Monthly Archives: September 2017

Thankful

 

I am thankful for every relationship in my life that has come and gone. Be they joyful, toxic, or a mixture of both. Each person who has come into my life has been a masterful teacher to me on some level, at some time.

I am grateful for the chance to receive rejection with grace and humility and serve it in the same manner. For the knowledge and wisdom of when it was time to move on. For the strength and courage to act with maturity and kindness when doing so. For taking the brave steps of walking away from a cycle of pain and towards a cycle of support.

I am thankful…

For new beginnings.

For the adventure of having lived in an RV for 18 months and the places it took our family, the freedom it gave us, the minimalism it introduced to us, and the memories we made.

For having the safety, security, and conveniences of a home, once again. For a room of my own to write, read, and create in. For a large playroom for my daughter. For a space for my husband to work and create. For my cozy hospital bed. For hot water, power, central air & heat, showers, a large refrigerator, two bathrooms, a washer & dryer, and wifi, at our disposal 24/7-365 (which were not always available while we traveled for a year and a half.)

For the community we so loved and had to say goodbye to.

For our Angel Naomi for showing up at the eleventh hour, in a heat wave, with people to help move and doing physical labor herself.

For Jennie watching our daughter all week while I had infusions and we packed the storage space. For Austin and his friends from his church that helped load the truck on the final day and who we never would have made it out of there without.

For Jen & Daniel and their sustaining friendship and the hearty meal. For Brooke providing her home for us to house-sit while we said our goodbyes to the community and loved ones. For Cher’e for being sweet and loving and sharing craft materials.

For all the doctors and nurses I care about so much that I had to say good bye to.

For everything our old home town was for us while we were there: a nature’s paradise, a safe, liberal, hippie bubble, a wonderful, supportive community.

For learning how to be more compassionate and giving by being on the receiving end of so much compassion and giving.

For my closest, longest, most enduring friendships that sustain, lift, support, and hold space for me on a consistent weekly basis, year after year: Lisa, Richard, Katrina, Ken, Perry & G, Tracy & C, Jeff/Sist, and Hollie (how about that, five women and five men. The yin and the yang create completeness. I feel so balanced. HA.)

You will never know how much your regular texts, emails, phone calls, and visits lift my spirits and carry me forward. The kindness of your loyalty moves me deeply. I pray that I am as much a support for you as you are for me, so that you too, may know the gift of feeling truly loved, cared for, and thought of as special and important in the heart of another, year after consistent year. Our friendship continues to flourish in part because of the work we do on ourselves to be loving, kind, and loyal to ourselves, each other, and the world around us, and I appreciate that so very much.

For the support of my immediate and extended in-laws and the joy, laughter, and love my nephews bring me every time I hear from them or see their beautiful faces.

For the love and support of more recent or more casual friends who may flourish into deeper friendships as the years go by.

For support of the #WeAreOne campaign.

For creative friends who inspire me.

For the chance to really get settled again and help my daughter, my husband, and myself live our dreams.

For the opportunity, time, and space to create again: publish the books I’ve been writing, create the art I’ve been dreaming, and design and make real the private, peaceful, simple life I’ve always imagined.

For every day that I am alive, that I have the mental acuity and physical stamina to be present for myself, my family, my friends, and the world around me.

For the simple pleasures of a daily ritual with tea, and books, two of my most treasured long time companions.

For having access to watching Jeopardy as a family again. 

Most of all, I am so thankful for my husband and daughter and the love and joy they bring me. Without their devotion, it’s difficult to imagine that I’d still be alive and kicking. Their beautiful smiling faces light up my entire world anew, each and every day. Their laughter lifts my spirit, like Charlie and his grandpa floating in Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. (Perfect set up for the pun: my family is a gas!)

Bliss really is an untapped energy source. It fills our new home with music, creative expression, and intellectual pursuits that abound.

I love my family. I love my friends. I love my life.

I am thankful for it all.

 

 

Compassion

Compassion in Action

We speak a lot in our home about mindfulness and compassion (metta).

Compassion for self, as well as for others can completely turn our perception of a situation around in an nano second.

But compassion without action is like loving someone and never telling them.

My family and I were at a loud food court in a mall. A young mother with five children was struggling to order her food and pay for it while wrangling her children. Her son, who was probably seven-years-old, was yanking, twisting, and pulling on the arm of his younger sister, who was about three.

