Friday’s Focus—Again

It’s been some time since I’ve been here last. Did you miss me? I did! Literally. Things have been so hectic with the selling and moving from our home to not only a new house but a new state,  I feel as though I lost myself in the process. Everything was put on hold that didn’t have to do with the day job, lawyers, bankers, or real estate agents. The only writing I was doing were checks and emails. Subjects of blogs and short stories swirled in my head borne out of people we met and circumstances but there they stayed, behind the wall of my mind and never making it beyond the thought, “Oh, I should write about that.” It’s time to breathe life into those stories and writings again.

Last night, I decided enough was enough and sat down to the keyboard to let my fingers do the walking so my mind can do the talking, and well, here we are. Again. Still feeling my sea legs in the new place, I look for corners and spaces as new homes for my yoga mat and books. Settling into a daily routine of day job mixed in with the new neighborhood sounds will take awhile, but in the meantime, I’m growing accustomed to the sounds of hammers and saws sprinkled with a few swear words from my husband, which has actually been helpful to use as a gauge on how well (?) repairs have been going!

This move is the cap of what has been a fierce 8 months (actually the last 3 years) of continuous major life events. Feeling tense and uptight had become very familiar feelings for me. Sitting within these new four walls, with the dust settling and the boxes slowly being unpacked, I can still feel the anxiety continue to surround me, which is exactly what I had wanted to change. “Maybe it’s too soon,” I tell myself. “I need to give myself time to slow the twitching and unwind from the hectic pace,” I add.

Almost as a ready response, I hear the words “no matter where you go, there you are” echo through my head and immediately recognize the truth in it. No matter where you go—house, hut, country, or planet you move or travel to, if the changes you seek aren’t made within, it won’t matter what zip code you land in.

I knew better than to expect a complete whoosh of having all my problems disappear as I watched the tail lights of the moving truck leave, but I guess to be honest, on some deep level, I must have expected it to happen all the same.

How we experience things all comes from our perspective, and if our perspective, our basic way of seeing something, doesn’t change, our experiences and our views will continue to be more of the same. This week, as I get myself back into my writing, and once again set my sight on the changes I want to make within (and without), I’m consciously refining my perspective of what each day can bring. This is not about seeing the world through rose-colored glasses but rather taking off those glasses to get a clearer and more honest view. One of the simplest and most profound ways of doing this is by intention, which is something we can all do.

Even if you don’t have any plans of moving or traveling any time soon, you can still set your intention and perspective anew each day and welcome yourself home.

IMG_1904#takingitdeeper

 

Friday’s Focus—Morning Lotus

Throughout history, the question has dogged beggars and philosophers alike—why are we here? What are we here to learn? What is the greatest thing that we can learn while we are on this Earth? In this body?

The answers depend upon what corner of the church we face and what God we ask them of. I am no philosopher nor do I propose to know the answer to one of Life’s greatest questions, and I don’t propose to know more than I’ve learned. Even then, I really know nothing. Not truly.

But then there came this.

One morning, sitting in stillness, the questions, the thoughts, the “what if”’s fell away and for the first time were replaced by a knowing and a feeling of undeniable truth. Surreal and yet sacred in its delivery, the questions and answers came without hesitation. The moment had been waiting and I was ready to finally listen.

What is the most important thing we can learn in our lifetime?

Compassion.

Without compassion, the love we feel for another will still have attachments and conditions.

Without compassion, the forgiveness our lips speak does not match the anger, hurt, and resentment still in our heart.

Without compassion, the understanding we have for the other person will still depend on their skin color and faith.

Without compassion, the peace that we fight for is nothing but murder and an excuse.

So how do we find compassion? Through suffering. Without personal suffering, there is no compassion. Suffering is more than having “bad” things happen to you. Suffering is going through a situation that is negative or unpleasant but it’s also the opportunity to take the situation from cries of “Why me?” to something that will forever deepen our understanding of others and our own reactions.

No one can know how they’ll feel or react in a situation unless they’ve been in it. Anything outside of that is just an opinion. To have compassion for anyone else means walking through your own fires first.

The importance of compassion is one of the key teachings in Buddhism. It is also one of the key teachings in learning to be fully human. No one is above suffering but we don’t need to perpetuate the feelings of suffering from what we are suffering from.

