Friday, November 22, 2013

The Gift of You

You have a Gift. You ARE a Gift to the world and if you haven’t already shared this Gift, what are you waiting for? The world needs the one and only Gift that is unique to you. Your Gift is restless and calling from the inner depths to be let out.

What most don’t realize or acknowledge is this: the Universe WANTS you to accept your Gift, wants you to succeed, and to be happy! And when you finally choose to start moving in the direction of the Gift, the Universe/God/Love will rise up in seeming miraculous ways to meet you and help you give birth to it! It may not happen overnight, but when you keep moving toward it, it WILL move toward you.

The Gift is the thing you want more than anything, but are afraid to go after. Once you have acknowledged that it’s there, the Gift won’t leave you alone. Try as you will, your calling will not let you forget it. You may choose the misery of dodging the Gift for years, decades maybe, but it will always catch up with you. It will tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hi, remember me?” through the voice of a friend, a book, or an article that ignites a spark of recognition in your heart of hearts.

The Gift shows up as the tightness in your belly or your head when you are ignoring its cries for attention, doing work you are ultimately not designed for. The Gift is the gentle voice that relentlessly repeats itself in your head saying, “You can do this!” this dream that keeps inviting you. That kinder voice is trying to be heard over the clamor of old tapes declaring your inability, inadequacy, unworthiness, or the impossibility of your dream.

Right now, the Gift that is gestating inside of you may feel as strong as the prelude to an earthquake or as soft as the rolling and pawing of a kitten in a paper bag. But one day, when you can stand it no longer, the earth will tremble beneath you. The kitten will claw and tear its way out of the bag like a roaring lion…if you let it!   
Fear is a crafty entity and the biggest obstacle to using your Gift. Your mind will do cartwheels to reinforce the fear, even build upon it. It will come up with the most logical, sensible reasons why you should keep your Gift at bay. “I’m no good at that.” “What will others think?” “There’s no money (or not enough) in it!” “What if it doesn’t work?” “Better stay safe!” But is it truly “safe” to reinforce fear and amplify the angst of wondering what could have been? 

Choices made by fear may appear to be the easy way because they are familiar. It’s the way you’ve always done it. Choices made by LOVE are not always easy. They can seem difficult and require more work because they are not the mainstream way of doing things. You will probably stumble and make mistakes. I’ve often made choices that  many would consider foolish. Yet I ignored the well-meaning naysayers in favor of the passion in my gut that was beckoning me to the dance. At times it felt like jumping off a cliff, yet always something or someone was there to catch me, to spur me on, and to dance with me in the glorious field of realized dreams!

Perhaps this was an additional meaning behind the journeys of heroes like Gandhi and Martin Luther King who identified their Gifts and allowed their Gifts to lead them. They showed us that it is far worse to sit in the mire than to stand up for what is aching to be made right. These men led whole countries of people to a better way. Isn’t it just as important to lead yourself to revealing the Gifts that only you can impart on the world?

Your Gift is made of LOVE. The Gift is right there inside you. The Gift is YOU…on fire. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Revolution of LOVE!

Numerous times in my life, my personal mantra has been, “If only I could give you--X--on a silver platter.” Joy, beauty, hope, faith…whatever you choose is there for you when you allow it to be. I can’t give those things to you, but I can show you that they are possible and crucial in this ever-chaotic and confusing world.

At a time in history where there is so much to be concerned about, a time when we have no great heroes in our midst like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, no one to speak up for us, I believe we are the ones who must step up and speak out. There are too many “issues” to choose from, so many things that need work you say? Indeed. Yet as one person there are many things you can do to keep the human spirit strong, both yours and that of others, by choosing joy when circumstances would ask you to do otherwise. Not frivolous “joy” as in giddy, slap-happy, nutso, but rather a deep, underlying trust in the strength and power of LOVE.

