Living the Questions

sun reflection snow

This picture doesn’t go with the writing in today’s blog. The scene isn’t a metaphor for life, or, if it is, I’m not seeing it the story in it yet. It is just a beautiful scene on a deeply cold winter day.

What is calling to me today is the Rilke quote from Letters to a Young Poet, about living the questions.

 “Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903, from Letters to a Young Poet

What Rilke says is a match to my experience of life.

If you read my blog, you know that it is all about the questions. I am always asking myself questions and I always offer a question to you, in case it resonates with your soul.

I find it very freeing, that we don’t have to have the answers. And, even more, that we don’t have to strive or search for the answers. We don’t have to figure it out.

All we have to do is Live the Questions Now.

But, what does that mean? How do we do that? (I’ve always got a question!)

I think Rilke gives us a clue in his quote when he says “try to love the questions themselves.”

I love questions, but I think I could “love the questions” more. I could wake up in the morning with a question on my mind and just love that I have the question alive in me.

I could love that question like I love other things. I could fill my heart with love and gaze at it. I could love it, appreciate it, savor it. I could turn it over in my mind, delighting in every aspect of it. I could fill my heart with love and send it to the question.

That would be fun.

I think there is another piece living the questions, and that is to hold the questions with a light, playful spirit of curiosity.

And, to be ok with Not Knowing. That might be a little more challenging, in our culture. We are supposed to have the answers.

Some of the questions that are alive in me now are:

  • What if it is all about Love?
  • How can I live more tuned into my inner essence?
  • What would it be to live my life from a grateful heart?
  • How can I be more generous?

These feel like big questions. But, I don’t need to have the answers. All I need to do is to Live the Questions.

What are the questions that you are living right now?

 

 

 

 

The Cold Way to Now

cold way to now

I’m out on a walk, on the coldest day of this winter season so far.

It is minus 15 degrees F wind chill. I’m walking really fast, head down, into the wind.

It is so cold that my breath feels like it is freezing on the way into my body.

I love my walks, and I almost flew the white flag of surrender today, given the cold. But I had taken all the time to get the dogs’ boots on, and thought I’d try a walk on the road, rather than in the yard. We usually get better results out on the road, if you know what I mean. 🙂

But, I  admit it; my focus is on walking fast to get to the end, back in the house, where I can have a warm cup of tea. I’m definitely just putting in my time.

Cinnamon stops for a moment, and I suddenly realize that I am not at all present in this moment. My mind is all wrapped up in thinking about how fast I can get back in the house. My mind is on that cup of tea.

I stop and take a few deep breaths. I deliberately center myself and come into the present. I clear my mind of all of its thoughts, and I look around, and I just feel, with all of my senses. This is always what brings me into the Now.

It is a stunning day. The sky is a bright sapphire blue, and perfectly clear, without a cloud in sight.

There are diamond glints, all over the snow. The light, fluffy, ivory snow that fell last night is sparkling. The surface of the snow is clear and perfect; the woodland creatures haven’t been out on this patch yet.

I let myself feel the breeze, and suddenly I become aware of the warmth of the sun on my face. I hadn’t even noticed that before. I am smiling in pleasure at the sun, which we haven’t seen in days. I just soak up the sunlight; it makes me feel so good.

Yes, it’s cold. But it is so much more, and I hadn’t been able to see any of the “more,” when my mind was completely possessed by how cold it is. I completely missed the full beauty of the day.

In the winter around here, we all seem to take up the hobby of Weather Watch. We become amazed at how cold it can become, and then when it becomes that cold, we become even more amazed at how much colder it can become. We develop a bit of a weather obsession, and we act like we deserve a badge of courage for how much cold we can tolerate.

None of that matters. It matters that we dress intelligently and stay safe, but beyond that, if we truly wanted warm weather, we wouldn’t live here.

In my obsession with the cold today, I almost missed the day. I certainly missed the beauty of the day, until I woke up, halfway through my walk. So I am asking myself: how can I be even more present to my life? How much of my life am I missing? How much beauty is there to be savored?

How much beauty is there, just waiting to be savored, in your life?

 

 

 

Spaciousness

spaciousness two

I’m out on our road, near sunset. It is cold, and the sun is bright in the western horizon. I’m walking down to our neighbor’s driveway, to deliver a note to their mailbox.

I’m on a rare walk by myself. I take my time to savor the winter landscape. The colors are stunning tonight: blues, violets, and oranges, all set off in high relief by the white of the new snow.

It’s cold, but the wind has died down, and I’m breathing in the sense of calm.

What I am noticing most is the space.

