Wednesday, February 27, 2013

First World Problem

Sometimes when my husband catches me complaining about small things he says "first world problems".  This is an opportunity for me to give my head a shake and put things in perspective.  It's times like that I wonder if I really know what a real problem is? And complaining for the sake of complaining seems like a huge waste of time to me.  Each of us have our own struggles and burdens but, when I step outside myself and look at things, it seems to help me really get an idea of the depth or gravity of it all.  So far, nothing really to complain about!  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More Than Meets the Eyes

(Originally written February 20, 2013)

So, I went to the funeral and it was beautiful.  Everyone did a wonderful job celebrating the life of Amalour.  As I looked around the church, I thought how interesting, how amazing, that all these people (and I'm sure it was just the tip of the iceberg) were somehow touched by Amalour's 46 years present on this earth.  It was remarkable and humbling.

As I sat there, I was reminded of my own story.  How my father died at the age of 40, leaving a wife and 6 children; I just a mere baby of 2 years and 1 month.  I have thought, as all of my babies passed that significant age, that if I died right now, they wouldn't remember me.  But then I look at my family, my siblings.  In the beginning, they did their best trying to help me remember my dad by taking me around the house, showing me pictures of him.  But those memories did fade.  However, the stories have not.  I have heard time and time again (always eagerly!) the various escapades from each of them about their times (and each others' times) with Dad; stories of me being his "Pooch" (glad that nickname didn't stick!) and how much he adored me in the short time we had together.  When I looked upon Amalour's children as the priest spoke of how much she loved them, I remembered my mom telling me, when I was very young, that daddy died because God needed more doctors in Heaven.  Well, that explanation didn't hold much water when I was old enough to conclude, that doesn't make sense because there were no sick people in Heaven??!  So, upon reflection, Mom said that God felt Dad could do more from up there, than he could ever do from down here.  And, after 40 years, 6 healthy kids and spouses, 12 healthy grandchildren, and one healthy wife/mother of his children, I truly believe that his influence from his lofty vantage point was exponentially more valuable.  We lost our dad but never the protection of our Father.  

There were tears of loss today; for those that were present and for all those who have felt loss.  So, it was wonderful the emphasis on the impact and joy of Amalour's life.  Do not weep for me, sang the choir.  Like Amalour herself was telling us all.

I strive to live this way:

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that when you die,
the world cries and you rejoice.

Cherokee Expression

We don't know the why but, with faith, and time, it all fits.  Today is a day to celebrate.  Every day.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Animated Spirituality

What's it called when the actions of something actually reinforce the event actually happening?  I'm not really articulating this well; but I know there must be a word for it.  I had this thought last night before going to bed and, knowing it would keep me up if I didn't record it, I  wrote it down:

I believe in a plan. When you go towards one thing, you go away from another. Avoid one thing to go toward another.  But I think there are options.  Like the books where are you choose your own ending.  When we make choices we choose our path. Things come up that we have no control over.  But we have control over what we choose to do with those obstacles or opportunities, depending on how you look at it.  

This morning, (lazy Monday mornings) Holly chose to watch "Kung Fu Panda", which we haven't watched for ages, during couch cuddles.  There was a quote I heard that I really liked so I went to look it up and when I did, I found this one first:

"One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it."
Master Oogway, Kung fu Panda

Hmmmmmmm...that's weird.  So, what I'm really saying is, I think I'm getting all my spiritual enlightenment from animated features!!  :)  Well, I did say to Ben just this morning (after he pointed out on his test paper that he learned the meaning of the word "inn" from playing a video game), you just never know where you're going to learn something!

So I found my destiny, writing about destiny?  My brain hurts. But it's a good hurt!

Get Out Of My Way! (Oh, are you still here?)

