Monthly Archives: November 2011
I’m sipping at my wild rice soup and thinking about what to do with the rest of the leftovers. I have a hand with leftovers. I’m very good at reshaping them, freshening them up and making them seem like something new. Of course there are some leftovers that are best untouched like lasagna or the nibbles out of the turkey meat.
I have done a lot of event cooking. Planning and preparation for groups of 20-50 for an entire weekend , usually Thursday night through Sunday lunch. I plan those meals with an eye for leftovers. I know if I cook extra of something on Friday and I can use it in a meal on Saturday it will save time as the program gets more intense and I won’t have as many leftovers at the end. It saves money too as I can buy more ingredients in bulk when they are shared throughout the weekend.
Then I started thinking about leftover time. You know, those little pieces in the day where there isn’t enough time to start a new project before the next scheduled event. The time spent waiting, for someone to arrive, for the Doctor to call, and in line. The time that shows up suddenly because you finished a task early. The time you know from experience will show up because something or someone always runs late. Even the commercial breaks could be considered leftover time.
I must admit that I am not nearly as proficient in my use of leftover time as I am with my leftovers from dinner. I squander it away like dropped pennies. I have a tendency to eat when I’m bored, so while it may not be a great surprise that I’m good with food leftovers that doesn’t serve me when it comes to leftover time. I am a reader and there are some kinds of books that don’t mind being picked up and put down in small pockets of time. Those tend to be fiction without much suspense or action. Anything else I’m liable to stay up until 4 am to finish rather than put them down. Not good candidates for leftover time.
I’ve certainly been given plenty of suggestions over the years of things to occupy me in those leftover moments. Most women have had kegels suggested to them. There are breathing and stress release exercises. There is the one minute meditation. Every physical therapist I’ve ever worked with has made a suggestion about exercises during those leftover moments, “when you think of it.” I am sorry to report that physical therapy exercises are about the last thing that comes to mind in those little bits of leftover time.
The reality is that even if I do think to take a quick walk, or pick up a little around the house, or empty the dishwasher I’m more likely to reach for a video game on my laptop. I have whiled away hours of leftover time pressing the buttons on an online slot machine or matching slingo dots. In fact I feel almost virtuous if I reach for the crossword puzzle book rather than the computer games.
So maybe, with the crazy mad rush of the holiday season upon us, I could make better use of those leftover moments. Maybe I could be a little more conscious of breathing and letting go. Maybe I could reach for the computer and write for ten minutes rather than find something to eat. Maybe I could even try a physical therapy exercise or two.
What do you do with your leftovers?
Thanksgiving – the expression of gratitude. Those of us who run in spiritual circles hear a lot about gratitude. There are numerous books in the market on the topic. It’s become almost a buzzword. But there is a huge difference between saying thank you and feeling grateful from the tips of your toes.
Gratitude in an emotional context feels both humble and bounteous. Gratitude comes with an upwelling of joy and love. It is a giving back, thanks in love returned for gifts received. There is a Norse tradition expressed in the rune Gifu. Acceptance of a gift obligates, a gift for a gift. But when gifts are exchanged in gratitude that obligation becomes joyful and burden-less.
The holiday this week brings gratitude, thankfulness, into our cultural awareness. Many of us find ourselves fulfilling family obligations, and often with more trepidation than joy. Is this a holiday of food and football? Is this a celebration of white privilege, colonial expansion and manifest destiny? Even staying in the moment can be difficult as many of us use the day to scan the ads and plan our black Friday shopping expeditions.
In an effort to stay present in the moment and to experience the week in gratitude I have written a short mediation, a prayer if you will, that I would like to share with you here. If you like it I would ask you to please share my blog, pass it on.
I breathe deeply, in and out.
I can be grateful for my breath in and out.
I breathe in and fill my body with gratitude.
I breathe out and release that which does not serve my greater purpose.
I am grateful for my breath.
I breath into my body. My chest moves as I breath. My belly moves as I breath.
I can be grateful for my body as it contains my breath.
