mindfulness

Staying In Focus: Love is All We Need

Although 2014 has not started out as auspiciously as I had hoped, there is a certain balance to the universe that can bring us some measure of peace. One of the people I wrote about earlier, my friend’s husband, who fought a valiant fight against cancer, passed away on December 27th.  I now have four friends, who are widows far sooner than they ever expected, but their strength and courage in care giving and in facing the death of their partner in life, is a true testament to the power of love – to love them enough to let them go.

But hiding in the shadow of death and loss, is the promise of new life.  For even as my friend and her family were dealing with the loss of their beloved husband and father, their good friend received news of the birth of her new grandson.  One soul departs this world, and another soul enters it. Life goes on, renewing itself, generation after generation.  And what fuels it is love. As the Buddha said, “In the end these things matter most:  How well did you love? How fully did you love? How deeply did you learn to let go?”

Some of us reach a ripe old age and others are lost far too young.  We don’t know how much time we have and so we mustn’t waste it.  We must love with all our  heart for as long as we live and the universe will find its balance – a man who loved his family; a new baby surrounded by the love of family. As crazy and cruel as the world  is, I prefer to stay an optomist. Lorraine Hansberry sums it up nicely. “I wish to live because life has with it that which is good, that which is beautiful and that which is love. “  And, as those of us who grew up in the 60’s know, love is all we  need.

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Staying in Focus: DailyPrompt: Happy, Happy

Daily Prompt:

What does “happiness” look like to you?


My family makes me happy. Without the love from my mother, sister and brother, their spouses and children, my husband and two sons and my two beautiful grandchildren, I could not be happy.

My friends make me happy – a day’s outing, vacationing together, exchanging letters and email, and sharing good times together – these are the moments in my life I associate with happiness.

But I have had two totally happy moments in my life. moments when what I was experiencing eclipsed everything else, and I stood immersed in the feelings of happiness and joy, oblivious to everything else.

Photo04_2 - Copy - Copy

The first occurred at the top of a lofty mountain peak in Jasper, Alberta. Canada. We had taken a lift up the side of the mountain, and my parents decided to sit and enjoy the view over a cup of coffee. My sister and I decided to climb to the peak of the mountain. We reached the top just as the sun was beginning to drop in the sky.  To the west, the sun set the sky on fire, rays of golden light reaching out toward us’ to the east, clouds diffused the radiance to a gentle glow. The scene just blew me away. I felt a part of something larger, something above and beyond my understanding, a feeling that touched my very soul.  I don’t know if you have ever experienced such a moment, but for me, that moment was pure happiness.IMG_0001_edited-1

Sunrise off the coast of Alaska

Sunrise off the coast of Alaska

a path of gold from the sun to me
a path of gold from the sun to me

a path of gold from the sun to me

The second occurred two summers ago on our first cruise to Alaska.  I woke up just as the sun was making its appearance in the Land of the Midnight Sun.  As I watched the sun grew brighter, rising in the sky and chasing away the shadows of night. I grabbed my camera and caught the sun as it painted a path of gold across the water. In that moment, it was just me and the sun and the ocean and once again that veil of pure contentment settled on my shoulders, and my spirit filled with happiness and joy. We would go on to enjoy the pristine beauty of Alaska, the waterfalls and icebergs,  and even  encounter humpback whales, but it was that moment of my first sunrise at sea  and that sunset  atop a mountain in Jasper, Alberta that I will that I will hold close forever, and remember  as my moments of pure happiness and joy.

My poems:

Summit

standing on the summit

of a mountain way up high,

where only rocks and boulders

rise to meet the mighty sky,

to the west the sun is sinking

and it sets the sky ablaze,

to the east the rolling clouds

diffuse the colors to a haze,

and all the myriad problems

that so often trouble me.

Are forgotten as I witness

nature’s awesome majesty.

Jasper, Canada

1975

Sunrise , Sunset at Sea

 

I watch the sun rise

light vanquishes the darkness

and color returns

 

the calm sea reflects

ribbons of orange and pink

I stand mesmerized

 

as the sun rises

it paints a path of gold light

for me to follow

 

as the sun lowers

bands of dark purple and blue

bruise the evening sky

 

rays of pale sunlight

reach out across the water

the sun bids farewell

 

I watch the sun set

the shades of night seep in

the sky veiled in gray

 

the calm sea darkens

a weary sun now at rest

color fades to black

                              pc ‘2012

 

 

 

 

Staying in Focus: A Day For Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

On this day I am thankful :

