Friday, April 30, 2010

Strengthening the Soul

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved." ~ Helen Keller

I'd say this is a favorite theme of mine! I have always believed that some of our best learning comes through our times of adversity.

When we are comfortable and at ease, we are often not in a time of great growth.

My spiritual teacher, Dr. Charles Bruni, used to talk about how life was like climbing stairs. The challenges and times of difficulty are the vertical part of the staircase. The climb. The flat part of the stairs were times of contentment and comfort. Life involves both.

While it is possible to learn to remain at peace during times of stress and difficulty, it doesn't mean that we don't struggle or experience hardship. Tough times are just that... tough.

There is value in the tough times. That is where we are the most likely to grow and strengthen ourselves.

Honor both... the climbing periods and the resting periods. Know that during the climb, you are being grown and strengthened in a way that just isn't possible when you are resting!!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Unknown Influence

"Influence often isn’t noticed until it blossoms later in the garden of someone else’s life. Our words and actions may land close to home, or they may be carried far and wide." ~ Pam Farrel

we never know who we might be influencing at any given moment in time. Sometimes our words and actions have ripple affects that reach out far beyond our wildest imaginings.

I once had a college intern working for me as an administrator in my software company. Many years after she had worked for me, I ran into her on the street in Seattle. We had a nice chat over lunch and caught up on all the twists and turns in life that we had each experienced.

She proceeded to tell me that working for me had really helped her become a detail oriented high achiever. She had thought that I was 'too picky' when she worked for me, but I insisted on high quality work product and she complied. Over the years, she said that the skills I helped her develop had really had a positive impact on her career.

Who knew. I simply was being me, and requiring what I needed from an employee. For her, that had been a benefit and had served as a positive influence!

You matter. How you treat people is important. How you conduct your affairs has consequences beyond the immediate and the obvious.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kindness is Free

"Kind words are jewels that live in the heart and soul and remain as blessed memories years after they have been spoken." ~ Marvea Johnson

It's such a simple thing that many of us overlook it. To be kind to another person doesn't take much effort or energy, yet the affects can be far reaching.

I was once waiting for a friend to join me for lunch in a restaurant. I was a little early. It was prime time lunch hour and the restaurant was crowded.

My friend finally showed up and we started visiting. His office is in the same building as the restaurant where we were lunching.

After we'd been there a few minutes, two men from another table got up to leave the restaurant. They walked by our table and stopped to talk to my friend. They worked with him.

One of the guys said something about being late to my friend. He was quick to point out that he was right on time. Then the guy said, "We saw you sitting here by yourself, and we almost invited you to have lunch with us!"

It was such a sweet thing to say. I was having a really difficult time in my life when this happened, and I must have looked a little sad. This guy saying that to me gave my spirit a little lift.

I was having another bad day recently. A brand new computer had a minor mechanical defect. I met with a technician, in a Starbucks, to have my computer repaired. After 3 hours of him working on my computer, not only was the defect not repaired, but my computer was rendered unusable!! This was one day before I was leaving on a 4 day vacation, and 1 week before I would be leaving on a very long business trip! I'd had a rough week anyway, and when this happened, I ended up crying in public at this Starbucks!! I don't usually do that in public (or anywhere else for that matter), so this was particularly embarrassing!

I had just ordered a cup of coffee when the technician gave me all the bad news. As they made my coffee drink, I was dealing with the technician, and my tear-fest began. When I finally composed myself and went to pick up and pay for my coffee, the woman said, "Oh please... I can see you are having a really bad day. Please... the coffee is on me." It was such a sweet gesture.

These are simple kindnesses applied to really tough moments. I will never forget these total strangers who went out of their way to try to be kind to me.

Kindness is free and easy to give!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Worry Drain

"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength." ~ Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch woman who's family hid Jews in their Holland home during World War II. She and her family were eventually caught and she was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. She survived the camp and went on to tell her story.

For someone who went through what she did, to be able to say that worry is worthless should teach us all something!

Worry does not help us change one thing about what is happening around us, or what will happen in the future. All it does is drain our strength.

Why would we want to drain our strength? Especially if we are going through something challenging?

