When our daughter was little and learning basic math, she used a variety of devices to represent the quantities associated with numbers.  She used objects, an abacus, and tapping her pencil to count.

Her grandmother was delighted when our little girl finally settled on using her fingers as counting aids.  When I asked Grandma why, she smiled, wiggled her fingers in the air, and said, “Her fingers are always available.”

Useful beliefs are a lot like using your fingers as counting aids.  They are always available.  They keep you self-reliant, because you don’t need anyone else’s help to be able to use them.  They don’t require any special technical skills.  You can take them for granted and only pull them out when you need them.

You might ask, “Isn’t there some objective truth?  You can’t argue facts.”

Often times we don’t know all the facts.  We may have limited information.  Most things are open to interpretation.  We respond primarily to our particular view of the facts, rather than to the facts themselves.  We respond to the meaning that the events or facts hold for us. Sometimes, you have to look at facts in context of the bigger picture.

Abraham-Hicks uses a charming analogy to illustrate this point:  If men broke into your home with axes and hoses and broke up your furniture and flooded the interior of your home with water, you’d be outraged.  Unless those were firemen saving your home from flames.

A useful belief is a thought that feels better.  But don’t go looking for somebody else to do the math for you.  Dogma is blind belief, adopting a system of beliefs prescribed by someone else.

Beliefs are only useful when they are true to you, and when they feel good to you.   You can learn from other people but ultimately you decide.  You just have to ask yourself: does this thought feel good?  And if the answer is no, reach for another point of view.  A single thought can make all the difference.

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gestalt_contourWhen my life situation is too painful or overwhelming, my mantra is “I am the soul that lives within.”  I say it to myself, desperately at first, until I can feel it. I repeat it mentally, summon my connection with that part of myself, until suddenly my perspective shifts.  Have you seen Gestalt images? The ones where your eye has to switch background and foreground to see two different images;  Is it a ghoul or an embrace?

I am the soul that lives within.  I am that safe, timeless, eternal, limitless spark of the Divine.

I reach for it.  And in the moment that I identify myself as that soul, feel myself as that being, the mortal wounds feel smaller and further away, almost the way memories do.  One minute I’m embedded in the struggle, unable to breathe and the next I’m outside it, not just breathing but become the air.

And I feel a sense of relief.  I suppose it’s because, to the Energy that creates worlds, anything is possible. And also because, I really am that soul.

It’s just a matter of flipping perspective.  Which me do you see?

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Thoughts are energy gates.

I’ve been thinking about my thinking. Unlike Charles, whose vitality rivals the energizer bunny, I’ve been feeling tired lately.  When I think about it, I’ve been tired for a couple of years. I take nutritional supplements.  My eating habits, which were always pretty good, are even more simple.  I enjoy silence immensely.  I get plenty of sleep.  And I’m still tired.  The doctor says I’m healthy.  Okay — I should probably get more exercise but like I said, I’ve been tired!  And ridiculously busy. So for now, walking the dogs is my “workout” – Toby marching beside me and Zoie reluctantly following behind.  And sleeping in on Sunday morning is the big self indulgence I allow myself on the Sundays when the kids don’t have me booked with things they need me to do. Which is rare.

So I’m tired.  And aside from the fact that I like feeling energized, I need every edge I can get because I frankly have too much to do and too little time to do it in. Which is why my blogging has slowed to a trickle:  competing demands.  I’m falling behind on emails.  Projects are taking way longer than expected.  Even routine tasks seem to go haywire and my mood on too many days ranges from frustrated and cranky to sad. I really don’t think I can blame that on Mercury’s months in retrograde or the Feng Shui of my room.

So I’m thinking about my thinking.

I wrote here about how I noticed my thinking affecting my energy level during Kai Chi Do.  It was almost comical, like parlor tricks.  My thoughts were like gates for my energy. Worry, sad, angry thinking — body feels so heavy I can barely move my arms.  Let all of that go for a minute and focus on the breath, the music, the beauty — my arms feel light and the movements are easy.  Worry again, heavy again. Present again, light again. Parlor tricks. And even though I saw it clear as day in Kai Chi Do, I hadn’t really given much attention to how these mental gates were operating in my everyday — well, you know — life.  Gates.  Do they swing open or closed? Are they barriers or passageways?

It’s not easy to change your thinking—until it is.  I mean when you finally do it, you wonder why you held onto the hard way for so long.

I worry. Charles doesn’t worry.  Perhaps he doesn’t have to worry because I do that for both of us, or perhaps there’s really nothing to worry about.  At any rate, worrying doesn’t seem to actually help anything. It used to be that anxiety could motivate me.  I think I exceeded that threshold somewhere around 1995.  Yes I think it was ’95. The year I left an extremely stressful job that I had been pouring my heart into.  Or maybe it was ’96, the year Shanti was born.  Does worrying go into overdrive when you have a kid?  I think even Charles worried for a moment or two when Shanti was born, but it quickly melted into his faith.  Faith in a benevolent universe.  Faith in her.  Faith in us.

So today I’ve just been trying to find a better-feeling thought.  And the revelation and relief I was hoping for came in the form of three words:  I don’t know.

I don’t know how to get the wild duck off the aluminum patio roof where it has been making a racket every night and keeping me awake.  I don’t know why the chicken (no relation to the duck) didn’t cook after two hours even though the oven feels warm and the light said the temperature in the oven is 325 degrees (is this some kind of magic chicken?  Sigh.  I don’t know.) I don’t know how to stay serenely relaxed and stop gripping the door handle while teaching our daughter how to drive. I don’t know how to find the time to give my friends the attention they deserve.  And I certainly don’t know how to do my taxes.

“I don’t know” is today’s better-feeling thought. An open gate and my energy lifted. I may have to find a different relief thought tomorrow, but this is a good one for now.  Do you think that not knowing is a kind of faith — that things will be okay without our heroic efforts?

I don’t know.

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This month has been hectic.  More than the usual hectic.

We saw two of our Thai exchange student friends off at the airport (early flights out meant waking at 4am).  We helped my 83 year old mother who recently had back surgery pack up the house she has lived in for the past 19 years, and move into a (MUCH smaller) independent living apartment.  We somehow made room for my father’s collection of approximately 1,000 LPs in our home (a process that involved supporting a wall with steel poles and flanges!)   We registered our new Taiwanese student for school and started making a room for him –  he’ll arrive in August.  And yes, he gets to sleep in the room with the LPs.  (Where else could we put them?)  We nurtured Shanti through finishing 10th grade and today she flew to Seattle — unescorted — to visit with a friend there before she leaves for Japan to study at a language immersion school in Fukuoka for the month of July.  And of course, all of that goes on while we’re both working full time, walking the dogs 3 times a day, food shopping, cooking, doing dishes, and falling behind on laundry. Oh, and how could I forget, we also had our roof repaired this month.

And I discovered something useful about myself (Self discovery seems to be the bright side of all things exhausting).  I got to see my top 3 ways to cope with stress.  These are the strategies I seem to reach for first, and fortunately two out of three are accessible while I’m on the go, and they’re all healthy so I thought they’re worth sharing.

1.  Silence.  My number 1 way to cope with stress is to turn everything off.  Turn off the radio in the car.  Turn off the TV at home.  Turn off sound.  The less auditory stimuli, the better.  When I’m stressed my head is already noisy enough without adding any more noise from the outside.  Quiet outside, quiet inside.  Silence helps reduce my feeling of being overwhelmed.  It simplifies and limits what’s coming at me.

2. Clean.  When I feel stressed, I clean.  Getting the space around me organized makes me feel more organized inside.  When things are clean and orderly, it’s like I’ve made the environment quieter.  Environmental silence.  Messiness is a kind of noise.  At least it is for me.  It’s too distracting.  I don’t know, maybe that’s a little OCD, but it’s selective OCD — I can happily postpone cleaning most of the time.

3. Appreciating beauty.  This one, like silence, is really portable. You can do it anywhere.  This is not the kind of appreciation that happens when you try to be grateful.  It’s just spontaneous noticing of hidden treasures, happy little distractions from whatever it is that weighs on you.  I don’t go looking for them.  It almost seems like they look for me!  They jump out at me.  Grab my attention for just the instant it takes to switch background and foreground.  For that moment, the stress fades into background, as the beauty comes forward, more vivid, more real.  And I feel better.  A smiling baby in a grocery store.  The smell of ground coffee.  (I have to confess here that I sniff bulk coffee dispensers).  A cloud that’s an unusual color.  Overhearing a kind exchange between strangers.  The perfect word in a sentence –  now that’s a thing of beauty.

Use the comment button below and tell me, what are your top 3 healthy stress relievers?

 

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“The only reason for time, is so
that everything doesn’t
happen at once.”

— Albert Einstein

I’m getting some emails and calls saying, “Where ya been?”

Well, my 83 year old mom took a fall in October and, after the pain became excruciating, she had spine surgery in January.  Thankfully, she’s doing much better and I can look back now on the past few months wondering where they went.

Despite being completely overwhelmed with all the stuff that had to be done – for mom’s home and health and our own household and work – my family will attest to the fact that I stayed in reasonably good spirits.  In fact, Shanti was so impressed that she asked me just the other day how I’d managed to handle the stress.  I told her, “I do one thing at a time, and I focus on what I’m doing instead of thinking about something else I want to be doing.”

I learned this lesson from a friend several years ago.

She had two homes, one is Europe and one in the U.S.  When she was in Europe, she was sad and frustrated because she missed her home and family in the U.S. And when she was in the U.S., she was frustrated and sad because she missed her home and family in Europe.  (I mean, we should all have these problems, right?)

She really wanted to live in both places.  She didn’t want to give up  either one.  And even though she split her time between continents, it was unsatisfying.  In fact, she was miserable.  We talked about it often, nearly every time we spoke.  And finally I blurted out, “The only way you can resolve this is to be where you are.”

She understood instantly.  Enjoy where you are. And when you go somewhere else, enjoy that place.

Now don’t go thinking this is just about my restless friend with her two luxurious homes.  Check it out the next time your daily to-do list is so long it couldn’t be accomplished in a month.  Or the next time you’re at your job when you’d rather be…anywhere else.

Shanti told me she started using this lesson with her homework – She started enjoying each assignment, instead of thinking about what she would rather be doing.  And when each assignment is finished, she proclaims, “I’m done!” and moves on to the next assignment.  She told me she’s getting much more accomplished this way.  And I am too! (Just ask my mom.)

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