Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Day of Thankfulness in the Present and Expectation in Advent

Silverlake Community Church

I had one of those days - walking my pocket of this world, paying attention to the small details, people's faces, a little girl brushing long hair out of her eyes, two men on a corner talking, a man in the pet shop looking for a special treat for his friend's dog, who would be accompanying that friend on a road trip to her grandfather's funeral, and he wanted to make a travel care package. To the check-out guy talking kitty-love / kitty food, to the fellow TJs shopper, a man who ran after me with my forgotten wallet in hand, to the cab driver who picked my up when I bought too many bulky things at Trader Joes and needed a lift home, who recognized me from an earlier time he'd driven me, and blessed me for the extra tip I gave in the spirit of passing on the love that I hadn't lost my wallet.

I love the simplicity of Silverlake Community Church's nativity scene.  It reminded me that it is Advent Season - a time of waiting with expectation.  Which, as I'm consistently reminding myself to stay in the present moment, is an interesting concept to mull over. How to have hopeful expectation for peace on earth, but remain present and thankful for all there is in the now? The song that started playing in the background of my monkey mind?  "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." My thoughts, actions, and reactions are the only things I have actual control over, to choose and be peace.


The Butterfly Effect: Save the World, One Butterfly at a Time

I felt like a little girl on a field trip, learning how butterflies have sensors in their feet that they use to "taste" the plant and know whether it’s the right one on which to lay eggs, so the caterpillar will have food to munch and grow, cocoon, and become another beautiful butterfly.  I bought a small Deerweed (Acmispon glaber), on sale from The Theodore Payne Foundation, co-host of the City of Butterflies event. It will live in a container on my front stoop, soaking in the full sun it needs to slowly grow into a host for the Bramble Hairstreak, Avalon Hairstreak, Acmon Blue and Silvery Blue butterflies.

Why butterflies for my birthday outing?

Madeleine L’engle introduced me to the chaos theory and concept of "The Butterfly Effect" in her book, A Stone for a Pillow: "If a butterfly winging over the fields around Crosswicks should be hurt, the effect would be felt in galaxies thousands of light years away. The interrelationship of all Creation is sensitive in a way we are just beginning to understand. If a butterfly is hurt, we are hurt. If the bell tolls, it tolls for us."

As the Fractal Foundation notes about the Chaos Theory: "This effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened. A more rigorous way to express this is that small changes in the initial conditions lead to drastic changes in the results."  — FractalFoundation.org

I love the connectedness the butterfly effect reminds me of -- that even a small action on my part may make a wildly important change in the world. Offering a hand to someone who needs it, a meal to someone who is hungry, directions to a befuddled tourist, or planting a packet of seeds so that the butterflies don’t die off.

Read the whole story and find out how you can add more butterflies to your city: The City Farm Grow blog.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

It IS a Beautiful Morning With My New, Selfish Mantra: Everything's Going My Way

It is 5:41 and I’m up before the sun on a cold (for southern California) morning, barreling my way down my street, aware only that my fingers are cold but I’m too tired to dig in my bag for my gloves.

Then I realize there's a song playing on repeat in my head. “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day…” and I laugh out loud. It’s a song from my childhood, and I don’t know the rest of the words, except the ones I think I’m making up. “Everything’s clear in the evening, everything’s going my way.”

It’s a song from the musical OKLAHOMA.  I sometimes confuse real life with the movies and stories I grew up reading, watching, and singing around the house.  Labeling a friend a “kindred spirit” was fine and all, but when I slipped into Green Gables lingo and asked if she’d be my “bosom friend” I got a decidedly different look.

It IS a beautiful morning. And I become aware of the sound of my sneakers, a rhythmic padding on the sidewalk, the fact that I’m leaning into the uphill climb, my neck tense with forward motion. And notice that when I relax my body into the pace of my brisk stroll, I don’t feel as cold.

“Everything’s clear in the evening, everything’s going my way,” was actually written: “I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way,” by Rodgers & Hammerstein.  It seems so blatantly blind to reality, perfect for a musical, but not MY life – of course not everything is going my way.

Or is it?  When I’m present and aware that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, even the frustrating or painful parts of life have taught me far more than when everything seems to be going my way.  Though I also love those moments of feeling swept along in a feel-good film, the times I’m aware that I’m incredibly lucky and try to remember to feel grateful for the good. 

But it’s those frustrating or scary moments, when someone is being a selfish jerk and demanding what I can’t possibly give, when I can’t find work and I’m barely breathing, in panic about how to pay a bill, or I’m stuck in selfishness, wondering why I sat next to THAT lady on the bus who won’t stop talking about her achy knee or her kids who won’t call her back, that I have to breathe deep, relax my shoulders and neck, and sing this new mantra, “Oh, what a beautiful day,  I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way.”

I’m where I need to be. Figuring out my next job, how to live within my lean budget. How to be present for the needy lady who just wants someone to hear her story.

"No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear. We are very rarely told to move closer, to just be there, to become familiar with fear. I once asked the Zen master Kobun Chino Roshi how he related with fear and he said, ‘I agree. I agree.’ But the advice we usually get is to sweeten it up, smooth it over, take a pill, distract ourselves, but by all means, make it go away.

"So the next time you encounter fear, consider yourself lucky. This is where the courage comes in. Usually we think that brave people have no fear. The truth is that they are intimate with fear.” ~ Pema Chödrön

(P.S. - the other lyrics are lovely, too, for meditation)

All the sounds of the earth are like music,
All the sounds of the earth are like music,
The breeze is so busy it don't miss a tree