POV

There are many influences in our lives. If you look at how you get your news, what inspires you, what angers you, and what challenges you, you’ll have a clue about what creates your point-of-view. One of the things I’ve been pondering given the state-of-the-world is how permeable is my being. What in the world gets through to my emotional and spiritual self?

There are a number of things that stay ever present for me. I read the posts of people I grew up with and see their Facebook posts and wonder how people who grew up with similar economic backgrounds, cultural and education backgrounds, and geographic influences can grow up to be so diverse. Life experiences once we left our protected hometown influences us and I’m amazed at the diversity that has emerged over the years.

If you watch any talent related, in particular singing, reality shows, you’ll know how important point-of-view is to becoming a success. The agents and producers are looking for what makes each potential “star” unique. The real world is a bit different because inherently we’re all unique. Nature and nurture have permeated our being and paved the road for who we become.

I was watching a broadcast the other day and the moderator encouraged, maybe even challenged each viewer to find someone with an opposing world view and have a conversation. He specifically focused on the word conversation because too often it’s a debate. The goal is to allow differing points-of-view to enter the circle. Given the current political and social climate in the United States that’s a difficult task.

It’s not uncommon for me to go from zero to sixty in my emotional life as I respond (notice I said respond) to a news report or interview. The good thing is that energy moves me to action. The bad thing is that it becomes a reflex and perhaps I should be looking for more constructive ways to resolve issues. I’m not saying opponents to my point-of-view would be willing, evidenced by my congressman’s tweets last night, but when does dialogue enter the picture?

I believe this is why supporting the arts is imperative to the health of our civilization. I don’t have to be antagonistic when I’m representing myself creatively. In the studio, I’m able to release the energy, state my message, and not be invisible. As artists we can give voice to those who feel invisible.

We’re in trying times and having a point-of-view should be cherished. When you scrape away all the crap, the least common denominator is the desire for us to be safe, healthy, and happy. The question is how do we keep returning to the least common denominator and move forward? What will you’re point-of-view add to the conversation?

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Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 11 Gratitude

I listened to a podcast this morning about gratitude. It was interesting because it got me thinking about the everyday actions and experiences that I just assume will be there tomorrow. It was interesting to me because I wasn’t thinking about gratitude, like making lists so I can track my gratitude tally, but the inner experience of grace.

Let’s face it; I’m a privileged while male. I grew up in the suburbs, have two parents who adore me, have an undergraduate degree and two graduate degrees. I live in a nice house, drive a car (although not new, works just fine), and have plenty of food and clothing.

On the other hand, as a therapist/case manager I have worked in health clinics that continually look for funding to stay afloat. These health centers serve uninsured and under insured individuals. I’ve worked in oncology psychosocial agencies that were able to provide their services free of charge because of the good nature of those who contribute to the cause.

The flip side is also true in my experience. I’ve volunteered at fundraisers that are trying to fund agencies that provide mammograms to minority women (who are often diagnosed late stage because of their lack of personal resources). I’ve seen bikers come out and ride for the opportunity to aid the under-served women so they don’t have to die.

Over the past six years I have traveled across the country for work. I’ve worked in upscale neighborhoods, but also neighborhoods that were dying right before my eyes. I’ve talked to individuals who came through the doors who were hallucinating, or looking for a place to get out of the cold. I worked and left Baltimore two weeks before the riots. I often passed the CVS store that was ransacked and looted. And today, I heard residents hardest hit in Chicago who are saying the President doesn’t need to send the Feds unless they’re brings resources like education and jobs.

My gratitude is that my view of the world is based on personal experience, not just the news.   I’m grateful that friends and family understand my commitment to justice and fairness. I experience grace when I wake up and have options in my life that will feed my soul and serve my fellow human being.

How do you view gratitude? What does it look like each day that you open your eyes?

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 6 Shifting

A day of change in the country, better for some, not so much for others. It doesn’t matter how I view the day unless there are thoughts and actions that follow. I chose not to turn on the television today and follow the coverage of the President’s inauguration. I’m still in a phase of sorting out the transition of power in the country and as time progresses I’m sure I’ll come to some conclusions.

