A Walk in the Woods

The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy. (Abraham H. Maslow)

What a great quote. I love the assertion that the basic goods of life can be appreciated and experienced with “awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.” I love it, and yet as I think about it, I have two conflicting thoughts. The first is “Wow, wouldn’t that be an amazing way to live life? Constantly in awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy over the basic goods of life!” The other is “Oh come on, how is that even possible?”

Great question!

As I contemplate it in my own life I’m noticing several things that allow me to spend moments in that space of awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.

I experience it most, I think, when I’m walking in the woods. And, I’m most able to experience it, even there, when I am:
…. mindfully present
… curious
… willing to be child-like, or as Maslow says, naive — which includes a openness to surprise, wonder, and awe.

When I’m truly present, rather than simply walking in the woods with my heart and mind somewhere else, the woods are a never ending source of surprise and amazement. I find myself constantly telling my brother “Oh! Look at that!” or “Wow! That’s so beautiful!”

Sometimes, I catch myself, laugh, and ask “Geez, do you ever want to slap me for saying – Oh, look at this – about the same thing when I see it again later on?” Thankfully he never does — partly because he’s super patient, partly because he, too, knows and lives with wonder and awe.

Here are some of the basic goods of life I encountered on our last walk that I experienced with awe, pleasure, wonder and even, a bit of ecstasy.

These days we traverse tons of leaves as we search out our favorite spots along the river. This day, one of them hitched a ride on my laces. It made me chuckle when I noticed it.

Instead of brushing it off, I let it stay with me at the river. I appreciated its texture and the way it looked against the river. I admired its ingenuity and courage, and imagined it enjoying its moment in the sun by the river.

Silly? Perhaps. Naive? Maybe. A moment of wonder, awe, joy, and even a bit of ecstasy? Absolutely.

Perhaps Maslow believed we are most fortunate in these moments, because he knew these moments open us to gratitude, and gratitude makes happiness possible.

Lists

I’m part of a fab blogging community. This week’s invitation was lists. When you can’t write, or don’t feel like writing, write a list.

I didn’t immediately respond to the prompt. Instead I made books.

I sent them to a handful of friends. As I was putting them in the envelopes, my mind turned to random acts of kindness, and of others I could gift with these little books. Then I thought “Me! I want one.” So, in the spirit of being kind to myself, my name was added to the list!

Turns out I was making lists, I just wasn’t aware of it.

As I added color to the pages I thought, “OH! This book is actually a list … of sorts.” Then, while photographing and processing the photos for this post, I was struck by how blessed I am, and chuckled “Another list — gratitude.”

And just like that, I went from no lists, to several lists.

I’ll share the book, and simply encourage you to create your own list of gratitude. It can start as a very small list. But whether it is small, medium or large, be open to it growing. In my experience as soon as I begin to take note, and be grateful, I notice more. It’s as though my eyes and mind are more able to not only see, but to perceive, the plethora of blessings in each moment.

Gotta love lists!

I love these one page folded books!

Gratitude and Awe

Have you heard of Brother David Steindl-Rast? I can’t recall when I first came upon him. What I do recall is listening to his audible book The Grateful Heart over and over again as I commuted to and from work. I love his voice, his spirit, and his ideas.

I recently rewatched his  TEDtalk — Want to Be Happy? Be Grateful  and short video A Grateful Day. I was nearly weeping as I finished them. There is so very much for which to be grateful. Moments of gift surround us every day, we need only, as Brother David says, open our hearts to them.

My heart was open the other day as I chatted with a dear friend of mine. As we talked, she told me that I am one of the people who most encourages her as an artist. I was kind of surprised. I admire her as a creative. She’s a creative thinker and has an artist’s soul. She’s definitely a creative, and a talented photographer and poet. Now that I write those words, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’m reflecting my true thoughts to her.

