Friday, April 17, 2009

The Buddha Score

There have been many spiritual teachers through the ages whose teachings have had an impact on me. Although I am not a practicing Buddhist, Buddha's focus on showing loving kindness to all living creatures, has been one of my major spiritual lessons.

Over the years, my ability to practice loving kindness to people (even strangers) has improved dramatically. I'd give myself an A-. Even showing myself loving kindness deserves at least an A.

I have also been much more mindful of showing loving kindness to the earth's environment. I'm much more "green" minded and make deliberate choices like recycling and not using purchased water bottles any more, that demonstrate that level of consciousness. I still need improvement, so I would give myself a B.

Overall, I've been feeling pretty loving. I practice compassion for all, (well, maybe most), I forgive pretty easily and I laugh a lot (you must have seen images of the Laughing Buddha).

There is one area, however, that I really need some extra focus and that is in treatment of insects. I think it is actually the piece of Buddha history that stands out most for me is that he showed loving compassion and kindness even to smallest of creatures.

Every Spring as the weather warms up a bit, our 120 year old Victorian farm house seems to widen it's cracks to welcome the large black carpenter ants. In the past, I'd kill each one without a thought. This year, I tried to be more Buddha-like and spare their lives by carefully picking them up without damaging their little bodies or legs, and would then carry them outside to return them to their natural environment.

For the past two weeks, this practice was going great. I felt very warm, loving and kind and no ant lives were lost. My husband told me the spared ants were going back to their families and friends and giving directions to our house, spreading the word on where they can find the most crumbs on the floor and the little drips of honey on the counter that are often missed in the post breakfast cleanup.

I laughed off his cynicism and continued to do my Buddha thing....that is, until this morning when the ants came marching in by large numbers. I could soon see they far out-numbered me. I felt myself panic and overwhelmed by my waning sense of loving kindness. As fast as I would gingerly transfer one ant-body, two more would show up. Finally, I lost it and wiped out about 20 at one time with a big swipe of a paper towel.

Clearly my score in the insect department needs work. I will do my best and am not giving up, although I'm not optimistic.

The good news is I do not show the same kind of violence with anything else....except maybe spiders.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Worry or Not Worry? You Choose

I'm a reformed worrier. Like many people, I worried out of habit. It seemed like the thing to do when you really cared about something....or someone. I've always been one who cared, so breaking out of my worry mode took some effort to break that connection.

It seems that worriers can often collapse worry with caring, commitment, responsibility etc. Somehow when deeply committed to worry, we can trick ourselves into believing that if we don't worry, something bad will happen. Worriers also believe (when worry is related to performance) that we cannot do our best, unless we're worried. A commonly held belief is that if you trust, or allow yourself to be in the flow of things, it somehow means you're opening yourself up to all sorts of potential calamities, from which worry can protect you. Of course, the same preparation, study etc. would be needed. It is just the worry part you leave out of the equation.

Trying to convince a worrier that their well intentioned efforts to live their best life via worry, is just about impossible. I like to approach the discussion by having people note how they feel when they are in worry mode. I have never had anyone tell me that they feel calm, peaceful or joyful. Typically, the responses are nervous, anxious, frightened.

When each of us answers the question of how we want to be living our lives, typically the responses are more in the happy, freedom and peace category.

Paying attention to how you feel and realizing there is a direct connection between your thoughts and your feelings can gradually shift you from worry to acceptance, one thought at a time, that is if you choose to make that shift.

When my fellow caring, committed, responsible souls in the world see that they actually perform closer to their optimal level when feeling happy and peaceful, rather than nervous and anxious, those fear-based thoughts that feed worry can gradually dissipate.

Some readers of this piece may totally disagree. That's okay....I'm not going to worry about it. It's already done.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Dressing Room Experience

I have never been fond of dressing rooms. They are spaces where I have never lingered longer than I needed to, although today I had a new experience.

On April 26th, I will be taking part in an American Cancer Society fundraising event called Fountains of Fashion, Fountains of Hope. One of my roles for this event is to co-emcee the fashion show. The models for this show are all cancer survivors.....I also fit in the category of survivor, so today I traveled to Amber Rose Bridal and Formal Ware in Montoursville, to be fitted with a gown.

The sales girls pulled several dresses in my size off the rack and lead me to the largest dressing room I have ever been in. Large room means large mirrors. I was so excited to begin trying on the gorgeous gowns, I didn't notice the mirror surround. I slipped the first one over my head, a cocoa brown, sheer-like sheath. It fit! I was thrilled. For some reason I looked thinner in this dressing room than I have in the past. Maybe that's because I had a kinder attitude toward myself.

I repeated the experience with several more dresses. For all, there was some flaw....with the dress, not me...such as too long (can't be hemmed, since I am not buying it), sleeves too long for my stubby, (I mean petite)... arms, a pucker in the fabric from previously being tried on by other customers.

The last dress was an essentially strapless (itty bitty straps) beautiful black chiffon number with Swaroski crystals and sea bugle beading. I have never worn anything with Swaroski crystals before. It fit and even flattered....It is amazing the illusion tucks in fabric, embellished with beads and crystals can create.

