Rise Up Reflections, February 2016

Welcome to Rise Up Reflections, February 2016. Our new year is already one month old! I invite you to also consider these daily questions for yourself. You can also visit Gratefulness.org yourself, click over to “Daily Question” and join the Practice Sessions that are offered there.

Sometimes, ideas and “fire-starters” for stories and new posts come from either the daily reflections or from my responses to the questions. When that happens I’ll create a link that when clicked will take visitors to the related article.

Thanks for visiting.

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Rise Up Reflections February 2016. Image of six middle-schoolers jumping
Leap Year!

FEBRUARY 29:  How does gratefulness deepen compassion for others? (Our apologies for the late posting, dear Friends, today being February 29 confused us! We invite your compassionate response to this oversight and are grateful).

Oh I love this…not so much for today’s delayed question, but the fact that this joy-filled band of spiritually-blessed folk at Gratefulness felt the need to apologize for overlooking the 29th of February! Such a travesty! Let’s hope that it doesn’t happen again for at least another four years!

Actually here’s my little back story to the above, with a nod to the eventual question that did appear! As an early riser, I’m in a Holiday Inn the night before we roar off at the airport in the morning for a vacation. And at 4:30 AM I’m online sitting in the lobby wondering why I see a new quote for Feb 29, but the Daily Question is still the same “day-old” offering as the day before. This is strange! But maybe its me, so I hit refresh on my browser a few dozen times thinking it MUST be me, or better yet, my computer (better to always blame the computer!) that got messed up in cookie land while away from home. But no…the same ‘day-old’ question keeps popping up.

And the message received? A thousand miles away I see the question in an airport for the 29th finally appear. But while I can see it, I can’t respond….not enough signal to send it off! And the whole thing just makes me smile, at life, at us, for the gifts and the goofs received, for the humanity, all of which I am truly grateful for.

February 28: How do I belong? To whom do I belong? To what do I belong? 

I belong to myself. I belong to myself first because once I do so, minding heart, body and spirit, there is more of me that can belong to others. Belonging to others is life, from family to faith and from first light to last.

FEBRUARY 27: What moments fill me with wonder?

The quietude of 5 AM
Seeing sunrises
Heartbeats of children
Forty-four years of marriage
Our dog’s devotion
Sharing life on a thing called the Internet
That Spirit lives

February 26: Just as I can savor a delicious meal, what can I do to savor more of my life?

I am in a unique and deliciously fortunate place in my own life right now. I have recently retired. I have a plan for one year to do “no-new-thing” so that I can focus on writing and photography, which I am passionate about.

My two biggest challenges are managing my chronic back pain and eye health issues. When they flare up, it’s tough, and I’ve been trying to learn new ways of framing and coping with these age-related matters. And dealing with age-related health matters is, in a way, a good thing, because I’m still here!

I get to feel the joy of seeing every day still. I get to feel my body (more or less) survive going to the gym or being out on the water in whaleboats with my team. Last weekend I was having a blast wrestling on the floor with four of our six grandkids, and was in a lot of pain the following day. It was totally worth it! It was “good” pain. What else am I here for?

Two days from now my wife and I will savor leaving with dear old friends for ten days in the Caribbean. All four of us will pack our hopes, props and prescriptions into suitcases to share more time together. We are blessed with time, and having time, aren’t we?

FEBRUARY 25: When gratefulness is unleashed all over the world, what will it change?

Perhaps there will be fewer wars and more value placed on human lives. Perhaps we will start, across all continents, to appreciate our natural resources more consistently and provide for greater stewardship of our planet. That would be a nice dream to wake up from and realize that it really, truly, wasn’t a dream after all.

FEBRUARY 24: What would change if I assumed the absolute best about everyone I meet?

I would change, the interaction would change, and perhaps most importantly, the person I was about to meet would “be changed,” hopefully, from the beginning. I think that I tend to assume the best when meeting people anyway. A more useful and challenging question for myself might be: “What would change if I assumed the absolute best about the one or two people in my life, who, more often than not, irritate me?” That’s where my work on me could begin. Ouch!

Today’s question though is timely for me as I’m almost finished writing an article titled “Are We Living Our Lives in YES Today?” for my blog at RiseThisDay.com. As Deepak Chopra is credited with saying, “there are no accidents.” It’s amazing how often the right question, and sometimes an answer, comes along at just the right time.

FEBRUARY 23: What would letting go of anger/ resentments change?

Everything! There are some things that make me angry and it serves me well to remember what those “triggers” are in order to keep my mouth and my written words in check. That said, I think I can honestly say that anger is not a point of concern in my life, presently. As we know, anger by itself is not the issue, it’s how we express it and live with it that matters most.

I happen to be a fan of the following quote regarding anger, which takes an interesting approach on the topic: “Since I have tamed my anger, I keep it in my pocket. When I need it I take it out.”
– Rabbi Pinchas

FEBRUARY 22: What opportunities am I looking for? How can I create those opportunities?

Having retired from a fruitful career of working with children and their families this past fall, I am devoting one year to not taking on any new thing. During this time I am focusing my efforts on my writing and photography, which has been going just fine.

Still, I find that I have a strong leading within to somehow make my writing and photography even more useful, more valuable to people, which is why I am reshaping my blog (www.risethisday.com) to be a source of support and hopefully comfort to others. I am intentionally going slowly, creating new sections carefully and trying to keep that of the Spirit at the center of what I create. I very much appreciate input from people near and far, as well. So we shall see! But today’s questions are good ones for me to hold up for reflection.

FEBRUARY 21: What questions am I grateful for?

I am grateful for questions from this site. I am also grateful for questions that rise from the heart from others near and far, that open doors for me to attend to the needs of others and for them to care for my needs, also.

FEBRUARY 20: What is sufficient in my life?

At first glance this reads as a simple sentence. But “sufficient,” as a word swings both ways, as in having or providing as much as is needed. “ (Webster) I could always want more, but do I need it? I have given and shared with others in need, but was it enough?

I have a friend, John Calvi, who is healer and massage therapist who works with victims of abuse and torture from all over the world. He lives on gifts provided by people and groups who ask him to come. Many years ago he started making a tiny design out of origami paper onto which he wrote, “There is always enough,” and left it tucked to the side of a mirror or on a table upon leaving.

I still have mine, decades later and have often reflected on its message for me about what is sufficient, what is enough, and if not, why not.

FEBRUARY 19: How does my doubt teach me about my faith?

Oh, I love this one! As a Quaker, and as a Friends Minister, I cherish my chosen faith and I doubt it often. Doubt it, as in holding it up for scrutiny within myself to examine its life and its parts and at times aloud within my community of fellow Quakers.

I find that many people often get their belief, their faith and their religion all tangled into a heap and seldom, if ever, peel apart the layers to see what is thriving and what needs attention. It seems to me that a faith that cannot be doubted, out of fear or from its own teachings is a faith that doubts its own strength to stand in the wind.

Personally, just when I think that the whole business of faith, in God, or within me as a person, is a contraption of human invention, something stirs and warms me within. I can’t see it or lay a finger on it, I just know that it’s there and it carries me back to my center, where that of the Spirit resides.

FEBRUARY 18: What if there were no drama?

What fun would that be? I mean, some drama here and there just breaks up the ho-hum of an otherwise regular day. That said, I confess to having the luxury to say that among my peers I don’t experience a lot of drama. Then again, I usually ignore it and choose not to engage when I do encounter it. So maybe there’s more around than I realize.

When I was working the young people, the groups that I ran had a drama mill running full tilt. But even then, I listened for “red flags” and otherwise stayed out of it. Besides, much of it then in my view was just the chatter of youthful life humming along.

FEBRUARY 17: How can I question myself and my daily patterns more skillfully?

Having retired this past September, this is an area where I have spent some time as I adopt and adjust to a new tempo around timelines and projects that I am committed to. It suits me best to get up and retire at the same time each day of the week and to exercise daily. Also, my day goes more smoothly if I have a plan for whatever writing or photo project that I’m working on to have that written down by the beginning of the week, or at least the day before.

FEBRUARY 16: In what ways is humor trying to find me right now?

I have a set of back stretching exercises that I do, and one requires me to lie flat on the floor with my butt raised on a special foam device, with my legs going up and draping over another foam structure. I do this for 15 minutes two or three times a day.

Of course, I usually drift off for some of the time too. This morning our dog Gracie came alongside me and plopped down on top of my out-stretched arm and promptly fell asleep just before I did, too. When I awoke, there I was in this ridiculous position and the dog still fast asleep.

I don’t recall reading this in “The Manual for Getting Older!” But for a moment or two while I was lying there and realizing that in order to get up I have to wake Gracie up first, just made me laugh at the life situations we find ourselves in sometimes.

FEBRUARY 15: What is it you plan to do with this precious day?

Be present within it, savor it, and hopefully create something of worth as the day comes to a close.

February 14: For whom has my love made a difference?

Rise Up Reflections, February 2016. Heart of stone is an image of a heart carved clear through a slap of granite.
Heart of Stone

My wife
our children
their children/our grandchildren
my friends
former clients
current souls
complete strangers
our dog
and me as it
returns tenfold.

FEBRUARY 13: Whom have I underestimated? What does this teach me?

There’s a man at my gym that gets on a machine and immediately starts talking, almost yelling to his buddies near and far for the whole time he’s at the gym in the morning when we’re both there. My style is to go in, slap on my headphones, plug in a podcast on my iPod and just do my workout. If this man is near me, I usually need to turn up my volume, that’s how loud he actually is. I am friendly with a number of other people, don’t get me wrong, but a wave or a “good-morning, good to see you” is plenty enough for me, and apparently for them too…except for the gentleman with a megaphone for a mouth!

Then one day we’re both in the locker-room after our workout and I thought, Oh no, I’m trapped! My locker is just two away from his…. and then he says, “Hello,” in a normal tone, and we begin to talk. I listen, he talks, then he listens to me, while we talk about little every day mutual things.

It occurs to me that I like this guy. He’s real. Present. Compassionate, and we connect as two aging men of a certain age. He tells me that he wishes he could use headphones to listen to music like I do or hear what’s on the TVs in the gym, but his hearing is failing so he can’t.

And it hits me why he’s so loud all the time while out on the floor.

Now, when I see him on a machine at the gym, he waves and blasts out a “Good Morning!” in my direction as he chats up a storm with his buddies. I smile and wave back but still feel guilty for how I had been feeling about this man with the thunderous voice.

But I still turn up the volume on my iPod. But now, at least I am smiling and I wave.

FEBRUARY 12: What moves me and breaks my heart? How does this vulnerability motivate me?

A great many things move me, and a handful of these do break my heart, indeed. Here is one:
Child abuse – As a youth advocate professionally and as a person in ministry, I’ve worked over four decades dealing with issues of abuse as it came, from the smaller hurts to the unspeakable. It motivates me to not only report it and equip young people with knowledge and skills to stay safer, but to measure how often I live in those trenches…not to get away, but to fortify myself so that I can return tomorrow.

FEBRUARY 11: How is my body a gateway to gratefulness?

That it works, mostly. If my body remains functioning and I can get out of bed each morning and make the best of the day, then I’m grateful indeed for my body. I have my chronic aches and pains, typically of anyone who’s 65 years old. But hey, if I can read the morning obits in the local paper it means that I’m not in them…yet! How could I not be grateful for my body as a gateway to enter another day?

FEBRUARY 10: Can I commit a random act of kindness today? What will it be?

Seems to me that if my expression of kindness is to be random then I can’t really know what it will be right now. But, with the question now firmly embedded in my noodle, I am off to a good start with this day!

FEBRUARY 9: In what ways do I try to have my actions genuinely reflect my values?

When I wake and my speaking begins, my hope is to send more warmth than heat to others who hear. When I work my goal is to produce something of value to others, and in so doing, honors the testimonies of my Quaker faith. When I retire at night my prayer and hope is that the day nearly gone found me fully present and grateful for the blessings of each hour.

FEBRUARY 8: In my life, what brings about a beaming smile?

Gosh, I am still smiling from yesterday’s wonderful question!

