IN HASTE

WE all do some things a bit too quickly. Our timing is “off” … we rush to complete something, to get somewhere, or maybe we speak so fast a genuine conversation is impossible. Examples abound; it’s not difficult to see this dynamic at work, is it? I notice myself doing this when I’m overly focused on getting to the “next moment,” as Eckhart Tolle often calls this subconscious rush to the future. Once you pause to consider how this subtle force works in your life, you may decide to slow things down.

Consider the moments you don’t really “see” because you’re already halfway to the next moment. How about the people you don’t actually “hear” because you are locked in your own mind, pushing the moment to complete itself so you can rush forward … once more?

Going to an art museum or spending time with nature are great ways to test yourself on this dynamic. Feel uncomfortable with a slower pace, running to-do lists through your head at the same time, checking your phone? Looking for a few brief seconds then “moving on” or skipping entire sections of the museum or the garden so you can quickly get to the next thing you want to say or do?

But … you may wonder … what’s the real harm in this? Isn’t life a race that requires selective attention and effective time management? Sometimes, yes, we simply have to hurry. No way around that. However, accessing the deeper side of life (the very mysteries of existence) and possessing an ability to reflect, meditate, and contemplate are linked to the ability to stay in the moment. FULLY.

While haste can feel natural to us because of the world around us, dare to challenge this. Dare to walk a path that creates an opening in your awareness, allowing for fresh insights to emerge. Otherwise, the race we’re quietly running may end badly. Otherwise, and probably. There is no medal for getting through life more quickly than the next guy. There is only a final breath waiting for all of us. That’s it.

So drag your feet a bit more. Don’t let subtle pressures to hurry impact your peace of mind, your sense of purpose. Imagine a world that isn’t half-crazy with visions of “getting to the future” just as quickly as possible. Experiment a little, see what happens. When I’m writing I can feel myself wanting, for example, the “complete the project.” The book, the article, the story, the poem. But I try to catch myself. Remind myself that a belief in time is at the root of this strange dynamic.

Spring is a good opportunity to let go of false notions. To see what life feels like without time calling all the shots. It is an illusion. And there is much to be discovered right here, right now. Thanks for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. See you again in a few weeks!

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DEGREES OF GRATITUDE

We’re all just walking each other home.
― Ram Dass

THIS TIME of year various themes arise in conversation. Gratitude is one of them. And while there are many reasons to feel grateful, today I want to mention the boundless contribution of spiritual leaders who have graced our planet. The lovely contrast they offer to all things mundane and superficial is a priceless gift. When the world is focused on overworked media stories, for instance, enlightened voices remind us of the “big picture” … the poetic, silent realm that is unseen, undervalued, and underestimated. Like joining an instant spiritual retreat, we can sit down and open the pages of a book by Eckhart Tolle, for instance. Or maybe read a little Ram Dass. There are so many others: Dalai Lama, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Thomas Merton, and so on. xmasfence2013 Plus there are a multitude of voices not associated with spirituality, per se, that also uplift us with communication that inspires and resonates deeply. Poets, musicians, authors, artists, and all the people out there who see something more, something seemingly hidden from view.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I’m going to be seeking out those voices more than ever before. Even though I’ve experienced a profound spiritual journey myself, written about it in depth in my memoir The Silence of Morning, I will always challenge myself to grow in wisdom. To transcend the daily experience we call “life.” To focus more completely on the underlying story, the one that speaks quite loudly despite the incredible “noise” of existence. As I wrote in my book …

  • Thoughts can be as empty as barren land, but living through hardship connects us to our soul like a laser. We must know pain firsthand. Innocence must be relinquished to grow spiritually.

And once we begin to develop and grow in spiritual ways (often committing to a path of growing awareness and presence), there is no turning back. Even when we feel out-of-step with the world around us, it can’t be helped. We look through a different lens, one that has less to do with the roller coaster of daily news, the glitz and glitter of a ridiculous celebrity culture, the dark and troubling political games of the moment, the warped definitions of “success” that flutter almost aimlessly through the air.

So … I wish everyone, especially during this season of gratitude, the willingness to stretch and expand in the spiritual sense of things. Once we perceive life events and destinations with greater depth and equanimity, we will have more to give others. A poetic cycle of renewal and growth begins to dominate our days. It’s certainly worth a try, right? ~ dh

What spiritual voice can pull you along until you find your own?
What kind of gratitude do you want to know and experience?
What kind of lens do you want to see the world through?

