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Flower Bear
The Beauty in Imperfection
Other Topics, Spirituality
Vibrant Nation

wild sage flower blossom


When I first started gardening some 20 odd years ago, I had no clue what I was doing other than a few pots on the window sill, little more than when we were in elementary school and started seeds in paper cups. So, being the academic type, I decided to learn from the experts. At first it was all PBS and Victory Garden, and subscriptions to gardening magazines. Then cable finally came to my neck of the woods where I discovered HGTV (Home and Garden Television) and I was hooked. Back then there were gardening shows with prominent, accomplished, and very English gardeners, taking you on tours of their always perfect borders and beds. All the planting was done so that as one season’s blooms died back, the next would pop up as if on cue, and then the next and the next. First came the snow drops, then the pussywillows, then the tulips, daffodils and crocus, followed by lilacs, hydrangea, roses, etc, etc. Something was always in bloom, there was always color and, most of all, order.

Alas, my first attempts fell way short of the standard I had laid down for myself. Then I began to pick my head up out of my own garden, and started looking at Mother Nature’s garden. Along the river bank the pussy willows came out on cue all by themselves. Wild flowers of every kind, first purple and white, then pink, then yellow, all put in an appearance when they were ready. There was a profusion of color, greenery and beauty in the randomness of what, left to their own devices, the plants and trees had been doing quite successfully from the beginning of time.

So, the following year, I waited to see what my garden would surprise me with. What would come up from last year, and what wouldn’t? Where had the birds and squirrels dropped seeds and what would come up from their handiwork? Pansies bloomed in random abandon all over the yard. Blue bells and Queen Anne’s Lace appeared in the barrels I was using as planters. It was lovely, and wild, and totally without order … and it was beautiful. The annuals I added complemented the colors already there and provided a different look with each year’s new plantings. It wasn’t as perfect as the English lady’s garden on TV, but to me it was the most beautiful garden I had ever seen.

We are so hard on ourselves over what we perceive to be our own imperfections whether they concern how we look, where we live, how we dress, if we went to college, and if we are living by our culture’s pre-planned design. Yet the beauty in each and every one of us is our uniqueness, our one-of-a-kind spirit and our overwhelming need to grow, expand, learn, and bloom. How dreary the world would be look if there were no wildflowers, no splash of color in our lives and no surprises in our discoveries. If it’s the fear of not “fitting in” that keeps us from seeing the beauty in our imperfections, we need to take a page out of Mother Nature’s gardening book and realize that it all works perfectly, both the weeds and the flowers, living in harmony.

I cannot wait to see what pops up in the garden this year, or what new surprises will show up along the river bank. Whatever blooms this year will be just perfect. There are no imperfections in nature, and we are all as much a part of nature as the lilac tree or the pussy willows. You, dear friend, are perfect just as you are.

And so it is.

Flower Bear
A Eagle, An Egg, And A Lesson In Patience
Other Topics, Spirituality

Growing up I always remember my mother telling me, “Patience is a virtue.” That was because I got so impatient waiting for special events like Christmas, Easter and my birthday to arrive. After what seemed like a eternity they always did come but seemed to depart much faster than it took for them to get there. In school, our teachers would always remind us that is was the tortoise that won the race by being slow, steady, focused and patient.

I don’t think I’ve ever learned more about patience than I have the last 8 years watching the beautiful and courageous Decorah Eagles on their Ustream channel. If any of you have followed my blog over the last 3 years you know that a year does not go by without my mentioning them at least once. Through funding from a program called The Raptor Project, cameras have been set up high in the trees on the grounds of a working farm and fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa. There we are treated to a bird’s eye view (no pun intended) of the lives of this remarkable and beautiful pair of bald eagles as they return every year to the same tree to repair and rebuild their birthing nest, lay their eggs, hatch their chicks, and raise them until they are old enough to go off on their own. As remarkable as these creatures are when it comes to parenting – we humans could take a few lessons from them – what I have been most struck by this year is their patience.

From the moment the first egg is laid, there is one parent or the other on the nest 24/7. One day I took some time to just watch the mother eagle as she kept her eggs warm, rising only to roll them from time to time and rearrange herself. The rest of the time she sat. And sat. And sat. There was such a presence of patience and peace about her. She was keenly aware of what was going on around her, always on guard for any threat to her eggs, but looking at her I realized I was envious of her ability to sit still and be totally present to the moment and her surroundings. She was living in the moment, doing what she needed to do, not worrying about having to be somewhere else, or about completing and endless to-do list. She just sat, serene, regal, patient and, from all apparent appearances, at peace.

