Saturday, September 29, 2012

Time is My Friend

Affirmation: Time is my friend. 

Many years ago, while I was waiting in a shop for service, there was also an older gentleman waiting.  When the time came for the next customer, he motioned for me to go ahead of him.  I protested, even though I was in a hurry.  He insisted.  Then he said to me, "Time is my friend."  This was my first affirmation and I have been writing it, reading it and saying it to myself ever since I began practicing positive affirmations.  I must say, it is one of my most challenging. 

I try to live in "divine time," as my dear friend and healer, Valerie Kelly, called it.  Divine time is where I simply go through my day knowing that everything will simply fall into place, not worrying about when I leave, when I arrive or if I'm late or early, but that's a very rare event.  Most of the time, I am struggling with getting it all in.  I want more time!  I believe Valerie’s healing touch began before I ever arrived for my appointment.  My appointment was usually sometime around 2:30 in the afternoon.  Many times, I arrived and Valerie wasn’t ready to see me.  At first, I was annoyed.  This was just not how things are done in my world.  You choose a time and a place and then you arrive at that agreed time or close to it.  Truly, I have been in knots most of my life trying to be on time.  I usually begin getting tense just knowing I have a destination to which I am supposed to arrive at a particular time long before I’ve even begun the journey. 
But, Valerie didn’t get it.  She lived in her own space.  She began her massage sessions when she was ready and she never ended them until she felt you were complete, not when the clock reached a certain point.  As the years went on I found myself responding to her sense of time.  If I was going to be late, I wasn’t the least bit worried.  I’d usually text her and tell her when I thought I’d arrive and she’d let me know, without fail, that that was just fine.  If I was early, she’d sit me in her lovely living room and let me just rest or we’d chat while she finished lunch or settled the dog down.  I know she had clients that couldn’t adjust to this approach but I so valued her healing skills that I decided to make it work.  For me, I was so relaxed when I arrived that my body was completely receptive to her gifts.  And, one of her gifts to me was the gift of my not having to watch the clock and in return, my gift to her was accepting her exactly the way she was; a radiant being who wouldn’t let the world confine her.

As I get older, I am finding time goes faster and faster.  Have you had that experience?  As I write this, it is the fall of the year and I can't imagine where the year has gone.  I heard a poem once:  I woke up, turned my head and when I looked back, it was 30 years later.  After sharing this with a friend, she added, “or 40 or 50!”  There’s a very old movie called “Stop the World I Want to Get Off.”  That’s how I feel most days.  I want time to stop.  I want to savor each and every moment.  I want more time, today and forever. 

I have another friend who lost her daughter and her husband to cancer.  One day she told me she knew we all had to die; she just didn't expect life to go so fast.  We cried!  How do you make peace with that?  I know time is a manmade tool.  I know there are all kinds of theories about how it doesn't really exist; that it's supposed to be more like a layer cake, one field lying over another.  I use to tell people "Time is not my friend." 
I read once, where a man from a tribe in a foreign land told an American: "You have so many watches, but no time.  We have no watches, but plenty of time."  That's how I want to feel, like I always have plenty of time.  I want to treasure each moment.  I don't want to worry and rush about.  I don't want to think about tomorrow, when I haven't even gotten out of bed, today.  I hope that by believing time is my friend, life will be easier, richer, and more joyful. 
How do you make peace with time?  Can part of it be believing this life is not going to end; we will live on in another dimension, maybe one of those layers the physicists write about.  In the mediation book “God Calling“ the opening reading is about how God only designs humans to live one day at a time.  I wonder if God didn’t design us to live one moment at a time?  Ah, there it is again, the call to meditate.  The call to stay connected to exactly what is happening right now, not planning for the future or ruminating on the past. 

Sharon Salzberg, one of the founders of the Insight Meditation Center in Barry, Mass., tells the story about an intense training session she once underwent with a mediation master.  She was to report to him daily about her mediation practice.  She said the first time she showed up with her notes, he didn't’ let her speak before he asked her “Did you brush your teeth today?”  “Yes,” she replied.  “Did you pay attention to the experience?”  She had not.  The next time she arrived he again spoke before she could begin to share all her insights she’d learned during her meditation session.  “Did you walk here today?”  “Yes”, she answered.  “Did you pay attention to the experience?” 

