What I Wonder

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We had just dropped my son off at the airport and were stopped at an intersection waiting for the light to turn green. Feeling the sting of tears behind my eyes, I tried to hold on to the hug I had just given my child as we parted.

My sweetheart and I sat in silence as he pretended not to notice my gloominess. Directly ahead of us, also waiting at the light on this quiet beach highway was a car with two young women. They were laughing and talking, more focused on the conversation than the road so they didn’t see the light turn green. Now typically in these scenarios, my sweetheart gets impatient with distracted drivers and toots the horn to get them moving. But this time he didn’t.

We sat still for a few more moments and waited. Suddenly we saw a car speeding down the highway through the intersection running through the red light. Seconds later the driver disappeared in a blue haze without as much as a backward glance. I gasped as the young women in the car ahead of us then nonchalantly drove on through the light, still in conversation, not even noting how close they had come to a full and likely terrible collision.

My partner and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, “Thank God they didn’t go when the light turned green, they would have been hit!  And thank goodness we didn’t blow the horn at them to make them move.” As it turned out, these women had no idea they had escaped injury by slowing down their reaction time at the light.

But we did. That image of the car recklessly flying through the intersection, the look of the two young women laughing together as we passed them, the sense of shock and grace of what we witnessed stayed with me for the rest of the evening.

What invisible force kept these two women stuck in animated conversation so that they did not respond to the traffic light? What made my somewhat impatient partner not sound the horn to get them to move?

This day, like others, reminded me of the seemingly randomness of life, of fate. Yet, strangely, I had an equal sense that something had been orchestrated in that moment, some divine force that keeps lives in order, protected.

In this instance, had we been “placed” by higher forces behind those women at the light instead of impatient teenagers who might have urged them on into traffic –and a collision–with a toot of a horn? Or was the message that day directed to us, had the girls been placed there to help us get a message about slowing down? And the careless driver, what was the role or lesson he was to initiate on this day for himself –and for others?

I am often in wonder about the interconnectedness of life, the mystery of our lessons, even why we are where we are in any given moment and why. When I think like this I wonder if the people who have paraded through my life have been part of a divine symphony, each there to play their note, discordant, joyful, melancholy to make up the music of my years.

I wonder too about the people whose lives I have touched–friends, partners, family members, strangers, even. How many have I knowingly or unknowing influenced in some way and for better or worse?

When I think like this, from a place of connectedness and wonderment, I am more aware of my words, my surroundings, my attitude, too. Because that’s all I can control. The rest is a magical mystery tour that seems to run through an invisible, divine matrix that connects to us all. After all, what is in the one, is in the whole.

Still I have a sense that our interactions are a reflection of both our choices and divine intervention. And I believe this sacred mystery that is life is both happening to us and for us, even when we don’t know or understand …and that grace hangs ever present in the ethers.

Because it does. 

Those two women who drove off that day never knew they were riding  through a matrix of grace that kept them safe from outside influences like speeding cars or impatient horns.  But I knew it.

Have you ever experienced divine intervention? I would love to hear your thoughts.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes .Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

What Emanuel AME Church Members Teach Us About Grace

Photo: Steve Burmester

Photo: Steve Burmester

It’s been a few days since the violent slayings of nine African Americans in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Charleston, S.C.

The death of these innocent souls at the hands of a young white man schooled in hatred and racism has touched off a litany of anger, confusion, and yes, even more racism.

I’ve taken in the news in bite-sized pieces and read dozens of articles and blogs about the massacre. I step into the fray and out of the fray, girding my loins, when I feel the need.

What I’ve observed is the rightful anger and disgust of people who are sickened from the smell of blood, disgusted by the racism that permeats this country–everywhere and not only in the Deep South–and want change. I also see people passing the blame off, like kids playing a game of hot potato. I see finger pointing; I see people  proclaiming every white person in America to be a racist because whether individually so or not, all whites benefit from the white systems and institutions (actually a thought provoking piece); I see people disgusted and frustrated over differing opinions on gun control.

