The Most Authentic Character You’ll Ever Meet

I have spent much of the last few years trying to learn all that I can about creating and living an authentic life. I have searched the world over for examples of people who personify what authentic living is all about. Although I did find a few folks, (some famous, like the Dalai Lama, and some just regular people like you and me), I finally found the perfect example of what authentic living looks like by hanging out in my very favorite place on earth … in fact, on the earth itself, namely, in nature. In my lifetime I have discovered time and again that nature provides us with all the knowledge and wisdom we need. In this case, the example is not some single, unique thing. In fact, there are millions of them, if not billions, and you can find them just by stepping out of your front door or looking out of your window. I am referring to trees.

I am being totally honest when I say that a tree is a living example of what it means to be authentic. In fact, I spent the two years before I moved last November making friends with a huge old tree that stood at the foot of my driveway. She and I became quite close and just by watching her do her thing throughout the seasons, I came to understand not only what authenticity was, but integrity as well. Here is what I learned:

  • A tree never worries about how it compares to the other trees. It is content being who and what it is.
  • A tree can lose its leaves in the autumn and not fall into panic mode wondering if it needs a dose of Rogaine to grow them back. They have faith in who and what they are, and know that, come spring, their leaves will come back just as beautiful as before.
  • “No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves.” (Native American Proverb).
  • A tree shows up every day and performs its job, helping to keep the air clean, with no thought of reward, promotion or recognition.
  • A tree generously and lovingly gives of itself to provide homes for birds, squirrels, insects and other creatures, shielding them from the elements, offering its seeds, branches and leaves for food and building materials. It never demands payment or even a thank you.
  • A tree knows that the time will come when it may begin to crumble and lose some of its limbs, and perhaps even come crashing down one day from the force of a storm or just from old age. It doesn’t panic when it sees the first wrinkle or crack and search the internet for any and all anti-aging products it can find. It accepts that there is a cycle of life and it is part of it.
  • Even when its days are over, and the pieces of its trunk and branches are being hauled away, it has left behind a legacy deep beneath the ground. There it has planted roots and seeds that will nourish the next generation. That is its legacy.

If any of you follow my blog, “Flower Bear’s Garden-Growing A Life,” you may remember a post I did a few years back about a particular tree and my oldest granddaughter. Years ago when I was living along the river in the picturesque town of Marathon, New York, there was a huge tree that could be seen on the river bank across from my front windows. My granddaughter, who was 4 or 5 at the time, had named the tree Grandmother Willow after a character in the Disney re-make of the Pocahontas story. She would bring it presents of food and flowers, play underneath the canopy of its branches, and talked to it all the time. A few years ago, Grandmother Willow (which was actually not a willow but a maple tree) came down in a storm during a particularly nasty winter. The following spring, while visiting the town for its annual maple festival, my granddaughter, now in her 20’s, was horrified to see her beloved friend lying in pieces on the ground. I pointed to the hollowed out base of what was left of her trunk. “Look, honey. See those brand new shoots coming up? Those are her children, coming to take her place. She’s not gone. A piece of her will live on forever.”

An authentic life is accepting who you are at every stage of your life, doing what you were intended to do when you were created, sharing your gifts with the world and finding a way to be of service. Trees do it all the time, and so can we.

The assignment this week on the Home Page is a fun exercise in using our creativity and imagination … and maybe a little of our inner child.

Peace and blessings.

 

 

You Must Be Present To Win

I have been reading a great deal lately on the wisdom of The Eight Limbs of Yoga and Tibetan Buddhism as it applies to our Western trained minds. I am currently enjoying the classic Awakening The Buddha Within,” by American author and Buddhist teacher, Lama Surya Das. The author has a lovely sense of humor when trying to compare how our minds are always everywhere else but where we actually are. He says:

“Of course, we are usually sort of elsewhere and not fully present, but, as in some prize drawings, you must be present to win.”

