Gifts Hidden Beneath

2014-12-02 12.03.32It’s a rainy December day, gray and still. As I adjusted the plants in my son’s room, trying to give them enough slanted winter light, my attention was pulled to the creek below our house. The serpentine curves are wide and full of this winter rain. There is even a little white ripple in the normally meandering flow.

We recently moved, so this is the first fall and early winter we’ve experienced here. When we moved in, the woods were thick and lush. When my son opened his shades the other day he said, “How did I not even know there was a creek below my window?”(It could be because he is a teen and doesn’t open his shades all that often.) Regardless, this is one of the blessings of this season. This part of the earth has shed what’s extraneous at this point. It is stripped naked and in traveling lighter more of what’s beneath becomes clear.

Last night I had a glass of wine whose brand boasts of not being encumbered by the oaken aging process. Here too, traveling simply without losing one’s delicious essence is illustrated.

I’ve often thought of autumn’s gift as the symbol of letting go, of releasing what is no longer needed. I thought the traveling light was the gift, but now I see that is just part of it. In letting go of what is carried we’re not just lighter, but we can see more deeply what has been hidden. What gifts are laying fallow, waiting to be seen and brought into service?

Photo and content © Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Thankful For The Icons Of Life

2014-10-24 16.23.44Icons abound in life. I’m not just talking about the images that you often see in orthodox churches, pictures of Jesus, Mary, or saints.

Icons are a conduit to connect you to the sacred. Through imagery that which is Holy speaks to us, revealing truths beyond the reach of words. They are a way to be present to the divine beyond seeing, beyond verbalizing, and without thinking. They are a wonderful way to get out of our heads.

The icon is not an end in itself, but assists us in going beyond what can be seen with physical eyes into the realm of mystical experience.

The other morning, I was looking out the French doors into the woods. It was a fall day and the large tulip and oak trees in the distance were swaying deeply in the wind. Their yogic bends contrast to the mid-ground branches twittering up and down and the foreground leaves freefalling. The scene carried me deeper into my meditation, feeling the sway of my being, the in-breath, the exhale. All is happening concurrently and in harmony. Breath, Breath. And, I am carried still deeper.

There are countless icons of all sorts around us. Spirit abounds everywhere, we just need to be open. And, there seem to be shortcuts all over. At least that’s how it feels to me.

What takes us out of ourselves, away from “me” and into a more universal sense, into realizing the Holy is all around you? It could be a sunset, a baby, a happy dog…take it where you can find it. Blessings on your journey.

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Path to Wholeness

2014-09-30 16.33.41I was out hiking a field trail the other day, through tall grasses and meadows, when the phrase “path to wholeness” struck me. Yes, I’m a firm believer in “Solvitur ambulando – It is solved by walking.”— often attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo. The idea of our lives being a path, a journey is not a new one, but here I was literally on a path seeking answers, looking for wholeness.

As often happens, as I walk I come up with a blog and I’ll speak parts of it into my phone so I can remember what I was thinking when I’m home and near my computer. You’ve probably had the same experience where you say something into the phone and it garbles it. But this time instead of translating what I’d said into “path to wholeness” it wrote “have to hold us.” I was struck by the beauty of this. What came to mind was Spirit holding me as I perambulated, processing my struggle.

The related phrase “to have and to hold” to me is not about subjugation, but to be responsible to and to care for. I love the idea of me being responsible to and caring for my spiritual well-being and Divine Wisdom doing the same for me.

The sense of being held and supported carried me on the rest of my hike and continues to the present moment.

I feel a great easing when I remember I’m not on my own, I’m not dangling out there alone on the edge, but Spirit is holding me all along the way on my path. And for that, I am so grateful.

 

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

The Delights of Dunking

2014-07-18 06.56.32I was sitting in a coffee shop near the airport having just dropped off one family member and waiting to pick up another. I was amazed at how lovely the view was outside the big picture window: clear blue sky, a few jet streams shooting off in various directions, the teenage tulip tree and sumac framing my perspective. Ahhh, gratitude for the abounding beauty.