#takingitdeeper

IMG_1703

Friday’s Focus—Living Dirty

“Addictions are an attempt to cope with intolerable states. The meager lives we are asked to live, in which we are often reduced to ‘earning a living,’ are themselves intolerable. We are meant to have a more sensuous, imaginative, and creative existence.” –Francis Weller, in “The Geography of Sorrow,”  written by Tim McKee from The Sun, October 2015

This quote comes from an interview with Francis Weller, a California psychologist and author of  The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief from an article my brother recently sent me.  Zoltan texted me last week letting me know to expect something in the mail he thought I’d be interested in. Whatever magazines or newspapers he’s sent in the past have always been interesting and so I looked forward to getting this one. When the big brown envelope finally arrived, I eagerly ripped it open and settled in for the read.  And then I read it again, and then once more. Each time, I kept circling back to that quote.

I love, no I crave, the idea of a more sensuous, imaginative and creative existence. Who wouldn’t? I don’t want to wait until I am old to wear purple with that red hat. Shake it up, shake it down, and shake it out. Boogie through your day. Wouldn’t it be great if it was that easy? For some it may be, but for others, like me, not so, at least not all the time. From experiences in my personal life to those I know around me, I’m no stranger to the irresistible pull of addictions used to numb, move on, and make each day—hell, each hour, palpable. The trip up is that it can get too comfortable being swaddled with a habit that digs its way deeper each day until you forget that you’re really only sleepwalking. You’re not really awake, you’re not really feeling, you’re not really living.

I feel that we’ve become numbed by the barrage of violence that daily fills our senses. Add to that feelings of  discomfort about our personal lives, however deeply unconscious they may be, and we’ve created the perfect cocktail of addictions waiting to happen. We need to get dirty and live our lives as if our life depended on it. Because it does. The period of gestation to when we wake up to our lives can be a long time coming for some, but when we decide to emerge through the other side, to living juicy, is up to us.

I don’t think that we’ve forgotten how to but we’ve certainly  become afraid of letting loose and living in the passion and the dirt because we have the car insurance, health insurance, the kids’ education and so on. So many of us have built up a life of what we were told we should have and so we wanted it by default but as the scales of intolerance and numbness tip, some people find a way to heed the siren’s call and throw off the mask. But it isn’t easy. It’s scary. And when we choose that moment to do it, to rip off our own masks, we need to be able to grieve for the loss of who we were, or more aptly, who we thought we were.

Unless there is a blatant loss of a life is no time to grieve or feel sorrow for what is going on inside us and around us. Even with the loss of a loved one, we’re only given a short time to process it before being required to pick up the pieces again and be back at our desks on Monday morning. We don’t allow time to process not just loss, but all that is making up the fabric of our lives  and I’m  not sure we know how to anymore.

Alternating messages of  “Coming up at 11, the latest on the attacks in [fill in your choice of country, town, state, neighborhood]”  immediately followed by a commercial for a new Lincoln Continental or the Super Sale Days at Macy’s comes at a rate faster than anyone can consciously register. The amount of time we’re given a chance to digest is only as long as a soundbyte.

How do you even start to grab the edges of that mask? Notice anything you read or hear that brings you up short; That grabs your attention and makes you come back. There are some whispering memes that are alarm clocks trying to get through the cocoon we’ve wrapped ourselves in. Listen for it and don’t hit the snooze button. Experiencing loss is a part of life, which no one is immune to. Loss constitutes more than the physical death of someone you know. Loss is missed opportunity, personality, a past place or a regret. Without allowing ourselves to grieve over a loss, it will never go away but will only bury itself deeper until we are lying in our own trough of despair and what I call, “Eeyorness” of how our days have become. (Eeyore, the Winnie the Pooh character was always gloomy, depressed, and  a woe is me. The only thing bright about him is the pink bow on his tail!)

Find something to remind you of the spark and make time for yourself to grieve and even wallow, just for a little while, in whatever sorrow you’re carrying.  I hope you find the inspiration, the red velvet and lemonade, in that space and wake up to the siren call of the life you were meant to live.

