Rise Up Reflections July 2016 includes 31 Daily Questions and my responses from Gratefulness.org. I have now completed eleven months of this simple yet very beneficial daily practice. It’s interesting to note too that the July 16 Daily Question also prompted me to remember and write a story I call A moment of curbside kindness.
Of course the responses are my own, but anyone, any visitor here, might find answering all or some of the questions as a way to nurture their own spiritual condition. Thanks for visiting.
July 1: Where do I find joy in the simple things?
I find enormous joy in observing and then photographing things that natural light has showcased, from old wooden benches in a Quaker meeting house, to flowers, to dappled light falling upon children as they play. I could go on here for hours, but won’t! I will share a photo featuring natural light, however, in the Gratefulness Lounge “next door.”
July 2: What have I learned about cherishing solitude?
Unlike many people, and perhaps because I was an only child, I love being alone and I enjoy doing many things in blissful solitude. Writing and photography are two forms of expression that one can, if chosen, to explore perfectly in solitude, even with other people nearby.
Today’s question reminds me that it has been many years since I have taken a retreat in solitude. It is on my to-do list for hopefully later this year. However, with practice, one can enter into a spiritual and inner “quiet-place” even while conducting the affairs of the day. It is a form of solitude in itself, at least in the heart and spirit.
The back-drop to whatever consideration of solitude that I may have reminds me also of this: how blessed my life is to be married to a terrific woman and to have the rest of my family close-by; and with a handful of very good friends around town, it’s rare when an hour goes by when I don’t see or communicate with someone. From calm to commotion and what comes in between, it is all wonder and gift.
July 3: Given that we are all perfectly imperfect, how can I better embrace imperfection in life?
Oh, that’s easy. All I need to do is get up in the morning and start moving through my day. I have long ago perfected the art of imperfection!
July 4: What do you most appreciate about people who are really different than you?
As a start, what I appreciate first about people who are different than me is the fact that they are different. A room full of people just like me would be absolutely boring! When I meet people who are different than me, I especially enjoy being in conversation with them, how they think and process information, etc, and how their responses cause me to think differently, also.
This is what I would like if I lived in a large city again. And it’s one of the few things that I don’t like about living in a community, like the one I do now, where it seems everyone has been cut from the same cookie cutter mold.
July 5: How can I add beauty to life today?
By not getting in beauty’s way.
By naming the beauty that I see and feel.
By saying thank you, as a prayer, as beauty comes.
Speaking of beauty, some appropriate quotes regarding where real beauty comes from can be found in my quotes section called Beauty is the Light of the Heart.
July 6: What does the dark allow me to see?
Oh, a tailor made question for me! I especially cherish the pre-dawn darkness as compared to nighttime darkness. I have always felt that there is a difference. Nighttime darkness that follows a sunset feels like it’s still sorting out the day. It has a busy energy about it that begs for rest.
Pre-dawn darkness though, for me at least, feels totally different. It’s fresh, cool, anticipatory yet calm. This is my time of day, that more than one person in this community has already figured out!
July 7: How do I show my respect for others? How is it a mutually fulfilling gift?
Showing respect for others is less about the “showing” and more about how I perceive and receive the other person standing before me. Greeting the other with eye contact, a “hello,” a handshake and sometimes an embrace takes care of the respect factor. When I acknowledge the humanity and gift of presence of the other person it almost always returns ten-fold back in my direction, which is seamless, wordless and truly precious.
July 8: The best things in life are free. How can I savor them more?
By being present, being self-aware of the bounty before me, from food to family, from a safe place to sleep, to sit and to have the time to consider today’s question.
Yet I am also reminded, and forever grateful, that someone, somewhere, and those who came before me, oftentimes paid a steep price or even gave of their life for me to have the things that I do. The simple things in life that I enjoy as being free frequently came through the toils, service and sacrifices of others along the way.
July 9: How have I been surprised by joy?
I do not recall being surprised by joy. I frequently remember though being amazed and deeply appreciative of joy, especially when it erupts spontaneously without expectation. Joy is a moment, a feeling and a sense that appears in so many colors and shades. Joy, as I ponder it here with the prompting of today’s question, is its own reality and existence that comes as a simple gift and a blessing into our lives.
July 10: Who can I forgive today?
This is an interesting question. At its base, it’s a simple and straight forward question and a worthy goal if carried out that anyone can understand. And for sure, I have one or two people out there that I could forgive as well.
But true forgiveness is work. It’s not a light switch that we can turn off or on and be done with it. Sure, I could say I forgive someone, I could even speak those very words, “I forgive you,” directly to a person whom I have felt offended by for one reason or another. And it could be argued that saying “I forgive you” is at least a good place to start. I get that.
But it seems to me that true forgiveness needs to be a two-way process, of giving and receiving, of doing the work of reconciliation, of laying bare also my own culpability, and that takes time, certainly more time than just sitting here in my chair and rolling through a checklist in my mind of who I can forgive today. My response to this reflection is not to dismiss or rebuff the worthiness of the question itself but rather how best to respond to the question as truthfully as I can.
