Pruning Dead Wood

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Recently where I live we had an ice storm. 2/10 of an inch or more of ice caused some havoc with electrical outages where I live. The aftermath of that storm also left some trees which had lost a few small branches, or lost major branches, or were even uprooted. Those trees that could bend under the weight of the ice survived with almost no loss of limbs. The pruning by nature took place in the whole area where I live, but how severely each tree withstood the ice storm varied greatly. I believe this metaphor also works for all people including myself.

“Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion- towards ourselves and towards all living beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

During my life there have been times when I needed to prune my own dead wood. What I mean is, I needed to change or transform ways of thinking and doing things, or habits of thinking that had not worked in my life. When I did not prune those habits, I made poor choices of people and things in my life that did not serve me. I learned this kind of behavior in my own family. Once I finally became a parent in my 30s, I found out what a challenge it was to rear a child. I had one child. However, I was one of five children. All of my siblings and I were born close together, 5 children in 7 years. Since I was number four, I was glad to be born, but great challenges were part of my childhood. My parents did the best they could. My mom had to do much of our rearing alone with the help of my grandmother because my dad had a job that was many miles from the home my father built for us. My mother had it hard trying to give all of us the attention we needed.

From these beginnings, I learned some not great habits. One of them was I had a poor self esteem. That hindered the choices that I made of people who I made important in my life. I did not know how I needed to be treated. I also was a people pleaser, which was not helpful to myself because I was clueless about how I felt about what I honestly wanted. I was not seeing “my part” in my own life. I had nearly no boundaries for myself, so that I was taking on other peoples’ issues without knowing it, and not acknowledging my own issues. This kind of dead wood I did not know I needed to prune until later in my life. There have been consequences to me and others I love because of the choices I have made, and particularly after I became an adult (in age) and lived on my own.

My first pruning and personal ice storm came after I was divorced in my mid 30s. I am thankful that I became a more reflective person after that time. I started to look at what “my part” was that may have contributed to the end of that marriage. After a year or so after the divorce, I started to feel happier and freer because I realized I had an opportunity to find my own profession, and learn who I am. (I had married at 20 years old.) I also did not want my divorce to become some kind of anchor that I dragged through my life as some personal failure or shame. At the same time, I did need to be honest about what had happened to me during that marriage and not dismiss my own feelings about it, and, importantly, I had to summon courage to face some parts of myself that I was not happy with.

“I don’t think we spend enough time in reflection and introspection. We don’t know who we are as individuals in this culture anymore.”

Naomi Judd

For me this process of pruning has taken a long time. The way I grew up, I rarely knew what I honestly felt or wanted. These were habits that I “lived” for years that I needed to prune and overcome, and I am still learning to ask myself how I feel each day. I am finally learning what boundaries actually are between myself and others. I am still thankful for that first ice storm of a divorce that happened many years ago because it started the process for me to begin to reflect on a deeper level about myself and my life and to learn who I AM.

I wrote this poem more than 10 years ago. I can’t even remember what triggered me to write it. It may have been when my father died 13 years ago.

Light or Load
by Barbara E. Wade

Underneath our professional, adult veneer
Aren’t so many of us
Still needy children
Grasping for our mother’s
For our father’s attention…. approval?
Longing to be heard.
Waiting to be acknowledged,
But met with silence.

As we grow older
Time dulls the ache,
But life’s circumstances
Show us that…
Underneath our professional, adult veneer,
That so many of us
Are still needy children.

How do we get past the suffering?
How do we shed the pain?
Tell ourselves how much we hate
To feel emotionally disconnected once again.
Notice that life’s delivering you
Your childhood experience
In an endless stream of repetition.
And accept that this emotional hurt
Of unfulfilled expectations
Is a mistake of perception
And we aren’t even aware
Of our self-deception.
Even though it feels exactly
Like it did
When we got little attention,
When we were merely kids.
Underneath our professional, adult veneer,
So many of us
Are still needy children.

Embrace, comfort, and protect your needy child.
Love and care for her/him.
Let her/him lay down his/her load,
And be filled with light and lightness.
Observe her/him when she’s/he’s feeling down,
Remind her/him it’s old healing wounds
To let go of and live.

This year has taught me that after my mother died in October, that she was the source of LOVE and goodness in my family. The needy child that I have had in me did not fully see who my mother was and that she was unable physically and was too overwhelmed to LOVE me as much as my needy child wanted during my childhood. Now she and I are both free and I have pruned away that false expectation and perception of whether my mom loved me or not forever. These days I am also learning to be more compassionate of myself, as I do all this pruning of dead wood.

This blog is complementary to my own;
http://tinybuddha.com/blog/5-ways-to-feel-more-love-compassion-for-yourself-and-others/

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Overthinking

Thinking and questioning are skills we humans need to live. However, overthinking is another matter. Much of my life I have been a person who would do what I call overthinking. I did it frequently, but I was unaware I did it. Overthinking includes worrying a lot about the future. I used to even plan what I would say, almost full conversations when I had to deal with a problem. I was always sure I was wrong, so I had to defend my position.

I also had expectations about my marriage, my job, and people I love. What was interesting with all this overthinking, I did not ask myself important questions such as: What did I need and want? What were my deepest concerns? What was I willing to do? What was I unwilling to do? I thrived on my fairy tale-like expectations which never came true. (I still do NOT like Disney because so many of his movies sell this fairy tale version of life to little girls and even boys.)

With all of this overthinking, often I had very little peace. Instead, I had a lot of anxiety with all this constant thinking, usually about others, and I did not even know myself. One thing more recently that has helped me stem some of my overthinking is to meditate regularly.

In my practice with meditation, the amazing monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, keeps showing up in my life. Read about his life story online. He has endured great suffering, so his teachings are revealing and always helpful. I love his perspective and his simple and beautiful explanations about life.

On youtube there is this video about Plum Village where this great monk has a center in France; it has subtitles.

Another piece of overthinking seems to be criticizing. The ridiculous part about criticizing is that it is a usually a waste of time. I still criticize how other people drive, instead of just paying attention to my OWN driving. Of course, I am talking to myself in my own car about the “bad” driver, and that other person cannot hear me criticizing them anyway!

I think I’ll go and meditate on this some more!

One other negative consequence of overthinking, it keeps me from experiencing the present. Because I am obsessing about whatever, I miss seeing the bird flying, a flower, a child do something that makes me smile, a squirrel, or even enjoying a breeze on my cheek. I miss the beauty in my own life.

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And the Rains Came, Thank God!

rain August 2015

Rain came to Northwest USA

Yes, we are so happy here in the Northwest. This is a place that used to get rain during the summer. Now we celebrate every rain drop that falls in summer. Last weekend I didn’t go outside because the smoke gave me a headache, and I wasn’t even in the worst area! I live far from the fires, and the winds brought the smoke to where I live. This weekend the rain brought us more water than the cloud burst that I got caught in in mid August.

cloudburst 8/14/15

rain from cloud burst mid August

I even washed my car with suds this morning, and it rained hard and long enough to wash it clean. Now that’s a rain! I’ve been washing my car in the rain since about 1976. I only look a little crazy! It merely requires a good raincoat with hood and washing bucket, etc.  (P.S. I only use biodegradable soap).

wet streets

completely wet streets from “real rain”

I checked  historical records for where I live for May, June, and July on the website: usclimatedata.com/climate and found out that for those months,  rain totals used to be about 4.5 inches. This year it was .5 inches for those same months. The lack of rain is not the only problem. The aquifers of water on the earth are becoming depleted. This is what the Washington Post wrote in July this year:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/16/new-nasa-studies-show-how-the-world-is-running-out-of-water/

We  humans CANNOT take rain or water for granted any more.

“If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the RAIN, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that’s meditation. If we chew every morsel of our food in that way we become grateful and when you are grateful, you are happy.”  -Thich Nhat Hahn

I have great respect for many native people; many tribes have had more fluid relationships with nature than we humans without native descendants today.  This a saying from one of the tribes that all of us can and need to heed today:

“When a man (woman) moves away from nature his (her) heart becomes hard.” – Lakota Nation

We cannot afford to have hard hearts about nature today. We need to listen to the changes happening on our planet and take action making different choices collectively than we have done in the past. The consequences of what is happening on our Mother Earth are becoming as plain as the noses on our own faces.

 

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Every Moment Counts

Saying

Saying and Reminder

This is on my bathroom wall.  It is a slightly different version from the quote by Lama Surya Das: “Forgiveness means Letting Go of the Hope for a Better Past”.  It is to remind me to let go, so that I can try to be in THIS MOMENT.  Like everyone I have a back story. Letting go of some of the dark pieces of my past has been freeing me to be more and MORE to live NOW and in the present.  I feel what I feel now with more depth, too, and am getting in more touch with what those feelings are.

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.”  –  Eckhart Tolle

When I think back on my life what counted many times the most were the small moments when I could be fully present for my daughter.  Her birth was important, and that was and is not the highlight of our relationship. Every interaction with her has been important since she was born, not just her birth.

After a lovely wedding, which I had made another key moment in my life, I realized (after I was divorced) that I had had an expectation of the “Princess, fairy tale version” that many of us women were sold back then and believed about the “white picket fence”, and “happily every after”. Those versions did not tell me that I needed to sustain that “happily ever after” with many moments that counted in that marriage. I also chose a partner with whom I could not sustain those moments; at that time, I was too young, inexperienced, and naive to know it. At that time I  did not have a clue who I was.

Dandelion Flower

Dandelion Flower

Thank goodness, today, even looking at a dandelion flower brings me joy.  It is so complex and beautiful. I reveled yesterday in a conversation with a five-year old girl, who is the granddaughter of a friend; I felt happy during a conversation with a family member; last night I deeply enjoyed conversing with friends with over a savory meal.

Aren’t these the real moments, the ones that count every day to make up a meaningful life?

Of course, there have been the dark moments,  the times I have suffered, too, such as divorce, illness, pain, deaths, injuries, fears, and the frustrations of everyday life. Sometimes, those were the moments when I could grow the most. After my divorce years ago, I had an opportunity to grow up; I was able to discover what my calling is! I started to begin to know myself. When I have faced my fears, I have learned something else about myself. I also learned I am not alone in my suffering.

Aren’t these, too, the real moments in our lives that count and make up a meaningful life?

Rhododendron flower

Rhododendron flower

These darker moments are like a Rhododendron flower which is multifaceted, and multicolored complexity; difficult and painful moments have expanded me as a human being when I was/am willing to grow. These moments have helped to free me from difficult experiences in the past.

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”

   –  Thich Nhat Hanh

Here is the link to a short talk from Mitch Albom, who wrote “Tuesdays with Morrie”  called “Making Each Moment Matter” .   www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gr0COGuAA4U.

You may have to type it in.  For some reason the link is not working. It is worth watching!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CHANGE

“There is nothing PERMANENT except CHANGE.” –

Heraclitus (535 BC-475 BC)

January 2015

January 2014

With things in our world such as the weather, change is very obvious.

January 2015

January 2015

Also with the changing seasons, sometimes we humans witness and accept other changes readily. Other times we are less accepting.

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace Summer 2014

In the late spring and summer, Queen Anne’s lace or wild carrot grows wild where I take walks frequently. It is near the end of summer, and you can see that some of it is already starting to change (in the far right corner)

Queen Ann'e lace fall

Queen Anne’s lace in the fall

In the late fall Queen Anne’s lace looks like this.

Sometimes I start feeling a little sad when the fall ends because I love that season and the changes in the leaves. My attachment to keeping even the seasons from changing brings on my own sadness, as if I could logically stop or control winter from coming! So when I resist change I CREATE my own suffering.

The present moment
contains past and future.
The secret of transformation,
is in the way we handle this very moment.” –

Thich Nhat Hanh

Believe me, I have tried to stop other changes in my life in the past. I have suffered until I finally surrendered and started to accept changes over time.

opening rose

opening rose

Since becoming more willing to embrace change and be less controlling, I have become happier and learned more about myself. I have become open to new possibilities, and my life has been opening like a flower. With practice and some guidance, living in the moment and accepting change without fear has become more possible for me now.

When we humans are unable to embrace change, particularly with how we treat and accept ourselves and each other, this old saying applies to us:

“The more things change, the more they are the same.”  – Alphonse Karr  (1808-1890)

A hopeful “antidote” to Karr’s view about changing human behavior might be this TED Talk by B.J. Fogg.

How do you deal with CHANGE?

 

 

 

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