Monday, November 29, 2010

'Tis the Season

"That which supports life is supported by and receiving are one and the same."

"Giving and receiving are one and the same." It makes sense when you say it, but not always when you live it.

What about when there is one cereal bowl full of milk left and two kids who need breakfast? Or one laptop and two parents who want to veg out in front of it? How do we give when giving feels like someone losing out?

Another of my favorite quotes about generosity is from Kahlil Gibran. He said, "Generosity is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do."

Ever since I read this quote, I have been trying to think of a time when I have committed a truly generous act. And while there may have been a few parenting moments that qualify (who can really say for sure if a five-year-old needs a drink of water more than the parent of a five-year-old needs to sleep through the night?) mostly I have to admit that I have not. 

Someday I will.

Until then, here is a story about generosity to kick off the holiday madness (you have to read most of the article to get to the good part). I am not sure it qualifies under the above definition, but it's a great place to start.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

3BT (Three Beautiful Things)

"Offer to those you love 3 simple moments everyday: AWARENESS-notice the beauty of each moment; WONDERMENT-let the beauty touch your heart; GRATITUDE-give thanks to God for the beauty you see."

--Father Daniel Syverstad

I stumbled upon this blog the other day called Three Beautiful Things. Every day Clare (the genius behind this blog) records three beautiful things that happened to her or that she saw the previous day. She has been doing this since May of 2004!

Can I tell you? I LOVE this!

And I want to be a part of it.

So here goes...Three Beautiful Things from a recent day in my life:

1) My son's face as he falls asleep: eyelids at half mast, mouth wide open with one big tooth hanging down in a vast empty space, lightly snoring.

2) Blue skies over Seattle when rain was predicted.

3) A just-ripe avocado with flesh like butter, peeled and eaten, slice after delicious slice.

What are yours?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dark Days

"Our bodies live off of LIGHT. Now (winter) is not the time to take on big projects. Now is the time to let things die."

I have a confession to make.  I have always hated this time of year.

It is dark. It is cold. The holidays are coming.....

Another confession. I hate the holidays. Or at least I did.....

For me, this time of year is very uncomfortable. The darkness makes time, always a precious commodity in my life these days, even scarcer. The weather means I am always cold and I hate being cold. And the holidays....the holidays mean pressure and stress and spending too much money and way too much time trying really hard to make everyone happy while seemingly making no one happy.....

No wonder everyone is depressed.

Are you noticing this too?

Nearly everyone I know is feeling down or sick or depressed. Things are coming up big for people around me right now and many are feeling overwhelmed.

And I am beginning to wonder if that isn't as it should be. As nature intended.

As this quote says, " is the time to die." All around us nature is dormant, sleeping, dying, waiting for spring to come when it will once again "spring" to life.

Perhaps it is the same for us humans. Perhaps we are meant to die, along with the flowers and the leaves and the mosquitoes, to that which no longer serves us.

Every year we start fresh with new resolutions, new plans, a clean slate. We acknowledge this and celebrate it with lists and diets and champagne and fireworks. But what about the death that, according to all the laws of nature, must precede this new life?

Do we acknowledge it at all or are we too busy shopping and baking and stressing to fully experience it? Maybe that is why so many people find themselves feeling sad and depressed at this time of year. A part of them, a part of their life, is dying and there is no room, no ritual, to acknowledge and to celebrate this death.

For me this always manifests itself in my body's desire to be lazy, to gain weight, to sleep in, and to do basically nothing. All of my good habits seem to go by the wayside this time of year: I have stopped doing my morning yoga, I am running much less than I did this summer (and more often than not inside on my treadmill), and I feel like I could eat my body weight in carbs and not be satisfied.

I also feel an underlying sadness that I cannot quite understand. While all around me it feels like everyone is excited and happy and looking forward to the holidays I am full of sadness and dread. 

But as I talk to people I realize that I am not the only one and that perhaps we are all looking at each other through red and green colored glasses, but not really seeing each other.

