When I lived in Seattle, my backyard ended with a hedge of blackberry bushes. I didn’t think much about it until my sister and her family arrived for a visit one August.
Turns out my nephew absolutely, positively loved blackberries and was so excited to find this treasure in my yard. While we were out without her one afternoon, Lori surprised him with a blackberry cobbler she made from those berries. To say Tim was thrilled was an understatement! Ever since then, this simple summer fruit makes me smile and I enjoy every berry I taste.
In his invitation above, Abraham Maslow dares us to even experience “ecstasy” from simple pleasures or “the basic goods of life.” I think of those blackberries and my young nephew’s reaction to them and know ecstasy is truly possible from things we take for granted. I dare you (and myself) to seek out this week the simple summer pleasures of life and embrace them as if they were gifts from God given solely for your delight.
May you notice the basic goods of summer all around you. And may you experience them with child-like wonder and awe.
“Each day the world is born anew for him who takes it rightly.”
–James Russell Lowell
The trouble with the mind
is that it sees like a bird
but walks like a man.
And things at the surface
move fast, needing to be
gathered. While things
at center move slow,
needing to be
What I mean is
if you want to see the
many birds, you can
gather them in a cage
and wonder why
they won’t fly.
Or you can go to
the wetlands, birding
in silence before
the sun comes up.
It’s the same
with the things
we love or think.
We can frame them
in pretty cages or follow
them into the wild meadow
till they stun us with the
spread of their magnificent
– Mark Nepo
“How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives.”
As the end of July approaches and the summer heat slows us down, this might be the perfect time to “take stock” of where you are in life.
Perhaps you had some specific goals or intentions for 2021 that need reviewing or updating. Or, maybe you just want the second half of the year to be better than the first half.
While we can’t control the pandemic or the surprises (good and challenging) that might show up, we can make small changes to encourage more peace, love, and joy in our lives. I think this wisdom from Jean Shinoda Bolen says it best:
“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”
I invite you to grab an iced drink, a journal, a pen, and a comfortable seat somewhere to spend an hour or more this week taking stock of your life.
May you take the time to reflect upon your year so far and find the courage to make any necessary changes to welcome in more of what nourishes you.
“Taking a step in a different direction, I unravel the knot of past actions and old conclusions. It’s never too late to begin again.”
All That Has Never Yet Been Spoken
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.
– Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
While out walking early Sunday morning, I felt sadness about Austin moving back to a Stage 3 level of risk because of a rise in COVID-19 cases. After a few moments the book cover of Welcoming the Unwelcome by Pema Chödrön came into my awareness.
Facilitating one of four book groups about beloved Buddhist nun Chödrön’s wisdom June 2020, I found her invitation to welcome the unwelcome so helpful during the worst of the pandemic. No wonder it came back to me at this time.
“Stillness is what creates Love. Movement is what creates Life. To be still yet still moving—that is everything.”
–Do Hyun Choe
Take a deep breath, focus on your beautiful, beating heart, and return to center. Some variation of this statement is often used by spiritual leaders, instructors, or therapists to bring us back to a place of calm, where peace and inner wisdom reside.
“Remember the feeling as a child when you woke up and morning smiled? It’s time you felt like that again.”
The summer feels like a good time to experience the simple pleasures that bring smiles and laughter. I’m pretty good about remembering to laugh at myself and life during the day, but can easily forget about welcoming the morning with a smile.
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time.”
–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
The summer invites a slower pace and an opportunity for an answer we’ve been seeking to reveal itself. Divine distractions like vacations and frolicking in the water can sometimes reveal the kind of clarity we seek in times of silent reflection.
“Ten times a day something happens to me like this — some strengthening throb of amazement — some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”
–Mary Oliver (shared by Beverly Voss in Writing Our Joy Workshop)
This morning I woke up later than usual and almost skipped my walk, thinking of the full day I had ahead of me. If I had not gone out, I would have missed three of my favorite four-legged friends (and their two-legged companions) greeting me with puppy-like chaos all at once. The laughter their exuberant welcome caused will carry me through the day.
What do you miss when you tell yourself you don’t have time for something or you’re so distracted you forget to pay attention to the moment?
“…dwelling in peacefulness doesn’t mean that you’re naive or simple. Nor does it mean that you avoid, deny or minimize reality or life’s many challenges. Living with inner peace means that you see both the difficult and the beautiful aspects of this world and view them from a calm vantage point.”
–Ashley Davis Bush, The Little Book of Inner Peace
Last Saturday morning I had just finished reading about a flight being diverted because of an altercation that broke out on the plane, when I saw the news of the senseless shooting of 14 people here in Austin.
“If one has courage, nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”
By now many of you will have heard the story of Confections Bakery in a small East Texas town. An innocent post to social media of their rainbow iced cookies with the heading “More LOVE, Less Hate” in honor of Pride Month quickly led to cancelled orders, unfriending on social media and hate messages.
In the bubble I live and work in here in Austin, I often forget that there are people still so frightened by people loving people in ways unimaginable to them that they lash out in hate.
But the god of good taste demands sacrifices, and it’s always the weird, quirky, awkward parts of ourselves that are first to be thrown on the pyre. Yet the weird, quirky, awkward parts are where the surprises lie and, therefore, a great deal of joy.
–Ingrid Fetell Lee
Keep Austin Weird became a slogan and rallying cry in 2000 for all that made Austin unique. As the city population continues to rapidly expand, it will be challenging to maintain Austin’s quirky personality.
The importance of this call to celebrate being weird became clear to me while reading Ingrid Fetell Lee’s chapter on “Surprise” in her book, Joyful. She points out “While good taste wants things to be simple and normal, joy thrives out on the edges of the bell curve.”