AWAKENING TO PLAY

“The one thing that nobody else has is you, your voice, your mind, your story, your vision.  So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.” Neil Gaiman

What is your favorite way to play?  Is play a regular part of your life? How does it make you feel?

I love to play with words! Crossword puzzles delight me and I do one every morning even when I need to get help from my husband whose broad vocabulary includes sports terms I’ve never known.  Sports have never interested me except for gymnastic events.

About once a week I lure my husband into playing Scrabble with me.  Even if he didn’t play with me, I’d probably just play with myself because the challenge of trying to create the word combination with the most points is fun.  It’s a great distraction from ordinary daily activity.

Reading and Writing Create New Experiences

But the ultimate word game is writing.  Of course, it is about much more, but at a creative level each word counts more than in Scrabble.  My word choice describes an action, a thought, an emotion or physical aspect of a person or place.  One word can bring a scene or character to life.

During this quarantine, I’m especially grateful that I love to read and write because there is little I can do away from home.  While I can’t play with the words I read, I often admire the way an author uses them to create images and actions that draw the reader into the story.  Reading also makes me think and there’s plenty of time for that – to allow my mind to wander and explore the best solution for a challenge in my life.

Exploring Ways to Play

As adults it’s not unusual for us to have forgotten how to play unless we have children who will be only too happy to demonstrate for us.  For those of us without young children, we have to find our own ways to play in order to lighten our mood and give us joy.

Where I live we can hike or drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway although it is sometimes crowded and hard to find a safe place to get out.  We also have three small lakes nearby to walk around and watch the ducks and geese.  Near us is a golf course where people play, keeping their distance.  Walking in the neighborhood with plenty of trees and dogs is very pleasant.

Playing Together On The Internet

I’m grateful for Zoom because it allows us to see others at meetings or book groups even when they are states or countries away.  If the time conflicts with dinner, we can still attend the event, eat, and participate at the same time.  This can also be helpful for parents who have to stay at home to watch their kids.

While I’m not always happy with Facebook, it is another way to play with life.  I am grateful because it allows me to see photos and videos of my grandnieces and grandnephews playing sports or cheering.  Friends make me laugh with their posts of amusing animal photos or humorous quotes or cartoons.  Others love the outdoors and share sunsets over the mountains, paths through the forest, and brightly-colored flowers and leaves.  Song writers even post their latest compositions or even offer a concert on line.

Playing With Inner Peace

While it is important to find ways to play when life is so restricted, there is also a need to play with inner peace.  None of us remain happy all the time, but how we interpret any experience is affected by our mental and emotional condition.  When we do activities that we consider fun, the positive energy uplifts us.  But there are times when we do not find an experience to be fun because our negative mental energy pulls us down.  When that happens, we need to take the time to “play” with our minds by sitting quietly in a meditative way, take a deep breath and exhale, letting the negative energy leave us.

What we feel at this time may be a form of anger, depression, or boredom, but at the core of all negative emotions is fear.  Sit quietly and see yourself surrounded with light.  As you inhale, breath the light into your body and on the exhale allow the darkness of your negative thoughts to leave your body.  If you are feeling many different things, focus on one at a time until you feel it release.

When we are able to spend some time in this peaceful place, we are more able to “play” with the restrictions of our lives.  With time and practice, this experience of meditation can bring us the peace to experience life in a more positive way.  Wishing you a safe, joyful, and playful week!

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

AWAKENING TO OUR COMFORT

AWAKENING TO DEEPEN OURSELVES

LIGHTING OUR DARKNESS

 

AWAKENING TO TODAY’S TRANSITION

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” Eckhart Tolle

How do you feel about the political transition we are all in?  Is there also a personal transition in your life?  How are you dealing with the changes that need to take place?

It’s a gray, rainy day and I wish I had a cat.  I used to have two cats and loved the way they snuggled with me in bed or when I sat on the couch reading.  Their warmth and fuzziness were comforting and it was difficult when both had passed.

