Invitation to 58 acts of kindness

On January 8th, a birthday I share with Elvis, David Bowie and my Uncle Rab, I will be 58 (although I don’t feel a day over 35). Recently an acquaintance, Bunni, extended an unexpected kindness to me. Then I experienced several other acts of kindness. As an expression of gratitude for the good that has come to me, I thought it might be fun to ‘pay it forward’ by generating 58 acts of kindness as a birthday celebration.

You are invited to participate and leave a comment about what act of kindness you performed. Because I know I work best with a deadline, I’d like to have the acts of kindness completed or scheduled by February 8.

I’m simmering on the acts of kindness I’d like to do.  One I’ve already committed to is washing the towels for a week at the yoga studio where I practice, Yoga in Common. This task, as well as countless others, falls to the owner of the studio. Since she generously allowed me to start a women’s group at the studio last January, I thought it would be fun to take this off her plate. I’m on the lookout for more opportunities!

And you?

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Ending 2014 and Creating 2015

Here are some questions to consciously end 2014 and set a clear intention for 2015. Enjoy!

Completing 2014

  1. What was the greatest lesson you learned in 2014? What did you change in your life because of that lesson?
  2. What is the most loving service that you performed in 2014?
  3. What is your biggest piece of unfinished business from 2014?  What is your plan to complete this unfinished business?
  4. What are you most happy about completing in 2014?
  5. What are you most happy about beginning in 2014?
  6. Who are the three people who had the greatest impact on your life in 2014? How have you acknowledged their contribution to your life?
  7. What is the biggest risk you took in 2014? What did you learn from taking that risk?
  8. What 10 things are you most grateful for that happened in 2014?
  9. What else do you need to do, say or acknowledge to complete 2014?

Creating 2015

  1. What word or phrase would you like to have as your theme in 2015?
  2. What is your greatest strength? How will you build on and use that strength in 2015?
  3. What do you want your biggest risk to be in 2015?
  4. What makes you feel most alive? How are you going to do more of that in 2015?
  5. What are you most committed to growing and improving about your work in 2015?
  6. What will you improve about your financial life in 2015?
  7. Who or what are you most committed to loving and serving in 2015?
  8. What do you know for sure? How do you plan to stay connected to that wisdom on a daily basis in 2015?
  9. What is your affirmation statement for 2015?
  10. Who are you most committed to being in 2015?
  11. Think about December 31, 2015. What will you say about your year?

If you live the questions, life moves you to the answers.                   Deepak Chopra

 

 

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Renegotiating Commitments

Although I have a commitment to write my blog each week, last week I observed resistance. Is it time to reevaluate my commitment, I wondered.  It wasn’t okay to just ignore the commitment to write. Either I write or I re-examine my commitment to write weekly.

Many years ago I learned that when I break a commitment to myself, it diminishes self-trust. So I’m taking the time to reconsider and decide if I want to recommit.

The questions I’ll mull over include:

  • What does the commitment to write each week mean to me now?
  • What benefits do I receive from the writing?
  • What potential benefits might others receive?
  • Does the process of writing each week uplift me and give me joy?

We’ll see where these questions take me.

What have you learned about keeping and renegotiating commitments?

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Musical Messages from the Universe

Recently I experienced such a profound betrayal that I couldn’t sleep at night. As I attempted to come to grips with the situation, I began to notice musical messages from the universe.

Part of what led to the betrayal was a complete misreading of my motives. When I walked into the dry cleaner shortly after I received the distressing news, an Animals song from 1965 was playing. As I entered the establishment I heard the lyrics, “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”  I laughed out loud.

My daily meditations provided some respite from my distress. One morning, however, I just couldn’t stop the voices in my head from railing against what had happened. Rather than feeling relief after meditation, I felt frustration.

Later that day, I met a couple friends for lunch. As I arrived at the restaurant, I heard the lyrics “Don’t let them win” from the Crowded House song “Don’t Dream It’s Over”. I knew the message was not about the personalities involved but the voices in my head that interrupted my meditation. Again, I had to laugh.

When I returned home from lunch, a message on the answering machine regarding the situation prompted a meltdown.  I called my friend Lila in tears. Lila insisted that I was close to a breakthrough. She encouraged me to keep exploring and through my sobs, I blurted out a statement that hit the core of the issue.

Since it was a beautiful day, I took off on a bike ride as a way to nurture myself and mull over the truth that I’d discovered. When I returned home, I decided to continue my self-care by watching a movie that I enjoy, Mr. Magoriums’s Wonder Emporium. I fell asleep early in the video.

Toward the end of the movie, my husband came home. His entrance woke me shortly before my favorite line.  Mr. Magorium says to the character Mahoney, “Your life is an occasion, rise to it.”

Since I was still a little groggy, I watched the movie credits. During the credits, the Flaming Lips song, “Love the World You Find”, played. These lyrics caught my attention: “If I could tell your future, I’d say love the world you find. In the dark times and the hard questions, let some sunshine in your mind.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.

