Friday, October 8, 2010

The Gift of Giving

Throughout my life I've been the recipient of numerous gifts. I'm not talking about things that come wrapped up in a box – I'm speaking of the intangibles. Just as we need oxygen, water, food and sleep to exist, our spirit and soul need to be nourished with equally important gifts: love, respect, kindness, humor, friendship, and affection. We can get through life without the tangibles (token gifts), as fun, extravagant and thoughtful as they may be, but I don't believe that we can get through life comfortably and well balanced without the intangibles.

The truly astonishing part of this intangible gift giving is, that we benefit more when giving than when receiving. We've always heard that it is better to give than to receive, but the ramifications of being the giver extend and give energy that is boundless. The ripple effect can stretch and move in any number of directions, and continue to do so ad infinitum.

Many of us heard the "pay it forward" story involving a drive through lane at a local fast food restaurant. One of the customers was holding up the line for an unusually long time, for one reason or another. When the customer finally pulled forward and the next in line approached the window to pay for his order, the employee told him that his bill had already been paid by the person ahead of him as an apology for the lengthy delay. The gentleman was so overcome by the random act of kindness, that he, too, decided to pay for the person behind him.

And so it went for the next several hours. One person after the other paying for the next in line, just as their order had been paid for by the one ahead of them.

These "feel good stories", because of their rarity, generally gain national attention. Around the holidays we very often hear of "Silent Santas" and other charitable acts. As wonderful as it is, and as good as it feels for the giver and receiver, it is short lived. Come January of the new year, as the holiday lights are taken down and packed away, old habits start to reform and everyone goes back to the old ways. All of a sudden, no one lets you in line on the roads, and post-holiday impatience is rampant in check-out lines and, sadly, between family members, friends and strangers. Yet, it doesn't have to be.

We live in a fairly competitive world. If only we were all out there trying to outdo others in random acts of kindness. A wish, a statement, a challenge? Choose and make of it what you will. But if you do take it as a wish, wish long and hard. If it is a statement, take heed. And if it is a challenge, may you all outdo one another.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day By Day, Peace Is The Way

In his book, Peace Is The Way, Deepak Chopra uses the second sentence of Mahatma Gandhi's well known quote, "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way" to emphasize to all that peace is from within.

One can take anything and externalize it, setting it apart from their being, however, it's when that emotion, desire or belief is accepted into their conscious thoughts that it becomes an involuntary part of them, much like breathing.

It is impressive and inspiring to read how, in a cycle of seven days, we can become peacemakers. I'd like to share with you these few pages from his book.

"Seven Practices For Peace"
How to become a peacemaker

The program for peace asks you to become a peacemaker by following a specific practice every day, each centered on the theme of making peace real, one step at a time, in your personal life.

Sunday: Being for Peace.
Monday: Thinking for Peace.
Tuesday: Feeling for Peace.
Wednesday: Speaking for Peace.
Thursday: Acting for Peace.
Friday: Creating for Peace.
Saturday: Sharing for Peace.

Each practice takes only a few minutes. You can be as private or outspoken as you wish. But those around you will know that you are for peace by the way you conduct your life on a daily basis.

Sunday: Being for Peace

Today, take five minutes to meditate for peace. Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Put your attention on your heart and inwardly repeat these four words: Peace, Harmony, Laughter, Love. Allow these words to radiate from your heart's stillness out into your body. As you end your meditation, say to yourself, Today I will relinquish all resentments and grievances. Bring into your mind a grievance against someone and let it go. Send that person your forgiveness.

Monday: Thinking for Peace

Thinking has power when it is backed by intention. Today, introduce the intention of peace in your thoughts. Take a few moments of silence, then repeat this ancient prayer:
Let me be love, let me be happy, let me be peaceful.
Let my friends be happy, loved, and peaceful.
Let my perceived enemies be happy, loved, and peaceful.
Let all beings be happy, loved, and peaceful.
Let the whole world experience these things.
If at any time during the day you are overshadowed by fear or anger, repeat these intentions. Use this prayer to get back to your center.

Tuesday: Feeling for Peace

This is the day to experience the emotions of peace. The emotions of peace are compassion, understanding, and love. Compassion is the feeling of shared suffering. When you feel someone else's suffering, understanding is born. Understanding is the knowledge that suffering is shared by everyone. When you understand that you aren't alone in your suffering, there is the birth of love. When there is love there is the opportunity for peace. As practice, observe a stranger some time during your day. Silently say to yourself, This person is just like me. Like me, this person has experienced joy and sorrow, despair and hope, fear and love. Like me, this person has people in his or her life who deeply care and love him or her. Like me, this person's life is important and will one day end. This person's peace is as important as my peace. I want peace, harmony, laughter, and love in his or her life and the life of all beings.

