Beauty…a Good Deeds post

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I had an afternoon to myself yesterday, and took my under exercised body swimming to help ease and distract my over exercised brain, and then my heart realised I had some space to listen and said, ‘You’re missing beauty’.

I realise how much I have taken for granted the beauty of the environment I live in in Scotland. Here, on a concrete college campus, I am surrounded by cheap plastic furniture and plastic cutlery with which we eat off polystyrene plates; outside is littered with discarded cigarette buts and chewing gum amidst an almost complete lack of greenery…and I realised that all this has been bothering me quite deeply. The invitation it seems is to try to find beauty in the apparently unbeautiful. More on this later, but for now, here’s a list of Good Deeds for this week, followed by some poems I wrote a while ago about beauty and a link to a wonderful TED talk about the value of beauty in creating an environment for a true education that brings out the best in everyone – enjoy:-)

 

Good Deeds Received

My father cooked me a really delicious meal, and shared with me a letter he’s written nearly 40 years ago to his mother about meeting my mother. It was an incredible read.

Students who were leaving asked me if they could take a photograph with me – it was very sweet.

Had a really good chat with my Mum on the phone – we laughed a lot:-)

Had a super quick response form a colleague who had taken the scissors for a craft project the night before. She brought them directly to my classroom within 15 minutes of my sending a text message and the activity I’d planned wasn’t delayed at all.

Had a very enthusiastic text message from an old school friend I want to catch up with while I’m in the area. We’re going to meet up next week and she offered to pick me up, as I don’t have my own transport here. Can’t wait to see her!

Received genuinely friendly, smiley service from a woman working int he coffee shop I went to yesterday, despite the fact that it was incredibly busy as it had just begun to rain and everyone had decided it was time for a coffee break!

Good Deeds Done

Paid my father back some money I owed him:-)

Sent a birthday card to a dear friend – on time!

Contributed to buying a milkshake for one of our students who’d run out of money.

Spent nearly two hours on my afternoon off tidying, cleaning and re-arranging my classroom which, though not ‘beautiful’ yet, is certainly now more welcoming. I also recycled or collected for re-use, piles and piles of paper… I’m not sure what this job is doing to my long term relationship with trees. I hope they will forgive me…

Made time to have a lovely talk with one student who hadn’t said much and chose the fifteen minute before class began to really open up and get chatty.

Made sure I was on time this morning to wave off and hug those who were leaving.

Decided to investigate ways of recycling the paper bags we give to all students for pack lunches on trips and found a wonderful list of craft ideas. Haven’t made any of these yet – but I will.

http://savedbylovecreations.com/2012/10/50-things-to-make-from-paper-bags.html

And here are three short poems I wrote on the subject of Beauty. Hmm, on re-reading sure, I’ve written better, but these do make some of the points of juggling in my heart and mind right now…

Beauty is…? I ask

silently you look around

then you nod and smile

looking at me directly

I understand and blush

*************

Sure, the eye can see

but it’s only one witness

to life’s true beauty

close your eyes for a moment

bow to the beauty within

**************

Birdsong before dawn

promises beauty hiding

beneath a dark sky

I won’t believe in ugly -

the sun hasn’t risen yet

 

http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_strickland_makes_change_with_a_slide_show

 

 

 

I bow to you…a Good Deeds post

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tnh bowingimage credit: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/A-Conversation-with-Thich-Nhat-Hanh-About-Savor

It feels good to hug

but now please step back a bit

I want to bow to you

I wrote this Haiku whilst on my three week retreat, in response to my beginning to explore my understanding of what it means to be spacious in my expression of love and care – to take away the grasping and attachment of it, and make way for something more universal and profound. I may share more another time, but it felt like a fitting way to introduce this post.

Life has sped by these last two weeks and I’ve not been keeping a daily track on Good Deeds, so rather than try to date them, I’m simply going to make a list of seven received and seven done. Blessings on your week dear friends – love, hugs and bows (!)