What I also see is a lack of tolerance for people with different opinions about flags as symbols, gun control, and the definition of racism.  I see judgment, shades of superiority in lots of different corners. The irony to me is this: the shootings started in the mind of a racist, an intolerant mind, and that mind got moldy and dark and he expressed himself and his intolerance with weapons. His thoughts, beliefs and actions were based in an intolerance of differences.

Now don’t get me wrong here. The righteous outrage that propels meaningful and respectful conversations is a different thing. A necessary thing. The discussions on racism, gun control, and the where do we go from here conversations are needed to forge trust and at least begin the work of healing and problem solving. But they can be done with grace and an honest attempt to tolerant uncomfortable conversations without finger pointing.

Because what I also noticed was the grace- filled members of the congregation gathering just a day after a hate filled young man entered their house of worship with guns and an evil, hate-filled heart, praying for their deceased members and for forgiveness for the cold-blooded killer. How do they do that?

I have always been drawn to those peace loving leaders who hold up the light, who walk the walk, whose lives are the message, the prayer. People like Martin Luther King, Jr, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, who showed nations of distraught, confused, disempowered people, what love and grace look like. These are the light bearers, the congruent, dignified messengers of hope and peace.

These are the churchgoers of  Emanuel AME Church. These are the people who somehow, in their darkest moments where faith might be rightfully escaping from their lungs, music and prayer reverberate instead, the people who were showing us light, living their lives and faith as a prayer.

These are the people we should hold in prayer so that they may continue to set an example for a confused, enraged and intolerant nation. These are the people we need to pray for us.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes .Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

Grace As A Super Power

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Are you an encourager or a critic?

I like to think I have a critical eye, a discerning eye that sizes, measures, calculates and assesses with the mad skills of a Marvel super action hero. But I seldom use it for ill… it’s way too valuable of a tool for that.

I like to use my critical eye to see what’s missing so I can fill in the blanks, support, or encourage others.

I can’t leap from tall buildings, stop a moving train, or even keep the beat when I dance. But I know this: my Super Power, my Native Genius is encouragement. Validation.

I heard a speaker talk recently about the importance of validation. He said when we validate people, we are demonstrating love, encouragement, and opening up a field of grace.

And it’s easy work. It might be as simple as complimenting the waitress on how she balances two trays while maneuvering through a crowded restaurant. Who knows, maybe that one encouraging comment will be what helps her through a tough shift. (Just think, you could be a stealth grace worker plowing fields of grace without ever breaking a sweat.)

Maybe it’s supporting a friend’s new business by spreading the word to others, or by buying their products or services. On social media, maybe it’s as simple as hitting the share button to spread a positive message, or to support the writer who crafted a piece that you enjoyed.

Like I said, validating others is easy work. Yet, some are not comfortable with this role. I heard a different speaker lecture about people who deliberately withhold grace or encouragement from others. Her theory is that people often hold back encouragement or validation because they feel they lose power when they empower others.

It sounds strange, but I suspect there is some truth to her theory.

How many times do we deliberately withhold compliments or praise to co-workers or family members or even strangers? Or worse, diminish someone else’s accomplishment with a joke or unnecessary criticism?

Why do we grab hold to our grace like it is valuable currency, a Louis Vuitton handbag we need to clutch tightly on crowded streets?

But maybe that’s the point. Compliments, validation, encouragement are a form of social currency that can empower another. And empowerment is worth a lot.

But I say—quit being stingy with the currency of grace. Loosen up on the purse strings.

Let grace loose on the streets. Because that’s what she wants—freedom to roam wild and easy, moving from your lips in drunken bliss to another and to another until everyone is dazed and drunk on her beauty.

Grace likes to get around and when she does, she tends to boomerang back from whence she came.

So let me encourage you to put on your cape and try out your new super power. Put grace into action with words, compliments, smiles, knowing looks and winks.