Ah wouldn’t it be nice if we could all find that kind of patience and peace in our everyday life? When I am sitting in meditation, I can guarantee you that I do not even come close to Mother Eagle.  If I could get even 1/10th closer to being able to be that patient, what a gift that would be. Then I was reminded that in the garden, just like in that nest, the plants and trees do exactly the same thing. They grow. They flourish. They sit in silent splendor and do their thing. It is only we humans that defy nature by trying to be everywhere and do everything at once.

So maybe this week we should try to take a page out of Mother Eagle’s playbook and make some time to just be, to sit in stillness, totally aware of the present moment, and patiently wait for the Universe to lay its wisdom on us. Think what we could hatch with that kind of connection!

And so it is.

Elizabeth W. Barnes
5 Stages of Grief – With a Twist
Other Topics, Spirituality


The stages of grief (first introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying in 1969) are generally well known.

Most people are aware that grieving a loss can include shock and denial, anger and bargaining, depression and acceptance. The process is not a finish-one-stage-and-move-on-to-the-next kind of linear progression — people can bounce back and forth between stages, and can experience multiple stages at the same time.

I, too, am aware of this process, and as I sat in the hospital room last December honoring my father’s last breath, there were two things I kept thinking to myself:

I am going to hear a lot of stories about my dad that I never knew (which turned out to be very true — the “did he work for the CIA?” theories are still being discussed — my dad denied it but, seriously, who’s stolen laptop gets returned by the FBI a week later?).

The second thing I thought was was take a deep breath, you’ve a long road ahead of you. My grieving has generally followed the path suggested by Kubler-Ross, but with my own twists.

5 stages grief

Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief

The “Yay! I Got Out of Bed and Took a Shower!” Stage

It was March before we got all of the Christmas decorations put away. They had been collected in a pile in the living room in January and there they sat for weeks.

Every day when I walked through the living room, some part of me felt frustrated by the unfinished task. But it was a very small part, a voice made quiet by the more immediate demands of adapting to my new normal.

I decided to call my day a success if I was clean and I got my kid to school — everything I might accomplish beyond that was a bonus.

The “Intermittent Filter” Stage

Oh, hello! There is a sarcastic snarky part of me that I rarely see which apparently slips through when I am processing a lot of emotions. Who knew?

When presented with something unacceptable — from delayed accommodations for my son to being asked to re-fill out paperwork with information that has been the same for 15 years — I have found it hard to filter out the snark and respond with my usual patience and good humor.

Victims of Madam Snarkipants have included my son’s speech therapist, the school counselor, and the receptionist at a medical office.

(Though I have to admit, the receptionist situation was kind of justified: why force me do make-work to “update” information that hasn’t changed since the last time I was there? I forgot that it is not a good idea to alienate the receptionist. I won the battle but could have lost the war.)

The “Drop All The Things” Stage

Did you know that a 16 ounce Pyrex measuring cup dropped onto a tile floor from a one foot height shatters glass farther than a Corningware dish dropped onto the same floor from four feet up?

Ikea cereal bowls split down the middle when dropped on the counter.

I learned this valuable scientific data through empirical processes over the last four months as I have repeatedly dropped things. It is an unprecedented period of clumsiness for which I have taken to storing the vacuum cleaner next to the kitchen trash bin.

When I was a kid I tried to open a two pound bag of M & Ms by pulling it apart at an end seam. When the bag finally gave, I was unprepared to stop my pulling and it tore down the side. Two pounds of M & Ms flew everywhere in the kitchen. My mom was still finding M & Ms under the refrigerator for years afterwards.

There will be no such sweet surprises for me when I clean under the fridge — I will find an ice-field of ceramic pieces and glass shards.

The “What The Heck, BBC?” Stage

The BBC did not renew its streaming contracts with Netflix and Amazon and all the Doctor Who episodes we have enjoyed for years disappeared on February 1.

What the heck, BBC? You took the humor, fun, excitement, angst, and wisdom of Doctor Who away from me when I needed it most. Thank goodness for Star Trek streaming — all five series.

I could have so used the comforting background of characters and stories I loved but, nooo, you want to set up some streaming service of your own.

I am disinclined to pay for another streaming service, even to see Doctor Who again. Reconsider (and see the Intermittent Filter stage above).

The “Throw Everything Out” Stage

When I finally had the energy and drive to put away the Christmas decorations, it didn’t stop there. Suddenly almost everything in the house was fair game for storage or, better yet, elimination.

I found myself looking at potted plants I had nurtured for decades and thinking about getting rid of them.

