Presence and Peace

La Vida Brinca: Life Jumps


DSCN0106

While in Mexico two weeks ago, I lost track of how often we were offered tequila.  Seriously.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner, our resort hosts were a bit befuddled by the two non-drinking women from Tejas who politely asked for water or Coke Light.

Vacations are for celebration, they said, and had I been at their resort prior to 1991, I would have definitely agreed.  At breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Mucho tequila.

Today is Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday commemorating victory over the French military forces of Napoleon III in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.  Of course, through the years, the holiday has spilled into a time for folks in the United States to celebrate too.  More tequila!

La vida brinca

A photographer and screenwriter named Bill Wittliff brought the phrase to life when he used a camera technique called pinhole photography to depict everyday Hispanic living.

He published a book called La Vida Brinca filled with photographs that have a soft, fuzzy edge.  Without the aid of a lens, the viewer gets to interpret meaning from a raw, unadorned image.  Texas Monthly Magazine pondered the “spiritual and mystical” element of the photos when the book was published in 2006.

The University of Texas Press wrote that Wittliff’s method of shooting tranquil landscapes, religious ceremonies, siestas and, yes, celebrations, “is an ideal vehicle for finding profound meaning in the commonplace, for seeing beyond what the eye can see.” 

Life jumps. It frequently surprises, even mesmerizes the person living the life. @bheretoday (Click now to tweet!) Yet, what if we could bring our visual aperture down to the size of a pinhole, then close one eye and squint through the tiny opening with the other eye?

Would we too find profound meaning in the commonplace and apply imagination “beyond what the eye can see”?

Celebrate the simple, watch for the profound

It’s tempting this week to carry around a piece of paper with a tiny pinhole in the center for the times when life starts jumping.  If I close one eye and squinch up the other, I’ll bet that what I think I’m seeing–the crazy, shifting, startling images that my mind’s eye conjures up, will soften.

I really want to see the simple and profound this week.  In fact, in the spirit of acting as if, I’m stating right now that this week IS simple and profound.

Let life jump.  I’ll watch through my pinhole.  Trust me, it’s better than drinking tequila.

Photo courtesy of pippalou

How to Bring the Peace of the Beach Back Home


IMG_1924 My sweetie and I returned a week ago from a relaxing spring vacation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and celebrating my birthday.

People talk about needing their vacations, but I’m telling you, we really needed ours.  We’ve experienced our share of fears and worries in the last 18 months after we each received an undignified job loss (also known as a layoff).  Even our little Jack Russell pooch seemed skeptical at times about whether there would be a meal cut-back but happily none of us has missed one yet.

On the day before we left, I wrote in my journal, “I’m going to leave all the trauma/drama of the last 18 months on the beach as an intended sand sculpture. Let the waves wash my emotional angst out to sea.

“I surrender–there is no need to pack it around anymore.  All that crap really over-stayed its welcome anyway.  I’m ready to move on without it.  There is a new me coming; this time next week my arms will fling IMG_0002_2open wide to welcome the next phase of this life adventure.  But first there must be an emptying to make room for the new.”

The timing of our trip coincided with Easter Week–I’m a huge fan of symbolism.  I wrote, “This week is the perfect confluence of my birthday, Easter Week and a beachside surrender.”

My Caribbean birthday

First, a shout-out of thanks to the Valentin Imperial Maya Resort–wow, did those folks make me feel special! Throughout our stay, they sent me two beautiful cakes, a bowl of incredible fruit and an exotic flower arrangement.  Plus, my sweetie decorated our suite top-to-bottom with confetti, streamers and birthday signs.

As I sat writing on the veranda on the morning of my birthday, gazing at the mangrove forest and the sea beyond and listening to the massive bird brigade, I felt blissfully content.  I wanted nothing more than what my senses absorbed in those moments.

Later, as we walked the beach, knowing that love had no limit, I started to let go, and that process continued for the next five days.  Our time at the beach was restful simplicity followed by big decisions like whether to nap at the pool or read in the cabana.

