Wednesday, July 18, 2018

SUMMER MINDFULNESS




 Family on a Walk (from The Simple Things)

Have you been using fresh air to lift your mood? Most of us can walk off a blue mood.  When we're outside we remember what is eternal. Part of each day might be slow, or mindless, or even bad.  But being outdoors helps, winter or summer.  Being outdoors NEVER makes us feel worse, does it?  I'm sure that's true. 

Being deep in our mobiles seldom lifts our mood. A thoughtful text from a special person, yes.  But with the whole world to astound us, focusing on an inch or two does seem a shame.  Of course I'm often on my phone.  I like newsletter@mindful.org.  There are blogs I like. I want to keep up.  But summer mindfulness demands more.


Our brains are designed to think.  They never shut off.  This is good.  Mindfulness teaches us to harness this by being present in our lives in a non-judgmental way no matter what we are thinking.  It teaches us to pay attention.  To not drift through our own one precious life.

We know that documenting what we're thinking and feeling is good for us.   That's why so many people journal, have diaries, write memoirs, or scrapbook.  When we've had a shock, writing helps. Or crafting.  Both can be a form of meditation.  A lot of things can be.  American abstract expressionist painter Morris Graves (1910-2001) says that "Painting is a meditation. . . ."  A lot of creative people find their work meditative.  An extraordinary potter in my class says his work is his therapy.  He makes dioramas out of clay, scenes from Disney classics and fairy-tales.  They are instantly recognizable. 


We can embrace the ordinary in our writing.  In our creativity.  Maybe just make a list of things we are proud of, from the little to the big.  I'm proud of the efforts I'm putting into my own pottery.  Into blogging.  Into maintaining my health.


Healthy Food


Or make a list of what we like:  for me colored glass, soft clothes, cedar trees, chilled wine, dragonflies, good books, a day off, fresh eggs, sleeping late, feeling loved, shutting down for the day. . . . 

The magazine Flow (www.flowmagazine.com) from the Netherlands, has an article called "Making a Date with Yourself."  British mindfulness expert Danny Penman, Ph.D. says that a solo date should be on everyone's to-do list. Go to a museum, a new town (Post:  This is Your Kingdom, Part II), take a workshop or class, spend a fun day (or even an hour) alone where you can see, think and wonder, rise above your daily troubles. 

What goals do you have?  Some of mine are big:  to keep my marriage strong, help my family, accept what is, continue to learn.  Break the habit of letting a worry greet my day.  I know the things that have caused me pain chapter and verse.  Why revisit them?  Some goals are smaller.  I'd love to explore the UK on a canal boat.  Or upstate New York on a houseboat. Both look so fun.  Whenever I've seen canal boats moored, many piled with greenery and flowers, I've wanted to take a trip.  I'd like to live somewhere else for a month. I like having friends for a simple meal, doing a little research and pairing wines.


From The Simple Things


What sets the tone for your day?  Are you a person who has seen more sunrises or more sunsets?    It's nice when waking up feels like a gentle tug.  When we've gone to bed early enough and aren't running late before the day even begins.  That's a worthwhile goal.  What does your summer mindfulness look like? 



















Sunday, July 15, 2018

WHAT'S YOUR SIMPLE THING? PART II


I've mentioned this before (Post: What's Your Simple Thing?).  The UK magazine The Simple Things (thesimplethings@icebergpress.co.uk) has a feature where readers write in what their simple thing is.  "Cocktails in the evening with friends."  Yes to that!  "Finding time for crafting in a busy week."  Yes to that too.   "My allotment."  We don't use that term in the US, but it's a rented garden plot.  So yes to gardening. 

It's fun to think what our own simple things are.  None of us just has one.  And of course they change with the seasons.  So in North Carolina it is hot, hot, hot.  Over 90° every day.  The water in the swimming pools is 87°.  I love doing laps, but would be happy to sit in a plastic wading pool with Mr. Wiggles too.  


What are your simple things this season?  Here are a few of mine:

Giving the outside plants a good drink with the hose (and keeping the June bugs off).  Getting wet myself.  So nice.


