Welcome to Rise Up Reflection September 2017! And there goes September! And with it goes the day-to-day rhythms of summer, beach and grandkids free of school-day worries. We do our best to hang on to the summer-like days that grace our ninth month, but evidence of the slow transitions are everywhere, from tighter household schedules, yellow school buses dotting the roads again and the need to unearth my favorite sweatshirt from the bottom of my closet.
Still, every year I like September as it comes, a certainty that time does not stand still and a reminder to the heart and soul to pause with gratitude, to pay attention and listen for the lessons unfolding all around.
September 1: What energizes me?
What energizes me?
Our dog Gracie
This new month!
September 2: What are your particular gifts and how might you allow them more full expression in the world, knowing that this is one of the ways of practicing gratefulness?
As a baseline, working with and caring for people, photography and writing are skills and gifts that I know that I have. And these skillsets get utilized in somewhat organic, unplanned and natural ways as I move through time in early retirement.
Lately I have been holding up the thought, in prayer and in contemplation, the concept of doing “photography for good,” in ways that benefit others and brings either comfort or awareness to an issue. The concept is not new, I realize, and there exist several organizations that do this on a large-scale, globally, and sometimes for profit, or personal enrichment, which I am not interested in. My thought is to bring the concept of “photography for good” into a spiritual setting, perhaps under the care of Quakers, so that those who have a passion for creating images can nurture one another, prayerfully, share ideas, and produce photographic projects that in the end benefit others in ways that might not happen if working individually.
That’s my idea. I welcome comments or ideas from the good people at Gratefulness. (Thanks)
September 3: What kinds of visible and invisible help would help me to live more wholeheartedly?
By remembering to breathe, to pray often and to strive that my words are in sync with my heart.
September 4: How am I inspired to serve?
I am inspired to serve in three primary ways: when a need to do so is apparent; when I observe others who are being of service; and when, though infrequent, when I experience a spiritual leading to be of service in some way.
I admit with a measure of frustration and sadness, however, that in recent years my back issues have prevented me from responding to large-scale crises near or far. Having been trained in crisis work years ago I remember the number one rule was that my needs cannot outweigh the needs of those who need the help! So I have had to find other gentler ways to serve that kept my back happy.
September 5: What one thing am I able to do that will make a difference for our planet today?
The single one thing that I can do to help our planet is to support every reasonable effort to replace the current president of the United States.
Just yesterday, actually. A person suggested that we needed to move our wall clock in the kitchen of our Quaker Community House so that the lady who runs the yoga class could tell when it was time to end the session. I said playfully, the instructor should look at her watch!
September 7: What makes me come alive?
Literally, waking up after a good night’s sleep, followed by strong tea, then rowing early in the morning with fellow teammates. In addition, what makes me come alive emotionally and spiritually is being aware of the work of the Spirit in my life, spending time with my wife and our entire family who live nearby, the grandkids, our dog Gracie, and capturing it all with words and/or photography. So many blessings!
September 8: Who is waiting for me to be kind?
People that I know and see on a regular basis are not waiting for me to be kind because they already know that I am kind and expect it. When meeting people for the first time kindness and courtesy begins with the first hello and handshake. Whether they are waiting for me to be kind or not is irrelevant.
September 9: What is on my “not to do” list?
I do not want to “let go” of summer until I absolutely have to!
I do not want to miss opportunities to hear good, live music, and enjoy other arts when available.
I do not want to miss opportunities to travel while my health is still good.
I do not want to become, ever, stuck in my ways and unwilling to try new things.
September 10: What lessons can I learn from mindfulness? How can I practice mindfulness today?
I consider myself a life-long student of mindfulness with no possibility of ever graduating. When I am not practicing mindfulness, which on some days happens every other minute, those precious moments lost, of lost awareness, of lost presence, will not return and I am left to say within, “Kevin, be here now and pay attention!”
September 11: What makes my heart sing?
