In anticipation of Christmas it's important for me to pause for a moment and consider the meaning of the holiday, and to clarify my hopes and intentions. I consciously open my heart to let the love in. I become willing to receive gracefully and to give without expectations. I invite joy and hospitality and patience and grace into my being. I welcome the songs and the lights and the presents and good food. I express gratitude for my family, and the people who love me, and for the people who I love. I pray for good humor and serenity, and to be an instrument of peace. I vow to let be what is, and to let the day and the week unfold as it will, free from my interference, and free from my complaint. I welcome Christmas and the whole range of emotions that it brings. I welcome it absolutely and with joy.
I open my heart and my spirit to the grateful loving energy of Christmas.
Subtle but powerful energy runs through us and around us. If we could see it, it might appear like heat waves over a desert highway in the summertime; sometimes smooth and flowing like a wide river, and sometimes choppy like whitecaps. Our personal energy, and the energy of those around us, can be radiant or diminished, clear or cloudy, loving or vengeful, hot or cool. It is constantly shifting. Laughter shifts it, as does anger, exercise, food, conversation, stress, delight, and all of the vagary currents of life. This energy affects us deeply, every day, in every way, even if we are not necessarily aware of it. It is this subtle energy that we feel when we are suspicious of someone, or repelled by them, attracted, or calmed.
I believe it's an important part of our life journey to bring consciousness to the presence of this energy in ourselves, in others, in nature, and in everything living in the world. We can raise our sensitivity to it. We can check in with it inside of ourselves and feel it buzzing and tingling, or flat and lacking inspiration.
This subtle energy, the life-force energy, call it "chi" or "prana" or whatever you will, I understand to be the manifestation of the divine within us, and as such, there may be nothing more valuable that we could turn our attention to- not finances or clothing or being right. Let's experience it in all of its flavors and colors! Let's awaken to the experience of the living life force within us!
I feel energy within me and in others. I feel it shift and move. I pay attention. I am awake and aware.
How can we possibly feel happy if someone we love is suffering? It feels like the worst kind of betrayal. We are sure that we too must suffer, and we do. But perhaps, we do not truly honor them by piggy-backing on their hard time. Perhaps, the best way to demonstrate our compassion is by remaining solid in our peace and love, by continuing to enjoy the pleasures life affords us, and by being present- absolutely and completely present- to listen, or entertain, or just to sit; to not become so flustered and discombobulated ourselves that we cannot be of service.
When people we love have lost their anchor and are bobbing around unsure, the thing they need is not for us to pull up our own anchor and bob about with them in sympathy, but to stay rooted and reach out.
I respond to the suffereing of others with earthed energy. I do not react with impulsive fears and frenzies that match their own.
I acknowledge the sorrow in life as well as its joys. For every heartful of gratitude and grace, there is an equal portion of hardship and loss. They exist together like the rises and dips of waves. And we all experience both and will again. We all have our share of happiness and grief.
And yet, even as we experience the flooding swells of sadness for ourselves and the ones we love as we travel the path of loss, there is a certain somber beauty in the experience. And mixed with our ecstatic joy is a soft but lingering sorrow. And just as the deep ache of our primal grief feels as if it will consume us utterly, it recedes like the tide. And joy fills us up so that we feel we will always be full with it, and then it empties. Both of them ebb and flow and life goes on.
Over time, the rushing surges of grief become more gradual, and we learn to assimilate our losses. But it's important to recognize that we are sad still in subtle ways, for all of the myriad of our accumulated grief, and that our sadness has a place in us. It cannot be pushed out with forced gaiety or affirmations or cheer. It recedes, and joy floods forth. And today's bursting joy becomes dull and foggy, but the echo of it lives on in us and has its place. Both of them come and go, and come and go. Joy rises and sadness recedes, and then sadness rises. In the experience of one is the shadow of the other. And each have their part in the rhythm of life.
I honor the sadness in me as well as the joy. Together they make me whole.
I have some ability to manage my level of physical resilience with my mind and the thoughts that I think. Recently, I have been kneeling to stretch my clients on the new gym floor which is ridiculously hard, even with padding for protection. The hardness has felt like a personal affront to me and I have been resisting it in every way. It doesn't make sense to me that a floor in a gym should be so hard, but it is, and there's nothing I can do about it being that way. Stubbornly, I have not altered my routine at all, thinking I can somehow force it to be comfortable. Not surprisingly, my knees have been bothering me, and I have righteously blamed my pain on the wretched floor.
And then, yesterday, it occurred to me, as I watched someone my age doing explosive jumps on the same floor, that maybe my knees could handle it after all, and that maybe they were tougher than I thought. I realized suddenly that I was being a bit precious about them... and other things too lately- my elbows and hips- certain muscles. I have been a bit of a scaredy-cat about hurting myself and feeling potential pain.
So I made a mental decision to toughen up, to trust my knees to be ok, and to trust my body to do the work I have trained it to do. I have put in the time and effort to build physical strength in myself, and balance, and flexibility, and endurance. And then lately, like a guy who owns a muscle-car and always keeps it in the garage covered with a cloth, I have been afraid to drive.
But I need not be. It's my mind stopping me more than my body. I am ok, and the floor and my knees and elbows and all of it are ok. And here's the proof: as soon as I made the decision to trust my knees on the hard floor, they stopped hurting. So how about that? The thoughts I have about my body can be a powerful ally, or my worst enemy. I need to remember that I have a choice.
I stop talking myself into physical aches and pains and trust my body to be well.
In our fast-paced, achievement-driven culture, I think we regularly undervalue the feminine. We're all about the masculine virtues of action and pride, of pushing and striving and manifesting, and not so much about the soft and quiet, the under-spoken and gentle, the compassionate and intuitive. When considering these attributes, I am not thinking about men and women, per se, but more about the combination of masculine and feminine energy that resides in each of us. As a culture, we are more about the masculine, for both sexes, and I believe that our devaluation of the feminine is a great loss for us all.
Let's lose our hard edges and allow ourselves to be gentle, both with ourselves, and others. Let's be nurturing. Let's wrap ourselves up with love and good mothering and the wisdom of the crone. Let's give birth to ourselves fresh in the coming new year and encourage our own stumbling first steps. Let's embrace feminine fortitude, for there is something strong and resilient in us that is different from our active, masculine strength if we will only call upon it. It is deep and quiet and life-sustaining. Let's be balanced and whole and remember that we are all made beautifully of both yin and yang. We are not one or the other exclusively. We are illumined and shadowy, active and receptive, male and female. We are the perfect combination, and the perfect mix.
I value the quiet and enduring feminine energy in me, and in the world. I slow down and embrace what is soft in me, and gentle, what is intuitive, and endlessly compassionate.
Our inability to understand the future rippling effect of a horrific happening that we are currently enduring is a liability to our gratitude. But the truth is that things always work out somehow, and that what seems initially bad often ends up being good. We grow through our adversities. They make us stretch and become right sized in relationship to the universal mystery. And our scar tissue is exceptionally strong.
In my life, events that I was sure were the worst possible thing have turned out to be great blessings, and the most difficult people have been my best teachers. If I were to consider what is happening now in my life, whatever it may be, by my understanding of the way things have turned out in the past, I would have no fear. I would be full of trusting curiosity. But I'm not, or not always. I seem to revert to an expectation of punishment and disaster.
I want to become ever more grounded and solid in the faith that all is well, and all is always well, and happening on time, and for a reason, and that it's all going to be just what it's supposed to be. If it's tough, if it's dark, if it feels impossible, then what blessing! I will grow in depth. I want to have the gratitude while it's happening instead of only in the looking back. I want to have that kind of faith and that kind of trust. I want to know and believe all the way down to my core that whatever happens is going to be ok, and going to be ok with me. I want to trust the process beyond a shadow of a doubt.
I catch myself freaking out over something that's going on in my life and remember that all is happening exactly as it's supposed to and right on time. I am willing to be ok with things the way they are.
The longer I live, the sillier the whole human experience strikes me. We judge others pretending we have not done exactly the same thing we condemn, or forgetting that we have. We trip and fumble all the time, in a myriad of ways, and yet we pull ourselves up and act as if we have never stumbled at all. We worry fretfully over the future as if our worrying will give us control. We do not admit to our crazy thinking or to any darkness within us. We take ourselves seriously and put on quite a good show.
Being able to laugh at ourselves and at life may be one of the most important features of a satisfying life experience. It's vitalizing to call a spade a spade, and to be able to smile at our futile efforts and social posturing, our fragile egos, our false prides, and our false humilities. It seems to me that authentic living has to include a sense of humor. Without one we are kidding ourselves that we have more importance in the world than we actually have.
