Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Horse With No Name

Every man is divinity in disguise.
It is God playing the fool.
“I See You” by MHopkins © 2014
Now I’ve been up close and personal with some animals—dogs, cats, monkeys, raccoons, bears, even some endangered species like the lynx and bobcat that visit my land—but never a the middle of the road...on a dark and snowy night.
I suppose stranger things have happened.
‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas, and I was on my way home from a holiday musical extravaganza sponsored by the Unity Church of Boulder.
With a new moon rising and snow clouds hanging low in the sky, visibility was limited as I wound my way up the familiar stretch of Boulder Canyon toward my home. Sticking close to the canyon wall, I drove through the snow, all the while contemplating the meaning of “Unity.” What does it really mean—this concept of oneness?
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I came upon a horse running wildly back-and-forth across the narrow, two-lane road, sliding as she maneuvered uphill in the snow. The unexpected sight of her scared me half to death; she was scared, too. So I stopped and turned on my hazard lights, not sure what to do next, but this much I knew: Boulder Canyon is no place for a horse, especially at night when it’s snowing.
For a brief moment I watched her and, she, looking over her shoulder, watched me. And then I did the only thing I could think of to do: I rolled down my window and talked to her.
“Don’t be scared . . . I’m not going to hurt you,” I said softly. “Please, you have to get out of the road before you cause an accident.”
She stopped running, eyeing me suspiciously.
“Please, come here . . . you have to get out of the road,” I pleaded.
Slowly, she turned and walked toward me.
“Come here, girl, I’m not going to hurt you. I want to help you,” I continued, coaxing her with promises of safety while holding out my hand to her through the open window.
She approached my car, towering high above it, and lowered her head to meet me at eye level. As I reached out to touch the side of her face I saw something in her eyes that moved me. In that moment, I caught a glimpse of her spirit and I understood with acute awareness what I had only intellectualized until then—that the same life force that moved through her flowed through me. The same vital energy that animated her form, gave life to mine, albeit in different packages.
It was as if time stood still for me and that horse on the canyon. I whispered, “I see you.”
Just then a car came barreling around the corner and slammed on the brakes. My new friend freaked out and started running around my car. She had no bridle or halter to grab, so there was little I could do but work out a plan with the man in the car behind me to get the horse out of the road. We agreed—he would stay with the horse and warn oncoming cars with flashing lights, and I would drive the remaining three miles up the canyon and get the local police to help us.
The rest of the story played out like a scene from The Andy Griffith Show. I ran into the police station and exclaimed with excitement: “There’s a horse in the middle of the canyon.” To which the officer replied, “Yeah, what does the horse look like?”  
Four legs a tail and a gorgeous mane?  So I described the horse and told them of the man I had left behind on the canyon waiting for help, and I discovered that the officers knew the horse—or at least they knew the horse’s guardian—and they followed me out to remedy the situation. The horse was rescued. Crisis averted. It was surreal.
Later, as I pulled into my driveway, I could not shake the intensity of my experience with that horse—the moment of connection with her living spirit. What a precious gift to see and truly understand the essence of this spiritual principle, which reminds us that we are all unique expressions of the same Creative Source, interconnected with everyone and everything else. Call that Source whatever you like—God, Allah, Great Spirit, Creator, the “Big C”—it matters not, because there is only One from which all things flow.
You are at once a beating heart
and a single heartbeat in the body called humanity.
~Dr. Wayne Dyer
Oneness is a concept emphasized by many, and has been, perhaps, one of the toughest ideas for me to wrap my mind around. It is simple enough in theory to say that we’re all one, but when I see my neighbor in his yard shoveling snow and I’m standing across the street in my own yard—physically separate from him—it’s hard to make the connection. It is especially challenging for me to find the common thread when I look at the most vile criminal offenders—rapists, murderers and child molesters—for it is here that I am most keen to distinguish myself in every conceivable way. It’s even more difficult to conceptualize my oneness with the creek flowing through my back yard or the horse in the middle of the canyon, particularly when I consider the differences in our physical constitutions.
To grasp this concept requires that we open our minds and see beyond our physical limitations. Analogies help. For instance, if I pour wine from a bottle into your glass, what do you have? A glass of wine—the same wine that’s still in the bottle, only now a portion of it has been transferred to another container. The same is true of me, the horse and the vital energy that flows through us, bringing our “containers” to life. True, our containers are quite different and come with unique bells and whistles—in that way, we’re definitely not the same—but we come from One, which makes us all related in a wonderfully abstract way.
Spiritual teachers and mystics across time have urged us to consider that what we do to one we do to all; that we cannot hurt another without also, in some way, hurting ourselves. And while many of us may find it easy to extend that thought pattern and courtesy to a handful of people we're close to (our immediate family and loved ones) how often do we reach out to help strangers or animals or the environment in the spirit of unity and oneness?
And so this was my Gift of the Magi—wisdom and recognition shared between a girl and a horse on a dark canyon road, and now I pass it on to you.
As we begin a new year, may you connect with the peace that comes with understanding your connection to the One.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Season of Enchantment

Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.  That's how the light gets in.
~Leonard Cohen
The orderly wheeled the boy into the playroom on the 7th floor, just as he always did after dinner but before the nurse came to give him his medicine; this was his favorite time of the day.
“Well, hello there handsome. Come on in. I’ve been waiting for you . . .” She smiled, standing by the art table with her hands on her hips. “What’s new with you?”
He blushed, bright red. At 16, he was showing signs of his manhood—small patches of hair growing on either side of his chin—and his voice seemed to get a little deeper each time she saw him.
“Hello Miss V… Doc says I get to go home tomorrow, just in time for Christmas—“
“Oh Jack, that’s wonderful!” She clapped her hands in delight, and then suddenly frowned. “I’m sure gonna’ miss you when you’re gone . . .”
“Don’t be sad Miss V, you know I can’t stay away for long. . .” he said with a seriousness that broke her heart. Forty-two days, that’s how long he had been there this time—his sixth hospitalization this year—at first for a spinal fusion, and then for pneumonia like so many times before. But it was the cerebral palsy that kept him confined to his chair, unable to use his arms and legs.
She pulled a tissue from her pocket and dabbed at the drool forming in the corners of his mouth. “Hey, we’ve got some great new art projects tonight,” she said. “We can make a snowman . . . or a reindeer . . . oh, look . . . we could paint one of these ceramic angels or a Santa to hang on your tree . . . What do you feel like doing?”
“Ummm . . .” he contemplated his choices while scanning the room with his eyes. “Can we paint an angel for my mom? ‘Cause she’s an angel to me . . .”
“Of course we can, Jack . . . and then we can wrap it up and tie a ribbon around it, like this—” she said, holding up a cellophane bag with snowflakes on it, and a dark red ribbon for decoration.
“Yeah, let’s do that!” He smiled, eager to get started. Together they collected all of the supplies from the art cabinet that they would need to create his angelic vision—paint, brushes, a cup of water to rinse things off, a hand-towel and a bunch of newspapers to cover the table with. And as she prepared their workspace, she listened to him talking with the other children.
“Hi Lauren, how are you feeling today?” He asked, listening intently to her reply. And then to Kevin, “Did you beat your dad at foosball last night? I knew you would!” He laughed. And as Jenny’s mom prepared to wheel her back to her room for bed, Jack called after her, “That sure was a brave thing you did yesterday—donating your bone marrow like that. You’re a hero! Get some sleep tonight.”
Miss V felt a lump forming in the back of her throat as she fought back tears. She did that a lot lately, swell up with emotion and cry. It had been a tough year for her in so many ways, and she knew that her problems paled in comparison to the limitations of Jack’s life. Still, something about his tenderness and concern for the others hit her hard. She felt a little guilty for bemoaning her fate, and she swore to herself that she wouldn’t cry in front of the children. She just couldn’t. She was supposed to be there to help them—that’s what volunteers do—not melt into a puddle of tears in the middle of the playroom.
“Miss V—are you ready?” Jack interrupted her thoughts, now that he was settled in at the table.
“You betcha!” She smiled, blinking back her tears. “What color shall we paint with first?”
“Purple for the angel’s robe . . . and then maybe some blue,” he said, exercising his artistic freedom.
For the next half-hour they sat together, talking and laughing quietly, as she painted the ceramic angel and he directed her hand. Occasionally she would lift the angel into the air for his inspection, since he couldn’t move his head, and he didn’t hesitate to tell her when she had painted out of the lines or missed a spot.
“Sorry, sorry . . . I do that sometimes . . .” she said, laughing at his sudden bossiness.
“You have a beautiful smile, Miss V. You should smile all the time—“
Now it was her turn to blush. She had always been so good at looking after others, complimenting them, making them feel special, but his simple acknowledgement caught her off guard.
“Thank you, Jack. Nobody ever said a nicer thing—“
“Well I like you, Miss V. You talk to me like normal—when we’re sitting here like this—and I almost forget about my . . . condition. I swear it's the greatest gift ever!”
