Re-defining Spiritual Community

After more than a year of planning, 2020 began with great expectations for launching New Thought Grand Valley as a new Religious Science spiritual community. Since January, however, interest in creating the organization has ebbed and flowed in the hearts of our core founders. I’m familiar with the efforts involved to build such an organization from the ground up… not something I want to do alone.

I continue to nourish the vision of a vibrant, community-based, mission-centric Religious Science home, one that welcomes all who wish to participate and contribute their time, talents, and treasure. In order to start where I am, I began holding a weekly discussion/class night at my house. Participants came each week to grow in consciousness. Two students expressed spiritual education goals toward seeking specific credentials.

Then COVID-19 arrived.

In the midst of this unplanned retreat, the expansion of possibilities appeared. The weekly group now meets via ZOOM. We’re gaining more technical skills, staying connected, and growing in consciousness. We connect in the cloud, face-to-face and heart-to-heart in the digital realm. A spiritual community is taking shape.

I like the ZOOM format. And because there are no transportation issues or geographic limits for student participation, it’s become my preferred teaching method. I’m doing what I love best as a minister – teaching. I’m developing more curriculum and will submit courses for consideration as part of Emerson’s Distance Learning list. Also, I’ve been accepted by Emerson as a member of their “Faculty.” That page on their website should soon be updated. In this way, I can serve both local or remote students and even mentor some along their spiritual path.

Learn. Study. Teach. Share. Repeat.

The next series (“The 5 Love Languages”) originally scheduled for the last half of May HAS BEEN CANCELED. This is an easy, yet meaningful, three-week series to offer since the author (Gary Chapman) provides access to all the materials via his website (study guides, profile/quiz, books for purchase). With so many people “forced” into quarantine, it seems like a good time to re-examine our personal relationships.

What about the future of the new church? I don’t know. I remain somewhat detached from the outcome.

Meanwhile, there is nothing lacking in my life. While I’ve published two books in the past two years, I have several other manuscripts in development. I’m part of the leadership team for a local, 43-year-old Interfaith group, which is entering another stage of expansion and evolution. There are multiple projects around the house.

COVID-19 caused the world to slow down in many ways, but not here. This time of reflection and contemplation, of re-evaluating what’s important, of what’s mine to do, has brought my life new energy and focus. I am in constant gratitude for the time and space this retreat has provided… to make new decisions and to consider another meaning for “spiritual community.”

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Our Responsibilities with Death

Today my husband and I had one of those “difficult” conversations. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic affecting the globe and hearing about thousands of people dying, I insisted that we review our Wills and other final documents. While there is some comfort in knowing we made certain arrangements a dozen years and five house moves ago, clearly it’s time for an update.

The subject of our eventual death need not be one we avoid nor approach with overwhelming emotion. The fact is we are all going to die at some point. It’s just a matter of when and how. We may not have control over either of those decisions, but we can make known to family, friends, or an attorney our wishes about certain things being done upon our exit from this life. It is the responsibility of each individual to determine his/her final wishes in the last chapter of one’s life story.

Eckhart Tolle said, “Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.”

Let me make something clear: I love my life. I LOVE my life! It is better now than it’s ever been. While certainly there are some experiences I would never have consciously chosen for myself, I’m grateful every day for the journey that brought me to this place and time.

And I take care of myself in a way that supports my body for a long experience on this planet. I still have much to do and be before I make my transition from this plane to whatever is beyond this earthly existence. Any fear of death I carried into adulthood continues to be replaced by decades of studies in world religions, death traditions, rituals, beliefs, and spiritual growth. And, yes, I do believe the soul or essence of who we are continues in another realm or dimension. It’s a mystery and a future adventure.

Meanwhile, as we practice social distancing, personal retreats, or self-quarantines, and follow the guidelines to keep one another healthy and safe, I believe it is also important to be practical, responsible, for any unforeseen (but possible) situations… death being one of them. As the number of deaths from this virus increase each day, it can be difficult to consider we could become part of those statistics. However, currently we’re part of the living and that provides us with an opportunity to be responsible adults.

Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science, wrote in the Science of Mind textbook in the chapter on Immortality some of my favorite lines of this philosophy: “And so we prepare not to die, but to live. The thought of death should slip from our consciousness altogether; and when this great event of the soul takes place, it should be beautiful, sublime . . . a glorious experience. As the eagle, freed from its cage, soars to its native heights, so the soul, freed from the home of heavy flesh, will rise and return unto its Father’s house, naked and unafraid.”

For me, preparing “not to die, but to live…” means that I take care of those tasks, documents, directions, expenses, etc. that are mine to do. This includes my funeral arrangements, cremation, designation or distribution of personal items, and so forth. No one can guess what I have in mind unless I write it down and offer some directions. I believe my wishes will be honored by those who I’ve entrusted with such requests. And, the thing is, once everything I need to clarify and list and label is recorded and shared appropriately, I can focus on Life and all it still offers.

A few years before my father died, he shared with me certain things he wanted to have done after he was gone. His list was not a long one. Unfortunately, he didn’t write down what he had shared with me. Then another family member took control of his life and finances in those final months. While more than two years have passed since he made his transition, I intend to honor him and his verbal requests as best I can, and in more ways than he originally suggested.

The 2017 experience with my father’s death and his unfulfilled final requests inspired me to create a “Funeral Planning Workbook.” It has since been published (on Amazon) and used by a growing audience of folks, like me, who are willing to address their eventual death and consider what final arrangements are desired. In so doing, we are being accountable to ourselves by taking care of tasks NOW so that our families won’t need to be burdened with them later.

Whether you choose to purchase and utilize such a planning tool or start handwriting your list on a notepad, I encourage you… in these days of isolation, reflection, self-care, and with a focus on your health and longevity… give some thought and direction to what you can do to ease the burdens of those you will leave behind. You might discover ways to simplify life even further.

As we’ve seen on the news or in social media, this virus doesn’t care about your age, gender, social or economic status, race, profession, or where you live. So if you’re reading this, you still have time to complete a very important life task… and let someone (or two) know where to find your final documents and instructions. Research online. Download templates to get started. Consult with legal professionals. File whatever forms are necessary by mail or email. And once it’s done, having considered the worst that could happen, you will have a better appreciation for this awesome experience called Life and can joyfully look forward to the best it has in store for you.

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The Gift of Time – a prayer

Right here, right now, is where God is. All I have is this moment – and then the next. Time expands and contracts as I need it and life unfolds in perfect order. The past is just a distant memory and the future is a window of possibilities. I have NOW! I have the crisp, fall days and the cool, moonlit nights. I watch the leaves turn from yellow to red to brown and slowly drift to the ground, from bare treetops to frosty grass below. The abundant flow of life is all around me and I am bathed in the generosity of Spirit. In this moment of absolute perfection, the bounty of God – all the time in the world – is presented to me as a gift. My gift.

I, too, am a gift, an expression of Spirit – unique, individual – and filled with all the qualities of God. Yes, I am one with Divine Mind – that timeless and eternal grace. And I am part of the changing seasons as autumn becomes winter – living in cycles – birth into death, and birth again. I am content to watch the leaves as they drift to the ground, each one also uniquely designed. I watch as each melds onto the ground to become united with those that have fallen beforehand. Connected, united, one. And soon the leaves become snowflakes and the cycle begins again.

And I recognize the eternal nature of this cycle of creation – spring and fall, birth and death, youth and the aged. These are not opposites but just one stage following another in a continuous cycle of life. Time is relevant only to humankind – and I have all the time I need – to complete life’s goals, to serve my community, to express my full nature and gifts of God. I have Now. And in this moment is contained all the passion in my heart. My purpose for being – to use this moment for the truest expression of my God-self as I can imagine.

My heart overflows with gratitude and love. I give thanks daily for the God expression that is Me – for the time I have to be in this magnificent experience called Life – for all those individuals who come in and out of my days like so many leaves blowing across the field – for the abundance and prosperity that continues to pour forth into my experience like the generous harvest of old. Thank you, Spirit!

So, I release these words to Law and anticipate their return in even greater expression as they fill all the voids many times over. I let go and let God direct the leaves in the wind, the cycles of the moon, the beating of my heart, and the tick of the clock. Right here, right now, I am content. I simply allow and let it be.

And so it is.

(a spiritual mind treatment / affirmative prayer written by Carla Ryan in 2006 as part of her Religious Science Practitioner studies)

RULE #6: Take Care of What You Have

It had finally gotten so bad that I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to clean out my large truck/SUV (it’s a Suburban).

For over a year I had been looking in the rear-view mirror at my grandson’s toddler fingerprints spread generously across the back window. He and his sister and their parents had moved to another state several months earlier and I’d kept the window unwashed as a reminder of their presence in my heart, always with me. Now, finally, I took pictures of one handprint silhouetted by the sun before the glass cleaner wiped it away. And then the cleaning began in earnest.

By the time I finished the interior, exterior, wheels and floors and glass, I was in love with my truck again. Yes, it’s 10 years old. And, yes, I still have a few more payments on it before it’s finally, really mine. But the process of its rejuvenation brought me closer to its attributes and reminded me why I bought it in the first place: the roominess of three rows of seats plus space for the dog…the sturdiness of it…the secure and safe feeling I get while riding in it or driving with my family…the leather interior…the built-in DVD player in the backseat (wish I had that when I was a kid)…the wonderful stereo system for listening to children’s rhyming songs…the way the gray color never shows the dirt… seat heaters…air conditioning…low miles…dependability.

The clean results reminded me that, as long as I take care of this vehicle, inside and outside, this might actually be the last one I ever need to buy. I found comfort in that idea. And it led me to others like it.

  • As long as I take care of my home, it will likely stand longer than I do and the improvements will bring new comfort, generous memories, and improved value.
  • As long as I pay attention to my friendships and family relationships, they can go on and on for as long as one remains.
  • As long as I maintain my gardens with the proper nourishment of soil and fertilizer, the seasons will take the plants from seed to harvest to compost; the growth and beauty will last and expand year after year.
  • As long as I continue to hone my skills and creative talents, my work – whatever it is – will continue to evolve until I my interests change and I choose another direction. Yet my creative nature will always be a part of who I am.
  • As long as I take care of what I have, it will be part of my life.

And by taking care of what I have, I’m sending a message to Universal Intelligence that I’m worthy of more Good. Since I can be trusted to take care of what I already have …whether it’s a personal attribute or a material possession …I believe that other opportunities and wealth of various sorts will come my way …that the richness of life is attracted to what I already possess like metal to a magnet.

It’s said “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.” (Matt. 13:12) This finally made sense to me.

Besides, why would we NOT want to take care of what we already have or possess? Financial wisdom dictates that we would want to make last what we have, what we’re using, for as long as we can so that our resources can go further for other purposes. Also I want the people around me to feel welcome and loved, to experience community and interaction. I choose to grow and expand in consciousness of all kinds, in skills of all kinds and levels, and in a variety of interests.

Rule #6: Take care of what you have …brings with it a feeling of gratitude …for all the Good already in your life and what more is sure to come along.

Taking care of this big old truck is like taking care of the precious memories that filled its seats with the laughter and love of my grandchildren. It holds the possibility that one day they will again ride in the back seat, watch one of their old movies, and hear stories about the handprints on the window. Maybe they’ll even remember. I’d welcome that kind of Good – and more – any day!

RULE #5: Contentment is Completion

Do you recall the feeling you experienced the last time you FINALLY finished something? Maybe you made that phone call… or you wrote that paper… or you finished up a chore that’s been staring you in the face for days or weeks. Whatever step of the project or however long it had been weighing on your mind, the moment, the very second it’s done, there’s a breath that escapes the body. It’s a physical indication that says, “Whew! That’s done!”

There’s contentment in that moment of awareness when you complete some portion of interest in your life. Think about it.

You might plan to do a bit of yard work, just a small task in the overall scheme of things. Until you do it, you carry that project around in your mind, and maybe your muscles, until you finally go outside and get it done. Your whole body relaxes with the knowing that it’s “off your list.” You look around at how nice it looks. You might even start fantasizing about what you’re going to do next. Maybe.

Or you say you’re going to call your mom or dad or distant child, but keep putting it off until you get one more thing done, when the moment is right…except, you can’t really concentrate on those other tasks or might not even feel good about doing them, because of the nagging voice in your head, reminding you of the one really important call to make. And you know how happy you are when you finally make that call? Even if all you can do is to leave a voice mail message? Yeah…that’s the feeling of contentment.

Whether the plans before you are to go watch a special movie, read a book, go for a walk, practice the piano, take a class…or…involves more long-term goals like finish your degree, start a business, write a book, go on vacation, plan a wedding, or build a house… the level of contentment can vary and often mirrors the magnitude of the endeavor.

Frankly, I’ve become so enamored by the feeling of contentment (call it an addiction, if you will) that it now motivates me to complete whatever I can each day and then pause for a moment of recognition… not only to celebrate all that’s been released from my consciousness, but also to check-in with whatever weight I might still be carrying around, and to address it right then and there. Additional release might involve scheduling the task on my calendar or to dismiss it from my mind’s ownership altogether.

I’m making progress. I’m getting my things done. And I’m minding my own business about what I think others are supposed to be doing. I’m connecting with loved ones and art and nature more often. My life has become fuller, healthier, and less stressful. My self-esteem is stronger; I’m more confident. The nagging critical voice in my head is quieter. My energy is going in a positive direction and the results are, well, amazing! Contentment IS completion.

Give it a try. Pick something on the “I’ve got to get this done list” in your head and finish it! Then, stop for a moment… and notice how your body’s tension on that matter disappears, how the ego voice fades into the distance, and how your soul just beams with satisfaction. My guess is it won’t be long before you to want to repeat that feeling of happy contentment and complete something else. Go ahead. What a great way to live life!

RULE #4: Watch Your Feet

Rule #4 is about setting boundaries and moving forward… thus it’s important to watch your feet, to know where to place them metaphorically, what your personal limits are, or where you would “draw the line in the sand” in any given situation. We all have limits. We are in charge of choosing our direction, too. It just depends what the situation is or who is involved as to what each of those might be.

Years ago I had the opportunity to dabble in the sport of rock climbing, mostly bouldering. The highest cliff I faced was only 30 to 40 feet high. Put a few of those on top of each other and you have a good-sized mountain.

However, my goal was not to climb Mt. Everest. I simply wanted to get over my fear of heights and this seemed like a logical way to do it. Through the guidance of a qualified instructor and lots of practice, I learned the importance of where to place my hands and feet… one hand, one foot at a time.

Each foot placement was important no matter how high off the ground I was. Each solid step onto the side of the rock meant that I could move up, down or sideways in the direction of my choosing. I then could reach out with my hand and grab hold of even the smallest protrusion to give myself balance and additional stability while each foot, in turn, found the next foundation of support. There was a very good chance that, if my foot slipped, my hand or fingers may not hold my body’s weight and I could fall. The rope was the backup plan, not something to swing from or rely upon.

I faced my fear. Through repeated movements (and instruction and rope/harness gear) I gained the confidence that allowed me to move from bouldering two feet off the ground to climbing a 40-foot cliff. I became strong in body and spirit. I discovered my physical limits and mental boundaries. I was humbled by the rock and empowered by the experience. I grew in self-assurance and faith and moved forward in other life challenges.

We have limits all around us. There are financial limits… how much money you choose to spend on something; what you’re willing to loan to a family member. There are relationship limits… what you’re willing to contribute emotionally to a partner; how long you tolerate a certain unacceptable behavior of a spouse or child. There are many opportunities that prompt a person to stand up to a situation and say “Enough is enough!”

But do you have limits to how much Good you’re willing to let into your life? Do you put a cap on a great idea because of fear? Are there things that would really help you or improve your life but you’re not willing to accept them for yourself? Where do you “stand” in your core values and beliefs?

Setting boundaries or limits can do two things: 1) keep something away that could harm us; or 2) keep us away from our own Good. It’s important to recognize the difference and to know when to change the situation as needed for our highest and best experience.

For most of us…Feet are the body’s instrument upon which we stand. Feet are strong enough to hold up our bodies for hours every day. Feet are the tools that help us drive our cars – accelerator or brake – go forward or stop. Feet are the means that allow us to move in the world, to get from one place to another and to change course at will. Feet move us in many directions and can traverse all types of terrain. Feet provide us with the awareness of a solid foundation, balance, and stability.

Watch your feet. Give yourself the best foundation you’re able. Know your boundaries and move forward in life with confidence and faith.

RULE #3: Maintain Order

If you look around in the world of Mother Nature (the Universe), you will find a natural order to life. One season follows another. A seed comes before the mature plant and before the blossom or fruit. Day and night may happen simultaneously, but only on opposite sides of the planet. A baby learns to roll over or crawl before it can walk. We learn simple math or grammar skills before moving on to more complex concepts. The point is there is a natural order to life.

The same can be said for the way we grow spiritually. We must have some type of awareness or yearning, something that beckons our attention about God before we open our minds to more expansive investigation of the spiritual or religious realm. There is an order to the way we deepen our understanding. There is an order, a process, in the development of our beliefs …in the way we pray and the depth to which we go …in how we connect with Divine Intelligence.

What I have discovered for myself and from what other spiritual seekers have shared is that whatever idea of God was learned in childhood was eventually put under the microscope of doubt …at least for awhile.

Whether it was in the inquisitive teenage years when everything that our parents taught was tossed aside and relearned later …or whether we just forgot about it until those middle-age years when the idea of mortality becomes more of a reality of living.

There’s an order, a progression, a process of learning and exploring and understanding that builds upon itself in a step-by-step fashion of testing, acceptance, and trust.

We don’t (usually) become suddenly enlightened about the entire spiritual realm all at once. We journey into that head and heart and soul space one tentative step at a time. Each bit of information that can be tested, is. Each book or lecture or teacher than can be challenged, is. We do this until we’re sure it’s time to take the next step. Rarely do we run with complete abandon head-on towards God until the path has first been tested.

Perhaps the order we’re compelled to test and then maintain is really to offset the chaotic questioning provided by the doubting ego. In its attempt to remain in control of our fears and thinking patterns, it tosses dust storms of doubt in front of us and obscures our vision to see ourselves as more than just a trembling human body in this world of challenge and triumph. In an effort to break free of the chaos and the distorted view, to discover something bigger than ourselves, we begin to accept an invisible and powerful nature that lives in us and in everyone else. The Power back of all things.

Through a greater awareness and a trust in the Divine, we open ourselves to greater potentiality and find we can create a life of unlimited possibilities, one step at a time. We maintain order. We discover peace in the confusion and purpose in the fragments of our focus. The puzzle of our life is put together and we embrace the loving truth within our own beautiful soul.

Spirit is always there, waiting for our willingness to connect and explore. It is the order of things, now …and yet to come.

Rule #2: There are NO “do-overs” in Life

Have you ever heard the lesson about how each time you step into a stream, it’s a different stream? This lesson speaks to the fact that the water in the stream is different, the rocks on the bottom may have moved, the temperature can vary, the way you walk may be unusual, and even your perspective of how you view the stream can be different from the first time it happened.

With this idea in mind, it occurred to me that Life is like that, too. We may repeat habits or patterns, think similar ideas, have on-going behaviors or relationships that don’t change for years…or so we lead ourselves to believe. The fact is, we change from minute to minute. We become wiser, more experienced, more aware.

A first-time endeavor is only a “first-time” once. Your first day of work happens only once, no matter how long you’re there or how many different jobs you have. A first kiss can happen just one time.

You can certainly repeat the experience with different people or places of employment, thereby experiencing the “newness” of that particular incident with other variables, but you cannot go back to that first time of anything or go back in time to repeat a specific act because time keeps passing on. Once something has been done, you cannot go back in time and do it over. The next time you repeat a behavior or experience is brand new and in a new moment.

As chronological time passes, this new, NOW moment is really all we have to work with. We may gain much experience and wisdom about how to do things, how the world works, and hopefully who we are as a person. However, there is absolutely no way to go back and do anything over again without having the memory, wisdom or experience of having done that something before.

Life has no do-overs. Not really. What you DO have is the ability to do things better the second or third or fourth time around. You may get lots of practice in certain endeavors, yet each is happening in a brand new moment with a greater (albeit familiar) sense of understanding about that activity. Each new moment, each new experience, comes with the opportunity to create anew!

You don’t have to do things the same way time after time. Life…Creation…God…certainly does not. We’re told that EVERY snowflake is of a unique design. So is EVERY human being on earth. Trees and animals may share a species name, and even look quite identical, but I would venture to say that even those creations are unique in their existence.

There are no do-overs in Life. No matter what has happened yesterday…no matter what messes or amends you may have to clean up…each moment of living is another opportunity to start over, to start fresh. What a gift that is! We’re not stuck in a rut unless we put ourselves there…with old thought patterns and ways of being. Who would really want to have everything be the same forever anyway!

The first thing we can change is our perspective, our way of viewing Life. Begin there. Change your thinking and see how it impacts the moments you’re living…one by one…each as bright with possibilities as the sunrise. Step into the light. Clear away old, stuffy ways of creating and being and doing. Build from them, remember what still provides direction and is valuable to you. Step into the stream of Life and surrender to the Now!

Rule #1: Consider fully the seeds you plant

It’s summer and, thus, gardening season for me. I spend most early mornings outside with a shovel, dirt, plants, and many ideas. The time with Mother Nature is very healing and also inspiring, providing answers and guidelines by which to live all parts of life. So, today begins my “List of Rules” by which to live and create a life of quality, simplicity, balance, and wholeness.

Gardening (and Life) Rule # 1 : Consider fully the seeds you plant.

Seeds, like thoughts, have far-reaching effects once they take root. I’m not talking about the fleeting thoughts, the ones that are gone as fast as they arrive, but the ones that you continue to mull over in your brain and that take root in your being. You start talking about them with your family and friends or posting them on social media…and then you begin to live them out loud.

By the time you get to the point where you are endorsing your thoughts and ideas with action, I would pray that the effects of your behavior are positive and uplifting rather than hurtful or intrusive.

Years ago I planted a lovely shrub, known as Russian Sage. This plant is drought tolerant, rabbit resistant, and self-propagating. It has oily, light green leaves and stems with small purple flowers similar to lavender, including its scent. The shrub can grow to a height and width of about two feet. And then the baby shrubs start showing up.

Left unattended for the most part, which I did for several years, the baby sage stems expand from the main plant at what seems to be an amazing rate…until at last…they’re growing in the grass, the flower beds, between rocks, and everywhere their underground root system can go.

All of a sudden (not really), this lovely shrub has become an invasive nuisance…simply because I was not paying attention to the way it was manifesting right in front of me. I did nothing about it and it took over. The effort to remove the additional growth as it was happening would have been relatively easy to do. However, after years of rampant expansion and unmonitored growth, digging out the deep and woody roots from the compacted clay takes hours and hours of difficult shoveling and intensive labor.

