Adventures in Thanks-Living

Living the gift of life one breath at a time

Archive for the tag “living in the moment”

A Word for Wednesay

Here’s a word for Wednesday–

Simple

Ponder this word for a minute. According to dictionary.com, “simple” means:

  1. easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.: a simple matter; simple tools.
  2. not elaborate or artificial; plain: a simple style.
  3. not ornate or luxurious; unadorned: a simple gown.
  4. unaffected; unassuming; modest: a simple manner.
  5. not complicated: a simple design.

But the concept of simple is so much more than its dictionary definition–and so much less.

If you want to really live life, then keep it simple.

Be content. Want less. Let go of more. Declutter both your space and your life. Learn when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” Practice simple living.

It may take time to figure out how simple actually works. It’s a countercultural act of defiance. It is gift. Simple is a way to live, a way to be that has the capacity to set one free.

Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t so easy. But have faith. Try it. Practice it. You’ll get it. You will learn. It’s as simple as that.

Photos by naydeeyah and Kate Ter Haar. Thanks!

 

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Laugh! It’s Good for You.

Mirth is God’s medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it. ~Henry Ward Beecher

(Note: This is the second installment in a series about how to really live life and live it well.)

Want to really live life? If you do, then make sure you laugh on a daily basis. Not only will you feel better and experience life as more positive, you may actually help your health.

A study at the University of Maryland Medical Center, led by Dr. Michael Miller, studied the humor responses of 300 subjects and found that indeed, there may be a real connection between frequent laughter and reduced risk of heart attack. Click here to read more about the study. Miller and his colleagues suggest looking at incorporating laughter into one’s life in the same way one would include a healthy diet and exercise.

What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. ~Yiddish Proverb

How about combining exercise and laughter into one healthy activity? Check out laughter yoga as a possibility. This practice combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing (pranayama). It was the brainchild of an Indian physician, Dr. Madan Kataria and has grown to more than 8.000 laughter clubs in 65 countries. Click here and here for more information. Laughter yoga combines exercise, breathing, joy, and community into one healthy and affirming activity. According to the American School of Laughter Yoga, not only will practitioners see health benefits, but work productivity may increase by up to 31% Clearly, research shows we need to infuse our schools, our workplaces, our homes, and our faith communities with more laughter and joy.

Seven days without laughter makes one weak. ~Mort Walker

The photo above is a close-up of the artist Yue Minjun’s wonderful installation “Amazing Laughter” in Vancouver, British Columbia. You can read more about the artist and the sculpture here. Seeing these laughing figures, all of whom bear the artist’s face, makes one want to smile–or laugh. Look for art, for music, for theatre, film, and television that make you laugh, and incorporate some healthy laughter into every day of your life. Commit to trying it for at least 40 days, and keep a record of your progress and experience. I am certain you’ll find yourself stronger, more centered, and possessing a much more positive outlook on life. Go ahead…try it! What do you have to lose?

Now just why did the chicken cross the road? Maybe it was to listen to some fowl jokes.

Photos by Jeff Halllululemonathletica, and Matthew Grapengieser. Thanks!

How to Really Live

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences will have resonances with our own innermost being, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. — Joseph Campbell

Note: This post is the first in a series. Each day will feature one observation about and a suggestion for how to really live your life, how to engage yourself fully in the act of being alive.

What’s it all about, this life we live? Do you ever slow down long enough to wonder about the meaning of life? Maybe you are too busy living–earning a living, running taxi for children or grandchildren, or caring for aging parents, trying to keep your head above the waters of financial ruin–to even care about deeper meaning.

The first step to really living your life is to quit kidding yourself about how much life you have left to live. The only moment each one of us is promised is the present one. You may live to be a hundred or you may die tomorrow, but the only moment in which you are truly alive is this one–right here, right now.

Close your eyes. Take a slow, deep breath, inhaling through your nose. Hold it lightly for a short interval. Now breath out gently but fully through your nose, emptying your lungs deeply from your gut upward.  While you are enjoying this solitary breath, give thanks for it and for your precious gift of life.

What a miracle you are! That single breath you just honored is one of some 17,000 that you will take in one 24-hour period. Your heart will beat, without any help from you, more than 100,000 times each day. You make thousands of decisions each day, both great and small, conscious and unconscious. You are an amazing creation, one that the Creator of the Cosmos called very, very good.

The first step to really living your life is make a conscious choice to live more fully in the present moment. Yes, some things must be planned and arranged and done, but if you find yourself always looking backward at the way things were or planning for a future over which you have no control–just stop.

Take another one of those single, thankful breaths and come back to the present moment.

  • Love the people you love. I mean really love them and tell them so. Spend time with them if you can.
  • Do something fun or silly. Celebrate and laugh every single day. Laughter is good medicine and will cure a host of maladies.
  • Leave your work behind (at least for a little while)
  • Be active. Take a walk, ride your bike, dance, swim, hike, or do yoga.
  • Eat well and mindfully. Sit down at the table. Light a candle.
  • Rest

Whenever cares and worries threaten to carry you away into moments past or futures unknown, will yourself back to the present moment and day. Live it well. It is gift, pure gift.

Remember the words of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel:

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (6:34)

Whatever your situation, remember that life is fleeting in the grand scheme of the universe. We’re only on this earth for a short time. No trouble, worry, or distraction is worth depriving you or others of the privilege of living right now.

Blessings on your precious life here and now!

A Lagniappe:

Enjoy this You-Tube version of Burt Bacharach’s song “Alfie” sung by the incomparable Rumer.

Photo by OutdoorLori. Thanks!

Seeing Sunflowers

The question is not what you look at, but what you see. — Henry David Thoreau

It is August, 2006. Dianne and I are taking our two middle-school-age children to summer camp. Dianne is making good time in her green sedan, deftly navigating a series of uncrowded eastern North Dakota highways. We haven’t known each other long, a few weeks at most, so this Sunday afternoon drive provides plenty of opportunity to move beyond the surface-level chatter that so often marks the early encounters of a developing friendship.

Despite the flow of easy conversation, I am distracted by the fields of ripening sunflowers that we pass along the way. Myriad bright yellow flowers dance with the breeze, exuding happiness, signaling summer, and signifying joy to me. The sight of row upon row of these butter-yellow beauties turning their heavy heads upward toward the sun captivates my imagination. I can’t take my eyes off of them.

To Dianne the sunflowers symbolize something entirely different–the reality that winter will soon return to the prairie with icy blast and frosty roar. I have not yet experienced a North Dakota winter, so Dianne’s association with these lovely golden flowers is a foreign one to me. Winter seems far away; August means humid, sweltering dog days and languorous summer nights to this Southern girl. A daughter of the prairie, Dianne also sees sunflowers in economic terms, as a crop to be monitored and assessed rather than the subject of a tourist’s photo shoot. Yes, of course she appreciates the sunflower’s beauty, but she “sees” something different, something beyond my field of vision on this bucolic August afternoon.

It is January, 2013, and I am sitting in my home office in Pennsylvania. I have just returned from North Dakota. It was not a pleasure trip, although it is always good to visit friends, breathe the prairie air, and revel in the vastness of the land and sky. This time I went to help lay to rest my dear friend Paula, to assist in honoring her life’s work and faith witness, and to mourn with friends and family her sudden and too-early passing. It is winter. It is cold. There are no sunflowers to cheer the spirit. Only snow and sadness cover the stalk-stubbled prairie fields.

I now “see” too keenly what Dianne sees in the sunflowers. The glorious brightness of the blossom is not the ultimate end. Winter comes with its darkness and desolation. Snow casts a funereal pall across the quiet earth. And winter comes also to our lives, as loss and loneliness cover the naked soil of the soul.

Yet winter will yield to spring, and a fresh crop of sunflowers will push their hardy shoots through the fragrant, freshly-turned prairie soil. Yes, the sunflowers will return again–hopeful, bright, trusting. And riotously joyous, always joyous. As the psalmist reminds us, “weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5).

I’m told that North Dakota farmers are planting fewer and fewer fields of sunflowers. Nationwide; the USDA forecasts a drop of about eighteen percent in sunflower acres planted. It’s a crop that must be shared with birds, and there haven’t been as many price insurance options in recent years. Other crops promise better yield and more favorable return, so naturally there may be fewer fields of flowers. Farming, like life, is rife with risk. The only truly certain thing is the present moment, and each moment is a seed of hope ready to be sown.

I will again plant sunflowers this spring in Pennsylvania. In fact, I will plant more than last year’s few token plants. I want to see an abundance of those sturdy stalks balancing massive flowering heads, heavy with seed and promise. Planting and tending them is an act both of defiant joy and of fond remembrance:  defiant joy from “seeing” them not as a harbinger of winter and desolation but rather of creation’s beauty and God’s abundance, and also as a fond remembrance of my Dakota days and some very dear friends.

Reflect:

What do you “see” when you gaze upon a field of sunflowers? What might you need to “see” differently?

Photos by travelmanitoba, DJ Flickr, Daniel Knecht, hulio82, and one sharp eye. Thanks!

Don’t Worry…Be Grateful!

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? — Matthew 6:25-26 (NRSV)

Yesterday I wrote about fear and how it can prevent one from living a life of joy and thanks-living. Today I want to address one of fear’s first cousins–worry. Fear and worry like to hang out together. There’s safety in numbers and misery, too.

Worry prevents a person from fully enjoying and embracing life. This emotion refuses to live in the present. While it rarely dwells long in the past, it looks to the future with an anxious eye and hesitant air. Worry’s favorite words are “What if…?” It loves to ask questions like “What if there’s not enough money?” and “What if I lose my job?” or “What if I get really sick?” or even “What if the sky falls tomorrow?”

Unless you’re closely related to Chicken Little, you have no business embracing worry as a bosom buddy or “kissin’ cousin.” Throw worry right out the door. NOW! Worry does not have your best interests at heart and certainly doesn’t want you to live joyfully and thankfully in the present moment.

Worrying about the future will not likely change anything; instead, you’ll only miss or fail to enjoy the present. And let’s face it folks; the present moment is the only one we have control over.

So skip the worry. Live mindfully in the present. Enjoy what you’ve been given. Determine that you have enough, that you are blessed abundantly, and that you have much to share with and give to others. Life is good, God is good, and you are good enough, too.

And now for something a little bit different…

If you still doubt it and feel inclined to worry, then take a listen to this classic rendition of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. See if you can identify the two other guys in the video. (Sorry about the ad. You can click to skip it after five seconds.)

Photo by Elizabeth Audrey. Thanks!

Beginning…Again

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. […] And to make an end is to make a beginning.         — T.S. Eliot from “Little Gidding”

Happy New Year! How are you spending the first day of the rest of your life? What is your state of mind? To whom have you said, “I love you”? What will you do with this one precious day?

Part of living a life of thanks-living is being mindful of each day and the gifts–great and small–that present themselves to you and that you present to others. The beginning of a new calendar year is traditionally a time for resolutions and hopefulness. How about mindfulness?

What if…instead of resolving to lose weight, make more money, save more money, find the right partner, get a better job, write that best-selling novel, or whatever else you might want to achieve…what if you simply resolved to be mindful of each precious moment? What if you promised to try and be aware of the gift of each day, one day at a time?

Sure, planning is a good thing, but we twenty-first century, multi-tasking, over-booked, under-capitalized humans tend to get so caught up in looking backwards and forwards that we forget to look straight ahead into the moment. Hey, I’m as guilty as anyone else.

Instead of a resolution this year, I’m simply going to try to live each and every day as if it is the only day I have. After all, we never know how much time we do have, so let’s try to make the most of it. So…

  • Let’s put relationships first and stuff last.
  • Let’s take care of the body we’ve been given by eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising.
  • Let’s look at our work as good and valuable and do the best possible job we can at whatever we do. If you don’t feel like you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, work mindfully at following your passions. If you live and work well, the living will follow.
  • Let’s focus on giving and sharing rather than amassing and hoarding, and
  • Let’s cultivate and nurture our sense of the holy, the spiritual, and the good (what I call faith).

As 2012 ends, however the year was for you, let’s embrace the new beginning of 2013 and make it 365 single days of joy and thanks-living. I look forward to the journey!

Want a little inspiration? Check out this You Tube video:

Photo by Sally Mahoney. Thanks!

Alert & On Guard

Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly….Be alert at all times. — Luke 21:34, 36a

Read: Luke 21:25-36 (Yes, this is the same reading as yesterday, but it bears re-reading.)

Ponder:

“Sometimes it seems as though we spend our lives waiting. Daydreaming about an upcoming vacation, worrying over a medical test, preparing for the birth of grandchild-our days are filled with anticipation and anxiety over what the future holds. As Christians, we too spend our lives waiting. But we are waiting for something much bigger than a trip, bigger even than retirement or a wedding: We are waiting for the return of Jesus in glory. Advent heightens this sense of waiting, because it marks not only our anticipation of Jesus’ final coming, but also our remembrance of his arrival into our world more than 2,000 years ago.”  — Anonymous

Reflect:

What lies heavy on your mind and heart today? What worries are you harboring and nurturing? What needs to be let go so that God can infuse your very being with expectation, hope, and joy?

If you find yourself hurrying through this season with too much to do and not enough hours in the day, do something quite counter-intuitive: sit still and do nothing. Simply be. The to-do list will still be there, and maybe some of it will turn out to not be worth doing anyway. Maybe some of it doesn’t even matter in the grand scheme of the cosmos.

Be alert. Be ready. Watch for those “God-sightings” in your home, during your worship and time with friends, and even waiting in the check-out lane at the grocery. An encounter with the Divine might be just around the corner or down the next aisle. Look for God in the ordinary and extraordinary. Trust me…God is already there.

Thanks-living:

Consider calling up a friend to go for coffee or tea. Make a date with your spouse, partner, or significant other. Make special time to spend  one-on-one with your child or children. Write your parents a letter. Attend an extra worship service or Advent event in your community of faith. Find one thing to do that requires your complete presence and attention. Put those to-do lists aside and experience some joy and anticipation.

What I Did:

Last night my spouse and I were invited to have dinner with friends. Sure there is more work to be done in this season than we have hours for, but we gladly accepted their invitation, and what fun we had! Not only did Liz prepare an amazing meal, but we had conversation, laughter, and a rousing game of “Words with Friends” that we’ll savor for days to come. Thank you, Liz and Tom, for giving us the invitation and permission to simply “be” for an evening and enjoy the gift of friends and fun. Truly the love, grace, and spirit of our Lord was with us all.

Photos by paralog and Minette Layne. Thanks!

Lift

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To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. /O my God, in your I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. — Psalm 25:1-2

Read: Psalm 25:1-5

Ponder:

“He came down from heaven” can almost be transposed into “Heaven drew earth up into it,” and locality, limitation, sleep, sweat, footsore weariness, frustration, pain, doubt, and death are, from before all worlds, known by God from within. The pure light walks the earth; the darkness, received into the heart of Deity, is there swallowed up. Where, except in uncreated light, can the darkness be drowned? — C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Reflect:

Yes, light walks the earth so that we can lift our weary faces and souls to the LORD and be renewed. Despite the shortening of the days and longer shadows of night, the bright, crisp morning light dawns to cheer and warm. Turn your face to the light. Lift up your soul to the Creator of atoms and ants, mountains and molecules, water and wonder. Can you feel it in your bones? Listen. Do you hear the breathe of heaven and hum of creation? The LORD of Word and Light is drawing you–and all of creation–into pure love. The days are surely coming when all will be made new.

Lift your soul. Lift your heart and hurts and hopes. Lift your hands in praise and prayer. The Advent of the LORD is here. God is with you. God has always been and will be, speaking and spinning the cosmos into a web of redemption. And you, you dear child, are being lifted into that coming reality. God quickens and readies the Christ child to enter again into the manger of your heart. Kindle the fires of this season of waiting and preparation and anticipation. Put your trust in the Light that the powers, principalities, and darkness of this age cannot overcome. Wait this day with a glad and thankful heart. Your salvation draws near.

