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If you’ve been following the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge, you know that I’ve been going around to many towns and cities in the state.  In fact, I’ve visited many more than I’ve blogged about already (I’m behind, but catching up).  I just thought you’d like to see where I’ve made it to so far. As you can see, there’s a lot of white still there, and many more towns to see.  I’ve made it to 65 out of 351, so this is going to be a long journey!  I’ll be periodically updating the map for you to see.

Meditate Mass 351 Challenge as of December 13, 2012

Meditate Mass 351 Challenge as of December 13, 2012

Dover Town Library

For the second year in a row, I used the day after Thanksgiving not to go out and buy things (although I actually did a little of that) but to use it as a time of contemplation. Last year, the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge started after I went to the Peace Abbey in Sherborn to meditate, read, walk, journal and get grounded. I knew I wanted to do that again, and I was searching around for a retreat center that I could go to, but since the Peace Abbey is now closed, I was having a hard time finding a place. I then thought about how I could go to one of the many beautiful libraries in Massachusetts and do my retreat at a small town library. I wanted one that I didn’t have to drive too far to, but that I hadn’t been at yet. I chose the Dover Town Library, which is the town next to Sherborn.

It’s a beautiful, newly constructed library in a historic, old building. They have a nice reading section with many comfortable chairs. They even had coffee and desserts available (not that I could eat any of them, as they were all gluten-filled). I spent about four hours there, and I just alternated back between journaling, drawing, meditating, reading, and looking at my plans for the future, and seeing what I really wanted to do with my life in the coming few months. It was very grounding to get away from the busy-ness of my current life, and to start listening to that little voice in my head that had great dreams and wants. I think that we don’t listen to that voice in ourselves nearly enough. Usually, we can’t even hear it over the cacophony of the roar of our lives.

So, when was the last time you heard your inner voice?

Ken at Charles Baldwin & Sons, West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1 June 2012

In the ever engaging pursuit to visit all 351 towns and cities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I’m always looking for an excuse to go to some place that I’d never been before.  In the first week of June, I went to my college reunion at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. As I was driving out there and going the length of the state, I thought I should use this opportunity to get off the highway and visit a new place.  A number of years ago, I hit a traffic jam right at the New York-Massachusetts border and got off the highway to go around it, and drove through West Stockbridge, but I didn’t stop. This time I was determined to actually see what was there.

I got into the town center and stopped, as I figured this was a good enough place to get out my lunch.  I walked around the block (there’s not too much here!) and saw most of the town with seems to be centered on the Housatonic River.  Right next to the river, I found the type of store that is so ideosyncratic that it could only be in a town like this.  Charles Baldwin and Sons is in an old mill building right next to the river, and it’s been in business since 1888.  Right now, it sells lots of little knick knacks and other things that would fascinate a 4 year old.  The most interesting thing about it is that they are famous for their vanilla extract.  They’ve been making it for over 100 years and a few years ago Martha Stewart mentioned them in her magazine and their sales went through the roof.  They still have the old fashion cash register, but they also sell on line.  In addition to vanilla extract, they also sell a lot of other different kinds.  I got root beer, pistachio, and black walnut.

Across the street is the hardware store that’s been around almost as long, and was founded by AW, the brother of Charles Baldwin.  They tend to stay loyal to what they do well here.

So, what skill do you have that your good at and you keep improving?

Inside Charles Baldwin & Sons, West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1 June 2012

Downtown West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1 June 2012

Ken at Newburyport Map, Newburyport, Massachusetts – 26 May 2012

After my afternoon of visiting Newbury, West Newbury, Merrimac, Amesbury, and Salisbury, I drove up the New Hampshire coastline to see the sights that I’d always wondered about. It’s only about 18 miles from the Massachusetts to the Maine border, but I took my time, stopped on the ocean and got stuck in traffic at Hampton Beach with all the ice cream, fried dough and all the other stores that had mobs of flooding the place with bikinis and testosterone. I finally made it to Portsmouth and checked out the harbor and the downtown, but I was on a mission today. I soon got back into my car and got on I-95 to head back to Newburyport for dinner.

I’ve been to Newburyport many times in my life. In the summer, they have a big festival called Yankee Homecoming and there’s a big road race that I used to compete in all the time. They’re a lot of really great homes this used to be a big trading and whaling city, and the homes lining Route 113 were massive like when families had 8 kids each and you had to have space for the servants to live. The downtown are is mostly brick and was one of the first cities to actually restore their architecture instead of knocking it all down. It’s right where the Merrimack River flows into the Atlantic Ocean, so the river is quite wide at this point.

There were plenty of people around, and everyone was shopping, eating, and having a good time. I got a great meal at The Purple Onion and then went down to the waterfront to just enjoy the calm of it all. It was a beautiful evening and the sun was starting to set in the west, so I just enjoyed the people watching.

As it was warm, I also moved to a shadier spot on a lawn by the riverfront and noticed all the people having a picnic, playing frisbee, or just lying in the grass. As those who know me well can attest, I’m not one to normally just sit and contemplate. I’m an active guy. But between the activities of the day and my being slightly under the weather, I really enjoyed just hanging out. This was a new learning for me. I’ve got to do this more often.

Newburyport Harbor, Newburyport, Massachusetts, 26 May 2012

So, when have you gone someplace and learned something important about yourself?

Ken at Salisbury Beach State Reservation, Salisbury, Massachusetts – 26 May 2012

After leaving Amesbury, I want to head over to the coast to see the ocean, and then head up the New Hampshire coast to Portsmouth before driving back down to Newburyport for dinner. As this was a last minute trip, I didn’t think all the logistics through before I made it. Here I was on the first warm Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, and I was headed toward the most popular beaches north of Boston. I soon realized what I had gotten into by the time I hit the center of Salisbury.

Salisbury is the most northerly municipality in Massachusetts, and while there are a few towns east of it on Cape Ann, it’s the most northeasterly town in the Commonwealth.  I’d gotten to the extremes!

Route 113 goes into Salisbury from Amesbury with an exit off of I-95, and it’s full of strip malls and chain stores. It ends at Route 1 in Salisbury Center, and there were a lot of cars trying to get to or from the beach. I was headed over the the shore (Route 1A) and traffic was pretty heavy. The last time I was at Salisbury Beach was during a summer evening about three years ago when 5 guys and 2 women went as a bachelorette party to go play skee ball and other games at the arcade (that’s the type of friends that I have!) This time it was in full summer mode with lots of people and not a lot of parking. After taking a quick picture, I figured I would continue north and stop somewhere were the parking was better.

I drove a bit further north toward the New Hampshire border, and there were signs for many access points to the beach, so I got out to view the beach.  There were lots of people there enjoying the beach, but the one thing that surprised me was the emergency warning sign on the way into the beach.  I had forgotten that the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant just just over the boarder in Seabrook, New Hampshire, and that if something happened there, it would be chaos to get out of the area. There are very few roads, and I know how difficult it was for me to drive there on this day.

Emergency Sign at Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts – 26 May 2012

Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts, 26 May 2012

The beach was beautiful, as was the weather, and I decided to move on and travel up the coast to Portsmouth before heading back to Newburyport for dinner.  I got caught in a lot of traffic in Hampton Beach, but the rest of the trip was really beautfiul. I had never been on the NH seacoast, and it’s very pretty (and rugged!)

So, where have you found a paradox of beauty and danger?

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View out Robbins Library Window, Arlington, Massachusetts, May 2012

Like probably many of you, I’ve had a busy and rough spring, and with the coming of Summer (yes, it’s coming!), life is starting to slow down a bit. I’ve been joking that I didn’t need a Mental Health Day, but a Mental Health Week. I was feeling so frazzled that I really needed some reflection time.

Beware of what you ask for. Last week after a major responsibility, my whole body just seemed to collapse with a flu. It started with just exhaustion, but soon moved into the stuffy head and coughing fits. It’s been about a week, and I’ve been forced to really stop my regular schedule of events and work and just stay home and take care of myself. It’s really been about pressing the reset button for me. This has been a pattern for me in that I run myself into the ground, and then am not available to do anything for a while. This time, I tried to see this as a gift (what other choice did I have?) Instead of just laying about and bemoaning that I was so sick, I looked to see what I could do different this time and listen to my body to see what I could do to help it heal.

I’ve been doing a lot more journaling, done a lot more sitting quietly instead of browsing online (which is a lot easier now that I have an iPad!), and just listened more and thought about what could really benefit me. I got sick for a reason, and I have been trying to see the underlying patterns that have gotten me sick, and questioned if those are good for me right now. I feel like I’ve uncovered some things about myself that are good lessons for the future. Rest assured, those things will probably come out in future blog posts.

I’m almost well, but am going to try to keep these learnings in my day to day life. While I can’t take three hours to get ready every morning to go out (how I wish!), I can see what aspects of them I can take and incorporate into my daily routines. More work to do.

So, have you ever had a time that you were forced to stop, and what did you learn from it?

I have been out sick with a nasty flu for the past week, and it’s really gotten me down, but it has given me lots of reflection time. I was outside lying in the sun (trying to bake out this gunk) yesterday, and as I was journaling, this poem came out. I figured that I’d at least share this with you. I don’t proclaim to be a poet, and I’m sure this could go through a lot of editing, but here it is anyway. Sort of states where I am on my journey.

The Comet and The Sun

I want to grow wings out of my back
and glide above the buzz of the day to day life
to see the inconveniences for the little annoyances that they are
instead of the struggles they appear to be from this vantage point.

I want the clarity to see things from the perspective of the eternal
where I can relieve in myself of the burdock burrs of life
that cling to your pants whenever they find you as a convenient vehicle.

I am not as important as I think I am.
While I am the center of my galaxy, I am only a passing comet in this;
bright, energetic, and slightly dangerous if I get too close.

I will also make entry and exit, onto other exciting adventures .
The comet is viewed as impressive when in view
but not much considered went out of sight.

May I have the humility to see my light as people see the comet:
a welcome visitor but not the sun.

So, What have you come to realize today?

Another video blog on where do you go when you need a break!

Ken at the Burlington Mall, Burlington, Massachusetts, 15 April 2012

After visiting Concord, Carlisle, and Bedford, I was tired, but I decided that I wanted to finally get my iPad, and when you are in this area and you want to go to a place with a lot of shopping, you usually head to Burlington.

I have many past experiences in Burlington.  I worked there for a short time, and my former partner grew up there, so I have been there many times.  Burlington is sort of known for a lot of stores and a lot of traffic.  It seems that if there’s a possibility of putting up a store or an office building, it goes up there.  I’ve heard some call Burlington “bad urban planning personified”.  I just know that in many ways I try to avoid going there as much as possible. I could be part of my trying to simplify my life too.

I went into the mall, fighting the traffic getting there, and found the Apple Store.  As they didn’t have what I wanted, (I had to order it on line), I just roamed a little bit and left.  It had been a long day and I didn’t want to deal with the crowds.  I know a little bit more about what I can handle and what I don’t need to bring into my life, and crowds and shopping are some of them.

So, what are the things you know not to invite into your life anymore?

After going to Melrose, I decided to go to another town and I chose Malden. Here’s my video blog with my thoughts from Rivers Edge Park.

So, where are the areas of your life that you’ve neglected and you need to clean up?

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

I am a career consultant who specializes in the connection between what your spirit wants to do in the world, and how to marry that to the work that you do in order to support yourself. While I work with people in all fields, I specialize in working with "creative entrepreneurs" and the LGBT community.

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