The same is level of effort is necessary in our human thinking when we discover certain patterns of thought are impacting our lives in unhealthy ways. It’s often hard work. Sometimes we need help.

We may need to have someone point out to us that a behavior or comment we make so casually is actually very hurtful, not funny, or unloving. Sometimes our reasons to “help” someone (especially with adult children) are actually a method to retain control over them. Whatever justification we tell ourselves to stay angry and resentful about something only plants deeper and more painful thorns of hurt around our lonely hearts. Left unchecked, such detrimental thoughts, words, and behaviors will eventually invade all areas of your life with sad and negative results.

The parent shrub I planted years ago was only doing what it was made to do: live, expand, blossom, etc. It did not require assistance from me to grow. Nothing negative about that.  It only became intrusive when I stopped paying attention to its patterns of growth and did nothing to correct it…up until now.

The same is true about a thought. Which ones are you paying attention to? Feeding and nurturing? Or weeding and removing (healing, forgiving) from your consciousness?

When I started this shrub-removal project a few days ago, I swore I’d NEVER plant that sage shrub again. I’ve changed my mind.  I will. I like the plant and the lessons it has provided. It is a “sage” after all. But it will be planted in a container that allows it to grow without becoming invasive and that I can more easily monitor.

Stay vigilant. Be aware. Make the effort to clean up those thoughts that no longer serve your highest Good, your God-Self. Consider fully the seeds you plant.

Finding Home

I find myself in a blissful state of gratitude these days. I’m filled with awe at the grace and abundance all around and in my life. I am surrounded by love and joy and a deep feeling of contentment for who and where I am.

It helps that the latest medical results from an overdue checkup validated what I knew to be true all along, that I am healthy in all areas of recent concern. However, I’ll admit that the confirmation brought a little sigh of relief to my lips and a deeper sense of peace to my mind.

It was in this state of appreciation for my body’s ability to heal itself (with conscious and positive support efforts from my daily habits) that I decided to take the long way home on my drive from the new medical center. I investigated the giant fieldhouse and park under construction on the west side of town. I passed the orange cones in one area, a sign that another road was being resurfaced. I could see raw wood on roofs in a growing subdivision across the valley. And as I drove through the historic part of town, new businesses were announcing their arrival in the community with banners and balloons.

Everywhere I turned there was a sense of growth and new life thriving in all its joyous glory! Perhaps it’s because summer is about to arrive, school is complete for the year, the sun is finally shining after days of clouds and tornado threats, outdoor activities are expanding, or a combination of all of it. I was part of the aliveness and added my own energy to the lovely day.

I have lived in this community almost 20 years. There are still many town events in which I have not participated. My preference has been to stay close to my own neighborhood, shop at the same favorite stores, walk the nearby paths, and listen to the distant highway traffic from the comfort of my lovely deck. This is generally all I need to satisfy the citizen part of me. No need to be in the thick of things. It’s enough to know they’re taking place.

Yet today I felt like I was involved and part of a bigger picture. I joined the throngs of town neighbors to support an annual event in the heart of town. It was a short walk from home. An easy commute. I like that there are times like these when I can say, “Why, I remember when…” and I become part of its history, part of the fabric from which a lovely tapestry is being fashioned. I’m going to do more of this.

No longer do I wish for a different or new place to live. If I want newness or a change of scenery, all I need do is take the long way home and open my eyes. In fact lately I’ve become resistant to ideas of moving or traveling afar; there’s still so much to see and do right here. I long for the presence of family members who have recently moved to other states, but I no longer wish to follow them. I’m not done here yet.

This is where I find sanctuary and rest. This is where I’ve done so much healing and growing, with more to accomplish. This is where I love to explore and have learned to thrive. This is my community. I’m finally home.