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Thursday, March 31, 2011

EXPRESSING PREFERENCES

     Sometimes in life, when I am asked a question, I respond that I don't care. And sometimes, the answer really doesn't matter to me, and I am ok no matter which way the situation tips. But sometimes, I do care. I have a specific preference that I feel unsure or guilty about articulating, so I pretend not to care.
     Secretly, I am hoping someone else will decide to go in the direction of my preference and I will get the credit for being flexible and get what I want at the same time. It doesn't always play out like that though. If I don't express a preference and then things tilt away from where I want to go, I have to fight with myself to not cop a resentment. What insanity!
     It's ok for me to care about things, no matter how small they might seem. I can express my preference without being crushed if it doesn't happen. But if I opt out of this kind of self-expression, I devalue my particular take on life. I am acting from false humility. My motives for "not caring" in this way are not honest. I want to learn to speak up when asked my opinion, and not pretend that I don't care... when, in fact, I do. Sometimes, I actually care deeply. What merit is there in pretending that I don't?

Today I am going to trust that my personal vision has value and have the courage to express my preferences.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A GOOD REMINDER

     I heard a teaching story the other day that struck a profound chord within me. It has changed the way I think about the future and focused my awareness such that I catch myself needlessly fretting and am able to return to presence and inner calm.
     A man was traveling a long journey on foot, through woods and over mountains. He knew that there was a river ahead and worried obsessively about what he would do when he got to it. He was afraid he would not be able to cross, that the water would be too high, the current too strong, the distance too wide. He knit his brow and held tension in his neck worrying over how he would cross that river... when the entire time, unbeknownst to him, there was a bridge.

Instead of fretting and worrying over the future today, and trying to figure it all out in advance, I will trust that there will be a bridge.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

ALLOWING OTHERS THIER FREEDOM

     I sometimes catch myself thinking I know better what someone needs to do or say or incorporate into his life than he knows himself. I am sure that if he or she would only take my suggestion, then all would be well. But it's a grand fallacy. What works for me, what is just the ticket for my well-being, might be all wrong for another. I can share my experience and let it rest in the air and space between us. If it resonates, then I must trust the other to pick it up and integrate it. It is not my job to push it into her internal space. To do so would be a violation and demonstrate a fundamental lack of respect.
     I must allow others to be where they are, especially if I don't want them thrusting their opinions on me. We all have to go through the processes we have to go through in order to arrive at our decision points and our moments of action and surrender. We cannot be told how to master some art and then expect to be masters. We must follow the learning curve ourselves and evolve our own spirits and footsteps to the heightening mountain of knowledge. We must all discover the truth for ourselves.

I will not push unsolicited opinions on others today, or presume to know what they may need.

Monday, March 28, 2011

MAYBE, MAYBE NOT

     It comes easily to think of things that happen in my life as being "good" or "bad," and to react accordingly with depression or happiness, with feelings of being punished by fate or blissfully rewarded, but the truth is that before I attach my judgement to something, to anything, it is purely neutral and absolute possibility, nothing more than that. And additionally, I never know what ramifications could follow some seemingly dark event that end up turning it into the best thing that ever happened.
     I don't really know what anything means. That's the real truth. If I bring awareness to my insides, I can make a conscious decision to remain open minded and wait for more information before I crash and burn with "bad news." It feels scary to think that way. I have a lifetime of historical reactive behavior. I am utterly swept up by implied drama, by feelings of "Oh, my God! This is horrible! This is the worst possible thing." or else it's "Incredible! Awesome! I'm the luckiest person alive!"
     I want to learn to live my life with equanimity and grace, to not get swept up in self-created tides of drama, to accept what comes and trust that it will serve it's purpose in my life, whatever that may be. I might need to learn a lesson in patience, or be ready for a new creative challenge, or have an opportunity to confront and disperse something difficult from my past that is holding me back. I believe that life is designed for growing, and that everthing happens for a reason, and that when I don't learn my lessons, they come at me harder and repeat themselves over and over until I accept them. I want to relax enough and trust enough that I can learn to accept them without struggle or angst. I want to accept them ever better as they come.

I will reserve my judgment today about everything that happens and who I meet. I will be neutral. I am willing to wait and see.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

FRUITLESS APPROVAL SEEKING

     I am able to see when my children are acting in ways to win my approval. And I witness my son making choices and expressing opinions to be pleasing to my fiance. He seems tied up in figuring and fretting over how to keep all of the adults in his world happy with him. It makes me sad. Only in between his pleasing activities does he find bits and pieces of his own true heart calling him and urging him.
     The irony is that he already has the approval of all of those whose approval he seeks. So the only real approval missing must be one of himself for himself. When I realized this yesterday it came like a clear light; that I do the same, that we all do. The ones we love the most, the ones who love us already, are the ones we try to impress by doing what we think they want us to do. When all they really want us to do is express our own energies in the ways that come most naturally to us. That's what I want for my children, and I believe that's what they want for me.
     Once again, the solution to personal angst is frustratingly simple. It is simply to be... to be who we are, how we are, and where we are without apology or drama; to be ok in our own skins, able to express our own happiness and our own fear, to not worry so much about what everybody else thinks of us and to stop trying to elicit predictable emotions and reactions in others by what we do or say. Doing that, thinking we have control over the way other people respond to us, is a heavy weight to carry, and pressure inappropriately placed. To each his own applies accross the board.

I do not need to seek anyone's approval today. Those who matter most in my life approve of me already, just as I am.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

NO BULLIES ALLOWED

     Growing up I learned to avoid confrontation. Raised voices and angry people scared me. I preferred to take the blame even if it was not mine to take than to stand up and risk any kind of battle. I apolgized and slumped my shoulders before those who abused me. I took whatever was doled out and then slunk away after the storm to lick my wounds in private.
     I understand now that if I allow others to overpower me with their growling anger they become bigger and bigger. Apologies and ownership of blame do not diffuse the situation. They make bullies more aggressive. I must balance energy with energy. If someone comes at me strong and nasty, I must balance the strength with my "no." If someone rises up at me and I shrink, she rises up bigger, but if I rise up to meet her, she recedes. It's a kind of natural law, and I'm grateful to understand it, even if I'm not great at rising up.
     I need not get mad. I need not get quiet. I need only speak my truth with a firm voice, and indicate that my boundaries are steadfast and that I am ready and able to protect myself. It's empowering and important work. Being assertive is a gift to myself.

I will not shrink before aggression. I am equal to any bully.

Friday, March 25, 2011

GOOD LIVING

     I cannot effectively handle the challenges and activiies of my life without enough sleep. I sometimes think I can get away with four hours, or six, but the truth is that too little sleep drags me down. I have heavy limbs and thick thoughts. I am not crisp and clear. Early to bed, as Ben Franklin suggested, is a demonstration of wisdom. And eating well is another, and a daily dose of silence. And body movement matters too. I have to stay physically loose and limber. I need my physical strength. I need to walk and stretch and move my spine in arcs.
     It's so easy, too easy, to let my self-care slide. I can pretend that none of it is particularly important. I can eat sloppily and push myself too far burning the candle at both ends. And sometimes I can manage for a few days that way, but it catches up with me and life loses it's pleasure. Small things become overwhelming and my emotions become flimsy and see-through like tissue paper. I rip easily. I cry easily. And I get frustrated that I should be so fragile.
     If, on the other hand, I make healthy choices, I get fruitful benefits. I feel good and life is fun and easy to take, full of humor and adventure and beauty. So it's worth it to me to do the right things, even if they might seem "boring" on some level. There is a high cost for rowdy living, and it's far easier to keep up with good sleep and good food than it is to catch up.
     I want the good life, but it's not what I once thought. It's not wild party nights and questionable bedfellows. It's steady and reasonable progression to ever higher levels of care, for my body, my mind, and my spirit. The rewards are inner richness and calm assurance and the ability to handle anything life presents with courage and grace.

I will take good care of myself today. I will eat well, move a little, sit quietly, and get enough sleep.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SMALL PLEASURES

     Why do I want anything? Because I'm sure that if I had what I want, I would be happy in an absolute sort of way. I have a desire to arrive, to get somewhere or get something and have it be perfect success, to be recognized for my contribution and validated for my worth. I'm all filled up with concepts of reward and punishment and I'm looking for the ultimate reward, the proof positive that I count, that I make a difference, that it matters that I have been here at all. It's a gold star kind of recognition I am after.
     But it can't work. If I have a specific desired outcome for my efforts, my plans are guaranteed to go awry becuase I am trying to control the way in which my gifts are used, and think I know what it will feel like to arrive at the other end of a goal. It's never what I project it will be. Months of effort can end in emptiness and hollow satisfaction when I was counting on giddy and long lasting exaltation. If I think I have to figure out my ultimate purpose and that it's all geared in one specific direction, I am missing the point. I need to rethink my approach, or maybe stop thinking altogether and simply follow my heart.
     Maybe it's not about making some great big statement or some great big contribution. Maybe it's not about notoriety or fame or reputation or credentials. Maybe it's as simple as touching lives with others in a positive way and feeling joy in small pleasures; bearing witness to the early blooms of spring. Maybe we all matter even before we accomplish anything. Maybe it really is about being after all, and not doing so much, as I have always thought. And maybe it doesn't matter if we make a difference in the lives of thousands of people, or even hundreds. Maybe it is enough to make a difference in the life of one.

Today I am willing to let go of my grandiose ideas about the purpose of my life, and take pleasure in what's right in front of me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

LIFE RAINING DOWN

     I like the rain. It's feels indulgent and fertile to me. It grows things. And it gives balance to sunshine and long strings of beautuful days. It's ok to be inside on a rainy day, reading or watching movies or taking a nap. Rain on the roof and windows creates a cozy inner space. It's an invitation to retreat.
     Maybe I can think about challenging life circumstances the way I think about the rain, as dropping and falling on me, soaking into the roots of me with promise of new growth. The truth is that what has evolved me most in my life are the events that appear on the surface to be brutal; the hardships and failures, the sufferings and wounding; not the sunshine of my life, but the storms and the driving rain.
     Everything has it's purpose, and I believe nature reflects my spirit. I pause and linger in the sunshine. I smile and enjoy the warmth and stillness. But in the wind and the weather that pushes against me I learn my strength. I understand my need for protection and step away from that which would harm me. If only it were as obvious to me to avoid toxic people and dangerous situations the way I avoid lightning and gale force winds.

The challenges of life are fertilizer for evolving wisdom.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

DISCOVERING TRUTH

     Life has taught me the process of discovering truth. I wrestle with something that isn't quite how I want it to be, a situation, a person, or a potential outcome, and I try out all of my known methods of manipulation. Perhaps if I come at it a certain way, I can make it be other than it is. If I approach it just so, it may become palatable, possibly even pleasant. So I come at it from one angle, enthusiastically, with total faith, and have no success, and then I come at it from a different direction, with the same passionate energy, all the while trying to exert my control, hoping that by sheer force of will, I can make it be what I believe it should be. I try everything. I'm not a quitter.
     And then, a moment comes, when all of my approaches have arrived at nothing, when the person or situation remains the same in spite of all of my efforts, and I see clearly what has been obvious in some way the entire time. It is a moment of recognition, of acceptance, a moment of "oh." That the situation simply is not working, or the person is not willing to change, or not capable of seeing my point of view, that whatever it is, simply IS. And no matter how I come at it, no matter how much energy or willpower or cajoling or fear I throw at it, I do not have the power to change it. It is what it is.
     In that moment of recognition, I stop fighting and wrestling. I let go. There is surrender and relief and freedom. I have understood the truth at last.

What am I wrestling with today? I am willing to stop fighting what I cannot change.

Monday, March 21, 2011

THE DOWNFALL OF EXPECTATIONS

     Birthdays are always tough for me. Much as I might want the day to be ordinary, there is always that small thing within me which has an expectation that it should be more; more than just another day, special, indulgent, exceptionally fulfilling. And that sets me up for disappointment.
     It was my Birthday two days ago, and I was as much of an emotional freakshow as I have been in a long time. I hardly knew myself. I began it poorly by not getting enough sleep the night before. Four hours used to cut it, but no longer, especially given the levels of physical exertion that are required of me these days. I need hours to body replenish. So I was tired and thick headed, and then I had whispering thoughts inside of me, of all of the possible wonders that could happen, the fantastic surprises that just might be coming my way... and early in the morning I did receive just such a delight. My son wrote me the most touching card he has ever written. It made me cry in a good way.
     But rather than feeling touched and bathed in the love of my son, I thought bitterly that my fiance had not honored my morning with Birthday recognition the way I thought he should have. And so the day went on, peppered with small recognitions and blessings, and salted with my ideas about the way things should be going as opposed to the way they went, focusing not on what I had, but full of pity for what I had not. We happened to be working all day. For hours on end, I tore up a floor, which was brutal on the back and knees, and I slammed a crowbar into my nose on the final corner. Moments later, I whacked it into my shin. Beyond redemption, I slunk away from the job and my family and cried pitifully, and the floodgates were officially opened.
     Snapping out of it the best I could, holding it weakly together with my puffy eyes and bruised nose, we went off to dinner. A good friend surprised me by being there, and I burst into tears when she arrived, which seemed to rather startle her. No one seemed to know quite what to do with me, and I didn't know what to do with myself. I sniffed up the tears yet again and was the best sport I could be, and dinner was fun thanks to my friend, but I was a wreck of myself on the inside.
     Thankfully, it all ended well. At home, finally relaxed, I opened to gratitude and the love in my heart for my life. It was a relief to be through the day, on the other side of my own self-inflicted Birthday pressure. I wonder if I am the only one who does this to myself. It seems so riduculous. I know it even as I do it, but am hard pressed to stop the negative momentum.
     It's a reminder for me about expectations though. I must open to whatever comes, knowing that I always get just what I need, better than anything I could plan for myself... if I can get out of my own way.

I can trust in the perfect unfolding of each day, even the special ones. I don't need to orchestrate my life.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

MOON TIME

     It's a full moon time, the first-day-of-spring-moon. The air is warm and the clouds shimmer with the pale night light. The moon is healing and disturbing both. It makes us all a little wild, even if we don't admit to it; makes us feel primal and closer to the source of things. I wonder what it must have been like way back before we had all the scientific knowledge that we have today, to look up at the moon in the sky, to understand and live by its rhythms and cycles, its waxing and waning.
     As a culture, we are largely separated from nature in our climate controlled cars and houses, our sanitary grocery stores and aniseptic offices, our pavement laden trails and double insulated windows. But it is there, nonetheless. Daffodils sprig up from small dirt patches surounded by cement, birds sing outside tenement windows in scraggly bushes as much as they fly among the rolling hills, and hawks sit on telephone poles by roadsides ever watching for their prey.
     But our minds are busy and our lives are distracting. We have important plans and internal conversations. We have a need to fix things, recover things; we are constantly reliving the past and scheduling our futures. We have no time to notice small things in nature. We are always running late, talking on cell phones, checking our Blackberies. We are in control, or so we think... But whether we plan it or not, or remember it or not, the moon comes every month with its pearly light and casting shadows to remind us who we are.

I will remember to notice the natural world today, and take pleasure in the coming spring.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

BALANCE

     Life balances itself with give and take, but I have always landed a bit heavy on the "give" side of that equation. I am better at giving. It feels good, and I never have to worry about owing anyone anything in return. I receive gifts from others a bit self-consciously. I am unsure, maybe feel undeserving, definitely awkward. But I do recognize that it's easy and entirely possible to become imprisoned by giving too much, to become utterly dried up from giving. I've been there; shrunken and soul sick and desperate to isolate from all those who seem to demand so much of me. In the past, more than I care to admit, I've allowed the act of giving to become my martyrdom.
     Replenishment is necessary, and just as I love to give, I must allow others to give to me. It's a riduculous false humility in me that wants to refuse the kindness and generosity of those who love me, and yes, I am loved, even if I have a hard time believing it. I remain a bit skeptical. I have an old idea that I have to earn the love I receive by good acts in an outward direction.
     But it occurred to me yesterday, as I sat outdoors in the delicious warm spring air watching people of all races and body types walk by me, with the sounds of the city lulling me into thoughtless awareness and inner peace, that if I can be fully present and open to each experience without resistance, then life itself is an ongoing, never ending, delightful, surprising, rewarding, inspirational, gift, and I am meant to receive it, gracefully and gratefully and with a full heart. It's not about earning brownie points, or letting others earn theirs. True giving is not motivated by anything, and receiving is the same. It is simply love sent out and reflected back, a perfect natural balance of give and take.

Let me graciously receive the gift of life today.

Friday, March 18, 2011

JUST RIGHT

     "Less is more" is an important cultural slogan for me. It's so easy to overdo, overeat, overspend, clutter my house; innundate my mind with too much information. Knowing when to stop is almost a form of art. I get tricked into thinking if a little bit is good, then more must necessarily be better. But it's not the case. I suffer with "too much" far more than I suffer with "not enough." I push myself beyond reasonable limits. My energy feels expansive and endless. I am jacked up. I think I might just be invincible and then I crash and burn in a wilted pile.
     The core belief at the root of not stopping is that I am beyond consequences. I seem to have an unintentional and widespread lack of honesty about cause and effect, especially when I get excited about something. But everything I do and every choice I make has a consequence. If I overeat, I gain weight. If I overwork, I burn out. If I overtrain, I injure myself. If I spend too much money on things I want but don't need I don't have money for things I do need, the bills I have to pay. If I mix too many colors together I make mud. There's no getting around it.

Today I want to aim for "just right" instead of "too much." I am saturated and achy from too much.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

THE TORCH WITHIN

     I envision the living spirit within me like the Olympic torch, ever lit, ever burning. As a child, the brightness of it was evident, but life happened to me and hurtful words mounted up. Blocks and protections developed and grew like vines suffocating my light.
     By the time I was seventeen my inner flame was diminished by a choking jungle of defense mechanisms, and by the time I was thirty, a mere ember flickered within me. I reached a point of darkness that threatened to swallow me whole, and in the darkness I became willing to change certain things that weren't working in my life.
     The changes have been all about clearing the jungle. I have had to uncover and root out vines of fear and faulty beliefs, mistaken expectations, self-loathing, small and large abuses, unhealthy eating habits, explosive reactivity, a tendency towards being over-apologetic, and an overall lack of faith. In the process of uncovering and discarding all that blocks me, I give my inner torch the air and room to blaze brightly yet again.

What's blocking me? Can I let go of something in my life to give air and space to my inner fire?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

EMBRACING TRANSFORMATION

     I love transformative physical projects, clearing fencelines, painting rooms or buildings, cleaning messes, organizing disorder. There is not  much to match the satisfaction of this kind of job well done. It's gratifying to see the visible transformation. A certain calm exhaustion mixes with exhilaration after a day of labor in the direction of restoration. A sense of relief and total being relaxation overcomes me. I have been productive. I have created something beautiful and sensible out of chaos with the energy of my hands and muscles.
     And it can be done in small ways as well, with all the attending daily chaos of life: overflowing laundry baskets, old food in the fridge, a rug that needs vacuuming, floors swept, vegetables chopped. There is pleasure in the transformation of things by my actions and intentions. If only I could feel the same satisfaction with less visible transformations that happen all around me; the internal growth and spiritual evolution of my children, my mate, myself... an unexpected release of physical tension, not reacting in my historical fashion to verbal bait, walking away from toxic situations, choosing to eat well, getting exercise, going to bed early. These are transformations no less than new drywall in an old house.

