practicing for the painful days

As our seasons continue to change, autumn slowly begins to welcome winter and our days get darker, my soul is reminded once again how much growth happens in the dark. Most of us know that dark times eventually bring growth, hope, and gratitude.

Usually, these lessons come when the light begins to shine on our dark days and joy comes back to us, but how do we find a bit of light in the midst of the darkest days?

Rolleicord V | Kodak Portra 800

For me, I have learned that without a regular practice, it is almost impossible to do. In the middle of my dark hours, days, or even months, nothing comes easily. Getting out of bed feels like climbing Mount Kilamgraro. Quieting the cruel voices in your head is more difficult than getting 58 kids to be quiet at the park. And any type of prayer or soul care seems fruitless. During dark days, we can really experience how beautifully we are connected- an emptiness in our soul can lead to our mind telling us old lies again and again and our body can feel the physical pain of our heart.

This is when my practice comes and saves me. If I am careful, during the sunny and warm months of life, I practice my practice. I read the wisdom of my teachers, I meditate, and I schedule purposeful rest. Now when life is easy and the days are light, my practice comes most easy. In fact, the hardest part of my practice is actually practicing it.

Rolleicord V | Kodak Portra 800

I read the wise words of one of my teachers, Thomas Merton, “There are days when I am convinced that Heaven starts already, now, in this ordinary life just as it is, in all its incompleteness, yet, this is where Heaven starts.. see within yourself, if you can find it. I walked through the field in front of the house, lots of swallows flying, everywhere! Some very near me..it was magical. “We are already one, yet we know it not.” During the lighter days, it is easy to find the magic of birds soaring in the breeze above me.

I schedule rest twice a week. I schedule one day that I can take a nap and one day that I don’t need to do anything. I can be active, but it is a day that doesn’t contain any “must dos”. You would think the full day of resting would be harder to schedule. It isn’t. The idea of taking an hour to rest- whether I fall asleep or not- is the harder of the two. It is so easy for me to convince myself I am needed to keep this big world spinning. If I somehow take an hour, things won’t get done and the world will come to a screeching halt. It never does. My weekly nap is a reminder that I am not as important as I think I am and I am important enough to get some rest in the middle of the week.

I practice Centering Prayer every day. I start my practice with the ringing of my singing bowl. As the bowl rings, my soul settles into silence. During the days that sun is shining and all my ducks are in a row, the twenty minutes of silencing my soul come easily. My thoughts don’t race, my body settles into easy breathing, and my heart quiets to an eternal peace.

Rolleicord V | Kodak Portra 800

However, when the days are dark my practices don’t feel like they give me life.  In fact, they can feel painful. Merton’s words feel pithy and glub. Go outside and look at the birds? Take deep breathes? But, because it is my practice, I do go outside and breathe deeply and wait for a bird or two to fly overhead. Is there the same magic that I feel in the easy days? No, not at all. But there is a different magic. I am reminded of the magic, the hope, and they lightness that will come again.

My weekly nap no longer feels like a reprieve and rest- it feels lazy and reminds me of one of my favorite lies I tell myself, I am unnecessary and useless. It is almost painful to take that nap.  Fighting for hope and peace in these dark days is work and my body deserves a nap more than ever.

And Centering Prayer? Almost impossible. My body can’t settle. My heart aches. My mind refuses to quiet. Instead of detaching from my thoughts, I hang onto every single one.

Rolleicord V | Kodak Portra 800

The one thing that keeps me going is that reminder of my singing bowl. As I ring that bowl, something deep within my soul awakes. It hears the ringing, and an eternal hope stirs. And while things aren’t suddenly better- all my practices can remain painful and harsh for days, weeks, and even months-there is something within me that remembers. There is something that stirs and gives me the smallest bit of peace or at least, a small taste of the forgotten peace I once swam in.

Practicing my practice in the summer and spring of life brings me magic, joy, and gratitude that helps me continue practicing my practice in the winter and fall. On the darker days, my practice may not bring magic to my moments or joy in my days, or gratitude for my life… but it gently reminds me of the magic and the days that I felt joy and that a gratitude for this darkness will come one day.  And, just like the reminder of the singing bowl, my heart jumps with the hope of spring right there in the darkness of autumn.

Rolleicord V | Kodak Portra 800

 

My dear friend Melissa is also writing some thoughts about beginning on her blog. Please click here to read more. 

12 on 12: family time

My family recently traveled to Northern California for my cousin’s wedding.  It was nice to have a quick, mini vacation with the family.

I packed a few cameras for the trip, but the only camera that made it out of my bag was my Polaroid One Step.  It is so simple to use and I can quickly and easily share the images with the people that are with me.

Because the wedding was in the heart of some of California’s wine country, we decided to do some wine tasting while up there.  It was a beautiful day driving through grape vines and tasting some lovely wines.  We drove home with three cases full of our favorites.

The wedding was beautiful! It was everything you imagine in a wedding- full of romance, full of family, and full of fun.

It was so romantic, it got our little family in a romantic mood.

Sammy’s girlfriend couldn’t come up for the wedding, so she got a sweet kiss from dad.

It was a marvelous time with my family.  I sure do love them.

My friend, Alison, has twelve images from her blog from last month. Click on over to her blog here– you will not be disappointed.

 

fall retreat

This weekend, Alive & Well Women hosted a beautiful day retreat and I was so blessed to be there.  Spending the day with other women creating, resting, asking, and laughing is just what my soul needed. It was what we all needed.