For all that I looked for a good example of this in his book, the place where I actually found what I was seeking was, naturally, in the present moment in my own life. The person who gifted me this example was not some famous author or spiritual teacher. It was my 10-year-old granddaughter.

Gabriella, (Gabby for short), loves to cook. I gifted her my old, tattered copy of The Betty Crocker Cookbook, the bible of cooking when I was a young bride decades ago. Watching Gabby work her way through a recipe is a lesson in being present. Her focus is on the ingredients, following each line one at a time, and being mindful of each step. Her concentration is totally on what she is doing to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. In any other area of her life, her mind is all over the place just like any 10-year-old, but in the kitchen she is totally present. She shows up as the cook she wishes to be.

How do we show up in our lives? Creating an authentic life is fine and dandy but if we don’t show up for it, what good was all the work we put into creating it? It’s like mixing the ingredients for the ultimate chocolate cake and then forgetting about it, leaving the batter in the bowl to turn hard and useless. We have to put that cake in the oven, keep our attention on the temperature and the time, and the enjoy the finished product. We have to allow ourselves to lick the spoon, inhale the aroma and taste that cake with every fiber of our being.

The same holds true for our lives. We have to allow ourselves to “lick that spoon,” and be there for every minute of it. We need to engage all of our physical senses as well as our spiritual and mental senses and experience every moment. In this way we are not only truly living the authentic life we have created, but we are also showing up in the world as an example of what authentic living is for those around us. Who knows how far our light will shine?

This week’s assignment on the Home Page is going to ask you to “whip up a recipe for living.” As always, have fun with it, stay present, and keep writing!

Peace and blessings.

Like The Lilies Of The Field

For the past 5 months we have been putting pen to paper to create our authentic lives. We have connected to what an authentic life feels like, created a peaceful, loving home environment to live that life in, and have identified many ways to make that authentic life become reality. However, I am here to say that all the planning and writing in the world will not produce that life if we don’t commit to accepting one very important idea: that we deserve it.

We are bombarded from the time we are little children with what I call the “Not Good Enough Syndrome.” We are never good enough to match up to what our culture tells us is perfection when in reality this perfection doesn’t really exist except in the minds of corporations that want you to buy their product or support their ideas. What happens is that eventually this atmosphere of “I’m not good enough, pretty enough, rich enough, etc.” ends up making our idea of perfection an impossible accomplishment. So we go through our lives convinced that the reason we don’t have the life we want is that we just don’t deserve it.

I am here to tell you that your authentic life IS the life you deserve. You deserve it as much as “the lilies of the field,” as the Bible told us. You are as deserving of a happy, authentic life as the birds in the trees and the fish in the ocean. Once you know and accept that, all the work we have been putting in to this finally becomes real to you.

I know that the usual response to this idea is: “Sure, but if you knew what I’ve done, or what I haven’t done, or what’s happened to me, you wouldn’t say that.” On the contrary, it’s because of all that I say it. That was your old life. This is a new day, and each moment in it is an opportunity to create the life we want. The point of power is always in the present moment. As soon as you step into it and accept the infinite possibilities that come with each and every present moment, your authentic life begins to unfold. If you don’t believe me, take at look at the lilies of the field, or the birds in the trees. None of them are worried about whether they match up to the others around them. They live in the present moment and live their authentic lives that way. So can you.

Over on the Home Page, this week’s writing assignment is going to help you to work on your deserve-ability levels. Give this one your full attention and commitment. The work we will be doing from here on will deepen your journey to authenticity.

Peace and blessing

 

Words To Live By

Anyone who knows me also knows that I am a huge believer in the power of using affirmations. I know there are some people who think that just chanting affirmations every day isn’t really doing any good. I respectfully have to disagree with them. As we have learned here from our time together, words have power. Spoken words have even more power, and if we put our intentions and energy behind those words, we can change our lives.

