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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

TRIAL AND ERROR

     When confronted with a task I am unsure of, I'm skeptical off the bat. I consider it critically and with a certain sense of inner whining. How am I supposed to do that? It feels overwhelming, impossible. I'm not sure how to begin. Every part of me wants to turn away and not face it, not do it. I think how un-fun this project seems to be and feel sorry for myself. I tend to get dramatic with dark thinking. And the negativity actually fuels the first attempt at combat, which is what it is at first: me againt the job. I fumble and curse. I begin to sweat. I feel hatred for what is before me. But I push on, approaching it clumsily from one side and then another.
     And somewhere along the way, I realize that in all of my awkwardness I have actually made progress, and hope flickers. I begin to understand what's required and how I might be more efficient. I stop cursing and engage my creativity. I cease to struggle and slowly shift towards acceptance. The job gets done. And when it's over, I feel satisfied that I faced what I did not want to face and accomplished something that needed doing, and I learned something about myself. And I learned something about painting or packing or letter writing or making sales calls, or making moussaka, or building a table, or whatever it may be. Sometimes, I'm a bit beat up by the effort, but I have something to show for it, and I have grown.
     It's all about the lesson. It's all about the journey from overwhelm and uncertainty to creative endeavor and completion through trial and error. That seems to be the way it works: frustrated in the morning by what appears daunting before me to weary happiness at the end of the day. I make it through, not always gracefully maybe, but with sincere effort in the right direction.

I do my best with whatever is in front of me today. I am willing to learn by giving my heart and my time to what needs doing but seems impossible. I trust that the job will get easier if I will only begin.

Monday, May 30, 2011

MEMORIAL DAY

     Today we honor our soldiers and express gratitude for their service and courage. We remember those who have died in the effort. We fly flags and feel loving patriotism for America. We have barbeques and welcome the warmth of summer and longer days of light. We swim in pools. We watch parades and children scramble after candy thrown from squealing fire trucks. We overeat and linger outdoors late in the day. We enjoy time off from work.
     Memorial day makes me think about my sister, who was born on May 27th, and died twelve years ago, always fighting something. And it makes me think about the larger implication of being a soldier. We have all fought wars, haven't we? Some of them within ourselves, some of them with our family members or our spouses. We have fought with our children over bedtime and adolescence. We have fought addictions to food and shopping and nicotine and caffeine. We have fought growing old, getting fat, honesty, time and all of our fears. We have fought to prove we are right and fought just to fight. We have fought for our rights and fought for our peace. We watch others fighting with curious fascination and are quick to leap to our own defense. Perhaps we are all veterans of something.
     In memory of our own wars and our own courage, as well as those who have served our country all these years, let's decide not to fight today. Let's rest from fighting. Let's make today about the declaration of peace.

Let me live today with a peaceful heart.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

THE FRESH AIR OF CHANGE

     I love fresh starts. There is so much hope and possibility. Change appears on the horizon like a thunderous storm, flashing trepidation and drenching us with worry, but then, the storm passes and leaves clear air. The old and tired, the muggy and thick, the cobwebs, the fear is all gone. Life is new, and crisp.
     Because of our fear of the future, we often fail to make a change, choosing instead to stick with what we know, even if it's not working for us. But there is reward in stepping forth with courage. There is renewal and revival. It's worth it. Absolutely.
     Even small changes can add vitality to my day and my life; driving an adventurous route through an unknown part of town, ordering something new when eating out, dressing with inspired style, signing up for a workshop, starting to exercise, taking a risk. I am going to invite the new into my life today and enjoy the curious wonder that comes from a fresh way of going about things.

I welcome change into my life, and trust that on the other side of what I fear is fresh air and vitality of spirit.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

YIN YANG: CHOOSING PEACE

     Einstein said that time is relative, but perhaps experience is relative as well. Individual perspective depends on such things as history, temperament, context, and sense of self such that five people can all go though the exact same thing and yet have five distinct experiences. For one it may be dark and scary; for another, comedic. It may be perceived as hopeful by one, awe inspiring by another, and sleep inducing by a third. The question might be that once we have lodged on a certain perspecive on our life, can we change it? And if we could, would we ever want to?
     I believe the answer is yes, and yes again. I'm grateful for the opportunity to see things differently so that I may be relieved of pain, or resentment, or fear. I don't believe it's true that something "bad" is always necessarily bad, that it is bad across the board in any and all situations. There's always the possibility for a twist. There's always the possibility that what seems a horror at the time ends up being a blessing with some hindsight and a bit of emotional progress. Just so, there is no thing that is always and forever "good," that is free from blemish or imperfection or without its own twisting potential. It's all mixed up in life, and happily so, good in the bad, and bad in the good. Somehow, it all seems to sort itself out in the end... up, and up, towards the ultimate good, or higher good. At least, that's what I believe. That's the perspective of a glass-half-full optimist. And the pessimist believes the opposite; that no matter how things appear, in the end it's all going downhill and into the tanker.
     The beauty is that we do have choice. That is our gift and our option. We can be willing to see things differently. We can choose forgiveness and understanding and inner peace, or we can choose to push our perspectives down the throats of others and fight with righteous indignation when they resist us. That's a road of conflict and discomfort, but it's open to each of us, every day, and sometimes, with enough effort, we can actually shove our way through. But for my part, just for this day, I choose the path of peace.

I am willing to see all sides of a situation today, and choose the loving perspective so that I might feel peaceful on the inside, and free from angst.

Friday, May 27, 2011

THE DETERMINATION OF WORTH

     Who determines how much we are worth? How would you answer the question? How much are you worth? Because I am a better cook than I am a carpenter, does that mean I am worth more in a kitchen than I am in a woodshop? Or is there something deeper to me? A more intrinsic kind of impossible-to-measure value, a value of potential, teachability, life-force? Is my worth determined by the attention I get? Or the people who love me? Or how much money I make? Or my car or my physical beauty or my courage or strength? Are some people more worthy than others? And if so, why? Who says? I find these interesting questions, and they make me wonder and think.
     I know that I can discount myself any time I want to, and that I can allow others to discount me as well, or I can go the other way. I can inflate myself. But ideally, I am neither puffed up nor deflated. Ideally, I am just right as I am. Depending where I set my boundaries and how abused I allow myself to be, I can be bright and priceless, spiritual, glorious, and divine, or I can be enslaved and pathetic, undeserving, guilty, and ripe for the infliction of punishment.
     So, how much am I worth? Maybe the best answer is that I am as worthy as I consider myself to be in any given situation. I am as worthy as I feel. I am as worthy as titanium or mud depending on my perspective and my inner sense of things. I am as worthy as I allow myself to be.

I am worthy of love and appreciation and kindness and respect. It's up to me to establish the boundaries.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

EMPTY AND FULL

     An empty room echoes. Movement, voices, and footsteps bounce off the walls and floors. A room that is cluttered and overfull tends to have the opposite effect. It closes in on me and weighs me down with its volume of contents. Neither space is comfortable, and I am drawn to consider the grander implications of being empty and being full. What does each really mean, and what constitutes just right? Finding the proper balance has been, and continues to be, a journey.
     Perhaps, there is not some goal line kind of achievement here. Perhaps life, like our bellies, ideally consists of a constant tidal flow, filling and emptying, emptying and filling, never one absolutely, or the other, but a give and take, a continuous process of adding and subtracting. I can add a new habit or reformed behavior to my routine. I can add a chair to a room. I can stop over-reacting. I can get rid of the rug that is fraying at the edges and trips me every time I walk across it. I can recognize that I am spending too much time alone, or not enough. I can adjust and adapt.
     I can tune in and take readings. I can recognize the sounding depths of the rooms of my spirit and fill them or empty them accordingly, understanding that there is no fixed position, and there is no point of arrival at last. Everything is adjustment and correction. Everything is forever in flux.

What do I need more of in my life today? And what can I let go of? I am willing to make the necesary changes to equalize the balance in me of empty and over-full.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

GRATITUDE

     Is it possible that most of us fail to properly recognize how truly blessed we are? Do we take our health for granted, or the health of our children, or our homes, or our jobs, or the incredible variety of food that is available to us? A mention of the importance of gratitude often illicits sighs of irritation and a rolling of the eyes. Sometimes, people even say with righteous indignation that they have nothing to be grateful for, which, of course, is never true, but it's how they feel. They are blocked and closed, utterly shut off.
     For me, gratitude is the great growing emotion, and one of the most powerful tools for transmuting darkness into light, depression into gladness, lethargy into enthusiasm, and hatred into love. It can begin with something absolutely simplistic. I am grateful for the way the bathroom rug feels on my bare feet in the mornings. And it snowballs easily. I am grateful for green tea, or coffee, as the case may be. I am grateful for breakfast, for my commercial free radio, for the fact that my car starts and runs and is pretty good on gas. I am grateful that I have a car. I am grateful that I have a job. I am grateful for sunny days and spring breezes. I am grateful that I am becoming more flexible in every way the older I get. I am grateful that I believe in possibility, that I see the beauty in most people, and that I can laugh more easily than I once could. I am grateful for dusk and the internet and good books and inspiration. I am grateful that I want what I have most of the time, and don't grasp after things desperately the way I used to. I am grateful for the man I love, my beautiful children, the child in me, my parents, and all the things that I learn and experience every day. I am grateful to be teachable. I am grateful to be alive.
     Articulating gratituide expands the joy in my life. There is always something. Endless blessings surround me on all sides if I open my heart. I am willing. I begin now, today, right here where I sit.

I am aware of my blessings and express my gratitude. I feel the joy in me expand as I open my heart.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

REVITALIZING THE SELF

     When I am tired to the bone and feel drained of all energy and like there's nothing to do but curl up in bed, it always amazes me how I can get a second wind. My mind and spirit spark on some enthusiasm. Through the pursuit of curiosity or the engagement in creativity, through laughter and conversation, through music, or meditation, or any number of things, life is restored in me. I am utterly renewed.
     That suggests to me that tired is less about the need for sleep and more about the need for stimulation, or a change in the placement of my attention. It also suggests that there is energy inherent in certain activities, or maybe reserve stores within me, and that I can be supplied with freshness by involving my interest.
     Occasionally, I encounter people who are always tired. When asked how they are doing, "tired" is their standard reply. Perhaps they too could get a second wind if they focused their attention elsewhere, if they engaged the little kid excitement within them by pursuing some passion, even if it seems inappropriate or not practical. Who cares? Hope and possibility seem to have an energizing effect. The wide eyed sense that maybe I really could do that, whatever that is, is vitilizing.
     I believe there are stores of energy available in endless supply. And that learning to tap them is as simple setting off on some pursuit of knowledge, or calling a friend, or putting on a favorite song and dancing around the living room. We are limited only by the limits of our creative imagination, and we can enjoy our lives a little extra if we are willing to give our minds and spirits permission to play.

If I am tired I can shift my attention to something that excites me, and in that way call upon my energy reserves.
   

