Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Opportunity Rising: September 4, 2014

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Every day, we have a choice of whether to be happy or miserable.  We may have no control over what happens in our lives, what difficulties we face, what opposition and challenge and pain and loss that comes our way.  But we still have a choice in how we experience those realities. 

As they say, pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.

The difference between pain and suffering is huge, but subtle.  Most people never take the time to really consider the difference.

Pain is real.  Whether it’s the pain of illness or losing a loved one or getting fired from a job, pain is a physical, psychological, spiritual experience we all recognize.

Suffering is not real.  Suffering is what we attach to the pain, the feelings and emotions and attitudes (usually condensed to some version of “this isn’t fair.”)  Suffering is choosing to assign moral judgments to physical sensations.

I am in pain.  I am tired.  I am isolated and lonely.

All painful experiences, but they don’t absolutely have to lead to suffering.  Ask any mother (after significant time for recuperation), and she’ll tell you that the pain of childbirth was worth it.  Ask any marathoner, and they’ll say being tired is just part of the game.  The doctoral candidate working on their thesis may experience isolation and loneliness, but it’s a temporary sacrifice for a greater goal.

The understanding that all pain, as well as all joy, is simply a temporary experience in a greater whole of experience can be crucial in eliminating suffering from our lives.  Knowing that this, too, shall pass allows us to experience the joys and pains of life without attaching too many judgements to the experiences.

Today, when you feel yourself suffering, ask yourself what judgements you are putting on your experience.  What self-talk can you hear when you consider the experience?  Have you forgotten this experience is temporary?

Let yourself experience the pain, the joy, and all the things life throws at you without attachment or judgement.  You will be amazed at how quickly your suffering is alleviated.

Blessings,

Deb

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Opportunity Rising: August 25, 2014

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Nobody gets to choose what kind of life you have except you. 

Nobody gets to choose what kind of day you have except you.

Nobody gets to choose what kind of moment you have except you.

What kind of moment do you want to have?

Remember, a life is just a string of moments connected together.  Choose wisely.

Love to you–

Deb

Good Night, Dear Souls – August 23, 2014

PennyMoon

Just so you know, this is my background music for the moment. Feeling nostalgic for my paternal grandparents tonight.

When I was a kid, I hated this kind of music.  It reminded me of Saturday mornings in my grandparents’ car, driving around Raceland doing errands with them.  It reminded me of wedding receptions, long after the thrill of party food and the potential for cake was gone.

The music was symbolic, in a way.  An audible attribute of the small towns of my youth–Raceland, Thibodaux, and all those towns down the bayou. Listening to it reminded me how trapped I felt, not just by the small town-ness of it all, but by my connection to the land and the history there.  I wanted to be something special, exciting, not just some kid in a boring car listening to music I couldn’t understand or sing along with.

I wanted so  much to get out of there.  Not just out of the car with the Cajun music, but the smallness of my world.  I wanted to be someone important, do something important.  I didn’t want my biggest accomplishment to be 20 years as a sales clerk in the local office supply store.

It’s amazing what you don’t appreciate while you’re in it.  Not that I would want to go back to my childhood, but I would love the opportunity to talk to my grandparents from an adult point of view, ask them about their lives, ask them about their dreams and challenges and joys.

Truth be told?  I don’t remember much of my childhood.  I wasn’t present for so much of it.  I was somewhere else, in a made-up world, living a made-up life that pleased me more than the one I had.

But I do remember the music.  And believe it or not, it’s actually kind of grown on me.

So, I lift the proverbial glass to my Grandma Reina and Grandpa Merrill, who are probably at a VFW dance in Heaven right about now (or playing cards at a kitchen table with their noisy, French-speaking friends).  I didn’t know you well, but I sort of wish I had.

Good night, dear souls.  May your dreams be sweet, and may the soundtrack of life always contain a bit of nostalgia.

Deb

 

Opportunity Rising: August 19, 2014

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So.  How was your Monday?  If you are like 99% of the people I encountered yesterday, you have just weathered a pretty rough beginning to the new week.

It’s easy, when things get off to a rocky start, to let that grow into an ever-escalating tidal wave of yuck that overwhelms you completely.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When we free ourselves from the concept of weeks, days, even hours (all of which are merely mental constructs to explain our journey through time), we are able to focus on the only thing that really matters–now.  Every moment you are alive, you have an opportunity to live the best life possible.  Every moment you are mindful, aware, and living in the present (not some fictional future or historical past), you have the opportunity to live fully, joyfully, and with integrity.

So why don’t we let go of Monday?  It’s history.  And let’s not worry about the rest of the week–it’ll get here soon enough, and we’ll handle it as it comes.

Just in this moment, though, life is pretty sweet.

Peace and joy to you all – Deb

Good Night, Dear Souls – August 17, 2014

PennyMoon

Hello, dear ones.  It’s another Sunday night.  Right about now, I’d normally be clenching in on myself, stressing on the advent of another Monday morning.  I know it’s what most of us do.  We dread the beginning of a new work or school week, often starting hours before the alarm goes off.

I’m trying an experiment, though, which I hope will reduce my stress and suffering.  it’s Sunday night, and instead of worrying about work in the morning, I’m listening to classical music.  I’m sitting in my home, enjoying my family.  And when my mind turns to the endless grocery list of things I have to do at the office tomorrow, I just just breathe and say to myself, “Tomorrow.”

Tomorrow doesn’t exist.  Not yet, really, except in our minds.  Too many of us give this imaginary tomorrow way more power and influence than it needs or should have.  I know I always have.  I practice conversations in my head in advance.  I imagine every possible scenario (one often more horrific than the last) when I know I have to confront someone or something I’m avoiding.

And why?  

Because as humans, we are all born storytellers.  I don’t care how hard you insist you are not “literary,” trust me, you are a story-teller.  Your medium may not be pen and paper (or WordPress), but you are a story-teller.

It’s in our blood.  It’s in our DNA.  We can’t help it.

Tomorrow is Monday.  Monday sucks.  I hate Mondays.  I hate my life.

There–story told.  Beginning, middle, and end.  And for what?  What possible good can telling this story do?

We all tell a story, so why not tell a better one?

Tomorrow is Monday.  Monday follows Sunday, which is today.  Let’s focus on Sunday, which is where I am. Oooh, leftover pizza!  Yum!

See?  Much better story.

Have a great night, sweet dreams, and enjoy the leftover pizza.

Deb

Opportunity Rising: August 17, 2014

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I guess I should call this post “Opportunity Rising After Sleeping In and Having a Leisurely Brunch,” right?  It’s a rainy, cool day here in Kentucky, and I’m luxuriating in the realization that I have absolutely nothing at all to do.  The laundry is done.  Dishes are washed.  House is reasonably tidy, and my beloved is happily occupied with work of her own for an hour or so.

I feel decadent.  

We get so caught up in the rush of  our days that we forget the joy of simply being.  The warmth of quiet.  The bliss of stillness.

I was Skyping with a friend the other day, and she was regaling us with her schedule.  This mother of four had a schedule that would make the Secretary of State blanch–double, triple, even quadruple-booked, always multitasking, hands, mind, and body never idle.  I wanted to shake her and say, “For goddess sake, woman, slow down!”  Okay, I sorta did that, but she laughed and agreed with me.

Perhaps it’s the realization that our time here on Earth is finite that pushes us to be ever-productive.  Or maybe it’s our culture trying to turn us into mindless worker drones.  I don’t know.  But somewhere, stillness and quiet have gotten a rotten rap.

Idle hands are the Devil’s plaything, or whatever the quote is.

Until we are still, we can never hear the voice of Divinity.  Until we are still, we can never know true peace.

So turn off the television–yes, someone will win and someone will lose The Big Game™.  You can watch the highlights on the news.  There will be another game next week.  Put down the Smart Device.  Those Tweets™ will be there in an hour.  Send the kids out to play in the fresh air (or at least give them a good book to read).

Sit still.  Be quiet. Breathe in the universe.

Tomorrow, you can be busy again.  But today?  Choose the kinder option for yourself, and slow down a bit.

Now, I’m going on the couch to listen to the sounds of Sunday afternoon.

Love to you–Deb

Self-Help vs. Personal Development

A week or so ago, Fey turned to me and asked what I considered a strange question. “Are you reading a self-help book?”

My instinctive response was, of course, I haven’t read self-help in an ice age. Of course, I gobble up “personal development” books with startling frequency. The difference is between self-help and personal development is subtle but important.

Self-help books, as a rule, tend to offer a step-by-step plans for improving a specific area of your life. Quit Smoking in Three Weeks, Lose 5 Pounds Without Dieting, Ten-Day Power Boost for Your Career – that sort of thing. Personal development books, from what I can tell, are a little more indepth. These books, which can range from philosophy to psychology to spirituality to social networking, nudge the reader out of the cookie-cutter solution mentality towards a more self-directed path.

My actual answer was, “No, I’m not reading anything at the moment.”

To which my insightful wife just nodded and said, “Yeah, I can tell.”

The moral of this little anecdote is this: When Debbie doesn’t work actively on her self-development, she tends to fall into a negative funk that is clear to those who love and know her.

The Process of Personal Development

The urge to self-examine is very strong in most people. We love quizzes, from Cosmo quizzes to personality profiles, we can’t get enough of them. But personal development goes far beyond “Which Harry Potter Character Will You Marry?” Personal development requires that you take a deep look at yourself, both good and bad, discover your truth, and then find a way to live that truth in a positive and productive way.

For years, I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on in hopes that I would stumble on to the key to happiness. I was looking for a silver bullet, that tested and true ten-point plan that would make me Rich, Beautiful, and Famous (as well as Stoopid Happy and Worshipped as a Benevolent Goddess).

Poor authors! Who on Earth can fill that order?

Eventually though, I gave up looking for quick fixes and just started reading about personality and life and living. Not because I thought it would help, but because I found it fascinating. And over the years, I’ve come up with quite a list of recommendations.

Right now, I’m reading Debbie Ford’s The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Brilliance, Creativity and Dreams. To be honest, I’ve been avoiding this book for years. Not that I thought it was bad, but because I knew that I couldn’t just read the book. I would have to do the exercises, and I was never ready to face my shadow side. I don’t know if I’m able to do so yet, but I’m going to give it a go.

It took a lot to get me here. Like so many people, I don’t want to have a dark side. I don’t want to have needs and issues and bad habits and petty moments. But something Ford said in an early chapter really resonated with me: you have to find the gift in the shadow. If you’re a bitch, find the gift in being a bitch. (A bitch will stand up for herself when someone tries to take advantage. A bitch will not let herself get pushed to the side and ignored when she deserves to be heard.) If you’re judgmental, find the gift in being judgmental. (For example, a judgmental person knows what matters to them and is not afraid to insist on it. A judgmental person will spot a line of bullshit long before a non-judgmental person might.)

So, I’m going there. I am not sure what I’m going to find when I pull up the curtains and look in the shadows of my psyche. But I’m going there.

A Wealth of Opportunity

I mentioned a little earlier that I had some recommendations for great personal development writers. Before I close, I’m going to share with you some writers whose books have really changed my perspectives on life.

* Jean Shinoda-Bolen: When I first read Goddesses in Everywoman back in the 1990s, it was completely new to me. Shinoda-Bolen, a wise crone of the personal development movement, used the Hellenic goddesses as templates for Jungian personality interpretation. Through the eyes of Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, Hestia, and Persephone, I found a new understanding of myself and other women. It still holds up as a break-through work and I recommend it to anyone who is interested.