For if each of us falls into despair, if we give in to fear and hopelessness, if we give up, THEN they’ve got us! When we feel hopeless our strength is diminished, our power all but gone. Yet when we feel joy and love and possibility for the future, our power returns with intensity and we have a potency that can carry us through. This is why I fill my days with lovely music, uplifting books, nature – good god where would any of us be without trees, mountains, and creatures! There is no television or radio hawking constant bad news at me, nor advertisements for all the things they would have me believe I need.

The tactic of fear-creating and trying to push people down has been used for eons by controlling entities. Giving Native Americans blankets infused with small pox and surprise attacks dwindled their populations. Later, giving them alcohol (that their systems were not used to), unhealthy foodstuffs, and imprisoning them on reservations was a way to break them down. Yet strong Native leaders still do their best to keep spirits proud and high via ritual, prayer, and tradition.

Today I give you a smile, even when there are many things that I could let upset the day. I give you cups of tea and a listening ear, even when there may have been other things I planned to do. I will prepare wholesome, nourishing fare and invite you to savor the love it is infused with, even though we both know our food is tainted by the hand of corruption. There is a bouquet of flowers here and my greatest wish is for you to catch their sweet fragrance, even though there are things in the air that are not so sweet. The bright sun is warming your shoulders and my hope is that you feel it; that you see squirrels  performing their playful acrobatics in the trees and birds singing out a delight that echoes through the valley and feel a sense of warmth and peace…even though. 

Will you join me in this new revolution? It is time for LOVE to reign! It is time for joy and faith to flourish! It is time to turn our sights on beauty and see how it changes things. Trust me…it will.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Take Care of You for Me

When I was a child, my mother had a Pat Boone recording entitled “Take Care of You for Me.” The specifics of his message are foggy now but I suspect it was something like, “Take care of yourself so that you can experience a long and happy life with your loved ones.” That phrase has been hovering at the edges of my mind for weeks and here is what has manifested...

I listened to that record until the grooves were deeply worn and Pat’s voice went from silken to gravelly. My young heart wished and hoped that my mother would follow those simple instructions so that our time as mother and daughter would not have been the roller coaster that it was. As previously stated in other posts, she unfortunately blamed the state of her health on others, including me. I stood by and watched her lose track of all her inner beauty, all her talents, and all the amazing gifts that she truly possessed.

As a result I eventually dedicated my life to my own health of body, mind, and spirit. At first I did it just for myself, to show myself that I could reach a new paradigm - I could reach for fulfillment, joy, and self-love. There has been the usual share of obstacles and hurdles to overcome, that often felt like climbing Mt. Everest as I worked through weaknesses and shortcomings. Though some of those foibles still occasionally threaten to impede my progress, what always remains is a steadfast determination to keep working toward bettering myself, to discover just how far I can stretch, what new frontiers I can unearth, how aware I can become.

Along this ongoing journey I arrived at a fresh understanding that was greatly influenced by a collective of Native American traditions. In comprehending the cultural view of the “web of life,” I understood how each action we take, each word we speak, each breath we take affects all other beings in some way. Finally this philosophy evolved into the recognition that each of us, each earthly component, may be seen as a cell in a larger body, therefore our individual triumphs and obstacles are intertwined, enmeshed. I started identifying ways that the health of my “cell” was indeed affecting the health of nearby “cells.”

From there I started to see my own affect on the immediate environment – rocks, water, plants, and so on – and how my ever renewing self affected other humans. I noticed that some people were asking questions on how I got to the state of health I’m in because they wanted to change something about themselves for the better. I realized how much joy I felt when I shared things that propelled my own healing journey. I wanted to pop champagne corks, throw confetti, and sound horns over another’s attainment of some new-found freedom in reaching a goal, just as much as I celebrated my own!

Why do I care about you taking care of you and becoming all you can be? Because I know the absolute anguish of watching my mother waste away and later have tearful regret for the things she didn’t do. Mom was a gifted artist and singer in her teen years but gave both up, thinking she wasn’t that great, her gifts not important. I care because of the beautiful sketch I shed tears over in her living room, the night of her death – a sketch that she finally started after her cancer diagnosis, one that may have become a painting if she’d had a few more months…or started sooner. I wish on stars and dandelion fuzz that there is something better in store for you.

