Tag Archives: peace

Go to the empty places

January is empty for reservoirs. They hold the void. There is no water, wake, or waves. Hardly anyone is there. You’d see them if they were; there’s nowhere to hide.

I tromped around wondering about the emptiness. Which reminded me of the importance of being empty.

My friend recommends going into a room empty. Especially when offering support. Hold the space, but don’t fill it.
Here in this expanse void of water, I fill up on empty. I also feel it. It’s sort of nice to jump into. It radiates something, even if it looks barren and not promising at first glance.

January is not the same as July. No fishing, paddling, skiing, or swimming is happening. It’s a forced stop of action, or yang. The reservoir is taking a break, restoring its yin. And by being here now, I follow. I move in step with January. This is what’s happening.

What is there to do? Visit it. See it in its current state.  Without. This leads to about one thing- walking around and observing what is contained in the emptiness.

Things seen were old shoes,  wood, grasses, rocks, tires, beer bottles, plastic bags. Mud.

What to do when something doesn’t float our boat? Out of water? It does not fill any expectations.

When the water is low, or mostly gone, we can see the bottom. It’s a good reference point.  What I like about this connection is it feels closer to the Dao. The ancient advice went something like, “be low, like water. Be close to the lowest points.” Walking a more humble and quiet route was encouraged, nothing much about running up mountains, pumping your fists. Instead flow like water, adapt to whatever shape you encounter.  Just my loose interpretation.

The bits of wood gathered around the edges are connected to the earth this time of year. They lie there exposed. They are not covered by the muffle of water. There is no light and liquid creating beautiful illusions to mesh with. Most will float up again in a few months and ride the water and watch the sky.

What I like about the seasons is it’s not about me. It’s about everything. The status and state of everything, of which I am just passing through. I can appreciate it or I can complain about it. It’s a choice.

 

Adopt. Cats. Meditate.

Taken moments after the Oprah and Deepak 21-day meditation series, day 15. The theme: Being in the flow is effortless. Sanskrit: Sat Chit Ananda-Life is absolute bliss consciousness

I went out and got two cats the other day. I looked online at the local shelter and though the goal was one, I chose two. They did not know each other.

One radiated sweet, the other appeared cute and playful. After we got home, one was naughty, one was nice. The cute and playful one became moody and distant.

I saw her walking away a lot. At home, she was an emotional mystery prone to getting upset quickly. As in, don’t touch me, don’t pick me up. DON’T!

Neither cat actually behaved badly. I just had to get to know them.

She was a mystery, her personality and story taking form each day

I AM cute, yes, and thank you for noticing!

The sweet cat is the orange boy cat.

Lord Byron

After a couple days of being scared of a new place, he set his loving gaze upon me.

He approves of me. It’s a done deal.

How do you suddenly have two grown cats? Who don’t know each other? You follow the directions. The shelter offers tips and instructions on how to gradually introduce. The cats did great and I was committed. It took my attention. It’s not a “let ’em work it out” thing I remember hearing people say years ago. As the tribe leader, the human in the house needs to keep things respectfully organized and safe so the kitties can feel cared for in their new surroundings.

I learned to meet the cats where they were. I’m still doing that, about a month later. All this is a lot like getting to know anyone, even people. Time, space, place, boundaries, bonding, habits, preferences- these have meaning for all creatures.

Meditation turned out to be the best bonding activity, even equal to play. Spice Girl, named for personality and her hues of cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili, and ginger, likes meditation. She isn’t moody, she just needs stillness. She would rather sit in peace with you than bite and scratch, given the option. Really.

She wanted to connect but didn’t know how.

So, we learned.

The other arrived with peace and love, this was his truest nature.

Lordy

If their nature is not peace and love, that is o.k. This invites close attention! Observation.

Lesson #1, don’t do what they don’t like. When cat says no; not that; not here; not there; not this; oh hell no!….. listen. Because next they will tell you what they do like.

Yes, I like that toy! Yes! Yes! I like that touch! There, under my chin! By my ears! Yes! I like sweet talk directed at ME! Yes, I love the food you offer! Yes, I love the meditation when I sit with you and you don’t pet me but we are touching! Yes! Thank you! Yes, that purr is for YOU! O.k., I have to go now!

