Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin & Rosa

Posted each year in honor of two people who changed our world.

Martin & Rosa


Twenty-six he was when destiny crooked its finger,
beckoning the still-green minister-scholar into the world.
Forty-two she was when she pounded on the door
Theoretically opened ninety-four years before.
It was the first of December, 1955, when history wove
Their fates together into a multi-colored tapestry of change.

“Tired,” she said, “Bone tired. Tired of giving up.
Tired of giving in,” she said and sat in the front of the bus.

Montgomery, Alabama, shivered as the temperature rose.
The old ways could be heard keening long into the night
As 42,000 people left the buses to stand by Rosa’s side.
381 days they walked: nannies, maids, carpenters, all.

Two hundred years of anger rose up to shatter the silence
And from this deafening roar came a molasses-rich voice
Spinning a song of hope with a melody of peace and love.
“I have a dream,” boomed and echoed across the land.

The young minister-leader painted a picture of a life
without color lines, a world without violence.
His voice lifted the dream: Richmond, Little Rock,
Dallas opened their buses, took down their signs.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent
about things that matter," he said, never silent again.
He took our hands and led us step-by-step onto a new path,
Brothers and sisters connected by heart rather than skin.

“Always avoid violence,” he said.
“If you succumb to the temptation …
unborn generations will be the recipients
of a long and desolate night of bitterness,
and your chief legacy to the future will be an
endless reign of meaningless chaos."

Thirty nine he was when one man with a gun silenced the voice,
But not the words …those four words branded into our brains:
“I have a dream …,” saffron-rich messengers left behind to
Carry forward the dream of a color-blind world of hope and peace.

Dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. born January 15, 1929;
Assassinated April 4, 1968.
And Rosa Parks, civil rights activist, born February 4, 1913
Died October 24, 2005

-- Joyce Wycoff, copyright, 2011

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Extreme Gratitude and a Failed Experiment ... ?


A friend recently recommended two of Pam Grout’s books: E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality (free to Kindle Unlimited members) and Thank & Grow Rich, a 30-Day Experiment in Shameless Gratitude and Unabashed Joy.

Pam has a delightful, casual, practical approach to spiritual matters as well as a marked fondness for experimentation. I’ve fallen in line like a duckling, embracing the extreme gratitude she encourages.

available from amazon.com
I’m reading both books at the same time, writing in my Gratitude Miracles journal every day and then topped it off with what she calls a 2-step party plan:
  1.  Proclaim as you get out of bed that “something unexpected, exciting and amazingly awesome is going to happen to you today."
  2. Come to believe in blessings and miracles.

Pam’s Recommendation: To keep from falling back on old habits, she recommends posting three gratitudes to the world (such as Facebook) every day, making sure they are different every day and watching carefully for the miracles and blessings and note them as they show up. 

Then I decided to add her 48-hour “field of possibilities” experiment to the mix. This experiment requires that you spend 48 hours looking for evidence of the “all-knowing, all perfect FP (her term for the field of infinite possibilities). She adds, “To up the stakes, you’re going to ask the FP for a blessing or what I call an unexpected gift.” She emphasizes unexpected. This is not you asking for something. This is you setting aside skepticism for 48 hours"

Here are the steps:
  1.  Start the experiment.
  2.  Note the time and date.
  3. "Ask the FP to make its presence known. Ask for a blessing."

Okay, I read this at 4:37 Wednesday morning (one of those difficult sleep nights and thought, “Why not?”) I started the clock on the experiment and proceeded into my day (which included periodic naps.)

Last night there was a meeting of Sierra Writers, but it was raining, hard. But, I had promised to be there and I wanted to hear the speaker, a poet. Did I mention that it was raining … and cold? Finally, I bundled up and went.

This morning, I did my gratitudes for the day and was thinking about the experiment which, so far, was a bust. “Maybe I need to repeat my request,” I thought.