For a while I took my affirmations one step further and began taking a page in my journal every day to write out my favorites by hand, especially those that were focused on a particular situation I was working with. Then it occurred to me that there were common threads to all the affirmations that I chose every day. As I continued to work on creating my authentic life, I decided that over and above my daily affirmations, what I really needed was a motto to live by, something that would serve me in all areas of my life day in and day out. This is what I came up with:

“Do what you love, and love what you do.”

The moment I wrote it out on paper and looked at the words staring back at me, I knew I had hit on the right motto for me. If my life was going to be about being authentic, then it should be a life that I loved regardless of what I was doing. Sure, there will be moments throughout my day and throughout my life that aren’t necessarily things I would choose to do for fun, like going to the dentist and washing windows, but how I show up for those moments will define how I experience them. So I can either dread and fret about going to the dentist, or I can send love ahead to the dentist, his assistant, and, yes, even to my teeth, and do the very best I can to get through it. When I’m washing windows, I can put on some upbeat music (I like to clean to the complete collection of Fleetwood Mac’s greatest hits), and sing my way through the suds! I may not be doing what I love in those moments, but I can send love to what I’m doing and love myself through it.

I’ve had some other favorite sayings that I’ve used in the past, such as:

“Bloom where you’re planted.”

“Do what you can, with what you have, from where you are.”

“Plant a garden, grow a life.”

(Did you notice the gardening theme I’ve got going here?)

This time, however, I think I’ve hit on the gold medal of mottos, at least for my own life.

You don’t need to be a gold medal mind reader to know that this week’s writing assignment is going to ask you to come up with a motto for the authentic life that you are creating. Whatever you decide on, let it speak to the life you want to live now!

Peace and blessings.

 

Cultivating a Habit of Being

We’ve done a lot of positive work over the last few weeks on creating our authentic lives. We’ve discovered what an authentic life feels like, we’ve created a safe, cozy and inspiring home to live that life in, and we’ve identified the things that we do to make our hearts sing, to follow our passions and live our dreams. Today I am going to ask you to do a 360 degree turn in order to cultivate an entirely new, and possibly surprising, habit that will enrich and inspire your authentic life: I’m going to ask you to do nothing.

What! Do nothing! Don’t be absurd, we all have to do something! Who would we be if we weren’t doing something? My point exactly! Who would you be if you weren’t always doing something?

In her book, “Joy Diet,” author and psychologist Martha Beck talks about the importance of taking a vacation from your life every day. She asks us to plan time into our day to answer and act on the following questions: “What can I do today to make myself happy? What one thing can I say or do now, in this moment, that will make me smile?” If we can identify one thing that we’d really like every day, from a few quiet minutes to meditate, to a short stroll outside, to simply sitting and listening to the birds tweeting away outside (as opposed to you Tweeting yourself silly inside!), we can open ourselves up to that same sense of enthusiasm, wonder and tenderness we felt as children when we would sit for hours watching insects at work or animals at play. Yes, it requires letting ourselves become vulnerable to whatever might come up out of that nothingness, but it also leaves us open and receptive to an infinite well of inspiration, creativity, and a renewed sense of peace.

Today, and every day, give yourself the gift of some vacation time and enjoy the peace and beauty of doing nothing. Who knows? It just might become a habit you can live with!

As you can imagine, this week’s assignment is going to ask you to answer the questions that we asked above. Let yourself play with this one like a kitten chasing a butterfly …and let yourself remember what happy feels like!

Peace and blessings.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

 

kermit

I saw this poster hanging on the glass door of my local library and couldn’t resist taking a picture of it. It fits right in with our topic for today.

Over the last two weeks we began our journey to use the tool of writing to create an authentic life by, first, finding out what an authentic life feels like, and then using that feeling to feather our nest, so to speak, by making a home for ourselves that supports those feelings.

So we know how we want to feel, we have a warm and comforting home that supports us … now what? What do we do when we wake up in the morning in our good-feeling home?

