Rise Up Reflections March 2017

Here in the northeast US, March is a month that we generally just wait to be done with! And having a new question each day is a nice way to begin the day. Stand-out questions in March were March 7: What moments fill me with wonder?” and March 24: “What does my curiosity want me to follow?” My response to the March 24 question, and particularly my idea of how best to write about Donald Trump in a way that was upbeat and useful to my readers prompted a number of comments and replies from others who read my entry for that day. Thanks for visiting my Rise Up Reflections March 2017 page. Here we go:

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March 1: What questions am I grateful for?

I am grateful for any question that draws my inner self to uncover, hold up and examine whatever was previously unexplored. Such questions, however they come, are gifts. Truthfully answered, they become the blessing.

March 2: What opportunities exist for me in this moment?

Simply stated, I am alive and aware of my surroundings and able to be mobile. So in these early hours of a glorious new day, I’ve had time for reflection, prayer, tea, and will soon leave to go rowing with my teammates for a 6:30 AM row in open water. I will have an opportunity to see the sun rise, to hear the gulls calling and feel the wind’s effect upon our boat as we row. Afterwards I will return home and enjoy the company of my wife over breakfast. I am so very fortunate and grateful to be able to begin a day in this way.

March 3: What would letting go of anger/ resentments change?

Letting go of anger and/or resentment would probably change everything! It’s a no-brainer actually. The trick is knowing how to let go of these emotions in real-time when it would matter most. Resentment is not an emotion I struggle with at all, but anger is an occasional friend of mine that at different times is both welcomed and unwelcomed, depending on the situation. As a student of how to understand and harness occasional anger in my own life, the wiser words of others hold me:

“Just like our organs, our anger is part of us.  When we are angry we have to go back to ourselves and take good care of our anger.  We cannot say, “Go away, Anger, I don’t want you.”  When you have a stomach ache, you don’t say, “I don’t want you stomach, go away.”  No, you take care of it.  In the same way, we have to embrace and take good care of our anger.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

“Since I have tamed my anger, I keep it in my pocket. When I need it, I take it out.”
-Rabbi Pinhas Koretz

March 4: What would change if I assumed the absolute best about everyone I meet?

I’m guessing that if I was able to assume the absolute best about everyone I met I would have a more peaceful and balanced life from day-to-day. Though I’m reasonably satisfied that I currently do a decent job in this department, I know too that I’m not batting 100% either! However, I will say that it is sometimes prudent to keep ones expectations low when interacting with some individuals who are known to be ornery, combative or otherwise disagreeable, otherwise we become their latest victim. This too is a reality of life. It doesn’t mean that we don’t love them or strive for a positive exchange, it just means that we’re also taking care of ourselves.

March 5: When gratefulness is unleashed all over the world, what will it change?

When gratefulness is unleashed all over the world, everything will change. That is, unless I woke up and realized that I was dreaming.

March 6: Just as I can savor a delicious meal, what can I do to savor more of my life?

Reminding myself to be present, to look around, to take in my surroundings, with sight, sound and feel, helps me to savor my life, and other life, more completely. In fact, when I first read today’s question I immediately thought about the book titled “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass, in which the author discusses the importance of “presence.” As I look back, I realize that little book has had significant impact on what and how I see my surrounding, which has influenced my writing, photography and my spiritual life as well.

March 7: What moments fill me with wonder?

Many moments fill me with wonder, actually:
The minutes before sunrise;
A sleeping child;
Watching our dog navigate fine without sight;
Hearing live music;
When Quaker worship runs deep;
Being anywhere on water;
When words work.

March 8: How do I belong? To whom do I belong? To what do I belong?

There are three questions here today, yet each belong together. And so can my response.

I wake each morning, praise God, and move and work, consume and give as way might come. The life form I am given is human, with earth my home and gravity beneath, I walk and do not fly, I swim but do not call the water home, I dominate and master, right or wrong, and this is how I and those who look like me belong.

I seek life that looks like me. I belong to them and they to me, because it is written deep within our bones and blood. And I belong to mystery, to God, to what I cannot see but feel. And I belong to hope, to promise, to what’s unseen, to life itself and what may come tomorrow.

March 9: How does gratefulness deepen my compassion for others?

What comes to mind for me with today’s question is this: There is a young woman who is a new hire at the gym that I go to several times a week. She has the morning shift, which means she has to open the place up and have things ready for 5 AM, five days a week. Her name is Jaibray, which is a lovely sounding name but one that she has told me that people have a hard to remembering. So I keep her name at the top of my “names to remember list,” on my phone. Why? Because most morning people who stream in and out of the gym are usually rushing to get their workout done and then dash off for work or to return home and get the kids ready for school. They seldom talk, or say anything to whoever is behind the counter coming and going.

I don’t think that Jaibray is a day older than twenty, and I don’t know many young adults who enjoy getting up ridiculously early day after day for a job—any job—anywhere. So I make a point to simply say, “Good morning, Jaibray!” as I walk in the door. Her eyes light up, she smiles, and by now she knows my name by heart too without looking at the screen as I swipe in.

I don’t think about the word “compassion” during this daily exchange at 6 AM, but I am grateful that Jaibray is there. She is often the first human being I meet face to face with, and speak with, at the beginning of a new day. It is the simplest of exchanges. And it occurs to me how this simple gift of the “other” enriches my life, and maybe Jaibray’s life too, in this tiny moment of time.

March 10:  What adds delight to my life?

Last night we had two of our granddaughters over for supper and afterwards we played Foosball. They double team me, the girls on one side and me on the other. With hoots-and-hollers they beat me ten to three! Knowing that the girls beat me so decisively was a delight. Doing similar things with the other four grandchildren adds even more delight to my life. Sometimes they all sleepover in one big room, and I join them on my cot. Their ages range from six to eleven, and as the last one falls asleep I am delighted indeed!

March 11: In what circumstances do I feel generous? How can I bring forth my most generous self?

I must say that I find today’s question somewhat curious, at least for myself anyway. I realize that I don’t think about how to feel or be generous. I think in terms of where unmet needs are, where I can help, or where I can offer either my talents, time or limited financial resources that assist people or organizations. And after I have responded to such a need, I can’t say even then that I feel generous, I just feel like I’ve done what I can and what I should do, period.

Then again, if I was down to my last piece of chocolate and I knew that you were coming, maybe I’d save that last piece for you. Then indeed, I would feel generous. But it’s possible too that I’d eat it before you arrived! My bad…!

March 12: How can I love, and let go gratefully?

It seems to me that some forms of love, especially platonic relationships, are the ones we can let go of in order to live our lives and return to again and again. As for other forms of love, I take to heart the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Beyond that, all I know for sure is that I love a number of people in my life and they love me in return. And for this I am grateful. “How can I love, and let go gratefully?” as a question, however, sounds like a mechanical and intellectual exercise best left in the lab. Love is too wonderful, too powerful, at times messy and dangerous, to be wrapped up and tied with a bow in my mind.

March 13: What new perspective did/can I gain today?

With it being quite early and the full day ahead of me, I am in the “what new perspective can I gain today.” This question, coupled with The Word of the Day: by Wayne Dyer: “Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into,” causes me pause with some time needed for reflection before writing. I find both of these phrases intriguing.

March 14: When have I loved someone really well?

When I opened my eyes this morning, started thinking and got out of bed. One does not have to be in the presence of a loved one to love them really well. And isn’t that a wonderful thing?

March 15: Where is that special place in the world that makes you feel peaceful and calm, and that you can carry everywhere in your thoughts?

I have two such places. One is sitting inside our Quaker meetinghouse, either alone or during meeting for worship with other Quakers. The centeredness of that experience is one that transports well wherever I go. The other place is being able to walk along the beaches or marshes near our home. Hearing the surf roll in, smelling the salt air and seeing the sea life, from birds to tiny crabs, feels like a homecoming to the heart and soul.

March 16: How can I make “waiting” more of a purposeful art?

This is such a good question for me! For sure, I am no authority in this department! Under most circumstances, I struggle with waiting. In fact I marvel at the people I know, though few in number, who seem able to wait and be at peace with the process. I will surely benefit by checking back later and hopefully glean some tips from others who may share how it is that their waiting is also an art.

March 17: How does listening to others enrich me?

Listening to others in whatever forum or setting it may be, completes and brings full circle a part of the life cycle itself. Even if I don’t “like” what I am hearing, it rounds out the edges of my own life and helps me to understand what it is that I am about as a whole person, oftentimes fortifying my resolve for future action. When I listen to what others are saying and it resonates with me personally, it means I have found my circle, my “tribe,” and the “I” of my personhood becomes a “we.”

March 18: What is the joy in this moment?

That I am alive—alive to talk about the joy of this moment!

March 19: How is the current weather outside reminding me of the weather in my heart?

Here in the northeast US, the weather in my heart is really looking forward to spring arriving…and staying for a bit! I have enjoyed the great privilege of being able to row whaleboats on the ocean for the last nineteen years. There’s nothing like being on the water twelve months of the year, to get a feel for the seasons as they come and go. From the changing light and temperatures, to the sea life, doing their thing, it’s a daily reminder that nothing stands still even when at first glance all seems quiet just minutes before the dawn.

I arrive ahead of time to get the boat ready for my team. Once the oars are up and in their locks, the safety gear loaded in and the team log filled out I sit there quietly inside the boat and watch and listen. As the helmsman responsible for steering I am dressed and bundled up for winter rowing still. But as my team arrives and we leave the dock and head out on the harbor, the sun just moments ago has risen across the bay, we feel it’s warmth and as we row the gulls are gliding on this new day’s updraft. Moments later a teammate spots a harbor seal playfully trailing behind our boat. The sound of oars in harmony moving through the water seems to quiet manmade chatter but we can feel it deep within that spring is surely coming and we are here to take it in.

March 20: If I were to pause for a few seconds before speaking, how might it change my relationships?

I have no way of knowing for sure how pausing before speaking may impact my relationships with others. But I do know, because I try to practice it, that whenever I pause before speaking, it improves the clarity of my response and deepens the overall conversation.

