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The Inner Landscape of Beauty


“Your identity is not equivalent to your biography. There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there’s a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you, and I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.”
~ John O’Donohue

“In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam ?ara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and ?ara is the word for friend. … In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam ?ara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam ?ara you could share your innermost self, your mind, and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. … In everyone’s life there is great need for an anam ?ara, a soul friend, in this love you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. Where you are understood, you are at home.” ~ From John O’Donohue’s book Anam Cara

~ John O’Donohue on Speaking of Faith
~ Commentary from Things That Go Bump in my Head
~ Photo by harold.lloyd

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A Bright Welcome to This New Year

“Release painful patterns through embrace and not through struggle. We open our hearts to ourselves, each other and to the Universal Presence in which we are sustained. On the brink of this new year, we awaken to renewed choice. We seek the thoughts, images, feelings and actions that will more clearly reflect the Loving and Peaceful Heart always at the center of our being.”
~ Bet Alef High Holy Day Prayer Book

Last night began the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. This marks the beginning of a new year and according to the Jewish calendar it is the year 5770. Rabbi Ted Falcon pointed out that this is a one-year (add the numbers up until you get to a single digit). A one-year symbolizes the beginning. We are at the beginning of a new cycle right now. What kind of a cycle do we want to create in our lives, in our communities, on this planet? What impact might we have if we actively take responsibility for how we grow into this New Year? Wouldn’t it be amazing if as Rabbi Ted said, this could be the “big one year” in which we realize our oneness?

And so I ask myself: What thoughts, images, feelings and actions do I want to live this year? How will I more clearly reflect the loving and peaceful heart always at the center of my being? How will I more clearly see and reflect the loving and peaceful heart always at the center of your being? Of our collective being? What does it feel like for me to open my heart more fully to myself, others and the source that sustains me and us? This year, I will discover new ways to wake up, recognize and live the fullness of who I am, the depth of my yearnings, the bright vision and sense of possibility that I see.

“This is a year that needs you to be you.”
~ Rabbi Ted Falcon

These are the questions I will be resting in today and for the next 9 days until Yom Kippur – meditating, listening, setting intentions, singing, dancing and dreaming what’s possible into being. I will follow Rabbi Ted’s instructions that it is my job right now to dream the biggest dreams and see visions as large as I can. I will do this for the sake of being an active servant to life, nourishing love, peace, healing, and wholeness in the world. This year the universe needs me to be me. Rabbi Ted invites us to ask ourselves,

“What am I being called to bring to this time?”

I think about Chris Corrigan’s recent post about intention… Now is a time to cultivate action that is rooted in intention and to keep asking, “What is my life dedicated to?”

If any of these questions spark something in your heart, please listen and follow that spark!! And if you’d like to share what emerges, I’d love to hear.

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A Baby’s Unconditional Trust and Love

photo by Alyssa L. Miller (no relation to people in the story)

A Baby’s Unconditional Trust and Love — A Kindness Story
–written by rettak at HelpOthers.org

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, ‘Hi.’ He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.

I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled.

His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. ‘Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,’ the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, ‘What do we do?’ Erik continued to laugh and answer, ‘Hi.’

Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, ‘Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek- a-boo.’ Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk.

My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.

We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. ‘Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,’ I prayed.

As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s ‘pick-me-up’ position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man.

Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time.

I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, ‘You take care of this baby.’ Somehow I managed, ‘I will,’ from a throat that contained a stone.

He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, ‘God bless you, ma’am, you’ve given me my Christmas gift.’ I said nothing more than a muttered thanks.

With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, ‘My God, my God, forgive me.’

I had just witnessed real love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was blind, holding a child who was not.

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Don’t Miss the Love-Messages Flashing From Every Eye

The world is an open green
in the middle of a garden

Beings in various forms
see their reflections and laugh,
love-messages flashing from every eye

~Rumi

photo by divyanshs

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Children Keeping it Simple, Teaching Simplicity


A few inspiring comments from my teachers in simplicity, children.