I breathe in and fill my body with gratitude.
My body moves in gratitude.
My body carries gratitude into the world.
I am grateful for my body.
I live in my body, moved by my breath in each moment of my life.
I can be grateful for my life.
My life is lived in gratitude.
My life is filled with gifts and opportunities for giving.
I am grateful for my life.
I haven’t been sleeping well lately. This isn’t entirely uncommon, but usually I can identify a specific cause. Scary movies have been keeping me awake since I was a kid, so I don’t usually see them. Pain often keeps me awake and I can’t say I’ve been “pain free”, but I don’t really think it’s been that bad. Stress will keep me awake going over my “to do” list or worrying a problem, but that’s not what I’m doing. Drinking a pot a day of really good strong coffee (Jamaica Blue Mountain!) might keep me awake, but that was weeks ago.
It’s certainly affecting the basic thinking process and even more the creative process. I can’t seem to stay on topic or keep track of my schedule. I have 3 blog drafts started (this is the fourth) and I can’t seem to figure out where to go with them after the second paragraph. I had the annual meeting on my son’s care this week which I totally spaced until they called to cancel and reschedule. (Someone is looking out for me!)
When I struggle to get to sleep I often meditate in bed. That can cause issues for people with both meditating and with sleeping. I know plenty of folks who train themselves to fall asleep during a meditation. I also know that sense of needing to get to a meditative state before sleep is even an option. My trick for dealing with that is positional. I meditate on my back and I sleep on my side. It’s enough of a difference so that I don’t fall asleep meditating. It’s easy enough that I get the benefits of having relaxed in the meditation to fall asleep.
But this week getting to sleep doesn’t really seem to be the problem. It’s staying asleep I’m struggling with. The sleep apnea thing is always a possibility. I’ve been struggling with my panic attacks when I use the mask for a year and a half. Still can’t get through the night with it on, but I can take a nap for as much as 2 hours and that’s a huge improvement. So even if I go to bed using the bi-pap machine, I’m awake enough at least once, 2 hours later, to take the mask off roll over and go back to sleep.
I suspect that’s actually part of the issue. I seem to have taught myself to sleep in 2 hour chunks and then wake up. Now I wake up plenty even on a good night, but there’s a difference between waking up with, “What time is it? Is the alarm going off soon?” and waking up with, “pillow, switch sides, sleep.”
It could also be the dream pillow I’ve recently added to my pillow pile. I don’t remember my dreams well except the occasional dream I’m having as I wake up. Maybe my subconscious is interpreting making a dream pillow as a cue to make me remember all of my dreams? Or maybe I’m just allergic enough to the dust and mold on the herbs to make sleeping difficult, back to the breathing issues.
Whatever it is that’s keeping me from sleeping at least I’ve managed to find SOMETHING I can blog about for more than a couple of paragraphs. Hopefully by next week I will have gotten a good night sleep. I may have to have a chat with Morpheus.
I’ve been thinking about all the teachers I’ve had in my life. Some have been inspiring. Some have been dreadful. Some have been lifesavers. There is a saying about spiritual seekers that when the student is ready the teacher appears. That has certainly been my experience and I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and study with all kinds of teachers.
The easiest teachers to think about are of course the ones associated with public schools. I was fortunate to have a high proportion of really good teachers. Being involved in the arts and excelerated classes probably helped. But if I had to pick just one it would have to be Miss Suzanne Kelly. She taught English when I was in 7th grade. She told me that if I could use a dictionary and learn to type it wouldn’t matter that my spelling was bad and my handwriting illegible. Best advice I’ve ever gotten.
Then there are the teachers who show up in your life and lead by example. I have all kinds of those too. The ones who stand out the most are my ex-Mother-in-Law. Suz died this year and it was much harder than I expected because I owe so much to her. She had an incredible ability to find something nice to say about everyone. She could be sincere and gracious in the most difficult situations. I worked with her for a year and watched her deal with customers this way. She was amazing. She also had the ability to give you her full attention when you were talking with her. These are talents I’m sorely lacking. Any skill I have at all in these areas I got from watching her.
