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Comfort

Oh, the comfort—
the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person—
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but pouring them all right out,
just as they are,
chaff and grain together;
certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping,
and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

—Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826-1887)

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Letting Be


“I thought about… how nobody is perfect. How we just have to close our eyes and breathe out and let the puzzle of the human heart be what it is.”

~ Sue Monk Kidd in The Secret Life of Bees

photo by baloulumix

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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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Enjoying the Sadness of Life

A beautiful Sunday in Seattle. Before a walk in the park, I pick up the book In Other Words: A Language Lover’s Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World. I open randomly to a page, in search of a word to carry with me on my journey. It’s a Japanese word I find:

aware [a-wa-reh] (noun)

An awareness and appreciation of the ephemeral beauty of the world. The seasons change, the cherry blossom gently falls, the crops are planted, grow, and die. Aware is that poignant sensation one has of time passing, of the inevitable cycle of life and death. From the noun comes the idiom mono-no-aware. Roughly translated as “enjoying the sadness of life,” it’s that bittersweet, vaguely poetic feeling you get around dusk, on a long train journey, looking out at the driving rain… a few autumn leaves still clinging to your coat.

The colors in Seattle are phenomenal right now
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Returning Home

I’m back in Seattle now after a little over 2 weeks in Atlanta with family and fate. I sit in one of my favorite coffee shops. Drink coffee, eat a bagel, watch the people around, smell the smells, hear the many sounds, feel the quiet/loud, stillness/activity. It’s sunny outside. I see the light shining through new spring leaves. That makes me smile!

There are so many thoughts, feelings and sensations moving through me. Is it that I don’t know where to start or am I afraid to dip into the well, what might I pull out?

My heart has been deeply touched and changed through life experiences of recent days. I went home to be with my dad and family as my dad had major surgery. I was there before hand, during the 4 hour surgery, at the hospital for the 8 days of healing, at home a couple of days, and back to the hospital just before I left town yesterday. Our family has grown closer and supported each other phenomenally through the stresses of surgery and the surprise of a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Our spirits stay high, the laughter continues to rumble and some of our outer shells slowly soften. We cry also!

One thing I’ve been fascinated by is how disordering it can feel when one is unable to play the accustomed (habitual) roles in a social system. For me it was in my family. For a few of us, we noticed that there are roles that we generally play, that are expected of us. In times of stress and intensity, sometimes it wasn’t appropriate for us to play those roles. And then we felt a loss of identity. If I’m not the helper. If I don’t know how to be supportive and how to express my love in valuable ways. If my presence isn’t a comfort. Then who am i? What is my purpose?

And now I return to ‘my life.’ What is my role here? I’ve been immersed moment to moment in the life of my dad and how each of us around him, who love him so dearly, are responding to the intensities of change, fear and discomfort… to the heart-touchings of life’s fragile importance, of love’s expansive blessings, and of the gentle gifts of grace that emerge from vulnerability and closeness.

Now I’m in a coffee shop with other people on their computers, the espresso machine clicking, the guy walking by and smiling, a child trying to figure out how he pays for and receives his drink all by himself, the humm in my head of what I need to do today to return to this world… Life just keeps going. My body’s here now. My mind and much of my family are still there. And I’m confused. Peaceful… and confused.

It’s hard for me to stay centered in this moment. I drift away… drifting backwards through the stream of experiences that happened in the hospital, at the house, in the car, in the woods, on the phone, by myself, with my loved ones, in the silence. Those were some of my favorite experiences… the pauses between the moments… especially with my dad. Being with him, sweetly and genuinely, in silence. Just there. Together. No boundaries between us.

My mind also drifts to the future. What lies ahead for him? What will he experience? What will we experience? How do I proceed? How can I be so far away? And gently, I remind myself to breathe. I feel my lungs rise and fall. I try to focus on some part of my body. I notice what’s going on around me. And then, settling into here… I feel confused… and wonder, how do I proceed?

The Way You Live Today by Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov

Your entire destiny is contained in and determined by the way you live today: the orientation you give to your thoughts and feelings, and the activities on which you choose to spend your energies.(…)

This is something that has to be done every day: be conscious and aware at each instant of how you are using your energies…You can do it while you are walking to work, on the bus, at the dentist’s, or in your own kitchen. Wherever you are, at any moment of the day, you can always glance into yourself and ask yourself: {What is alive right now? Is it helpful to focus my attention here?}*

Let the word ‘harmony’ soak into you at every moment; keep it within you as a kind of tuning fork: if you feel that you are beginning to worry or get upset, pick it up and listen to it, and do nothing until you have tuned your whole being once more. Harmony is the foundation of every successful venture, every divine realization. Before undertaking any activity, whatever it may be, learn to concentrate on harmony and your work will bear fruit for the rest of eternity.

*My own questions, not from the author

I stare at that tree with the light shining through the green, green leaves. I soak in that harmony. There is harmony all around me in the outer world. I invite this harmony to soak into me at every moment. I will carry it around with me in the form of a smooth polished stone, inviting me to be present, surrender and listen to this moment. To trust in this moment. And to tune my whole being, once more, to harmony. I get to learn who I am now… and what does harmony in my life now feel like.

Green Leaves by Cathryn Cooper

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We’re Alive, Here Now

“Let there be no more holding back on
our commitment to our life on earth.”

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Emerging Independence

More personal confessions…

It’s strange to me how much I “need” to have others validate things that I do or experience, how much I can deny my own experiencing, minimizing it, not honoring the fullness of intensity that is my living or the guided action that emerges from my listening. For example, I’ve noticed lately how I experience a touch of wholeness when someone validates how deeply I feel. It surprises me (and then often moves me to tears) how healing and confirming it is to have someone else simply acknowledge that I experience life intensely, that I feel deeply. How curious that I don’t trust my own experiencing as proof. Intellectually I do, but at a sensing level there is still so much I am learning to trust.

I am grateful for people in my life who reflect these realities back to me. Through the interdependence of our relationships, I am invited into greater independence, a fuller knowing of what it’s like to be me. What a blessing.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

~ Mary Oliver

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