Skip to content

Listen, Learn, Change

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King

For years, I have inconsistently practiced Julia Cameron’s method of Morning Pages– three pages of writing each morning to gain clarity, to center and unravel thoughts. I started doing them consistently for the past year and it has proven to be a worthy investment of 10-20 minutes each day.

She just released her 40th book The Listening Path, The Creative Art of Attention and it came in the mail yesterday. Her basic tools are still the same that she uses in her workshops and that began with her book 25 years ago – The Artist’s Way – Morning Pages, Artists Dates and Walks. When something works, stick with it. Keep it simple, repeat, unfold.

“With Morning Pages, we serve as a witness to our own experience, listening to ourselves each morning and thus clearing the way for further listening throughout the day. With Artist Dates, we listen to the youthful part of ourselves who craves adventure and is full of interesting ideas. And with Walks, we listen to both our environment and to what might be called our higher power or higher self,” states Cameron. “Focused on conscious listening, we become aware of a listening path: a path grounded in what we hear. When we listen, we are led spiritually. Listening for emerging truth, we become increasingly true to ourselves. Honesty becomes our currency. We are given a glimpse of our souls.”

Create rituals, non-negotiable daily practices and habits to hone your attention skills and expand your perspective. Listen. Learn. Change. Always growing, going deeper, returning home to self.

“We can change the world if we change ourselves. We just need to get hold of the old patterns of thinking and dealing with things and start listening to our inner voices and trusting our own superpowers.” – Nina Hagen

A Bit Longer

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” – Henry Ward Beecher.

“Whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want.” – C.S.Lewis.

When I went into the kitchen to get my water with lemon and coffee to start the day, one of the stems of my amaryllis plant with three blooming flowers had broken overnight, holding on by a thread and laying to the side of the pot. I cut the thread that remained away from the bulb, filled a crystal pitcher and promptly put the stem in the water to see if I could hold on a bit longer to the full bloom. When it withers and has its full time, I will discard it, but for now I’ll linger in gratitude of the beauty that is available to me now.

Flowers, music, art, quiet time, reflection are simple ways to foster a sense of gratitude, deepen awareness of the present moment. We have an accurate count of what is missing in our life, perhaps even an inflated one. Focusing on the depth of the valleys, we forego the height of the mountains that exist along side concurrently.

We discard and dismiss, racing off to what we think will want, only to be disappointed when we arrive to our destination and it is not what we thought it would be. It is impossible to find happiness outside of self.  It is the root, the start and the end. Embrace the present in deep gratitude and awareness while glancing to the future filled with hope and anticipation. The past, our circumstances, other people are out of the realm of our control. Our attitude and outlook is ours alone.

Lyrics from Kathy Mattea’s song Standing Knee Deep In A River sums it up well – “knee deep in a river, dying from thirst.”

“Why I ever let them go…
They roll by just like water, and I guess we never learn.
We go through life, parched and empty
Standin’ knee deep in a river, and dying of thirst…”

Root each day and every day in gratitude. Knee deep in a river, overflowing in abundance and satisfied with now. Capture and take full account of both blessings and burdens, valleys and the mountains. Stay a bit longer in gratitude, steeped in the present moment.

The Power of Love

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” – Mother Teresa

“Love is always bestowed as a gift – freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love.” – Leo Buscaglia

Valentine’s Day began as the Feast of St. Valentine to honor the love and sacrifice of early Christian martyrs. One account includes the imprisonment of Saint Valentine of Rome for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire in the third century. Another one is of Saint Valentine restoring sight to the blind daughter of his jailer. There are other associations connecting the saint with the advent of spring. With a wind chill temperature of 45 below in Minnesota this morning, I’m going with celebrating the advent of spring soon, please.

Like Christmas, Valentine’s Day has been secularized to sell stuff, with a focus on romantic love. Returning to its origins, you can choose to celebrate the power of all love, the gift of springs in the winters of life. Reflect on those who love you and who you love in return, present and past. Deepen your awareness to the healing, sustaining and transformational power of unconditional love from God, self and others.

Celebrate the power of love today and practice it imperfectly everyday to be transformed. Cast love, light and joy and be open to receive it in return.

In Kindness Rather than In Kind

“Every day brings new choices.” – Martha Beck

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” – Saint Basil

I have had many conversations in my head with others, things I want to say to “set the record straight,” to “put them in their place,” to “lay it on the line.” Fortunately, I’ve kept most of those where they belong – unsaid. When they’ve escaped and actually came out, regret usually followed. At times, it is appropriate to not be a doormat as well and to speak our own voice.

