Tag Archives: quotes

The Ebb and Flow of Life

The Ebb and Flow of Life

A Meditative Morsel

Life review is a common spiritual practice in which I lead my hospice patients.  It is an opportunity for them to tell me about such things as their childhood, career,  time spent as a parent, or their adventures through life.  Often life review becomes a pathway to healing those lingering regrets, deep guilt, or broken relationships.  Ultimately, it is a practice that can lead to the acceptance of one’s mortality and embracement of his or her belief in what comes after death. I found this  quote recently which seemed to reflect this aspect of my work beautifully!

Whatever your beliefs, may you be at peace with the ebb and flow of your life.

river2

“We see the water of a river

flowing uninterruptedly and passing away,

And all that floats on its surface—

rubbish or beams of trees—

all passes by.

Christian!  So it is with our life…

I was an infant, and that time has gone.

I was an adolescent, that that too has passed.

I was a young man, and that is also far behind me.

The strong and mature man that I was is no more.

My hair turns white, I succumb to age, but that too passes away;

I approach the end and will go the way of all flesh.

I was born in order to die.

I die that I may live.

Remember me, O Lord, in thy Kingdom!”

Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh

1724-1783

 

Spiritual Lessons from the Desert, Part II: Take Shelter

Spiritual Lessons from the Desert, Part II: Take Shelter

When people ask me how long I lived in the Sonoran desert I usually respond in terms of summers, not years.  “I survived 6 summers!” I boastfully reply, as if they should be impressed with my cunning, woman vs. nature survivor skills. (Yeah…right…).

As I continue to ponder the spiritual lessons that the desert taught me, it may be no surprise that with the extreme climate the desert can bring that I would think of “shelter” as a spiritual necessity.

The Southwest sun can be brutal much of the year.  Last May 2012, Tucson had two hikers die from the heat within a 48 hour period, one from Germany (age 35), the other from the Midwest (age 23).  And let us not forget the countless migrants whose lives are claimed each year from heat related deaths.  Taking shelter from the heat and understanding the dire importance of drinking lots of water is crucial in surviving in the desert.

The beautiful Palo Verde in bloom

My urban shelter came in many different forms.  I discovered that using a UVA/UVB umbrella while walking reduced the harshness of the sun.  It felt womb-like each time I entered my car after its windows were finally tinted.  And I rejoiced every time I could sit or park in the shadow of a Mesquite or Palo Verde tree.  They may not compare to the grandeur of a Maple or an Ash, but even the slightest bit of shade for me was a welcomed blessing.

And what might spiritual shelter look like?

This is often what I attempt to discover when I first meet a hospice patient and his or her family/caregivers.  How have they coped in the past when things turned foul in life?  When circumstances intensify, from where or whom do they seek shelter?

Here are some of the things that spiritually shelter me:

  • Scripture or even profound quotes often buffer me from life’s hardships.  I will never forget coming across an inspirational Ojibwe saying on the BART train, of all places, that shifted my self-deprecating mood. “Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while a great wind carries me across the sky.”   Like stepping under the cool shade of that Palo Verde, I was instantly comforted. The intensity of my life had lost a bit of it’s heat. For your own spiritual shelter, have a few memorized scriptures and/or quotes  to draw upon or have at a glance for those moments of need.
  • Having several confidants—whether a friend or a professional—with whom I can share my heartaches, frustrations, and worries protects me from holding things in and letting them fester (Which is always bad for the soul!). There have been several core people in my life who have rescued me through the years with their gifts of presence and listening.  (And I thank you.) Seek out and keep close in your life those who truly care about your well being.
  • A spiritual discipline is an essential shelter.  A spiritual discipline might be reading sacred scripture like the Bible, praying, doing yoga, or meditating.  It could be that gardening or hiking reconnects you to the beautiful world around and gives you a fresh perspective on life.  What matters most is that the discipline allows for or leads to personal reflection. For me, I find journaling to be very effective at leading me to examine my life, to notice my connection—or lack there of—with God, and to see my spiritual growth. But know this.  This is the kind of shelter you don’t want to get too run down.  Maintain it! Create time each day, or at least each week, to practice your discipline.

My environment is so very different these days living in the Pacific Northwest.  But I will always be grateful for the things I learned on my desert sojourn.  May your own journey provide you with valuable, spiritual insights.

And feel free to share them here at Desert Sojourn!

 

 

 

 

Words of Wisdom…

Words of Wisdom…

My maternal grandfather sent this poem to my mom when she was a young mother and told her it was worth reading every day.  I couldn’t agree more.  I continue to be amazed at how timeless it is.  Read each line slowly, considering its place in your life right now. May these words, written nearly 100 years ago, bless your day.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,

be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant;

they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;

for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to the virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

When life gives you rotten green beans, compost!

When life gives you rotten green beans, compost!

In every place I’ve lived as an adult, I’ve dreamed of composting.

This desire would especially surge nearly every time I reached into the vegetable bin in my refrigerator.  There I would inevitably discover that my once beautiful green beans, zucchini, broccoli, lettuce or perhaps peppers were beyond the point of no return.

Even with refrigerator sludge on my hands, I always managed to come up with excuses as to why I couldn’t compost.  The weather, I would decide, was the problem.  It was either too damp (as in Vermont) or too dry (as in our current location in the desert).

Or the glitch, I would convince myself, was that I didn’t have the money for a fancy compost bin or lacked the time to make my own.

But food kept going bad in my fridge. Grieving the loss of more and more once-tasty-now-rotten veggies (I’m from an incredibly frugal family), I had to finally admit that something had to change.  So this winter I began composting on my deck in my flower pots, void of plants, but full of dirt.  Change the things you can! If my grandmother and father could bury their kitchen scraps in their gardens, why couldn’t I do the same in my pots?

I was finally composting.

It has been several months now and it is going fairly well.  The dogs have only gotten into it a couple times, the odor has been minimal, and my buried treasures are decaying beautifully.  My husband wasn’t crazy about my recent idea of moving the bins under our patio furniture for the summer (I found the idea to be quite practical!) so I’ll have to rethink a permanent spot for my project.   I believe, however, I am finally on my way to becoming a full time composter!

We can spend our whole lives angry and frustrated with all of the rotten things life brings us or…we can be courageous, spontaneous or determined and do what we can to make a difference in our lives. So I say to you, my friends: Be Courageous. Be Spontaneous. Be Determined.  Change the things you can.

Here is the most famous prayer I know on this subject (a longer version than most are familiar with):

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,                                                                      courage to change the things that should be changed,                                                                                                              and wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.                                                                                                                  Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time,
accepting hardship as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with Him forever
in the next.

The Serenity Prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr (1943)

Be at peace.

Acid Test of Faith

Acid Test of Faith

The acid test of our faith in the promises of God is never found in the easy-going, comfortable ways of life, but in the great emergencies, the times of storm and of stress, the days of adversity, when all human aid fails.
– Ethel Bell

In August 1942, the SS West Lashaway was torpedoed and sunk by an U-66 in the Caribbean. The handful of survivors, including four children, endured a three-week ordeal in an open boat with minimal supplies before being rescued. One of them would later write a book about the experience, “In Peril on the Sea: The Story of Ethel Bell and Her Children, Mary and Robert”.