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Musings on gratitude…

Here’s a peek into another facet of my life… I am in training to be a (Buddhist) chaplain. In my fieldwork for this role, I was asked by my supervisor if I wanted to step into the opportunity to prepare and deliver a service to the hospital community. While I was unsure of how to create such a piece of work, my interest was piqued by the challenge. As you can imagine, I said, “Yes!”

Here is my writing about gratitude that I shared in the chapel at the hospital yesterday, and that was broadcast on the hospital system (for those who turned to the designated channel). To my delight, (because there’s no way to know if anyone is watching on television) one of the patients I have met with several times mentioned that she was watching and enjoyed my service… who doesn’t love David Whyte, right? 

I hope that you will read my first attempt at this type of writing (not a sermon, not a dharma talk), and let me know what you think!

 

Wishing you, your family, and friends peace,

Jill

Friends, 

Good morning! Thank you for joining us this morning.

I feel both the delight and the weight of sharing thoughts and prayers with you before Thanksgiving.

Traditionally, the most wonderful aspects of this holiday are making time to acknowledge that for which we are thankful in our lives, and the gathering of our families—however, we define that—from near and far. We know, that in these current circumstances, we must navigate this Thanksgiving differently. Families may not come together as in years past — because we have lost loved ones, we want to keep ourselves or others safe, or the burden is too much to manage this year with changes in our life circumstances. 

I personally feel sadness and longing as I will not see half my family and many friends in person this year because we will remain distant with the hope that we may gather safely next year.

Though, as we come together this morning, we make time to pause and reflect on all we have experienced this year, there is much to consider. We can recognize the challenges and those experiences we were, and are, able to savor.

I’d like to share with you a few thoughts from one of my favorite poets. David Whyte, who explores gratitude as a quality of being, as a way of understanding ourselves in relationship to all that exists.

Perhaps we can think of Thanksgiving and beyond, to create more of a practice of gratefulness every day. I am inspired by Br. David Steindl-Rast when he shares, in A Grateful Day,

Do you think this is just another day in your life? It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you. Today. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now. And the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well… Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky. We so rarely note how different it is from moment to moment, with clouds coming and going. Open your eyes, look at that. Look at the faces of people you meet. Each one has an incredible story behind that face not only their own story but the story of their ancestors… Open your heart to the incredible gifts that civilization gives to us. You flip a switch and there is electric light, turn a faucet and there is warm water and cold water, and drinkable water. A gift that millions and millions in the world will never experience.

And so I wish you that you will open your heart to all these blessings and let them flow through you. That everyone whom you will meet on this day will be blessed by you, just by your presence. 

Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then it will really be a good day.

And, so my question is, from my recent reading of Judy Lief’s work, 

  • What are we grateful for this year—both for what has and hasn’t happened?
  • What has gone well and what difficulties have you escaped?

Let me pause so that you may reflect and answer for yourself.…

Perhaps the gentle reminder of a prayer (from Thilini Ariyachandra ) will connect us with our beliefs so that we carry the thoughts and feelings within us through Thanksgiving day and beyond.

Let us pray in the name of all that is good.

May we all be well, happy and peaceful,

May no harm come to us,

May we all also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

May our parents, our teachers and mentors, our friends and may all living beings across the world…be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them,

May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

Let us take a silent moment to add to this prayer with our own, personal prayer.

If you are a patient or staff member, we are praying for you.

In my role as a chaplain, I seek to embody these ideas from Tenzin Gyatso. 

May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.

When you need or want support and care, reach out to those—chaplain, clergy, family member, or friend, who can offer you their presence, to be with you, to help lift your clouds of sorrow, and bring calming breezes that will strengthen your heart and soul.

And, so I ask the question that Mary Oliver posed years ago, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? My answer is, in part, that I will take up my gratitude practice again, noting each day three good events in my life and my explanations for them. And, I will start by saying thank you to all of you for being here with me and sharing your time with me this morning. It is a privilege and a joy to be here. 

Wishing you a Thanksgiving day full of warmth, connection, and gratitude, and for the days that follow.

And now, for something totally different…

Just last month I began a creativity coaching program. I’m exploring my creativity in a totally new medium—paint— and learning to bring new ideas, skills, and practices to my coaching work with existing clients. Maybe I’ll even offer creativity coaching as an elaboration of the Zentangle play and work that I adore.

