Presence and Peace

Decisions, Decisions

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One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes . . . and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

How many times have you stood before two (or more!) sets of circumstances, tapped your finger against your lips and said, “Hmmm, decisions, decisions”?

You may struggle with deciding but isn’t the power of choice an amazing thing?

What happens when you can’t decide which circumstance to choose?  You make a pros and cons list.  You talk it over with your most trusted “advisors.”  You pray.

And you’re still at a loss.  By now, you’re threatening to tear out your hair.  Your teeth are sore from gnashing.  Your sleep is completely screwed up by your lack of decisiveness.

Plus, you’re eating way too much chocolate.

Get out of waiting hell

The purgatory of waiting can be miserable.  I’m doing a bit of that right now as I wait for contract jobs to finalize so money will flow into my bank account.

These are circumstances not in my control, yet I’m doing my best to force them to a rapid conclusion.  Yes, I’m in waiting hell.

But I can decide to leave and I have.

I am still waiting, but my body and my demeanor feel looser as I realize that I am giving money way too much power in my life.  I’m changing my thoughts from believing that money buys happiness and walks on the beach into realizing that money is useless and pointless if I’m not already happy.

In truth, I have no need for money if I’m trusting in a power greater than me to guide my decisions.  Now, instead of fretting about money, I wait in the knowledge that everything is good and right and perfect in this moment.

Trust your gut

Do you trust yourself to make good decisions?  Over the years, I’ve learned that my gut–my intuition–is seldom wrong.  My gut knows the truth behind the decision long before my brain starts yearning for peace.

In the meantime, my monkey-mind has been so very busy trying to cajole the rest of me into a decision.  Monkeys have a way of looking at situations from all the different angles and my monkey-mind is no exception when I let it run around unsupervised.

Once I’ve exited Waiting Hell, however, Monkey Mind quiets and decides to take a nap since it has become weary from the constant motion.

Quiet little monkeys no longer have to maneuver around negativity showing up as doubt, fear, guilt, judgment or condemnation.

They can just rest and trust that they will intuitively know if they want to eat honey-coated bananas  or ants-on-a-stick for supper.

They will know when they know and not a moment sooner.

My dear monkey-minded friends, I encourage you to relax into waiting.  Your bananas will come even if it seems like you’ll have to subsist on ants forever.  Just wait; you’ll see.

Photo courtesy of richard_b

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Remembering Memorial Day

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Today is Memorial Day in the U.S., a day set aside for honoring soldiers who have died in service for our country.

Maybe I’m growing a bit more patriotically sentimental as I age because this year, I find myself drawn to the history of the holiday, to its original meaning and to the ways in which it is ignored by a large part of the population.

Perhaps I feel caught up by the recent human catastrophes here in America at the Boston Marathon and closer to home for me, the tragic loss of life in Moore, Oklahoma.  Both events make me want to hug everyone and wish them well.  To paraphrase Maya Angelou, both Boston and Moore cause me to contemplate the regular moments during our days when we should come together regardless of skin color, religious preference or sexual orientation as one people under God.

I suppose it’s possible that I’m more aware of Memorial Day this year because I’m generally more aware.  I’d like to think so.

A historical perspective

President Lyndon Johnson declared in May of 1966 that Waterloo, NY, was the birthplace of Decoration Day (the original name for Memorial Day).  However, it is more likely than many cities and towns in the 1860’s established a tradition of placing flowers on graves to honor servicemen who had died during wars.

I tend to agree that there was a simultaneous gathering of folks that “tapped into the general human need to honor our dead,” as the website called usmemorialday.org states.

General John Logan, commander of the  Grand Army of the Republic decreed the first Decoration Day as May 30, 1868.  After World War I, the holiday was changed from honoring only those who had died while serving int he Civil War to those who fought and died in any war.  Interestingly, several southern states still observe separate dates to honor their Confederate dead.

Then, in 1971, Congress changed the Memorial Day observation from May 30 to the last Monday in May so that it became a federal three-day holiday weekend.

We do so love our long weekends.

Putting the observation back in Decoration Day

I grew up with my parents “decorating graves.”  I also grew up believing that Memorial Day was for placing flowers on any loved ones grave.

Plus, as long as I’ve been old enough to notice, the three-day weekend symbolized the start of summer and celebrated my youngest niece’s birthday on the 28th.

I might catch a news story about honoring soldiers and I’d think, “That’s nice.”  Sadly, I’m one of the many who no longer gives Memorial Day much more than a passing thought.

Until this year.

At some point today, I’m going to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation of what it means to have soldiers die for this country.  I’m going to think about the precious gift of freedom.  And then, at 3 p.m.local time, I’ll observe a moment of respectful silence, as suggested by President Bill Clinton when he passed the National Moment of Remembrance resolution in May of 2000.

It’s really the least I can do.

Photo courtesy of kconnors

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You Are Loved and Chosen

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Anne Lamott spoke in Fort Worth a couple of months ago; I really dig her work and the sheer nerve it takes to reveal her thoughts, feelings and passions.

She is the real deal.

Anne said many, many cool things that night, things like, Jesus says “this is a come-as-you-are” party.  She also said, in referring to the traumas in our lives, “I don’t think we ever get over anything.”  In other words, the history of our past stays with us, even as we learn to move on around it.

There were three words she said, though, that have stayed with me, running through my head at random times like intermittent rain showers in south Florida.

Loved and chosen

In her book, Grace Eventually, Thoughts on FaithAnne tells the story of gathering kids for Sunday School and beginning with the “loved and chosen” game.  One by one, she picks a child, seemingly (to the child) at random (“Does anybody know somebody wearing a Texas Rangers t-shirt today?”) to come sit beside her.

She welcomes each of them with the words, You are so loved and chosen.  No one is left out.

It’s true.  Everyone–absolutely everyone–is loved and chosen, because as she explains, “God loves.”

When Anne spoke those words in Fort Worth, I had just been let go from my job and I thought to myself, “My boss?  Even her?  She’s loved and chosen?”

Stepping on God’s toes

A few years back, I got into a tiff with a friend over another friend’s callous and rude behavior.  I dropped into my perverse, gossipy self and said in my best holier-than-thou voice, “Well, just who does she think she is?”

Can’t you just picture my stance?  Feet firmly planted 18″ apart, hand on hip, lips pursed and nose in the air?

My friend looked at me and said in a drop-dead calm voice, “You better be careful, my dear.  Sounds to me like you’re making a judgment and on the off-chance that you are, you’re acting like you know more than God because God loves everybody the same.”

Ouch.

The point is that we all have stuff.  We all have days when we show up with our C, D or F game instead of our A game.  And we are much harder on ourselves than anybody else.  Am I right?

Before you take one more step on the day when you’re reading this post, think about this:  You Are Loved and Chosen.

When you forget to put the coffee in the basket and pour the water through the pot, you are loved and chosen.

When you back your car into the cart-corral in the grocery store parking lot, you are loved and chosen.

When you forget your anniversary, you are loved and chosen.

You know, there would be no need for forgiveness if you never screwed up.  And forgiveness is a beautiful thing; it brings healing and growth to your inner world.

Now, go on about your day, and if at any point it turns south, stop where you are and say, “Do I know anybody wearing jean shorts, a Ft. Lauderdale t-shirt and no shoes today?  You are loved and chosen.”

Photo courtesy of lisafanucchi

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The #1 Rule is There Are No Rules

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I own a beautiful mahogany Baby Taylor guitar–it’s vintage, I’m told–that I can’t play.

My brain has the capacity for lots of new things, but apparently learning the guitar as an adult isn’t one of them.

I also own a custom-made, single-speed cruising bike that is black and gold, like the colors of my alma mater, the University of Missouri.  It even has a special logo-painted seat cover but I can’t ride my beauty very far since we’ve moved to a neighborhood with hills.  My knees are getting too old, I think.

Both items are currently for sale on Craigslist.  I’ve changed my mind about owning them and I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t like having a lot of stuff around me.  I would much rather have experiences than own stuff.

There are two exceptions–books and sea shells.

I have LOTS of both.

Way too many rules.

Several years ago, I left most everything I own in a house in Missouri as I began the new experience of living my life in Texas.

I loaded my car and a U-Haul with my desk, clothes, books, boxes of memories and my aging cat.

I drove away from all the old same-old, same-old rules in my life.

