Monday, November 29, 2010

Gratitude – come see my guest post on Shine the Divine

My lovely friend Laura asked me and several other bloggers to guest on her blog throughout the month of November, sharing our thoughts on gratitude. Laura has an amazing strength and resilience that always inspires me. A talented artist, photographer, writer, wife, mother, counselor; loving, kind, courageous and wise.

After you read my post (and Cathy’s too!), please explore her site and her story; be sure to check out the Thanksgiving post and the glorious, colorful Gratitude quilt, a gathering of over 100 writers. 

stars silhouette

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

releasing expectations

 capiz place setting  pheobehoward

I’m re-reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Good stuff to mull over, absorb and see what comes up, finding what rings true for you. As I tell others “Keep what speaks to you and discard the rest.”

The 2nd Agreement:

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.
When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Different things recently have reminded me about this Agreement and how we get attached to preconceived outcomes. Earlier this week, I thought someone was unappreciative of the extra effort I put in, then I remembered the Agreement and realized that each of us held different expectations of the outcome we desired. I was expecting kudos and attaboys, but the other person was focused on a different outcome. “Nothing others do is because of you.”

Another example of a preconceived outcome: A friend has been estranged from his son for a few years. Out of the blue a couple of weeks ago, the estranged son texted my friend. Something light like “Hey, how’s it going?” Instead of being joyous that his son had texted him after all this time (wouldn’t that be hard for the son to do?), my friend was upset because the text wasn’t worded the way friend wished it had been. “Shouldn’t he have said ‘Hey, Dad’?” “Don’t you think he should’ve said he’s sorry?” “I’d think he’d say something like …”

I couldn’t believe all the shoulds—the expectations—my friend had as to how his son should have composed the text message. Looking at my friend, I said the point was that his son had reached out and contacted him. The words could have been “eeny meeny miney moe”; they don’t matter. What mattered was that his son broke through and connected. Isn’t that ultimately what they wanted, to resolve the rift? I imagine my friend had been playing an entirely different picture in his mind for how they’d reconnect and this didn’t fit his mental movie. He had a preconceived scenario and couldn’t switch from his expected outcome and accept the different outcome (a great outcome!) that actually resulted. He held on to what he imagined instead of embracing what is, creating “needless suffering.”

I believe it's best not to be attached to a preconceived outcome; the outcome we desire rarely manifests exactly the way we envision.  To have a preconceived outcome in mind is to invite certain disappointment. That’s not to say we shouldn’t imagine how we’d like things to be (I enjoy fantasizing about a lush garden and a cute puppy), but we shouldn’t become attached to them. Hold loosely to that which is not sacred. Hold loosely to expectations.

Many families hold expectations during the holidays. If we go into these gatherings with a Norman Rockwell picture fixed firmly in our imagination—expecting certain characters to be other than what they’ve always been through the years—we’re going to be disappointed. Family gatherings can be big, noisy, messy things. Sometimes words are misunderstood or misinterpreted. Sometimes feelings get hurt entirely unintentionally. (I tend to trust in the Good Intentions of others.)

Better to release our attachments to those expected outcomes and be flexible to whatever comes up. Let it go. Let it flow. Ride the wave. Don’t take anything personally. Instead of thinking “that’s a rude comment” just think “that’s a comment.” Don’t interpret and judge; people usually don’t mean to hurt others. We begin to misunderstand each other when we judge things in terms of “should” and “good/bad.” Be accepting and flow like water.

Letting go of preconceived outcomes allows us to open our hearts to a different, easier path, one where there is less needless suffering. Let it go and enjoy what happens. Just don’t take anything personally.


Monday, November 15, 2010

On my nightstand …

092310 nightstand booksDo you enjoy reading? Growing up, my parents, brothers and I were voracious readers, heading to the library each Saturday, returning home with the maximum number of books we were allowed to check out and repeating the cycle again the following Saturday. We’d sometimes negotiate with one another at the library: “You check out those and I’ll check out these and then we’ll switch.” We read a wide variety of topics in books, magazines (from Readers Digest to MAD Magazine), comic books; consumed the Frank L. Baum Wizard of Oz series, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew; classics like Call of the Wild, Little Women, Walden; history, wars, political intrigue, mysteries, Egyptology, dance, music – we’d read under the covers after Mom told us to turn out the light. (I think of a lot of us did that! ha!)

I go through spurts of interests in my reading. At one point, I was primarily reading business books along the lines of In Search of Excellence; at another stage, I read classics that I’d missed (Grapes of Wrath); and at another, I indulged in Latino authors and stories.

Lately, my reading has mostly been regarding spirituality and our yearning to connect with the Divine. There is such a wealth of reading available and many of my like-minded friends have wonderful recommendations that I keep adding to my list.

Right now on my nightstand are four wonderful books that I’ve recently completed reading.

- The Yoga of Jesus draws beautiful, rich parallels between the teachings of Jesus Christ and those of the ancient yogis. Examining Christian teachings through a yogic viewpoint provided greater clarity and a deeper understanding; I read this slowly, pondering and absorbing, going back to re-read sections. A beautiful, enriching experience.

- In Your Truest Self, Jan Lundy interviews 12 inspiring spiritual women and identifies 12 spiritual principles to help us strip away the false ego and identities we’ve manufactured and to reach inside to the truest and most authentic version of who we are. There are thoughts to ponder, reflections and exercises to aid our journeys. I love the stories of the 12 women and was inspired by the way their personal belief systems helped them through very challenging situations.

- Happy Yoga – possibly my favorite book ever! This is the third time I’ve read this book, it’s that amazing. It’s not about physical yoga, so much; it’s about how to be happy! I think that just about every word in this book resonates with me. The first time I read it, some of the ideas and principles were very new to me but felt so right, like a personal discovery that I’d known all along but that had been hidden from me until I read this book. Reading Happy Yoga always gives me profound joy!

- Anam Cara is by Celtic poet John O’Donohue and if you’ve ever listened to his audiotapes, you’ll find yourself hearing his smoothly lilting Celtic voice in the prose. The language is utterly beautiful, each word like consuming the finest meal and drink. O’Donohue’s love for Celtic mystical thought shines forth and he brings you into a world of deeply ancient truths, of harmony with all that is Divine.

And now I’m re-reading The Four Agreements, a book of simple, practical guidance that challenges me to be more mindful and operate from a different state of heart.

What’s on your nightstand? Any recommendations you’d like to offer? Which reminds me: I need to renew my library card!