* Clarissa Pinkola-Estes: It took me a couple of times to get through Pinkola-Estes’ ground-breaking book Women Who Run with the Wolves. Not because the book was uninteresting or irrelevant. The exact opposite – the book is so rich and dense with meaning that my poor Gemini brain could not go too far without needing a digestion break, preferably in the shallows. Her storytelling is exquisite, her insights are remarkable. Read it slowly, wrapped in a blanket on a cold night. It will change you.

* Brenda Ueland: Many, many years ago I read Ueland’s book If You Want to Write, and it humbled me. Back then, the thought of writing non-fiction, personal non-fiction, was so far beyond me that her book actually frightened me. But as a treatise on the hows and whys of a full life, even if you are’t a writer, Ueland’s work is unsurpassed. Her wisdom and spirit are inspiring to anyone wanting to live a purposeful and creative life. (Now, I look back and thank the goddess that Ueland penned this masterpiece before her death. It is even more relevant now than ever.)

*Anne Lamott: My dear friend Monique sent me a used copy of Bird by Bird a year or so ago as a surprise. I was unfamiliar with Lamott’s work, but trusted Monique not to steer me wrong. Bird by Bird is the kind of book that promotes living authentically and passionately. Her prose is eloquent, her stories insightful, and her advise golden. Definitely read this book if you get a chance.

*Michael Neill: Michael Neill is a practitioner of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), a form of therapy that emphasizes the connection between thoughts and the quality of life. His books are funny, smart, and contain many practical tools you can use to decrease stress and give yourself the courage to follow your dreams. He’s a little more self-helpy than the other authors, but he’s just so darned good at what he does, ya gotta love him.

*Steve Pavlina: Another estrogen-challenged member of my rec list, Pavlina is a self-made personal development guru. His website is enormous–the guy is hugely prolific and has a great deal of free content on a variety of subjects from raising consciousness to becoming your own boss. He can be a bit abrasive, especially if you are of the religious ilk, but the value far exceeds the annoyance you might feel at some of his more provocative posts.

* Abraham-Hicks: Esther Hicks, an impish woman originally from Tennessee, channels a group-being identified as “Abraham.” While their message is pretty tight (and Abraham/Esther is meticulously on-message, regardless of what questions are thrown her way), it’s a good primer for anyone wanting to learn more about the Law of Attraction. What their writings lack in diversity (yeah, Abraham, I know. Connect with Source energy–tune in, tap in and turn on or whatever), they more than make up for in charm and engagement. It’s hard not to like Abraham/Esther, and the message is positive. I know that Fey and I got a lot of benefit from their teachings, even if we are not 100% on board the Abraham-Hicks bandwagon.

* Thomas Moore: No, I’m not talking about the historical Thomas Moore. I’m talking about the modern-day author, psychologist, musician, blogger, spiritual seeker. His books on the soul and soulfulness are poetic and profound, bringing a lyrical quality to an often cut-and-dry field. His works are a must-read for anyone wanting to merge spirituality and soul into their daily lives.

So, these are a few of the authors I’d recommend. There are many more, of course, and I may blog on this subject again. I’d like to ask my readers for their recommendations, as I am always interested in expanding my knowledge. Who are you reading? Where do you turn for wisdom and advise? I look forward to hearing from you.

Noticing small boredoms

Noticing small boredoms.

I think I should have this carved into my desk at The Day Job™!

Something to remember when the world starts getting insane.

Mindfulbalance

Silence is one of the major thresholds in the world. . . . Meister Eckhart said that there is nothing in the world that resembles God so much as silence. Silence is a great friend of the soul; it unveils the riches of solitude. It is very difficult to reach that quality of inner silence. You must make a space for it so that it may begin to work for you. In a certain sense, you do not need the whole armory and vocabulary of therapies, psychologies, or spiritual programs. If you have a trust in and an expectation of your own solitude, everything that you need to know will be revealed to you. These are some wonderful lines from the French poet Rene Char: “Intensity is silent, its image is not. I love everything that dazzles me and then accentuates the darkness within me.” Here is an image of…

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