Special Stories

Trees of Peace From Germany & Gethsemane

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I have two incredible stories to share with you on this 1st day of February, in this leap year.

The first–published in the New York Times a few days ago, tells the story of a German forest ranger named Peter Wohllben who wrote a bestselling book called The Hidden Life of Trees:What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries From a Secret World.

Wohllben believes–and has scientific proof–that trees are social beings that can sense danger, talk to each other and even nurse ailing neighbor trees all while participating in a fungal network he calls the “wood-wide web.”

The ranger’s book is #1 in Germany (the English translation is scheduled for later this year) and he’s made the rounds of talk shows. Critics love it; the Times  story writes that one “praised the humble narrative style and the book’s ability to awaken in readers an intense, childlike curiosity about the workings of the world.”

I love the idea of strolling through a canopy of trees in the forest and feeling embraced by a sense of peace, considering that the trees are transmitting peace on purpose. Talk about a deeper mindful practice!

The second story is even more unbelievable–unless you’re a believer, that is. It involves the 900-year-old olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem.

You read that number right. A study released three years ago by Italy’s National Research Council reveals that these trees are the oldest on earth AND have the same DNA fingerprinting of trees that witnessed Jesus’ final hours on earth.

For centuries, these trees have held the eternal peace of Jesus, cradled in the gnarled intertwining branches, making it the perfect spot for a peace pilgrimage today.

In fact, Unity minister and host of Spirit Expressing Rev. Ed Townley, and Jimmy Twyman are leading the pilgrimage for peace this very morning, at 10 EST–on the Israel/Syria border.

For my money, news from the Iowa Caucus rides in the back of the bus today.

If you’re a person who values mindfulness and changing the world with a positive collective consciousness, these two stories ought to make you feel a little tingly. This first day of February is a happy, celebratory day because all the ugliness out there–from Donald Trump and the merry band of political jesters, to gun violence across the streets of America and throughout the world and even the deadly heroin epidemic gripping every state in the nation–goes on hold for the briefest moment as peace overrides them all.

Please hear me–the horrific gun violence and the opioid crisis are massive issues that need big-time attention and big brains to fix. I’m not sure there is a fix for the political clown show.

For 10 minutes today, let’s focus on peace. Let’s be so mindful that we can feel it coursing through our DNA just as it does those olive trees. Let’s breathe peace out to our neighbors as the trees in Germany do.

The other stuff matters, yes it does. But peace matters more because without peace, the other stuff will eventually cease to matter.

Photo courtesy of 

9 Ways to Bring Your Vacation Back to Work

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My sweetie and I just returned from a long-overdue vacation week in the Virgin Islands. We unplugged from electronics and the web and found ourselves grateful that Verizon is the only stateside wireless carrier that doesn’t serve the islands.

Our one exception to online avoidance was to borrow wifi and log into our dogs’ playtime at Top Paw Pet Resort.  The ODoggy app let us watch our babies play!

Sucked into a spiritual vortex

Looking back over the week, two things were apparent: 1) We willingly surrendered the stress choking us, and 2) God fills the spaces where stress exits.

The first morning on the beach, I stared at the azure water encircling the mountains and thought, “what stress?”

There is something mesmerizing about sea lapping against sand that helps stress melt away. I could almost feel it oozing from my pores. I believe there is something holy about beach bumming.

Our home base on Sapphire Beach, Hill Bay with its dried out mangrove roots, Magens Bay and our Sunday morning 12-step meeting, Honeymoon Bay, Trunk Bay and the British Virgin Islands all served as the means for God and I to get tight again.

I learned a critical lesson: Whenever peace eludes me, it’s never where I search or where I think it should be. Peace is the byproduct of reconnecting with who I am and then giving myself deep and abiding love.

The re-entry after vacation

As the week drew to a close, a pit of dread started to grow in my gut. The transition back into the real world is never easy; this trip created such an imprint on my soul that I knew the reentry would be extra-tough.

During the fight home I made the decision not to bitch and moan about sliding back into real life. Instead, I decided to bring my vacation back to work with me.

How? Here are nine tips that are working for me:

1) Admire what’s at a distance without giving it your complete attention. Before this trip, I had never been face-to-face with mountains and the ocean/sea. I couldn’t stop my awestruck staring at the sheer magnificence of rock rising from water but I was aware too of the beauty right in front of me. In life, we too often focus on a future event or outcome and deny ourselves the wow-factor of the moment.

