Sunday, November 27, 2011

Honoring One Another in Tough Times

      Our community grieves the tragic murder of an aspiring, caring, gifted young man who died at the hands of an unknown swordsman in a local park a week ago.  It is helping to have an on-line dialogue on Facebook, and at a community forum this next Tuesday at Ashland High School.  Shop N Kart was closed two hours Saturday so his fellow employees could attend his memorial.  It is good to live where concern  and open expression of our grieving is possible; yes, the police are silent and likely in shock themselves.  It is still early, and we need to be both courageous and take unusual precautions in the aftermath of this serious crime.
     We honor David when we share memories of this innocent man , with us still in spirit.  It triggers memories of 9/11, untimely wartime deaths of so many young men (and women, too) , car accidents and other circumstances that make us all aware we are fortunate to be alive, and there are no guarantees.
    Watching Democracy Now! a few evenings ago, I saw a great panel on the impact of the Occupy Wall St. movement. It has changed the dialogue in our country so concerns that truly matter to the people are being voiced while Congress wallows in apathy, indifference, inability to take responsible action.
   One of the panelists commented that our media, our government, and our financial system have been occupied by Wall Street.  This leaves a space for something new and more accountable to be born, and it's still in the gestation stages, so we don't know how it will all work out in the months and years to come.  We honor one another when we participate, using our own talents and interests, in this unfolding.  One way I'd like to contribute besides writing is to be part of CSAs, Community Supported Agriculture so our local farmers can continue even in the winter months to feed us top quality foods, that we can share with neighbors in need, too.  This happens with our local food banks, with the huge increase in grower's markets and community gardens too; the latter two don't happen in our area in the winter months, so CSAs become even more vital for us to support.  It's about supporting life even as we face death and dying among our friends and families.  We need to care for one another, not become hermits and turn our backs in tough times.  Love begins with conversations that matter, whether they be in a worship service, on-line like this, or in person.  We do make a difference!  Decide how you'd like to contribute to the common good today!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Reflections

    Thanksgiving is about honoring what we do have to be thankful for, in spite of all life's challenges.  Friendships where we share common goals, aims, helping one another through life, depending on one another-these are gifts where we give and we receive, and some friends we rarely reach out to, others are vital in our web of living.  The use of computers and social networks gives us access to a broader world so we are part of community even when we may live in our separate abodes, less lonely thanks to being able to touch others with our thoughts.
    Thanksgiving usually evokes memories of earlier years when we gathered with our family clans, or school friends, or families we create as we move away from traditions that served us growing up, but no longer work in such a mobile society.
One of my "traditions" in recent years is listening to our local public radio broadcasts about poems, hymns, and stories of Thanksgivings past, with a focus on the spirit of giving thanks for the blessings we all yearn for-yummy food shared with friends, fellowship, laughter, a vacation even for a day from our usual routines and concerns.  In my family, we honored elders, inviting them to join us when they no longer could prepare a big meal.  We took the time and the effort to show our respects with our actions of including them in this holiday.
    So I do find it disheartening when Black Friday and its insane shopping overshadows our taking the time to give thanks and reach out with kindness to those having a hard time as the days are colder, the nights longer, and aging or exhausted bodies require more attention . Our health care system and tough economic realities leaves many without resources they need to live with basic needs and simple comforts.  We live in austere times, yes, but many simple gestures of caring and sharing don't require money as much as compassion and more gracious choices.  One of our reflections this season may be how can we be open to both giving and receiving in ways where we build community and honor our diverse talents. 

Son and Mom, enjoying Thanksgiving potluck

Mosaic tiles on a walk nearby

Violinists entertaining at Fellowship potluck

    May this be a time for fellowship, fun, and greater tenderness and empathy as we honor what sustains all living creatures in this season of winter, death, and renewal.  Some dreams  we do need to let go of, and others give us hope to keep alive our own passions for living.  Let us count our blessings to live where women and others hurt by current patriarchal ways of neglecting or silencing voices for a more just and peaceful world are finally having the courage and tenacity to speak out for changes we sorely need.  It is time for fresh air and refreshing changes in the winds of change swirling about us all!  Take care, and trust we are not alone!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's a new day!  In my own quiet way I intend to honor my precious body, for she has been, and continues to be, my best friend no matter the adversities I face.

When I am distracted by the mind's banter and worry, this body keeps on breathing, reminding me she has her own life force.  She loves to be massaged with coconut oil as part of our wake-up ritual.  She loves warm liquids, lovely music, a few minutes of dancing just for the fun of it.  She loves attention and praise and smiles.           

A grumpy face or depressing news on the radio are real turn-offs, for within her is a deep yearning for pleasure, movement, joy to be alive this new day!  She loves bright, vibrant colors, even more important on a gray and dreary day.  Outside the leaves have fallen, exposing tree limbs and branches, and a view of the mountainside hidden the past six months.  Winter is a darker, colder season where I live, and my sweet body needs reassurance I'll keep her warm and full of hearty soups and songs to bring cheer to the hearts of friends as well as myself.

