Archive | abundance

A Year to Live — Day 344 — Flowers at Coe

On Wednesday this week, my friend and I made our way to Henry Coe State Park to see the wildflowers. The rain had pummeled our area for several days, and the morning of March 9th dawned cloudy, misty and drizzly. Despite the bleak weather, we did not lose heart. Instead, bringing with us enough rain gear to make a New Zealand explorer feel sanguine (and leaving dry shoes and socks in the car), we waded out into the water-logged Coe wilderness.

The hills, as Julie Andrews could have sung, were alive with the sound of damp greenness. Light rain fell on us when we passed beneath the sopping leaves of trees. The trail led us up through the clouds, and though I knew the view stretched miles to the south, we could not see farther than a few feet of the slope below us.

In the meadow above Monument Trail, a few irises radiated their gentle purple-blue leaves like a three-pronged compass, looking fragile and battered and wet. A glorious perfume wafted from the just-opening flowers of the madrone; its red trunk, as yet smooth and un-peeling, looked fresh and bloody after the rain. Farther up, shooting stars, lupine and Indian warriors covered the sides of the road, colorful against the fertile brown-green background of the slippery-slopey trail.

Hound's tongue growing at Henry Coe State Park.

Hound’s tongue growing at Henry Coe State Park.

Down below Frog Lake, a fork of Coyote Creek blocked our way, the water flowing clear and cold over the trail. We took off our shoes and waded, barefoot, to the other side. We climbed, exhilarated by damp, muddy feet, the 0.2 miles to the lake. Expanding wave-rings in the water and a “plop” gave the only hint of frogs jumping into the lake one by one, like a tumbling line of invisible dominoes. My friend had brought a birthday picnic: egg and avocado sandwiches, baby bell peppers and cucumber spears, roasted chestnuts, chocolate, bananas and tangerines. A feast. We dug in, hungry already, not minding the cold, wet ground.

The trail back to the visitor center led us up in a gentle slope through meadows of wildflowers, under oak trees, and through a low manzanita forest. On a hillside, I sought out the elusive purple mouse ears. I’d heard this tiny flower grew on Corral Trail on one of the grassy slopes, but I had never seen it. On this trip, however, like a nature birthday gift, we found several of them hiding in between the grasses, all purply and fat, their ears laying wet and heavy close to their heads as they stared at us above their crown of chubby, light-green leaves.

Driving home, now in unforeseen sunshine, I thought of my expectations for this birthday and my hope that I will celebrate, for once, a happy day. I thought about the purple mouse ears, about the frogs diving into the lake, and the other wildflowers, abundant as they came alive, so ephemeral, with the rain. Next February, as our year to live winds down, these flowers will be but a memory, pictures in the mind’s eye, but together with this last birthday they will have left a pleasant, treasured feeling in my heart.

At home, Dar arranged gifts on our dining table. Yet another surprise. A huge bouquet of flowers towered above wrapped boxes for me and the kids. I look at it now and the impermanence of all around me strikes me hard. This bouquet with its bold colors looks so solid and real, but in the next few days the flowers will begin to fade and die. They too, as Stephen Levine says in his book, began to die on the day their seeds were put in the womb of the ground. I long to take a picture of the flowers and restrain myself. Let them be, I whisper to myself, and let them, peacefully, easefully, naturally, die.

Click here to view the picasa photo album for this hike.

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Abundance and the Drought

California, I hear, is in a state of drought. Extreme drought, even, according to the United States Drought Monitor website. The storm this past weekend, blessed rain, brought us to about a third of the average rainfall for this time of year. Not quite enough to pull us out of the water emergency, but accepted with gratitude and joy nonetheless.

The other day, I saw a Facebook post by one of my friends. She wrote: “…the state’s top water official says we’d need to get significant precipitation every other day through May just to get back to normal. I have a feeling we won’t be getting significant rainfall every other day through May….” Why is she already manifesting dryness for the rest of the year? I wondered. She doesn’t know if it will rain or not. Why then, is she already imagining disaster? My nose wrinkled in resistance. I wished I hadn’t read her comment.

Resistance is a strange thing. It pushes us away from what we want and attracts to us what we do not want. An Abraham-Hicks quote, describing the Law of Attraction, says: “You get what you think about.” My friend’s post filled me with a resistant fear: We are thinking of drought, and hearing of drought, hence drought is what we’ll get. But then I took a deep breath and remembered: Ask and it is given. If we think of rain, if we ask for rain and pray for rain and allow for rain, then rain will come.

Outside, in my yard, the soil is soaked, fertile and fresh. The trees stretch their branches in joy to capture the moisture in the air. My creek is running, water trickling over slick rocks and old, now saturated leaves. The wind rustles through the eucalyptus trees in the perfect backdrop to the cries of a red-shouldered hawk as it circles up in the air currents. Somewhere, hidden from view under some tree, the deer are taking cover, huddled together for warmth. The jackrabbits are hiding in their tunnels and the coyote in their dens. It’s the perfect winter day, not too cold, just wet enough. My heart is full with gratitude for it, and I’d like to stay connected to that.

Another Abraham-Hicks quote says: “Pretend that Niagara Falls is your source of supply. That all of your Well-being flows from that source. Pretend that that source is yours alone to utilize. As you stand there on the shore overlooking that awesome flow, you would not feel lack, for you would understand that in one hundred lifetimes you could not begin to make a dent in that amazing supply….” Paradoxically, perhaps, while I have faith in the Niagara Falls’s abundance of water, I also take short showers, grow mostly native plants, and have no lawn. I save water. You could say that I take only the water that I need. I am aware that I have chosen to live in a region that even on an average year does not get immense amounts of rain, and I care about not spending too much of it.

Let’s believe in rain. Sing rainy songs. Dance rain dances. There’s an abundance of water in the world, and it will come to us too to glut our thirst and the thirst of our land. But meanwhile, my friends, do take shorter showers, and do pay attention not to over-niagara fallswater your lawn. Use our water with love.

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Morning Gratitude

My daughter’s cheek crinkled on the pillow
Oh so warm
A smile opens her eyes

My son giggling
Ima, come! He calls
Knowing I will kiss him

The lemony, fresh scent of a cucumber and tomato salad
Slicked with olive oil
Crumbly with goat feta

Three puppies gazing at me with round eyes
Tails going wildly
Love me, love me, love me

Our five chickens
Softly pecking corn scratch off the brown soil
Clucking in pleasure

Bells tinkling in the breeze
Play of light and leaves through oak trees
Patches of sunshine on the ground

A solitary teardrop tomato
On a confused vine
Growing side by side in a pot with aloe vera

Listening tomatoto my heart beat
Breath in, breath out
Sometimes calm, sometimes stormy.

A body, moving
Where did it come from?
Touching it in wonder.

The fragility of life
In the clucking of chickens
The tinkling of bells
A breeze, one moment here, the next, where?
How long does a kiss last?
Knowing the sun will set and shade disappear in shadow
But for now, what do I need?
Biting into a sun-warm teardrop tomato and singing
My morning gratitude.

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The Jewish Year in Satisfied Review

שנה טובהWe Jews are so lucky — we get to reflect on our soul accounting, “Heshbon Nefesh,” as we say in Hebrew, twice a year. On Rosh HaShana we welcome the Jewish new year with honey and apples and by asking forgiveness for the sins we committed knowingly and unknowingly all year, and on New Year’s we welcome the Gregorian new year by making resolutions and celebrating till after midnight.

As the year 5773 winds down, I too reflected on what I did (and did not do) this year and was surprise to find the balance a good one.

This year, 5773, I visited Israel twice for a total time of three weeks. I traveled to Florida twice, the Bahamas, Maui, the Redwoods, San Diego, and Arizona twice. Dar and I also went freeze-camping with the kids and the dogs in Point Reyes in February for Valentine’s Day. On the downside, it is the first year in a long time that I had not been to Yosemite. This will have to be remedied in 5774 at least twice.

I wrote a total of 67 blogs, about a third of them for my new blog. I love the new website that the new blog is on! I worked a lot on my novel this year, but finally decided that I need some distance from it. Like many other wonderful creations, I am still “cooking” it in my head, and I hope to get back to it fresh and energetic this year.

Another thrilling thing I did this year is start my own Reiki business. I taught my first Reiki I workshop and have one scheduled for the end of September and another for November. Two weeks ago I finally found a gorgeous space for my practice, and I can now give Reiki sessions on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings as well as at your home! I’m excited about the new prospects opening up for me this year.

Learning is high on my list of favorites, and this year I learned a lot! I took a Maya Abdominal Massage class which led me to begin training as a certified massage therapist. I’ve taken courses in Tuina massage and acupressure, and this year I hope to begin a medical qigong certificate as well. Another amazing class I took is Karuna Reiki® (this was why I went to Maui). I loved this class and working with the Karuna energy! It is a beautiful, beautiful energy of love and compassion, and I’ve been enjoying treating with it.

I read some fabulous books this year. Perhaps the most notable of all is The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. I just finished reading it for the second time, and it is as fabulous as it was the first time I read it. That book is an entire world in and of itself, and I was again amazed how Gary Schmidt succeeded in creating so many rounded characters, all of whom grow and change in the book. I also finally read War and Peace this year — I’m very proud of that!

Seems to me, looking back, that this was a wonderful year. My boyfriend asked me to marry him and bought me two sparkly rings. The kids grew tall and happy. I finally bought curtains for our bedrooms. We had fun birthday parties for all of us and ate lots of good food. I hope for more wonderfulness for this coming year. May we all continue to grow, may we be happy and healthy, may we be free, and may we all be together!
Shana Tova everyone!
Love,
Sigal

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To Lie or Not to Lie

Early this morning I was caught lying to a Customs’ officer. After standing in the long line at the Philadelphia Customs, my children and I finally stood in front of the officer, passports in hand. The officer took a look at our Customs’ form and asked: “Did you bring any food with you?”

“No,” said I, thinking guiltily of the piles of chocolate in my bags. And then, before I could bat an eye, my secret was out.

“That’s not true,” corrected my son. “We have plenty of food.”

Exposed! “Chocolates,” I hastened to reassure the officer. And I pulled out a gumdrop bouquet the children’s grandmother stuffed in my bag.

“That’s not true,” the child once again intervened. “We have lots of other food too.”

Every time I go through Customs I have the same dilemma. Are not the officers searching only for agricultural products, like veggies and fruits, and not packaged chocolates? Arguably, however, all are included in their chosen word, “Food.” I once honestly responded to the question with a yes and  found myself having to unpack half the suitcase in order to show the Agricultural Inspection officer that there really was nothing there except for chocolates and a jar of jam.

Despite the fact that I really do believe the Customs’ people are not looking for travelers smuggling candy into the USA, I felt ashamed this morning in front of my children and the officer. I had been caught lying, and surely the Lie Police wcandyas on its way, long years in a maximum security federal prison, and perhaps — for who can tell how serious lying to Customs really is — the electric chair.

So yes, we had lots of food with us: chocolates, kinder eggs, gumdrops, peanut M&Ms, marzipan, crackers, and even (dear deity of the Customs save us) some packages of nuts. I was guilty (almost) as charged. But we didn’t have any fruits, vegetables and seeds. It was just a white little lie!

To lie or not to lie? The critical part of me demands total honesty. I should have checked the Yes box for Bringing foods to the USA, and explained about the chocolates. A practical part of me waves this concern away: “This is mere semantics! Why answer yes when you know you don’t have what the officers really search for?”

I write these thoughts to you and am reminded of Usui’s fourth Reiki Precept: Be honest in your work. Is it dishonest to lie to the officer about having chocolates? Is it dishonest of me to use my understanding of what the officer’s question means and answer my interpretation instead of his actual one?

The officer this morning was merely amused by my exchange with my son. He accepted my chocolate correction to my earlier lie and did not require us to go through any more inspections. Considering how awkward I felt to be revealed lying like this, though, I think the answer to my question is clear. To lie or not to lie? Next time, I will answer the food question with an honest, “Yes, I have food.” And if we get sent to stand in line for the Agricultural Inspection, well, so be it. It’s yet another opportunity to practice acceptance and patience and an abundance of time.

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Savor the Moment — Contemplating Beauty

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it,” said Confucius. A few years ago, friends told me they visited Yosemite and disliked it. I couldn’t understand how that could be! The crowds, they explained. Too many people. And too hot. The beauty was there, before their eyes, but still their experience was ugly, uncomfortable and bothersome.

Here is my experience of Yosemite: The scenic grandness of the park awes me. I love the tall, evergreen trees, the sheer, overarching grey/white rocks stretching as far as the eye can see, the waterfalls whipping clouds of water droplets in my face. I know there are people around me, but my eyes are tuned not to buses puffing out fumes but to nature, great and small. I stop to breathe in the flowing curves of Half Dome, allowing it to open my mind and heart, and I pause to gaze wonderstruck at a single icicle that hangs from a fir branch, reflecting the blueness of a clear Yosemite sky.

Truth be told, I even enjoy the crowds in Yosemite: the dazed parents chasing their children, the older couple sitting huddled together on the bus, the dusty, rugged backpackers who have returned this morning from a multi-day hike. There is something about Yosemite that makes me happy, no matter where in Yosemite I am. In my everyday life, I can’t always enjoy little details, but in Yosemite I am a master savorer, seeing beauty in everything.

My mother is an expert in finding joy in little things. When I walk with her in the street near her house, she points out a solitary pink bloom on an azalea, the pattern of an old, bent tree trunk, or a bird’s nest hiding under a climber’s thick canopy of leaves. She likes to say that there is some beauty in every yard, no matter how neglected, and as I walk with her, looking at the world through her eyes, it seems that beauty does indeed shine from every nook and cranny.

These past few days we’ve been staying in Ein Kerem, a neighborhood of Jerusalem. It is an old neighborhood with quaint houses and dilapidated streets. There are no English style gardens here, but rather old olive, pomegranate and almond trees, wild roses, geraniums in half-broken pots, and patches of un-mown grass mixed with weeds. But my mother has trained me well. For today, I succeed in seeing beauty in little things.

For today only, I invite you to search for and savor the beauty in the world around you. Even in the midst of the most concrete-built city there might stand a tree that longs to be caressed with your appreciative eyes. And if all else fails and nothing looks good, take a peek up above, at this gorgeous sky that keeps us alive. It might be clear like a pool that has never been disturbed, or streaked with feathery clouds, or overcast, with the promise of rain to come. But it is always there, protecting us like a blanket of love.

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Hungry? Finish Your Cake

As a child, I was a very picky eater, and like a lot of children who leave most of their food on their plate, I too heard about the children starving in Africa. It made me feel quite bad. I imbibed the idea that my troubles were very small compared to those of other children who lived in less privileged parts of the world. I grew ashamed whenever I was struggling with a hard time. Suffering, indulging in suffering, was wrong, because what do I, a girl living in abundance, safety and freedom, have to complain about?

For years, I didn’t believe my own pain from depression. Divorce? Piece of cake. It’s not like I was starving. The flu? Other people are dying, untreated, of lesser illnesses even as we speak. I miss the kids? How dare I miss them when other children, even younger, are dead.

Some of my friends posted yesterday a link to a video in which people from third world countries read first world country problems: “I hate it when I forget my charger downstairs, when my house is so big I need two wireless routers, when my leather seats are not heated, when I leave the clothes in the washer so long they start to smell.” A blurb reminds us that “things that irritate us would be part of fantasy lives for people in third world countries.”

Listening to the video, I wondered, do its producers really believe that these are first world countries? Here in the United States, many are indeed fortunate. We have clean water, indoor heating, cars for every adult, public education, and abundant food. We also sometimes complain about forgetting our phone chargers downstairs. And we probably would, most of us, feel ashamed to mention any problems after listening to this video. But that doesn’t mean that our problems are any less difficult to bear.

