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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

FACING THE BATTLEFIELD

     I'm a pacifist from way back. I don't like combat or confrontation. I believe in the powers of communication and compramise to resolve most issues. But that approach pre-supposes a desire for peace on both sides of the argument, and that is not always the case. Some people feed on conflict and warfare and live to push their weight around just to see how far they can push it. And there's no question that bullies have to be stopped.
     So how do we negotiate our world when we are attacked and when all attempts at reasonable resolution are rejected? I suppose we have to assess each situation and measure the relative costs. There is a cost for action and a cost for doing nothing. We must find the path that most honors our values and our truth, but above all, we must not thrust forward into battle without consideration. We must engage with great care so as to keep our integrity intact. We cannot be explosive and reactive and expect to walk away feeling good. We have to know what we are about, and assert our position with firm clarity and grace. If we stoop to recklessness and vengence we lose before we have begun. Nobility is more about maintaining boundaries than sacking the innocent masses.
     In our hearts we know what's right, and what's right action, and the difference between being assertive and being belligerent. Doing the one thing we sleep well at night, and doing the other we lay awake fretting and trying to justify our misdeeds.

I don't automatically lash back when I am attacked. I take a considered approach and evaluate the costs. When I choose to move forward, it is with assurance and a great state of calm.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

FROM OH NO TO OK

     If something happens that challenges me greatly, I resist it in stride. Oh, no! I think. Not this! I try to ward it off, push it away, or, at the very least, get through it as quickly as I can. I don't want to experience it. I reach for my blinders and all of my numbing tools. I don't like it and I don't want it. Dear God, I beg, please take it back!
     And yet, if I surrender to whatever it is; if I say OK instead of Oh No, all the tension and strain depart, and I am left open to the strange beauty of hardship. It has its own kind of grace. And I end up blessed by the very thing I was sure had come to curse me.

Instead of raging and resisting, I am willing to be ok with life as it comes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

ENJOYING THE RIDE

     Life is not about my agenda or what makes sense to me. It's not my plan that turns the wheels or drives the ship. It's not what I think, or what I want, or even what I know. Life is mysterious. It is a journey of all the things that cannot be anticipated. It is twists and turns and convoluted passages. It is puzzling. It is paradoxical. It is eternal and momentary and none of the above and all of the above.
     If I try to figure it out, I will be frustrated. Just when I think I've got it- ah-ha! a new element is introduced that requires further reconciliation. Not understanding historically induces fear in me, which makes me figure all the more diligently. I grab for control, but control over most things is not mine to grab.
     If I'm honest, and feeling peaceful inside, and trusting, what I intuitively know is that it's not my job or responsibility to figure it out. The purpose and the point of my life is simply to experience the ride- to exalt in the joys and suffer in the hardships- to feel the feelings and to share it all with the people that I love. That's the whole deal and the real deal; to not make sense of life, or manipulate it, or master it, but simply to live it, however it may come.

I can experience the journey of my life, and I don't have to stress and strain and grow old trying to figure it out. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

THE MALE PERSPECTIVE

     Our culture makes assumptions about men not being interested in things like diet and spirituality and communication and relationships. A huge chunk of our media outreach is specifically directed towards women and leaves men completely out of the equation. Perhaps in this day and age, when we understand and appreciate the sensitivity in men, and their feelings and needs, it's time to change our approach and our built-in beliefs.
     For modern men, there seems to be a certain prejudice in reverse. They do everything that women do. They are stay-at-home-Dads, folders of laundry, senders of greeting cards, caretakers, lovers, friends, and children of aging parents. They are spouses, athletes, dreamers, and writers. They suffer from insecurities, and fear; from worry, and a lack of self-confidence.
     We are all of us human and all of us interested in spiritual growth and healthier relationships, and tools for patience, and tolerance, and ways to be kind. But media information in the social interest realm largely leaves men out by default and by assumption.
     Let's change the way we think about men. Let's not pigeon-hole them. Let's allow for compassion and depth in them, and thoughtfulness, and their ability to love with sincerity and grace. Let's include them in our emotional journeys if they want to be included, and let them know they are welcome and their input is appreciated. Let's make our quest for richness of the spirit and vital living more about the human heart and less about the female hormone. Let's celebrate the evolved male perspective and honor the magnificent men in our lives!

I accept and appreciate the sensitivity in men and their depth of spirit and fullness of heart. As both male and female, we are equally interested in vibrant living and exuberant health.

