Holding very still.

I am holding very still.

Okay, truthfully, the reason I am holding my body very still (even as I write this) is that I am having some intense back pain. ūüôā But sitting so physically still has created a different stillness within me that is very tangible, palpable. It’s really quite nice. There’s a peace in it. I am reminded to just be still ¬†Just. Be. Still. It’s okay. ¬†Just sit here. Just be still. Breathe.

I came across (again, but it’s been a while since I have seen them) these words that speak straight to my heart:

Intention

I feel these are words to endeavor to live by and intentions to endeavor to manifest.  And it strikes me that perhaps if there is stillness within, all these things are possible.

 

Walking Slowly

Today I found myself arriving early to an appointment.  I told myself just to enjoy the slow walk back to the room where I was to go.  I was surprised by what a hard time my legs had walking slowly, even though the notion of a peaceful 5 minute stroll was very appealing to my mind and heart.

“It’s okay,” I told my legs. ¬†“You can just take it easy. ¬†We have time.”

I eventually slowed down.

May we remember that it’s okay to slow down.

fresh air

Every Day

I was talking with my son earlier about something I’m working on self-improvement-wise that he is invested in – which is very sweet and means a lot to me. I was telling him about something I did today toward that self-improvement mission, and I heard myself say to him, “One day at a time. That’s how we make change happen.”

And I was struck by my own words – not because I’m so wise and brilliant, but because while I know this intellectually, I also know sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the big picture of change that it’s crippling. ¬†And even though I often¬†live by (and encourage others to live by) the notion of “one hour at a time, one minute at a time if necessary,” for some reason it just struck my ear, mind, and heart differently today.

I think that was because it lifts up two things: the importance of a renewed daily commitment to change (which requires not only discipline but mindfulness and, to a certain extent, open-heartedness) – and it also offers up the chance to stop at the end of each day and acknowledge, “Hey. I did that. That was good. That felt good. That helped. Look at that. That happened today.” And it’s not about self-congratulations but rather encouragement, possibility, and hope – and again, mindfulness and being present to what happened that day.

I’m not Catholic, but I was very struck by Pope Francis’ words about peace in 2013: “True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely ‘fa√ßade’ which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment”. ¬†I think it’s that same notion that moves me about effecting change. ¬†And yes, certainly, as we’re working for change – and working for peace – working for anything that deeply matters to us, we¬†hope and trust that over time, some behaviors will become intuitive and become part of our daily actions and feelings. ¬†But if we want to grow, we have to keep revisiting what we strive for, what moves us, what we seek, how we seek to be part of this world.

Let us strive¬†be present: to ourselves, to others, to the world around us. ¬†And even if we don’t have it within ourselves to effect that change each day, if we’re still in touch with what we seek, that’s something very worthwhile.

May we find ways to show up, in whatever way we can, even in a diminished capacity, even just for a moment, and be present, one day at a time.

Peace Transferred

Today when we were flying back from vacation, my son leaned over to rest his head in my lap. I was reminded what a gift that is.

Many times in my life I have noticed what it does to me physically as well as emotionally when I am holding my son or a tiny baby or a pet in my lap or against my chest. A¬†couple of things happen: when a living creature is resting on us, they are immediately entrusting themselves to our care. That sounds clinical. What I mean/feel is that they are allowing themselves to be so vulnerable, and they open their hearts to us and show us, “Here I am. Could we just be together for a few minutes? Could you hold me and protect me and look after me while we breathe together?” And not only do I feel humbled and thankful and so very connected in those moments, but I also feel empowered and called to protect and love, and suddenly my priorities are completely in order, and everything else must come second to caring for the life in my arms.

Something else that always amazes me and goes straight to my heart is how, when the person or creature relaxes into us once they feel safe, there is a peace that emanates from their body that is effortlessly transferred to us. My whole being is transformed.

I read a question in a survey recently that was trying to project what kind of future you’d have. It asked, “Are you high tech or high touch?” This reminded me of the first time I heard something like this, when Teresa Eyring, the Executive Director of Theatre Communications Group, noted that as the world grows more high tech, we crave human touch. We crave connection. We crave being present in the moment with another person. It’s definitely part of what moves me so deeply about theater and about being an actor: that shared moment in time where we are all connected and breathing the same air and going through something together. And it’s what moves me more and more each day in terms of compassion and connection and why I believe we are on the planet.

It’s kind of like the moon. I love the moon. I have several friends across the country who love the moon like I do, and invariably, on a night when the moon really moves one of us, I will text one of them with “MOON!!”, or one of them will text me. And in that moment, no matter where we are or how long it’s been since we have seen each other, we know we’re looking at the same moon and are connected and are sharing in that moment in time.

I believe there is a peace that comes when we are connected, even if it’s in an extremely difficult moment. And maybe it’s impossible to tell who initiates that peace, or maybe it is born out of the moment itself.

What I do know is that more and more I find myself saying, “We’re all in this together.”¬†And I am really thankful for that.

