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Apr
26
Glenda K. Harrison
Branching Out from the Ordinary: What Happened When I Said “Yes” to an Invitation
Family & Relationships, Spirituality
2
I Said Yes

A group of women who branched out.

I received an invitation from a dear friend, inviting me to join her for breakfast followed by a gathering to create miniature succulent gardens. Being the type of woman who enjoys branching out from the ordinary, I leaped at the opportunity to join her on this creative venture. Once we finished catching-up over breakfast, we strolled down the street to a tiny shop called Petals N Wings. A delightful place where persons can stir their creativity by dabbling in the soil with natures less thirsty vegetation.

As we gathered around the table to receive our instructions, like many of the participants, I was a first-timer, and slightly apprehensive about what I had gotten myself into. Nevertheless, the idea of bonding with like-minded women, on a warm Saturday morning was enough to allow me to move forward without reservations and completely uninhibited. I felt free as a ladybug.

While I dug my fingers into the soil – carefully arranging my selected objects into my flower pot, I thought about the freedom I felt in trying something new. It is so easy to live a mundane life. Don’t you agree? We often spend the majority of our time with the same people, delving into the same activities (if any), driving the same route to and from home, etc. etc. There is a dulled comfort in life being untouched.

But what if we did take the steps to rearrange things just a little bit each day. I bet it’s not as scary as one would think. I’m willing to bet that with each step taken in a new direction, new and exciting discoveries are there to be had and appreciated. New findings in a world which was once untouched, now serve to be a life filled with an amazing assortment of wonder and bravery.

What began as a simple invitation from a dear friend, turned out to be a day my spirit needed. A day of refreshment, girl bonding, giggles over the tiny objects we placed in our garden, and another invitation to join the girls for another gathering. All because I branched out from the ordinary and said, ‘Yes’ to an invitation.

Believe in You,
Glenda
Glenda is the author of an inspiration memoir – A Place Called Peace
Apr
25
Valerie Albarda
Yeah . . . S*** Happens For A Reason
Other Topics, Spirituality, Travel
4
Shit Happens

Things happen in life for a reason. Even if they’re the things that make you vehemently say, “Shit!”

*    *    *    *

In anticipation of my trip to Las Vegas to attend the BAM conference and speak on the “Now What? Blogging and Careers at Midlife” panel, I endeavored to pack my suitcase with the utmost care. My style of packing has evolved over the past few months. I used to refer to myself as a ‘contingency packer,’ a woman who packed for every conceivable eventuality known to man. To me, a one week’s trip to Brussels necessitated three sets of clothes for each day, plus several more outfits in case I exercised my prerogative to change my mind. Of course, there’s the issue of shoes. How could I, in good faith and fashion forwardness, wear brown shoes with my blue outfit? I simply had to bring a different pair of shoes for each outfit.

Then, of course, there are those circumstances beyond our control: torrential rains, a sudden Arctic blast (yes, even in Hawaii…it could happen, ya know), an invite to a formal ball, a plague of locusts. I try to anticipate every contingency and pack accordingly. The 50-pound weight limit meant little to me. I’d simply pack a second bag (or a third).

luggageThis is in direct contrast to my husband. He can pack for a two-week trip to Europe mere hours before his flight, and he usually does it all in one bag. One bag?!? Who the hell does that? What about the ‘what ifs’ in life? What if the airline loses that one, lone bag? What if your bag is the only one that spontaneously combusts in the cargo hold?

For the flight to Vegas. I chose an ensemble that was smart, chic and comfortable. I was hoping the gate agent would take one look at me and think, “Now there goes a smart, chic and comfortable woman. I think I’ll upgrade her to first class,” then commence with the upgrading. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

The white skinny jeans I wore (with wonderful stretchy fabric that gives) hugged my butt like they were sewn just for me. The burnt orange top with distinctive hints of Mexican flair graced my bosom and the rich hue complemented my complexion. The pumpkin sandals showed off my fresh pedicure and called attention to the demure flowery design painted on each big toe. I was looking good if I say so myself.

