In the Stillness

The depths of the human heart always long for silence and solitude. ~~ Felix O. Magallanes

I speak for myself and these words ring true for me. I need to connect with my inner self for my spiritual nourishment. It may be because I’m reflective by nature. My energy easily depletes when I cannot find even a little time for silence. Silence.

watermarked-stillness2But I believe that for most people this must be true as well. We’ve heard of stories of the rich, the famous and beautiful, the accomplished, who at the end of the day find themselves feeling empty.

Perhaps in the busyness of their lives, they haven’t yet journeyed deep within where they could seek the real meaning of their lives. For it is in the stillness of the human heart that discernment takes places. It is where one can communicate with the Higher Being, or for us Christians, with the Holy Spirit and listen to the voice of God.

In the stillness of the human heart also comes the rumblings of the soul as it takes in all the negativity that whirl around – the world being an imperfect place. And the soul cannot hush itself as long as the cries of the anguished are ignored. For deep within the human heart is the thread that binds each to one another.

To better appreciate this truth, and to encourage us to find a deeper mission in our lives, here is an excerpt from John O’Donohue, whose books, such as “Anam Cara,” “Eternal Echoes,” and “Divine Beauty” are – in the words of one of my nun-friends – consoling and reassuring to read…that calls and awakens all that is noble in the human heart.

THE VOICE OF YOUR OWN SOUL
When you take the time to draw on your listening-imagination, you will begin to hear this gentle voice at the heart of your life. It is deeper and surer than all the other voices of disappointment, unease, self-criticism and bleakness. All holiness is about learning to hear the voice of your own soul. It is always there and the more deeply you learn to listen, the greater surprises and discoveries that will unfold. To enter into the gentleness of your own soul changes the tone and quality of your life. Your life is no longer consumed by hunger for the next event, experience or achievement. You learn to come down from the treadmill and walk on the earth. You gain a new respect for yourself and others and you learn to see how wonderfully precious this one life is. You begin to see through the enchanting veils of illusion that you had taken for reality. You no longer squander yourself on things and situations that deplete your essence. You know now that your true source is not outside you. Your soul is your true source and a new energy and passion awakens in you.
John O’Donohue
Excerpt from BEAUTY

You may want to read and digest more inspiring quotes from John O’Donohue through this link.

I love this in particular: “If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.”  ― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

On Self-Giving

The simple gift of self is the greatest gift of all.

The above quote is from a reflection contained in the book, Thoughts In Solitude: Capturing the Essence of Being Human” by Felix Berto O. Magallanes, in which the author speaks of sharing oneself to others not just utter words, communicating our very being, and expressing our inner feelings, to share […] as we would to one who is not totally “other,” but is part of oneself.

self-giving-waterThe most profound example of this giving of self is God’s self-giving – sending His Only Begotten Son to be born in a humble manger to become one of us. And again, as the Son’s total obedience to the Father, Jesus Christ gave up His life on the Cross in atonement for our sins and to redeem humanity.

It’s Advent. So it’s an opportune time to reflect on this wonderful gift of God’s Love, which we Christians are called upon to exemplify in our daily life by sharing our blessings with others, for example.

To help us ponder on the message of God’s self-, sacrificing-love, here are more words of wisdom about the Blessedness of Self-Giving. What I understand as the main point in the author’s reflection is that of humility. The giving of self without the temptation to seek glory, except for the Glory of God. And aside from the perfect example of Christ, the writer also mentions about Paul: With lowliness of mind, with tears, with trials, coveting no man’s silver or gold or apparel, but caring for himself and his companions by daily labour at his trade, he gave himself to teaching publicly and from house to house, going about preaching the kingdom.

I also came upon this insightful article on self-giving love. It invites us to think about these important questions: How can one person give himself to another? What does this mean? According to the writer, only each of us can find the answers. Each person has his own mind and his own free will. In the end, no one else can think for me. No one else can choose for me. Yet, at the same time, the article helps us ponder more deeply: in what sense can one person give himself to his beloved?