Dogs can be comforting too, but our current dog Susie is on her last legs, literally, and spends most of the day sleeping on her bed.  There was a time too when she climbed onto a human bed to comfort my husband’s former wife when she was ill.  But now it is difficult to see Susie slipping away although we all have to make the ultimate transition sooner or later.

In some sense we are all in transition at this moment in our country.  Unfortunately, it isn’t looking like a smooth one.  We all have experiences in life when we need to move on, but the change may feel difficult and uncomfortable.  We may resist because it is disappointing to leave a good job, to lose the person we love, or see the candidate we supported lose an election.   Accepting the discomfort of this situation allows us the opportunity to recover and move on.

Changes Are Reality

When we refuse to accept the inevitable, we harm ourselves and often others.  President Trump’s refusal to concede ignores the value of a peaceful transition that benefits all citizens and himself.  But his attitude indicates that he values himself only when he has power over others.  To have one’s self-worth based on such an idea leads only to disaster.

At first, I was only angry when he refused to concede.  Now that he has proceeded with trying to change the election results, I’ve realized he is even more insecure than I suspected.  Despite his attempts to create difficulty for President-elect Biden, his aggressive behavior will only turn more people away from him.  This is a democracy.  The people have made a decision, and it’s time for Trump to move on.

There are always things we need to do to prepare for a transition when we are aware of it in advance.  If the transition is the result of losing a loved one, we may shed tears, reach out to friends who have hopefully reached out to us, and give ourselves time to see what changes we need to make in order to move on.

We Can Learn From Losses

My maternal grandmother was the one person in my life who totally accepted me.  She always expressed her love, accepted who and where I was, and supported me without judgement.  Losing her was devastating and I grieved for a long time.  But with time, I understood that her love would always be with me, that I truly was the good person she saw me to be, and after I grieved, I understood she would always be in my heart.

I’ve also made many transitions moving from place to place.  Naturally, the moves required much preparation:  physically packing, hiring a moving van, and finding a new place to live.  Although difficult at times and not always a desired transition, something good invariably came into my life.  I had a better paying job, made new and interesting friends, or lived in a healthier environment.

When we choose to stay stuck, we close our minds to new possibilities that may expand our lives.  We shrink our possibilities.  When we are forced into a transition that we do not desire, it is a rich time for reflection.  What have we been doing wrong? What have we been doing right?  Change presents an opportunity to learn, and we all need to be life-long learners.

Being president has made Trump feel more powerful than ever.  Anything else, he considers a loss.  Instead he needs to realize the opportunities that being an ex-president offer.  Having served in this office gives him influence that persists, but his inability to move on, his desire to destroy what he can to make the transition difficult for Biden only diminishes his own power.  Yet he cannot see that.  How sad.

As Trump leaves office, I have only these words for him:  the more you destroy our democracy, the more you are personally diminished.  Leave office with the elegance of the king you wish you were.

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

Related Articles:

AWAKENING TO TRANSITIONS

AWAKENING TO RELEASE ILLUSIONS

TRANSFORMING THE FEAR OF CHANGE

 

AWAKENING TO THE OTHER SIDE

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.  Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”  Marie Curie

How do you feel about the election?  Does the late counting disturb you?  How will you feel if your candidate doesn’t win?

This election has created heightened anxiety for many of us and it may be days before we really know the outcome.  Initially, Trump is doing better than I expected and some seats in Congress and the Senate aren’t going in the direction for which I had hoped.

I often walk around shaking my head.  How can so many people vote for a man whose words are often so demeaning?  How can they vote for a president who has refused to help people struggling during this pandemic?  How can women vote for him when he often acts so disrespectfully toward women?

I don’t understand.  Obviously, there are people who think like him, who have the money to do what they want and buy what they want, who don’t need government help even in this trying time.  Do they like him because they share his values?  Do they like him because he pushes people around and disrespects them to show he is powerful or to prove how manly he is?

