Am I Living Small?

Recently I was invited to serve on a certain board of directors in Fairfield. I almost fell off my chair. Not in my wildest dreams would it have occurred to me that I might be considered for this board. I have done some public speaking over the last year for this group; I do feel quite passionate about the direction this organization is taking. But a board member?

 My first thoughts were: Are they mad? Why would they want someone who is eighty-one to serve on what is a vibrant, important board, consisting mostly of members younger than my children? This can’t be happening!

 “You don’t have to decide now,” I was told gently. “Just tell me that you are even willing to consider it.”

 Stunned, I nodded my head. “Of course, I will consider it. I am so honored to be asked.”

 But, at the same time, in my head I could hear the following sentences: You are too old. Your board-serving days are long over. (There was a time when I served on a number of boards.) As a single senior you are supposed to be learning to play bridge and thinking about retirement communities. This is not for you. You will fall asleep at the evening meetings.

 I came home dazed but determined to think about it. This was an amazing opportunity, I knew. What would this mean for my life?

 I plunked myself down at my computer where I am accustomed to thinking, and there, lying beside my Mac, were pieces of yellow, lined paper containing quotes from a recent sermon delivered by the empowering pastor, Joel Osteen.

On top was a single piece of paper, which read: “I wouldn’t be alive unless there was something greater in my future.”

 The other bits were my notes from Osteen’s recent talk about “living small.”

 Was that it? Was I “living small?”  Was I afraid to live a wide-open, spacious life? “Limited thinking leads to living in a small way,” Osteen tells us. “Don’t get stuck and stay there.”  Whatever our age, whatever our situation in life we are to dream new dreams and seek new horizons, he admonishes us. We are to “live large!”

 According to Osteen, “God”—the Universe--whatever works for you—“wants to enlarge us, wants us to gain new ground, and we have to make room for that new ground in our thinking.”

 The idea here is not to compulsively bite off more than we can chew, but simply to remain open to expansion, to new possibilities in our lives.

 Was I stuck? No longer able to think of living a larger life? Was I caught in some age-determined stereotype that had snuck up on me like a creepy, red rash whose itch held me fast?

 Living in a “small environment,” Osteen tells us, gets inside of us and begins to control how we think about ourselves. We need to combat this diminishment and instead, encourage ourselves, be willing to seize the next opportunity and be unafraid to spread our wings no matter how frazzled those feathers appear to us. We are called to live an “overcoming and expanded life.”

 There are no accidents. The notes beside my computer, hastily scrawled one Sunday a couple of weeks ago while Osteen was speaking, made my decision for me.

 I opened my email, typed in the address, and sent: “YES!”

Written for Unleash Potential by Cecily Stranahan, our companion on this journey of reflection and self-discovery. Visit Cecily's Blog at LifeOpeningUp.blogspot.com

Bus Driver or Tour Guide?

When you find yourself on a new path, perhaps a detour from your normal routine, and you’ve come upon a place in your life you could have never imagined, nor, perhaps, one that you’d never have chosen for yourself, to what do you attribute this unexpected situation?

This is something I often ponder as I travel through my days, as I discovering new trails to investigate; new people to meet; new territory to explore.  What I almost always come away with is a renewed outlook on life, which, if it feels right, I incorporate into my life’s path.  And with these lessons I continue to grow emotionally and spiritually.

Thus is the case when I met Tracy LaCroix in Cape Charles, VA last year. Hearing of his near-death experience eleven months prior to our meeting stirred within me a renewed interest in all things spiritual.  And out of that has grown not only a new book, but a new part of CJ; one that is more aware of the Universe and all that it has to offer – in this realm and any other that might exist.

Discussing this with the interim Rabbi at my synagogue recently, I mentioned to him the Hebrew phrase, “hashgacha pratit” which translates to “divine intervention”; all that happens is “as it is, as it shall be, as it should be”.  And I added to the topic the fact that when I had met Tracy LaCroix, I firmly believed it was not an accident nor mere coincidence.  Therefore, I assumed, this must be a case of divine intervention.

Well, Rabbi’s take on that was quite an eye-opener for me.  He stated that if we are to believe in hashgacha pratit as God’s way of watching over us, we then must state that He is responsible for every action, every move, every incident that happens to us throughout our lives.  And, Rabbi continued, that would make Him our bus driver leading us down our paths.

That gave me pause for thought, for part of Tracy LaCroix’s message – and one that I  firmly believe – is that God is a God of choice.  He might take us to certain points in our lives, but it is up to us to do whatever we wish with those circumstances.

With that assessment Rabbi totally agreed.  And he did so by stating that we might then think of God as our tour guide rather than the bus driver.  He took me to Tracy LaCroix, but He also showed me the ice cream shop next door to the hotel where I met Tracy.  It was my decision, and mine alone, to choose to listen to Tracy tell me of his extraordinary journey rather go get a rum raisin ice cream cone.

I like that.

I like the idea that God – or whatever higher spirit one believes in – is our tour guide.  It gives me the power over my own choices; the power to choose good over evil; the power to choose to help rather than harm; the power to believe as I believe for my own well being; and the power to choose joy over anger.

How about your God or higher power?  Is He your bus driver? Or is He your tour guide?


Guest blogger, author and motivational speaker CJ Golden has brought us the extraordinary journey of near-death experiencer Tracy LaCroix in her latest book, “Reflections from Beyond.”

Please visit CJ at www.cjgolden.com to spread his message of hope, peace, and kindness through the book, inspirational jewelry, speaking engagements and the exciting new program, “Tracys Mission.” Event dates can be found at http://cjgolden.com/upcoming-events/



The Rosetta Mission? OK. So I Am A Crank

I want to be excited about the Rosetta Mission and the Lander Philae connecting with a comet moving at 40,000 miles per hour, but I’m not.

 I torment myself: I am not a good citizen, not adventurous enough; I have no worldview. I don’t care about the RIGHT THINGS. Conceivably I am just an old crank. All of the above may be true.

I understand why the international scientists of the ESA—European Space Agency--who have been working on this project since November of 1993, were jubilant over yesterday’s landing, some of them in tears. It has been a lot of work.

The Rosetta Mission was created to help us to understand the origin and evolution of the solar system. The ESA, according to online sources, is “convinced that comets played a key role in the evolution of the planets,” bringing much of the water into today’s oceans, for example. The ESA has been and continues to be a collaborative effort involving eight countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States.

I’m all for international collaboration; it really gets things done. So does a budget of some 1.4 billion euros. The American cost that I could find—and it wasn’t so easy—was approximately 275 million dollars. (It’s possible that that figure was just for the Lander Philae itself.)

So why am I complaining? As interesting as it is—and I cop to that--I have a negative attitude about space exploration. Remember how we were going to the moon—hooray!-- and going to cure cancer? What did we do? We went to the moon. Cancer still eats us alive or should I say, dead?

 My priorities are different. What I want is an ESA- quality budget and at least an eight-country collaborative focus on how to feed the millions of starving people all over the world.

 I want a highly trained scientific group devoted to the development of clean water systems for those who have none. The solar system can wait. It has waited this long hasn’t it?

Does it have to be either/ or? It would seem so. The Rosetta Mission has glamour. Yesterday’s successful landing offered us an opportunity to say, “Look how clever we are!”

While feeding the poor? What is that? So ordinary, so mundane that we just don’t do it?

OK. I’m a crank.

Meanwhile, according to today’s Telegraph, “Scientists say full contact has been reestablished with the Rosetta probe, but it is stuck in a crater where it cannot get enough sunlight for its solar panels.” 

Not nearly enough sunlight. 

And so? We will see.

                                                 ***

I usually post on Mondays but this could not wait. 

 

Written by Cecily Stranahan, our companion on this journey of reflection and self-discovery. Visit Cecily's Blog at LifeOpeningUp.blogspot.com

Rediscovering the Track

Rediscovering the Track 

 

Boyd Varty, master tracker, writer—The Cathedral of the Wild--and owner of the Londolozi Game preserve in South Africa, writes:

 

“I’ve learned that nothing is worth doing if it cannot be done from a place of deep peace. If we want to restore the planet, we must first restore ourselves. I believe that you find your way to your right life, your mission, the same way you find an animal. First you quiet your heart and be still. Then find the fresh track and be willing to follow it. You don’t need to see the whole picture; you only need to see where to take the next step. Life isn’t about staying on track; it’s about constantly rediscovering the track.”

 

Having just made a life-changing decision, I ask myself: Was it done from the place of deep peace that Varty describes above? I think not. Nonetheless it was—like many of our seemingly abrupt decisions-- done from an unconscious accumulation of experience and awareness.

 

Still, I think Varty has said it all and I admire the way he wrote it in his remarkable book about growing up on Londolozi land in South Africa. Reading the book, we witness the lively, sometime hilarious and sometimes frightening story of his journey into adulthood that brought him into the wisdom expressed above.

 

 “First quiet your heart and be still.” That means waiting. Many of us are not so good at that. Waiting. My wise son said about my pending decision to sell my beloved English cottage, “Wait three days, Mom, and then see what you want to do.” I waited the three days—three days are so symbolic—and then I was certain it was time to let it go. Sometimes the wait needs to be much longer than three days. Perhaps, as Ina Garten has written about her decision to begin to

 write cookbooks, a person might need to wait a year to find “the fresh track.”

 

Being still and waiting allows the Universe, God, the Great Choreographer in the Sky, to do some things: shift some ideas, create some space and open some minds, including our own. All of the above, and so much more: miracles that we cannot fathom.

 

Waiting makes us feel powerless because we are not doing anything. In our action-oriented culture, that’s bad news. In eastern cultures there are three acknowledged and accepted states of mind: yes, no and I don’t know. 

 

“I don’t know?”  People in the west tend to think you are a wishy-washy no-account if you don’t know what to do next. I remember my youngest son returning from a visit to Ohio—where he was born--after spring vacation of his senior year in college, and saying to me, “Everyone wanted to know what I was going to do and I had to say I don’t know. It was awful, Mom!”  (This man—not so young now---has seven television Emmys to his credit.)

 

A friend of mine retired from teaching a month ago and almost everyone she runs into asks her what her plans are. Travel? Moving? She laughs, waves her hands in the air and says, “Summer!”

 

Finding the “fresh track” and being “willing to follow it” takes courage. We need to trust our intuitions and also, if we are a bit off the mark at the start, we are urged to be mindful that that we can shift our course. Making adjustments, learning from our errors, in my mind, is the most significant life learning we can accrue. And, as Boyd Varty writes, “Life isn’t about staying on track; it’s about constantly rediscovering the track.”

 

“Rediscovering the track,” Yes. The process of rediscovery challenges us to remain alert and alive in our own existence. What a great way to live!

 

Written for Unleash Potential by Cecily Stranahan, our companion on this journey of reflection and self-discovery. Visit Cecily's Blog at LifeOpeningUp.blogspot.com

Helping Really Helps

Helping Really Helps

 

 

Written for Unleash Potential

By Cecily Stoddard Stranahan

http://lifeopeningup.blogspot.com

 

 

A few years ago, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving found me frustrated and edgy. It wasn’t because I had 16 people coming and hadn’t made my perfect pies yet. Nothing like that. It was, simply, that I hadn’t done anything for anyone else: for anyone who’s Thanksgiving might not happen at all. Ordinarily I respond to one of the many requests that show up in the mail, but this year I wanted to buy real food, buy it myself. I had tossed out all the paper pleas thinking that surely a way to accomplish what I hoped would reveal itself, but it hadn’t. Now it was almost The Day and I had helped no one.

 

As I pulled into Stop and Shop, Westport, near the entrance of the store I spied my Yoga teacher from Yoga4Everybody standing with a small group, all of them wearing bright blue aprons that said in white letters, FOOD BANK.

 

Perfect. She gave me a list of what to buy and I bought a Thanksgiving meal for a family I would never see. Handing the food over to some cheerful young people, also clad in blue aprons, I left the store feeling relaxed and happy.

 

Everybody knows that helping is a two way street. We feel better when we help someone else: anyone . . . with anything. It doesn’t have to be a big deal; holding a door for a stranger laden with packages can lift our spirits. Psychology Today calls this the “helper’s high.” (New York Times, Dec. 1, 2009) What is amazing is that actual data exists to support what we are aware of experientially.

 

“It’s about stepping out of your own story long enough to make a connection with someone else,” says Cami Walker, a victim of multiple sclerosis, who, according to the New York Times, (Dec 1 2009) decided to give a gift to someone each day for 29 days. The results of her plan? Walker became “more mobile and less dependent on pain medication. The flare ups that routinely sent her to the emergency room have stopped and scans show that the disease has stopped progressing.”

 

Stephen G Post, director of The Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University, says about Walker’s experience, “‘There’s no question that it gives life greater meaning when we make this shift in the direction of others . . . But it also seems to be the case that there is an underlying biology involved.’”

 

 The Times reports further that “the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, CA,” found that “elderly people who volunteered for more than four hours a week were 44 percent less likely to die during the study period.”

