Choosing and Musing

Yesterday a friend, Lani, posted part one in a series called, “Can we learn to be happier?” on Facebook.

I thought that that was an unrealistic expectation and might even cause more suffering in this world. I believe that we focus too heavily on “the pursuit of happiness” instead of acceptance of what is.

I preferred that we instead focus on feeling content.

Lani thought they were perhaps the same thing.

I disagree. Here’s what Etymology Dictionary [DOT] com says about happiness

happy (adj.)

late 14c., “lucky, favored by fortune, prosperous;” of events, “turning out well,” from hap (n.) “chance, fortune” + -y (2). Sense of “very glad” first recorded late 14c. Ousted Old English eadig (from ead “wealth, riches”) and gesælig, which has become silly. Meaning “greatly pleased and content” is from 1520s. Old English bliðe “happy” survives as blithe. From Greek to Irish, a great majority of the European words for “happy” at first meant “lucky.” An exception is Welsh, where the word used first meant “wise.”

and about the word content …

content (adj.)

c.1400, from Old French content, “satisfied,” from Latin contentus “contained, satisfied,” past participle of continere (see contain).

content (v.)

early 15c., from Middle French contenter, from content (adj.) “satisfied,” from Latin contentus “contained, satisfied,” past participle of continere (see contain). Sense evolved through “contained,” “restrained,” to “satisfied,” as the contented person’s desires are bound by what he or she already has. Related: Contented; contentedly.

then I said I preferred equanimity which has its roots in …

equanimity (n.)

c.1600, “fairness, impartiality,” from French équanimité, from Latin aequanimitatem (nominative aequanimitas) “evenness of mind, calmness,” from aequus “even, level” (see equal (adj.)) + animus “mind, spirit” (see animus). Meaning “evenness of temper” in English is from 1610s.

Pausing,  I wondered if I was just being picky or just cranky.

That’s why I’ve gone into the etymology of each word. I grant you it’s not the Oxford English … but I don’t have a subscription right now. Perhaps that’s something I need to treat myself to. But for now… this will have to do.

I claimed yesterday that happiness was too dependent on events, circumstances, even other people and it would seem my memory served me right as it meant in the original sense something to what we would refer as “lucky”.

On second thought I think that’s what many want … to be lucky, wealthy (in the sense of $$$) and even silly giddy. Not that I would deny anyone those moments. Glory, I sure enjoy my “silly/giddy” moments. Just saying I wouldn’t want to be that way 24/7. Exhausting and often inappropriate.

Unless of course, you are Welsh and you want to be wise. Now that would be excellent. However, I don’t think I’ve ever heard even a person of Welsh decent actually express that wish. So I guess this meaning left us late in the 16th century.

What I’d like to offer is that we seek balance such as that denoted by the word equanimity.

I propose that we stop vilifying emotions by calling them good or bad. They are just feelings and we don’t have to act on them.

For a start we can just allow ourselves to feel melancholy when we do and notice how that feels in our bodies. Then go about what needs doing … or if nothing needs doing just go about feeling melancholy.

Certainly, we can warn people that that is how we are feeling, but we may also need to let them know that we don’t need fixing or advice or cheering up. I think that would make me happy on those occasions when I just need to sit with a feeling rather than fake a grin. Indeed, I think that all this duplicity is crazy making.

We rail about the weather, the state of the environment, the behaviour of others … but in the instant we really have no power over any of that. It is only setting ourselves up to believe that we are the centre of the universe. Let’s start realizing that we are all connected and that we can only be in one place in time. Working from that may not always make us “happy” but it’s a good place to start on “equanimity”.

My husband frequently quotes a poem by Li Po and I share this today in all its appropriateness.

In the landscape of spring

there is neither better or worse

the flowering branches

some grow long

some grow short


Photo Credit Jeff Suchak

layering and textures from Kim Klassen

This Thursday blogging will examine an etymological / emotional theme for the rest of December and seeing that this is the last Thursday of 2013, we may need to extend it into January 2014.

I’d really appreciate your comments about how these posts make you feel. If you have a friend or colleague who might benefit from or even enjoy an exercise in pondering how to be authentic and balanced in this wacky world, please share a link. I’d love the company.



I recently read in a post by Martina McGowan ( through SoulSeeds
this quote from Anne Lamott (who by the way is my favourite writer on spirituality) which I have decided will be my mantra,

“Every single day I try to figure out

something I no longer agree to do.”

Imagine that. Really. What if I … what if we … did what was necessary … and then stopped?

So, I am not going to do more than expected for at least 8 hours every day.

And by “more than expected” I mean what is absolutely necessary.

As an instance … when the garden needs watering,
I will water it … just enough.


I will not weed out every single thing that I didn’t plant. It might, after all, be a gift.

I will not decide to transplant a dozen perennials.

I will not decide to dig a new area out.

I will do what is expected (supposedly by my plants), I will water them … just enough.

I won’t soak them unless they are parched.

And I certainly won’t even water them if there are rain clouds in the sky.

I will water them … just enough.

