Haiku Rally #30 Holidays

Today is the last day of November and the final day of my month-long Haiku Rally. I have enjoyed my challenge and have found that I became more mindful as I created a haiku from my day to day experiences. Thank you to those of you who contributed your own haiku creations to my blog. While the official Haiku Rally is over for this year, I welcome you to continue to create and post your mindful haiku to the comment section of my blog at any time.

As we enter the holiday season full steam tomorrow the calendar turns to December, I encourage you to practice the fine art of wabi-sabi (the beauty and wholeness of imperfection) and remember to breathe....

Holiday bustle
Practicing wabi-sabi
Noticing the breath

Let's Start a Revolution: Engage with Grace

For several years I have been pleased to donate my blog space over the Thanksgiving weekend to a wonderful project: Engage with Grace. For me end of life discussions are not an abstract concept, as I have journeyed with both family members and clients down this path.  Talking about end of life is not easy, but it does not need to be the taboo subject that it is currently in our culture.  If in less than a generation we have shifted our cultural norms on other topics that certainly were never discussed in the past: cancer, erectile dysfunction, birth control, and feminine hygiene products then certainly we can start a revolution to normalize the discussion about end of life decision making!

This year I am expanding my participation in Engage with Grace to include the entire holiday season, not only Thanksgiving weekend.  Let's begin changing the culture by making it a priority to ask and listen to your friends and family about end of life wishes before we ring in 2013.

Engage With Grace This Holiday Season

"One of our favorite things we ever heard Steve Jobs say is… ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.’
We love it for three reasons:
  1. It reminds all of us that living with intention is one of the most important things we can do.
  2. It reminds all of us that one day will be our last. 
  3. It’s a great example of how Steve Jobs just made most things (even things about death – even things he was quoting) sound better.

Most of us do pretty well with the living with intention part – but the dying thing? Not so much. 

And maybe that doesn’t bother us so much as individuals because heck, we’re not going to die anyway!! That’s one of those things that happens to other people….

Then one day it does – happen to someone else.  But it’s someone that we love.  And everything about our perspective on end of life changes.  

If you haven’t personally had the experience of seeing or helping a loved one navigate the incredible complexities of terminal illness, then just ask someone who has.  Chances are nearly 3 out of 4 of those stories will be bad ones – involving actions and decisions that were at odds with that person’s values.  And the worst part about it? Most of this mess is unintentional – no one is deliberately trying to make anyone else suffer – it’s just that few of us are taking the time to figure out our own preferences for what we’d like when our time is near, making sure those preferences are known, and appointing someone to advocate on our behalf. 

The holidays are a time for gathering, for communing, and for thinking hard together with friends and family about the things that matter.  Here’s the crazy thing - in the wake of one of the most intense political seasons in recent history, one of the safest topics to debate around the table this year might just be that one last taboo: end of life planning. And you know what? It’s also one of the most important. 

Here’s one debate nobody wants to have – deciding on behalf of a loved one how to handle tough decisions at the end of their life. And there is no greater gift you can give your loved ones than saving them from that agony.  So let’s take that off the table right now, this weekend.  Know what you want at the end of your life; know the preferences of your loved ones.    Print out this one slide with just these five questions on it. 

Have the conversation with your family.  Now.  Not a year from now, not when you or a loved one are diagnosed with something, not at the bedside of a mother or a father or a sibling or a life-long partner…but NOW.  Have it this holiday season when you are gathered together as a family, with your loved ones.  Why? Because now is when it matters. This is the conversation to have when you don’t need to have it.  And, believe it or not, when it’s a hypothetical conversation – you might even find it fascinating.   We find sharing almost everything else about ourselves fascinating – why not this, too?   And then, one day, when the real stuff happens?  You’ll be ready. 

Doing end of life better is important for all of us.  And the good news is that for all the squeamishness we think people have around this issue, the tide is changing, and more and more people are realizing that as a country dedicated to living with great intention – we need to apply that same sense of purpose and honor to how we die. 

One day, Rosa Parks refused to move her seat on a bus in Montgomery County, Alabama.  Others had before. Why was this day different?  Because her story tapped into a million other stories that together sparked a revolution that changed the course of history.

Each of us has a story – it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  We work so hard to design a beautiful life – spend the time to design a beautiful end, too.  Know the answers to just these five questions for yourself, and for your loved ones.  Commit to advocating for each other.  Then pass it on." 
Let's start a revolution: Engage with Grace

Wisdom Where You Least Expect It

I don't know about you, but I am beginning to feel myself being pushed, jostled and dragged along with the frenzied masses this holiday season.  Try as I might to step back, take a breath and be mindful, I am amazed at the cacophony of  "shoulds" and "to-do's" that seem to continuously play in my mind at this time of year.

So there I was today, at the post office, picking up mailing boxes for the presents that "should" have gone out on Monday but were still sitting in my car on Friday, when I reached into the pocket of my coat to pull out my car keys and noticed the keys were caught on a sewn-in tag in the pocket.  The coat is not a new,  it is one that I have worn each winter for the past two years, so I was surprised to find that there was a tag in this pocket, and even more surprised to look down and read the words on the tag...

Hmm, simple and direct words of wisdom, and all I really need to remember on this journey we call life..."Stay Warm. Keep Dry."  I smiled for the rest of the day at the wisdom that has quietly resided in my pocket for two years without me noticing...a wonderful reminder for me to be open to finding gifts where I least expect them, even in familiar places.

Season of Kindness

With the uber excess of the holiday season, it is easy to forget the gift that we each already possess, is renewable and transferable, doesn't need to be wrapped, always fits and doesn't cost a dime...the gift of kindness and compassion.  In the Buddhist tradition, this quality of loving kindness or compassion is called metta and is meant to be cultivated and nurtured both in ourselves and extended outward to include all living beings in the world. Self compassion is often the most difficult to nurture, but essential to be able to acknowledge and share your metta with the others.  During this season of giving, why not  save yourself a trip to the mall and consider giving the gift of kindness, compassion and presence?

by Naomi Shahib Nye 

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and 

purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.