Will they vote for anyone who attaches the label Republican to their campaign? Are they afraid that their family or community will reject them if they don’t vote for him, even if they don’t agree with him in all respects?  Or do they vote for him because they actually think he will help them in some way although his actions so far prove otherwise?

I often feel like I’m living on another planet although fortunately I live in a very caring and aware community that takes seriously police reform, affordable housing needs, and the goals of Black Lives Matter.

While some of the election results are not what I wanted to see, I have to be hopeful to the end.  I refuse to give in to the darkness that hovers over us and the fears that our democracy will soon be destroyed by a man who admires Putin and Hitler, who loves to create fear in people by threatening to eliminate Social Security and Medicare, the only income and medical insurance many older people have.

Years ago, I watched one episode of his reality television show The Apprentice.  The way he treated and manipulated people frankly grossed me out. It disturbed me to think that people actually enjoyed watching him act like this.  After seeing this program, why would anyone want him to run the country?  Perhaps many of our citizens have become so addicted to the characters on television that they have begun to believe that is real life.

I guess all we can do today and for the next few days is to take quite a few deep breaths, pray for peace, and love all those in our lives regardless of their voting choices.  Maybe one day, we will understand.  And by all means, remember to love yourself as well.

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

To learn more about how to release your fears read the following:

AWAKENING TO RELEASE OUR FEAR

AWAKENING TO UNEXPECTED FEAR

AWAKENING TO THE PEACE AND WHOLENESS BEYOND FEAR

 

AWAKENING TO OUR COMFORT

“People need to rediscover the ability to find comfort amidst discomfort.  It is only while enduring discomfort that we find solutions.”  Hanno Langenhoven

Have you found any comfort during this discomforting time?  How did you look for it?  What form did it take?

Most of us are definitely looking for comfort during this crazy, scary time.  The things that may usually have made us feel good like going to the movies, seeing a play, or shopping downtown in the crowds aren’t possible in many places.  In other ways, they aren’t wise things to do even if they are still possible.

Creating New Events

I definitely had to adjust my birthday celebration this week to be safe during the pandemic.  No eating out at an elegant restaurant with friends or attending some kind of entertainment event.  Even hiking in the woods was taken off the list because of problems with my hip joint.  Instead my husband and I drove up to Mt. Mitchell to see the fall leaves at many stages on the mountains.  Near the top, the leaves had already dropped, leaving only the dark green fir.

We took a little walk outside in the sun at the top of the mountain with a light cool breeze blowing.  There were no tables around and too many people so we ate lunch in the car, enjoying chicken salad, vegetable salad, and cookies.  Simple and delicious.  After coming down the mountain, we picked up gluten free crab cakes for dinner.

My husband cooked the meal and did the dishes.  Then we watched  two episodes of “Everwood” on Amazon Prime, laughing about how crazy the two main characters are who are doctors.  When we crawled into bed, I felt flooded with love for my dear partner.  Just being with him had made it the best birthday ever.

Creating Comfort From Discomfort

We had just done simple things during the day that gave us pleasure.  It’s true of course that we have had to rediscover what gives us pleasure. We’ve also had to adjust what we consider comfortable in relation to the virus.  In other words, “to find comfort amidst discomfort.”

We don’t like living with limitations but they push us to be more creative.  I have a friend who is an artist and is taking an online painting class rather than the face-to-face class she usually takes.  The paintings she is creating are amazing and beautiful! Every day when I go on Facebook she has posted another beauty.  Isolation has certainly not restricted her creativity.

Artist: Carol Czeczot – www.blackmountainartist.com

In order to find the comfort hiding beneath the limitations, we may have to decide to find pleasure in the simple things of life that we often overlook.  When I was single and living alone, I often was not with friends on Saturday nights.  Many of my friends were married and spending Saturday with their mates or family.

Without family nearby, I had to comfort myself.  When I felt lonely, I would take a hot shower, fix a hot cup of tea or cocoa, put on my pajamas and crawl in bed with a good book.  Pampering myself was nurturing and a way to love myself.

Circumstances force us to look beyond the obvious and become more creative with solutions to problems that have had us stuck in one frame of mind.  Being open to unexpected and unusual possibilities may well be the key to turning our discomforts into satisfying outcomes.

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

Related Articles:

AWAKENING TO LIGHT THE DARKNESS

AWAKENING TO IMPROVISE OUR LIVES

AWAKENING TO THE VALUE OF CHANGE

 

 

 

AWAKENING TO OUR MYSTERIES

“I think on some level, you do your best things when you’re a little off-balance, a little scared.  You’ve got to work from mystery, from wonder, from not knowing.”  Daniel Dafoe

How do you feel about a mystery in your life?  Does it frighten you?  Does it ever reveal a new way to see your life?

Fall is always a reminder that times are changing.  For a while it is lovely with the colorful flowers and multicolored leaves on the trees.  The intense heat of summer has subsided and the air is cool and perfect for outdoor hikes with just a sweater or light coat.  For a while the mountains startle us with vivid colors like a Van Gogh painting.

And then – things drop away.  The flowers and leaves turn brown and fall.  The squirrels stuff themselves with acorns and pack more up for winter.  All of nature prepares for rest during the winter in order to return in the spring renewed.

Not only is nature in transition, humans are as well.  We are living through a mysterious time, daily discovering that our country is not what we thought it was, that our government may no longer be “for the people.”  Our health is threatened by a mysterious illness that infects equally and we have no cure.

A Time of Letting Go

Creation Spirituality, a spiritual community created by Matthew Fox, divides the year into four areas.  This time of year is known as the Via Negativa, a time of mystery, of letting go, of emptying, of sitting in the shadow, and experiencing the dark night of the soul.

Like the trees and flowers, it is a time to rest and renew our lives for the coming of spring and new life.  It is a time to explore who we really are in this time of change.  We may take the time to let the mysteries of our lives open to us.

What do we need to let go of?  Many people are cleaning out their closets and garages, letting go of things they no longer need:  books they’ll never read again, clothes they’ve outgrown, furniture that is broken, or tools they never use.  In my community there is a website where people post the free things they want to give away and the list is endless and surprising at times.

Looking Within

But letting go of physical things is the easy part.  Looking at our inner mysteries is more challenging.  Who are we really?  Even before the pandemic, were we living the life we really wanted?  Are we uncomfortable having to stay home most of the time because our family relationships are difficult?

When we experience a dark night of the soul, we often feel we are trapped in a shadow and have no idea how to find the light.  But this is the time when we must look inside and ask, “Who am I?”  Are we living who we really are?  While that may feel terribly uncomfortable at times, it may also lead us to discover parts of ourselves that are shut down and what we need to do to become more complete.

When I had to move from New Orleans, away from the rest of my family, it was not a choice I really wanted to make.  If I wanted to heal my Chronic Fatique Syndrome, I had to go to a dry climate, so I chose Albuquerque where I did have one New Orleans friend who had moved there.

We Are One With Spirit

During my time there, I discovered Religious Science church that became my spiritual home.  It was based on the science of mind philosophy, the belief that God is one with us and all that is.  The energy we create and express affects others, and what we express comes back to us.  Being part of a loving community and practicing this spiritual belief helped heal more than my body.

There have been many moments in my life when I felt depressed or confined by my circumstances.  As a single woman, making enough money to pay the bills was also a challenge.  Not being in a relationship for many years was a challenge.  Dealing with continuing health challenges that limited what I could eat was a challenge.

Lighting the Dark Within

Learning to adjust my thinking and meditate taught me that closing my eyes, moving into the darkness, could open me to the light within.  In that place, I could find peace and let the negative thinking and feelings drop away.  Clearing space within for the light to appear often brought solutions to problems I would never have “thought” of.