July 11: I woke up this morning. How can I say thank you?
With a prayer of gratitude for the gift of waking up, and a plan for living through the hours of this day. And now, this means pushing back my chair and nudging myself to rise and drag myself off to the gym! Then breakfast, then rest of day, hallelujah!
July 12: How can I practice grateful living in the presence of pain?
This is a question that I have some experience in, though far less than some people I’m sure. I’ve been living with chronic low back pain that can range from the most severe and total inability to move, to ongoing manageable levels that allow me to do most of the things I want to do except lift things or sit or stand in one place for long periods of time. I’ve had numerous medical treatments too, which have helped. (I just saw my pain specialist just yesterday in fact for a follow-up appointment after my last treatment.)
On days when my pain levels are up, finding ways to remain positive and grateful can be challenging to say the least. I sometimes rail against the things that I know I cannot do and feel frustrated. Yet still, when I remind myself to do so, I try to remember that the fact I am feeling pain also means I have a life, I’m still here, and tomorrow will hopefully be a better day.
There’s a concept out there too of finding ways to befriend your pain so that it is less of an affront to the senses and allows one to enjoy living more even while experiencing pain. I need to learn more about this though, and admit to not exploring this more fully. So if anyone in this community has info or experience on this concept, I’d appreciate hearing what you know if it. (Thanks, too.).
July 13: What do you know for sure?
I choose to know that there is a God, a Spirit and a Being beyond and deeper than anything I could ever fathom. It is in the breath, the air, the water, and has called me by name. This, I have discovered over time, is all I really need to know. And that has been enough.
July 14: How do I want to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered for my deeds, my faith and my faithfulness to family and for the images and words that I will leave behind.
July 15: What keeps me from the simplicity of a given moment?
What keeps me from the simplicity of a given moment is thinking too much about the very next thing that I want to do. Simple centering phrases that I have gathered from here and there, however, help me to remain in and with the present moment. They are:
Be here now.
Stay with my breath.
Do no new thing.
Don’t just do something, site there!
Be present, Kevin.
Rest in the Light.
Wait for that still small voice.
And when I remember, to simply say thank you.
The next question inspired a new story
July 16: What kindnesses have I experienced?
Gosh, as a response to today’s Daily Question, I started to write about an experience of “curbside kindness” that happened just yesterday outside our home, but it has turned into a full-blown story, seemingly too long to be posted here. When I finish the piece, I’ll share the link with the folks in this community should anyone want to stop by my site and give it a read. My apologies. But I trust that you know what’s it’s like to be hot on a piece of writing that won’t let you wait…
Some quotes on kindness can be found in my Rise Up Quotes called Kindness Defined.
July 17: Who are the people who have the greatest impact on my life? Why?
Without a doubt, I’d say that my wife and the love of my life, Betty Ann, has the most impact on my life. Forty-four years of marriage should answer why.
Next would be our three grown children, their husbands and their children, our grandchildren (6), because they all live nearby, and, that’s 12 human beings all swirling in and out throughout the days, weeks all year-long! It’s grand and it’s a blessing for sure.
Some of my Quaker elders, especially those who have passed, have had and continue to have a significant impact on my spiritual development and sense of being in the world.
July 18: What is grace?
Though it may not be proper, I usually spell grace as Grace, with a capital “G” because it just seems that important to me. On one hand, I have no idea what Grace is and how it comes about, yet on the other hand I recognize and feel it instantly when it appears. Grace seems to manifest itself in certain people and at other times in particular circumstances or moments. Grace, to me, feels divinely sent, usually unseen, which cannot be manufactured, duplicated or denied when we find ourselves in its midst.
July 19: What is my body asking for or needing right now?
Oh good heavens! I have a list…but to spare everyone’s eyeballs and avoid whining, I’ll keep it light-hearted.
My head and heart wants to know why our back is so darn grumpy, always moaning and complaining and kicking up a fuss with every little thing that it’s asked to do. We’ve already searched on Amazon trying to find a new one…a new back that is…but nothing comes up. We’re worried, because if Amazon doesn’t have it, who does? We are about ready to place an ad on Craig’s List for something used in the aging back department. Wish us luck!
July 20: Are there things we can let go of in order to be open to what is actually unfolding?
It is my sense that “letting go” carries both a spiritual and emotional component to it. Sometimes I can’t tell which is which, and at other times I need to remind myself, or listen when someone close to me gently asks, “Is this your burden to carry, Kevin?” For me, it’s a life-long process, of which I am getting better at discerning over time. Though I enjoy doing things, it’s also very apparent that some things are better left to be handled by others. That’s the gift of being in community with others!
