I remember growing up on the beaches of Long Island and time stopped as I idly played in the sun – sand pebbles, hot between my toes. The shore lapping. Time was still. Joy was mine. The smell of sultry, humid heat peppered with salty seaweed baking on the beach. The warming of the tasty, briny, mineral rich water. Seagulls squawking. Horseshoe crabs landing on the shore, fiddler crabs popping out of holes in the wet shoreline sand. The grasses and reeds brushing, rustling their bristles as the summer breeze wafted through. Little undetermined yet audible animals scurrying amongst the brush on the dunes by the worn redwood fences…..and I wake up and with a startle I remember and realize – time is just a blip – but it is a continuum always.
There are 3 exceptional credos I try to live by.
The first one is actually three questions you ask yourself before speaking. I first heard it from a spiritual and tender-hearted Vietnam Vet, Ed, who passed away not too long ago. I latched on to its meaning, simplicity and usefulness, right away, making it a mantra around my house. But be careful to practice what you preach, as I have learned in my own home. I have had plenty of precepts thrown back in my face. Your children will delight in reminding you of a rule or belief you have enforced, once they are teenagers. They keep us on our toes.
1. Before you begin to speak, respond, etc. Ask yourself these three questions. Only proceed if you can answer YES to all three.
a) Is what I am about to say true?
b) Is it kind?
c) Is it necessary?
The same week I first heard this, I read it later in Ann Landers or Dear Abby. I don’t recall which. Coincidence or a God shot?
The second maxim is a quote my friend Joe used to hear all the time from a wise woman he worked with.
Lower your expectations of others and Improve your own performance
Amazingly, I have fewer resentments when I remember this one. I also become accountable for my own actions, tone of voice and judgmental thoughts.
And thirdly, a mom (Bridget) who used to live in our town whom has since moved away, told me her midwest bred mom frequently pounded into her and her sisters’ heads –
“It’s nice to be important – but it’s more important to be nice.”
When I start to feel like I am all that and a bag of potato chips, I kinda have to recall this grounding and humble quote.
I would much rather recognize these principles working in my interactions and daily round than be reprimanded for not having observed them. It’s just too embarrassing.
ZEN – a Japanese word for the Sanskrit word dhyana wherein Enlightenment is sought through introspection and intuition
Mysticism – a belief in the possibility of attaining direct union with a Higher Source or Knowledge of spiritual truths, as by meditation
The Spiritual Journey – the seeking – the path to Self – the inner life
Some books are Sacred and some authors can help and guide or just validate and communicate with us via their words.
Twenty Five Good Books that have literally changed my Life/Direction/Understanding:
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book – A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat – Zinn
There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem by Wayne Dyer
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron
Pocketful of Miracles: Prayers, Meditations, and Affirmations to Nurture Your Spirit Every Day of the Year by Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.
Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach
The Tao of Abundance:Eight Ancient Principles for Abundant Living by Laurence G. Boldt
Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life by M.J. Ryan
Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald Jampowlsky, MD
The Road Less Travelled by M.Scott Peck, MD
Words of Courage and Confidence by Sue Patton Thoele
To Love is to Be Happy With by Barry Neil Kaufman
The Soul of Money:Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources by Lynne Twist
A Return to Love:Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles by Marianne Williamson
The Velveteen Principles: A Guide to Becoming Real – Hidden Wisdom from a Children’s Classic by Toni Raiten-D’Antonio
The Little Prince by Antoine St. Exupery
Spiritual Fitness: How to Live in Truth and Trust by Caroline Reynolds
The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh
Conversations with God: an Uncommon Dialogue by Neale Donald Walsch
Gracious Living in a New World: Finding Joy in Changing Times by Alexandra Stoddard
Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress and Fear into Vibrance, Strength and Love by Judith Orloff, MD
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach, Ph.D.
Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend
I recommend anything written by these authors (in fact I like to read everything written by an author once I love them) but these are my special favorites. I could give you a story behind each book and how and when it changed my life. The staying power is being able to re-read it and still find more. I highlight, dog-ear and flag my books. They are meant to be cherished, read thoroughly and to be referred back to. Reading books about the Spiritual adventure of our Mortal lives and how to co-exist, co-create and co-mingle with ourselves and others is of great importance to me. The contemplation has aided me in rough times, confirmed me in easy times and assured me always, whatever the weather in my life. I have been given solace, guidance and light by reading.
I hope you give something you have not read before a chance from this list and I would love to hear your understanding on any book, these on this list or otherwise.
Other notable authors on my shelves in this genre that are worth mentioning:
Caroline Myss, Deepak Chopra, Jack Kornfield, Shakti Gawain, Diane Dreher, Gail Sher, Melody Beattie, Karen Casey, and Amy Dean
Where is your time going to? How do you spend your time? Where would you love it to go?
Well, of course, spending time with family is clearly the first answer but then there is some purpose, some drive to create that may be buried or not so buried in you.
I am feeling the need to write, the desire for the space and the time to write these days.
The image of me resting comfortably, fully engrossed in my writing/reading/editing/working/pen scribbling – ideas floating – catching them and placing them on paper everywhere, all over every surface, as quickly as possible – ahhh, I see it now – I’m on my balcony or in the treehouse.
What’s your Pleasure?
Entirely engaged in my work, like a meditation, a rewarding and productive prayer.
Where does this all lead? What’s the purpose?
It guides me to answers, to rewards unfathomable to others perhaps, to a deeper sense of fulfillment and intention. Recounting history, acknowledgment of a life – of all our lives, of our past and how we have come to this place – an understanding of where I am at right now, at this very moment and a record of my existence – of your existence. And, a deep relaxation, contemplation – a tranquil, serene moment with self, with memory, with the word – so many ways to explain, to share and to ease the path for another or just to entertain.
Oh – but to say something dear and to relish in the flow and to bathe in the deliciousness of certain words, said in certain ways – sparking, initiating fire in someone else’s psyche. Someone else to relate to, to connect to, “I am not alone”, “I matter”, to be able to scream it, dream it, live this – that’s what the image of me happily engrossed writing bestows upon me. I am filling a need for me – I am filling a need or a void for you – I am healing, you are healing. I am understanding and then you understand too. I release the inhibition, the proud ego lets go – and I am one with and then you see it too. You grasp it as well. And there is a connection, a feeling of all is not lost or meaningless, actually – all is well. There is a higher or a deeper place – that answers all, knows all and it is quite simple; it’s the common ground, the fear, the love, the search for truth and meaning and no one has the answer but it’s similar, it’s just up ahead, I can almost touch it and it’s there – just one more word, one more breath and I am closer, closer still.
And so we evolve – all of the human race, each time we understand ourselves a little more and grow and push through. We each have enthusiasm for something that just won’t let go of our hearts. It comes in so many forms. It can change, too. It can morph. I do not want to leave this earth with regret.
I am fully engrossed in my writing, here on my balcony, typing this, now, as I type…..I let it go now….I press publish.
Believe it or not, we have a subscription to two what I call ‘trash’ periodicals.
- Have little or no sense of humor
- Take everything way too seriously
- Desire a break from saving/controlling the world
- Hate flying and require inane distraction
- Need to put your troubles into perspective
- Require trivial respite for any reason….
Then these ‘rags’ are for you, too.
In one of these ‘treasures’, there is a cute Ten Things You Didn’t Know About_________(fill in the blank with star’s name).
So here’s ten things you may or may not know about me. And please do the same. This can be fun and informative for all of us. Perhaps you may just want to post three or five. It’s totally up to you. But, don’t be shy.
1. I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina but grew up on Long Island, New York
2. In 1978, I worked for the soccer World Cup in Argentina, relaying telex messages around the world for journalists.
3. My very first job was building and soldering PC boards at the age of 17, in East Northport, NY
4. My younger and only sibling married my husband’s little brother back in 1993, still together
5. I taught High School Spanish in three different states: NY, North Carolina and CA back in the eighties.
6. I ate ten slices of pizza on my tenth birthday in honor of my ten years. Pizza is still my favorite meal. Ten is one of my favorite numbers.
7. I became a UC Master Gardener the second year it was offered in Orange County, back in the late ’90’s
8. I started my own business, Good4uCooking in February of 2003.
9. After years of yoga devotion, I became a yoga instructor in 2010.
10. I have seen over 250 artists at concerts over the course of my life, starting with Elton John at age fourteen. Repeatedly for most of my favorites.
I hope there was a surprise here or there. Often, we beat ourselves up for not doing enough or doing things “wrong”. It’s enjoyable to list positive or funny things you have accomplished.
I have an absolutely fabulous girlfriend who just ‘gets’ me and has always loved me unconditionally with love and acceptance, always, through some rather rough patches. We have lived through the ups and downs of life together since college and the only glitch is she lives in New York and I live in California. Through the years we have gained and lost many pounds. We are both expert taste testers, critics and avid admirers of fine foods. We meet once a year somewhere in the USA and consider the food culture important to our travel/sight seeing.
We are collaborating on a bi-coastal fitness/wellness relationship now. We are giving each other encouragement, compassion and tips for success. We have previously attempted this arrangement and it always works out well, but we have been slacking and times have changed and so have our bodies, so we decided we need to revamp and pump it up. We had lost our way recently due to Super Storm Sandy on the East Coast, Thanksgiving and general hormonal trouble on the West Coast.
Our goals have changed. Formerly, we just cared about how we looked. It’s a tad deeper now. We have a sincere desire to see our young adult children get through college, start lives of their own, obtain a quality of life a strong body/mind can provide, travel together more and remain mobile, still wear eccentric, fun and wild outfits and continue to exude that positive high energy that attracts us to each other in the first place and feeds our respective creative juices. Girlie Girl Goals these days requires Big Girl Panties and a Woman’s commitment.
We know we need self-confidence, motivation and high self-esteem. We lack self-discipline in a big way. We could use some determination, planning and a wellspring of self-worth. We can help each other out. This is where BFFs come in handy. No one comes close to knowing how you tick and confronting you with all the loopholes you will find to avoid exercise, eat whatever you desire (not need) and then rationalize it all. Your good buddy will stop the self-sabotaging, calling you honestly and (this is crucial) delicately on your BS and prevent you from fooling yourself, once again. Mary Lou will make and keep me accountable and vice versa.
Do you have a long time gal pal you can identify, strategize and join with in an effort to improve self?
Do you have exercise/sane food habits to share with us?
We will keep you posted.
Today, before two of our young adults go back to their respective far away places, we put up the Christmas Tree, encircled it with 800 white lights, listened to Christmas music and hung up our personal, family and new ornaments for 2012.
Every year, I purchase one or two ornaments for each offspring, my spouse and myself. Clearly labeled is your name and the year. This year, I went a bit wackadoodle and purchased – let’s say many – decorations for each of my children to fasten onto the tree. Plus, each significant other received a personalized adornment. Eventually, as each progeny builds their own nest, the idea is that they will get to take their wares with them (over my dead body probably).
Perhaps, upon realizing next year we will become empty nesters, I bought Michael and I two ornaments of two birds alone in a nest. I didn’t realize it at the time of purchase – just now as I write – it struck me. It was pointed out to me (as I spent approximately one half hour doling out this year’s new personalized ornaments) that we have an inordinate amount of them this year. Maybe I went a little overboard because I was feeling a bit nostalgic. That’s ok. The miracles in my life are my little angels and I am just reminding us all that it’s a wonderful life!
Ahhhh – I love coming up to our treehouse up in the mountains, especially the day after Thanksgiving. Everyone is napping or reading and all our belly’s are full once again.
I’m in my teeny weeny buttercup yellow room I call my office, outfitted with a built in carpet – topped bench that lifts up for storage (super for curling up, leaning up against the wall and reading or writing), a cheap put together desk, a worn, cabin motif padded dining room chair, a brown plastic wastepaper basket, lots of pens, pencils, paper (the three P’s), some shelves, two cork boards, a bright light from the ceiling and a window with old grey checked curtains. That seems to be all I need in order to focus. The diminutive space is smack dab in the center of the home. It needs painting, updating and some detailing but the bones are there. The well designed layout, in an area smaller than most walk in closets, suits my writing needs and intensifies, clarifies and laser pointedly shapes my mind onto whatever work I have on hand. It’s my go to get it done place.
I’m easily distracted. Upstairs, on the main floor, overlooking pine trees, boulders and the welcoming outdoors, I may do some imaginative, personal or exploratory writing. Or, I may get distracted by the television, kitchen, roaring fire, chickadees and bluejays feeding on the seeds and bread I put out. But, for final copy, I sharpen and clear my center by concentrating on the detail and I require a noiseless, neutralized and calm atmosphere where I can neurotically chop, add and remove words in some sort of flow.
Much of what I write daily on this website is first draft, like now, off the cuff. But when I write a story for class, it necessitates much more editing, precision and structure. After all, we have to read it aloud in front of other writers. And this unadorned little area helps me hone in, decompress from outside distractions and get some ‘real’ work done.
I am grateful for the Steger Treehouse. One year and one week ago exactly, we were handed the keys to our cabin, the home away from home I always wanted up here by Lake Arrowhead, in the woods, surrounded by pine trees. Many times I dreamed and wished it. I feel very lucky and I am continually counting my blessings. I love to write on the deck, lazing on the couch, overlooking the balcony or on my bed where I always dreamed of being – surrounded by books, snow and a shag rug in front of a fireplace, mountains of pines in the vista. But ironically, I get the most writing completed and finished inside a daffodil tinted teensy weensy box.
I thought I’d continue the alphabetical countdown to Thanksgiving – giving thanks.
We left off with F, so I will start with G. You can change up what you think of to suit your mood or even classify your gratitude into subjects. Today I was grateful for all the music I got to hear while chauffeuring, picking up and dropping off kids. Appreciating Music is a world all of its own!
G – I am thankful for the Generosity of spirit that allows an artist to create Greatness
H – I am thankful for Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin and all the Hours Michael and I spent Hearing it Hugging
I – I am thankful for Individual and Independent Idealists
J – I am thankful for Joe Jackson and his Jazzy, swanky, still hip Jamming
K – I am thankful for Kaleidoscopes and Kids and Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven’s Door
L – I am thankful for Love songs, Lifting Lyrics and Lullabyes
M – I am thankful for Musicals, Mikey and Michael (the original Music Man in this Tiny Dancer’s Mind)
N – I am thankful for musical Notes, Notorious rock stars and New Wave
O – I am thankful for A Night at the Opera by Queen, Outrageous Outfits Onstage and Optimistic electronica
P – I am thankful for Plays, Poets and Punk
Food for thought: Every time I do this small exercise, I breathe slower and deeper, turn down the judgemental tone and get happy!! Try it!!