Monday, June 13, 2016

When One of Us Hurts, We All Hurt

I'm up early with a heaviness of heart, yet a sad confusion on why the latest tragic news isn't that much of a surprise to me. Over the weekend, a man walked into a gay bar in Orlando and shot over 100 people. At the time of this writing, 50 are dead and over 50 are hospitalized with injuries.

When I learned about it, I couldn't breathe until I talked with my dear friends who traveled from Missouri to Florida to celebrate a wedding this week. Did they happen to go to Orlando to go out to celebrate? No, they were all safe in Key West. Even though this happened in Orlando, it could have just as easily been the LGBT-friendly bar so many of my friends go to here in our area.

Although my lesbian friends visiting Florida are safe, over 100 other humans are not and their families, friends, community, and allies grieve. I grieve. I grieve for a humanity that raises children to grow up, see differences in their beliefs, and hate. Hate enough to kill. I grieve for a country who values guns more than a human life. I grieve for so many people with mental illness that do not have the support and/or resources to live in balance. I grieve for my brothers and sisters who cannot openly display their love for another human without self-consciousness, fear, or secrecy. I grieve for the wholeness that is inherent in all of us as it is clouded and hidden by separation, "us vs. them", untruths, and distraction.

When one of us in this human family hurts, we all hurt. Consciously or unconsciously. 

Our world, our nation, and our communities are hurting. Within our families and our souls, there is hurt.

What to do with all of this? It feels so big and so heavy, it's tempting to just set it down and go on about our lives as if nothing happened. As if we have the privilege to do so. As if ignoring it will make it go away. We all know that is not a viable option anymore. It never was.

It is time for us to open our hearts and let in softness. Let in truth. Let in healing. Let in love and recognize the divine wholeness in ourselves and within each person, no matter their race, religion, or sexual orientation. No matter how deeply the divine is buried and hidden under the hate and confusion, we need to seek it out and acknowledge that it is there. It's time to see with soft eyes.

It is time for us to let go of fear. Let go of the concept of "others". Let go of hate. Let go of the illusions and falsehoods that perpetuates these fractured ways of living in this world. It's time to see the oneness in us all.

It is time to take a stand. Take action. Lead from word, thought, and deed within our homes and communities to promote a culture of peace, tolerance, equality, and love. Teach our children by example. Be an ally. Support lawmakers and legislation that foster healing. It's time to be the change we wish to see.

I cannot pretend to have the answers for this senseless act of violence or for the culture in which it was created. However, I'm going to continue to look within and cultivate healing and peace in myself first. Then, I'm going to double my efforts to raise my children with unconditional love above all else, teaching them tolerance, non-violent communication, and to recognize the inherent worth of all people, no matter what. I'm going to look into my community of friends and family and value them for who they are - a diverse, vibrant, rich part of our whole human family. I'm going to hold sacred space and a prayer for peace as I shine my light out from my little corner of the world. I'm going to look for ways to send energy through ballot, word, action, or dollar to causes that promote equality and see all life as sacred.

Prayers for Orlando.
Prayers for Peace.
Prayers for all of us,
as we are all one.

Amber Santosha Sparks

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Noticing the Holy Moments

I awoke this morning with a longing to write, but without a clear direction on what I wanted to write about. After listing off possibilities and details of what has been happening in my life lately, this truth emerged...

I feel distant from my True Nature/Divine, yet I don't take the time to meditate.

Perhaps you can relate. I am conflicted often with the fact I have so much I want to do, yet I also crave stillness. Perhaps that's where my conflict lies. I'm not noticing the inner stillness that is present deep within me.

Where are the holy moments?

After sitting a few minutes in stillness, it came to me.

Holy moments are here - all around us at every moment.

Yet, often my mind and body are too busy to notice.

  • My uncle and son laying on the hammock yesterday talking about life.
  • My dad and son excitedly casting their lines into the pond and celebrating catching fish.
  • My parents bringing me my tackle box from when I was my children's age, saved exactly how it was 30 years ago.
  • The dew on the grass as sunlight hits the field.
  • The sound of our goats chewing their cud.
  • The feel of the wind as we drive in the Jeep with it's doors off down the highway.
  • The sound of my husband's snores...yes, even that!
  • The feeling of hot tears sliding down my cheeks with these realizations. 

Your list will be different than mine and my list will be different from day to day, yet holiness is all around us if we take the moments to notice. 

In every breath, there is room for a prayer of gratitude. With every heartbeat, there is a possibility to pause in the awareness of joy or wonder or delight. 

What does it take to cultivate this state of being on a regular basis? 
  • Awareness. 
  • Noticing. 
  • A purposeful breath.
  • A focus on the senses.
  • A heart's whispering of presence and gratitude. 

May we use the moments of our lives - a breath in between the flurry of life's activities and "to do's" - to see the holiness in all there is to do. Each moment has a divinity awaiting within it. May we notice and remember. 