While it is true that in letting go of what I think is a need for me to do something, it frees me up to be more aware of the present moment, there’s a pitfall here too, for me at least. Some seasoning in the heart and spirit is also important, however brief, otherwise I run the risk of just pivoting from happily letting go of one thing only to pick up something else that may also be something that is not mine to be doing.
Still, a harder challenge exists. It is one thing for me to practice letting go of this thing or that, and quite another to say, “Thank you for the confidence, but no thank you,” when somebody else asks me to do something. At that moment of being asked, the discernment process needs to be accelerated and clearly comprehended, because saying thank you, but no thank you to a request or suggestion by another is very difficult to do.
July 21: In what ways can I “pay kindness forward?”
The premise of paying something forward is, on its surface, a wonderful overall concept and philosophy that in my mind automatically includes some measure of demonstrated kindness.
With today’s question of paying a kindness forward, however, I think that we run the risk of employing kindness as a commodity or a debt with a preconceived expectation that something must be passed on as a form of payment, etc. For myself, I feel that my only obligation is to be kind, act kindly and demonstrate kindness in the ordinary moments of my everyday life, period. Kindness has its own legs to move from there.
My wish for the world is lasting world peace in which resources for waging war are instead redirected to uplift humanity at every level. I know, a pipe dream perhaps, but it is my prayer.
July 23: What are some experiences that have shaped my spiritual life?
Being born into one faith tradition and soon discovering that I had not one, but many choices and methods of nurturing my spiritual life.
Literally experiencing a very powerful spiritual experience back in my 20’s which from that day on deepened my spiritual life and influenced everything I did moving forward up to the present day.
Experiencing firsthand the power and Grace of healing through touch, through prayer and through place and presence.
July 24: How can I respond to a current challenge utilizing the wisdom and abilities of my “higher self”?
The voice or action of my higher self has the greatest chance of expression when I hold back my first reaction or response and allow for some momentary silence or deeper consideration before taking action. For me, that’s a good start at least.
July 25: What energizes me?
Being near, alongside or on the water in a boat.
Sitting quietly alongside a field with an expansive view.
Listening to music; if live music, even better.
Feeling the essence of the Spirit moving during worship.
Being engrossed in photography or writing.
Being with my family.
Being of use to another person.
July 26: 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?
Spiritually, I have experienced a sense of “call” to a ministry of working directly with children and their family, which has been and continues to be supported and overseen by my faith community. This gift, that I have learned to refer to as a blessing and a burden, has led the way to undergo a fruitful career, and clarity to begin a retreat program for Quaker children that I coordinated for 31 and 26 years respectively. I have since retired from both positions but continue to staff retreats as a volunteer and support young people in general as way opens.
Now, almost a year into retirement, I am discerning my way forward with the guidance of an ongoing group of Friends, but intentionally moving slowly. In this next chapter of my life I am trying to discern first what is desire on my part and what, if anything, the Spirit itself may be guiding me toward.
It may well be that my ongoing passions of photography and writing will continue to sustain me and be of use to others in meaningful ways. Without the daily grind and pressures of professional work, some new avenues have already unfolded for which I am deeply grateful. But that, at this juncture, just needs a bit more seasoning in heart and spirit for clarity. (My apologies for such a long reflection.)
July 27: How am I fortunate?
There are not enough hours in a day for me to list all the ways that I am fortunate! For starters, I am grateful for the basics of being alive, to have consistent shelter, food sources and a safe environment within which to live, laugh, love, worship and work. And my daily blessings and gifts received shine outward from there.
July 28: What kinds of visible and invisible help would help me to live more wholeheartedly?
This is a very clever question! Well, in a fairytale dreamlike world, visibly seeing a way to reduce the back pain levels that I live with would surely help me to live “more wholeheartedly. Sticking with the back pain matter, finding a healing modality that I have not yet tried, that encompasses a spiritual and mindfulness approach would also be a blessing. I currently receive very good medical treatments that do lower pain levels, but not as much as I might like. But then…I’m alive, and live with purpose, so I am also grateful for this as well no matter what!
July 29: How am I inspired to serve?
In a nutshell, any way that seems useful to other people, period.
July 30: What one thing am I able to do that will make a difference for our planet today?
If I must choose just one thing, then perhaps the simple act of intentionally holding our planet with love, with reverence and with respect. Not just to state it here but to live it and breathe it with all that I do today. I know some people who do this naturally as a part of their being day after day. I admire these people greatly. And I confess that on most days to falling far from the mark.
July 31: How do you deal when “things” happen beyond your control?
It’s rather funny, because today’s question, on the very last day of the month, mind you, that some kind of glitch at Gratefulness.org happened so that no Daily Question was posted…none at all! So I made up my own question, because, well, I could!
Isn’t this why they have that saying that says, s—t happens? Ha! Or, maybe there are some days when questions just aren’t needed anyway? Whatever. Tomorrow is a new day and a new month and my plan is to show up and live it fully!
Text and image by K. Lee