October 19, 2012
It never ceases to amaze me how selective our memories can be. My best friend remembers things from our school days that I can’t even conjure up in a dream. I have no recollection whatsoever of some experiences, while she can’t remember other things I do. I am not certain whether it was our adolescent minds, not yet fully developed, that allowed for such lapses in our memories or if we are simply wiser today and carefully choose what to remember.
We place blinders on to filter information. Our world would otherwise be too overwhelming if we were to take in every nuance in our surroundings. But lifting the blinders, if only a little, would also widen our lens and our view of things.
They say we tend to get more narrow-minded as we get older. Our horizon shrinks, our attention span shortens. But what if we were committed to fully embrace every aspect of a moment as it is laid out in front of us instead of putting it through our translation machine of meaning-making nonsense? What if we were to take on the entirety of the experience, such as eating an ice cream cone on a sunny day, instead of checking our smartphone while we lick away at it? Would we have a different memory of it then?
There aren’t many things we do with a singular focus, except perhaps sleeping. Even then, our subconscious mind is active, feeding us dreams and processing data in its memory bank of time.
Dreams can be helpful for memory recall. I recently had a dream about an actual car accident I had ten years ago. In my dream, the car swerved toward another car. All I could think in my dreaming mind was :”This is it.” I had a similar thought in real life as the car turned 180 degrees one way, then bounced back in the other direction, but luckily there were no cars in sight. In my dream, I was ready to take on death with a singular beat. It was a moment of full acceptance of the experience.
In our dreams we are capable of doing things we can’t do in real life, such as fly. But the symbolic meaning behind the dreams, such as the one I had, can tell us a lot about what we are really thinking.
Pay attention to your dreams for they are the land mine of our memories. If you can’t remember your dreams, go to bed at night telling yourself you will remember at least one aspect of the next dream you have. As you wake up, write it down right away. After a time, you might start to be able to remember more. You might also start to see patterns.
In your waking moments, absorb the entirety of one experience today. It might not help you remember your dreams any better, but it will help you remember the life you lead.
October 17, 2012
Empathy is a lovely quality. It means you can walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and feel their journey. It also simply means you can feel.
How many of us can’t even do that anymore?
Nineteenth century poet Henry David Thoreau once wrote that most men lead lives of quiet desperation. We aren’t loud about our unhappiness. We just cover it up with more stuff, thereby numbing our pain…and our joy too.
Slow says you don’t need stuff to be happy. In fact, less is really more. What does give you greater access to happiness is a spectrum of emotions that most boys, in particular, are taught not to feel.
So when Son came home with a schoolyard bully story, I listened carefully to what he was trying to say. At first he proudly told me of his verbal jabs, that he successfully defended himself from the mean kid. But as lunch wore on, Son asked why he can’t suppress his own tears.
“I hate it when I cry.” He was embarrassed to admit he cried in front of his friends.
That’s when I put down the frying pan and looked Son square in the eye.
“I have a secret,” I began in a whisper. “Did you know that men who cry are so much more attractive than men who don’t? In fact, there is nothing better than a man who can feel.”
Son laughed outloud.
I explained that when we only operate from our minds, we are limited, but that the heart is a place that is boundless. It is the source of all creativity and joy. Keeping the pathway open to our hearts gives us unspeakable power and an endlessness no other place can provide. The heart, I told him, is where everything begins and ends.
He seemed satisfied with my answer. For now.
So for you men out there reading this, do cry. It will not only set you free. It might also get you that date you’ve been waiting for all your life.
October 16, 2012
Listening. It is a hard skill to learn.
The irony is we have an innate ability to listen. In fact, it has been necessary for our survival as a species.
Before we learned to speak, we had to listen to our parents.
Before we lived in safe housing, we had to listen for predators.
Before we had radio, television or the Internet, we had to listen to each other.
Before you can learn a foreign language well, you have to listen to a native speaker.
