Tag Archive | photography

The Secret to Smooth Holidays

img_5340The holiday season is upon us, and for all the joy the holiday brings, for some of us it is the time when we gather with people we probably shouldn’t be around. Alas, blood is sometimes thicker than one’s mental health.

Most likely, you know your family members pretty well. You know who is going to get drunk and embarrassing, who will get nasty, who will be emotional and demanding, and who will be enjoyable to be around. Chances are, they haven’t changed all that much since last year!

So, why not proactively enter the holidays with an attitude of forgiveness and resiliency?  We are here to evolve into more conscious, responsible individuals. Often, mental health issues arise when we resist what is happening around us and our equilibrium gets out of whack. It is restored as we embrace and adjust to life situations, knowing when to be accepting of others’ less-evolved personalities, and when to get the heck out of their way. A difficult discipline, and a soul-strengthening one!

Having a new experience of the holiday season requires us to examine past decisions and expectations, learn from them, and move on. Uncle Delbert the Drunk will not likely have changed, unless he has successfully gone through treatment. Bringing our old ways of thinking into a situation where we want change can lead to depression: Not clearing the air of our own inefficient and undesirable beliefs and patterns, but expecting new results!

A powerful forgiveness and resilience tool is Jane Elizabeth Hart’s Seven Steps for Successful Life Transitions. Jane Elizabeth created this method for releasing old patterns, beliefs and other life situations, based on her personal experiences of change, loss and spiritual growth. Each of the Seven Steps deals with an aspect of the situation at hand.  For holidays, she suggests working with the family system as a whole (rather than each person individually) through each step. Journaling is suggested, tissues should be on hand, and laughter at some point is a must. (http://www.cfenlightenment.org.)

Step one is ‘Gratitude and Acceptance’ and deals with all that we are grateful for in regards to our family gatherings and members thereof.  Write down all the aspects of these events that you are grateful for.  What joy have these situations brought to you?  Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything; simply return to it when you can.

Step two looks at the ‘Good Times.’  Think of specific situations in the past that have been enjoyable for you at these family gatherings.  There might be something that keeps bringing you back for more.  Again, skip it if you need to.

Step three allows us to look at our ‘Hopes and Dreams.’  What do you hope will happen?  What have you dreamt that these gatherings would be like?  Who do you hope you don’t have to see when you’re there?  Who do you hope will behave differently?  Who have you wanted to get to know, but never have approached?  Get those thoughts from swimming around in your head, creating unnecessary stress!   It doesn’t mean that these hopes and wishes will necessarily come true; this is to help you let them go.

Step four deals with those ‘Disappointments and Difficulties.’  Ah, yes, the confrontations, the embarrassments, the arguments, the losses—everything.  Can you see why you have dreaded these events?  Can you see any unresolved issues within yourself that are surfacing to be healed?

The most important step is the fifth step:  ‘Forgiveness.’  This is how we heal.  Who or what circumstance is the hardest to forgive?  Why?  What does it mean for you if you don’t forgive?  What does it mean for you if you do?  If we can find it in ourselves to forgive obnoxious behavior, we can handle it much better when it greets us with a wet kiss.  We are not condoning unacceptable behavior—dealing with that is a whole other article—I’m talking about the annoying and the petty.  Forgiveness requires a certain leap of faith—whatever ours may be—into a space of allowing another to be what they choose to be without it throwing us off-center.  Forgiveness pulls us out of the mindset that someone can ruin our day by not meeting our expectations, and puts us into a space of compassion and non-resistance toward less-conscious behavior in others (and ourselves!).  It’s tough, but if we are willing, it could just save our holiday.

Finally, we ‘Release’ all these in the sixth step, and affirm our ‘Completion’ with the process in step seven.  I like having a ritual for my completion process, sometimes burning my journaling notes, or using Hart’s Seven Step meditation.

The most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves; and when we are okay with ourselves, we can be open to better possibilities.  If you get stuck on a situation that has happened in your family, be sure to seek professional help.

No matter what has happened in the past, every new year—every day!—opens new doors for us. Our job is to prepare our minds and hearts for those opportunities to come forth, not so Delbert the Drunk will change, but so we can.

Happy holidays!

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The Joy Is in the Giving

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One of my favorite sayings of my spiritual mentor, Jane Elizabeth Hart, is “The joy is in the giving.”

