Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Every year on the 31st of December I enjoy leafing through my appointment book to take stock of the happenings listed on its pages for the past 12 months. Of course, there are many things that occurred that were not planned or scheduled, yet seeing all of the events that were, they are a great reminder to me to be grateful for all.
Some of the scheduled events were many trips, short ones and long ones. I see I attended several parties of all types....birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, holiday functions, Pamper Chef, Premier Jewelry and one wedding. I see there were many meals with friends.... in restaurants and those we hosted in our home, as well as those where we were the guests. There were lots of picnics and a wonderful Sistaaaaaas week-end that were scheduled.
I'm reminded of several great workshops that David and I led and a great one that we attended. As I scan the pages I see the names of some wonderful clients that I worked with this year and some I am thankful to have been with for several years. My appointments for volunteer work for the Obama campaign, the ACS and Samaritan House had their place. It was fun to be reminded of the happenings with Project: Inside Out, including two Ropes Courses, student interviews, weekly school visits and final parties.
There were some family medical crisis, deaths and births that show scheduled visits to the hospital and reminders to self of sending cards expressing sympathy and our congratulations.
There were some shopping trips, afternoon coffee connections, massages, facials and hairdresser appointments, post cancer check ups and my introduction to acupuncture.
I attended many plays, rehearsals, personal performances, concerts and art shows.
Some of the planned events written in my book were canceled due to weather and some due to a change in my intention or choice.
It's fun to turn the pages back, reflecting on all that occurred and once again feeling the speed of how it all seemed to have taken place.
After taking the time to reflect and be grateful for all the experiences, joys and learning 2008 gave me, I have closed my book and filed it away. These are now days that are gone. What remains, however is the gratitude for my life....for my family, my health, my friends, my work, my community and all the ways I get to enjoy what is present now.
I wonder what will fill the pages for my 2009 appointment book.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
There are several people in my life that feed my soul. What I mean by that is when I am around them, I feel naturally good. Natural (or naturally) to me means I can't help but feel authentic joy and be at my best. The good piece of this description means happy good. In other words....I feel light, enthusiastic and excited when my soul is fed.
This afternoon I met my good friend, Molly for lunch. Although our meals were delicious the main course and focus of our time together was sharing what has been happening in our lives. By simply listening and being with one another our souls were fed. It was stimulating and fun to share in that way.
How sad it must be for some that do not give themselves the opportunity to be with someone in a soul feeding sort of way. What is ironic for those that may believe they aren't interesting enough or lovable enough, it is simply by their not believing their own worth that can create an empty feeling life.
The good news is feeding the soul can happen in many ways....like reading an inspirational book, prayer, taking a course, watching a movie, experiencing and learning through personal challenges , and of course, by having people in your life that you love and trust. At the top of that list of those you love and trust should be yourself. After all, you're with you all the time and can feed that soul of yours whenver it's hungry.
Monday, December 29, 2008
The year 2008 has been a good one, but I am ready to say good-bye. It has been a full year for me with much to look back on with gratitude, but I am still ready to say good-bye.
There is something about putting up a new calender with twelve months of possibilities hiding in its pages. I love not knowing what is to come...the mystery of experiences, challenges and opportunities. Although I have some plans already made for the new year, there is much wide open space for great stuff to be created.
So as I reflect on the past and look into the future, it is the excitement of the unknown that grabs my attention. Maybe another way to express what I feel without creating a sense of me tossing off the old, is that I have harvested many joys and many lessons from 2008 that will actually move ahead with me. I have lived 2008 fully ( at least in 2 days I can say that) and hold no regrets.
I expect to say the same at this time in 2009.
Friday, December 26, 2008
As a life coach I have the privilege to witness and partner in astounding discoveries on a regular basis. The discoveries of which I speak are not of a new planet or cures for diseases, but the discovery of self.
What a thrill it is when someone has the courage to look at themselves deeper than their skin...to look beyond their intellect and their experiences....to see who they are is not where they were born, or the level of money and privilege they may have had. To discover self , the true self, is to get to know one's spirit, which cannot be adequately described with words.
The discovery of self creates a feeling beyond anything one may have imagined. It is a joy that can exceed any previously experienced. The simplicity of the discovery is mind blowing. It is the route one takes to reach that point that can be confusing and challenging.
Imagine this.....the true self is always present, deep inside each of us. We may not have noticed it's presence, but the beautiful gift of who we are is eternal. As our true self exists without our awareness, we live our lives trying very hard to prove our worth and value. In this process of working to be our best, we sometimes lose hope of truly being happy. We become fearful that we may not learn the secret of lasting joy. We examine our lives and all of our accomplishments and think..."Is this it? Is this all there is to life?"
As we work hard at being who we think we should be, our true self is patiently waiting to be discovered so all mysteries can be solved. This beautiful discovery does not mean that one must make a drastic change in their relationships or work. It does not mean that they will no longer contribute to the world by sharing their gifts. It does mean, however, that which was once believed to be necessary to be happy, no longer has the same importance. It means that they no longer see themselves as separate, less than, or better than anyone else. They see the oneness of life and know they are a part of it.
This dramatic discovery of self can connect one to what is truly important. It can help one to live life with passion, purpose and love and without fear. This amazing discovery can suddenly make sense of why we're all here in the first place.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
On this Christmas day many of us share joyful experiences in church, parties, special meals, gift giving, travel and basically spending time with those we love. The stage is set for joy. How could one not be joyful on this special day of celebration of the birth of Christ?
Although I have enjoyed very positive experiences for most Christmases, there are many whose life situations do not allow them to feel the joy of the season. On the contrary, there are many so ensconced in the difficulties they face like joblessness, financial debts, health issues, relationship problems, addictions, etc, suggesting they have joy on Christmas day might feel like a slap in the face. While living out their challenges day to day, their focus may simply be on surviving, putting joy on the shelf until they have a job again or money in their pocket, an absence of health problems or a healthy loving relationship.
It seems to be a great challenge for those in a state of overwhelm, to look within and feel the truth of peace, rather than put all of their energy into simply surviving the storm. When one is able to actually feel peaceful in spite of their current situation, they learn they are more powerful than what they believed. They have the ability to feel joy unconditionally.
