Planting our seed

Every spring, here on the Kansas prairie, we burn our grassland. It is the one time of year when seeing smoke rising from the hills and its pungent odor doesn’t cause alarm.

We trust that whomever is burning has everything under control and recognize this as a long-historied ritual of keeping the Tallgrass Prairie viable, healthy and sustainably rejuvenating.  It’s part of the natural ecosystem of the prairie. The fire helps prevent the invasion of woody vegetation and promotes new growth of the native grasses.  It sounds destructive and somewhat counter intuitive to burn the prairie so that it will grow more healthy, but within days of the burning the hills begin to green and big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian and switch grasses send up shoots of new growth.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the grasses green and begin to grow from the charred pastures.  It feels like some kind of miracle, but to me, most of nature is a miracle. For instance, every spring I plant a garden and marvel that the tiny seeds know what to do once I place them in the soil and give them some water.  I plant a tomato seed and I don’t fret about what kind of plant will grow, nor do I expect a potato plant to break through the soil.  I know when I plant that tomato seed, if tended well, a tomato plant will grow.  There is an inner wisdom in that seed that knows its purpose and what it is designed to do and it does it with little more than some water and sunshine.

Oh, if only it were that easy for us to determine our path, our purpose. But, maybe it is. Maybe, like that seed or those native grasses that have come through the fire to become verdant and robust again, we too carry our purpose inside of us — although that’s often the last place we might think to look for it.

We more often look to other people for some outside direction for what our path is here, for what our purpose is and for the gifts we have come to share. We take classes, read books, attend workshops and join groups.  We may even blog about it and ask others if they’ve seen our purpose or know of what it is we are to be doing here.  There is nothing wrong with any of this, but what if the answer to the question is already inside of us?  What if our seed has been within us all the time and every time we asked or wondered, “What am I here for?”, it was doing everything in its power to answer, to show us, to get our attention so we might move in the direction in which it is intending to point us?

So how might we find that direction?  That tomato seed doesn’t dream of being a squash.  It’s a tomato seed.  Its dream is to grow into a healthy plant and to bear tomatoes. What are your dreams? What, especially as a child, did you dream of doing?  Did you want to train horses? Fly a plane?  Build highrises?  Dance? Did you find joy in keeping your room tidy and neat?  Did you lose yourself in thoughts of running a big business or writing books? Did you want to paint, travel, cook, build, design, do – whatever – then maybe that is what you still carry inside of you.  Maybe that’s your inner wisdom, your map.

If it has been awhile since you allowed yourself to dream, maybe like we do with the prairie grasses, it’s time to burn through the idea that you’re too old, too poor, too much invested in doing something else to still dream. Burn those dead dormant ideas that it is too soon or too late for you to follow your dreams.

You owe it to yourself to find the inner wisdom that will tell you what you are here to do, but you also owe it to the rest of us to do that. If you don’t plant, tend and grow your seed, you rob us all of the fruit you might bear.  We have no idea of how our dreams affect, inspire, speak or bump into others. We don’t even realize how many people we may have already touched, moved, or motivated.

What if your seed was to become a sculptor and you took a leap of faith and, despite people telling you artists never make a good living, you sculpted? And what if one day a middle aged man looked at a sculpture you had created, clearly realizing you were fulfilling your dream of being an artist, and decided he too wanted to follow his dream – of becoming a public speaker.  And in the audience at one of his presentations was a young woman who was studying accounting because she came from a long line of accountants, but it was not her passion.  Her dream was to study medicine and after hearing the speaker she was motivated to change her major and become a pediatrician.  She eventually helped a young patient successfully move through a serious illness, which inspired him to follow his dream of going into the field of research, oncology research to be specific, and that young boy grew up to cure cancer.

If you had never followed your inner wisdom to sculpt, despite what others said, or whatever doubts you may have had when you took your first steps in that direction, that young boy may have never been moved to follow his dream either, and we all would suffer as a consequence.

So, figure out what burns inside of you, what brings passion to your life, what seed do you need to nurture to feel happy, fulfilled and a sense of wonder, and then start taking steps in that direction.  Whatever steps present themselves, and they will present themselves, however you can begin to move in the direction of your dreams, move.

We are all once-in-a-lifetime experiences.  No two of us are exactly alike and in all of time there will never be another like any one of us.  That is by design. We are individual masterpieces created to each give what is unique about us to the world.  The world needs every one of us because we each contribute something special; we each possess a seed that is ours alone to grow.

But sometimes, like the prairie grasses, we must walk through fire to learn to grow again. Sometimes we need to be challenged, to fall and learn we can get back up.  There are trials, there are misfortunes in life, but we can use it all like the fires on the prairie as a way to grow, to stretch, to reach and to find that seed and its inner wisdom that is trying to tell us, “This way. Move in this direction. Follow me.  I will show you the way.”  And when we do take those first, wobbly steps toward that dream, I believe the Universe rushes in to support us with connections, time, opportunities, whatever support we need in a quantity that is sufficient for us to grow our seed. Every step you take will lead to the next.  You will be supported. But you must take that first step.

Spend some time being quiet, then ask what is in you to do, what dreams are still waiting for you to explore, follow and share.  Journal, create vision boards, whatever you wish to do that will allow yourself time and space to not only remember your dreams from childhood, but to touch and then identify those dreams that are still within you.

Be the fire.  Then be the prairie and come alive!  Only you can do this, whatever it is that is yours to do. And the only way to not fan the flame of passion within you, the only way to not find and grow your particular seed, is to not take those first steps.  The only failure is in not trying.

Posted in As I see it, Health and Well Being, Lessons from the Land, Transitions | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The lies we tell…

Have you ever caught yourself telling a lie – to yourself? The lies we tell ourselves are recognizable, and insidious, because they are heard in our own voice, but with a mean edge to it that makes us feel badly about ourselves.  This is our Liar Voice and when it is speaking to us it is helpful to be able to identify it as such.

For instance, do you have a blouse or shirt in a drawer or a pair of jeans in your closet that you can’t wear, but you keep because some day you’ll be able to squeeze your body back into them?  Nothing wrong with having a goal and if looking at a pair of too small jeans motivates you to take better care of yourself, then there’s no harm done.  But if every time you look at those jeans or that top and you hear a voice berating you for not being able to wear them, that’s your Liar Voice.   And until you are able to dismiss that loud, rude voice that tries to make you feel bad, you might be better served tossing those clothes out.  Besides, when you do get to wear those jeans I think you deserve a cool, new pair.  Don’t you?

Here’s another lie I often catch myself perpetrating:  I’ll put those files, mail, books away later.  Even though eventually I get around to putting whatever it is in its appropriate place, I know that wherever I set it down is where it will remain, likely until company is coming for a visit.  If I hear my Liar Voice when I profess that I will do it later, then I’m much more likely to put whatever is in my hand wherever it belongs right then.  Task completed and I won’t have to run around like an Olympic speed skater trying to clear the clutter before someone shows up at my door.

Sometimes our Liar Voice tells us things that we should never believe. We should discount anything that voice says that begins with:

“I am too fat, too old, too poor….” or “I am not good enough, smart enough, thin, rich, free enough….”

These are the most dangerous and harmful of all the things our Liar Voice tells us and we must remain vigilant in silencing these lies.  I find a chant from childhood helpful in quieting this kind of destructive chatter.  When I hear that nasty, mean voice saying negative things about me, with great belligerence, I repeat,  “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”

Not even my Liar Voice has a good comeback for that!

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Tips for Surviving the Cold

I am so ready for spring.  I thought the last twelve+ inch snow was the final blow, but then the winds starting blowing making going outside out of the question. It got so cold I had to work to stay warm even when inside.  Out of necessity, I came up with some workable solutions.  If you too are struggling to find warmth these days here are some suggestions.

One of the easiest methods is hot baths, which are always good. I spend a lot of time in hot water, both figuratively and literally, and find prune-like skin is a small price to pay for thawed limbs and digits.

There are a variety of foot, hand, neck and seat warmers on the market that can be heated in the microwave. I suggest getting several of these and duct taping them to your body whenever you must go outside. Oh, sure they may create unsightly bulges, but who really cares what you look like as long as you are warm.

If you don’t want to wear bulky heaters, then you can always don several layers of clothing. I have found six to be a good number. Of course, with that many clothes on, if I fall down, I am completely helpless to get back up. So if you see me on my back in the snow, I am not making snow angels, but rather have accidentally tipped over and could use some assistance.

Experts say 90 percent of our body’s heat escapes from our heads, so I suggest wearing live animals on your head for added warmth.  Of course, this could increase static electricity, which is already an inherent problem during the winter because it wreaks havoc on clothing and hairdos.

Lately I look as though I am using a fully inflated balloon as a hair-grooming tool, and wearing anything other than cotton means clothing sticks to my body like a second layer of skin.  While dining out with friends the other night, I removed my jacket only to find the sock I thought I lost in the dryer hitching a ride on the back of my shirt. Who knows where the sweat pants I assume had been abducted by dryer aliens have ended up.

But there are advantages to the cold weather. After all, freezing is a way to preserve things, right?  So maybe this cold weather will inhibit the aging process.  Come spring, maybe we all will appear younger.

It can’t hurt to hope, can it?

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Pondering time

When I was young I remember my parents and their friends talking about how it felt as though time was speeding up.  I had no idea what they meant.  Now that I am about the age they were then, I get it.

Almost every day I find myself wondering where has the time gone?  No, really, where did it go?  And for that matter, from where does it come?  We have all kinds of timepieces – watches, clocks, computers, phones, even the sun – that track the passage of time, but what is it and where is it going so fast?

We say time flies, but it can also crawl.  Remember when you were young and waiting to unwrap your Christmas presents?  Time teased you by barely moving at all.  Then in college when cramming for finals, it blew by at the speed of light.  So how can that be?  Where is the big Universal clock that keeps changing how we perceive and experience time?

Even though we “have time on our hands” we can’t put our finger on exactly what it is.  We can’t hold it, but it can heal us. We can’t see it, but we notice the results of its passing in our faces and we feel it in our bones.  We can take our time and we can give our time, but we can also waste it, invest it and spend it, and it feels as though, these days, there is not nearly enough of it.

Our calendars fill quickly, our schedules overflow and before we realize it we have booked ourselves solid with little time for anything or anyone, not even ourselves.  And that’s when we need to stop and realize that this illusive thing we call time is really all we have.

You may have heard the story about The Dash, which is really a story about time.  That little dash on tombstones separating the dates of our entrance and our exit from this earth represents how we spend the time we have been given.  The dash is our lifetime and it’s a good reminder that time is whatever we make of it.

That dash symbolizes the most precious commodity we have and the one thing we may eventually regret not offering when we no longer have the opportunity to share it.  To freely give some time to a friend, a loved one, someone in need, or even to ourselves, is a priceless gift, but we get so full of to-do lists and appointments and everything else that we forget to simply make time for those we love.

Maybe it has been awhile since you shared a leisurely lunch with a dear friend.  Remember how sharing that time felt so full and rich.  How, with time, the conversation wove a tapestry of laughter, of meaning, of love.  To make the time and share the time with someone for no reason other than you wish to be in his or her company is one of life’s great gifts and experiences.  It’s food for our souls.

Even if you only have the time for a phone call, make it.  At least that’s more than an idle click on a “Like” button.  At least you are giving something that only you have to give – a little bit of that dash.

With time I now have a better understanding of what my parents and their peers were talking about when they lamented the speed with which it was passing for them.  I now want to make it a priority to not miss an opportunity to clear some space, make some time, and invest something real and worthwhile in the people I care about.

After all, the important thing to remember about time is, we really have no idea how much of it we have left.

Posted in As I see it, Health and Well Being | 2 Comments

Loss of Innocence

Many of us are remembering where we were 50 years ago today.

For all of us who were old enough to have even a vague idea of the events of Nov. 22, 1963 we can no doubt vividly recall where we were when we heard that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

I was in the sixth grade at Maple Hill Grade School at the time.  We were in P.E. when our regular classroom teacher, Mrs. Balon, came into the gym and gathered us all up.  We could tell by the pained expression on her face that something was wrong, but she only told us to return to our classroom — to not change or shower, but to go directly back to class.  We exchanged puzzled looks as we quietly walked down the hall and through the classroom door.  Mrs. Balon closed the door behind us and told us to pray.  Then she turned and left before telling us for what we should pray, or why we were to do so.

In 1963 we were still in what was known as the “Cold War” and having spent many “Atomic Bomb Drills” where we were told to hunker down under our desks for safety, we were naturally fearful as well as understandably suspicious.  I believe those drills were the beginning of my generation’s long mistrust of authority.  It’s difficult to trust any adult who tries to convince you that the same desk that tipped over if you put your geography book and dictionary on the same side would somehow protect you from atomic annihilation!

So, most of us in that sixth grade classroom assumed that the Cold War had suddenly heated up and we were minutes away from being blown to bits by Russia.  I’m not sure why we thought that Russia was targeting Maple Hill Grade School, but at that moment most of us believed we would soon die – in our ugly white gym uniforms!  But regardless of our attire, in our last moments we did what we were told and silently bowed our heads and began reciting any and every prayer we could recall.

When Mrs. Balon returned, obviously holding back tears, she told us the President had been shot and that school was being dismissed.  I couldn’t wait to get out of that building, and that gym outfit, and return home where I hoped I might once again feel safe.

Feelings of safety were difficult to come by for a long time after that.  Stores closed, no one really left their homes and televisions and radios broadcast news of the assassination all day, every day.  I was among those watching the broadcast of Lee Harvey Oswald being transferred beneath the Dallas prison when Jack Ruby stepped out of the crowd and shot him.  I had never seen a real person shot before and I sat stunned, not believing what I had just witnessed.

If I were asked when I lost my childhood innocence it wouldn’t be when I learned there was no Easter Bunny, or even when my best friend, Buster the dog, died.  I, and most of my generation, lost our innocence 50 years ago today when we learned the harsh reality that sometimes, for no good reason, bad things can happen that turn your world upside down.  Not even our parents could make sense of any of it for us.  All they could do was try to assure us that we really were safe, all the while unable to convince us that they felt so themselves.

That was my first experience learning how to live with the questions, with the fragility of life.  If this could happen to the President, if this could happen in our country, what else might be waiting?  What else might go wrong?  Would things ever be the same?  Would I be the same?  We had to learn to live with the unknown and the fact that even if we did discover the answers we likely wouldn’t like them much.

We could have stayed in that place; that place of fear, bewilderment, distrust.  But, although our world, our childhood world where our parents could make it all better, where the adults knew what they were doing, where we would always be protected and held safely, was shattered, we eventually moved back into the world.  Maybe we were more wary, more wise and maybe we mourned the loss of innocence, but we went back out into the world.

We still live with questions about safety and trust but we have had to find solace in the fact the answer may be nothing more than to do our best to simply live, despite it all.

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It happened again

          This time it was bombs going off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  As I write this, those responsible for this unbelievable act of cowardice and cruelty have not been identified.  I hope they are soon to be found and the journey to some kind of justice has begun.

            But what is justice in incidents like this?  Nothing can bring back those who were killed or restore those whose lives were changed forever.  No amount of legal maneuvering can heal the emotional wounds of those who witnessed the fear and carnage created by this act.  Lives have been permanently altered.  Even those of us half a continent away, have been affected.

            At times like this our differences matter little. We are one as members of the human species.  Yet, in that feeling of unity and commonality, we must face that one of us, one or more fellow human beings, could somehow perpetrate this unfathomable act.

            But, instead of focusing on the twisted virus that committed this act of evil cruelty, I prefer to focus on the many acts of heroism, help and kindness that followed. Medical, fire and police personnel, even racers and other spectators ran toward the blasts and those injured, giving little thought to the fact that they could have been running into the face of danger.  And many of those who were hurriedly scurried away from the crime scene showed up at Boston hospitals offering to donate blood for the victims.

            After Google set up a page to help people locate loved ones, it was flooded with offers of help, of home, of hearts breaking open with the desire to reach out, to come together, to restore whatever semblance of oneness that remained.

            We can’t let those who wish to fracture our freedom and suppress our sense of safety win.  They may succeed in doing that temporarily.  But what they can’t ever take from us is our compassion and love for one another.  If that is the hope of those who wish to terrorize us, then maybe those images of people running into the smoke and danger to help strangers offers some small piece of justice.

            We will never forget the horror of this cowardly act, but let’s also never forget the bravery and love that followed it.

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Indeed we have come a long way…

There is a lot of basketball going on these days.  This time of year is a basketball lover’s dream.  And Kansas is being well represented with the University of Kansas and Wichita State University men’s teams both in the Sweet 16.  But those are not the only teams having a successful post-regular season run.  Kansas State University women’s team is doing great in the NIT and KU is experiencing an amazing run through the NCAA by also making it to the Sweet 16 on the women’s side.

As someone who played college sports back in the early days I could not be more proud of the way women’s sports have blossomed since the passing of Title IX in 1972.  This was the landmark legislation which prohibited sex discrimination in educational programs or activities receiving federal financial aid.

I played basketball and softball at the University of Kansas before Title IX and can assure you it was sorely needed.  Before that the NCAA didn’t  recognize women’s athletics and few colleges had women’s programs.  However, Kansas and Kansas State were two that did and that was because of coaches like Marlene Mawson of KU and Judy Akers of Kansas State.

These women believed we deserved the opportunity to play athletics despite facing some incredible odds in establishing programs at their respective schools.  They had little or no funding, they weren’t even paid for their coaching duties in those early years and they received little respect from the administrations or those leading the men’s programs. 

One event stands out as a shining example of how little regard women athletes received from our male counterparts.  In the middle of a game between Kansas and Kansas State the then men’s basketball coach, Jack Hartman, walked out on the court and told us to get off because the men needed to practice.  Well, that didn’t sit very well with our coaches, who after a short discussion on the sidelines, walked out to mid-court to have a chat with Hartman. 

I will never forget the image of those two opposing coaches standing shoulder to shoulder, arms crossed, telling the venerable Hartman that we would not be vacating the court for a men’s practice, since we were in the middle of a game and had reserved that time.  Much arm waving and spirited discussion followed, but Mawson and Akers maintained their solidarity and held their ground.  Finally a red-faced Hartman stomped off the court and our coaches turned to us, two groups of very confused and slightly frightened young women, and told us to get back out there and finish our game.  Which we did — in the dark. You see, Hartman, failing to convince our coaches that we should stop, turned out all the lights.

The most ironic piece of this story is that in 1996, twenty-four years after Title IX was enacted, Jack Hartman coached the final seven games for the Kansas State women’s basketball team.  And he did so with the lights on.

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