Wednesday, December 7, 2016

pursue the obstacle: part 2

The question on the last post was:

Identify the biggest obstacle in your life at present. What is it keeping you from?

I said, nothing.Which is true.

But there's also, everything. Which is also true.

Depends on when you catch me. Yesterday I was bursting with compassion, for myself and others. I was seeing how many cars I could let go in front of me, laughing at the dog, being more open-hearted about possible change(s) in my life. Today I woke gripped by a wave of fear moving from my chest to my legs and back around. That 4:30 in the morning wave 'o fear. You know it.

Some days I'm the spiritual brave me.
Some days I want to crawl into somebody's lap and not deal with anything.
Some days I'm in the middle of the two.
Some days...You get it.

I post my blog to Facebook, not because I love Facebook ( it's overwhelming.) But because it's how I get to have a conversation with you. When you read, and comment, we're in a conversation. Then, others join in. The pursue the obstacle day hit a chord for readers. Instead of just hitting the like button, a few of you said, perfect timing for this, thanks.  


M left this note in the blog comment box. I was so grateful to receive it and want to share:

Thanks, Bets! On some days the answer is a sheepish, nothing really. On others it is a torrent of anger, blame, finger pointing at self and other, bewilderment. Your words ask me to ponder and reflect, get quiet and centered, make choices, then swim back into the stream. I am so glad you care enough to work it through, strand by strand. Your joyful heart shines. Love, M

She offers the other side of nothing. The anger, blame, finger pointing, and yes, bewilderment. I get that. It's not easy to pursue the obstacle. Some days I need to pursue nothing. Some days, I'm kissing it on the lips. Holding a bad opinion of ourselves is the true obstacle. It's here we get stuck.
We sit on the riverbank, then slip back into the stream, then to the riverbank, and back again. 

As the oft-bewildered Dory of Pixar fame chants, just keep swimming. 

xo b

Today I will accept my circumstances even if I lack direction and insight. I will remember to do things that make myself and other feel good during those times. I will trust that clarity will come of its own accord. - Melody Beattie

Monday, December 5, 2016

pursue the obstacle

One of my brothers is living with cancer. Recently, we were talking about this saying ~

 the obstacle is the way. 

He's trying to use it in his own present experience. It's one of my mumbling mantras.

What do you feel when you hear the obstacle is the way?

Do you seize up, protest? Or exhale and feel relief?

As messages tend to do, this one has come around again.

Today's meditation is from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. (Sharing parts of it...)

December 5

Pursue the obstacle.
It will set you free.

We are invited to question that in us which insists that what is before us is an obstacle in the first place. It may not be so. It may be so. It may be something small that our history of struggle has enlarged into tragedy or bad luck. 

So if we can, we must focus on our relationship to the stream and not to the things being carried alongside us. If something appears to be blocking our way, we must try to understand what is moving it and what is moving us. If our movement in the world is still blocked, perhaps we are meant to be still. We must try not to damage ourselves unnecessarily by trying to force a movement to happen before its time. 

~ Identify the biggest obstacle in your life at present. What is it keeping you from?

My answer came swiftly before I could edit in my mind.  Nothing.
Whatever It is can't keep me from anything. Only I can do that.

Maybe any current obstacles are benevolent messengers wanting attention?

xo b

Thursday, December 1, 2016

without noticing it

At 7:30 this morning, I was digging in the dirt. I saw my new neighbor through the trees and thought, She must think I'm burying something out here. Who gardens in December? 

Plant the seed, the idea, the dream, the tulip bulb ~ then get on with your life.

Drink your tea
walk the dog
humbly do your work

Meditate on the message I saw on the back of a truck the other day

Do Not Push  Push what? 

Clearly a sign, you think?

Most growing happens in our underground selves, the fertile quiet part, the dark intuitive place. No need to figure things out. Sticky paws and strategic minds need not apply. 

This is the do not push. 
This is the daily practice. 
Give me a boulder, I'll push it๐ŸŒ€


“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. - Rilke

xo b

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

My Mother's Thanksgiving Prayer

A friend texted asking if I'd share my mother's Thanksgiving Prayer. 

Grateful for her reminder, I offer it to you, dear readers.

May you drop, even briefly, whatever burdens you're carrying. Take a moment to remember the goodness all around you, and in you. May we be humble and thankful and glad.

Take what you need + leave the rest. I'll write you on the other side of Thanksgiving. xo b

Thanksgiving Prayer

We come to this table today
humble and thankful and glad.
We are first thankful for the great miracle of life,
for the exultation of being human, for the capacity to love.
We are thankful for joys both great and simple -
For wonder, dreams and hope;
For the newness of each day:
For laughter and song and a merry heart
For compassion waiting within to be kindled;
For the forbearance of friends and the smile of a stranger;
For the arching of the earth and trees and heavens and the fruit of all three;
For the wisdom of the old;
The courage of the young
For the promise of the child;
For the strength that comes when needed;
For this family united here today.
Of those to whom much is given, much is required.
May we and our children remember this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Madrid Diary II: Muy Contento


This is one of those tiny stories about a moment where the portal between two humans opens and a kind of golden light buzzes back and forth. The last time I wrote about a tiny moment was the little girl in a car, she waved at me, I waved back, portal opened.

Portals are always opening. Like when a dog walks by. I swear I heard the one with the black eye say, Hola, me gusto mucho el queso and I said, sure, I like cheese very much too. But this isn't about the dogs of Madrid although that may be another piece.

This is about me wandering around by myself, not lost but lost. Not knowing anyone, looking to find a place for a beer and a bite to eat. My legs were wobbly because it can be exhilarating and weird to be alone in a city you don't know and barely speaking the language. It's the twin thing:

anxiety and aliveness

I've been riding both waves this week.

I'd been at El Bar de los Bocadillos where two women sat next to me eating calamari sandwiches. One had on a red coat, which I liked very much. I also like having two women sitting next to me eating and chatting. It didn't feel at all like Donald Trump hovering behind Hillary. Zero danger.

When I wasn't locking eyes with people looking in the window, I watched the soccer game. In my journal I wrote, sitting here in this little food place, Spanish raining over me like a school of goldfish. ba ba ba de de de Real Madrid was scoring like crazy. The players were muy guapo.


Anyway, after somehow accidentally asking for ginger ale or lemonade in my beer, not good, I left thinking, I'd better get back. Then, jeez, Betsy, six year olds stay up later than you. This is Spain! Almost home, I peeked in the window of a small place with a handful of patrons. Another game was on. A handsome older man sat at the bar, two women working: Carmen and Fanny.
And that's how I ended up sitting for two hours with Manuel, Manolo, Lolo - gracious human, 9 brothers, 1 sister, a medical doctor, who patiently pieced together a conversation half-Spanish, half-English, and a mix of stuff I made up. Lolo smiled and kept saying me gusto me gusto!  

The easiest thing off my tongue was 

muy contento, muy contento!

Another beautiful portal.

xo b

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Madrid Diary I

Madrid Diary
October 15, 2016

Okay, so some questions I ask myself:

What's it like to go someplace new? It doesn't have to be another town, city, country. What about where you live? How often do you drive the very same road to work, and then the very same road home? Have you ever turned down that leafy side street to see what's there? Have you ever allowed yourself to do something all by yourself, even if it's driving down that leafy side street you've never gone down? Or go to a movie solo? How does it feel to not know what's around the corner? What feelings rise up in your body when you're out of the proverbial comfort zone? What is your comfort zone? What does it look like, feel like, smell like? Do you love it as much as I love mine?

my home
my big bed
my kitchen
my backyard
my supermarket
my bathroom
my family
my friends
my neighborhood

I love my comfort zone so much that I get strung out going to the local supermarket. Some days, even that is too much. Too many people, too many choices. When I get back to my house, the dog, the red kitchen, the quiet; my body settles. 

Home. Nest. Comfort Zone.

On Wednesday night, I left my comfort zone and got on a plane to Madrid. Packing was a tizzy, passport, getting there, the plane itself with aisles made for paper dolls, the guy across from me with a horrible nasal issue laughing out loud watching Finding Dory. At midnight, I put my coat on my head and tried to sleep. So, not in my comfort zone. 

Every time I leave my small country of comfort, I grow. I shed a shell. I cut loose from a certain way of being and seeing myself, and the world around me.  There's a jolt of aliveness (which I dub anxiety). However,

Aliveness is not anxiety.

Aliveness is anxiety's sister. Dizzy, breathy, tingling in all sorts of body parts, the heart hammering, until you tease out what's really happening of course you want to lock the door and stay put. Most of us don't tease, we retreat before ever getting out the door. But if we want to live our one precious life we must at least open the door.

I'm grateful to my husband, children, dear friends who remind me that my pre-trip anxiety is nothing new (I have it every time + they listen to my worries every single time). When I'm walking new streets, attempting a new language, riding the metro (solo!) they hear the alive me on the phone, in texts, or jaunty emails. Oh my, isn't she now the adventurous one.  

Never  do they say, I told you so.

Aliveness is not anxiety

Anxiety will not kill you (it wants your attention - so said favorite therapist 100 years ago)

Do ONE THING new, different, off the usual path, surprise yourself.

Wear orange. 
Pack a carry-on for 2 weeks, unless it's the Arctic. Mittens take up a lot of space.
Trust that what's around the corner is waiting for YOU with open arms. 
Tell a friend you feel scared, they'll gently push you on your way.

open the door. 
step out. 
look around.
start here.

๐ŸŒ€namaste. xo b

Sunday, October 2, 2016

a little more room

I drink tea.

Every day begins with one cup of Irish Breakfast regular, then another cup of decaf, usually adding hot water to the mug. I switch to Earl Grey. Add more hot water as needed.

Splash of milk, no sugar.

If only for five minutes, I go back to bed, warm mug between my hands, close to my chest. Something about the heat in my hands, the shape and smoothness of the mug. Most mornings, despite the calmness of my bedroom, I wake with a rush of busy-ness in my head. Lists, concerns, what's on the calendar for the week. Sometimes a wave of sadness sweeps over me. My father's laugh. My mother's voice. Yesterday I felt the thump of my old cat, Owen, jumping on the bed and waited for the heavy warmth of his body on mine. But the last time I saw Owen was a year ago.

It was a warm August night.
He loved being outside.
He sat on the steps, looked over his shoulder at me,
then walked into the dusky backyard.

I never saw Owen again.


Something about the boiling water, the same white mug, the steeping of the tea, the holding of the mug, the first sip. The warmth against my solar plexus, cupped hands.

Something about that creates a pause.

The pause says, oh look at the yellow leaves on that tree, of course you miss your mother, father, cat.  Where did you go, Owen? Love is the answer. I miss my husband across the country. Yes, you're wondering how this whole thing is going to turn out, breathe, sip, hold me against your heart, fear not, how is this all working out, 

you contain everything. 

I wrestle with those feelings, get out get out, but some days I'm a warm mug of tea, a spacious container of all this life.  I make a little more room. 

I drew a little picture of my mug.
I wrote a little story inside the picture.
I sipped my tea 
I relaxed.  


Sunday, August 28, 2016

spilling over into the light

Waiting for Claire's x-country bus to arrive, I see the man across the street from the stadium tend to three large plants in the front yard. The man, like Tweedle Dee, wears baggy shorts, no shirt, white socks with sandals. The plants seem to be lifting themselves up towards the sun and air. I imagine them, a small yoga class arms up, gaze up, heart open.

The shirtless, large pale pear of a man, lovingly kneels to pull dead leaves off his plants, then lifts the water bucket to each one. Normally, fat pale men without shirts make me shudder as in,

Listen mister, put a shirt on! 

Tweedle Dee, who's name is likely Bruce, or Allan, or John, watered his plants in a shirtless meditation unconcerned or unaware of cars arriving to pick kids up, nor how his shirtless state of affairs might be pushing me over the cliff.  Rather than have a litany of personal problems about this guy, Dear God, man, have you no shame? I leaned against my car watching the tilt of the bucket, warm sun on my face, waiting for a yellow bus, and my sweaty kid.

One of those moments when nothing is bothering you...because there was nothing to be bothered about? ๐ŸŒ€Maybe that midnight reading about compassion was spilling over into the light of day.

Compassion is our deepest nature. 
It arises from our interconnection with all things. 

- Jack Kornfield

xo b

Sunday, July 31, 2016

a tiny story

I was going to write about how Donald Trump makes me terribly anxious, or going camping, or being with all of my brothers. I was going to write about how we used to go to the nude beach  at the tip of Martha's Vineyard, make ourselves a shelter with my sarongs and other things...

stones and pieces of wood worked fine. 

We'd curl up in the sarong shade, ocean before us, blue sky, red cliffs ~

such freedom

But this is a tiny story about a girl I saw in a car. I decided to write this tiny story about a girl, maybe she was seven, who reminded me of how simple things can be. I was flying along at sixty-five mph on 287 South in New Jersey after dropping Claire off at my brother's in Connecticut. They were going camping for a week in Montauk. I was going home to an empty house, except for Chewy.


I was passing a car, looked over, there was a girl with blonde hair, round eyeglasses, a purple shirt. I was going fast but this felt like a moment of space. A big yawn of a moment. I looked over, we saw each other, our eyes met - this was a second, right? Then,

she waved at me. 

I love that girl, her small kid hand lifted in gentle salute, how her wave carried me home.

That's the tiny story.

And this is a picture of a big bunch of orange carrots. 

xo b

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How Exhilarating To Become Aware

July 26. 2016

Today's message from Mom's meditation book resonated deeply so I'm sharing with you.

Take what you need.

The principle of life is that life responds by corresponding; your life becomes the thing you have decided it shall be.

- Raymond Charles Barker 

The attitude that we carry with us into a particular setting will greatly influence our perceptions of any event. Our attitude also influences, positively or negatively, personal interactions, and not just those involving ourselves. The effect of our message is this: our personal power is profound. We have explicit control over our own perceptions. We determine our own attitudes. Every moment of our lives we are deciding what we want to see, to think, to feel. And reflections will inform us that our expectations are firmly fulfilled.

How exhilarating to become aware of our freedom to think and to feel as we wish. However, with this freedom comes responsibility. We're barred from blaming others for our troubles. Each of us is charged with the responsibility for deciding our own fate. How we prepare ourselves for this experience or this day is individually chosen. Every minute we are in control of our perceptions, our attitudes, our responses.

Today is mine to mold. My attitude, my thoughts, and my responses will decide my fate today.

Stay tuned,
xo b

Monday, June 20, 2016

And Not Be Elsewhere

Let us dig our gardens and not be elsewhere;
   Let us take long walks in the open air…
   Let us bathe in the rivers and lakes…
   Let us indulge in games…
   Let us be more simple: simple and true in
our gestures, in our words, and simple and true
in our minds above all. Let us be ourselves.

-Robert Linssen

Hello Lovelies,

I have so much to say, to write about, ideas scribbled on the supermarket receipt, the back of an envelope, in my journal. My mind these days is a river full of birds and branches, red canoes, fat clouds, people on the riverbank getting baptized in white gowns, the solitary heron. But with so much blabbering and horror and more blabbering on the air waves I find myself quieted, listening more, talking less. Sitting on my back steps watching the trees sway in the breeze, everything around me 

green green green

Quieted by the breeze, the lilies, the panting dog, the freshly potted basil, the coming and going of Father's Day and where is my father now that he is gone from this earth? Having a frolic in the spirit world, beyond the thin veil, as close as my breath. Claire was very little when my mother died and my heart was so broken. One day I sobbed, where is my mother and Claire, a three year old said,

She's right here, mama, right next to you.

Those were the days when Claire called me mama and I believed without a doubt that she knew more than me about these things. I still do. Young children are portals to the light, not cramped and shut down like grown ups can be. (more on the joy of hanging with little kids next time...)

On this Summer Solstice day, 

this day of long light

find a scrap of paper, a pretty note card, paper towel, a green leaf, anything to write on. Write yourself a love note, a blessing to yourself and your loved ones. Write a thank-you note to your heart, or this sweet old beautiful earth, put it in the ground. If you live on the 15th floor of an apartment building, put it in one of your house plants. No houseplants? Tuck it in your underwear drawer. 

Make the generous gesture. 

Let us be more simple: simple and true in
our gestures, in our words, and simple and true
in our minds above all. Let us be ourselves.

Let us be ourselves. And not be elsewhere.

xo b

Sunday, May 15, 2016

there's an art to this

When I don't know what else to do with my busy, over-active, monkey-jumping, Dear God please don't let Donald Trump become president mind, I gotta get physical. It's the only way through for me. That or slump in the corner weeping, sipping from my water bottle. One of the best remedies for me is clearing stuff: a closet, the garage, a neglected garden patch, a littered back road.

We loaded the big blue truck with 1 broken lawn mower which has been in the shed for a long time, an old mattress and frame, a cracked plastic bin, other stuff, and took it to our town's annual spring clean-up. After that trip, we took 3 perfectly good office filing cabinets that have been in the garage for years, + 2 bikes that will make some kids happy and donated to our local give and take day. 

This afternoon, while the wind shook trees and the sky went light and dark, Chewy and I walked the yard to see what we could see. I had my winter hat, garden gloves and an awesome pair of clippers. Chewy had his tennis ball. Huge surprise, I know.

It was easy to find clutter in the neglected back garden. I happily hacked at vines taking over the rhododendron and the small path that circles around it. I cut and pulled and cleared. Snapping a branch off a small tree I discovered it was dead. Next thing, I was wrestling with that tree. There's an art to this; walking one way as far as you can go, then back the other way. Sometimes it's a quick release. Other times patience is required. I cannot tell you the pleasure I get from this wrestling. Pulling and tugging, soil eventually loosening. Have you ever pulled a choking vine off a bush and felt the satisfaction of giving breath? Or cleaned out your underwear drawer and felt totally refreshed? Have you ever wrestled a tree? 

What can you untangle, cut, clear, pull loose, wrestle, give breath to today?

Give breath to you.

Drawers, vines, pulling the roots of a dead tree out of the ground - 

Might sound weird but it's a little like labor, as in giving birth.

pant pant, pull (instead of push?) then you see roots...I said it was weird.

I'm easily tangled up in my head. Anxiety grows like a vine when I'm not moving my energy for good. I don't need to wrestle with myself - I can take on an old tree instead. I know full well that getting off my ass and clearing something (garden, garage, underwear drawer) creates a sweet spaciousness inside my head and heart. 

+ I don't need a thing except for ~

big sky
big breath
open heart

and new pens. 

xo b

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Love Many Things

A dear friend's father was under hospice care last week, then charming, handsome Harold slipped away. That's what people do at the end, slip and slide into the tunnel of light. It's a gentle visual I choose to hold. Loss is such a painful thing but this is where lightness and trust come in. Not lightness as in skipping through a meadow (although that sounds kinda fun), but when I think of lightness - in the face of a dying parent, a brother with cancer, a deep missing - any feeling that tends to ball and chain you down - when I think of lightness it feels like allowing, not resisting. 

Think of allowing everything like holding a yellow chick in the palm of your hands, 

in wonder.

During my Dad's dying week, part of me was repulsed at his labored breathing, the utter frailness of his body, the scent of death in the room. There was a crowd of feelings hovering around. But so were the chatty hospice people. Hello Sunny! putting on a clean pair of socks for his cold feet. 

Curiously, the lighter side of me, the one in wonder, sang songs to Dad.

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine let it shine let it shine

One night, Dad was sitting awkwardly on the edge of his bed, holding one knee the way he liked to do, eyes closed. Trust me when I say I so wanted to run, but I stayed. I put my arm around him, sang out Michael Row Your Boat Ashore, (a family favorite) tears washing down my face. 

Dad was still dying, my heart was painfully breaking open, and the thing is, I let it.

break open 

Because that's where the lightness comes through. 

Maybe you're thinking, 

Why the hell is this girl writing about her dying Dad on the first day of spring? 

Show us some flowers and be nice about it. Get with the seasonal program!!!

Here's what I'm getting at.

We are in a constant state of experiencing so many things, every day. 

life death loss joy birth ease struggle love

Vincent Van Gogh said, love many things. 

I know this because I have a little notepad that says so. 

Hold your heart like that little yellow chick, gently. no squeezing. 
Make a list (it's so much fun) of all the 

and things 
you love.

(it'll take more than a little notepad)

Add something about yourself too. 

Gosh, I love my quirky little ways...finally

We are here to love. 

Happy Spring, lovelies!

I love you.

xo b