The practice of simply quieting the mind can help each of us live in a state of unconditional joy. Feeling joy regularly can lighten your perspective and create hope where only desperation and hopelessness once lived. When that is true...anything is possible.
A challenge? Yes! Possible? Definitely! It can begin with your next thought.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Tis the season for good tidings and wishes for peace, love and joy.
I received a lovely Christmas card this week stating this was the season for love. I took a deep breath when I read it, but not because it warmed my heart. I felt kind of sad that this author believes love has a season. Now I know people do tend to show outward signs of love more this time of year than what they may normally do with gift giving, kissing under the mistletoe, giving to charities etc, but love does not have to be confined to the four weeks or so between Thanksgiving and New Years.
I'm not complaining that people tend to be more attentive to one another and show their appreciation with gifts and gift cards, but come on.....can't we extend the season? Can't we continue to soften our hearts to one another past January 1? Can't we be cheerful and outwardly kind to our co-workers after all the office parties are over and the decorations have been put away? Can't we feel joy when we hear music where the lyrics speak of miracles in the summer time? Can't we toast one another at special family dinners and set our tables with the good china in August? Can't we appreciate and celebrate the oneness of all and feel love as we share it all year round?
Well here's my response.....I hereby officially declare the season for love to extend to every day of the year. This does not mean you must give gifts every day....unless you want to. You need not send cards to those you love all year round.....unless you want to . This declaration simply would be a call for everyone to remember love does not have a season. It costs nothing and is painless to share or receive. Love is abundant and will never run low....there is enough love in the world for each of us to be filled with joy and happiness every moment we live.
As citizens of the world, I call you all to revolt and to love everyday. Give and receive love freely and watch what happens to our earth and all that inhabit it.
Would would be different in your life?
Monday, December 22, 2008
I think we have all experienced times when we felt we were on a roll. Sometimes it's a negative roll where nothing seems to go our way. Other times, it is a positive roll, where every detail seems to work out in our favor. Today was one of those positive roll days for me.
There was nothing extraordinary about my day, although it was delightful. It began with a hot cup of fresh brewed coffee, reading a couple of sweet emails from friends, my meditation time, a workout to my Latin dancing DVD, catching up with some details at home, a two hour relaxing facial, a visit and gift exchange with a good friend, running into two old friends I haven't seen in 10 years, and then an effortless grocery shopping trip (in the midst of Christmas chaos).
What I could clearly see in my day's experiences (and it is not over yet) was that I felt great all day. My lineup of activities were those I chose to do and fully enjoyed. As I moved from one thing to the next, my gratitude grew. As my gratitude grew, so did my joy. I carried a feeling of lightness which I believed then helped create the next lovely event.
There is no question in my mind that I create my own experience. Although I may want to blame someone else when things don't go well, I know how I am being and feeling affects what shows up.
Perhaps we notice this more readily when we're on a negative roll and one thing after another goes wrong. If you have ever noticed when something occurs that annoys us, which in turn will contribute mightily to a darker mood, it will almost seem like we are walking around with a storm cloud over our head. Naturally, if we're carrying around a dark storm-like energy, more darkness will come forth.
In my bright series of experiences of today, my beliefs were reinforced. I (and you) are so powerful, we can create a day filled with joy filled occurrences....or not. Since we have a choice on which way we would like to live, why not have it be on a positive roll?
Sunday, December 21, 2008
There's only four days until Christmas and the rush is on. Many people are still scurrying around town looking for the perfect gifts, picking up the special foods for their holiday meals, decorating their homes and trying to fit in all of the parties. The feel can certainly be stressed as everyone rushes from one place to another. The alternative can be to slow down and tap into peace and joy.
What makes the difference between operating from stress and anxiety or peace and joy? I've operated in both arenas and I know what causes stress is when my tasks are done with the objective of doing "it" a certain way, and with the hope that when the gift, the meal or the party is perfect, then I will be rewarded with joy. In other words, my joy would be dependent on the reactions of others. The harder I worked at making things perfect, the less peace I felt. Year by year, I seemed to be getting this lesson learned, but still I would get caught in the trap of handing over my joy to others. I realize I took it upon myself to create the perfect Christmas for everyone...not sure why.....it might have been in something in the egg nog served at Thanksgiving, since the rush always started a day later.
The alternative of the stress and anxiety is peace and joy and is clearly an inside job. I may still shop for gifts, prepare special meals and host parties, but now I manage to do it from a calmer place within me. It's lovely when those with whom I celebrate the holidays enjoy what it is I have done, but my joy is not dependent on their reaction. I have taught myself to enjoy the process or don't do it.
There is so much to enjoy around this time of year. By simply slowing down the pace and becoming more deliberate and present with all that is happening, peace and joy will show up. Actually, they never left. They're always inside you waiting to be discovered.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
My thoughts continued to flow regarding yesterday's post on confidence. In my experience one of the top five killers of confidence is comparing.
It's sometimes hard to resist comparing ourselves to others. We take in the appearance, the accomplishments, the gifts and skills of others we admire and then compare ourselves to see how we measure up. Many of those to whom we compare ourselves seem to be more attractive, smarter, more talented and more gifted, which then may cause us to try to be more like them.
I've learned from personal experience trying is my death. As soon as I try to be like someone else or to match some picture I have in my head of what I should be like, I lose myself. What I mean by that is I lose my own attractiveness, my own talents, gifts, and along with all of that, my confidence and my authenticity.
Those of you who have also dared to compare yourself probably agree with me that we are not at our best when we are putting ourselves in a position that jeopardizes our natural and authentic being. It isn't fun and it doesn't make sense.
The alternative to comparing is owning. Owning your own strengths, gifts and talents. Embracing all that is true about you without trying to hold yourself up to someone else. There's no work involved....just being.
