Go Ahead…Pick Up the Daisy

I just realized when deciding about what to write today, that a lot of wonderful, inspired moments happen when I’m walking my dog.  The story I’m going to tell today is no exception.

So I was walking Molly the other day, as I’m sure you could have guessed, when I passed one house that had a bunch of daisies growing right next to the sidewalk.  I enjoy this yard a lot because they have so many flowers on either side of the sidewalk that it’s like walking through a mini garden.  I often stop to literally smell the roses, peonies, and lilacs. 

On this day I noticed that someone had picked one of the daisies and then just threw it on the ground.  Seeing something like this always makes me sad because due to one person’s unawareness and/or inconsiderateness this flower will die before its time, and instead of being enjoyed, will rot on the sidewalk.  My thought was that if you’re going to steal someone’s flowers at least take them home and enjoy them.  As I walked passed the flower my inner self told me to pick it up and take it home, but I, or rather my ego self was a little fearful that someone would assume I had picked and stolen it.  My fear/ego won out and I took a few steps past the daisy.  I immediately realized I was acting, or not acting, out of fear.  However, rather than feel bad I chose to love myself, even though in that moment I had “messed up” by choosing fear over love.  I recognized that I had a new choice the very next moment and I did not need to punish myself. 

This thought of loving myself brought a little smile to my face as I walked on.  My smile grew as I looked up and saw that four more daisies laying on the sidewalk a couple houses down.  I knew immediately that this was my moment to listen to my true self and chose love.  I bent down and picked up the daisies without a moment of hesitation, and then turned myself around and walked back two houses to pick up the first daisy.IMAG0076

I truly believe that the Universe/Source/God is always there to support us, and as much as we love ourselves the Universe gives love and opportunity back times ten.  This was the Universe giving me a second chance to follow my true self and to really own it unashamedly.  This time I took advantage of the opportunity and  enjoyed those daisies for several weeks.

But the Universe wasn’t done with me yet.  It had another gift.  It was just a day or so later and I was walking Molly (of course) and I came by the house with the daisies again.  My thoughts immediately went to the person or persons that had picked the flowers in the first place.  I was annoyed that someone could be so inconsiderate, so unaware.  I quickly realized that this thought was from my ego, and not from my true self.  I chose to change my thought and know that the flowers did get enjoyed and that I benefited from the whole event.  I also remembered that I am not separate from those that choose to be unaware at times (just as I do).  It dawned on me that I was the awareness, at least in this situation.  I am of the Universe not in it, and in this case the awareness of the Universe came through me.  By changing my myopic view to an expanded perspective I could see this experience as a whole and release my ego’s need to separate and judge another.  When you get out of the way, the Universe can create wonders, even in the simplest of events like picking flowers and walking your dog. 🙂

Are there daisies in your life you are walking by?  Are there times you can hear but ignore your inner self, your true self?  Is this an act of love or of fear?  How might you choose love the next time?

One of Those Days

The other day I woke up to the gentle sound of rain outside my window.  Usually this would be a relaxing, peace-inducing sound.

Not at my house.  At my house lives Princess Molly, my 12-year old Lhasa Apso, who despises getting her feet wet.

wetpawsSo when I woke up and heard the rain I was already dreading our morning walk.  And true to form, she performed as expected.  She refused to do her business and instead just trembled and looked pathetic, as if every moment we were outside was pure, unadulterated abuse.

With each step I grew more and more irritated. Why?  If you asked me then I would have said this is when she does her business, every morning, and if she doesn’t go now she’ll go in the house while I’m at my meeting.  As I think about it now though, it’s really no big deal.  Her messes really aren’t that messy.  There must be more to it than that.

As I pondered (much later of course), I realized it was guilt.  I felt guilty thinking I was a bad mom.  At that moment she was miserable, and if she didn’t go then it was all for nothing.  And if she doesn’t and she goes in the house that is “bad,” so either way I’m a bad mom.  So in my head, rainy mornings = I’m a bad mom.

Obviously that’s not true, and had I stopped to take the time for myself as some wise person once suggested, then that would have been the end of it.

Of course, it wasn’t.

After the drama of the walk I left for a meeting.  I had somewhat of an idea where I was going having seen the coffee shop in passing before.  Unfortunately the business was not well marked from the street and I drove past it and had to turn around.  I then turned down the nearest side street only to find there was no entrance to the coffee shop on that side.  So I turned around again and went back out to the main road, and found once again there was no direct entrance there either.  I finally figured out I had to enter a small side street, then enter a parking lot, and then drive all the way around this building complex to reach my destination.  And of course the parking lot was pretty full, and there were several people trying to back out and pull in, and the only spot somewhat near the door was next to someone who was unsuccessful in parking within the lines.  Oh, and it was still raining. UGH!!

By the time I got into the coffee shop my blood was really pumping.  A few years ago what I would have said at this point was, “It’s going to be one of those days.”  And then as the day progressed little things would continue to annoy me, piling up until I couldn’t wait for the day to be over.  Lately I would have instead said, “Slow down.  Pay attention.  What is the message the Universe is trying to send you?”

But this day was different.

I realized that the emotions of frustration, irritation, and anger were helping me to feel more ALIVE than I had in weeks.  It felt great and I was in no hurry to stop it, fix it, change it.  It was actually quite thrilling.  It was my wake up call letting me know I’d been asleep at the wheel.  I’d been content, but not engaged in life.  I was in an emotional stagnation. Coasting.  That day and those experiences were a welcome change of pace.

Now I didn’t want to remain in the anger, frustration, irritation forever to feel alive, but it was refreshing at the moment.  I allowed them their space, and since have been finding other ways to be more alive and engaged in my day-to-day.

  • Playing outside, especially in the dirt.
  • Playing with Princess Molly, even when it’s raining.
  • Noticing the happy songs of the birds nesting on and around my house.
  • Watching the silly squirrels in my neighborhood get into trouble.
  • Greeting strangers as I run.
  • Singing and dancing while I clean the house.
  • Having fun cooking up fun things in the kitchen, especially cookies.

I’m grateful for the rain that day, and that my dog is a princess, and for the awkwardly located coffee shop.  They reminded me I’m alive and that it’s more fun to be engaged rather than coast through life.

How do you respond when you realize you’re having “one of those days?”  How might you be able to see them from a new perspective?  I’d love to hear your comments below!

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The Perfect Meditation Practice

I’ve been asked a lot recently about my meditation practice.  And although I’m no expert in any meditation practice except my own, I thought I’d share my thoughts with everyone. 🙂

If you read no further than this paragraph, it’s enough for you to know that your meditation should be what you want it to be, and that no matter what style you choose, how it goes, what you do or don’t do, your meditation is perfect…every time.

There are so many different ways to do meditation that there’s really no excuse to not enjoy it.  The purpose, in my opinion, is not to force yourself into enlightenment, but to become more and more present in the moment.  It’s actually something I try to practice in all things from washing the dishes to driving my car, not just when I’m sitting on my cushion.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to create a meditation habit for myself.  I started January 1, and haven’t missed a day since January 30.  I started meditating 30 minutes every morning, and each month since March have increased that by 5 minutes, so now I’m up to 45 minutes.

I sit on a zafu and zabuton, which are a Japanese pillow and pad, that I was introduced to these at the zen center I first went into in Berkeley, CA.  I light a candle and some incense as I say a mantra or set an intention for the day, and then I start my meditation timer (there are all kinds of meditation timer apps you can find for your computer, phone, iPad, etc.).  And then I sit.

I sit cross legged and I generally have my hands on my knees, but sometimes I use the zen cosmic mudra (left hand in the right with thumbs touching, kind of making an “O” with your hands), or with palms up on my knees.

Sometimes my eyes are closed, sometimes they are open with a downward gaze.

Mostly I sit in silence, but sometimes I prefer some meditation music, a guided meditation, or binaural beats (all of which can be found in abundance on YouTube).

Sometimes I focus on my breath.  Sometimes I’m able to just sit without much thought activity at all.  Sometimes my mind is all over the place.  Sometimes I’m an emotional mess.  Sometimes the times passes quickly, and other times it seems to last an eternity.

No matter what happens I end with a bow, straighten my cushion, and then continue with my day.

I keep a smacalll calendar solely for the purpose of having a visual representation of how well I’m sticking to my practice.  I put an “X” over each day I meditate.  The day gets an “X” if I meditate with my eyes open or closed, if I was anxious to get up or not, if my mind was completely distracted or not, if I listened to a guided meditation or not, if I have a big epiphany or not…I think you get the idea.  Every day I take the time to sit, counts.

If you’re just starting out be patient with yourself.  Try some things out and see how they work for you.  My advice it to start small.  Start with 5 or 10 minutes and see how it goes.  If you’re like I was/am “doing” is a big deal, and “not doing” is no good.  At first any more than 5 or 10 minutes may be so challenging to the idea that you’re wasting time and should be doing something rather than “nothing,” that after a few days you’ll think it’s not “working” and you’ll give up.  Stick with 5-10 minutes until it feels like you want to do more.  Maybe that will be after a couple days, maybe not for a couple of months.  It doesn’t matter.  At the start it’s not about the length of your meditation, it’s that you’re establishing a habit.

My other piece of advice if you’re just starting out is to designate a specific time and location for your meditation.  I know if I don’t get it done first thing in the morning, I’m likely to keep putting it off until I don’t do it at all.  Morning is a good time for me.  Maybe an afternoon centering is what will work for you.  Or a pre-bedtime wind down.  Routine is key here.  When you find something that works for you, stick with it.

Congratulations!  You made it to the end!  Your reward is a reminder that whatever you choose to do for your meditation practice it should feel good to you in that moment.  And also, that every time you meditate it is exactly what it should be.  There’s no cause for concern or criticism.  It is always perfect. ❤

Do you have a meditation practice going?  Have you tried and not kept up with it?  What are some things that worked for you?  What didn’t work for you?  What’s your perfect meditation practice?  Let me know your experience in the comments below.

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“Wait Until You Get Older.”

Are there any common phrases in your culture that you went along with most of your life until one day you really thought about what it implied, and then you decided you actually disagreed with it?

I’ve had a few of those in recent years, but I think the best example is “Wait until you get older.”  This is usually said to me after any time I complain about any random physical pain, for example my knees.  I’ll just have run several miles, and say something like, “My knees are a little more sore than normal,” to which someone older than me replies, “Wait until you get older,” implying things are bound to get worse.  I’ve also heard this when people find out I have tattoos.  They’ll say something like, “Those are beautiful, but wait until you get older,” implying my skin is destined to sag so much I won’t be able to recognize what my tattoos were to begin with.

I’m sure you’ve heard things like this too.  There are a lot dealing with aging, but our society has many more.  Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it,” is another one I’ve recently thought about.  To me this means you better drag your past around with you otherwise all the bad stuff will happen to you again.

Sometimes it not phrases, but cultural understandings.  In the Western culture we are supposed to go to college, meet the person of our dreams, graduate and marry that person, find the job we’re going to work for the next 40 years, have our 2.5 kids, retire at 65, and then sit at home and wait to die.  If you don’t follow this plan something’s wrong with you.  Thankfully, I think this idea is fading more and more with each generation, but it’s still around.  I was never pressured by family to follow this path, but because this was the message I got from society, I did think there was something wrong with me because I missed each step after “go to college.” 

There are many more phrases and understandings that we get from family, culture, community, faith, and the media.  We are bombarded by everyday. 

    • The only things certain in life are death and taxes.
    • You must have this kind of car/house/hair style/clothes/friends/partner/job/income to be complete or whole.
    • I have to do X while I am still able.
    • I’m too old to do that.
    • My doctor says there’s nothing that can be done for this, all we can do is manage it.

One limiting belief after another.  What a bummer!  And false!

“Unfortunately, most of our fellow cohorts are still “lost in space,” with virtually everything in our society telling us, reminding us and insisting that we are limited, aging “creatures,” living lives between luck and fate in a hard, unforgiving world.  The truth, however (and this will likely ring bells in your heart of hearts), is that we are infinite and powerful, fun-loving gladiators of the Universe, with eternity before us and the power of our thoughts to help shape it.

We create our own realities, our own fate, and our own luck.  That is how powerful we are, and that is how powerful you are.  And to offset all the contradictory thinking of the media and masses, you need to hear this kind of message as often as you hear all the others.”

Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams, Mike Dooley

Mike has it right.  We are limitless.  The only way we are not is when we think we are limited,  and unfortunately our society supports us in thinking this.