2) Look closely at what’s beneath your feet. One of our favorite past-times is searching for sea glass and shells. Sometimes the coolest pieces are found with your next footstep! IMG_4778You never know what treasure lies with each step, so keep looking!

3) Dive deep to see hidden beauty. Snorkeling is another favorite thing. This trip was the best snorkeling ever as we ventured into the caves of Norman Island, made famous by Robert Louis Stevens’ Treasure Island. We saw the most beautiful coral, rainbow fish and even a barracuda. Don’t be afraid to plunge beneath the surface of your life to catch a glimpse of hidden treasures!

4) Spend time quietly listening to the voices of nature. There is little that is more soothing to me than listening to waves splashing against the shore or seagulls in boisterous conversation. Relax, listen, and renew every single day.

5) Acknowledge fear for what it is and keep on walking. A major crime occurred at our resort shortly after our arrival that sent shockwaves throughout the island. A reporter wandering the beach (and obviously trying to sensationalize the event) stopped my sweetie and asked if she feared for her safety. Her response was classic: “No. The crime was family-related so there’s no danger of anything happening to anyone else.” Still though, we took the time to talk about our fears and then moved on. The same advice can be used in life situations.

6) Share your story and be of service. Within 24 hours of our arrival, I was asked to share my recovery story at a 12-step meeting. I also had the privilege of sharing some of my experiences with a new recovery friend dealing with family issues similar to mine. Whatever your story, sharing can pay off in amounts far greater than you expect.

7) Stretch and push to do things you don’t think you can do. My new friend suggested a terrific beach that we needed to check out. She said it was a 20-minute walk through a trail in the woods but neglected to tell us about the inclines and declines. I refused to let anything stop me–even when I saw that first steep and rocky climb! You shouldn’t let anything stop you either!

8) Be spontaneous–right now. We signed up for a tour of a new beach-front timeshare on St. John because we would get a free all-day boat trip to the British VIs. And guess what? We bought the timeshare! It felt good and right and sometimes you just have to go with your gut and trust the process.

9) Embrace new friends and friendships. We found an immediate kinship with two women in recovery. Now that we’re going back next year (and for years to come!), I am so stoked to watch these friendships blossom. I really don’t think we can ever have too many people in our friendship corner, so when the chemistry is there, fan the flames!

If you’re headed back to reality this week, I feel your pain. I hope these tips help ease your transition! If you liked this post, please share on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll have my unwavering appreciation!

Feeling Like a Cracked Pot? Repurpose Yourself!

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Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels like a cracked pot from time to time.

What are the symptoms, you ask? The major ones for me are discontentment, overwhelm, fragility, sensitivity and generalized disconnection.

When I’m not seeing things as they are, I take things personally and indeed, everything is about me. My bubbly personality turns brooding; my entire being kind of turns in on itself.

And I miss my mom horribly. She’s been gone nearly five years now and I still struggle with learning to mother myself, to give myself the safety and security that a mother’s love gives.

Wanting vs. willing

Saturday night was date night and we went to a huge citywide 12-step meeting. The speaker was funny and entertaining; he had definitely transformed from a cracked pot into a stable and transparent person in long-term recovery.

He reiterated something that has stayed with me. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Wanting to and willingness are not the same things.”

How often do you really, really want something–to exercise, eat less sugar, get more sleep, buy fewer shoes, pens or purses–but the wanting doesn’t seem to get the job done? Why? Because you’re not willing to repurpose yourself.

To repurpose is to think differently. When you think differently, your actions shift. And when your actions shift, the thing you want tends to happen.

Bottom line: You have to be willing to go all-in to get what you truly want.

Repurposing your cracked pot

Has it occurred to you that your pot is cracked for a reason? That’s a tough one for this perfectionist. When my pot gets cracked, I want to throw it out or just get a new one. But what if the cracks are meant to serve a purpose?

Paulo Coelho tells the story of the man who used to tote two large pitchers of water fastened to a piece of wood and carried across his shoulders to his village every day.

One pitcher was new and perfect and never ceased to do its job of serving as a vessel full of water. It was proud to provide water for the village and took its duties very seriously, so much so that it was certain it was made for just that purpose.

