Q is for QUESTIONS

A Pause to/for QUESTIONS

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This week’s pause is to consider the gift, art, and blessing of questioning as an inspiring means to navigate through life. I believe answers are ethereal, subjective, non-absolute because they continually morph into more questions. This belief justifies my proposition that the only way to reach any kind of resolution is to infinitely question and be open to what questioning unfolds. Our lives were created for discovering, uncovering and recovering. The way we travel most efficiently and gracefully is wading, wandering, and wallowing in the questions, learning to be comfortable with the asking rather than the receiving; the uncertainty, rather than the knowing; remembering that what we think we know today may be a fragile foundation for tomorrow. How one question resolved itself yesterday doesn’t assume it will do the same or similarly in the here and now.

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Questioning allows us to greet every moment with hope, inquiry, and possibility; making room for surprise and inspiration to color every becoming, unfolding adventure.
To question is to ask. It is to assume I don’t know what I don’t know. I get to allow infinite opportunity for my questions to unfold into my experience and learning. When I ask, I receive—answers or more questions. It’s the unfolding of the questions that gifts me life experience: learning, loving, and God/Good, Love, Possibility.
Over a decade ago, I felt inspired to live my questions into an experience. A workshop called GRACEFUL DIRECTIONS was the result. Twenty women joined me for a ninety day foray into exploring our personal foundations for living the questions of our lives. The focus and our mission were to live our questions centered in grace (and its human equivalent) and to be comfortable with where we were in the moment with “just enough light for the step I’m on”. Every week brought questions and more questioning. It was unique and connecting transformation for all of us.
The power of blessing and change that comes from a methodology of questioning allows me to grow and empowers my choices. Questioning and the vulnerability it brings me lead me to accept what I don’t know (and that I don’t need to know everything) serving me a transformative method at its finest: beginner’s mind, humility, a commitment to new beginning and beginning again (a.k.a., “Here I am, Lord.”).


My favorite questions include, “Who am I? What is my purpose? What can I learn? How can I love? Where is the gift of this experience? Where are you, God? What do I long for? What do I vision? How may I serve?”

The question, “WHY?”, repeats itself over and over and over again in my heart, soul, body, and mind as I question the horrors, suffering, pains, and monstrosities in our world. There are NO answers to “WHY?”. I keep asking God to help me to live all of my who, what, where, when, and how questions into authentic being so that I may be an instrument for love and peace in the world. How can I be better? How can I serve the highest good? What can I pray?
And, at the same time that I question my striving to be the best me I can be, I recognize that we’re all living in this crazy Earth school together, so perhaps a more noble question becomes, “How can I forgive and love myself and extend that love and forgiveness to all experience—every sentient being, creating room for light, possibility and hope?”

Grace. How do I live it? Where does it lead me?

Thank you, God.

What’s next?

 
Love,
Carol

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PRANAYAMA

A Pause for P!


There are SO many words beginning with “P” that I love: Perfection, Paradox, Positivity, Persistence, Perseverance, Pursuit, Promise, Pardon, Premier, Please, and Possibility, to name a few right off the top of my head. My preoccupation with “P” words is probably phenomenal in its proprietary, problematic, pseudo-psychological pondering, but it works for me whenever I pause to pick to be present with parades of pregnant perusal. I ponder foods, drinks, and names beginning with P. Countries, categories, measurements, and chemicals…The list for P words is vast and scattered everywhere (unlike Q, X, and Z) which follow P’s prevalent position in the alphabet.

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Perhaps, my Pause this week is for PARIS! As you read this essay, I am doing my best imitation of Mary Tyler Moore joyfully spinning around Minneapolis in her sitcom, except, I get to do my happy dancing in the awesome City of Lights. (More about Paris, after I’ve lived it!) Probably, as I purvey the political landscape I could passionately choose to prime the pump for pontification and parody; however, it is prudently pervasive in my  awareness that today’s pause , the precursor to posthumous production, the ever-permeable prick of poignancy, the P word that pervades every possibility from birth to death, as I live fully into present awareness, the primary pinnacle of yoga: PRANAYAMA, my most beloved “P” word, is the subject of this week’s pause.


