Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wisdom from Michael J Fox

"My happiness grows in direct proportion (to) my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations.” --Michael J. Fox

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wisdom from SeaTac


A little "leftover" from our trip to Hawaii in April. Thought it was perfect for a Monday morning.
Pass it on...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Wisdom from Philip Shepherd

“...[H]armony requires us to change along with the whole. If you open yourself to the hum of the world—if you live in the present rather than in your idea of it—it will change you." --Philip Shepherd, author of New Self, New World, interviewed in The Sun

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Everybody Who is Needed

"Every time a group of people is gathered together, everybody who is needed is present." --Dale Stubbart in New Spirit Journal

Everybody who is needed is present....This is a concept I have struggled with mightily throughout my life. At most significant events in my life there was always somebody missing, or somebody who I thought "shouldn't" be there. I always had in mind the "perfect" guest list and inevitably it included someone who couldn't make it or didn't include someone who could.

As I have walked the spiritual path I have come to see the truth in this statement, but I still struggle against it sometimes.

After we came back from Japan we hosted my husband's cousin and his family at our house for a week. The timing couldn't have been better as our upstairs tenants had just moved out so we had two empty bedrooms, a bathroom and even a small kitchen to offer for their stay.

My husband's family definitely fall into the category of "the more the merrier" types. There seems to be at least one "extra" person at every family gathering and inevitably if you are hosting an event someone will call and ask, "Can I bring....my cousin/best friend/brother-in-law?"

I have grown used to this over the years, but that doesn't mean it is easy for me. And it wasn't any easier this time when my husband's cousin kept inviting people over to our house. His dad's cousin came for dinner. His step brother came for a visit. He even went so far as to offer his dad's cousin a ride to the family wedding IN OUR CAR. And all of this without a word to either of us. As if he were inviting them to his house, to his dinner party, to ride is his car.

It was infuriating.

Where I come from (the mid-West) this is the height of rudeness. You would never even think it was okay to bring someone extra to a dinner party, but if you did you would certainly ask first. And you would never presume to offer some a ride, in someone else's car, without asking.

All week I struggled with this. On the one hand reminding myself that WE ARE ALL ONE and everyone's cousin really is my cousin too; on the other hand silently fuming at the complete disregard our guests were showing for me.

The thing is - and I know this - my husband's cousin wouldn't think twice if the shoe were on the other foot. I could bring my sister, my parents, my long lost best friend to his house for dinner uninvited and unannounced and he would be totally fine with it. Better than that, he would welcome them as family.

So what's the "right" thing to do?

That's where it gets tricky.

I think ultimately, of course, the right thing to do is to welcome one and all, to adopt a "more the merrier" mentality and embrace the Oneness. But I'm not there yet. People still exhaust me, they drain my energy and make me want to run for the nearest sensory deprivation chamber. Especially people I don't know who are invited into my space by someone other then me without my permission or okay.

So I need to continue to work on speaking my truth and setting good boundaries (next time this cousin visits I need to let him know how I feel and what I expect vis-a-vis "extras") and remember that in these situations that everybody who is needed is present. Whether I can see it or not.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Big Blue Wave

"Everything is energy..." --Daryl Anka 

At the beginning of our trip to Japan my son's teacher handed each of us a few sheets of paper stapled together. This was to be our "trip journal" and we were expected to fill it out each day, answering the questions that were posed. 

On Day 1 the questions were: How are you feeling? What are you looking forward to most on this trip? What are your concerns? 

My primary concern was losing my son. 

During the final trip meeting, held about one month before the trip, the teacher had mentioned that because the trains are so crowded in Japan it is possible that someone might not make it onto the train in time and end up stranded on the platform. She gave the kids instructions on how to handle this if it happened and promised to give each child a badge with her name and cell phone number on it to wear at all times while we were in Tokyo. 

After the meeting I became convinced that my son was going to be the one left standing on the subway platform. This was my primary concern, which I diligently wrote down in my journal. 

The first few days I didn't let my son out of my sight and I kept a hand on him at all times when it came time to board a subway train. Needless to say this was not appreciated. I got a lot of eye rolls and more than one, "God, Mom!"

As it turns out, I didn't need to worry. 

For one thing, on days that were really busy - where we were going to be doing a lot of traveling and jumping in and out of trains - the kids had coordinated shirts. Bright blue and visible from miles away. 

On those days it was easy to keep track of the kids, just look for the Big Blue Wave.

The Big Blue Wave in Kamakura
But even on other days, when we weren't wearing matching shirts, we seemed to move as one, as if we were energetically joined at the hip, each person following the person in front of them and all of us following our fearless leader, our Sensei.

I am very pleased to report that over the course of our eleven day trip, not one child was left standing on a subway platform. Not even mine.

And after a few days I came to trust in the Big Blue Wave and I released my grip on my son, even riding in a different subway car from time to time, just to give him some space. 

This got me thinking about energy and how powerful it is, and yet, how little we trust in it.

If everything is energy, then of course we all moved as one, because we were, on some level, all one. One group with one purpose and one destination. And if anyone HAD gotten lost I would be willing to bet it would have been because they forgot that for a moment.