How often do you seek inspiration from within?

cropped-cropped-IMG-20121225-00790-2.jpgWe’re all just walking each other home.
― Ram Dass

Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. Next post, early December.

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A POWERFUL GIFT

at the end of a long political drama, what can we do to salvage our peace of mind?

Some of the most important distinctions in life are subtle. Very subtle. We sense these distinctions on an intuitive level … when we are aware, mindful, and paying attention to something beyond our own mind chatter. But, sadly, these subtle distinctions are often ignored, missed, minimized. So how can we become more aware of subtle differences that point to something we actually need to know?

For one thing: read. Books often draw on important distinctions — fiction and nonfiction. Even poetry.

The book you don’t read won’t help.

Jim Rohn

Yes, I know. We hear about a world that doesn’t read all that much anymore. We hear about technology and its grip on our time. We also hear about shortened attention spans due to a constant barrage of snippets of information found online, via television or smart phones. But we don’t have to accept this troubling trend. We can continue to read real books, the kind that draw subtle distinctions … make us think … and give us pause. We don’t have to join those who insist there is “no time to read.” Make time in creative ways! Even a page a day … eventually gets us through an entire book.

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.

–Marcel Proust

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JUST as the trees of autumn only show subtle differences of color at first (eventually the colors deepen, turn bright and artistic-looking), subtle changes in our daily lives noticed early on, before they hit us over the head, can be quite helpful. Perhaps they alert us to something critical in the offing. Perhaps (if our health is at play) we can prevent a major health issue from developing further.

A book is the only place in which you can examine
a fragile thought without breaking it
.
–Edward P. Morgan

Besides reading books of substance more frequently (making it a regular and important part of each day), what else might we do to increase our ability to perceive subtle, but telling, distinctions?

WHAT about tapping into the stillness within, so we can hear or sense more on an intuitive, knowing level? Do you feel it’s difficult to become truly silent, the mind running on like a wild river? Of course. We all feel that way sometimes. But if we are willing to work at learning about the merits of internal solitude and quiet, we can grow in awareness. We can deepen our perspectives. We can begin to discern the subtle aspects of life that are all around us and often pointing the way.

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I’m reminded here of the close of chapter one in my memoir, The Silence of Morning: A MEMOIR OF TIME UNDONE. I had only a day or two earlier learned of my son’s loss … it was dawn, the morning of his funeral, and this is what I wrote: “Dawn arrived as a fuzzy continuum of then and now. Vague resistance was all I could manage, as harsh, unrelenting circumstances penetrated my awareness. Walls, draped in shadows, the cave I never wanted to emerge from. And, across the room, fragile flowers. Their colors sadly depleted. An unspoken mission–to console, to soothe–laid bare by this glaring day of black and white. The silence of morning, a cavernous, mocking echo reveled all of this, and more. Viscerally, I felt its cold, eerie precision: its force. Merciless. Absolute.”
  • Silence speaks to us quite loudly at times, doesn’t it? Sometimes underestimated in importance, it is usually trying to tell us something if we will only tune in. Listen. Try to grow in awareness. 

I saw old Autumn in the misty morn stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence. –Thomas Hood

Have you identified anything in your life to help you stay more alert to silence? Have you experienced profound insights when silent? What have you learned about trying to quiet the ever-chattering mind?

I encourage you during times of stress, pain, and confusion to consider leaning on the silence within. The quiet distinctions may bubble to the surface. The gentle nudge may be heard above the noise of life. Answers may come. Ideas may flow. Creativity is nurtured. Peace of mind may seem possible once more. Perspective may be regained. Your sense of purpose, compassion, and personal strength also can be enhanced. Though mysterious, learning to trust silence is a powerful gift. –dh

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When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with it fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze. –Thomas Carlyle

Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure. –Henri Nouwen

Even in the most beautiful music there are some silences, which are there so we can witness the importance of silence. –Andrea Bocelli

  • Have any memorable experiences with silence you would like to share here? 
Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. See you November 4th, when I’ll share my interview with author Laurie Buchanan. Her new book, Note to Self, releases on the 12th.
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DISCONNECT FROM CHAOS

YES, the world seems a vast sea of uncertainty and chaos. We clench our teeth and hold our breath. We mutter about “how bad things are” and we worry about tomorrow. We wonder if it has always been “like this” or if the world is tilted in a vastly new direction of unseen consequences. And, often, our customary reaction to the next crisis (or shocking development) launches yet another cycle of concern, anxiety, or even … depression. All of this hand-wringing clouds our vision, though. We don’t see the rose in our path. Not really.