Amber Santosha Sparks

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Phases of Parenting

My children and I went swimming for the first time this summer last week. I went expecting to get into the water with them, maybe swim a few laps on my own, and then park myself on the sidelines with a good book while they splashed to their heart's content. Fate would have it that I forgot the strap to my swimsuit top, so I wasn't able to swim at all. Two and a half hours of reading...who could have believed my luck?!?

As my boys, ages seven and nine, went down the water slide, cannon-balled off the side of the pool, and swam underwater, I noticed other families there. There was the mom sitting with her 6-month-old in the baby pool section, patting at the water with her. There was the toddler with his quickened pit-pat feet running towards the deep end with his mom a half step behind, trying to get his hand. There was the dad wading through water chest deep with a three and five year old in each arm, spinning them from side-to-side. Then, I noticed a couple 16-year-olds I knew and saw them wave to their parents walking the trail located on the upper level above the pool.

My youngest son yelled, "Mom! Watch this!" as he leaped off the side of the pool. I reflected on how I sat in that same baby pool with my sons just seven and nine years before, patting the water so they would feel comfortable and comforting them when they were upset with water on their heads.

I remembered piling on a swim vest and arm floaties on their bodies when we played in the two-foot of water in the children's area when they were one and three. I could not physically keep up with both of them at the same time, so I was over cautious to keep them safe. I remembered how physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted I felt after a morning at the pool.

I recalled taking both of my sons in my arms out into the deeper water, this time with them just in arm floaties when they were three and five. Later, as they learned to swim around the ages of five and seven, they asked me to race them from one side of the pool to the other or to launch them by letting them stand on my knees and jumping up and into the water.

Now, here I was on the sidelines. Watching occasionally, but also able to read my own book for stretches while they had fun together and on their own. I wondered if in a couple of years, I would be the one upstairs running on the track while they did their own thing at the pool, stopping to wave now and then.
The phases of parenting are a lot like the phases of parental involvement at the pool. By looking at the parallels, we can see that parenting goes through the Nurturing phase when our children are babies, the Chasing phase during the toddler stage, the Play With Me phase throughout the preschool years, the Watch Me phase when our children are in early childhood to middle childhood, the Proximity or Set the Example phase for the middle to late childhood years and finally the Mentoring phase from late childhood into young adulthood. Although the ages for these stages and individual children's needs vary, the roles we play in nurturing our children change as they change.

  • Nurturing Phase (Babies)
  • Chasing Phase (Toddlers)
  • Play With Me Phase (Preschoolers)
  • Watch Me Phase (Early to Middle Childhood)
  • Proximity/Set the Example Phase (Middle to Late Childhood)
  • Mentoring Phase (Late Childhood to Young Adulthood)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Yes, You May!

We've come to a new beginning once again. I love any excuse for a new beginning. The first day of the month. The first day of the week. Beltane or May Day. Summer is approaching and spring is fully here.

New life blooms all around me as daybreak filters through the trees. Puffs of air cloud around neighboring cows' nostrils in the crisp morning sunlight. Birds trill their signature song. "Dee-dee-dee...Dooo-doo!"

I awake to these calls- the sun, the air, the birds, the trees. They invite me to open my eyes, take a deep breath, and try something new. Grow a bit. Reach and unfurl the wings that have been sheltering me from the cold all winter. Time to branch out and sing. Time to breathe in that fresh air and leaf out. Time to flower and bloom.

There's something special about spring that gives one hope. Hope for new life. A new way of being in the world. A fresh start. Ideas that seemed impossible in February look inspiring in May. May gives us permission to take a chance. "May I?" "Oh, yes! You may!"

Which ideas have been wintering in your heart? Are they ready to awaken, unfurl, and branch out? Are you ready to allow yourself to bloom? Let us nurture these heart wandering whispers with hope and permission. "Yes, you may!"

Springtime blessings,

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Game of Overwhelmed vs What Delights You

I haven't written in a few days and I'm feeling a tad resistant to do so...which means I should. Usually when I feel this way, I've been going too fast, I've been trying to do too much, and I feel overwhelmed. This morning finds me in a familiar state.

I'm worried about getting our sheds and fencing up before the chicks are ready to move in and our baby goats arrive. I'm concerned there is so much brush and fallen branches to pick up on the spot where we did a prescribed burn a week ago. The beginnings of poison ivy are poking up everywhere and I want to remove it asap. Moving onto 30 acres in the country with large gardens, chickens, and goats, I'm finding there's enough for me to focus on that all day every day...never mind homeschooling, teaching yoga, my own physical yoga practice, running, playing my guitar and ukulele, office assistant work a few hours a week, working on my poetry book that is in progress, crocheting, reading... The list goes on. The curse of the creative, aspiring hobbyist.

How does one manage all that they want to do if they have a variety of interests? By finding that place of stillness within and using it as an anchor point. The pauses in between intentional breaths. Letting go of anything that wastes or drains energy. Waking up to the truth that we have the power to manifest our own life and our reactions to our life circumstances.

I see this overwhelm many of us feel (regardless if you have poison ivy invading or goats on the way) as a game or puzzle. It's either a game I choose to play or not. Or it's a puzzle to be solved. How can I fit what I want in my life so that the pieces all work in harmony?

