Settling in to the Range…

DSC_0353 - Version 2One of the many gifts of writing this blog is that it asks me to be aware – of how I feel, what I think, and what’s going on around me.  The truth is, when all is going well – when I get what I expected or wanted or better – I breeze right through, with nary a thought.

For example, a Friday morning early in March was moving along quite routinely.  Dog and cat fed, coffee made, I snuggled into my studio to write.  About mid-morning, the doorbell rang unexpectedly, prompting Dakota and me to jump – me out of my chair and him up on his feet from a deep sleep.

I could say we raced down the stairs, but that would not be true.  There was no race, he always gets there first and there is only one question:  “Who rang the doorbell?”  With my thoughts still in the studio, and my hand opening the door, Dakota rushed outside.

I have no idea how long I stood motionless, blinking my eyes wondering “Is this a dream?”  There stood my daughter, smiling like a Cheshire cat.  “Surprise!!  Happy Birthday Mom!”  Totally unexpected.  Fully wanted.  Easy.  Breezy.  Perfect.

IMG_0289 - Version 2Like days flowing into nights, life has a natural cadence of new beginnings and endings.   So, too, it was for the weekend – Friday quickly flowed through Saturday and directly into Sunday – when it was time for  my daughter to return home.   Expected, yes.  Wanted?  Not so much.

Standing at the entrance of airport security, the joy of being together sang through our voices; and the sadness of her leaving seeped through our quiet tears.  We got in lots of hugs and all the words that could be spoken -  “Loved every minute of it…”See you soon…Love you.”

The part of life I’ve deemed to be “unwanted”, even when it’s expected, takes my breath away.  And I wonder, what do I do with all of it?  Sadness, anxiety, worry, frustration… the emotions I’ve banished to the shadows…hoping to avoid their hold.

hidden_water_messagesMasaru Emoto, in his book The Hidden Messages in Water, shares an experiment in which families put rice in 3 different jars.  Every day they say “I love you” to the 1st jar.  To the 2nd, they say “You fool.” To the 3rd?  They ignore it, saying nothing.    Then, they watch the rice to see what happens.

My initial thought was that the rice given the energy of “I love you” would thrive.  The one given the negative energy would rot.  And the ignored rice would just hang out.  But that is not what happened.  Time and time again, the ignored rice rotted first.

Emoto’s conclusion?  “To give your positive or negative attention to something is a way of giving energy.  The most damaging form of behavior is withholding your attention.”  This is true for rice and for ourselves and our feelings.

It takes great courage to create an inner circle, that embraces the full range of our emotions. It takes practice to honor our wanted and unwanted experiences.   And it takes time to acknowledge all of our feelings, not as rivals, but as unique part of our wholeness.

Laughing is as natural as crying.  Wondering how a project will turn out or when we’ll see a loved one again create a tension between worry and knowing that all is well.  And the intensity between frustration and curiosity when we want something to work moves us forward to new possibilities.

DSC_0085 - Version 2What’s my conclusion?  It’s a gift to say “Yes” to the full range of my emotional being.  In doing so, I become intimate with life, like a drop of water in the river – passing over every rock, rushing through the rapids, taking an extra moment in a quiet pool – each, only once – in a fleeting moment – on my journey.

On the way home from the airport on Sunday evening, I breathed deeply.  My emotions reminded me that I know deep within my being what it is like to be a mom.  I know how it feels to love and let go.  And I know life’s deep beckoning, calling me and my daughter forward to life’s wholeness.

The expected and unexpected.  The wanted and unwanted.  The range of thought and emotions.  These are the gifts of life.

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize that is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”  Lao-Tsu.

Thank you for reading,

Kathleen

 

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A Conversation with Spring

IMG_0384 - Version 2Okay, I admit…I’ve always loved spring… its noticeably longer days; the alternating cool and warm breezes tickling my nose; and the surprises of  color.  I didn’t think it could get any better.  And, then, it did.

IMG_0310 - Version 2The day began routinely.  As I went about my work, Dakota waited patiently for the moment I would reach for my tennis shoes, signaling it was time for a long walk.   Jumping up and wagging the puff ball we call his tail, he was ready for his leash.

Our walk also began routinely.  Out the door, we turned right, with no reason to expect that today would be any different.  But, after all, it was spring and a small clump of blooming daffodils caught our attention.  So, we went off course – Dakota to smell and me to admire.

IMG_0320 - Version 2Then, it happened.  “Be joyful with life as it unfolds,”  a voice came through the breeze.  Not used to strange voices in my head or in breezes, I looked around to see who was there.  But we were alone.  Except for the daffodils nodding.  “Life’s mysteries always know the perfect time to bloom.”  Yep, it was the daffodils.

As my mind fluttered, trying to understand what was going on, my inner muse jumped into the conversation.  “The daffodils are right.  No matter how good we think we are at planning and getting things done, life does have perfect timing.”  About halfway through her list of examples, I nodded “Okay, okay!  Got it!”

It was none too soon when Dakota got restless and pulled at the leash. Thank goodness!   Thinking the daffodil speaking incident was behind me, we continued on our normal route toward the sidewalk.

IMG_0368 - Version 2But as we passed the pruned hedge on the right, a deep voice said  “Yup, those daffodils are pretty, but me and my buddies here have strong trunks,  deep roots and wisdom cultivated over many years.”

“Holy smokes!” I thought, “The hedge is in on this too!”  And once again, my inner muse was ready to go.  She reminded me that there is a lot more to me than what can been seen.  “You transform experiences into wisdom that you hold deep in your heart.   Plus, just like the hedge, you know how to let go of old stuff, rest, and be ready for the new.”  My muse was right, again, I have had many cycles of newness, growth, pruning, and rest.

By now, I was curious what would happen next, but all was quiet.  Dakota and I fell into the routine cadence of our walk and as we turned the corner announcing the halfway mark, Dakota stopped to explore the smells at the end of a driveway.

IMG_0340 - Version 2“It’s easy in your world to underestimate the power of passion and the gift of yielding” spoke a young voice.  As I looked down, there was a crocus newly burst through the ground reaching for the sun.

And as I had learned earlier, my inner muse wanted to be sure I got the point and she jumped right in.  “Remember the crocus  when you wonder whether your young ideas are strong enough to get through the existing layers of thought.  No one asked the crocus if it could get through the ground, it just did it.”

The wisdom within Spring’s voices was settling in and I noticed I was happy, content.  That is, until I was jolted out of my serenity by a loud voice.  “Look!!!  Look!!!  Here……”  My eyes caught a glimpse of a flowering forsythia “What do you see?” he asked.  

IMG_0356 - Version 2Not waiting for an answer, he blurted.   “Flowers, yes, yes, yes, but, look closer….Strong branches hold the flowers….the healthy bush nurtures them all.  Do you see?”

“Yes, I do,” I replied thankfully,  and then added “I, too, am the whole me.”   In that moment, a soft breeze bent the forsythia in a nod of agreement; and I knew the conversation was now complete.

Our routine walk became, once again, a routine walk on a beautiful spring day, but different….I had with me the voices of Spring…

Trust in the perfect time of life’s mysteries……..Feel your wisdom expanding in every cycle….. Move with the power of your passion…. Live in the gift of your wholeness.

I’d say it was a good day.  

Happy Spring!

Kathleen

 “Look deeper into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  Albert Einstein

 

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Anatomy of a Long Drive Home

DSC_0492 - Version 2Many traditions remind us that we are the full range of life – not just the parts we like, all the parts.   Love and hate.  Faith and doubt.  Surrender and fight.

Meditating, contemplating, praying connect us with the mystery of the range.  Until life calls us back into the day and we’re fully engaged in its flow.  One minute, we’re frustrated with traffic, the next minute we’re enjoying the warmth of  a friend’s smile.

What happens when rather than lulling us into the day, the range implodes, crashing us head first into tumultuous waves of the dark emotions?  The ones full of energy – that can make or break us?

Little did I know one morning in January that I was about to find out.

The day began like any other day.  I got up, fell into my routine, and left for a late morning appointment.  Perfect.  Afterwards, walking across a light blanket of snow, I got in my car and started home.

It wasn’t long before traffic slowed down, but here, in Atlanta, it doesn’t take snow to slow traffic, so I thought “No big deal” and launched my practiced coping skills.  I found an alternative route, got gas, and visualized myself getting home soon, and safe.

photoFour hours later, into what is normally a 15-20 minute drive, I was still on my way home.    “No big deal,” I thought.  I was flowing evenly within the range.

My inner wisdom reminded me that “All is well” while my mind tracked our progress, counting cars going through each light.  To distract my fidgety body, I played with the buttons on the dashboard.  And my emotions maintained a balanced buffer – ease morphed into frustration, and came back.

Still, “No big deal,” I thought – just normal movement across the range.

Then, as the 7th hour came and went, I had done all I could.  I had told myself stories.  I had sung, breathed, talked, cajoled.  Now, there was only silence.  No place to go.  Nothing to do.  Traffic stopped.

In this suspended time and space, I could no longer pretend that I was in control.  The pace of my life, its movement, was a function of what was going on around me.  No matter what I did, it didn’t matter.

What happens when we feel we are no longer in control of what happens to us?

IMG_0663 - Version 2In this moment, 7+ hours into the drive, with no end in sight, I did not hesitate to wonder.  I dove into the deep end of the range where frustration and anger fueled my desire to do something, anything.

Like the guy in the movie Network, I wanted to open all the windows and scream “I’m madder than hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”  That was soon followed by the idea  of laying on the horn and forging an escape route driving on the sidewalk.  And of course, there were the periodic expletives “*?>@ it, I’m ditching the car and walking home.”

In the midst of it all, the phone rang.  It was my daughter.  “Mom, how are you?  Are you okay?”  I told her the truth.  I wasn’t okay.  I was in a mess and I didn’t know how to get out.  She didn’t try to talk me out of it, or tell me to look at the bright side, she just listened and said “I love you.”

When we hung up, all was quiet within the car.  A deep silence settled through me.  “I have a choice” I whispered.  “I’m a good warrior.  I can fight life and all it brings that I don’t like.”  Silence.

“Or, I can claim it all – the good and the bad.  I can honor my anger as much as I honor my capacity to love.  And, somehow, somewhere I can trust that it is all connected, with a loving, universal wisdom.”  Silence.

At what point do we surrender to a life that doesn’t make sense?  This one particular January day, I did just that.  I let go.

Yes, life is a paradox, with great range – emotional range, experience range, life range.  It’s wonderful being in charge of our life – to do, plan, learn, expand and feel it all.

Yet, within, we know that we are part of a greater, eternal, Oneness, beyond anything our minds can grasp.  We breathe.  The sun comes up and goes down.  And on snowy nights, we’re kept safe in the hearts of those that love us and in the homes of strangers who shelter us.

IMG_0675 - Version 3I must say, much about this new departure point is still mysterious – equally exhilarating and scary.  The voice deep within the silence reminds me to trust the connection to what I cannot see.  And, many days, my physical being is not quite convinced and reminds me that I am well-practiced at making things happen.

Guess that’s the beauty of the range – I’m all of it.

“Night cancels the business of day.  Then the day cancels the night.   Opposites manifest through opposites:  in the black core of the heart God created the eternal light of love.”  Rumi.

Thanks for reading.

Kathleen

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Savor, Savory

DSC_0083 - Version 2

2014 is off to a roaring start, days moving faster than ever.  I’ve been thinking about this “fast pace”, well, hanging out with it, is a better description.  It’s not that I mind the galloping – frankly, most days, it’s exhilarating.  It feels like the

“Speed of Life”

We Check-in and Check-out,
Tweet and Text;
Post and Email,
Then, wonder “What’s next?”

We Stream and Record,
Subscribe and Delete;
Wanting to share
when all is complete.

So much going on,
Even more to do;
Who else can we friend?
If only we knew.

Going faster and faster
is the way of the day,
Until the moment arrives
we can no longer play.

The quiet is calling,
it’s voice soft and sweet,
“It’s time to rest and
find our retreat.”

We live in a fast pace world at the speed of our humanness. And, it all works fine, until the moment we crash into our human speed. We know these moments well – a night’s rest, 5 minutes of meditation, a walk in the park, a deep breath.

IMG_20131217_233620_379 - Version 2

At our human speed, we naturally, effortlessly…..Listen to our heartbeat dance with our breath…..Feel, deeply, the experience of our life….. Laugh and cry, dream and regret.

At this speed, we remember. “Having loved and lost is better than never having loved at all.” (Tennyson). And we find the courage to open our heart and love more.

At this speed, we remember. “If you truly love yourself, you could never hurt another.” (Buddha). And we go deeper within to understand, forgive; to laugh and to love.

At this speed, we remember. “Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way!” (Dr. Seuss). And we return to the world.

When we  return – from our breath, our walk, meditation, night’s rest – we are re-connected. The fast pace and our human speed.

IMG_20131216_151419_872 - Version 2We feel the heartbeat of our friend who just sent the text….

We taste our breakfast, feeling its nourishment replenish our body for the day.….

We read the news feeds, connecting with others’ stories, as if they are our own. The world and us – two speeds converging into one.

We join spokes in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.

tao te ching #11

Happy Rolling, Shaping and Hammering…. At your speed of humanness.

Kathleen

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Gifts

IMG_20131110_125046_983The first draft for this blog started in November, around Thanksgiving.  It has taken many twists and turns since then; and now we’re in the midst of the next holiday season.  So, I wonder, how is all this time connected in words?

Looking through the menagerie of activity, I’m amazed at what got packed into the months’ days – people, projects, dinners, conversations, events, classes – goodness.  My mind wondered where to begin, now.  In the quiet, my heart spoke.  “Look at the gifts.”  

In this hectic time, where life pulls us in many directions, when we want to fit it all into the calendar, and when our attention is pulled to “gift giving”, my heart spoke Wisdom and Truth.  In quiet reflection, I discovered more than the calendar listed.  There were many gifts to be seen and remembered.  Gift gifts.  Life’s gifts.  Being alive gifts.

For example, I was given the gift of a mobile app and the e-publishing of Chapter 1 for my first book, Awakening Awareness*.  If that isn’t fabulous enough, it is only part of the gifting story.

Along the way, I got to experience trust.  The trust to share the first chapters, letting them take flight from the safety of my computer.  And that, in turn, brought the gift of seeing – I got to see that my writing and the material connected deeply with others.

Gift Gift – Technology.  Life’s Gift – Trust.  Being Alive Gift – Seeing and Connecting.

******

DSC_0689 (5)Another gift has been community.  When we’re an active participant, the gifts of community are easy to see.  For me, it has been – birthday celebrations,  milestone celebrations, helping loved ones, friends, and connecting in conversation.

The past month has also brought its share of quiet.  Some moments I have reveled in, appreciating rest.  Other quiet days appeared unexpected in my laundry list of things to get done.  

What then?  Where are the gifts when the rest of the world moves at its whirlwind pace and we stand in the midst of uninvited silence?  Some moments, testing my patience gave me the opportunity to find a breath of patience I didn’t know I had.

Other moments, the world pulled my gaze to look closer at life easily left unseen.  I saw a tree at the top of the street.  Standing in its glory, easily letting time change its colors, until the moment it would reach for the sky in its naked beauty.  The tree and I share this life.  We are community.

Another moment, I was in my favorite grocery nestled into my thoughts as I went about shopping.  Until I was startled by a voice.  I looked up and saw a familiar face – the master of produce – “Hi… Good to see you… How are you today?  Finding what you need?”  We, the food, the grocery, the produce master are community.

Yet, another moment, popped in as I perused through Facebook posts.  At first, it was to create a distraction, filling a quiet moment.  In a blink of an eye, or perhaps it was the click of the “Like” button, I understood.

Every person, every “Like”, every post is my community.  I know where and how each person came into my life and the experiences we’ve shared.  More than that, the community connects me to an even broader one – everyone who has touched my life whether I knew it or not.  

Standing in the midst of others or alone in my home, there are many gifts.  Gift Gifts – People, Dinners, Conversations.  Life’s Gifts – Community – Past, Present, Future.  Being Alive Gifts – Time, Presence, Belonging.  

*******

IMG_20131203_102021_299 - Version 2

Sitting in this moment of quiet awe, I wish for you life’s gifts.  May they touch your heart this holiday season.  May the new year bring its gifts of possibility and its knowing that All is Well.

“To every season, turn, turn, turn, there is a reason turn, turn turn.  And a time for every purpose, under heaven.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1 put to song by Peter Seeger (1950) and the Byrds (1965)).

Happy Holidays and Joyous New Year,

Kathleen

DSC_0355_2* Awakening Awareness is the exploration of the adventure we live  from the outside-in and the inside-out.  The mobile app is a “breath of meditation.”  Through a picture and a quote from my book, it brings a moment of peace.  The technology project was part of an Emory University media class; chosen and completed, done by 4 students – 3 undergraduates and an MBA student.

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Befriending Change

DSC_0355_2The past month has been full and diverse.  That’s a good thing.  It means that life is changing.  But…. change is unnerving.  After all, what do I do when my mindfully created plans collide with life’s synchronicity?

Certainly, I can fight the change – trying to fit life into my neatly crafted to-do list and deadlines.    I could pretend that what I feel is a figment of my imagination.  Or, I can flow between my plans and what’s showing up.

Putting it this way, choice of flow seems to be the obvious one.  Until my emotions speak, not so softly “Wait – the unknown is scary…”  Fortunately, a story appears to offer perspective.

*****

This past month, I was invited to talk to a group of freshmen in an Atlanta Math, Science and Technology focused high school.  Having a math degree, with a career in technology and entrepreneurship, my task was to intrigue the students about their possibilities.

The night before, I wondered what I could say that would somehow make my experience relevant.  I vividly remembered how easily I got bored with “old” stories when I was their age.  And if that weren’t a big imagesenough deterrent, how might I explain “slide rulers” and living through the dark ages when phones were attached to walls.

The “unknown” conundrum loomed large.  So, I did what I’ve learned to do:  go to bed and trust that morning will bring a new perspective along with the new day.

Indeed it did.  And, I got more than I asked for.  Not only did I know what I would say, I saw my life in a new way.

*****

When I was in high school, many of my friends knew what they wanted to do.  I didn’t.  No matter how hard I tried to figure it out, nothing came.   Needless to say, this was frustrating, particularly to my dad, the engineer for whom life was to be planned.

DSC_0465 - Version 2But on this cool morning, many years later, I finally understood.  I could not have known, then.  When I was a freshman in high school, Purdue was creating a Computer Sciences department, one of the first in the U.S.

By the time I became a Purdue freshman, the Computer Sciences Department was still evolving.  With a two-year-old undergraduate degreed program, new courses along with new ways of teaching were emerging.

Fortunately for me, life’s synchronicity was in charge.  As a math honors student, I was invited to join an experimental Calculus class with 14 other students.  Here, our “slide rulers” would become obsolete and computers would be our tool of choice and competence.  

DSC_0377 - Version 2Little did I know then, that I had just entered a new world.  A world where the unknown beckoned.  Where we learned new languages and how to think differently.  Here, where we worked with the professors to find answers to our questions.

The unknown. Yes, it presented a course to be completed,  for a grade.  And, it offered a lifetime adventure.  My creative curiosity forever drawn into the magical spaces where people, science and technology would meet.

Now, on a cool, fall morning, a diverse group of high school freshman greeted me.  I began.  “How do you move into a future that hasn’t been created yet?  One that has possibilities beyond your imagination?”

*****

Change.  The unplanned…unexpected.   Has a way of unleashing our life.  It asks us to be determined.  Spontaneous.  Curious.  Sweeping us into the uncharted waters of the unknown.

Change.  Our passage way into a life fully lived.  It’s how we create careers and families.  It’s how we discover our passion for travel, mountain climbing, yoga, building houses, writing blogs.

Change.  Opening connection with others.   Inviting us to marvel at our capacity to love, to be courageous and strong.  Teaching wisdom in the ups and downs.  And patiently waiting as we discover compassion for ourselves and others.

*****

My story revealed what I could not see before.  Change and the unknown are my companions.  It is time, now, to honor their gifts in gratitude; and walk into the next step of tomorrow.

