Friday, December 27, 2013

Too good not to share....




"In 1588, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the ruler of Japan, confiscated the swords, daggers, and spears belonging to every citizen. He announced they would be melted down and used to make a giant Buddha statue. I'd love to see you undertake a comparable transformation in 2014, Capricorn. You shouldn't completely shed all your anger and pugnacity, of course; a certain amount is valuable, especially when you need to rouse yourself to change situations that need to be changed. But it's also true that you could benefit from a reduction in your levels of combativeness. What if you could "melt down" some of your primal rage and use the energy that's made available to build your personal equivalent of a Buddha icon?" --Rob Brezsny, Free Will Astrology (www.freewillastrology.com)


I have shared Rob Brezsny's wisdom on my blog before and felt this one was a gem. If you have never read him, check him out! Even if you are not "into" astrology his horoscopes are insightful and entertaining. Couldn't we all stand to turn some of our rage into Buddhaness? 

Peace & Love always,
Lara

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joy in Anicca

"The great thing about JOY is not that it lasts, but that it always comes around again." --The Universe

As I have mentioned, I struggled this time at the ten-day silent meditation retreat I went on last month. One of the things I struggled with, ironically, was the lack of JOY I felt in the discipline and austerity of the program this time.

Normally I am very comfortable with this kind of environment. Discipline. Austerity. To-the-minute timekeeping. These are things at which most mid-western-raised adults excel. Not this time. This time I was hungry for joy, for freedom, even a little bit of excess.

I knew this flew in the face of the idea of anicca, or impermanence.

The whole point of this meditation is to learn not to crave positive feelings and sensations, as well as not to have aversion to negative feelings and sensations, because both have the inherent quality of impermanence, but I couldn't help it. I wanted to feel some JOY.

So on my daily post-lunch walk I was contemplating craving for JOY and The Universe sent me this little gem about JOY, which made me feel JOYful.

And this is the thing that the meditation is getting at. The great thing about JOY is not that it lasts, the great thing about HAPPINESS is not that it lasts, the great thing about anything we perceive as positive is not that it lasts, but that it always comes around again.

AND, the great thing about ANGER, the great thing about PAIN, the great thing about anything we perceive as negative is that it eventually goes away and we are left, once again, with JOY.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Seasonal Review

"The Four Agreements: 1. Be impeccable with your word; 2. Don’t take anything personally; 3. Don’t make assumptions; 4. Always do your best. ” --Don Miguel Ruiz
 
There are certain quotes that come back to me again and again. This one - not so much a quote as a recipe for living - is one of those and it seems particularly appropriate to review it as Christmas week looms.

#2 especially has been on my mind today: Don't Take Anything Personally.

My guides have reminded me of this agreement at exactly the moment I needed it most over the past couple of weeks. When someone I am around is in a bad mood, my first instinct is to think they are mad at me or that I did something to cause their bad mood. How insane is this?

Because of this agreement, instead of reacting to what I presume to be their anger at me, I have asked myself this question:

What if their bad mood has nothing to do with me? 

Just asking this question wakes me up and makes me realize that while there is a small possibility I have done something to make this person mad, it is much more likely that they are tired or had a fight with their spouse or are worried about their job or stressed out about the holidays. And this saves so much time and energy.

I don't have to spin out in a whirlwind of thoughts about what I could have done. I don't have to launch into a mental defense of my actions. I don't have to feel the negative emotions that my monkey mind creates.

Instead I can focus on #4 Doing My Best. To meet them where they are, to not let their bad mood spread and to treat them with lovingkindness in hopes that this will help assuage whatever hurts they are carrying.

If you are interested in learning more about the Four Agreements, there is a great overview here. Try them out this holiday season and let me know how they work for you!

[ Join me in 30 Days of Forgiveness starting January 2nd, 2014! "To err is human; to forgive, divine." (Alexander Pope)]


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Airlines are Right

"Help Yourself First." --S.N. Goenka

In one of his nightly lectures via videotape, S.N. Goenka advised against getting involved in any situation or taking any action until you are feeling equanimous

If you know anything about Vipassana meditation, you know it is all about equanimity. Equanimity is the thing.

Equanimity is defined as, "mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, esp. in a difficult situation." I like to think of it as getting to neutral.

This advice reminded me of the part in the airline safety speech about putting on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others and made me realize how often I leap into situations when my equanimity is something less than perfect.

This is especially true when my kids are fighting. Nothing gets under my skin like the two of them going at it. Invariably I jump in, blood pressure rising, voice raised, and more often than not, make things worse.

There are certainly times when we need to let our instincts take over and just act, but I don't think this is required as often as we do it.

More often than not, a step backward, a few deep breaths, a few moments in neutral can help us navigate the tricky situations in our lives with much more presence, more consciousness and more equanimity. And that helps everyone.

[ Join me in 30 Days of Forgiveness starting January 2nd, 2014! "To err is human; to forgive, divine." (Alexander Pope)]

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2000

"A Spiritual Catalyst is someone who precipitates change for the betterment of all." --Reverend Karen Lindvig at Seattle Unity Church on December 8, 2013

This quote struck me not in and of itself, but because of the two questions that Reverend Karen posed afterwards:

Who has been a Spiritual Catalyst for you? 

AND

For whom have you been a Spiritual Catalyst? 

The first one was easy. Whenever I think of someone who has pushed me to expand, who has opened up the world of Spirit to me, I always think about my sister-in-law.

When I first met her I thought she was bat-shit crazy. She did my numerology at Thanksgiving, sent me on a shamanic journey the first time we went to visit her and gave me a psychic reading for my birthday.

I was pissed. I DID NOT want to have the reading. When she brought her friend "the Psychic" over to our house my attitude was, "Let's just get this over with."
 
Within minutes of starting my reading, I was crying, and by the time it was over I was hugging them both and making a list in my head of everyone I knew who I wanted to have a reading.

When my sister was diagnosed with Cancer a few short months later, I advised her to call my sister-in-law's friend. That reading gave her hope, and a roadmap for living a life that didn't include dying of Cancer.

I would not be where I am today if it were not for my sister-in-law acting as a Spiritual Catalyst, even in the face of my fear and confusion (and sometimes even a bit of eye-rolling) whenever she introduced me to the latest thing she was exploring.

The second question gave me pause.

I can certainly think of a few people for whom I may have acted as a Spiritual Catalyst - either for better or for worse, since it does often seem to work in one of those two ways - but if I am honest, more often than not, I keep my spiritual side on the DL.

Not many people who know me know the extent to which I am into the woo-woo thing. It's not something I talk about openly or share easily, especially with people who I think may not be into spirituality or God.

Answering this question honestly made me realize that I am wasting a lot of time and many, many opportunities to be a Spiritual Catalyst for others and that this is something I want to change.

I WANT to share what I have learned in the seventeen years since that first numerology reading, or I wouldn't be writing this blog. In order to do that I have to "come out" to my friends and acquaintances, I have to start sharing more of who I really am on Facebook and tweeting more often about what I am up to.

And, I have to get out there in the world and BE that Spiritual Catalyst for other people.

So, in the spirit of being a Spiritual Catalyst I am announcing today that starting on January 2nd,  2014 I will be hosting an event I am calling 30 Days of Forgiveness.

Over the 30-day period from January 2nd to January 31st I will be doing daily forgiveness work using a writing exercise specifically designed for this purpose and I invite you to join me.

