How nice of you to check out my Rise Up Reflections November 2015! This month has some terrific daily questions that come from Gratefulness.org, a fantastic site that I encourage my friends to check out and get involved with.
Here’s a peek at some of the topics covered this month: Our expectations, who has helped me most whom I have not thanked? What do we long for? Who has passed from our lives that we are grateful for having known them? Do we take our body for granted? How can we be of service? On being present. What some of our “just-in-time moments? What could I share and teach today? Are we living in yes today?
NOVEMBER 30, 2015: What do I truly give away without expectation of return or reciprocity?
Usually, I give 95% of my photos away to anyone who asks, even though I also have some for sale. For me, it’s a privilege to have people who agree to be my subject for either a snapshot or planned photo shoot. Giving them away as a jpg file, print, and/or to certain publications for publishing just feels right to me.
November 29, 2015: Who has helped me, whom I have never met?
In my everyday life, I can’t say that I know anyone who has helped whom I haven’t met. But spiritually thinking, important teachers such as Parker Palmer, Henri Nouwen and Thich Nhat Hahn and John Woolman have helped enormously over the years in all things spiritual.
NOVEMBER 28, 2015: How does longing enrich my life?
A slow longing, one that takes shape and gains clarity over time, is best for me. These kinds of longings help me to clarify the difference between a mere ‘want’ and something that I want to have happen because attaining it would feed my heart and soul. I may want a new wristwatch, but I may not need one. But now and then I long to go on a retreat for myself, alone, because experience has taught me that it deepens my spiritual life.
NOVEMBER 27, 2015: What sentiment could I share today that would be healing for everyone I encounter?
One word and two expressions: Say “hello,” make eye contact and smile.
NOVEMBER 26, 2015: What inspires me every day?
That when I open my eyes and crawl out of bed each morning, I am alive, breathing, and with an enormous opportunity to live into yet another day! And that inspires me to fully claim the hours in this brand new day that I am in.
NOVEMBER 25, 2015: Can you recall a time when you felt serenity? Describe it.
Several times actually. Walking on the beach in any season with my wife and sometimes our dog; when I’m out doing photography alone and I’m in a dance with light and form and getting it into my camera; when I’m in meeting for worship with fellow Quakers, and the silence is full and it covers the room; when I’m out rowing with my teammates on the water at sunrise with gulls and wind and waves all about. It seems I’m just getting started here so it’s a good place to stop!
NOVEMBER 24, 2015: When have I offered someone authentic forgiveness? What did I learn?
I can recall very few people whom I have felt injured by over time and have had the occasion or need to forgive. Most of the time, which happens rarely, when I’ve been hurt by someone I usually just move on and forget it…or at least I think that I do! Two instances do stand out though when I have, in time, extended forgiveness so that we could move on. That was hard work, emotionally and spiritually.
Whether it’s a good sign or not, I also confess to holding value in the words of the late US House Speaker Tip O’Neil, who said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.” Not exactly the mark of true reconciliation and 100% forgiveness, but in one or two instances, being mindful of that quote as served me well. Just because I may have offered someone authentic forgiveness does not always mean, nor should I expect, that they have accepted it fully as well.
NOVEMBER 23, 2015: Who has passed from your life and left you more grateful for knowing them?
My dear departed friend, Frank Lepreau, who lived a life of service to others as a physician and surgeon on three continents, died three years ago at the age of 99. Frank, who was also a member of my Quaker Meeting, lived out his Quaker principles while seamlessly practicing medicine for over 70 years. Frank was brilliant yet tender and engaging with everyone he met. As a scientist Frank had an insatiable curiosity about the unseen things that made people tick and feel whole in the world. And as a Quaker he witnessed to his faith by practicing medicine in places few would care to visit and with patients that were largely underserved.
NOVEMBER 22, 2015: How can I be of service today?
Actually, for today at least, I can say that I am being of service (though that’s not how I think of it) because I’m staffing a retreat this weekend for 34 Quaker children. It’s a program that I founded actually and ran for 26 years before retiring four years ago. Now I staff it four or so times a year. Two of our own children attended the retreat program when they were in elementary school, now five of our six grandkids attend it. It just gives me Goosebumps now when I think about the evolving generations.
I seldom use the term though of “being of service.” For me, I tend to frame what I can do and give that benefits and supports others as ministry, of how can I be useful here? How may I help and be of value to others? Of course, being of service implies the same thing, but I like getting to the root and heart of where that service actually lives.
NOVEMBER 21, 2015: What miraculous blessings of my body do I most take for granted?
That my heart (thus far) continues to beat without much input from me…good thing! And that my skin does a reasonably good job of keeping my body’s inhabitants inside!
NOVEMBER 20, 2015: How might I experience my meal when I truly ponder the people, animals, plants, and weather whose efforts brought me this nourishment?
This is beautifully stated and it makes me think of silent retreats that I have attended and eating in near perfect silence. Every morsel of food on my plate becomes a source of mediation in which the tongue savors the texture and taste of the food entering my mouth and my mind and heart cannot help but to become more present to how this life-sustaining nourishment found its way to me.
