Opening to the Light

Opening to the Light.

When morning first dawned, the peony’s petals were still folded.  But as the sun sailed slowly across the sky, little by little the flower unfurled in a display of wondrous beauty, its heady perfume filling the warm air.

It was as if it could hold its potential within itself no longer.  All at once, it knew it was time to be what it was meant to be, to grace the world with all it had to give.

And today, the world is a more beautiful place, because one peony opened to the light.

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Living the Dream

Living the DreamIt’s not that I ever had some grand vision of the life I wanted to live.  To tell you the truth, I had no clear picture of it at all.

I never could figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, even after I’d long since grown.

I used to read all these self-help books that tell you to write a description of where you want to be five years from now and my mind would go blank.  I’d make up something, but most of it was stuff I thought I should want, or could want, or would probably enjoy if it came my way; but none of ever really turned me on.

So this weekend, when it occurred to me how deeply happy I am and that I’m living the life of my dreams, I was taken by surprise.  I didn’t realize I had a dream.  I just kept doing less of the things I didn’t enjoy and more of the things that I did, and now what I’m doing pleases me immensely.

Oh sure, there’s plenty of room for improvement.  We can always make the best in us even better.  But now, at long last, I know what brings me satisfaction and joy.  And those are the things I invest my time in—the things that matter to me.

That’s the key:  “Follow your bliss,” as Joseph Campbell said.  Do less of the things that hold no pleasure and more of the things that delight you.  Generally, that means admitting what you’re good at, what’s easy for you, the things that let you use your natural interests, talents and strengths.  Anything less is cheating yourself of your central asset: the minutes and hours of your life.

Watchin’ the World Go By

Watchin' the World Go ByAs I swept my large front porch today, I suddenly remembered the rockers stored in my fruit cellar.  They’re fine old pieces, these two, sturdy and well built, and hauling them out has become for me a ritual that ushers in summer.

They were gifts from a friend who had inherited them from his grandparents.  He had no room for them in his apartment and wanted them to be somewhere that they would feel at home.

I think they like my porch, with its view of the meadow and wooded rolling hills.  I sit in the grandmother’s chair at sunset, and sometimes the old man who owns the field behind mine comes to sit in the other one and sip a glass of iced tea.

I watch the little chimney swifts dart above the pines at sunset, their silvery chirps so bright that I’ve come to call them “the sparkle birds.”    Their song is the descant to the other songbirds’ evening chorus.

Sometimes, when the night is very still, I sit in Grandma Mitchell’s rocker and watch the stars.  I imagine that I hear her and Grandma Mitchell talking about the how the crops are doing and about the weather in the quiet way long-married people talk at the close of the day.

I breathe in the sweetness of the grass and listen to the crickets who continue the evensong after the birds have tucked themselves in for the night.  It’s my hour for savoring, for drinking in the serenity of the night and letting my mind drift through time and out to the starry skies.

It’s a time of peace and beauty.  And often I wish we would all make more time just to sit on a porch, or a roof, or a stoop, just watchin’ the world go by.

The Muse of Mirth

Amusement“To a man of pleasure every moment appears to be lost, which partakes not of the vivacity of amusement.” ~Joseph Addison

Now the muse of mirth comes by, wearing a costume of water sparkles and the perfume of fresh air.   She comes to please, to charm, to delight.  So playfully she teases!

She somersaults onto the table top and regales you with her stories.  They coax from you a smile, a laugh, and then she tells you more.  And before you know what’s happened, you are rolling in the aisle.

She tosses the petals of tickled pinks into the crowd and whomever they land on has a special dream:  this one’s team scores the win; that one says, “Checkmate!”; the woman on the right is surrounded by cribs full of giggling babies;  a child plays with kittens and balls of yarn; that one roller skates; another has snagged tickets for front row seats; dozens dance.

And when the dream is dispelled, each returns to his or her reality refreshed and renewed.  And the muse smiles softly as she tiptoes out the door, her mission accomplished.

Play Time: The Magic of Let’s Pretend

The Magic of Let's PretendLet’s go rolling into childhood where all the world’s at play and giggles reign.  I’ll be a princess and you can be a rock star and we’ll eat ice cream on the moon for breakfast.  And all the animals from the zoo will come, even the zebras and giraffes, on a special rocket ship that sails on rainbow power and leaves glitter in its wake.

And after lunch we can sail our great galleon to a glistening shore on the edge of the Milky Way and build sandcastles that are real, and the animals will have a special garden.

