Lens Artists Photo Challenge: Windows & Doors

“Our senses are our windows to the world, and sometimes the wind blows through them and disturbs everything within us. Some of us leave our windows open all the time, allowing the sights and sounds of the world to invade us, penetrate us, and expose our sad, troubled selves.” Thich Nhat Hanh

“When you follow your bliss…doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else. ” – Joseph Campbell

“The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.”
Henry David Thoreau

This week’s challenge is brought to Lens-Artists by Leya.

Happy Interdependence!

And under this costume is, of course, the corset.

The Corset

scillagrace

We survived the festivities at Old World Wisconsin in 104 degree heat!  I wore a very special costume that had only been worn once before.  It was silk and “tropical weight” wool with beautiful accents of military buttons and lapels and florets. 

I was interviewed by Fox 6 News about my experience wearing 19th century clothing in the heat.  I relayed information about what I was wearing and how it felt and then said that I thought people in the 19th century lived more closely in harmony with their environment instead of trying to manipulate or change it.   Therefore, they get used to variations in temperature and become more resilient….or something like that.  Then I went into the church and played a few hymns on the pump organ while the assembly sang.  Then another interpreter took over and I sang descants along to some more hymns.  When that concluded…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Security

My first thought on this subject is of Linus Van Pelt, the wise but neurotic younger brother of Lucy the fuss-budget in the Peanuts cartoons.  His blanket is rarely out of reach. He is aware of his dependence on it and unapologetic and creative in his relationship with it. He seems to be coping better than most adults. Aren’t we all neurotic in some way?

Now that I’m fifty-something, I’ve gotten to know my insecurities pretty well, mostly through the loss of things I relied on. I no longer depend on my husband for security, since he died 9 years ago. My kids all moved out of the nest and I sold the big, suburban house. Shortly after that, I stopped practicing belief in Christianity (and I had a serious practice). As all of these big pieces began to fall away, I began to realize that security was not about them, but about how I think about myself in the world.

You see, either I belong here, or I don’t.

If I don’t belong here, all of those things won’t help. If I do belong here, all of those things are unnecessary. I finally began to see that I am part of this natural world. I fit in it, just the way I am. And even when I die, all the bits of me will be reabsorbed into the earth and fit in just as well that way.

It’s pretty simple, really, but I have to say that I still get anxious and neurotic sometimes. The one who shows me what being secure in the world looks like is my partner Steve. We camped in the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. By the time we got to the place, he was pretty tired from driving. So he just lay down and fell asleep. No tent. No bug spray. No gear.

No problem. 


Security

Weekly Photo Challenge: Who You Callin’ Dense?

I appreciate the beauty found in the thick of things, like a solid mass of redwood roots…

…or lush undergrowth…

…or tangled hunks of kelp…

…or billowy cumulus clouds.

I like my environment filled in, robust, varied and fecund.  A sparse monoculture is not my aesthetic ideal. 

There is great wisdom in diversity, and intelligence in supporting it. 

Dense

Weekly Photo Challenge: Atop

Mountaintop experiences give you a spiritual perspective. The sky is bigger; the minutiae of the earth is even smaller.  

Humility and awe meet you at the top of your climb. 

The view (and the climb!) is breathtaking.

And the opportunity to stay atop a while and ponder your place on the crust of Earth is a special reward. 

Seek higher ground. It’s good for your soul.

 

 
Atop

Transcending Anger, Power, and Fear

This article is featured in this month’s issue of The Be Zine. The theme is Overcoming Hate. You can read the entire issue HERE

I grew up with three older sisters. At times when I felt picked on, I would shout out my hurt feelings, “I hate you!” My mother was often right there contradicting me. “You don’t hate her. Come now, settle down…” Consequently, I have long convinced myself that I do not hate anyone, and I’m never angry. I am completely reasonable and can explain exactly why I am disappointed or frustrated. I will cry, but I am never angry. Except that…when I grew up, I yelled at my kids. I punished them. I rejected their behavior. I sometimes got physical, restraining them and even spanking them. But I do not get angry. And I do not hate anyone.

1965

“That’s not fair!”…“How dare they!” I yelled at the television set, which was uncharacteristically out of its closet and in operation in the living room. “Hush now. We’re trying to listen,” whispered my mother. The story of Kunta Kinte set my 14-year old indignation afire. Injustice is wrong – even I knew that! How could grown-ups in leadership be so obviously abusive? How could I undo the damage that was done before I was even born? How in the world could the balance of power be corrected? “I hate authorities!”

My 31-year old husband was having chest pains. The doctor figured it was probably heart burn, but he finally did some blood tests and cardiac diagnostics. It turns out the father of my four young children had diabetes and arterial blockages and needed bypass surgery. I couldn’t understand why this evil, incurable disease had afflicted my family. “I hate diabetes!” I raged. But a metabolic disorder doesn’t choose a target out of malice. What I couldn’t admit was that I was mortally terrified.

These three snapshots into my awareness of hatefulness show me that I can’t overcome the underlying feelings of anger, injustice, or fear by rejecting or opposing them. Neither can I grow in compassion by being intolerant. I can only transcend hatefulness and grow in compassion by practicing understanding. That includes understanding myself – not passing judgment on my emotions, not avoiding uncomfortable feelings, but engaging with them head on. How can I practice this? I slow down and ask myself: What is it I feel? What triggered those feelings? Where am I hurting? What is it that I want that I’m not getting? I want to be kind to the little girl inside me giving voice to her felt needs. I sit with this idea for a while. I thank those feelings for bringing me awareness. I will use that in my decision-making. Then I look at my desires more critically. Is being attached to that thing, that outcome, causing me pain? What if I let go of it?

The more I work with my own feelings and come to understand myself, the more I can begin to understand others. When I see someone who is angry and hateful, I understand that he is suffering. Can I be present with him in this place of frustration? Can I be kind to that little child in his temper? Can I engage him in a discussion about the real causes of his anger, his feelings of powerlessness, his fear? Can my presence and interaction help him realize that attachment to uncontrollable outcomes may be causing some of his suffering? And finally, can I invite him to let it go?

The Thich Nhat Hahn Foundation blog motto is “planting seeds of compassion”. For the Lunar New Year of the Rooster, 2017, they suggested a practice phrase in the form of two parallel verses: “Awakening the Source of Understanding” and “Opening the Path of Love”.  The Plum Village practice is to contemplate the first verse as you breathe in and the second as you exhale, “not (as) a declaration, but a living aspiration we wish to nurture”.  Overcoming hate with a practice of understanding and love is a beautiful way to transform the world, I believe. I invite everyone to try it with me.

Namaste,

scillagrace