$50.00 and $.50 Part 1

About a month ago, I was getting gas. The pump was moving so incredibly slowly that, while I’d love say, I was all zen and enjoying the present moment and just waiting patiently, I wasn’t. I was the opposite–irritated, impatient, and probably ungrounded to boot. I said to myself, “This is ridiculous. I’m going to stop this at $50.” Just then I noticed the pump slowing down even further and it stopped at exactly $50.00 even. “Wow, that was wild,” I thought.

The very next week we were heading out of town, so I decided to fill up in preparation even though the tank registered more than 1/4 full. This time the pump was going extraordinarily fast. I thought for a nano second, “wouldn’t that be hilarious if it stopped at $50 again?” But of course pushed that thought out instantly since there was about the same chance of that happening as winning the lottery.

You already know what happens next. Yep, it stopped at $50 on the dot! I was so filled with wonder and joy that I laughed out loud, incredulous at the “coincidence.” Of course, there are no coincidences so I just took it as a fun wink from the universe–a wink about what I had no idea, but I figured it meant something.

Two weeks later, I kid you not, I was pumping gas again. I can’t honestly say whether or not I was thinking about the $50 this time. I do remember that I was sitting in the car listening to my book du jour when I heard the pump click off. You can only imagine my total and complete astonishment when it was $50 exactly a third time and in less than a month! Now I was truly freaking out, in a good way, but still utterly perplexed. What are the chances?

Now I definitely had to get some outside perspective on what this meant so I asked one of my psychic friends to take a look. This friend is a big muckety-muck at an international firm so we exchange looks over email to accommodate our different schedules. Since it is convenient for me to cut and past it, I’ll share part of what she emailed…

50 is a personal test.  You are testing your creation system to make sure you are indeed creating your life (something you don’t really trust at times or want to believe at times because dis-empowerment is easier. So you find ways to have the world play back your ability to create in little ways, reoccurring numbers, synchronicity, etc.  Not significant because it is all from you, reflecting out in the world.  My message here: YES you are a creator.  It works.  Play big and trust yourself.  Do not model for the world, your loved ones your fear in creating!

I told this story to my oldest son on the way to school the next day and he replied, “mom, your credit card probably maxes out at $50 for gas.” Ugh,” I thought disappointed. That could very well be the explanation, especially since my purse had been stolen within the year. I had so wanted to believe it was my way of reminding myself that I’m a creator.

To my great delight, the next time I pumped gas, it went all the way up to $61 and change. What my friend had seen felt right and true to me so I was relieved that these “coincidences” couldn’t be explained away otherwise. You’d think I’d trust this process more since this is what I do for others, but you know the saying about the cobbler’s kids not having any shoes to wear… What a great reminder for me (all of us) to own my ability to consciously create and a nice knock on the head to sit down and meditate more, since you can’t create what you don’t know you want and meditation is the fastest way to get clear.

This post is too long already so I’ll continue the story in the next one. Until then, get out there and create big! Let’s inspire each other with how big we can play:)!

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Can You Stay Open to the Pain of Others?

This comes from Rick Hanson, Ph.D., neuropsychologist, New York Times best-selling author, Advisory Board member of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and invited lecturer at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard universities. It’s kind of long, but it’s worth the time to read to the end.

            Can you stay open to the pain of others?

The Practice

Being at peace with the pain of others.

Why?

Humans are an empathic, compassionate, and loving species, so it is natural to feel sad, worried, or fiery about the troubles and pain of other people. (And about those of cats and dogs and other animals, but I’ll focus on human beings here.)

Long ago, the Buddha spoke of the “first dart” of unavoidable physical pain. Given our hardwired nature as social beings, when those we care about are threatened or suffer, there is another kind of first dart: unavoidable emotional pain.

For example, if you heard about people who go to bed hungry – as a billion of us do each night – of course your heart would be moved. I’m usually a pretty calm guy, but when I visited Haiti, I was in a cold rage at the appalling conditions in which most people there lived. On a lesser scale but still real, a friend’s son has just started college and is calling home to tell his mom how lonely and miserable he feels; of course she’s worried and upset.

But then – as the Buddha continued with his metaphor – there are the second darts we throw ourselves: rehashing past events, writing angry mental emails in the middle of the night, anxious rumination, thinking you’re responsible when you’re not, feeling flooded or overwhelmed or drained, getting sucked into conflicts between others, etc. etc. Most of our stresses and upsets come from these second darts: needless suffering that we cause ourselves – the opposite of being at peace.