I imagine hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of people, all starting off the year with a clean slate, a clear mind and an open heart as a result of dedicating thirty days to forgiving those who we feel have wronged us and to forgiving ourselves for the ways in which we have wronged others. What an impact we could make on the world!

I can't wait to get started and I hope that you will join me. Watch this site (and Facebook and Twitter!) for more information.

[NB Two quick things:

1) This quote has the distinct honor of being the 2000th quote that I have written down since I started writing quotes down in earnest (sometime back in 2005). It took me around six years to accumulate 1000 quotes and about two and a half years to rack up 1000 more so I am guessing I will reach 3000 sometime in 2016...

2) A SHOUT OUT & BIG THANKS to my sister-in-law for being a Spiritual Catalyst for me in this lifetime. There have been countless others, but you were the first and I am ever grateful. Love you!]

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Life Mastery

"You are the master of your own life; you are the master of your own future." --Gautama the Buddha

One of many quotes from the retreat whose basic message is: you create your reality.

What the Buddha is saying here is that we decide each day, each moment what kind of life we want to live by HOW we live it. By how we act. By how we think. By how we treat others. By how we treat ourselves.

Decide what kind of life you want to live and then plant the seeds of that life.

At the retreat S.N. Goenka told a story during one of the nightly video-taped discourses, about a man who planted seeds from the Neem tree (known for its bitter fruit) on his land. When the tree grew and began to produce fruit he was very upset that the fruit it produced was bitter and not sweet like sugar cane.

Of course we are meant to laugh at this man for his foolishness, but are we any different?

We lie, we cheat, we steal (in large or in small ways), we give into anger and then we want life to reward us with people who tell us the truth, deal honestly with us in business and speak kindly to us.

But that's just not the way it works.

We reap what we sow, either in this lifetime or another. Better to sow seeds of love, compassion, truth and kindness and reap the sweet fruit of these virtues than to sow anger, hatred and lies and reap the bitter fruit of those seeds.

In this way we truly become the master of our own life; the master of our own future.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Smiling helps :)

While sitting for hours - HOURS - in meditation during my most-recent Vipassana retreat, I remembered something I read recently in Malcolm Gladwell's book, "blink" - that our bodies don't know the difference between a fake smile and a real smile.

That when we smile, certain chemicals are released, certain reactions take place, in our body that make us feel good and our body does the same things when we fake a smile.

While observing my breath for what seemed like the 40th hour in a row, I decided to give it a try and - low and behold -  it works! 

When I started to smile, my mind calmed down, my body relaxed and I could turn my attention to my meditation once again, instead of focusing on the pain, discomfort and sometimes overwhelming boredom I felt.

Smiling, even when I was faking it, really did help.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Back in the Saddle

"Just let things be, just as they are." --Evie Chauncey, Assistant Teacher at the NW Vipassana Center

Whew! It's good to be home. My intention was to start blogging immediately upon my return, sharing all the insights and inspiration from my latest ten-day retreat, but The Universe had other plans....

If I recall correctly, last year it took me a few days to "plug back in" also and I had a hard time writing about the experience. Oh how I wish I had now.

Last year is, in my mind, a lovely memory of a week of great peace and discovery and ultimately, a greater awakening. The things I remembered were the food (delicious!), the walks (peaceful), the naps (also delicious).

The harder things are fuzzier in my mind: the early rising (4:00am), the hours of sitting with your legs crossed (painful), and the mind-numbing boredom that sometimes creeps in after 90 minutes (or sometimes 9) minutes of meditation.

This year was harder. Much harder.

Not being new to the technique I did not have as much to learn and I did not find every nuance so fascinating. I knew what was coming - that after one whole day (10 plus hours) of observing our respiration, we still had ten more hours of that to go before we moved on. Having experienced it all before I just wasn't as excited about the whole thing.

In fact, there were days - a few of them - on which I just wanted to get the heck out of there. I wanted to hop the fence, somehow start my car without the key (like I know how to do that :p) and drive away, leaving all of my things behind.

But I didn't. I stuck it out and tried to work through it. And I guess I did, but it wasn't pretty. And it isn't something I can automatically say I want to repeat. I WANT to want to go back next year, but I'm just not sure I'm going to want to.

Ironically, I came back with even more quotes, ideas and insights than last year. So, watch this space if you are interested in hearing more.

In the meantime, be well.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Wisdom from David Pond

"We are the custodians of our inner world." --David Pond



Friday, November 15, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wisdom from Phillip Shepherd

"The precondition to sensitivity is stillness. In the same way that a pond on a still day will visibly register the smallest insect alighting on its surface, but on a windy day it won't, our ability to feel the whole is directly proportional to our ability to become still within ourselves." --Phillip Shepherd

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wisdom from Tao Porchon-Lynch

"Breath is the power behind all things. Your breath doesn't know how old you are; it doesn't know what you can't do. If I'm feeling puzzled or my mind is telling me that I'm not capable of something, I breathe in and know that good things will happen." --Tao Porchon-Lynch (a 94-year-old yoga instructor)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wisdom from Anne Lamott

"One's heart is the only safe place to be. There's light there, there's company, and quiet." --Anne Lamott

Monday, November 11, 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wisdom From Eckhart Tolle

"If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place."  --Eckhart Tolle

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wisdom from The Universe (at last year's retreat)

"ENJOY, do not attach. SUFFER, do not attach. Be happy." --The Universe, at last year's retreat

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wisdom from Louise Gluck

“...[T]o make a place for light the mystic shuts his eyes." --Louise Gluck, from her poem "Bats"

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Another 10 Days


"If there is no peace in the mind...how can there be peace in the world?" --S.N. Goenka

Last year at about this time I went on my first 10-day silent meditation retreat at the NW Vipassana Center. When I came back, I knew I wanted to go again. And that time has come.

I leave today for another ten days.

Last year I was a bit nervous and unsure. This time, I am excited. I know what to expect and what will be expected of me. And I am ready.

I can't wait to sit in meditation for most of my waking hours. To walk in silence for all of them. And to be free from the constant barrage of mind-thoughts that I am subject to each day.

I look forward to oatmeal and stewed fruit for breakfast every day. To the delicious vegetarian lunch. And nothing but a cup of tea for dinner.

I know that there will be new things too. New ideas. New discomforts. New fears. I look forward to these as well.

While I am gone I will be posting one meditation quote every day to inspire your practice. I hope you will enjoy these words of wisdom.

I'll see you on the other side.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Are You Smarter Than a 6th Grader?


"There shouldn't be a leash on life." --Tess

On Halloween my son invited one of his new middle school friends over to Trick or Treat with us. She is a delightful girl - warm. open, chatty and wicked smart.

I was cutting up apples for their snack and she asked if she could have some peanut butter to go with them. "It doesn't have to be much," she said, "My mom limits me to one tablespoon because she says I'll eat all the peanut butter."

She paused and then spoke words of wisdom I wish I had known when I was her age:

 "But why not eat all the peanut butter? There shouldn't be a leash on life." 

Ah-h-h-h. It was a deep-breath moment for me. I just stood still and breathed in the truth of these words and the truth that they had been missing from my world-view for far longer than was good for me.

I know it is time for me to start living without a leash. Cassie (see above) couldn't agree more. Thanks Tess!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Angel from LA



I happened upon this fellow at the Farmer's Market near our hotel. Apparently the city of angels sponsored a public art project where different artists created different angels, which were then auctioned off for charity. This one found a home at the Farmer's Market. 

I love the idea of angels all around the city and wish I could have seen the whole exhibit. 

Last time I was in LA, my sister and I noticed that the city does indeed seem to be populated by unexpected angels, many of them riding the city bus. 

For more info on this project, see the photo below: 


May angels always travel with you....
 



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Light, Color, Flavor


One of the coolest things we did in LA was visit the Watts Towers, a unique display of public and personal art by Simon Rodia. (If you want to learn more I highly recommend following one of these links.) 

While there I picked up a postcard, which was a photo almost exactly like this one I shot by Marisol Manzano, with the following caption: "I want my life to be full of light, color and flavor."  Me too, Simon, me too!


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Light and Love from LA



This lovely lighted heart was part of the decor at the Farmer's Daughter - warmed my heart every time I passed by. May it also warm yours. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

She Ain't the Girl You Used to Know


This week, some photos from the "boutique motel" we stayed in while in LA. It is called The Farmer's Daughter and was really a lovely place. 

Kitschy rooms with faux barn flooring and denim bedspreads, huge rubber duckies in the pool and free cookies at the front desk, who could ask for more?

But wait, they also have a Little Free Library and bikes to loan. And they are right across the street from the famous LA Farmer's Market. Highly recommended! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

From the Urban Jungle



Walking along the streets of West LA we encountered a family of giraffes and they somehow softened the day for me. Words that come to mind when I see these giraffes are: gentle, kindness, vision, seeing, loyalty. 

For more on the meaning of the giraffe see these two sites:

http://www.whats-your-sign.com/symbolic-meaning-of-giraffe.html

http://www.shamanicjourney.com/article/6035/giraffe-power-animal-symbol-of-grounded-vision-farsightedness

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Love & Light from LA


Woah, it's been awhile since I posted anything to the blog. According to one of my favorite energy alert sources - http://www.thepowerpath.com/index.php/power-path-home/the-power-path/monthly-forecast/572-october-forecast-2013 - October is a month to reset and reboot so I guess it's all in divine order.

I spent the past few days in LA, visiting my sister and attending the wedding of a lovely couple, so this week and next I'm going to share some inspirational photos from my trip. I hope they will make your world a little lighter, a little brighter as you reset & reboot.

This first photo is the street sign for an organic, vegan cafe called Cafe Gratitude. The original was in San Fran and although I have heard it is now closed, it was the origin of the movie "Let Me Be Frank," which is a great film for anyone interested in transformation. 

We had a lovely meal there and it was the perfect way to kick off a trip that would contain many opportunities for transformation - some of which I leapt upon and others of which I let slip on by. Such is the life of a human being. 

All of the entrees at Cafe Gratitude are an affirmation such as "I am transformed" (which my sister ordered) and "I am humble" (my choice for the evening). 

As you order they repeat your choice back to you, affirming your intention for the meal ie. "You are transformed." "You are humble." It may sound a bit corny, but it really feels good to have your intention mirrored and affirmed and contributed to an overwhelming feeling of bliss while dining. Highly recommended! 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wisdom from David Mura

"If you don't have children, you can't imagine how difficult it is to raise them, how little control you have over who they are, who they will become. You can never know what effect you're having. You can do something that seems right at the time, then later wrong, then later it seems right again." --David Mura

A rough morning at the breakfast table. It's 9:00 am and I feel spent. Really appreciating this quote from David Mura today from his great book, Where the Body Meets Memory.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

And still, even More Wisdom from Tom Spanbauer

"Sometimes when the universe fucks you up, it's part of a larger plan."  --Tom Spanbauer

Testify!

Yes, even more wisdom from Tom Spanbauer

"You don't need to buy it to own it...If you own yourself, you own the world." --Tom Spanbauer

Have I mentioned that I LOVE this book?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

More Wisdom from Tom Spanbauer

"Nobody loves you the way your dog loves you." --Tom Spanbauer


This is how my god...whoops....Freudian slip....dog loves me - right up in my face.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wisdom from Tom Spanbauer (He'll be here all week!)

"Miracles are out there somewhere. You just got to find them." --Tom Spanbauer, from his book Now Is The Hour

Sometimes a book is just a book, and sometimes it's a miracle.

This book - Now Is The Hour - feels like a miracle to me. It has been such a long time since I read a book that made me feel like this. Like the author has understood something about life that has not been understood before. (At least not for me. )

What this book understands - and explores - is the ways in which we are not only not allowed to BE who we are, but the ways in which we are not even allowed to KNOW who we are.
 
It happens to all of us, not just closeted gay men growing up in rural Idaho. We are all shaped by where we are born and when we are born and to whom we are born. Sometimes this is a perfect fit, but more often than not, it is not and we all have to discover, for ourselves, who we really are.

In a way I think that is the miracle we are all searching for, the chance to KNOW ourselves fully, even if who we are isn't someone we could even imagine when we were young.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Wisdom from Shelley Lundquist

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear." --Shelley Lundquist

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Day Fear

“...[N]o man is free if he fears death...[T]he minute you conquer the fear of death, at that moment you are free." --Martin Luther King, Jr.

I love this quote, and it terrifies me. The truth of it terrifies me and the truth I know in my heart that I am still very much afraid of death. And illness and getting in trouble and not being liked and conflict and confrontation. Let's just say I have a ways to go until I am truly free.

I am thinking about this today because it's the first day of middle school for my older son and there is a lot of fear among parents around middle school, mainly based on their own experiences of it I suppose, but also a lot of the "talk" these days is about drugs and sex and social posturing - all of which supposedly starts in middle school. It's not that I think "they" are wrong necessarily, I am just beginning to wonder if we should fear it all.

When I think back upon my middle school (and high school) days I know I had it pretty easy, but I also know that it was really hard for me. I was anxious a lot of the time. About my schoolwork and my grades, but also about my friendships and boys, my looks and my weight. There were - as there are now - good days and bad days, great days and really shitty days, but overall I know I had it pretty easy. And I wonder about that. I wonder if that was necessarily "good," or if a little more struggle might have been somehow better.

As parents we spend so much time trying to get things "right" and make the world a better, safer, more comfortable place for our children - the "right" school, a "good" lunch, the "perfect" birthday party - but is this really what they need?

If they are going to grow and learn and, ultimately, conquer their fear of death and live free, isn't what they need a little bit of adversity, some challenges to overcome, a little heartache and a lot of opportunities to face their fears and to learn that they can conquer them?

On our trip to Japan earlier this year I was talking to one of the other moms about her brutal experiences as a single mom in her twenties. It was really hard, and she made some choices that she would not make again (not about having her kids, but about how she handled that), but, she said, it had made her the mother she is now and that, she felt, was worth it.

I started to laugh and said to her, "Yeah, it's funny isn't it? What we hope for our children is that their lives be easy and comfortable, with no pain and no fear, but what we should really be hoping for them is adversity and hard times because that's where the good stuff is. The growth, the learning, the building of strength and acquiring of life skills."

So that's what I am wishing for today for my sons - and I guess for myself - on their first day back at school. Not that everything be easy, but that it be full of growth and learning and opportunities to face their fears and overcome them so that they can know the true freedom that comes from this.