Why do we have so many towels? Three people don’t need this many towels, I would think. It was as if the Thoreau-ian admonition to “simplify” was guiding how I looked at everything.

But maybe it was acknowledging a need to reevaluate, simply recognizing spring as a time of renewal, inside and out.

Originally published on Autism Mom March 2016.

Lynn Greene
How I Helped Myself Feel More Beautiful Every Day
Fashion & Beauty, Spirituality
feeling beautiful

As I have aged there have been many emotions regarding beauty and self esteem, ranging from loss to freedom. Once I hit 45 there was a whole new journey. My beauty self esteem was based on what I looked like when I was 20 and it was not serving its purpose anymore. Along my journey I learned a few things… I’m sharing in the hope that they may help you to re-evaluate your beauty self esteem and launch into every day feeling fabulous.

Your Beliefs: How do you define your self image?

Defining your own self image can be much more powerful than simply placing value on what society believes to be beautiful. Write down three aspects of your personality that make you smile — that really make your heart sing with happiness. This will help you remember that physical beauty is only one aspect of our attractiveness…. Hold your head high and cherish your amazing personality traits.

Learn to Love Your Imperfection

Each of us has flaws. The sooner we realize that everyone has flaws the easier it gets. How boring would it be if we all looked alike every single day of the year? It is our diversity (aka flaws) that make life interesting. Struggling with this thought? Choose one physical facet of yourself that you adore. Now comes the fun part, say something complimentary about this feature. For example, I might say: “My red hair is stunning.”

Put the Self Critic in a Box (Don’t let her out!)

Beating ourselves up won’t help us accomplish anything. The person you spend the most time with is yourself. Start treating yourself like a loved one. Step in front of a mirror and notice what you say to yourself. Are you kind and complimentary? Mean? Just start with observing where your thoughts go. After two or three days of this exercise, step it up a notch and treat yourself to at least one nice thought. I always ask myself, “What is working?” My answers might be my hair, my teeth, or my outfit.

These cognitive behavior techniques helped me learn to love my 45-year-old body. It did not happen overnight but gradually I found I was more mindful of my thoughts and I became more loving of my current self. The more I accepted myself, the greater my long-term self-confidence and beauty self-esteem rose, which in turn increased my happiness.

We all deserve to feel fabulous! Let me know if any of these techniques work for you.

My Favorite Holiday, Purim!
Home & Garden, Spirituality
, , , ,

Hamentash2Purim for kids is like Jewish Halloween/Mardi Gras. Kids dress up in costumes, usually limited to just a few options and there is a parade and noisemakers, (groggers) and cheering, jeering and eating.

Of course there is a certain food that accompanies the holiday, hamantashen. Hamantashen happens to be one of my very favorite cookies. I fill mine with ‘mon’ that is German for poppy seed.

The Holiday of Purim found in the Book of Esther and the reading of the whole Megillah make a religious service in synagogue not scholarly and solemn but a whole lot of fun! If you don’t enjoy watching the 3-10 year old set and noisy events, stay home, otherwise head for your local synagogue for Prim.

Every time the name of the villain, Hamen, is read, the audience is encouraged to drown out the sound of his name with noisemakers and jeers. Pretty fun? You bet it is.

Most girls dress up as Queen Esther, one of the heroes of the story. As a little girl this is very cool! You can read about the story of Purim if you are not familiar with what happened in the 4th century BCE, here:


After all the cheering, and jeering, the eating of hamantashen begins. Many bakeries make hamantashen with apricot filling or raspberry jam filling. I am a traditionalist when it comes to hamantashen and only poppy seed will do for me.

So this week, Wednesday night March 23 and Thursday March 24th, celebrate the Holiday of Purim with this tasty treat.

Here is my recipe:Poppy Seed Hamentash

8-ounces butter

1-Cup Sugar

2 eggs

½ Cup Orange Juice

½ tsp. Vanilla

3 – 4 Cups Flour

1 T Baking Powder

2 cans of Solo Poppy Seed

Beat the first 3 ingredients. Alternate adding the flour and Baking Powder and Vanilla with the OJ. Dough should be able to roll out on floured board. Cut in circles.

Place 1 teaspoon of poppy seed filling in each round. Fold sides up to make a triangle. Place on greased cookie sheet.

