I love Autumn. It may be my favorite season. There is so much change happening all around me, moment-by-moment, that it is good and wise (and pleasurable!) to bear witness to all of it.
This beautiful maple tree in my yard is a perfect example and it is my touchpoint for the season. Each day I step out onto our deck, take a few deep breaths, and acknowledge the shift in hue that is happening nearly right before my eyes. Today, a little less green, leafy tips dipped in orange. Stunning!
This lovely tree reminds me that change is always present—a constant, in fact—and that there is no point in resisting. Leaning into change with an open mind and hospitable heart can serve us very well. Why resist a "holy invitation" to let go of what no longer serves us and to embrace that which does?
My husband purchased this Laughing Buddha for me a few years ago as a Mother’s Day gift. He’s served his purpose well. Every time I look at him I smile.
This portrayal of the Buddha is often known as Hotei. He is a deity of contentment and abundance. “According to legend, if one rubs the Laughing Buddha's great belly, it brings forth wealth, good luck, and prosperity. “(Source) I can’t say that I’ve rubbed his tummy in the hope of receiving treasure. What I have done is place him on my front porch or in my garden or at the edge of our tiny woods. I like seeing him among the elements of nature: covered with snow, a bird perched on his head, or a squirrel nibbling acorns at his feet.
I do this because his presence there reminds me to “be well with what is,” just like he himself appears to be doing. This was one of the most potent teachings of the historic Buddha—to not resist what is here. It is our resistance to things as they are that can cause us much internal suffering. Walking through life, wishing that what we’re experiencing would be different, invites inner struggle, resentment, depression, and more.
So when I grumble about an early snowfall, for example, and I see Hotei grinning through the flakes, I am calmed. I can embrace equanimity too, I think to myself. When I see him enduring a woodland creature peck, peck, pecking at him—a big smile still on his face—I believe I can endure in that way too, no matter who or what is doing the pecking.
Mostly, what he helps me believe is that I can do this. I can do this life, partake in this world just as it is, if I have inner calm, clarity, and confident. I can do this. No matter what.
And if I am mindful, filled with the spirit of metta, I can do it even more gracefully, with a smile on my face and one in my heart. Just like Hotei.
And for this, I bow in gratitude ...
A brisk autumn walk yesterday revealed its own share of delights.
In northern Michigan, everything appears to be in a state of letting go. The leaves on the trees are now falling into untidy piles on the ground or being swept away by wildish winds. Many of the trees are already barren, stumps of singular beauty. As the vibrant colors of fall are fading to dull browns and grays, my heart has a tendency to feel this loss and usher in feelings of melancholy.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered scores of trees that were indeed barren of leaves but now abloom with red fruit. Joy! I hope they're edible fruit for the birds that will brave the coming winter.
While these trees were transforming, beginning their own process of letting go, I didn't see the new life that was also sprouting. Dense leaves had covered up these glorious red berries. And now that serious shedding had begun, they were finally revealed. Just beautiful. And hopeful.
Their presence reminded me of some important things:
Even in the midst of letting go, there is holy newness.
Even in the sorrow of loss, there is plenty.
Even in the struggle to accept change, there are places of appreciation and beauty into which one can rest.
And hope. There is always hope that each new day brings with it possibilities, opportunities ...
Life can be good and fruitful, even in the letting go.
This morning I was deeply immersed in my writing. Writing for me is a spiritual practice, so when I do write, I feel plugged-in to God. Putting words upon the page firmly plants me in the present moment which, in my view, is the only place we can truly experience the Divine.
When I emerged from under the "spell" of the Sacred, I stepped out onto my deck for a breath of fresh air and a change of landscape. I was surprised at what I found. The leaves of the trees had been coated with a frosty wash of glimmer. They'd been kissed by Mother Nature, I imagine as part of her "putting things to bed" routine that accompanies Fall.
