In the transition from day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year awaits the potential of living our lives with a great sense of connection, joy, humor, and gratitude. We need not wait for the passing of any particular day, week, month, or year to live the life we envision. In fact, if we keep putting it off for another time we may find that it keeps skipping further down the road. The time for contentment is now. There is nothing else that will complete us other than our commitment to living fully in this most precious moment.
A couple of days ago I was looking for a new book to start reading and came across one in our limited collection of paperbacks that peeked my interest: Fools Crow, Wisdom and Power. Fool’s Crow was a Teton Sioux Ceremonial Chief regarded by many to be the greatest Native American holy person of the last 100 years. Fools Crow lived to be 99 years old and passed away in 1989. I’ve only read the first two chapters so far and while the book started out a bit slow and dry for my taste it’s now gotten more into the heart of what I was looking forward to reading about, the accounts of a wise Native American holy man.
This morning as I was reading in the darkness of predawn I sat enthralled by chapter two entitled: Little Hollow Bones. It it the author asks a few questions to Fools Crow and he responds in length on matters concerning how a Sioux becomes a medicine person, what the differences are between holy people, medicine people and ordinary people, and his advice for those who feel called to healing work. Fools Crow describes medicine people as being little hollow bones in which Wakan-Tanka, Tunkashila, and the Helpers work in and through. He said “…The power comes to us first to make us what we should be, and then flows through us and out to others.” He goes on later to say that Wakan-Tanka is like the Father, Tunkashila is like the Son, and the Powers and Grandmother Earth together are like the Holy-Spirit.
“The cleanest bones,” Fools Crow explains, “serve Wakan-Tanka and the Helpers the best, and medicine and holy people work the hardest to become clean. The cleaner the bone, the more water you can pour through it, and the faster it will run. It is this way with us and power, and the holy person is the one who becomes the cleanest of all.”
The author writes, “Fools Crow had told me that his entire work as a holy man, although demanding, was, “a dance of life,” and he added that it was only when he did this dance that he was his true self.”
And so I titled this post Dance of Life. It makes me think about how we can learn much from the rivers that beautify our lands. To go with the flow of the river of life and practice maneuvering around obstacles in our path as they arise with a sense of fluidity and ease. Just as the river is not halted by a newly arranged crag or fallen tree within its banks, seeing it fit and wise to find a way to adapt and carry on downstream, so too can we learn how to embark on this dance of life. Obstacles don’t have to be stumbling blocks or road barriers unless we appoint them as such.
As the winter solstice approaches may we learn well from the lessons of nature on how to rest. Not the sort of resting we may think of initially that we mistakenly label as lazy or ineffectual or selfish, probably even unnecessary. But the sort of resting that contains a great sense of importance, wisdom, and purpose. Nature does not rest without intention. Nature rests to continue its varied and diverse manifestations in order to sustain its dependents – animals, plants, minerals, us. The beauty of the gentle waters, fragrant trees, and penetrating skies relies on the art of resting – on the ability to be set free in the stillness between breaths.
OK. So, you may be wondering where I plan on going with this post (me too, by the way). How will the topic of Santa get woven into the thread of mindfulness? Well, honestly, I’m not really sure yet. But I thought I’d just start typing and see what happens.
The other day I was reading our local news online and came across a story about the Parade of Lights, which happened here in town a couple of weeks ago and involved family friendly activities throughout the day, pictures with Santa, and a parade and tree lighting downtown in the evening. The article mentioned how one of the daytime activities was for kids to write letters to Santa, hosted by a local downtown business. It stated how last year the business collected around 300 letters before Christmas and then wrote back to each kid in response using a set template with certain areas left blank so they could be filled in with a personal touch and be individualized.
