I recall sitting on a bench in the Meditation Gardens of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas, CA in 1999, tucked in amongst giant palms and soft ferns, journaling these words:
Living in the present moment takes full effort and concentration.
I knew when I recorded them they were "a gift from beyond." I've carried these words in my heart for all the years since then and they never fail to point me back towards what matters most—to be here, now.
How easy it is for us to lose our way, to spend our energy unwisely, supremely focused on the past or the future. Granted, reflection on what has gone by is fine; reliving beautiful memories is wonderful too. Learning from mistakes, so wise!
Leaning into the future, exploring infinite possibilities, can be beautiful as well—the stuff of dreams—and we are definitely meant to dream.
But when we lose our equanimity and fall with misery into either camp (regret, worry, anxiety), we lose touch with the glorious gift of the present moment. This precious moment. This moment. This.
When I am able to stay attuned to this glittering jewel, fully embracing its one-of-a-kind gifts, the present moment holds everything—past and future, what's gone and what's yet to come—and in that generous holding, I am at home in the world. I can breathe. All is well.
The same can be true for any of us. For you.
Today, may you find comfort and ease in the present moment. May you be well, at home in yourself.
Photo courtesy of encinitastemple.org
The aphorism above became an entry in my book Awakening the Spirit Within. It's now out of print but used copies are available at Amazon.com.
Without exaggeration, it's safe to say that a tiny yellow book titled, Slowing Down in a Speeded Up World, pretty much saved my life. At the time, I was operating like the cartoon character, Speedy Gonzalez, the Mexican mouse, living on overdrive. Author Adair Lara was the first wise woman who gave me permission to get off the fast track and begin to live in a way that was more grounded and slow.
In truth, everything is speeding up these days. Even time seems to race by. That speediness is definitely felt in our bodies as stress, in our minds as racing thoughts, and in our emotions as overwhelm or disconnection. I do not believe we are meant to live this way. Moving so quickly we miss the magic and meaning of life.
Moving quickly also sends constant messages to our body-mind to be on alert (hurry! move! get going!), and what this does is create a continuous stream of cortisol moving through our body. Cortisol is a hormone that is released into our bloodstream when stress is activated. In regular doses, it's necessary and good for body health. Too much cortisol, surging through regularly, is not a good thing, and will ultimately take its toll on us.
The bottom line is we can't be healthy (body, mind and spirit) when we are always struggling to keep up. More and faster is not better. It is up to each one of us to find the pace of life that suits us best, and, more specifically, one that truly nourishes us. Going slow is not a bad thing, it's a mindful thing, and one that, when fully embraced, will allow us to experience the world in a whole new way.
Author Robert Gerzon explains in his book, Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety, that our bodies are not intended, nor constructed, for such fast-paced living. As passengers on the train of life, we often move through our days at breakneck speeds. This speediness may be experienced in our bodies as anxiety and other stress-related disorders such as heart arrhythmias, headaches, and insomnia.
When we do slow down or come to a screeching halt, we immediately feel the difference. Our bodies and minds tell us so. If we could just listen more intently to the signals our body-mind sends, we would instinctively know what to do (or not do) to be well. But, first, we must slow down enough for inner listening to take place.
You can begin slowing down by actually changing your pace. You can choose to walk more slowly—from the car, through the parking lot, into the store. You can walk more purposefully by looking up at the blue sky or at the green trees, instead of robotically downward. You can do things mindfully, with full and present attention, instead of multi-tasking. As Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh advocates, when you are washing the dishes, just wash the dishes.
Any practice that roots you more deeply in the present moment will help you become aware of how quickly you are moving through your day. It will also help you discern how satisfying this feels and if the pace of your life needs to be altered to meet your deepest needs.
Adapted from Living Gently with Myself: A 30-Day Guidebook by Janice L. Lundy
My new blog post for Spiritual Directors International:
It was my 18-month old daughter who deepened my experience of wonder. As soon as she could toddle, her chubby little legs carried her outside to explore the big, wide world.
I can still see her in my mind’s eye, crouching down in the grass to point her tiny finger at any number of nature’s surprises: ants busily building a house, fragments of a pale blue robin’s egg, the delicate tapestry of Queen Anne’s Lace. “Look, Mama,” she would say, “isn’t it pretty? Come see!” And she would continue to crouch and wait until I did the same. Every waking moment of her day, all she wanted to do was go outside to explore nature’s handiwork. This little soul lived in a world of wonder. (Continue reading here)
I enjoy the holidays and the fond memories they bring to mind. I am one of those women who likes to be organized for the holidays, well prepared before they arrive. In years past, I’d have a goal for myself to have the gift shopping done by Thanksgiving. This way I could enjoy the month of December; play with my kids, bake, gather with friends, and savor the sights, sounds and smells of the season— without succumbing to the hustle and bustle of it all.
And yet, there is a whisper inside of me that cautions me not to place so much attention on finding the perfect holiday gift for everyone. Most recently, I find myself thinking, instead, about intangible, “boxless” presents we could exchange with one another. Considering, what things mean the most to us? What would we like to receive from someone else? I know what I’d like to receive from the loved ones in my life. I’d like to be given the gift of their time. In my view, there is no better gift than being able to spend time with the people I love.
Moving through life at the pace we are, it's our free time that becomes a precious commodity. Might it be possible this year to ditch the "To-Do" List and create a “To Be” list for ourselves—a roster of all the ways we can be with the important people in our lives—giving the holiday gift of our presence instead?
What might be on your “To Be” list? Perhaps a leisurely walk with someone who needs a listening ear; reading a book with a grandchild; reliving old memories perusing photo albums with an aging parent or grandparent; a phone call to a childhood friend (or someone with whom you’ve lost touch). These are the things that mean the most: the gifts of listening, caring, and presence. They are things that cannot be wrapped in pretty paper and placed under the Christmas tree. They are entities of enduring value. They are also memories in the making, gifts that will last and last.
Time moves quickly. Life is short. When all is said and done and we look back upon our lives, what we’ll remember most are the people with whom we spent our days and nights. We will recall the warm hugs of friends, children, and grandchildren; hearty conversations at the dinner table; the late nights we shared comforting one another through the ups and downs of life.
It’s interesting isn’t it, the similarity in these two words: “presents” and “presence”? Which would you prefer to receive? If gift giving is at the top of your priority list, my hope for you this holiday season is that you will dig deeper than your pocketbook and creatively design some quality time--the gift of presence—for the important people in your life. And that you will receive some in return, as well.
©2016, Janice L. Lundy
Savor the Days with Me
The "Season of Light" is upon us. Are you feeling busy and overwhelmed? Stop, breath, take 5 minutes with me each day to enjoy a period of ritual and prayerfulness "bearing the Light."
12 days with 12 short, candle-lighting rituals with meaningful prayers for keeping "what matters most" front and center. Begin today and rededicate yourself to cultivating presence in this holiest of seasons.
Being at home, at ease, within ourselves is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves. And to be able to cultivate this presence of body, mind and heart wherever we are—at home, at work, even standing in line at the market—is a powerful practice and example of self-compassionate care.
At Home Wherever You Are
Excerpted from Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook by Janice L. Lundy
Begins May 9. Please join me and love yourself more.
A few years ago, when I was serving as a magazine editor and feature writer, I had the privilege of interviewing Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD. I'd admired her work for years.
At the time we were talking about her new venture, The Dangerous Old Woman, and the conversation often returned to the subject of wisdom.
I finally asked her, "How do you define wisdom?"
Her answer, "Wisdom is what works."
I've thought long and hard about her answer and, truthfully, have pretty much taken the definition on as my own.
I used to think of wisdom as something lofty. Something only a gift few people had. Or something to be acquired as you aged and had clocked plenty of life experience.
Abiding by this definition, I believe that each of one of has a deep reservoir of wisdom. It may not feel like it on most days, but it's there. Sometimes the difficulty of daily life keeps us distanced from it, frantically paddling in a swirling pool of yuck and muck where we lack the mental clarity and emotional strength to climb onto steadier ground.
Wisdom is what helps us stand tall—calm, clear, confident. Cognizant that we have what it takes to roll with the ups and downs of life. To love rather than hate. To heal rather than hurt. To grow rather than hide. As Dr. CPE reminds us, yes, wisdom is what works.
A few years ago I was guided to engage a morning process of accessing my own inner wisdom. I wanted to remember what worked in terms of living a wholehearted life. I'd light a candle, set the intention to tap into my own good stuff (and that which the Divine revealed to me), then write it down. Those jottings became the "Beads of Wisdom" I sent out to my e-mail list beginning in 2012.
Today, I launched a new version of these Beads. I call them "Beads of Wisdom 3.0" because they're new and different, because I'm new and different.
Passionate about growth, I vow to always be faithful to what is unfolding within me and to where it's taking me. I'm always happy to share what I'm discovering along the way.
So with great pleasure I invite you to join me for a new and deeper understanding of wisdom and receive a daily dose of mindfulness, lovingkindness, and compassion. A dollop of what works for any of us to live in the highest way possible—calm, clear and wise, no matter what.
You can read more about Beads of Wisdom 3.0 here and read some samples too.
They're free, from my heart to yours. Enjoy!
When I lost my health due to stress and overwhelm in 1994 (or was it 1993, I don't remember, truthfully, life was a blur at the time), I didn't know where to turn for a solution. All I knew was that I was deeply, deeply, tired and just plain worn out.
Somehow, I knew to listen to that tired self who encouraged me to bend down even lower, put my inner ear next to my body, and pay attention to what it said it needed to be well. Organic healing from the inside out.
I paid attention to what I thought and felt through writing (journaling helped). I rested—a lot! I walked the beach for hours and simply listened to the waves lapping upon the shore, seagulls dipping and soaring overhead. Actually, I didn't do much of anything at all but to BE ... and I looked and listened deeply to what was going on around me.
I immersed myself in the present and allowed that "method" to begin to heal what ailed me.
I somehow knew that savoring was part of a healing process. (I'd been moving too fast to savor much of anything up until then.) Savoring is the act of allowing yourself to be absorbed into and to fully enjoy—to appreciate— your current experience, whether it's looking at a brilliant sunset or sipping a cup of flavorful tea.
Webster's describes it this way—perfectly. "She wanted to savor every moment: relish, enjoy (to the full), appreciate, delight in, revel in, luxuriate in, bask in."
(That was me then. It's still me today.)
Savoring saved me. Savoring brought me back to the simple blessings of a slower-paced, more intentionally lived life.
Walking was and is one of the avenues I use to savor. Thich Nhat Hanh style, when I walk, I walk. I try not to think too much; just take in my present experience. Doing so allows me to log in what I see as a pleasant experience—especially natural beauty.
This week I'm reading Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson. He affirms what I've learned organically about the healing power of savoring with some of neuroscience's newest findings. Dr. Hanson calls savoring "taking in the good." He writes, "When you take in the good, stay in the present, enjoying what is flowing through your awareness without trying to grab it as it goes by, opening to it so that it sinks into you."
It's the sinking in part that neuroscience speaks to. When we take in the good, "feel good" hormones take over, cortisol is minimized, and beneficial neural connections are made. He recommends staying with your experience for at least 10 seconds to let the process kick in. The more we do this, the more our brain changes, the more new neural pathways are created; pathways that can bypass old ineffectual ones that are conditioned to send us messages of stress and anxiety (and so much more).
In time, we'll feel inner struggle dissipate. Peace comes. Happiness arises and decides to set up housekeeping if we stay attuned to the good, the right, the true—that which nourishes body, mind, heart and spirit. We are, literally, retraining our brain to "see" the good and, as a result, we reap the benefits of body/mind ease, open-heartedness, and "at-one-ment" with life as it is.
For me, savoring—this taking in of the good—is one of the most self-compassionate things I can do for myself. That any of us can and should do for ourselves if health and healing is our heart's desire.
(That's a "good should," by the way. ;-)
May you savor something today and feel the body/mind benefits of supremely en-JOYing yourself wherever you are.
p.s. The lilacs pictured above are from my latest walk. They were the most fragrant lilacs I've ever smelled ... in my entire life ... no kidding.
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?'
