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Posts tagged ‘Happiness’

Look Back, Move Forward, Anchored in Today

“The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.” – Eckhart Tolle

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha

Sasha’s second birthday was on Thursday. Both Sasha and Abby were as happy as they were the day before. That’s the thing that dogs and kids have in common. The ability to be fully present in today and to achieve one thing – joy.

And in their process and pursuit of joy, we witness for ourselves the possibility that resides in each one of us and in each day. The capacity and the call to simply be present and aware without going too far back or reaching too far ahead.

The past has gotten to us to today so it serves to provide lessons, ground us in memories keeping those who have gone ahead of us on their journey in this world in our heart and builds our resilience. The future provides hope, fuels anticipation for new beginnings and comes slowly then quickly.

The present is the real gift hidden in ordinary moments, conversations and quiet reflection filled with gratitude, if we choose.

Be open to and seek joy and depth in today. The past is not the map to your future. Been there, done that. New, wonderful and abundant living lies ahead only to be discovered by you one day at a time. Today, that’s it.

Daily Gratitude

“It was the rainbow gave thee birth, and left thee all her lovely hues.” – W. H. Davies

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” – John Milton

A simple glance to the left and the rainbow caught my attention and awe entered, setting the tone for the day. That’s all it takes. Opening our eyes to what is present in this very moment and rediscovering gratitude in daily encounters.

According to research, simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain:

  1. Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions;
  2. Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it;
  3. Gratitude’s benefits take time;
  4. Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain.

For more inspiration and ideas on living well, check out the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley which I just tripped on looking for quotes on gratitude. The joy that comes from simple pursuits indeed.

To be more grateful, lift your head up, open your eyes and find the rainbows woven through each day.

No Reason at All

“To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.” – William Blake

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.” – John Burroughs

While running a few errands this morning to pick up the “must-haves” that I forgot at the store run yesterday, I walked by the flowers and stopped for a moment. And then I thought “why not?” So along with the necessities, I frivolously bought an $8 bouquet of carnations for myself for no reason at all. Often no reason at all turns out to be a very good reason. Flowers are a simple and attainable way to be reminded of God’s brilliance bursting in bud of a flower. Now that’s a very good reason.

We so often look for our circumstances or someone else to give us what we need – flowers, affirmation, acceptance, happiness. We search wide and far, often trapped in the past, yearning for what was or what didn’t happen or caught up too far in the future in worry or waiting for the “perfect” time that is bound to come.

When we pause our busy, errand-running life for a moment, we discover that all that we need is within each of us. And it can be found in daily simple acts of buying flowers, lighting a candle and listening to music. In quiet moments, we find the silence that we need to hear our own voice and chart a path to our own daily contentment.

Go buy some flowers for yourself and enjoy today. Pretty simple.

7300 Days

On Ash Wednesday, February 17, 1999, I went to mass at the St. Paul Cathedral and came back to the office to a voicemail from the Doctor. The previous Friday, I went in to have a mole on my right arm checked because it was itchy and changing color. They took a biopsy. I had gone to the clinic in early January, but there was no Doctor available so the nurse measured it and I came back for in February for the biopsy. I called the clinic back asking for Jan who wasn’t available. The operator asked for my name and immediately said hold on and I’ll get Jan. At that point, I figured Jan and I weren’t about to exchange our favorite recipes. Jan came on the line and told me she made an appointment for me on Friday to come in for a wide excision (cut it out) – “you have melanoma.”

I sat quietly in my chair at my office for a few minutes and then started to make calls to my family – tough calls. Blew off work (still need to do more of that), went to the Mall of America to watch an afternoon movie and hang out with family to pass the next 48 hours.

Friday comes. I go in ready to get this thing done and move on only to be told that it wasn’t a in office procedure since in the month between appointments, it went from Stage 1 to 3 of 5. They needed to schedule a hospital visit to do a sentinel node where they put dye in the area of the mole and track it for a few hours to see if the cancer spread to the lymph nodes by putting a big metal door next to your face to take pictures for 10-minute stints. If it did, then the procedure is to be put fully under, dig deep into the arm and then take some lymph nodes.

This appointment was yet another month later in March. Waiting was fun. Sure enough, three lymph nodes came back suspicious so they cut deep into my armpit to remove and test those little buggers, which then determines the post-surgery treatment plan. My wake up requests were a diet Mountain Dew and Hot Tamales and my wish was granted as we waited for the results. Most excellent news – the lymph nodes came back negative so no chemo or radiation. Regular visits to the dermatologist and hold out for that 5 year mark which is a great anniversary in cancer land.

Fast forward 7300 days – two decades later – and I celebrate 20 years cancer free. My story was a lucky one. I have many friends and family who had to do chemo, radiation and experimental drugs in the past two decades. Some haven’t won the battle.

I’ve decided to frame the celebration in days rather than decades as a reminder to be live and be present in each day because they quickly add up to decades and we don’t know where they’ve gone when we don’t participated fully in each day.

The most valuable gift that cancer gave me is an acute awareness of the brevity and fragility of life. The result is a shift in perspective to lighten up and take all the chaos that life throws at us much less seriously and know that there’s more to the story than we know.

A few more lessons: Enjoy each day and laugh. Judge less and love more. Tune out negativity. Let go. Keep learning. Age is number, stay young by being active. Pray, a lot. Keep trying. Worry less. Ask for help. Offer help even when it’s not asked for. Be kind. Change the stories that you tell yourself that hold you back. Feed, cultivate and activate faith, hope and joy. Let God be God – He’s got it and doesn’t need my help to screw up the plan. I do forget all of this often, but always return when I get off track. Returning home to all that’s real and true, that which I know deep in my soul that quietly whispers to me – “come back home, keep unfolding”.