It has taken me many years to appreciate this as more than just a pretty platitude–especially moving into the holidays!

Finding joy in giving means to understand that when we are acting only for ourselves, that energy has no where to go but back to ourselves. This is important, to replenish and refresh ourselves sometimes. But when we give freely with joy and loving kindness, that energy ripples out into the far stretches of the universe! For that moment, we have expanded ourselves far outside of where our energy normally resides. It is like an amazing, huge yoga stretch!

Plus, finding joy in giving makes us want to give more—to re-experience that joy, that refreshing stretch beyond ourselves. Once we get out of our box, we don’t want to go back inside that small space!

Recently, I helped some friends pack Christmas gifts for children in other countries. There were several boxes, and as we filled each one, we were silently blessing each toy and piece of candy. I could imagine the love and joy the child would experience as she or he opened the box—an explosion of love and light! I could feel my own energy expanding beyond myself, beyond this country, rippling throughout the planet.

The song I sung in childhood that reminds me of this concept is “Magic Penny”. Do you remember singing that song? Did you ever realize that the magic penny symbolized your own energy, multiplying and supporting you in infinitely greater ways? Here are a few of the lyrics:

Love is something if you give it away;
You’ll end up having more.
It’s just like a magic penny:
Hold it tight and you won’t have any.
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many
They’ll roll all over the floor.

As you give this coming holiday season, no matter how big or small a gift, put your energy of love and joy into it, and don’t let it stop flowing at your gift’s recipient—see that love and joy rippling out, sending a wave of blessing throughout the planet.

The joy is in the giving!

Today Is a New Day

Our country spoke loudly yesterday.

It said to us that there are people who feel angry, left out, disenfranchised, forgotten. It said that people are struggling to feel safe, at peace, secure on a regular basis. It said that people want to be heard, understood, respected.

If those people exist in our country, we have all helped create them and maintain their unhappy existence, even in the midst of our happy one.

So, for those of us who haven’t felt angry, left out, disenfranchised, forgotten, now is the time to reach out, to step out of our comfort zone and lift someone up, lend a hand, notice, listen, love.

For those of us who have felt safe, peaceful, and secure, it is time to spread that peace, to offer safety, and to help secure it for those who haven’t had it.

For those of us with a voice and arbitrary societal respect, it is time to hear the unheard.

Let go of the fear that your clean world is going to hell. We have a family to raise, brothers and sisters whom we have forgotten, ignored, neglected.

Be ready to share. Be ready to give. Be ready to equalize. Be ready to strengthen your insides and help others strengthen theirs.

This is not about now having to protect ourselves. It is about courageous service to humanity.

Love, compassion, action.

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Mindful Myth Busting #1: A Blank Mind Is Not the Purpose

If you chose to watch this video, you probably already know something about mindfulness, so I’m not going to into that in detail, except to say that it’s the practice of being present, aware, and without judgment.

In the classes, workshops, and retreats that I lead, I work with people to begin a practice of five minutes of daily mindfulness meditation. What often happens is that people soon get discouraged with their practice because they can’t still their minds for five minutes, then give up the practice altogether!

That’s so sad, because the point of mindfulness is not all about achieving a blank mind—it’s to train the mind to not react so quickly and unconsciously to the myriad of thoughts and emotions that pop into our minds and bodies in a given moment. We can have brief moments of a quiet mind, and perhaps after years of practice, our minds are much quieter than they used to be. But that takes a lot of practice, and most of us aren’t there yet. In the meantime, we practice and practice and practice!

Every moment, thoughts and feelings are coming and going in our minds. When we’re unaware of them, they inevitably drag us in one direction or another. If I’m working at my desk and suddenly start thinking about the doughnut s in the kitchenette down the hall, I can notice that thought—be aware of it—and remind myself that doughnut s are not the kind of food I want in my body; and besides, I don’t even like doughnut s!

If I’m not present with those doughnut  thoughts, they will dance in and out of my head for a few minutes before I feel compelled to go have a doughnut  that I don’t even like!

Our actions and attitudes follow our thinking!

Whatever spends time in our heads guides the rest of us!

When we do our mindfulness practice—or any type of meditation practice—we are doing just that: Practicing. We are practicing observing our thoughts as they come and go. We have our anchor or focal point that we bring our attention back to gently, noticing our minds wandering, then bring our minds back again.