I’d like to add my own thoughts on self-giving; I also believe – as in the 2nd reflection I mentioned above – that the sincerity of our giving is clothed in humility, without vainglory. This truth struck me one time I was browsing through my social media news feed.

I couldn’t help noticing the postings of friends wherein they shared about the charitable activities they were doing for their respective orgs. There is nothing wrong with that. Their generosity and active participation in community-building are inspiring, encouraging, uplifting.

So just a timely reminder for us — that while we give ourselves in service to others, let Humility live in our hearts – to restrain ourselves from bragging about the good we do for others. There’s a thin dividing line between sharing in order to inspire and sharing in order to seek people’s praises and recognition.

In our self-giving, may God’s praise suffice.

My Heart Bleeds

My heart bleeds for all children of violence and injustice
in the world – dying because rulers and ideologues fight
and cling to their dominance —
people are mere pawns in their brutal games of chess

Pity the parents who cannot protect their young
from the ravages of war, famine and tyranny;
from flimsy excuses of leaders to install autocracy
just to hoard the wealth that should belong to all;
from leaders with only disdain and contempt
for their own people

The earth is carpeted
with the blood of innocents;
blackened with soot from burning flames of hatred, greed and power

Has humanity indeed descended to the lowest of pits
to take the place of beasts
who now transcend their nature to become more
noble, loyal and compassionate?

Hear the voice of the just O Lord
their cries are our pleas to you O God of Mercy
when will your Justice ever reign over us?
To separate the sheep from the goats
and spare our beloved lands from becoming a vast wilderness

If this is how the world will go on living its days
I dare pray the Almighty to please stop allowing more infants to be born
O Mighty God, Ruler of All
The fate of the innocents yet to see the light
seems doomed —
to suffer indignity or apathy from the hands of their own
flesh and blood —
or if not, what kind of life would they have in
a world where disparity and cruelty rule

When can those in authority recognize their time on
earth is limited
that they have to face You O Lord in
the Great Day of Reckoning!

The wombs of the earth shake with silent rage from
the depths of hallow graves of innocents
they await Your Great Justice O Lord

When will people’s tears crystallize
into steely resolve to snatch their rights and dignity
from oppressors —
Your Armor send to your dying
children in Allepo, here and elsewhere, we beseech You!

On Finding My Unique Writing Voice

I know I’m smart, but I don’t sound smart when I write. I know I’m intelligent, but I don’t want to sound all-knowing or intellectual. I know I’m fun to be with, but I don’t want to sound like fun.

I’m a serious person – but I don’t want to sound too staid or flat when I write. I want my articles my-image-for-summers-third-wind-2to be able to speak to you, move you, make you react or comment. You may give me pointers or feedback or anything as long as we can strike up a conversation. To create a ripple among other readers, I hope.

I want my blog to have a far reach – especially among people my age – but anyone is most welcome.

I want my blog not only as a repository of my reflective thoughts on life in general. But of opinions on issues that matter around the world today. More so with the kind of world we have today that abounds with hatred, violence, lack of civility, and the like.

But I don’t want to write about anything political or of current events. Maybe just an opinion or two about some issues. Maybe just to influence some thinking and inspire some deep conversation.

I feel shy or embarrassed whenever I tell people I write in my own blog because I feel my writing lacks something. Perhaps what they say as personality or voice. Hence what I’m doing now is an exercise to find my own voice.

I know I write with sense – but I see now it lacks chutzpah. What can I do to add some life to my pieces?

Okay. I’m writing now to you my dear friend. You know me well enough, and one thing I like is I’m able to make you laugh because I’m witty, smart. There – I’ve just found two adjectives I want my blog to sound like: WITTY, SMART (not trying hard nor trite).

I also wish my blog to sound cool, soft and flowing – peaceful and serene. Because a deep part of myself longs for quiet and calm. Like meditative sounds in the background — that’s how I long my blog to sound like.

