Monday, May 30, 2016

Mindful Monday- Listening To My Ancestors

Remembering The Soldiers Whose Lives Were Forever Altered By The Threat of Combat

   Today is Memorial Day and I have stopped to listen to my ancestors. I looked through old photograph albums to find our soldiers. The first was August Lindner, my great- grandfather, who must have been in the Prussian army. I don't know much of his story but I suspect he was very proper as he taught my grandmother to be. He had 10 children, eight of them were girls.

August Friedrich Lindner (1841-1921)

Walter Paul Betterman (1912-1996)

This is my uncle Walter. He came to America twice to visit and I found him to be a very practical, logical man. He left a personal history and I loved this paragraph describing the feelings he had being finally released as a prisoner after WW2.

"On a Saturday afternoon I arrived, seeing the Hirschberg valley before me with the Polish Eagle on top of the City building. I will never forget this view, even having the the Riesenggebirge panorama in the background. On this Saturday I crossed paths with my youngest sister Marta, and on the same evening my mother and sister Hanna, and early Sunday morning I was with my wife and children. As no-one knew whether I was alive or dead, the surprise was impactful. Ulrich played in front of the house. He was four and a-half and knew who I was immediately."

Erich Titze (1915-1939)
My uncle Erich lasted only one day, dying in Poland the day after he arrived there. I met his grandson two years ago and thought how he would have loved knowing his progeny.

Kurt Titze (1911-1977)

My father left a journal which gives much more detailed information about his war experiences. When I read his words I can hear his voice and I remember how he wanted me to understand. He wasn't just trying to be honest but he wanted us to understand how he viewed his life.

    "As we approached the battle front we were shot at with MG's. Many soldiers left the train to fight but we went deeper into the Russian woods until we were only 50 miles outside of Moscow. We saw the tops of the tanks which were lined up along then streets of Moscow.
    The assault on Moscow failed and the German soldiers had to retreat into the winter landscape. Many had frostbite and some froze to death. Then we marched two days and two nights up along the road. We saw suffering and malnutrition. The front came closer as we marched. Sometimes we had to lie in the snow lie sardines on bales of straw. If you asked how we endured I would say you become like an animal. The greatest joy is eating and resting even if it is in the mud. There was nothing that warmed the heart more than obtaining food. We saw patriots who were hanged from trees. 
    We found an old hut by a farmhouse and started a small fire inside for warmth. The walls were covered with newspaper clippings to keep out the light. These small fires would give us a little light to read or to search for lice or fleas. We had to leave because the hut burned to the ground. 
   Lying along the roadway would be Russian women and their naked children. The German soldiers took the bread crumbs away from these starving Russians. Horseflesh was a delicacy. We cut trees and built bunkers. Once two children walked out from the front line. A ten-year old had a gun shot wound. The other child, a 14 year-old girl, was being dragged by her pig-tails because these children were thought to be spies.
     The weather was often wonderful sunshine and sometimes the front was quiet. Disease spread everywhere and I was overcome. I began to retain water and my skin was swollen as if it would pop. The water retention went away but I was not healthy for six months. Some comrades died. 
     The greatest joy of my life came when I was shipped home to recover in a hospital back in my homeland. I was finally back in civilization where I could sleep between sheets,have light to see, and someone waiting upon me. Soldiers live in such filth day in and day out.  Month after month we patrolled the front line and became hardened to our condition. But my situation changed. For two weeks I lay in a hospital in a fortification in Konigsburg."

  This is where my mind wanders today as I learn to listen. I'm trying to stay mindful of what my ancestors wanted to leave behind for my benefit. 

May is a month to explore listening. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.

Friday, May 27, 2016


                                  Be of Good Cheer

    I find those words in many places in scripture. The context is usually that the world is a difficult place but we have not been forgotten and help is all around us. I do find solace in these words. But I feel there is a reaching needed to trust them. I suspect the presence of the Savior is not up high but still I feel a need to reach to feel him. Reaching puts me in readiness to receive. The support I need will not just fall on me. Arms outstretched shows I am acting. I am acting in faith that I can be of good cheer because he has not forgotten me.

  And now behold, the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also. Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves--to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.

                      2 Nephi 10:22-23

I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mindful Monday- Listening To Music

                        Mindful Monday- Listening

                     "Music is What Feelings Sound Like"
  This past week music has risen in my mindfulness experiences. Music is a constant in my life as I teach piano everyday. It is imperative that I listen carefully to understand what my students are trying to express and for me to diagnosis issues to improve their playing. Often I find myself listening with even more intention. An opera was on our week's activities. My husband is a fan of Amanda Forsythe who happened to be singing at the University. I listened so intently at the quality of their superb voices, at the french lyrics, and at the orchestral sounds coming from the pit. All of it was amazing and lovely, but I found my mind getting restless. Used to making up stories, my mind needed some help and so I turned to my meditation skills. Breathing was very helpful. Soon I could fully engage back into the music.
    Here are some ideas to make listening to music more enjoyable.

