BBQ Epiphanies

I am naturally a very solitary creature. Growing up, I spent most of my time alone, as there weren’t many other kids my age nearby, and few who spoke English. I was completely bilingual, however the majority of children were my brother’s age or younger. I had a best friend in elementary school, but she moved away in grade six, and from then on I didn’t really have a close friend who lived less than a half hour’s drive away. I didn’t play all that much with my siblings, except some sports with my brother and the other neighbourhood kids when we felt like shooting some hoops or went down to the ball park at the end of the street to play softball. Most of my time was spent playing alone, letting my imagination lead me to realms of faerie in our backyard, and when I was old enough to wander further afield on my own, to explore the forest that stretched for miles behind our house, or go and see the horses in the meadow. I was never bored.

That sense of solitude has been with me my whole life. Being very sensitive to noise, to other people’s emotions, not liking crowds and cities overwhelming me I found solace alone. I still do, to a large extent, spending most of my time alone, working from home. It’s nice and quiet; a good environment for me to write. My husband is a solitary creature as well, on the autistic spectrum and therefore prefering a calmer way of life. He’s quite easy to live with. I have lived with other people before, and can honestly say that I can’t imagine living with anyone else right now. I hated living with other people, with their noise, their mess, etc. For the most part, it’s just me, my cats and my husband (yes, in that order, and my husband knows it) J

I’ve created a beautiful home and garden with my husband, and we love it dearly. However, like a meal, or music, or any art, it’s something that really only comes into its own when shared with other people. And so I strive to create a home not only for myself, but a sanctuary for people when they visit. I am blessed with more friends in my life now than I’ve ever had, close friends who I know have got my back even as I’ve got theirs. It’s sometimes a strange feeling for this solitary creature, to know that I now have so many friends, wonderful people in my life who share their laughter and light, sharing their lives with me.

Yesterday we had a barbeque. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the birch trees were in that fresh new green of early leaves only days after the buds have opened. We totalled nine people in all, which is a lot for me and my husband’s sensitivities, and yet we had a brilliant time. Being able to share my home and my garden with friends is a true blessing. To serve others, to make them feel relaxed and welcome, is a wonderful gift to be able to give. I love seeing people just loosen up as they enjoy the sunshine and the wonderful view from the back garden, see their facial muscles relax and tension just slip from their bodies as they indulge in a bit relaxation, away from the city and amidst good company. We laughed so much yesterday. The garden and house needs laughter and friendship, even as it needs silence and quietude. The energy flows freely when we have people over, and then settles beautifully in silence afterwards.

I am truly blessed to know wonderful people. I live in gratitude, daily, knowing that at any moment things could change. Being able to share my life with others, and also to find the quiet and solitude that I need is a true blessing. I know that others are not so blessed, and it keeps me awake and aware in my practice of daily gratitude. In solitude and with others, I give my heartfelt thanks for this wonderful life, for the long and bumpy roads that got me here, for the pathless wilderness that I have travelled and for the times of smooth sailing. And when I can, I will share this with others, in joy and gratitude. And then settle into stillness once more.

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Happy New Year!

Wishing you all the best for the New Year. Huge thanks to all who have supported this blog, commented, emailed me and more with their lovely messages.  I can’t even begin to describe the wonderful sentiments that people have sent over the last year, and my heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone. Big love to you all!happy new year 4

 

Grace

Most of us hope that when we die, we are able to pass on with a little grace and dignity. However, what is important to me right now is living in the present moment, awake and aware to the flow of life, of awen, hearing the songs of the ancestors and truly finding the meaning of the word, grace, within my own life.

Grace is a brilliant word that has so many meaning: to favour, to honour, elegance or beauty in form, ease, fluidity, mercy, clemency and pardon, just to name a few. If we look to the Latin languages’ use of the word, we find echoes in the Italian grazie or Spanish gracias, or in the French merci.  The Latin root is grātia, meaning:  (1) a pleasing quality, (2) favour or goodwill, and (3) gratitude or thanks. All three of these I find are essential to living honourably in today’s world.