Harula xxx

Good Deeds received

* I was given a beautiful bunch of hand made tissue paper flowers, made by some of my students for a drama performance I had helped them create. I wasn’t expecting it at all – really brightened my morning, and my classroom, yesterday:-)

* Several friends and family members have been INCREDIBLY generous as I have continued to appeal to them for help in supporting my Rwandan friend, Beatha, who is still suffering from water on the lungs, but is, thanks to the generosity received, beginning to recover as a result of daily hospital treatment.

* Soooo thoughtful, a new colleague of mine noticed I was sitting alone at dinner because the ‘teacher’s table’ was full, so she left it to join me saying, ‘Nobody should eat alone!’ She’s from Spain. I was so touched.

* This morning several students who are leaving after two weeks here came to find me at breakfast to offer hugs and appreciation, and to say goodbye. Apparently I’m a ‘beautiful teacher’…perhaps I haven’t accurately taught the meaning of that word:-) I need to give them some more adjectives…

* Two other new colleagues, a couple from the Czech Republic, gave me the afternoon off one day this week, saying they could do without me for the sports activities because they saw I was tired. Bless!!!

* A friend emailed me to offer me a place to stay when I’m back in Scotland, saying she had had an intuition that she should invite me to share with her! Actually, I had had a similar thought recently about asking her, but hadn’t yet followed up – how cool is that?!

* I had a really great Sunday morning debate with one of the other teacher’s here which I found really inspiring. We covered everything from assisted suicide to the rights and wrongs of capitalism while eating cantine baked beans and cardboard toast:-)

Good Deeds done

* I offered to lead two three hour drama sessions last week in the evenings, as our activity leaders didn’t have much background theatre stuff and it was already timetabled. It was really fun to be back in that role again – haven’t done much drama for a while, but it’s what I did my degree in, and the focus of my first volunteer job in South Africa…

* I spent at least an additional 1.5 hours preparing my classroom and my lesson yesterday morning because it was the last day for some of the students, and I wanted the activities to be really fun.

* I bought sweet treats for the kids yesterday as prizes for a quiz.

* I helped organize a birthday celebration for one of the other teachers here, choosing a card and a cake, as well as some wine and munchies, along with two colleagues.

* I spent a while chatting with a local artist at a craft fair, and bought one of his beautiful cards.

* I picked up some litter as I walked in the park.

* I helped one of my younger students set up his mobile phone and went with him to the local supermarket to buy a sim card and top up voucher.

Soar

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white featherimage credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andy_p_m/5069098614/

I reach

for the lost feather

large, white

and made for flight

with such natural perfection

that when it falls

even gravity is in awe

and calls it towards the earth

with patient respect

***

casually discarded

and unwittingly

throwing down the gauntlet

to aerospace engineers

hungry for superlatives

lightest, strongest, most flexible

in the hope that their profits

too may soar

***

has evolution

been generous to a fault

sharing nature’s knowledge

without tying it to intention

through a built in release clause

‘first, do no harm’

 

Remember the river

For anything I’ve ever

said or done

that’s left cause for you to doubt

even for a moment

that I love you

forgive me

***

Though it may be hard to hear

much less believe

what’s real in me knows

I have never stopped loving you -

not for a moment,

not for a single breath

of this precious life

has my love for you

been anything but fierce and true

***

I may have been tired or angry

hurt or sad

scared or ashamed

but all the above

were just so much rain

they were not the river

***

Rain comes and goes

and we may curse it

but the river flows constantly

welcoming the rain

with reckless abandon

that it may broaden

or even break its banks

and so the course may change

but the destination never does

***

And so my love for you

in its wisdom knows

it has harvested the hard times

swollen from them

and grown into a heart

more capable of holding

the pain of this world,

for no love less deep or true

would have dared to ask

to push and say,

‘come now, just a little more’

***

Yes, I have found my Nos

and voiced them

but those Nos were the little more

you asked for,

those were the words

for which I dug deepest

for I knew they came with pain

and yet love has but one door

and in coming through

I had to bring all of me

for nothing less raw or free

would have given you the chance

to see the all I am

and decide

for your part

if you love me

Trails

Well dear friends, I’m back from my retreat (finished yesterday) and – in a coupla hours I start a new job (!!!) teaching an 8 week English Language summer school…so this is just a quick share of a poem, and a hearty hello and hope you’re all well:-) Hugs, H xxx