My original plan was to finish the outfit with my white cotton three-quarter sleeve sweater with a hem that hung just past my hips. It would have been magnifique. Alas, during my last minute morning frenzy, I couldn’t find that white cotton sweater with the three-quarter sleeves and hem that hung just past my hips. Time was a’wasting, so I hastily reached into my closet and grabbed my oversized tan cloak-like shawl that was big enough to envelop three people. It made for a striking outfit.

On the second leg of my travels from Atlanta to Vegas, I settled in with my jazz-filled iPod Shuffle, a bag of M&Ms and my current read, Supreme Influence: Change Your Life with the Power of the Language You Use Pay attention folks; the book is extremely important.

As the grub and booze cart rolled down the aisle, I envisioned myself sipping on a glass of white wine and enjoying the relative comfort (minus when the gentleman in front of me trying with all his might to recline his chair into my lap…) of the flight.

“What would you like to drink,” the flight attendant leaned over and asked me, her smile seemingly glued on her face.

“I’d like white wine, please,” I said as I handed her my complimentary adult beverage voucher.

“Oohhhh, I’m sorry,” she cooed as if talking to an infant, “we’re all out of white. I do have red, though.” Her ensuing perkiness was enough to convince me to go the dark side.

“Okay, red it is.”

As the plane floated along in the sky, I cracked open my Wente Vineyards Merlot, poured half into my cup, took a big gulp (I could tell you I took a dainty sip with my pinkie extended, but that would be a boldfaced lie). Life was good. I turned the page of the book and continued to read. Ten minutes later, life was still good.

Until . . .

The gentleman in front of me happened. He jerked his seat up quickly, causing my tray table to wobble about. It seemed to happen in slow motion. I watched as the little plastic cup tipped over and the deep crimson liquid spilled onto my being. In his defense, he didn’t realize what he had done. But still . . .

I was in shock. The entire cup of red wine spattered down the back of the tray table, down my lower leg and down the front of the tray table into my lap. And there it was. I was now wearing my wine. Remember earlier I told you I was wearing white skinny jeans (let’s not forget they hugged my butt like they were sewn just for me)? White.

I’ll let that sink in for a bit . . . much like the wine on my white pants.

wineRed wine didn’t coordinate very well with my outfit. I looked like I had just stepped out of a horror movie, the unfortunate victim of a psychopathic ax wielding bandit. Okay, now remember that book I was reading? The power of my language and all? While I admittedly did utter one lone “Shit!”, I gained my composure in a nanosecond and morphed into crisis management mode.

Okay, you and I both know that rushing down the aisle with my tan shawl wrapped haphazardly around my waist, crashing into the bathroom and using cheap paper towels, foamy soap and water was not going to do any good. But hey, you can’t blame a sister for trying. Soda water proved to be of little help as well. My mind began to race. What am I gonna do? What the friggin’ hell am I gonna do?

Then it hit me. My shawl. And then the meaning and reason for me choosing the shawl crept even deeper into my psyche.

There was a reason I couldn’t find my white jacket this morning. There was a reason the shawl stood out like a beacon in a sea of jackets and wraps in my closet. It was inevitable and written in the stars: I was going to spill red wine on myself. When I placed that plastic cup on the tray table, spilling it never occurred to me. But now I believe nothing I could have done would have stopped that eventuality. The shawl was my salvation. In the end, it allowed me to strut through the airport—with red wine stains on my pant leg, on my thigh, in my lap and deep into my lady crotch—with confidence.

*     *     *     *

The Valerie of a year ago would likely have cursed like a sailor on a three-day shore leave when the first pea-sized drop of crimson splattered onto her white pants. The Valerie of today handled it with finesse and grace. Perhaps it has something to do with being in midlife…in a place in my life where I don’t care if people look at me and think I had a menstrual cycle oopsie. Wait, who am I kidding? I do care about that. However, I made the conscious decision to respond to the situation, not react. In my mind, I done good. The irony of it all? When the grub and booze cart rolled around a second time, the flight attendant leaned over and sheepishly said, “Ma’am, we actually do have white wine.”

