Tag Archives: Life

Think, but then get off the chair: Christina Rasmussen

pass-fearI re-read the post ,”The Chair,” by Christina Rasmussen this morning. (See link below.) I referred to this piece here before, but the dawn of a new year seems a good time to re-visit it.

In her post, Christina urges not to linger in our chairs wondering why our life stagnates around us.

I love to linger in a chair, thinking, reflecting, reading, dreaming. But fulfilled dreams require action: steps, big or small, taken one at a time to alchemize our big thoughts into big things.

Think, but then get off the chair.

“The Chair” http://www.secondfirsts.com/2013/08/the-chair/

Bayberry candle luck: a ritual to centre me in what’s really important

“A bayberry candle burned to the socket puts luck in the home, food in the larder and gold in the pocket.”

bayberry-tapersMy mother-in-law burned a bayberry taper candle down to the socket every Christmas Day; her family believed it brought luck for the coming year.

We adopted the tradition in our house, until it became almost impossible to find bayberry taper candles. Taper candles are out of vogue generally, and bayberry candles even more so. Imagine how pleased I was, then, when one of my book club members gave me bayberry taper candles for Christmas. (She might have been a little taken aback by how pleased I was with the gift.) When I got home from my book club meeting, I happily placed a bayberry candle in my nativity scene once again.

I did a little research, and I discovered that my mother-in-law’s version of the tradition differed from the original. According to on-line sources, the candles were burned on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, not Christmas Day like my mother-in-law did. And my mother-in-law lit her candle on Christmas morning and let it burn throughout the day, whereas the traditional bayberry candles burned on Christmas Eve evening, and the flame had to continue burning into Christmas Day to carry the luck forward; same for New Year’s Eve.

I thought, ever so briefly, about changing my tradition to align with the legend, but then I dismissed the idea. Traditions—the good ones, anyway—are really rituals, and rituals—the good ones, anyway—warm the soul, revive memories of loved ones and centre us in what is really important.

If I were to light a bayberry candle on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, it would feel wrong, like a betrayal. It would not warm my soul.

So I’ll keep on lighting a bayberry candle on Christmas morning. When I do, it will warm my soul, it will remind me of my mother-in-law, and it will centre me in what is really important. And that, I suspect, will bring me more luck than anything. 

bayberry-nativity

Time to think: The power of quiet time

My friend, Jennifer, thought of me when she read a New York Times article last week: “No Time to Think” by Kate Murphy. Jennifer thought of me because I am not like the people described in the article—people who are so afraid of being alone with their thoughts they actually administer electric shocks to themselves if left alone with nothing but their thoughts for as little as 6 minutes.

postcard poem ArleneJennifer is the friend who coined the “Laughing Thinker” phrase I use as part of my bio; I take it as a compliment that she sees me as both profound and happy. I love to think. During the day when I am at home, I never turn on radios or TVs. I live in silent contemplation all day, and I love it.

During the Christmas season I work part-time at a bookstore in a shopping mall. Many of the younger solo shoppers enter our store with ear buds in both ears. I think, “They can’t even go shopping without some din in their ears?” Are they really so afraid of their own thoughts? Apparently so.

Why is this a problem? What does it matter if people shut themselves down? According to researchers, the main reason people don’t want to think too much is they don’t want to dwell on the negative or ruminate on their problems. But if we don’t allow ourselves the time to sort ourselves out, it hampers ability to empathize with others. 

Lost creativity is another cost. Murphy writes, “. . . an idle mind is a crucible for creativity.” Thinking about problems outside of reality adds new dimensions to the issue and allows for novel solutions to challenges.

Empathy and creativity melt away so many negative issues. At this time of year, it’s tempting to rush, rush, rush and party, party, party. At this time, some of the negative family, friends and financial stuff we suppress the rest of the year raises its unavoidable ugly head for us to deal with. So, at this time of year it’s more important than ever to foster thinking time.

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger were onto something: Think, think, think, and laugh a little too.

Laughing Thinkers

Laughing Thinkers

___________

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/sunday-review/no-time-to-think.html?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits&_r=0

 

The art on our walls: Memories of my father

Fifteen years ago on this date at about this time in the morning, I received a phone call. My mother told me my father had dropped dead of a heart attack.

I reeled upon hearing the shocking news. I sat on the family room couch in a daze.

I was home with my five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. My daughter quickly figured out that all was not well. I pulled her close and told her the news. Without saying a word, she left the room.

A short time later she returned and handed me this picture. “Now you’ll always remember what your father looked like,” she said.

dad

I framed the soul-laden picture and hung it on the wall in my office. It is one of the many pieces of art on our walls that holds great meaning and tells a story.

Is the art on your walls soul-laden?

 

Learning from our shame: Brené Brown Part II

If you watched the video from my Friday post, this follow-up talk gives a more complete picture of the effects of vulnerability on even the most high-profile “experts.” Brené Brown talks about the repercussions of the first TED talk, and how becoming the “Vulnerability TED action figure”changed her life.

Even she, author of Daring Greatly, had not realized how she had been engineering her life to stay small.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” —Brené Brown

Click here to see her talk:

 

Why you need deep roots

shallow-roots

I took this picture on our Canadian Thanksgiving walk at Shaw Woods. It’s difficult to grasp this picture at a glance, so I’ll walk you through it. The sheer rock face to the left used to be the surface on which the tree grew. The clump of brownish tangle forming a V shape opposite it are the roots of the tree. We know the tree sustained itself for many years on that precarious and not-very-nourishing place because it grew to a substantial size. You can see the circumference of the trunk above the heads of my mother and my son. Their size gives you some perspective on the size of the tree.

The roots of the tree could not penetrate the solid rock to grow deeply, so root tendrils reached out horizontally over the slanting rock in their search for sustenance.

Such a precarious state could not endure. At some point, a storm-driven gust of wind exerted such pressure on the tree that its roots peeled away from the impenetrable stone and it toppled. Without deep roots solidly anchoring it into the ground it could not survive a storm.

We can learn lessons from this tree.

Metaphorically speaking, to survive life’s storms, people need roots entrenched deeply into solid, anchoring sustenance: faith, nurturing friendships, loving family. Sure, some can survive for a while by spreading themselves thinly over precarious and not-very-nurturing surfaces, reaching out for sustenance through such things as jobs, money or alcohol and drugs. Like the tree in the photo, some people last surprisingly long that way. But eventually a storm comes with a wind too strong to withstand: the job disappears, the money dries up or the alcohol and drugs destroy ability to function effectively. Then the shallow roots peel away and everything topples.

Are you deeply rooted and ready for a storm? 

I took this picture - looking through the thin roots -  from the place where my mother and son were standing before. It is easy to see how shallow the roots were.

I took this picture – looking through the thin roots – from the place where my mother and son were standing before. It is easy to see how shallow the roots were.