And I will enjoy that I am just enough while I am at it.

And while I’m at it…I’m giving you permission to do the same…because you are enough.

Live joyfully…

You ARE enough.

You are ENOUGH.

YOU are enough.


2012 shall be my year to wear my fierce face which is not to say that my face will be angry, scary, or warrior-like. But my face shall be fierce.

So what do i mean by “fierce“? Well, you might ask…and so … since you ask, i will tell you. You could just click the link and read for yourself, but I’m going way back to the 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries for my definition of “fierce” … mid-13c., “proud, noble, bold.”

Indeed! I’m taking Danielle Porter’s lovely poem to heart… I shall be “fiercely tender and still grow wild”…

One thing that I mean by this statement is that I will be vulnerable and open, willing to take risks, while still listening to my heart and doing only what feels right for me.

Vulnerability means taking risks. If we don’t take risks our lives will be small, narrow, unfulfilled. I’ll have none of that with the days I have left to me. I want expansive, wide, wonderful days and lots of them. I want days that allow me to say, “Well done!” at the end of my days. I want to die with a satisfied smile on my face … and no regrets.


Harvest time…and celebrations.

There is a fuss nowadays in the US about celebrating Christopher Columbus and since it is close to Harvest Sunday (aka Canadian Thanksgiving) i thought of trying to tie these two together.


Because both of these celebrations revolve around a people who are completely forgotten and/or diminished by the celebration itself. In the US they are celebrating an opportunist who turned into a tool for Empire (as Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan use the word. also see Living the Questions). I grant that CC was a product of his culture which was vicious and punitive in trying to win souls for Christ. And even saying that my blood boils, curdles–i am repulsed that most of your ancestors and some of mine came out of that social milieu. But i find it nigh to impossible to celebrate that. Christopher Columbus did not DISCOVER anything but a chance to win favour with the people who pulled strings in Europe. And he was aggressive at self promotion … even if it meant killing thousands of innocent victims … and we know that apparently it did.

Now on to “Thanksgiving” which is celebrated in both the US and Canada though at different times in the Fall season. It can certainly be seen as a Harvest Festival especially in light that the Harvest is a celebration that is pretty much universal. And we can also see that those early arrivals who ended up settling (along with all the other colonialisation and appropriation that that entailed) wouldn’t have made it through the winter without some very gracious help in the form of food, shelter, knowledge, and heaps of kindness. Our history books gloss over this and we nod to this generosity by celebrating a day where most over-indulge. Oh goodness! More greed. This seems to be what this celebration has leaned into. More more more! Yes!

Well, it is time to sit down and think on this. Meditate on the roots of the day you are given off your “work” whatever form that may take.

And if/when you do perhaps you can see that there is a better way to celebrate.

I’d like to point you to a few websites that have helped me to see a better way…

1. Susan Werner’s song: “Plenty and then some” (You can even listen to it if you buy her Live at Club Passim CD … which i strongly suggest you do.)

2. Celebrate instead with “Why Honoring Indigenous Peoples Day Matters” because if you are “standing on the side of love” it really really does.

3. Go for a hike! A real hike, boots, backpack, picnic lunch…instead of stuffing the bird and then stuffing your belly. That’s how we’re going to celebrate this year. We’ve done it in the past and it is a refreshing way to connect and/or re-connect to what is truly important. It also feeds your spirit and if feeds your Buddha brain too! Bonus: it is practically free when you factor in the gas $$ (if necessary to get someplace where you can really really hike) and perhaps a park fee.

4. Go out and help somebody get plenty and then some too!

Hope you have a wonderful wonderful day … practicing Sabbath.

I’ll write on Sabbath practice very soon.


Photo by Jeff Suchak of Mythic Landscape

Jamie Ridler poses the question, “What guidance do you wish for?” on this Wishcasting Wednesday and all i can muster is … Oh my! What DON’T i want guidance in as i step out in faith to finish my MTS degree at Huron University College, Faculty of Theology, UWO

I do a 6 hour round-trip commute … Get me there safely and Guide me safely all the way home

I am taking two courses in Pastoral Theology … Give me wisdom and the words to not only “do no harm”, but to do good, to do G-dde’s will, G-dde’s work in the world, this real flesh and blood, messy world.

I am presenting a proposal to do “Living the Questions” at my Parish in … Guide me to be comfortable in the Mystery and to gently hold the hands of those who make discoveries that may make them uncomfortable with their past, may resurrect painful memories, may discover more and more questions … to be an encourager and never, never give answers, for they would only be my answers, not theirs.

Oh yes, “work life balance” (there is a quiz here if you wonder about yourself) is essential if i am to model good congregational leader health … and if i am to be a wholly holy and healthy human being … Guide me as i balance the medicine wheel of life…

Guide me as i stay in relationships that i treasure; direct my hands to do the work in the time i schedule for it, to find sources for my thesis that will allow me to state my case and/or surprise me, to connect regularly and meaningfully with friends, with family, with my very significant “other”, get enough exercise, eat healthy foods…and just enough,

go to the places that fill me up and make my heart sing!

