Thanks for stopping by Rise Up Reflections March 2016! Each day during the long month of March I reflected upon and answered a Daily Question from Gratefulness.org (a great resource!). Unlike some folks, I tend to like the month of March because it means that winter is on its way out (in New England, that is) and the warmer months are stretched out ahead for all to anticipate.
I encourage anyone stopping by to also consider these questions for themselves, too. Some of them are profound in their simplicity and can really shape your day and deepen one’s spiritual life as well.
March 1: What brings delight to my life?
Being able to be a source of comfort or joy to another human being, in whatever small way possible, that had not been there before.
March 2: In what circumstances do I feel generous? How can I bring forth more of my most generous self?
I would like to believe thar I am generous most of the time in nearly every circumstance, without the need to qualify when and where it happens. Exceptions though would be when it was clear to me that someone was trying to manipulate me or was being disingenuous in their stated need. For me, this is where the real work of this reflection resides.
Are we not all called to be of service to anyone who asks, to give alms whenever and wherever the need arrises, without hesitation? And if so, where does that leave me when I apply the above filters and qualifiers? At various moments during my professional work there were times when it was clear to me that a good, clean, “rescue” of a person in need was called for and I did it without hesitation. But there were other times too when being generous, or fixing things that were not mine to fix, was clearly not in the best interest of all involved. Sometimes generosity is not called for, but it doesn’t mean that decision is any easier either.
March 3: How can I love, and let go gratefully?
In my life I have loved many people and things. On one hand, I don’t think that I have ever “let go” of any of them. Sure, there’s raising our children and letting them go to be their own persons over time, but I never let go of the love that I had and still have for them.Even when loved ones die, my love for them continues through grief and through my cherished memories of them. On the other hand I am grateful for my children and love them enough to let them go. And when loved ones pass I remain grateful for having had the chance to love them and to have felt their love for me, too. In both of these examples not letting go, or being unable or unwilling to let go, would be putting my needs, wants and fears before my love given, which to me would seem unhealthy.
From Isabella II, Vieques
March 4: What new perspective can/will I gain today?
Today, because my wife and I are spending ten days vacationing on Vieques, and its supposed to be cloudy for much of the day, I hope to spend more time with my photography. My perspective here will be on capturing a desired tone and feel of a few settings that I have been waiting for the right light to shoot in. Nothing very deep and real about this, but perhaps the resulting image might be!
March 5: When have I loved someone really well?
Yesterday. I loved my wife and said so before we went to bed. And today, God willing, I will continue loving my wife the moment she wakes up.
March 6: Where is that special place in the world that makes you feel peaceful and calm, and that you can carry everywhere in your thoughts?
Being next to the ocean, either walking alongside, sitting looking out or hearing a pounding surf as I happen to be doing as I write this very moment. I am fortunate to be able to live very close to the ocean in southern New England. Even when we’re vacationing (as we are this week) we do so near the ocean. There is something about the energy and power of water that seeps into your bones and stays with you while away, then calls you back again and again.
March 7: What questions am I living into right now?
Will the condition of my back continue to deteriorate?
Will my eyesight remain stable as I age?
To which work will the Holy Spirit lead me to next?
Will my project at RiseThisDay.com grow and continue to serve others?
Is it going to keep raining all day today?
March 8: How can I make “waiting” more of a purposeful art?
Honestly? Most of the time I have no idea. I’m not very good at waiting. When I go someplace and know that I will have to wait around for a period of time I usually try to plan ahead so I’ll have something to do while waiting, such as reading, or listening to music, etc. But that’s not exactly purposeful waiting, is it?
I admire people who seem to be able to wait effortlessly, who appear to be doing absolutely nothing and look serenely content while doing so. Are they meditating, people watching, dozing, what? Maybe there’s an app for that or a weekend workshop I could be taking to turn my restless waiting into an art form? If so, sign me up!
March 9 How does listening to others enrich me?
When I am listening to another person, even if I am only “hearing” another person speaking or hearing a group of others speaking to each other it makes me feel complete and whole as a human being. For the past 10 days my wife and I have been vacationing on a small island where I don’t speak the local language. But I listen and enjoy hearing others speaking just as much as if I was at home. There’s just something about listening, hearing and feeling the voices and tones of other people that reaffirms my place on the planet.
March 10: What is the joy in this moment?
Having just finished reading Kristi Nelson’s article on being grateful for getting older, and nearing my 66th birthday in May, I too agree, for arriving this far in life! My joy is waking up everyday to think, feel, pray, write and fiddle with photos. That’s what I’m doing this very moment. And let me not forget to express my joy of the marvelous roar of the ocean just outside my door…our last day here before returning home tomorrow! ….and speaking of thinking! Kristi’s blog post and today’s question has me thinking of a new article to write for my own site….”The Joy of Place!” I’m on it!