Many things make my heart sing. But today, on the anniversary of 9/11 in the US, my heart pauses in prayer for all the lives lost on that day, whose hearts didn’t sing, but stopped beating forever.
September 12: What can envy teach me? How can I learn from it, and let it go?
I think that envy is a great teacher, actually. It informs and teaches me about wants and desires that I otherwise might not know that I had. I may want something that someone else has, be it a possession, talent or life circumstance, but that doesn’t mean that I “need” to have it, “should” have it or even ultimately want to have it. I may envy someone else’s situation or possession but when I think about why I don’t have that particular thing, it’s usually because I made other choices which in the end were better for my personal wants and/or needs.
September 13: What animal am I most grateful for? Why?
Dogs. And more specifically, I am grateful for our dog Gracie. There are days when she “sees” better than I do, and she’s blind. She’s a loving and faithful companion and all she asks is to be fed and be loved in return.
September 14: What smell/aroma provokes a grateful memory? What is the story of this memory?
The aroma of fresh-cut hay curing in a field reminds of my farming years. There’s a farm that I drive by frequently and whenever they’re making hay it brings me back instantly to a time when I was younger and more connected to the land and livestock for my livelihood. I know too that I don’t want to return to that way of life but I don’t want to forget what it was like, either.
September 15: What if my Hindrance might be my Furtherance?
I don’t know. I guess I’ll just need to wait and find out. Today’s question, in my view, is right up there with a few other nonsensical (but more humorous) ditties such as:
“If a goldfish should want a vacation, who would know?”
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle if it is lightly greased.”
“The future is very much like the present, but longer.”
(Quotes from the silly and satirical book called the Profit, by Kehlog Albran, a spoof on The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.)
September 16: When did I last really “play?” What did play awaken in me?
Fortunately, my wife and I have six grandchildren who all live nearby. So I get a chance to play with them quite often. When I was working, I also made it a point to play from time to time with my clients, as individuals and with children and teens in my supports groups that I ran for decades. Playing, in my view, is a vital part of understanding the whole person.
September 17: What is calling out for remembrance today?
Today I finish up staffing a three-day children’s retreat that I founded over 30 years ago. I retired from running the year round event approximately four years ago, but continued staffing up to the present time. These days, I am remembering with some astonishment just how easily I did all this way back when and how much extra work it requires doing nearly the same things today! That may not be the kind of remembrance that today’s daily question was encouraging but that is precisely what I am feeling! (One of my functions while staffing retreats these days is to capture the weekend with photos. Here’s a link to the images that I took at the retreat center: HERE)
September 18: How can I be even more generous with what I have?
By trying to keep uppermost in mind not just all that I have, but how little many other people actually have and who seldom let on that they have significant needs unmet. Every now and then I realize that I missed an opportunity to help another person or be of service in some way because nothing was said outright, or seen visually. And frequently, the moment had passed and “going back” was not an option. It makes me feel disappointed in myself for not having been more aware and more present to the actual moment.
September 19: How is my life better than it was 5 years ago?
Not to rub it in, but I can answer today’s question in three words; I am retired. I enjoyed my working years very much, but I also like having more time to do the things that I enjoy doing most.
September 20: How can I contribute to a more just world today?
By continuing to keep myself informed on the most egregious social and humanitarian issues facing my nation and our world today, and then sharing my own resources in ways that would make a difference. It might be a small thing that I can do overall, but it is at least something, to which others will do the same to make a deeper and wider impact, hopefully. That said, I usually feel like I don’t do enough, or can’t do what I would like to do to alleviate suffering when I am made aware of it. I do what I can, but wish it was more. How much of my “wishing” is just an excuse for not taking action, or represents honest limitations, is something I think about often.
September 21: What is magical to me?
A great many things seem magical to me. The human body, and how it works, would be high on my list for sure, followed by newborn babies, children as they grow, how ants, bees and birds live and thrive. Heck, even the computer I’m using, and all the things it does, seems magical to me. And then there’s that magic in a smile seen or delivered, or the wonder of touch itself. My list of what’s magical could be very long indeed.