Nothing stays

but the trails

left behind

by what once was

may linger

tenderly and unashamed

like the tear

still making its journey

down the landscape of a face

whose mind has already moved on

from the thought that was the source

***

sometimes this physical world

is slow

not lazy

just patient and indulging

like the scent on a loved one’s scarf

that draws their being

so close

you feel them

until you open your eyes

and re-know they’ve died

- but trails linger

Wings

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monarch butterfly photoimage credit: http://monarch-butterfly.info

What do you make of this folks? I’m doing another clear out before I head off, and found this old poem of mine. And when I say old, we’re talking over ten years old and more. It’s not especially skilled, but I kind of liked it…so I’m sharing it with you:-)

Think matchbox.

Think beautiful butterfly

with delicate wings.

Now try to decide

how you get it inside.

***

Do you clip off the wings,

so the body will fit?

Do you fold them up neatly,

bit by careful bit?

***

Or do you accept

those wings were meant to fly,

and let the precious creature

glide on by.

 

 

Week 54 of good deeds

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albert_camus_generosity

Wow, what a day:-) I wrote an email to several friends this morning, some of which I shared in a post earlier today, and already I have the money I was aiming for to help my friend in Rwanda! Not only do I have it, I had it, it my bank account, in less than two hours from the moment of sending the email!!! Isn’t that INCREDIBLE!? So, that’s a great ‘Good Deed received indeed!!!’ start to June:-) And I thought this Camus quote was great, because I can feel the difference, between generosity and charity, even if I don’t know that I could explain it very well and, well, today was ALLLLLLL about generosity, with bells on!

But for now, let’s catch up on last week…

Sunday 25th May

Brought my Mum and her business partner a piece of still warm rhubarb cake from the brunch leftovers in the community kitchen. When they saw me coming with the loaded plate from 50 yards away, they started shouting, ‘We love you, we love you!’.

AND good deed(s) received:

Mum waited for me to finish my care shift so she could give me a lift home, even though she’d been working all day.

Monday 26th May

Dug deep to lead a very enjoyable and moving group discovery games session on my own, though I could feel I didn’t have much in reserve by the end.

AND good deed(s) received:

So much warm appreciation, and loads of loving hugs from the people I’d led the games session for.

Tuesday 27th May

Met with a colleague to discuss lesson planning, and ended up supporting her in managing a tricky cultural misunderstanding between two participants. Drafted an article for our community magazine, with and for a friend who was planning a fundraising. Cooked 40 crepes for one of the wedding dishes my mother was preparing.

AND good deed(s) received:

When I missed the evening bus I was distraught, but once I’d calmed myself down and summoned up a smile, I hitched a ride within minutes and ended up being 10 minutes early for my evening care shift!

Wednesday 28th May

Taught a great English lesson, which I’d put a lot into preparing, and spent some time talking to a student who hadn’t come to class, to help resolve an underlying issue. I then took extra time writing a careful and detailed email about it, to make sure all my colleagues were up to date and on the same page.

AND good deed(s) received:

Lots of great questions and enthusiastic engagment from the students.

Thursday 29th May

Taught another great lesson, to the lower level class and realised, again, how much I enjoy what I do. Answered the question of the difference between lend and borrow while waiting with the students in the lunch queue, continuing the lesson until the food stopped us from talking!

AND good deed(s) received:

My friend readily shouted me a coffee when I checked in my purse, on arrival at the cafe we had gone to, and realised I was out of cash.

Friday 30th May

Did some food shopping for Mum and I, and then cleaned for a friend, despite being a bit on the tired and overwhelmed side. Later brought Mum something to eat herself (she’d forgotten she was hungry!) while she was frying off beef for a stew in the community kitchen, as part of the wedding feast.

AND good deed(s) received:

Had a wonderful conversation with a friend over a cup of tea in the sunshine, and…the dress I had decided to wear for the wedding was kind enough to fit me!

