Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blank White wall

Photo courtesy of
http://www.flickr.com/
A blank white wall.  This was my very first experience with meditation at a very young age.  If you grew up in a Christian oriented household, then I think most people can relate to the excitement generated on Christmas Eve night.  In our family, we waited until Christmas Day to open gifts, which amped the excitement level up that much higher.  After everyone was in bed, anticipation of the following morning and opening gifts would take hold of my young mind, making it difficult to sleep.  Even at that age, I recognized that unless I managed to get some decent amount of sleep, I wouldn't be able to enjoy all the festivities of the following day.  No young child relishes the thought of having to take a nap on Christmas Day, after all!

So, I would lie in bed, tossing and turning and attempting to relax enough to sleep.  I have no idea where the concept occurred, but I suddenly realized that I had to corral my racing thoughts.  My way of doing this and blocking out all distracted mental images, expectations, hopes, etc., was to imagine myself standing in front of a blank white wall.  Standing very close to it so that my entire vision was taken up by the clean expanse of uninterrupted white.  I also imagined this white wall to emanate softly blowing cool air, because I've never been able to fall asleep in warm surroundings.  That first moment worked like a charm - I imagine that it only took me 10-15 minutes for this meditative process to calm me enough to fall asleep. 

From that point forward in my life, I employed this calming technique of standing in front of a blank white wall to clear my mind.  I still use this technique to this day when I am having a particularly extreme amount of mind chatter going on in my head.  Insomnia seems to be a common experience as we grow older, and sometimes this method will help to relax me enough to allow sleep to come.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.hubpages.com/
I also employ this method occasionally for meditation, simply to drop my breathing and heart rate into the proper level to access that deep state of calm and reflection.  It has become a Go To exercise when life seems to be throwing a huge amount of activity in my direction.  In order to meditate, we do have to find a way to control mind chatter.  I spoke of this very thing recently with an old friend who is getting back into meditation and yoga.  I believe it is very common for anyone new to meditating, or long absent from the practice, to experience the challenge of mind chatter.  Micro-moments where seemingly random thoughts pop up and refuse to fade away.  One leads to the next, to the next, until eventually you lose focus. Those thoughts come rushing in the moment we settle down to meditate....or to sleep....or to pray.  Who hasn't turned their bedside table out and started their nightly prayers with all sincerity, only to get distracted by some random thought?  It happens to all of us and is certainly something we should forgive ourselves for; it is simply a physiological response the brain goes through as our bodies are at rest.  A method of processing all the minutiae of the day.

I don't know that the blank white wall method will work for everyone to calm mind chatter and make meditation or sleep come more easily; I just know it has worked for me since childhood.  For a good twenty years, I never correlated that this practice had any connection to meditative mindset.  When it did connect in my mind, I found it slightly bemusing that a four year old child had managed to cobble this concept together and be successful with it.  Granted, it was born out of a child's excitement about opening gifts on Christmas Day, but as I grew older, it became a valuable tool in my own inner growth and spiritual studies.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.mindflowmeditation.com/
I am guilty of straying from the practice of daily meditation and my recent discussion with this old friend reminded me how much I have been neglecting this vital part of my life.  With daily meditation, I am centered and better able to roll with the inevitable punches that Life delivers.  I am better able to access my inner spirit and intuition, and I am better able to release those niggling, annoying moments that bombard us minute by minute.  One would think all of the above would keep me very strict and true to a daily meditation regimen, but it doesn't.  I get lazy, I get busy and I forget.  One day turns into two, turning into a week and multiplying.  You glance at the calendar and suddenly realize that many weeks have passed without true nurturing of your Inner Light. 

So, the blank white wall beckons me from childhood memories to return to this vital daily practice.  Meditation is an individual duty and joy, although I realize that not everyone will embrace the practice, or even care to learn about what it really involves and how it can really benefit each person.  This isn't a post to encourage readers to embrace meditation.  It is just my thoughts on the topic and the path that I set my very small feet upon at a very young age. 

Photo courtesy of
http://www.minimalwall.com/
I do embrace meditation, although as I admitted above, I fall out of daily practice on occasion.  Perhaps that conversation with my friend was all that was necessary to nudge me and get the mental gears turning.  Once that occurs, it is inevitable that a blog post will be born, and I am ultimately a better person for it.  Writing, you see, for some of us, is its own form of meditation.  I reach a very profound Zen state when I write.  Time ceases to exist, hunger and sleep do not even impinge my consciousness.  Writing the thoughts out and weaving them into a cohesive and lyrically flowing fabric consumes me until that zenith of purity is reached.  Then I am washed in a level of satisfaction and bliss that is sublime. 

