Gratitude is one of my favorite topics, because it is a feel-good topic. There is something a bit supernatural about it, the way it can completely transform perceptions, feelings, and experiences. Even material goods seem to become something more when viewed with gratitude. Gratitude throws open the gates of the heart and closes the judgments of the mind. One of my father’s favorite proverbs was "I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet". Gratitude can bring about that feeling without witnessing someone with less. It has a way of making a little seem like an abundance, a way of brightening all the colors, of making the air smell fresher and your body feel lighter. Gratitude can give you that spring in your step.
So anytime you are feeling down, disheartened, or disenchanted, or if you are feeling a lack in some area of your life, like you don’t have enough -money, love, friends, time - stop and challenge yourself to write down things you are grateful for. It is an exercise that once you start it will gain its own momentum. If you are feeling stuck start small, like – the weather is nice; you enjoyed a hot shower; you heard a great song on the radio; you got a good parking spot. Look at those things that you take for granted – like indoor plumbing or your car starting when you turn the key, or the electricity needed to make that delicious first cup of coffee in the morning, or that fact that you slept in a bed last night and that you woke up this morning. These are the types of things we take for granted until something brings them to our attention – usually when something unexpected happens. I am saying don’t wait for that interference, instead notice now, notice the gifts, the blessings, the magic and miracles that surround you in every moment.
Gratitude is a game changer – practice at your own risk, it is highly addictive.
We have all been there, hearing the clock ticking on a pressing decision we need to make. We have spun it around and around in our minds, written down the pros and cons, gotten the opinions of others and still we cannot seem to choose. Our mind keeps flip-flopping and sending anxious messages throughout our body. But there is hope in a technique called heart brain coherence that joins the judgmental, critical brain with the feeling, intuitive heart and can lead you to make the decision that is right for you.
The first step is to place your hand or fingers over your heart space -touching this space is recommended because where attention goes, energy flows. Next focus on slow, even breathing – it can help to visualize the breath entering and exiting through your heart. And lastly, you want to use your mind to visualize and your heart to feel things that put you into an elevated state - people, pets, things, and experiences that bring emotions like gratitude, awe, joy, appreciation, and love (if you can keep it uncomplicated). This exercise will synch your brain and your heart which can help you to tap into your intuition, and that is key is making good decisions. An additional benefit is the combined force of your two “brains” (the heart is now being referred to as the second brain by some researchers) is that messages of well-being will be sent to the cells in your body. This practice can be done for a few minutes or longer and it can leave you feeling wonderful physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I was thinking about our fast paced, distraction filled world, and how consumed we have become with being busy and being visible. We live out our lives on social media and look to others for validation. We crave that rush of dopamine we get when someone likes our tweets, posts, pics, stories, pins, blogs, vlogs; we wait for that ding, that notification, that thumbs up, that new follower, that nod of approval. We are like children yelling – watch me mommy, watch me. With enough nods we may even feel like we have arrived. But that satisfaction is short lived, we must be up and running with the next bit of information, consumed by how we measure up.
And why are we addicted to busyness and shallowness? Maybe because we are bored, maybe because we are overwhelmed with choices and information. Maybe because we are insecure, or because we are overworked and exhausted. And maybe because we are afraid, afraid of what time alone with just our thoughts might mean. What if we don’t measure up in our own eyes? What if we look deeply and can find no meaning in our lives, in life in general? What if we cannot pinpoint our purpose, or find any point to life, then what? What if the constant running, doing, chatting, discussing, planning all mean nothing. What if we realize that no matter how fast we run, death keeps pace and will catch up to us right on schedule.
Using our minds, we can peer at moments from the past, like clicking thru snapshots on a view finder (yes I am old!). These memories may even carry emotions back with them, but we are still remembering with our minds. Compare this to those that are stored in our sense organs, the ones powerful enough to bring the past back and plop it right down in front of us.
For instance, thoughts about my mother my bring warm, loving feelings, but if I remember through the cells of my hand I can feel how it felt to hold her aging hand in mine – the coolness of it, and how it seemed to have gotten smaller and how the bones protruded more -this remembering brings with it a longing to feel her touch again; and memories of watching my father comb his gorgeous hair in the bathroom mirror are just images in my mind, but give me a whiff of his cologne, Aqua Velva, and poof he is in the room with me (I keep a bottle in my medicine cabinet just for this reason) ; or images of my dog, Johnnie, waiting to greet me when I came home - I can see his sweet face, but if I remember through my skin I can feel the softness of his fur, and just for an instant he is back in my arms; and I can think of pizza and imagine how it would taste but walking by a pizza shop, on a warm summer’s night, transports me back to giggling with my girlfriends, at the church carnivals of my youth.