Isn't that how we always get lost? By forgetting who and what we are?

Learning to trust in the Big Blue Wave has given me a blueprint for learning to trust more in the Universe. In its plan for my life. In its commitment to my well-being. We're all a part of the Big Blue Wave on this planet we call Earth. The only way to get lost is to forget that.

May you always remember. 

The Big Blue Wave walking to Sangubashi Station





Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Once in a Lifetime

 

"Ichi-go ichi-e." --from the Japanese meaning “every encounter is but once in a lifetime”

Every so often you get a "once in a lifetime" opportunity. Our recent trip to Japan was just such an opportunity.

To travel alone with my fifth grader, to a country where he speaks the language and I do not, with his former classmates, many of whom will be off in new directions in the fall, to send him off to be hosted by a family who accepted him (and me) sight unseen, truly was a "once in a lifetime" trip.

This week I would like to attempt to share some of the trip with you through words and pictures. This will not be an exhaustive account of all that we saw and experienced, but rather an attempt at capturing the spirit of the trip through a few shared stories.

"Ichi-go ichi-e" was a phrase I learned on the plane. I think it might have been in the in-flight magazine. I immediately connected with the truth of it - one more reminder from the Universe to stay present, to "be here now," to let this moment be the only moment - and wrote it down. 

It wasn't until after I got home and sat down to record all my quotes from the trip that I recognized the deeper meaning in terms of this travel experience and the foreshadowing the Universe had been offering me.

This is the way the Japanese people live their lives - as if every encounter were but once in a lifetime.

Below is a video of Shinjuku Station, the busiest transportation hub in the world:

Sinjuku station in Tokyo, Japan

It looks like kind of a nightmare doesn't it?

Try moving through this station with 18 fifth graders, their parents and 72 pieces of luggage (approximately 2 pieces per person). You would think it would be almost impossible. And yet, it really wasn't that difficult.

Somehow, in spite of the need to find their way around this massive station, catch a train, and get to work on time, the Japanese people manage to maneuver around massive groups of lost and confused Americans largely without incident.

Unlike in Europe, where I always feel like the huge, ugly American burdened with her luggage, I never felt like I was in the way. No one bumped into me or tripped over me or looked at me with disgust for my mere presence in "their" country, "their" train station, "their" day.

Like salmon swimming upstream, the Japanese people made their way where they needed to be, gracefully allowing me to do the same, even if I didn't know where the heck I was going.

I just got the feeling that they honored my right to be there, even if it made their day a little more difficult. 

In Kyoto it gets even better.

The torii gates at Fushimi Inari-taisha
A friend and I were standing on a street corner in Kyoto, map open, trying to figure out how to get to Fushimi Inari-taisha when up walks a young couple. "Can we help you?" they asked, in perfect English.

Taking the map from us they conferred in Japanese then the young man said, "Follow me."

Leading us through the winding streets of Kyoto, they led us directly to the entrance to the train station where we needed to go to catch a train to the shrine. They told us which train to take, and warned us that the walk underground to get to the actual train station was quite long - a warning without which we very well might have turned around because it was a very LONG walk indeed.

When I asked them if they were tourists in town as well they said, "No, we live in Kyoto."

I was floored. Here they were, out for a walk or on their way to have lunch or meet a friend or, who knows, on the way to a scary and difficult doctor's appointment, and they stopped to help us find our way. Going five or ten minutes out of their way to help two total strangers.

My fellow parents had similar stories to share as the trip progressed and you just got the feeling that most Japanese people would make themselves late for their own wedding to help you find your way.

I can't imagine that most Americans would do the same. I can't imagine - to my shame - that I would, or have done, the same. At least not in the past.

But now I hope to do it differently. I am trying to remember that every encounter is but once in a lifetime - ichi-go ichi-e - and make the most of each one.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Hello again.



"Hello, again, hello...I couldn't sleep at all tonight..." so I got up and made myself a cup of tea and a piece of peanut butter toast and I have been sitting here reading through quotes and downloading updates to my computer and searching campsites for later this summer and, mostly, trying to figure out what to write. Trying to figure out how to say, "Hello, again," to this blog after a rather long and unintended break.

"What happened?" You may be wondering. "Where did you go?"

 I went to a place called Summer Vacation. I went to a place called The Kids are Out of School. I went to a place called The Relatives are Visiting. And I went to a place called Japan.

 I went on a 35,000 km motorcycle ride with Nathan Millward (author of The Long Ride 'Home'). And I went on a journey to the depths of the human experience with Dear Sugar (in her book Tiny Beautiful Things).

I went to a place called Happy. And a place called Sad. And a place called Confused. And a place called Mad. And also to a place called Contentment. And a place called Exhausted. And a place called Rest.

And now I'm here again. At a place called larasimmons.net. A place called My Blog. A place I like to call Home.

I have a lot to share with you. Quotes, of course, and stories and pictures and lessons learned. And also lessons not quite learned, or in the process of being learned.

 It's a big, rich life we are living and there is so much to share. I do hope you haven't given up and gone away. My apologies for not leaving a note. I didn't know I'd be gone this long.

Hello, again, hello.