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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Making the Heart and Soul Connection

I am excited to share with you that a close friend of mine and an AWBA supporter, Michelle Rogers, will be offering her gifts to AWBA's readers in monthly blog posts in September, October and November.  The series is entitled, 

The Spirit of Sogetsu
 Making the Heart and Soul Connection
with Flowers and Plant Materials

It is our intention that the images, dialogue, reflection questions and prompts be posted the first Monday of each month.  For those registered for the monthly AWBA email, a link will be posted in the monthly newsletters emailed throughout this series.  You may also opt to receive email notification of new blog posts by registering your email address in the "follow by email" link in the right bar of this blog.  The comment feature will be available for discussion with Michelle throughout this three-month series.  This series is part of our AWBA blog (which is public and open to anyone) and there is no charge for this event.  Michelle is a gifted Sogetsu instructor who lives with a chronic diagnosis and has also been in the role of a caregiver and support person.  I know you will appreciate the wisdom and creativity she will share with us.  She writes about her journey,

I am Michelle Rogers, a person with a lifetime of serving and caregiving experience. I’ve been a big sister, waitress, respiratory therapist, community ministry coordinator, small business owner, lay speaker, chaplain, hospice volunteer, and spiritual director.  These are a few of the jobs and positions that I have held over the years, some of which I still do. Most recently I have added Sogetsu ikebana teacher to my resume. I am instructing others in the art of Japanese flower arranging. I began my own studies in Sogetsu over a decade ago, but it wasn’t until I found myself on the receiving end of service and caregiving over the past six years, that I began to realize the spiritual and healing power that this art form offers me. It is from this place of realization that I hope to share with others both the art of Sogetsu AND personal reflections as a person who has experienced episodes of acute and chronic health conditions. 

We invite you to learn more about the spiritual value of Sogetsu as one impacted by a chronic diagnosis - whatever your role may be. I have had the experience to observe Michelle as she creates her art and to be a student in an Ikebana class at the Franklin Park Conservatory alongside her.  Both experiences made an impact on me and I am eager to make this creative expression available to others.  Watch for an upcoming online retreat and an in-person workshop with Michelle to be offered in the coming months.

Michelle, thank you for this gift :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

What to do with worry?

When I die, I want my heart and soul fully seeded with rich stories and experiences.  I want to be moving forward, falling upward, leaving my body well worn.  I want to know presence, staying with what is hard until it softens, staying with what is narrow until it expands.

-- I Will Not Die an Unlived Life, Dawna Markova

A close friend was listening to my story of anxiety and fear surrounding a particular circumstance and suggested this book by Dawna Markova.  I found a copy at our local library.  When I realized I could not put it down and finished it at the speed read rate in two days, I acquired my own copy.  I am now happily highlighting, underlining and tabbing pages.  If you are not familiar with it, here is a link Amazon.

How do those impacted by a chronic diagnosis even begin to dig beneath the many layers of fear, anxiety and worry to identify what is really at the root of that dark, foreboding, shape-changing cloud that hovers on some days?  Aren't we tired enough as it is???For me, those emotions certainly seem an appropriate response on days when the cloud of fear and uncertainty seems to have taken residence squarely above my head.  The Bible tells us repeatedly not to worry, not to be afraid, and not to be anxious.  Repeatedly.  It becomes a bit hard to ignore.  God knows how much energy (and useless energy at that!) is expended in leaving the present moment to journey down some long, dark road to an assumed end point over which we have little, if any, control.  

Early in this book Dawna talks about her experience with cancer, and how friends and medical professionals encouraged her to take up the battle and fight alongside them to beat this disease.  Dawna came to realize she was not wired that way and did much better with an attitude of befriending the cancer and all of its emotions.  Not having had to walk that particular path, I can't say that I could make the same choice.  The battle metaphor seems the most logical avenue in some cases.  But, in my own experience, I can say that her comment sparked something in me that I needed to reconsider.  To stay with what is hard  until it softens, to stay with what is narrow until it expands - "to stay with" seems a way to welcome in the emotions as part of my reality.  It takes intentional effort, a willingness to sit in the hard and narrow space, and an earnest desire to discover a new way to respond to the dance I engage in when I find myself in those hard, energy-depleting places.  Some may choose to soldier on and ignore it all.  I certainly understand that and have done so myself.  I also know it does not work in the long term.  Rumi's poem The Guest House follows this same wisdom.

When I read the above excerpt, the first thing that came to me is what long distance runners tell me.  To reach the finish line with energy left to spare means you did not race your best race.  I have watched my son cross many long distance race finish lines over the years, and I am confident that he finishes having left everything he had in the race itself.  When I die, that is what I want.  It is my desire to live a fully-lived life.  I don't want to leave any experience not fully lived.  Anxiety, worry, fear, and concern for the future depletes my energy and my joy from the rich stories and experiences that await me.

My Worry Meter has calmed significantly in the past couple of years.  As I have made choices to move forward and fall upward, to surround myself with others who are making life-giving choices,  and to risk following my passion as it is lived out through AWBA and in my spiritual direction and retreat practice, I feel an attitude shift.  The cloud of worry may hover sometimes but it does not set up permanent residence.

A few months ago I began doing a 30-minute brisk walk at a nearby park.  It is part of my daily rhythm and is time for me to be quiet with God amidst the beauty of creation.  It is making a difference in my day.  A God that created and maintains such stunning images for all my senses to enjoy "just because" has to be crazy in love with me and consistently present for me.

So, if you find yourself beneath a cloud of worry, concern or anxiety today, stop and consider my perspective.  My way may not be your way.  My life circumstances are not your life circumstances.  But, I do believe way will be made when we make a deliberate choice to move forward and fall upward regardless of what life hands us in the moment.