We are all dying. To who we used to be, to who we thought we'd become in 2010, to the things that no longer serve who we will be in 2011.

So let's take some time this pre-holiday season to mourn and to grieve for what we are leaving behind before we start to plan and anticipate what will come next.

Here's what I am letting go of as 2010 comes to a close:

1) Shifting relationships. Our relationships with others (and with ourselves for that matter) are always shifting and changing; sometimes this is difficult to accept. I need to let go of the relationship that I would like to have with the people in my life, so as to have the relationship that is meant to be.

2) My ideas about what I "should" be doing. I am going to try and stay in the moment with myself and do what feels right in that moment, regardless of what I have "planned" to do or "would like" to get done.

3) Other people's opinions about my life. Whether stated or implied or presumed (by me!).

4) My tendency to "escape" into books, TV, even my own thoughts, when I get overwhelmed. I am going to try and stay with my feelings as they arise, not replace them with manufactured feelings from someone else or my own crazy mind.

5) The idea that the holidays are going to be "perfect" or that anyone in my family or my life is going to act or behave in a certain way that will make it more enjoyable for me. Everyone is going to show up with their "crap" and it is my job as their friend, co-worker, or family member to lovingly accept them for who they are in that moment (without, of course, letting them impose that on me in a way that is unfair or slimy).

That's a start. What are you letting go of this winter? And how do you feel about it?

(NB. This quote is a repeat from last year - 12/30/09. My plan was never to repeat a quote on this blog, however, this quote just seemed to nail what is going on for a lot of people I know right now so I am making an exception. It may not be the last time. There are a lot of great quotes that I did not comment on the first time that I used them so I may be doing this again. Soon. Stay tuned....) 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Wisdom of BOTH

"Do not cling to anything, to any idea; because clinging is the bondage, even to the idea of enlightenment."


"To gain enlightenment, you must want it as much as a man whose head is held under water wants air."

--Zen saying

Whenever I give my husband a choice between two things his answer is always the same: BOTH. 

It used to drive me CRAZY because I was raised in a world where you can't have BOTH. You can have one or the other, but not both. In his world BOTH is always an option and it is always the one he chooses. 

These quotes came, less than two weeks apart, from my Wisdom of the East Mini Day-to-Day Calendar. I had to laugh when I read the second one, because I remembered liking the first one and posting it on my fridge. 

I quickly found it and posted them together, held up by the same magnet, side by side. 

Every couple of days I would read them, laugh, and then put them back together where they belong.

Some days I know it is my desire for enlightenment that gets in my way.  I am trying too hard and by trying, missing the point.

Other days what holds me back is that I do not want it nearly enough. Because achieving enlightenment would mean giving up things that my ego values like pride, jealousy, gossip, righteousness and anger.

On the days when I pause and ask myself to decide - really - which of these quotes I believe to be TRUE the answer I get is always the same: BOTH 

Or as the Buddha said, "I gained nothing at all from supreme enlightenment, and for that very reason it is called supreme enlightenment."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Moodlifter

"Kindness is love in action."

--The Universe

Every other Monday I bring coffee to a teacher at our kids' school. I call it "the Monday Moodlifter" and it was the raffle item I donated for Teacher Appreciation Week last year (kudos to my sister-in-law for the idea :) . 

Every time I walk in the door with coffee in hand, my son's teacher is surprised and pleased and I feel good inside.

Andy Smallman is teaching people to make the Monday Moodlifter a way of life through his online kindness classes.

I first read about Andy in Ode magazine, which featured him in their July/August issue. His online classes in kindness are simple, thoughtful and, best of all, free (he does accept donations for his time).

Every Sunday he posts the week's kindness theme on his website. Each student reads the post and decides for themselves how to enact that week's theme. Some of the themes so far have included: do something kind for a stranger, do something kind for a friend, do something kind for yourself.

On Wednesday or Thursday Andy sends out a mid-week inspiration and then at the end of each week a weekly reflection. Students are also encouraged to blog about their experience after completing their weekly act of kindness.

I don't know about you but just reading about this makes me feel joyful and glad to be alive and a part of this great big beautiful world. 

Just think for a moment about a world in which we are ALL taking the kindness class - that IS WORLD PEACE. 

Do something kind for a stranger. Do something kind for a friend. Do something kind for yourself. 

Kindness IS love in action. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Unconditional Love Shower

"From my heart to yours, I shower you with unconditional love."

--A Blessing from Master Stephen Co

For some reason I am feeling like we could all use a shower of unconditional love today.

I received this blessing from Master Stephen Co during a Pranic Healing workshop that I attended a few years ago and have used it ever since.

Sometimes I use it on my kids, sometimes I use it on my family and friends, sometimes I use it on myself. 

Most often I find that I use it when I don't know what else to do. When I don't know what to say or how to help, I send a shower of unconditional love, hoping that it can somehow do what I can't or don't know how to do. 

I am sending you a shower of unconditional love today. I hope it helps with whatever is happening for you. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Choosing Kindness

"It's easy to feel contempt for those humans who aren't as....present, or self-actualized as you are - but why not allow yourself to experience compassion instead? After all, you're hardly perfect; there are certainly people who are further along whatever spectrum you value. Hopefully they're willing to treat you with patience and understanding as you find your way - you should do the same for those who are still working on finding their own paths. This week, ditch scorn and condescension in favor of kindness and empathy. You'll find not only does it inspire all around you - it elevates you as well."

--From my horoscope in Maui Time weekly, May 2010

This is a more eloquent version of what my husband said to me last night after discussing the trials and tribulations of a mutual acquaintance with whom I have lost patience. It is "tough love" time as far as I am concerned and I made no bones about it. 

The thing is, even though I was sure I was right, I didn't feel very good afterward. There was a kind of shiny, prideful, hardness in my chest right in the center of my heart.

On the one hand I felt proud of myself for not having fallen prey to this kind of irresponsible behavior when we were in a similar situation....on the other hand I felt proud of myself for knowing exactly what this person "should" do to rectify the situation and make things better for themselves.

But in my heart I felt yucky. Sad. Disappointed. Blocked. 

And that's it, isn't it? Even if this prideful self-righteousness can feel kind of shiny and good, really it is blocking some far more useful and better-feeling kind of feelings: empathy, compassion, kindness, love. 

And we have to admit that even though what someone is doing may seem wrong or crazy or downright stupid to us, maybe - just maybe - it's the right thing for them. Whether in the reality of this physical plane or for their soul's learning and growth. 

And ultimately we have to ask ourselves: Would I rather be kind or would I rather be right? 

This week, I choose KIND!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Beauty of Not Knowing

"If you ask a Protestant from the American Midwest to commit to a dinner date next week, that Protestant, believing that she is the captain of her own destiny will say, 'Thursday night works fine for me.' But if you ask a Catholic from Calabria to make the same commitment, he will only shrug, turn his eyes to God, and ask, 'How can any of us know whether we will be free for dinner next Thursday night, given that everything is in God's hands and none of us can know our fate?'"

More and more these days when I ask my higher self a question about what I should do, the answer I receive is, "I don't know."

At first I found this very frustrating. I have usually known exactly what I wanted (or didn't want) throughout my life and the times when I didn't - the times when the only clear answer was, "I don't know" - were the times when I was suffering from extreme anxiety or having a panic attack.

But as I grow older the "I don't know," becomes less panicky and more matter-of-fact. Sometimes you just don't know.

In fact, as this quote would suggest, often - perhaps even ALWAYS - we just don't know what's going to happen next or the best course of action to take.

As I contemplate this, I am trying to get more comfortable with it, embrace it even, and as I do I start to see the beauty of it. The absolute beauty of I DON'T KNOW.

