One Year Later

Today marks the one year anniversary of our We-All-Can project! Thank you to everyone who has posted, followed, and encouraged! It is the sunset of our year of Mindful Living and Conscious Consuming, and the dawn of Heart 2 Heart Strong.

Heart 2 Heart Strong ( www.heart2heartstrong.org )is the result of our We- All- Can project. Because we learned how to manage a website and Facebook page with We- All-Can, we were able to quickly respond with support after the Aztec High school shooting. Heart 2 Heart strong is a new website dedicated to healing from the unspeakable tragedies of school shootings. It is a series of short videos with clergy, counselors, and other healers including a therapy dog trainer. We hope you will share this information widely within communities impacted by the horror of a school shooting. It also applies to healing from all types of grief, tragedy, and loss, whatever the cause; be it a natural disaster, an accident, a shooting, or terrorism. We hope that it provides some comfort and encouragement.

It is taking longer to get our Heart2heartstrong website up and running than we hoped, so if you visit the link above, you will see that it is darker than we want it to be and that it doesn’t load properly on a phone. We’re working on getting it functional! But, until then, please see the initial videos on the Heart 2 Heart tab on this website.

Now for the 2nd part of our year long project…what we learned over the course of the Year of Mindful Living. Firstly, the personal observations are quite similar to our conclusions at the 6 month evaluation. Everything is easier, simpler, and sweeter because of the way we have taken much of the distractions of consumption off of the table. We have more ease and enjoyment in our life, even through the frustrating and challenging events that crop up. This is something to cherish and nurture. Additionally, it is easier to sustain our focus, joy, and aliveness throughout the day; it just flows naturally out of a sense of dominion and unity. These are gifts from a year of living more simply and deliberately.

What are our next steps? We want to play around with days of silence and disengagement from time. Our idea is to begin with a day where we cover all clocks and just see how things unfold. We want to do the same thing without speaking, reading, or engaging with media. We’ll likely combine the two and will also play with multiple days, just for the fun of it.

Life is an amazing gift! We enjoy experimenting in the ways shown through this blog and over the year. How do you enjoy learning, challenging, and enjoying yourself?

We wish you all inspiring experiences and rewarding relationships. Together, We-All-Can live joyously and courageously, and that really does make a difference!

We’re Back!

Sorry that we’ve been mute for a while, but good things are in the offing. We’re in the process of making a new web page to house all of the videos for Healing Heart to Heart so that they will be easier to access. The page and project will be called Heart 2 Heart Strong and will be found at heart2heartstrong.org.

Now, this is slow in coming for a couple of reasons. One is that we’ve been visiting our son who is stationed with the Coast Guard in Puerto Rico. We highly recommend visiting this beautiful island! It is recovering from the hurricane and as tourists, we found much to see and do and all encounters we had with people were overflowing with kindness and friendliness. If you want to help the islands recover, go and spend your tourist money enjoying this wonderful country!

The second reason is that Rachel, a generous and skilled woman, volunteered to help us get the new web page up and running. However, her precious daughter, Elanora Catherine, decided to join the world early. So, Rachel is busy being in the blessed cocoon of new motherhood and the web page, like Elanora, will come in its own time!

We hope you all are well and that you hang in there with us; good thing are coming!

Assessment: you need to do more assessment

 

New Years, it always seems an appropriate time to talk about resolutions.  In working our Conscious Living project I have discovered not a need for resolutions, but rather a need for ongoing reflective self assessment.  The “stop and think” aspect of Conscious Living oddly enough has found its way into a new perspective and habit of how I try to approach life.  It has become clear that “plowing ahead” with work or chores or obligations of all stripes is a recipe for frustration and overwhelm.  So first things first, it’s helpful to stop and think every day, indeed twice a day and do an attitude and process check on yourself.

I have started outlining for myself a process by which to frame my day for adherence to faith, principles and priorities, (the start the day bit).  Then too I have evolved an outline of steps to take and things to consider in reviewing how well I actually adhered to that faith, those principles and those priorities, (the end of the day bit).

The overarching principles for me have become:  1) do honorable work as well as you can do it,  2)  exhibit honorable behavior,  3)find joy, 4) do this always in the context of growing my relationship with God.  Ok, and my end of the day self assessments tell me where I am failing and succeeding in these intentions.

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More about Fun

    

 

meditation walking

The previous discussion about fun brings to mind that often what we call fun and play is more of an extension of stress, competition, and comparison.  Now, of course some competition can be fun but that energy can also dominate and steal the fun.  For example, we may enjoy skiing or mountain biking, but do we feel pressure to get the newest gear to keep up?  I was discussing 4H programs with a friend whose daughter raises and shows steers.  She said that parents will spend tens of thousands of dollars to buy the right calf so their child can win Grand Champion.  These pressures to dominate and compare can remove the human element from competition, learning, and fun.  Frustration, failure, obligation and shame can overtake projects that were originally meant to bring fun and to open us to our glorious humanity.

This raises the question, “What is fun for you?”  Where do you find yourself lifted out of the moment and taken over by the engagement that you have with a project, nature, relationship, skill….?  Where do you connect with your soul?

As our niece, Beatrice, wrote about her newborn daughter, Eleanor, “We’re obsessed! Sometimes we just fall into her and lose hours of the day.”  Fun does that, love does that.  And, it doesn’t necessarily just happen; we need to create the time and mind/heart space to receive the gift of fun.  This project is thankfully giving more of that type of opportunity.
Share How You Care and have fun:)

Having Fun is Being Human

                                                   

 

Last week I was talking with my dear friend, Rachel, and she asked about the project.  I mentioned that a delightful and unexpected result is a newfound sense of freedom, renewed curiosity, and fun.

After our conversation, Rachel sent me an email with some thoughts; here is part of her wisdom.  ” We were talking a little about your project, and what it’s brought you that’s unexpected: how you’ve discovered that the lifestyle changes you created for the project have opened up room in your minds and lives for – learning how to fix the mower motor! You talked about the freedom you feel, to have the time and energy do such a thing – although it wasn’t what you thought would flow into the life spaces vacated by screens, too much information and too much news. What a gift! Your newfound time is spent being human: discovering an interest, seeking out information, solving a new problem, using your body (hands, at least!), living through the time it takes for all the pieces to come together, letting your intelligence feed your physical ability to build/fix something you need to care for  your own environment.”

In the space that has opened up as we remove much of the distractions caused by consumption, Bill and I are exploring new arenas.  He’s mentioned fixing the mower and his fun with compost.  We’re also enjoying a Great Courses lecture series on comparative religions and I’m taking up the guitar and piano (ok, in fits and starts but it’s still fun to try and to honor my small accomplishments :)).  Our conversations on weekend mornings tend to focus on how we want to be agents of change and healing in the world (baby steps again).  Gone is the domination of duties and obligations that were very present when we allowed more of the noise of consuming into our lives.

In my conversation with Rachel, I mentioned how much more fun all aspects of our lives are.  She reflected,” It’s all play, really, now that I think of it: it’s how we human animals play. Only in our pressured lives it’s not play unless it’s by choice! We do a lot of this stuff much of the time, but against a backdrop of obligation and necessity. And then often we are allowed to do only some parts of the playing, and have to do too much of those other parts, and we don’t get to complete the process. Repair a motor, build a labyrinth. What a relief to discover  that what your mind and body choose, given an opportunity, is to be human, and play.”

Rachel also reflected that it’s important to see others engaged in real play, and that in doing so, we open our humanness to each other, and that is precious!  Thanks, Rachel, for your wonderful way of describing play and fun!

 

Slowing down and Relating to One’s Self

Bill and his newly reconstructed compost bins

The mindfulness project Susan and I are embarked upon continues to bring up common themes in  new ways.  It is decidedly fall now, thus the theme of seasons and change.  I have re-built the three stall compost system in anticipation of harvesting an abundance of leaves destined to be lovingly distributed to future soil expecting a future garden and a future harvest.  I have discovered that building good soil is something of a spiritual imperative — more about that in another blog post

For now the metaphor stays with fall and another change of seasons.  Wow!  Time moves along pushing us from season to season. Then one day I awake to discover my son has turned 30 years old!  For most of my life I would not have said that one fall feels appreciably different than the next.  Now this!

In my last post I mentioned that in “overwhelm and busy mode” that heretofore characterized my routine, I had found it impossible to consider making many changes simply because I could not conceive of fitting the needed change into the life I was living.

