Friday’s Focus—Sidetracked

The roots of the trees veined the road with some pieces poking through like bones; the roots so close to the surface it was just a matter of time before they were revealed by wind, rain, and tires and bleached white by the sun. Between exposed tree roots and ruts cut by heavy rains, driving over 20 mph made the car bounce like a carnival ride. I creeped along gripping the wheel, eyes constantly scanning the road ahead as I craned my neck out the window now and then to try and see around the bend a promise of a smoother road, but all I got was a sore neck and tired eyes.

Crawling along this stretch of road, it felt like the trees and birds were my only company. I continued to scan for holes and hills and eventually relaxed my body into the  roll and sway of the car as it dipped and climbed. Low stone walls appeared here and there broken only by a car-width dirt path leading up into the tree line. The fire numbers were the only other indication that people lived out here.

Isn’t it funny how it seems when we rush the most we find ourselves delayed even more—you’re late for an appointment and you get behind a slow driver; you spill something and you have to change your clothes; you run into construction on the road; your son forgot to fill the gas tank last night when he borrowed the car so now you need to make an extra stop this morning; it’s your turn to bring snacks for your daughter’s homeroom party but she didn’t tell you until the morning of, so it’s an impromptu trip to the market.

Or, you decided to take a side road home because you thought it would be a short cut and instead you find yourself crawling along a worn out road layered in alternating sections of gravel and dirt, and which is taking you much longer than if you just stayed on the road you knew.

I believe in being at the right place at the right time, and if I hadn’t taken that side road and forced to go so slow, would I have noticed the stream making its path down the mountain into a small gully carpeted with moss? Would I have heard the crows’ jeers and the scream of a hawk overhead as it was being harassed by the crows and chased from their territory? Would I have noticed the burst of Queen Anne’s Lace amidst a blanket of ferns? Probably not. And I wouldn’t have noticed the take your breath away beauty of the God sky as I finally came out into a clearing.

What I most likely would have noticed was a road, trees, water, birds, flowers, rocks, and clouds. Just things in my line of vision. If I wasn’t forced to slow down, I probably would have missed the beauty, breathlessness, and the God of what is behind all those labels.

Sometimes it’s not such a bad thing to be late or delayed. More than once I’ve wondered if there was something unknown and unseen that causes these delays for who knows why.

So maybe this time it was to show me—remind me—that there is more to watch and look at then a clock and the next appointment and errand.

p.s. I finally made it home only 10 minutes late, but with views I’ll never forget!

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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Anchors

I’ve found a trail, around a lake, that takes me deep into the woods, up some hills and around rock ledges and edges and dwellings of animals for sure. I’ve found a place where the wind drives through the groves of pines and one by one, each tree joins in the whoosh as they sway back and forth; once in a while, the limbs add their creaks and their groans.

The wind catches my hair across my face and I look up to see the slow and majestic movement of the branches swinging to and fro. And I hear

Nothing.
Not one bird.
Not one human.
Not one dog.
Not one car.
Not one chainsaw.
Not one plane.

Just for this moment.
Just for this breath of a second

There is just me.
And the woods
And the wind
And the water

and I find myself anchored. The air is cold and crisp and clean. I take a few slow deep breaths, luxuriating in the scent of the trees and the earth itself. I can actually smell the colors of green and  brown around me. With each inhale I take in from this place, there is an exhale where I let go of the noise, the commotion, the pollution that’s inside me.

I notice a shadow pass on the dirt path and when I look up into the sky, squinting at the sun, I see a huge blackbird fly by. So silent in its flight but its very existence, right at that moment, carried a message that couldn’t have been any louder.

I closed my eyes and knew.

This is where I can find rest.
This is where my soul can find peace.
This is where my body can relax.

This is where I knew my heart could let go.
This is where I knew my heart could fill again.
This is where I knew I could heal.

This place is my anchor.

It brings me home into my own skin and grounds me.

I believe we all need a place like this, that just allows us….
It doesn’t just have to be a place. It can be a person, a song, a book…

It’s that which holds us in place long enough to give our souls the chance to knit itself back again. To close the gaps and holes that tore it open. It’s like a salve on a wound, bathing it in medicine that is so pure it can only be from God, gifted to us humans through the Muses.

Sometimes we are lucky and find our anchors while consciously seeking that one thing, that one person, that one….but then there are those anchors that show up by chance, maybe led by a tickle of intuition to go there, zig instead of zag, listen to that, turn left instead of right,  and then there you are.