I promise you this: Giving grace away, being free and easy with this valuable currency, will enrich someone’s life. Starting with yours.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes .Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

Life Through The Eyes Of Poetic Grace

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Poetry is more than words, so much more. Poetry is the stuff of life, the gritty, the pretty, the inane, the insane.

It is the sound of waves breaking against the shore, the honking of horns on a hot summer morn. It is the way of a skilled athlete carrying the ball to the goal; it is life, movement, grace, a way of seeing, hearing and feeling the world through a magical lens.  A lens that translates the world sometimes with subtleness, sometimes with harshness, but always with poetic beauty.

I am a poet because I write poetry, some good, some ordinary. But I claim the poet as a proud archetype, not because I write but because I translate life, its joys and sorrows, through my heart, the most creative lens of all. My heart, better than my eyes,  can focus on the black, white, grey, messy, complicated truth of life, and still somehow see the poetry in it all.

Sometimes, I wish my brain could catch up with this truth. Because, in spite of my experience, training, passion even, I know my words can never fully record what my heart sees and feels. But I’ll never stop trying to do it justice.

So this is my slow, Southern way of introducing my love of poetry, my love of life, to you. April is National Poetry Month and I am sharing my passion for poetry.

I remember one of my first poems. I wrote it as a 10-year-old after being inspired by a painting that hung on the den wall of my parent’s home. Here it is:

“The Old House”

In the old house,

I see but one light,

There are tales of that old house,

Which by now, 

Is out of sight.

People have gone in,

But not one has come out.

Through the leaves,

Through the trees,

I see nothing of the old house.

I sent the poem to Scholastic Magazine hoping to have it published. I waited all summer for my letter, a form rejection thanking me for my submission. I was crushed.

Through high school I wrote poetry and recorded it into a journal I kept well-hidden from the prying eyes of my sisters and mother. I found that journal recently and debated sharing some of its contents here.

Why? Apparently, I was deep, dark and dramatic, dressed in knee socks and Catholic plaid skirts, Sylvia Plath in disguise, and my journal is the smoking gun.

I’ll share a tamer one, and no, I didn’t send it on to Scholastic Magazine. I wrote it on June 18,1973.

“Fire”

Fire.

Watch it ignite 

from the ashes 

of my scorched and burnt dreams

Fire.

Watch its blaze grow

feverishly from its embryonic stage,

rising forth in fiery passion,

in glorious confrontation.

Fire.

Watch it spread itself

in a holocaust of heated anticipation,

its tongues of fury

raging and burning

as it intoxicates

my soul in its turmoil.

The poetry I write now is a mix of memories, musings and social observations, some light, some darker. (Click here for more recent work. ) But my  greatest poem, my beautiful, messy masterpiece that is my life, is still in the works, and I am writing it

one line

at a time.

And you? If you like poetry, or want to look at the world in a more creative light, check out www.Poets.org. Sign up for the daily poem service, which will deliver a little inspiration each morning to your inbox. It’s how I start my mornings.

And if you’ve wandered away from poetry over the years– or need encouragement to view life through the eyes of poetic grace– I’d like to invite you back into the fold with a few lines from one of my favorite poets and mystics, Rumi .

“Come, Come, Whoever You Are
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.

Ours is not a caravan of despair.

Come, even if you have broken your vow

a thousand times

Come, yet again, come, come. ” –Rumi

Who is your favorite poet? What is your favorite poem?

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace–if you’re looking for exploratory questions to unearth pieces of your soul, check out my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

Dance With The Wind, She Said

blog pic1-1I am watching a leaf chase itself across the yard. It twirls, skips and dances in silent ballet with the wind, and then it pauses. For now, the dance is over and the leaf falls content on to a bed of grass.

I notice the leaf doesn’t fight the wind, it dances with it. And when the wind rests, the leaf is content to be still.

In Taoism, this is known as being in the flow of life. And nature.

Oh, if it were only that easy. For most of us, this idea of allowing, well, it’s something we resist.