Bake 350, 15-20 minutes until just barely lightly brown on the bottom.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Flower Bear
Straining to Grow: Sometimes “trying” just sets us back
Other Topics, Spirituality
Straining to grow


This time of the year is always difficult for me. I begin seeing the first shoots of the daffodils and crocus starting to push through the dirt and I get the urge to haul out all of my gardening paraphernalia and get moving. I want to clear away all of the dead branches, the fallen leaves and the dead foliage from last year and start preparing beds for their new plants … and then I have to stop myself. I have lived up in these parts long enough to know that just because we’ve had a few warm days and the green is starting to return in tiny increments, it doesn’t mean that it is time to garden. I would be surprised if we did not yet get hit with some snow or a late frost. Doing all of that clearing would take away any protection the plants beneath would have against such a drastic weather change, and delicate new plants would hardly survive.  Even though I am straining at the bit (to borrow a little horse wisdom) to get the gardening season underway, wisdom and experience tell me that by being patient, watching the weather and starting slowly, the end result will be well worth waiting for.

It is natural to get excited when we are hit with the creative urge, or when a new idea takes hold. We want to jump in with both feet and “get it done.” However, sometimes by pushing and forcing our will on the project because of our attachment to the outcome, we are unhappy with the final results. Last month when we looked at the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra, he reminded us that: “Grass doesn’t try to grow, it just grows … Flowers don’t try to bloom, they bloom.” When we calm down, sit back and sense where our idea or project wants to go, and then take one small step in that direction, we will be lead naturally and without strain to the next step, and the next, and the next. It is in our detachment to a specific outcome, and our allowing for the infinity of possibility to open up to us, that we not only end up with a much better outcome than we could have imagined, but we find that we have enjoyed the journey even more.

So yesterday on the first day of Spring, while the sun was shinning but the wind was still blowing cold, I walked around the garden beds and started making a list of what I could do now, and what I would hold off doing until later. Then I took myself back inside to sit by a window and watch the robins, back from their winter vacation, pecking at the bread crumbs I’d left them while I sat in silence to see what message from my gardening muse might be trying to surface – but I left my gardening work gloves out, just in case!

And so it is.

Flower Bear
Making Our Own Music: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success – Week Seven
Other Topics, Spirituality
7 laws of success

Image result for free images of a flute

“When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.”

Kahlil Gibran

he seventh, and final, spiritual law of success is the Law of Dharma. The Law of Dharma states:
Everyone has a purpose in life … a unique gift or special talent to give to others. 
And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals. 
You have a gift. I have a gift. Each and every one of us has a gift, a talent, something we can do that no one else can do exactly the same way that we can. It is why we are here. It is what we were put on this physical plane to do. It is that one thing that, when you are doing it, time passes without your notice and the Universe speaks to you in a way that only you can hear.
I would be willing to bet that the most asked question on the face of the earth is: “Why am I here?” You are here to fulfill your purpose. Which, of course, is followed by, “But what is my purpose?” There are three tools you can use to find the answers to your questions:
1. Finding our true self – inside each and every one of us is “a god or goddess in embryo that wants to be born to express our divinity.” The best way to do this is through prayer and meditation. There is a reason why just about everywhere you turn you are hearing people praising the rewards of meditation: it works. When you sit in the stillness and silence of your innermost soul, and listen for the answer to your questions, in time, they come. I start my meditation every morning by asking the three soul questions: Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose? Sometimes I only get one answer. Sometimes I don’t get one at all. What I do get is clarity. When I let go of the past and the worries of the future, the present moment opens up to me in all its infinite possibilities. In that moment, I can be anything and I can do anything.
2. Find what makes your heart sing – as the opening quote from Kahlil Gibran tells us, we are the flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music. What makes your heart sing? Is it being out of doors in nature? Is it playing a beautiful piece of music or, even better, composing it? Is it putting words to paper and expressing the dreams and desires we all share? Is it caring for children? What do you do that makes the hours fly by? Make a list of those things and keep it handy because we will use it to address our third tool.
3. How can I serve – How can I take something from my list, infuse it with my own brand of spirituality, and use it to serve others? How can I make a difference in even one person’s life? It can be anything as simple as smiling at everyone you encounter during the day, or holding a door for someone, all the way to using your time and talents to save the planet, the animals, the children, or to lift someones spirit and help them to soar.
When you can put the answers to these three questions together, you will have found your dharma. Then you can live each and every day with purpose, clarity and joy. As dear Dr. Wayne Dyer was always fond of saying, the only thing we can do with our lives is to give it away. Find a way to serve.
How will you make your own music today?
And so it is.
Note: My sincere thanks to Deepak Chopra for writing The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and sharing your own gifts with the world. You are surely living your dharma. 

