Climbing the Hill to Enlightenment…

Do you sometimes find yourself heading back to square one?

 

Or if at first you don’t succeed…..

Have you ever had times when you get disillusioned or feel that you can’t get where you want to be? You aren’t alone – I know there are times when I think I’ve ‘cracked it’, and have found my way – but then – wham, down I come to earth. But I guess if we had life all fathomed out we could become complacent or even a little smug. There is a reason why there are so many self- help books out there. People are always searching to find a new way of dealing with life; a new angle that might just make everything become clear. It’s a big industry, but I’m not knocking it. I have found several books and audio tapes over the years that have helped me through rough times, and are still helpful today. I’ve followed some inspiring gurus too. ( I loved to listen to the late motivational speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer, who always sounded warm and friendly and came across as a lovely man when I attended some of his seminars.) Sometimes just reading or hearing one illuminating story can offer up a ‘light bulb ‘ moment that gives us the answer we have been looking for.

Here is a story of one man’s quest for enlightenment…..

There was once a man who wanted to find the meaning of life. He spent many years listening to all sorts of gurus, and read many ‘self-help’ books. He tried yoga classes and quite enjoyed them and soon learned how to ‘Salute the Sun’. He learned how to meditate, and once he had stopped his busy mind wandering off and thinking about what to eat for his supper, he more or less got the hang of it. He ate an amazingly healthy diet with only a few slips-ups (he had rather a liking for donuts). He took plenty of exercise and breathed in the invigorating fresh air in the woods behind his cottage. He gave up his stressful job and decided to live simply and he put on sandals.

But with all this to help him there were still times when he felt he hadn’t quite ‘got it’.

So the man went up to the top of a mountain, made himself a simple camp, and stayed there for five years. He contemplated his life. He relaxed and completely ‘chilled out’. He prayed for peace in the world. He felt at one with the universe. Occasionally, the odd climber or two came up the mountain and he smiled at them most benignly, bestowing calmness upon them. That felt good.

One day he woke up and thought ‘I’m ready to go back and face the world and nothing will phase me now.’ Gleefully, he set off down the mountain. But he had forgotten how steep it was and by the time he got to the bottom, his feet were a bit sore and he was thirsty and tired. He walked into the café at the bottom of the mountain and asked for a bottle of water. No one heard him. He asked again but the staff were busy and ignored him. After five more minutes he felt the anger boil up inside him and banged his fist on the counter, and demanded to be served. A waitress rushed over and nervously placed a bottle of water in front of him mumbling an apology. He grabbed the water and drank it down without a word. From a table in the corner and old friend spotted the man and walked over to him. He asked him how he was getting on with his quest for enlightenment. Without a word the man turned and walked out of the café. He headed back up the mountain.

This is just a reminder that we can all fail from time to time no matter how far we think we have come. But it is okay. It happens to us all and it is never too late to try again. The man was just human like we all are. And remember – nothing good is ever lost.

‘Today is a new day; there is no need to focus on yesterday’s mistakes. Just as the pathway will sparkle again in the sunlight, so will you sparkle again too’.
Lyn Halvorsen

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The Brexit Effect -When Niceties Go Out of the Window….

Is there any excuse for bad behaviour in politics? When will the media circus calm down?

Well it could be quite a momentous day today. Here in the UK all the focus is on the vote regarding the Brexit agreement put forward by the Prime Minister for leaving the EU. Following weeks and weeks of haggling and bickering, the next few hours seem quite critical. I have my own views on what I want to happen, but this post isn’t about just me. I think this is what is often forgotten. The bigger picture.

Here I quote an excerpt of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year speech….

There’s a parallel with our country today. We’re much more diverse than we used to be. Yet we disagree on many things. And we are struggling with how to disagree well. Turn on the television, read the news, and you see a lot that could tempt you to despair. Hope lies in our capacity to approach this new year in a spirit of openness towards each other. Committed to discovering more of what it means to be citizens together, even amid great challenges and changes.’

Wise words.