I do believe it's true, however, that our power runs deeper than we know and in ways that we rarely acknowledge. And that it's not about running companies or controlling a fortune or being famous or loud, but about having a spiritual aliveness inside of us that reaches beyond the level of human experience and human drama, and is pure light and tingling energy. It functions against all odds and thrives in the most unlikely of places. It's in laughter and smiles and surrender to the mysteries of life. It's letting them be what they are and not needing to push and shove and force our half-blind will.
It's the power of love, and it's easy and gentle light demands nothing of us. It flows through us and frees us from rigidity and heavy, serious living... if we will only open to it, if we will only let it flow through our laughter and our bright eyes.
I acknowledge and enjoy my part in the silliness of human drama.
Being hungry makes me edgy and internally restless, and too much coffee does the same thing. Sometimes I am unaware of what's wrong with me; only that I feel crawly and emotionally itchy. I want to squirm and stretch. Lingering in the background is an urgency, a desire to be somewhere other than I am. It's a bit desperate and a bit exasperated.
It's incredible to me that all of the discomfort that I feel can be corrected by eating something, or by drinking a great big glass of water. But if I do not connect the dots, and do not understand what is going on with me, my restlessness can utterly overtake me such that I snap. Keeping a tab on my blood sugar and caffeine levels is a must if I want to feel calm.
I don't go too long without eating or over-drink coffee. I maintain a healthy blood sugar balance so that I can remain steady emotionally no matter what life throws at me.
It's easy to get caught up in a moment and make allowances for things without properly considering the cost of our choice. We make a split-second decision to act against our better judgment, figuring that just this one time, surely, it can't hurt. We have a sense of being invincible- that we can lift something ridiculously heavy, or stay up all night, or get soaking wet in freezing weather with no way to dry off, or over-eat desserts.
But the piper comes and he always demands his pay. It may seem that we have "gotten away" with something, that we have skirted through completely free of negative consequence. We feel smug and righteous. So no one is more surprised than we are when the bill comes and the dues have to be paid. We wonder how it happened. We feel unhappy and full of regret. We thought we had escaped. We thought we had gotten off scott free. Sometimes it's sooner and sometimes later, but the dues for our choices always have to be paid in the end.
Let's refrain from impulsive action and remember that for every decision we make there is a consequence. Poor decisions exact a high cost.
I am uncomfortable when I am mentally scattered. A lack of focus makes me inefficient. I begin one thing, intending to have it be simple, and then it leads to something else and something else. What starts as sweeping the kitchen foor becomes a whole house overhaul- changing beds and doing volumes of laundry and dusting and decorating... and all the while, the plan I had for my time has gotten derailed and I feel frazzled for not doing what I had set out to do, and a bit of panic as I see the clock moving onward and the day wearing away. Re-grouping becomes difficult. Half-way through multiple projects, it doesn't feel possible to just stop and start over. I have to finish what I began before I can move on.
Maybe my error is in having the initial plan. Maybe I'd feel better if I could just let the unstructured time unfold itself instead of my having to impose structure all over it. Maybe that's the lesson and the hope for emotional restoration. I can pause in all the activity and take a deep breath. I can lie down and take a nap. I can sit in the sunshine for five minutes. I can shift the energy of scatter. I can re-group internally. That's probably the only place where things are as scattered as they feel anyway. The external stuff is just stuff. I've given it power and importance that it doesn't actually hold.
I always have a choice for inner quiet, though it doesn't always feel like I have a choice. I am so good at creating little duststorms of flurried activity and mental anguish. I think I have to move faster to make it stop... that getting every single little thing done will make it stop... but the only thing is to stop me, to sit for five minutes and remember what I'm all about, and what matters. Then I can move on refreshed, and full of better, calmer, more stable energy; energy which is actually far more productive in the end.
I catch myself in an internally frantic mode and stop moving. I restore balance and perspective before I continue with my day.
Whether we admit it or not, we are all alive and living not by our wit, or even our intuition, but entirely by grace. Our lives are fragile and tentative beyond our wildest imaginations, and can be taken from us in an instant for no particularly good reason. When our time is up, it's up, and we have no control over when and how. We can eat well and exercise and take good care of ourselves, the best care we possibly can, and we might increase our chances for longevity, and we can definitely increase the quality of our lives, but death comes anyway, and sometimes under the most unlikely circumstances. Freak accidents happen everyday.
So life is a gift, and one that we cannot take for granted. It's naive to expect that we have years ahead of us in which to make better choices and pursue our dreams. We can't wait to be kind, to be forgiving, to show our love. If we want to be loving, we have to be loving now... or fit, or gentle, or well-read. This is the time- this day. This is the day we have. This is the body we have, and the life.
Let's be grateful for all that we are given, for all the blessings, and the beating of our hearts. Let's treat ourselves and everyone we encounter with appreciation. Let's treat our houses and the earth with appreciation. Let's bubble over with thanksgiving for the grace that keeps us going and allows for all possibility. Let's make the most of it. Let's wake up and enjoy the day.
I don't know about tomorrow or next week or five years from now. I appreciate this day.
We don't always have to be right in the middle of everything, all caught up in the drama and the fray. It's ok to step back and be an observer, of our own chaos as well as the chaos of others. It doesn't make us callous or unfeeling. It gives us objective perspective and a sense of humor and freedom from angst. We can be the observer of life in small ways as well as big ways. The distance and presence we create by mentally and emotionally stepping back is the key to wisdom and internal peace. It demonstrates curiosity about the nature of things and people, and a certain humility in the recognition that we don't have the power to change nearly the things we think we do.
My husband shared his stampede analogy with me yesterday, which I think speaks beautifully to this point. If a stampede is coming across the plains, we might feel an internal thrill as we puff out our chest and resolve to stand tall against it, or do whatever we have to do to survive- curl up in a ball, climb a tree, hop on the back of the traveling herd... But it's entirely possible, even though we resolve to stand up against it, that we may not be able to. It is a stampede after all. We could get flattened, or seriously injured. And what horror either way to be amongst the crush of hooves and galloping! But we could step out of the way. We could feel the distant vibration in the earth and get ourselves to high ground. And from there, we could watch with fascination and relief.
Just so, we have a choice whether to participate in emotional stampedes with our families and friends and the people who populate our worlds; and to participate in our own mental stampedes of worry and fear. We can move to high ground. We can watch and wait and be curious. From high ground we can see when the danger has passed and it's safe again to move around.
I am willing to be an observer of life's drama, and my own. I can step back and watch and wait. I don't have to be in the middle of it all pushing against the fray.
"Yes, but" are slippery words. We agree to something with reservations. If there is a "but" clause, perhaps we had just better say "no" instead. We want to have it both ways by saying yes with conditions, but that's not entirely straight up. Yes is a complete sentence and a complete thought. So is no. If our "yes" or our "no" is actually a "maybe," we need to say so.
The "but" caveat is our allowance to whine, to complain, to make sure it's known that we are willing to do something but we are not happy about it. There's a "poor me" echo in "yes, but." It's dishonest in a way. It's not a real yes.
The world is confusing because we are all so frequently unclear about our meaning. We tell people what we think they want to hear instead of telling them the truth. Let's bring awareness and care to what we are saying. Let's say "yes" when we mean "yes," and "no" when we mean "no." It sounds simple but it's not. We confuse the two all the time, and end up bitter and resentful. We feel used and misunderstood, but the error is in us. We have to be careful not to send mixed messages.
I avoid saying "yes, but." I say "yes" instead, or "no," or "maybe." I bring awareness to the words I use and I say what I mean.
I used to hate Christmas. There were always things about it that I enjoyed, but they were trumped by the incredible pressure I felt over so much to do. I have twins that were born December 28th, so when they were young I felt the need to do Gala Birthday parties in addition to Christmas, and to send cards to practically everyone I'd ever known, and bake cookies and decorate them meticulously, and hand-make presents, and orchestrate enormous and complicated surprises for everyone on my list. By the time I got to New Years I was a shell of myself- pushed beyond every reasonable limit- fat, exhausted, and utterly sick of celebrating. I used to gripe about the commercialism and the crowds, the music and decorations coming too entirely early, and I felt irritated by all kinds of things to do with Christmas. I took on a kind of poor-me martyr role over all of my self-imposed have-tos.
I always wanted to simplify things, but I never knew how. I didn't want to disappoint anyone so I overdid on every front. But as my children have grown, and I have grown up a bit myself, I am learning to welcome the soft beauty of Christmas, and feel the festivity of the music, and lights, and decorations, without any of the old pressure.
If I slow down enough to feel and appreciate it, this is a magical time of year. And what we are celebrating after all is the birth of love and forgiveness in our world. What joy in that! And I truly enjoy all of the Christmas songs and age-old hymns, the lights, the pretty wrappings and ribbons, the colors of Christmas and the good food and traditions. It's a sensational feast every day of the month. Christmas is not just a day, it's a season. Let's be joyful and playful and patient and appreciative for the whole thing! Let's not miss any of it with pressure or angst. Let's go with the flow and enjoy every bit of the ride.
I feel the spirit of Christmas within me, and carry it there every day of the season. I am filled up with love!
Some mornings I pop out of bed full of energy and ready for the adventure of the day. Other mornings come less easily. It is an effort to get up and get moving. I'm like a fire that has gone a bit too far into the ember stage overnight, and requires extra twigs and billowing to re-ignite. And like the fire, there is a bit of smokiness at first, and stubborn refusal to burst forth. But eventually, the flame rises and the smoke receeds and I am off and running yet again.
When motivation is lacking, the only approach I know is to keep on moving, to go through the go through, to do the next right thing, and then the next, the best I can, even if my brain is murky, even if my muscles ache. And inevitably, the spirit engages, and energy rises within, and I warm into the day in stages, until I feel fully alive and happy yet again.
If the day comes at me hard, I just go through the motions, and trust the momentum of my movement to carry the spirit, until the spirit can take over and carry the day.
The routine of days carries us onward like leaves floating down a creek-flow. We end up down-river and wonder how we got there so soon. I worry sometimes about running out of time. I want to live consciously, and with care, savoring every moment, but there is so much I want to do. Between my work and my wants I can end up over-full of life. There's such a vast path of possibility.
It's a real challenge to learn how to determine what matters most and then to properly prioritize my hours. And to focus on the task at hand without feeling frazzled about the tasks awaiting; and making time for relaxation and laughter and good eating and exercise and intellectual stimulation and walks in the outdoors.
The limits of time make me choose my priorities everyday, and I must properly balance between choosing to do for others, and choosing to do for myself. I need to be supportive and loving, but I cannot allow myself to be sucked dry. In giving of myself, I need to recognize what is enough, and what is too much. I'm good at "too much." It's always been my forte. I am an over-achiever from way back. I'm not so good at "just enough." I can get easily depleted if I am not careful.
Understanding that I have to prioritize taking good care of myself has been a long time coming, but I am starting to appreciate why. If I am a disaster, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, or physically, then I am spilling disastrous energy into the world. But if I am properly fed and rested and steady in the knowledge that I can trust myself to care for myself, then I am spreading steady and trustworthy energy. And that's what I prefer to do.
An important part of my self-care is not rushing, and not worrying, and believing absolutely that there is time. There is time for others and time for myself, and time for work, and time for play; for dreams and achievement and lounging and sleep, for books and movies and conversation and the news; for changing moods and singing for joy, for hugs and travel and tears and faith. There is time enough for everything that matters.
I relax about having enough time for the things I want to do and the things I need to do, and for doing nothing. I enjoy the flow of days and seasons.
It's ok to change our minds. Judgments are subjective so they are meant to be dynamic, and fluid. What appears at first to be idyllic and beautiful can turn sour, and what appears sour can become beautiful. Very few things and people end up being the way they initially appear to us.
Our error may be in trying to hold fast to old judgments that no longer apply. The world is ever-changing and so are we and so are others. But we seem to resist that fact, and insist upon our certainties. We insist upon our beliefs. We make assumptions that the present situation will be the same way something similar was in the past, and affect us the same way. But it doesn't, even though we might react as if it does. And we assume people will be the same way they were in the past as well, but people can change too, and soften over time.... or harden. Perhaps life cycles around in the way it does in order to show us exactly how we have changed, for the better or the worse, if we are aware enough to even notice. Everything is variable, and relative. Everything. So there's no glory or percentage in being stubborn and unbending, hard-headed and closed-minded. Strength without flexibility is breakable, and not really worth so much in the end.
I make room in my life for changing points-of-view and allow for major shifts in my judgment from one day to the next.
We live in a world populated by all kinds of sayings, and it's a mystery where some of them originated. I am thinking particularly of the expression, "there's more than one way to skin a cat." There's great wisdom in it, but who goes around these days skinning cats?
It's true though, no matter about the cats. There's more than one way to do anything. We get so caught up thinking our way is the "right way," but it's not necessarily. It may be the right way for us. But we have to allow others their creativity and particular way of seeing things, and allow for the very real possibility that they may have a fresh perspective on the situation that could be beneficial all the way around.
It's not infrequently that I find myself shutting down someone else's idea or suggestion before it has even been fully expressed. If I have a fixed picture of something in my mind, and have made a decision about the way it's going to be, I find myself closed to additional information. I want to be done with it, done with having to think about it. I have a checklist in my brain, and once I've checked something off, I don't like to revisit it. But often there is a better way than my way, and if I am open to it, I could save a lot of trouble.
It's important for me to remember that there's more than one way to skin a cat, and that being open to all possibilities and being willing to live my life in a certain state of flux allows for the best way forward. I wonder why I am always so quick to push and struggle and force things to happen without taking additional options into consideration. I seem so anxious to form my opinion, to get things done, and to shut the door. What's my big rush?
My way is not the only way, but it's the only way that I can see. I am willing to keep an open mind, and consider input from others before making a final decision. I am willing to slow down.
If there is something to do with myself, or my past, that I am unwilling to share with others, that I feel the need to keep secret, then chances are that I have feelings of shame surrounding it, whatever it is. While I need to be appropriate and it is certainly not my place to pour my historical drama and woundings all over people, in the right setting and format, if I want to experience freedom from guilt and shame, I must be willing to own who I am and what I've done and experienced- the good, the bad, and the ugly, straight-up. If I have made peace with my past, then there is no lingering emotional weight, but if I have secret, hesitating doubts, I may have some work to do.
Why do we want others to perceive us as "pure," as untainted and all-knowing, ever-stalwart and steady? We've all made bad decisions and mistakes. We've trusted the wrong people and behaved in ways that were reprehensible, sometimes towards ourselves, and sometimes towards others. We've embarrassed ourselves, spoken when we should have remained quiet, thrown our energy in all the wrong places, been jealous, resentful, unsure, and riddled with doubt. These are the things that make us human. If we admit to them, we relate easily to others, and others to us. We can laugh at our own riduculousness. But if we keep our foibles locked up secretly inside of us, shamefully, and make the assumption that everyone else is white as snow and we alone are wrong and bad and fallible, we isolate ourselves un-necessarily.
Let's be honest about ourselves as whole people, and be ok with ouselves as we are, with all of our imperfections and limitations, and all of our past wrong-doings and crazy thoughts. Let's accept ourselves and stand square on the earth, as we are, with no guilt and no shame. Let's unburden ourselves of secrets from the past, and live free and clear and in the light of right here and right now.
Keeping secrets makes me feel shameful and sick. I have the courage to share my whole self with others. My being honest gives them permission to be honest too. We all make mistakes. That's what we are supposed to do. It's how we learn.
I find it interesting that when we seek pleasure by means of an external substance that seems enticing and romantic and full of promise, so often the very thing we seek as a solution ends up creating a problem for us instead. Initially, the enormous hot fudge sundae, or the pill, or the drink seems to be just the thing. There is a period of relief and gratitude- a momentary "aaahhhh," and a sense that all is well. But by the last bite of the indulgent dessert, a sickness settles in our belly from too much sugar and sweetness, and the booze and pills leave us head-achy, thick-tongued, and mentally fuzzy at best.
So much harm occurs under the guise of "fun." We think if we can change the conditions of life with a little chemical help (and I think if we're honest, we need to count sugar in this category) then all of our worries will be over, but the external "fix" just ends up adding to our mounting list of woes. Still, it's not instantaneous. There is that momentary fulfillment of hope, which is why external pleasure seeking is such dangerous business. It's sneaky, and seductive, and insidious. But in the end, it does nothing but rob us of its spectacular promises.
Real pleasure, it seems to me, comes from welcoming life however it comes and having the faith to trust whatever happens; finding beauty in each day's experience, and recognizing that if we are miserable, we have to make our adjustment on the inside. In the final analysis, there's no such thing as an external fix... at least, not one that lasts. "On the inside" is where it all happens. "On the inside" is the only place where real happiness lives.
I do not seek my happiness in external things. I recognize that happiness and good living are an inside job, and that inside is where I have to look for them.
I believe we are meant to honor the inclinations of our souls. One soul dreams of lounging in a hammock and living life by the sound of waves, and another is driven to extreme productivity and corporate success. One soul envisions herself dancing in the ballet, and another wants to break the Olympic record for speed skating.
