Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WRITE YOUR YEAR!

"There's only one very good life. The one you know you want and you make yourself. " --Diana Vreeland

Are you ready to live a very good life? Are you ready to make 2013 your best year yet? Then join me in January at East West Bookshop in Seattle and WRITE YOUR YEAR!

Based on my manifestation writing class WRITE YOUR LIFE, this class is designed to help you create the life you desire this year, using writing as a tool for manifestation and change.

You do not need to be a “writer” to benefit from this class, but you do need a willingness to look openly and honestly at your life, to forgive and let go, and to put words into action and to take the next step with courage.

If you are ready, go here to register. Hope to see you there!

DO LESS; ENJOY IT MORE

"Our problem is not that we do too little, our problem is that we do too much." --The Universe on Day 4 or 5 of my silent meditation retreat

Last year Christmas ended in a closet, with many tears.

My older son, worn out by too many presents, too many sweets, too much Christmas, just couldn't take it anymore and he broke down, running to his grandmother's closet to cry.

I spent a good part of the day crouched there with him, trying to give him comfort and talk him out. It didn't help.

Eventually he came out on his own, bounced back and had a pretty good time, but after that, I was done.

Fifteen years of trying to make the three Christmases in a row thing work just wasn't working anymore. My husband and I agreed that day to do it differently this year.

We had hoped to be out of town, preferably somewhere warm and tropical. It was not to be.

Although I searched and searched - Google, Expedia, Kayak, TripAdvisor, etc., etc. - I just could not find the right spot at the right price.

And my son - the one who was crying in the closet - he doesn't want to go anywhere. He is adamant. He wants to stay home. Right here in the eye of the holiday storm.

So what to do? And how to do it in a way that doesn't leave one of us crying in the closet on Christmas day?

The answer is, we don't know. We honestly have no idea. This is something we are figuring out as we go. And in the meantime we are doing not much.

Last Saturday we got a tree, which remains half decorated, boxes of ornaments and decorations littering our living room.

More holiday cards arrive each day with their happy greetings and perfect family photos. I am temped....I could just find a picture from our road trip...NO! I tell myself, Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

And what about the gifts?

We are trying to do that differently as well, without hurting anyone's feelings. Giving experiences instead of presents. Regifting things that are meaningful to us that others might enjoy. Cutting back where we can on unconscious giving.

What I am realizing as I tell people about our attempts at a different kind of Christmas is that others are looking for a way out of all the busyness as well.

Standing on the playground last week, talking to two moms, one said, I am just so sick of it all. The Giving Tree and my kids' lists, and my family and in-laws and all the different charities. I love them all and they are good causes and some people out there truly need things, but most of us just don't and it makes me want to pull into myself and say 'Enough!' I don't want to give anymore. 

The other mom, nodding her head, I feel like I just want to get it all over with (making a shoving motion with her hands) teacher gifts and kids' gifts and my hair dresser's gift. Here take it, I'm done.

These are not greedy, heartless women. These women have given me a lot - they have hosted me in their homes, had my kids over for play dates, brought meals to teachers, volunteered for field trips, checked homework, planned events and served on the PTSA board.

If we are all feeling this way I can only imagine there are more of us out there. This is not the reason for the season. To give beyond what you have to give. To give to "get it over with" and end up worn out, exhausted and broke at the end of December. Where's the love? Where's the peace? Where's the Christmas spirit in this kind of giving?

I try and imagine what my great grandmother's Christmas might have been like. Church on Christmas Eve, some new mittens, a few nuts and an orange in the stockings, a special meal. It would not have started on November 1st and lasted 55 days. It would not have included trips to the mall and the post office and the hardware store. Or hours stamping and addressing cards to everyone she had ever known.

I don't want to sound like a Scrooge. I love the idea of Christmas, I really do.

Sending photos and letters to friends and family. Love it. Buying thoughtful gifts for those I care about. Love it.  Baking special treats to share. Love it. Enjoying a good meal with those I love. Love it. Making our house look warm and inviting with fairy lights and a live tree. Love it. Giving tips and recognition to those whose service means my life is easier (the garbage man, the milkman, our kids' teachers, and babysitters). Love it. But all at once? All in the space of two or three days? It's overwhelming. It's exhausting. And it's killing my Christmas spirit.

How can we celebrate the birth of Christ - by all accounts modest and spare - in the midst of all this activity?
That's what I want this year - the true Christmas. The Christmas of Jesus. Simple. Quiet. Slow. Yet full of light and joy and love.

It's what I want for 2013 as well.

Spending ten days doing nothing but meditating, walking, eating, and resting, led me to this realization: "Our problem is not that we do too little, our problem is that we do too much."

The world tells us we need to do MORE. GIVE MORE, MAKE MORE, BE MORE. What if what we are giving, doing, making, being is already too much? What if we need to do LESS to enjoy it more?

Giving a gift from the heart and not from the mall. Taking the time to be truly present for the person you are with instead of rushing off to the next activity. Making a simple meal, instead of a feast and enjoying every bite.

I'm not an expert at this by any means. Every day I need to check my impulse to make a list, check it twice then rush out and DO, DO, DO!

Then I remember that doing, doing, doing does nobody any good. That for the past fifteen years doing, doing, doing has led to one unhappy scene after another. That we need to do less to enjoy it more.

Happy Holidays. May you do less and enjoy it more this season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

3 Rules for Life

Three Rules for Life: 

1) Be kind to yourself 
2) Do not harm others 
3) Purify your mind 


I tried writing about my 10-day silent retreat at the NW Vipassana Center yesterday, but I couldn't do it justice. I got bogged down in the details and the essence somehow went missing. So instead of spitting it all out in one L-O-N-G post, I think I'll just share a few of the juicy tidbits over the next few weeks. 

This quote is the first thing I "wrote down" at the retreat. Mind, I use the term "wrote down" loosely here. One of the precepts you agree to live by while at the retreat is "no sensual entertainments." This includes music, television, computers, cell phones, and, yes, pencils, pens and journals.

Woah, talk about hard. Everyone thought the silence was going to be the tricky part. Being silent is easy because no one else is talking. No one else is even looking at you so the temptation to talk is really quite rare. (The few "slips" I did hear were inevitably the result of accidents - bumping into someone, stepping on a toe or letting a door fall in someone's way. Most people just can't resist a quick "sorry" under those circumstances.)

But writing. Now THAT was hard.

One particularly desperate night found me scouring my bags for a rogue pen I didn't turn in. No luck. Another evening I went for a "walk" after dinner, hoping to find a small stick I could use to carve words into my Vipassana handbook - the only paper I had in my possession. I found one, but soon realized this also broke the precept against lying, so I dropped it and went back to my room.

What I did instead was start a page of notes in my head. Each time I wanted to remember something I would repeat it to myself a few times then add it to my page of notes with a number.

Each day I would repeat the whole page in my head a few times to be sure I was retaining all of my notes. It was like memorizing a long poem and kept my brain active in a way it hasn't been since college.

So I have twelve little gems to share with you over the next few weeks. I may not share them all, some - upon further reflection - may turn out to be not all that earth-shattering after all, but those that hold up will be shared here.

Which brings us to this first quote.

I believe this comes from the first day's evening discourse and was the first major realization of the ten days for me.

Being kind to yourself comes first. Not last. Not when you have time later. Not if you get around to it. First.

Because if you are kind to yourself, you do not need to do harm to others. The reason we do harm to others is because of how we feel inside of ourselves. If we use kindness on ourselves first there is no reason to do harm.

This is a revolutionary idea where I come from (the mid-west). You are not kind to yourself first. You put yourself last. You take care of everyone else's needs and then if there is anything left over that's what you get.