Perhaps that is part of the secret; paying attention, not rushing about, not being pre-occupied with the business, many times the trivia, of life.  My dear friend Valerie knew this and she gifted me with her concept of life, time and love.  It’s a good thing she knew how to stay in the moment and live each day to the fullest because she lost her life at the age of 53.  I have many emotions attached to her memory, but one that makes me smile is thinking about my arrival at her home for my appointment; calm, centered and knowing that whatever time I arrived was the perfect time.  What about you?  Is time your friend or your enemy?  May you too discover the gift of living (at least occasionally) in divine time.  May you discover the gift of joyfully living in perfect time. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Financial Prosperity

Affirmation: We attract financial prosperity.

Money! I’m fairly thrifty on most things. But, I don’t like to feel like I have to be thrifty. I like to choose to be thrifty. Can you see the difference? It reminds me of some diets I’ve been on. As soon as I felt I was denying myself of some specific food, I wanted it more. I belong to Weight Watchers Online and I am fascinated by the amount of food I can eat and also that I can eat anything I want, within a reasonable amount. It seems to be working for me. It's the same with money, I don’t mind watching my pennies, I just want to do it because I have a responsibility to be financially aware and prudent not because we are in dire straits. Maybe an ounce of prevention will help to keep us from being in real financial difficulties, maybe.

The affirmation: We attract financial prosperity is one of the few affirmations in which I include my husband. Our finances are totally interwoven. I guess that’s fairly normal after more than 40 years of marriage. I remember the first time I told him about this affirmation. I told him it was: “I attract financial prosperity.” We were in church. He was pretty skeptical. Then the donation basket was passed and I asked him for some additional cash to put in it. Being the great guy he is, he immediately handed me more money. “See”, I said, “I do attract financial prosperity!” He smiled and just shook his head.

The topic of money is a very touchy topic. Think about it, almost any topic seems to be fodder for the media, especially the talk shows. We all seem to know more about people, especially the “stars” than we ever wanted to know. But, seldom is money, especially someone’s income an open topic. Do you know how much money any of your friends or relatives make? Probably not. It’s the final taboo. It’s also the number one reason for people to divorce. Many couples come into a relationship with completely opposite ideas about finances. One wants to “save for a rainy day” and another wants to “enjoy the moment.” Finding a happy medium appears to be a real stumbling block for many marriages.

My study group, The Seekers, read the book Second Blooming for Women. One of the topics has led to a lot of discussion both within and outside the group. The statement is, “If money were no object ________.” How would you fill that in? I love asking people this question.

My husband has a story about being in speech class in college. He decided to speak about the song “If I Ruled the World.” To gather information, he went around asking people what they would do if they ruled the world. One person he asked was a young co-worker. He was the delivery fellow at their local pharmacy. This young man gave the question a great deal of thought and finally shared, “I would have someone set me up in business.” Sandy, my hubby, said, “I don’t think you get it. You RULE the whole world.” The young man again gave it quite a bit of thought and what do you think he answered? “Yup, if I ruled the world, I’d have someone set me up in business. That’s what I’d do.”

When I was first confronted with the fill in the blank about money, I must admit my vision was limited. Not as much as the delivery guy but more than I like to admit. Then, after speaking with my group, I found myself imagining all sorts of altruistic activities. “No object” you say, “Well, I’d cure cancer, make sure everyone had any proven, available inoculations, feed the hungry, especially the children and finally, I would make a supreme effort to educate the women of the world.” I might have to own a private jet in order to get around tending to the whole world but I’m willing to do whatever is necessary.
Then came the real revelation. Money may be limited but that doesn’t mean I can’t still devote some of my income to those things I feel are important. My donations may not take care of the whole world but it would at least take care of a part of it. I do set aside part of our income to give to charity. As we shared some of our ideas, it came to me that I have also been giving money to educate women. I make a monthly donation to my high school, Saint Agnes Academic High in College Point, N.Y. It’s an all girl school and I credit it and the teachers I had for the life I now live. It was a wonderful environment. It showed me my potential. I had nuns and lay teachers who had their PHDs in Mathematics, English, and Latin, to name a few subjects. They were remarkable women and by being in their presence, I began to see that I too could educate myself and reach heights I never before dreamed possible.

What about you? If money were no object what would be your priorities? Remember, we are spiritual beings. We have the gifts and ability to tap into the unseen, the unknown, the power of God! Truly, the only limits that exist are the limits we place on ourselves. It’s our choice; do we go to the ocean with a thimble, a bucket or a pipeline? It’s all yours just like the sun shines on all of us, prosperity can belong to everyone; dream large.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Letting Go of Childhood Limitations

Affirmation:  I let go of my childhood limitations.

How can one be over the age of 50, 60, 70 and still be restricted or controlled by emotions and concepts that influenced them as they were growing up?  How can one not?  I’m speaking about those emotions and concepts that deter us from true joy, that interfere with our ability to completely savor and embrace life.  And, is it even possible to release oneself, to become an adult in one’s own right?  Is it possible to grasp the positive qualities that serve us and our loved ones and let go of those, perhaps at least acknowledge and appreciate the experience but then let go of those concepts that are damaging us?

Part of the creative process encouraged in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, is an examination of what one felt was lacking in their childhood.  I was a lucky person.  Looking back on my childhood I remember a lot of freedom and amazingly, even with all that freedom, I never experienced any trauma.  My mother and my father worked very hard and while my grandparents lived below our one bedroom apartment for the first ten years of my life, that was about the extent of our family.  My father was an only child and my mom’s siblings were more than a decade older than her and did not live close.  I grew up in Jamaica, Queens.  When the city was preparing for the 1964 World’s Fair, they took down all the trees along my street, Grand Central Parkway, and I could actually see the Empire State Building from my house. 

It was not an inner city neighborhood but it was close.  Most of the houses were attached brick homes with the driveway in the back alley.  We had about ten square feet of lawn in the front and my dad paved over the back yard so we had room to park our cars.  My mom had a clothes line that went from the second story kitchen window to a pole out back and she hung most of our laundry out to dry.  I would head out to play early in the day and wouldn’t return until the street lights went on.  We played hard.  We skated, rode bikes, climbed walls and trees.  We played tag, jumped rope and played stick ball.  In the winter we ice skated several miles from the house and rode our sleds down the back alley driveways.  No one ever seemed to come look for us and if you can imagine, we didn’t have cell phones!  We were free.  We had a lot of choices.  I grew up believing I could do anything.  I wasn’t sure what that was or where it would lead me, but there were no boundaries for me as a child.  I assumed there wouldn’t be any for me as an adult.  Oh, I was well aware of the fact that I was a girl but when it came to running, climbing and skating, I was equal to any boy.  It wasn’t until college that I discovered women were expected to only follow certain paths. 

After Julia has you examine what you thought you lacked as a child, she then encourages you to find ways to parent yourself, to nurture yourself.  You can’t begin to let go and to heal until you recognize what it is you were missing.  Maybe you never felt loved enough.  Maybe you never felt valued enough.  My parents were so busy that I never felt I received enough affection.  Of course, so much of our childhood memories can be so skewed.  I once heard the story of a young woman who recalled a fainting episode to her mother.  She was shocked to learn she hadn’t fainted at all, it had been her sister!  But, whether or not our feelings are based on reality or perception, doesn’t matter.  They are our feelings.  I can still recall childhood incidents that make me feel sad or happy or frightened and my childhood ended more than half a century ago.  And now life moves onward.  There are times when you need to let go of any junk you feel about your childhood.  At some point if you hope to be healthy and happy you simply need to “get over it.” 

I am my mother’s main caregiver.  I am very blessed because at 90 she is still extremely healthy and independent.  I’m the oldest of three and mom chose to move near me over 15 years ago.  She made the move all by herself.  She likes to be independent and self- sufficient.  It empowers her as it probably does most of us.  My prayer for Mom is that she will continue to have joy and maintain dignity as she finishes out her life.  I only want to love her and enjoy her presence. I want to be the "good little girl" and make her happy.  I want to take whatever steps needed to help her feel better, to make her happy.  I’m 66 years old and the child in me still wants to please my mother but I know, this is a fact, that no matter what or how much I do, I cannot please her long term.  I cannot make her happy.  Sister Mary Margaret from A Place for Women to Gather says, “Happiness is an inside job.”  There is only one person who can make us happy, us. 

