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I enjoy receiving inspiration and noticing the spiritual bread crumbs that come from surprising and yet, ordinary places. An advertisement/invite arrived in the mail the other day from the local Tommy Bahama store kicking off their Spring Collection. Ciao Italia!

It was just an over-sized postcard with a picture and a few words ….the way postcards are supposed to be; Compact, specific and quick.

Hey! I’m thinking of you and I’m someplace Fabulous!

I like Tommy Bahama as a brand. The stores are interesting, they normally smell good and make me dream of being someplace distant, relaxing and lavish. They sell us on ‘the dream’ and I appreciate that. I enjoy feeling transported if only for a short time.

This particular spring collection is based on a trip to Italy. Beautiful linen fabrics, casual elegance, easy style. What really hit me was the phrase they used on the postcard: il dolce far niente – “the sweetness of doing nothing.”

Talk about transporting…immediately the phrase conjured images of lounging in a lovely resort (wearing beautiful clothes of course), strolling through cobblestone streets, sipping wine, watching beautiful sunsets, or chatting with friends and having no plans for days.

As an accomplishment driven, responsibility-phile, solo entrepreneur, I sometimes dream of doing nothing and how sweet that would feel, and then I immediately dismiss the notion. When I was younger with less responsibilities and more years ahead of me than behind me, I would actually allow myself time to do nothing. Now I even limit my naps to 20 minutes!

I know… intellectually… that life is short and there is validity in doing nothing. Experts agree it is extremely productive and necessary to recharge and refuel our minds and bodies by having fun and just relaxing.We come back to our tasks more focused, alert and creative.

Wow….Somewhere along the adulthood path I got caught in the “doing” cycle and became…dare I say it…task oriented and un-fun.

The Italians have the right idea….long lunches, naps every day and knowing summers are for a long lazy holiday.

Planning nothing into our daily or weekly schedules should be a priority. It should also be taught in school along with other real life skills (but that’s a whole other blog post).

Unlearning habits such as overworking and constant doing are important, as is learning to set boundaries. We (okay, me) must begin to ignore the voice of Mr. Guilt and instead embrace our Italian friend’s mantra,” il dolce far niente.”

After all, why should we only look relaxed and fabulous while on holiday? Why should we only enjoy the sweetness of nothing while on vacation?

Send yourself a postcard. A quick, compact reminder that now is the time to enjoy some sweet nothing time. Pull out your Tommy Bahama ‘vacation’ clothes, do nothing, have some fun and say Ciao Italia!

To the sweet life!

Pilgrimage: Journey to a sacred place.

I was inspired by an email message I received from Kayleen Asbro, about a pilgrimage she was embarking on to the caves of La Baume, France to finish her dissertation on Mary Magdalene. Kayleen’s in depth research and teachings on Mary Magdalene are extraordinary, enlightening and life altering. They are, in themselves a pilgrimage.

Being a pilgrim, we travel to a place where we are unfamiliar and face aspects of ourselves that can be uncomfortable for us.  On a pilgrimage we can also be brought home to our soul or discover unanswered questions that move us ever foreward. We can gather information about the world, each other and ourselves and process that information in new ways that both stretch us and identify us.  We embody the information from the geographical and spiritual experiences and they shift us. We begin to see differently, hear differently and when we look upon the familiar it seems somewhat unfamiliar. We have gained wisdom, understanding and have expanded ourselves.

When was the last time you took a pilgrimage? Perhaps, as Kayleen suggested in her email, it is more about our attitude about a trip than the actual trip. She asks, when you travel do you go on a vacation or a pilgrimage?  Even going to the grocery store can be a pilgrimage when we go with a different mindset or outlook, it can create an entirely different experience. There are times when a good book, movie or TV program can take you on an unexpected pilgrimage. Places of self-discovery are all around us, if only we allow ourselves to hear and answer the call.