One of things I have learned in my own quest to live an authentic life is that in order to know what we want to do with our lives, we first have to find out what our relationship is with the word “do.” How many times have you had someone ask you, “So, what do you do?” as if what you did for a living defined who you were as a person. If you’re reading this right now, chances are you are already on board with the idea that what we “do” is not who we are. However, so many people still believe that if they quit their jobs to pursue their dreams, they will live in poverty. Author Marci Shimoff,  in her book, Happy For No Reason, calls this a “happy when” life: “I’ll be happy when the kids leave home and I can follow my passion; I’ll be happy when I retire and can travel; I’ll be happy when the mortgage is paid off and I am debt free, etc.” You get the picture.

Others dream longingly of living each day doing what they love, but come up with a hundred different excuses why it just wouldn’t work for them: “I don’t have enough money; I’m not smart enough; I don’t have the credentials; I don’t have the right contacts; My family would never support me in this; etc.” This is where Kermit comes in. He is the most surprising choice for a mega TV and movie star that was ever conceived … “Eats flies. Dates a Pig. Hollywood Star.” But in the mind of the late, brilliant Jim Henson, he was the perfect choice. He was Mr. Average. Nothing special to look at, but with enough love to fill a world with song. Who are we to say no?

Do what you love. Love what you do. Even if you have to keep a regular job going while you pursue your passion or interests. In fact, doing what makes you authentically happy doesn’t necessarily have to translate into a job or a career. It can just be what you do to make your heart sing  – even if it’s dating a pig!

This week our assignment is going to focus on what makes our heart sing. So hop (pardon the frog pun) on over to the home page and sharpen your pencil. Today we take a real joy ride!

Peace and blessings.

Clicking Those Ruby Slippers

Last week we began our journey to create an authentic life by identifying what our authentic life would feel like and using that as the starting point. This week we are going to find out what an authentic life “looks like,” and there is no better place to begin than the place we call home.

I’ve always believed that the most profound words ever uttered in a move were the ones spoken by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz:

“There’s no place like home.”

Our home is our safe haven. It is our soft place to fall. It is the birthplace of our dreams and desires. It nourishes us. It sustains us. Most of all, it accepts us just as we are, wherever we are at any given moment.

How do you feel when you come home at the end of the day and open your door? Is it a feeling of welcome and love, or does it feel chaotic and unnerving? Is it uplifting or depressing? Is it open and light, or dark and cluttered? The energy in our homes has a direct connection to whether we are living an authentic life, or whether we are living just to maintain our homes. As the saying goes, do you own your stuff, or does your stuff own you?

I have done a great deal of downsizing over the last few years. I’ve written about this before, especially in book two of my Third Age Trilogy: “Second Chances: Lessons in Wisdom From A Life Well Lived.” (Available on Kindle through Amazon.com). I decided that I only wanted those things around me that I loved, that made me happy, that added to my well-being, or that were directly connected to creating meaningful experiences. Two sets of china didn’t do that, nor did over 300 books, dozens of movies and CD’s, clothes that lived in my closets but not on me, enough lighthouses  to open a store … and I won’t even begin to talk about the teddy bear collection (you’ll have to read the book to find out what I did with that!). I did some research into the topic of downsizing, from reading books and blogs about minimalism, to watching videos and TV shows on tiny house living, to talking with other women over 60 who were ready to leave their old lives behind and create a new idea of what conscious aging looked like. While I haven’t succumbed to any extreme minimalist lifestyle, I now live in peaceful, blissful simplicity. It takes me very little time and effort to maintain my home and possessions. The time I save I can now use on creating experiences, creating work that I love, and spending more time with family and friends.