Backstory: Several years ago, poetry came into my life. I don’t remember inviting it, however, all of a sudden it was flooding me. I enjoyed the flood although it was time-consuming. I thought maybe poetry was “my thing.” Two rejections from the Squaw Valley Community of Writers for their Poetry Workshop and a rejection from the Antioch MFA program convinced me that poetry wasn't my thing. And, soon after that, the poetry stopped flowing.

The poet who led the meeting last night, Chris Olander, led us through a long writing exercise, using a series of prompts. I had no expectations of outcome. However, almost immediately I fell into a space I recognized, a space where words are in charge, somehow doing what they want without much input from me.

Chris gave us pointers on editing and told us to take our writing home and work it. This morning I started putting it into Evernote and realized I was liking it. And, after a bit of work, it was speaking to me, taking me someplace new. Suddenly, it occurred to me that this was what Pam was talking about. This was that field of possibilities taking me back to that feeling of joy that happens when words are flowing easily and effortlessly.

That was the blessing!

I’m not judging the poem that came as good, bad or indifferent. I do know that the feeling that came with it was one I have missed and I'm delighted to see it show up again. Happy first poem of 2017!

In case you’re wondering, here’s the poem … obviously influenced by the rain/snow/sleet that has been our state for the past several weeks.

Sky River

by Joyce Wycoff

Eagles swirl in dark squads
Shake feathered spans
in rusted rhythms 
tolling lost hopes and
melancholy dreams.

Day wet and confused.
Rain? Snow? Sleet? Fog?
Curtain. Cold and damp
blocking sunlight.

Dust turning to mud
as storm dances
across determined desert
racing to a destination
not marked on the map.

Drums reverberating 
beside  lonely campfire
casting shadow fingers               
across leafless black limbs.

Dreams slip through
mud-dark gaps
bringing stories 
Love found, love lost
Glory days, dreary seconds.

Dust stars form a marching band
playing in four/four time
kaleidoscope harmonies
shimmer, sparkle, shift. gone.

Evening drops moments from Sky River.
Nested eagles murmur quietly
Stilled drum skins hold vibration
Embers glow warm radiating
Glistening bits of life remembered.

(c) 2017

Sunday, January 8, 2017

What are you going to do about the current chaos? Two sure-fire answers.


There is a spiritual state capable of feeling gratitude for the person recently elected to lead our country. I’m not there yet. 
However, after two months of anguish and confusion, I am beginning to appreciate the chaos this election has created. Watching the great pain, fear and anger that prompted such an unlikely election has opened my eyes about how people react when they feel rejected and neglected.

Watching the newly-empowered making plans to dismember the social net we have pieced together over the past 80 years has made me more aware of the millions of hungry, homeless, jobless, elderly, sick and/or disenfranchised neighbors among us. In countries where this has happened before, people have learned to take care of each other when they couldn’t depend on their own governments. This may be where we’re headed.

Watching hatred flare unchecked has reminded me that we have yet to live up to the grand experiment that began when our country was formed. We were to be diversity in action. We were to be freedom and equality for ALL. We were to be a people who respected life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness … not just for rich, white, male, straight, land owners, but for all people.

We cannot wait for government to act in accordance with these principles; we must each live these values every day and with every person we connect with, regardless of political persuasion, color, religion, gender, or non-violent life-style preferences.

Kindness is a political stance. 

Individually, we must be the government we want, and perhaps kindness is one value that might bring us together, at least we, the ordinary people trying to raise our families and do the best we can to be good, solid citizens. We’ve fallen far short of our original vision and, unfortunately, it has taken a badly flawed human appearing at exactly the right moment, to wake us up. Now that we are awake, it’s time to recognize that kindness is a political stance.

Gratitude is a form of activism.

