|Posted by Joan Zabelka on February 28, 2014 at 1:15 AM||comments (4)|
How do we make "peace" with the winter we are experiencing this year in the Midwest?
This winter has pushed buttons on most everyone, including those who profess a love for winter. Naturally, if life is not going well for you, then the challenges the snow and cold offer only add to the stress. Someone touting "positive thoughts" at this point might end up with the flat end of a shovel across her pretty, little face. That's why I'm writing this at a safe distance from you.
We need to make peace for a variety of reasons - our health and our sanity are uppermost.
The first thing we have to realize is we can't do a thing about the weather. Complaining won't change it. Griping about it does not release tension, it builds it. Frustration grows, our emotions flare as we share our aggravation with others. The negative energy builds as others join in on the grumbling. We really do need to focus on the good things that come out of bad circumstances. If you can't find any good, then BE the good others will talk about.
I have heard stories of neighbors checking on neighbors. Shoveling brigades going up and down the block helping each other out from under the foot of snow a plow dumped on the line of parked cars. Who doesn't love leaving work only to find a co-worker has cleaned off your car? Be the reason someone smiles this winter. Send the message to "pay it forward." Doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy?
Finding a way to bring peace into your private, inner world is the quickest way to begin to bring peace to your outer world. Mother Nature sends all sorts of plants and animals to sleep during winter. Hibernation is natural. The schedule humans setup for themselves is not. I truly believe some hibernation is necessary and healthy for all of us.
Hibernation is a time to go inward...in doors and inside our self. Summer is a time for out doors, but when the heat gets oppressive then we should naturally slow down. Most of us don't due to air conditioning. We spend too much time fighting nature instead of going with the flow of nature. Trusting how ever it shows up, it is just what we need.
Do something each day to soothe yourself or treat yourself. Find a way to do something as simple as sitting down to escape through a book, buy some special tea to warm you up after another round of shoveling, relax sore muscles under a longer hot shower. Eat comfort food without guilt after all that aerobic exercise of moving thousands of snowflakes. Do it all without guilt; do it for the pleasure of doing it. Feel good and smile.
One way to feel good is to meditate or to just sit quietly and enjoy the quiet. Sitting quietly and noticing your breath is a good way to begin. Allowing thoughts to pass through, but not to linger is the secret. You can start off doing just two minutes at a time and expand it incrementally every couple of days until you can easily do a 20 minute meditation. Relaxing with a guided meditation from a CD is another choice.
Meditation reduces stress and anxiety. We train our self to notice troubling thoughts that pass through our minds, but we don't allow them to anchor there. We release them and let them go. Meditation practices vary from complete absence of thoughts to a relaxing guided beach meditation. It's not the kind, but the regularity of the meditation practice that's important.
As we get comfortable with meditation, we can begin to explore other methods of self-discovery. Isolated and insulated, we can make peace with winter and use this opportunity to know ourselves a bit more. We observe what makes us mad (the weather forecast for this weekend and next) and what makes us happy. We notice what we have control over and what we don't. About all we have control over is our attitude according to experts.
Walk away from the water cooler weather chatter and with enough practice you will find you can walk away from other drama in your life. Be the reason someone smiles despite the bitter cold, and you will find you are the reason someone smiles in all sorts of weather. Calm your mind and release your worries and you will soon be singing, "Don't Worry, be Happy" to strangers on the street. Someone will video tape you doing this. It will go viral and you will be famous for 20 minutes...anything is possible!
Make peace with this winter and you can make peace in most any situation that arises down the road. It just takes practice. Look at how good you've gotten at shoveling. Practice makes perfect!
|Posted by Joan Zabelka on January 7, 2014 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
The Polar Vortex, on this Feast of the Epiphany 2014, has sent parts of the US into the deep freeze. Social Media is inundated with posts of snow covered statuary, dogs in sweaters, mustaches crusted in snowcicles, and recipes for chicken soup. I know how many days it is to both the first day of spring and the first day of summer thanks to posts on facebook. Snowdays delight teachers and students alike, but depress them as summer vacation dangles out of reach for a few more days in June.