Monday, May 23, 2011

SELF SABOTAGE

      Why, when we discover a new habit or an exercise that helps us, do we stop doing it? We are disciplined and lose weight and feel slim and energized and our clothes fit just the way we want them to, and then we stop eating right. We revert to old behavior and wonder where all that good feeling went. We stay away from toxic people and energy vampires and feel lighter and more at peace and then they call us up and we are sucked right back in. We keep our house clean and orderly, we wake up and spend quiet time in the morning before we begin our day, we make time for breakfast, we exercise and feel strong, and then we don't. We stop. We sabotage our own positive momentum. It happens all the time.
     But what if we kept on doing the things that make us feel good, in a daily kind of way, as a matter of maintaining our health and our energy and our inner calm? What if we did them without complaint, without question, and without excuse? Just did them because we knew they worked, and kept doing them until they stopped working, or something better to incorporate into our daily health habits came along... It stands to reason that we would feel increasingly better and better and better. We might start to wonder how good can it get? This is awesome! And keep on and keep on, and mature gracefully with vitality and good humor and robust good health.
     I think most of us maintain certain habits for health, whatever we decide is most important. Some people are regular exercisers. Some eat well as a matter of course. Hopefully most of us attend to our hygene and keep our houses in a reasonable state of organization. But we all tend towards a bit of lopsidedness. We might eat right, but watch too much television. We might be meticulous with paying our bills, but drink too much caffeine.
     I challenge us all to commit to a new habit, or a handful of new habits, and stick with them to see how good it can get. I personally believe that the sky is the limit. I personally don't buy into this business that we diminish as we age, and that we all have to get "old" and decrepit. Why? Who says? Why can't we be in better shape all around when we are sixty five or even eighty than we were when we were twenty? It seems entirely possible to me, and I wish it for you. Why shouldn't we give it our best shot?

I want to feel good today. I commit to the daily habits that make me healthy and robust.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

JUST RIGHT

     There are times when life is nothing but sweet. Everything feels aligned and delicious. May today be just such a day.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

REDEMPTION THOUGHTS

     Is there such a thing as a "mean" person? There are certainly individuals who seem to have no filter when it comes to expressing their negative opinions about things. And some seem to have an easier time being cruel and inconsiderate than others. There are abusers and manipulators and anger addicts. There are control freaks and fear mongers. And perhaps, if we're honest, a little bit of each of those resides in each of us in varying degrees depending on our mood and the fullness of our plates. The one thing without a doubt is that much harm occurs human to human every day.
     One of my lifelong questions has always been about redemption. Is it possible for everyone? Is it possible for even the darkest, angriest, most bitter and troubled soul? Is it possible for people to change their fundamental approach to life and the way they see themselves in the world? And if it is possible, what motivates the change? Does a person have to hit some kind of bottom? Or be treated with kindness and love in a way he never has been? Or feel love and kindness inside of himself in a way he has never felt it, or have compassion for a hurting being, or experience a white heat of burning desire to be free of his own darkness and internal hell?
     I believe it is possible, which doesn't mean it happens often, only that it can happen. And I feel quite sure that when it does happen, the change is never motivated by an external force exerting pressure, but by an internal, instinctual impetus to grow toward the light, and a spirit compass that turns unexpectedly towards hope. Redemption is a blessing and a gift, but I don't believe it comes without the wanting of it, and the asking for it.
     My part in the redemption of others and my own is to simply make a sincere and conscious effort to do no harm. I can contribute to anger and bitterness and cruelty by matching it with my own, or I can send back kindness and understanding. I can be forgiving. I can spread my joy. And that's what I choose today. In a world full of misbehavior and inauthenticity and violence and hatred I can open doors for people. I can smile. I can ask questions and listen to the answers. I can be non-judgmental and give others the benefit of the doubt. I need not be a doormat or shark bait, but I can easily, and without any extreme effort on my part, make a decision to do no harm.

Just for today, I will be kind and full of light. I will not contribute to the darkness of the world.

Friday, May 20, 2011

SCAVENGER HUNTING

     When in search of a person or an opportunity or a place to live or hold some event, the process seems very much like a scavenger hunt. The only thing that appears clear at the outset is the first step, the first "clue." In this day and age, more often than not, the first step is an online inquiry. "Google it," for most situations seems the best first instruction. And from there, anything can happen. That's where the fun begins.
     Sometimes the initial google search leads to one link and then another like a trail of crumbs until so many windows are open on our browsers that it's dizzying. And sometimes, the final window crashes everything and we have to start over, or we arrive at a dead end and have to backtrack. We got off-course somewhere.
     But mostly, a search will lead to a web-site that leads to a contact of some kind. We send an email or make a phone call. And then we wait for the next clue. And it comes. A phonecall leads to a meeting, or paperwork, or tells us we have not reached the right place for what we need and gives us the number of someone else who can maybe help, and off we go to the next step, and the next.
     It's an incredible thing to see where we end up from where we started, something we never could have figured or conceived of: a total case of one thing leads to another. And it all comes from moving into the next open space. If we are blocked one way, we turn another. We try something else. The clues guide us. We encounter people, websites, the suggestions of friends, and we keep on.
     And in the end, the lesson is to trust the process, because, convoluted as it may seem at times, it is leading us somewhere, and that's the way everything gets done. It is never as simple as vision first, manifestation second. It is vision, step, step, step, altered vision, step... all the way to manifestation. And the end result is never what we pictured in the beginning, but often even better, and we have learned all along the way. We have learned to tap our resources, to refine our goals, and to remain open to all possibilities. And that's the treasure, and the hunt both. The key is not to stop. The key is to keep on following the clues. The key is trusting that the clues are leading us somewhere. The key is trusting that they are leading us right where we are supposed to go.

