Tag Archives: mindfulness

Lessons from travel

“Piano, piano,” our tour guide Giacomo advised our group of ten as we navigated the cobblestone streets of medieval towns in Tuscany and Umbria. “Piano, piano,” he repeated as we climbed stone steps that have been worn down by centuries of use and had no handrails to steady us.

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Piano, piano means slowly, slowly in Italian.

Good advice, I thought. Not just for traversing medieval towns in Italy, but for me, good advice for daily life, because I tend to move too fast, rushing as though I was always running late.

Travel makes me slow down, because I am aware of how dangerous rushing across cobblestones can be.

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Traveling with a group makes me slow down because I sometimes need to wait for those who can’t move as quickly as I do.

It is good for me to slow down, and every time I had to stop and wait for someone to catch up, I felt invited to look up and take in the sights around me (walking on cobblestones requires lots of looking down). Those moments of waiting were invitations to notice what was in front of me, like little carvings in walls or unique shapes of doorknockers.

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Slowly, slowly invites me to appreciate the here and now.

Travel also shakes things up. It is like a snow globe where I am tossed around a bit and when the snow settles, everything looks different. The people, places and food are unfamiliar, and my equilibrium is off. I join Dorothy in saying, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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A man at church recently toured the Holy Land. Before he left, he told me he had been nervous about traveling to such a potentially dangerous place until he learned they were staying in a Westin Hotel and then he thought, “If I didn’t know any different, I could still be at home.”

“Then what is the point of going?” I asked.

When I travel, I want to be shaken up and to experience what is different. I want to know how it is for people who live in that place and to have my assumptions and stereotypes challenged. I want to be changed by my experiences, to learn something about another people and place—and about myself.

One of the features of touring with Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) is that we visit people in their homes. On this tour, our group was split up among three homes in Carrera (after a tour of the nearby marble quarry). My small group had lunch with a couple and one of their sons.

Later in the tour, we visited Spello and were entertained by an Umbrian folk music group in the home of one of the musicians.

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Massimo Liberatori & La Società dei Musici

During my two weeks in Italy, slowly, slowly became my go-to gear, and I pledged to myself that when I got home, I would try harder to stay in slow gear, to remind myself every day (and even multiple times a day), piano, piano.

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Our Overseas Adventure Travel Group Tour Leader, Giacomo, aka Captain America

Mother Teresa speaks to me

Mother Teresa has been speaking to me recently. Not directly, of course, but through a daily reflection book I have been reading this year, Do Something Beautiful for God.

Sometimes, they are pithy sayings like the entry for October 19:

Life is an adventure; dare it.

I, too, believe that life is an adventure, and I am doing my best to dare it, by taking risks, traveling, saying yes to opportunities. I am doing things I love and enjoying life. I wonder, though, if that is what Mother Teresa meant. Her life seemed totally devoted to service, so when she says adventure, what does she mean?

Last month, I participated in two opportunities to serve meals at two churches in the city, and I was reminded of the importance of direct contact with people who live closer to the edge than I do. Most of the volunteer work I do now is organizational (boards and committees), so cooking and serving meals felt like an invitation to return to the kind of service I used to do. A different kind of adventure.

Other times, Mother Teresa’s words seem to be inviting me to a movement in prayer. The entry for October 14: Every moment of prayer, especially before our Lord in the tabernacle, is a sure, positive gain. The time we spend each day sitting with God is the most precious part of the whole day.

This one spoke to me on several levels. First, I don’t tend to spend time before our Lord in the tabernacle, perhaps because it was not part of my religious upbringing and because I have to go someplace to find a tabernacle. I pray in the morning at home, but I know that when I have prayed in chapel (on retreat mostly), I have found it peaceful. When I read this reflection, I wondered why I don’t go to chapel more often.

That led me to reflect on my time in prayer every morning and if it is the most precious part of the whole day. I know that when I am on retreat, spending a whole week in silence and focused on God 24/7, my prayer seems to be deeper and more precious.  Perhaps the invitation is to be more attentive to God throughout the day—on retreat or not.

The entry for October 16: If you were to die today, what would others say about you? What was in you that was beautiful, that was Christlike, that helped others to pray better? Face yourself, with Jesus at our side, and do not be satisfied with just any answer. Go deep into the question. Examine your life.

When I left Pennsylvania nine years ago—after having lived there for twenty-eight years—friends had a going-away party for me and one after another, people said all kinds of wonderful things about me. My friend Ted said it was like being at my own wake, and I still smile when I recall that party. One thing that stood out to me was how many people thanked me for doing some small thing that I did not even remember doing—a kind word or some small favor that meant little to me but had a big impact on them.

That reminded me of Mother Teresa’s saying: Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.

A week at the lake

Last week, I dog-sat for a sweet Brittany Spaniel named Dolly who lives at the lake. Two of my favorites–a dog and water.

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Gorgeous sunrises greeted me most every morning.

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Six swans (2 are behind the tree) swam by every morning.

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Some days, the water was calm; on other days, there were whitecaps.

More pics from Mackinac Island

One of the things that makes Mackinac Island unique is that there are no cars on the Island, so transportation is via foot, bike or horse.

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Horse-drawn taxi
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Bikes line the streets

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Mackinac Island was an important part of the early fur trade but during the 19th century developed into a summer vacation destination. The Victorian houses and horse-drawn carriages are a step back in time.

We stayed at the Bayview B&B, built in 1891 and maintaining the charm of that era.

The Mackinac Bridge is the fifth longest suspension bridge in the world. It connects the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan and can be seen from Mackinac Island. There are no bridges to the Island, though; the Island is reached by ferry from either Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula or St. Ignace in the Upper.

Critters in my garden

Yanking some of the Golden Alexander in my garden (which is technically not invasive, but does spread and needs some aggressive yanking to control it), I happened upon this little critter enjoying one of the leaves. I was happy for the help in keeping the plant under control.

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Wonderful wildlife

At 3:00 p.m. yesterday, with school back in session, the Lake St. Clair Metro Park had few people but lots of wildlife, including these Canada geese, a crane and heron. I always feel fortunate to see a crane or heron, but to see both in one day was a joy.

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Canada geese

Crane at the shore of the lake

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Heron in the canal

Be seen and heard

Shh.

Be quiet.

Don’t speak.

Be seen and not heard.

Make yourself small.

Cower in the corner.

Become invisible.

Keep the little girl inside you little.

This is my beloved Son; listen to him, God said of Jesus.

Did God say of me, This is my beloved daughter; listen to her?

But who can hear me when I am being quiet?

How can you listen to me when I am not speaking?

If I remain tucked in the corner, trying to be invisible,

how can I spread God’s message of love and forgiveness?

God whispers to me.

Think big thoughts.

Speak up.

Make yourself seen and heard.