Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Raft

As the New Year approaches, many of us will be reflecting on the days gone by of 2012, recalling both times that have warmed our hearts and hard lessons learned.  Likewise, many of us will be looking ahead to 2013, welcoming the upcoming year with open arms and anticipating the great fortunate of another year of life. 

So, as you transition into this New Year, whether you are looking behind to 2012 or ahead into 2013, please consider the following Buddhist parable: 

A young man, who has been traveling for many days, has become trapped on one side of the river.  On this side of the river, there is great danger and uncertainty, and on the other, there is safety.  Of course, to continue on his journey, he must leave this dangerous side of the river and brave the water in hopes of reaching the safety of the other side.  However, as he surveys the land, he realizes that there is no ferry to bring him across the river, and no bridge spanning the water.  As he takes stock of his own belongings, he is reminded that he has only the clothes on his back, the shoes on his feet, and a small number of survival tools in his knapsack.  After sifting through his knapsack, however, he realizes that he has everything he needs to build a small raft to help him reach the other side.  So, he diligently gathers logs, leaves, vines, and mud, and fashions a raft that will float him across the river.  When the raft is complete, the man drags it to the bank of the river, climbs atop, and using his hands and feet, paddles himself to the other side of the river to safety.   

Imagine that you are this man, and you have just paddled yourself across the river to the banks of safety.  What is it that you will do next?  Do you bring your raft with you and carry it across your back, thinking to yourself, “This raft has served me so well in the past, and I am rather fond of it.  I will be so happy to have it, should I need it again”?  Or, do you lay the raft down gratefully and leave it behind, thinking, “This raft has served me so well.  I am so fortunate to have been able to use it!  Should I need it again, I now know that I have everything I need to build another one”?

…Most of us would agree that the second option is the wisest.  While it would be nice to have a raft should we need it in the future, we see that it would be rather cumbersome to carry the raft with us and that doing so would undoubtedly slow us down as we continue on our journey.  And, we have learned, much like the man in our story, that there is no need to burden ourselves with things such as this raft, because we do indeed carry with us everything we need to continue on our path, no matter what it is that we encounter. 

So, as you journey into 2013, I encourage you to take inventory of yourself and your “belongings”.  As you do so, remember that most things, like the raft, are meant to be used to “cross over”, rather than to be carried with us.  


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

This Christmas

Once again, Christmas is upon us, and many of us are finding ourselves immersed in holiday cheer and excitement, magical festivities, heartwarming traditions, and the sheer goodness that seems to accompany the holiday season.
Each year, as I begin preparing for the holidays, I ask my children to write a letter to Santa Claus. In their letters, they of course take care to include their holiday wish list. This year, my four year-old daughter asked Santa for the following things:
1. A kitten (brand new)
2. Someone to come out of the TV (maybe Dora and Diego)
3. A huge motorcycle machine that drives me off in pretty clothes
4. To slide down a rainbow
5. To climb a mountain
6. A make-up party
7. Sticky gloves to stick on the walls and climb the ceiling
8. Run super-fast in the really far woods
9. My own money. That is pink
10. A phone that I call someone for real
11. A brand new costume that is everything
…Fortunately for Santa and I, her list included thirteen additional items that are a bit more feasible in terms of holiday gift-giving, while my ten year-old son created a list of five items, such as Legos and DS games, that he would like to receive from Santa Claus. To be fair, I asked my husband to do the same, and after several days of deliberation, he was able to think of one thing that he would like for Christmas. I, on the other hand, am still thinking of something tangible that I would like to receive this year.
As I reviewed my family’s wish lists, I could not help but to reflect upon the experience of Christmas, and the transformation it undergoes as we mature. As four year-olds, we are much like my daughter. We are in awe of the magical wonderland that is Christmas, believing in such beautiful things as the selfless charity of a timeless old man, the flight of his eight tiny reindeer, and the possibility of even our wildest dreams coming true. As we grow older, however, it seems that we slowly lose touch with this fantastical side of ourselves. Instead, we gravitate toward things that are more realistic in nature, more tangible, and less whimsical. We forgo our imagination, intuition, and creativity in favor of relying on our logic, reason, and practicality, and before we know it, we have become immersed in a reality that reflects our idled dreams. Our Christmas, then, is no longer a time of magic and wonder. Rather, it has become a time of hustle, bustle, stuff, and stress.
Of course, I fully recognize that at least some part of ourselves must operate in the realistic realm. However, I do encourage you to adopt your inner four year-old this season, and rediscover the magic of Christmas and the beauty of your every-day life.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I am my problem, and I am also my solution.

A few weekends ago, my son found me buried under a pile of books, pouring over my notes and typing away on my computer.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Homework,” I told him.
“Homework!?” he asked.  “Now what for?”
“Yoga training,” I told him.
He watched me for a moment longer before saying, “Mom, remember when you were stressed out about everything that you have to do all the time?”
“Yes?” I replied.
“Well, no offense,” he said, “But you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself.  It is kind of your own fault”.
…My son has this fabulous way of rendering me speechless from time to time.  He makes these wonderful observations, and then he finds these incredibly simplistic yet profound and blatantly honest ways of telling me like it is.  He calls it like he sees it, and far more often than not, he is right.  He holds up a mirror for me to gaze in to just when I seem to need it most, forcing me to stop dead in my tracks and reconsider what I have been up to.  As I do so, I often find myself adopting a new perspective and approaching life from a slightly new angle.  He tends to begin many of said statements of truth with the dreaded No Offense, saying “No offense, Mom, but…” and then the words that follow are some eye-opening observation that he has made.  As I listen to him, it is as if I am dying to know what brilliant statement he is about to make, while simultaneously bracing myself for some tough love.
Yet, even if he does make me wince from time to time, his insight really is a beautiful thing.  Because every time he demonstrates a bit of such wisdom, he serves as a reminder that “I am my problem, and I am also my solution.”  He reminds me that it is I that am the one stressing myself out.  It is I that has the tendency to take on the world.  And it is I that am the only one who can do anything about it, whether I keep on keepin’ on, or I give myself a break.  He reminds me that, for better or for worse, I am up to me, and I had better take responsibility for myself. No matter the problem I am faced with, I must bear in mind that I represent some part of the problem, if not the whole thing.  And, I must care for that part of myself differently if I am to reach a resolution. 
So, today, I challenge you, readers, to take such a look at your life.  And as you do, reflect on how you have become your own problem.  Of course, do  not be hard on yourself, but rather, acknowledge the tendencies you have that might perpetuate issues in your life.  And most importantly, ask yourself what you can do differently to become your own solution. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Consider the following passage: 
One evening an elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandson about life.  He said to him, “A fight is going on inside me.  It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves.
One is Evil.
 It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, dishonesty, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good.
 It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The elder told his grandson of how these two wolves engage in constant battle, and he said, “My dear boy, this same fight is going on inside you.  And it is going on inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about his grandfather’s words for a moment, and then he asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee replied matter-of-factly, “The one you feed.”
…I have come across this passage numerous times over the past few years, and each time I read it, I find myself asking, “Which wolf have I been feeding lately?”
Like most of you, readers, I like to think that I spend most of my energies feeding the good wolf.  I like to think this because I believe that our thoughts really do make our world.  I believe in maintaining an optimistic outlook on life, and I believe in the power of love, kindness, peace, authenticity and all other traits that the Cherokee elder said the good wolf embodied.  And because I believe in this, I also believe that investing my energies in the good wolf will undoubtedly lead me to a more fulfilling reality than its evil counterpart ever will. 
Yet, if I am to be completely honest with myself, I must admit that the evil wolf has gotten the best of me from time to time.  By investing my energy and feeding into this evil wolf, I have allowed it to cloud my perspective, harbor hard feelings, and lead me astray.  Again, if our thoughts make our world, feeding the bad wolf, and thus allowing him to win, will lead to nothing but discontent. 
…I encourage you to take a moment out of your day today and think about which wolf you have been feeding lately.  Is your good wolf, your wolf of love, strength, honesty, compassion, and benevolence, alive and well?   I hope for you that it is.  However, if you find that your evil wolf of insecurity, anger, sorrow, resentment, or self-pity has become more powerful, remember that you have the power to change that.  By feeding the good wolf and investing yourself in positive thoughts, feelings, and actions, the return on your investment will surely be more rewarding than anything that the bad wolf will ever have to offer.    

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


It is an election year, as I am sure you are well aware.  And as I am sure you well know, Election Day is right around the corner.  Soon, the campaigns that have been flooding our eyes and ears will come to an end, and we will instead hear and read about the results of the election, the success of one political party over another, and the impending changes that are about to take effect.  And inevitably, we will also have an opportunity to voice our opinions, and consider those that have been shared by others, regarding the perceived well-being of our nation, its people, and our future as American citizens. 
Like many of you, I have partaken in numerous political discussions over the past few weeks, and I have read and overheard even more than I have participated in.  In doing so, I have listened to people as they passionately express their political beliefs and their adamant intentions of voting for the party they believe in,  formulating an argument for and against one party or the other, their representing candidates, and the numerous issues that will be on the ballot this year.  And on the contrary, I have heard countless people say that they do not intend to vote at all because they feel torn on an issue or they do not support either candidate this election year. 
As I listen to these arguments and discussions, I cannot help but to consider my own beliefs and opinions about what is “best” for our nation as I see it.  Yet regardless of my own political beliefs, and whether or not they are in agreement with others, I do think that it is important to vote.  I think that, as a members of a democracy, it is important to take this opportunity to raise our voice by casting our vote and advocate for what we believe in.
When I was twenty-one years old, I had my first opportunity to vote in a presidential election, though I was uncertain of my political beliefs.  Unsure of who I would vote for, I told my dad that I would sit this one out.  Upon hearing that, my father brought me up to speed on both candidates and he urged me to vote for who best represented my personal beliefs.  After he did so, he told me, “Ellie, it is important to vote.  Voting is a responsibility, an obligation, and a privilege a citizen of this country.”
I believe my father is right.  No matter your political beliefs, do cast your vote this Tuesday.  See to it that you fulfill your responsibility of advocating for what you believe in and know that you are privileged to have such an opportunity to do so.   

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Step By Step

When I was very young, my family spent a few days vacationing at Itasca State Park.  I was only four or five years old at the time, and I remember very little about the trip.  In fact, the only thing I remember about that summer vacation at all is visiting the source of the Mississippi River. I know that my mother and my sister were with me, I assume that my father was too, and if my memory serves me correctly, I was also accompanied by my aunt and my three cousins.  I don’t remember how we had spent that morning or the afternoon, nor do I remember arriving to the park.  Rather, my memory begins and ends with me being in what seemed to be the middle of the Mississippi River, carefully stepping from one slippery stone to another, as I tried to make my way across the water and to the shore.  My sister may have played alongside me, my mother may have encouraged me as I went, and I likely lost my footing from time to time.  However, if these things did occur, I do not remember them.  I remember one thing and one thing only:  carefully, yet clumsily, making my way across that mighty river. 

Of course, this memory is hardly remarkable.  But I do think that it represents an unmistakable metaphor for the journey that is life.  For, it is so often that we find ourselves in the middle of somewhere (or, nowhere for that matter) not knowing how we got there, or where exactly we intend to go.  We may not know what step it is that we are going to take next, and we may feel completely uncertain how, much less where, our feet will land as we put one foot in front of the other and carry on.  Yet, we continue to move forward, despite our uncertainty.  And we have faith that our journey will lead us to where we need to be.  For now. 

Much like in my memory of walking across the source of the Mississippi River, sometimes it is not our destination that matters most.  And paradoxically, sometimes it is not the particulars of the journey that is most important either.  Rather, sometimes, it is the faith that we have in ourselves and the forward movement that we are making in the face of uncertainty that is most valuable to us at that time.   

So, if you find yourself stumbling from stone to stone, and you feel unsure about where it is that you are heading, do not lose heart.  Remember that progress is not only measured by the direction we are heading, nor does happiness always depend upon the shore that we reach.  In fact, it is not even the stones that we step on that most determine our outcome.  Rather, what is most important during these times is the courage to act despite apprehension, the ability to persevere despite difficulty, and the faith that who we are and what we are made of is greater than any obstacle we may encounter. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012


If you have ever been a part of a relationship, I am willing to bet that you have also found yourself amidst an internal struggle that is, at least in part, due to something that has happened within that relationship. Something that was confusing, hurtful, or upsetting. Something that was difficult to let go of, move on from, or understand. As such, I am willing to bet that whatever it was that had caused you discomfort has also had a lasting impact on you in some meaningful way. Perhaps it has influenced how you approach people. Perhaps it taught you a valuable lesson. Perhaps it shaped you in some other meaningful way, for better or for worse. Rarely do we make it through such things without an impact being made.
Because of this, it comes as no surprise that such lesson can be quite difficult to learn. That we may be rendered incapable of embracing a lesson until we are capable of approaching the situation from an entirely different perspective. A perspective that does not focus on the hurt and is instead driven by a compassionate empathy for all that are involved. A perspective that allows us to let go of what may otherwise hard to set free.
When you take a moment to think about the implications of approaching painful circumstance in such a loving way, it is no wonder that many of us undergo a transformation of sorts as we move forward. It is no wonder that we also begin to soften, forgive, and let go of that which has hurt us in the past. I say that this is no wonder, because I believe that when we are able to approach another human being from a point of compassion, we begin to see life through their eyes, instead of through our own, and in doing so, we often gain a better understanding of their true intentions and greater insight into their deeper experiences. Rather than being convinced that we have been hurt by their selfishness or deceit, we may see instead that they were driven by another force entirely. Or, rather than looking down upon them with disappointment, judgment, or condemnation, we may soften our gaze and realize that they are coming from a place that we otherwise may not understand.
And of course, as I say this, please understand that I do not mean to minimize any pain that has been experienced, nor excuse any wounds that have been inflicted. I only mean to say that it does seem to feel better, and therefore take us farther, when we are able to invest in love and compassion and allow our pain to be transformed, rather than submerge ourselves in negative and destructive emotions.
So today, if you find yourself revisiting a painful relationship, I challenge you to consider the alternative perspective. Attempt to understand what may otherwise be unfathomable. Reject the victim mentality and let go of blame. Instead, hold fast to your optimism in humankind and have faith in what you believe to be good.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Consider this passage from the book, “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach.

 “In the 1950s a few highly trained pilots in the U.S Air Force were given the task of flying at altitudes higher than ever attempted.  Going beyond the earth’s denser atmosphere, they found, much to their horror, that the ordinary laws of aerodynamics no longer existed…a plane could skid into a flat spin…and tumble end over end towards the earth.

 “The first pilots to face this challenge responded by frantically trying to stabilize their planes… The more furiously they manipulated the controls, the wilder the ride became.  Screaming helplessly to the ground control, “What do I do next?” they would plunge to their deaths.

