Presence and Peace

Carpe Diem With Flexibility

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“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

My friend Carol gave me the Seize the Day paperweight pictured above.  I had just lost my job and was pretty scared about the next steps on my employment path.

Those words–Seize the Day, the common translation for the Latin phrase Carpe Diem–were my backstop when I was feeling a little sorry for myself in those early days.  Lost, confused, angry, and a Duke’s mixture of other feelings clouded those early days but my little paperweight symbolically grounded me.

I could almost feel it saying to me, “When you’re ready . . .”

Seven months later

A few days ago, I was sitting with my best friend Mac (as in Apple laptop), creating a PR piece for a client.  When I’m writing, I periodically glance around at the little pieces of inspiration scattered about my office.  I never know when one of the pictures or toys or maybe my Billy Butler Bobblehead will siphon off some kinetic energy to me.

My eyes fell on the solid, green paperweight and Gumby sitting next to it.

I actually laughed out loud!

The juxtaposition of the two objects is a complete description of the life I now live.  I have seized the day by turning my job loss into an opportunity to launch my dream of writing, connecting with people and telling their stories.  And Gumby reminds me to always and forever be flexible and fun.

Gone, well mostly anyway, are the rigid work days of dotting i’s and crossing t’s.  I am so grateful!

Gone are the days when I had to bend and twist, Gumby-like, to meet someone else’s expectations.  I’m grateful-squared!

Speaking of gratitude . . .

While cleaning out some files recently, I came across a single sheet of paper in my handwriting that reads, “4 Ways of Gratitude.”  I have no idea where it came from or the circumstances that caused me to write these four items down.  No matter, I suppose, just know that I didn’t make them up!

4 Ways of Gratitude

1.  Give thanks and praise for what you have rather than complaining about what is missing.  Take nothing for granted.

2.  Give thanks for the difficulties and challenges you face.

3.  Give thanks in advance for the good you seek.

4.  Give thanks for belonging in the world.

Aren’t those cool?  I know that some of you might balk at expressing gratitude for your difficulties and challenges you face, but here’s the thing–you can be like Gumby when you give thanks.  Bend and sway and do the best you can, but do it because you really need to seize the day that is your life here and now.

I’ll leave you with this, words from a man I haven’t met but I’ve sure heard revered during my involvement with Unity Churches.

“If you want to change your life, begin with these words, I am responsible for my thoughts, words and deeds.  I am responsible for my feelings.  I am responsible for my reactions.  I do not fear what is within me.  I accept responsibility for my life.” ~ Rev. Jim Rosemergy

Carpe Diem to you!  Seize this day in your life but hold it loosely in flexibility and fun.

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Are You a Compulsive List Maker?

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My sweetie gave me a coaching lesson last night (for free!) and I’ve been pondering her advice ever since.

I was bemoaning working hard all day–in my office for about nine hours–yet I had a sense of non-accomplishment.  Those kind of days make me a little crazy!  Do they you?

She asked me to shift my thinking about why I’m doing the work I do.  I’ve been self-employed for several months and am developing a client list of good people and organizations in a field that I love.

She reminded me that I no longer work from a “check the box” perspective that plagues those of us who have outlived our usefulness in a job.  Instead, my sweetie suggested that I focus on filling my days with the enjoyment of working and that I focus less on scratching tasks off my to-do list.

Are you a compulsive list maker?

Holy cow, I am!  It’s in my genes, I think.  My brother and I used to tease our mother for making lists of her lists!

I have vivid memories of Mom sitting at the Formica kitchen table with pieces of scrap paper copying the non-scratched off items from one to another.  Except, to be clear, Mom didn’t scratch through a completed task, she made a string of squiggly, curvy lines through it.

Her daily to-do list rested next to the ongoing grocery list on top of the monthly calendar (no-line blocks for each day) in the kitchen drawer.  For a good many years before she retired, I think Mom based the success of her day on the number of squiggly lines on the scrap paper.

Oh dear.

I think I’ve become my mother.

Compulsive list-making spoils Now moments.