We are either “in the moment” on days like these or existing in escape mode. Which path are you on? Perhaps the Magi from 2000 years ago can be of assistance on dealing with extreme conditions, cabin fever, and the need for relief. These wise men traveled a great distance to visit a newborn king. The stars foretold His birth.
The astrologers paid attention to the story of the evolving universe as told through the movement of planets and stars. Whether you believe in astrology and horoscopes is not important. What we do know is there is a pattern of behavior in the heavens and there is a noticeable energy surrounding it. (Who can’t tell when there is a full moon coming?) The men – kings, astrologers, seekers – whoever they were, noticed something different happening in the sky.
These men studied the astral lineups. Something BIG was coming. They knew they wanted to be there when it did. I’m sure on one level, life went on as usual, but on another level they looked towards the future. Preparation to travel began so when the time was right they could leave. Perhaps there were some in the entourage who were excited, day dreaming, and too anxious to sleep. Others were practical and wondered how anything like this could be predicted in the stars. No matter, the Magi observed, prepared, and continued to fix their eyes on the stars as they were at the present moment. If you aren’t paying attention to what is going on right in front of you then how will you know when things change?
Besides observing the present, preparing for the future without getting caught up in it, they had a third important characteristic – they trusted. They were graced with trust to follow through on this quest. And so they did.
Their reward was a face-to-face meeting with Jesus Christ!
We can re-enact that same epiphany each day when we recognize the face of God in the people we meet. In our ordinary existence we can study what is going on around us, look for opportunities for something “big” to happen, and notice where we need to change. Like the stars, we can change slowly, imperceptibly, and remain on a heavenly path.
Help your neighbors shovel out their cars, allow someone to help you, laugh together over a cup of hot cocoa, and share your dreams of an early spring. There is something to be said for traveling together. The wise men did. They were support for each other on the journey. Each had their own special gift (gold, frankincense, and myrrh), but it was the combination and symbolism of the gifts that made them special.
What gifts do you have to bring? With whom will you share? No matter the time of year or temperature – the face of God awaits you.
|Posted by Joan Zabelka on March 6, 2013 at 4:20 PM||comments (0)|
I used to love winter as a child. It was a carefree time of sledding, snow forts, and making angels. The first day of winter is also my birthday so for the longest time I was partial to winter. (Since we survived 12/21/12 I think we have a few more winters left on this wonderful planet.)
As a stay-at-home mom for many years, I loved winter with the kids. I was as excited for snow days as they were. We stayed home baking cookies, making snowmen, and snuggling under blankets reading. Then I started working and winter became a problem. I had to leave my driveway.
I hate driving in the snow. No amount of practice makes me a better driver. Fear builds as the weather forecasters intensify the panic mindset. Driving in the snow shows me my priorities. Is my desire to get to a certain place despite the snow more important than the fear surrounding driving in the snow? Am I willing to take the risk?
This practice of paying attention to priorities spreads to other aspects of my life. Is my desire to "get to a certain place" (physically, spiritually, mentally) more important than the fear surrounding it? Am I willing to take the risk?
Taking problems surrounding fear to spiritual direction is my way of overcoming being immobilized and snowbound. It's a place to discuss "my irrational thinking" (my words), get out of my head, into my car, and on with life.
As I drive through the neighborhood, the bare trees also remind me of spiritual direction. In spiritual direction we shed our masks, lies, shame, fears, and facades. We know we are safe and we can reveal ourselves in God's presence. Once the leaves are shed we can see the skeleton and the framework of the trees. We celebrated that shedding in the fall as we admired the beauty of the colorful leaves and now we can admire its underlying beauty.
We also notice its brokenness. The trees above have been broken, cut down, injured, and yet we see their will to survive and grow evident in the offshoots. We come "broken" to spiritual direction. Our pain, injuries, and attempts to survive are laid out in spiritual direction so we can see our story - our life through the lens of the bigger picture. We look at our story through the eyes of our loving God.