DSC_0237 - Version 2WE ARE HERE 

We are here essentially to risk ourselves in the world; we are a form of invitation to others and to otherness, we are meant to hazard ourselves for the right thing, for the right woman or the right man, for a son or a daughter, for the right work or for a gift given against all the odds, and to allow ourselves to be happy may be the greatest, most courageous act of all.

David Whyte, from Readers’ Circle Essay, “Longing”, ©2011 David Whyte

Thanks for reading,

Kathleen

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New Frontiers

IMG_20130907_150310_197On September 9th, I headed to Seattle, WA.  I knew that, compared to Atlanta, the Northwest tended to be cloudy, misty, and rainy.  But, I wasn’t prepared for the magnificence of what I found – a lush North American rain forest.

Little did I know that the visual impact was just the tip of the iceberg.   Soon, I’d find myself enraptured by my inner frontiers – ready to be explored, promising a lushness and magnificence beyond my wildest imagination.

Guess, I’d better start at the beginning.

Many years ago, a good friend gave me Brian Weiss’s book Many Lives, Many Masters.   Brian is a traditionally trained psychiatrist (Columbia and Yale) and at the time, he was of the opinion that re-incarnation was folklore.  Then he met Catherine.  During hypnosis, she took him on the adventures of her past lives.

Since his first book, published in 1988, Brian has documented memories of thousands of individuals.  The stories are fascinating, fully reminding us of the intensity of our human experiences, emotions, and spirits.

With the keen understanding of a psychiatrist, Brian also reveals how these memories, long ago recorded in our unconsciousness, impact our thoughts, emotions and actions in the present.  A simple example will help.

When I was seven, I was sick with a severe infection and my mother took me to the doctor.  The next thing I knew, a nurse came into the room; she had red hair and wore a white coat.  She gave me a shot in the big muscles of my butt, it hurt like the dickens.  As I cried, mother comforted me, and all was forgotten when we got ice cream.

The next 2 days, we had the same routine – doctor’s office, nurse, white coat, red hair, painful shot, comforting, ice cream.

Fast forward to me at 28, a systems analyst working for a large corporation. Our division had gathered to meet the new Vice President; and we were eager to meet her.  Walking into the room, she had red hair and was wearing a white coat.  I whispered to my friend “I’m not going to like her.”

My conscious mind had no idea.  But, my memory remembered.

Brian, along with many scientists and practitioners, understand my reaction.  They have seen the power of hypnotherapy to find emotional memories that have a much greater impact on our lives than my comment to my friend.  And more importantly, they have created compassionate ways to transform past conclusions that no longer work for us, into new perspectives and choices.

In my simple example, my 7 year-old’s conclusion of “woman + red hair + white = pain”, in awareness, gets transformed into “Life is filled with new people and possibilities.”

Now, back to Seattle and the new frontiers.  My curiosity, work, and passion led me to attend an intensive, seven day, training retreat to learn Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy at the Wellness Institute.  Stepping off the plane, I knew I was eager to learn a new technique, tool.  And, I felt an underlying curiosity wondering what I would discover about myself, and my life’s hidden stories.

As with all new frontiers, it’s the easiest to describe the outer one.  The beautiful retreat center, the full days of learning and practicing, delicious meals, the range of what I learned, and, of course, the diverse group of new friends.

However, it’s the most difficult to put into words, how the inner frontier felt.  The elation of learning.  The trepidation of doing hypnotherapy for the first time.  The deep trust and compassion for myself and others.  The sheer joy of feeling connected to life.   The peace of understanding.  And, the ability to share me more deeply and to love, more.

Now, as I’m lost deep in feeling, I wonder “Where is my inner poet when I need her?”  “Adventuring along the paths of the inner frontier,” she whispers back.  And sends me to Rumi.

IMG_20130907_150640_912 - Version 2BEGIN

This is now.  Now is.  Don’t postpone till then.  Spend the spark of iron on stone.  Sit at the head of the table.

Dip your spoon in the bowl.  Seat yourself next to your joy and have your awakened soul pour wine.

Branches in the spring wind, easy dance of jasmine and cypress. Cloth for green robes has been cut from pure absence.

You’re the tailor, settled among his shop goods, quietly sewing.

Rumi, the Book of Love, p. 24 Translated by Coleman Barks

Thanks for reading,

Kathleen

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