It’s not always easy to be with what is, especially when we’d like things to be different. Living in a world of conflict and chaos is hard. We get busy, distracted, frustrated, angry, sad, maybe even hopeless. Instead, we might try being present with what is right here, now, within ourselves and our own lives. Contentment is a state that we can cultivate with open hearted mindfulness, acceptance (seeing things for what they are), and gratitude. When we begin to see the essence of who we are and the things that matter in our life (like relationships, pets, nature and beauty) and have gratitude, we elicit a sense of peace and ease in the present moment apart from any external events. By living with contentment we can experience inner peace and harmony in all aspects of our lives. Is contentment just a form of spiritual bypassing? I don’t think so.

Contentment really does help us live in a difficult world. In fact, I believe that a true core of inner contentment, where we are at peace with ourselves, allows us to act in the world with discernment, wise judgement, and clarity of thought. We can then respond to life from a balanced center of being and with kindness of heart. Just imagine if everyone lived in this space. We can have inner peace and contenment as our ground of being and still desire and work for change. Perhaps this is the only way that we can create change.

The sanskrit word for contentment is santosha. Santosha just so happens to be the name of the retreat center we are going to for our new “Inner Peace Retreat” in June. Taking time for yourself may feel like self- indulgence when we live in a world of conflict. However, I believe it’s one of the wisest and most responsible acts that we can do. “Inner peace creates world peace”! You are invited to join us this June.

Slowing down

Fall invites us to slow down, gather all parts of ourselves and reflect. When we align with nature’s rhythms we have an opportunity for rejuvenation. The past weeks have allowed me to draw inward, focus and savor all of life. The glory of life around me is stunning, the people and connections authentic, and at the same time there is also so much disaster and devestation. As I quiet and listen, I learn to hold it all with awareness and love and find my place of service and action.

This past week’s Hurricane Ian caused me to slow down and keep close to my sister who was frantic and barricaded in her bathroom with her partner and dog Charlotte in Rotonda, Florida. Luckily she had cell coverage, and the only way to help her was to slow down and remain calm. Although she was far away, it taught us to lean into each other with love. 

A leisurely lunch last weekend opened another opportunity for authentic connection. My husband, dog Shanti and I had our lunch at our favorite bakery and cafe, while sitting outside at a picnic table on a brisk and sunny day.  We noticed an older woman sitting in a car for quite some time. I was keeping an eye out with concern. After working in the mental health field for so long I recognize the signs of dementia. We had finished our lunch were ready to leave but the woman was still sitting in the car by herself, looking outside the window and seeming a bit confused. I did not want to scare the woman, so did not go over to the car but went to say hello and talk to another woman sitting alone at the next picnic table. She too had noticed the woman in the car. We sat and talked and waited for the driver to come out of the cafe. We were both relaxed in the present moment and not in any hurry. This allowed a true and joyful connection.

A stranger became a friend on the journey of life. We talked until the driver came back to the car where the older woman was waiting. Both of us grateful and relieved. We parted with joy and she said how wonderful it was to connect to have conversation and smiles once again, to be in life without masks and hiding from one another. Indeed it was a blessing.    

After our lunch we went to walk in our favorite park, Fort Foster, which happens to be one of the few places in the US were monarch butterfies congragate in preparation for thie migration south. There we paused to watch the ocean and then noticed we were in proximity to thousands of monarch butterflies who were also pausing, just waiting for the right winds to begin their miraculous flight. 

Who am I on this Independence Day?

I was born a white woman, born and raised in America. Some of my ancestors were Native Americans who, in their time, were not counted as real people. They were shamed, changed their names to try to fit in, and their birth records were destroyed. They were locked away in asylums because they protected their land, restricted to reservations, and many were massacred. As many females, I’ve been raped and afraid to tell. I lived in a family with mental illness from PTSD, and turned to drugs while searching for acceptance and peace. I was a runaway, once left for dead in a ditch. Climbing out, I walked for miles to safety. I was in an abusive marriage, kicked and spit on. Yes, I have suffered.

And I have had the opportunity to know much joy and great beauty, the privilege of parents who cared, and finances to live with shelter and safety.  I know a land filled with mountains, lakes, the Atlantic Ocean and sea breezes. Nature soothes and washes over me. Determined, I made it through college as a single Mom, lived in subsidized housing until  receiving my degrees and the ability to make a living for myself and my children. Now, I have wonderful work and much to share. I have a beautiful family, sweet dog Shanti, and kind partner with whom I raised amazing children, and who is now by my side. I have friends with whom to laugh and cry. I am profoundly grateful for abundance and beauty of nature. I’m able to watch my children grow. I watch the gentle deer in my yard. Well, they are eating all my plants, but that’s another story.