Guidance…gentle, insistent, ephemeral at times, parabolic and paradoxical at other times, but always wholly holy…

May i seek to hold Creation as an interconnected web of life …

not to understand but to be in the midst and comfortable in the midst of what seems perplexing…









May i seek Guidance consistently and constantly through prayer and meditation, through mindfulness and being fully present, through active and full body listening. May it be so.

Week Two — Land

Early morning view near Irish Block Road / Grey County taken: September 10th, 2011 photo by Jeff Suchak

This Sunday in the Liturgical Cycle of the Seasons of Creation is Week Two. Today, we worship and mourn with the land, the soil, the clay, loam, sand, the body of our mother, The Earth.

I turn now to one of my favourite books read repeatedly during my full time seminary years, “The Body of God” by Sally McFague…”Ecological deterioration is subtle and gradual, it involves the daily, seemingly innocuous activities of every person on the planet.” I cannot change “every person on the planet”, nor can you. We can only change ourselves, our own behaviour, our own attitudes…but that is a spiritual mandate for every one of us who is “awake.”

But this is Sunday, one of the traditional days when people gather together to worship, to lament, to pray, to praise, to be comforted…and to be challenged. I invite you, each and every one, to do this. But, of course, being me, i invite you to do this with a slightly different slant, standing or sitting in the light, with your eyes wide open. Let us gather together. Let us worship, lament, praise, pray for the Land.

We worship outdoors perhaps in a garden, a meadow or on a nearby trail. Some of us are scaling a local mountain, some strolling a beach, others will be collecting rocks, some will be “documenting reverence, practicing the wild.”. Some of us will write and draw maybe even paint a little, sitting on a smooth rock, beside the trail, sheltered by the natural Cathredral’s canopy.

It is outside, outdoors, out of the boxes of bricks and mortar where we can touch (the) Godde (of our understanding) and where we can connect with Source’s Creation. The Creation of which we are a part, only a part, a small part.

We realize that we create chaos.

We commit mayhem.

We forget to think beyond the moment by not being fully present in the moment.

We repent that we disregard Creation, that we pollute, misuse, waste, and kill the soil with chemicals, harsh plowing methods, quarrying needlessly, dumping & littering (here is what one sustainable community is doing about that), and creating ever more landfills.

Pause now to give your gifts, lay down your “tobacco”,

pour clear fresh water on to the ground …

make your apologies — in whatever way is meaningful to you — to this soil that feeds us.

This Sunday we worship and mourn with the land, the soil, the earth realizing that we are poisoning, neglecting, abusing our mother that feeds us. We are sorry. We are very sorry. We want to stop this. Help us to change our ways.

What else can you do besides saying you’re sorry, praying, using your words?

Buy local food. Buy organic food processed locally when you can.

Join a CSA. Find out what that is.

Grow a garden. Grow a garden instead of a “lawn”.

Stop adding chemicals to the soil.

Buy heirloom fruits and veggies. Save the seeds. If you don’t have space, give them to someone who will be able to save them and grow them.

Join a community garden, a collective kitchen. If there isn’t one near you … start one. Since this is a “Season” of the “Church” … ask a local church to lend you their kitchen…maybe even sponsor your group.

Write a letter to Monsanto, your local, regional, or federal representative, your local newspaper to express your commitment to fix what you can, while you can.

Best of all campaign in your little corner of the world for elected officials to work together creating sustainable communities!

Be the change whoever actually said those words first, doesn’t really matter, may even be irrelevant, what matters is that it speaks to your heart and impels you to change, to act, to make good what you can.


Now go outside and touch the earth!

Always remembering to walk gently and lightly.

Delinquent blogger apologetics

Yes, yes, it’s true. Once again, I have been a delinquent blogger. If you are a regular follower then I do apologize. If not…well, then, you really won’t have noticed anything anyway so please come back soon and you will see that I usually blog more frequently.

And no I haven’t been living in a cave…that would have been rather more pleasant.

The problem you see is that family matters, urgent, pressing family matters have gotten in the way of blogging. My imposed “vacation” from blogging is coming to an end though. Next week things promise to relent and my time for art will be freed up as will I.

There will be much reporting of journal techniques and progress with my visioning words. There will. I promise. Yes, there will.

See you next week. We’ll laugh about this all later.

Keep smiling and keep journaling … though I haven’t been blogging, I have continued to journal up a storm. In fact, there may even be miracles in the offing.


No, I’m not talking about shopping. I don’t do that. What I have just finished – at least in draft form – is my paper for Spiritual Direction on The Shadow. I’ll share a bit with you particularly the art work that will accompany and enhance it soon. Right now I have to hustle my bustle on to bed.

It sure is a blustery night though. Sarnia is in a state of emergency. People stranded all over Hwy 402 though for the life of me I cannot understand what would drive someone to attempt the roads tonight.

Saying that,  I realize that our son, Amos did just that. Though it was in town not the highway because he works at a local nursing home.

So, I’ll see you soon! Snuggle up with someone you love and stay warm. Be safe stick close to home.