  1. Listen to music as foreground 
  2. Notice how music makes your body feel
  3. Listen to an entire album, instead of a playlist of many different types of music. 
  4. Be aware of dynamic changes and the emotions coming through the pieces.

  Below is a video of Emil Gilels playing Bach Prelude in B minor, arranged by Siloti in the 1800's. I am currently learning to play this piece. It requires intense listening. The second time through something magical happens. Gilels emphasizes the accented notes differently and an intensity comes through which makes my heart resonate to the emotions coming from the performer who is in such complete command of his instrument. 


     As I am playing this piece everyday I hear it in my mind as an ear worm. It colors my day. You could say it has become a soundtrack to the week. The tension and release of these phrases feel familiar to daily life. You might think this piece is melancholy but I find it affirming. It reassures me that discomfort is replaced with calm and in the end peace comes. The last chord is a major chord which sets all things right.
"Spiritual evolution is the automatic consequence of watching the mind..The reason for mindfulness is to bring one into the present moment and learn to stay there so that one can allow the Divine Presence to manifest itself through us in each moment. That presence is activated by our continual awareness and intention to let it be manifested in each action."
                                                           David R. Hawkins

May is a month to explore listening. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Expect To Lose

                   Fourteen Youth and Seven Adults

   This morning my granddaughter and I attended a youth scripture chase activity. It happens once at the end of the school year of high schoolers going to an early morning religion class. During that time they learn, understand , and apply 25 scriptures which highlight gospel teaching. This year was an Old Testament year. 

   I encouraged seven friends, some who have children in seminary, to give the teenagers some extra enthusiastic fun by competing against them. We had four months to learn the scriptures, practice finding them in our bibles, and understand their true meaning.

   It was hard. I expected to be royally beaten. But, my granddaughter told me she didn't think very many youth were prepared. I started feeling over confident. We chased with different categories. Key words, associating objects with a scriptures, matching principles, arranging words into correct order, all different ways of chasing into the book and finding the right reference on the written page. We started off slow and the kids jumped ahead. My team scrambled to turn thin, onion skin pages to the right place. Finally we scored as we sorted Jeremiah 1:3 into correct order. Nevertheless, the daily practice of study gave our opponents the edge. They knew their verses better and as expected, they won. 
  This is such a great activity. It is a joy to see youth fully engaged in the word of God and cooperating to bring everyone to the same place.

                                    Everyone Wins

I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Mindful Monday- Listening To The Experts Talk About Mindfulness

           Reading and Listening to The Wisdom of Others is the First Step

   Mindfulness is finding a home in so many diverse places. Christian contemplative prayer, Buddhist traditional teachings, secular work to strengthen the ability for happiness, even football teams are hiring mindfulness coaches to improve player's inner life.There are so many voices with positive testimonies of the effects mindfulness has on our minds. I am sorting ideas, writing down quotes, and sifting through concepts. My study is still mostly in my head.

   Dr. Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and meditation teacher 

"Being mindful simply means having good control over your attention: you can place your attention wherever you want and it stays there; when you want to shift it to something else, you can.

  When your attention is steady, so is your mind; not rattled or hijacked by whatever pops into awareness, but stably present, grounded, and unshakable. Attention is like a spotlight, and what it illuminates streams into your mind and shapes your brain. Consequently, developing greater control over your attention is perhaps the single most powerful way to reshape your brain and thus your mind."

                             Moving the ideas to my heart is step two.

   It takes time for ideas to crack open my heart. I find that I need to prove to myself that I am fully committed. I want to trust that being mindful is not just a fad in my life. That is why I like my meditation app on my phone. To see that I have been in meditation practice for 12 hours since March is powerful to me. You see, I started with five minutes a day and that was difficult. 
  So, I'm listening to what my heart is saying about my new practice.  

When the heart is settled, the learning moves into the bones.

I see glimpses that this may be a lifelong practice. When I climb the stairs each morning to my little office space, light the candle, and settle in, I enjoy it.  Going up is a desire. My body is responding to the wonderful attention of being present. Listening to my body tell me that it needs shifting, or it needs a longer breath, or it needs to let go completely, is very satisfying. 
There are many expects, whose words enrich and enliven my practice but no expert is as instructive as my heart and body. They like mindfulness and I choose to go forward. 

May is a month to explore listening. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.

Join me in a wonderful class on self-compassion taught by Brené Brown and Kristin Neff, 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Grow In Trust

When we talk of trusting God, is it a fearful thing because we don't trust ourselves?

How might we grow to trust ourselves more?

  The "Anatomy of Trust" is a free online class which unpacks trust into smaller bites. If I were to place a marble inside a jar for every action that shows trust in myself how full would the jar become?  Here are seven ways we can grow in trust.

