Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Simple Smile

"A smile is the lighting system of the face and the heating system of the heart." ~ Barbara Johnson

It doesn't take much to help someone have a little bit brighter day. It's as simple as curling the edges of your mouth upward and giving them a little smile.

I love the above quote by Barbara Johnson. It really is hard to not feel a bit cheered and encouraged when someone gives you a smile. There is something comforting about seeing a smile on another person's face.

Give your smiles freely. Practice that moment when you smile at at someone and see a little glimmer of light flash across their face in acknowledgment.

It's a simple way to make a difference.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Cost of Poor Choices

I listen to a lot of inspirational speakers and ministers. While I don't agree with 100% of her theology, I really love Joyce Meyer. Her no nonsense approach to the spiritual life appeals to me. One of the hallmarks of her perspective focuses on personal responsibility and doing our part to clean up our act, as an important part of our spiritual maturing process.

I've heard Joyce Meyer say this many times:

"We pay a high price for low living." – Joyce Meyer

This particular quote really struck me. To me, it isn't about 'right and wrong' or living by specific moral or religious standards. To me, this is common sense and basic spiritual law.

When we make good decisions, we will feel good about them. When we make poor choices, we will experience the consequences of those actions, eventually. No one really gets away with anything, no matter what it looks like.

It's not always easy to do the right thing, but when we make mistakes or take 'low' action, we will pay a price for that. We pay a price emotionally, mentally and often times physically - both in the toll it takes on our body, and in the material consequences in our lives - broken relationships, messed up work situations, school issues, failed projects and the list goes on.

Nothing in life is free... and the cost of bad choices is complication, frustration and pain! We don't need any person or religion to tell us those things are undesirable. When all else fails, life can be our teacher.

Consequences are called universal feedback. It's life teaching us lessons.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Earring Abundance Lesson

A few weeks ago, I spent a weekend with my extended family, celebrating a beloved uncle's 80th birthday. One of our events was a breakfast gathering at a local eatery.

One of my relatives makes beautiful earrings, many of them from 'found objects.' He has taken this up as a hobby and is getting quite good at it!

He makes a lot of earrings, and mostly just gives them away to the women in his life.

As we gathered around the breakfast table, he brought bags of earrings and laid them on the table in front of all of us women. He told us to take all we wanted!

I began to sort through earrings. There were so many there that I liked! I set aside the ones I liked the most, and was planning on narrowing it down to my one special pair.

I had 5 pairs of earrings on the table in front of me. My uncle, the earring maker, came by and started collecting all the 'unclaimed' earrings to put them away before our meals came.

I told him I was sorting through these 5 pairs that I liked to narrow it down. His response was, "I told you to take all you wanted! Keep them all!" I argued that I couldn't do that! I said I didn't want to be a piggy. He laughed and said, "This is why I make them... I'm just delighted that you like them so much!"

I still felt resistant. What would the other women in my family think? Earrings are one of my favorite things in the entire universe, but taking 5 pairs? I felt like I was doing something wrong, even though I was being offered 'all I wanted.'

There were enough earrings to go around. In fact, there were more than enough earrings to go around! He had at least 100 pairs of earrings there, and not very many women!

He was delighted to have me take the five pairs of earrings I had selected! Yet, I still felt I was doing something wrong by accepting what was being offered to me.

I spent some time reflecting on this, because I was a bit shocked at my reaction. Some part of me felt unworthy of accepting such a generous gift. One little pair felt acceptable, but I didn't feel deserving of 5 pairs of beautiful earrings.

I decided to graciously accept his gift, and work with myself around the feelings I had internally. I deserved those earrings. It was a gift freely offered, and I would practice accepting with open arms.

I felt a little better when I realized my mom and aunt had taken more pairs than I had!! We all ended up with a new 'ear wardrobe' that day.

I'm not advocating being selfish or greedy... not by a long shot. I am, however, suggesting that we should examine our relationship to the concepts of deservability and worthiness. Sometimes what we desire is right in front of us, and we are pushing it away because we don't feel its OK to receive it.

When life offers you a gift, freely given, grab it with both hands!

"I am open to receive. I deserve all the good that life has to offer me. I am worthy and deserving of all good things."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Backwards & Mismatched

A couple weeks ago, I attended a fun, family party. Our festivities lasted late into the night, and my family and I had to get up early the next morning. To make matters worse, we had the 'spring ahead' daylight savings time adjustment that night! When my alarm went off at 7am (6am to my body) I was thoroughly exhausted!

I hastily showered and got dressed, and prepared to attend a family breakfast get together at a nearby restaurant.

I have a bit of a reputation in my family for being thoroughly organized and 'on top of things.'

Our big group arrived at the restaurant and we commenced our merry making.

One of my relatives makes beautiful earrings and brought dozens of pairs for all the women in the family to sort through. We were allowed to take all we wanted! I am an earring fanatic! This was my idea of heaven on earth!

As I was sorting through the earrings, I moved to pull one out of my ear so that I could compare lengths. I have a 'sweet spot' earring length that I prefer. As I grabbed the earring in my ear, I realized that it wasn't the earring I thought that I'd put on that morning! I took both my earrings out and realized that they were mismatched! I had two different earrings on!