Rose o' Sharon
Fishing off a pier.  Or from the shore, or boat.  Or river bank.  Anywhere. Then cleaning the fish and rolling them in milk and cornmeal for a pan-fry.  Eating with pancakes for breakfast, or fried potatoes for supper.
 
Oceana Fishing Pier, Atlantic Beach, NC
Wild swimming.  We don't use this term, but people in the UK do.  I like it.
 
Atlantic Beach, NC, Calm Waters


Cooking with homegrown veggies. Tomatoes, eggplant, okra, banana peppers. . . . 


Fresh veggies from the neighbor's garden.


Watching the creek overflow during a summer downpour.



I've got a bunch more.  I bet you do too.  All the simple things that keep us sane and relaxed and give us joy.   Tonight I'm grilling salmon and fresh corn, with key-lime pie for desert.  A local fishmonger sells the salmon and the pie! What were your simple things today?  Aren't we all lucky?  With gratitude, Nina Naomi











Tuesday, July 10, 2018

TRUST THE TIMING OF YOUR LIFE. TRUST YOUR JOURNEY.

flow 19 Days of Mindfulness

So many life-quotes.  I like this one.  Do you?  It doesn't fit the really really bad things that happen.  But it fits the healing from them.  It fits going forward.  All those good days that out-number the bad.  All the love and forgiveness.  

When your edges are frayed, what do you do?  I find help everywhere.  An otherwise unmemorable movie had a the line,  "Don't destroy something good." That advice came just when I needed to hear it.  When the doors and windows are open, the weather is perfect and the dragonflies are spinning, don't let the past destroy the present, it said to me.  Don't let fears for the future color the now. Prayer helps me and maybe you too.  I find God easily, sometimes in a tangible way, an enveloping tangible way, making my mind and heart more quiet. Breathing slows when I remember God.  Somewhat like meditation I expect. 
 



There's a Zen adage: "You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day--unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour."
That resonates with me. A teacher of Warrior Mind Training for the U.S. military, Ilene Gregorian,  says, "Your own thoughts are able to take you down quicker than any enemy."  Isn't that the truth! And when we let that happen we may let the beauty of life pass by unnoticed.  Turning off our thoughts can be like turning off the the TV just to hear the birds.  Or the rain. Or our children's voices as they play. 

When we trust the timing of our lives, trust our journeys, experts say we brood less; we cope with fear, stress and depression better.  We create a kind of spam-filter in our heads.  If the sun is shining, literally or figuratively, we notice.  

Another life-quote I like is this one:  
The trouble is we think we have time.   
This quote is attributed to Buddha in Jack Kornfield's Buddha's Little Instruction Book  (only Buddha says, "you think you have time.") I think this thought fits with trusting the timing of our lives and trusting our journey.  It also fits, for me, with trusting God to help and guide me.  This is not a carpe diem, seize the day kind of idea.  It doesn't mean have as much fun as possible.  It means that  because of life's brevity we want to appreciate it, recognize what's important, not put off the good until later, live with kindness and love for ourselves and others now.  

Tonight my spouse and I are choosing togetherness.  The couch and a movie.  We just decided.  That's a good choice. We know how lucky we are to have each other. We're promising ourselves to stay in the moment, to turn off our phones, to log out, to be present.  And not destroy something good.  Mr. Wiggles will hang out with us too.  So simple.  I bet you have a good idea for your evening too!
 
   













  

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

POCKETS OF TIME




Don't you love the phrase "pockets of time?"  It's so accurate.  The pocket of time in the morning with coffee or tea. The pocket of time before anyone else is up.  When the children are napping, or watching their favorite show, are at school or on a play-date.  After the house is clean (or maybe while cleaning it), before a night out, before tucking into bed.  Sometimes the walk to the mailbox or a chat with a neighbor is a pocket of time.  Even grocery shopping alone can be a pocket of time.  Time to be regroup, to connect with ourselves or someone else, to be with our own thoughts. A "pocket of time" means something good. 



There can also be pockets of time during commutes.  One family member commutes by ferry into Manhattan.  That is his time--one hour each way.  On the commute home he is heading back to his family of three boys under 5.  Our niece, his wife, finds her pockets when the boys are at preschool, or napping. Or a grandparent is there.  Two unflappable young parents living mostly on love.


