Saturday, April 10, 2021

They say that gratitude is the highest form of prayer. I think enjoying your life is a form of gratitude. I want to enjoy my life and treasure its moments even when it’s hard.  The easiest way for me to be able to do that is to keep my life free of negativity.  Negativity is  a complete soul suck. Nothing good ever comes of it.

A few years ago I went on a 90Day No Negativity Challenge.  I simply needed a break from all the negativity that seemed to be swirling around me.  Eventually I was nudged into what Thomas Merton calls the wilderness of my own interior journey.  If we are lucky we take that journey several times in our life time.  The challenge was a defining time in my life and I’m still experiencing its impact. On the surface not very much has changed. I still teach school, drive an old truck with music cranked up too loud and sing better than I fiddle.   I paddle when there’s water and time and try to keep the house from falling down around my ears.  I still think I’m going to meet a blue eyed, guitar playing cowboy who paddles a red Caption.  

There are two, subtle differences in my life since my challenge. One is how happy I am even when things are not going well.  And things don’t always go well. I get sick, a tree falls on a neighbor’s fence, I lose money that I can’t afford, you know all those things that fall under the heading of being a grown up.   The other difference is the quality of people who are in my life.  At the end of the challenge some people simply no longer fit my life and while I mourned their passing I trusted the unfolding of my life and let them go.  The majority of people in my life now are people like I want to be and hope that I am. They are souls who embrace the fullness of life with confidence and joy that is contagious.

Here are my top ten tips for keeping free of negativity.  If you are anything like me, you know, human, you need the reminder.

1.      Stop complaining, criticizing, or blaming.
  It is the worst thing we do to ourselves and each other. It is not reality. It doesn’t mean you are wise or have any answers. It simply means that you aren’t happy and only you can change that.  Stop complaining for one day or one moment and see you aren’t happier. The things you complain about will still be there, but you will either change them or let them go.  

2.     Stay silent.
This is a big one for me because I like words and I like to talk.  I know, big surprise. A woman I knew as OldBlonde who supported me on the challenge said, “The person who stays silent has all the power,” and “If it’s not a question, it doesn’t need an answer.”  Rebecca bounced into my classroom during our planning period with this quote, “Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.”  Words to live by for sure.

3.     Joe Friday is an angel.
Do you remember Dragnet? “The facts ma’am, just the facts.”  This should be simple, but listen to how often you embellish the facts with your fears that you justify and take a gospel. Your perceptions about why someone does something are not facts, they are your perceptions and more often than not they are wrong.

4.     Stay in the moment.
Where’s your attention? It should be on right now, not what was or could be.  Notice how often you are living in the future you are afraid of or the past that still haunts you and return to the joy of the present moment.

5.     Know what your triggers are and prepare for them.
Mine is first thing in the morning.  I’m least prepared for the onslaught of my own thoughts before I’ve had a pot of tea. I’ve learned to chant or pray the minute I’m awake.  When I am chanting or praying there is no room for negative thoughts.  I align myself with something more powerful and much more positive.  That’s important because what you put in your mind comes out in your life.

6.     Keep some of yourself to yourself.
Don’t throw yourself out to everyone full tilt. Hold back some.  You are not mangy dog that is begging to be scratched with a stick as the Sweet Potato Queens would say. I’ve become much more discerning about who I bring into my life since my challenge. I want to be around people who are positive, enthusiastic, and encouraging because they make it easier to be creative and take risks.  

7.     If you wouldn’t say it, don’t think it.
 When I had trouble controlling my negative thoughts I hit on the idea of thinking about how I would feel if my thoughts were projected on a giant screen on the interstate for the whole world to see.  It stopped me in my tracks because, (one more time), what you think matters. What you put in your mind comes out in your life.

8.     Take care of yourself.
You are the only you the world has and we need your gifts. Whatever that means to you do it. Taking care of yourself and your inner flame is the most selfless thing you can do.  I eat better; make sure I get enough sleep, and exercise, and spend as little time with toxic or negative people as I can.

9.     Life is an adventure and what happens is all part of the wilderness experience of being human.
Treat it like a trip to a far away land that you paid big bucks for and enjoy it. The trip is paid for. All you gotta do is enjoy it.  No one has a monopoly on sorrow or suffering. If you are a human being you will suffer. It’s your response to that suffering that determines your experience. Stop complaining, stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with what you need to do to change things.  Being negative doesn’t help. It just keeps you stuck and the only person who can change that is you.

10.     Choose.
The best thing about being human besides cowboys, sex, and chocolate is that every moment of everyday we get to choose. So choose, it’s either fear or love baby. I’m choosing love. What about you?