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“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”
–Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden                                                               

Yes, we’ve heard this sort of thing before. And we know we shouldn’t let external events fog our inner vision. But … we do, don’t we?

At least most of us do.

I watch the tide go in and out with every new media story hyped beyond reason, and I marvel at just how easily we tend to give up our personal equanimity. And, for what, exactly? We literally have no control over 99% of what the media focuses on; our level of personal involvement is slim to none. Still, we watch, we listen, we react, while squeezing in our own precious lives around the edges. I guess I just don’t get it. Are we so bored that we are willing to pretend the nightly news is “truth?”

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“I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday sweet and fragrant, between its leaves.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

During the month of July … my suggestion is simple.

Refuse to be drawn in. Stay intent on your own life. Let most of it go by, because a reactionary posture is exhausting for one thing. It merely drains the life from your day … from your soul. At least pause long enough to realize that external events will always fall short of our expectations. And if you must turn to external events for entertainment purposes, please limit your gazing, inhibit your ruminating about any, or all, of it.

What good could it possibly do, in the end?

Yes, we need to be informed … to a point. Yes, we are concerned about the human condition … so we want to “know.” And, yes, we have issues that are close to our hearts for various reasons. All of this is understandable. But too often we are simply gazing at life from afar instead of staying focused on what is right in front of us. The cost is enormous. We feel agitated, annoyed, and perplexed. The peacefulness we felt is suddenly gone. We also put useless energy into a constant cycle of reaction. Step away in July. Step back and see if anything changes. 

roses“It’s amazing how confused and distracted and misdirected so many people are.”
–Stephen Covey

When I wrote ALWAYS RETURNING: The Wisdom of Place (first edition, ’99; second edition, 2014), I was already contemplating these things. I’d grown up with open spaces and generous landscapes that seemed “complete” and “life-sustaining” without anything more. This book, my first, resonates with me more and more each day.

“In a place where very little stands between an individual and his or her innermost self, the chances of a genuine encounter are greatly enhanced, and it becomes incumbent on a thinking person to do some soul-searching around the issue of happiness. Contemporary society, with its many bells and whistles, offers a different fare, and while it can create an image of abundance, its impact is faint, more like a mirage.”  —d.a. hickman, Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place

Always_Returning-SmallAnd then when I wrote my memoir, not surprisingly, I found myself returning to my roots — geographically, spiritually, and emotionally. Loss is like that. It shakes us about like a rag doll, drops us back at the beginning of our remembered history. Without the simplicity of open spaces and poetic grasslands standing tall in my memory, I’m not sure how I would have had the courage to confront the greatest life mysteries … the ones that loss seems to suggest and point to. In a chapter called “The Way of the Sage”, I wrote:

“Windows open, we listened for a red-winged blackbird, relished the smell of fresh air, its absolute freedom as it connected with our weary, time-bound faces. Maybe we would spot a stunning blue heron in flight. It was the way of the sage. To perceive deeply, to acknowledge the divine oneness of the universe, our inherent, ever-changing role as imperfect life custodians. The life that we are … in countless forms. Temporary yet timeless. And when I am fully aware, not absorbed, or sidetracked, by the dictates of mind, time, or circumstance, I not only see beyond this paradox: I see into it.” —D.A. Hickman, The Silence of Morning:
A Memoir of Time Undone

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SPECIAL NOTE: The Kindle version of The Silence of Morning will be offered at reduced prices from July 3rd through July 10th. Happy 4th of July everyone! And please remember that while uncertainty and chaos may seem like reality, only our inner dimensions tell a true, personal story. So if you prefer calm and knowing and peaceful, tune out the endless steam of external events for a while. It’s amazing what a profound difference this can make.

Paint the day … stay inspired … look for the deeper story of landscape, art, and daily life. Even the challenge of sorrow and loss can lead us to a deeper life story. –dh

My recent book interview on Richard Gilbert’s blog, can be found here WE NEED MEMOIR.
Thanks again, Richard!
Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits.
See you again Friday, August 5th.