Pranayama is simply defined as the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises. In Sanskrit, prana means life force or the breath that sustains life, and ayama means to draw out or extend and (paradoxically) restrain. Pranayama as prana+ayama= breath extension/control, awareness of the breath as a powerful agent of transformation. In the yogic tradition, the breath is believed to carry a person’s life force. The study of pranayama provides me a methodology for tapping into my life force, to grow awareness of who I am, and to discover what possibilities I can create for my life: what a “big picture” life is, and how I can bring my centered vision of wholeness to a primary oneness with congruence, a type of healing unity inclusive of all positively created experience. For me, the practice of pranayama is the most important piece of my physical yoga practice. Some yogis I respect support my vote for the priority of this limb in/of Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Learning to control my breath to coordinate with intentional thought and movement supports opportunity to open portals for physical healing, emotional release, and spiritual accessibility. Bringing me present into the here and now, pranayama empowers the clearing of my mind’s clutter, preparing me to be available for the gifts of purely being. Pranayama blesses my yoga, my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual encounters with all of life’s flow.


Jesus said, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light”. As a student of good, love, and possibility (a.k.a. GOD) and as a lover of yoga, my reinterpretation of this scripture is “My yoga is easy, and it will ease the burdens you carry when you choose to follow my example.” Breath. Intention. Vision. Conscious practice. Choosing to be responsible, contributing to/for the greater good, committing to bring the best I am for the highest expression of/for good, love, and possibility, authentically proffering the blessings I am gifted for the positive transformation of experience and for the experiences I share with others. Breath provides the fuel for life. Inhale. Exhale. The Pause between the inhale and exhale. Subtle, practical power and purpose. A way to proclaim gratitude for the grace, blessing, and wonder of life’s mysteries, beauty, and synchronicity. Breath is a prerequisite for movement, for walking our walks and talking our talks; singing our songs and running our races; being present in our physical bodies and maneuvering our mental machinations, emotion’s mountains and valleys; a constant for growth and opportunity; a way to be one with spirit whenever we feel called.


My beloved yoga studio in Indiana (Blooming Life Yoga) has a wonderful pranayama class led by one of my favorite yogis, a great teacher and person. Mike Marcus leads our yoga practice with presence, resonance, heart, and humility. His primary focus is breath, and when he teaches a pranayama practice or any flow class, I learn so much, feeling so grateful for every moment I breathe—on my mat and in my world. Thank you, Mike.

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Pranayama is a forever learning experience. It is a challenge to fully embrace ins, outs, and in-betweens of intentional breathing. Sometimes breath is easy, and sometimes it is forced and labored. Learning how to breathe on and off the mat is a commitment to choose conscious opportunity to support union in the body as a way to congruently live my yoga on and off the mat. Pranayama is a lifelong learning, blessing me with the tools for loving the absolute wonder, mystery, and miraculous possibility of life in a body in the here and now.

 

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Namaste,
Carol

 

OM

 

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OM can be an abbreviation for “Old Man” or “Operations Management”. Those meanings of this extraordinary expression of the universe are not considered in this essay. My pause this week is, “OM”: pronounced “AUM”, a reverent sound to produce, witness, experience, and savor; a healing sound, vibrating to the number 9 (God-energy, success, completion), a holy tone conveying blessing, the perfection of the universe, and the oneness, the OM that connects all of us. I pause today for/ with/ about OM, and I am thankful.

 


Some “O” words I considered were “opinion”, “option” and “offer”. OM seemed beyond them all, and yet encompassing everything I could imagine writing about. An immense word, concept and energy, OM is the “IT”, the everything in vibration, conception, experience, and circumstance. “OM” is the center of all that is. Om is the resonance for Source/God/Creator/Spirit and all included in that created circumference, the good that begets the good package of birth, life, and death. OM.

 


I grew up in a Christian religion and was taught the cross and Jesus were my “go-to” always. For much of my life Christianity was my end-all, be-all, do-all. As I’ve creatively and responsively experienced life, that religious come-from is no longer my “go-to”; rather, it is the foundation for my spirituality, the teachings I bring with me to my experience of life, and the interpretations, subjectivity, and witness I bring to my every encounter in life.
I began questioning my beliefs at an early age. Never a dogma queen, I learned about theology and christology; pondered, questioned, and prayed (As John Wesley did) and, as life “happened”, my thoughts and feelings evolved with fluidity into my more or less justifiable beliefs. Organized religion,as I experienced it, could no longer contain my expansion in its box with a lid. The cross merged with the Star of David, the OM, an ankh, a crescent and a star, a dharma chakra,and a khanda. Add a picture of Ganesha, and I smile as I continue to open to the illusion of the other. So many ways to discover God, ourselves, and each other.