“You’re a good guy, Jack—wise beyond your years— and I like talking with you, too. . .” she said, clearing her throat as she blinked back more tears. “Speaking of gifts—what’s Santa going to bring you for Christmas this year?”
“Miss V,” he said, lowering his voice to a whisper so the littlest ones wouldn't hear. “Don’t you think I’m too old for Santa?”
“Well of course not, Jack!” She teased. “Santa’s all about granting wishes . . . Surely there’s something you want special this year?”
Jack got real quiet like he does when he’s thinking hard about something. Then after a time he said, “No, I don’t think so.”
“Nothing?” She asked, shaking her head in disbelief because she had never heard of a kid who didn’t want something for Christmas.
He sat quietly before he spoke. “Well, sure, there are things I want but I know I’ll never get them, so I just try not to think about it—what I don’t have.”
“What kind of things, Jack?”
“Like walking.  I would love to get up out of this chair and walk—run—as far and fast as I can. I would love to paint that angel myself. Every time I see my dog I want to throw the ball to him and rub his head—he really likes it when my brother does that. And I want to hug my mom because she always does such nice things for me. I want to shake my dad’s hand like a man . . . and play video games with my little brother.  I want to hold a book and turn the pages, one by one, as I read them. I want to go to the bathroom by myself without that guy having to help me—“ he whispered, rolling his eyes toward the orderly sitting in the corner chair. “And . . .”
“And what Jack?”
“I can’t tell you.” He whispered, a mischievous grin forming on his lips.
“Sure you can—“
“Promise you won’t laugh?”
“I promise,” she said, making a cross in the air above her heart.
“I want to kiss a girl—“ he whispered.
“That’s not funny at all, Jack. In fact, it’s one of the most natural desires in the world—“
“And I want to fall in love with her . . . and I want her to love me back.”
Overwhelmed with irony, she didn’t even try to hold back her tears for she understood his greatest loss—she felt it—the loss of freedom and choice. As for love, well, she wanted the same thing and she told him so. Sure, she had had some great boyfriends and some success in her life, but the one thing she wanted most of all—the one thing that money could not buy—was true love. She thought her heart might explode into a thousand little pieces with the longing he expressed. She knew it well. And she put down her paint brush and hugged him tight in his chair.
“We’re not so different, Jack—you and me—the heart wants what it wants.  But love is alive and well in both of us and we must never give up.”
“What do you mean, Miss V?”
“Well, you know how you talk with the other children and ask them how they’re doing—how they’re feeling?”
“. . . and the way that you smile and laugh even though there are things about your life that you might want to be different?”
“. . . and the way that you feel about your mom and dad and your little brother?”
“Well, that is love in its purest form. It’s a bright light, Jack, and it shines in you—”
“And it shines in you too, Miss V—like the way you help the children here at the hospital. . .”
“Exactly,” she said, and they smiled at each other. “We must never let our lights go out. We must never stop loving, even if others don't love us back.”
By then, the ceramic angel was finished—nearly dry—and she pulled some ribbon through the hole at the top so that he could hang it on the tree. She held it in the air for one final inspection. They agreed—it was good.
The orderly stood and moved toward the table. “We should probably get going Jack. It’s time for your meds.”
“Wait . . .” Miss V said, pointing to the bright light coming from the window across the room. “Before you go, let’s make a wish on the Christmas star . . . what do you say, Jack?”
His eyes danced with possibility.  “Do you think wishes really can come true, Miss V?”
“Yes, Jack, I do. Maybe not exactly as we wish them, or in the timeframe that we would like for them to come true . . . and I think sometimes we may get something that we didn’t wish for but that ends up being better for us in the long run . . . but, yes—I do believe that wishes can come true . . . especially when they come from your heart . . . especially at Christmastime. After all, it's the season of magic and miracles,” she winked, and she kissed him on the cheek before bending down to unlock the brakes on his wheelchair.
Then together they moved toward the light.

*This story was inspired by my little friends at Children's Hospital in Denver, Colorado.  To find out how you can make cash or in-kind donations of toys or art supplies, please visit their web site at   Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Today is the Day!

He said, 
“There are only two days in the year 
that nothing can be done. 
One is called yesterday 
and the other is called tomorrow, 
so today is the right day 
to love, believe, do and mostly live.
~Dalai Lama

He saw me before I noticed him.  By then it was too late.  Shocking red and blue lights swirled in the dark of night as I steered my car to the side of the road.

The officer approached. “Good evening, ma’am.  Do you know the speed limit here in this part the canyon?” He quizzed.

“45?” I said.

“Yes.  And do you know how fast you were going?”  He asked.

“45?” I said.  

[Officer laughs.]  “Well, now I wouldn’t be standing here if you were going the speed limit, would I? Let me help you out. When I first saw you, you were doing 57… and then you sped up! [More laughter.]  Where are you off to in such a hurry?"  

I think I was more surprised than he; still, I had no real excuse.  I was tired.  It was late.  I had worked all day and was coming home from a board meeting at Children’s Hospital.  My husband and wonderful canine companion waited for me at home. But what was the hurry? What was so important that I would go 20 miles over the speed limit without any awareness of how fast I was driving?  For that matter, I didn’t even remember the last 7 miles or so. Apparently I had navigated the familiar curves of the dark canyon just fine, but I couldn’t will myself to remember. Had I been in a trance?  I pondered this while the officer checked my license, registration and insurance.

He lectured me on the dangers of going too fast in the canyon—wildlife and fatal accidents and such—and he made me promise to “slow it down,” which I did. Then he let me go with a warning.  

The rest of the way home I minded the limit, conscious of my surroundings and the beautiful starry-night sky.  I turned off the radio.  I thought about the way we tend to rush from one thing to the next, never truly enjoying the present moment, the silence and beauty, because we’re focused on some future event, like what we’re going to do when we get home, or we’re thinking about something that already happened, a phone call or conversation.  We're zoned out, missing the strange and wonderful once-in-a-lifetime moments before us;  moments that could be filled with awe and gratitude but which, once spent, we can never get back. 

I’m reminded of this as we move into the holiday season, where the tendency is to spend our time in a planning state: checking things off our to-do list and watching the days on the calendar bring us closer to “the day.”  When you find yourself in this state, STOP!  And remember:  TODAY IS THE DAY… To make it happen… To give up who you’ve been for who you can become… To make your dreams come true. . . to LIVE!  

Today is the day.  Be glad and rejoice!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Seeds of Change

You know how if you plant seeds,
it takes time for the fruits of the seeds
to push up through the ground’s surface?
Same goes for the changes you want to manifest.
They take time to see.
~Karen Salmansohn

The thing about seeds is that they don’t grow overnight. You can plant them, water them—even talk to them—and you get nothing, or at least that’s how it seems. But there’s business going on underground: roots are forming, intertwining with others for mutual support and growth, while decisions are being made about how many flowers, or apples, or tomatoes will grow from that seed. Then one day, just when you thought nothing was happening—BAM! Signs of life emerge from the ground, reaching for the sunlight. Suddenly, it all makes perfect sense.

So it is with you and me.  Dreams are our seeds of change.  Words are also seeds, and when dropped into the ether, whether spoken or held deeply in our spirit, they grow and bring forth their kind.  Nothing grows without a seed.  Nothing changes without a dream.  And as we move deeper into fall, I’m reminded how temporary it all is. Seasons change. People come and go. Time marches on, waiting for no one, yet moving us forward in rhythm with the silent longings of our hearts.

Just as the Aspen leaves turn green, then gold, falling to the ground with winter’s early warning, I’m reminded that we, too, must first die to one life before experiencing the new growth of spring.  We must clear space; shed a part of what we know and make room for what we want to create. We know it’s coming; we’ve longed for it.  Yet so often we fear the change we seek.