I will not give up my search today, for whatever I may be searching for. I will keep on following the clues and trust that they are leading me in the right direction.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

TAKING THE TIME

     When I was a single mother of young children, though in some way I could ill afford it, I used to hire a babysitter and spend an afternoon and evening to myself every week. It was precious time and I valued it highly. Taking the time made me remember that I mattered as an individual, separate from my children, that I had a right to my fancies and pleasures, my aesthetic longings, and solo adventures in the great wide world. It made me remember that my entire life purpose was not to be a mother only, and not to run myself into the ground.
     Though my children are older now and no longer live at home full time, I still take my weekly afternoon and evening, and for the same reason; to remember who I am when I am not in the presence of the people I love. I need to court myself, and get to know myself as an independent being. I need to make sure that I am not defined by the relationships I choose, but by the affinity of my own creative calling. It's easy to convince myself that I am utterly indispensible on the home front, that I cannot possibly take the time for myself or nothing will function properly, that I must sacrifice myself daily as the price of admission for the experience of love.
     But the truth is that I must insist on my time, in some form or other, in some regular fashion, or I will lose my vitality and my unique perspective and become a conglomerated mass of whatever everyone else wants me to be. I will become tired and bitter and worn ragged in my spirit and my step. And those are things that every time, no matter what, I absolutely cannot afford.

I will take time for myself today, even if it's just a few minutes. I will restore my spirit and follow my bliss.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

JUDGE NOT

     It's so easy to pass judgment on the behavior of others. Without any great effort, we strip them of common sense, thoughtfulness, integrity, purity, and intelligence. We easily feel superior, and confident that they are clueless and devoid of higher sensibilities. We believe they need our instruction and guidance, or worse yet, our pity and concern, that they cannot decide for themselves. It's all about us when we sit in judgment. The way we judge others reflects the way we are. Everyone has access to the same basic life information, and we all make our choices.
     Before I judge the behavior of others, I have to be honest about all the questionable things that I have done. I've been irresponsible with money. I've made bad choices in relationships. I've said unkind words in angry tones. I've sent letters that might have been better unsent. I've hit things with my car, embarrassed myself, run away from problems, and held resentments. I've been drunk and stupid. I've been sober and stupid. I've been flat out wrong many times.
     But none of those things make me wrong, or stupid, or bad. they make me human. And if I am forgivable, which I believe I am, then surely I can be forgiving of others. Whatever they may have done, if I am truly honest, I most likely have done myself, in some form or other, somewhere along the line. It is not for me to point a finger. It is only for me to spread the energy of forgiveness and to live and let live.

Before I jump to judgment of another today, I will ask myself honestly if I have ever done the exact thing I am about to condemn, and if so, I will stop, and let the judgment pass.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

THE WEEDS OF DOUBT

     Doubt has an oozing and pervasive quality to it. I find that once the energy of it is engaged in me, it spreads to all things. I doubt myself. I doubt the motivations of others. I doubt goodness and security. I doubt the path I am traveling and my instincts and decisions. It is a place of suspicion and fear. It is darkness, and blind; a betrayal of my deepest loyalties, and absolute lack of trust. It is a space I prefer not to occupy, but find difficult to break out of.
     Faith is doubt's balancing point, and somehow fills in all the cracks. Faith makes it unimportant to understand every detail. It calms and soothes. It assures and promises. It is the surety that all is happening according to some greater plan. It nudges me gently and restores my unrest. But it is not immune and not untouchable. It can be suffocated by choking vines of doubt. Doubt must be weeded out regularly or it will overgrow everything.
     When in doubt, my instinct is to grab for control and combust into a million splinters of fear and catastrophic thinking, but that is not my only choice. I can open to guidance. I can get still and breathe deeply. I can return to center and trust that which understands all, trust the process of my life, and the lessons of my life experiences. I can trust that I will understand when I am meant to understand, and learn what I am meant to learn. I can experience peace and travel the road without fear.

I choose faith today, and have the courage to lay down my doubts.

Monday, May 16, 2011

THE ART OF PACKING

      Packing to move is a form of art. The goal is to arrive with nothing broken and nothing lost, and to bring only what is best and most necessary. It's crucial to discard all that is non-essential, and all that lacks appeal. Tastes change, and what was once delightful and thrilling can become displeasing or full of negative emotional charge. I don't want to carry any of that negativity forward as I move on in life. It's a fresh start opportunity.
      What packs well together and how much can fit in a box? What is heavy and what is light? What is fragile and needs extra care and attention so as not to break? How shall I organize all of the physical stuff of my life? How do I keep it all organized, and what can I get rid of?
     Every time I move, I have a fantasy of getting rid of it all and being utterly cleansed. But that’s not realistic. I know I would grieve the loss. It is not the stuff that burdens me; it’s my attachment to it. I think the message for me is in learning to live with my stuff in the purest state possible, to be honest about what is necessary and useful, what I choose for inspiration or aesthetic pleasure, what symbolically represents where I have come from and the distance I have traveled, and what is no longer important and can be given away.
     It’s not unlike emotional baggage. I cannot abandon it all on the roadside and expect to be liberated. I must sort through it. I must carry with me what I cannot leave behind, and learn to integrate it in my ever changing inner space until I am ready to give it away. I must be aggressive about de-cluttering what I can, and have the courage to throw away what no longer serves. It is my responsibility to organize and release and save and protect. I have to find a way to live in peace with my stuff.  

