BEHIND THE SCENES

IF this were any other month, I wouldn’t be wondering quite so much about what is going on behind the scenes in many homes. But in all reality … many families are seriously stressed this time of year. Winter weather for one thing. The weight and the joy of traditional holiday expectations. Intense emotions that surface unbidden. A plethora of memories that frantically swim in the background as though seeking immediate expression. Insistent feelings of wanting to find the perfect balance between commercialism and the more devout aspects of the season. Under the best of circumstances, that’s a lot to contend with.

Yes, the season can be delicate and beautiful and motivating and inspiring and joyful. 

But December, and all that it entails, can also become a mixed bag of frustration, sadness, stress, and confusion. Our beliefs and values may point to one thing; society may suggest something else entirely. Cultural expectations may run deep in us, especially if we have never confronted them directly. All of this can lead to inner conflict, which is painful for many. Some, when they really stop to consider it, may realize that serious inner conflict is another form of personal suffering. A rather insidious form, at that.

“It came to him that he didn’t like holidays. . . .
They bore down on you. Each one always ended up feeling like an exam . . .”
― Lily King, The English Teacher

Sometimes we are so accustomed to our own suffering, we don’t recognize it for what it is … we brush it aside as feeling tired, disinterested, or curiously negative. Maybe we blame ourselves for our lack of enthusiasm, or force ourselves to embrace what feels robotic, senseless, redundant. If personal suffering is extremely pronounced, it wouldn’t be unusual for someone to relapse into some form of addiction (deadly or otherwise). Some individuals, as we know, even resort to suicide this time of year.

Isn’t it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for —
I don’t know what exactly, but it’s something that you don’t mind so much not having at other times. ~Kate L. Bosher

December is a tale of many realities, and so much happens behind the scenes because we’re not always eager to verbalize hesitant or painful feelings. Easier not to admit such things and risk a negative reaction from someone, right? Maybe that is why the season can start to feel like a “requirement” more than a meaningful celebration of life. On the surface … we all see the bright lights, the festive colors, the dazzling ornaments, the rush to “get everything done” in time. But the bigger story lurks in the shadows. The unspoken. The undone. The regrets and resentment that are well-hidden or even denied.

To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year.
~E.B. White, “The Distant Music of the Hounds,” The Second Tree from the Corner, 1954

Can you envision a unique (pleasantly tolerable) path through the December wilderness? Can you imagine a month that loses its dark shadow and becomes something less cumbersome or anxiety-filled? Most of all, can you chart a course that truly honors your life journey and those around you? Can you try to extend your “idea” of December madness, so your personal evolution isn’t completely mitigated by unseen rules of tradition (yes, tradition can begin to feel like an icy fountain of deadening rules quietly outgrown a long time ago).

Conversely, I think it’s possible to keep something of the past that also honors the present.

And that may be how the magic of the season can be teased out once more: with a new vantage point, by an updated perspective that liberates and enlivens, by letting go of what has become quietly reflexive, as opposed to “thoughtful and genuine.” Realistically speaking, habitual behavior that originated long ago may no longer communicate anything of value in the present tense. Acknowledging that dynamic can open the door to something new and creative, something that feels much more meaningful and appropriate. Not everything has to change, of course.

Which Christmas is the most vivid to me? It’s always the next Christmas.
~Joanne Woodward

      Part of our holiday tradition is putting up a tree so our 16-yr old cat, Lola, can enjoy napping under it.
She must think she is outside, because she loves having a real tree in our living room.
Wrapped packages can be nice, too, but seeing her there every morning when we get up is much better.

December can feel more viable and less onerous … it really can. Try a “less is more” approach.

Leave some room for change. Turn down the noise of the season.
Spend time in quiet reflection.
Avoid what has become tired, overworked, dull and cumbersome.
Make the holidays resonate with peace and gentle moments that will long be remembered.
Skip buying the sweater gift that is purely obligatory.
Even if it means saying “no,” find a way to integrate a deeper perspective into your activities so something new can be born.
You don’t need direction as much as the willingness to listen to the nudge within.
Honor the truth of the moment in simple ways that don’t demand more than you are able to muster.
Faking it takes great energy; authenticity creates energy.
My best to everyone this season of peace and goodwill. ~ dh

 “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.
The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.
I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

See you again in a few weeks!
Thanks so much for stopping by this creative sunny space for kindred spirits.
favicon

Blog by SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.