Saturday 31st May

Spent the day helping Mum with final preparations of the wedding food, including going to the shop for last minute ingredients, and driving the food (including an incredibly ornate and delicate wedding cake – I was scared!), at no more than 5pmh, down a bumpy track to the wedding venue in the woods, back and forth three times in the car:-)

AND good deed(s) received:

A friend offered Mum and I a bathroom each (!) in her shared house for us to do a last minute freshen up and dress up before the wedding ceremony…which was soooooo beautiful. If I’ve ever seen such love and happiness before, shining through space between the locked eyes of two people who are so intent on each other they’re hardly registering the words the minister is saying…well, I just don’t think I have. A very sweet, poignant, powerful moment that it was a privilege to witness:-)

Wishing you a wonderful week dear friends.

Love and hugs, Harula xxx

Inviting support for Beatha

DSCF0646Dear friends,

Here’s part of an email I wrote to friends this morning as I believe it helps to share the task of holding someone who is struggling with our loving attention, no matter where we are in the world. We can always do something, for a kind thought or a loving prayer can be very powerful tools and they cost nothing.

I’ll be back later with my regular Sunday post.

Love and blessings,

Harula xxx

My dear Dear friends

Much love to you on this first Sunday in June:-) I hope this finds you well, and if you haven’t heard from me more personally in a while, please accept my apologies.

Yesterday I spoke to Beatha, my dear friend in Rwanda. Beatha is not well. She tried to call me and I saw the number, so I called her back. I hadn’t spoken to her for over two months. She’s been ill for about a month, and has fluid on the lungs. That’s all I could understand from the mixture of French and Kinyarwanda we have to try to communicate in. She sent her two boys away to live with a friend of hers in Butare (the opposite part of the country) about two weeks ago. I know this friend, Ingabire, well and am confident that the two boys, Mucyo and Mugisha, are fine. I also know that Beatha would never send her children away unless she had no other choice, and I am very grateful that she has someone to call on where they will be safe and well cared for (Ingabire’s husband has a good job, and they have children of their own).

Because Beatha has been ill (she has some kind of drain already on her lungs, I couldn’t understand exactly) she hasn’t been working in her shop, the one she set up to sell food after she sold the cow we bought her. As a result of continued absence, the shop has been robbed. Whoever it was took everything. Beatha has waited until this moment to try and contact me. She’s already been ill a month, and now certainly needs to go to hospital again (she has had some treatment already it seems).

At the moment my focus is on getting Beatha well again. What touched me most yesterday was the feeling that someone I love is alone and in pain, without anyone to hold her hand. That said, she was her usual incredibly strong self, with no sign of fear or tears. Whether she would feel it consciously or not, I invite you to send her your love and blessings, as I truly believe this helps…and I know it helps me, to know that I am not the only one holding her in my awareness. I have included a photo as an attachment which you can use if this helps.

With all my love and huge gratitude. As I was putting together a quick list of who I could send this email to, it was incredibly moving to realise how many people I have in my life that I can call on to help on all levels. I know I am one of the lucky ones.

I love you!

With huge hugs,

Harula xxxxxx

Week 53 of good deeds

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mlk creatively maladjusted

image credit: http://quotes.lifehack.org/quote/martin-luther-king-jr/human-salvation-lies-in-the-hands-of/

This quote has been with me for a while, ever since I heard it in a talk about, what, a month or so ago? I’ve been wanting to write a poem about it, but haven’t found my angle yet, it’s just sooooo huge, like, it’s massive!!! Don’t you think? I mean I read this quote and it’s like I get soul shivers. And this week, I sat with it a bit and tried to find some examples from my own life where I’ve demonstrated this ‘creative maladjustment’ – I found a few mini ones. What I noticed though, was that a lot of them were moments, short term, spontaneous courageous responses. But the key here is staying power.

I watched a beautiful TED talk about a guy who didn’t speak for 17 years and only walked (no riding in any motorised vehicle) in response to witnessing a catastrophic oil spill back in the early seventies.

http://www.ted.com/talks/john_francis_walks_the_earth

Uber inspiring stuff, but that was his response. What’s mine? I look at the world and there are any number of causes crying out for attention, for support for…but what’s mine? Where can I best contribute? How can I respond to all that need?!?

