Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Replying to Rumi

This provocative poem was forwarded to me by my friend Lynnette, shortly after I was recalling to her what I learned at the silent retreat - that instead of pushing our pain away (which only gives it energy) - just gently turn from it.  She agreed that you don't necessarily have to embrace the darkness, as Rumi's Guest House suggests:

A Reply to Rumi's Guest House 

Welcome all the visitors you say.
Do not put bars on the windows
Or locks on the doors. Do not close up the
Chimney flue. Duct tape and plastic
sheeting will not keep the visitors at bay.
They'll pound on the doors, they'll break
your windows, they'll create the barricades
they'll storm the beach, swarm in like ants
through cracks. They'll lead like water through
the walls, and creep like mice, and curl like smoke
and crack like ice against the window glass.
Keep them out? It can't be done, don't try.
Welcome all the visitors.

Fine. There's all kinds
Of welcoming, however.

I do not have to throw a house party.
I will not post flyers.
There will be no open bar.
No one will get drunk
and lock themselves in the bathroom.
No one will break the furniture, grind chips
into the rug, throw anyone else in the pool,
or lose an earring in the couch.

I do not have to run a guest house, either
There will be no crackling fire
And no easy chairs. I will not serve
tea to the visitors. I will not dispense
ginger snaps and ask my guests
about themselves:
"Did my mother send you?"
"Why must you plague me?"
"Why not stay a while longer?"
"Who are you really?"

If I must welcome-and I am convinced I must-
Let me build a great hall to receive my guests.
Like a Greek temple, let it be open on all sides.
Let it be wide, and bright, and empty.
Let it have a marble floor.
Beautiful and cold and hard.
Let there be no sofas, no benches, no dark corners
no ante-rooms and no coat closets
No walls and not even a ledge to lean against.

I'll welcome anyone who comes
I'll show them my enormous empty all.
Come in, come in, I'll say. I'll even smile
perhaps make conversation for a while.

And if someone settles on the floor, as if to stay,
or circles round and round, as if they have lost their way,
I'll be kind, extend my hand,
and gently show them out again.

Monday, November 25, 2013

There are Holiday Things to Do!

It's the holidays, and that means many different things for each of us.  In addition to the shopping, decorating, cleaning and cooking - oh, and I did I mention the formation and implementation of all the cinnamon-scented self-imposed expectations? - it also means that I have to reconcile my nostalgia for the old days with a ramped up energy for all that I have and all that is in front of me today.  I have to get ready.  It's time to celebrate.
It's a really great time to look to new ways of being, and that is an ambitious resolution - way less about shedding weight and more about shedding the things that really hold us down.
Here's a big one at holiday time:  What does it mean to forgive?  When someone does you wrong, do you hold a grudge or obsess about what happened?  Or do you just let it slide and ignore that you have feelings?
If you care at all about the relationship, there are better ways to deal, and it's called Acceptance.  It's a solid tool (free and available to all of us!) because it is so useful when the person who offended you is unwilling or unable to recognize what he or she did.
You can go ahead and work on forgiveness - or not!  That's your choice, your freedom, really, but one thing is for sure...you can work on acceptance without the consent or cooperation of the person who hurt you!  Woo hoo!  I love my independence!
Ten Steps of Acceptance
Step 1: You honor the full sweep of your emotions.
Step 2: You give up your need for revenge but continue to seek a just resolution.
Step 3: You stop obsession about the injury and reengage with life.
Step 4: You protect yourself from further abuse.
Step 5: You frame the offender’s behavior in terms of his own personal struggles.
Step 6: You look honestly at your own contribution to the injury (if any).
Step 7: You challenge your false assumptions about what happened.
Step 8: You look at the offender apart from his offense.
Step 9: You carefully decide what kind of relationship you want with the person who hurt you.
Step 10: You forgive yourself for your own failings.

Sometimes all you need to heal is time and a warm place to curl up with your favorite beverage.  Mostly, though, a huge dose of really reflecting on where the other person is drawing their meaning can help  you to understand them.  The possibilities are transformational because you actively remind yourself that the injury you endured will not define you or determine you.  You can survive.  You can transcend this.

Peace on earth and amen.

The ideas presented in this article are contained in the highly recommended book How Can I Forgive You? by Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph. D.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Way to Pray

“...the three things I cannot change are the past, the truth, and you.”
Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers

 I love this and think this writer is worth a listen.  Her basic premise is that prayer doesn't have to be scary or formal, and that it can be distilled down to 3 simple prayers that are easy to remember and always, always relevant:  asking for help, practicing gratitude, and just being wowed by the world.