 

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The traditions of religion are spectacular and bring me home to myself when I seek to live beyond a “come- from-go- to” kind of life. Spirituality demands we abandon that exclusive means of maneuvering through our faith journey; rather, I am a pilgrim on a journey with a “draw to-draw- from” philosophy of life, love, God experience. An entirely different track. AND, I’m not riding on a train anymore. The path is before me, and no one is telling where to go or how to travel. It is up to me, listening to that inner voice that leads me through every valley, up and down every mountain. All is good, love and possible. Every way I traverse leads me to OM. We are one. No longer separated by the auspices and creeds of religious rule. Rather, we choose to bring ourselves beyond our individual faith stories to a shared garden of peace, joy, hope, and beauty. Together we chant “OM” as we plant the seeds of love that heal us all.

 

 


OM Shanti. Shanti. Shanti. Peace, Peace, Peace. OM.

 


Namaste,

Carol

A Pause to be “NICE”

 


A Pause for “NICE”

 


This week’s “N” word is a four letter, ambiguous, good in any situation, desirable, vanilla adjective/descriptor: NICE. No one can be offended with the label of nice, it contains broad boundaries of definition, all of them at least moving marginally to definitely positive in their context and meaning. Nice is a great, good or average label for experience, a person, a situation. There are more descriptive words for what nice brings to a conversation, but nice brings neutrality, non-judgment, and a rather ho-hum assessment to circumstance. Beyond remonstrance, yet lacking a vision for passionate experience, nice colors the corridors of passing by, through, and about. As I wrote earlier, neutral, before judgment, nice is a way to maneuver experience without sharp divides of okay or not—Nice meets in the middle: “Nice” is the subject of today’s pause.

Nice means pleasant, agreeable, satisfactory. It can also mean fine, subtle, precise, exact, meticulous. A broad or narrow distinction, this word contains room for both the broad and the skinny, the wonderful and the acceptable, the kind and the okay. Nice is an ambiguous word that fades and forays into battle, ease, or plateau of being and becoming. English teachers often admonish a writer for choosing “nice” in a composition because there are many more words possibly more accurate for what a writer is intending to express.
Five hundred years ago when the word, “nice” was first used in English, it meant stupid or foolish from the Latin word, nescius, meaning ignorant. By the 16th century, it meant finicky or being very particular about being and doing. In the 19th century, nice meant respectable, pleasant, agreeable—quite contrary to its original meaning. A confusing word at best.
When I describe something or someone as nice, I can cover the range from awesome to satisfactory or non-offensive. When our President uses the word, “nice” he puts one or two or three “very”s or a “not” in front of it, once again confusing what is meant with this nefariously subjective descriptor.

 

 
My aspiration has always been to be a nice person. (period.) The older I get, the less I aspire to the world’s definition of “nice”, aka, President Trump’s verbiage (Remember when he described Hilary Clinton as a “nice” lady?). I suppose “nice” is a word I can use to be politically correct and non-offensive when another person spews righteous blabbering. I can respond, “You’re probably right.” Or I can say, “How nice you’re so passionate. Nice is the new “no matter what” word—not out there to divide and conquer, an expression to neutralize any situation. May we be intentional with our word choices so our words connect us with grace and authenticity, rather than sarcasm and divisiveness.
I am grateful for all that is nice. Keeps the peace, breathes the in-betweens, opens the gates of possibility, dialogue, and transformation. Maybe we can all choose to keep our conversations, our communications, our interactions, truly “NICE”?
I think kind, loving, open choices invite niceness, and I so hope we’ll choose to be nice.

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Namaste,
Carol

 

M is for “Me”

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Earlier this year, I chose the “M” word, METHOD (as in Methodist) because I felt called to share my passionate thoughts and feelings about my experience of the Methodist church. M was not the appropriate sequential letter for that week, but…because I’m “Me”, I chose to do it anyway. The older I get, the more grace/permission/freedom I grant myself to truly express my heart, mind, and soul in truly authentic, often random methods.
Aging has managed to gift me something extraordinary: Me. I keep growing awareness of who I am, whose I am, and my power to choose what I want to create, who I choose to be, how I choose to feel, and what empowers my happiness. Accepting myself, however I show up, is learning to love me beyond conditions, a necessary prerequisite for loving all of creation the way God loves me.


