All Shall Be Well

I am eerily reminded this week of my experience during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Hunkered down here in my little house without power for days, the whole world seemingly stalled and subdued. There was no work and no technology, the roads were strangely as quiet as the airwaves. And no one knew how long it would last or how bad it might get.

At first, there was the natural reaction to kick against what I could not control. Worry and fret. Freak out. But then a calm settled in, a different pace than the norm, a day guided by the rising and setting of the sun.

Looking back now, I remember those quiet, restful days as blessings.

So here we are — on the edge of a storm we’re watching overtake everything we know as normal. And we are freaking out.

But the Universe is sending messages, if you listen. She’s there in the poem “Pandemic,” that Lynn Unger was inspired to write this week.

She’s in our daily prayers, if you are inclined, like me, to whisper on occasion:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

She even showed up yesterday morning in my meditation reading:

“We must except we are there and settled enough so we can be carried by the deep. The willingness to do this is the genesis of faith, the giving over to currents larger than us. Even fallen leaves float in lakes, demonstrating how surrender can hold us up…. In life as in water, when we curl up or flail we sink. When we spread and go still, we are carried by the largest sea if all: the sea of grace that flows steadily beneath the turmoil of events.” — Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

So listen for those messages.

Pay attention.

Do the things you need to do to stay safe and healthy.

Get rest.

Breathe.

“Just as fish can’t see the ocean they live in,” writes Nepo, “We can’t quite see the spirit that sustains us.” But it’s there.

Morning Inspiration

This morning, as I settled into my day with coffee and the local newspaper, I found myself wondering on things. Wondering on the miracle that a local print newspaper still exists. Thinking about the young journalist I met 20 years ago who recently announced her departure as its publisher. Reflecting on how things move and change seemingly so fast sometimes, and how brave and resilient we are in the face of that.

And then a photo caught my eye — the determined and genteel final photo of a woman named Phoolan Nandlal.

Phoolan was born in 1931, and died at the age of 88 on February 16 surrounded by her seven children, 14 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. She was the daughter of Motyah and Galo and is the last of 4 daughters: Bhyaratie, Sylvia, and Lutchmin.

Phoolan’s parents died when she was only 2 years old. She was born in Siparia, Trinidad, West Indies, where she attended school. Later, she moved to Avocart and grew up with her grandparents Bhahuartya and Dhoray who were from Bastilya, India. She was taken out of school and married at age 16 years to Raghunath Nandlal.

Phoolan was heartbroken that she was denied an education, not being told about her parents, and denied her inheritance. Despite her anguish, Phoolan persevered. She brought up seven children on her own, took care of her 14 grandchildren, and visited her 10 great-grandchildren.

Phoolan valued education and instilled this among other values in her family. In addition, she went back to school in her 50s and 80s for a GED. She was astute, witty, organized, clean, neat, and took pride in her appearance. In addition, she loved all those who came to know her and vice versa. She enjoyed cooking, gardening (fruits, vegetables, flowers), flower arrangements, art, and music. Phoolan was detail oriented. She always wanted to learn how to play the piano and learned to play the keyboard at age 88 years.

Phoolan worked very hard from sunrise to sunset in Trinidad with her husband to build her empire while raising eight children. This work ethic stayed with her into her golden years. In 1978, Phoolan lost her husband, a son, and a grandson. She persevered, and was extremely independent as a widow as well as a private person. Phoolan lived independently in Trinidad for about 25 years and designed the addition to her home. She chose to live with her daughter Radhika Nandlal and son-in-law Richard LaRonde in Branford for the last 4 years of her life.

I never met Phoolan — these remarkable details are from her obituary — but I suspect she had as much moxie as my local newspaper, and of that young journalist now off to seek new adventures.

Things do move and change so fast sometimes…and oh how brave and resilient are we!

Time Flies

In her article 8 Things Most People Take A Lifetime To Learn, Melissa Ricker writes “When doctors tell patients that their time here on earth is nearing an end, a whole string of regrets immediately start flooding into their minds. The life that they had taken for granted is coming to a close, and most people immediately wish they had learned a few key lessons earlier on.”

What are those lessons?

1 – Failures Are Lessons in Disguise
2 – Live in the moment
3 – Live for yourself
4 – Work Hard, But Don’t Work Too Hard
5 – Procrastination Turns You into a Slave
6 – Actions Speak Louder than Words
7 – Kindness Is So Important
8 – Show Gratitude

For more, please read the full article, 8 Things Most People Take A Lifetime To Learn, from A Conscious Rethink, which works to identify the lessons that life tries to teach us about self-growth, self-discovery, and the pursuit of inner tranquillity.

IMAGE: Self Portrait – Time Flies, Frida Kahlo

Cultivate Love + Joy

2019 will be an excellent time to swim in unpolluted rivers, utter sacred oaths near beautiful fountains, and enjoy leisurely saunas that help purify your mind and body. You are also likely to attract cosmic favor if you cry more than usual, seek experiences that enhance your emotional intelligence, and ensure that your head respectfully consults with your heart before making decisions. Here’s another way to get on life’s good side: cultivate duties that consistently encourage you to act out of love and joy rather than out of guilt and obligation.

Text ©2019, Rob Brezsny. He’s a genius and you should subscribe to his Astrology Newsletter.