  • I was participating in Seattle’s Martin Luther King, Jr., March and Rally this year with some of the faculty, students and parents from the school I work at. During the march one of our first graders looked up at me and said, “Oh, I know why you’re here today, Ashley.” “Why?” I asked. “Because this is all about friendship… and you’re the friendship teacher.”

    (fyi: I host Friendship Groups, a class that all the students in the class participate in just like math or reading. The aim is to help students deepen their ability to connect with and understand themselves and others. It’s all about friendship… with ourselves, others and the world around us!)

  • During Obama’s presidential inauguration Rev. Joseph Lowery was talking about love,
    “And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.”

    I looked in front of me as a Kindergartner was staring down at his little hands, shaping them into a heart. That image summed up where my hope for our future lies… in love.

  • After the inauguration we hosted an Open Space with the 3rd graders. One child’s closing remarks, “I learned that when everyone pitches in just a little bit, it can make a giant difference.”
  • Words of wisdom that a 2nd grader told me over lunch one day that I am practicing and trying to better embody, “Just listen until your mind gets deeper and then you’ll understand.”

I am so grateful for all the gifts that are bestowed upon me by these wise humans who are so willing to share their world.

heart photo by samantha celera

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Brains, Beauty, Love, Learning and Celebration

For the next three days I’ll be attending the Learning and the Brain Conference which is focusing on social brain research. It is very exciting to be learning more about the science and neurology that underscores much of the theoretical philosophies and intuitive knowings that are the foundations for much of my work and inspiration. I hope to learn more about mirror neurons, theory of mind, emotional regulation, memory and wisdom, and promoting social and emotional intelligence.

The last couple of days I’ve been hanging out with the remarkable Amy Lenzo. Amy has created an enticing world over at the Beauty Dialogues. I greatly appreciate Amy’s willingness to recognize the beauty and potential not only in the physical world around her, but also in the human world. She has been a pivotal supporter in encouraging many creative hearts to find their voice of expression and share it with the world. I am very grateful to have benefited so much from her recognition of and encouragement towards Easily Amazed finding ways to grow into all it can be! Thanks, girl!

Over the next few days I will be paying attention to how beauty and allurement fit into this world of social and emotional brain research. Brian Swimme suggests that love begins as allurement and attraction. We know that attraction and allurement between a baby and its parent propel the relationship between them and this relationship fundamentally shapes the development of the child. As Mary Gordon so aptly states, “Love grows brains.”

And we can never have too much love in our world. On Sunday, my friend Tracy Davis, took me to the incredibly inspiring and healing Glide Memorial Church, a place that is actively promoting the forces of love, celebration, inclusion and equality in a spiritually and culturally uplifting way. This was a beautiful expression of social, emotional and spiritual wisdom deep at play. I’ll leave you with a poem that is Glide’s Core Values:

The Ground We Stand On

Radically Inclusive
We welcome everyone. We value our differences.
We respect everyone.

Truth Telling
We each tell our story. We each speak our truth.
We listen.

Loving and Hopeful
We are all in recovery. We are a healing community.
We love unconditionally.

For the People
We break through barriers. We serve each other.
We change the world.

Celebration
We sing. We dance. We laugh together.
We celebrate life!

looking up at mom by dolanh

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An Invisible String That Will Stretch and Not Break

photo by D.Hyuk

An amazing story about the bond between a mother and a daughter. I think it’s a beautiful analogy that any family could play with.

Meredith has an ongoing story about an “invisible string” attaching her to her mother. This story began in a literal manner, when she at age two would wrap one end of a string around her mother and then wrap the other end around her own wrist and say that they were “connected forever.” The string has morphed into an invisible string, that will “stretch and not break” when necessary, such as when she is at preschool. We have come to think of this string as an indication of her internal emotional state and a metaphor for managing separation.

For example, after a long and challenging day recently, she said that the string was very short and would break if her mother left her side. Her baby sister started crying, however, so then she added that her magic wand had turned the string into a “long golden thread that would stretch and not break” while her mother tended to the baby. “But,” she warned, “when Rosie stops crying, it will turn back into a very short string that can break easily.” She mentions the string every month or two, and we have come to appreciate her use of creativity and abstraction in expressing her psychological state.

~Seattle Mom

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