Jumbled Heart

Sometimes my heart is a jumble of all sorts of feelings, and I just don’t know why they’re all there.¬†I know they are part of me. I know they may have something to say that I need to hear. But the jumbled sensation is not always a lot of fun.

Tonight I find myself jumbled inside, lots of love and gratitude floating around mixed with some melancholy* and questions. Tonight I am reminded of all the pieces of myself living in this jumbled heart of mine. I’m reminded of the story and journey of the open-hearted-marvel Elizabeth Gilbert as she sat in her deepest, darkest time, sat with herself, and invited all the parts of herself into her heart, blessing them, loving them, assuring them they could rest there in her heart and be at peace. (from Eat, Pray, Love)

So while I am deeply grateful that I am not in a place of great distress but rather just in the midst of a jumbled heart, tonight I try to bless the melancholy and the questions. “It’s okay. I love you. You can rest here. We’ll get through this together,” a variation on EG’s offering to herself.

I also want to recognize the love and gratitude of my jumbled heart, so tonight I am grateful for loved ones who wrap their arms around me with their words and love, grateful for connections with new friends who say “welcome,” grateful for dear friends who share that I am with them in their hearts even when I can’t be in person, grateful for my precious son, his open heart, and his indomitable spirit.

I know the jumble is part of Life. It’s part of having an open heart. I’m glad for that. I just want to become more connected to the peace and the blessings of all parts of the jumble as the confusion swirls around.

Peace

I think this is what my friend Brandon meant when he wished for all “a courageous sense of abiding peace.”

May we find peace in the jumble. May we find peace with the jumble.

* https://dearworldhereismyheart.wordpress.com/2015/07/25/melancholy-and-the-open-heart/

Stillness Reflection

It is quiet now, and there is a palpable stillness that fills my heart with peace.

I am reminded of a time, a moment ¬†of stillness I will never forget and will keep close in my heart all my life. Years ago, my very dear friend asked if I would be present (along with her husband at the time) for the birth of their second child. I was deeply honored and readily said yes. One night it was time, and off we went to the birthing center in the hospital while their much-loved¬†2 year old stayed home with grandmother. My friend astonished me with her grace and strength in bringing that sweet tiny somebody into the world: my friend always astonishes me with her grace and strength, and this was a new level I hadn’t been able to imagine (my son was still many years away from being born). After her delivery of this amazing little girl, my friend drifted into a greatly earned sleep. Father¬†asked if I would mind staying a bit longer, staying with my friend and their newborn long enough for him to run home and check on their other daughter and the grandmother. Of course I was overjoyed to stay.

So I found myself there in the middle of the night, for it was about midnight, sitting in a rocking chair, high up in a tall hospital building in the midst of crazy, wonderful Manhattan, holding this tiny marvel, this precious child, this gift to the Universe. And everything¬†was so, so still. My friend¬†was gently sleeping right there in the room with us. All was perfectly quiet. And this sweet tiny someone and I shared this moment in time that I will never, ever forget. I try to recall this memory with some regularity so that I never let it go. So that she stays right there in my heart, and so that that moment of utter Grace, of what, after yesterday’s exploration, I now believe was Quick Wonder,* never leaves me. So that I can honor that moment in time, that beloved baby¬†(who is now an extraordinary young woman), and her mother who is one of those friends whom I will love to the end and beyond.

As I write this, I am having what my son and I call “happy tears. ” There is something about stillness. It can be so scary sometimes. It can feel impossible to bear. It can be maddening or give way to melancholy. But ¬†it can also be genuinely awesome. It can open our hearts in a way we’ve never experienced. When we can be still, we can be present to Quick Wonder: we can be fully connected to the wonder of living, of being, of sharing in a moment in time.

I am so grateful for you, sweet tiny somebody.¬†I’m so, so very glad you came into this world.

* https://dearworldhereismyheart.wordpress.com/2015/07/31/quick-wonder/

 

Gratitude is an action word.

I was introduced to the notion of Kairos time by Glennon Doyle Melton aka Momastery:

http://momastery.com/blog/2012/01/04/2011-lesson-2-dont-carpe-diem/

I love her humor and humility as she shares this notion with us, but I so deeply respect her ability to¬†intentionally be present with and for¬†her Kairos moments in day, even if there’s just a tiny one that only lasts 2 seconds. The way she describes it, it seems those moments are the “what matter” moments, the “why we are here” moments. Those moments in which something usually manages to open our hearts, to connect us with each other or the Universe or God – connect us to something outside ourselves that gives us a deep, happy sigh when we can step outside ourselves and think and feel “I’m so glad I was here to be part of this moment.” Here as in here-on-earth here.

I¬†also love what good old Wikipedia says about Kairos. As opposed to Chronos, chronological time, Kairos is “a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens.”* A moment in which everything happens. How marvelous is that. I can’t even quite wrap my head around that idea, but my heart seems to understand it.

I was thinking back over my day, and I realize there were many Grace-filled, Love-filled moments in which “everything happened.”

Early in the day I came across a friend’s post on Facebook which simply read, “Love is a verb.” Boom, I felt my heart open.