It sometimes it seems that the whole nation is in disagreement. Have we forgotten our basic and fundamental manners? Certainly some of the politicians I have listened to recently have. There needs to be a wake up call. A return to civility and respect for others. This doesn’t mean that those who govern can’t take action; of course we need to be governed, but governed in a way that benefits all of us. And even if the outcome isn’t one we would choose, if it is objectively administered and sensitively handled we could at least start to move forward.

Sometimes actions speak louder than words. There is a description in one of my favourite books ‘In Tune with the Infinite’ by Ralph Waldo Trine. He describes a man who owned a beautiful lotus pond. It was in a natural basin on his farm, supplied with water from a reservoir in the foothills some distance away:

‘ A gate regulated the flow of water from the main reservoir to the pond. It was a spot of transcendent beauty. There, through the days of perfect summer weather, the lotus flowers lay full blown on the surface of the clear, transparent water. June roses and other wild flowers were continually blooming upon its banks. The birds came here to drink and bathe, and from early to late one could hear the melody of their song. The bees were continually buzzing and at work in this garden of wild flowers. A beautiful grove in which many kinds of wild berries and many varieties of ferns grew stretched at the back of the pond as far as the eye could see. The good man who owned the grounds put up a sign to welcome all people to the lotus pond so good were his intentions. Here, were often merry groups of children playing and those who were weary could rest. Men and women seemed to be lifted of their heavy burdens. Many called the place ‘The Garden of God’. The man called it his ‘soul garden’. He would often sit and enjoy the fragrant flowers and sit on a bench in the moonlight. He was a man with a simple outlook but in this place, all his successful dreams and plans came to light. Everything in the vicinity seemed to breathe a spirit of love and kindness, comfort and good cheer. Even the cattle and sheep in the fields flourished. The gate of the pond was always open giving them pure mountain water to drink. For so long this wonderful place flourished until sadly, the man had to go away for a year. A new man was put in charge; one who had not much time for anything other than practicalities. He turned off the water flow and made the area private and invited no visitors. A great change came over everything; the flowers in the pond wilted; birds no longer came to drink and sing and the flowers no longer bloomed. The bees no longer hummed and as the stream dried up so the cattle no longer got their supply of water so they perished. By shutting the gate to the pond, thus preventing the flow of water from the reservoir in the hills, which was the source of life, the appearance of and around the beautiful lotus pond was entirely changed.’

Do we not see a parallel here? When we are connected to the source of good things, to the infinite, then all good things flow, and we live in harmony with the universe. We are connected to beauty and all things that are pure and health-giving. When this is taken from us or we disconnect from what is good, then we can fail to flourish, just like the lotus pond.

So on these, some would say, tumultuous days and when we are feeling less than optimistic, its good to remind ourselves to stay focused, to remember that good actions and good deeds bring the best results, and that when our hearts are open to others we live and let live. We remember that everyone has their own thoughts and opinions and we respect their right to go their own way.

Good manners and kindness are always in fashion.’

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Is it safe to come out yet?

Magic: Expectation via Reality.

A bit of magic helps us go forth on a January day…

In my last blog I wrote about the lull that follows the Christmas break; how I struggle with letting go of the festivities and try to deal with post Christmas blues. I talked about how we can learn from children – how they enjoy the moment and then move on and run headlong into the New Year, with all the new experiences and occasions.

I still find my emotions lurching about this week, especially after being laid low with some sort of bug that has been doing the rounds. When I say lurching, I mean the sinking feeling that creeps up unannounced and makes you miserable even though you are trying to be positive. (There is a great advert on television doing the rounds at the moment; the insurance it is trying to plug is by the by, but it features a boxer dog asking with a shocked expression if Christmas is over. His plaintive response of ‘Oh No!’ when he realises this is the case is priceless and absolutely sums up how I feel!).

I think one of the reasons for the blues this time of the year is the fact that we realise we have to get back to the normal routine; life takes on an ordered pattern again, and it can be difficult to be motivated when the days are still short and celebrations are over. Then again, some people relish the new year and the very fact that they can move on with plans and look forward to what is in store. We are all different and whilst I think too much time making plans means we don’t concentrate on today, I think the optimist who relishes looking forward is to be envied.