I will look at the stuff of my life today. I will honor something I love, and let go of something I no longer need.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

CALM ABIDING

     "Calm abiding" is a concept that I particularly like, and one that has definite application in all kinds of life situations. When confronted with the energy of a new person, or someone frazzled or scared or strung out, calm abiding can become his or her anchor as well as my own. It's powerful medicine to stand solid and centered, quiet, and present, available to respond but not pushing any agenda, to watch and wait. And it's powerful medicine to be in the company of someone who is so grounded. Personally electric chaos becomes earthed.
     What's interesting is that the quiet and the groundedness provides comfort and invitation. There is no judgment, no manipulation, only reflection and readiness. And in that energy, in that calm, the one who is frazzled becomes calm as well, and sometimes, what has been guarded inside is suddenly revealed, and information from the heart is shared. Deep emotion is allowed. Connection is made. And all because of calm abiding.
     It works in almost any situation requiring patience or courage, or in any territory that is unfamiliar. Some people chit chat nervously, or laugh with discomfort, but in so doing their energy remains scattered. Calm abiding is a raising of attention, an entrance into the absolute presence of the moment and what is happening, conscious breathing, clear vision, and a heightening of every sense perception. It soothes all that is disturbed and opens the path to serenity. It's a journey and a destination, a solution to every problem, and good therapy for a scattered and over-complicated world.

I will stay calm and present and grounded today, especially when confronted with chaotic energy.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK

     When the people who love us give us compliments, we seem to take them with a certain grain of salt, but when complete strangers make a positive observation, we walk a little taller and puff full of confidence for having been recognized. Why is that? It seems like it should be the opposite. If those who know us best think we are beautiful, particularly clever or stylish, intuitive, wise, or talented, that seems meaningful. They know us inside and out and see that we have unique-to-us positive features. And yet, we often discount that. We blow it off. We think to ourselves, "She has to say that," which, of course, she doesn't. But then, someone who doesn't know us at all comments that we are fit or strong or calm in a heated situation or look especially pretty or handsome and we think, ah-ha. I am fit and strong. I am pretty. I am handsome.
     And the opposite holds true as well. One quickly spoken negative comment from someone we don't know can pop our self-esteem bubble entirely and deflate us indefinitely. All the positive information we know and experience about ourselves is completely dwarfed by one small negative comment from an entirely unknown source.
     In all of this we give too much power to other people, and too much power to strangers in particular. It seems important to develop an honest opinion of ourselves, to know where our weaknesses lie, as well as our strengths, maybe most importantly our strengths... to know how we are intelligent, how we are beautiful, how we struggle and what inspires our growth; to know that when we feel good in our own skins we emit an energy which is attractive to others. And then, when anyone, whether they be familiar or unknown to us, comments on our energy or physicality, we can say internally, "Yes! Thank you! I feel good and it must show," or recognize that our edge or tension is spilling over and make the appropriate attitudinal adjustment.
     But we must not let others determine for us what is best for us, or who we are. We must not let them convince us of something we seriously doubt. It's the ultimate con job, and we do it to ourselves. Others are useful for heightening our awareness to our own internal state and the way it is projecting into the outside world, but that's it. The internal state is up to us.

I will thoughtfully consider all the feedback I receive today and be honest about my inclination to blow both the positive and negative commentary of strangers out of proportion. What matters most is that I know who I am.

Friday, May 13, 2011

WABI SABI

     "I am not perfect," a friend of mine explained to me, with a certaion amount of seeming apology. It's an admission we all end up making to ourselves eventually, that we have limits, that we behave in unbecoming ways we can't always explain, that we cry too easily, or are too happy, or too broke, or too something- always too something.But the irony and the hidden truth is that we actually are perfect; incomprable, torn up and healed over, sensitive, unsure, and all so full of love, all of us, each of us in our own unique way.
     There is nothing more beautiful than true vulnerability: the confession that we simply cannot do everything, or know everything; that we are confused, that we feel lost. "Wabi-Sabi" is the Japanese "art of imperfection." It's a way of seeing and an appreciation for that which is distressed or battered or unbalanced somehow, and we are all unbalanced somehow. It's affection for the old, the odd, the worn and the awkward. And that's the human condition.
     We all have moments where we get on a roll and things come easily to us, effortlessly. But there is no one for whom that is a permanent state. Something always happens to remind us of just that fact. In the midst of a dance, we stumble; in the midst of a speech, our throat catches. We konk our heads and trip over steps and foregt what we were saying, and wake up terrified with our hearts pounding.
     And all of that is "wabi-sabi" and wonderfully human and absolutely perfect, exactly because it is not. I am ok being human today. I can laugh at myself and have compassion when I screw things up. I am imperfect, and I am ok with that.

Perfection lacks appeal. I am grateful to be me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

TIME FOR LIFE

     I panic easily over time, which seems silly. I feel pressure and full of fear that there will not be enough of it; not enough time to get done all that I have to get done, plus relax, plus eat well, plus take my walks, plus read, plus write my blog, plus get to bed early, and on and on. And added to the regular plateful of daily activities, I am now in the process of moving and packing and the kids coming home from school for the summer and, and... it builds in me like that sometimes: the overwhelm snowball of lifestuff.
     But the truth is that there is always enough time. Somehow it works out. "There is a time for every purpose." I have been thinking about that passage lately, and find it to be true. I worry that I will not get enough time to myself, and then I do, just the right amount. I have no idea how some deadline will be met, or how all the details of some event will get handled, and then they get handled. It always comes together. One house empties and another house fills up. Papers get written. Bills get paid. And it doesn't all happen because I rush through life in a harried fluster moving nonstop. It happens whether I rush or whether I proceed calmly and with faith. Either way, it happens. And life happening means time for each experience, time for work, and time for play; time for being hungry and time for feeling over-full; time for laughter and silliness, and time for industrious ventures and efficient hard work, for courage and fear, for sadness and prayer, for silence and for conversation, for activity and for sleep.
     When I get in trouble it's because I fail to recognize what the present time is for; I work when it's time to relax and soften and laugh, I eat when I am not hungry, I worry over doing things when I have done everything I can do and it's time to let go. I stay awake when it's time to sleep. I chatter over nothingness when it's time to be quiet, I create expectations when it's time to open and receive whatever comes, and I resist when it's time to accept.
     Today, I want to get in touch with the rhythms of time. I want to recognize where I am and what the space in front of me provides, and not try to force some agenda.

I am willing to let go of my panic over time. I accept that there is enough of it, and that everything gets done and balances out in the end.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

CAN'T GO BACK

     It's bizarre that certain things which used to give me great pleasure no longer do; scents that I used to enjoy, and songs, and even food choices. I would have thought they were things that represented the affinity of my character, and not the effect of some life stage or mood. Lately, I have observed myself making attempts to recapture some sort of stolen pleasure from the past to soothe my uncertainty about the transitional phase I am currently in. And it hasn't worked.
     I tried a piece of gooey chocolate cake with ice cream. I tried doing a home movie fest. I found some old incense I used to love and lit it with great anticipation. But contrary to my intention, all these efforts ended up aborted. They were not what I intended at all, and left me flat and dark feeling on the inside, almost seedy. Strange. I have tried to treat myself by doing what I have done in the past to treat myself. But truthfully, in the past, my pleasure has always been laced with self-destruction. I see that now.
     As a mother of young children I used to covet my time alone, but I don't need it anymore the way I did then. I used to misbehave when I was not having to be responsible.... drink too much, and overeat, and behave in ways I wouldn't have wanted others to witness, which is partly why I needed to be alone. But I don't do that anymore. I have learned the blessings of good choices and good living. I have learned to live in the open with nothing to hide or sneak. I do not carry shame and secrets around the way I used to. I am free in a way I have never been before.
    And as such, there is nothing to fix or assuage about the current transition of my life. I have only to experience it, right here and right now. I have only to ride the river of change. I don't have to force treats and pleasure and rewards on myself. The treat and the pleasure is in the experience itself, and all the attendant energy that comes along with it. My cup runneth over.

Instead of pushing towards some end-of-day goal, some act of getting through my work or meetings or whatever to experience some fleeting pleasure, I will make the actual experience of the day itself my treat and my reward.

Monday, May 9, 2011

CHOOSING AN ATTITUDE

     Attitude is everything. With the right attitude, work can be relaxing and playful, hardships can be blessings, angry people can be crying out for love, and we can be ok with our own and everyone elses imperfections, and even celebrate them as opportunities for growth.
     The opposite also applies. Blessings can be burdens, kindness can be manipulation, work can be something to suffer through while complaining and feeling miserable and put upon, loved ones can be out to screw us over, and we can feel nothing but bitter for everything and everybody.
     The first option feels better, but the second option happens to all of us, some more than others. Some, in fact, mostly live in negativity with only window glimpses of joy. But there is so much joy to be felt. It's a shame. I, for one, choose joy instead as my most-of-the-time option. But suffering falls upon me too.
     The challenge for us all is to learn how to transmute suffering into pleasure. It's possible, but takes attention and courage and time. Suffering happens. Hardship rains down upon us. There is pain and angst in living, and we are all forced to face our fears and our limitations. But these are the very things that stretch us and make us bigger and wiser and have more depth... exactly because we get through them. We come out on the other side. We survive and have our story to tell. The transmutation is in the survival and the hindsight that shows us that something positive always comes out of what we make it through. And we can learn! We don't have to repeat the same hardships over and over... unless we refuse to acknowledge our part and refuse to change our attitude and insist on misery and negativity instead. The loving force of living life will keep on urging us to the positive, but we can dig our feet in if we choose. It makes for a hard road, but it's a choice we all have.
     I choose optimism today. I choose the positive perspective. And I know that manure is the best fertilizer. It is rich with all the nutrients that make things grow. So the manure of my life is what will grow me into greater gratitude and greater love and greater participation in all the wonders of the world.

I am willing to accept whatever happens. Just for today.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

MOTHER LOVE

     It's an incredible thing to be a mother. In some ways, it's the most heart wrenching experience on earth. From the high hopes and physical strangeness of pregnancy with its fears and heartburn and labor pains, to the absolute terror of taking the newly born and entirely too tiny baby home. And that's just the merest of beginnings.
     I had never known frustration to the point of spontaneous explosion before having children, or the deep, deep, deep, protective love that brings tears to my eyes even today though my children are nearly adults; tears of such profound emotion that they rock my soul. Motherhood is a labor of love like no other, love from the deepest core of loving, love from the nerves and heart and intestines, love, sweat, and tears.
     Years of not knowing how I would get through the challenges of motherhood lie behind me, and before me as well: the whining and demands, the endless calling of my name, the sibling bickering, the bewitching dinner hour and the permanent end of afternoon napping which I thought might be my end as well... and then to have them turn around and hate me in adolescence, after all of my efforts, and all of my outpouring of love and attention and affection and patience and comforting and encouragement. And then we have grown beyond that too. I have had to let go and let them grow up without my constant attention. I have had to trust them and watch them make mistakes, and just be here, ready, available, always willing to show up; no longer imposing or instructing, but present: ever present.
     I have twins. Sienna and Nick are 16, and they are beautiful. When I think of how beautiful, and all we have been through together, I cry again, sweet tears from strong loving, and that I should be so blessed to be able to call these fine young strapping people my children, to have the honor of being their Mom. It almost feels like too much. The truth is that they have taught me volumes about myself, and continue to, and I am grateful to them forever for showing up for me. Though I couldn't have said that in just that way when they were little and I was strung out from young motherhood, it is unquestionably true for me today.
     And there's my mother as well, who teaches me in different ways, and the mothering of myself. I'm grateful for all of it, especially today. It's an endless journey of growing up, and what matters most. The lessons may not come in the style of Norman Rockwell. The mother relationship is often more challenging than any other, but if we accept it as it is, with all of its joys and sorrows, and all the ways it wrenches at our hearts, we can be glad today for the gift of being born, and the blessing of being mothers and having mothers, such as they may be.

