Saturday, July 19, 2014

Living an Intentional Life

Affirmation:  Everyday I get to choose how I want to perceive my life experience.

Mo Martin won the Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale in England this July, 2014.  When she was interviewed she mentioned her "intention" was to win the tournament.  At the time she was ranked 99th on the tour and it appeared no one had her listed as a potential champion.  She ended her win and her final hole with an eagle, which means she had three shots on a hole on which a good golfer would normally have five shots. 

As of this writing, I am lucky enough to be in the mountains of North Carolina and once again I find myself playing golf.  If you follow this blog you know that golf is not one of my gifts.  It's something at which I have to work very hard in order to play somewhat decently and to tell the truth, I only work on it for the few weeks I'm up in the mountains.  I do, however, love the sport.  I share the time with my husband, Sandy.  He's an amazing golfer and many times my son, Joey, is with us.  Sometimes his beautiful wife, Belen, comes along.  It's beautiful up here and the course we get to play on looks like a post card.  It's so exhilarating when I actually hit that little ball and it soars away down the fairway towards the pin.  I love it when I putt the ball and it rolls along and plops in the hole.  I actually love to watch someone else make a long difficult putt. It almost seems surreal to me to finally have that tiny ball fall into that tiny spot on this huge expanse of lawn.  I think a big part of the excitement for me is that I'm so surprised and delighted when things actually go better than I even imagined.  I don't intend to have a low expectation of my performance but after years of playing I have come to recognize that I will probably remain a below average player unless I decide to play more than just the month of July.  However, I always set an intention to do well, for me, and to enjoy the day.   

The first time I heard the phase "take an intention" was at a yoga class many years ago.  The teacher did not provide any other guidance.  She simply told us to "take an intention for your practice" and then left us to figure it out.  I remember it clearly.  The word "gratitude" popped into my mind and so I embraced it and let it sit with me for the hour.  Interestingly it didn't leave me at the end.  I found it was with me as I went into the day and here I sit many years later still embracing gratitude, every day.  When I teach I always follow that same example.  I encourage everyone to chant an "ohm" and to bring their palm together in front of their heart and with their thumbs touching their heart I say "Take an intention for this time you're giving yourself.   Any word that comes to mind is fine."  And then at the end of our practice, we repeat the chant and I remind the participants to recall the intention they took at the beginning of class and encourage them to take it with them into their day, and perhaps into their lives. 

That simple instruction so many years ago has had a very powerful impact on my life.  I found myself taking an intention each morning for the day.  As I journal and pray in the morning, I wait to see what word or words come to my awareness and I let them sit with me as I finish my quiet time and then bring them with me into my day.  It's very seldom that something doesn't come to the surface.  If not, I just let go for the day.  I decided also that I might as well take an intention for each year.  I only began this two years ago but it's been a wonderful gift to give myself.  You may remember that my intention for 2014 is to, "connect to the Divine."  It's been quite a journey so far and I'm looking forward to what the rest of the year will present. 

When I listened to Mo Martin's interview, I found her expression of intent to be of interest.  I assume she's a yogini.  Maybe yes, maybe no, but yogini or not, she has a remarkable attitude.  She "took an intention" to win!  Yeah, Mo!  Go girl!  Why not?  She set herself up for success.  She knew it was possible she wouldn't win but once she set that intention, she recognized that she could very well achieve her goal.  She also said even when she wasn't playing well, when she wasn't winning, she still woke up everyday with a smile and a sense of excitement about being able to play. 

By living an intentional life it means you've given thought to what you want your life to look like.  I would imagine if you're reading this you already are someone who is choosing how to live your life but don't assume that's how most of the world lives.  Unfortunately, many people are faced with such dire challenges they don't have the energy to focus on choice. Others simply have chosen not to choose but to let life and fate just play itself out. Once you begin "taking an intention" you may find your day and therefore you life takes on a richness that makes you feel like a winner no matter what challenge life presents or at the very least, you wake up each morning, like Mo, with a smile on your face and a sense of excitement about being able to play, the game of life.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Saving the World

Affirmation: I believe that my prayer to help someone in need is always answered and is supported by God in amazing ways that I cannot even imagine.