I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to downsize or become a minimalist, but your home should give you the same feeling that we discovered in our assignment for last week: Your home should feel as authentic as the authentic life you are creating. If it doesn’t feel that way, what can you do to begin creating your authentic home?You guessed it! This week’s assignment is going to ask you to do just that.  Hopefully, by the time we’re done, the foundation for our authentic lives will have gotten even stronger, and with a strong foundation, we can build something that will last a lifetime!

I’ll see you over on the home page for this week’s writing assignment. In the meantime, as always, have fun with this.

Peace and blessings.

Getting Down to Business

For the last 31 weeks we have been exploring our lives, past and present, as a lead up to creating our authentic lives (31 weeks? Wow! We’ve been busy). Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start laying that foundation.

The first question I would ask you to consider is this: What is an authentic life? We touched on this before in an earlier blog post, but it’s worth repeating. Everyone has their own answer to that question. For me, an authentic life is when my principles, beliefs and passions are all aligned, when I look forward to each and every brand new day with anticipation, gratitude and joy. An authentic life is a genuinely happy one. I’m not saying that it has to be a bed of roses every minute of every day. Some days are chock full of thorns. The key is whether I pull out the rose bush in anger and frustration, or pay more attention to where I’m going and what I’m doing so I don’t get stuck again.

The second question I would ask you is this: What does an authentic life feel like? When we are in alignment with who we really are, we get what Hay House founder, author, teacher and affirmation Queen, Louise Hay, calls her “inner ding.” We also know what it feels like when we’re not being authentic. When we live our lives according to the dictates of our culture and society, there is a genuine sadness that permeates our spirit. We feel phony. We feel lost. The phrase, “not feeling like myself” isn’t just an overused cliché.

In order to find out what my authentic life was supposed to feel like, I did a little experiment loosely based on a process created by author, teacher and psychic medium Colette Baron Reid. (My version differs in that she uses a bird in the exercise while I use a cloud). Come along with me.

Imagine that it is a beautiful, sunny day. The sky is a deep blue and the clouds look like big, fluffy pillows. Now imagine that one of those clouds floats down and invites  you to climb aboard … not to worry, you won’t fall through. The bottom of the cloud is safe and sturdy. You climb on top of the cloud and it carries you up into that blue sky. Birds are flying all around you like a royal color guard. An eagle comes up along side of you and tells you that the cloud will take you anywhere you want to go as long as it is a place that will make you happy. So you think about the happiest place you’ve ever been and ask the cloud to take you there. You tell the cloud where you want to go and in minutes you arrive at your destination. The cloud places you gently on the ground and tells you it will be back for you shortly. You are all alone in your favorite spot in the world. Now answer this question:

      “What are you feeling right now? What does it feel like to be in your favorite place on earth?”

Do you feel like you belong there? Do you feel like you could do anything, be anything, create anything, in this place? Capture that feeling! Hold on to it tight and don’t let it go. When the cloud comes to take you back where it found you, take that feeling with you. Once you’re back, open that feeling up again and place it in your heart. That’s what an authentic life feels like. It feels as if you are where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing, and living your very own, authentic, interpretation of life.

By now it should come as no surprise that the assignment for this week is going to take you on a magic cloud ride (Save the magic carpet for Aladdin. This girl is traveling in comfort and style!). Get ready for the ride of your life. What you bring back with you is going to be the foundation you’ll be laying on which to build your authentic life. Happy Trails!

Peace and Blessings.

“We Now Interrupt Your Life To Bring You This Important Bulletin ….”

I had an entirely different blog post planned for today but, as often happens in life, the best made plans often go astray. In my case they were blown right off the map!