For sweeping skies of crystal blue
And mighty mountains standing tall
For the new grown green of early spring
And the brightly colored leaves of fall
For butterflies and singing birds
Morning light and summer showers
Treasured books, filled with words
A special place to read for hours
For Christmas trees and twinkling lights
For gathering with those most dear
For silent snow that frosts the night
And dreams of peace to conquer fear
For delicate flowers and a star-spangled sky
For the marvel that is our universe
For the sense of wonder as we try
To unravel things mysterious
For the light and warmth of the golden sun
For ocean waves that rush to shore
For spending time just having fun
With my grandkids, whom I adore
For Bill, who loves and cares for me
For my family, how I love them so
For friends and good times most carefree
For all there is to learn and know
And all the things still left to do
I’m filled with heartfelt gratitude
– pc 2012

May we  take time on this special day to express thanks for the gifts we are given – our beautiful world and the people who surround us with love and support, and to celebrate our most precious gift that of life itself.  Let us not take it for granted or squander the time we are given for it is not infinite, which makes it all the more precious. Today is the perfect day to smooth over harsh words and soothe hurt feelings, to express your appreciation for  the people in your life and the world in all its beauty. Enjoy this day, relax, and  really take the time to notice each special moment – the smile on  a baby’s face, reading a book to your grandchild, telling your son or daughter how much you love them, taking a walk together in the bright sunshine, or playing in the snow. These are the moments you and they will remember. The shopping can wait until tomorrow.

Staying in Focus:Weekly Writing Challenge: My Rocky Road

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write

The Rocky Road

I was cruising right along
when this rocky path appeared
and now I have been walking it
for many trying years
and yet it leads me onward
there’ve been obstacles, I fear
but despite the looming shadows
I have no time for tears
each day I have, I celebrate
this precious gift I’m given
and I for one have vowed to make
each one a day worth living
so moment by moment, mindfully
I take a step most carefully
along this steep and rocky road
trying not to stumble
I strive to end each day
with hope in a new tomorrow
my heart assured, my spirit free
safe within the circle
of my  friends and family,
I choose to dwell on happiness
and not waste time on sorrow.
2013 pc

One day I am living my life, happy in my home, surrounded by friends and family and the next day I receive a diagnosis that changes my picture perfect life forever. Life can be like that, and we must learn to roll with the punches.

I had noticed changes in my body a few years before diagnosis, but caught in a difficult passage through menopause, I attributed some of it – the anxiety especially, to that.  And then, in 2007, a routine colonoscopy found a polyp that we did not know was cancer until after surgery.  The anesthesiologist I had for that procedure suggested I see a neurologist for the tremor I was experiencing. I followed through once I had recovered from the colon cancer operation, already certain of the answer –Parkinson ’s disease.

And now, 6 years later, I am still living my life, happy in my home, surrounded by friends and family, but living a life quite different from what I had expected. Now I must take 3 prescription drugs, 2 of them 3 times a day to facilitate walking, control the tremor, and slow down the progression of the disease. 3 additional medications address my blood pressure, anxiety and thyroid. For dessert I have folic acid, a multi-vitamin, vitamin D, 4 fish oil capsules, and a full size aspirin to complete my daily feast of meds. Then there is exercise. I have a small, powered stationary bike that I use every day, keeping the rotations above 80/per minute, aerobic walking using the Leslie Sansone Walk at Home programs on DVD, followed by yoga for flexibility or tai chi for balance. I also lift weights three times a week for strength training. It takes a big chunk out of my day but it beats the alternative. I complete my regime with a relaxing meditation

Fortunately, I am 5+ years out from the cancer surgery and so far so good. I have had a total of 7 colonoscopies to monitor things and I see an oncologist twice a year and take an aspirin daily. So far my regime has been successful in keeping me moving and slowing down the PD. This summer we took a cruise to the British Isles and I walked every day. We did an “On the Deck 5K Walk for the Cure” around the ship. So although I’ve  had to make major changes (retiring and giving up driving).  I have adjusted to life along this Rocky Road.  I take each day as it comes and try to treat it as the gift it is. I allow myself time to continue to grow and learn new things through online classes, visits to museums, and writing poetry, my memoir and currently, a middle grade children’s novel. Spending time with family and friends is paramount in keeping up the spirits and continuing to participate in life.

My mother endured months of bedrest to  avoid miscarrying me, so that I am here at all is a wonder; that I’ve lived 60 years and have had a marvelous life filled with love and support from my family and friends, and have been married for 37 years to my soul mate and best friend my husband, Bill, is simply miraculous.

Since I can’t know whether the road remains rocky the rest of the way, or smooths out for me for a time, I continue to walk along it (as best I can) try to keep healthy and fit to write and celebrate the gifts each new day brings.

