28 Mindful Steps

Clump #168:  Sort out and file final paper pile — number 28 of 28!

The last of the 28 piles is finally put to bed.  It was one I had feared.  So many articles clipped from newspapers and magazines through the years:

(“The Role of Radical Acceptance” is staring at me from the top.  Its subtitle, “You can’t fix the ones you love, so focus on fixing yourself,” could be the subtitle for this blog.)

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I did toss out a considerable amount I was not as interested in anymore, like the latest diet recommendations that change at least every year:

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The rest I sorted into categories. I was surprised at how happy I was to see many of these, like getting reacquainted with old friends.  I did take the suggestion from a commenter to make a “One-of-a kind” folder, where the birdhouse certificate will reside:

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This pile I didn’t file.  As I’ve said previously, “Action” folders turn out to be the complete opposite.  Better to label such a file: “Out of sight, out of mind.”

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And speaking of labels, I’m going to have to get some more for the folders I assembled.  For the time being, I used post-it notes.  Now when I’m trying to remember an article about the neat place I want to visit someday, I will simply look in the “Travel” folder.  Wow … imagine that!

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Proof of the table cleared and ready for people to use it:

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I turned the calendar page over today, and this was the March message from Thich Nhat Hanh:

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Twenty-eight steps did, actually, produce a miracle for me.  The lotus blossom pictured on the calendar reminds me of photos I took when I was at a garden center last year:

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I was thunderstruck by the sublime beauty …

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in such a commonplace setting.

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Be Here Now

Clump #115:  Wind down Christmas present list.

I couldn’t do anything right today.  I was reminded of a mom from our neighborhood where I grew up.  She had just come from a tennis game, and my dad asked her how she had played.  She shot back (with a slight southern twang), “I couldn’t hit a pea into the Grand Canyon!”

The photos I took on the way to see my mom today were notable in how many I managed to blur with my finger over the lens in the upper left corner.  What was my problem?!  Here’s the goose with the incredible wardrobe, looking jolly (note the white beard!), and my finger:

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A lovely shadow drama played out on the side of a house, marred by sloppy camera handling:

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Believe it or not, this pair was part of a cute grouping of snow people making up a happy scene.  The other photos of the group suffered from poor lighting; this one somehow managed to appear sinister:

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And the stain on this sidewalk looked like the ghost of a Christmas tree:

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Oh dear.  The lack of closure on my Christmas shopping is getting to me.  There were other horses in the field below who looked interested in coming over, but then they turned and walked farther away.  Maybe the horses and I are all suffering from sunlight deprivation.

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Here was the same scene last Spring:

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Ahh … Spring!  Sometimes savoring the present moment is not easy at all.

I was turning over in my head today the wonderful comment I received about yesterday’s post featuring the Thich Nhat Hanh quote (from his 2014 calendar): “Our practice is always to go back to the present moment, to the here and the now. Only in the here and the now can we touch life deeply.”  The commenter referred to it as a “reminder.”  I usually think of sage wisdom as something to take in.  But I began to realize the best wisdom is truly a Re-Minder.  Something we already know, that we need to bring back to our mind from deep inside.

When you “touch life deeply,” “in the here and now,” amazing things happen.

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Like seeing a polar bear leap from a mound of snow.

Presents in the Present

Clump #114:  Try to finish Christmas shopping.

A recap: I challenged myself to get holiday-related tasks taken care of in November, so that I might have a stress-free December: Project Enjoy Christmas.  I am sorry to say that I’m still feeling holiday stress in December.  I am, however, further ahead than my norm for mid-December.  Maybe I should be satisfied with crawling before running, much less skipping and leaping for joy.

I also challenged myself to clump and post every day.  Amazingly (to me), I’ve kept that momentum going.  Once I get out of the rhythm of daily posts, the excuses become too seductive and the days not blogging too numerous.

Today I happened to crack open a calendar I bought for next year, one with quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh and beautiful illustrations by Nicholas Kirsten-Honshin.  I had forgotten that the cover was a picture of a bird with a red berry in its beak.

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It seems to me that the berry represents the present moment, and the bird is devouring it.  Was I subconsciously thinking of this image while seeking out photos of red berries in the landscape?  Hmm.

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I was telling some friends yesterday that taking pictures for this blog has been a lesson about the present moment.  So often I see something I ache to take a picture of, but, for whatever reason, it’s inconvenient to stop.  I’ll tell myself that I can come back later, and I’ll try to bookmark the exact location.  But it’s never the same.  I’m like the proverbial fisherman, bragging about the big one that got away: “Oh, the way the sun was lighting up those gorgeous cows, right next to my car!  If only I had the time/could find a place to park/had my camera …”  I’ve been taught this lesson over and over and over.  It’s never the same.  The sunlight is different, the leaves have fallen, the snow has melted … the cows have gone home.  Change is the order of business around here, and that one moment is the only one exactly like it that you ever get.

To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

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I guess I need to have more patience with myself.  In the organization realm I’m a two-year-old wanting to be a big girl.

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The change I’m seeking is a little covered-over now, but it’s waiting to shine.

The Sunlight of Awareness

Clump #23:  Contact friend and record birthdays on two calendars.

Here’s another item from the hidden to-do list uncovered during the bureau-blasting of the previous post.  An old, dear friend had sent me the address and phone number of another old friend on this lovely card. I had meant to contact the second friend right away.  Putting the card on the bureau would remind me.  As always, the longer anything is put off, the more prone to becoming lost it gets, the more guilt is attached, and the worse the detonation when uncovered.  Clutter-mines are guilt bombs.

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What was holding me back?  Well, I hadn’t called this friend in many years.  Does she want to hear from me?  It’s a cold call, and the product I’m selling is myself.  I guess fear of rejection is at the bottom of the pit, but this is mostly operating in my subconscious.  It withers in the light of day, on the typed page.  I finally called her and left a message on her answering machine.  I wasn’t sure (from the odd sound) whether it recorded, so I followed up with a hand-written note.  I’ve done my part; I can feel joy at the sight of irises again.

Next up: I had not entered birthdays in my 2013 calendar, and had missed my brother-in-law’s birthday.  More guilt!  Another friend gave me a perpetual calendar this year.  Very thoughtful.  I entered important dates on it and on the kitchen calendar with quotes by Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.  I’ll do better next year!

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I sent my brother-in-law an article I had been saving since July 9, 2011! He is a Three Stooges fan, and I thought he’d enjoy reading about The Stoogeum, located in Philadelphia,”The world’s first and only museum dedicated entirely to the Three Stooges.”  Occasionally treasure is mined from the depths of piles.

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Our dishwasher is on the blink, so while waiting for the repair we are hand-washing our dishes.  I guess the influence of the Thich Nhat Hanh calendar made me think of his profound advice against rushing through dish-washing to get to dessert.  Mixed up in my mind, I thought it was rushing to eat an orange.  (Another mindfulness exercise.)

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But with the image of an orange in mind, I noticed there was one right next to me at that moment.

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Here is the quote from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life 

“To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren’t doing them.  Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands.  I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living.  That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle!  If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have dessert, I will be equally incapable of enjoying my dessert.  With the fork in my hand, I will be thinking about what to do next, and the texture and the flavor of the dessert, together with the pleasure of eating it, will be lost.  I will always be dragged into the future, never able to live in the present moment.  Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred.  In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane.  I must confess it takes me a bit longer to do the dishes, but I live fully in every moment, and I am happy.  Washing the dishes is at the same time a means and an end — that is, not only do we do the dishes in order to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes just to do the dishes, to live fully in each moment while washing them.”