Archive for February, 2012

Spring Gardening in Winter: on the courage to slow down

February 13th, 2012 (No Comments)

Winter has finally arrived in Pennsylvania – but, inside it is spring. Just when this wild woman has come alive with fresh vision, I am called yet again, to slow down. So much passion bursts from the seams of my changeable life, so much goodness. It is quite overwhelming!

Outside an untidy pile of rocks and spades, and a wheelbarrow half-filled with fresh gravel wait in a corner for a warm day to complete the new fire-pit wall. Inside my email list has burgeoned, overflowing with response from my renewed adventure of social networking. Like time-travelers, old friends from all over the world wait, wanting to reconnect again. My mind races ahead to several major Stonehaven hospitality events: shopping, cleaning, Valentine baking. Every mouse click threatens to topple the paper mountain on my desk – the remnants of this weekend’s Friday retreat circle with 12 special listeners in our ‘Be the Garden’ circle. Constantly I hear my novel-writing muse calling from the deep, drawing my loving attention. And – delightful surprise – just when I thought my psychotherapy practice was truly winding down, a handful of former clients show up this week asking for my listening ear. Vacation dreams twirl in my head anticipating our 40th wedding anniversary. Now summer plans beckon, luring me into an early complacency, an escape from the now. Life from many seasons is certainly popping like spring-time.

This is the most crucial time to slow down and listen. Too much of anything is too much, the flooding of our lives whether by suffering or good activity, easily leads us away from the deepest conversations of our souls. It takes courage to pass through all the subconscious gossip in our minds, to gently let go the human need to control our messy lives through good work, to let language and mental activity release their tight grip on our minds. What is most important is often quietly waiting in the shadows, just outside the periphery of our consciousness. If we are honest, it takes attention to bring our full presence to the springs of change bursting inside us. To stop, look and listen before we act is a gift of winter.

The winter snow illuminates with a stark clarity our single place on this earth and the preciousness of each frosty breath, the uniqueness of each loving act. Each snowflake calls us to see the mystery of creation, the vast abundance of multiplicity, of how we are all connected, so different and yet the same. It brings me to kneel and be quiet, to honor this day, as Annie Dillard has said, “ … each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time. I worship each god, I praise each day splintered down, splintered down and wrapped in time like a husk …”

Like my spring garden in April, there is so much work to do that it is easy to lose the fantastic pleasure of each simple moment. This morning, I’m glad I stopped and wrote out what my deeper heart was saying.  Now I can attend with care to each active step of all that today brings. Writing is my prayer, my shout of joy that scrolled out today on this page, preparing the way.

How do you slow down and pay attention to the dark mystery hiding in winter’s shadows? Where and how do you find thoughtful pleasure in the demands of all your good work in this world?

Building Walls: a people wall and a rock wall

February 6th, 2012 (1 Comment)

It’s curious to say this, but my primary work in the world these days revolves around actively building two walls: the relational wall of social media community networks and rebuilding the field stone wall surrounding our fire-pit here at Stonehaven – a people wall and a rock wall. 

It is the perfect balance for the body of an activist like me, and to sit and write about this today gives me much joy. Like the emerging circle of stones around our outdoor meeting area, I see the mysterious harmony of piecing together web design, linking Twitter, and throwing wide open the Facebook privacy circle of my life as I ponder the gift of digging for field stones that have been buried possibly for more than two centuries in this Pennsylvania dirt. I’ve been imagining who sweated over them, laying them deep in the bedrock, stabilizing the wall that would bind generations of refuse dumps, vegetable gardens, rabbits and deer into a dance across centuries.  As I re-build the old walls and stretch out the borders to form a more spacious and inviting circle for meeting,  I’ve been enjoying playful conversations with relics from the past like broken shards of dinner china, and as I hoist each rock into place, my prayers go to those who will come and sit around the fire and be warmed by soulful conversation. Maybe you will be one who will join us soon in one of our circles?! Each one of you is most welcome…

Is this any different for my hope for my expanding FB Wall? I hope not. It is giving me remarkable joy to re-connect names and old-time friends, honoring each face that ‘friends’ me or reads my blog. I  hope each of us daily remembers how wonderfully built we are into a living and breathing wall that is older than time, that surrounds each of our moments. I have not heard from many of you for decades, but I hope our Stonehaven FB page will invite diverse global voices to speak and listen to one another. How this will happen, we are not yet sure, but this is our intention as it has been for the life of this communal physical property of Stonehaven. Surely it is the work of all our lives to keep on daily building new stones on the solid foundations of the past as we look with faith into the future.

And now before winter days return, it is time to go outside to dig and plant large boulders of hope as I tend this good earth we have been given to enjoy.

On Privacy, Social Networking Identity and Authentic Soul Communication

February 2nd, 2012 (No Comments)

“..writer, crazy gardener, retreat guide, guardian of the sacred, African heart, wilderness soul, circle facilitator, earth listener, life adventurer…”

Today, after 6 decades of abundant living, I summed up my life bio in 140 characters – I joined Twitter – stepping into a fresh adventure of 21st Century communications.

I have been pondering this plunge for years; unsure how and when to dive into FB, blogs and the vast network of remarkable tools that colorfully highlight our inter-connectedness. It is with trepidation and glee that I leap from the private sanctuary of my home office, from the enigmatic hushed world of psychotherapy into the bold tweet, the audacious blog and the rousing shout-out of yet another writerly person calling for your attention.

It is time to stretch beyond the comfortable boundary of the therapist’s chair and risk authentic public soul communication. I note there are more and more of us who clearly can’t help but join the clamor of voices and the inviting potential of this unexplored space of the virtual world. My work in this world has always been to be authentic and soulful – to look at the depths – from microbiologist to missionary, from mother to monastery, a psychological soul gardener and wordsmith – an artist who aspires to “build fresh channels for spirit and artful arrangements for soul.” These words penned by Bill Plotkin, in Nature and the Human Soul have been inspiring my social networking journey today. What under-girds me is a hard won confidence that my soul is leading from within as I learn to trust this inner guide more.

Raised in Africa, I am a village of diverse characters and like many of you global or desk-chair activists, my peripatetic journey has gifted me with remarkable experiences that I long to share. So come join me, respond thoughtfully, and for God’s sake please don’t remain silent – let’s talk and stir up the old global networks, relishing our diversity and finding the conversations that earth and the great Mystery stirs within us. I hope my blogs will impart the feeling of sitting around a camp-fire. Like our fire-pit here at Stonehaven: the circle of friends, the dark shadows, and the good conversation over food and wine, bring light and color to deepest longings and spark showers of energy to release our best gifts into the world.


Dancer and choreographer Martha Graham said: “There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it ….the world will not have it.”

How do you sum up your ‘vitality’, your life in 140 characters? 

Send it back to me via Twitter, or Facebook or respond here by email.

Check out the changes on our Stonehaven website and sign-up for the bi-monthly newsletter if you are intrigued…