A few years ago I read Creative Confidence by David Kelley and Tom Kelley. I was struck by their desire to help others grow in creative confidence. To quote them, they wanted to “help individuals and organizations unleash their full potential— and build their own creative confidence.” (from the preface) I still remember reading that and thinking “SO DO I!!!!” (And yes, I do believe I actually yelled that! lol)

I no longer yell that — well, not very often — but it remains very true. Creating space for others to experience themselves for the creative we all are, is very important to me.

So when my friend shared with me, it was a “wow!” moment. I don’t think I acknowledged the wow-ness to her, instead I just stood in the moment and listened.  As I listened, she continued. In beautiful, humble gratitude, she told me I also helped her grow in her faith.

Again … wow! I always want — through my words, actions, and being — to encourage others in faith — faith in God, faith in possibilities, faith in themselves, faith in goodness, truth, and beauty.

The opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of another — for creativity and faith — is a gift. The doing it, and being told about it — again, a gift. I am so very grateful for my friend  our friendship, the ways we help each other grow, and for her willingness to tell me. It was a great gift to me. It was a moment to bask in gratitude and awe.

I don’t just have those opportunities with this friend. I’m blessed to be an educator and have those opportunities each time I go to work.  As educator I have the opportunity help each child who crosses my path believe in themselves as creatives, as thinkers, and as hopeful, faith-filled people. I also have the opportunity to grow in the same ways, due to my encounters with my students. And I have the opportunity to gift them with my thanks.

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I was talking with a young friend who is beginning her student teaching this year. I asked if she was excited. She said, “Yes, but honestly a bit overwhelmed as well.”

Yes, a bit overwhelmed! I think all educators can echo that sentiment. I think — within reason — it’s much like nerves in an athlete. It isn’t a bad thing. It’s an indication that we understand what is before us. We understand that we are doing something quite important. What we do matters.

I figure every year, I”ll experience a bit of that astonished, and sometimes heavy, sense of wow. I hope, pray, and trust that I will never cease to remember that the overwhelm and struggle is real and important. Then, with many breaths I hope, pray, and trust that I will treasure each opportunity as a gift, and always look with awe at the beautiful souls entrusted to me.

Blessings, peace, and joy to my fellow educators! Every day is an incredible opportunity,  a remarkable gift, a profound responsibility.  Be grateful. Enjoy them. Bask in them. Share them. 

 

 

Quieting my mind with a good tangle

Wow I had a tough time turning off my brain … and to be honest, my spirit … last night. It seemed everything just wanted to stay wound up a bit too tight to allow for sleep.

Thankfully, as I went up to bed, I noticed my black art squares sitting with a pack of white, gold and silver gel pens. “Oh!!!” I thought, “That’s what I’ll do! A zentangle ©.”

I’ve zentangled – or did my version of a tangle – many times previously. I have always enjoyed it but never really experienced it as zen-like as some suggest it might be. But I have to say, for some reason, last night it was really a zen experience!

I picked up a sheet of paper I had previously discarded because I had been unhappy with my placement of the strings (zentangle boarders). I used the parts of the strings I liked, and casually reworked just a bit of the string placement. I decided to work using only white ink (because I didn’t use any white the last time I tangled). I worked with some designs I’ve used previously, and allowed myself to be inspired by others’ designs, in order to create new ones of my own.

Perhaps it was because I was so tired. (Did I mention it was 1AM?) Perhaps it was because I wasn’t really trying to create something – I was just playing, treating the page almost like a piece of scrap paper. Perhaps it was using the form but not feeling bound by the form. I’m not really sure. But whatever the reason, the process was particularly peaceful, free, and enjoyable.

zentangle

I added the paraphrase of a Thich Nhat Hanh quote as both an affirmation of what I was doing, and as a reminder of what I always want to do…

Breathe, believe, and be. Smile, cultivate calm, and be cognizant and grateful for the present, wonderful moment.

…………….

With gratitude to the creators of Zentangle and the many people doing great inspiring work, here are a couple links:

http://www.zentangle.com – The website of Zentangle Method creators Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas

http://sandybee.weebly.com/ – The website of Sandy Steen Bartholomew.