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—Our Dash

Changes changes
The planets are aligning
Our stars are falling,
The winter full moon
shines a light for the storm coming home.

Passages and endings make way for new beginnings, yes, but couldn’t there yet, just be one more day? For some, a death is expected while for others, it’s not. Either way, it’s a part of the bigger cycle but who cares about the bigger cycle when all you want is that one more day?

It makes us stop and snaps us out of where we are. I’ve written before about how a death can make us take stock of where we are in our living, and where we think we’ve been, but I’ve found that with each passing, the snap is fresh and the restocking feels brand-new. When my mother passed away, my life shifted in ways I could never have foreseen except by first-hand experience. It’s still so new to me and I keep sifting through my mental attic and basement; shuffling, sorting, tagging, boxing, and working through old habits, memories, thoughts, and baggage that don’t serve me any more and so I don’t want them around. It’s a process, for sure, and one with a capital “P”.

Then came news of the deaths of several musicians and actors. All well-known, all larger than life, suddenly a headline with a new date added to the end of a dash. It was shock after shock for many people. The papers reported most of the causes were from long-term illnesses so it’s safe to say that their passing was more of a surprise for us than for them, but no less devastating. Grief doesn’t care how famous you are.

David Bowie and Glenn Frey’s deaths hit me the hardest. I felt sucker punched. They were the soundtrack to anyone growing up in the Seventies. Pick any song by either of them and guaranteed there is a memory curled and wrapped around it. It was the theme to boyfriends, first loves, summer nights, great friends and days filled with the innocence of blue jeans, long hair and the freedom of a full tank of gas in that first car you bought with your own money. It was about taking the world by the balls and we were innocent and hopeful enough to think we could. No matter what, it was all going to be alright. Their voices, their music was inspired and inspiring.

“People don’t run out of dreams, they just run out of time” sang Frey in “River of Dreams.” It really is all about that dash in the middle and what you do with it. The death of loved ones and creative giants like those we’ve recently lost grabs us and shakes us and challenges us to look at ourselves and our dashes. Their music and movies are a reminder of our younger selves and who we wanted to be, who we could be. Not like them necessarily, but the best of us.

“What will be left of all the fearing and wanting associated with your problematic life situation that every day takes up most of your attention? A dash, one or two inches long, between the date of birth and date of death on your gravestone.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Last night I stood outside under the light of the moon, and stared, in awe, at the alignment of the planets and I couldn’t help but feel the smallness of my humanity under God’s dome.  I will do this again tonight, and then, when the snowflakes begin to fall ushering in this Winter’s first fury, I will come inside, sit by the fire, hug my loved one, and pay attention to my dash.

Will you?

#takingitdeeper
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Friday’s Focus—Necessary Kindness

Writing today’s focus, I was struck by how it seems we need tragedy in order to remember to be kind to each other and treat each other as human beings. If it weren’t for today’s anniversary of 9/11, would the average person really stop and think about people who lost their lives in senseless violence? Would they say a prayer to the families and victims of hate crimes, injustices, and war if images of bloodshed weren’t streaming on our devices?

There are more acts of kindness today than ever before but not nearly enough so I’m dedicating today’s Friday’s Focus as a reminder to each one of us not to wait until there is war or violence or a catastrophic event to simply be kind to the next person, whether you know them or not.

Peace…..

#takingitdeeper

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!

Defining Moments

Today, I woke up and fell in love with the sound of the rain.
The clock ticked and the refrigerator hummed as I let my coffee grow cold beside me while I continued to listen to the drips of water outside my window.

It was a moment of perfection.
Not THE defining moment in my life but certainly one of them.

Yesterday I heard the expression, “defining moment” more times in one day since I don’t know when. It inevitably caught my attention and by the third mention, I could almost feel the poke on my shoulder and hear the “Pssst” in my ear.

What was my defining moment?
Did I have one?
It was a great question and gave me much to chew on.

I don’t think I can say I have ONE defining moment but rather several small ones that, looking back, certainly add up. Maybe my big ONE moment is still to come. Maybe not. Maybe it is meant to be chuncked into these smaller pieces. I think the end result is the same though. Moments occur in which my self meets my Self in a series of Howdy do’s.

Falling in love with the sound of the rain and the quiet moments between the ticks of the clock, was certainly one of those times because in that pause when everything is just so….a realization, a shift of perception, was finally able to wake up and bubble up. But they haven’t always been so peaceful and serene.

I think that any time something happens (whether it’s an event or simply a time of reflection) that gives us the chance to redirect and realign where we are in our thoughts and actions—basically where we are in our life, is a defining moment. They’re not always welcome…at first, and not always what we think they are… at first.

I believe that these moments, whether they come as softly as a whispered ah-ha in meditation or as powerful and disruptive/destructive as a hurricane, it’s what we make of them that holds the key to our growth.

Hindsight has the gift of reflection and hopefully clarity. I’m not going to lie and say I never thought “Why Me?” when things happened to me and it was only through hindsight, sometimes years away from the original incident, did I see the circumstances for what they were and  looking back has now allowed me to say “I’m glad it was me.”

Have you given thoughts to any of your defining moments?

Friday Focus’s—Getting Out of Our Own Way

So often our we let our insecurities and fears hold us back from things we want to do. Or maybe it’s thoughts about what he said/she said that replay in our mind. Each one of us has two choices: Rest in the comfort but constraining mindset eventually giving birth to regrets or change the subject in your head and not care so much about what other people say or think. In other words, change your focus.

It’s up to you, but if you really want to get juicy about life and turn those, “Oh, but I can’t” into “Let’s go!” we first have to start with getting out of our own way  by getting past old fears, habits, voices, and thinking. What’s been holding you back?

Have a great weekend!

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

Discovery and Wishes

I’ve been an avid reader all my life—all sorts of books from fiction to nonfiction and inspiration to The Far Side cartoon collection. No matter how many books I have, there will always be room for one more, except these past few weeks, when I’ve had to find room for many more.

It’s just one of those things where everywhere I turned there was something I wanted to read more about and so these past few weeks I’ve been gifting myself with an armload of books from local bookstores. As my pile got higher, I noticed that the subjects were all related in theme: without realizing it I had surrounded myself with biographies of individuals who fell from a place in their lives, met resistance, dealt with it, and overcame it or were working at overcoming it. These were stories of, in part, discovery, faith, challenges, courage, and strength in physical, emotional, and spiritual areas. Except, there were those Stephen King and Anne Rice novels thrown in there a few weeks ago that was pure blissful mind candy….

I can’t help but wonder if these books have been put in my path as an answer to questions I have been asking. Some questions I’m fully aware of and others I feel lurking just beneath my consciousness, stirring up the waters and tickling my dreams. Or perhaps they were brought to my attention to show me to have faith and acceptance no matter what course I’m redirected to. Either way, I am enjoying them tremendously and have already learned much with a lot more to digest.

That being said, one of the books I’ve been reading this week is from Pema Chödrön and I was reminded of the Four Limitless Qualities Chant. I’ve known about it but I was happy to be reminded of it again and I thought its showing up right now, is impeccable timing in that it perfectly expresses my wishes for everyone during this holiday season. Whatever religion you practice, whatever nationality you are, wherever you live in this world, I share and wish for you this:

May all beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.
May we be free from suffering and the root of suffering.
May we not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering.
May we dwell in the great equanimity free from passion, aggression, and prejudice.

Taking it deeper this Christmas and beyond.

Battles, Bloodshed, Hummingbirds, and Peace

We recently came back from a little getaway to Gettysburg, PA. It was our fifth or sixth trip out to the Battlefields and in spite of the horrific war and incomprehensible amount of death and suffering endured in that small town and its surrounding fields, it has always felt peaceful to me, like I was coming home. One would think that there would be an uneasy or erratic energy in a place where so much bloodshed and emotion was evoked and I couldn’t help but wonder if any restless spirits that may be there or the energy of the blood and bone-soaked land is being soothed by the thousands of visitors that come each year in awe and reverence at the enormity of the three-day battle, silently giving their thanks and appreciation for their sacrifice—not just the soldiers who died but the surgeons, and doctors, and regular townsfolk who helped all along the battle and for a long time afterward.

I’ve seen veterans, old and young, solitary and with families come to give respect. Maybe it is that unspoken “thank you” that has helped the energy of the land and the energy of the town. It is a fact that many soldiers lives ended in Gettysburg—some quickly, some not so, but all cruelly painful and endured as a sacrifice for what they believed in. The energy is palpable without a doubt, but so is the peace.

One night, in the dark we stood in the Wheat Fields where one of the bloodiest events occurred. The breeze kicked up while we stood, allowing our eyes to adjust to the night, and once in a while we could hear the far-off roar of a motorcycle or car, but other than that it was just us and the crickets. I centered myself to feel the energetic movement of the tall grasses in the field and my imagination went to all of the bodies that had lain there at one time. Through it all there was a sense of peace that permeated the field as if it emanating from deep under soil.

Even in the daytime, the sense of peacefulness is tangible. Wednesday, we hiked to Little Round Top, one of the strategic areas during the battle located high up a hill. I walked away to a quieter corner to get some distance from the tour busses and families that were sharing the view. I perched on a rock and gazed across the valley at the distant mountains and all the fields and trees in between and let the the drone of conversations around me fade away as I marveled at all the shades of green and reveled in the gorgeousness of nature. Once more I was struck by the deep tranquility of the land that had once held so much violence.

As I stared at the peaks of the mountains in the distance, a hummingbird flew around me and hovered a couple of feet directly in front of me. In all my years of climbing those rocks, I’ve never seen a hummingbird there but I was not completely surprised because this was the second time in a week (last week being the first time in my life) that I had a close encounter with a hummingbird (that will be another post!). Seeing the hummingbird on the battlefield seemed especially poignant because of the unexpected sweetness of seeing something so innocent and fragile while standing on a rock that was allegedly used by sharpshooters aimed at kill soldiers just down the hill. The irony of the symbolism was not lost on me.

I wonder about the energy of other modern war-torn lands and the energy of the blood and lives lost and lives still there. Are we Americans the only ones to make battlegrounds state parks to preserve the integrity of what we fought for? Is there land set aside in Vietnam? The Pacific? Other areas of the world? Will there be one day? It is not just the people and the descendants of those in battle that suffer and become wounded but the land does as well. How can it not? The earth is alive as and when all the bodies are gone and the towns are left for rubble, it is the land that will continue to hold the energy of the bloodshed and the bodies and the tears. It is the land that will be there long after the bodies are gone and the events are but memories. I am not a political person and I am not a soldier nor a soldier’s wife. I am just one person, one human being, whose heart goes out to those who gave and still give it all for what they believe in, whether it is 151 years ago, or yesterday.

Thank you and peace to you.