Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and all over the country people will be sharing words of love, gratitude and encouragement to those who are a part of their lives. They will thank the other person for being there for them, for loving them, and they will tell the other person how proud they are of them. So the question I have for you today is this: When was the last time you said these things to yourself?
Louise Hay, my personal She-roe who I quote here often, always said that when people learned to love and accept themselves, it was easier to love and accept others and navigate through their lives. So I ask you again: When was the last time you said these things to yourself?
Sure, I get it. Telling yourself “I love you,” is probably the hardest thing in the world for most people to do. So how about we start small and acknowledge what we like about ourselves. Maybe even go a step further and acknowledge how proud we are of our accomplishments regardless of how small they may seem. Maybe it could look something like this:
Hey, Barb, I am so proud of the way you stuck to your intention this time and decluttered your home, how you let go of what you no longer used or brought you joy. I love how you carried this over into your life, letting go of the limiting beliefs that were keeping you back. I also love the way you made yourself do your morning chair yoga and stretches every day even when you didn’t want to. And I am especially proud of you for showing up at your desk and writing something every day even if it was just scribbles. At least you showed up and that is something big!
See what I mean? It doesn’t have to be something huge or earth-shattering. It could be that you mastered a new recipe, or found a way to repurpose that old piece of furniture. It could be that you spent some quality time with a kid or grandkid that made them feel special and loved. It could be anything and everything. Each and every accomplishment, no matter how small, is a reason to be proud of yourself. Even if just getting out of bed today was an accomplishment, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself: “Way to go, Kid!”
This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment for this week is an opportunity to pat ourselves on the back and acknowledge how special we truly are. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.
“We are stardust, we are golden We are billion year old carbon And we got to get ourselves back to the garden”
Woodstock, by Crosby, Stills and Nash
I came across an article the other day about a book about to be released that immediately resonated with me: “Are You Still Listening: 1969 Essays,” is authored by those brave souls who were a witness to the year 1969, a year that transformed an entire generation, and who not only lived to tell about it, but to reflect on its meaning on this, its 50th anniversary.
So what happened in 1969 that was so important? Well, Woodstock, for one, an event that has yet to be equaled even though many have tried. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969. The protests against the Viet Nam War came to a fever pitch. And then there was what has affectionately been dubbed the summer of love. One of the contributing authors, Brent Green, summed up the theme of the book nicely:
“For those who lived through a boisterous year that was 1969, are we still listening to the hopes and dreams expressed by youth from that pivotal year? Do we hear their fears as we confront today’s mendacious and self-serving manipulators? Let the past remind us of what we are not now. Because we are still listening.”
Are we still listening? Do we still hear the call of those principles and beliefs that moved us out of the comfort of our socially acceptable lifestyles and into the streets? Even if you are not a member of the Boomer Generation, do you believe that any of its achievements have trickled down to your life, things like the Civil Rights Movement, or equal rights for women, things that allow you to be and do things that, back then were considered milestones in our cultural evolution? I think one of the things that sticks out in my mind the most as I reflect back was how the so-called summer of love was just that. People reached out to others. Strangers meeting up on the road or at events openly shared what they had with each other, sang with each other, marched with each other, and stood by each other. Everyone had everyone’s back whether friend or someone they just met. Our goals were shared, our dreams were worth taking chances for, and our hopes for the future were right there in front of us all the time. Now as author Bob Moses tells us:
“It still amazes me how naively trusting we were in those halcyon days. Now, fifty years later, we worry about going to a movie, a concert, a church, a synagogue or a Walmart—for fear of some crazed ideologue shooting us like fish in a barrel. Or fleeing from our homes in time to escape an oncoming hurricane, broken levee, killer flood, merciless twister, or a raging firestorm that leaps across highways and outruns cars and turns them into molten metal caskets…What happened? To us? To our country? Where have all the flowers gone? We, who are now older, sometimes remember simply to forget.”
This is not meant to be my own personal tirade against the times. It is a reminder that our work here is not yet done. Building an authentic life for ourselves seems like an empty gesture if we don’t include our place in the world and those around us. Once upon a time, we knew how to find our way into the garden. Now we have to find our way back, and take the generations coming up behind us along for the ride. Even if you, the person reading this now, is not a Boomer, you can certainly find the music inside you that whispers, “where is your garden, and what are you growing?”
Over on the Home Page, our writing assignment for this week is going to ask you to start planting your own garden. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.
So here we are at the end of January and I have just one question for you: How are those New Year’s Resolutions coming along? By now I have a feeling that your early morning trips to the gym have already dwindled down to maybe once or twice a week – if that – and that novel you started hasn’t made it past Chapter 1. However, of all the people I spoke to about what they hoped to accomplish in this brand new year, the majority of them said that what they wanted most was to find their passion and follow it. So how’s that working for you so far?
