Friday’s Focus—Being Grateful and Yet…

Recently I’ve noticed when I ask people how they are, their response is a shrug of their shoulders as they say “I’m alright. I’ve got a job.” All in all this is great but what struck me was the tone of resignation, like there’s nothing more. There’s something to be said for being grateful for what you have—a job for example, which these days is a biggie. But, it’s the resignation in the tone that’s been bothering me. Call me a dreamer but I don’t believe in settling. There’s more. There’s always more of a quality of life that we can attain, rather than a quantity of things in our lives that so many of us seem to reach toward instead.

It’s a fact that to survive in today’s economy, daily living has become hinged on a paycheck and benefits. But that’s not living. That’s existing. To me, living means thinking, creating, moving, doing. Not just hanging on to the gray thread of a paycheck. To me, that’s dying. I believe in staying hungry. Staying curious. Yes, there’s always a worse off way to be but that doesn’t mean one has to remain placated and resigned.

Stay grateful but also stay alive! Find something each day that piques your curiosity, something that makes you wonder, laugh, even cry because all of the emotions have a place, but whatever you do, don’t die while you’re still living. Live, love, laugh, be hungry, be curious, and you’ll be grateful for what you’ll find.

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#takingitdeeper

 

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.

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Friday’s Focus—A Note to a Friend

A truly personal “catching the tiger by the tail” moment in which I was simply the medium for the way this poem came through. This has been a week of transitions and moments of movement and movement and movement of people and events, all with a surprising softness in its unfolding. It’s almost as though the blocks and stop-gaps of the past few months’ energy is slowly exhaling her release and like a pebble thrown into the water, the circles are gently lapping outward ever wider. Borne to me early one morning, here is a poem called, A Note to a Friend:

Butterfly kisses and
Ladybug hugs.
Rainy day rainbows,
And fat, garden slugs.

With some tea in our cups,
We sit, you and I.
Two good friends…still…
All these years, by and bye.

We’ll talk of days past
And the hours to come;
Watch dragonflies and sparrows,
And maybe hear honeybees hum.

Neither distance nor years
Can keep us apart as dear friends.
All the magic’s still here,
Seen through a kaleidoscope lens.

Our cups, they’re now empty,
And the church bells, they chime.
This is not a good-bye
But rather, so long… ’till next time.

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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Setting the Timer

All good things in moderation. How about all things in moderation? Good is subjective. It’s good to have a job but if you’re working 10 to 12 hours a day, unless you’re throughly in love with what you’re doing, it’s not so good. If it’s not our jobs, many of us find ourselves giving to our spouses, our children, our families, our committees,  and our friends. Did I miss anyone? Oh, yeah. When do we give to ourselves?

Commitment is commendable but so often, and so quickly, we find ourselves chasing our own tail and living in fear of making sure we did what we were supposed to and make sure all angles are covered.

Each one of us has a personal motivation for doing what we do and for however long and hard we choose to do them. Typically, the urgency and frenetic energy of the “hamster on a wheel life” starts to feel like the norm and anything otherwise can tend to make us feel lost or like we’re missing or forgetting something.

I think we all know on a root level when we are doing too much and become out of balance. Once we see it, it becomes a matter of taking our attention deeper and consciously setting the timer to approach whatever we’re doing in a manner more aligned with balance of anything that’s been missing (or been pushed out).

It’s not just important but imperative to our mental health (which influences our physical health) to find that benchmark within us and understand the driving force behind what is creating the one-sidedness and drive.

The realization came for me as an almost physical click. Sitting quietly one day, my monkey mind was incessantly chattering away as it swung from thought to thought “And then this [inhale] but then what if [exhale] oh yeah and then that [inhale]…” when suddenly I felt a tug in my solar plexus and a loud “NO” reverberate through me.

I was done. Cooked. In all of its frenetic energy that monkey ripped away a veil that had been covering what I finally recognized as feelings of fear I was using as my drive: fear of missing something, and then the deeper dirt-honest fear of not being good enough and making mistakes.

So, now what? So now I set the timer. Some time for this. Some time for that. Like a New Year’s resolution, it’s so easy to set an intention, but it’s another to put it into action. Recognizing and understanding motivations is a great start. To make any sort of difference though, we need to go the next step and put the intentions into action.

