“A merry heart does good like medicine.” – Proverbs 17:22
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” – James 1:17
On a quiet Christmas morning, we were greeted with a fresh blanket of snow on our daily trip to the dog park. The new snow creates a challenge for ball chasing if you don’t keep your eye on the ball. If Abby looked too far ahead or back in anticipation, she missed the ball when it went deep in the snow. She searched with intent and focus to look for the lost ball.
This season is a time to reflect on and celebrate the birth of Jesus who entered a broken world in a stable filled with animals and ordinary people. The promise and gift is that He remains with us each day on our imperfect, beautiful and flawed journey. He searches for our time and attention to lighten our days and create meaning from the journey.
The Christmas story is not one of the past but of what’s present and available to us now. Today and every day, heaven comes to earth to save us from ourselves. Accept this incomprehensible, undeserved gift of peace, grace, mercy, light and love. It’s as real today as it was that cold, lonely, miraculous day in a stable for there was no room at the Inn. Make room at your “Inn” for God to participate in your life.
Not too far back or ahead, keep your eye on the ball. Merry Christmas.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15
“On your journey, don’t forget to smell the flowers. Take time out to notice that you’re alive. You can only live in one day.” – Ray Fearon
“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” – William Morris
Last week, I took Abby and Sasha for the first time to a dog park in Hastings when meeting a friend to pick up a Christmas gift that she painted. When we first arrived and I took them off leash, they were perplexed. Surely I made a mistake, they were in open space with other dogs and new territory to explore. Once they acclimated, they absolutely loved it.
Abby chased tennis balls with her usual vigor and delight. Sasha was the social director, introducing herself and making friends with other dogs inviting them to chase her and she would reciprocate. I was so pleasantly surprised and wondered why I hadn’t done this sooner.
There’s a dog park just blocks from my house that I’ve passed for years and never stopped. This week, we went there every day. Each time, they were excited as the first time, meeting new friends and dancing through leaves to hunt balls.
So often, we have places, people and blessings in plain sight, right in our own “backyard.” We miss them going on to the next thing, to the “better” yard, the “other person’s” yard. We pass them each day, not noticing, taking them for granted, as if invisible. In the middle of our ordinary days are extraordinary gifts.
Start noticing and exploring your own “backyard” with gratitude, awe and joy. It’s a beautiful view right outside your window.
“God is in the details.” – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” – Karl Barth
According to research, 40% of our happiness relies on our thought patterns and behaviors, 10% our circumstances and 50% our genes. If we focus on the 40% in our control, we may also be able to shift our perspective on our circumstances, making it 50% in our hands to make better days. And better days = better life.
Practice gratitude – list three things that you are grateful for each day (three of mine are in the photo);
Be kind – assume the best in others and show empathy. You never know what someone is going through and you can be that beacon of light that pulls them through;
Practice optimism – stop the spiral of complaining, comparing and criticizing and fill that space with imagination, play and positivity. Flip worst-case scenario thinking to best-case scenario;
Avoid rumination – let it go. When thoughts bounce in your head like a pinball machine, stop and ground yourself in the present. The past is done, move on.
Physical exercise – training for a marathon which turned into a virtual marathon kept me focused this year. You don’t need to run a marathon. Getting out every day into nature and moving your bones is good for your soul;
Meditation – I’ve tried meditation on and off over the years and it wasn’t until I downloaded the Insight Timer app that it stuck – 80 consecutive days and counting. Download it – 5-10 minutes in the morning and meditative music to fall asleep to will shift your very foundation;
Religious/spiritual observance – I strive for deep faith and meaning beyond myself. It’s the anchor, the rock that has held my hand through life and particularly valuable this year. No preaching, just fact – God’s holding all of us, let Him;
Forgive others – we free ourselves when we forgive others. Let it go and live your life;
Pursue goals – set goals and develop the steps to get there. The world needs you to bloom and give away your gifts and talents;
Savor – stop the monkey mind and be fully present in this moment and allow joy to soak in. Each of us can find things to be grateful for. Gratitude shifts our energy and attention and lifts our spirit.
You find what you are looking for so look for light, joy and laughter, available to all of us if we choose to partake.
“Life is an adventure, it’s not a package tour.” – Eckhart Tolle
“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” – Joseph Campbell
Abby is nonstop in the water at the lake, a dog fish chasing ball. After returning from dinner, rather than calling it a night, we went back down for one more leap into the lake. A little skinny dipping by the moonlight.
When presented with the option to go to bed or to go down for one more dip in the lake, always choose skinny dipping by the moon. Joy is soon to follow. Adventure is available to all!
“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
“A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world.” – Leo Buscaglia
“Wherever you are, be there totally.” Eckhart Tolle
No matter the season, these two always know how to have fun. Summer brings rolling in the grass and some serious ball chasing. When I get caught up in my “to do” list and my swirling thoughts, they bring me back to focus on gratitude, presence and joy.
Life is not a continuous puzzle to solve, a checklist to be checked off, a hot pursuit of what’s next. Life is hidden right in front of us in simple moments, in a walk with a friend, in laying next to your best pal and flipping a tennis ball into the air to show off your ball handling skills.
Breathe, laugh and take it all in.
“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
“When we can live our stories and not be ruled by them, we love ourselves into being. There is a Spanish saying, Se tu vida, which means “Be your life.” This is all that is asked of us. And yet, in doing so, we can get lost in all that living engenders.”— The Book of Soul: 52 Paths to Living What Matters, Mark Nepo
Every time I want to pull back, to hesitate, to delay, to question, to judge, I hope to dive. To jump in without knowing the ending, to jump in and get wet, to jump in and do a belly flop. May we always jump into life with joy, with abandon and the capacity to be surprised and delighted.
Let your guard down, along with reasoning and certainty. Our days our numbered. Make them count.
“Given our entanglements, one of the most difficult acts of presence is not to vanish when overwhelmed by conflict or hardship. The simplest teachers in nature, such as the sun, the birds, and the flowers, are quietly heroic in this regard, not because they achieve anything, but because they remain completely true to their own nature, regardless of what happens to them.”— The Book of Soul: 52 Paths to Living What Matters, Mark Nepo
“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” – Abraham Joshua Heschel
“Get busy watering your own grass so as not to notice whether it’s greener elsewhere.”― Karon Waddell
On our daily jaunt into the woods, I let the girls off leash to run full throttle. Abby chases balls in an open field trying to catch them on the first bounce and Sasha chases her. It brings a new joy to them each day like it’s the first time. Dogs and kids are experts on being fully present and aware of the moment at hand, or paw in this case.
When I threw one of the balls, it went over the barbed wired fence by the water tower. I threw the second ball but Abby was intent on the ball on the other side. She suddenly downgraded and became human, focusing on the other side while a ball was by right next to her and easily accessible. How often do we reach for something out of reach when the same and often better is right in front of us?
Wake up and see what’s in reach and embrace it with gratitude. If we don’t recognize the blessings that are already in front of us, it’s impossible to receive new blessings. The grass and the ball are not always greener on the other side.
Happy ending to the story – I decided not to scale the barbed wired fence, but my arm did fit underneath and Abby walked out of the woods with two balls in mouth. Big win.
“All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works at a single occupation, in accordance with his natural gifts, and at the right moment, without meddling with anything else.” – Plato
As I took a 5-minute break from a day jammed with “zoom” meetings, I looked at Abby sprawled on the couch and she sent me a glance to remind me to settle in, stretch out and relax. She’s a wonderful relaxation coach.
“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” – Thich Nhat Han
With the completion of my home project – painting and new floors – and a few big projects at work, I’m ready to jump into the next activity to keep “busy.” We are made for more than busy and activity. We are built for purpose and depth with a side of delight.
Celebrate the finish, be open to see new beginnings and enjoy the journey of mere being.
“Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.” Thich Nhat Hanh
“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?” ― Mary Oliver, Dog Songs
“Pray thee, spare, thyself at times: for it becomes a wise man sometimes to relax the high pressure of his attention to work.” – Thomas Aquinas
When we settle in and settle down, allowing relaxation to restore and rejuvenate, we gain new perspective. A shift, a turn of the head and the world becomes new from the inside out. Don’t waste days wallowing, wading and willowing. Rest up, look up and relax. It’s all good and going to be good with the fullness of time. In the meantime, let go and relax.
This public service announcement is brought to you by my life coaches Abby and Sasha – the model fun makers and relaxation queens. Lighten up, it makes the journey so much sweeter.
“We will be more successful in all our endeavors if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-center ourselves. And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.” – Alan Watts
“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” – Brene Brown
What are you chasing? When we pursue the right things, the ones that are woven with flow, meaning and purpose, the chase becomes the destination. Choose the chase with intention in hot pursuit of pure joy.
“Joy is of the will which labours, which overcomes obstacles, which knows triumph.” – William Butler Yeats
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”― Henri J.M. Nouwen