Reaching Sunward

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Beannacht (“Blessing”) by John O’Donohue

A poem for healing, grace, generosity and strength of spirit for a friend in need….

Beannacht (“Blessing”) by John O’Donohue

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O’Donohue also wrote Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

A Book of Celtic Wisdom  


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Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity

My friend Gina is canning peaches and tomatoes, figs and all kinds of summer-lovely things, and as she was telling me about going to buy the last of the summer fruit, I was reminded of this poem that I loved when I was a kid. “Stop the grocery list right there” I said, and I ran to my poetry collection to show her this poem…

After Christmas, when the long, drawn out months of winter are on me and I can’t wait for Spring, I will be so thankful and happy to have some of Gina’s beautiful yellow-orange-pink peaches, and let the colors and flavors of summer refresh me. Thanks Gina!

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity

During that summer
When unicorns were still possible;
When the purpose of knees
Was to be skinned;
When shiny horse chestnuts

(Hollowed out
Fitted with straws
Crammed with tobacco
Stolen from butts
In family ashtrays)

Were puffed in green lizard silence
While straddling thick branches
Far above and away
From the softening effects
Of civilization;

During that summer–
Which may never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was–
Watermelons ruled.

Thick, pink, imperial slices
Melting frigidly on sun-parched tongues
Dribbling from chins;
Leaving the best part,
The black bullet seeds,
To be spit out in rapid fire
Against the wall
Against the wind
Against each other;

And when the ammunition was spent,
There was always another bite:
It was a summer of limitless bites,
Of hungers quickly felt
And quickly forgotten
With the next careless gorging.

The bites are fewer now.
Each one is savored lingeringly,
Swallowed reluctantly.

But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.

John Tobias

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Hope, Reasons to Live, and Suicide Prevention

A friend of mine that I grew up with recently died by suicide. JC felt he had been in too much emotional pain for too long and he didn’t see it getting any better. This was so crushing that I want to share hope with others. I want you to know there is help, there are people who love you and care for you, there are ways to cope with and lessen emotional pain and grief, and that your life, however painful at the moment, is a gift and you can use it to bring help and joy to others and to yourself. These are some things that have given me hope, and I want them to give you hope, too.

Flight of Hope #1 – My favorite movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” wherein George Bailey realizes at the end just how much of a difference he has made in the lives of others, and how many people love and care for him. That lesson has always had a profound effect on me because I believe that much of the good we do and love we engender is unknown to us. Frederick Buechner said, “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.” We are all here together. Separateness is an illusion, for we all touch each other in ways we cannot fathom.

Flight of Hope #2 -I also believe that when we are sad and can’t find a good reason to live, we can focus on helping others. Turning compassion outward sometimes helps us have it for ourselves. If you can find the sacred part of yourself and live from there, you’ll touch people in positive ways. One little flicker of light is all it takes to light a dark room – find that light within yourself and share it.

Emily Dickinson wrote,

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Flight of Hope #3 – When I saw Under the Tuscan Sun, I had just gone through a terrible divorce and was reeling emotionally and financially. My life had been overturned and I lost my love and my home. I had thoughts myself that it would be easier not to go on. But after seeing that movie, I realized that many lives are available to us. It is possible, for instance, to sell off everything I own, move to Italy and work as a waitress!! I didn’t do that – what I did was move far away, and in with some friends, and worked in a flower shop. I healed through the support of my friends and the willingness to change my life. It is possible to get a new job, a new home, move to a different part of the town/state/country/world, cut your hair, get a makeover, meet new friends, get a pet, go to social events, learn new skills, read new books, etc. In other words, when your current life is unbearable, death is not the next step. The next step is to reinvent yourself, and reinvent your life. You are not stuck. You are not trapped. Another lesson from that movie is that the future is built by what you do now – Martini tells Francis, “Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.” Believe that your train is coming! Build the tracks…

Flight of Hope #4 – Many people are on anti-depressants, and when properly diagnosed, that’s a good thing. But another part of emotional health is recognizing your feelings and being able to cope with them. Expressing our feelings is what keeps them from exploding. What if, when we feel sad, we could validate and express our feelings in these ways? I think we’d find that the sadness dissipates.

  • Vocalize sad feelings – cry, yell, wail, sob, moan
  • Draw yourself in a sad situation that you remember
  • Find music that reflects your sadness
  • Express your sadness through dance if you feel like it
  • Write about your sadness – keep a sadness diary
  • Watch a movie that you know will allow your tears to flow
  • Think about who you wish you could share your sadness with and picture yourself talking to this person
  • Share your sad feelings with someone

Flight of Hope #5 – Perspective is also important to think about when you are very sad. Everyone experiences suffering and pain. Every single person in the world will experience loss and grief. You are not alone in feeling the way you do. It is our courage in these circumstances – to remain free inside our hearts and not to let suffering smother our spirit – that makes us the hero of our own journey.

Norbert Capek composed this poem in Dresden Prison in 1941, shortly before he was transferred to Dachau concentration camp, where he died in October, 1942 ~

It is worthwhile to live
and fight courageously
for sacred ideals.

O blow ye evil winds
into my body’s fire
my soul you’ll never unravel.

Even though disappointed a thousand times
or fallen in the fight
and everything would worthless seem,

I have lived amidst eternity —
Be grateful, my soul —
My life was worth living.

He who was pressed from all sides
but remained victorious in spirit
is welcomed into the choir of heroes.

He who overcame the fetters
giving wings to his mind
is entering into the golden age of
the victorious.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond tells his son, Albert, “Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome, ‘Do your worst, for I will do mine!’ Then the fates will know you as we know you: as Albert Mondego, the man!” It is the courage you muster, and the courage you have in the worst moments that make you a mature human being. If you look for that courage, you’ll find it. Don’t give up!