 “This tragic drama occurred several times until one of the pilots inadvertently struck upon a solution.  When his plane began tumbling, he was thrown violently around the cockpit and knocked out.  Unconscious, he plummeted toward earth.  Seven miles later, the plane reentered the planet’s denser atmosphere, where standard navigation strategies could be implemented.  He came to, steadied the craft and landed safely.  He had discovered the only lifesaving response that was possible in this desperate situation: Don’t do anything… Take your hands off the controls…It counters all training and even basic survival instincts,…but it works.”

 We have all been there, in one way or another.  We have all faced a situation in life that has literally thrown us for a loop, brought us to our knees, or knocked the very wind from our sails.  We have all experienced some situation in life that we simply have not known what to do.

When we are faced with such circumstances, it is quite natural to do everything we can to control the situation.  But imagine for a second what it would be like to deliberately take our hands off the controls.  To interrupt our normal patterns of thinking, feeling, and doing, and instead take a moment to pause and observe what is going in our surroundings and inside of ourselves.

And while taking our hands off the controls certainly does not solve all of our problems, it does suspend time just long enough to  gaze inward instead of outward, and re-evaluate where we are, who we are, and what is happening in the deepest, most intimate parts of our hearts and souls.

When we take a moment to pause, we may not know what will happen next, but we open ourselves to subtle messages, new possibilities, and potential clarity.  We develop the capacity to stop running, hiding, controlling, and camouflaging, and instead accept our immediate inner experiences.

Ultimately, we open ourselves to who, what, and where we really are…at that moment.

Now and then, considering giving yourself permission to take your hands off the controls.  Find the power of the pause, and observe what is going on inside of yourself.  Accept the experience that you discover, and learn, most of all, something from it. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


With September quickly approaching, many of us are experiencing that shift of energy that accompanies the start of each school year.  We begin thinking about wrapping up the summer and transitioning into fall.  We begin to make arrangements for ourselves and our children, readjust our lives, and prepare for the first day of school and the excitement that follows. 

As we get caught up in the excitement of the school year, however, we often feel ourselves getting overwhelmed.  We stress ourselves out about practicalities, tending to the planning, the details of activities, the logistics of schedules, and the added responsibility of schoolwork, and we forget to take a moment to slow down and gaze at the bigger picture.  We forget about the softer side of things, and overlook the emotions the often accompany the transition in to school. 

It can be so easy to forget to check in with our children and ask them how they feel about the impending school year. We often assume that because our young ones have a backpack full of supplies, new clothes in their closets, and shiny shoes on their feet, they have everything needed to start the school year.   We like to consider them prepared because they have attended the open house, met their teachers, and memorized their schedules.  Or because our kids know where their lockers are located, they are ready to roam the halls of middle school.  It can be so natural to allow the anticipation and excitement of senior year to overshadow the anxiety and fear of graduating.  Likewise, we often tend to assume that our college students are prepared for the reality they are about to encounter, and perhaps most often, we forget that parents of school-aged children and empty-nesters are handling the adjustment with ease. 

Yet, in truth, true school readiness is so much more than material things, basic skills, and partial truths.  Of course it is true that academic performance and effort is important in school, but school is so much more than that.  True it is classwork, assignments, concentration, and organization.  But to succeed as students, our children must also feel supported by their parents and their teachers.  They must have food in their bellies, adequate sleep, and the ability to manage their emotions.  They must feel a sense of belonging amongst their peers and be able to work in teams.  They must have at least some sense of self, problem-solving skills, and perspective.  Similarly, they must be equipped with coping skills, stress management techniques, and resilience. 

Unfortunately, though, it is all too easy to overlook the importance of such survival skills.  Or perhaps more commonly, such skills are difficult to teach and are therefore not adequately addressed.  Because of this, these intangible assets often fall lower on our list of priorities than they really should.  And while it is admittedly difficult for parents to instill such traits in our children and feel confident in their ability to do so, it is paramount to their well-being, happiness, and success. 

This year, parents and support people, I encourage you to take extra care as you prepare your children for the 2012-2013 school year.  As you tend to the preparations and details of school readiness, ensure that you also tend to the full spectrum of your child’s needs.  Remember that as one part of system, collaboration is crucial.  Check in with young ones regularly, encourage them to express their concerns, remain involved in their lives, and support them as they embark on this year’s journey. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Reason, A Season

There once was a man who wanted to teach his four sons a valuable lesson: He wanted them to learn how to refrain from passing judgment too quickly. So with this lesson in mind, he sent each of them on a separate quest with the same goal. Each of his sons was to travel, in turn, a great distance to a far off pear tree he knew of. He helped each of them prepare for their journeys, and sent them on their way, one by one.

His oldest son was instructed to go first. He left after the first snow fall, and returned just before spring. The second son embarked on his journey shortly after the arrival of his brother,and returned early summer. The third son left promptly thereafter and was gone for the duration of the summer. The fourth son finally took his turn that autumn,and returned just before winter.

