Before I was Rebecca Cofiño, I was Rebecca Harmon.
You need to know that to understand this story.
Ten years ago I drove across the country by myself, from New Orleans to Spokane, Washington. I made a few pit stops along the way: White Sands, the Grand Canyon and even Las Vegas.
When I arrived in Las Vegas, the sun was setting. It’s a place I never had much interest in seeing, but it was on my way, so I decided to check it out. I’m not a gambler, but I did try it out for the five hours I was there, turning $20 to $120 and ending at $95. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This story is about sunset on the Las Vegas strip.
I was driving down the famous strip in my silver VW Beetle containing all my worldly possessions. While I drove, the sky was burnt off its pink glow and the lights brightened in the falling darkness. I had no idea where I was I was going. Suddenly, I saw this:
How had no one ever told me that Harmon Avenue was a major intersection on the Las Vegas strip?
Was I the first from my father’s side to visit the casinos in the desert? Had no friend ever looked up on a wild weekend and seen an interesting bit of trivia?
I fumbled in my backpack to get my camera so I could snap this picture. Remember, no smart phones ten years ago. I accidentally sliced the middle of my thumbnail with my razor while fishing around for that camera while driving, so let me share another a useful bit of trivia with you. There is a CVS at the very end of the strip.
What brought this memory to mind?
Well, Max just got a new dinosaur book and look what I found?
Come on, people! Tell me these things!
I ought to have known that I was named after a giant, gambling, African dinosaur from the late Cretaceous period who, of course, was vegetarian.
Now, what else am I missing?
Last month we stumbled upon an arbor with wishes at Fairchild Tropical Garden. Were they written for the new year? A special event? I don’t want to know.
Keep mysteries alive.
Keep wishes dangling from secret coves.
That’s the world I want to live in.
This is faith.
I’m not talking about religion (though this also applies to that sense of faith). I’m talking about a general sense of eternal well-being.
I used to think faith meant belief. I used to think it was a life-preserver or something to quell anxiety. I used to think it lived in one’s heart or mind.
Lately, I’ve come to realize that true faith resides in feet.
It’s learning to put one foot in front another, even when your footing isn’t sure, when the terrain is uneven and crumbly, when you can’t even see where your next step will land. It’s taking step after step into the air and trusting that the moment you need it, the second your weight shifts forward, something firm will be there to meet your sole.
You will not fall.
There is a man, Nick Wallenda, who is in training right now to cross the Grand Canyon on just a wire, without a safety harness or net. I watched him cross Niagara Falls last year on television. It was hold-your-breath spectacular! There is no way to know which direction the wind will blow as he walks. These great chasms in earth have their own unpredictable currents and drafts.
And yet, through careful training, he will trust his center of balance and his ability to react in real time to the foreseeable, unforeseeable threats that could shake him to his death.
Most of us can’t even imagine attempting such a daring feat, and yet, we step out into uncertainty every single day without even a wire to guide us from Point A to Point B.
Faith is each and every step.
Taking a step in faith means knowing as one job ends, another will appear. Or, if it doesn’t, someone will offer a helping hand. Or, if nobody comes to the rescue, things will somehow work out. Or if things don’t work out, you will still be OK.
Because you are always, already OK.
We are all always, already OK.
Take faith in that essential truth. Step out into life knowing that something will rise out of nothing to meet the sole of your foot, your soul. You can move forward as if you are going to walk on air, which is mysterious, and yet also as predictable as the invisible oxygen you count on for your next breath,
which is always there.
I can’t wait until April!
I’ve been saying this for a few weeks. It’s usually followed by the ubiquitous, “Why? What’s happening in April?”
“Nothing,” I grin. “Nothing at all.”
The farmer’s market where I sell artisan bread has closed for the season, freeing up Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. There isn’t a major holiday, birthday, or event on my calendar. It’s wide open.
Except, I already filled it.
Me. Me. Me. Me…..
Every so often life gets a little out of control. One thing after another pops up, distractions abound. Mothers are particularly susceptible to this: the new routine when school starts, Hallowgivingmas, a rash of birthdays. Our lives are very subtly and then very suddenly taken over by outside forces. There isn’t a way to completely avoid it; it’s just the flow of life.
But every so often it is time to build a dam.
Stop the energy from leaving and bring it back to the center. I’m speaking in abstract terms because this resonates on all levels: on a spiritual plane, wellness in the body, spring cleaning, and taking a little personal time.
Spring is naturally the season of new life, which is even more relevant in our breathlessly busy culture. This is the time to rejuvenate our lives.
Summer will be upon us before know it with vacations, day camps, activities and a flurry of motion. Super fun, but moms play the perpetual planner, the lifeguard, the tour guide. It is exhausting. After that we delve into the back to school crunch, followed by The Holidays, and then
T.S. Elliot famously called it out as the cruelest month in his poem, The Wasteland.
What did he know?
The trees are in bloom. The birds are chirping.
A fresh start comes from within.
Blink and you’ll miss it.
The first time I heard that phrase I was five and we were in Montana. My family was headed to a ghost town that was so small you could miss seeing it as you drove through without wide, watchful eyes.
