Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stretching Out of the Comfort Zone

I'm really proud of myself! I did a couple of things over this past weekend that were big stretches for me. To some people, they may sound like 'no big deal,' but to me, with my specific constellation of personality traits and past 'issues' they were big accomplishments.

I wore a belt with an outfit that I wore. I haven't worn a belt ever in my adult life! I simply haven't been able to get myself to wear belts. They were not in my repertoire! A saleswoman convinced me that this belt 'made' the outfit I was putting together and I was pretty sure she was right. When I wore the outfit to a special event, I actually put the outfit on, with and without the belt and had my family members vote on what looked best. It was unanimous! I wore the belt!

I also had a new dress that I wore for the same time. It too was 'out of my comfort zone.' It was a style that I generally wouldn't buy for myself, but it was adorable! I thought it looked pretty good on me, and I had the perfect jewelry to wear with it. This dress 'challenged' some of my long held conceptions about what I 'can and cannot wear.'

I got lots of compliments on the new dress. I got lots of compliments on the other outfit too - including specific positive comments about the belt!

There would have been a time, not so long ago, when I would have been unable to purchase or wear either of these 'new' wardrobe additions. I simply would not have been 'willing' to take the chance.

I'm grateful that I've progressed to the point where I can edge myself out of my comfort zone into new territory! This has only happened because I've repeatedly done so over the course of many years.

We do so many things to ourselves to keep ourselves stuck in old ways of thinking and doing things. We alone have the key to free ourselves. We just need to put the key in the lock... and turn it. No one can do this for us!

Got any comfort zones that you need to be bustin' out of? Take a chance. Step out there. It won't feel 'comfortable' - hence the idea of leaving the 'comfort zone.' Eventually, however, if you hand in there and keep doing it, you will find that your comfort zone expands!

You can barely see the belt peeking out from behind my notebook. This is also not a color that I would normally wear.

Me in my 'out of my comfort zone' dress - with my brothers and cousins

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Restoration

I had a fantastic weekend! I performed a wedding and spent a lot of time with my extended family. It was tremendously fun, and it also left me feeling really exhausted!

Last night, when I finally got to go to sleep, I was really looking forward to it. I needed a good, long, night's rest.

That is exactly what I had!

When I woke up this morning, I had not even moved! I was so tired, I went 'out like a light' and slept deeply and soundly for the entire night.

I woke up feeling refreshed and renewed. I was ready to tackle the day with enthusiasm.

It is so important to allow ourselves the time to renew and rejuvenate when we have expended ourselves and our energy.

It is impossible to just keep going and going and going without letting ourselves reset and replenish ourselves.

I'm learning this more and more as I grow older. I am much more willing to take the time to rest and relax. I have learned the importance of balancing exertion and expending energy with rest and restoration.

Give yourself the time to relax and rejuvenate. It will enhance everything you do!

Monday, June 28, 2010

That Satisfied Feeling

I'm coming to the end of a long but wonderful weekend. I spent the weekend with my family celebrating the wedding of one of my cousins. I was actually quite honored to officiate the ceremony!

We had a family get together one night, the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner the next night and the wedding on the following day. It was a marvelous opportunity to connect with my family and spend time together as a group.

The weather was beautiful! The wedding was outdoors in a lovely setting. We couldn't have asked for a better experience!

I enjoyed playing an important role in the process. It felt good to contribute!

Even driving to and from all of the events was fun. The weather, the beautiful countryside - everything worked together to make it enjoyable.

I did have one little unexpected problem. I got a flat tire the night before the wedding and had to deal with that. It was handled with relative ease, and it felt good to have been able to handle the crisis in the midst of so much fun without being totally incapacitated.

After a long drive, it feels good to be home again, reflecting on the joys and laughter we all shared these past few days.

I am also anticipating a richly deserved sleep. The excitement and events of the past few days has me a 'few pints low' on sleep! I didn't mind a bit, but I actually can't wait to 'hit the hay.' Nothing feels better than drifting off into a much needed, restful sleep!

It is such a gift to have moments like this! It's important to be able to look back over something that has just come to a conclusion, with satisfaction and pleasure, even when there were bumps along the way. It is also wonderful to be able to allow something to really conclude, carrying forward warm memories, but moving in to the next experience.

Being fully present to each experience, and moving easily and effortlessly from one to the next is a ticket to a rich and wonderful life!

My sequence of experiences is beckoning me into a much needed sleep at the moment!

What's next for you? Feel satisfied with what has come before - whatever it is. Let yourself learn your lessons, remember with joy, and move into the next 'new' moment.

For me... right now... it's "Sweet Dreams!"

