For Peace

I realized that as long as I harbor hatred, anger or violence in my heart, I am contributing to the violence in the world.


Today we celebrate 100 years since the end of World War I. November 11th is also Veterans Day in the US, and as it happens Jack’s and my wedding anniversary. We had reasons of our own to get married on 11:11 at 11 AM, and at the time I didn’t even know that was also the time peace was proclaimed after the war that was supposed to end all wars. Jack is no longer here to celebrate this day with me, but I commemorate this day, and I celebrate him, and all other active or retired military personnel, and all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and our way of life.

It is a paradox that there is a huge military machinery in place to keep the peace, and one may wonder if it isn’t a total fallacy that we can keep ourselves safe by engaging in war? Albert Einstein (1879-1955) said that “Peace cannot be kept by force, only by understanding”, while Albert Camus (1913-1960) said that “Peace is the only battle worth waging”. Many other people have weighed in on the discussion of peace and said noteworthy things, and if asked, I believe most people would say that peace is something they wish for. Yet how can peace come, if we have hearts full of fear and minds full of violence?

Many, many years ago there was a  women’s peace conference in Scandinavia. I lived in Finland at the time, I was a young wife and mother, and I was not at the conference in person, but I listened to radio broadcasts from it while cooking and baking in the comfort of my own kitchen. A lot of the things that were shared at the conference I could agree with, but there was a dichotomy that I didn’t agree with. There was much talk about the men’s world, about the wars and violence waged by men. It is true that it is mostly men out there fighting our battles, but aren’t they doing it to protect their families, their countries and their way of life? The notion that only men would be  to blame for the chaos and violence in our world is a strange one. Who brought up all these men? They had mothers didn’t they? Yet the women I listened to on the broadcast seemed to think that they had nothing to do with the violence perpetrated by men.

In talking about the agenda and focus of a small, local women’s peace group, among all the other things that were shared, somebody slipped up, and talking again about the violence of men, a woman said: “We come together, we talk about the men, the violence, and we hate…” I can understand strong sentiments against war and violence, and strong words in condemning the atrocities that take place in times of war, but HATE…? That word reverberated in me, and I have never forgotten it. How can you promote peace, if you have hate in your heart? It was so striking that I called the radio station, and I asked that question of the person responsible for the broadcast, but she had totally missed it…

Well, I learned something that day that has defined my life. I realized that as long as I harbor hatred, anger or violence in my heart, I am contributing to the violence in the world. I may not be out there physically fighting on the battlefield or killing people, but when I allow anger or rage to dictate my actions, I am contributing to the very thing I profess to be against. We are all part of life and linked to everything and everyone else, and whatever we contribute either benefits peace or works against it. Whatever we focus on, we create more of. That doesn’t mean we aren’t to keep informed, but whatever emotions we emit contribute either to the violence in the world or to a peaceful solution.

Just to be clear, all the women’s organizations and international organizations working for peace in the world are much needed, and doing great work. My point is that it is way too easy to “see the speck in your brother’s eye, but not notice the log that is in our own eye” (Matthew 7:3) What we are not willing to see in ourselves, we see in others, and attack it there. In Psychology this is called projection.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” These words have been attributed to Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), and the meaning is clear: Whatever we wish to promote in the world, we must embody in our own lives. Taking responsibility for what we contribute to the world, working on releasing the pain in our hearts, finding more balance and wholeness in our own lives, is not a selfish enterprise; it is necessary if we wish to promote peace in the world.

On this day commemorating peace, let me finish with the words of John O’Donohue (1956-2008), Irish poet, author, priest and philosopher. “For Peace”, narrated by Sr. Patricia Twohill, OP:


Featured Image, Petunia Growing in Concrete Gutter, by Monica

Drinking Life to the Lees

Life itself is movement, and it asks of us that we keep moving as well.

