Day 27, Are We Listening…

Yesterday on my run, it struck me as I thought about life, how we have forgotten how to listen. I mean really listen! Not the head shaking, pretend to hear, “oh yeah, I had that happen to me once, blah…blah…blah…”, but the open hearted truly hear what is being shared. Many things of recent have brought this forward in my mind, heart, and soul. It is a reoccurring sad exploration for me in our ever increasing chaotic world. Oh how I wish I could slow it down, like placing my finger on a record to inhibit its spin on the turn table.

Recently a youth committed suicide, while I did not know him personally, I know many life’s touched by this heart wrenching loss. I observed several people the other day when I was at the grocery store shopping with family members, yet I witnessed disconnect and harried go through the motions with no one really listening or engaging. At a coffee shop last week I took time to just observe interactions. A couple sat near me, he was chatting away at her while she stared at the phone in her hand. Close by a young man and woman were visiting at such rapid fire, I am not sure if they ever really listened or heard what the other was sharing. The list can go on and on…just look around, notice.

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“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” ~Ernest Hemingway

As a junior high teacher one of the days that truly saddened my heart was the day I asked the students, “How many of you have a dream?”, about half the students raised their hands. When we started sharing and discussing, half of those students had dreams driven by fame and money, which is not bad, however most did not love what they were pursuing. That left only a quarter of the class with true dreams for their future. What then unfolded is what made my heart hurt. The open discussion of how they were not excited to grow up, for they did not experience many positive happy adults. They expressed that seeing disgruntled adults and negative things in the world, made them not want to “grow up”. I must honestly say I can understand their powerful points, for I look around and observe less and less joy, while noticing more and more discontent.

Are we listening? Are we hearing the youth of today? Teen suicide rates are not going down. Heck, as I shared in an earlier blog, suicide rates are going up for all ages. Can we hear the hopelessness echo in that statistic? Are we willing to see and hear? Then can we admit that maybe a change would serve? What would happen if we changed something as simple and subtle as truly listening? Stopping long enough to really connect and hear what our children share, our spouse, our friends and family. What if when you went to the store you actually experienced connection with the cashier – shared mutual kindness and respect. How would that shift your next interaction. Could a compounded ripple effect be created where one kind completely present interaction could lead to more?

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“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~Leo Buscaglia

There certainly seems to be no shortage of people talking, it bombards us from everywhere, all the time. Thank goodness that at night we still get some quiet, letting the body and mind rest. However, even here we are changing, many people require “white noise” to sleep. Are we afraid to hear? If we keep the static going what will we miss?

I love my life, for it allows me to listen and to hear truths beyond the words. I create space for others to come, share, and be listened to. I sit with an individual soul or a group to truly experience what is being expressed. It is amazing to see how this time will completely shift a person, as though they had not had a glass of water for days. So simple, so sweet, so pure and true. Connected sharing and listening. Being present with ourselves and others – a true gift that expands beyond us. How many lives could we save, if we remembered how to listen? To hear beneath the words, the actions, and masks. To really HEAR and LISTEN because we chose to be COMPLETELY PRESENT with an open heart, mind and soul. For me personally, nothing fills my being more than to truly share connected time with another, that moment when hearts share with hearts, when a stranger becomes a lovely being, a car ride with our kids becomes a shared time of laughter and banter, when a dinner party drops the facade to really connect…. Listening seems to be a dying art, lost on the waves our frantic disconnected scuttle. It is a muscle I shall not let atrophy, instead as I age, I find myself growing that muscle, expanding its usage and service.

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“Encouragement to others is something everyone can give. Somebody needs what you have to give. It may not be your money; it may be your time. It may be your listening ear. It may be your arms to encourage. It may be your smile to uplift. Who knows?” ~Joel Osteen

My hope for you today is that you will not only listen to truly hear, but you shall enjoy the fine pleasure of being really heard. A.C.T. (always choose truth) with a long enough deep breath, that you actually stop to listen and be present

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Day 26, Dreams come true in vulnerable exposure..

On Saturday, November 18, 2017 I finally accomplished one of my long held dreams, I published my first book. While I have put my thoughts out there in the world via my blog, it is different to see my name on a book cover and to have it accessible to anyone through Amazon. I found myself going back and forth to the website, just to see if it really was true – Yep, there it is!!

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“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’! ” ~Audrey Hepburn

What is this book? Well, it is the first book in a series, birthed out of my desire to get back to the truth – “Happiness Is Easy and Sweetly Simple”. The books are generated out of thirty-five years of reading, researching, practicing, taking classes/workshops, facilitating classes/workshops/courses, teaching and speaking. I love that today there are a plethora of books out there for our interpersonal growth, back when I started this journey it was hard to find such reading material, no one was talking about the “self-help” industry. Today it is everywhere, I can go to the big bookstores today and mosey a whole section set aside for such exploration, we have come a long way!