Today I choose to celebrate Independence Day!

I am grateful to be an American and to have the freedom, though not always easy, to pursue a better way, to shift and to change. I am sorry for those that have not fully shared in this. I am grateful for a Civil War that ended slavery in the US, for Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, for Rosa Parks who “sat” for what was right. I am grateful that Juneteenth is now honored, celebrating the freedoms and victories of black people in our country. I am grateful for the Women’s Right’s Movement, to all the women who spoke and marched bravely. I am grateful for so many freedoms and for the work and movement toward a greater way of living.  

I am grateful to my forefathers and mothers who had the courage to leave Britain, but it is hard to accept the ignorance they had of the Native Americans who were slaughtered and lied to. It is heart wrenching and unthinkable that humans could perpetuate slavery and that this was part of our country’s beginnings. 

I cannot erase history, cannot change it. Yet, as Mother Theresa said, I “can do small things with great love.”

So, I offer this prayer:
May humanity create freedom, a just society, food, shelter, medicine, compassion, education, and dignity for all.

May we eradicate racism, sexism, climate destruction, warfare, and violence.
May we hold our earth, all beings, animals and plants with respect, kindness, gentleness, and love.

And And I pray for:
the freedom to walk, dance, and move on this earth.

the ability to use my life and creativity to help aspire towards peace.
the strength and power to listen, question, be curious, offer something better, make changes.
the ability to open my heart to acceptance, tenderness, and forgiveness of past wrongs.
the voice to speak my truth and to speak up for myself and others in need.
the clarity of mind to live with integrity.
the gift of grace and the mystery of life to accompany me through this journey, to be part of creating a brighter future for our children and all generations to come.
the earth and its renewal.
the animals and their survival.
all people everywhere, no exceptions.

Remember what Ram Das was told by Neem Karoli Baba,
“Love Everyone!”

Integrity as Self Care

Ever have the experience of not being honest & true to yourself?

Maybe you put someone else first when it wasn’t warranted, or went along with another’s idea of right & wrong just to please them. Maybe you’re the “nice” gal or guy and always have been. Why should you stop now? How dare you not be the one to make everything right, smooth it over, pull it all together and make it look good! Weren’t you taught to be a good girl.

As my Mom’s cancer grew this year, and her body and mind grew weary, she became steady and focused in her choice to die as she pleased.

“Of course I don’t want to have cancer and die,” she said, “but I am dying, and I want to live each day I have free of drugs and interventions. I want to see the beauty of the flowers and the sun shining on the lake and be held by my husband and embraced and cared for by my family.”

She had been a caregiver all her life, and always put others first. This time she dropped into her heart, her love of life and self, and made the decision to die as she wished. She drew on all the strength and skills that she had in order to do what was best for her. And, she passed in integrity, courage and love. She amazed me.

Yesterday I made a choice to live in my integrity and to choose self care over pleasing another. It was a simple choice compared to Mom’s courage, but I have learned that I am worthy of self-love.

I don’t have to spend my time befriending and being polite to another when they drain my energy and when I truly do not have acceptance and forgiveness inside. Time does soften wounds so perhaps one day, when I am ready, I’ll be open to this person. For now, I choose an act of kindness for me, for self care for enjoying my day, and for setting a boundary.

How about you?

Will you allow an act of kindness and love for yourself today?
Perhaps even a revolutionary act of self love!

Send an e-mail & let me know if you do!

Namaste, Susan

Raindrops on Roses

The day was dark and I found my self alone on the path by the river. In fact I saw no one out during my hour and a half walk.  The raindrops felt like tears in my heart. Then I stopped to be present with this rose bush and its raindrops.

One of my favorite practices is to stop, look and listen, instead of rushing and passing by the miracles around me. I find that when I really get still, drop my agendas and lean into the present moment, I get clarity and ease. In the spaciousness that happens I open to something new and walk away with such gratitude, peace and profound joy.

I recognized the softness of the water, and the tender flow of rain. I felt this through my whole being and gave thanks for the reminder to soften and flow, and to release my desire for control. Just to be present here and now, and to respond with love to uncertainty and chaos.