I cherish living in a place with such a feeling of space. This is the land of the prairies, where the horizon stretches on, seemingly endlessly.

I live out in the wild, wide open spaces, where the wind blasts down from the north in the winter, and the coyotes and foxes roam, and the red-tailed hawks soar.

The spaciousness enlivens me. It feeds my soul.

I grew up in the hills of California. While it was relatively unpopulated then, it had a completely different sense of space. I felt contained and held by the hills all around me. There was hardly a flat piece of ground anywhere around us. You walked out of your house and you either went up or down.

Now, I live on a slight hill, in a small woods, and I feel held and contained by the trees. The hundred-year-old oaks are like sentries, standing in a wisdom circle around us. I can feel their powerful, grounded energy. I love this feeling of being held and contained. It feels very grounded and nurturing to me.

However, I also need the wide open spaces. When I get out in these wide open spaces, I can breathe. I feel expansive. I can feel the sense of possibility that is present in these spaces. I’m very aware that I need clear space if new things are to come into my experience.

I feel like we all need both experiences: feeling grounded, held, contained, and being in the wide open spaces of vast potential and possibility.

It is like they do a dance together, and they both serve me in very important ways. I come home and feel grounded, and then I go out where I can breathe into pure wide open space, to know what’s possible.

How do you get a feeling of space in your life?

 

 

 

 

 

Coyote Chorus

winter 2015 thirteen

It is a pitch-black midnight, with a crescent moon. I am out on the property with Harper the Dog for his last constitutional of the night.

Suddenly we hear a loud, piercing chorus of screaming, howling, and yipping.

The pack of about fifteen coyotes is down by the road and moving in our direction.

The first time I heard a whole pack of coyotes in close proximity, I learned what people mean when they say that the hairs stood up on the back of their neck.

Even now, a slight chill goes down my spine, and a bit of panic rises in my throat.

I often have this primal fear reaction when I hear the coyotes.

I take a breath, and settle down. I remember that I have never actually seen the pack, even though they have lived in our immediate vicinity for years. Once in a while, I see a solitary coyote at dawn or dusk, and they always keep to themselves. They avoid human contact.

I calmly walk Harper to the house, and we go inside.

I always believe that there is meaning for me in these close encounters with wildlife.

I thought about spirit’s message for me in hearing the coyotes so close tonight.

This interpretation seemed to fit for me: “Coyote Spirit Animal appears for you when you seem to have lost your way. Coyote animal speaks of the path less traveled, of the path that is hidden from plain view – as this is where you will find you way to the answers you seek. Solutions come in unexpected ways, and coyote is your trusted guide on this mysterious path.”

I have always chosen the path less traveled, and I am often in need of an intuitive, unseen guide on that uncommon path. Having read this interpretation, I now take comfort from our close encounter with the coyotes on this night. I am reminded that I need only meditate and tune into my intuition to sense the answers that I need in any moment.

What are your unseen guides, on your path?

Day Ending

blue spruce birds

I often walk by a stand of Blue Spruce at the end of the day. It’s on the path where Harper and I take our evening walk.

At the end of the day, there are always Northern Cardinals and Chickadees settling in to roost for the night in the shelter of these trees.

I’m comforted by the presence of these birds as I walk by their roost. I have an all-is-well-with-the-world feeling as I watch them bed down for the night.

Nature has a rhythm to it, a comfortable cadence that sustains and nourishes life.

The settling in of the birds in these trees signals the end of the day. It reflects the quiet, grounding quality of dusk.

Nature is wrapping up the activity of the day and preparing itself for rest.

At dusk, activity concludes for these birds, and it is time to nurture and restore. They are following their innate knowing of what serves their well-being.

My daily rhythm is dictated by commitment and responsibility. I let myself be governed by clocks and schedules.

Tonight, I stop and watch the birds. I sense the  winding down of their energy as they shift into night. I feel the wisdom of these cycles of activity and rest, and I know that this is a message meant for me.

Just for tonight, I will shift my energy into the transition of dusk when I get home. I will settle in to rest and rejuvenation. I will respect the natural cycle of life. This is the gift that these birds have given me.

What is your body and your wisdom telling you?

 

 

 

 

My Wake-up Call

rooster

Our next-door neighbors have a rooster and some chickens.

It isn’t unusual for us to have a rooster somewhere in the surrounding area, because people here live on acreage.

For many years, one of our other neighbors had a rooster that crowed every morning at or about sunrise. I always enjoyed it, even during the summer, when sunrise can be as early as 4:30 am or so. A rooster is an icon of country life, and I like the feel of it.

This new rooster crows all day. Apparently it didn’t get the memo that roosters are supposed to crow only at sunrise.