In observing my children, I have noticed that their adolescent brain development has made them unable to absorb certain kinds of sounds, such as the words “Clean up your room.”, “That dish belongs just left of where you put it, namely the dishwasher!”, or “Do you really think muddy shoes belong on your feet going up the stairs?” But teenagers aside, we adults have similar issues about listening to one another.
We only hear a fraction of what is really being said. A lot of it has to do with our filters through which we process information. She said, “X” so she must mean “Y”. We make up all kinds of meanings to interpret what a person has spoken based on our past experience.
But all we have is now. Every moment gives birth to a new possibility, a new world, a new way to enhance your relationships with others. If you let that world in, you wouldn’t believe what happens! All that tangled energy gets released. Blockages, like an ice cube in hot water, dissolve.
In Paulo Coelho’s book Aleph he writes:
“In magic -and in life – there is only the present moment, the now. You can’t measure time the way you measure the distance between two points. “Time” doesn’t pass. We human beings have enormous difficulty in focusing on the present; we’re always thinking about what we did, about how we could have done it better, about the consequences of our actions, and about why we didn’t act as we should have. Or else we think about the future, about what we’re going to do tomorrow, what precautions we should take, what dangers await us around the next corner, how to avoid what we don’t want and how to get what we have always dreamed of.”
If we stopped for a moment to really be with that person who is talking instead of with our own brain chatter, we might hear the intended meaning more clearly.
We all have our assumptions that we carry into conversations. But imagine what it would feel like to remove those assumptions for just one of them you will have today. Instead of assuming your neighbor will be grouchy, thereby affecting how you will greet her, take away those pretenses with an open mind. Or what if your boss, whom you assume isn’t a morning person, is someone you don’t avoid this morning, but instead approach with the intention to listen to whatever he says. Draw closer and you might find he is dropping clues as to why his face is so mean every morning.
Every one of us leaves a trace of what we are really saying in the room; a deep listener can hear it.
I’m up for the challenge to listen better today. Are you?
October 15, 2012
The Golden Rule says: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The idea isn’t new. It is a standard that rests on the belief that we are all one.
What we do to others really matters. And what we do to ourselves matters too. If we engage in negative self-talk, we aren’t only harming ourselves; we are also cheating the world of our best contribution. You wouldn’t inflict violence on someone close to you so why do you think it is acceptable to do that to yourself, the person to whom you are the closest of all?
As I have mentioned before, we all have a personal echo that resounds much farther than we realize. During a recent conversation with 10-Second Philosophy author Derek Mills, he helped me see that our impact on others may sometimes be invisible, but can be felt nonetheless. We don’t know what kind of effect we have on people and the ripples that occur as a result. Something we do, such as a smile, a kind word or a lengthy exchange, could change the entire chemistry of the room without our being aware of it.
The fun part is becoming aware of your impact and acting in the trust that what you do makes a difference. How? All you need is love ~ love yourself and others. Let it be your interpretor. It will guide you to the right path every time.
If you doubt how interconnected we all are, consider the image of each of us as a wave in the ocean. One wave is small; another is large. Sometimes two waves meld into a larger wave; sometimes they give birth to a third. But every one of the waves is headed to the shore and will eventually land there. We may be going in different directions, but the cycle of life dictates that the push and pull can only occur in concert with one another. Too much pushing leads to a tsunami, a state of destruction and radical change. But even then, the water eventually recedes.
The water that is in the Indian ocean will evaporate into a cloud and possibly move to another body of water as a raindrop. Such is the nature of all things.
Whether you are a raindrop or a wave today, how will you touch the world? I want to kiss the sky like a raindrop and ride the clouds for a while. And you?
October 14, 2012
If I were a bird, I would slice the mist with my wings just to see what it felt like. On a morning like this one, it must be nice to be a bird. Birds don’t need to physically see where they are headed. They already know.