And all of these thoughts coalesce and return to that pivotal year in early childhood when I somehow devised a way to calm my thoughts.  I didn't know at the time that this was a form of meditation - I didn't even know what that word was at that young an age.  I simply knew that blank white wall method worked to help me sleep and I continued to employ it as I grew older.  For whatever reason, as a wee one, my brain was receptive and hardwired to esoteric concepts and by the time I was in second grade, I began to search for answers.  Today, the blank white wall still works for me when nothing else will; for sleep, to drop into a true meditative state after a hectic day, or simply to check in with myself and process through the myriad experiences of a given week. 

Photo courtesy of
http://www.wallpaperstock.net/
As I come to a close, I recognize that it is time to get back to daily meditation.  There are no accidents with conversation between friends; I have no doubt that this was God/Universe/Spirit gently nudging me, reminding me that this is an important energy in my life.  Time to come back to quiet, time to come back to calm, time to process and grow.  Time to visit that blank white wall and allow it to work its magic, settling chaotic, erratic thoughts into a smooth, even flow that gifts the Spirit with beauty and peace. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mocking bird salute

I've lived in a two story townhouse home for the past seven years and for the last five of those years, I have had a yearly visitor in the form of a Mocking Bird. For those of you who aren't familiar with this bird, here is what Wikipedia tells us:


Mockingbirds are a group of New World passerine birds from the Mimidae family. They are best known for the habit of some species mimicking the songs of other birds and the sounds of insects and amphibians, often loudly and in rapid succession. Wikipedia

Tennessee Mocking Bird
Mimus polyglottos
http://www.flickr.com/
It is an ironic sidenote that the mocking bird is the Tennessee State Bird genus Mimus polyglottos, which my home state adopted and made official on April 19, 1933. Why am I writing about mocking birds? Because these hardy little birds, if you have read the above Wiki information, are very LOUD and PERSISTENT in their yearly nesting and mating habits. These habits include finding the highest point available for them to perch and warble their little hearts out, pitching woo...loudly and persistently....to the night. And to hapless townhouse inhabitants attempting to grab a few precious hours of sleep.

I'm happy to share with you that not only do mocking birds imitate the songs of other birds, insects and amphibians, they imitate cats and dogs, machinery and musical instruments, and the occasional slamming door or rusty hinge. They trill through their repertoire with great and lusty enthusiasm, rarely pausing as they skillfully switch from bird song to cat meow to truck engine revving continuously. At times, it can be amusing listening to the sheer volume of calls they can produce. My bedroom happens to be the tallest peak of this row of townhouse units, so this is why I am the lucky recipient of the nightly serenade and mocking bird orchestra.

Again, you're probably wondering why I'm writing about this topic. For months now, I have been turning over in my mind the fact that humans and wildlife aren't that greatly different. I've written before about social masks that we all employ to get through our daily existence. In a similar manner to the mocking bird, we also adapt our speaking voice in tone, inflection, volume and emotion to communicate our thoughts and emotions to those around us. We wear different clothing, hairstyles and cosmetics to project various public images, to denote our current mood and again, to use as social camouflage and quite often, as a courtship tool.

http://www.musicalexpress.net/
The thing that always strikes me is how cheerful mocking birds are, every single night, in their pursuit of procreation. I am sure that to the mocking bird, this is not a cause for amusement. Indeed, their nightly concert is a life and death effort to continue their species. My human ears cannot help, however, finding charm in the widely varied trills, chirps, barks, cricket sounds (those are the exception to the finding charm part as they really drive me nuts) and engine noises. These small birds are quite aggressive in their display of auditory talents, finding no shame at all in adopting sounds from another species or object to further their goals. In some ways, I would liken it to a painter painting, using colors to express different emotions and messages, or a conductor standing in front of an orchestra with arms raised, wand at the ready to coax a stellar performance from all the musicians. Mocking birds simply do the same with their calls.

http://www.paintinghere.com/
Of course, when it is 3:30 am and I am still hearing incessant bird calls, cat screeches and hissing as well as various motorized noises in rapid succession, it isn't quite as charming or amusing anymore. There are many nights when I lie awake listening to the endless, noisy litany that I am suspicious my particular mocking bird is perched by my window with a calculating, crafty, borderline maniacal gleam in his beady little eyes, fully aware he is costing me a decent night of sleep.  I also wonder about the female counterpart to my serenading friend; is she sitting out there in the night, listening, brought to a feminine birdie swoon, thinking, "Oh my!  Now that is one sexy, masculine, attractive boat motor sound!  That must be the father of my future children!  I must fly to him now!"?  Even then, when these thoughts are chasing blearily through my tired mind, I do admit to a certain level of admiration for this little bird's plucky spirit.