My other example is my son. I know that seems odd, because to some extent I probably taught him to persevere, to look on the bright side and to be kind. But again, he has a talent that far exceeds any abilities I might have in these areas. Orion is just a happy guy. He finds delight in the smallest things. He knows how to be satisfied. He assumes everyone he meets likes him and is pleased to meet him. It’s amazing to watch him struggle so hard and come up smiling. My favorite part of the day is watching him get excited about something.
My best example of a teacher who showed up when I needed it was Paul. I’d known him for years in the community. We’d nod at each other at events. We were in a group at a bar at a convention one evening. I announced to the group, “I need to find someone to teach me sword, staff and ballroom dancing.” An odd combination, and exactly Paul’s skill set. Who knew? I can’t say I’m an expert in any of those areas, in spite of Paul’s best efforts. But I learned a lot of what I really needed to know about moving in my body.
But the teachers that really fascinate me are the ones that show up just for a moment and say just the right thing. The small bit of inspiration that leads to great things. I’m writing this blog because of one of those aside comments. I’m working on a book – for real rather than just in my head – because of one of those comments. I’ve had people say the darnedest things on the bus or at community events.
I think this kind of teaching fascinates me because most often this is the kind of teaching I do. I’m the person who asks the odd question that makes you think about a problem in a different way. I’m the person who will give a “homework” assignment to anyone who asks “what do you think I should do?” I’m the person who you sit down with and talk to until you begin to understand what it is that you’re really talking about.
It’s the end of pretty autumn and the beginning of dead fall. Halloween which is all about dressing up as the thing you either most desire or most fear, and eating candy until you’re sick. Samhein about acknowledging the death of the growing season with the last of the harvest in and the gifts (probably prophetic) of the ancestors. Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, a great time for a picnic with the relatives both living and passed. A chance to catch up on the news of the year on both sides of the veil. All Saints Day, assuming of course that the Saints are also dead and that they have only positive things to offer.
I find myself starting to plan the annual holiday schedule. What day is Thanksgiving dinner and who’s going to show up? If I plan to spend the night do I get the bedroom or a couch or the floor? Any rum cakes that have been started and will need regular tending. I’ve received the list of ‘gifts I would like’ from my daughter, “just in case anyone asks.” The calendar is filling up already into January.
We lost another member of the family this year. It makes the ancestor part of the holiday a bit bittersweet. I do find myself reminiscing in the season. I no longer have my Grandparents, a niece and a nephew and a handful of very close friends, some of whom have been gone over 30 years. The pets that have come through our lives over the years also check in to my memory around this time.
But life also goes on. My daughter and her boyfriend are negotiating the family holiday exchange for the first time this year. It’s likely that the timing will work in their favor since they both come from families accustomed to making accommodations. But I’m not sure they both will get the time off work they will need to hit everyone’s celebrations. Like the season demonstrates, part of life is learning about giving things up.
So I do a final weeding and bury the ancestor garden under a pile of leaves. I’ll need to decide what to add next year to honor this years passed. I’ll light a candle or two in memory and sit in meditation. Hopefully I’ll get a pat on the shoulder or even a warm embrace by the ghost of one of my loved ones.
For me this is not the holiday of one day. I don’t enjoy a dumb supper sitting in silence while the dead are invited to feast. I am not a vigilant keeper of shrines to my ancestors, so I am not called to tidy them up for the holiday visit. Instead I take long walks in the dry leaves kicking up ghosts and smiles. I talk to the wind, light a fire, pull out a hand made blanket.
I am grateful to the spirits of ancestors past. Those who love me beyond all reason and continue to support me in my life. I am grateful for the lessons you have taught me in your life and in your passing. I am grateful for the love that I continue to carry in my heart.
I am grateful also to my descendants. I hope to also be remembered in love and gratitude. I hope that I have made a mark on one or two lives that made a real difference. I am grateful for the opportunity to pass on the few things I have learned so far in this life.