Ballerinas and clowns can stroll through the grounds, picking giant flowers and turning cartwheels on the lawn.  Then it’s hide and seek with the jesters and mimes, and tea sandwiches under the wishing tree where all the toys and teddy bears have come alive and are holding a party.

I’ll stand in the tower in a flowing white gown and blow iridescent joy bubbles over the scene.  And you can play your guitar and watch its notes paint colors on the sky, and from all the distant planets will come a roar of applause, just for you and your song.

Then, because there is no bedtime, we can visit all the rooms in our enchanted castle and watch the dreams that rise from the children of the earth come true, but only the good ones.  And we can marvel at the games that earth’s grownups play and laugh because they think they’re so real.

Yes, let’s go rolling into childhood, where laughter is the currency and freedom reigns. There will be time enough for seriousness on Tuesday.

Just Outside of Eden

Just Outside of EdenAt first, when I focused closely on the fuzzy little globes that decorated the bushes along the woodland path, I was surprised to see that they were, in fact, a cluster of tiny flowers.  “How pretty!” I thought.  They reminded me of the sequined Christmas bulbs my mother had crafted one year when I was a child.

But I wasn’t the only one who found them attractive.  As I looked more closely, I saw that they had drawn a whole battalion of tiny black bugs who were feasting on their nectar.

“Nothing’s perfect!” I laughed, and took their photo anyway.

The bug-laden flowers reminded me of a story I once heard about a certain band of eastern monks who always left one flaw in their otherwise meticulous works of art to reflect the imperfections that dot everything in the natural world.

“How wise of them!” I thought, “And how accepting!”  Standing as we do, just outside of Eden, one world removed from the gardens where perfection shows its face, we tend to rail against the flaws we perceive in our reality.  Something in us longs for perfection.  Our sense of it is so clear.  We war against ourselves for not meeting its standards. We punish others whose flaws seem even larger and darker than our own.  And so we create a downward spiral of darkness, feeding it with our anguish and blame.

The wise monks, on the other hand, simply look on the imperfections as a natural phenomenon, accepting them as an inevitable part of life’s expression in a material world.

Any true artist will tell you that their works always fall short of expressing their ideals.  What’s flawless in the realm of thought picks up debris in its translation to the physical plane.  The best we can do is to do the best we can, and then to celebrate how much we create that is good.

When we focus on what’s wrong or lacking or incomplete, our vision narrows, and our spirits contract.  We get locked into an imprisoning darkness of criticism, derision, helplessness and pain.  But when we focus on the goodness in things, we’re free to ask how we can make it even better.  Our creativity is unleashed, we reach for higher possibilities.  And thus we grow, and Eden seems not so very far away.

The Mystery of Golden Opportunities

Golden OpportunitiesThe phenomenon goes by many names:  synchronicity, coincidence, the guiding hands, luck, answered prayer.  It seems to be one of those quantum thingies, a thought-driven other-dimensional operation.

But on the practical level, it sort of boils down to “seek and ye shall find.”  When you’re clear about the things you want–what you’re aiming for, what you desire—some Cosmic Agency lines up circumstances to bring you golden opportunities.

The trick is to answer the phone when the Agency calls you.  Its ring tone is subtle, more of a vibration than a sound.  It comes as a nudge, or a hunch or a whim, and you have to be in a free and flexible frame of mind to pick it up and follow its direction.

Maybe you were planning to lunch on lasagna at Gino’s Old World Café.  Then, at the last minute, you notice that you’re really hungry for some of Captain Bill’s oyster stew and decide to go there instead.  You get in a conversation with a stranger while you’re waiting in line for a table, and it turns out he has a close cousin in management at the very outfit that you wanted to approach about handling your latest creation.  Bingo.  It’s the Agency at work.

I suspect the Agency often calls us numerous times before we realize the phone is buzzing.  But the cool thing is it keeps calling.  And when your desire is crystal clear and in the best interest of all concerned, it will magically turn up the decibels on the ringer to get you to hear it.

Still, it’s wise to learn to listen for the subtle buzz of intuition and to follow where it leads.  Play with it.  Learn to trust it.  You may have far more golden opportunities calling than you suspect.

Meanwhile, keep clarifying what it is you truly want.  Know its essence.  It may not come in the shape or size or color you expected.  But if you know the essential nature of your desire, you will recognize it, even when you are surprised by the appearance it ultimately assumes.

The Agency is far better at matching you up with the perfect answer to your needs than you, with your limited perspective, will ever be.  It’s cosmic, after all, and connected to everything.  Listen for it.  Trust it.  Go where it leads.

In the Face of the Storm

FaithWhen I was a small child, my parents would sometimes wake me in the black of night when a thunderstorm was moving in across the bay.  “Come watch the storm,” they would say.

They would tuck me snugly between them on the sofa in the enclosed sun porch and we would watch the lightning dance toward us across the churning waves.

They laughed at the deafening thunder, snuggling closer, and exclaimed, “Oh!  Did you see that one?” when a bolt big enough to light the horizon flashed down from the clouds.

After awhile, they would carry me back to bed and tuck me back under my covers.  “Wasn’t that beautiful?” my mother would say, kissing my forehead.

And so I learned to love the power and majesty of storms.  They might be frighteningly loud and startling.  And they sometimes left great damage in their wakes.  But I felt safe, enveloped by a love so large that only my heart could understand it.

Now I am grown, and reading the news I see ferocious clouds building all around us, threatening to unleash a mega-storm upon us all.  I pray for atmospheric change, a lifting of the pressures, an unexpected change in the direction of the prevailing winds.

My mind is tempted to rush into scenarios of unimaginable loss and destruction.  But I will not feed those energies.  I focus on the immediate present, on this moment where I am safe, and warm, and dry and surrounded by music and light.  Now is the only reality.  Everything else is only a fabrication, a creation of thought.  Everything else is beyond my control.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” counseled Gandhi.  “Fear not,” said another great Teacher.  So I choose to keep my mind quiet that I might touch the infinite peace beneath even the most turbulent outer displays and project only peace into the world.  And I find myself enveloped by a love so large that only my heart can understand.

Let Your Sun Shine, Baby

Let Your Sun ShineThat smile, that smile of yours – Have you any idea?  Do you know it’s like the voice of the Divine speaking to my heart just to see it?  Do you know its power?

Do you know it rides through my eyes and slides through my brain and changes everything?  Do you know how it lifts and opens me?

Do you know that it sends hope flashing across my neurons, and makes possibilities dance in all my spaces?  Do you know the peace it brings me?  The relief?

When you smile at me, I’m more real somehow.  The world’s more real.  I count for something in its light.  I’m connected.  I’m forgiven.  I belong.

Oh, bring on that smile of yours, baby.  Pour it, bright and beaming, all over my day.  Let your sun shine, darlin’; let it shine.

The Joyous Journey

Raining JoyThe showers began in the wee hours and continued throughout the day.  Coming as they did on a Saturday, no doubt they caused some consternation.  It’s the season, after all, for weddings and picnics in the park.  But for me, it was a day of raining joy.

With the perfect excuse to postpone my errands, I brewed a pot of tea and parked myself at my computer to write.  I’m working hard on my imminent launch of Positive-Living-Now, a sister website for High on Happiness, where you’ll find a growing wealth of resources for building more meaning, joy and satisfaction into your own life.   (You can sign up right now to be in on the launch.  Check it out!)

As much as I appreciate and enjoy my day job, it does gobble up my energy and time.  To have an entire day to spend on my key projects is bliss.  So today I reveled in my writing and my graphic arts.

To have meaningful personal goals makes of your life a joyous journey.  They provide such a sense of direction and purpose.  They illuminate your path. They call you forward and stretch you to learn in their service.

When you have meaningful goals, they pull you to tap your best strengths, to hone your abilities, to risk leaps you wouldn’t otherwise have dared.  They keep you going when you’re weary and discouraged.  They tantalize and torment you with problems to solve, and so you’re never bored.

You find yourself getting lost in them, losing all sense of time because you’re so engaged.  And when at last you set them aside for the day, the satisfaction washes over you as if it’s been raining joy.

Down the road, we’ll talk about how to find a genuinely meaningful goal at Positive-Living Now.   For now, ask yourself what you really love doing, what you would most want to create in your life—even if you have no idea how you would find the time or the means for doing it.  Then just lightly play with your dream from time to time.  See where it leads you.  See what possibilities float into your awareness, what options appear that could move you toward a clearer vision of the shape it could take, the steps you might make in its direction.  It all begins, after all, with a dream.

Grab one.  Nurture it a little.  Watch how it grows, and how it grows you.  See if you don’t wake up one morning watching joy clouds moving your way.