We as human beings could take a leaf from their book as we navigate our own daily lives. Shine our emotions brightly and enthusiastically, be unafraid to show every facet and skill we possess in a lyrical manner, perhaps borrow someone else's form of expression momentarily, communicate with others with absolute enthusiasm...and most of all, find a high spot to proclaim our love widely and loudly to the masses. Wouldn't that be an interesting, entertaining courtship process?

There is no great or deep message here this time around. More a tangle of sleep deprived thoughts that have been assailing me for several months now during the nightly mocking bird salute. As annoying as my current feathered visitor can be each night, I still wind up missing the sounds as fall weather sets in. I feel a sort of kinship evolve in the months each mocking bird sets up housekeeping outside my bedroom window. From it has sprung a blog post that I'm not sure will capture readers' attention in quite the same way as other posts, but perhaps many of you will remember similar memories of your own with a mocking bird salute. And perhaps you will smile at the memories.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Belltones

Photo courtesy of
http://www.franckh.be/
For those of you who grew up and went to grammar school in the 1970s, you may remember the special days that everyone trooped to the library to watch an 8mm filmstrip on some educational subject.  I say 'filmstrip' because that's exactly what it was - a roll of film on a large metal spool that was threaded through a projector, which then projected the images of each frame on the filmstrip onto the screen that pulled down from a casement on the library wall. 

If you were one of the lucky ones chosen, you were able to sit next to the projector and manually twist the little knob to advance the filmstrip, frame by frame, as a recorder told the story being watched.  A belltone would sound when it was time to advance the filmstrip to the next frame.  Before I moved on from grammar school, a wonderful new device was introduced - a small hand held wand with a button that was pushed to automatically advance the filmstrip frame by frame.  This cylinder still had to be manned by some lucky child.  I have no idea what type of audio-visual equipment is used in grammar schools these days; no doubt they are using DVDs.

What is my point?  Belltones.  I can distinctly remember, on the occasions that I was chosen to man the projector, how clear that belltone sounded to my ears.  I have always been a student of esoteric and spiritual concepts, even going back to my formative years in grammar school.  Those belltones always captured my attention because quite often in my personal life and spiritual studies, days after I would run across a particularly pertinent bit of information, I would hear a similar belltone.

When it first happened, I was certain other people could hear it too, but I learned that this sound was one of spiritual origin and thus, something that was meant for me to hear alone.  If I could describe it, I would say that I always hear this belltone at the top of my head, slightly towards the crown, or fontanelle area.  Those of you who have had children may recognize the word 'fontanelle' as being the soft spot on a newborn baby's head.  This soft spot exists to enable the baby's head to pass through the birth canal more easily, as the bony plates of the skull are more malleable; they ossify, or harden completely by the age of 2. 

Photo courtesy of
http://www.answithin.com/
The other noteworthy aspect of this spot on the skull is that it is the location of the Crown Chakra, also known as the Cosmic Consciousness Center, the "I Am" awareness.  It took me a while during my formative years to connect this belltone sound with the fact that I could "hear" and "feel" it close to my crown chakra, and to also assimilate what that meant in spiritual terms.  What does it mean, you might ask?  Since it did, and still does happen to me, my interpretation is that this a type of spiritual "red flag" to capture my attention and get me to focus on the lesson at hand.  I have mentioned other flags such as yawning and feeling goosebumps or shivers (Shivers + Yawns = Growth!) in past blog articles.  I am certain that every person has their own quirky little method or flag to recognize when something of great import is occurring.  This belltone that I hear hasn't ceased as I've grown older.  Indeed, it has grown stronger, more clear and definitive, reverberating from that crown chakra down through every subsequent chakra point and literally waking up my whole spiritual, etheric body. 

I have a whimsical mental image of some cosmic hand at the controls of the projector displaying the story of my life, advancing it frame by frame on the spiritual filmstrip, sounding that belltone emphatically at those watershed moments.  I firmly believe that we are masters of our own path, but I also firmly believe we are gently guided by a Loving Source, or Presence steering us in a direction which will afford us the best opportunities to learn, whittle down rough edges and grow.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.earthmoonfire.spaces.live.com/
Sometimes I also think our lives are similar to those old-fashioned movies....long, separate filmstrips addressing every layer, every high and low point, triumph and failure of our lives. Laughter, tears, accomplishments; moments where we learned and grew. Moments where we hurt and cried. Bell tones sounding as some unseen hand pushes the button to advance the frames of our lives, knowing we would continue...find a way to persevere. Old filmstrips removed from the projector to be tucked away in some mysterious library for us to study when our time comes to cross over.

For some, while we are here, the bell tones are too high a frequency for our human ears to detect. Our Souls hear it though, and recognize when it is time to take that next step, to move forward to another filmstrip, or to increase the length of a current one.


