Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Poem: "Jigsaw" by Lawrence Kushner

I adore this poem and wanted to share it with you. I love to think about the impact we all have one one another, and how our very presence in each others lives offers so much. I invite you to consider this poem the next time you question your impact on the world around you. There may be golden ripples from your actions that you could have no way of knowing. Enjoy:

Each lifetime is the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
For some there are more pieces.
For others the puzzle is more difficult to assemble.

Some seem to be born with a nearly completed puzzle.
And so it goes.
Souls go this way and that.
Trying to assemble the myriad parts.

But know this. No one has within themselves
All the pieces to their puzzle.
Everyone carries with them at least one and probably
many pieces to someone else's puzzle.
Sometimes they know it.
Sometimes they don't.

And when you present your piece
to another, whether you know it or not,
whether they know it or not,
you are a messenger from the Most High

Friday, June 24, 2011

"How to Talk to Little Girls" - Interesting Article by Lisa Bloom

I went to a dinner party at a friend's home last weekend, and met her five-year-old daughter for the first time.

I always bite my tongue when I meet little girls, restraining myself from my first impulse, which is to tell them how darn cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ well-dressed/ well-manicured/ well-coiffed they are.

It's our culture's standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker, isn't it? And why not give them a sincere complement to boost their self-esteem?

This week ABC news reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. In my book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, I reveal that fifteen to eighteen percent of girls under twelve now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and twenty-five percent of young American women would rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they'd rather be hot than smart. A Miami mom just died from cosmetic surgery, leaving behind two teenagers.

Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What's missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.

That's why I force myself to talk to little girls as follows.

"Maya," I said, crouching down at her level, looking into her eyes, "very nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you too," she said, in that trained, polite, talking-to-adults good girl voice.

"Hey, what are you reading?" I asked, a twinkle in my eyes. I love books. I'm nuts for them. I let that show.

Her eyes got bigger, and the practiced, polite facial expression gave way to genuine excitement over this topic. She paused, though, a little shy of me, a stranger.

"I LOVE books," I said. "Do you?"

Most kids do.

"YES," she said. "And I can read them all by myself now!"

"Wow, amazing!" I said. And it is, for a five-year-old.

"What's your favorite book?" I asked.

"I'll go get it! Can I read it to you?"

Purplicious was Maya's pick and a new one to me, as Maya snuggled next to me on the sofa and proudly read aloud every word, about our heroine who loves pink but is tormented by a group of girls at school who only wear black. Alas, it was about girls and what they wore, and how their wardrobe choices defined their identities. But after Maya closed the final page, I steered the conversation to the deeper issues in the book: mean girls and peer pressure and not going along with the group. I told her my favorite color in the world is green, because I love nature, and she was down with that.

Not once did we discuss clothes or hair or bodies or who was pretty. It's surprising how hard it is to stay away from those topics with little girls.

I told her that I'd just written a book, and that I hoped she'd write one too one day. She was fairly psyched about that idea. We were both sad when Maya had to go to bed, but I told her next time to choose another book and we'd read it and talk about it. Oops. That got her too amped up to sleep, and she came down from her bedroom a few times, all jazzed up.

Try this the next time you meet a little girl. She may be surprised and unsure at first, because few ask her about her mind, but be patient and stick with it. You may get some intriguing answers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Happiness Experiment

This morning I was sent this article from a good friend and I wanted to share it with you. Please check it out if you've ever been a skeptic about all of that mindfulness mumbo-jumbo.

The Happiness Experiment
O, The Oprah Magazine | From the March 2004 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

At Attention
By Michelle Burford

I have tried to meditate. It didn't work. So when I took the assignment to test a form of meditation called mindfulness—and let the record reflect that I only agreed because there's now proof the practice can send one's happiness quotient screaming toward Pluto—I'd already resolved that I would once again walk away markedly unchanged. I was wrong.

The science is the study by Richard Davidson, PhD, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, in which mindfulness meditation caused the brains of biotech workers to light up where the happiness regions are. Kabat-Zinn led me to Polly Wheat, MD, an internist who founded the mindfulness program at Barnard College in New York.

Minute one: My abdomen aches. I bet these people are faking it. Why am I doing this? Minute 15: Did I TiVo Survivor? Why is my jaw tight? Thank God, she's finally ringing the bell! Zilch happened to me during our time of silence. I got nowhere. It was like browsing through Bloomingdale's with no ka-ching.

"There's nowhere to get!" she says with a smile. "The paradox of living mindfully is that the best way to get there is to fully be here."
I finally translated her meditation-speak. Mindfulness is basically this: Open your eyeballs to life. Clear your eardrums of interference. Give every single joy and annoyance in your day—be it a scrumptious Belgian waffle sliding down your esophagus or spam spilling over the sides of your e-mail in-box—your maximum attention. Stay out of the bike lanes marked "yesterday" and "tomorrow" and pop your wheelies in the present. Then hang this sign on the front porch of your brain: "No blaming, judging, and belittling allowed here." Life is happening in every breath. Wake up and notice it.

A day later, I tried one of her homework assignments. Sitting on my couch, I uttered a litany of thank-yous for the gazillion people in my world who lend me light and even for a few who don't. This is supposed to take 15 minutes, but I finished in only one minute and 17 seconds. Instead of galloping back to work, though, I sat it out to see what other thoughts showed up. After six minutes, a familiar tide of anxiety rolled in: What if I'm more terrified of what I can accomplish during my lifetime than of what I can't? What if my big plans fizzle into big flops?

The next time I saw Wheat, I pressed for answers: What does all this sitting have to do with mindful living? And will my brain light up if I don't meditate formally? "Everything can be a meditation when it's done with our full attention," she says. "In our society, we're constantly being pulled into the next moment. Sitting helps you practice mindfulness in a protected area. When I mentioned my episode of meditation angst, she explained that mindfulness isn't about zapping unpleasant thoughts. It's about getting still long enough to notice that you're having them. And in that space between pain and acknowledgment lives a choice. To let the anxiety grip you or to consciously dismiss it. To pout about where you could be or to accept where you are. To live in a state of constant cardiac arrest or simply to breathe your way through every second.

You don't have to Windex your big mess the moment that you splatter it. Just get up and step to the right. Stand there. Notice how your feet feel on the ground. Notice that you're still above ground. Take that news in. Or resist it and settle into your misery, then notice that's what you're doing. Decide you won't judge yourself for judging yourself. Judge yourself some more, then cut it out again. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Hold on to your bra straps for this: I've actually been meditating every morning for 20 minutes.

I don't need a brain scan to know that the feel of my favorite silk-mohair sweater now counts as a big enough reason to celebrate. When stressful thoughts flood my head these days, I stop, thank them for passing through, then keep stepping. And in the front right bedroom of my brain where constant judgment once resided, the newly freed space is a welcome spot for joy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What are you grateful for

In a world filled with the natural ebb and flow of life, it is easy to lose the moment and become sidetracked from the small details. It is also possible to find oneself experiencing the stir-crazy feeling of monotony during the morning commute to work, the daily dog-walking obligation, or sifting through numerous bills and requests from the mailbox.

One of the most humbling, gratifying rituals I have found to be helpful during moments of negativity or monotony is the creation of a gratitude list. Meant to highlight life’s blessings and gifts, a gratitude list can bring light into a cloudy day. It can help a person to re-focus their intention for the day and provide a nice re-framing of the beauty in their world. Counting life’s blessings is a practice with surprising effects, and its simplicity allows for a gratitude list to be created anywhere at any time. Here is my gratitude list for today:

I am grateful for:

-Fresh air and sunny days
-My loving family, and the stories we share
-Adventure, excitement, and the courage to pursue these things
-Thought provoking books, conversations, and journals that spark interest in my soul
-My wonderful husband, and the light he brings into my life
-My healthy body which allows me to do so much
-My private practice, and each and every one of my clients
-Great friends who inspire me and bring laughter into my life
-The right to freedom, as well as the pursuit of my dreams
-Inspirational creations of artwork, writing, and music

Just to name a few…

Now it's your turn. Feel free to share your gratitude list if you so choose.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Invitation

An inspirational poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it's not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!"

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

 It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.