Lynn Greene
My New Meditation Craft: Mandala Rocks
Home & Garden, Spirituality
mandala stones 2

Over the years I have tried every craft imaginable. Some crafts are more time consuming that others, ie knitting, needle point and painting. I have found a new love! Mandala Rocks.

Mandalas are Hindu or Buddhist graphic symbols of the universe. They consist of a circle enclosing a square with a deity on each side that is used chiefly as an aid to meditation.

What I love about this craft is that you can finish a stone in an hour. The practice of designing and completing your stone is meditative. While painting, you have to concentrate and there is a rhythm when you begin working.

Supplies Needed

  • Tiny paint brushes with made with synthetic fibers(holds up better while dotting)
  • Dotting tools – they are small metal tips that allow you to have consist dots.
  • Stones – flat and round are best, 2-4″ in diameter.
  • Paint

Tools like these help create consistency in your designs.

Here are a few examples to get your creative juices flowing:

mandala stones 2mandala stone 1 mandala 3

Colorful Crafts has a great step-by-step tutorial for creating Mandala rocks. Let me know if you try it!

Flower Bear
Law of Detachment: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success Week 6
Other Topics, Spirituality
The Law of Detachment

The Sixth of the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success is the Law of Detachment.

In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty …” – Deepak Chopra

Wisdom in uncertainty? How can that be?

We touched on the idea of detachment a bit last week. This week we take a closer look.

The quote above refers to the fact that by allowing ourselves to dwell in uncertainty, we are free from the things in our past that tie us to fear in moving forward. When we open ourselves up to uncertainty, those things have no hold over us and we are free to move into the realm of infinite possibility where we can manifest anything.

“Easier said than done,” you might say, and you’d be right. Attachment is based on fear and insecurity. We all want to feel safe, and the idea that fear of the unknown is more scary than fear of the known is a trap we all fall into. We may not like it where we are, but what if what is ahead of us is worse? Better the devil that you know than the one you don’t right? Wrong! With the Law of Detachment, when we step into the field of uncertainty, we get to choose. We get to set our intention, fuel it with desire, and then send it out into the Universe to bring us all kinds of choices and opportunities to manifest our dreams.

One of the hardest parts of using this law is the idea that if we want to be free to make our own choices, we have to be willing to let others do the same. We cannot deny others the right to change and grow just to make our own change and growth easier, for that is also a form of attachment. Moving into uncertainty means giving others the freedom to do the same. If you love them, you have to let them go on their own journey of discovery just as you go on your own.

Here are three ways you can put the Law of Detachment to work in your life:

1. Allow yourself and others the freedom to be who they are. Do not seek to force your solutions and ideas on your own problems or theirs for that is only creating more problems.

2. Let go of the idea of having to be certain. Do not let fear and insecurity keep you from the totality of possibility. When seeking a solution or a desire to manifest something, factor uncertainty into the equation.

3. Let yourself get excited about being uncertain instead of being afraid of it. Turn it into an adventure! See where being open and not locked into a particular outcome can lead you!

Like looking for buried treasure, the Law of Detachment can take you on a journey of fun, excitement and magic, and who couldn’t do with a little fun and magic in their lives?

And so it is.

Flower Bear
Wishing and Hoping – The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Week 5: The Law of Intention and Desire
Other Topics, Spirituality
The Law of Intention and Desire

” Inherent in every intention and desire is the mechanics for its fulfillment … intention and desire in the field of pure potentiality have infinite organizing power.” Deepak Chopra

The 5th of the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success is the Law of Intention and Desire.

When we desire something, we usually have a specific outcome in mind. I “want” a new job, I “want” that amount of money, I “want” the perfect relationship. But desire without intent is weak because by locking our sights on a specific outcome, we rob ourselves of the infinite number of other possibilities that are out there. There could very well be something even better in the field of pure potentiality. Intention is the power behind desire. Intention is desire without being attached to a specific outcome. We are then open to the millions of possible outcomes that are out there just waiting for us. Once we state our intention, born out of our desire, and then put our attention on it, the Laws of the Universe will find its matching energy and send it to you.