The mindfulness project is allowing me to perceive many of the ways I have previously shrunken life experience to continue my habit of constantly working.  Now on the cusp of sixty, with the help of time dedicated to pause and reflection, I perceive new ways of expanding life experience, and doing so more meaningfully.  This really is a gift of just slowing down.  The exterior life is just as demanding, but care of the soul comes first — and what a difference.

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Subtle but Sweet Changes

That everything is a little easier and richer is the unexpected gift from this project so far.  We live in nature, and the appreciation of that beauty is greater.  We have difficulties but they are not as stressful as they may have been previously.  We attend to our health and diet, and that is more fun.

What does this have to do with removing the distractions of consumption?

One thing is that there is less stress and drama from our cultural noise because we don’t watch tv, listen to radio talk/news, or surf the web unless we want to learn something (ex: a recipe or fixing the mower).

We are concerned about the destruction caused by our recent hurricanes and wanted to learn more as we considered making some donations, so I turned on the radio to hear the news.  There were multiple updates about Puerto Rico but sandwiched between those reports were stories about the new television season.  Just listening to the descriptions of the shows was stressful!  It made me wonder what the impact of watching hours of such violence and angst has on our well being and relationships, particularly in regard to children.  There are studies showing that the effects of watching violence has a desensitizing impact on our tolerance for violence, but I am thinking of more subtle, daily impacts.  Are we less patient with each other because of the violence, control, selfishness, and bullying so prevalent in our entertainment?  Do we eat more junk?  Do we react to family members more harshly?  I don’t know the answer to these questions but I found the descriptions of the shows to be so distasteful that I turned off the radio.

Another result is that we pay more attention to what we do because there is less rush, so everything takes on a quality of richness and enjoyment, even the most mundane of chores.  While mindfulness and presence are things we have practiced for years, we have a clearer experience that simple tasks performed with the love of others in mind (e.g. folding clothes for the family), or with the simple determination to do this small thing well (because attention to quality in all things honors others, honors yourself, and honors your Creator)  raises the resonance of love and joy in life.  We are experiencing a greater sense of ease and flow, even about events that are challenging.   This is a subtle and unexpected gift that we are grateful for.

 

Fun at the School of Hard Knocks

                          b

Here’s an interesting thing about slowing things down to make more considered choices — Slowing down actually increases one’s ability to choose!

Here’s an example.  Prior to our project, I allowed myself to be overwhelmed with things I needed or “ought” to do so that I thought I never had enough time to work on something new. I would avoid the project because  I thought I couldn’t “afford” the time to figure out what needed to be done and how to do it.

Example No. 1  Setting of 6 acres needing to be mowed, Riding Mower breaks (again). Problem: won’t start.  What could be wrong? This list includes the need to test electrical circuits, fuel flow, flywheel mechanics, etc.  Previously I would have punted and winched the thing up on the trailer and handed it off to a “certified” Cub Cadet mower mechanic.

The new and improved more reflective me is now capable of considering and spending the time to think it through, learn what I need to know (thank God for You-Tube Instructorials – of variable quality), and allow myself time for trial and error.  The reflective change also curiously includes an enhanced willingness to be wrong and make mistakes.  This particular process lead to changing out the spark plug, changing out the fuel filter, testing and changing out the Solenoid (figuring out what that does) re-wiring the Solenoid, and using a remote starter to jump and test the starter motor.  All of that included a fair amount of instruction by error, including guessing wrongly when in town buying parts that I had a 3 pole Solenoid and not a 4 pole one.  Whew! (helpful hint: if possible bring the part you are replacing with you when buying a new one)

-The cool thing was: I enjoyed all of this.  Errors and all.  I enjoyed giving myself permission to learn this way — and guess what?  It is not just a cliche that at times the “school of hard knocks is the best teacher.”  Figure it out and understand it all by your lonesome (video teachers aside) – awesome!

Example No. 2.  Being a guy interested in having backup electrical power (limited) I had talked Susan into the purchase of a back up Solar Generator Kit.  The problem being that when it arrived (a year ago), I was in the old hurry and be overwhelmed mode.  Take a look at the pictures — without an adequate background in things electrical — I proceeded to literally open and close the lid on this project several times without getting what I had bought figured out.