Yeah, shit happens. And then you get over it.

This post originally appeared on Midlife-A-Go-Go.

Apr
25
Ellen Dolgen
Working, Parenting and Caregiving
Spirituality
2
care for yourself

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgDuring menopause, more and more of us are gaining membership to the aptly named “Sandwich Generation,” a group marked by its responsibility to simultaneously care for both its children and parents. So if it seems like everybody wants (scratch that, needs) something from you these days, you’re not alone.

Here are 4 ways to care for yourself while balancing the responsibilities of work, parenting and caring for parents.

  1. Have a Preemptive Talk
    This is not THE “talk” that you are dreading having with your prepubescent children! This is the elder “talk”. It is best to have this “talk” earlier rather than while you are in the midst of a crisis. Discussing living arrangements, homecare, financial resources, fears, and concerns, can help ease everyone’s minds. For example, many caretakers unnecessarily worry about their parents moving in with them, when the fact of the matter is that their parents don’t want to live with them either! They might prefer to move and begin to downsize, make plans to move to a retirement community, or assisted living facility. You will not fully understand your parents desires, until you have an open conversation with them. Together, you can create a functional plan that works for all of you. This should include getting all of the medical and legal paper work handled ahead of time. Organizing beforehand will help you to set healthy boundaries and meet realistic caregiving goals. Make sure that all of your siblings feel included and share in the responsibilities as best they can. Remember: No parent is perfect. You may have lingering emotions and anger issues with your parents which can impede your ability to cope with your newfound caregiving responsibilities. Try to find ways to forgive, not just for your parents’ sake, but for your own health and wellbeing as well.
  1. Don’t Try to Do It Alone
    You are amazing, but you can’t try to be Superwoman. Think: Who in your life can support you and your responsibilities? Your husband, siblings, children, and even professional caregivers can help. Perhaps hiring outside help for just a few hours a week may be worth it. Working all day, taking care of your own family, and then adding your parents to the mix can be quite draining. You do need to have a break and to have some “me” time scheduled into the week. The sisterhood is a wonderful support system. I know your days are jammed packed, but find time to schedule a walk/talk hour, chat on the phone, or meet for a cocktail. The sisterhood will be there for you, but you need to be open and ask for the support you need and deserve! My motto: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
  1. Determine Your Benefits
    If you are working and also caregiving, check to see if your employer has an eldercare program that includes referrals to caregiver resources in the community, on-site support groups for working caregivers, and discounted backup homecare for emergency needs. Many companies offer these resources, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute. What’s more, your boss may be open to arranging a more flexible work schedule for you that allows you to deliver on all fronts.
  1. Put Yourself On Your To Do List
    We want to be there for the people we love—but it can be draining. When we are left drained and exhausted (physically, emotionally or financially), what can we possibly give to others? No matter what our caregiving responsibilities and roles may be, caring for ourselves—our financial, emotional, and hormonal health—has to come first. Many women are in the midst of perimenopause and menopause when they find themselves in this new elder caregiving role. For tips on how to take care of your hormonal self, please download my free eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause.

If you don’t take care of your health, you can’t truly take care of anyone else. After all, you and your family deserve the happiest, healthiest you!

My motto: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

Apr
11
Martha
How I Confronted my Divorce Grief
Family & Relationships, Spirituality
2
divorce over 40

Grief is a tricky thing. When we are conditioned to expect it, as is the case during the death of a loved one know that we must be patient, go through the 7 stages, and the idea is that one day, our mourning will be done, and we’ll be able to move on.

So, why do we forget to do this during divorce? Do we think that we aren’t allowed to, because technically, nobody died?

Not allowing yourself to grieve during divorce is not giving yourself the chance to heal. And not giving yourself the chance to heal means not giving yourself the chance to move on with your life. Robbing ourselves of this grieving process is one of the reasons why, years even after the divorce, we still feel incomplete, still feel like crap, and still feel like our heart is broken.

