Thursday, September 29, 2011

Good Advice

"You can't do anything about them. All you can do is play as hard as you can." 

--My son's soccer coach M.E.

Sometimes you just get lucky. 

We got lucky this year in my younger son's soccer coaches - both of them. They are kind. They are dedicated. And they are smart. 

Take last week's game for instance. 

We played a team of giants. Most of the kids on the team were at least two inches taller than our tallest kid (my son who is TALL for his age....). Not only were they giants, they were skilled giants. And they also played just a little bit dirty. 

They were throwing elbows and body checking, getting a leg under our kids and sending them to the ground. 

After about ten minutes of this our kids were starting to complain. And cry.

When it happened to our assistant coach's son he complained to his dad about their team. And this was his response: "You can't do anything about them. All you can do is play as hard as you can."

He didn't say it in a dismissive way. He was concerned and compassionate about the injuries his son had sustained, but he wasn't going to hear any complaining. There was nothing he could do about it anyway (fouls are not called at this level of play - although maybe they should be...). 

But I loved this advice and wish it was something I had heard more often as a kid. Because truer words have rarely been spoken. You can't do anything about THEM. Whoever "them" is. Friend. Enemy. Co-worker. Partner. Child. Teammate or Opponent. 

The only thing you can do is decide what you are going to do about what "they" have done. Walk away. Leave. Push back. Ignore. Speak Up. Forgive. Give hugs. Play harder.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Post in Which I Delve Into an Old Cliche

 "If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were." 

This quote feels like the worst possible cliche', but sometimes cliches have a ring of truth to them that just cannot be denied.

I had a conversation with a friend this week in which we were discussing marriage. Both of us have recently had moments in our marriages where we were just not sure we wanted to carry on -  and both of us have found this moment to be oddly affirming of the relationship at the same time.

Sending my husband off to Burning Man on his own made many of the people I talked to nervous. Aren't you afraid he'll___________? (Fill in your worst relationship fear.)

Fifteen years ago I would have been, but now I truly feel that he has to be free to do those things I fear most in order that he not need to do them. It's ironic and hard to understand on some level, but the freedom to leave, to stray, to cheat, to be yourself in all of your worst and best ways, is utterly necessary - I believe - for a healthy relationship.

On the flip side, my husband said he was amazed at how being away and having total freedom made him love and appreciate us and just want to come home and be the best husband and father he could be.

And yet it was only hours after he came home that we had a moment in our marriage that we had not yet gotten to - the moment of choice. 

It is a moment that I think all couples get to - some sooner, some later - where they have to decide if they are going to keep going or turn back. When you are dating this moment is not always easy, but there is less on the line. When you are married or have been together for a long time, or have children together, this moment can scare the bejesus out of you. 

It's the moment when you have to chose to stay, to work, to persevere even though - at that moment - you may not want to and it may seem easier or preferable to go. 

If either one of us had chosen to walk away, it could have all been over. The thirteen years of marriage, the fifteen years together, the family gatherings, the co-parenting, the best-friending....all of it. But we didn't. We turned around, faced each other again, and made it through. 

I have no illusion that this is the last moment like this we will have. I think the longer you stay in a relationship the more likely you are to have them. Sometimes a long term relationship can feel like a noose around your neck. 

Other times, of course, it can be as comfortable as a fuzzy old bathrobe, and - if you are really lucky - as fun as a roller coaster ride. 

When I was younger I thought I had to be ever vigilant, keeping other women at bay, watching my husband at all times for signs of infidelity. 
Now I know the truth: If you love someone set them free....and demand your own freedom. 

Only under these conditions can the relationship thrive and flourish and end up being somewhere you both WANT to be.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How the Angels Roll

"Should you ever be in need of a miracle (you know, hypothetically, just "what if"), think not of the miracle, not even a little, but instead of its intended result."

--The Universe from

I LOVE these Notes from the Universe from that arrive in my mailbox daily. They are always fun and funny, witty and entertaining, and so often so right-on it's spooky. 

This one arrived on a day in which I had a phone call from a friend who had been out of town most of the summer. We were catching up and he was telling me about the squatter that had moved into his cabin while he was gone. He was laughing about it and not freaked out at all. 

I, on the other hand, was a little spooked. Here's why....

While he was gone he had let us borrow his cabin for the weekend. The weather was gorgeous while we were there (unlike most of the summer around here) and we had a wonderful time just relaxing, walking on the beach, lying around and playing in the sand. 

Needless to say a bit of sand ended up in the house. So I spent a good deal of time the last day cleaning up, making sure that we left no trace (of sand). I also cleaned the top shelf of the fridge because we had bought some seafood and it had leaked smelly water up there, and we left him some beer and chocolate for when he came back. 

After we left and had driven quite a few miles toward home, I started to get worried that perhaps the fishy water had leaked into another part of the fridge, a part I had not cleaned, and that it was going to sit there for the rest of the summer and get stinky. 

My monkey mind latched onto this and I started to think....maybe we should go back.....maybe I should come back next week and check....maybe it is going to stink up the whole place.....maybe it will ruin the fridge....I knew this could go on for the rest of the summer. I come from a long line of worriers and we can make something like this last for WEEKS. I also knew that I didn't want to spend the rest of my summer this way. 

So I took a couple of deep breaths, reminded myself that I did the absolute best job I could do in that moment (if I had thought of this before I would have cleaned the whole fridge) and asked the angels to watch over the cabin, to clean all the fishy water up for me or to keep it from smelling. I just asked the angels to help me with this situation and I left the HOW up to them. 

Fast forward a few weeks....I get off the phone with my friend and I start to laugh. The angels had helped me out! They sent the squatter!

He had made such a mess of the place that a little fishy smell - if it was even there at all - wasn't going to be noticed. I didn't need to worry. My friend wasn't that bothered by the squatter - he found it rather amusing and now had a good tale to tell. And a homeless man found a warm and comfortable place to sleep for a few nights. 

It wasn't what any of us would have chosen or asked for, but somehow it felt divine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Gift of Truth

"The greatest gift we give to anyone is our honesty..."  

--My friend Cindy

For the past 29 days, I have been participating in the 29-Day Giving Challenge. You can read all about my experience with the giving challenge by clicking here

The hardest gift to give - by far - was #27: The Gift of Truth. Here's the post I wrote about that gift:

For more than six months my son has been getting invited on playdates with another boy from his class. At first he wanted to go, but over time he began to say he didn't want to go. I tried to encourage him to go, thinking that perhaps he just needed time to get to know this boy in order to appreciate his virtues, but the more I encouraged, the less he wanted to go. 

Things continued to spiral downward with this kid asking for more and more play dates and my son becoming more and more insistent on NOT having play dates. We tried having them at our house (my son made it clear by his behavior that he did not want the other boy to be there and I felt bad), I tried going along to their house (my son played, but without enthusiasm). Finally, summer arrived and I was grateful for the chance to take a breather from this situation. 

But the first week of school this year it started again. Boy wants a play date with my son; my son does not want a play date with this boy. Boy insists. Son resists. I tried to put it off. "It's the first week of school," "We're busy," "Sorry can't today...." but the more I tried to put them off the more insistent both mom and boy became. 

I was beside myself. So torn between wanting to be a good member of my community and wanting to teach my son that he has the right to say "No," something I did not learn as a child. 

After receiving requests three days in a row I worried and worked over the problem all weekend long. Writing speeches about love and inclusiveness and making excuses and coming up with reasons. It was exhausting. I talked about it. I thought about it. I wrote about it. And finally I just had to do it: What I would tell anyone else to do. What I want my son to someday be able to do for himself. I spoke the truth with as much love as possible. 

I wrote the other mom an email and explained that my son just did not want to have a play date, that I was sorry if this was hurtful and that I hoped given time and space they could forge a friendship that worked for both of them. And then I hit send.

I don't know what is going to happen. I gave her the gift of truth. I hope she can receive it.

UPDATE: Less than five minutes after I sent the email I got an email back from this mother thanking me (with an exclamation point!) for telling her the truth. She was kind and compassionate, agreeing that this friendship just wasn't working for either of our boys and allowing that to be okay. 

All of the upset and worry and hand-wringing had been for nothing. My monkey mind got me again. Doh!

Monday, September 19, 2011

There is Dung Littering My Stream Bed.

"Its only the surface of the water that's clear
There's mud in the stream, you'll discover;
And when the Demon troubles you to test you
The water will once again become mud-colored.
There is dung littering your stream-bed, my friend,
However pure the stream may appear."

Sometimes the Universe just kicks my f-ing ass with a quote and this is one of those times. I have spent all weekend in turmoil over various issues in my life, my monkey mind working non-stop. 

This morning I got up early, determined to calm it with a hour of silent meditation. 

It worked. I felt centered. Grounded. Clear. Like the clear water of a stream. And, once again, I thought that was going to be the end of the story. 

"Okay, now I am clear," I said to myself. Back on track. In the groove. Good to go. 

And then a kid had to stay home from school and a meeting had to be rescheduled and a lunch had to be cancelled and phone calls had to be made and it was mud and dung everywhere. 

But that's the way it's SUPPOSED to be Rumi says. Or, at least, the way it IS. Whether we like it or not, no matter how pure our stream-bed may appear.

Friday, September 16, 2011

When in doubt...

"When in doubt MEDITATE."

--A Monk from Whistler, BC

This quote is from one of the very first meditation classes I ever took. We were on vacation in Whistler, BC and one of the healing centers there was offering a free meditation class on a Saturday morning. My kids were still very young - so young that I was nervous to leave them for a couple of hours even with my husband - but I knew somehow that I needed to do this.

So a friend and I took off early on that Saturday morning to meditate with a Canadian monk. I don't remember a lot from the class about the specific meditation method he taught, but I remember the feeling I had in that room - sheer terror (because I was "stepping away" from what I thought was my role as a mother to ALWAYS be there for and with my children) and sheer calm (because the monk's voice was so soothing and the energy in the room was so soft and unfrantic).

As time went on I took more meditation classes and practiced different forms of meditation, but one meditation has stuck with me throughout my practice. It is the one I do every night before I go to bed, and sometimes during the day as well. It is called The Violet Flame.

This meditation was gifted to us by Saint Germain, an Ascended Master of the Seventh Ray (Violet) for our release from past karma and purification of our physical and auric bodies. There are many different versions of this meditation. The one I use was taught to me by my friend Cindy, a psychic and gifted healer.

The gifts of this meditation in my life have been both extraordinary and mundane. On a day to day basis, it helps to keep me grounded and centered. It also helps me to clear out any negative energy that may be surrounding me or that I may be releasing that day. It works on energy from within and from without and is available to us in any moment that we choose to use it.

When Cindy first taught me the meditation she challenged us to try it for 30 days and to expect miracles. While I don't know that anyone else would consider it a miracle, I know that the landscape of my internal universe changed for the better after those 30 days and that this meditation continues to have a positive effect on me every time I do it. I urge you to try it for 30 days and see what happens! Click here for a printable version of the meditation.

May all of the blessings of The Violet Flame be yours!

[Today at 8:00 AM PT I am going to be on "Get Glowing," my sister's weekly radio show talking about, among other things, meditation and The Violet Flame. Click here to tune in!]

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Sharp Truth of Parenting

"...[P]art of what I’m seeing is that even now, even at age seven, he’s miles beyond my grasp. I can’t impose peace and happiness on him any more than I could impose it on those noisy middle school hallways years ago. He is on his journey, not mine. I’ve always known that. But I’m only just now feeling the sharp truth of it." 

--FloorPie from her blog of the same name

I love this quote, and it makes me want to cry all at the same time. The older our children get, the more they - and their life experiences - are out of our grasp, completely beyond our control.

The thing is, they really always were. 

The more I do this job called parenting the more I feel the truth of Kahlil Gibran's poem, "Your children are not your children, They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself..." and Floorpie's observation that they are on their journey, not mine. 

I can guide and commiserate and offer snacks, but they are pretty much on their own to figure it out and make the best of it. To find happiness and love and what feels to them like success. 

I hope they find it easier than I have (and with better results), but that is not up to me. All I can do is watch and love and feel the sharp truth of it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Good Death

"Our fear of death is all the greater when we have not dared to live...Daring to live means daring to die at each moment. But it also means daring to be born—daring to pass through important stages in life where the person you used to be dies, in order to make room for someone with a new view of the world." 

--Arnaud Desjardins

There's this modern idea of "a good death" which I have never understood. Partly because at 42 I had never really experienced death personally.

My childhood dog died while I was away at college, the various fish and hamsters we had growing up never stuck around long enough for me to get really attached, and by the time my grandparents died - all four of them within a few years of each other - I hadn't lived near them in years.

My cat Wilson died today. He was 18 years old and I had to help him "transition."

As I talked to people about Wilson and this decision I kept hearing "He needs you to help him." "He won't do it on his own," but it just didn't ring true to me. It felt like a cop out. A rationalization. A way to get out of doing the hard work of watching someone you love die (and cleaning up the associated messes that go with it). 

But a couple of hours after the fact I am a believer. 

Wilson went easily into the deep sleep and took only one last, shallow breath after receiving the shot. His body was so old and frail, I really believe that he was ready. 

As I sat there holding him afterwards, I could see him taking off into the beyond - the old Wilson once again - leaping and bounding, off on the hunt. He was so happy and free, it made me feel the same. 

As I looked for a quote for today I realized that I don't have a lot of quotes about death. It's something that I have - not avoided exactly - but put on a shelf marked "not applicable to me." But today I realized that is not so. 

Yesterday on NPR I heard a story about prolonging human life and the interviewee asserted that humans may one day live to be 125 or more. My reaction was, "no thanks!" I have no desire to live that long. I'd love to make it into my 80's but after that I think I'll be ready to see what comes next. 

Wilson was 89-92 in human years, depending on how you calculate, and I think he was more than ready. He went easily into the great beyond, to his next life. It was a good death indeed. 

Many thanks to Mary Pittari of A Peaceful Parting who helped Wilson transition and did so with much kindness and compassion.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Radical Forgiveness

"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
 --Martin Luther King, Jr from

Depending on who you ask, National/Global/International Forgiveness Day is either June 26th, July 7th, August 3rd, August 7th, August 27th, or the last Saturday of October (this year on October 29th). However, as the 10th anniversary of September 11th, 2001 and the destruction of the Twin Towers is coming up, it seems as good a day as any to talk about forgiveness.

My main forgiveness guru is Colin Tipping. He has created a number of tools for forgiveness that are available on his website (many of them for free!) as well as in his book, Radical Forgiveness (which I highly recommend), however, in a recent blog entry he talks about the success a group of workshop participants have had with one of his simplest tools, what he calls the "Emerge-n-see 4 Step Process."

In this process, whenever you feel wronged or victimized you simply stop and go through these four steps to get to a place of peace and forgiveness. Here they are:

#1. Look What I Created! You look at the situation at hand and see it as a growth opportunity chosen by your higher self for your growth and learning. You take responsibility for what you have done (on a conscious or an unconscious level) to create this situation in your life.

#2. I Notice My Judgments and Feelings But Love Myself Anyway. In this step you acknowledge the judgments and feelings that this situation is bringing up for you and you allow yourself to FEEL YOUR FEELINGS. This is an important step because only when we allow ourselves to really feel our feelings can we move forward.

#3. I Am Willing to See the Perfection in the Situation. This is the "radical forgiveness" step wherein you no longer see yourself as a victim in the situation, but as an active participant. This is the perfect situation for your growth and healing right now and you acknowledge that and perhaps even thank the other person for helping you to grow in this way.

#4. I Choose the Power of Peace. You decide to be at peace with this situation, this being the only choice once you know that all is in divine order.

This is a quick and easy way to do forgiveness on the fly. Write down the four steps and put them in your wallet, tape them to the dashboard of your car, or post them on your refrigerator.

Or create a mnemonic device to help you remember them whenever you need them. I use the following: LOOK, NOTICE, PERFECTION, PEACE. These four words help me remember the steps so that I can quickly and easily move through them when I need to.

Pick one person or situation this week and give it a try. Let me know how it goes. May the power of peace be yours this week!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Place of Peace

"...[P]eace can only truly exist within [S]elf."
--Carol Barbeau from Astro Influences in Voice of Choices, August 2011

I didn't post this week on my usual days (Monday and Wednesday); it just didn't happen. Normally I would write something up quick and backdate it, but I am trying to find peace with what IS and to breathe into that space of peace that is inside mySelf. 

There is a lot going on in my world right now: kids starting back to school, an aging cat who may or may not need me to help him move on to his next incarnation, a lot of time to fill and a lot of things cropping up to fill that time. 

Normally at this time of year I would be feeling a lot of pressure ("pressed," my mother always called it, which is funny because it sounds like a nice clean white shirt with a stiff collar, but actually looks like the emotional equivalent of a shirt that has been left for too many days in the dryer and may never flatten out again), and on some level I am, but I am trying to keep it at bay. Trying to take one thing at a time and do the thing that needs to do done right now and only that thing, letting the others come in due time. It's not always easy, but breathing helps.

May you find that place of Peace within yourSelf this week and always.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Only Certain Refuge

"The whole world is racing in the wrong direction
For everyone is terrified of non-existence
That is, in reality, the only certain refuge.
How should we try to win real awareness?
By renouncing all knowing.
How should we look for salvation?
By giving up our personal salvation.
How should we search for real existence?
By giving up our existence.
How should we search for the fruit of the spirit?
By not always greedily stretching out our hands."

--RUMI, from Daily OM A Year of Rumi

Not much else to say except "I love this one" and "Amen Brother Rumi!" 

Have a great Labor Day weekend.