Perhaps the Camino Walks You …

Just recently my husband and I returned from a spiritual walk on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. To say that the five-day, 66-mile trek was moving (literally and figuratively), wonderful, spiritual, calming, hard, funny, beautiful, and surprising (among many other adjectives) would be a huge understatement. One of the books that inspired us along the way, among many, is Joyce Rupp’s Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from The Camino. -And our tour guide company representatives from Spanish Steps were wonderful.

As I’ve heard many people say, perhaps the Camino walks you. If you are a searching soul, check it out.

Melody

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Still …

Recently the following prayer was printed on a retreat brochure, and it spoke to me. The prayer is by Kwasi I. Kena, and I thought I’d pass it along. This week I have especially been thinking about people all over the world affected by weather disasters, including here in Austin given recent flooding and far away in the Philippines. May their lives improve with help from others.

Melody

Still
How hard it is for me to be – still.

Alone – with myself.
Alone-together – with God.

Still the clamoring voices from without and within
Sequester me spiritually,
Away from the rush of the world,
Long enough to recall the soothing silence.

Bathe me in living water that you stilled for me
So I wouldn’t drown in the rush of life.
God, teach me how to be still today,
And know that you are God.

An inspiring note from Nancy …

The amazing Rev. Nancy McCraine from Hospice Austin sent the following, and it meant a lot to me. Perhaps it will to you as well. Here’s to more stillness in each of our lives … Melody

Doorways to the Soul:
Cultivating Stillness

If our outer world is a reflection of our inner world,
don’t you want to take time to weed and care for your inner garden?
~Renee Trudeau, Nurturing the Soul of Your Family~

I am deeply thankful for those moments in the early morning when I try to be quiet, to sit in the presence of the gentle and compassionate and unruffled One to try to share in or be given some of that divine serenity. If I do not spend a reasonable amount of time in meditation early in the morning, then I feel a physical discomfort — it is worse than having forgotten to brush my teeth! I would be completely rudderless and lost if I did not have these times with God.
~Desmond Tutu~

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and be calm in your heart.
~Anonymous~

Our family raises organic blueberries and in the early summer we have a “pick your own” berry business on our Bastrop County farm. From sun up to sun down for several weekends in June all kinds of wonderful people come to pick these delicious dark blue orbs. It is great fun to listen to families talking and laughing as they fill their buckets and to see children, their fingers and faces stained blue, experience the joy of the harvest. By the end of each day, however, we are usually spent: over-heated, sun scorched, dusty and tired. On one such evening, several years ago, I had just returned to the comfort of our air conditioned home when I heard my husband finish a phone conversation something like this… That sounds great! We’ll see y’all in a couple of hours. You’re more than welcome to stay the night!

Who was that? I said, in what I’m sure was a less-than-gracious tone.

Some people are riding their bikes from Austin and want to camp out on our place, he replied.

You’ve got to be kidding!?! I said, imagining myself entertaining four sweat stained strangers for dinner when all I wanted was a shower and sleep.

Reading my mind, he assured me that there was nothing I had to do. They just want to pop their tents, he said, and hang out on the farm, maybe pick a few berries in the morning.
Noticing that I was still scowling in his direction he asked me what was the matter. I said something about being hot and cranky and that I probably just needed to go wash my face. And with that, I excused myself to go and pout in our bedroom. As I was sitting there (arms crossed, mouth pinched) I asked myself what exactly WAS the matter. Peace and quiet! I thought, is that too much to ask?!? And then I heard a voice from within whisper, Nancy, all the peace and quiet you ever need is here in this moment. Peace and quiet doesn’t depend on what’s going on around you; it’s what’s happening inside you. If it’s stillness you seek, seek no longer. Simply go within and be still.

It was a realization that changed everything for me. I became more aware that I could intentionally cultivate stillness every day so that, no matter what I was doing or where I was doing it, I could quietly slip into a place of inner serenity and peace. Spending at least 10 minutes of meditation or prayer first thing in the morning and last thing at night is, for me, like placing a soft cushion around my day: the edges aren’t quite as sharp; my emotions aren’t quite as unruly; there is available to me greater equanimity, compassion, and humor to face whatever comes.

What are other ways to cultivate stillness? Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way. For many, exercise is one way to stillness. As our bodies move through space our thoughts can begin to settle. Gardening is another way; listening to or making music; cooking; writing; building something. Whatever it is, keep it simple, make it meaningful for you, and keep a sense of humor about it. And give it time.

If you’re ready to experience lasting change in your life and tap into inner peace on a daily basis, develop and stick with a daily spiritual practice. A spiritual mentor once said to me, ‘Want to experience a little bit of peace? Meditate once a week. Want to experience a lot of peace? Meditate every day.’
~Renee Trudeau~

Rev. Nancy Chester McCranie, M.Div.
Director of Volunteer and Bereavement Services
Hospice Austin
4107 Spicewood Springs Rd, Suite 100
Austin, TX 78759
P: (512) 342-4716
http://www.HospiceAustin.org

Grieving, wondering, helping and praying …

Last week was an incredibly long and hard week given that grief and loss is hard, as we all know. No doubt our thoughts and prayers remain with the people involved in, and affected by, the Boston bombing tragedy and the fertilizer plant explosion in West in my home State of Texas.

One of the organizations with which I am involved is called My Healing Place. It provides grief, loss and trauma counseling for the people of Central Texas and anyone in need. Below is a cut/paste of a resource document distributed today by the outstanding My Healing Place staff. Perhaps it will be helpful.

May our prayers continue for all who are hurting across our lands, Melody

Dear Friends and supporters of My Healing Place,

As we reflect on the tragedies that have occurred within our country this past week in Boston, Massachusetts and West, Texas, our hearts break for those directly impacted, and those impacted through awareness of such devastating events. These events have in many ways evoked important discussions about feelings of grief, safety, and what to do when faced with such tragedy.

The media tends to provide us with prolonged exposure to the disturbing, and often times uncensored, live and real sights and sounds from such tragedies. While it is incredibly important to know what is happening in our country and within our world, watching and listening to such sensory-provoking media coverage repeatedly can lead to feelings of secondary trauma (especially for children). While it is not at all uncommon or abnormal to feel disturbed, distraught, and a high level of empathy for all victims of such tragedy, we may unknowingly over-expose ourselves to the violent and traumatic images and cries of the Boston bombings.

With that in mind, we offer some recommendations for protecting against secondary trauma:
1) Recognize How You Feel and Act. Whether you know it or not, you must deal with your own secondary trauma. Helping others can make us feel better, but it can become a way to avoid how you feel and you may miss the impact you are having on others. Allow time to sit with your feelings and be mindful of them.
2) Focus More on What You Are Doing/Going to Do and Not Why This Happened. It will be a long time before we have all the answers. You may become more depressed and anxious if you spend a lot of time trying to figure out who did what, when, where and why. We need to know something about what happened – but not everything. Doing something positive can be more important than understanding every detail and looking at every picture, video and news special on television.
3) Find Balance in Your Life. More than anything, people need to restore balance to their lives. It is not helpful to become obsessed with what happened – especially if your responsibilities to your children, work, relationships, or marriage suffer. Focus on what is important in your life, and give energy to those people/things.
*Adapted from writings of Dr. Michael G. Connor (Board Certified psychologist of Traumatic Stress, Emergency Crisis Intervention, and Emergency School Response).

Many say that events such as these can also show us the "hero" that lives within people. Several news sources are reminding us of the beautiful words of beloved Fred Rogers (better known as the leader of PBS children's show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood"), who once said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

Please let us know of any way that we can serve as helpers to you and your loved ones.

Wishing you thoughts of comfort and hope of healing,

My Healing Place Staff

Remembering, and learning from, Matt

One of my friends and colleagues on the My Healing Place Board has put together a terrific blog in honor/memory of her son, Matt, who unfortunately took his own life.  Check out this wonderful blog at: www.livingwiththelossofachild.blogspot.com.  I highly recommend Janie’s blog for everyone given that we all walk through the shadow of loss, grief and trauma, at different times in our lives, and in many different ways.

Melody

Engagement

Earlier this week the following sweet and poignant Email crossed my desk.  It resonated with me, and I thought I’d share it on this Academy Award Sunday.  My assumption is the attribution is correct.  Regardless, the message is powerful and a good reminder of the need to embrace, experience, and engage in, our rich journeys as fully as possible.

Melody

Written by Regina Brett, at 90 years old:  “To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I’ve ever written.  My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying  alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an  answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will this matter?’

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does 

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the  most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved. 

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come…

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”

Remembering Jeffrey Zaslow

Earlier this year I received an Email from fellow author Jeffrey Zaslow, with whom I had corresponded a time or two over the years, but never met.  Jeff’s amazing books and articles in the area of end-of-life times, especially The Last Lecture, have touched me, and I so admire his work. 

Jeffrey was writing to let me know that he had a new book being released called The Magic Room.  I promised to purchase the book, and make mention of it in an upcoming blog.

Like many others, I was shocked to read that Jeffrey Zaslow was killed last Friday in a car wreck in Michigan as he traveled home from a book talk.  I am so incredibly saddened by this loss, especially for his family and friends. 

Perhaps we can all honor this outstanding writer and reporter by purchasing The Magic Room or one of his earlier books.  Certainly I intend to do just that, as I once again remind myself how fragile and unexpected life’s journeys can be.

Written in admiration/memory of Mr. Jeffrey Zaslow, Author (1958-2012)

Melody