A Generous spirit

mother duck

When we are stressed we have a tendency to close in on ourselves, to measure our time, fixate on our problems and not notice a lot that is happening around us. We think that this is the best way to protect our energy and our heart. Paradoxically, however, it seems that another strategy is more helpful,  going against the voice within us and turning outwards, noticing small details in the day and reaching out to others. An East African proverb reminds us You can share even if you have a little.  It may be just noticing how good the coffee tastes, a smile, a friendly phone call, a helping hand, making someone welcome.   This quotation from Cormac McCarthy reminds us to create little moments of generosity, of connection, of celebration, even when our life seems barren. There will be innumerable little moments in a day to be kind, even if our hearts do not feel like it.

When you’ve got nothing else, construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them.

Cormac McCarthy, The Road

A generous heart is never lonesome. A generous heart has luck. The lonesomeness of contemporary life is partly due to the failure of generosity. Increasingly we complete with each other for  goods, for image, and for status.

John O’Donoghue, Eternal Echoes

Letting life’s lessons sink in

allondon1 rocks

Another post inspired by the season of Lent, but a reminder for all of the value in slowing down, making space, “meandering” in life, rather than always focusing on driven, purpose-filled activities.

More than giving up or self-denial, Lent, when practiced intentionally, can allow time for self-examination, reflection, and preparation. It’s a time of slowing down, intentionally, so that life is given a chance to sink in, not just run off in so many directions. Induced meandering, if you will.  The slowing that is an inherent part of Lent is not just for the sake of slowing down, but so that life can sink in. In so doing, this season of irrigation provides health and vitality long after its rains have passed. Lent offers us an opportunity to slow down, to meander rather than to rush, to allow life to sink in a bit, to find ways to go deeper and not always stay on the surface. A time to observe, to pay attention, and then to act — and in so doing provide the space to move from rush to replenish. When we take this practice seriously, we plant its blessings so that they benefit not only us in our lives for this season, but also extend to the world around us.

Erin Dunigan, The Induced Meandering of the Lenten Season

….Time for others

AnamChara : Soul Friendship

Being able to focus on the other person rather than the text you just received has become the new fundamental requirement for having a relationship with that person. If you go to a restaurant these days, for instance, you see people sitting together, at the same table, staring at their video screens, their phone, their iPad, or whatever it may be — and not talking to each other. That’s become the new norm. And what it means is that the connection is being damaged to some extent — threatened by the fact that we’re together, but we’re not together. We’re alone together.

Daniel Goldman, Is Attention the Secret to Emotional Intelligence

May 1st: Growth after a period of cold

File:Lily-of-the-valley.jpg

The month of May is called Bealtaine  in Ireland, after the ancient Celtic feast that was celebrated on May 1st. It marks the midpoint in the progress of the sun  between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, and announced the beginning of Summer. Hard to believe this year. Here in France it is the custom today to give as a gift the traditional flower for the first of May –  the  muguet, or lily of the valley.  This flower is a symbol of springtime and of beauty, used frequently in bridal bouquets,  and has traditionally been associated with the return of happiness after a period of darkness.   And yet this is despite the fact that its stalk, flowers, and berries are all extremely poisonous. A strange mix, but one that we find elsewhere in our lives. Often the places of greatest growth and energy, the places we learn most and reflect most upon,  are the places where we have been most hurt.  And frequently we find most freedom when we move from the places where we have been stuck, or the things that we feared most, without them being able to poison us any more.

Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses, who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. So you must not be frightened…..if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. . . .

Rilke

Photo: Lily-of-the-valley, Gordon E. Robertson

A love that does not have conditions

We can develop a love that is steadfast and universal. We develop it not because we force ourselves to love so fully. Rather, we discover that loving unconditionally is the greatest source of joy, and that we are the loser for any hesitation or interruption in that love, such as “I would really love you if you would just do your share of the cooking, if you would just do this, if you would be like that.”

Whenever we hesitate like that, we lose. This helps me remember not to mortgage away any of my days by having a grudge or a grievance or making myself distant. That would simply cause a rupture in that steadfast, universal love that is so joyful.

Sylvia Boorstein

Friendships that support

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

Henri Nouwen