Category Archives: Photography

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked”

It is a Good Friday to remember that sorrow is joy’s twin.


“On Joy and Sorrow” from The Prophet —Khalil Gibran

Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

el-cristo-de-la-concordia

El Cristo de la Concordia, Cochabamba, Bolivia

 

2 secrets to lasting relationships: Kindness and generosity

shared-joyEver wonder why some relationships stick and others peel away? Scientific research might have some insights into this.

An article by Emily Esfahani Smith published in The Atlantic and Business Insider outlined the research of John Gottman and Robert Levenson at “The Love Lab” at the University of Washington. Gottman and Levenson watched newlyweds interact with each other and then checked in with them six years later to see where the relationships ended up.

Gottman and Levenson divided the pairs into two groups: masters and disasters. After six years, the masters still maintained stable relationships but the disasters were separated, divorced or struggling.

When observing the two groups, Gottman and Levenson noted the physiological responses. The disaster couples’ hearts beat quickly and their sweat glands activated, but the masters stayed calm. They affectionately behaved kindly to one another, even in disagreement.

The physiological reactions can be explained by the kind of “scanning” couples choose. Partners either scan their environment and their partner seeking things to appreciate and say thank you for, or they can scan looking for partners’ mistakes. Disaster couples’ bodies reacted in a way that prepared them “to attack or be attacked.”

Wanting to know more, Gottman invited 130 couples to a retreat to watch them interact. Esfahani Smith writes:

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband . . ..

Turning toward or turning away from partners affects the relationship. Disaster couples turn toward only 33 percent of the time. Masters show the kindness of turning toward 87 percent of the time.

Generosity comes into play around “shared joy.” Master couples actively celebrated the joyful news of partners. Disaster couples either ignored it or diminished it. Apparently it is just as important to be present for our partners when things are going right.

What frequency is your scanner set to? 

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Read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/#ixzz3KNfwGsWO

The difference between happy and glowing: Giving

This past week I had the privilege of writing an article about a woman from my church. Jean volunteers for a long list of organizations, giving to others in different ways. As she bakes, delivers meals to seniors, quilts, and tackles her many other labours of love, she glows with energy and good spirit. When I asked her why she does all she does, she said, “It makes me feel good. I get back so much more than I give.”

Another friend of mine volunteers for Canadian Red Cross. He supports people in need in his own community, and he travels to countries in crisis around the globe. When he speaks of this work, he glows. “I get back so much more than I give,” he says.

I have heard that refrain over and over in my life, from people aglow with the joy of hands-on giving.

After my conversation with Jean, I thought about other people I know who have stable jobs and who probably give to charity, but who don’t give of themselves in a close contact way. They golf every Saturday, or they enjoy fine dining, or they spend most weekends at their cottage.

I would never say these people aren’t happy. If I were to ask them if they are happy, they would say yes. What is the difference then?

The difference is the glow: The merely happy people pass through life content; the others glow with a giving contact high.

The question then: Do I want to be merely happy, or do I want to glow?

Mud-splattered and glowing in Bolivia

Arlene – Mud-splattered and glowing on a Habitat for Humanity build in Bolivia

 

 

Listening as giving

Photo Credit: "I'm Listening" by Steve Johnson https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephoto/

Photo Credit: “I’m Listening” by Steve Johnson https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephoto/

On Sunday, my friend, Ellie, made me think about something in a different way.

During her church reflection entitled “When Forgiving Takes Three,” she spoke about how we sometimes need assistance from a third party to help us through conflict situations. What really made me think, though, was the idea of listening as a gift to others. Usually we think of listening as receiving. We sit back, someone tells us their thoughts or feelings, and we receive that from them. But the act of listening—really listening—is more about giving than receiving.

How many times have you felt tuned-out by someone when you are speaking with them? Frustrating, isn’t it? How many times have you shared thoughts or ideas with another but felt your concerns weren’t received in the way you intended?

We have the power to dissipate conflict early on simply by allowing another person to vent their frustrations and by giving that person the gift of really hearing them and working hard to understand.

I’ve got my ears on. Ready to listen.

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Rev. Ellie Barrington: “When Forgiving Takes Three” http://www.trinityunitedottawa.ca/reflections/when-forgiving-takes-three/

Dragonflies: Finishing better than we start

Photo courtesy of Franco Folini https://www.flickr.com/photos/livenature/

Photo courtesy of Franco Folini https://www.flickr.com/photos/livenature/

On Friday, I wrote about “Thinking greater than we feel.” A natural follow-up comes from today’s Tuesdays with Laurie blog. Her post, “Majestic Wings,” ponders the majestic qualities of dragonflies—their beauty and their agile flight abilities.

She writes: “Native American folklore tells us that the iridescence in a dragonfly’s wings is a glimmer of hope; believing that with the dawn of each new day the dragonfly brings possibility and joy.”

One of her blog followers, Grace, from The Wild Pomegranate, added: “Dragonflies are one of my very favorites, and I’ve been seeing a ton of them lately. One piece of Dragonfly medicine that resonates strongly with me is their complete transformation from a mud crawling nymph to a glorious flier. They remind that the way we begin isn’t always the way we will end.”

If you feel like a not-yet-fully-formed, mud-crawling being today, take heart from the iridescence of dragonflies. If you feel like your wings are too fragile to be strong today, take heart from their flight maneuvers. The way we begin isn’t how we end, and each day brings new “Dragonfly medicine” of possibilities and joy.

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Majestic Wings

 

Human angels

new-horizonsI was an angel for about half an hour yesterday.

The sun and warmth called to me at the end of the afternoon yesterday, so I ventured out for a big walk in my neighbourhood. I usually follow the same five kilometre route, but yesterday I took a different path. As I turned one corner, I saw a woman about five houses ahead of me make a hasty trip across the street. She went to the aid of an elderly man and his wife who had also heeded the call of the sun and the warmth, but who had walked a little too far. The man had run out of energy at the end of his driveway and couldn’t take another step—or stand for that matter.

My adrenaline kicked in, and I prepared to make a fast move to their aid. Just then, a car pulled over, and two young women hopped out. I couldn’t hear what they said, but I assume they offered help. The wife shook her head, so the girls hesitantly climbed into the car and drove away. I relaxed, thinking that maybe things were going to be okay. By the time I reached the house though, I knew the situation had deteriorated. The two woman could not support the man enough to help him to the house.

“Are you sure I can’t help?” I said.

The wife reluctantly agreed. “If you hold him, I’ll get his walker,” she said.

I stayed long enough to see him safely into his home. As we left, his wife said, “You both are angels. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

I had the remainder of my walk to ponder her comment and to remember other situations in my life when people materialized at just the right time in just the right place: a cab driver who drove me all the way home late at night even when I told him I didn’t have enough money to pay the full fare, the woman who provided the phone so I could call my parents after a car accident, and the grocery store cashier who shared some life wisdom and turned my dark mood into a bright one.

I thought about how strange it was that I had taken a different route that day, almost like I needed to rearrange things to be there at that time. I wondered what kind of forces in the universe work together to create these kind of scenarios.

I mused about how the woman had declined the first offer of help. She had more help than she needed really, but she didn’t want to accept it. I wondered how many human angels I have refused to accept.

I contemplated her gratitude and her sense of relief in response to something that had cost me very little. The situation for her was dire, but for me it was nothing more than a temporary detour from my path. I wondered if all the human angels who have appeared to me felt the depth of my gratitude, and I hoped that their aid was as light a burden for them.

Have you ever been an angel? Has a human angel ever come to you?