Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: One Single Flower

“When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.”
Amanda McBroom

Last week, we Lens-Artists were on the long and winding road. This week, hosted by Cee, we are in search of One Single Flower

In the first verse of the song The Rose (quoted above) there is the line, “I say love, it is a flower…”


“May our heart’s garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.”― Thich Nhat Hanh

What other flowers grow in your garden? 

The Lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. Its characteristics are a perfect analogy for the human condition: even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the Lotus produces the most beautiful flower.

“Practice until you see yourself in the cruelest person on Earth, in the child starving, in the political prisoner. Continue until you recognize yourself in everyone in the supermarket, on the street corner, in a concentration camp, on a leaf, in a dewdrop. Meditate until you see yourself in a speck of dust in a distant galaxy. See and listen with the whole of your being. If you are fully present, the rain of Dharma will water the deepest seeds in your consciousness, and tomorrow, while you are washing the dishes or looking at the blue sky, that seed will spring forth, and love and understanding will appear as a beautiful flower.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

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.


“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.



Special Photo Challenge: Inspiration

The WordPress Daily Post sent me an interesting challenge: “For this special mid-week photo challenge, we want to see portraits of you doing something that inspires you to blog.”  The challenge for me is that I am rarely in a photo, as I’m usually the one behind the camera!  However, I found a selection of 5 photos that may serve this purpose. 

The theme of my blog is “Striving to live gracefully in my 50th year.”  I began it on my 49th birthday, and its purpose was to give me a vehicle for sharing my journey toward maturity in writing and pictures.  I find inspiration for growth all around me.  These pictures illustrate just a few examples.  Here is a self-portrait of me wearing the corset that was part of my costume as a historic interpreter.  That job inspired many posts about history, lifestyle, and preservation.  Here is a picture of me with my father before he died of Alzheimer’s disease.  I have met others who are caring for a parent with dementia through this blog, and questions of facing mortality, change, loss and frustration with grace have inspired many posts and comments.  Here is a picture of me hiking in Zion National Park.  Nature inspires me and demands my maturity every day.  How are we to live in harmony on this planet with all other living and non-living things?  Here is a picture of me with my children and my partner and other members of Team Galasso setting out on a walk to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association.  My husband died almost 5 years ago from complications of diabetes, namely heart disease.  The process of grieving his death and parenting our children drives much of the writing which finds its way into my blog.   And finally, here is a picture of me beside a campfire with an abandoned lamb who is dying of starvation without its mother.  It illustrates the compassion that inspires me to blog, to connect with humanity through words and photos, to face the reality of our common suffering without looking away, simply to be present in the world, aware, and alive.


Yesterday’s post was on Resistance, and the title was inspired by my “I don’t want!” mood.  Today, I am seething a bit about some things, and I’m wondering how to employ non-resistance.  Actually, it’s more like non-violent resistance.  How do I look at something that I feel is unjust and respond in a way that does not blame, shame or reject but does state emphatically my position and reasons and allows me to live out my values?

I don’t know how to re-blog something, so I will give you a link to a post I’ve been following and commenting on that deals with the birth control mandate in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

I’m also going to include today’s post from my fellow blogger in the UK.  She has decided to respond to suffering and injustice by sponsoring a girl in Kenya.

I feel that justice matters, that women’s health matters, that population control matters, that compassion matters, and that the internet should be used as a tool to discuss what matters (and that doesn’t include celebrity hook-ups, IMO!).

Not to imply that I don’t also spend time on things that don’t really matter.  Like this afternoon’s Chicago Bulls game.  Which is one reason I’m rather late in posting this.

I also feel that loving the universe matters, and I want to live out that value every day.