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—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—There Is This

What is in between but touch?
A gentle stroke, skin whispering to skin.
A firm hold, fingers intertwined.
An embrace that suspends you in time.
Fingertips, lips. arms, bodies.

It all comes down to touch.

It’s between the lovers in the darkest hours before morning.
It’s between a parent and a newborn babe.
It’s between the living and the dying.
It’s between two friends, two strangers, two human beings.

It’s this.
All this.
In our deepest human experience,
when no words can convey…

there is touch….

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#takingitdeeper

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.

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#takingitdeeper #selflove #selfgrowth #forgiveness

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—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!

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?

Rocks are Shooting Stars, Too

Last week I inquired about applying for something that meant a lot to me but I was told that I was lacking in one of the core requirements. I had other experiences that equalled the resultant knowledge and training but because I had not completed that particular requirement (a two-week calendar commitment across the country) I was told I could not be considered a candidate.

I understand about the necessity of prerequisites and not making exceptions, but the knowledge I gained and the experiences I gathered through the smaller workshops mimicked what was being taught at the larger one, yet I was informed that it wasn’t enough. Despite the duplicity of subject matter that was in the two-week from what I had already taken, I was told I needed to commit to the two-weeks away. This was not an option for me, so I couldn’t apply.

I was deeply disappointed and took a walk/run at a local park to clear my head and try to shake off my feelings of  discouragement. Halfway through my walk, I rounded a bend in the path and came upon a rocky embankment overlooking the lake. I was still feeling down so I stopped, found a place to sit on the rocks and looked out over the water. I took off my sunglasses and looked around.

The lack of prescription lenses made everything around me automatically shift into soft vision. I could clearly make out the difference between a rock and tree but it’s the details of things that get lost to me without my glasses. I closed my eyes and turned my face toward the sun as I listened to the soft lapping of the water made from the ripples of the paddles from some late Autumn kayakers. A dog barked in the distance and a child’s laugh floated up from the nearby playground.

I worked to sort out my genuine feelings from my bruised ego’s huffiness. As I opened my eyes and looked out across the lake, I smiled at the vision before me of a thousand diamonds shimmering on the water’s surface, twinkling in the sun’s reflection. I felt the bite of the rock I was sitting on after not having moved in a while and I shifted my body to nestle into a better spot.

It occurred to me then that maybe not all of us are meant to be shooting stars and that maybe some of us are meant to stay close, and be like rocks—solid and holding the space, the energy, for others around them. No less important, a little less glamorous and attention grabbing perhaps, but just as much needed as the stars.

I’m okay with holding space. The world needs both—the shine and brightness of the stars right along with the solid, foundational, anchoring, rocks. It doesn’t matter which one we are, as they both have a purpose. We may even change places at some point in our lives.

Those of us who hold the grounded space now, may one day catapult through the skies, and those that are sailing at the height of the gods now, may one day come down to rest on the banks of these shorelines and mountains and take up residence in the dust of Mother Earth as one of its children—a rock.

Who decides if we hold space above or below? Is it karma? Fate? Luck? Chance? Maybe it’s just where our energy is needed, and it’s just the way things are at least for now. I say “for now,” because nothing stays the same. Even rocks get worn down. Either way, whether you’re a rock or a shooting star—whether you hold the space here on earth, or among the chariots and other shining, shooting stars, it is a good place to be. It is an honorable place to be.

And so I came to terms with my disappointment. I don’t agree with their decision behind it, but I respect it. There’s a reason I get to be a rock a while longer and whatever it is, I’m fine with that. I’ll hold the space here for whomever needs it. Shooting stars and rocks are really parts of each other anyway.  They both contain dust, metals, and minerals among other things.

I also made peace with what happened, or rather what didn’t happen, and with my ego back in check, it became clear that there were many levels to this lesson for me. Some need to stay private within my heart, but others like this lesson about the rocks and the shooting stars are calling out to be shared.