Now the new me.  It was actually possible to open the kits, begin reading the manuals and get started.  I have given myself permission to take whatever time I need to get this thing figured out and operational.  It may not seem like much, but I am doing it now, and previously in the “era BMP” (before mindfulness project) I had found starting IMPOSSIBLE!????  Human beings are curious things, no?

Serius Dog Days

Serius is the brightest star in the sky and is located in the constellation Canis Major (big dog) which is why it is know as the “dog star.”  You can see Serius in the east before sunrise in late summer, which is why these late summer days can also be called the “dog days of summer.”  Many ancient and contemporary spiritual traditions particularly note the days between July 23 and September 23 as a powerful time in relation to Serius.

So what can this mean for us?  These dog days and the approach of the equinox speak to me of reflection about the future.  These days invite us to go within and to imagine who and how we want to be for ourselves, those we love, and for the world.  Then, we take action in our lives with the intention of being the person we dream of.  This seems like a tall order, but there are simple ways to practice.

First, find a time each day to imagine who and how you want to be in a particular area of your life.  What do you value about yourself that you would want to share?  How would you share it?  What would be the result of that sharing; joy, intimacy, vulnerability?  Are you frightened, exhilarated, both?  Do you doubt yourself?

How can you develop that area of self more?  How does this “best you” go about her/his day?  What thoughts do you have when you wake up?  How do you go about your routine?  How do you respond to success or frustration?  How do you treat yourself…what do you eat, do you have supportive or critical thoughts about yourself?  How does this version of  you love, notice beauty, share kindness?

What do you need to heal or forgive to more fully be that best version of yourself?  How can you begin to share more of who you are in your current relationships and work?  How do you feel about that?

Really, the imagining is fun and it has a powerful way of helping you to set goals and to allow yourself to move past your own limitations.  The key and maybe the hardest part, is to give yourself permission to dream the best you, to create time daily (maybe as you go to bed or before you rise in the morning), and to allow this to change you.  Once you have practice, try doing it in all other areas of your life.  Have fun with it, allow you to inspire yourself:).

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Not choosing convenience and expediency

Increased life and spiritual satisfaction can come from a line of small wholesome choices.

When we started our mindful living project I knew I would come up against deciding not to pull the trigger so routinely on the things that offer convenience in my life.  Like most 21st century Americans I have acquired a pretty “busy” life.   Long work day? Ok, I’ll eat out.  No time to do that?  Ok, there are snacks at the gas station, etc.  Deciding to put aside much of that convenience has meant that I have to plan my life better — I have to engage my life more directly.  Plan the lunch, cook the meal, pack the meal, take the meal, and actually use the meal I packed, etc.

Those are first layer realizations.  They constitute the stuff of daily life.  Second layer realizations include choices I could make to foster convenience.   Packaged, this.  Pre-cooked that, etc.

Third layer realizations:  What about the quality of what I’m buying?  Organic?  Yes, If its not too expensive.  All natural?  Sustainable?, etc.

Fourth layer realizations:  Where did that food come from?  1,500 miles?  15 miles?  Do I trust the label?  “Organic these days often means someone has a lot of infrastructure and bureaucracy attached to their process. Is the process wholly dependent of affordable diesel fuel?  Do I know the farmer, no?  Why not?

Here we start tripping over the expediency of making  good (wholesome, respectful of workers, honoring nature) choices.  Here I mean real choices connected to real people, with real faces, whose kids really do need dental work, for whom retirement seems impossible, etc.

Commercial farmers often use round up (or other chemicals) because it’s what they know, and it looks like part of the expedient process for getting cash out of their crop. ( Incidentally this is a bad idea when it comes to downstream effects all of the someone elses will have to manage (all of us).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkLvO16QoWk  (Dave Murphy – Glycophosphate: unsafe on any plate.)) Your supermarket will truck in “organic” produce from 1,500 miles away because it is the expedient way to meet our consumer demands.  This, as opposed to developing a robust local natural foods community/economy.

Too hard to be on top of all that this discussion implies?  Yes, and what I am saying  is that the creation of new local natural and safe food economies will only evolve if we as individuals get out there, and put in the time to make more desireable decisions.  It won’t be convenience or expedient.  However, it will be rewarding and satisfying.  It all happens in small incremental steps.  So far my small discoveries in this vein are things I go to bed smiling about.

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