Saturday, June 29, 2013

Paradise on an Urban Balcony and Sabbath in the Bath

I have a friend who lives in a big, bustling, noisy, congested city.  She yearns to travel and to visit beautiful places. She longs for green things and fresh air.  Like so many, she works at a job that may not be her passion, but it pays the bills.  Like most, she has frustrations without number.  Like so many of us, she has spent time suffering over what's not working.  It's a very human thing to do.

But I have to say, recently she's a completely new person.  For quite a while I had not heard from her.  I don't know if that is because I was so distracted by my own stuff I was not paying attention or because she went off the grid for awhile.  I suspect it was some of both.

A photograph she posted recently captured my attention.  She called it The Urban Balcony and it was one of the most beautiful and inspiring places I have seen.  A café table and two chairs surrounded by pots of green and growing things -- flowers, plants, herbs, vegetables.  I imagine her sitting there with her tea or her glass of wine or a meal and where once she saw urban sprawl, she now sees blue skies, big and puffy white clouds and her garden paradise.  She took her reality and completely transformed it.

Something like that is bound to have ripple effects.  It leads to other changes.  She wrote one day that she has been juicing and has lost 15 pounds.  I recently saw a photograph of her and she looks so peaceful -- not a worry line in her face.  Who knows what will come next.

This is a story about power.  The power to change the world.  Maybe not the whole world, but one's own world.  And one change leads to another. 

Something as simple as taking a small corner of our lives and making it our own idea of paradise can lead to incredible things.  Something as important as carving out space for our own dreaming can have tremendous impact in our lives.  Something as fundamental as creating time to spend in the sacred space we set aside is crucial to our well being.  And as we become healthier on one level, we become healthier at every level -- body, mind, heart, and spirit.  As we become healthier, we give the world another gift that works toward its well being.  

I have a hammock chair that is my small piece of paradise.  I cocoon myself in it and its gentle swinging and swaying calms me almost instantly. I can look up through the trees at the sky or out beyond the trees to the river flowing by. I have another friend who turned her bathroom into her own water sanctuary, complete with soft colors, a claw-foot tub, and fresh flowers.  She runs the water, opens the window to the breezes, closes the door, and loses herself in soothing waters that cradle her and to luscious body creams that pamper her.  She allows her stress to release as she sinks into the water and blesses it on its journey as it runs down the drain.  

The word paradise comes from the Greek for "enclosed park of Persian origin" -- in the ancient world, people created pockets of beauty where they could retreat for felicity, bliss, or delight.  In a brutal world, people found refuge in beauty.  Oasis.  As people began to imagine life after death, they began to speak of it as paradise and to imagine incredible beauty as a contrast to the struggle to survive and the horrors of violence and poverty they encountered all around them.

I find it fascinating that we are able to focus our will and efforts to transform small pockets of our world and our lives.  I wonder about what might happen as we partner more fully with each other to create larger pockets of beauty and well-being in our society.  I think about this especially as I read news items from here and abroad that have to do with the consequences of division as well as what can happen when people unite around a common purpose -- for good or for ill.  Power is neutral.  It is simply force that enables movement. How we focus it and the ends to which we use it determine the consequences. 

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