March 11: What would gratefulness whisper in my ear right now?
I am grateful for having the means to have visited the island of Vieques for the past ten days. I am grateful for the science of aviation, and all the other sciences and technologies that made getting here and home again even possible in a timely way. And as much as I am grateful that this little island exists, I am hugely grateful for having a home to return to.
And Home Again
March 12: How is the current weather outside reminding me of the weather in my heart?
The sun is coming up and I’m up too! The bird sounds outside have changed from their wintertime chirps of perseverance to their higher early spring songs of life and rebirth. I know that I too am looking forward to spring growths around our home and a few creative projects that I am looking forward to beginning. I love each of our seasons here in New England, but I especially enjoy being and transitioning into each of the warmer months to come.
March 13: If I were to pause for a few seconds before speaking, how might it change my relationships?
It depends on whether or not I was actually listening fully to the person who is, or has just finished speaking. The premise is we assume that we’re always listening fully, but I know that sometimes I may be thinking about what the person is saying and framing a response in my own mind. So for me that’s the first criteria, was I listening to the other person fully?
Pausing for a few moments before I speak to a matter or respond to what another has said is something I try to do regularly. Not because I’m trying to use some clever communication technique, but because I’m trying to really feel where the words are coming from that I just heard spoken. When I can do that, it always helps in the dialogue and subsequently strengthens my relationship with the other person at the same time. I wish I could say that I bat 100% here, but I can’t.
March 14: How does being mortal deepen my sense of gratefulness?
My parents, long since gone, brought me into this world and gave me life. The older I get the more grateful I feel for having lived my days to the present moment. As a mortal being, I am destined to die, hopefully not soon, but knowing the end-game is non-negotiable, it makes me savor every sense and emotion that comes my way between now and when my life is completed.
March 15: How can I embody grateful living today?
By giving voice to what is present, alive and good within an ordinary day. I have an opportunity today to announce with gratitude and wonder the arrival of what my senses deliver: Seeing signs of springtime nibbling at the toes of winter; the feel of fleeting hugs of grandkids; the aroma of salt air; the taste and feel of morning coffee; and the silly sound of our howling dog each time the telephone rings.
March 16: What one thing can I do today to make a positive difference for others?
Make an honest effort to be fully present to each person I interact with today. This means fully hearing, fully seeing, and being fully grateful for their place within my life.
March 17: How can I open myself more fully to the magnificence of my “true nature”?
One could really get a swelled head from this question! As in, “I’m already fully convinced of how magnificent I am already…but thanks for asking!” Or, “My true nature is already perfect and I doubt that there’s room for any improvement.” Sorry, maybe it’s just me, but I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this one this morning. I’m sure others will take this question in a more thoughtful and serious direction.
In a half-hour, I will drive what I know of my true nature to a marina. I’ll get out, walk to our whaleboat, prep the boat, and when the other five folks arrive, I’ll steer the crew out for a morning row, we’ll see the sun come up, we’ll chat and sweat and row, we’ll row back, I’ll come home and my true nature will have breakfast with my wife. That’s about as much magnificence as I need for the start of any day.
March 18: What does my curiosity want me to follow?
Some thirty years ago during my “storytelling” years when I told some original stories to schools, churches and civic groups, I welcomed a make-believe person to “My Front Porch,” where we sat down, rocked and looked out on the world as I listened and responded to a concern by my imaginary friend. On some days, I did most of the talking and my visiting ‘friend’ just listened to me. (Mind you, this was public, with a group watching, and I had a second chair at an angle to mine with a little teddy or rag doll sitting looking outward to whom I was speaking.) We talked about what was hurting and what mattered most (depending on the age of my audience) for five minutes or so. Sometimes our talks were breezy and silly. Other times, depending on what my ‘friend’ or I brought up, our conversations were tender and deep. Soon after, I thanked my ‘friend’ for visiting My Front Porch to chat and I walked him to the stairs leading away to the sidewalk.
Today, I have a site called Rise This Day.com that aims to be a source of comfort and hope to those who visit. For some time I have been wondering if there is a way I could create a special section called My Front Porch where people in real time could stop by (digitally, of course) and ask questions, share their thoughts and enjoy a peaceful exchange that was not hurried or clinical and stiff in nature.
I have been curious about how that might work. Farfetched, perhaps. But I still think about it.
March 19: When has collaborating with others made something better?
When I collaborate with others on tasks or a project it almost always makes the outcome better for obvious reasons. Even if I don’t end up using all or even some of the other person’s suggestions in the final stage, their input has given me new ideas that I hadn’t even considered before. Their contribution then becomes a part of the finished outcome.
March 20: Where do I find wonder? What is wonder-full?
I continuously find wonder in the heart, Spirit and sheer movement of young people. I marvel at how they master their world, from life’s complexities of hope, happiness and sorrow, to the way young lives yearn to learn, from inking their first sentence to writing their marriage vows. As I age I am increasingly fascinated with how their bodies move, from the clumsiness of a ten year-old boy to the grace and form of teen in athletic competitions. That this splendor is ongoing, never-ceasing, is for me the wonder and wonderfulness of being alive in this world.
March 21: What do I value, that would benefit from my investment?
This is a timely question for me. One of the areas that being called to ministry has consistently drawn me too over the years is a concern for the pastoral care of others, particularly within my Quaker community and our ongoing programs for youth. Just yesterday I received a letter asking me to consider becoming a member of a newly formed pastoral care team among Quakers here in New England.
Of course I will affirm this request. I value my spiritual community, not as an investment, but as right order and right movement for me and the ministry with which I am entrusted.
March 22: What kinds of experiences leave me in awe?
The experience of waking up to a brand new day,
of hearing and feeling a new piece of music within,
of seeing a daffodil announce the arrival of spring,
of reaching outward to others and receiving the same in return.
March 23: How can I tend the tenderness within me?
Sometimes I’m vaguely aware that there is something that’s bugging me, not in a huge way, but enough so that I feel slightly off-kilter. But if I stop what I am doing and give it some thought I usually can figure out what it is, how to rectify it, or sometimes let it go so that I can get on with things and feel released from it. When I finally do this I usually ask myself, “Why didn’t I deal with this sooner?”
March 24: When have I become more by letting go?
As much as I enjoyed my work of 31 years working with children and families within my community, I was ready in more ways than I knew when I retired six months ago. I had to let go of all the various ways I was connected to clients and colleagues, and I had to let go and walk away from how I was perceived professionally, too. Now I have one email address instead of three, one cell phone instead of two and no office phone or office setting to manage, etc.
Today, I have gained and become “more” within my own personhood. I have the time to see spring unfold in unhurried ways, to write more deeply and more often. Moving forward I have the opportunity to continue becoming more in new ways that I am not even aware of at this moment, all I need to do is to be present and open, and if God willing, it shall be.
March 25: What can I do for my future self today?
So far I have gotten up, got dressed, had some time for reflection, and will soon head to the gym. That’s a start. Tomorrow, God willing, I plan to do the same.
March 26: Compassion is a muscle. How can I better use it?
The imagery of today’s question intrigues me! I suppose we think of the word compassion as being gentle and somewhat passive in nature, but when we see the fruits of compassion played out through action, the movement of compassion, by witnessing, doing, standing with or taking a stand, we feel and see also its strength and its legs that are ever-moving.
Within my own spiritual and civic life I know that compassion for people and things has always been present. But I never thought of compassion as movement and muscle until reading today’s question. The imagery of compassion as muscle expands its reach and also its responsibility to be used in right order in my daily life.
March 27: How do I nurture my practice of gratefulness when life is difficult?
Presently, I am so very fortunate to be able to say that my life has a few challenges, which are manageable and not difficult. I can only hope that should my life become difficult for any number of reasons that I might remember to keep praying, somehow keep writing and that I would continue to stay near to the Spirit within that which holds, guides and he
March 28: How might my life change if I believed that every moment is a gift?
At age 66, as a man with his health reasonably intact and as a person who reads the daily obits of those who passed beyond our world, I try my best to know that every moment is indeed a gift. My best at times, however, falls well below 100%, and if I’m lucky enough to be paying attention I get a second chance to change my mindset, to refocus and see anew with grateful eyes.
March 29: How can I be more gentle in the times when it is most challenging for me to be grateful?
By remembering that other people and other groups likely feel just as passionate, committed and opinionated about a topic or project under consideration as I do. To be honest, I may not feel particularly grateful at all for the other points of view, but there’s no reason why I cannot act with gentleness and kindness during the discussion or exchange.
March 30: What is bringing my life meaning right now?
At the six month mark of being retired, I’m finding deeper meaning in the simplest and tiniest of things, from having more time to walk the beach with my wife to taking my sweet time writing an article for my blog.
March 31: How can I live most fully so that I can feel satisfaction at the end of the day?
Here’s what works best for me:
- Retire the night before with a sketch in my mind of what I hope to achieve the next day, God willing.
- Rise each morning at the same time each day.
- Over tea, pray/meditate briefly for the gift of being alive.
- (Since 9.15) read, reflect and write a response to the Daily Question at Gratefulness.org.
- Write for an hour.
- Go rowing, or go to the gym.
- Breakfast with my wife, return to writing, then walk our dog on the beach, home/yard chores, see grandkids, supper and bed!
- Depending on weather, family needs and our desires, much of the above can be totally jumbled or tossed entirely, as there’s always another day!
Text and Images by K. Lee