  1. Boundaries that are reasonable to follow
  2. Reliability in the commitments I make
  3. Accountability for my mistakes and successes
  4. Vault like integrity for things that should not be shared
  5. Integrity to live by my values
  6. Non-judgement of myself when I fall
  7. Generosity towards myself and kindness towards others
   I believe I see growth in my reliability towards myself and the accountability I feel to my own decisions. It is almost three years of going to the gym three times a week. Years of choosing consistent writing and making art. I've learned to put off the temptation to use informations about others to promote intimacy. I can catch myself and turn my mean spirited self-talk to more compassionate conversation. I feel like I'm growing. There are more marbles in my jar. With that growth I can turn to my Heavenly Father and trust that I can keep his commandments better. I want Him to trust me.

 I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mindful Monday- Listening Without An Agenda

"Genuine listening means suspending memory, desire, and judgement-and for a few moments at least, existing for the other person."
Michael P. Nichols, PhD "The Lost Art Of Listening"

   Isn't it hard to listen well. Suspending memory, desire and judgement seems almost herculean. I believe if I had a more disciplined mind I would be more able to focus and really listen. My acupuncturist likes my yearly mindfulness plan and when I mentioned that the month of May was all about listening she gave me some sage advise.

She assured me that it is part of being human to listen with an ear for how the conversation affects us. What is in this conversation for me? Why not use that tendency and tweak the motivation to assert that this conversation has something important for me to hear and listen for that information. The speaker becomes important to us and our attention moves more genuinely to the speaker.

"When listening is genuine, the emphasis is on the speaker, not the listener."

As a teacher I observed that it took almost two years before my attention shifted from my own lesson plan to the student's comments and concerns. I still remember one evening, while processing my teaching day, recalling almost all the comments of my student. Previously I recalled only my own teaching moments. It is an act of faith to suspend the teaching plan and really listen to a comment and then move to respond in an appropriate direction even if that means leaving the plan temporarily. 

"However it's phrased, a good listener's response makes you feel understood and invites you to say more."

Are you aware of people who make it easy to talk to them? They seem to have a genuine curiosity and seem to ask follow-up questions. Here are some samples. 

"Gee, you have a headache? When did it start?"

"Can't decide what to wear? What were thinking of wearing?"

"You hate your staff meetings? What are they like?"

" What's been going on that makes you feel you do twice the work?"

This month I would like to pay closer attention to my conversations, especially with my grandchildren. They speak quickly and softly and I work to catch the full meaning of their words. The payoff is that I know more about their life and can be influential in certain situations. My husband's long, long, explanations of his projects can be tedious but I will try to catch the main ideas because I love seeing his eyes light up with delight when a job works out. 

May is a month to explore listening. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.

Join me in a wonderful class on self-compassion taught by Brené Brown and Kristin Neff, 
Starts May 16, click here for more information.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fear Of Missing Out

                 I don't want to go but, I don't want to stay

       Do you know that feeling? The door is wide open but you are sure you don't want to go. Yet, if you don't go, will everyone else be having more fun than you? The mental anguish is maddening. Nothing seems satisfactory. You feel like a loser no matter what you do. That is FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out. It affects the young and the old alike. It comes from having too many options. Or, maybe it comes from having no options. I don't really know. All I know is that it stinks. 

    It makes me check Facebook to see if anyone is doing something special. It makes me wonder if my ordinary life could possibly be fulfilling. I should turn FOMO upside down and come to the realization that there is Fear Of More Options. When I moved to an Island I couldn't believe that there were only two grocery stores. I went to the mainland every week to shop the specials. But my budget showed my mistaken thinking. I was spending more "saving money" than just shopping at the slightly more expensive local store. More options doesn't mean happiness.

Contentment is having enough even when others have more.

  I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mindful Monday- Listening To Birds

Mindful Monday- Listening

"Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
  and while the young lambs bound,
   as to the tabor's sound....
No more shall grief of mine the seasons wrong...
                  William Wordsworth, Intimations Of Immortality

   Closing my eyes, I make my way up the stairs to the office. I like trusting my body's memory when I climb. In the dark of early morning I search for the match box and light the candle. Light flickers around the still room. Carefully I push the window open, just a little. The world is still quiet at 4:45 am. Today I am meditating on bird songs. I completely relax and allow my ears to ready themselves for the eventual "dawn chorus". First the sound is far away and then a young dapper robin opens with gusto. He announces that he has survived the night and is by far the most able, handsome, musical fellow anywhere. He has some competition but each time he rises in a more fevered pitch. 
  I meditate on the most divine bed, legs curled up under me in wide-legged position. This month I am listening better, more often, and with more attention. A bee strolls in the open window and catches my ears. Before I have to move to escort him out he quickly escapes.  

I'm learning.
  My three keys to a peaceful life are emerging as, meditation, mindfulness, and self-compassion.

"And so we, like the poet, can begin to perceive that our everyday mind is a small fallible part of our awareness. We can become aware of a presence that essential you but at the same time inconceivably greater than you. This is the great consolation of feeling that we are part of divinity."
                                                                 M. Catherine Thomas

May is a month to explore listening. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.

Join me in a wonderful class on self-compassion taught by Brené Brown and Kristin Neff, 
Starts May 16, click here for more information.