and adapt each day.  And sometimes before a big growth spurt they will momentarily regress to gather themselves to propel to their next developmental stage.  Somehow I had forgotten that as adults we do the same.  Life changes, seasons change, our self-care and priorities need to change with them as well.  And it is good to revisit what is working, what isn’t working and make small adjustments.

As I move towards living my life with more intention, with the goal of becoming the best Erica I can be I am realizing that incremental change isn’t as sexy as declaring that I shall eat nothing but grapefruit and chant 100 prayers a day and do yoga for 30 days straight, but it does certainly get me better results and for me it sticks.

I had wanted to eat better, to incorporate more fruits and veggies, and since watching Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead to use a juicer on a regular basis- I have started to do that because my intention was simple to get at least 5 more servings of fruit a week.  Incremental change, and it has made a difference.

After having a great call with my coach tonight and talking about some of bits and pieces that my inner voice of wisdom has shared since I was forced/made time to listen (because as a good friend pointed out, regardless I was going to be sick, but it didn’t mean I had to learn anything, I made that choice, to be present for the lessons that were unfolding).  I realized that I want more of that in my life.  So instead of the radical change that I would have wanted in the past… perhaps 7 days of silence in a monastery somewhere in Nepal that would have never happened because it would require a passport and vaccinations and tickets and… and… instead, I am taking the incremental change route.

40 Days of Silence.

I am committing to 40 Days of Silence.

And the incremental roll out of that will be that for the next 40 days I will make a conscious choice to carve out five minutes of my day to be silent.  And my coach had asked a great clarifying question “What is your definition of silence?”  And I realized that for me I wanted it to incorporate a few different pieces…

One is that it is without any obvious distractions, but more importantly that it be without “productive thought”.  So often when I sit with the intention of being silent I am trying to figure out what I should write next, or what goal I am working towards, or thinking about wow, it is quiet maybe I should turn on the radio/tv, check Facebook, anything but just savoring this peaceful moment.  So to have it be about savoring the moment as is, whatever that may be.

Two is that I want it to have some element of the natural world.  Living in Minnesota watching the snow fall softly is one of my favorite afternoon activities, but we haven’t had a whole lot this year, and I haven’t made time to enjoy it.  Watching the branches and leaves sway, watching the clouds float by, appreciating the sun on my face when I get a chance to be outside during the day, all of these invite that spacious silence that I am seeking.

Three is sitting in the lap of love.  I have a friend that calls her prayer time lap time.  And whenever I am anxious, frustrated or have wound myself tightly about something that I usually have little control over she will remind me “Have you had your lap time?”.  Taking the time to curl up in the lap of God and enjoy letting go of control, allowing yourself to simply feel completely and utterly loved.

Four is sometimes it will mean more of a moving meditation.  Quietly walking, or stretching, or something else that my body is called to do.

So I know myself well enough to know that I have to have enough structure to make sense, but not enough that it feels claustrophobic.  So how will I know?  I will know it is that time because when I walk away I will feel connected and restored.  I will feel like slowing down.  I will feel like I have just had a tall glass of cool water.

So I am sure that I will share more about my 40 Days of Silence, but I invite you to consider, what is it that you would like more of in your life?  What would you like to focus on for 40 Days?

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I have been excited about rolling out my new Facebook page, unveiling new writing, opening up three spots in my coaching practice and working on some new blog posts and I was so excited about this being the week that I started doing more on the blog and on Facebook, and instead I have been wiped out by a nasty virus for the past four days.  My lips are chapped from breathing through my mouth, my muscles are sore from coughing and everything aches, and I am about as far from Radiant as I can be.  

It was one for the record books for me, being up for about 4 hours in a 48 hour period where just thinking about moving was an effort.  And yet, even in the midst of the pain and discomfort there were many moments of radiance, moments to string together to remind me that it wouldn’t always be this way.  Friends and family who would check in, drop off needed items like 7-Up, Orange Juice and more Nyquil, also those who called and reminded me that I am so very loved.  

Moments that reminded me that sometimes it isn’t me that needs to create radiance, sometimes the radiance is love from another, shared by their giving, and by my receiving.  Sometimes radiance is found in rest, in receptivity.  I have trained myself to always be the creator, the giver, the bringer, and I forget to find the balance.  I have been drawn to quotes and writing about silence lately and I could feel my very cells calling out for it, but I didn’t stop, there was so much to “do”. 

Sickness tends to bring out vulnerability, and reminds us that we can’t always do it “all by myself”.  It reminds us we don’t always have control- sometimes we need to surrender to something larger than ourselves, to remember that the world will continue to spin even if we aren’t there to guide it, sometimes we need to stop and let everything catch up, and if we don’t do it, sometimes our bodies will do it for us.   

So the past few days I have been silent, drinking in the stillness, my body and soul thirsty for that time, and it has caused me to recommit to my scheduling in silence for myself.  To be mindful of my balance, to honor my needs, to recommit to deep listening to my own wisdom.  It has reminded me to remember to provide nourishment for all of me, body, soul and spirit on a regular basis.  It has reminded me that sometimes a little silence, curling up in grandma’s quilt made with love, eating chicken and rice soup also made with love is all a girl needs to feel radiant againImage

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“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.

Delicious Ambiguity.”

~ Gilda Radner

 

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