In that moment of witness I recalled how I had complained about the cold earlier this the morning, whining to my husband about the 30 degree reading I saw on our outdoor thermometer. Brrr ... I was thinking of going for a walk later today and my mind anxiously jumped to how many layers of clothing I'd have to put on to stay warm. In many ways, I am not ready for colder temperatures to be a longterm guest.
Yet, when I stepped out onto the deck and viewed my surroundings with sacred vision, I was overcome by a sense of wonder at the beauty I found: frost-laden leaves that glittered softly in the early morning sun. Whining was replaced by praise. Humility paid a visit too.
How important perspective is and taking the time to clear our clouded vision to see what's really here!
It was cold on the deck. I put on my coat and grabbed my camera. I snapped a few pictures then simply stood there. I listened and watched. I could not only see the leaves falling from the trees, but hear them too. At first I thought a squirrel was causing this abundant cascade, but, no. The leaves were tumbling down all by their own effort - or lack of it. They were simply letting go ...
I listened and watched their release and was buoyed with courage for another day of my own moments of surrender. For they will come, as has the frost, a now welcome visitor.
Today is not a day for strolling. The autumn rains have come and will stay with us for the next few days. But yesterday, and a trail of days before that, were wonderful for walking.
Everywhere I went I noticed evidence of the changing season. First to catch my eye were patches of brilliant crimson—Red Maples. They are the most glorious, offering dramatic change to all who see. Then I spied pockets of gold—Sugar Maples. These sweet trees are more discriminating when it comes to color change. 'Subtle' is the best word to describe them. They make a gentle transition from green to yellow to orange to red.
If truth be told, none of us is too fond of rapid and unexpected change. We don't like our world rocked in sudden, unsteadying ways. In fact, I've read that most people don't like change at all. Which is rather surprising when you realize that millions of self-help books are sold each year. All those book sales would seem to say that we like and want to change. Actually, I think most of us like to read about change rather than doing it.
Unless you are a Sugar Maple, because you are lucky enough to make a significant life transition more slowly. I like to imagine that these maples get to feel their way from green to red, with plenty of time to get used to the change. That they are fortunate to experience the gradual withdrawal of chlorophyll from their veins so they can manage life (and leaving it) much better. Not such a shock to the system you know?
If I come back in another life, I might just choose to be a Sugar Maple. I prefer subtle over shocking.
The trees of autumn model change, how we too can change: surrendering to the will of the world that sources and shapes us. And to do it with dignity and grace because everything changes. Everything. All the time.
May we accept the invitation of change with aplomb. Like the trees.
When I take my city strolls, I have favorite streets I like to meander. I sense this is because they feel especially welcoming to me.
As I walk mindfully and pay close attention, I notice there are certain ways that people landscape their yards or decorate the exteriors of their homes that offer a note of invitation.
Which brings me to a place of pondering. How welcoming am I? Do I invite others in or do I fence them out? Everyone wants to feel welcome, don't they?
A well-placed bower shading a sidewalk says, "Come in."
Delicate blooms reach through the slats of fences as if to say, "Hello there."
Some even reach so far as to gently touch your leg as you walk by, offering a flowery hug.
Larger spaces, intentionally planned and well maintained, offer a deeper welcome.
"Sit, rest, stay a while."
Indeed, everything speaks to us, inviting us deeper ... if we have the eyes to perceive and the heart to receive. Today, I'm thinking about hospitality and how I can be more open and welcoming to those who enter my world.
© Photos and text, Janice L. Lundy, 2014
A blog post on corn? Indeed!
For me, it has always been the most ordinary of things that bring one to wakefulness; to gratitude for life as it is. Corn on the cob is no exception.
We were getting ready for company. Two folks I didn't know, the man was a work colleague of my husband. We hadn't entertained "strangers" in a while so I was feeling a bit nervous and pressured. I noticed these feelings when I stepped onto our deck to peel the homegrown corn I'd just purchased at the farmer's market.
