Monday, September 22, 2014

A Mindful Weekend

Books seem to magically appear in my life when I need them the most, but I may not know it at the time. A book may even sit on the shelf for months, until my life catches up with what its pages are waiting to share. It was because of a book that I spent the past weekend at Copper Beech Institute in West Hartford, Connecticut at a mindfulness retreat.

The book, of course, came along on the train ride from Grand Central Station to Waterbury, Connecticut, then in friend Marian's car on to Copper Beech. I'm not sure which of us was more excited, although I kept hearing muffled giggles from the zippered compartment of my suitcase.
The book's author, Sharon Salzberg, was the featured speaker at the retreat. Book and author were to be reunited, and I was going to meet the author whose words course through my mindfulness meditations each morning. It was a toss-up.

 Kindness as a Force sounded like a misnomer when I first picked up the book seven years ago. A force is strong, heavy, powerful. Kindness is well, kind. Gentle. It doesn't bowl you over like an 80 MPH wind, but sits beside you and helps you hang on. It stays and picks up the pieces afterwards. A force, perhaps, with a quieter nature.

The well-loved book - read three times, underlined, starred, decorated with blue post-it notes - continues to push me along a path of compassion toward self and others. It introduced me to lovingkindness meditation and, along with Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, encouraged me to live in the present moment. It prepared me for a longer path, a journey of labyrinths, where self-discovery and insight spiral through other walkers I meet along the way.

With a hundred or so men and women this weekend, I practiced sitting meditation, walking meditation, lovingkindness meditation. I stretched my body in gentle yoga. I walked a peaceful labyrinth in the early morning as the sun was topping a circle of trees.

I was kind to myself. The place where all kindness must begin.

As I handed Sharon my book to sign, I had a gushy speech, filled with flowery words of author admiration, all prepared to deliver. But when it came to the moment, I said simply,
"Thank you. Your words have made a difference in my life."

The book could hardly contain its excitement as Sharon's pen touched the paper.

We both carry her words inside us with a smile.




Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Most Important Words in Today's NY Times

I love our Sunday morning routines, especially on a day as lovely as today! Blue skies, fluffy clouds, cooler temperatures minus the humidity. We're out the door by 7:30, down the 49 floors from our apartment, out the revolving doors, onto Washington Boulevard. Monday-Friday one of Jersey City's busiest streets. But today, quiet, peacefully quiet. One car slows down our jaywalk across two intersections, passed a shaded park lined with red and white periwinkles and remnants of roses, stubbornly hanging on for dear life.

Five minutes later, we're at Starbucks.
A couple of classic oatmeals, blueberry scone, grandé coffee for Drew, tall-vanilla-nonfat-decaf latte for me, or a "What's the use?" as one baffled barista once dubbed my order.
And a New York Times.

A thick Sunday New York Times. An even thicker New York Times stuffed with two added inserts, The New Season of fall movies AND The New Season of theater, classical and dance. At least two hours of reading enjoyment!

We find a bench, dappled with a sunshine/shade pattern, and put the paper aside. The view grabs our attention, more than any headline could.


Boats at Newport Marina

The Hudson

Downtown Manhattan skyline

One World Trade Center

Adjectives only get in the way.

I sift through each section, read, set aside. Drew does the same as we exchange the front page for "Travel" for "The Sunday Review."

Then I start my own piles - "Keep" and "Save." There's always something in "Save" that has caught my eye, that I will bring home and clip. Yes, I'm a newspaper clipper! Each week, anywhere from five to ten items end up on my bulletin board, "Things To Do in NYC" file, in an envelope to a friend or family member, my journal, or on the refrigerator door. I never question why they appeal to me. They just do, and they usually affect my life in a positive way.

Here is this week's collection…..

-article ("Liking Work Really Matters") by Paul A. O'Keefe which cites research for what seems common sense. "Being interested in a task is essential to being good at it." Why do we often forget this?
-bits and pieces from the bestseller lists with interesting books highlighted in yellow
- article about Glenn Close who will be appearing in "A Delicate Balance" on Broadway. The dates of the play go on my calendar and the article to our daughter, Katherine, who assisted Ms. Close recently at the Apple store in Portland, Maine, where she came in for help with her computer.
-an advertisement for the movie "My Old Lady," which starts Wednesday - looks delightful

And a quote - the most important find in my two hours of reading, by Steven Sotloff,
the second journalist killed by ISIS.

It goes on the refrigerator so I will read his words every day.
 Words which will endure long beyond the lives of those who ended his.  

Live your life to the fullest and fight to be happy
Everyone has two lives. 
The second one begins when you realize you have only one.

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