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Welcome it all

I love this poem by Jalal al-Din Rumi (Coleman Barks translation).


 The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival. 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

Some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

Who violently sweep your house

Empty of its furniture,

Still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

For some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice

Meet them at the door laughing,

And invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

Because each has been sent

As a guide from the beyond.


Rumi encourages us to see the important lessons and seeds of growth that lie in many of those situations we label as “bad”, “negative” or “unpleasant”. Easier said than done, right? Our tendency is to turn tail and run fast in the other direction. After all, this is messy business and we do not like messy. Messy can be painful. There is another way of looking at it, however.

The next time you are faced with a challenging situation that brings you to your knees, consider the possibility that Life is shaking things up for a reason. Maybe you lost that job because a new and more suitable one is becoming available. Perhaps your current relationship fell apart to create space for a new and more wonderful partner to enter your life.  Possibly the illness you are experiencing will change you into a more compassionate and loving person. Sometimes, just asking the question “What am I to learn from this?” shifts your outlook on the situation. When you stay open to new possibilities for growth, they have room by which to enter your life. When you shut down and retreat, nothing new can get in.

Following Rumi’s guidance requires trust and patience – a lot of trust and patience. The answers to our questions rarely come as quickly or as clearly as we would like. Sometimes we have to connect the dots backward for them to make sense. Only from a distance can we see how the “bad” thing was an agent for change.

I encourage you to heed Rumi’s advice when sorrow comes to your door. It could have been sent “as a guide from the beyond”.


The wisdom of Autumn trees

 “Listen to the trees as they sway in the wind. Their leaves are telling secrets. Their bark sings songs of olden days as it grows around the trunks. And their roots give names to all things. Their language has been lost. But not the gestures.” – Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration


I have the good fortune to live near a wooded area. As I look out my family room windows, I am entranced by the beauty of of the October trees looking back at me. These majestic, silent spectators stand tall and strong dressed in their autumn finery. While it may seem as though they change over night, I have observed that leaves turn slowly. At first the color appears in small patches, then it gradually covers the whole leaf. Each leaf allows this transformation to occur in its own time. Before you know it, the entire tree has morphed from lush green to glorious crimson or golden yellow.  When the winds blow and the rains fall, the tree drops its leaves with ease, knowing new buds will take their places in the Spring.

We can learn much from trees as we witness their metamorphosis. They encourage us to welcome change into our lives, to be patient during the process, to drop what no longer serves us and to make space for something new to emerge.  

The next time you are crunching through a pile of leaves, give some thought to what no longer serves you and then let it fall away. Who knows what may come rushing in to fill the void. It could be something wonderful.

The human experience

“He who has not looked on sorrow will never see joy.” Kahlil Gibran


During the last two weeks, friends of mine have experienced a variety of life changing events –  the birth of a first grandchild, the wedding of a son, serious illness of a mother and death of a father.  The juxtaposition of these events got me thinking about the joys and sorrows that define our human experience.

We are blessed to feel the elation of a new baby joining our family as well as the joy of two people beginning a life together  These events fill our lives with excitement and meaning. At these times, we often look more closely at new possibilities in our own lives and our commitments to ourselves and those we love.  Our family story continues in the life of a new baby and in the lives of a new bride and groom. The world seems “right” and we are happy.

Illness is difficult because we don’t want to see those we love in pain. It is however, an opportunity for us to develop compassion and to demonstrate our love by caring for our loved one’s needs. This can be challenging, but can also add depth to our soul. Of course the death of a loved one, especially a father is difficult to bear. When we lose a parent, we lose a piece of our story. This loss forces us to redefine ourselves and our place in the world.

Each of these experiences brings with it a gift to be treasured. It is easy to see in the case of a baby or wedding, but in the illness or death of a loved one – not so much. We have to dig a little deeper to find it. The gift is hidden in the pain and sadness, just where it hurts the most. That gift is a more compassionate and loving heart. Without it, we could not truly appreciate the joy and beauty in our lives. Without it we could not have a real human experience.  

