Sunday, March 29, 2015

So Much Goodness in the World

This post was originally published on March 14, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.

This week, with great enthusiasm, I observed two telltale signs of spring: the first daffodil shoots


 ...and a bluebird perched in a tree.


I can't remember ever seeing a bluebird! I've always thought of them as rare. A couple years ago, I dreamed a bluebird was in my back yard and have wanted to see one ever since because I attributed special significance to them.

These signs of spring accompany a noticeable increase in birdsong and a change in the appearance of the willow trees that dominate the landscape as they shake off the drabness of winter and take on a brighter, light auburn tone.

I woke up this morning inspired to view pictures of spring. As I browsed through my photo library from last spring, I recalled how my daily search for beauty fueled me to care for my dying mother. The photos were organized chronologically, and following pictures of her last few days and memorial events was a long and diverse parade of flowers that continued without missing a beat despite her absence. I needed more than ever to connect with the abundant beauty of the world as I began to grieve. It was my medicine. No matter what horrific events the news tells us are taking place in the world, and despite all the factors that dampen our spirits or condition us to lead fear-based lives, I have faith that love and beauty outweigh the darkness and can save us every day if we allow them to.

In my last blog entry, I wrote about the theft of almost all of my husband's musical equipment while he was substituting at a school for the day. That (Friday) evening was a very heavy one as the reality of the loss set in. But over the course of the weekend, he surrendered to it. I watched him sit on the floor somberly making a list of everything that was taken from him. He wasn't in a hurry to tell people what had happened. He was too busy compiling the list and letting it all sink in. Some of the most difficult losses were like old, familiar friends that carried higher sentimental than monetary value - for instance, a bag he got at a Grateful Dead show when he was young and had used to tote musical accessories for decades. There were other personal things of a similar nature that can't be replaced. And yet (he reminded me whenever I expressed sympathy), they are just things, and the most important things in life aren't things. These are the sentiments of someone who has been tested greatly in recent months and has responded by immersing himself in spiritual teachings and making the conscious decision to evolve and apply the teachings to his life rather than give up or be a victim. It is a brave choice we can make every day of our lives when we wake up and refuse to let our lives be run by unconscious programming.

The lyrics of the song "Drive" by Incubus come to mind:
Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can't help but ask myself how much I'll let the fear
Take the wheel and steer
It's driven me before
And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal
But lately I am beginning to find
That I should be the one behind the wheel
Whatever tomorrow brings
I'll be there with open arms and open eyes
Whatever tomorrow brings
I'll be there, I'll be there
So if I decide to waiver my chance
To be one of the hive
Will I choose water over wine
And hold my own and drive?
It's driven me before
And it seems to be the way that everyone else gets around
But lately I am beginning to find
That when I drive myself my light is found
On Sunday, I urged Jack to go public with his story in hopes that someone would hear about it and come forth with useful information. In addition, people had a right to know what was going on in their back yard - including my dad, who literally lives right behind the school and my friend, who lives across the street. So Jack sat down at his computer and let his heart do the talking, and he shared the result on social media. The response was like wildfire. His phone and laptop blew up for days with messages from people expressing sympathy and appreciation - both for the musical memories he created for so many children and families over the years and for his positive, loving attitude, which I believe the world needs desperately. Many people wanted to know where to send money to help him replace his stolen equipment, and we didn't feel comfortable giving our address to strangers (however well-meaning they seemed to be), so I started an online fundraiser - which also took off like wildfire. People from far and wide contacted him, including newspapers and news stations. He had several interviews - the first of which took place three days after the incident.

It's interesting what snippets end up on the news and in the papers. Jack's intention was to spread peace and love, which has been his professional motto for years ("Peace, love, and understanding: Spread it all around the world!"). But the spirituality with which he responded to this crisis ended up on the newsroom floor for the most part - and it was the message he wanted most to convey to the world. Brief quotes taken out of context appeared as nonchalance to some people who could not accept his radical, spiritual belief that everything would be okay and his refusal to harbor ill feelings toward those who stole from him.

The public did not hear the private conversations between us - how difficult it was for Jack to open himself up to receiving money and offers of equipment from friends and strangers. When the donations started rolling in, he worried about what to do if they surpassed the amount needed to replace his stolen equipment. He was adamant about not accepting more than he needed because there are so many other people in this world who are in greater need. With regard to any excess donations, the two best options seemed to be to refund or pay it forward. It was a bridge we would cross if we came to it. And it's an important back story that I want people to know about because some unconscious people have made it clear that they cannot fathom the possibility of a person facing this kind of situation with a positive, loving attitude. They say it's not natural and that it doesn't make any sense. And I suppose it doesn't when one sentence is inserted out of context within a news segment or article based on an interview that the public doesn't realize took place days after the incident occurred, after Jack had time to process it and make a conscious decision to proceed with an attitude of peace and love. It takes faith and familiarity with someone's character and personal circumstances to understand that love is a viable, healthy response to tragedy - a brave and radical choice.

It's interesting: I have faith in the beauty of the world to support me when crises arise or when the daily grind of life wears me down. I retreat into the natural world to recharge my battery and adjust my attitude. I realize it's not the answer for everyone, but it is strong medicine for me. However, I've had what feels like an impenetrable lack of faith with regard to financial security. For years, Jack has encouraged me not to stay stuck in a rut based on fear of the unknown. Do what you love, and the money will follow. In his own words:

Will you struggle? Sure. But it will be a different kind of struggle. The difference is that your energy will be put into what you love, and you will do what you need to do to make things work. It's nothing compared to the struggle of getting up every day and spending your days consumed with work that feels wrong, in an environment that weighs you down. When you live your life with purpose and give your gifts fearlessly to the world, you will open yourself up to possibilities you can't even begin to imagine. So many of your beliefs about what you need will fall away, and what you really do need will come to you when you live an inspired life aligned with your Higher Power. Take that leap of faith. Jump out of the plane, and don't worry about the parachute opening. It will.

These are radical words that fly in the face of everything we have been taught and conditioned to believe. I've come across the basic message countless times in spiritual circles throughout my adult life. Reading (and even understanding) it and living it are two entirely different experiences. Part of me considers it magical thinking in which a responsible parent (and the family breadwinner) can't afford to indulge, and another part of me thinks that kind of faith is the missing ingredient that keeps me from moving forward into a more fully expressed and fulfilled life. I wish I could have that kind of faith - as much as some people wish they could find beauty in the world when they are feeling down and battered by life.

We all have so much to teach one another, don't we? So many ways to inspire one another. Although many people aren't ready to remove fear from the driver's seat and allow Spirit - love, harmony, and beauty - to steer them through life, our words and deeds are constantly sowing seeds in this world. And although it's not always easy to have faith, as poet Mary Oliver challenges (in an excerpt from her poem, "Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness"):

what else will do
if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a "custom print" in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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