Saturday, August 9, 2014

Peace Arrives on a Feather

Three days ago, I walked alongside Kalorama Park and spotted a dark grey feather on the dark concrete path. It looked beautiful, tone on tone.

Two days ago, I happened upon a medium grey feather on the medium grey sidewalk near Mintwood Place restaurant in Columbia Road. 

Two days, two feathers. Okay, Universe,  I thought, I’d like to see a light feather on a light background. Tomorrow, please, on Day Three

I set out again on foot in the neighborhood yesterday, this time to meet friends for dinner. Mid-block on Vernon Street, resting atop the very light grey concrete beneath my feet: three downy, light grey and white feathers. 
Three days, three sightings. 

This morning on the sofa I finished writing Morning Pages. I rested my right hand on my right hip and felt a small bump on the side of my pants. I gently picked at it, coaxing out something caught in the seam. 

A small white feather emerged. I have no clue how it arrived in my bottoms. With an allergy to feathers, I have none in the house. 
I feel silly admitting this, but I felt like a magician. {After all, an anagram in my name is alchemy sorcery raj.}

Coincidence? Hyper-sensitive/aware subconscious? Or synchronicity of something? 

Grey feathers are said to be symbolic of peace. Peace is what I seek in my life at this moment. 

I am in transition. I approach the one year anniversary of my father’s death, coming full circle after 12 months of grief and mourning. I complete almost three years the freedom of freelancing and return to the corporate world in a week.

Many lessons remind me change is the only constant in life. I’ve struggled with this concept and am determined to breathe, remain open, and relax into the inevitable movement of life.

Elizabeth Lesser, in Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, shares this Buddhist Sutra:
Unceasing change turns the wheel of life,and so reality is shown in all its many forms.Dwell peacefully as change itselfliberates all suffering sentient beingsand brings them great joy.  
Change liberates and brings joy. The wheel of life turns, I release my grasp so I might know peace. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On Playing Big

Synchronicity flashed before my eyes this morning.

Seated at the darling Little Red Fox’s communal table, I dove into the advance copy of Tara Mohr’s soon-to-be released book, Playing Big. In her leadership program of the same name, Tara explores why some women fail to share their brilliance, and coaches them to find their voice, mission, and message. 

I finished Chapter 6: Hiding and considered how I’ve procrastinated playing bigger. It’s inspirational for this reformed shadow artistwho has spent a lot of her life dodging the spotlight while serving others. Heavy sigh.

I picked up my mobile and checked email. A friend asked, “Ready for your birthday?”

My special day is tomorrow and I’ve been contemplating how to spend it. I’ve decided to gift myself time and space for self-reflection and envision the second half of the year. And, savor a lemon lavender cupcake from The Cakeroom.

Lemon lavender goodness

I hit reply in gmail. My fat fingers tapped: 
Before I finished typing, and in an instant, my iPhone autocorrected to:


Maybe laying low and reflecting on my life is hiding, but I know this coincidence is connected with what I had read moments before. Specifically, 20 pages of Tara’s “hiding strategies” that help one stall, plus the action steps to become visible and have a bigger positive impact on the world. 

Several of the strategies are familiar; it’s now an uncomfortable way to live. I’m actively working through transition in many areas of my life. Something is shifting within. And the close approximation of gifting/hiding is a reassuring sign.

As I sift through 2014 and set an intention for the reminder of the year, and my life, I’m eager to focus on Chapter 7: Leaping

I have faith the net will appear.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Déjà Vu

Twenty years ago this month I traveled this road. Literally. Route 404 on Maryland’s eastern shore. I rolled slowly behind a truck hauling crates overflowing with chickens on their way to the slaughterhouse. I stopped eating meat that day.

Today, on the long drive home from a weekend away in upstate New York, I found myself on Rte 404. In the passenger seat this time, napping, I awoke just in time to see this.

I asked Ed to pull alongside so I could snap photos. This is what I saw. 

It was just as gruesome as the first encounter, except this time I could see their faces. 

Twenty years is a long time to do — or not do — anything. Three meals a day x 365 days x 20 years is 21,900 deliberate acts of kindness.

But even one day a week of meat-free meals can make a big difference to your health and the health of our planet. And the lives of animals.

According to Meatless Mondays, “Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.”

There are lots of resources if you wish to explore further. For the newbie, blogger Courtney Carver posted this guest piece, penned by Minimalist Adventures. For the foodie, check out cookbook author Mark Bittman's take on flexing into veggie meals.

Ultimately, your actions speak volumes. Consider the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Food for thought.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father’s Day

This first year since my Father’s death is punctuated with milestones ... birthdays, anniversaries, holidays. Today is one of those holidays, the American celebration of fathers. I observe it with no phone call or bear hug, but with a years-old Hallmark card.

My siblings and I earlier this year sifted through my Dad’s stuff. My Father lived in the homestead he built for us decades ago, kept relatively clutter-free by disposing of ephemera regularly. 

Not much of a sentimentalist, my Pop rarely hung onto our mutual memorabilia except for photos of his wife and my beloved Mother, their six children and respective partners, 12 grandchildren, and five great-grandkids. 

On the tall bookcase in between the dining and living rooms, and tucked behind a slender statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I spied a slim stack of dog-eared greeting cards. 

I slid them off the top shelf to inspect. Of the dozen or so cards he kept, five were from me: a postcard, two birthday, and two father’s day. Including this one:  

It’s touching to imagine him deliberately saving these sentiments. I wonder whether he pulled them from their perch and thought of me, thinking of him? 

Now, here I sit hundreds of miles away and months after his transition, thinking of him, thinking of me. 
June 15, 2014
Happy Father’s Day, Pop! 
You are a remarkable force of nature who taught me to see the beauty that surrounds, the meaning of commitment and hard work, and the value of unconditional love. I am grateful.
I miss you. I love you. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sweet Sorrow

single digits

double digits (23 to be exact)

Nine months ago today my beloved father died. Two days earlier, he had major chest pains and at 11:00 p.m. called for help. A neighbor later told me he watched my pop walk from the house to the waiting ambulance. That’s how tough he was. Left his home upright. Righteous.

My brother sent me a packet containing a copy of dad’s medical records from his final days. The large white envelope arrived in the mail yesterday. 

I opened to a page at random and read: “Patient is pleasant, alert, comfortable, with a blood pressure of 148/90, pulse of 88 and irregular chronic atrial fibrillation.” 

Pleasant, alert, comfortable. I find comfort in these words. 

William Hrycaj was pleasant and alert. And generous, curious, clever. A lover of sports, he also marveled at all manner of beauty in nature. A robust social animal, he was widely known about town. Full of life one moment. Shockingly quiet shortly thereafter.

My acute grief has eased a bit and I experience a gentler mourning. It’s still punctuated with intense, periodic episodes of pain and tears, though. It sucks.

But I’m grateful to have known him for so long. And, I’m grateful he is at peace. I miss and love you pops.

Monday, May 26, 2014

May All Beings Be Free From Suffering

A neighbor’s dog collapsed in front of my apartment building yesterday. The 10-year old collie/retriever mix had moments earlier soaked up my loving attention.

Bentley collapsed and now howled in pain. Passersby stop to help. One person called the local animal hospital about emergency care. 

My husband acted quickly and brought his CRV to the scene; six people gingerly lifted the 75-pound dog inside. Sweet Bentley continued to howl, clearly uncomfortable. 

On the way to the hospital Shannon, Bentley’s person, hugged him and repeated, “I have such a bad feeling about this.” We had seen Shannon and Bentley in the neighborhood occasionally and only knew each other in passing. Until now.

Animal hospital staff ushered the dog in for treatment. The doctor’s assessment was quick: Bentley suffered a pulmonary embolism. A blood clot in his hind quarters blocked blood flow to his back legs, which were cold and non-responsive to the touch. Bentley endured a great deal of pain, and medication helped only a little.

The doctor presented a grim scenario. Shannon could submit Bentley to testing to determine whether surgery would be an option. The humane choice given his crisis, the doctor said, would be to euthanize him. Stunning.

Shannon’s roommate arrived on the heels of the discussion. We left shortly thereafter so she could make her decision.

I awoke at 2 a.m., with Bentley smiling in my mind’s eye, wondering about his fate.

One’s life can change in the blink of an eye. Like Bentley. And Shannon. 

Being present for your life won’t prevent suffering. Notice and savor what life brings you as well as what you create. Find joy in simple pleasures, like pausing to visit with a neighborhood dog as he ambles up the block.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

With Gratitude

A blank sheet of paper can be intimidating. Or it can be exhilarating. And, it can be a tool for discovery.

The final 2.5 hour session of my eight week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course meets for the last time Tranquil Space tomorrow. Nineteen other beings have made the journey with me through Jon Kabat-Zinn’s life changing program.

We explored qualities of mindfulness — noticing thoughts, emotions and sensations in the present moment, without judgment. We practiced sitting, walking, eating and listening, and cultivated loving-kindness.

This afternoon, I pulled out several pieces of blank card stock as I contemplated a gift to my MBSR teacher and fellow students. 

The seed of an idea emerged to wish each person well-being. Then, the words of a loving-kindness meditation arose, back lit with the soothing colors of soft turquoise and celadon. 

Moments later, when the paint dried, I added a prayer to each card.

I’ve tucked them away for tomorrow. 

The metaphor of a blank piece of paper is apropos of life. Especially my life over the last  eight + months.

I’ve rediscovered blank pages as an invitation of spaciousness to begin again. With a beginner’s mind. With an open heart. 

Details to come.