I also want to share with you a fantastic challenge my fellow good deed blogger has taken on, because it totally fits this ‘creative maladjustment’ theme. She’s challenged herself to only say good things, no negative gossiping or putting down.

thinkDo you realise how big that is? How hard that is? How accustomed we as a culture have become to bad mouthing each other in the name of humour and letting off steam? I haven’t committed myself yet because I want to think carefully about this one – if I do it I want to do it with my whole self. Maybe I’ll just try it for 24 hours and see how I go, without telling anyone yet. That said, I have already become more aware of when I engage in this kind of talk, and of how I feel when I hear others doing it, which is a start. Do please check out Rosie’s most recent post.

http://rosieamber.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/good-deeds-year-2-week-5/

And also the article that inspired her:

http://kindnessblog.com/2014/05/16/how-speaking-only-kind-words-changed-my-life-guest-blog/comment-page-1/#comment-14420

So, ummmm, after thinking i didn’t have an intro….so I’ll keep the rest brief. Love you guys – be well:-)

Sunday 18th May

Gave a mini tour of the community to a new arrival, a French woman who had come a week early to orient herself before starting the one month English language course.

AND good deed(s) received:

She was very appreciative, and the weather didn’t rain on us! Oh, and a care colleague broke out the biscuits when we made time to sit and catch up over a cuppa…

Monday 19th May

Spent two hours with a new colleague creating lesson plans for her first week of teaching English here, having already spent the morning collecting, printing and preparing useful material for her.

AND good deed(s) received:

A very enthusiastic and appreciative response to my support.

Tuesday 20th May

Gave a well-prepared and personalised English lesson to the French woman I’d welcomed earlier in the week, and showed her where she could pick up a free spare pair of trousers, as hers had a rip. Also promised to bring in a needle and thread the next day.

AND good deed(s) received:

A lovely hug from an ex colleague and she was so happy for me when I told her about how my year was shaping up, especially the plans to volunteer teach in Burma/Myanmar for three months from October. Oh, and I was offered the summer teaching job in my old home town!!! I start beginning of July!

Wednesday 21st May

Put a lot of love and gentleness (and some songs…) into my shift with the elderly lady I care for, as she has become so very frail, and no longer opens her eyes or speaks. She barely ate anything when we tried to feed her.

AND good deed(s) received:

Lots of laughter and profound discussion during a lesson I gave, as well as appreciation for the needle and thread I’d remembered:-)

Thursday 22nd May

Helped an overwhelmed friend clean in preparation for some B&B guests she was expecting…one of whom had arrived early! It was chaotic, but we got it done:-)

AND good deed(s) received:

I was very touched by my new English student’s appreciation of some poems I brought along to share with her (Rumi, Hafiz etc) and she was so enthusiastic about the time we’ve had together, and how supportive it’s been for her over the last four days.

Friday 23rd May

At my colleague’s request, I sang to the elderly lady I care for as we settled her for the night. It was taking longer than usual as she was coughing a lot and we were trying to find her a comfortable and safe position. We all feel she is not long for this world.

AND good deed(s) received:

I was made to feel like a good luck charm when I was walking in town, and bumped into a man I know who was lamenting the lack of buses and taxis, and disappointed that he’d have to wait over an hour to get home. Just as I was making the suggestion that he wait in the library where he could keep warm and entertained, a taxi passed and he flagged it down, thanking me profusely! Very cool:-) AND…I was in one of my strange ‘what’s my purpose?!’ (aka what’s the point?!) moods, and was saved by a trip to the library where I typed into google ‘quotes purpose’ – honestly, sooooo inspiring, and this was one of the best…

picasso quoteSaturday 24th May

I did a full day (9 hours!) in Mum’s cafe, as her colleague was sick and I happened to be free.

AND good deed(s) received:

Mum insisted on paying me, when my intention had been to work for nothing, and help her out…

Wishing you a wonderful week dear friends.

Love and hugs, Harula xxx

Week 52 of good deeds

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elephantimage credit: http://www.nature.com/ki/journal/v62/n5/fig_tab/4493262f1.html

Life is like a perfect puzzle at the moment, with everything slotting into place incredibly neatly, if at times a little tightly. I just have to keep reminding myself to breathe and focus on finding the freedom that’s inside instead of getting too caught up in the structures that contain (and constrain?!) my life on the outer. I’m reminded to step back and enjoy the bigger picture and not to get too obsessed with the individual puzzle pieces, which after all, can only offer a tiny taste of the truth in and of themselves. You know that story about the blind men and the elephant…?