This is how I've been living. It's how I've been parenting. It's how I've been in my relationships. No wonder I'm pissed off.

Whenever things are going badly around home, my older son becomes fixated on the idea that I hate him. No matter how much I tell him I love him or show him I love him, he always comes back with, "You said you hated me. Remember? In the car? On the way to Idaho?" Sometimes he just can't let it go.

Sometimes makes me very sad, sometimes sympathetic, and sometimes it just makes me madder and madder. Madder at him, madder at myself. But every time he said it I denied it vehemently with many hugs, kisses and I love yous.

What I realized this weekend is that it's true. I didn't love him in those moments, if you are using the word love as an active verb. I didn't love him because I didn't always show him love and I didn't always show him love because I never showed myself love by being kind to myself.

I gave and I gave and I gave and I gave until I had absolutely nothing more to give and then, when they inevitable asked for that one more thing (because that's what kids do :) I exploded, screaming inside, "WHAT ABOUT ME!?!??!?!"

I wanted someone to notice that I was tired or frustrated or upset and do something about it. I wanted someone to help me for a change. Take care of me. Love me.

What I realized at the retreat is: that person has to be me.

I am the only one who knows when the frustration is starting to build. When the anger is stirring. When I am approaching my wits end.

And that is the time to enact Rule #1. Go lie down. Meditate. Breathe. Take a walk. Take a break. Get out of the house. Anything but the status quo. Anything but continuing to give. Anything but not being kind to myself.

Because if I do #1, # 2 is in the bag.

And #3? #3 is for another day. Until then, be kind to yourselves out there. DO IT FIRST.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Wisdom from Master Shifu

"Anything is possible if you have inner peace." --Master Shifu from Kung Fu Panda 2 

Master Shifu's Inner Peace :)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wisdom from Pema Chodron

"Any wisdom we have is all mixed up in what we already have." --Pema Chodron

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wisdom from Chuck Pettis

"In prayer, we talk to God. In meditation, we listen." --Chuck Pettis

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wisdom from Jacqueline Winspear

"Be still until there is nothing." --Jacqueline Winspear, from her book "The Mapping of Love and Death"

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wisdom from David R. Hawkins

"A mind that's being watched becomes more humble and begins to relinquish its claims to omniscience - a growth in awareness can then take place." --David R. Hawkins, MD, PhD, from his book "Power vs. Force"

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wisdom from Anodea Judith

"Use stillness to effect change." --Anodea Judith

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wisdom from Wallace Stevens

"The way through the world is more difficult to find than the way beyond it." --Wallace Stevens

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wisdom from Cat Stevens

"...[T]he answer lies within, so why not take a look now?" --Cat Stevens

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wisdom from The Universe

"Extend yourself, expecting nothing." --The Universe to me in a meditation on 11/17/11

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wisdom from Ahjan Chah (and Jefferson)

"If you haven't wept deeply, you haven't yet begun to meditate." --Ahjan Chah

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

10 Days

“Have faith in the stillness my friends, it is good for you and it is good for those that live and work around you.  Think of it like this: Imagine a light bulb over and above your head as you are entering a darkened room.  Before you enter the stillness, this light is very dim, just a glowing filament and It is difficult to see the path with only this dim light.  As you sit and clear the mind of chatter, imagine that the light is becoming brighter as the mind becomes quieter.  After stillness, the light is recharged -- bright and brilliant, lighting up the room where it is easy to see and where others can safely walk as well."--The 11:11 Progress Group

Later today I will be starting a 10-day silent meditation retreat. I am excited. Nervous. And a little bit unsure.

Can I really do this? Can I really be silent and meditate for ten days?

And that's it folks. Just meditation. For TEN DAYS.

No books. No music. No internet. No TV. No conversation. Just meditation. And sleep. And a bit of food. Maybe a shower here and there and a short walk after lunch.

But mostly it's just gonna be me and my mind sitting there wrestling with one another. Or, perhaps, not wrestling. Maybe we'll get along great when we're alone and far from the madding crowds of everyday life. Maybe we'll be just fine.

I have been thinking about this for awhile....wanting to do it, but not pulling the trigger. I came up with many reasons why it just wouldn't work - the kids, the dog, my volunteer responsibilities, the dog...did I mention the dog? I'm her person, how can I leave her for ten days? What will she do?

But every time I tried to get out of it my guides sent me this very clear message: "YOU'RE GOING!"

So, I'm going.

Later today.

I'm packed and everything.

And while I'm gone I'm going to share some of my favorite quotes about meditation with you in case you want to try it yourself. Or in case you already have, but need some inspiration to try it again. Or in case you just need a reason to keep it up.

In the meantime, please send me your thoughts and prayers. See you in December! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Small Kindnesses

"Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in the world. Kindness can change the lives of people." --Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Daw Aung San Sun Kyi, a Burmese pro-Democracy leader who spent nearly 15 years under house arrest as a political prisoner (with thanks to my friend Jonathan for the quote....)

I wasn't planning to talk about kindness today, but my friend Fiona has a new edition of her book, "Small Kindnesses" coming out today (and a FREE download on Amazon.com today only!) and I want to support that. Plus, as we move into the holiday season with all of its hustle and bustle, it is easy to forget to be kind.

Some of the greatest kindnesses that have been shown to me in my life have been the small ones.

Last night my husband walked the dog for me when I was exhausted and couldn't imagine doing one more thing. It was such a gift that at that moment I would not have exchanged this small kindness for all the jewelry in the world.

The other day a friend sent me a copy of his most recent "news" letter in an envelope which was beautifully addressed using various inks and alphabets. It was such a joy to receive, even before I read the words he had written.

I think we all need a lot more of this kind of kindness in the world right now.

Just going out into the world during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas can feel uncomfortable because of all the tension in the air. All of us running around with the lists in our heads of all we need to DO and BUY and BAKE and WRAP before the "big day." Small kindnesses during this time can make a big difference.

Let someone who is in a hurry go first in line at the grocery store. Be patient with the sales clerk who doesn't know how to sell a gift card. Don't honk at the person who cuts you off on the freeway. Instead offer them a friendly wave that says, "It's okay, we all make mistakes."

Forgive someone who has hurt you without a confrontation or apology. Lower your expectations of those around you. Take the time to notice what is going right and speak it aloud. Heart-felt words of gratitude feel like an exquisite kindness in the face of SO MUCH TO DO!

Don't forget to offer small kindnesses to yourself as well. A deep breath. A nap. A walk. An hour in a tub of hot salt water does wonders this time of year.

Knock one or two things off of your "to do" list. Appreciate yourself for what you are doing. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Let yourself be free.

Small kindnesses can make such a difference in our world. They can change lives. Maybe even yours.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Just for today, do not worry. Just for today, do not anger....Show gratitude in everything." --Dr. Mikao Usui

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wisdom from Amara Rose

"Be grateful for all the challenging people in your life–bosses, co-workers, in-laws, children, friends–because they're your greatest teachers. These relationships are difficult precisely because of your resistance to the lesson, which might be about compassion, self-worth, generosity, or unconditional love." --Amara Rose

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wisdom from "happy"

"The formula for happiness is not the same for everyone, but the good news is the things we love are the building blocks of happiness. Play. Having new experiences. Friends and family. Doing things we love. Appreciating what we have. These are the things that make us happy - and they're free. And with happiness, the more you have, the more everyone has." --From the movie "happy"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Beyond Left vs. Right

"Where things are not equal, balanced, or healthy, they need to be let go of or re-negotiated." --Divine Harmony 

Over the past couple of years I have begun to notice how very right-sided I am. For forty-three years I have done almost everything with my right hand. I brush my teeth with my right hand. I text with my right hand. I scrub pots and pans with my right hand. I scoop up my kids with my right hand. I write with my right hand.