Wednesday: Speaking for Peace

Today, the purpose of speaking is to create happiness in the listener. Have this intention: Today every word I utter will be chosen consciously. I will refrain from complaints, condemnation, and criticism. Your practice is to do one of the following:
° Tell someone how much you appreciate him or her.
° Express genuine gratitude to those who have helped and loved you.
° Offer healing or nurturing words to someone who needs them.
° Show respect to someone whose respect you value.
If you find that you are reacting negatively to anyone, in a way that isn't peaceful, refrain from speaking and keep silent. Wait to speak until you feel centered and calm, and then speak with respect.

Thursday: Acting For Peace

Today is the day to help someone in need: a child, a sick person, an older or frail person. Help can take many forms. Tell yourself, Today I will bring a smile to a stranger's face. If someone acts in a hurtful way to me or someone else, I will respond with a gesture of loving kindness. I will send an anonymous gift to someone, however small. I will offer help without asking for gratitude or recognition.

Friday: Creating for Peace

Today, come up with at least one creative idea to resolve a conflict, either in your personal life or your family circle or among friends. If you can, try and create an idea that applies to your community, the nation, or the whole world. You may change an old habit that isn't working, look at someone a new way, offer words you never offered before, or think of an activity that brings people together in good feeling and laughter. Second, invite a family member or friend to come up with one creative idea of this kind on his or her own. Creativity feels best when you are the one thinking up the new idea or approach. Make it known that you accept and enjoy creativity. Be loose and easy. Let the ideas flow and try out anything that has appeal. The purpose here is to bond, because only when you bond with others can there be mutual trust. When you trust, there is no need for hidden hostility and suspicion - the two great enemies of peace.

Saturday: Sharing for Peace

Today, share your practice of peacemaking with two people. Give them this text and invite them to begin the daily practice. As more of us participate in this sharing, our practice will expand into a critical mass. Today, joyfully celebrate your own peace consciousness with at least one other peace-conscious person. Connect either through e-mail or by phone. Share your experience of growing peace. Share your gratitude that someone else is as serious about peace as you are. Share your ideas for helping the world move closer to critical mass. Do whatever you can, in small or large ways, to assist anyone who wants to become a peacemaker.

Today I am committing to sharing these ideals, as Deepak Chopra has requested in his book, Peace Is The Way. I am sharing with more than two, yet less than the smallest fraction of the world's population. It feels good. Right. Human nature will mandate that I continually reread these seven days of peacemaking to become a peace-monger. I'm hoping if I keep at it, just like learning the ABC's through daily recitation, I will finally get it right.

Wish me luck. And while you're at it, kindly wish me peace.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

You Really Do Deserve The Royal Treatment

Last August I made some "good read" suggestions to my readers. Hard to believe that a whole year has come and gone. This year I would like to bring to your attention another good find.

Often we are quick to congratulate others on a job well done. We compliment our family and friends on successes and accomplishments with ease. Many of us praise one another over any number of things. However, there is one person that we can be so hard on. Someone who should be number one and who deserves recognition for who they are. If you're already smiling and nodding, you know who I'm talking about.

It can be said about many of us that we are generally harsher on ourselves than on others.

A very lovely woman, who I have had the pleasure of meeting on a couple of occasions, has made it her duty to bring to the forefront this very issue. Stacey Joiner, a licensed massage therapist and certified yoga instructor, has authored a book that should be read by women of all ages. And, quite frankly, the younger the better.

'You Deserve The Royal Treatment' (a woman's guide to living royally) should not be judged by title alone. This is not a book teaching ladies how to primp and pamper themselves. It goes way beyond that. The seventeen chapters delve into the deeper sense of self and how to think of self in a different, guilt free way. Each of the chapters comes with a little bonus; an easy to follow yoga exercise. After all, we need to learn how to relax in this overly stimulated world of ours. Ms. Joiner has taken into consideration our inherent need for the combination that provides us with greater health - mind, body and soul.

She teaches us to change our perspective. That can be a very difficult task. I have, over the years, attended many of my son's hockey games, and found myself getting caught up in the passion of quick paced action. When penalties were called against our kids' team, we couldn't understand how blind the referee could be. Now, had we been sitting in the bleachers on the other side of the rink, our perspectives would have been completely different.

Ms. Joiner guides us through her charmingly titled chapters that hold deeper meaning, leading us to the place we are supposed to be. We should be the "Queens of our Castles". Our bodies and minds are our own personal temples. To dwell within, in peace, is our right.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You are now entering...

...the State of Chaos.

You're driving down a graying, faded road, the broken white lines almost imperceptible. Cracked moguls; minor asphalt eruptions, blister the dull highway. On either side of the road weathered, barbed wire fences lean every which way, surrounded by bleached and unattended grass that struggles to survive in spite of the flaked, dried mud. Rows of trees, some charred, others splintered and devoid of leaves, stand back a hundred feet or so from the poorly edged route.

Every so often the highway forks on the right hand side, leading towards places unknown. Strangely enough, though, as the exits loom and disappear the inflammatory crackling of the radio stations calms becoming crystal clear, the sky overhead shows signs of fair weather, and the air becomes oxygenated. As the exit fades into the background, once again, the gloomy surrounding replaces the more idyllic of the two settings.

The road trip has no specific destination. You can exit anywhere you like, yet, the straight expanse of highway has a grip on you. Not knowing what to expect when the exit leads you to the next intersection feels slightly uncomfortable. Even though the blue skies and crisp radio air waves are much easier on the eyes and ears, you opt for the miserable, albeit familiar choice. So, for a while longer you continue to drive on autopilot.

Who amongst us hasn't, at one time or another, lived in the State of Chaos? A relationship going downhill? A job that was neither inspiring nor fulfilling? Physical or emotional demands that took away one's daily pleasures?

To mire one's self in the muck, simply because it's familiar muck, is no way to live. In fact, it's not living. Agoraphobics remain in the house indefinitely due to the fear of being amongst others in a public environment. It's a common phenomenon, in the State of Chaos, to stay with the familiar. In this State one does not explore their potential for fear of failure. In Chaos, everyone pats themselves on the back for staying thirty years on the job, even though the job held them back from better and brighter futures. Chaos is not interested in happy lives, but more so in maintaining the status quo (existing state of affairs).

Chaos, also known as the State of Confusion, leads nowhere. If you stay on that gloomy strip of pavement, it loops back. Any one of the alternate routes, or exits, would lead you out of that state. You just have to steer yourself towards one of them. There are many such exits, but, just like wanting to win the lottery requires you to at least purchase a ticket, you must choose an exit and then...exit!

That exit can be the toll pass to the State of Excitement. Excitement in a new relationship, satisfaction in a new job, and possibly the best physical and emotional health of your entire life.

Hopefully your eyes are now wide open as you search for the sign that reads "You are now leaving the State of Chaos".

State of Excitement, State of Happiness, State of Wonder - here we come!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I've Grown Accustomed To The Change

The latch turned downward permitting the door to swing open. Light pooled in onto the empty site. It'd been a long time. She quickly stepped inside, blew away the cobwebs, shifted comfortably in her familiar office chair, and sighed. Home again.

It's been a few months, and I've missed writing to you. Many changes have taken place; all steps into the future, all good, all welcome. Maybe some of you have been going through your own changes. Regularly we experience the ongoing components of life: birth, death, graduation, first job, marriage, divorce, milestone birthdays, retirement, relocation, career changes, and many other basic elements that create our own personal collage. Some bring joy, others tears, yet, just like the Florida weather, give it ten to twenty minutes and it's bound to change. Life's like that.

Four days ago I was unemployed. Three days ago I discovered I was going through a career change! Exciting! At a "Professional Placement Networking" course, provided through the county, we were blessed with a teacher who led us through what could have been a confusing and (dare I say boring) maze. But he made it so easy and interesting. He talked to us about job search techniques, building resumes, and acquiring interview skills. More importantly, he taught us to believe in our abilities and ourselves. No matter how chaotic the economy could be, he mentored, we were all employable and would be employed. Now, how would I have met this incredible teacher and learned all that I did had I resisted attending?

We've all heard that the only constant is change. Change is needed, required, and very effective in keeping us on our toes. If water remains still, it becomes stagnant. Stagnation of the body, mind, spirit and soul puts a dead bolt on growth.

