Monday, April 28, 2014

Glass Half Full

Are you a glass half empty or a glass half full person?

I always found that a funny question. And in honor of our monthly theme of humor, this is a lighter look at the question.

If the glass is half empty, I'm not a pessimist. It means I probably already drank half of it.

The glass is completely full. It's half full of water and half full of air.

Well, a few months ago, a circle of friends got to talking about this subject, and here are some of my favorite comments. I may be paraphrasing some of them.

Full is relative. Are you looking at 2 ounces of water in a 2 ounce glass or in a 10 ounce glass? - Megan

Is this the water I want? - Megan

Forget the amount. What about the quality? Is the water clear or murky? - Martha

Asking whether it's half full or half empty assumes that I wanted a full glass of water.

And my favorite that I probably read somewhere online... While the optimist and the pessimist were arguing about whether the glass was half full or half empty, the opportunist drank it.

What's your favorite riff on this question?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Would You Treat Your Mother Like That?

Earth Day is April 22 this year.
It's Mother's Day for our home, the Earth.
Are you doing anything special?

It's All One Thing

We are all made from the same stuff: stardust from ancient supernovas. And we are all held together by that invisible Force with many names. The Earth is made from the same stuff, and held together by the same Force. We don't need to be in harmony WITH nature. We ARE nature. We just forgot along the way.

The view of our Earth as our mother is sometimes made fun of, but where would we be without it? The Earth is our only home. Somewhere along the line we as a culture forgot that. The Earth is an extension of our own bodies. The forests are our lungs. The soil is our skin, the water is our blood. I have always felt a deep connection to the natural world around me. The woods around my childhood home were a magical and nourishing paradise for me. So I had a pre-disposition to be kind to the Earth. Sitting among strong silent trees brings a Peace beyond words, beyond the mind, beyond thought. It is the Peace that I am made of.

Even if you don't feel that resonance when sitting the natural world that has been untouched by human hands, there's a practical aspect to taking care of our planet. It sustains our lives, not to mention thousands of other life forms that form an interdependent, intricate balance. Doesn't it seem kind of nuts to mess with that?

Early Training

A large family and parents who grew up during the Great Depression meant I had great training in conserving resources.

One of my grade school teachers told my class that a good way to decide whether it's a good idea to do something is to think about what would happen if everyone did it. The example was littering. I imagined mountains of trash all along the sides of the roads, in the school, the house.

When I was a kid, I remember drawing, using a lot of paper. My mother said not to waste it. I said, “But there's plenty!” to which she replied, “That's no reason to waste it.

Necessity as the Mother of Invention

My mom didn't drive, so we did all of our errands on one trip on Saturdays. We would go to the grocery store, Post Office, hardware store, dentist or doctor, and the bank. One trip for all of it. We had a large family, and this strategy not only was the only time my father could drive into town, but it saved time gas, and money.

We were also taught to turn off the lights each time we left the room. To close the door when the heat was on, to turn off the tap while washing the dishes, and to think about what we wanted before opening the refrigerator door.

Common Sense Saving Money and Energy

I also loved how my mother taught me to use logic and common sense to be intelligent consumers. She
taught us to figure the cost per ounce or pound of items on the shelves, years before that information was included on the tags on the shelves. And when the Hawaiin Punch commercial came on and the big red pitcher said “It's 10% real fruit juice.”, my mother would say, “That means it's 90% water.” When a laundry detergent or shampoo said that “there's none better.” my mother would counter with “That means there's something else just as good.” Those critical thinking skills also served me in school and when listening to politicians' speeches.

So all that early training has served me to keep my utility bills low, while using fewer non-renewable resources. That's helps me. It helps my personal economy. And it helps my home, the Earth.

It's All About Perspective

Here's a beautiful short video on who we are in the scheme of things. It reminds me how precious life is, how special our planet it, how beautiful we are.

There are a multitude of ways to save energy and resources without spending a lot of money. I was thrilled to see that being a vegan saves more energy per year than driving a hybrid. I'm not totally vegan, but close to it. And since I can't afford a hybrid right now, I'm glad I'm doing something right.

What Uses the Most Energy In Your Home?

Looking to save money on your utility bills and help reduce climate change at the same time? Here are some tips from my local utility, and some I remember from my days as a Residential
Energy Auditor:

In your home:
- Over the year, the biggest energy use is usually the heat, even in California's mild climates. That's why insulating the attic is the number one recommendation.
- If you have central air conditioning, that can be a big use as well in hot summers. You'll know by how much your utility bill increases in the summer. Attic insulation helps here as well, because it helps keep the cool air in and the hot air out. Attic fans can help some, but a Whole House Fan is better if you live in an area that cools off in the evening. If you have allergies in the summer, then you won't want to go this route.
- The second biggest is usually the water heater. It uses less, but you use it year-round.
- The lights are typically the third-biggest user over the year.
- Small appliances like microwaves, hair dryers, use a lot of energy per minute, but we don't run them much, so they are a smaller part of your bill.
- If you own your home, buy the most efficient appliances you can afford when it's time to replace them.

How about you?

