It’s hard not to see
the sky as crying,
the trees as reaching
for things taught to them
in dreams, as whispers
in the interminable night,
not to see loneliness
in winter’s swift taking
of autumn’s leaves,
and hope when in spring,
buds sprout green and true.
Do the mountains
grumble with discontent
before they explode
their molten heat
on an unprepared city?
Do the rocks sigh
from the burden
of absorbing our pain
over the centuries?
I ask these questions,
and understand the work
I have to do, to sit
in silence with all beings,
until I know where
suffering really lies,
and where it is
we have our comfort,
our nourishing, our healing.
– Tammy Takahashi
Maybe you are tired (you are not alone).
The brightness, the lighness of step
receded, past resistance, to memory.
It’s been like this maybe for years;
you’ve stopped just shy of wondering
what happens between the early years
of boundless joy and laughter, and now,
and why and how and by whose design
we’ve come to decide on a version of life
less saturated, sparkling and true.
But something stirs. It is inside you,
a gem that cannot be buried long.
It pulses, takes you on the first steps
of a journey you could not have known.
There you are, as if grace itself appeared
to lift the veil, and so you do. And see,
you are standing, has it always been like this?
On the lost wing of stunning remains:
a one-winged butterfly, larger than any legend,
resting for awhile on a mount only rising.
Joy was there in the early morning,
Hoping we wouldn’t pass her by
In a world that always offers so much
To weary souls and striving minds
Living off the landscapes of our old stories,
Joy, that other most primal of emotions,
Waiting with a fierceness of strength,
Like the trees and mountains that
Fuse with our ancestral lines in evolution,
Yet with a love-laced gentility and grace,
Because she has weathered our histories,
She knows what we think we have needed
And what we can, when we try, come to know,
And she is there, on the other side of knowledge,
Her edges glinting in the new day’s sun,
Her borders diffusing at day’s fiery end,
And her capacity for play is infinite,
And her sparkle and reach will never wane,
And we can find her everywhere,
Instinct tells me that today is the last day of this project, and in honour of this, I repost my favourite shot of the series.
It’s not the most technically perfect short. It’s funny and blurry and a bit distorted.
What I love about this photo is that it is brimming with life.
This street, even this country, is not always brimming with my life, the way I experience it, anyway. But perception is a strong ally and a worst enemy, depending on our perspective. When I’m feeling low, I see an old street with an aging population and abandoned buildings – an abandoned commitment to life, and renewal.
On better days, I look around and see so much life it bursts my heart.
Life is just … life. We choose how to see it, and what to see.
Let’s choose life!
Thank you so much for your interest and participation. xo
“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oliver
Full disclosure: there nothing complicated about what you’ll read below, no previously unheard of secret formula.
But just because something is simple doesn’t mean that we naturally generate the will or ability to do it. If we did, there would be a whole lot more balance, happiness and goodwill in the world.
Yet, all these things do exist in abundance, and it is our absolute birthright to be able to tap into these positive qualities of living. There are no miracles necessary, no magic-fix-all set of instructions to shoot us way up into the stratosphere of joy.
Happiness, harmony, balance—these are not end-games to which we jump, only to rest there until the end of (our) time. Of course not.
We are human. By our very nature, we come into this world with a body, and that body will eventually deteriorate, sicken, age and die. Often, our minds and our bodies will be at odds. Our body will want to run when our mind wants to quiver and cry. Our mind will want to soar when our body is unable to move.
This is not something to regret or bemoan. There is so much beauty in being unfalteringly, unwaveringly human.
Being human allows us to cry when we feel we’ve reached our limits, but also to laugh at the potential absurdity of the situation. Crying will leave us in one place, laughing in another, and both are temporary and both are infinitely possible, and repeatable.
To this extent, the choice is ours. Being human, right now, is not the choice, so there is little sense in feeling stuck or trapped by the very parameters of our existence.
How we are to be human is very much within our power. We seek happiness and barrel right back into feeling stuck or depressed, not seeing how we are clawing against the walls of something (that elixir of happiness) that is actually not trying to hide from you at all.
It’s existed all along, embedded into every single moment we choose to accept the situation we find ourselves in. And this is incredibly difficult to do, especially without a whole lot of effort, training and mindfulness, but it’s also incredibly simple.
Sometimes we just need to be reminded.
It’s often the littlest things that can propel us down this road of acceptance. If we can’t grasp the meaning of something as gaping and wide as happiness, let’s bring ourselves back to the things capable of invoking that giddy, joyful feeling, things that can remind us that we are right here, already in happiness’s arms.
Let’s do these:
Sing our favourite song: For real. Like, out loud. Belt it and feel something of eternity coursing through your veins. I usually choose Somewhere Over the Rainbow or Ain’t No Sunshine or In My Place, which aren’t the happiest songs, but their emotional resonance get me there every time.
Meditate: This is a no-brainer, and people cite this in every single “feel better” to do list. But there’s a reason for this. Meditation isn’t a hobby or an accessory. If we’re diligent about it, it can sincerely help us reduce stress, calm our minds and learn to accept everything that is happening in the present moment. To start, just sit and be aware of the breath going in, going out.
Standing forward Bend: Ahhh. Literally and metaphorically let it all hang out. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and slowly bend forward from the hip. Only go as far as your body allows (you can use cushions to rest your hands on), and just hang, trying with each out-breath to release more, holding no tension whatsoever in your upper body. Take long, deep breaths, and let your tensions escape, as your strong, tree-like legs support and ground you.