Thanks-Living:

Resolve to avoid all that seeks to separate you from the Light of Creator God on this second day of Advent. Take several mini-breaks to pray, breath, look, and listen. See how that last leaf hangs tenaciously on the branch outside your window. Observe the joy of a child at play. Savor a cup of your favorite tea or coffee. Tell as many people as you can that you love them.

Lift and be lifted. Make this a day of waiting–all day long–anticipating and expecting the Divine presence to lead you.

Photo by martinak15. Thanks!

Mea Culpa…Well Sorta

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I apologize. My mother came to visit over the Thanksgiving holiday, and I took advantage as much as possible of the precious time we had together. And we did have some wonderful times! She recounted stories from her childhood for both Mr. Husband and me. We played Scrabble, and she soundly whooped both of us on her last night here. And we talked, and ate, and talked, and ate some more. How fast six days can fly by when you’re spending time with someone who is so very dear to you! Every hour is a precious and fleeting one.

So after shedding a few tears as I watched the gate attendant help her to the plane, it’s back to life as usual and the beginning of one of my favorite seasons of the year–Advent. That means I’m back to writing about thanks-living as well as living it.

For the next 24 days my gift to you is a daily guide to slowing down and savoring the season. Even if you don’t celebrate this liturgical season, I hope you will find something of use to make your day a little brighter and your mind and heart a little calmer. Consider this your on-line Advent Calendar; instead of chocolate or a trinket you’ll find a saying, a scripture, and a few thoughts on savoring fully this special season.

Blessings…from my heart to yours.

Sharron

The Gift of Doris

(This is a guest post by friend, author, and fellow Compactor, Julia Park Tracey. Be sure to check out the website for the book. Enjoy!)

For the past year I have been sharing snippets and excerpts from the “Doris Diaries,” a collection of diaries from the 1920s through 1940s that I inherited from my Aunt Doris. The first volume of these has just been published as I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926). It has been an unexpected pleasure to spend time in the presence of someone I miss very much, and whose presence in my life was akin to a fairy godmother.

When my great aunt Doris, who passed away in 2011, was beginning to fail, starting to lose some steam in that last of her 101 years, she asked me to take care of her private things, not to leave her frillies and her secrets open to just anyone.

At that time I did not know that Doris had kept journals all her life. I did not know that she had held onto her teenage scribbling – those that embarrass us so much later in life. After she passed, my mother gave me a box of letters and diaries, and I was shocked and thrilled to find this fresh voice, this impish artistic soul, in pen and ink. For all the years I knew Doris – since 1963, if you must know the numbers – I never knew she wanted to be a writer, and never heard this voice. And this voice is lovely and amazing.

When I first started to read her words from 1925, I couldn’t keep from laughing. What a dry wit! I couldn’t keep from swooning with her over the handsome boys and flirtations and moonlit rides in a roadster. Such stories she tells, so casually elegant, so refreshingly blunt. So Doris!

I’ve been asked if I’m telling her secrets and how she would feel about that. I feel confident that Doris, knowing I’m a writer of 30-plus years in publishing and journalism, would not have directed in her will to give this box of her life to me in particular, if she hadn’t wanted to share her story. And the Doris I knew wanted to tell her story; she published her memoirs in 2006, when she was 96. To quote the 16-year-old Doris of 1926, “I love to cause a sensation!”

For me, the gift has been getting to know someone I had already known for 50 years – again, and better, and deeper. And though I miss her, it’s different, and not the sense of absence and loss that usually accompanies a loved one’s passing. I realize how rare and special this is. And I’m grateful, every day.

Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning blogger, journalist and editor. Her book, I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926) is available at your local bookstore or through Amazon. Follow Doris’s ongoing diary adventures on Facebook and Twitter at The Doris Diaries, or www.thedorisdiaries.com.

Photos courtesy Julia Park Tracey. Thanks!

Nota Bene: Today is the last day to leave a comment on the blog or on my Facebook page in order to be entered in the drawing for your own copy of I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926). Don’t miss this opportunity!

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