Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Om Shanti - Peace and all good for 2009

I tend to collect phrases that inspire me or reveal some truth to me or help me along my life's journey. Some I collect in a bound book, jotting down a phrase or a writing that I want to be able to reference again later. Others find their way onto the chalkboard closet doors in my office where I can see them each day and be reminded. Scraps of paper on my desktop or in my purse capture phrases, too, for those moments when the book or the chalkboards aren't handy.

Zen Habits and The Happiness Project have posts about writing your personal commandments. Mine aren't exactly commandments; maybe more like reminders or philosophies I want to reflect on. They're ever-changing, ever-evolving, so I can't really write a definitive list of personal commandments. For instance, like most people, I'm constantly striving for self-improvement: learning greater patience, practicing detachment and simplicity, slowing down, living in the moment and being fully present. I make progress, often slowly, but I keep learning and refining the lessons.

Some random thoughts/guidelines for my personal reflection as we ease into 2009:


Live in Harmony ... with others, with the earth, with nature, within myself

Move with the rhythm; let it flow

Practice ahimsa/non-violence - in thought and deed. No evil thoughts, no anger against others; learning gentleness and forgiveness. Avoid anything that's destructive instead of nurturing and gentle. Think Kwai Chang Caine (King Fu)

See the Divine in all things.

Be comfortable with the chaos.

Practice aparigraha/non-attachment - letting go, releasing, non-clinging, without fear of loss or change. "...the yogi makes his life as simple as possible and trains his mind not to feel the loss or the lack of anything. Then everything he really needs will come to him by itself at the proper time." (B.K.S. Iyengar) Also Matthew 6:25-34.

Worrying about tomorrow squanders the joy of today. Don't give energy to anything that you don't want to manifest in your life.

Be a better friend.

Remember that the world sparkles and dances with the Light of the Divine. We all carry that Light within.

Live simply. Give more. Expect less.

Have a sense of wonder! Be ready to be surprised.

Laugh more; don't take it all so seriously.

Live and dance to your own music. Sparkle. Spin with your arms wide open. Embrace all the love in the world.

Happiness is a choice in attitude; it does not require things or others.

Receive what you have been given.

Be fully present to now. The next thing will happen when it happens. (The next thing always happens.)

I do not have a soul; I have a body. My soul is forever, my body only temporary. This is important to remember.

Learn to hold loosely all that is not eternal. - Agnes Royden

Know that you are totally and fully loved. The energy of love is already manifested by anyone who has ever loved you, anyone who loves you now and anyone who will ever love you.

May your new year be filled with peace, prosperity and abundance in all things. Enjoy them fully with acceptance and love.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

joy of giving ...

"When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh."- Matthew 2:10-11

A gift is something freely given.
A gift is not an obligation, a requirement that must be fulfilled.

Isn't Christmas an exciting time? I love all the sparkle and glow everywhere, the energy that grows as we get closer and closer. For me, the most exiting and fun part is picking out gifts!

I get a little giddily excited when I'm in "shopping mode," trying to pick out that something special that each person will enjoy. Each gift is carefully chosen, whether it's clothing ... electronics ... or a gift card (selecting one that you're certain the giftee will appreciate and can actually use). I imagine how the giftee will like the gift chosen for them alone (in my fantasies, I've always chosen a great gift - lol!) ... the smile of anticipation crossing a face ... the lift of the eyebrows as he or she opens and sees the gift.

It's a double whammy on the fun scale: first is the fun in picking out the gift, and second is the fun in seeing the happy reactions. There is no expectation for the other person to reciprocate; that would take all the fun out of the giving for me. If they want to give a gift, then give it, freely and from the heart. But no expectations. If it's merely an exchange, then it's not really a gift. There is a special grace in giving.

