Monday, January 16, 2012

"A Testament of Hope": Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.

Here at It's a Simple Life, we strive to be in season with the many natural rhythms as well as all the different cycles that flow around us. The wheel of the year takes us on a wonderful journey with many reasons to celebrate. Whether a certain holiday is upon us, a birthday, or our trees have sprouted their first fruitful buds, following the seasonal rhythm provides an ebb and a flow to our daily life, much like the rising and setting of the sun. When you bring simple celebrations into your daily/weekly life, you're bringing more intention into your life. By choosing to create a life pregnant with meaning, intention, joy, and awareness your allowing yourself to fall into a space free from chaos and be within that space of creativity and expression. Living simply and allowing the natural rhythms of the world to come into your life frees you to 'celebrate' each day you are given. It frees you from the mundane chores of an overly stuffed with dwelling, it frees you from the hours upon hours that is wasted in front of T.V.,it frees you from the worry of 'what have I forgotten to do today?'. It is our goal at It's a Simple Life to give you ideas on how you can free yourself from those things that drain the energy from your life experiences and help create an environment to celebrate what ever it is you would like to honor in your life. 
Today.......we will honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has held a candle in my heart for most of my life. His voice, his grace, his passion for peace and equality, his undying effort to provide a safe and peaceful existance for his children, neighbors, and all humankind. This man was more than a leader in the civil rights movement; he was a husband, a father, a son, a friend. He was a beacon of light for millions of people, for all races and creed. He was a vision, a being of hope for a better world. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a voice, that when heard. would resonate so deeply, with such a force that it was almost impossible to not be moved, something would inevitable shift within you. It was as if you were hearing a voice with a message from the Heavens.

"I have been to the mountaintop {and} I have seen the promised land." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A man with such a legacy so deeply rooted in the history of the world is an emotional and powerful lesson for our children as well as for ourselves. Today, as they (and we) see wars rage, anger, and despair, there is no voice to be heard in the way Dr. King's voice was heard. Our ears and hearts need to be stretched to hear the voices of those holding the torch that has been passed on to their care. Our children haven't hear a modern version of the speech "I have a Dream". They haven't heard the likes of "I've been to the Mountaintop". Their hearts have not been inspired by the speech "Loving your Enemies". No voice from our time has shared words so moving, so desperately needed to hear; this is the importance of keeping Dr. King's flame aglow. Our children need to hear these words, we need to hear these words. They (we) need to feel the passion and the power behind the voice, the eyes, and the heart that wanted to see freedoms and justice for his country, the world. It is important to share with our children the importance of peace, freedom, and equality for all who live on this Earth, for all inhabitants.

"Let us not see to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When I was younger, maybe around 5 or 6 years old I remember learning about Dr. King in school. On the eve of our national holiday to remember this man I felt quite forlorn and bewildered. I wandered over to my neighbors house and began to cry. My neighbor took me into her lap and asked me to explain why I was so upset and I began to retell the tale of Dr. King and his life (the way I understood it) and that he had just passed away. She looked at me gently and realized that the piece that I didn't understand was that Dr. King and his life story had not happened during my lifetime, but many decades earlier. I remember her soft smile and gentle voice as she retold me that story of his life, being very much centered on the timing (using words like "in the old days" and "many, many years before you were born"). She didn't, however, tell me not to be sad or somehow make me feel as if my mourning was less than simply because his life and death happened decades before I was even born. I was allowed to process, and wonder, ask questions, and then eventually understand.........the best I could at such a tender age. Nonetheless, it was that moment that I remember thinking I will always hold his story close to my heart and will always be sure to remember what an amazing gift his life was to our world.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of Dr. King, in our home today, we have created a Peace tree. This activity is a gentle and loving reminder of what Dr. King was so deeply passionate about; Peace. This Peace Tree is decorated with symbols from all over the world, from every nation and religion. Having all of these symbols in one place makes a beauitful presentation of how we could be accepting and loving of each other, no matter our differences; Peace. For small children understanding the word Peace might be difficult so I will also include some wonderful book recommendations to help your children wrap their heads and hearts around this topic. I believe that between this activity, a listen to one of Dr. King's speeches (so they can hear the magic, emotion and passion within his voice; even if they don't understand what's being said), sharing one or more of these lovely books together, a seed may be planted for further understanding and compassion for the world in which our children live.

