The Gift of Presence

As the holidays draw near and our stress levels rise, it’s a time to remind ourselves of the old-fashioned gift of presence. It’s a time to take a “pause” and re-evaluate how we are living our lives, what subtle messages we are giving our children, and our fundamental values. Presence has nothing to do with checking off items on a to do list, or tasks to be accomplished, or creating the perfect holiday, or doing in any way; infact, just the opposite. It has to do with being – being still, being creative, sharing connection through talk or a game together, connecting with nature and animals, consciously quieting the ever-busy mind that leads us further and further away from who we really are and the sense of inner peace we all crave.

Stress in 2013 has become synonymous with change of any sort. We are misled by, and reactionary to, the “paper tigers” hiding the bushes, so much so that our bodies actually believe they are real ones. Physiologically, our bodies don’t know the difference between real danger and something as insignificant as whether or not we are going to cook the perfect meal. The release of stress hormones in the body is the same! Chronic stress leads to disease, unhappiness, and unfulfilled lives. With the rise in technology and social expectations to do more and be more, it is imperative that we learn to shift perspective and pay attention to our own behaviors.

Sociologically, too, we are becoming less connected, more disrespectful, less mindful, more narcissistic, less tolerant, and more impatient. Techno-stress is directly correlated to a rise in anxiety, ADHD, and a generalized inability to focus, to name but a few. More Americans are taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication than ever before. The more we push ourselves and our kids, the more we reinforce an inability to tolerate discomfort and lose sight of the need to learn the all-important social skills that lead to connection, joy, and self-acceptance. The good news is that we CAN change this by living our lives more mindfully, in the present moment, with acceptance.

Here are ten tips for you to consider over the next few weeks:

1.  Consider a “digital detox” for a day or two over the holidays. It will help reframe what is important.

2.  Let go of expectations to be perfect – for yourself and those around you.  Learn to find the gift in imperfection and remember that you create your stress by how you respond to any given situation.

3.  Take frequent pauses to check in with yourself and slow everything down. Pause, Breathe, Rebalance.

4.  Be mindful of the gift of time with your child and family. Check in with yourself about what’s really important. A small shift in perspective changes everything.

5.  Prioritize and set healthy boundaries: have an “absolute NO” list.

6.  Take time to do nothing and be grateful for the little things.

7.  Learn to disappoint!

8.  Rest, rejuvenate and relax. Teach your kids how taking a deep breath helps to tolerate strong emotions.

9.  Get enough sleep.

10.  Feed and nourish yourself and your relationships, with consciousness.

Wishing you all a joyful, peaceful time of connectivity and presence with your loved ones!

 

 

 

Collective Compassion

There isn't much left to say that hasn't already been said about the Newtown tragedy and yet I felt compelled to share this with you as it touched a chord with many on Facebook: "The collective consciousness of compassion, as experienced around the globe, has elevated that vibration to a transformational level...we honor the little ones and the grown ones who have passed in a way that is helping humanity rise to a higher way of being..."

This perspective doesn't alleviate the sadness (an inadequate word for what we feel), nor should it. It is through this depth of feeling that we truly understand that we are one, we are all connected. It does, perhaps, allow us to find a way to send gratitude to those beautiful souls, assisting them in their transition to a more loving dimension.

In loving empathy ~Lisa

On being a mother-in-law

I am about to become a mother-in-law to 2 wonderful “daughters,” and we all know the reputation of mothers-in-law! So, I am determined to do everything I can to be the best I can be – and I am old enough and hopefully wise enough to know that this means walking the walk of living in my Truth – “being” the elements of kindness, compassion and light, doing my best to keep my ego at bay, and tending to my own triggers so I can stay open, loving and supportive, stepping back to watch so I can carefully maintain healthy boundaries and refrain from advice-giving or over-involvement (even if it’s hard sometimes!!) You see, I always wanted a daughter. I fell prey to the beliefs that I would somehow lose a son when my sons grew up and found wives. I suppose this was my fear – that somehow I would be “excluded.” I can see how the wanting kept me suffering, and how, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Largely because of my attempts to practice the Buddhist way of non-attachment, acceptance, compassion and love, and to live in my Truth, I am finding abundance, expansion and greater richness than I could have imagined. This is an example of how life is so much fuller than the beliefs we have about it. I know it deep in my heart and soul.

This past weekend, on a brief visit to San Francisco, I had a chance to “walk the walk and talk the talk”, meeting my future daughter-in-law’s family, celebrating with D and A and their friends, and witnessing their joy, excitement and love through that lens. I listened, and watched and loved and gave and let go of control – and in return, I received in abundance. Let me tell you, it was pure joy. Love and presence stripped away any illusion of exclusion or loss. And if any of my baggage showed up, even for a moment, I found myself reaching for the feeling of joy again. The result? Pure magic. I was even asked to go gown shopping and was witness to the first vision of her as a bride – an image of pure loveliness that took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes.

So, by living in truth, love and compassion, I have already begun my new journey of being a mother-in-law, knowing it is up to ME to stay aware, awake and attuned, reaching consciously toward the image of the kind of mother-in-law I aspire to be, bringing the feeling into the here and now. It certainly feels like I’m beginning a new and wonderful journey, full of healing and promise! What I know to be True is that I am enjoying some of the happiest moments of my life with my grown sons and I am so very grateful.

~Caroline~

"Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know:" Pema Chodron

Have you ever said to yourself, “when am I going to get beyond this……” or “why did this have to happen to me again?” I have been struggling with a very old, very deep issue for what seems like forever, and once again it reared its ugly head last week. Over the years, I know I have peeled back many, many layers of this particular wound. Try as I have to blame others or justify or rationalize in order to find some peace, I now know without a doubt that the lesson is mine and mine alone! Others who have been involved are just teachers along the way (even if it doesn’t always feel that way!!) Others have their journey – and their involvement with us is part of that - but we are ultimately each responsible only for our own journey and the lessons to be learned along the way. Lisa sent me this wonderful quote from Pema Chodron in perfect timing a day or two ago and I have been meditating with it over the weekend in response to my emotional pain. “NOTHING EVER GOES AWAY UNTIL IT TEACHES US WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW.”

I’ve historically been one to quickly go to therapy, read another book, receive another healing – all wonderful supporting practices – but this time I KNEW with every cell in my body that I have to go inwards and employ my wise inner self to teach me what I need to know. The message I got in my silent meditation on Saturday was “love, just love; love is the key, just love yourself and others,” or some other rendition of the same thing. Of course, this was exactly what I need to hear.

The intensity of the feeling I wanted to go away has already loosened its hold. It hasn’t magically left, but I am confident that it will. I know myself well and understand my own lesson here, on many levels. I certainly know that I want to learn what this particular lesson has to teach so that I can move beyond it in this incarnation. I know where to go for answers. What I Know to Be True is that I can feel my higher Self rejoicing at my acceptance of just that. How true it is that everything happens for a reason and holds a growth opportunity if we just let it! THAT is freedom, and I am so grateful.

~Caroline~

Not a dry eye in the place.....

I recently spent the weekend with an incredible group of young people, (one of whom just happens to be my son, Chris!) He, Zack, Sean and Hannah have just set off from LA on a refurbished school bus, taking their film, Into Poverty – Living on One, on tour to 25 schools and universities between now and December (including a stop in CT on October 21st, open to the public!) Our weekend together marked the culmination of 2 years work putting together a 55 minute documentary showing 2 parallel stories – those of 4 carefree, idealistic college kids who set off to simulate poverty by living on $1 a day each for 56 days, and the lives of the villages they came to know and love. As I proudly watched the movie, I noticed that there was not a dry eye in the place. It seemed as if everyone was truly present.

The film is about far more than the fearless, anything-is-possible energy of the kids. It shows what compassion and passion can do to a person and those they touch. It shows the joy – yes, joy – in the hearts of those whose financial concerns are uppermost in their minds at all times, as they struggle for survival, not knowing how they will pay for food for their babies. It’s a film about connection and courage, gratitude, joy and pain, hunger and appreciation, depression and longing. It’s a story about shared humanity – and a few incredible kids whose hearts are sometimes bigger than their heads. Maternal bias notwithstanding, it’s worth seeing!

This is the difference that each one of us can make – with a vision, passion, courage and a belief in possibility. Check out the trailer and the schedule at www.livingonone.org. There’s even a photo of the crazy school bus!

~ Caroline ~

A Snapshot in time from 39,000 feet

As I write this blog, I am at 39,000 feet, at best guess somewhere above Arkansas or Tennessee. My weekend away is over, I have finished my book, and I find myself pensively sitting back and looking out of the window. It’s a clear, sunny day, and a smooth ride and the word that comes to mind is “awe.” I am filled with wonder and I notice myself smiling. I am “mindful” as opposed to “mind-full”. The details of the landscape below are crystal clear in their beauty – incredible patterns and artistic patterns. A patchwork quilt of shapes, colors and contrasts – rivers and fields, dark and light, open land and forest. The rivers create designs that remind me of pictures I have seen of the neurons in our brains. There are straight lines and curvy lines, points of brilliant light where the sun hits a building or two while others remain in the shadow of one or two small puffy clouds. Filled with complexity, contrast, light and dark, yet completely “perfect” from my perspective at 39,000 feet. From up here, I can see the connection between everything. I have a sense of weightlessness and timelessness as I remember my own childhood excitement of first plane trips. “Magic,” I thought – and this morning is just that for me. I am fully present, relaxed and feeling the joy of being alive in this moment.

Living and working towards being more in my Truth has tapped me into the ability to fully feel the awe of my life, at this moment. It’s perfect just the way it is – filled with a complexity of experiences and emotions, the peace I feel now contrasted with the sadness of a few hours ago when I said goodbye to my son as he sets off on an adventure of his own, filled to the brim with both uncertainty AND possibility. There’s also some melancholy that a weekend much anticipated and looked forward to is now over – and yes, I am still filled with wonder at THIS very moment as a soar at 39,000 feet. This, I realize, is the richness and complexity of being alive, every minute of it!

With gratitude for my life’s experiences, each one of which has brought me to today,

- Caroline

Boring your Friends - Living in the Present!

There is no question that the value of living in the present is beyond measure. Living in the present allows us to concentrate our attention on what is happening right here, right now, without distraction from the “what-if’s” and “what could-be’s.” Letting go of unresolved issues of the past or a belief that yesterday was a happier time; letting go of future promises [when I ________ then I will _______], allows us to focus on the here and now. Letting go reinforces the amount of energy directed towards our current actions, interactions and relationships. We can truly hear the voices of others when our minds are not drifting.

Imagine letting go of the worry about the past and projections of the future. What a relief!

The good news is that your family and friends will appreciate your intense focus on their conversation of the moment, your attention to the relationship. The bad news is that they may find you a little more boring than in the past.

Boring because your conversation may no longer include the dramas of last week, those shared stories with their exciting twists and turns. Instead your conversation will be focused on today, right now….and some of that “right now” won’t be interesting news. That might not sound very exciting to the one you’re sharing with especially when we’ve become so used to hearing about and anticipating the shared drama.

However, the benefits received in truly living in the present will far outweigh any disappointments about your ability to entertain friends and family! You will feel calmer, more peaceful, with renewed energy, as your energy won’t be drained away by what already occurred or what is yet to happen.

Accomplishments occur effortlessly when energy is not diverted. The clarity of work and play happens on a whole new level, one that refreshes and renews along the way.

It’s probably one of the greatest challenges, to live in the present, yet when achieved, even if one moment at a time until it becomes a more regular habit, it is difficult to articulate what life feels like. I can only urge you to try it. When you find yourself drifting backwards in time, say to yourself, “What I Know to Be True is that I’m here, I’m now.” When you find yourself dreaming of what you will do upon reaching a goal or accomplishing something down the road, say to yourself, “What I Know to Be True is that I’m here right now and although I see clearly what is on the way, my focus is here and now.”

What We Know to Be True is that magic happens when you live in the present…so let us know how this exercise works for you and what magic happens for you…

-Lisa

The miracle of your body

I finally get it – my body is my best and most loyal friend! It’s there for me day in, day out, heart beating and lungs breathing, giving me the gift of life, to do with as I will. It occasionally reminds me that it is there, and that I need it, when it tires of the judgment I bestow upon it or the abuse I hurl at it, verbally or otherwise. I have been known to feed it foods that bother it, to name it as “too this or too that” (usually derogatory remarks); when I look at it in the mirror it is often with a critical eye. Sadly, I have been lacking in gratitude for all it does for me.  But however I treat it, my breath keeps coming and going steadily. This realization has revealed the truth of my body and changed my feelings about it! That it can be trusted, that without it I would not have life. I have shifted my relationship with my body to one of gratitude beyond measure, kindness and gentleness – and it is responding back to me in kind. I am noticing when it is hungry, or a little under the weather, or in pain, or tired. I am paying attention to my best friend, with loving kindness. I am noticing when I feel less than kind, and softening my response to myself.

Take a moment and try shifting your response to your body. Just notice your self-judgment for an hour, a day, a week, and see how you treat your body. Then smile at it as if it were your very best, most loved, friend, and see how you feel. Take a moment in silence watching the coming and going of your breath, in and out. What I Know to Be True is that that is truly a miracle!

- Caroline

Going with the Flow: The art of Living & Loving

Caroline and I had lunch one day as we often do on Tuesdays when she is at her office in Norwalk. At one point she shared how grateful she is to have a circle of friends who don’t take offense easily and who can go with the flow. It had been a weekend where plans were somewhat fluid and having the ability to stop in and visit at leisure or confirm plans at the last minute simply made life easier. Such a wonderful reminder that we tend to make life harder when we have expectations, take things personally, or stay too rigid in the patterns that we love - or at least have learned to be comfortable in. Resentment or hurt feelings based on unrealized expectations can affect a friendship. If we carry around a perceived personal insult the relationship is marginalized. When we feel that a friend didn’t conform to our schedule the irritation can take hold and fester.

Imagine letting go of all that wasted energy. Energy spent on wishing things would be different, taking things so personally, analyzing every nuance of a conversation. Imagine if the energy instead was spent living and loving.

So let’s start by recognizing when we are taking something personally. Stop and ask why that is the case. Is it truly that the other person acted out of dislike or disrespect? Could it be that there were other factors in play? Wouldn’t it be helpful to find out before fostering that personal injury?

Move the energy into recognizing that a friend might just have had a more pressing need, even if the need was for them to just be still. Move the energy into appreciating that our own need can not outweigh the need of our friend. Move the energy into just letting things be.

What I Know to Be True is that when we honor our friends and allow them the space just to be, we release the binds of obligation, the need to deliver, or the requirement to explain or apologize. We can then just live and love.

~Lisa

I See You

Every day we rush around, going to school, to work, doing errands. How often do we really see the people we pass along the way? How often do we even look them in the eye? Or do we scurry by hoping not to engage and thus be deterred from completing our mission in the precious few minutes we’ve allotted? Conversely, have you ever had an experience when you connected with someone you didn’t know, maybe shared a moment’s experience, eyes smiling into theirs, and then walked away filled with the elation of having touched spirit to spirit?

Derived from Sanskrit, the Indian greeting Namaste is often translated as “from the light within me to the light within you.” How beautiful!

And the following excerpt from the blog, http://sheilaochugboju.posterous.com/sawubona-i-see-you-africa-knows, blew me away:

The Zulu greeting, “Sawubona” means “I see you” and the response “Ngikhona” means “I am here.” I love the depth of meaning that African languages carry. Inherent in the Zulu greeting and in the grateful response, is the sense that until you saw me, I didn’t exist. By recognizing me, you brought me into existence. A Zulu folk saying clarifies this, “Umuntu ngumuntu nagabantu“, meaning “A person is a person because of other people.” We are liberated by our connections to our community and when they truly see us, they offer a mirror to our inner selves that allows us to freely connect.

Wow! What a departure from our simple “hello” or “hi”!

For don’t we all just want to be seen for who we really are?! To be seen, not just as a first impression, but as a multi-dimensional human being with many gifts to offer.

Through her artwork our wonderful friend, Antoinette Martignoni, taught us the need and the value of being seen. She shares this on her website www.youareseen.com:

YOU ARE SEEN. Knowing we are seen is to see with new eyes our neighbors as ourselves.

Imagine shifting our perspective to truly see another person in a way that acknowledges who they really are; letting go of the judgments about appearance, accent, intelligence, behavior, and seeing the light that shines from their essence. And when we do, miraculously, they in turn begin to view us through a more accepting, appreciative lens.

As an exercise, next time you are walking along and pass another, silently say, “I see you.” Feel what happens inside. Feel the light that begins to peek out and that grows every time you repeat this experience. Let your light shine and by simply doing so you will unleash the light of others.

Please share any experiences you may have with this exercise – we’d love to hear about it!

~Lisa

Acknowledging and Taming Our Dragons

When my kids were little, one of their favorite books was called There Is No Such Thing As A Dragon (by Jack Kent). Little did I know that, twenty years later, I would be using this little book to illustrate a point in therapy! It tells the story of young Billy who wakes up one morning to find a dragon in his room, about the size of a kitten. But when he goes downstairs, his mother says very firmly, “there’s no such thing as a dragon,” and Billy then proceeds to ignore the dragon as if it didn’t exist. And the dragon gets bigger….and bigger….and bigger….until eventually it runs away with the house on its back in search of food. The story ends with Billy shouting, “There IS a dragon and it’s a very big dragon,” and patting it on the head, at which point the dragon gets smaller until it is once again kitten-sized. His mother asks why it had to get so big, to which Billy replies, “I think it just wanted to be noticed.”

Such is the case with emotions or physical cues that are trying to “get noticed.” When we ignore them, they get bigger until eventually they run away “with our whole house.” It may be counter-intuitive, but acknowledging our problems and the signs we are given is the key to them becoming manageable, or “kitten sized” again. So don’t ignore your inner guides, or dragons – welcome them as the guides they are, pat them on the head and acknowledge them, and watch them get smaller. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather befriend my dragons and keep them kitten sized than allow them to run away with my house on their backs!

~ Caroline ~

My Wish for My Daughter

My husband and I have never been one to rush our children to grow up. The magic of childhood, with the inherent lack of responsibility, the unbridled creativity (when not stifled by well-meaning educators), the un-jaded and excited welcoming of all that life has to offer, is so short-lived that we encouraged our children to retain their youthful perspective as long as possible. Not an easy task in this culture which for some reason encourages us to grow up as quickly as possible. I can’t quite figure it out. Who would want to take on responsibility before they have to? Who would want to give up unscheduled time to relax and dream?

Growing up today seems to be defined by an urgency to get into the job market and become a consumer. I watch the high school population press to dress like adults, rush to drive, work in order to be able to purchase material goods, and take on tasks that would be challenging at any age.

That is not to diminish the many great contributions being made to society and to the global community by teens; in fact I am in awe of what some young people are doing today. But the ones who do it out of passion, rather than to fulfill their community service requirement for college applications, are the ones who actually didn’t rush to grow up. They are the dreamers of what can be, not what is.

Talk to passionate dreamers and you will find people who don’t take “no” for an answer and who get “yes” simply by deigning to ask, like my co-author Caroline’s son, Chris, a college graduate who has been working on a global poverty project that is taking off like a rocket. [see more information below]. These are the kids who are not looking at life as something to be lived in linear fashion: attend college, graduate, get a job, make money, buy a house, marry, have kids, etc. Nothing wrong with that vision but those who are able to think out of the box are the ones who will change the world.

Changing the world requries imagination combined with the ability to co-create with ease. As Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” The best way to encourage inspiration is to allow the dreaming to happen. When our kids are over-scheduled and asked to deliver to high expectations in order to fulfill the linear life vision perpetuated by society, we risk losing potential dreamers who can bring new and creative perspectives to a world crying out for just that.

My daughter (who by the way would cringe knowing I’m writing about her) is attending a 5-week program in interdisciplinary arts, including dance, theater, African drumming, poetry, visual arts, song-writing, playwriting, photography and film, along with leadership training. The ultimate mission of the program is to create new advocates for the arts, much needed ambassadors for the dwindling funding of these programs.

In the application essay for the program, she wrote, “My theater teacher once told me that the reason musicals exist is because when someone can’t express their feelings through words, they sing and when singing still can’t fully express how they feel, they dance. For me, dancing truly is the ultimate form of self-expression and over the years it has helped me get through anything, even by choreographing pieces to that perfect song in my head.”

Creativity is healing on many levels, for the individual and for the world, and I am so pleased that my daughter has embraced her creative path at this critical time in her life.

So, my wish for my daughter is that she never stop dreaming and creating, never stop being silly and finding the humor in life, in fact never stop giggling (as Caroline and I are known to break into fits of), and never rush to become a “mature adult” with the inherent seriousness that growing up implies.

~Lisa

[To learn more about Chris Temple's extraordinary project, please check out www.LivingOnOne.com and be sure to “Like” it on facebook www.facebook.com/LivingonOne to help them raise money!]

 

 

 

Take a look inside

How many times have you heard phrases like “the answers lie within” or been guided to “listen to your inner wisdom?” Yet we continue to seek those answers outside ourselves, time and time again, projecting our intolerable feelings onto others, blaming and acting out those emotions we think we can’t handle. I did just that this week, taking out my own uncomfortable feelings on my poor husband, until - thank goodness – I eventually realized what I was doing, paused and changed direction (but not until after I had caused some damage!) In the moment of being triggered, it’s counterintuitive to turn towards the painful feelings – after all, we want to get away from them and give them to someone else! The paradox is that, by turning towards them within us and acknowledging their existence with compassion, we are able to find relief. It is not WHAT happens to us, but rather how we RESPOND to what happens, that determines our experiences. How cool! We are actually in charge of creating an easier experience or relationship! I also think about the numerous times my darling mother would say “live for today and tomorrow will take care of itself.” Isn’t that the same as saying “be present” and “trust” that the rest will unfold? She was wise. It’s simple, yet we make it so very complicated with our desire to control every outcome. She would also say, “treat others as you would want them to treat you.” Again, isn’t this the practice of compassion and kindness? Simple, simple, simple (but, as we say in our book, What I Know to Be True, not easy.)

And it all begins with an awareness that we’re straying, made clear by the icky feelings we get when do so, followed by that magical “pause” before turning inward, with compassion for ourselves and others, and making the necessary changes – in our words, actions or deeds. And if the feelings are just too painful, we can use images or imagery to just “be,” ground ourselves and breathe through the moment. It will pass.

Take a look, won’t you? Wishing you a wonderful week, from my heart to yours.

~ Caroline ~

The "new" recipe

The “new recipe” that we are being asked and guided to use in these times has a different set of ingredients from those that worked in the past.  Incorporating these into transforming the struggles of our lives is so important, as the energetic shift occurs from the paradigm of past centuries to the rising energy of the feminine.  Some of the key ingredients for us to be aware of during this time of shift – of birthing – are the feminine energetic characteristics of

  • Nurture of ourselves - and others
  • the energy of love,
  • heart-centeredness,
  • open heartedness,
  • connectivity,
  • presence,
  • intuition,
  • creativity,
  • gratitude,
  • letting go of control,
  • speaking our truth despite what others think,
  • body work and nurturing the physical self with food and exercise,
  • nurturing the soul,
  • taking quiet time in which to listen,
  • increased “being” and less “doing”
  • allowing feelings to surface,
  • giving more weight to the internal self vs the external demands of money, possessions and power,
  • passion
  • trust

and more.  I have heard from my clients, my friends (and experienced it myself) about powerful emotions that are arising right now.   They can be so challenging to cope with; the shifts of mood that sometimes seem so extreme.  I know nothing about astrology, except to know that the astrological energy shifts that are occurring at this time are affecting many of us in different ways.  It seems that we are being asked to allow our feelings to show themselves, rather than always using the mind to justify and explain.  This shift to a more "feeling" state, although uncomfortable for many, helps us to flow with, rather than against, this natural shift in the universe.  Gently say goodbye to fear since it serves only to close our hearts and limit us in every way.   Answer the call to awaken with awareness and trust that we are all being guided, and move through the contraction.

Remember, birth is a series of contractions and expansion, so honor yourself with compassion if your birthing process appears challenging and painful from time to time. We don't need to understand "why," we just need to allow it to unfold.  Move with the rhythm of your contractions, rather than fighting them.  Pause and rest in the spaces inbetween.  Anyone who has given birth knows what I mean.  Allow the feelings to arise, name them, breathe into them and ask them to move through you for your highest healing.  Move with the shift, not against it.

What are you noticing about yourself and others at this time?  We would love to hear about your experiences!

~Caroline~

Tao Girl Guest Blog...

Friend, author, and founder of all things empowering, CJ Golden posted one of our earlier blogs as a guest blog on her site www.taogirl.com. Please visit and check out the stimulating blog reader comments: http://www.taogirl.com/tao-women/2012/06/black-tux-with-white-sneakers/#comments. Then be sure to explore CJ's website with all that it has to offer. She is committed to improving the self-esteem and self-worth of girls and women wherever she goes and we are so proud to support her in her endeavors. Author of the books The Tao of the Defiant Woman and Tao-Girls Rule!, CJ defies the stereotypical grandmother and is a powerhouse of energy and positivity! You just may find yourself wanting to be part of her community! Thank you, CJ, for all that you do and all that you are! With great appreciation, Lisa & Caroline  

 

Death as a reminder of life

The death of a loved one reminds me to live my life more fully Last week, my brother-in-law died suddenly and unexpectedly from a cerebral hemorrhage, leaving my sister, her grown children and the rest of my small family shocked and bereft.  Twenty years older than me, I had known him for over 40 years, meeting him for the first time in my teens, and somehow life without him will never be the same again.  For my children and myself, he and my sister represent our “home” in the UK – he having been the patriarch of the family unit now my parents are also gone.  On a high from my son’s graduation from college, such bad news received in an instant across the airwaves changed everything in those few seconds hearing my niece say, “Dad died this morning.”

I’ve been lucky enough to be on vacation this past week, spending time on a “road trip” with my youngest son post-graduation, and meeting up with my older children in San Francisco.  Timing of this news was “kind” in its own way – we were together as a family and I could, for once, deliver the news first-hand.  We were able to hold each other and cry together, holding from 6,000 miles away the immediate pain of my sister, niece and nephew in the UK.  We loved, we laughed and we cried together.  It was a week of both extreme joy and sorrow, racing from one emotion to another on a seemingly never-ending rollercoaster.  None of us got to say goodbye, but we all had peace in our hearts knowing deep down that we were lucky to have loved and been loved by such a special man.  Each and every moment was precious.

Sometimes I hesitate to take time from my busy work schedule to take that trip to see family and dear friends, many of who live far away.  Sometimes, I have made excuses about money or time or some other lame reason not to get on a plane and spend time with those I love.   All too often I have allowed life to become too busy or stressful, forgetting what is really important and where my values really lie.  Richard’s sudden death has reminded me of the truth of how fragile life is, of how precious every moment spent being present with a loved one is, and how, despite all our vain attempts to plan and control and worry about the future, in the end we only have THIS very moment to enjoy and drink in with all our senses.  So, this past week, in the midst of the helplessness and sadness I felt in my loss, I chose to put down my worries. I watched elephant seals spur on the beach in the Californian sunshine, I watched the sunsets and the sunrises on the Big Sur coast, I roasted marshmallows over a campfire, I took long hikes in the redwoods.  I delighted in the smiles and tears (and yes, annoyances!) of my now grown children and - despite the pain of my loss – I lived in the present and with carefree love and abandon.  Even in the midst of our sorrow, we were reminded of the truth that we can choose to live our lives fully in the present – and that is the gift we have all been given, the gift of our beautiful individual, unique and fragile lives, full of both unexpected joy and unexpected sorrow.  My challenge to you?  Tell someone you love him or her today, smile at a stranger, notice a flower in bloom, and take a moment to breathe with awe.  Live every day as if it were your first and your last as I did this past week.  What I know to be true is that I have been reminded to do just that, and for that I am grateful.

~Caroline~

Whose Life are We Living?

We spend the first half of our lives being indoctrinated into a way of being - how to think, behave, fit in. We then spend the second half of our lives living with the consequences of following the crowd. From the time we are infants we are receiving input from our parents and caregivers about our safety, our self-worth, our emotional peace. And while this is not about placing blame or shirking one's own responsibility for becoming our own person, it is about creating a keen awareness of when we are making decisions or living our lives based on outside influences.

Do we unconsciously behave in a way intended to make us feel superior, win approval, or conversely to rebel against the norm? Do we unconsciously dress, work, play, based upon an image of a life defined by the commercial advertising world?

Our health may be compromised as we try to live a life defined by others. Our emotional state of well being may be riddled with anxiety based on not living up to the expectations of others.

Isn’t it time to step into who we really are and do it now?! Pay attention to the decision or action of the moment. Does it make you feel better? Is that better feeling based upon what others think? Or is that better feeling based upon an inner alignment that tells you all is right with the world?

It may be hard to differentiate at first. The feeling inside of you that can only be defined by yourself and not by others has so long been hidden away that it’s often unrecognizable. As with all progress it begins with incremental steps. Just notice. The more you notice the more you will start to tap in to the true origin of the feeling.

Using the words What I Know to Be True will allow you to tap into that place more and more easily to determine if you are in alignment with your own Truth. Practice. Practice. Practice. Each and every time you catch yourself reacting, deciding, behaving by default, you will be that much closer to living the life that is yours and yours alone.

~Lisa

I hate confrontation!

Yes, I hate confrontation!!  But I’m getting better at not avoiding it – and being gently assertive - especially now I understand that it’s a natural part of a healthy relationship.  My dislike of it goes back to when I was a child.  My parents never argued or had any verbal confrontation.  I remember when I was away at boarding school, I was teased when I told the other kids that my parents didn’t fight.  Not only teased, but accused of lying too.  It was true, I never heard my parents fight, but of course they must have had disagreements from time to time.  They just didn't talk about it.  However, I can think back to my mother who used to purse her lips when she was displeased, and so I learned to “listen” for her displeasure and do what I could to avoid it.   Many years later, I now know that confrontation is a natural part of life and relationship that, when worked through in a healthy way, can deepen and enhance the relationship.   Sometimes speaking your truth means taking the risk that someone else will be disappointed or angry, and that’s OK. Too often we make decisions (or don’t make decisions!) because of our fears of confrontation.  This fear causes us to dishonor our truth and our authentic self, taking us further off course.  Have you ever explored your own fears of confrontation – how it feels when you’re afraid that someone may be mad at you or, even worse, not like you.  Where is this rooted for you?  What is your pattern?  Do you say “yes” when you mean “no” for fear of another person’s anger or disappointment?  Turn the mirror around and notice the dissonance between your actions, words and the inner Truth that you really wish you could verbalize.

How do you begin to change this old pattern that often leaves you feeling uncomfortable and resentful?  Simple - Drop into what you know to be True!  “What I know to be true is that even though I’m feeling afraid of being clear and direct with another person for fear of confrontation, I will feel empowered if I honor my own Truth, regardless of the outcome.”  “WIKTBT is that I am only responsible for my own words and actions, not those of another.”  Practice speaking up in small ways with safe people and see how it feels to assert and empower yourself in this way!

Just try it!

~Caroline~

We Don't All Have to Be Oprah! (or even get on "Oprah")

There’s a great scene in the movie Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner’s character challenges Burt Lancaster’s, a baseball player who never reached the major league and instead became a small-town doctor: “Fifty years ago, for five minutes you came within…you came this close. It would KILL some men to get so close to their dream and not touch it. God, they’d consider it a tragedy.” Lancaster’s Archie “Moonlight” Graham replies, “Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes…now that would have been a tragedy.”

There’s a lot of conversation these days about the universal need for each of us to step into who we really are. How we should follow our passion, follow our bliss, and then all will be right with our world.

Great advice. Not always so easy to follow.

Perhaps part of the reason is that as a society we have come to equate stepping into our power with stepping into the limelight. Our celebrity-driven culture places tremendous emphasis on being front and center, being able to wow the crowd, be as visible as possible, speak intelligently and articulately in front of an audience, motivate others.

But all types of energies are required to make the world flourish And not all of them need to be Oprah!

So, follow your heart, wherever it leads, and if it doesn’t lead you into the spotlight, be like Archie Graham and cherish that path for what it is, where it takes you, and how it touches others along the way.

~Lisa

Let it Be, Let it Be, Let it Be, Let it Be.....

In preparing myself to record the guided meditations we have been offering, I am given the confirmation of the freedom that comes from knowing, trusting and living in my Truth. Not only to trust that each meditation will be “right” just as it is, for whoever listens to it, but to give up my ego’s desire for perfection. It is another opportunity to quiet my ego mind and drop back into the truth of my spirit, my essence. I have handed it over, as it were, and found that each meditation has been channeled to me effortlessly. The Beatles sang about it in their hit song, LET IT BE…. Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be There will be an answer, let it be Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

If you are mindful and present today – or any day – you will doubtless find many such opportunities where the ego tries to take over by questioning whether or not you did something “right.” I have started just gently acknowledging it and saying “thank you and goodbye,” before returning to the space of allowing things to just “be.” The simple steps remain the same – cultivate your awareness of the feelings that tell you that you are out of alignment with your True authentic Self; trust that your Truth will guide you wisely and perfectly, and make the necessary course correction so you can live in your Truth more readily and often. Listen to What I Know to Be True meditations on www.soundcloud.com, search whatiknowtobetrue.

~ Caroline