The other pitcher was older and had several cracks so that water dribbled out as the man made his return trip to the village. By the time he arrived, the cracked pitcher released only a small amount of water to the village and did so with great shame, despite the fact that it had served the village well for many, many years.

One day, the old pitcher felt so inferior that as the man was scooping up water, the pitcher decided to speak.

It apologized for its age and its inability to serve as it once had.

The man smiled and asked the pitcher to look closely at its side of the path as they made the trip home. Sure enough, the water that seeped through the cracked pitcher provided nourishment for the vegetables and flowers the man had planted.

“Do you see how much more beautiful nature is on your side of the road?” the man asked the pitcher.

“If you were not the way you are, I could never have done this. We all, at some point, grow old and acquire other qualities, and these can always be turned to good advantage.”

The moral of this story–read on the take-out brown bag from Chipotle–is our cracked selves are still useful. We just need the willingness–the all-in quality–to repurpose ourselves and determine what soil we want to sink into next.

Photo courtesy of timetocraft.co.uk and bobvilla.com

 

Book Review: Dark Wine Waters

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Late last summer, just before Recovery Month in September, Fran Simone emailed to see if I’d be interested in taking a look at her book, Dark Wine Waters: My Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows. She thought I might want to write about it here, for Recovery Month.

Sure, I said, send it on. My blog calendar was pretty full for Recovery Month 2014 but I told Fran I’d see what I could do.

Rigorous honesty, right? Fran did indeed send her beautiful book and here’s the truth: It became buried on my desk.

You see, Recovery Month is a tiny-bit hectic for a recovery writer. I’m a piling sort of writer anyway—put Dark Wine Watersstuff away in desk drawers and I have a hard time finding it—so there are sensible stacks on my desk that grow out-of-control during hectic times.

Please consider this my amends, dear Fran. I’m sorry I didn’t read your book then but I have read it now—and I am moved by its transparency. Thank you for your bravery.

For the readers

I want to tell all my friends in recovery and those who love us that Fran’s Dark Wine Waters may cause you to cringe repeatedly as you read. That will be a normal response so don’t panic.

You will quite possibly shed tears at times too, and don’t be surprised if you become enveloped in sadness. That was my experience as I read.

Please don’t turn away in fear of these emotions. One of Fran’s gifts to her readers is the idea that feelings need acknowledgement. They must have a safe place for expression and that safe place begins within the confines of our hearts.

Tweet: Without expression, feelings congeal, becoming resentments we use to beat ourselves and our loved ones. http://bit.ly/1uRU1uf @bheretoday

Dark Wine Waters is a memoir of Fran’s life with her husband  Terry and their relationship with alcoholism and drug addiction.

Much of the book describes their painful, tortuous descent into the belly of the beast, played out with lies and subversion, disappearances and blackouts. In many ways, the day-to-day drama is different only in the details of other stories lived every day in every town, perhaps on every block, in America.

Terry’s drunken escapades—and Fran’s valiant efforts to hide them behind a normal facade—felt intensely familiar to me; I suspect they might to you as well.

The gut-kicker

Terry’s story is so much like my story, like many of our stories yet society still looks past him—and me—and says, “why can’t you just stop?”

Fran writes about the times when Terry thought he could stop on his own. She also writes about how she thought she could get him to stop—on her own.

But alcoholism and drug addiction gradually took possession of his body and their lives. It rendered them powerless to stop its onslaught.

That’s what the disease of addiction does. It ravages the wiring in our brains and does its damnedest to convince us we’re in control. There’s nothing wrong, we think; just drank a little too much.

Virtually all Americans are affected by addiction, whether they’ll admit it is another story. Too many remain hidden behind walls of shame and denial.

But thank God for the Fran Simones of the world who have stepped from behind the wall as family members of the afflicted. Thank God she now knows she didn’t cause Terry’s disease (or her son Matt’s), she couldn’t control it and she certainly couldn’t cure it.

There are 23 million people in the United States who are in recovery from a addiction. Another 20 million suffer with substance use disorder; a large portion of them don’t get the help they need. For every person afflicted, there are several family members and loved ones deeply affected by the disease. 