Bipolar disorders, depression, divorces, suicide, illnesses, crime, car accidents, terrorism, losing a parent or a child, natural disasters, stress from work, we suffer from these and many more. And we could be allowed to suffer from our problems without being reminded that others in others countries are less fortunate than us. Would we tell someone whose wife died in a car accident that she was lucky to to even have a car?

I have an indoor sink!

I and many people around me (including those friends who posted that video) try to assist and give of our abundance almost every day to those in need, to those less fortunate than us, to those whose suffering is almost incomprehensible to us because we are looking at them from our position of privilege and plenty. Giving of our abundance is a wonderful feeling, to us and to those who receive of it. Let us not grow ashamed either of what we have or of what we lack, because it is our common pain and suffering that allows us to grow compassionate with the pain of the other.

Next time you leave your charger downstairs, go ahead and complain. My heart is with you. It is big enough to feel the annoyance (and sometimes much more than annoyance) of having to walk back down the stairs. My heart is big enough to feel for you and for the child with her stomach bloated with hunger. So fear not. As far as I am concerned, you’re free to feel pain.

If you want more:
Link to the First World Country Problems video

If this blog post is making your feel charitable today or any day:
Link to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Foundation, one of the charities I’ve been giving money to since Uri fell in love with gorillas at age 2.
Link to Bay Area Wilderness Training, a non-profit that is involved with getting less privileged kids outdoors. I believe that reconnecting to nature is our best path to world peace. I’ve been involved with this organization since 2006.

Focus: Abundance

My family and I love staying in vacation rentals. We can cook for ourselves, play games, watch television, go out in the yard. Those who wake up early can get up without waking those who want to sleep in. And sometimes there are extra bonuses like nearby playgrounds, pools, outdoor grills, or gorgeous backyards. We once stayed in a lovely cottage in San Diego. The yard was sumptuous with vegetable and herb gardens, fruit trees, and ornamental plants. The owner left us homemade jam and croissants on the counter. Windows opened up the view to the flowering outside.

It is easy to revel in abundance when abundance is spread before us to such perfection; much harder to practice when not everything is as we expect. In our vacation condo in Florida, tennis racquets and balls, a wide-screen TV, beach towels, two coffee machines, and an extremely well-stocked spice rack stood side to side with…  no hand soap in the bathrooms. Other necessary supplies were missing or limited. The wifi didn’t work. The dishwasher exploded in suds when we turned it on. In the balcony corners, mice droppings made us un-eager to go outside. When Dar spoke to the owner about these problems, the response was disbelief and an unwillingness to help out. 

While in Israel, my aunt told me this quote: “There is no such thing as problems. If you think there is a problem, then it has a solution and is no longer a problem. If there is no solution, then it is not a problem: it’s a fact.” Knowing how prone I am to ruminating about what is wrong, I forced myself to focus on what was wonderful and fun about the condo. Fact: I am not going to teach this condo’s owner abundance, but, fact: I can exercise abundance myself. And most importantly, I can do something about most of this.

In the morning, Dar drove to the grocery store and bought everything that we needed. 3G solved most of our WiFi needs and towels stacked before the dishwasher kept the floor dry. We made good use of the pool, the tennis court, and our kitchen. We enjoyed the good air streaming through the screens of the balcony doors and the movies, sports channels, and New Year program on the wide-screen TV. Without our attention, the cracks in the condo’s condition closed, and we could easily and simply have a great time.

It feels wonderful to focus like that. My attention, unhampered by mundane needs, can soar to the Florida wide skies, down to the colorful reefs of the deep blue ocean, and back up to the ever-shifting white clouds. I can blow with the wind in the palm fronds, swim with little skittering fish, and sit immovable in the mud like an old, lazy crocodile. But best of all is the freedom I found in the realization: who needs hand soap when the coast of Florida, from Key to Key, is open before us? Not we.

Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109