During this holiday season, this is a gift worth giving.

“Gorgeous, amazing things come into our lives when we are paying attention: mangoes, grandnieces, Bach, ponds. This happens more often when we have as little expectation as possible. If you say, "Well, that's pretty much what I thought I'd see," you are in trouble. At that point you have to ask yourself why you are even here. [...] Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time. Let it be. Unto us, so much is given. We just have to be open for business.”  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, mom!

Happy birthday to my beautiful mom!

You've been an impressive role model, a big supporter of the Staloneys, and you always, always showed up for me.  Thank you just doesn't seem like enough...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hey That's My Inbox You're Hitting


Do you know about the above?  It's slang for TOO LONG; DIDN'T READ.

TL;DR when you want to chime in about a topic, on an email thread, that you don't want to read.

This is a rude reaction, I suppose, but there's rudeness when a recipient receives an email that clearly, you are cc'd on for the straightforward reason that the sender wants to give responsibility to you.  They volley it to you and it's almost as if you can feel them wiping their hands and sighing, "There!  Done with that!"

I've surrendered.  I'm done managing my inbox.  I just periodically move everything to "Inbox Old" and carry on, artificially blissful at my quiet inbox.

Managing my time may still be a personal challenge, but dang it, I can manage my energy.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Welcome meal at the Specials

At the Maloneys

A great wine pairing

Priceless - A meal from mom
Could this be the one?

Shawn could have fun helping with this one

Sun-dried tomatoes = the best

Getting on the open road on a Friday night is one of life's sweet pleasures, especially when it's to meet up with precious people.  This past weekend, we did just that - snooping around the Chicago real estate market with Scott and Kate, in between fabulous fits of food and wine.

The return trip was easy because of the Bettendorf respite and the visits with my extraordinary Goddaughter, Jen, and my sister, Laurie, along with my wonderful parents.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day

On Lake Shore Drive, the Blue Cross building is impressive!

Veteran Vitality Kick‐Off with 6,000‐Flag Display on the Pentacrest, forming the letter "I"

November 11 is a solid date for more than a few reasons, but at the top of the list is that it's a day we honor veterans.  I'm glad we're ramping up in our societal appreciation of the brave efforts of all veterans and those who love them.

Thanks, dad, for your service.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Know What You're Doing When You're Doing It

I've been working at cultivating an environment where mindfulness is possible.

And then something happens.  I forget everything I've practiced.

And I rehearse and rehash and go chasing after thoughts and before you know it, it's 1978 and I'm standing in an Iowa cornfield on a cloudy summer day.

We can choose which thoughts we want to think.

Sometimes, I expect, I will have to "re-mind" myself of all this training.  To remember to cling to nothing.  To remember to fire the constant critic who is always inside, busy at work.

Mindfulness is a kind, nonjudgmental approach to what is happening.  It is like a mirror that simply reflects whatever comes before it.  Mindfulness keeps us connected to the people around us so that we notice them in the middle of our busy lives.  It is a gift I can give myself (it helps with stress, health, relationships and general well-being).

On mindfulness, some wise person noted:  It's not difficult to be mindful, but it IS difficult to remember to be mindful.

One of the easy ways to clear the head and be in the present moment is to move your attention to your body, to focus on your senses.  Our senses only exist in the present moment.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Not What You Think

What you think is never the whole story.

I spent this past weekend as a participation in a silent "Mindfulness" retreat at Prairiewoods with my friend Liz.   Talk about cultivating an environment that encourages living in the present moment!  This is a 40-acre spirituality center, run by Franciscan nuns. 

We began Friday night and ended Sunday afternoon.  Liz and I were commuters so we were able to retreat to my home at day's end, exhausted...to wine and the hot tub, freaked out at how much discipline it takes to keep your mind and body in the same place at the same time.

The food was fabulous.  The woods such a refuge - I enjoyed the strict off-grid dictate and not talking to anyone (even non-verbal communication was discouraged); I cherished my solo walks - not a soul in sight - spotting deer and working on gratefulness and all the other lessons.

Mindfulness is available to all of us.

Meditation is not doing, it's a way of being, a way of seeing and knowing and loving.  It's a way to "radical acceptance" - a way to get to the present moment, to help gain insight and learning.

It's not about trying to get anywhere special.  It's sitting in stillness - mostly trying to get out of our own way.


 Meditation according to Jon Kabat-Zinn: 
It is not the content of your experience that is important. What is important is our ability to be aware of that content, and even more, of the factors that drive its unfolding and the ways in which those factors either liberate us or imprison us moment by moment and year in, year out.

Excerpted from the book Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn.