To be continued ...but not goodbye~

Hi Everyone!

I have so missed writing here, but I just wanted to drop everyone a quick note to say that as of tomorrow The Contemplative Mind will be no more! I know ... but the good news is that you can find me over on my new website {www.elizabethlmft.com} where I will be transferring and updating all of my posts from The Contemplative Mind and creating some new posts as well. :) All with the same theme; restoration, contemplation and exploration of all things based in faith and psychology. Thank you SO much for being part of this wonderful chapter in my life, it brought me so much joy and purpose to write and create The Contemplative Mind. I look forward to seeing what come's next, I hope you'll join me!

Remember to check out: elizabethLMFT.com to find out!

Much love,
Elizabeth

You must do the thing...

Photo by: BY  / PHOTOGRAPHY BY: THIS PAPER SHIP
Courtesy of Verily 
MAGAZINE
I'd love for readers to join this brave woman and say goodbye to fear by doing the thing you feel you cannot do.

Women's history month is quickly coming to a close and before it did I wanted to acknowledge some wonderful women and a theme that has come up for me this past month! Last week verily magazine had a fantastic article; which dreamed up what would a Mount Rushmore "for the ladies" look like. You can read that article here:  http://verilymag.com/a-mount-rushmore-for-the-ladies/

Some of history's most revered women made the cut, including, Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt was a fierce advocate for human rights and the voice of reason behind one of history's most influential leaders; Franklin D. Roosevelt. As if that were not enough with her wisdom, honesty and wit her iconic quotes left us challenged, inspired and always wanting more. Below is one of my favorite all time quotes:

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." -Eleanor Roosevelt

This quote reminded me of a reader who really lived this out. Last year I received this email:




Eight years ago, my wife Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma; a rare cancer that kills most people within 2 years of diagnosis.  She had just given birth to our daughter Lily, and was only given 15 months to live.  After a life saving surgery that included the removal of her left lung, LungLeavin’ Day was born.  On February 2nd, we celebrated 8 years of Heather being cancer free.The purpose of LungLeavin’ Day is to encourage others to face their fears!  Each year, we gather around a fire in our backyard with our friends and family, write our biggest fears on a plate and smash them into the fire.  We celebrate for those who are no longer with us, for those who continue to fight, for those who are currently going through a tough time in their life, and most importantly, we celebrate life! This year, we asked bloggers to take part and spread the word about LungLeavin’ Day.  We created an interactive page mesothelioma.com/heather/lungleavinday that tells the full story of our special day. Although the day has passed, we hope you will still check it out and share it on your blog.


Here are some helpful sites where you can learn more about mesothelioma: 






















*special thanks to verily magazine for allowing The Contemplative Mind to site the Ladies of Mount Rushmore image and article and to Heather for bravely sharing her story! *


Winter's gift.


                    

It's been too long since the last post on The Contemplative Mind! I apologize to readers for not posting monthly. The remainder of 2013 proved to be filled with transition and challenge. However, in celebration of God's purpose, promises and planning, I so look forward to seeking, learning & sharing from the last few months! Our monthly posts will resume.... and oh how I've missed connecting with all of you! I hope and pray this new year is filled with His presence, purpose and meaning for all of us!

Here in New York this winter has been brutal! We've braved below freezing temperatures and already been hit by quite a few snow storms. Today was one of three significant snow fallings so far, with two more on the way for the remainder of the week!

It can be hard not to feel vulnerable in the midst of a winter storm. Vulnerability is the whisper of the winter months. Animals look for shelter, people seek companionship and community. We are faced with our limitations, be it through traveling, shoveling or simply being outside! We face barriers and restrictions. We can't simply go for a walk or bike ride like we may be able to in the warmer months.

Yet still, there are so many things calling to us that we may need to get done. Whether it be work, food-shopping, shoveling, caring for children or pets, we all have different tasks and responsibilities that demand our attention. What a powerful reminder it can be that mother nature pays no mind at all to our to do list. In modern society where we can control so much, we are forced to come face to face with our vulnerability.

When faced with this vulnerability, how do you usually respond? Do we see it as opportunity or obstacle?