Other things one could do with children of all ages is to find ways which you as a family (cargiving or relation) can encourge Peace in your home and/or community. In the home, it is crucial to set up a strong foundation with regard to how one would treat another; fairness, compassion, honesty. Children will model what they see and and hear so be certain you're being fair, compassionate, and honest with your words and actions. As a parent or caregiver are you judgemental or unfair sometimes? Do you lack in compassion when ones' feelings are hurt? Are you honest in your interactions with others, with your children? "Being the change we wish to see in the world" is one quote that is on constant stream in my head. I'm usually caught pondering my actions and wondering if I emulated the best side or the not so best side! Other suggestions: donating to your local food pantries during this hard times is a wonderful way to share your wish for greater equality. Everyone has the right to basic needs, help by providing some pantry items on a regular basis. Children are very keen to the idea of being hungry so include them in your food gathering and let them help with the drop off. Volunteer with your local shelter. Children can accompany an adult volunteer to take the dogs for a walk or play with the cats and kittens. This is a lovely way to provide compassion and love. Participate in a neighborhood clean-up. Keeping your neck of the woods free from debris and trash shows your love for the Earth and those that share this planet with you! Help guide the children in your care to healthy conflict resolution. Many children today see or hear such unhealthy ways to express themselves; be a good role model and pay close attention to how you handle conflict.

Creating your own Peace Tree

The idea behind this tree is to bring a model of Peace from around the globe into your home, school, or place of worship. This tree represents justice, tolerance, love, kindness, and the hope for peace, between everyone and everything. It's for those reasons why I felt this would be a lovely way to hold Dr. King in the Light.

First, choose your tree. You may gather some branches and place them in a vase or pot, use an actual potted, living tree, paint your tree as a mural on a wall or as a drawing on a good sized piece of paper. Whatever it is you are moved to do......!

Second, download this page from the website: Peace Tree Day: symbols On this page you will see "Symbols in alphabetical order". These are the symbols you can use to decorate your tree with.

To create your symbols, well.......the sky's the limit! You can use paper, clay, wood, tile, felt.......whatever you have on hand or whatever you feel called to use to create your symbols. We decided to make a salt dough and cut out some of the symbols through that modality. Others we cut out of paper, felt and bamboo sticks. It was what we had on hand! If you choose to use tile or wood, you'll need a drill to put the hole into the top for hanging. You can also chose to spray your painted pieces with an Acrylic sealer to help preserve them.

Instructions for Salt Dough Symbols

Your will need:

1 cup of salt
2 cups of flour
1 cup of water
extra flour or kneading and rolling out
rolling pin
a chopstick or other similar shaped object to make the hole on top for hanging
toothpicks or other objects to help with decorating
acrylic paints
glitter, beads, feathers, string, etc.
Preheat your over to 250 degree

Begin by whisking together the salt and the flour.

Slowly add the water and stir until a dough forms.

Knead the dough until if becomes smooth.
Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness on your lightly floured surface.
At this time, you can cut a square piece off the larger piece to make it easier to cut out your symbol. It would be simplest to have a sketch handy or picture of your symbol in front of you to help inspire your cutting!

Now you can embellish your symbols with some impressions to help bring our more definition to your symbol. The Jain Hand, for example, has a sunburst on the palm which you might like to create before your symbol is baked so when you paint it, the impression is there. Don't forget to punch a hole in your symbol to thread some string through so that you can hang them on your tree!!!
Place your cutouts on a baking tray and put them in your preheated oven for about 2 hours.
Once your symbols have cooled, let the children decorate them as they wish with what you have!

Once they are dried, spray the painted symbols with the acrylic sealer, if you chose! They will need a few extra moments to dry before you thread them.

Now, with reverence and intention.......feel the Peace that has been felt by so many. Send it out through your heart and into the world so that little bit of your sunshine may dance with those who, like you, feel the 'Testament of Hope' through the shared vision of Peace.

Recommended reading:

*this book talks about the life and death of Dr. King, so if you have yet to discuss death with your children you might want to read this prior to sharing so you'll be prepared to answer questions that will naturally arise.*

And because this man is one of my all time favorite artists, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), I had to include this in our remembrance and celebration of one of the many who have stepped on to the Peace Train. "Come on and join the living. It's not so far from you."
Now I've been happy lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun
I've been smiling lately
Dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be
Something goods bound to come

For out on the edge of darkness
There runs the peace train
Peace train take this country
Come take me home again

Peace train sounding louder
Ride on the peace train
Come on the peace train
Peace train's a holy roller
Everyone jump upon the peace train
This is the peace train

Get your bags together
Come bring your good friends too
Because it's getting nearer
Soon it will be with you
Come and join the living
It's not so far from you
And it's getting nearer
Soon it will all be true

Peace train sounding louder
Ride on the peace train
Come on the peace train

I've been crying lately
Thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating?
Why can't we live in bliss?

For out on the edge of darkness
There rides the peace train
Peace train take this country
Come take me home again

Peace train sounding louder
Ride on the peace train
Come on the peace train

Come on, come on, come on the peace train...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Life Lessons........

"I hope that as long as I'm alive I will have so much compassion and understanding that I will never cause anyone to feel guilty or less than because of their life circumstances or the choices that they have made. I hope that I am able to be a good friend to anyone who needs one and not judge them based on things that truly don't matter."

The other day I was struggling with feeling as though someone wasn't offering me the space to be accepted. Through that, I realized it's not up to that person to offer me that space, but for me to find it through the compassion and love I have for them. As I was seeking for the words to describe how this persons actions affected me, the words that came out on paper looked foreign. The emotions were real behind what I was saying but I couldn't accept what I was saying or thinking as finality. I pushed myself beyond the infliction and realized it was up to me to offer up something positive. From that came the words that are quoted above. My inner sense was to hope that I would never offer up insensitivity's to another based on who they are. One's circumstances can be so dire that what we see isn't always the whole picture. People are so quick to judge that they forget that what they are being presented with is most likely a facade to protect the vulnerable and sensitive sides; the parts that are so raw and beaten down by lack of love and compassion from our neighbors and families.......there is no trust in one another anymore......and that persons reactions to me wasn't necessarily a reflection of their true self, but their guarded or defensive self.

So, my trust in that person was not there.......I was feeling assaulted and backed into a corner.......I successfully maneuvered through the labyrinth that was that tumultuous conversation and managed, but only after I wrote my quoted words, to find my dignity in tact. Because I trusted.......I trusted in me and the power that I have to make a difference in my own sacred space to be able to flip the interaction to turn into something positive. I didn't allow that person to create a hole in my psyche, at least not nearly as big as I was expecting. Instead, I offered myself to this person knowing that it was up to me to bring the divine energy that lies within us all to the forefront. To make being in community the most important thing, not the fact that there were judgements made based on "things that truly don't matter".

Allowing myself the time to reflect, to share my hurt sides with close friends and family, and to allow myself a moment to lick my wounds, brought about a little clarity. I knew how I was feeling and why but sometimes it helps to move it along a little faster when you say it out loud to trusted individuals. There's that word

Merriam Webster states that Trust means: assured reliance of the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something; one in which confidence is placed.

How does one trust another in a world that is torn by violence, greed, and dishonesty? Well, that is a heady question for someone like me, but, I battle with that everyday and the only thing that quiets the beast in my head are two words.......hope and faith! Wasn't that a TV show once upon a time!!?!?

I have hope that my future will be brighter based on my actions and those around me that love me. I have hope in my heart that allows me to believe that life isn't about suffering; that our lives are based on the choices that we've made and when times are tough it's up to us to realize we absolutely have the power to change things or at the very for help.
I have faith in my family and friends to show up when I need them, or even when I don't. I have faith in my belief in a higher power that will help guide me and present me with the lessons I need to learn in order to continue on my path to enlightenment. I have faith in me to find it in my heart of hearts to "be the change I wish to see in the world".

My life lesson learned is that it's more important to treat people with love and compassion and understanding than to poison them and yourself with doubt, distrust, and resentments. The lesson that comes for me is that even though people are hard to deal with doesn't mean they are any less deserving of love and compassion. This isn't exactly the easiest thing to do, but,'s something I most certainly strive for.

I trust that you will have a wonderful day and that the love and compassion that lives within you will be brought about it the most wonderful ways!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hands and Heart

Welcome to the 'Touch' page. This page is dedicated to bringing some passion to our hands and our heart because you can touch someone or something with both. Since this blog has become a full body experience I feel it is of the utmost importance to use ourselves fully and without yield to include love in all our actions. Touching the hand of a friend, and hug to your neighbor, brings not only the sensory illumination but also the lightening bolt of joy to the heart. I urge you, maybe even am pleading for you to remember the power of touch. Touch something and let your nerves and senses consume all that it offers......texture, temperature, vibration, vitality. My hope is that I will, through this page, encourage you to touch someone or something and really engulf yourself with the gift in that touch, to remember to slow down and really be present in your senses.
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