Somewhere in the Dance

November 6, 2012

The framed picture spoke a thousand words in just a few:

“I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile I keep dancing.”

Your heart can dance even if your feet cannot. As I recently posted, life is a dance. The partners we choose make all the difference. You might not be able to choose the family you are born into, but you can choose the people that surround you. You can choose who to hang out with and who to let go. You get to decide whether to waltz or do the Texas swing.

You might fall down every once in a while, or trip over life’s unpleasantness. But as long as your heart keeps beating, you can remain somewhere in the dance.

Where are you in yours?

Travels to Myself

November 1, 2012

Whenever I board a plane, train or automobile to a new place, I am guided by my internal GPS. Every interaction I have or person I meet opens my eyes in new ways. I am informed by the novelty of the situation, but also by the ever-unfolding plan of the Universe that places me right in the middle of whatever I need to experience. It is particularly astounding to me how many cool people fly on airplanes.


Waiting at the Dulles International airport with Husband, I noticed a cute young couple in the corner, sharing food and body warmth as we waited to board our five-hour flight to San Diego. Husband and I had to change seats at the gate to ensure we sat together so our once randomly assigned seats were once again rearranged for that purpose. In other words, I wasn’t supposed to sit where I did, but I am so glad it worked out that way. I met the most fascinating doctor-in-training who laughed with me across the continent. When we got up to stretch our legs, I noticed the cute couple was right behind me in the next row. That’s when the girl engaged me in some small talk. It turns out she and her husband were returning from their honeymoon cruise just in time to miss Hurricane Sandy. Then, to my delight, she asked me if I might go to lunch with her.

“I just love your light,” she beamed. I beamed back and we made a date. A few days later we spent a lovely few hours together, chatting over lunch then walking on the beach. We revealed that neither one of us was supposed to be in the rows we were sitting (she was supposed to be on a different flight altogether). I shared with her the mystical-magical that we all possess. She already knew that. What impressed me most was when she said we already have everything we need. At 24 years old, she knows who she is. I was encouraged that the next generation’s consciousness will be higher than ours.

Travel brings us closer to who we are, guiding us to people of all ages and backgrounds. It shows us that no matter where we are on the planet, we expand a piece of who we are when we are engaged with each other, just like the Universe itself.

Dance in the light, my friends, wherever you are. Know that everything will work out just as it should. And that you are not alone.  Ever.

The Wisdom of the Trees

October 22, 2012

Tanja didn’t believe me at first.

“Hug a tree?” she skeptically looked at me over her steaming mug of coffee. “Alright then, Christine.” She refrained from rolling her eyes at me. For the moment.

I explained the power of trees, of their grounding nature, of their ability to speak to you if you listen closely. Tanja didn’t seem convinced, but a month or so later, she confessed that she tried it one day while traipsing through the woods.

Eyes lit with a fire I’d rarely seen before, Tanja recounted the experience.

“The tree literally talked to me,” she said in a reverent whisper. “There is wisdom in trees.”

If you haven’t paid attention to the trees in your life lately, you might want to take a look at the nearest one. How old do you think it is? In a recent visit to Switzerland, I found the most gracious giants, standing tall like sentries of a long-lost secret you can only access by hugging them tightly.

And hug them I did! This tree spoke to me in a language beyond words. Its solid grace made me bow before it. Before drawing closer, I asked its permission to give it a warm embrace. It nodded a “yes” in the wind. It told me of a time before the cemetery on which it stood was built. It told me of horses and wildlife and romantic lovers meeting under its limbs. I was astounded at the stories it told in that precious moment of connection.

Trees are the lungs of the Earth. Treat them with the respect they deserve. They are one of our greatest resources, not only for the air we breathe, but for those times of Slow that bring us back to our truest selves.

Do you doubt what I am saying? Give your neighborhood tree a squeeze. You, like Tanja, might just be surprised at what happens when you do.

The Art of Listening

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.


Then, as with any kind of language acquisition, we start to talk and talk and talk, but rarely really hear.

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?

The Oneness of Us

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?

Busting Buddha’s Knees

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 Buddha, power of slow, slow living, slow movementsomewhere 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.”

Ouch.

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.

The Peace Within

October 11, 2012

Before Jesus, we didn’t know about forgiveness, turning the other cheek or living a humble, yet inspired life.

Gandhi taught us about that too. His nonviolent action turned an entire empire on its ear.

Peace, he taught us, comes from within.

Every now and then, I’ll stumble upon someone really inspiring on the Internet. And so it was with twenty-two year old CalArts graphic design student Francesca Ramos, who kindly allowed me to reblog her infographic on the top ten fundamentals of Gandhi’s teaching.

He has inspired me more than I realized because for each fundamental she lists, I have a corresponding blog post.

Together we can change the world, which starts with each of us. Thank you for reading this. Maybe it will inspire you too.

Change yourself.

You are in control (or maybe not!).

Forgive and let go.

Take care of this moment.

Everyone is human.

See the good in other people and help them.

Without action you aren’t going anywhere.

Persist.

Be your true self.

Continue to grow and evolve.

Gandhi's Top 10 Fundamentals

Your Life: Summed Up

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?

Life Summed Up

A Shot of Vitamin P

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.

positivity, fight germs, emotional contagion, power of slowMarriage 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.

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