Consider the Aspen—do you think it spends the winter fearing that it will never again experience the joy of having beautiful leaves adorn its branches? Questioning the essence of its being? Wishing things were different? Regretting having done what is in its nature to do? I think not.  It’s rather like they are hibernating, conserving energy for the new cycle of life that will emerge come spring.

Why should it be any different with people? Consider what you do between cycles of change, waiting for your seeds to grow. How do you fill your time? What do you give your energy to?

When you’re moving through change, yet you can’t quite see the end result, do you live in fear that where you are is all your life will ever be? Or do you get busy doing what you can to organize yourself, energize your thoughts, and develop a good plan to support your change as you move forward?

All changes, even the most longed for, 
have their melancholy;
for what we leave behind is part of ourselves;
we must die to one life before we can enter into another.
~Anatole France

Even when change comes from a conscious choice to restructure some aspect of our life—to let go of a dead-end relationship, change careers, start a family, create a new business or embark on a great travel adventure—it is tempting to spend our time in an anxious state, questioning our decisions, worrying that it will all go horribly wrong; expecting signs of new life to emerge immediately on the heels of our decision to change, just after planting the seeds.

But if we could step back and observe ourselves from a distance, we would see that we aren’t done yet: We are still moving toward a destination that we can’t quite see because we’re consumed with the day-to-day experience of our change, slowed by the natural timing of things; like watching seeds grow underground.

Remember: To everything there is a reason, a season, a cycle and right timing. Work with the energy of change, not against it. Be patient and mindful of life’s rhythms.  Use down time to improve where you can, turning weaknesses into strengths.  And prepare yourself, for a bright new tomorrow will emerge just as surely as the snow falls on changing leaves.

Will you be ready?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In the Meantime

Here is a test
to find if your mission on Earth is finished:
if you’re alive, it isn’t.
~Richard Bach, Illusions

Statistics are out:  10 out of 10 people will die!”  So said the random card I found on the ground by my gas pump.  Like a splash of cold water to the face, it lifted me right out of my head where I had been stuck worrying about something that I had little control over.  It’s easy to ignore the inevitable when we’re healthy and young and living our dreams, or just caught up in the mechanics of life. But we all have an appointment with death sooner or later, which begs the question:  What happens when we die?  

I am drawn to this issue—life after life—because I can’t wrap my head around the idea that when we die we are finished.  Sure, our bodies return to the earth, entombed or scattered as ashes as we’re reminded of the universal law that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it simply changes form.  Our loved ones will gather around our caskets and mourn our passing, comforting each other with comments like, “She looks so peaceful,” or “They sure did a good job with him,” staring at the body as if we were in there somewhere.  Yet if ever there’s proof that we’re more than our bodies, it’s in these moments.

When my grandfather passed a few years ago, I had the honor of being with him in his final days.  He was concerned for my grandmother, and asked that we take good care of her, but otherwise, he was ready to go.  He wasn’t afraid.  And as he moved in and out of consciousness, through labored breath, he shared his final thoughts, “We are born with a framework for society . . . or so we think . . . but it’s an illusion . . . there’s the body and the soul . . . but only the soul lives forever.”  It was my greatest spiritual experience, witnessing the soul of a man leave his body in the wake of his words. 

For the better part of a year, I had intense dreams of my grandfather. Not the man who suffered congestive heart failure and passed in his hospice bed, but the vibrant young man he had been when I was a little girl.  At first I would wake up startled when he appeared, and I could never return to my dream.  But in time, I willed myself to talk to him and he revealed some fascinating truths about his life in spirit form.  I’ve often wondered what informed those dreams.

In his book Life After Death:  The Burden of Proof, Deepak Chopra points to talking to the dead and near death experiences (NDEs) as two of six lines of evidence that the soul is real and eternal.  He studied many cases of NDEs, where the person had been pronounced dead and was brought back to life, and he interviewed those patients about their experience.  Intriguing to me was the discovery that across the board, people experienced what they believed.  Christians reported seeing angels and white light and Jesus.  Muslims reported meeting Allah and scenes of Islam.  Those who believed that they had wronged others, or that they had been “bad,” reported an experience of torture and hell.  Those who believed in nothing reported an experience of nothingness.  And so on, weaving the thread between life and death.
I know a guy I like to refer to as a “Militant Agnostic.”  I don’t know and you don’t either” is his motto.  I never understood this thinking.  Sure, evidence based science has its place, but not in the realm of faith.  If there exists even a possibility that there is an afterlife, why not reach for that hope? Why not believe? What do we lose by being open?  Maybe, just maybe, we would be more peaceful and relaxed and far kinder to every living person and thing around us.  Perhaps we would not fear death as we do.

