Answering The Big Questions

The inspiration for creating an authentic life can come from anywhere, anytime. It may be a life-long dream that can no longer be ignored. It could be a book or workshop that leaves a spark. Or, it could be a significant event, or series of events, that turns your world upside down and sets you back down heading in a completely different direction.

One story of just such a series of events comes from best-selling author, meditation teacher, and all around Great Dude (I add that last one because we both hail from the same hometown, Queens, New York), Davidji. Prior to his personal and spiritual transformation, Davidji, known then as David Greenspan, worked high up on the corporate ladder on Wall Street. He had dabbled in meditation and Eastern spiritual studies in the past, but had not found a way to quell that still, small voice inside that told him he was traveling on the wrong path even though to all outward appearances he was the poster boy for success. Then came 9/11. Afterwards, as he was walking down the dusty, grief-filled streets of Manhattan, the hand of a man cowering inside a cardboard box reached out and grabbed his pant leg. The man looked up into Davidji’s face and asked: “What will they write on YOUR tombstone?” Needless to say, Davidji took up the challenge to answer that question, for which I am personally immensely grateful.

I was moved beyond words when I heard him tell that story for the first time. I thought of it again last week when I was reading the newsletter from Robert Holden, Ph.D., about finding your passion from which I took last week’s assignment. Another item on Robert’s list is this one: “What would you like the greatest accomplishment of your life to be?”  It’s a slightly different take on Davidji’s challenge, but if you think about it, they go hand-in-hand. If we define accomplishment as something we achieve, like wealth, stardom, making the best-seller list, or finding Mr. Perfect, that doesn’t say anything to those that come after us about what kind of person we were, or why our presence on this earth mattered. It just tells them what we acquired. Personally, I think that the greatest accomplishments of our lives should be those things that have made a difference in the world, and changed it for the better. I think that when we change people’s lives in ways that allow them to bloom, we turn the whole world into a garden of love and possibility. I can’t think of a better way to live in authenticity, can you?

This week for our writing assignment on the Home Page, I’d like you to think about those two questions and how they might go hand-in-hand for you. Let your imagination, and you dreams, soar! As always, have fun with it, and remember to always keep writing!

Peace and blessings.

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Ideas Worth Spreading

I don’t know about you, but I get can’t get enough of watching TED Talks. I try to make it a point to check in every week to make sure I haven’t missed something really exciting, enlightening, or motivating. That’s what I get out of watching TED Talks; I get excited, enlightened, and motivated.

For any of you who may have been living on another planet for the last few years and don’t know what TED Talks are, allow me to explain. TED Talks are talks given by individuals in such fields as technology, education, the arts, religion/spirituality, ecology, economics, sustainability, entertainment, and just about anything worth talking about. As a matter of fact, their mission statement is:

“Ideas worth spreading.”

These talks are geared towards very special individuals who have the financial means to fund an idea or project that will make the world a better place. The price of a ticket to see a talk live is in the thousands (bless YouTube for reaching out to us poorer folks and sharing all this brilliance with us).

The reason I bring this subject up is because I was reading an article by author, teacher and coach Robert Holden, Ph.D., about seven questions you should ask yourself if you’re trying to identify your passion, or purpose, in life. One of the questions was: “What would I like the world to know?” He asks that we come up with a subject for a TED Talk on that very subject. Now, most speakers at TED are only allowed something like 18 minutes to get their idea across to all those rich investors in the audience looking for their next project to fund or idea to back. What could you possible say in 18 minutes that would convince the world of the importance of what you had to say?

I admit I had to think about that one for a long time. Over the last few years, as I have been slowly, but steadily, creating my authentic life, I have been making it a daily challenge to let go of what no longer serves me, and make what does serve me a priority in my life. After several years of doing this, I have come to the conclusion that the only things that matter are love, kindness, compassion, equality, and service. These are the things that matter. These are the things that will heal the world. We all want the same things regardless of where we come from or what religion we follow: we all want peace, love, safety, abundance, and fulfilling work to do. What we’ve been doing up until now hasn’t really worked, has it? As the saying goes: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Why not start teaching love, kindness, compassion, equality and service to each and every child from the time they are 4 or 5 years old? In one generation, we can heal the world. So I guess that’s what I would give my TED Talk on: “Healing The World In One Generation.”

