“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”
~ Jo Walton
This post is not just about appreciating sunrises and sunsets. The question is: how present are we each day? How mindful? How aware are we of beauty, our senses, and all that we sense?
Consider this simple activity as one way to be more mindful.
You can do this in one minute. All you need is one raisin. Before eating the raisin, hold it in your hand. Roll it between your fingers. Examine it as if it is the first raisin you have ever seen. Then close your eyes and place it in your mouth. Keep them closed for the entire time you are tasting the raisin. Chew the raisin very slowly. Notice the taste, the changing texture, how your mouth fills with saliva, and more. Pay attention to all the little things you are experiencing. Give the raisin your full attention for a full minute, or for as long as you can, before swallowing all of it.
Seize and savor this day. Every day.
PS – Try this another time, using an almond or other nut. Try an olive. What else might you use? Do this as a family and share your experiences. Talk about sunrises and sunsets too. Which do you prefer and why?
This could be a simple and light-hearted way to cultivate a greater gratitude practice for ourselves. It could be fun too, especially if we involve children.
Whether or not you make a physical gratitude key, create one in your mind. Carry that image with you as you go about this day.
For the joy of it,
“Thank you for helping me feel like a shiny stone instead of a plain old worthless rock,” said a third-grade boy in Tucson, Arizona.
An effect and reaction like that is what I hope for when I offer a polished stone to children in classrooms – adults in audiences too – after we discuss the message of The Twelve Gifts of Birth. If you’re familiar with the book, you know that the story, illustrations, and photographs help children of all ages recognize their inner gifts and feel valuable.
To anchor the message and help make the intangible gifts of inner strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith feel more touchable and real, I use a bowl of stones in a show and tell way. You can do this too in a one-on-one way or with any size group.
When speaking with groups, a clear fish bowl is an ideal container. Fill it at least halfway with medium-sized polished stones of all varieties. On top of all the shiny and colorful stones, place a regular, rough rock, the kind you might pick up from a street, sidewalk, or hiking trail. For a one-on-one talk, a handful of polished stones and one rough rock is sufficient.
The bowl of stones does a good job of grabbing attention and stirring curiosity in groups. I present the bowl after the reading, discussion, and the question, “Who feels valuable in this moment?” All (or nearly all) hands shoot up.
That opens the door for THE THREE LESSONS IN POLISHED STONES.
The plain rough rock is used to acknowledge that we all sometimes feel like that: plain, ordinary, maybe even worthless. The truth is that we are all like the polished stones. Like them we’ve been tumbled. For them it was in a machine. For us it is in life. The keepsake polished stone is meant to remind us that no matter what we look like on the surface or what we feel like, we have strength, beauty, and other valuable qualities within us always.
The second lesson the stones offer is the beauty of all their various colors, shapes, and sizes. We too come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. No matter. Like the stones, in that way too, we are all valuable.
The third lesson comes from taking a very close look at one or any number of the stones. Upon close examination, we see little cracks, nicks, scratches. While they are indeed beautiful, strong, and valuable, they are not perfect. Neither are we.
And those are three lessons for all of us to remember for ourselves and to share with the children in our lives.
Parents, teachers, counselors, all readers who may use this activity in any way, I’d love to hear from you.
I’m guessing that a collection of colorful stones can carry other meaningful messages. What do you think of the three I described? What other life lessons do you see?
Toward dignity for all,
“May you see the world with wonder.”
– from The Twelve Gifts for Healing
Like Charlotte Eriksson, “I want to remember to notice the wonders of each day, in each moment, no matter where I am, under any circumstance.” And that includes the circumstances of sickness, sadness, and stress. How about you?
Did you know that wonder promotes healing?
“The more I wonder, the more I love,” said Alice Walker. Love promotes healing too. As does beauty. And joy.
We were bursting with wonderment in early childhood. It wanes as we age. But we can re-invigorate our sense of wonder. Why would we?
Well, for one reason, as Einstein said, “Whoever…can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead.
What stirred wonder in you when you were a child? What does now?
Did you experience wonderment when you saw a wildflower growing through a sidewalk crack? The bare roots of a tree clinging to the side of a rocky mountain? Sun stars sparkling on water? Bright green insects? Baby ducklings? A newborn child? The Milky Way?
Do you still feel a little thrill of joyful awe
when you see “God rays” streaming from above
through a break in the clouds? For many people, that sight is a touchstone for faith and wonder.
How about when you see a full rainbow or a double one?
Let’s intend to experience wonder somehow, somewhere today. At least once.
Along with setting the intention to experience wonder, expect to be delighted. Give thanks for the awesome beauty you trust you will see. Open your mind, your heart, and your eyes. Your ears too. Notice what happens for you.
“Passion is holy…If we do not give outward expression to our passions, we will experience self-immolation – the spontaneous combustion of our souls.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach
When I published The Twelve Gifts of Birth, I hoped it would at least break even. I just knew I had to bring it into the world as best I could. Reaching sweet success with it was like icing an already delicious lemon yellow cake with honeyed icing.
