Rise Up Reflections May 2017

Welcome to Rise Up Reflections May 2017! I am in the thirty-third consecutive month of responding to the Daily Question over at Gratefulness.org. I continue to find the process of reflecting upon and then writing a response to each daily question to be spiritually enriching exercise.

Like every month, certain questions hold me more than others. This month, May 2, May 11, May 20 and May 30. Thanks for visiting.

Rise Up Reflections May 2017

May 1: What might I do to help someone smile today?

What might I do to help someone smile today? Smile first!

May 2: In what ways have I been less wholehearted than I would like? How can I change that?

Because of my back condition and the levels of chronic pain that it causes, I have had to curtail or cease altogether from doing many things that require physical dexterity involving both work and play. After eight years of undergoing pain management with all sorts of therapies, yesterday I met with a surgeon yesterday for the second time with new images and MRIs. Seeking a change and more proactive approach to my own health care, I have decided to move forward with surgery in September. Today’s question, for me, could not have been more spot on!

May 3: Am I being faithful to my values by my current attitude?

I believe that I am being faithful to my values by my current attitude. But ‘attitude’ in all honesty is not the neighborhood where my values are challenged most often. If I were asked, “Am I being faithful to my values by my thought and speech process,” I’d have to say that neighborhood is always under construction!

May 4: What is the most important thing in this moment?

The most important thing in this moment is simply showing up. Many had planned to and many didn’t make it.

May 5: If I take a few moments each day to become still and remind myself that every “crisis” is also an opportunity, what new insights arise to guide my actions?

As I consider this question, it’s difficult to know what specific opportunities and insights might arise without knowing what kind of crisis we’re dealing with. That said, for many years the nature of my work in both secular and non-secular settings included responding to crisis situations. In fact, I frequently said, as hard as that work was, that some of my very best work was in crisis response. Being “still,” or as I prefer to call it, “centered,” with my own breath and inner prayer, were crucial components to practice at the start, middle and near ends of responding to a crisis situation.

May 6: How has being vulnerable shifted a difficult situation?

Anytime and for any reason when we suddenly find ourselves at risk for immediate harm or injury, physically or mentally, everything we do should be shifting, and quickly, in order to protect our body, mind and heart. Anything less is to invite harm to self.

May 7: Is it possible to truly live a deeply spiritual life and never take risks?

My, my, such a heady question today! But I like it. My answer? Yes and no; maybe; and it depends.

Yes and no because it depends on one’s depth of belief and willingness to truly become “released” to live fully into a spiritual life, and surrender oneself into the flow of wherever it may take you. The risks may still be there, but are blunted as grace attends to smooth the way.

“Maybe” and “it depends,” because living a deeply spiritual life frequently fortifies one to witness, to stand clear, firm and unwavering, to answer a “call,” regardless of risks that surely do come. Such challenges, perceived as risks by those looking on, struggle, not knowing how “call” and “grace” combined, levels one’s journey into living a truly deeply spiritual life.

May 8: How might I show up more authentically today?

Short of taking off all my clothes and walking around naked all day, I’m pretty down to my real and essential self already!

May 9: Where is the beauty in my immediate surroundings, right now?

The sky looking eastward has tinges of red and yellow as the night gives way to dawn. And there are birds aplenty, a chorus really, flitting from branch to branch outside my window waiting for the light that always comes, wrapped in waves of chilly springtime air. I am sitting, breathing, sipping strong tea and in the time it took to write three sentences the light has rushed to showcase one tall distant pine tree that soon will fade among the many. But at 5:09 AM I saw it and I am glad that it and I are here to witness the coming of a brand new day.

May 10: From whom have I received extraordinary gifts?

I have received extraordinary gifts from my family, from members within my faith community and from my body itself, allowing me to see, to feel, experience emotions and to heal as the need arises.

May 11: What new insights are emerging for me?

In about two weeks, on May 30, after coping with significant back pain that has forced me to alter almost everything I do, I will have surgery on my back. The recovery process, I am told, will take quite some time. But I am ready, even looking forward to it in order to turn a new chapter once I heal.

When one lives with and in pain with no lasting or real relief in sight, you cope and go about doing what you can in the best way possible. A week ago new tests revealed that I not only needed surgery, I needed it soon. These last few days while pushing myself to do certain things I began to realize, to let it sink into head, just how hard and painful things have gotten for me these last few months. It’s as if I am being released, with time, to experience being in a different place with hopefully some new possibilities.

May 12: What can my enemies teach me about love?

I have enemies? That’s the first I have heard of such.

If we want to learn more about love, describing another human being as my enemy makes love even more difficult to reach.

May 13: How am I fortunate?

I am fortunate in more ways than I can count, actually. I am alive, I could read today’s daily question with my own eyes and I read it on a computer screen that is connected to the Internet. How amazing is that? I am also fortunate because I have plans for this day and look forward to experiencing each hour that comes. Hallelujah!

May 14: What are the opportunities in a recent challenging life experience?

Deciding to have back surgery later this month instead of putting it off until early fall. The opportunities, if one can call it that, is that helps ensure that I’ll repair some nerve damage sooner than later, and of course, hopefully feel better sooner too.

May 15: Who can I forgive today?

Who can I forgive today? I will start with myself, and then move onward from there. The business of not forgiving and not letting go can be the heaviest burden we carry.

May 16: What does it mean to live life from the knowledge that we are all from the same source?

It means that we should love, respect and support our neighbors without exceptions.

May 17: What is inspiring me right now?