Visiting Joyce

“Two may talk together under the same roof for many years, yet never really meet; and two others at first speech are old friends.” – Mary Catherwood

Earlier this month, I went to visit my friend, Joyce at her new home in Kansas City, Missouri – or Missoura, as the locals might say. It was wonderful to spend time with my dear friend and her wonderful husband, Ed in their newly adopted city. Joyce graciously took me around the city to many of her favorite spots. One afternoon, we had lunch at a charming French Bistro. The watermelon sorbet, drizzled with blood orange liquor and garnished with a piece of dark chocolate and thin cookie wafer served beautifully in a martini glass was the highlight of meal.  Oh my, it was decadent! We then visited a small wine shop housed in the most adorable little cottage. The garden flag at the entrance had a clock face with a corkscrew as the hands of the clock. Under the picture it read “It’s wine o’clock. You’re right on time.” I don’t know about you, but that felt like an invitation to me. In we went. We enjoyed wandering through the various rooms filled with wine from Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Australia and California. The fact that is is a pain to transport wine via airplane is probably a good thing in this case. I could have gone a little crazy.

 We had the opportunity to relax, talk, enjoy the sights and sounds of Kansas City, laugh, eat delicious food (Did I mention the amazing wine?) and truly enjoy each other’s company for several days. It was effortless. I think that is the sign of a genuine friendship. There is no need to “warm up” to each other. You just immediately feel comfortable, at ease and at home. Such friendships feed your soul. They are rare and beautiful gifts to be treasured. If you have such a friend, I encourage you to make time in your life for them.

The following excerpt about our sons’ high school football season from my complete, but unpublished manuscript Comfort Food – Inspiring Stories of Loss, Friendship and Healing gives you an idea of why Joyce is such a special friend.

“Joyce and her wonderful husband, Ed, were so kind. They made sure I rode with them to all of the away games. I could have easily driven myself, as most of the games were close by. However, it was a special treat to meet at their house, enjoy a glass of wine and a snack (of course Joyce and Ed are red wine lovers!) and be on our way. The stadiums were electrified by the excitement of high school football, cheerleaders and marching bands. You could feel the energy pulsing in all directions.

To be honest, I was a little overwhelmed by the noise and activity at the first game. Everything seemed to be moving so much faster than me. It is strange that something you have easily done so many times can all of a sudden feel like the first time. I guess that is because you are in the process of becoming a new and different person. In that way, you are truly experiencing things for the first time. Walking into those stadiums flanked by Joyce and Ed was both comforting and empowering. I was so grateful to have them by my side. Once again, what seemed like a simple gesture had an enormous impact in my life…Touchdown!”


Dropping old patterns

“When patterns change, new worlds can emerge.”  – Author unknown

My friend, Jocelyn sent me an email last week. At the bottom of that email was the quotation shown above. Sitting quietly at the very bottom of the page, I almost missed it. As my mind absorbed the seven simple words, I was overcome by their power. Jocelyn said she came across the quote in the newspaper and now has it in a frame on her dresser as a daily reminder. She certainly has benefited from its wisdom. Jocelyn has transformed herself from a grieving widow into an amazing juggernaut – traveling to exotic places, going to a gym daily, driving a sporty convertible, starting a jewelry business and most importantly treating herself well. Her light is shining brightly for all to see. Jocelyn changed her old worn out patterns and new doors have swung open for her.

Thinking about Jocelyn brought an old Nutri-Grain bar commercial to my mind. Do you know the one where a woman chooses a Nutri-Grain bar over a donut with chocolate icing and jimmies for breakfast?  Inspired by this first choice, she then chooses a fruit cup over a brownie for a snack, climbs the stairs rather than taking the escalator, enjoys a salad rather than a gooey wrap for lunch and selects chicken with vegetables over a plate of cheesy pasta for dinner.  At the end of the day, she is glowing with satisfaction. The slogan was “One good decision can lead to another.” Indeed it can.

We all have the power to make good decisions. We just need the courage to make that first good decision.  That first good decision will lead to another and another. Before you know it, you have changed old patterns that no longer serve you.  When you look around, the world has changed because you have changed.

I encourage you to take a hard look at your patterns. Get rid of the ones you no longer want. If you want to eat a healthier diet, increase your physical exercise, find a new job, end a stale relationship, learn a new language or travel to a far away land, you must take the first step. It all begins there. Find the courage to make that first good decision. It may feel a little scary – change often is. Do it anyway. As you change your patterns, pay attention to what is going on around you.  An entirely new world may emerge.