radical trust

words to live by

Yesterday a dear friend of mine invited me to attend an event at her kids grade school (K-5). It was short and sweet; an open house for all the important adults in these children's lives. I was honored to have been invited. It's a good feeling to know that I'm making a positive difference in someone's life.

As part of the program for the day the students were invited to share excerpts from their individual biographies projects that they had been working on throughout the year. There was an impressive amount of information about each student that was being shared in the most creative ways: from self drawn maps of their neighborhoods, to timelines. There were self portraits and handprinted family portraits alongside collages of their favorite things. The item that drew my attention and inspired me the most was a Top 10 wisdom for life list that they had  titled, "Rules to Live By". I was intrigued and fascinated with the things these 11 year olds came up with and thought to myself, "Who is this wise at 11?! I certainly never was!" And then when I was asked to contribute to the list, it took me a moment. I have "rules" I live by (I prefer to call them words of wisdom), but in that moment I realized I had never really consciously strung them together in my head or my heart. So after being caught off guard and responding with an off the cuff "Do unto others", (which by the way is still very relevant!) I thought long and hard about what my words of wisdom list would contain and why. While what follows is certainly not a complete list, it is definitely populated with my most frequently go to aphorisms.

  • Trust the Process - I learned this during my first 10 day Vipassana retreat. It rang through me so loud and clear, I immediately recognized it as truth. We don't always know the how or the details of the how, and often we don't know the why either. But if we want to enjoy life, we need to trust the process.
  • Follow Your Heart and Let Nature Take Care of the Rest - This is similar to the adage, "To Thine Own Self Be True". Which is also a good one. They both speak to taking care of yourself first because only then will you have love and energy enough to give to others. Your heart knows what your purpose is and it will never lead you astray. And really, if you do follow your heart and don't allow yourself to get caught up in the constricts of society, nature really will take care of the rest. But you have to trust the process.
  • In order to follow your heart you must first Know Your Heart. Plato taught that knowing thyself was the most important education a person could undertake. For it is through knowing thyself that one gains the knowledge to help humanity. So spend as much time as you can getting to know yourself, accepting yourself, and loving yourself. Then you may go out into the world loving others, confident of your purpose.
  • Trust Yourself - This comes from knowing your heart. When you know your heart you become incapable of living without integrity. Your heart would never allow it. So, follow your heart and trust the process.
  • In the BIG PICTURE you can't make a mistake. So, GO FOR IT! Audentis Fortuna Iuevat.
  • Be Kind - Always. You never know what is happening in someone else's world. Besides, kindness feels better in the body than judgement so in being kind to others you are also being kind to yourself. And being kind to yourself automatically helps you to be kind to others. See how that works?
  • Be Grateful - Gratitude goes a long way to healing a heart and a soul. Gratitude can overcome even the most negative thoughts and experiences. So find something, anything, maybe even everything, to be grateful for each day.
  • Be Generous - If only for the reason that generosity feels better in the body than hoarding! Be selfish with your generosity. That means, do it because it feels good. :)
  • Hold Yourself Accountable for your own thoughts, emotions, and actions and don't own the reactions of others, It's none of your business.
  • Control Your Controlables - See above! You really can only control yourself; your emotions, your thoughts, your actions and reactions. You can't control the market, your neighbor's dog, the lady in line in front of you nor her crying baby. So take care of you and trust the process. Everything else will work itself out.
  • Get Outside and commune with nature. If only to calm your nerves. The fresh air will do you some good.
  • Love and Life are More Important Than Money - Remember this and you'll always have enough.
  • You Always Have a Choice - Really. You do.
  • Your Dreams Matter - Water them. Love them. Spend time cultivating them. Allow them room to grow.
  • Spend Time Every Day in Silence - Even if it's only 5 minutes. For your dreams to blossom you need to be able to hear your heart. And your heart often speaks in whispers.
  • Appreciate Your Body - Without it you wouldn't be here. You wouldn't have the ability to appreciate the awesome adventure that is Life.
  • Take Inspired Action - If your actions aren't inspired, it's just labor. And laboring for labor's sake is no fun at all! (unless you're a masochist, which I am not) If you must labor for labor's sake, do yourself a favor and find the gratitude that may be hidden like a pearl in the action.
  • Like a snowstorm, thunderstorm, windstorm, any storm - This Too Shall Pass. The Buddhists refer to it as anicha. Knowing this too shall pass will help you stay calm in any situation. Knowing this too shall pass will help you stay present for the joyful and peaceful moments of life. For just like storms, they also pass.
  • And really -Trust the Process and Enjoy the Journey!

If you are just getting started with knowing your heart and this all seems a little overwhelming I recommend reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It's a well written practical guide to help you on your path to finding your own words to live by.

Namaste

image credit:  studio glow

image credit: studio glow

being present

There is magic in being present. I know that sounds like such a cliche and the phrase is so ubiquitous that it feels like a cliche as well. But, personal experience has taught me that there is magic in being present and that it is anything but a cliche.

These last couple of months as my bank balance dwindled and I have relied more and more on my stellar credit I would jokingly tell people that my nest egg had sprouted wings and I needed to make sure it didn't completely leave the coop. Since I haven't had any practice until now being a full time creative, that meant (and maybe means) getting a job. And with all of that weighing on me - the money, the job, the feeling that I am somehow abandoning my dreams - I would find myself in the throes of crippling anxiety. Anxiety about an uncertain future or a harry past. What ifs clouded my brain: What if I couldn't find a job? What if I don't sell any art? What if no one likes my book? What if I have to sell my house? Nearly paralyzed with fear over non-existent events, my mind had trapped me into inertia. I couldn't write. I couldn't paint. I couldn't move! All I could do was cry. It was at times like these that I would often turn to alcohol for relief. Thank God for my meditation practice! It allowed me to refocus on my breath and recenter myself in this world of now.

Staying present is hard work. Especially when we are bombarded with information. Social media, TV, radio, our friends & family, our senses become overwhelmed with too much, often impertinent, information. It takes real effort to tune all of that out and focus on what is happening in the now. And while our electronics can get in the way of our ability to be present, the biggest culprit is really the mind. Our minds have been trained to be anywhere but here. The mind travels to the past with longing, regret, or shame and then jumps to the unknown of the future where anxiety and uncertainty live. To throw a leash on that and make it heel to the present moment is a daunting task. Training the mind to heel requires a level of awareness; awareness that the mind is even rambling out of control in the first place. When you can get the mind to heel then peace has a chance to take root and blossom.

Well, I know my mind wanders. I have that awareness. I just didn't realize the extent it roamed until I stopped drinking. And because I no longer have that distraction, or the distraction from friends that I used to drink with (that's another story), and because I have so much more time with myself and no place to hide from my current circumstances, I can either choose to stay present or drown in anxiety caused inertia over events that I can't change or LIFE that hasn't yet unfolded.

To me, it's a no brainer. I would rather be present to the glorious unfolding of this life. And therein lies the magic. Because LIFE really is glorious in all its messiness and all its beauty. And when I am present for it I see how blessed I really am. I have realized that most of the anxiety and fear I experience is a. learned, knee jerk reaction to life; a habit. Because I know it's a habit I know it can be replaced with the healthier, more pleasant habit of being present. Being present is an invitation to experience what is real. Being present reminds me that living does not happen in the past or the future, but right now - in this moment. And it shows me beyond reasonable doubt that right now, in this moment, I have everything I need and am surrounded by love. And that knowing, fills me with a deep sense of gratitude. Because LIFE, when given the opportunity, will do anything to support us. We just need to stay present for it.

original art by  cecilia anthony

original art by cecilia anthony