Why write another one then? While there are many to choose from, most are long, very involved and can be overwhelming, especially for the intensity of today’s world. I wanted to share that it can be simple, not that complicated, we already have all we need inside us. So, all my books will be 80 pages or less, they cover 1 topic with active ways for you to experience and explore your own personal journey with the lessons/teachings. As a junior high teacher, one of my biggest lessons, as I have shared before was – Keep It Simple!! That is my focus with this “K.I.S.S. Happiness Is Easy.., Series” – Keep It Sweetly Simple. Even the art work on the front has been intentionally kept delightfully simple!

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“Simplicity and repose are the qualities that measure the true value of any work of art.” ~Frank Lloyd Wright

In the first book I explore something we all struggle with “Taking It Personal”!! What I call getting TIPped Off! I began exploring this way of being over twenty years ago when I read “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz – wow, that was life changing and it continues to have profound impact on my life. I watch TIP unfold everyday with people, it saddens me that so much power is given away to others and situations. It creates and stimulates a REACTIONARY life, one where you are expending your energy in reaction to all that is around you, versus being engaged with CHOOSING how you want to feel and interact. That old adage “Life is happening to you versus Life is happening for you”.

I write and share with the inner dream to touch as many lives as I can with the beautiful truth that happiness is there and waiting, it is all about choice and action. It is an exposing sensation to have my personal life out there in black and white words. I feel vulnerable and “naked” – which is perfect, for then I know I showed up authentically real. I am excited to start book 2 – Stop APING Around, APE = Attachments, Perceptions, Expectations”, I am sure none of these show up in your life – hehehehe.., we all interact with these little gems.

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“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” ~Harriet Tubman

I hope that you will peek at my book, maybe even read it and share it with others. It is simple, to the point, short and sweet, with the potential to change how you react in your daily life. May today be full of CHOSEN moments and few reactions. A.C.T. (always choose truth – Book 4) today from your loving present truth and experience what marvelous things unfold!

Day 25, Truth…

This week has been an exploration of words, perfection, presence, fear, grace and now truth. I have enjoyed the opportunity to ponder with you below the surface of these words, to dig in and be open to their multifaceted impact. Today’s word has been a life rudder, always. I would have to say that personally the only other word that guides me more is love, truth and love, the two legs upon which I walk, run, dance, and leap.

Truth, hmmm… a simple word with high voltage impact. One we think we understand in others and yet we cannot. What do I mean by that? Well, we assume and pretend that we know another’s truth, yet that is impossible. Even though they may be our best friend of twenty years, our spouse of thirty years, our parents, our child, we do not know! It is preposterous to think we can, unless you are truly gifted to read minds, hearts and souls all at once. The old adage of “walking in another’s moccasins” is true, we can attempt to understand, however it is not ours to know.

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“Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror.” ~Rabindranath Tagore

Here is another level of truth I love to explore, the “surface taught expected” truth versus the “deep inner authentic” truth. Personally for me, these two have very different expressions; one skates across the surface like a water bug, barely touching down to really share anything, while the other plunges below the iceberg into the depths that few are willing to dive. Ironically, from my perspective and life experience, the depths of our raw truth is what sets us free, opening us  to pure grace. My truth is what truly connects me to another, it is the pathway of love, the light in the dark, the exhale after holding my breath.

As I work with people one on one, in workshops, and classes, I grow to understand and sadly notice that most people are uncomfortable to go within to expose the core truth. Instead they prefer the comfort of mirroring the truth they think you want to hear and see, or they tell you the truth that has been taught and imprinted on their mind. To feel and then put words to what is their inner truth, would be to stand vulnerably naked. Yet, here is the caveat, the truth that sets you free is the one you run from, it is the one you left behind in childhood, the one you have profound deafness to, the one which can change everything.

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“Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.” ~ Don Miguel Ruiz

Let’s look at a hypothetical tiny example. My love and I have come home after a long day at work, we are both tired and a wee bit grumpy. I am hungry, yet really do not feel like cooking. I keep hoping he will offer to make dinner for us. I don’t say anything, just keep hoping he will read my mind. We are being kind, have shared the usual “Hi how are you, nice to see you” perfunctory kiss (I find this sad.., but that is for another blog entry) and are going about our usual unwind settle in business. I keep quietly hoping, but say nothing. Finally, I start to hint, “What do you think we should have for dinner? I’m out of ideas”. “I don’t know, what were you thinking about making.”, he is definitely not getting it. I become irritated, still not sharing my REAL INNER TRUTH. I fall prey to my tired weakness and begin to barrage the poor man with my victim onslaught, “Why is it always about what I am going to make? Why can’t you come up with some ideas? Why don’t you offer to cook one night…?” Ever heard or experienced something like this? Maybe about the laundry, house cleaning, yard work, etc…. What do you think? Has this interaction likely brought us closer? Made us feel better? Probably not!

What if I had made a different choice? What if I had gone over to him, given him a truly sincere hug, saying, “Hun I am really beat tonight. Do you mind just holding me for a few? It would fill my heart up to soak in your love.” As I stand there in his arms, feeling close and loved, I can then share more truth, “I just don’t have the energy or creativity to make dinner tonight. Do you feel like making it, or have any ideas? How are you feeling tonight?”

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“I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.” ~Pietro Aretino

Which scenario is likely to give me what I really want? Which one is my real truth? The second scene keeps me in my truth, it does not point fingers or deflect from what I am really feeling. It leans into love versus pushing it away. I have never understood why we will not listen to, or grow our inner truth muscle, for it is what sets us free to be our true self.

When I was a teacher, I experienced that most students did not even know how to access their inner truth. They lived in their heads, the response was a thoughtful HONEST answer, not an authentic TRUTH. There is a difference and we all feel it, know it, and yet do not share it freely, we actually stuff it, deny it, and often run from it. Pausing to deeply breathe and feel we can touch that place of knowing truth, ahhhh, there it is.

Instead we will choose to escalate into surface dialogue that can lead to insult depending on how much we want to blame, shame, or play victim. The most profound experiences and shared times in my life, revolved around raw, vulnerable, naked, truth. This is the muscle I work to grow. This is the place I prefer to live. The glorious freedom of this space is completely addictive. One of the things I love about children, they have not yet forgotten their real TRUTH, they share it without apology. As always we are each delightfully at choice!

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“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” ~Mark Twain

I send you off into the weekend with humble gratitude for the time you have shared with me this week. My wish for you is that today and all days you shall be embraced with heartfelt loving truth. A.C.T. (always choose truth) with loving inner sincerity….

Day 24, Grace…

Today awakens feeling as though grace has wings. The world outside at 3:00am is quiet, untainted by the busy-ness which will soon become it. I like the early hours, for I do not compete with the energy or chaos of others. It is a time of sweet contemplation, reflection, dreaming, and bowing in humble awe at the grace bestowed. Grace is one of my ultimate favorite words, just saying the word soothes the senses and invites wonder.

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“Courage is grace under pressure.” ~Ernest Hemingway

What does the dictionary say about “Grace” –

1 a :unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

b :a virtue coming from God

2 a :approvalfavor stayed in his good graces

b archaic :mercypardon

c :a special favor :privilege

d :disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency

e :a temporary exemption :reprieve

3 a :a charming or attractive trait or characteristic Among disagreeable qualities he possessed the saving grace of humor.

b :a pleasing appearance or effect :charm

c :ease and suppleness (see 1supple 2b) of movement or bearing danced with such grace

4 a :short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks

Growing up, grace was one of those words I associated with meal time, the fourth definition stated above. As the years have floated by, grace has imbued itself within me, guiding me to notice the subtleties that exist in all moments. Grace is watching a leaf gently fall from a tree, dressed in its spectacular fall attire, it sways gently to the river below where it is cradled and rocked to new places and experiences. Grace is the rays of sunlight barely squeezing through the clouds on a day laden by the dew of raindrops. Grace greets me in the smile of a passing stranger, who lights up even more genuinely when the smile is returned. I experience grace in the dance of a passing dog, who merrily prances with pure delight on the end of their persons leash. Grace ignites my day in the tonal quality of my daughter’s voice when she fills the air with song.

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“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart. ” ~Sarah Ban Breathnach

When I look back on life, I can recall powerful moments of grace. Holding my great grandma’s hand as she left this world; gently and peacefully embarking on her next journey. Hearing the cry of my children as they healthily inhaled their first breath. Gliding across the sparkling snow with such ease on my skies, laughing with my grandpa who the next day shockingly departed. Watching my siblings grow up, changing through the seasons as they navigated their independent journey. Hearing the rich laughter of family, friends, and strangers.

As I get older, I not only visually see grace, I feel grace. It is the soft caress or mighty gale that moves my hair and tickles my skin when I stroll. Ever gentle it exists in authentic presence, beckoning us to stop, notice, and feel – just for a moment at least. It invites us to stay longer, encouraging us to sink into the soothing balm it can be. I smile at it now, as I briefly get caught by the flicker of a candle, such a small light, awakening a grand space.

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“For me, every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile.” ~Elie Wiesel

Where today might you experience and feel grace? Are you open to its grandeur? Can you allow it to remind you that life is fleeting, that each moment is a dance, teasing you to smile in awe for just a passing nanosecond. I admire grace, for it never gives up. I respect it for its pure authentic presence and genuine nature. I am in love with its unconditional vibe and commitment. In awe and celebration of its never ending invitation to dance with it, welcoming me into a union that has no beginning or ending – just is….

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“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” ~Anne Lamott

I invite you today to meet and interact with grace. Allow its presence to soothe the savage beast within, to calm, enhance, light up and spark the grace you are! A.C.T. (always choose truth) within the grace which always flow, for who knows what might unfold.

Day 23, FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real & Focus…

Today I want to play with fear, exploring how much power and energy we give it. Do you remember when you were young and the biggest thing you feared was the dark? Lying there you could create in your mind all kinds of creatures or things living in the closet, under the bed, outside your bedroom just waiting to get you!! Oh how your mind could build them up to be so real, so scary. Sleep was impossible, for the monster or mean people were just waiting for you to close your eyes!

Later as you “grew up”, there would still be those moments where you were certain someone or something was in the house. The more you tried not to think about it, the more it ate away at your mind, becoming larger than life. Bravely you would turn on the lights, look in every closet, under every bed, check all the locks.., whew, no one, nothing, all was safe and good.

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“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ~Nelson Mandela

This is the nice simple fear, the monster in the closet. What about the fears that do not hide in the closet or under the bed? The ones that you carry around in your mind, heart, and soul every day? Those looming ones about never having enough, that no one will ever really love you, that your partner might cheat on you, people might learn your secrets, the debt will never go away, blah..blah..blah….

Let’s pretend that you have a fear backpack, in this green canvas sturdy bag, you daily load up your fears. How many will there be in the backpack today? Make a list – money, relationship, job, home…. Don’t forget the deeper ones, “I’m not attractive enough, people don’t really like me, I’m not successful, I’m getting older which makes me undesirable, what if I get cancer, could I lose my job…” You get the idea. Well, how full is your bag? Can you lift it? Does it weigh you down, become a burden?

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“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

I am not sure who came up with the wonderful quote around fear – false evidence appearing real, but I like it!! Think about it! Your whole being reacts when you get into a fearful state. The physical body, the emotional  and mental parts of our being become transfixed – the focus builds and builds. Here is an interesting tidbit to look at, we are even fearful of things that we want – ha…think about that one. We crave and desire love, yet, we are afraid to really receive it. We really want to be liked, but, what if when they get to know us, they don’t like us? We dream of great success, yet, what if make it, can we handle it? Oh my, what is one to do? Fear circles everything – that which we don’t want and do want!

So, I often ponder – why do we give fear so much power? Why do we choose to focus on that which we don’t want to happen versus believing and focusing upon that which we do want? I know that every time I turned on the light to see if the monster was there, it wasn’t. I know from personal experience that even when I lost a job, I was still okay. I experienced that losing a relationship, being cheated on, having no money, facing uncertainty, none of it killed me, or ended the world. What I have learned is that focusing upon fear, takes away from all the joy and love I can be enjoying and embracing.

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“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ~Mark Twain

That old line which says, “that which you focus upon becomes more” – well it has truth. How big did the monster in the closet and under the bed become as your child mind thought about? How worked up did you get worrying and building up fear about your finances? As you focus upon it, does the fearful issue become smaller or overwhelming? What if, the truth that fear was false evidence appearing real could be embraced, could you then unload your backpack to freely skip with joy? I don’t know about you, but I have found that the sensation I experience around fear is not very fun, it grows like mold, spreading quickly. I prefer to look at the truth I see, honor the reality and then focus upon that which I wish to create, experience and engage in. When I shift and release fear, my whole being relaxes, my mind and heart open up, and there is space for happiness and love. As always, we are at choice.

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“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” ~Plato

May today be full of that which fills you up with joy, love, excitement and peace! A.C.T. (always choose truth) today with no fear and see what unfolds….

Day 22, Presence….

This morning what trickles up for me is the word presence. What does that word personally mean to me? It is about being here, now, completely and wholly. No distractions, no pretending, no placating, totally in the space with mind, body, and spirit. How many of you can do that? How long can you stay present, before your mind drifts, your body fidgets, and or you grow uncomfortable with not having a distraction?

The other day I was at the grocery store going through the check out. I only had about five items, so I was in the fast lane. My mind was thinking about the class I was teaching that night, checking in with my gut as to whether or not I had everything prepped and ready. When it was my turn at the cash register I was jolted back into the present moment, for the man on the other side of the counter was really there. He was present! When we made the customary eye contact, I was refreshingly caught off guard with a person who was truly connecting with me in the current moment. Most of the time this is a lame experience at best, for you go through the motions of niceties and the perfunctory, “How are you..?”, while the items beep across the scanner. I could feel this man’s genuine presence, it was literally like a breath of fresh air. I slowed down, I shut off my mind chatter, so I could drop in and be with him. While the exchange was brief, it was real and had impact. I found myself smiling all the way to the car, for we crave and need true connection.

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“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” ~Buddha

Did you know that there have been studies that prove babies who do not receive touch can actually stop growing, some may even die. Here are a couple of the articles I discovered: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/infant-touch/;  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/born-love/201003/touching-empathy, there are many more. What I love about sharing time with children is that they know INSTANTLY if you are truly present with them. They do not get caught up in the fake game of “let’s pretend we really care, are listening and sharing”. They are either completely present with you or they are present with whatever they are engaged with. If you are not present with them they will let you know. I can remember moments with my children when they would actually take my face in their hands to direct my attention.

When I am out enjoying a walk one of the things I love is passing people with their pets, for the four legged adventurer is always present. They are completely in the moment, enjoying whatever is happening right now. It always makes me smile from the inside out, for there is such pure joy, delight in what is around them and contentment in being together with their people. My two four legged wonder beasts used to literally vibrate with anxious anticipation when it was time to hit the trail for a walk. They did not care where we went, just couldn’t wait to run, smell, explore, and be in the “great outdoors”. The sweet pure simplicity of enjoying what was here and now with complete presence.