Our choice is between reacting “in kind” – returning what’s given to us, especially the negativity and criticism or responding “in kindness” – by not returning the same so we don’t turn into that which we want to avoid. Complaint, negativity and criticism are rampant and only create a downward spiral. Gratitude, optimism and hope offer an alternative and multiplies rather than substracts, a whirlwind upward, a deep well to draw from.

So little of what people serve us in negativity, complaint and consternation has anything to do with us. When we take it personally, we allow them to steal our joy. That person who cut you off, the coworker who has a bad attitude and shares it every time you interact with her/him so you do everything to avoid her/him, the family member or friend who triggers that 10 year old in you are all carrying their own burdens and struggles. When we understand this, we have arrived at empathy and understanding and can move out from that place rather than the “what about me?” hole.

Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements are simple rules and principles to follow that can help us respond “in kindness” rather than “in kind,” freeing us from the power and winds of external forces that we allow to permeate our internal state of joy and peace:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions.
  4. Always Do Your Best.

As Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We can choose to respond with empathy, understanding, positivity and optimism to combat negativity and model a different path that creates contentment and joy, which is in short supply right now.

Choose mindfully and with forethought the energy that you put out into the world. You can be that thread of hope, that beam of light, that source of joy that someone desperately needs from you now.

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” – Stephen Grellet

Mirrors and Souls

“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” George Bernard Shaw

Look into the mirror first before pointing it at others. Deep into your own eyes, beyond the surface of being judge, prosecutor and jury, to your very soul, with kindness and understanding. Quiet the critic and advice-giver to gently examine and fully observe your whole life, blessings and burdens, progress and detours, full inventory. Gratitude over griping.

Criticism has never grown a flower. Light, dark, nature, nurture, water, patience and time are the ingredients for full bloom.

“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” – Thomas Carlyle

When you have gone beyond the surface of the mirror through the door of your eyes to your soul, you are prepared to hold up a mirror for, not at, others to show them their own soul and light within. That is the purpose and the gift of the mirror.

Self-awareness, self-acceptance and love are the roots of empathy, healing and purpose. This individual lifetime journey will transform the world as we each discover our interconnectedness, the “we” beyond the “me,” the “us” and not the “other,” our similarities and the beauty in our differences.

Mirror and soul work – light the candle, be the mirror.

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton

Stewardship

“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” – Marcus Aurelius

“In the time one is given, the steward must make the most of the talents one is given by the Lord.” – Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Pause.
Allow the river of life to wash over you;
Wander over race;
Observe over absorb;
Float over flail;
Gently hold over clenched fist;
Flow over upstream;
A net catching only what is necessary, releasing what cannot be held.

Shift.
Control to influence;
Map to compass;
Questioning to intuition;
Ownership to stewardship;
What we steward is cast forward, multiplied, remains through time.

Accept.
Cool water in the desert;
Blessings woven in burdens;
Depth beneath the surface;
Less becomes more;

What we grip, binds;
What we hold, embraces.

Steward your time, gifts, talents well;
Time is flowing, make the most of this life.

“Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.” – Jorge Luis Borges

It is What it is

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.” – John Keats

We are creatures who thrive on control and certainty. The past year has been filled with uncertainty and chaos. Lately, I hear a lot of people say “it is what it is,” a statement of acceptance, a prompt to let go of what’s not in our control. Some circumstances, other people, a pandemic, the past belong in this “bucket.” However, our attitude, thoughts, actions, reactions and perspective are not in this bucket. We have agency over these and should not “surrender” to mere acceptance and resignation.

As I look at the date today when I began writing, I realize that we are coming up on the one-year of the pandemic becoming part of the world’s everyday reality. I also realize that it’s in the backdrop for me, not the forefront. The distribution of the vaccine is in the forefront, promising hope and anticipation of getting to the other side of the pandemic and not returning to pre-pandemic times but to a new and even better tomorrow.

We are not there yet to be sure and many have lost loved ones the past year so we are amidst the grieving and trauma of what the pandemic has left in its wake. The dailyness of “pandemic” living has also taken it’s toll. Moving through grief and trauma, whether it be a pandemic or other life altering event, is the only way to the other side.

Daily rituals can expand “it is what it is” thinking to include anticipation of “what’s possible.” My strategies over the past year that have helped me move the pandemic to the backdrop rather than the forefront include training for a marathon, exercising, writing daily, going to the dog park with the girls and meditation/prayer using Insight Timer.

On Insight Timer this morning, I decided to listen to a Ted-Talk by Dr. James S. Gordon founder of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine on Fulfilling Trauma’s Hidden Promise. It is a compelling talk that offers strategies from a psychiatrist, which I am not so I highly recommend taking 20 minutes to listen. Optimism is a strategy and fuel for living that can break patterns that bind. Creativity and meditation are conduits to healing and joy.