The rules were unspoken, but the just-under-the-surface agreement seemed to be that Monday through Friday were spent working hard so that the paycheck would cover the cost of the accumulating stuff.

Do you ever feel like you’re working your butt off just so you can pay the installments on your stuff?

Weekends in my old life were spent taking care of the coveted stuff–namely the big house and the bigger yard.  Then, there’s all the errands . . .

Don’t forget to throw in the regular (and for me, seldom negotiable) commitments, obligations and command performances.

I got so tired of rules.

Now there’s only one rule.

It’s been almost four years since I drove my car south on I-35 with only a few possessions.   Yes, I’ve managed to gather a few new ones but I try to only buy what I really need or will use.

For the most part, my stuff no longer rules me.

Instead, my sweetie and I travel a lot.   When we’re in town, we love to explore our metropolitan area.  In fact, just yesterday, we headed out to a Cajun festival complete with tons of boiled crawfish, or mud bugs, as my sweetie calls them (she’s a Cajun born in New Orleans).

Life is now about having adventures, about experiencing the unique flavors of our days and most of all, about being fully present to whatever is in front of us.

The overriding rule of our life together is there are no rules.

It’s a pretty nifty place to be; life is full of riches much more valuable than mounds of stuff.

As the Outback commercial goes, “No rules, just right.”

I couldn’t agree more.

P.S.  I also have a nice Briggs & Riley black briefcase listed on Craigslist, if you’re interested.  Just sayin’ . . .

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Happiness is a Circle of Life

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How do you measure happiness?  By the bowl full.

~ Campbell’s commercial

At the start of this month, I drew one of Jodi Chapman’s Soul Clarity Cards.  Embrace this moment, it read.  This is where life lives.  Feel it.  Honor it.  Love it.

I sat with the card for a bit, pondering its meaning.  Two things have been on my mind lately, and this card’s idea of embracing the moment encouraged me to give my mind reign over them.

One is the idea of happiness.  The other is what I call a living circle of giving and receiving.  Each is best enjoyed in an awakened moment, or as the Campbell’s commercial tells us, by the bowl full.

Put on a happy face.

Is happiness an emotion or a state of mind?  Can you strive for happiness?  Is happiness the result of an event or a circumstance in your life?

Happiness is kind of nebulous, isn’t it?  We say we’re happy, but can we really say more about the experience of happiness?

I have this idea that happiness is a byproduct of a circle perfectly balanced with giving and receiving.

Stick with me on this and tell me what you think.

What do you say to the idea that happiness arrives when you believe and understand that giving and receiving are one, that they emanate from the same heart space?

Do I get a hearty YES?  Or are you thinking I’m full of malarkey?

Try this on for size.

Most of us give faithfully, and often unconditionally.  There are people in your life who can always count on you, right?  They need you and you’re there, no questions asked.

You give to overflowing to work, to your kids’ school, to your church, to your best friend from high school who needs support at 2 a.m.

You are a rock-solid giver.

But how are you at receiving?

Does the phrase, “Oh no, I can’t accept ___________ (fill in the blank)” sound familiar?  What about, “Please, you shouldn’t have”?

Do you realize that when you utter those phrases, you are cutting off the giver’s gift?  That you are silencing her joy in giving it to you?

When we refuse to accept a gift, we’re saying to the Universe, “I am not worthy.”  When in such a state, our ability to give unconditionally lessens and the benefactors of our giving receive less of us. The entire circle of life is impacted when we say, “No, thank you.”

Here’s the truth:  I’m really good at giving but I’m struggling with receiving right now.  Too often I listen to my ego which says I can’t reciprocate because I was laid off from my job and my income has diminished substantially.

About a year ago, I contributed a bunch of money to a situation that benefitted my sweetie and me.  She wasn’t in a position to do the same.

I repeatedly said, “Please, let me do this for us.”

Now she’s saying, “Let me do this for you.”

There’s a sphere of grace here that I’ve not been circling very easily.  I’m learning, though, because receiving is an equal part of the circle.  Giving, by itself, will not make the circle go round.

Give, receive, give and receive.

The mystical journey to happiness and lightness of heart.

Join me in the circle, will you?  You each have so much to give (and receive).  And I know you love happiness!

Photo courtesy of doctor_bob

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