Living a more mindful existence opens your eyes to a lot of things.  For instance, I can be a REALLY big baby.  Or, perhaps more accurately, a temperamental, stubborn 2 year old.  I woke up this morning with one thought: where do I start?  Yoga?  Ugh..I know it will make me feel better but it takes so much tiiiiime...  Shower?  Ugh...but if I shower now, that takes away from "me" time; I can shower when the kids are awake.  Computer/concentrating stuff with conscious yard-apes about?  Not so much.  I just want coffee.  Coffee, coffee, coffee.  So what do you suppose I did?  I did the yoga.  I did the yoga because it's good for me and I know it will incrementally help me feel better by stretching out these limbs after a long(ish) night's sleep.  Did I jump out of bed glad to be alive with a spring in my step and joy in my heart?  Well, the joy was there but buried under my acute want for coffee!  No matter how you start your day, like the 3-toed sloth, upside down and going about 1.2 mph (1.9 km/h) (yes, I looked that up), or like the zen buddhist that rises gratefully at the first toll of the bell, may each step bring you to peace in your heart.  I'm going to get out of my own way now and have another cup of coffee!  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What I See In Movies

So, yesterday I went to see 5 movies nominated for Academy awards.  Each one resonated with me in some small, yet significant, way (especially Beasts of the Southern Wild (not in any small part due to the fact that their home reminded me of my dining room table and therefore reserved all judgement!!).
One in particular, in this moment of my journey, was Life of Pi.  As it happens, I am currently reading the book and am looking forward to continuing it to see how the book plays out compared to the movie.  (And, not for the last time, seeing the movie is RARELY, if EVER, the same as reading the book!!)  The life of a young Indian boy turned man and the trials he faces in between.  In no way do I mean to belittle his journey that was most extraordinary.  But his connection to the 3 religions of Abraham is the thing that really captured me.  He connects himself to each and is a self-described Christian, Muslim, and Hindu.  In the book, he is called out by the leaders of these three faiths in an unexpected encounter on the street.  (I was going to say "unfortunate" encounter, but I think that would be a flimsy translation of the incident.)  The are confounded that Pi can partake in each of their rituals and faiths; each leader defends their faith as one true path to God, condemning each of the others for this and that which conflicts with their own deep beliefs.  In the end, Pi expresses that all he wants to do is love God and show God's love in the best way he knows how.  Pi sees God in each of these things.  He sees how they are connected.  He unites them in his one being.  I love this so much because when I speak to my Christian friends, my secular friends, my Muslim friends, Jewish friends (well, you get the idea), I'm always looking for likenesses.  How do we see things similarly?  On what can we agree?  None of us are the same.  None of us are clones, physically, mentally, or spiritually.  But the more I see how we are alike, the closer I find myself to peace.   Each of us have trials we must face.  Each our own burdens to bear.  This is a quote from the movie with which I will leave you:

Adult Pi Patel: Faith is a house with many rooms. 
Writer: But no room for doubt? 
Adult Pi Patel: Oh plenty, on every floor. Doubt is useful, it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Living Each Day

Posted on FB, Saturday, February 23, 2013

Good Saturday morning!  Don't you love when the planets align?  And I think it happens more often than we realize.  I've had a myriad of thoughts so far this morning; while doing yoga, making my oatmeal, putting on my stretchy pants, making my bed.  But I wasn't really sure of the direction I wanted to go.  Opened my email and there it was: Oprah's life classes with Rick Warren; author of the Purpose Driven Life.  How you like them apples!  I had been thinking how each of us has purpose in this world.  Every single being on this great blue marble hurtling through space.  And, as I have a good memory, it’s just short! I may have touched on this before.  My kids in my Sunday school class and my kids at home, I reinforce to them often: “You are important!  What you DO, MATTERS!”  I’m not just telling them, I’m telling me.  Every day you go out in the world, you make an impression.  (I do a great impression of my wonderful Indian neurologist but that’s a different story!)  Don’t sell yourself short today.  Or any day.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  And if this day doesn’t go so well in your eyes, then TOMORROW is the first day of the rest of your life.  And so on, and so on.  Some people may just not want to think about it.  Just carry on and, well, why do I have to make things so complicated?!  And that’s totally cool!  I’ll never, ever, ever (I’ll eat those words, I’m sure) tell someone how to live his or her life.  My purpose, at least right now, is to share options.  (So many times in my life, I was so deep in the trench I couldn’t see the options and was it providence, the universe, divine intervention? That reached out and gave me light through an ordinary person who I may or may not still know? But oh what impact they had!). Live your life the best way you know how; it’s possibly one shot!  Write a novel!  Learn a new language!  Watch an 80’s flashback Family Feud marathon and eat corn chips all day!  Just know that you have options.  And, in light of recent events, and even daily events, I'm realizing more and more how precious my life is.  And when I realized I didn’t have to be so angry anymore, I started to realize that life is pretty open.  I love to eat oatmeal, do yoga, and make my bed.  Crazy, I know.  But it is in the simple things I find the greatest pleasure.  And don’t get me started on my kids!!  I don’t want to be THAT person!  Well, not all the time.  :D  So enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.  I hope, wherever you go, it leads you to peace.  J