Cats have a great ability to relax if they think everything is basically o.k. It’s a good enough reason to keep a habit of creating a basically o.k. environment.

Big thanks to my loyal dog, Lily. She is an unlikely zen master with cats. Seriously, she diffused all feelings of worry and angst when introduced. It’s not that she particularly likes cats. It’s just a non-issue for her. She adapts to adoption. She was once adopted herself.

Lily likes leaves.

We are at one month now, and everyone is getting along well. There is still an occasional hiss, but it’s more of a warning than an aggressive act. More often I hear chripy recognition hello meows with a purr follow-up. Our daily meditation brings a contented silence, which naturally spills into regular non-meditation time. It’s great to share peace with all creatures!

 

The editorial board

What is mental health?

We went from headaches to mental health fairly quickly. I asked him what he did for his own mental health? His answer: “I don’t know what it is.” Fair enough. An honest answer! A few beats passed and he asked, what do YOU do for your mental health? Touché!

I told him that for my mental health, I exercise, hang out with uplifting people, do arty stuff, meditate.

He perked up about the meditation. He said he tried it but it didn’t work. He had done it twice, each time for 2 hours. I told him that was very ambitious! How about shorter, like 10-15 minutes a day?

He asked how does it feel, when you are in the zone of meditation? This is a good question and I wasn’t sure how to answer. English was not his first language so when I used words like peaceful, it didn’t fly. So, I motioned like I was unscrewing the top of my head, and said, “it’s like if you took the top of your head off and poured fresh water through it; rinsed it out with water and light.

His eyes lit up and he said, “oh!”

He left with a new approach to meditation.

© Mary Ann Petersen. Albany, Oregon

What is good mental health?

Here is a list of eight things I was told in school (Oregon college of Oriental Medicine, Portland, Oregon).

Signs of good mental health could be the ability to:

  1. Develop emotionally, creatively, and spiritually.
  2. Initiate, develop, and sustain healthy relationships.
  3. Face problems, resolve them, learn from them.
  4. Be confident and assertive.
  5. Have awareness of others, ability to empathize with them.
  6. Use and enjoy solitude.
  7. Play and have fun.
  8. Laugh at yourself and at the world (takes tremendous amount of self esteem and inner strength to laugh at oneself).

*We need enough life force to initiate and develop ourselves. Always look for and find ways to cultivate your life force.

The above list came from an academic course, which was directed toward working with addiction and mental health.

© Mary Ann Petersen

These are guidelines, points of reference. I think we need to identify in writing some concepts of good mental health. It’s time to be concrete rather than vague.

Why don’t more people have answers for good mental health? Why does it seem slippery? Lately, I see a need for solid footing in this subject. Let’s start somewhere. And go beyond, “see a counselor.” Some won’t get there, so what are common sense concepts in the meantime? As in, let’s get some movement on the ground floor, within our reach and not make supporting general mental health too confusing.

© Mary Ann Petersen. Dublin, Ireland.

My point is, we all need to bring this care into our own lives, even if we are not in the middle of a mental health crisis. If we wait for that, it’s a harder place to set up aid and self care.

© Mary Ann Petersen. The temple.

The next list is from a Quaker group I attended, so it has a spiritual leaning. The topic was Universal Spiritual Elements.

Universal Spiritual Elements

  1. Awareness of the “other.” What is valued or sacred? What do you value over yourself?

2. Sense of responsibility. How am I responsible for the world around me? How do treat my space, surroundings, people, pets?

3. Sense of vocation. What is my reason for being? What gives meaning or purpose?

4. Sense of community. Is there a sense of caring and being cared for? Who are my people? Who do I trust?

5. Sense of repentance. What is my capacity for reconciliation with self and others. Mistakes are entry points for healing forgiveness.

6. Ability to be present. Is my focus past, present, or future oriented. Soul lives in present. Past: ego. Future: ego.

7. Faith. What is the relationship between my small story fitting into the bigger story. To connect to a sense of the transcendent, what do you relate to?

Having trouble figuring out how to integrate all this into your life? That’s o.k., pick one thing and start there. Remember to have fun. Practice, practice, practice.

In my view, we should be having conversations and taking action everyday toward cultivating good head and heart space.

Leave a comment to say which or what called to you.

Back to meditation, if you want a great kickstart, go to https://chopracentermeditation.com/experience.
It’s a great 21-day simple guided meditation. It fits into any schedule! It starts Monday the 30th. The theme is Making Every Moment Matter.

Meditation provokes potato calm

Today’s group meditation was like a smooth slalom through warm, mashed potatoes. Visualize effortlessly carving left and right down a gentle tater slope. An occasional splatter sprays your cheek. You lick at this flavor of experience.

There is only a slight drag on the bottom of your skis, not in an obstructive way, but in a comfort food kind of way. Speed is relatively slow over mashed potatoes. This plant-based base has a subtle granular quality. Butter slows you down more than you would think. It adds a certain weight and fluidity to the glide through starchy spud drifts.

This meditative space is welcoming and open. It allows vulnerability. It offers a new phrase I just learned: emotional exposure. In a totally safe way. The air and the people sharing it do not put out a vibe of defense. Collectively, there is no bristling in response to another. No guts are tightening in preparation to fire off a counterpoint.

I enjoy this rhythm of being. There is no top or bottom, only moving through.

Sanctuary. Do you have one in your neighborhood?

Sometimes sanctuaries are just sitting there. You have no idea. I found one today, just a few miles from where I live. Cortesia Sanctuary is in the woods of South Eugene. Cortesia comes from Cortese, a 900-year-old French word, which means “quiet.” Just kidding, actually, it means “a deep, noble courtesy and reverence for the sacredness of life.”

Garden entrance from the front meadow
Garden entrance from the front meadow

Once you step out of the car, it is quiet. This is a private home setting of 22 acres. It is surrounded by tall 150-year-old fir trees. It has a personal feel, like you are stopping in to see old friends. We were greeted by Forrest McDowell, one of the owners. He and his wife, Tricia, started living here in 1986.

Forrest emerged smiling and friendly, providing us with a map and background about the property. Soon, we were off, heading down the Fern trail. This passed the labyrinth on the left, then branched to the right with two bench options: St. Francis or Gandhi. These were near the edge of the ridge. Though the trees, you get a lovely view of west Eugene, Fern Ridge reservoir, and Mary’s Peak off in the distance.

My favorite thing- a door on a shed that sits off of the garden
My favorite thing- a door on a shed that sits off of the garden

The garden has many herbs, flowers, and even some opportunities for simple rituals. One such thing is a prayer shrine. You can write down a prayer on a card and then hang it from a small tree. They had several dwarf apples trees.

One of the prayers hanging from the tree
One of the prayers hanging from the tree

This organic garden space grows their vegetables and herbs, which they turn into flower essences, tinctures, and salves. They sell their products locally and on the web. The McDowell’s wrote the book, The Sanctuary Garden, in 1998. It is said to explore the personal, philosophical, spiritual, and practical aspects of creating a natural garden that emits peace and harmony. From walking around on their land, I’d say they walk their talk.

Looks like a Chinese Lantern plant to me
Looks like a Chinese Lantern plant to me

The place has a real sense of peaceful purpose. It even has an 18-year-old healthy and happy cat. Permaculture methods are in place, compost is revolving, nature spirits are dancing. It’s not flashy or pretentious, rather just being here now, as is, rustic.

Back to nature spirits, there are a lot of them. By that, I mean people have been talking about them since the beginning of time. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of them, from every part of the world, with exotic names and colorful personalities. If I had to choose one for this place, it would be: Aranyani, Hindu goddess of the forest, and the animals that dwell there. Just my opinion.

img_0092

St. Francis in his moss shawl
St. Francis in his moss shawl

There are cute sheds and yurts on site, and even a “cob grotto.” We spent about an hour onsite. You could certainly stay longer, maybe have a picnic. It is not large enough for long walks, but better suited for a slower and more thoughtful time.

DIY autumn body wash: Inspire; Release!

Grape leaves turning
Grape leaves turning

The following is a fall aromatherapy body wash based on Chinese elemental theory.

The season is: autumn. Time to let go of the old, and take in the new. The direction of this time of year is downward- a quiet movement back into the earth to push nutrients into the soil for next spring.

The physical aspects include: lungs, colon, body hair, and skin. The lungs inspire, the colon purges.

The emotions include: grief, loss. To stay in balance regarding grief, we need to allow for the recognition of it, and the care of how it passes through us. If not, we may not actually grieve, which can cause it to get stuck, unprocessed, and eventually become a heavy burden following us everywhere.

Apples paying it forward
Apples paying it forward

If we unburden ourselves, we can find and connect with new inspiration.

Shed the old, make room for the new

During this season, nature leads us into the cycle of creating and letting go. Trees don’t cling to their leaves because they might need them next year. They let them all drop. If held onto, the decayed leaves can pollute and effectively block the entry of anything new.

When the lungs are healthy, we not only breathe better, we can absorb new experiences, ideas, and be more open to inspiration.

Positive aspects of this season: generosity, integrity, self-respect, and personal value. Focus on and bring about these positive traits during this season. Self-care creates awareness and discernment in what you breathe, both physically and mentally.

It was a good summer!
It was a good summer!

A few essential oils for this season:

Eucalyptus
Rosemary
Geranium
Sage
Mint

These all perk up the lungs.

Lungs inspire literally and figuratively. They bring in air and ideas. In Chinese medical theory, the lung is paired with the large intestine, or colon. The colon purges what is no longer needed.

Together, they have a team approach toward balance. Disperse with the old, welcome the new.

DIY autumn body wash

1 cup Dr. Bronners unscented liquid soap
1 cup water
3 T. coconut oil, fractionated
10-15 drops essential oil

During this season, ask yourself:

What inspires you?

What do you want to let go?

I never get tired of water

Water is a great mood stabilizer. Even a bath or shower improves the attitude. I like to hop on my stand-up paddle board (SUP) and glide just on top of it.

dorena 1

I drove to Dorena reservoir, Harm’s park, and unloaded easily. There were only three people there, swimming at the boat ramp, ignoring the no swimming sign. This park is no frills compared to Baker Bay across the lake, which has an entry fee. It also has a swimmers’ area, campground, and more picnic areas.  It was a very warm evening, 84, so it made sense to go paddling. I made a quick picnic dinner and strapped it on the front of the board. I wanted to eat off-shore. I slipped on my water shoes to protect against the rocks and potential broken glass. I love to push off silently and get that instant water connection, completely shedding the land underneath me.

vintage dorena

The wind was calm, only some movement brushed the water. This was about 5:00 p.m. The air smells good coming off the water. It’s quiet. You can hear bird sounds. Some traffic, but not that much around the lake. There was one other boat and they were fishing so not making noise or a wake. I stopped for dinner in a slightly protected no wind area.

lake meal

This semi-protected little cove was the perfect place to munch on a casual meal of lentils,  raw yellow pepper, mozzarella, and a splash of olive oil. Everything fits easily in my trusty dry bag that snaps onto the bungee cords that are attached to the front of my SUP.

I wonder why I seek water. Why does it feel both soothing and invigorating to me? It must be the exchange of ions. This theory popped into my head. It sounded so true! But was it? I don’t know. I looked up ions on wikipedia. Yes, water did seem an important part of the transfer of chemical compounds and sea water is mentioned a lot because of the salt. But then it became too much to digest and interpret for this blog. This blog is more about spirit rather than scientific explanations.

Speaking for myself, I feel an exchange of molecules in and around the water and the air and the surrounding trees. Even the rocks and sticks, of which there are many, play along. I absorb and breath it into my pores.

It is incredible to be alone on the water, paddling along, choosing my path, noticing the light, sky, water, wind and surrounding hills that look very old. Yet, they are not ancient really, they are totally current, responding to each other every minute.

While among this, as a guest in the midst of it, I feel within and among the source. After our visit, I go back to life refreshed. I have exchanged energy with what feels like the vibrant base of life.

What’s your element? Visit it often. Make time for what feeds your source.