#takingitdeeper

IMG_0378

Friday’s Focus—Examining Humility

Autumn is my favorite time of the year and I think a part of that is because I’ve always felt September and October were more like a new year than the actual January 1 New Year’s Day. To me, September is the month of beginnings. Even though I’ve been out of school for many years, I still think of September as the beginning of a new school year and with it new opportunities and adventures. Then there’s the changing of the seasons and temperatures and of course, moving into October, the gorgeous transformation and front row seat to nature’s fashion show.

For the first time though, this year feels different to me. I’ve noticed a deeper awareness of events and an acuteness to the days’ wanderings that feel more heightened than ever before. Maybe it has something to do with how much faster time seems to be going.  So many people I know have said the same thing and how, especially this year, time feels as though it’s speeding up and almost out of control.

No one can avoid growing older and the growing pains and warts that come along with it, but how we view this parade of changes is what can make a world of difference in our experiences of them. One way to do that is through our humility, which can lead to a deeper and richer level of wisdom and acceptance. Humility has its own quiet power in its ability to provide strength in the awareness that each one of us is a part of something else. Contrary to what many believe, the universe doesn’t revolve around us or is holding its breath waiting to make its next move based on our decision. It doesn’t work that way no matter who you are, who you know, how much money you have, or businesses you own. The Earth will still turn and the sun will rise and set in accordance to its own laws, without any help from us.

Practicing humility is not about lowering yourself and having feelings of inadequacy. On the contrary, humility is a quiet power that lies in the sublime modesty of one’s own potential and view of oneself. Some people see humility as a weakness, with feelings of unworthiness and lack of pride, but I prefer to think of it is a strength of being able to see ourselves in context and in right perspective with others, and finding that we are not lesser or better than anyone else.

By embracing humility we can we move into life’s moments with wisdom and grace by giving up the need for vanity and self-righteousness. This Autumn has become a season of deeper reds, more vibrant oranges, and fiery yellows of a changing landscape that is within me as well as around me reflected in nature, and I hope that today’s Focus will deepen your own personal Autumn and be a season of change within and without as we learn more about and practice humility.

#takingitdeeper

IMG_1302

Friday’s Focus—Pardoning Ourselves

Forgiving others is something we’ve been taught we should do since we were children, but it’s not until much later in life do we come across the concept of forgiving ourselves.

The ability to forgive ourselves is just as important as forgiving others. Admitting fault in ourselves is not easy. It’s acknowledging that we’re not as perfect as we want to be or at least as perfect as we want others to see us. Taking responsibility for our actions and accepting any guilt we feel is a powerful step toward personal growth. Sometimes we may not know or understand why we did or said the things we did, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still be held accountable.

When you forgive yourself, be wary about the tendency to beat yourself up about what happened. This defeats the purpose and only serves to strengthen any underlying guilt or shame you may be feeling. True forgiveness is sitting with the action and recognizing your role in the situation. If it was less than stellar, own it.

In hindsight, we can all find a thousand different ways we would have acted differently in situations, but it doesn’t mean that under the circumstances of that moment, you weren’t doing the best that you could. This doesn’t excuse the action by any means, but rather it’s understanding that we respond to situations with the skill set we have at the moment, framed by our values and mindset at that time. Cultivating self-forgiveness allows us to emerge as more loving and compassionate human beings, and by seeing ourselves and our past behaviors, choices, and words for what they were at that time, and learning from them, we can grow.

Forgiving yourself is not a Get of Of Jail Free card and in no way excuses past actions. I hope today’s focus is a reminder to include ourselves when we think about the people in our lives we want to—need to—forgive. By doing so, all of the energy that was invested in feelings of guilt, self-blame, and self-doubt, can instead, be used for more positive growth. Feeling disappointment in yourself and your actions is natural but holding onto it shouldn’t be.

FullSizeRender-2

#takingitdeeper #selflove #selfgrowth #forgiveness

Friday’s Focus—Admitting

The other day, Jill, a friend of my family, had called me in tears saying that she couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t handle the pressures of her current work situation and didn’t know what to do about it.

She had never said anything like this to me before and though we were friendly enough with each other and spoke often about what was happening in our lives there was still always that separation between us, so I was especially caught off guard by the brutal honesty of her call. She was given a three week work assignment that exposed her to levels of business dealings and decision makings she didn’t have a lot of previous experience with. I knew that on one hand she was excited at the prospect of being trusted but on the other, nervous about how it would all work out. The time came and there were the normal blips that happened and she was handling things well enough to keep things moving. But then the call came.

It was just one of those days when nothing was going right and whatever could go wrong did. Imagine weeks of Mercury Retrograde packed into a few hours! Situations and problems just exploded exponentially. The morning of the call, there were already problems brewing on the job but then, the personality of one particular employee, who was high-maintenance and had a combative nature was the factor that tipped Jill’s balance. Jill had taken this woman under her wing because she reminded Jill of her own mom, but this woman’s constant neediness and antagonistic behavior was becoming a real issue from increased confusion of early onset Alzheimer’s. Coupled with a series of problems that had come up that Thursday morning brought the frustrations of Jill’s new responsibilities to a peak. Her initial fear of not being able to do the job seemed to come to fruition and that morning brought her to the point of the phone call to me and the tears.

In truth, it was the first time that she was left with such enormous responsibility and for such a long time, and I think it would have been a challenge to many people with her experience. Listening to her talk, I didn’t judge her for how she was feeling because when I heard her say that she couldn’t do it all and didn’t know what to do or who to talk to, I heard myself in her voice and in her words and most deeply, I heard myself in her tears. How could I possibly judge her for something I knew only too well from experience, from words and tears I’ve cried myself?

I just listened and let her talk. I assured her that she was going to be alright and that all she could do, and all anyone could expect from her, was to do the best that she could. There’s no way that she would know all the answers to the situations that cropped up—how could she since she never dealt with them in that capacity before? I told her she did the right thing by walking away from an argument that was brewing. She was afraid of what she was going to say and so walked away to sit in her office to cool down and gather her thoughts. It was then that she called me. I was really surprised that it was me she reached out to, but I’m glad she did, because I completely understood every emotion she was going through.

The conversation with Jill was a good reminder about how important it is for each one of us to feel free to admit our fears and frustrations and honestly say, “I don’t know how to do this.” or “I can’t handle this.” It’s here in that mustard-seed moment that our true power comes in.

Each one of us has our own threshold of what we can handle or think we can handle and we do so in different ways. Some people dodge responsibilities when they feel they can’t handle them, others plow through them like a bull, and then there are those, who I think are the bravest of all, are honest with themselves and admit that it’s not working.

My mother used to say, “Don’t play hero,” meaning don’t be so full of bravado to think you can handle everything yourself. The real hero, as far as I’m concerned is the person who admits that they can’t do everything themselves and that they don’t know it all. And there’s no shame in that. Even just admitting it to yourself is an act of release that opens up space and energy in yourself, creating room to allow for growth.

Admitting that something is too much for you to handle is not a sign of weakness, insecurity, or immaturity as some would have you believe. I look at it as a sign of maturity, honesty, and integrity with yourself and it’s from that place, from that deep place of surrendering and acknowledging that you don’t know, don’t have all the answers, and don’t know what to do is when we grow our strongest self.

I am lucky in that I have someone in my life I have said the very same things to about situations I found myself in and I have had my days of being alone where the only thing I felt I could do was literally throw my hands in the air and cry out to an empty room, “I can’t do this!” Each time I did this, I grew. And I know Jill will too. And you, as you’re reading this thinking about your own situation that you’re wondering how you’re going to get through.

I hope this Friday’s Focus will take you to a place in yourself where you can find solace in knowing it’s okay to admit, even to yourself—when you’ve had enough and you don’t know what to do. It’s okay to admit that we don’t have all the answers. It doesn’t matter if it comes as a shout or a whisper, you’ll find that you can do whatever it is but you will do it to the best that you can and not to the expectations others had for you or the ones you may have placed on yourself.

Go and be your own hero today!

Friday’s Focus—Everything Has a Heart

Hand on the doorknob, looking out the glass door, I was ready to step outside when I stopped. My eyes locked on a bug hanging onto the door frame with his (her?) 6 fuzzy legs. Its wings were folded back, and its head cocked in a way it seemed it was looking right back at me; curious or perhaps just as equally shocked, I didn’t know. There was no stinger or biting pinchers but I was afraid of what else it could do—you know, get inside the house and attack my hair or just crawl on my skin.