Although I could not have orchestrated these signs, I felt grateful that I noticed them. It reminded me yet again that this journey is so much larger than I can figure out and that I always have what I need. What felt like the ultimate betrayal on Monday at 9:15 a.m., by Thursday afternoon proved to be a catalyst that took me to new levels of freedom.

How do you stay aware of ‘messages’ that you receive?

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Drinking from the Saucer

When asked how she was doing, a woman I know answered that her cup was overflowing and she was drinking from the saucer.  The visual made me smile and I always remembered it.

Recently I had a ‘drinking from the saucer’ experience. Dr. Joe Dispenza, author of You Are the Placebo, facilitated a workshop that I attended, along with about 350 other people. The four day session consisted of Dr. Joe alternating between presenting information and leading us in meditation.

One session focused on the process of creation. We each made a Mind Movie with visuals, music and affirmations about what we wanted to create in all areas of our lives.

Joe led us through an exercise several different times using the Mind Movies. I had my movie downloaded to my phone. Because I hadn’t anticipated how quickly playing the movie would drain the battery, the battery died mid-session.  I didn’t have my charger with me.

While the others continued with the process, I closed my eyes and visualized my movie. Soon a feeling of complete fullness engulfed me. In that moment, I wanted nothing for myself because I knew that I didn’t need anything. All I wanted was for everyone in that room to walk out of the workshop and into the life they imagined for themselves. I felt profound gratitude and love for everyone present.

Dispenza billed the workshop as ‘the event of your life’ and he had not oversold it. I left the workshop happy and grateful. And then I came home!

Shortly after my return, I had a miscommunication with a family member. I hadn’t met expectations that I didn’t know existed.

On a beach walk, I reflected on the unpleasant incident. I realized that if I had felt as full as I did during that exercise in the workshop, there wouldn’t be an issue.  I would need nothing from this person and could only give the overflowing love and gratitude that came from the feeling of fullness.

Ultimately I felt grateful for the family snafu. It fueled my desire to cultivate that feeling of complete fullness and contentment, rather than letting it be a memory of something I experienced in a great workshop. My commitment is to approach every person, situation and decision from the feeling of ‘drinking from the saucer.’

The task of keeping that commitment feels a little daunting right now, but I’ll play with it, see what works and adjust my course as needed.

How do you create a feeling of ‘drinking from the saucer?’

 

 

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More Tales From The Foot

One of the most difficult parts of my recent foot pain was my inability to take my morning walks. These walks not only provide physical exercise but refresh me mentally. As my foot began to heal, I slowly and carefully walked the few blocks to the mailbox for our condo.

Those small victories emboldened me to attempt part of my pre-foot injury walking route.  Slowly and deliberately I began to walk, thrilled that my foot allowed me to increase my level of movement.

As I walked past the parking lot for one of the softball fields on my route, two men were getting out of their car. We greeted each other with a good morning. A few strides after I passed the men, I realized it was time to turn around and head home. This time when I passed them, one of them commented that it was a good day for a walk and I agreed. As I walked away, I overheard one of the men comment that it looked more like a stroll than a walk.

The difference in our perceptions struck me. All these men saw was my slow movement. I, on the other hand, felt happy and grateful that I could even take a walk. What these men observed and what I was experiencing were two very different things.

This small encounter reminded me that I never know the truth about any situation just by observing. Curious inquiry, rather than filling in meaning based on my own perceptions and observations, helps me to gain understanding. I always consider it a win when I remember to be curious rather than certain!

How do you ensure that your observations are accurate?

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Solving the right problem

When I lamented to my friend Cathy, a former hairstylist, that my coarse hair made it difficult to care for in South Carolina’s climate, Cathy’s response surprised me.  She said that I didn’t have thick, coarse hair, just a lot of very fine hair. Imagine my surprise. For 50 plus years, I’ve thought I had thick, coarse hair.

This new revelation is important because for the almost 3 years I’ve lived in South Carolina, I’ve bought products and requested hair styles that would solve the problem of thick, coarse hair coupled with humidity.

After my conversation with Cathy, I had a different conversation with my new hairstylist.  She gave me a cut and recommended products that actually work with my hair type in this climate.  Up until now, I couldn’t accomplish a satisfactory solution to my hair challenge because I’d been attempting to solve the wrong problem.

This seemingly insignificant hair situation made me wonder how often I’ve tried to solve the wrong problem in other areas of my life. It also reminded me that a lot of unsolved societal problems might stem from the fact that we’re actually attempting to solve the wrong problem.

To bring more awareness to how I’ll address current and future challenges, I’ve devised some questions:

  • How would I define the problem?
  • What factual evidence do I have that the problem is as defined?
  • What assumptions am I making?
  • What new perspective or information might support me in seeing the problem differently?
  • Given the answers to these questions, how would I define the problem better or differently?

After contemplating these questions, then I’ll look for a solution.

I’m grateful that Cathy’s comment reminded me that even long held assumptions should be challenged and that solutions are always available for correctly defined problems.

How do you know that you’re solving the right problem?

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The foot that keeps on giving!