Shut down the computer, phone and other such playthings: Do this for five minutes or an hour or a day, and cut off many potential sources of stress, and watch how the world doesn’t fall apart without our connection to every cyber-molecule of it. Look out the window, go outside, read a book, do nothing. Hang out alone. We are great companions, just the way we are, once we get to know ourselves.
Journal: This might not be second nature for everyone, or maybe it’s a daily activity. It’s a truly wonderful way to check in with the self and become more attuned to feelings on physical, mental and spiritual levels. Take the time to nurture and foster this connection with self, and discover how much this enables a journey out of the head and into the world of instinct, intuition and beautiful human connection.
Do something for someone else: Give. Donate. Hug someone. Call a friend in need. There a countless options, and you likely know keep inside exactly what and how to do it. Make the world a bigger place by sharing its amazing bounty.
Write a letter: Pen and paper! You may be old enough to remember when writing people letters or having penpals was an ordinary part of life. Even when it was ordinary, it was awesome, and it always felt so good to write and receive letters. Now that it’s extraordinary, imagine how good it will feel to take the time to pour your heart out to someone, and to also receive a piece of their heart in the mail.
Scan the body: Feeling bad? The mind and body are cohorts, and you might be surprised to find that there is a physical element to your mental discomfort. Maybe it’s your posture, or that you slept funny on your neck last night, or that your limbs are stiff in this not-quite-warm weather. Do simple things like stretching to limber up, and watch your energy channels open and clear your mind/psyche.
Take a walk: Walking is truly a salve for the soul, living meditation. We often forget the healing powers of being literally grounded, connected to the earth. Cars take us away from this, and even bike-riding doesn’t quite compare to feeling the earth under you. If it’s possible, get off the roads and onto trails and grass. Take off your shoes. Feel how alive everything is, and how much you’re a part of it.
Laugh: This will do it every time. Whole strains of yoga and meditation are dedicated to this form of release, which de-stresses on all levels, and is the best soul-medicine around. A stress-free life is a happier and arguably longer one, and laughing and stress literally don’t know how to share a space together. Laugh often. Laugh alone, with friends and loved ones, and slide into a happy-place that is always at your fingertips.
We’re 15 years into the millennium!
Wondrous. Wonder. Awe. Reminders of LIFE.
I rarely leave the house without my camera, even if I’m in a cranky mood, or just walking to the supermarket or taking stuff out for recycling (a fairly complicated process in Japan that requires a fair bit of walking – well worth it!)
You never know how the sky is going to turn, or whom will be suddenly be doing what, or how the sun might lighting a flower to look like a fairytale, or what visual feast might appear before you.
Life is full of momentous occasions, the kind you expect and prepare for, and also the kind you can’t possibly anticipate — and we’re doing ourselves a great service when we can make a point of being present for every last second of it.
This doesn’t mean having a camera strapped to us at all times, of course. Image-making just happens to be one form of expression that gives me a great deal of joy. I’m always infinitely happier, it should be said, when I manage to carve some time to sit and observe my breath, when the only universe I have access to exists behind closed eyes. There’s nothing “only” about this, in my modest experience!
But most of life is lived with open eyes, and this is no small opportunity to have them open with full attention to the moment at hand, so we can see that behind/underneath our desires for how the world should look/be/appear/treat us, there is a humming, thriving, perfect world just as it is.
And just as we are.
It exists whether we have the thickest cloud or happiest rainbow filtering our view on any given day, and it’s our privilege to be able to find it.
I took the photo above on a crisp, sunny winter day. I walked by, at first absorbed in one interior drama or another, and something about the scene caught my eye. I turned and saw this man sitting on a bench at the park closest to where I live. From my view, he was caught in the “frame” of this ancient, strange play structure, and instinctively, before I reached for my camera, I took a few steps backward to frame the man in the center ring.
I couldn’t help but think: how happy we would remain if we seized every opportunity to make any of the infinite, small adjustments that are fully in our power to make, to manifest moments of always-beautiful and always-changing perfection. It could be as simple as remembering to take a long, deep breath; or opening our eyes just a little wider with a heart that is just a little more expansive; or expressing gratitude for the air that gives us life, and the people who give us the great honour of practicing love.
Happy New Year, dear everyone, and may 2015 bring you a world full of joy and passion, peace and magic.
How We Be
We be here with the sun and moon and the galaxies between
We be here like a song making love to the rain
We be until the heart splits open and the pieces spill out like a mother jewel
Celebrate it dance with it
Caress its softest parts
Wait and hear it, the delectable sounds of life humming and offering itself in grace
Tap your feet in anticipation
Strum your fingers on a lap ecstatic
Imagine how it will feel on palms wide open receiving
Delight in the awe of how this is it
This is what made us and what we have created
In how stardust becomes the seed of all pleasures
We take it, close our eyes, say thank you to all the people and all the gods
Get on our knees to feel the earth source below
Raise our heads in love with the sun source above
We have it, it is here, it is ours, it came with our birth
And so we have, and we need nothing, it comes to this
We are passing through, we want what fills a life, nothing more
We are patient
Watch it come, watch it go
Keeping joy tight and close and warm
We be like this, full on love
*First published in elephant journal!