Tag Archives: gratitude

Sacred Ways to Walk in Beauty

While writing my May blog, Beauty to the Right, I came across Shann Vander Leek’s thoughtful and instructive article, Sacred Ways to Walk in Beauty. It prompted me to re-visit the definition of beauty.

Merriam-Webster defines beauty as the qualities in a person or a thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind.

Of course, our culture defines beauty in a myriad of ways. Lexi Herrick has another take on beauty in her article for the Huffington post. In it she writes, “Beauty is often distorted, misunderstood and shadowed by a wide amount of conflicting pressures. It is something we endlessly strive for, rather than see in the true essence of our happiest moments.”

Shann Vander Leek reflectively states her personal meaning: “I’ve learned that walking in beauty is creating an intimate relationship with the goodness of all creation.”

Awe02But even when we view beauty as a set of qualities that give pleasure to the senses, walking in beauty will mean different things to different people; it certainly means different things to me. I walk, or move, in beauty when I work in my garden, tour a museum, or visit sacred sights. Beauty is a friend’s hug, a child’s laughter, or a sunset. But then walking in beauty can become a metaphor for being in beauty. We can be in beauty in our thoughts. Perceived beauty can be received many forms – seeing, hearing, listening, and feeling. One thing I know, when I am consciously present in what I consider beauty, I feel closer to source and my energy is transformed.

This assumes, of course, we take the time to notice.

The more often we see the things around us – even the beautiful and wonderful things – the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds – even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less. Joseph B. Wirthlin 

 I suspect that’s why awareness is first on Vander Leek’s list of nine ways to walk in beauty: awareness, prayer, stewardship for the earth, creativity, sacred living, self-love, community, personal responsibility, and feminine sovereignty. She concludes with gratitude.

It is a lovely article and a lovely reminder. To read it in its entirety, click here.

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. Jawaharlal Nehru

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How Do You Make Other People Happy?

At a recent Feng Shui Institute of the Midwest meeting, each attendee was asked to briefly respond to the question: “How do you make other people happy?”

HappyMy first thought was – “isn’t that a question to ask of my friends and family?” My second thought was whatever I might do to bring happiness would likely change, depending on who the person is. But as I continued to reflect on the question, I realized that the energy we carry with us – our core energy – has the potential to bring happiness to any and all with whom we might come into contact, anytime and anyplace. If we live in gratitude and are basically “the glass is half full” kind of person, then we exude an energy that lifts the energy of all around us. It seems to me we can only bring happiness to others to the extent we are happy with ourselves. But this is my version and is it correct? And what actually makes us happy?

It seems that researchers have concluded that each of us has a set point for happiness—a level of contentment that stays constant through changing circumstances, such as the loss of loved ones or winning big bucks.

Other drivers of happiness that matter less than you think include money, beauty, youth, intelligence and education. Those that matter more include self-esteem, social skills, free time, volunteering and humor.

Back to the responses the night of our meeting. They were quite varied, as you might imagine, and, perhaps, instructive, as well. One woman owns a cleaning business said how happy her clients are to walk into a clean home. AnotherYellowFace was an interior designer who makes her clients happy with color and design in their environments. Still another visits the elderly to bring some special happiness to their day. And I wasn’t the only person that evening who stood up to say, “I try to bring happiness by smiling at others everywhere I go.“

 “It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald 

 I am amazed at the glum facial expressions I observe when I’m out and about! Have you noticed? So many people nowadays appear to be burdened with life. It is true that the world, especially now it seems, can often feel mostly negative. These times are challenging with all the conflicting information we hear about threats to our safety and challenges to our health and well-being, to name a few. I like to believe we are experiencing growing pains. Our world is in the throes of becoming more tolerant, inclusive, and aware of choices that protect our planet and ourselves. Where there is growth, there is pushback – anxiety, fear and dread of the unknown. Trusting that everything is as it should be can be most helpful and comforting.

In the meantime, I’m frequently asked, “But what can I do when it all feels so overwhelming?” I believe that we hold power in how we chose to live on a daily basis. If I focus my attention on noticing good and thinking about the things I can control, I’m using my attention and energy to build optimism and happiness rather than to deepen worry and sadness.

It can also mean making conscious choices about the foods and products you buy, asking the questions: “Does this help or harm our environment?” “Does this help or harm my health and the health of my family?” Those preferences can contribute to our feeling more in control of our environment.

You always have a choice to bring happiness to yourself and others (even if you have to fake it on the days you’re not feeling optimal Chi). We know it is not realistic, nor is it desirable, to be happy all the time. Negative emotions are natural.

Flowers2But you can make a decision to smile at a stranger; to say “Thank you” to wait staff at restaurants, including those who fill your water glass or remove your plates. You can plant a garden or fill a pot with flowers that make you and passersby smile. Volunteering seems to bring everyone happiness. There are hundreds of small ways to bring a bit of happiness to others and yourself on a daily basis. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”  Mahatma Gandhi   

Life Interrupted

It was an exhilarating time! We were preparing for a two-week tour of sacred sights in France. Little did I know a slight twinge in my left buttock was the harbinger of a life interrupted. My plan was to share our incredible journey to France with you on our return. It never happened and I have been absent from blogging since April. It is the unanticipated journey I now wish to share with you.

That slight twinge, which began prior to our departure to France on May 23rd, increased to periodic severe stabbing buttock pain during walking, following our arrival in Paris. Stopping frequently to elevate my left leg provided some relief. In Normandy, we walked (I limped) over 3,000 steps a day, so there was no time to rest, or heal, this unknown injury I had somehow suffered.

MyWalker01Two weeks later, following our return home, I continued to limp because of the pain in my left buttock and thigh. My daily activities became increasingly limited. I was working with my homeopath and taking remedy to support healing, but, as walking became progressively difficult, I required the use of a cane and finally a walker.

At the end of June, I experienced sudden unbearable pain in my thigh, requiring a trip to Urgent Care and an overnight stay at a nearby hospital. An MRI of my spine revealed a left lumbar disc protrusion, which was impinging on the left sciatic nerve root. After seeing my chiropractor for several weeks with no decrease in the persistent excruciating thigh pain, he suspected a hamstring tear. A second MRI of the pelvis confirmed his suspicions – a hamstring tear at site where those three tendons connect to my sits bone. No wonder I was unable to sit in chair or lie on my stomach!

I began a program of physical therapy but discontinued it after two months because of increased pain following each session and absolutely no functional improvement to show for it. I was still unable to shower, dress the lower half of my body or do any of my daily routine.

That agonizing pain persisted from the end of June through November. Five months bed-ridden. I couldn’t sit, or stand independently and walked only with the aid of a walker. I would never in a million years have anticipated my life would have been interrupted to this extent.

From the moment I began this unexpected journey, I knew there were lessons in it for me. After all, I had been stopped in my tracks! That had to mean something! My intention was to remain open to whatever it was I needed to learn.

“Don’t be afraid of challenges. Let them take you somewhere new.”Siri Masetti

I know I haven’t even begun to learn all the lessons, but there are a few I wish to share with you.

I have learned that when one can no longer function in the same capacity to which friends and family expects of them, you learn first hand who is willing to hang in there with you, and to what extent, regardless of how long it takes.

I learned that my husband, Tom, is both willing and capable of being the ultimate caregiver. He lovingly, generously and without complaint, gave up his life, as he knew it, to become my full-time caregiver. He cooked, cleaned, brought 3 meals a day to me in bed (remember, I couldn’t sit up), bathed my back, legs and feet because I couldn’t bend over and even washed my hair. He couldn’t leave me for longer than an hour because of my chronic pain and physical vulnerability. He gave up a season of nature walking, playing tennis and bike riding. I was totally dependent on him for five months. No one can know the extent to which their husband or partner is willing to go until they are in that situation.

My dear sister, Joyce, who lives in Texas, was, and remains, a constant companion by phone. She and I love to go to Estate Sales so last July and August, off we went! Joyce would text me when she was stopping at a sale and then send me photos of items she knew I would love. Talk about the ultimate distraction (shopping) from my situation when I was most in crisis! If I Okayed a particular item(s), she would negotiate the price. I have a bedroom lamp, bookends, and other items I don’t recall, now waiting for me in Texas! A road trip is in my future!

HealWe know how important friendships are, but during challenging situations, we don’t always know
who will show up. I was blessed to be the recipient of friendship in its various forms, all of which have contributed to the healing process. Because I could do nothing but lie in bed, phone calls, texts, and visits were welcome diversions. Friends shared their gifts of healing, prayers and practical solutions for physical restrictions (ask me about Go Girl!). Food, flowers, books, laughter and encouragement frequently made their way to our home. What struck me was no one asked, “What can I do?” They just took it upon themselves to do what they felt moved to do and it was always perfect!

And then there is one friend whose generosity is off the charts! A massage therapist, body worker and healer, she asked if she could be a part of my healing team. Little did I know she would singlehandedly become the healing team. In September, she started coming to our home once a week to treat me and, with her skills, love and dedication to healing, continues to guide my slow return to normal functioning.

With independence temporarily taken from me, Patience became my new guide. And, with all I’ve been blessed to receive, Gratitude has become my closest companion.

“Why is patience so important?” “Because it makes us pay attention.”Paulo Coelho

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”Albert Schweitzer

My experience provides me the opportunity to share with you that it is a MUST to be your own advocate in your health care! And absolutely have someone who knows your wants, needs and wishes in case you are unable to advocate for yourself. My primary care physician did not believe my Chiropractor’s impression that I had a hamstring tear and refused to order another MRI! In frustration and desperation, I called an MD with whom I used to work and highly respect to explain my situation. She listened and, within three days, an MRI was scheduled, revealing the hamstring tear!

I am learning the importance of listening to my body to avoid squandering my energy. While I am an advocate of “listen to your body,” I didn’t practice what I preached. When my body said, “I’m tired!” I responded with, “Just this one more thing!” I repeated that enough over the years that my body finally took over and stopped, giving me no more chance to ignore it.

Every so often we are forced to learn our lessons the hard way; they are gifts to be cherished.