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.

favicon Blog by SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.

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

img-20141025-02645

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.

1022001530
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

IMG-20141024-02633

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.
favicon Blog by SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.

READING EDWARD HIRSCH

His son was named Gabriel, and when esteemed poet Edward Hirsch decided to write about his son’s untimely death, the elegy grew into a book-length poem. Of course, it is called Gabriel.

IMG_20160807_155129

For me, this was a captivating piece of work. Like an artist painting a portrait with features so very real, Hirsch describes his son in vivid detail, often including snippets of conversation. The words exchanged with Gabriel are telling. I sensed the energy of the continual “trying” that seemed to envelope their relationship; Gabriel’s restless behavior patterns encumbering them like an unwanted third party in their familial relationship. Attempting to  connect with someone in this context can be exhausting. Like trying in vain to see a person’s face through a dense fog. Like imagining personal lifelines that are frayed, or nonexistent. I also sensed the love that existed between father and son. Despite it all, there was enormous caring and concern. I hope you’ll read this book. Offering profound insight into the human condition, Gabriel: A POEM, is much more than a wonderful literary contribution. It is a story of loss that conveys the tragedy of what can’t be fixed or healed for reasons unknown. And many things in life are like that. Human limitations abound. It’s just who we are: all of us. ~ dh

Edward Hirsch has published eight books of poetry, five books of prose. He is also president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. From the book jacket (Knopf, 2014): “His landmark poem enters the broad stream of human grief and raises in us the strange hope, even consolation, that we find in the writer’s act of witnessing and transformation.”

Gabriel-Individual-Book-Image

Has grief shaped your artistic efforts?
Has loss found its way into your life?
Can poetry help us to better understand the fragility of the human condition?
 
Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits.
 favicon Blog by SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.

 

NOTICING THE HIGH NOTES

I always start a new blog post with only a whisper of an idea. I could never plan it all out in advance. Nor would I want to. Creativity, for me anyway, demands a certain willingness to allow my subconscious to deliver something unexpected … something I hadn’t even fully considered myself, until  sitting down to put words on the page. Eagerly awaiting fresh insights makes writing its own reward: the unique puzzle that offers endless potential for discovery. Today is no different. Though I began to casually remind myself earlier this week that I would be writing a new post today … I left it at that. No outlines, no brainstorming, no purposeful pondering.

  • So what did I come up with?

Something that seems to fit the month of August — a series of pictures that express summer’s high notes in a way that words might not convey. I’ll let you find the take-away in each, imagining why a certain photo was a high note in its own right. Seemingly small things can be “high notes” when we are truly present for the moment. We are inundated with endless streams of information on a multitude of subjects each day. It’s extremely important to consciously allow more “open space” into our lives. Photos without words of explanation are simply one small way to do this. A breather before we head into autumn …enjoy!

— how often do we miss the “best” in life because we are waiting for the “best” to arrive?

IMG_20160730_190007IMG_20160728_153514

AND … if you care to leave a comment sharing why you think a certain photo was a “high note” (definition up to you!) … I will send the BEST comment received a complimentary copy of my new memoir (see cover below), THE SILENCE OF MORNING: A MEMOIR OF TIME UNDONE.

Have a little fun with this!  (NOTE: You’ll have until September 1st … ) 

If you already have a copy of my memoir, I’m happy to send you a copy for a friend or to donate to a relevant nonprofit. 

IMG_6648  IMG_20160508_075133

IMG_20160609_104517IMG_20160718_190438IMG_20160721_073254IMG9597999780990842361-Front-TheSlienceOfMorning13_RGB_300dpi_6x9 IMG_20160628_142322IMG_20160708_142026IMG_20160710_133526IMG_20160528_192613IMG_20160526_104858IMG_20160716_093845IMG_20160803_134025

IMG_20160803_184210

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What high notes have come into your life this summer?
Why do they feel like something a bit out of the ordinary?
How deeply did you notice, and appreciate, the high notes?
Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits.
 
 favicon Blog by SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.