NOVEMBER 19, 2015: What would allow me to be more tender toward those I encounter today?
My not filing the initial silence that follows a greeting with words of my own, by being mindful of where that person is at this place and time . And as way opens, for our eyes to meet and when appropriate with those who know me well, to touch with a handshake or perhaps even a hug.
NOVEMBER 18, 2015: What qualities am I grateful for in a friend?
I am less concerned about whatever qualities there may be in a friend, just grateful that they are there and that I can be present to them as well as way opens.
NOVEMBER 17, 2015: If I did not care what people might think, what would my most outrageous expression of gratefulness be?
Oh I love this one! Back in the early 1980’s I took a job for one year and one day (so I could get a vacation!) that helped to feed our growing family but did little to nothing to feed my soul. The warehouse headquarters was in a rough, high crime and drug infested neighborhood and I had an hour for lunch, which I took in my car as I ate.
To buffer the dreariness of that job I had a little practice of taking large and colorful helium grade balloons and drawing “Spirit Trees” on them, with a message of friendship and hope to whomever would receive my balloons. Sometimes I added stickers, even glue and glitter, depending on my mood and available time. I tied on a piece of ribbon to the inflated balloon and hung it on a nearby street sign, at “child height” hoping that a youthful passerby would see it and want to take it home. I prepared and tied up my little balloon before I ate my lunch, then went back to my car which was positioned so that I could see the bright and inflated balloon bobbing in the breeze.
Many times I was rewarded by seeing a mom and child walking along, then pausing, to read my “please take me home note,” then untying the balloon to take it with them. Sometimes the moms affixed it to a baby carriage, other times to their child’s wrists. Once, two older boys walked by, stopped, backed up, and popped my balloon in place and walked away laughing. On other days the balloon remained in place when my lunch shift had ended. But when I left at the end of the day the balloon was always gone, which made me smile.
Back then, I did not care what people may have thought about a man creating balloons as a gift for children to take. Today, after 31 years of doing social work with youth, and being keenly aware of the suspicious world we live in, especially for men who nurture and care for young people, I would worry about being held suspect, of creating entrapment and of being thought guilty of voyeurism, which saddens me indeed. Otherwise, now being in retirement, I would take up this practice again of sharing this joy where I left off. Unfortunately though, I will not.
NOVEMBER 16. 2015: What small change could help to make the rest of my life the best of my life?
I have sat with this one for two days…and thus far I am stumped. Not because I have nothing to change, because I’m sure that I do. But I feel that the ‘best of my life’ is the life I am experiencing right now. I’m not sure how I could compare it to something I don’t have any way of knowing about. Sure, magically speaking, if I could wave a wand and have perfect back heath, better right eye vision and a return of youthful stamina that would be nice I suppose. But I’m a realist and I am here now and that seems pretty darn good to me. But I’ll keep thinking about some small change and we’ll see what comes…. Wait a minute…”small change,” now there’s a topic I could right about! I have added it to my list of writing topics. Thank you!
NOVEMBER 15, 2015: Who is a role model for contentment in my life? Why?
For me it’s a who was, not a who is. Even though my dear friend and fellow Quaker Ruth Howland has been gone now for several years, she always was and remains still the epitome of living a life of contentment in spite of her challenges. Ruth lived to a fabulous 87 years of age.. Bound to a wheelchair her last decade of life with crippling arthritis, she never complained about her situation but instead found ways to celebrate the everyday wonders of life. Ruth had a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her lips each week when I helped her from her sitting chair into her wheelchair and pushed her up the road to our Quaker meetinghouse. When it was cold Ruth wore a bright red knitted cap that I called her Pope’s hat, which always made her laugh. But in my book Ruth was as holy as any cleric, content with her life and her surroundings.
I sometimes wonder how close I might be to Ruth’s standard of being at peace with her world in my later years of life.
NOVEMBER 14, 2015: Can I pause today before I react to a situation before me?
Some forty years ago I wrote the phrase, “Why do words of mindless birth race past lips too eager? And I know that I wrote it in reference to things that other people sometimes say. But of course it applies to me, too, if I’m honest with myself. Having worked most of my life in the public sector, I’m generally good about pausing before reacting to most things—until I’m not! And this brings me full circle to the often used recovery phrase of, “Before reaching to take the speck out of my neighbor’s eye I need to remove the log out of my own.” Ouch! Who me?
NOVEMBER 13, 2015: What thoughts can I let go of today which will significantly improve my capacity to be present?
Perhaps I need fewer thoughts, not more thoughts in order to be more present! I frequently get very deep in thought, thinking about a piece of writing or photography that I’m working on and I catch myself realizing that I haven’t been present, nor did I even hear something that was said in the room or even took place. I regret that, and need to practice the little mantra of Thich Nhat Hanh of “being present here now.”
NOVEMBER 12, 2015: How am I treating the world today?