Sunday 11th April

Took a plastic bag with me to pick litter as I walked to work. It was so interesting to see my attitude change. At first I felt very self-conscious, but gradually I really started to enjoy myself, and how I was slowed down by the task, and started to be glad when I saw more litter to pick, as if it was treasure or something, or I was proud with myself for spotting it! Got me thinking about how I approach ‘bad’ things/people in life, and I asked myself if there was a way to shift my perspective to see it all as treasure that has a valuable lesson in its midst, and not to go round tut tutting and judging but rather to lighten up and say, ‘Oh look, there’s another irritating person! Let me go and practice my patience and compassion…’ No, seriously, I…oops, there I go being serious again:-)

AND good deed(s) received:

I got a lift halfway in to work, so I could really slow down as I walked the rest of the way and pick up every bit of litter I found! I got gifted a delicious pizza for dinner from my Mum’s take away place:-) Mum was still away and I helped them clean up at the end of the day when their regular end of the day helper didn’t turn up.

Monday 12th April

Had the most incredible morning where I held (or at least was the channel for – honestly, that’s how it felt, I sure didn’t do ‘that’ by myself!) a life writing session for a group doing a program called ‘creative maturity’. It was deeply moving and when I asked them at the end to individually sum up the morning with three words, or a gesture, the first man silently bowed deeply to me. I didn’t know how to contain that kind of gratitude…

AND good deed(s) received:

A friend made time in her busy life to have a coffee with me and share her news. The sun shone on an afternoon of gardening work, turning what was already pleasurable into pure joy.

Tuesday 13th May

I spent the morning unpacking a few boxes and moving furniture in Mum’s new house so that it would be a bit welcoming for when she arrived back from England. Was there to welcome her and made lunch for the two of us. Gave her the small present I’d bought for her in Sweden. Spent HOURS on the phone with utilities companies getting the details/supply switched over to Mum’s new address.

AND good deed(s) received:

Mum gave me the car so I could drive home and also take some colleagues to a training day the next day, which made it so much easier than taking a bus. She also warmly thanked me for my time on the phone!

Wednesday 14th May

Volunteered myself to be prodded and lifted and generally manhandled as people practices the techniques we were learning. Agreed to squeeze in a cleaning job for a friend the next day.

AND good deed(s) received:

Had an inspiring and enjoyable day training on the correct methods for moving and handling people who are vulnerable, like the elderly lady I care for. Mum cooked dinner for the two of us, when I got back, and then drove me home.

Thursday 15th May

Made a point of using and applying the techniques we learned yesterday as I worked with our elderly lady, along with a colleague who had also attended yesterday. We helped each other to remember and reflect.

AND good deed(s) received:

Lots of appreciation from the friend I cleaned for, as well as his usual overpayment/tip:-)

Friday 16th May

Made time to hang out and catch up with a dear friend, and her newly turned one year old little son. Helped entertain, and push and lift and play with this adorable little being, and his friend. Gave my evening care shift my full attention, even though my mind was trying to plot and plan lessons and transport etc for the summer!

AND good deed(s) received:

Mum let me have her new sitting room to myself for an hour for a phone interview, as I have very bad mobile reception where I live and the land line wasn’t up and running yet since the move. Was provisionally offered a teaching job (English Language summer school) over the summer in my old home town! Still waiting for written confirmation, but it looks 95% sure!

Saturday 17th May

Prioritised writing and sending a card, and a small pressie from Sweden, for my sister’s birthday, which is next week – it was in the post by 10.30am:-) I agreed to help a friend with a fundraising project.

AND good deed(s) received:

My friend treated  me to the coffee and scone I’d just had and also invited me to lunch:-) I was generously paid and appreciated, as well as entertained with conversation while I cleaned for a older woman in the community.

Wishing you a wonderful week dear friends.

Love and hugs, Harula xxx

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