To have a pleasing quality can have a myriad of meanings, from being aesthetically pleasing to simply being kind. The key word in this description is please in a verb form, which is something that makes one happy, whether it is the self or another.  Why would we not want to make another happy?  As long as it isn’t at our own expense, or hurtful towards ourselves, it seems a wonderful way to live. When we are hurtful towards another person, it doesn’t make us feel very good – or if it does, there might be something rather wrong with the brain’s chemistry.  This doesn’t mean that our lives are not our own, and that we have to make others happy first – finding happiness within the self should come first, as should love for the self, in order to spread it around a little bit.  Finding a peace and contentment within helps us to bring that to others.  When we are not at peace with our sense of self, we cannot bring peace to others.

To have goodwill for others is at the heart of living with compassion, and also living with grace. The moment we wish another being harm, we have stepped outside of grace and into a hellish world of anger, retribution, revenge, bitterness and so on. We will not always immediately have good will for another being, especially if we have been hurt by someone in the past.  Sitting with our own hurt, and then recognising the other’s pain helps us to open up our perspective from just ourselves to the wider situation.  People who hurt others are often very hurt themselves.  Those who try to pick-apart, to undermine, to speak unkindly to/about, who cause emotional pain – we can work with this with grace. We can see their hurt, empathise with it (though we don’t have to engage it, especially if it means further hurt or abuse from them towards ourselves), and feel compassion for them. We can wish them well, wish them love and peace, which feeds our own inner peace and peace throughout the world.  The compassionate being is one who lives gracefully. (Please note: If you are being physically or psychologically abused, please do talk to someone about it right away and seek help.)

For me, perhaps the most important part of grace and its root word is to give thanks. To have gratitude is one of the key components of my Druid path, along with reverence, honour and compassion. When we have gratitude, again we step outside of our “small self” and enter into a way of being in which everything is part of everything else.  No longer separate from the world, we are able to experience a deep gratitude for the world, our experiences, our loves and our lives.  Our ancestors have brought us to where we are today, and it is through their strengths and weaknesses that we walk upon the earth.  Our future ancestors are the ones to which we will be accountable for our actions in the present moment.  Having a deep gratitude for our ancestors, not only human but also other-than-human ancestors helps us to see the inter-connectedness of all existence. Again, it shifts the perspective away from the self and into a broader, more integrated view.

This is the essence of grace – widening our world and our views, and in doing so living with kindness and compassion. It is something that is achievable for all, and something that will lead us to lives with more peace and harmony.  Listening to the notes of the Great Song, the Oran Mòr, we are able to move with grace, to live with grace and to extol grace upon others.

Emma Restall Orr on the ancestors

“The dead fall from awareness only when they are forgotten, so the practising animist acknowledges the ancestors with gratitude and open-heartedness, each and every day – whenever a task is to be done, whenever an old tool is lifted, a skill used, an old pathway walked. When a challenge or an obstacle arises blocking the way, when pain kicks in and weakness overwhelms, it is to the ancestors that the animist turns, and it is in the ancestors that courage is found, generation to generation, hand in hand, words of wisdom heard and experience shared. When crises are overcome, when love is found and joy fills a moment with delight, the ancestors are an integral part of the celebration.”
Emma Restall Orr, from her essay “Time and the Grave”, from the book This Ancient Heart.

So Happy

So happyZen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh suffered a massive stroke and brain haemorrhage last year, which left him incapacitated for many months. He is now able to move slightly, and recently managed to utter his first few words (pictured on the right). His joy for life, whatever suffering he may be going through, is an inspiration to all. He has changed some of his therapists’ lives through his example of mindfulness, one therapist even breaking down and crying when she realised just how she had never really seen the beautiful blue sky before in San Francisco. Thay couldn’t yet speak, however he did was point to the window to remind her of the beauty of the sky and the gift of opening our perception to it. It changed her world, and they were both happy.

The beauty and wonder of the present moment is there for us all. All we have to do is open our perception to see it. In the midst of great suffering there is the possibility of great compassion. In this compassion there is the power of love and beauty, two words that may be bandied about recklessly in our modern-day, but words, concepts and energies that have real power within them.

Through our suffering, we can make small steps towards awareness and mindfulness by becoming awake and aware, thereby easing our suffering and that of the world around us. We notice things that we wouldn’t otherwise notice in our suffering, as we turn our gaze outwards and perceive the world in its entirety rather than just our own suffering. Thich Nhat Hanh is a wonderful example of one who has seen and experienced the suffering of war, of exile, of persecution and physical trauma and still sees the power of love and beauty in the world around him. When I suffer, I shall breathe in and out, look at the sky, the trees, into the eyes of a loved one and know happiness and joy, there finding the deepest gratitude for my blessings.