Photo courtesy of
http://www.faqs.org/
Perhaps this sounds outlandish to some readers.  Perhaps some of you are reading and nodding your heads in complete understanding.  Perhaps many of you have a similar experience with some Divinely Guided prompting that reassures you that you're making those strong, centered choices.  I'd love to hear your own stories in the Comments section below if you do experience a similar type of confirmation, a similar "A-ha!" or 'lightbulb' experience that makes you stop and take note of that specific moment in time.  It may be not so much a physical or auditory manifestation such as the one I experience.  For you, it may be a gentle knowing deep inside.  I experience those moments also, and they are beautiful, touching and profound in their simplicity.  The moments when I hear a belltone tend to be more life changing events - a big walloping cosmic wake up call to grab my attention with strong emphasis.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.stanlyconcert.com/
We are all beautifully unique beings, going through daily life tripping along to our own special harmonies.  I surmise that the manner and manifestation of being nudged in this direction or that, of becoming acutely aware of a spiritual lesson are as widely and richly varied as we are as individuals.  For me, a belltone occurs.  Clear in tone, strong and mellow in tenor and lasting in effect as it reverberates through my being, marking a bright moment.

As I grow older, the tone of this bell has changed, deepened and grown richer in sound.  I can only believe that it is adapting to the harmony of my own Spirit as I grow, learn and change; lifting my own vibrations to a higher, deeper, more clear resonance.  I don't question its presence; I am happy that it occurs with regularity in my life, as it gives me affirmations as well as guidance.  The Unseen Hand which guides us all with loving intent, for me, making itself known in the pure, sweet tones of a bell.




Thursday, July 15, 2010

This art called napping

*Photo courtesy of
http://www.hahastop.com/
Naps - doesn't the very word just make you smile?  Well, it does if you're past the age of 8, probably.  Childhood is about the only time in our lives when the word "nap" is a bad thing.  There's playing to be done, after all....trees to climb, siblings to pester, the whole world to explore in your backyard.  Who has time for a nap when all it does is interrupt all the fun?  Adults are just weird that way. 

Flash forward to adult years and oh my, yes, the concept of napping takes on overtones of sinfully decadent indulgence.  Snoozing an extra five minutes in the morning can honestly save your sanity and keep your co-workers safe for one more business day.  The thought of snatching twenty minutes in the middle of the day to zone out and recharge can produce a wistful sigh, as very few of us are granted that luxury during the business week.

Other countries are smarter than the United States in that they do recognize the logic behind resting during the middle of the day.  Mid-afternoon naps exist and thrive in numerous countries, all of whom embrace a much slower, more sane and, I daresay more healthy approach to life.  Naps are a good thing from all perspectives.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.parade.com/
For each of us, the ideal nap has its own persona.  Some prefer their beds with crisp, freshly laundered bed linens and tons of poofy pillows.  Others are couch napping afficianados.  Many prefer a hammock or porch swing, and there are some who will stretch out on the floor for a quick snooze.  My older sister has this incredible ability - incredible to my way of thinking because I don't possess this ability - to nap at will.  She can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, in noisy and/or uncomfortable conditions.  Not so for me.  I have to have quiet and at least a bit of comfort to snooze during the day.  But ohhh...on the rare occasions it does happen, I find a nap to be a thing of beauty!

You have to throw in the question of what constitutes a nap, I suppose.  Some argue that a nap shouldn't be longer than twenty minutes.  Webster's Dictionary defines a nap thusly:

Main Entry: 1nap
Pronunciation: \╦łnap\
Function: intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s): napped; nap·ping
Etymology: Middle English nappen, from Old English hnappian; akin to Old High German hnaffezen to doze
Date: before 12th century
1 : to sleep briefly especially during the day : doze
2 : to be off guard
So, according to the above definition, to nap is to sleep briefly.  Those of us who are true nap connoisseurs will disagree and staunchly defend the concept of a 2-3 hour stretch of sleep as fitting into the parameters of a nap.  I fall into this category, as sleeping for only twenty minutes actually makes me more tired, groggy and irritable than I was before I napped in the first place!  I feel a nap should be at least one hour or longer to qualify as a true experience of the act. 

*Photo courtesy of
http://www.rockingrocker.com/
I prefer a longer nap and cooler temperatures, but there's also something to be said for being outside and catching a stretch of sleep in some shady spot.  Fresh air, the sounds of nature around you...that's just pure bliss to fall asleep and wake up to!  Some people enjoy napping on the beach, out under the full blaze of the sun.  I'm not one of them.  Sweating and napping don't go together in my world.  I'm more fond of the porch swing nap, as it keeps me out of the sun but allows me to still hear the birds chirping and feel the breeze blowing, smell the flowers blooming as I drift off to the gentle sway of the porch swing.