This week’s Pause is M for “ME”—the “me” that all of us are individually; the “me” that I may ignore or put on the back burner; the same “me” that likes to grab center stage and selfish focus; the “me” that expresses as ego/personality, and the “me” that carries my physical body through life in this world as the temple for my holy spirit.
ME. Myself. I. All three united in a description of person. “He is he. She is she. I am I.” We label ourselves as separate souls, minds, hearts, and bodies, sharing the unity of spiritual experience in separate physical bodies. The paradox of “ME” comes with the growth in awareness that we are all interconnected—like (excuse the reference) fruits on a tree, or if the fruit analogy doesn’t grab your imagination, how about limbs, roots, branches, trunks, leaves of a tree—each piece a unique expression of the living, breathing, dying, seeding, birthing tree. The Tree of Life symbol is a favorite of mine because in that tree I see the individual, interconnected renditions of all creation, displaying with awe and wonder the greater wholeness we create with “me and thee” union.

I often write about how life is defined as “All of us are walking each other home.” I also write, ” ‘I’ don’t go home until we all go home.” We were created to be relationship beings. Perhaps, Source/Creator/God designed a cluster of grapes that God designed to be “mini-mes” (Bear with me, a.k.a., even a weird imagination is a source of inspiration). This cluster of like-minded souls chooses to experience life in a body as a physical manifestation of separate bodies, same soul energy. The visions, dreams, dharma, harmonies these souls harness as their calling support the others with whom they share vision and focus. When I meet someone that I feel drawn to immediately (a soul friend), I imagine him/her as one of my fellow cluster mates, and I feel grateful, blessed, encouraged, and inspired by my association with him/her, a mirror of me, reflecting who I am called to be at a soul level.


Who I am, what I choose to create, where I go, what I do—these choices are MY freedom to be, do, have, and belong, wherever I am. What impacts these choices most often comes from the mirrors around me, the “other-mini-mes”, and a desire to contribute, commit and be responsible to and for the greater good of all creation. With age and growth come authenticity, which allows the true ME to sing my soul song and listen for the beautiful melodies of other soul songs. I embrace good, love, and possibility in every amazing creation, and I give thanks for our outer diversity and our inner connection. The marriage of thee and me into the greater blessing of a great I AM or the everyday notion of “WE” is integration, blessing, and relationship at its highest level in Earth School. Life is sweet, filled with grace, gratitude, openness, and acceptance. Our walk home together is joyful, and the tree of life is glory manifest.

 

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“I’ve gotta be Me” is a refrain I hear often. How about we choose to be the best me we can be?
And so it is.

Namaste,
Me

LONGING

“Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.”
Khalil Gibran, THE PROPHET, “On Children”.

 

 

 

 

This Gibran expression of “Life longing for itself” is one of my favorite quotes of all time. In a spirited age of divisiveness, life is the unity we share: Life birthed us, carries us, contains us, propels us, and, ultimately, surrenders us. Life/Living– as a collective wholeness; as a state of being, manifesting, planting, nurturing, growing, harvesting; becoming, experiencing, birthing and dying—presents as a universally shared context for the moments between our first and last breaths; our heart’s beating, pumping and circulating blood to flow and nourish our temporal bodies; our thoughts, feelings, hopes, and desires providing illumination for longing. Rather than examine a generic, subject to interpretation essay about Life; I’m choosing to look at the word LONGING, and why it appeals to me so completely in this day and age of craving, wanting, yearning, aching, hungering, thirsting, and hankering—descriptive words describing an “unmet yet” vision of life.
Longing is defined as a strong feeling of need and desire. Jim Brickman wrote a song called “Longing”. To me, his piano piece reflects an ardent, yet unfulfilled piece of heart within music without words. Googling names of music and books, articles and poems, I find numerous works containing “Longing” in their titles. A longing, as a noun, can be an ambitious desire for success. The word, longing, is a word that tugs at my heartstrings. In my most heart-centered imaginings, I long for what I long for with deep passion and ardent aspiration. My deepest passionate longings are for peace and love intended by and for all creation.