Friday, February 24, 2012

MEMORIES COME TO CALL

     I'm not sure if it's possible to completely let go of the past, or whether it would even be healthy if we could. It waits for us in the strangest of places, and comes forth out of nowhere; unexpected, and for the most part, unwanted. The memory of events lives on in time somehow the way wrinkles remain on the surface of a bedspread where we have rested. And we see them and feel them as if they did not happen years and years ago, or even last week, but as if they are happening right now. A song or a scent can trip a memory, and feelings from another time and place surge forth and flood us in the present moment.
     I'm not sure what we are supposed to do with them when they come- simply acknowledge awareness of them? Or feel their imprint on us like a remembered conversation? Or are we meant to somehow shut them down and send them packing? You are old news. You are no longer real, no longer valid, no longer wanted- be on your way. But like ghosts that cannot rest because they have unfinished business, perhaps our haunting memories come back to teach us what we have to know. And perhaps we are meant to welcome them and invite them in and pull up a chair to listen.
     All I know for sure is that, unsuspecting as I may be, certain memories rise up and demand to be felt. So I am willing to feel them, and hope, in the feeling, that a new level of peace can be integrated and that old hurts may be laid to rest at last.

I am open to the ways that physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual memories may have a purpose and a place in the present day, even if I cannot exactly understand what the purpose is. I welcome them and am curious to learn whatever they have to teach me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

WE ARE WHAT WE WEAR

     A friend of mine has a pair of red cowboy boots, and when she wears them, they give her power. She told me so, and I believe her and understand. The way we dress ourselves sets a mood. We can be shlumpy and weak in what we wear, or we can command respect. We can wear what's old, baggy, ratty, or torn; what's stained, patched, tie-dyed, frilly or hip. We can dress to impress, dress to seduce, or dress to kill. We can wear what's fitted and crisp, what's fashionable, what's becoming, what's bright, or dark, or plain, or patterned.
     But whatever we wear, we set a tone. We tell the world something about ourselves. There is power in what we wear, or lack of power. It's up to us. Let's wear what makes us feel best. Let's wear the clothes that authentically represent our desired state of mind and body. If it's red cowboy boots, let's break them out. Let's not be afraid to express ourselves in cloth and color and texture and design. Let's have fun with it. Let's adorn ourselves with joy!

I think twice before slobbing around town in the same old sweatshirt. I make an effort to look my best so I can feel my best.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

THE UNFOLDING UNKNOWN

     I sometimes have the sense that there is some emotional thing lingering just below the surface of my outsides that I need to face and to understand, but I cannot quite grasp it. I have a sense perception of its being there, but it is shrouded in shadows. I try to call it forth because I have a desire to handle whatever needs to be handled and I have a dislike for any unfinished business and loose ends of all kinds.
     I like things resolved. I like them wrapped up and tucked away tight. Oozing discomfort and murky feelings frustrate me. And yet, when that's the way it is, what choice do I have? What choice do any of us have? I am always trying to rush the process and check things off my list. But I am learning, albeit slowly, that I will understand what I need to understand when I need to understand it and not a minute before. My wanting and figuring and all of my hard-core thinking will not speed things up a bit or bring me any sooner to resolution and peace.
     My peace will come when I can learn to be comfortable with uncertainty and misunderstanding and the lack of clear sight. I don't have to dig and quest for information. I have only to remain willing to pay attention to the clues and signs from the universe. I have only to be willing to listen and to hear. Everything happens on time and in perfect order, even if it's not my time and not my idea of order. I can trust that somehow or other it will all make sense in the end.

I don't have to understand what I cannot understand. Thinking and figuring will not bring me any closer to peace. Peace will come when I surrender to the process of the unfolding unknown.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