Then, looking through these eyes we are able to see so much more. As we bare our soul and empty ourselves - just as the fall trees do - we begin to see the gifts revealed. They are only visible when we have stripped away the layers of sorrow, discouragement, fear, and disappointment. There in the winter tree we see a surprise. A promise is there waiting for us - the promise of spring, of new life, and faithful love.
|Posted by Joan Zabelka on October 1, 2012 at 5:05 PM||comments (1)|
As I sit typing at work, I notice the leaves have begun to change color. I suppose just a few changed at first and who knows, they may be the ones lying on the ground right now. I know that last week I didn't notice the trees that line the street, but this week - well let's just say "Golden Arches" takes on a whole new meaning.
I have a wonderful view here at work. There is a castle on the property. It is a banquet hall - Royalty West, but I can pretend it's my castle whenever I wish. There is a gazebo on the property too. I see brides and grooms during their photo shoots there and wonder what will become of them.
I watch the seasons change around the gazebo. Soon it will be laden with snow and covered in lights then one day it will become the backdrop for tulips and daffodils. In summer, the parking lot becomes a lively hangout. As they enjoy a Tropical Sno cone, teens wander over to the gazebo and snap photos of each other with their I-phones. Lovers sneak off to the waterfall around the corner no matter what the season.
I love where I work. Besides a castle, there’s a very eclectic coffee house – Ashbary’s, a craft boutique – Aurora Rose, a bike shop, a florist, a massage studio, a photography studio, an elderly acupuncturist, a tattoo parlor and a church on the property! I’m blessed to work among such creative people.
Fall around here is the prettiest season (as far as I'm concerned) and it's just beginning. I witness the gradual changes in the trees and I am in awe! How does this miracle happen? Yes, I took science, but it is much more than the reduction in sunlight and lower temps. It's the miracle of change.
The trees seem to do it effortlessly. For most of us though, I believe change is not so easy. Think of the fretting we do over the simplest things. Will our child get into the right pre-school? Which is healthier for us two-percent milk or skim? How can I be in two places at once – the PTA meeting and Zumba class? Does the red blouse make me look too fat? Or too old? Or too aggressive? Can’t I just wear the red blouse because I like it? We stress over simple and serious things.
What happens when we need to change and we don’t necessarily have a choice? Little changes take place every minute of every day, but there are also big changes being demanded of us. How do we handle them? Head-on fight or head-in-the-sand flight? Is there a way we can prepare for change gradually?
Big changes can come on like gangbusters. They come at us out of the blue and we can be left reeling at first. Loss of a job, loss of a loved one, children issues (from infancy to adulthood), moving, income problems, big repair jobs, aging parents, etc. How can we ever be prepared enough for the big changes that throw us through a loop?
We can take our cues from the trees. They go with the flow of life. They go dormant when they need to re-coup, then they allow the sap to rise and energize them. They only go through this once a year, but we can go dormant when we need to, then we can allow life’s energy to rise in us as we face the day’s issues. We need to rest, to pull back from the drama, chaos, or the piling on of everyday activities (none of which needs to be draining, but compiled – suck us dry).
We need to be flexible. The willow tree sways and bends in the storm. We are made of the same stuff as willows. Believe me – we were made to bend, swoop, and dance in the rain, wind, and lightening of life. The secret is to trust that by being supple and adaptable we will not be so rigid as to snap and break when the pressure is one. Non-negotiable should be reserved for life principles, but accommodating can be used in many more circumstances than we admit. Take the time to really examine the situation. Most times, flexible is better for all involved.
Find a support system – don’t be that lone tree waiting for the lightening to hit you. Dormancy is time for you alone, but you may also need someone to turn to when things get rough. A trusted support system is a forest of reinforcement. These friends cheer you on, encourage you, and hold you when you need a hug. You can help each other go through changes together.
Practicing to be like the trees in the everyday changes that occur, strengthen you for when tougher change occurs. When you handle the little changes with a calm, rooted attitude then you will be better prepared for the storms in life. Trees do lose leaves and branches – sometimes entire limbs, but for the most part they survive.
