Monday, January 31, 2011

Jan 31. Look Back

So, it's the last day in January, and it has really flown by.  When I look back at my posts and read my morning pages (I write at least 3 pages of free-writing every morning), I can't believe all the cool stuff I've been able to do and all the changes I've been through in such a short amount of time.  One thing that Chopra recommends in "The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire" is that every evening you replay the events of the day as if you're watching a movie of yourself.  What did you do and how did you look while you were doing it?  Why did you do those things and what does it say about you?  He calls it recapitulation.  Then in the morning, think about any dreams you had.  Try to stay in bed for a few minutes and remember as many details as you can.  What do these dreams mean?  What can they teach you about yourself?
Why is it important to look back like this?  Because when we look back on a regular basis, we see details, even small ones, about our life that we may or may not like.  And noticing those things and having a conscious awareness of them is what will fuel change in our lives.  So, as a character in one of my favorite movies states, "The way forward is sometimes the way back."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jan 30. Regroup

Today was kind of rough for me.  I have been in a kind of funk, I guess because I have a lot on my mind.  And though I believe we choose our feelings and thoughts, sometimes it is easier than others to be joyful.  When I read the book "The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire" earlier this month, I was meditating regularly and felt very confident that I would be able to achieve a so-called ocean of calm from within- a consistency of spirit and balance of emotions not easily swayed by outer forces (even stress).  But the more time has gone by and the more distracted I get, the harder it seems for me to control my emotions and thoughts.  Today especially, the focus was waning and I felt so distracted that I had to be by myself for awhile in the car and just... regroup.  And after an emotional confrontation with someone, I had to regroup again.  A new month is coming up, and now that I have a few good habits established and my path is a little more clear, I decided to set some new goals for myself.  Not resolutions, mind you... goals.  I took a look at what I've accomplished this month, what I've been able to see, do, and experience, the ups and downs, the disappointments, the setbacks, all of it.... and now I'm ready to move forward again.

Regroup: verb; to become reorganized in order to make a fresh start.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jan 29. Have Fun With People You Love

We are weird.  We will pay hundreds of dollars, drive for hours, wait in lines, deal with rude people, bumping into people, and huge crowds, all for a few moments of thrill.  Why do we do this?  It's hard to say.  My family has gotten annual passes to the Universal Parks and today was our first time using them.  We hadn't gone somewhere like that as a family for a long time, and it was nice just to be together, most of the time.  And why did we go?  Because we can explore foreign lands, go on exhilarating rides, see breathtaking views, do something that scares us, eat delicious food, and drink butterbeer.  Turns out that going to theme parks has been proven to: relieve stress, boost creativity, and releases endorphines (which make you more alert, improve your overall sense of well-being, and make you feel happier.)  What's the best part about all this? Doing it with people you love.
You know that saying "Sometimes the people closest to us are the ones we pay the least attention to?"  When we see these people every day and they are common in our day-to-day lives, we take them for granted and can sometimes forget how much fun they are.

The family.  We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.  ~Erma Bombeck

Friday, January 28, 2011

Jan 28. Be Interested

Today between taking a friend to the airport and having dinner at my G-ma's, my sister and I had some time to kill.  And so on a whim, we decided to go see the movie "Tangled," which I cannot praise enough.  I laughed, I cried, I marveled, and I walked away with so many thoughts I hardly know what to do with them.  Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE movies!  Absolutely, obsessively, recklessly love them.  I have, of course, been criticized for this.  "You can't live your life through movies," they tell me.  Or "You don't have to see every movie that exists, you know."  Okay, so no one has told me that exactly, but I get that vibe sometimes.
But the thing about movies is that they are a lot like meeting a new person.  Every movie (even the ones that aren't so "good") has it's own story, place, time, attitude, message... If you are interested in life, you will be interested in movies, because movies contain all aspects of life, and beyond what life allows into imagination.  
And while it's good to be educated, inspired, or enlightened by film, it can also be cathartic just to have a good laugh or cry.  I own a ton of movies, and with each one I can tell you the background, the personality, the feelings, and the meaning I get from each one.  They are like my treasures.  If someone asked me if there was a fire and I could only grab my movies or a family member, I would reply, "That's not fair, my movies don't have legs."  So while I'm not endorsing wasting your life away in front of the tv, I am definitely suggesting you see at least a few movies a week.  Mix up who you watch them with and what kind of movies you're watching- for every movie you see, your perspective and experience broadens.  Above all, be interested, because the more interested we are, the more interesting we become.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jan 27. Celebrate as often as possible

This is my 27th post, not a particularly significant integer except that this year I will be celebrating my 27th birthday.  Also today we celebrated my Dad's birthday and later this evening the birthday of a friend of mine.  I got to thinking a lot about what it means to celebrate something.  And like a total dork I even looked up the actual definition.
Ahem... Celebrate: verb; to observe a day or commemorate an event with ceremonies or festivities; to make known publicly; to praise widely.
Of course generally when we think of celebrating we think of holidays, religious ceremonies, birthdays, anniversaries.  And those things are important, of course, to celebrate.  When we honor such events we show respect and recognition for the role they play in our lives.  But it is also important to celebrate the little things.  And, as part of celebrating is to praise and observe, to seek opportunities to praise and observe those around us.  I used to be quite stingy with my compliments, thinking people would think I'm weird to compliment them out of nowhere.  It even pained me to think of complimenting someone I envied or didn't like, as if I was losing some kind of prideful ground by saying something nice to them, even if it was genuine.  But then I realized that among the people I avoided and the people I gravitated toward, there was one powerful distinction: the people I gravitated toward were generous with sincere praise and positive comments.  This isn't to say we should go around complimenting everyone we come into contact with willy-nilly, but what would the world be like if each of us kept more of the mean things we think in our heads, and said more of the nice things we think out loud?

Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living!” - Amanda Bradley

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jan 26. Listen Up

For two weeks my sister has been giddy with excitement because of a surprise she's had for me.  Clues came little by little, but even up to the last moment I wasn't sure exactly what we were doing.  Then we get to Freebird Live! and I see that Yo La Tengo is playing and I FREAKED OUT!  What an awesome surprise!  Of course, we are new to the whole concert thing, and showed up on time, not knowing they wouldn't start for over 2 hours.  But we claimed our spots in the sparsely populated room and I was red bull-ing it up, trying to counteract the allergy pills I'd taken before we left home.  There were a few quirky, kinda cute guys and then the warm-up guy was pretty amazing, so things were geared up.
Then Yo La Tengo walked out.  And they were completely NOT what I was expecting at all.  (Even though I LOVE a few of their songs, I only happened upon them when I snatched up their cd at the library a few years ago.  I didn't know anything about them or their band.) In fact, I didn't realize it, but when I had looked at their merchandise and briefly talked to the curly-fro'd man behind the table, I had been talking to Ira Kaplan... he's in the band.  Anyway, they played a bunch of ear-splitting noise that I wasn't too fond of and then ended with some beautiful ballads.  I only knew 1 song.  But it made me realize how powerful music can be.  It can take you back to a time, a place, a person.  It has hidden meaning and deep messages understood on a level beyond that of the mind. Music has been proven to relieve pain, reduce stress, stimulate brain cells, boost exercise performance, promote sound sleeping, increase optimism, make socializing easier, and aid in spiritual health as well.
So whether you're a fan of classical, world, acoustic, country, alternative, folk, or zydeco, play something you love and Listen UP.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jan 25. See the Difference

For those of you who read yesterday's post, you'll be glad to know I woke up a full hour earlier today:) Baby steps... Also here to report that hesitating does not make things go easier, and that it rained all afternoon and into the evening.  In fact, it rained so much, and was accompanied by such dangerous lightning and wind, that we missed our weekly scripture class, deciding that it was too dangerous to go out.  And sadly I've noticed (as I usually do when I've missed something that's good for me) a difference. We can see from how we feel when we've missed something just how much it actually does for us.  When we eat healthy food and exercise, we feel better.  When we've had a good nights' sleep, we are more energized the next day.  When someone has been unkind to us, or something is frustrating us, we may be a little meaner or snippier to those around us.  I try very hard to be self-aware.  I don't like to lose control, act out of habit or emotion, or go numbly through life.  I like to study the way I think, feel, and act and try to find patterns and ways to improve.   Imagine your life like these flowers here, what things in it are making it flourish, grow, and what things are holding you back?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jan 24. Get Up!

Felt awful this morning b/c at the last moment my dad wanted me to work with him and I just laid in bed like I was in a coma.  I was aware of what was going on around me (kind of) and I knew what I should do, but I literally could... not... move my body.  It's like I ate that fruit in "The Rundown."  I finally got up at noon, noticed my friend who'd left the room earlier and I should have been "entertaining" or something, was already out and about.  I went into the living room and she was asleep on the couch and some hollywood gossip show was on, which, I am not proud to say, I watched for awhile.  It wasn't until almost 4 that we finally got out of the house and got things done.  Ever noticed that some days you feel like you completely wasted, and other days you are exhilarated by how much you accomplished?  What is the difference?  How we slept the night before?  What we have going on that day?  Or is it the very spirit with which we begin our day, from the moment we open our eyes?
I was a morning person at one time.  I got up before the sun every day, went for a bike-ride, watched the sunrise... I felt energized and awake and alive all day.  I'd love to get that feeling back.  And so even though I got up at noon today, which is sad, that also means there's plenty of room for improvement.  I researched ways to become a morning person : go to bed earlier, ease up on computers and tv in the hours before bed, make your room less stimulating and more relaxing (so you sleep better), get the alarm away from you so you have to get up to turn it off, DO NOT hit snooze, have something to do right away, especially something to look forward to, etc.  I break those rules violently, for example I am writing this at 1:20 a.m., after watching 2 movies w/ friends.  But hey, acknowledging that you have a problem is half the battle, right? .... Right?

Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” _- Chinese Proverb

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jan 23. Have a Little Faith

I love when a concept keeps coming up all day.  It makes me feel like God is shouting it at me from somewhere.  Today's concept was faith, how it can mold us, comfort us, empower us.  Our branch president shared events in his life that turned him from the brink of atheism back to God.  He mentioned 6 qualities that can turn us further from faith: doubt, discouragement, distraction, lack of diligence, disobedience, and finally disbelief.  It made me take a look at my life.  What events lead to the moments where doubts creep in?  What seeming-failures or disappointments in my life have discouraged me?  What meaningless things do I use to fill my time and energy that are distracting me from better things?  What areas of my life can I try a little harder in?  In what ways am I being rebellious, or thinking of immediate rather than long-term and lasting happiness?  And how can all of these things add up to me disbelieving things that I know deep down to be true?  I think again to some of those powerful and influential heroes of history.  One thing they all have in common is great faith in their cause.  It is the marrow of their bones, the energy behind all they do and the strength in all that they are.  It empowered them to do miraculous things.  What miraculous things could I do, if only I had a little more faith?

You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.”  - Mary Manin Morrissey

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jan 22. Be a Kid Again

Tonight I went to the circus with my sister and some friends.  It was really fun, and we all had a good time, but as we watched the elephants I couldn't help but think of the stories I've heard about how they're treated as part of their training.  And despite their very impressive tricks and pageantry tonight, I left feeling a little sad for them. I thought about how different we are when we're young, carefree and absorbed in simple little things, amazed at the world around us.  The older we get, the more we worry, the less we appreciate simple things, and the harder it is to amaze us.  Life beats us into submission until we are like every other captive trick elephant.  I was thinking about some of my friends, how they seem to have things figured out and they are so "adult" and responsible.  I was comparing myself to them (something we should never do) and thinking that maybe I should settle down and grow up.  But then I think of all of the creativity, innocence, and wonder of childhood, and realize I should try to keep that part of me alive as long as I can.

Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy, the sense of order imposed on the disciplined adult intelligence.  ~Norman Podhoretz

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jan 21. Form Good Habits

Oh man, so apparently most people abandon their New Year's Resolutions by February.  A lot of us don't even make it that far.  We have good intentions, and we see the new year as being full of change and possibility.  For a moment we believe we can do things differently, really change.  For years I would make the same resolutions over and over again, which proves I never saw any of them through.  This year I decided to do things differently.  So instead of making hard and fast rules, that I would break just as hard and fast, and would then give up entirely, I decided to try to make little changes all throughout the year.  Some of them would be big ones (hello, getting published, traveling to Australia and New Zealand, etc.) but others would be simple things, like drinking more water, going for a walk, or performing an act of service.
They are only meant to be done one a day, and so they are easily done.  But there are a few things I have done every day since Jan. 1- read scriptures, prayed, wrote, and done by blog.  They say if you can do something for 21 days it becomes a habit.  So think of something that you should be doing, could be doing, and tackle it one day at a time. 

"Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones." Benjamin Franklin

p.s. Happy Birthday to my beautiful Grandma- 83!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jan 20. Love Yourself More

Watched the office tonight and a part struck me as brilliant- Andy and the boys go roller-blading.  When asked if he met anyone, he replies that he met himself, and he roller skates like a god.  Later I went for my evening walk, thinking as I usually do, and kind of talking to myself.  Sometimes it seems as if just when we are making progress, something comes out of nowhere and threatens to completely derail us.  Not something bad necessarily, just something distracting that complicates our lives.  And before you know it, our minds are reeling with questions and regrets and all kinds of things.  This brain-slush is what I was experiencing tonight.  Then I  listened to a song that I must've heard before, but never really listened to.  It's "Details in the Fabric," by Jason Mraz.  I believe that it came to my awareness right when I needed it's message.  After months of not liking myself, I realized tonight that I am once again happy in my own company.  And it was such a beautiful feeling, like being in love.  I was smiling and peaceful, and felt like the silly "fulfillment of desire" prophecy of the full moon had actually come true.  It made me think of a friend of mine I hung out with recently.  He said every day when he looks in the mirror he says to himself, "Look at you, you are a good looking man."  He might have been kidding, but knowing him I doubt it.  the point was that he was confident.  He liked himself.  And now I do too.  And that takes us a lot further than someone else loving us ever will.

You can explore the universe looking for somebody who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and you will not find that person anywhere."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jan 19. Reflecting Light

It's a full moon tonight, and as it strangely has come up in conversation lately, I thought I should go ahead and pick it for my theme today, not knowing fully what I would be writing about.  So I did some research and here is what I've found:  Though the moon is illuminated, and therefore associated with light (wisdom, purity, truth), it does not shine of it's own accord, but reflects the light of the sun.  It is associated with both male and female archetypes, but is mostly referenced as having feminine qualities such as intuition, receptivity, and passivity. She is also associated with water, specifically the cycles of the tides, and therefore all water creatures as well as nocturnal animals such as bats, owls, and wolves.  The kind of moon changes is significance as well, for example the new moon represents a fresh start, whereas a full moon like tonight represents the height of power, the peak of clarity, fullness, and obtainment of desire.  (When I read that last part I thought "Sweet!")
But then I found some insights a little deeper, and realized that we are each like the moon.  We each go through phases where we are shrouded in darkness, illuminated by degrees, and hopefully seeking to attain complete fullness.  But it is only when we receive divine light that we are able to shine it upon others.

p.s. Check out the song "Reflecting Light," by Sam Phillips.  It's my all-time favorite, a beautiful song about redemption and love.