Today, being Nov. 16 as I respond to this reflection, and after the recent attacks on Paris three days ago, I am saddened and in prayer for the people of France. There was a heavy silence in my Quaker Meeting yesterday, with many Friends feeling for and thinking about the recent terrorist attacks, etc.
And I find myself also holding the world at a bit of a distance right now, feeling the need to control what flows into my head and my heart from the non-stop news and so forth. All the while, I keep thinking about all those babies and children who have suddenly lost a parent, an uncle or a cousin following the attacks in Paris…..
NOVEMBER 11, 2015: What things would I most like to learn at this time in my life?
Having recently retired, I now have time to attend to several things that I have always had to jam in here and there between work. So I’m still learning how to be in retirement and to realize that my time frames and workflow of some of my projects need to be approached with a different and slower rhythm. I still act like I’m at work sometimes, when I’m not! And talk about being grateful for that!
NOVEMBER 10, 2015: What blessings does nature offer my life?
Explained: Beyond the color of changing seasons, the ‘color’ to be unique, to be a one-of-a- kind, like a leaf or a snow flake. Presence, because I am here now, and how wonderful is that? Purpose, as in, what am I about, and what am I contributing to the greater good of creation, and why am I standing here discussing the obvious? And form, my place to gather color, where my presence may be seen and felt, to be carried, delivered, then rooted in purpose.
NOVEMBER 9, 2015: What is a “just-in-time” moment that you are grateful for?
Though I loved my paid work for 31 years, I’m very grateful for having retired only a month ago so that I have time for more writing, more photography, and of course to participate in these daily reflections! I am so, so grateful for this privilege and I hope over time that my good fortune will help others in some way, especially through my site and in other ways too.
NOVEMBER 8, 2015: What could I share with, or teach, others today?
In my heart I feel that the very purpose of sharing my photography and writing within my blog at www.RiseThisDay.com is where I share, give, and sometimes teach others every day. Or at least I hope so as I share images, stories, quotes and so forth. Reading and considering today’s reflection though has me thinking about more specifically about ways that I might focus on some aspect of teaching (without preaching!) with more intention on my site. So this is a good reflection question to tape to my wall for further consideration. Thanks!
NOVEMBER 7, 2015: How does gratefulness nurture respect? How does respect nurture gratefulness?
If I express being grateful for some-thing, or if I’m aware and I am grateful for a particular situation or something that I can see, hear or feel in my life, then of course being respectful needs to be a part of it. I don’t think that it is possible to separate ‘respect” from gratefulness.
NOVEMBER 6, 2015: Babies can experience and express a lot of joy. What can we learn from them about joy?
Unfortunately, as we grow physically, it seems that we do lose some of the wonderful ways of experiencing and expressing joy of the moment. I think that’s why as adults we pause to be in that moment or participate with babies when they smile and respond to the simple things like a set of keys, a dolls face or any object that seems to catch their attention.
I have known adults who seemed to celebrate the wonder of things all around them, similar to how babies and young children experience things, and I marvel at that ability. I’m not sure it can be learned, or if it’s something that they have just been able to take with them as they grew in life. I have fleeting moments of being like that, but I have to remember to do so which doesn’t last long and seems rather forced which is certainly not like how babies are in the world.
NOVEMBER 5, 2015: When does my generosity feel most generous?
The easy answer here is that when some situation presented itself, which gave me an opportunity to assist or do something for someone else, that was not planned or part of some program, then I feel really good about having been able to be generous in heart, deed or financially. Now having said this, why should I expect or need to feel “most generous” in my giving to others? Shouldn’t the giving, in whatever form is present, be enough for its own sake? Why should I be expecting some kind of extra ‘bonus’ in the process?
NOVEMBER 4, 2015: How am I living a YES to life today? How can I make it an even bigger YES?
Love this question! I’m living a ‘yes’ when I’m truly present to the day, the elements and the people who are around me in any one day. I’m not sure I need to make it any bigger or better than that, frankly.
I thought about this fantastic question for more than two months, and here’s an article I wrote that expands upon and considers Am I Living In YES Today? I hope that you will check it out.
NOVEMBER 3, 2015: How can tomorrow reflect what I am learning today?
Great question! There are things I am doing and learning today because I want to be able to use what I learned today tomorrow! For example, my writing, and what I write about today will be around tomorrow, and that pleases me. As does my photography, if I edit photos today and get them posted, I will have them for tomorrow!
NOVEMBER 2, 2015: Who are some of my heroes? How and why do they inspire me?
Sorry, but I don’t think in terms of having heroes for a number of reasons. I have people I admire greatly, both living and dead, but generally I think of heroes as fictional characters and not real people. There are several people in my life currently whom I admire and respect greatly and I try to learn from how they carry themselves in the world. Among the greats who have passed before me are Frank Lepreau, Jim Toothacker, John Woolman, and Caroline Stevens.
NOVEMBER 1, 2015: How can I be a source of delight for others?
By being honest, by being who I am and by being present to their lives in ways that show I care about them as individuals.