But I have come to the conclusion that I need to fall back on the inspiration that lies around me to make progress. This is my way of looking forward. I need to look for magic. I heard someone say the other day that they didn’t believe in any form of religion because they didn’t believe in anything they couldn’t see. I couldn’t disagree more with this; I am not necessarily focusing on religion here, but there are many things we cannot see yet know exist. Think of the leaves on the trees rustling in the breeze – we cannot see the wind yet we know it is there. Think of the electricity that brings power to our homes; we cannot see it yet we still touch the light switch knowing the power is there to lighten our darkness.

Sometimes it is easy to ignore new ideas and inspiration when we are busy getting on with everyday challenges. But it is at these times when we need magic and inspiration the most. ‘Thinking outside the box’ is an overused expression but is applicable here. For on a grey January day when we feel we are caught up in ordinariness and routine, it is the time to do just that. There is no ordinary day. Every day contains some magic whatever our situation and if we are open to it.

In a way, magic is difficult to define. I have looked up the definition in the Oxford Living Dictionaries. One says: The power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces…hmm I’m not sure that is how I think of magic. Another says: Mysterious tricks, such as making things disappear and reappear, performed as entertainment… that is not my favourite idea either. But this – this is the one I really like: A quality of being beautiful and delightful in a way that seems remote from daily life.

I don’t take the above expression to mean remote in a negative way, I take it to mean something that takes us away from normal routine and injects some sparkle into our life and our thinking.

Magic isn’t about waving a wand. We can find magic in small things. To me, the early snowdrops appearing in the churchyard are magical, as is the sunlight sparkling on the river on a frosty day.

The world is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper’.
W.B. Yeats


‘And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it’.
Roald Dahl

I think magic is all around us, even in everyday things and somehow it crosses the divide between itself and reality. Magic and reality can exist together. Think of advanced technology – it is indistinguishable from magic.

When I look around the countryside this time of the year, I remind myself that although all appears quiet and bare, new life sleeps as yet unseen, ready to burst forth and enchant us in the spring; soon nature will make a brand new start, never stopping to question the mood of its heart.

So let us rely on a bit of magic this time of year. Let’s gain inspiration from ‘feel good’ stories and acts of kindness and believe in ourselves. With faith, good times will be more likely to appear.

Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen’.
John Wolfgang von Goethe

Just before writing this blog I had sent a text to my son who is on a business trip abroad. I asked him how things were going. I just received a reply from him – ‘All gold, mum’ x . There is some magic there somewhere!

Wishing you a magical week.

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Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

What REALLY matters to us?

This week has been full of mixed emotions for me. There have been stresses and strains, worries, ups and downs, highs and lows and most importantly, good times. Times catching up with good friends, happy phone calls from family members, important birthdays, and pleasant interactions with kindly strangers.

Sitting watching the early evening news a few days ago I started reflecting on some of the headlines and felt immense sadness when thinking of some of the terrible things decent ordinary people were going through or had had inflicted on them, sometimes with devastating results for themselves and their families. Many times I have written about the pain we feel as we watch the news and have to deal with often unfathomable occurrences and unspeakably dreadful actions, the results of which are beamed into our living rooms.  Then there are times we sit dumfounded as we witness the latest political debacle and the seemingly unfair systems that seem to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

And yet still we find ourselves sweating the small stuff when we go about our daily lives.

We may meditate, read every self help book we can, listen to all the podcasts about positivity we can get our hands on to help us cope with an ever tumultuous world. We may chant, commune with nature, speak to our angels and watch our diet. All these things help at times and give us nuggets of information and inspiration that many times prove to be invaluable. Trust me, I believe. I believe in trying every sensible (and sometimes not so sensible) path to acceptance and understanding. That path that shows us there is a reason for everything and an explanation for everything even when we cannot see it and rail against it. But there are days when it is really hard to stay focused and remind ourselves of all the ways of coping we have learned. These are the days when I guess we just need to go back to basics and remind ourselves of all the things in our lives that are important and reaffirm them.

I remind myself that the people I love and admire for their strength and the way they cope with life did not get that way because their lives always worked out. They got that way because stuff went wrong and they handled it. They handled it in many different ways and at different times, and they got through. I look up to them for sure.