THE DEMANDS OF LIVING

     When we are faced with exceptional challenges in life, we inevitably rise to the occasion. We step up instinctively. We surprise ourselves with our ability to withstand, to endure, to know intuitively what to do and how to do it; like the stories we hear of mothers lifting cars to keep their child from being crushed. We do without sleep. We live on nerves and feelings. We survive the acute crisis, whatever it may be, for however long it takes. And then, it passes. The crisis stage is over, and we are left in the aftermath, the wreckage, the exhaustion and disbelief, and we have to find a way to integrate all that has happened in our world.
     We long to feel "normal" again, but we feel changed and discombobulated instead. We have to somehow make sense of what has happened to us. We have to absorb it into our world, and it cannot be done in a flash or a decision or even a full day. The discomfort has to be felt and discussed. We have to be willing to communicate our hurt and our shock and our whole experience. We have to tell and re-tell the story, and we have to be open to tears. When we have suffered greatly, it's ok to feel sad for ourselves, that we have had to go through something so difficult. Our bodies respond with their own kind of reactivity, and we have to be patient with our stomachs and our breathing, and our eyes and arms and hearts; with whatever aches, and whatever speaks to us.
     And slowly,  the balance of beauty to pain tips again in the direction of beauty, and we feel better more than we feel sick, and we discover that we have grown through our difficulties. We have grown in courage and strength. We have discovered new depths within us. We are more fragile than we ever knew, and more capable all at once. We are raw with our pain and resilient beyond our wildest dreams.
    
I understand that life is full of challenges that I cannot possibly anticipate, and that there is a necessary ebb and flow of action and reflection in order to survive with grace.

Monday, February 20, 2012

FRIENDS

     Don't be afraid to let people in on your life. Share your journey with them. Tell them about your happiness and celebrations, and admit to them when you're struggling. It's inspiring and beautiful to witness how they are willing to rally around and help out when help is needed.... in unexpected and delightful ways. What a wonderful, powerful, incredible thing to have a network of good friends! Gather them up and appreciate them dearly. They will carry you through in the end.

I appreciate my friends, and I'm not afraid to ask for help when I need it. As much as I have a need, they have a need to help.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

THE LIGHT CYCLE

     It's an amazing thing to not be out and moving through the day, but to sit still, and watch the day move around me. That's how it is from a hospital room. I am aware of the circle of the sun, almost like a hug, rising on one side of the building and curling around all day to settle and sink right outside our window, returning the room to darkness, and the night. The sound of the iv machine rising and falling, fluttering and ticking, then rising and falling again; Gruff's breathing and quietness, then his restless movement, uncomfortable, itchy feeling, then quiet again... It's all cyclical, soothing almost, in a sad sort of way.
     I'll be glad to get out of here and burst back into action again, but it's ok to be here too. I resisted it at first, but I have surrendered. And even in the uncertainty, in the pain and the fear, there is healing happening. I have always thought of hospitals as places of sickness, but they are just as much places of wellness, of the restoration of bodies to whole. The patients cycle as much as the sun and the iv machine, rising and falling; rising and falling; cycling and cycling, swirling and receding ever closer and closer to greater healing or the ultimate peace that always happens in the end.

I surrender to the stops and starts and stillness of the slow healing process, whether in myself or others, and do not struggle and push, trying to force something that can only be restored by the passage of time.

Friday, February 17, 2012

SHARING LIFE

     The truth is that loving someone can be excruciating. It is not all rose petals and rainbows. When we are hurting, or the one we love is hurting, there is a brutality to the rawness of emotion that simply doesn't exist with run-of-the-mill others. The love connection we feel becomes exactly the thing that makes us ache. We share each other's pain, just as we share each other's joy on better days.
     Maybe as much as anything, love is caring enough about someone to be willing to go through anything with them, to share it all, the whole ride, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and to trust life enough to not keep us stuck too terribly long in any one zone. We can take our share of pain. We can get through things little bit by little bit that we could never swallow whole. And even in the worst pain, there are moments of relief, of quiet, a ray of evening sun come shining through the window. And it seems like it will never end, never be better, never be right again, but it does end and it does get better. It always does. And we have to hang in and hold on and wait and breathe and love with all of our hearts. There's nothing else for it. Hurt and pain are a part of the journey. When they show up, that may be when we need to love each other the most.

I don't have to run away from pain or be afraid of it. Sometimes the most difficult situations bring the greatest blessings in the end.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

WHAT IS BEAUTIFUL?

     High fashion models in magazine ads always look so serious; as if being one of the beautiful people must be hard work, and I guess it is. Starving through days, focused so extremely on the physical side of things, it's no wonder that their faces seem gaunt with the strain of being desired and envied. Their expressions are almost aggressive, their posture strong with attitude. "What are you looking at?" they suggest, threateningly. "This line of clothes is serious business. Are you man enough? Are you woman enough to handle it?"
     And that's what we envy. That's what we strive for. Not the exhuberant, vital joy of a smiling, heavy-set, Italian grandmother offering us a plate of pasta and some warm bread, but the cool, harsh, edgy jaw-lines and big eyes of the half-starved who dare us to be like them. Why? Why are we so focused on being thin and beautiful in this sharp and gaunt kind of way, over and above almost everything? As if this look is the shining pinnacle of life from which everything else that is good and wonderful must trickle down.
     Maybe it's time to re-think our vision of beauty. Maybe the scale we use to create value is actually shrinking us from the outside in.

I honestly consider what makes a person beautiful and realize that it has everything to do with vitality, and very little at all to do with some magical number on the scale.
    

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

THE FEEDING OF OUR SENSES

     It is not only our stomachs that get hungry, but our eyes, and our hands, and our skin and hearts. We are hungry for beauty, for touch, for love, for good smells and fresh air in our lungs. So we must learn, daily, to feed ourselves, to take in nurturence from the world around us to satisfy our hungers. We mistakenly think they can all be satiated with sweet or fatty indulgences, refined carbohydrates, a glass of wine, or whatever we habitually turn to, but they cannot.
     We must look for beauty. We must learn to see with eyes that are aware of color and shapes and detail, that can distinguish changing light and stretching shadows, and the magnificence of the human face and the natural landscape that surrounds us. We must learn to reach out and feel textures with our fingers, to bring consciousness to smooth and rough and soft and dry, to the wetness when we wash dishes, the feel of the steering wheel on our palms. We must breathe deeply and take note of flowers whose scent we appreciate, and coffee, and bacon, or our favorite shampoo; of woodsmoke, chain-saw oil, kitten-fur, incense, and the damp morning earth.
     And to feed our hunger for love we must send it out. We must be loving. We can give hugs and smiles and compliments. We can scratch our pets behind the ears and on their bellies. We can call an old friend, send a thoughtful note, or email, or flowers. We can live love-full lives by our very approach to things. Love is so much bigger than one perfect intimate relationship.
     To feel full and to be nurtured, we need only wake up from our unconsciousness and pay attention to what affects our senses, both positively and negatively, and then to seek balance in ourselves when things get out of whack. If we are assaulted with harsh words, perhaps we need to feed ourselves with the music of Georg Philipp Telemann, or take a bath and listen to the quiet dribble and trickling of water in the tub.
     If we notice the details of our lives, and appreciate the small things that we love, we need never feel hungry or lost or malnourished. We can feel grateful instead, for so much deliciousness all around us, and that we are blessed with an endless free supply.... if we only pay attention. We can learn to nourish our hearts and all of our senses, and if the truth be told, it's our responsibility, and no one else's, to do just that.

I bring awareness to beauty and delicious smells and good music and warm hugs. I allow my senses to be fed indulgently every day, and understand that I needn't feel hungry if I pay attention and express appreciation for the sensual details of my daily life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

VALENTINE'S DAY

     This is the day for us to pay tribute to our special loves, to express our gratitude and affection with poetic style; with flowers and love notes, fancy dinners, and romantic gifts. It is a day to lay all negative judgment and criticism aside, and to fully appreciate all of the best qualities in the one we love. Legends trace the history of Valentine's day back in time to secret weddings and ensuing love letters, and to the first known greeting cards sent quietly from inside heavily guarded Roman jails. It's a re-visitation of Chaucer's era, when maidens were meant to be wooed and courted with courtesy and grace. It's a celebration of romance, attraction, beauty; of tenderness, deep sentiment, and the red heart of love.
     It's easy and fun for those of us with obvious Valentines to fuss over. And even for those who are playing at the edge of romance. But I would challenge the single among us, who often mope and feel depressed on this day, to be Valentine to themselves. Why not take the day to appreciate the self without criticism? We are none of us particularly good at it, but why not? How about a bit of poetry in praise of our own virtues? Let's write our own Valentine! Let's buy a bouquet to please our own personal sense of the romantic! Or treat ourselves to a bubble bath and a beautiful meal.
     Whether we are "in a relationship" or not, we have to learn how to be loving with ourselves. That's our primary relationship and the one from which all others grow. We must learn to be tender and appreciative with ourselves, and to acknowledge our own value, so that we can pave the way for others who may come along and want to love us. We must know that we are lovable. As with so many things in life, the journey to fulfillment begins with us, right where we stand, and exactly with who we are.

I celebrate courtesy and romance today, and sing the praises of the one I love. And if it's not some intimate other, let it begin with the appreciation of me!
  

Monday, February 13, 2012

STRIDING VS STROLLING

      Lately, I have become particularly aware of the fact that I am a strident walker. I walk with purpose and what almost feels like urgency. My steps are tense and quick: rapid-fire. I move through space with strength and determination. There's nothing relaxed or quiet about it. I'm sure that anyone watching me walk would think I was in a hurry, whether I was in a hurry or not. And I'm not the only one. Lots of us walk that way. Maybe it's our culture. We are always trying to get so much done.
     Older people, and children, move more slowly. Perhaps they are wiser than the rest of us. They don't see what the big rush is. They want to rest for a moment, or stop and look at the caterpillar on the side of the path, or wonder about the building back there, or just think for a minute, or remember something from fifty years before that this moment reminds them of, or feel the sun on their face. And when they decide to pick up the tempo, it's from joy rather than intensity- maybe they're feeling fresh and lively... and sometimes children just have to hop and skip their way down the road.
     It's hard for me to slow down, even when I make an effort to do just that. I feel so driven to move fast, as if my worth is tied up with how much I get done, and how efficiently I do it. And then there is the insanity of wanting to get through things so that I can relax at the other end.
     But I want to learn how to relax as I go. I want to slow down so I don't miss all the bounty and the blessings that are always there... even on the short walk from my car to the store. I miss the small noticings by plunging forth with all of my intensity. I want to be child-like whenever I can be, and recognize the wonder of even the smallest journeys on foot.

I bring attention to the way I walk and relax the pace. I remind myself that I don't want to live my life in a rush.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

WAITING WITH GRACE

     When I have the least amount of time to spare, and am feeling short on patience, I am inevitably faced with delays. It's either a cruel trick of the universe or a clever lesson that I am forced to slow down, and if I handle the enforced waiting poorly, I am always given another opportunity to be good natured. My momentum is crumpled by unexpected construction traffic, school buses, error and frustration at the bank, the pharmacy, the laundry; and inevitably being stuck behind the person in line who has problems, or just wants to chit chat with the store clerk. I have somewhere to be and their conversation is messing with my plan. Of course, it's different if I'm the one with the time, and someone is impatiently waiting behind me. Geez, I think. They're being so impatient. 
     So when it's my turn, and I am made to wait when waiting is the last thing I have time for, the question is, how do I handle it? And the answer is, sometimes better than others. It makes a difference if I'm hungry, or tired, or meeting someone and not wanting to be late.
     I think we are pushed to the point of breaking every once in a while for our own good- maybe to remind us how little control we actually have. I imagine we can all deal fairly easily with one small inconvenience, or maybe two, in a row. But three is pushing it, and anything beyond that starts to get into the neighborhood of universal humor. The only possible response at that point, assuming walking away is not an option, is exploding in rage, tears, or laughter. I hope for laughter, but that's not always what results. As I continue to grow, I hope to laugh more and more, and rage internally less, not only with waiting when I don't want to, but with the whole range of curve balls that life throws at me.

I am willing to wait with grace, and laugh instead of cry when life throws unexpected roadblocks in my path.    

Friday, February 10, 2012

LOVE

     Love is the answer to all that plagues us: not the idealized, romantic kind of love; not physical passion, or mental obsession, but a gentle generosity of the spirit, a simple happiness, and an approach to life and to people that is appreciative and willing to understand.
     If we are not living by the light of love then we are blocked to it somehow and experiencing darkness instead. It is then that we travel the lonely road of fear, judgment, criticism, catastrophic thinking, isolation, and feelings of deficiency.
     To get from one to the other, the surest way is to show someone a little kindness. To help others helps us. It gives us gratitude for what we have and who we are, and makes us feel good. There is no greater joy than the joy of giving. It's as simple as reaching out just a little and letting someone know that we are paying attention and that we care.
     Loving grows love, and if we give it, we get it. We feel it. We fill up with it. It is the answer to all of our angst and worry and selfish frustration, and ultimately, I believe, the reason for our being here at all.