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“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” ~Jim Rohn

Human beings need connection! We thrive and become happier, healthier people when we truly share time with others. While we know this, (check out this article – https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-are-wired-to-connect/), we seem to be forgetting its true importance and need. I find it more and more challenging to connect with people when I am out and about. Everyone is rushing, people are stressed, even when you are having a conversation with them you can feel their minds buzzing somewhere else. Why? Today there seems to be more intimacy with your phone and computer, then with other breathing and living souls.

It has been my personal experience that when I truly connect with someone in the here and now, the rewards are immense. I walk away feeling replenished, happy, and smiling with deep gratitude. What would happen if you tried for a full day to be completely present with every interaction you engaged in? How might you feel? Who will you touch along the way? Living present is a practice I engage in every day. It is something I truly focus on with intention, for I have been blessed to learn and understand that profound experiences unfold when we show up in the moment. I challenge you to try it. That may mean leave your phone in the car when you meet your friend for lunch. Turn off the TV to engage with your family. Really stop and greet your spouse when they get home, when you say, “How was your day?”, sincerely hear and engage in the response.

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“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” ~Henry David Thoreau

If you do have the courage to try it, I would love to hear about your experiences. Heck, we might even share a connecting present moment in the exchange of your sharing :-).

May today be full of present moments! A.C.T. (always choose truth) with intention to be present and connected.

Day 21, Who Defines Perfection?

I still smile about the day when as a teacher I asked my junior high classes, “Who defines perfection?”. They all looked at me with blank, huh… stares at first and then began to think. It was one of those questions which of course had no right or wrong answer. One that spiraled into the eternal Neverland of “I don’t know”.

Think about this question. Everyone seems to be striving for perfection, yet, what really is perfection and who decides what it is? Let’s look at outside image, something that bombards everyone, from everywhere!! Is that driven by marketing, media, an individual, a true survival need to stay covered and protected, money… We are supposed to be fit and healthy, not too fat, not too skinny, certain amount of muscle, blah, blah, blah! Then our hair, face, skin, the clothes we put on our body, the way we groom ourselves, the list goes on. What would happen if we all were blind and could not see one another – how then would we aspire to perfection? Smell? Skin texture? The sound of our voice? I am sure we would create some sort of measuring tool to assess who was better than another, for we seem to thrive on comparison.

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“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.” ~George Orwell

Let’s look at our perfection with regard to “success”. The message I get from society is that success is measured by my professional title, the car in my garage, if I have a garage, my home, possessions, bank account and 401K, basically how I can be assessed outside of my true inner self. It does not matter so much, if I treat someone nice along the way to my success, it is just important that I get there. Look at how we communicate when we first meet each other. We share our name and then we move right into “What do you do?” My quandary is, what does that really tell me about the person I am meeting? Maybe they hate their job (a lot of this going around) and are truly passionate about dancing, but never got the chance to pursue that dream. When I switch things up and ask people, “What are you passionate about?” instead of inquiring what they do, there is a long silent confused pause. Often the response I get is, “I don’t know.”, this saddens my heart.

Perfection comes at us every weekend through sports. An area where we pay huge money for perfection. I do believe that there is a much clearer measuring definition for “perfection” in this arena. However, is it about how that person shows up not only as an athlete, but as a whole person? Can they still be perfect, if they beat someone, or treat others with arrogant disdain? Can they still be perfect if they use drugs or alcohol in an abusive way?

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“You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. Your shortcomings, your lack of self-esteem, physical perfection, or social and economic success – none of that matters. No one can take this love away from you, and it will always be here.” ~Ram Dass

Let’s peek at the dictionary definition:

per·fec·tion

pərˈfekSH(ə)n/

noun: perfection

1. the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.

◦ a person or thing perceived as the embodiment of perfection.

◦ the action or process of improving something until it is faultless or as faultless as possible.

When I read this I think, okay, judging the perfection of a concrete item, that might be easy and clear. Yet, when you think about something as simple as a spoon, how I view perfection is likely going to be different than my daughter, friend, or stranger on the street. It is all relative and based on our personal perception and desires. Then, when you move to alive things, like our pets, yikes, how do you ever get agreement on perfection. So, when we move to people, who do we think we are to even attempt to measure perfection?!

Perfection in our world seems to be a moving target driven by the almighty dollar. Keep the fashions changing, so people have to have whats new. Change the “in look” for hair, body image, etc.., that keeps the capital flowing. Use the media to inform us on how we should be looking, what we should be doing, and why we want the latest and greatest, we will even stand in line for hours to get it.

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“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Perfection. What exactly is it? And more importantly WHO defines it? When did we decide to give this power to someone and or something outside ourselves? Curiously, I always wonder, where does doing our best, being our authentic self, and living a passionate happy life come into the measurement process for perfection? Personally, I choose the latter as my barometer for living life….

Day 20, “It’s The Little Things” Week, Day 3 – Stillness…

I know that we experienced a little hiccup with Wednesday’s posting, for that fictional sharing was about the “big thing’, not the “little things”, as this week started out to be. I shall conclude this week by returning to the “little things”, for they are just as profound.

First, I want to thank you for journeying with me for a month! Wow…it has gone fast. I have grown to crave this time upon the page, for it centers me in the present moment, connecting me with myself and all who choose to digest my words; a true gift. It is quite amazing to write today versus when I first started writing in sixth grade for the local newspaper. No paper and pen. No sending it off via snail mail and then waiting. I type, watching the words appear on a lit screen, hit publish and the whole world can access my black and white words. Absolutely wild. So again, I thank all of my readers, for you are why I come to the page – I sit in humble gratitude.

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“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” ~William Arthur Ward

This morning what kept echoing for me was the pure grace of stillness. Not just quiet, but stillness. I love stillness, for in truth it is not still, it is a contradiction of sorts. For me personally, stillness has many layers, especially depending on where I am. Where I live now in the city, it has a vibrational quality to it. Sitting here in this moment, within my womblike home, I hear the occasional duck on the pond, an air plane flies above, the fridge is running in the kitchen and my coffee press is hissing in a barely audible moist squeak. In between all of this, is a layered quiet. A stillness with weight.

Have you ever graced yourself to just be still? To sit with “emptiness” on your mind? Just being? I know very few people who gift themselves with such time. Even when they lay down at night, their brains jet about the day they just lived and what tomorrow holds before them. Why do we do this? Why is it so hard for the human being to just sit and allow the pureness of the moment to be present and still? What might float up from within, versus bombardment down from the brain?

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“Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.” ~Morgan Freeman

Growing up, I was blessed with 100,000 acres of nature for my playground. I would go out the door of my home and walk to my favorite papa Red Pine tree. It sat upon the edge of a steep bank gazing down upon the gently flowing river below. I would rest my back against this grand tree, allowing its familiar feel to quiet my mind, its rich scent to comfort me as it blended with the organic earth. I could sit there for hours. At first my mind would download whatever was occupying my present life, I might be processing school, friends, family, latest interaction with my mom and siblings. However, as I sat there cradled in the nonjudgmental majesty of nature, my mind would quiet. I could hear my heart beat in my ears, the pulse in my brain. Then all would empty within me, I would sink into the vast swirling stillness. It was like putting a soothing balm upon my very soul. Nothing mattered, but the NOW moment. This is the divine grace of stillness.

It is magical and miraculous, for it is an accumulation of all that was and all that shall be, yet none of it really matters. If we breathe it in, embrace it, and welcome its pure truth, the gracious revealing is that ALL is perfect and good right here, right now. It is as though time suspends itself. If you close your eyes, it can feel like floating through space, soaring like an eagle across the great vapors of air, no bottom, no top. The grace of freedom on the wings of our own stillness.

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“In the stillness of your presence, you can feel your own formless and timeless reality as the unmanifested life that animates your physical form. You can then feel the same life deep within every other human and every other creature. You look beyond the veil of form and separation. This is the realization of oneness. This is love.” ~Eckhart Tolle

This healing gift is available to us all. It requires us to turn off the outside stimuli, sit quietly and allow the stillness to rise like tide in the space. It will envelope you with its invitation to just be. It has been my experience that many people panic in this moment, they can’t sit still with themselves, it is almost frightening. They do not want to be with their own being-ness, they do not know how. I find this quite sad. In a world of massive chaos and stress, sitting in the quiet stillness offers a coming home unto the self in peaceful celebration. Once you practice it, you will grow to crave it. It will recharge and center you, putting an equilibrium back into your busy life.

It is fun to play with the diverse layers of stillness, what does it feel like in rural spaces, the center of the urban arena, outside, inside, different towns and countries? Stillness has a textural quality, a tone, a pitch, a vibration and depth. I personally believe most people view stillness as “nothing”, that “no-thing” is going on. I challenge you, sit for a period in quiet stillness. Really try it for a week or two. If you truly experience it as “no-thing”, I invite you to write me. Share on this blog page that I am crazy. Or if you begin to play in the layered diverse grace of quiet stillness, I would love to hear what unfolds for you.

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“Everything that’s created comes out of silence. Your thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence. Your words come out of this void. Your very essence emerged from emptiness. All creativity requires some stillness.” ~Wayne Dyer

May the upcoming weekend offer you moments of stillness. May you sink into them with joy and gratitude, letting them embrace you with their loving balm. I look forward to chatting with you Monday morning! Remember to A.C.T. (always choose truth) with kindness for yourself and others….

Day 19, Soul Flies Free… An explanation of yesterday’s poetical story.

Yesterday’s unexpected flowing piece, was one written from the subconscious zone. It was not attached to critic, prose, or need to be concretely clear so that you could understand. The words arrived upon the page, mostly undirected by my brain, they swirled from within and without, guided by a knowing that was beyond this time and place.

Today, I shall share with you the story, more clearly explaining the canvas I painted, for it is one that represents each and every one of us. The scene takes place in a small one window bedroom. In the center of this tiny room is a simple twin bed, its coverlet a pale rose color, that rests upon white sheets, pulled up to the arm pits of a softly wrinkled body. She lies resting there, it is her day to breathe her last breath. To all who surround her, she is not really there, her breathing barely audible and her heart is gasping to be done. Her eyelids rest easy on her beautiful blue saucers, they have not flickered for days. They all stand there, watching, waiting, wondering. The thin blue cotton curtain sways gently in and out with the soft Spring breeze proving that life goes on.

This gracious dying woman has lived a long good life. Her family and close friends watch her, as her desire to go quietly is being fulfilled. The poetic story of yesterday documents her final minutes, it comes from behind her closed eyelids.

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“Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Let’s take a deeper peak at each paragraph, for the story shared is a truth for you, for me, for every being that breathes upon this planet. It is exactly what it states in the first line, a truth.., a quest that we ALL share, first breath to last. It is a simple powerful truth that we all wish to be CHOSEN. From our first gasping breath to our last barely audible sigh, we want to be chosen. Chosen by our parents, chosen by our teachers, chosen by our friends, chosen by our family, chosen by our employers/bosses, chosen by our colleagues, chosen by our lover, chosen by children, chosen by something or someone larger and grander than ourselves.

Paragraphs 1-3 introduce this quest, the paradoxical struggle we have in a world that does not recognize this inner journey. It is a world wrought with teachings that tell us that this deep desire of ours is fulfilled outside ourselves. It is quenched by other people, it is fixed by our successful accumulation and professional savvy, it is rescued by the religious institutions or spiritual practices. If you are willing to absorb the words of yesterday’s flowing expression, she tells you the truth as her soul flies free.

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“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” ~Marcus Tullius Cicero

The first three paragraphs poignantly share our internal struggle. We ache to be chosen, to be touched, to be held, to be wanted, to be needed, desired and loved, yet, we do not want others to see this search. We are taught that it is a “needy” way to be, “weak” and most definitely vulnerably awkward. However, our inner self pulsates with an ache to be chosen. Think about the movies you adore, the moments love overwhelmed you, the experiences where a blush of joy surprised you, the times you were flooded with despair, full of anger and hurt – look deep into all these experiences, what was it, why did you feel the way you did or react to an experience with such emotion? Even in the dying scene of “Braveheart” we celebrate through our empathetic tears and pain. Grateful that he was CHOSEN, for only then could his purpose be served and heard. It is a great scene which depicts all emotions at once with the truth revealed. Or the “Last Samurai” when he dies upon the battle field. Or every Cinderella story every written, or…

Paragraph four explores the ways we make ourselves more acceptable and thus hope to get chosen. We wear certain clothes, makeup, hairdos, etc… We believe we will only be chosen if we meet or surpass some fictional perfection set by societal standards. We engage in harmful behaviors to lose weight, look younger, fit in…

Paragraph five reminds us that while our quest to be chosen through our outside appearances and status is going on, the inner real desire still pecks at us to pay attention. So we turn to escape, we plug in our earbuds, we focus on the television, living vicariously through others that get attention; people we view as chosen. We could never be that, for we are not “good enough”. So we listen and watch, hoping that something will change, that somehow we will still get chosen.

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“If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” ~Maya Angelou

Paragraph six and seven take you back inside the dying woman. She is barely breathing. The shadows she feels are the people there to love her in the last moments. While on the outside she seems gone, inside her heart, soul, and brain still seek, ““Did I find it? Did I at least briefly dance with the truth of my desire? Was it there all along, hidden behind the smog of my existence.”” She is graced with an autobiographical movie in her minds eye, watching her life from first breath to last, her caretakers observe this emotional journey through her facial expressions.

Paragraphs 8-10 share glimpses of her as she moves from her birth (8),to her childhood (9), to her adult life (10). As she journeys through, she becomes enlightened to the truth. The connected thread of love and light that weave through her tapestry of life.

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“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” ~Norman Cousins

In paragraph 11 and 12 you get to experience her final breath with a spoken word – “CHOSEN”. She is released, “the final key to her prison cell” has been used, no longer does she search, her soul flies free.

In the final paragraphs, she bestows upon you her prayer that you will learn and know the truth. Her words beseech you to hear, for we are and always have been chosen. However, we do not feel or understand this truth unless we share it with others. As we grace others with this, our heart and soul expands, flying free in the immense ever present love that co-exists with being CHOSEN. No matter your walk in life, your religious or spiritual way, there is an inner chosen that is already there. It is a chosen beyond time and place – to be here, we are already chosen. Yet, if we keep this loving sensation of being chosen to ourselves and do not spread it out into the world, our own sense of being chosen diminishes, the fire of its truth smolders. Being CHOSEN is an infinite shared experience.

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“Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.” ~Lao Tzu

I hope this explanation helps to shine light unto the Quest of yesterday. May it awaken a knowing inside of you. In reading the poetic paradoxical story yesterday, you may have found yourself “knowing” but “not knowing”, for something inside you understood. It was that part of you which does not reside in your brain, thus I invite you to read it again, now with a blueprint for its clarity.

May today be guided by your inner truth. A.C.T. (always choose truth) from within your core to share eloquently with the world around you.

The Only Quest…..

From the very first breath we take to our last we all have one common truth, a similarity that binds us beyond our skin color, our sex, our status, our looks, our nationality… It’s an ache, it’s a need, it’s a desire so deep that we do not know where it comes from or where it goes, it just is. Consuming our whole being, it makes us scream, it makes us cry, it makes us laugh, it drives us mad and fills our very essence with light and raging darkness. Making us angels and monsters in the paramount grace called life.

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“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” ~Buddha

It is quest, a consternation fraught with confusion. We reach for it as though our very breath clung to it for oxygen. We run from it, all the while holding our arms open to it, hoping it will capture us, imprison us forever.

We seek it in our waking time, our sleeping time. It haunts our thoughts, our bodies, our spirits. Imbuing us with a wanton, a desire we cannot articulate. Driving us mad from within and without. Scriptures belie it resides within the soft parchment sheets, the temples say it is within the walls, we catch ourselves spinning, spinning, spinning in manic seeking.

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“The longest journey is the journey inwards. Of him who has chosen his destiny, Who has started upon his quest for the source of his being.” ~Dag Hammarskjold

We don the mask, paint the face, outfit the physique, astutely watch our checks and balances, while becoming rigid in the facade that is our body! Cracking apart from within, we fall prey to gorging, binging, purging, hoping that somehow we can release the ache, the need, shut up the quest!

Still it pecks at your skin, it claws from within, crying for you to hear. A truth gaining volume above the din of your earbuds, the static of the square screens merely play jest with your desire, pouring gasoline onto your passions with lying promises and quick fixes.

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“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” ~H. P. Lovecraft

The day has come, air squeaks weakly in, barely audible except for the mirror which shows the moist vapor of life. Floating not here or there, the fuzzy outlines of shadows move around you. This is it, the final moment has come. The beginning and end meet in the middle, poignantly beckoning you to recall. Too trodden, you claw for the knowing, “Did I find it? Did I at least briefly dance with the truth of my desire? Was it there all along, hidden behind the smog of my existence.”

A sky filled movie screen dances across the space. Suspended, frozen, unable to move you are forced to observe. Warm fluid slides into your ears, the faintest splash of a strategically placed tear rises up to caress your moist resting place. Your minds eye wishes to hit rewind, it is too late, that scene is over. No muscle is strong enough to lift the lid which keeps the light out, yet you see. Motionless you watch your autobiography spill out.

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“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” ~Joan of Arc

Your breath catches at the sight, the innocence, the pureness, the love, the joy, the grace.., it lies there wiggly and new, screaming at the cold air to put it back where it is warm and safe. The quest starts now! Startled you are pulled, there is no escape, the two deep endless saucers hold you hostage to the parlay of your time line.

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“Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.” ~Arthur Schopenhauer

The flood assuages, you are not of liberty to cork the release, for the fight is over, the siege has ended, the release from your prison cell awaits the clink of the last key in the lock. Laughter knocks up against your skull, it vibrates down the esophageal tunnel, scratching its way to the barely pulsing red meat that keeps you there in that place. There you are, that’s where the laughter is coming from, you see, you feel, your feet want to dance with the child who holds out an invitation. “Wait, don’t go, don’t leave me yet! I want to dance, I want to laugh, I want to be with you.” No time, must keep moving, the hour glass is almost out of sand.

Darkness descends, nothing, there is nothing. Wait, there, over there, a light flashes. You want to point, to tell the shadows you feel nearby that it is just over there. Paralyzed, you can’t budge. Blinded, it is so bright, so fast, so intense. Fast forward is stuck and will not pause. The only indication of the graced displayed is witnessed by the watcher in a tear, a smile, a furrowed brow, a pained cringe, an expansive blushing.

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“There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors.” ~ Jim Morrison

Oh if only. “If only in this moment I could show you”, your wrinkled weightless being screams. They cannot hear your wafting plea. A final image softly presents itself, “I see, I know, I hear, I feel… it is, I am!” Sinking into the pillow of past, present and now, you gasp for the last tendrils of life, the quest has culminated in this spark. The silence is broken – “CHOSEN” scratchily squeaks forth as all settles into final stillness.

Suspended you gaze. No longer do you search, no longer do you ache, no longer do you desire, no longer do you feel lost and abandoned. If only you could bestow upon those below, the truth, the real truth, the treasure discovered on the quest. If they only knew, it was waiting, it was ready, it was always there!

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“We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

Rising, the faint blue ball becomes obscured by a veil. With all the human might left within you, you attempt to exhale the truth for all to hear. Praying that it will descend into the souls of the masses, for it is the truth to set them ALL free.

“Chosen, you all are chosen!! Walk this, be this, practice this, share this, bestow this, absorb and receive this. Let it go, let it in, hold it dear, and share it as though your life depends upon it, for it does. Do not quest, stop your search, awaken to the truth which already resides within your being. All you ever desired is wrapped up in your ability to choose and be chosen. It is all you ached for from your first breath to your last, to be chosen and to choose…. Act upon this truth in all your moments. You are chosen always – no matter what! However, if you do not share it, you will never know it and all will be lost as you gasp your last.”