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Purpose of Us All

A lady I met through my church group, about 4 years ago, passed away yesterday.  She was around my age, married, with 3 children.  I didn't know her very well but in the few encounters I had with her, my heart is made light with the memory of the beautiful presence she had.   Something I have found inspiring are the number of people who have rallied around her during her journey of healing and, ultimately, passing.  The love that was shown to her and her family by those in her community is an amazing sight to see.  Seeing people rise to the occasion of someone in need never ceases to fill me with awe.  In the greatest of global tragedies, to the intimate passing of an individual, and all losses in between, witnessing people showing great compassion and care is truly beautiful.
[I can't imagine her husband and children's grief, though the knowledge of her passing has been coming for some time.  There would be peace in knowing she is now without pain and finally at rest.  There is pain where the emptiness of their loss fills them.  I pray the holy spirit fills that void with the love they all share for her and each other.]  
I feel we all have a purpose here on earth.  Some of us take care of our business, our purpose, before we even leave the womb.   Some of us take 90+ years to achieve our purpose here on earth.  In the time between, I believe it is the purpose of our being to leave a mark on this world and, for better or worse, consciously or subconsciously, we all will leave an impression behind.  Some may give this little thought.  Some may spend years toiling over how to leave their legacy on the world.
There is much darkness in the world as well as those that work in darkness.  They may be mentally ill with no intervention, insane from a life of living in darkness, a sad being with no hope or sense of worth.  And from their darkness more darkness can be created through violent acts.  But seeing the human compassion, the indelible light of the human spirit in times of tragedy, that is the hope and spirit that fills the world.  There will always be tragedy - whether it be human or nature made, matters little.  It is how we respond to those incidences that shows the power of compassion in this world.  
I wonder, if we showed more compassion to those who live in darkness, before they unleashed their fury that comes from living in darkness, would it even occur?  I see anger, negativity, violent behavior as a disease.  If someone is in the hospital with a disease, we bring them flowers, balloons, stuffed animals, cards, provide food for their families; show love and kindness.  But if someone is angry, "rude", negative, depressing to be around, etc, we tend to react with anger and negativity.  Their disease becomes a need for ablation; something to avoid because, why?  We may become negative too?  Because it's exhausting?  I would agree that is a possibility if you see it as a burden.  Like all diseases, there are infectious ones, and if we don't have a good immune system, we too will lie victim to the disease.  I have been building my immune system for some time now.  I know if I get near a negative person, their disease won't effect me.  Simply because I recognize it's not my disease.  My defence?  Compassion.  Just the same as a person with a tangible disease who is in pain, suffering, or even dying. I hear a lot of "buts" coming, but there are no "buts".  It is a point of view and a perspective where there is only one set of rules for all humans.  We are conditioned to respond to a threat with flight or fight.  We can also condition ourselves to respond in a way of compassion.  I have seen it time and time again.
Is someone a danger to themselves and/or others?  Then, no; flowers and balloons are probably not the best answer.  That's when real intervention - removal from general population - need occur.  But most people just want to know they matter and make a difference.  And maybe that old, nasty, curmudgeon of a sot in your life's purpose is to give you the opportunity to rise to be a better person and to exercise that compassion you reserve for those who "deserve" it.  Their disease need not be your disease.
So, leaving a legacy.    Lately, I have given considerable thought to the legacy I want to leave.  For my family, my friends, and even the souls that briefly pass in and out of my life.  Being a positive presence is something I feel is my purpose.  Looking back on my life, I think it's been part of me all along.  Not always evident (I did and still can have a terrible temper!) but it's something that seems to be a thread that has been woven consistently throughout the tapestry of my life so far.  A positive perspective, it's not always welcomed, and that's cool.  It's not my job to change others.  It's my job to work on my self and be an example of what is possible.  And, some days, some times, the clouds roll in and it is I who needs that positive force in my life, to help bring me back toward the light.    
In the mean time, I will continue to be awed by the compassion in the world, work on what it means to be compassionate for ALL my fellow human beings, and take solace in the idea that each and every one of us has purpose in this life.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness-CCE Lesson Feb 2013

