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Below the Surface and Floating Near

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” – Mary Oliver

“Still, what I want in my life

is to be willing

to be dazzled—

to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even

to float a little

above this difficult world.”

― Mary Oliver

Just below the surface, a bit deeper, listen and look in the quiet of soft reflection and pause. The texture and richness of life is more buoyant than circumstances and opinion. Look beyond momentary struggles and allow gratitude in. Discover what already exists, letting go of the unnecessary and always reach for whimsy and delight.

May you grasp your blessings, may you find moments of joy each day, may you be grateful for all that was, is and will come. Happy Thanksgiving today and each day ahead.

“to live in this world

you must be able

to do three things

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go”

― Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Volume One

Open Doors

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” – Rabindranath Tagore

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” – Joseph Campbell

Yesterday, I rushed to get ready to drop the car off for a 7:30 am appointment. I skipped writing morning pages (uninterrupted stream of consciousness writing prescribed by author Julia Cameron), multi-tasked through morning meditation (Insight Timer – the best app that makes mindfulness doable) and rushed through strength training (burpees still suck).

I’ve been doing all of these morning rituals long enough to know that when I don’t do them, the “open doors” during the day will let out the heat, wasting my energy on circumstances and my interpretation of other people, rather than letting in fresh air and light in to facilitate flow and ease. Best-case scenario thinking of optimism turns rapidly into worst-case scenario thinking of pessimism.

We know our triggers and still we let them trigger us every time when we don’t anchor our thoughts and “GPS” our actions for the day through habits and rituals.

This year, it feels like all of the doors have been closed. But if we look deeper and longer, we realize that there are new doors that we can open to find blessings and gifts right in the middle of a pandemic.

Yesterday, the news announced a third vaccine. There is real light at the end of this long tunnel, as there always is during all tunnel sections of life. If we can find joy and light amidst a pandemic and be grateful, we have discovered the most important vaccine ever! Our joy and happiness are rooted within ourselves, in our control the entire time.

We choose daily whether we will be victims of circumstances, people, our own narrow thinking, limiting beliefs or even a pandemic. We have the responsibility, honor and gift of choosing which open doors to walk through, which ones to close and to keep searching to find new doors.

No matter what, believe that hope, joy and light have the strength to not only hold you but to also catapult you forward into transformation, becoming and fruition. So many beautiful doors. The cocoon always births the butterfly. Always.

Joy Vaccine

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” – Denis Waitley

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” – Aristotle

As COVID cases spike, the holidays will not be the same as we lock down to try to stop the spread and buy time for two vaccines to be distributed. Some days, this year feels like it’s been five years. There’s a weariness that will linger for months more. The only real thing that we have control over is our response. This has always been true and even more important as we move through a worldwide pandemic.

Each of us has the choice on how we move through it. We can struggle or embrace. Complain or create. Dance or be disappointed. Laugh or cry. We have justification for a wide range of emotions right now. Some days are good and some days are not-so-good. Never forget the strength and resolve of the human spirit. Be generous and find gratitude in simple daily gifts that remain.

Choose light, color and delight to lighten the load for yourself and give permission to others to do the same if they choose. When others are struggling, listen with empathy and offer encouragement. And when you’re struggling, accept grace and light.

Joy is a powerful vaccine that’s available to all right now. Daily doses required.

The Other Side of the White Out

“When you quiet your mind, you can enter a world of clarity, peace and understanding.” – Alice Coltrane

“Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past. Rather, it is a spirit that bears things – with resignations, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope.” – Corazon Aquino

The past nine months has felt like a nonstop white out in winter. Limited visibility, slow going, uncertain of what’s ahead, fish tailing on the ice, with a few spin outs into the ditch. And like winter, this is a season, a long one albeit.

We have the capacity to experience both sorrow and joy at the same time. It’s not one or the other, it’s both. Keep moving until the snow clears and the horizon shows itself.

We are deeper, wider and stronger than we realize. Never, never, never give up. Accept the rollercoaster of emotions and go through them to the other side.

