Learning to Rest

 
Learning to Rest
 

Learning to Rest

   American author and philosopher, Sam Keen, captured the essence of summer, when he wrote, "Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability." Add to this a quote from English author and scientist John Lubbock, and you have what for me is a perfect description for summer: "Rest is not idleness, and to sometimes lie on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.

   Rest & Play is one of the eight areas of wellness in our Living Compass Model for Well-Being. It is perhaps not surprising that when people complete the Living Compass Wellness Self-Assessment, a high percentage of them report that they scored  lowest in the area of Rest and Play (If you are interested in taking the wellness assessment, you can do so here.

   Our culture values busyness and doing over being. Rest and play are not highly valued and respected. Often the only time people make time for rest is when they are forced to do so because they have become sick and rundown, from too much busyness.  

   Summer, though, provides us a bit more permission to privilege time for rest and true re-creation. Walking in the park, hiking in the woods, taking a leisurely swim, sitting on the beach, biking,  kayaking, gardening, visiting a local farmers market, or quietly sitting outside in the early morning with a fresh cup of coffee or tea are all opportunities to rest our weary souls and bodies.  

   The quote in the box above reminds us, "If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit." 'I'd like to make a slight amendment to the quote and change the first part to "when you get tired…." Recognizing when we are tired and making intentional time to rest is not a sign weakness, but of emotional and spiritual strength. Taking regular time for Sabbath and rest is essential for our well-being. 

   So here's to summer allowing us to permit ourselves to find respectability in being lazy. And let's remember that it is a sign of wisdom, not weakness, to rest when we are tired.



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On Freedom

 
On. Freedom
 

On Freedom

As our nation celebrated Independence Day this week, I found myself thinking about what it means to be free. The most common meaning of freedom I find for most people has to do with being free from an external control. This, of course, is the understanding the founders of our nation had in mind when they signed the Declaration of Independence, declaring our new country's freedom in 1776. 

There is another meaning of freedom though that I am quite familiar with as a pastor and a therapist. This meaning of freedom is more of an internal experience, as when a person announces to me, "When I first came in here and talked about my guilt for what I had done, it was very painful.  I feel like talking has helped, and I feel that it has freed something up in me." Another example of this kind of freedom is when I hear, "I used to feel so 'stuck' in my grief and sadness, but now that I've been facing it, I feel small signs renewed energy that has been freed up in me."

Whenever we feel trapped or stuck in life, it is essential that we take some time to reflect on whether the cause of this trapped or stuck feeling is external or internal. Most of us have had the experience of thinking we were trapped by a job, a relationship, or the place where we were living, only to realize later after we left the job, relationship or place, that we still felt the same trapped way. There is a book entitled, Wherever You Go, There You Are, that explains quite well that whatever external changes we may make, we inevitably take our internal selves with us.

We are all undoubtedly familiar with the ways a person can be held captive externally, but what are some of the ways a person can be held captive internally? I referred to two examples earlier--a person can be held captive by unresolved guilt or by grief. A person can also be held captive by a bad habit or an addiction. Shame holds many people captive, especially people who have experienced abuse or neglect. Worry, anxiety, and fear have probably kept most of us captive at one time or another in our lives.

In the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus and his disciples have a discussion about the external and internal meanings of freedom. Jesus says to his disciples, "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." His followers do not understand that he is talking about an internal sense of freedom, and they respond to Jesus by letting him know that he is not making sense to them. They have never been held captive by anyone they declare. In their minds, they are already free because they are talking about freedom from an external captor. Jesus is inviting them into another meaning of freedom, an internal freedom that is both spiritual and emotional and is one that they have not yet experienced.

So in honor of the 4th of July, let's all take this same invitation, an invitation to greater freedom by declaring our independence from whatever may be controlling us internally. The first step is to acknowledge where we feel stuck or trapped--to identify in what way we long to feel freer. After we have done this, we will need to discern what is that truth that will set us free--what must we learn, say or do to get unstuck? Do we need to face a secret in our lives that we have been hiding from ourselves and others? Do we need to have a difficult conversation with someone we love? Do we need to deepen our spiritual life? Do we need to change a bad habit? As we do this, we will soon learn that we may need the support of others in our efforts. We will most likely need the help of friends, family, a spiritual leader/and or community, a coach, or a counselor. Let's remember that creating the Declaration of Independence was a group effort too!

As we remember and celebrate the founding of our nation, may we be inspired to persevere in discovering and living the truth in our lives that will set us free as well. 

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

(I am taking a few days off or the holiday weekend and so this column is an updated version of a previous column I wrote several years ago.)



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Receiving Feedback

 
Receiving Feedback
 

Receiving Feedback

There is nothing I enjoy more this time of year than being on my road bike. Wisconsin summer weather plus idyllic rural farm scenery make an ideal combination that is best experienced on two wheels.

It takes me about thirty minutes by bike to get out of town on my way to the countryside.  Along the way I experience a repeated challenge in the form of radar speed feedback signs, where I get to do something that I would certainly never do while driving my car. I speed up and race against the radar to see how high a speed I can register. To date, I am excited to say I have hit 29 mph on a few occasions. There may or may not have been a downhill involved.

The research on radar speed feedback signs shows that they are quite effective in slowing drivers down. (I do not know of any research yet that shows they are also effective in speeding cyclists up). What I love most about these signs is that they simply provide immediate feedback to drivers. If your speed is at a potentially dangerous level, the device will let you know, often with flashing lights. No tickets are given. There is no one there to pull you over if you are going too fast. It’s on the honor system for each driver to choose their response to the feedback they receive.

As a writer of a weekly wellness column, this started me thinking about other signs in my life that gives me feedback that I am moving too fast. What kind of flashing lights do I see that show me that the current choices I am making are putting me at risk? Several things come to mind. Those who know me best and whom I trust will give me feedback when I seem “off” or out of sorts. A sure tell-tale sign for me that I am out of balance emotionally, physically, relationally, and/or spiritually is that I become irritable and inflexible. When my mind is racing with worry, it is a sure sign I need to get back to my mindfulness and centering prayer practice. Other warnings include blaming others for stresses in my life and finding it difficult to sleep.

No tickets are given, and no one pulls me over when I get these warning signs regarding my current state of balance and wellness. It’s on the honor system for me to decide how I will respond to the feedback I receive.

What signs do you get when your life is either moving too fast or is out of balance? How do you seek and receive honest feedback about your physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual wellness?

The research is conclusive that speed feedback signs do result in people slowing down and adjusting their driving behaviors. My own experience shows me that the same is true when I seek and respond to feedback regarding my well-being, feedback that is always there if I am willing to listen.  

So next time we drive or bike past a radar feedback sign, perhaps we can use it as not only a reminder of our speed of travel but also as a reminder to pay attention to the speed of our pace of life. Maybe it will help make us aware of the other possible indicators in our lives that are letting us know how fast we are living, and whether or not our current behaviors might be putting ourselves, or others, at risk.


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This Summer

 
This Summer
 

This Summer

In honor of today being the first day of summer, I would like to share a poem with you,


“The Summer Day”

By Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

   I find the specificity of Mary Oliver paying attention to this grasshopper invigorating. I receive it as an invitation to ask how will I pay attention to this summer. Specifically, how will I pay attention this moment when I am working in the garden, this sunset that I am watching right now, the smell of this flower I am breathing in, the taste of this freshly harvested produce from this farmers market, the beauty of this starlit sky tonight, this round of golf I am playing, this moment I am chasing fireflies with my grandchildren, this moment my child is running through the sprinkler, this marshmallow I am toasting over a camp fire, this walk I am enjoying with this person on this summer evening?

   The ample pleasures of summer invite us to pay attention, to fall down into the grass, to be idle and blessed, and to stroll through the fields. 

So if the question Mary Oliver ends her poem with seems too immense for us, perhaps we can whittle it down to this: tell me, what is it you plan to do with this wild and precious summer?