At times I want to rail at the misinformation, fight the hatred and bigotry, become a warrior for peace. And then, I realize that railing, fighting and warring is not part of a peaceful life. Finding gratitude for the chaos of these days reminds me that appreciation for all that we have is the way forward. We need to honor and celebrate every moment, every action of love, compassion, trust, and kindness, reminding ourselves that, basically, we are a kind, generous people. We’ve just forgotten who we are and gratitude helps us remember.

Almost everyone I talk to is trying to figure out what to do in this chaotic time. That wave of concern and activism is something to be grateful for. This is our country. Perhaps we have delegated too much of it to our government … or assumed too much. Perhaps the time has passed when we could assume our elected officials were citizen statesmen interested in the well-being of the nation.

So, what do we do now?

Every time we express our gratitude for the incredible gift of living in this country, we are actively fighting the mindset that this country needs to be made great again by closing the doors to all but the already rich and privileged. This country has flaws almost as big as its beautiful geography, however, as long as we are a democracy and revere a constitution created by wise people who knew that it would need to be revised and renewed over time, we have hope of moving toward a more perfect union.

I believe each of us who have benefited from being a citizen of this prosperous, democratic country needs to decide what we can and will do to insure its future and the well-being of our neighbors.

For myself, I’ve decided that my call is not to political activism. However, I will speak up against bigotry and hatred. I will advocate for kindness and fairness. I will use my words and my financial resources to support the founding ideals of our country and the rights and well-being of every woman, child and man and for this planet we call home.

I will remember that kindness and gratitude can make us whole again. The Dalai Lama said "My religion is kindness.”  If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.



Monday, January 2, 2017

This is what happened in 2017, one story of connecting with future self

Sunrise on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Harry Pickens is one of those magical people who show up in your life, sometimes only for a moment, but leave gifts behind that often take a long time to unwrap. Harry is brilliant, wise, heart-centered and an incredible musician who has played with some of the great jazz musicians of our time and even played for the Dalai Lama.  At 6’7”, he’s bigger than life in all ways.

I was fortunate enough to be on a visioning call with him on New Year’s Eve and, within an hour, life shifted. The call was like my past tapping me on my shoulder saying, “Remember me?” and my future crooking its finger saying, “Come this way.”

When I got off the phone, I had the thought that I have spent a good deal of my life like someone who reads a diet book and then goes and weighs to see how much weight she lost. I spent years reading about change processes: creativity, positive thinking, mental rehearsal, affirmations, dream tending, intentions and so on and so on. But, there was always a new book available, so I would open it and then another, and another, until I began to wonder why all these magical things weren’t really working.

Oh, life was good and I was learning and growing. But, something was missing. The synchronicities weren’t syncing. Things were a little too hard, rejection was coming a little too often. I didn’t feel like I was in flow.

For some reason, though, several months ago, I decided I needed a “practice.” Not that I haven’t had that thought for years … decades, actually … but, for some reason, this time I decided to actually make gratitude a practice. And, in order to do that, I needed a journal … but not just any journal, I wanted one that was easy and simple, one that would support making gratitude a practice rather a chore.

About this time, synchronicity did sync. An online workshop showed me how to create a specialty journal and within a few weeks, Gratitude Miracles was on amazon.com and I was writing my gratitudes every day and noticing miracles happening. I have done this consistently for 32 weeks. Every day. Me, who has never managed to be consistent regarding any other practice. That in and of itself is a miracle.

I think this is one reason Harry showed up again, offering a visioning session that asked me to think about what I truly wanted to create in 2017. More importantly, he asked us to imagine it being New Year’s Eve in 2017 and, looking backwards, what would we feel pride in saying we had accomplished? Harry called it imagining our future self … imagining already being the person we needed to be to create what we wanted in 2017.

Intention Buddy

When Harry opened the call, he reminded us that when people come together in a common intention, the intention is multiplied. This set up a yearning for an “intention buddy,” someone to share intentions with for the coming year, someone to help with accountability. After going through all of my friends, I thought of two who might be interested in committing to an intention process for the year.