I’m a summer girl, born and bred. Give me a sunny day, a beach chair, a good book and a tall glass of ice tea and I’m in heaven. Nothing suits me more than languishing the days away like this. Even the tantalizing offer of a powerboat ride to view the shoreline, or an invitation to picnic on a sailboat can’t rouse me from my post. Nothing feels better to me than being planted in one place in the summertime.
That’s my summer rhythm - slow and sweet, long and lazy. Granted, I’m aware that this may not appeal to some folks. Many view summer as their time to party and play, or travel and traipse around the country. I appreciate the variety of ways that we connect with the unique opportunities summer provides. It seems to me that the key to savoring the season is finding your summer rhythm.
We all have an internal rhythm—a way that we think, move, or act that feels just right to us. Some folks are slow goers. Their gait is more smooth or fluid. Others jaunt along at a clip that offers cardiovascular benefits. Some folks like peace and quiet - the solitary life. Others thrive on activity - the hustle and bustle of life energizes them and they love being surrounded by people. Some folks don’t like noise. Others say, ‘Bring it on!’,the more stimulation the better.
Have you ever thought about your internal rhythm? Considered how fast you walk or talk? How much noise you like? How many people you prefer around you? If you have, the $1 million question is: Are you honoring your inner rhythm?
How do you know if you’re honoring it, you might ask? It’s simple really. If you feel anxious, rushed, short tempered, impatient or, in extreme cases, like you want to crawl out of our skin, or catch the next plane to Maui, you’re probably going against the grain—denying the natural rhythm your whole self desires—body, mind, heart and soul. If on any given day you feel centered, relaxed, focused, creative, grateful, or energetic, chances are you’re listening well to the inner voice that champions your inner rhythm.
I had a very powerful lesson in honoring my inner rhythm ten summers ago while on my honeymoon in Hawaii. I’d spent a delicious amount of time beach lounging and savoring the sights and thought I should introduce a bit of adventure to round out my week. (Note the “should.”) This inner urging took me by surprise as I am definitely not the adventurous type. If the truth be told, I’m pretty much a chicken about everything. No climbing heights, no deep dives, no dangerous sports would ever appear on my “Someday I’d like to...” list. However, for some mysterious reason, I felt an urge to explore, take a risk.
Against my better judgment, I threw caution to the wind and my husband and I went for a hike to a lava-laden, boulder strewn, ocean overlook with tide pools you could swim in. The view was beyond breathtaking, complete with large, wild sea turtles swimming in those blue-green ponds. The danger was that unexpected waves could appear any moment and wash everything and everyone out to sea. In my excitement to soak the scene in, I began scampering across the tops of the boulders like a mountain goat. Before I knew it, I was moving too fast and down I went, striking my head on an enormous lava rock. Within seconds, my life did flash before my eyes, just like they say it does, and I fought the fog of unconsciousness that came to claim me.
It was a miracle that I was able to hike back the mile or so it took to return to the car. It was also a miracle that, with as hard as my head hit, I had only a mild concussion. The greatest miracle though may have been the awarenesses I was given only seconds after my head hit: I was moving too fast - I didn’t listen to my intuition - I hadn’t followed my inner rhythm. Lesson noted and learned!
My hope in sharing my perspective here is that before your days of summer are spent you will intentionally take some time to get in touch with the rhythm that your true self desires. Fast and furious, or lazy and languid, and everything in between, of course. Once it’s clear to you what your whole self would enjoy, honor it, and spend your summer accordingly. If powerboating is your thing, go for it! But only if you want to—not because your partner or friends say it’s what you need. If sun bathing is what gratifies you, indulge yourself. (Just don’t forget the sunscreen!) But always, always listen to your intuition, the small voice inside that speaks up like mine did before my grand misadventure. Check in with it and listen to what it says.
When we honor our inner rhythm we move toward creating a greater sense of balance in our lives. Not to mention stress reduction and the benefit of enhanced health. When we choose to live fully in the moment, attending to what our inner rhythm calls us to do, we begin to live “in sync” with ourselves. We begin to feel better, more at ease, and our wellness quotient rises along with the temperature of those wonderful days of summer.