There was part of me that was proud of the local business for spending so much of their time and energy devoted to our community’s kiddos. However, there was also part of me that was sitting there reading the article shaking my head back and forth in disgust at the deeply penetrating and pervasive lie that sweeps our nation this time every year about the existence of Santa. In being a weekly blogger I’m often thinking of what to make my next blog post about and tuning into things with the mindset of how to tie it into the art of mindful living and write about it later on. As soon as I read the article mentioning the letters to Santa I thought, “How can I turn my frustration about this whole societal Santa ordeal into a blog post?” While I’ve mostly grown out of my ranting states of self-righteous infused monologues that prevailed when I was in my twenties I’m still holding onto this one rather tightly. When I think about or read about the certain Christmas related fantastical myths of Santa Claus or flying reindeer or elves at the North Pole I feel this sense of anger well up within me. But rather than going off on some long diatribe about the perpetuation of these myths and how I think it’s wrong to lie to our children about Santa I think instead I’ll keep with the nature of this blog and delve more deeply into my reaction.
If I had a slogan or a message I’d like to pass along to future generations to keep in mind it would be this: Sometimes that happens.
It can serve in many practical functions. It’s a great way to respond to children about all sorts of things:
- Little Billy breaks his favorite toy – “Oh darn, sometimes that happens.”
- Little Sally complains about eating her broccoli – “I know it’s not your favorite, sometimes that happens.”
- Little Frank falls down and skins his knee – “Ouch, sometimes that happens.”
It’s a great way to respond to our own inner and outer environments, or other adults, as well:
- You or someone you know has a crappy day – “Sometimes that happens.”
- You say to yourself: Gosh I feel sooo lousy today – “Sometimes that happens.”
- The roads are super icy and challenging to drive on – “Sometimes that happens.”
- The lady in front of you in line at the grocery store is taking FOREVER! – “Sometimes that happens.”
- The dude in the car behind you is honking at you for stopping in the middle of the street because he doesn’t see that you’ve done so to let a pedestrian cross in front of you – “Sometimes that happens.”
It’s a widely adaptable phrase. One to carry with us in our pockets on the go. And we don’t have to necessarily say it out loud even. We can say it in our minds, in our hearts, and in the our actions that follow. We say it with love, care, and a deep sense of connection and understanding. We say it as a way to acknowledge, embrace, and let go.
It’s not super uncommon for me to say to myself when approaching the kitchen sink, “How are there always dishes in here?!” Some days it seems like all I do is wash dishes. I know I’m not alone here. I’m sure almost everyone whose reading this can relate to this experience. I can do the dishes after dinner and within an hour or two there’s at least one dirty cup sitting in the sink. I can go to bed comforted by the glistening emptiness of the kitchen sink only to wake up at 5:00am to a small plate or a bowl and spoon from my husband’s late night snack. It really does seem like an oddity to have a completely empty sink.
It occurred to me just the other day that my not super uncommon question/remark in regards to there being dishes in the sink points to an expectation that I’m holding onto. An expectation that dishes somehow shouldn’t be in the sink, at least at certain times of day, which of course is non-sense. I realized that my frustration arises not because of the presence of dishes in the sink but because I keep expecting that the sink should be empty – which simply isn’t the case most of the time.
Perhaps you wonder: Is sitting meditation really that important of a practice to develop? I mean, really, you may be thinking, all I’m doing is, like, sitting there, doing nothing. Well, yes. And no. Classic Zen answer right?
On one hand sitting meditation is a matter of doing nothing in the sense that we’re not involved in something externally active. But on another hand we’re actively engaged with our inner environment and let’s face it, there’s a whole lot going on in there. With such a vibrant, tumbling, churning, cycling, ongoing inner landscape it seems a poorly inadequate sentiment to think that sitting meditation is a matter of doing nothing.
The editor’s summary of a study published in Science magazine in July of 2014 states:
Don’t leave me alone with my thoughts
Nowadays, we enjoy any number of inexpensive and readily accessible stimuli, be they books, videos, or social media. We need never be alone, with no one to talk to and nothing to do. Wilson et al. explored the state of being alone with one’s thoughts and found that it appears to be an unpleasant experience. In fact, many of the people studied, particularly the men, chose to give themselves a mild electric shock rather than be deprived of external sensory stimuli.
The abstract states:
In 11 studies, we found that participants typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, that they enjoyed doing mundane external activities much more, and that many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts. Most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative.
For more info click here.