Presence and Peace

How Do You Find Balance?


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I apologize in advance if this post is a downer. I have a lot of heaviness on my heart.

Sometimes I wonder if one of life’s greatest challenges is to learn to balance joy and pain. Excitement and grief. Eagerness and sadness.

How do you bring yourself to a common point between the two extremes?

Faith is the easy answer, of course. “Faith is the absence of fear,” some will tell you.

I try not to spout platitudes, although I was guilty of doing just that over the weekend. Sometimes when you don’t know what to say, the inane automatically slips out.

Personally, I don’t believe there is such a thing as absence of fear.  Maybe it just shows up disguised as anxiety, insecurity or worry.

What to do?

The only thing I know to do is wait.  And while you’re waiting, maybe hit your knees or crawl onto your meditation pillow.  Take a walk, watch an insignificant movie, take a bubble bath.

Then wait some more.

Balance will come, eventually, never on my timeline, but always just in time.

Joy will return, probably more than you expected.

The light in your eyes will brighten and the anvil will lift from your heart.

Sometimes time just takes time.

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.  ~ Carl Jung

Photo courtesy of Archbob

Begin with Yes, Then Watch Out!


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As I write this, it’s been about 24 hours since a random Facebook post crossed my line of sight.  You know how that is, you scroll through a lot of nothing until something catches your eye.

In my case, yesterday, a photo stopped my scrolling.  The picture was an invitation to look through an open door onto a grassy path leading to a blue-green ocean. The post was written by Paul Boynton; here’s what he wrote:

I am going to ask you to help me get free downloads of “Begin with Yes” into the hands of people who could use a message of hope right now. Please let your friends know that anyone dealing with financial challenges or unemployment can download a free copy by clicking on the “Special Offer” on “Begin with Yes” home page today. Here’s the link: www.beginwithyes.com. Thanks for your help.

Begin with Yes

Shoot, I thought, I’ve become fairly adept at creative financial management during this first year of self-employment but I really don’t want to live paycheck-to-paycheck forever.  So I checked out Paul’s website.

These words had me racing for the special offer button:  Law of Attraction, meet the Law of Action.

Whoa.  Paul was speaking my language.

I downloaded the book and then sent an email to Paul thanking him (and justifying my free download!).  He sent the sweetest note back to me that read in part, Beth, I am so feeling like this is the perfect time for you and the book to meet.  Sending you good and loving vibes, Paul.

Turns out he’s right.  This is the perfect time as I make plans to jump into a work partnership with a good friend of mine.  Which reminds me, she’ll be all over Begin with Yes!

Paul lays out a proven method of moving beyond affirmations and positive attitudes to taking positive action.

I’m halfway through the short book and I have a better understanding of how the whole thing works.  It’s soooo simple and mindful!

How it works

Paul, whose credentials include CEO, corporate consultant, motivational speaker, and professional and personal coach, first asks that you identify challenges, opportunities and dreams that could be actionable for you.

Think about relationships, your job, community volunteering, or snorkeling off the barrier reef.

Then, ask yourself some questions around each of your challenges, opportunities and dreams.  If you want to learn to snorkel, questions might look like, “Who do I know that knows how or snorkel or can put me in touch with someone who does?  What equipment do I need? Where can I take lessons?”

The questions lead directly into the positive action steps.  The “who do you know” question creates the action item of “Call Bobby.  He has a friend who works in the dive shop downtown.”

Bobby gets you the name and you take the next action step of calling or dropping by the dive shop.

Full disclosure time:  I haven’t read far enough in the book to know what to do when questions and tasks lead to obstacles.  I was tempted to read ahead and give you the low-down, but decided instead to give you the fun of reading it.

Paul has a great conversational style of writing; in fact, the book is in a Q&A format.  Here’s the link again if you’d like to check it out (and I hope you do!): www.beginwithyes.com.  Let me know what you think.

How to Live Like a Spiritual Warrior


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A quick Google search for “how to live like a spiritual warrior” yields lots of cool links, even one with the key word “seductive,” but we won’t go there.