That’s why I create affirmations.  It’s all up to me what I think, how I perceive life, how I feel.  I cannot remain the good little girl and live frustrated and sad because of anyone. I must let go of ALL my childhood limitations and embrace my own adult determination to create my own happiness.  Have you looked at your childhood limitations?  Are they interfering with the quality of your life?  Can you too release them?  Do you want to?

A reporter went to interview a man who was very down on his luck.  He had lost everything dear to him and had fallen into a chronic alcoholic state.  “Why do you think your life has turned out this way?” he asked.  The man shared with him that his father was an alcoholic and he never held out much hope for himself.  Then the reporter went to interview the man’s brother.  He was surprised to find him leading a very happy, successful life.  He decided to ask him the same question, “Why do you think your life has turned out this way?”  The brother said, “Well, for heaven’s sake, my father was a chronic alcoholic.  I watched him all through my childhood and decided my life was never going to follow that path.” 

Life is all about our choices.  We get to choose what lessons we want to learn from our childhood.  We get to decide if we’re going to carry the sad, remorseful feelings with us into adulthood and let them weigh us down or if we are going to learn the lesson, release ourselves from the limitations and grow up healthy and happy. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Claiming Your Power

Affirmation:  I stand in my power.

How many women do you know who would say they love themselves?  It seems to me, that most women have a lot of difficultly valuing themselves.  Most of the discussions I have with my female friends and women attendees at my workshops are about ways to increase our self-esteem especially as we grow older. 

The intention I set for my yoga practice and for when I teach any class is to “nurture and empower.”  I believe that a regular yoga practice is one of the tools that will help us develop and encourage us to deepen both of those qualities.  Some poses allow us to rest and let gravity hold us while we slowly release more deeply into the pose.  I feel that way when I do Pose of the Child.  In it you kneel down, sit back onto your heels, place your forehead on the floor and rest your arms, hands down, along side of your body.  As you breathe your whole back stretches open from the bottom of your spine up to the top.  Your legs and feet loosen up and your shoulders relax into the ground.  Of, course there is also Savasana, Corpse Pose.  It’s the last pose in most practices when the yogi lies flat out on his or her back, hands placed palms up next to one’s side and let’s gravity hold you while keeping the mind free of the clutter of life.  I always remind my students that this is a very important pose because as one of my mentors, Nancy Hannah, taught me “Mindful movement followed by stillness brings healing to the mind, body and spirit.”

But,  when I practice and when I teach, my mission is to also empower.  There are many poses which can encourage a sense of strength and power.  One of the poses that is frequently included in most practices is Virabhadrasana, Warrior Pose.  There are three Warrior Poses.  The tale surrounding these poses is that a young woman was deeply wounded by her father and decided to shed her body.  While in a meditative state her body burst into flames.  When her husband, the god Shiva, heard of her death he called on his fiercest warrior and named this warrior, Virabhadra,  Vira (hero) + Bhadra (friend).  He then ordered Virabhadra to go and revenge his wife’s death, which Virabhadra did.  Nowhere in the story does it say if the warrior is a man or a woman.  You get to choose. When you take a stance for Warrior I, you spread your legs apart, both feet pointing forward, the back foot a little turned out, you bend your front knee, face forward and raise your straight arms overhead.  You ground your feet and lift your torso. In Warrior II, you take the same basic stance, but you turn your torso to the side, place your arms in a tee position, palms down, and gaze out over the front hand. It looks like you’re preparing to throw a spear or a javelin.  In Warrior III, you stand on one leg and your other leg is stretched back and it and your torso and arms are parallel to the ground, like your about to swing out and kick something.  Practicing any one of these stances will elicit a feeling of power in mind, body and spirit. 

A diagnosis and treatment plan for cancer or some other life threatening illnesses, can be a very dis-empowering experience.  Many in the medical field in an attempt to help you save your life forget that you still need to be in charge.  They may need a reminder that you are more than willing to partner with them in your health care but you are not going to allow them to take over your whole life.  Claiming your power in this instance can be the difference between life and death.  If you have a feeling that the caregiver you are working with is not on your team, it is imperative that you resolve the conflict or find a new caregiver.  Follow your instincts and claim your power.  Before I began treatment for breast cancer I decided to practice my Virabhadrasana poses.  I decided I need to take a warrior stance in order to prepare myself for the cancer process.  I found a counselor with the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program.  I then gathered my troops about me and got all the information I could find about other steps people have successfully used to empower themselves through this experience; a nutritionist, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, and most importantly, my prayer groups. I invited and allowed any friend who wanted to help me through cancer, to help me in anyway that suited them.  Truly, I entered into that first chemo session fully armed.  I had my family, doctors, nurses and technicians to guide the meds and treatment and I had prayers, information, mediation tapes and a USA Today crossword puzzle.  I was fully prepared for battle.

The first time I heard someone tell me they needed to “stand in their power” I knew immediately what she meant.  Sometimes it’s too easy to think small.  It’s too easy to feel small, to let things go unresolved so that someone’s feelings are not ruffled but that can become a habit that only diminishes our power and our spirit.  Years ago when I was a very young woman there were courses designed to help people become more assertive, not aggressive, they would stress, but assertive.  Mostly these courses were attended by women.  What decides wether or not a woman feels powerful or not or for that matter, how anyone feels about themselves?  I’m sure the first criteria is their childhood experiences.  Were they led to believe they were special, smart, gifted?  Were they encouraged to follow their hearts and their imagination or were they treated poorly or worse?  But, even after such spirit damaging treatment, many people go onto find their self worth. 

Steve Jobs founder of Apple, died in October of 2011.  He changed the face of IT and the way the world saw and used all sorts of technological equipment.  One of the stories about Steve Jobs is that as a child when confronted by another child about his adoption, he became very upset.  The other child asked him how it felt to know he was abandoned by his birth parents.  His adopted parents gave the perfect answer to his question of abandonment.  They explained to him that they had chosen him from all the other children in the world.  For most of us, that would be enough to help us feel better and to value ourselves.  Steve Jobs took it to a whole new level.  He said from that moment on he knew he was not abandoned, he was CHOSEN!

As women age in our society, traditionally their value is diminished.  Older women are not normally looked upon as favorably as older men.  Just look at our older actors versus our older actresses.  But, even if in America you don’t find a lot of older women in the movies, thank heavens for the Brits and Dames Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren and Judi Dench.  It seems to me that the values our society holds up as a reflection of “success” are normally male held values.  But, it is changing.  Women today seem to be able to stay true to themselves and still find worldly success.  But, let’s face it sadly, we still don’t have many women officially leading the countries of the world.  We have had, however, many women warriors who have led our society out of darkness and into the light: Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, and Helen Keller to name just a few.  And, we do have many more women in professions that were once consider strictly male territory.  When I majored in mathematics in college, I was one of 5 women in a program of about 100 men.  No more!   We now have women leading the fields of medicine, science, law and politics.  But, perhaps, some of your heroines aren’t on this list.  What of our mothers, sisters, friends and mentors?  They may be the women you think of when you think of powerful, strong women. 

What if you believed that every thing you do, everything you say, every thought you have, has an influence on everyone else in the world?  Would you think of yourself as powerful?  I am here to tell you that is true!  Our simple presence in this world, affects everyone else and everything else that exists.  We are interwoven in ways we cannot even fathom.  There is a network of energy that runs from each of us to each other.  Therefore, we have a responsibility to value ourselves and each other.  We have a responsibility to claim our power.  We must all believe in ourselves, we must!  We must recognize and value our contributions, our existence. Men and women alike need to know without doubt that we have value, each of us, and it’s especially important to claim it as we age.  We need to recognize and take credit for the way we have made life better.  It will affect every aspect of our life and every person we encounter.  When you truly claim your power and let your light shine, you give permission to the rest of world to do the same. 

What do you think your life would be like if you believed that you are chosen?  What would it take for you to believe that you are powerful?  What tools can you use to insure that as you move forward you will know that simply because you are, you are important; you are a force with which to be reckoned.  One of the first tools is to stand up and tell yourself, “I am powerful!  I stand in my power!  I claim my power!”  Yes we are chosen, each and every one of us.  We have been chosen by the greatest Father of all time.  Claim your power.  Say it!  Write it!  Watch how your body responds.  An affirmation can feel strange at first but don’t give up, keep with it and one day if you’re not there already, you’ll be in a place where you find yourself standing tall, feeling strong and you’ll know without a doubt that you are valued, you are important, you are loved.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Passionate for Freedom

Affirmation:  I fully recognize and appreciate the gift of living in a free country and having the right to make my choices known.