One day, you will look in the mirror and admire the color and vitality you have. You will have changed gradually and effortlessly – just like the autumn leaves.
|Posted by Joan Zabelka on February 25, 2012 at 1:00 AM||comments (1)|
For the last few years I've made a mixed media Lenten journal. I don't quite remember how it began, but I knew that I wanted to really keep in touch with Lent. I wanted it to be part of my daily experience. I felt that too many Lents had gotten away from me due to the business of raising a family, working, and the rest of life. It wasn't like I wasn't aware of fasting and giving up things; I just didn't feel invested in Lent.
Creating a mixed media Lenten journal kept me focused on intimacy with God - God my Creator, God my Redeemer, and God my Inspiration. The journal kept me in touch with my emotions. I try very hard to ignore them usually and "put on a happy face." That isn't always the best thing to do so I allowed myself to feel, face, and interact with my emotions. God became part of the conversation between me and the pages.
There are wonderful moments reflected in those journals and some very dark and sad moments. Some of the incidents have faded from memory and all I have left is a symbolic reminder of what occurred. When I see other pages, memories reignite the feelings and passion I felt at the time. Both birth and death found their way to the page along with joy and sorrow. I found myself happy on some pages, though extremes seemed to surface more often than not.
Because of the journal, I challenged myself a lot. I challenged myself to tie my everyday life to God, I challenged God to reveal Himself to me on a daily basis, and I tried to make sense of it or just wallow in the mystery.
I will admit, the hardest challenge was to accept this thing called "mystery." To accept that some things are mysteries and unlike a good Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes story, the mystery would not be solved.
I was able to get a grip on "mystery" only through the symbolism on my pages - the color, the images, or the papers collaged in the book. That is how humankind has traditionally gotten in touch with God and mystery - through symbolism and art.
The curtain in the Jewish temple kept us symbolically separated from God. Jesus tore down the curtain with His death and resurrection, but He didn't make life that much easier to understand with His incarnation. For me, it only adds to the mystery. Jesus' stories and parables are sometimes straight forward and then on a second reading they become puzzles full of symbolism and missing pieces - full of mystery.
The Mystery reveals the mystery, yet leaves behind more mysteries to unravel. To believe is to delve into symbolism, no holds barred. To believe is to see the symbolism that is revealed in nature itself. Nature is unaware it is the harbinger of symbolism. It continues to go through the wonderful motions set in place billions of years ago by our Creator with not one bit of hubris that it has that much power over humans.
There are times I am too numb and upset to talk to God. I may have cried and screamed for a while, but it gets to a point where I don’t know what to say anymore. I’m done ranting. I know there are no answers to my questions. I am forlorn. (If you look that word up, that is the perfect word for how I feel.) And yet, I cannot walk away from God. I cannot abandon Him, disbelieve in Him, or ignore Him. God has anchored Himself so deeply in me that I cannot be set adrift no matter how rough the waters. I am His and He is mine. If it weren’t for metaphor and symbols how else would I understand that concept of Divine Love?
The Lenten journal is a perfect place to explore the Mystery of God’s love for me and mine for Him. It’s an excuse to stop, turn off the TV, the computer, and the phone and to just be with God and myself. The thought of that can be scary; we don’t often want to be that vulnerable. Yet, the more exposed we are, the closer to God we can become.
When we drop the defense, the excuses, and the ego then we can invite God in to be with us more intimately. Well, what we really experience is - God is with us always, but now we notice Him. We invite, but we are the invited. It’s all so convoluted –again that’s why symbolism and art help to explain or at least enlighten us to a certain point when words get to be too much.
Symbols speak to something deep in us. Carl Jung called it the “collective unconscious.” I believe God had it in mind all along as the universe was being created – a hawk will always be more than a bird of prey and a snake will always be more than an elongated, legless, carnivorous reptile of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears (thank you Wikipedia).
Why not grab a sheet of paper or a journal page and a box of crayons, colored pencils or markers and sit quietly and see what images come to you. You don’t have to be an artist to create an image…that’s why we have doodles, stick men, daisies and hearts as symbols to mean what we can’t always put into words. You might also be interested in our monthly Mandala Workshops. That’s where we allow special time for a ritual that connects us to our Source. We would love to have you join us.
"Whoooo Do You Say I Am?" Is the theme of my Lent 2012 Journal. It is a work in progress so I decied to show you pages from last year's journal "Transormation through Trust."
|Posted by Joan Zabelka on February 1, 2012 at 12:15 AM||comments (1)|
Groundhog Day is this week so all eyes are on the furry rodent.
My philosophy has always been - why let a publicity hog like Punxatauney Phil tell me whether there will be six more weeks of winter or an early spring when he doesn’t live anywhere near me. Why shouldn’t I be my own “groundhog?” Why shouldn’t I be in charge of my own continued hibernation or early spring?
If I have nothing new bursting forth ready to unfurl and grow in my life then perhaps I need a few more weeks of silence and going inward. There may be something straining forward, but still deep under ground, safe under a layer of snow cover that needs more time.
On the other hand, there have been years where I am ready! I am a seed cracked open, with a little root going one way and the first set of leaves forming and reaching for the sun going the other way. New things are erupting in me – new ideas, new friends, new adventures, new talents and they have to reach for the sun now, not six weeks from now.
Spiritual hibernation or spiritual spring, which will it be for you?
I know I feel like I’m ready for an early spring, but I don’t trust that my little seedlings, unfurling each day are quite ready to stand on their own. Perhaps I will trust myself to living the present moment – what ever will be will be. This might be especially wise in Chicago since the weather fluctuates so much. A week or so ago we had 50 degrees one day, six inches of snow the next and a fantastic lightning and thunder storm the next.
Take some time this week to think about what you need right now. You might like to journal, draw, or walk with your thoughts. All of these avenues and more can be opportunites to talk to God about it too.
Weather-wise, let me be perfectly clear, I'd like an early spring.
For your Groundhog amusement...
http://youtu.be/LnnRGUcClVg I'm a Little Groundhog Song
|Posted by Joan Zabelka on December 13, 2011 at 4:50 PM||comments (0)|
Well if consistency is the key to successful blogging - I am not headed in the right direction. The only thing consistent in my life right now is the sciatica pain which continues despite 20 chiropractic manipulations, six different kinds of pain meds, five different doctors, two cortisone shots and a partridge in a pear tree...
Waiting and wondering - that is the title of this blog and the theme for my Advent journal. I do an art journal for Advent and one for Lent. It keeps me present to the holy days and less distracted by holidays.
Waiting is a big part of our lives. We wait for babies to be born, our 21st birthday, wedding days, graduation days, summer vacation and the beginning of school. We also wait for test results, hospice, and for the other shoe to drop. We wait for both good and bad to occur everyday. The size of both the good and bad varies and so does our anticipation. The secret is to stay in the present moment - somehow.
Yes, we make lists and we prepare, but we can't control. Even the best travel agent can't guarantee a perfect vacation. All we can do is live the present moment with whatever it presents to us.
Sometimes life surprises us...life as in God. My Advent was filled with surprise after surprise. Isn't that the spirit and irony of Advent? After all the waiting for a king and savior - humanity was surprised by a baby, born in a manger, adored by shepherds and angels.
|Posted by Joan Zabelka on October 22, 2011 at 2:15 PM||comments (1)|
Pain is a different lens through which to view the world. It is amazing how it interferes with and clouds our view of life.
It might help at some point in our discomfort, to look at the message pain sends us.
I love to think of metaphors when dealing with dis-ease. I believe discomfort on many emotional and psychological levels eventually manifest in some form of physical discomfort. No, I have no explanation for children with cancer or other traumatic illnesses. I am simply offering a point of view on dis-ease on an everyday level.
We use body metaphors without even thinking about them some time, yet they directly relate to physical response to feelings. How many times has someone gotten under your skin and you have developed a rash, hives, acne? Kidney or bladder problems? Who is p*ss*ng you off? Heart issues – is a person cut off from love or does a person love too much and let others suck the blood and life out of them - anemia? Headaches – too much thinking on problems we cannot solve because we really have very little control in life. There are so many more – perhaps a future blog discussion.