Mom and all her lists (The annual family summer vacation list began weeks in advance!) were a part of an era that didn’t place a high value on living in the moment.  That concept was decades in the future.  Had I asked her back then if she thought all her planning took her away from being present, I might have been smacked for being smart-mouthed.

Fortunately, you and I are part of the Now era.  And I am aware that each time I am hyper-focused on my task list, I’ve stepped into the future. Plus, I’ve lost a snippet of Now.  

Now moments are precious and I don’t want to lose anymore than I have to.  Surely there’s a way to create a reminder list that isn’t inherently obsessive?

I’m open to ideas, my peeps.  I don’t know if I can work completely unstructured, meaning without a list, because there are things I must remember.

But putting an item on my list just so it can be scratched off is a tiny bit obsessive, don’t you think?  Oh, I know I’m not the only one!

Seriously, tell me your ideas.  But please don’t remind me that I have control issues.  I have that particular awareness, thank you very much!

Let’s make a list of how to use lists!  Now you’re talking!

Photo courtesy of hotblack

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A Room With a View

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The view from my red Poäng Ikea chair comforts me.  Most early mornings find me there, journal on my lap and Jazzy at my feet, writing, reading daily wisdom and contemplating my day.

Perched just so in the corner of my writing studio (also known as an office, but when I’m feeling particularly creative, it’s a studio, den or nook), I can nearly feel the sun warming the bricks on the other side of the wall.   I watch Old Sol’s rays creep around the corner and splash the yellow daylillies with light.

This morning, before picking up my pen, I sat for the longest time allowing my gaze to rise and fall and then rest on little pieces of inspiration scattered around the room.

The ebb and flow of my flow is symbolized here, I realized, in photos of joyous times and containers of ashes from lives ended.  One wall and surface commemorates college pride; its facing wall is a colage of hearts representing my decades of love and fulfillment.  In between trinkets sparkle, slogans affirm and book titles inspire me to reach and stretch until I touch my very own star.

It is here that I believe all things are possible.  Here, in this place, there is nothing left unfulfilled.  My space, my place, my sanctuary, my soft landing, my firm grounding.

From this chair I can look upon pink hibiscus and purple Texas lilacs.  When I let myself just be here, the physical me almost melts into ephemeral weightlessness and time is nothing more than tick tocks.

I close my eyes and murmur, be here.  The words bubble from my soul for I didn’t make a conscious decision to voice them.  I only know they’re here now, sitting, being, no expectation beyond this holy instant.

Oh that everyone could have a view like mine.  Please, find yourself a chair and position it so you can sit for a spell, to pause and simply breathe.

Go ahead.   You must be first in your day, for this is the point on which the remainder stands.

Give in.  You want to, don’t you?  If you need a reason or a label, call it self-care.  Or call it Dalai Mama time (or Dalai Papa if appropriate).

Sit and soak in the goodness from your spot in heaven’s presence.

Sit and breathe, trusting that you are filling your spiritual tank with the fuel–only the highest octane, my dear–to help your engine run smoothly today.

Sit and take it in because you may need to return here in your mind’s eye before the day is through.

Your place, a sacred spot, is calling to you.

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Perfect, As Usual!

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I know I’m in a place of deep contentment and peace when I sleep really well at night.

Some people can lay their heads on the pillow at the end of the day and consistently conk out–that’s not the case for me.  If I’m not careful, nighttime can be a brooding time for me . . . thinking about projects, pondering the perpetual to-do list, and yes, worrying about those dear to me.

There are also times when I’m in the middle of something new or preparing for a new adventure and I’m too excited to sleep because I might miss something!

Surely I’m not the only one.

Deep contentment

Then there are periods like now, when I’m so okay that I slip right into dreamland with little effort.  But these times are fairly rare, so in an effort to hold onto the feeling (and continue to sleep), I decided to delve into the idea of deep contentment.

First, I think deep contentment requires feeling comfortable in the present moment.  No matter what stimuli is flashing around me (and coming off the Independence Day weekend, there have been plenty of flashing, star-lit stimuli), I can let it happen on the periphery. I’m good right where I am.

Second, I believe deep contentment requires a healed heart.  Life dramas grip us from time to time; small or major, they press inward with increasing pressure until fissures appear in our hearts.  When my heart hurts, even minor pain caused by a misunderstood deed or a misinterpreted conversation, I struggle with contentment until the salve of forgiveness soothes the wounded place.

Finally, deep contentment requires being willing to let go, to surrender to the natural state of my being where only good is intended.  This is the place where I don’t play the gloomy music of the world, where I know that everything in this moment is perfect as it is.

Perfect, as usual!

I like this place of deep contentment so much that I’ve decided I’d like to stay here.  Wouldn’t you?  So, let’s make a pact:  whenever we slip away from deep contentment for a while, we’ll get back as quickly as possible.

One avenue back is the “perfect, as usual” response.

Imagine that you walk into a room where your child or your grandchild is eating cereal from a bowl.  You glance at the soggy contents and think it looks kind of gross.  But you keep your thought to yourself and instead ask, “How are your corn flakes?

The child replies, “Perfect, as usual!”

Whether the moment includes milky corn flakes or a broken down car, the moment, not the circumstances, is perfect.  What if we adopt that idea as a default setting, as an automatic response to the poopiness in our lives?

You see, “perfect, as usual” aligns with our natural state of goodness.  God’s vision for us is deep contentment and peace.  When I consciously decide to move my daily vision closer to God’s vision, I feel contentment and peace.

The bonus is I get to sleep better!  How are you sleeping these days?

Photo courtesy of clarita

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Happy Half Year!

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Today is the 182nd day of the year and the first day of the second half of 2013.

Reaching the mid-point of the year may cause heavy sighs and eye rolls for some.  Maybe you’re thinking, “Jeez, I started the year with so many things I wanted to do, with so many goals, and I’m not even close to finishing half.  Thanks a lot for pointing out my lack of productivity.”

Others may react to the mid-year news like my dog Jazzy an hour before her suppertime:  jumping and spinning with “bring it on” anticipation.

For the record, I don’t fall into the latter category.  Like many of you, I spend a fair amount of time wallowing in guilt slop for not reaching milestones that put into place.  When I’m not wallowing, I’m taking aspirin for self-inflicted head-slaps.

Throw away your annual list

Let’s do it.  All that stuff we intended/desired/imagined doing in 2013, let’s toss it.  Or burn it.  Or stick it in the shredder.  Maybe let the dog eat it.

I’ve spent the last five and a half  months trying to reassemble my list after it exploded on January 11, the day I was laid off from my national non-profit job.  Don’t get me wrong, most days I’m gleeful and satisfied with self-employment.  But there have also been many, many days since January 11 spent worrying and fretting and gnashing my teeth.

My career is definitely not where I imagined it would be; thankfully, my heart is where I’ve always wanted it to be so my career is transitioning into its natural place.  I’m comfortable now dumping that big list.  I’m much more interested in being here now and going with the flow of life.

Create a new or different picture

You have a blank page, a do-over of January 1.  Now it’s July 1 and you get to look at this year with refreshed senses.

Pretend you have a brand new box of colored pencils.  The old list is gone; your task now is to begin to sketch the ending of 2013.

The only rule is you can’t use numbers or bullet points.  Instead, use your colors to create the montage of how the remainder of the year feels to you.  Focus on what makes you feel good right now.

Do you enjoy the sun warming your face?  How about the tingling sensation on your skin when you dive into a summertime pool?

Maybe you feel the bursting pride of watching your children building blanket forts on a lazy no-school morning?  Or feel the thrill of a ball cracking against a bat and sailing high and deep over the outfield fence?

All these things won’t earn a huge paycheck for you or advance your career.  You won’t win a prestigious award, the lottery or an engraved watch.

But capturing the colors of your world right now will fill you with an intimate sense of delight.  You’ll feel yourself smiling while no one is watching.  Like the Grinch looking down on Whoville, your heart will grow in proportion to your hues of gratitude.

Happy Half Year!  My prayer is that when December 31st rolls around, you’ll look again at your colorful creation and feel satisfaction in knowing you captured the essence of all that is truly you, one beautiful day at a time.

Photo courtesy of mconnors

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