The living self has one purpose only: to come into its own fullness of being, as a tree comes into full blossom, or a bird into spring beauty, or a tiger into lustre    D.H. Lawrence

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jan 18. Notice the Little Things

So after a yucky stomach flu ravaged me, I was seeking to take things easy and have some peace and quiet today.  It was sprinkling again, and I'm not sure if it was because of this that the whole day has seemed calm. That's not to say that I haven't noticed mayhem trying to sneak it's way in, but instead of rising to the defense like I usually do, I am trying to acknowledge, pause, and respond in a way that diffuses rather than escalates the situation.  Imagine if we all did that all the time...
My theme today is on noticing the little things.  As I went for my walk today, I took deep breaths.  I focused on a cool breeze on my face and the warmth of the shoes I wore (borrowed fresh off the feet of my mom, always generous).  I breathed in the fresh smell of laundry detergent, wafting from an open garage, and then the smell of charcoal burning, and on the way home a sweetness like toasted marshmallows.  When I came home the cats greeted me, my sister was pulling up in the driveway, smiling and waving.  Later as I sat to do my blog my little brother gave me a hug, kissed my cheek, and told me he loved me.
In life there is so much going on around us at all times.  Our brains learn to filter out what is "unimportant" so that we can focus enough to function and are not overwhelmed.  But sometimes we need to slow down and focus on those little, "unimportant" things that fill each moment.  When we embrace each day in that way, we live life more fully.  In addition to noticing the little things, it's important to appreciate the little things, and to remember to do the little things as well, whether they are noticed by others or not.

"If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive."
-- Eleonora Duse

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jan 17. Water

The past couple days when I went to do my blog, it took forever.  I couldn't focus, my sleeping medicine was kicking in (I had been trying not to take them lately, but kept having headaches in the evening), and I would type and delete sentences over and over again, not liking any of them.  Even researching and then finding a picture that exemplifies my theme for the day was frustrating and time-consuming.  Tonight, I am vowing to type straight through, settle on a picture and be done with it.  Not b/c I am getting lazy or don't care, but b/c I have a stomach flu and am fighting nausea and just wanting to go to bed.  Plus, the point of this year is not to be perfect, I really need to self-critique less and create more.
Anyway, my theme for today became water.  I drank several glasses this morning, looking out the window at the sprinkling rain and wet everything.  Water cleans, purifies, restores, and revitalizes.  It is necessary for every bodily function.  Often when we are feeling tired, weak, hungry, ill, or even experiencing mental effects such as difficulty focusing or forgetfulness, it is because we are dehydrated.  Dehydration is also linked to diseases such as Alzheimer's.  It is also linked to insomnia,  allergies, arthritis, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and chronic aches and pains. Many doctors swear by the healing potential of water, some even suggests that consistent and appropriate amounts of the right kind of water can cure diseases, lengthen life, and improve quality of life.
I wanted to put in here something about the symbolism of water: in Christianity- living waters, baptism, sacrament, walking on water; in Taoist tradition- an aspect of wisdom, flowing in the path of least resistance, in Ancient Greece- a symbol of metamorphosis as water has many forms, and in many other cultures a source of life (literally) and a means of sustaining life. (For more on this, visit  I am drawn to water- lakes, rivers, the sea, rain, snow, fog.  Somehow water in any form calms and quiets me instantly.  In fact, just thinking of it as I have typed this blog has made me feel better :)   

Water is life's mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”  - Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jan 16. Change Your Point of View

 So I have been a little down the past couple days.  The spark of the new year has dimmed and reality and pessimism have crept in.  But this morning I decided to take a look back and assess the progress I've made.  And while there are still great strides to be made, a lot of little things have added up to a huge step in the right direction.  I realized (as I often do) that it's all in the way you look at it.  I am reminded of two Robin Williams movies- the first is "Dead Poets Society," which is amazing.  As an enthusiastic teacher, he is constantly trying to get his students to see things from new points of view, and he uses the active visual of standing on your desk. Sometimes you have to change the way you're looking at things.  In "Patch Adams" he is a young medical student, seeking to revolutionize the way patients are treated.  In one of his "out of the box" experiments he hangs upside down to illicit new responses from passersby.  If you have never stood on your desk or hung upside down, I strongly recommend you try it.  You never know what new things you'll discover...

"I want to turn the whole thing upside down.  I'll find the things they say just can't be found." - Jack Johnson

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jan 15. Give

So I have been thinking lately of what it means to be selfless.  The people who've made the biggest changes for good in the world, have often been the most selfless.  They were able to put aside safety, comfort, sometimes even their lives.  Most of us will never change the world like Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, or the countless other dedicated an amazing people who've forever influenced human life.
But all of us, regardless of how smart, wealthy, beautiful, or powerful we may or may not be, can give something.  All of us have opportunities, even if they seem small or insignificant, to give.  I spent today with my mother, one of the most selfless people I know, though she would never say so.  I can't imagine how many people she's helped, served, fed, clothed, hugged, uplifted, encouraged.  She has been the most supportive, thoughtful, and loving person in my life, and I am forever grateful for her.  So what did she want to do today?  We went to watch my little sister play in a church basketball game.  They got slaughtered, but we were there cheering them on nonetheless.  Then we donated blood, something we've done together many times before.  Today the blood bank was the busiest we've ever seen it.  
We don't have to donate millions of dollars to charity or save lives or donate an organ to make a difference.  But when we give of whatever we can, be it money, time, talent, service, or support, we are recognizing that we are not the only ones in need.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Jan 14: Cry