Everyone at the table got a good chuckle out of that.

As we sat there a little longer, I suddenly realized something was irritating the front of my neck. I reached up to investigate what was bothering me... it was the tag of my shirt. I HAD MY SHIRT ON BACKWARDS! Now, this is a bit of trick given that I had a V-neck t-shirt on! I cracked up laughing, showed my brother and a few other relatives (everyone laughed) and I excused myself to the restroom to 'right myself!'

Haven't you had days like that? I was all discombobulated! Mismatched and backwards! That's exactly how I felt. I was tired and not thinking as clearly as I usually do (obviously).

It was good for me for a couple important reasons. The fact that I could laugh about it all was a huge improvement from the 'me' I was years ago. I used to take everything much more seriously. I couldn't cut myself any slack. The fact that I could publicly embarrass myself and laugh about it makes me very happy!

It was also good for those I love to see that I have my 'off days' just like everyone else. No one has it together all the time.

Next time you find yourself 'mismatched' and backwards... just laugh it off and try again!

Don't take it all so seriously!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fresh Air

Fresh air works wonders on a weary mind and body. Yesterday I felt pretty tired and a bit overwhelmed. Coming off of a little vacation and facing lots of deadlines, I worked for several hours in a flurry of activity. It was a gorgeous spring day, and I really felt like going for a walk. Part of me felt I should keep working - that I didn't have enough time to 'goof off.' Another part of me argued that I couldn't let the opportunity pass me by. Soon I'll be traveling a lot for business, and I won't be free to take walks on the the ridge near my home.

When I got out and started walking in the fresh air and sunshine, I started to feel calmer and more at peace. My thoughts slowed down. The weight of the tasks ahead of me started to feel lighter and more manageable.

With each deep breath my body relaxed and my mind continued to clear. The air worked its magic.

When I returned from my walk, I was invigorated and felt more like tackling the next items on my to do list. I was more productive and enjoyed the process of getting the work done!

Fresh air, clearing one's head... it's a powerful mechanism for changing an attitude or a perspective.

If you find yourself feeling stuck, overwhelmed, down or defeated... trying taking some nice slow deep breaths, and if possible, go for a walk outside. Let the fresh air work it's magic.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

He Rolls With It

This month my uncle David, one of my favorite people in the world, turned 80 years old. I have spent many happy days in my adult life in his company - laughing and enjoying a variety of experiences.

I've always been impressed with his resilience and his 'go with the flow' attitude towards life. He seems to roll along above petty grievances and family drama. Everyone adores him.

He spent a lot of his life in the throws of alcoholism. We figured out that he and I got into recovery about the same time - me from my eating disorder, and him from his alcoholism.

Someone who spent a lot of their life in the grips of an addiction might have some bitterness for what they lost or missed out on. My uncle, however, seems to focus on today and doesn't spend a lot of time looking back - at least that's how it appears to me. He takes each moment and lives it for all it's worth. He has a zest for living that I rarely see in people my own age, let alone those in their 70's or 80's.

I've been lucky to travel with him quite a bit and enjoy a lot of life together. He's a great role model for how to just roll with whatever comes along. He doesn't take things too seriously, including himself. I can really learn from that character trait!

He's still fully alive and committed to learning and growing. He has curiosity and willingness to give new things a shot - with incredible enthusiasm. What an attitude!!

I look forward to many more years of learning from and having fun with this magnificent guy.

Happy Birthday Uncle David!!

Me with my Uncle David

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shifting Tides

Spending time at the beach always causes me to reflect on the nature that the magnificent and mighty ocean offers us. The ebb and flow of the tide is one such lesson.

The tide comes in. The tide goes out. The rhythms of that cycle are not something we can alter. Every day there are two high tides and two low tides. The levels of the tides vary, but the fact that the tide comes in and goes out, never waivers.

If we count on the tide always being low - we are likely to get stranded someplace we don't want to be. We might climb onto a rock that we can walk to at low tide, only to find that we can't get off the rock when it is surrounded by the crashing surf.

If we count on the tide to be high all the time, we might find our boat beached unexpectedly on the sand when the inevitable turning of the tide comes.

To rely on something to remain constant, in a world that is always changing is foolish and futile. That is not the way our world operates!

The low tide yields the treasures of the sea. Shells and creatures wash in and are beached on the sand as the tide recedes. Some of the best beach combing (not to mention clam digging) is done at low tide.

High tide brings the dramatic surf closer to us. It is magnificent to watch and listen to. We can sometimes see more wildlife at high tide as the creatures of the sea are brought more clearly into view as they approach.

Learning to appreciate both the lows and highs in life is a key to satisfaction and happiness. There is something to be found in the low times, just like there is at low tide. High tide brings other gifts... just like a peak experience in our life.

All have value.

Learn to appreciate the lows and highs... and know that they will both come in their time and season. Trying to deny this is like trying to stop the tide!

My niece and I hanging out at the beach...enjoying the lessons of the tide.

Monday, March 22, 2010

To Deeply Let Go

I feel so blessed right now. I spent a wonderful day with my soon-to-be 15 year old niece. She's a wonderful kid and I love every minute that I get to spend with her. Her parents were nice enough to let me have her for several days of her spring break this year and we headed to the coast for some 'girl time.'

Both of us lead busy, productive lives, albeit of very different content! We both have a lot on our plates, work hard, and feel a bit stressed at times.

We have been looking forward to a little R&R together for quite a long time!

One of the things that both of us noticed is that time seems to pass more slowly at the beach. It really, truly does.

We arrived at our condo at about 3:30, and got unpacked and settled in. Then we took a nice long walk on the beach. It actually rained on us a bit when we were driving to the coast, but as soon as we arrived here the sun came out and shined on us. Our entire walk was spent under fairly blue skies and sunshine. Dark storm clouds were present over the nearby hills, but they stayed at bay long enough for us to get a nice walk in.

After that we got ready to head to town for dinner. A nice chat over dinner, a walk to the grocery store for a couple last minute items and we headed back to our 'home.'

Once back home, it began to actually rain pretty hard, and the wind picked up. We had ourselves s little coastal storm to watch and listen to.

We spent our evening doing a 300 piece 'warm up' jigsaw puzzle of... a beach scene! Then we each took showers, did our 'facebooking', my niece used the hot wax I brought to give herself a hand and foot moisturizing treatment.

We looked at some pictures on my computer, checked out a couple other area hotels online (for future trips) and now it's time for much needed sleep.

We've only been here for 8 hours, and I feel as though the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders!

It feels so good to step away from the hustle and bustle of regular, every day, over loaded life... and just... let go.

My intention for our time together is that we have a lot of fun, do some great sharing and bonding, relax deeply and end our little vacation well rested and ready to return to our normal routines.

I'm glad that I get to help her learn about good self care and taking 'time out.' I've worked a little 'too hard' my entire life. I've only recently learned about playing and allowing myself to have 'down time.' It's still a challenge for me when my 'to do' list is always a mile long.

My niece knows I had a very stressful week and have many things I 'could' be doing to handle some responsibilities that are looming over my head. And yet, I am choosing to let go of those things... be with her... relax... and let go. I love that I am getting to set this example for her, and share this time of presence and connection together.

I think it is important to cultivate the ability to let go and relax... even in the midst of drama, trials and the sometimes overwhelming nature of modern day life.

We need time to recharge our batteries. We need time to just be. We need time to enjoy the company of those we care about without agendas, schedules and pressure.

Finding a way to build 'down time' into each day... is one of the greatest gifts we can giver ourselves, and those around us. We are better when we are rested and at peace.

Let it go... relax... unwind... really rest... and see how much better your life feels!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Let it Bake First

Today I got a distress call from a friend of mine. Her computer locked up and she didn't know how to correct the situation. When she first got her computer, I taught her that under such circumstances, she should depress the power button until the computer shut down.

She said she tried that, but that it wasn't working. The problem was she wasn't holding down the button long enough. They key is, you hold the button down UNTIL the computer shuts itself down. She was giving up too soon.

Often times in life, we give up on something at the critical moment. If we stuck with something just a little longer, we could most likely achieve our goal. Impatience is a dream killer. Impatience is the culprit in many a missed target.

Just like with the computer shut down process, when the computer is frozen, 'it takes what it takes' to shut it down. You have to hold down the button UNTIL it shuts down. If you let the button up too soon, the system will not shut down.Impatience undermines the process of completion.

Think about the process of baking a cake. Let's keep it simple. You buy a cake mix and pour it into a bowl. You add the water, oil, maybe an egg and you mix the batter. Next you grease the pan and pour the batter into it. You place the cake pan into a preheated oven and set the timer. Let's say the cake is supposed to bake for 20 minutes.

What if you decide after 7 minutes that you want your cake NOW? If you take the cake out of the oven at that point you will have a gooey, partially baked mess.

WANTING the cake to be done at 7 minutes doesn't make it done.

It takes what it takes to bake the cake. You have to allow the cake it's full baking time in order to enjoy the results of a tasty, properly baked treat.

Sometimes we forget that principle and we try to rush things in life. We want to achieve goals, meet milestones, or have situations shift on our time table - and we forget that God's timing, or the Universe's timing is often different from our own.

It takes what it takes. Let the cake bake completely before you try to take it out of the oven and
eat it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pause First

I am finally starting to learn this lesson. It is one I've been struggling with for my entire adult life.

Something challenging happens. I have an internal emotional reaction and then an immediate external response occurs. Often times, the response isn't productive.

Building in a PAUSE after the internal emotional reaction is easier said than done.

I've practiced it over and over and over again for many years. It's important to note that I've failed many, many, many times over the years.

What I'm finding now, is that all my repeated attempts to practice building in the pause is starting to pay off.

I wrote yesterday about the false alarm I experienced in my house, and in my head about an unexpected work requirement. I'm happy to say that I delayed any outer response to the news and by the time I did respond, I was in a totally different space! The 'reaction' I had internally was completely out of proportion with reality. It took a little time to see that, and then I was able to respond to the actual situation, and not the 'invented' one in my head. What a relief!