Some books have not done so well. For example, my children’s picture book, A Perfect Name, did not even go into a second printing.
I have a close friend who has faithfully honored her creative passions with card-making and selling whimsical gifts for the home. You can hear the joy in her voice when she’s working with her artistic expressions. She hasn’t reached gold. Not yet, I should say. Who knows what’s ahead?
We are all talented in so many ways. Some we have not yet recognized. No matter how old or young or busy or poor we feel, whatever our present circumstances, let’s take a few deep breaths and bring freshness not only into our lungs but into our minds, hearts, and souls as well.
Be ready. Inspiration can come in any moment. Welcome it. Honor it.
Joyfully express yourself. Follow your dreams. With love and courage you can. You will!
Hope and faith too,
“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.”
~ Dr. Seuss
Everything has the potential to be funny. Even cancer. You may remember Gilda Radner and her book, It’s Always Something. Gilda was great at finding the funny.
When facing cancer – or any illness or life challenge – it helps a lot to tap into our inner strength, to hold hope, and to find the funny. Reba McEntire said it well:
“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.”
When I shared the news of my breast cancer diagnosis with you last May, I wrote seriously, with backbone strength and wishbone hope about the healing power of love.
I’d like to give my funny bone a try today. With joy, here’s my story continued:
So, with relative grace and ease I had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
During the weeks leading up to surgery, I joked a bit about the silver lining. You know me, always looking for uplifts – uplifting thoughts, uplifting feelings. Without having to pay for elective surgery, I was going to end up with a body “uplift!”
Yes, focusing on the positive, I looked forward to having a younger-looking, more perky chest. And I got it. There were other benefits. I could wear tank tops and skinny-strap sundresses without a bra.
Well, one day about a month ago, I noticed that the left side was way perkier on the top than the right. A closer look showed that the “natural slope” of the implant on the left was upside down. Somehow, it had spun around.
When I learned that happens sometimes if the cavity is a bit large for the implant used, I figured, kind of like “what goes up must come down” that “what spun could spin again.” And maybe I could help it.
So that’s what I did. Or tried. And I did get it to turn. But it got stuck half way. So then I had a whole new look, with the “natural slope” going sideways!
The good news is that, somehow during sleep, the implant found its way into proper positioning.
The bad news is that, after swimming, it had spun again into the upside-down position.
But more good news! If I swam some more, it could spin some more.
So now, when I’m done swimming, I check to see…
Even perkiness? Yes? I grab my towel.
No? Back in for another lap or two or whatever it takes.
Hey, I just might get in better shape!
You know the song, “I Hope You Dance”?
I hope you do. And laugh, too!
Today and every day.
With hope, love, and laughter,
PS – I’ve posted a picture of the younger me, when everything was perkier!
“I’m grateful to be in this world.”
~ Alexis Giordano
Who is Alexis Giordano? My 5-year-old granddaughter. She said this at the dinner table during a recent family reunion.
After praying, “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food,” we each took a turn asking for a blessing or expressing a gratitude.
Alexis’ addition surprised us all and left us silent for a moment. This morning, as I recall what she said and how she said it, I am again a bit stunned and stirred.
How often am I grateful simply to be in this world? Simply to be?
How often are you?
How are you feeling about being in this world today?
Along with the words of a 5-year-old child, let’s be stirred by a portion of the often-quoted poem, Desiderata:
“…whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”
With peace in our souls, may we be grateful to be in this world.
(God bless all the animals in the world too…as twin brother Anthony added.)
“Tears are often the telescope by which men see far into heaven.”
~ Henry Ward Beecher
Through tears, I’ve glimpsed into heavenly places the past few weeks.
A kindergarten classmate of my grandchildren died the day after Christmas after showing slight signs of illness on Christmas Eve. A serious, mysterious decline happened so fast.
Since then I’ve been experiencing how shock and grief can lead to seeing what is hidden behind the clouds of everyday consciousness….that human life is awesome, wondrous, and precious, which seems to me is a glimpse of heaven. I’ve also experienced how shuddering with sorrowful tears can shake and break a heart in a way that opens it to a flood of heavenly love and compassion.
May we not be afraid of tears. They can lead us to healings and learnings as well as to awakenings and glimpses of heaven. I’ve also heard that tears are a sign of Spirit moving through us.
“It’s only when we truly know and understand
that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have
no way of knowing when our time is up – that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“The old year is put to bed, one’s business is finished, and the harvest of spiritual maturity is reaped as wisdom and forgiveness.” ~ Joan Borysenko
May we end 2015 with a sense of completion and gratitude for learnings.
May we look to 2016 with a sense of promise, with hope, and with a readiness to heal, learn, and grow further in love, in wisdom, in kindness.
And may we listen with care to the callings in our hearts. How are we to contribute our time and talent in ways that contribute to a better world and bring joy to us?
Wishing you great leaps forward,