May I learn to recognize and appreciate the ways I clean up my own fencelines, and be able to see my own fresh coats of paint.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

LETTING IT BE

     Most mornings I wake up filled with inner excitement for the day's possibilities, but sometimes I wake up in a funk. There's no joy in me on those mornings. I feel physically thick and dragging, shrouded in self-pity and utterly lacking energy and motivation. I feel done to without having been done to. I feel irritable and defensive with nothing to defend, sure that I am not going to get anything I want.
     And even as I feel these things I resist them. I try to force and push myself back to my regular joy and light. But the internal storm front cannot be pushed away. Resisting it only makes it batter me all the harder. I can't talk or urge myself out of it, and no amount of willpower can shift my mood. Throwing willpower at my discomfort would be like standing in a field yelling at wild animals to come to me, and getting increasingly angry that they do not come.
     I must get quiet if I want the source of my angst to reveal itself. I must gently invite it to come forth; create an open and welcoming space within. There is so much sadness in me sometimes, and hurt, that I don't want to feel it in any form. I try to push through it, keep busy, pretend it's not there and maybe it will go away. But my spirit will not let me ignore it. It manifests its need for attention with headaches and bodyaches.
     When I am tired of resisting the pain, I sit with it, and it teaches me. I am not "bad" or "wrong." I am human and I get hurt feelings, fear of the past come to harm me again, insecurity about my ability and my worth, a sense of maybe not deserving love. There's something comfortable about surrendering to what makes me squirm, about allowing it to just be there and to stop fighting. On the far side of fear and sadness is peace, and optimism, and the promise of joy restored.

It's ok to feel whatever I feel.

Monday, March 14, 2011

SHAME IN THE STRANGEST OF PLACES

     I realized just now that I love what I do for a living. It seems bizarre to have come to this point, all this way, only to realize that as the truth at last. For years I have considered my job as a stop-gap, a place to park until my kids grew up and I found a "real" job- something corporate, something with upward mobility, a place where I make better money and get benefits, a proper kind of "career" if you will. I have thought that's what the world expects of me. Certainly, it's what my father has always expected of me.
     But my father is not speaking to me for reasons of his own, and some kind of corporate "career" is not really what I want. I'm a Personal Trainer at a gym, and it's hard work and early hours but I love it. I love my clients and I love the exercise and I love helping people lose weight and be fit and feel ever better physically. I have energy and creativity for each day and each hour. If I wake up feeling stiff and in any way unmotivated, by the time I have interacted with my first client for ten minutes I am utterly refreshed. I help my clients and my clients help me.
     It's interesting that on some level I have been unable to be honest enough with myself until now to admit that the gym is my element. It suits me, and the idea of leaving it for the pusuit of something I believe to be more culturally acceptable has always made me hesitate. Now I know why. I know why my eyes fill when a client does her first pull-up after weeks of preparatory effort, and why the success of those I work with is always my success as well. Moving steadily towards goals of health and wellness in a combined way feels like important work to me. It's fulfilling, and I love being part of it.

I can be honest today about what I love to do. I need not ever feel shame for following my heart.
 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

FRESH

     The word "fresh" is one of my favorites. I like fresh starts and fresh mornings and fresh fruit and vegetables. I like everything that fresh implies. I even like the sound of the word. Fresh. It is new, original, untainted, awake, clean, free from all that is stale and tired. It is surprising and clever, creative. That's how I want to be.
     I want to approach each day fresh, and if I'm not feeling it, I need to be honest about what's going on inside me. Tired and unmotivated is more than lack of sleep. If I'm dragging through my days I am missing out. What do I need to freshen things up? A change in perspective? More time for restoration and reflection? Better eating habits? I used to think that adding drama and chaos was just the ticket, but I've learned. That's not it. Drama drains me utterly and leaves me depleted and unmotivated, wilted and worn out. And when I was single, my favorite cureall was always "a relationship." If only I had a boyfriend, then all of my woes would be gone. But that was never true either. If I couldn't be fresh on my own, there was no hope for having any kind of freshness in relationship; it was old patterns revisited and the same old suffocating dysfunction and misery as before: trying to be pleasing, afraid of losing what I thought was love.
     If I want to feel freshness in my life I must be freshness. I must be clean and sparkling from the inside out. And what makes me clean and sparkling is excitement, a bit of a racing heart over something, anything... the courage to try what I've always wanted to do but been afraid, a drive and exploration to a new part of town, inviting someone I like to have a cup of coffee, taking a walk where I've not walked before. If I want to feel new, I have to be willing to do new things.

Where is my life flat, and how can I freshen things up?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

WHY BOTHER?

     Sometimes I feel small and uncertain about everything. A sense of futility overwhelms me. What's it all for? What's the point? Why bother? Why make the effort? Who really cares anyway?
    At times like these I need to remember why I am making the effort in the first place. If I am seeking approval, hoping for some validation of my worth from the outside world, I will be waiting a long time. I must honestly consider the intention of my actions. What energy am I bringing to the task before me? Am I hesitant and worried, doubtful and full of fear? Or am I confident and joyful, buzzing with creative energy, enjoying my work for the very sake of it? It makes a difference how I come at things.
     If I am not attached to what other people might think, if I am acting in all ways from a simple desire to express myself, then all goes well and I experience pleasure. If I have expectations, demands of myself or others, insistence on the way things need to be done, or an urge to control outcomes, I suffer greatly.
     I want to be less rigorous. I want to let go. I want to trust in what calls to me, even if I don't understand it. I want to quit trying to figure everything out. I don't need to. If I did, it would ruin the coming surprises. I think I want to know what's going to happen, but the truth is that blessings come from not knowing. It leaves open every possibility, and fills me with gratitude when the path opens to me in a way I could never have forseen.

What other people think about me is none of my business.

Friday, March 11, 2011

SWEET SADNESS

      My sister killed herself when she was 32, and the grief from her choice swelled up and receded in me like the tide for years. In certain moments, even today, twelve years after the fact, a sadness for the loss of her life surges through me still.
      When I found out she was dead, I had a need to see her body, to be with her and feel, in the presence of her flesh, whatever I needed to feel. The funeral home had done her hair in a funny way and put make-up on her. A plastic sheet was pulled up to her chin. I washed her face and bathed her body, bloody from the autopsy, and held her frozen fingers. I wrapped her in cotton. I appreciated the youth of her body, her musculature, and all the moles and freckles that were so familiar to me.
     But she was gone, the life of her, the light and spirit of her, her eyes. All that was left in the room with me was the quiet, and her final and absolute freedom from physical and emotional pain. I understood clearly that the thing that animates us is bigger than the world we know, deeper than skin and flesh, utterly incontainable, and full of peace. Sitting in the funeral home, alone with the body of my dead sister, was one of the most profound and beautiful moments of my life. In some paradoxical kind of way, she blessed me deeply from beyond the grave.

Hardships teach me lessons to remind me who I am below my skin.
 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

MAYBE GOD IS LESS COMPLICATED THAN WE THINK

     When I was a child, we used to go to church on Christmas Eve and Easter, mostly to sing my mother's favorite hymns, which grew to be my favorite hymns as well. And I liked the candles and the music and kneeling on the pull-down cushions. But I have never been a regular, every-Sunday kind of church goer. Something in me resists it and has always resisted it. I don't like being told what to believe.
     God feels more personal to me than the structure of churches and religious doctrines, more accessible than that. I think we want to make God into a big deal, something grand and vast and inexplicable that is extremely difficult to contact or make use of, something to fear, and revere. But maybe God is as common and daily as breathing in and breathing out, as light pouring through glass and making patterns on a wood floor, as a smile, or a full belly after a good meal. Maybe God is a way of experiencing the world without blocks or resistance. Maybe God is simple and not complicated and inaccessible after all. Maybe the point of all this living is to simply enjoy the gift of life, and to show our gratitude by expressing our love.

I am going to enjoy my life today as if it is a present, carefully wrapped and delivered especially for my personal joy. I am going to unwrap it with delight.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

LEAVE IT ALONE

     Moods are contagious, and they go both ways. If someone is happy and upbeat, her happiness magnetizes all of the same feelings within me, and I cannot help but be lifted by her joy. And if someone is steeped in darkness and brooding misery, it's hard, if not impossible, to not get pulled down emotionally. Spreading happiness is a gift of life. Sharing honest sorrow is also a gift of life. But spreading martyrdom and self-pity is no gift. It is a scourge. I must learn to protect myself agianst it, and learn not to pour it all over others when I am in that space.
     The challenge, and it's a big one, is to maintain my emotional stability, even if someone around me is being indulgently grouchy or oozing darkness. My instinct is to fuss and fix, but the best thing I can do is to let him be, to let him work it out and find his way back to the light. I can be grounded energy. I can be stable and ok within myself, and that will bring more to the restoration of happiness than hooking in to frantic irritation and stirring the pot to fix the situation. I can walk away and give space and time to the one I love.
     That's what I want when I am dark. That's what restores me. Pressure and fussing make me burst.

 Today, I will leave it alone. I will allow the ones I love to work out their own stuff.
    

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

ASKING AND TRUSTING

     I have been observing lately that people become predictably defensive and graspy when they are full of self-centered fear. I imagine that I am the same. When I feel an urge to secure something definite in my day, or my future, to guarantee some thing that I want, but I am not sure I can have, my whole body energy, my ability to communicate,  and my mental clarity are strained. I come at things sideways. I am not sure it's ok to ask straight on, so I ask around my real question. I feebly try to put off my insecurity on someone else. Instead of saying, "This is what I want. Can you help me?" I say weakly, "How do you think this is going to work out?"
     If I ask enough round about questions, the very thing I want might actually become the other person's idea. And then I can have it without responsibility, or guilt, and if it doesn't pan out for some reason, it was not my idea. But in the process of trying to get it without being direct, I am a limp and pathetic version of myself. I am scraping and small. I am looking to someone else to guess what I already know I need.
     And if s/he does not guess? Then I am a victim, and I slink away feeling unheard and unloved. It's riduculous. Why don't I think it's ok to simply say what's on my mind and in my heart? Perhaps because it feels "selfish." I am supposed to be all about other people's needs and wants. But I don't know what other people need any more than they know what I need at any given moment... though I might flatter myself that I do. Life could be so much easier if we all just had the courage and the confidence to speak up.

I will not grasp and grab today. I will clearly ask for what I need.

Monday, March 7, 2011

SLOWING DOWN DECISIONS

     I used to congratulate myself on being an excellent decision maker. It was a point of pride. I could deal with any question. I could deliver answers like slicing a cucumber. Yes. No. Yes. This. That. I was directive, impulsive. I always had an opinion. There were no maybes in my mind, and no maybes in my world. Everything was black and white. Sometimes I would agree just to be done with the burden of choosing, even if something inside of me wasn't entirely sure. I couldn't stand the discomfort of any loose ends.
     I made a lot of mistakes that way, and have spent years living out the consequences. Impulsive decisions don't thrill me the way they once did. I am learning to be thoughtful, to be patient. I am learning to wait and see. I can admit today when I don't know or I'm not sure. I can wait to be sure. Which is not to say that I become paralyzed by indecision, only that I consider consequences and the potential cost of whatever choice I face. I sit with the ideas of things and let them settle in me to see how they feel instead of pushing forth simply to push forth.
     It's a more peaceful way to live. I don't have to clean up the wreckage of my impulses.

When faced with choices today, I will pause and consider. I will ask myself, "How much does it cost? Is it worth it? And am I willing to pay the price?"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

SELF-FULFILLMENT

     I have learned that I cannot look to my partner to fulfill me. In a total life kind of way, I must come to him already fulfilled, whole, complete, and secure. I must know somewhere deep inside me that I can live without him, that being with him is a choice, and not a need. Two incomplete people coming together do not make for one complete person, let alone two, and need fosters feelings of suffocation and lockdown.
     I cannot be saved by another, or fixed, or even healed. I can be led there by example and support, but I must actively participate in my own journey, and claim for myself my own happiness. I can feel temporarily better in the company of someone who is self-fulfilled, but the work of becoming that way myself is mine alone. I must learn who I am. What feeds my spirit? What hampers my growth? What are my triggers, and how do I follow my bliss?
     I cannot communicate with others if I do not know what I feel. I must learn to honor myself, not some of the time, not by sneaking indulgences, but everyday. I don't have to apologize for the things I love. I don't have to apologize for the things I fear. I am enough. I am equal to whatever I am given to face. And if I know that, if I own that, if I allow myself to be, and travel with compassionate curiosity on the path of self-discovery, then healthy relationships are possible for me, and I can experience the real exchange of real love. It begins with me.

Today, I have the courage to be who I am without apology.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

QUALITY OF LIFE DAILY

     This business of self-discipline has always been a tricky one for me. The words stumble me up. "Discipline" has such a negative connotation. Webster's defines it as "enforced obedience," as both "instruction," and "punishment." None of that sits in me with any comfort or satisfaction. The whole concept makes me squirm.
     There's an additional definition, however, for the actual practice of "self-discipline," and that one is: "regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement:" More palatable, certainly, but still having to do with rules. Rules scare me, because they feel inflexible and rigid, imposed from outside, activated by cultural belief systems and inner "shoulds." I should eat less. I should get to bed earlier. I should exercise more. I should spend more time with my parents, be more patient, talk less, relax more. But why? Who is really saying so? Is it me, or is it guilt in me telling me I should?
     I want to live by choice, not discipline. If something I do feels good in a total person kind of way, if it truly serves me physically, or spiritually, or mentally, I want to do more of it, by choice. And I want to do less of what makes me feel uncomfortable, sneaky, or dark. In my experience, what happens in life is that we discover something that really benefits us, a new exercise, or eating reasonably, or getting more sleep, or whatever it may be, and we climb on a soap box to tell the world about it. We feel great! And we know we feel great because of that specific something that we are doing. And then we stop doing it, and no one is more surprised than we are that we suddenly feel lousy again. We're back to complaining, we're back to being victims.
     So maybe it's self-actualization I'm after, and commitment to self-health, and not so much self-discipline after all. If I do things that make me feel good, I have to keep doing them if I want to keep on feeling good. It's a simple cause and effect thing. Consistency matters for consistent results.
    
Today, I am willing to commit to a consistent activity of my choosing that will improve the quality of my life, and I am willing to follow-through on my commitment, no matter what.

Friday, March 4, 2011

KNOWING WHEN TO STOP

     It's an easy thing in life to get completely caught up in the pressure of so much to do and getting it all done. If I am filling each moment of my day with productivity, if the time when I am not working is equally full of projects and errands, I burn out. Vitality and spark are stripped from me. The tyranny of the urgent consumes everything. Instead of nearing completion and approaching rest, the more productive I am, the more productive I seem to need to be.
     I stopped everything yesterday afternoon and sat in the sun. I just sat, feeling the heat and the light. The futility of assigning such importance to all of my projects occurred to me. What do any of them really matter in the big picture?  Am I seeking approval, recognition, reward, love? Am I trying to achieve something specific, and if so, to what end? A few minutes in the early March sun fed me more than weeks of effort.
     Maybe the whole purpose of my life is to simply enjoy it. If there's no joy in my days because of the pressures and expectations I put on myself trying to achieve goals and complete tasks, perhaps I am missing the point. Productivity is satisfying, as is creative fufillment, but I must bring awareness to the energy I bring to what I am doing. Am I strung out, exhausted, and full of "have-to" feelings? If so, it's time for me to stop.
     The sun waits for me. A seat somewhere waits for me. I can pause for a few minutes and observe my surroundings. I can listen, and watch, and become quiet internally, with no "have-to," no "must," just the quiet and my senses. I am restored through awareness, and return to the activities of life refreshed. Projects, and my energy, have been returned to their right size.

I will pause today, and remember to enjoy my life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

RESISTANCE AND SURRENDER

     I realized yesterday that stress is the experience of not liking whatever is happening. I find myself resisting the moment, the situation, or the people I am encountering. I want it to be other than it is. My body tightens as if I am preparing for a fight, which, in some way, I am. I am fighting what IS. I feel my teeth clamp down and my jaw tighten. My mind goes on overtime calculating escape, manipulation, survival. My breathing is shallow. My hands are fists.
     Stress is pressurized, an internal explosion waiting to burst. I am holding myself together, pretending to be ok, to be calm, when inside of me the fuses on emotional firecrackers sizzle to detonation point. I slow my speech in an effort to appear in control. I smile uncomfortably. I want to get through whatever it is, to pop out the other side and take a deep breath in fresh air. Confined spaces cause stress in me, and extremely slow talking people; being hungry, talking about money, the needs of my children, and discussions about how things will be in the future.
     The answer is to catch myself in resistance, and to take a deep breath. If I can observe myself in my discomfort then I can begin to sort things out. I can ask internal questions to re-direct my mind. Can I change what's happening? Is freaking out making things better or worse for me? Am I trying to control something I have no business controlling? Can I let the show run itself and make a decision to be an observer? Once I become aware of the situation, I have a choice. I can change my attitude. I can stop fighting.
     And as soon as I do, peace is restored, and stress dissolves.... and then I want a hot fudge sundae. :)

I surrender to my life today, just the way it is. I agree to let it be.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

LEARNING TO SWAY

     Watching spring wind move across hillsides and through treetops makes me think of the importance of flexibility. A stiff branch can stand rigid against the wind for a while, almost in defiance, but if the wind comes strong enough, the branch breaks. It cracks, and snaps, and crashes to the gound. Grasses, on the other hand, and cat tails, know how to sway. They might get flattened a bit, but then they rise up and bounce back. They are fluid and flexible. They bend and dip. I want to be like that.
     Fear makes me rigid, and my desire to control things makes me rigid, and my desire to control people. If I just let the winds of life blow over me and around me and do not impose my strength and posture against them; if I let people be who they are, and be where they are on the path of life: my children, my parents, my friends; if I can trust that all is as it should be and that it is not my job to be in control of it all... then I can let go. I can loosen my hold. I can sway like the cattails and I don't have to break in half and crash to the ground.

I am willing to be flexible today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

WHY THE WORST?

     "Expect the worst, but hope for the best." Why? Who said so? I have spent a lifetime preparing myself for the worst that can happen in any given situation. If things work out, no one is more surprised than I am. I have a struggle ethic; a built-in belief system that anything worthwhile must necessarily be arduous, difficult, the closer to impossible the better. I throw my energy into things with a vigor and intensity that is not always necessary. I push, expecting there will be a push back. I expect that I will have to invest everything I have... to convince, to correct, to help, even to love. It's exhausting.
     I want to wear life "like a loose fitting garmet." I want to relax. I am tired of physical tension and mental strain, of trying to "figure things out," of pushing and urging and packing more and more of life and usefulness into each day. I am tired of counting on punishment from someone or somewhere if I make even one mis-step, if I do less than my absolute best, if the bar drops just a bit for just a moment.
     Today, I am going to expect the best. Instead of cowering internally before all the possibilities of the future, I am going to giggle inside and look forward with excited anticipation to whatever wonderful surprises may be in store for me. I am going to let go the manacles of perfection. I am going to receive my daily blessings with grace and pleasure instead of worrying over what I will have to do to earn my right to them.
  
God has got my back. Everything works out in the end.