Friday, June 25, 2010

700th blog

Today is a really big day for me. Today marks my 700th blog post! It is hard for me to believe that I have written 700 articles for this blog!

The achievement of writing this many articles is something that, when I started, would have seemed impossible to me.

The blog was undertaken as a writing discipline. I have loved to write for as long as I can remember. I wrote books as a child, and dreamed of becoming an author.

I still have, as one of my life goals, to write and publish one or more books. The blog was a device that would require me to write consistently, and practice the process of getting my thoughts on 'paper.'

I had no idea it would last this long, or affect me as it has. I've changed and grown in many ways as I've written this blog.

Perfectionism is something that I have struggled with a lot in my life. My attention to detail and my conscientiousness has taken me far in this life, but can also become a prison when it is taken too far. I most definitely had taken it too far in my early life, and have spent many years working to 'balance that out.'

Writing these articles quickly, and without tons of editing has been challenging for me. I usually want to polish everything I do before it is let out for 'public consumption.' One of my goals for myself with the blog was to just write, write, write and write some more, without worrying about it being grammatically perfect or professionally edited. It was more important that I just WRITE and get it out there. I've done that.

I love it when I accomplish things I never thought I could do, or go above and beyond my own expectations.

I simply took one day at a time and one moment at a time and kept taking the step that was in front of me to take.

My plan is to keep on writing, because I love to write. I hope that people find some inspiration or value in what I put out here, but even if no one does... I'm growing and expanding as a result of the 'practice' and the 'discipline' of turning it out!

Thanks for reading! I will continue to...

Blog On!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Coming out of the Fog

I haven't had too many opportunities to hike this summer. Our weather has been really, well, cranky, this year! I'm a bit of a 'fair weather' hiker. I like to hike when it's sunny and clear outside. I'm not one for heading out into the rain to slip and slide along muddy trails.

Because our weather has been so wet and un-summerlike this year, I haven't always been able to get up and set out in bright sunshine for most of my hikes.

The last time I went hiking a couple weeks ago, it was completely foggy and cloudy when I got up. It didn't really inspire me to go hiking. I knew that the weather forecast called for sunny skies on this particular day, but it sure was far from that when I looked out the window. It would have been so easy to just crawl back in bed and sleep in.

Instead, I packed up my gear and headed for the mountain. It stayed cloudy and foggy for my entire drive.

I started up the mountain in the fog. Then something interesting began to happen.

As I climbed along, it became clearer and clearer. Soon, I could see bright blue sky and sunshine filtering through the trees.

I had hiked my way above the fog into the glorious sunshine. It was indeed a magnificent day!

I could have turned around and gone back to bed when I saw the uninspiring fog. It really seemed like a better idea at that moment. I knew, however, that I really wanted to hike and get out into the world. I needed to be inspired by the natural beauty that is all around me here in Seattle.

Once I did my part and started to move myself up the mountain, the fog disappeared and I could see clearly in the crystal clear skies that live above the fog.

What a great metaphor for life. We can be 'turned around' by the appearances of uninspiring surroundings, or we can choose to do what is ours to do, and move forward anyway. Often, when we do, the circumstances that we find objectionable change before our eyes! We either move our self above and beyond those circumstances, or they cease to have any control or impact over us.

Got a little fog in your life right now. Start climbing the mountain that is before you! You can hike your way out of that fog!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Too Much Too Soon

Sometimes when we set about to change something in our lives we attack our goal with such veracity that we quickly burn out and abandon our efforts.

It's a tale as old as time. When we first set our sights on a goal, we are filled with energy and enthusiasm and dive in with all of our might.

When the going gets a little tough, however, some of that energy and enthusiasm can fade, and we find that our resolve can waiver a bit.

I think of the many times that I started exercise programs in my life, only to over do it, hurt myself in some way, and then backing off or quitting altogether.

When we try to do too much too soon, it generally doesn't go well.

We've had a really cloudy and wet spring and early summer here in Seattle. We always have a lot of rain here, but this has been abnormal!

A couple weeks ago, we had a hot sunny day. By hot, I mean that it got into the low 70s! That should tell you how it's been around here!! I was excited to get a little sun. I put on a backless top and went out to pull weeds in my garden.

I was only out there for an hour. The sun felt glorious on my back.

When I showered, I noticed that my back looked a little tan.

"Cool," I thought to myself, "my first tan line of the season!"

Little did I realize in that moment, but I had totally fried my back. I had a really bad sunburn, which became painfully clear as the day and evening wore on.

Until that day, I had zero sun exposure on my back this year! I didn't realize just how "un-tan" I was and that an hour in the bright sun was way too much for my body to handle well.