As a young child, I had those eyes.
As an adult, I am left wondering: Where did February go? And most of March for that matter?
I blinked and I missed them.
Life is just whizzing by at the speed of light, blinding me. By the time I open my eyes, time has passed. I know the reasons. I’ve been under-the-weather. The responsibilities that were heaped on me this past fall finally caught up. I needed to pause and catch my breath.
It took a little more than a month to feel normal. Now Easter is upon us. The school year is on its last leg. Applications and arrangements for next year must be made. What about summer? Are we travelling? Wait! Am I in the last few months of being a full-time mom? What’s that next chapter? Do I have to write it, or will it just unfold?
It’s enough to leave me panting, eager for another pause, another chance to catch my breath.
But there is no more time for that. I need to stay with the tick-tock of the clock. The future is both exciting and fraught, but the present tense is where I ought to be. With my family, in the homestretch of life with little ones.
Of course, I remember Japan. The cherry blossoms.
Right now their national news tracks the Cherry Blossom Front the way our US news agencies track a random cold front. They predict the perfect day to view the cherry blossoms in their full glory for each region of Japan. In the vertical island nation, some sections have already had the front pass over them, while others have weeks to wait. Japanese people eagerly anticipate the front every year and go to their nearest cherry trees for a picnic at the time of perfection.
The parks are full, because that moment of full bloom, before the petals start dropping like soft pink raindrops, lasts only a few hours.
Blink and you’ll miss it.
The Japanese attachment to cherry blossoms is endearing. They view them as a metaphor for life:
Utterly beautiful, yet fleeting.
Blink and you’ll miss it.
Happy New Year!
Or should I say, Gung hay fat choy!
Today marks Chinese New Year as we enter the Year of the Snake.
One of the most amazing aspects of a snake how it molts, or sheds its skin. Its dead cells come off in one glorious moment when the snake slithers out of old skin, revealing the new skin it has grown underneath. It’s an animal that represents ultimate self-renewal.
We humans shed our skin everywhere. Imperceptible, our dead skin cells slough off and disappear all the time, becoming the dust we we inhale over and over again. Unless we are fastideous about cleaning, we constantly breathe in our old cells. Our old selves. No wonder it sometimes feels like we can’t escape who we were.
The gradual and invisible nature of our shedding hides our renewal from both our eyes and those of others.
But we do renew.
Every few years, every single cell in our body is replaced. Our essential structure remains constant, but on a cellular level, we are babies starting fresh.
Wouldn’t it great to molt like a snake? To slough off a part of ourselves that we’ve out-grown in one, beautiful and unmistakable moment of rebirth?
Why not try?
It it is the Year of the Snake. If ever there was a time to slink out of our old skin, it is now.
Let’s leave behind the parts of ourselves that have already died and bring our fresh, pink skin into the new light of the new year.
I woke up today and instead of drinking a cup of coffee, I mistakenly downed a cup of anxiety, head fog and fret with a big spoonful of feeling overwhelmed stirred in.
Needless to say, it was bitter.
I hate this feeling: so much to do that I feel paralyzed to start, which fritters away the precious free minutes I have. My underlying nature is optimistic and energetic, but bad moods cross my path from time to time. My husband calls this particular mood of mine desperate gloom, which is a hilariously accurate description.
With my head all over the place, I couldn’t sit down to write during my writing time.
Restless, I needed to move, so I took my boys to the golf course for their first real bike ride. Max rocked his training wheels and Jack tore it up on his trike. At the half-way point we sat down in the shade for a juice break. They got the sillies and giggled so joyously the old golfers nearby found it contagious.
I let myself enter their world and found myself laughing the laugh my husband calls a gackle, which is neither hilarious or accurate, but a name I can’t escape. It’s the full-bodied laugh that comes out when I really give in to a moment.
A thought crossed my mind: What would I do today if I didn’t have to worry?
The answer was simple: this.
If I didn’t have to worry today, I’d be gentle with myself and acknowledge my vulnerability. I would take the day slow and connect with my family. I’d let their love encompass me and bring me back to feeling right.
A second thought came quickly on the heels of the first: Why do I have to worry today?
True, deadlines loom. Responsibilities dangle, but so do limitations.
For some reason, I tend to pooh-pooh the reality of limitations. I expect myself to conquer them, which means I don’t accept their existence on some level. A can-do attitude is a great asset in life, but it’s unfair and exhausting to expect myself to hurdle every obstacle in my path. Sometimes I just need a breather.
Worry isn’t a badge of honor to carry until I’m done with my work. It’s a burden that makes my load heavier.
And so, I let it go.
All the balls I was juggling just fell to the floor. I’ll pick them up, one by one, when I’m ready. After all, I am not an octupus or a circus clown.
I am just a woman who needs a nap.
No amount of worry is going to change that,
but rest will.
What about you?
What would your day look like if you didn’t have to worry?
What would your life look like?
A few years ago my mom counseled a single mother named Pam about going back to school.
Pam was in her late twenties and had a daughter in elementary school. She worked full-time in retail and desperately wanted to get her family out of the cycle of living paycheck-to-paycheck. She dreamed of a 9-5 office job with health insurance and free weekends.