In 1992, I found my perfect, happy home, the first place that had felt like my true home in my entire life up to that point. I spent 8 very happy years there. Then economics forced me to move closer to where the jobs were. I was suffering both physically and financially from the expense, wear and tear of a 50 mile round trip drive to work 5 days a week over often treacherous winter roads. For the next 15 years I swore that I would find a way to move back home again. I could see the town in my mind’s eye, could see the little streets, the open fields outside of town, the blueberry farm and the maple trees. Most of all, I saw the house I’d had to leave and could not get that particular house out of my mind. In 2014, after fracturing my hip and leg on a poorly patched city street and being confined to my 3rd floor walk-up apartment for 8 weeks, I sat in my kitchen and cried out, “I just want to go home. I don’t care how. I just want to go home.” Not more than a month later, the people I had rented my former home from, who had sold the house and moved away only to return, had purchased another house 2.5 miles outside of town and had a ground floor apartment for rent … right up the hill from the blueberry farm. It was not in town where I had originally wanted to be, but it was home. I have been here just a little over a  year and, as Joseph Campbell would say, I have found my bliss. Once I gave up my attachment to having to move back to a particular house on a particular street, the Universe led me home.

Here are three steps you can take to implement the Law of Intention and Desire:

1. Make a list of your intentions and desires. Carry it around with you. Set aside some time each day to go into the stillness and silence where you can focus your attention on your list.

2. Release your list to the Universe and trust that it has a plan for you in keeping with what you desire. Let go of any attachment to a specific outcome.

3. Practice present moment awareness each and every day. Refuse to allow obstacles and challenges from taking your attention away from present moment awareness because it is in that precious, present moment that your desires and intentions will manifest. If your attention is elsewhere, you may miss a golden opportunity.

This morning as I looked out of my window to greet the day, I was blessed with the presence of some badly needed sunshine and blue skies. Even though the temperature was still a chilly 28, the snow that had all melted on Saturday was gone and even the birds seemed to be happier with all of their soaring and singing in the sun. I’m setting my intention for the Ground Hog to be right this year and for spring to come early. How about you? What are you setting your intention for?

And so it is.

Charmaine Coimbra
A Silent Retreat to Enable Life’s Mission
New Camaldoli Hermitage

Silent Retreat


It’s not the Esalen Institute. It is definitely not a Ritz-Carlton, yet the New Camaldoli Hermitage is heaven on earth for those seeking a retreat lush in silence and contemplation.

Perched above Lucia in Big Sur, about an hour north of Cambria, sits the hospitable hermitage — a type of monastery — where Camadolese Benedictine monks live in solitude, prayer and work. You and I are invited to partake. The hermitage offers rooms for those who feel it is time to live and breathe in silence and contemplation.

I fully expect 2016 to be a busy year. So I designated January with a self-imposed 30 Mindful Days project. The fitting end of the 30 days was two nights and days at the hermitage. The goal was to summarize my 30 mindful days — days where I limited my social life, consumed books, scribed my thoughts, and cleared my mind. It was an imperfect experiment. The final retreat, however, fulfilled my purpose.

The monks welcome retreatants from all walks of life and faith but insist that silence is the golden rule — except in the bookstore, and if one chooses to walk with another along the two-mile road that winds its way to the property from Highway  1.

For about $130 a night, my room was sparse, with a toilet and sink, and a private garden that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. The price included three vegetarian meals a day. The unspoken benefit was exactly that — no speaking.

When I arrived, an overwhelming emotion swelled like the stormy sea below, and brought me to tears. I stood in my room (one of nine rooms linked to a communal kitchen, two private showers, and a borrowing library), and I gazed out the window while the sun transformed the sky into 50 shades of gold. A forlorn manuscript in a three-ring binder, that I hoped to finish, along with a stack of three books, seemed to stare back at me and ask, “Now what?”

In truth, I had no agenda or concept of what would happen during this stay. But I did know that my iPhone and computer were without cell or Internet, there was no television or radio — and definitely no talking to other retreatants.

The literature on the desk invited me to attend the monks’ liturgies, which begin at 5:30 a.m. and run throughout the day, ending at 6 p.m. followed by a half-hour meditation. The literature also noted that spiritual counseling was available.

I was drawn to the 5:30 a.m. vigils. The candle ceremony and procession, followed by sung prayer and recitation resonated with inspiration in the architecturally spare chapel. The sun was yet to rise at the conclusion of morning vigils. It set a perfect tone for a day of solitude. In fact, I so loved the silence and the freedom to contemplate without fear of interruption, that I skipped the midday Mass, which, I was told, is a must-do for its particular style of prayer. But I did close out my day with evening vespers followed by a meditation. The experience was so energizing that I read for hours and way past my usual bedtime.

I’m not spiritually conflicted, nor is my life in a knot. But as one who writes, therein is my dilemma — so many words to share; so little time. Where do I focus these words? So I requested spiritual counsel.