As a quick heads-up to you, my friends, I just need to remind you that I am not a mental health professional. I can, however, talk to you about the strategies that helped me process my own divorce grief so I could move on without being bitter.

The #1 thing we forget when moving on: Divorce is like death. It’s okay to mourn your loss.

Obviously, there are differences between ending a marriage and when a loved one leaves this earth. But allow yourself to consider this:

It is completely normal to feel like your world has crashed into a million pieces and that you’ll never recover from divorce. When you think about it, you’re actually reeling from multiple deaths during divorce, which makes it really hard to move on if you don’t grieve:

-Death of your marriage

-Death of the life you thought you knew

-Death of the visions of your future

-Death of the idea of the partner you thought would be for life

-Death of your own identity as a partner and a member of a team.

That is a lot of loss to handle. So, why are you going around, thinking you’re fine if you’re still feeling like crap? Remember, you don’t have to just swallow your pain and act tough. Be okay with the fact that you went through something really awful and really traumatic that rocked the world and the life you though you knew. Unless you’re made of stone or are The Terminator, you’re probably going to feel like you’ve been hit by a freight train.

But here’s the key: it’s okay to accept that you will be sad, angry, in denial, scared, sometimes all within ten minutes of each other. But the trick comes in being kind enough in making peace with this loss, but motivated enough to not let it hold you prisoner, especially when there are so many beautiful things in this world, just waiting for you to discover them.

Turning that Grief into Insight

You didn’t think you’d get away without an exercise, did you? Below you’ll find the Gain Insight writing prompts, and as always, I’ve given you an example to start get you thinking about how you can apply these strategies to your own situation.

  1. What emotions can I not get my head around that seem to be ruining my life right now? My own example is below:
    1. Sure, we’re divorced, but whenever I look at my clean kitchen and tidy living room, I just feel pissed off about how he made a complete mess of the whole place and never helped around the house. And I’m kicking myself for letting it go on for so damn long. I felt like a house made for years! Why Martha, why?!!?
  2. I can’t change the past, but what can I do about those feelings right now? Take a look at what I put for your own inspiration.
    1. Your  house is clean as can be now because you’re no longer living with a slob. Enjoy it, girl! Feel happy about coming home and not seeing dirty-ass underwear on the couch. Embrace that sense of calm now that everything is just the way you left it.
  3. Moving forward, what mindful intervention with I have for myself?
    1. Whenever I start to feel pissed off when I encounter some sort of trigger, I will work to neutralize it. Instead of focusing on the negative and toxic elements, I will work to turn it into something good. It will take practice, but I can’t move on with my life if I am a prisoner to the hurt and regret.

Learning from your own mistakes but not blaming yourself

As with most lessons in life, the things we learn are only as valuable as our willingness and our ability to put them into context, see how, looking back, we would handle the situation differently, and then make a proactive plan to handle things different in the future. This takes a lot of self-awareness to do, but without it, it’s very hard to not move on and heal. A few things to start thinking about with how this plays into grieving the loss of your marriage that I want you to think about is this…

  1. What are some of the things that you blame yourself for that you still think about?
    1. I am angry with myself that I didn’t communicate my wants and needs more. It’s hard to move on because I feel bitter that my needs were ignored for years.
  2. What are some of the regrets that you still harbor?
    1. I still regret not saying something sooner. I knew that our marriage was falling apart, but I went along with it, in denial, just telling myself that it would get better soon.
  3. How can you change those feelings into something positive moving forward?
    1. I can’t change the past, but I can use what I learned to avoid similar things from happening in the future. In my marriage, I remember that I didn’t communicate well. In my current relationship, I encourage myself to be open and honest, and remind myself to be courageous, sharing my feelings with my partner. It can be hard because I’m afraid Ill get judged, but I remind myself that I deserve—and my partner deserves—open communication.