We need to keep our lives in order. Of course we do. Most of us need to work and earn money to support our families. We need to cook, clean and keep our house tidy(ish) We need to keep ourselves in shape and look reasonable. We need to offer support to those that need it and need us. But I for one, need to tell myself in stressful times that the everyday petty trials and tribulations just don’t matter and will be mainly forgotten by next week. Even what we perceive to be major problems will fade to insignificance over the years.

I’m aware of getting older and my thinking is changing with the years. I see it more clearly when people around me are struggling. I can visualise possible outcomes and weigh up situations in a more balanced way than when I did when I was younger. This is both good and bad. On the one hand it is sensible to be prepared and to be empathetic but at the same time the buoyancy of youth is gone: the feeling of being invincible.  But life follows patterns, we change and learn as we go. Some of us learn more quickly  than others. Some young people have a wise head on young shoulders. Some older people never really grow up. This is all part of life’s rich pattern.

The question to ask ourselves, whoever we are, is what really matters to us, what makes us happy, what keeps us sane? Once we remember who we are and remember to reach out to those we love, and once we enjoy the simple things in life while we can, we will at least find it easier to reconnect to what is good.

But if I cannot change the world, I can bend when the storm appears; Do great things in smaller ways, Dry another’s tears.’

Good Thoughts – Good Actions = Good Results…

How do we feel when we receive negative comments?

I was reading a Facebook post today from someone that I have followed for a while. I enjoy the delightful mix of posts from her page and blog which include quirky mixes of shabby chic interior design,  and pretty pictures of a bygone age. I like anything which involves a bit of escapism and give an insight into someone else’s dream so it was sad to read recently that she had received some negative posts totally out of the blue. This got me thinking about how we spend our valuable leisure time and why sometimes some people find the need to comment negatively and sometimes even rudely on another persons endeavours. Innocent , well-meaning posts about all manner of subjects seem to find a way of provoking some untoward remarks from strangers who need to vent their anger somewhere. Constructive criticism is one thing but unpleasant and unfounded comments leave me perplexed.

I guess those of us who put ourselves out there and write about various subjects will have to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth but that said, how much more uplifted do we all feel when we receive a comment from someone who has enjoyed reading our musings or found some of our advice to be helpful? We write for all sorts of reasons; some of us find it a release for anxiety, a chance to put our thoughts into words and reach out to others, to be creative and to send out some sort of message to the world.  The written word is, and always will be a valuable and immensely informative, often moving way of connecting us to the past, to feelings and emotions felt since time began; and words laid down now will be a comfort those who will go after us.

So maybe if we could all concentrate on what is good  – leave encouraging comments and keep negative thoughts to our selves, how much better social media would be!

Sometimes actions speak louder than words.  There is a description in one of my favourite books ‘In Tune with the Infinite’ by Ralph Waldo Infinite, about a man who owned a beautiful lotus pond. It was in a natural basin on his farm, supplied with water from a reservoir in the foothills some distance away:

‘ A gate regulated the flow of water from the main reservoir to the pond. It was a spot of transcendent beauty. There, through the days of perfect summer weather, the lotus flowers lay full blown on the surface of the clear, transparent water. June roses and other wild flowers were continually blooming upon its banks. The birds came here to drink and bathe, and from early to late one could hear the melody of their song. The bees were continually buzzing and at work in this garden of wild flowers. A beautiful grove in which many kinds of wild berries and many varieties of ferns grew stretched at the back of the pond as far as the eye could see. The good man who owned the grounds put up a sign to welcome all people to the lotus pond so good were his intentions. Here, were often merry groups of children playing and those who were weary could rest. Men and women seemed to be lifted of their heavy burdens. Many called the place ‘The Garden of God’. The man called it his ‘soul garden’. He would often sit and enjoy the fragrant flowers and sit on a bench in the moonlight. He was a man with a simple outlook but in this place, all his successful dreams and plans came to light. Everything in the vicinity seemed to breathe a spirit of love and kindness, comfort and good cheer. Even the cattle and sheep in the fields flourished. The gate of the pond was always open giving them pure mountain water to drink. For so long this wonderful place flourished until sadly, the man had to go away for a year. A new man was put in charge; one who had not much time for anything other than practicalities. He turned off the water flow and made the area private and invited no visitors. A great change came over everything; the flowers in the pond wilted; birds no longer came to drink and sing and the flowers no longer bloomed. The bees no longer hummed and as the stream dried up so the cattle no longer got their supply of water so they perished. By shutting the gate to the pond, thus preventing the flow of water from the reservoir in the hills, which was the source of life, the appearance of and around the beautiful lotus pond was entirely changed.’