I have to admit that I did find myself in the above mentioned group. It’s not that I don’t know what my passion is because I do: writing. The issue continues to be what to write. Somehow that one thing that usually inspires my work just isn’t there, or only puts in an occasional appearance. So I spent some time going back and reading those texts and writers that, even though I’ve read them dozens of times, will always, upon yet another reading, tell me something new or remind me of something I’ve forgotten.
The first book I picked up was “The Great Work of Your Life,” by Stephen Cope, Director and Senior Scholar in Residence at Kripalu Institute in Lenox, Massachusetts. One of the first quotes to hit me came from The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas:
If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.
Wow! Talk about getting to the heart of things! As I continued to read, I followed the stories of regular people just like you and me who weren’t bringing forth what was within them. They did what they thought they should do, or what people told them they ought to do (like well-meaning parents and friends). Yet deep inside was a deep longing and a burning desire to just walk away and follow their bliss as Joseph Campbell suggests. The funny thing is, even when we think we don’t know what that is, somewhere deep inside we really do know.
Each person has been made for some specific work, and the longing for that work has been put into every heart. – Rumi
No one, I don’t care how famous they are or how much money they have, can live an authentic life if they are not doing the work they were put here to do. Even if that work consists of being a fantastic mother, or a super volunteer at a soup kitchen, or building homes for Habitat For Humanity, or sitting at the table and painting pictures with a 5-year-old. All it takes to find that work is to get curious. Get really, really curious. Ask yourself what peaks your interest? What catches your attention when you’re out and about, or reading? What hobby have you always wanted to try? If, when something floats to the surface of your consciousness, you feel an inner “ding” – as Louise Hay called it – take it to the next step and start looking at it more closely. Research it. Take a class on it. Check out YouTube to see if there is a video about it. Just don’t let it sink back down to the bottom. Hang on to it like Ahab and the whale!
Elizabeth Gilbert tells a great story in her book “Big Magic.” She was having a dry spell, or what is known as writer’s block. She just couldn’t get herself excited about anything. Even if she pushed herself to be a good girl and plant her bottom on the chair every day, faithfully writing something … anything … what came out got tossed out. So she decided to do what she always did when that happened. She looked around for something that interested her, something completely unrelated to writing. What she found was gardening. She had moved to a small town and had a yard that just begged for flowers. She not only didn’t know anything about gardening, but had rejected all of her mother’s attempts to teach her when she was a child. However, this time for some unknown reason, she was feeling that slight little nudge that said, “why not?” So she started researching what the native plants were to her area, and then started researching where they had originally come from, and then started researching the origin of those plants, and in a few months her desire to garden had turned into a novel: “The Signature Of All Things.” The blocked writer had found her work to do by deciding to plant some flowers. As Gilbert herself says about the writing life: “It is a strange line of work admittedly. I cannot think of a better way to pass my days.” Follow you inner ding!
Finally, the last quote that reminded me what I had forgotten came from psychic medium and spiritual teacher, Colette Baron-Reid:
What is yours will not go past you.
What is meant for you will not get lost. It may take a few wrong turns and may even get stuck in a rut from time to time, but it will not leave you. It will stay with you until you see it, get curious about it, and bring it forth, and then it will save you … and the authentic life it was meant to create.
This week over on the Home Page our writing assignment is going to challenge you to get curious. As always, have fun with this and remember to just keep writing.
For the sixth year in a row I have committed to participate in the “Winter Feast For The Soul.” For 40 consecutive days, I commit to sitting in meditation for 30 minutes, guided by some of the brightest and wisest meditation teachers and leaders in the world, from every walk of life, every spiritual tradition, new age and new thought, men and women. This year I have again chosen to meditate with the man who not only gave me back the gift of meditation that I had lost along life’s path, but changed my life in ways I could never have imagined … teacher, best-selling author and all-around cool dude, Davidji (I threw in that last part because he is from my hometown, Queens, New York, and he uses Leonard Cohen song lyrics as teaching tools … how cool is that!). Davidji starts each session with a lesson, then gives us a mantra to use throughout the 30 minute silent meditation. He rings a bell at the 10, 20, and 30 minute mark, and reminds us that it is not how long you sit, but how authentically you commit to the meditation for the time you do sit.
The other day, our lesson for the day was: “Longing For Love.” He had us acknowledge to ourselves that until we can love and accept ourselves just the way we are, and forgive ourselves for the missteps of the past, we can never come to know who we truly are … our absolute authentic and original self. He had us repeating affirmations of love and forgiveness for ourselves, and gave us a Sanskrit mantra which vibrated love energy out into the either. By the time the session was over (yes, I made it through the entire 30 minutes this time), it felt as if someone had wrapped their arms around me and warmed my soul. That someone, I recognized eventually, was me.
Setting the intention to create and live an authentic life starts with loving yourself and forgiving yourself. Trying to live authentically falls far short of the mark if the life you’re building is for someone you don’t love. Davidji reminds us that we are all a piece of the Divine, and that every breath we take is a gift. If we are worthy of that gift, what else could we possibly not be worth of?
This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment will ask us to find a way to move towards loving ourselves. While I won’t tell you to have fun with this one, I will invite you to really learn from this one, and to remember that even when the going gets tough, just keep writing.
After what seemed like weeks of grey, cloudy, cold and wet days, the sun finally came out in all it’s glory the other day. The sky was so blue it almost hurt your eyes, and the sun felt like a golden gift from God even though the wind chill was 12 degrees!
I was standing outside of a restaurant waiting to meet a friend. Turning my face to the sun, I closed my eyes and just stood there with a big smile on my face. After all that cold and greyness, that sun felt better than on the Fourth of July. I heard a car door close and opened my eyes to see a young mother with a little girl, perhaps 3 years old, get out of the car and head for the door of the restaurant. She was giggling at something her mother had said to her and the sound was like a series of musical notes. Suddenly her head turned as two blue jays shot out of the trees across the parking lot and played a spirited game of tag across the sky. The three of us followed their swoops and dives until they disappeared from view. As they passed me on the way into the restaurant, the mother turned to me and said: “You know, on a beautiful day like this, it’s almost hard to believe that there’s so much sad stuff going on in the world.”
Yes, dear lady, you are absolutely correct. When the sun finally comes out after weeks in the dark, when the sound of a child’s laughter is like music to our ears, and when the antics of two beautiful birds captures our vision, it’s cause for celebration. So often in life, it’s the little, ordinary things in our every-day lives that give us the hope and strength to get us through the hard times. They act like a charge to our spirit just like we plug in our phones to get them back up to maximum strength. Part of creating, and living, an authentic life, is knowing when and how to plug ourselves in even if it’s only for a day, and celebrate it for all it’s worth. We have to take it where we can get it.
This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment is going to ask us to find the things in our every-day, ordinary lives that charge our batteries. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.
If you are a parent with kids in school, you’ve probably already signed your fair share of permission slips: permission to go on field trips, senior trips, play a sport, etc. It seems as if from the time we’re born, we are always seeking permission from someone for something, from our parents, peer group, partners, bosses, and society. Is it any wonder, then, that so many of us have trouble moving forward on our own paths because we feel as if we need permission from those around us first?
I can only speak for myself, but I was no different growing up, and even well into my adulthood. It wasn’t until I retired from my 9 to 5 and finally made the decision to write full-time that I realized that there was no one I had to ask permission from. In reality, there never was. Once I became a grown-up and moved out from under the influence of my parents, my life was my own to live as I wanted, but by then the need to get permission from others was already a deeply ingrained habit. It’s a shame that it took me so many years to figure that out, but what a gift when I finally did!
When we make the choice to create our authentic lives, we get to sign our own permission slips. We get to give ourselves the green light to travel, to try new things, to live a completely different lifestyle than the one we grew up in, or to just enjoy every day as it comes along. No one needs someone else’s permission to be happy.
This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment is all about giving ourselves permission to live the life we’ve dreamed. As always, have fun with this and remember to just keep writing.
I could think of no better way to start off a new year of working towards creating our authentic lives than by reposting this offering from March of last year. It asks us to get real with what we want our lives to look like and how we want to live them. Revisiting the same writing assignment should also prove interesting if for no other reason than to see if we will answer them differently than we did now that we have gone through the rest of the year!
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!
Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house … What? For some folks, the day after Christmas is a time to relax, to kick back and let go of all the frenzy leading up to the holidays. It’s a time to enjoy our gifts, take advantage of leftovers, and watch the kids play with their new toys.
For others, those that consider “relax” a bad word, they are already dragging out the boxes to put the decorations in when they start tearing everything down, and pulling all the presents out from under the tree to put them away “where they belong.” The leftovers are wrapped up, labeled, and stored in the frig and freezer. After that, instead of sitting down and taking five, they pull out the list maker and start on preparations for New Year’s. It’s one thing to be on top of things and organized, but, seriously, some people need to be introduced to the word “vacation!”
I like to enjoy the peace and quiet of the day after Christmas. I inevitably receive a new coffee mug, a new teddy bear for my collection (or two), some good stuff to eat (am I the only one that loves fruitcake?), and maybe a new movie or two (the collectors edition of “Gone With The Wind!). I stay in my reindeer pj’s all day, with my super-warm red and green fuzzy socks keeping my toes happy, and spend some time journaling, sharing all of the memories and epiphanies that were gifted to me this year along with the new bathrobe and set of pots. I relish the fact that I do not have a regular job that I have to go back to while I am sill stuffed with Christmas cheer and some excellent vegan lasagna (thank you to my youngest daughter for her hard work on behalf of her strange, non-meat-or-dairy-eating mother). I also take the time to ask myself a few questions. These questions are designed to put the year that is quickly coming to a close in perspective, and a chance to go deep into my heart to see what is still waiting to be born. They come with no guilt attached over what I did not get done, and faith that what is still to be will come when it is meant to.
