mask

Yellow crocus  in snow

Today’s WP Daily Prompt challenges me to think of the concept of ‘mask’. To me, the usual interpretation of wearing a mask entails intentionally hiding something. Keeping a cheerful countenance, for instance, to hide despair. Or appearing grim so as to hide the unbearable joy about to explode that might, in so doing, undo an important business transaction. Of course there’s also using tape to protect an area from the paint to be applied beyond it, so that you can create a crisp clean interface between the two.

But what if wearing a mask in fact works toward the reason for wearing it? Something more along the lines of ‘fake it until you make it.’ Wherein the mask itself becomes a helpful tool moving you toward the desired state. If you smile even when feeling down, you tend to elicit smiles from others. This, in turn, makes you want to smile more in response. Until, before you know it, smiling has become second-nature and a gift to all involved.

Yesterday’s surprise heavy snow — well, not all that surprising for late April in northern Vermont — masked the myriad green shoots pushing up from cold ground. Some of them I recall planting last fall. Others seem welcome interlopers. None seemed to welcome the snow that bent their just-opening faces as they sought the anticipated sun. Yet, they poked up even through the density of the surprise snow. And today it melts (as is the wont of late-season white). Those blossoms continue to exude sunny joy despite unseasonably low temperatures.

I appreciate their tenacity, their telling of the fact that winter WILL end, and soon. They testify and reassure that seasons still turn, though in oddly shifting and unpredictable patterns. Their perseverance gives me both hope and gratitude for what can emerge because — and even in spite — of masks.

breathing deep

Quote

credit- andriehvitimus

credit- andriehvitimus

“If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.”  —Andrew Weil

“Shallow breathing is a reaction to the unyielding stress of modern life—and is itself a cause of further stress, which leads to more shallow breathing. To stop this downward spiral of shallow breathing and stress—even in the midst of the daily mayhem—I can take three or four deep breaths and enter an upward spiral of deep breathing and calm… All I need to do is gently, without strain, fill up the space of my belly, and then slowly and tenderly breathe out.

I take a first belly breath—breathing slowly and deeply, expanding my stomach as I breathe in—and I focus on centering, on being present in the here and now. I take a second deep belly breath, and while doing so focus on my purpose—whether for that day or for my life as a whole. The third deep breath is dedicated to something for which I’m grateful—thinking about a family member, a meeting I had or am about to have, or anything else.

The physiological impact of deep breathing, coupled with the cognitive component of focusing on something positive, provides a powerful technique that can change the way you feel. The technique is particularly effective in bringing about calm and joy if you do it a few times a day.”

Excerpt from Choose the Life You Want: The Mindful Way to Happiness , copyright © Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, 2014. See more.

kindness

Credit: Deborah Koff-Chapin

Her luminous gray eyes, firm
arms outstretched to break the fall
into self-loathing – Kindness;
wavy black hair hanging loose
yet serene, a playful wisp escaping
at the temple – Kindness; her easy smile
and intent listening to encourage
the doubting, lost and seeking.

Kindness lives, I think, in the woods,
grounded in seasoned wisdom,
deep-rooted in the core of life,
her cycles one with Mother.

Kindness lives, too, in the rolling ocean,
her eyes mirroring moon phases, skin
translucent mother of pearl, aglow as she
mermaid-flips across the surf buoyed and light
as a memoried beach day, eternal and true.

Kindness lives in air, on the in and out
of every breath; flows around feeling, gives
voice to the possible, reminds
us to choose; she glides, slides, invisible
yet present in every moment.

Kindness lives in fire
forged of wisdom, her flame
drawing us onward when the way
is dark, the path alight with her
strength and example.

Only Kindness tucks us in at night, opens
our morning eyes with wonder
and gratitude for the gifts of each day,
blessing us along our way.

swb

i love this world, but not for its answers*

I love this world but not
for its answers. I love it
for its unbounded possibility, its
open-hearted vistas and ocean expanse, its bordered meetings
of rock and plant, the unexpected ways a sunset can dip and grace
an otherwise dull day; for
the surprise of sweet narcissus
emerging from late snow; hope
and optimism of cycles, turning,
predictability and surprise
of trust, not knowing
and faith.

I love this world, not for its answers
but questions that lead us forward
and in, that lead us to learn from
earth and star, the unique and cosmic;
to practice seeing gratitude grow into truth –
right relationship with all life.

I love this world for being alive.
For its challenge, comfort,
its steadfast presence.
Though it holds horrors
that never should have been borne,
that can drag us down, distort
and destroy; though it does
not always answer – yet
its inherent good lives.
And for this, fI love this world.

*with thanks to Mary Oliver, ‘Snowy Night’; an in-class fast-write from a girls’ circle that feels like a natural follow-on to Friday’s post.