My counselor, in his cream-colored, hooded robes of a Camaldolese monk greeted me and gently grasped my hands. Again, I fell into tears and began to shake. My guess is that he expected me to seek counsel for some horrible life event or experience. When I explained the reason for my emotions and what I sought in counsel, it was as if he rejoiced in discussing the state of our world, our spirituality, creativity, and our place in the universe. His advice didn’t surprise me, but I needed to hear it from an objective and learned voice.

My 30 Mindful Days project was finally wrapped and handed to me as a most priceless gift.

And with that, I shall take on 2016 and speak truth to power and better understand my life’s mission.

Additional information about the New Camaldoli Hermitage retreats is available at www.contemplation.com, or by calling (831) 667-2456.

Flower Bear
Sowing and Reaping: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success – Week Three – the Law of Karma
Other Topics, Spirituality
The law of karma

The Third Spiritual Law of Success is the Law of Karma, or Cause and Effect.

We’ve all heard the expressions, “What you sow, you reap,” or, “What goes around comes around.” The Law of Karma tells us that for every action there is a reaction. Or, as the great teacher Swami Vivekananda teaches: “… Our thoughts, our words and deeds are the threads of the net which we throw around ourselves.”

When we are asked to make a choice, often the first thing we ask ourselves is, “What’s in it for me?” We don’t always stop and consider whether this is the best choice, not only for ourselves, but for any others who might also be affected by our decision. We also don’t always listen to our intuition when we feel that little tug that is telling us we should stop and reconsider our choice. We let others, our culture, our peer group, tell us that to be one of the crowd we have to follow along with society’s choices. Most of the time we are making our choices unconsciously. We’ve programmed ourselves to react like Pavlov’s dog to the sound of the dinner bell. Then we wonder why we don’t feel happy with the outcome, or find ourselves on the receiving end of a bad feeling or situation. Sometimes someone else is negatively affected by a choice that we have made without considering others in the decision making process.  This is the Law of Karma. For every choice we make, consciously or unconsciously, there is a result.

So, how can we make better choices? By taking the whole process from the unconscious to the conscious realm and becoming a witness to our choices. In this way we empower ourselves to make the best choices we possibly can and harm no one else as well.

The first thing we need to do when making a choice is to step back and actually witness our options. There is always more than one choice in any situation even when you think there is no way out. There is an infinity of choices available to us in every moment and we have only to slow down and be open to them. As you consider a choice, ask yourself: “What are the consequences for myself and others if I choose this action?” If the consequences bring no harm to you or others, move on to the second question: “Will this action bring happiness and/or fulfillment to me and others who may be affected by this choice?” Finally, check in with your body and ask yourself how this choice makes you feel. Do you feel happy, elated, content, peaceful? Or do you feel uncomfortable, unsure, agitated or have that knot-in-the-stomach reaction? At our very core is that place that knows what the right decision is in any given situation. Trust it. It’s there for a reason, to guide and protect you.

In the beginning, you may find it difficult to catch yourself every time you make a choice. It took us a long time to allow ourselves to be on automatic pilot and it will take some time to take back control of the decision-making process, but if we make a commitment to train ourselves to be a witness to our choices,our lives will feel more peaceful and in harmony with the people and the world around us. Then we will find that the fruits of our karma are happiness and success.

And so it is.

Liz Kitchens
Fiesta Ware: The Ultimate Color Coach
Other Topics, Spirituality
Fiesta Ware

The title of my blog is Be Brave. Lose the Beige. While my blog is not just about color (although most men who hear the title of my blog think it’s about make-up or fashion), I am pretty crazy about colors…all colors, the more the better. So it may not come as a surprise that I love Fiesta Ware. Fiesta Ware is a line of dinnerware in a rainbow of colors, which flooded into homes during the Great Depression.  In 1936, William Wells thought America’s spirits needed a boost.  He went to his designers and said, “This is what’s going to be good for the Depression:  People need to brighten up their table, people need something to be happy about.”  And that is how Fiesta got started. (A wonderful episode of CBS Sunday Morning detailed the history of this company. Click here to see the episode.Fiesta Ware

I stumbled upon a set of authentic Fiesta Ware at a recent yard sale. I was thrilled, and amassed a collection of plates, bowls, and mugs in vibrant saturated multi-colors.

garage sale fiesta ware

garage sale fiesta ware

There was such abundance I bought cups and saucers for my daughter, mugs and bowls for my son and his wife. It was s much fun. The most fun of all, however, occurred when my granddaughter and I unwrapped our colorful booty. “Blue”, “yellow”, “green” I would say as she studied each new find. I was struck thinking how not only is Fiesta Ware a highly useful cupboard item but an excellent way to introduce our one-year-old to colors. Of course teaching my granddaughter about color is a role I gladly take on. I’m just happy Fiesta Ware is still around to help with the tutorial. grandchild

Flower Bear
“What If?” The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: Week One
Other Topics, Spirituality
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra


Since the beginning of the new year, I have decided to pull out a book that I have worked with in the past and make it a part my daily practice again. The book is, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” by Deepak Chopra. In it he lays out seven spiritual laws, one for each day of the week, that guide us through those things that are stopping us from living the life of our dreams, and fulfilling our purpose. I read one a day, but I thought it would be fun to take one each week for the next seven weeks and explore how each one can move our lives from where they are to where we aspire to be.

