Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Joy of Jellybeans

Now that my kids are “grown up” I was thinking that I don’t have “an excuse” to dye Easter eggs and hide jellybeans any more. But then I asked myself, do I really need an excuse to be playful? I can hide jellybeans until I’m one hundred if I so choose. If I one day have grandchildren--and at that age, hopefully, great grandchildren--all the better, but if not, so what?
So I had some fun with eggs and dye, made some baskets, and hid some jellybeans. And, surprisingly, my youngest young adult (who happened to be home this weekend) was not too cool to look for them.
My love affair with jellybeans dates back to my own childhood, of course. Easter was one of my dad’s favorite holidays (he also loved Christmas, and enjoyed helping me gather a Coke and cookies to leave by the fireplace for Santa, as well as a carrot for Rudolph). It took me a while to figure out that the note of thanks penned in response each year was written on the very paper my father kept in his desk drawer.  
At Easter, while my mom was excited to get to church and smell all the spring flowers, Dad was more into hiding the jellybeans around the house so that when I woke up I could hunt for them (my older siblings may have slightly different memories, but this is the way it was for me). It was fun, once I figured out that the jellybeans came from Dad and not the Easter bunny, to see this side of my father, who was usually a rather proper, serious gentleman. But holidays always brought out the kid in him.
I guess I just like things that bring out the kid in all of us, whether sand castles, Frisbees, kittens, jellybeans, kites, crayons, bubble gum, or anything else. It’s great that actual children get to play with all this stuff, but I don’t think there should be an age limit. Nor should we adults have to wait until Christmas or Easter to behave like children. Kids, after all, are always trying to act like grown-ups, so it’s only fair that we get to act like them.
            Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Spring and I hope that each and every one of you gets the chocolate bunny of your choice (just don’t eat the whole thing in one sitting)!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Wonder as I Wander...

I always liked the first line of this hymn, and it sort of describes the topic of this post: Uncertainty. As we wander through the forest of our lives there’s a lot to wonder about…like, for instance, what is going to happen next? “What next?” as my mom used to ask so often.
            I know a lot of people who are struggling with uncertainty right now, including myself. Is my memoir really going to be published? (Rumor has it that it is!) Other friends and family members have questions, too: When will I get a diagnosis? Will I get into a doctoral program? What will I do after college? Where is the money coming from to pay for that training? What’s for dinner? Etcetera….
            It’s a fact of life, this wandering, wondering, and uncertainty. Living in the past is a no-no, of course, but living in a state of perpetual angst over what will happen in the future is equally undesirable (and unnerving). And yet, it’s hard not to wonder what will come next.
            I’ve found that the only way to get around this problem is to trust and believe. I’m not talking about religion necessarily, though if that works for you, more power to you. I’m just talking about giving yourself a pass to trust and believe that whatever it is you’re worrying and wondering about in terms of the future is going to work out somehow. Without that sense of trust, the future can be a very scary void.
            And the truth of the matter is, if we knew the answers to all of our questions life would be pretty dull (or possibly even terrifying!). Uncertainty and not knowing is actually a gift; it opens us to possibility, it gives us the chance to dream, it makes it okay to fantasize and hope. It lets us be surprised or astounded.
            Back in the day, when I gave birth to my first son, no one offered to let me know his gender (by my second two babies, ultrasounds were common, and yet I opted to find out in the labor room instead of getting the heads up to buy blue in advance). Why? Because I liked the uncertainty. And though it can be frustrating, unsettling, and downright annoying not to know, sometimes I think it’s better that we don’t.
Besides, the present becomes the future in the blink of an eye; the questions are answered, and more questions arise. The only thing that’s really certain is uncertainty itself. So, if things seem to be “up in the air” right now, try to relax and enjoy the clouds!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Peace...of Heart, Soul, & Mind

As a writer, I’m often awakened in the middle of the night by words. I don’t know why they come to me then, but I’ve found that if I don’t get up and write them down by morning they will be lost. Early this morning, at 3:45 a.m., I was awakened by these words: Peace of Heart, Peace of Soul, Peace of Mind. I don’t know why they were sent my way, but I thought I’d share them with you.
          On my morning walk, I thought about these words. Peace of Heart, to me, means being in a good place with your relationships. If love is flowing from your heart, and you’re also receiving love openly, chances are your heart is at peace. But the heart can become closed, wounded, or tormented. To have peace of heart, your heart must be at ease and the love in your life must flow as freely as the blood that is pumped through this organ.
         Peace of Soul…hmm, that’s a little more complicated. But to me, it means that you are “following your bliss,” that you’re answering  “the call of your soul,” as my Kundalini yoga teacher calls it. What are you meant to do? What is your calling or purpose, your dharma? If you’re not doing it—whatever it is—your soul will feel the sadness, the longing. A peaceful soul, I believe, is one that is satisfied with the life choices made, but this requires listening to your inner voice, your inner teacher. You can ignore the call of your soul for only so long before you begin to feel dissatisfied, anxious, and lost. 
           Peace of Mind is perhaps the easiest to explain, but may be the hardest to achieve. Peace of mind means letting go of all the “monkey chatter” thoughts that don’t serve us. It’s difficult to keep the mind focused on the present, on what really matters, and not to live in a world of future, past, or pure fantasy (not that there’s anything wrong with some fantasy!) To be in the now, to be comfortable with what is, and to let your thoughts come and go (as they inevitably will) without attaching to them can indeed be a life’s work. A mind not at peace is agitated, troubled, conflicted. Who needs that?! I’m not saying the mind must be vacant, either; rumbling—even chaotic—thoughts can sometimes lead to creativity and good things, of course. But for true peace of mind there must be stillness, quiet, and calm. The mind must be more like a tranquil lake than a churning ocean.
           Why did these words come to me in the night? I have no idea. Maybe I have something to learn from them, or maybe you do. In any case I’m grateful to the universe for sending them along, and I do believe that to find peace in all forms—peace on earth, peace in our hearts, minds, and souls-- is what we’re here for.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

