Saturday, May 17, 2014

Developing a Sense of Appreciation

Affirmation: I have an attitude of appreciation for all things.

The yoga class at Rex Wellness here in Cary had just begun when our teacher, Karin Johnson, invited us to "take an intention."  She then suggested "appreciation." Gratitude had been coming to me lately as the intention for my practice. I am in a place of delightful bliss these last few weeks.  It feels marvelous.  It's Spring as I sit and write.  The singing birds and flowering trees, bushes and plants have filled my ears with music and my vision with the color and miracle of new birth.  Presently life holds the promise of a joy filled wedding celebration for that of my youngest daughter, Ellen and her sweetheart, Adam O'Sullivan.  We have been preparing and planning for the warm welcome and entertainment of our family, dear friends and new family to be from all over the world.  We have gifts, food, hugs and smiles ready and waiting.  My spiritual director, Sister Judy Hallock, also invited me to "take an intention."  This time it was to be for the upcoming celebrations and to hold it for the events and for all those who would be involved in the celebrations. 

When I spoke with Sister Judy about the upcoming wedding I told her I was simply staying calm and allowing it to unfold in its own way.  I am more than happy to be intimately involved in the support of the celebration but both Sandy and I recognize that this is Ellen and Adam's wedding, not ours.  We feel our role is to help them make their dream come true, not to force our preferences upon them, even if we could.  Sister Judy, however, changed my focus.  An intention of sitting back and letting the events simply unfold was not enough.  She suggested I hold the week and all those who were helping us celebrate "in Divine Light."  I was ready for this guidance.  I know about blessing events well before they begin.  I've prayed for our Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat, any workshops or classes I present, and all the communities in which I'm involved.  I pray for the people individually and as a group.  I pray for blessings and that the time spent is only to their benefit.  I've done this for many many years.  I seldom enter into an event in which I'm either responsible for or in which I'm simply a participant, without having held that event in prayer.  Does it change how the event or the meeting goes?  It changes it for me and I am sure I bring an attitude of joyful expectation rather than skepticism or worse, and that has to make a positive difference.  Now, I needed to do the same for the wedding of two of my favorite people.  They've been together for over fifteen years.  My husband and I are overjoyed that they have decided to make this public commitment to one another and to their world.

When Karin suggested we take "appreciation" as our intention, I wondered how that would be different from "gratitude" so I decided to give it a try.  Later that day NPR had an interview with a man who had developed a mechanical spoon that allowed people to eat who had Parkinson's disease or any other tremor illness.  It was explained that people with that type of condition cannot feed themselves.  I had never thought about that disability.  Immediately I remembered my intention from my class and appreciated the fact that I wasn't faced with that challenge.  Recently I had also heard of Non-24, a disorder affecting the totally blind.  It's a sleep disorder with which they struggle because they can't tell the difference between day and night.  I wondered what other things I take for granted that may be a challenge for another?  My appreciation of the lack of struggle my life presently holds instantly surged.  I thought of all the friends and relatives I know about and for whom I am holding in prayer and was again appreciative.  Really, when I look around the world and see what so many people have to deal with, I am in awe of the blessings of my life.  I have no reason to complain or to be ungrateful about anything.  It seems appreciation and grateful easily go together and I just needed a boost and Karin's suggestion helped heighten my sense of gratitude.  

By holding our upcoming celebrations in Divine Light I have found I have a heightened sense of appreciation and gratitude for these events and all the blessings I know will emerge during this time.  I also expect the weather to be perfect.  I expect there to not be any glitches or bumps in the actual event.  I expect all the guests will behave appropriately and there will be complete harmony among everyone in the family.  Just teasing!  What has already happened because of my new intention is I have a peaceful, joyful heart.  I am expecting the best and am at peace with whatever that may look like.  I am writing this with an anticipation filled with the excitement of the union of Ellen and Adam and of the blessings that will emerge from the union of our two families. 

Thank you, Karin.  Thank you, Sister Judy.  Thank you, Loving God for the gift of Divine Light.  I fully appreciate it and already feel its presence pouring forth blessings on the upcoming weeks. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Nuturing the Self

Affirmation:  I recognize it's important to take time to nurture myself.

