Friday, June 30, 2017

Righting Retreat


Yes, it was a writing retreat. No, I did not misspell the word in the title of this post.

Last week I was immersed in a five-day writing experience with others here on Dancing TreePeople Farm. We met at the beginning of each day to set our intentions, in the middle of the day for an accountability break, and at the end of the day to share what had happened in regard to our writing. Though the temperature rose to triple digit figures most days, I was content and happy with the gift of time I had given myself. Plus we had some very enjoyable meals!

I did some writing. Mostly I sorted through the ideas and materials I had and tried to decide what I wanted my next book to be, now that ABC's of Grief: Reclaiming Life after Loss was published and touching lives. But the most valuable part of the five days was the awareness that my creative juices really flow when I clear my schedule and focus on being in the moment. This is not always simple given my commitments to Hospice Services of Lake County, Lake County Organics, Hunger Task Force, and Dancing TreePeople Farm, but once again I realized that balance is essential for my well-being and creativity.

Back in the early 1980's while I was a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament missioned at St. Francis de Sales Convent in Powhatan, VA, this was the sight that often called me to stand still and be in awe of what happens when all the pieces come together balancing and supporting each other. I would look up in wonder and then I would turn around and look out in wonder at the James River and the amazing surrounding countryside.

So my writing retreat was also an opportunity to do some "righting" of my priorities. Maybe that was the main purpose of those precious five days - my righting retreat!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Breathing Deeply


My starfish self loves the ocean! Usually it is a two-hour drive from my home to the Pacific Ocean - a little longer if I want to put my feet into the water or splash my face with its refreshing touch. Which is why I find deep delight when I am able to spend time at an airbnb near Ferndale, CA. A mile walk along the paved road takes me to the edge of the beach. Once I make my way through the tall grasses and around the driftwood, I can play with the water or walk along side the waves. Breathing deeply, I relax!

On my return walk to the road, I enjoy exploring the treasures that have washed up on the shore with the ebb and flow of the waves. Some sit like sentinels - only a shadow of what they once were. Interesting shapes and a variety of sizes!

Recently I completed the co-facilitation of an eight-week grief group. In the sharing I noticed how waves of grief passed over me leaving behind reminders of the loss I felt as I mourned my two brothers who died in 2012. I also realized that the pain has lessened considerably. I remember how devastated I was in the first year and more. I was unable to focus. I had lost my footing and was afraid that this would always be the way I would feel. ("No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear." C.S. Lewis)

I am so grateful that though I will never be over my loss of Pat and John, I have come through the deepest darkness. Journeying with others through their grief has helped me process my own grief, as did the writing of my book, ABC's of Grief. Breathing deeply, I give thanks.

Monday, January 30, 2017

My Nana



Growing older has given me many new perspectives. One regret I have is not having asked more questions of my parents and my grandparents, especially my Mom's mother, my Nana.

However, I treasure the experiences and stories that I do have. This one in particular seems timely and worth sharing:

My Nana emigrated to America twice. Her father had gone before assuring his wife and two daughters that he would send for them soon. When that did not happen, my great-grandmother saved up the money needed to secure space for her oldest daughter to travel to America and find her father and help bring the family back together again. My Nana was 17 years old.

She arrived at Ellis island and was refused entry to the United States. Reason: an ear infection. Back onto the next boat to Lithuania! Still undaunted! Her mother saved more money and once again my Nana made the difficult and dangerous journey.

This time she knew what to do and how to circumvent the system. She was determined to find her father and bring her mother and younger sister to America as well. I am unsure how she made her way through the inspection lines, but I am so glad she did.

She found her father (had to travel from New York to Brockton to do so), and "straighten him out" (her own version of AA, I am sure.) Not only did she bring her mother and sister to America, she also married a fine Lithuania man and raised five children to be solid and productive citizens of the country my Mom and uncles and aunt called: home.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Limiting Beliefs

I went for a walk in the orchard this morning – in the rain. Magical. Peaceful. Refreshing. And yes, I was soaking wet when I came back into the house with my two equally dripping wet dogs, but we really enjoyed the sound, feel, and taste of the rain. We dried off quickly in our warm, cozy home. Life, when I walk outside in all kinds of weather, is good.


My usual excuse for not walking in the rain (running to the garage through the rain to get in the car does not count) is my not wanting to get my glasses wet. Today my solution was simple I went out without my glasses. I can see well enough to avoid the squirrel holes and the trees posed no obstacle, plus the deer and other wild creatures are happy to avoid me. So I went out, walked, and returned safely.

And so I ask my self: what other limiting beliefs or thoughts stop me from doing the things I feel moved or invited to do? I am aware that many places of resistance within me have been breached during my lifetime already. Sometimes necessity made it possible or the naming and claiming of the fear calmed me down. But choosing to live on my own personal growing edge means that there are multiple opportunities to move out and beyond the limits I might allow to stop me.

One such boundary is age. So on this rainy I picked up a book that a friend sent me a few years ago: Great at Any Age. These facts cleared up any misconceptions that might hold me back. At 76:  Clara Barton was working as battlefield nurse during the Spanish-American War. Henry Fonda starred in On Golden Pond, which won him an Oscar. Thomas Jefferson began designing buildings and developing the curriculum for the University of Virginia. And, yes, August Rodin married his life-long companion of over fifty years.

So as 2017 continues to unfold, I will be writing, speaking, and guiding seekers on life’s journey. ABCs of Grief: Reclaiming Life after Loss (my second book) will be published in February. My presentations to groups will include topics like, Stories That Strengthen Our Souls and Self-Care in Times of Sadness. Journeying with others through the wilderness of grief will give me the opportunity to reach out to people in our Lake County community and beyond.

What about you? Do you have any limiting beliefs that you are ready to release this year?  Be blessed in each step you undertake. And yes, come walk with me gently on Earth (even when it rains).

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Fear is Useless

I’m not certain of the exact moment it begins.  Maybe it is when I decide to cruise Facebook and
online news sites in hopes that there will be good political news.  Who am I kidding?  Even if there is good news, I am pretty sure that the corporate media doesn’t plan to share it with me. Why help me feel good when they can get me to buy more of what they are selling.

Here is what they are selling:

Fear.

My body feels fear well before I realize what is happening.  A tightness in the pit of my stomach, maybe a constriction in my chest.  A random thought enters my mind: I wonder if I should buy some grain to store in cupboards… or more toilet paper.  Just in case.

Before I even notice the anxiety,  my imagination is bent on worry.  My creativity transforms into thoughts about safety and security… or if left long enough maybe into dystopian fantasies of dying in a large nuclear fireball. 

I need an intervention.

I’m not usually one to quote scripture, but here it is: “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.”    Chaos, death and destruction happen. Fear won’t change that.  Fear, in fact, makes it worse.

As FDR famously said: all we have to fear is fear itself. 

There is a reason he said this.  From our fear, we create more things to fear. We fear each other.  Perhaps we fear ourselves.  When we fear, we cannot create positive possibility.  Fear constricts.

For me, fear gets bigger when I try to make it go away.  It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.
Ignoring fear, saying “there is nothing to be afraid of”, judging the fear… none of this works for me.  But recently, I discovered a practice that does work.  It starts with paying attention—noticing when I am actually feeling fear.  That is key.

The Practice:

(1) Notice fear in my body.  Where do I feel it?
(2) Say. “So this is what fear feels like”
(3) Feel it.  Notice the thoughts as they come up.
(4) Say “So this is a thought that produces fear” (or alternatively "This is a thought produced by fear)
(5) Choose a new thought.  I like this one: I trust in good. (Thank you , Jesus)
(6) Choose an action, however small,  in a positive direction.  Am I worried about climate change?  I choose to work on solar energy.

Guess what!   My fear dissipates.  Perhaps it doesn’t like to be noticed. Or maybe action chases  it away.

Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.

What is Permaculture?


Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is an ecological design framework inspired by living systems. The ethics, root practices and principles in permaculture can be applied to the garden, the farm, and indeed any living system including human structures.