What I'm Writing About
© Copyright 2011-2016
All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Bobbi Jean Ewing.
reflections and insight into my healing, transformation, and journey of the heart <3
Peace enjoys long, leisurely walks. She feels the pulse of the wind, the texture of the air. She listens to the chatter of a hummingbird and mimics the sound with her own tongue, imagining she is energetically synchronizing with the little bird. In the still air, she hears a train’s horn miles away. She stops and takes in a winter rose, frozen and suspended in time. With curiosity, she notices droplets of water clinging to the bare branches of a tree. She stands completely rapt, drinking in the shapes and sizes of the multitudinous drops. Just as she begins to wonder how long each drop will cling to its branch, one releases and lets go, falling to the ground in a silent splash. She feels both sorrow and joy. She pauses and remembers her good friend, Joy. Because of Joy, she feels peace.
Joy laughs until she cries. Joy loves surprises, but only happy surprises. Joy dances with sunflowers. Joy throws her feet up in the air into a cartwheel. Joy recently discovered that at age 37, she can still do a somer sault. She laughed out loud and said to herself several times, “UNBELIEVABLE,” awash in ecstasy. The other day Joy woke up to fresh snow on the ground. With a huge smile on her face, she clapped her hands in glee. Joy loves snow. She loves to make snow men. She loves to throw snow balls. (shh! don’t tell anyone, but she loves a snow ball ambush!) Though always a teensy bit scared, she loves to sled down big hills. Joy is pretty excited that she is going snow shoeing for Christmas Eve day – she can’t wait to experience the magic of a winter wonderland. Joy has discovered that the big kids, the adults, are just little kids in grown up bodies. She knows this because she is still a kid inside. 🙂
Inspired by “The Book of Qualities” by J. Ruth Gendler.
Peace & Joy would like to wish you a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
May you feel peace and joy this holiday season.
A gal in my NVC (non-violent communication) learning community recently turned me on to “The Book of Qualities” by J. Ruth Gendler. I ordered myself a copy and yesterday I came home to a thin and lite weight package on my door step.
Last night I experienced wonder and intrigue and a good laugh (I work for “Urgency”) as I became acquainted with the many characters in this book. I felt most akin to “Joy” and tonight, as I drank in “Commitment,” a deep and resonant “whoa” traveled through my vocal cords and out my mouth.
Let me share with you my discovery so you can experience the impact for yourself.
Joy drinks pure water. She has sat with the dying and attended many births. She denies nothing. She is in love with life, all of it, the sun and the rain and the rainbow. She rides horses at Half Moon Bay under the October moon. She climbs mountains. She sings in the hills. She jumps from the hot spring to the cold stream without hesitation.
Although Joy is spontaneous, she is immensely patient. She does not need to rush. She knows that there are obstacles on every path and that every moment is the perfect moment. She is not concerned with success or failure or how to make things permanent.
At times Joy is elusive — she seems to disappear even as we approach her. I see her standing on a ridge covered with oak trees, and suddenly the distance between us feels enormous. I am overwhelmed and wonder if the effort to reach her is worth it. Yet, she waits for us. Her desire to walk with us is as great as our longing to accompany her.
Commitment has kind eyes. He wears sturdy shoes. Everything is very vivid when he is around. It is wonderful to sit and have lunch in his gardens around harvest time. You can taste in the vegetables that the soil has been cared for.
Because commitment is so serious, he loves clowns and balloons and fools and limericks. He has four daughters, grown now, but when they were little they always took him to the circus.
There is something special about the way Commitment gazes at the new moon. I wish I knew how to explain it. He is such a simple man, and yet he is mysterious. He is more generous than most people. His heart is open. He is not afraid of life. He is married to Joy.
by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
I vow to . . .
I vow to love, honor, and cherish all beings, including myself, and to trust in their innate goodness.
I vow to celebrate the preciousness and beauty of life.
I vow to play, sing, and dance, to use my body joyfully and harmoniously.
I vow to stretch myself, inside and out, always.
I vow to discover (or simply re-discover) within myself the vast wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and truth that will guide me in this life.
In celebration of my favorite day of the year, the summer solstice, I bow to the L I G H T that shines within me and within all of us, and I salute the sun!
Biting into a crisp and juicy Fuji apple, I had a small revelation about my relationship to joy.
I was enjoying my apple. I was telling myself how much I love apples. (Of course I love apples. I live in Washington, the apple state, after all.) Recently I discovered Jazz apples and Lady Alice apples…so delicious and so fun to try new varieties! As the sweetness and crunch of this Fuji apple filled my mouth, I became intrigued by its “imperfection.” The color of the skin was not uniform – one side of the apple was a light yellow/dull green and the other side a dull, streaky red with yellow splotches.
As I munched joyfully on my apple, something I said to someone in an open moment came to mind. I remember saying, “because of everything I’ve been through, it’s hard for me to feel happiness and joy.” My remembrance of uttering this statement has gnawed at me for months. I’m not a gloomy, dark, negative person. In fact new people I meet often experience me as bright and cheery. Despite my projection of brightness, there are times I feel an inner gloom, when sadness takes hold of me. As I reflect back on this moment, I offer myself compassion and recognize that I expressed this self-observation during a darker season, literally darker outside and darker inside (the transition from fall to winter was hard for me and I struggled to hold on to my inner light).
For the last several years as I’ve progressed from the heaviness of devastation and grief from my relationship ka-boom to less heavy to lightness and a growing brightness, I’ve been contemplating and cultivating a connection with joy. At times I’ve doubted my ability to feel joy, as my statement above illustrates. Other times I’ve been felt bewildered. “Joy? What’s Joy?” To myself I’ve wondered, “how can I feel joy if I don’t know what joy is?”
I remember asking myself once during my journey out of the sadness and heaviness of grief, “do I even know how to be happy?” I actually sat down a year ago (probably on a day or a week where I was struggling to connect with a feeling of happiness) and wrote down a list of everything that brings happiness, and yes, joy, into my life.
Here is a snapshot of my list:
My small revelation, my moment of insight, emerged in the space just after remembering my declaration, “because of everything I’ve been through, it’s hard for me to feel happiness and joy.” It’s not just that I’ve been through a lot of hard stuff in my life (a tough childhood, the death of a sibling, a tragic and traumatic end to the most important relationship of my life) which has undoubtedly darkened my perception of my experiences and my reality, it’s also, and quite significantly so, that joy was not modeled for me during my childhood.
My dad was an angry, scary man. He was also a workaholic and so often put an end to our play – instead we were barked at and commanded to do work. I spent a lot of my childhood, along with my siblings, stacking fire wood, weeding the garden, and helping my dad corral the sheep he raised. My mom was and still is a very timid person and lives in a chronic state of fear and depression. She typically represses her feelings and emotions and “suffers in silence.” My mom is also quite negative and often expresses her belief that something will go wrong, always assuming the worst, not believing in the possibility of the best.
These were my behavioral models: anger and aggression from one parent; fear, negativity, and timidity from the other. Sadly, there was not a lot of joy experienced or expressed in my family. It’s no wonder that I’ve had such a hard time connecting with joy. Joy, for the most part, has been a big unknown for me – obscure and elusive. I’ve had to discover joy on my own and for myself. And then I had to re-discover joy as I emerged from the heaviness of my grief, from heart wrenching pain.
I now celebrate that joy is no longer so elusive and bewildering to me. My enjoyment of my apple, the pleasure I experienced eating it and taking it all in, splotches and all, illustrates my ability to connect with and feel joy. More and more I experience joy in everyday life, whether noticing a dog at play, a crow burying its food in my back yard, a perky and cheerful daffodil, or a notable moon rise. In each of these noticings and much more, I feel joy permeate and fill my being. Hooray for that!
On my journey I have discovered that curiosity is the pathway to joy. Curiosity, being inquisitive, being in a state of wonder, helps us to discover (or perhaps uncover) the essence and the fullness of joy in all things, in all experiences. When we are curious, we are open to receiving the fullness of life. Additionally when we are curious, we are fully present in each moment, squeezing and savoring every last drop out of JOY in each moment of life. The pathway of curiosity is the path of mindfulness.
How does JOY live inside me?
When I feel joy my heart feels light and buoyant, the corners of my mouth and eyes turn up into a smile, I feel playful energy stir within me. When I feel joy, I feel an inner brightness. When I feel joy, I AM bright!!!
How does JOY live inside YOU?
Several weeks ago one of my yoga teachers announced the she was offering a 7 week “holiday bliss” yoga nidra series, with each week, or practice, focusing on one of the seven chakras. Forever full of ideas and one who loves to plant seeds, I asked my teacher if she was also planning to pick a holiday word for each practice.