It’s your life.  What will you do in the meantime?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What If . . .

There isn’t enough room
in your mind
for worry and faith.
You must decide
which will live there.

Tortured - MHopkins - Trim Castle, Ireland © 2014
I passed a neighborhood church with a sign that read:  “Worry is the dark room where negatives develop.”  Something in its message resonated to my core, not because I’m a worrier by nature but because, when I do, the train of “what if’s” can carry me to a dark and fearful place in a flash.  It’s not logical.

Like one of my students who, after nearly making herself sick with worry, suffering from insomnia and a whole host of physical symptoms that mirrored her chaotic mental state, confessed that she was worried that if she didn’t do well on the LSAT she would never be able to buy her own home.  What?  Let’s unravel that thought process; break it down for me.  I insisted.  She explained that if she didn’t rock the LSAT then she wouldn’t get into law school.  If she didn’t make it to law school she would never realize her dream of being a lawyer.  If not a lawyer, she wouldn’t make enough money to support a mortgage payment.  In a world full of homeowners who are not lawyers, it was easy to see the fault in her logic.  But it wasn’t logic that cast such a dark shadow on her thoughts. 

It reminds me of the parable about the young business man traveling along an unfamiliar road in rural America when he was stopped by a flat tire.  He couldn’t find a jack in his rental car, and it was impossible to change a tire without a jack, so he set off on foot for the closest home or business where he might ask to borrow a jack or at least a phone to call for help since his cell phone didn't have service.  As he walked, he imagined his conversation with the homeowner ending in rejection.  “No I don’t have a jack.”  “No you can’t use my phone.” And so on.  At one point, he even had an argument with the man he had yet to meet who had yet to refuse him help.  By the time he arrived at the nearest house and knocked on the door, he was so bent with anger and frustration that when the homeowner opened the door he screamed, “Never mind!” and walked away in search of someone who would help.

Worry, at best, is a misuse of the imagination!  At worst, it is the shackle that keeps us trapped in self-doubt and defeat.  Either you have some control over the situation or you don’t.  If you don’t, all the worrying in the world won’t make it so.  So next time you find yourself chasing that parade of horribles, ponder this:  What if all went pleasingly well?  What if you realized your greatest success? What if most of the things you’re worrying about never happen? 

What if…

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Come What May

Let go of what has happened.
Let go of what may come.
Let go of what is happening now.
Don’t try to figure anything out.
Don’t try to make anything happen.
Relax, right now, and rest.

Maybe I was born this way, or perhaps my work as a lawyer informed my instinct towards this particular complex behavior: analyze what’s before me, anticipate what might happen next and plan around it; never be caught unawares.  Name it.  Label it.  Define it.  As if by doing so I can somehow prevent or create the inevitable.  While this may be a real strength for my business clients, or when planning an event, it can wreak havoc in my personal life.

Like when trying to have a baby.  Who knew it would be so complicated?  I monitor my basal body temperature each morning before I get out of bed.  Then I pee on a very expensive stick to see if I’ve ovulated.  My husband and I time “the deed” around all of this data, at the risk of sucking the joy out of sex.  I take fistfuls of supplements to strengthen my immune system and improve egg quality.  I haven’t had real coffee in over a year, worried about the impact of caffeine on my body and future baby, which may or may not come.  When I do get pregnant again, I’m certain to walk on eggshells for fear of losing the baby to miscarriage like the other two.  I spend a lot of energy trying to shape the outcome of something that time has proven I have very little control over. 

How many times have I tried to make something happen?  Waiting; so focused on what happened in the past; striving to make something happen in the future; trying to figure it all out.  It’s exhausting. 