The good news is you don’t have to play along with society.  You can choose to know your power and limitlessness.  All it takes is to change your thinking.  That is not always as easy as it can be, so set yourself up for success.  Find the places, books, programs, friends, music, blogs, shows, art, etc., that will support and reinforce the kind of thinking that will help you claim your power.  Place sticky notes around your house, in your car, and at the office to remind you of how amazing you are and how amazing it is to be able to experience the Universe as a human being.  And when you hear something that claims we are limited and frail, don’t be afraid to declare your choice to believe differently, if not out loud, at least to yourself. 

So the next time someone tells you to “Wait until you’re older,” you can say, “I don’t need to.  I already know it just gets better from here!”

You’re Worth It!

How many self-improvement books do you have at home?  How many of those have you read all the way through?  And of those, how many did you implement and stick with the suggestions contained in the book?

If you’re anything like me the answer to those questions are: a lot, not many, and ZERO!

Maybe it’s not books for you.  Maybe it’s workshops, online courses, counseling, or any number of hundreds of self-improvement methods.  It doesn’t matter the medium, most of us don’t have a good track record when it comes to sticking with any program we begin.  I won’t even bring up diets…oh wait…sorry. 😉

There can be several reasons for this. 

    • It wasn’t working for me.
    • I couldn’t manage the time commitment.
    • I found something else that I like better.
    • I don’t particularly like the author/leader/practitioner.
    • The change/fix isn’t happening fast enough.
    • (Insert your excuse here.)

I say “excuse” because that’s what each of these are.  They are a mask for a deeper issue that we don’t think we are worthy.  We don’t think we deserve to be happy or to live at our optimum. 

So we quit.  We insert the most believable excuse and move on until we find the next book, method, or guru.

What might it look like if you started to think you were worthy, even if it didn’t really seem true at the beginning?  How would you act differently if you thought you were worth the investment of time and energy?

Well I’m here to tell you you’re worth it!  If any one is worth it, you are!  And if you’re worth it, then you deserve the time and energy needed to heal.  You’re also worth the patience.  You’ve spent your whole life creating habits and patterns that don’t serve you.  So as a worthy being, you can give the next program that comes along a minute or two to start to change those habits and create new ones that will serve you and help create the life of your dreams.

And don’t stress about which program you should actually give your time and energy to.  Of course I have my preferences (I have openings for new clients now :)) but if you set the intention that you want to release limitations and start expanding your mind, you can’t make a wrong decision.  The only “wrong” decision is to give up on yourself. 

And remember, it’s a journey.  You’re never going to learn something that ends any further learning (beware of anything that makes such a claim).  You’re never going to find the one thing that “fixes” you or your life, mainly because you’re not broken!  You’re a spiritual being having a human experience, and what could be more worthy of giving your time, energy, and love too than that!

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What’s the Scariest Thing You’ve Ever Done?

Fear has been on my mind lately.  Not any one particular fear, just fear in general.  What do I fear?  How do I respond to fear?  Is my response due to what I actually fear, or the fear itself?  For so long I got caught up in the fear itself and trying to resist it that I actually never looked at what I was fearing.

Since my mind has been focused on this topic, I’ve been paying more attention to the arrival of fear in my day-to-day from the mundane like someone cutting me off in traffic, to intense fears of pain and death which have almost resulted in full blown panic attacks.  What’s different for me this time, as opposed to a couple years ago, is that each time fear arises I experience the fear, but I’m also observing myself experiencing it.  In a way, I’m gathering evidence on myself and what activates fear in me so that I can respond better the next time, and even better the time after that.

It often turns out that there is little to no danger present.  My reaction of fear is just that, a reaction, one based not in reality but on a perceived danger.  So now when fear arises, I’m curious to find if there is a actual threat or if I’m reacting to a danger that only exists in my mind.  Often it’s the latter, and each time it is, I limit my aliveness and my ability to experience this world. 

Chris Hadfield, an astronaut who spent quite a bit of time on the International Space Station, seems to share my understanding in his TED Talk entitled, “What I learned from going blind in space.”

He begins by asking, “What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?”

After waiting a few moments while people think of the things of this world that scare them, he proceeds to tell of the time he lost his eyesight while on a space walk, his only lifeline to the space station being the rope he held onto in one hand as he floated in an endless darkness.

However, Chris wasn’t scared.  But that seems terrifying, you say?  Well you’d be right if that happened to any one of us in this moment.  Chris however, had trained for months on end not only for things to go right, but also for things to go wrong.  He knew the actual danger of the situation was minimal.  He had all his other senses, plus his co-astronaut who had also trained for such situations.

Chris had reprogramed himself from what would have been a very normal reaction of panic, and instead responded with a clear head.  As a result he regained his sight and was even able to finish his spacewalk before returning unharmed to the space station.

Chris understood the actual danger and thus had no need for a fear response.  There is a difference in responding to danger and responding to fear.  When we “do the research” as Chris says, we find that we can assess any real danger.  Often the danger is a lot less than we think it is because of our fear response, and just the knowledge of this can help us conquer even our most fundamental fears.

Chris adds when we release our fears we “come back with a set of experiences, and a level of inspiration for other people that never could have been possible otherwise.”  Fear is an experience in and of itself.  However, if we stop at fear we prevent ourselves from experience all that is beyond the fear.  We limit our aliveness.

I think David Hawkins sums it up beautifully in his book Letting Go:

“We all derive great benefit from liberating ourselves out of a fearful inhibition into successful functioning, because that learning process automatically spills over into many other areas of our life.  We become more capable, freer and happier and, with that, there is an inner peace of mind.”

So what do you fear?  How does this fear limit you from experiencing the world? What knowledge/research could help you understand the situation better? How can you practice moving beyond the fear?  What experiences would open to you if you no longer had this fear?

Peace,

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Fearlessly Living Your Journey

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, aka high school, I used to described myself as a pinko commie, bleeding heart, tree-hugging, whale-saving, liberal, hippie.  I wore that label with pride and was unafraid to debate anyone on the issues that were important to me.

As I’ve gotten older I attempted to drop most labels, not because my beliefs about the issues have changed necessarily, but because labeling myself seems less and less important.  Labels don’t tell the full story, and they historically are not very flexible.  I have my beliefs and I do feel pretty strongly about them, but I like to think I’m always open to new information that can lead to change and growth in my understanding.  What hasn’t changed since high school is my confidence in my beliefs and my willingness to share them with others.

Or so I thought…

Imagine my shock when I recently became conscious of the fact that when referencing the work I do, and even my understanding of the Universe (including my spirituality) I referred to it as “hippie stuff”.  I was using this term not with the pride of my younger years, but as if to say “Oh this is just hippie stuff.  Feel free to think it’s not important, serious, or effective.”  I was giving others permission to dismiss my work, my experience, my beliefs, and the amazing changes I’ve had in that past few years. 

Why?

I realized I assumed people would think it was weird, silly, or unbelievable.  If they’re going to dismiss it any way, why don’t I just save them the trouble and dismiss it before they can so I can spare myself the embarrassment?

Which lead me to the realization that I was unconsciously dismissing it myself.  My unconscious mind was saying that this work couldn’t have possibly made such great changes in my life.  The changes I think I’ve had aren’t real, and even if they were real they’re only temporary.

I’m grateful I caught this type of thinking.  It was preventing me from being myself, from telling my story, from making this work available to others. 

Well I tell you what…that kind of thinking and talk stops now.  I do believe in this work, I do believe in the changes I’ve created in myself and that I’ve seen in others, and I do believe it will help me continue to grow for the rest of my life.

When we censor ourselves, or downplay our experience we not only do ourselves and injustice, but also those who seek a new path or look to us as role models.

There are an abundance of paths available to us.  Each of us chooses which path is right in each moment.  Your path is right for you and my path is right for me.

If the path you’ve chosen is serving you, own it, wholeheartedly.  Never apologize for where you are on your journey, to your family, friends, coworkers, and especially not to yourself.

It’s also important to know that once on a path you don’t have to stay there forever.  In each moment you get to choose you path.  Choose the one that makes you feel more alive and be fearless about living it.  Share your experience with others.  Someone out there may be looking for a new path, and yours might just be the one that helps them live into their full potential.  You don’t need to waste time and energy trying to convince others that you are right and they are wrong, but you can live your belief, show others how greatly you’ve been impacted, what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown.  If there is a piece of your journey that can serve another, Great!  If not, let them find what does work for them.

But under no circumstances should you ever disrespect your journey, put it down, or apologize for it.  You are on your own unique journey.  You are the only one it needs to serve, to make sense to, to feel good to.  If it makes you feel more alive, it’s the right path for you, even if us hippies like it too.

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