So how does all of this lead to the picture of a snow blower? We’ve been throttled with snow this winter. We now get to win the most snow in February award in Minnesota. Spike the football – we win! Last night, on my second round of snow blowing the dense pile of snow at the end of the driveway from the snow plow, the snow blower didn’t start. Damn it! We’re going to be getting more snow and buying a new snow plow now when they are in demand is not the best purchasing decision. Buying a lawn mower would be good now since it’s going to be 6 months for the snow to melt. I picked up the old shovel and started digging. That’s what we need to do when an obstacle pops up – shut up, stop complaining, dig in and keep moving.

As I shoveled in the quiet dark evening, it occurred to me that I bought that snowblower 20 years ago with my Dad after I had surgery and couldn’t move my right arm for a month while the incision healed. A few days after my surgery, we got dumped on with 12 inches of snow. My Dad and neighbor dug me out. At that point, it was time for the snowblower. I think about my Dad every time I start that snow blower and so I wanted to take a photo to capture and hold that memory if the snowblower is going to the snowblower cemetery.

Long story today, but short lesson – enjoy your days, all 7300 of them. Go deeper and be present today. Each day adds up to make up your life. No do overs. Keep going.

Gifts AND Fruit

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

We are all given gifts, but we often fall short on producing fruit. When we don’t fully engage and release our gifts, we don’t fully produce fruit and bloom. Recognize, be grateful and accept your gifts and start producing some fruit to nourish and light the world.

There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Strength, Knowledge, Fear of the Lord, Piety

There are nine fruits of the Holy Spirit – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control

Imagine if we align with the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit within us. A very worthwhile life. No small ball. Play it big, all out.

Gifts AND Fruit, a power combo.

Daily Rules

“Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.” – William Shakespeare

I got away to a friend’s cabin (house actually) for a few days. Relaxing, spending time together, playing several Scrabble games (still my favorite game). The world slows down between Christmas and the new year inviting us to slow down as well. And in the quiet unstructured time, we can actually hear that still small voice calling us to go deeper, observe what is present and be refreshed and renewed.

While it’s easier to rediscover our thoughts and dreams in down time, we can carry that quiet within as we enter in to a new year with a clean slate. And we are offered a clean slate, a fresh start every day. The lessons we learn in quiet are meant to be carried back into ordinary daily living, making it less chaotic and more meaningful.

“Cabin Rules” should be our daily rules so we have that get-away vacation feeling every day. It is offered to us all if we dare slow down daily to see our blessings, be grateful and offer each day our best.

Happy New Year and may the resolutions on your heart be reality in March. Keep that new, resolved feeling beyond the next few weeks. Cabin rules rule.

Open Your Eyes

“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.” – Aldous Huxley

Magic happens when we open our eyes to see what’s in front of us now. It’s not in the past or the future. Life is happening right in this very moment. Notice, grasp and soak it in. This day will not return so make the most of it while in it.

Children remind us of what we must return to so we can live fully. Wonder, laughter, silliness, delight, awe, no judgment, unconditional love.

Find joy today. Simply, open your eyes anew.

“Childhood means simplicity. Look at the world with the child's eye - it is very beautiful.” – Kailash Satyart

“Childhood means simplicity. Look at the world with the child’s eye – it is very beautiful.” – Kailash Satyart

Let Go for Real, Your Life is Waiting for You to Arrive

“Out there things can happen, and frequently do,
To people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry, don’t stew.
Just go right along, you’ll start happening too!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

The thing about letting go is that we need to leave it gone. Truly letting go requires completion. It’s an ending. No picking it back up again and no looking back. We cling to the past, regret, unforgiveness, fairness, judgment, guilt and the story that we wrote for ourselves that hasn’t come true. It’s familiar, so we get comfortable with, letting fear of the unknown hold us back. Replaying the past, missing out on today.

When we release all of it, really let go and move on, we create the space needed for newness and for the next chapter of our story to enter and unfold. Our happy ending is waiting for us to let it begin if we get out of our own way.

Let go for real this time and welcome the mystery and the gift of unknowing. Oh, the places you will go!

“Oh the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all.” ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Freedom

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor E. Frankl

When we step back, remove ourselves from the chaos of busy to get a more complete and full view, we discover the freedom that we already have right now, should we choose to exercise it. Our thoughts and assumptions can either free us or imprison us. If we live only with a snapshot view that this moment will be forever, we surrender our joy and freedom to be content and grateful where we are no matter the circumstances.

Life is made up of moments that weave together to create a bigger story, a beautiful fabric. Sometimes it makes sense, other times it doesn’t. But it unfolds as it should. Trust in the story as it unfolds and embrace your freedom to choose the next chapter.

If changes need to be made, make them. If they don’t, change your view. And by all means, soar.

“There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.” – Carl Sandburg

“There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.” – Carl Sandburg

Carving the Stone

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” – Michelangelo

You are never finished. When you think you are, you have decided to stop becoming, to finding the statute in the stone. Growth, discovery and joy all require an openness to trying, a vulnerability to make mistakes and to have assumptions challenged, views changed.

While not finished, you are enough and worthy in this moment, so keep carving the stone. Each day, every chip is moving you to where you need to be.

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