I am lucky to have a few such anchors in my life, each one different but no less powerful. Yet this place is special in its extraordinary culmination of senses. It takes my breath away. The air tastes sweet, the colors soothe my eyes, and my ears can rest from the cacophony of city sounds but best of all, I can find the peace and quiet again to be able to hear my soul sing once more.

Not just for today, this Friday focus, but for every day, I wish that each of you find your own anchor that is best for you. An anchor that is not a burden but rather one that gives you tranquility and peace.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Spinning Tops

The more I have to move the more I want to sit.

The more I get a chance to sit, the more I want to move.

There are days, on the outside I sit still, while inside a storm rages and fireworks explode.

Then there are days, on the outside I move with the frenetic energy of a thousand whirling dervishes while on the inside, there is nothing but silence.

If I allow it, I know that the two energies will merge and become a pulse, creating its own heartbeat, and then, if I surrender, I will have no choice but to move to the beat of the syncopation.

The waves of energies are too strong to withstand, or is it me too weak to stop them?

In the end, there is no other choice but to breathe into my heart, into the center of the storm, and let this new heartbeat lead me to a place.

To live with only one or the other is merely existing. It is half-living to be in either all movement or no movement at all.

Stillness within movement; peace within action.

I can still feel the tension between the ebb and flow
of
tightness and looseness
and
looseness and tightness

and the force of those currents ready to pull me away in either direction.

These are forces within each one of us. You can feel it too, if you give it half a chance.

Nature even knows this. Even when a river is frozen, the water below still flows and the hurricane, destroyer that it is and yet beautiful in its fearsomeness, holds a center of calm.

When you find that moment, when you feel that kiss from God and the bliss of the perfection of balance, let the world wait. Succumb to the flow and sway in the rhythm of what for many of us, seems elusive but is not impossible.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Go Outside

Take some time out each day to go outside of your home or office even if for just a few minutes. Just step outside and even walk around the house or your parking lot.

Whether you live in a city or countryside, there is a rekindling and stimulation to our psyche when we step out from behind our computers and cars and televisions. It’s so easy to get caught up in getting to and from our day jobs and family responsibilities that’s too often we don’t just put on some boots or flip flips and go out even for a few minutes and revel in the energy of Mother Nature or your Cityscape.

Have a good weekend!

Keeping it light and singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

All I’m Asking

Smile

That’s it.

I’m not asking you to do anything else.

You don’t need to ponder the mysteries of the Universe or what you’re making for dinner.

The weekend plans will wait.
The kids will wait.
The laundry will wait.
The bills will wait.

Life won’t.
It keeps moving forward.

Don’t worry about trying to catch up.
Don’t worry about what will happen if…
Don’t worry about what won’t happen if…

Life doesn’t.
It keeps moving forward.

When you smile, your body’s aches and pains may still hurt, but in time, not so much.
When you smile, your breaking heart may still hurt, but soon, it won’t seem to hurt as much.
When you smile, your deepest spaces may still be dark, but eventually, it won’t seem as dark so much.

All sorts of things happen,
when
you
smile.

I’m not suggesting you read something, write something, or watch something.
It’s not magic or rocket science or some newfound healing.

It’s just a smile.

It starts with your lips and your cheeks, eventually rising as you bring the smile to your eyes.

Then, with your eyes smiling and your cheeks smiling and your lips smiling, other smiles will come back to you, and then….your heart
smiles.

Life even smiles.
It smiles in its sunrises and rainbows and laughs through its birdsongs and windy melodies.

When you’re mad, bad, sad, angry or afraid, Life still smiles.

Even when you may not want to…

smile, and let Life’s smiles touch yours, and see the sparks fly.

I’m not asking you to fight, flight, or forgive.
I’m not asking you to scale a mountain or swim a river.
I’m not asking anything other than to do this, try this, and to see that…

all I’m saying is

to
just
Smile…..

Rocks are Shooting Stars, Too

Last week I inquired about applying for something that meant a lot to me but I was told that I was lacking in one of the core requirements. I had other experiences that equalled the resultant knowledge and training but because I had not completed that particular requirement (a two-week calendar commitment across the country) I was told I could not be considered a candidate.

I understand about the necessity of prerequisites and not making exceptions, but the knowledge I gained and the experiences I gathered through the smaller workshops mimicked what was being taught at the larger one, yet I was informed that it wasn’t enough. Despite the duplicity of subject matter that was in the two-week from what I had already taken, I was told I needed to commit to the two-weeks away. This was not an option for me, so I couldn’t apply.