If you want to be uplifted and inspired, learn more about this great lady, and the amazing sacrifice that she and her family made to help others!

The movie, "The Hiding Place" (also a book) is a remarkable account of the Ten Boom family's experience as they hid Jews from the Nazis and were taken to concentration camps as a result. I read this book for the first time when I was in third grade. I never cease to be inspired by the story of these courageous and principled people!

More information on Corrie Ten Boom

Take a lesson from someone who experienced more horror than you or I could possibly imagine. Banish worry from your repertoire of emotional reactions. It serves no useful purpose.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Endurance is Required

"Nothing great was ever done without much enduring." ~ Catherine of Siena

Anything worthwhile in life requires energy, effort and patience. It also requires us to endure a lot of uncertainty and sometimes difficulty.

Many people wait for good fortune to fall out of the sky and land on them. This is not the normal way that good enters our life!

If we expect things to come to us without effort and action, we will live a life filled with disappointment and failure.

Success and achievement come from action, focus, determination and the willingness to endure all the obstacles, pitfalls and challenges that will come along the way.

I've said before that there are many things in my life that I probably would have never undertaken, had I known just how complicated and time consuming they would be!

I think that's why it's merciful that we don't know all that will be required of us when we take on brand new projects! If we did, we might be crushed under the weight of all that is to come. Instead, it is best to just get started, and then NOT allow ourselves to be turned around when we start to hit the challenges along the way!

Challenges will come! Obstacles will come! It's all part of the process. To get to our destination... we must endure!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Living Your Truth

"Integrity is a commitment to live consistently with what you know to be true about life." ~ Pam Farrel

Living true to your principles is easier said than done. It is a great goal to aspire to. We will certainly have more peace internally if we are living consistently within our value and belief system.

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time:

To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest. ~ Mohandas Gandhi

Unfortunately in life, many people take an easier path. They go to church every Sunday, look like the pillars of their community, but are deeply dysfunctional and troubled in their personal life - behind closed doors. Others look like clean cut, wholesome people, whom everyone admires and respects, but they are living double lives, deceiving people and acting in selfish and hurtful ways. People who would never think about stealing from another person, don't think much about taking office supplies from the company they work for. The list could go on and on.

There are few among us who don't have some inconsistencies in what we know to be 'right' and what we actually do in our lives.

Working to 'clean up our acts' and get the 'inside to match the outside' is a worthy goal!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Living By Example

"Your example is much more powerful than anything you can ever say." ~ Elisabeth Elliot

I always cringe when I think of a parent saying to a child, "Do as I say... not as I do." What kind of craziness is that?

We emulate and imitate people that we admire. Children admire their parents, and they should WANT to be like them. If we are doing something we don't want our kids to do... we should stop doing it!

This also extends outward beyond just the influence that we have over kids and young people in our lives.

When you are admired and respected by those around you... they watch what you do. They look at your behavior as a guide to what is right, wrong, desirable or undesirable.

It's powerful to have that sort of influence over each other. We should take it seriously.

Our life is an example of our beliefs and of our priorities. Others will notice what we do and how we do it.

One of my favorite people in history, St. Francis of Assisi said, "It is no use walking anywhere to preach, unless our walking is our preaching."

I couldn't agree more! Pay attention to the example you are setting!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Weaving the Future

"We are weaving the future on the loom of today." ~ Grace Dawson

I love the concept of viewing ourselves as the weavers of our future! Seeing each day as an opportunity to weave and add to the tapestry of our life is powerful!

When we make choices about how to spend our time, we are selecting the thread or yarn that we are putting into our loom. Our perspectives and attitudes reflect the 'technique' that we employ in our weaving practices.

What we do today will affect our tomorrow. Small choices, over time, make a big difference! If we spend some time each day, weaving on a loom - we make progress. If we ignore the loom, and leave it idle in the corner, nothing happens. Nothing gets created.

The more time, attention and focus that we give to our weaving, the richer and more beautiful our tapestry will become.

Get busy on that loom! Today is the day to come fully to the weaving of your life!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Looking Forward to Something

"When we give ourselves something to look forward to, no matter how great or small the event, we are giving ourselves the gift of hope. And where there’s hope built into tomorrow, there are all kinds of possibilities for overcoming whatever obstacle we face today." ~ Ruth Senter

I visited an elderly woman named Ethel in a nursing home for 13 years. She passed away in November 2009. In her final years of life, Ethel struggled with failing eyesight and a number of health challenges. She was in a fair amount of pain... pretty much all the time.

Even with all this going on, Ethel found joy in the simple things in life and she ALWAYS had something on her upcoming schedule to look forward to. Whether it was a visit from one of her sons, a family gathering or a church event, she always had something that she was thinking about and planning for.

Watching her motivate herself TODAY because of what she had coming up in her future was inspiring. She also had these events out in front of her... motivating her to continue, even when her daily life was sometimes painful and difficult.

I'm not advocating 'living in the future' but it really can be an inspiration to pick future events as tools to cultivate motivation and energy for today!
Ethel & having things to look forward to

Monday, April 19, 2010

Attitude Opens Doors

"No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit." ~ Helen Keller

Our attitude really is a key component in how our life unfolds. I truly believe that our attitude can either open or close doors to us. The way we look at, and engage with life, is instrumental in crafting our actual experience.

Examining our persistent attitudes and deeply help beliefs can sometimes yield valuable information about the 'stuck' places in our life. When we start to whittle away at self defeating attitudes, we can change the course of our destiny!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Take It Easy

Always take an emergency leisurely. ~ Chinese Proverb

I'm working on a new approach to life. I'm trying to not take anything too seriously. I'm building confidence in my ability to handle whatever happens. I want to not be so easily blown about by circumstance.

I love this quote because it speaks to the fact that we have the ability to handle even the most challenging of situation with ease, peace and grace.

We have a far greater capacity than we know... to handle things without panicking and making it into a catastrophe. We can react calmly, no matter what is happening around us. We have that capacity.

Relax, breath and do what needs to be done... in peace.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Celebrate Your Originality

"Nature arms each man with some faculty which enables him to do easily some feat impossible to any other." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I was in seminary, I remember having a discussion with a classmate of mine. She worked as an anger management counselor in the prison system. She worked with men who had committed violent crimes. She was a tiny woman - very petite and extremely pretty. When I looked at her, I wondered where she found the nerve to work with these rough guys.

As she and I chatted, she let me know that she'd heard about how much time I spent working in the Middle East. She marveled at what I do, and said, "I could never do that! I would be so afraid to go there!"

Here I was looking at her, wondering how she found the strength and courage to do what she does... and she was thinking the exact same thing about me.

We laughed about how we each are 'fearless' about what we do, but couldn't imagine stepping in to each other's shoes.

God gives each one of us the special 'package' that we need in order to make the contribution we are supposed to make to life. We don't get what other people get. They don't get what we get. At least not in the same exact configuration.

We should celebrate and embrace our uniqueness and be grateful for all the people who do the things we can't. It makes the world go round!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The "DO IT" People

"Ideas are a dime a dozen, but the men and women who implement them are priceless." ~ Mary Kay Ash

Another way of saying this is... "Talk is cheap."

It is so easy to 'talk big.' It is not so easy to put words into action and persevere to actually accomplish the things we want to do.

I've known lots of big talkers in my day. Those people often didn't do any of the things they talked about. They didn't put muscle behind their words.

It is more important to do small things consistently, than to talk 'big' and take zero action.

Give me the "DO IT" people any day of the week. I'd rather see little tiny steps forward than to hear about the ever elusive 'someday.'

Get to it! Be a "DO IT" person!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sweet Silence

"Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together." ~ Thomas Carlyle

We live in a world of noise. We are constantly bombarded with activity and stimulation.

I recently took a domestic cross country flight and was dismayed to see that the airline I fly had installed TV screens on the back of every seat. All the screens are on when you get on the plane, but they are just repeating a 'preview' of movie trailers and TV programs available. You have to pay (with your credit card) to actually watch TV, but ALL the screens are on when you board the plane. That means that the lights are flickering throughout the entire plane, unless people turn off their monitors!!

It amazes me that we are so used to constant stimulation that most people didn't even attempt to turn off the continuous, repetitive stream of images.

Humans need silence. Humans need stimulus free time! We have gotten so far away from natural rhythms of life. It isn't healthy or good for us!

Give yourself the gift of peace and quiet on a regular basis.We all need it!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Times Like These

"In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these." ~ Paul Harvey

Many people are having a tough time right now. The economic woes of the country are not yet completely behind us. People are struggling.

There is nothing new under the sun. People have always had tough times. The specific details might change, but adversity and struggle seem to be part and parcel of the human experience.

Sometimes I think we take it personally when things get tough.

The truth is... everyone has tough times. Everyone feels overwhelmed and burdened once in a while. Sometimes the 'dark night' lasts a long time. This too... is nothing new.

The trick is, to not take it personally. The art is to realize that the challenges and tough times are part of the deal and to handle them graciously and skillfully. That is our opportunity.

Use the opportunity of the 'tough times' to grow and develop spiritual maturity and personal strength and integrity.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Shed a Lot

"My dog and cat have taught me a great lesson in life… shed a lot." ~ Susan Carlson

Shed it
Release it
Let it go
Shake it off
Walk away from it
Be unattached

Freedom is achieved by learning to release and let go.

Practice this principle in all the areas that you can. Clean out a drawer or a closet. Get rid of things you no longer use or need.

Examine your thought patterns and belief systems. If it doesn't serve you any more... let it go!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Learning to Sail

"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship." ~ Louisa May Alcott

We don't learn much when life is comfortable and easy. It is through the trials and challenges in life that we grow and develop.

Spiritual and personal growth come from going through things.

My teacher, Dr. Bruni, used to say that we are here in the "Earth School" to learn lessons and to grow spiritually. The easy, comfortable experiences of life are great, but that isn't where the great growth and evolution comes from.

It's in the 'tough stuff' of life that our muscles are stretched and strengthened.

I love this quote about storms and sailing. Storms cultivate the skills of a sailor. You need the wind in order to sail. The more wind... the faster and further you can sail!

We do not decide which way the winds blow, but we can set our sails and use the wind to propel us to our destination.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Inner Glow

Taking joy in life is a woman’s best cosmetic. ~ Rosalind Russell

I love this quote.

Beauty is not about the external appearance of a person. There is nothing as attractive as the glow that comes from within a happy, confident, contented person.

I'm not against making the best out of our appearance, but I think far too little is placed on inner beauty, and how it radiates out through whatever we look like on the outside.

Twinkies look pretty good on the outside, but they are full of air and fluff.

I'd rather be full of juicy, authentic sustenance! I think that is beautiful!

Cultivate inner strength, happiness, and contentment. You will automatically be more appealing and attractive to those around you!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

April 6th Birthday Bunch

Today is my birthday! Every year the president of the nation delivers the 'state of the union' address. I feel that it is important on the day of our birth to pause and reflect on the "state of our life." It's like our own personal 'new years' event. We have the ability to course correct at any time, but our birthday provides a powerful opportunity to accomplish this!

I attended the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York City. My class had about 70 people in it. Each student was assigned to a Dean who reviewed and evaluated our work.

One day, after class, I was walking out of the building with my Dean, Stephanie. We had decided to go out for a drink after class. As we walked along the sidewalk in NYC, another classmate walked with us.

Stephanie and I had already gotten to know each other somewhat during the course of the school year. We were chatting about just how similar we were and she said, "I keep forgetting to ask you when your birthday is?" I told her it was April 6th, and her jaw dropped open. "So is mine!" she exclaimed.

The other student walking with us said, "It's mine too!!!!" The three of us women were walking shoulder to shoulder along the street and we all had the same birthday.

But it gets even better.

One of the male students in our class was walking behind us. He said, "SO IS MINE!!!!!"

All four of us had the same birthday. Three classmates and one of our class Deans!

The next day in class we told that story to our classmates during open sharing. At that moment, another Dean let us know that it was her birthday as well!

Later we learned that one of the distance learners in our class also had April 6th as a birthday!

That made 4 students out of 70 with the same birthday and 2 out of 4 Deans!

It was pretty amazing!!

