I packed my bag and in it I put...

My son, Chris, just returned from living in Za’atari, a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, making an unprecedented film about the lives of refugees, in order to raise awareness through creative storytelling of the real life experiences of displaced Syrians who have lost everything; perhaps those of you who are parents can relate to the mix of feelings I had about this! 

In response to his first blog from Jordan, one of their followers named Jill responded as follows:  “Might be a good time to pull out some of the stuff I'm trusting you packed for just this kind of deal. Things like your flexibility, your acceptance of whatever comes up, especially when you don't have a choice about it anyway, your reserves of inner peace and ability to roll when you need to roll, and your senses of humor. For sure, your senses of humor.

We all know that whatever you're going to have to tap into from your luggage and your internal reserves probably won't come anywhere in the same solar-system-close-to comparing with what the people you'll meet in the refugee camp have had to find within themselves, every single day, simply to survive.” 

I couldn't agree more with Jill's comments and the importance of our inner resources, especially our ability to stay present and accepting of the twists and turns of our journey. It's not what happens to us that matters most, but how we respond to what happens to us. The most important gifts come from our heart, the gifts I call the "language of the soul" - connectivity, generosity, compassion, open-heartedness, acceptance, and trust, to name but a few. And that language is universal, even if it is so hard to access in times of crisis. The other quality Chris, Zack and Sean share with the refugees is courage - I am proud of them all and know that their big hearts will be open to everyone they meet, and that the hope and love they bring are the greatest gifts of all – yes, and their wicked senses of humor!

So I was reminded of when I was little and we used to play a game “I packed my bag and in it I put……” what inner resources would you would pack in your bag if you lost everything – or if you just chose to live a more present, simpler life?





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!