Surfacing With Pearls

As a high-energy, firstborn, Capricorn, first-generation American with that immigrant mentality of working hard and growing up with a solid dose of the good ol’ Protestant work ethic, I have struggled with shifting from Doing to Being. To allowing things to take their natural course of fruition instead of feeling like I need to work harder to make things happen.

There are so many metaphors out there of how we destroy the very thing we are trying to grow by forcing it. For example,
the metaphor of blowing on the butterfly’s wings as it’s emerging from the chrysalis and killing it in the process.
Or, as is evident in one of my friends who has her own business. She has been wondering why she’s not getting more traction when she works six days a week, 18 hours a day. It’s clear to everyone around her that if she just relaxed a bit, she’d get better results, but she just keeps pushing on.
Years ago, when I was a parent educator, we talked about how it was important not to give something for your child to fight against, to push against. Allowing things to unfold as they naturally will has more power, time and again.

So, then I arrived at a crossroads in my life’s work, wondering, where is this going to take me? My knee-jerk response was to quick, do something!! But I was not so easily tricked this time! Instead of rushing off to “make something,” I stopped to listen. I went inward and did all those super-ninja spiritual and personal development tricks I teach all the time. I meditated, journaled, and relaxed into a season of quiet where I listened deeply.

There were times I felt lost in that Quiet, when I thought, “What the hell am I doing?” But gently, I would turn like the tide and rest in knowing I was just where I was supposed to be.

The one thing I did was stick like Gorilla Glue to my spiritual practices. I did not get out of bed before I did my affirmations, read my books, meditated, and journaled. And, I did not touch my phone or computer before I finished all of the above. I felt like I just needed to be on my side, like a dear friend would be. Cheering for me, consistently doing those little things that mean so much. When I felt scared or down, I would listen to or read inspirational material that I knew would get me back on track. You can’t will yourself to be positive. “I’m going to be happy dammit!” It has to be an inside job.

I listened to music that was positive, spent time outside, wrote lists of what I was grateful for. Anything I could get my hands on to keep me joyful.

And when I would feel the constriction of wory, like the metaphor for when we are meditating and we get Monkey-Brain, we are instructed to allow those thoughts to pass by as if we are on the river bank watching the occasional boat move by. “Goodbye thought, thanks for passing through.”

I knew my positive outlook, my trusting that it will all work out for the best, was what was going to be my path to the breakthrough.

This called for a level of trust deeper than what I have beckoned to before. During this season of rest and rejuvenation, I surfaced with pearls.

I came to understand my worthiness at a whole new level and an ability to feel secure in it. If I am worthy to give to others, and they are worthy and enjoy receiving from me, it is a short step to me being worthy. I could make that step.

I came to a new understanding of vulnerability and that I don’t need to feel vulnerable unless I am giving my power away to someone. Nope, not going to give away my power. I can be honest, loving, and wide open, but it’s fear that makes us vulnerable. I realized I could stay on the positive side of that equation: deep sharing without fear. This also calls me to a deeper level of honesty, with myself and others with whom I’m in relationship.

And, speaking of relationships, just like the de-clutter movement that says you should look at your possessions and ask if it brings you joy, well, I think that is a version of what we can do with our relationships too. Is this relationship bringing me joy? Now, I’m not saying we can be all joy all the time, but if there is a relationship that drains me and drags me down, or has no value, I have to ask myself, why? Why am I sticking around?

I learned to trust God/Spirit/the Universe at a new level (yet again! Geez!) And, as a recovering people-pleaser and Doer, I am learning what My Desires are and how to live into them. Not bad work! Of course, these issues have been bubbling below the surface for years, and like water’s affect on rocks, the layers are being swept away and the Truth is surfacing.

Photo and content © Copyright 2019. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

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I Am Not Fine

I am not fine.

A long time ago, I told my partner that if he asked me how I am and I say, “Fine,” he’d know there was something really wrong.

I gave up answering that question with that response many years ago. I was going through a particularly hellish time in life and I realized somewhere along the way that when people would ask me how I was, I would suddenly muster all my strength, put on a fake smile, try to look strong, and say, “I’m fine, thanks. How are you?”

I didn’t want to burden anyone with my troubles. I figured, everyone sits by a pool of tears. Everyone has their issues and struggles. Why would I burden them with mine? I didn’t want to be a bother.

I also did not want to burst the bubble of being “the strong one” or “the bubbly, positive one.” Trying to keep up the facade added an additional burden to the painful times I was going through. I walked a long road to finally figure out it’s okay to have hard feelings and it’s even better to be in touch with them and be honest.

And, while I was getting real with myself, I also came to understand that I answered in that way because I didn’t want to be judged. I didn’t want anyone to know the Crazyville that I was living in.

But when we keep saying, “I’m fine,” and are covering over what’s really there, we can lose touch with our real feelings. We can’t properly tell someone else our emotions or process them if we don’t actually know what they are.

So I decided to get honest with myself and others. I might not divulge everything that’s going on, but if I’m having a hard time, I’ll say something like, “It’s been a little rough, but I’m here.” Or “I’m exhausted” or something else that at least touches on the truth of it if that is not the time to unpack everything going on.

During that time, I also realized that I would say “I’m fine,” when I was really being a bit masochistic, sacrificing my own needs and desires for that of someone else’s.

I’d say something like, “I’m fine. You can take vacation during that week. It’s my son’s graduation, but I’ll just take a red-eye to get there and back.”

What I meant when I said, “I’m fine,” would often be:
I’m dying inside.
I’m giving up.
I no longer have the strength and the will to fight.

I saw that “I’m fine” masks what I really wanted to say. The worst part is that when we do this we start to convince ourselves that we’re okay with not having the thing we actually really want, so we give up on having it, on hoping for it or something better. We are giving up on our hopes, dreams, and our Truth. We are saying that our wants, needs, and desires are not important and we should do without. This is a slow death.
More recently, I realized that Fine has another layer for me. I’ve been working to tease out the difference between being at peace and being neutral about something. Neutral to me equals Fine; Fine is that place where the passion, the emotion, the desire, the gusto is gone.

The reason this is an issue is that for years I told myself I was fine with making do. I know sometimes we need to make sacrifices for a larger cause. But what I’m dissecting here is that status quo of just getting by, of shutting off what calls to you.

Last fall I was flying home from leading a workshop and had finished my book, but had another two hours till we landed. I thought, okay, I’ll check out the TV options on the flight. I scrolled around and landed on the International House Hunters show. In this episode, they were helping people find their “dream home.” There was a woman who walked into a home and started to cry because it was so beautiful and perfect. She and her husband bought the house.

This struck me!

I thought: Wow, you mean you can have your dreams come true? You don’t have to make do with Fine in all areas of life?! (Mind Blown!)

I hadn’t even realized that I had put so much of myself into dormancy.

I think it’s my responsibility to live my life in the exhilarating intersection where my gifts meet the world’s needs, where I am living in alignment with my my truth. And that is an amazing, joyful, exuberant place to be. It is far, far away from Fine!

We are given dreams, desires, passions for a reason and, I believe we are meant to be happy. So I took this aha moment to heart as a wake up call to not settle for Fine, but to love into my life more and be a testament to Joy instead of Fine.

Photo and content © Copyright 2019. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

One Thing At A Time

ant

“Just focus on one thing at a time. The data clearly shows that we can’t multitask and do things well. Just do one thing and do it well.”

Lordy, I’ve been telling my clients this for years. Heck, I’ve been telling myself this for years! And it is such strong, beneficial advice. And it’s true that we can’t multitask without losing like 37% of our brain’s bandwidth! (According to the American Psychological Association) No wonder we feel scattered!

But how do we do this?

I recently had those tiny little ants crop up in my house. Again.