I've heard that Mormons believe Jesus was born on April 6th. :)

All I know is that, to me, it is a special and important day. It's the day I came into this life.

On this day, I'm asking myself a lot of questions about the contributions I've made, the goals I've achieved and the experiences I've had. I expect to see and do a lot more before I'm done here.

Today is my personal "Happy New Year's Day!"

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Small Things Matter

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” ~ Mother Teresa

I think we can get very caught up sometimes in believing that we need to do big things in order to make a difference in the world. This is a completely erroneous belief!

Some of the people who have made the biggest differences in my life have done nothing grandiose, but their impact on me has been profound.

I’ve written before about my next door neighbor lady when I was growing up. Lucy treated me with respect and kindness, even when I was a very young girl. I had tea and cookies at her house pretty much every night when I was growing up. A few minutes of her time each night, and she radically altered my life! Who I am today was heavily influenced by her strength and wisdom. All she did was visit with a little girl on a regular basis. She shared what she had to give. She shared her time.

I also think back to a yoga teacher of mine. All she did was show up faithfully and teach her class. I looked forward to her class twice a week for many years. It was constant presence in my chaotic life. Her willingness to show up and teach her class on a regular basis was a comfort to me.

Right now, I have a waiter at one of my favorite restaurants. All he does is serve me food and treat me kindly, yet he is one of the bright spots in my life. I look forward to seeing him. He enriches my life.

It doesn't take much. Give what you have to give in each moment. It doesn't have to be a big, profound gift. The small things add up and matter just as much, if not more than something grandiose.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Quick Transitions

Two weeks ago, I took my niece to the beach for a few days of her spring break. We had such a great time! One of the amazing things about our trip was how the weather cooperated with us.

On our drive to the beach, it sprinkled rain on us intermittently. I worried a bit about the next few days. Would we be able to get out on the beach at all? Did I bring enough indoor activity to occupy us if it rained the entire time?

As we pulled in to the little beach town where we were going to stay, the clouds began to break up and the sun came out. By the time we checked in to our condo, it was rather pleasant outside. We seized the opportunity to take a walk on the beach. I secretly thought to myself that this might be our only 'good weather' the entire time we were there. I had, after all, checked the weather report, and it looked pretty dreary for the duration of our stay.

After our walk, we went to dinner. The sun was still shining, and our drive to the restaurant, and walk around town was perfect. Once we got back to our condo, within seconds, it began to pour down rain! Then the wind began to blow! We had ourselves a full blown storm. We sat inside and enjoyed the raging storm as we did a jigsaw puzzle.

In the morning, we went out for breakfast, and watched buckets of rain pour down outside the restaurant window! I wondered if we would get bored being inside all day.

Once again, however, when we drove back to the condo, the clouds parted, the sun came out and it turned into a gloriously beautiful day! We took a long walk on the beach in the sunshine. It wasn't even windy!

It was amazing how each time we were 'ready' to do something outside, the weather cooperated and cleared up. Whenever we were safe and warm inside, we had rain and wind storms!

The transitions were incredibly rapid. The changes happened so quickly.

Each time the weather got bad, I worried a little about our next planned outdoor activity. That was wasted energy! The bad weather eventually passed, and we were able to get out and do what we wanted to do.

It reminded me of one of my all time favorite sayings, "This too shall pass."

Things change. Nothing lasts forever. Not the good things, and certainly not the 'bad' things.

When we're in the midst of a difficult time, we need to remember that it WILL pass.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Asking, "Where Did I go Right?"

I heard a song on the radio the other day that had a very profound line in it. The singer was looking back at his life and asking the question,

"Where did I go right?"

So often we are asking the question, "Where did I go wrong?"

The way the universe works, however, is that we get more of what we focus on. Shouldn't we be studying what we do that yields good results if we want more good results?

Now, I'm all for studying what has gone wrong in our lives, as a way of learning and growing (and hopefully avoiding repeated negative experiences), but I really was touched by this line in this song.

Let's give ourselves credit for what we have done right, and for the progress we've made. Let's study the relationship between what we've done 'right' and the results that have come from those actions.

Celebrate and replicate your successes!

Where have you gone 'right' in your life?