“I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.” – Excerpt from Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The moon glides in and out of the clouds, creating a play of light and shadows in the dark garden. The rain has stopped, but mist still hangs in the air, and everything is dripping wet.  In the distance trucks thunder down the interstate, the sound carrying far in the still of the night. The air is chilly, but full of fragrance brought out by the rain.

There is something raw and piercing about the hour before dawn. Life waits in silence, as impressions take shape, suggesting new dreams are possible. For a moment the echoes of yesterday are gone, and in the silence before the din of the day, new adventures beckon. Maybe it is possible after all! How many lives can we have? As many as we choose!

“How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things” – From Ulysses 

Summer is past with all its wonderful diversions and challenges, and fall is stretching out in shorter days, days less filled with toil. It’s not always easy to discern a path forward when plans have been thwarted. When life has changed in unthinkable ways, it can be hard to see a path at all. Yet as long as we draw breath life demands that we continue down our path, whether we are clear on our course or not. Death changes everything, and life is nevermore the same. It does not mean that the living are not dear to us; it just means that the void left by the departed is syphoning away our initiative, drive and will. After we have been visited by loss, it takes a real effort to choose new things, to find that spark of curiosity for life again. The path meanders through months and years of ups and downs, and nothing is as easy as it once was. Time challenges us to take charge of our life, to live again, even when we don’t quite know how.

“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” – From Ulysses

Surrounded by a lifetime of memories and mementos, it may seem that there is not much left to reach for. Dreams float by like ships on a misty sea, not easily identified, yet there. Reaching for the dreams, daring to set foot on one of those ships, can be daunting in the second half of life, when so much life is already behind, and the sheer hope of a new beginning can seem exhausting.  Yet the reality of it is that either we live – or we stagnate, and die. If not in body, then in spirit. Except for cherished memories, there really is no holding on to the life that was; the water in the river doesn’t touch the same bend twice.  Life itself is movement, and it asks of us that we keep moving as well.

Going from not caring what happens to us to “drinking life to the lees” (Alfred, Lord Tennyson) may seem like an impossible leap, but despair not – it is possible! Even if the longing to again merge with the stream of life comes in stops and starts, and even if it sputters to a halt again and again, it still is possible. Life yearns to express itself, and either we allow it to express through us, or our existence becomes colorless and stagnates. Watching the sun rise every morning, coloring the world in newness, reminds us that new life is being born every moment. Will we allow it to emerge, or will we give in to the weariness and stifle it?

“I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone…” – From Ulysses 

I want to embrace Lord Tennyson’s call to living life to the fullest, to know, to feel, to experience all of life in its aching beauty and pain. I’m not pretending it’s easy, and there are times when the challenges just feel overwhelming, but what other choice do I have? Love and loss are intricately intertwined, and pain is part of this human journey. I cannot live without love, I know that much… I have spent a lot of my life trying to avoid the pain, but it never worked anyway! So why not embrace it all, stop resisting, and take the “good” with the “bad”? Without the contrast, how would I even know the difference?

How will you choose? I know there are many of you struggling to regain your balance after losses of different kinds, and I would welcome your thoughts on how you are surviving. And those of you who have managed to go from surviving to thriving – how did you do it?

My heart is with you!


I apologize for having abandoned my readers over the summer months; too much travel and too many challenges in everyday life had me diverted! Now fall is here, and there aren’t as many things to pull me away from sharing my heart with you. I thank you for being a part of my life’s journey, and I sign off for now with love and blessings!

Featured image by Monica



Your Heart was My Heart

The day a loved one dies is surreal and indescribable. Although grief affects our memory, I can still remember every detail of that day, and the hum that filled my body like a distant roar. It felt like an amputation, and it was like I flatlined with him. The time that followed was excruciating, painful, cruel, and I wondered how anybody survives? Yet people go through it every single day, and somehow most of us survive, and some of us even go on to have happy, meaningful lives again.