To Kale...Or Not to Kale

Recently, I decided to do a “cleanse” which involved eating only really healthy foods for three days and drinking a lot of water (think carrots and kale). Now don’t get me wrong, I like healthy foods. In fact, I love getting my box of organic veggies every two weeks from the co-op and making all sorts of savory, healthy, organic soups, salads and entrees. I get excited over yellow beets! I adore broccoli and swiss chard. I am totally smitten with collard greens, especially when paired with black-eyed peas.
            So it was rather a surprise to discover that when forced to eat only a prescribed diet of extremely healthful, cleansing items for three days ("forced," I might add, by myself and my own stubbornness), I have found it exceedingly difficult. In fact, I’m learning that although I am quite good at eating healthfully most of the time, I am also quite prone to cheating. Now that I am absolutely forbidden to eat a french fry, a slice of pizza, or drink a cup of decaf with half & half, I am really not pleased. Not pleased at all.
            This evening, while I was munching on kale with shitake mushrooms and a beet and carrot salad (which tasted quite good) all I could think about was a cannoli and a bowl of chips. I am missing my nightly decaf cappuccino as if it were a lover I’ll never see again. And the thought of going to bed tonight without a handful of nuts (which though healthy, aren’t allowed on this plan in the evening), or popcorn (the jury is still out on the health benefits of this one) makes me very irritable indeed.
            So, what is to be learned from this? I could just decide that life is too short to spend even three days without my beloved food items. Or, I could realize that three days is really nothing in the grand scheme of things. The most interesting aspect of this whole experience, however, may be my realization that without the freedom to choose, life just isn’t as much fun, which is why although I detest soda with all my taste buds and never serve it in my home, I still won’t vote for it to be outlawed. Kale, anyone?

Monday, March 4, 2013

On the Road Again

In the past week, I’ve had the opportunity (due to visiting my sister in North Carolina and my middle son in Pennsylvania) to spend a total of 36 hours driving in a car. For some reason, when I’m driving (or my husband is at the wheel) I seem to be able to do one of only three things: drive, sleep or think.
            Thinking, of course, usually leads to trouble, especially when I just can’t wait to get to where I’m going (or home again!). And as I watch the minutes clicking very slowly away on the digital car clock, it just seems like I will never get there. Being in the moment (the yogic way) is difficult because, well, let’s face it, driving in a car is a lot less fun than actually being with my sister or my son.
            Which brings me to the yoga pose: Triangle. I recall the first time I attempted this particular pose in my Iyengar yoga class. Having arrived at the class from a Vinyasa or flow tradition in which we gently flow from pose to pose—in no great hurry, but not exactly in a leisurely fashion, either—I was shocked when my Iyengar instructor called out, “Slow down! Slow down! Where do you think you’re going? What's the rush?” as I tipped quickly into the asana.
            Well, to the pose of course, I thought to myself. But then I remembered…ah…it’s about the journey whether it’s to the pose or to anything else. Why not enjoy the cows in the surrounding pastures, the clouds or stars in the sky, the Porsche that just passed us at 85 mph, the pistachio nuts in the bag, the Amish man in a carriage crossing over the bridge above our heads, and yes, the tiny click sound of the digital clock on the dashboard? Why not enjoy just being here, moving swiftly down the road, but unable to do much of anything but be?
            I know, I could read (and I did some of that). And we could chat (we did plenty of that). And I could quietly chant some mantra or sing (that, too). But most of the time when I’m traveling I’m just so anxious to get to where I want to be that the journey seems unbearably tedious.
            So, I have to remind myself especially when traveling to be here now. It’s always a challenge, but even more so when you’re not where you want to be. It’s a lot easier to be here now when I’m in a warm, frothy bath, or at a delicious Thai restaurant, or with my very entertaining and amusing sons, than when I’m in line at the supermarket, stuck in a car or waiting in a doctor’s office. In short, it’s much easier to rush to the pose than to stretch mindfully into it, aware of every joint, muscle and bone in the body. But, as my teacher said, “What’s the rush?”