What are your favorite ways to conserve energy or resources, or to have a smaller impact on the planet?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Exchange Deadlines for Live Moments

I recently retired from full-time work. I've exchanged deadlines for live moments. Not long before I retired, a coworker said that someone she knew, once retired wondered how they ever had time to work. I'm feeling that way myself lately.

Another friend didn't want to retire because she thought she would be bored. But I had a long list of things that I wanted to do with all that free time. Not the least of which was finally being able to study music at the local junior college. Between part-time work and part-time school, my days are quite full. That's definitely trading deadlines for live moments every day. Music is more alive than anything I know.

From Juggling to Sitting

When I was working full time, there was such time pressure. Constantly juggling multiple deadlines. I
don't know how single working moms do it really, because I was so tired at the end of the day, I
barely had time or energy to take care of my home and myself and get up and do it again the next day. Now with fewer deadlines, I have the energy for live moments.

So I am very glad to have more time to meditate and study. I delight chanting the Gayatri as I do my morning routine. I luxuriate in the ability to spend a half hour to an hour every morning. It sets a beautiful tone for the day. On the days I skip it, I really miss it. I love making a dent in the unread books on my shelf. I love writing this blog. I just love having these live moments.

Walking Meditation

I have been practicing a walking meditation. My body forced me to do this when I had a serious sprain to my ankle, needing to be aware of every step in order to avoid re-injuring my ankle. I got some very serious training in that: Just walk; Don't think where you are going. That's how I injured myself to begin with. I was thinking about and looking where I was going, not where I was. That's exchanging a deadline for live moments.

How About You?

What do you do to bring more live moments into your life?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Living in the Hum, Not the Humdrum

A friend recently said she was living in the hum. I love that! And at the same time I remembered often living in the humdrum. You know, the seemingly endless treadmill of work, errands, housework, eat, sleep, and get up and do it all over again. In a word, drudgery. Or the rate race. That's the humdrum.

I'm not talking about any big life-altering or life-threatening problem. That may require more than we can do for ourselves. I'm talking about the angst of to much to do and not enough time to do it.


And living in the humdrum can make us wonder "What's the point of it all?" I'm hearing a song by the Marc-Almon Band called "What Am I Livin' For?" that expresses it well. You're so tired from work, responsibilities, family, and the to-do list that it's easy to be engulfed in overwhelm and feel like we have no time for ourselves. That's the humdrum.

So we sit in front of the television to unwind and decompress. Or we go on Facebook or other social media to connect with people - some we know and don't have time to visit with in person, some we don't know. And before we know it, 2 hours have gone by and we are anxious because we didn't do a thing on the to-do list, let alone the dirty dishes int he sink. That's the humdrum.

Accessing the Hum

So whenever I feel this way, I've learned to take three deep breaths.

Three long, slow, deep breaths.
Ah... That's better.

 Sometimes those three breaths are all it takes to get back to center. Back to a sense of equilibrium. Back to a sense of "Oh yeah. This is me. This is who I am."

Sometimes I use mantra - repeating an inspirational phrase.

And from there, I can remember... You know, I have it better than 60% of the people on this planet. I have indoor plumbing, a safe place to live, a car, a job, adequate food, the right to vote, access to quality medical care, access to birth control and education. A lot of people don't have those basic things.

Tea Meditation

Dr Edward Viljoen has a lovely meditation he describes in his book The Power of Meditation about
making a cup of tea. Try it. It just might change everything for you.

OK. Great. Now... Now I have time to move up Maslow's Hierachy and start thinking about the bigger questions like "Who am I?", "What do I want from my life?"

Access Your Inner GPS

Here's one of my favorite ways to choose the next step. Sit quietly and breathe deeply for a few minutes to relax and let go of where you were today and what needs to happen later. Just stop for a moment and Be.

Now see or sense a path in front of you. A little while ahead is your future self. She or he is happy, fulfilled, peaceful. Add whatever qualities you think are missing right now. Your future self is looking back in hindsight at the you today. Ask your future self what he or she has to tell you to guide you on your way easily. And listen. Be receptive. You may not hear or see or feel an answer right away. Maybe it will come later as a thought such as "I wonder if..."

Wouldn't It Be Cool If...

When I'm feeling stuck and uninspired, I remember another friend of mine who told me about the
Wouldn't It Be Fun game. I call mine Wouldn't It Be Cool If. And I spend some time daydreaming like a child about all the terrific possibilities.

For example, if I don't like my living situation, I can imagine exactly what I want. "Wouldn't it be cool if I had a really sweet affordable quiet home with no traffic noise and no smokers anywhere nearby?" "Wouldn't it be cool if I had a home in the woods, with sunlight in the living room and a little organic vegetable garden?"

If I want my work or finances to improve, I can play with that idea. If I want my primary relationship to improve, I can play with that idea. If I want better health, I can play with that. It's a fun way to un-stick my mind from what is - the humdrum - and move in mentally to the Hum. The Joy and Love of all the possibility in life.

This takes me out of the question: How do I get there from here? It takes me out of the stuck-ness of my present situation, and lets my mind freely play in imagination where anything is possible. Then I can see a Prayer Practitioner to turbo-charge my dream.

How About You?

What's your favorite way to access the Hum?
What's your favorite way to get un-stuck mentally?
What would you create in the Wouldn't It Be Cool If game?
I'd love to see your comments!