The First Spiritual Law of Success is the Law of Pure Potentiality. Did it ever occur to you that everything we see in the physical world came from someone asking themselves the question : “What if? ” What if I could harness the power of an electrical storm and create electricity? What if I could invent a way for people to talk to each other over long distances? What if I could find a cure for polio? In the Law of Pure Potentiality we learn that everything in the Universe came from pure, consciousness … “pure potentiality seeking expression from the unmanifest to the manifest.”

Consider this: There is never only one way to do something or create something. If that were the case, we’d all be living in the same types of housing, driving the same types of cars, and eating the exact same kind of food. But we don’t. There is an unlimited number of possibilities of how we can do something, or how, if we don’t like what we do have, we can make something better.

Take me, for example. I grew up in the era where good girls went to school, got a job out of high school, got married, had kids, etc, etc etc – you know the drill. Then some people came along and said, “not necessarily.” People like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan opened our eyes to other possibilities, and gave us the tools we needed to be the creators of our own lives.

Here is another example. I am a writer. I have wanted to be a writer from the time I was 5 years old. However, even though I “moved around the edges” of being a writer, like writing copy for someone else, or doing a company newsletter, I firmly believed that real writers were the ones that had books sitting on book shelves in bookstores with their names on the spine and great reviews. I depended on some lowly junior editor somewhere to decide if my work was worth of being published. For all I knew, they were having a really bad day and I reminded them of their mother (who was the cause of their bad day). I gave my power to someone else. Then came the Internet and the world of self-publishing. At the age of 63 I started writing a blog, which became an ebook, which inspired a second ebook. The potential for me to be a writer, and call myself a writer, was always there. Someone had to ask the question: “What if we created a place where people can publish their own work without depending on the whims of the traditional publishing houses?” The potential was always there for that, too. Someone just had to first ask “What if?”

So how do we come up with those “What If?” ideas? We have to connect to our most authentic selves, that place of stillness and silence where we can hear our thoughts and the whispers of our souls. Yes, I’m talking about meditation. I am a firm believer in the powerful way that mediation can change our lives, and living proof that anybody can do it. It doesn’t require special training, or equipment, or going to India to live in an ashram. What it does require is that we find the space and time to sit quietly, focus on the our breath flowing in and out, and, simply listen. Start with 10 minutes in the morning, right after you get up. Your mind is fresh from sleep and open. Ideally, see if you can work your way up to 30 minutes, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. However, the 5 or 10 minutes you do will certainly serve you better than the 30 minutes that you don’t do. If you go to the Chopra website, you can find dozens of guided meditations you can download. You can also go to Davidji.com which is the website of the meditation teacher I currently follow and who taught me that you can meditate any time, anywhere. By the way, it took less than a year from the time I sat back down and committed to a daily meditation practice, to the time I started my blog and began to call myself a writer.

Another way to connect to your spirit is to spend some time in nature. It can be a few minutes walking outside, watching birds fly overhead, sitting and listening to the rain, or anything that brings you in physical and spiritual contact with the natural world.

Finally, tell yourself that for a specific amount of time, you are not going to judge anything or anyone. Yes, I know, that can be extremely difficult given the shape of the world today, but being judgemental clouds that connection between ourselves and our Source of Inspiration. Non-judgement creates silence in your mind, especially if the one you are judging is yourself. No one is perfect. Everyone is doing the best they can, from where they are, and with what they have. So are you. I don’t suggest that you try this for a whole day at first. Try it for half the day, say from breakfast until lunch. Then check back in with yourself to see how you’re doing. You can then give yourself from lunch until dinner, or until bedtime. Slowly work yourself up to a whole day and see what happens.

Every day, when I sit down at my desk to write, I look up at a sign that is hanging over it: “I live and dwell in the totality of possibility.” What can’t I do with an affirmation like that? More importantly, what can you do with it? I’d love to hear what you create. If you dream it, you can create it, guaranteed!

And so it is.