Places to Ponder

I am a ponderer — of thoughts and words and events and comments and situations. I can’t help myself. Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer. Perhaps it’s because I’m an introvert. Perhaps it’s because I’m curious about the whats and whys and wherefores of people and life in general and moments in particular. I think about things. I consider them. They roam freely through the recesses of my mind. My musings often find a place in my notebook. My thoughts often become conversation over breakfast with a close friend.

Pondering can be like following rabbit trails. One thought leads to another and another until you’ve wandered miles beyond where you started.

Pondering can be like day dreaming and wishful thinking — wondering about the fantastical things that can’t happen in our real world.

Pondering can be like walking in someone else’s shoes, treading on their path, in an effort to understand their way of being.

Beyond all of this pondering is about opening our mind and giving it creative space to discover what we did not know or see before.

Over the years I’ve found great value in pondering, though it sometimes disturbs my sleep, and often creeps into my moments when I’m busy doing something that requires little awareness. Sometimes pondering is a conscious act. More often than not it comes unbidden, prompting my attention.

If pondering is not your custom, perhaps you might give it a try. Pick a quiet place to begin — a place that allows you to notice things, to focus on something small, to hear the breeze, or see an ant crawling on a twig. A paper and pencil is helpful — to jot down your thoughts or sketch what you see.

On a recent trip I took photos of pondering places to share with you. Just seeing the photos is sufficient to quiet my mind. Perhaps it will work for you as well.

Pick a spot and spend a little while.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

 

 

Dance Instructions

I recently watched a dance instructor teaching a class of adult beginners. Here is what she said, among many other things:

  • Clarity of intention and clarity of direction: Before anyone even began to move, she explained, in careful, simple detail about knowing ahead of time how you intend to move.  She talked about getting one’s body in balanced position. Once that position is established it’s easy to move a leg or an arm without losing one’s balance. Once the intention is clear and one’s balanced position is correct, then the direction of movement also becomes clear. First things first: intention, then movement.

 

  • Check yourself before you wreck yourself: Continually remind yourself of your intention and check your position. This is the only way to avoid jerky movements, or leading with the wrong part of the body, or falling due to loss of balance. Setting one’s position is not a one time thing; it must be done over and over again — every time we prepare to dance.

 

  • If you’re dancing solo you’ve got options: Some in the class obviously came with a partner; many did not. The instructor began by teaching everyone as individual dancers. Later she began to differentiate between the “lead” dancers and the “partners.” With subtle movements of their hands and arms and bodies, the lead dancer directs his partner in how and when and where to move. While the partner knows the moves, the lead provides the guidance. The partner must be attentive and move accordingly. Watching a couple dance in tune and in sync with each other is truly a beautiful thing. However, the instructor never disparaged the single dancers. Not once did she suggest that the only real way to dance is with a partner. What she did say was “If you’re dancing solo, you’ve got options.” No need to be attuned to a partner; you determine your moves, within the conventions of this particular dance form. Sometimes we think we can’t dance without a partner. Not so!

As I watched and listened, her comments resonated with me, even though I wasn’t on the dance floor trying to learn a new dance. What she said applies to business, hobbies, families, careers, habits, lifestyles, creative endeavors. I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to apply her statutes to your own life — wherever you happen to be at this moment.

  • clarify your intention
  • clarify your direction
  • check yourself
  • if you’re dancing solo, you’ve got options

          

Remembering these four things will allow us to dance our life with purpose and gracefulness.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

 

Surface Safety

In The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton writes:

Better keep on the surface, in the prudent old New York way, than risk uncovering a wound he could not heal.

She’s right. If we stay on the surface we don’t have to worry about uncovering our wounds — either recent ones or ones from another time. No one else will discover our wounds either.

We can be pleasant. We can pretend everything is fine. We can do all the right things. We can keep our secrets.

We can keep everyone at arms’ length.

In my private ponderings I call people like that The Plastic People. The Perfect Plastic People. Their hair is always in place. Their clothes don’t wrinkle. Their face is never without its pleasant expression. Their life appears to be in control. Their homes are in order.

But here’s the problem with all of this. I don’t know how to relate to the perfect people. At my core I believe we’re all made of the same cloth, so to speak. The colors and patterns of your cloth will be different than mine — but it’s still fabric that wears and tears and ravels and gets mended and fades. None of us can escape those things that happen over time. So if all I see of you is exquisite unblemished silk and my fabric is ragged denim I experience a disconnect. Yet, I know . . . I know there must be more to your story, though it’s hidden, perhaps for a long time.  Perhaps your wounds are still open, still unhealed, too personal to be shared — at least so far.

I get that. I really do.

But I’ve learned, after playing the role of the Perfect Plastic Person for longer than I like to admit, that it’s not our perfection that draws us together. Rather, it’s our less-than-pretty, our imperfections, our mistakes, our ordinariness that call us to connection, that begin a friendship.