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I mentioned words similar to longing earlier in this essay. A few of those words stand out as radically opposed to my love for the word longing. Craving, Wanting, Yearning are the three similar; yet different, words I will address today.
The subtle difference between desire and neediness is illustrated in the words longing(desiring) and craving(needing). A craving may be insatiable, perhaps never fully satisfied, as in a craving for a forbidden food or drink while dieting or in recovery. Craving denotes a strong need for something whereas longing waxes poetically in reference to a strong wish for desire’s fulfillment.
When I “want” something, I acknowledge that it is outside of me; that what I want, is what I don’t have. When I “long” for something, I can utilize positive affirmation and prayer to plant the desires of my intention and vision. Positive affirmation and prayer bring me, “And so it is/Amen!” Wanting leads me to covet, to expect, to extend outside of myself to fill the place inside of me void of what I want.
The slight nuance between longing and yearning is compelling for me. I experience a longing as deep, earnest, poignant desire. I can have a desperate yearning for chocolate chip ice cream when I’m on a dairy free diet. When I yearn, it’s a kind of wistful wish. To me, (which means it’s my subjective belief) a yearning can be appeased only through a met desire—almost close to the need expressed with craving.

 


When” Life longing for itself” gives birth to life itself, my personal longing is that my life is committed to contributing to a world where all sentient beings are safe, happy, and free. In my longing, I become a particle of the energy that carries Life to the healing grace of good, love, and possibility.

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My yoga shala in Pensacola is called “Breathe”. In my favorite yoga class, our teacher Nancy  sings with us a mantra called, “Lokah samasta sukinoh bhavantu.” After we sing it, she repeats the mantra’s meaning in English:
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of our own lives contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom.”

What are you longing for today? What will you commit to breathe into being?

Namaste,
Carol

 

A Pause for Kindness

A PAUSE FOR KINDNESS

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“Let me be a little kinder, let me be a little blinder to the faults of those around me. Let me praise a little more. Let me be a little cheery with my brother who is weary. Think a little more of others, and a little less of me.”

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These lyrics have taken root in my brain, planted many years ago at girl scout camp in central Illinois. I stayed in scouting for the sole reward of two weeks every summer at Camp Tapawingo. Some of my favorite moments at camp included hiking, canoeing, learning survival skills, being with old friends and making new ones, campfires…Wonderful memories I love. Without a doubt, my most beloved activity at camp was singing. At camp we sang by the campfire, when we hiked, when we ate, when we did chores—singing the songs we learned at camp inspired jovialness in me and an abundance of , “Thank you, God!”

When I became a mother and would rock my babies, I found myself singing those old camp songs, remembering all the words from yesteryear. What I called “The Kindness Song” was very dear to me.

Kindness. If there were one wish, hope, desire, I could wave my magic wand to manifest in our world, it would be kindness. What, actually, does it mean to be kind? The dictionary defines kindness as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. To that definition, I would add respect, unselfishness, patience, and presence. So many times we define kindness as the act of being kind, and we never really look at how we choose to show kindness in our world.

To be kind is a choice that doesn’t require education, wealth or social position. Kindness can be a smile, putting someone before my own self-interests, stopping to take the time to be present and available for another soul needing witness and care to become centered. The school of life can teach kindness—the person who refrains from blowing the car’s horn when another car is lingering at a green light; the guy who lets another person with fewer items go ahead of him in line at the grocery store; the runner who stops to help an elderly lady needing help crossing the street—kindness compels us to stop, look, listen and be present to how we may serve creation in the manner we would like to be treated.

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The Golden Rule is kindness in a nutshell: Treat others the way I wish to be treated. And to that universal commandment I add, Be present enough to notice the world outside of myself. Kindness is a choice to be present. Kindness is a choice to slow down, stop, and notice others around me. When I notice, I listen for the intuition, guidance and inspiration of how to act, and I choose to act with intention to serve the highest good. In stalled traffic, I let merging cars into my lane. I am late( but attend with a discreet, non-disruptive entrance) to my yoga class because I was fully present to my husband’s detailed accounting of his great golf game. I help my neighbor find her lost cat. These choices to be kind are living the Golden Rule in a way that blesses the giver and the receiver.

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When I choose to “be a little kinder”, I’m living my dharma and at one with goodness and possibility. Kindness always creates room for grace and gratitude.

 

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How can I be a little kinder this week?

Namaste,
Carol