“Embrace each challenge in your life as an opportunity for self-transformation.”Bernie S. Siegel 

Gratitude

GrowingDuring this special time of Thanksgiving and acknowledgment of gratitude, I wish to share a book recommendation with you. It’s titled, Growing Through the Narrow Spots by Ruth Bachman. I’ve long since learned to pay attention to what shows up in my life and grabs my attention: a sudden awareness of the words to a song, a saying on a billboard or a bumper sticker, or, as in this case, a book title that jumps out at me. This particular title stirred an inner familiarity and it presented itself during an especially challenging personal time.

What are the narrow spots? Well, when I was a child, I found myself fascinated by the seemingly delicate flowers and weeds that pushed through the tiny cracks in the cement sidewalks in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas. Narrow spots were those tiny cracks in the sidewalk. As an adult, I became aware of the narrow spots in the sidewalk of life.Pansy02a

Every day life lessons! Many small, many big! Challenges that seemingly knock us off course and require our immediate attention and a shift in awareness: gratitude for the gift of health when a health challenge occurs; gratitude for the gift of friendship and family when a loss occurs; gratitude for our homes that nourish and protect us until the loss of that home. The list is endless of the blessings in our lives we take for granted until they are challenged or lost. These are the narrow spots – when life closes in – requiring us to navigate differently. And, if we’re fortunate and pay attention to our personal GPS, the gift, when all is said and done, may be an endless supply of gratitude.

 Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted – a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul. Rabbi Harold Kushner 

 In Bachman’s personal story of loss and acceptance, she states, “ The secret is not to fight the passage, but to bravely accept what is – to say, “Yes” and embrace the passage, not a stoic surrender, rather a courageous reconciliation with reality.”

Bachman’s beautiful book speaks to all of us, regardless of our personal life challenges. Her words remind us that gratitude awaits on the other side of the tight spaces, if we choose courage and resilience to navigate through.

 Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. –Theodore Roosevelt

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Tis the Season of Yin and Yang

SnoTreesDecember in Minnesota is a perfect example of Yin and Yang. The short, dark winter days combined with the quiet beauty of a blanket of snow personify Yin. Add Yang energy with glowing holiday lights that brighten and twinkle, and you have a season of Yin and Yang. In balance, Yin and Yang contribute to the beauty we so enjoy at this time of year.

But just about the time holiday fervor is threatening to create an imbalance of Yang energy, along comes the Winter Solstice. The word “solstice” is Latin for “sun-stand still.” The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year and represents the official beginning of winter. Yin energy reinstates itself!

Saturday, the 21st of December, I attended a Winter Solstice celebration, and in so doing, connected with the energy of other cultures around the world that have celebrated solstice festivals since ancient times. Sunset

This year, I joined a gathering of eight women at a mutual friend’s home. While not everyone knew each other, the camaraderie was instant. We shared delicious food as we engaged in “getting to know you” talk. Then we settled in to focus on the purpose of getting together: acknowledging the Solstice and sharing gratitude. Our hostess first invited each of us to shine a light on what we were grateful for in 2013. A candle was lit, bringing light to the darkest day of the year. As the softly glowing candle was passed from one woman to the next, intimate stories of healing and insights were shared. Each person talked about challenging and difficult times experienced this year and how those darkest of times brought the greatest lessons learned. The light shone brightly for each of us on gratitude for the subsequent insights, wisdom and understanding gleaned from those lessons. Candle

After sharing gratitude, we participated in a solstice tradition of writing on a piece of paper what we wanted to release before entering the new year: arrogance, ego, selfishness, poor health, self-doubt, negative thoughts and so on. These pieces of paper were then tossed into a fire to be set free. This ritual provides a powerful sense of release.

I am grateful for friends who afford me an opportunity, in the midst of the holiday rush, to take time to pause and acknowledge the transition to a new season, to appreciate nature’s celestial beauty and wisdom, to speak my gratitude in the presence of others and to symbolically release what did not serve me well in 2013.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

 Happy Solstice! Happy Holidays!

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The Season of Gratitude

VegNovember arrives, ushering in the season of gratitude.Throughout history, fall has been a time for celebrating and giving thanks for Earth’s bountiful harvest. While the nature of these celebrations has evolved through the centuries, the spirit of the occasion remains the same: to reflect on life’s gifts.

In anticipation, we reminisce about our blessings as we plan how our Thanksgiving Day will be spent: whether to be a host or a guest; what traditional dishes to serve and with whom we will spend this day of gratefulness. For some, this Thanksgiving will have new meaning and a different energy. There are those who have experienced the loss of a spouse, a parent or a dear friend; a deep void will be felt as those who are no longer with us are lovingly remembered. Thanks will be given for their presence in our lives. Others will experience an expansion of gratitude as the birth of a child or a grandchild is joyfully acknowledged. Loved ones may be absent because of distance; others will embrace the addition of a new family member or friend to their Thanksgiving festivities.

Regardless of our individual situations, Thanksgiving provides an auspicious time to gather with those we hold dear and share in gratitude for both the gifts and the challenges that brought us to this day.1292

 “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie