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I’ve been struggling with some newly learned information today from a close friend. It’s put me in a funk while I search my brain trying to understand her reasoning. Understanding and reconciling are different from acceptance. I accept what she’s doing but my system is out of sorts with it. To say the least. I’ve been consumed by her decision all day.

My close female friend is voting for Donald Trump. I hyperventilate typing that sentence. She’s an intelligent, kind, talented, lovely person with high emotional intelligence I’d say. I often gain a different perspective of things when we talk. But not today. Today I’m flummoxed, deflated and depressed.

She’s a devout Christian, one who participates in Bible study each week. And she believes that Jesus chooses broken people when he wants his work to be done. And that belief allows her to vote for Donald Trump to be President of the United States. Yup.

I’ve tried to counter that argument, haven’t and won’t succeed. After everything she knows about what kind of person he really is – how he cheats, scams, avoids taxes, demeans women, forces himself on women, cheats on his wives – not to mention his temperament, bullying, lying viciously, multiple bankruptcies, lawsuits, knowing absolutely nothing about economic and foreign affairs and not having the patience, or interest to learn – she’s voting for him.

So now it’s my problem to handle. I’m a person fiercely driven by principles. While I’m not sure I could ever have an abortion, I absolutely believe that others should have the right to make that choice themselves. I’m not gay or a transsexual, but that doesn’t pre-empt my feeling that those gender identity people have the same inherent rights I do. I think that’s what Jesus taught – love, compassion and forgiveness.  I know she feels differently. She’s a bible literalist I think, though I’ve never been to her bible study group. And it’s those issues and other “family values” that’s driving her vote. Never mind that Trump is not Christian and that he’s the antithesis of Jesus Christ. There’s nothing noble about that man. And yet he will get her vote.

This election season has agitated my constitution. Other than Trump’s cult members I can’t understand why anyone would think he’s fit for the highest post in the world. Donald Trump? Are you kidding me? Would the same people vote for Charles Manson if he ran on the Republican ticket? Or Hitler? Even the Republican brass is renouncing him as their choice.  Where have we gone as a country?

Alas, this is my problem, the need for people to look at the facts, objectively. Maybe if we had a less divisive opponent, someone other than Hillary, maybe it wouldn’t be so hard for people to take their heads out of the sand. I won’t go into why there’s such hatred and distrust directed at Hillary – just suffice it to say that the smear campaign lasting years and years has been effective.  Forget all her years of family and children activism, and her successful track record.  The haters hate.

I put this out to the universe from the depths of my soul….

Please let the vast majority of people and delegates elect Hillary. The planet is in peril otherwise and the rest of the world knows it.

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housebegoniasI sit here on my deck amidst dense trees and window boxes lush with flowering red begonias. The wind is blowing gently and there’s a faint rustle in the air. Life is good here in the woods. I’ve missed you.

Gone is the endless hustle bustle of the city. The traffic racing past, cyclers, skate boarders, runners, horns blowing, sirens shrieking – whew! The sounds of nature once again fill my psche and renew my soul. I’ve become a country girl. 20 years of living like this has changed my constitution, literally. Everything inside me has slowed down. I can once again hear myself think, sense my intuition and feel joy. I’m not racing anymore.housewoods

Some people thrive on the hectic and energetic lifestyle of a city. I used to. Back in the day when I lived in Pittsburgh I longed for a more active environment. When asked if I liked living there I’d say I don’t intend to die there. I was after more action. And later in Chicago I got it. Though we didn’t live in the city I was there every day and many evenings after work. I loved Chicago. It was rich in all categories: sports, theater, food, shopping and entertainment.

woodsneighborhood1Moving to Knoxville, TN was a culture shock – for years. But we bought the right house in a perfect neighborhood and it’s been home for 20 years now. And I’ve come to realize that it’s the woods that my body craves. It’s very much alive in different ways than the city. There are birds that sing and insects that talk and squirrels that bark if you get too close. woodsneighborhood3And the rain sounds delicious, rather than bothersome. I’m home here, and though I truly love Boston, I’m not home there anymore. I used to be. I used to get off a plane, smell the salty air and smile from ear to ear. I still love that city and the whole of New England.woodsneighborhood2

But one thing I now know for sure. Though I don’t have to always live in Knoxville, I do need to live within nature. It’s become who I am. Ahhhh…. I’m home.

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Nov.Shell1Another month lived and another beautiful shell taken from the bowl of a YEAR OF CONSCIOUS LIVING.  Its earthy colors and rippled exterior offer metaphor for life’s daily changes with its peaks and valleys of experiences.

It’s now mid December and I’m forcing myself to make this entry.  That sort of sums up how untuned in I’ve been this month. Days fly by before I recognize that I’m supposed to be paying attention.  And then I realize how often I just exist without making note of the daily hours.  As November started ticking down to its close I’ve wondered how I’ll journal its happenings.

XmasMantleSure, I did a lot and could include a roster of activities.  This is a busy month for everybody as most hustle to get ready for Thanksgiving and start the burden of Christmas shopping.   And “burden” is the operative word especially since everyone buys what they want all year and I have no ideas for anything special.

This month was very much about doing and very little about being and observing.  Plus, as a non sequitur, I’ve been eating a lot – which is apropos for the season.  (Looking forward to January when I can stop allowing myself to be enticed.  Talk about anticipating my life away!)

It does happen, though, when the passage of time takes center stage and I tune into more than five decades of life now behind me.

ReunionTake, for instance, my 40th year high school reunion.  40th YEAR!  Conveniently scheduled around Thanksgiving, about 140 of us (and some spouses, not mine) met up at a hometown country club and danced the night away. But much of the time was spent marveling over the 40 years that had passed and how much living took place in that time…marriages, divorces, children, grandchildren, travel, career choices, progress and set backs, health and deaths.  Multiply that list by 140 people and recognize how, at this time and place, we are touching each other’s lives once again and remembering the roles we played with each other as teenagers.  In all likelihood there won’t be another 40 years to reminisce about.  Now that’s a rude awakening!

911Memorial1And then there’s the 911 Memorial.  Talk about being abruptly awakened!  The truth about life is that one-minute you’re here and the next you’re not.  Imagine the mundane morning that greeted each of the fallen victims.  Life is always unpredictable and often tragic.  There’s another reason to be aware of each day and appreciate it.

Juxtaposed against that was Broadway, my favorite place to be.  As a kid my only dream was to star in Broadway musicals where I could sing and dance my heart out.  After many childhood cast rejections (a cruel reality in my life) I finally decided to find other dreams.  But the fire I feel while experiencing the best that American theater offers is still as strong today as ever.  And BroadwayCurtainI have to sit really close so I can be swept into the world created by a multitude of artists.  I live and breathe with the performers on stage.  And once in town, we gorge on theater, fitting in as many shows and plays as we can in just a few days.  This year it was 5 in 4 days.  Yay!  (I reviewed them on this blog site so check them out!)

It blew my mind that it had been two years since our last stage orgy and I can’t tell you what I’d done in those two years.  And I realize I won’t get that time back.  But I can say that experiencing theater is when I feel most alive, provided I’m within the first 10 rows.   The exhilaration and thrill of live theater brings me to tears, and I’m driven to scream out after a particularly moving song or dance number – when the emotion oozes out of the performer and wrings him dry.  Attend ONCE to experience that transformation during Steve Kazee’s or Cristin Milioti’s numbers.  Wow! 

And touch Chad Kimball’s soul in MEMPHIS during his gut stirring rendition of “Memphis Lives In Me.”

In re-living parts of November on paper I am aware of the fleeting moments of life, articulated well by Silas House in his New York Times piece The Art of Being Still.  A writer, he was given a piece of advice that drives his daily life:  “discover something new every day.”  Thank you for that.  It’s always possible to do.

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It’s a good thing I voted early, otherwise I’d be hobbling into the polling station with a very stiff and cranky lower back.  It’s much wiser and safer to be nursing it with some ibuprofen and a heating pad with hopes that it feels better tomorrow.

No barn duty today either although it’s my morning to help with the horses at the Rescue.  Tuesdays come quickly and they’re usually greeted with a healthy back and ambitious attitude to feed, turn out and clean stalls. That’s actually what may have aggravated my back last week during some pretty heavy lifting in some very dirty stalls.

My back has been in great shape for years, thanks to regular exercise and yoga.  But with the cooler weather here and maybe a case of nerves leading up to the election, my back has decided to take control out of my hands and leave it up to fate.

Our bodies have a way of letting us know when it’s time to let go.  To let go of controlling things over which we have no control.

Lesson of the day and I’m listening.  Finally.  It’s our jobs to discern which things we can control, and the wisdom to let go of the others.

What is control, anyway? 

Is it the need to fulfill our expectations? 

To have our lives unfold according to our plans? 

To be right?  

To continue our personal delusions?  

To assume we know best? 

Yes, I think so.

Being a Type A personality, (actually, I like to call myself a recovering Type A), I’ve always needed to control my destiny.  My career put me in constant touch with news and pop culture and my leadership roles allowed me to be the gatekeeper I needed to be.  I had influence over content, budgets, direction, staffs and the masses.

Perfect. 

As my bank account grew with my advancements, so did my sense of personal freedom.  Money has always meant freedom to me, rather than the acquisition of “stuff,” though I accrued that too.  And with that freedom came a sense of control over my destiny.  Oops, there’s that word control again.

If you think my childhood had anything to do with that, you’d be right.  But that’s another subject.  (Or, if you know anything about the Enneagram model, and my type number, you might also realize control issues are in line with that too.)

Anyway, I digress.  Back to control…

These days the issue of control is one that I’m working to live without.  I’ve consciously started to live my life without assuming leadership functions.  Passion may describe a defining personal attribute, but that doesn’t have to lead to controlling an outcome.  A Buddhist tenet is to do what you must and let go of the outcome.  To not be so attached to the activity and its motivation, but, rather to do what’s right and give the rest up to the wind.  What will be, will be.  I’ve done my part, now let it go.

That’s what I think my back has been telling me for a few days now.  I’ve voted, I’ve been an activist for principles that guide me.  Now, just relax and let it be what it will be.

Thank you, back.

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It was a beautiful bright day riding my bike through Key West, much like yesterday’s cycling trip.  The sky was a vivid blue and the wind was blowing gently masking the sun’s searing rays.  Once again I slathered the sun block on all exposed skin, wore a hat and continued my exploration of this small and tightly packed party island.

I love my bike trips, many of which are solitary experiences.  My husband doesn’t ride and my friends who do aren’t here. It’s just me, my bike, the scenery and my thoughts which flow unencumbered by conversation.  Sometimes so many ideas flow through my mind I need to stop and record them on my phone for evaluation at a later time.  Other times it’s meditative to ride at an even pace and coast when something grabs my attention for a closer look.

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.
Alice Koller

I also find myself receptive to new people and while it’s usually true that strangers tend to keep to themselves, they’re unusually responsive to friendly repartee when I’m alone.  The art gallery manager from Michigan explained how he and his wife stopped for a day in Key West during a cruise and decided to move here.  That was in 2002. We talked for probably 15 minutes.

Fort Zachary Taylor

Image via Wikipedia

Somehow the idea of being alone became equated to loneliness and nothing could be farther from the truth.  Loneliness surfaces from a depressed state, one which rises from a sense of lack.  Being alone lacks nothing.  There is no void, just a contentedness for being where you are, doing what you’re doing and enjoying your own company.

Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.
Theologian Paul Tillich

In fact I do many things alone, always have.  I’ve never required a companion to see a movie, theater, shop, have a restaurant meal, attend an event, visit a city, take a vacation – you name it and I’ve done it alone.  I get together with friends when I want to see them and share experiences.  My husband comes along when he’s interested in doing the same thing at the same time, but in truth our interests are overlapping circles that share about 20 percent of the same space.

What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.
Ellen Burstyn

Mostly I’m a loner who also has friends.  I’ve never identified with people who deny themselves experiences if they can’t find a companion.  Frankly, I know a lot of people who have felt very lonely in the company of others, and that includes some married couples.

Solitude

Solitude (Photo credit: Lady-bug)

I don’t live in solitude but I seek its experience everyday.  Alone feels good, it percolates with a vibrancy that strengthens intuition. And intuition is the juice that powers wise decision-making. I always allow it to have pre-eminence over my mind because it speaks the truth.

Read below for many delicious thoughts about solitude.

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Be forewarned – this is a Christmas rant...

A silent minority I am no longer, at least on this blog.  Actually, in life I’ve never been accused of being demure, though living in the South has offered a fruitful exercise in patience and understanding.  If I don’t want to be ostracized during this season of joyful expression then I must accept the south’s assumption that everyone is Christian during December.

There are no Jews.  No Buddhists.  No celebrations of Kwanzaa.  No agnostic expressions of love and giving.  In fact there are no traditions worthy of recognition other than for those who believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. You don’t get to play in December’s sandbox of love unless you share the belief in Jesus Christ the lord of lords.

Holiday get togethers I’ve attended start with a prayer in the name of “Jesus Christ our Lord” and, at times, end with an impromptu Bible study of relevant scripture.  That kind of agenda was not included on the invitation but, hey, that’s what this season’s about, isn’t it?

Frankly, I’m not bothered a lick that people believe in the divinity of Christ.  My feeling is that the spiritual path tends to lead to the same place regardless of the avenues taken.  And if it offers joy and peace for people to think Jesus is God, good for them.

It’s equally ok if you don’t.  

And I don’t.

My heritage is Judaism and my family celebrated Hanukkah – in December.  And it usually falls right around Christmas time.

As an adult I don’t identify as Jewish, certainly not as Christian either.  My spiritual tradition incorporates philosophies of Buddhism and Yoga flavored by a Native American appreciation for nature and all living things.  But it’s a personal practice that doesn’t include the assumption that you feel the same way.

I don’t need Jesus to save my soul, in fact, my soul doesn’t need saving.  My conscience is clear, my heart is full, my principles and values are in tact AND I celebrate the season of giving and love during December.  I don’t give thanks for all the grace in my life in the name of Jesus Christ.

If you’re Christian, enjoy the holiness of the season.

If you’re not –

Happy Holidays to you and yours in the name of your own traditions.  May we all absorb the warmth of this time of year and offer it out to the universe.

Namaste.

Carry on …

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During meditation this morning I started to focus on what it feels like to meditate.  How the process starts, progresses up to that point where I’ve quieted down enough to lessen my loss of focus and just be there.  Then, where is there?

As I start the process of slowing down I notice my mind racing with a million images and thoughts that accompany them, as though I’m in the middle of a collage as it’s being constructed.  It takes effort to focus on the breath – starting with my nose and then migrating to the abdomen where I can feel breathing in and breathing out.  Immediately, an image catches my attention and steals focus until I’m aware of gently re-guiding awareness back to the breath.  Then to hearing.  Then to breath and hearing as those two senses start to dominate.

Notice the blood coursing through my hands and now my feet.  Listen to my heartbeat while I become comfortable residing inside the body and not out.

Outside starts to drift away while the world inside looms large, growing more peaceful with each breath.  I notice a slight smile on my face while my tongue hugs the roof of my mouth.  Distraction comes and goes, more going than coming.  Peace settles within and my body rests contentedly.

And then I’m there.  Here.  Aware of the quiet.  Aware of sounds.  Aware of breath.  Aware of spaciousness.  Inside.  Not at all outside.

And your meditation experience?

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