There is a kind of giddy excitement that comes with not knowing, not planning every moment of my life. Just letting life come, as it will, without orchestrating every moment.

In Buddhism they call it The Middle Way. Not pushing, not resisting, just ALLOWING.

The Middle Way is like balancing on the sharp edge of a knife: it's tricky, sometimes painful, but ultimately exciting. The extreme sport of life. 

And I say - BRING IT!

Friday, November 5, 2010

True Religion

"The truest religion is love."

--From "Citizens of the World" by PANGEA

If a picture is worth a thousand words a video must be worth at least a blog entry's worth. This seems the perfect follow-up to yesterday's entry. Thanks to my newest follower for this....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Releasing Judgment

"The Holy Spirit would help you realize that what you are seeing in this other person is what you do not want to see in yourself."

I have taken down the post I originally wrote for today. It was about an encounter I had with fundamentalism in a religion of which I was previously a follower. 

No matter how much I edited it, it felt like I just couldn't get rid of the snark. And that is one thing I do not want for this blog - snark. 

I am tired of being snarky and sarcastic and pessimistic. I want to move into a space where I can be hopeful and optimistic and kind.

But the snark is still there. It's in me. After so many years how could it not be? 

So I guess this time I was a mirror for myself. I saw my own snarkiness and reacted negatively to it knowing that it was reflecting my own snarkiness back to me and showing me where I still have work to do. 

So, thanks, Self for helping me to see ME more clearly.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Race to Somewhere

"You are a beautiful expression of the possibilities of The Universe."

--Graffiti in the girl's bathroom at The Nova Project

Last week I went with a friend to see the documentary film Race to Nowhere. I had never heard of the movie and had no idea what to expect. I was blown away. 

The film documents what is wrong with the American education system not by putting the focus on our poor and under-performing schools, but by focusing on some of our country's best schools. 

Featuring interviews with kids and educators, the film documents the increasing pressure on our kids to perform and succeed, often at the cost of their childhoods, their happiness, and sometimes even their lives. 

I have to admit it gave me pause - and made me consider homeschooling. 

According to this film, children as young as third grade are feeling overwhelmed by the pressures put on them at school. They are suffering from stomachaches, headaches, panic attacks, and some are even taking their own lives. 

The irony? Kids under this kind of pressure actually do WORSE in school than kids who have more freedom and less pressure.

It made me really glad that we had a "choice day" scheduled for the next day. 

"Choice day" is something we came up with last year when my kids wanted a day off from school, but were not sick. I know that sometimes I just need a day off and figured the kids deserved the same. Since it was a half day the next day, it seemed the perfect opportunity to take a choice day. 

What did we do? A whole lotta nothin'. And by the end of the day, I could see the difference in them, feel the difference in them. They were more relaxed, less intense, happier....

Last year I went for a run with friend who also has a kid in elementary school. Inevitably we started talking about homework and how hard it is sometimes to get our kids to sit down and focus on it, how frustrating this gets for all of us and what we can do about it. 

After sharing our stories and strategies for a few minutes there was a pause in the conversation and then he said, "The bottom line is, I just want my daughter to be happy. If she is happy, I will consider that a success." 

Amen to that my brother. Amen to that. 

But what does happiness mean? 

Does it mean success? Does it mean getting what you want? Does it mean helping others? 

This is the BIG QUESTION that we are all trying to answer for ourselves, but if we have children for them too. 


And that is a question that every person, every parent has to answer for themselves. I am just grateful to this movie for reminding me to ask the question.

NB: I saw the movie at The Nova Project, a local alternative school for kids who don't do well in traditional educational settings. The school, while a bit run-down and certainly not "state of the art" in any way, was full of signs (some in the form of graffiti) that this was a place where kids were loved and supported and be the greatest expression of themselves. In other words, learning how to be happy.

If you would like to see the movie, Race to Nowhere, it is screening twice this week in Seattle at Villa Academy on Tuesday, Nov 2nd and Thursday, November 4th @ 7PM.