Even without wings, we can learn to fly if we have an inner vision. Much like our avian friends, we must learn to rely on our inner navigation system to move about the mist when things aren’t clearly laid out in front of us. The more we tune into our internal compass, the stronger our connection to that purpose becomes and the higher we can go. No amount of mind talk will get you to where you are meant to be. It is the heart and its innate wisdom that carries your secret map.
While life is indeed a mystery, we can more acutely interpret our experiences when attuned to the voice within. At first in a whisper, the voice will grow in strength when you feed it what it needs. It takes courage, trust, patience and love to do so.
I can promise you this: That voice will guide you, especially when you are in a fog. When you see with your heart, the beauty of your life is revealed.
Are you listening?
October 13, 2012
That last statement of the pitch was what really hit home. As a long-time blogger, I receive countless pitches from PR folks about their various products, causes and ideas. It is rare that I respond to one, mainly because a good story is really hard to find amongst the massive onslaught of commercialized messages.
But this one is a story worth telling.
It is a fact that when women are healthier, societies overall are healthier.
Global health advocate and former model Christy Turlington Burns is participating in the ING Marathon on November 4 along with Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter, World Renowned Tattoo Artist Scott Campbell, The Smile Co-Owner Carlos Quirarte, Oiselle Founder/CEO Sally Bergesen and 45 other runners, to raise money and awareness for her non-profit organization, Every Mother Counts (EMC). To expand the reach of this effort, Every Mother Counts is calling on supporters everywhere to create their own team, and participate in a 5K run/walk in their town on November 4 while the EMC team hits the pavement in New York City.
Did you know that 5k is less than the average distance a pregnant woman in the developing world must travel to receive the basic health care she needs to deliver her baby?
Let’s face it. 5K is simply too far to walk for a woman who is 9 months pregnant, in labor, and has no access to transportation. By walking or running in communities across the country, Every Mother Counts aims to raise awareness of this simple but devastating barrier and empower people everywhere to get involved in helping women to overcome it.
How to join: It is as simple as grabbing a couple of friends and going for a 5K run/walk during the official ING New York City Marathon. Make a sign, tell friends on social media about your efforts. Then share your photos and stories with Every Mother Counts on our facebook page or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three additional ways to help support the un-official run:
1. Purchase the official Every Mother Counts marathon team shirt for your team and all proceeds will go to EMC. This year, team EMC will be outfitted by Oiselle, a growing women’s apparel company dedicated to female runners and EMC’s official athletic apparel sponsor. You can purchase team jerseys from the “EMC Collection,” on oiselle.com, and 40% of the proceeds will go to Every Mother Counts.
2. Join our Team by setting up your own CrowdRise page here and have friends and family sponsor your run by making donations through CrowdRise. All proceeds will go to EMC.
3. Please use Charity Miles, a free app that enables you to earn 25¢ per mile for Every Mother Counts, whenever you walk or run. It’s a free, easy way to raise both money and awareness for Every Mother Counts. And you can use it any time you walk or run— even if you’re not doing a full 5K. Please download the app to your iPhone or Android today. Every Mile Counts!
I’ve downloaded the app, which is based on your GPS so it is best to use outside (and not indoors where I tried to log exactly how much distance I run up and down the stairs all day).
You win through exercise. Pregnant women win through the help they need.
Let’s run/walk so others don’t have to.
October 12, 2012
It was not one of my finer moments. Eyeing the soft, dry grass, I knew it was a now-or-never moment to whip out the lawn mower for the final cut of the season.
In between phone calls, I raced around the house, collecting the extension cord and my tennis shoes for a quick jaunt around the yard with our electric mower. I read somewhere that grass clippings act as a natural fertilizer so I opted to mow without the clipping basket, making the mowing experience a tad louder and messier.
That’s when my neighbor decided to say hello through the hedge. In my breathlessness, I waved her off, although I hadn’t seen her all summer.
“Things to do!” I shouted over the mower’s drone.