Thank you, Fran, for sharing your family’s story with us. May you find continued peace in recovery and retirement!

For a copy of Dark Wine Waters, click here. Please leave a comment and I’ll enter your name into a drawing for a free copy.

Photo courtesy of richcd

Release Your Stranglehold on Fear (Finally)

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One of my mentors and friends, Tess Marshall, has just opened The Unstoppable Courage Club, a monthly program designed to help you let go of any and all fears that keep you from being your incredible true self. Enjoy this interview and if you’re inclined, please click here or on the link at the end to join. (This isn’t an affiliate program, so I get no percentage of Tess’ signups, just the knowledge that I introduced the two of you so you can grow together.).

Tess, for our readers who don’t know you please introduce yourself.

I work as a writer, speaker, and courage coach. I have a master’s degree in counseling psychology and had a private practice in Michigan for 10 years. I love to guide and inspire people to overcome their fears, take the action needed to create a meaningful life and be wildly successful. 

I write at The Bold Life, for an amazing and growing community that I love dearly.  My work has allowed Tess Marshall 1-15me to reach people all over the world. I’ve written three books and created five ecourses and now the Unstoppable Courage Club.

Tell us more about the Unstoppable Courage Club.

The Unstoppable Courage Club is a monthly program designed to help you do one thing: Overcome fear with confidence and courage.

I want to reach as many as people I can. I’ve set the monthly fee very low to ensure that anybody can join and there are no excuses to get started with releasing your fear.

Each month the focus will be on releasing your fear and building your courage.  Why monthly? Because overcoming fear and making positive change takes time and consistent practice. The biggest reason people fail is because they try to do too much at once.

The course is designed to take you beyond excuses, procrastination, worries and doubts … from fear to freedom.  You’ll gain the confidence to take bold action. 

As a subscriber, each month you will receive articles and videos, access to the club on a private page at The Bold Life. There will be a new topic each month; here’s the breakdown for this year:

January: The Courage to Feel and Act Worthy of The Good Life

February: The Courage to Focus on Your Dreams and Proceed with Abandon

March: The Courage to Take Risks and Fail

April: The Courage to Expect and Embrace Rejection

May: The Courage to Resolve Problems and Heal Relationships

June: The Courage to Become More Present and Engaged in the World

July: The Courage to Live with More Adventure, Freedom and Love

August: The Courage to Immerse Yourself Live with Uncertainty

September: The Courage to Be Vulnerable and Love No Matter What

October: The Courage to Be Yourself and Be For Yourself

November: The Courage to Quit Your Excuses and Be 100% Responsible

December: The Courage to Believe In Your Capabilities to Succeed

Lessons. You’ll get a video or article each month on overcoming fear and mastering confidence and courage.

Is there anything else included in the monthly program?

Yes. You’ll also get reminder emails each week with ideas to take actionable steps to eliminate fear, monthly helpsheets to reinforce the lesson, webinars on that month’s lesson (with time for Q&A!), and access to a private Facebook for check-ins. 

Why did you create The Unstoppable Courage Club?

I understand what it is like to be paralyzed by fear. In the past, I made mistakes, I spent my time freaked out, playing small, denying and hiding from fear.

Little by little, I turned my life around. I created a new story.  The payoff of my post-fear life? I raised my family, I saved my marriage, became a successful therapist, a coach, an author, a professional speaker, a blogger, a writer–all things that I achieved even though I never thought they were possible. 

The Unstoppable Courage Club is the culmination of everything I’ve learned. I’m still asked, “How do you do it?” I’ve been blessed with very loving and brilliant mentors and teachers throughout my lifetime. Now it’s my turn to give back!

What are the benefits for those who join the Unstoppable Courage Club?

It is life-changing if you do the exercises, participate in the webinars, get involved in the community and apply what you learn.  Anais Nin said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” 

Once you commit to doing what it takes, you’ll become more confident and courageous in everything you do. You can’t think your way out of fear. You must act your way out of it. Once you change your life, there is no going back. You may fall back but you can’t stay back. It’s impossible. 

The course will lead you out of the pitfalls of fear and insecurity and into the power of freedom and innate courage. You only need to take one small step at a time. All your little steps add up and take you where you need—and want—to be.

You can sign up for The Unstoppable Courage Club here.

Photo courtesy of xenia