“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Harold Whitman

May 27th, 2013

The fountain in the center of campus is dry, lifeless.  It’s almost October.  The inscription at the base of the fountain reads, “In Memory of a Beautiful Life.” It commemorates Mary Tomlinson Lanning, Class of 1912, a sophomore who died much too young from typhoid fever.

It brings me to wonder, What is a beautiful life?  Isn’t all life beautiful?

What are we missing when our lives are not beautiful?  Love?  Nurturance?  Joy?  Connection?  Are beautiful lives measured by recognition of achievement?

I consider my life thus far to be beautiful.  My greatest achievement?  Giving birth to and raising a beautiful daughter, who now has a beautiful life of her own.

I think I figured out what I want to be when I grow up.  I want to be an even better me; this is a life-time achievement.  I am the creator of my beautiful life.  I decide how I respond to pain, to joy, to obstacles, to musings.  I try to bring awareness to every moment and check in to see how I am responding.  I have come alive as a result.  I have pushed through the fog of adolescence, the fear of inadequacy, the feelings of hopelessness.  I stand on the mountain top, and from here I can see why I took such an arduous path.  It has brought me to the best view.  My fountain overflows and I am alive in mind, body, and spirit.

“Life is amazingly good when it’s simple and amazingly simple when it’s good.” ~Terri Guillemets

March 29th, 2013

I should write a book called: When Bad Things Happen to “Should” People.  No, wait.  I’m already doing too much: full-time job, part-time classes, volunteer work, side hobbies, and housework.  Maybe when I retire.

I forget to remember that, even as I’m filling my life with want-to-do’s, I need to go at the speed of Life.  Spring is a good time to take stock of such things.  Buds become flowers at the speed of Life. They don’t rush to bloom.  Geese “V” north at the speed of Life (otherwise they’d lose some followers and fly back as a check mark).  The tide ebbs and flows, etc.  We look to nature to remind us of our natural pace (except for chipmunks).

When we rush or get pushed toward the “should’s” and “have-to’s” of life, bad things happen.  We get lost, confused, overwhelmed, bump our head, stub our toe, get fingers caught in the door, bite our tongue, or worse.  Fortunately, something beyond us keeps the breath going and the heart beating.

Let us simplify.  We live on only ONE planet.  We consist of only THREE things: Body, Mind, and–most of us agree–Spirit.
Body needs rest & nourishment to keep up.  (Nachos do not count as nourishment.)
Mind needs rest, entertainment, and quiet reflection to recover.  (Put down the Sudoku and Angry Birds.)
Spirit needs a quieted mind to be heard, to be our compass, to remind us of the speed of Life.

“Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.”  ~Chinese Proverb

Try walking at the speed of Life.
Try eating at the speed of Life.
Your breath at rest will provide the pace.  :)

“See the things that you want as already yours. Know that they will come to you at need. Then let them come. Don’t fret and worry about them. Don’t think about your lack of them. Think of them as yours, as belonging to you, as already in your possession.” ~Robert Collier (1885-1950)

February 4th, 2013

Life can be frustrating.  Things are happening too fast, or not fast enough.  Traffic is in my way or deadlines are in my face.  More often, it is the wanted things that seem to take their own sweet time, whereas the must-do’s come up unexpectedly or nag at me like a pesky fly, in the name of procrastination.

I tend to notice the former.  I’m more of a doer than a procrastinator.  This can be frustrating when 20% of people are chronic procrastinators, according to Joseph Ferrari, PhD. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/04/procrastination.aspx But coming from the other end of the spectrum, getting ahead of myself and waiting for life to happen can also lead to frustration. I’ve had to learn how to wait.

I have had to learn to let things “marinate” and happen in their own time.  When I’m inspired, I want to move at the speed of Light!  But the big ol’ Universe with its natural order moves at the speed of Life.  I’ve gotten better at focusing on other fun things while waiting.  I become a happy slo-mo juggler.  To catch and throw the next ball, it must first land in my hand.  I can’t force it’s natural pace.  So, while waiting for my energy to align or for things to fall into place, I throw another fun ball in the air.  This way, I don’t get impatient and frustrated like I have in the past when I didn’t understand that it was often MY energy running the show.

When there’s a slow driver in front of me, my first reaction is: MOVE!  Why do you drive a sports car if you don’t know how to?? But, then I relax and think of other reasons this might be happening: they’re saving me from getting a speeding ticket up ahead; it’s a sign I need to slow down in life and be more in the moment; maybe they just got some devastating news.  Often when I choose other thoughts that change my energy, the problem dissipates: they turn off the road or, at least, start going the speed limit.

“Good things, or wanted things, come to those who wait.”   You just have to learn HOW to wait, how to adjust your thoughts (energy), so that the obstacles melt away.  Focus elsewhere (throw another fun ball in the air).  Think higher thoughts (while waiting for the next ball to land).

 

“A pessimist sees only the dark side of the clouds and mopes; a philosopher sees both sides, and shrugs; an optimist doesn’t see the clouds at all – he’s walking on them.” ~Leonard Louis Levinson

January 28th, 2013

I have an inner guidance system.  My inner GPS.  (Guidance for Personal Sustainability)  It’s nothing mysterious; we all have it. I’m sure you’ve said at one time or another, “Man, something told me not to do that.”  or  ”I should’ve listened to that little voice inside.”  My GPS is set to Joy or at least that’s my intended destination at any given moment.  If not joy, then I’ll settle for happiness, but I feel that happiness is a choice that I can make in every moment.  My emotions tell me when I get off course.  Or my GPS says “Recalculating!  Recalculating!”  or maybe your GPS says “Off route!  Off route!”  And then it gently guides you back with an English accent or whatever voice you’ve chosen.  It guides you back to your intended destination.  What is your intended destination?  Are you seeking joy or happiness at every turn? Why not?  Chronic negative thoughts or chronic negative self-talk can lead to illness.  It’s that subtler little voice inside that’s trying to guide us to our best and better selves.  Sometimes it’s hard to hear and it’s hard to know how to turn up the volume.  If you check in with it often, you’ll get in the habit of hearing that little voice and choosing to follow it.  It’s kind of like intuition.  I guess it IS intuition.  Guidance for Personal Sustainability.

Sometimes, we think we know better than our GPS how to get someplace.  We like to take short cuts.  But often that can lead us into an unexpected traffic jam or even a dead end.  We think we know how to get to happiness.  You know that saying, “Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.”   I know how to get happy, I can do such and such…and then you end up hurting yourself short-term or long-term.  Like, if only I just had this thing, or this person, or this drug.  That would be my short cut to happiness. It’s kind of like the glass half empty, the “if only I had” glass half empty.

But happiness can be right now.  How do we get to happiness right now?  That’s where the GPS comes in.  Our emotional guidance system.

If instead we concentrate on what we DO have: our health?  that’s a big one.  Loved ones?   Shelter?  Food, warmth. That’s a glass half full.  Or maybe that’s a glass very full and running over. Concentrate on the part of the glass that is full or maybe half-full. If we see it as only half-full, we can fill it up with thoughts of our blessings, with thoughts of what’s going right, with thoughts of who we love and are loved by…until our glass gets so tall, we’re walking on clouds.

“Today I will accept people, situations, and events as they occur. This means I will know that this moment is as it should be, because the whole universe is as it should be.” ~Deepak Chopra

December 3rd, 2012

Sometimes it’s hard to think that everything is as it should be, especially when it doesn’t feel very good.  We think: how is it possible that this was supposed to happen?!

But we remember that change is ultimately positive as it leads to growth.  Childbirth is physically painful, but look at the end result. Education or learning a new skill can be mentally taxing, but look at the end result.  A major life crisis beyond our control can be a painful struggle, but look at how we are shaped by it.  We are forced out of the routine and into a pin-pointed focus of survival of some kind.

We can learn to accept each new situation as something that was supposed to happen.  This does not mean, of course, that we lie down and allow it if we see a way to make things better.  Accepting life as it is does not mean becoming a martyr.  It does mean not struggling against it in the moment.  We can then pause, breathe, and from that non-resistant stance, decide what our response will be.  If it is beyond our control, we can choose to go with it and let it be, to let it find its own outcome.  But if we can affect a change for the better, we can accept what happened and then make our move…or not.

“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.” ~ Erma Bombeck

November 15th, 2012

As we get ready to travel or prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, I leave you with these important tips for gathering with friends and family:

“A man with a hump-backed uncle mustn’t make fun of another man’s cross-eyed aunt.”  ~Mark Twain

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”  ~Robert Frost

“The advantage of growing up with siblings is that you become very good at fractions.”  ~Robert Brault

“Children in a family are like flowers in a bouquet: there’s always one determined to face in an opposite direction from the way the arranger desires.”  ~Marcelene Cox

“If minutes were kept of a family gathering, they would show that “Members not Present”and “Subjects Discussed” were one and the same.”  ~Robert Brault

“Dare to… Ask for what you want. Believe in your dreams. Count your blessings. Do the right thing. Enjoy the moment. Fail, and dare to succeed. Give more than you receive. Have no regrets. Inspire kindness. Join in more. Never settle for less. Overcome Adversity. Practice moderation. Take personal responsibility. Shoot for the moon. Veto hate and negativity. Understand more, judge less. Exercise body and mind. Yodel more, yawn less. Walk your talk. Be zany.”  ~Unknown

“Loss makes artists of us all as we weave new patterns in the fabric of our lives.” ~Greta W. Crosby

October 31st, 2012

For some of us, there was a sense of relief that we did not get pummeled by Super Storm Sandy.  For others of us who were spared, there was a sense of–dare I say it–disappointment.  Not that any of us hoped for the kinds of devastation that so many are now grappling with, but somehow after all the worrying,  shopping, news and weather watching, and preparing–mentally and otherwise, it felt anti-climactic to wake up to the same ‘ol, same ‘ol. (I imagine that everyone who didn’t wake up to that would be more than happy to trade places.)

But, disappointed?  Really?  To be honest, Yes.  Some of us were left with a gnawing emptiness.

What deeper need did not get met by having to go on as if nothing happened?  (a little rain, a little wind is nothing by comparison) Were we hoping for something bigger than us to force a re-focusing?  Did we feel left out like we “didn’t get the memo” reminding us of what is most important in life?  Were we lacking a feeling of belonging to a group with a common goal, a common hardship to overcome?  Must we experience crisis to have these needs met?

Perhaps some of us have family members who were affected by this “Frankenstorm,” as some have referred to it.  Perhaps through them, through the footage on the news, through our donations of blood or food items and clothing we can feel connected.  Those of us who were minimally affected by the storm are in a position to help.  This could be our re-focusing.  This could fill our need to belong.  Their experience could also be our own reminder of what is most important  in life.

“Distance lends enchantment to the view.” ~Mark Twain

October 16th, 2012

An Austrian man, Felix Baumgartner, recently broke a record by completing a sky dive from 23 miles above the earth.   “When you’re standing there on top of the world, you become so humble…” he is quoted as saying.

I’ve never seen the earth from higher than your average airplane ride, but I get the same feeling when I travel by air, or even with both feet on the ground looking up at the sky on a clear night.

With that distant view of Earth in mind, either from space or from an airplane, I can more easily put my worries in perspective.  This practice helps relieve stress.

Will I even remember this problem two weeks from now?  One year or five years from now?  Will I ever look back and laugh? How significant is this one line in the mystery novel of my life?

How much will it cause me to grow and change?  Does it really matter?  Has it threatened my well-being?  My ability to breathe?  My ability to Love?  What part have I played?  If I were looking down from space, would I hold a different perspective?

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” ~William James

September 26th, 2012

When we want to get ourselves physically from Point A to Point B, we choose a means of transportation, i.e. walking, running, car, (or invite a friend who has one), bus, etc.  And if we’re not sure how to get there, we can use tools such as
GPS
Map
asking directions

But, how do we navigate from one emotional state to another?

How do we go from stressed to de-stressed or, at least, less stressed?  (We don’t have to be victims of stress.)  But, this journey takes a little mental effort and physical effort on your part, a bit of a hill climb.  You will need to apply yourself.  “Because of this hierarchical dominance of the sympathetic nervous system over the parasympathetic nervous system, it often requires conscious effort to initiate your relaxation response and reestablish metabolic equilibrium.” (http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/stress.html)

Stress is part of life.  It just is.  We’re wired that way for a reason…to protect us from lions, and tigers, and bears…oh, my!  The fight, flight or freeze response comes to you courtesy of Amy G. Dala, or more commonly known as the amygdala in our brain.  But how often do we run across those creatures?  Hopefully, not often.  Yet, we’re a very stressed society!  We have fears.  Fears that are not life-threatening.  Deadlines won’t stop the heart, neither will break-ups.  So, we have to think of FEAR as an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. (unless, of course, we see a grizzly bear)

So, how do we wrestle this FEAR creature to the ground?  How do we convince Amy G. Dala that we’re going to be ok?  “Look, Amy, it’s just an exam.  I got this!”

What tools do we have?

our thoughts
imagination
intention
prayer (ask for help, like asking for directions)
talk to a friend who listens  (Some friends are good friends, but maybe not good listeners.  Find a good friend who is also a good listener.)

We can also take a few deep breaths to calm ol’ “Amy” right down.

Physical exercise works wonders for stress, but so does mental exercise such as: using your imagination to visualize a positive outcome; or daydreaming by closing your eyes and taking yourself to the beach or a favorite happy place; be-friending yourself with positive thoughts of encouragement; or asking a friend to listen.  We don’t have to be victims of stress.  We can do our best to wrestle it to the ground with our last ounce of strength!

 

 

 

“He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” ~Socrates

September 16th, 2012

I just finished taking a quiz (long story as to why it had to be taken on the weekend).  My brain feels like a section of wet cement with facts and figures carved into it that has hardened into concrete.  Suffice it to say, I forced a lot of information into a very small space in a very short amount of time.  Some of it didn’t stick.  Some of the “fill in the blanks” are still blank.

To sooth my exhausted brain, I considered reaching for something sugary.  (If how you feel determines what you eat, remember that what you eat determines  how you feel.)  But instead, I scooped up a small blanket and pillow and headed out to my backyard.

One of my cats came over to join me.  He curled up inside my belly and purred and stayed as long as he could in the warmth of the late afternoon sun.  He soon moved into the shade of the maple tree.  I watched him lick his toes with delight, sniff the breeze with eyes half-closed, and stare back at me as if to say, “Sorry, but I’ll have to love you from over here.”  Oh, cats.  They’re so much like humans in so many ways (minus the licking of the toes).

I watched blades of grass bounce in the breeze between us.  The September sun warmed my back.  A passing train rattled and honked in the distance.  Birds and crickets compared notes.

This, I thought, is the cure.  No piece of pastry, no candy or cookie, can make me feel this good or last this long.