Random Acts of Kindness!

Posted on Feb 10, 2013
Hello everyone,
Just wanted to post about something we discussed in the 5th grade class today.  Today's lesson is Ch. 14: Jesus Heals the Sick.  As providence would have it, this chapter speaks of mercy (or kindness, as we commonly use) and "Random Acts of Kindness"; and, wouldn't you know it, this coming week is Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) week!  It ties in wonderfully with the lesson but perhaps it may be something from which we can all benefit.  Here are some ideas for this week:
Monday, Feb 11—Smile at 10 strangers.
Tuesday, Feb 12—Buy something for the person in the line behind you.
Wednesday, Feb 13—Reach out to someone you haven't talked to in a while.
Thursday, Feb 14—Bring a treat to a neighbor or your co-workers.
Friday, Feb 15—Donate your time or money to a local charity.
Saturday, Feb 16—Cook a healthy meal.
Sunday, Feb 17—Let someone go in front of you in line.
The kids were really intrigued by this (especially when I told them I'd been on the receiving end of Tuesday's and how awesome it felt!) and I thought it was a great thing to do leading up to the Lenten Heifer project.  I frequently remind the kids: "You are important; what you do, matters!" and this is a perfect way to empower them to do what Jesus would want us to do. 
Here is the RAK web page for more ideas.
I hope this helps brighten your week (and others!),
Maureen Cooper

"You are IMPORTANT! What you do, MATTERS!"

"You are IMPORTANT!  What you do, MATTERS!"  I try to tell my kids in CCE that every Sunday. I want them to know, although they are young and seemingly insignificant in this vast universe, they have an impact on the environment they live in.  And, as it turns out, the kind of impact you have is completely up to you.  So, is it going to be positive or negative?  Are you going get angry or show compassion?  The choice is yours.
With my own children I'm a little more involved as we interact on a daily basis.  This morning, my daughter wanted to put her own lunch together.  Not only did I tell her I thought that was wonderful, I also let her know how she was effecting her environment: "Do you know how helpful that is to me?  It sure helps me a lot.  Let's look and make sure all the food groups are represented.  Do you know the food groups?  Well they are..."  My life is not an after-school special.  I'm not always on top of things (more often not!).  But I think being aware of those opportunities to remind our kids what an important impact they have on the world helps them decide how they want to fit into this vast puzzle to which we all belong.  I have minty fresh breath because I Holly announced: "I'm going to go get dressed now.  But first I'm going to brush my teeth and wash my hands!"  This is not a usual occurrence and may never happen again!  So, I said: "What a great idea. I'm going to go do the same thing.  Thanks for being such a great leader!"  Tomorrow may be the "comeonewehavetogowhydon'tyouhaveyourshoesonyet?" type morning but today it is good and I seized the opportunity.
If you implant their importance, they'll have that banked for when your leadership isn't so stellar.  Good luck!!