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Eames-Sheavly stresses need to 'celebrate the ordinary'

Department of Horticulture's Marcia Eames-Sheavly is a gardener, artist, lecturer, senior extension associate and 4-H youth development specialist who derives pleasure from painting, music and cooking. She drew upon her experiences of these ordinary activities to remind her audience of more than 100 at the Feb. 3 Soup and Hope talk at Sage Chapel to slow down, approach the world with awe and help others do the same.

When her sons went away to school in 2008, Eames-Sheavly said she faced the question, "How do you love at a distance?" A meditation practice she used led her to ask, "How do we love when we're too busy? How do we love in an over-stimulated, tightly wound world, in which none of us often take time to eat our lunch without glancing at the computer?"

The answer, she believes, lies in slowing down, in being aware of moments of happiness, peace and awe. It comes with "taking time to celebrate the ordinary, in reclaiming the uncomplicated satisfaction of the true human bond, and in intentionally pausing to notice the commonplace, in the present moment."

Eames-Sheavly said that we can cultivate our inner lives not just with solitude and meditation, but in the activity, the chaos, of ordinary daily life. Pay attention to the miracle that is a good loaf of bread or a perfect flower, she said.

Still, making time for solitude or celebrating the ordinary are choices we make as individuals. What may be missing, suggested Eames-Sheavly, is a "shared decision to help each other do all of that."

Part of that shared decision comes from modeling the action-reflection balance and the need for replenishment. "More than what we teach them, young people are watching us; we are modeling for them," Eames-Sheavly said. And, as leaders, we need to remember that working more does not always equate with working innovatively and efficiently. It takes a village, she said, "to keep each other from living on auto pilot."

Eames-Sheavly's talk was preceded and followed by music that had been composed by her 16-year-old son, Will.

The next Soup and Hope at Sage Chapel is Feb. 17 at noon, featuring "Sean Larry" R. Stevens '10, an educator, entrepreneur, writer and self-taught musician who intends to revolutionize education in marginalized urban areas, such as the one he grew up in in New Jersey.

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Joe Schwartz