Monday, March 19, 2018

Faith, Hope, and Mother Nature

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The good news this week is that today makes three days with no snow, plus sunshine and blue skies. The bad news is that it was 16 degrees when I woke up this morning ... an improvement from the 11 degrees it was yesterday morning ... and the high might reach 33 if we're lucky. Did I mention that Spring arrives in a couple of days?

Sometimes, when it seems as if spring will never get here, and I feel beaten down by the outside world, I find my hope in nature. If there is only one thing I can put my faith in when life seems to be at its lowest, it is that the sun will rise every morning, spring will eventually get here, as well as summer, fall and winter again, and the bare branches outside my window will be filled with buds in another few weeks (give or take a week). No matter what humankind can throw at us, these are the things that will sustain us, the things we can hold on to. The birds will return to sing us awake every morning, the sound of geese flying to and from the river will fill the air once again, daffodils and crocus will start to peek out from the slowly thawing earth, and the sun will get stronger with each passing day, warming our bodies and our hearts.

Whenever we need proof that there is at least one thing that works in this world, all we need to do is look outside of ourselves at the natural world around us. Have faith in the Creation, and the Creator, and hope that the buds will come sooner than later. Our faith is always rewarded with spring.

And so it is.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Wearing of the Green

I've  been noticing more and more splashes of green around town lately. No, I'm not talking about trees budding or spring bulbs sprouting. Far from it. We've had three snow storms in the last ten days, and while my area was lucky and only got a taste of it, it was still more snow, wind, and all-around grayness then I want to see again. No, the green I'm referring to are all of the shamrocks popping up in every one's windows and on front doors. St. Patrick's Day is just a few days away and as the old saying goes: "On St. Paddy's Day, everyone is Irish!"

I've always wondered why everyone gets so excited about this holiday. After all, there are other saints that have their own feast days as celebrated in the Catholic Church but they don't usually get parades (except maybe in New York City where they have parades for ever thing - I grew up there). Nor is it, I suspect, because Irish folks know how to party ... seriously, ever been to an Italian wedding? No, I suspect it has more to do with the time of the year when this holiday falls than anything else.

March is the month when one's tolerance for cold, snow, and a colorless existence has run out. Just when we need it, here comes a parade all decked out in brilliant green, the color of spring. Everyone is laughing, dancing (I loved Riverdance), eating and drinking. It's time to bid winter goodbye and welcome spring on with a bang, sort of like New Year's for the seasons only with better food!

Sometimes we have to make our own celebrations to lift our spirits and remind ourselves that no storm, and no season, lasts forever even though sometimes it may feel as if it does. So we need not wait for an official holiday to find reasons to be grateful. For instance, I spied a small flock of geese heading north the other day. I cheered them on! Maybe I'll create a "Welcome Back" celebration for them, complete with nuts, seeds, popcorn and party horns that sound like geese honking. We can decorate a hat with feathers (fake ones, of course ) and wear it proudly!

What can you celebrate?

And so it is!

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Soulful Spring

Spring Pussy Willows

Thankfully, the big storm that was predicted to dump 16 inches of snow with 60 mph wind gusts was nowhere near as bad as expected, although thousands to the east of us got the brunt of it and lost power for almost 24 hours. Still, we did get about 6 inches of snow, and the wind has been relentless for days and days. After enjoying spring-like weather for a few days right before the storm hit, it was such a letdown to go back to cold, grey, and windy. Welcome March.

When we get this close to spring, but it still feels like winter will never end, I do what I can to make it feel like spring inside until the outside catches up. I keep some artificial flowers and plants to pull out every year at this time to give my home, and my spirits, a lift. My favorites are the pussy willows. When I first moved to upstate New York and was living along the river, the pussy willows were always the first sure sign of spring. They grew wild along the river bank and I was able to cut a bunch to bring inside and keep in water. Now that I am farther away, I keep a bunch of artificial ones to bring the hope of spring back inside. They never fail to cheer me up.

In addition to the pussy willows, I also try to create the sounds and smells of spring. I always have some essential oils or wax melts that spread fresh, floral scents like lilac, lavender and roses. Then I put on a DVD that shows a scene of springtime in the woods, complete with babbling brook and birdsong. Finally, I pull out my old collection of decorative flags (I used to hang them outside when I had a garden but now I use them like a hanging quilt) and find the one for spring. By hanging it right inside the front door, it's the first thing I see when I come in from the cold, and the last thing I see when I have to go out into it.

By the time I have finished planting my "inside spring," my spirits are lifted and I can endure what lies ahead until the real spring arrives. Over the years I have discovered that if we can create the atmosphere for what we want to manifest in our immediate surroundings, we can also create the feelings associated with that wish. It may not be the real thing, but it is close enough to make a big difference in our attitudes and in our inner gardens.

So if the first day of spring seems like it's way too far away on the calendar, try creating your own version of spring starting today. Every day can feel like spring - if  you can imagine it, you can do it!

And so it is.

Monday, February 26, 2018

What Do You See?

It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."
~ Henry David Thoreau

I sometimes think that we spend so much of our time looking at things - our cell phones, our e-mails, our Facebook, our TV shows - that we never actually see the world we're living in. How many of us make it a priority to take a few moments throughout the day and see the gifts all around us (and we don't even need Wi-Fi to see it). It's all free.

Sure, I know, you're just too busy. Your To-Do List is endless. Trust me when I tell you that the day will come when time is all you have, when the job is done, and the kids are gone, and you suddenly find yourself with more years behind you than in front of you. That's when you finally stop to see what has been there all along and ask yourself, "How could I have missed all of this?"

So take a few minutes today just for yourself and really see your world. It is only mid-morning as I write this and so far I have seen more geese on their way home (a sign that spring is almost here, I hope); two blue jays playing tag; that feisty older man with his bright orange cap doing his version of a jog (he's 80 if he's a day but he certainly puts me to shame ); the man that walks 5 dogs at one time and somehow manages never to get twisted up in the leashes; the clouds breaking up to reveal the blue sky that will dominate the rest of the day (if the weather folks are right); all the yellow school buses carrying their precious cargo. When I go for my walk later, I will set the intention to not only look at my world, but to see it, and everything in it. I want to remember all of it and carry it with me throughout the day.

So what are you looking at today?

And so it is.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Knowing When To Bud

I just finished re-reading the 25th anniversary copy of "Living in the Light" by Shakti Gawain. Years before Louise Hay taught us the power of our thoughts, Gawain was already a pioneer in the field of personal development and conscious living. One of the chapters that I always find myself drawn back to is the one on the subject of intuition.

Each of us has a knowingness that lives deep inside us. We call it intuition. It is a place that we can access when we need inner guidance. Gawain believes that our intuition is how we contact the higher power of the Universe in order to tap into its wisdom. The better we get at learning how to tap into, and follow, this inner wisdom, the more we find out that most of our problems are actually caused by not following what we know to be true.

I was giving this idea some thought the other day when we had what I call a" hint of spring" kind of day. The air was warm, the breeze was refreshing instead of bitter, and the birds were singing their hearts out. My usual practice on days like this is to check out the little tree that stands on the neighbors' front lawn to see if there is even a hint of a bud poking it's head out of the bare branches. One part of me longs to see the buds appear, and the other worries that, as it is still only mid-February, if they come out now, they will most likely not survive the cold and snow that March always brings to these parts as its last hoorah before surrendering to the next season. I began to wonder: "How does the tree know when it's safe to start blooming? How does it know the difference between a "hint of spring" and the real thing? Could it possibly be that nature, too, has intuition?"

Well, of course, nature has access to intuition, too. We are, after all, a part of nature, a fact we tend to forget. If I remember correctly, nature came first when the world was created. We came a long, long time after the trees, the mountains, the rivers, etc. If nature didn't have intuition, how would it know to bloom in the spring and summer, let go of what it no longer needs in the autumn, and rest in the winter? I don't think the tree came up with this all on it's own. So it stands to reason that if all of nature has been tapping into its intuition to grow and thrive since the beginning of time, and doing a mighty fine job of it, I might add, how come we humans have such a hard time believing in ours?

In the course of human evolution we somehow let our rational mind take over. We were taught that our "inner knowing" is something we need to keep a tight rein on, and we constructed authoritative rules about behavior that dictated what was appropriate and what wasn't. When we lost our connection to our intuition, we lost our connection to the wisdom of the world. Lucky for us, nature didn't suffer the same fate. She kept her connection open and clear - why fix what isn't broken? If nature has been able to survive for a few billion years, she must be doing something right. Maybe we should pay less attention to what the "experts" tell us, and more attention to what our intuition tells us. If it works for Mother Nature, who are we to disagree?

Shortly after our "hint of spring" day last week, the overnight temperatures dropped sharply and there was snow on the ground by morning. This week they are predicting temps into the 60's ... followed by an icy mix by the weekend. I'm pretty sure that at this stage, nature may be the only one who really knows what's going on. I'm betting her intuition will once again prove to be more accurate than ours, so I'm not putting those boots away any time soon!

And so it is.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Faith In A Seed

(Please note: Flower Bear is feeling a bit under the weather this week, so we are sharing an essay from our very first book: "Staying Rooted: Learning and Growing Through the Seasons Of Our Lives," a collection of our most popular Flower Bear's Garden blog posts. Enjoy!)

The other day I was standing online at the bookstore waiting to pay for my purchases. As always there were plenty of things displayed to snare the unsuspecting customer with last minute items they didn't know they needed but now had to have. I was no different. There on the counter was a stack of tiny pink boxes that said: Friendship Garden Starter Kit. Each box held a tiny pot, a tiny peat pellet, and a tiny bag with a few seeds in it. I had my choice of primrose, forget-me-not, and a few others. However I was intrigued by the name of one I had never seen before: Love In The Mist. The picture on the box was of a pretty blue flower. I stared out of the window of the store at the grey, cold winter day, and then back at the box. I picked it up and held it in the palm of my hand. Holding it there, I knew I had to have it.

Right now it is sitting next to me as I write this post. We on the east coast are bracing for what has been described as a serious blizzard. They have changed the ETA of this storm several times. The latest is that it should be starting this afternoon and will reach its peak overnight. It is so grey and foreboding outside my window. The bird feeder is blowing back and forth in anticipation of what it to come. There are no birds anywhere, not even the crows who are unusually hardy around here. So I think maybe now is the perfect time to open the box and start my seeds. I need to feel spring in the palm of my hand.

Henry David Thoreau wrote these words: "Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders."

I, too, have faith in a seed. For all the years that I was fortunate enough to have a large, homey garden to play in, I knew that if I did my part - preparing the soil, pulling the weeds, watering and feeding - the seeds I held in my hand would fulfill their promise to grow and bloom into something beautiful. Now that I have my little apartment-size garden on my front porch, those seeds are even more precious to me.

I believe the same thing about our dreams and intentions. If I do my part, if I plant my seeds in good soil, feed and water them, and pull out the weeds that represent those thoughts and ideas that no longer serve me, I am prepared to expect wonders. There is nothing I cannot do which includes creating a postage stamp-sized garden. I can grow a new career, a new hobby, a new relationship. I can grow wonders. 

The snow is starting to fall lightly and softly, almost like a mist. How appropriate as I open the box that says, "Love In The Mist" and hold the seeds in my hand. The time to grow is at hand.

And so it is.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Courage of Our Convictions

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'Twas the morning after the Super Bowl and all through the house (okay, it's an apartment, but you get the drift), not a creature was stirring ... because they knew that there would be no more football for 6 months and they were sad about that (well, maybe not the cats, but their mistress was bummed). Then she was reminded that when one thing ends, something else begins, often something quite wonderful, and wonderful it is - the Winter Olympics begin this week!

I am a huge fan of the Olympics, particularly the Winter Olympics. There is something breathtaking about watching someone glide across the ice with the grace of a swan, or manifesting quadruple jumps like it was nothing, or conquering a mountain by flying down its snowy slopes on two thin pieces of wood. It isn't even so much about what they do, however, as it is why, and how. For each of these brave Olympians, their hero's journey began way before they took to the ice or the snow. It began in their hearts.

I believe that champions are those who have a dream, believe in that dream with every fiber of their being, and make an unbreakable commitment to themselves to see it through.  They are willing to face adversity and physical pain over and over again, yet still telling themselves every minute of every day: "I can do this." Some of the most remarkable examples of courage I've ever seen came from people like Olympic Gold Medal skater Scott Hamilton who fought cancer, not once but several times, and still laced up those skates to start again. I see it in Olympic Gold Medal skier Lindsey Von who overcame what to any of us would have been a devastating injury so she could fly down the mountain again. These are people, ordinary people just like you and me, who were willing to give up everything to make their dreams a reality: all those early morning practices before the sun was even up, all those hours in the gym building muscles and stamina with nothing but pain, blood, sweat, and tears, all those times they fell down and simply got up again and again. They believed in themselves and in the power of infinite possibilities. Anyone could end up on that podium, so why shouldn't it be them?

On Friday we'll watch the opening ceremonies where the athletes from all the nations of the world will march into that stadium proudly wearing their colors and carrying their country's flag, knowing in their hearts that come what may, all of that grit, grime, and faith in themselves has gotten them there. No matter what happens going forward, they will remember that moment for the rest of their lives, that moment when they knew deep in their hearts that they were already champions. It was their courage and their faith in their dreams that made them champions. Watching them makes us believe that we can be champions in our own lives, too.

And so it is.