Hands down though, children make me smile, be they (former) clients, children within our Quaker retreat programs or any one of our six grandchildren. There is just something about a child’s face and eyes that can dismantle anything I may have been thinking or doing at that particular moment. In that instant it totally sidelines whatever other emotion I had been feeling to make room for the joy and wonder of one little life…and here it comes beyond my control, a wall-to-wall smile!

FEBRUARY 7: How can I have my whole heart behind the words I speak?

Usually, by allowing some time, even if just a few more seconds, for my thoughts to season before I open my mouth to speak. This is often hard to do in American society, however, where casual conversation happens at break-neck speed and sheer seconds of silence between parties in conversation is frequently interpreted as permission for the other person to keep talking. But when I do have a chance to season my words for just a moment, that’s when my heart overtakes my brain and allows me to feel the place where my words come from, before they exit my mouth.

Today’s reflection inspired me to write an article entitled “Minding Our Hearts.” Perhaps you will like it. (Thanks)

FEBRUARY 6: Who puts “honey” in my heart?

How much time and space do I have to respond? First and foremost, my wife! Next week we celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary. Additional honey in my heart comes from my entire family, three daughter, three son-in-laws and six grandchildren. Still more honey comes from folks within my faith community…too many to count… and my rowing team members who have been together almost 15 years. Then my dog wiggles into the honey mix too and nowhere near the bottom!

FEBRUARY 5: Who needs my compassion right now? How can I show it?

I let this question sit for a bit and went out to run some errands. Just awhile ago I was our local supermarket in the middle of a snowstorm where we live. I overheard a woman talking on her phone that she had just locked her keys in her car. She was waiting for a cab that was estimated to take 45 minutes to arrive. (But with the mounting snow and slippery roads I’d guess it’ll take even longer.) I offered to give her a ride, but she of course said thank-you but no. (I didn’t expect she’d say yes, with me being a man alone, and she a woman also alone.) But I felt for her and thought I’d at least make the offer. So I guess that was my little gesture of compassion today.

FEBRUARY 4: If I take full responsibility for my part in any difficulties, how would this change my experience of the day?

For starters, stating and owning up to my part of an issue would lighten the air between myself and others who were present. And once I can own up to my part of a difficulty it means we may be that much closer to resolving the matter and moving on.

FEBRUARY 3: Quick! Without too much thinking, what are 10 things you love about yourself?

I find the timing of today’s question, especially on the heels of Barbara Ehrenreich’s New York Times article criticizing the “gratefulness movement,” rather amusing! So here’s my “unthinking list:”
That I am able to appreciate humor.
That my body’s “mechanical department” wakes me up in the morning.
That my body’s “mechanical department” puts me to sleep at night.
That I can love others dearly and in different ways.
That I love my dog. Really, I do.
That when I look down I can still see my feet.
That my eyes are able to see something unusual in the usual for me to photograph.
That I’m reasonably sure that I can love myself without looking like a jerk in other peoples’ eyes.
That I enjoy eating oatmeal every day, which makes breakfast decisions easier!
That I can still count to ten and gladder still that this exercise is over.

FEBRUARY 2: What unexpected things have brought me gratitude recently?

I am realizing that sometimes, though not very often, the Daily Question does not immediately resonate with me. When it doesn’t, as I do usually, I copy it onto my screen and let it sit. (I’m trying to answer every question each day no matter what.)

So…having just finished staffing a children’s retreat over this past weekend and dealing with an “uninvited guest” who meant well but should not have felt he could have just walked in to sit down, play the piano and be among the children…with the shortened version being that I had to tell him he had to leave…I am grateful that no harm was done to children, nor was it seemingly intended, who were present but with ample staff supervision present. The uninvited person left without incident upon my request and children were totally unaware of the situation at hand. That is what brought me gratitude most recently.

February 1: Where is peace present right now? How can I welcome it?

I think that I can honestly say that in my heart and soul I am at peace with those around me, and within myself as well. That’s about the only peace I can speak to with any measure of authority. As for peace politically and globally, I’d say we could point to anywhere on the planet and accurately say that there’s enormous work to be done.