I made a conscious choice to explore various podcasts and interviews today. Most of what I listened to was upbeat, encouraging, and full of hope. I thought I needed to distract myself from the day’s events but I was mistaken. What I needed was to set fire to the kindling in my soul. I desired that gentle nudge when my heart, mind, and soul entice me, encourage me, and challenge me. It’s the moment when the whisper asks me what’s next? What am I ready to explore on more that just the thought stage?

While meditating to “Windham Hill 25 Years of Guitar”, a piece began and I found myself exhaling and relaxing. I noticed a shift in my body and my mind relaxed; physically my scalp relaxed. I started to smile because I knew in my heart that I was making a conscious shift. What does making a shift mean today?

It means that I’ve been holding on to some ideas about people and situations that have been holding me back and now I’m ready to make a shift. I’ve been looking for when the time would be right to shift from the idea phase of a new project to the action phase and now I’m ready to make a shift.

I thought that making a shift would be difficult, but all it took was release and surrender. Listening to the path others have taken as their personal pilgrimages served me to see that making a shift is possible, doable, and necessary. There is no doubt that there will be some sadness as I say goodbye to certain things from my past, but there’s a rebirth, an excitement that will prove that making a shift, although scary is a rebirth. It’s the hope I need to wake up tomorrow in an uncertain world and know I’ll be okay.

What shift is in your future?

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 4 Tools

I’m not a handy person in any way, shape, or form. I’m even cautioned when cooking after sharpening the knives because I’m a bit clumsy; so I keep a box of band-aids close to my cutting board. Tools, at least in the conventional sense of the word are related to things you build with and that’s important to keep in mind because whatever your building it doesn’t just appear, there’s a process.

The process you engage in to create isn’t always methodical or planned, but foundations are important upon which you will build your structure. In my world, having a foundation in traditional quilting was the beginning of my evolution to art quilts. I needed to learn the basics in order to grow and become more daring because in the end I had something I could always return to, like a base camp for those climbing huge mountains like Kilimanjaro.

I began thinking about tools today because the pair of scissors I’m using for the first phase of my mediation art is a pair of cheap craft scissors. If I were cutting a piece of paper in half of a couple of shapes it would be sufficient, but I’m cutting forty minutes a day around some small curves. I’m ill equipped for the process and that creates a bit of struggle, self-imposed of course. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the first thing I’m doing tomorrow is buying a good pair of scissors.

This idea of having the correct tools can be your greatest friend or your greatest enemy. I’m in the midst of recreating one of my websites and I’m storyboarding the various aspects of the community I hope to build. My toolbox consists (over the past few weeks) of listening to Jane Pauley’s audio book, “Your Life Calling”. It discusses ideas for the next phase of life for those in transition. I’ve also been listening to various podcasts because I always learn the most when I hear people’s stories. It humanizes the process and allows me to see how those stories parallel the stories and lessons I need to learn, or can share.

I’m collecting bits and pieces for my toolbox so I have choices. I believe that having options allows my creative process to bloom. It allows me to try new things and those that work I can expand and those that don’t I can discard. Who knows as my toolbox begins to fill, it may come to the point that I graduate to a tool shed. I guess I can put that on my aspiration list. I’ll keep you in the loop and let you know how things progress.

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017:Day 3 Legwork

There are times when a tedious activity can be relaxing. I’m in the preparation phase of the meditation piece and it’s all about cutting out shapes. It’s not super creative, but it’s a necessary step in the process and I’m all about process. Taking the time to get all my ducks in a row will make the next phase easier and move me forward on my journey. The other good thing about work that is repetitive is that there’s no problem solving or decisions that need to be made; I just have to do the legwork.

Another benefit of repetitive actions is the space it creates in my heart and mind. I’m free to allow thoughts and ideas to enter and leave at will and that makes the daily meditation truly a go with the flow endeavor. I’m free to wander or as I like to say it allows me to “follow the energy”.

Today’s meditation focused on people both past and present. I learned that the mother of a friend of mine from college had died right before Christmas so I made a call to connect and offer my condolences. Last night was a meeting of Front Range Contemporary Quilters, an art quilt guild I’ve belonged to for twelve years. At the meeting I had the opportunity to connect with those I haven’t seen in a while. It’s definitely an ebb and flow of people and energy as those I haven’t been in touch with are entering my sphere like a wave crashing on my shores.

Like the repetitive actions of cutting the fabric, today’s legwork, it’s time to do the legwork with maintaining and further developing my connections. There’s a place of comfort and support from those who are and have been a part of my life.

I have two favorite movies, “Same Time Next Year” and “The Color Purple”. At the end of “Same Time Next Year” Alan Alda’s character asks Ellen Burstyn’s character to marry him, but she’s already married. He encourages her to leave him and her response is, with her husband she shares all the same memories from a twenty plus year marriage. It’s those memories shared with others that serve as the palette of our lives. They are the times and experiences that have colored and shaped our lives. These are the connections that provided the building blocks for our identity.

So today I have started doing the legwork on the connection portion of this program. Who knows what I’ll encounter but every day that I do the legwork is work the energy whether or not it reaps any rewards. The reward is the legwork and keeping me moving forward no matter the destination.

Winter Feast for the Soul: Day 2 Breath

I prepared my meditation space with the material and a pair of scissors. I started the music, set the timer so I didn’t have to keep looking at a clock, and I sat at the table and got myself centered. The first cut into the fabric is always the most fun because it’s a beginning. It tells me that the process has begun and there’s no turning back.

As I began cutting I started around the shapes on the fabric I began to feel a bit uneasy. I wasn’t uncomfortable in the chair; it was a feeling in my chest. I’ve asthmatic and recognize the tightening in the chest, but this was different. It was an acute experience because it would come and go and I was puzzled. I proceeded on my meditation paying close attention to my breath.

It wasn’t long before I had this realization that as I was cutting the fabric, if I was cutting around a tight space I was holding my breath. I used to go bowling on a regular basis as a kid and this resembled when I would throw the ball, hold my breath, and wave my arms hoping that the ball heading for the gutter would be a strike. I guess we can always hope for the best.

Proceeding to cut the fabric and being aware of my breath allowed me to be more open to other sensory stimulation. I’m playing a CD of Asian Meditation music and I came to a track that sounded like water running and in that moment thoughts from my past came in like a wave.

I began thinking about friends and family from years ago and I noticed that a smile came across my face. I noticed it because I felt the muscles in my face shift and it relaxed me. It also invited me to continue with these memories as a means of trying to be with the good times and the bad in my past. It was an open space to explore the impact of those who have crossed my path and the experiences we shared. Breathing just allowed me to expand the exploration of my memories in a nonthreatening way so my soul felt safe.

It’s obvious how important breathing is, but it’s the breath that can alter your consciousness. It’s the breath that lets you know if you’re in the present. It’s the breath that creates a rhythm as you march along the meditation trail.

With An Outstretched Arm

There are times when I’m engaged in my meditation that I begin to chuckle. It’s not a common experience for many during their meditation, but some things just strike me as peculiar or comical and a little giggle emanates from my being; tonight was one of those times.

I was preparing my needle and thread for my stitch meditation. I’m a little lazy at times and use a longer piece of thread than one would most likely use for hand stitching because I don’t want to stop and rethread the needle. Tonight I cut off a piece of thread from the spool, threaded the needle and on the first stitch watched as my arm pulled the thread, extending and extending till I reached the end. I felt like I was reaching for the stars, or trying to accomplish a one-handed catch of a football like that amazing NFL play.

As I was pulling the thread all I could think of was the saying in the bible about God having an outstretched arm. Don’t get me wrong; I in no way, shape, or form have a God complex. It did get me thinking about what happens when we have an outstretched arm. Who do we want to protect or soothe with our outstretched arm? What are we trying to reach either literally or figuratively with an outstretched arm? What does it mean to me to stretch beyond what I think are my limits?

It’s these kinds of questions that pop into my head as I inhale while taking a stitch and exhaling when I’m pulling the thread through the fabric. It’s amazing what surfaces when I give myself the time and space to be with me. It’s easy to want to skip a day, and I’m sure I’ll grapple with that in the weeks to come. Today I’m grateful for this time, the fabric, the stitch, and for what’s possible with an outstretched arm!

Two down, thirty-eight to g