When her blood sugar is low, she lets me know.  When I get too busy writing or doing tasks that ignore her needs, she has her ways of saying, "Give me attention.  I am feeling neglected!" Part of aging wisely is learning to read our body-signals before our bodies go into fight or flight. No outside person can be as present, as intimate, with our sacred body that houses our spirits. Our bodies need maintenance, regular tune-ups, exercising so they feel good, and rest when we are tired.  When we are young, we can abuse and override our body's signals, but this disengagement and lack of respect creates inner unrest and disease as we age.  If we want peace in our lives, it begins with honoring our bodies and taking their needs seriously.

Would you rudely interrupt your best friend when she/he confides in you?  Would you ignore warning signs like insomnia, an unreliable bladder, the onset of a cold when you have a busy schedule?  When we treat our body as our best friend, we begin to dialogue with her:  “What’s up?  What can I do to help you feel better for the next twenty minutes?”  It is true, the past is history, and we may need to learn from past mistakes so we can better befriend this body once taken for granted.  The more compassion and kindness we show toward our body in our daily choices, the happier we shall be. Feeling grateful and loving makes for a deeper, lasting friendship with this partner we have for life!  
Carol Browning 11/15/11

Nurture Your Spirit with Many Rivers

    How do we nurture our Spirit in a world of increasing complexity, volatility, diversity, and challenges that impact our environment, our economy, our lives?
    We need to have the humility to realize and begin the process of addressing our own shortcomings.  We need on-going "training", a deep curiosity in the face of fears, to be more open to "what's next", more aware of where we are now, and where we come from.  This training comes from solitude and reflection in whatever ways suit our talents, from fellowship with other seekers, from books, CD's, webcasts, hanging out in nature to better connect with her peace and presence.  It often means learning in unconventional settings, maybe a play that speaks to our spirit, or praying in a new way, like dancing, drumming,  singing, or writing.  These are the "many rivers" that feed our soul in troubling times.
    If we find ourselves stuck, too serious and obsessed with old habits, we need ways to lighten up and have compassion for our situation.  We need to see options when the old ways aren't working.  That is where learning from one another can be a blessing, helping us relax and trust there are no set answers, and many of us need to allow our opening hearts to be part of our decision-making instead of ignoring our heart's yearnings.  It's a journey, and like a river, sometimes playful and inviting, sometimes more than we can handle so we may need some time to walk the shoreline instead of risking life and limb in the rapids.  What feels nurturing, not just familiar?
      It may take courage, patience, and tenacity to make choices when we have no guarantee of the outcome.  Look at some of our great leaders--Lincoln, John Muir, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, Rachel Carson, Pete Seeger.  They were often unpopular and controversial for thinking  outside the mainstream, following their own unique rivers or guidance that helped make our world more caring, more accountable and aware of dangers in ignoring realities.  Listen for what nurtures your spirit, and be a voice for the concerns and causes that most move you.  We all matter.  We all make a difference.  Shalom, from my heart to yours!     
                          Carol Browning  11/15/2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Remarkable Memorial

    Richard Ripper was often a shy and quiet man.  In this remarkable tribute to his life and death, friends and family shared in song, stories, music (Beth Baker sang Imagine and Love is All You Need, inviting us to sing along), and remembrances from his older brother, a son, and a long-time friend, Jeff Golden how truly generous, caring, and passionate Richard was, always present for the needs of others.  He touched so many lives, from friends he "coaxed and coached" to join him on Cycle Oregon trips, to his baseball team of Optical Illusions, to the Rogue Valley Harmonizers where he learned with music and fellowship to overcome his shyness.  He married his second wife, Marie, adopting her three children in 1982, and together they became parents to Jacob in 1985.  His passion and enthusiasm for being part of community and celebrating with friends increased, even as he was facing death; he welcomed all who came to his bedside, and they left enriched by his grace and wisdom, a special fearlessness that emboldened the spirit of those who served him and loved him.  As one person said, the passenger became the navigator. 
    We have no manual for how to live wisely, so we do need to listen to the deeper voices within and around us.  When we haven't much time left on our earthwalk, what we share with our closest friends and family makes a huge difference in how they shall face loss and death in their own lives.  Richard's wisdom and earnest, honest living obviously touched many people.  The sanctuary was over-flowing, and we all had a sense of Richard's loving spirit being very present.  He had instructed his wife, Marie, to have a Burden Basket Ceremony at this service, telling her to "lay the basket down on a table and I will be there, I will be there to take everyone's burdens away."  This was Richard, giving even after death, that the living might go on our journeys lighter, no longer carrying the secret burdens we may not have known how to address and release.  I was unable to stay for the reception, but feel honored and blessed to be a part of this tribute to a remarkable man who died at peace when "his too large Spirit left his too small body."
        Carol Browning 11/6/11

Wisdom of the Dark

For a brief time the wind and rain ceased
Instead off returning home after a lovely meal out
My friend and I chose to take a walk in Lithia Park.
The crisp, cold air, wet maple leaves everywhere
The moon playing hide and seek amongst the clouds
Made the evening misty and magical.
We walked in silence, grateful for this reprieve
Reminded storms do pass by and we can be grateful
Our legs still allow us to walk this precious Earth
Absorbing her Beauty, her quiet wisdom
That needs no party atmosphere to be at home
At peace with the changing seasons.
Carol Browning 11/6/2011