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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Our Way Out Of The Tunnel

I woke up this morning in what I call my Black Funk. There is usually no rhyme or reason to it that I can identify right away, although I realize there certainly must be one or else I would not wake up in this state. It feels like the dead of winter when it has been grey, dark and cold for ten days straight and you think you’ll never see the sun again. It’s like walking down a long, dark tunnel and you can see a pinpoint of light way off in the distance, but not matter how long you walk, you feel as if you’ll never get there. Perhaps it was something that someone said or did the day before that I failed to process and let go of on a conscious level that came back to torture me while I slept. Perhaps it is some situation I have to deal with that I put on the back burner while I was awake, but which my inner goblin (who I have named Gladys – she who looks like a Jim Henson creation in rags from the movie Labyrinth) has decided to push back on to the front burner to boil. Whatever the reason, I have come to understand that if I don’t take the bull by the horns and deal with it first thing, my entire day will be spent trying to find my way out of that tunnel. That’s where writing comes in.

I pull out a notebook and write a question across the top of the page: ” What’s up? What are you feeling?” After I write the response, which is usually something like: ” I feel hurt, disappointed, disillusioned and generally depressed.” Then I ask another question: “Why?” My first reaction is to blame the world, my family, my neighbors, the internet interruption that ruined my Netflix watching last night, anything and anyone but myself. Third question: “Really? Try again.” This one takes some time but eventually, after a few pages of ranting when I am starting to run out of steam, the real reason will surface which usually has to do with having my feelings hurt, or not having my needs met in some way. Once I get to that stage, the healing can begin. “How do you want to feel? What can you do, right now, to get moving in that direction?” Once I identify how I’d really like to feel, I will usually turn to a list of tried and true things I know will make me feel better, pick one, and have at it.

Today’s pick was a nice, long walk in the sunshine. I wasn’t even halfway down the block when a large, chubby robin hopped across my path. As soon as I got home, I logged on to my favorite website for messages from our spirit animals and looked up robin. This is what it said:

     “The correct path has been revealed to you. You know which direction to go. Just go and

      all will fall into place.”

It’s hard to argue with your spirit guides.

We all get stuck in a dark tunnel sometimes. Writing is one way to help us find our way out. Instead of sitting there racking our brains or blaming the entire Universe, pull out a notebook or pull up a blank screen and start asking questions. Sure, you’ll need to vent for a while (for me it’s at least 3 pages), but once you’ve gotten that out of your system, there is now room to fill it back up with light, love, joy and gratitude … the lights that will lead you out. Your true self, your inner Wise One, knows the answers that will guide you home. So the next time you wake up and want to pull the covers back over your head, pull out your notebook instead and write your way home.

Peace and blessings.

P.S. The assignment for this week over on the Home Page is a way to practice finding our way out of the tunnel before it happens. Have fun, and keep that hand writing!

 

Who Are You Pointing At?

I was watching an interesting TED Talk on YouTube the other day. The presenter, a behavioral psychologist, asked the audience to quickly, without thinking, point to themselves and hold the pose. Then he asked them which part of their body they were pointing at. It turned out that just about the entire audience was pointing at their hearts.  The idea was to show that most people believe that who they are resides in their heart – we feel our way to ourselves, we don’t think our way to ourselves.

A few months ago we did a practice around the three Soul Questions: Who Am I? What do I want? What is my Dharma? I think we did a pretty good job on the first question : Who Am I? We dove really deep, connecting with our authentic selves and shedding our beliefs about who we are on a cultural level. However, there is another way to get to know the You that you are.  I call it the “Finding My Best Self” questionnaire.

Pretend you are filling out one of those online dating service surveys. You want that perfect person out there to know all about you, so you tell them everything you know about yourself … so, what DO you know about yourself? What’s your favorite color? Your favorite food? Your favorite song or singer? Do you like sports? Which ones? What’s your favorite team? Do you like to be outdoors? Beach or cabin in the woods? What is your favorite season? Why? Who is your favorite author? Do you like to make things? What? Why?

Do you see where I’m going with this? How often have you ever taken a step back and really gotten to know yourself? You are the one person you will be spending your entire life with. Get to know your true BFF and see if the answers to those questions shine a brighter light on the answer to the Soul Question: “Who Am I?” I’ll bet you find out that you are a more interesting and talented person than you gave yourself credit for. Who knows? Maybe you’ll remember that you really do like baseball … so why not treat yourself to a game? Sit in the stands and cheer for your team! When was the last time you went to the beach? Have a BFF day and go dig  your toes in the sand.

The things we like and the things we do evoke certain feelings. That’s why we like or do them. We feel our way to ourselves, we don’t think our way to ourselves. So the next time someone asks you, “Who are you,” you can smile and tell them: “Oh, I am the most interesting and wonderful person you will ever meet!”

You guessed it! Our writing assignment on the Home Page could be called: “Getting To Know You,” just like the title of the song. As always have fun with it!

Peace and blessings.

 

 

 

Earning a Ph.D In Living

I was fortunate enough to be able to return to school in my 30’s and receive my BA in Comparative Religion. I had plans to go on for my Masters and even, by some miracle, my Ph.D. Alas, that was not in the cards for me at the time, but I have since come to believe that I have more than earned those degrees in a different kind of school: The School of Life.

Classes and books are wonderful ways to learn, and I would be the last one to discount their value. Heck, the minute I become curious about anything, my first impulse is to ask: “Is there a book about that?” Old habits are hard to break and now with the miracle of the internet, I can find out anything about anything, order books, attend online classes, and even go back to graduate school. There is only one subject that they can’t teach me, though. You won’t find it in any book or in any blog. They can’t give me actual experiences. They can’t live my life for me.

My Dad used to refer to it as the School of Hard Knocks. One of my Mom’s favorite sayings was: “Live and Learn.” Both of them were correct. Life can be a series of hard knocks, but once you’ve lived through it, you’ve learned something, and if you’re lucky, you’ve learned how not to get knocked down again. If you’re really lucky, you’ve learned how to grow from it.

We could all probably fill a notebook with all of the mistakes and knock downs we’ve experienced in life. The real test is whether we can also fill one with what we learned from it all and how we’ve grown as a result … or haven’t grown. If we can pass the Growth Test, and learn to live a happy, authentic life, then we should be awarded our Ph.D in Living! It’s the least we deserve and it doesn’t require a cap and gown or a big ceremony (although for some of us just having survived this long deserves a party).

There is no secret here as to what this week’s assignment over on the home page is going to be about. I won’t ask you to fill a notebook, but I will ask you to pat yourself on the back and reward yourself for having come through with flying colors! It’s the least we can do for ourselves!

Peace and blessings.

Let’s Live To Be 120!

I recently read an article by Ilchi Lee, New York Times Best Selling Author, passionate advocate for sustainability, and a leader in human brain potential development. The title of the article was: “Let’s Live To Be 120!” According to Lee, scientists have discovered that the human body has the potential to live 120 years. Advances in technology and medicine aside, Lee suggests that how we view our lives, our determination and, as he puts it, “living from the offensive instead of the defensive,” can help us to live way beyond current expectations. The question I would ask is: “Why?”

Lee explains that there is so much more he wants to accomplish in life and that, having made the conscious decision to live to 120, he sees many more years ahead of him to learn, grow, create, and give back to the world. That is indeed a noble ideal and one we can all get behind, I’m sure. Imagine what new discoveries and adventures we can witness with that kind of longevity! It reminded me of all the things I have witnessed in my own lifetime, things I never would have imagined when I was a kid: space exploration, a man walking on the moon, the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation, the first black president, to name a few. Here’s a funny side story about all of that:

I returned to college in my 30’s, graduating in 1986 at the age of 36 with a B.A. in Religious Studies. One of our Cultural Studies classes involved interviewing someone who had been around a while (a.k.a. old) about significant moments in history. As the average age of my classmates was 20, I, of course, senior citizen that I was in their eyes, was sought after for an interview. They asked me questions about Viet Nam, President Kennedy’s assignation, the moon landing, and Martin Luther King, Jr. It just stuck me as hysterical that they thought that, in my mid 30’s, I was a walking museum. Can you imagine what they would have thought if I was 120? “

The flip side of this coin, however, is the fear that along with the great strides in knowledge, we will also see the same in terms of war, hatred, and separation. If the world has not learned their lesson after all of these centuries since Cain and Able, what hope do we have for the future? Maybe, just maybe, a lot. As long as hope is alive, anything is possible. I’d love to be able to sit in front of a room full of college students 50 years from now and share with them how my generation was the one who brought lasting peace and love to the whole world. How’s that for a reason to live to 120?

Peace and blessings.

P.S. Get ready to let your imagination soar with this week’s writing assignment located on the home page. Have a blast!

 

 

Staying Small

I recently spent some time visiting my granddaughter at her apartment. It was her husband’s birthday and we were all gathered to help him celebrate. My 3-year-old great-grandson, my very first great-grandchild, was showing me his picture books of dinosaurs, his favorite new friends at the moment. I looked at him, all animated and in awe of these great creatures, and marveled at how it was possible that my very first grandchild was now already old enough to present me with my very first great-grandchild, and 3 years old at that!