I had good intentions to get some Vitamin D exposure, but I took it too fast. I did too much too soon, and I paid for it! The pain, the itching phase, and of course, not being able to expose my back to the sun again anytime soon were all consequences of my over zealousness!

When we set goals and take on new tasks, we need to start slow and build from there. It's better to do something slowly and consistently than it is to go all out for a time or two and then quit. We never make lasting progress that way.

Slow and steady wins the race. If you're taking on any new projects or goals, make sure you set a realistic, sustainable pace, and stick to it!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Simple Acknowledgements

Two weeks ago, my nephew graduated from High School. It was an exciting time to witness the achievement of such a significant milestone in the life of a young person.

I've tried to help my nephew along the way. My goal is to be a source of encouragement and support to all the young people in my life. With my nephew it took the form of giving him some summer work to do to earn money, helping him get organized for college applications, financial aid forms and to take the SAT. I am sure that I annoyed him many times... keeping him on task, following up on deadlines, etc.

So, it was especially touching to me, that at his graduation, he took the opportunity to say thank you in a very sweet way.

Each of the kids was given 3 roses when they picked up their diploma. At a later point in the ceremony, they were free to go out into the audience and give the roses to people they wanted to thank for their support and encouragement.

I was truly delighted that I was one of the recipients of my nephew's roses.

It was a simple thing, but it meant a lot to me. To be acknowledged is a lovely thing.

I kept that rose near me for the entire length of it's life! It actually lasted about 10 days! I'd move it from place to place so that I could look at it no matter what I was doing.

Letting people know that we care about them, that they matter to us, and that we appreciate their contributions to our lives is a wonderful and powerful practice. It doesn't have to be anything fancy!

Sharing our appreciation with each other, and acknowledging the roles that people play in our lives is one of the things that truly makes life worth living.

Why not take a moment today, and send off an email, or a card, or even a small gift to someone who has made a difference in your life? It feels good to do it... and it sure feels good to be on the receiving end of such a blessing!

The rose my nephew presented to me
at his graduation

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Father's Day 2010

Here we are again at another Father's day! I'm sitting in a restaurant, witnessing a lot of families brining their 'dad' out to celebrate.

It is wonderful to pause once a year to reflect on the role that fathers play in the lives of their children and in this world.

The father role is an important one in our lives. Having a good father is a blessing. Having an absent or unskilled father leaves wounds and scars that we can spend a life time working out.

Even if we had a hard time with our own fathers, we can appreciate the 'fathering' that we've received along the way. We can receive loving father energy from anyone really.

I was blessed in my life to have a great dad. He taught me many wonderful things about how to live life and become the person that I am today. I always feel a little nostalgic around father's day, because we used to take a trip to Reno every year around this time to have a little father/daughter time and to gamble a little bit. :)

Dad passed away in 1997, and I still miss him.

On father's day, I like to not only give thanks for my own father, and all he gave me, but also to the other men in my life who have shown me love, support, tenderness and compassion. Those men have all contributed to my life in special and meaningful ways as well.

My Dad

Me with my Grandpa Drazdoff

Uncle David

Dr. Charles Bruni

Jack Boland

Happy Father's Day to all you men out there! Give yourselves credit for the fathering that you have done - with your own children and with others as well!

Friday, June 18, 2010

If You Let 'Em

My niece's 15th birthday was a couple weeks ago. I was in my mom's town preparing a little party for my niece. I had just picked up her birthday cake and was on my way to get a cup of coffee to take home for my mother. As I parked my car, I noticed a lady coming out of the neighboring "Dollar Store" with a bunch of helium balloons. I thought that seemed like a great idea! I had never given my niece balloons on her birthday before, so I decided to go in and get some.

I went into the store and purchased 3 balloons. As I was leaving the store, a woman appeared to me to be just arriving. She was behind me, pushing a cart. I assumed she was starting her shopping trip in the store. As I walked out the door, making sure that my balloons passed safely under the top of the door frame, I glanced back at the woman. She was pushing her cart past the door. I let go of the door, and it began to swing shut.

Suddenly there was a loud crashing sound as the door smacked the front of her cart! She was coming out behind me after all. I had dropped the door on her.

I quickly grabbed the door and apologized to her. "I'm so sorry, I didn't think you were coming out!"

This woman was obviously troubled. She was a bit disheveled looking, and her lipstick was smeared around her mouth. She sort of snapped at me as I grabbed the door and opened it for her. "If you let 'em... they'll just keep doin' it!"

I apologized again and held the door open for her.

Then she muttered, "Just leave me alone!"