I came across this quote; somehow it makes sense.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
—Elmore Leonard

Being in the Here-and-Now

Surely most of you have found yourselves at one task, yet your mind was elsewhere. I guess this is a normal part of a busy person’s life. Or of the modern person.

And many of us are not even aware that our thoughts drift, here and there. We seem to be always running after time. Catching our breaths. Cramming so many things within a short span. Mindless doing.

We lack attention. Our focus is elsewhere. We tend to think of what we have to do next.

Such is the illness that plagues our modern times. Our time has become more stressful due to the Noise that comes with our wired space/environment.

Hence, we destroy our bodies. We burden our minds. And we sap our spirit. No wonder why the world seems to experience these health conditions more and more: depression, anxiety, cancer, and other diseases.

We often forget: the best way to heal ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, is in our Being at the moment. In being present in the Here-and Now. In being mindful of our task at hand. Enjoying our life at the moment. Leaving past aches behind. Not worrying about tomorrow.

We are given ONE LIFE to live. We have only this moment — Now. Life becomes more Meaningful; Fruitful; Enriching — if we try to live in the moment. Not rushing headlong into the far unknown, nor being stuck or fixated on the past. (Of course, this does not mean not cherishing good memories and forgetting life’s invaluable lessons gained).

The PRESENT is precious and sacred. We are called by the Almighty God to relish His Gift of Today. To hold and honor it with all the good we can do in the best we can. Before it slips away… imageedit_1_2538495913

Life Is What You Make It

 “Do you believe it’s possible for some people to get that fairy tale ending of happily ever after?

As my response, I wrote a poem I specially dedicate to my dear granddaughters, shown in the photo below, who just like me so many moons ago, are also fascinated with fairy tales, including the musical fantasy-comedy film, Frozen.

my-granddaughters-in-fairy-tale-costumes

Life is what you make it

Not frogs turned into dashing princes

Nor talking mirrors that say you’re the fairest of them all…

No glass slippers will transform you into a beauty

Nor knight in shining armor will kiss you awake

No magic potions to make people love you…

Life is what you make it

And if you want happy endings

You don’t need elves or fairies or icy powers to make your dreams come true…

For no amount of abrakadabra or magic words

Can open the door to happiness for you

with no shed of sweat, tears and heaves of sighs…

The road to bliss is long and winding, yes

full of twists and turns, twigs and thorns,

Yet it takes work, honesty, and faith to find your way…

Life isn’t a fairy tale, yet you can make things happen

and life becomes wonderful in a flash.

Just a great ounce of perseverance, and a heart filled with goodness:

love, kindness, respect, humility, understanding;

hands willing to sacrifice, clear vision to help reach your goals;

Life isn’t a fairy tale, yet you can make things happen

and fairy tale endings will be yours, happily ever after!

Once Upon A Snow White Tale

What is your favourite fairy tale and why?

 

A long, long time ago, I feasted on fairy tales: Grimm’s, Andersen’s, Aesop fables and Filipino folk tales. And of all the fantastic tales narrated to me, or I myself read, again and again, Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs captivated my heart the most. It’s simply magical and feeling good.

As a child growing up in a middle-class family, I delighted in repeating this fairy tale to my younger siblings come bedtime, and years later as a mother, I never tired of reliving this tale to my two sons when they were little.

So whenever there would be a play or the Disney film version of this on TV, even as an adult, a childlike excitement would still fill me as I watched Snow White with my young boys.

Snow White was the girl I dreamt to be because then, I was always teased by my playmates for my dark complexion, and as a shy girl, I saw in her what I could be.snowwhiteImage Source:

Also, my mother was a dominant figure in my growing up years being a housewife, and my father would go to work each day. So she brought us up in the traditional Filipino strict, but loving way, disciplining and teaching us chores.

Though I loved my Mom, and strove to be obedient, still there was a streak of rebellion in my little girl’s heart – so somehow, a teeny weeny part of me would put my mother in the role of the Queen – and myself as Snow White. And that made me feel victorious!

As an aside, Mom was beautiful and fair, and it was my younger sisters who inherited her fairness and beauty.

Thus, for me, the ugly duckling was me personified, especially as I was wearing glasses, and my school friends would call me “four-eyed.” Me in ponytails and eyeglasses was the perfect butt of taunts from naughty, but nice, well-meaning friends.

I took them all in stride, the teasing, yet because it was the 60’s, the ideal beauty was supposed to be fair complexion, and loose, flowing hair. My saving grace – my high-bridged nose! How petty you might say, but I guess children pass this stage.

Even if my Mom would often build up my self-esteem saying I’d be a Miss Universe too someday, as a grade schooler, I yearned for dwarf friends like Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey (Wikipedia) who would protect me from the bad ones.

Reflecting deeper, I realized the story of Snow White and her friendly, caring 7 dwarfs provided me with a safe comfort zone in my own little world of imagination.

The battle between good and evil had already been strongly ingrained in my young mind by my religious upbringing at home and in school, by the time I first met Snow White. So the good winning over evil, in this tale, was in a way what hooked me.

Reading this fairy tale was like being home away from home, assuring me everything would still be fine even if there was evil around. I guess that’s the secret to all these fairy tales, the element of good over evil, and the desire to be and do good – which rouses what is innate in the human soul, even in a child’s soul.

Children have their own way of relating to fairy tales, as I did, but the main thing that attracts them to fantasy stories like these is wanting to see the good forces to triumph over the bad, or the beautiful winning over the ugly.

I know for sure Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs, the magical story of my childhood, will tug at my heartstrings in a special way forevermore.

 

 

*NOTE: Edited title. I edited the title of this post after discovering there have been too many articles/posts with the same title – Once Upon a Fairy Tale. I also made some minor revisions in my content.

– marichu f.jose

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Not How Many That Matters

A lively group discussion, an intimate tête-à-tête, an inner monologue — in your view, when it comes to a good conversation, what’s the ideal number of people?

Thus goes a  writing prompt on Word Press’ The Daily Post sometime ago…and as I ponder, I find not one right number of people to include in a meaningful conversation. It depends perhaps on the purpose or setting.

For instance, in social gatherings in the family, or in school, or at work, the more, the merrier seems to be a good dictum to follow. But then one should not expect a meaningful exchange of ideas, thoughts or feelings…it’s just an avenue to keep up with each other, or feel/pretend like one belongs, not as an intruder or outcast. Sometimes big social events have this intimidating effect on me.

Mostly in this setting, it’s more fun to observe where the ball is rolling. Listen carefully and one isn’t sure if she can get the flow..each seems to be waiting to throw their own ball in this verbal ping-pong interaction that often results in a cacophony of voices that falter to meaningless ‘Ohs’, ‘ahs’ ‘uhmmmms I see’…Anyone can just drift in or out…And no one seems to mind. Have you ever experienced something like this. Did it also make you feel awkward?

A lively group discussion can be had though when there’s a meeting of the minds – no matter what the topic or where the discussion takes place — at home over dinner, in the classroom, in the gym, on the street corner — you can sense people in the group are having a great time debating, arguing, or simply exchanging views, because each one listens and responds accordingly, and each has learned something. That’s the biggest take away.

Hence, I’d say it’s not really how many people that matters to make a conversation good or meaningful. For as long as each participant gets into the flow, each voice speaks up, each gives a listening ear, making everyone feel good about themselves and the interactive moment, then it’s good, for it brings out the best in each in the group.


Respect: What Today’s World So Badly Needs

It’s my first time to write something like this but I can’t just help it. What urged me to do so was the recent news that reported about one Law student being shamed by her professor when she came to class wearing shorts.

Her professor reportedly made sexist remarks to the third year female student and asked her to “dress properly.”  The comments made by the professor were indeed uncalled for, over the top, and yes, sexist —  arrogantly putting into question the student’s credibility and character!

Couldn’t he have just waited after class to reprimand his student in private? It would’ve been more respectful of him to do so, and could’ve avoided needless hurt on his student and the rest of the class. He should have comported himself with decorum, in the first place, for it was his perceived “lack of decorum” of his student that he was being angry about, and because he is a professor who should be modeling proper behavior to his students – at all times and circumstances. His profession demands he conducts himself respectfully, politely and with dignity.

Granted he could not wait after his class – shouldn’t he have chosen his words more wisely? Why did he have to go out of the issue anyway — the matter of dress code in his class.

Just because he is male, and an esteemed professor, he perhaps thought he had every right to chastised his student in front of everybody. So he chose to do so, without much discernment, without much thought to his choice of words and act. And according to another report, the professor said in an interview, there was no written dress code for students in NLSIU’s rules currently but he has asked the university administration to issue clarifications about the dress code to the students, especially keeping in mind that “certain decorum” is expected from students attending lectures taken “especially by a senior faculty member”.

certain decorum” is expected from students attending lectures taken “especially by a senior faculty member” — Clearly, the professor’s ego got pricked at seeing his student in shorts. More so, as this happened in a culture that is predominantly conservative, traditional and where a machismo attitude still takes hold of many males. But he could have acted with grace by keeping quiet until the bell rang, and talk with the student in a nice way.

Yes, I feel for the female student – and young as she is, I can just imagine the pain, embarrassment and shame she had to endure. She and her classmates had every right to feel aggrieved and protest this uncivilised act of their professor’s public shaming.

Yet on the other hand — I also wonder about people’s sense of propriety nowadays, not just the young. But older ones too. It seems to me that the very idea of being proper – is no longer observed because what is given more importance today is one’s individual preferences, one’s own comfort, one’s own ways. Individualism is the rage!

Who cares about what others say? But to observe propriety or decorum is still called for because showing respect is never out of place and is never out of fashion. Proper behavior or decorum is still a must in a civilised society. We all should adhere to unspoken rules as well that we give consideration for others, as we would expect them to be considerate of us. Respect for others, for places, for people’s time — this is part of plain good manners and right conduct. Giving others due respect is also respecting ourselves.

Yet many people — men and women, young and old alike — do not think about this, as they think of only themselves and what makes them happy and comfortable.

How would you think if a guest attends your formal wedding rites or that of your offspring, in very casual outfit – slippers and shorts? Would you not also feel upset about that? Or  even inviting your friend to a sit-down dinner at your home – honestly, wouldn’t you have some sort of expectation as to how your friends will be attired, or even you, when you visit other homes?

I’m not blaming the young girl – what I am just saying is, perhaps she, just like so many others – no longer think twice about discomfiting others – with the way they behave and dress in public.

Thus – my point is – whether the professor was right or wrong on being upset with what his student wore to class – he shouldn’t have behaved the way he did. And for the young girl, unless her shorts were of knee-length, such attire in class is improper indeed.

What the world today needs more of is RESPECT – respect for oneself, for one another, for rules of propriety, for whatever it takes to make the world a better, civilized place to live in.

Young and old, all should observe proper decorum. Let’s remember, the world isn’t just about us. We live with others; thus, it shouldn’t always be “live and let live.”

 

February Has Come ~ Haiku

February is special to my family. It is the month of my parents’ wedding anniversary. Perhaps you may think how romantic of them to choose this month because of its being associated with Valentine’s Day, but no, far from it.

My parents have always had a special devotion to Our Lady ~~ so they chose to wed on her Feast day, or rather the day after. It would’ve been their Diamond Anniversary last year, but Mom had gone on just a few months before. Now, their wedding anniversary is almost near, and while my Dad finds strength and consolation in his faith, I know sadness and longing linger in his heart as with the rest of us. So here’s another verse for my Mom…

feb-has-come