Friday, December 5, 2008

Chicken or Egg?

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.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Company You Keep

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

A Life Well Lived

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

Peaceful Respite Amidst Gunfire

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

The Power of the Mind

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.