Do we not see a parallel here? When we are connected to the source of good things, to the infinite, then all good things flow, and we live in harmony with the universe. We are connected to beauty and all things that are pure and health-giving. When this is taken from us or we disconnect from what is good, then we can fail to flourish, just like the lotus pond.

So on the days when we are feeling less than optimistic its good to remind ourselves to stay focused, to remember that good actions and good deeds bring the best results, and that when our hearts are open to others we live and let live. We remember that everyone has their own thoughts and opinions and we respect their right to go their own way.

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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Anxiety.

 

Are you having a tough week? I know several people I have spoken to this week seem to be suffering in one way or another. Maybe it’s time to switch off the news, chill out a bit and try to focus on getting rid of the old ‘worry monster’.

Everyone worries but does that make it okay? It seems like worry and anxiety have been woven into the fabric of our society and has become a recognised problem to many. It appears in many forms – parents worry about their children – many of us worry about our health and well-being – our work and even just the routine of daily life. We worry about so many things we cannot control.

But control is an illusion, and the amount of things outside of our control is overwhelming. You can’t control the other drivers out there so you worry every time you drive along the road. You can’t control your child’s actions so you worry about them every Friday night. You can’t control the economy so you worry every time the next hint of redundancies comes floating through the office or, if you are self-employed, when your source of reliable work inexplicably dries up.

Anxiety creeps in when we don’t get what we want or something happens to us and we ask: ‘Why me?’ When injustice is done to us (and it’s done far too often), anxiety can settle on us like an oppressive blanket, choking out any joy and happiness.

But because we can’t control a lot of the things we worry about maybe we should turn the way we look at these things around – admit we can’t control this or that so worry is just a waste of time and more importantly, energy. There is nothing more tiring than worry and anxiety – trust me on that one! It’s a vicious circle too – you worry endlessly- you get tired which then makes you more prone to worrying more!

Although worry and anxiety may surround us we can get over these feelings.

So here is my cheat list for fooling the ‘worry monster’ into thinking you are oblivious to his dark ways:

1. Learn to live with it but don’t give in. Allow a certain amount of time a day to think about what is bothering you and know you have a choice to do something about it. Acknowledge that you are a worrier from time to time – you are just being human. If you have a partner tell them you are feeling anxious but are working through it. Try not to shut people out as they may feel they are somehow at fault.

2. As soon as you get out of bed in the morning, do something straight away. Prepare a healthy breakfast, look after your appearance, get on with the chores if you are at home, or try and go out of the door with a spring in your step even when you don’t feel like it. Dwelling on things doesn’t help and just by being active you will feel better. Take action by doing something. Don’t forget how good exercise is too for changing your mood. It doesn’t have to be over strenuous – just walking in the fresh air will be beneficial.

3. Find someone who needs you. It’s amazing how helping someone else can make both them and you feel better. (Be sure not to spend too much time commiserating with each other over all your joint woes though!)

4. Talk to someone. I have mentioned this so many times and I can’t say it enough – unload your worries occasionally to someone you trust – it really does help.

5. At the end of the day, write down the things you have been grateful for. Really think about all the little things that made your day go a bit better. It really is the small things that count – those small acts of kindness that come from unexpected places. And write down all the names of those you love and care about and finish with a smiley. 🙂 You will all benefit.