The average woman cries at least five times per month.  That's not really me.  I rarely ever cry.  Occasionally at a movie I'll tear up, or if I get hurt or I'm really tired and emotionally compromised.  They say that crying is good for you, that it releases toxins and stress hormones that have been building up, and that the release of those negative hormones is what gives you the relief you feel afterward, the calm after the storm.  Today I had a debilitating migraine.  Not only did I not get the things done that I wanted to, it made me nauseous, sensitive to light and sound, and the medicine I took to ease it made me tired and groggy all day.  Despite this, I was settled in to have a relatively pleasant evening.  My sister and I decided not to join friends on a night out, and instead chill at the house.  I dyed my hair, we watched a good movie, and then one small comment  snowballed into an emotional eruption.
I felt hurt, attacked, wronged, judged, a million feelings all at once.  I went for a walk to try to sort things out and ended up crying for like half an hour, sitting on a swing on an empty playground, freezing cold in my pajamas and a coat, in the dark.  Ever notice how when you are especially emotional, one little negative thought can multiply very quickly, until suddenly you're thinking about all the things that upset you, fuel to your "woe is me" fire?  Eventually I walked home, went about getting ready for bed and logging on to write today's post.  And then, two little words, "I'm sorry," were spoken to me.  It didn't matter what she was sorry for, just the fact that she could say it was powerful.  Just as a few words sparked the incident, a few words helped extinguish it.
In most cultures crying (depending on the situation) is seen as weak, overemotional, or embarrassing. When we are the one crying, we try to hide it, stop, blink it away, or we retreat to somewhere we can cry in peace. When we are with someone who begins to cry, we instantly try to calm that person and help them to stop, (picture a crying baby).  But sometimes we just need to cry, or let someone else cry.  In fact, crying in the presence of supportive individuals has been scientifically proven to be emotionally bonding and more healing psychologically than crying when alone.  So next time you feel the urge, let it out... let it all out.  And when you are done, go to and be sure to check out Spencer :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jan 13: Trust

So as I thought today about what my theme would be, it dawned on me how many times the concept of "trust" came up.  Many of you may have seen a commercial where a woman is in an empty room and starts falling backward slowly.  As she does, she is caught by a comfy white chair and the whole room becomes furnished.  I don't know why, but this commercial always makes me nervous, even though I know nothing bad will happen. I always think, "what if this time the chair never comes?"  Then my little sister and I were discussing honesty, how if you are caught lying even once, people will doubt your word.  The more you get caught, the harder it is for them to trust you.  I think back to church activities and girls camp bonding challenges where we performed the "trust fall," always scary, no matter how many people are behind you.
Trust is defined as reliance on the strength, integrity, ability, or surety of a person or thing; confident expectation; hope.  We put our trust in things every day, bridges, technology, nature, the people we interact with.  So why should we trust even more than we already do?  Because without ever-increasing our trust, we cease to grow.  This does not mean that we let people take advantage of us, or expect destiny to swoop in and save us when we have knowingly jumped off a building.  But rather, to trust loved ones with our hearts, to trust ourselves to try new and amazing things, and to trust in God to make even tragedies and the things we don't understand completely redemptive.
p.s. I found this picture while researching, never heard of rock balancing artists before, but they are amazing.  It's incredible what creativity, ingenuity, and patience can accomplish.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jan 12: Stretch

We humans stretch all the time: our money, our time, our clothing, the truth.  But how often do we take the time to stretch important things like our bodies, our minds, our hearts?
To the stretch the body is not hard, all it takes is some peace and quiet, and a little time.  It's been proven to increase flexibility, prevent injuries by increasing range of motion, alleviate cramps, and reaffirm comfortable muscle tone.
Stretching is instinctive for many animals, often accompanied by yawning and occurring after waking, long periods of inactivity, or release from confined spaces.
This applies to our minds and hearts as well.  One of the most frustrating things in life (for me anyway), is to talk to someone who is completely closed minded about something.  Being prejudiced, intolerant, or stubborn about something can be hard to overcome, we all have our pride.  But when we hold onto those qualities we are only holding back possibilities from ourselves.  How do we have a more open mind? By getting our minds active through learning new things, trying new things, facing our fears, and listening to other ideas and points of view.
Opening our hearts can be a little more complicated.  Whether we've closed it from pain, sadness, or fear, opening it to new experiences can be scary.  Anyone who has ever loved and lost can attest to that.  It can be more comfortable to close ourselves off and prevent future damage.  But when we shut out life, we are also shutting out all of the new loves and beautiful possibilities life has in store for us.  We have to heal the hurt and open our hearts again through forgiveness, patience, and positivity.  Share love to receive love.  Be generous with yourself.  Don't hold back sincere praise, affection, or gratitude for the people in your life.  Stretch these aspects of yourself, and make room for all of the good things to come.