A favorite Christmas memory: When we were kids, I remember my brother "S" shopping for gifts bought with his own money. I still remember that he gave me a PeeChee; I was delighted! PeeChees were the perfect school folder and I loved drawing all over them. He gave photo corners to Mom, a thoughtful gift since she put together the family albums. There is a special grace in giving.
My granddaughters were here on Christmas Eve and saw their wrapped presents, including one in the shape of the Wildcard cell phone that the oldest had asked for. So we started joking around that it was really a box of rocks, not a cell phone. Grinning slyly, "J" started naming all the great uses for rocks - playing catch, building things, catching a purse snatcher - and how happy she'd be to get some rocks for Christmas. On Christmas morning, she was grinning ear to ear on opening the box and seeing the phone; even though she already knew what the gift was, it still gave her great joy to open it up and it gave me great joy to see how happy she was! (She has asked for rocks, though, for her coming birthday - LOL!) There is a special grace in giving.
At my daughter's house on Christmas morning, my youngest granddaughter rushed to hand me the gift that she'd gotten for me, her face wearing an utterly endearing ear-to-ear grin as she waited eagerly for me to open her gift: a beautiful pair of red sparkly earrings (which I wore today when friends came over). There is a special grace in giving and in receiving.
I love to receive gifts, as well as give them. It brightens my heart to know that someone else thought about me, and maybe had some joy in picking out a special something with me alone in mind. A yoga teacher of mine often said "Receive what you have been given." Profound words that cover so much of life. Receiving a gift is not just a passive act. "Receive" is a verb, an action. To truly receive a gift requires an action, an act of acceptance with an open, thankful heart. Appreciation honors the gifter and shows respect for the effort and thoughtfulness that was put into selecting the gift. There is a special grace in receiving.
Remember how we'd all go back to school after Christmas break, asking our friends "what'd you get for Christmas?" And the enjoyment would all flow back again as we shared our favorite gifts, or heard about the great gifts our good friends got. Why don't we do that as grown-ups? I always thought that was such fun! There is a special grace in giving and receiving.
Here's a little gift picked out especially for you: a song I heard on the local radio station, playing Christmas music all season long: Faith Hill's "A Baby Changes Everything"
So ... what'd you get for Christmas?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

celebrating loved ones ...

It was only 5 when I got to the cemetery yesterday, but the sun was already starting to set and the cemetery was dark by the time I'd trimmed the flowers I'd brought, filled the vases with water, cleaned and polished the headstone and said my prayers. Too late and too dark to take any photos, I thought. As I drove down the lanes, though, I noticed something that made me stop and turn the car back around for a second look. Several of the decorated sites had lights on their trees! What a cheery glow they gave off, clear lights on some, colored lights on others. Utterly delightful and Christmasy!

I love the cemetery at Christmas! To see the care and love and memory that people still have for their loved ones who have gone before absolutely FILLS my heart with joy! "Gone but not forgotten" aren't just words on a tombstone; these people are remembered with love and respect, with joy and with humor, with the love of Chistmases shared. It always moves me deeply.

I went back today so I could get my pictures. The cemetery was crowded with cars and people; trees were being set up, garland strung around little candy cane fences, entire families, young and old gathered together to celebrate Christmas memories. Some had food; many had brought chairs to sit and remember and talk and laugh together. It's all very festive, cemetery or not.

I saw three Asian women with their very old mother taking turns taking pictures, so I went up and offered to take a picture of them all together near the tree they'd set up. then I roamed the cemetery admiring all the Christmas decor and the creativity put into these holiday memorials. One had a huge banner: "Merry Christmas, Grandma!" with family photos laminated onto the banner. There were angels and snowmen, Santas and mangers.

There are a couple of favorites that I enjoy seeing each year. One family puts up a fake fireplace and hangs "stockings" all around with the names of family members. It's good to see new stockings added through the years.

The big cross below is new this year. Looks like a lot of effort went into making it and getting it set upright.

Isn't this a fantastic tree? I love that large angel on top, looking over everything. I'm sure she's smiling, knowing that those we love never really leave us, but are celebrated still with love and with joy for their presence in our lives.

Let us cherish those we love each and every day, in heaven and on earth.

Merry Christmas, Mom!

Friday, December 19, 2008

peaceful sounds ...

For the last couple of weeks, I've been listening at work to my Christmas music station that I created on Pandora. Love it so much!

Thought you might enjoy, too:

It suits my sense of quiet and peaceful reflection during this most holy season of Advent.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

back to the beginning ...

My confident, self-assured granddaughter is reaching the age (nearly 12) where it's starting to be important to "fit in" with her peer group, part of the normal socialization that we humans go through. Thankfully, I'm of an age where "fitting in" is no longer really a concern of mine.

When we're younger, we're more self-conscious about how we look, how we act, what we do, what we have. No one wants to be in the freaks-and-geeks crowd. We're much more self-critical ("I look horrible today!") and we're subconsciously constantly aware of the social cues of others. Oh, the peer pressure of tweens/teens!

I'm of an age where I'm free from worrying about what anyone else thinks, free from worrying about whether I'm attractive enough or thin enough or wearing the right clothes or hairstyle. (I actually leave the house without makeup some days!) I'm much, much more accepting of myself - exactly as I am - than I ever used to be.

Have you seen that Kaiser Permanente commercial with Michelle Shocked's song "When I grow up, I want to be an old woman?" It always makes me want to get up and dance in the living room (and sometimes I just go ahead and do it!) Oh, the joys of being less self-conscious and simply living life unfettered by insecurities and others' expectations. I love it!

When we're born, we're totally free and unencumbered, still filled with light, still connected to heaven, not yet fully embodied into human form. We can still see angels, hear the voices, laugh at "nothing", be utterly delighted for no reason. We can wear silly hats, silly clothes and act silly and everyone thinks we're cute as can be. We don't feel any need to "fit in." We're content simply in being. We accept ourselves and most everyone and everything around us without judgement.

Somehow we lose that along the way. But as I grow older, I find myself reverting closer to my original state. I smile as I drive to work, for no good reason other than I'm happy. And I'm happy for no good reason that I can pin down. The simple act of taking Communion in church or going to yoga fills me with simple contentment. I accept things more easily, release things more easily, judge others less and accept them for who they are.

I know some women who are always asking "What do you think she meant by that?" "Why do you think they did that?", always suspicious, always wary of what others are thinking of them. I'm just so glad to be past all that! I don't put much thought into others' motivations. I've learned that it's not up to me to figure other people out; I need to figure me out. That's all. I find the subject matter more interesting anyway. [wink]

One of my role models is Grandma, 93 years young. She's actually my ex-husband's grandmother, but she remained a part of my life after my divorce, lucky me! When I saw her yesterday, she pulled down her turtleneck to show me her wrinkled neck, totally un-self-conscious. What young woman would willingly point out her flaws and laugh about them? I love that woman!

And I love this age! The body ain't what is used to be, but the spirit is getting closer to what it used to be when I first arrived here. Accepting myself exactly as I am, without reservation, quirks and all.



Speaking of acceptance, I'd like to point you to a wonderful post from Rebecca at Just a Thought, a beautiful tribute to her eccentric dad: . Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Six days off ...

I decided to "bookend" the Thanksgiving holiday and took off last Wednesday and today, Monday, so I could have have six days off from work. Whee! I made lists of all the things I was planning to accomplish: Christmas shopping, Christmas cards, finish scraping the wallpaper glue in the bathroom and paint it, finish painting the office, buy some bookcases and get all the stuff off the floor in the office, garden clean-up, post some things on Craigslist - oh, baby I had plans, big plans!

I got the Christmas shopping done ... mostly.

And I got a few things posted on Freecycle, which enabled me to get rid of an end table. I've been wanting to release things from my home lately. There's a feeling that there's too much stuff and all that stuff needs to be taken care of in some way, whether cleaning or dusting or storing or rearranging. Even getting rid of stuff takes some action on my part.

I'd like to get rid of my big looming entertainment center and get a lower media table, something that takes up less space in my space. I want to get rid of my big square French Country-style coffee table and replace it with something smaller with simpler lines, and a more open feeling to it. My beautiful china hutch takes up too much room in my tiny dining area and I yearn for open space there, too. Heck, I want to get rid of all that crystal and glassware and the china, too, which I never use and am simply storing for no good reason. (The china was my mom's but honestly, it's not something that I'd buy for myself.)

I want less stuff. More space. I want to release anything that's crowding my life, my space, my psyche. Lighter, airier, cleaner, clearer.

My garage needs a really good clean-out. I used to live in a small apartment with no storage or garage; I used to know exactly every single thing that I owned in the world cuz what I had was what I used. I had exactly what fit into my space. I miss those days. When I bought this place, everyone said how great to have a two-car garage and "all that storage space"; I couldn't even imagine what I would store in there. Now there are beach chairs and old paint, a garden bench and leftover laminate flooring, some old shelves, closet doors ... it's all got to go. I don't need any of it; I don't want any of it. I want the space. Open space. A cabinet for the paint. A table to pot plants. A pegboard for tools. That's it. The rest must go.

I'm even thinking about a couple of friendships that have come to the end of their time. Friendships that were great in their time, but have gently faded away and need to be released now.

I've been to yoga five days in a row while I've been on vacation and feel great: energized, renewed, strong. Yoga helps me quiet the mind and release unnecessary distractions. Is that part of why I feel this yearning for simplicity so much more strongly now? Doing vinyasa flows activates the energy flow in the body, repeating the patterns over and over in a kind of meditation ... breathe in, arms up ... breathe out, forward bend ... lunge, downward dog, 8-point namaskar, cobra ... over and over. The simplicity of breath. Breathe in, straighten the spine. Breathe out, release a little more.

I can feel my life shifting again. I need to breathe out and release a little more.

PS. Dad's doing great! He's exceeding the physical therapist's goals and already has 105 degree range of motion. Thanks for your good thoughts and prayers on his behalf.