Now that I am tuned in to not comparing, I'm naturally happier. I'm better able to live my life with joy and to serve in the ways that best suit me. I can now simply be my best....without looking over my shoulder to see how I compare.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Earlier today I was out running errands, crossing things off my Christmas list. As I was walking down Main St. I came upon two rugged looking men. They looked like they could be loggers or maybe they're the guys that run those huge backhoes at construction sites. Needless to say, if one went by appearances, I typically would not be called to engage with them, perhaps believing we wouldn't have anything in common. Today, I couldn't help myself.
As we passed the Quilt shop, I heard guy #1 ask his friend if he needed any quilting supplies. Without cracking a smile guy #2, said no, I'm good (this was my cue to get involved). Since I was right on their heels, I chirped in with "Are you sure....they have a lovely variety of fabrics and notions"? Still, without even a chuckle, guy #1 said, "Ah, cmon....you know you promised to make me a new Christmas tree skirt". Guy #2, still deadpan, replied, "Maybe next year". As we continued down the block it was my turn to speak asking him if he sold his quilts, or just saved them for himself. He responded with a big grin.
Eventually we came to the end of the block where our paths were taking us in opposite directions. The last thing I heard guy #2 say was, " Look, you two are wrong about me, I really prefer to knit and crochet!" We then parted ways all laughing out loud, exchanging wishes for a Merry Christmas.
What struck me about this little encounter, was if I had stayed in judgment believing that we wouldn't have anything to talk about, and minding my own business, we three would have missed our little repartee. Instead, I got to enjoy a little fun with these two rugged strangers.
It is the unexpected encounters such as this one that carry much delight for me which actually shifted my mood from slightly blah to joy. I wonder what it did for them.
Monday, December 15, 2008
This is the time of year where many of us are making our wish lists for gifts we would love to receive. Some of the popular current items may be an Ipod and accessories, a new computer, a flat screen t.v., a puppy, electronic games, clothes, perfume, gift certificates for our favorite restaurants, a digital camera, and of course, jewelry.
Now if you can imagine how long your joy would last with these items, please keep in mind that they will wear out, break, be used up or will soon be out-dated. When that happens, we will then be updating our wish lists with new things to take the place of the old stuff. Although, I know these items can bring some enjoyment, I cannot help but think what it would be like if everyone had a different wish list that would be filled with items that wouldn't wear out or could ever be depleted.
Some of the things on my wish list are to have the feelings of peace, love, joy and gratitude even more of the time than I do now. I would wish for ease and enjoyment in all that I do....even the stuff I never enjoyed before. I would want to have meaningful relationships with others where unconditional love and understanding would always be present. I would wish for opportunities to serve others in a way that consistently brought joy to me at the same time. I'd wish for fun, no matter what I was doing. I would wish for insights into finding answers to questions that have always been difficult to understand. I would wish for abundance, so I could share it more freely and generously with others. I'd wish for opportunities to learn and explore new ways of thinking and doing things.
And the one big wish which would cover all of the other things on my list would be to remember that these things, or the potential to be experiencing them, are already within me. I don't have to wait for someone to hand me a package, nicely wrapped with a special item inside. I don't need to open a gift, I just need to be open.
It is our being opened that allows the beauty of these gifts to be present and felt. If we are distracted by all that is wrong or missing in our lives, then naturally we will be feeling the effects of lack with notable discomfort. If we focus on being grateful, we cannot help but feel the abundance of life available and ready to be received.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus....no kidding....I really did. It didn't happen when I was a child peering over the banister late at night, it happened earlier today.
You see, my Mom, Esther Watkins, is a resident at Country Terrace, a lovely assisted living facility here in Wellsboro. We moved her here from Wilkes-Barre about a year and a half ago when she could no longer take care of her six room house. It's been a good move for her and although she turned 90 last January, she has not lost her youthful spirit or her sense of humor.
Actually, my Mom is a real crack up. She still enjoys having all of her marbles and plays with them wisely. She does cross word puzzles regularly, reads a book or two a week, can participate actively in Jeopardy, she's the champ at Wii bowling, and can hold her own in a battle of wits and humor with the best of em. There have only been a few times when she needed to use her call bell to call the staff. One of those times was because she needed help opening a bottle of wine when she had a guest for a night cap.
The event where the aforementioned kissing took place was the annual Christmas Party hosted by the staff of Country Terrace for all of the residents and their families. It was a fun party for all and just as we were preparing to leave, Santa, who had made his rounds earlier saying hello to everyone, sat down to listen to what the children wanted for Christmas. Once the children were heard, some of the residents sat on Santa's lap too.
After several women posed for a picture on Santa's lap, my Mom took her turn. Once she got positioned comfortably and safely, which is important for an almost 91 year old, my Mom took Santa by surprise by giving him a kiss. Since the photographer was not quite ready, she did it again...longer this time. This unexpected act, (I imagine especially for Santa), brought the house down. It was a great example of how the unexpected can rapidly spread pure delight to anyone in the vicinity.
So now whenever I hear the song, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, I will remember being a witness to the giving of a very special gift....only this was a gift given to Santa!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
This is the season for gift giving and surprises. There can tend to be a lot of suspense as children and adults alike hope they'll receive that special gift they asked for. Many people of all ages cannot take the suspense and will tend to sneak a peek. Others relish the surprise and find the suspense leading up to the big opening to be a major factor of the joy in receiving a gift.
I am, without question, one that truly enjoys a surprise. I love not knowing what I may receive, and in some cases, if I will even receive something. I prefer to not expect anything, let alone a particular item. My belief is you cannot be disappointed, if you are not attached to anything in particular.
If there is a gift for me, I love to be present in the moment wondering what it could be. I'm grateful, not only for the gift itself, but for the fact that someone took the time to think of me and make or purchase something especially for me. My joy level typically cannot be distinguished by the expense or size of the gift, since it is the love behind it that really delights me.
My delight in surprises is also true in life. I love not knowing what is going to happen next. There's a bit of a rush just watching how things develop leading up to an event or a particular experience. There was a time when I tended to plan everything, leaving no room for surprises. Now, I tend to create experiences that will have many open doors leaving room for surprises to enter.
It seems, the more I let go of control and surrender to what is, the bigger the kick I get out of seeing what shows up. I particularly love it when my life experiences surpass anything I could have ever imagined. This is no small feat, since I do have quite an imagination.