My husband and I are currently watching the popular TV program Downton Abbey. This has been a pilgrimage of sorts for us, both to our own individual English Ancestry and to the aspects of human nature in all of its complexity. We seem, with each episode, to delve deeper into the foundations of the characters, resonating with the time, place and cultural carryover that flows through our own family history. Strong, stoic people who have a deep responsibility to the land, family and community whom experience embattled relationships that shift and change through the course of life. These are all uncomfortably and beautifully demonstrated and experienced as we journey with them, reviewing and stirring over our own families, responsibilities and choices. It is the long view that makes the journey bearable.

Next month my husband and I will be vacationing with friends. We will visit a new place with an open mind and fresh set of eyes. It will also be a pilgrimage. A time of rediscovering our relaxed selves, our playful sides, our friends and our relationship with sea, sand and stars. Ahh, my body takes a deep sigh and says yes. That is definitely a sacred journey.

For the traveler by John O’Donohue (Irish poet)

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.
May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.
May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

One night in late summer a few years ago, I was experiencing a somewhat fitful night of sleep. I was stressed and worried over work issues. I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.  As I sat there relieving myself I looked forward through sleepy eyes and there on my bathroom wall was the image of Jesus.  I was startled. It was an odd sensation having Jesus look back at me while using the bathroom.

The street lamp was shining through the leaves from the trees outside my window in such a way that the image of Jesus’ face was staring back at me. It was unmistakably Jesus.  It was comforting and yet strange.  I know people have seen images of Jesus and Mother Mary in strange places all over the world, but it has never happened to me before.  I took it as some sort of sign. Although I was not certain what the sign was, it was my guess it was not to worry.

I climbed back into bed and thought about it for a few minutes.  I didn’t quite believe it so I got up to look again and make sure.  Yep.  There he was, Jesus on my bathroom wall.  Okay, well then, I told myself I guess I won’t worry and I fell back to sleep. Several nights later I awoke in the middle of the night, again not sleeping well. It occurred to me to check out the bathroom wall again.  He was still there and it made me smile.  This time I told Jesus I was grateful for his presence and went back to bed.

It had been a few months since Jesus first showed up and I remember thinking he will soon go away as the leaves are starting to fall now.  The Jesus leaf experience was kind of cool, kind of strange, but it was definitely Jesus on my bathroom wall.

A year or two later I had to have some construction work done on my bathroom.  The window had to be replaced.  I was out while the work was being done and upon my return they had replaced my clear window with one that had frosted privacy glass.  I was surprised at my response.  Immediately I thought that Jesus would no longer be seen on my bathroom wall.  Of course the trees had grown over the last couple of years which had changed their shadows and reflections on my wall. Jesus’ image had not re-appeared since that first summer, but still I was sad.

It is funny how small things like this can impact us emotionally. One of my fond childhood memories of my paternal grandmother was of the two of us sitting on the lawn on a summer day and watching a baby cloud dissipate and then looking for images in the other clouds. To me that was magical.  We laughed and talked about clouds and vision and seeing things in other objects, like faeries in tree bark.  She was wonderfully imaginative and to a little girl, it was such fun to have someone help me believe in such things.

Many years later, but before I saw Jesus on the bathroom wall I was in Kauai with a group at a Spiritual Workshop.  It had been a good week and on the second to the last day we got up early and took a bus up to watch the sunrise over Wailea Canyon.  It was a lovely ceremony as we all stood there quietly chanting our call to the sun.  Then as the light of the sun started to reflect on the clouds our leader looked up into the sky and exclaimed “look at all the angels in the sky!” We all looked around the sky and were delighted!  It was filled with angel clouds!  Everywhere we looked there were angels in the sky.  That was a very special moment and we took that as a sign as well.  We were being watched over and the work we had done all week was being blessed.

Sometimes the magic of the Universe shows up and surprises us by placing these familiar and comforting images in unusual places. How else would we know Spirit was trying to get our attention and give us a message?  We just have to remember to look for the signs…in all the odd places.

Lisa Joiner

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© Lisa Joiner and HighRoadpost, 2014 Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Joiner and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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