“Trauma comes to all of us, and its consequences can be terrible. The good news is that all of us can use tools of self-awareness and self-care to heal our trauma and, indeed, to become healthier and more whole than we’ve ever been.”― James S. Gordon, The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma

There is good news to be found in each day. Pursue it. Each of us are the authors of our own life, so choose the “pen” of hope, faith, anticipation and light to write a beautiful narrative and happy ending.

 

Your Lion’s Suit

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin

“The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.” –  Thucydides

I stopped by to visit and drop off a few coloring books for Liam who was just getting up from a Sunday nap. He walked out in his lion suit, a costume sewed decades ago by my Aunt Terry for my niece Emily for Halloween.

A random day in February and it was lion suit day. I’ve written often in Cast-Light about my dogs, Liam, friends and family. All sources of inspiration and frustration (humans can do that), light and love. Who and what we surround ourselves with defines the quality of our life. As important, perhaps more so, is who and what we surround our self with inside of thoughts, mind and actions – the me in the we.

When we are our most authentic self, showing up in our own lion suit and not the one others think we should be wearing, we come home to joy, purpose, clarity and contentment.

Many will tell you what “suit” they expect you to wear.
Don’t listen.
Many will tell you that you don’t wear a lion suit that’s too small for you on a Sunday afternoon.
Don’t listen.
Many will tell you, do it my way, it’s better.
Don’t listen.

Wear your lion suit with joy, awe and wonder, entering your own space, completing your own assignment. When I drift and wander, listening to everything but my own voice, I find the courage of a lion again when I see Liam in his lion suit, unapologetic, filled with joy and coloring outside the lines.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” – Ephesians 6:11-18 NIV

The Creative Spirit

“When you seek the presence of your creative Spirit and are filled with passion about virtually everything you undertake, you’ll successfully remove the roadblocks from your life and enjoy the active presence of Spirit.” – Wayne Dyer

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” – Ansel Adams

My nephew Liam finished coloring the Peacock picture with bright brilliant colors. He proudly handed it to me to tell me he made it for me so I could hang it on the refrigerator. I happily accepted his work of art and witnessed the pure joy that comes from acknowledgement, praise and encouragement. He understands the deep joy of dancing with his creative spirit. All children do.

People say it again and again – “I’m not creative.” Every person is creative. It is rooted in the human spirit. First signs show up when we are children. Then the opinions, judgment, rules, criticism, comparison of others who had the same thing done to them demand that we “grow up,” be realistic and get to work, leaving dreams and spirit by the side of the road.

Enough. Time to get off that ride and reclaim your creative spirit through play, adventure, trying new things, art, music, literature, nature – fuel to drive, water to nourish, sunlight to grow. There’s power in creative expression, joy and wonder, in returning to the pure child within us that remains through our life, longing to come out to partake.

Optimism is the best way to reclaim that creative spirit. It forces us to look at all sides and still choose positivity and best-case scenario thinking over cynicism and “reality.” When we move out into the world through the lens of optimism, we invite others to come out and play in the sandbox of hope, light and exploration. It’s your turn. Would you come out to play?

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” – Colin Powell

Take a Mulligan

“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” – William Gibson

“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” – RUMI

In golf, taking a mulligan is a “do-over,” taking another shot after a bad one. This morning started with a few minor irritations that I had to take care of right away. It interrupted my morning rituals and I was going to skip morning pages, writing my daily post for Cast-Light and listening to Insight Timer, my daily non-negotiable activities. The details aren’t relevant other than it offered an inflection point to decide if it would be major and direct the rest of my day.

Hard STOP. Pivot over spiral.

I decided to take a “mulligan” and restart the day to choose the direction rather than succumb to the spiral of a bad start, of a golf ball shanked into the woods.

The thing about mulligans is that you can only take them in the present moment, at the precise point of inflection. It is the only time that they work. We can’t take mulligans for what’s happened in the past. While we linger in past offences – both received and given, in roads not taken and taken, in words said and not said, time is ticking. We forgo and fritter away the present, the only place we can influence and experience.

While we can’t change the past, we can heed the lessons to do things differently, choose new paths and know that every mile mattered to get to the present. The past has had its turn, the present offers new trails and adventures to explore, to start fresh each day. In those moments when you start to spiral to old patterns and triggers, familiar reactions, making minor things major, take a mulligan to change the trajectory of your day upward and forward.

Create and commit to two to three “non-negotiables” for yourself to not only serve yourself better but others as well. What we offer daily – positive or negative – is cast upon the world and returns to us tenfold. When the golf ball plops in the middle of the pond, choose the positive, take a mulligan, drop another ball and take another swing. Start from a settled place, centered in intention and attention, to properly prepare yourself to see the extraordinary in ordinary days.

“The beginning is always today.”― Mary Shelley

%d bloggers like this: