The Strengthening Power of Silence


unknown photographer

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing  and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”~Rumi


I’ve said I’ve felt “all alone” before, even recently.

Truth be told, I never feel alone.

I may feel alone in my values, alone in my convictions, alone in my stand, but I never feel like I’m unsupported or without comfort.

There is something so powerful being connected to nature. People come and go – each living a life that intersects mine randomly, but nature stands still. It’s energy is intense and vibrant, reflecting and emanating only truth. That’s very comforting. That’s very energizing.

Those who can’t feel things like trees reaching down, grass breathing upward, flowers exhaling , or wind dancing, miss the divine and eternal strength right before their eyes, under their feet, and messing with their hair.

When I pull into the parking lot of the beach I smile. There are so many secrets the ocean holds. Sitting in the sand and opening my mind to contemplate it’s stories, they start to unfold and entertain. But it speaks so softly one would say it doesn’t speak at all – that it’s silent.

There’s a lot to be said for silence. It protects the truth and veils the meaning of wonderful stories for those who are patient and desiring to delve deeper into the heart.

When I was a very little girl, until I was in my early 20’s, I was very quiet. I spoke when I had something to say. Otherwise, I watched, listened, danced and drew pictures of nature. The music and movement expressed my heart perfectly. The art expanded my mind to different worlds.

Then I started a family and had to learn the delicate and fascinating art of verbal communication.

Words. Endless words rearranged countless ways with different emotions sprinkled in to convey a heart that speaks a different language – one that nature understands, but loses a lot in translation. Years and years of words that go in circles around truth. Silent truth.

I’ve concluded that very few if any words are needed to convey truth. If one can’t feel your heart, words get in the way and complicate things.

It may be time for silence and more communion with nature.

That feels right.



I woke up at 3 am this morning because my new little kitties willed it to be so.

I walked through the darkness and made my way downstairs as they followed. I was on automatic again, doing my routine stuff when I opened the bathroom door and there they sat waiting for me. They looked up at me with big green eyes and I stopped and looked back at them. We made our way to my overstuffed chair in the living room and got comfortable – Onyx at my neck, Noir curled up at my feet. I listened as the slow purring started and immediately melted into the day. What a gift they have become. A gift of awakening in many ways. Their presence opened up my heart and gave me a few thoughts to share with you:

What if today you knew who you really were, where you came from, and what would make you feel connected and alive?

What if everything inside you shifted and your eyes were opened to see things as they really are…who YOU are?

What if you found a way to never be shaken from your center again – to feel so secure in the world that no matter the strength of the whirlwind circling you, you felt steadfast and immoveable even if you had to sit still with arms wrapped tightly around bruised knees, sitting on cold ground every once in a while?

I feel that way all the time.

I have a knowing inside that tells me I have “God DNA” and so do you. I’m made of the same stuff and come from the same place as joy and light and love. I am connected to all things and everyone as you are, too.

My gift is that I know it.

The ocean, the trees, the wind – they all know me, I think better than I know myself. I can feel it. On my walks or swims or even driving, when I open my spiritual eyes – the ones that have a veil over them that I have to consciously part – the world becomes a different and more real place. Everything in it is a teacher, a friend, a gift that reminds me of who I really am and why I’m here. I remember how precious and perfect each moment is, how incredible and unique every soul I meet or pass by is, and that I can deepen my joy as I choose to experience all of it as the spirit whispers how.

My challenge is that I forget that sometimes and I’m not sure how that happens. Maybe it’s supposed to be that way so that I’ll treasure remembering?

But when I remember, I feel it again. I feel the life in life. I see the beauty in the simple things. I once again know who I am.

And heaven smiles.

What If Today…You Just DID Something?


Photo by Suzanne Demello Livingstone, Photos by Suzanne

“So, do you want to do a Polar Plunge with me on New Year’s Day?”

“No!” she said as she continued to tread water in the warm, salt water, indoor pool.

I remember the thoughts I was entertaining like it was yesterday. But it was exactly a year ago that I was days away from joining my son at the beach at 5:30 am, New Year’s Day morning. The wind was blowing very cold and made the bare-footed walk on an icy parking lot very difficult. A friend joined us to take pictures, but all we really did at first was to laugh with and at each other because of the absurdity of what we were facing – a dark and churning ocean that seemed to be telling us to “Just go home already!”

A friend said to me over 20 years ago, “Betsy, you have a very small gap between thinking a thought and following through with it. I’ve never met anyone like you.” I wasn’t sure that was a compliment, but I became very aware over the years that the gap was widening and I justified every inch of space I’d allowed. I’d started to believe the illusion that my thoughts were actions. But they weren’t. They were just thoughts. Inside of them I was still an artist and a lover of life. Outside of them I was surviving, not really living. But I thought I had been. I felt happy enough. But I wasn’t really excited about life. I wasn’t really joyful. I was sort of sludgy. You know? Do you ever feel sludgy? Like everything’s fine but there’s this gnawing feeling in the back of your head that you’re not a kid anymore and that’s NOT a good thing?

And then came the struggle of wills on the beach.

That’s when I woke up.

We were tired, excited, scared, nervous, laughing, giddy….and paralyzed. We wrapped our towels tighter and shouted through the wind at each other.

“Come on! Let’s go!”

“NO WAY! It’s too cold!”

That’s when I knew who I was.

I was going in by myself because the torture of living with a thought that hadn’t been given wings was not an option. Not that day. And the ocean welcomed me,  punched me in the arm for laughingly cursing at it for licking me with its freezing waves, and thanked me for playing for a second, gently depositing me back on shore with a slap on the back for good measure.

And then I walked out to a new world where everything was possible again.

I was alive like I never had been before.

Colors, sounds, people, stuff – everything was richer. And I felt so calm inside. It was as if I’d fought a dragon and we’d both come away unscathed but stronger and happier.

Once a month I continued the plunges and waited for cold weather to return this November to resume them after a long stretch of lazy summer days. Starting in November I’ve been dipping every Saturday morning. I’ll continue my weekly plunges ’til June 1st, 2014.

I still hear about how cold it is and how I must be brave.

I’m not brave. I don’t know what brave is.

I was given the gift of a thought that was triggered by a memory that I decided to listen to.

So, I guess I’m grateful.

I’m grateful to have in front of me the gift of time to greet the cold water and colder air every Saturday until June 1, 2014.

I’m grateful to know that nothing about the experience will change, but I will be growing with each plunge as I follow through with the thought to “just do it.”

I’m grateful to live near the ocean, for cold wintry days, for bitter winds, for snow and ice – all the things that show up consistently to remind me that they are being themselves and it’s time to go on a spiritual journey of sorts and to see that….

under the fear

under the excuses

in spite of my tiredness, stress, and questioning attitude

in spite of all that and more, nature keeps doing what it does best…

to let me experience IT so as to better know who I AM. It’ll be interesting to see what we find. Don’t you think?

  • I’ll be posting on my Facebook page regularly (see the Facebook “like” box to the left of this post). If you’re in the area on Saturday mornings, I (sometimes we) dip at 10 am at Chapaquoit Beach, in West Falmouth, Ma.  It’s a great time and I’d love to share the experience with you!

What If Today…You Valued Monotony?

Woods at Walden Pond, two year abode of Thoreau

“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” ~ Albert Einstein

Really? Laundry? At 5 in the morning? Really?

It would be there later, whispering taunts from the basement, knowing I could hear it, laughing at my disdain for it.

It was so fun to ignore it. And it seemed somewhat important to ignore it, too. Who was really the boss here?

I’d descended the cellar stairs for one reason- to turn on the heat because my toes were getting cold as I sat at my computer. But the thought, “Why not?” tied itself to my ankle as I made my way to the furnace and the laundry flirtatiously pulled me back to the overloaded basket of ready-to-fold clothes.

The task was done in five minutes but not before I’d been reminded of something I’d known and lived for years: monotony never dies. It lives and grows after the newness of everything new and exciting wears off.

And there is a purpose and value in monotonous tasks: a slowing down and a deliberate simplicity is experienced in mundane and repetetive tasks.

