Monday, January 27, 2014

Groundhog Day

Phil in his best suit
My parents were extras in the movie Groundhog Day. It is one of my favorite movies anyway, but it's fun to see my dad clapping out of time in the town square in a couple of scenes. My mom's scenes got cut. My parents are both long gone now, and a while back, my sister gave me a Punksatony Phil.

Here he is, hat and all. I've kept him all these years. And I watch the movie occasionally, even though watching it once is like watching it many times.
I wonder what it was like filming those scenes? Talk about repetition.

But I digress.
Phil's ready for his close-up
And here's the groundhog "actor" from the movie.

Religions Love this Movie

I read somewhere that Groundhog Day is a favorite among many different religions and belief systems. Whether it's reincarnation or just trying to get a handle on this life, it's a universal message. And it also speaks to the feeling of deja vu. And you know we've all been there. More than once. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

An End of Winter... In February?

As a kid, I remember hoping that the groundhog wouldn't see his shadow. Even when he did, Winter didn't end early. I lived in snowy climates as a kid, so of course Feb 2 is the middle of Winter. It's the coldest month. So maybe it's just a way to lighten up a little and remember that Spring will indeed arrive again. Someday. It just always seemed interminable after Groundhog Day's momentary bit of hope. Spring came in April.

Afraid of Our Own Shadows

And then there's the metaphor of the groundhog being afraid of his own shadow. Yeah, none of us really like to look at our dark side. But if we are ever to be free of it, we need to. It's just a lack of light, and once we shine the light of awareness on it, it disappears. And we can come out of our hibernation into the light of day. Which is, sunscreen or not, a much freer, fuller, and fun way to live. So it's worth the effort, and worth the work, and worth the time it takes. Because without it, we remain trapped in our heads, in our old beliefs, and in the same-old same-old all our lives. And that's not living. That's survival. Sometimes that's all we can do when we are facing one of life's big moments. And then when the wave subsides, we can take a breath and decide how to live the rest of our lives.

So Happy Groundhog Day! If you see your shadow, say hello to it. You never know, it could be lonely.

How About You?

Do you take time to look at your shadow side and make friends with it?

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Spaciousness of Emptiness

When I was younger and had housemates, we shared the kitchen. May area of the kitchen cabinets and counter was right near the main entrance. I liked to keep it clear because I liked the spaciousness of that emptiness. My housemates took that empty space as an invitation to leave the newspaper, the mail, their keys, anything they wanted to set down.

Now that in itself is no big deal. It's just that to me, that part of the counter DID have something there. It had open space. It was FULL of spaciousness, and I loved it. After a while, I gave up trying to defend my space on the counter. It was a losing battle. They looked at me like I was nuts. That was nothing new.

But I still enjoy empty spaces. On my kitchen counter. In my home. In my mind.

Clearing the Clutter

Don't you love the way your home looks and feels when you have cleared the clutter? Sometimes I let
the magazines and cat toys pile up because I have so many things I'd rather be doing. Then when I clear it all up - put things away, give some of it away - it feels so good to walk into the room! I only need to clear out a few things to make a big difference. And it feels like it's clearing my mind and making room for good things to come in. It's good Feng Shui.

Clearing My Mind

In the same way that clutter can easily accumulate on the coffee table - or any flat surface - clutter can accumulate in my mind. It is less obvious... that is, until it's hard to sleep or I feel stressed. Then I usually realize that I haven't meditated for a few days. Ah... Time to clear the clutter in my mind. Time to make space in my thoughts. Turn off the TV, put on some soothing music, and breath. Time to clear the recent episodes of How I Met Your Mother and that song that is stuck in my head that I don't even like any more. Time to breath and just be.

Emptiness Isn't Empty

Hubble Photo of Sombrero Galaxy
When I look up at the night sky, that space between the stars isn't empty. There is something there. Think about it. If there were no "empty" space, there would be no stuff in it. We only experience things around us because they exist in emptiness. We are moving through and living in something we cannot see or measure (yet), but it is real. And we are made of the same stuff. I love that. And I love the empty spaces in between.

How About You?