Our second darts also get in the way of making things better. You’ve probably had the experience of talking with someone about something painful to you, but this person was so rattled by your pain that he or she couldn’t just listen, and had to give you advice, or say you were making a big deal out of nothing, or jump out of the conversation, or even blame you for your own pain!

In other words, when others are not at peace with our pain, they have a hard time being open, compassionate, supportive, and helpful with it. And the reverse is true when we are not at peace ourselves with the pain of others.

So how do you do it? How do you find that sweet spot in which you are open, caring, and brave enough to let others land in your heart . . . while also staying balanced, centered, and at peace in your core?

How?

 Keep a warm heart

Let the pain of the other person wash through you. Don’t resist it. Opening your heart, finding compassion – the sincere wish that a being not suffer – will lift and fuel you to bear the other’s pain. We long to feel received by others; turn it around: your openness to another person, your willingness to be moved, is one of the greatest gifts you can offer.

To sustain this openness, it helps to have a sense of your own body. Tune into breathing, and steady the sense of being here with the other person’s issues and distress over there.

Have heart for yourself as well. It’s often hard to bear the pain of others, especially if you feel helpless to do anything about it. It’s OK if your response is not perfect. When you know your heart is sincere, you don’t have to prove yourself to others. Know that you are truly a good person; you are, really, warts and all, and knowing this fact will help you stay authentically open to others.

Do what you can

Nkosi Johnson was born in South Africa with HIV in 1989 and he died 12 years later – after becoming a national advocate for people with HIV/AIDS. I think often of something he said, paraphrased slightly here: “Do what you can, with what you’ve been given, in the place where you are, with the time that you have.”

Do what you can – and know that you have done it, which brings a peace. And then, face the facts of your limitations – another source of peace. One of the hardest things for me – and most parents – is to feel keenly the struggles and pain of my kids . . . and know that there is nothing I can do about it. That’s a first dart, for sure. But when I think that I have more influence than I actually do, and start giving my dad-ish advice and getting all invested in the result, second darts start landing on me – and on others.

See the big picture

Whatever the pain of another person happens to be – perhaps due to illness, family quarrel, poverty, aging, depression, stressful job, worry about a child, disappointment in love, or the devastation of war – it is made up of many parts (emotions, sensations, thoughts, etc.) that are the result of a vast web of causes.

When you recognize this truth, it is strangely calming. You still care about the other person and you do what you can, but you see that this pain and its causes are a tiny part of a larger and mostly impersonal whole.

This recognition of the whole – the whole of one person’s life, of the past emerging into the present, of the natural world, of physical reality altogether – tends to settle down the neural networks in the top middle of the brain that ruminate and agitate. It also tends to activate and strengthen neural networks on the sides of the brain that support spacious mindfulness, staying in the present, taking life less personally – and a growing sense of peace.

Spirited, Awaken the Spirit Within, and Maxed Out

It’s been fun receiving book recommendations from you! Thank you!

Mary Ann recommended two books by Rebecca Rosen that I really enjoyed and think you will, too. Spirited: Connect to the Guides All Around You and Awaken the Spirit Within: 10 Steps to Ignite Your Life and Fulfill Your Divine Purpose

Rosen is a medium who communicates with souls who have crossed over–along the lines of John Edward. I found her writing style and stories interesting and enjoyable. She also gives lots of great techniques for getting in touch with your inner guidance system, increasing your overall consciousness, and practical tips on how to use your spiritual gifts in daily life. I’m always surprised my library has these types of books, but I’m so glad they do!

Tambra turned me on to, Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, by Katrina Alcorn. I wish I’d read this when my kids were younger, but still found it interesting and relevant. I had just finished, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg when this one finally popped up on my hold list at the library.

While I enjoyed Sandberg’s book, it made me question whether or not I was putting in enough effort in trying to work either more hours or in a more traditional job. I went to grad school for crying out loud and what the heck did I have to show for it besides an impressive student loan?! An MBA doesn’t give you much street cred on the psychic scene.

In any case, I appreciated Alcorn’s candor on many levels. It was also a good reminder that no matter what our situation, we’re all out there doing our best. While some people may appear to be “doing it all” and “doing it all well!” or just plain, “doing it all better than we are,” that’s not always how it is behind the scenes. We’d be wise to stop comparing ourselves and trying to meet unrealistic expectations, whether self or other induced.

As always, thanks again for the recommendations!