We’ve all done it to greater or lesser degrees.  The offices of psychotherapists are filled with people who can’t quit doing it—this inclination to look to the future and dwell on the past; to micromanage the way it will all turn out.  It’s maddening, and quite possibly our greatest obstacle to finding true happiness and peace of mind.

Yet how can we be expected to stay grounded in our experience moment by moment when filled with dreams and desires that require some measure of forward thought, planning, vision and movement to make them real? Anyone who has pursued higher education, written a book, started a business, built a house, had a baby, or lived their dreams with any measure of success will tell you that it doesn’t just happen by waking up in the morning and wishing it so.  It takes action, commitment, planning and patience, while the crop ripens or the idea matures.

I’m learning that while having a vision is crucial to creating the life that I desire, things go much more smoothly when I let them unfold in their own time, when I give up control and let the how and why reveal itself, which is no easy task.  I’m not very good at it.

Still, I try. . . to let go, to not try, to just be; to relax right now, and rest; come what may.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Get Back Up On It! Inspiration From the Ground for When You’ve Fallen and Can’t Get Up

“And falling's just another way to fly.” 
~ Emilie Autumn

So there I was—head down, rump up—in a most compromising position, caught somewhere between an awkward downward facing dog pose and a mountain climber maneuver; clad in a tailored pencil skirt, high heels and a suit jacket.  I could neither stand nor fall without putting my silk-stockinged legs in jeopardy.   And there was my quandary—should I wait for someone to come along and stand me upright or finish my fall?  Who knew how long I would be waiting for help.  So I fell, all the way down, just as Ms. Something-or-Other from the boutique next door came running out with an offer of new hosiery if I would step inside her shop.  Of course I would, if I could, but I had to get up first.  She was zero help.  Instead, she hovered and narrated the situation with comments like, “Oh dear.  Your knee is bleeding.” And “My goodness, you’ve ruined your hose!”  And my personal favorite, “Don’t tear that gorgeous suit!”  As if I had done any of this on purpose. 

Eventually I got up, nursed my wounds, bought new stockings and rushed to meet my client.  But time stood still for me there on the ground.  I thought my embarrassment would never end.  Yet it did, and I moved on to have other equally embarrassing and low moments alongside the great ones.

Whether you’ve lost your job, your lover or you’ve hit rock bottom financially—if you’ve fallen and can’t get up—follow these six steps to get back up on it.

1.              Relax into your fall.  So often when we find ourselves falling we do that little jog-hop-skip-thing to try to break our fall or give the appearance that we’re not falling; that we meant to do that weird move when just moments before we were walking on sure feet.  But as one who’s had a fair share of falls, I have found that sometimes it’s easier not to fight it. If you’re going down and you know it—even if you’re already on the ground—one of the worst things we can do is deny our experience or try to hide it.  Fall gracefully.

2.              Get a new perspective.  As a kid I loved to hang upside down—from chairs or trees or my bed—to read books, watch T.V., eat dinner, anything I could get away with.  When mom asked why it was so important that I hang upside down my answer was simple:  things look different that way.  It’s true.  When life as you know it gets turned upside down, look for that life enhancing perspective that will move you from tragedy and sadness to strength and possibility.  As Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. 

3.              Disconnect from the opinion of others.  One of the biggest obstacles to moving forward when we’ve suffered a fall is judging ourselves as we assume others must be judging us, or as we might unfairly judge them if the tables were turned.  But running that tired dialogue over and over again is a sure way to remain stuck and miss key moments of inspiration that come when we’re open and vulnerable to possibility.  People aren’t sitting around thinking about your fall; more likely, they’re thinking about themselves because that’s what people do.  Even if they do focus on your misfortune, they won’t for long.  Soon, they’ll be on to the next thing even as you’re wiping the blood from your knees. 

4.              Don’t expect someone to save you.  Whatever you do, don’t sit around waiting for someone to save you.  It’s magical thinking that rarely delivers.  Like hiker Aaron Ralston who cut off his arm to free himself from the large boulder that had him trapped in a slot canyon—had he waited for someone to come along and find him his story would have been very different.  Sometimes it’s true that we can only get up with the help of others.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, but remember:  even those closest to us can’t or won’t be able to help us the way we need to be helped.  Be your own best problem solver.