On Monday night we were hit with a storm of biblical proportions. I have to say that I have never been so scared in my entire life, and as I am what is politely referred to in modern society as an “Elder,” we’re talking about more than just a few years here. The wind gusts were clocked at 70 mph, the hail was the size of pennies, the rain was enough to re-float the Titanic, and I was sure that the roof was going to be blown off the top of my apartment building … and I, of course, am on the top floor. You know, that apartment with the fantastic view … the one that saw destruction coming right at her? Anyway, I remembered my training from days gone by and found the inner-most room in the place away from windows. As I live in a studio apartment, the only other “room” is the bathroom and the little alcove outside it that is home to the linen and coat closets. That is where I hid with my cell phone in one hand, a flash light in the other, and prayers falling out of my lips as fast as the rain outside. I heard trees cracking and crashing all around me, and the sound of the hail on the roof and windows was deafening. In that moment, the draft of the blog post I had planned for today was sitting unfinished on the desk; the subject was “Waiting for the Right Time.” I started to chuckle, whether from sheer terror or the irony of the topic. I’m still not sure.

There is no “right time” to live an authentic life. There is only now, this moment. This moment is all we have. Waiting for the lights to go out and the roof to come down is not the time to prepare for a storm. The time to make sure you have batteries for your flash lights and radios, or a stock pile of candles and jugs of water, is before the storm gets here. The same is true of living our authentic lives. We need to create them, and then live them, now.

Standing there in the doorway to the bathroom, I heard the voice of my late, sweet teacher, Dr. Wayne Dyer, in my head (he does that a lot, I’ve noticed): “Even in Nature, no storm lasts forever.” It’s true, we have to be prepared to face the storms of life, but we still need to live our authentic lives in every moment, the stormy ones as well as the sunny ones. And, the storm will end. And, the sun will shine again. And, we just may get another chance. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Live your authentic lives now, out loud and in full throttle. Mother Nature doesn’t hold back, why should we?

This week’s writing assignment is all about weathering storms. Go for it!

Peace and Blessings!

Good Lives Are Hard To Come By

I read this quote from the book: “The Writing Life,” by Annie Dillard, author of the classic memoir: “Pilgrim At Tinker Creek”:

“There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and the passage sweet.”

I would certainly support her claim that a life lived in the senses, i.e. the material world, is certainly a life that is never happy because it always needs more and more. I would also agree that the life of the spirit requires nothing from the material world. Everything it needs is already supplied within us. However, I do not agree with her claim that “good lives are hard to come by.” Not at all. Once we have come to understand what makes an authentic life, for us as an individual and for no one else, then living a good life is what has to follow.

As I have explored what makes an authentic life for me over the last two or three years, I have come to understand that, along with inner qualities like love, compassion, kindness, respect and a connection to something larger than myself, it is the ability to recognize those “good days” when they come along and do what I can to string as many of them together as I can. That’s what makes a good life. I also use my senses, not for greed, but for the joy they can bring me: the smell of the grass after it rains, a glorious sunset, the sounds of birds singing the day awake, the taste of a fresh, ripe tomato fresh off the vine, my grandchildren telling me: “I love you, Grandma.” Those are the good moments, that make a good day, that make a good life.

I am not downplaying the bad days, and there are sure to be plenty of them for all of us. We get sick, or someone we love gets sick; we lose our job; we total our car; a natural disaster takes away our home. So many bad days can come our way, but do they necessarily have to make a bad life? Or, are they just some bad days within what is otherwise a good life? If the good days and the good moments outnumber the bad, should we let the bad days define our lives, or should we take them for what they are – bad days – and look to the moments that bring us joy to pull us out of them? I can recall countless times that, in the middle of a bad day, one of my cats would seem to know I was in need of some TLC and jump up on my lap to put her head on my chest and purr sweet sounds to display her unconditional love. Or, I will take myself out for a walk tp gather my thoughts and see small children at play, feel the sun on my face, or run into a dear friend. Those good moments turn my bad day into merely some bad moments, and rescue the rest of the day ahead, but only if I release my death grip on the “bad day” and let the good come in.

We can all find ways to turn a bad day into a good one. As you might guess, this week’s assignment is going to ask you to do just that. Once you can name something for what it really is, you have the power to make it into something better. So have fun and, for goodness sakes, Have A Good Day!

Peace and Blessings!