The limbs from the trees surrounding the embankment where I sat began to shudder and sway almost as if they were applauding what I now saw clearly and the day’s crisp air found its way through the spaces in my coat telling me it was time to go. I got myself back on my feet again, put on my sunglasses, and thanked the rocks and the waters for being there, and holding me in balance. The soft vision of the diamonds now sharpened into more of a glittery waterscape but if I squinted, I saw them again.

I then took my husband’s hand as we walked down the rocks together and headed home.

As above, so below.

Changing the Rules of the Game

Whether we realize it or not, every day, in any given situation, we teach people how to treat us by our reactions and where we set our boundaries.

No matter how much we’d rather believe that the way we’re being treated is the other person’s fault, it takes two. If that other person is so bad, why are you allowing it? That’s right–allow. To see how we teach others to treat us is not always so obvious and it takes a chunk of honesty to recognize it.

Praying situations away or praying for people to change doesn’t work. You might as well accept that now. Believe me, I’ve done it for far longer than I should have. Then, when nothing changes, what do we do? We blame the situation or the other person for our misery. It can’t and isn’t always about the other person. How about you? What are you doing that is enabling the situation to continue or the person to continue to treat you that you find so problematic?

If nothing is changing for you despite pleas and prayers, and wishful thinking so hard and deep on every star you wish upon, that they fall in your lap from the powerful pull, it’s time to look inside yourself.

What is your story? What are your rules and boundaries that are no longer working for you? Take any corner of your life and note spaces and people where you feel things aren’t going the way you want or think they should. Is it really because of them? When it seems like no matter what you do, nothing is changing, then that’s the time to take an honest assessment and start making shifts: Rewrite the rules, change your reactions, and move some of those boundaries while removing others.

By changing your reactions and your expectations, and by default the way you treat others, you will teach others how to treat you. We’re all saints and sinners with good days and bad but no one is exclusively one or the other. Be how you wish to be treated. Be the kind of person you want to attract. This isn’t giving in or giving up who you are, but it is giving up control instead. It could be giving up what we thought we wanted. It is giving up what is really the dream of someone else in our life. It is giving up of that perfection we are told we should all be.

You’d be surprised at how much our expectations and reactions get in the way of how we really wish to be treated and get what we want out of life. If you’re not happy with a relationship, maybe it’s not that you need to seek a better mate, maybe you need to be a better mate yourself. If you feel you’re not getting the respect you deserve, maybe you haven’t shown enough respect for yourself. If you don’t care, why should anyone else? If you want something then say it, shout it, go get it! If you don’t, the other person is not a mind reader and it’s not their fault that they couldn’t inuit your desires. No one walks over you or gets away with anything you don’t allow them to.

The good news is, we all have the power to change the game. To change our game—reinvent it. Too often we think that we can’t because we’re either too scared, have feelings of unworthiness, or maybe it never occurred to us that this is something we could do. We are all capable of amazing things and the bottom line is that no one else but you has the power to make the changes to your script. And yes, change can hurt those involved but without making the change and taking the chance on hurting the other person, you end up only hurting yourself and is that really a sacrifice you want to make?

Sending love and good vibes to the moon and back and wishing everyone a bottomless cup of coffee, chai, or whatever it is that will get your week going to a great start!

 

I Want…

I’ve been quiet for a while so I thought it was time to post some things I’ve been thinking about….

I want my breath taken away by something beautiful, not knocked out of me by anxiety.

I want my heart to ache from loving so much it hurts, not aching from hurt love.

I want my eyes to see beauty and hope in all corners of nature and humanity; even ugliness and hard lines have a duality that embrace some good.

I want my mind to come up with possibilities and solutions where thinking out of the box is the norm rather than staying boxed in.

I want my soul to create opportunities of inspiration, aspiration, and celebration not just for myself but for whomever the magic touches.

I want to dream of ideas and worlds that change the questions of “What if” and “When” to the sentences, “Yes,” and “Right now.”

I want to walk out of the shadows of my ancestors and add my own colors and stories for my descendants.

Finally, I want to thank all those who are or have been in my life even if for a moment or a day, and for helping me choreograph my dance, add colors to my canvas, and for being an audience to my stories.

Peace.