the struggle

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There are times when life seems really hard. This poem is about that.

The Struggle

feeling the walls
surrounded in darkness
in the cocoon
no light
only tiny fragments
of hope linger
in the air
like smoke
from a fire smoldering
into the unknown
tension thick
like mud
unsure
what’s in here
even more uncertain
what’s out there
fear filling the air
wanting desperately out
struggling against the edges
the barriers
holding things in
spinning circles
dizziness pushing ‘round
falling to get up
only to sit still
in the gray silence

 

Most of the time, when I sit down to write,  I feel something that I don’t quite understand or something that feel I should pay attention to. When the feeling is heavy or dark or uncomfortable, often the process of writing will create a shift – and the shift actually happens in the writing. That didn’t happen with this poem. I ended in the same gray place I started – however, I know that the catharsis of writing it was part of finding my way to something lighter.

 

* I took this photo on a rainy day in County Clare Ireland.

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Filling Petals with Sunshine

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I wrote this poem several years ago for a breast cancer survivor friend battling cancer. She needed help and was having trouble asking for it.

I picked it for this week’s post because I needed its reminder.

Filling Petals with Sunshine

Each person you touch
in whatever way
is blessed.
You grace others’ lives
in ways that may be
unseeable.

Like God’s little secret,
the meaning in our lives
is sometimes hidden
below the surface –
or maybe high above
and out of reach,
for now.

Each time you ask for help,
each time you let someone give,
each time you open yourself,
you exercise your power
to create meaning.

Each time you lean into
your vulnerability,
your purpose unfolds,
like a rosebud
hungry to fill its petals
with sunshine.

* I took this photo on the beach in San Agustinillo, in the garden outside of El Pescador.

Authentic

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Authentic

Authentic
Show up
ME!
Real
Just as I am
Nothing to hide
Open and vulnerable
Yet confident and strong
BE
Who I am

As I step into the new year, I want more than ever to truly honor who I am, to be in integrity with what I value, and to find that sweet spot that lies somewhere between  openness and vulnerability and confidence and strength – that place where so much possibility opens. There are moments in any given day that I doubt myself, thinking my voice doesn’t matter or I don’t have what it takes or I need to follow someone else’s lead. Fortunately, there are also moments where I am deeply connected with who I am and what I want, moments when I am inspired and alive and able to act from a place of deep knowing that I have all that I need. This poem was an invitation to myself – years ago – to keep choosing that place of connection.

* I took this photo in San Agustinillo, Mexico in December 2017 of this lizard I named Madonna, because it kept striking poses. This one was on the palm tree on the patio overlooking the ocean where my  husband Jim and I were reading.

Red Barn In Snow

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Red Barn in Snow

The red barn

standing amid fields of snow

offers hope

 

Seems appropriate to post this today, given the deep freeze here in Iowa. This poem came to me a few years back when I was returning from a date with my friend from high school, Peg. We had met at the I-80 Truck Stop – a location part way between our homes in Illinois and Iowa. It was a cold and gray day in February, and I was feeling challenged by dynamics at work. I remember seeing a red barn and how it lifted my spirits, and how then I began to notice the fields covered in snow stretching out endlessly, and how I began to feel lighter. A renewed sense of possibility overcame me.

May something as simple as a red barn inspire new possibility for you today.

* I took this photo from I-80 in Iowa on New Year’s Day 2018.

today’s opportunity

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today’s opportunity

be still
stop striving
just for this moment
allow yourself to soften
open your heart
your mind
your body
invite the gifts of a new day
believe in the possibility that is
YOU

meaning awaits
connection with life beckons
your purpose is alive
and breathing
ready to unfold
today’s opportunity
begins with trust
in your grace
your joy
your light
SHINE!

There’s something precious to me about the beginning of a new day…the mystery of just how it will unfold. This poem came to me like a hopeful little prayer. May it inspire joy and light to fill your day. In your shining, may you find magic.

 

*  I took this photo during a morning walk with Jim along Playa La Concha in San Sebastian, Spain – a new day’s opportunity beckoning.

Stillness

Baltimore Ireland Boats at Sunset

Stillness
It calls me:
BE STILL.
Slow down.
Tune in.
Turn off.
Wake up.
BE.
Effortless.
Heartful.
Open.

This poem is not in either of my books. However, since finding it scribbled in my 2015 journal, it has been speaking to me. This time of year invites moments of stillness. Moments to connect with myself, moments to connect with others , moments to connect with life as it unfolds. As we open the year that will be 2018, I invite a year of mindful moments of stillness that empower us.