If I'm losing balance in a pose, I stretch higher and God reaches down to steady me.  It works every time, and not just in yoga.  ~Terri Guillemets

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jan 11: Read More

Some people would probably find the way I treat books appalling.  If it is mine, I will dog ear pages, circle words, underline sentences, mark paragraphs, doodle, and scribble things in the margins until the book hardly resembles itself. This is not because I have no respect for the authors or the books themselves.  On the contrary, I am amazed at the entire journey of the written word from it's most rudimentary beginnings to it's current range and complexity.  Reading aloud to each other emotionally bonds people.  Children who read do better in school, have more extensive vocabularies, and a better grasp of the variances of phonics.  Avid readers have also proven to be more creative, have higher IQ's, are better at concentrating, more world aware, and are better conversationalists.
As mentioned in an earlier post, I have been reading "The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire."  I have enjoyed it's insights so much that I was kind of sad today when I finally finished it.  But because of the irreverent way I "read" books, I retain them much better.  I don't see them as a tidy little story between two covers that is present when I'm reading it, and then gone when I'm done.  I feast upon them, taking them into myself and making them a part of me.  Whether I am reading for enlightenment, escape, information, or out of curiosity, I am expanding my mind with each new idea.  And so as I finished the book, I made a promise to myself that I would read more often.  I might even make some dorky little chart like they make for elementary school students to encourage them.  I might join a book club.  Heck, I may even start my own.

"A house without books is like a room without windows."  ~Heinrich Mann

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jan 10: Walk

I had no idea when I picked walking as my theme today that I would end up having so much to say about it.  After a brief time spent researching online, I have discovered over 40 expressions for walking, and references to walks for causes and cures and protests, the age babies usually begin walking (9-18 months, if you wanted to know), symbolism of walking, body language while walking, pilgrimages throughout history, religious references to miraculous walking, such as Christ walking on water, etc.  Who knew a topic like walking, a thing most of us do every day without a second thought, could be so thought provoking?
There are some things in my life that deep down I want to do, know I need to do, like writing, painting, exercising, getting out of bed... but it's really hard to get the initial motivation.  Once I start, however, I hit this groove and I just keep going and it's hard to stop. Today I wanted to take up walking again, something I used to do every day, and quite enjoyed, but for some reason left behind.  It wasn't until after dark that I finally started.  I thought to myself, "Hey, even if you only go to the end of the street and back, it's a start in the right direction."  Of course, once I got to the end of the street, I kept going, and going, and going.  I ended up taking a pretty long walk, got some fresh air and exercise, and along the way got some really good inspiration for my writing.  So get out there and pound that pavement, even if it's only to the end of your driveway at first.  After all, "the longest journey begins with a single step." ~ Lao Tsu

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Jan 9: Let it Bee

So, another wonderful Sunday, here and gone.  Had so many ideas for my blog that I almost couldn't pick.  In the end, the one that stuck with me was an analogy I heard about a camel and a bee.  But let me start by asking, have you ever considered how complex and diverse nature is?  There are millions of plants and animals, and each has their role in the circle of life.
Now imagine a camel and bee (who are self-aware and like to think about things...). The camel thinks, "I hate being a camel. I am awkward and bland, I have to carry all this stuff around.  I wish I could be like that bee.  It can fly, it is bright and pretty, it makes honey..."  The bee thinks, "I hate being a bee.  I am so small and weak, I work all the time.I wish I could be like that camel.  It's big and strong, it can travel long distances..."  How often are we like that?  Always comparing ourselves to others and thinking that they've got it so great and have so much to offer, and not being grateful for our own unique gifts.
I've been reading a lot about enlightenment, how it can only be attained when we overcome our ego.  Our ego is constantly seeking attention, affection.  It is easily swayed by flattery, or insult.  But when we have become truly self-aware, we have put the ego aside and have an inner peace, a sense of individuality and constancy of spirit that cannot be diminished or increased by external influences.  So if we can focus more on our own good qualities, and seek to use them in making the world a better place, instead of always trying to be someone else, we can embrace who we are, flaws and all, and say "this is who I am, and I serve a purpose."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Jan 8: Just Breathe...

I have really struggled to think of a theme for today.  (Rather than coming up with it at the beginning of the day and trying to do it all day long, I look for clues throughout the day from meditations, reading, and my interactions with people.)  It was another rough day at work, and then a night that was supposed to be simple and fun, a "sisters night," ended up being kind of stressful and emotional.  Maybe that's what happens when you know people really well and you are all dealing with very unique personal battles, you turn on each other.
It seems like over the past week, as I have changed some of my attitudes and behaviors, as I have tried to find balance, positivity, and peace, things have been slowly escalating.  My surroundings have seemed more erratic, negative, and turbulent.  Things kept getting worse and worse and I felt awful.  So I tried to clear my mind and meditate for a few moments.  Not try to think of a way to fix it, not rehash all the details of it and try to figure out who was most at fault or what I should have done differently.  I just sat, and breathed.  And then I saw the starfish.
         Stars have a lot more symbolism than most people realize.  They are used in government, on country flags and military uniforms.  They are used in Hollywood, a symbol of achievement and success.  They are used by many religions to represent spiritual concepts.  For example, in some religions the star is symbolic of the human body, the four lower points being the arms and legs, and the point on top representing the head, and more specifically the mind.  When the head is atop the arms and legs, this symbolizes wisdom and control over the body.
         The one I found tonight, left on my dresser, is supposed to bring good luck.  It was given to me by my sister, the very person I've been having so much friction with lately.  Finding it there, at the moment when I thought we were far apart, was like coming home.  I thought then (as I have many times) about what an odd thing such close relationships are.  No one can make you laugh, cry, hate, or love quite as fast or as easily.  And though you'll have moments where you're really frustrated, you know that those relationships will be the ones that stick with you forever, and in the long run the little things that bother you now will seem very unimportant.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Jan 7: Laugh