I honor motherhood today, and the gift of life, and I am willing to accept all of the ways it wrenches at my heart and feel grateful for every part of the experience.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

LETTING GO

     If our whole life experience were boiled down to one grand spiritual lesson, I believe the lesson would be to let go. And then, to let go some more. The concept encompasses everything our lives are all about. Letting go of our suffering frees us to experience joy. We can let go of fear and prejudice and anxiety and the desire to control everything. We can let go of negativity and resentment and attachment and suspicion. We can let go of excess weight, busy minds, and toxic relationships. We can let go of expectations. We can let go of doubt. We can let go of always and never and should and shame.
     But how? That's always the rub. How do we let go? First, I guess we have to realize that we're holding on. We have to recognize the heaviness of our load and the effort with which we are clutching to it. We have to understand that it's our choice to carry it onwards or to set it down.
     It helps me to write, to scribble my burdens in print, and fold them up and put them in a box, or anywhere away from me, to give them over to the universe or God or whatever it is that has the ability to straighten things out. Talking about my worries to others does the same thing. It gets them out and gives them air. They are far better free floating than trapped in my interior growing legs.
     I can let go today. I can let go of all that is weighing me down.
  
I will recognize that I am holding on to something that is making me suffer, some fear or judgment or self-despair, and I will courageously and willingly set it down.

Friday, May 6, 2011

TIME WITHOUT AGENDA

     Modern life is full of deadlines and responsibilities. We rush around from one obligation to the next. Even our "free time" is often planned out and carefully orchestrated. What we lack, perhaps, is unstructured time, absolute spontaneity and languid hours of nothing in particular to have to get done. Languid hours in this day and age may be unrealistic, but what about a few languid moments here and there? What about suspending activity and all plans and busyness for even the briefest stretch of time? And watching tv doesn't count.
     I wonder if we can even do it. Most of us are practically addicted to being occupied with something. We are occupied with phonecalls, continuous texting, checking emails, eating, attending to children, work. We are occupied with the rigidity of our routines. We do not make room for unanticipated happenings of any kind in our lives, and they startle us when they come unannounced... even when they bring good news... even when they come to bless us. We suspect them, and fill with fear. We have not counted them into our plans.
     I believe it's possible to become prisoners of our deadlines. We feel choiceless and burdened with all that we have to do. We burn out and our bodies ache. We get pains in our necks and our knees. We can't sleep for thinking about all the things we have to do, all the mountains of obligations, the lack of time for all of our activities. We have to maximize efficiency. We pride ourselves on multi-tasking, on squeezing one more thing in, or two...
     I am going to take five minutes today, somewhere, and stop all of my agenda driven activity. I'm just going to sit. I'm not going to meditate, or plan, or drive, or use my phone, or think about how to handle some ongoing life circumstance. I'm just going to sit and look around. It might make me antsy, or it might refresh me. I don't have to figure it out or plan it specifically. I'm just setting my intention and establishing a willingness. It could make all the difference in the quality of my day. And tomorrow, I might just do it again.

I am going to treat myself to some time today without burden or deadline, some time for doing nothing, and some time for just letting life be. 
 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

THE BEAUTY OF SCARS

     I have stretch marks all across my belly from pregnancy, and scars in multiple locations from injuries and surgeries. Self-consciousness regarding these physical imperfections has always seemed appropriate, as if their very existence makes me messy somehow, or less worthy. But it occurs to me that perhaps I have been looking at it all wrong. Like a stamp in a passport that shows the path of a journey, each of my scars has a story to tell.
     It's easy to get caught up in life with thinking it's all about looking good, and sounding good, and being all put together and impressive. But the truth is that being all put together and without struggles is not particularly interesting. What's interesting, what speaks to the heart and the spirit is real life, is the deeply felt, is the stuff that pains us, the hurdles we have overcome. When someone stands before me and shares the history of his scars, every emotional nerve ending within me awakens and compassion awakens. I am inspired and touched. I am humbled. I am filled with love.
     To survive life, to have survived trauma, to speak about where we have come from makes us fully human. Sharing our stories generates hope. We suddenly understand that we are all survivors and that we are all scarred. When we have the courage to stop hiding our stretch marks, we realize that we are not alone, and that we are not supposed to be unaffected by life. Pretending to be without scars takes effort, and is ultimately a losing proposition. It keeps us isolated and covered up. Today, I prefer to take ownership of where I have come from, to share my story and to wear with acceptance and courage the stamps of my path.

Scars and stretch marks have their own kind of beauty. I fully accept the woundings of my life.

WHAT TO BELIEVE

     Why are we so quick to believe what someone tells us, or what we read, or what we hear on the radio? It is common practice to readily accept information, even if we have not experienced it for ourselves, even if something inside of us does not feel sure. We end up doubting ourselves and take as obvious fact whatever heresay knowledge has come our way.
     We accept as fact whatever doctors and experts tell us, because they are supposed to know. We accept as fact that we lose our eyesight and hearing and flexibility as we age. We accept as fact that we are going to shrink and that our bones will crumble. And all those things do happen, for sure, but do they always happen? And is it possible that buying into the belief, we might actually manifest the expectation?
     Belief is a powerful thing, but it is no obligation, not even by the imposition of our parents; perhaps, especially not then. Belief is the result of our personal choice, and as such, we must be reverent where we place it. It is our responsibility as we increase our higher consciousness to question and to filter facts. "Just because" is not legitimate. Neither is "I read it in the paper," or "I saw it on TV," or "I heard it at work."
     My best friend often reminds me, "Whose rule is that?" and I always appreciate the reminder. I tend to accept judgment from others, but I am learning to lean more in the direction of "maybe so" that any sense of "absolutely." It's a freedom and a sense of disbelief- that I actually have the right to determine for myself just what to believe and just what to question.
     I seek the truth, and it is out there, left like a shell on the beach once the tides of explanation have receeded. But out there also is the shadow and the predator and all that is not as it first appears. It comes back to trust again and learning to trust what I naturally question. I am the gatekeeper of my soul, and I am the gatekeeper of what I believe.