I generously express my love.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

NO QUICK FIXES

     We are all looking for the easy way out and the quick-fix, the instant solution, and endless satisfaction. No matter how long it has taken us to become wounded, broken, habitually unhealthy, chronically isolated, or afraid of life, we figure, almost instinctively, that once we make a decision that we want things to be different, that it should just happen for us.... with minimal effort, and long-lasting results.
     But our journey towards the light is often as arduous and lengthy as our descent has been. We make progress little bit by little bit, and never as fast as we want to. Frequently, we throw in the towel and revert to our old style of being and living, righteously, and with exasperation. It's been two weeks... and nothing's happened. It's useless. Why should I bother? Things will never change.
     But they will and they do, slowly, over time. Fully integrating change into our lives is an evolutionary process, and requires daily attention and care. We feel as if we are getting nowhere, but if we keep at it, keep making the next best choice, and the next one, and the next, then one day, unexpectedly, we will see that we have made the complete loop, and that we have learned to live differently at last.

Change in my life results from the daily attention I am willing to give it. I trust the process and keep on doing the next right thing.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

WAIT AND SEE

     We always think we are so wise "at the time," but looking back on happenings in our life makes us realize how naive we really were, and how often, in spite of all of our assurance and wisdom, we were actually nothing more than shark-bait. I'm sure that I'm still as naive as ever on certain topics, but hopefully, I've gotten a little wiser through the years regarding some things. If nothing else, I have learned the benefit of being "on guard" when faced with unknown people and situations. I used to trust everyone and everything, puppy-like. I was easily crushed and frequently hurt.
     But I have learned to stand back some in life. Instead of dashing forward with reckless enthusiasm, I have learned to watch for red flags, and to feel for them in my gut. I know now to pay close attention to the unseen and unspoken. We live in a world of heartache and danger, as well as love, and just because I have good intentions does not mean that everyone else does. I have learned to be quiet and observant in unfamiliar territory, and it has saved me from sure disaster more than once. I have learned how to wait and see.

I do not dash forward impulsively. I proceed into the unknown thoughtfully, and with caution.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE

     Thinking that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence is a syndrome of our grasping minds. We are sure that we would feel better if only... if only we had a different job, a different house, more money, fewer responsibilities; if we were thinner, stronger, smarter, more technological... In short, if we were almost anything other than what we are, we would feel better. We're sure of it.
     But the truth is, if we cannot be happy as we are, where we are, chances are we can't be happy anywhere else either. There will always be the other side of the fence where things look better. But our answers and satisfaction are not "over there." And our wholeness is not something to be chased after, but something to be claimed. We are already whole, already perfect. We already have everything we need to be happy.
     Sure, we could make changes that might please our sensibilities and our egos, but not permanently. How often have we gone after something we were sure would enrich our lives only to discover that in the end it was not as satisfying as we had hoped? Instead of feeling exhilarated and happy forever, we are left flat and empty yet again.
     Good feelings, satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment do not come from "things" or "people" or "situations." Nothing is all good all the time. Everything has its pros and cons. Challenges are built-in to every aspect of our life experience, and yet we let ourselves falsely believe that if we could only find the right combination of circumstances, then we could arrive at happiness once and for all and be able to stay there indefinitely. But it's all relative, and all variable; a big, old mixed-bag of feelings and thoughts; from one side to the other and back again.
     The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. It only appears that way to us when we have lost our ability to recognize the beauty and the blessing of what lies right beneath our feet.

I stop trying to figure out the magic combination of life circumstances that will make me happy forever, and focus instead on appreciating the blessings that are already present in my life.

Monday, February 6, 2012

BEING HELPFUL

     Some people in helping professions are not particularly helpful. There are restaurant servers who seem genuinely annoyed when we ask them for things. There is a rolling-eyes kind of reaction to our relatively simple requests. And then there is the whole breed of customer service representatives that we encounter by phone. They tell us things that make no sense at all, and are absolutely unwilling to compromise or negotiate or discuss. They effectively agree with us that what they're telling us is completely unreasonable, but they insist that there is nothing to be done. That's when we ask to speak to a manager- who sometimes is helpful, and sometimes is not. There is too much inefficiency and insanity in the service industry to even begin to name it.
     Instead, let's celebrate those who help us without an attitude, and those who have high levels of integrity. Let's recognize their positive approach and genuine desire to be helpful, and thank them for their service. It's a rare thing in today's world and deserves our appreciation.
     And let's take it a step further and consider how helpful we are with those who seek out our guidance. Are we visibly exasperated if we're interrupted at an inopportune moment? Do we try to pawn them off onto someone else? Do we fail to respond entirely? Or do we give freely and willingly and with courtesy and kindness?
     We live in culture where we are all of us too busy to be bothered. And yet, if we slow down just long enough to engage our compassion, we might find that it makes us feel good about ourselves to be good to others. They're worth it. We're worth it, and we both benefit from the helpful exchange and the shared human experience.

I am willing to put my exasperation and busyness down and be helpful to others, and to treat them with respect and consideration- even if I'm tired, and even if it's not exactly the way I would have chosen to spend my time.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

THE GOODNESS OF NAPPING

     I believe in keeping momentum, but I also believe in the power of power naps. They are soothing, restorative, and good for the soul. They are a small indulgence in a world full of trials and effort. Overdone, they result in grogginess and difficulty rousting again, but closing my eyes for a half an hour or less is often just the thing to get me jockeyed for the next adventure of my day.
     It's a respite and a cozy quietude. Add some goose down to cover me light and warm, and a short nap is positively heaven on earth. I awaken bright-eyed and renewed.

If I am dragging and sleepy, I stop everything and take ten minutes to close my eyes. It's a mini-vacation from the challenges of my day, and the best kind of soul food.

Friday, February 3, 2012

MOMENTUM

     When using high levels of energy or attention to work at something, or to get somewhere important, it's usually easier to keep going than to stop and start. Stopping feels like relief, and it is, initially. But then, having to ramp up again for continued activity is like slugging through deep mud. It requires extra effort to get back to where we were, and sometimes it's not possible to entirely recover our momentum.
     Certain types of momentum are steady, like freight trains clunking across the countryside. They gather and reduce their speed slowly and with a certain steadiness. Other types are more like back-yard rockets that blast-off with drama and then burn out and collapse to the ground in a heap.
     Momentum is an important force in our lives and it's worth considering how we might use it to our advantage and how we let it work against us. So often we start things with enthusiasm. We build our momentum with great effort and then fizzle out and feel irritated and confused. We stop and turn our attention elsewhere, and we wonder what happened.
     Let's learn from the freight trains. They slow down going up hills and through neighborhoods, but they don't stop. The keep on moving and clanking and rattling down the tracks until they get to wherever they're going. And when they get there, they unload and rest before they re-load and move on.

I conserve my energy resources and maintain steady momentum throughout the day rather than ramping up with too much eagerness, and then burning out before the day is done.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

NO SUCH THING AS FAILURE

     The truth is that we cannot know for sure what will happen with the decisions and choices that we make. What will be the outcome? Will the result be positive, or disastrous? We can figure and calculate and speculate until we are dizzy from our figuring, and still we can't know. And not knowing can paralyze us because we crave certainty and we are afraid to fail.
     But the only real failure may be in our not trying things because of our fear. Some of the things we try are bound to result in better outcomes than others, but they all lead us somewhere, and even if we fall flat, we learn something.
     Let's take risks and be willing to see how things turn out... without judgment, negativity, or self-criticism. It's utterly useless to tell ourselves that we should have known better. How should we have known? The only way to know is to try. So let's give our considered inclinations a chance and be gentle with ourselves if they don't turn out exactly the way we hope. They always turn out somehow, and we continue to grow.

I am not stopped by not-knowing. I am willing to try things, and it's ok if everything I try is not a raging success. That's how it's supposed to be.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

POSITIVE MOVEMENT

     If we want to be successful in changing our bad habits, we have to do more than push up against them with disciplined resistance. We have to learn to make the choice for the change we want rather than against the old behavior. It's a matter of changing our approach and perspective. We have to steer ourselves in a positive direction. Otherwise, we set ourselves up for self-sabotage and ultimate failure.
     It's not about what we can't do anymore and poor, poor us. It's about what we can do if we make the change- about what's possible and not what's expedient. Lasting change takes time to integrate. It's little bits at a time; small, steady efforts in a positive direction over and over and over. It's re-training the brain and the body, and making adjustments to our system of beliefs.
     We are all following trails of crumbs to some destination or another. We can follow them to fulfillment and happiness or we can follow them to spiritual imprisonment and desperation. Let's be honest about what direction we're moving in and carefully consider our next step, and the one after that. Where are we headed, and what do we choose?

Instead of running away from the things I don't want, and resisting them with fear and rigidity, I change my perspective and learn how to move steadily in a positive direction.