I notice I have been influenced by the spirit of children a lot lately, and this topic is no exception. Anticipating whatever is next for me in my life, without knowing exactly what it will look or feel like, makes me smile.
My goal with any of the surprises that show up in my life, is to see each experience as a gift. Part of the surprise may be in how I handle a challenge, or it may be in how fearless I can be, or more importantly, in how grateful I can be.
Friday, December 12, 2008
If we adults paid more attention to the natural responses and actions of children, I believe we would all be happier. This, I believe is true on many levels and one specific area I'd like to focus on in this writing is a child's ability to believe.
A frequent side effect of maturity is cynicism. Where we once had amazing imaginations and creativity when we were children, often times as adults we exchange that colorful way of living life for a more practical and sensible way of only just looking at the facts.
One fact may be that your bank account is low. Purely looking at this fact could feel pretty sad...even a bit desperate. The child's view may be one based on the pure ability to believe anything is possible. The child may think, "Wow....it can't get much worse, it will be great fun to see it now grow....now, let's see how can I make it grow?"
If there is some medical insult to an adult's health, they may fear the worse and lose hope for ever feeling better again. A child's belief may include a knowing that all that can be done, will be done and that until they are well again, they will accept what is present and make the most of it. They will also be delighted by any little gift one would give them as they recuperated.
The possibilities for bumps in the road of life are endless and without question, my money is on the children for more consistently believing that all will be well again. If you're thinking that sometimes things don't turn out all right, that is true, yet even when that is the case, the lack of belief and the absence of hope can drain the joy out of anyone very quickly.
The lesson I take from the natural element of a child's wisdom and their ability to believe is to allow myself to feel loved and cared for, and to be open at each step of the journey, knowing that whatever the outcome, all will be well.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
In the experience of living my own life and observing the process of life of others, it seems we choose to either see ourselves as primarily human (physical beings) or spirit (spiritual beings). Depending on our focus, our experience of all the "stuff" that can show up in our lives can be poles apart.
I have lived holding the focus of the physical for most of my life and have had my share of challenges and suffering. About 9 years ago, I serendipitously slipped into the self discovery of identifying myself as spirit living in a human body, and that has shown me to be much more in alignment with what I believe to be, the truth. So what's the difference between the two?
Having lived in both perspectives, I can say without question, one allows pain and suffering, the other doesn't. Now, I realize I have arms, legs, gallbladder, kidneys, brain etc., but those organs and body parts do not make up who I am. If for some reason, an organ becomes ill-functioning and is removed, who I am is not changed. If a body is grossly damaged and there is nothing left that resembles the human form that once was, the who of you is unchanged. When one becomes very old and is no longer able to do the things they once did, the truth of them is not changed.
I see this as exciting news, knowing body parts will wear out, we may become ill, we will all grow older, and our bodies will eventually die, yet the spirit of each of us will continue to "be".
I am not one to seek needless suffering, so it is my focus to remember I am spirit, not a body. That which makes up me is actually connected and one with that which makes you. When all is said and done, our experiences in these human bodies give us the opportunity to do our best in letting the two entities meld. When we pay more, (or at least as much) attention to nurturing our spiritual selves, the physical body can also respond in a very positive way. Life can be more comfortable, happier and generally easier.
It is my belief, without question, the better and the sooner we learn this, the more joyful our experience in our physical bodies can be. Would you like to join me in this perspective?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Early this morning while out for a walk, I came upon a middle aged couple walking towards me. We were on a back road with no traffic and no interferences for a friendly connection. In my typical way, I greeted the couple with a "Good Morning". There was no verbal response, only a raising of their eyes from the pavement to me. In fact, there was no sign of a friendly response of any kind....no sign of a smile or even a nod of acknowledgment. As we passed, I turned around and wished them a pleasant day, this time, not expecting a response.
In the past, I may have made up a story that this couple didn't like me. Although they were complete strangers, my imagination could have stretched in creating a wild story even about why they didn't like me. Another path my creativity could have taken is that this couple would have been anti-social....or maybe depressed....or perhaps insane and escaped from an institution.
At the present time, I am happy to say, my old story making tendency did not surface. I did not take offense, nor did it disturb me that they did not return my friendly greeting. The truth is I don't know what may have been present for this couple and it actually doesn't matter.
Catching ourselves making up stories is one of the most effective ways to reconnect with the truth of what "is". At times, we can be so convinced that our story is true, our day and even our life can be negatively affected by it.
If you find it challenging to break your habit of making up stories, then I suggest you try making one up that feels good. Often times our stories make us feel scared, confused and insecure and although they are not based on the truth, we can be convinced they are. Exchanging those thoughts with ones that make us smile and even laugh at ourselves can change your day to a positive one...in an instant.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
We all hold certain beliefs that we feel strongly about. One of mine, based on my experience, is that the teens of today show great promise of being our leaders of tomorrow and that they are much more caring and compassionate than what many believe.
In working with the students of Project: Inside Out, I get to see up close and personal what these kids are made of. Outwardly we adults may have concerns that teenagers only care about themselves and are naturally disrespectful or selfish. It's true we often see some teens behaving that way in the media and sometimes even in our streets. You may even witness some negative behaviors in your homes. What I consistently see, however, is that there is much more to each student than what we often see.
The basis of my belief that there is much to be admired and gratefully acknowledged is based on seeing them show up authentically. When there is a safe space for them to gather, knowing they will not be judged, teased or compared, I see them shine. If there is sometimes negative behaviors that show up in their homes or schools, I believe they are acting out in fear....A fear of losing something, perhaps even their self-respect. In response they may act out aggressively, believing this is their only way to survive and to improve their situations. When a student knows they have greater, more positive powers within that can help them deal with difficult situations in a peaceful way that is in alignment with who they really are, everyone wins.
The topics of our discussions in our sessions with Project: Inside Out cover what I see as being the basic tenets of leadership.....compassion for self and others, owning your own natural gifts and strengths and seeing them in others, awareness of prejudices and assumptions we and others hold, communicating while caring what someone has to say, rather than having to have the last word and being empowered rather than holding your power over another.
I just completed work with my 13th group of students and once again was moved to tears at the natural kindness, consideration and desires they hold in having a positive impact on the world.
So if you have any concerns of this generation, I can encourage you to relax and to look more closely for the goodness in each student. I believe, without question the world will be in good hands.
For more info check out: http://www.projectinsideout.org/
Monday, December 8, 2008
Typically at this point in the holiday season, I have much on my plate and am feeling overwhelmed at varying degrees, depending on the day. A term many of us refer to that seems to capture us like fish in a net, is the Holiday Hub Bub. Every year we may tell ourselves we are going to keep things simple and not lose our sense of joy by doing so much, only to find we somehow get caught up with the doing of Christmas rather than truly experiencing and appreciating the holiday.
For the past 8 years I have been more and more mindful of taking the hub out of my bub, only to find I still get hooked into doing things I think I should do rather than what I truly want to do. I have noticed, however, that my hub level has gotten lower and lower. I only bake the cookies I want to, rather than feeling obligated to do everything I have always done. My list of those to shop for has decreased significantly. My husband and I are not over-scheduled with parties to attend. I may or may not send cards this year. Instead of giving my time to shoulds, I am paying attention to putting my attention to what truly pleases me and brings joy rather than stress.
A remarkable result is I'm noticing the long list of things I held in my mind has been exchanged for one thing at a time. In other words, when I am shopping, I am fully present and enjoying my shopping. When I am baking, I am fully present and enjoying my baking. The bottom line is by being present with what is on my holiday plate in that moment and not stressing over that which is yet to be completed, feels good. The overall benefit I am experiencing is everything I want to get done is getting done, yet I feel relaxed and calm in my process. In fact, I have felt so spacious, I had to stop and think if I was missing some vital part of my holiday preparations.
I realize I have another 2 1/2 weeks to go, but am feeling confident I can maintain this one-thing-at-a-time mentality and only doing that which feels good.
I'm seeing (and feeling) clearly that presence this Christmas is much more desired than presents .
Sunday, December 7, 2008
There are some words in the English language that are particularly appealing to me. Sometimes when I hear a word it makes me laugh....like pickle. I'm not sure why, it just does. Some words wake me up and make me stand up straight, such as empowered or believe. Some words stimulate me to think, like wonder or create. The words love, peace and joy also have a very powerful affect on me, causing me to remember their essence is always within me. The word I am focusing on today is one that creates ease for me when I see it, hear it, or speak it and that word is simple. Of course I am also fond of the cousins to simple....simplify, simplicity, simply.
So what is it about simple that it has such a powerful effect on me? One thing I know is that I love it when I am living in ease, and keeping things simple helps to create ease. Having reminders of keeping it simple when I am far too focused on a project, rather than the people I am intending to serve, is always helpful. I have signs in different rooms of my home that often catch my eye when I am making things far too complicated that remind me of the power of simplicity.
When I see a reminder of the art of simplicity, I simply slow down...I take a breath and ask myself where am I creating drama and confusion that is not needed, not that drama and confusion are ever needed. Once I get present and see what I am creating in the moment, I let go of something, or at times, just stop what I was doing so I can refocus on what is truly important.
Creating our own chaos and confusion is quite common for many of us. We can tend to live amongst numerous dramas that only pull us away from keeping our lives simple, easy and joyful. The good news is once we see where we are contributing to making life hard, we can change our thoughts about it, stripping away that which is unnecessary, making our lives simple and easy. All it takes is one thought at a time.
Friday, December 5, 2008
We have all heard the metaphorical question "What comes first, the chicken or the egg?", when considering the origin of something. Last week I read a quote by David Steindl-Rast that reminded me of this question. His quote was "Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy".
I just love this statement and wholeheartedly and whole-soully (I made that word up) agree. When we take the time to be still, and quiet the chatter in our minds, we open the door to peace. Once we enter through this door, we find much to be grateful for. By simply allowing ourselves to fully and unequivocally feel gratitude, we cannot help but feel happy. If we maintain this feeling, it soon turns to joy.
So what if you don't see much in your life to be grateful for? My suggestion is to look again and more deeply. If we assess our lives only by their outward appearance, seeing only the difficulties and the challenges, then we may be left without gratitude, but with varying degrees of sadness and disappointment.
If we, on the other hand, look beyond the situations of our life (since they are not who we are), then we will see much that may not be fully appreciated. This deeper look within is likely to eventually direct you to gratitude for your life, for the opportunity and ability to create change, for your ability to choose and for your resiliency. Being grateful for having your family, a home, food to eat and friends that support you are also great places to focus.
Looking yet deeper for that which fosters gratitude may take you to the heart of you. The part of you that is grateful to love or be loved. Perhaps your many gifts will float by in your mind in this deeper level of awareness. This is where your gratitude for being you may grow. Whatever the route you take regarding gratitude, the qualities of your spiritual self will always be there to be grateful for.
I practice being grateful on a daily basis and often make a gratitude list in my journal. Surprisingly, they are typically little things that when I am truly present to them, grow in importance. For instance, today as I sat in my living room looking out the window, I watched a beautiful snowfall. I was so grateful for living in a part of the country where it snows. I felt gratitude for having the time to stop and watch it snow. The longer those good feelings flowed, the happier I felt.
So to answer the question, what comes first, without a doubt in my mind, the chicken (gratitude) comes first and the egg (happiness) always follows.
The source of the quote came from a daily email I receive from a favorite website, www. gratefulness.org.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
There are many people that we interact with in our lives on a regular basis. Some tend to bring out the best in us....some don't. Depending on who we're with we may find ourselves complaining more than usual, or we may find we have a brighter outlook for life. The company I keep includes many people that I truly enjoy and help keep my outlook bright. They make me laugh, support me and challenge me to grow.
There is one person whose company I keep that is a stand out for me. I always enjoy her. She has a quirky sense of humor and can find something entertaining in the most mundane of activities. She is also very creative. As soon as you think there is no answer to a dilemma, she comes up with an idea or perspective that turns a problem into an opportunity.