I know this one seems very obvious, and like something every generic self-help book will tell you to do.  But I was struggling today, and I needed this one.  This morning was the first one all week that I had to do actual work.  I mean physical, in so much pain i never want to move again- construction kind of work.  Work with a capital Wah..... But I digress.  Because of this "work," I didn't have the leisure time in the morning that I've had the past 6 days.  And so instead of spending hours meditating, writing, and reading, I slept in as long as possible and then was rushed out the door by my impatient father.  On the way there, and with the conversations that came up, I could feel negativity building up inside me.
Then I took a deep breath, smiled, and decided that one bad start wasn't going to derail me from my progress.  I ended up having a pretty good day (though rough).  And when I came home I had a story to tell, that though amusing, I certainly didn't think would tickle my mom so pink it'd bring tears to her eyes.  Allow me to share: So we were installing sheetrock over a lady's crappy old ceiling.  Sheetrock is heavy, going up and down ladders is hard on the legs, and holding your arms above your head all day while holding a heavy electric screwdriver is not the funnest thing in the world.  Halfway through the day I got a piece of sheetrock in my eye and couldn't get it out.  I went to the bathroom so I could use the mirror, and after freeing the tiny but deadly fragment, I noticed that my lips were dark purple, and I had no idea why.  I asked my Dad and brother in law, who had "subconsciously noticed when it wasn't quite so bad."  Dad suggested I get more oxygen to my brain, but besides that we were all quite befuddled.  It wasn't until an hour later, when I noticed how dirty my hands had gotten from handling the screws, that I realized duh... I'd been holding the extra screws in between my lips so that I didn't have to bend over as much.   So silly... Anyway, you never know when a simple silly thing like that will happen, and you must embrace them when they do.  One thing is for sure, whatever you look for in life, you'll find it.  So why not look for something to smile about? p.s. dear cute baby, sorry to exploit you, but you are adorable :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jan 6: Let Some Light In

The best compliment I've ever gotten came from an adorable 4 yr. old boy named Gabriel.  As I helped him take off his shoes, he looked up at me, smiled, and said, "You have lights in your eyes." I'd been told that once before, and I'd noticed in others.  Some people, some times, have a sparkle from within.  Many faiths refer to light as a symbol for knowledge, truth, purity, and enlightenment.  Siddha Yogi recognize a ball of light at the center of the soul called the "blue pearl." Buddhists believe that all beings are inspired with their own divine light.  Christians refer to Christ as the "light of the world."  Themes of light and dark are common in literature, art, and movies.  One that comes to mind is the light of Elendil in The Lord of the Rings, a light to be used "when all other lights go out."
In my bedroom are some heavy curtains and these obnoxious rods that slide right out of their grooves when touched.  So we often keep them closed all the time.  In fact, when we go to bed at night, we take a moment to check that they are pulled tightly over the windows, so that a stray ray of light won't pierce our face in the morning.  But today, after making the bed and saying my morning prayer, but before I started meditating, I opened them.  As they usually do, they fell.  But I fixed them and pinned them to the side, letting in some natural light.  At first I thought the bedroom would have a stroke.  "What's going on here?" it must have been thinking.  But then it took a deep breath and we noticed it looked quite different in daylight, kinda beautiful.
In our lives we tend to cover up our own light, whether through fear, despair, or following dark paths.  So what can we do do let our "little light" shine?  Try meditating daily (with natural sunlight on you if possible) and focus on all the blessings in your life.  Then try to hold that gratitude inside you throughout the day.  Imagine a light in every cell of your body, shining out through your eyes, your smile, the tips of your fingers and toes.  Increase your own search for knowledge, truth, purity, and enlightenment.  Let in some light, and see what grows.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Jan 5: See Yourself

Today I meditated.  And without really meaning too, I had the most beautiful experience.  Usually, trying to focus (for me) is like trying to nail jello to a tree.  But lately I have been getting better at it.  I closed my eyes, listened to my all time favorite relaxing song ("Mountain Stream" from Solitudes: Appalachian Mountain Suite, but I also really love "Lament" from The Lord of the Dance Soundtrack. I know, I'm a dork.) and saw myself walking barefoot on a dirt path in the middle of this beautiful, lush forest.  And for a moment, I swear it was like I could feel the wet soil, soft beneath my feet.  The mind is a powerful thing, and what it perceives as real, for all intents and purposes, is real.  What, then, could be more important than the way we perceive ourselves?  For how we see ourselves affects every aspect of our lives, how we treat others, how we allow them to treat us, what we think, say, and do, all revolve around our self-image.  
And today, I was confronted with an idea that made me see myself differently.  Spiritual scholars from many cultures teach that though we like to see ourselves as completely individual (and this is true, no one will ever have your body, your thoughts, your experiences, your desires), we are all much more connected to one another and the world around us than we realize.  Qualities that I admire in someone, to some extent, are a part of me.  Qualities that I don't like (impatience, hypocrisy, over-dramatizing...) are also a part of me.  Things we like and don't like about ourselves are also a part of each other.  Everyone we know, whether we like them or not, and everyone we will ever come into contact with, is made up of the same qualities (in varying degrees) as we are. Knowing this, and considering it when we interact with others, can change everything.  For, "If you see yourself in others, who then can you harm?" ~ Buddha

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jan 4: Ponder

Okay, it is past midnight and I almost said, "I'll do it tomorrow." But really this has become a good way to wrap up my day and bring meaning to it before turning in.  So even though it's late, here I am.  I have been reading a book by Deepak Chopra, entitled "The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire."  There's a lot of new agey lingo and I get lost in some of it.  But in general I feel I have learned a lot and I am already changing.  It's not that his ideas are new.  In a way, I feel I had the answers all along.  It's like reading it has reminded me of what I should already be doing.  Today I read about meditation, something I've done before, though never consistently.  And then tonight at a religious class I attend weekly, the instructor emphasized how important it is to "ponder." I didn't just choose it because it's a fun word... oh, no.  It really can bring clarity and focus to our lives.  We spend all day being bombarded by noise- work, school, television, radio, mind-numbing chit-chat.  In a world so full of static, it can be hard to get a clear signal.  But if we will take the time to ponder, to just sit and listen and be, maybe we'll hear what we've been drowning out all along.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Jan 3: Know What You Want

You can't get what you want if you don't know what you want.  So today's challenge: Know what you want.  I took some time today to thumb through a bunch of old magazines and clip out things that symbolized what I want from the New Year.  Things like a bag of vegetables and a woman running mean I want to be healthier.  The plane and the map of Australia are because a friend of mine has invited me, and I really want to go.  The hot air balloons and the roller coaster represent things I'd like to do.  The butterflies are a symbol that I've adopted for years to represent ideas about myself.  Quotes like "a clean start," "a new point of view," "rise and shine," and "refresh" are mottos I'd like to adopt and represent a direction I'd like my life to take.  Later I did this activity with my family and we talked about our goals together.  It's funny how different our collages each turned out.  My little brother's had an x-box, a car (because he can get his learner's this year), and a piggy bank.  My Dad's had a picture of an organized closet, a family spending time together.  My Mom's had a picture of the temple, a family, and Christ, things that are all close to her heart.
          Whatever your goals are, visualizing them in the form of a collage helps to make them more real.  And putting your collage in a place where you can see it every day will inspire you to realize your goals.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jan 2: Begin... Again.

For the first time in awhile I was actually looking forward to going to church today.  I think as people of any faith, sometimes we stray from what we believe and instead we seek other means of getting what we want out of life.  Whether we become lax because we are tired of trying to live up to impossible standards, or because we are tempted by a fleeting pleasure, or we have become complacent after years of what seems like tedious or repetitive spiritual practice, we all stumble from time to time.
I heard two testimonies today that really made me think. One was by a young man who had tried other ways to be happy, and finally realized that being close to God was the only true and lasting happiness.  He had recently decided that instead of jumping in and out of faith, he was going to take a permanent step in the right direction.  The second was an older man who had grown up in another faith and studied at a Bible college before meeting his wife who "showed him what it means to be a man of God."  He said that when we are just going along with the motions of our spiritual practice, just "showing up," we are "spiritually freeloading."  It really clicked with me because that's how I've been living for awhile now: going through the motions and constantly wondering what I'm getting out of it.  But the truth is, we only get what we give.
There are many paths to become closer to God.  And I am not suggesting any over another.  What I am suggesting, and what my challenge for today became, is to: Begin... Again.  Take a look at your life on the level that matters most- that of the soul.  Beyond your goals for the year to earn more money, fall in love, go back to school, lose weight, travel, or whatever else you may have in mind, take a look at what you believe.  And know that every moment is a chance to start over, to begin... again.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Jan 1: Start Fresh

I woke up this morning and felt stupid happy.  I was actually smiling and singing as I was making the bed.  And I hate making the bed.  What, you may ask, was the reason for this mood?  Well I'll tell you... I have no idea.

Except that lately I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do differently in my life.  And I am the kind of obsessive-neurotic person that needs a clean start, like a brand new shiny year to do it.  It's almost as if I had all of these seeds of change inside me, but I didn't let in any light until today.

And rather than thinking about all the things I want to change and getting overwhelmed and giving up, I decided to start this blog, dedicated to making small changes.  My favorite quote of all time is:

"Life isn't about finding yourself.  It's about creating yourself."

And what do you do when you want to create something? You start with a blank canvas.  So today's small change was to start fresh.  I cleaned the room, I took a bubble bath, I took care of some things I'd been avoiding, I even found time to go for a bikeride, watch the sunset, and eat a lucky bowl of black-eyed peas and rice.  And for the first time ever, the New Year actually feels like a New Year.