My granddaughter was not only my first grandchild, but she was the one who taught me how to be a grandma. She called me Grammy, and we did everything together. She adopted gardening when I did and was my constant companion and helper in the garden. Driving around on her big yellow motorized dump truck, a gift from her aunt, she would haul plants and dirt around, and kept my compost pile constantly filled with grass, twigs, weeds, leaves and all manner of debris. She sat with me on the river bank, the two of us so much like Mole and Rat from the Wind in the Willows, and contemplated the wonders of nature. She was a natural student, a wonderfully creative soul, and my best friend. I never wanted her to grow up. I wanted her to stay 4 years old and hang out with me forever. I used to tease her: “I wish you could put something on top of our head to keep the little you inside so you don’t have to grow up.”

I thought about that at the birthday party as I marveled at how big my great-grandson had gotten over the winter. I told my granddaughter what I had been thinking and she smiled. “You know,” she said, “that whenever you said that to me, even though I knew you were teasing, I used to go home and crunch myself down inside, trying to hold the big me inside and not let her out. I wanted to stay small, too, and play in the garden forever.” I was moved to tears by what she said. On the one hand, I never knew that she had done that and it spoke to the influence we adults have over children. On the other hand, I realized that as much as I wanted her to stay little forever, I was doing her a grave injustice by saying so.

We serve no one by staying small, least of all ourselves. We cannot halt the passage of time any more than we can change the weather to suit us. The same holds true for how we live our lives. When we “live small,” we do not live authentically, because living authentically requires that we reach inside ourselves and stand tall, fill in all the dark spaces with light, and reach for the stars. While living small seems safe, it is actually life threatening. It robs us of the richness of experience and wonder that is out there in the great, big world, a world in which we need to be open to growing and receiving all the blessings that await us. We will never know such joy and richness if we crunch ourselves down and keep holding the “big me” inside.

We all have our moments of wanting to stay small to avoid the pain and anxiety that come with growing up, but we will never know how wonderful an authentic life can be unless we get out there and make one. So the next time you are tempted to stay small, think of a little girl driving a yellow dump truck and conquering a garden with the courage of an adult and get out there. There’s a yellow truck waiting for all of us to get on board and conquer the world!

Over on the home page, our assignment for this week is asking you to dig deep. See you there.

Peace and blessings.

Choosing Our Path

Authentic: Something that is real or genuine; not copied or false.

Of all the things that we can do in order to create an authentic life, probably the most important one is seeking the answer to the question: “Where did I come from?” In most cases, finding the answer puts us on a path some call “Spirituality.” Notice, please, that I did not say “Religion.” While the practice of certain religions do revolve around ideas about spiritual concepts, they are, for the most part, a set of ideas and understandings experienced by others that are held to be true. If you are a member of that particular religion, you may very well hold them to be true yourself. Or, you may not. Your inability to just accept these ideas and teachings because you were raised as a child in that tradition may be the impetus to set you on your journey to find your own answer to the question: “where did I come from,” and not simply accept someone else’s answer.

Why am I bringing this up on a website about writing as a tool to creating an authentic life? Because coming to terms with our understanding of “whatever is out there,” or, if there is even anything out there at all, sets the stage for everything else we will do with our lives. If we believe one answer, we will live our lives in joy, excitement, love, compassion and contribution. If we believe another, then nothing matters except staying alive and going through the motions. In either case, the quality of our lives, the authenticity of our lives, is directly affected.

What I love about this journey of exploration and seeking that we call life is that there are as many possible, and acceptable, answers as there are people in the world. The beautiful part is that one does not have to choose one over another, or claim that one is the right way and all of the others are the wrong ways. We have the freedom to find those things that work for us, that give our lives meaning, and provides us with an answer that we can embrace, from many different paths, and find that they are compatible. Once you take the time to research the basic concepts and truths about one way, and then another, and another, you begin to see a commonality between all of them: a sense that we are not alone in this world, that there is something greater than us at work, and that we can experience that in ways as majestic as a blazing sunset, or as tiny and heart-melting as a new puppy. Whatever makes us “feel something, feel IT,” is the right path regardless of what tradition claims it.

Living an authentic life is living in the light of what is true for us. It is walking the path that takes us from one experience to another, from one idea to another, and having them all end up in the same place with the same view, one that answers our question and points us in the next right direction to go.

As you can imagine, this week’s writing assignment is going to be a bit heavy, so allow yourself plenty of time to complete it. Remember that there is no right or wrong answer. There is only the one that is true for you.

Peace and blessings.