The heat of summer intensifies this month which offers families the opportunity to pack the days with playful backyard activities, fire up the grill and enjoy the last few weeks of longer days. Backyard gardeners are busy trying to keep a step ahead of the quickly growing weeds while harvesting the bounty from their early spring plantings. It is a time to fit in the small trips that were planned over the winter, or, in light of the pandemic, create an inventive stay-cation event. And, of course, there’s cleaning out the garage to house our cars for the winter, which probably means organizing a garage sale.
This year school is also taking on a completely new look. For many families it’s still up in the air, take classes online, homeschool or venture into the school buildings? Communities are also considering extending the start of school to ensure children and faculty will be safe . . . yet another turn of events that has disrupted our “normal” routine. Regardless how this new school year looks, school supplies will still need to be purchased, as will new shoes and clothing. It’s a “rite of passage” that happens every year.
August brings a new chapter in the cycle of life as we prepare for the Fall Equinox that will herald in the harvest of Autumn. As we move into August now is a perfect time to consider the richness of summer activities and what they offered each of us, our families/friends. Take a few moments and reflect on the ways you and your family/friends adapted to the current situation. What was done differently and how were the activities modified? In this final month of summer, is there something you can still participate in that would add another memory to this most unusual year? And if a traditional event was unable to be offered, how did you and your family manage that?
August may be the perfect time to talk to your friends and family about how the summer of 2020 will be remembered. Make certain to consider both aspects, both the downside and the upside. Life is always about balance; how have you and your family/friends managed this most “interesting” summer?
Post in the comments below what creative ideas served as substitutes. It just might be something that spurs another person/family into trying the same type (or their own version) of your adventure. Remember, we’re all in this together!
At a time when our world is facing tremendous changes and challenges we are being given the opportunity to lean on others; that is to say, to find out how others are managing this journey. From the medical recommendations, to local and national governmental health guidelines, decisions are being made to help us protect and care for our citizens. As a country that cherishes being independent, self-sufficient and goal-oriented, it can be a challenge to reach beyond our families and communities to be open and willing to listen to views different than our “norm.” We’re all so very busy, even if we wanted to, where is there time?
As I see it, this is an opportunity to extend beyond our normal prodigal and consider how others are handling these unusual circumstances. Whether it is the pandemic, racial unrest, or our current political decisions to be made, now is a perfect time to listen to the views and perception of others.
To do this we must be strong within ourselves with what we know to be true for us, while still remaining open to others. This requires Respect, which seems to be a quality that is not always understood. There was a time when respect meant to honor our elders, neighbors and our family beliefs; however, it now seems to mean to respect “my opinion over yours,” and unfortunately that applies to within the family unit as well.
What a divided world we have become. And, from the collective views aired on every form of social media, the flames are fueled to have one person or party’s view “right,” leaving the other person’s perspective “wrong.”
Whether it is the pandemic, racial unrest or our political decision-making, it seems we are similar in that we have a common goal to restore a sense of normalcy. None of us want to lose people we love, or rely on the government to “save us, support us, heal us.” In order for this independent, self-sufficient and goal-oriented country to begin to rebuild a new norm, we need each other! In order for that to happen we must heal some very old wounds in order to truly be a strong United States.
Remember the statement, “United we stand, divided we fall?” Perhaps it is time to look at how similar we are with what we want to see more of in our country. To do this we must use our listening skills! Every individual has experiences in life and through them they have gained a sense of how to manage difficult life situations. Perhaps if we use our “heart’s ears” we will move through this time of great transition and become a stronger, more compassionate country and world. No doubt listening to seek understanding will begin that healing process and help us actually see how similar we are. We all want to be free, be loved, and be seen. That can only happen when someone is there to listen, love and see you!
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood," is the 5th habit in Stephen Covey's book, "The 7 habits of highly effective people." If you truly want to see more peacefulness, harmony and cooperation in the world, it begins with gathering the necessary tools to do your part by becoming a skilled communicator. It is really quite simple to do, if you are willing to genuinely develop the skills to be a compassionate person. And keep in mind, that compassion is for yourself as much as it is for others since all too often we are our worst critics; the voice in our head can often be very unkind and judgmental!
This 5th Habit requires, Empathic Listening. There are two components of this skill, the first is to notice what the speaker is telling you about the topic in order to understand their thoughts and beliefs about the topic for which they are speaking. The second is to listen for their feelings about the topic. Check out this amazingly simple and useful book to gain more insights for developing good communications.
Which leads to the second aspect of the above quote, "then to be understood." Once we have listened and reflected what we heard from the speaker, we can glean more information, knowledge and/or perspective about the topic. With this new information we can then sit in the quiet spaces of our day and consider how what we heard "feels" for us personally. That is to say, consider if any part of the conversation rings true within our thoughts and beliefs. There is so much we can learn about life if we are willing to listen to another's perspective, and in the end, we will better understand ourselves. To truly understand what makes us "tick," requires we set aside time to reflect back on what we have experienced, what we were taught as children about life, relationships, and where we fit into the big scheme of life. Just be certain to be gentle and kind while doing this review in order to develop trust within yourself.
It takes a lifetime to really "Know thyself," and all too many people are not willing to set aside the time to begin self reflection. In reality, if one could set aside even five minutes in the morning and five in the evening to simply quietly sit and review their words and actions for that day would be sufficient time to begin the journey inward. Whether you're a swimmer, hiker, biker, baker or candlestick maker, gather your gear and begin that journey to the center of your being, I promise it will be worth the ten minutes each day. My hope is you discover more similarities rather than differences with those with whom you encounter.
Another important aspect of seeking understanding is to notice the manner in which we engage in conversations. It was brought to my attention when someone posted a comment about something they felt passionate about on a social media site. With all the upheaval in our country, there seems to be a deluge of passionate topics from which to share one's feelings. Since free speech is one of the gifts we have in this country, opinions and personal insights on "hot topics" abound in all forms of media.
Now would a good time to look at what form of communication would be most effective if one is seeking to understand a person or group. When someone post a statement or speaks about a topic there are really two ways to communicate. We can either REACT to the words or RESPOND to them. If we react we will write back immediately from our first reaction. If we respond we generally hit the pause button and consider the words, then write back with how we feel about the topic. Both choices come from our emotions.
Chances are the topic may be a "hot topic" that most of us have very clear and personal opinion. The one making the post is obviously passionate about the topic or they wouldn't be writing it. Passion is good. It comes from a place of concern or curiosity. Whether we don't like something or love it, we can use the fire from which it comes to help us notice what is important that it may be time to gain more insight, or take an action to try and change.
If we are met with reactive comments it only fuels the fire and puts us on the defense. When that happens the topic is put aside and instead we now engage by reacting with more emotion and making our personal exchange the focus, rather than the topic. Whereas when people respond to our words, it may offer us a different perspective, support or something to consider we hadn't thought about before; and not on the personal differences.
If our goal is to seek understanding, which will get us there? REACTING or RESPONDING
I was remiss with mentioning the precautions in place to follow the health guidelines and ensure a safe environment for our community and their families.
The Pipe Ceremony: A basket of sanitary wipes, tissues and hand sanitizer will be passed with the Pipe. Disposable gloves are available for those concerned about holding and passing the Pipe. Be certain to pick up a pair before taking your place in the circle for the ceremony. It is your choice how you choose to participate.
Potluck: In addition to your own eating utensils, bring a serving spoon to use with the various dishes others bring, and, of course, your lawn chair. There will be a washtub for cleaning your dishes after the meal. Again, use your personal discrimination and bring any sanitary methods you use to stay healthy. While we will have what is listed above, there may be others items for which you are comfortable.
Fire Ceremony: If case of inclement weather, we will forgo the fire, and return to a circle in the barn. With the assistance of the drum, we will do a dreaming. In preparation for this portion, consider what your heart would like to bring forth in your life and community. Call to the energy of the Summer Solstice to help you reflect on and realize what you need to do to meet your long-term goals and honor what feeds your heart. The summer solstice is the highest point of energy for the year and is represented by the elements of fire, passion, will and drive that can help catapult you toward your goals. If there was ever a day to honor all the love, light and pleasure of our existence, it’s the summer solstice.
Remember to RSVP by noon on Friday. Looking forward to sitting in ceremony on this Summer Solstice evening.
The Gift of Storytelling offers both the one telling the story and the one listening the glorious opportunity to grow. While most of us have similar life experiences, no two people have complete understanding of precisely how a story will be interpreted by the another person. Very much like watching a debate, those in attendance may literally hear the same words and have a completely different perspective of what was said. The skill needed to expand our understanding is to simply listen, without adding our own interpretation as they are telling the story. In most cases, this is quite a challenge since it is almost instinctive to begin interpreting what the person is saying and even more, to begin "painting a picture" of their words. The problem begins when we fill in the rest of the story while the storyteller is still speaking.
Seeking to understand someone requires active listening rather than active head chatter. To develop active listening, try telling the "personal interpreter" in your head his/her's job is simply to remember the details of the story. And, be kind to that personal interpreter, because most of the time it merely wants to identify with the speaker in order to assist the one speaking with whatever story they are sharing. Unfortunately, often the personal interpreter wants to tell their own story; either to shift the focus to them, or to their story they may feel has more relevance or is more important. Of course, the later does little to understand another person; rather, it creates a separation and rarely offers the opportunity to build a meaningful relationship.
As we move through the current situations before us, now would be the perfect time to practice really listening; to really hear what emotions, concerns, frustrations, excitement, or funny situation someone is sharing. When the person is done with their story, reflect back to them what you heard. Doing this provides the speaker the opportunity to clarify whatever you heard that was different than they intended.
This is how we will truly begin to understand others, and ourselves. While we may be very much a like, we still have our own sacred way of viewing life. What an enriching opportunity to learn a new perspective that may deepen our understanding of another human being, who, like each of us, wants to be seen, loved and valued. We really are more alike than we are different, and with respect and trust, relationships can be expanded into a new paradigm that just might change the world!
Memorial Day is May 25, typically this day offers us the opportunity to recognize and thank those that served and protected our country through the military. It is a day to remind us that, “Freedom is not Free,” someone unselfishly laid their life on the line for their country. It was and continues to be through the devotion and dedication individuals step up and willingly risk their lives to keep us safe.
In light of the current pandemic, this year consider all the truly amazing and unselfish people who have stepped up to keep our country safe. There really are no words to acknowledge the tremendous kindness and sacrifice so many have shown. Truly they have displayed what Gandhi meant when he said, “Be the Change you wish to see in the World.” This virus is frightening, however, the emerging acts of kindness and unselfish sacrifice offers hope this world has returned to the basic Truths required to create an abundantly rich, loving community we all wish to see.
There is much to be said about Being Active. Most of the time we hear that phrase we conjure up activities that require physical activity; however, Being Active may be simply sitting still. Try sitting in silence for 5 minutes and see how active your mind becomes. The mental gyrations our mind goes through in an attempt to be still is, well, exhausting. Somehow when the body is not in motion the mind seems to take it as a cue to take over and help us "stay fit."
This fitness is one that offers us a plethora of ideas for what to do, how to improve, what to make of what someone said and why they said it. Our mind is in motion to seemingly help us understand life, our partner, children, parents, neighbors, government, boss, coworker and the list goes on and on. It wants to know how to get more of what we want, and why someone else seems to get everything they want so easily.
Of course, one of the most exhausting and often self-defeating exercises is when our mind wants to let us know everything that we did "wrong," condemn us for setting goals and then giving up on them so quickly, and other pertinent information it wishes to bring to our attention that we could have done better. No doubt about it, Being Active can be a futile feat with regards to helping us gain confidence; whether it pertains to our physical, mental and/or emotional wellness.
Try this the next time you sit for even 5 minutes, when you first sit down, ask your mind to use it's brilliance to remember what silence sounds like, and ask it to listen to your heart and remember what you heart has to say. That's it! Just have an intention, pay attention and no doubt you will discover that in addition to physical exercise, your heart can be greatly strengthened by the stillness and silence of Being Active.
If you are receiving this the Tech Magician (Victoria) has once again performed a feat for which I have little knowledge. I have become most grateful through this "stay at home" order for the gifts the tech world offers. I actually get to physically see my family; that's the best medicine yet.
This Zoom meeting offerings have opened the door to satisfying the basic need of love and belonging to the world. To put your eyes on those that touch your heart, beats any medication the medical field can prescribe for lonely and the lack of heart felt connection.
Hopefully, the weather will warm and we can venture out of our homes for a walk in the woods. That, too, offers tremendous connection. To be among the steadfast security of the Standing Ones, and to witness the growth of the foliage guarantees our hearts will be warmed. It further can provide a sense of security that will offer our hearts the opportunity to feel loved and recognized for our presence among these sacred beings.
Life offers a much richer connection when we have the opportunity to actually use our sense of smell, vision, and touch to "feel" that connection. The sound of the wind and touch of its breeze on our skin actually brings the cells on our skin alive! From my experience, our heart will open and offer us the ability to embrace the teachings of hope, resiliency and an unquestionable acknowledgement, that our presence also satisfies a need of the forest . . . to be respected and honored for their gifts.
So, thank you, Victoria, for your innate ability to bring light and love to the world in so many ways, thank you for your willingness to participate in life. Your gifts are many! From my heart to yours, I say, "Thank you!"
On this eve before Easter, now is a good time to consider what you would like to Rebirth in your life. Is there something that you always loved to do and were pretty good at doing, and for some reason that "something" got trumped by something new? Perhaps your commitments and schedule got filled with a new task or responsibility? Life has a way of getting in the way of what special interest or gifts that are put on the shelf for when you retire or have more time. In light of the current situation that has us homebound, perhaps that something could be brought off the shelf.
That something could be a talent, special skill, new book you bought and never opened up or simply a desire you secretly held in your heart. My hunch is you already know what that something is that waits. Perhaps now would be a good time to reach back in your memory bank and consider that something that used to bring joy to your heart. With all the time at home it can't be blamed on not enough time, too many errands or any other excuse. I'm talking about something really near and dear to your heart; perhaps it was a relationship that faded away for all the reasons relationships often do.
Now is always a good time to revisit an old dream, a left behind relationship, or some sort of unfinished business. Maybe you've always dreamed of writing a book, picking up a paint brush, pulling out the old keyboard, or maybe you loved playing in the dirt when you were young; try planting a garden, that's sure to bring new life to your life! Maybe you miss that positive attitude you had many years ago, that some how got lost during a disappointment in life; try looking yourself in the mirror and having an honest talk about changing your perspective. After all, what do you have to lose but that "chip on the shoulder," "expect the worst" face in the mirror. Whatever you choose to re-connect with, or finally get around to, let this Easter Sunday help you rebirth something that enriches your body, mind and soul! And remember, even things that die can be resurrected back to life. Just ask Jesus! You got this!
Vicky Kelm Williams
I find people absolutely fascinating!