Some dreams are fanciful and do not endure. They "go out" like spring fashions. But others do not "go out," and will not leave us, even if we make gallant attempts to ignore them, even if we insist that they go away because they taunt us with their seeming impossibility. These are the longings we must pay attention to. I believe they are meant to direct our path and guide the passage of our journey through life. There's something in us that is perfectly fitted to our dreams and visions, and we are meant to acknowledge it and express it and learn from the places it takes us.
So often we drown our vision with negativity and sour grapes, with alcohol, food, drama, and despair. But why not step towards it, even if we are unsure? Why not believe in ourselves for a change, and believe in possibility and hope and even miracles? What do we have to lose by trying? And what if, by our trying, we actually experience success?
I let my dreams guide my steps. I am drawn in the direction that is best suited for the evolution of my spirit, and that most honors the particular gifts I have to share.
We can do without coordination, artistic gifts, social graces, money, approval, and even intimacy, but life is a flat experience without heart. We need it. For a life worth living, we need that spirit within us that gets excited over possibilities and is tireless and scrappy and not easy giving up. It's heart that inspires us and heart that keeps us going when the chips are down. It's heart that makes us powerful beyond our widlest dreams and capable beyond all expectations. It's white hot desire and inner umph. It's The Little Engine That Could and Secretariat. It's the underdogs of the world that come from out of nowhere and blow our minds with their spirit and dedication and ability to do what they should not reasonably be able to do.
But it doesn't have to be as grand and explosive as all of that. It can be as simple as living with enthusiasm, and living beyond the level of going through the motions. There are walking dead among us. They are dis-interested in life, and victims of everything that happens. They are darkness and oozing; energy vampires. They are parasites, and do not bring anything to their own life experience. They have no enthusiasm of their own, so they suck ours from us. They lack heart. Let's not be them!
Let's get excited about something! There are choices and options and alternatives galore. The only thing that limits us is our imagination and age-old fears. Let's feel our fears and go forward anyway! Let's do the things that call to us! Let's give them a shot. We have nothing to lose and a world of experience to gain. Let's do it! Let's live with heart.
I allow myself to get excited about all of the possibilities of my life. If I feel stuck, I am willing to shake things up. I call on my heart to guide me. I invite enthusiasm and passion into my life.
It seems appropriate to take a few moments to actively practice gratitude on this Thanksgiving day, to acknowledge those things in life for which I am grateful, and to do something to demonstrate my level of appreciation. It is not enough to simply feel grateful, although it's a good start. If I appreciate my car, I can keep it clean, and properly maintained. If I appreciate my health, I can take care to eat well and get enough sleep, and to stretch and exercise and not over-do. The way I behave towards things and people shows my appreciation for them, or my disregard.
If I declare my gratitude but do not demonstrate it through action, it lacks sincerity; much like saying "I'm sorry," for something and then repeating the behavior I have just apologized for. If I am truly sorry, the point is to change my behavior, and if I am truly grateful, the point is to express my gratitude in action.
I am blessed in so many ways, but today, I am especially grateful for having a home. I have always had a place to live, and the locations and structures have been pleasant and frustrating in varying degrees, but never before have I felt the support of roots beneath me and solid love behind me that I now feel. And by contributing my loving part to those who share this space and this place, I demonstrate my deep appreciation. I cannot give enough love for all the appreciation I feel.
I give thanks for my life's blessings and show my appreciation through action.
Every so often, I think it's healthy to get soaked in the rain. When I don't resist it, the rain feels cleansing. And it's a wonderful exercise in surrendering to just let it get me wet. I went for a walk yesterday and it was misting. The air was damp, but chilly and fresh, and invigorating. I imagined I could have been walking in England. I enjoyed the fog and the wet world smells. And then it began to rain with much steadier intention, and I had an initial reactive "oh no" response.
I began by wishing I had thought to bring an umbrella, or a different coat, or a hat. And I considered that I was too far from home to be able to rush back and stay mostly dry. So there was nothing for it but to walk on and let the rain fall all over me and drip in my eyes, which I did. It was a wetness progression. My hair got wet first, and my face, and the front of my jacket. And then slowly, I began to feel it through my bluejeans, and seeping through my sneakers.
I watched with amusement as Boss, our German Shepard puppy, leaped and splashed through every puddle and rivulet of water that he could find, and got himself covered in mud. Part of me wanted to make him stop so I wouldn't have to deal with cleaning him up, but I couldn't bring myself to discipline him for expressing his spirit and having such fun. I figured I could learn a bit about the whole experience by sharing in his joy.
We collapsed together on a rug in the laundry room when we got home and toweled off. He shook and wrestled with me and bit at the towel. And when we were done, I gave him a treat, and I changed clothes, and ran a load of laundry. And I felt good. I was warm and dry, but I had been out in the weather and had experienced the full element of the afternoon. I was happy for my water loving partner, and that we had shared a rain-soaking walk.
I experience the outdoors and am not afraid to get dirty or wet. I catch myself saying no to something that sounds like fun just because it might be messy, and say yes instead.
Complacency, entitlement, and boredom are kissing cousins, and all of them the enemy of gratitude and compassion. There are few postures more unattractive than complacency. It is disinterest at its loudest, a kind of jaded snobbery that belittles everything in its path. And entitlement is much the same. It seems to say, "I'm important and you are not." And it is the complacent and entitled who are "bored."
Gratitude is never bored. Gratitude sees beauty and possibility in everything. It is expansive and all-embracing. It is satisfied and content. Gratitude has compassion for complacency and understands it as an unhappy internal position, a lingering view of deprivation. Gratitude focuses on abundance instead. It is big-hearted and forgiving.
Let's walk the path of gratitude starting now and going forth. Let's want what we have and appreciate whatever comes. Let's be bigger than complacency, bigger than entitlement, and bigger than boredom. Let's celebrate the bountiful harvest of our every day life experience.
I wake every morning with fresh eyes and an open heart. I am full of wonder and gratitude for my life.
Although I do believe in shades of grey, it seems to me that fundamentally everything in life is driven by one of two emotions, either love, or fear. And I don't think that fear is the absence of love so much as it is love that is blocked by an error in perception. So, in the end, perhaps everything is simply love- everything. We are either expressing love or expressing our being blocked from love. We are like a channel or a pipeline, and when we are clear, love flows through us like light through a window. We feel hopeful and grateful. We feel joy and happiness. We are playful, and patient, and enjoying our life.
And then we become blocked from love, all too frequently- by disappointment and dashed expectations, by hurt and pain and financial fear, by critical judgment of ourselves and others. When we are blocked, love cannot move through us, and we feel nothing but darkness and emotional murk.
We are all varying levels of clear and blocked- some of us easier to clear than others, and some of us so accustomed to being blocked that it has become a way of life to be miserable. We are all like a garden and easily over-taken with weeds and vines and out-of-control growth. With attention and time, and the desire to clean things up, we can all be clear, but it takes regular maintenence and all the honesty we have within us. We have to be willing to look, and to see, and to cut things away. We have to pare back and uproot and fortify what we want to grow stronger.
Let's be honest about what energy we are expressing. Are we loving? Or are we blocked? And if we are blocked, what can we clear away to open ourselves to the light once again?
I tend to my inner garden and I am willing to do some weeding and neaten things up so that I can feel clear and full of light.
We all have a set of unspoken rules that we live by, rules that we have accepted somewhere along the way and never questioned. We do things a certain way because that's how we have always done them. We rarely stop to think if there might be a better way. It's another example of our unconsciousness in action.
A friend of mine tells the story of a tradition in her family that lasted for generations. Whenever a ham was baked in the oven, both ends would be cut away making it rather squared off. When someone finally asked why hams were always prepared this way, no one knew. After a bit of research, it was discovered that many years before, in the great-grandmotherly generation, the first fateful ham was cut and squared off to fit in a roasting pan that was not quite big enough....
Let's question our assumptions and be willing to be honest about worn-old ruts of habits in our lives. Let's be open to change, and learning, and all that is fresh and new and available to us, no matter our age or situation.
I bring awareness to the rules I live by and am willing to question them. Do they all make sense in the context of my present-day life?
The first time I ever heard about the concept of "enlightenment," it was something I wanted. As a result, my life as a young adult became a quest for spiritual knowledge. I learned how to work with the subtle energies of the body, and I tried meditation on cushions, and experimented with all kinds of esoteric practices. I got into pendulums and Tarot cards. I played with numerology and the phases of the moon. And I thought for a long time that there was spiritual value in mind expanding drugs as well, and vision quests, and shamanic journeying, and crystals, and sweat lodges, and anything and everything that appealed to me metaphysically. Anything and everything have been a part of my path.
And then, one afternoon, a few years ago, I was sitting at a traffic light having just left a group meditation session, and a profound thought occurred to me: a question. What if enlightenment wasn't something to "seek" out there in the future after all, some crowning glory of a life well lived, butsomething possible and available to me every minute of every day? What if it was a way of seeing and a way of being, and it was as simple as that? What if it was nothing more than pure unadulterated awareness free from mental noise? I felt peaceful, and joyful, serene and amused.
How complicated I make everything so un-necessarily! I apply my intellect and judgment, and logic and good sense. And so often, the very answer I seek, the thing I most long for, is right in front of me, and too obvious for me to believe.
What simple truth am I not seeing? I defer my opinions and intellect and enjoy all of life's small pleasures.
If it were raining and I decided that I didn't want it to rain, that the rain didn't suit my mood or coordinate with my plan for the day, I could step outside and try to straighten things out. I could have a conversation with the sky. I could say, "Please stop, rain. You are coming down too hard and too fast and you are ruining the possibility for all of the outdoor activities I was going to do today. Surely, you understand how I feel, and will stop for me, especially since I am asking so nicely."
And then, when the rain continued on, I could up the ante. I could raise my voice and say, "That's it! I tried being nice. Now, I'm angry and you need to stop. Listen to me or else!" And then, when the rain continued on, I could stomp my feet. I could scream louder and throw things at the sky, or burst into tears and plead pitifully. Surely, if I just threw a big enough fit, the rain would have to stop... or would it?
The example may seem silly, but isn't that what we do all the time with people in our lives whose behavior we want to change? We are sure that if we ask in just the right way, if we master the correct approach, then we can get what we want. But we have no more control over the behavior of other people than we do over the rain. If we want peace of mind, then we have to accept the weather and people as they are, and adjust ourselves to what is, instead of insisting fruitlessly that everything out there has to adjust itself to suit us.
I recognize the futility of my frustration over the way certain things and people simply are. I stop battling what is beyond my control and work on adjusting my attitude.
I move so quickly from assurance, from confidence and comfort, to fear. I can be enjoying every aspect of my life, full of gratitude and a wholesome sense that all is well, and with one small alteration to my plan or expectation, my mind flips to catastrophe. I go from believing that everything is great to feeling sure that I won't be able to survive. And I am capable of doing this multiple times in the course of a single day.
When I have landed on the fear-side, I talk myself back to faith. I coax and re-assure and am slowly restored to well-being. I relax and feel happy and hopeful again. And then something triggers me, and like a gun-shot, I am off again, and again...
I'm tired of feeling the fear. I know intellectually that everything always works out. My whole life has proven that to be true. And yet, I want to fix things before they are even broken. I want to fix things in advance that could break, to save myself the trouble down the line. I want guarantees on my own terms, and somehow get to thinking that everything in its entirety is up to me. I forget that other people are in the mix, and God, and time, and the unseen and unknown web of life. My expectation of disaster and punishment is no more realistic or practical than my expectation of a smooth ride with no problems. Things will happen that are surprisingly pleasant, and things will happen that are surprisingly challenging, but through it all I will grow and learn and become ever more forgiving of myself and others and life in general.
What happens is not up to me, even if I think it is. There are other factors involved that I cannot foresee or understand. So I can let go of what I can't hold onto anyway, and continue to remind myself as many times as it takes that it's faith I want to focus on, and not fear.
I catch myself flip-flopping from feeling good to feeling afraid, and bring myself back to feeling good. I am patient and gentle with the slow process of learning that it's not for me to make everything perfect in my life or the lives of those I love. There's always more to it than just me. I can relax and enjoy the ride.
I find it interesting that sometimes in a retail establishment, in an effort to make a sale, the clerk will try to convince me that something I am objecting to is unobjectionable, thereby making me wrong, and second-guessing my own self-knowledge. One time I tried on a jacket and it was a bit tight across the back and the sleeves were too short when I extended my arms. I was told that it shouldn't matter because I wasn't going to be walking around pushing my arms forward. And I could wear it with a thin shirt. Seriously? And responses like this in the modern world happen frequently. We are told we should be satisfied with things that are clearly unsatisfying. Doctor's offices come to mind, and cell phone companies... There is so much in what people tell us we should believe that simply doesn't make any sense.
And yet, is it possible that without even thinking, we do the same thing to others? When someone tells us they don't want something, a simple "no thanks," we often think they should want it, so we check again, and double-check. "Are you sure?" We try to convince them that maybe they do want it, after all, or that they feel a certain way that they have told us they don't feel. We're not very good about honoring what people tell us and believing they mean what they say.
We are too busy, too frenetic, and not mindful enough to really listen and pay attention. Starting now, when someone tells me "no" I am going to respect that, and not second-guess it out of habit thinking that I know better. Let's honor each other, and let everybody speak for him/herself. If we do that, the same consideration will be shown to us, and that's the way it is supposed to be. We learn, when we are very small, to use our voices so that we can be heard.
I don't let others talk me into doing or consuming things that I don't really want to do or consume. And I will refrain from attempting to convince them in the same way.
If I have a big idea, it's often difficult to explain it to people succinctly, so I find it a useful exercise to take pen to paper and write the thoughts down. They begin by being general and scattered, a little bit of this, a lot of that, some here, more there, a pile in the middle. With effort and attention, I can condense the scatter and narrow it down. And then repeat the process, and repeat it again. After a handful of reductions, my real purpose begins to emerge, and eventually, it gets so that I can state my big idea in one concise sentence.
If I find myself confused and befuddled in my emotions, I can do the same thing. I can reduce and reduce and reduce. I can take the time to get to the root of the root, the seed of truth, and the source of all of my distraction. In attempting to be clear and to easily understand, as in so many other realms of life, less is inevitably more, and simple is best.
I simplify my thoughts and emotions. I say what I mean.
We have a German Shepard puppy named Boss, and he has all kinds of puppy energy, but something about him is grounding for me nonetheless. If I crouch down, he comes and leans into me, and his body is strong and solid and the feel of his weight and his bulk makes me feel safe. He is beautiful, striking, smart, and loyal. I have a sense that in the big picture and the final analysis, that it's him who will keep an eye on me and protect me rather than the other way around.
Safety is something we under-rate a bit in life I think. At least, I always have. But without it, it's hard to rise up to our potential. If our world is filled with chaos and drama, with scatter and discombobulation everywhere we look; if there is nothing earthed and grounded and solid, then we cannot help but falter emotionally, and in every way, and struggle with feelings of being unsure about the way we are and the way the world is.
But with a solid base, I can grow steadily and with confidence. I am rooted deep and secure. I can travel and adventure and explore broadly knowing that I have a safe place to come home to, a place where I am protected, where my best interests matter, and where I am supported by love.
I am grateful for the solid people and things in my life that make me feel safe. They give me a foundation and a place to return to after adventuring in the world. They are true north and home base. They support me as I grow.
We have a choice about the way we identify ourselves to others. It's up to us what we emphasize about our life experience. We can be workers first and foremost, or parents, or children, or expressive about our passions or our fears. We can be victims of all of our historical hardship, or victims by association. There's a certain creative license in the way we describe ourselves.
I am a Personal Trainer, a Massage Therapist, a lover of life and nature, a writer, an athlete, a mother of seventeen year old twins, and married to a real-by-God cowboy. I am earthy, creative, the youngest in my family, well-educated, intellectual, and from a privileged background... but I am also unreasonably afraid of snakes, in recovery, over-apologetic, co-dependent, the daughter of an alcoholic, the survivor of abusive relationships, the sister of a mentally ill and suicidal woman, and the ex-wife of an essentially homeless and dysfunctional man. I can choose the spin I like.
Do I seek pity with my labels, or is my purpose to spread a bit of joy? Do I want to appear strong, or weak, or completely average? Do I want people to be impressed with me? Or afraid of me? Or jealous? What message am I sending into the world by the way I define myself to others? It's worth considering.
It seems to me that our life experience is our "story," but not really who we are. Who we are has more to do with our character than the things we have survived. If we throw our traumas before us when we meet people, we may miss an opportunity to be helpful down the line. If we introduce ourselves with our names only, and allow our energy to speak for itself, then we allow others the opportunity to get to know us as we are, free from our scars. And then over time, as our relationship evolves, we can slowly share a bit of our past. We are all survivors of something. It seems great strength to me when I learn that someone I like and respect has been through something horrific and does not lead with it, does not let it define them. They take it in stride and that gives me permission to take my stuff in stride too, and realize that life is life. I am alive, first and foremost, in this day. I have a fresh start. I am not a victim or a survivor today. I am simply here, and ready to experience whatever comes. I needn't weigh the day or my spirit down with hurts and definitions from the past.
I am bigger than my history and bigger than my wounds and suffering. Every day I have a fresh start and I am swept clean. I can live free from the definitions of my past.
My experience of the day is a direct reflection of my internal state. If I feel good, everything externally seems beautiful and inspired. I have patience and humor and am able to take things in stride, even difficult things. And the opposite is true as well. If I am over-indulged; if I am harried with the tyranny of the urgent, and overwhelmed with loose ends, then the world is a place of stress and hardship, and does not seem particularly friendly. I see people trying to take advantage of me, and cruelty, and ugliness. I am not amused by anything. My life, and everything to do with it, feels serious and heavy, almost unbearable.
I far prefer the lighter approach, but it's not always the one I choose. Still, I have learned to take note of my darkening mood, and to recognize that it has nothing to do with anything going on outside of me. If I am miserable, I need to look inwardly. I need to sit quietly and get honest. I need to get right with myself and square up whatever part of me has shifted askew. And if I do that sooner rather than later, my vision is restored and I can see clearly that life has never changed, that the change has all happened inside of me.
If I am disturbed and disgruntled, I have a definite role in the drama and I need to identify my part so that I can stop playing it out. Over some things I have no control. But when it comes to my experience of life, I have choices and the power to change my perspective at anytime. I can choose gratitude and patience and forgiveness and love. I can ease up all over. I can ease up on myself, on others, and on everything that happens. And if I do, I will feel instantaneous relief.
I don't blame others or the world for my problems. I take ownership of the way I am experiencing my life.
We are like the mountains, or the surface of a country pond; ever-changing depending on the light and the weather and the growing age of trees and grasses. Sometimes the mountains are smooth and solid looking, blue, or black, or smoky grey, and sometimes they are textured. Late in the afternoon, when shadows stretch across the ridges, it's almost as if they have wrinkles, or folds in them. And the surface of ponds can be like glass, reflecting all the surrounding plant life like a mirror, or rough and choppy if the wind is brisk.
Aren't we like that too? Our moods and faces change from the morning to the afternoon, and we are never exactly the same from one day, from one moment, to the next. Our weight fluctuates. Our skin loosens. Our eyes are clear or murky. Our wrinkles evolve. And as we shift our perspective on things, we can be clouded and dark like the mountains at night, or crisp and linear the way they rise from the horizon at first light.
I think we have an expectation that we can achieve a certain "look" that we are pleased with, and then maintain it exactly that way forever. But our bodies and our faces are an ongoing process. There is a daily view, ever-fresh, dynamic, and interesting; We are as curious and wonderful to live with as the mountains, that never look the same, and are always beautiful and new.
I am fascinated by facial expressions and the way we all change visually from day to day, and morning to afternoon, like the mountains, or the surface of a pond.
There are few things more uncomfortable or stressful than knowing that something in our lives or in ourselves isn't working and we need to change, but not being willing to change... yet. The wrestling status- the deal making, denial, pretend measures, and the self-deceipt are excruciating. We are successful convincing ourselves for a time that all is well, but there comes a point where we can no longer justify ourselves to ourselves no matter what spin we put on it.
Living in this state of discomfort, knowing that change is called for but resisiting it with all that we have, we function on a short fuse. We are irritable and self-pitying. We want to be free of our pain and our angst, but we just want it to go away. We don't want to have to do anything. Anger lurks in us. On some level, we know what's required, but we are unwilling. When pushed, we lash out with a fierce, and raging defense.
And yet, for all our battle and struggle, the moment we stop kidding ourselves and agree to do whatever it is that we need to do, our relief is extraordinary. We are relieved of the burden of dishonesty and resistance, and the path before us shines clear. We step forth free of all that has been loading us down and holding us back. In the end, there's nothing for it but to let go, to embrace the tough decision and accept the journey forth. There's nothing for it but to surrender to the truth of what is.
I am honest about what's not working in my life. I stop fighting and resisiting and trying to make the wrong direction right by my sheer stubborn-ness. I am willing to change.
Two qualities that are largely missing from our modern American culture are graciousness and courtesy. We are the "me" generation, and all of us grabby and insecure. We are too busy, too stressed, too overwhelmed, and too preoccupied to take the extra moment and consideration required to be polite and genteel with the variety of people that we encounter in our day.
We surround ourselves with the fortress of technology, with smart phones and ipads. We can't be bothered with civility. We have cellular business to conduct and texts to return. We have to tweet, and update our status online. It seems a sad state of affairs. We are missing human connections in our lives that could lift our spirits and lighten our loads.
Let's be kind. Let's be considerate. Let's open doors and take note of the people we pass and interact with. Let's use our manners and open our hearts. Let's be ladies and gentlemen, starting right now and going forth into the future. Let's restore courtesy to our lives and experience the joys of living with grace.
I take the time to be courteous, and slow down enough to be truly considerate.
Some people are grouchy by habit. Even when they feel good, or happen to be enjoying themselves, they won't admit it because it would blow their whole grouch facade. They are professional victims, and if we're honest, perhaps we all can be a little bit that way.
We never want anyone to know that we are having too much fun or feeling too good. It's so much easier to share our scars and our wounds and our hardships. I'm not sure where the inclination to be secretive about our pleasures comes from. Perhaps we feel that we don't really deserve them, so that if we are found out, they will be ripped from us. Or perhaps the only kind of attention we know how to get is pity, so we troll for it with our misery, and by being mopey. We unknowingly imprison ourselves with so many kinds of false beliefs.
Surely it's ok to express our joy and happiness without guilt, and if others don't like it, or can't handle it, then that's on them. We don't have to pretend that life is all burden and drudgery and try to somehow prove that we are working harder and struggling more than anyone else as if our worth were tied up in that. We have value because we are alive, not because of how much we produce or how hard we work. Our lives can be an expression of the joy of our existence. They need not be some test of endurance where the one who suffers the most wins.
My worth is not tied up with anyone else or any thing in particular. I need not prove my right to happiness with a lot of hard work and struggle. My ability for joy is the direct result of my having been born.
It is my personal belief that no matter our age, if we are free from debilitating disease, it's possible to be in the best shape of our lives. I am convinced that we don't have to become stooped over and decrepit and old in our thinking or our spirits, or even in our bodies. Our current culture rather rails against this idea. I can feel the bristling energy in opposition even as I write this. But I believe in healthy longevity! And there are men and women who live vibrantly into their hundreds without ailments and aches and the common miseries of aging in the "modern" world. They prove my theory. We can be more vital and strong and bright-eyed and serene in a whole person kind of way at eighty five than we could ever be at thirty. We take things so seriously in our youth, and have not yet learned how to be our own caretakers. And of course, many of us never do learn this.
But it's possible to learn vitality, and I believe, most definitely worth it. There is so much grace in having many years of living experience. I imagine that we all know, or have known, individuals who carry their age-old wisdom with a kind of majesty and command, with nothing whatever weak or old or diminishing about them. Most of us seem to arrive on earth wound super-tight, and it takes years and years to unwind, and feel safe enough to relax and enjoy the ride. But once we do, there is the unlimited possibility of nobility and good living.
There are so few things in life that we have any ability to control, but we do have control over the choices that we make that contribute to or detract from the health of our bodies and our minds. So if we choose well, we can feel well for as long as our run on earth may last. Life is a journey of fine-tuning, seems to me. We can always be in better shape somehow- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. If we are honest with ourselves about what could use improvement, we can regularly make small changes and alterations that raise the quality of our lives.
We can improve our posture at any age, and the strength of our muscles, and consequently, our bones. We can improve our diets, our attitudes, our behaviors. We can change habits, wardrobes, sleeping hours, things that we read and expose ourselves to. We can limit drama in our lives by setting boundaries. We can limit our exposure to sick and toxic people, to negativity, to media hype, to traffic, and to crowds. We can spend more time in nature. We can take daily walks. We can learn to do those things which feed our spirits and keep our bodies strong and fit. Age, in so many ways, it seems to me, is largely a state of mind.
I believe in the possibility of ever-increasing vitality and good health. I can make changes to improve my experience, no matter my age, and enjoy the pleasures of dynamic longevity.
I have an avoidance tactic with situations that I don't want to think about or look at. I put on metaphysical blinders. If I don't see something, then surely it cannot be real. With my blinders on I can be selective about the things I have to face- only those things that I choose to acknowledge. If I don't acknowledge something, then surely, it doesn't exist.
The catch and the rub though, is that it does! Whether I admit something into the forefront of my consciousness or not, it is still operational in the energy of my being. It nags and nettles until I have to look. Denial gets me nothing but sick. It takes a lot of courage to be honest all across the board at all times, with myself, with others, and with all of the currents of my life. I can pretend to be "fine," to be aok with everything, but whatever is not aok in reality will rub at me until I accept it into my vision and consideration. The truth is never particularly complicated, but it is usually scary to look at because it admits my vulnerability and all of my shortcomings. To admit that I am unsure, or jealous, or bitter, or anything less than totally generous and loving makes me look bad- or so I often think.
But maybe my vulnerabilities are actually beautiful in some way, even as they expose my insecurities. I can be petty and small-minded and resentful and a grand internal martyr at times. But I can also be hugely loving and compassionate and encouraging and generous. Both sides exist in me in varying measures. I must admit to them both. If I deny the aspects of my character that I don't like so much, they will grow bigger. If I refuse to see them, they will have to get louder and cast bigger shadows until I do. But if I allow them, they have a chance to lessen and transform in the gentle light of my own compassion for my own self. It's ok to feel what I feel.
In the final analysis, perfection is boring. It's the imperfect that elicits empathy and compassion and understanding and love, in myself as well as others. So I'm going to admit to my imperfections. I'm going to live a see-through life and not pretend I'm somehow better or healthier or tougher than I am.
Because of skin cancer, many people feel that the sun is harmful, and that exposure to it should be avoided for the most part, and limited at best. And at the height of summer, at the height of the day, in excess, I absolutely agree. But beyond that, perhaps we tend to give the sun a bit of a bad rap. Think of the beauty of sunrise and sunset and sunlight in all of its manifestations! It is life giving and life sustaining. It grows plants and grasses and trees. It kills mold and mildew. It spreads radiant light and warmth. How can it not be beneficial for us in some way as well? Or in many ways?
I believe in the healing properties of the sun. I believe we can bathe ourselves in its heat and brightness in moderation to experience maximum health. It soothes my spirit to sit in a puddle of sunlight, especially coming through a window on a winter morning, or a crisp fall afternoon. It's relaxing and transformative, and to me, it feels endlessly healing. With the warmth on my eyelids, I am carried to other plains of thought and experience. The sun's energy feeds me no less than it feeds the flowers. It penetrates my skin and reaches deep. In a momentary sun-bath, I am restored to my purest spiritual state.
Life is dreary without the sun. When it comes bursting forth from behind clouds on a grey day, everything is altered. The brightness lifts us. And there is nothing like the clarity of rising sunlight on a clear morning, or after days of storms. And what a joy to step out of cold shadows where we have become chilled to the bone, and into a patch of sun: to feel the heat! To feel the light and the life and the wonder of the sun's energy.
My gratitude is for the sun today. My gratitude is for the ever-changing intensity of our own earthly ball of fire. By its daily rising and setting and shifting and shining, we are oh so richly blessed.
I appreciate the sun today. I take a moment to express my thanks for its brightness and warmth.
I've been thinking about the balance of elements in my life. Much like Feng Shui and the proper placement of things in a house, it is important that I incorporate energies of earth, air, fire, water, metal, and wood into my life in a balanced fashion, and to recognize when one of these has taken over and is dwarfing all the rest.
I have always been strong in fire. I am passionate and intense. And I am earthy in the way I connect to the natural world, and the heavy way in which I walk, and how I eat. I believe I am shiny and reflective like metal. I bounce good energy off of me and back to the person I am with. And I am creative and constructive like wood: building and useful. All of these elements come to me easily and naturally, almost without effort. But the two that do not come to me easily and naturally are vitally important, and I need to invite them more fully into my life. They are water and air.
My breath can be choppy and rough and not deep enough, and not easy. And I tend more towards vigor and strident expression than anything trickling or flowing. Water and air are almost angelic elements as I understand them... light, breezy, loose, feathery.... They feel feminine to me, and softly nurturing. I covet them, though they largely illude me. I call to them and open my heart.
I embrace the gentle elements of life. I embrace softness and quietness and the loose fitting and easy-going.
Often we have good suggestions for our friends and our children. We offer sage advice from the lessons of our experience, and watch with pleasure and gratitude as our suggestions are taken to heart and positive change happens. But when it comes to our own lives, we are too close or too involved or too defensive to see the value of applying our own advice to the situation.
"Don't over-think it," is something I say to my clients as I watch them struggle mentally with the introduction of a new, but fundamentally simple, exercise. The idea was reflected back to me recently when I was all caught up in my head trying to figure everything out, and it was spot-on.
We get our brains so involved in the situations at hand. We expend time and effort and struggle trying to understand all of the possible implications of a thing, and the future, and the meaning, and on and on. We over-think ourselves into stalemate and anxiety.
Let's relax, and trust, and quiet our minds. Let's open to intuition and faith and be willing in every aspect of our lives to wait and see.
I don't over-think my life. I relax, take a deep breath, and live it.
I love everything about the fall. I love the colors like light and the way they start so slowly and then spread and spread and spread until the world is awash with luminosity and fire. I love the fresh mornings and chill evenings, the first sweaters, the warm covers, the clear air. I love the smell of woodsmoke and hot cider and wet leaves.... and dry leaves... and decomposing leaves. I love the sounds of the rustling autumn wind, and the Canadian geese flying south, and coon hounds in the darkness.
I love the way sidewalks and lawns and the edges of streets are lined with red and gold and bright orange. I love the change of palate, the desire for root vegetables and hearty stews. I love the preparation for Halloween, and Thanksgiving, and winter coming. I love fall mornings and fall evenings. I love the stretching afternoon light. I love the daily changing of individual trees and the constantly shifting visual landscape. I love the way fall makes me feel vibrantly alive! It's cozy and fresh at the same time- invigorating and comforting. Old growth is released to the breezes with grace and beauty.
Perhaps, if I bring awareness to my journey, the changes I make in my life and my behavior might be as luminous and spectacular as the trees in fall.
I notice all the sensations the fall season awakens in me, and feel gratitude and joy for the colors and sounds and smells. I celebrate the wonder of leaves.
We can see a thing partially and believe we are seeing it whole and absolute. We can make decisions based on our limited vision and feel good about them, and wise. But when the truth reveals itself to us, when elements of the situation that we have not seen become seen, there is no way to un-see them and return to our innocence and naivete.
In this way, our thoughts and opinions about things can swing wildly from one side to the other. What seemed like a solution is suddenly a problem. What was right is now wrong. The promise of positive evolution turns out to be stagnant and corrupt. And things can move in the opposite direction as well, from negative to positive, but it's less likely. Mostly we see things as better than they really are, and more ideal, because that is the way we want them to be. Our wishful thinking blinds us to reality.
But once we have clear sight, it's important to be honest. It's ok to admit that we've made a mistake, and to turn in a fresh direction. We are human. We are supposed to make mistakes. Inordinate amounts of suffering in life occur because we refuse to admit our errors, and stubbornly insist that even if something isn't exactly what we hoped it would be, we can still live with it. We convince ourselves that we can make it work... even if it's fairly obvious that we cannot.
I believe our evolution in life is largely demonstrated by our ability to recognize when we have misjudged a situation, and gotten ourselves into something that is not good for us. And then, once recognized, the speed with which we are able to cut our losses and walk away seems to measure our maturity. We waste so much time and effort resolutely trying to force things to be ok and to make things work that clearly aren't and can't and won't.
It is appropriate and ok that I make errors in judgment and mis-steps and big mistakes. As a human being that is what I am supposed to do. That's how I learn.
When we are relaxed and moving through our days without pushing our will on things, there is a fluid energy in us that allows for the flow and rhythm of life. If we are consumed with trying to manage situations and guarantee outcomes, the energy we engage is forced and rigid by comparison.
When we are young, we are taught the value of effort, the ethic of hard work, and how to set and accomplish goals. But we are less frequently instructed on the disadvantageous results of trying too hard. It's a challenge to understand the concept of work without strain. Instead of muscling our way through things and towards our dreams, we can open to the flow of life and the grace of God and let these things move through us instead of pushing our way against them.
We must surrender daily on so many levels if we want to experience ease and pleasure in our lives. If we are constantly pushing and pushing, we will suffer. We do best to allow and observe first, and then contribute appropriately as currents and the energy of the situation permit. Instead of being our own kind of force-field, we can learn to recognize our part in the nature of things, and identify what might be dangerous, and what might be successful. With practice, we can see and feel the direction in which positive energy seems to be moving, and then make a decision to go with the flow.
I open to the naturally flowing energy of people and things and stop trying to force my agenda. I relax and go with the flow.