But more than that, I felt alive and unburdened when I was finished.

How many times had I stood at a ballet barre knowing exactly what the instructor was going to tell us to do within seconds of her opening her mouth? We’d do the same thing every day for the first half hour, the music and the arrangement of movements being the only variations. Then we’d move into the center exercises, and finally onto choreographed work.

The pattern of the class never changed.

The work done there was  foundational to the dancer. It was where the root of all technical problems began and where we’d be sent to resolve them.

Everything of value was built on the strength of that foundation work.

For so many years I had the habit of waking at 5 am, robotically doing laundry first, then reading, writing in my journal and finding my thought for the day. My day would unfold around that one thought. I always felt peaceful because I’d finished what needed to be done and the rest of the day flowed joyfully and effortlessly. My day would always end around 7:30 when I’d crawl under the covers and relax with whomever showed up.

I’d taken the strength of that habit for granted. I’d let upheaval in my life distract me.

Yes, it seems monotonous and predictable. But so is nature in a way.

The sun rises and sets, life comes and goes, wind disrupts, rain feeds, light warms, and cold freezes.

It lives in the background, the foundation of my day. Every day.

Living a simpler life that allows for the mundane and important tasks of my day to be done joyfully is my goal. Those chores are not my life, but they are essential to the overall flow of it; I enter the rest of my day peacefully, having done “first things first” . I have to clarify that “chores” can mean anything from household chores, to prayer and journaling.

For some reason I’m drawn to thoughts of Thoreau’s  book, Walden, that I read when I was a teenager.  I’ll have to leave you to find the relationship between the following quote and my ponderings about monotony. Somehow they are related!

They must be or I wouldn’t have thought them both at the same time!

It might take me the day to make the connection…perhaps the cellar is my Walden? (I made myself laugh!)

Here’s the quote:

  I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.” (WaldenHenry David Thoreau, 1854, chapter 2)

I hope your day goes well – that you live it purposefully and simply. I hope that it feels like you have chosen a quiet and deliberate life, one that feels joyful to you.

I hope that you find purpose in the monotony…

What If Today…We Let Nature Heal?

‘Healing,’ Papa would tell me, ‘is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature.’

~ W.H. Auden

She’s here.

We know. We’ve been waiting.

The storm of cruelty came without warning and threatened to catch up with her unless she could outrun it.

Jumping out of her car she kicked off her shoes and made her way through the outstretched arms of the trees whose leaves tenderly wiped her tears, and apologized too late for unintentional scrapes from the branches that had the hope to caress and to soothe.

Pebbles, fallen sticks, and finally sand absorbed the weight of her burden as she trudged to the familiar spot.

She felt nothing.

Three layers of clothing were soaked through in minutes. She hugged her knees and stared at the horizon, refusing to shiver. The boulder of the ruin sat stalwart and brave with her until she started to feel its roughness under her numbing hands and stood to follow the pull of heart strings that were longing to join the song of the sea.

Taking its cue from the wall where she stood, the waves whispered melodiously over and over again, breaking the hypnotic spell for the first time since she’d arrived.

The barnacles of the jetty rock breathed a collective sigh, welcoming her as she dangled her sandy feet in the only home they’d ever known.  The rock lay bare and open to the water that poured from her hands, and the  trickles sang a complementary cadence with the  water that ebbed into the pool, massaging her legs.

She stood tentatively, seeing the boat moored to a stick, receiving an invitation for another day to go into deeper waters and explore.

Pebbles at her feet,  longing to be the chosen ones, laughed as they soared into the water off shore, sending back ripples of joy and gratitude when the surface broke, swallowing them whole.

Gulls applauded and cheered and occasionally swooped with hopes that there were morsels of food being shared.

Spent and cold she turned to say thank you to the beauty and peace that had welcomed her hours earlier. She’d be back on happier days, she promised.

The moisture and the sand clung to her, witnessing their loyalty and devotion to her as she wiped their evidence from her feet and clothes before starting for home.

The only thunder in existence lay beating softly in her chest.

  • Do you feel healed by nature?