I know Jack would have wanted me to live, to love and to be happy again, and I have, but that doesn’t mean I have forgotten. How could I? He taught me to live fully, and without regrets. He also reminded me of the importance of being present in my life, and although that is something I still at times struggle with, it is a lesson I’ll never forget. Today is eight years since he left, and although my heart is heavy, it is also filled with gratitude for the time we were granted, the love and happiness we shared. I’ve learned important lessons since he’s been gone, lessons I might otherwise not have taken to heart, and I am forever grateful for both the days of joy, and the days of pain that accompany all deep life experiences.

The poem below is for anyone who has ever lost a loved one. I cannot promise you an end to your pain or new beginnings, but I pray that you will find peace, and a soft place to land in your memories.

We are the lucky ones, the ones who have loved deeply! Love is a blessing, although it may seem like a curse that day we lose the one we love. Yet, would you choose away the love for fear of the pain?  I think not. “… love is the only survival, the only meaning.” – Thornton Wilder


Your Heart was My Heart

The sun rises,
but the mind doesn’t want to awaken…
Every move is an effort, every word a struggle, and
life itself is like navigating through blackness.
Yet the heart beats,
the body still alive;
how can that be?
How come I didn’t die with you?

Our hearts were linked,
beating in the same rhythm,
rejoicing in the love
radiating from the other.
Now where is the mirror, where the joy?
Where the meaning of anything?

My wish may be
not to be
but the body still goes on
carving a path through time,
a path stretching out endlessly
through meaningless days.
What do you want from me life?
What do you want from me death?

The ultimate abandonment,
in its cruelty
taking what I hold most dear,
leaving me struggling to breathe,
dragging myself through days and hours
dressed in pain, and confusion.

The mind refuses to accept,
the heart struggles to believe,
because I can still hear your voice,
see your smile,
feel your embrace –
yet you are no more…

Your heart was my heart,
your smile my home!
How come my heart is still beating
while yours stopped?


Featured image by Monica



Life as a House

Hit by hail and shaken by storms,
paint flaking, walls marked by
settling scars,
she still intrigues,
with walls of white, windows framed in blue,
and arches overgrown by honeysuckle.

Inside new treasures fight for space,
with old bargains collecting dust,
piles of books and magazines,
photos, knick knacks, plants, and rocks,
floors well worn, dishes chipped,
all telling stories of life, love and loss.

She is the safe space,
the scene of tears and laughter,
dinner parties, quiet evenings curled up with a book,
simple cups of tea, and the occasional cup of Irish coffee,
the holding of hands, the letting go,
the celebration of life, and of death.

The house is now in flux
mirroring the big changes knocking,
and the need for brooms to sweep,
for hands and hearts to let go
of memories, mementos, big and small,
of habits long lacking in purpose.

Which book to keep, which treasure to discard,
what clothes to wear, which videos to trash,
and letters, artwork, carpentry treasures,
gifts, journals, and unfinished projects –
where do they belong,
when they no longer fill drawers, and decorate walls?

What do I need?
What can I let go?
Which story is necessary to tell,
which one can be faded out?
How do I weigh a life,
and what is left hanging in the balance?

However I choose, change is coming.
It will not wait till invited,
it will not hesitate before entering,
it is in the air,
it comes upon the winds,
and it demands its place without apology.

The only thing to do, is
the only thing to say, is
– welcome!


Featured image by Monica

What Guber Taught Me About Suffering

He stood in the middle of the kennel, shaking from head to toe, looking totally despondent. The chart on the door said that he was a two year old Jack Russell, and he had been surrendered that very day. And he’d also been to see the vet that day, and lost his manhood… No wonder he was hanging his head, and being unresponsive! I kept talking to him, and he finally inched forward enough so that I could scratch him lightly on his left cheek.

The next day I went back and took him for a walk. He had a funny, little gait, his left rear leg kicking out to the side, and his left butt cheek was smaller than the right one. I asked the shelter staff about that, and was told that the leg had been broken. The vet later confirmed that the leg had been shattered, and had not healed right, and it was now too late to do anything about it. He’d probably been hit by a car, and not tended to, so that left rear paw was now turned outward.