What have you started, or explored more deeply, recently? What’s exciting in your life right now?

One of the exercises in this coaching program is to create a face collage. Surrounded with images torn from magazines, gel matte, paintbrushes, and more kinds of scissors than necessary, I set to plorking (playing and working) with jazz playing in the background.

Once complete, perhaps an hour later, as there is symbolism in everything element chosen for the final piece (and that takes time… all the sifting and sorting through images), I was delighted. I had created a rather startling image!

My big, beautiful face is surrounded by photos that called to me. All of these images stir my imagination… I follow a pathway through a forest, see gorgeous, weathered planks of wood,  imagine being a bird floating in the sky, and experience warmth and a sense of peace in the viewing setting sun.

The image of a beautiful bird reflected in the water invited me to invert the photo for this piece. The reflection is placed at the top of my head because that’s where I do my thinking, feeling, and musing. My very large eyes see both beginnings and endings—sunrise and sunset. They go beyond the contours of my face. My nose smells the flowers and all there is to take in, my cheeks are bright, sparkly red buttons of color showing life and vitality. My mouth is big, juicy, and open just a bit as there’s always something to be shared and talked about. My ears represent both the big picture, listening for big themes and the sparkle in the fine details of what people are saying. I sport a jaunty crown of an undersea delight. The monarch Butterfly is an anchor for me just reminding me of my tattoo/my connection to my father. The beautiful Spring owl soars, as I always seek to do myself.

If you were to make a face collage, what would you create? 

What ideas, beliefs, desires, questions, and more would be integrated into your creation? 

I hope you will experiment too. If you do, please share it with me.

If you’re interested in accessing, expanding, and evolving your creativity, I hope you will be in touch with me.

Zentangle, a lens for viewing my life

Zentangle is…

A simple, though not always easy, way to bring beauty, focus, and calm into my life every day with ease and a minimum of effort (re: time and materials).

A lens for viewing my life, a reminder to perceive my life with fresh eyes, understand that I will make mistakes—it’s part of living—because I try new things and I get them right and wrong. I am sometimes tired, my best efforts are not always my best work, and that working through the tangles (patterns)—by fixing them &/or moving on/making peace and learning from them is what enables me to grow. 

Art & a science… I bring my own special flair to the guidelines for working with the method.

A reminder to step back and gain a new perspective… there’s always at least one more way to view a situation. I’m always thinking to myself and saying to participants, “Hold your tile at arm’s length and rotate it—90, 180, 270, and then 360 degrees. What do you find as you do so? Which view is most interesting or appealing to you?”

Poke Leaf (the final stoke of the “Z”) invites new ways of working with a challenging pattern.

About both comforting and challenging myself. I LOVE and work with about two dozen patterns regularly—they feel easy and natural. The liveliness of Jetties, the wildness of Squid, the energy of Cadent, and the boldness of Knightsbridge delight me.

And, I’m always on the lookout for changing up the way I do one of my “go-to” tangles and for new patterns and media, to keep me sharp and humble… aware of my growing edge.

“What if, instead of just shading the leafy part of Poke leaf, I use my pen to color in the stem, shade the top of the stems, and use the tortillon/smudger to move the pencil lead into the body of the leaf?”

These four panels are 12-inch squares!

“How might I use/create on a larger area/literally a canvas—how do I need to adapt to the new dimension? What tools will I use?”

A reminder, that there’s a time to put down the pen and walk away from my work… because I have done enough, and doing more may overwork the tile. I  caution myself at times, “There’s a time to pause and reflect. Then, choose to leave it for now or pick up the pen or pencil again to continue.”

An opportunity to sink into the process, experience flow, and remain unattached to the result. There are times that I enjoy the drawing, learn a lot about the patterns and how they fit together yet don’t love the final look of my work and play. I counsel myself to walk away and return to the piece the next morning, knowing that I may feel differently about the tile then… or I will have learned from it and take that knowledge forward. 

Tangling on the inner surface of shells is delightful—it’s silky smooth.

Engaging in tangling is just like so much of how I live my life.

If you’re interested in exploring Zetangle, please reach out to me. I offer classes that cater to beginners and challenge those who are more advanced with a variety of media and long-term projects. I share most of my ongoing work on both instagram and FB.