Getting Support and Holding Yourself Accountable

Regardless of where you are in the process—whether the papers were signed years ago and you’re still wondering how the hell to make sense of it, or you’re still knee-deep in divorce drama right now, or you’re reeling because he or she just moved out, remember that one of the strongest things you can do is reach out for support. There are so many avenues out there, whether it’s finding a therapist or divorce coach, going to a grief support group or divorce support group, please understand that you do not have to grieve alone.

As a way of ensuring that you will reach out to someone if you need that sort of support, make this pledge to yourself. Look at your options for

  1. By the end of today, I will…..
  2. By the end of the week, I will….

These accountability pledges can be as simple or as detailed as you want—the point is to set that intention to reach out for support, and actually follow up on it. For example:

  1. By the end of today, I will have made a primary list of 3 therapists I will reach out to.
  2. By the end of the week, I will have called and made an appointment with one of them.

Like any grieving process, healing from your divorce will not happen quickly. But when you are kind to yourself, persistent, and mindful of the fact that you deserve to be happy again, the journey to the next chapter of your life is entirely possible.

Apr
11
Flower Bear
What Capt Kirk Taught Me About My Own “Split Personality”
Healthy Living, Spirituality
2
Captain Kirk

William Shatner, Captain Kirk, James T Kirk, Star Trek

I admit to being something of a Star Trek snob. It is my personal belief that the only true Star Trek was the first TV series with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. The rest were just copy cats. Not only was it decades ahead of its time, but it opened up the discussion about the human condition with all of its frailties for the first time on national television at a time when such things were rarely spoken of outside of a therapist’s office. Such was the case with one of my very favorite episodes.

During one of the many malfunctions with the machine that made “Beam me up, Scotty” a part of our everyday speech, Capt. Kirk, played brilliantly by William Shatner, has his personality split in two. One half is kind and gentle, but also weak and easily frightened. The other side is strong, forceful, decisive and also capable of violence. This second side is what we would come to define in later years, according to the work of the great psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung, as our Shadow Self. This is the side of our personalities that we tend to hide from the world, the self that houses our darkest desires and impulses, the place where our ego resides. However in this instance, Capt. Kirk was unable to lead and command with only his kind but fragile self in charge because it was those very qualities of his Shadow Self, the strength, courage and dynamic forcefulness. that, combined with the other half, made him who he truly was, a capable, brave, yet compassionate leader.

We don’t like to admit to ourselves that we occasionally lose control of our Shadow Self when it pops out in stressful situations. I have been made uncomfortably aware of my own “other side” recently. There is once again major construction going on in the house where I rent a ground floor apartment. There has been constant, heavy duty noise over my head, sporadic internet interruption that puts my work schedule into a tailspin, freaked out cats (mine) who, like their owner prefers the peace and quiet of country life, and a crying dog (my landlord’s) who doesn’t understand why she can’t come out and play with the construction workers. There have been moments when my Shadow Self not only popped out under duress, but refused to leave … for days … causing me headaches and a pattern of whining to anyone who would listen that was definitely not my most attractive side. The fact that this construction work is expected to go on for some time did nothing to lift the dark cloud hanging over my head. So I did what I have been trained to do by my most trusted teachers: I meditated on it.

What came out of several heavy-duty meditation sessions, plus some wise advice from my meditation teacher (whose new video just “happened” to be all about handling a grudge or difficult situations), was to acknowledge that what was going on was not all about me, that it was not personal, and that I could choose how I reacted to it, knowing full well that a negative reaction would just produce more negativity – and more headaches – while a positive, affirming response would open up other possibilities for growth and understanding. I was led to remember how many times I had thrown a hissy fit whenever I would try to grow roses and failed miserably, only to discover that my talents did not lie with roses but with other varieties of plants that proved to be some of my favorite success stories. The point is that I needed both sides of my personality, my kind, gentle, lover-of-nature self, plus my determined, persevering, driven self, to find positive solutions to my everyday challenges without making enemies with myself or others. It is a daily practice to keep the two in balance but when we do, our lives are richer, less stressful, and more rewarding.