No matter how good we are at our jobs, at our roles of parent or spouse, it’s impossible to cover all angles all of the time and make sure that something isn’t overlooked there, or a skinned knee is missed here. Sometimes we need to set a timer on our overload of one-sidedness. Making a mistake is not a taboo. Wearing a band-aid is not the end of the world. You’ll live. We don’t need a permission slip from anyone else but ourselves. And admittedly, sometimes that’s the hardest permission to get.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Retrograde

It’s been quiet on the front of lilypadheart and Friday Focus and for that I apologize. These last few weeks have been a cauldron of computer issues, delays, lack of communication and when there was some, it was miscommunication. Problems would not go away and there were days (there still are) where I feel wrapped in a sticky web that I can’t shake off. You know when you have that one piece of tape or plastic that attaches to you by static and no mater how much you try, you can’t get it off? It just moves from one part of your hand to another? Yeah. It’s been like that.

Is it just having a bad day (okay, a string of bad days)? Is it just bad luck? Is it Mercury in Retrograde being it’s worse bad-ass self than ever? A lot of people I talk to are going through the same thing right now. In the past, I would lightly, almost jokingly, attribute these life hiccups to Mercury being in Retrograde but this time, I’m not joking when I say it because there is definitely something in the air. This is the second Mercury Retrograde this year and it’s been the worst one I can remember. Or maybe it’s just that there’s more at stake and going on right now and so more things can get out of whack.

If you Google Mercury Retrograde 2016, you’ll get 1,610,000 hits. Mercury Retrograde alone will bring you even more information and opinions with 2, 070,000 hits. There’s a lot being said out there about it, and now of course, you can add today’s post (Hit 1,610,001). So, what can I say that will make any dent to what is already out there? Just to add my personal learning perspective in that the one thing these last few weeks have taught me is to be more flexible, and I have been; stretching beyond limits more than I thought was possible or I was capable of.

I’m learning to sit tight and hang on. These days I’ve never felt more challenged (or exhausted) from the constant barrage of problems and delays, with past haunts and issues rearing their heads. Some days it seems impossible that one more thing can go wrong (but it does) and I don’t know if it’s because of the Retrograde or not (but I can’t ignore the coincidence). The last weeks have been an uphill battling resolving past matters and new ones in a David and Goliath kind of way. I know this is true for many of you and I hear it from other people I know going through the same thing (small solace in that—it’s not just me!). It’s hard, but if we can grab a moment to catch our breath, we can see that this is the perfect time to look back on our actions with a new perspective and turn a new face toward healing and cleaning things up.

I believe that a positive spin to the effects of Mercury in Retrograde is to let it be our teacher. Just when we think we are pushed to the edge of what we can take, MR takes that line in the sand and moves it just a bit more out of reach; pushing  us to  go beyond any limits we have set for ourselves—physically and emotionally.

There is a moving box in my living room that has “Fragile” stamped across it. It’s been there for a while but it wasn’t until the other day when I realized the sidewalk oracle-message of it and how it perfectly captured how I was feeling. Though I may feel fragile right now, I know I am stronger than that. We are all stronger than we think we are despite how fragile we may feel on the inside.

May 22, the last day of Mercury in Retrograde for this month, can’t come fast enough, but with an eye toward the calendar, and a little bit of extra flexibility, humor, and patience we can make it through and come out the other side, ready to greet the next one with minimal scrapes and a new perspective.

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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Smile! It’s All Good

It’s been said that the devil is in the details but, sometimes, the devil can be too many details. Yesterday morning, I made 9 phone calls in one hour to talk with 4 people to work out a situation that came up regarding selling our home. It’s still being worked on, but out of much confusion some great points were brought to light and so something potentially negative, turned into something good after all.

Trying to keep it all together and remember who needs to know what for when had been foremost in my mind but yesterday morning’s blip completely threw me into a hamster on a wheel mode until finally, I wore myself out and exhausted my email with so many “reply’s” and “forward’s”.

Lines are constantly being drawn in the sand, wiped away, and drawn again. Sometimes it seems the changes are only 1 inch forward and all too often, seem 3 feet back. But I see now, how I can’t take it too seriously or think I can manage it all.

There it is again. Surrender. And Humor. And Release. And a big ol’ bag of teenage “Yeah, whatever.” I’ve written about surrendering a few times now, but it’s not something you learn once and you’re done. Well, maybe for some guru’s but for the average us, it’s a daily lesson.