March 21: How does being mortal deepen my sense of gratefulness?

The meter is running for my stay on this planet so I might as well sharpen my senses, enjoy the ride and shout out-loud how glorious the journey has been thus far for today.

March 22: How can I embody grateful living today?

Recently I have become active in a newly formed social action group in my area created specifically to push back and protest against many of the sweeping new policies of the US president. This is new territory for me. Previously, whatever social action I was involved with was always connected in some way with the tenets of my faith as a Quaker. Today’s Daily Question coupled with the Word for the Day by Marion Wright Edelman, has me thinking how grateful I am that I even have the option to become active and to take action in my own measured way.

March 23: What one thing can I do today to make a positive difference for others?

Very simply, by being fully present to them.

March 24: What does my curiosity want me to follow?

My curiosity is heightened most when it comes to photography. I frequently find myself wondering and thinking about seeking out and creating certain kinds of images, from junkyards to seascapes.

When it comes to writing, I have been curious about how best to explore a new topic on my blog, and, given the subject under consideration, to somehow keep it positive at the same time. Here’s what I mean: I strive to keep whatever goes onto my blog upbeat and enjoyable to read. I am thinking about a new series of short articles under the category of “Dear Donald, can we talk about _____.” (And you know where this is going!) I have spent decades helping children, teens and many adults to unravel various personal disasters and actions taken that have hurt themselves and others. So I wonder and I’m curious how best to write in the first person to my current president, Donald Trump, in a way that explains and explores some of his unpopular actions that are upsetting so many. How do I do this, in the same way as I’ve done with my clients over the years, that isn’t ranting, blaming or angry in tone? That’s my challenge. Lord knows I have plenty of material to work with! Today’s question has helped me to articulate more clearly what I’d like to explore. We will see.

March 25: When has collaborating with others made something better?

Whenever a project is undertaken where the results are intended to benefit groups of people, organizations, clubs or committees, collaboration seems absolutely essential! I can’t think of a “better way” to have others not happy with an outcome, no matter how great the finished work may appear, when that person worked solo with little input from others. I think that we’ve all been there and done that!

March 26: Where do I find wonder? What is wonder-full?

I find “wonder-full” whether nearby or out on the water,
sharing a moment with a grandchild,
sitting quietly with my wife,
out walking our dog,
taking that special photo,
connecting with people,
and oftentimes just doing my own thing.

March 27: What do I value? And how might it benefit from my investment?

I value children—all children. I have been working in youth ministry for over forty years and worked as a youth advocate for thirty-one years before retiring. I continue to nurture youth as way opens, still. Whenever appropriate adults make themselves available to young people, to truly care for them in any one of a hundred ways possible, benefits both child and adult alike. In short, it is always a good investment, for the present and future, period.

March 28: What kinds of experiences leave me in awe?

Holding a newborn baby for the first time;Rise Up Reflections March 2017
Witnessing life overcoming all odds:
Holding a dying person for the last time.

March 29: How can I tend the tenderness within me?

Today’s question has me thinking in terms of head, heart, soul and body and how best to attend to each:

Head: Know what my priorities are and balance saying “yes” to things and “no thanks” to others.
Heart: Having a sense of what holds me, moves me and occasionally repulses me is important in order to know which “camp” I choose to be in.
Soul: Waiting, praying, meditating and aligning my breath and actions with the will of the Spirit.
Body: Pay attention to it! What does it need? Express my gratitude to it and get up from this chair and go to the gym!

March 30: When have I become more by letting go?

The following quote significant spiritual and emotional meaning for me:

“Have thy tools ready, God will find thee work.” – The Reverend Charles Kingsley (1819-1875, England)

When I retired some eighteen months ago I made a commitment to do “no new thing” for one year, which is a Buddhist mindset and practice of sorts. Doing so, as a practice, allowed me to discern my way forward slowly with regards to what I would do next with my time and my life. When twelve months came along I began to focus with greater intent on how best to be of service to others through organizations and projects, etc.

For several months nothing seemed to come into clear focus, which also made me feel rather uneasy. Then, and I’m not sure why, I let go of the “trying” entirely and just became (somewhat) more content to be and wait for what may come. And “come” it came. Without any manipulation or effort on my part, I began to receive requests for pastoral care and crisis response from a wider body of Quakers that spans many states. And I just have to believe, while letting go, that God has indeed found me work. It’s embarrassing to even admit to myself that my favorite quote of all time was at work all along and I didn’t even realize it.

March 31: What can I do for my future self today?

Since I will likely need my body in the future, I need to continue taking care of it with exercise and all the usual care that bodies require. The brain is coming along with me too, I hope, so I need to keep that stimulated, engaged and learning new things. And while I’m living into today and the days to follow, I need to continue to strive to seek out sources of joy, of spiritual Light, laughter, whimsy and gratitude in just being alive and roaming the planet one day at a time. Easy, right?

Thanks for visiting!

Images and answers to daily questions by K. Lee. Learn more about what is offered at Gratefulness.org, visit their site HERE.