God gives us grace to embrace what is and asks us to pass grace on so it multiplies. Accept and give grace, allow imperfection and invite delight into each day.

Joy, hope, resilience, gratitude and faith move us through the white outs, without fail. The other side is just ahead, keep moving, smiling, crying, mourning and celebrating! Create clear skies and sunshine within and patience, perspective and peace will follow.

Forge New Paths

“Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.” – Irving Wallace

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

With the ping pong of warm, cold, warm, cold, snow and cold has won the game. Winter has arrived as it always does and it’s staying whether we “fight it” or not. We choose to fight unwinnable battles rather than accepting the seasons, change and uncertainty.

We waste time and energy in opposition to the inevitable. If we choose, we can go right through the middle with a sense of adventure in pursuit of joy.

Last winter, I cross country skied everyday through the holidays, so I got new skis in January and continued through the winter. Yesterday, Jeanne (my adventure partner) and I bought snow shoes – new tools to keep moving through winter, forging new paths “at our age,” proving that age is a number and youth is a mindset.

There are more lockdowns across the country with a surge in COVID as we enter the “long” winter months. The holidays will be flipped upside down. We certainly have all of the reasons to be disappointed and dismayed. And still, we can choose a different path.

Getting out in nature, doing new things, creative endeavors, fostering gratitude, optimism and hope are not locked down. They are in our control as they always have been despite our circumstances. Do not succumb to despair of the “inevitable.”

Transform routine into rituals, ordinary days into sacred moments. Forge new paths.

Daily Deposits

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s simple math. We need to make more deposits than withdrawls to stay out of debt, paying high interest rates, falling behind. This principle applies to our daily life too. We can’t keep spending without replenishing our account.

We’ve had a lot of withdrawls on our “account” this year. Lots of overdrafts to be sure. COVID month 9, remote work and school, lockdown, social distancing, health concerns, job loss, businesses closed, holidays canceled, an election season, winter around the corner and the list goes on. Too many big withdrawls.

And yet, we’ve also had deposits along the way. Time with family. Slowing down to question where we’ve been rushing to. Gaining a real understanding of gratitude. Experiencing a shared understanding, a leveling of sorts. Discovering the healing power of nature and long walks. Home projects that finally got done. Books read. Our resilience and empathy muscles have been strengthened and will serve us well now and in the future.

Small deposits each day add up. Take that walk. Buy snowshoes and keep walking through the winter. Start a new book. Try a new hobby. Decorate for the holidays. Meditate every morning – even if only for 5 minutes to ground yourself in the present moment. Take a nap. Daily journaling to unravel and uncover your thoughts. Text an encouraging word. Send flowers. Buy flowers for yourself. Be kind. Do something for someone else. Generosity pays double back into the account.

Joy, contentment, hope, faith, creativity, purpose, laughter, optimism are the dividends of daily deposits. Outstanding return on investment.

Opposite, Dichotomy, Pattern and Connection

“Life is a great tapestry. The individual is only an insignificant thread in an immense and miraculous pattern.” – Albert Einstein

“I believe we create our own lives. And we create it by our thinking, feeling patterns in our belief system. I think we’re all born with this huge canvas in front of us and the paintbrushes and the paint, and we choose what to put on this canvas.” – Louise L. Hay

In our effort to prove our rightness and others’ wrongness, we diminish the complexity and depth of the world and our place in it. While it may provide temporary comfort, we miss the rich essence of living fully by both observing and participating, listening before speaking, conversation rather than pontification.

Life is filled with dichotomy and opposite as well as pattern and connection. When we put down our ego, listen and open our eyes, we find that we share the road on this journey, with no one right about everything. In the blending, depth and connection, there are patterns, insights and answers that have been present waiting to be discovered through thoughtful, quiet inquiry.

A meaningful and content life emerges when we ask, “what am I to learn?” and “how can I give rather than take?”

While I may not agree with others, I can still maintain my principles and beliefs without diminishing them in the process. I can even go so far as being kind and generous, especially to those I don’t agree with.

We need to both insulate the noise that distracts us and absorb the rhythms to create music. When we are too close, we need to pull back. When we are too far, we need to move in. From simple to complex and back to simple again. Going deep, then rising to the surface.

Be open to seeing patterns and connections amidst the dichotomy and opposites. There is far more beauty than we account for as we count the wrong things. Be willing to learn and as a result, grow and change.

No Strings Attached

“There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.” – Walter Cronkite

We tell ourselves to “let go” or “let go and let God,” but then we don’t fully trust the process or God. We create a safety net, a back-up plan. Like a yo-yo, we let it go but keep a string tied to it so it keeps coming back at us. Letting go means cutting the string and releasing it fully.

Until we actually let go of past hurts, unforgiveness, offense, disappointment, judgment, fear and assumptions, they will continue to come back to ensure that the future is a replica of the past and today is lost gathering stones that weigh us down, stuck in the abyss of false narratives and comfort of justification.

When we let go, no strings attached, we create a space for gratitude, delight, awe, transformation, joy, peace and freedom.

Rewrite your story by changing the narrative. The first step is to actually let go and take one step into new territory, into the wide-open space of possibility found beyond and within each of us when we dare to release what was to move into what can be.

Assume the best in others and yourself and cut the strings that bind. Move on, adventure ahead.

“Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.” – Voltaire

Always Earned

This afternoon, I received the Marine Corp Marathon shirt and medal for finishing. This year was different, which is an understatement to describe 2020. I registered in March, trained all spring and summer and it was canceled in August.

I trained for months, so I decided to keep going through fall and run it in the Twin Cities in October. I ran it a week early to beat a possible October snow. Sure enough, it snowed the week after I ran it. I was grateful to run in 30 degree sunny weather rather than snow. I’ve taken the past week and a half off to rest up from over six months of training five days a week. I’m getting restless and thinking about the next goal line, the next long run.

I’m not one for medals, but this one is a special one to be sure. It marks an earned effort over months to run 26.2 miles and finish, even if I was not able to run it in Washington DC with the Marines.

This year has been marked by a tremendous amount of uncertainty and angst. And also along side of it, plenty of blessings and self-awareness, even joy if we chose to succumb.

No matter what happens after the election or where this pandemic will lead next, we are bigger, stronger and deeper than our circumstances. Keep rising while also allowing yourself to indulge in generous self-care.

No one knows what will happen next, but we do know the strength and resilience of the human spirit when set free.

Meaningful progress and outcomes – always earned. Hope and grace – always given.

Snow or Snowman

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

It snowed this week, and the lamenting began. Snow in October? It’s too early. Winter is going to be too long. One more thing in a year of constant change, fear and uncertainty. What’s next? (I have my money on the locusts.) No doubt if there ever was a year in recent history to complain, worry and be cynical about, 2020 is the winner.

We believe that things happen “to” us rather than “for” us. A simple yet profound shift from “to” to “for.” Just because we don’t understand “why” doesn’t mean there’s not a reason, one that will be revealed in time with the requirement of perspective, distance and reflection.

We forgo today’s opportunity for joy and meaning in pursuit of the illusive and perfect “someday” which does not exist or the “past” where we remember only but a slice that serves our narrative of the “good old days.”

In addition to the snow this week, it was a week filled with non-stop technology problems at work. Like the weather, also out of our control. My nephew Liam came over Thursday for a few hours. He immediately asked me to go out to build a snowman and make snow angels.

Kids, in their infinite wisdom until we screw them up with “adulting,” see the snowman and the angels in an October snow. They run into it rather than away from it. They see the “for” rather than the “to.” The early snow happened for them so they could build a snowman and lay staring up at the sky moving their legs and arms in delight to bring angels to earth.

The choice each of us needs to make daily is whether we see the snow or the snowman. It determines whether we will live present in each moment grateful for the gifts and blessings that we are swimming in, even in a pandemic. “to” or “for”? I’m going for the “for” rather than “to” as much as I can. And when I forget, I have a snowman and snow angel from my 4 year old life coach Liam to remind me of the best choice of “for.”

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