My husband was traveling at the time, but I talked to him over the phone about the Jack Russell at the shelter, and about his supposed weaknesses – marking in the house… We read up on it a bit, and talked to Jack’s son, who was familiar with Jack Russells, and when Jack got back from his trip, we decided to give the Jack Russell a second chance at family life. Jack picked him up while I was at work, and he’d also purchased a dog bed, dog food, and all the necessary accessories. We named him Guber.

People kept saying that Guber had won the doggie lottery when he ended up with us, but it was actually the other way around – we were the lucky ones! Guber was an affectionate, energetic, very loving and obedient dog. He could jump higher than any dog I’d seen, and he loved to run and play ball. He also loved to just cuddle on your lap or next to you on the sofa. A year later when little six week old rescue Pia joined our family, Guber wasn’t overjoyed, but he was still fiercely protective of his little sister. Pia was a heeler mix, and soon outgrew Guber in size, but Guber was always the alfa dog. He must’ve thought he was a big dog, because if he perceived a threat, he didn’t hesitate to go in between me and dogs several times his size, and he got tumbled more than once trying to protect Pia from the consequences of her curiosity.

Although Jack was the one who had brought Guber home from the shelter, and Guber spent most of his time with Jack, he was still very much my dog. Maybe it was the bonding that took place those first couple of days after he had been left at the shelter? When I was at home Guber used to follow me around the house, and as soon as I sat down he jumped up on my lap. He had his own bed and his kennel, but the rules were soon broken, and he slept with us. No, I wasn’t the one who broke the rules! Jack did! He was also the one who once smuggled Guber into a motel! He simply took Guber with him everywhere he went. I don’t know how he managed it, but Guber even sat next to him on a bar stool when he had lunch in a pub once!

Eight months after the adoption we started noticing that something might not be quite right with our precious Guber. He would come happily running, just to take odd tumbles, and he would at times run into things. The local veterinarian shared his diagnosis with us, and the specialist confirmed it: Guber had lens luxation. Lens luxation is a hereditary decease, and it is a serious condition where the lenses come loose in the eyes, and causes the dog great pain, and unless something is done, the dog goes blind. We only had two options: Surgery to remove the lenses, or surgery to remove the eyes. The surgery to remove the lenses only had a 50% success rate, but that’s what we opted for, hoping that Guber would be left with at least guide vision.

The surgery went well, but Guber’s recovery was slow. He was allergic to one of the medications he’d received, he had diarrhea and his stool was ruby red with blood. We almost lost him. A transfusion at the local veterinary clinic pulled him through, and life looked up for Guber and for us. But then he had an accident… Despite wearing the Elizabethan collar, he hit his right eye and went blind on that eye… He then had to have a second surgery to remove the eye… I was devastated! On the way home from the surgery in Denver I was in the back seat with Guber, and Jack was driving. Guber was still drowsy from the anesthesia, and snuggled down next to me. I was thinking of this little dog, his courage and indomitable spirit, his protectiveness and loving nature, and my heart ached. He had been through so much, and it didn’t seem fair that he would now continue his life mostly blind. Tears were running down my face, and I could all of a sudden feel Guber licking my hand. He’d felt my sadness and he was trying to console me! Blood still trickling out of his nose, and hardly able to stand, and he was trying to comfort me!