Many times, as I sit quietly, lie in bed dozing off, or just as I wake, a new thought presents itself.  What it means may be a total mystery.  Thinking about it may or may not reveal its meaning.  When I’m mystified, I write the thought down just as I do if I wake remembering a dream, knowing that if it is important, its relevance will be revealed later.

While we learn who we are by being with other people, by working or playing, it is our alone time when the deepest mysteries can open us to the deepest solutions.  Spirit is with us in those moments if we are willing to sit with the mystery.

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

DANCING TO THE MYSTERY OF LIFE

AWAKENING TO LIGHT THE DARKNESS

AWAKENING TO THE LIGHT

 

AWAKENING TO YOUR TRUE SELF

“Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul was put on this Earth to be.  Find that truth, live that truth and everything else will come.”  Ellen De Generes

Are you who you want to be? If not, how do you need to change? Are you willing to make that change?

I recently finished reading “Ellie and the Harp Maker” by Hazel Prior.  It is certainly one of my year’s favorites, a story about a woman who discovers who she really is when she learns to play a harp.  The sound of the harp and the joy of playing it opens a part of herself that she had closed off to please her husband.  He didn’t like the sound of the harp and thought her wanting a harp was foolish.

While learning to play the harp and keeping it secret from her husband created many problems, her choice eventually led her to a life that allowed her to love herself and be loved for who she truly was.  It was truly an uplifting story and a joy to read.

Challenging the Norms

Growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s, I often lived with the conflict between who society thought I should be as a woman and who I thought I was.  In a way, hitting adulthood in the 1960’s did lighten the load and offer more possibilities on the surface.  But the reality was that I was still expected to be a devoted wife and mother and put my interests in second place.  My desire to be a modern dancer did not please anyone.

Those were the expectation’s Ellie’s husband had for her, so it was easy for me to relate to this story.  But how many of us – men or woman – are not being who we truly are?

How do we find who we truly are?  How do we feel about the work we do?  Do we enjoy it or do it only because it’s the only way we can find to make money?

Going Deeper

When we feel drawn to something like music, art, or running long distance races, or any pursuit that goes against our family or society’s concept of who we should be, it is a challenge.  Often, we begin to do it as something “on the side.”  With time, it may become more than a hobby.

When this activity or desire comes from deep within and nourishes us in more than an external way, it may very well be an expression of our soul.  Our soul is our core.  It is the deepest part of us and when we do not feed it, we are only a part of who we are.

While religious beliefs and activity may be at the core of our spiritual being, feeding the soul may also be experienced in many ways.  I suspect the runner, at some point, feels totally in the moment, allowing all worries to drop away, and being at one with all that is.

As a dancer I certainly experienced the feeling of going beyond just the pleasure of physical activity.  When I am writing, the room often drops away.  Words and ideas flow through my hands into the computer.  Many of them are not expressions I would have “thought of.”

A similar experience may also be experienced by mathematicians and scientists looking for a new solution to a problem or inventing a new device.  A new idea appears that the logical mind may have missed.

Seeing the Soul Beneath the Surface

When we are being who we truly are, we still have challenges, but we solve them based on who we are, not on who others expect us to be.  As we age, our challenges may make it impossible to continue a physical activity. There came a point where I had to stop dancing or undergo knee surgery.  I realized that without the stress of dance, I could live normally with my knees and repair the problem with physical therapy.  I had seen many other dancers go through the surgery, not once, but many times because it did not permanently solve the issue.

Fortunately, by this time, I had come to realize that I was not just a dancer. I was a creative, spiritual person.  I could express who I was in many ways.  I had already learned to be creative as a high school teacher and as a writer and found pleasure in helping others explore their creativity.  Having the surgery was unnecessary.  I was fine as I was.

Many years later, I now possess the energy and strength to ballroom dance, write, and walk through the forest.  That’s all I need.

Like Ellie, when we become who we truly are, we will make “music” from the soul.