Animals seem to be the most savvy nap takers around.  Watch your cats and dogs - they know the value of a well executed nap!  That cold spot on the kitchen floor keeps their tummy cool and who knows, when they wake up, one of their people might be around to dole out a snack. 

Perhaps that's another reason we as human beings love naps so much - we remember our own childhood naps in a similar way.  Mom would always be there to hand out a snack and give us a hug when we woke up. 

We know from a medical perspective that getting sufficient rest is healthy and necessary.  The pace of the modern world is such that unfortunately, many people find naps to be their most common source of sleep.  This is saddening, as we all deserve a truly good, solid night of sleep.  Naps should, in my world, be a treat - that icing on the cake, that cherry on top of the sundae, that extra bite of a delicious meal - something to indulge in with gusto and enjoyment!  No agenda, no particular place to be but right there in that spot that invites you to settle in and snooze peacefully, allowing your body, mind and spirit to rest, regroup and recharge. 

*Photo courtesy of
http://www.fineartamerica.com/
I think that porch swing is calling my name....

....and I'm on my way to answering! 

There is an art to resting, and one facet of this art is called napping.
 
Take a nap, my friends.  A long, extended, absolutely self-indulgent....nap.  It's good for you, and you'll thank me!

________________________
*No financial return was received from posting photos and links to the websites above.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New shoes in the gym

I never really know what the topic of my next article is going to be.  I've often said this is one of the joys of writing for me...that endless discovery and enjoyment of the unexpected moments of inspiration.  Today, inspiration visited in the form of a quote:

Don't be afraid if things seem difficult in the beginning. That's only the initial impression. The important thing is not to retreat; you have to master yourself.  - Olga Korbut, Olympic Gold Gymnastics Medalist
This quote immediately brought to mind the days when I used to work out with a personal trainer at my gym.  I was assigned a trainer who eventually became one of my dearest friends.  Two people could not be more different.  I'm not athletically inclined and I do not enjoy exercising.  I do it because I know it's important and necessary.  I chose to go the trainer route so that I was accountable to someone and wouldn't tank on the intention to stick with a program.  My trainer turned out to be a 6'5" muscle bound guy who truly loves exercise.  Loves it so much, he calls a ten minute stint on the exercise bike at Level 8 a "cardio break".  As in, "Okay Dawn, let's finish up this set on your triceps and then go over to the bike and have a Cardio Break...it'll be fun!  We'll do Level 8!" 
Photo courtesy of
http://www.pycfitness.com/

Picture me shooting said bike a look of pure loathing as I climbed on and groaned, complained and grumbled my way through Level 8 for ten minutes.  If you haven't tried Level 8, let me just share with you that it feels like pedaling through mud....hip deep, half dried, very thick mud.  It never felt like a break to me.  Breaks are something that give you rest, right?  Pedaling through hip deep, half dried, very thick mud is not a 'break'.  It is torture.  Unless you have a very strange person next to you who thinks it's the best thing since sliced bread and you love that person.  Then you do your best to get through ten minutes of torture without too much whining and complaining.  I admit, I whined and complained plenty; I laughed too. 

But I digress.  My point in bringing up the gym and personal trainers is that each time my trainer would introduce a new exercise, I would have a curious reaction.  Almost 100% of the time, my body would try to throw a proverbial tantrum which manifested in the form of nausea.  Serious, gut grinding nausea that had me positive I was on the verge of throwing up.  Sorry to be graphic, but it's true.  For some reason, a new demand on my physical body would result in that reaction.  It put me in mind of a child throwing a fit to avoid some unpleasant task or chore.  I had a mental image of my stomach saying, in cartoon balloon text, "Okay, that's not fun.  In fact, that hurts.  What she's doing hurts!  What can we do to make her stop doing that thing that hurts? Let's make her sick.  Seriously sick.  She'll stop if we make her feel like crud.  Bring on the extreme nausea!"

I learned that if I breathed through the nausea and kept right on with the thing that hurt, usually within about 5 minutes, the nausea would recede to a manageable level.  With continued activity of this new exercise, the nausea would finally stop.  My trainer must've had experience with this phenomenon, because he would gently, but firmly keep pushing me to continue.  While sometimes it was downright unpleasant, it taught me something about myself.  Although this was a reflex reaction that I was experiencing, it also underscored what Ms. Korbut's quote mentions - new things can give us pause.

