Tag Archives: Inspiration

September 11 – Balloons Rising

by Doris Jean Shaw

Enjoying breakfast, my eyes drift to the window. “Is that water tower moving?” I get up and go to the balcony to get a better look. The round part of the top seems to be ascending toward the heavens. Standing there, I spot more spheres popping up. The sun above the horizon bounces off the spheres and I see a dozen hot air balloons at various heights from the earth. Each balloon decked out in an array of colors from bright orange and yellow to purple and blue, rises toward the sun.

I take my coffee to the patio and watch as the balloons rise from the earth, and drift off to dot the sky with colorful blobs. “I’m not sure I would want to be that high and be at the mercy of any prevailing wind.” It tickles my fancy but the sensible person inside defies me to do it. I once saw a balloon that would go up but a rope anchored it to the ground so you could not float off. Curious about the floating since I love to float in the water but I know I can only go so far. Does that mean that I want excitement within limits?

So much for the all that psychological stuff. I sip my coffee and enjoy the daring of others as a breeze comes up and disperses the balloons like throwing dice on a table, the balloons scatter. I tackle clearing the table with a smile. What a glorious way to start the day! Wonder what will cross my path tomorrow?

Doris Jean Shaw

Doris Jean Shaw is a retired educator, Life Coach, author and member of Beauregard Parish Writers Guild “The Ink Blots.” She loves to travel and writes romances, children’s stories and devotionals. She presents a workshop, entitled “Reclaiming Me” that helps others find direction for their futures.

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June 3 – The Art of Dying: Rehearsing for Death

by Lily Iona MacKenzie

I’ve been reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead, intrigued with a section on meditation that seems important to me just now: The art of dying begins with preparation for death. As for any journey, there are innumerable preparations one can make. Known in Tibet as The Book of Natural Liberation, the book suggests at least five main types of preparation while still living: informational, imaginational, ethical, meditational, and intellectual. (52)

I think my interest in taking up a more focused spiritual practice again is to experience some of these things listed as preparations for death and the wisdom texts can help with that need. I don’t want to be like the ostrich with its head in the sand; I believe in preparing for life’s various stages, being knowledgeable, being ready.

Meditation as an active practice attracts me again. I did it daily for many years when I was living alone before my husband and I met. The Tibetan Book of the Dead has a good section that gives an overview of the various meditations one can do, from the basic calming meditation of one-pointed attention, to using ordinary daily activities as opportunities for contemplation: This involves using sleep as a time for practice.

As the authors say, “You can convert the process of falling asleep into a rehearsal of the death dissolutions, imagining yourself as sinking away from ordinary waking consciousness down through the eight stages into deep-sleep clear-light transparency. And you can convert the dream state into a practice of the between-state, priming yourself to recognize yourself as dreaming when in the dream…. It is very important, for if you can become self-aware in the dream state by the practice of lucid dreaming, you have a much better chance of recognizing your situation in the between after death.” (57)

I have had numerous lucid dreams over the years, but I hadn’t thought of them as vehicles for preparing for death! I feel I’ve had fewer since I’ve stopped practicing meditation regularly, as I did for so many years when I lived alone. It’s harder to make time for it in a relationship and while raising a family if your partner isn’t interested. Now that my husband’s son and daughter from a previous marriage are no longer living with us, I can pursue this practice again.

I’m using OM MANI PADME HUM as a meditation, especially when I awaken in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep. I found it in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and I like the idea that it evokes a universal good in all things, which can prevail even in times of misfortune. Of course, you need to believe that there is a universal good in all things for this mantra to be effective. I want to believe that.

LilyMac_3-12-15hires (1)Lily Iona MacKenzie has published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, essays, and memoir in over 145 venues. Fling, one of her novels, will be published in July 2015 by Pen-L Publishing. Bone Songs, another novel, will be published in 2016. Her poetry collection, All This, was published in 2011. She teaches writing at the University of San Francisco.

May 31 – Morning Moments

by Linda Hoye

Finch-1-4

One of the great gifts of retirement is the opportunity to wake naturally in the morning when my body is ready. After so many years being jarred awake by the clamour of an alarm–too often after a mostly sleepless night and with my mind in go mode before my feet even hit the floor–to wake according to the rhythm of my body is a precious luxury.

These days I wake gently, often with the dawn in these late spring months. With the windows open, morning air fresh in the room, and the sound of birdsong filling the room, I surface slowly to a wakeful state. I stretch, perhaps holding lightly to the remnants of a dream, and listen to the calm cadence of my Yorkie Maya’s snoring and the peaceful resonance of Gerry’s breathing. The day stretches in front of me rich with possibility.