What a precious gift we possess, to be able to live in the present but touch the past, and just for the briefest of moments, hold it in our hearts.
Your turn – what memories come to life for you when you hear, smell, see, taste, or touch the past?
I spent an hour writing a blog about my views on the pandemic, and even as I was writing, I knew I would not publish it. I looked at the words and asked, “what am I really trying to say” - the message that came through was: Question EVERYTHING.
Question your motives and your perceptions; question your beliefs and your values; question the rules - and then question why you are following them or why you are breaking them; question your memories and the messages that you were given as a child; question what you are reading, watching, and listening to; question your feelings and your moods; question your traditions and your religious beliefs; question your thoughts and where and who they are coming from.
Yes, it is uncomfortable and scary to do this, it may create distance between you and others, it may be a free-falling kind of experience where there is nothing to hold on to, but it means everything to peel away the cultural and familial layers that, unbeknownst to us, influence every aspect of our lives. Be brave, try to understand what makes you tick, choose your responses rather than allowing them to occur unconsciously. And question everything.
I write inspirations and blogs to offer my take on things. Sometimes it is reflective of who I am as a person, but more often it is about who I want to be. I remember watching an interview with Oprah and India Aria, they were speaking about India’s lyrics “I love myself unconditionally”. India said that she used this line as an affirmation - a hopeful statement that by declaration we make true. I find this to be the truth about my writings - in my attempts to inspire, uplift, empower others I am seeking to do the same for myself.
As Richard Bach wrote, “We teach best what we most need to learn.” We are all teachers and students. We are part of a circle not a hierarchy.
from Christmas Eve 2020
Today I visited my dad’s gravesite and, as I was leaving, I looked at the county jail which sits next to the cemetery, and reflected about the people inside, confined, and unable to be with family and friends on Christmas. I thought how disempowering it must feel to lose your physical freedom, and I contemplated what enabled some to remain optimistic and others to fall into depression.
What began as reflections about physical freedom turned to the emotional and mental prisons most of us live in – the bars, constructed by our thoughts and habits. Imprisoned by memories of past traumas, and by attachments to those beings and experiences we have lost. Our freedom blocked by inside voices that endlessly nag and berate us for not being good enough; from destructive habits that entangle us in a seemingly unbreakable loop of desire, indulgence, and shame. Our own personal prisons that we dwell in alone and too afraid to ask for help.
But we are never truly alone, we can use the examples of others, who have overcome the same challenges, as a guide and, we can turn to our higher self who is there and ready to serve us.
What bars are holding you and what can you do to free yourself?
Recently I was watching an episode of Restaurant Impossible and what came to mind was how it is necessary to take a step back to gain perspective of our lives and the situations we find ourselves in, and that our failure to do so limits our ability to view potential solutions to our dilemmas. We end up so focused on the problem, looking at it with a kind of tunnel vision, that we only see a small part of the picture. And yet, bring in a stranger, especially an expert, in this case Robert Irvine, and it is like the boulder that has been blocking the way gets pummeled into small rocks that can then easily be moved. I think the keys are- being honest by admitting that there is a problem; having the means to make the change, or the vision to create the means; and being brave enough to ask for and accept help.
What are the boulders in your life that need to be shattered? Where and who can you turn to for help and advice? What small step can you take today to begin to create the solution?
While writing, I noticed if the y in the word "your" is removed the new word is "our" – how cool is that! What a difference that single letter makes. Your responsibility becomes our responsibility, your mistakes become our mistakes, your prejudices become our prejudices. “Our”, what a beautifully inclusive word - it joins, it makes community and it recognizes commonality. Try it and notice the shift that takes place - for instance - it's YOUR turn to make dinner becomes it's OUR turn to make dinner - you have just created an opportunity to share an experience that may turn into one of your fondest memories.
I was working on affirmation videos and for the next project I chose the affirmation – I make good decisions. The statement seemed almost too simple to even bother writing about and yet, how many times has that voice in my head (and probably yours too) said just the opposite. How many times have we fretted about making a pressing decision or tortured ourselves about one that we had already made because we lacked the confidence in our ability to choose the best option. I realized that the simplicity of the statement was exactly what made it a perfect affirmation - the discomfort of making difficult decisions is something we can all relate to.
So, repeat with me, “I make good decisions”.