             ********************************************* 

P.S. We post the Weekly Words of Wellness column on our Living Compass Facebook page each Friday morning and readers are encouraged to share their thoughts there. You can visit our Facebook page by clicking  HERE. Scroll down to find today's column and share your thoughts on how you intend to enjoy summer this summer.



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Dadisms 2019

 
Dadisms 2019
 

Dadisms 2019

I want to start by thanking the many readers of this column who, in response to my request over the last two weeks, have sent me their favorite Dadisms. As you will see below, the collective wisdom of these fathers and grandfathers is quite expansive. 
   As much as I loved receiving the Dadisms, what I enjoyed, even more, was reading the stories that readers shared about their fathers and grandfathers. Sometimes it was a story that provided the context for the Dadism that was shared. Other times, the memory of what their fathers had said to them brought forth a flood of touching and even funny memories they wanted to share. Many thanked me for sparking their memories and the opportunity to share their stories.
   Of course, not everyone is fortunate to have had a loving father. Several readers shared that the words they most remembered their fathers sharing with them, were hurtful, and at times, even abusive. It broke my heart to read what was shared, while at the same time, I was inspired by how many wrote that they had or are currently engaging in the real work it takes to heal and transcend deep hurt from one's childhood.
   This made me aware again that words have the power to lift less the people in our lives, as well as the power to hurt them. Clearly, the quote, "People won't always remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel," is true both positively and negatively. Our words are that important.
   As we pause to remember our fathers, grandfathers, and the other important men in our lives this Father's Day, may we also pause to reflect on the effect that our words have on the people we love, and pledge to use words that lift up, rather than tear down. Our fathers would be proud.

Here are the Dadisms that readers shared. Enjoy. 

"And so it goes."

"You can do anything you put your mind to."

"Always treat others the way you would want to be treated, and never ever let me see or hear you treat your mother badly."

"Don't let that cut you" (He was referring to farm implements. But I came to take it as being careful in all walks of life.

"Shut the door... we're not air conditioning the outside." and "Shut the door... we're not heating the outside.”

"Whatever you do, don't ever get old."

"Life is not a spectator sport."

"All parents are amateurs."

"Never spend your money in an establishment that disrespects you."

"Just do it, get done and be through with it."

"What did your mom say?"

"Never mistreat or disrespect a woman." 

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going!"

"The only difference between me and him is I shaved today."

"Go easy."

"Rub it off."

"I've got five million dollars upstairs" was a line my grandfather always used, whenever we would be talking about wealth.  Of course, he meant the five children he had (my dad and his siblings).

"The best way to lose friends is to borrow money from them."

"Honey, this too shall pass."

"Never turn down an interview."

"If you have to look at the prices, you shouldn't be eating there."

"You have no idea how lucky you are."

"Family first." 

"Those who speak, don't always do. Those who do, don't always speak."

"I don't understand how people cannot believe in God when they look at a sunset."

"Yesterday is a canceled check. Tomorrow a promissory note. Today is cash."  

"A short pencil is better than a long memory."

"You can always find something good to say about every person. And if you can't, you shouldn't say anything at all!"

"Use your better judgment next time."

"I'm not sleeping, I'm just resting my eyes."

"I'm very proud of all you've done but take time to have fun in life too!"

"You don't need to tell anyone how good you are. If it's true, others will know."

"Everything in moderation, including moderation!"

"A little dirt never hurt anyone."

"I think about what I have, not what I don't have."

"Attitude is everything".

"Always, remember how much I love you."

And Happy Father's Day to all the Dads who are reading this!

             ********************************************* 

P.S. It's not too late to share your own Dadisms and to discuss this column. We post the Weekly Words of Wellness column on our Living Compass Facebook page each Friday morning and readers are encouraged to share their thoughts there. You can visit our Facebook page by clicking  HERE. Scroll down to find today's column and share your Dadisms and other thoughts in the comments section.  



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