In late August, I opened a body, mind, and spirit center, Soul Proprietor. I am the sole proprietor and it is very scary to stand on my own. I jumped in guided by grace, not a business plan. Here it is mid-October and there are some nasty metaphors rearing their ugly heads and manifesting physically. Recently, I developed some painful back/sciatica issues.
This back injury has invited me to look at past patterns in my life during moments of change. “Change” can be as big as changing a job, separating from a partner or as simple as deciding to begin an exercise program or finally tackling the basement. My past pattern was: decide on a change, enter into it gung-ho, then within a week end up in bed with strains, flu, migraines, etc. Once on the injured list, I tried both ways to get back on task - either pushing through the pain or resting until I had felt better. Nothing ever manifested a completed project.
Something in me did not want to face the change, the possible consequences, and the responsibilities associated with changes in the past. What if I changed jobs? There would be no turning back if the new place did not work out. What if I lost weight? I would never get to eat a cookie again. The tasks were usually daunting enough, but they would never end, once they began. Taking to bed and suffering seemed the easiest out.
This time did not seem like it would be any different – I am laid up with sciatica. I cannot ignore it. It is not fatal or life threatening. I am just in pain all the time. That pain makes me feel sad, useless, and angry. I kept wondering why this pattern was occurring again especially at a crucial time when I needed to be at work.
The other morning I woke up frustrated and aware of a meeting I needed to attend that day. Traveling there would be painful, but the worst part was that I did not believe I could walk once I was there – I can barely make it to the kitchen. Lying in bed, I prayed – a loud, wailing, (I am ashamed to say) blaming prayer. I felt abandoned by God, thrown to the wolves of defeat. (Yes, I am a drama queen when it comes to pain.)
I worry about my business if I cannot get to work. I was ready to call the landlord and say, “Take back the keys, obviously God didn’t want me to do this after all. I am done. I do not know what I will do now, and frankly, I do not care.” Oh, I did carry on…
At one point, I remembered a C. S. Lewis quote "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” - The Problem of Pain.
All the time I have been in this state, I have tried to put it in perspective. My injury is not life threatening. Friends and relatives are going through chemo - that is suffering and pain on a completely different level. Their suffering is with cancer; mine is with fear of living a dream come true.
I am ashamed of my behavior towards God. God has given me a chance of a lifetime. I am afraid. I do not know what I am doing half the time. I am not a businessperson. I am a timid person who finds self-promotion very embarrassing. I am someone who would rather be sick in bed than to face the world. (I know by know you are wondering if I'm the right person to run a body, mind, and spirit center. "Wounded healer" is all I can say in my defense.)
I am a person who blamed God for who I was and the fates that befell me. I cried out to God on Wednesday morning, “Why? What do you want from me? What am I supposed to do? What is the point of all this suffering and sending me back to square one?” I screamed and cried until I was spent and then I was quiet.
Quiet for the first time in days…
It was then, in the silence, I heard the question asked of me, “Joan, what do YOU want?”
“What did I want?” In the silence, my soul listened. God asked a question that needed a truthful, answer.
What did I want? Did I want the easy life – of crawling back to bed? Could I really be excused from the school of hard knocks? Did I want to succumb to the “me” that the world and I created – the “me” who lived in fear? Or was I willing to try to live the “ME” created and gifted in God’s image? I realized recently that there is a “me” that the world and I created and a “ME” God created. (More of that in another blog.)
The pain I am suffering right now is just another lens through which to view my life. I need to take care of it on the physical level. The healing metaphor is about supporting myself – though God has sent me many earthly angels to support me on this venture.
I have to learn to stand on my own two feet. I can. This time, I will continue with the change and trust the outcome is worth the struggle. God spoke to me through that huge megaphone – pain and I am grateful for the grace to listen.
|Posted by Joan Zabelka on October 6, 2011 at 10:25 PM||comments (1)|