Each day was filled with bright, sun-drenched beach walks, ocean swims and dining al fresco.  We recharged our minds and refreshed our spirits.

The reality of reality

As our vacation wound down and new adventures back in Dallas beckoned, I found myself trying to bridge the divide between beach and everyday living.  Sure enough, our first days back were a sensory overload of city sounds.  Where oh where was Beach Cabana #19?

And, how could we bring the peace of the beach into our day-to-day?

It’s simple, but as with the 12-step program I follow, definitely not easy.  The answer, as I see it, is to figure out a way to find a solid rightness about simply sitting and being, which of course means scheduling in breaks during workaday activities.

Tweet: The serenity of the beach can always be a part of us IF we deliberately and intentionally work at it. @bheretoday

Here’s what I’m doing:

1.  Starting my days as I did while at the beach.  This means reflective contemplation and journaling.

2.  Getting outside and moving.  We walked four times as much at the beach than when at home.  My body is more fluid than it’s been in a long time.

3.  Connecting with nature.  Although we’re landlocked here in north central Texas, with the exception of a few sizable lakes, there are plenty of trees and plants blooming and birds flitting.

4.  Breathe deeply.  Observe intently.  Spend time staring into space.  And above all, continue to let stuff go.

(One more:  Start adding to the next vacation jar!)

4 Mindful Women Share Secrets to Living Well


Success Starts Here Freeway Style Desert LandscapeOne of the benefits of living a life on purpose is that you get to meet other people doing the same.  And when like-minded, heart-connected seekers find each other, whoa, look out!  Great creative things are bound to happen.

I’ve seen so much good writing lately about presence, simplicity and deliberate thinking.  Today, I’d like to share blog posts from four friends of mine who walk their talk.  These gals are super-charged when it comes to mindfulness and they’re living with passion and integrity.

Positive Provocations

First up is Zeenat Merchant-Syal who writes a blog called Positive Provocations, a guide for healing with positivity, love and happiness.  Zeenat lives in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.  She is a practicing counseling psychologist, spiritual counselor and motivational speaker (plus a whole bunch of other things!).Zeenat Merchant Syal cropped 1-1

Zeenat wrote a sweet post earlier this month about realizing the sacredness of everyday moments, reveling in the moments when you love what you’re doing and letting yourself become absorbed by the simplicity of those moments.  Can you feel how alive you are in those moments?

Zeenat writes, “The true magic of being alive comes alive in these small but precious moments, which happen to us every single day and many times a day too.”  Read her post,”The Magic of Being Truly ALIVE.”

Jody Lamb

Jody is an author of a children’s book called Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool and a constant writer, especially through her work at a PR firm in Detroit.  She is also an advocate for kids and families that struggle with alcoholism.

Her writing is sometimes raw with emotion, sometimes funny and always passionate because Jody, like Zeenat, lives a full-on, all-in life.  She says we can’t feel fully alive without proper self-care. When jody lamb author photo headshot LOW RES-1we don’t mindfully take good care of ourselves, we’re vulnerable to attack, usually by our own thoughts.

Her recent post, “8 Ways to Deal With Anxiety” is a personal account of her very real experiences with anxiety attacks.  She happily reports that she is doing great today, but “anxiety is still around like a jerky former boyfriend who waits for an opp to show up on my doorstep at a vulnerable moment, knowing exactly what to say to make me instantly feel like crap about myself and the world.”

Be sure to check out her 8 tips and the rest of her work at jodylamb.com.

Always Well Within

Despite our best efforts to stay positive, practice mindfulness and be consciously in the moment, life has a way of reaching up and biting us on the butt.  Sandra Pawula, who writes the blog Always Well Within blog from her home in Hawaii, has done her share of fighting back against the well-armed butt-biters.

A self-proclaimed fix-it person, when Sandra was diagnosed with a debilitating, chronic disease 10 years ago, she became obsessed with finding a solution.

And she did find a solution, after years of struggle:  Accept the unacceptable. Sandra realized Sandra_PawulaOutside-300x225-1that though her illness defined her at that time, it didn’t have to forever.  And that meant letting go of why-me’s and other negative dominating thoughts, instead focusing on the things she could do.