A friend of mine told me the following idea a long time ago:

"Immediacy of emotion does NOT necessitate immediacy of action."

I don't know who said it first, but I have used this as a mantra for the past many years.

I offer it to you as a practice. When you have any strong, negative internal reaction, remind yourself of this very true principle and build in a pause. Let the situation be. Reflect on it a bit and settle down. Take no action immediately. Give yourself time for your thinking to clear. Then, and only then, craft your response!

If you've ever over reacted to something... or made a situation worse by how you handled it, this is great practice for you to undertake!

Build in a pause... and see how much more smoothly your life unfolds!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's Only a False Alarm

Today, the UPS man brought a package to my door. I disarmed my alarm system to open the door and receive the package. As soon as I closed the door, I rearmed the alarm system. This is my 'standard procedure.'

My alarm system has two modes. I can arm it with or without internal motion detectors. I intended to set the alarm without the interior motion detectors, since I was moving around inside the house.

It takes several seconds for the alarm system to 'arm' itself after being reset.

I accepted the package, then went into a back room where there are no motion sensors. When I came out into the main part of the house, the alarm went off!

My alarm is LOUD! Several sirens inside... more outside... it is LOUD!

As the alarm went off, my heart started to pound and I ran to the nearest control panel. I entered my code and cancelled the alarm.

It took several minutes for me to calm down - even though I knew full well that the alarm was not caused by any true danger.

I chuckled a bit about how long it took me to 'get it,' in my body, that this was merely a false alarm.

I laughed because I had another situation come up in my life today that I had a strong 'reaction' to but that didn't really warrant the strong response that I had.

I was hit with an unexpected requirement from one of my clients. It is something I have never done before, and was told I wouldn't have to do. Now, it's landed on my plate. I'm up against several serious deadlines, and have no extra time in my schedule for the next couple weeks. I panicked, and had an internal 'freak out' over the new request.

I stopped myself from 'reacting' in the moment, and still have yet to respond to the client. After many hours, and lots of reflection, I feel much calmer, and have planned a very balanced, assertive and reasonable response. I can assure you, if I'd acted when I first received the request, I would not have handled it this well.

I got the request just before I accidentally set off my alarm system this morning. As I reflected on my 'reaction' to the request, I realized that it was just a different kind of false alarm. I wasn't in any danger. No one was going to hurt me. The situation seemed overwhelming when I first got the request, but upon reflection I realized that I had a lot of options in regards to how to handle it. I now have a plan, and although I'm not thrilled with the situation, I feel calm, relaxed and confident that a mutually acceptable solution will be reached.

What a difference from where I started when my internal 'alarm system' was going off.

So often in life, we have a 'false alarm' inside ourselves when a situation triggers our fear! If we treat the alarm as 'real' and react accordingly, we will inevitably make our situations worse. If we can 'talk ourselves down' out of the reaction to the 'false alarm' we can think more clearly and craft a better response.

Next time your internal alarm bells are going off, ask yourself if it's really an emergency, or if this is merely a false alarm!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Help Magically Appears

I'm so amazed at how many times in my life I have a need, and a solution or answer magically, and sometimes mysteriously manifests before my very eyes.

Yesterday I wrote about this fantastic surprise party we had for my uncle over the weekend.

When I found out about the party, I planned to make a photo slide show for my Uncle to give him a bit of a retrospective on his life. I scanned ALL the photos from my mom's old albums this past fall, as a Christmas gift for my two brothers. I have thousands, and I mean THOUSANDS of photographs!

Since I had 'digitized' our family history, when I heard about David's surprise party, I decided to pull out all the photographs I had of him from boyhood (I scanned all my mom's old photo albums last fall) through present time. We have taken a lot of trips together as a family, so I have some amazing and fun pictures of my Uncle! I spent 4 hours one day doing this - collecting all the digital photos of my uncle, in preparation for creating the slideshow for his birthday party.

It took 4 hours to pull out all the photographs, and I had a LOT of pictures. I started to stress a bit about how long it would take me to go through all the photos, whittle them down to a manageable amount, organize and sequence them, and make them into a slide show. I have some major work projects going on in my life at present, and I'm getting ready to go on an extended business trip. I started to feel a bit deflated, because I just didn't think I'd have the time to pull this slideshow together for my uncle. I was disappointed.

I swear to you that what I'm about to tell you is the truth!

The day after I spent the 4 hours pulling the photographs together, and started to doubt my ability to find the time to create a slideshow, I got a phone call from the woman who was hosting the party for my uncle. She's one of his step-daughters. She called to say that SHE was making a slideshow of David's life, set to music, to show at the party, and was wondering if I had any photos to contribute!!!!

I was completely shocked and amazed, although at this point in my life I shouldn't be amazed when this sort of thing happens.

She was going to do it! I had already done the time consuming part that would fulfil her request! I had already pulled out every photograph I have of my uncle... in digital form! All I had to do was burn her a CD and send it off in the mail!

What was particularly wonderful about this, is that I tend to have a bit of that, "If I don't do it... know one else will" martyrdom in my personality! This was such a great example that when there is a need that I can't handle on my own, if I step aside, someone else will step in to take care of things! We never know how (or who) might help us achieve our goal.

The hostess of our party not only threw a magnificent affair, but she put together a brilliant slide show for my uncle! We watched it on her big screen TV... and were all just blown away. She also burned DVDs for everyone at the party, so we could all take a copy home. She did even more than I would have thought to do.

Take a look at how you might try to 'do it all' yourself, and be willing to entertain the possibility that help just might be available to you, if you open yourself up to it.

I learned a very important lesson in this photo slide show experience!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Celebrating Life!

This past weekend was a truly great one. Our family pulled off an incredible surprise party for my wonderful Uncle David. He turns 80 this month (although you would never believe it... not for a single second... if you saw him!)

For months we've been plotting and planning this event. We've all been fibbing to David to keep the big secret.

Around 60 people gathered to surprise him and celebrate an amazing and wonderful man.

It was another of those times in life that I was reminded of how wonderful it is to surround yourself with a loving and supportive community (whether they are blood related or not.)

We spend the entire day enjoying each other's company... telling stories... laughing... crying a little and just having a blast!

Sometimes our blood families can be difficult, but we can always create a 'family of choice.' I'm lucky that, for the most part, my family (on both sides) is part of my 'family of choice.'

Here are a couple photos of our fun, fun day!!

The birthday boy himself!

My mom with her siblings- we miss you Uncle Milam!!

My niece, mom and me

Me with my brother and some of my cousins

Friday, March 12, 2010

Attitude of Patience Instead of Panic

I've had a really, really long day. I'm in the midst of a massive upgrade of my computing environment. I'm finally moving my two computers (laptop and desktop) off the XP operating system onto Windows 7.

I use around 25 different software products on a regular basis. I use a variety of scanners, printers, phones, handheld computers and music devices. All must 'talk to' both my laptop and desktop computers.

I've had to purchase updates to many programs, and even purchase a few new hardware devices, because the old ones just aren't compatible.

My 'home inventory' system that I've been diligently recording assets, serial numbers, and replacement costs in for 18 months not only won't run but there is no way to even export the data out of it so I can put it into a new compatible program. I'm going to have to re-enter all that data.

It's complicated.

Because it's complicated, I've been dreading this upgrade for a long, long time.

After 16 hours of work today, and around 8 hours yesterday, I'm getting close to being finished. I have two more critical pieces of software to install tomorrow.

I've ridden the roller coaster of emotion the past two days. I've had 5 serious problems. As I worked to address each one, there were moments when I wanted to cry! I felt so certain that the problem was unresolvable. In 4 of the 5, I have now completely solved the problem! I've even learned some extremely valuable things that I'll remember for the rest of my life! That knowledge will help me (and all those I help with computer issues) in a magnificent fashion!

Those moments of panic and pessimism turned out to be completely invalid. The solution did eventually present itself - with persistent, effective trouble shooting skills applied!

As I went through these experiences, I tried to be patient and optimistic. I wanted to have a good attitude! Yet, I slid into despair more than a few times today. Part of the problem is that I'm extremely tired. I took on a huge amount with these upgrades, and gave myself a very short time line within which to accomplish them. Changing operating systems for two computers is just not trivial!

I even sent 'panic texts' for help a few times to knowledgeable friends.

In the future, I hope that I will remember this day. I want to remember that I panicked, didn't enjoy the process, and yet... it all worked out just fine in the end. All my panic, frustration, grumbling, and 'near tears' moments did not help me... in any way. I just lost some joy and peace that was mine for the taking.

Tomorrow, I still have a few tasks to complete before I head out of town for the weekend. I'm going to work on holding an attitude of 'patience' rather than 'panic' if I encounter any problems!

Life is moving right along. Each and every moment, we have a choice about how to resopnd to what is going on around us.

Practice Peace and Patience, rather than Panic and Pessimism!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Standing Out in a Crowd

Yesterday I wrote about the freedom that came with my "Borrowed Boots" in NYC. Those boots were indeed a gift!

There was something I didn't tell you about them, however. They were bright yellow! A very fun, cheery color, but not something I would usually wear.

Now, if my pants had covered most of the boots, only bright yellow feet would have been visible. My jeans, however, were too fitted below the knee, so they had to be tucked into the boots. I was bright yellow almost all the way up to my knees!

For some people, this wouldn't even cause them to bat an eyelash. I, however, sort of prefer to blend in to the background... not draw attention to myself. So bright yellow boots up to my knees was a big stretch for me!

It got me to thinking about how I don't really like to be looked at... or to be the center of attention. I started to ponder why that might be? Why am I so uncomfortable being observed or noticed?

Lots of issues came to mind. I'm afraid I'll be made fun of or ridiculed. I'm afraid of doing something wrong and having people not like me or think I'm dumb. I'm concerned that I'll be singled out negatively somehow. It was a very interesting 'inner exploration' that I got into... all because of my bright yellow boots!

We need to learn to embrace ourselves and get comfortable in the 'lime light.' We rob the world of our gifts when we hide out, hoping to blend in to the background.

I love this quote by Marianne Williamson, from A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?'

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

I just may go buy myself a pair of bright yellow boots to 'practice' being 'out there' and letting people see me!

Shine your light!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Borrowed Boots

On my recent trip to New York City, I experienced a snow storm! It was actually kind of cool. Seeing the heavy snow coating that giant city is a pretty awesome sight!

When I packed for the trip, I knew that snow was a possibility. I considered taking my snow boots. I purchased them years ago when I was spending one weekend a month in NYC. I kept them there so I could navigate snowy or slippery streets during the winters. They now reside with me in Seattle. They are so large, I decided against tossing them into my suitcase.

When I arrived in New York City and the snow started, I immediately regretted my decision to not take them with me.

I found that I was inhibited by my lack of boots. I only had one pair of shoes with me, and they were entirely inadequate for the weather that I was experiencing.

I felt a little bummed, because I knew that I was not going to be able to take walks in the city, as is my custom (and something I look forward to)!

Then, something wonderful happened. A friend I was visiting pulled out a pair of rubber boots and offered to loan them to me for a couple days!

Suddenly, I was free! These boots enabled me to tromp fearlessly through the building snow as well as the deep water at the intersections. There was nowhere I couldn't go!

Before the boots I was a prisoner in my friend's apartment. I was unable to go anywhere safely or without ruining the one pair of shoes I brought with me.

My friend loaned me boots - the 'tool' I needed in that moment - and suddenly I was liberated and able to go where I wanted and do what I wanted.

So often in life, all we need is the right skill, tool, attitude or thought pattern in order to deal with the task at hand. One little change is sometimes all we need!

If you're feeling stuck or trapped, ask yourself what would help you become free? Do you need to learn something new? Do you need to let go of something that weighs you down? Do you need to change an attitude or belief pattern? Maybe you literally need a physical tool or item that will help you handle what you need to handle.

Don't accept limitations! Find out what you need to 'get it done' and set about securing whatever it is!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Do What You Have to Do

It's that time of the year again. I'm an avid gardener. With the warm winter we've had here, the weeds are way ahead of schedule. And so... it begins.

I got out into the garden this weekend to begin the annual chores. Very soon, I'll be out of town for quite a while. If I don't get certain things taken care of in the garden, it will be a real mess by the time I return from my trip. I've experienced this before. If certain weeds get out of control, I spend the entire spring and summer playing catch up. It's not a lot of fun when that happens.

I have three tasks in the garden that I need to complete before I leave home.

1) I have to pull all the exploding 'popper' weeds. These weeds have seed pods that ripen and explode - thus propagating themselves far and wide.

2) Pull any dandelions (since everyone knows how those spread)

3) Prune back all my perennials. By the time I get back from my trip, the new growth will be well under way. It's easier to cut out all the dead wood now, rather than when it is mixed with new growth.

At a moment like this, my perfectionism becomes a problem. When I weed, I like to work area by area and pull ALL the weeds. I like for an area to be complete when I finish a 'weeding pass.' The truth is, however, I don't have time before I leave town to weed the entire garden. My garden is too large, and there are too many weeds.

Now is the time to focus on the things I HAVE to do. I must pull the weeds that will get out of hand if I leave them for too long and do the pruning. That is really all I can reasonably hope to accomplish by my deadline.

That means I have to pull poppers and dandelions and leave everything else. All of it needs to come out - I have a lot of different types of weeds. Of course they will all grow and get larger while I'm away. Most of these weeds, however, won't be that much more difficult to deal with after I'm home. The poppers and dandelions, however, will be 10 times worse if I wait.

Setting priorities and ONLY working on those priorities is not easy. All the undone work staring me in the face just begs to be dealt with.

Yet, this is an important life skill. We need to be able to set our priorities, focus on those things, and leave the rest of our responsibilities until later.

Focusing on what gives us the biggest bang for the buck can really pay off in the long run.

This requires relaxing perfectionistic tendencies. It requires good prioritization skills, and the ability to focus. It also requires that we relax about things we can't deal with in the moment. Some things will have to wait. We do not help ourselves if we constantly feel pressured and guilty about what we are NOT doing.

We need to set priorities. It's important to make sure the things we consider priorities are what's actually most important, and not what feeds our addictive need to be in control, or look good to others. For example, I could fully weed all the 'public' areas of my garden that passers-by see, and leave the rest a total mess, but in the long run, this makes a lot more work for me, and makes the work less pleasant. Sometimes we concern ourselves with a lot of stuff that just doesn't matter.

Do what you need to do, and let the rest go. That's all any of us can ask of ourselves!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Honoring the Inner Prompting

This past weekend, I was once again reminded of the importance of paying attention to inner promptings.

I was out running errands, and stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few items. This was my last stop in a series of errands that particular day.

As I was getting ready to load my groceries into my car, I reached into my coat pocket to get out my car keys. As I grabbed my keys, I felt my coveted purple jawbone (bluetooth wireless headset for my cell phone). I was wearing a short leather jacket. I thought to myself, "Nola, you know better than to put that headset in the pocket of this coat. The pockets are shallow, and very angled. Some day... you are going to lose it!"

I unlocked the car, loaded my groceries into the trunk and drove away. I only got a few blocks down the road when I reached into my pocket to retrieve the headset. I always wear it when I drive.

The headset was not in my pocket!

Dang it! I knew instantly that the very moment I was telling myself I would lose my headset... I had lost my headset!

I quickly turned my car around and returned to my grocery store's parking lot. The parking space I had been in on my first trip was now occupied by another car. I got out of my car and looked all around on the ground where I had been parked. I got down on my hands and knees and looked underneath the car that was in my previous parking spot. No headset.

I walked all around the area and examined the ground. Nothing. I got down on my hands and knees again, and looked under all the cars in the immediate area. No headset.

I was on my knees 3 different times looking around the parking lot to no avail. I went back into the grocery store, went back to the check out line I had been in. I talked to the checker. They hadn't found anything.

The manager took me to the office and she looked in the lost and found. It wasn't there. I left my name, phone number and a description of my lost headset with them, just in case someone turned it in. I left the store, feeling a bit dejected.

As I walked towards my car, I decided to do one last check of the area around where I had been parked on my earlier visit. I got down on my hands and knees for a fourth time to look for my headset. Nothing.

I walked to my car, and unlocked the door. Just then, I heard a woman's voice say, "Excuse me... did you lose a bluetooth headset?" My heart lept! She had my beautiful purple jawbone headset in her hands.

She went on to explain that she had found it in the parking lot on her way in to work out at the gym (which is housed in the same building as my grocery store). She turned it in to the front desk, but had just noticed me on my hands and knees looking around in the parking lot and knew it must be mine. She had run out to give it back to me before I drove away!


If I hadn't gotten down on my hands and knees a 4th time to look for the headset, she wouldn't have seen me and it would have been lost to me... forever! I hadn't even thought about going in to the other business that share that parking lot. She didn't see me looking around earlier, and she missed me being on my hands and knees the first three times!

If I hadn't honored that inner prompting to search under that car for the fourth time, the outcome would have been negative!

If I'd honored my first inner prompting (that told me I shouldn't put that headset in my pocket, and warned me that I was about to lose it) I wouldn't have lost it in the first place.

We have a deep inner guidance and wisdom that is always available to us. Some call it God, Spirit, the Universe, Higher Self. Whatever we call it, it is there for each of us, and it is always trying to communicate with us. All we need to do is listen.

The more we listen, the easier it gets to hear the messages. I know better than to ignore it, and yet sometimes... I do.

Listen to and honor your inner promptings... they are the voice of truth, trying to direct your steps!

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Pull of the Past

Many years ago, I was working with my counselor and spiritual teacher, Dr. Charles Bruni, in the midst of my recovery process from an eating disorder and depression issues. I was sitting sobbing in his office one day, feeling like I wasn't making the progress I felt I should have made. He said something to me that day that I have never forgotten, and something that gave me great hope.

He said, "At some point, the draw of your future will become stronger than the pull of your past, and you'll be free."

What an awesome promise.

When you are fighting to break an addiction, or a bad habit, or letting go of a past relationship, job, season of life or any sort of trauma, this principle can be a life saver.

We have to do a certain amount of work to break free of our past. It generally doesn't 'just happen.' No matter what we are leaving behind - good or bad - there is a process of transition that is required.

Once we have done our 'work' and processed what needs to be processed, we are able to start to escape the bonds of our past, and be more fueled by the enticements of the future.

We can never be sure when we reach that tipping point, and when we are more likely to go forward than to slide back... but it will come, if we keep doing our part.

Keep plugging away and you'll get there.

I wish for you freedom from all in your past that you wish to be free from!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

March Forth!

Today is a bittersweet day for me. It is each and every year. Today marks the passing of a profound spiritual teacher in my life, Jack Boland.

I met Jack, and attended his church in 1986/87 when I was working and living near Detroit Michigan. Jack is one of two people I credit with the fact that I'm still alive. His teachings literally saved my life when I was going through my recovery from an eating disorder.

Jack was an amazing Unity Minister and spiritual teacher. His enthusiasm and zest for life inspired all who had the good fortune to know him or attend his church. His words of wisdom were a constant beacon of light in the darkness. You simply couldn't listen to Jack without feeling uplifted and inspired. He's one of my heroes and my greatest inspirations! I still listen to him, because I bought almost everything he ever recorded in his many years of ministry!

Here are a few of the principles Jack taught:

There is a spiritual solution for every problem. No exceptions.

Each problem contains the seeds of its own solution.

There are no accidents, only lessons.

Nothing is more important on this earth than the practice of spiritual principles.

These ideas, and many others that he taught, have proven invaluable in my own journey of recovery and spiritual growth.

Jack passed away on March 4th, 1992. Those of us who knew him felt he was leaving us with one final message... to "March Forth" into our lives with courage and conviction.

March Forth!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Problems that Persist

One of my childhood friends posted this photo of our first grade class on her Facebook page. It is really fun to look back at these old pictures!