In the book The End of Life Book Club by Will Shwalbe, he tells the story of his mother's life.  The story revolves around her battle with Pancreatic cancer and their journey through her treatment and as you can figure out from the title, her death.  They are a two person book club with either the advantage or disadvantage depending upon your view, of not having to provide food for the attendees.  There is a long list of books they read and discuss over the two year period of her treatment.  It appears they have always been a two person book club but didn't "officially" establish it until they were sharing her final challenge.  It's cleverly written in that with each book read, he not only writes about the book but about his mother's life.  I've made a list of each of the books with the intention of reading some of the ones they shared. Some of them I've already read.  I already know, however, that I'll be skipping some of his recommendations.  They are way too disturbing for my taste.  Just listening to the struggles of the protagonists on their reading list was enough to remind me of how cruel the world and fate can be.  He is a publisher at the beginning of the book.  His mother is an activist and a heroine.  She's in her seventies at the time of her diagnosis and has been a "first" for women in many fields and areas. For example, she was the founding director of the Women's Refugee Commission. 

She was an advocate for women and children refugees all over the world and she'd traveled to many of those areas. You can Google her or read the book if you'd like more information.  Her final project was to build a library in Afghanistan and she wasn't going to die until that was accomplished.  It was built.  I guess she was a lot like Angelina Jolie, just not a famous celebrity.  I also have the impression she didn't have the protection, guidance or ease of travel given to a famous movie star.  She was in the trenches with those who most needed help.  Mary Anne Schwalbe was a courageous and compassionate woman.  Her whole life regardless of the danger of difficulty, revolved around being of service to others.

This has been a good book for me.  I live a blessed life of comfort and the older I get the more I seem to gravitate towards being comfortable.  That includes an element of safety.  I have not traveled to "dangerous" places, at least as far as I believe.  I know sometimes going around the block can sometimes be dangerous.  I have, however, been working at seeing the broader, worldwide picture of those in need.  I know there are people suffering in ways I cannot even imagine and don't want to imagine.  My husband, Sandy and I sponsor several children in different programs around the world. We've always contributed to our church's appeals and those of nations who suffered natural disasters and we make every effort to reach out whenever we are directly faced with a need we can assist.   
Our church, St. Michael the Archangel, has a sister parish in Honduras and we support that and more recently we reached out to a charity in Tanzania presented to us by St. Bernadette Church in Linville, NC.  We've also supported Oie Ostercamp's Share Fish organization which does work with the poor in Honduras. Last year, after I read Fr. Albert Haas' Catching Fire, Becoming Flame in order to do something more, I added praying the Rosary for those "most in need of God's mercy."  It allowed me to stay safely in my comfort zone and yet to become more sensitive and aware of the world's plight.   I'm sharing these examples to illustrate that I've really tried to be more "world conscious."  I try to stay informed but not overly concerned because I feel I only have so much energy and some days just caring for myself and my family is all I feel I can do.  Let's face it, the world is a very big place and here I sit, one of billions of beings.  What kind of a difference can I make? Yet, when I read about people like Mary Anne Schwalbe, I wonder what more can I do?  What else can I add to my efforts that might bring comfort, peace, hope and even joy to those suffering on this planet?

Then recently, one of my study groups began Anthony DeStefano's, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To.  One of the first prayers he offers is, "Please use me to help someone in need."  I hesitated.  My initial reaction was to back away.  I fully recognized this was a prayer God would not deny but what would be required of me in order to follow Her will?  Would I be asked to travel to a third world country undergoing revolution or that had just experienced a devastating weather event?  Would I be asked to give up all I now have, like the young man in the New Testament and follow God to poverty and perhaps martyrdom?  Perhaps even worse would be if more and more was added to my already full plate and in an effort to do be of greater service to the world, I became neglectful of where my true service lies, my family and my community.  I could immediately see all the pitfalls of such a prayer and yet, I felt ready to step out in faith.  I said the prayer.  I've been saying it now for several weeks and as I've journaled I found myself relaxing in the prayer, relaxing in my belief that if I'm called to do God's work, to be of more service to those in need, that God will provide the support to do just that.  I am stepping out in faith.  I believe that through prayer not only will I be of greater service but that I will be given the discernment to know which requests are from God and which are of my ego.  Deep breaths, quiet time and prayers from the depth of my heart will lead me where I am most needed.  Yes, it could be to some third world country.  I trust God will come with me there too.  It could also be to a place I haven't yet examined, a place within, which takes me to a marvelous place not so far from where I am now but enables me to see it in a different light, a light of service right here and right now. 
What do you think?  Are you willing to step out in faith?  Go ahead, say it, "God, please use me to help someone in need."  I hope you'll let me know what you discover.