Flight of Hope #6 – Start simple. There are many things to open your senses to that may bring you back into an appreciation of life. Go outside and let your senses awaken. Walk on the beach – feel the sand, smell and taste the salt-air, hear the waves and the gulls, watch the sunset. Walk down the street or walk in the woods, drive to the desert or sit on a park bench, and pay attention to each one of your senses. Close your eyes and experience. Anne Frank wote, “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.”

Flight of Hope #7 – There is someone available right now to listen and help.

The most important step is to talk to someone. People who feel suicidal should not try to cope alone. They should seek help NOW.

  • Talk to family or friends. Just talking to a family member or a friend or a colleague can bring huge relief.
  • Talk to a befriender. Some people cannot talk to family or friends. Some find it easier to talk to a stranger. There are befriending centers all over the world, with volunteers who have been trained to listen. If calling is too difficult, the person can send an email.
  • Talk to a doctor. If someone is going through a longer period of feeling low or suicidal, he or she may be suffering from clinical depression. This is a medical condition caused by a chemical imbalance, and can usually be treated by a doctor through the prescription of drugs and/or a referral to therapy.

Call the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-784-2433 (TOLL FREE Nation Wide)
Website: www.timesunion.com/communities/samaritans/
Website: www.suicidepreventioncenter.org

The experts say suicide is rarely a spur of the moment decision and is not so much about wanting to die, but about a powerful need for pain to end. All types of people die by suicide: men and women, rich and poor, old and young, straight and gay, rural and urban. What suicidal people share are feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and isolation, a desire for a solution to their problems, and deep uncertainties about living and dying. The more you know about suicide, the better you will be able to help someone struggling with these issues.

In the days and hours before people take their own lives, there are usually

Warning Signs:

The strongest warning signs are verbal: “I can’t go on,” “Nothing matters any more,” “I’m thinking of ending it all.” Such remarks should always be taken seriously.

Other warning signs include:
Becoming depressed or withdrawn for > 2 weeks
Behaving recklessly
Getting affairs in order and giving away valued possessions
Showing a marked change in behavior, attitudes or appearance
Abusing drugs or alcohol

What do people who feel suicidal want?

Someone who will take time to really listen.

Someone who won’t judge, or give advice or opinions, but will give their undivided attention.

Someone to trust.

Someone who will respect them.

Someone who will say, “I care.”

Someone who will make him/herself available; put the person at ease and speak calmly.

Someone who will reassure, accept and believe.

What do people who feel suicidal not want?

To be alone. Rejection can make the problem seem ten times worse. Having someone to turn to makes all the difference. Just listen.

To be advised. Lectures don’t help. Nor does a suggestion to “cheer up”, or an easy assurance that “everything will be okay.” Don’t analyze, compare, categorize or criticize.

To be interrogated. Don’t change the subject, don’t pity or patronize. Talking about feelings is difficult. People who feel suicidal don’t want to be rushed or put on the defensive.

Have hope – we are all children of God, we are all made of stars.

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More thoughts on love…love in action

May we love ever more.
May we motivate ourselves to committed love in Action.
May we motivate ourselves to live the life we wish to see in the world.
May we be the transformation we wish to see in the world.
From the inside out . . .
From the roots branching upwards . . .
From the heart
to thought
to word
to action.
Through life’s trials and hardships
we can arise beautiful and free.

for luna – julia butterfly hill – 11/26/2000

tree-of-life.jpg

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“What you feel only matters to you. It’s what you do to the people you say you love. That’s what matters. That’s the only thing that counts.” ~The Last Kiss

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Another way that you love your enemy is this:

When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy,
that is the time which you must not do it.
There will come a time, in many instances,
when the person who hates you most,
the person who has misused you most,
the person who has gossiped about you most,
the person who has spread false rumors about you most,
there will come a time when
you will have an opportunity to defeat that person.
It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job;
it might be in terms of helping that person
to make some move in life.
That’s the time you must do it.
That is the meaning of love.

In the final analysis,
love is not this sentimental something that we talk about.
It’s not merely an emotional something.
Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men.
It is the refusal to defeat any individual.
When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power,
you seek only to defeat evil systems.
Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love,
but you seek to defeat the system.

loving your enemies – martin luther king jr. – 1957


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If there is to be peace…

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

chinese philospher – lao-tse – 6th century bce

rabinspeace2.jpg

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Tonglen for Peace

Tonglen is Tibetan for ‘taking and giving’, and it refers to a meditation practice practiced in Tibetan Buddhism.

In the practice, one visualizes taking onto oneself the suffering of others, and giving to others, one’s own happiness and success. As such it is a training in altruism in its most extreme form.

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Wage peace with your breath.

Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.

Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.

Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.

Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.

Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.

Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.

Make soup.

Play music, memorize the words for thank you in three languages.

Learn to knit, and make a hat.

Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief
as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.

Swim for the other side.

Wage peace.

Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious:

Have a cup of tea and rejoice.

Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Celebrate today.

wage peace – judyth hill – september 12, 2001

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What to do during war…

Children, everybody, here’s what to do during war:

In a time of destruction, create something.
A poem.
A parade.
A community.
A school.
A vow.
A moral principle.
One peaceful moment.

~ maxine hong kingston

peace.jpg

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Ansel Adams and a quote….

Oak, Ansel Adams

This weekend I went to see the Ansel Adams exhibit at the Bellagio.

There was a favorite poem of his in the exhibit that I thought you would enjoy:

I know that I am one with beauty

And that my comrades are one.

Let our souls be mountains,

Let our spirits be stars,

Let our hearts be worlds.

Ella Young

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