Fear of the unknown, even with something as simple as a new exercise being introduced in the gym, can cause myriad responses on both an emotional and physical level.  Most of the time, we're so busy with the detritus of daily living that we don't always pay attention to those micro-moments of unease.  Because I tend to be one to ponder, when this experience happened at the gym, I paid attention.  I wondered about it, studied it, even went home and dragged out my old anatomy and physiology books to understand the mechanics behind that knee jerk physical reaction.  While most people aren't going to go to those lengths to understand a short moment of discomfort and unease, I believe it can definitely benefit every single one of us to stop and pay attention when something feels bad or unusual.

In this case, I discovered that I have a tendency to react on a primitive level to new physical challenges.  My body and my emotional persona want to STOP THAT NOW!  The good thing is that I'm fairly stubborn and really dislike admitting defeat.  I also was blessed with this wonderful personal trainer and friend who was so cheerful and happy as he put me through 90 minutes of torture that I felt badly if I didn't at least try when he asked me to do something new.  So, I would grit my teeth, push through the nausea and force my body and mind to adapt to a new experience.

This is something I've carried with me many years later.  I no longer have a membership at that gym, and my trainer friend is now working full time at a local university in the athletic department.  Our friendship is still solid, but I admit that I've slacked on daily workouts such as we used to tackle three times a week.  What I took from that time in my life was, first and foremost, a beautiful friendship, and secondly, a newly discovered way to identify when I was reacting in a fear-based manner. 

The mind is an incredibly complex organ that is constantly changing and adapting to new stimuli and experiences.  We grow as long as we are drawing breath.  The primitive reactions that we all feel, if we take time to stop and analyze them, can be quite handy tools as we go about our daily lives.  There are always going to be new experiences to weather, new people to meet, new challenges to embrace and lessons....always lessons to learn.  Paying attention to those reflex reactions can give us valuable insight if we just pay attention! 

I used the analogy of a gym workout, but I can also say that by recognizing this specific reaction, I came to realize that in business situations the same reaction sometimes surfaced.  It wasn't the same full blown attack of nausea, but it was enough of a twinge in my stomach that it would always catch my attention.  I would then take that extra couple of minutes to silently reflect on the situation and people involved and invariably would realize that 'gut reaction' was a warning flag.  Pay attention to those little twinges, my friends.  They are happening for a reason.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.7luxuryshoes.com/
Going beyond that visceral reaction, and revisiting Ms. Korbut's quote above, adversity isn't always a bad thing.  Difficulties, as her quote so wisely indicates, aren't necessarily a reason to stop and give up!  New things can feel strange and uncomfortable, but so can a new pair of shoes.  Look at those challenges that may seem scary as a reason to try on a proverbial new pair of shoes.  Think of how differently you walk when you are wearing a new item of clothing.  There's that extra bounce to your walk, that extra sparkle in your eye.  The same can be true of persevering through what initially feels like a situation that will never make sense to you.  Mastering your fears and putting them to use for you, rather than allowing them to convince to you stop before you even get started, can give you that same bounce to your step, that same sparkle in your eye.

So, when those uncomfortable moments hit your life, remember Olga Korbut's quote above.  Take a moment and step back.  Breathe through it, give thought to what you're feeling and identify the reason for the unease or fear-based reaction.  Nine times out of ten, you'll realize that the fear-based reaction is just a primitive response to something that seems scary only because it is new.  Challenge yourself and resolve to push through that moment and discover the exhilaration of conquering that fear.  Recognize the power this puts into your hands to manifest your own success!  Then congratulate yourself on the fact that you've had a bit of an "A-ha!" moment, a graduation of sorts, and you're now wearing some proverbial new shoes in the gym.

Give judicious attention also to those twinges when it is clear your instincts are clamoring and jangling away to prevent you from making a mistake or blunder in judgment.  Our instincts are there to protect us, after all.  Now, you may be sitting there thinking, "How do I know which is a fear-based feeling and which is an instinctive warning flag?"  That's where being a responsible human being comes into play.  It is up to you to decipher your body's reactions and interpret what means what.  It isn't as complex as you may think, and with care and attention, you'll quickly learn to read those tell tale inward signs that your body and emotions are giving you.  In time, probably much more quickly than you would imagine, you'll grow to recognize the varying degrees of internal dialogue.  With a bit of practice, you'll be able to adapt quickly and maneuver through those daily bumps, obstacles and unexpected turns with ease.  And I daresay those proverbial, spiritual new shoes and clothing will add that extra sparkle to your eyes and that extra snap of energy to your walk!

So, when something feels unusual, strange, perhaps uncomfortable...take a moment to identify it.  React accordingly and move forward, rather than retreating in fear or confusion.  Push through with that new-to-you exercise.  Those new shoes are waiting to be tried on, after all!
____________________________
This post was the result of an invitation to become a contributing writer for the Australian ezine publication, Aromatique Essentials, of Julie Nelson.