The stress of control is not worth the angst. Yes, there are certainly some pretty huge events that draw our attention and demand everything from us, but in the day to day average goings on, the desperation we feel and the agitation that rubs us is really from our own fear and insecurities and our sometimes desperation to command them blindly.

I’ve also learned that by relaxing the need to control, we allow situations to take a breath and a chance to work kinks out by themselves. There’s a fine line between being on top and informed about goings on versus controlling them and where that line is, is different for all of us. To find where our own lines are is the healthiest and best thing we can do for ourselves and the situation(s) we’re in.

It’s simply impossible to control the world, even if the world is just you and your living room, but if the next time you find yourself stressing over the detail of one thing or another, smile, laugh even, throw your hands to the air and say, “It’s all good!” And then do it again tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow…..

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs….the clocks moved ahead, the flowers are budding, Easter candy has been on sale since February….all signs indicating that Spring is around the corner (at least after the next predicted snowfall). There are always signs around us, guiding us, informing us, playing with us. How often do you notice them?

If you’re on the road, notice license plates and slogans on trucks. Listening to the radio, notice if a song or a chorus resonates with you. When you’re watching TV, talking to people, or reading a book, become aware of any word, phrase, or idea that keeps popping up (“That’s the third time I’ve heard that today!”).

Make it a game! Sometimes the Universe uses what’s around us to reveal answers to a particular question or something that may be on your mind, while other times, what we see is just a fascinating reveal of simple patterns. One of my favorite authors, Robert Moss, talks about this regularly and it is the focus of his book Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life. He calls these reveals, sidewalk tarot. Be aware of your thoughts and aware of your surroundings as you go about your day and see if the Universe doesn’t have a word or two to offer you.

Last September, I wrote a post called “Don’t Stop Believing,” about keeping the faith and hope alive even when you can’t clearly see the path in front of you. What inspired me to write that piece was my going through a difficult time where it seemed that every area of my life—from job to health to family was being squeezed. You name it, and there was an issue or at least a concern with it.

During that time, the song of the same name, by the group Journey, kept popping up during some of the deepest experiences I’ve ever had in playing sidewalk tarot. I started to notice that moments when I’d get lost in thought of “How am I…?” “Where are we…?” Journey’s song, “Don’t Stop Believing” would come on the radio—sometimes from the beginning, sometimes the middle, and sometimes the tail end, but just enough of the notes for me to recognize the song. I heard it so often during these times of personal questions, I couldn’t help but notice it had long crossed the line from coincidence to message.

One particular afternoon I’ll never forget, my husband and I were people-watching from a bench in the center of the town we’ve been talking about moving to. We dreamed and schemed about how we can arrange things and make this our new home. At that time, there was no clear way that we could see it happening, so we kept pleading our cause to the Universe.

As we continued to sit and talk about the house we would have and what we would do once we moved there, a blue pick-up truck came into the local traffic queue and in the most perfectly-timed sidewalk tarot orchestration I’ve ever seen, the truck drove past us, and through it’s open windows we heard the undeniable voice of Steve Perry belt out those three words “Don’t Stop Believing.” That was it for me. Not only was it the appearance of that song, but what stunned us was of all the lyrics, it was those specific three words that we heard as the truck passed directly in front of us as if in answer to our questions. I didn’t know how but I knew  from that day things would work. Six months later,  we’re now in the process of moving to the town we’ve always talked about.

There were other moments  when those three specific words showed up for me, and now looking back, I can see that it was always during the times I needed to hear them most. Because I had become aware of the message, each time I heard them or read them, I was able to take a moment and just close my eyes and say ok. I wasn’t alone.

Signs can come from anywhere and everywhere, from an image in the clouds to a phrase in a commercial. Sometimes you’ll see the signs when you least expect it and other times when you’ve specifically asked for them.  I hope you use today’s Focus to go out and play and see what the Universe has to say to you today—Is it an answer? Is it a new opportunity? Is it a new pattern? Whatever it is, just Don’t Stop Believing!

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—There’s One on Every Corner

My father-in-law used to say, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got them.” And they do. Whether it’s good or bad depends on what side of the opinion you’re on. Sometimes it’s neither but there’s still a comment that didn’t have to be made. I’ve let people’s opinions knock me off my course and hurt me. I believed what they said because I thought they knew better, had more experience = knowledge and I’m sorry now. It’s hard to stay true to your own compass at any age but especially when you’re a teenager or young adult.

