Daily Prompt: Grit

Twelve days ago, I fell doing Greenbelt restoration work. I fell hard. The result: bruised ribs. When I first read today’s Daily Prompt: Grit, I took grit to mean the quality of doing whatever it takes to accomplish a goal, not letting any roadblock stand in the way. When I looked up the word in Wikipedia, I found this definition:

Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment, and serves as a driving force in achievement realization.

Since I fell, the amount of time I work in the Greenbelt has reduced dramatically, and what I do there has shifted. I may slowly place a few burlap bags over a cleared area; spend time laying out a design for a cluster of trees, shrubs and ground covers that will be planted the end of October; or I may wander around looking at the squirrels, birds and the occasional butterfly. Thankfully, I can still use my organizational abilities to lead work parties so the work is advancing; it just isn’t me holding the shovel.

Yesterday, I read that it takes bruised ribs 4-12 weeks to heal, and that the older you are, the longer it may take. I can tell that I am getting better. There is evidence of that daily. Healing just isn’t occurring on my preferred time table.

While I am frustrated by not being able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, I know that I am being given lessons in patience and accepting what is. It doesn’t mean I have to stop advancing towards my goal, but it does mean that I can’t do the level of physical labor that I want to be doing. It is important for me to realize that developing patience and learning to accept what is are also lessons in my life’s curriculum and that those qualities are as important as grit in achieving my life goals.

I have grit, and I am learning behaviors that will support that grit.

With Amma in Atlanta

Amma’s Chicago programs were over at 8 a.m. on June 23. Later that morning, I was on my way to Atlanta. I had attended her programs there two years before and was eager to go back. This year, Atlanta would be my last stop on Amma’s North American tour.

My friend Yashas was flying standby and was able to get a seat on my flight. He had investigated Atlanta’s public transportation and had learned that we could board the subway at the airport and it would take us to a stop in the same complex where our hotel was located.

After spending much of the Chicago area program walking in rural fields, I was unprepared for the jolt that came at being in a big city. It started when we got off of the subway and I found myself standing at the bottom of an immense escalator.

The escalator ended near a food court that was the biggest I had ever seen. As we looked for the way to the hotel where Amma’s program would be held, a man stopped us and asked if we needed help. He offered to take us to our destination. He led us one direction and then another; I felt as if I was in a maze. I couldn’t imagine doing this on my own and was grateful for his help. When we arrived in the hotel, he asked if we would buy him a sandwich. I was surprised, but was fine with it. He had definitely provided us with an invaluable service.

The maze ended on a floor of the hotel that contained a cocktail lounge. Many people were partying there (at least that was my perception) and it was loud.

The hotel was beautiful, but what a contrast it was to the Chicago fields. I read later that it has 51 floors although I never saw an elevator that went higher than 41.

The lobby was on the floor below the cocktail lounge. I checked in and then went to my room. When I shut the door, all of the sound from the hotel stopped. My room felt like an oasis. Even though the hotel was impressive and the staff were very nice, I longed to be walking in the fields.

The main part of the hotel had four sets of elevators, each going to a different series of floors. There were many conferences going on, some even on the same floor as ours. I continued to feel as if I was in a maze and had trouble finding what I needed to find. As I get older, when I am frustrated, I am more likely to get rattled, confused and overwhelmed. The next morning, even the sensory stimulation of Amma’s program (crowds, music, etc.) felt like too much for me.

Amma helps us learn to be calm in the middle of chaos. I was certainly getting the opportunity to work on that issue. Because of my overwhelm, I totally forgot that Chaitanya, Sreejit and I had plans to go to the Martin Luther King Historic Site during the afternoon break on the first day of the program. Chaitanya and I had gone there when we came to Amma’s Atlanta programs two years before and had both been profoundly moved. The afternoon break is short so we didn’t stay as long as we wanted to stay that year. We had resolved to return to the site the next time Amma came to Atlanta.

This year Sreejit went with us, as did four other friends. I loved being at there again. I was once again flooded with feelings and memories, since I lived through that era, and appreciated that this site gave younger people  the opportunity to learn about that time in our country’s history. I only took a few photos this year since I had taken so many during my first visit. The first picture below is of Sreejit joining the civil rights marchers in an interactive exhibit at the visitors’ center. The other three photos are squares of a quilt found in a Freedom Hall room dedicated to Rosa Parks.

Prior to my last visit, I did not know that Martin Luther King had been so inspired by Gandhi that he had traveled to India to learn about Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence. I saw this quote by Gandhi in Freedom Hall’s Gandhi room. I wasn’t able to photograph it without the reflection, but decided to share it with you anyway.

As I was writing this post, a Gandhi quote I have treasured for many years came to my mind.

I claim to be no more than the average person with less than average ability. I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith.

Even though Martin Luther King and Gandhi never met in person, I love that Dr. King respected him so much. What incredible role models they both continue to be.

The photos below are of the place where Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta Scott King’s bodies are interred. I felt privileged to be able to stand there once again.

My time at the Martin Luther King Historic Site helped ground me and I was able to return to the hotel and enjoy the evening program with Amma.

It is my experience that when I am with Amma, life lessons come at a rate that is faster than in normal living. I often feel like I am on an emotional roller coaster but I know the challenges are also an opportunity for healing. During those times, synchronicities abound, and I never know what is waiting for me around the corner.

Perhaps the most important event that occurred during my time in Atlanta began the previous year. I left home at 17 (I’m now 68) and I have had very little contact with my biological family since I was 21. My parents and younger brother are no longer living. My other brother and I email occasionally. My children spent some time with my younger brother during the years he was sick. They also attended my mother’s funeral and have had a few experiences with their remaining uncle but don’t know their cousins or extended family.

Just prior to last year’s Chicago programs, my brother wrote me and told me that his youngest son had written a blog post on Father’s Day; one that was about our father. I found it fascinating to read about my father from his grandson’s perspective. There was some information in the post that surprised me, so I wrote my brother about it. That began a process of us sharing memories with each other. At one point, he added his two sons to the email chain and I added Chaitanya and Sreejit. As a result, our adult children started communicating with each other for the first time. Much of this conversation happened during Amma’s Chicago programs. I did not believe that was a coincidence.

As this year’s tour approached, my nephew and Chaitanya corresponded again. He decided he and his family would drive from Florida to Atlanta so we could meet each other. We were all excited about that opportunity. They arrived late in the afternoon. Our time together was limited but we used it well. We talked and talked…. and talked. I felt very drawn and connected to them and very much look forward to future contact. Who would have thought that family healing would come after all of these years.

Geetha is a friend who used to live in Seattle, but moved to Amma’s Amritapuri ashram many years ago. During the foreign tours, she stands next to Amma and helps facilitate the thousands of people who come  for Amma’s hug. (Amma’s form of blessing is to give each person who comes to her a motherly hug. At this point, she has hugged 37 million people.) That night, when I arrived at Amma’s chair for my own hug, Geetha asked me how the family reunion had gone. She then told Amma about it. Amma smiled broadly and asked me a couple of questions. I occasionally bring questions to Amma but rarely have discussions with her aside from that. It was such a wonderful way to end my 2017 Summer tour.

I left Atlanta the next day feeling tired, but happy and full …. and ready to return to my work in the Greenbelt.

With Amma in Chicago

Last year was the first time I attended Amma’s Chicago area programs. I had heard about the Center there for years and was excited to see it for myself. The site had once been a Seventh Day Adventist college. When I drove onto the property, I found myself on a tree-lined street of homes, homes that had once been faculty housing. I burst into tears. I have been to many of Amma’s ashrams and centers but this felt like being in a town, a town dedicated to Amma’s ideals of compassion and service.

Many of the original buildings had been remodeled and a new program hall had been built. The property was very large and a good deal of it was farm land. There was a large echinacea field as well as fields devoted to growing herbs and vegetables. I had such a good experience that year. Attending the Chicago programs is now a top priority for me.

This year, I arrived at MA Center-Chicago on June 20. I knew I was close when, in the distance, I saw the big blue water tower emblazoned with Amma’s logo. When I turned into the property and drove past those first houses, I felt as if I had come home.

Amma wouldn’t arrive at the program for another hour, so after saying hi to my son and daughter, Sreejit and Chaitanya, I headed to the fields. One of the first things I saw was a butterfly. That greeting became even more significant to me when it turned out to be the only butterfly I saw that day.

Prior to going to Chicago last year, I had seen a short aerial video of the Center’s echinacea field.

Seeing that field in person was a major goal for last year’s visit and I was eager to see it again this year. I walked and walked but couldn’t find it anywhere. I felt confused. It had been such a large field; they couldn’t have transplanted it, could they?

I did find the hoop house. There were so many more plants in it than last year.

I eventually gave up trying to find the echinacea field and returned to the program hall. When I asked someone about it later, I discovered the field was further away than I had thought. After attending Amma’s meditation, I headed outside again. Before long, I was able to find it. Last year I had been fascinated seeing the many stages of growth, from buds to full flower. The programs were held earlier in June this year and I only saw three open flowers in the whole field.  A lot of nettles and milkweed grew along with the echinacea. Those plants draw bees, butterflies and other insects to the field.

These beautiful flowers also were growing in the echinacea field. If you know what they are, please tell me!

From there, I strolled to a field of herbs.

And then walked to the vegetable field. I really liked the signs they had created to show what was growing in the row.

This fall, MA Center- Chicago is opening a GreenFriends Montessori School. It will focus on nature-based learning and peace education. As I gazed at this field I imagined the children helping to plant and care for the vegetables.

Beyond the vegetable field, there was an orchard. This photo shows only half of it. The trees had grown a lot since I had seen them last.

After visiting the fields, I began to walk back to the program hall. On my way, I saw a bird trying to pull a worm from the ground. (Or at least I think that was what it was doing!) Then another bird flew over my head a few times. I felt like it was “dive bombing” me. Moments later, I saw a bird house that was similar to the ones I have at home. It was only four or five feet off the ground. As I walked by it, a baby bird was looking out of the opening. I think there was another baby behind it. It must have been the mother or father bird that had been flying at me, concerned I was going to hurt the babies.

*****

As I sat in the program hall that day, ideas for designing a cluster of trees, shrubs and ground covers for our Greenbelt Restoration site in Seattle started coming into my mind. I thought about it throughout the day. My dreams during the night were incessant, and were all about the Greenbelt. The next morning, I located the children’s program room and drew my ideas on paper. I looked forward to returning to Seattle and doing the research necessary to determine whether or not my plan was viable.

*****

As I am writing this post, I am struck by how little time I spent near Amma in Chicago. I met Amma in summer of 1989. In the early years, I spent hour after hour sitting close, mesmerized. At some point, I started doing seva (volunteer work) throughout the year, and during the programs. That era lasted more than 20 years. Now I find that I still want to be with Amma, but I want it to be in a way that I can be immersed in nature at the same time. I’m reminded of the Bible verse that says  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” I am allowing my life to unfold. I feel close to Amma whether I am sitting next to her, being held in her arms, or walking in the fields taking in the glory of nature.

*****

Some of my favorite experiences in this year’s Chicago program occurred because Eknath was there. I don’t remember when I first saw Eknath at Amma’s programs but it must have been 10-15 years ago. I still think of him as a boy but he is probably his 30’s by now. Eknath is autistic. I was once told that when he first met Amma he couldn’t talk. That changed long ago. He often blurts out statements that make everyone, including Amma, laugh. One time he told Amma she should have a boyfriend. Another time, he went to her during darshan (darshan is the time she blesses people by giving hugs) and told her he wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Amma called someone from the Western Cafe and told them to make him a sandwich and bring it back to her.

Another memory I have of him occurred in the Amritapuri (India) auditorium. One day as I was walking to the auditorium, I heard a gut wrenching wail. Some instinctual part of me knew that it was Eknath and that someone had told him he had to leave India and return to the U.S. He cried with a profound level of despair that couldn’t help but affect those around him.

He is probably best known for going up to people and pulling up both sides of his mouth with his index fingers and telling them to smile. He emanates joy. He usually has earphones on, listening to Amma bhajans. Sometimes he sings along. When Amma and the swamis are singing, he gets so excited that he starts jumping and jumping and jumping. Occasionally, the swamis keep their songs going much longer than they would normally. His joy is infectious.

Eknath was doing all of those things during the second or third evening program in Chicago. Someone handed him a microphone and asked him to sing. He sang “What a Wonderful World.” (Lyrics) I doubt I was the only one in the room that was crying.

Here is a video of Louis Armstrong singing that song.

Eknath was then asked to sing another song. This time he chose “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” but he changed it to “Amma Claus is Coming to Town.” (Lyrics) Needless to say, hearing those lyrics applied to Amma was hilarious.

I am thankful that Eknath is in this world

*****

Every day with Amma is packed with experiences. In addition, this year I’ve had the chance to be with my son and daughter during the programs. That normally happens only when I’m in India. Life is good.

Amma is Coming!

Amma will be starting her 2017 Summer Tour in the Seattle area on Saturday, May 27. She will be holding programs at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue.

Amma is known as a humanitarian and a spiritual leader, teaching and modeling a message of love and service to the poor. She offers a motherly hug to those who come to meet her.

May 27, All Day Program:11 am
May 28 Morning: 10:00am Evening: 7:30pm,
May 29, Morning: 10:00am, Evening 7:00pm (Includes a ceremony for world peace)

(Lines for tokens for Amma’s embrace will start forming 90 minutes before each program. The number of tokens may be limited due to time constraints so it is best to come early if you want a hug.)

All programs are free. For more detailed information about each event click here.

After Amma leaves the Seattle area she will go to San Ramon, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, New York City, Boston, Washington DC and Toronto. To watch a movie about Amma’s darshan (hugs) and her innumerable humanitarian and charitable activities go to: embracingtheworld.org/news-etw-movie/

 

A Treasure for Me

I laughed when I saw that today’s Daily Prompt is Chuckles. I also thought of the old saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” That is exactly how I feel about dandelions this time of year.

Two days ago, I saw this strip of dandelions near my home. It was at least 50 feet long and maybe more. Throughout the winter, I have been going to the grocery store to pick up lettuce that is going to be discarded. I feed it to the worms in my vermicomposting bins. The worms seem to be losing their enthusiasm for the lettuce, but they love the fresh dandelion greens.

The problem with the dandelions in this field is that it is part of light rail property and is completely fenced in. I have no way to access it, so I have to be satisfied with using the dandelions in my yard and the few that are on the street side of the fence.

Even though I know that it is important for me to focus on what I have, rather than what I don’t have, I have no doubt that I will still look longingly at the treasure that is beyond my grasp whenever I pass this field.

Song Lyric Sunday: How Could Anyone Ever Tell You

As soon as I finished my entry for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday, another song came to mind. That song, How Could Anyone Ever Tell You, was written and recorded by Libby Roderic in 1990.  I first heard it at a psychotherapy intensive and have used it in my psychotherapy practice from time to time since then.

The version in this post was recorded by Shaina Noll in 1992. It is part of Shaina’s CD, Songs for the Inner Child. She wrote this about that album.

The inspiration to record this collection of songs came to me one night as I was singing my children to sleep. As I sat rocking my youngest child, I realized that the singing my children found so calming and nourishing could extend beyond their rooms. I was doing inner child work at the time, personally and in my practice as a counselor. I suspected that the experience of being sung to could be deeply healing for many of the adults I knew. I felt instinctively that the songs my husband and I had been singing to our children could be a blessing to a wider audience.

As you listen to the song, imagine it is being sung to you.

Lyrics

How could anyone ever tell you
You were anything less than beautiful
How could anyone ever tell you
You were less than whole
How could anyone fail to notice
That your loving is a miracle
How deeply you’re connected to my Soul…

Letting Go of Suffering Course: Table of Contents

Even though the Letting Go of Suffering course is over, you will still be able to access the lessons any time you want to. Before long there will also be an icon on the right sidebar of my blog that will lead to this list.

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

Lesson 1 The Beginning

Lesson 2 The Beginning (continued)

Lesson 3 What Would Your World be Like If You Didn’t Suffer?

Lesson 4  Why Do I Suffer?

Lesson 5  Why Do I Suffer (continued)

Lesson 6  Using Affirmations To Heal

Lesson 7  Stopping Passive Behavior

Lesson 8  Getting Off the Drama Triangle

Lesson 9  Mistakes

Lesson 10  Failure

Lesson 11  Stopping The Critical Self Talk

Lesson 12  Using Contracts To Heal

Lesson 13  Holding Yourself Accountable

Lesson 14  Making It Bigger

Lesson 15  Changing Your Suffering Profile

Lesson 16  More Tools!

Lesson 17  Lighten Up!

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Seventeen: Lighten Up!

The more we become immersed in suffering, the more difficult it may be to get out of it. Sometimes it may feel as if we are being pulled down into muck. In this course, you have learned many techniques for letting go of suffering. This last lesson will be about consciously working to “Lighten Up!”

One of the ways to lighten up is to do things that will make you laugh. Decades ago, I gave one of my psychotherapy clients a toy frog and encouraged her to carry it around with her when she was suffering. She was irritated with me at the time, but soon thereafter brought clown noses to group and distributed them. She wore hers whenever she realized she was suffering and found that it helped her to lighten her mood. I imagine seeing her also helped lighten the mood of a lot of other people!

Many years ago, I learned a technique from a therapist named Mary Goulding. She instructed us to push our tongues into our cheeks and then talk nonstop about all of the things we were suffering about. When we say those statements that way, they may lead to laughter instead of suffering.

Another way to lighten up is to talk about the problems that are bringing us down in a dramatic and highly exaggerated way. This past December, I was at Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India when the the Western residents performed their annual Christmas play. There was a point in that play when an actor portrayed his suffering in a way that resulted in the audience bursting into laughter. To me, the scene and the song that went with it, are a perfect example of this type of lightening up. Listen to the song and see if it might be a useful tool for you to use in the future!

You may also help yourself to lighten by going for a walk, immersing yourself in  nature, going to a movie, reading a book, watching a funny movie, or listening to music.  In the balloons below, write your favorite ways of lightening up.

Every day this week, spend some time practicing ways to lighten your mood. At the end of the day, journal about your experience.

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

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As I mentioned in the beginning, this is the last lesson in the Letting Go of Suffering series. Thanks so much for participating in all or part of it. I hope you find the tools you have learned during the last seventeen weeks helpful in your life journey.

Sometime this week, I will be publishing a post that will provide links to all of the lessons, and will put a widget on the sidebar that will link to that list. I will also be publishing a poll asking some feedback questions.

 

To find all of the lessons in this series click here.

Photo Credits: Pixabay.

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Fifteen: Changing Your Suffering Profile

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Suffering patterns often become rigid. Simply thinking about a topic that has brought you pain in the past, might trigger you into suffery behavior. One technique that may be helpful in breaking those patterns is to change your suffering profile.

In Week 2 of this series, each participant identified their personal suffering profile.  They did that by examining the following areas:

  • The time of day I usually suffer (e.g. morning, afternoon, evening).
  • Where I usually suffer (e.g. home, work, bedroom, basement).
  • The people with whom I usually suffer (e.g. husband, friend, employer).
  • The day of the week I usually suffer (e.g. Saturday, Monday).
  • The messages I usually give myself when I suffer (e.g. Nobody loves me, I can’t do anything right).
  • Where in my body I usually feel my suffering (e.g. head, stomach, chest).
  • Time of year I usually suffer (e.g. holidays, birthday).
  • What I usually suffer about (e.g. my children, my family, work).

If you completed that original assignment, go back and look at your answers. If you did not write down you responses, or if this is the first time you have learned about a suffering profile, then create it now. You can either use the list above, or go back to the original assignment and use the diagram.

Once you have identified, or reviewed, your suffering profile, you are ready to start this week’s assignment.

Each day this week, whenever you are tempted to suffer, go ahead and suffer! But this time, be sure you are suffering in different ways than those you identified in your profile. For example, if your profile is to suffer about work, at home, during the evening, with your husband, an alternative could be to choose to suffer about your yard, with a supportive friend, during the day, on a walk.

If nothing is bothering you, then intentionally find something to suffer about, so that you have multiple experiences of changing your profile.

Take a few minutes each day to journal about your experience.

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

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See you next Monday for the sixteenth lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published, click here.

Photo Credit: Pixabay