This is not the first time they have appeared, so I wondered to myself, what is the Universe trying to get me to pay attention to? What do ants make me think of?

Well, they are busy. They are super busy, but each one has one duty and that’s why they are so effective! For instance, the queen does one thing: lay eggs. That’s it. She is not foraging for food or anything else. The survival of the colony depends on her doing her one thing.

But, as a human, I often struggle with the how. How do I tend to the different aspects of life that I want to nourish?

There’s the physical part: Am I getting my walk or hike in today? Do I have healthy, yummy food in the house to eat? Have I gone food shopping for that food?

There’s the spiritual aspect: Am I meditating? Am I feeding and being fed by my spiritual community? Am I going to Meetng? Am I involved in the life of the Meeting?

There’s the social part: Am I tending to my friendships that feed me? Am I involved in the life of my community and building it?

You get the point. There are so many facets to a healthy life that need tending. How does one balance them all? If one is out of whack, they all are. If I am working out like crazy and eating great food, but I am not in a job where I feel valued, that is going to affect me in all the other areas.

So how do we balance it all out?

I am no expert, but I suspect at least part of the answer is time, space, and presence.

To not fill my schedule so full that I am constantly chasing time, so there is space in my calendar to just be and to allow myself to hear that still, small voice from within that is always guiding me. And, in doing one thing at a time, I can be fully present to it and do that one thing well.

Thank you little ants, for the reminder that a mountain can only be climbed one step at a time. And, the call to relish that step, and the next one, and the next is what life is about.

Photo and content © Copyright 2018. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Gifts Hidden Beneath

2014-12-02 12.03.32It’s a rainy December day, gray and still. As I adjusted the plants in my son’s room, trying to give them enough slanted winter light, my attention was pulled to the creek below our house. The serpentine curves are wide and full of this winter rain. There is even a little white ripple in the normally meandering flow.

We recently moved, so this is the first fall and early winter we’ve experienced here. When we moved in, the woods were thick and lush. When my son opened his shades the other day he said, “How did I not even know there was a creek below my window?”(It could be because he is a teen and doesn’t open his shades all that often.) Regardless, this is one of the blessings of this season. This part of the earth has shed what’s extraneous at this point. It is stripped naked and in traveling lighter more of what’s beneath becomes clear.

Last night I had a glass of wine whose brand boasts of not being encumbered by the oaken aging process. Here too, traveling simply without losing one’s delicious essence is illustrated.

I’ve often thought of autumn’s gift as the symbol of letting go, of releasing what is no longer needed. I thought the traveling light was the gift, but now I see that is just part of it. In letting go of what is carried we’re not just lighter, but we can see more deeply what has been hidden. What gifts are laying fallow, waiting to be seen and brought into service?

Photo and content © Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Thankful For The Icons Of Life

2014-10-24 16.23.44Icons abound in life. I’m not just talking about the images that you often see in orthodox churches, pictures of Jesus, Mary, or saints.

Icons are a conduit to connect you to the sacred. Through imagery that which is Holy speaks to us, revealing truths beyond the reach of words. They are a way to be present to the divine beyond seeing, beyond verbalizing, and without thinking. They are a wonderful way to get out of our heads.

The icon is not an end in itself, but assists us in going beyond what can be seen with physical eyes into the realm of mystical experience.

The other morning, I was looking out the French doors into the woods. It was a fall day and the large tulip and oak trees in the distance were swaying deeply in the wind. Their yogic bends contrast to the mid-ground branches twittering up and down and the foreground leaves freefalling. The scene carried me deeper into my meditation, feeling the sway of my being, the in-breath, the exhale. All is happening concurrently and in harmony. Breath, Breath. And, I am carried still deeper.

There are countless icons of all sorts around us. Spirit abounds everywhere, we just need to be open. And, there seem to be shortcuts all over. At least that’s how it feels to me.

What takes us out of ourselves, away from “me” and into a more universal sense, into realizing the Holy is all around you? It could be a sunset, a baby, a happy dog…take it where you can find it. Blessings on your journey.

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Path to Wholeness

2014-09-30 16.33.41I was out hiking a field trail the other day, through tall grasses and meadows, when the phrase “path to wholeness” struck me. Yes, I’m a firm believer in “Solvitur ambulando – It is solved by walking.”— often attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo. The idea of our lives being a path, a journey is not a new one, but here I was literally on a path seeking answers, looking for wholeness.

As often happens, as I walk I come up with a blog and I’ll speak parts of it into my phone so I can remember what I was thinking when I’m home and near my computer. You’ve probably had the same experience where you say something into the phone and it garbles it. But this time instead of translating what I’d said into “path to wholeness” it wrote “have to hold us.” I was struck by the beauty of this. What came to mind was Spirit holding me as I perambulated, processing my struggle.

The related phrase “to have and to hold” to me is not about subjugation, but to be responsible to and to care for. I love the idea of me being responsible to and caring for my spiritual well-being and Divine Wisdom doing the same for me.

The sense of being held and supported carried me on the rest of my hike and continues to the present moment.

I feel a great easing when I remember I’m not on my own, I’m not dangling out there alone on the edge, but Spirit is holding me all along the way on my path. And for that, I am so grateful.

 

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

The Blessings of a Sick Day

photo(5)I have been rushing around getting all kinds of things accomplished, which feels good, but also not always sleeping well, and, in hindsight, a bit frenetic. Granted, there has been a lot to do. I just moved, and that alone has a ton of details as well as big picture pieces to it.

In the middle of the night I realized my throat felt dry, but I didn’t want to drink too much water for fear of my bladder waking me later on. Unfortunately, when I woke up this morning I realized I definitely had a sore throat. Damn! I was supposed to go help a friend among other things today.

I thought, “Come on, am I really sick or just a little dehydrated?” Plainly hoping for the latter. Nope, the throat thing didn’t go away. I called my friend and then looked at my day and how I really felt. I took that pause that people are always talking about. Don’t act too fast, don’t jump from one thing to another. Just wait.

I had just been talking with my son about how I just didn’t have the motivation to finish painting the living room. This is weird for me. Usually if I start a project I am totally excited to see it to completion. I thought about this and a few other instances where I was running out of steam.

Here comes the aha moment: Maybe, since I’ve been going fast and furious for a couple of months now it’s time to take a breather. So, I treated the day like a silent retreat. It’s a rainy, cool day anyway, so it was a bit easier to climb back into bed. I did a long meditation, napped, and just really waited to get clear on what my body needed. I did a lot of listening to myself. The head didn’t just give orders on what to do next. I practiced mindfulness all day. Mindful breathing, eating, napping, listening. I’ve been able to just receive the gifts of this day.

Funny thing is I hadn’t noticed the effects of running ragged. I just kept focusing on what to do next. I’m thankful for the day as well as the awareness I was given to realize what that little dryness in my throat was telling me. Slow down, you are in overdrive.

Here’s hoping I’m on my feet soon, but I know when I get back to normal, I’ll be stronger than I’ve been in a while!

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Sunrise And The Spiritual Reboot

2014-09-07 19.37.17It’s not that I like to get up early, rising from bed in the morning chill, but, I am always glad when I do. It’s so easy to connect to the Truth of it all when the day is new, the light is emerging, and there is still the dewy calm to the day.

I sit in the living room looking out on the woods. The house is dark except for what light peeks through the French doors, just reaching me. I love to watch the woods emerge with the sun. A reminder that here is a fresh chance, a new start to whatever is working on me. The sunrise is the global reboot.

This blog has had a hiatus. Life brought some pressing matters and writing the blog was pushed off the must-do-today list.

But this morning’s daybreak brings a blog. And, I am so happy to be back.

I don’t know if this is how it works for you, but often for me a movement grows when I need to make a change. I’ll hear one person mention writing, for instance, and somehow it catches my attention. But I don’t connect the dots that it’s a message for me. Then I’ll read something about writing. Then another person says something else about it. Finally, it gets through my denseness and I say, “Yes, I finally hear you. I’ll hop to it.”

I am so thankful that Spirit is so patient!

Especially if the change is a tall order and I don’t think I’ve got the energy to do it, I resist. I may know what needs to be done, but I’ll procrastinate.

At other times, I’m just not clear. I’ll meditate and pray on it repeatedly. I’ve come to realize that when I think I’m not getting the answer, it’s perhaps that I need to break out of my old thinking. I’m stuck in an old pattern. For instance someone last week suggested I get back to writing. I’ve been a journal writer for most of my life, but it hasn’t been speaking to me of late. I tried it again thinking maybe that was it, and…nothing. There’s nothing wrong with trying something that has worked in the past, and this trial and error worked. I knew I wasn’t being called to journal at this time.

But, with this morning’s meditation, blog came over me loud and clear. Or, maybe I just shifted enough to hear it. Equipped with new learnings from life’s ups and downs, I’m back.

There is another chance. It may look a little different, but I think as far as God is concerned, there is always another chance and the sunrise is a powerful reminder of this.

How does it work for you? Do you get thunderbolt or trickling realizations?

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Cars And The Holy Spirit

2014-08-01 16.22.00I know it sounds weird but I’ve used my car as spiritual companion. I have used it as a vehicle (smile) to spiritual deepening, to contemplative living, to a place where I remember there is the Holy in everything.

Many years ago a seasoned Friend at Quaker meeting had mentioned that she regularly got in the car and purposefully did not turn on the radio. She would drive in silence, thus allowing this to be a pocket of stillness in her day.

I know others who have the spiritual discipline of saying a prayer before they start the car or breath deeply at every red light, and we all know there are lots of opportunities to practice forgiveness when on the roads.

In times of need I have pulled over and used this space for screaming prayers, soaker (tears) prayers, and in joyful times, singing prayers. I have used it as a place to open myself to Spirit. It’s a place where I can use red lights, for instance, as mindfulness gongs to bring me back to my awareness of the interwoven holiness of everything.

I don’t know about you, but I spend enough time in the car so if I can use some aspect of it as a spiritual discipline I figure I’m ahead of the game.

Do you have a vehicle-related discipline?

Travel mercies!

 

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

The Delights of Dunking

2014-07-18 06.56.32I was sitting in a coffee shop near the airport having just dropped off one family member and waiting to pick up another. I was amazed at how lovely the view was outside the big picture window: clear blue sky, a few jet streams shooting off in various directions, the teenage tulip tree and sumac framing my perspective. Ahhh, gratitude for the abounding beauty.

I sat at this corner table typing away when I noticed an older man, about the age of my father, dunking his roll into his hot milky beverage. It reminded me of my childhood. I would visit my Ukrainian grandparents who owned a corner store in New Jersey. The rolls and bread delivered fresh, early every morning. I can hear the bread man pouring them into the heavy cardboard box they’d sit in, their coarse, grainy bottoms rubbing roughly.

While bustling back and forth from the store to help a customer to the kitchen to tend me and other duties, my grandmother would make me hot chocolate. I would take a fresh roll, slather on sweet butter (not the salted butter we had at home), and dunk it into my hot chocolate. I returned to the warmth of that little kitchen as soon as I saw this older man dunking. Then, I heard him speak to his friends: Russian or Ukrainian! The connection solidified.

There was an unspoken bond I felt to him, the gratitude I felt for him bringing my grandmother (Bopchi) back to me!

As an adult I had tried to recreate that culinary experience but the roll, butter, and hot chocolate just never tasted as good. The magic of childhood and my grandmother spoiling me was the key ingredient missing. She’s been gone for more than 20 years, but I’m amazed and grateful that her love and warmth can come back to me in a chance glance in little coffee shop in Maryland.

So thankful for the many gifts already this morning!

 

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.