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

RELATED ARTICLES:

AWAKENING TO DEEPEN OURSELVES

ART: A FEAST TO AWAKEN THE SOUL

AWAKENING TO SPIRITUAL CREATIVITY

 

AWAKENING TO LEARN FROM NATURE

      “Adopt the pace of nature.  Her secret    is patience.”  Emerson

How often are you in nature?  How do you feel there?  What do you most love about nature?

We are not currently living in a time when it is easy to be patient.  We all want things to return to normal.  We want to work again, visit friends and relatives, eat out for dinner, or visit an art festival.  When we are feeling irritable or anxious, nature can offer us some peace and help us find the patience we need to slow down.

Once I’m in nature, tension drops away.  It’s affected me that way as long as I can remember because I spent a lot of time in the forests of Arkansas as I grew up.  Hiking and swimming in streams were two of my family’s favorite outings and as a kid I thought this activity was fun.

Now, stepping into the forest or my shady backyard takes me to a peaceful place immediately.  So today, I’m offering you a different kind of blog post—one with photos of natural scenes I’ve observed, and I do include animals as a part of nature.  I hope this experience will bring you peace and laughter.

What is Suz hunting for?

Suz is snoozing. “Don’t bother me!”

Owen Lake

Ducks at Owen Lake

The beauty of nature

Neighborhood bear family enjoying our dinner of acorns.

Very rude squirrel eating dinner on St. Francis’s head.

Giant mushroom tent

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

AWAKENING TO WILDNESS, ONE WITH NATURE, Part 2

AWAKENING TO THE GIFTS OF SOLITUDE

AWAKENING TO STILLNESS

 

 

AWAKENING TO LIGHT THE DARKNESS

“A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.” Francis of Assisi

Who or what is the sunbeam in your life?  Is it you? How do you shine your light?

Light comes to us early in the summer and stays late although rainy days cast shadows across the mountains.  Still the sun peaks through every day and at times surrounds us as a reminder there is at least one sunbeam in our lives.

But besides the physical light, what other sunbeams appear in your life?

Some Elements of Our Lives Lift Us Up

Is your spouse or are your children or other family members lights in your life?  My husband certainly is.  The depth of his ideas often opens my mind and takes me down a path I have not seen before.  He also lightens my mood with his humor and the jazz he plays on his saxophone.

My nephews and niece, who live halfway across the country, all have children.  I miss seeing them face to face, but I often feel “lit up” by the kids’ antics and accomplishments when their parents’ share their activities on Facebook.

Do you ever feel enlightened by what you read?  I am often amazed by the ability of some people to rise above their limiting backgrounds.  Recently, I was deeply touched by James McBride’s story, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother.  While he was a black man learning to survive in a white world, his white Jewish mother was living most of her life among black people who kept her at a distance.  Their heroic stories lifted my heart and brought light to my understanding.

How Light Slips Through the Darkness

Although we are surrounded by much negativity today, the light slips through the news with  stories of people surviving the virus, taking care of the natural environment by reviving plants and animals that have almost disappeared, and feeding the hungry and helping the homeless.

But the stories that often touch me the most deeply are those of people, who having been wrongly accused and put in prison for years, are finally released.  Imagine your life and reputation being falsely stolen for most of your adult years. Thank goodness for DNA, for it is often the evidence that allows these human beings to step out of the prison darkness into the light of a real life.

Focusing to See the Light

What about the times when our lives contain light but we don’t see it?  Aristotle once said, “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”  I’ve known people who invariably saw the dark side of a situation first and become so caught up in that that they missed what was positive.

In 1999 I sadly discovered I had chronic fatique syndrome.  Living near my family in New Orleans, the hot, damp weather had made me sick.  I longed to move to Asheville to be near mountains and a couple of friends, but my doctor insisted I could only heal in a dry climate.  I was very depressed about this.Fortunately, a friend had recently moved to Albuquerque which I assumed was a boring landscape.  I visited her and was amazed by the beauty of the sunsets and the Latino and Native American art and culture.  Moving there, not only healed me, it helped me grow by expanding my awareness as I taught in high schools filled with students of diverse cultures.