“Our passions are the winds that propel our vessel. Our reason is the pilot that steers her. Without winds the vessel would not move and without a pilot she would be lost.“  Proverbs

Have you ever watched a political convention?   Politics is not my favorite subject, to say the least.  I am a moderate, a middle of the road citizen.  I can usually see both sides of an issue and that can leave me very confused about for whom I should vote.  I don’t have a very successful record either.  If a friend or family members favors someone for office they would be wise to encourage me to vote for the opponent.  I can’t ever remember voting for the winner in a major election.  But, I always vote.  I may not always be as well informed as I’d like to be, but I always go and cast my vote.  I try, I really do try to gather as much information as possible.  I read about the different people, sometimes I go to meet them but I’ve never been so impressed or enamored by a candidate that I was sure I was making the best decision.  The best decision for whom; for me, for my country, for the world?

When I vote I feel like that in itself is the best decision, the decision to exercise my right to vote.  When I read about and listen to the sacrifices our ancestors have made and the oppression that exists in so many countries today, I fully recognize the gift I have been given with the opportunity to choose those I want to represent me, my city, state and country.

I pray daily for wisdom for our world leaders.  There seems to be so many politicians whose only concern is their power and their prestige.  Perhaps, that’s why I’m not very passionate about politics.  I don’t have much faith in the people who chose to be politicians.  I can’t imagine what drives so many of them to put themselves so far out into the public’s eye.  I wonder, so often, if it’s not simply a grand ego trip.  I want to believe that a person who is running for office is more concerned about me, his or her constituent, than he or she is about themselves.

When I watch the conventions, the men and women who present themselves with passion about their concerns and about their desires to uplift and empower us, their represented, I am almost relieved, relieved that someone comes across with what I think is a genuine spirit.  But, it’s the people, the audience with whom I am so fascinated.  I am sure there is a selection process for those attendees.  I’m sure some have been going for years; maybe it’s a family tradition.  I know in many ways it’s a fun experience.  I’ve been to several business conventions.  The energy generated by a group of people with a common goal is always palpable.

In 2010 my husband, Sandy, was a keynote speaker for Toastmasters International in Las Vegas.  It’s an amazing organization and we were very excited to be there.  There were over 2000 people there from all over the world.  We met people from Africa, Asia, Australia and places that began with many other letters besides “A.”  It was 3 days of high energy, lots of stories and shared visions.  I would imagine being at a political convention would be similar.

Passion is the world that comes to mind when I watch the people in attendance.  Passion!  They must truly love and care about the process we have here in the United States to decide our own destiny and they must believe completely in that process.  They have devoted time, energy and talent to participate in the process.  I find it inspiring.  I believe we all need passion in our lives.

Passion is that quality of life that keeps our hearts beating and our spirits soaring.  I believe being passionate about our country, even with its zits, is a worthy pursuit, a just passion.  I am proud to be an American.  I am grateful to live in a land of peace and freedom.  I believe the United States is a place where dreams can come true.  I am grateful to be a woman living here in the United States rather than in some oppressive regime.  I believe in our compassion as a people and a nation.  I value the sacrifices so many Americans have made and continue to make to help others both here and throughout the world.

Vote?  For whom will I vote?  That’s not as important as if I will vote.  That choice, no that obligation, is one thing about which I am passionate.  There once was an article in USA Today stating that thousands of Americans don’t vote. They simply don’t care or they don’t believe it can make a difference.  Men and women have died, are dying, punished and even imprisoned because they want, they demand, the right to have a voice in their destiny.  Yes, I will not let this gift, this opportunity go unused, unappreciated, The United States of America is the greatest country in the world.  And, I for one, will exercise my privilege and hope and pray that I am casting a vote for someone with passion who will work and lead my country and perhaps our world towards the highest and best we can possibly be.  I hope you will join me.