Do you like clearing clutter?
Do you like empty spaces in your home or in your mind?

Can the Future Affect the Now?

With the new Year coming up, many of us tend to review and asses our lives and our success toward our goals. So it has me wondering...

Can what is yet to come can affect what is happening now? Can the future affect the now? Is something yet-to-be in my life directing what happens now?

Walking along a stream many years ago, I saw the water moving in a swirl. I looked for the reason, and saw that there was a small branch a little way down-river. The branch in the “future” of the river was affecting what was happening before it got there. There was a little backup in the flow of the river, creating a little swirl and redirection of the water.

Could my life be like that? I wondered. Could it be that an event about to happen around the bend could create a swirl of events in the Now? Like when I am delayed leaving the house, or choose a different route to work; could that be due to something about to happen? Perhaps I avoided a problem, or perhaps I am learning something from my life now that is necessary for my not so distant future.

Everything’s Connected

With 20/20 hindsight, we can see how events and choices are interconnected. How cool would it be to look at what is and accept it knowing that there is something ahead that created it or allowed for it or helped us avoid a problem? I’ve always loved just about any movie, book or TV show involving time travel or the future, or parallel realities, so this kind of thinking seems obvious to me. There's the classic Sliding Doors, and two current films are Mr. Nobody (on DVD) and About Time (in theaters). But I never really took it past curiosity about it.

My Future Self As Guide

So then I have to ask myself, could I envision my future self and learn from her also? Could I project my mind to where I wish to be 5 years from now, a year from now, and look back at my life now to see what eddies need to be created or are being created? Is it possible to conjure up my future self and ask her how she got there? Could I learn from her and make better choices for an easier path? Could I learn what I need to let go of and what I need to focus on and allow? It’s a new way of talking to myself or visioning myself.

Or maybe Spirit does that for me, and if I just sit down and listen to that still small voice inside, I would know what is for me to do today.

And maybe that's why in the absolute sense, we can't always call a flat tire bad or a good thing good. We'll know more when we have all the puzzle pieces together and can see the whole picture.

We have all heard about research that proves that prayer helps people heal even if they don't know they are being prayed for. I heard about some research where prayers were done over patient files, and the patients got better - in the past. How is that possible?

How About You?
Have you ever realized that something need to happen so you could be where you are?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Swimming Upstream with Coffee and Tape

Have you ever felt like you were swimming upstream?
Have you ever suddenly realized that you were doing things the hard way when there was an easier way you never noticed before?

The Tape Incident

Many years ago, I worked as a Customer Service Rep at a small retail store. The Sales Reps were out in the field all day, and I would take messages for them. Since we had no Post-It notes, I would use a small piece of tape to attach them to the outside of their mail bins that hung on the wall.

Most of the Sales Reps would come in, grab the note from the bottom, and pull up to remove the note. This was the obvious and easy way to remove the note. But one woman came in and mumbled under her breath as she struggled to peel the tape from the top. I was on the phone, so I could not say anything or show her the easier way to remove the note. She did this a few times. And I had to wonder why she was doing it that way, when it was so obvious that it was easier to pull form the bottom where it wasn't attached, and the tape would come off with the note. At the first chance I had, I showed her the easier way to do this.

As I puzzled over why she would choose such a difficult method, I had to wonder where in life I was doing the same thing. Where in life was I doing things in a way that was obvious to everyone else, but I just didn't see that easier way? I was sure that this was the case, and I can think of several examples. Sometimes I am just out of step.

The Coffee Incident

For example, I was in my 20s, I would go to work, sit down at my desk, and start working. One day
when I'd been working there about 5 years, the boss said they would start providing bagels in the break room before work, and there was a new toaster there. I was on it! I went to the break room, and everyone was there. Apparently they gathered every morning before work to have coffee. Since I wasn't a coffee drinker, I had never gone in the break room, which was at the other end of the building from my office. I had been missing out on a whole social interaction every day because I didn't drink coffee, and it had never occurred to me that everyone else did and would be in the break room every morning.

There are so many other examples! And as I become more mindful and clear the clutter in my awareness, I am sure that I will continue to discover more. I hope so. It means that I am learning, unfolding, and growing in awareness.

How about you?

What big or small Aha have you had?
Please share you comments below. I'd love to learn form you!

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year - New Thoughts

Do you make New Year's resolutions?
I like the idea of making new thoughts and new goals for the new year.

Are you like most of us who don't keep them more than a few weeks? Days? Hours? I certainly fit that description. For a long time, I didn't get the idea, since a new year starts every day. Then I tried them, and when I failed, I felt more discouraged than before. I would think "What's the use?" So I don't make New Years resolutions any more.

From Resolution to Rebellion

I read something recently about resolutions to lose weight - one of the most popular New Year's resolutions - that almost always fail. It said that making a resolution is like saying you're not OK the way you are. And that makes sense to me. We are failing because we are starting from the premise that we are wrong, and we are essentially scolding ourselves into behaving better. I don't know about you, but that has never worked as a motivation for me. I have noticed that every time I resolve to start eating right, the next thing I find myself doing is heading for my favorite guilty pleasure like a brownie or chocolate bar. I've noticed that when I think this way, my mind interprets it as a restriction, and then the rebellious part automatically goes in to overdrive. No one is going to tell me what to do! Not even if it's me. Not even if I know it's good for me.

So What Do You Do Instead?

Instead of saying I'm starting a diet, or I'm going to start eating right, or cut out the sugar, or
whatever, I simply watch myself do what I do. I find it more useful to choose to care for myself better, but not in a forceful way. More like I am practicing. More like... like how I would want to speak to a child to guide her toward real self-care rather than instant gratification that is followed by a let-down. It's a new way to treat myself. Not with treats like candy bars and pizza, but treating myself to whole fresh foods. Treating myself well. Honoring what my body really asks for. It's been working hard and well to cope with all the unhealthy food I have given it. I am grateful that I'm healthy despite what I ask my body to cope with daily.

Setting a New Course

So instead of making a resolution, I choose a trajectory, or set a course that I want to sail toward. It just feels gentler, which means
that there's nothing to resist or rebel against. I'm not criticizing who and what I am in this moment. It's becomes a choice each day, each moment: where do I want to steer my life this year? Set a course and, as Jean Luc Picard would say, "Make it so!" Or as we say at the end of our prayers, "And so it is!"

Healthier Living

I am teaching a six-week class in Santa Rosa called Healthier Living. You can register here. Mine is the Wednesday afternoon class starting January 22. It's written by Standford University, based on research about what really works to feel healthier. That can be anything from overweight to asthma to diabetes to MS or heart failure. Doctors, modern medicine, even alternative medicine, can only go so far. So it's a program about self-care. About what we can do to feel better.

And they use a great tool called an Action Plan. You decide what your goal is for the week, how much, and when. Then if it's too much, you adapt it. I love this tool because it makes me the boss. I might make a plan to do line dancing class once for one hour on Friday, and practice for 20 minutes two more times during the week. Then adapt if necessary. Now that's gentle enough for me to avoid rebellion. After all, in the back of my mind or in my heart, I know what will work for me and whether I am giving myself that gift.

Drinking More Water

About three years ago, I got really light-headed during the night, and realized it was because I was quite dehydrated. That scared me into finally committing to drink more water. I had been in the habit of drinking about 2 glasses of water per day most of my life because I didn't want to live in the bathroom. So I started drinking more water. I don't remember whether I tried to drink 8 glasses per day right away; I think I did it gradually. It took months, but I trained myself to drink 8 glasses per day. And now I find that I actually get thirsty. That wasn't happening before.

Listening to My Body

So now I am practicing listening more carefully to what my body really wants. Not just what my brain and my mouth want, but what my stomach says is OK, what my inner knowing says is OK.

One of the ways I motivate myself is my friend JoAnn's e-cleanse program, where she sends daily emails to educate and
encourage eating whole fresh healthy food, and avoiding what she aptly calls Nutritional Bandits. She includes funny cartoons and yummy recipes.

And I signed up for a class on emotional eating that starts later in January. I'll let you know how it goes!

How About You?

What ways to you change your habits?