Anticipating a long wait when I accompanied my husband to his doctor’s appointment, I armed myself with a book.  About twenty minutes into our wait, it occurred to me that we should sit closer to the entrance to the doctor’s office since my foot pain was still slowing me down.

Our new seat positioned us across the waiting room from the large glass entrance door to the building. Just beyond the door grew a crepe myrtle tree.  Although I went back to reading my book once we settled into our new seats, I found myself glancing up to admire the tree’s beauty. Finally, I put my book away and put my full attention on the tree. I noticed the patterns made by the light that filtered through a neighboring bush, I observed the muted pink blooms, I marveled at the many slim stalks that make up the tree’s trunk.

This particular tree had many trunk stalks that looked like thick fingers reaching up to support the blossoms and leaves. Crepe myrtles don’t have the type of bark that’s familiar to me. I admired the smooth trunk stalks and noted that their apparent lack of bark made them appear a little naked and vulnerable. For me, that vulnerability enhances their beauty.

The good feeling generated by studying the tree inexplicably brought to mind a concert that Tom and I had attended about 4 years ago. I thought about my delight in discovering at the last minute that Willie and Lobo were in town and how much we enjoyed their music that evening. The nurse calling Tom for his appointment interrupted my trip down memory lane.

If my foot hadn’t been slowing me down, I wouldn’t have thought twice about what chairs we chose in the large waiting room. I may not have even noticed the crepe myrtle tree nor enjoyed the pleasant memory of the concert. I’m grateful that my foot is getting better and better and I’m grateful for what I’m noticing since I’m moving a little more slowly.

What do you notice when you slow down?

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Moving slowly in a fast paced world

“Toe bone connected to the foot bone, foot bone connected to the heel bone, heel bone connected to the ankle bone…” We used to sing this song as kids.  Recently I’ve had a practical understanding of the song’s wisdom. Putting greater weight on my right foot to compensate for an issue with my left hip,  ended up straining my foot, Massage and acupuncture released the hip pain.  My foot strain, however, is slowing me down.

Because I believe in the mind/body connection, l did some writing to see what message might be  trying to get my attention. The writing revealed some advice about my work: step carefully in upcoming business opportunities, set criteria for accepting new work, and there is no need to hurry.

The last part, that there is no need to hurry, doesn’t seem grounded in my everyday reality. When I cross the street, I look several times to make sure no cars are coming. I know I can’t run quickly across the street if I need to.

I’m also aware of how I take my ability to do every day activities for granted. ‘Running’ into the grocery store to pick up something isn’t an option right now.  When I do household tasks, my focus is on saving painful steps.

My current situation greatly increased my empathy for older people and others who don’t move too quickly. It seems like everyone is rushing.  I just never noticed this before because I was part of the rush.

What’s all the hurry about?  It appears that our lives are full yet an ABC report in 2013 asserted that “Americans actually report being among the most unhappy people in the world.”  (http://abc13.com/archive/9000225/)My completely unscientific observation is that all the rushing gets in the way of appreciating simple things like birdsong, the play of light through lattice and  one of my personal favorites, indoor plumbing.

Wearing a post-operative shoe has helped immobilize my foot and is allowing it to heal. Although I’m looking forward to pain-free walking, I’m grateful to my foot for its lessons: moving fast isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, slowing down helps me notice more of the good in my life, and that given the right support, our bodies have a tremendous ability to heal.

What have you noticed about the correlation between pace of life and life satisfaction?

 

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Just for Joy

Because my monthly women’s group meeting occurred a few days after the Summer Solstice,  I chose the theme of joy. We discussed what we enjoy most about summer, as well as what brings us joy and keeps us connected to our joy.

During our discussion, one woman mentioned a documentary entitled The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, about Alice Herz Sommer.

At the time the documentary was filmed, Alice was 109. She transitioned this past February at 110. Until shortly before her death, she played the piano every day. When arthritis made it impossible for her to use one finger on each hand, she taught herself to play with her 8 remaining fingers.

Music literally saved Alice’s life. She was sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943.  Many artists were sent to Theresienstadt before being deported to death camps. The Nazi’s used this camp for propaganda purposes.

Alice was quoted in Haaretz newspaper about performing at the camp: “Whenever I knew that I had a concert, I was happy. Music is magic. We performed in the council hall before an audience of 150 old, hopeless, sick and hungry people. They lived for the music. It was like food to them. If they hadn’t come [to hear us], they would have died long before. As we would have.”

One day a Nazi soldier approached Alice and told her how much he appreciated her music. He assured her that her name would never on the deportation list.

Alice spoke about the power of music on her darkest day—the day she had to bring her mother to the train station to be deported.  How she responded to that event was to practice and master the difficult Chopin Etudes.

Alice’s story continued to swirl in my mind after I watched the documentary.

When I spoke with another life coach about the film, he asked me a powerful question: What is your ‘music,’ something that you have such passion about that it would save your life and feed others?

I’ve been simmering on that question ever since he asked it, although no definitive answer has emerged.

I offer the question for you to simmer on as well: What is your ‘music,’ that thing that you have such passion about that it would save your life and feed others?

 

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