The number of links is a great sign that there are plenty of folks who have at least a passing interest in spiritual warriorhood.

Spirituality has definitely gone mainstream.  Twelve-step communities aren’t the only ones talking about a “power greater than themselves.”

Why else would the BuzzFeed quiz, What Career Should You Actually Have? currently on Facebook, include the Dalai Lama with Steve Jobs and Beyoncé in its question, Who is your dream dinner guest?

A deal-breaker?

Here’s a thought that may send even the more open-minded seekers running for the hills:  “A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen to us next.”

So says Pema Chödrön, a student of Shambhala Buddhism, in her book Comfortable With Uncertainty.

Whoa.  I think I just heard all you control freaks gasp.  I did too when I first read the sentence.  What happened to “master of my own fate?”

Chödrön continues, “We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe.  But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty.  This not-knowing is part of the adventure.  It’s also what makes us afraid.”

Truth be told, I was raised to believe I could be and do anything I wanted.  The sky is the limit.  Get out there and fly, little bird.  The world is your oyster, whatever that means.

Problem was, that behavior wasn’t modeled for me at home.  My family was all about security, predictability and routine, which created a confusing conundrum for my adolescent self.

As a young adult, I landed somewhere between master-of-my-own-fate controller and fearful risk-taker flying without a net.  There was, and sometimes still is, an internal tug-of-war about whether I’m comfortable with present circumstances.

Don’t you just want to know that you’re doing it (meaning life) the right way?

Are you with me here?

Looping back to living like a spiritual warrior

I think the first thing to realize about how to live like a spiritual warrior is there are no right or wrong answers.  Oh, we tell each other all the time, “Come on, what were you thinking?” or, “Jeez, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Yep, we’ve all got a bunch of human opinions; it’s a part of our DNA.

Your life choices may not be good ones for me; and vice versa.  In fact, you should never make a decision solely on what works for someone else.

That brings me to my second thought about how to live like a spiritual warrior.  Spiritual warriors know how to treat a tremendous circumstance and a sucky circumstance equally.

No doubt about it–that’s a spiritual battle, and one definitely worth fighting.  There are people who can sit in joy one day and pain the next while their demeanor doesn’t change.  That’s what I want and although it’s not easy to get there, I sure want to give it a warrior-like try.

Again, from Comfortable With Uncertainty, “We encourage ourselves to develop an open heart and an open mind to heaven, to hell, to everything.  Only with this kind of equanimity can we realize that no matter what comes along, we’re always standing in the middle of a sacred space.  Only with equanimity can we see that everything that comes into our circle has come to teach us what we need to know.”

Now, about that financial insecurity thing I’ve got going on . . .

Photo courtesy of clarita

Waiting Like the Buddha


file4001264776522Would you say you’re good at waiting?  How do you react when you’re stuck in a traffic jam?  A long line at the grocery store or the post office?

I’m not particularly fond of waiting, nor am I good at it.  Like so many character attributes to which I aspire, I do find that waiting is infinitely easier when I’m emotionally and spiritually healthy.

Consume quickly, move fast, pile on stress

Everything seems speeded up, don’t you think?  For the sake of convenience, and to cram 24 hours of activities into 17 (generously leaving yourself seven hours to sleep), most of the things you and I consume–whether it’s food, entertainment or services–happens so fast.

Do you sometimes feel like there is a drill sergeant standing behind you blowing a whistle and screaming, MOVE, MOVE, MOVE?  There is you know, and he (or she) carries your name.

The more we yell at ourselves to get to the next thing, the more stress we pile on and the more we age.  Gotta have, gotta do, gotta be here or there, gotta get it done . . . make sure you carve out time for your pending heart attack or stroke.

I’m making light of a serious subject.  Why can’t we just s-l-o-w d-o-w-n a-n-d W-A-I-T?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole idea of constantly rushing for a couple of weeks now, ever since the 42-year-old husband of a friend of mine had an aneurysm and died.  I’ve been especially thinking about their two small children, the younger one only a year old.

I’m not suggesting that incessant doing caused his death.  No way.  My heart cracks open thinking of my friend and her babies.  What she wouldn’t give . . .