 

Seniors! No curling up with Dr. Phil and Oprah. We have to get out there and help. Did you ever dream that prepping mountains of food in your church or synagogue kitchen might add to your life span?

 

The Times article goes on to say that “altruism may be an antidote to stress. A Miami study of patients with HIV found that those with strong altruistic characteristics had lower levels of stress hormones.”

 

“By contrast,” we are informed in the same article, “in one study of 150 heart patients, those who talked about themselves at length or used more first person pronouns had more severe heart disease and did worse on treadmill tests.”

 

 That’s it: young or old, no more lengthy monologues about ourselves. A sincere interest in others pays off even on the treadmill!

 

Analyzing two separate surveys of a total of 3,200 women who regularly volunteered,  a 1988 Psychology Today article described a physical response from volunteering, similar to the results of vigorous exercise or meditation.

 

Every religious tradition urges generosity. It’s not about striving for sainthood; it’s far simpler than that. Caring for each other enhances all of our lives. As Dr. Post of Stony Brook put it, “’To rid yourself of negative emotional states you need to push them aside with positive emotional states. And the simplest way to do that is to just go out and lend a helping hand to somebody.’”

 

Pretty convincing stuff, wouldn’t you say?

 

Written for Unleash Potential by Cecily Stranahan, our companion on this journey of reflection and self-discovery. Visit Cecily's Blog at LifeOpeningUp.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

Starved for Connection

With our iPhones and our iPads we never have to feel alone. At least that is the myth. It’s fun, playful, a bit phony, but it works. Feeling alone is uncomfortable, often miserable, for many of us.  With our tech toys we are always potentially connected-- to our families, our friends, people we don’t even know and last, but certainly not least, we can, in an instant, find distraction in the form of entertainment.

 

The inescapable fact of the human condition is that we are, all of us, alone. Even if we re married, we are essentially stuck with ourselves and we just can’t stand it. Turn off the iPhone? For an hour, maybe? That’s unnerving. But everything turned off, say, for a whole day? I don’t think so.

 

We say we yearn for peace. We say, as the phone vibrates repeatedly “If only people would just leave me alone.” We are kidding ourselves. That’s the last thing we want. We don’t want to feel alone; we love the umbilical connection we can maintain through our tech toys. Parents can “hover” over college-age children via texts. Teenagers can make certain they never miss a beat.

 

 We are starved for connection. Content doesn’t matter: “I am on the subway now. “I’m at the doctor’s office. He’s running late.” It’s connecting that matters. We want someone to care that we are sitting in an uncomfortable chair reading a three-week-old People magazine.

 

Mark Zuckerberg, himself a loner, figured out how to create connection possibilities beyond anything the world has ever imagined. Facebook contains an unspoken promise: You only have to “friend” someone, anyone, and you will never feel alone again.

 

Connection, in whatever form it takes, is worth a fortune to us.

 

A natural introvert, I have spent some periods intensely alone: camping and fasting for three days by myself in the Sierra Nevada mountains, meditating for twelve hours a day for three days at an ashram, a weekend every now and then in silence at a Buddhist monastery.

 

What was I doing? Testing my ability to be alone, to be at rest inside myself. Strengthening my “alone muscle.” (FYI: My cocktail party muscle is totally flabby.)

 

I’m not suggesting we all head for the mountains, nor am I suggesting that we trash our tech devices. They are useful: planes are late? We make new reservations. Businesses could not be managed without them. And in our daily lives, we enjoy connecting wherever and whenever we want. We have come to rely on that possibility.

 

 This is our world now and much of it is good.

 

Still, just as tech tools empower us, they also enslave us. Finding an appropriate balance is hard to come by. That takes effort; it always takes effort to swim against the cultural current.

 

We need to be mindful that much of this communicating is only a game we are playing and that Facebook and our iPhones and our iPads are poor substitutes for the real thing.

 

Real connection, the kind that nourishes our souls, happens only with real people with whom we spend real time, time that allows for honest and self-disclosing conversation. Time, even in silence, in which minds and hearts find each other, when we can feel a friend’ presence: time that offers an actual warm hand to hold. That is the best connection of all. That is the connection we truly long for. 

 

Written for Unleash Potential by Cecily Stranahan, our companion on this journey of reflection and self-discovery. Visit Cecily's Blog at LifeOpeningUp.blogspot.com

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

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