I was deeply disappointed and took a walk/run at a local park to clear my head and try to shake off my feelings of  discouragement. Halfway through my walk, I rounded a bend in the path and came upon a rocky embankment overlooking the lake. I was still feeling down so I stopped, found a place to sit on the rocks and looked out over the water. I took off my sunglasses and looked around.

The lack of prescription lenses made everything around me automatically shift into soft vision. I could clearly make out the difference between a rock and tree but it’s the details of things that get lost to me without my glasses. I closed my eyes and turned my face toward the sun as I listened to the soft lapping of the water made from the ripples of the paddles from some late Autumn kayakers. A dog barked in the distance and a child’s laugh floated up from the nearby playground.

I worked to sort out my genuine feelings from my bruised ego’s huffiness. As I opened my eyes and looked out across the lake, I smiled at the vision before me of a thousand diamonds shimmering on the water’s surface, twinkling in the sun’s reflection. I felt the bite of the rock I was sitting on after not having moved in a while and I shifted my body to nestle into a better spot.

It occurred to me then that maybe not all of us are meant to be shooting stars and that maybe some of us are meant to stay close, and be like rocks—solid and holding the space, the energy, for others around them. No less important, a little less glamorous and attention grabbing perhaps, but just as much needed as the stars.

I’m okay with holding space. The world needs both—the shine and brightness of the stars right along with the solid, foundational, anchoring, rocks. It doesn’t matter which one we are, as they both have a purpose. We may even change places at some point in our lives.

Those of us who hold the grounded space now, may one day catapult through the skies, and those that are sailing at the height of the gods now, may one day come down to rest on the banks of these shorelines and mountains and take up residence in the dust of Mother Earth as one of its children—a rock.

Who decides if we hold space above or below? Is it karma? Fate? Luck? Chance? Maybe it’s just where our energy is needed, and it’s just the way things are at least for now. I say “for now,” because nothing stays the same. Even rocks get worn down. Either way, whether you’re a rock or a shooting star—whether you hold the space here on earth, or among the chariots and other shining, shooting stars, it is a good place to be. It is an honorable place to be.

And so I came to terms with my disappointment. I don’t agree with their decision behind it, but I respect it. There’s a reason I get to be a rock a while longer and whatever it is, I’m fine with that. I’ll hold the space here for whomever needs it. Shooting stars and rocks are really parts of each other anyway.  They both contain dust, metals, and minerals among other things.

I also made peace with what happened, or rather what didn’t happen, and with my ego back in check, it became clear that there were many levels to this lesson for me. Some need to stay private within my heart, but others like this lesson about the rocks and the shooting stars are calling out to be shared.

The limbs from the trees surrounding the embankment where I sat began to shudder and sway almost as if they were applauding what I now saw clearly and the day’s crisp air found its way through the spaces in my coat telling me it was time to go. I got myself back on my feet again, put on my sunglasses, and thanked the rocks and the waters for being there, and holding me in balance. The soft vision of the diamonds now sharpened into more of a glittery waterscape but if I squinted, I saw them again.

I then took my husband’s hand as we walked down the rocks together and headed home.

As above, so below.

Defining Ourselves

I read something the other day that asked how do we define ourselves? The article went on to say that it was another way of asking the Mother of All Questions: Who Am I? I became intrigued with the idea of how we define ourselves as the underbelly to that Master question.

Throughout time, philosophers and religious seekers have asked the question, Who Am I? Depending on what religious or philosophical texts you read, there are many answers, but general agreement seems to be that we are not who we think we are in this physical manifestation. We are more: We are an extension of the Universal energy (or God or whatever your name for it is) that brought us to be born in this human body in the first place.

Personally, I experience this connection—this extension—in my deepest meditations, yoga practice, or when I sit in Nature and in balance with what’s around me. In those moments, the truth of oneness becomes undeniable.

If you asked me to define myself, I would rattle off that I am a wife, a media project manager, a yoga teacher, a writer, and a daughter. In reality, those are labels of the things I do and are to others. They define my roles in society and my abilities but they do not define me. Labels are made up and so are the associations with them. I don’t believe labels define a person. I believe that moments do. If you take any defining moment in your life—it’s in those moments that we reveal who we are and our true nature.