I care because I know first hand how excruciatingly difficult it is to change, even though you want to in the worst, hand-wringing way. My legs have quivered, my stomach rolled, and my eyes teared when I’ve faced immense, seemingly impossible challenges. I have worn bare spots in pillowcases, chanting uncountable mantras and affirmations that I thought were going nowhere as I drifted in and out of fitful sleep. It’s a wonder that I haven’t floated away on the oceans of tears cried on the deserted beach of futility that inhabited my distressed mind. I care because I know the absolute thrill of, once and for all, overcoming a fear and reveling in a success, however small. I care because the skin of my knees has been worn thin praying for the next bit of inspiration that will spur me or a friend on to the next level.

Many times I have said, “I wish I could give you this on a silver platter” - “this” being comprehension of your spark of divinity, your light, and your magnificence. I can’t give it to you, but I can show you that it is possible because of my own untidy evolution. If I, who has suffered the persona of a scared wallflower can transform parts of myself, anyone can because we are ALL made of the same stuff. We may each have different starting places, yet we can all hold the same finish line in our vision. Every one of us is living, breathing, starlight brilliance.

Take care of you for me so we can cheer each other on! Do it so that we can be there for each other to rejoice in our victories and support each other when we run into stumbling blocks! And yes, do it because as the Dalai Lama says, one thing we all share in common is that we want to be happy. May we appreciate the happiness created as we journey…together.  

With Much Love,

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
Emily Dickinson

So lost are we on that strange Sea, when fear rages and wracks our vessel against any hope of saving ourselves. I’ve been saddened lately as I see so many who are in fear, forgetting the little “bird” that stays with its owner and never asks for anything in return. The storm becomes less threatening and the music resumes only when we open the doors to the cage and let the sweet bird out to warm us, often for the first time in our lives. To further demonstrate how fear is our greatest adversary, I’ve taken the liberty of using Miss Dickinson’s poem as the framework for it’s opposite:

“Fear” is the thing with anchors,
That keeps us in our place,
And steals our native melody,
And hides us from all grace.

And darkest in the Gale is heard,
That rainbows bring the Light,
And raise our spirits, set us free,
So we crush what’s warm and bright.

Anchors will surely pull you down,
Just as you start to float,
Always, forever in Extreme,
They hunger to sink your boat.

The anchor of fear kept me at bay for the better part of my life, yet so often did the small bird of hope sing softly in my ear. I was good at playing small and scared and unworthy, not because I wanted it that way, but rather because I’d been taught from an early age that these things were true and on many levels I believed it. It was drilled into me that my needs, wants, and hopes were either ridiculous, non-existent, or unimportant. This happens to all of us in varying degrees when the adults in our world, who have never seen themselves as completely worthy and whole, continue to pass down the hurt and pain in unconscious, sometimes subtle ways. I challenge anyone who tells me that it can’t be stopped, that the chain can’t be broken, the bird freed…

For 22 years I lived in a relationship that was lop-sided. I thought it was all up to me to set things in balance. And so I lived without intimacy, affection, sex, the children I so wished to birth and raise, or even a fulfilling job.

At the time I thought it was only my husband that kept me in the proverbial pumpkin shell. I kept up a good front with family and friends and we appeared on the outside to be a long-standing, happy couple. The anchor of fear grew heavier and heavier and the little bird grew larger and sang louder. Hope had been patient for so long, until one day she began to peck and claw at the cage bars. My eyes and heart finally opened to the fact that I was scared out of my mind and afraid to face life.

The bird had outgrown the cage and she knew that if she didn’t fly soon her feathers would fall out and the cage doors would be forever rusted shut. She commenced to slashing at the anchor rope with her small but determined beak.

Instead of accepting a role that made someone else comfortable and pretending to be happy, I started doing things that called to my heart. Instead of wishing I could write like John Boy Walton or Emily Dickinson, or Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I started to BELIEVE I could. Instead of propagating the lie that my husband told me (literally) – that I was just “arm candy” and had no value beyond my teenaged occupation at Burger King – I put complete trust in God and myself and found a rewarding part-time job that supported me through training for a career that called to my heart. I reached down into the vast recesses of Robin and like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, started radiating my true, vibrant self and all the inner beauty that had been there all along. I left behind the superficial friends of my feigned life and found real friends; friends who lifted, supported, cheered, and offered spiritual tools for advancing my authentic self while repealing the lies and feelings of hopelessness.

This sweet, joyful, brilliant, shining bird appeared mostly as a loathsome monster to my husband. He worked desperately to put it back in the cage. His put-downs escalated until for one brief, encouraging moment, the bird rested on his shoulder. There was a glimmer of light in his eyes and the tenderness he once knew. But Fear was too strong – that he could not sustain a self-assured wife - that some things would have to change. With fire in his voice he declared that he liked things the way they had once been and there was no room for the new “me” who welcomed music, life…and birds.

It was difficult at first, weathering the storm that swirled around the cage. Many times I wanted to creep back inside where I once convinced myself it was safe. But the door had been opened. I liked my new self and the happy feelings that urged me further away from my inner confinement. It was startling and remarkable to experience the expanse and breadth of my wings!

Sometimes, on rare occasions, I still want to crawl back into some protective cage when storms hit. But I won’t…I can’t. To anyone who has caught even a glimpse of this rare bird called Hope, I invite you to let her perch a bit longer. Let her sing you a song that transforms wishes into realities. Hear her music rise above the din of the tempest of fear. Though you ache, let the music pull you from your melancholic cage into the dance of freedom. In that dance, allow the notes to fill your heart with joy and may you be ever warmed by your closer alignment with the Sun!    

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Revolution of Peace

Happy New Year!  This is typically the time for “resolutions” and I propose instead, a “revolution.”  I mean, the idea I share here is revolutionary and one I’ve been hearing, studying, and doing my very best to put into practice for many years…and it works!

As part of a mandatory class I’ve been reading the Dalai Lama’s “Ethics For a New Millenium,” where he proposes (from long-time observation) that humans have a greater capacity for love and kindness than they do for hurting others.  He further states that the greatest human emotion is empathy.  Most people demonstrate an aversion to seeing the pain of others.  

So often in our day to day lives, it is easy to be offended, to react and feel hurt by something someone says or does.  Considering my own experience along with the ideas of the Dalai Lama, I invite you to reconsider where your offended feelings are coming from.  Quite often my own reactions to the actions of others, stem from unresolved hurts in the past.  As children, most of us were in some way shamed, humiliated, and in varying degrees told we were stupid or worse.  We grow to believe such lies, incorporating them into our being, usually unconsciously.  When someone comes along to say or do something that triggers the original pain, we react…perhaps more strongly than is called for by the actual situation. Their words and actions may have come from their own pain, striking out at the nearest target, which happens to be you. Or perhaps the person you perceive as hurting you had an entirely innocent intention and had no idea they would be causing you hurt.  I’ve been in the situation of having unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings and felt the frustration of being wrongly accused of intentional hurt when that was the furthest thing from my mind. 

In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz suggests four guidelines for getting along “consciously” in life:

Be Impeccable with Your Word - Speak with integrity.  Say only what you mean.  Avoid using words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.  Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.  Impeccable means “without sin” and a sin is something you do or believe that goes against yourself.  It means not speaking against yourself, to yourself or to others.  It means not rejecting yourself.  To be impeccable means to take responsibility for yourself, to not participate in “the blame game.”

Don't Take Anything Personally - Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own dream.  When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering. We take things personally when we agree with what others have said.  If we didn't agree, the things that others say would not affect us emotionally.  If we did not care about what others think about us, their words or behavior could not affect us. Even if someone yells at you, gossips about you, harms you or yours, it still is not about you!  Their actions and words are based on what they believe in their personal dream.

Don't Make Assumptions - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.  Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.  With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. When we make assumptions it is because we believe we know what others are thinking and feeling.  We believe we know their point of view, their dream.  We forget that our beliefs are just our point of view based on our belief system and personal experiences and have nothing to do with what others think and feel.  We make the assumption that everybody judges us, abuses us, victimizes us, and blames us the way we do ourselves.  As a result we reject ourselves before others have the chance to reject us.  When we think this way, it becomes difficult to be ourselves in the world.

Always Do Your Best - Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.  Have patience with yourself.  Take action.  Practice forgiveness.  If you do your best always, transformation will happen as a matter of course.


Another wise man, Tibetan monk Thich Nhat Hanh, told the following story to demonstrate how easily misunderstandings can escalate if we act unconsciously.  I heard the story at a retreat week called, Creating Peace Within the Self, Family, Community, and the World:

  A young man and young woman met and fell deeply in love.  The two were joined in marriage and produced a beautiful son. They were faithful to each other and to their religious tradition, setting out offerings of flowers and food and lighting incense and candles on their bedroom altar each night. 
  Not long after the birth of the son, the husband was called to war.  He kissed his beloved and their infant offspring goodbye, and left to fulfill his duty.
  As the boy grew, each night his mother took him to the bedroom to continue the offering ritual and the burning of incense and candles.  To comfort the boy, the mother pointed out shadows cast on the walls and told him, “See there?  That is your daddy.  He is with us always!”
  When the boy was three years old, there came a knock at the door.  The mother was elated to see her husband, returned from the war.  She called for the boy and the three set out for the market place.  So that they could finish their errands more quickly, and to give her husband time to get re-acquainted with the child, she suggested that her husband take the boy in a separate direction from her own. 
   The father took the boy by the hand and when they were alone he told him, “I’m so glad to be with you again!  I’m your daddy!”  The boy tried to tug away exclaiming, “You’re not my daddy!  My daddy visits us in mommy’s bedroom each night!”
  The father became furious.  He ran with the boy to find the mother.  When they returned home, the man would not listen to his wife who pleaded to explain.  He gathered his things and left, never to be seen again.
  The woman quickly sunk into despair, so deeply did she grieve the loss of her beloved.  Though she tried to go on without him, she eventually was beyond consoling and jumped to her death into the icy waters of the sea and drowned.  The boy was sent to an orphanage to live out his days without parents. 

The story is drastic and dreadful, as it was meant to be in order for Thich Nhat Hanh to make his point.  How easy it is to misunderstand.  How many quarrels between individuals or between countries start with misinterpretation of events or actions?  How many times is one person in error for lack of giving another the benefit of the doubt; the necessary conscious understanding that humans are basically good, and for the most part intend no harm…especially toward those closest to them?

It may not be so easy, but the next time you are tempted to take offense, I invite you to take a deep breath and stop for a moment.  Is this person someone who is known for intentionally and repeatedly hurting others or could you be misinterpreting their intention or mood?  Stop to consider their good qualities and bring to mind your good experiences with them.  Does their hurtful action remind you of a long-ago hurt – a hurt that you may find yourself experiencing over and over again?  Feeling hurt about the same type of things repeatedly is often a clue that the perceived offense is based on something old rather than an actual attempt to hurt you.  This exercise will only take a few seconds and just may stop an argument and/or hours of dark feelings in their tracks.

In conclusion, let’s all work together to make 2013 a year where we bring forth the best in ourselves and others.  Celebrate your strong aptitude for empathy and when faced with feeling offended, call on empathy to help you see the other person as a kind and loving being.  Help create a Revolution of Peace in the world by being an Evolution of Peace from within!

Happy New Year and Much Love,