Monthly Archives: April 2015

Endurance: Immerse in Beauty

merlot redbuds close upThis week a friend and I visited the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.   Generally I’m not a fan of museums.  My solar plexus places them on a spectrum of extremes: stagnant warehouses or jostling super-centers. . . traps to be avoided or escaped. But Crystal Bridges promises vast windows, natural lighting and outdoor walking paths, along with an intriguing visiting-exhibit:  Van Gogh to Rothko.   World class expression in the american heartland.

I was not disappointed.  In fact I drank in the creative and natural beauty like a soothing, rejuvenating tea. The exuberance played in Giacomo Balla’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash.. The respect and compassion conveyed in Pissaro’s Peasants in a Field.  The surprising merlot redbuds tucked along sculpted walking paths and the always elevating dogwoods.   In their presence, stress knots tied and tugged by the demands of work and other life responsibilities loosened.   Opening the way for smiles.  Relaxation  Conversation.  Just what I needed.

Some spiritual traditions say that the solar plexus is the most powerful energy center in the human microcosm.  Sensitive.  Absorptive.   On the upside an unsung workhouse: clearing, processing, purifying, generating spontaneous giving and shared delight.  Also a potential pit for dis-ease and resentment.  Does your experience agree?

Beauty immersions lighten the solar plexus load.  Re-set overwrought sensitivity to poised tranquility.  Magnetize an overall sense of well-being.  Sustain health on the way of Heart-full living.

Of course beauty can be encountered in the closeness of one’s own home, favorite walkway or interior imagination. But sometimes, even (or especially) in a busy life, travelling outside the usual is worth the extra effort.

Endurance: Stretching and Resting the Heart

dandelionSuddenly the dandelions are going to seed. This recently exonerated “weed” (resurrected in modern circles as a nutrient powerhouse for humans and bees) emerged almost unnoticed amidst Spring’s brilliant pallet.   Now delicate spheres of plumed seeds tremble triumphantly on the morning breeze.  Gossamer white against the forest’s green.  Awaiting a child’s curious hand and delightful scattering exhale.  Everything has its cycle.   Growing.  Blossoming.  Rest.

The Heart stretches and grows.  Each courageous attempt builds capacity and endurance. Carving out space to comfort a friend on the week’s busiest work day.  Breathing in a deep centering prayer when old patterns threaten.  Jumping completely into spontaneous play.  A few examples from my week.  Actions and inner choices often so small, unannounced and in the moment that even our closest companions may not notice.  But the growing Heart feels the effort.  It celebrates the blossoming and registers the exertion.

A friend of mine counsels that fatigue is greatest danger in physical exercise.  A reminder that the evolutionary Heart needs rest.  Quiet, regenerative interludes.   Moments when courage and even celebration can pause in preparation for the next stretch.

Endurance: Speaking up . . . Again

Butler Hollow 2Folks on the Arkansas/Missouri border are riled up.   The target of this Ozark ire is the US Forest Service’s (USFS) management proposal for Butler Hollow and the greater Mark Twain National Forest.  The USFS’s idea of restoring glades and reclaiming woodlands initially sounds appealing.  Who doesn’t want to turn back the cedar tree invasion?  But then there is the aggressive action plan:  the boom spraying of herbicides, the commercial logging, and the endless “controlled” burning. (Have you ever seen a cedar burn?  They don’t so much burn as violently conflagrate). And the impacting side effects: smoke, erosion, potentially contaminated wells and waterways.

Private property intersperses the Mark Twain.  My friend, Caitlyn, lives there on forty acres in a funky off-grid home with her new born and two-year old dynamo, Anton, and her husband, who works at the lumber yard.   Her grandparents, Sharon and Dale Becker, also locals, are key in spear-heading the opposition.

On first hearing of the USFS’s proposal in January 2015, my first reaction was “not again.” After all, we had just finished more than a year of battling and defeating SWEPCO’s proposed 345 kV transmission line. I wondered if individuals, including myself, could muster the energy to speak up, stand up and fight again. We have.   A little here. A little there. It’s coming together.

The world overflows with injustices, ill-conceived plans and abuses of power. I have one friend who prides herself on “clicking” hundreds of online petitions every week. It’s her way of speaking out.   On-line protests and fast-moving twitter feeds have their place. But I’m not sure we can click our way to a healthier environment, peace in the Middle East, or a sane plan for Butler Hollow. Just as we generally can’t text ourselves to more vital relationships and harmonic solutions in our homes.

Building the muscle and skill to speak up for what we cherish takes observation of those who already have this strength and personal practice. I’m still working on it. In the process I’m noticing that infusing self-talk, family conversations, and participation in local community conflicts with commitment to the good, beautiful and true carries a certain regenerating power. A power that gives the endurance and faith to keep on going.   A power that comes when activating our inherent human capacity and responsibility to defend and celebrate what the Heart loves.

What are you speaking up for today?

Endurance: Cultivating Common Ground

redbudsI love how redbuds (cercis canadensis) and oaks share common ground.   One prefers the protection of understory living, the other dares to stretch and dominate the forest heights.  Their cooperative difference delights the eye in the first full weeks of spring, when the redbuds burst into their glory, while the oaks still prepare their own leafing out overhead.

I used to believe that devotion to a shared vision was enough to unite individuals on common ground.  But Life has taught me differently.  Common ground of heart is what endures.  it is the vital terra firma from which shared visions grow, health blossoms, hardships are traversed and lived dreams flourish.

Beautiful and life-sourcing, the heart’s common ground demands our fullest.  The fullest of faith in ourselves and each other, along with humility, willingness, and caring embrace.  Like nutrient-rich garden soil, common ground requires enduring attention and cultivation.  Cultivation through full listening.  Through offering and accepting gifts of hard truths wrapped in compassion.  Celebrating simple joys.  Risking change.  I’m certain you could add to this list, drawing on your own trusted bag of tools applied in the common ground of your relationships and responsibilities.

Going alone is sometimes necessary.  Often the perfect choice.   With its own challenges and benefits. Yet the redbuds and oaks remind me that tending the heart’s common ground is worth the risk, the effort and the reward.