I love you boys. So much.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Wisdom from Khalid Hosseini

"It's a funny thing...but people mostly have it backward. They think they live by what they want. But really what guides them is what they're afraid of. What they DON'T want.”  --Khalid Hosseini, from his book And The Mountains 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Wacky Sunday

"It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom—freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human." --Pema Chodron

When I started to write this post it was never a question of WHO I was going to quote, it had to be Pema. If Wacky Sunday were an official holiday, Pema Chodron would be its Patron Saint.

So what is Wacky Sunday, you ask?

It's a day in which everything one as a human being does, or sets out to do, goes sideways. Its a day in which up is down, black is white, right is wrong, and you realize - in a very clear and concrete way - that there are no rules and there is no ground. That this groundlessness of which Pema speaks is not hypothetical or true only for other people. It is true for all of us. It is true for you. It is true for ME.

Especially, it seemed, on Sunday.

I woke up on Sunday morning with a plan. My husband was taking the kids camping and I was going to have some "alone time." A whole day and night, and part of the next day, to do whatever I wanted, completely uninterrupted.

Except, not so much.

Turns out, my husband had to work and he was not going to be able to take the kids camping AND he needed to go into the office. Okay. Not what I was hoping for, but okay. He said would try to make it up to me later in the week by taking a day off.

I struggled. It was hard to come to terms, but come to terms I did and while my husband went to church I sat down to meditate. And, as often happens during meditation, I came up with a plan. (I know, I know, this is NOT what meditating is about, but sometimes it just happens!)

I would get ready and go to my church as soon as he got home and then take the kids to the pool later while he went to work. We'd have a relaxing day in the sun and then all have dinner together later.

I got up from my meditation feeling pretty pleased with myself and looking forward to our day. Then my husband came home.

He was all excited about his church service and wanted to tell me all about it. Uh-oh. I was "supposed" to be taking a shower and getting cleaned up and putting on my favorite dress and getting to church early so I could be relaxed and not rushed. I didn't have time for this. This was not in the plan!

But I didn't say that, I just listened, uncomfortably, to his story. And then, the kicker. He had decided that they WERE going camping after all. Time with his sons was more important than work (isn't this just what every mother wants to hear from the father of her children?) and they were going.

Uh, what?

Immediately my relaxing pool day is down the drain and I am now spending the day getting them ready to go camping. Packing the bags and the food and finding the flash lights and sleeping bags.....

And I am so pissed. How could he do this TO ME? How could he change the plan AGAIN? And I just wilted.

So we talked it through and he made it clear he didn't expect me to help and he was a little bit confused because he thought I would be happy they were leaving after all and now I was running late for church and had to go.

So I threw on my clothes and rushed out the door.

Driving to church I was looking forward to saying Hello to Michael, who sells the homeless newspaper on the highway off ramp near my church. I pulled up to the light at the off ramp and Michael wasn't there. He's always there. It's his spot. Where was Michael?

At the next light, I had not just the green light, but the green light AND the green arrow, nonetheless four pedestrians ambled across the street right in front of me as if I didn't even exist. Didn't they KNOW I had the right of way? (Despite my driver's ed instructors' admonitions that "the right of way is not something you have, it's something you yield," I still feel that sometimes I HAVE the right of way.)

At church I was talking to the usher outside the sanctuary, before the service started and someone shushed me. And when I went to walk to my car I walked the wrong way, despite parking in basically the same place every week.

By the time I got home, I was starting to realize that something strange was going on.

I walked in the door thinking no one was at home (my husband had called to say the kids' were at the neighbors and he was heading to the office to get a bit of work done before going camping) and I started relaxing in my head. I'd make lunch and have a cup of tea.....

Seconds later my older son comes up from the basement in tears. "Dad's making us go camping even though we don't want to and there's nothing we can do!"

I talk him through this, including two phone calls to his dad, two trips to the neighbors to talk to his brother, and a decision to once again bail on the camping trip and go to a baseball game instead. So I get online to buy tickets, and the internet stalls.

My husband comes home and says they'll just get tickets at the stadium. Can I drive them there?

Realizing I still haven't had lunch, I grab a snack and get in the car. I drop them off and then head home. Time seems to be standing still. I am hungry and just want to be home eating lunch and then collapse on the couch.

I start to think about the day and how it has gone and I can feel the resistance in my gut. Nothing has gone to plan today. Everything is just a mess. And I start to work with this idea. To try and turn it on its head.

If I am really living in the moment, really "going with the flow" then none of this matters because I have no expectations. But even when I try not to have expectations, I have expectations. I sit with this and I struggle against it. This is not the way I WANT things to be. This is not the way I want LIFE to be.

My gut is churning and wrenching at the thought of this. It's like I have been tased and I am lying on the ground, writhing in pain, trying to get away from the electrical current that is running through my body, but I can't escape it, it's in every atom and molecule of my being. This is how intensely I try and fight the reality of this day.

Nothing is how I want it to be or expect it to be today. White IS black. Up IS down. Right IS wrong. And that's just the way it is. I can choose to struggle against it, or I can choose acceptance. I can choose enlightenment. I can choose freedom.

And so I did.

When I got home instead of making lunch or a cup of tea and trying to get something done, I went into the bedroom, laid down on the bed and surrendered to the upside down nature of Wacky Sunday. I just let it be.

As soon as I did, the spell was broken. Wacky Sunday went back to being just another Sunday. I got up, made some lunch and ate it. All without being interrupted. I sat down to watch some television, and the internet worked.  White was white. Up was up. Right was right.

And I was grateful.

Grateful that Wacky Sunday was over and also, funnily enough, that it happened. Without Wacky Sunday I wouldn't have learned this: In the search for true enlightenment, we've got to change not only our thinking, but our language. No "shoulds," no "supposed tos", not even an "I'm going to."

WE don't know, we just don't know what's going to happen. And we've got to get comfortably - no, intimately - familiar with this basic truth if we want to have any hope of living a truly enlightened life.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wisdom from MLK, Jr

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, here are some of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes:

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." I think this is my favorite one, but the rest are pretty great....

"The means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek." If only every CEO in America lived by this rule....

"Whatever affects me directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality." That's the Oneness, baby.....

And a new favorite from the radio coverage of the event today:

"Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service... You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love

Monday, August 26, 2013

Wisdom from Vera Aleith Galbreath

"Have you ever felt as if you just didn't want to live anymore? Everything seemed to go wrong and you felt sort of mistreated and abused. Good luck just wasn't meant for you. Well that's the time to take a walk. It is amazing what walking can do to a depressed spirit. You just walk it away so slowly, ever so slowly. You don't realize it is disappearing until finally you discover it is gone. Yes, gone, and oh, life is so wonderful." --Vera Aleith Galbreath

In the mail on Friday we received a program from the memorial service for Vera Aleith Galbreath. I knew as soon as I saw the envelope what it was, and I was grateful. Grateful that someone had taken the time to let us know of Vera's passing. (Or, more likely, that Vera had arranged for this.)

Vera wasn't a relative. Not really a friend. Or a neighbor exactly. But she was a presence in our lives ever since we bought our first house.

It was a small house, just off of a busy street, about a mile or so from an urban lake. Both my husband and I would run down and around the lake a few times a week. Right past Vera's house.

One day my husband saw her working outside and asked if she needed any help. As it turned out, she needed someone to make a dump run for her, and so we did. And that was the beginning. My husband gave her his number and told her to give him a call whenever she needed help.

She didn't call very often, but when she did we'd head over and lift or haul or move whatever needed lifting or hauling or moving.

After I had my first baby she would cut out interesting articles for me about parenting and send them in the mail, or hand them to me if we ran into each other on the street, as we often did.

When we moved from the neighborhood we kept in touch mostly by Christmas card and she called upon us for help less and less often over the years.

Eventually we stopped sending Christmas cards (not just to her, but pretty much at all) and the time between our contacts became longer and longer.

Every once in awhile though we'd receive a letter or - even more rarely - a call just to check in. And sometimes we'd see her, out walking, as we drove through the old neighborhood.

Walking and walking and walking.

She walked everyday. She walked everywhere. She walked all the time.

Once we saw her at eleven o'clock at night walking back from the lake over the freeway overpass. It startled us. She was far too old to be out all alone walking at night we thought. So we stopped to ask her if she wanted a ride, but she just kept on walking. Now I know why.

Here's another quote from her essay on the benefits of walking: "As you walk [at night] don't think of fearful and frightening things. Have a sense that nothing wrong could exist in such a peaceful atmosphere and that no harm can ever touch you, for there is no such thing." 

It doesn't surprise me that Vera knew this, knowing her, but it does surprise me a bit that she knew it as a young woman and that she lived it all her life. She didn't let age or darkness or distance scare her or keep her from doing what she wanted to do, what she knew she needed to do to be happy.

Goodbye Vera. We'll miss knowing that you are out there somewhere. Walking.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wisdom from Charles Fillmore

"All causes are essentially mental, and whosoever comes into daily contact with a high order of thinking must take on some of it." --Charles Fillmore

A little follow-up to Tuesday's post and another reason to meditate!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Other 1%

"The Ego needs 100% participation, if you use conscious awareness you can break the Ego's grip." --David Pond, speaking at East West Bookshop

We have heard a lot of talk about "the one percent," the wealthiest of the wealthy who often pay no taxes and enjoy privileges many of us don't even know to dream of. Friday night I heard about another one percent, a one percent that interests me a lot more, and that may even help some of us deal with the wealthy one percent, or at least our reactions to them.

This one percent is one percent consciousness, which, according to astrologer and metaphysical counselor David Pond, is all it takes to break the Ego's grip.

Think about it, in those moments where we are overcome by emotions of the Ego - greed, pride, lust, anger, despair, etc. - if we can just hang onto one percent of our consciousness, one percent of our positive thoughts, one percent of our connection to our Source, one percent of our presence - we can beat the Ego at its own game and save ourselves a lot of pain,

This talk was particularly appropriate for me because just a few nights prior I had been in the throes of a full Ego attack in a fight with my husband.

We had just started an elimination diet recommended by his ND so we were both a little hungry and suffering from withdrawal from wheat, caffeine, sugar, and dairy. I had been at home all day with the kids and was exhausted; he had been at work all day and was the same.

So he came home from work, said a perfunctory hello and went straight to bed for a two hour nap.

This kind of thing makes me angry on a normal day, but on this particular day I was livid. How dare he? Doesn't he think I am tired too? Doesn't he realize I am detoxing too? Doesn't he care that I made all the "special" meals for us today? Aren't we supposed to be doing this together?

I could go on...and on....and on....but you get the idea. I was MAD.

And instead of going into the bedroom and waking him up and asking him any one of these questions in a calm and kind voice, I went on the attack. It was a rant of epic proportions. And then I went to the guest room and slept by myself so I could rant some more alone in my head.

When I woke up in the morning we had a long talk and sorted it all out, but what I find really interesting is that when I was listening to David Pond's talk all I could think about was this night and my experience of it.

All night long I kept feeling that one percent of my consciousness fighting my Ego.

In my head it looks something like this: I am moving towards my husband with aggression and there is a little swoosh of energy trailing behind my head, trying to disconnect, trying to get my attention, trying to stay conscious. And then all of a sudden - WOOSH! - my Ego sucks it up and I am gone. Done. Cooked. Enraged. And it's all over for my conscious self at that moment.

Luckily for me years of meditation means that it comes back a lot sooner than it used to. In the middle of the night, towards early down I began to be aware of it again. Little thoughts like, "Maybe I could have...." or "If only I'd...." began to trickle in as I started to look at my part in our little domestic drama.

I know that I was trying that night to stay away from shame and blame and recrimination, but I just couldn't keep the Ego from taking over. I couldn't hold onto the one percent that night. Maybe next time I can. I know if I keep trying, eventually I will.

I leave you with one final quote from David Pond that might have helped me that night and that I hope will help you next time you are fighting with your Ego:

"Don't believe a thing your shameless mind comes up with when you are in a funky place." 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Wisdom from Ashleigh Brilliant


I have no idea who Ashleigh Brilliant is, but I like her style.

The urgency of fall is upon me. I am starting to feel the pressure of all that needs to be done. Lazy summer days by the pool are numbered and the truth of this is seeping in...

So I post this today to remind myself - and perhaps you as well - to slow down, take rest, and breathe. 

Sometimes it's the most urgent thing to do.

UPDATE: So, Ashleigh Brilliant is a man. You can find out more about HIS work and life here.

And, one of my favorite card readers, Lee-Anne Peters couldn't agree more. This week is all about the urgency of a complete rest.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wisdom from Karen Lindvig

"When we are present to our loved ones, LOVE shows up." --Karen Lindvig

Trying to be present in every moment with my sons this summer. It isn't always easy. There are many distractions, but I do so want LOVE to show up. So I keep on trying.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wisdom from Thomas Merton

"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them." --Thomas 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Going UNconscious

"Wherever you are, be all there." --Jim Elliott on http://www.thehappymovie.com/

One of the things that came up for me when I started this 40-day meditation challenge was TV, one of the primary ways I go unconscious.

After a long day or a busy day or a large group social event I just need to relax my mind and unwind with something totally mindless. Sometimes a book will do the trick, but most often this is when I start to jones for some bad TV.

I know it's a problem (and also one of the reasons why I struggle so much with my kids' need for screen time - gotta love those mirrors!) because it is the primary way I escape from what is really going on. From my fears and my hurts, my frustrations and insecurities. I use TV, and to some extent books, to go unconscious, to black out and to escape my reality.

So I half-heartedly committed to "no TV" during these same 40 days. I lasted about 36 hours.

On Tuesday afternoon, my son asked me to watch something with him and I thought, "Well that would be okay. We'd be doing it together...." and the next thing I knew I was knee-deep in a new addiction (My Boys).

Last night, after our block party, the boys were watching a baseball game and I sat down to watch "just one episode."

An hour later I was sending my husband downstairs to do bedtime so I could watch "just one more."

Two hours later I was still watching.

At midnight I finally finished the series and turned the TV off.

Sitting in front of my computer contemplating my husband's 5:00 AM alarm I felt sick. And then I remembered Family Meditation.

I had completely blown off family meditation time! Sickness turned into shame and I realized just how unconscious I had gone.

So, here I am today with my screen time hangover - not all that unlike an alcohol hangover - I am exhausted, my eyes are puffy and I feel regretful of my actions last night.

What if, instead of diving into a show I had come home and spent 30 minutes in meditation? What if I had sat with my feelings of exhaustion and social anxiety and need to go unconscious instead of escaping them?  

So TV is obviously the next thing for me to work on. My next demon to put to rest, my next dragon to slay.

I am recommitting myself to "no TV" during these 40 days and I am going to try and use the time I am not zoning out to stay present, to stay conscious to my feelings, whatever they may be.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Signs, signs, everywhere signs


I love to look for signs - that I am on the right track, that the Universe is watching out for me, that I am loved.

Last week on our camping trip I found this sign at a restaurant we ate at. It's a straw wrapper, lying on the floor near our table, in the shape of a heart.

I took it as a sign that we were exactly where we needed to be and that the Universe was taking care of us. 

What signs do you see today?
 
I

Wisdom from Raul Julia

"...[L]ife itself is a meditation." --Raul
Julia

I have always loved Raul Julia, since I first saw him as the sensitive married man having sexual tension with Susan Sarandon while solving a murder in "Compromising Positions" (the cast of which also included the always entertaining Judith Ivey - I love her voice and demeanor so much I think I could watch her in anything).

He went on to play defense attorney Sandy Stern in "Presumed Innocent" and of course the beloved patriarch Gomez Addams in "The Addams Family." 

His was one the first celebrity deaths - in 1994 - to really effect me. He always seemed to have an undefinably quiet strength and grace. I get it now - he saw his life as a meditation - and that makes all the difference. 

I hope someday to be remembered for my quiet grace and thanks to Raul I have one more clue about how to do that. Thanks Raul. For everything.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Gift of Meditation

"Meditation is a gift that you give to yourself." --Rev Karen Lindvig and Sada Simran

This month, starting yesterday, our whole congregation at Seattle Unity is entering into 40 days of meditation.  Won't you join us? Commit to just 10 or 20 minutes a day of whatever meditation best suits you. Do it, then see what happens! Give this gift to yourself!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Wisdom from The Universe via Gregory Martin

"Expectations are premeditated resentments." --Unknown (as quoted in "Stories for Boys" by Gregory Martin)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wisdom from Michael J Fox

"My happiness grows in direct proportion (to) my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations.” --Michael J. Fox

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wisdom from SeaTac


A little "leftover" from our trip to Hawaii in April. Thought it was perfect for a Monday morning.
Pass it on...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Wisdom from Philip Shepherd

“...[H]armony requires us to change along with the whole. If you open yourself to the hum of the world—if you live in the present rather than in your idea of it—it will change you." --Philip Shepherd, author of New Self, New World, interviewed in The Sun

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Everybody Who is Needed

"Every time a group of people is gathered together, everybody who is needed is present." --Dale Stubbart in New Spirit Journal

Everybody who is needed is present....This is a concept I have struggled with mightily throughout my life. At most significant events in my life there was always somebody missing, or somebody who I thought "shouldn't" be there. I always had in mind the "perfect" guest list and inevitably it included someone who couldn't make it or didn't include someone who could.

As I have walked the spiritual path I have come to see the truth in this statement, but I still struggle against it sometimes.

After we came back from Japan we hosted my husband's cousin and his family at our house for a week. The timing couldn't have been better as our upstairs tenants had just moved out so we had two empty bedrooms, a bathroom and even a small kitchen to offer for their stay.

My husband's family definitely fall into the category of "the more the merrier" types. There seems to be at least one "extra" person at every family gathering and inevitably if you are hosting an event someone will call and ask, "Can I bring....my cousin/best friend/brother-in-law?"

I have grown used to this over the years, but that doesn't mean it is easy for me. And it wasn't any easier this time when my husband's cousin kept inviting people over to our house. His dad's cousin came for dinner. His step brother came for a visit. He even went so far as to offer his dad's cousin a ride to the family wedding IN OUR CAR. And all of this without a word to either of us. As if he were inviting them to his house, to his dinner party, to ride is his car.

It was infuriating.

Where I come from (the mid-West) this is the height of rudeness. You would never even think it was okay to bring someone extra to a dinner party, but if you did you would certainly ask first. And you would never presume to offer some a ride, in someone else's car, without asking.

All week I struggled with this. On the one hand reminding myself that WE ARE ALL ONE and everyone's cousin really is my cousin too; on the other hand silently fuming at the complete disregard our guests were showing for me.

The thing is - and I know this - my husband's cousin wouldn't think twice if the shoe were on the other foot. I could bring my sister, my parents, my long lost best friend to his house for dinner uninvited and unannounced and he would be totally fine with it. Better than that, he would welcome them as family.

So what's the "right" thing to do?

That's where it gets tricky.

I think ultimately, of course, the right thing to do is to welcome one and all, to adopt a "more the merrier" mentality and embrace the Oneness. But I'm not there yet. People still exhaust me, they drain my energy and make me want to run for the nearest sensory deprivation chamber. Especially people I don't know who are invited into my space by someone other then me without my permission or okay.

So I need to continue to work on speaking my truth and setting good boundaries (next time this cousin visits I need to let him know how I feel and what I expect vis-a-vis "extras") and remember that in these situations that everybody who is needed is present. Whether I can see it or not.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Big Blue Wave

"Everything is energy..." --Daryl Anka 

At the beginning of our trip to Japan my son's teacher handed each of us a few sheets of paper stapled together. This was to be our "trip journal" and we were expected to fill it out each day, answering the questions that were posed. 

On Day 1 the questions were: How are you feeling? What are you looking forward to most on this trip? What are your concerns? 

My primary concern was losing my son. 

During the final trip meeting, held about one month before the trip, the teacher had mentioned that because the trains are so crowded in Japan it is possible that someone might not make it onto the train in time and end up stranded on the platform. She gave the kids instructions on how to handle this if it happened and promised to give each child a badge with her name and cell phone number on it to wear at all times while we were in Tokyo. 

After the meeting I became convinced that my son was going to be the one left standing on the subway platform. This was my primary concern, which I diligently wrote down in my journal. 

The first few days I didn't let my son out of my sight and I kept a hand on him at all times when it came time to board a subway train. Needless to say this was not appreciated. I got a lot of eye rolls and more than one, "God, Mom!"

As it turns out, I didn't need to worry. 

For one thing, on days that were really busy - where we were going to be doing a lot of traveling and jumping in and out of trains - the kids had coordinated shirts. Bright blue and visible from miles away. 

On those days it was easy to keep track of the kids, just look for the Big Blue Wave.

The Big Blue Wave in Kamakura
But even on other days, when we weren't wearing matching shirts, we seemed to move as one, as if we were energetically joined at the hip, each person following the person in front of them and all of us following our fearless leader, our Sensei.

I am very pleased to report that over the course of our eleven day trip, not one child was left standing on a subway platform. Not even mine.

And after a few days I came to trust in the Big Blue Wave and I released my grip on my son, even riding in a different subway car from time to time, just to give him some space. 

This got me thinking about energy and how powerful it is, and yet, how little we trust in it.

If everything is energy, then of course we all moved as one, because we were, on some level, all one. One group with one purpose and one destination. And if anyone HAD gotten lost I would be willing to bet it would have been because they forgot that for a moment.

Isn't that how we always get lost? By forgetting who and what we are?

Learning to trust in the Big Blue Wave has given me a blueprint for learning to trust more in the Universe. In its plan for my life. In its commitment to my well-being. We're all a part of the Big Blue Wave on this planet we call Earth. The only way to get lost is to forget that.

May you always remember. 

The Big Blue Wave walking to Sangubashi Station





Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Once in a Lifetime

 

"Ichi-go ichi-e." --from the Japanese meaning “every encounter is but once in a lifetime”

Every so often you get a "once in a lifetime" opportunity. Our recent trip to Japan was just such an opportunity.

To travel alone with my fifth grader, to a country where he speaks the language and I do not, with his former classmates, many of whom will be off in new directions in the fall, to send him off to be hosted by a family who accepted him (and me) sight unseen, truly was a "once in a lifetime" trip.

This week I would like to attempt to share some of the trip with you through words and pictures. This will not be an exhaustive account of all that we saw and experienced, but rather an attempt at capturing the spirit of the trip through a few shared stories.

"Ichi-go ichi-e" was a phrase I learned on the plane. I think it might have been in the in-flight magazine. I immediately connected with the truth of it - one more reminder from the Universe to stay present, to "be here now," to let this moment be the only moment - and wrote it down. 

It wasn't until after I got home and sat down to record all my quotes from the trip that I recognized the deeper meaning in terms of this travel experience and the foreshadowing the Universe had been offering me.

This is the way the Japanese people live their lives - as if every encounter were but once in a lifetime.

Below is a video of Shinjuku Station, the busiest transportation hub in the world:

Sinjuku station in Tokyo, Japan

It looks like kind of a nightmare doesn't it?

Try moving through this station with 18 fifth graders, their parents and 72 pieces of luggage (approximately 2 pieces per person). You would think it would be almost impossible. And yet, it really wasn't that difficult.

Somehow, in spite of the need to find their way around this massive station, catch a train, and get to work on time, the Japanese people manage to maneuver around massive groups of lost and confused Americans largely without incident.

Unlike in Europe, where I always feel like the huge, ugly American burdened with her luggage, I never felt like I was in the way. No one bumped into me or tripped over me or looked at me with disgust for my mere presence in "their" country, "their" train station, "their" day.

Like salmon swimming upstream, the Japanese people made their way where they needed to be, gracefully allowing me to do the same, even if I didn't know where the heck I was going.

I just got the feeling that they honored my right to be there, even if it made their day a little more difficult. 

In Kyoto it gets even better.

The torii gates at Fushimi Inari-taisha
A friend and I were standing on a street corner in Kyoto, map open, trying to figure out how to get to Fushimi Inari-taisha when up walks a young couple. "Can we help you?" they asked, in perfect English.

Taking the map from us they conferred in Japanese then the young man said, "Follow me."

Leading us through the winding streets of Kyoto, they led us directly to the entrance to the train station where we needed to go to catch a train to the shrine. They told us which train to take, and warned us that the walk underground to get to the actual train station was quite long - a warning without which we very well might have turned around because it was a very LONG walk indeed.

When I asked them if they were tourists in town as well they said, "No, we live in Kyoto."

I was floored. Here they were, out for a walk or on their way to have lunch or meet a friend or, who knows, on the way to a scary and difficult doctor's appointment, and they stopped to help us find our way. Going five or ten minutes out of their way to help two total strangers.

My fellow parents had similar stories to share as the trip progressed and you just got the feeling that most Japanese people would make themselves late for their own wedding to help you find your way.

I can't imagine that most Americans would do the same. I can't imagine - to my shame - that I would, or have done, the same. At least not in the past.

But now I hope to do it differently. I am trying to remember that every encounter is but once in a lifetime - ichi-go ichi-e - and make the most of each one.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Hello again.



"Hello, again, hello...I couldn't sleep at all tonight..." so I got up and made myself a cup of tea and a piece of peanut butter toast and I have been sitting here reading through quotes and downloading updates to my computer and searching campsites for later this summer and, mostly, trying to figure out what to write. Trying to figure out how to say, "Hello, again," to this blog after a rather long and unintended break.

"What happened?" You may be wondering. "Where did you go?"

 I went to a place called Summer Vacation. I went to a place called The Kids are Out of School. I went to a place called The Relatives are Visiting. And I went to a place called Japan.

 I went on a 35,000 km motorcycle ride with Nathan Millward (author of The Long Ride 'Home'). And I went on a journey to the depths of the human experience with Dear Sugar (in her book Tiny Beautiful Things).

I went to a place called Happy. And a place called Sad. And a place called Confused. And a place called Mad. And also to a place called Contentment. And a place called Exhausted. And a place called Rest.

And now I'm here again. At a place called larasimmons.net. A place called My Blog. A place I like to call Home.

I have a lot to share with you. Quotes, of course, and stories and pictures and lessons learned. And also lessons not quite learned, or in the process of being learned.

 It's a big, rich life we are living and there is so much to share. I do hope you haven't given up and gone away. My apologies for not leaving a note. I didn't know I'd be gone this long.

Hello, again, hello.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wisdom from Brene Brown (for my fellow parents on the first week of summer vacation)

"When it comes to parenting, the practice of framing both mothers and fathers as good or bad is both rampant and corrosive—it turns parenting into a shame minefield. The real questions for parents should be: 'Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?'” --BrenĂ© Brown, from her book Daring Greatly

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wisdom from Matt Santos

"...[W]e're all broken, every single one of us, and yet we pretend that we're not. We all live lives of imperfection and yet we cling to this fantasy that there's this perfect life..." --Jimmy Smits, speaking as Presidential Candidate Matthew Santos in The West Wing, Season 6, Episode 22, "2162 Votes"

Another reason to love the West Wing....

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wisdom from Douglas Adams

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."  --Douglas Adams

For years I have had this idea in my head about MY LIFE - what it would look like, what I would be doing and mostly, that I would finally be IN CHARGE and things would be going according to MY PLAN.

You'll be glad to know I am starting to get over that.

The deeper I go into this spiritual life, the more I realize that true joy, true peace, true happiness come not from making a plan and sticking to it, but from going with what shows up. Having no plan, or only a very vague idea of a plan, then letting The Universe do the rest is where the magic lies.

For instance, you might say, "I'd like to go to the beach this weekend," and The Universe will take that request and start to move. Maybe your friend with a beach house will call you and say, "I'm going to the beach this weekend, would you like to come?" Or maybe not.

Maybe instead, your son will get sick and throw up all over his new carpet and you will spend the weekend watching every episode of Stars Wars The Clone Wars and doing ten loads of laundry and it will seem as if the Universe has not heard you at all.

And then you have a choice. You can rail against this and have a terrible weekend, screaming inside about your planned trip to the beach and WHY didn't my friend call and HOW could this have happened again (because last year you had a trip planned to the beach and your other son got sick) and WHAT the heck is going on.

Or you can snuggle in with a good book and a cup of hot tea and a feverish little monkey under your arm and just enjoy not having to pack and shop and vacuum sand out of your car on Sunday night.

Because let's be honest, going to the beach is just as much work as having a sick kid, and having a sick kid can contain just as many joys as going to the beach if you aren't too busy railing against it to notice them.

Don't get me wrong, this is NOT easy and I am still susceptible to my Ego's need to STICK TO THE PLAN rather than go with the flow, but I'm learning.

Recently I have gotten wrapped up in the 5th Grade Play. Somehow I ended up "in charge" of this thing that was not even on my radar a few months ago. It never occurred to me when I heard there was a fifth grade play that I would be the one to make it happen. I have never been into theater, my son is not into theater. There is no earthly reason why this would become my "thing." 