In my hurry to get everything completed in time, "just right" for guests, I started to roughly rip the shucks off an ear of corn. I noticed how violent this felt, this ripping away. I got in touch with the tension inside of me. I took a breath, several actually, and brought my full attention to peeling the corn carefully. Mindfully.
As I progressed, I was overtaken by feelings of delight. How attractive each ear was! How unique! Kernels of gold, yellow, and white randomly housed on a sturdy cob. I marveled at the beauty of each ear. I found myself slowly, lovingly, removing each shuck to see more of each ear, like a peeling back to reveal a hidden treasure. I felt appreciation rising in me; grateful that one of our local farmers took the time to grow such nourishing food, one that was non-GMO, at that. (A rarity to find in the world of corn.)
I noticed my mood lifting. A sense of deep relaxation coming over me. With deeper seeing (because I was relaxed), I saw all the tiny silken threads that needed to be removed. Thousands of them! My anxiety-prone mind wanted to make a big deal out of this, but with breath and intention to staying fully present, I avoided derailment. I held each ear up to the sunlight, turning it this way and that, rotating it, so I could clearly see the location of each thread framed against a background of blue sky. I gently lifted the threads from the meaty kernels against which they lay. Even the silk that rested deep within the rows bore a certain fascination for me, and each was removed with care and kindness.
I lost track of time, I was so enjoying the mindfulness of corn ... and shucking. All sense of work was gone. Only wonder remained.
Mindful awareness is magic. And it is equally quite ordinary. All we need do to access both is to be here now. Being present, the future takes care of itself.
And it did. We had a lovely dinner party. The corn was greatly appreciated. Our appetites and hearts were sated with goodness and friendship.
When we walk more slowly, look more closely, the world holds many surprises.
As I set out to walk the path of an outdoor labyrinth the other day, I was so set on getting started that I nearly bypassed this sacred hiding place. My eye spied something painted and peeling tucked in amongst the leaves. Imagine my delight in finding this:
a sequestered sabbath seat. The perfect place to rest and seek respite from the bright sun that poured over the field where the labyrinth lay. What a blessing to feel its cool embrace!
It made me wonder what other secret hiding places I'd bypassed in the busyness of my days. What do I miss when I am going too fast to see clearly? How often we hurry and worry our way through life not slowing down enough to notice what's here waiting to offer us ...
welcome, clarity, refreshment.
In that moment, I recalled the words of Wayne Muller, the author of Sabbath, "It is hard to be blessed if you don't stand still."
One of the things you might not know about me is that I love photography. I am not a skilled photographer nor do I have any formal training.
But I feel inclined to take pictures, especially when I walkabout my beautiful town, or am anyplace in nature, as a form of spiritual practice. It is for me a way of seeing clearly, looking deeply, at what is here, right here, in front of me. This is also a form of mindfulness and one that keeps me rooted in the present moment, with gratitude for what is.
I've wanted to host a photo blog for quite some time now. To keep it simple by posting a photo that came through my heart and offer just a few words about it. Words that might take you deeper into your own experience of noticing the sacred in everything, yes, everything.
So, today, I rededicate this blog to viewing and embracing the world with sacred vision.
May we all ...
As I stroll the side streets and alleyways of my home town in northern Michigan, I challenge myself to focus on beauty; to finding at least one unique expression of it, logging it in as a forever memory with my camera. Yesterday, I spotted this lovely peace pole in someone's front yard.
Now there are plenty of such poles in my town for we are lovers of peace here on the Bay. In fact, a number of years ago our city was the first in the U.S. to file an official protest against the war in Iraq. We are peace makers, peace purveyors here ...
What touched me the most about this particular pole was the way the homeowner tended it—so lovingly, so consciously, framing it with respect in a bouquet of beauty. I felt more peaceful just looking at it. And seeing it invited me to ask of myself, 'What are you doing today to be a polestar for peace?'
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we are meant to live.
Continue the conversation with me and others on my Facebook page.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.