I sent an invitation and a sketch of the idea and process to them and, within minutes, one of them responded that she had just been thinking the same thing and was about to invite me to coffee to talk about it! LOVE synchronicity.

So we’re meeting Wednesday and I’m in a flurry of index cards and possibilities. Heaven! The first step I’ve chosen is to write 12 intentions from the viewpoint of 12/31/2017. Things I want to be able to say I did in 2017, things that would make me proud to say them.

Here they are … the 12 things I’m putting on index cards to place in a prominent place, all twelve visible at once, but focused on one for each month. I will post a progress report at the end of each month as part of my accountability process.

My Twelve Accomplishments for 2017

 In 2017, I …
  • honored the Universe that magically connects me with people and events and opens doors     seen and unseen
  • deepened my ability to listen to my inner wisdom
  • made friends with interesting, dynamic people who believe in me and my gifts
  • kept the promises I made to myself even when it involved discomfort
  • honored my physical being as well as my spirit and creativity
  • honed and enhanced my writing and storytelling skills
  • listened and learned life lessons from wise teachers
  • poured stories and art of courageous, positive action into the world
  • collaborated with powerful, wise people to make peaceful, joyful change in the world
  • powerfully and lovingly launched Yellowstone Howling and Mobius Dreamtime into the     world
  • attended two major writing conferences and learned from masters
  • explored two new worlds and spoke to people in Spanish
** After writing 12 serious things, I realized there was one missing, one I really want to be able to talk about at the end of this year:
  • got to spend time on a houseboat on a beautiful lake where I swam, kayaked and had long, wonderful conversations and fun with remarkable friends.

If any of this process speaks to you, please feel free to use it and share it.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A cockamamie adventure in a corn nuts world


I’ve been studying alternative swear words. Some of them are truly wonderful: holy llamas, bullspit, blangdang, crab cakes, fragdaddle … and so on.

Many of those words are coming to mind as I contemplate an adventure that a young friend of mine is embarking on this first day of the new year. She’s a horse person and for a year or more, she’s been planning a long-distance ride to raise money and awareness about domestic violence. It’s a crazy long-ride but she has it all mapped out: four years, 48 state capitals, beginning here in Grass Valley.

Her ride starts today, in spite of the rain, in spite of the forecast of the biggest snow storm in years, projected to drop 8 to 12 inches, in spite of the lack of overwhelming financial support she’s received for the project.

When I first heard about the project, my spirit leapt up and shouted, “Wow! You go girl!” I spiraled into the adventure, admiring her courage, her determination, her willingness to break out of the box.

Then the practical part of my nature got caught in the stickers: winters, traffic, showers, snow, rain, food, bathrooms, loneliness. What would she do if she got sick? What if her horse got hurt? What if she needed to go home in a hurry? What if  …. ? What if … ?

Today I’ve been invited to see her off and it’s making me a little crazy. Not long after I heard about her plan, my skeptic kicked into gear. It's a cool idea, but it’s never going to work. She launched a rather outrageous Kickstarter project which didn’t work. That’s the end of that. She launched a gofundme project (The Centauride) which has only raised a few hundred dollars. This is never going to work. 

But, now she’s actually getting on her horse and riding away. I don’t know if she will make “It.” But I do know that she has impacted me and my thinking. So what if she doesn’t “make it?” She has an outrageous idea. She has passion and purpose. She has the guts to get out the door, make the first step. That deserves my awe-filled respect. That deserves my support. So, I’m dropping a few more dollars into her gofundme account and going out on this rainy morning to wish her well.

Then, I’m going to come home and figure out how to be more like Meredith. I’m going to find my own cockamamie project for this corn nuts world. I think we all need at least one of these in our lives.
 
To follow Meredith and Apollo on their ride: https://www.facebook.com/MsMeredithCherry/?fref=ts




Monday, December 26, 2016

Celebrating Ten Years of Maria Popova's Brain Pickings, #10

Over the past several years, Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings the inventory of a meaningful life, has become one of my favorite sources of inspiration. Brain Pickings was born as an “eccentric personal record” of Maria’s studies and originally sent to seven readers. Now, it is included in the Library of Congress’s archive of “materials of historical importance.”

In celebration of her tenth year of Brain Pickings, Maria offers us ten of her life-earned core beliefs. This is rich stuff so they will be offered one at a time over the next ten weeks. If you’re impatient or want more, go to Brain Pickings and get your own subscription. Incredibly, this feast is still free … although she accepts donations, suggesting a donation level ranging from “a cup of tea to a good dinner.”
10. Don’t just resist cynicism — fight it actively. Fight it in yourself, for this ungainly beast lays dormant in each of us, and counter it in those you love and engage with, by modeling its opposite. Cynicism often masquerades as nobler faculties and dispositions, but is categorically inferior. Unlike that great Rilkean life-expanding doubt, it is a contracting force. Unlike critical thinking, that pillar of reason and necessary counterpart to hope, it is inherently uncreative, unconstructive, and spiritually corrosive. Life, like the universe itself, tolerates no stasis — in the absence of growth, decay usurps the order. Like all forms of destruction, cynicism is infinitely easier and lazier than construction. There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincerity and acting from a place of largehearted, constructive, rational faith in the human spirit, continually bending toward growth and betterment. This remains the most potent antidote to cynicism. Today, especially, it is an act of courage and resistance.
Here is the tenth in Maria Popova's list of things she loved reading and writing about:
What Makes a Person: The Seven Layers of Identity in Literature and Life

Friday, December 23, 2016

Life Lessons from San Franciso

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution in response to the current political situation. It turns out that this resolution is an amazing list of lessons for life. Here's the list, minus the political and bureaucratic commentary.

Try substituting "I" for "We" and think about what it might mean in your life.

San Francisco will remain a Sanctuary City. We will not turn our back on the men and women from other countries who help make this city great, and who represent over one-third of our population. This is the Golden Gate—we build bridges, not walls; (I will build bridges, not walls.)

We will never back down on women’s rights. We will ensure our young girls grow up with role models who show them they can be or do anything. (I will stand up for women's rights.)

For all the LGBTQ people all over the country who feel scared, bullied, or alone: You matter. You are seen; you are loved; and San Francisco will never stop fighting for you. (I will never stop fighting for you.)

We still believe in this nation’s founding principle of religious freedom. We do not ban people for their faith. And the only lists we keep are on invitations to come pray together. (I will stand up for religious freedom.)

Black Lives Matter in San Francisco. We will continue reforming our police department and rebuilding trust between police and communities of color so all citizens feel safe in their neighborhoods. (I will stand up for safety and freedom for all people.)

Climate change is not a hoax. In this city, surrounded by water on three sides, science matters. And we will continue our work on CleanPower, Zero Waste, and everything else we are doing to protect future generations. (I will work to protect future generations.)

We have been providing universal health care in this city for nearly a decade. Regardless of future changes, San Franciscans will be protected. (I will work for universal health care.)

We are the birthplace of the United Nations, a city made stronger by the thousands of international visitors we welcome every day. We will remain committed to internationalism and to our friends and allies around the world. (I will work for peace ... world peace.)

San Francisco will remain a Transit First city and will continue building Muni and BART systems we can all rely upon. (I will support public transportation systems.)

California is the sixth largest economy in the world. The Bay Area is the innovation capital of the country. We will not be bullied by threats to revoke our federal funding, nor will we sacrifice our values or members of our community for dollars. (I will support the common good over financial gain.)

We condemn all hate crimes and hate speech. We will fight discrimination and recklessness in all its forms. We are one City. And we will move forward together. (I will stand up and speak up against all forms of hate.)

Never have I been prouder of my state and this shining city.