Once all four sons were gathered back home after their journey, their father called them together to describe what they had seen. The first son, who had traveled to the pear tree during the winter, said that the tree was ugly, twisted, and lifeless. The second son, who had been gone that spring, disagreed. He said that the tree was covered with green buds and was full of promise. The third son, who had seen the tree in the summer, said that it was laden with sweet smelling blossoms, and he described it as the most graceful thing he had ever seen. The fourth son disagreed yet again; he said that the tree was bountiful, drooping with fruit, and full of life and fulfillment.

After listening to his sons, the man explained that each of them was right, as they had seen only one season of the tree’s entire life. He asked his sons to imagine what the tree had looked like during the other seasons of its life. How it had looked when it was just a sapling, and what it might look like when it is twisted and old. The man told his sons that they cannot just a tree by only one season. That the essence of that tree, and all that it is has offered in its lifetime, can only be measured when all its seasons have passed.

And so it is with people, is it not? Quite often, we judge ourselves and others too quickly. We base our perceptions on just one season out of many. Too often, we conclude that “what we see (now) is what we (will always) get”. And this is not true. Like the pear tree, we humans have many seasons that we are continuously cycling through. We each experience the harsh resilience of winter, the promise of spring, the beauty of summer, and the fulfillment of autumn. Yet, if we are to judge ourselves too quickly and only acknowledge one season, we lose site of the true meaning and value behind the bigger picture.


Friday, July 27, 2012


Many of us have been through a difficult time at some point in our lives. And many of us were fortunate enough to have come across a resource or two that helped us out.

Wings of Hope is compiling a resource list for such trying times, and we would very much APPRECIATE any recommendations that you can give us!

Think: Books, Videos, Websites, Groups, Agencies, People. You name it! If it helped you, tell us about it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Once there was an elderly carpenter who was preparing to retire. He had been in the industry for many years, and while he was once quite talented and passionate about is work, he no longer felt fulfilled by his career and knew that it was time to make a change. So, he went to work one day and told his employer of his plans to leave the business in pursuit of a more leisurely life.

Of course, the employer was sorry to see this accomplished worker go, but he understood the change he sought and he wished him well on this new chapter of his life. Before bidding him his final farewell, however, the employer asked the old builder that he build one more home as a personal favor home to him. The carpenter agreed to grant him this request and slowly began working on his last project. Over time, though, it became apparent that his heart was not in his work: he dreaded coming to work each morning, he often left early, and he resorted to shoddy workmanship. Even the employer was saddened to watch him work, as it was a very unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.

When the carpenter had finally finished his work, he called his employer to inspect the house. After thoroughly reviewing the home, the employer handed the key to the front door to the carpenter and said, “My friend, you are a fine builder and a prize employee. This home is yours. It is my gift to you!”

The carpenter was shocked. “What a shame!” he thought. Had he only known that he was building his own retirement home, he would have done it all so differently. He would have cared more about the outcome.

And so it is in real life, is it not? We are the carpenters, and each day we build our lives, one day at a time, often putting less than our best effort into our work. And then, with great shock and regret, we realize that we must live in the house that we have built for ourselves. We look back at our work and wish that we would have been more diligent. We think to ourselves, “If only I had known, I would have done it so differently.”

But, of course, we cannot go back. Instead, we must live in the homes that we have built for ourselves. We must carry on and learn to appreciate and find beauty in even our shabbiest work, and perfect our skill with each project. This thing called life is a do-it-yourself project, and the choices we make today is what lays the foundation and builds upon our homes of tomorrow.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Resistance Makes the Heart Grow Stronger

Fun fact:  I almost never remember my dreams.  However, when I do, I am usually in flight.  Ever since I was quite young, in fact, my preferred mode of transportation while dreaming has been flying.  I had not thought much about this dream-theme of mine until I studied dream analysis in college and learned that dream flying is considered the perfect metaphor for living the soul’s longing, or life purpose.  Upon learning that, I did a forehead slap and thought to myself, “Duh!”  The symbolism is unmistakable:  For many, flight is associated with freedom, ascension, exhilaration, and peace.  Yet, not ironically, many of us have a fear of flying.  The idea of free-falling, losing control, letting go, and most obviously, the hard landing is incredibly frightening.  The metaphor still holds true, does it not? 

And so it is with fulfilling our life purpose, for doing so involves navigating obstacles, conquering incredible feats, and then making a conscious choice to evolve and grow.  Living out our soul’s longing means choosing the challenge of change over the difficulty of remaining the same while conquering fear and overcoming resistance every step of the way. 

If you have ever set out to accomplish something meaningful, you will know that resistance is an inescapable part of the journey.  And if you are anything like the rest of us, you have likely experienced resistance as an adversary.  And this was likely so because you did not understand your resistance well enough to make it your ally.  You tried to avoid, persist, and resist, rather than carry on with intention, commitment, surrender, and trust.  Because resistance really is nothing but a form of fear and insecurity, we are much better off examining it with self-awareness and honesty, getting to know it, and thus better understanding ourselves.  For the sooner we are able to do that, the sooner we are able to live out our higher aspirations. 

So in practice, what can we do about the resistance we experience?  We can start by being mindful of all the big and little things that distract us and slow us down as we set out to do the things that our hearts are telling us to do.  Notice when you procrastinate, when you make excuses, when you are highly defended, and take note of the things that you worry about.  Likewise, acknowledge any patterns that you discover, the limitations you perceive, and the strength of your resistance, and remember that most often, the greater the resistance surrounding a particular longing, the more important it likely is.

As you make a habit of examining your resistance and get comfortable with it, you will become increasingly aware and empowered to move beyond these distractions and forge ahead into the creative and authentic territory of your soul.  With more and more ease, you will bring your mind, body, and spirit into alignment and make decisions during each and every moment that support your higher purpose.  And ultimately, you will feel at home with yourself as you fly, and live a life of conviction, intention, and peace. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What are you so afraid of?

Several weeks ago, in my yoga study, I was given the assignment to journal and reflect on the connection between love and fear.  Our homework began with the task of taking note of the what we are afraid of as well as the things that we love.  We were reminded that our feelings of fear and love come in many forms:  our fear may be experienced as fright, anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity, while love may be expressed as demonstrations of emotional investment, passion, fondness, or true love itself.  After mindfully noting such emotions, we were instructed to analyze our feelings to decipher what exactly our attachment is, with the intention of detaching just a bit, and thus gaining a new perspective on life or a deeper understanding ourselves. 

This assignment is based on the theory that fear and love are the only basic emotions that we feel, and everything else stems from them:  greed stems from a fear of lacking, anger from a fear of perceived threat, humor stems from a love of the lighthearted, joy stems from a fulfilled love of some sort, and so on.  And while you may or may not agree with this theorizing, my homework showed me that there is a definite connection between love and fear.  That every single day we experience some kind of love.  Likewise, each and every day we encounter something that we fear.    

…If you take a moment to think about what that means for you personally, you will likely discover that there is a connection for you as well.  And as you see fear as an attachment to something you love, you may also find that fear itself is not be so scary after all.  Of course, there are plenty frightening things that may or may exist, that may or may not happen to us in our lives, but fear itself is nothing more than a feeling.  It is just one of many emotions that we may feel at any given time.  It is natural, it is okay, and it is useful.  Fear is always looking out for our best interest.  It demands our attention, warning us of potential threats, and it guides us toward safety and security. 

However, because fear is just an emotion, and it is just like the rest of them, it is up to us to be aware of our feelings, prioritize them, and act on those that best serve our higher purpose, even in the face of fear so that we do not become its prisoner.   So when we feel frightened, what might we do?  It seems to me that before we do anything, we should slow down and acknowledge our fear.  Really examine it.  Take note of it has to say, and ask ourselves if that is worth listening to or if we are better off ignoring it.  And then, we can make one of two choices.  We can choose to do what fear tells us to do, at the risk of doing nothing.  Or, we can remember the words of Franklin Roosevelt, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” and call upon our courage and act anyway.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

As the old adage goes, “You can’t make a square peg fit in a round hole.”  Most of us know exactly what this saying means:  You cannot force something (or most often, someone) to be something that it is not.  We cannot make a square peg  fit any better into a round hole by thinking that the hole should be square or wanting the peg to be round.  Instead, we are much better suited to focus on and tend to what actually is, rather than wasting our precious resources fretting about the way things should or should not be.  And while most of us would agree with this reasoning, it is certainly easier said than done. 

When we are honest with ourselves and examine how we view the world, the majority of us would have to admit that we have a relatively clear idea of how things should be.  Whether we are talking about ourselves, other people, the ways of the world, or something different entirely, it seems that we all have some kind of definition of what should and should not be happening.  We have our ideals, our beliefs, and our way of making sense of the world, and it reasonably follows that we would like to live in a world that supports our views.    

And I think this is quite natural.  As humans, it is natural to have personal preferences and aversions.  It is even natural to want things to be “our way”.  To see the world through our very own eyes.  To have a few expectations here and there.  To have a compass of sorts, that helps guide us toward betterment, as we see fit.

And while this may be entirely natural, and even beneficial, it is not always in our best interest.  For when we become attached to our ideals and fixate on the way that things should be in favor of how things really are, we become frustrated and upset.  We might even pass unfair judgments based on our biased perspectives and unmet expectations.  As we cling to how things should be, we project them onto the world at large.  And when that happens, we react to what we think should exist, rather than acknowledging what actually does.  And this, of course, sets us up for further disappointment. 

However, when are able to detach from these “should bes” and take the world as it is, in a more objective light, we are better able to accept and respond to life as it truly is.  Instead of being obscured by ideals, we understand the facts.  Rather than focusing on what is missing, or what we would like to find, we deal with what is actually present.  And this is empowering, because it helps us clarify and illuminate what is within our power to change, and what is not.  And that is what allows us to integrate our ideals with our reality, live in the here and now, and interact with life as fully as possible. 


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

When Worst Comes to Worst

This week’s column is about a term that I like to refer to as “horrible-izing”.  If you are not familiar with the idea of horrible-izing, it can be defined as one’s tendency to focus on the worst of things.   For example, a person may be engaging in the act of horrible-izing if they overemphasize the negative side of life  Likewise, those that horrible-ize are those that ruminate, worry about worst possible outcomes, the dreaded “what ifs”, and tend to view undesirable situations as the “end of the world”. 

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us must admit that we horrible-ize from time to time, particularly when we are feeling anxious about an upcoming situation or a troublesome circumstance that we have encountered.  We fall into the trap of thinking about how badly things might go, how awful it would be for us if these events actually occurred, and we forget to take it one step further and consider what we might actually do  should these things really take place.  We might even get so wrapped up in our anxiety that we begin to worry that our life will be forever altered in some catastrophic way. 

If you would, take a moment to think about something in your life that is upsetting, anxiety-provoking, or unsettling.  Perhaps you are facing a transition in a relationship and you are unsure of how to move forward.  Perhaps you have committed yourself to something that is a significant undertaking.  Perhaps you have recently encountered a situation in life that you are unsure of how to handle.  Or, perhaps, you tend to experience smaller triggers on a more regular basis and you have become accustomed to feeling reactive, tightly wound, or shaken up. Or, perhaps something entirely different has come to mind

Regardless of what you thought of, I would like you to think about how you think about those things.  Take a minute or two and horrible-ize.  Think about the worst of the worst, no matter what that may be. 

Then, take note of what came to mind.  I am willing to bet that you stopped short at the worst case scenario and you went no further.  If that is the case, I would like to challenge you to change your thinking.  Rather than focusing on the bad things that could happen and stopping there, take one step beyond and imagine how you might live through and overcome such an obstacle.  Instead of obsessing about the possibility of something bad happening, ask yourself how probable it is that your worries come true.  Ask yourself if this is something that you could live through, and if so, how would life look?  Would it be that bad? 

Finally, compare these two thought processes and decide for yourself which one you would rather invest your energies in to.  Take into account that “what we think about, we bring about”, and remember that your thoughts and your perspective on life will always be your choice.   

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When Things Aren't Adding Up...

“When things aren’t adding up in life, it is time to start subtracting.”

I came across this quote a few weeks ago, and was struck by how much it resonated with me.  As I reflected on the simplicity of the quote and what it means to me personally, I realized that I have lived my entire adult life in a state of perpetual action.  As I apply this quote to myself and the numerous aspects of my very busy life, I see that I am quite good at adding, I do rather well at maintaining, but rarely do I subtract.  It is no wonder that my life does not always add up. 

I imagine, readers, that the majority of you can relate to what I have described.  I would imagine that you are no strangers to the busy-ness of life.  That the feeling of being spread out too thin is one that you know rather well.  That you have described yourself as feeling stressed, exhausted, or overwhelmed at some point in the recent past.  And if you can identify with these feelings in one way or another, I would also imagine that you can relate to the quote that began this column.  That there are times in your life when things just are not adding up for you.  That there are times when you need to subtract. 

And yet, even if you can relate to these feelings, the idea of subtracting can be a difficult one to employ.  After all, we apply ourselves to the things that we do because we care about them in some meaningful way.  Because we have a vested interest in them.  Because we have made a promise to someone, or we feel a sense of personal commitment or responsibility to the people involved or the outcome at stake.  Because we feel driven by a sense of obligation, pressure, or guilt to do what is expected of us. And because of these contrasting feelings, it is natural for us to be unsure of even where to begin or to resist the idea of subtraction all together, despite our need for a more simplified life. 

So as you reflect on today’s quote and what it means to you personally, I encourage you to think about how you might simplify your own life.  As you take an inventory of what you give yourself to, consider also what you get back from those things.  Which areas of your life fill you up in some meaningful way?  And conversely, which areas tend to be more taxing, or stress-inducing, than they are fulfilling?  What areas of your life do you feel that you can or cannot live without?  And what might be able to live without you?  How you might you feel with “less” in your life, and what would you do with that time and energy?  How might other aspects of your life benefit from a more wholehearted investment of yourself? 

As you consider these questions and reflect on the value of a more simplified life, I hope that the answers you discover are simple in and of themselves, and I hope that they offer you gentle guidance toward a more simplified yet rewarding life. 


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Power to the People

Before you read any further, I’d like you to take a moment and consider what the word power means to you.  When you think of these words, perhaps you think of something or someone that has authority or control over something or someone else.  Maybe you think of something or someone that is influential or impactful in some way.  Or perhaps, instead, your definition of these words is more along the lines of manipulation or domination.  When you think of power, do you tend to associate its traits with other people, or might you also think of the power that things, habits, behaviors, and ideals can have?

As you reflect on what this word means to you, I challenge you to also think about what has power in your life.  Are there certain people that have an especially powerful impact on you?  People that have the power to influence how you feel and what you do?  Do you find yourself concerned with what people might think about you, or how you compare to societal standards?  What kind of a relationship do you have with common objects, such as money, food, and alcohol?  Do they serve as a simple means to an end, or do you have an emotional attachment to such things?  How reactive or avoidant are you to strong emotions or stressful situations?  Perhaps none of these examples resonate with you and there is something else that has a powerful presence in your life.  Or, perhaps not.  Perhaps you are truly your own keeper. 

Power, in and of itself, is a dynamic that is neither positive nor negative.  However, power does receive value when we let it influence our lives in some meaningful way.  If we give our power way to people and things outside of ourselves, we surrender a part of ourselves to them.  In contrast, we maintain our personal power when we are able to have a relationship with external things without being controlled by them. 

As you think about your personal definition of power today and reflect on what has power in your life, I encourage you to rethink your relationship with those things if it is no longer serving your higher purpose.  Remember that no thing can have power over you if you do not submit a part of yourself to it, and that empowerment, encouragement, and liberation are far more powerful forces than domination, oppression, control, or authority.  And finally, remember that true freedom lies not in being free to do whatever you wish, but in freeing your mind, your heart, and your true self from negative limitations and constraints so that you may embrace authenticity, peace, and a more harmonious life.      


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How You Doin'?

“How are you?” is such a simple question.  It is a question that most of us both inquire and answer every day.  In fact, this question is rather reflexive for most:  we use it as a greeting, a formality, even a habit.  And, quite often, we answer this question in a similar manner.  We partake in “how are you” exchanges so many times a day that we don’t even realize how often we use it.  In a sense, we we’ve become desensitized, and as a result, we do not pay attention what we say and hear on a daily basis. 

Take a moment and think about how many times you have heard that one little question just today.  How many times have you asked this question, and how did you go about doing so?  Was it a form of hello or a quick exchange?  And how intentionally was it asked?  Did you listen to the answer?  If you have been asked “how are you?” today, what was your reply? 

I am willing to bet that these exchanges were positive, impersonal, and brief.  Perhaps you cannot even recall the specifics of such interactions.  It seems that we often don’t listen to the answers people supply to this question, nor do we expect to hear an answer that is substantial or boldly honest. 

So what would like it be like, then, if someone asked, “how ARE you?”  How would you feel if someone took the time to investigate exactly how you are holding up?  What might it be like for you if someone expressed a genuine interest in your feelings, your well-being, the current events of your life?  What might you think if someone would not accept a “fine, thanks” for an answer and insisted that you must have something more to say, and they would like to hear more about it.  Of course, it is a social norm to keep our inquiries and disclosures short and sweet, but wouldn’t it be nice if we took the time to show a more genuine concern and curiosity for one another’s well-being?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we created more opportunities to invite others to engage in such a way? 

It is my hope for you that you have people in your life that will take part that will take part in this meaningful exchange, for it implies that you are fortunate enough to have sincerity in your life.  It illustrates the consideration, concern, and lovingkindness that you have with your loved ones.  It demonstrates care, and that assumptions, formalities, and cover-ups are not being made, and that you feel invited and secure enough to talk about your experiences. 

Today, I encourage you to ask “how are you?”  in a different way.  Seek out a real answer and really consider what you hear.  Take a bit of time to show your friends how much you care, how much they are loved.  Break your own habits and dare to tell someone how you really are.  Give someone a chance to lend you an ear.  If you can, connect in this way, and I think you will be surprised by what you hear and learn about your loved ones, as well as what you share about yourself. 


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hakuna Matata

Consider this:  What if we had no past?  What if we were only operating with our short-term memory, and we woke up each and every morning, only to deal with the day that we have opened our eyes to?  What if we lived each day without the memories of yesterday, or the distraction of tomorrow?  Can you imagine how life might be different for you if you treated each day, and everything that it presents, as something entirely new?

Time and time again, we have been told to live in the present moment, as fully we are able.  We are told to learn what we can from the past, to accept it, and to let it go.  Likewise, we are told that there is no sense in worrying about the future, that tomorrow will take care of itself, that we should let it unfold as it may.  And so this is true.

Most of us, it seems, are able to learn about ourselves and the world around us because of the things that we have lived through.  We are continuously transforming and evolving, being molded not only by our past, but also by how we relate to it.  In a sense, our past is something to be grateful for, no matter what is looks like, because it has helped create both who we are and the lives that we are living today.

Yet, spending too much time in the past can be a problem.  When we relive each struggle, open each wound, and recount each moment of pain, we inhibit ourselves from moving on to more positive things.  Similarly, we run the risk of underappreciating the beauty that we have when we cling to our glory days and compare our present state to the times that we remember with longing.  Living in the past in such a way is a hindrance because it removes us from the here and now.  It makes us miss out on what is happening in our lives today.  And it may prevent us from enjoying things as they currently are, healing hurts that have happened to us in the past, and avoiding those that may be coming in the future. 

Because our pasts are a part of us, it does matter.  But perhaps it does not matter as much as we may think.  Perhaps if we let go of some of our hurts and spend a little less time with the things that no longer need our attention, we may be better able to heal and grow, and tend to the things that need our attention in the here and now.  Perhaps if we bring our awareness away from what has already happened, we may open up to this moment and fully embrace what is yet to come.