I learned something that day. Guber may have been in pain, but he wasn’t suffering. He didn’t have thoughts like the ones coursing through my brain: “why did this have to happen?” and “this isn’t fair!” He may not have been feeling too great, but he was content being with the people that loved him. He wasn’t feeling sorry for himself nor did he have regrets the way people do;  he was simply present in the moment, and in the moment things were well, because he was safe with his little pack. I understood in that moment that suffering really comes from resistance, from wanting things to be different. By not accepting what is, we create our own suffering. I would have ample opportunity to practice that insight when Jack died a year later…

Guber was my consoler, and constantly by my side in the months that followed Jack’s death. He even came with me to work, till it became clear that wouldn’t work anymore. Probably a good thing for Guber, since it must have been exhausting for him to be my constant comforter! My daughter stayed with me for the first six months, but after that it was just me and the dogs. Life was pretty amazing though, considering that I had the dogs to help me through. I had never had a dog before we adopted Guber! He turned out to be the best thing that happened to me, and even with his handicaps we had many adventures together before he got ill in 2015, and I had to let him go. In the last weeks he was alive, I tried to repay him for his loyalty. He again got to go with me to work, and I walked him and Pia separately. When he was too tired to walk, I carried him. When it rained, I put him under my jacket, but we walked around the block anyway, so he could sniff some air. The last day he was alive I carried him the whole way, and I knew it was time. Yet we made the long trip up to the Veterinary Internal Medicine Clinic in Colorado Springs in the hopes that they might be able to give Guber another lease on life. That didn’t happen, but he got to leave with dignity, outdoors on a beautiful piece of lawn, in the shade of a big tree, and with the wind in his face. And while he slipped away, I was caressing that spot on his left cheek, the way I had the first day we met…

Other dogs have come into my life since then, but I’ll never forget Guber. He really was something else! And because of him I know that my suffering is optional. I can choose to accept what is, and when I do, peace descends. Like Guber I then am present in the moment, and suffering falls away. Do I master this? No! Not yet! But I’ve seen enough to know that when I allow it, the bliss is there. That is a huge gift from a dog that lived so much of his life mostly blind, limping, and in his last year even deaf, yet spread love and healing wherever he went. ❤


Featured Image of “Guber in the Snow” by Monica

Information about lens luxation in Jack Russell Terriers:


The Happiest People in the World

Summer came early to Helsinki this year. Already in early May the temperatures soared to unexpected heights, and people dug out their shorts and bicycles and smiles, and set out to enjoy the abundant sunshine. I was in Helsinki at the time, and I observed the smiles on people’s faces, and I saw how young and old alike quickly populated the outdoor cafeterias and other watering holes, and how they truly enjoyed the early start of the season.

Finns were in a 2018 international study by the UN determined to be the happiest people in the world, and a friend and I looked at each other and shook our heads – we were surprised by the honor that had been bestowed upon our country. However, when looking at all the people I saw just on the way to the mall one morning, they all looked very happy! Even the people walking or biking alone, had smiles on their faces, and I could see that they’d found enjoyment in dressing nicely for their outing. Maybe Paavo and I were wrong for doubting the results of this study? Finns do, after all, have a lot of things going for them, things like quality education, universal health care, and a mostly stable environment. Maybe what we have deemed as our “heavy heritage” is not so heavy after all? At least the 2018 UN World Happiness Report suggests that, and maybe if we just choose to label our country and cultural heritage differently, we can tap into a new and improved understanding of what constitutes happiness!

Paavo and I both recently took part in a Mastering Alchemy conference in Switzerland, where a majority of the participants either came from Europe or had European connections. I myself grew up in Finland, but have spent the last 22 years in the US. In comparing the two countries, the US has often come up short in my mind, but I am also well aware of the heaviness that oftentimes weighs my Finnish brothers and sisters down. That seems to be something we have in common with the people of other European countries, where the ravages of war and strife seem to imbue the very soil, and where the effects of these conflicts are still very present in people’s minds and memories.