There is no substitute for spending time with our best friend. Comfort food cannot do it, and neither can movies, naps, walks, massages, or even reading a good book. To exchange knowingness with another is beyond comparison and occupies its own unique place of delight in life: to share a sense of humor and the light and expression of our eyes; to hug, to tell stories, to be quiet and just occupy space and time together, to prepare a meal, to watch the sunset, the moonrise, to sit on the porch...
My gratitude is for my best friend today, and for all of my friends. They are a blessing in my life, and they enrich my days and my weeks and my whole life experience. How vacant would be this journey without others to share it with!
I am blessed to have friends, and super-blessed to have a best friend. I show my gratitude with generosity and compassion and all of my love.
What I experience in my day is whatever energy and perception is inside of me. If I am dark and brooding, the world appears dark and brooding to me. And if I look out with a loving heart, I see beauty everywhere. A rainy day can be depressing or cozy depending on my outlook.
If I observe myself being impatient and critical with myself or others; if I feel bitter and resentful, or angry, or jealous, that's a pretty good indication of my level of internal restlessness, and it's a safe bet that I am in need of some attention and self-directed love and care. It's been my experience that in such a situation, there is usually one thing that has triggered the avalanche of darkness, and I am blocked from seeing it or understanding it until I pause long enough to look. But once I have taken the time to see clearly, and once I have touched the primary issue, all of my defenses collapse and it's possible to be relieved and happy once again.
It seems to me that a peaceful and satisfying life requires regular self-reflection to identify whatever issues are blocking us from the light. And then we must be willing to address the issues and change our behavior in relation to them, or our attitude, or both. Quiet and peaceful living is possible, and desirable. It does not come from money, or the perfect job, or the perfect relationship or anything external. It seems to me that it comes from the willingness to make frequent internal adjustments to clear our spirits of the emotional gunk that accumulates, to recognize congestion in the works, and strip it clean whenever we need to, and to start fresh, as many times as we need to; to open to the glory of good living, and simple pleasures, and love full-up in our hearts.
The world does not have to be a certain way for me to be happy. It can be however it is. The quality of my experience is up to me and my attitude and my willingness to keep from lugging around old and damaging emotional junk.
Movement cures many ills. Stiff muscles, distracted minds, pain, fear, and anxiety are all eased by the motion of our limbs. We can walk, stretch, dance, climb, jump, hula-hoop, golf, swim, bike, skip, hammer, build, run and twist. We can do anything. Our options are many. We are only limited by our imaginations.
But no matter what we choose, and no matter our level of intensity, as the blood increases its circulation, and we feel the rising warmth of expending energy within us, the rigid edge of us softens, and our tightness releases. We become long and fluid and able to let go of physical tension which, in turn, eases mental tension.
Movement helps us discharge worry and stress, our uncertainties and frustrations, and too often, we forget that. We sit and clench and gnaw at our problems and become increasingly annoyed. We recreate with cocktails and television but these are false solutions. Our bodies long to move. A quick stretch, a brisk walk- these can alter the entire day's attitude. It doesn't have to be a huge time commitment. We can wear whatever clothes we have on. Let's just stand up and raise our arms and bend to the side. Let's wiggle a little, and shake, and be playful for just a moment. Let's take the time to move our bodies and relieve our minds. We're worth it, and the result is worth it.
If I find myself filling with tension and strain, I take a break from whatever I'm doing and move my body somehow. I stretch or walk or do a set of jumping jacks. I smile and enjoy the feeling of my blood circulating. Relief is as close as the movement of my limbs.
Little creeping irritations infect a day like termites. They eat at the support beams of good humor. Lack of good sleep, or overindulgence in food or drink the day before, can contribute to our sensitivity and our sense of angst. Full of sighs and poor me thoughts, we are bloated with dissatisfaction, and annoyed at all kinds of small things that ordinarily wouldn't bother us.
If we find ourselves tending in this direction, it's a ringing alarm to wake us up and snap us back to honesty. Somewhere we have gotten sloppy. We have pushed too far. We have drifted back into thinking we can get by on less self-care than we know we need. We have skimped, or sloughed, or discounted ourselves somewhere, and there's nothing to do but to acknowledge that we are paying a price for our own poor choices and get back on track.
If I am struggling with life physically or mentally, I review my recent past and look for whatever may have caused or contributed to my present discomfort. I am honest about my review and willing to make better choices going forward so that I can feel better.
Every so often it's useful to pause and consider the condition of our lives. We get so caught up surviving day to day and handling all that's in front of us, that we sometimes lose track of the bigger picture. It's useful to take stock, and look where we are, and appreciate where we've come from. It's useful to ask ourselves some tough questions and be willing to answer them honestly.
What needs to change in my life? What am I giving too much of my time to and where am I not giving enough? What can I do without? What can I not do without? What's essential? How would I live differently if I thought I could get away with it and still pay my bills? Am I happy? Am I healthy? Do I have bad habits? Am I angry? Resentful? How am I behaving? What am I putting off? What am I doing right? What brings me joy? Do I have a purpose? Am I creatively fulfilled?
These type of questions and others like them are worth asking. The least they do for us is to bring consciousness to our living journey and remind us that we have choices, and that we are not stuck, even if we feel stuck. There are endless possibilities for change. Our lives are our gift and our blessing. We must treat them with great care.
I do not ramble unconsciously through my life. I stop occasionally and take note of where I am, where I've been, and where I'm going. I check in with myself, and am willing to make honest changes where changes are needed.
When I was little I wanted to be famous. But in the context of real life, what does it really mean? Fame is fleeting and relative and variable. An individual can be famous in a town, a school, a country, a family, in certain circles, for a generation, etc. But even those who are world-wide famous and famous across centuries are not known to all. The bottom line is that whether we are known in big circles or small circles, we touch the lives of those who we are meant to touch, and we are touched by others in the same way.
I have my heroes, as we all do- authors and actors and artists and charismatic leaders and spiritual teachers and good friends.We do not need to be famous to be heroic. Like everything, it's not about figuring out the path to fame and then pushing some agenda. It's about the regular practice of stillness and listening for guidance. It's about following the thing that calls to us. If God wants us to share our experience with large crowds or a few individuals, we will feel the pull in the right direction. If we are led to fame, so be it; then that's our path, and if we are led to quiet, private lives and sharing intimately with only a few, then so be that. The thing to remember is that much as we might want to manipulate it otherwise, it's God's plan for us, and not our own.
I do not seek fame. I listen for the call of my spirit to action, and pay attention to my inner guidance so that I can clearly identify where I am supposed to go from here, and the next right step to get there.
It's important and useful to say, "I'm sorry." If we own our mistakes and acknowledge when we have hurt the feelings of other people, whether intentionally or by accident, it allows the energy of forgiveness to permeate our lives, which is healthy and freeing. We can more easily forgive others their wrongs if we are honest about our own, and a certain allowance for all of us being human and doing the best we can makes for flexible living and generous loving in all of our relationships.
But we can take it too far, and many of us do. Some of us apologize for anything and everything in an effort to keep the peace, and we are accommodating and people-pleasing to a fault. But over-apologizing is seriously problematic and detrimental to our self-esteem. It is falsely humble and makes us un-necessarily pathetic. I know because I am one of these over-abundantly "sorry" types from way back. It's some sort of defense mechanism or survival tactic. We hope for appreciation but invite anger and abuse instead, much like a cowering dog.
I'm better than I used to be, but if my vigilance is lacking, I fall back to the "sorry" space without effort and with great ease. I'm sorry for the weather and the traffic and that someone else is unhappy, or hungry, or unsure. I'm sorry that it's early or late, or if I am even the tiniest bit less than perfect. It's ridiculous. I'm grandiose in the way I take responsibility for all the misery around me, none of which is mine to own. I want to stop being so sorry habitually, because truly, I am not.
I am willing to take responsibility for things in a more right-sized manner. I am willing to reserve my "sorrys" for legitimate wrongs, and keep myself from spilling empty apologies all over the earth.
It's easy to hold our feelings and our fears inside of us. We can be mysterious and unreadable. We can be stoic. But if we do not share ourselves with others, we separate ourselves from the very thing that brings us our greatest comfort, and we end up isolated and feeling all alone. We suffer needlessly.
If we open up, if we have the courage to speak about our challenges, others will come forth who have been there before us, and made it to the other side. Their stories are our hope. We realize that we are not alone, and that we don't have to go through anything alone, whether it be joyful, or scary, or both. And experiences shared are what this journey is all about- getting through things together- getting through whatever comes... and whatever goes. It's a lonely road if we don't open up. Even happiness is diminished if there is no one to reflect it back to us.
I speak up and let others know what's going on with me. In this way, I open myself to the blessing of other people's experience. There is always someone who has been through what I'm going through and their story is my hope.