Mother's Day is tomorrow.  It's a day probably created by Hallmark cards but no matter, most honor it as if it were a national or religious holiday.  Everyone has a mother.  If we are blessed she's a woman who has nurtured us and guided us towards a life of love and generosity and compassion.  She has helped shape us, both intentionally and unintentionally, in a way that has empowered us to lead lives of value and worth; lives that make a positive difference in the world or at least in our world.

I was recently invited by Alice Lutz of Triangle Family Services ( to present a self-care workshop for the staff.  This organization is seventy seven years old.  It is open seven days a week and serves over five thousand people every year.  The staff is composed of men and women who assist those who are experiencing family violence, financial crisis and mental health issues.  I was honored to be invited. I am in awe of the work the staff does.  They are in the trenches serving the neediest of our area.  I know it's both rewarding and draining.  Because of my experience with Hospice of Wake County and with the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program, I know firsthand that helping people who are in crisis is both gratifying and overwhelming.  My goal, therefore, was to nurture the nurturers.  I designed an hour of respite.  From the feedback I received it appears to have been well received.

With the help of Blaire Schultz and Monica Shelton, the women who own and operate the Bodhi Tree Holistic Bodywork and Skincare Center (, we presented each staff member with a small vial of lavender oil.  Lavender is known for its stress and anxiety reducing effect.  We began the hour by placing a tiny bit of oil in the palm of our hands and rubbing them together to create warmth and then gently placing our palms over our eyes and our noses.  I invited everyone to sit comfortably, close their eyes and to begin focusing on their breath in order to gather their energy into the room and then into their bodies.  After several minutes of breathing, we gently opened our eyes and did one consensual OHM, focusing on the "mmmm" sound at the end.  It vibrates through the body and releases stress. The energy in the room had already become calmer and we had only been there for less than ten minutes.  We went onto discuss the "tools" different individuals used to care for themselves.  There were a wide range of suggestions from listening to music to cooking.  My hope was that each person would go home with one new way to nurture themselves.  We ended the session with a guided mediation CD and a final OHM. One hour of luxury in the middle of the work day, perhaps I even gave some of the staff the opportunity to take a much needed cat-nap.  Everyone was appreciative and as they left they moved a little slower, a little more deliberately than when they had arrived. 

When the airline attendant demonstrates the use of oxygen in case of an emergency, the instruction is always to place the oxygen over your mouth and nose and then to help any child who is with you.  It's a wonderful analogy for what's needed in order to care for another; we must find a way to care for ourselves first.  If we spend all our energy taking care of others and never take the time to take care of us, we will be left without enough oxygen to live.  Life is busy.  Most people like to be busy.  They like to feel they are being productive and in order to produce, one must work.  That's good but we must also find some time and some tools that soothe us.  They are different for different people and for some, especially working mothers, they need to claim that time and space or the responsibilities of their lives will overwhelm them and let's face it, no one benefits from a grumpy, overwhelmed mother, boss, spouse, coworker or human being. 

I want to offer you a few simple suggestions to nurture yourself.  Sure there are things like retreats, yoga classes, massages, facials and dinners out but all those are time consuming and costly.  If you're able to take advantage of those type of self-care activities, good.  Go for it!  There are, however, other things of which one can take advantage, small easy steps that soothe.  

*Take a few minutes between activities to breathe, perhaps you can even get in a couple of deep breaths and a small prayer. 
*Let your time in the car be quiet time.  Don't turn on the radio or talk on the phone.  North Carolina in the spring is absolutely breathtaking.  When I drive without distraction, I can fully embrace the beauty of my surroundings.  I can also use that time to reconnect to the Divine, adding a few prayers to my drive makes me calmer and less frenetic. 
*I have a small vile of lavender in my purse.  Whenever I can I open it and let the aroma sooth me. 
*Put some flowers or a pretty plant in your space.  There's something about the softness of a flower that can help me relax. 
*Take a walk.  It's free and it doesn't have to be long. Sometimes just the intention of getting outside for a short time can re-energize you. 
*Stretch.  It doesn't matter if you do it sitting or standing.  Gently move your neck from side to side, shrug and release your shoulders, make circles with your hips, flex your hands and feet.  Mini yoga, remember to breathe with the movement. 
*Eat mindfully.  Say grace.  There's power in blessing the food you're about to put into your body. Don't read, don't watch TV, don't do work, take time to savor the food and imagine how it is helping fuel your body for whatever it is you will need to do going forward.
Take some time and think about those small steps you can take that will soothe your body and fill your heart. For all the mothers out there and for all those who "mother" whomever needs caring, may you have a blessed day filled with love and care both from those you care for and especially, from yourself.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

When the student is ready the teacher will appear.