Wearing the Year Loosely

Of the character Vera in SAVING FISH FROM DROWNING, Amy Tan writes:

“Since turning 50 ten years ago, she had decided that her usual garb should be no less comfortable than what she wore to bed.”

YES! I thought when I read that. Exactly! But I wasn’t necessarily thinking about clothing…

Nor was St. Francis of Assisi when he suggested we “Wear the world as a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly.”

I’ve decided that this should be my modus operandi for the coming year: to move about in the world more freely, as if in loose garb.

More breath. And ease of movement.

Fewer expectations. Less fear.

Less rabid dog on a bone it’s time to put down.

More laughter. More play.

As if to support this resolution-in-the-making, Rob Brezsny’s ASTROLOGY NEWSLETTER arrived promptly on January 1st. In his treatise for 2019, he writes:

You don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be. You don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations. There’s no need to strive for a kind of perfection that’s not very interesting to you. You don’t have to believe in ideas that make you sad or tormented, and you don’t have to feel emotions that others try to manipulate you into feeling.

In my dreams, I am obliterating delusions that keep you moored to false idols. I am setting fire to the unnecessary burdens you lug around. And I am tearing you away from the galling compromises you made once upon a time to please people who don’t deserve it.

But it’s actually a good thing I can’t just wave a magic wand. Here’s a much better solution: YOU will clarify your analysis of the binds you’re in, supercharge your willpower, and set yourself free.

And you WILL purchase brightly-colored, flowy kaftans to wear around the house.

Ok, no, Rob did not write that part, but…perhaps a brightly-colored, flowy kaftan is exactly what is called for as we step lithely into the new year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, my friends—may it be loose, light, and comfortable.


BONUS: Also from Rob Brezsny, consider these questions yourself:

  1. What outlandish urges and controversial tendencies do you promise to cultivate in the coming months?
  2. What nagging irritations will you ignore and avoid with even greater ingenuity?
  3. What problems do you promise to exploit in order to have even more fun as you make the status quo accountable for its corruption?
  4. What boring rules and traditions will you thumb your nose at, paving the way for exciting encounters with strange attractors?
1. Essay ©2019, Jen Payne. 2. Image: Small Odalisque in Purple Robe, by Henri Matisse. 3. Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan should be on your To Read list. 4. Rob Brezsny is a genius and you should subscribe to his Astrology Newsletter. 5. Click here for more about Loose Garments.

Finding Hope

“We create goodness in the world, and that gives us hope. We plant bulbs in the cold, stony dirt of winter and our aging arthritic fingers get nicked, but we just do it, and a couple of months later life blooms—as daffodils, paperwhites, tulips.” – Anne Lamott

 


A GIFT: Take a moment to read the full text of “Show Up With Hope: Anne Lamott’s Plan for Facing Adversity” by clicking here.


Photo of found message rock by Jen Payne.

Monday Message: All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten

by Robert Fulghum

ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do
and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not
at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the
sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.

Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned – the biggest
word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.
Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into
sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or
your world and it holds true and clear and firm.
Think what a better world it would be if
all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about
three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with
our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments
had a basic policy to always put thing back where
they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you
are – when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together.

©Robert Fulghum, 1990, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, Villard Books: New York, 1990, page 6-7.

Janet

She stood at my front door,
her mousy hair now red,
her sad eyes wild in green spectacles
(not hunter, chartreuse) and exclaimed
“I have written a story about peas,
and one about carrots, too!”
It was her mad manic editorial
of a recent poem I’d written.

My hurt rebounded off the sarcasm,
formed a river no compassionate
Buddha could cross.
Funny, all I knew of Buddha then
was what she’d taught me.
First teacher. First mentor.
First guide to connect the dots of the Universe,
explain its constellations.

Now all I can see is that red hair,
those euphoric eyes turned sharp left
to back down the driveway,
my devotion dragged beneath tires.
She would crash and burn, of course.
(They always do.)
But I hear she went out on a high…
blazing love and light across
the crazy brilliant sky
in which I still find stars
and stories and faith.

©2018, Jen Payne. Photo by Neale LaSalle. More of Jen Payne’s writing can be found in her new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, available online from Three Chairs Publishing.

Bear Thy Name Is Fear

If you asked me 15 years ago what my biggest fears were, I would have said 1. Spiders, 2. Public Speaking, 3. Flying.

If you asked me 10 years ago, I would have said 1. Spiders, 2. Public Speaking.

If you asked me last year, I would have told you that I love flying, had made peace with spiders, but that I would rather die than get up in front of an audience.

So, flash forward to this:

Yes. That’s me. On stage Wednesday night in a production of Thornton Wilder’s The Long Christmas Dinner by the Moses Gunn Play Company.

Now, if you’d seen me 15 years ago, in fetal-curled panic at the thought of giving a 3-minute presentation — you would understand the size of the bear that was wrestled on Wednesday.

But “a funny thing happened on the way to the theater,” as they say. There were grand moments of at-all-cost avoidance and embarrassing failures. Six months at Toastmasters and healing humor. More embarrassing failures, lots of baby steps, wise coaches, Rescue Remedy…and a few surprises. Like a 3-minute presentation. And then a 30-minute presentation. And then lines read in a play in front of a live audience.

Fear is a powerful opponent.

So is Perseverance.

©2018, Jen Payne. More of Jen Payne’s writing can be found in her new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, available online from Three Chairs Publishing.