I hadn't planned on being in between careers, taking this course, or meeting this particular teacher and students. But it happened. I had mentally dug in my heels, resisting opening the door to this recommended class. How fortunate that what greeted me on the other side, with wide open arms, was change.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Givers Gain

Several years ago when I was a member of the networking group, BNI, I learned many valuable lessons. The predominant one was, "Givers Gain". There were numerous tasks that we had to perform at these early Thursday morning meetings: regular attendance, setting up "one on one" time with fellow members, performing one minute commercials, and giving referrals to people within our group of any individual requiring their particular goods or services. The motto "Givers Gain" was a good one - giving without expecting to receive anything in return. But receive we did! It generally led to a mutual trust and loyalty and many wonderful, long lasting business relationships were formed because of the generosity of these well screened referrals.

A few weeks back as I meandered through the aisles of Barnes and Noble I came across a book that spoke to me. As the parent of an active, scholastically hard working teenager, this book jacket begged me to scoop it up and take it home - after paying for it, of course!

My son, who is kept busy with many hours of school work daily, resisted reading it. There wasn't enough time in the week, let alone day, to sit down and read a book outside of his school work's curriculum. So I decided that I would start to read it. Eventually, as I raved about the first two chapters, he found a little extra time and picked it up.

At this point we're both reading it and enjoying the incredibly simple profundity of each chapter. The author, Sean Covey (son of Stephen R. Covey) has written a jewel of a book that inspires as it excites you to read more. 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens' needs to be read by all. Sean has miraculously written a "can't put down" book that encourages, educates, inspires and motivates - all without being pushy or preachy. It is the kind of book that is ageless in its message and calls for rereading on a regular basis.

The day that I walked through Barnes and Noble had been an especially trying day. I had wanted to do something special for my son, and thought that this book would be a wonderful gift for him. Little did I realize that it would end up being an inspirational gift for me as well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

They Say That There's A Resolution - We All Wanna Change The World

Change. So easy in theory. Real bugger in practice! Considering it's the new year, let's do that thing that we all do every year. Without fail. You know. The resolution that never seems to make it into the next week, let alone the next year. However, this time why don't we try to do it differently; with great thought and mindful shift in our consciousness. We generally make an announcement that we're going to: lose weight, quit smoking, finish a project, find a better job, etc. These resolutions are typically of the tangible group. Maybe it's time we started to delve into the intangibles. The stuff of which we're really made. Not so easy. Just ask ------- anybody and everybody!

Okay - get ready and hang on. It's going to be a bumpy ride. [Yet so worth it].
Let's take a deep breath - come on - do it with me. Breathe in [hold for a count of six] now breathe out. Good. Repeat a couple more times.

Now here comes the part where you need to put on your thinking caps. Each time you breathe in, think about something that needs changing [some minor tweaking or ground breaking major transformation - your choice] in your life. This is sort of like making a wish before you blow out your birthday candles. The wonderful exception to this is you can do it three hundred and sixty five days of the year! When you exhale, in your mind's eye, picture the change taking place. Breathe out the negativity, the flip side of what you want to accomplish. Every exhale of breath should cleanse your thoughts and desires, making room for the newer, improved consciousness.

What do you want to change into a real positive habit? Something from your intangible list. Nothing material. Whatever it is, if you keep doing it for three weeks in a row, you are bound to succeed. The resolve to change something needs some maturing time. Generally speaking, three weeks is a very sturdy foundation for the growth that follows. There's no set time frame as everyone walks their path at a different pace. How ever long it takes, just maintaining over a three to six week span will certainly mold your desires into a new found principle.

The interesting thing about realizing inner change is that so many other areas will benefit from that one non-materialistic choice. For example, let's say you've decided to not be reactive every time your [friend, mother, sister, brother, boss, co-worker] gives you some advice. Instead you smile, thank them and go on about your day. Looking into the future, I would venture that someone who was afraid to approach you in the past would start to come over to you a little more freely. Maybe even start asking for your advice as you were so open to listen to their ideas. This is not to say that going around giving advice to people is always acceptable, but the way that you handle it, calmly and not defensively is how people will start to perceive you . And being approachable opens up the door to many other opportunities. Ultimately we will all do what we want to do. But gaining a reputation for being a calm, approachable and all around congenial individual is a great gift.

This is just one example of how changing something within ourselves can have an effect on others. So, go ahead, take on a different type of resolution this year. It may not be visible for a while, but your inner change is going to start making an appearance on a daily basis. And once you have that change down pat, move onto the next.

Changing ourselves, changing the world - there's no stopping us now!