I sat at this corner table typing away when I noticed an older man, about the age of my father, dunking his roll into his hot milky beverage. It reminded me of my childhood. I would visit my Ukrainian grandparents who owned a corner store in New Jersey. The rolls and bread delivered fresh, early every morning. I can hear the bread man pouring them into the heavy cardboard box they’d sit in, their coarse, grainy bottoms rubbing roughly.

While bustling back and forth from the store to help a customer to the kitchen to tend me and other duties, my grandmother would make me hot chocolate. I would take a fresh roll, slather on sweet butter (not the salted butter we had at home), and dunk it into my hot chocolate. I returned to the warmth of that little kitchen as soon as I saw this older man dunking. Then, I heard him speak to his friends: Russian or Ukrainian! The connection solidified.

There was an unspoken bond I felt to him, the gratitude I felt for him bringing my grandmother (Bopchi) back to me!

As an adult I had tried to recreate that culinary experience but the roll, butter, and hot chocolate just never tasted as good. The magic of childhood and my grandmother spoiling me was the key ingredient missing. She’s been gone for more than 20 years, but I’m amazed and grateful that her love and warmth can come back to me in a chance glance in little coffee shop in Maryland.

So thankful for the many gifts already this morning!

 

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

From Independence to Peace

2014-07-04 13.06.58It’s July 4 and the morning blessed us with cool temperatures (70s), low humidity, and clear blue skies. The past week has been full of high 90s, higher heat indexes, and unhealthy air, but a large storm came through yesterday evening and blew the stifling weather away. Thus far we are blissfully independent of our air conditioners!

I am filled with gratitude and not just for the weather, which is magnificent. This morning finds me in one of my favorite places, the back porch. I watch the woods inhale–all the leaves rise, pause, and swoosh their communal exhale. The sound of the forest breathing, birdsong, and the lack of air or car traffic is delicious bounty. The sun beams down through a skylight, spotlighting particles that float through the screens in a wave toward the other side of the porch. This catches my attention. The porch stands strong and supportive, allowing her inhabitants to take part in the beauty of being in and among the trees, 40-50 feet up, but she doesn’t need to hold onto the little stuff. Ahh, more independence. She lets it just flow through her. She stands up for the big stuff, the important things, but lets go the little flotsam that we can get gunked up with as we hold tight. This is perhaps the non-dependence on trying to control everything, living without fixating on those things that don’t really matter.

Thank you, Gentle Reminder, for showing me the way to Peace.

 

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Getting Rid of What You Don’t Need

2014-06-27 10.18.06I was at the kitchen sink doing dishes on a perfectly still morning when I heard a crashing sound out back. I looked up and saw a 15-20 foot branch tumbling down from a poplar tree. I went out on the porch to look more closely and what struck me as strange was that the branch looked perfectly healthy. There was even a totally dead branch still holding on to the tree just below where the healthy looking one had been living. I wondered why the dead one clung on, while the green, leafy one took a dive.

A few days later I was working on the back porch and it happened again. A large branch came tumbling down for no apparent reason. I wondered what is going on here! I’ve not seen this before and now it happens twice in the span of about 5 days?!

My friend’s husband is an arborist, so we asked him. He said this is not uncommon. There can be some past injury that makes the limb drop.

This made me think that we all carry around old stuff that no longer lives for us. Maybe they are memories, maybe they are old habits, but they are pretty benign.

Then there are the old injuries that we’ve covered over, we look healthy on the outside, but the fractures are there underneath. We can’t keep faking it. Eventually we need to shed those parts of us in order to move on in healthier ways.

It seems like this is a more complex aspect of letting go of what doesn’t serve me. It’s not just ridding myself of the obvious stuff (a negative relationship, drinking too much diet soda, whatever the case may be). It’s opening my eyes to what I’ve covered over, maybe I don’t even realize it’s there and unhealthy. It’s a part of my shadow work, admitting to myself that this is not only a part of me, but one I need to jettison. For example, perhaps I don’t think I’m trying to be right, but maybe I need to admit that I’m not really trying to help the other person, I just want them to do it my way. It’s ugly, but life is too short to carry around excess baggage. In traveling light we can reach to great heights.

 

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Meditative Kayaking

It’s funny but true. You can find God and peace anywhere.

M2014-06-07 17.12.17y cousin, my fiancé, and I went kayaking down the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Princeton, NJ. The three of us left the house early before it got hot. I am by no means an expert kayaker, but the smooth canal water made it carefree.

We had the canal to ourselves and we quickly relaxed into the dip, pull, dip, pull, rest-coast. The rhythm, the glassy water, the beauty, the quiet made for an easily meditative experience.

Peace filled my being.

Isn’t it wonderful when God sneaks up on you like that? God was just waiting there.

Kayaking that morning was a body prayer as well as a prayer of gratitude for the surrounding beauty, the willing and able muscles, the communion I shared with people I love, the turtles sunning themselves, the moments filled with the Holy.

Gee. Wow! Thanks.

 

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Wake Up Calls: A flash flood

2014-04-25 17.53.11I love the metaphors of nature.

I have seen the effects of two flash floods in the past week. What power!

Last week we were hiking in Bandelier National Monument (New Mexico) and saw the aftereffects of a flash flood that happened in 2011. The wall of trees, picnic tables, and rocks was incredible. Especially since there was only a trickle of a stream running through the canyon at that point.

We got home to Maryland earlier this week and after a day and a half of constant rain, witnessed our own river rise several feet in about an hour. We had a month’s worth of rain in a day. The road was overcome by the flood waters. Nature’s power is awesome.

Once the water receded we could see how far the water went (deep and wide). There is a depth marker and the high water mark’s debris was tangled around 22 feet. You can see the swath of branches, trash, leaves, and trees like a ring around the collar 30-40 feet into the woods on the other side of the road.

Some of us have experienced these flash floods of life, where, out of nowhere we are overcome (or nearly so). There’s that saying, “If you’re going through hell, keep on going.” In other words, keep moving forward so you can work your way out of there.

There is no way to outrun the flood. You can’t just keep doing what you’ve been doing. It’s a totally different wake up call. One that says, you need to completely change course and run to higher ground. The higher ground piece is so important. Take the high road, do what you know is right, and don’t dillydally. Do it now!

Walking through hard times is difficult enough, but I’m hoping none of us need a flash flood to wake us up!

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

The Gifts of Space

Bison cropMany years ago I was on a hike in the back country of Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. A beautiful, wild place. The park ranger leading the hike was a sensitive outdoorsman. At lunch he read poetry while sitting under what shade we could find.

He talked of his sense of space, living out there among the wild things (bison, prairie dogs, wild horses, snakes, etc.). We pondered if one’s sense of space was created by where you grew up, or if it could change.

I grew up in the beautiful woods of New Jersey (really)! I loved walking through the forest to one of the streams that ran its course there, pooling into sections deep enough to jump into during the summer. It was idyllic in many ways. I’m not sure if it was the woods, the water, the sunlight through the leaves, the peacefulness of sitting on the porch in the evening hush, or just being close to the heartbeat of the earth, but I was aware of the sense of casting off the shackles of life when I was in nature. I was aware of a freedom and connection even at a young age.

When I roll that ranger’s question around I wonder if it was the woods that formed my sense of space or my time on the beach. Of course growing up in NJ I spent lots of time in or by the ocean. There was a deep sense, a deep knowing that one was in the presence a powerful life force.

But then, as I grew into an adult I developed a deep love and attraction to the high desert. Now, as an adult, that vast openness calls me. I’ve traveled there so many times with friends and family. When in the desert of 6000+ feet I feel like I’m with a partner, I feel a completeness, my longing satisfied.

There is a sense of what is holy, the power and beauty, in just about all environments. If open, we can hear Spirit calling in any location. Where do you find yours?

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.