I held the door until she was safely out of the store and I walked to my car. She was walking a little ahead of me, and kept turning to look over her shoulder at me. She obviously wanted to get away from me, but we happened to be going in the same direction!

She was muttering to herself, and every once in awhile I could hear what she said.

"I just want to be left alone."
"They always do that to you."
"Go away. Just go."

I felt very sorry for this woman. She was obviously a very sad and disturbed person.

She was perceiving persecution where there simply wasn't any. I wasn't trying to hurt her, but she believed I was. The first statement she had uttered really stuck with me, "If you let 'em, they'll just keep doing it."

Now, in this woman's case, it appears to me that she has a belief that people are out to get her and will continue to do so, if she doesn't stop them. The problem is that she seems to 'set herself up' to experience people 'getting her.' I swear to you, she was pushing her cart past the door I was leaving through. When I turned my back and let go of the door, she deliberately turned her cart and pushed it into the closing door. She slammed the door on herself, and then blamed me!

Someone in my life recently made some decisions about the path they are going to follow, declared that they believed most people in their life would reject them as a result, and has proceeded to reject a bunch of people in her life... and then say that they are rejecting her. It's what she believes to be true, so she's MAKING it happen so she can be right, but blaming other people all the while.

This is a common phenomenon for all of us, actually. The way the universe works, we 'get to be right' about our beliefs.

If we believe that people are out to get us, we will experience that as our reality.

If we believe that our luck is always bad, it will appear to us that it is so.

The lens through which we look at life is powerful. It literally changes what we see to match our expectations and beliefs about ourselves and the world.

Be very observant of your beliefs about yourself and the world. It is affecting your experience every single second!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Resting Messenger

The weather has finally started to improve in Seattle. Finally, we are getting some much anticipated and much appreciated sunshine!

With the arrival of the sun, I have relocated my work space to the great outdoors. Whenever I can, I work on my patio or my deck to enjoy the beauty of my woodland garden.

As you may know, the dragonfly is a very special symbol to me. I consider it to be a powerful symbol of transformation. The process of change that creates a dragonfly from a waterbug is miraculous to me! I feel that process is a metaphor for our own possible transformation... from something that slinks around in the muddy water to something that becomes beautiful and free - able to soar through life with grace and ease.

When I was sitting at the table on my patio working the other day, a dragonfly flew up to me, landed on the table right in front of my writing tablet and did something I'd never seen a dragonfly do before. He or she tucked it's wings up along it's back, bowed it's head and appeared to take a little nap! The dragonfly was resting!!

I was mesmerized by this little creature and the message that he might be delivering to me. I have long believed that dragonflies can be messengers from people who have made their transition and are no longer with us on the earth. Whenever dragonflies appear to me, I believe they bring some sort of message.

This message seemed to be about the important of resting. This little fly looked so relaxed and content. The whole world was his or hers. They could fly anywhere and see anything, and yet, at this moment the creature was taking a break and resting right there in front of me.

I took it as a reminder that in a balanced life, there is both work... and rest. A little while later, I chose to put away my work for awhile and take a walk in the sunshine. I gave my brain a much needed break from the work I was engaged in.

Thank you my little messenger friend!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Suck it In for the Right Reasons

When I was growing up, one of the things I remember that all us girls focused on was trying to hold in our stomachs. We were told, and believed that we would look skinnier if we kept our stomachs sucked in at all times. It made us look better, in our minds, so we did it. It was a pretty common practice - with the reasoning being that it would improve our attractiveness.

When I got into recovery from my eating disorder and started to do a lot of body image repair work, I encountered a different line of thinking. In the quest to accept and appreciate the body, we were encouraged not to 'war' with our bodies and do things that were intended to excessively control them. Letting the stomach relax and deliberately NOT sucking it in was one of the exercises I remember reading about and embracing. My belly was beautiful and sacred, and if I loved myself totally, I wouldn't try to hide it by sucking it in. That was my new line of thinking.

Interestingly enough, after many many years of not sucking in my stomach, I ended up with some interesting lower back problems. Some of these problems are directly related to weak and atrophied abdominal muscles! Now, it didn't all come from that one practice I did to 'let it all hang out,' but that practice was most definitely involved.

Several years ago I started physical therapy, and have been learning about 'activating my core' which in some ways is very closely linked to 'sucking in my belly!' As I've learned to turn on those muscles, and pull in and lift my abdominal area, my lower back issues have improved. It's really quite amazing how much of a difference it makes.

In fact, I went hiking a week ago, and was disappointed that towards the end of the descent from the mountain I hiked up, my right knee began to hurt on the outer edge of the knee cap. I've had this problem before, but last summer, I hadn't experienced it at all! The fact that on my first hike of this season, I experienced the problem was a bit discouraging and frustrating.

When I told my physical therapist about it, she understood the problem immediately. She said that the muscles that connects to the inner part of the knee cap wasn't do it's job properly, and so the knee cap was pulling to the outside slightly, causing the inflammation and irritation that I experienced.

She had me lie on my back and tighten my right quadricep muscle. She poked a bit at the area on the inside of my left knee cap. It seemed normal to me. Then she asked me to 'activate my core' and contract my quadricep muscle again. She poked the same place and it was rock solid! When I didn't 'activate my core' that muscle wasn't able to contract and hold my knee in place. When I did activate my core, the muscle was 'on' and I could feel that it made a huge difference to the support that my knee had.

What's my point? The point is, that we can do things from different places inside ourselves. Back when I used to hold in my stomach because I was ashamed of it and wanted to look thinner, I was coming from a place of self rejection and control. It was better for my back, but I didn't know that then, and I probably wouldn't have cared if I had known! It was all about appearances and attractiveness back then.

Now, I'm learning to perform that action for a valid reason that is rooted in self love, acceptance and respect for my body. I want to take care of my body because I love it and want it to function at it's best.

What a different place to come from!

An outer action can look exactly the same. Activating your core is still basically sucking in your gut. One comes from a place of self criticism and judgement and one comes from a place of self respect and love for one's body. It makes all the difference in the world which place we're coming from!

Exercise can be an act of self love, or an act of imposing a tyranny of obsessive, anxiety ridden beliefs about ourselves and what we have to do to be acceptable to ourselves.

Keeping a clean house can be an expression of a calm, clear inner world, or it can be an expression of an obsessive, compulsive imprisoned personality. To an outsider the house might look the same in both cases, but the level of peace and contentment within the 'cleaner' would be radically different.

My goal in life is no longer to just do the right things. My goal has become to do the right things from the right place. The quality of the experience is so much greater when we do.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

There's Always Something to Enjoy

I'm undergoing a radical transformation in the way I relate to my days and my life! The revelation that I've had is so simple that it may seem unbelievable that it is making such a difference. I will tell you, however, that although the concept is simple... it isn't necessarily easy to implement.

When I was growing up, there was an older lady, Lucy, who lived next door to my family. She was like a second grandmother to me. I spent many happy hours in her company as I was growing up. She had a tremendous influence on the person I have become.

A few years back, I was honored to be invited to her 100th birthday party. She had long since moved to California. My mom and I headed out to go pay tribute to this remarkable woman as she celebrated her 100th year of life on planet earth. Remarkable!

We spent a few hours with her the day before her party just visiting and catching up. I asked her a lot of questions in that conversation. Her attitude is better than anyone I know, and yet her life had not been a bed of roses! I wanted to understand the key to a great life like the one she had lived, and continues to live to this day!

She imparted much wisdom that day, but one of the gems that she told me is at the root of the transformation that I am currently experiencing.

She was telling me about all the different jobs she'd had in her life. There were many, and some of them didn't sound all that glamorous or interesting. Lucy, however, said something I will never forget. As she described her jobs, she never complained about the 'bad parts' of those jobs, but instead she told me what she liked about each job. She was careful to call out something that she learned or enjoyed in every single job she told me about. "There is always something to enjoy about everything you do," she said.

Wow. Just think about that for a moment.

It's as true about all our life experiences as it is about any job that we might have.

I have decided that no matter WHAT is happening in my life, I am going to find SOMETHING to enjoy about it... and focus on that aspect of it, rather than what I don't like or enjoy about it. Even things that are fairly unpleasant have something positive that I can focus on. It really is possible to find something to enjoy in every single experience, even difficult or painful ones.

Easy to say, a bit more difficult to do, but I'm astounded at how much more I'm enjoying my life as I implement this practice. Give it a try!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Celebrating Accomplishments

It was an exciting time for my family this week. My first nephew graduated from high school!

I'm known in the family for making a 'big deal' out of things. I tend to get pretty enthusiastic about things. I make no apologies for that! It's the only way I want to live my life.

I got him some balloons, and put a sign in his yard, and got him some gourmet cupcakes and put little graduation caps on them all. I gave him a card, and some money for school clothes for his first year of college that will start in the fall. It was a fun experience for him, I think, and definitely for me.

Completion is wonderful. Working towards a major goal, and seeing it come to fruition is worth celebrating. The closing of one door and the opening of a new world is a momentus occasion.

We should revel in those moments of life and recognize them for the magnificent transitions that they are.

As I forced my nephew to pose for picture after picture with various family members I hope that I sent the message that this was a big, big deal! He had really achieved something and he deserved to be the star for this moment in his life experience!

Celebrate your achievements and successes! Whether it is a major event like a graduation, or it's eating well for just one day, we should recognize and honor the steps forward that we take in life!

Me with my nephew at his graduation

Friday, June 11, 2010

Each Moment a Thrill

I was listening to a wonderful talk by Jack Boland yesterday called, "Formula for Success." Jack was talking about how we humans will fly or drive to far distant places like Disneyland and pay lots of money to ride rides and experience thrills... and joy! While there is nothing wrong with doing this, Jack was suggesting that the fact that we look for this sort of sensation is an indicator that we are meant to live interesting and exciting lives! He also suggested that we can do this every moment and every day... right where we are! I couldn't agree more!

Every single moment that we are alive offers some sort of powerful and intense experience, if we will but look for it, recognize it and allow it.

Even so called 'negative experiences' can be powerful teaching moments in our lives. We can learn to surrender. We can recognize that what we once thought important is really not important at all. We can come to see the value of the people closest to us.

Quiet moments can be exhilarating inner experiences of rejuvenation and renewal.

Moments of physical exertion can connect us to our bodies and the marvelous creations that they are!

Moments of mental exertion can stimulate and ignite our creativity and we can celebrate our ability to use our brains for a purpose that we can choose!

Everything... absolutely everything, can be exciting and interesting if we choose to look at it that way.

Treat each moment as the pure experience that it is. Give it your full attention. Let it have its moment in the sun... without distracting yourself with the past or future.

Start to look at every experience as magnificent... no matter what it is. See how this changes your feelings about your life!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Signs of Progress

I wrote in my June 2010 newsletter about a project I have taken on for the month of June to eat 5 - 13 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. I know I don't get enough fresh fruit and vegetables, and so I'm taking this project on to cultivate some new (and hopefully lasting) habits.

It's amazing. I'm only a little over a week into this process, and I already feel better. It's hard to explain, but I feel more energetic and happier. My mood is better and my body feels like it is better fueled!

I'll keep you posted, but to me, it is an indicator that we are built to function best when we eat a healthy diet! So much of what ails us could probably be resolved if we simply learned what the human body needs to be healthy, and did that on a regular basis.

Easier said than done, I realize, but well worth the effort to make improvements where we can.

Are you eating enough fruits and vegetables? Start where you are. One reader of my newsletter wrote me to say that she was setting a goal to eat one piece of fruit every day for the month of June, because she never ate any. She wrote it with a bit of an apologetic tone in her message. I wrote back an enthusiastic, "YES! Way to go!" message. It isn't about perfection, it's about progress. You start where you are, and make one change... and then another... and then another... and then another.

I believe in working on personal and spiritual growth from a place of radical self acceptance and compassion. We take responsibility for ourselves AND we know that we are doing the best we can at this very moment in time. Then, we make a change because we love ourselves enough to want something better.

One step at a time! That's how we change!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Waiting it Out

I wrote awhile back, in "Make Way for Beauty," about the inconvenient Foxglove plant that sprung up right next to my driveway. As I mentioned in that article, the location is right where people need to get out of their cars when they park on the cement pad in front of my driveway. Yet, I know how pretty these plants are, so I let it grow.

It takes 2 years/seasons of growing before these plants bloom. Until then, they are just a ubiquitous green plant. But when they finally bloom, in their second year, they are very, very pretty.

An impatient person, or one who does not understand the way this plant grows, might yank it out the first year. It's really not that interesting, and it's pretty large!

If, however, you understand the way it works, you wait... and you are ultimately rewarded for your patience.

Understanding the way that the universe works really helps us cultivate and nurture the aspects in our belief systems that yield the amazing and wondrous results that we seek. One of the great principles that we must learn to work with is how to plant seeds, nurture and take care of the plants, and wait patiently for the blossoming or the creation of the desired 'fruit.' If we give up too soon, we never get the rewards!

When we are working with our consciousness, planting seeds in thought, attitude and belief, it takes persistence and patience to see it through to fruition. Sometimes it doesn't look like much is happening on the outside, but a process is unfolding within. First within, then without is the universal order of things. If we try to take short cuts, or if we give up or back track, we miss the show!

And what a show it is!

Persevere... stay the course. Do all that you know you need to do, hold firm... and wait for the blossoming!

The foxglove is the tall plant right next to the driveway...
This is the spot it chose to seed itself and grow.
Not the most 'logical' or 'convenient' place.