And I had never even noticed the imbalance this was creating in my body - and in my life - until very recently. Suddenly I became very aware that the nerves in my right arm felt tender after using the computer for a long period of time, that the right side of my body felt tense after a 30 minute swim, that my right calf felt tight after a run, while the left side of my body still felt strong, healthy, and loose after these same activities.

Once I noticed it, I couldn't not notice it, and it became more and more clear that the two sides of my body were seriously imbalanced. So I decided to start playing around with this to see if I could change it at all.

I started small, by brushing my teeth with my left hand instead of my right. It felt odd, and I wasn't sure my dentist would approve, but it also felt oddly liberating, as if I were breaking some unwritten rule, which I guess in a way I was -  the unwritten rule of my genetics.

Next I started swimming differently. Breathing to the left side occasionally instead of to the right side on every stroke. At first I could only do a lap or two this way, before having to revert to right-side breathing only, but after a very short time (shorter than I would have imagined) I was able to do fully half of my work-out using left-side breathing. Now when I get out of the pool, my body feels more balanced than at any other time of the day.

I have also moved my mouse to the left side of my computer and I try to use my left-hand mouse about 90% of the time to redress the imbalance of years of right-hand only mousing. It is still awkward, but I don't feel as tender on my right side when I get up from my computer as I used to.

I still have to remind myself to text with my left hand or brush my teeth with my left hand, neither come naturally yet, and I have only recently started to experiment with pot scrubbing with my left hand. It is extremely difficult to get a dirty pot really, really clean with my left hand, but I am committed to seeing how far I can take this. And I am more than curious to see how it effects my life in other ways.

Theoretically, by using the left side of my body more often, I am also using my right brain more often, which may lead to more highly developed right-brain thinking. And that could revolutionize my life. In a way the whole point of my spiritual journey is to get out of my linear left brain and into my more intuitive right brain. Can changing the way I use my body facilitate and support this process in a new way? I have no idea, but am eager to find out what secondary changes I may experience as a result of this new, more balanced way of using my body.

Which brings us to today.

Today we as a nation will decide which way we want to go politically over the next four years. Are we going to stay left or turn to the right? And which is better for all us?

Those of you who know me know what I believe, but let's look objectively for a moment at these two choices and and the past four years.

Despite his - I believe - earnest intent to be a bridge-builder, Barack Obama's presidency has had a polarizing effect on our country. The hatred and vitriol on talk radio and cable television is getting worse instead of better. Our elected representatives in Washington are less likely than ever to work with someone across the isle to effect real change. And we are all well and truly frightened for the future of this country.

Many "red" voters honestly believe that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, recognizing the right of all people to marry, and reelecting Barack Obama are signs that this country is going to hell in a hand basket, while many "blue" voters believe that electing Mitt Romney as our next president will turn our country into an uninhabitable den of corruption, deceit and lies. (If I am honest, I may believe this a bit myself.) 

The thing is, we are all going to have to live with the outcome of this election. And that outcome, either way, is going to be hugely imbalanced.

This polarization and lack of respect hurts us all. And it is having ripple effects throughout our country similar to the ripple-effects forty-three years of over-reliance on the right side of my body has had in my life.

Which is why, no matter what the outcome of the election today I am going to try not to gloat or grieve, but to look for the positive in whatever comes next. To re-negotiate my relationship to our country's politics. And, as Barack Obama would have us all do, to remember:

"There is not a liberal America and a conservative America - there is the United States of America. "
 

Whatever the outcome of the election today, may we all have the courage to re-negotiate our relationship to our next President and to each other. To find the places where we meet. To achieve balance. To see things not as black or white, red or blue, but shades of purple.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mindful Writing Day & FREE BOOK

"When you notice something clearly and see it vividly, it becomes sacred." --Allan Ginsberg

Today is the first-ever Mindful Writing Day, a day set aside to slow down, pay attention, and write about what you observe in those moments of stillness. Won't you join us? 

For more information, follow the link above or go to Writing Our Way Home.

Today is also free download day at Amazon.com of the new small stones anthology, "A Blackbird Sings: a book of short poems." So hop on over to Amazon and grab your free copy. Write a rave review - and your own small stone - and have it published on the small stones blogzine, A Handful of Stones. Then sit back, relax and enjoy that feeling that comes from being more mindful, more connected to your world.

Here is my small stone for the day:

home

a steaming mug of tea
i wait.
i wait.
i wait....
then,
a splash of cream
a sip
i taste-
a good read in a comfy leather chair
a roaring fire on a rainy day
a long afternoon nap in which time stops

home

Read more at pebbles are small stones.

Have a sacred day!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wisdom from Mbali Creazzo, Fiona Robyn & some 5th Grade Writers PLUS A FREE BOOK!

"When you practice mindful connections with others your life feels meaningful and so it is." --Mbali Creazzo, from the book "29 Gifts: How a month of giving can change your life" by Cami Walker

My friends Fiona and Kaspa over at Writing Our Way Home are having a busy week. They are hosting the first-ever Mindful Writing Day, they are preparing to teach not one, but two, mindful writing e-courses in November (Finding Your Way Home and Writing & Spiritual Practice) AND they are promoting our new anthology, :"A Blackbird Sings: a book of short poems."

Yes, I said our. One of my small stones is going to be published in this lovely collection of mindful moments. AND this book will be available for FREE download on Amazon.com for one day only, Thursday, November 1st.

So hop on over to Amazon on Thursday and grab your free copy. Write a rave review - and your own small stone - and have it published on their blogzine, A Handful of Stones. Then sit back, relax and enjoy that feeling that comes from being more mindful, more connected to your world.

In the spirit of Mindful Writing Day I would like to share a few small stones written by some students earlier this month at 5th Grade Camp. 

My heart drops as I wake up 
In the freezing, shadowy black light.
Remembering where I am, I curl up and wait
For the sun to make its slow way across the sky.

--M.O.

Seashells

Crackles
beneath my feet
rainbows with only
pink and purple
as if someone put all
of their eggs on 
a beach
I walk.
CRACK!

--N.P.

The Tide

I see the calm blue water
gently glide across the 
small colored pebbles and
blonde sand. 
It retreats 
to its ocean home.
It does it again,
and again.
and again. 

--W.V.  

And here's one I wrote about 5th Grade Camp (previously published on my small stones blog, pebbles are small stones):

camp

a blazing fire
52 voices singing as one
a moment they'll never forget

Be mindful out there today!
  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wisdom from My Son's Soccer Coach

"In time and space...if you just look for what's right - in others, in relationships, in yourself and your journey - you'll always find it. Same when looking for what's wrong." --The Universe, from www.TUT.com

Last week I sat and watched my son's soccer practice instead of just dropping him off with his coach.

As I sat there, I was temped to read or check email or otherwise pass the time by doing something else, but I kept getting the message that I needed to watch.

So each time the multi-tasking reflex struck, I gently reminded myself to focus my attention on the field.

It soon became clear to me what I was doing there. I was there to watch a little positivity in action.

My son's coach found something positive to say about everything that happened on the field that day. If a kid got his foot on the ball, even if it was ultimately taken away from him, the comment was, "Way to get in there." If a kid tried to pass and the ball went astray, the comment was, "Good idea."If a kid made an attempt on the goal and missed, the comment was always, "Nice try."

And it wasn't just the blunders that got positive feedback.

If a kid made a great pass, or a great block, or scored a goal with their weak foot, all of these got a "Way to go," from the coach.

This didn't change at the game on Saturday.