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THE SPIRIT OF SUMMER

THERE is something about summer that frees our spirits. Something that insistently beckons us to look at life and nature more closely, more intently. And, indeed, more extensively. The lake we’ve never visited. The trail we’ve never walked. The plant we’ve never grown. The important project we’ve managed not to “see” or acknowledge. The book we’ve never read. The artist we’ve overlooked. The recipe we’ve wanted to try for the longest time. The daring article or poem we suddenly want to write. You have your own examples, I’m sure.

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Feeling freer, less confined and withdrawn, we seem to almost merge with the spirit of summer.

Growing … doing … exploring … experiencing … creating.

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees,
just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning
over again with the summer.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

But sometimes things happen that dampen our spirits, and we struggle to find our usual enthusiasm for summer’s endearing vibrancy. It can make us feel pretty miserable to want to do the usual things (or new things) without the energy or desire to make it happen.

Who hasn’t been there?

Unless you live a one-dimensional life on a one-dimensional planet … you’ve been there.

We lost our beloved schnauzer, Noah, in June of 2015. My beloved son, Matthew, in June of 2007.

So I’ve been wondering about this fanciful month of June. Why has it delivered such harsh blows amidst the greens and blues and pastels that flow like rain during a month when many parts of the world seem reborn. Promising, comforting, and certainly pleasant. And then I noticed a quote on a good friend’s (thanks, Cynthia!) Facebook page that gave me pause yet again.

  • “I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.” ― L. M. Montgomery
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NOAH … the Zen master
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NOAH                                                                       

If the world was always June … yes, there would  be the magic of nature … but, for me, there would also be poignant and powerful reminders of loss. Days very difficult to peacefully, and fully, remember; days when beating hearts grew still: the silence deafening. But June takes me there anyway, even as I resist, cringe, try to run away.

So do I turn away from the lovely month of June, or embrace it?
What would you do?

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses.
The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.”
Maud Hart Lovelace

To say I have mixed feelings about June would be true. The calendar, the season, draw me closer to events that feel “outside of time” … but the days of June also sharpen those painful memories anew, serving them up like a sad story ending one can never quite escape. Matt_FruitFarmOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA_Matt_Lake

I guess the only thing I can do is broaden my view, allowing June to merge with my memories of summer, in general. By acknowledging the month of June as intrinsic to summer’s spirit, I can consider it from a slightly different vantage point. Reflecting on this … I am also reminded that summer’s spirit is not entirely blissful. When summer ends, it takes with it warm, carefree days, and announces the arrival of a new season. Cooler weather, a more subdued season, less fresh and invigorating. By framing June this way, it becomes part of a bigger story—one less focused on daily events, specific time frames, and so on.

  •  ” … the final twist descended like a malicious fire. An unyielding weapon and an uncompromising shot shredding time, and all variations of hope, as it penetrated and absorbed the utter fragility of a precious human life in a secluded meadow on a faded summer night. An unbearable image. An anguished landing during the seductive month of June–nature in full bloom–made death even more startling, incongruent. I wanted to hate the sixth month of the year.” —D.A. Hickman, The Silence of Morning: A Memoir of Time Undone

When painful memories surface, try to frame them anew … bring them into a slightly different light, look at them from a perspective that isn’t quite as personal. After all, nothing happens in isolation and everything is connected. Dreaded days on a calendar can be looked at in a broader context … allowing for space around the event, the moment, the feelings we instinctively shy from. So here’s to the breezy days of summer, the tantalizing mix of life and loss the season ultimately delivers. Matt and Noah, for me, you ARE the spirit of summer. ~

How do you feel about June, about summer?
Any complications around this particular landscape of time?
What memories do you shun, or treasure … or simply not understand?

Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits.
See you again Friday, July 1st.

“Drugs and guns aren’t the real problems; they are only symptoms.
The deeper issue is the human condition, the trauma of life on this planet.”
9780990842361-Front-TheSlienceOfMorning13_RGB_300dpi_6x9“Despite a crushing loss … here we have a warmth of spirit,
understanding and compassion in a distancing world.”
Madeline Sharples, Leaving the Hall Light On
My recent book interview on Richard Gilbert’s blog,
can be found here
WE NEED MEMOIR.
Thanks again, Richard!

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