Sandra let some thoughts die away so new, healthy thoughts could grow.  Mindful focus is really no different from nature’s changing seasons or relationships dying so others can birth.

“Proactively coming to peace with impermanence can help you accept the unwanted with greater equanimity,” she writes in this wonderful post “How to Accept the Unacceptable.”

The Bold Life

“Too many of us have accepted fear, doubt, routine and mediocrity as common ways of being,” writes Courage Coach and all-around cool gal Tess Marshall.

Tess reiterates the attitudes that Zeenat, Jody and Sandra embrace–keep your focus on what you can do, celebrate all victories and remain steadfast on positivity.  All these things require taking Tess Marshallbaby steps toward exchanging limiting thoughts for positive right now thoughts.

Nothing stays the same; we are in constant motion.  Impermanence is beautifully permanent and to keep up with perpetual change in our lives, we can’t simply think about change.  We have to do something different.

Read more in Tess’ post “What You Need to Know to Become Fully Alive.”

Sit for a moment with this wrap-up mindful question from Tess:

“What would your world look and feel like if you courageously committed to choosing the thoughts and taking the actions that manifested in more energy, vitality and aliveness?”

The world awaits you, my friends.  Go in peace, go in love, go in mindfulness.

Many thanks to Zeenat, Jody, Sandra and Tess for inspiring this post!

Photo courtesy of FlashBuddy

The Love Mindset, An Interview With Vironika


100_0321a(Following is an interview with Vironika Tugaleva, author of The Love Mindset, inspirational speaker, people lover, reformed cynic, and the modern-day person’s guide to love and spirituality. She will help you love yourself, gain peace of mind, and trust your inner voice. You’re invited to read more about Vironika and get a free sneak preview of The Love Mindset here.)

Can you tell us why you wrote The Love Mindset?  It’s a transformational book about healing and you share some pretty heavy, even gut-wrenching stuff about being addicted and suicidal but then reaching the proverbial “jumping off point.”

While I was healing myself, I stood amongst  my broken pieces scattered around my feet.  Beneath the pain, I realized that I was still standing. I realized that I wasn’t those broken little pieces. I was something else.

I used to hate myself, but then I found a part of myself I couldn’t hate. In the end, it wasn’t myself I hated. I hated some mask, some illusion. Once I discovered my true self, I couldn’t help but feel love 680x485picand I couldn’t help but reach out and help other people find themselves too.

I can’t explain to you what it’s like to discover, after feeling broken for so long, a part of yourself that is more than intact; it can’t be broken. That’s a high I can’t explain. It’s like being hungry all your life and finally getting a piece of bread. Except it’s not food, it’s love. It’s a high that never goes away, a high you don’t have to buy because it’s within you.

Everything comes down to love, doesn’t it?  Why do people, especially folks with addiction, have such a hard time loving themselves?

Most people are stuck on one of two things. One, they don’t know that love is a life necessity. They, like I once did, say that love is rare or non-existent. Two, they don’t know what love is. They search for it with other people, and they always fall short.

It is a beautiful, comfortable, and kind of silly truth that all of our troubles originate from a misunderstanding about the nature of love. Love’s not a feeling or an action. It’s not a temporary phase, nor is it hard to get or rare. Love is always there. We just have to figure out how to open up to it.

In the book, you describe what you call “feeding the mind” as a part of healing from addiction.  Can you share what you mean?

You eat with your mouth, you breathe with your nose, and you love with your mind. This sounds strange, but. don’t we love with our hearts?

Technically, we don’t just eat with our mouths either. There’s an entire process of digestion that happens largely in the stomach and intestines. We don’t just breathe with our noses. The lungs do most of the work. Likewise, we don’t just love with our minds. The heart does the feeling part of love, while the mind, like the mouth and nose, acts as a gatekeeper.

A mind needs to be nourished with loving thoughts, about yourself, others, and life itself, and then it just falls open. When the mind allows love inside, then we get that feeling in our hearts. Like air in the lungs and food in our stomach, it’s a feeling we live for and die without.

