Category Archives: Endurance

Endurance: Consulting the wood stove oracle


A friend invited me to a 2016 personal visioning gathering held last weekend.   She promised snacks and wine.   Also art supplies to give the vision form — an opportunity not directly in my skill set, but playfully appealing nonetheless.

A deep cold surged in the night before, and as I often do on those penetrating frosty eves, I settled into the narrow stretch between the wall and the wood stove.   Ruby, my  wonderfully plump companion cat stretched along side me; together, we soaked up the warmth.

That toasty wood stove nook lends itself to pondering, dreaming, meditation, questions and answers   I hypothesize that over the winter weeks it’s become invigorated with creative expectation.

Do you have a go-to space you’ve super-charged with wonder?  For insights?

Simply thinking of the visioning gathering initiated an easy flow of goals, projects, and initiatives for the coming months.   I jotted down the list in a small notebook I’ve taken to bringing with me when entering the wood stove realm.  At the top of the page I wrote  the heading “Carry the Vibration of Love”, and I re-considered my list in that light.

Love can be an amorphous ideal.  A word often exalted and deprived of  its everyday application.   To love is a gift.  A vocation, a commitment that expands and grows, taking many forms, filling a new year’s list. . . .  challenging, healing, enlivening  . . . perhaps endlessly day after day.

At the 2016 visioning gathering I picked up a magazine from a stack designated for collage making.   It was a random home and garden publication.  I flipped through the pages.   “Love”.  “Love.”  “Love.”   “Love.”    Caught my eye.  Again and again and again.   I smiled and reached for the scissors.







Endurance: Googling “Chakra” on a Wintry Day


Google gave me 25,600,000 entries in .42 seconds when I typed “chakra” into the search bar.  That’s a lot of ideas at my finger tips.  A lot of knowledge.  Some wisdom.  And undoubtedly a full collection of images, depicting the swirling spinal energy centers identified in spiritual traditions as a convergence of body and soul, matter and consciousness.

Despite the public ubiquity of chakra material, I find the subject to be quite personal and requiring an individual approach.  Perhaps you have your own story to share on this outlook.

I was counseled early on in my spiritual quest to be aware of the chakras, but not to focus specifically on developing them.  That felt right to me, primarily because I was a spiritual novice and sensed my path would be one of slow endurance rather than rapid progress.  So through trial and error over the years I’ve concentrated on cultivating values and health.  On finding purpose. And taking action.   Perhaps my chakras have changed in color or shape over the years, perhaps not.

Still the ideal beauty and evolutionary promise of the chakras, as symbols of the Human journey, stay with me. I was reminded of this beauty today on an early afternoon walk, when I happened upon a gathering of icicles touched by the Sun’s rays.   A momentary convergence of form and light.


Endurance: Claiming the Power of the Black-Eyed Pea

blackeyed peas

Somewhere, somehow, at some point in time a Tradition begins.   A practice, coupled with beliefs or even wisdom, passes from generation to generation and arrives in the modern day.  The originating impulse endures, although likely obscured in the telling by palatable contemporary desires and interpretations.

The customary eating of black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day dates back a few centuries in the American South.  I had never heard of or partaken in this holiday ritual prior to moving to Arkansas.  But I’ve come to enjoy it (minus the ham hock), especially given the freshly cut collards, mustard greens, and kale available from our local farmers.

The  black-eyed pea is said to have originated in North Africa and is believed to have crossed to the Americas with Spanish explorers and the slave trade.  On-line sources and Southern-born friends explain that welcoming abundance and an appetite for wealth stands at the heart of the tradition.   Apparently the greens, specifically collards, represent dollars and the black-eyed peas symbolize coins.

I prefer an alternate story. The black-eyed pea or cowpea is a nutrient-packed legume that grows well in hot, challenging climates.  Collard greens sweeten after the first frost and are rich with vitamins.  On January 1, looking toward the horizon of a New Year, toward a winter yet to be completed, toward freshly set goals and renewed commitments, what could be more filling, more energizing and endurance-affirming than a celebrated meal of black-eyed peas and tender collard greens?

Happy New Year, Everyone.





Endurance: Making Community Commitments that Strengthen

Leatherwood CreekBuilding individual endurance for heart-full living involves multiple interwoven commitments. I’ve written about seven of these over the past seven weeks. 1) Refreshing clarity of Purpose and one’s part in Life’s unfolding story. 2) Finding common ground not just in vision but also in relationship. 3) Speaking up. 4) Resting and stretching the Heart. 5) Immersing in Beauty.   6) Drawing on Earth’s regenerative powers. 7) Rooting through action.   I’m certain you have your own trusted favorites discovered and cultivated through your individual studies and lived journey.

 Would the same practices apply to a family or larger community?   Here I find through simple observation and the vicissitudes of my own decade-long intentional community experience that, when entering the realm of “group”, complications necessarily emerge. Complications of diversity, coordination, commitment and conscious intent.

Still I wonder how does a family or community refresh its endurance for healthy, heart-full living?   It’s a question, I believe, that has many answers.   I contemplated its possibilities one evening on the banks of Leatherwood Creek.   Hints of dusk were gathering and the frogs were just beginning their evening song, as the clear water scurried below my bare feet in a rain-fed rush.

Just a few minutes drive from my home down winding Hwy 62, Leatherwood Creek sparkles through Lake Leatherwood Municipal Park on the western edge of Eureka Springs. This city treasure was sculpted from the Ozarks beginning in the 1940’s. Its sixteen hundred acres hold a baseball diamond, soccer fields, nearly 15 miles of wooded hiking and biking trails, camping sites, cabins and an 85 acre lake featuring one of the largest hand-cut limestone dams in the United States.   Not a bad spread for tourist town registering a permanent resident population under 2500.   Popular locals, day visitors and overnight guests, the park’s landscape still invites the experience of feeling as if one “has the whole place to oneself”, while also offering space for group play and adventure.

In Leatherwood’s evening solitude, I realized I was sitting on and in and surrounded by an answer to my question.   A community’s commitments speak to the source, quality, and opportunity that its inhabitants have for building endurance and experiencing renewal. And perhaps even to the question of whether or not the community consciously prefers to endure at all.

I don’t have any scientific studies demonstrating that Leatherwood’s accessible green space, open water, sports fields, and tended trails positively impact the sustaining heart and well-being of Eureka Springs and its residents.   But watching families splash through puddles and gather in good spirits on that Wednesday evening for an informal round of soccer gave me the practical measure of proof I need that this park, this community commitment strengthens and builds endurance of heart and health.

Endurance: Draw on Great Powers

violetsBirthing great goals necessitates calling on great powers. Not powers separate from ourselves.   But rather pulsing reservoirs of creativity and vitality existing beyond our self-defined ring-pass-not’s.

Reaching into such reservoirs means trespassing beyond self-circumscribed notions of personal intellect, desire and strength. Stretching into the unpredictable wild of energetic interplay. Adventuring into intimate co-inspiration and opening to exponential uplift. I find this broadening applies equally to the completion of finite projects and pursuing long-term aims, such as living a transformative life rich with challenge, friendship and meaning.

Mother Earth is perhaps our most natural, go-to beyond-self resource. Simply touching Her with bare hands and feet pulls us into Her replenishing circulation and eases us out of our modern electro-magnetic overload. Plenty of “Earthing” websites will attest to this renewing phenomena, but how much more potent to check it out for oneself: squishing toes into a humble patch of untreated row house lawn, resting full body amongst the season’s lush wildflowers (mind the ticks and chiggers), or plunging waist deep into a brisk spring river. Moment upon moment of earth-touching recharges our endurance and boosts hope, courage and the sense of possibility — all essential to great pursuits.

I’ve applied this principle in a small way, as the weather has warmed, shifting to practicing karate barefooted on a stone patio interspersed with vigorous violets. I know my workday technologically-taxed mind and middle-aged body need the balancing, vitalizing terrestrial input if I’m to carry the strength and vigor necessary for my upcoming yellow belt test.

Earth also gifts other powers. She welcomes dynamic creative communion.   In concert with our eyes, our ears, taste, touch, smell and intuition, She widens, encourages and hones, inspiring authentic sculpture, cookery, and poetry among other arts. My friend, Lorna Trigg Hirsch, paints vibrant feminine images with expansive names like Cloud Flyer and Shooting Universal Stars; each a heart-sourced expression conceived through interaction with lake-sculpted stones, local caves, and plants.

In addition to the Earth’s biology and creative spirit, trans-personal power resides in the very intent of our goals themselves. This is the power of goodwill. A convergence of heart-held commitment and action dedicated to the good of another or to shared good. A power which, I have found, connects the human heart and effort to greater evolutionary forces and results in a cycle of tremendous creative outflow and renewing centripetal inrush.   Invocation and Evocation so to speak.

My friend, Miguel, playfully reminded me of the power of goodwill this week when he set out to make a unique birthday video card for a young relative. You can check out his unverified world-record-tying results here.

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.