Think, though, of the many moments lost to the dizzying pace of 21st century life.  Precious moments that could be spent enjoying the beauty of your love’s face or gently caressing your sleeping baby (either the two-legged or four-legged brand, or both).

A story about Buddha

Recently, I read a Pema Chödrön story about the night the Buddha waited for enlightenment.  Apparently while he sat waiting under a tree, forces of Mara (she explains these as obstacles that cause confusion and loss of confidence in our own wisdom) shot arrows to distract the Buddha.

I suppose the approach of enlightenment is a fleeting thing, like “blink and you miss it.”

Anyway, Chödrön reports that Buddha calmly turned the arrows of distraction into beautiful flowers.  The longer he waited, the more his surroundings turned to fields of flowers.

Isn’t that a terrific notion?  While waiting for whatever it is you’re waiting for, look for the beauty around you.  Look closely with concentration because the chances are excellent that whatever you notice that is good and beautiful, is an arrow turned into a flower.

This week, instead of doing, doing, doing, try being, being, being.  Be right where you are without rushing to the next place.  Wait in joy, rather than rushing with impatience.

Close your eyes and wait for the hint of floral in the air . . . wait, like the Buddha.

Photo courtesy of Djb78

“Find a Way” to Thrive; Don’t Merely Survive


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In early September of last year, a marathon swimmer named Diana Nyad became the first person to swim across the shark-infested waters (without a cage) between Havana, Cuba and Key West, Fla, a distance of 103 miles.

She logged four previous attempts, beginning in 2010, but her fifth shot at swimming 53 consecutive hours shoreline to shoreline brought her victory.  Diana is 64 years old.

I’ve watched several news interviews with Diana; she even sat down with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday.  As you might expect, she presents herself as a strong-willed, determined woman with a “live large” attitude. (Watch Diana and Oprah.)

I’ve also read snippets about her life and I now believe there are two overarching reasons why Diana finally stumbled onto the shore of Key West last year.  It wasn’t because of her 35-person crew and technology, or the silicone mast that protected her from jellyfish.  The successful swim wasn’t even because of favorable Gulf Stream currents.

No, Diana’s death-defying swim wasn’t even as a result of all those things combined.

Only two reasons why Diana Nyad made history in September 2013

I believe Diana’s success is two-fold:  One, she shifted her mindset from surviving to thriving, and two, she’s an atheist with a spiritual sense of awe and wonder.

Whoa.  How does that work, you might ask?  Oprah asked too during the Super Soul Sunday broadcast. Diana said while she doesn’t believe that one entity created everything that has ever existed, she does stand on a beach and feel a deep sense of awe and appreciation. She is moved when she thinks about the enormity of previous generations who stood in the same place contemplating their lives and their ambitions.

I agree with Oprah; feeling awe is believing in a power greater than oneself.  Wouldn’t you think that some sort of faith in the great Whatever is necessary to swim with sharks for 53 hours?

As for the shift from survivor to thriver, Diana also spoke with Oprah about being sexually abused as a child by a swim coach.  One day, many years later, circumstances took her to a dinner where she met a retired professor who unexpectedly shared her experience of being three years old and watching her family ripped away by the Gestapo during the Holocaust.

When Diana tried to downplay her own story of abuse, saying there was no comparison, the older woman reportedly took her hand and said, “‘Don’t ever say that.  Every human being on this planet has their pain and their heartache and it’s up to all of us to find our way back to light.'”

From that moment, Diana determined to live her life in big ways, not to settle for merely surviving.

Find a Way

During her tedious, stroke-by-stroke swim last September, maybe Diana recalled her conversation with the retired professor.  Whether she did or not, she remembered three incredible words that formed a mantra for her journey:  Find a Way.

Diana speaks regularly now and those same three words are often offered as a challenge:  No matter what is going on in your life now, or what you’re struggling to overcome from your past, Find a Way to work through it. Find a Way to move on.  Find a Way to shift from surviving to thriving.

Sage advice, don’t you think?

Watch Diana’s terrific talk on TED.com to here her story for yourself.