Now, because I know that all of you are brilliant in your own way, I’m sure you’ve already guessed what your writing assignment on the Home Page for this week is going to be! As always, have lots of fun with it, especially this one, and remember to always keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Smoke and Mirrors

Earlier in the week I was talking about re-reading the 25th anniversary issue of Shakti Gawain’s groundbreaking book, “Living In The Light,” with those of you who also follow my other blog: “Flower Bear’s Garden-Growing A Life” (www.flowerbearsgarden.blogspot.com). In case you didn’t see it, Shakti Gawain is a pioneer in the field of personal development and conscious living. Along with her other book, “Creative Visualization,” she introduces us to concepts and tools to connect with our highest selves and to create the world we want to live in. In fact, it is this idea of living in a world of our own creation that connects so beautifully to our own quest for creating our authentic lives.

The author explains to us that everyone and everything in our lives is there because it is a mirror of what is going on inside of us. In other words, the people in our lives are there because they mirror something about ourselves, whether positive or negative. If we are experiencing a particular problem, it is there because there is something we need to deal with that we’re not acknowledging. I know that idea will meet with some skepticism. I’m not talking about things like natural disasters, or the actions of someone on the other side of the world. What I am talking about is who and what is in the world of your every day life right now. If you are experiencing certain feelings or situations, might they be connected to something that you need to address on a soul level? Let me share some of the insights that Gawain shares in her book:

  • If you experience feeling judged or criticized, might you be doing the same thing to others, or to yourself?
  • If someone is lying to you, is there something you are lying to yourself about?
  • If someone is being irresponsible where you are concerned, how are you being irresponsible to yourself or others?
  • If someone is blaming you, where are you blaming yourself or someone else?
  • If you feel others aren’t listening to you, when are you not listening to your inner self, or who are you not allowing to be heard?

On the other side of the coin, think about the people in your life that you love, respect, and enjoy being with. How do they reflect the inner qualities you like about yourself? What about all the things in your life right now that you are enjoying? They are there because you created them with your thoughts.

In order to create an authentic life, we have to find those people and things that we are mirroring in our lives right now, find the source of that reflection within us, and create new mirrors for the life we want to live. It takes practice, and lots of courage to be honest with ourselves, but it is absolutely essential if we are to create an authentic life that mirrors who we truly are.

This week on the Home Page, our writing assignment is going to give us a chance to look at specific instances where we may be mirroring ourselves in the people around us. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to make some important and lasting changes in your life.

Peace and blessings.

P.S. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you who were so kind with your congratulations and positive feedback about my new book: “Gifts Of An Ordinary Life: What If Just Being Happy Is Enough?” It certainly tells me that the search for a happy – and authentic – life is what everyone is looking for. If you haven’t downloaded your copy yet, here is a link to it on Amazon:

 

Happiness is …

The subject for this week’s blog post and writing assignment is a shameless move on my part to announce and promote my new ebook just released on Amazon Kindle: “Gifts Of An Ordinary Life: What If Just Being Happy Is Enough?”  If I’m going to live an authentic life, it also has to be an honest one.

This new book is the final one in my Third Age Trilogy. The focus of the trilogy is on conscious aging, shattering old, outdated beliefs about what our senior years are supposed to be, and daring other Boomers and Elders to create new, challenging and creative lives for themselves. When it came time to write this last book in the series, it occurred to me that all the creativity in the world will not fill in the lines if we are not happy with ourselves inside and out. So I decided to conduct my own version of the Happiness Project, this one focusing on those years after retirement when I could no longer define myself by my job, my family or any other social measurement.

The subject of happiness has been the focus of countless books, blogs and studies over the last few years. It is as if the world is finally coming to the conclusion that all those things outside of ourselves that we have used to measure happiness in the past no longer work. We have come to realize that happiness is an inside job, something that we choose regardless of what others tell us is the culturally acceptable norm.

So what exactly is happiness? The dictionary tells us that happiness is : the quality or state of being happy; pleasure, good fortune, contentment, joy. What the dictionary doesn’t tell us is that we each define happiness in our own way, filtering it through our own experiences and choices. What brings me happiness may very well differ from what brings you happiness. The ingredients for my happy life may look very different from yours, yet we are each happy in our own way.

The real challenge to happiness is knowing that we deserve it. That is probably the most difficult hurdle to overcome. How did we become a species that believes the decision to be happy is selfish, or only for those who have passed some kind of special test? Happiness is our right, not just the pursuit of happiness, but happiness itself. Making the choice to be happy is a brave, honest, and authentic thing to choose.

So what do you think happiness is? What makes you happy? After all, an authentic life must also be a happy one in order to be truly authentic. If you guessed that these are the issues we’ll be tackling in our writing assignment on the Home Page this week, you would be right. So get ready to create your very own definition of what happiness looks like to you and remember, most of all, to have fun with it.

By the way, if you’d like to find out how my Happiness Project turned out, here is a link to my new ebook, available on Amazon (P.S. If you don’t have a Kindle, Amazon offers a free reading app to download Kindle books on your laptop, tablet or iPhone):

Gifts Of An Ordinary Life: What If Just Being Happy Is Enough? (Third Age Trilogy) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079SKXYXF

Peace and blessings.

Hello Again

As we continue our search for an authentic life, a funny thing happens along the way. We find out that authenticity is who we really are, and who we really have been all along before we were swayed by the beliefs of others, and before our culture told us that who we are is not good enough. It’s like meeting your oldest, dearest friend again, the one you have not seen for a long time.

I came across this poem by Derek Wolcott that I think says it all much better than I can:

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all of your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

 

This week for our writing assignment on the Home Page, we’re going to become reacquainted with who we really are and who we have always been. It’s time to open the door and let ourselves back in.

Peace and blessings.

 

Permission To Be Beautiful

I came across this quote from Benedictine nun Macrina Wiederkehr the other day:

“Oh God, help me to believe the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is. Amen.”

Why is it so hard for us to believe that we are, at our core, beautiful, divine creatures? Why do we go through life wearing a collection of masks to make ourselves acceptable to the world and even to ourselves? We think that by covering up what’s on the outside, the part that people see, we can hide what’s inside, the real person who we have determined is not acceptable: not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough, not capable enough, and definitely not beautiful.

Here’s what I’ve come to understand as I’ve gotten older and, hopefully, a little wiser from experience: when we give ourselves permission to be real, we empower others to do the same. When we drop all of our masks and let the truth of who we are show through, we are beautiful. Oddly enough, when we give ourselves permission to be real, we will be amazed at how beautiful the truth of who we are really is, and we’ll be moved to use that knowledge to help others do the same. We can be the catalysts for bringing more truth and beauty into the world. I think that’s a pretty awesome job to have, don’t you?

This week our writing assignment on the Home Page is going to ask us to start stripping away those awful masks. As always, have fun with this and, remember, just keep writing. Peace and blessings.

 

“And Now For Something Completely Different!”

Recognize those words? If you do, then you’ll know that they came from the brilliant comedy minds of Monty Python. Beginning in England and then finding their way over to the U.S, Monty Python, a comedy group that included Michael Palin, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman, delighted viewers for years with their outrageous comedy that challenged the “establishment” and poked fun at the human condition. What made them so brilliant was their ability to reach beyond what was possible and dare to dream big. If you want a definition of authentic, watch their comedy sketches. What came across from the TV screen to the viewers was their passion for comedy.

When we make the decision to create our authentic lives, we sometimes get so bogged down in the details that we forget to have fun with it. Being authentic means being willing to break the standard mold and create something new. It challenges us to not only reach for the stars, but to dare to go beyond them. If you can dream it, regardless of how implausible it seems, you can create it.

What would you dare to do? Would you be willing to quit your job, pull up roots and, with only what you could pack in your car, move to a different state to build a whole new life? Would you be willing to try something you’ve been afraid of all your life, like hang gliding or white water rafting? Would you be willing to go back to school or start a business in your 40’s? 50’s? 60’s? What would you dare to dream?

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment for this week is going to challenge you to dream big, to go where you’ve never gone before – sounds a little bit like a Star Trek episode! As always, have loads of fun with this and, always, keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Knowing When It’s Time To Wake Up

I just finished reading a wonderful and thought-provoking book by author and Life Coach Cheryl Richardson called, “Waking Up In Winter.” After years of writing New York Times Bestselling books on extreme self-care, and teaching those principles around the world, Richardson turns the tables on herself. In excerpts from her own journal, over a 5-month period from fall to spring, she uses the introspective days of winter to come to terms with the small voice inside that is getting louder and louder as she approaches her 55th birthday, telling her that her life is no longer working the way it is, and that change needs to happen.

While this is not uncommon in the lives of most people as they face what our culture rudely refers to as “middle age,” it can happen at almost any age. My own inner voice started shouting at me in my early 40’s, and then again in my 50’s. It finally became the true voice of my life in my 60’s as I cleared out what no longer served me like a box of old books I’d read and re-read over and over until the pages were worn. It was time to get rid of them and get some new ones, preferably ones with blank pages so I could write my own story. That was, in effect, what Richardson did as well. No longer content with the constant demands of workshops, deadlines and endless travel, spending far too much time alone in airports and hotel rooms, and longing for more time at home, with family, and with more time to write, she took her own advice and stopped that winter to really listen to what her soul was saying.