A woman in the class poo-pooed my idea. I don’t remember her exact words, but whatever she said was very bah humbug, along the lines of “why celebrate the season?” Perhaps she was feeling put off by the commercialism of the season and how manufactured the holidays can feel. Perhaps she was trying to articulate that not everyone celebrates the holidays. Or perhaps she was speaking from a place of pain. For many, the holidays can be a difficult time of year. Wounds around loss are triggered. Whatever this woman was feeling on the inside, I get where she’s coming from. I’ve been there.
A few months after my relationship ended, the holiday season arrived. I wasn’t ready to celebrate. It was much too painful. I avoided all things holiday. No tree, no presents, no cards, no cookies, no holiday music, no parties or celebrations. I don’t remember why, but I found myself in the decorations aisle at a store a few weeks before Christmas and the pain was heart wrenching. Cards, trees, ornaments, presents…all of this was a painful reminder of all the Christmases I had celebrated with “my person,” of how fun and special Christmas had been, and how that tradition had been “taken away” from me. Looking back, I see that my words and feeling that something was “taken away” very clearly illustrates how victimized I felt. But it’s ok that I felt that way. I was in a lot of pain. I was grieving. I lost something and someone that was a huge part of my life and I needed to experience the fullness of that loss before I could start to heal and move forward into my new life.
A little over three years later (this is Christmas number four post ka-boom) and I still haven’t hauled out the ornaments and put up a tree. (Putting a tree in a tree stand by oneself is a pretty difficult undertaking and I take such care in hanging ornaments that decorating the tree becomes quite a project). I still haven’t sent out cards and I still haven’t done any gift giving, other than a few little things where I felt “obligated” to give gifts. This year I *might* make some cookies. That first Christmas post ka-boom I decided I wouldn’t celebrate Christmas again until I had a reason to celebrate. And now I’ve sort of decided that I want to wait until I have someone special in my life with whom to share this season before I once again immerse myself in Christmas traditions and when I do, it might look different than my old life.
Honestly, it’s been good to have some time away from the holidays to get perspective and insight. I’m not sad that I’m not immersed in the flurry. For many, this season is a very stressful time of year and for me it’s nice to not have the extra stress of setting up and taking down a tree, shopping for gifts among the crowds, getting cards and packages sent off in the mail, all the parties, family gatherings, preparing holiday meals, and so on. So much gets packed in within a span of a few weeks that there isn’t much time to relax and reflect and absorb the season and prepare oneself for the New Year.
My second Christmas after my relationship ended I began a new holiday tradition, a tradition of gift giving to oneself, of practicing self care. I took myself to Costa Rica for a week long New Year’s yoga retreat. Last year I returned, arriving on Christmas day. I planned it that way. I wanted to begin experiencing my Christmas present to myself on Christmas day. I was greeted and welcomed with many a “Feliz Navidad.” The simplicity of the expression and greeting was very meaningful, a true gift. Oh, and the “Christmas” tree I discovered on the beach that was made of drift wood was pretty special too.
What a JOY to be re-united with yogis with whom I shared New Year’s the previous year. In the beach community of Nosara, Costa Rica I found a new place to go “Home for the Holidays” and in the yoga community, I discovered a new family. This year I’m headed to Mexico for the New Year to CELEBRATE with a new yoga family and experience the wonder of a new “home.”
In my time off from Christmas, I’ve re-invented the holidays for myself. For me, this time of year has become an opportunity to give a very meaningful gift to myself – to be in community with like minded souls and develop new friendships, to clear my mind and rejuvenate, and to discover and set intentions for the upcoming year. The holidays have become less about the hubbub and flurry of Christmas and more about the transition into the New Year, saying good-bye to the previous year and opening myself up to the New Year and all that awaits, allowing the momentum of the retreat experience to carry into the New Year.
To date my holiday retreats have been near the equator along the warm beaches of the Pacific Ocean and I’ve discovered that the sand is a great canvas for discovering what’s in my heart and the qualities and states of being I want to cultivate and manifest in my life.
Looking back I see that for the last two years I captured words and images in the sand that are often associated with the holiday season. Yet these words are not exclusive to Christmas or New Year’s. These are powerful, affirming words that can be intentions we set and manifest in our lives every day of the year. And if we make a practice of cultivating these qualities and states of being in our lives, we will transform our hearts and our lives and inspire the lives of those around us. And isn’t that the most beautiful, empowering, and inspiring gift we can give ourselves and to others? to transform our hearts, allowing our being to be filled with pure, limitless LOVE that we can give to ourselves and to others? I BELIEVE it is and so this holiday season I am gifting myself once again with a gift that will keep on giving.
HOPE photo provided courtesy of my friend and member of my Costa Rica yoga family, Heather.