My gut reaction in seeing anything that flies or crawls is to kill it or flick it as far away from me as possible. I was ready to fling the door open to “send it to the light” (light-speak for killing it), when I decided to get one last look at this thing that was big enough to have its own shadow. Of course, having the glass window between us helped facilitate my newfound feelings of bravery.

So there we stood (or rather, he/she/it hung to the door and I stood), nose to wing. Its eyes were so big and round it seemed that’s all there was to its head. Its torso was narrow with an upturn at the end. The legs were long and crinked at sharp angles, ending in what looked like split feet.

I was intrigued and disgusted at the same time. After a few minutes of this science experiment, I was ready to end it and go outside once and for all. I reached for the door handle one more time, and as I took a last look at the bug, a slight movement caught my eye. Peering a bit more closely, I was shocked to realize that I could actually see this thing breathing.

Inoutinoutinoutinoutinout. Its torso pulsing with a rapid in and out movement at a rate that reminded me of a rabbit’s heartbeat.

Heartbeat? Bugs have hearts? Bugs breathe? Bugs have lungs? This was a first, I thought. I’ve dealt with my fair share of bugs in my life but I’ve never seen one breathe. Now mind you, of course, this only added to the ick factor of there being a bug large enough to see it take a breath. My mind immediately began to draw parallels to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, and Vincent Price in the classic 1958 movie, “The Fly.” Maybe it’s even one of those drones I’ve been hearing about. …?

I stepped closer to the glass again and we took each other in. I looked into his huge eyes and wondered what I looked like to him. I looked at the details of his body from the sucker-type feet that clung to the door frame to the tiny, white, hairy protrusions that sprouted in puffs all over his body.  The veining in its wings was a marvel of patterns.

To me, it was a still a bug and it was still gross and scary and big, but seeing it breathe changed the way I looked at it. I suppose, in a sense it made it more “real”. It was no longer a thing—a threat (albeit a perceived one from my end). It was a living, breathing, entity. It was a-l-i-v-e. It was created and I couldn’t bring myself to kill it. That day I understood for the first time that even bugs have hearts, and I felt a shift in my compassion with life. It became so clear that just because I was creeped out by something I didn’t understand or feared, my instinct was to destroy it before it (maybe) destroyed me.

That lesson can easily be magnified into how we are with each other. People seek out to destroy those they fear or don’t understand. So, maybe if we can remember we are all sentient beings just trying to survive in the best way we can, we can deepen our compassion and tolerance with each other and remember, that even bugs have hearts.

Now, spiders—they’re a different story!

Friday’s Focus—Getting Up, Showing Up, and Doing It All Over Again

This week has left me feeling more stressed than usual and I found myself sitting down to my computer every morning filled with dread and ending the day feeling completely drained to the point of answering my husband’s questions in one-syllabic grunts. But then this morning I finished reading a book by Michael Singer called, The Surrender Experiment in which he talks about surrendering to what life is asking each one of us and to look at our lives not as what we want out of life, but rather what is life asking of us.

Near the end of the book, he says “It was not my responsibility to find out what is binding me; that was life’s job. My responsibility was to willingly let go of whatever was brought up within me.”

Wow.

This week in particular had been a struggle for me as a new level of challenges popped up at every turn. Stress begat stress and by the end of Thursday evening, I found myself feeling feverish, achy, and with a sore throat. I was stressing myself into illness.

I already knew from early in the day Monday, that this week wasn’t going to be easy but I tried to keep in mind  Singer’s words about questioning what it was that life wanted from me and not what I wanted out of life. Though it wasn’t always easy, there was a freshness to the approach that appealed to me and my curiosity of where things  could go.

Each day, I showed up and did the best that I could give and knew how to do, and in that I could take solace in and pride. My job is not brain surgery and no one’s life is at stake but I have a high ethic in everything I do and what is expected of me as an employee, daughter, and even my personal expectations of myself. In hindsight to this past week though, it turned out to be more than I could give. Was I seeking perfection? Maybe, as I tend to lean toward that, but it took my body to feel like it was breaking down to really bring it home the stress that I had put on myself. Instead of building on yesterdays gains, I was building upon yesterdays fears and losses as I perceived them. This is how disease and depression grows giving way to a loss of hope.

“My responsibility was to willingly let go of whatever was brought up within me.”

Yes.

Every day I get up, show up, and do it over again the next day. But today was different. Today I showed up with a renewed determination and focus of letting go of whatever is being brought up in me from what’s going on in my life. Surrender. This act, in of itself, is asked of me and each of us every day. It’s not something you do once and you’re done.  Life is continually upping the ante and asking for us to do things that oftentimes we don’t feel we can handle. We can fight life and our situations or we can surrender.

But doesn’t surrendering mean giving up? Giving up what we think we want, yes. Giving up on opportunities that life presents to us, no. It’s surrendering to the energy of the flow of allowing ourselves to end up wherever we need to be. In other words, getting out of our own way. The only control we really have is over our own reactions and so all we can do—the best thing that we can do—is to surrender. Again and again and again and again. Singer calls this the journey beyond ourselves, and what a ride it is.

I don’t know for sure what life is asking from me, but I do know, that at the very minimum, it’s asking me for an open heart, a curious soul, a creative mind, and a clean body. And that, my friends, is what today’s Friday’s Focus is about and what every day hereafter is about, not just for me but for each of us.

Taking it deeper…

Friday’s Focus—Saying, “I’m Sorry”

Admitting you were wrong about something and then telling the other person you’re sorry, doesn’t make you weak or any less of a person or less of “a man”.

It can be scary to reveal our mistakes and fess up to actions or spoken words that don’t show us in our best light.

But at the same time, that vulnerability can make you stronger and deepen your relationship with the other person. Don’t let pride or ego stand in the way of taking things deeper with another person, including yourself.

Have a great weekend!

Reflections of My Nightstand

The other night I went to put my water bottle on the nightstand and every time I tried to put it down, it was either on something or I had to move something else to make way for it. Since when did I have so much *stuff* on my nightstand and what is it all? When did I suddenly need those ear plugs, eye mask, and Valerian?

I didn’t have a cold, so where did all those tissues come from? And the dry hands salve? Well, yeah. I need that. Oh and then there’s my nasal spray for allergies. I need that, too.

Then there are those two crystals sitting on top of the book I bought months ago that I’ve been meaning to read but instead has been collecting dust. Becoming instead, an impromptu shelf for the odds and ends I somehow decided needed to be elevated from the rest of the ordinary clutter on my nightstand.

Where did all of this come from and when did I suddenly need these things within reach during the overnight hours of what should be a peaceful and restful sleep? I’m not bedridden. I can get out of bed anytime I want but it’s so much easier to roll over in the dark and reach for that midnight tissue or sip of water, then to hit feet to the floor.

I didn’t have a problem with any of it and to be honest, I didn’t really notice the accumulated collection until I couldn’t set down a simple bottle of water. The invasion of all this STUFF had taken over and now that I really looked, the top of my nightstand looked like my favorite junk drawer threw up.

I’m a firm believer that having too much clutter can create, or, at the very least, contribute to feelings of agitation, indecisiveness, and even claustrophobia. Looking at my bedside clutter made me wonder what kind of energy clutter can convey when it’s next to your own bed—a place that should be a sanctuary of rest and peace and relaxation? Could this be one of the reasons I haven’t been sleeping well? Too much stuff on my nightstand?

The next morning, my intention was to straighten things up a bit and decide what to put away and what to keep out. I took a good look at what exactly was taking up so much space and each item—from the crystals to the book on the Romanov family to a loose pair of earrings, held memories. Taken altogether, they were a snapshot of my life. I decided to put some things away and keep others right where they were. It never occurred to me that the top of my nightstand could possibly be a reflection of me and my life, but why not?

It’s human nature to want to populate the areas in our home where we spend a lot of time with things we want to keep close to us—photographs, keepsakes or tchotchkes and for some people medications or pills that are just handy to have within reach. I think you can tell a lot about someone from what’s on their nightstand or end table. Look at your own and see how many fragments of yourself you see. What do your tabletops say about you?

Am I what’s on my nightstand? On some days, I’d say yes. Most days actually. Now, each night as I get ready for sleep and I reach over to turn out the light, my eyes take in a final sweep of the pieces I’ve chosen to keep in full view on my nightstand, and I smile as I roll over, pulling the blankets up to my chin, at the memories those things have given me and how lucky and loved I feel. And that I have room again for my water!