The toddler began to cry. Her cries became louder and more persistent. People began to shoot annoyed glances toward the family. My daughter and I said a prayer of comfort to the child and sent compassion to the mother.

After five minutes of increased high pitched scream cries, people began to shift in their seats with concern. I began wondering myself if the child’s arm hadn’t been broken by her brother. My daughter and I stopped what we were doing and began to direct all of our energy toward sending loving kindness energy toward the family.

At least 10 minutes of scream crying had now passed.

When a child cries that hard, for that long, sometimes it’s because there is something they need to express and be acknowledged for and sometimes it’s because of momentum. They want to stop crying but nothing is interrupting the pattern to help them. They are caught up in the moment, in the expression, and don’t know what else to do but more of the same.

We decided to approach the family.

I asked the mother, “May I offer you some support?” She looked at me with a kind of appreciative confusion. My daughter came with me and started playing peekaboo with the little girl who was scream crying.

Within a few minutes of just standing near the family, lending them our energy, acknowledging their struggle, engaging with kindness, and offering to be of service, the child stopped crying and even smiled. The mother was grateful. The entire food court in the mall was grateful. We walked back to our seats and life carried on; but with a gentler, kinder frequency and energy in the air.

It takes courage to act on compassion. Our minds get cluttered with questions:

“Should I just mind my own business?”

“Is it even appropriate for me to go over there and say something?”

“Someone else will show up to help or be of service.”

If fear stops you from acting on compassion, shift the paradigm from doing an act of compassion for another to doing the act of compassion for your self. 

Reaching out to strangers with compassion is not just something we are inclined to do to be of service to others, but it’s a choice we make to be of service to ourselves.

If my daughter and I did not break away from the mob mentality of annoyance with the child and mother for all the commotion, we too could have found ourselves caught up in the same wave of anger and irritation.

Instead, we made a conscious choice to have compassion for all concerned and act on that choice.

Compassion is the quickest, easiest, most straight forward healing agent, of which I know. When people talk about resisting neutrality, making scenes and fighting for the rights we feel are being stripped of us, I think of compassion; first for the self and then for all.

The courage to take a stand

begins with the compassion of standing our ground.

May we all make more room for compassion in our hearts and may our compassion give us the courage to act when to do so will make a positive difference.

Creating Presence

My daughter shared a gift card with me for one of those places where you paint ceramics. I glued wings onto the back of hugging salt and pepper shakers and painted what was supposed to be mother and daughter angel fairies embracing, but looks more like a British drag queen fairies from Monty Python’s Flying Circus; which makes me love them all the more.

It was a joy to paint again, even if I did so poorly, and the act of doing so brought me to the following thoughts I really want to share with you…

It’s been said…

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past.

If you are anxious, you are living in the future.”

To which I will add, if you are being creative, you are living in the present.

Creativity only happens in the present moment.

If you struggle with remaining present, the best training may be creativity.

When you feel yourself getting pulled under the thick, gooey currents of resentment, of memories from the past, of what could have been and what never will be again; start creating.

When you find yourself spiraling in fear and anxiety about what might or might not come to pass; start creating.

The minute we begin to write, paint, build, cook, or create in any way, we can instantly destroy that vision of struggle. Like a super hero POW!- we blast one version of reality into the next.

“But I’m not the creative type.”

“I don’t have time to create.”

Are you the “thinking type?”

Do you have time to think?

Because every thought is a creation.

When someone comes to me and says, “The flood waters in Texas are rising and expected to rise more.” I listen and think, “Is this thought yet a reality?” No. It’s a possibility, perhaps even a probability. It’s malleable, not fixed.

If I start thinking about the water rising and repeat what I heard to someone else, is that thought serving anyone? Is it helping to create an unwanted reality? What thought could I choose that would be of more service? What do the people of Texas need? They need the flood waters to recess. I take a moment and imagine, like a movie in reverse, that the flood waters are recessing. I imagine people being rescued. Loved ones being found. I picture everyone’s needs being met and suffering being eased.

Does this help or do anything at all that’s actually tangible? Maybe, maybe not. Does it hurt? Only if it prevented real action. But what does the creation of our thoughts lead to most? Action! When we allow ourselves to think about whether or not a certain thought serves us, we start putting more consideration into our thoughts which leads to creativity and often to a call of action.

Everything around us: homes, buildings, the things we fill our homes with: art, music, books, all began first as thoughts.

A “to do list,” is a list of thoughts, with an intent to act, which then creates new results or realities.

If we are going to spend our time thinking anyway, why not pull our thoughts from obsessively regretting the past or catastrophizing the future and start creating a better present moment of now?

When I find myself getting caught in a wave of thoughts that are not serving me, about the world, finances, health, etc. I start creating new possibilities with new thoughts.

I start with myself and my daughter. I imagine us healthy and dancing together on a beach. I’m wearing a red ballet dress and she is wearing a matching one in white. I have an entire dance choreographed that we do together at sunset, because I am corny like that.

I move on to my husband, extended family, friends, community, and world at large. I don’t imagine everyone dancing, but I suppose I could. I imagine instead, the realities they have shared with me that they most want. I see everyone in the story they are currently in, with whatever their personal struggles might be, and then I see them specifically as how they have expressed to me they want to be (particular new job, relationship, experience, etc.) which largely amounts to happy, healthy and successful.

For example, I had a friend who wanted a certain number of piano students each week; and another friend who wanted to have a dog walking business, another who wanted to self-publish books, another who wanted to make a film, and many friends who wanted to get pregnant. Every day for several weeks I visualized for each of them their desired reality and whether or not I had anything to do with it or not, their business’ grew, the books got published, the film was made, and all my friends got pregnant. To their credit, I do have hard working friends.

A few years ago there was a lot on the news about a pending hurricane to hit Mexico. At the time, I belonged to several online meditation groups and we came together to visualize the hurricane getting smaller and smaller so that by the time it hit Mexico, it would not cause the damage predicted; and that’s exactly what happened.

But there are many times that my thoughts don’t seem to make any difference at all.

There are so, very many variables that go into creating reality: personally and globally. We are not sole creators, we are merely co-creators. There will be times when forces greater than us and our thoughts, are able to shape and form reality. Does that mean that thought practice is a useless skill? No, because it’s not always about an ends to a means, it’s about how the focus on our thoughts changes us in the present moment.

I don’t know if my positive thinking helps the actual people I’m thinking about, but I know it helps me.

Positive thinking, or as I prefer to call it: “Thought Practice” is not about denial, it’s about a call to action around the reality that exists and how we want to change it.

When my child is sick, I do not treat her symptoms with happy thoughts alone. I acknowledge any suffering and do my best to provide comfort and ease, by first recognizing and validating her experience. Then I work, through action, to change that reality by providing medical care and/or healing techniques. Finally, I work with thought, I imagine her well, vibrant, and happy.

Too often, New Age Thought rejects the first steps of acknowledging the negative reality someone is experiencing for fear of reinforcing it; and too often the pragmatist rejects any power or influence their thoughts may have about a situation. As with most things in life, I find the answer to be in the middle grey area, somewhere in between those two extremes.

We have to recognize the reality in order to treat it, but we don’t have to accept the reality as the only reality in existence. There are likely an infinite number of realities for any given situation. Everything is energy which makes me believe that our thoughts have power, if not to impact the world around us, to impact the world within us.

If you have zero interest in thought practice as a means of service to self and others, and you just have a desire to be more present in the eternal moment of now, I wholeheartedly recommend any kind of creative engagement of the mind.

I am not a visual artist, as my salt and pepper shakers can attest, but I paint, craft, and create as often as possible because it brings me and keeps me in the present moment. Maybe that’s why every movie about mental institutions has a reference to basket weaving classes and shows patients doing arts and crafts. When we engage with creativity it brings us into the present.

I also find the same gift when I play chess or a musical instrument. I am not proficient at any musical instrument and therefore it takes a great deal of concentration for me to play one without damaging ear drums or driving others away.

Chess takes all my concentration and there is no part of my brain that has time to worry about the future or fret over the past when I am trying to protect my Queen and checkmate my opponents King. Chess makes my brain tickle and I love it, even if I lose far more often than win. I don’t play to win as much as I play for the reward of the brain tickle and the respite from living in the past or the future.

We need to have time in the present moment in order to manage the moments from the past and future that still haunt us.

It’s a delicious bath to bathe in the essence of nothingness and all-ness in the same moment of now.

What do you do to create presence in your life?

 

 

 

 

Managing Discomfort

Part of life is managing discomfort; be it mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, or even psychic.

The main way that most people manage discomfort is to kvetch, complain and vent about it. This can ease the sting and is sometimes a helpful part of the process; and yet, there are other ways to manage discomfort as well which my daughter has taught me; more graceful ways.

The first time my daughter was in a group situation where she felt the need to manage discomfort, children were making observational comparisons to one another. It was then that I first introduced her to the topic of ego.

I told her that the ego had a bad rep for the most part, but that the benefit of ego, is that it’s there for our survival, and part of survival is making comparisons and managing discomfort. And by survival I mean everything from the literal survival of life versus death, to survival of peer pressure. Survival of the personality, the spirit, and the core of who we are in the face of society, at times, pressuring us to be someone or something other than who we are.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world
which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else
means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
e. e. cummings

The question the ego asks most is, “Am I safe?” Everything that follows, that gives ego a bad name, usually comes from poorly devised attempts at safety.

I shared with her that it was the job of the ego to compare, but the job of the spirit to see past all that could be measured. She took this to heart.

We have recently moved to a new city. A city that from a global perspective isn’t that different from the last one we lived in, but from a highly sensitive person’s individual perspective is drastically, almost diametrically opposed to the one from which we came from both socially, and politically. It’s a culture shock to be certain.

My daughter went to a summer program to make new friends. When given the chance to socialize, the children, ages 8-11, played Minecraft on their cell phones instead. My daughter was disappointed.

When I asked her what she did to manage her disappointment, she said,

“I inhaled the feeling of discomfort and embraced it.”

“Wow!” I said with genuine awe, “What a masterful example of managing discomfort.”

My daughter is my inspiration. I take no credit for her “old soul” wisdom.

She likes to read Pema Chödrön. Yes, it’s true, that I introduced her to Pema Chödrön, but so too to Shakespeare, The Bhagavadgītā, parts of the Talmud, The Holy Bible, Dr. Seuss, Rainbow Fish, Tolstoy, Epictetus, the words of Gautama Buddha and a bevy of poets. But it has been Pema Chödrön who she has been drawn to most, as her 10-year-old self.

My daughter supported herself by supporting her feelings. She sat with the uncomfortable feelings like she would sit with an arm around a friend who was sad. Then the feeling dissolved and left. In essence, she loved discomfort away by accepting it, by breathing it in, and breathing it out.

How much easier and more elegant is this approach compared to being in denial, defensive, resistant or in reactive mode? It’s a life time easier.

Why can’t we all just do that whenever we are in discomfort? Can we try? Because it’s a pretty amazing and transformative practice that could end a lot of suffering.

She was able to change her own feelings and perspective through self-compassion and acceptance.

However, this did not change the people or problems around her.

“We can’t change the people around us but we can change the people around us.”

The challenge of being surrounded by children who would rather be on a device than play, still remained. Yet, she found a graceful and loving way to handle that situation as well.

Each morning before camp, we would do a grounding meditation. Sometimes it was as simple as a loving embrace facing each other heart to heart while setting a five minute meditation timer and just focusing on breathing together and really feeling each other’s unconditional love.

Sometimes I would guide her in a meditation in the parking lot of the school where the camp was located before she got out of the car. Neither practice took more than a few minutes. We’d focus on tuning her frequency to her highest self, those characteristics she feels make her who she is: a joyful heart, a conscientious spirit, and a curious mind all wrapped in a soft, playful, sensitive blanket.

I was taught that to have a friend, you have to be a friend. This can be good advice, but I feel it needs a little instruction. I became a friend to others, often by losing parts of myself in the process and I didn’t want to see my daughter sacrifice herself in the same way.

I wanted to encourage her in being more of who she was, to draw out and support anyone in the group who might share those same qualities; instead of encouraging her to be less of herself, just to fit in with the strongest common denominator which was the least like her truest self.

The challenge with group dynamics is remaining who you are, trusting that like-minded peers will come forth with support; and not allowing the mob mentality to mold you or your child into something you or they are not.

I really love who my daughter is and I don’t want her to lose her beautiful nature in the name of not feeling alone. This is part of why we homeschool, to support our child in being her true self. There’s a big difference between being able to blend into any community and having to change your core values to fit into the community you feel situationally forced to due to school, work, religion, etc.

At some point in our lives, we have each likely found ourselves letting pieces of us be chipped away in the name of acceptance by others. In the end, we often find that those who want to change us or need us to change in order to be accepted by them, will never be satisfied. I maintain that there is a more loving way to be in the world and connect with others, but it requires mindfulness and practice.