September 22: Difference brings gifts. How can I include someone in my life whom I might normally exclude?
This is an interesting question that uses, in my view, a broad-brush assumption of how gifts come into our lives. I get the premise and the type of answer the question is attempting to point us towards. But for myself, I usually choose to associate and build connections with people who share similar values and interests as my own. (Isn’t this why most of us enjoy being on this site?) That’s just human nature. If I have ever “excluded” anyone from my circle of acquaintances it is because their behavior or values, in my view, are an affront, if not a threat, to the norms of behavior or social decorum that I have chosen to live my life by. Is that a judgment on my part? Indeed it is. I sometimes interact for brief periods of time with people whose lifestyle and values are opposite of my own, and I might even enjoy it, though briefly. But it doesn’t mean that I bring them into the core of my life and being because I am expecting them to bring me some kind of a “gift.” I think that’s unrealistic, if not silly.
With that said, I try to be on the lookout for new kinds of experiences and ones that involve people that widen my circle and interactions that get me out of my usual comfort zone. I am blessed with a rich and full life that includes many people, so it is easy for me not to intentionally widen my circle. This, as I see it, is a gift that can be limiting, too. When my routines and people-circle does expand, it typically happens around areas of doing service work, faith exploration, pursuing musical interests or undertaking political action of some kind. And even this has a ring of commonality to it of which we all seem to seek, does it not?
September 23: If I felt that I truly have and am enough, what would I share freely?
I would share, as I try to do now, whatever it is that I have that might be of use in some way to others.
September 24: How is a challenging situation helping me to open my heart and my mind to a more expansive way of embracing the world?
Well, my mind and my heart, I believe, are already open well enough, but the challenging situation that I continue to struggle with personally involves my own physical limitations, at least to a degree. While my back surgery was very successful some four months ago, I still deal with Sacroiliac Joint pain which was not a part of the surgery I had and is a condition that cannot be “fixed” with surgery. The more I do physically, the more “SI” joint pain I endure. I remain quite active physically for a 67-year-old man, for which I am grateful, but also find out quickly when I’ve done too much!
I would love to take off and assist the victims of recent floods and hurricanes, for example, but I know that my own needs would quickly impede my ability to be fully present to others. So for now I continue to consider how I can offer the skills that I have that might be useful to others who are in need beyond my doorstep.
September 25: What is the “great fullness” of my life?
The greatest “fullness” of my life thus far is: I love a terrific woman; have raised a family; have a faith to practice; enjoyed a meaningful career; have passions still to pursue; and I get continue living among family and friends into yet another day.
September 26: The world needs my care. How could I offer myself more fully to the cares of the world?
Today’s question is very similar to the 9/20 and 9/24 Daily Questions. And for me in terms of a meaningful reflection the answers to those questions covers today’s question as well.
September 27: What everyday happenings do I most cherish?
I especially cherish my (very) early morning time for writing, reading and reflection. (In fact, check out my post with quotes on Being Creative.)
September 28: In the natural world, when/where do I feel most humbled?
Anytime that I am on the water in any kind of craft, raft, row boat, power or sailboat, or sitting atop a jetty as the surf rolls in and out, the sights, sounds and smells calms and humbles me immediately.
September 29: Who is a “hidden gem” I have met recently?
Goodness, I am sitting here stumped, realizing that I cannot recall anyone I have met recently that I would consider a “gem.” Not sure what that says about me, actually! Perhaps I need new friends or I need to expand my horizons, or just stop being so darn content with all my interactions with people in general? I guess all the people in my life at the moment just sparkle and glow without being “hidden!”
September 30: How do you experience feelings of gratefulness in your body? When was the last time you felt this?
At sixty-seven years old, I experience feelings of gratefulness for my body each and every day; gratefulness for all the body parts that continue to work; gratefulness for the diseases I have avoided to date; and I remain especially grateful that my body, for the most part, carries out what my mind desires it to do, from tackling a task, to finding where I left my Tylenol.