Today I will not blindly accept whatever information comes my way and turn it into personal belief. I will consider and question and filter the facts.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

CHANGING ENERGIES

     Burning piles of brush is an experience in paring down and transmutation. The bulk of the pile, the mass of tree branches and rotten fence boards, becomes ashes and smoke and lumpy hot coals. The leftover material of property clean-up transforms into flame and living energy. But overnight, the fire changes. Its energy changes. The next day it is smoldering and grey. Gone are the active flames. Gone is the snapping and crackling, gone the crisp clarity of the big bright burn. It feels worn out after all the energy of prior flames. It could be enlivened with some poking and a bit of a strong wind or some diesel fuel, but left alone it just smokes and smoulders, bone tired, used up from the extreme effort.
     Energies of all things are constantly changing, including my own. On a quiet afternoon, the breeze through the branches of age old maple trees is gentle. The fluttering leaf movement and solid tree trunks soothe my spirit. The maples at such a time are like rocking-chair energy. Their wind music affects me like a calming lullaby. But in the chaotic moment right before a thunderstorm, the same leaves peel back on their branches and sway erratically, chasing me inside.
      Buzzing bumblebees and flies are insistent and intense as they hover, land, fly away, and return. Dogs impale the silence with their sharp barks. Cars approach and recede with energy arriving and building and passing away. Birds chirp and whistle and flit. They alight on small tree branches and tilt their heads. All these energies, all together, are all ever changing, filling the world and the landscape with their life.
     I will observe my own energy today. Am I frantic? Am I tired and smouldering? Am I sharp? Am I impossible to settle down? I want to be like the maple trees on a peaceful afternoon. I want to be grounded and solid, rooted deep in the earth, and spreading all around me a sense of ease and gentle calm, a playfyul fluttering and rustling movement in the flow of the air.

I will pay attention to the energy I bring to my day today, and make an effort to remain grounded and calm no matter what.
    
       

Monday, May 2, 2011

TRUSTING THE PATH

     I think it's possible to be journeying along happily on a path towards the future with a plan and some faith, and then have someone come along and present me with all the possible things that could go wrong. I lose my stride and momentum. I fill with doubt and wonder whether I am entirely off course and need to think again about where I am headed. I hesitate and sometimes stop entirely. I lose my sense of happy-go-lucky joy. It's those helpful questions people like to ask like, "Have you thought about this possibility? Or what if that happens?" And where only moments before I was confident that it would work out no matter what, I am suddenly on alert and unsure. I find myself drowning in the whole overwhelming world of what if? And as the result of such helpful commentary by my peers, there have been times in my life where I have entirely changed my course.
     But more than ever, I am learning to value people who are not peddlars of the what if philosophy, and learning to seek them out. They ask me why not instead of what if? They tell me it will be perfect no matter what instead of asking if I am sure.... They get excited for all that is possible and what can be done instead of worrying and fretting over all that could go wrong. And they help to get me back on track. They return me to my joy and my journey with their simple belief. And I am grateful for their input. I smile and thank them and hope to return the favor. There's no percentage in trying to manage the future and guarantee outcomes. It makes for fearful energy and fruitless efforts at control. I far prefer the happy-go-lucky path and a heart full of faith.  

I will not be derailed today by negative energy or worries about the future. I will trust my path.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

GAIN WITHOUT PAIN

     I think a lot of people have an idea that exercise is something to be gotten through, that it is painful and should be just short of excruciating. I can't believe the look I see on some people's faces when they are running on the outdoor trail. They appear to be suffering greatly; their bodies stiff and stilted, cockeyed and gimpish, but they keep on doing it. They land each footstep heavy and flat. It almost hurts just to watch them.
     Similarly, it's a common idea that for a massage to be effective it should be "deep" to the point of discomfort. It's this whole "no pain, no gain" philosophy. Though that may well be true when it comes to spiritual lessons, in terms of exercise and massage, for the most part, I entirely disagree.
     Bodies are designed to move, and naturally seek health and balance. In our high-stress, mostly seated lifestyle, muscles need our help and gentle urging to feel great. They do not need punishment, crushing, beating, grinding, or overload. Working out should leave a body refreshed and relaxed, lengthened, strengthened, happy, and tired in a good way.
     And what about feeling "beat up" after a massage? Who wants that? Massage is for the whole person. I believe it's about comfort and care. It requires a firm and healing touch, and a variety approach, whatever is required to adjust imbalance without forcing and digging. That's what feels best to me. When a therapist tries to force one of my tight muscles by attacking it, I seize up. There are other ways to balance what's out of whack than a full on frontal assault.
     It's food for thought. As a culture, we are generally so urgent and intense. We can't believe that something can be good for us and actually feel good too. We think we have to suffer to reap benefits. But movement that seems subtle, that feels natural and surprisingly pleasant can have a great effect over time in changing our overall health. I witness it everyday in the progress of my clients.
     If we take a clue from nature, it's not unlike the Colorado river designing the Grand Canyon as it runs its natural course. It moves by flow and the curves of the land. It is not against anything; it moves around obstacles and encompasses what is small enough for it to carry: so natural, so simple, and yet, look what it creates!
    
Today I will move towards health without feeling the necessity to beat myself up in any way.