In the morning hours, we had an hour and a half to be alone in the beautiful Monrovia mountains to read, sketch, and write.  Surrounded by the beauty of Mother Earth, taking in all of her offerings of the day, my body settled and felt embraced in Love.  I wrote one of the offerings below and wanted to share it here.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Surrounded, by Staci Kennelly

I am surrounded
by the gentle breeze,
by the smell of sweet sage.
by the sway of the golden grass.

I am surrounded
embraced, but not captive,
held, but not bound,
possessed but not owned.

I am surrounded.
Surrounded.
Surrounded.

Enveloped by the gentle yielding of her lavish bosom,
breathing in the sweetness of her bountiful grace,
allowing my soul to bend and sway in her liberating love.

I am surrounded.

Darkness Cover Me, by Sara Thomsen

Darkness Cover Me
like a blanket of night
Oh, cover me lightly

Shadows gather around me
Deepening darkness,
Whispering softly

Holy Maker of Moonlight
Singing through starlight
Keeper of all life

Hidden Seed deep in the dark soil of the earth
Fertile Ground, Womb of the Night, bring us new birth

Don’t forget to take time for yourself- whether you write, walk, laugh, or simply nap.  If you are in the Southern California area, I highly recommend following Alive and Well Women (click here for link) to receive information about their events.

 

deep breaths

I am taking deep, life-giving breaths today.  With each breath, I am feeling all my feelings from anger to sorrow and with each exhale I am reminding myself that there is strength in hope and power in love.  I will not let any of it be diminished- my anger, my sorrow, my hope, or my love.

Take a few moments for your own soul today. Remind yourself of your strength and power.  Breathe in. Breathe out.

Sorrow by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Sorrow like a ceaseless rain
Beats upon my heart.
People twist and scream in pain, —
Dawn will find them still again;
This has neither wax nor wane,
Neither stop nor start.

People dress and go to town;
I sit in my chair.
All my thoughts are slow and brown:
Standing up or sitting down
Little matters, or what gown
Or what shoes I wear.

 

 

 

Blessed Longing by Goethe

Tell no one else, only the wise
For the crowd will sneer at one
I wish to praise what is fully alive,
What longs to flame toward death.

When the calm enfolds the love-nights
That created you, where you have created
A feeling from the Unknown steals over you
While the tranquil candle burns.

You remain no longer caught
In the penumbral gloom
You are stirred and new, you desire
To soar to higher creativity.

No distance makes you ambivalent.
You come on wings, enchanted
In such hunger for light, you
Become the butterfly burnt to nothing.

So long as you have not lived this:
To die is to become new,
You remain a gloomy guest
On the dark earth.

autumn begins

“Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.”
― Joan Chittister

This Saturday is the Autumn Equinox, when the sun will move from the Northern hemisphere to the Southern and our days here in the Northern Hemisphere will begin to be shorter.  While we will not enjoy the length of days that summer brings, there is something about the autumn light that my soul loves.  I long for the break of the heat of summer and crave of the gentle warmth of the autumn sun and her cool, slow nights.  As the days become shorter and shorter, I am reminded how much work can be done in the dark. Autumn reminds us to let go and to rest.

With each leaf that falls, Mother Earth reminds us that we must let go of what is no longer giving us life. With each day that holds more darkness than light, Mother Earth reminds us of the deep places in us germinate better in the stillness of the dark.

Let go.
Be still.
Rest.

What are some things you need to let go of? How can you bring more moments of stillness and quiet into your life? Can you commit to a more scheduled time for deep rest and sitting in the dark places of your heart?

I am leaving you with a beautiful prayer from Edward Hays.  As we Autumn begins, may you hope for the hidden promise that will be ripening within you this season.

Dance with delight, O flame of autumn fire,
as the Earth, spinning and leaning away from the sun,
begins to cool from the summer heat.
Speak to me of the promise hidden in this season of autumn.
For spring is seeded in this season of completion,
just as the giant oak exists within the acorn.

Autumn fire, orange and yellow sacrament of the sun,
light up the darkness with your dancing.
Your power is seeded in the ripeness
of the fruit and grain of this harvest season.

Great is God, whose heart is the shrine
wherein lives this whole universe;
great is your heart, my Beloved,
greater still is your unceasing love for me.

May my love for you enflame my every word of thanksgiving
to reflect the golden beauty of autumn
that the Earth dons once again.
Amen.

Edward Hays, from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim

 

My dear friend Melissa is also writing some thoughts about beginning on her blog. Please click here to read more. 

the Rolleicord V

I am enjoying getting to know my new Rolleicord V. I love how light it is and that it comes equipped with its own little case.  I have noticed that is exceptional at capturing light and will be metering more on the underexposed side. I took it out to the Huntington Library and Gardens and shot a roll of Kodak Portra 400 and Ilford XP2 400.

Nature never hurries. Atom by atom, little by little, she achieves her work.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.

Rachel Carson

Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are.

Gretel Ehrlich

I have a friend that is an amazing photographer and is also posting 12 images today. Really, go check out Alison’s blog.  You can thank me later.

a new beginning

There is something about the turn of the calendar, the newness of the first of the month.  What are you about to begin? What is about to be birthed within you?

I am thankful for John O’Donohue’s poem, A New Beginning.  It is a true blessing and guidepost.  May it strengthen and encourage you as we begin, either for the first time or the hundredth.

Rolleicord V | Agfachrome RSX II 50, expired

In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time is has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.

Rolleicord V | Agfachrome RSX II 50, expired

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with the energy and dream
A path of plentitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Rolleicord V | Agfachrome RSX II 50, expired