” And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke

* I took this photo in Baltimore, Ireland – the sun setting after cloudy day and soaking rains…magical!

Invited

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He listens.
Understands.
Opens his heart
so you have some place
soft to stand.
He wraps himself gently around you
holding all the pieces of you
together.
He asks, what if:
You quit fighting?
You loosen your grip?
You open your palms wide?
You invite the noise and chaos in?
You simply let go?
You allow your heart to speak?
You trust the wisdom of your inner voice?
You own your truth with confidence?
He invites you:
Be who you are
Right where you are.

I wrote this poem about my brother, Mike. We live halfway across the country from each other and don’t get to be together very often. On one particular visit, I was at a very challenging point in my job.

I remember going for a walk with him and how he listened as I described my struggle. I  felt held as he listened intently to my words and understood my feelings. I remember the power of his questions and how they guided me back to myself – and therein found my way out of the spiral.

No coincidence we were walking through a canyon with his Australian blue dog, Blaze,  herding us. Sometimes you need to go deep into the land with someone or something to shepherd you along.

I hope you have someone that honors and holds you, someone who cares deeply for you, celebrates your light, and supports you through challenges.

 

* I took this photo on Inis Oirr, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland.

Dancing

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Dancing

Here we dance.
Our very own dance.

We are small.
We are big.

We are vulnerable.
We are strong.

We are nothing.
We are everything.

We are empty.
We are full.

We are broken.
We are whole.

We are grace.

This poem is about a short but big, bold word: AND.

It’s about how we can hold opposites simultaneously.

It seems so right that I can be both big and small, strong and vulnerable, everything and nothing, full and empty, whole and broken. And, that you, too, can be all of these things. Looking out into the world, it seems together we are all of these things, too. There is a beauty and tenderness in allowing all of this.

I am grateful to my friend, Maureen Monte, for her thoughts about this poem during her review of an early draft of my book.  Her feedback invited me to shift from ‘I’ to ‘we’. (You can read the initial version here: Dancing Like the Tide.) While the poem was initially created about awareness of the my own emotional and physical complexity, now there’s something special for me in tuning in to our collective richness.

 

* I took this photo in Galway, Ireland. The flowers were dancing in the rain just minutes before.

Soft

tired blooms

Soft

you can peak
into her heart.
you might even see
the light
like a halo
emanating around her.
there’s kindness
in her actions
and hope
in her words.
her softness
is the heart
of all good things.

When I dare to go to that soft place of my heart, I find conviction and courage. From this tender place inside of me, clarity, confidence, and strength burst forth. At work I’ve been leading from this place, and I credit my softness for the best of my professional accomplishments. It’s also the place from which I always choose to take the stage that I might truly speak to and give of myself to others.

I had the opportunity last week to present at The Conference Board’s Mindfulness Seminar on Insights for Developing and Implementing a Successful Corporate Mindfulness Program. I was there to tell the story of Mindfulness@IBM and the grassroots nature of our movement. (We now have an online community of practice with over 4,300 members and 53 groups practicing together in 24 countries! All possible through the energy of volunteers – truly by IBMers for IBMers.) As the initial catalyst for our movement, I’ve been intentional about inviting a variety of mindfulness approaches and a divergence of practices, as well as curiosity and experimentation – in the spirit of our company’s deep commitment to diversity and inclusion. (That said, my sense is we are on the cusp of some great convergence and global enterprise strategic alignment.)

The seminar was such a great opportunity to share and learn. It was special to be part of a meeting that was run in a mindful way, with practices interwoven through the program to support and deepen our discovery and learning. Even more special was the sense that we were co-creating, that our beliefs and actions can create a more human workplace.

My session was on the morning of the 2nd day. I chose to read a poem as a mindfulness practice opener. Definitely something a soft person would do, right? 🙂  I chose to read Creating Our World, which felt so fitting. Words, and how they are used and combined, have a special energy. They can be powerful and profound, especially when intentionally selected. The poem certainly grounded me, and I think set the stage for a fully engaging session.

 

* I took this photo of tired blooms of a clemetis plant in my backyard. For contrast, here is the same plant in full bloom.

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Unfolding

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Unfolding
The flowerbud
unfolds
a slow
gracefulness
joyfully
reaching
and believing

I’ve noticed this sense of opening when practicing mindfulness or yoga…when reading something that touches my heart or inspires me…when I’m among friends who dare to be real and vulnerable…when I’m with my husband Jim exploring possible vacations. I feel alive, at peace, and a sense of joy.

Do you ever feel a kind of unfolding? When does it most often happened? How does it feel to you?

 

* I took this photo one morning on a New York City street lined with flower shops.