Not all the grief and emotional heaviness we carry inside originate from personal experience though, but a lot of it is hand-me-downs from our parents and earlier generations. We are seldom fully aware of the impact of this heritage, yet it has far reaching and many times detrimental consequences for us. We don’t inherit just some negative self-talk, but also a physical and emotional makeup that is sometimes very challenging to shake.  There is a PBS documentary available online called “The Ghost in Your Genes”. It effectively shows that we in our genetics carry not only the predisposition for certain traits and developments in our lives, but also the experiences of our parents, our grandparents and generations before them. For instance the effects of starvation experienced by the grandparents may show up in their grandchildren! That may seem a heavy conviction indeed, if we look to all the hardships of previous generations and their experiences with famine, war and debilitating diseases.  However, in my mind it also offers an explanation to the burdens and heaviness we so often find in our lives, burdens that cannot be accounted for in our own life experiences. I don’t see us endlessly living out the challenges of previous generations, but knowing of this link we have to the past, we can better free ourselves from the bondage of it, and we can make different and happier choices for ourselves. Recent research has shown that we are not doomed by our genetics to live out all the things encoded in our genes, but other circumstances influence which inherited inclinations turn on, and which remain dormant.

As a country the US has its own violent history, and although wars haven’t been fought as often on North American soil as in Europe, Americans aren’t by any means free of the heritage of war and violence. America is a melting pot of people from many different cultures, and all who came here, brought their own heritage with them. Judging from our current output of film and entertainment media in the US, we carry a lot of violence within, and there is, of course, also quite a bit of violence in our more recent history. It might behoove us all to start taking more responsibility for what we bring to the table, before we set out to “change the world” and force our interpretation of life and freedom on others. We are all to a certain extent blind to our own heritage – I know I am – but with some humility and honest self-reflection we can change things for the better for ourselves, and for future generations. Having the UN declare Finland the happiest country in the world may have surprised me, but it also made me realize how the labels we use to define our life and experiences hamper us, and keep us stuck in old ways of perceiving and interpreting the world. It is time to choose again! New choices, new growth, and new experiences await!

My blogs up till now have mostly been about bereavement, a theme I have personal experience of, and therefore have felt I can write about with some conviction. However, I have gradually come to see that grief and how we deal with it, most often finds its expression and springs from the bigger context we’ve grown in. Although grief has common stages and common elements that we all share in, the way we are able to cope with bereavement,  and how we go on in our lives after loss and other challenges, is much dictated by other circumstances in our lives. I therefore feel called to widen my reach, and to write more also about life in general, and how we can find ways to better understand our personal challenges and inherited experiences. Knowing that not all the sadness and heaviness we carry inside is really ours, but something we were handed by previous generations, does in my mind make a huge difference. It also means that we can choose to leave these burdens behind, we can let them float on by without making them part of our story. And it also means that we can take responsibility for our own lives, and make different and better choices for ourselves, decisions that will allow us to live with more ease, beauty, and joy. Taking responsibility for our own happiness means that we are response-able, and not forever caught in the reactionary patterns we have inherited. It means we can let go of the storyline that no longer serves us, and we can define our lives anew. Whatever is imprinted in our genes can be changed; science has shown us that as well!

So, here is to living our lives in the greater setting of ease, joy, and happiness! Here is to allowing beauty, compassion and kindness to flourish! And here is to letting go of the past, and letting light and love define us – now!


Featured image by Monica


Finland is the Happiest Country in the World, says UN report:

The Ghost in Your Genes:

Epigenetics : How You can Change Your Genes and Change Your Life:

If you want to find out about Mastering Alchemy, this is a good place to start:

The Power of Happy Memories

I have a special affinity for tulips! More than 30 years ago my brother Mikael brought me tulip bulbs from Holland, and for many years the beautiful flowers brightened my garden in Finland. Their heads speared the way out of the barely thawed ground, delighting me with their brave appearance. Tulips are part of spring in the Nordic countries, and as a child I remember Mom sending me to the flower shop to buy a bunch to take along on a visit to grandma’s. She’d given me the exact change, but in the store I was enchanted by a two colored variety that cost more, and I ended up owing them money!
Yesterday I traveled to my native Finland by way of Amsterdam, and there at the Schiphol airport bunches and bunches of tulips greeted me with their colorful presence. It just made me happy to take them all in! It is now toward the end of tulip season in Holland, but there were still some yellow and red fields to be seen from the air, and at the airport you could buy tulips to take along as a gift for yourself or a loved one.  They wrap the bouquets well and put them in a zipped, yellow bag that you can easily slide under the airplane seat in front of you. When I visit I usually buy Mom tulips if they are in season, and it gave me great pleasure to be able to present her with tulips directly from Holland!  Mikael had met me at the airport, and after the visit with Mom and Dad,  I went to spend the night with him and his family. His significant other, Tina, also received tulips and got to hear the story of Mikael bringing me the tulip bulbs years ago. I think they were particularly precious to me, because he was a young man at the time, and I was very touched by his thoughtfulness. It also made me realize the power of our memories and their ability to emotionally sway us. Just imagine if we could harness the power of our happy memories and use it to lift us up when we are down!  The memories I have of tulips bring me a deep feeling of joy that simply bubbles up in me, and it got me thinking: What if we consciously went about changing our “negative” memories into ones with positive associations? It would most certainly change our lives! More gratitude, more joy, more feelings of contentment and happiness, and, voila, we have the recipe for an ABUNDANT life!
Since we are on the subject of flowers, let me share an example of how I changed my memories of calla lilies. From my childhood I have a memory of calla lilies often being used as funeral flowers, so it is a flower I would not consider buying as a gift for anyone, since it for many people automatically brings sadness in its wake. One spring my husband and I were camping by the coast in Oregon, and on a hike I found wild calla lilies growing above the dunes. Their majestic heads were swaying in the sea breeze, and I felt compelled to pick one. I used an empty bottle as a vase and placed it on the table in the trailer, where I used to sit and read and write. It was Easter time, and Good Friday nonetheless, so I was contemplating death, and listening to Peter Gabriel’s album “Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ”. The music gave me chills, and the whole theme was dramatic and filled with pain. But also hope! I kept looking at the calla lily, its white beauty and innocence, and it was kind of clear that the flower itself was neutral and carried no emotional charges with it; it was the memories  I carried within that were colored with sadness and grief. And so I sat with the calla lily, consciously observing its proud, straight stalk, the beautiful white of its flower petals, and the green of its leaves, and gradually it became part of this new and happy setting by the Oregon coast, and the association to it changed. No longer did I see it draped over coffins or in tall vases at a wake, but I saw it proudly swaying free in a field, contributing its beauty to this amazing world we live in, and a feeling of wonder and gratitude replaced the original emotions I had associated with this majestic flower. It took a few days, but by the end of Easter my associations to the calla lily had totally changed, and although I might still not buy white calla lilies as gifts for other people, I now gladly buy them for myself, and I also enjoy the many delicious pastel colors calla lilies can be found in.
I realize it may not be as easy to change the associations we have to some of our more challenging memories, but in essence the principle is the same. The pictures we carry within are on their own neither positive nor negative, but it is the emotional charge we connect with them that make them appear one way or the other. The way we have perceived events in our lives, the way we have interpreted them, is what decides whether we see a memory as “positive” or “negative”. But what if we could change that charge? It takes awareness and an effort on our part to change our “negative” memories into ones with more positive associations, but just imagine the lift it could give us, if we consciously went about changing the emotional associations we have to our more challenging memories!
Smells are one of the most potent memory triggers, as are sounds, so it can be helpful to use music and pleasant scents when playing with “reprogramming” our memories, and that’s in essence what I did when changing how I feel about calla lilies, although I at the time wasn’t aware of that. There is a famous song about tulips from Amsterdam that dates back to the late 50’s, a song I haven’t remembered in years, but there at the Schiphol airport it flooded back into my consciousness, lyrics and all, and even in my travel weariness I was happy, just happy, for no apparent reason at all!
Featured image from, Alexa’s_Fotos
Peter Gabriel’s “The Feeling Begins” from the album “Passion”
“Tulips from Amsterdam”, written by Ralf Arnie and made famous by Max Bygraves