But there were a lot of reasons going back to college didn’t seem feasible:
- She had always been a poor student.
- She didn’t have enough money to pay for school and miss work.
- She already struggled to spend time with her daughter, adding night classes and homework to her full schedule seemed impossible.
- The journey from remedial math to graduation was daunting, especially when taking one or two classes at a time.
The logistics were certainly both real and challenging, but as the conversation ended my mom cut to one essential truth:
Two years are going to pass and you are either going to have your degree or not, but two years are going to pass just the same.
When we are young, it’s so hard to understand how quickly time can pass. Waiting for Christmas or summer vacation to arrive is interminably hard. When we’re teenagers, we can’t help but imagine real success must happen quickly or not at all. There is no way a freshman can conceive of how quickly graduation will arrive and how their entire time at school will seem like a blur.
In fact, when life begins we measure it in days, then weeks, and finally months. That period of time seems so endless that it’s surprising when the normal pace of life snaps back like a rubberband, and we notice that we have begun to measure our children’s lives in years. Their infancy, which felt like forever, was just a blink of an eye.
We all experience the pace of time differently. Our perceptions and experiences of it are varied, but time itself is unchanging. The tick tock of the clock is steady. It is our impressions which make us feel like we are either rushing ahead or falling behind. Time marches solidly.
I recently read a passage by Deepak Chopra describing the constancy of time and how our choices can shape it.
He described two mothers locked in the dinner rush. One was impatient with her kids, yelling and getting frustrated as she oversaw their homework while making dinner and dealing with discipline. The other remained calm as she moved from task to task without fretting. By bedtime, everyone in both houses was clean, fed and asleep, but the woman who experienced a crushing sensation of time had a less happy family. A less happy life.
Time is constant. We are the variable.
Food for Thought:
Two years will pass by all of us lucky enough to live for another 730 days. What will you have done or not done?
Pam, well, she got her degree, a cubicle, and free weekends.
It took her three years,
but time passed quickly.
We can’t fight for peace.
Pure and simple, fighting isn’t peaceful.
We’re left with a quandary: how can we effect a peaceful change in our society when we face such violent opposition?
Be the change you wish to see in in the world. –Mahatma Gandhi
I saw a beautiful Tai Chi demonstration last Saturday morning. It was on a concrete platform at the edge of a field where I sell bread at a farmer’s market. The participants were not grand masters, just ordinary people sharing their practice.
It was breathtaking.
Their movements were simple, but the presence of peace was palpable. A wave, a storm surge, of profound tranquility flooded over me just by looking at them. I did nothing but receive the beautiful energy they created.
Our world is more complex than just the physical elements. There are energetic, spiritual planes that are just as real as the tangible plane in which we dwell. Within our society’s structure, we might seem insignificant as individuals. Our voices might not be heard by those in power, but on an energetic level each one of us has extraordinary power to create change, to literally create peace.
There is a town near Fairfield, Iowa, called Maharishi Vedic City where thousands of monks from India practice a vigorous schedule of meditation specifically to create world peace.
We can too.
Years ago my meditation teacher shared with me the Buddhist Loving Kindness Meditation. It’s a prayer and meditation all in one. Here is a simple version. If we practice this each day, it will help change our attitudes, calm and center us, and even make changes in the energy of our world.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Sit comfortably with your spine erect. Use cushions or blankets to support yourself if nessesary. Let your eyes rest to a half open state. Spend a few moments connecting with your breath.
This meditation is repeated four times, each with a different focus.
The first time, direct your mediation towards yourself. Visualize yourself as you are now or as you were as a young child. As you repeat these words, send loving kindness towards yourself.
May I be happy and have the causes of happiness.
May I be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May I never be separated from the freedom of joy.
May I remain at peace, without fear or hatred, in my heart.
The second time you do this, visualize your benefactor. Choose someone in your life who has helped you and shown you kindness. Send him or her this loving kindness.
May you be happy and have the causes of happiness….
Next, visualize someone you don’t like, don’t understand, or fear. Picture this person in your head and send loving kindness his or her way.
Finally, open your heart to the world at large and share compassion with everyone.
May all beings be happy and have the causes of happiness….
This practice effects change on several levels. First, it cultivates peace and compassion within us. Wanting peace and embodying peace are two different things. Meditation gives us the power not just to be at peace, but to actually be peace.
Equally important, this meditation is directed outwardly. Just like the men and women whose Tai Chi practice created an unmistakable shift in energy at the farmer’s market and the monks in a small town in Iowa, our meditation sends peace and compassion out to the world.
Often times we forget about the invisible. We think it’s nothing, or we don’t bother to think about it at all. But energy is just like the air we breathe: real, unseen, and life-sustaining.
We can’t fight for peace, but we can create it.
Now, let’s get to work.
My mom and I witnessed the new year rise over the Atlantic Ocean this morning.
There are so many exciting new things in store for mamaguru this new year, wonderful developments I can’t wait to share.
But right now the sun is in the sky and it’s shining down on the last day I get to spend with my mom in a long time, so toodaloo.
There will be time for everything else, soon, but this moment must not be lost.
Happy New Year!