Many of us don’t want to dance with the winds of life. We work to manage or manipulate outcomes when what might be best is to dance with the wind. To be like a palm tree, flexible and bending, so that we might survive the storms of life, even the ravages of hurricane force winds which might blow in our direction.

Sometimes these winds are meant to blow our house down so that we might be reshaped, retooled, into a more authentic way of being. Does this ring like an inconvenient truth to you?

After all, dancing with the wind is scary stuff and not the way of sissies. I am a clumsy dancer at best. I have clung to false promises and platitudes, old relationships, old ways of being because of fear. I am a master manipulator of myself and others when I feel threatened and out of flow.

The truth is, I try to live in integrity, gracefully, in flow, but it is not always easy. My instinct is to cling to what I know, to want a guarantee of a safe landing before I jump. Even while know that is not the way.

It is not in keeping with the philosophy of the Tao, either. The word Tao actually means the Way, as in the way of being true to nature, being harmonious with life.

What might this look like? It might be dancing in harmony in the midst of a shit storm when we know we can’t stop the wind from blowing. Accepting what is and knowing it will likely pass because seasons have cycles. Life does too.

Or, it might be finding your passion, following your beat, your inner rhythm, no matter how out of sync it might seem to others. Maybe it’s just about being true to your own nature, dancing with your own wind.

If I followed the more successful templates for writing these days, I might offer you five ways to dance with the wind.  But the truth is, my way may not be your way.

And you must follow your way.

If I were to offer you anything at all, I might tell you to give up your resistance. But even the idea of learning to work at the dance, feels like striving, managing, manipulating. And not in flow.

And further, who is to say that there are not valuable lessons in resistance at times?  For many of us, we must reach a point of surrender –the point at which we learn that our resistance has only served to stall the inevitable, before we can accept the grace of flow.

As I said, I am a clumsy dancer, a slow learner myself. Maybe that is my way, rocky and hard, in the flow, and out of flow at times. Maybe this is my terrain.

So I will leave you to your way, as I follow my own inclinations and learn what it is I am in need of learning.

But for now, I will sit here and watch the leaf shuffle quietly across the yard. The wind is picking up ever so slightly. And so the dance begins.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace–if you’re looking for exploratory questions to unearth pieces of your soul, check out my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes

A Love Lesson From A Monk

blog pic1-1“Love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”

I read this beautifully simple and profound quote by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh this morning, repeating it over and over in my mind.

Love in such a way that the person you love feels free. Sounds simple, right?
But how many of us are really capable of loving in this way?

Let’s face it, most of us love with conditions, expectations, spoken or unspoken contracts we’ve assigned to our loved ones. Sometimes they’re gender based, sometimes not.

But to love in such a way that the other person feels free? How rare, how holy is that?

I’ve been mulling this over all morning, letting it sink in and settle into my bones because I believe there is a sacred message there for all of us.

Love in such a way that the person you love feels free.

What does that mean?

Does it mean I have the freedom to come and go at my will without taking my partner’s needs into consideration? Does it mean I am free to speak my mind without choosing my words carefully or taking responsibility for the effect they might have on another?

I don’t think so. At least that’s not how I choose to interpret Hahn’s words.

I believe loving another–be it your partner, your friend, your child, your family member–in a way in which the person you love feels free is more about loving them kindly. Respectfully.

It’s about loving them enough to leave them alone, to let them be who they are, to be true to their nature. In Taoism, being true to one’s nature is an important principle by which to live.

But this is a tough one, folks. How often do we try to change others to fit our preferences, thinking our roadmap is the only one that leads to hallowed ground? Or to the best outcome? I’ll raise my hand here.

Free, free, free at last.

In the West, we are accustomed to many freedoms, so much so that many of us don’t even think about the word “free” unless it is associated with a bargain. We think of freedom in the literal (and important) sense: Being free to come and go, to choose our religion, to vote, to forge our own path.

