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  • Writer's pictureevansph2

My friend, Phyllis Bertke, wrote this reflection after reading last week's post about being in nature. With her permission I share it here and thank you Phyllis!

I want to tell you that, after many years of seeking, I have found a mindfulness practice that I look forward to almost every day. It’s a 10- to 20-minute walking meditation outside. The tricks that keep me engaged are that I do it very slowly and in a different place every time.

It’s not every day because I only do it when I go someplace else first. I stop somewhere … anywhere … on my way home. And suddenly I’m seeing stuff I never would have seen if I had been walking with a friend or walking to get somewhere.

It doesn’t seem to matter where I am: residential area, shopping center, construction zone, nature trail …. and one day I even stumbled upon a woodsy area in the middle of a built-up commercial area and found a plaque saying it is a cemetery for African American members of a church dating from 1858 to 1926. There is no church any more, and no grave markers were to be seen, but soft spots in the carpet of leaves I was walking on indicated where the graves were. That sort of discovery is unusual of course, but so far no place I’ve been has been boring.

And I take pictures. I’ve been amazed at the wonderful ones I’ve been able to find…. so amazed that I started a journal with photos from the walk, a screenshot of an All Trails map showing where I was, and sometimes some words. I even have a new printer that happens to print excellent photos without a lot of tweaking, and every time a new page comes out of my printer, it’s like a chocolate truffle --- such a gift!

The whole experience is both calming and stimulating, and it’s helping me feel more connected to my world. I hope I will stay enthusiastic enough to keep it up for a long time.

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  • Writer's pictureevansph2

A friend of mine told me that she has an intention to be outdoors for at least 23 minutes every day in 2023. What a lovely aspiration! It is way too easy for me to hole up inside where it is warm – even in California! – in the winter. How hard it is to convince myself to “endure” even the mildest bit of discomfort. The Buddhists talk about how we are mostly on a constant path of seeking something different than what is. Even sitting in our easy chair, we shift our weight, cross and uncross our legs – all in a more or less constant attempt to be comfortable. There is nothing wrong with seeking comfort, but there is value in also learning to accept, abide, “endure” mild discomfort. It is good practice for the times when we absolutely must abide discomfort. The constant pursuit of something different from what is, is a habit I am trying to look at.

I also heard of another friend who spends a few minutes outdoors each night at sunset. She quietly observes the sunset and reminds herself each evening that “time is passing”. Of course it is, but we so often forget to notice! I love the moments of sunset – it’s usually quiet outdoors as the world settles in for the night. It’s a lovely thing to notice.

So, I am going to attempt to observe both of these habits by combining them. My plan will be to sit outdoors each evening at sunset and enjoy the truth of whatever temperature or weather condition is present. (though I will be sitting under the roof of our balcony!) I love to listen to a quiet piece of music as the sun sets. I have been good about doing that in the summer, but it never occurred to me to do it in winter too. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Here is a poem I wrote last summer about twilight. I will attempt to enjoy it this way in winter too!!


I love dusk…

how the evening takes the hand

of afternoon and they saunter,

watching the fireflies along the side of the road –

How they listen for the quieting of the birds,

the waking of the cicadas.

How the stars begin their slow appearance,

though, of course, they’ve been there all along.

Day and night hand in hand

walking toward the horizon…

How day softens her grip

and slips off toward tomorrow,

darkness waving until she is out of sight.

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  • Writer's pictureevansph2

In the introduction to the book Dancing in the Darkness, by Rev. Dr. Otis Motts, III author, professor and commentator Michael Eric Dyson tells a story told widely whose specific attribution has been lost through oral telling:

One version of the story goes, that a young lady was complaining to her mother about her troubles and wondering aloud how she would make it through a spell of misfortune. Her mother led the young lady to the kitchen and filled three pots with water – and placed carrots in the first, eggs in the second, and coffee beans in the third. After bringing each pot to a boil, she removed the contents and placed them in a bowl explaining to her daughter that while they had been subjected to the same adverse conditions, each element reacted differently. The carrots had been strong, hard and unbending, yet emerged soft and weak. The eggs had been fragile; their liquid interior protected by a thin shell, and yet their insides were hardened by the heat. The consistency of the coffee beans remained the same but instead of being altered by their surroundings they changed the water in which they were boiled to produce coffee with a rich aroma! Which are you? the mother asks her daughter to gauge how she would respond in the face of difficulty.'"

It's a question we can ask ourselves. I am all three – as most of us are. But, I tend to be a carrot sort of person in general. – one with rigid beliefs, firm edges, and strong opinions. That being said, I also can turn to mush (tears!) when I find myself in a situation with too much “heat”. I want to be softened by the world, by others opinions. At the same time I resist the hot pan!

A piece of me is the egg too – Sometimes my boundaries are a bit thin / fragile. And, I can ooze all over the place. I’m more of a scrambled egg than hard boiled.

I want to be a coffee person, of course. Someone who changes the environment and improves it by adding their own essence. It seems to me there are relatively few opportunities to be a coffee bean. But, I have a friend who is outstanding at this. She accomplishes the changes in her environment by talking about her own reaction, her own thinking, her own experiences and “owning” them by saying “this is what I think, though I may be wrong”. She also tends to say “This is what I hear you saying” and she says, “I’d like to hear more” before she ventures her own opinion. She creates a fine cup of coffee by listening, asking questions and then using “I” statements to gently say what she believes. I aspire to that!

May we all continue to learn about ourselves and be willing to “face the heat” and become better baristas eventually.

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