Affirmation: When I am open to knowledge and guidance, it comes to me.
In the TV mystery series Murder She Wrote starring Angela Landsbury, Jessica Fletcher was renowned for her sleuthing abilities.  The series ran for twelve seasons and in each episode, Jessica was somehow involved in solving a very mysterious murder.  She did this because of her remarkable ability to notice and remember all the little details that led up to the crime.  I was in awe of her ability.  Certainly, she's not the only sleuth to have amazing powers of observation.  In my opinion the most famous of all characters with this ability is Sherlock.  Yes, Sherlock Holmes.  I've always loved the works written about him and Doctor Watson.  I mustn't be the only one considering there never seems to be a time when there isn't some sort of series or new movie about the famous British detective. 

How are your powers of observation?  I decided after watching Murder She Wrote that I would not become a sleuth.  I don't pay close attention to the daily minutiae that occurs in my life.  I have a tendency to see the bigger picture. Sometimes I think it's simply because I'm going too fast.  Have you noticed how different a street or a neighborhood appears when you walk through it versus when you ride through it? 

Recently I was with a friend at a restaurant that we've been going to for over thirty years.  She turned to me and pointed out a new logo they had designed.  It was hung on one of the walls and practically covered half the wall.  "Wow," she exclaimed, "that is beautiful.  I wonder when they created that?" she questioned.  "At least twenty five years ago," I replied. She didn't believe me but when we checked with the owner, we found out it had been there for well over twenty years.  She had just never noticed it before.  She hadn't been ready to see it until this visit. 

"When the student is ready the teacher will appear," is a saying some attribute to the Buddha even though that's not true but whoever said it presents us with an interesting concept.  When we are ready and only when we are ready will we learn what we need to learn.  How many times have you heard someone state that they wish they had known about something before now?  They might have been given the information many times but they didn't hear it.  They couldn't hear it until it was the right time. 

Recently my study group was presented with the question, "What do you have the most difficulty remembering?" I have a lot of difficulty remembering the dates of significant events, like when my children graduated or when they married.  I have to have it written down to know the right answer.  I am very envious of people who can recall that information without hesitation.  I'd love to be someone who remembered everything I ever learned.  My husband, Sandy, is amazing when it comes to recalling information.  He can still remember most of the science he studied in pharmacy school.  He remembers dates and historical facts to name just some of his recall.  Not me!  Thank heavens for Google! I don't, however, get upset with myself when I fail to recall that which I am trying to uncover from the recesses of my brain.  I am aware, however, that I am aging and sometimes that presents physical challenges to the brain.  I desperately hope that's not the reason I'm not recalling the information I'm seeking.  With that caveat in mind, I have learned that what is really important to me and that which I need to know, I usually do.

I took a private yoga class once because my hip was very sore and I needed some extra guidance.  I was concerned at the end of the session that I hadn't written everything down about which I was told.  When I voiced my concern to the teacher, she told me not to be concerned, I would remember that which I needed to remember and it was true.  The rest of the stuff just drifted away.  When I need that information, I am sure it will come to me.  It usually does. 

This is about more than just our visual intake.  I have discovered that answers to many of my life's challenges arrive just when I need them most.  I don't think I'd receive them if I weren't actively looking.  I can't get the answer if I'm not willing to open the book, to check on the computer or to believe that the solution or even better, the miracle is out there somewhere and I need to wait with open arms the "teacher" for that situation. 

Back to being a world class sleuth.  I had an appointment with someone I visit once a week.  One week recently I noticed some delightful feathers she had strung along the mantle.  They were all different shades of blue and fluttered in the light breeze of the room.  "When did you put those up? I asked.  You probably guessed the answer, Several weeks ago."  Once again I was grateful I didn't need to make my living by being intensely aware of my surroundings.  I am gentle with myself.  I remind myself that it's OK not to be able to remember everything.  If I remain open that which I need will come to me, either through a deliberate effort or through Divine intervention.  I remind myself to relax, to breathe and to embrace the concept that all is exactly as it's supposed to be at this very moment and that might include not having the answer to all of my questions.