Renaissance

Are we in another Renaissance time? In times of great life changes and challenges we are called on to show our true colors. To practice and be who we most want to be, no matter who is noticing. Many have called these last few decades on earth as the huge quickening, where life as we had known it, and how it worked, no longer does. With fast changing technologies, viruses, leaders, disasters and ways of living happening all at once, including new levels of human strife and attitudes, it boggles the mind. And hearts.

One practice in times of challenge is to know we need one another. Humans heal through having others to lean on and learn from. So, particularly in challenging times, we need to call in every resource, ask for help, tell people what we need. And if they’re not going to be there for us, then they’re not our people. We need to be vulnerable to reach out, and courageous to not settle for what doesn’t support us.

And in a Renaissance what has been hidden or swept under the carpet must be seen and addressed for good change to result. Maybe in our generation of families, or our relationships, communities, organizations, or countries we did not want to admit or look at things. But we are hearing that sunshine is the best disinfectant. We want to shine a light on what is no longer working or what has been in the dark. To see, know and take responsibility for our actions, to own it, that is liberating, and full of light.

And in those challenges and life shifts, as tough as it can be, when we shine the light on the dark, it can feel like a rebirth, a renaissance.

Zen Story

For some reason, in these crazy times, with many of us longing for some wisdom, goodness and guidance to hang onto, this Zen story came to mind. As some look for hope and a dollop of lightheartedness, it seemed timely to share and maybe consider: Do we know what is bad? Do we know what is good? Do we know how things will unfold? Are events linear and obvious ? We might feel overwhelmed and under-experienced to figure out what is happening in our lives sometimes, but history is full of not knowing, calamities, and things out of our control. In the face of fortune or misfortune, what are we to do? It all is in the story and storytelling. So here is the zen farmer story.

The Farmer

Once upon a time, on a fine fall morning, an old farmer went out to tend his animals and crops.

At first light, the farmer was dismayed to see his fence had been crushed by a falling tree during the night. All three of the farmer’s prized horses had disappeared.

The other villagers moaned in sympathy: “Whatever will you do?” they asked the farmer. “This is terrible,” they all cried, shaking their heads sadly, “and right before harvest time, too.”

“Your harvest will rot in the field. What will your family eat this winter? How will you get your crop in without horses?” one of the villagers asked the old farmer.

“We’ll see,” was the farmer’s only reply as he returned to his chores.

Later on that morning, the farmer heard the sound of hooves and, looking up, saw his three horses had returned! What was more, the three horses had two wild horses running with them.

Soon, the villagers were heard to express their delight at the farmer’s good fortune.

“What a wonderful thing to have happen!” the other villagers cried. “What a wealthy man you will be with this new stock of animals!”

“We’ll see,” was all the old farmer would reply.

After lunch that day, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the wild horses to the saddle. Suddenly, the wild horse threw the son to the ground. Running to his injured son, the farmer found his son’s leg badly broken.

The neighbors were soon around to give their opinions.

“What a terrible calamity,” the villagers said. “What a disaster.”

“Now you really won’t be able to get your crop in, without a strong son to help you. He will take months to heal. Whatever will you do now?” the other villagers asked the farmer in despair.

The farmer would only shrug and say: “We’ll see.”

Later that afternoon, military officials rode into the tiny village, with a great clattering of weapons and jostling of horses. Looking grim and serious, the soldiers announced an official conscription. Every young and able man was to be drafted into service that very day.

The farmers son, having just been injured, was left behind, even as other sons and husbands were taken.

No one in the village could believe the old farmer’s good fortune. And not everyone was entirely happy about it.

“Surely the most tremendous good fortune has smiled upon you today,” the villagers grumbled. “How can anyone be so lucky?”

But the old farmer would only reply, “We’ll see.”

How are we to know what is good, what is bad, especially when things can spin so quickly these days? Maybe we choose to LIVE, and do our best in each moment, participate, be involved and have the farmer’s zen approach of “We’ll see.”

Dating Bill of Rights

Where do we learn or teach our rights and reasonable expectations when we date or are in relationship with another person? It seems our young people may be especially at need right now, to have a sense of their bodies, and the consequences of not listening to one another, and oneself. Particularly girls, as now in this historic moment, more seems at stake for a female body.

No doubt tons of energy is being tossed around right now, depending on where someone sits on the issues, and their idea of the preciousness of sharing one’s love and body. The idea of a Dating Bill of Rights exists in many forms online and has been distributed for years by organizations educating us all on the rights of one another.

From babies up through one’s entire life, to fully understand and respect that our body is our own isn’t often a shared concept. To feel clear and strong that no one has the right to touch our body or make us do something we don’t want to, and vice versa, that is a healthy knowledge and practice to have.

May we appreciate, understand and help protect one another’s Personal Bill of Rights.

https://safedatesmatter.org/portfolio/teen-dating-bill-of-rights/

Over The Rainbow

Hearing Eva Cassidy sing her bluesy, jazzy acoustic version of Over The Rainbow can move the listener to tears. In this black and white video, recorded in early 1996, on a night she was getting a cold, Eva sings with friends, making an audio collection of her covers and favorites. Her story includes being true to herself, wanting to sing what inspired her, and that meant she had no clear cut genre for a record label to sign her. And she wasn’t willing to pick a genre or change her look or style. She was herself. Sadly she died the same year this was recorded which can make her performance and interpretation more poignant.

There seem a few themes in this bare bones story…of a woman’s passion to stay true to herself in a male run industry, her evident skill as a musician and the love of the songs she covered making them her own. Now almost 30 years later her songs and videos hold up. She connected strongly with each song she chose, hence no genre per se. Yet now in 2022 that probably wouldn’t be a concern?

To watch and listen to a talented artist who is authentic, takes her time, and touches our hearts is a gift at any time, but particularly in challenging times it can be a balm.

Eva Cassidy singing “Over the Rainbow” 1996

Being Reasonable

It can feel like we don’t hear enough reasonable voices, voices of people able to think through and share complicated dynamics and issues. And in a quiet, confident way. Emotions like anger and verbal tools like hammers seem to be the public media discourse we are exposed. Do those voices help us learn, better understand, or have a sense of how to help? To witness a reasonable, informed person who is also serving at the USA Federal level, oh my, what a treat. It can feel like a mini oasis to find a reasonable voice in the sea of noise, debris and clutter.

We post this because it seems important. Listening to the first part of this link, of Peter Buttigieg’s speaking, for us it provided a way to rein in our emotions and powerlessness. He speaks to history, context, the bigger picture, what justice of all kinds might look like and where we find ourselves right now. We are grateful for this reasonable voice at this time.

Friendship Musings

 This Blogger respects the Stoic Philosophy and continues to learn. The idea of friendship, and how it is practiced and defined by Stoics is fascinating to consider. And as we age deliciously, new friendships can still be found, grown and blossom to be meaningful. Many of us witnessed our parents, in their 80s and 90s start new friendships that were mutually enjoyable, supportive and life changing. Perhaps we see friendships we have made and are making that vary, and serve us differently and at different times?

Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Stoic Blog (April 12, 2022) that we thought worth sharing:

“….from what we do know, we can gather Seneca was social and had a large circle of friends and acquaintances with whom he spent a lot of time.

Which begs the question: How did he choose these friends? We can hope—and expect—that Seneca’s many friendships adhered to the rule he put down to Lucilius in one of those famous letters:

“Associate with those who will make a better person of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve.”

Seneca

It’s an impossible thing to know really—even for ourselves—how we came to know most of the people in our lives. But how they stayed in our lives? How our acquaintances evolved into friendships, that should be easier to figure out. And Seneca’s rule is a wonderful guide, because what he’s describing is what friendship is about. A process of mutual improvement, benefit and enjoyment.

We become like the people we spend the most time with…so we should choose wisely. And we should choose widely, because life is too short to live lonely or narrowly—even for a Stoic.”

Getting Along

The idea and practice of getting along can sound simple. Many of us heard it often growing up, especially in families with kids. Yet telling children or anyone to just get along might not actually help them know how to get along. It might “teach” us we have to stop yelling, or wanting something, or clam up, but what really is at the core of getting along?

What does it feel like to come through a small friction or larger conflict, and actually be getting along with yourself and those involved? Sometimes, to get along or keep the peace in a family, or at a dinner or some tense situation, might we submerge what we want or need in an effort to have the appearance of getting along? And what happens over time if we never really are dealing with the issues, but keep smoothing or covering them over so that a “moment” looks good? What is the cost to all involved over time? We bite our tongue? We dumb down? We avoid or stay away? We make jokes? Much gets swept under the carpet. We might become aware of the “land mines” we need to avoid if we want to “get along” ? Then are we really getting along?

Has conflict or difference of opinion become scary for most of us westerners? What is the worst that can happen? Are we trying to get along or scared to really try? Do many of us skim the surface and have a life with less true feeling, vibrancy and connection because we want to keep the peace? Do we deny ourselves the full palette of color and emotion in an effort to “protect” others and to get along? Can we have peace AND listen AND be curious AND not feel attacked but rather find a new way through based on the different points of view, be it in our family, relationships, community or this world? Who are our role models for getting along while being their best selves and shining their light?

Getting along can sound simple. There are of course times to not rock the boat, to listen, to consider, and do what needs doing in that moment or period of time. Yet then once that situation or crisis is averted, can we not go back and revisit what happened especially if some involved gave up what they might have needed or wanted for the common good at that time? Do some of us expect others in our orbit to go along to get along, at a cost to themselves we rarely inquire about in order for us to feel okay?

In these large world moments of observing, it can look like few of us on the world stage get along. What are we really fighting for? And what happens if we get it? Does the world (meaning us) really want to get along if we’d have to change some aspect of ourselves? What does peace and getting along and working together really feel and look like? How many of us have that feeling in our micro world? How do we help plant those seeds if peace and getting along is what we truly want more of? What happens when some want it and others don’t want to get along?

Guess this entry is just a bunch of questions to noodle on.

Social Justice

“In every age, no matter how cruel the oppression carried on by those in power, there have been those who struggled for a different world. I believe this is the genius of humankind, the thing that makes us half divine: the fact that some human beings can envision a world that has never existed.”
– Anne Braden, anti-racist activist (1924-2006)

New Story

Letting go of the “old stories” we tell ourselves, those stories that might have us stuck in an earlier perception or habit of who we are or how we have always been…well we can let that go it if isn’t working for us. That is the beauty and strength of being a human. We can change our minds which in turn changes our story.

What do we mean by story? Well, it might be whether we feel we have the right to be happy, or whether we see ourselves as someone who could have been a carpenter, but now it is too late. Is it? Isn’t that a story we tell ourselves? Why is it too late if there is something we might enjoy more or be better at or wish we had tried, or always wanted to experience?

If our story is limited or weighing us down, draining, hard, lacks support or goodness, what is the fear or harm in considering changing it? The shift to a new story may not even be noticed by anyone but ourselves, yet inside us, in our core, we might feel a lightness, an absence of weight or being dragged down, even if we appear to be living similarly as before. It could mean waking up with energy and feeling happy or contented about doing chores, versus resistant and dragging one’s feet. It could be about joining forces with a person or organization to take part in an initiative that makes us excitedly scared yet our new story would be “We can do this. Why not?”

Creating a new story is particular and personal to each of us. In these amazing, weird, scary, uncertain times it seems good to consider what matters, what we might regret not doing or being, and choose to do or be that. Choosing new stories takes practice and daily attention.

As we look at the global horizon, it seems an ideal time to revisit our individual stories. If our old story is not serving us in the here and now, we have the capability to write a new story for ourselves which better fits where we find ourselves, and lightens our hearts.

Maybe our whole planet is in the process of finding a new story.

Keep The Gifts Not The Pain

Life, as some teachings say of our day-to-day living   ” carry water, chop wood ” can provide personal learning and growth. What do we mean by that?  Anything we do can have meaning and opportunity for checking in with ourselves, about our day and how we lived it.   Did we live up to our own expectations or standards for ourselves?  Some people may look at life as an opportunity in each encounter and choice they make, to pay attention, be present in order to learn from it. Some may call it checking in with their “inner compass”. Some people say they have standards or expectations for themselves to live up to, that seem innate, coming from their inner core. Others may look to the outside world to get their bearings of how to be. No matter where we look, pain seems a part of this life. Physical or emotional pain gets our attention. Pain may stop us in our tracks. Maybe the pain forces us to change course in life, to move, quit a job, or slow down. In retrospect we might understand the painful time could also have brought gifts or shifts that altered our life for the better.

Along this journey of life there are joyous moments, heartbreaking ones, small hurts, big challenges, and unexpected surprises. How we interpret, process and behave determines a lot of what we experience. And as humans, we can change our minds and look at our interpretations to better line up with our inner compass. Some of the hardest and most challenging times in our lives can be full of pain. Yet the gift in that experience when we are “awake at the wheel” is inner growth and an open heart. We can keep the gift and let go of the pain.