Focus On: The Winds of March

March

with nature poised to reawaken
I taste anticipation in the air
but harshly blow the winds of march
and still snowflakes may fall
until the iron grip relaxes
and I shake loose from winter’s thrall.
and as the long night gives way to day
I bask in the light and celebrate life.
– pc 2013

It seems as if this has been a long, cold, dark winter despite the fact that we had a few really warm, sunny days sprinkled in, here and there. I think what has colored our perception this year in particular has been the wind. I can take the cold of winter, if the night air is still, but add that wind and I’m shivering from head to toe.  For the most part, wind is a mystery. We can’t actually see it, but we can hear it. A few times this winter it literally howled outside my window, a beast loosed in the night. And we can see the paths it travels by the devastation it can leave behind.  Should it form a tornado, its power is magnified and it is potential is deadly. Wind is a force to be reckoned with, but one associated with the return of spring. As the news informs us, keep an eye on the weather and be prepared.

In a recent poetry class, we worked on simile and metaphor and I searched out a poem I had written previously and revised it: With March roaring in like a lion, I thought it was topical:

The Storm

she watches,,

as the wind rages
a beast, unleashed,
like a total solar eclipse
consumes the light in its hunger,
until darkness rules the day;

at the window she stands
behind her fragile barrier
the power fascinates, the wind
a wolf howling its challenge
as it races toward her

she wonders…

will the beast eat hungrily
leaving nothing behind
save piles of broken boards
scattered like fractured bones?

or will it leap, release the light
and like a horse, now gentled
flow like a mere breeze
brushing by her face
on a spring day?

she waits…

I am trying to live in the moment and just enjoy these last days of cold weather. I know in August, I’ll remember them fondly. But I can’t help looking forward to welcoming that gentle lamb which March is supposed to emulate by month’s end. And although spring can be a volatile season of tornadoes and destruction, it is also the season of hope and of life renewed as the trees and flowers wake from their slumber.  Don’t let the season go by without seeing ,smelling and feeling it.  Enjoy the bright green of new leaves ,the saucy yellow of the daffodils, the scent of fresh, newly planted earth, the warmth of the sun on your shoulders.Take a walk, Feed the pansies. Use that wind to your advantage and go fly a kite. Tour the seed catalogs and plan your garden.  Practice being in the moment. Remember to:. Pay attention. Be astonished!

Focus On: Dr. Seuss, Smiles and the Moments of our Lives

        don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened — Dr. Seuss

I came across this quote by one of my favorite writers, Dr. Seuss, and I realized how nicely his words speak to the cultivation of mindfulness.   How often do we miss out on the joys in our lives by anticipating their conclusion?.  How many moments are lost to our attention by our fear of living them and letting them go? This can apply to everything from a long anticipated vacation to a simple weekend.

Let’s take today, for example.  I have a choice.  I can fill my day up with things I enjoy doing with mindful attention, or sit here and lament the fact that it’s already 10:00 AM on Saturday morning and the weekend is already slipping through my fingers.

A great example of this is Christmas.  We spend so long anticipating this celebration. We decorate, buy and wrap gifts, plan menus and are so wrapped up ourselves in the planning that we hardly take time to really enjoy the moments of the season itself.  When we suddenly find ourselves sitting amidst the torn wrappings or looking at the remains of the holiday dinner, we feel a big letdown.  Christmas Day itself becomes anticlimactic, and we get the blues as we  dwell on the fact that it’s over, when we should be happy to have had the opportunity to enjoy this holiday with our loved ones once again.

Last summer, when we  were on our cruise to Alaska, we noticed there were floor mats in the elevators with the day of the week printed on them. Now, we could look at those mats each morning and think , “Oh, no, it’s Wednesday already.  Our cruise is almost over”, or we could choose to smile and think, “another beautiful day on this cruise is waiting for me to discover and enjoy.” A simple change of perspective can change the way you live your life.

I must admit  I did let the blues slip in when this experience in Alaska was over. It’s hard to go from a life of pampered leisure on a cruise ship, or a week hiking in a national park, or returning from a part of the world we never thought we’d see, and go back to life as usual, with the harsh reality of work, bills to pay and doctor visits to endure.

But mindfulness teaches us the importance of being present in the moment because this moment is all we really have.  It is pointless to waste it lookinging back, or anticipating the future. In this moment, right now, the sun is shining on a beautiful Saturday morning,. I am writing which gives me great pleasure, I feel good, I’m not in pain, I have much to smile about and I don’t have to be in Alaska to do it. (Although it would be nice…)

So let’s embrace the moments of our lives with attention and joy, and not squander them with regret, but  rather celebrate them with a smile – – because they happened.

Moments

Nothing is worth more than today,
A simple thought — but true,
For the past is just a memory
and no one has promised tomorrow to you.
So embrace today as the moments unfold,
Each one more precious than silver or gold,
Love and be loved, live and forgive,
and show true compassion for all living things
Then you’ll find peace of mind and joy of the soul
And your spirit will soar on gossamer wings.
                                                               pc ‘08