So I invite you to put on your warmest, comfy pj’s, make a cup of hot cocoa, and pull out a journal. Yep, your writing assignment for this final week of 2018, located over on the Home Page, is designed to close out the year with love, and look forward to the new one in faith of things not yet seen. As always, have fun with this and remember to just keep writing.
It has been my honor to share this writing year with you all. I hope that sharing my thoughts with you, and challenging you with the weekly assignments, has helped you in some small way to create the authentic life you deserve, or at least put you on the right path. Always remember that if you can think it, and believe it, and put it down on paper, you can make it happen. Happy New Year!
It had to happen sooner or later. My youngest grandson, Stanley, who just turned 9 in November, came home from school one day with what I call the “Yes, Virginia” question. Although he is a big boy for his age, standing almost 5 feet if not more, he has a childlike heart that is always filled with wonder at the magic in nature and the world around him. The sight of a butterfly emerging out of its cocoon has all the beauty and splendor to him that the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would have for us. So I knew that when the time came, he would be deeply troubled:
“My friends said that there is no Santa Claus and that our parents buy all the presents. Is that true?”
His mother did the very best she could to assure him that there was no way she could afford all of the things that appear under the tree on Christmas morning, and that she had no hand in the cookies that mysteriously disappeared overnight on Christmas Eve. I put my two cents in, for what it was worth, and assured him that the reason there would always be a Santa is because Santa is Love, and the world always needs all the love it can get.
I would be shirking my duties here if I did not share the response to this all-important childhood question from the one person who did it better than anyone else, Mr. Francis Church, Editor of the New York Sun, back in 1897, in response to a letter from 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon:
I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says “If you see it in the Sun it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
115 W.95th St
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank GOD! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
It seems to me that with the shape the world is in, we need Santa, and all that he stands for, now more than ever. May the love and blessings that he represents never, ever, leave us, and may we all see the magic and wonder of the world through the eyes and hearts of children.
Peace and blessings.
P.S. Merry Christmas! Over on the Home Page, your last writing assignment for 2018 is a chance for you to be 8 years old again. As always, have fun with this and remember to just keep writing.
Given the stress and frenzy that visits many of us during the holidays, I thought I would share this post from my “Flower Bear’s Garden-Growing A Life,” blog, from last December. It is as relevant now as it was then, maybe even more so. I will share a writing assignment at the bottom of the post, along with the link for the Flower Bear’s Garden blog site.
If you were to ask any five people who have known me for a while what some of my best qualities are, I would bet that every one of them would have “responsible” somewhere on their list. I am the person who shows up early to church to make the coffee and set out the treats for coffee hour. I’m the person who volunteers to set up and tear down for meetings, programs, and parties. I am the first to volunteer for whatever the group is doing. In short, I see a need and I fill it.
This is certainly not anything to be ashamed of. On the contrary, it is commendable to be responsible in an age where so many people and institutions refuse to do so anymore if in fact they ever did. It is also a wonderful example to set for the younger generation … except …
…except when you let it take over your life. Somewhere along the line my sense of responsibility began to become obsessive. I started taking responsibility for everything without allowing anyone else to step up and do their share. My mother’s words, “if you want something done right, do it yourself,” became my mantra. And as everyone knows, the more you become Fallback Position #1, the more people will just assume that you’ll keep being the one to do it all, and that not only keeps them from taking responsibility themselves but eventually wears yourself pretty thin.
The other day I finally had enough. I totally refused to be responsible for anything. I stayed in my bathrobe all day. I left a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. I let the laundry go for another day (I live alone and figure as long as I have enough undies and outfits for four days of work and church on Sunday, I’m good). I put on Christmas music and dragged out the Christmas decorations. When people called me to see if I was available for this or that, I politely refused and told them that I was taking a Mental Health Day. I also advised them that I was confident in their talent and ability to do it on their own. I drank spiced tea and ate shortbread cookies and hugged a teddy bear. It was the best day ever.
Today I came across this post on my Facebook page. It was written by author and Angel Therapy guide Doreen Virtue:
1. Release the belief that you’re responsible for everyone and everything.
2. Let go of perfection.
3. Ask for help and accept help from others.
4. Focus on what’s important, and the rest of the day will take care of itself.
That sounds like a pretty good recipe for life to me. How about you?
And so it is.
Our writing assignment over on the Home Page this week is going to ask you to get really honest with yourself about the last time you gave yourself a break and let go of control. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.
P.S. Here is the link to “Flower Bear’s Garden-Growing A Life” which is now in its 6th year: