It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything, and in many ways, I feel like I’ve just woken up from a long winter’s nap. As many of you know, my husband and I moved from Los Angeles to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina about a year and a half ago, and for much of the past year, I simply was focused on settling into my new community. I’m a “nester” by nature, so I needed to turn my home into a comfortable and art-filled space, needed to plant flowers and trees in my garden, needed to make connections with my community, needed to make friends, and most importantly, needed to find my spiritual support team. I’m happy to announce: Mission Accomplished!
And that means I’m finally ready to pick up my pen again and share some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past 18 months, as well as those that I’m currently learning. If there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that every day is an opportunity for self-growth and evolution. If you, too, are interested in growing, learning, and evolving, I hope you’ll follow along. As Ram Dass once said, “We are all just walking each other home,” so whatever light we can share with each other is helpful. Here’s my first post of 2020, and if you care to comment, I’d love your feedback.
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A postcard from a dear friend arrived recently, announcing that her address had changed. On the front of the card was a picture of a beach bike with wide handlebars, a bouquet of balloons, and this quote from Albert Einstein:
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
I smiled, then laughed as I felt the rush of truth contained in those two sentences. Thoughts about balance, moving,delight, aliveness, beauty, and effort mingled with a kaleidoscope of memories that flashed through my mind. I saw the day when I was six years old, wobbly and scared, as my father ran beside me holding onto my bike’s handlebars until I was steady enough to take off on my own – which I did with great fanfare … until I ran into a tree! But the sheer enjoyment of that split-second moment was enough to wet my appetite for more. I rode that bike for several more years, often to get myself to swim team practice or to explore the neighborhood. In my teens, I lobbied for a bright blue Schwinn with double baskets in the rear, which became my reliable mode of transportation, allowing me to meet up with my friends, even if they were miles away. Years later, I taught my sons to ride and when I found out that some of the girls at the boarding school where I worked had never ridden a bicycle, I created a workshop to get them started. For my fiftieth birthday, I accepted the challenge from some girlfriends to do a 150-mile ride over three days, which turned out to be a fabulous way to explore the wilderness of Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, though I could have done without the August heatwave. And just a few weekends ago, my husband and I put our bikes on the car rack and drove north to try out the Spanish Moss Trail near Beaufort, South Carolina. You see, riding a bicycle has been a lifelong pleasure. I’ve often joked that I plan on pedaling right up until the day I leave this planet, even if I have to swap out my two wheels for three!
Although biking is great exercise and a fuel-efficient mode of transportation, neither is my motivation for “taking a spin.” Quite simply, riding brings me joy. Not happiness, which is mostly tied to some new purchase or accomplishment, but rather, that deep, abiding sense of well-being and open heartedness that happens when we connect with our soulful selves. Being joyful is part of our true nature, though it often gets brushed aside in favor of making money, pursuing success, and checking off the day’s to-do list. Yet, a life without joy is harmful to our health and our spirits.
After a friend of mine returned from last year’s Soul Summit in Scottsdale, AZ – where she attended various “soulful” presentations about meditation, healing, and spiritual communication – she told me about one speaker’s interesting message. Two questions will be presented to us when we pass from this world, the speaker insisted, adding that how we answer will depend on where we have placed our focus. Those two questions? What joy did you receive? And, what joy did you give to others?
It’s worth pondering. Can you imagine looking at your creator and replying, “But I was so busy taking care of my family, the dog, and my job that there wasn’t time for joy!” Or worse, “Joy was supposed to be a priority? No one told me!” How can we possibly heal ourselves or the world if we aren’t joyful? Again, not happy, but joyful. There is a difference and it’s important. Knowing who we are and connecting with that God-given spark within us is key. And of all the possibilities that could bring me joy, biking is one of those sparks, which is why I consider it part of my spiritual practice. Like prayer or meditation, biking gives me a calm, joyful appreciation of my place in the universe. It’s as though the wind, the sun, and the trees that I pass while cycling through the neighborhood infuse me with an energy that ignites my passion for life. For you, it may be sewing, walking, or playing with your dog. The important lesson is knowing what that activity is and weaving it into your daily routine. After all, there’s no rule against singing while you run errands or dancing while you dry the dishes. We all benefit from adding joy to our lives. In fact, one of my 2020 goals is to establish a fun squad – a group of people I can call upon just to rally at a moment’s notice for the sole purpose of being silly and joyful.
Also worth remembering, is that riding a bike wasn’t so joyful in the beginning. It took some work. I had to learn about balance and focus, two disciplines often overlooked in our daily lives. Constantly, we need to ask of ourselves, “What am I focusing on?” Do I only see the mess the kids leave after playing with their friends? The scant amount of money that’s left in my bank account? The weeds that constantly grow next to my newly planted flowers? Ruminating on the negatives will always diminish joy. That’s not to suggest that acknowledging our pain, anger, or sadness is wrong. It’s actually healthy to do just that, but getting stuck in those emotions works against us. Just the other day I read an old journal entry where I spotted my own negative tendencies, even labeling myself “a pessimist pretending to be an optimist!”
It takes work to balance those negative thoughts with more grateful ones, but the effort is worth it. Just knowing that gratefulness and anger can’t occupy the same place, I can always defer to counting my blessings when I need an energy shift. Or, I can hop on my bike and go for a spin, which accomplishes the same thing — it’s my reminder to keep moving towards the positive 😊
So, what’s your soul’s joyful practice? And how can you weave it into your daily routine?
RESOURCES / RECOMMENDATIONS
- Soul Summit 2020 – For more information visit: https://soul-summit-scottsdale.sundanceonsuccess.com (Just a side note: my neighbor Suzanne Giessemann will be one of the featured speakers. Check her out at: https://www.suzannegiesemann.com and listen to her free meditations.)
- To locate Rails-to-Trails bike paths near you, visit: https://www.railstotrails.org
- I’m a voracious reader, so here are a few good reads I’d recommend:
The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah, who also wrote The Nightingale – This is a moving and fascinating look at how one family’s decision to move to the Alaskan wilderness frays the peace and stability of some of the family but uncovers courage and resolve in others. It’s also a compelling look at how PTSD affects the family unit.
The Choice by Dr. Edith Eva Eger – I highly recommend this true story about Edith Eger, a trained ballet dancer and gymnast, who was sent to Auschwitz with her sister and who was liberated in 1945, only to discover that the road to healing her trauma and fears would require a lifetime of effort and courage. Her heroic path towards forgiveness of herself and others is a story full of inspiration and encouragement.
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield – This is an oldie but goodie! Written as an adventure novel, the story depicts how evolving consciousness can change both personal lives as well as that of society as a whole. The Afterword is especially helpful as it summarizes the 10 insights (aspects of consciousness) found in the story and suggests ways to implement them into your life.