And for 2 years, it has grown there.
Nothing but some fuzzy green leaves, until...

The patience paid off... and
the show began.

Unexpected and unplanned for beauty.
A reward for 'making room' and 'being patient.'

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Protect Your New Growth

As I was taking my walk along the ridge near my home this past week, I was stopped in my tracks by something I find irresistible... and compelling.

It was a small fir tree that is just at the edge of the gravel path I walk on.

At this time of year, the fir trees, and many other ever green trees and sporting their gorgeous new growth! The new growth is a different, brighter color than the old growth, and in some cases the needles are super soft - unlike the prickly hard needles of the older growth.

I just have to stop and touch these tender green shoots of new growth. Something about doing that just sends my spirit soaring!

For one thing, it is a gentle sweet reminder of the constant renewal of life and the growth process. All of life is constantly growing and developing.

Secondly, it is a great, tangible example of how tender and fragile 'new growth' is. These shoots are so soft and pliable. They have not yet matured into more 'solid' material yet.

Isn't that how we are when we are learning something new, or cultivating a new habit? Aren't those new areas of ourselves a bit fragile and flexible?

When you are just learning how to do something, you aren't very sure of yourself. You might be easily swayed by the opinions or advice of other people. Once you are an expert at something, and have mastered it, you can more easily weigh the input of other people to see if it is valid or not.

I remember when I was first in recovery from my eating disorder. I was desperate for help, and pretty much believed anything my counselor told me. I had to. I needed to. It was important for my survival. When people around me challenged those beliefs and ideas, it was painful. I became defensive. I couldn't tolerate anyone challenging the ideas that I felt were hopefully going to change my world for the better. I had to protect my tender new growth and let it grow stronger before I held it up to the scrutiny of others.

Now, when people challenge my belief system or ideas, I can reflect on what they are saying, make a determination if there is any value/redirection for me there, and either accept and incorporate their feedback, or let it go as their experience and truth without it influencing my perspective.

Protect your tender shoots of new belief or growth. Give them time to strengthen and come into their fullness before you show them to the world.

Just as you would not sign up to perform a piano concert in front of hundreds of people without taking lessons or practicing, don't roll out new aspects of yourself to those around you until you will not be knocked off balance by the opinions and advice of other people.

Protect your new growth!!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Inspiration By Example

My mom is 75 years old, and she has been working out at a gym for a little over 5 years. That impresses the heck out of me!

Her workouts help her keep her arthritis pain at bay, and keep her bones as strong and healthy as they can be. It's a very good practice that she has adopted into her life.

The people who own the gym really love that she works out there every day. Not only do they support her fitness and health as part of their 'mission' in the services they provide to people, but they love the inspiration that she is to others at the gym.

They sell more training services when my mom is there working out regularly. People see her and they are motivated to do more themselves. "If she can do it... I can do it!"

People look forward to seeing her there. She's a constant. Constants are comforting in this world of eternal change.

Mom's commitment to her own fitness helps other people to be committed to theirs!

For each of us personally, we have the opportunity to experience both sides of this coin. We need to realize that other people are affected by our behaviors and choices. We can aspire to serve as a positive, uplifting example to those around us. We can take seriously the understanding that if we do things that aren't high quality choices, we might be unwittingly validating others in doing so. We impact each other - for better or worse.

On the other side of this is our ability to seek out role models to inspire us into higher and better expressions of our own potential. I like working out around people who are really into it, because it helps me to push myself a little harder than I might if I was watching people sit around and watch TV!

Likewise, in the arena of spiritual and personal growth, we need to seek out those who teach about and demonstrate principles that we would like to live more fully from. I love to read about people who's lives have changed the world through their persistence and dedication to doing all they could to make a difference. I want to be like that! I love to hear people tell stories of overcoming hardships and obstacles in their quest to live a fully awakened and dynamic life! I want that too! I love to be around kind, compassionate, patient people, because those too are qualities that I would like to cultivate and strengthen in myself. I love to be around people who are smart, successful AND balanced, because that is an area I still work on in my own life experience.

Be an example where you can... and seek out the presence or influence of others who demonstrate what you want in specific areas of your life. What you get around rubs off on you... so be selective about what you immerse yourself in!

Friday, June 04, 2010

It's REALLY Green

There is a new commercial that's been playing that I find really charming. It's the Lowe's Hardware commercial that depicts a very young couple who are 'setting up housekeeping' in their first new home.

These young people are overwhelmed and floundering around with various home repairs and crises. In each scenario presented, it shows the young lady, on her phone, most likely asking her father for advice, while the young man struggles to deal with what ever it going on.

The one vignette that I love the most, is when they are standing in a room they have just painted, and he has a wet paint roller in his hand and the entire room - walls and ceiling are bright, Kermit the frog green! The young lady is crying on the phone as she sort of sobs out the words, 'It's REALLY.... GREEN!'

It cracks me up, and yet... we've all been there! That dreadful moment when you realize that it didn't turn out like you planned and hoped for.

That green looked great on a little tiny swatch from the hardware store, but they didn't realize that when it was greatly magnified it would look much, much different.

Often in life, we make decisions based on a particular view of a situation, possibly too limited a view. People fall in love and get married after only a brief 'sampling' of who their partner really is. As soon as they are married and together for a while, suddenly, that 'color' that looked so lovely is really intense and not at all what was expected or desired.

Of course, all is not lost. the young couple can repaint their 'green room.' Many decisions can be reversed, or the trajectory can be corrected and altered.

I like to think, however, in terms of the principle that is demonstrated that when we only look at a small sample, or a small, isolated piece of something, we don't necessarily see all that we need to see.

I believe that life gives us glimpses sometimes, of problematic patterns that are at work within us, by showing it to us in other people, or the world around us in magnified form.

If someone in your life is really annoying and upsetting you, take a look at the patterns that most bother you, and see if you might have a little of that in you... even if it's in 'swatch' size portions. If the problematic pattern is being expressed around us at the same level that we do it, we wouldn't even notice it. it would seem 'normal' and 'acceptable' to us. That is why life sometimes uses the mirrors around us (other people and the world stage) to show us the magnified versions of that junk. We can't ignore it... and it usually really upsets and irritates us.

This isn't easy work. Admitting that we do something (either to others, or to ourselves) that we don't like in other people... isn't easy! It is, however, the only way to freedom. We can't repaint the room, until we realize that it's the wrong color. Life actually does a favor by showing us the intense and magnified color in those around us, in an attempt to get us to 'switch swatches' before we do our own painting (by allowing the pattern to grown and develop in us, until it becomes much more pervasive in our experience.)

If you find yourself exclaiming either in anger, sorrow, irritation or any other 'negative' evaluation, "It's REALLY GREEN" then take a look at your own swatch, and examine it carefully. You might need to switch swatches to make sure that the paint jobs you complete turn out the way you want them to be.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Source of the Current Pain

I was talking to a friend today who was very upset about a tree that lives outside her condominium. The grounds maintenance people came and seriously cut back the tree in a fairly disfiguring manner. It was very upsetting to my friend, because she had planted this tree many years ago.

She admitted that it shouldn't have been planted where it is, because it is a type of tree that will grow far too large for the space it has.

We ended up having an interesting discussion about it.

Ultimately, although she didn't know when she planted, she had 'set up' the current day situation. The tree can't rub up against the building because it will cause damage, yet the tree is getting quite large, and is simply growing in it's natural pattern. She planted the tree, without understanding exactly what type of tree she had, or what it would need to thrive and live a long life.

This is such a powerful metaphor for life! So often, we begin something without fully understanding what we are getting in to and then are surprised by the results down the road. Sometimes it happens through ignorance, sometimes through lack of due diligence. Other times, it is simply not possible to know all the requirements going in to something.

I'm most interested in the first two conditions: ignorance or lack of due diligence, because these are the two issues we can do something about.

If my friend had researched the type of tree she was purchasing, she might have either chosen a more appropriate tree for that location, or decided not to plant this particular tree in this particular location. It was a live Christmas tree, so she might have been able to give it to someone who had more space for such a tree to grow and thrive.

Now, she's experiencing a lot of pain, as the tree has to be continually cut back, and will eventually need to be cut down. That was certainly never her intention, when she tried to do an environmentally friendly thing by purchasing a live Christmas tree.

To me it illustrates a very basic, yet deep spiritual principle. Often times, the current pain we're experiencing, had it's genesis in our own actions or decisions.

We may have ignored red flags, and allowed ourself to get deeper and deeper into an unhealthy situation. We might have done things repeatedly against our own belief system or values. Perhaps we let the opinions of others pressure us into something we didn't really want to do in the first place. The list could go on and on and on. If we're really honest with ourselves, which isn't always the easiest course of actions, we find that we are at the genesis of much of current pain and struggle.

The great news is that we can use this for our learning and our own growth. We can change the way that we approach our decisions and realize that our actions always have consequences in the outer world. Always.

This isn't about blame or feeling 'guilty.' Far from it. This is about understanding the laws of the universe, and using that knowledge to our advantage! To facilitate our learning, growth and improving our lives in powerful and amazing ways!

Before you plant something in your life, consider it carefully!