So, my dressing room learning experience was this: Look in the mirror and judge the dress, not yourself. If you do, you will most likely have a much more enjoyable time. In the end, I was happy with the gown and myself.

It may take some more practice, but I believe my future relationship with dressings rooms can always be positive.

If you'd like to attend the event on April 26th in Williamsport, PA, please contact me for more information and tickets 570-723-1020

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Towering Pines

There have been many nature experiences throughout my life that have taken my breath away. A very memorable one that is not far from where I live is Camp Eaglebear in Leetonia, PA.

This beautiful piece of Pennsylvania is cared for by our two friends, Lee Ann and Paula. They appreciate their land like most people appreciate food and water. The beautiful mountains surround their cabin, giving many options to enjoy the beauty of nature.

A few weeks ago when my friend, David was visiting, he, my husband, and I made a trip to Camp Eaglebear We hiked up the mountain and took in the gorgeous views. It just got prettier and prettier the higher we went. It was our goal to walk the labyrinth that Paula and Lee Ann created at the mountain's top. As we walked from the open space deeper into the woods, the air felt different. Huge trees lined our path to the labyrinth which made for the perfect welcome.

The first time I visited this beautiful place, I felt like I was entering a sacred space. It was a spot that without any words being spoken, created a feeling of deep reverence. I felt like I did when I entered St. Peter's Basilica. It actually took my breath away as I slowly walked deeper into the space. appreciating the many years of history that preceded our visit.

We all walked the labyrinth in silence and finished in a large open area in the center that was bordered by tree stumps for sitting. I chose to lie in the center encircled by the pines. Paula led us in a guided imagery, and when it was complete I opened my eyes to see the pines circled around us, towering in the sky, gently swaying in the wind. It was as if we were in one of nature's, secure and held as one.

Camp Eaglebear is a spiritual piece of land that Mother Earth must be very proud of. I'm always grateful for the opportunity to visit.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Yoga Life

I love a good metaphor and I cannot help but see them everywhere I look....especially when my eyes are closed. A recent one I have been playing with is how everything about Yoga is like how I want to live my life.

During this month of April I have been taking part in a Yoga Challenge offered by local Yoga instructor, Kath Thompson owner of Main Street Yoga, I have been exposed intermittently to Yoga in the past and knew I liked it, although my recent experiences have dug deeper into the heart of me.

Here's some of the parallels I see between Yoga and Life:

In Yoga, all that matters is your experience. There is no need to compare your practice, flexibility or ability to anyone else. What is right for you, right now, is all that matters. This is true in life too. If I compare my life to someone else, the joy of what I am experiencing gets lost. I am no longer present to my unique experience.

An important part of Yoga is breathing. The practice of breathing helps bring you more present and aligned as body, mind, spirit. In every day life, I use breathing to bring me present to what is "now". When I am focused on breathing, my mind quiets and I quickly come into alignment with who I really am, rather than confused by whatever chaos may be happening around me.

Stretching is another lovely part of Yoga. This loving, gentle way of taking your body just a bit beyond what it believed was its limit, feels wonderful. My life stretching is the same. If I keep myself limited only to what I know and don't stretch beyond that limit, my life cannot expand to what is possible..... plus it feels sooooo gooooood when I allow it.

Guidance is a part of Yoga that is vital for me. Listening with my eyes closed to Kath's step by step gentle instruction, takes me through the poses with ease (at least most of the time). If I allow my body to respond and I don't resist, the guidance takes me to a position I did not know was possible. In life, I also have guidance. It comes from deep within me. It is also a gentle voice that takes me to a lovely place of living, one step at a time. When I trust and allow, I am delighted by the journey.

The greatest comparison I see between Yoga and life is that it is the process that feeds your soul, not being focused on the end result.

In Yoga we chant Ommmmmmmm. In life I chant Yummmmmmmm.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Season of Renewal

There is a beautiful universal gift that Easter brings, regardless of one's religious beliefs, and that is the gift of renewal.

Easter and it's coordinated season of Spring give us all permission to start fresh. It's a time for us to let go of old habits, beliefs, grief and grievances. It is a time for hope, newness, fresh ideas and perspectives.

We see flowers opening and grass get greener. The birds return to our backyards to build their nests and start new families. Buds on trees and shrubs become brave enough to show themselves again.

Humans feel inspired to be outdoors and exercise. That means dogs get to go for longer walks. The squirrels and rabbits seem freer and happy to have warmer temperatures.

It's also a time to clean up the grime leftover from winter and begin to think about picnics, hikes and vacations.

Motorcycles and convertibles are on the road again. Kids have the end of the school year on their minds.

People seem to smile more and find inspiration to do more in their lives. Moods lighten and people connect more.

It is one of my favorite times of the year, primarily because the impact of this season seems to touch most people. When many of us are aligned with stepping into a season of renewal, beautiful things happen.

What renewal is taking place within you?