The danger of the puzzle analogy is it eludes to having full "control" or the notion that by thinking everything through all will go off exactly as planned. (Red alert if we hold onto that idea too tightly!) Sometimes that works, yet sometimes we need to be willing to let go of a piece for awhile. Or put one piece here when it traditionally has been put there. There might be a hole in the puzzle at times which we can be okay with. Sometimes you need to just trust that the pieces will eventually fit without forcing them. By forcing we risk breaking off the edges. We might need to step away from trying to solve it and breathe in faith.

The game called Overwhelmed is played when one identifies with their thoughts and emotions concerning all there is to do. Once we've taken in those anxieties, worries, and concerns and adopted them as our 'story', the game is on! Perhaps that's where the strategy of trying to solve the puzzle comes in. How does one win? All of the pieces are in order, all the balls are juggling in the air beautifully, the To Do List is managed, and we have inner piece. In's impossible to win when playing the game Overwhelmed.

It's better to choose not to play. It's healthier to not adopt the "I'm so busy" story line and just go with what delights you as much as possible. What delights me? My chickens. Ukulele. Working and playing outside. Actually, all of the things on the list of what has caused the overwhelmed feeling delights me! Now there's a conundrum!

What if I do a little of what delights me each day without the expectation that I do all of what delights me every day? Delightful! Can we shift the game we've been playing from Overwhelmed to What Delights Me? Can we be curious about each moment, inviting in more joy and aliveness into pursuing our passions?

I love to write and crochet. Garden. Read. Do homeschool activities with my children. I enjoy a clean-ish house. You will have your own list of what delights you. What I don't love is feeling like I have to do all of these things all of the time 100% accurately and completely. Perhaps by focusing on one delight at a time, we can be more present and play a game that fills us up, rather than tears us down. That's a game I'm excited to play!

All Love,

How about you? What delights you? What are your passions? How do you pursue them without playing the Overwhelmed game? 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Beyond the Storm

Can you look beyond the dark clouds on your emotional landscape and see the calm sky there for you? It's steadily waiting for the storm to pass so that the sun can be seen once more. Can you ride out your inner winds, lightning, and even hail knowing they will pass as quickly as on a Midwest spring day, revealing beauty more grand in the wake of its path?

Can you feel beneath the highs and lows and touch the center of what always is and always will be?

Clear. Blue. Calm. Vast.

You are not your successes. You are not your failures. You are not your challenges or your frustrations.

You are beyond all of that. You are ever here. You are ever well. You are pure presence.


For the past week, my soul sister and I have been practicing coming back to the present moment and assessing our inner state five times a day with these questions:

Are there any gaps between your presence and the moment?
Are you here?
Are you well?

At first, I was frustrated with the question "Are you well?" I equated it with "You're okay" when I really wasn't. What if I didn't feel well? Did that make me less present? What then? I found it was helpful to add on the question, "Are you nourished?" This provided me with a way to embrace self-care in those moments that I did not feel well without judgment. 

Over the course of the week, I found myself using these questions five times a day (or more) to check within and go beyond whatever frustrations were happening at the moment. I was tired and crabby, the kids were fighting and the dog was barking at me. No gaps...I was right there in the middle of it. Yet, I paused to notice my breath. I found the center of myself and knew that this moment would pass. I anchored myself with these questions and acknowledged "The moment is what it is." Even if I was tired and the little beings in my charge were testing my patience at that moment, I was well. Deeply and truly, I was. And just like that, the energy shifted and peace came back again. 

It is so easy to get caught up in the emotional highs and lows of life. Yet, by remembering our presence and our innate wholeness while checking in to what we are feeling in the moment, we can find our center and ride out the storm. 

I invite you to try the practice my friend and I have experienced. With an accountability partner, text each other the three questions five times a day. No need to answer them to one another. Just notice your feelings, thoughts, and emotions while asking yourself the questions without judgment. Let go of the answers and focus on your breath. 

I'd love to hear about the experience! 

All love,

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Peace Be Still

I awoke this morning with a feeling of busy-ness. Anxiousness. Forward thinking. Planning. Worrying. Trying to decide what I'm supposed to do using solely my mind and logic.

My intuition and my heart said, "Peace be still." Feel your breath. Listen for the silence. Live in the mystery for a little while.

Not everything has to be decided using pure brain muscle today. All ducks do not have to be in a row. You can not be sure and still be doing wonderfully. There's not a prize for having it all figured out.

Notice the sun streaming through the trees. Feel the morning's crisp, cool air on your cheeks. "Peace be still." Live in the mystery for a little while.

There's enough beauty and wonder surrounding you moment by moment to not have to get caught up in what's to happen a month or six months from now. "What is to be will be." Can you be fully present right now for this moment's unfolding?

My heart rate slows and my breath deepens. The tingling in my hands subsides and I smile. "Peace be still." Into the mystery... I am calm. I am here. I am witness to the aliveness of this moment.

All love,