My daughter remained committed to a daily practice of being present and focused on the tuning of her frequency to the vibration that served her. The mantra and prayer was, “May my frequency honor and protect me so that I may strengthen the frequency of any kindred spirits among me and only attract other children who are vibrating with a joyful heart, a kind soul, and a conscientious spirit.”

I believe that we teach by example. We need not draw to us people who seem inherently different with a desire to change them (i.e. Bullies). We only need be more of ourselves and give others permission to do the same. For truly, if we are one, our core values which are expressions of love, will rise to the surface in each of us; if only we create a safe and inviting place for love to shine.

This is not just a lesson for a child, but for adults as well in work, family, and community dynamics. We can find peaceful and effective ways to manage discomfort through acceptance of what is and mindfulness of what can be.

My daughter is patient. She set an intention to make new friends and was prepared to be flexible and make space for that to happen. For several days, she sat with mindful presence demonstrating an interest and availability to play with the children, should they choose to stop playing Minecraft.

During that time she observed which children went out of their way to be kind to others and which went out of their way to be cruel. Fragments of conversations floated abundantly and gave insight into the moral compass of those around her. She noticed the mannerisms and quirks of teachers and administrators; people watching is in our blood. She radiated kindness to all and remained joyful and willing to make a new friend or friends during the entire process.

Eventually, after a week had passed, she decided that she would bring a book to read while other children played on their phones. Just as she was about to reach for her book, a few children, some new, began to put their phones away and play with her instead. She was thrilled.

She could have applied the “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” concept, or even the “If you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy. Instead, she chose to remain loyal to her integrity and values and her desire to connect with people directly and not via the video game.

We have no beliefs about the video game or video games in general either positive or negative, per say. In fact, Minecraft is very popular in the homeschool community and we have heard wonderful things about it. But that was simply not how she wanted to exchange her energy with others. She said, “I’d rather interact directly with children through playing pretend games and using our imaginations or spend time with myself reading a book. I’m not interested in Minecraft.”

It wasn’t a judgement against others, rather a choice for herself. That’s the irony about people who take things personally; it is personal, about the person making the choice for themselves, not about the one who actually takes it personally.

She did not succumb to lowering her vibration in order to make new friends. She believed in herself and focused on raising her vibration and trusting the process of life, and in the end, she was rewarded for that choice, and that faith. She may not have made lifetime friends in the summer camp environment, but she made seasonal friends.

These children were not like the children from the earthy, hippie community we had come from. They asked questions about what store my daughter planned to buy her costume from, and were inordinately focused on what kind of car their parents drove and the zip code each lived in.

These children played pranks on each other, older kids turned off the bathroom lights on younger kids and told them the bathroom was haunted. Some might argue that this is just an example of kids being kids; and maybe it is. But my daughter is an empath and when she saw how upset it made some of the children she had empathy for their feelings. She took it upon herself to use her height and courage and block the path of the lights when she could and assure the younger children that the bathroom was not haunted and that she would wait with them if they were frightened.

There were only two boys in the class of 30 and the day they were absent, the greater majority of the class began gossiping about them. When girls came to gossip with my daughter she asked them to stop. She said, “How would you feel if people were gossiping about you?” They walked away and my daughter got her first taste of what it feels like to stand up for the right thing but pay the price by standing alone.

At the end of the five week summer program, she walked away not having made any lasting friendships. Her father and I seemed more sad for her than she was for herself. She said, “It’s ok. It would have been too much work to bend myself to their ways or want them to bend themselves to my ways. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit but there will be other people and places and opportunities to make new friends.”

And there were. She met someone she connected with at Chemistry Camp and she’s become friends with the next door neighbor. Eventually, we may even get plugged into the homeschool community in our new town and maybe make more connections there.

For now, she has the friends she’s always had, she just sees them less. And truly, we don’t need a ton of friends, just a few really good ones. I’m proud of her for not falling into desperation and lowering her standards. It gives me hope for her future dating life.

We do not need to lower our vibration in order to find meaningful connections with others, no matter where we are in the world. We merely need to remain present, patient, and trusting that our tribe will find us or others will raise their vibrations to match ours if only we can remain grounded in our frequency, our integrity, and make our vibration strong enough to stay centered in it. We must keep being true to ourselves.

When we allow our inner light to shine and give ourselves permission to be who we are and like what we like, and heed the call of our spirit, and allow others to do the same, we all shine.

When we shine our light, we have the power to strengthen the light of others. The greater the light, the greater the vision and clarity for all concerned and the more effortless it is to manage our discomfort.