Spreading Sunshine

I was sitting in traffic next to a beautifully restored caddy. I did what any woman with sense would do. No, I did not ask him if he had any Grey Poupon. I yelled, "I LOVE your car!" His face lit up. "I love YOU!" The light changed and we went on through our days spreading sunshine and sprinking the glitter of love because when all is said and done what else is there. It's either fear or love. What will you create in your life?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Stormy Days and Sunny Weather

  I love a good storm. Lightening and thunder and leaves flying everywhere! It does a soul good to have the air cleared.  That sums up this past spring after an upside down tornado hit my neighborhood. Trees, sheds, and fences came crashing down. It was no big deal except for the fact that it unearthed more than just trees. It laid my soul bare.  

In the middle of dealing with the aftermath of the storm I was hit with a string of hold-on-to-your-hat-things-are-going-to-get-messy events. I held on to my hat. I reached out to my friends, celebrated my successes when they came, laughed at myself and continued to march. It was all part of the wilderness experience of being human.

Now, here I am a few months later changed in ways I don’t completely understand yet.  The question I find myself asking is this, who would I be if I didn’t think I knew who I was?  Who am I beyond the roles that I have claimed as my own rather they’re true or not?  The only way I know to find those answers it to go to ground and sit in silence.

Silence has filled my life with a glorious grace.  It is a comfort, a strength I didn’t know I had.  I’ve stopped needing to be right. I’ve stopped defending and explaining who I am and what I think because I’m curious about what is in the silence. I’m curious about who I could be if I got out of the way. Who am I stripped bare of my identity and labels I wear with equal degrees of shame and pride? Who are you?

Sitting in that space of not knowing has made me more intentional with my words, more thoughtful about what I say.  That seems to me to be needed more than ever these days. It’s too easy to jump into the conversational fray with knee jerk reactions that come from who I think I am, with labels I claim as true and defend to the death. 

It’s either fear or love, baby. I want to contribute Love to the conversation.  I want to be Love. First I have to stop pretending to be who I am.  


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tripping Over Stones

I wasn't entirely surprised when my fourth graders nutted up on me.  It was that time of year. Spring Break was a memory and summer vacation was a dream. My students forgot how to do everything, line up, put their name on their papers, what a verb was, and don't even get me started on fractions. My dearest, sweetest students became surly and defiant. And talking back was apparently a new indoor sport.

I didn't help. I did everything wrong. I was a perfect example of what not to do. I chastised, reprimanded, called parents and passed out stickers and candy like a demented Mr. Candy Man.  Then I nutted up with them. Room 17 was not a fun place to be. I broke my hard and fast rule about what to do when things go south. Don't do the same thing harder, do something new.

In the middle of a what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do moment I remembered a story about the king and queen of heaven. It teased the edges of my consciousness and although I didn't think it had anything to do with the price of tea in China, I told the story. The queen of heaven watches the same beggar struggle everyday. She can't bear to see his suffering and asks her husband to do something. "I could drop a bag of gold at his feet. It wouldn't do any good though."  When she can't bear it anymore and she begs the king of heaven to do something. The king of heaven drops a bag of gold on the path in front of the beggar. Sure enough the beggar glanced at it, stepped around it and said, "Man, sure glad I saw that rock before it tore up my raggedy shoes."

Stories have power. This one didn't entirely fix things, but dang if it didn't help. We talked about the story and all the many ways they don't see the gold being handed to them. More than a few of them made the connection to themselves and the gifts they were not seeing that I am doing my level best to give.  Through out the week I would retold the story to them or told it for another teacher. Every time I told it I had the distinct feeling that I was missing something, something I needed to hear.

I was fretting and fuming about my class one afternoon when my teammate asked me what good I thought it did. OK, none, but what was the point. Then I remembered another part of the story.  The queen is determined that something should be done. The king, however, recognizes that not everyone is ready to see the blessings that are dropped in their path and accepts that.

Two things happened when my ears finally heard what my mouth said.  I took a deep breath and calmed my hot self down and I stopped pushing.  I did the best I could with my young scholars then let go. The key was non attachment. When I am attached to an outcome, that a certain thing must happen a certain way it becomes about me and my ego. It becomes about fear, fear that I'm not enough, I need to do better, I'll lose my job. That's a big one these days.  The more attached I am the more insecure I become. Fear breeds fear. It robs me of joy and blinds me to my own bag of gold.  Instead of celebrating the wealth that is in front of me I'm tripping over stones that aren't really there.

It's not easy, the whole non attachment thing. I work at it because fear is constrictive. It shuts off the flow of inspiration, the magic of creation. I teach because I care passionately about my students and about education.  I am more effective if I can maintain that passion with non attachment.  It's not about me. Fear would have me believe the lie. Non attachment would have me believe the truth. There is more than meets the eye, more then we can see. Non attachment keeps me open to possibilities and new imaginings. It allows me to enjoy the wilderness experience of being human without needing to control it.  It's either fear or love baby. I'm working on love. I hope you are too.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Stand Down

 I’m a big believer in jumping in where angels fear to tread.  Right a wrong, take stand, do something!  A few months ago I was ready to take a stand about a situation I saw unfolding.  I did what I always do, prayed and sat in silence listening for a deeper wisdom to pierce my blindness. The problem was that when my inner guidance came it was not what I expected.   Day after day, it came loud and strong, ‘stand down, do nothing.’ What the hell? 

The not so distant past has taught me the value of trusting my inner knowing even when it goes against my nature as it often seems to do.  Heartbreak and hard times teach their lessons well. I reluctantly did nothing. I made a deliberate choice every day to trust the unfolding of what was yet to be.  That’s faith for you.  I don’t always like it or do it well.  I wish I did, but I am who I am.  

Did I mention that I did nothing reluctantly? I called my friend Florie to get a second opinion. And by get a second opinion I mean I wanted her to tell me my inner knowing was wrong and I should jump right on in and raise hot, holy hell.  She of course didn’t do that.  “Call it whatever you want. Call it shishkible if you want, but do it. Do nothing.”   Dang, I hate it when she’s right and I can’t do what I want, which is why I call her. Saner minds should prevail.

Shishkible it is and here’s the thing, it’s not easy  to wait when you’re a recovering gun slinger who was raised to believe that shoot first and ask questions later is a virtue.  I don’t do waiting well. That’s what stand down, or in my case shishkible, means, wait. Stand ready and alert, but nothing more, take no action.  Only now, several months down the road do I see that rushing in would have served my needs at the expense of the situation I’m trying to help. There are times when you don’t know what you think you know or when what you think you know is just down right wrong.  Standing down creates space for Spirit to have a voice. We have to know when it’s time get out of the way. 

 We don’t have control over every situation however much we want to believe we do. The most we can do is to control our attitude and practice non resistance.  We don’t know everything even when we think we do, especially then.  Closed minded certainty is always a mark of your ego getting in the way.  Stand down, know when the best thing you can do is do nothing. Listen and have a little faith. That’s when the magic of creation unfolds.  It’s either fear or love, baby. 


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Eddy Out

The last time I paddled the Tellico River in Tennessee it was cold and rainy. The river level kept rising until it was right at my ceiling. The last drop is an easy one, but just to make sure I had the right line I pulled into an eddy to regroup. That's a novel idea these day, taking time to regroup.

For as long as I can remember I've always known when it was time to eddy out. I've known when to stop and stand still, to listen for the silence where my inner wisdom is found.  Before I started paddling I called it going to ground. 

I've learned the hard way that pushing forward just for the sake of it can result in chaos. It leads to labeling people as right and wrong, quickly followed by defending your position at all costs. Taking time out gives you space to take another look at your intentions and refocus your efforts. Do I know where I want to go?  Will what I'm doing get me there? Is this the line I want to run? The only way to know that is to stop, pull over and give yourself the gift of time.  

It is an act of faith to stand still and listen to the stillness.
It's the very essence of love to accept that you might not know what you think you know and be willing to stand still and wait for the answer. After all, it's either fear or love, baby.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Standing Still to Not Know

cover art
I have spent the week hanging out, listening to hours of music, lingering in bed, seeing friends, and doing some soul searching. I've wrestled with angels this week. I've had wonderful meals, stimulating conversations, and have cried more than once.  I have seen grace and love amidst it all. I watched a toddler who had a melt down and his apologetic mother be comforted and reassured by the people in a long line at the grocery store. A man ran to the other end of the store to get a wreath when I was in line at Home Depot after he heard me say that I wish I had picked on a five dollar wreath he and his wife had in his cart. People wave at each other in my neighborhood. I heard, "Let me get that for you." "I've got that." "Thank you." There is goodness and love in my world.

I don't know where I stand or what I believe about a lot of issues right now, that would be the wrestling with angels bit. I do know that we are all part of the wilderness experience of being human and that alone warrants respect and compassion on our part. Who am I to judge anyone? I've done my share of raising hell and being stupid.  That's part of the wilderness experience of being human and so is Love. This week I saw a dozen small ways that people care about each other and are trying to create a Beloved Community. May it be so. I am certain of only one thing today. It's either fear or love, baby. I’m trying to put a little more Love in my world. Are you?