Although I had been present at most of the games this season, this time I was watching more closely, watching for more "looking for what's right," and I found it. In spades.

In this game my son made four attempts at a goal (something he does not usually have the opportunity to do because of his strong preference for playing defense), none of them successful. Not one.

Nonetheless, the comments from his coach went as follows: "Way to go! Nice try! You were SO close! I am so proud of you!"

And he was.

His coach was as excited about my son's four misses as he was about any goal scored in the game. Not that he wasn't excited about those too.

The best players on the team (the ones who score every week again and again and again) get as much encouragement as those who are still learning the game and none of it rings false because he truly focuses on every positive thing.

And you know what I have noticed? These kids are getting better every week. Each and every one.

Even the kids who, to the untrained eye, maybe seemed a little bit hopeless.

So here's another thing I am adding to my list of "Things to Try:" I'm looking for what's right. In what goes wrong AND in what goes right and in everything in between. Because I'm learning that there's always a reason to say, "Way to go!"

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

ParaNorman/ParaNormal

"There's nothing wrong with being scared....long as you don't let it change who you are." --Grammie's Ghost in ParaNorman

Some of the quotes I collect I write down because they teach me something, or give me hope, or make me smile; this one was like a kick in the gut.

I know that throughout my life I have let fear change who I am many, many times. I have behaved in ways that are not the "me" I want to be because I was scared more times than I can remember or perhaps even count. I still do.

We all do, I think.

Fear may be the number one emotion that drives us here in the United States. And there is so much to fear. Crime. Disease. Job loss. Retirement. Natural disasters. Death.

But I am not sure it is these larger fears that drive us day to day so much as the smaller ones: being found out, being known and disliked, being seen and rejected, being judged and found wanting.

The irony, I think, is that if we did not allow our fears to change who we are we would be likable. It is the part of us that reacts out of fear that lies, cheats, steals, deceives, abuses.

What would happen if each of us, the next time we were faced with fear, reacted not with bad behavior, but with compassion and curiosity? What if we sat with it for a time? What if we felt it long enough that it dissipated before it could change who we are?

I think maybe this could change the world.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wisdom from Maisie Dobbs

"Coincidence is a messenger sent by truth." --Jacqueline Winspear from her book "Maisie Dobbs"

I have been reading a new mystery series, about an intuitive detective ("inquiry agent" as they say in Olde England) in the 1930's.

The series is quietly brilliant, each novel holding my attention, but not requiring that I stay up until all hours to finish; rather savoring each one as it unfolds. And marking more than a few pages with notable quotes.

This one, however, is my favorite: "Coincidence is a messenger sent by truth." Ponder that for today and see what perks for you in your life. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stay Present, or Get Burned!

"When one is rising, standing, walking, doing something, stopping, one should constantly concentrate one's mind on the act and the doing of it. " --Aśvaghoṣa

I burned the sausages again today.

It's the second time this week that I've burned the sausages because I wasn't paying attention.

Here's my morning routine:

I get up, take the dog for a walk, wake the kids for the first time and then start breakfast. My kids do better with a bit of protein in the morning, so I try to make bacon or sausage or eggs for them most mornings.

I throw some meat in a pan and then I feed the dog, set the table, make lunches, wake the kids a second time and check the sausages

But sometimes I get....distracted.

Usually by my email.

"I'll just check it 'real quick'," I say to myself. And the next thing I know the fire alarm is going off and breakfast is ruined.

The thing is, I know this.

I know that the secret to life is to stay present. It makes life easier. It saves a lot of heartache. And sausages.

But still I forget. Or I go un-present in spite of knowing. And when I do, I always get burned.

So, "Thanks Universe," for another reminder to stay present. And the dog thanks you for the sausages :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

On Fire!

"Meditate as though your hair were on fire. " --Pema Chodron

Tomorrow night set your whole body on fire! Learn the Violet Flame Meditation at Mosaic Coffeehouse in Wallingford (4401 2nd Ave NE, 98105). 7:00pm - 8:00pm.

The cost of the class is whatever you can pay, with 10% of all donations going to support Mosaic, a community coffeehouse in Seattle. 

See the sidebar for more information on the Violet Flame Meditation.

Hope to see you there! 
 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Meditation Class!

What you want in this lifetime, you must CLAIM.” – My guides

Whenever I WRITE MY LIFE, what always comes up for me is this: WRITE. TEACH. COUNSEL. INSPIRE. 

This is what I want to do with my life. Write books, essays, and poems that inspire. Teach people how to live their lives to the fullest. Help others find counsel in their inner guidance. Ignite the flame of inspiration in the hearts of everyone I meet. 

But when it comes time to put my passion into action, I often feel stuck. It is so hard sometimes to work up the courage to take the next step. To get out there and DO IT. 

This summer I made a commitment to myself to teach one class per month this year, but I have been wavering about teaching a class this month so I checked in with my guides and this is what I got: 

"What you want in this lifetime, you must CLAIM." 

What I took from this is that if I want to teach, I need to teach. No one is going to come to my door, grab me by the hand and say, "Let me take you to your classroom, your students are waiting." 

If I want it, I have to make it happen. 

Which is not to say that help is not available. My guides handed me my first class, fully formed. And they have been nudging me for years to teach the Violet Flame Meditation. But I am still scared. 

I don't know why. I have been doing this meditation nearly every day for YEARS. I know it by heart. Somehow though, leading others in meditation freaks me out. 

What if they think it's stupid? 

What if I get lost and forget something? 

What if someone has a bad experience?

The thing is, any or all of these things may happen, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing. 

If I believe - as I do - that every experience happens for us as much as it happens to us, and that whatever happens can be used as a tool for learning, then what have I got to lose? 

So....

Please join me for my *first* (yikes!) Violet Flame Meditation Class next Tuesday, September 25th at 7:00 pm. The class will be held at Mosaic Coffeehouse in Wallingford (4401 2nd Ave NE, 98105). 

The cost of the class is whatever you can pay, with 10% of all donations going to support Mosaic, a community coffeehouse in Seattle. 

See the sidebar for more information on the Violet Flame Meditation.

Hope to see you there! 
 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wisdom from Grace

 "Appreciate yourself." --My massage therapist

I have been feeling unappreciated as of late.

By my husband. By my kids. By the mailman (I am always super-friendly to him, but left to his own devices he pretty much does his job and doesn't bother with pleasantries).

So when my massage therapist asked me what was going on for me emotionally right now, I told her how I was feeling and why. Expecting her to come back with empathy ("That must feel terrible.") or commiseration ("Those ungrateful people!") what I got instead was a radical reframe of the issue at hand.

She paused for a few moments, as if really thinking it through, and then said, "What if you were to appreciate yourself for all you do?"

At first I thought she was talking crazy. Appreciate MYSELF?!? Isn't the whole point of appreciation that it comes from someone else?

Or is it?

We all want to hear "Thank you," when we do something nice for someone else or, "Way to go!" when we accomplish something significant or particularly difficult, but does it really have to come from the mouths of others?

I am not sure, but I am willing to give it a try. For the rest of this week I am going to appreciate myself.

"Thanks for buying groceries today Lara, we really needed food in the house."

"Thanks for doing that load of laundry, I needed socks badly."

"Hey, Lara nice small stone you wrote today. I really appreciate how you are paying more attention to your life."

I'm not one hundred percent convinced that this will work, but I am willing to give it a try. If only to get a little bit of appreciation around here! :)

[Speaking of small stones, in preparation for a class I am teaching to my son's fifth grade class in October I am doing my own small stone challenge this month. You can find my small stones at http://pebblesaresmallstones.blogspot.com/]

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wisdom from Bill Clinton

“We believe ‘We’re all in this together,’ is a far better philosophy than ‘You’re on your own.'" --Bill Clinton

 I couldn't agree more Mr President :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Wisdom from Hailey, ID


This will be the last post of the summer and I end it with one last piece of wisdom from our time on the road. This one comes from Hailey, ID (former home to Bruce & Demi).

We stopped at the Hailey Coffee Company for breakfast one morning. They have great coffee, great pastries, AND great smoothies so everyone in the family was happy. A good stop indeed!

They also allow customers to etch bits of wisdom into the wall. I found this one particularity inspiring that day as I had never really thought about it. I think most of us probably don't.

We know we are getting older - we think about it, complain about it, take steps to mitigate it - but rarely do we enjoy the age we are today. Today IS the youngest you will ever be. Enjoy!

And what better way to get started than with a day off from work? Have a very Happy Labor Day!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wisdom from the Road

"Stay calm, nothing is under control." --Lynnet McKenzie

The theme of the month has been "Wisdom from the Road" - quotes gathered on our family road trip this summer. Today's quote is wisdom from someone else's road trip.

Lynnet McKenzie is the founder of "Opening to Ecstasy," She recently left her home and most of her possessions behind to take off in search of the unknown. Just her, her partner, her son, their dog and a mini-van on the road, looking for their next Divine Assignment.

The lessons have been many, but this is one that resonated with me.

How often we strive to get things "under control" only to realize that this is not always possible, not always within our power. Yet, we struggle and fight to try and make it so.

This is the true wisdom of the road. We are not in control. If we can stay calm in the wake of that realization, we can come to understand that The Universe that is wants nothing but what is truly for our highest and best good and wants nothing more than to bring us all the good we didn't even know that we wanted.

Stay calm, nothing is under control. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wisdom from Black Elk

"Know the power that is peace." --Black Elk, from the visitor's center at the site of Custer's Last Stand

There are certain places on this earth that seem to carry the energy of the things that happened there: my grandparents' farm in Iowa, the former site of the Twin Towers, the city of Paris.

The site of Custer's Last Stand, or The Battle of Little Bighorn is like that. Bleak, hot (on the day we were there), and preternaturally quiet, there is no doubt that this is a place where serious things happened. Where battles were fought and won, mistakes were made and men died. Where the hope of a people rose and then fell again....

In the midst of all this are these words from Black Elk, the famous Medicine Man of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux), who fought in the Battle of Little Bighorn when he was just twelve years old. Whose hopes no doubt rose on this day, but fell after the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.

What does it mean to have peace under extreme circumstances? When your land has been taken away by force and trickery, when your way of life has been destroyed by foreign invaders?

This was the question I asked myself as we drove across Indian reservations and visited the site of Wounded Knee (a place that also carries the energy of what happened there, in this case, the energy of sadness and defeat tinged with a little bit of hope). How do you move on from something like this? How do you create something positive in the wake of such loss?

I have no answer, but the power of peace seems to be a good place to start. In our country and in our own lives.
 

Friday, August 17, 2012

WRITE YOUR LIFE MINI SERIES - SESSION 1

Wow! What a great group of writers - 21 in all! - showed up on Wednesday to write their lives at East West Bookshop. I enjoyed getting to know you all and hearing about the role writing plays in your lives and where you would like to go from here.

If you couldn't make the first session, here's what you missed:

  1. For a bit of inspiration we read Dear Sugar's column "Write Like a Motherfucker."
  2. Then we each wrote our own "Dear Sugar" letter, to Sugar or our favorite advice columnist, about what we felt was the main thing holding us back right now or what we needed advice on to move forward in our lives.
  3. After a time of sharing, we came back to our journals, put on our advice columnist caps and wrote back to ourselves with some objective, kind and compassionate advice. (ADVICE TO MYSELF)
  4. Putting our advice columnist hats away, we shifted focus to Part Two of our mini-session: RELEASING YOUR STORY. In this section of class, we focus on letting go of past hurts so that we can truly write our lives from a place of strength and freedom. To do this we use the technology of Radical Forgiveness as taught by Colin Tipping
  5. To get started, we read The Five Stages of Radical Forgiveness. Then I introduced the homework exercise, called The Three Letters Process. After a somewhat lively discussion on forgiveness, I asked everyone to think of the person they most need to forgive right now in order to make space for the life they want to live. THIS is the person to use when doing the homework this week.

HOMEWORK:
  • Write like a MOTHERFUCKER
  • Try and Take Your Own Advice
  • Do the Three Letters Process with the person you have chosen to forgive.  

We will meet again next week on Wednesday, August 22nd at 7:00 PM at East West Bookshop. See you then!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wisdom from Dubois, WY

"If we share what we have, we will all have enough." --Opportunity Shop brochure from Dubois, WY

My great aunt lives in Dubois, WY and I have always wanted to go there. On this trip, we made that happen.

One of our stops was the "Opp Shop," as it is known in town, a thrift store that my aunt helped to found as a non-profit that benefits the local community.

This quote rings so true to me and yet I know that like many profundities of life, it can be hard. Hard to believe. Hard to trust. Hard to truly live. But I am trying....

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

WRITE YOUR LIFE in One Week!

This is it! Only one week to go until we are going to write our lives together. Are you signed up yet? If not, click here to sign up. Hope you can join us! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wisdom from Hungry Horse, Montana

"We don't trust ourselves. We need to trust ourselves. Women especially." --Night Manager at the Mini Golden Inn in Hungry Horse, MT

My family and I recently got back from a nearly month-long road trip. It was an amazing adventure and we are enjoying a little "down time" back home before the onslaught of supply lists and school shopping ensues.

For the next few weeks I will be sharing some "Wisdom from the Road," quotes that I picked up on our trip.

This first one is courtesy of the night manager at the Mini Golden Inn in Hungry Horse, Montana where we stayed on our way to Glacier National Park.

She asked me for my license plate number and I went out to check, despite that fact that I already knew it. When I told her that she said, "We don't trust ourselves. We need to trust ourselves. Women especially." And I knew we had come to the right place.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

WRITE YOUR LIFE in One Month!

Are you feeling STUCK, unsure about what comes next? Do you want to WRITE, but never seem to find the time? Are you ready to RE-CREATE your life, but don't know how?

Please join me at East West Bookshop in Seattle on August 15th and 22nd and WRITE YOUR LIFE! Over the course of two evenings we will take a look at where we are in our lives, where we want to go, and how to use writing as a way to get there.

Whether writing is what you truly want to do, or "just" the means to your ultimate goal, this class can help you learn how to manifest that which you truly desire. Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wisdom from Yoda


This month I am going to be sharing some photographs from my recent trip to LA. Not traditional tourist fare, they are similar to what I am doing over on amite amoureuse, my Paris blog. Finding inspiration in the world around me and sharing it with you. I hope you will enjoy!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Quote of the Week - June 25, 2012 - Things Will Look Better in the Morning

"Tomorrow's another day. Sometimes that's your only consolation when today's not so good. Things can look different after a good night's sleep, or just 24 hours' passage of time. It'd be great if you could turn things around right this second, but that's just not always possible; when it's not, the best thing to do is just remember that everything changes. Stop railing against the lameness of the moment, and simply concentrate on getting through it. Bide your time. Notice the small little things that are still sweet, instead of the one big sour thing…and wait." --Caeriel Crestin from Sign Language

According to my mom my paternal grandmother always used to say, "Things will look better in the morning." Apparently the Universe agrees.

Things are not going to plan around our house right now and the Divine gift or purpose of it all is alluding me. There is a part of me that is pushing against "the way things are" hoping to find "the way I would like things to be" buried underneath.

The more I travel along the path of the spirit, however, the more I begin to suspect that what is really underneath "the way things are" is "the way I really don't want things to be."

The more I push and try to force my life to look the way I want it to look, the worse things go. The more I let go and just allow things to be as they are the better off I am. I am convinced that pushing the Universe to do it my way leads to missed connections, opportunities and chances to learn and grow.

So I am biding my time today. Trying to notice what is sweet. And waiting....Things will look better in the morning. 


Monday, June 18, 2012

Quote of the Week - June 18, 2012 - My Purposeful Life

"Paradoxical as it may seem, the purposeful life has no content, no point. It hurries on and misses everything. Not hurrying, the purposeless life misses nothing, for it is only when there is no goal and no rush that the human senses are fully open to receive the world. " --Alan Watts in The Sun magazine

I am living a purposeful life this week. So purposeful in fact, that it is Friday and I am just now posting my "Quote of the Week." (For those of you who have been checking in this week, I do apologize....)

Today is the last day of school for my kids and this week has been full of rushing and hurrying and doing and not a lot of purposelessness. The whole week has been full of purpose. And I am sure that I have missed a lot.

I miss sitting and drinking tea. I miss doing yoga. I miss meditating. I miss reading. I miss just doing a whole lot of nothing.

And that is what I am planning for next week. Nothing. A whole lot of it.

That is not to say that I will not be doing anything, only that I will not be planning anything. I mean to embrace purposelessness and miss nothing.

May you have make time for that this summer as well. It's the perfect time for it!

Friday, June 15, 2012

WRITE YOUR LIFE in Two Months!

Are you feeling STUCK, unsure about what comes next? Do you want to WRITE, but never seem to find the time? Are you ready to RE-CREATE your life, but don't know how?

Please join me at East West Bookshop in Seattle on August 15th and 22nd and WRITE YOUR LIFE! Over the course of two evenings we will take a look at where we are in our lives, where we want to go, and how to use writing as a way to get there.

Whether writing is what you truly want to do, or "just" the means to your ultimate goal, this class can help you learn how to manifest that which you truly desire. Hope to see you there!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Quote of the Week - June 11, 2012 - City of Angels

"I don't know you, but I love you." --Lydia at Unity of Burbank

I was in LA last week for the first time. I had never been before and never really had the desire to go. I still didn't really, but a class I had been wanting to take was being given there and then my sister decided to come out and meet me so it was all coming together.

Then, the class was cancelled. Ugh.

It was really hard for me to get over this. I had a plan gosh darn it. I was going to take this class, then the next one and then become a certified Akashic Records teacher. The Universe was messing with my plan.

You have to laugh, of course, at my boldness, my arrogance, my naïveté. The Universe was messing with MY plan?

I decided to go anyway, to spend some time with my sister and see what LA was all about.

I couldn't have been more surprised! The people we met were lovely. Warm, friendly and eager to help. We met many Los Angeles angels along the way.

Three angels on a bus helped us get to Santa Monica for a day at the beach where dolphins came to frolic in the waves for us.

Two of our angels led us astray when giving directions home (kudos to Angel #1 for telling them not to complicate things for us ;), but that allowed us to have our one and only star sighting - Sally Kellerman at the West Hollywood Whole Foods - to stock up on Pure Bars, and to meet our Cab Driver angel who gave us an impromptu tour of the Hollywood Hills.

Many public transport angels, plus the always angelic Siri,  helped us hit the Hollywood hot spots sans car and the big red (and expensive) tour bus. Two even gave us free rides. 

And then there was Lydia. 

On Sunday morning we hoofed it over to Unity of Burbank to hear a friend of my sister's give the message and we were surrounded by angels. 
From the moment we entered the building we were welcomed with open arms and open hearts by all we met. And everyone we met, it seemed, had a connection to either New York (where my sister lives) or Seattle. 

There was the man from Unity of Kent helping his Uncle with some home repairs. The woman from New York who still wore a Yankees pendant around her neck. The man from LA who used to lived in New York AND Seattle. And, of course, there was Lydia. 

She used to live in New York, had moved to LA in the 60's with her husband and family. Had raised her kids here and was now, mostly alone. She was quiet, a bit shy, but friendly. We chatted for awhile and then it was time for the service. 

It started with song as most Unity services do. First, "We Are One in the Spirit," which did our former Protestant hearts good to hear. Then "It's in Every One of Us," which was new to me, but lovely. And finally a rousing rendition of "Good Morning God." In spite of being a small congregation, they really know how to bring down the house at Unity of Burbank.

After the singing was the Opening Prayer and then the Welcome. 

When I said small congregation I was exaggerating slightly. The congregation is tiny. Around 25 people attend services on an average Sunday. 40 or so on a big day like Easter or Christmas. But boy is there a lot of love in this house. 

During the Welcome music is playing and everyone wanders around the sanctuary hugging everyone. And I mean EVERYONE. Why not? That's only 24 hugs!

I hugged the people I had met and people I had never seen before in my life. And I hugged Lydia. When I did she said to me, "I love you. I don't know you, but I love you." And with these words she touched my heart, brought tears to my eyes, and made my day. No, my vacation. 

Ever since, I think about her whenever I am surrounded by strangers and I ask myself, "Do I love these people even though I don't know them? Could I love them even though I don't know them?"

Sometimes it is hard enough to love those we do know, but loving those we don't, loving everyone, is what we are here to do. Lydia reminded me of that. She was an angel for me that day. Just one of many Los Angeles angels.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Quote of the Week - June 4, 2012 - It's just that simple

"No blame, be kind, love everything." --Terrance Keenan

My favorite quotes are always those that seem, to me, to be the answer to life, The Universe and everything.  There are just a few quotes that seem to be all I really need to know. And this is one of them.

No blame. Don't blame anyone for anything, including yourself. The only purpose of blame is to cause guilt and never solves the problem at hand. It makes you a victim and not the powerful being that you are. Just don't do it.

Be kind. In everything you do, be kind. Be kind when saying "No." Be kind when giving constructive criticism. Be kind when arguing. Be kind when angry. All of these things are possible, even if we think they aren't, and make life a lot more pleasant.

I have started using this on my kids - when they ask for more screen time, when they refuse to eat their veggies, when they are pitching a huge fit about something - even as I tell them "No," explain the consequences (no dessert) and let them know their behavior is not acceptable, I do it in as kind as voice as possible. It makes all the difference in the world.

Love everything. The other week I was in a meeting in which two people, both in a heightened emotional state, started going at it. My old pattern would have been to take sides and place blame (see #1), but thanks to all the work I have done I was able to see this situation for what it was. Two people REacting instead of responding to the emotions they were feeling. Two people mirroring for each other what they needed to love in themselves. I would go so far as to say two people waking up.

When we start to air our emotional baggage in public it is a sign that it is coming to the forefront, to be confronted, worked with, made peace with and, eventually, released. I was able to love what was happening even though on some level it was uncomfortable for all of us. And I am trying to do this in my own life. To see my road blocks, my shortcomings, and, yes, even my temper tantrums as paving stones on the path to my awakening and to love it all.

No blame. Be kind. Love Everything. It's just that simple.

[BTW...I got this quote from my friend Fiona Robyn's "Writing Our Way Home" newsletter. You can read the whole thing here. And sign up here.]

Monday, May 28, 2012

Quote of the Week - May 28, 2012 - The Game of Life

"It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." --Old sports adage attributed to sportswriter Grantland Rice

I have always believed this old adage. Or wanted to believe that I believed it at least...

I am one of those people who tries not to appear competitive, but secretly really likes to win. I put this down to being a first born - we can nearly always beat our younger siblings at almost everything we play for a number of years so we get used to it - but I'm guessing it's also part of being a Capricorn, part of being designated "gifted" in elementary school, part of my familial conditioning, etc., etc. In other words, it's a part of who I am.

Competition gets very interesting once you have kids. I noticed right away that at a certain age (around 5 or 6) my older son got really upset whenever he would lose a game, but he was especially upset when he would lose to me. I struggled with this - should I let him win to give him a (false) sense of confidence or should I beat him fair and square to give him an authentic life experience? After all, it was only natural that I, thirty-one years his elder, should win at most of the games we played.

After watching him win and watching him lose and meditating on it a lot, I finally decided that the best thing was to give him a good run for his money, but ultimately to let him win, at least most of the time. My basis for this decision was simple biology. I was his mother. It was my job to love him, to care for him, to look out for him. Watching me try to destroy him - metaphorically at least - was not only painful, but confusing.

Fast forward to the current baseball season and we are once again experiencing pain and confusion. He and I are not competing against each other this time, but we are struggling, each in our own way and together, around the issues of winning and losing.

O is a very good baseball player. He's not the best in the league, but he is very good. More importantly, he works hard. When he is out on the field he is paying attention, his head is in the game, and he wants to do his best.

He has had great experiences with baseball so far. Great coaches, great teammates, mostly winning seasons (even when they weren't officially keeping score), and a real sense of accomplishment no matter the outcome.

This year has been different. From the beginning he could tell that this was not a "winning" team. They didn't win a single one of their pre-season scrimmages and come the first game of the year, he did not want to play.

I had to harass him to get his uniform on, he protested and procrastinated, cried and complained. It was the tears that got me. We are in the car on the way to his first game and he is already crying, begging me not to make him go, to let him quit the team. I didn't know what to do. I froze. I know that feeling well of being stuck in a bad situation and just wanting out, of things not being the way you are used to, the way things are "supposed" to be in your mind, the way you really, really want things to be. Persevering feels like torture and yet, we are also told, "winners never quit and quitters never win."

I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to go through this three days a week for the next eight weeks. Even more, I didn't want to force my son to. And yet, I didn't want him to quit playing baseball, the game he loves.

We sat there in the parking lot - him crying, me paralyzed - for more than ten minutes. Finally, I called my husband. What should we do?

M said that O could quit, but that he had to get out of the car and go and tell his coaches why he was quitting. It was the perfect thing to say. O sighed, decided he didn't want to do that, got out of the car and went to his game.

They lost. They also lost the next one. And the next one. And the next one. Until they had lost so many that no one expected them to win one anymore. I held out hope longest of all. Well into the season I kept telling O that I knew they were going to win one one of these days. He'd just look at me and shake his head as if to say, "Mom, she knows nothing about baseball."

Things did improve. Toward the middle of the season they started losing games by just one point. They seemed to have Mariners fever. They could take a five-run lead in the 2nd and turn it into a loss.

Still, being ahead at all was progress and we tried to focus on that. O vacillated between tears and devastation and anger and resignation post game. He talked about next season, what team he would be on, what players he wanted on his team, even about not playing baseball at all. This made me sad. Baseball was his sport. Even after a devastating loss he would come home and head right out to the backyard to start throwing balls against the pitch-back or take some batting practice. I wanted him to play again. But I understood why he might not want to.

All season I made sure to be at as many games as I could. I wanted to be there for him when they lost. But more than that, I wanted to be there for the win I just knew was coming.

It was hard. I cheered. I sent energy. I gave it up to God. I prayed for miracles. I asked the Universe to send us a win (I said I thought we deserved it, the Universe apparently did not agree...).

I also descended into areas I don't like to think about. I started to hope that the opposing team's pitcher would screw up. I secretly wished their outfielders would drop the ball. I sized up their batters, looking for weak links. And then I checked this behavior in myself and wished for the best and highest outcome for all, even though what I really, really wanted was a win.

Finally, even I gave up.

And that's when I really started to do some work with this quote. All season long it had been going through my head, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." How were we playing the game? Badly, most of the time. With more strike outs and errors than base hits and good plays, but also with some heart.

The other parents on the bench were hurting too. I could see that. We weren't the only ones driving home with a crying player who just wanted to forget about the last three hours of his or her life.

But they kept showing up. All of them. Not one kid quit. And I started to feel pride in that. And in the good things that were happening. X caught a fly ball. Y walked instead of striking out. Z made a great play at home. I realized that baseball really is a metaphor for life. It is a living, breathing meditation.

All that really matters, all that you can really control, is the next pitch. Whether you are the batter or the pitcher, the catcher or the center fielder, or just a mom sitting in the stands, baseball is all about the present moment. It's all about what is happening right now. That's all that really matters in any game, in all of the games. What is happening right now and what am I going to do about it? And then it's over and we're moving on. To the next one. The next pitch. The next game. The next moment.

And I swear, the parents on the bench, we all got that. And we started cheering for everything. For a called strike. For a single out that could have been a double play. For a base on balls. Anything positive that happened for our team, we applauded and then we turned our focus to the next pitch. And pitch by pitch we started to see that it really isn't whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game.

And then, we won.

It was a warm Saturday afternoon. The first warm day of the season. We had a game in the morning that went pretty much the way every other game had gone and ended the way pretty much every other game had ended, with loss and disappointment. But there was a Zen-ness in those of us on the bench that day. Ah, we lost, but it was a nice day and we have another game this afternoon. No use in crying over spilled milk and all that.

I wasn't looking forward to the afternoon game. It was going to be a long day for us with the morning game, team photos, a Boy Scout event at noon and then the afternoon game. Plus, my husband was out of town so it was all on me. The last thing I wanted to do at 4:30 was sit and watch another devastating loss then head home to spend Saturday night with a despondent player.

Two of our players were unable to make the second game so we borrowed a couple of kids from other teams, one from our league and one from the league below us. Both were known to be very skilled athletes. (Our coaches are no dummies and both being parents of kids on the team were no doubt experiencing their fair share of tears and disappointment.) We were ahead by six runs early on. The team we were playing seemed tired from their game earlier in the day and, despite being one of the best teams in the league, they were making mistakes. It looked like we were actually going to win this game.

In the top of the fourth we were nearing the two-hour mark. In this league there are a lot of nuances about when a game is actually over. You have to play at least four innings, but you can't start a new inning after a certain time period (I think it's 1 hour and 45 minutes) unless both coaches agree, and if the game goes past a certain time limit (something around 2 hours) you revert to the score at the end of the last full inning, etc, etc. I may have some of this wrong. It's very complex. Anyway, the coaches agreed that this would be the last inning and as such the "mercy rule" of five runs per inning would not apply. The other team got the chance to score as many runs as they could in the bottom of the fourth. They needed six runs to tie and seven runs to win.

O was brought in to pitch. He's a good closer, but could he handle the pressure?

He walked a couple of batters, they scored twice and his team managed to get two outs. The score was 16 - 12 with two runners on and one out to go. O was one strike away from winning the game for his team. The batter got a hit that should have been caught, but was missed by our player and he made it to first, the runner at third scored. 16-13, men on first and second.

O got the next batter to a full count before he swung, connected and hit a line drive between first and second that should have been an easy out. Our first basemen dropped the ball. Bases loaded. Bottom of the 4th. Batter up.

I looked at O. He looked determined, but there was worry in his face. He knew this game could go either way and that it depended in large part on him. He didn't waiver.

Strike one!

Strike two!

Strike three, baby!

Game over and we won!

I started to cry as O ran off the mound and toward his cheering teammates. They fell into a huge pile of joy on the ground. Little-leaguers way of hugging each other. Then they got up, led a cheer for the other team and lined up for the traditional "good game" parade where each team high fives every member of the other team with a "good game."

