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

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Friday’s Focus—When Not Asking Is Louder Than Asking

Admit it—we don’t want to believe it but it’s true: The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I feel pretty confident to say that we’ve all seen this whether it’s with our coworkers or our own families. Sometimes the squeaks from these people are so loud that we tend to overlook those who seem content and quietly go along, not asking anyone for anything as they cruise through their days. BUT. What if they’re not as content as they seem to be? Not everyone asks for help when they need it or when they should. The reasons are as many as the colors in a 64 color Crayola box:

Not wanting to appear weak or helpless;
Not wanting pity;
Shame of not doing something perhaps they used to do;
Fear of ridicule;
A still-held belief in their own strength and abilities;
Feelings of unworthiness;
Fear of being judged.

And these are just the colors in the first row. Whatever an individual’s reason may be, it’s just as important to pay attention to what’s not being said and what’s not being asked as to what is actually articulated. Silence should not be an assumption that all is right with this person’s world. If offering the assistance is still met with hesitance, don’t give up at the first rebuff.

Some people are reticent about asking for help regarding their own needs and you may very well be one of them. If so, think about the reasons why you may not ask. Look back at the list above—do any of those reasons apply to you? If so, learn to be comfortable in your own discomfort and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help, whether it’s with a personal problem or with a ride to the grocery store. No one is perfect and believe it or not, no one expects us to be except for the pressure we put on ourselves.

Sometimes people don’t realize that they need help because they’re so used to having to do things by themselves and so oftentimes it becomes more evident to family and friends when help is needed before it does to the individual. Today’s Friday Focus is really something that is an everyday Focus: Become aware of those around you and notice how actions can speak louder than words; how sometimes not asking for help is the same as if they shouted it from the rooftops.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main….
—John Donne, No Man Is An Island
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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—True North

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about intention and surrendering and have been making a more concerted effort to be conscious in my intentions of what I do and say. These two words seemed to be in front of me in enough books and articles I’ve been reading that I started to wonder if it may be more than just a coincidence.

A few weeks ago, we decided to take a much-needed vacation to the Catskills for some down time and just to get away. It took me a couple of days to completely unwind from the harried pace I’ve been existing in, and so early one morning, I decided to just grab a chair and sit on the front porch of the B&B we were staying at. I was trying to release any last residual pre-vacation angst and just let go. As I watched the sunrise and marveled at the beauty of the coming day, I grabbed a journal I brought with me. I wanted to get back to journaling on a regular basis and thought what better time to start again than a vacation?

With all sorts of thoughts in my head and not sure where to begin or what I really wanted to say, I started to write about what was literally in front of me—the two squirrels running around the tree, the sunlight rising over the brook, and the different bird songs I was hearing. I let my pen take me wherever it wanted and soon enough I noticed that two words kept circling the page—“surrender” and “intention”. I felt a tickle of intuition that I was on the cusp of something, and it was but a moment later that I found myself writing the sentence—“Surrender to your intention.” Something deep within me released as I read the sentence over and over. I was stunned by the simplicity. It never occurred to me to connect the two! Once again, I was reminded of the humor and the ways messages can come to us when we need to heed something. No wonder I kept running across these words! I suspected that this was something I needed to pay attention to but it wasn’t until I really stopped and thought about it, that I finally got the message.

Setting an intention and surrendering means being conscious in your thoughts and your speech and in the way you act and react. It’s being mindful in the moment. Discovering your true intention and acting in accordance with it is only a part of it though. To really be in full alignment with yourself, I’ve learned that it needs to be inline with surrendering as well.

When you only surrender, you go with the flow of things and accept the movements and hiccoughs as life’s general “I guess that’s the way things are.” But this can only carry you so far.

By the same token, just working with intention, it, too, will only get you so far. It can certainly help set your sights on where you really want to be and do, but if you still fight those intentions especially unconsciously, and do them grudgingly, the intention is really just surface-based and won’t last long. Being on a diet is a perfect example. Which intention will last longer—dropping those 10 pounds so you’ll look better in your jeans or dropping those 10 pounds to lower your risk of Diabetes?

Each of these things are important enough in their own ways but by putting them together, they become a powerhouse. To honestly live in accordance with the right alignment of your energies and your purpose, you must discover your true intentions in everything you do and surrender to them. Surrendering here does not mean giving in or giving up. You’re surrendering to the story that you’ve been living that may not have been serving you very well or gotten you as far as you want to go. It now becomes about creating a new story—one specific to your vision and your purpose and not anyone else’s. 

When you’re in alignment with the right intention, the shift in personal energy is palpable enough that it would be hard to deny or ignore. In my personal practice, since that morning of journaling discovery,  I’ve found myself almost automatically distanced from my attachments and fears that I had before and the clarity of my perspective on what I thought was important had changed. 

If you’re not moving and living in the direction you deeply and  sincerely desire, finding true intention for your actions and thoughts and finally being able to live them by surrendering to them enables you to create a story that will no longer trap you but will empower you instead. It will help keep you from being caught in your own web.

So how do you start? It’s actually pretty simple. Begin by asking yourself some of the following questions:

What is my intention today?
What is my intention for eating this? For drinking this?
What is my intention when I pray?
What is my intention when I meditate?
What is my intention when I respond to that email?
What is my intention for buying this?

Answering these kinds of questions can be tough and you need to be really honest with yourself. Don’t be afraid to keep digging for the answers—don’t stop at the first answer that pops into your head. Question it again; take it deeper. Once you gain an understanding of what the intention is behind a motivation, surrender to the absolute truth of it and consciously apply it to your actions and thoughts.

Use meditation or simple reflection to help you answer these questions.. Experiment and find what works best for you. Keeping a journal is also a great tool. Let your thoughts come as a stream of consciousness and just write—keeping the pen moving in a doodle or in words. Most of all, don’t edit yourself. It’s there, in that hollow, that you’ll discover your deepest intentions and revelations.

In surrendering to your intentions, you’ll find that there comes a natural realignment of your energies. One that is finally working with your soul’s compass in finding your True North and where you can find your way to where you really want to be and need to be.

#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Judgement Day

How often have we looked at someone and had a critical thought about their actions, what they were wearing, or the car they were driving? I’ll admit it—I have.

If you’re a human being, you have judged and you have been judged. A judgement is an observation with an opinion attached. Even saying, “I like your hat,” is a judgement. Let this week’s Friday’s Focus inspire you to hold off on that opinion when you see someone wearing something or acting in ways you wouldn’t and then find something positive about them.

Instead of thinking how you would never wear that in public, and wonder how they could, turn it around and acknowledge how great it is that they have the courage to walk to their own drummer in public; or maybe that they have nice eyes; or maybe noticing how powerful that man’s voice must be to be able to carry all the way across the street.

We are all in this together and for once, today, just once, instead of striking out at someone who is different from you, look deeper for some good. No one likes to be judged so wouldn’t you want someone to view you the same way and notice something positive about you?

Take this one step further and make it the perfect opportunity to practice the meditation of loving-kindness to help create a connectedness with each other instead of judgment and separation.

In his book, A Path With Heart, Jack Kornfield describes this meditation as something that can be done anywhere and focused toward anyone. Wherever you are, whether you’re sitting in traffic or waiting in line at the supermarket or coffee shop, and you find yourself making a judgement about someone, simply look at them and silently say to yourself, “May he/she be filled with loving-kindness.”

This can be especially powerful when the next person you find yourself judging is the person in the mirror.

Have a great weekend!

Keeping it light and singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

Blogging From A to Z: Perception and Perspective

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It’s a sad fact that it’s usually someone else’s misfortune that puts our life back in perspective. I know it is with me at least. I was originally going to talk about painting for today’s post but something happened last night, which made me change my word to perception and perspective instead.

Yesterday was a frustrating day on multiple levels and on top of that I was running late to an appointment I had after work. Only on the road for a few minutes, it wasn’t long before I saw taillights. “Now what?” I said out loud, very annoyed at yet another probably idiot driver causing problems and making me late. Traffic slowed down to a complete stop. I craned my neck out the window trying to get a look at the “idiot” and I could just make out the flashing lights of several police cars. Good news—I was at least close enough to the scene so I wasn’t looking at miles and miles of delay ahead of me. I was still on a slow burn about not having anywhere to turn around, and all I could do was think so I continued to stew about earlier events from the day and become more and more annoyed.

Eventually we started to move—okay crawl. I heard the scream of the ambulance before I saw it but soon enough there it was, splitting the immobile drivers ahead of it like Moses parting the sea. Ambulances are never good. Eventually we all crawled toward each other zippering into one lane, and then I saw it. A car so badly damaged, with debris everywhere and its roof sheared off. I could actually make out the impact of the driver’s head on the spidered windshield. I shuddered.

Immediately my day’s problems became trivial. Mesmerized at the level of devastation, I slowly drove past the accident and was finally able to accelerate onto the open highway. I no longer cared if I was late and my annoyances from earlier in the day suddenly became trivial and not worth the energy of anger and frustration I had given them. I said a prayer for whoever was in the accident and for the family that would get the call to go to the hospital. Yeah, my day could have been a whole lot worse. Perspective. That was last night’s lesson and I knew would be the perfect subject for today’s post.

Our perception is really our opinion and is constantly skewed by judgment many times without us even being aware of it. It’s our view on how things seem to us and not necessarily how they really are. By shifting focus, even just a little bit, will help put our situations in a whole different light:

  • That call that wasn’t returned from your insurance agent? He was at his father’s funeral and just came back into the office.
  • That car that was speeding up on your bumper and passed you at his first opportunity? He is on his way to the hospital for the delivery of his first-born.
  • That obese man in the checkout lane at the supermarket with the steak and butter and potatoes and ice cream? They’re not for him. He’s making a meal for his son and the son’s new fiancé he’ll be meeting for the first time.

Last night was another wake up call for me and so I’m ringing the bells for anyone else reading this.

Someone else took it deeper for me…..