How Can We Change This Dark Time

We are now living in a dark time when our democracy is significantly endangered. We can either let this depress and limit us or we can see that it is an opportunity to shine a light on what needs to be changed.

Each day there are more displays of light: peaceful protesters, politicians speaking out against what is corrupt even when it may risk their careers, and citizens who give money to organizations that feed the hungry or help those losing their homes.  Those who faithfully wear masks despite the discomfort are also beings of light protecting themselves and others.

How are you the sunbeam that shatters the darkness and chases the clouds away?

©2020 Georganne Spruce

AWAKENING TO TRUE ENLIGHTENMENT

LIGHTING OUR DARKNESS

AWAKENING TO DISCOVER THE LIGHT

AWAKENING TO OUR SOUL’S GARDEN

“Our uniqueness is God’s garden and God calls us to walk in this garden in love…for one another.” Reverend Naomi Tutu

Does your spiritual belief allow you to love all people? Does your life include diversity?  How are you able to accept those who are different?

On Sunday, August 16, I was very moved by the main message Rev. Naomi Tutu gave at the online Jubilee Community service in Asheville, NC.  Related to her statement that I have quoted, she talked about how diverse her mother’s garden was and how much she loved that diversity in nature. I was very moved by the metaphor of the garden.  Although I have rarely grown gardens, I love the natural gardens of the forest.

Most of us would find a garden with a wide variety of blossoms to be very beautiful.  Around here, the Biltmore Estate has a popular flower garden filled with color especially in the spring and summer where people love to walk and relax.

My husband and I recently wandered off a hiking path to discover a lovely community garden.  We were amazed by the wide diversity of colorful fruits and vegetables that lusciously feed those who cultivate the field.

We are blessed to live in this Appalachian area around Asheville because the natural environment is the most diverse in the world.  It is a gold mine for those who wish to explore the diversity of the natural environment and we frequently find flowers or mushrooms we’ve never before seen.

Most of us appreciate the diversity in our natural garden, but what about our human garden?  Are we comfortable walking among its diversity?  Does the variety of humanity feed us in some way?

What Diversity Can Teach Us

Our ability to be comfortable with human diversity is deeply rooted in our background, experiences, and open mindedness. As a child I was taught to respect all people, but for many years the only people I was around were white like me.  In high school and college, I had minor contacts with people of African descent but did not really know anyone until I acted alongside a black student in a theatrical performance. It was the first time I realized I really had no idea what it was like not to be white.

Later, living in Washington, D. C., I encountered few people in the suburbs unlike me except when I was teaching at a Catholic girls’ school.  I’d grown up Protestant so I had to get used to the culture of nuns, dress more conservatively, and adjust to attending the school’s religious masses.

It was not until I lived in Denver in the eighties that I experienced an even more diverse spiritual environment.  I had always been searching for something without knowing what it was that was missing in my Christian spiritual life.  I had long ago stopped attending services, and because of a deep friendship with a man who was a Buddhist, I became curious about his faith.  I studied eastern religion, learned to meditate, and taught dance for a short time at the Naropa Institute in Boulder.

From this new experience, my understanding of God’s love expanded.  I dealt with life’s challenges in a calmer, more centered manner.  As I moved through this new spiritual garden, I enjoyed its diversity because it opened my mind to an expanded understanding of humanity.  I felt connected to people from Eastern countries in a way I had never before experienced.

Differences May Teach Us

Diversity is easier to accept when we understand the nature of our differences.  Except for the gender prejudice I had experienced as a woman, I had never been treated differently because I was white until I lived in New Orleans where, in some areas, whites did not feel welcome.

It is hard to imagine any place on earth that is more unique than New Orleans.  It is a multicultural city with a large black population, where most of all families are Catholic, and the food is unique, based on French and African influences.  I moved there to be with my family.