It does crow at or near sunrise, but it also crows many times throughout the day, without apparent rhyme or reason as to the particular times.

I became curious about rooster behavior, and learned that it is really a myth that roosters crow only at sunrise.

Roosters crow for lots of other reasons than to herald the sunrise. They crow to protect their territory. They crow when they hear another rooster crow. They crow to communicate with their flock. And they crow just because they feel like crowing.

I decided that this rooster was giving me an opportunity to wake up to my life more fully, all throughout the day.

So, now, the rooster is my wake up call. Any time that I hear it crow, which is beautifully random, and all throughout the day, I stop, and breathe, and bring myself as fully as I can into the present moment. I wake up to my life.

What wakes you up to your life?

Unexpected Gifts

brians machinery

Our neighbor Brian was at the end of our driveway with his skid loader as we left for our morning walk today.

We’ve been neighbors for 30 years, and for the entire 30 years, he has gone out of his way to help me with things that need doing on our property.

One of our fences began to fall down with the recent snow storm, and Brian took it down and put up a new one. Just because he’s a nice guy. He was coming by today to clean up some stray pieces from the old fence.

He plowed a foot of snow off our long driveway on our first snow this year, with his big tractor, and he’ll do it again, all season, just because he is a generous guy.

He grades our driveway when it starts to develop the inevitable ruts and soft spots. Because he likes to help out.

My husband Harold points out that Brian loves projects and welcomes opportunities to use his tractor, excavator, and skid loader. That is true, but he also is very generous with his time, and I’m sure he doesn’t have a lot of time. He owns a half dozen farms, and he has a prosperous business in town.

I am extremely grateful for Brian. Not only does he help us out in some very specific ways, I also know that I can pick his brains when I run up against some of those knottier Property Problems. He always has good ideas, and he knows a wealth of handy, reliable people.

It is wonderful to have Brian living next door.

My own growing edge with Brian’s generosity has always been to graciously receive Brian’s help, knowing that there is really no way that I will ever be able to “pay him back.” He won’t accept money, and he doesn’t need it. I’ve never been able to think of anything that I can give him that he really needs or wants. So I make treats for him throughout the winter, as a token of my appreciation.

What is it like for you to “just” receive and be grateful?

I have grown up in a culture that values equal exchange, so strongly, that I find it incredibly hard to receive without reciprocity.

I was taught, when I grew up, to always thank people for what they did, and that when someone did something for you, you incurred a kind of a debt with them. I realize now that this is not how I want to be, with giving and receiving.

While I learned to thank people, it was more of a thing you were supposed to do, because it was polite and expected, rather than a genuine gratitude that came from deep in your heart.

And, that belief of incurring a debt is not healthy or helpful either, because, instead of immersing myself in the feeling of whole-hearted gratitude, and conveying that to the giver, with heartfelt blessings, I then have my focus on what-can-I-do-to-pay-them-back.

This all gets in the way of genuine appreciation and whole-hearted receiving.

So, not only does Brian give us his time and talent, but he also gives me the opportunity to receive what Brian gives us, from deep in my heart, and to bless him for it. I get to just purely receive, with deep gratitude.

What do you know about receiving and blessing, for you?

 

 

Left Behind Things

rowboat side yard

On my walk this morning, my attention was drawn to an old rowboat resting upside down on its trailer. It was in the side yard of a house in the neighborhood.

It has been there for a long time, perhaps twenty years. My sense is that it has been resting idle for most of those years. On every one of my walks, it has been resting there. It has a forlorn look to it, and there is a lot of rust on it.

This made me think about all of the things once precious and exciting in our lives, things that have since been left behind.

We outgrow things. We grow and develop new interests, and other things get left behind.

They are perfectly useful, but they no longer hold our interest.

I know that I hang onto things that I have actually left behind. Sometimes this is a conscious choice, but more often it is my failure to acknowledge that I have moved on.

ac 5020

When I moved to the country thirty years ago, I acquired a 26 horsepower tractor to use for a large variety of tasks on my property. I loved everything about that tractor.

I loved that I lived where I needed a real tractor, and not just a small lawn-mowing tractor.

I loved the power of that tractor, and all the things I could do with it. I loved the sound of it, and I loved how it felt when I drove it.

I loved its orange color, and I loved caring for it: changing the oil, and lubing its joints.

Last year, I realized that my beloved tractor had been sitting forlorn and unused in my barn for a long time. I just didn’t do the kinds of things that it had once helped me with.

I had let most of my property go wild and native, so I wasn’t mowing big parts of the five acres like I used to do. The meadows had been overtaken by young woods, and I no longer had big clearing jobs.

