Mindful Monday

White Heron or Range Rover?

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Over the weekend, I was leaving my neighborhood when a majestic white heron, like the one pictured here, flew low across the street in front of my car.

Seconds later, I turned left onto Village Boulevard (speed limit 30 mph, I believe) when a burnt orange Range Rover with out-of-state plates suddenly appeared behind me, swerved around me and zoomed toward the main entrance.

Definitely not neighborhood etiquette, not to mention downright rude! I quickly opened my iPhone camera and tried to snap a pic of the license plate but I was too late.

I was furious! Good thing I was on my way to my regular Saturday morning 12-step meeting.

Then it hit me

Suddenly I realized how the previous 30 seconds was a microcosm of my life.

Two quick moments: Close encounters with a beautiful white heron and a rude driver of an ugly Range Rover–each eliciting strong, instant emotions. Which do I focus on after the moment has passed?

I laughed out loud when I got a mental picture of Little Beth stomping her foot and muttering through clenched teeth, “Range Rover.” But the adult, more expansive me? White heron, of course.

Choosing where to place your focus

You’ve had similar experiences, right? A moment of awe or wonder or thrilling adrenaline? And a second moment–maybe within the “good” one, that is ugly or hurtful or just yucky.

It’s the Cherokee fable about which wolf do you feed?

Your decision is crucial because it sets the tone for what comes next–darkness or light? Kind-hearted or gritchy? Loving or hateful?

In the split second you’re given to make the decision, try to see past your self-focused vision to the people your decision impacts. Your family, children, neighbors, or in my case, the people with whom I shared the suburban streets. Our decisions always have consequences.

James Allen said, “Man is made or unmade by himself. By the right choice he ascends. As a being of power, intelligence, and love, and the lord of his own thoughts, he holds the key to every situation.”

My entire Saturday hinged on the decision I made in the 30-second flash of the white heron and the Range Rover. We make those choices multiple times each day.

Teach yourself to be present to those moments and then choose wisely. Your day, and the days of everyone you encounter hinges on your choice.

Peace to all!

P.S. A quick shameless plug for Facing Addiction and the team on the ground in Cleveland at the Caucus for Addiction Solutions during the Republican National Convention. Catch Facebook Live news coverage and interviews. Next week it’s on Philadelphia to host the Caucus during the Democratic National Convention.

Photo courtesy of AcrylicArtist

Look Out For #1 But Be Kind to Others

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Back in the ’70s I was enamored with a book called Looking Out For #1 by Robert Ringer. The basic premise of the book, one of the New York Time’s 15 bestselling motivational books of all time, is you have to take care of yourself before you can be useful to anyone else.

In other words, put your oxygen mask on first!

You have to admit the title is a little off-putting, though, egotistical even, especially during this time of continual Donald Trump yammering.

If we believe that happiness comes from being our best, then maybe the idea of looking out for ourselves is a good one. Think about it: Is there anyone else qualified for the job?

Humble and kind

Two words swirl around me–humility and kindness. Be humble. Be kind.

These two words are a firm foundation to build our best self as we look out for number one. (Can you see the beginnings of the plan to be better so you can do better?)

Tim McGraw has a hit song that seems to be everywhere I turn. His lyrics are simple but the message is powerful.

An recent essay in a recent Sunday edition of the Dallas Morning News describes a fourth grade teacher’s idea to remove all her classroom rules but one: Be kind.

The essay’s author writes about one woman’s decision to be kind to herself. “It’s a decision we make every day. We are in total control of decisions, our choices, our lives. I choose to love and I choose to be kind.”

If kindness is the goal, I believe we’re naturally humble, even when we’re taking care of ourselves.

Three more words

My friend Amy, a former Sunday school teacher and Jesus freak (My description and it’s a compliment), says Jesus’ messages can be summed up in three words–surrender, acceptance and love.

Add humble and kind and you have a winning full house hand, not to mention a recipe for a contented life.

I like knowing that a lifestyle with these five words in my heart and on my mind is always available to me. My simple-but-not-easy task is simply to put my oxygen mask on first and breathe them in.

When I keep my focus on me–looking out for #1–I am less likely to judge you, gossip about you or make fun of you.

Buddha said, “What we think, we become.”

If you want to look out for #1 today, let your thoughts focus on five words that will transform not only your thinking, but your place among women and men.

Humble. Kind. Surrender. Acceptance. Love.

Be AND do all these.

Photo courtesy of 5demayo

So, How Are You?

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You’re asked the question many times a day. It may be, “What’s up? What’s going on?” or  “What’s happening?” but the words behind the question are really How are you?

Most of us give a rote answer, like fine, great or I’m okay. Have you ever really thought about the story behind your answer?

There are different stories

There are stories we tell ourselves (and others) and then there are the stories that we let define us. Seldom are the two versions the same. Here’s what I mean:

You have a magnificent day where everything sparkles. Things can’t get much better, you think.

Then the day ends and, as if in a broken magical spell, you return to reality. It’s back to the grind, you think.

Someone asks how you are. You say fine or okay when you’re obviously not as you launch into the details of blah, blah, blah. If you’re fine or okay, why do you act the opposite?

Seeing beyond the question

The How are you? question has nothing to do with what is outside us, the majority of which is out of our control anyway. We–you–need to stop responding to the question from the perspective of what is happening in your life when the person asking the question wants to know how you are being.

When someone asks me how I am, what if I begin my response by repeating the last two words–I am. When someone asks how you are, don’t you begin with I am _______________.

I am well. I am blessed. I am beautiful. I am energized.

Then, don’t say anything more because you’ve answered the question! And that’s the story you need to believe–not the story about how your Uncle Roy decided to leave Aunt Matilda and as a result your cousin came to town, moved in with you and now your boss won’t give you a raise to help support your cousin. Whew!

One more step, call it extra credit: believe your answer because it’s truth. How are you and what’s going on in your life are not the same story. The first is an autobiography and the second is a narrative of events.

Both questions are important but the first gets to the heart of who you are and isn’t that much more important than Uncle Roy, Aunt Matilda and their deadbeat kid?

Photo courtesy of kakisky

A Late-Night Call From GUS

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Cruz Bay off St. John Island slept while I watched the single light in the harbor. It blinked and I tried to catch it’s rhythm, get in its cadence.

It was the middle of the third night of our Virgin Islands vacation and my spirit struggled to transition from my hectic mainland life to our annual island life.

I sat outside, listened to the cocks crowing and wrestled with my unsettledness. Instinctively I knew that I needed these few hours in the dark with only God and the harbor light as company.

Here’s what God/GUS had to say:

Soften your edges, babe. You’re a little too sharp, a little too jagged.

That’s it, just breath as the gentle breeze sweeps across your face. You are here. Just be. Your job, your only job, is to enjoy.

Be in joy.

Listen. Here the distant waves. Let them soften you. There is nothing wrong, love. You just haven’t arrived with your spirit intact.

You are fixable. In fact, let’s say you are fixed. Right now. Just decide it is so.

Can you do that and be pleased with your decision?

There is no happy. There is no sad. Yes, there is morning and night, high tide and low. Those things are fixed. carved into eternal being-ness.

Then there is the finite you. Trying to soften, be more gentle with you. 

Let go. Release anything and all things that block you and keep you from knowing your worth and your beauty. 

Follow your true north. It is here, right where you are–in you, not out of you. 

Soften. Be. Know that you are perfect in my eyes so let go of those error thoughts. They have no place here where you are.

Feel mercy, feel grace. Sit with these things. They are my gifts to you. Let them guide you back to me. 

There are times when the only thing that soothes middle-of-the-night angst is a good, old-fashioned talk with God-Universe-Spirit. GUS tends to ring my bell in that 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. window that closes one day and opens the next.

You know what I’m talking about, right? For me, that mystical wake-up means there is no sleep until I heed the call. Many years of practice leads me to my journal, as it did a couple of weeks ago in the USVI.

I likened my call to write to a drunken headache that nothing but throwing up will relieve. Yes, it’s a gross comparison, but you get the picture.

And so I vomited on the pages, scribbling in the dark, knowing the words would hardly be legible in the morning light.

And yet, I got the message. We get the message when we unplug from the silliness of daily living and plug into the wisdom of the one who grounds us.

Sometimes the force to listen is strong. Forget about hearing. Just listen. If you’ve ever experienced a pre-dawn call from your higher power, you understand the difference.

 

 

A Double Dose of Joy

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The publishing staff at Daily Word probably doesn’t want me to publicize that they emailed the same word of inspiration to me two days in a row.

First thing yesterday, Sunday, I pulled up my account to read my daily word, just as I always do. The word was Joy. But wait a minute–Joy was also my word on Saturday.

I remember because Saturday was my birthday and I thought Joy was a great word to relish throughout the day.

Turns out the messages were a bit different and my birthday word, as seen in the publication, was actually Patient.

Ugh. Glad I didn’t know that on Saturday. I had much more fun with Joy!

A whisper from God

Do you ever have times when you know that God–GUS, for me–is giving you a not-so-subtle nudge? Yes, me too. This is one of those times.

From Saturday’s birthday passage: “My strength, my courage, my confidence comes from my relationship with the Divine. God loves me and fills me with a peace that surpasses all understanding.”

And from Sunday’s real Joy reading: “Joy allows me to approach any circumstance with a lightness of spirit and a sense of humor. I love life! When I look at situations with optimism, the world around me reveals wonder for all it offers. My bliss does not depend on outer conditions; rather happiness becomes my innate response, welling up from within.”

I turned 55 on Saturday and I can honestly say that both these passages describe me, at least 95 percent of the time. That hasn’t always been the case. There was a time when I waited for true joy to arrive, like a person who waits 40 or 50 years for retirement so s/he can really live life!

Today–right now–calls for Joy

My sweetie is fond of saying, “There’s no time like the present!” She’s really taught me how to live fully in this very moment and to look for that moment’s joy.

I’ve discovered that joy is the softest pillow on which to lay my head. It is the lodge of contentment where my heart feels deep peace.

Joy can’t be conjured up like a magic spell but it can be called. When nurtured and nourished, joy deepens into layers of cushion, like angel food cake released from a springform pan.

Joy emits smiles, laughter and spontaneous fun. To experience joy is to feel a divine touch, a whispered word: Accept.

Then another word: Receive.

And a third word: Live.

The breath of joy is the song that harmonizes my soul.  I hear the music, feel the beat and dance where I am. For I am joy. And so are you.

Photo courtesy of diannehope