Saturday, May 31, 2014

What A Coffee Filter Taught Me About Life

So I was making coffee the other day, and once again was struck with the thought that the filter affects what I get in my cup. So does the contents in the filter.

And the coffee filter looks like the Science of Mind symbol. I had one on a necklace, and when people
graphic source: Wikipedia
asked what it was, if they weren't familiar with the symbol, I'd say, "It's a symbol of creation."

The top third represents God, the Infinite, whatever you want to call it.

The bottom part is creation. The middle is the Law that makes thoughts into things.

The V represents the Infinite coming into form.

That can be on a macro level of the creation of the Earth and the Universe. It can be on a personal level of our predominant thoughts being the coffee grounds, and the result being the details of our lives.

And although a tea bag could also be used for the analogy, the symbol does kind of look like a coffee filter.

Filters In Perception

So what are the contents of your coffee filter? The predominant thoughts and feelings of your mind. If I decided when I was young that people are not safe to be around, then that is what will end up in my coffee. If I decide that people are kind and loving, that's the kind of coffee I will have in my life. Whatever predominates in my mind and heart are the things that will express in my life.

That's why in Centers for Spiritual Living, we say, "Change your thinking, change your life." If you don't like what you see in your life circumstances, it's time to adjust the content you are putting into it.

There's a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System. When you need to - or want to - notice something, it kicks in and makes sure that you notice it everywhere. So where once you didn't see any pink flowers, or friendly people, or whatever, suddenly they are everywhere. So use that part of your brain to your advantage. Start with your imagination.

For example, I grew up in a family of engineers and mechanics. I was the artistic one. Although my mother told me I could be anything I wanted, and I could do anything a boy could do for a living, I was coaxed toward more practical endeavors. I grew up thinking that there was what I loved to do, and then there was how I could make a living. And never the twain would meet. So I had to rethink this, and now I am doing work that better suits who I am.


If you think that working for money is prostituting yourself, here's another way to look at it. See your work as seva, which means selfless service. Your employer gives you money as a thank you, and the money allows you to have a home and food on the table, so that you can continue to serve.

I'll be writing more on re-framing in future blog posts, so stay tuned!

How About You?

What's your favorite re-frame?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Slowest Common Denominator

Recently I was in a hurry to get somewhere. I was late.

Those seem to be the times when someone reminds me to slow down. You know, when you need to be somewhere, and the driver in front of you is going 8 miles below the speed limit, and there's only one lane in each direction.

Perhaps they are lost. Perhaps they don't feel well. Perhaps they were recently in a car accident. Perhaps they are distraught about a life situation. Whatever the reason, they are in front of me reminding me to slow down my thinking to the slowest common denominator.

This enforced mental break can help me return to Center and breathe.

If I reflect for just a second, nothing is that important that I should get upset. I'm not in labor. I'm not having a heart attack. I'm not on my way to put out a fire. After all, I'm the one who kept busy right up until the last possible moment I could leave for my destination. I'm the one who forgot that I need to get there a little early in order to find a good parking space. Or any parking space.

What am I in such a hurry for anyway?

A hundred years from now, will it matter if I get there at 10:00 or 9:55 or 10:05? Probably not.

And if I am constantly rushing, thinking about what needs to happen next, about my endless to-do list, then I am missing what is happening right now.

And right now...
... Life is happening.

So I love these gentle reminders to slow my mental pace.
To take a moment.
To breathe.
To Be.

So when I am waiting in line, or when I am at a traffic light, I can enjoy the mini-rest break I have been given.

Ah, that's better.

I'm finding that more and more often, the slowest common denominator is just about right for me.

How About You?

Do you enjoy slowing down and taking a break?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How My Cat Chose Me

I went to the shelter to choose a cat, and she chose me. 

An Intruder in the House

One night, I saw something from the corner of my eye, and looked up to see a mouse running right toward me. His eyes were right on me, and he froze in his tracks. I asked what he was doing there. He ran off. Ah, that's what those little brown spots were in the kitchen. There's a gap under the door from the kitchen to the garage. Once I get rid of the mouse, I'd better weatherstrip that.

I set have-a-heart traps. I set regular traps. I even set the ones that they stick too. This was one wily mouse. He'd get the peanut butter and not get caught.

When I found him in the bottom of the toaster feasting on the crumbs, I gave the mouse fair warning, "Leave by Saturday, or I will bring home a cat."

On Saturday morning, I sat at my desk to pay bills, and found that they had been shredded in the drawer. Uh oh. Perhaps he was a she and was preparing a cozy nest for more little mousies.

Off to the Shelter

So off to the local ASPCA shelter I went. I'm so grateful for non-kill shelters, and always get my pets there. It was heartbreaking to see the rows of cages, about 2 feet square, with at least 40 cats needing homes. And this was before the housing crash. Since then, they have a wonderful, spacious, new facility for all the animals.

I planned to get an adult cat, thinking they are harder to adopt. I saw one tiny large grey cat in an inside corner cage. I pulled out the shoelace from my pocket, and dangled it in front of the cat. He literally turned up his nose and looked away, but a paw from the neighboring cage reached out for it.

An Unexpected Twist

I looked to see the most beautiful grey and white tabby reaching for that shoelace. I dangled the shoelace closer to her and she had a field day with it. "Ah! A good hunter!" I took her out of her cage so we could interact. She was so tiny. Four and a half pounds, and five and a half months old, according to her papers. She crawled up on top of my head, and you know how sharp a kitten's class are! I pulled her down and held her. She was a sweetie, even if rambunctious.

But she's so tiny! There are possum and raccoons at the creek near my home. She wouldn't survive. So back in her cage she went as I looked at other cats.

A Very Smart Clown

And every time I looked near her, she cocked her head like a dog that doesn't quite understand. It was so endearing. After a half dozen repeats, each time tilting her head further and further, she did a sideways somersault. That was it! She won my heart and a new home.

I was thrilled to learn that she had already been spayed, so I didn't have to be the bad guy and take her for major surgery right after adopting her. All her shots, her microchip, and a clean bill of health. Such a deal!

At home, I set her up in one room with a litter box to let her acclimate, and we've been the best of friends ever since. She's has been with me for nearly 17 years now, much longer than any cat I've had. And she has been a joy every day. She is absolutely magnetic. It is impossible to look at her and be upset about anything.

The Best Cat Ever

Nearly every time I look at her sleeping, sometimes snoring, my heart is so full that it spills out my eyes and onto my cheeks.

She understands mirrors and a half dozen English phrases. She waited for me in the driveway at 5:00, and is my morning alarm clock. She has terrible timing when it comes to lap-sitting and patrolling across my computer keyboard as I work. But she my longest-running friend and the best companion I could have asked for.

Here's an article on how she went from being a 18.5 LB diabetic to a slim and healthy cat.

And the mouse? 

I never saw it again. Not even its tail.

How About You?

Did your pet choose you? Tell me more!

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Art of Absence

OK, we've long past April Fool's Day. But here's my satirical look at Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a big thing right now. And I love practicing mindfulness. And one way to understand what it is, is to say what it isn't. Thus this list of the Art of Absence, or not being mindful, inspired by listening to Eckhart Tolle.

1. In any situation, pick something wrong. It won't take long.

2. Don't listen. Instead think about what you want to say next.

3. Think about what you need to do later today.

4. Think about the past. Live in the past.

5. Think about the future. Live in or for the future. Make every moment a means to an end.

6. Fill every moment with thoughts and opinions.

7. Watch lots of movies and television, and accept it all without question.

8. Hold fast to your beliefs and opinions, even when they no longer serve you. Just dig in your heels.

9. Believe that you are your mind, your body, and your opinions.

10. Only believe in what you can see, hear, and touch.

What about you?

Do you have any more to add to the list? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Remembering Mom

Remembering mom as Mothers Day approaches. She was 69 when she passed, which is 12 years older than her mother was at her passing.

For the first few years after I lost her, it was really hard on holidays. And as people celebrated their moms, I didn't have words to respond to questions about how I was celebrating her.

Here's what I remember writing in my journal on the plane 19 years ago as I flew to her memorial service. For some reason, it was scheduled only 4 days after her death. I was still in shock. We all were.

At 6:30 on a Tuesday morning, the telephone rang, cracking the morning open like an egg and changing my life forever.

"Are you sitting down?" my sister's voice asked.
"Mom's dead."

"What?!" I heard someone scream far below me.
Now I know why people ask if you're sitting down before breaking this kind of news.

"What happened? Was it a car accident?" This was very unexpected. Sudden is an understatement.

She has died a few hours before, and our brothers had waited until a reasonable hour to call us on the West Coast.

The story unfolded over the next few days. She had a problem with the main heart valve going out to the body. She knew about it. Her sister had had 3 operations for the same condition, caused when they both had Scarlett Fever as children.

Mom was going up a flight of stairs on Thursday and felt faint. She had tests at the doctor's the next day. She died at 3:30 am on Tuesday, the day she was supposed to get the test results. The doctor was going to recommend surgery. Apparently the symptoms she had been experiencing, she chalked up to her chronic high blood pressure.

She died with an open heart. Literally. Her aortic valve stuck open. And she died with an open mind. Her last words, in response to my father's question "Should I call 911?"
were "I don't know." That gave me comfort since she had told me that she didn't believe in God. I think she was just angry at the God she was taught about in her youth. I was very glad that she rebelled by not sending us to church. I found my own spirituality later in life, unaffected by early programming.

But she would not have wanted to be an invalid. She had taken care of her mother through a series of strokes, and she was much too independent to be a helpless patient. So it fit who she was to go out with a bang.


Mom had two Master's Degrees and minored in Psychology. She raised 6 children, and wanted to go to Law School after the kids were grown. I wonder how different her life would have been if she had had access to accurate information about birth control?

When I was 5 and my friends in Kindergarten said they wanted to be nurses, I declared that I wanted to be a doctor. I had a crush on Dr Kildaire and I wanted to be like him. I imagine now that women were just allowed into medical school at that time. But mom said I could do anything a boy could do, and I believed it. Thank you for that mom.

Problem is, I didn't get to say goodbye.

That Sunday, she had dinner with my three brothers with lived close. My sister spoke to her on the phone on Sunday evening, and said she heard something in her voice. She was tired of caring for her mother-in-law, who, to put it mildly, was not a kind person. Especially to her.

But I hadn't spoken to her in a couple of weeks. I usually called once a month.

And now I wish I could talk to her. Sometimes I'd like her advice. Sometimes I'd just like to talk, even if she was going to ask when she would have a grandchild. Even if there was "stuff" - you know, the expectations between a mother and daughter. It doesn't matter. As long as you have her, there's the possibility for connection face to face, voice to voice.

So if your mom is still alive, call her or visit. If she isn't, remember her. And if she wasn't perfect, know that she did the best she could with what she knew at the time.