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Through-Line for a Flourishing Life

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

—Mary Oliver

Running around the lake in my mountain neighborhood continues to be a moving meditation for me, a chance to encounter my friends at the lake and their dogs. This almost daily ritual has become a lifeline for me, a way to experience other human beings in kindness and joy during a pandemic.  We know and greet one another. Having a place where almost everyone knows your name feels like belonging.  I recognize these friends by their walk, dogs, faces, eyes peering over masks. The ducks, ducklings, geese, great blue herons, flowering trees, Eastern bluebirds, sunshine sparkling on the ripples in the water nourish every part of me. This lake surrounded by mountains of many shades of green feels like my soul’s home on earth.

As I eagerly anticipate travelling and reuniting with my adult children and beloved friends during the month of May, I have begun wondering about a through-line. What practices and people have gotten me through the challenges of not only the pandemic, but all the different difficult life circumstances I have endured? Many of these experiences took my breath away, caused my heart to pound, eyes to “freeze,” stomach to clench, hands to sweat, and leg muscles to ready themselves for a long run. How did I engage my imagination and heart to not only hold on for dear life, but transform my experience of being alive? What supported me moving through persistent uncertainty and turbulent waters?

Here’s what I’ve identified so far:

Optimistic, loving, hilarious people mean the world. The ones who love you no matter how many times you’ve slipped in the mud and face planted. They’ll laugh with you, help you laugh at yourself, extend a strong, warm hand and hold yours through thick and sh*&. My late Grandma Hope, special childhood friends, Mister Rogers, Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Julie Andrews, and book characters like Pippi Longstocking top this list along with current beloved ones, my kids, my brother, countless authors of more amazing books, and new colleagues with whom I’ve formed meaningful connections during this last year on Zoom calls and LinkedIn–a through-line.

Movement. I must move my body. As a child, I pumped my legs on swings reaching my feet towards the clouds imagining I could soar free like a bird.   I have run, hiked, walked, roller skated, swam, ice skated, jumped in leaves after I raked them, rode my bicycle, danced, rode a sled in the snow, dragged a sled with my children riding on it. Moving through yoga practice, tai chi short form became additional delights for my body. There’s a reason that individuals describe healing the emotional trauma pain body. We are not just brains or mindsets. We come with these magnificent bodies-legs, arms, feet, knees, necks, hands, torsos, hips, lips, elbows, knees, and toes!  Moving that vibrantly, healthy body—a through-line.

Writing. As soon as I knew how to hold a pencil in my hand I began writing.  Filling up journals, writing thank you letters, pouring out my anger on a page, penning what I’m grateful for in spiral notebooks, jotting down thoughts then wondering if they were true; scribbling out notes, ideas, fantasies, imaginative wishes, dreams, burning desires that never ever abandoned or betrayed me. And currently, the wonderful opportunity to be engaged with amazing writers in the BizCatalyst 360° community and Sacred Stories Publishing-a through-line.

Questioning Everything & Wondering I ask so many questions when I’m with other people and by myself. I wonder about things. I notice limiting beliefs and shred them. Curiosity, introspection, investigative pursuits often set me free on internal explorations, playful ponderings, and delightful imaginings. These practices open the door to self-discovery, creative expression—a through-line.

Listening and Singing Along to Music: I believe that my dad sang to me as a baby; his human, gentle voice, a gateway to the soothing experience of music.  Singing and listening to all kinds of music brings comfort and inspiration. Certain songs will consistently be a catalyst for jumping to my feet and dancing. Music transports my whole self to wonderful memories, sometimes bittersweet ones. At times, I have taken breaks from certain songs or artists because of tinged associations that overwhelmed my already huge, Big Feels, aching heart. Singing, listening, dancing to music—a through-line.

Stillness, Quiet, the Breath: As a child, I cherished time at the public library, inside myself, and in the natural world. In these spaces, I found quiet, stillness, and calm. For several years I’ve been meditating daily and reap many benefits of this delicious practice of quieting the mind, going deep into that still point place, the seat of the soul where I feel connected to Love, Source, God, my Inner Quiet Charlotte. The Witness looks out at my life with nonjudgment. I can breathe through each experience as it unfolds and flows through my being, soul, and psyche, a spiritual evolution—a through-line.

Core Values: Knowing that the “soft animal of my body” relishes honesty, compassion, empathy, courage, grace, generosity, and love, I now experience these as internal anchors. I know what matters most in my life. Having lived in constant contrasts I learned that genuine kindness feels better than rage, that gentle presence feels better than prickly, hissy, critical energy, that calm feels better than terror, that smiling and laughing feel better than persistent whimpering or wailing-though I realize all emotional expressions are important. I know when, where, and with whom I can feel my Big Feels. I know not to harm myself or others with how intensely I might feel things. I know what I cherish—a through-line.

What about you? What are the through-lines that have brought you to this moment still alive, breathing, and being You? What kinds of practices and people have seen you through the pandemic and life difficulties? What supports you creating a flourishing life no matter what’s gone before you or going on around you?

Laura Staley
Laura Staleyhttp://www.cherishyourworld.com
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

16 COMMENTS

  1. Laura,

    This is a comprehensive essay of who you are inside and what external things contribute to the beautiful person you are. I love the Stillness, Quiet, the Breath. That sounds so beautiful! Just to be able to enjoy that special time by yourself for deep reflection. It’s is necessary for many of us more than others, and that is clearly a need for you. I love music and can relate to taking a break to listening to certain types of music because of their connection to people and situations. It’s so amazing how different we all are, yet in so many ways how alike we are.

    Thank you for sharing YOU.

    • Yvonne, Thank you so much for all your reflections-the parts that resonated the most for you as you look for your own through-lines- When there’s so much chaos and noise in one’s life, then seeking quiet seems to become essential to find balance and equanimity. I love knowing that quiet and listening/enjoying music are important in your life. And yes, though all of us are unique-there are many things that we share –that make us human! I appreciate you, the kindness and insights you’ve shared. Thank you for being you!

  2. Wow! Laura, Your essay covers every positive emotion without eliminating sometime challenging truths. While reading this awesome account, I was walking up and around mountains and by the lake. Meeting people, exchanging a few friendly words, solving the world’s problems. Ultimately people are the panacea for loving the world around us. Loneliness can be desperately depressing although a bit of solitude does not hard to reflect upon the what makes us tick.

    One thing you have accomplished is my motivation to visit the rivers, hills and Winchester’s glowing countryside. There I reflect upon life, returning home with a smile on my face and energized rather than fatigues after climbing St. Catherine’s Hill.

    Laura, you really out into words feelings and aspirations that visit us all. Never take life and its wonders for granted. And I certainly do not take our Linkedin and Bizcatalyst360 friendship for granted.

    Thank you, Laura

    • Oh, Simon! I treasure your kind words and reflections you’ve offered. There’s something about the combination of beautiful human beings and the natural world that becomes utterly delicious. Our connections within ourselves, with nature, and with amazing people are all indeed the balm for the soul-what makes life worth living. I hope you will visit the rivers, hills and countryside of Winchester as it nourishes your soul rather than taxing or fatiguing your body (though exercise can be quite beneficial-I have discovered.)

      I do not take our friendship for granted-not for a moment. I deeply appreciate your thoughts, insights, and writing-the energy of kindness is like no other. Thank you so very much, Simon. I appreciate you more than you may realize.

  3. Great read, Laura.
    Without echoing the other comments, I enjoyed that you verbalized so many juxtapositions that both nurture you: Stillness and music, meditation and exercise – be it running or dancing, core values and questioning curiosity. We are not one thing or another – we are both.

    That and a take on optimism that is not noisy exuberance but contemplating life and having faith in goodness.

    The picture rising is of ocean swells, highs and lows, but steady unlike the crashing surf. We can sail this.

    • Thank you so much, Charlotte! All your kind words about those juxtapositions-and yes, we are multifaceted beings-not just one thing-we are made up of so many things! Yes, “having faith in goodness.” oh YES! And your final thoughts-like poetry. and Yes. “We can sail this.” Your reflections brought tears to my eyes-beautiful, eloquent. Thank you.

    • Oh, thank you, Mac!! Yes, we definitely can shift out of what I call my “pity parties” that “woe is me” as you’ve stated it to Wow, it’s me! Oh, yes, indeed. Learning to nourish the through-lines-the positive, hopeful, and uplifting continues to be a practice of a lifetime. I’ve gotten better at this than I used to be. Smearing over the good with irrational fears for the future takes me out of this softened, sacred moment of now. Love what you’ve added to this conversation. Thank You, Mac! And may I quote you? This is a nugget “When we live in curiosity-simply finding things interesting-we cannot feed resentment.” That’s brilliant and definitely my experience!

  4. Carolyn, Yes!! “Lessons worth learning are worth sharing” Most definitely! That’s something I’m enjoying about your writing and other people’s writings which often reflect the wisdom they’ve gleaned along the way. And may I forever -through out my entire life keep asking questions-and as you stated it “the quality of your life is based on the quality of the questions you ask.” Oh, this continues to be my experience! As long as my mind works I plan on asking questions all the days of my life (life long learner-curious one!)…Thank you for all you’ve shared and for your kind words about this essay!

    • Thank you so much, Melissa! The curiosity may have killed the cat but curiosity keeps many of us ALIVE, engaged with life, and moving forward!! And I appreciate your reflections here-“never stop questioning, wondering, seeing the beauty–exactly! YES! I appreciate you!

  5. Laura – Beautiful. As always.

    Family. I have found that my family has pulled me through to this point. My amazing wife and I have enjoyed three meals together every day for a full year. It’s not always non-stop catching up on the morning or afternoon. Sometimes it’s just reading, or filling in a crossword puzzle together. It’s always special.

    And I routinely talk to my sibs much more than before. With the advent of zoom, it’s the next best thing to being with them.

    I often complain about NYC – the incessant noise, congestion, rudeness. But with the city closed down for the better part of the year, I realized all the things I missed that made living here passable: walks in Central Park, visits to the New York Historical Society, eating out (Oy, eating out.), theatre, museums – especially the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Did I mention eating out?

    • Oh, Jeff, I appreciate what you’ve shared about your wife and family-how they’ve been “through-lines” for the pandemic. Beloved ones matter so much when we are navigating difficult times. Your reflections about what you’ve missed about NYC reminds me of that phrase- “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Sometimes we don’t realize what we might have been taking for granted until it’s no longer available to us. NYC seems like this “trade-off” of the challenges mixed with all the wonderful!! -Eating Out! I think NYC is like Life-a full cornucopia of All of it-things that challenge all the way to the Awe and Beauty everywhere! Museums, Central Park, All the Different people!!! Diversity at its best!! Thank you for your kind words about the essay and taking the time to share your meaningful through-lines!

  6. Laura,
    What a beautiful compass for a life well lived! My personal favorite is “Questioning Everything & Wondering”. I heard once the quality of your life is based on the quality of the questions you ask”. I have found this to be true for me. A great share… lessons worth learning are worth sharing… right?

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