She also seems to have held on to much of her childhood joyful spirit since she lives life with the same wild abandon that a six year old does. Her main objective in all that she chooses to do is to have fun. The older she gets the less fear she holds.
She is also very loving and compassionate. I know no matter what mistake I make, she will love me, and everyone else in her life, unconditionally. She typically does not hold judgments of others. Since she has a no limit attitude about life, she inspires me to take chances and stretch beyond what I thought was possible. When I feel sad or overwhelmed, I check in with her and soon feel peaceful again.
The company I keep, at least when I am fully present, is me. The positive traits described above are the essence of who I really am. When I am remembering this, I am feeling good and in alignment with me. When I am not hanging out with the true me, I am not having as good a time, nor do I have much in the way of positivity to share with others.
What is the impact on you of the company you keep? Do you enjoy being with all those that are influencing your life? If not, I suggest you become more selective with the company you keep..... and don't forget to make friends with yourself.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Imagine fast forwarding your life to a point that you know it will be ending soon. As you look back in reflection, what will you see? What feelings will reviewing your life create for you? Will you feel satisfied and complete, or will there be regrets? Will you you be seeing your life as well lived, or a life that missed the mark? If you can imagine that mental review, will the life you're living now be one you will surely say is well lived years from now?
If your answer is "Yes", then congratulate yourself, stay on the same track and enjoy the ride. If your answer is "No", then I suggest you take a close look at what specifically in your life detracts from it being well lived now.
I am very happy to say my life is currently being well lived. That is true, and I believe always will be, not due to my accomplishments, but because of my focus on making life choices that create fulfillment.
So what is fulfilment? It can mean something different to each of us. For me, it is to enjoy my life process and to have joy be present as I live it. It is about being filled with love and joy as each experience is lived out. It is not about how much money I make or where I live or the cars I drive that will determine if my life is fulfilled and well lived. After all, I could lose my ability to work, lose my money, home, car and even my health, yet can still have love and joy. It is for that reason, I can guarantee looking back on my life will bear evidence of it being well lived.
If my life continues to be filled with opportunities to have fun, to make new friends, to deepen relationships already present, to serve others, to create, to be challenged, to grow, to learn new things, to travel, to have adventures, and to be healthy, then all of that will be icing on my cake of life.
You see, it is not the absolute need for any of those experiences that will make my life well lived, they will only enhance my experience of it. It is feeling joyful, loving and grateful for what is present in any given moment that will make life well lived for me.
What needs to be present for your life to be well lived?
Monday, December 1, 2008
I live in the mountains of Pennsylvania where the hunting of wildlife is a favorite activity for many. I realize that hunting is part of the natural equalizing of man and nature, it maintains the food chain and is a fact of life, especially in this rural community. I am not a hunting advocate, nor am I against it....I see it as simply something that "is".
My home is situated at the edge of town. If you're on the front porch it feels like you're in town, and if you're in the backyard, it feels like you're in the country, since a mountain and it's wildlife border our property.
Today was the opening day for deer season. Sometimes I wonder what the deer may be thinking when they become aware of orange and red plaid clad hunters stomping about the woods and perched in trees, that they consider to be their home.
Periodically throughout the day I heard gunshots from the mountain. I know the hills were likely to be occupied by many hunters searching for the deer that run wild there.
In the middle of the afternoon I noticed several deer enjoying a modest lunch of grass and azaleas, in my backyard. They seemed perfectly peaceful and content as the gun shots fired not too far off in the distance.
The peacefulness of the scene struck me due to the contrast of how we humans tend to live. The deer were totally present in the moment and showed no apparent signs of fear. They looked for food, ate, and just hung out for awhile obviously enjoying life in their own way.
When I consider how humans react to the happenings of life from a place of fear (even when there is no immediate danger), it strikes me the deer and other wild animals seem to have the art of peace and presence down pat.
Whatever potential or even real danger may be close by, they peacefully live in the moment. They don't look over their shoulders watching for enemies, they take care of their immediate needs, they frolic and enjoy life whenever they can and they use their natural senses and instincts to stay alive. If one of their family is shot, they move on accepting this natural stage of life, called death, with peaceful acceptance.
I'm not suggesting our human experience of life can directly parallel animals (I don't think I'd like azaleas), although I do believe there are some lessons for us such as "acceptance of what is, brings peace", and to enjoy whatever is present NOW, without fearing what's next.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I don't tend to get sick very often, so when I do have the inconvenience of even something as common as a cold, I notice it.
Two days ago, my attention was first taken by some sneezing, and then later a sore throat, runny nose and cough. Eventually I gave in and allowed myself to feel awful and actually admit I had a cold.
Unfortunately, I had a performance to do last evening for Fezziwigs Follies. I sure did not want to be blowing my nose and sneezing, not to mention feel weak, when I was supposed to be having a joyful time at the Fezziwigs.
Before leaving for the show, I told my mind to focus so intently and with great presence on the performance and to put my cold symptoms on the shelf. Sure enough soon after connecting backstage with the other performers and then getting into "character", all symptoms stopped. I had not one sneeze or cough. My nose stayed in tact. My speaking voice was normal.
After returning home after the performance I noticed the symptoms gradually returned. It was almost as if as I let go of being present with the show, the physical reality of my body, previously suspended, was now returning.
I know the mind is a powerful tool. It can direct how I feel simply by the thoughts I think. In this case I thought about normal health and to have a great time in the show.
I realize a cold is a pretty minor thing to temporarily overcome, yet I believe it is only the tip of the ice berg in how we can positively shift our health from illness to wellness simply by being present. Whether it is a temporary recovery or a permanent shift in my health , it is a delight to use my mind in a powerful way.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Today is Thanksgiving. My family and a good friend that joined us for dinner, just said good-bye. We had a lovely time enjoying special foods, drinks, games and conversation. Everyone was at their best and contributed in some way to making the day a memorable one. I know this scene was played out in homes all over the country with countless families and friends gathering together to share a warm and wonderful day.