6. The opposite of fear is faith. Find some faith. Believe in something and devote some time to mindfulness. Believe things will get better – sometimes that is all you need, but never underestimate the power of prayer or visualisation. Think about it – people have cured themselves from severe illness with visualisation so it must work with anxiety too. You don’t have to be devout or religious to gain help from the Bible – so much wisdom has been passed down to us that is really worth keeping close by.

Just think about these words written so long ago…..

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body, more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?……..Therefore do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

Matthew 6:25 – 34

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Proverbs 12:25

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Does the Universe Have us Covered?

Is there a force bigger than us that we can hold on to when life seems to be a struggle?

I‘ve been talking to someone close to me who suffers from anxiety and trying to talk them through it. When someone is seeing the world around them as a bleak place it is very hard to come up with something that will make them feel better. I find myself offering techniques and advice that I know from experience can help, but at the same time I sometimes question the suggestions I offer, even though I am praying that the smallest bit of advice could just be enough to provide a ray of hope or bring a spark of  light in a dark time. Of course,  anxious feelings arise for all sorts of reasons; there may be health worries, both real and imagined, relationship problems, problems relating to the past, work related problems and many more, and each cause may need to be addressed in a different way. Sometimes just a loving hug and a chat with a friend may be enough to help the clouds to disperse and the anxious feelings to lift, but at times when a person is in the severe grip of anxiety then professional help may be needed. Whatever the situation and whatever help we seek or try to give, is there a force bigger than us that can we can hold on to when life seems to be a struggle?

Does the Universe really have us covered?

I think it does. I really hope it does. Why are we here otherwise? We may hear a lot of bad things and we are bombarded with bad news constantly; we know bad things happen to good people, but we also hear amazing stories on a daily basis  – tales of amazing feats of bravery, courage, bravery and kindness. We hear about people who never give up; who find hidden strength from somewhere. We marvel at new life, when a baby takes its first breathe;  we despair when we lose someone dear to us and we wonder how we can ever recover, yet somehow we know that this is all part of the pattern of life.

I think of myself as a spiritual person with a Christian background. I was brought up to go to church regularly and read the bible;  I like the background that has given me even if I don’t attend church now on a regular basis. I like to believe there is a power that is bigger than us, that is all encompassing and is loving, and I find that even though I often have doubts, faith is what gets me through. Faith in a world that is inherently good and a life force that cannot always be explained and is beyond understanding. What compels eels to cross the Atlantic from the Saragossa Sea to spawn in the Irish rivers of their origin, or birds to cross whole continents, following a favoured route that no one could explain, to land atop the same trees every year? In the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives we forget that miracles happen around us every day; we lose our powers of observation and fail to see the wonderful and awesome occurrences happening in nature on  daily basis.

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So what should we do to reconnect with the Universe when we feel we have been set adrift? If we can hold on to that faith we have deep down, whatever the sort of faith we have or follow, we can feel grounded in times of crisis. A spiritual practice I have found to be good is a ‘loving kindness meditation’. Just set some time aside, shut your eyes and generate feelings of compassion by repeating phrases such as ‘may you be happy, healthy and free of pain.’ Direct this to yourself at first then gradually increas your circle to include you family, your friends, the country and then finally, the whole planet. You can alter the words to find something that you feel comfortable with. Do this on a daily basis and at times when you feel stressed or anxious. Make time for this even when you are busy and notice the difference it makes to your day.

Thinking again about my loved one. I wish I could do more to make her feel better and I wish I could take all her worries, wrap them in a cloth bag , throw them out to sea, wish them love and wave them goodbye for good. Indeed, I will picture that very thing happening. In the meantime, I will actively help in every way I can until she can move forward with regained positivity. Even then I will be by her side – figuratively if not physically. And I will have faith that the Universe does have us covered.

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 I lay upon the ground today, Looked up to the sky,

Concentrated on the clouds, As they drifted slowly by. 

Connecting with the Earth beneath, As it wore a peaceful face,

I felt the whole world turning, In this quiet and tranquil place.

And could I see a reason, Shine through the clouded sky

For all the actions unexplained, The many questions why?

I saw beauty and perfection here, Sweet birdsong filled the air,

So I must trust life’s answers, Lie in wait, somewhere.

(C)    Lyn Halvorsen