What needs to happen in a person’s life before she or he can really experience self-love?  Do they have to reach the depths that you did?  Who needs to read your book?

My answer, now and forever, is a resounding No. We don’t need to hit rock bottom to change. We just need to make a decision.

I believe that, deep within, each “broken” person knows they can heal. Healing doesn’t happen when the people who hurt us apologize, or when those memories fade away. It doesn’t happen when our emotions suddenly disappear, or when we find a magic pill. Healing happens when we believe it will. It starts when we decide to heal or die trying.

And that’s who the book is for. It’s for a person who wants to find out, once and for all, how they can have a happy life and a healthy mind.

What’s the one thing you would say to people struggling to heal their lives?

I’d say – listen to your hope. There’s a little shred of hope in anyone who’s struggling. I know it’s in there, because I know what it’s like to face death and that’s the only thing that stands between life and death. The living have hope.

I’ve posted this on my blog and I’ll share it with you here. A few months ago I found a little note I wrote to myself as I was plummeting towards rock bottom. At the time, I was going through a profound crisis, feeling suicidal, self-destructive, and haunted by screaming thoughts in my head.

In a tiny moment of peace, I wrote this. Vironika

I think we all have these moments, from time to time. The key to healing is to realize that the pain isn’t reality – but hope is. Those moments of hope are your only moments of clarity, your only moments of really seeing what’s there. The hope is you. The pain is not.

Note: Vironika has generously offered to give away an e-book of The Love Mindset: An Unconventional Guide to Healing and HappinessTo enter to win a copy, leave a comment below. You can enter until midnight PST on May 1st, 2014.

Title photo courtesy of jdurham

Where Have Meaningful Conversations Gone?


file561270689520When was the last time you had a conversation with anyone that was about more than just the weather (Family members are excluded from this question.)?

For that matter, how long has it been since you had a conversation that lasted longer than it takes to type 140 characters?

Do you remember when you last received a hand-written note or card in the mail?

I miss old-fashioned communication!

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and electronic chatting.  In fact, I participate in e-conversations more than most 50-somethings.  I have online friends I’ve never met face-to-face and yet we’ve shared intimate pieces of our lives.

However, even as a word person, typing messages can’t be my only form of social involvement.  There are subtle nuances of facial expressions and voice inflections that I miss.  Oh, and gestures!  Even the cutest emoticon can’t replace a person’s enthusiastic hand gestures.

Why are we in such a hurry to blow past a conversation?  When did I become so important that I can’t linger over lunch or coffee?

As I write this, I’ve just returned from a delightful brunch with four other women.  I didn’t especially want to go.  When I woke, it was rainy and kind of darkish outside, a perfect morning to sleep in.

I’m so glad I went.  I see these four women fairly frequently, but there usually isn’t time for more than a quick, Hi, how are ya?

When you pay attention, you become a part of someone’s life

I came away from the brunch thingee with new information about each of the four women.  Plus, I feel connected, like I’m a part of something bigger.

Sure, I could have stayed home and dug into my work for the day.  But these women and I share a bond that deserves attention.  More than that, it deserves respect.

We live in a finite world where no future conversation is guaranteed.  I don’t say this in a morbid kind of way, but I do believe that when we’re given an opportunity to interact with someone else, we should really take it.  If we don’t, we may not get another chance.

I would miss knowing about one woman’s month-long trip to Poland where hotel breakfasts are complete dinner-like meals and how all she wanted each morning was oatmeal.

I would miss being aware that another of the women–though only in her 20s–likes old country and western music (She told me it’s what she grew up with because her dad is 52–ouch!).

Everyone has a story and every story deserves an airing.  That just can’t happen on the flat surface of weather conversations.  Unless, of course, you’re a pilot like my friend Sam, who probably does have meaningful conversations about the weather.

So get on out there–dig a little deeper.  When you’re asked to go somewhere, GO!  Chat up the people.  Ask them about themselves; people love to talk about themselves!

I guarantee you’ll find companionship and meaningful conversations.

Photo courtesy of DuBoix