As Spock would say: “Live long and prosper.” And so it is.

Apr
7
VN Editors
How to Stop Worrying: 5 Strategies to Help You Redirect “Over Thinking” and Negative Energy
Healthy Living, Spirituality
7
worry

Some worry is natural, and even healthy. For example, worrying can help when you need to plan, prepare, and problem solve. Healthy worry is the kind that lasts for just a brief time, then subsides when the situation has passed or the problem is solved. Healthy worry does not get in the way of your daily activities.

But worry can take on a life of it’s own, and once it does it can be nearly impossible to break free from a spiral of negative thoughts. Constant worry can keep you from living a full life. Instead of enjoying time with your friends and family, you’re trapped in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and emotions. Further, constant worry is not only hard on your mental state, but your physical well-being as well. Anxiety triggers our “fight or flight” response releasing cortisol, a body “fuel” that boosts blood sugar and triglycerides (making it a barrier to weight loss!). When that fuel isn’t released properly, it can wreak havoc on your body. According to WebMD, chronic worry and emotional stress can trigger a host of health problems including:

  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Digestive disorders
  • Muscle tension
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Premature coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack

Of course, knowing that worrying can cause these physical ailments could trigger another anxiety filled roller coaster ride of worry. Friends and family are quick to advise, “stop worrying,” but for some, thoughts creep in without warning and can feel uncontrollable.

So what is the solution? There are some proven ways you can break this negative worry-cycle. Luckily, we have found five really great strategies to help redirect your thoughts when you start to worry. Here are 5 strategies to help you get a handle on worry and get back to living.

1. Set Aside a Designated Worry Time

This might sound silly, but setting an appointed time to focus on your worries has been an effective strategy for some. So when should you set aside time to worry? Well, that is completely up to you. But, you might want to make sure not to leave it too late in the day so you are worrying about things right before bed.

Here’s how it’s done: Make a list of your worries. When you start to worry about something during the day, write it down and then set it aside and move on, knowing you can think about it at your designated worry time. This way you get in a good habit of postponing your worries, and you won’t “worry” about forgetting about it. Helpguide.org advises:

“Postponing worrying is effective because it breaks the habit of dwelling on worries in the present moment. Yet there’s no struggle to suppress the thought or judge it. You simply save it for later. As you develop the ability to postpone your anxious thoughts, you’ll start to realize that you have more control over your worrying than you think.”

So, set aside a good place and time for your designated worry time. Give yourself an hour at first, then cut it back to a half hour. Little steps at a time will surely help and then create a good habit of gaining control of your worries.

2. Understand the Difference between “Solve-able” vs. “What If” Worries

Many of us create worries that have no real solution. These are the “What If” worries that often plague us in the dead of night. We worry about situations that are out of our control, may not even happen, and even if they did they aren’t preventable. Worrying about what-if situations can sometimes be the hardest ones to control.

Worrying about a problem that is solvable means you can start brainstorming and are able to come up with a solution, or many solutions to your problem. Helpguide.org says to not focus on the perfect solution:

“Focus on the things you have the power to change, rather than the circumstances or realities beyond your control. After you’ve evaluated your options, make a plan of action. Once you have a plan and start doing something about the problem, you’ll feel much less worried.

Worrying about a problem that is unsolvable, and learning to deal with these types of worries is a bit different. First, you must learn to recognize when a “what if” worry is rattling around in your head. Then, you must accept that you’re using “worry” to keep you from feeling certain emotions. HelpGuide.org explains it this way:

“Worrying keeps you in your head, thinking about how to solve problems rather than allowing yourself to feel the underlying emotions. But you can’t worry your emotions away. While you’re worrying, your feelings are temporarily suppressed, but as soon as you stop, they bounce back. And then, you start worrying about your feelings: ‘What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t feel this way!'”