Watching the sun slowly rise off in the distance. I can’t see the actual sun itself yet, but the splashes of reds, blues and purple colors ahead of where the sun will appear are stunning!

May 18: How might my life change if I believed everything is happening for my learning?

Probably not very much because I already believe that everything around me is an opportunity to learn. A more pertinent question for me to ask of myself, however, is this: Do I take that opportunity to learn? Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.

May 19: What sounds of life nourish me?

Birds at sunrise,
Seagulls as we row,
A grandson’s laugh,
Our dog’s howl whenever the phone rings,
“Hi Grampa!”
My wife’s footsteps,
Two granddaughters singing in the car,
Rain at night before I sleep.

May 20: How can I practice grateful living in the presence of pain?

If ever there was a perfect question for me, this is it! I am ten days away from finally having back surgery (laminectomy with fusion for L2, L3, L4 and L5) I have been living with and managing chronic lower back pain with every kind of treatment for almost eight years. And as long as the recovery is expected to be, I am looking forward to relief down the road.

Remaining positive, upbeat and grateful through it all has been the most challenging thing to manage, actually. Because when I allow myself to slide into discouragement not only does it impact my relationships with those around me, it diminishes my creativity with my writing and photography.

But to answer today’s question, for me, practicing a measure of grateful living while living with pain has required prayer, meditation, listening to what the pain is telling me and remembering that I am feeling pain because I am alive, still, and that is the greatest gift that there is.

May 21: In what ways am I growing?

Perhaps, and hopefully, I’m growing in acceptance that there are some things that my body could once do that advancing age no longer allows. In certain areas I am already at full acceptance, yet, in other parts of my life, especially in areas that tend to feed my heart and soul, I’m not there yet.

May 22: What have I asked for and been given?

I consider myself immensely fortunate to have been given a life with a long view and purpose.

May 23: How has a change in my attitude or perspective transformed a situation?

Now and then a situation will come along that needs to be dealt with head on. There’s no going around it and avoiding it altogether is not an option either. When this happens the operative phrase that comes into play is “attitude adjustment!” I may not like it one bit, but once I adjust my attitude the situation is a lot easier to deal with.

May 24: How can I treasure the uniqueness of who I am and what I have to share with the world?

As I read today’s question I feel the need to soften or tailor the question itself to avoid any sense of self-importance or aggrandizement. I know that was certainly not in the minds and hearts of the folks at Gratefulness in offering it, but the question as it stands alone could “sound” that way, at least in my mind.

I treasure how all of the people in my life, those I see personally while living through a day and online in this space, are truly whole and unique in numerous ways. That’s what makes interacting with one another so enjoyable. And I know too that who I am and what I stand for as an individual, spiritually, intellectually and emotionally, warts and all, comprise my very being. And this I honor and value as my own gift of person-hood. In short, it is all I have and all I will ever have, so why not share it with others as way opens? Thus far in my life, the vehicles that carry the essence of who and what I am, I believe, are shared through my words, photography and when the Spirit calls me to provide care to people in my life.

May 25: How have I been enriched by giving?

Occasionally, if it happens that I have missed an opportunity to give of myself to a person in need, or to support a cause for good, I feel that I have let my own inner self down in some way. When I do give of myself to others in need and/or support worthy causes I feel fulfilled and more fully utilized in both heart and spirit.

May 26: How does it feel when I bring reverence to a daily activity?

It feels wonderful! Time slows, colors, sounds and light all begin singing their song that goes straight to the heart. Knowing this, I wonder, why am I not living in absolute reverence every moment of the day?

May 27: What happens when I express my gratitude rather than simply feel it?

It has been my experience that whenever I verbally express my gratitude and sense of joy at a given moment and naming the source, that others around me do the same. “Look at that beautiful sunrise!” Or, “Did you hear that sweet sound? What kind of bird was it?” Before I know it, others within the sound of my voice become part of gratitude expressed.

May 28: What quiet miracles can I celebrate today?

The sun has barely risen as I begin this new day. That is a miracle onto itself. In a few hours I will practice my faith in silence among other Quakers and that too, as the Spirit stirs among those in worship, is worthy of celebration. We will need to wait until the appointed hour to know whether or not quiet miracles also attend.

In the afternoon family and extended family arrive to celebrate the birthday of two of our grandchildren, twins, who are turning twelve years old. Now that’s miraculous, and, never quiet!

May 29: How does gratitude help me to see the good in the world?

As a baseline, if we experience gratitude as intrinsically good, then it can be built upon minute by minute and hour by hour so that it naturally flows outward and beyond. And outward and beyond is where the world is.

MAY 30: How can I live a big YES to the adventure of my life?

I am aware of two things in response to today’s daily question. One is, thanks to the country in which I live in and my particular life circumstances, I have the luxury of choosing whether or not to see my life as a great adventure, Secondly, I am aware that a great many people around the world have neither the luxury nor the possibility of ever seeing their lives in any other way than how to survive another day. Out of respect for the people who have so little it seems the least I could do is always try to see my life as an adventure and one that is full of possibilities on ways to be of service to others.

Rise Up Reflections May 2017
My daily reminder of who I was and why I was in the hospital!

MAY 31: When has being grateful made me happy? 

Today, I am one day post-op following back surgery. I am grateful that the surgery is over and as healing begins, for sure, that will make me happy indeed. (Note: This was my mental response to today’s question, which never got added to the responses on Gratefulness.org. Three months shy of completing three years without ever missing a daily response, I guess I had a good reason for missing the entry.)

Text and image by K. Lee