Another family member keeps their baby strapped to his chest while he works.  Not sure he has a pocket of time, or his wife either, except for curling into bed together.  They are happy too.

 Sleeping Baby and  Watchful Mother

Some experts advise that we find a peaceful place for our pocket of time--a park bench, a cafe, by the kitchen window, on our balcony, porch or deck.  Sitting up in bed with a book or magazine.  But we can grasp a pocket without a special place too; even a standstill in traffic can provide a pocket of time. Time to take a deep breath, to let frustration go, to calm ourselves.  

Since I no longer work full-time I have many pockets of time, especially if I get up first.  Even when the house is crowded.  Time to blog, time to read, time to water the garden, or swim. 

This summer we are not taking a vacation.  We have a grandchild who arrives at 7:30 to spend the day while her mom and dad work.  That is a blessing, as all of us who are grandparents know.  Or as many of us remember from our own childhood with a grandparent, after school or in the summer.  Or perhaps raising us.  So we are calling our house Camp Cornwallis, after the street where we live.  I'm trying to make our nest a retreat, our home a kingdom, our town a destination.  That way the stay-cation is not second choice.   I think it's working!  Last week we had three grandchildren stay.  No one seemed to want to be anywhere else.  How glad that makes me! My pockets of time were fewer but that was fine.  I think my niece must feel that way.  


So if you live in town find a park bench.  Sit alone or keep an eye on the children.  Take a walk with a child in a stroller, or let the kids run ahead.  Feed everyone pizza and flop on the couch.  Let the house go and stay outside.  Eat leftovers.  Play music or enjoy the silence on your commute.  Walk the neighborhood.  Hide out in the garage or garden shed.  Find a place to float on your back.  Or dream about it.  Oh my, the list of how to find and enjoy pockets of time to nourish ourselves, to be ourselves, is endless.  Thank you God.  Nina Naomi






Saturday, June 30, 2018

PONDERING SILENCE

Van Gogh, Cypresses, 1889

Listen to the Silence; it has so much to say.  

The silence after the final breath.
The silence of what could have been. 
The silence of pain. 

The silence of deception.
The silence of disloyalty.
The silence of dishonesty. 
The silence of facts. 


The silence of feeling worthless, or humiliated, or fooled.  
The silence of not being valued.  

The silence before confrontation. 
The silences after an argument.

The silence of trying to forget.
The silence of trying to forgive.
The silence of grief. 
The silence of heartbreak.

The silence after telling the truth. Or hearing it. 

The silence of being alone.


Auguste Rodin, Despair, 1890


The silence after learning the truth. 
The silence when deceit ends.
The silence after an apology. 
The silent request for forgiveness. 

The silence of feeling loved. 

The silence of giving love. 
The silence of touch. 

The silence of closed eyes. 
The silence of a shared past. 
The silence of peace. 
The silence of prayer. 
The silence of moving forward. 
The silence of being together.
The silence of softness.
The silence of warmth. 
The silence of sleep.
The silence of warm breath in bed. 

The silence of staying home.
The silence of feeling special. 
The silence of remembrance. 
The silence of bravery.  
The silence of healing. 
The silence of truthfulness.
The silence of being alone. 

Van Gogh, Still Life with Basket of Apples, 1887
The silence of a photograph.
The silence when the cicadas stop.
The silence of a clean house.
The silence after an accomplishment.
The silence of a memory.
The silence in your mind.
The silence in your heart.
The silence in your throat. 
The silence of thinking.  
The silence of promises kept.
The silence of being alone.  
The silence of _______________.  


 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

THE MEANING OF OBJECTS


Picasso, Green Still Life

Many of us are homebodies.  While we can blog and read from anywhere, it is a kind of homebody activity.  If I'm at a wonderful resort at a fabulous location--which I actually never am (think Indonesia or the coast of Portugal)--I'm not going to spend time doing something I can do just as well or better at home. 

Most of the things that most of us love best are in our homes.  For me, mosaic flowerpots made by my daughter; my mom's handmade quilts; a photo of our son on the red bike he nagged for until he wore us to a nub; cards, albums, books, hand-me-down furniture. . . .  

