Sunday, January 31, 2010

Beautiful Dreamer

Dreams are illustrations from the book
your soul is writing about you.
~ Marsha Norman
Dreamweaver © 2008 by Melissa Johnson.
Once while traveling in Brazil, I was approached by an elderly woman in the town of Ipanema. She grabbed my arm and began wrapping my wrist with a pink ribbon inscribed in Portuguese. I had no clue what the words meant, but I couldn’t ignore her urgency. She looked deep into my eyes and spoke in hurried, exaggerated tones, demanding something of me.
Sensing my confusion, a local bystander explained that the woman wanted me to make a wish. I love a good wish! So I closed my eyes and silently wished with all my might that the vision I held of my best life would come true.
She tied a knot in the pink bracelet, urging me to make a second wish, then a third. Each time she tied another knot in the wrist band, I closed my eyes, trying desperately to think of a different wish so as to maximize my wish potential, but all I could summon was a repeated prayer that my greatest dreams would come true.
After tying three knots, the wish-granting lady rambled some long, deliberate admonition, and in a flash she was gone. Again, my benevolent bystander translated her warning: I was not to take off the ribbon. It must come off on its own. If I removed it myself, my wishes would not come true and I would have bad luck. He also told me that the last time a similar band had been tied around his wrist it took more than two years for the ribbon to wear thin and fall off on its own. Great! Two years, I thought. This neon, hot pink thing clashes with most of my wardrobe.
Then one night about a month later, while lounging around the fire with some friends, my pink wrist-band became the topic of conversation. They wanted to know why I was wearing it and what it meant. I told them the story and, though not one for superstition, I joked about how I dared not remove the bracelet lest I destroy my wish.
One of the guys appeared to be napping throughout this conversation; however, when I finished my story, he jumped from his chair in one swift movement—grabbing a knife from the kitchen counter in one hand and my wristband in the other—and cut the damned thing off! But what happened next astounded me even more: Defiantly, he shoved the ribbon in his mouth, chewed on it for a minute, spit it out, and then dropped it down his pants. Then he flopped back down in his chair to resume his nap, mumbling something about “stupid visions” and “bad luck.”
Keep away from people who try to
belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that,
but the really great make you feel
that you, too, can become great.
~Mark Twain
It was all very dramatic. And all I could do was watch in horrified amazement as my sincere wish to fulfill my highest vision was chewed on, spit out, and shoved down this guy’s pants. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But I vowed then and there that I would never let someone destroy the vision I held for my life—literally or metaphorically—and I promised myself to be more discerning when choosing my friends.
The moral of the story:  Your dreams are your own. Safeguard them and never surrender your vision to the reckless disregard of others.

Points to Ponder:
As we move deeper into this new decade, into this new year, and into another month of possibility, ask yourself:

1.  Have I been true to my goals and dreams? Do I even know what they are?

2.  Is it possible that the comments or opinions of others have jaded the vision I hold for my life, or my belief in what is possible?

3.  Have I denied some aspect of myself that longs for expression?

4.  What can I do today, no matter how small, that will move me one step closer to the fulfillment of my dreams?

Remember, your greatest desires plant seeds of thought deep within your mind that, when cultivated by the imagination and nurtured with unwavering belief, grow the vision of your soul. Open your eyes. See with unlimited vision. Free your mind. Do one thing every day that supports your desires. Be willing to correct your course as you learn new information and move through obstacles.  And watch as your garden grows.

By Melissa Johnson

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Passion Rising

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs~
ask yourself what makes you come alive,
and then go do it.
Because what the world needs
is people who have come alive.
~Harold Thurman Whitman