Having previously taught in a Catholic school helped me understand those I met who were dedicated to Catholicism.  Teaching multiracial gifted students in the inner city helped me understand their challenges and I felt compassion for the difficulties they faced trapped in poverty. I still remember the girl with a dysfunctional mother who got pregnant so someone would love her and the boy who feared his brother would be shot by a gang member.

Accepting Diversity Opens Hearts

It is so easy to judge people at a distance because we cannot see who they truly are.  It is much easier to simply dismiss them as different, but when we take the time to know them, they can potentially enrich our lives.

The diversity in my life experiences has taught me that we must learn to love those who are different from us and to respect all humanity.  When we focus on what we share in common rather than only on what is different, we plant seeds of love that will grow into a garden of understanding and respect.  Anais Nin has said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

The more we open our eyes and our hearts and come to understand that we are all God’s children, the more our soul’s garden will expand and feed us abundantly.

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

AWAKENING TO LOVE THE WORLD Part 2, DIVERSITY

AWAKENING TO COMPASSION

AWAKENING TO OUR WORLD COMMUNITY

 

AWAKENING TO OUR FREEDOM

“You will never be free until you free yourself from the prison of your own false thoughts.” Phillip Arnold

Are there thoughts that restrict your life? Why do you think this way? What has happened in your life that helped you let go of these thoughts?

What we think and the ideas we believe form who we are.  If the source of the information beneath our ideas is reliable, it can allow us to make reasonable choices and take sensible action.  If the information is flawed, we may make decisions that lead us down the wrong path.

During this pandemic, getting the correct information about the virus has been a challenge because  of conflicting viewpoints.  Who is more likely to understand a disease than a medical doctor or researcher despite what some politicians tell us?

If we want to eat healthy food, who is most likely to give us the most accurate information about the best vegetables and fruits to buy?  The producer who grows organic products or the farmer who uses banned pesticides on his crop?  When we understand the source, we can make the wisest choice.

Why Do We Ignore Facts?

But, what if our conclusions about a subject are based on something other than facts? At times, we ignore facts because we have already developed prejudicial attitudes.  For example, if we have grown up in a cult or a strict religious environment that taught us that only our way is right, we may reject others whose beliefs are different and consider them “unholy.”

We may also have political or racial biases because of the way we were raised.  In my family, I grew up with a mother who taught me that all people were created equal and deserved respect.  Her attitude came from her Christian upbringing.  My father, on the other hand, often made racist remarks.  Fortunately, I chose to think like my mother.

My parents were both Democrats and I’ve always been politically liberal partly as a result of being at college in the 1960’s when I became further aware of the nation’s inequities. But again, how I was raised without luxury contributed to my thinking.  My family never went without food, clothing, or shelter but we never experienced material abundance.

However, if I had grown up surrounded by luxury, attended a prestigious school, had a new car to drive to college across town, I might not have noticed those who did not share my wealth.  If my parents had taught me that poor people were just lazy, I might have closed my mind to their actual situations.

Releasing Our False Thoughts

So how do we release thoughts that are not based on reality—thoughts that limit our thinking and create an inaccurate picture of the world around us?

To free ourselves, we have to accept the possibility that there is another viable way to see a person or situation.  While some people care about others because they are Christian and have been taught to do that as a core part of their belief, there are others who care about other people because they have chosen to place love at the center of their lives.

Learning From Diversity

One reason for being boxed in by limited ideas is that we simply haven’t been exposed to sufficient diversity.  In a country that is rapidly becoming more diverse, it is very helpful to join a group in which we interact with people who have different views.  It is easier to understand another point of view when we get to know the person who holds it.  By learning how and why they think differently, we learn to respect them and their differences.

By freeing our thinking, we free ourselves to love and respect all human beings, for it is love that heals all wounds, personal and societal.  Love to you all!

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

AWAKENING TO NEW THOUGHTS

AWAKENING TO OUR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS

AWAKENING TO RACIAL EQUALITY