When was the last time you stopped long enough to hear what your soul was saying? When was the last time you were being called to “wake up?” Maybe your soul is trying to wake you up right now but you’re too busy or overwhelmed to listen? Regardless of what age you are, or where you are, perhaps it’s time to take all those old books of regrets and things that no longer feed you, and put them to the curb.

This week’s writing assignment on the Home Page is going to ask you to get still and quiet, and listen …. and then, of course, write. As always, have fun with this.

Peace and blessings.

P.S. I highly recommend Cheryl Richardson’s book, “Waking Up In Winter.” It is especially relevant to women who are being called to redefine their lives. Check it out!

Dreams, Wings, and Other Things

All this talk about creating an authentic life is all well and good if you know what you want, but what if you don’t? What if you are either torn between multiple ideas and aspirations, or, even worse, if you have absolutely no idea at all? When I find myself caught in indecision, not knowing which is the right next step in my journey, I acknowledge that I might need a little Divine help from the Universe and surrender it up … and then I wait.

Inspiration and guidance is always there waiting for us if we just slow down long enough to stay present. Inspiration comes to us in hundreds of different ways, like dreams, chance meetings, something in nature, a found object, a song you hear that feels like it is speaking just to you, and so many other things. Let me give you an example.

Several months ago I was wrestling with myself over which direction I felt my writing should go. I am currently, finally, finishing up the last book in my Third Age Trilogy (available, hopefully, for Valentine’s Day) and was feeling called to do something completely new, something that would challenge me creatively as I hadn’t been challenged in a long time. I decided to ask for Divine assistance, and then I let it go. I spent my non-writing time reading from a variety of genres, re-watching some of my favorite British mystery series – I’m a huge fan of anything by Agatha Christie – and just went about my life. Several weeks after I had made my request for help, I had the most remarkable dream. It was so real that all of my senses were involved: I smelled things, I saw and heard things, I touched and felt things, etc. It was, in fact, as if I were actually living it. When I woke up and realized it was a dream, I was so overwhelmed by what I had experienced that I couldn’t even get out of bed for a while. It continued to haunt me as I went about my business that day until, while I was staring out of the window at the blue jays playing chase, it hit me like a ton of bricks: “You were just given a complete book, a work of fiction that was completely downloaded while you slept. You are being directed to return to your first love – story telling.” It was there, in black and white, and I could not deny the truth of it.

I’m not suggesting that you sit and wait for the dream-to-end-all-dreams to reach down and hit you. I’ve heard many stories of people who found inspiration from a feather they found on the ground, or by watching a hawk soaring in the sky above. One woman told me she heard an old song on the radio from when she was a teenager but only then did she really understand what the words meant … she quit her job and went back to school. Another shared that she was in a thrift store and spied an apron that looked exactly like one her mother had when she was a child. It brought back memories of how much she had loved cooking in the kitchen with her mom, and that inspired her to put all those memories together in a cookbook. Who knows where our inspiration will come from? Our job is to stay present in our lives, from moment to moment, so that we don’t miss these important clues that will lead us to our authentic lives.

Our assignment for this week on the Home Page is going to ask you to go back in time and remember when, and how, you have been inspired in your life. As always, have fun with it, be inspired, and, always, keep writing. Peace and blessings.

Please Note: I am going to start re-numbering the writing assignments on the Home Page in preparation for some website updates I’ll be doing soon. Just work with the newest one and you’ll be on track. Or, if you are new to this website, you can go back to #1 and go at your own speed!

The Big Picture

Last week we looked at the idea of making promises rather than resolutions to create lasting change in our lives. We broke it down to specific areas – like health, creativity, spirituality, etc. – to see where we needed to shift our beliefs and habits on our journey to create our authentic lives. Now I’m going to ask you to take all of those pieces and, like a puzzle, put them all together to reveal the big picture. What, exactly, does that look like?

Yes, I know, you’re thinking that I’m just having you go in circles. An authentic life IS the big picture. In a sense, you’re right. However, a healthier body, work that we love and that challenges us, our connection to the world and each other, are all part of what authentic looks like, and that picture is not only different for each person, but changes as we change. In other words, as we become healthier, stronger, more passionate about our work and feel that “something” that holds it all together, the authentic life that we first pictured shifts, and a new one, one that is more in focus and more in line with who we really are, becomes our new, big picture.

The first writing assignment of the new year, located on the Home Page, is going to ask you to go back to last week, take a look at those pieces you created, and put them together to reveal your new and improved big picture. As always, have fun with it and, most of all, keep writing.

Peace, blessings, and Happy New Year!