I take time to pray for those who are on my heart. I think about the day ahead–not in the hurried stomach-churning way I once did—instead making plans with gratitude and anticipation. There is work to be done: gardening, things around the house, and errands to run; there are also creative pursuits like photography prompts, writing projects, and even some quilting projects I’ve been thinking of getting back to.

There is satisfaction in knowing I have the gift of time and I can choose which activities to focus my attention on that day. I find deep satisfaction in living, not according to unrealistic deadlines and unrelenting demands all too common in the corporate world, but instead moving to the ebb and flow of this simple life we have chosen.

The June garden calls to me like a siren and, on those days when I can tell from the early morning air that it’s going to be a hot one, I make plans to head out early to work. On other days I consider the harvest that is already beginning: the canning, freezing, and dehydrating projects that are ahead of me; and I plan how I’ll fill the pantry this year. There is always something to think about; something to work on. I am busy according to my own schedule and pursuing passions that fulfill.

There are still challenges in this life: concerns about situations that cause angst; circumstances I can’t control; burdens that, at times, feel too heavy; but in these early morning hours when I linger in bed listening to the sweet melody of the finches waiting for the first rays of sun to come through the window, I am at peace and filled with gratitude.

These still morning moments strengthen me. I am blessed.

meLinda Hoye is a writer, editor, adoptee, and somewhat-fanatical grandma who recently retired from a twenty-five-year corporate career. She lives in British Columbia, Canada with her husband and their doted-upon Yorkshire Terrier and finds contentment in her kitchen, at her writing desk, behind her camera, and in her garden.

She is the author of Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude and blogs at A Slice of Life.

May 7 – Somebody Stole My Fish

by Nancy Davies

large-mouth-bass

I had a recent interaction with my father that brought about a curious new insight.

He is 88 years old and struggling with Alzheimer’s. He is convinced that there is a thief coming into his house at night and taking his things or sometimes just moving them around. On this particular day he was concerned about a big taxidermied fish that hangs in his office so he moved it into the spare bedroom–hiding it so it would be safe.

Half an hour later he burst into the kitchen declaring: “Somebody stole my fish! I’ve searched my office and it’s gone.”

At the time it was actually kind of amusing, although as I write it down it sounds more sad and distressing. However the flash that struck me that afternoon was that my dad’s actions are not really all that different from actions that most of us might turn to on any given day.

How many of us unwittingly hide things away only to tell ourselves that we’ve been robbed? We hide our feelings, our fears, our creativity, and then wonder who stole our happiness. We bury our truth and can’t imagine where our peace has gone. We disguise our bad decisions then blame someone for hijacking our freedom. You get the picture.

The thief in the night has come calling on many occasions in my lifetime, stealing things both ordinary and precious and usually leaving behind the same riddle for me to solve: where did I hide my fish?

It seems innocent enough but it’s a question that requires a little bit of soul-searching and a whole lot of honesty. It’s about paying attention to that subtle voice that is no longer satisfied to hide behind the fear. It’s about releasing the blame that comes so easy.

But it is also a waking up process and, at the end of the day as the intruder slips away, we are hopefully left with the epiphany that the real treasures in our lives can never be taken from us.

Recently retired, Nancy Davies is rediscovering a love of writing, gardening and long walks with her dog.

April 10 – Staying Calm

by Doris Jean Shaw

I have no Sunday to hang my week on; sometimes I lose track of what day it is. When my husband could no longer sit through a church service, we no longer attended. At the present, my one concession is to get up a few minutes early, drink my coffee in a room that starts out dark and is illuminated by the rising sun. I need that time to myself and to prepare for the day.

No longer is my time my own, as his health diminishes, my husband depends on me more and more to help with every day tasks. By ten o’clock, breakfast and bath are behind us. Any doctor’s appointments are scheduled for mornings, as by afternoon he is worn out and struggles to get out of a chair. Preparing lunch and seeing that he gets up and walks a bit drains me as well. The hardest part is to remain calm while he grows agitated. No longer can he dress without help. Eating is a challenge as his hands shake and food falls off the spoon. His foot does not want to move. Just getting through the ordeal of daily living leaves us both ready for a nap to rejuvenate. Between treatments for various ailments and his frequent trips to the bathroom, I am once again exhausted after supper and preparations for bed are complete.

Sleep eludes me as I wrestle with what I have to do, and the negative responses I get from those who have nothing but unsolicited advice. Thankful I am not in charge of the future, I get down on my knees and thank God for helping me through the day, and pray that tomorrow will be a repeat of today for I am not ready for the alternative.

Doris Jean Shaw is a retired educator, Life Coach, author and member of Beauregard Parish Writers Guild “The Ink Blots.” She loves to travel and writes romances, children’s stories and devotionals. Mrs. Shaw presents workshops, entitled “Reclaiming Me”, “My Parents Keeper”, “The Trouble with Retirement”, and “Care for the Caregiver” to help women find direction for their futures.

April 5 – A Stretch

by Fran Simone

If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never create anything original.
– Sir Kenneth Robinson

Several years ago I signed up for a class in collage because I felt the need to stretch beyond the familiar, never mind that my artistic talent (or lack of) consists of drawing lopsided stick figures. In elementary school I couldn’t stay within the lines of a coloring book, and a painting class in college was a disaster.

The class met for five sessions in the messy studio of Marc, a gifted artist and enthusiastic teacher. My four classmates were repeats with Marc.  Each was talented with a flair for style as evidenced by their bright colors, bold jewelry, and eye-catching hats. What am I doing here? Should I bolt out the door? But I had paid my money and set myself a challenge.

Session one. Marc talked about the elements of collage and turned us loose to page through old magazines and “cut out or tear out whatever strikes your fancy.”  I looked, cut and tore, and wound up with a pile of flowers, birds, trees, and clouds. Well, maybe a nature theme.

Session two. More of the same: look, cut, tear, and puzzle over ways to arrange disparate pieces.. My classmates were way ahead. Two had already chosen themes, farm and music, and had begun arranging pieces on their canvasses. One sketched a design. I was still undecided.

Session three. Again, not a clue.  Then, I stumbled across a picture of Michelangelo’s magnificent statue of David, which I had marveled at while visiting Florence. Eureka. My theme. Italy.

Session four. I located pictures of the Ponte Vecchio Bridge and Tower of Pisa.
“Great,”  Marc said, “now tear pieces to represent the sky and the earth. Then begin to lay out your design.”

My first attempt was as out of proportion as an unassembled puzzle. Marc patiently showed me how to divide the canvas into three spaces. He penciled in three parallel lines in equal proportions.

“Now place the sky above, the objects in the middle, and the earth below.”
I devised various combinations and consulted with Marc and my classmates.

Final session.  I carefully positioned my clouds and sky, statue, bridge, tower, and earth in various combinations. Running out of time and patience, I had to plunge right in like a swimmer jumping off a high diving board. Here goes. Glue pieces on canvas. No turning back. Hope for the best.

A month later we were invited to exhibit our creations with students in Marc’s art class at a local college. While the students’ works weren’t as magnificent as Michelangelo’s, they were pretty darn good. Although out of my league, I wasn’t embarrassed.

Today, my Italy collage is displayed on a book shelf in the office where I write. It reminds me to stretch beyond my comfort zone.

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Fran Simone is a Professor Emeritus at Marshall University, South Charleston, WV, campus. She directed the West Virginia Writing Project and taught classes and conducted workshops in personal narrative, memoir and creative non-fiction. Her memoir, Dark Wine Waters: a Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows was published last year.

March 31 – Settle In

by Nancy Davies

There is a fine mist hanging from the grey Oregon sky as I sit down to write this afternoon. It usually takes me awhile to settle into a focused frame of mind when I am writing during the middle of the day. My first reaction is that I am squandering my time, being frivolous with precious moments that I can’t get back. I feel this need to be doing something “constructive” during the daylight hours, and have something to show at the end of each day; a clean house, a weed-free yard, some money in the bank. When my husband comes home after another stress filled day at the office and asks me innocently, “What did you do today?” I want to be able to recite a litany of accomplishments that make him believe it is more important for me to be at home than grinding out another day in the work force. But in reality, I think it is me who I’m actually trying to reassure. After years of raising kids, working, volunteering and being generally insane, it’s difficult to get used to so much unscheduled time, and at the same time it’s so amazing!

I have taken this past year off and I am now looking back and viewing this as a year of learning. In a sense, I have become a student of all the things I previously never had time for. I have read books and watched videos of all kinds. I took a class on mindfulness and started a meditation practice. I have tried to make it a point to work on the internal makeup of my life much more than the external. And I’ve been writing, which helps me to straighten out my thoughts. My hope is that once these thoughts are on paper I can step back and see them from an outsider’s perspective. Perhaps try to look without judgment; even reflect back and see some sort of growth occurring. My intention is to open up with no expectations and see what comes out, not unlike walking through life with your arms wide open ready to catch whatever might drop down from the heavens.

What is emerging from all of this for me is the appreciation that life is not a to-do list. By pursuing activities that are meaningful to where I am right now, I’m convinced I will not look back with regret. At the end of the day, by enriching my own life I am, in turn, enriching everything around me.

Recently retired, Nancy has rediscovered long walks with her dog and the joy of a flourishing garden. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Tom and dog, Ella.