It’s like lifting weights. We don’t go to the gym, lift one repletion, then think we’re done and now should be able to lift 500 pounds! We repeat those exercises a couple dozen times, several times a week, slowly building those muscles.

Mindfulness builds the muscle of the mind so that our conscious awareness is more in charge of us than our unconscious thoughts and emotions that pop in and out of our minds all the time.

Maybe you already have a meditation practice, or maybe you’ve come in and out of one. Either way, remember that while a quiet mind is wonderful, the practice of observing the busy mind and bringing it back to your anchor is how your mind’s focus and attention muscle is built!

In a five minute daily practice, if you have to gently redirect your mind 1,000 times, that is success!

Love Is the Answer. What Was the Question?

Jane Elizabeth Hart, my spiritual mentor and author of Spiritual Power Tools: Support for Your Soul, would often say in her classes, “Love is the answer. What is the question?”

She was reminding us that every day provides opportunities to love—and not just the easy ones. As her students, we would ask her, “What do I do about this person? What do I need to do to forgive and release them from my life?” At times, underneath such questions was the ulterior motive of either making the person change or wanting them out of our lives altogether! Jane Elizabeth would respond with the bottom line answer: Love.

This was our direction: That no matter how much processing, forgiving and releasing we do, our action step is still the same: to love unconditionally, without judgment or hesitation. Her question became a tool in the midst of difficult interactions. We could ask our selves, “If I were coming from love, how would I act?”

At Christmastime, there is an energy of love which opens our hearts to giving and receiving love. Let your Christmas intention be to share love freely, especially with those more difficult characters in your Christmas story.

Love is the answer. What was the question?

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Waiting on God? Use Your ‘God Mind’!

As a child, when I wasn’t making smart choices, my mom would say to me, “Lynn, use your God Mind!” My God Mind? What is that? It took me a while to realize that this is my inherent Divine Intelligence. Wow! I have the ability to think things through, to discern what is right from wrong, to handle myself with wisdom–no excuses!

You’ve probably heard people say, “I’m waiting for God to tell me what to do”, then sit around without doing a single thing to support themselves. At these times, my college roommate and dear friend used to quote her mother’s favorite motto: “The Lord helps those who help themselves!” That was her mom’s way of saying, “Use your God Mind!”

Of course there are times when we wait, when it’s not time to take action. But it is important to discern between waiting for the appropriate time to act and being afraid to act. The difference is that when we are waiting for right timing, we feel calm and trust the flow. Fear of acting, on the other hand, can stem from feeling anxious about an outcome, stepping outside of our comfort zone, or not wanting to change.

Once I was traveling by airplane alone with my young daughter. I was used to relying on my travel-adept husband to guide the way. On this occasion, the first leg of our trip brought us to the airport an hour late, and we needed to catch the second leg of our flight in less than 20 minutes–on the other side of the airport! During our necessary stop to the restroom, I felt paralyzed. What are we going to do? This is bad! Now we’ll be stuck here!

This stinkin’ thinkin’ was interrupted by a strong inner voice telling me, “Use your God Mind!” I stopped and realized that I could either sit here in fear with my child, or…make a run for it! So we ran! And we made our next flight, and somehow our luggage did, too!

Practicing using our God Mind reminds me of St. Francis’ Prayer for Peace that begins, “Make me an instrument of Your Peace.” St. Francis is asking to be a channel for divine qualities of hope, light, love, and joy. Why not also ask to be a channel for Divine Wisdom? While we are waiting for God to tell us what to do, God may be waiting for us to use our “God Mind”, to take intelligent action, to do what is in front of us to do!

Here’s an updated prayer (if I may be so bold) to help awaken that God Mind–that innate Infinite Intelligence–in you:

10468459_4649134643373_3786408435342997086_oMake me an instrument of Your Mind.
Where there is doubt, let me have faith.
When I feel fear, don’t let me stay stuck!
Where there are questions, I will seek answers!
When I want to hide because circumstances feel too hard or too scary,
Remind me that You are in me,
Along with Your eyes, wisdom, and solutions.
Help me trust my own Divine Self,
That I may never feel lost, nor stagnant, nor abandoned.
I acknowledge and awaken to
Infinite Wisdom, Infinite Love, Infinite Will,
Guiding my open and listening heart.

Try this (or any method of quieting your thoughts) when you feel stuck or afraid, and see how getting still and opening to your inherent Infinite Wisdom–your God Mind–can support your next right action!