Saturday, September 27, 2008

Talking Gaslights

This photo shows off what makes Wellsboro famous....or at least one of the things....and that is the Gas Lights. Two of our main streets feature old fashioned working gas lights down the center of Main Street and Central Avenue. It is that bit of nostalgic charm that invites tourists to come back again and again and adds to the beauty for those of us that live here to enjoy.

A few years ago I was a judge for a play writing contest. The entries were all submitted anonymously and the top vote winners were presented in an evening presentation of ten minute plays. A true favorite of mine was a play about two talking Gaslights, named Grace and Gus. Grace was an effervescent light that just loved all of the charming activities that occurred in town. She was a truly joyful light. Gus, on the other hand was the opposite. He was a curmudgeon of a guy light that only saw the negative aspects of everything. For instance, Grace loved the beauty and the visitors that came to town for the Fall Foliage Festival, and Gus complained about the itchy corn stalks wrapped around him for weeks, and those pesky tourists that insisted on taking his picture.

As it turned out, I got to actually perform the part of "Grace" and my husband played "Gus". When the identifies of the authors were revealed, I was delighted to learn that a friend, Cindy Davis Meixel, was the playwright. It was truly a joy to bring her creative work to life.

The basic way of being for the two featured gas lights mimmicks the same type of differences seen in the real life variety of characters that live here and everywhere. The character of Grace chose to see the good in everything. She was so grateful for the beauty of the town and to be able to serve by lighting up Main Street and greeting people happily every day. Gus, on the other hand, chose to focus on everything that was uncomfortable or not to his liking. He totally missed the beauty of the town that Grace could see.

As their dialogue transpired, Gas Light Grace did not lose her enthusiasm or her joy, even though Gus contradicted every positive point that she expressed. As the story developed, eventually Gus came around. Grace's love for the town and all of the wonderful celebrations that occurred on the boulevard gradually touched Gus and inspired him to change. By the end of the play, these two gaslights were both proud to be of service in this community.

Although this story centers on Gas lights, I am sure you can think of people that live life like Grace does.....enjoying all that happens around them. In comparison, you are also likely to know people that only focus on the negatives and choose to spend their time complaining, being Gus-like in living.

The good news is that negative thoughts can be exchanged for positive ones, one by one. Each positive thought and each item for which gratitude is expressed, takes us one step closer to JOY.

In reading this story of Grace and Gus, which one would you think represents you? How bright is your light?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Endless Possibilities

I am grateful to be living in a beautiful part of the country, Northern Pennsylvania. You can look in any direction and see mountains with beautiful vistas that seem to go on and on. In fact, this area of Pennsylvania is referred to as the Endless Mountains.
As I look at this picture taken not far from my home, I not only see endless mountains, but endless possibilities.
If you can imagine the grass and hay bales in the foreground representing what is familiar in our lives. We can see our life up close...we understand it and we know what it will look like tomorrow. There's some security in that for many of us. It is quite lovely, so why not just keep this perspective of safe and familiar? It's certainly an option.
Another option is to look off into the horizon where the mountains seem to intersect. First of all these mountains are high, they are covered with trees of many varieties. I imagine there are some wildlife, some springs, and maybe even some waterfalls interspersed throughout. All of these possibilities in the Endless Mountains can transpose to the variety of things available to us when we look off into the horizon beyond what is familiar and comfortable in our lives.
As I look beyond the familiar in my life, I imagine there are new opportunities in the distance available for me to experience; people of varied backgrounds waiting for me to meet; some challenges that will set me in a different direction from what I might expect; not to mention some new lands for me to explore.
When I reach my next peak, I will look ahead to the next mountain to climb, knowing there will be others beyond it. I don't care about ever being done. It's my goal to look for the joy throughout the journey.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Right Path

As we move through our lives we take many paths. They all lead somewhere. Some are windy and some are straight. Some feel very safe and others, feel pretty scary.
At various times of our lives there can also be forks in the road, which can add to our confusion. Another influence that can make it difficult to choose the "right" path is when other's wishes for us make us question our decision. Perhaps we don't want to disappoint those that are encouraging us as they point us in a particular direction. Maybe we're just plain scared to take the path they see as perfect for us. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is the decision is ours to make. So how do we know which path is the right path, right now?

I believe we all have the answer to that question already within us, waiting to be discovered. In fact, I believe the answer is there before the question even arises. It is in your blueprint for living a joy-filled and fulfilling life. When we can clear our minds of all distractions and banish the doubts and fears that hold us back, the answer is there, clear and simple. If we are not following our heart's direction, we will feel an absence of peace. If we do follow the path that feels "right", even if it scares us, we will feel peace.

Trusting our own hearts, is of course mandatory. Without that trust, we will continue to flounder and struggle while sorting out other's opinions and releasing ourselves from our self-made constraints.

It may be we're not quite ready to take the path we are dreaming about. If that is true, I encourage you to take a good, long, hard look at what you are saying "no" to if you delay taking that path that feels right. A good question to ask yourself, is "What is at stake with this decision"?

I believe life is meant to be an adventure. Exploring the path after we connect with our "heart" will take us somewhere. When we get to somewhere.....there will be a new path to choose and the process continues.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Giving Up Control

One of the greatest challenges most of us share is in giving up control. Most of us, (us being modern day humans) will manipulate anything we can to make things work the way we think they should. We develop attachments to having things go our way as we work out the perfect plan in our minds. We are not only attached to the "things" we want, but also to the timing and the way it will all happen. In our minds, it is perfect....the ideal orchestrated plan, and then life happens, our plans fall apart and we are left bitterly frustrated and/or disappointed.

Another area of control is over others. We'd love to have people respond the way we'd like. We'd love to control what others say and how they behave, so we would feel better. How many times have you thought "If only my, _______________(fill in the blank), would (fill in the blank)_____________, I would be happy. Or, we may say, "if they would only listen to me, their problem would be solved".

The interesting thing about control in whatever variety in comes in is that as long as we hold onto it, we will feel bound and at the mercy of some other unseen (0r seen) force, while what we are really wanting is to be free. Ironically, the tighter we hold to our plan when things don't go our way, the less empowered we feel.

So, how do we give up control? First of all, we must recognize where we are trying to manipulate or control situations, people or things in our lives. Once we see where we are attached and working very hard (without seeing results), we can begin to let go of our attachments. (you know, those things that we believe if they don't happen the way we want, we'll die or at least suffer terribly).

Once we know where we are attached, we can soften our focus allowing ourselves to be newly inspired. We can also broaden our sense of what is possible. Often times focusing on what it is we want to be feeling, or what values we would be honoring when the end result occurs, will keep us in a positive, more trusting place in the process. The bottom line of giving up control is feeling good in the process rather than waiting for "it" to occur.

So the next time you notice you are feeling tight, anxious and upset about things not going your way, relax your metaphorical grip. Breathe and reach for whatever thought will feel good in that moment. Repeat as needed. Eventually, you will learn the joy of allowing a natural unfolding and will give up control for good.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Simply Grateful

I generally practice being grateful for the many things that grace my day, although lately I've noticed my gratitude awareness has been more active than usual.

Some of the things I am simply grateful for involve my community. This time of year is just beautiful in Wellsboro. Wherever you look, there is either a breathtaking vista, with some early color changes to the leaves, a charming Victorian style home, a manicured yard, a newly decorated shop front, or friendly people saying hello as they pass you on the street. As I drive or walk through town, I have been taking it all in with complete gratitude.

I'm also grateful for some simple personal pleasures I enjoy. I have had many sunny days in a row for top down rides in Grace (my convertible). I'm grateful for the warm days and the chilly nights. Today I enjoyed a two hour facial, with lovely music playing in the background, soothing me to sleep in the middle of the afternoon.

I've been more than usually aware and thankful for some recent meals. Some very simple and some more elaborate. The glass of 2005 Syrah with dinner tonight was perfect.

So what does all this gratitude practicing do anyway? It's simple....when you are feeling grateful, you are feeling good. You cannot feel grateful and unhappy at the same time. When your focus is on that which you love and appreciate, you cannot help but feel good.
For me feeling good equals joy, happiness and an overall sense of well being. Interested in some of that? Take a minute now to think about something you are purely grateful for. Let you mind's chatter quiet, so you can completely focus and feel the power of being simply grateful.

The always-present opportunity we each have is that we can create good feelings within ourselves, simply by being grateful. Try'll like it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Anger vs. Calm Leadership

There are many different styles of leadership, yet I notice most leaders fall into one of two categories. The angry, reactive leader or the cool, responsive leader. The responsive leader stays cool under pressure and the reactive leader gets hot and angry. The calm leader tends to usually be respectful and kind. The angry leader tends to attack.

It appears to me that the angry leader tends to have more fear than they do confidence, while the calm leader is usually quietly confident and is not interested in a showy bravado. The key ingredient I notice in the hot and angry leader is fear. When a leader (or anyone for that matter) reacts with anger, something that he/she is afraid of losing has been violated.
They may see their reputation being at stake or possibly their future. When the naturally angry leader gets hooked, then the likely result will be attack. Although the angry leader may not have malicious intent, the fear of "losing" is so great that their power is used to put down, minimize or insult their opponent. It is a sophisticated form of bullying.

When the calm leader is attacked, you are likely to see a respectful response without a similar "fight back" type of style. The calm leader knows that he or she need not be a victim when attacked. Keeping cool and speaking of the facts, without showing the same type of "back atchya" behavior is more in line with strong and confident leadership.

In following our current presidential race, this contrast of attack vs. calm is clearly evident in our two candidates. I read an article in Time magazine that questioned Obama's calm response to the attacks from Senator McCain in that it may give the public a sense that he is not strong. I'm sure Senator Obama's calmer, gentler way is criticized even by others in the Democratic party based on the behavior of many past candidates.

What we generally see in commercials are blatant and personal attacks that volley back and forth. Perhaps that type of race is more interesting to the general population than one without battles of egos.

When I think of leaders that I have admired, such as Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, their power did not come from how ruthless they were or in their blatant show of anger, but in how calm and strong they stayed even in the face of attack. The leaders in this category responded with an intention to create peace. To me, this stance is not one of weakness, but of strength and true courage. Isn't it interesting that all of these courageous leaders apparently created fear for others that ended their lives premarturely? I can only guess that their true power to create positive change was the impetus for their assasinations.

I encourage all voters to consider what type of candidate they would like to have represent our country. Paying close attention to not only opinions on the issues at stake right now, but also the style of addressing them.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My Choice Will Always Be For JOY

Every morning, I spend about an hour doing some inspirational reading followed by prayer, meditation and journaling. Today, my mind quieted more easily than normal for this routine. I seemed to slip into that space below my thoughts where peace resides, very quickly. Since I have traveled to this space more times than I can count, it was familiar. When I rest here, all problems waiting for solutions, all questions waiting for answers and all dilemmas waiting to be solved lose their importance. In fact, they are no longer on my screen. It's almost as though my mind changes channels.

As I was enjoying this sense of complete peace and joy, I was reminded that no matter what is present in my life in regards to potential negative issues, I can always find joy here. This thought was not new for me, but for some reason, it took on a deeper meaning today.

As I continued to enjoy my mind being tuned into this channel, thoughts of things I have been wanting in my life began to march through. These included some particular work opportunities, some renovations to my home, losing some weight, getting my computer back, taking Project: Inside Out to the next level, to name a few.

As I allowed myself to look at these things from this dwelling place of peace and joy, I noticed they were less important than what I was feeling. I don't mean that I will not still move in the direction of bringing them into my life, it's just that feeling the joy that was present in the moment, was more important than acquiring or accomplishing the things on my mental list.

In other words, if I had the choice of having all external things fall into place in my life, or feel the joy and peace I was feeling in that moment, I'd take the joy and peace, hands down.

What was so liberating was that I was actually making a choice that freed me. I was also realizing in a new way that JOY comes without a price. It is unconditional and is always available, no matter how long my list of "wants" may be.

My goal is to remember this lesson when my mind gets anxious, upset or impatient about the endless list of things to do, buy or create. My ultimate choice will always be for JOY, no matter what.