I wonder what our desire for meaningful objects says about us.  Do you have fewer or more than you used to?  I'm trying to prune.  We had a small ceramic that belonged to my husband's mother.  It got chipped so I asked my husband if we could throw it away.  "I had to let go of my mother," he said.  "I guess I can let go of that." 

In our town we see the homeless with their shopping baskets, guarding their few possessions.  I'm more fortunate than that.  But like me, their things matter to them.  They matter to people like my beloved father, who lived with chronic pain.  He pared down to two rooms in a retirement community, but still kept the brass candlestick he carried back from a trip to Morocco with my mother. My husband keeps a now-ragged cowhide jacket I bought for him when we lived in London.  It hasn't fit for years.  

So things are important.  They mark our lives, our griefs and our pleasures, our daily needs.  When I traveled more for work our daughter gave me aromatic travel candles.  I'm sure she doesn't remember that.   But they were comforting.     

Our things help us to live more slowly and wholeheartedly.  I keep deer antlers found in our meadow by my computer. And a favorite cup.  Our things don't have to be many.  A few will do.  Maybe even fewer as we grow older rather than more.  They help connect the present with the past.  Help us connect to ourselves. That's good.    

Sign:  "Nina Naomi blogs here."







"THIS IS YOUR KINGDOM," PART III CONTINUED

National Memorial for Peace and Justice

My Alabama kingdom didn't end in Birmingham.  I went on to Montgomery to see the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.  Just 93 miles but delays and traffic so heavy I almost turned back.  Such a mistake that would have been!  

My everyday kingdoms are Durham and such other pleasant North Carolina towns as Pine Knoll Shores and Beaufort-by-the-Sea.  (Posts:  This is Your Kingdom, Part I; Saturday at the Farmer's Market; Colorful Canoes At Home and Abroad)  Certainly all three have a history both good and bad and a present both good and bad.  But the present is mostly good; definitely mostly good.  Now Montgomery is part of my kingdom because I will never forget what I saw.  No one would.  

The Legacy Museum is on the site of a holding pen for slaves to be auctioned.  It traces the 200-year slave trade, both trans-Atlantic and domestic, up through the voter-suppression efforts of today.  More than 4,000 African-Americans are known to have been lynched between 1877 and 1950.  Some for refusing to run an errand for a white person, or asking a white woman for water, or rejecting the bid of a white person for cottonseed.  One Museum display is canister-jars of dirt taken from the site of each lynching that could be documented.  Dirt scrapped from under trees, from sites that family members remembered from generation to generation.  I thought about what that dirt held.  Blood, sweat, tears, human tissue, trampling boot marks, or the bare foot prints of a man.  
 
Legacy Museum


I looked for the counties in North Carolina.  I touched the jars.  I wished I could touch the dirt.  How admirable the people of Montgomery are to preserve this history.  Part of the world-wide theme of "Never Again."  How good to be part of that theme.  Such remembering makes the Museum seem hopeful to me, not depressing.  

The Memorial is a short drive away at the top of a hill.  Six acres of open air overlooking down-town Montgomery.  Set there in a beautiful spot for all of us to confront the past, bring our own hearts and minds to it, integrate it into our present and into the people we are today.  The centerpiece is 800 steel columns, each the size and shape of a coffin.  Each bears the name of an American county and the names and death dates of those killed there by violence.  When it rains the columns bleed red rust.  The display begins at eye level but the ground slopes downward so the columns rise until they are hanging like men lifted from the earth by a noose pulled tight.  

I thought about our time in Berlin at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  Those sarcophagi also seemed endless. And the ground also slopes, raising the monuments until the visitors themselves feel buried. There I looked for my mother's, Nina Naomi's, maiden name in the lists of the murdered.  I wanted to know where our family belonged.  

Berlin, Germany
Montgomery has honored not only their own past but the past of the rest of the country.  The Memorial is for us all.  It makes me proud when we do this, when we stand together to try to make amends.  A reconciling action.  If you want to see it I hope you are able to.  Nina Naomi.