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Grasshopper Thoughts, Vol. I, July 2010

Photo courtesy of
http://www.blm.gov/
It's that time again.  Time to clean out the great big barn of my brain and release some grasshopper thoughts.  Today, for some reason, the tangent went off towards food related thoughts, so that's what I'm writing about.

Photo courtesy of
Bing images
I live in the southern United States - Tennessee, to be specific.  There are a great many culinary delights that are unique to our region, with one of them being sweet tea.  Jug or table wine is another term you'll hear.  Sun tea is a slightly different version, but for the most part, we make sweet tea here.  Very sweet tea.  I'm not a huge fan of the super sweet taste, but the grasshopper thought here is that I learned a few years ago that outside of the southern U.S., tea is rarely sweet.  Picture my reaction one of stunned surprise.  Okay, I was more than stunned; perhaps I went beyond surprised stare to flat out goggle.  I hadn't heard of this fact and it just surprised me.  Most restaurants in the south offer both sweet and unsweetened tea, but I didn't know that outside of the southern states, tea is normally served unsweetened.  How 'bout that.

*Photo courtesy of
http://www.latestbuy.com/
This, then, led me onward to other food related grasshopper thoughts with the next one being cereal and the Great Soggy vs. Crunchy Debate.  I cannot abide soggy cereal.  I prefer it crunchy with ice cold milk.  Soggy cereal looks like....well, I won't go into gory detail about what it looks like to my eyes.  Suffice to say, it looks like something absolutely nasty and it tastes and feels just as bad.  As in gag-inducing bad.  I'm sure there are many of you out there who will disagree with me and wave the soggy cereal flag enthusiastically.  There will remain a Great Divide between us, but a friendly one!

Photo courtesy of
http://www.en.petitchef.com/
Who made the decision that burnt cheese is a culinary error? No, no, no! That's the best part! Not burned to charcoal, mind you, but a nice golden, toasty cheesey crust...mmm, yes indeedy. This does not, however, apply to popcorn. Unless you're my Mom. She loves it. Just barely burnt microwave popcorn makes her a happy soul. Go figure.

Popsicle sticks - you know how most people almost hit the ceiling when they hear fingernails on a chalkboard? The sound of fingernails down a chalkboard doesn't bother me in the slightest. A popsicle stick hitting my teeth, however, well....let's just say it is highly unpleasant. It produces a repetitive wave of shudders similar to the timpani of a cymbal on the eardrum, only the waves are repeating on my teeth.  I'm still a fan of popsicles, don't get me wrong.  Banana flavor is my favorite.  I just take care to keep the popsicle stick from hitting my teeth.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.faqs.org/
Moving on to cosmetics, I have a particular aversion and peeve.  It applies to lipstick or lip gloss w/ cheap candy scent/flavor.  Some cosmetic companies - some of the very high end ones, in fact - use horrid candy flavors such a cotton candy, sugar, vanilla and wedding cake paired with equally horrid, fake scents.  The combination can bring on an instant headache, and make people around you ask who brought cupcakes to work.  At the very least, manufacturers could post one of those Surgeon General Warning labels on lipstick and lip glosses containing vile scents and flavors to alert the innocent consumers.  If they have to slap flavor and scent into lipstick and lip gloss, I prefer it to not be one that fights with my whole immediate environment and my palate. Since it's my blog post and my version of my own mystical CosmeticLand, I arbitrarily declare that a minty flavor/scent rules the day. "Off w/ your head!" is the secondary declaration should you choose to dissent this mandate and slap those fake, cheap flavors and scents in cosmetics! Aren't you glad this is a mythical, mystical land?!  Heads would be rolling left and right if it were real.
 
These are the grasshopper thoughts that consumed my mind for, oh...a good 2.83 seconds, I would guess.  Writing it all down took longer, but it did open the barn in my brain and allowed the grasshoppers freedom for a wee bit.  I have no idea what next month's grasshopper thought might be, so stay tuned!
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*Disclaimer: No monetary gain has been made from posting the cereal bowl above and mentioning the website where it can be purchased.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Simple choices

Photo courtesy of
flickr.com
There is a lot of distress, sadness, worry and hopelessness going on in our world right now.  The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a daily focus of concern and frustration as the fallout affects our environment, ecosystems, marine, mammal and avian wildlife, and robs hardworking people of their livelihoods.  This newest affront is striking our country already hard hit by a tumbling economy that has caused unemployment rates to soar, affecting millions of people across the nation.

Today I read a blog post of an online acquaintance who is in a very difficult situation and seems to be at wit's end.  I have been there, more times than I would prefer to remember.  I sat and reflected on these constant bombardments of challenging occurrences, wondering how in the world it is possible to reach out and make a difference.  I feel frustration that I cannot help others who are struggling and feeling fear and hopelessness.  While I realize that each person has a responsibility to address their own life and deal with their own struggles in an authentic manner, it is still difficult to see so much sadness in the world.  I recognize that I have a duty to my own life and that the majority of my energies must focus on keeping my own house, physical and emotional health in good order.

Photo courtesy of
photo.net
None of this keeps my heart from being affected by the sadness that is sweeping the world.  Do I have any widespread solutions to address that sadness?  I wish I did.  That would be any sane person's wish, to be able to make sweeping and positive changes and improvements to negative situations the world over.

Some days, the simple truth is that the best each of us can do is put one foot in front of the other.  Choose to get out of bed today.  Choose to get dressed and go through the process of searching for a job along with the millions of other unemployed U.S. citizens.  Choose to find reasons to smile, despite overwhelming odds and concrete situations over which to feel concerns.  Choose to seek uplifting experiences, however small they may be.  Choose to reach out to someone else who might be fearful and struggling and offer them a kind word.  Choose to find happiness in the midst of admittedly trying circumstances.  Any single one of these choices can make a difference.  Any single one of these choices could, quite possibly, cause an energetic shift in an individual's life and start the ball rolling.  As most of us know, just getting forward momentum to happen is one of the biggest challenges when our life feels stuck in permanent limbo mode.

My life is no different.  I am living with professional setbacks that have hit over and over due to the struggling economy.  I am faced with daily challenges that try my patience and have me concerned about my own livelihood.  I, too, struggle with fears and doubts about how to keep my own momentum moving forward.  For me, what works is to step outside of my own situation and touch other lives.  I do that here, at Healing Morning blog.  I also do it with small gestures where I reach out to friends with phone calls and emails, encouraging and supporting them through their own dark days. 

http://www.greenbeanscoffee.com/
Most recently, I stumbled across a wonderful website that has a program called Cup of Joe for a Joe that allows anyone to purchase a cup of coffee for a soldier in any branch of the Armed Services.  It is a very simple process.  Click on the website link under the photograph to the right to pull up their page.  Scroll down a little bit and look on the right hand side of the page where it says Buy a Cup of Joe Now.  In this window, you will see that you can purchase a single cup of coffee for $2 U.S., and the window will also give you the opportunity to purchase larger gifts, or even choose your own amount.  I chose to purchase $30 worth of coffee gifts.  This will purchase 15 cups of coffee for 15 soldiers.  It was a stretch for my current financial situation, but it was a conscious choice I made. 

Less than two days later, I began receiving email alerts telling me that my coffee gifts were being picked up.  Some of the soldiers are writing very kind Thank You emails.  Some of them are requesting to become email pen pals, and they are all based around the world at various installations.  This was the small thing that I did this past week to lift my heart and help me feel that I could make a difference in the world.  It might not be a huge thing, buying a cup of coffee for a soldier, but it made me happy to do it.  Many of the emails I have received tell me that iced coffees and fruity smoothies are popular, along with some type of cappuchino drink that has enough caffeine shots in it to keep a bull elephant wired for a month!  Every single email alert I have received has been full of sincere thanks from each soldier. 

Photo courtesy of
flickr.com
I know from many friends who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces that many soldiers do not receive regular mail from home.  This is something that I find troubling, and this was another motivation to send these Cup of Joe gifts.  I want our soldiers to know that people back home do care and that we think of the hard work they do everyday, and that we appreciate the sacrifices they make to uphold the tenets upon which this country was founded.  This is my small thing that helps me to feel hopeful in the face of difficult times.  As I am able, I will send more Cup of Joe gifts and touch more soldiers' lives in this small way.  Yes, I am unapologetically patriotic.  Yes, I think it matters to reach out and support every soldier who is far from home.  Now is not the time to debate politics and argue what is right and wrong about where U.S. troops are based.  This blog post is meant to focus on a simple kindness that I think and know makes a small difference.  I choose this action because it does touch lives and it makes me happy to do so.

For those of you who are interested, you can also follow the Cup of Joe program on Facebook, and also via Twitter with these links.  I make it a habit to share the program on both social media forums in the hopes that friends and colleagues will decide to join the program and share it with their friends.

Photo courtesy of
http://www.greenbeanscoffee.com/
Life is a series of challenges for all of us.  It is the small moments in between that I believe add color, texture, depth, growth and beauty.  For an avid coffee avoider - I really dislike the smell of coffee and prefer tea - I find it a bit ironic and entertaining that coffee is proving to be such a thing of beauty in this manner.  The Cup of Joe for a Joe program is my simple choice and I find it satisfying that through my eyes, it produces beauty and hope.  That, for today, is enough to encourage me to continue.

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