This afternoon my son had to face an emotionally challenging situation, and the person assigned to help us was so kind and human that when we left, my son said to me, “That was actually fun.” Deep breath. Heart open. Seriously grateful.

Later in the day I took my son to a playdate. Very shortly after I dropped him off, his friend’s mother (whom I feel lucky to call my friend, too) texted me, “I love your son so much. He is delightful.” Heart now floating on a cloud of gratitude.

Tonight, a friend I’ve never met went above and beyond to send me a message and share something with me he thought might speak to me. Grace and Kairos from afar.

And in the wake of some really tough moments yesterday, and in being able to explore Shame vs. Brutal Truth** with a loved one and here with you in the ether, there is a new peace in my heart. Deep breath of Kairos in. Deep breath of Kairos out.

Gratitude

When my friend posted “Love is a verb,” I immediate also thought of “Gratitude is an action word.” So for these Kairos moments, for the connections I have been part of today, I am deeply grateful.

One last thought/feeling. Reading this was a Kairos moment, too. And while we may not need to figure it all out, I am very thankful to get to keep exploring life, to love life, and to be loved back.

SweatpantsAndCoffee.com

SweatpantsAndCoffee.com

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairos

**https://dearworldhereismyheart.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/brutal-truth/

Brutal Truth

Brutal Truth. That moment when Life holds a mirror up to your face and forces you to take a gritty, raw look at what you see before you. And Brutal Truth cannot be avoided or dismissed. Brutal Truth stays until you look, until you see.¬†To me, Brutal Truth’s other name is Tough Love.

When Brutal Truth appears, I often find Shame shows up, too. The difference between these two, is, however, extreme. Shame is there to try to make us feel like we should slink away into the shadows and never show our faces again. As Brene Brown puts it, in her achingly beautiful and human way:

“Shame is that warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed, and never good enough….Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” (The Gifts of Imperfection)

Brutal Truth is very different, though it often doesn’t feel any different from Shame. Sometimes I cannot tell them apart until I really sit with myself and realize Shame is giving me the excuse to hide. And then I see that Brutal Truth comes in peace and more importantly, comes in love. Do you know J. Ruth Gendler’s¬†The Book of Qualities? Her personification of these pieces of ourselves astonishes me in her accuracy and humanity. Of Truth she writes:

“Truth has been employed as a thief stealing illusions….When Truth’s fingers touch my shoulder, I hear bone touching bone….He lingers in the long pauses between the questions and the answers…Truth is willing to wait for a long time with little attention or visible encouragement. Truth is not willing to live without Love.

And when I can come to that and realize that Brutal Truth is actually genuine love, then I can start working to send Shame on its way. So I find myself back again at this core reality that if we can open our hearts, painful as it will be, we will find truth, honesty, and compassion. In this case, Brutal Truth comes only because of the need to share compassion, care, and concern. But mercy, such truths can hurt like hell and rock your world.

How does Brutal Truth bring genuine Love? As I was reading more just now, I found this. Gendler writes, “Trust is the daughter of Truth….she is the mother of Love.” Yes, there must be Trust for Brutal Truth to bring Love. Otherwise, when there is no trust and no love, THEN there is Shame. So if we can truly trust the one handing¬†us the Brutal Truth, we will know it¬†is offered from a place of Love.

It’s a lot. And it’s more than a lot in the moment when the truth hits. But maybe if we can open our hearts more, we can trust more, we can love more, and we can face those Brutal Truths without letting Shame¬†in.

I’m going to try.

Rainer Maria Rilke

The Open Heart Connection

I find myself, through these writings and with you, exploring what it is to have an open heart, to live with a heart open to the world, open to possibility, open to hurt, open to feeling all manner of things, open to connecting with another person, with a moment in time, with ourselves. And then today I came across this from the marvelous Terri St. Cloud who is Bone Sigh Arts:

My word. I saw that, read that, felt that, and my heart did a little happy dance of gratitude. No, more like a deep bow of gratitude to the Universe and to God. “Strength lies in the opening of the heart…” (Terri St. Cloud)

This resonates so deeply with me, not only because of this journey I’m on but also because it makes so clear that having an open heart isn’t all sunshine and roses and ease and smiles. It can be, of course. The opening of the heart hopefully often will lead to great joy and genuine compassion and connection. But it may be really, really hard before it gets to that point. It takes great strength to open your heart and go to those places. It takes courage. It might mean riots in your soul.

I’ve never been good at confrontation. I don’t like it. I’d gladly go around the block to avoid confrontation. But I am learning that part of having an open heart means staying right there in the Thick of It, whatever It is in that moment, and showing up to my life and to the connection even if the connection is really hard.

I’m not saying that I believe we always have to go into the fray to have an open heart. Indeed, sometimes the path to opening your heart is to step back and let be. Sometimes the path is to just be present for someone else or for yourself, listening to what they need from you, not necessarily what you might want to give. The opening of the heart can take on so many forms, and I find that wonderful. An open heart is an invitation to see where life may lead us.

So.¬†Here we are in this together, and I am so grateful. “Strength lies in the opening of the heart…” Amen, and yes.