So maybe the subtleness of Hanh’s quote could be lost ….“love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”

He speaks to the kind of freedom one feels  internally when they are blessed by non-judgmental love. The kind of love that is freeing, the kind that comes from having someone love you kindly, encouragingly, in a way that lets you be seen. In a way that gives you permission to be your authentic self.

That kind of love, the kind where you don’t feel guilted or obligated to regularly meet someone else’s expectations for your life, or even for how you spend your day–is a gift.

And I believe it sets the giver and the receiver free to love themselves and the other more fully, with wide-eyed optimism and grace.

(Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a spiritual leader and writer, revered for his exquisite teachings on mindfulness and peace. He suffered a brain hemorrhage this week…so let us keep him in our hearts.)

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

How A Homeless Woman Taught Me Humility

blog pic1-1Walk through most any major city and you’ll inevitably find homeless people propped up against building walls or huddled near church fronts. In my own city, I see people standing on the side of the road begging for money, some holding signs, some standing stoically, some standing dazed. Some pace between cars, agitated it seems, by the noise, the traffic, or maybe it’s just the sheer frustration of their plight.

When I see homeless people standing at traffic lights I do what I imagine most people do. I start squirming. Then the questions begin. Should I stop and give the person money? Should I avert my eyes and pretend I don’t notice him?

Why is he standing on the  side of the road? Where is his family? What got him to this place, this street corner, this intersection of hopelessness and despair?

Why isn’t he working? Is he healthy? He looks healthy.  What wrong turns or unhappy endings have led this person to this particular corner in life?

Sometimes I  even wonder what the person might do with the money I give them.

These questions speed race through my mind, and then I usually roll down my window and donate a dollar or two. I know a lot of people think it’s a bad idea to encourage people to beg on the side of the road. I’ve been told I am likely feeding their drug habit, or a gambling vice or worse.

The truth is, maybe I’m feeding my own vice. Maybe I’m the one looking for a little redemption. Maybe I’m offering up a few dollars, the way I’d offer it up in church, as a donation, as  a thank you prayer. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

I know a dollar or two won’t change my world. But if it helps someone buy a burger or to secure a bus ticket or lodging, I want to help. If that person is manipulating me and the system–so be it. Because I still have to wonder how they got to that point in life…where standing on the side of the road begging for money seemed like a better idea than being part of society.

I do my best not to judge.

Last week I was in New York City. My first morning there I got up early and took a walk. Just steps from my hotel near a shop with Statue of Liberty trinkets and I Love New York t-shirts, sat a young homeless man. He looked to be around the age of my son, and he sat in the middle of the side walk with defiance in his eyes….and with his jar of change and not much of anything else.

People walked hurriedly past him. I stopped and leaned over and dropped a dollar in to his cup. He barely noticed.

But I felt happy. Further up the block, I saw a disheveled, wild-eyed African American woman on the corner. She wore sweat pants and had cornrows that pointed in all directions and her feet were sprawled across a grate. I passed her by because she scared me a little.

But then I turned around and went back. I noticed she didn’t have a cup in front of her so I leaned in with my dollar bill and politely asked, “May I give this to you? She looked up at me with angry eyes and hissed, “I don’t want your money!” And as I took a step closer, she growled louder, “Don’t touch me!”

I moved away, stung, hurt and humiliated, and angry all at the same time. I was angry with myself because I realized that my well-meaning attempt to help had backfired and had only humiliated her. Our interaction made me see how easy it is to become arrogant in our giving, in thinking how our tips to homeless people help THEM more than they help US.

The truth is, I like to help people because it makes me feel good to help others. And it reminds me of how blessed I am.  But I’m not sitting alone on a street corner watching strangers hurry by to a better life like the woman who passed on my aid. How arrogant she probably saw me to be….

She only reminded me of the truth– minutes after I gave her money to brighten both of our days,  I would be enjoying a nice big breakfast in the hotel restaurant  down the street. And she, that woman of the wild eyes, would still be sitting out on the street and how dare I  forget her face, or feel better about my life, for the smallest of donations. It was not a fair exchange and she knew it.

