Sunday in the October Countryside

Today the strong south wind is keeping the trees dancing and all the maples’ remaining leaves holding on to their golden splendor as the branches dance wildly.

The giant green combine is making a lot of noise in the field across the road, dust flying as it churns over the corn. Clouds cover the sky and the air is cool–a better day for being in than out, in my mind.

I’ve contacted an old friend, worked on aromatherapy blends for next month, researched some ideas for new products, listened to a podcast from Danielle Laporte on Flow. I’ve thought about what kind of week I want to have, mopped the floor, remembered the wild ginseng seeds from United Plant Savers I need to plant, and considered buying a different plant collagen booster.

I keep smelling baking bread, but we haven’t baked any. That reminds me of a recipe for gluten-free sour dough bread from moon and spoon and yum I want to try. I better make that starter today!

Plans for the rest of the day include choosing a delicious recipe for the Shiitake mushrooms Alan picked from our log this morning; doing some Ayurveda homework; making elderberry syrup; sewing up some fabric pumpkins for my shop; reading a few poems from the Eavan Boland book I have; and doing a watercolor lesson from one of the Liz Steel courses I have.

And then light candles and turn on the orange Halloween lights, set the table, jazz playing while we cook dinner and eat together. If we feel like it, perhaps we’ll play a game or watch an old black and white film together. And I’ll end the night in bed reading one of the books on my nightstand. (I’ll tell you about them in an upcoming post.)

I hope you have time to rest and do the things that you love to do this Sunday!

What I’m Reading for Spiritual Growth (Savoring Sunday)

Sunday might always be a bittersweet day for me. Christians have long called it the Sabbath: a day to attend church and rest. And until a few years ago, I went along with this. It was the way I was raised, and as a person in a ministry family, it certainly didn’t feel like a Sabbath. It was a religious work day, which left me feeling exhausted, with a headache, and with no rest at all before starting the whole week over again.

When I went through my midlife crisis several years ago, (yes, I said it!) I decided I had to stop doing some of the things I’d been doing for so long out of duty, guilt and because I wanted to please others. And church was one of those things. Jung talked about the two halves of life and I completely identified with this:

One cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening become a lie.

So do I miss church? Not really, no. And that makes me sad. I feel guilt associated with not missing it, as well as a wistfulness that I’m not one of the people who feel happy and a part of everything at church. It might be my introverted-ness and detest of crowds and doing things as a group. It might be my rebellious streak that doesn’t want to “turn to your neighbor and tell them…” after the worship service is over. It might be that there really are some people better suited to organized religion and I’m not one of them.

But I still believe. I still search. I still pray. I still am awed by creation and by my little place in it. But, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I feel like I’ve expanded my views and I’m not afraid of other people’s ideas about spirituality, or the possibility that they might influence me.

Perhaps I need their influence! In my yoga teacher training class this past Tuesday, our teacher was talking about the size of our galaxy, how many stars are estimated to be there, how fast light moves, etc, and how small and insignificant, yet important each of us is. And I thought of the passage in Psalm 8 (verses 3-5, NLT)

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place—
 what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
    and crowned them with glory and honor.

It was marvelous to connect a Biblical passage to a yoga teaching! I’ve been surprised to find I can be reading a book on meditation from a Buddhist teacher, and it doesn’t in any way contradict or put down the religion I grew up in. Instead, there is respect shown and I continue to discover many correlations between various religions and belief systems. If anything, I’ve been humbled in what I thought I knew, in how people of one belief might treat someone from another belief. (Christians have a lot to answer for!)

In this period of my life, I turn to books, as I always have done, to help tether me to what I believe, as well as to challenge what I think I believe. I’ve been reading much wider than I did as a younger person, and it’s been very healing as I find the inner resistance, the prejudices, the tendency to be on my guard and then learn to listen anyway.

I have fewer answers than I once thought I had. The pride of earlier years, the cut and dried way of looking at things, has given way to viewing my neighbor through a gentler, more compassionate lens.

So many, myself included, have been wounded by the church’s (or other religion’s) intolerance, rigidity, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness. We may not go back to the way things were, yet we still believe.

For people like myself, or for anyone who is spiritually aware and a seeker, here are a few books you might benefit from.

A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life by Jack Kornfield was a book recommended to our Spiritual Health & Healing class from Yoga Veda Institute in the fall. I love Jack’s kind, clear writing style, and how he weaves practicality into each spiritual practice. I’m not finished with this one yet, but I’ve gotten something from each chapter.

Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’ Donohue. Many of you are familiar with the late John O’ Donohue and I often share his poetry here on the blog. Everything this man wrote is worth taking the time to read, and this book is no exception! He infuses his poetic, imaginative, nature- inspired way of seeing into everything he writes, combining it with a rich, philosophical intelligence and a spiritual depth that I haven’t read elsewhere. And beauty is everywhere.

Thirst by Mary Oliver is one of her many collections with a spiritual bent. Her poetry is clear, direct, true, and always asking and seeking out the Creator. If I’m particularly troubled in spirit, her poetry helps me find the heart words my head cannot. You know what I mean, right?

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God is a collection I discovered a few years ago, and read continuously. His unique, fluid, broad perspective on life, on the Divine gives me courage whenever I feel my faith flounder, whenever I think I’ve gone too far away, I remind myself of the fact that I’m circling around, that I’ll return.

I could go on, but these are four to start with and you can be sure I’ll add to this list over time. I’d love to know if you’re reading a book on spirituality or philosophy, or perhaps a self-help or personal growth book. Please share in the comments below and have a great week!

A Time and a Place for Being (Savoring Sunday)

Today is the start of a new series called Savoring Sunday where I will write about spirituality, slowing down, self-care, soul work, quiet, and rest. Poetry will be included from time to time, but prose will be the most prominent feature. My writings are intended to share thoughts on what I’m discovering and what I’m wondering as I walk through the seasonal rhythms of the year. I hope you will join in the conversation in comments and share your own insights and experiences.

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas. I fully embraced this season that has felt very much as if time were standing still. What have I been doing? Little work (other than household chores), lots of reading, pondering, reflecting on last year, and listening to my heart. I’ve played and re-played podcasts about aligning your business to who you actually are, rather than who you think you should be.

I’ve been asking myself if I’m living in congruence with who I am. Do I have the courage to follow my intuition and live from a place of peace and listening to myself, to allow adequate time for self-care and rest as well as for learning and work? I can be so unbalanced in this! I love work and learning and can fill up my days and nights, going nonstop until I’m wired and exhausted. Because I have a business to run and I want it to succeed. I’m also a student and have plenty to learn.

But I need to take care of my whole self. My body won’t be at its best if I am not caring for it daily with proper amounts of exercise, nutrition, and rest. My mind will be anxious and troubled if I don’t allow it time to meditate and calm down. My soul craves connection with the Divine, “…my soul thirsts for you…”(Psalm 63:1) but I have to slow down and “Be still” (Psalm 46:10) to get closer to God. And getting out of doors and into Nature more often seems to bring balance to every layer and part of myself.

The other area that I’ve been thinking about is friendships. I had a few insights last year including how I have the tendency to approach friendships through the lens of ministry or “how can I help/serve you?”. This is because I was raised in a minister’s household and pretty much everyone who came to our church or to our home needed something and it was up to my parents to provide it. So I tend to look at people in light of what they might need and see if there is anything I can offer to help them.

But this is actually not what I want, so I had to stop doing it! I want to be someone’s friend, not their mom or minister. Because I have needs too! That means I have to act in accordance with this. I have to be honest and tell friends what I want, as well as ask what they want. This will be a process…

So this is a little of what I’ve been thinking through while I’ve been taking a break from business and every day life. This time-between-times has been magical. I’ve nurtured my creative self with music, reading, rest and just being, realigning myself to my purpose by doing plenty of self-inquiry, and restored my soul by listening for that still, small voice.

And because you know I love sharing my favorite resources, I’d like to share a few things I’ve been enjoying. Here are the two Spotify playlists that became my go-to music this season: Christmas Choirs (U.K) (just gorgeous) and Christmas Cocktail Jazz (the perfect quiet yet upbeat jazz instrumental music for parties, dinner, or anytime).

And here are the two journals/planners I use to keep my life in order and to keep my personal and spiritual growth moving forward: This is my fifth year using the bullet journal method and “>this is the dotted journal I love. This year I purchased the Nordic Blue color, which is the first time I’ve veered away from Black or Navy Blue. I’m splashing out! What I love about the bullet journal is that it is completely customizable to each individual. You can learn this method in a few minutes (seriously!) and use any notebook you have. If you haven’t tried it, and you’re someone who craves a simple, doable way to keep your life in one place, go with the bullet journal method. You’ll wonder why you didn’t start it sooner!

The other journal/ planner I love is the Sacred Ordinary Days Planner. It follows the Liturgical calendar, has weekly spaces for Examen, Sabbath ponderings, and a page for each day with spaces for priorities and notes. There are suggested Biblical references for each day, as well as quotes from spiritual writers. So yes, it is most suited to those with a Christian inclination, but there’s none of the annoying, overbearing, cutesy, cheesy feel that most Christian planners have. It is tasteful, sensitive, and leaves room for your own creativity and individuality.

And, lastly, here is A Literary Christmas a sweet collection of old-fashioned Christmas stories and poems on audiobook. Juliet Stevenson and Simon Callow narrate and it is a holiday treat I will look forward to each year.

I’d love to know what you’ve been thinking about, listening to, and discovering these last few weeks!