The defining moment for a firefighter battling a blaze reveals his courageousness in his desire to save people. The defining moment for parents reveals themselves as love when they stay up all night nursing a sick child. The defining moment for a lover reveals selflessness when he puts aside his own desires when he sees his partner in need. Even defining moments that at first glance reveal something negative, really aren’t. Taking it deeper, even a person caught stealing is not a thief. Yes, per the label he is, but the defining moment of theft reveals that he is a fearful person. Someone who is hurt and in need.

We need to be careful here also of mistaking our reactions to events as tells to who we really are. When we are pressed in situations, most of us react until we learn not to. Don’t take that reaction to be the answer to who you are. Take it deeper into what’s behind that reaction.

These defining moments can come to anyone at any time. They don’t need to be earth-shattering life events. They can be simple, and small, but hugely profound in their reveal. I found myself in my own defining moment recently when I was practicing Yoga. I was having difficulty keeping a balancing pose, so in a third attempt, I yet again, renewed my intention and shifted my focus. As my foot came up against my standing leg and my arms rose above my head, my thoughts suddenly shifted to “I am love. I am love. I am love.” With each repetition, my pose became surer and straighter. That single moment was a defining one for me. So who am I? Lots of labels, and lots of things to many people and yes, I am an extension of the universal energy, and I am also love.

Who are you?

 

Wondering About the Seven Wonders of the World

Question for this Thursday—and no peeking!

What are the Seven Wonders of the World?

How many did you get? If you are able to name them, good for you and I bow to your memory! But if you’re anything like me, coming up with anything beyond one or two was a struggle. The only one I could readily name is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and my husband could only name the Taj Mahal. Together we were able to remember the Great Pyramid of Giza, but after that we just stared at each other.

Curiosity got the better of me so I did a little digging and discovered that there are not just the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (and sometimes an Eighth), but there are apparently other “Wonders” as well: Seven Wonders of the Modern World, Seven Natural Wonders of the World, New Seven Wonders of the World, Seven Wonders of the Underwater World, Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, and Seven Wonders of the Solar System, and many other Wonder lists that aren’t relegated to the number Seven. As a matter of fact, a Google Search of the Seven Wonders of the World resulted in 33,800,000 hits (!!).

For those of you like me, who couldn’t remember the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (also known as Seven Wonders of the Classic World), here they are:

The Colossus of Rhodes
The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Later historical lists included more “contemporary” sites such as the Taj Mahal (the Wonder my husband came up with) Stonehenge, the Colosseum, Great Wall of China, and Cluny Abbey. Maybe they were added because the only one left from the original list is the Great Pyramid of Giza!

Many of these lists are subjective and were created from the public surveys and compilations guided by groups such as The American Society of Civil Engineers, CNN, New 7 Wonders Foundation, USA Today newspaper, New7 Wonders of Nature, and CEDAM International to name a few.

Thinking about all of these Wonders inspired me to create my own Seven Wonders of Renata’s World. I’m not a time traveler or a world traveler and these wonders aren’t all man-made, or all natural-made but they are Wonders to me nonetheless. In no particular order of Wonder, here is my list:

The strength of a tuft of grass or dandelion to find the spot to push through and grow in between cracks of cement
The power of thunderstorms
The grace of an ocean wave
The depth of feelings of relief, acceptance, and gratefulness when forgiving and being forgiven
Falling asleep curled up in your lover’s arms
A Parents’ hug
Falling in love

If you were to list Seven Wonders in your world what would they be?

Blogging From A to Z: Vulnerable

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A newly hatched bird;
A flower bud;
The first one to say I love you;
Asking your girlfriend to marry you;
Being told you have a disease and there’s nothing more that can be done;
A newborn baby;
An elderly person’s first night in a nursing home;
A bride on her wedding night;
A teenager who just found out she was pregnant;
Openely stating your sexual orientation for the first time;
Writing your first poem, story, post and hitting the “Publish” or “Send” button;
The first public exhibit of your paintings or photographs;
Being interviewed for a much needed job;
Being laid-off;
Burying your loved one;
The first day on your own at college after all the families have gone home;
The first night alone in new a apartment;
All of us in our deepest hour.

Being vulnerable is like standing on the threshold of what was and what will be.

Some of us dance over it, some crawl, some step over it one toe at a time, and some eagerly jump over the threshold with both feet. Being exposed in vulnerability is actually a powerful place to be. Vulnerability is fragility wrapped in hopefulness, hopelessness, security, doubt, wonder, joy, and sadness, all at once.

Are you on the threshold with something that is making you feel vulnerable? Have you made the jump today? Take my hand and let’s walk over that threshold together taking vulnerability and what it means to us deeper.