I was no longer pulling up stumps of old oaks that had died; I just let them rot and eventually become homes for the wildlife. And, I no longer tilled a swath for a large vegetable garden every year.

My neighbor Brian now plows the snow off the driveway, so I don’t even need to do that anymore with the tractor.

I reluctantly acknowledged that the tractor that had faithfully served me for so many years was now a Left Behind Thing.

I gave the tractor to Brian. He has a half dozen farms, and I knew it was going to a good home.

It took me a long time to consciously acknowledge that I had moved on, not only from the tractor, but from the “me” who did those tractor things. I was really reluctant to let that part of myself go. I felt like I was letting go a part of the dream I had when I moved to the country, and that I had lived for so long.

But I was making different choices now, and the tractor wasn’t part of them. Just like the rowboat in the side yard is no longer a part of my neighbor’s dreams or life.

I like to think that these things are happier when they are freed to go and do what they were designed to do. My tractor wasn’t meant to sit in my barn; it was meant to go and be a tractor, and to be useful, just like any of us.

So, when I can’t or don’t love to use things anymore, I feel like it is time to release them, and to be happy for them that they can go and fulfill their purpose somewhere else.

But before I can do that, I need to acknowledge that I have moved on, that I am making different choices, and that I have left behind the thing that was once precious.

This isn’t always easy for me. It always takes consciousness about what matters. Sometimes it takes courage to let a prior version of ourselves go too.

What are your Left Behind Things?

 

 

In the Fog

in a fog

Fog enveloped us as we emerged from the house this morning for our walk.

Fog isn’t very common here in Northern Illinois, and when it is present, it isn’t usually very thick or long-lasting. For me, it’s a pleasant diversion from the other, more severe, winter weather that we experience.

I grew up in Northern California, where fog is so legendary that it merits at least two Wikipedia pages, “San Francisco fog”, and “Tule fog”.

My childhood summers in the San Francisco Bay Area were filled with fog. It rolled in during the late afternoon and stayed with us all night, until the morning sun burned it off.

My great aunt lived in the central valley of California, where there was a dreaded fog called tule fog. This thick and dense fog was so extreme that it was known to cause multi-car accidents of over one hundred cars. We used to say that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face in tule fog, and that wasn’t far from the truth.

Fog makes it hard to see, for any distance. It is difficult to know where you are, or where you are going, when you are in fog.

This morning, as I walked through the fog, I thought about the times in my life when I have felt like I was in a fog about where I was, or where I was going in my life.

This has happened a lot since I have had my own business. Both inner and outer factors are frequently shifting, and these affect the growth, vitality and direction of the business. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a fog about where I am and where I’m going with my business.

During these times in my life, I have typically expended a lot of time and energy trying to find my way out of the fog that I was feeling, or trying to see clearly in the fog. In California, fog was so common that we all had strategies that we used to find our way around and through it.

One day, recently, as I was struggling to find my way through the fog that I was feeling about my life, a question suddenly occurred to me: What if, instead of trying to find my way through the fog, I just waited until the fog lifted?

When I was growing up, if the fog was really bad, we just didn’t go anywhere until it lifted. It was too risky to venture out in it. If things needed doing, they just got to wait until the fog lifted, unless it was an emergency.

So, I have recently stopped trying to find my way when I feel like I am in a fog, trusting that the fog will lift in its own time, and I will then move forward with clarity and ease. Of course, this is going against the grain of everything that our culture teaches us about pushing through, at all costs, to get to the other side.

I don’t know how this will work, but I do feel like this is what the fog came to teach me today.

How do you “be”, when you are in the “fog times” of your life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuning Into Peace

new moon sunset

I looked up and saw a crescent moon in a sunset sky of blues, purples and pinks.

I was in a busy parking lot, walking from the grocery store to my car. It was evening commute time, and the road was filled with continuous, impatient traffic.

The beauty of the moon took my breath away, so I stood still for a few minutes and turned my attention away from all the traffic. I took a moment to gaze at the moon.

I breathed in the peace of the moment’s interlude.

I tuned into the peace that was being offered to me, right in that moment.

I think these invitations to feel peaceful and centered, even in the midst of frantic activity, are all around us.

I believe we are offered these moments by life, all throughout our days.

It is just that I don’t step into very many of them, because my mind is elsewhere, and I move right past them.

The peace was an elixir for my soul.

The moon set a few minutes later, and the sky filled with stars as I drove home from the grocery store. I was marveling at how this peace is offered to us all the time. I thought about how much peace is available to me, right in every moment, when I just tune into it.

What moments of peace are available to you, during your days? I invite you to go on a treasure hunt for them.

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