5.              Avoid the Hole.  Columnist Molly Ivin once said, “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”  Good advice, indeed.  But wouldn’t it be easier to develop our sense of foresight and avoid the hole altogether?  Look for the traps and pitfalls that brought you to your knees.  Make it your mission to understand why you missed what you missed.  Not an easy skill but one that will serve you well as you move forward. 

6.              Just breathe.   Not so long ago as I struggled to pick myself up from a series of difficult decisions that had changed my life in unexpected ways, my breathing felt labored and difficult almost every day.  Then I realized I had been holding my breath!  When you’re thrown off balance by the circumstances of your life, get back to the basics.  

Just B-R-E-A-T-H-E.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's All the Rage

Anybody can become angry—that is easy,
but to be angry with the right person
and to the right degree
and at the right time
and for the right purpose,
and in the right way—
that is not within everybody’s power
and is not easy.
~ Aristotle
Laughing Men, Vancouver, B.C.
Picture it:  You’re stopped at a red light waiting for it to turn.  Green. You barely have time to lift your foot from the brake when the car behind you starts blaring the horn.  Maybe she’s trying to tell me something, you think.  Is something wrong with my car?  Stunned, you haven’t moved through the light yet when the driver in the car behind you approaches.  You roll down the window.  She starts screaming at you then punches you in the face.  In self-defense, you cover your face with your hands, but then she grabs your wrist and bites off your middle finger—at the knuckle, through the bone—before fleeing the scene.

Sounds crazy but it’s a true story that happened in my aunt’s Northern Virginia neighborhood.  Aside from the obvious questions, like what allows a person to bite through skin and bone and blood vessels to remove part of a finger?  And once bitten, what do you do with it?  Spit it out?  Throw it in the owner’s car?  Leave it in the street?  I have to ask:  Why are we so angry?

You’re better than that.

You’re not an angry person, not the fighting kind.  You’re a volunteer, your son’s baseball coach, a Sunday school teacher at church.  Just last month, you attended a community fundraising event and donated money to support a local homeless shelter.

And yet you have these moments where anger gets the better of you—where ugliness turns you inside out and the worst parts of your nature are revealed; moments when your frustration builds to a fury and explodes in ridiculous ways as you burn those around you with your annoyance. 

Like yesterday when you got stuck in the wrong line at Whole Foods.  You stopped on your way from work, in a hurry to get home and make dinner.  You only needed three things, which should have taken five minutes from door to door.  Instead, the woman from Minnesota in front of you decides to write a check for her groceries.  Slowly. And of course, the cashier couldn’t figure out how to enter an out of state check into the system, which led to multiple cries for help on the P.A. system that went unanswered, followed by more failed attempts to process the check.  You’re ashamed to admit it, but you were huffing and puffing and on the verge of throwing your money at the cashier and storming out with your groceries.

Then, as you’re headed home, there’s a guy driving slow in the pass lane, blocking the free flow of traffic.  As you try to pass him on the right, you see that he’s talking on his cell phone and completely oblivious to the fact that there are other people on the road.  You make a point to give him your best stink eye with your face just inches from your window, and nearly rear-end the car in front of you because you’re so blinded by your rage.  Now you’re laying on your horn, screaming some shameful obscenity that your offender can’t even hear and, which, in any other moment you wouldn’t dare speak.  What's wrong with you?  One look in the mirror and you would see the reflection of a crazy person.

The scary thing is—you’re not alone.  There are a lot of “you” out there.

Take a look around.  We’re all losing it over something or another.  Our anger boils over in our politics and religions, in our music and social networking, in our schools and sporting events, in our jobs.  We rage over inconveniences.  We shake our fists with righteous indignation when others don’t do what we want.  Why? 

Have we become a culture so entitled to comfort and ease that we steamroll anyone or anything that gets in our way?  Are we simply scared of not getting what we want, afraid that we can’t handle it if things don’t go our way?  Perhaps we’re so accustomed to expressing our feelings and anger that we can’t keep it in check anymore.  Or maybe we’re suffering from a spiritual starvation that demands to be fed yet we don’t even realize what we’re hungry for? 

Its not an easy question to answer.  For starters, there just aren’t any clear-cut ways to judge how pissed off people really are, and why.  Perhaps we can ponder this the next time we’re recovering from a meltdown.  I dare you.  It’s all the rage.