Women’s Reclamation and Renewal

Way back in this post, I talked about the incredible growth I’d experienced as a result of a Women’s Renewal Retreat I participated in last January. That weekend was so powerful, that our group asked the supremely talented facilitators, Sharon and Jess, to create more opportunities for us to continue what we’d started. As a result, Women’s Reclamation and Renewal was born.

I won’t go into all the details about what we did during those gatherings, because Sharon and Jess are offering another series commencing September 13th for those of you lucky enough to live in California’s Central Coast. I will say, however, that I continue to reflect upon and use the wisdom I gained from those experiences in more ways than I ever could have anticipated.

Here is a quick description of the next series:

Women’s Reclamation & Renewal is a four part series that guides women on a journey of transformation in a wilderness context. Guided group practices and solo experiences are intended to offer opportunities to build a relationship with the landscape that activates your personal potential, enriching your lives and inevitably the communities that hold you.

FALL 2014 DETAILS

Weekend I:  September 13 & 14 ( 9am Saturday – 5pm Sunday)

Weekend II: October 4 ( 9am – 5pm Saturday)

Weekend III: October 19 ( 9am – 5pm Sunday)

Weekend IV: November 7 – 9 ( 9am Friday – 5pm Sunday)

If you’re looking for a guaranteed way to shake things up in your life, this is your ticket!  Let me know if you take the plunge and we can have our own private pow wow. If you have any questions or hesitations, feel free to contact Sharon, Jess, or myself and we’d be happy to walk you through them. Ooooh, I’m getting the tingles just thinking about all the wonderfulness that will surely happen here!

The War of Art

I don’t know how I came upon this book, but am so glad I did! It’s official title is, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, written by Steven Pressfield.

Even if you’re not a writer or in another type of creative professional field, this slim edition would be a fun addition to your arsenal to break through any and all road blocks to free flowing energy. There is a pervasive fallacy that you’re either the “creative type” or not. I have to stop my inner voice which constantly says, I’m not creative and I don’t have a creative bone in my body.

Literally everything we do is our “creation.” Whether it’s a thought, relationship, meal, email, hug, a deep breath or heartfelt smile, a clean drawer, it does not matter as they all result from our creative force.

Pressfield describes many common ways we block this creative flow which he labels as RESISTANCE. For me, just naming this force brings it down to a surmountable size. For example, when I’m stagnant on a decision, I now notice the paralysis and then hear myself saying, oh that’s just resistance, what am I resisting? what am I afraid of? is it that bad? I’ll just move forward one step and see where that takes me and Boom! just like that, the resistance dissipates.

Also, now I can see that one of my children is constantly in resistance, whether it’s to new situations, activities, people, a different hiking trail, it doesn’t really matter, this child will dig down into the trenches and be almost impossible to budge. Prior to this book, I thought that child had control/anger issues. Now that I recognize their underlying motivation as simply Resistance, which is just another form of fear, it takes the sting out of the obstinate behavior and elicits more compassion from me. It also makes it easier to move through the power struggle and gain compliance once the resistance/fear is named and validated.

The War of Art is a great followup to Fail Fast, Fail Often. The two together make for powerful motivation to just Get Out There! 

Oprah/Chopra and A Friend

I just love the Oprah/Chopra rhyme! I believe it’s more than coincidence that their names sound so similar. Maybe God/the Universe/Higher Being thought we needed both the male and female version at the same time on earth to make a bigger impact than either of them could have singularly.

Anyway, as you know, I am a big fan of their 3 week meditation challenges because it’s an easy way to get the family involved. They have another one beginning on August 11th and the theme this time is Expanding Your Happiness.

If you’ve done any of their previous meditations, you know that they always begin with a mantra which is simply a word, phrase, or sound repeated to help you get past your thoughts and deeper into your spiritual awareness. What I didn’t know, is that while there are many universal mantras, each of us also has our own personal mantra that is determined by the time, place, and date of our birth.

My dear friend, Armenia, has just completed the second in a three part teaching program from the Chopra Center and is teaching meditation and Ayurveda both locally in South Carolina and virtually over Skype. I did a meditation class with her which was great and it entitled me to my own special mantra. Since I have a pretty strong meditation practice that does not involve mantras, I was surprised by how much affinity I had for the one she gave me. It immediately became a part of my daily experience.

Since my kids were familiar with mantras in general from the Oprah/Chopra meditations, I gifted them each their own personal mantra through Armenia for their summer birthdays. They probably would have preferred an actual birthday party at this age, but I’m hoping over the course of their lifetime, they will forgive me my lack of entertaining capability and appreciate this gesture more. Armenia did an absolutely brilliant job relating meditation to their level, teaching them how to use their mantra, and keeping the kids engaged–no easy task for most subjects let alone, something as vague as meditation. If you’d like your own personal mantra, or to learn more about mediation or the Ayurveda lifestyle, check out Armenia’s website and her blog .

Remember to sign up for the Oprah/Chopra mediation series next month and see if you can get your family involved, too:)! It would also be great if you sign up for Deepak’s special worldwide meditation on August 8th. He is going for the Guinness world record and the intention is for peace. Here is the link to sign up for that one time event http://globalmeditation.chopra.com. Finally, here is a good article with a video clip of Oprah interviewing Deepak as they prepared for their first 21 day challenge.  I think both the article and clip will get you inspired for these upcoming events.

Let me know how it goes for you:). In the meantime, so hum!

Books, Books, and More Books

I just finished reading, Year of No Sugar: A Memoir, by Eve Schaub which was recommended to me by a loyal blog reader based on this post. This was an easy, fast, and light read, but inspiring nonetheless. I learned a lot. For example, I had a bias against processed food and especially high fructose corn syrup (duh, that’s a no brainer, right!?), but did not acknowledging the same biological effects on the body from what I deemed “good” or at the very least, “better”, sources of sugar such as my beloved maple syrup and molasses. I highly recommend this book for anyone trying to swim upstream against the tide of sugar pushed on us from all directions. Schaub talks a lot about another book, Sweet Poison, by David Gillespie which I hope to get on the docket soon. There are also a bunch of youtube videos about this topic from Dr. Lustig who does a great job of translating the science terminology into plain English.  Anyway, this is a subject near and dear to my heart so definitely wanted to pass along! Thanks for the recommendation, Emma!

On to more spiritual material, I just finished Spirit Junkie, by Gabrielle Bernstein. It’s also a light read as it’s mainly her personal story, but that can be inspiring, especially to younger folks. I especially liked her stories of synchrodestiny and her encounter with John of God. I didn’t love this book, but the one thing I took away from it was her breathing exercise. You start with 5 seconds — breath in for 5, hold for 5, out for 5, hold for 5.  At one point, I’d worked my way up to 10, but now I’m back down to 6. I wouldn’t do this while driving, but it’s a quick way to get present and in the center of your head. Funny how not having oxygen is a way to get your priorities straight instantly.

I have no idea how I got through, The Case for God, by Karen Armstrong as it’s a 400+ page history of beliefs since the cave men. It was probably only due to the fact that I was listening to rather than reading it. While I found it interesting in parts, I’d only recommend it if you’re a history buff, anthropologist, or just plain highly academic. My motivation to continue was that I kept thinking I’d get to some important spiritual wisdom, but it was more just laying out the history of humans evolution on faith. I’m glad I read it, but wouldn’t feel comfortable actually giving it a recommendation.

After that academic exercise, I was in need of light read so I picked up May Cause Miracles, again by Gabrielle Bernstein. I listened to this one as well, but this book lends itself to the written format so you can flip through the different exercises. I think this book would appeal to a younger person just starting to explore their spirituality. Having said that, it could be fun to have it on your nightstand and just open it up and try whatever exercise comes up.

I read a couple of books by Mark Nepo recently, The Book of Awakening and Seven Thousand Ways to Listen. I’m not sure if it was the format or the actual books themselves, but I listened to the first one and enjoyed it, but had a physical book for the second one and just couldn’t get into it.  Nepo is a poet so his writing isn’t that linear or easy to follow, for me at least, but his voice is beautiful so I enjoyed listening to his narrative. I can’t say exactly what I learned, but I truly did enjoy The Book of Awakening. Wow, how is that for inarticulate?!?! Oh well, hopefully you get my point:)…

Finally, I picked up The Seeker’s Guide, by Elizabeth Lesser. The print was really small on my version or probably more truthful is that my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, but either way, this was a tough book for me to get into. So tough in fact, I didn’t finish it even though I have a feeling it was worthy. There was one chapter, however, I really enjoyed on dying and helping people who are in the process of dying. If you find yourself in that situation, I think it was chapter three. My apologies, I get these books from the library and often have to turn them in before I get the chance to write about them.

I have a few more to review, but I’ll save them for next time… In the meantime, would love to hear what your reading and loving and learning!