Once you recognize this dynamic, you must then allow yourself to “feel the feelings” the worry is suppressing. This requires a bit of bravery for many of us as we’ve been taught that we should always be rational and in control. In truth, we’re all a mess inside at times and allowing ourselves to move through the emotions will only make things better in the long run. ““The truth is that emotions—like life—are messy. They don’t always make sense and they’re not always pleasant. But as long as you can accept your feelings as part of being human, you’ll be able to experience them without becoming overwhelmed and learn how to use them to your advantage. The following tips will help you find a better balance between your intellect and your emotions.”

3. Accept Uncertainty

Uncertainty is part of everyday life. Some of us can deal with this fact easier than others. Identifying what you need to do to get over these thoughts is good steps to take.

Robert L. Leahy, PhD, the author of The Worry Cure: 7 Steps to Stop Worry From Stopping You and the director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York City says that fully accepting that there are situations in life where there will always be uncertainty is one of the main steps you can take to dealing with unwanted worries.

“Many worried people equate uncertainty with a bad outcome, but uncertainty is really neutral,” he says. “When you accept uncertainty, you don’t have to worry anymore. Acceptance means noticing that uncertainty exists and letting go and focusing on the things that you can control, enjoy, or appreciate.”

4. Spend More Time in the Present Moment

Embrace today. Embrace the moments and situations you do have control over. Even if it’s something small, like what to eat for lunch or the tasks you are going to get done for the day. Worrying is often focused on the past, maybe regrets that you feel or things you could have done differently.

Often times, worrying about the past can then lead to worrying about the future and what you can possibly do to prevent yourself from making the same mistakes. So a good practice is to stay mindful and in the present moment, so the future worries won’t have as much time to creep into your mind.

Henrik Edberg, a blogger on ThePositivityBlog shared his two favorite ways to reconnect with what is happening right now:

  1. “Slow down. Do whatever you are doing right now but do it slower. Move, talk, eat or ride your bicycle slower. By doing so you’ll become more aware of what is happening all around you right now.
  2. Disrupt and reconnect. If you feel you are starting to worry then disrupt that thought by shouting this to yourself in your mind: STOP! Then reconnect with the present moment by taking just one or two minutes to focus to 100% on what is going on around you. Take it all in with all your senses. Feel it, see it, smell it, hear it and sense it on your skin.”

5. Talk About Your Worries

This might seem simple enough, but for some this is hardest thing to do. Surprisingly though, talking about your worries with a close friend or family member could help you stop the cycle of worry and also gain advice and a different perspective on your problem. Edberg advises that when you talk about your worries with a friend, you may find that you solve your own problem…

“Sometimes the other person may only have to listen as you work through the situation yourself out loud. At other times it can be very helpful to let the other person ground you and help you find a more practical and useful perspective on the situation at hand.”

 worry, worrying, over analyzing

What are some big items on your “worry” list? How do you deal with over thinking?

Apr
4
Flower Bear
The Beauty in Imperfection
Other Topics, Spirituality
1
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.

Mar
28
Flower Bear
A Eagle, An Egg, And A Lesson In Patience
Other Topics, Spirituality
4
patience

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.

Mar
25
Elizabeth W. Barnes
5 Stages of Grief – With a Twist
Other Topics, Spirituality
0
grieving
Bottle

https://www.flickr.com/photos/monkeymanforever/5673157944/

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.

Mar
23
Lynn Greene
How I Helped Myself Feel More Beautiful Every Day
Fashion & Beauty, Spirituality
0
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.

Mar
21
Haralee
My Favorite Holiday, Purim!
Home & Garden, Spirituality
0
, , , ,
Purim

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:

http://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/645309/jewish/What-Is-Purim.htm

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.

Mar
21
Flower Bear
Straining to Grow: Sometimes “trying” just sets us back
Other Topics, Spirituality
2
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.

Mar
7
Flower Bear
Making Our Own Music: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success – Week Seven
Other Topics, Spirituality
0
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. 

Mar
2
Lynn Greene
My New Meditation Craft: Mandala Rocks
Home & Garden, Spirituality
3
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!