Monday, March 25, 2013

Wisdom from Eleanor Roosevelt

"Do one thing everyday that scares you." --Eleanor Roosevelt



Check.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wisdom from The Universe

"Be led by Joy, 
It's the whole point."
--The Universe on TUT.COM

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wisdom from Harrison Owen (via Anne Lamott)

The Four Immutable Laws of the Spirit:

1) Whoever is present are the right people
2) Whenever it begins is the right time
3) Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened
4) When it's over, it's over

--Harrison Owen

Learn 'em. Love 'em. Live 'em

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wisdom from the Sidewalk (and William Wordworth)

"What soul was his, when, from the naked top
Of some bold headland, he beheld the sun
Rise up, and bathe the world in light!"


Walking the boys home from school on Wednesday, I found this lying on the sidewalk. Seemed a most appropriate poem to find on the first day of spring. 

There were moments on that day - between bouts of blustery, cold, winter wind - that our world seemed to be bathed in light. How it does awake the soul!

Grateful thanks to the soul who dropped it. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wisdom from Song of Solomon (via Anne Lamott)

"For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." --Song of Solomon, chapter two (from Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott)

Here's a great quote for the first day of spring. I am starting to feel this way. That winter is past and the rain is gone (or at least going....) and the time of singing birds is come. It's time to come out of hiding, slough off our winter weight and dance in the new grass.

Won't you dance with me?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wisdom from The Good Life

"Whatever the circumstances, it is better to love, create and construct than to hate, undermine and destroy." --Helen & Scott Nearing, The Good Life

This book was a Christmas present and I finished reading it back in January, but didn't make the time to "collect" the quotes from it until a few days ago. I almost didn't. Two months on I wondered if what struck me back in January was even relevant today, so quickly does time seem to move these days. But I was wrong.

The wisdom in this book (some of it from books published in the 1800's) is as relevant today as it was when Helen and Scott Nearing were homesteading on farms in Vermont and Maine in the 70's and 80's.

They have much to say about conservation, the economy, hard work and leisure time that we need to hear in 2013. It makes me want to run away to the country even though I know I wouldn't last a year.

It does have me thinking though, about how to do things differently today, right where I am, and that more than anything else is the hallmark of a good book. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wisdom from Kahlil Gibran

"You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a care or grief. But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound." --Kahlil Gibran, quoted in the Opening to Ecstasy newsletter

Monday, March 18, 2013

3 Good Words

"If you can't think something nice, don't think anything at all." --My take on Thumper's Law, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."

I am reading Anne Lamott again and her books always make we want to weep at the hopelessness of our situation and at the same time inspire me to be better in the face of all this hopelessness. It is a fine line she walks between utter despair and blissful transcendence and I always enjoy the ride.

One thing I am noticing this time is that she always says at least three good things about the people she loves when she describes them in her books.

Here are some examples from the book I am currently reading (Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son):

"Jax was the loveliest baby boy I'd ever seen....gorgeous as God or a crescent moon, with huge black eyes..."

"[Trudy] is down-to-earth, outgoing and constantly doing something useful."
"[Olivia] is beautiful, blonde and a champion gymnast."

I could go on, but you get the idea.

This strikes me as one of the secrets to good relationships, and one I didn't learn as a child. I'm not sure if it was my primarily mid-Western upbringing (though I have a feeling this was a large part of it) or just my family, but my grandmother always made it a point to talk about what those she loved were doing WRONG. And this trickled down to me. So much so that it became a habit I didn't even know I had until I started this whole spiritual thing.

It was then that I realized this way of talking about people was not loving, was not kind, and was not who I wanted to be. But it is a HARD habit to break. Even harder to break it in my own head. Even harder to break it when talking about mySELF.

I have been trying to be better and NOT say the bad thing I am thinking. Or not even to think the bad thing I am thinking. But I never really thought about what could take its place until I started this book. What about the good things? Why not focus on them? Think them? Even SAY them?

So I am going to give it a try. Instead of thinking I love so-and-so BUT....and then listing their worst traits; i am going to try and list 3 good things.

Three good things about my husband. Three good things about my kids. Three good things about mySELF.

Here goes.

My husband is loyal, and encouraging and feels things deeply.

My older son is bright and energetic and kind.

My younger son is sweet and thoughtful and sensitive.

I am generous and thoughtful and competent.

That's it for today, but I'm going to try and keep it up. What about you?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Widsom from Meredith Brooks

"I'm a little bit of everything all rolled into one. I'm a bitch. I'm a lover. I'm a child. I'm a mother. I'm a sinner. I'm a saint. I do not feel ashamed....So take me as I am." --"Bitch" by Meredith Brooks

Sometimes you hear a song without really hearing it. And sometimes, at just the right moment, you can hear it all.

Driving in the car this weekend, "Bitch," by Meredith Brooks came on the radio and it was like I was hearing it for the first time. I don't think I know a better song as an anthem for spiritual practice and the path we are all on.

As Pema Chodron puts it, "Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it's about befriending who we already are." 

It's about befriending who we already are - the Bitch. The Lover. The Child. The Mother.

Whoever you are today, make friends with yourself. Love yourself. Embrace who YOU ARE right now.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wisdom from Wonder

"When given the choice between bring right or being kind, choose kind." --Dr Wayne Dyer, as quoted in the book Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

This book has inspired a national movement for kindness. To sign the pledge, click here and choose kind!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Love is All Around - Stone Gardens



"...[L]ove really is all around." --Hugh Grant, speaking as the Prime Minister in Love, Actually

At the climbing gym this weekend I found this little bit of evidence from the Universe that love really is all around. And that it exists in the imperfections, as well as the perfections.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Wisdom from Lee Harris

"In March keep slowing down; keep slowing your life down. Keep going as slow as you possibly can." --Lee Harris

More advice to S-L-O-W D-O-W-N and take it easy today. This whole month in fact. This time from Lee Harris (via my sis on Facebook).

Breathe.....

A Day of Rest

"Give yourself a rest, a break, and some space. Do only what you absolutely have to and take the rest of the time to either do nothing or to do something that nurtures the instinctive part of you. We could even say that this is an instinctively centered day and it is OK to spend it in an instinctive way." --The Power Path, advice for today, Monday, March 11, 2013

The 90-second Thing

"The only rule is to suffer the pain." --Rumi

I have been immersing myself in Pema Chodron lately. Taking the Leap is on my nightstand. The Three Commitments on my iPod. Pema's voice in my head when I sit down to meditate. (I have even been experimenting with an "eyes open" meditation technique, completely anathema to me in the past.)

One of the things I have learned - and am practicing - is what she calls "the 90-second thing."

This technique comes via Jill Bolte Taylor (whose brilliant TED talk "My Stroke of Insight" is in the top twenty of most-watched TED talks ever) a brain researcher who studied herself as she had a stroke. One of the things Dr. Jill observed was that her emotions, when not fueled by thoughts, lasted only about 90 seconds and then dissipated.

In The Three Commitments, Pema shares this discovery as a technique to use in your spiritual practice. As a way to train in being present, in resisting what she calls shenpa (attachment).

It is simple to learn - and unbelievably difficult to perfect - but well worth the effort.

Here it is in a nutshell: When an emotion comes up, instead of reacting to it with resistance or thinking, just sit with it. Feel it. Lean into it. And see how long it lasts. Or, how long you can last.

Maybe the first time you try it you can go only a few seconds without turning to your habitual pattern (whatever that may be). Maybe only one second. Keep trying.

As you progress, see if you can make it 90 seconds - or longer if necessary. See if you can make it to the other side.

I have tried this on a few occasions and have even made it to the other side once or twice. I'd like to tell you about one such experience. 

A few days ago my husband and I were out for a walk and he said something about me that stung. I reacted immediately and we fought.

The next morning I was still hurting and my mind got busy dredging up all sorts of thoughts about him from the past and the future, that showed just what kind of a horrible and hurtful person he is.

I was agitating the event like a washing machine, churning up a new piece of dirty laundry every few seconds, when my husband came home from a run, flushed and triumphant.

He came into the living room where I was reading and brooding and attempted to start a conversation. Immediately I added this transgression to the mix - He has to come in and interrupt me when I am reading. Doesn't he know this is MY TIME before the kids get up? - and kissed him perfunctorily before sending him on his way.

Everything all right? he asked, now suspicious and careful, looking at me like a bomb about to go off.

Fine, I grumbled, not looking up.

Okay, he said, backing away slowly.

After he left I immediately felt guilty. He didn't deserve that.

But...my hateful self interjected. But he HAD interrupted me. And he HAD gotten to go for a run while I stayed home with the kids. And he HAD insulted me last night. 

Then I remembered the 90-second thing and I decided to try it.

I sat quietly for a moment and remembered what he had said, and how it had felt to hear it and I just sat with the feelings. Sadness. Anger. Pain. Regret. Defensiveness. Fear.

Ah, fear. My old friend.

I have a lot of fear, but it is buried pretty deeply inside, usually under a whole heap of anger.

I started to count. 1-2-3-4-5-6...

I didn't make it to 90. Not even close. Somewhere between 30 and 60 seconds I realized that the fear was gone. It had been replaced by a clear and clean calm. It felt so good.

In this clear and clean calm I could see that what my husband said last night wasn't really about last night. It wasn't even about this morning.

It was about freedom and our lives and how we are both stuck in these roles right now - me as housewife and he as breadwinner - that sometimes feel like traps.

What he said last night made me feel trapped and reminded me of that feeling as did his nonchalantly going for a run and then coming home and taking a shower and leaving again without even a thought that someone has to take care of the kids, wake them up, get them breakfast, see them off to school.

And so I shoved my feeling trapped onto him, forgetting that he was heading out to work where he would sit at a desk and write reports and field questions and handle complaints all day long while I was free to go for a run or read a book or take in a movie (though also of course to scrub the toilets and wash the dishes and do sixteen loads of laundry).

What I couldn't see through my anger and my fear is that we are both trapped and we are both free. That we have both chosen - and are choosing every day - to be a little bit trapped by this life we have made together, but that given the choice, neither of us would choose any other life (and I know that we'd be crazy to) and that is a kind of freedom.

Moreover, it's a kind of freedom that 90% of the world just doesn't have.

I also learned that underneath all of my anger and all of my fear, is a beautiful and clear place of calm. And that I could get there in less than 90 seconds.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wisdom from Wandering Earl

"The truth is, there is ALWAYS hidden value in every moment of life. It just might take us some time to discover it." --Wandering Earl

In preparation for a trip to Japan this summer I am starting to surf the web for things to do, accommodation, and travel tips. As these things always do, one thing led to another and I stumbled upon this quote on the website www.wanderingearl.com.

Wandering Earl took off from his home in the USA in 1999 and hasn't had a permanent residence since. And while I am not sure I am suited to this kind of a life permanently, I do love to travel this way.

No itinerary. No plan. No reservations. Just a basic idea of where I am headed and when I might (or might not) get there.

If you like to travel this way - or think you might like to - check out his website and also check out The Digital Nomads at www.neverendingvoyage.com.

Friday, March 8, 2013

UNcommon Courtesies & UNsolicited Opinions

"No one cares what you think. No one is interested. They are going to do what they are going to do." --Anne Lamott, speaking in Seattle April 2010 

Last night I had a dream in which my sister-in-law told me she was moving in with an old friend of hers. I immediately stated that this was a very bad idea and proceeded to list all of the reasons why.

I didn't get more than halfway into my list before she got pissed off and walked away. I was stunned. I was just trying to help. But it didn't matter. She didn't care what I thought. She wasn't interested. She was going to do what she was going to do.

As soon as I woke up I knew what this dream was showing me. It was a mirror.

Yesterday afternoon someone had done something very similar to me and I had reacted unfavorably. I was pissed and ranting to my husband. "I didn't ask for HER opinion. I JUST needed a Yes or No answer. How ARROGANT can you be?" Etc., etc. [I also sent an email response that was borderline snarky and left me feeling a little sick to my stomach and ashamed of myself.]

The fact is, I wasn't wrong. It IS arrogant to give your unsolicited opinion. And yet, I do it ALL THE TIME. I do it to my kids. I do it to my friends. I do it to my husband.

Partly it comes from a good place. You see something you think they don't. You want to help.

But it also comes from a not-so-good place. A place of arrogance. A place of smugness. A place of "I know better and I'm going to tell you what you should do."

And the thing is, rarely does someone listen to an unsolicited opinion.

Unless, of course, it is dolled out with a liberal dose of courtesy.

This is also a good way to go when you find yourself on the receiving end of well-meaning, unsolicited advice. Kill them with kindness as my mother would say.

My husband and I just started re-watching The West Wing and one thing that really strikes me about the show is how deferential they all are to The President and how genuinely polite he is to everyone. Third World Dictators, Republican Senators, his Secret Service men and everyone on his staff. He is a true American gentleman, so much so that sometimes it feels like we are watching a period piece and not a modern-day television show.

It is a politeness borne of a different age. Borne partly of an age of hierarchy and place, which no longer exists to such a large degree - thank goodness - but also of genuine respect for the Office of the President and the weight and responsibility that carries.

It is a respect that ended not so long ago I believe. With Dan Quayle and Rush Limbaugh and the 1987 abolition of the Fairness Doctrine and the rash of reactionary talk radio that ensued. And yet it is a politeness in which one does not drown one's true and honest feelings. When asked for his opinion The President gives it, openly, honestly, and with a preternatural kindness.

For those of us who struggle with speaking our truth, I think this might be a secret weapon that we can use to our advantage.

I've been trying it out on my kids and it is amazing how well it works.

Normally when I ask them to do something I get a grunt or "in a sec" or blank airspace. But when I remember to use my "Pleases" and "Thank yous" I often - not always, but often - get the "Yes, Mom," that I am looking for.

It doesn't just work at home. No more awkward exits from a playground conversation. A simple, "Won't you please excuse me," makes it swift and painless.

Answering an important phone call when in the middle of another event, goes from rude to downright graceful with a simple, "I am terribly sorry, but I do need to take this call."

Turning down a dinner invitation makes the one who invited you downright giddy when you say it like this, "We would love to, such a treat, but alas... a previous engagement. What a pity." (Queen Elizabeth in "The King's Speech")

And in the face of unsolicited advice a simple, "Thank you so much, I hadn't thought of that," leaves the advice giver awash in pride and with nary a clue that you have no intention of taking their advice. 

Even better, it doesn't cost you a thing. In fact, it may save you a day or two of regret over that snarky email you sent. Doh!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wisdom from The Polyphonic Spree

"Just follow the day and reach for the sun!"--The Polyphonic Spree from their song, "Light and Day,"
as quoted in "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wisdom from R.J. Palacio

"...it's not all random. if it really was all random, the universe would abandon us completely. and the universe doesn't. it takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can't see. like with parents who adore you blindly. and a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you. and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you. and even a pink-haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. the universe takes care of all its birds." --R.J. Palacio, from her novel Wonder

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wisdom from Lee-Anne Peters

"You do not have to convert anyone to your way of thinking. It is right for you." --Lee-Anne Peters, in her weekly guidance on Youtube

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Wisdom from My Son's iTouch

"be awesome. now!" --my younger son's iTouch

A few weeks ago we finally bought our kids iTouches. I was not sure that this was a good idea, but they had been asking for months (if not years) and finally for the older one's birthday, I gave in. 

Last week I was sitting on the couch doing my morning meditation when my younger son's iTouch went off. I wasn't sure what it was (his alarm sound is Chewbacca growling) so I opened my eyes and looked around briefly.

His iTouch was sitting on the end table right next to me and I could see that a reminder had come up for him. It read: be awesome. now!

My heart melted.

So often I can see my bad parenting in them so clearly. When they struggle with anger. When they give into hopelessness. When they rail against someone's unjust behavior instead of finding compassion.

But there are also moments when I know I am having an influence on them that is positive and this was one of those moments.

This is totally something I would do. Something I do.

My refrigerator is filled with reminders to myself to BE KIND, SPREAD LOVE, SHOW COMPASSION.

I don't always live up to my reminders, but I think they help. Wait, no. I KNOW they have helped. And I am so happy that my son is learning to remind himself to be his best self. Right now.

May you be awesome this week. now!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Wisdom from Lynnet McKenzie

"All of these people I see are also me. Expressions of myself." --Lynnet McKenzie

Friday, March 1, 2013

Wisdom from Oriah Mountain Dreamer (via my friend Christy)

 The Invitation

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,
for your dream,
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain,
mine or your own,
without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy,
mine or your own,
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to be careful,
to be realistic,
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself;
if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul;
if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it's not pretty every day,
and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure,
yours and mine,
and still stand on the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!"

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone,
and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you,
from the inside,
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.