One such person was a professor I had in college. I was an art major and he was not only my professor but also Chair of the Department. I knew his reputation early on, but he taught many of the classes I had to take and so there was no way around escaping his classes or attention.  Soon enough, he showed himself the tyrant that I was warned of. One afternoon, he went around the room critiquing each student’s assignment from the previous week. He stopped in front of mine and completely tore it apart telling me I had no idea what art was and I had no talent. This was the latest in a series of derogatory and humiliating criticisms I heard from him.

His comments of my work and  my abilities was particularly harsh, and I decided I was done. That was my last art class and I changed my major the next day. Reading that, you may feel I was weak to have done so, or just not passionate enough to stay with my art. Trust me, I thought the same things about myself then.

And so do the kids who are told they are stupid and can’t learn anything; the young adults that are told they’ll never make anything of themselves if they don’t have a job; the girl who’s told she’s not pretty enough until she loses weight; the boy who won’t grow up to be a “real” man because he doesn’t like sports.

I didn’t believe in myself enough to stick with it. It’s not about pride—it’s about believing that you can do something and if not now, then one day. This can be taught to us only so far by our peers but there’s also something within each one of us that needs to recognize it and own it. Sometimes we do, but it’s not until much later in our lives.

It’s never too late or too early to believe in yourself and what you can do. I bet there is something each one of us was told we couldn’t do or be, which changed the directions in our lives.

Every day, every hour, every conversation, every argument, every person you meet, every relationship you’re in and every situation that presents itself is an opportunity and a chance. Take it, run with it and believe in yourself.

#takingitdeeper

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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

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Friday’s Focus—Anchors

I’ve found a trail, around a lake, that takes me deep into the woods, up some hills and around rock ledges and edges and dwellings of animals for sure. I’ve found a place where the wind drives through the groves of pines and one by one, each tree joins in the whoosh as they sway back and forth; once in a while, the limbs add their creaks and their groans.

The wind catches my hair across my face and I look up to see the slow and majestic movement of the branches swinging to and fro. And I hear

Nothing.
Not one bird.
Not one human.
Not one dog.
Not one car.
Not one chainsaw.
Not one plane.

Just for this moment.
Just for this breath of a second

There is just me.
And the woods
And the wind
And the water

and I find myself anchored. The air is cold and crisp and clean. I take a few slow deep breaths, luxuriating in the scent of the trees and the earth itself. I can actually smell the colors of green and  brown around me. With each inhale I take in from this place, there is an exhale where I let go of the noise, the commotion, the pollution that’s inside me.

I notice a shadow pass on the dirt path and when I look up into the sky, squinting at the sun, I see a huge blackbird fly by. So silent in its flight but its very existence, right at that moment, carried a message that couldn’t have been any louder.

I closed my eyes and knew.

This is where I can find rest.
This is where my soul can find peace.
This is where my body can relax.

This is where I knew my heart could let go.
This is where I knew my heart could fill again.
This is where I knew I could heal.

This place is my anchor.

It brings me home into my own skin and grounds me.

I believe we all need a place like this, that just allows us….
It doesn’t just have to be a place. It can be a person, a song, a book…

It’s that which holds us in place long enough to give our souls the chance to knit itself back again. To close the gaps and holes that tore it open. It’s like a salve on a wound, bathing it in medicine that is so pure it can only be from God, gifted to us humans through the Muses.

Sometimes we are lucky and find our anchors while consciously seeking that one thing, that one person, that one….but then there are those anchors that show up by chance, maybe led by a tickle of intuition to go there, zig instead of zag, listen to that, turn left instead of right,  and then there you are.

I am lucky to have a few such anchors in my life, each one different but no less powerful. Yet this place is special in its extraordinary culmination of senses. It takes my breath away. The air tastes sweet, the colors soothe my eyes, and my ears can rest from the cacophony of city sounds but best of all, I can find the peace and quiet again to be able to hear my soul sing once more.

Not just for today, this Friday focus, but for every day, I wish that each of you find your own anchor that is best for you. An anchor that is not a burden but rather one that gives you tranquility and peace.

#takingitdeeper

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