If I know your silk has some threadbare places . . .

perhaps I have some thread to offer as repair for your unraveling

perhaps you have some yarn to decorate my tear

perhaps in our stitching and careful mending and sharing of pins and needles and scissors we can come to know we’re more alike than we are different.

Exposing our rips and tears and worn places doesn’t come easily. It’s scary at first and requires courage we’ve not mustered before. Over time, bit by bit, we begin to trust another with who we are beneath our plastic exterior.

And so begins the mending of our cloth, the healing of our soul, and the choosing to share our journey toward wholeness.

 

Until next Tuesday . . .

Where are your knitting needles?

I’ve heard of people with memory disorders putting their things in strange places, and then not being able to find them. As my friends and I age, we often talk about such things, and pray that they pass by our lives.

However, this afternoon I lost my newly purchased knitting needles. They appeared to have taken off, to places unknown, all by themselves.

The mystery began after an afternoon of errand running. I had frozen items on my car’s front seat from my unplanned visit to Aldi’s — hence, nothing was bagged. And I had a bag of items from Target, a bag from Lowe’s, and a small flat paper bag from the yarn store containing two sets of double-pointed needles.

Once home, I unloaded all the items from the car onto my kitchen counter. The frozen items went immediately into the freezer. Then I started hunting for the bag of knitting needles. I moved everything on the counter. Not there. I went to the garage to search my car. Nothing there. I returned to the kitchen and looked under all the items on the bar. Still not there. Back to the car. I searched under the seats, on the floorboard, and the narrow space between the seats and the center console. Not there. Back to the kitchen. They’re still not on the counter.

“I know the bag was in my car,” I said to myself. “I remember seeing it on the console. How could it have disappeared in the twenty feet between the car and the kitchen counter?” I was mystified. Frustration was building.

Back to the garage. This time I walked all around the car, remembering that I had unloaded some items from the passenger’s side. Still nothing.

Finally I checked the freezer, although I couldn’t imagine how they would have gotten there. Nothing there on first glance. Only when I moved the recently purchased box of frozen salmon patties, did I see the thin brown bag stuck to the bottom of it.

See, they did get there by themselves. Blame it on the box of salmon patties. Blame it on my inattention as I put things in the freezer. Blame it on the conspiration of the universe, plotting against my sanity and possible onset of dimentia.

Chilled knitting needles might be nice when knitting a winter sweater on a warm summer day. Perhaps I’ll do it on purpose next time.

My knitting needles are in my freezer.

Where are yours?

Until next Tuesday . . .

Contentment

 

 

 

 

I recently ran across a statement that set my pondering juices flowing:

Contentment is not the satisfaction of want;

it’s the pursuit of having enough.

                                                             — Lisa Avellan

The words are heavy and serious: contentment, satisfaction, want, pursuit, enough.

If you’ve ever lived with a child (you pick the age) you’ve often experienced their lack of satisfaction with what you’ve given them. Many times they want, or even demand, more. Or they have a temper tantrum in the middle of the store aisle. Some adults are like that as well, often towards their grown children. It’s like we can never do enough to satisfy their desire for our time, our energy, or our love.

The truth is many of us, particularly in our young adult years, spend our time and energy and money in the pursuit of more. We’re trying to get through school, to start our career, to start our family, to purchase a home — to achieve what people 20 years older have already done. We want it now. All of it. We don’t like to wait. We don’t want to save until we can pay cash. We have our own adult temper tantrums when things don’t easily come our way.

A second truth is the more we have, the more we want. When we’re finally able to purchase our first new car, we’re thinking (at least in the deep recesses of our minds) of all the bells and whistles we’d like on our next one. Our wants are never satisfied. And the more we have, the more time and energy and resources that are required to manage our stuff. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s a kind of hoarding — the fear of running out or not getting everything we deserve — living from a place of scarcity.

But what if . . . what if . . . we could live out of the belief that

what we have is always more than enough

                                               — Marc and Angel

I’m not advocating that you live a monastic minimalist lifestyle as some advocate. I’m just suggesting that you look around your living space, your tiny corner of the universe, your private attitude, your inner spirit — and notice that you have what you need, perhaps you have more than you need — maybe way more than you need.

This attitude of contentment can gently morph into an attitude of abundance. When we are content and believe we have enough, we can set aside our learned habit of comparing ourselves to others. Our hearts can open to include others, our homes become places of generous hospitality, our ears listen with genuine interest, and our schedules become less frantic and more fluid.

If we take a step beyond the contentment with our physical stuff, perhaps we can work our way to a place of contentment with ourselves — believing that we ourselves, our souls, are everything we need. Again, skip the comparisons with others, and believe that you, yourself, are a work of creative genius, complete, yet always a work in progress.

There is courage within us and fearlessness and joy and creativity and voice and uniqueness.

Come forth, out of your abundance.

Until next Tuesday . . .