After that everyone started to gather their stuff and get ready to go home, but the coach said, "Wait a minute, come sit down."

After every single game our coaches have a team meeting in which the kids are asked to talk about all the good things that happened that game. Players must mention one good thing a fellow teammate did that game. Some of these meetings this year must have been tough, with tears and hard feelings and defeat swirling around in the air. But they did it, after every single game.

I sat in on this one, the first one I had watched all year. It started with the kids talking about each other's great plays and best moments. "O shut 'em down." "T made a great play." "J was awesome in the field."

And that would have been enough to bring more tears to the eyes of this New Age mama, but at the end one of the kids who they had borrowed, who plays on an opposing team (the best team in the league this year) said, "I liked how when they started coming back...how all of you guys just stayed in the ballgame. You guys weren't like 'Aw, dang it now we're going to lose,' you just went back and stopped those guys. And you beat the fourth best team in the league." This kid played his heart out for us and when the game was over he made a point to congratulate and encourage these kids who he has played against - and beaten - all year long.

And that was the moment that I got it. The reason O is on this team this year is because that kind of sportsmanship, that kind of class, that kind of LOVE is something you only learn from adversity.

This kid, the kid we borrowed, grew up on the team my son is now on, with these coaches and many of these kids. Despite being one of the best players in the league, he's lost a lot of games, suffered a lot of defeat and, yes, probably shed a few tears, but what it has built inside of him is a ten year old who cannot only play his heart out despite the odds, but can encourage other kids to do the same.

And that is how the game should be played.

You know what happened next? Two days later, without any guest players, my son's team won another game.

This time they beat the second best team in the league and I have no doubt that it was the confidence they gained and the lessons they learned on a warm Saturday afternoon when no one, least of all them, thought they had a chance, that made it possible.

They have lost every game since and as the playoffs start this week we are under no illusion that a championship is in our future, but at this point it doesn't really matter because what we have already won this year can never be lost and will never be forgotten.

Which brings me back to Grantland Rice.

When I was trolling the internet, trying to attribute this quote, I came across this poem on Wikipedia from which the old adage stems:

"For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes - not that you won or lost -
But how you played the Game."
--from the poem "Alumnus Football"

I could not have been more surprised to learn that what Grantland Rice was talking about was not football, or baseball, or soccer, or any other sport in fact, but nothing less than the game of life.

It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game...of life. And how do you play the game not to win, but to encourage others, keep the faith, do your best, and spread love everywhere you go? You stay in the moment. You do your best right now. You keep your eye on the ball

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quote of the Week - May 21, 2012 - What happens for one...

“On this earth we are connected one to another....to another....to another....to another...to another....to another....to another...such that whatever happens to one of happens to all of us.” --Anna Grossnickle Hines from her book, "Peaceful Pieces"

This is a poem called "Dominoes" that my younger son's class read last week on Friday for "Poetry Aloud." They read it together as a class, one child starting and each child in turn saying "to another," "to another," "to another..."

As I listened, the poem came alive for me. The idea of the poem came alive for me. I saw once again that we are all connected, we are all One and that whatever happens for one of us happens to all of us.

Did you notice the Freudian slip there? I wrote, "whatever happens for one of us happens to all of us,"  when what I meant to write was, "whatever happens to one of us happens to all of us." But both are equally true aren't they?

When I say, "whatever happens to one of us happens to all of us," I immediately think of war, famine, poverty and abuse. When I say, "whatever happens for one of us happens to all of us," I think of love, kindness, beauty and chocolate.

One of the main tenants I guess you could say of New Age thinking is that we should celebrate success, abundance and blessings wherever they appear.

This is one of the hardest practices for me, having grown up in a two sibling family there was always this idea that my gain was my sister's loss and vice versa ,at least for me. I see this kind of thinking in my older son as well (maybe it's just us first borns....), but this thinking limits us, shrinks us, turns us into Grinches and misers.

This poem is a great reminder that whatever happens to one of us or for one of us, happens to all of us and ought to be welcomed, rejoiced, mourned or celebrated by ALL. That is the Oneness that leads to Peace. Inside and out. May you feel that peace today.

Friday, May 18, 2012

WRITE YOUR LIFE this summer!

"Ask and you SHALL receive." --From Voice of Choices Jan 2006 (paraphrasing Matthew 7:7 from The Bible)

For months I have been saying to myself, "I should submit a proposal to teach WRITE YOUR LIFE at East West Books (a local New Age bookstore)." And for months I have done NOTHING about it.

Last week I was having my weekly check-in with my sister and I asked for her intuitive hit on this. Was it not happening because it just wasn't meant to be, or was I sabotaging myself because I was scared of it?

She said that she was getting the latter and that perhaps I should ask my ego to step aside and let me do this thing I said I wanted to do.

The next day I decided this was it, I was going to submit the proposal and go for it.

Luckily they make it super-duper easy to do online and within 30 minutes I had sent the proposal off and given it to The Universe to decide what happened next.

Twenty-four hours later I got an offer to teach an abbreviated version of my class (two days instead of five) this summer! Woah! I guess that was a big old YES from the Universe.

So, if you missed WRITE YOUR LIFE last time or want to brush up on your writing and manifesting skills, please join me on two Wednesdays in August (8/15 and 8/22) at East West Books. The class will run from 7:00 - 8:30 and will cover the following topics: Advice to Myself, Releasing Your Story, Being Present to Your Life, The Right to Write and Write Your Life! Cost is $12 per class. Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Quote of the Week - May 14, 2012 - On Simplicity

"Simplicity in its essence demands neither a vow of poverty nor a life of rural homesteading. As an ethic of self-conscious material moderation, it can be practiced in cities and suburbs, townhouses and condominiums. It requires neither a log cabin nor a hair shirt but a deliberate ordering of priorities so as to distinguish between the necessary and superfluous, useful and wasteful, beautiful and vulgar." --David E. Shi

Whew! Finding this quote was like sweet relief. I have been aching for simplicity recently and wondering how to find it.

In my head I have a fantasy about a piece of land, far away from everything, and a little house that is off the grid (solar-powered perhaps) where I live with my family, growing our own food, homeschooling the children and just generally "living off the land" as they say.

This fantasy only goes so far, however, when I remember that anytime in the past when I have tried to grow my own food, I soon grow weary of all the effort it takes and let my seeds wither in the dirt, or allow them to be choked by the weeds that seem to grow easily in whatever ground I have chosen.

Or when I remember that when I am feeling sad or tired or hopeless, nothing soothes me like a scalding hot bath and when I want one, I want one right now and not in thirty or forty minutes when the ten gallon pot on my wood-fired stove has finally boiled.

Or when I remember that I require much more "alone time" than a homeschooling mama would ever get.

In essence, when I remember that I was not born, nor raised, to "chop wood, carry water" and wouldn't know how to do much of anything that would be required from the kind of life I am fantasizing about. 

So I am forced to let go of my simplicity fantasies and continue to feel slightly dissatisfied with my urban life.

But now David Shi has given me a new standard for simplicity, one I think I can meet, or at least aspire to.

It reminds me of my favorite quote about speaking: "Before you speak, ask yourself: is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?" (Shirdi Sai Baba)

Whenever I say something that I wish I hadn't, I remind myself of that quote and repeat its questions to myself: Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? It is not a standard that I meet all that often, but it is a guide that leads the way to where I want to go.

And now I have a similar yardstick for simplicity, a set of questions I can ask before I buy yet another widget or gadget to add to my collection and to further complicate my life: Is it necessary, is it useful, is it beautiful, does it improve on the world around me?