I'll be taking most of the summer "off" and "in," tending to myself and my creative self, so my blogging here will be minimal. I will still be meeting with people for Spiritual Direction/Mentoring, and there is one more summer program in Grand Rapids in July, "Nature as Teacher and Healer." I hope you will find and honor your summer rhythm too. Let's savor the summer shall we? It's the best way I know to stay Spiritually Healthy!
Blessings and all good things,
"... but if we never let ourselves do nothing at times, our inner resources will drain away,
and we shall move through our days with a pervading sense of unease.
We shall not, in short, be happy."
I marvel when the Universe puts just the right book in your hands at just the right time. I've savored this book and truly hate to return it to the library today. I will likely have to purchase my own copy because I know I will read it again and again.
It is a book of non-guilty pleasures and it's completely countercultural, though profoundly spiritual. Seven Sins for a Life Worth Living by Roger Housden has validated what I always knew to be true—but just couldn't seem to get my life choices wrapped around. It's ok to fall in love with the world and all that's in it AND lighten up on yourself. It's perfectly wonderful to commit these "sins" and, in fact, keep on doing so because they will ultimately deliver you to your truest self. Yes, really.
Here are the 7 Sins:
1. The Pleasure of All Five Senses
2. The Pleasure of Being Foolish
3. The Pleasure of Not Knowing
4. The Pleasure of Not Being Perfect
5. The Pleasure of Doing Nothing Useful
6. The Pleasure of Being Ordinary
7. The Pleasure of Coming Home
Which sin speaks to you? Which one does your heart and soul urge you to commit right now?
I'll admit that the very first one that grabbed me was #5. "The Pleasure of Doing Nothing Useful." What we might call Idling. Time wasting. "Moodling," as author Jennifer Louden calls it. I'm a Worker Bee from way back. Raised with a never-say-die work ethic. (Both sets of grandparents come from farming, need I say more?) I took my first job when I was 15-years-old and have been working hard at something ever since.
This Pleasure is a growing edge for me. For many years, I've been all about making my life matter, using my talents, making a difference in the world, doing what I am "called" to do. As sacred as this sounds, it's wearying to think that you MUST always be pointing yourself in a certain direction all the time. Being useful. Being creative. Being productive. Sigh ...
The teacher voice in me is relentless sometimes. The conditioning to turn information into something useful for the benefit of others runs deep. I go to the beach. I struggle with just sitting there. Surely I should take pictures to turn into blog posts or to put on Facebook! Surely, I should have brought my journal to write down brilliant insights that I can turn into the next book!
Pleasure #5 invites me to let all that chatter go. To give myself permission to receive, to love leisure, to enjoy mindless walks and traipsing around my town for no other purpose than to do it, to lounge on my deck and watch the sunlight move through the trees or listen to the waves at the shore. Does that sound like someone being lazy to you? It does to me except ...
... except that Roger Housden gets this. And invites us to stop all that chattering nonsense and look at this Pleasure with new eyes and an open heart. Let the old storyline go. Grab onto the joy that's latent within the Pleasure and give yourself over to it because it will transform you. Invite you deeper. Re-introduce you to your true self. That's what it's doing for me, anyway.
Roger's right. When I do nothing, I open up to the Universe in unexpected ways. Gifts are given. Aromas pour in to an empty vessel (me) and they ferment there like good wine. A clear agenda and mapless walking energize and rejuvenate me. At this stage of my life I am unlearning much of what I've been taught and realigning with ancient wisdom, like this thought of Lin Yutang (from Housden's book): "If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live."
And this is how Pleasure #5 works: (Housden again) "If we are not useful, after all, what else can we be but useless? Even taking such a simple break in routine as spending a morning with your feet up, gazing out of the window, can begin to dispel that misunderstanding. A fully lived and passionate life is not only, or not even mostly, about being useful or useless, it is about being. Being what? That we shall discover only when we lay down our arms and rest awhile from being everything we think we are." (my emphasis)
There you go. Well said.
Do you by chance hear freedom calling through any of the Pleasures? I'm eager and ready to commit more sins and partake of non-guilty pleasures. Care to join me?
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
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 co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.