Passion Rising © 2007 by Melissa Johnson.
In the movie Serendipity, the best man is asked to give a toast at his friend’s wedding. As a columnist for the New York Times, he decides to write the toast in the form of an obituary.
“The Greeks didn’t have obituaries.
When a man died they only asked one question:
Did he have passion?”
He goes on from there to remember his friend’s great passion for life and how it inspired his own.
My friend Stephan is like that. A charming French-Moroccan man I met while living in San Francisco, to me, Stephan is synonymous with passion, and I’m not just talking about the sexual kind. I’m talking about the kind of passion a person brings to life—even to the routine everyday things, like shopping and cooking.
A trip to Whole Foods, for example, was a spiritual experience for him. “Look at the tomato, sweetie darling,” he would say, holding it high in the air to get a better look at it. “Look at the color, how red and beautiful. Feel how soft the skin is. Can you even imagine all of the delicious dishes that we can make with this amazing tomato?”
Then two aisles over, “Consider the olive,” he might say with a twinkle in his eye. “It has all of the properties to give us a good life. We cook with it, and its oil helps the flow of blood to our hearts. It’s used in the lotions that moisturize your beautiful skin. Did you know it can even be used for lamplight? Can you even believe it? And when you put the olive together with the tomato, ooh la, la! So many delicious dishes we can make!” Every trip to the market was this way.
And cooking was no different. Stephan loved to cook, singing in the kitchen as he moved about, insisting that I taste and smell the flavors along the way, reminding me of the importance of using all organic ingredients. He used neither recipes nor measuring devices; his senses were the gauge of culinary perfection. And always, as he placed the platters of food on the table, he would smile and say to his guests, “I made it with love.” I think Stephan’s meals were so amazingly delicious, in part, because he was filled with passion, an energy that flowed into his food.
We all have the flame of passion inside us. For some, connecting with it is as easy and natural as breathing. For others, it’s a struggle to find, much less express. And for others still, it seems an inconvenience; why bother? When you consider the role that fear and human conditioning play, it’s easy to understand why some people are disconnected.
As children we hear things like: Simmer down. Don’t be so loud. Girls don’t jump out of trees. Big boys don’t cry. You can’t be an astronaut—we’re not that smart in our family. Use your fork; don’t eat with your hands. And for heavens sake, don’t burp or fart out loud.
Then our religious institutions tell us that all kinds of things are sinful and ungodly—dancing; sex without marriage or procreation; divorce; drinking a glass of wine; showing our hair and skin.
As teenagers and young adults we’re told to grow up, quit goofing around, and get serious. We hear things like, “Who do you think you are?” and “What will the neighbors think?” We’re encouraged to seek security by getting a “good job” and sticking with it, with little, if any, emphasis on whether we even like the work.
In relationships, we’re told that compatibility is more important than chemistry, that it’s just as easy to love a rich man as it is a poor man; that you can’t have everything so you might as well “love the one you’re with.” We see people all around us settling for the “safe” thing or “the bird in the hand,” not what gives their heart the greatest joy.
It’s no wonder that by the time many of us become adults, our flame is just a flicker. How can we expect to open our hearts and connect with our passionate longings when we’re so estranged from ourselves? It’s as if we need permission to be who we are. So how do we break the deadlock?
Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion.
You must set yourself on fire.
~Arnold H. Glasow
You know how people say that we should live each day as if it was our last? Inspiring advice on one level, but when it comes to passion I’ve got a better idea. What if we decide to live each day as if it were our first? What if we decide that this year, we’ll get back to our roots—lighthearted with a certain innocence of spirit—like children, approaching the world with excitement and curiosity that can only come when we’re unburdened by worry, fear, anxiety and doubt.
What if we shed these debilitating thoughts like old skin, wiping the slate clean and forgiving ourselves those uncomfortable demands that weigh us down with expectations of how things ought to be or would have been if only . . .
What if we rub our eyes free of the jaded perceptions that color our view of what’s possible in the future because of how things happened in the past? And rekindle the flame of passion as we connect with what gives our heart the greatest joy, remembering that our energy and dreams are the purest most natural resources that we have to offer the world.
What if we commit to something different? Can we do that?
Will you set yourself on fire with a spirit of possibility and the promise of each new day?
I think you can. In fact, I know you can. Now step away from your comfort zone . . . and get ready to burn!
As a ceremonial start, try Stephan’s recipe for passion:

Grandma’s Moroccan Meatballs
(Serves 3-4 of your favorite people)
(Remember: All organic, sweetie-darling)

1 lb. ground beef (or turkey)
1 bunch parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small white onions (1 chopped and 1 cut into long, thin strips)
1 teaspoon fresh chopped ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
Salt & pepper to taste
6 juicy Roma Tomatoes, sliced into wedges
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ cup water
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Lots of passion and love for your dinner guests
To prepare:
In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef (or turkey), ¾ of the parsley, garlic, 1 chopped onion, ginger, turmeric, salt & pepper, then mix with your hands. Go ahead; don’t be afraid to get dirty! Form mixture into small meatballs and set aside on a plate. In a large sauté pan, add about 2 tablespoons of EVOO (or enough to swirl around and coat the bottom of the pan), Roma tomato wedges, 1 small onion (sliced in long, thin strips), the remaining parsley and a bit of salt & pepper. Sauté the vegetables on medium-low heat for approximately 10 minutes; stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste and water, stir and sauté for another 5 minutes. Then add meatballs to the pan, cooking slowly (still on medium-low) for 7-10 minutes on each side, turning once. And don’t forget to infuse your food with lots of love and passion. Try singing as you move about the kitchen.
To serve:
Arrange Moroccan Meatballs on a large platter with cooked tomatoes, onion and sprigs of parsley. Serve with mint tea and a platter of olives, assorted artisan cheeses and a large French baguette. Make sure you eat with your hands, tearing off chunks of bread and using them to scoop the meatball mixture, olives and cheese! And don’t forget to lick your fingers!
And for the vegetarians among us, the vegetable sauté is delicious even without the meat and makes for a wonderfully seasoned compliment to lentils, pasta, couscous, or as a simple bread-dipping sauce. Get creative!
Ooh la, la! Many thanks for my dear friend Stephan, for inspiring my passion and allowing me to share his Grandma’s delicious dish. Happy New Year everyone, and bon appetite!
By Melissa Johnson