And yet, as time went on, a group of us got together to find a director, and then it became clear that there was much more to do than a part-time director (and also college senior) was going to have time for. So I volunteered to find some parents to help. And to organize the kids into committees. And to communicate with parents about the rehearsal schedule. And....and.....and....before I knew it, everyone was looking to me for answers. When is the Stage Crew meeting for the first time? Does my student have to be at rehearsal on Tuesday? When are we getting started on Set?

And there were times when I stood still and looked around and thought, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? But most of the time I was too busy to ask questions. And the thing is, most of the time I was also having too much fun to care.

Producing the play was very satisfying. Watching the actors take on their roles and improve with every practice, watching the behind-the-scenes kids take responsibility for the various pieces back stage, watching all of the kids spontaneously choreograph a dance number during a rehearsal. There was just so much joy in going through the process.

And it was great "work" too. I realized early on that I was going to have to let go of a lot of things, that I couldn't do it all myself and that I needed some other parents to help. Shortly thereafter I realized that if I was going to make it out of this thing with my sanity and fellow parent relationships intact I was going to have to just allow each person to do the best they could and to have their own vision for their committee. In other words, if I tried to micromanage this thing, it was going to be a nightmare. So I didn't.

I just didn't. I made the decision to let everyone do it their way and to be okay with that. And for the  most part it worked.

As I stood and watched the dress rehearsal last week, I felt such joy and satisfaction I wouldn't trade it for the world. Even though a lot of writing and reading and laundry and exercise and cleaning, didn't get done over the past few weeks, even though "MY LIFE" was put on hold to do this thing I didn't mean to do, I wouldn't change it for the world.

Our lives are much bigger than our EGO thinks they are. They include EVERYONE and EVERYTHING we encounter, planned or unplanned, expected or unexpected, wanted or unwanted. It's all MY LIFE.

As the "play producer" chapter of my life comes to a close, I am getting the feeling that something unexpected is coming my way, something I never hoped for, never planned on, never wanted in my wildest dreams. But ready or not, here it comes!

I may not go where I intend to go, but I am certain I will end up where I need to be.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wisdom from The Universe

"Behind your greatest fear lies your greatest gift." --The Universe on TUT.com

Amen to that!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson - For a Monday morning

"Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

I read this on Facebook the other day and it was one of those quotes I immediately knew was going on the blog because it contains a nugget of truth so sharp I want to tell everyone I know.

It's about getting out of your head and into your body. It's about feeling your life and not rationalizing it. It's about living and not just plodding along.

There is more life in a scream than in a thesis. More truth. And sometimes even, more joy.

It you are feeling frustrated or confused or angry today, why not take a break, go somewhere quiet and just scream it out?

Happy Monday All!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother to Many

[An original story, based on a folktale called, "The King's Child"]

After one year, there was still no child. 

On her 21st birthday, the young bride left her house clutching a wad of cash tighly in her hand. Walking quickly, she headed to a nearby street. As she walked she glanced around furtively, hoping not to see anyone she knew. 

A cascade of small bells went off as she pushed open the door. An old woman beckoned her through a bejeweled curtain and into the back room. 

She sat down across a battered wooden table from the woman who looked deep into her eyes and said, "What would you like to know my child?"

Looking down at her hands, and then up at the old woman, the girl asked the question that had been in her heart for many years, "When will I have a child?"

The woman said, "You are but a child yourself, my dear. Go back to school and learn about the world; then you will be ready to mother a child."

The girl left, head hung low, but she did as the old woman had suggested. That fall she enrolled at a local college. 

During her final year of college she got a job at a preschool. Her days were filled with the joy and laughter of children. She felt more ready than ever to be a mother. 

After her graduation she and her husband tried again to conceive, but after one year she was still not with child. 

Again she went to the old woman with a handful of cash. As she sat down, she handed the woman her money and said, "I did as you suggested and got an edutcation. Now I am ready to be a mother When will it happen?"

The woman cupped the young woman's hand in her own and said, "My child, the time is still not right. Did you not enjoy teaching the little ones while at school?"

"Yes, but..."

The woman cut her off. "Then why not teach again for awhile until the time is right?"

The young woman's heart sank, but she headed home and once again took the old woman's advice. 

The next few years went by in the blink of an eye. She loved teaching and she loved her students, but after seven years, she felt the old longing creeping up on her. She still had no child of her own. 

One day while shopping in her old neighborhood she happened upon the palm reader's storefront, the same as it had ever been. She walked inside and once again found herself seated at the table in front of the old woman. 

"Perhaps you do not remember me..." she began. 

Before she could continue, the old woman grabbed her hand and said, "I remember." 

Looking deep into the younger woman's palm she spoke,"I know you wish to have a child, but the tme is still not right. Take a vacation - a trip - far away from here. There you will find your destiny."

Pulling her hand away she said, "Find my destiny? What does that mean?"

But the old woman would say no more. She merely smiled and patted the younger woman's hand, sending her on her way. 

Her heart ached, but once again she took the woman's advice. 

She and her husband packed away all of their belongings and set off on a long journey. Starting in Europe, they made their way across Russia and Asia into Africa. 

In Africa they met a group of missionaries who were building an orphanage, so they stayed to help. Working first to build the structure, and then to make it a home, they eventually created a school for the children who lived there.

Soon seven more years had gone by and they decided it was time to return home. With tears in their eyes they said goodbye to the children they had grown to love and boarded a plane for home. 

The next morning the woman - no longer young - awoke feeling sad and strange. Something was still missing. 

Dressing quickly, she headed out to take a walk. She walked a long distance and ended up, once again, outside of the storefront she had visited for the first ime so many years before. 

The sight of it ignited a fire inside of her. "I have done everything she advised me to do," she thought angrily, "And still I do not have a child."

She pushed open the door and sat down at the table across from the woman, who was now very old. 

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she said,'You have told me again and again that the time was not right for me to have a child. Now I am nearly too old. Tell me the truth. Will I ever have a child?"

The old woman did not react to her anger or her tears; instead she took the now middle-aged woman's hand in her own and gazed at it as if it contained all the secrets of the universe. 

"It is true my dear that you are barren and always have been."

The younger woman gasped,"Why did you not tell me before? How could you have lied to me?"

The old woman looked up with kind eyes and said: 

"My child, I did not lie. It is not always possible to know what life will bring. I say to you truly that your life could not have been more complete had a child been born unto you when you first tried. 

Life has brought you many children, each of whom you loved as only you could. You have been a mother in all the ways that really matter, and you have been a mother not just to one or two, but to many. 

All the love you have given to these children will be passed on to their children and to their children's children, until the children you have mothered will number in the millions and there will be one star in the sky for every child on earth who has been nurtured by your love. 

Now go home my child, and have a rest. And when you rise, go out into the world and find more children to love."

As the woman walked home in the fading light of the afternoon, she thought about what the old woman had said. 

Finally, she arrived home. 

Before she opened the door, she looked up at the sky and saw the first stat appear. As she stood and stared up at it, another star appeared, and then another and another. 

When the sky was full of stars she smiled, and went inside. 

~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~ 

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO ALL MOTHERS - THOSE WHO HAVE GIVEN BIRTH AND THOSE WHOM LIFE HAS CHOSEN FOR ITS CHILDREN - ESPECIALLY TO MINE. I LOVE YOU MOM.