I carried the shame of that exchange for days.

On my last day in Manhatten, I treated myself to a beautiful dress I purchased at Lord & Taylor. I had saved some birthday money and I wanted to buy something special for myself to remember my trip.

As I walked down the avenue I passed an old man with cloudy blue eyes and dirty clothes sitting against a building with a small cup of change. The street was crowded, I was carrying a bag and it was easier to keep walking.

I did, for about a block, before turning around and walking back in his direction. And as I pushed a dollar bill into his plastic cup I looked into his eyes, smiled and silently said, “Thank you.”

He nodded and smiled. I walked away, feeling humble, and not so good about myself. How could I? It was cold and I was carrying a beautiful new red dress in my tony Lord & Taylor bag, and no amount of spare cash was going to square things.

And I knew it. On this day, all I could do was count my blessings as I headed back to my hotel and remember the gift—the grace of humility—that I’d carry with me for a long, long time to come.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

Walk Away From The Spectacle

blog pic1-1The Tao Te Ching is rich with wisdom on many topics, including peace. For instance, there is a verse in the ancient Chinese classic that offers advice for peace seekers. Loosely translated it goes something like this: Walk away from the spectacle.

This can be interpreted to mean walk away from the drama—choose peace.

It’s profound advice and one of the many reasons I love the jewels of wisdom buried within the Tao’s pages. But finding pearls is very different from actually wearing them,  or so it is in my experience.

In other words, it’s not always so easy to walk the talk.

Relationships at work, at home, with family, friends, are fertile soil for conflict. How often do we get sucked into a vortex of drama in our daily lives?  How often do we choose to “say our piece,” how often do we righteously cling to our version of truth, be it political or faith-based–no matter what the cost?

It takes great discipline to disengage or walk away from spectacles. Sometimes spectacles come up unexpectedly, like a summer storm they rain down particles of anger and other emotional debris. It can happen in conversations without warning and in every day human interactions because, well, we’re human.

But, we can chose peace. We can choose to set grace in motion and walk away from spectacles.

It’s not always easy. I work hard not to be baited into political discussions that I know will end up south of nowhere. So I typically walk away from the spectacle to guard my peacefulness.

In personal relationships, it is even harder. The truth is, sometimes our wounds get triggered. But sometimes, the spectacle or drama that is inches away from vaporizing a relationship can be avoided, if we consciously choose peace.

Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t.

I recently walked away from a spectacle. And I mean this figuratively and literally. It had all of the makings of a Class A Spectacle triggering issues of family wounding, pride and pain. The brittle branches of a painful part of my family history were being rubbed together and sparks of anger and disappointment were creating a combustible mix.

Without sharing the particulars, at a recent gathering I heard people I care about discussing a situation that had caused them hurt. They felt wronged by a careless and seemingly cruel comment that had been made by another person not present at the gathering. Someone in the group told me I should also be angry at the person, baiting me into the circle of hurt.

And as they continued to share their anger, I took a step back. Literally.  I acknowledged the group pain (including my own because I certainly felt it)  and then said, “I’m going to choose peace.”

In that moment when old wounds momentarily came unstitched, I chose grace as an ointment.

I didn’t pull out a match or add gasoline to a fire, I chose peace. I didn’t fan the flames, I didn’t heighten the drama, I stepped away from the spectacle.

And on this day, feeling equal part hurt and proud, I was in sync with myself. On this day, at least, I was congruent with my values. And if felt really good.

These moments, these tests of grace, await us on a daily basis. And we always, always get to choose: peace or spectacle.

Peace or spectacle? This is my latest mantra for dealing with difficult situations or frustrations. Just asking the question slows me down long enough to consider the choice.

Affirmation: In times of frustration, I choose peacefulness over righteousness. I choose to walk away from the spectacle.

 If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

 

The Grace of Hope

blog pic1-1HOPE is the thread that keeps us stitched together, keeps our spines wired straight, and our heads up, even when life has given us more reason to keep our gaze focused on the cracks in the sidewalk.

It’s the magical fairy dust that keeps us turning the page in our lives, even when our stories take a plot twist and we’re not sure how the next chapter ends.

HOPE is the light from a new moon promising redemption, enlightenment even, if only we hang on . . . a little longer.

It’s a grace to have hope, especially during times when common sense or circumstances want to bitch slap us into submission. HOPE dressed up as grace makes us feel…well, graceful, strong, and resilient, like a character from “Steel Magnolias.”  It’s the soldier, warrior, Scarlett O’ Hara in us who fights the good fight and would rather go down that way, than to surrender to hopelessness.

HOPE is the best of the human spirit.

HOPE has been part of my steady diet for years and has sustained me through a broken marriage, job loss, relationship ups and downs, and illness.

HOPE is a siren, a seductress. She wears rose colored glasses because the view is softer, prettier. And when situations require that she remove her glasses, she still sees everything through the filter of grace.

That’s because HOPE knows that how we look at the world is how we see the world. And to some degree, it’s how we create it.

It’s like this: when we have a hopeful outlook, even during hard times, times when we want to spit and rail at the heavens, when we hold out or hold on for a flicker of light, of hope, to see a world filled with grace and hopeful possibilities…we shift the energy in that direction.  This is the magical formula, hope, and the alchemy needed to actually create rosier times.

But let’s face it, there are times in life when HOPE is challenged. Worse, there are times when it’s hard to keep HOPE alive, when she must be nourished, spoon fed with dark chocolate and a good Cabernet.

But she is resilient. Because the grace of HOPE is always the grace of tomorrow.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

 

A Soul Date

blog pic1-1I could write about grace and soul work from  the safe perch of my intellect; I often do. But not today.

The truth is, I’m tired. I’m tired of the fatigue, tired of the supplements and tired of the restlessness that makes me feel like an itchy teenager in need of some fast wheels and a hall pass.

So over the weekend, I skipped the doctors and the self- help books and prescribed my own medicine…a retreat. I didn’t head to a fancy spa, didn’t listen to another inspirational tele-seminar…didn’t even leave the house.

I shut it all down. The curtains. The Lifetime channel. The telephone. (Yes, I still own a landline phone.) And I went into retreat.

I prayed. I meditated. I journaled for wisdom. And to retrieve pieces of my soul.

I wrote poetry. I brooded over old photographs and wondered about the sad eyes of the woman who looked like me. How did I refuse to see what needed to be seen for all of those years?

I kissed an old photograph of my son and felt a surge of joy and pain at the same time; his blue eyes were so blue and I held him in a tight embrace. I remember that day–it was his first day at school.

I read an inspirational book on grace and marveled at human courage. And I cried.

I spent the day tuning  into my soul, listening intently while it  was being poured out in synchronicities, old pictures, tears, journals, letters, for me to assemble with patience.

When I meditated, I asked the Divine for help to re-connect with my soul. I asked:

“What do I need to bring into my life so I can hear my soul?”

laughter. deep breathing. play. prayer. intuition. expansion. sacredness. reflection. tear down those walls. purge toxins. what brings imbalance. grace. goodness. draw shades.

feed the birds.

I heard answers of all sorts. (In all fairness, the guidance to feed the birds may have been my subconscious because my sweetheart reminded me before he went away on a weekend trip.)

But you get the idea. My soul is talking to me. And I think some of the restlessness I have been feeling is really resistance.

Let’s face it, sometimes it is easier to sip a glass of wine and turn on the “Real Housewives” to numb out the noise than it is to set aside time for a soul date. That is, until it’s not.

I share this very personal blog about my soul guidance from a ground floor perspective, with no perch from which to sit.  I am barefoot now, and ready to feed the birds.

XO

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

 

 

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