I'm the third little girl from the left, in the front row. I never made it out of the front row in elementary school, because I was always one of the shortest kids in the class.

As I looked at this picture I cracked up at the fact that my socks are uneven, and one of them is falling down. My mom will laugh when she reads this, because I still, to this day, am plagued by socks that "won't stay up!" Although I don't wear knee socks with short dresses anymore, I do wear socks under my jeans. It is one of my greatest pet peeves that my socks won't seem to stay up. Ever!

As I looked at this picture and caught a glimpse of how long ago this problem started in my life, I was reminded that sometimes our problems have roots in our long past, and can be very, very persistent!

I don't know if you're like me, but sometimes I get frustrated with how long I've struggled with certain issues in my life. Addictions, bad habits, insecurities, fears, problems, relationship issues, some of these life challenges are downright tenacious.

On the other hand, there are many things that I have overcome through the course of my life. Things that fit into each of the above categories. Some things I have completely overcome. Others I have made significant progress on. Others have barely budged at all.

The key is to keep trying to address and overcome the problems that persist in our lives. Some take longer than others, but that is no excuse to quit trying.

If something is persisting in our lives, we just haven't learned the lesson it is trying to teach us yet. We need to keep at it, until we learn what is ours to learn.

My socks are a funny little reminder of the tenacity of some of our issues.

Never give up!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Changing the Routine

I'm in the process of setting up two new computers for myself. Being that I travel a lot, I have a pretty serious set up on my laptop. I also maintain a 'base' machine at home. I usually upgrade my machines once every 3 years. I must admit that I don't look forward to this.

The process of setting up new machines is time consuming and a bit stressful. I have such a 'complex' computing environment, that reconstructing it is not trivial. Getting everything in the right place, and getting it working together is always a challenge.

This time, I have the added complexity of switching from the Microsoft XP operating system to Windows 7. Now, for most people, this will be a pretty easy switchover. For me, because of the sheer volume of various tasks for which I use my computer, it will not be quite so easy.

Even the environment for copying files over a network is different for me. Then there are the issues of what I have 'permission' to access on the various machines and backups that I'm copying from. I get very frustrated when I can't do the things I want to do quickly and easily!

I'm in day 2 of the massive upgrade right now. I'm no where near done! I'm having to learn a lot of new things and resolve a bunch of perplexing problems. All of this, of course, comes at a time when I'm very busy and under some serious time pressures and deadlines.

Isn't that so often the case? We feel stretched to our limit of coping and handling life, and then wham-o! Something else comes along to stretch us even further.

I know I'll get there. I am sure that before too long I'll have this all sorted out and put together the way it needs to be. I'll have to accept a lot of change in the process. That is something I often don't take to naturally.

My new laptop is a wee bit larger than my old one. I travel a lot, so having a lightweight, very compact but powerful computer is a must. I've bought the same model of laptop computer for the past 8 years. This time, however, they have discontinued the model!! As a result, I got the 'next best thing' which is a little larger, configured a bit differently (with regards to how all the cables attach to it), and neither of those situations is ideal.

My attitude about the 'changes' I'm having to adapt to is just as important as the time I have to set aside for making this all work out. Each time I find myself getting upset about 'what's different' I remind myself that I have some new features that I didn't have before. It's a trade off. The machine is bigger, but I now how a built in DVD/CD drive. I didn't have that before. The machine is a little heavier, but I have a lot more battery life than I did on the old one. The machine's port configuration isn't laid out the way I like, but it was less than half the cost of my last laptop.

I'm working with myself to see that the change, while a bit challenging to digest, comes with some extra benefits.

That's how change usually is! When we are going through change, we need to look for the benefits of what is happening, as well as have some compassion for ourselves over what is different, strange and challenging!

Change is inevitable. It behooves us to cultivate some tolerance for this process... and some compassion for ourselves as we go through it!

At the Bottom of the Pile

Monday mornings can sometimes be very challenging. This one is a good example. My last couple weeks have been busy and filled with travel. I'm behind in the tasks I need to get accomplished. My 'to do' list for today is impossibly long.

I have so much to do that I'm not quite sure where to start. Several tasks seem to be of equally high priority. Each time I think about starting one thing, another item leaps into my mind and calls out for my attention. Then I notice I haven't started anything!

Ever been in this place? Too much to do. Not enough time to get it all done. Yet, you can't seem to pick a direction and move!

I've been in this place before. It's familiar to me, and I know what I need to do. I need to take some deep breaths, get calm and clear, and choose one thing to tackle. I know I just need to 'break the ice' and get one thing accomplished. Just getting one thing done breaks the paralysis and allows me to start building momentum.

When we are 'stuck' in a place of inaction, sometimes we just have to do SOMETHING... ANYTHING... to get unstuck. It's like loosening an old, rusty bolt. Once you get it moving, it keeps moving.

I tend to start with a small, easy to accomplish task to get the ball rolling. This morning, it is writing this article!

If you are feeling stuck in any area of your life, take a step, any step! One step is all it takes to start the ball rolling and break free!