I always tend to wonder what it would be like if the same feel and level of interest for one another occurred every day. What would it be like if we tended to always share our food with someone else? What would the world be like if we remembered to give thanks for one another and the many blessings we enjoy on a daily basis?
I'm not suggesting we have huge feasts filled with extravagant foods every day, but to just get into the practice of fully enjoying whatever is on our plate, and sharing our lives in a more personal way with those we love, and maybe even some strangers.
It seems that once the holiday is over, we all go back to life as usual. We may not think again about being thankful until next November. Since it feels so good to share our bounty and to be really present with others, why not make it happen more often? Isn't it worth the effort to feel that good? Being grateful cannot help but create positive change for all that take part. Seems like an easy answer to solving all of the world's problems.
Conversations about the economy, war, the environment and feeding the hungry would be discussed over dinner. Since all that take part in Thanks and Giving would be in a state of gratitude and love, there would be patience, understanding and a willingness to listen present in everyone. Yep, I believe we would have answers and solutions to all the questions that plague our country and the world in no time. The understanding would be that everyone shared themselves and some form of food. What a feast it would be!
I'll bring my joy and Sweet Potato Casserole. What will you bring?!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
A friend recently shared a story about a spontaneous experience, including a life metaphor, that her 12 year daughter created. I was so inspired, not only by the metaphor itself, but also by the fact that she created it on her own. This tells me this girl very naturally has positive thoughts circulating within her mind. I know her parents, and they, I'm sure, project a very positive attitude as they nurture and rear their daughter. Of course, that is very helpful to bring forth what is naturally present in this girl. The evidence is blatantly obvious.
Here's her story: This particular 12 year old found a 1983 penny. As she looked at it, she realized the total of the numbers equals 21. Her next thought was that if she was playing Blackjack, she would be a winner. Her spontaneous next thought was finding this coin was a sign she would be successful in whatever she chooses to do in her life.
I loved hearing this story. The main reason for my delight was the natural state of this girl's mind. Had she been negatively focused and in fear and doubt, I don't believe her metaphor of her life's success would have surfaced.
Since I work with teens and I understand the negative challenges they face, this story was so refreshing and inspiring. It renews my hope of the possibilities that can be expanded in the mind of a teen or pre-teen....and even an adult.
I encourage you to join this girl in her optimistic and positive intention of living a successful and happy life. I believe when even we adults dig deep we can also find this natural pool of positive inspiration. Imagine what your life would be like now if you tapped into the spring of positive thought when you were 12.
I hope I'm around to celebrate the experiences this particular girl enjoys as she steps into her teenage, young adult, and adult years. If I was a betting woman, I'd put all my chips on her having a very happy life.
Wherever you happen to be on your life path, I encourage you to take a message from this girl and look for the positive signs that show up that will support you in living the life of happiness and success that you dream about.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Last evening after enjoying a 2 hour blissful massage, I discovered the weather took a drastic turn leaving a few inches of very slippery snow on the road. I typically avoid driving on ice or snow if I can help it, but in this case, there was no helping it. My travel distance was over ten miles and traffic was barely moving due to the slippery conditions.
Typically my posture in a driving situation such as this would be very tense and tight with a strained grip on the steering wheel. I was amazed to notice in my extremely relaxed post-massage state that I felt calmer, more trusting and relaxed as I slowly made my way home. My hands on the steering wheel were relaxed although my level of alertness was high. I noticed my fear level was low, which made the experience much easier to be with.
What I realized after safely returning home, was that the state of complete relaxation secondary to the massage was still very present. This peaceful side effect lessened my fear and helped to make a potentially very stressful situation, easy. I believe if this drive occurred before the massage, it would have been a different story.
The application I am making to life in general is when we take care of ourselves in every way and focus on activities that create relaxation, then the 'stuff' of life is not as stressful. It makes sense that we will better be able to meet even significant challenging situations with greater ease.
I am so convinced of this deduction, I will continue to have monthly massages and will find other ways to help me experience more peace and less fear.
Monday, November 24, 2008
In a world where we all seem to make constant judgments of ourselves and one another it can be confusing to even consider what the truth may be about you. Whether we are paying attention to the negative comments we hear about ourselves, or are buying into the positive opinions others hold of us, we can be deluding ourselves.
To get to the truth, we have to sift through all of the roles we play, the expectations we try to live up to and the opinions others hold of us. I am not suggesting you are not as good as you think. I am saying, however, that you are made of more goodness than you ever believed existed. This realm of self-understanding cuts to the core of you.....that which is the soul of you. There is nothing bad about it. Who you really are is pure and positive. We all are. Find that hard to believe? Are you wondering about all of those folks out there that are doing "bad" things? Are you remembering some of your own less than pure moments in life? Well, once you sift through all of the "doing" elements, you get to the "being" elements. It is the being of you that is the truth.
At this point you may have either already exited this page or are curious if this may be true. If you're still reading, I encourage you to look beyond all that you have done....that which you are proud of and that which you are not. Look closely and discover the magnificence....the love of you....the joy that rests in the heart of you. This is the truth. If you find that difficult to see, then imagine removing all of the other elements that obstruct the truth. These would be the stories you've told yourself over the years. It would also help to sift through any fears you may hold that keeps you feeling separate.
Yes, the truth about you exists and is waiting for you to discover it. The good news is you are not separate. We are all in the same spiritual boat. Once you connect with the truth about you, your ability to see the truth in others will also come along quite naturally.
If this concept intrigues you, I suggest you spend some time truly getting to know yourself.....the truth about you. I guarantee, you will love what you discover.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
One thing that is available to each of us is our ability to think. Some of us thinkers tend to focus on what's wrong in our lives...what needs to be fixed or changed. Others focus on what's positive and can tend to expect everything will work out for the best. One view supports complaining, the other, appreciation and gratitude.
Although I'm quite sure those that focus on what's wrong may believe that their thinking about, talking about, and even dreaming about that which they are unhappy, do not see their thinking is actually adding to their negatively perceived situation. This may be true for the positive thinkers too. They may not be making the connection between their thoughts and feelings of well being.
When you get to the core of the power of thought, the truth is you cannot feel joy when you complain or focus on lack. By the same token, regardless of any one's current situation, no matter how dire it may seem, positive thoughts of hope, love and gratitude will always create positive feelings. If you agree this is true, doesn't it make sense to practice deliberate thought?
Some from the negative camp may counter with an argument that it is impossible to be positive when the bills cannot be paid or when facing a serious illness. The truth is that all of the worry, complaints and negative conversations will never change a thing. The result will always produce feelings of sadness, hopelessness or fear.
On the other hand, focusing on anything that creates a sense of appreciation and gratitude cannot help but produce more positive, better feeling emotions.
One example where I created a shift for myself was in paying bills. I noticed when I would look at the gradual increase in the cost of my utility bills, I felt victimized (that never feels good). The change I made was in focusing on being grateful that I have the convenience and comfort of electricity in my home. I focused on how great it feels to have heat in the winter and the convenience of driving my car wherever I need to go. That switch to gratitude cured me of my lamenting about the increase in my bills. Since I was going to pay the bill anyway, feeling good was my choice.
I also consciously practiced deliberate thought when diagnosed with cancer. My entire cancer experience from diagnosis through surgery and recovery was much easier than I knew was possible....all because of my positive thoughts.
Since awareness is always the first step in any area of spiritual growth, I encourage you to notice what you're thinking about and what emotions are connected to your dominant thoughts. If you should decide to practice deliberate thought in a positive form, I guarantee you will be better able to handle all that comes your way.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Earlier this morning I was out for my usual walk. It was cold....about 25 degrees, so I was dressed warmly and committed to go the distance. Within a quarter mile from my home I felt a pebble in my shoe. It seemed to be right under my heel so I felt it with each step. I continued to walk along another quarter mile with it eventually affecting my gait as the discomfort increased. Finally, I stopped and took off my shoe and removed the culprit of my discomfort, allowing the rest of my walk to be much more enjoyable.
As I got back up to a quicker pace, I wondered why I didn't pay attention to the source of my discomfort sooner. Did I hope it would go away if I simply ignored it? Did I see stopping and taking a moment to remove my shoe to not be worth the bother? Do I believe I deserve to hurt or have my walk be challenged?
Well, as I pondered the lesson of the pebble, it became clear that my behavior in this case sometimes occurs in other areas of my life. It seems it is a common habit among us humans to ignore that which is uncomfortable. We can tend to tolerate many things that can often be easily attended to, but we don't take the time to give an issue our attention. Instead we plod along with a pebble in the shoe of our life, sometimes silently suffering, and other times outwardly complaining.
The lesson for me is by simply being present to whatever is on my path (or in my shoe), the sooner I can move on with more comfort and more joy. It simply does not make sense to suffer. No one wins and I am not happy. Since my life's focus is to "feel good", I plan on attending to my pebbles sooner. How about you....what pebble is calling for your attention?
Friday, November 21, 2008
As long as we live we will always have transitions. In fact, I believe our transitional adjustments in life are largely responsible for our growth and learning. Whether transitions are planned or spontaneous or even out of our control, they will always be part of the human experience.
Some common transitions include aging, changing jobs, moving to a new community, children growing up, becoming a grandparent, going to school, developing new relationships and changes in health, to name a few. When seen in a positive light any of the countless transitions that occur in our lives can call us forth to expand beyond what we thought was possible. They will inevitably cause us to learn more, experience more and create new possibilities from which more transitions can take place.
So if transitions do indeed contribute to our expansion as humans, then why do so many of us resist them? We may dread our children leaving home since our lives had revolved around their activities. We may fear retirement since our identity is totally tied up and connected to our work. Moving to a new place can create fears of fitting in and making new friends. We may believe we can never have relationships like those we had before a transition. Some may fear that happiness will not be part of the transition equation as if there is only so much joy allotted per person and you had your quota.
Granted....transitions are a risk. Taking a step from the known to the unknown holds many questions. Not knowing all the answers ahead of time can frighten us. Those of us that avoid transitions whenever possible may find the routine and familiar goings on of life to be safe and comfortable.
So how can we experience transitional points in life without any major emotional backlash? My response is to be aware of what the fears or concerns may be and to identify the feelings that are present. To look at all that is present up close and personal rather than resist and run away. In fact, I believe it is the sheer act of willingness to look at whatever is the issue that frees us from whatever we resist.
We are evolving whether we want to or not. Allowing, and in fact willingly stepping into transitional experiences, creates an evolution of our lives beyond what we saw as possible.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
One of my favorite pastimes is to watch myself. It is not that I am overly cautious, I'm just curious and fascinated to see me live from spirit and love or from my ego and fear. I'm curious about how I respond to that which shows up on my life's path.
I'm curious what hooks me away from feeling peace. I'm curious what is present in me when I don't get hooked by life's dramas and remain in peace.
I love to watch how I get unhooked once I know I'm hooked. I'm fascinated by my creativity in finding the best way to go about tackling an issue that may seem daunting at first. I also see my creativity in avoiding dealing with some issues.
I love to watch myself interact with those whom I feel safe and loved. I love to watch myself in action loving a stranger and connecting in a way typically saved for only those in long standing friendships.
I watch myself find the blessings in every situation. I watch myself look for the humor in all that occurs.
I watch myself with compassion when I'm frightened. I watch myself with delight when I am courageous and confident.
I watch myself expand and reach new heights of imagination when I am encouraged. I watch myself retreat when I forget who I really am.
I watch myself forgive naturally and freely without hesitation. Sometimes I see myself struggle to forgive.
I watch and see myself moving ahead with sureness and strength. I watch myself fall down and lose hope....then I watch with great interest as I see myself get up again and move forward.
Yes, watching myself is never boring. Sometimes I'm surprised by my thoughts, feelings and actions. Other times, I am not.
What makes this process of watching myself so entertaining is that there is no judgment in my watching. I observe and I learn from whatever is present since ultimately it is all serving my process of living my best life.
Another bonus of watching myself is that I learn more readily how I want to feel and be in the world. Each situation, encounter and opportunity takes me one step closer to living with more peace and joy.