“That’s right,” she said flatly. “You never have time.”
How could this be? Did I really give my retired neighbor the feeling I never have time for a chat over the fence? Did she feel slighted because I wouldn’t turn off my mower and have a gab in the light of the setting sun?
Maybe she heard the ticking of the clock in my cranium. I was busy and gave her the feeling she wasn’t important.
Back at the task, I sloppily pushed the mower around for a few minutes until our tiny lawn had been slaughtered into a diminutive version of itself.
As I flew back into the house, I caught the extension cord on the pedestal where my Buddha statue placidly rests. He tumbled to the ground, leaving a dent in the wood floor and shattering his right knee.
It was a sign that I needed to slow down. Now.
In that moment, I knew what I had to do. I headed back outside and called out to my neighbor.
“Where have you been, my friend?” I asked her calmly. She smiled. A warm exchange ensued. She suddenly felt heard, important, loved. It made me smile from the inside out.
I’m sorry, Buddha, for shattering your knee in the process. But since my mom saw the Dalai Lama live last night, I hope you’ll forgive me.
It’s a lesson I hope I’ve learned for the last time.
October 9, 2012
The average American spends nine years of his life watching television and two million commercials. Only two weeks of his life is spent kissing another person. Imagine if those numbers were reversed (and probably are in some countries!).
The average Joe spends 4,050 hours at a standstill in traffic (that is the equivalent of 506 nights of sleep), 4,320 hours at traffic lights, 5,365 hours talking on the phone and 122,400 hours working. He will have walked 35,000 miles in a lifetime, which is equal to walking from Paris to Shanghai and back ~ twice. At the same time, he will drive 798,000 miles: That’s 3.5 times to the moon and back.
If you look at these staggering statistics, it makes you realize how much of our time is spent with machines, not Nature or even each other. It makes me want to hug a tree and remember that we are all connected to everything: Not just through Facebook, but through our ultimate purpose in life, which is to love each other with all our might.
How will you spend your day today?
October 7, 2012
This weekend I attended a workshop by my brilliant acting coach and friend Gabrielle Scharnitzky called Acting from Your Sacred Space. It is based on ancient Native American wisdom that involves connecting with Nature and yourself. The centerpiece of the work is honoring that space within that we all have, yet all too often freely give away to others.
Tending to our sacred space is like tending to a garden. We need to cultivate it, give it enough room to grow and fend off predators that might wish to wreck it completely. It involves a listening we don’t often practice. How could we then? Most of us are brought up without the ears to do so. We do what we’re told, conform to the norm and stifle our creative inner child until it withers.
Your sacred space is where everything is allowed to be without judgement. It is where your inner beauty originates. Imagine a world in which everyone honored their sacred space.
That world begins with you.
October 5, 2012
According to Scientific American, moods are contagious. If you see someone frowning, you are more likely to frown. If they complain, you become less able to problem solve. Like someone who coughs, we instinctively turn away so as not to catch their germs. So-called emotional contagion can impact relationships significantly.
Marriage researchers Lisa A. Neff of the University of Texas at Austin and Benjamin R. Karney of the University of California, Los Angeles, tested over 150 couples for three years to determine how one spouse’s stress influences the other spouse and overall marital quality. Although women are thought to be more emotional than men, the findings were surprising. The study found that wives were not affected significantly by their husbands’ bad moods, while the husbands experienced lower marital satisfaction when their wives reported higher stress.
Ladies, it’s time we had more fun!
What the research has not suggested is that a good mood can be just as contagious. I experienced a group of extremely positive people in my travels recently. As a result, I found myself smiling constantly. It wasn’t the fake social smile we all give. It was one from the inside out. Positivity can touch you like that.
So be careful of the company you keep. Give yourself a dose of vitamin P by hanging with folks who make you feel good and drop the downers in your life. Otherwise their problems may become yours quicker than you can catch a cold.