The answer may lie in our relationship to vulnerability and our ability to be vulnerable. BrenĂ© Brown gives a wonderful synopsis all about vulnerability and its effects (listen here: http://brenebrown.com/about/). As it turns out, vulnerability has roots in shame, fear and worthiness. Research purports that the only difference between individuals who believed that they were worthy of love and belonging and those that didn't, is that those who did, believed that they were worth love and belonging. That was the only difference: believing. Brown described the folks that believed in their worthiness as "whole hearted". In Brown's research she also discovered another common denominator, the whole hearted group fully EMBRACED vulnerability. Pretty powerful research.

So in a season where we have no choice but to come to terms with our relationship to vulnerability we are faced with two options: embracing it or fighting it. And if we choose to embrace, winter can all of a sudden become a homecoming - to ourselves and to others. Winter becomes a gift and a promise. A promise that a new season is on its way. 

Spend some time today in quietness and stillness before God and ask what lesson winter can teach you. What gifts would help you along?

Today we'll end with an excerpt from, In Seasons of Thanks, by Taz Tagore. Which is a nondenominational collection of graces, blessings, and stories for each month. Below is one for February:

"Earth teach me suffering. 
As old stones suffer with memory. 
Earth teach me courage, 
As the tree which stands alone. 
Earth teach me freedom, 
As the eagle which soars in the sky. 
Earth teach me to forget myself, 
As melted snow forgets its life. 
Earth teach me regeneration, 
As the seed which rises in the spring. 
Earth teach me humility, 
As blossoms are humble with beginning." 
— Chief Yellow Lark, Lakota

Blessings to all of you.

The Grey Lady

        Fir0002/Flagstaffotos
In Nantucket (a small island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts), the mornings are notoriously foggy. The fog rolls in early and it seems as though a grey mist is all the day holds. Inevitably, the sun peaks out and burns away the fog giving way to beautiful scenes of lush pastures and farmland that meet ocean views of the brightest and bluest variety. Nantucket, which actually means "far away island", has the ability to make you feel as if you are very far away... on a heavenly island... where nature's finest attributes are on full display. Yet first you must see past the fog.

Last year when I was in Nantucket for Memorial Day weekend I remember sitting atop of a cliff on the beach watching the fog hover over the ocean. Not thinking there was anything in the ocean to look for, I sat in serenity and watched the magnitude of the waves. Then, in faint glimpses I saw surfers riding the waves between the mist and the fog. One minute they were visible and the next invisible.

That day I remember pondering the unknown variables in my own upcoming life transitions. As nature withheld a view that had always been there, yet was just beyond my sight, I was comforted by a great lesson. I learned that just because I can't see what's happening in the background, it doesn't mean that nothing is. It was a comfort to experience something happening beyond my limited visibility.

So often, we wonder what the will of God is amidst uncertainty and limited visibility. Today, I wonder if His will is right in the midst of our limited vision. How much more character building is it to persevere, to stay committed, to walk in loving-kindness during our uncertainty and limited vision. Knowing with confident trust that God is working all things for our good... sometimes just beyond where we can see. What a promise and a trust we have in Him.

Another great example of having vision for something beyond what you can see is the biblical story of Elijah who dug ditches in a drought believing God would bring rain (for an excellent re-telling of this story go here: http://elevationchurch.org/sermons/getback).
All these illustrations of faith in action show that sometimes our faith needs the most action when there is the least visibility.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.
- 2 Corinthians 5:7

What area in your life today can you walk by faith and not by sight?



The Mystery of The Wisteria

A friend who lives in Brooklyn has a beautiful garden in her backyard that she has tirelessly labored over. The garden initially wasn't much of a garden but it has resulted in a multitude of visual delights. Pictured below is her Wisteria in "full effect".


Lately, I have been learning a lot from The Wisteria (which I will be sharing later in this post). So, I found it serendipitous when I came across this photo from my friend's garden and  I had to share some wise observations from the gardener herself on the complexity of this plant. 

She asked:

do you know about wisteria? It's one of those phenomenal plants
-- such a confluence of opposites:

So beautiful, but so invasive and destructive to all other species
in it's way. So sweet, but so delicate. One hard rain and she's wiped out.
Bloom time only lasts 3-5 days and you can't really cut the flowers for
arrangements successfully unless you are hard core = have a glass
refrigerated display case! And, here's an interesting fun fact… she
grows wild, along the B/Q trains out here in my hood (in Brooklyn). The whole area smells amazing this week while she is in full bloom!
 I love the juxtaposition with this plant. She's so complex, similar to the individual psyche. There are days when we may feel frail and weak, where the slightest wind can throw us. Yet there are other days when we feel strong and anchored, able to handle the toughest elements. Similar to The Wisteria, she can withstand the tough elements that are NYC and even bloom next to a subway for goodness sakes! However, she only blooms for under a week and then she is "wiped out". I find that sometimes we too, can experience days with seamless ease, where we give off a fragrant scent to all who we encounter and then there are other days where we are "wiped out". We can be destructive to the same people we want to bless. Why is this? A mentor recently shared with me that she feels that the climate of our culture makes no room for sadness or days when we are not quite ourselves. We often hear statements like: "get over it", "pull yourself up by your bootstraps", "toughen up". There is this push to "get over" what feels troublesome as soon as possible. So, how can we address the times when we feel longing, sadness or loneliness?

The answer may be related to The Wisteria. Recently I read in Mark Buchanan's The Rest Of God about the restlessness we can experience even amidst rest. Buchanan makes the point that Sabbath is for our rest but it is also an excellent opportunity to point our restlessness heavenward. Buchanan remarks that God grants us rest and peace but not enough to fully satisfy, just enough to keep us in the race. In the lapses in space where we are sad, longing or restless we can learn from The Wisteria.
  "Like a Wisteria plant, our restlessness needs to be trained to go in a certain direction, or else it follows a path of least resistance. When we recognize that our loneliness, our hunger, our weariness, our disappointment- that these are not final verdicts but only rumors of things unseen, it changes their meaning. It empties them of their power to defeat us. It fills them with an energy to spur us toward deeper hope."- Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God

Can you make space for the "restless" times, the sad or lonely times? Instead of seeing these moments as alien invaders and wanting so desperately for them to go away, maybe we can greet these parts of ourselves and without destructive reactions train these parts to lean in a certain direction. Like The Wisteria, we too can posses beauty and destructiveness. It all depends where we lean.

Where do you tend to lean?

" lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight"- Proverbs 3:5-6

A Time To Remember...


Today at Victims Assistance Services (Victims Assistance Services is an organization that provides free, comprehensive and compassionate services to crime victims and their families, friends and loved ones) we remembered those who were victims of homicide. Beloved sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, friends and loved ones were honored for their light and for their life through a vigil. In honor of these lives, I thought it appropriate to share one of the most profound poetic insights on grief, that I've ever come across simply entitled: A Blessing for Grief, by John O'Donohue.

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence
Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.
Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

Has there been a loss,  physical or symbolic that you'd like to take time to remember today? Reflect on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 which reminds us that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens... even grief. There is no rush and in your season of grief, take time to love yourself well and honor the memory of the loss that you've experienced. Hold on to the hope that " sorrow will remain faithful to itself, more than you, it  knows it's way  and when the work of grief is done, the wound of loss will heal".

For a New...

"Florida Sunrise": by Andrew Nigro, all rights reserved *
Our last post was dedicated to risk. This week I thought it appropriate to venture onward with a discussion of new beginnings. With fresh insights handy and in our back pockets on "risk", we are well equipped to tackle "risk's" pesky sister, "New Beginnings".

Let's begin today's reflection with a poem entitled: For a New Beginning (where part of today's title is borrowed) written  by one of my favorite poets, John O'Donohue:

For a New Beginning

    In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
~ John O'Donohue ~


O'Donohue's words of wisdom and hope encompass the many facets that a new beginning can hold. I love the lines, " it watched you play with the seduction of safety, and the gray promises that sameness whispered". New beginnings, no matter how wonderful require change. Sometimes we stay in places that we've long outgrown because they feel safe and to begin something new requires risk. Even when the change is sought after or desirable, the "change" can still be scary. Often times, when a new beginning is necessary or in gestation we are filled with anticipation. In this, we can be caught off guard by the inevitable discomfort of change that even a welcomed new beginning can bring.

A friend recently reminded me that every new beginning requires an ending. Endings, even when necessary can be experienced as losses. It's okay to grieve these losses, even when we are moving towards bigger and better things. Acknowledging the loss and any sadness associated with the loss may lift the burden of guilt that one may feel for the mixed emotions at the onset of a long awaited new opening.


What new beginning is on the horizon for you today? As O'Donohue states, even if the destination is not yet clear... can you trust God and the promise of this new opening?


In closing your reflection time today, meditate on one of Scripture's most profound and simple reminders:
For we live by faith, not by sight- 2 Corinthians 5:7


~"Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning, that is at one with your life's desire".- John O'Donohue~